Sometimes an opinion piece demands a response. If you are posting your response to an original article elsewhere, use this type, and include the original article in the URL.
The NYTimes would have us believe that health insurance is in a "crisis" because about 15% of the population do not have health insurance. Their proposed solution is for the government to step in and provide that insurance. Let's apply some reason to this proposition.
First, we must ask, why are people uninsured? There are a number of reasons, but they mostly boil down to cost; the government provides insurance for those extremely poor, private employers sometimes provide insurance, and those who are left are expected to buy insurance privately rather than through an employer. Some do, and others prefer not to.
I said "expected" because, clearly, the left-wing politicians and advocates can't imagine anyone choosing to go without health insurance. And yet, providing health insurance is a profit-making proposition if managed correctly (like other forms of insurance); that is, the insurance companies charge you more than you might expect to pay "normally" in order to have a reserve to cover your costs -- or someone else's -- when something especially expensive happens.
What does that mean? Simply that for someone to whom "something especially expensive" rarely happens, buying health insurance amounts to supporting someone else's injuries!
Now, choosing to go without coverage in the hopes that something drastic won't happen to you, personally, is a bit of a risk. But like anything else, it's a risk that can be mitigated. Most people, for example, have coverage through driver/car insurance for injuries caused to others, or injuries caused to themselves by an uninsured driver. That's the major cause of "something drastic" right there -- most people already have coverage for that eventuality.
And the other major risk factors aren't hidden; if you're young, healthy, don't have a history of any major problems in your family, and aren't an expectant mother, then your risk level is fairly low for non-traumatic problems.
For these people, NOT having health insurance is arguably a reasonable financial proposition. Many choose to have it anyway, because the cost is fairly low when provided through a typical employer-supported program -- low enough to warrant the investment as a risk-mitigator. But some don't.
And this reveals the invalid assumption behind the NYTimes' position. They believe everyone should have health insurance. And everyone should be forced to pay for it. Whether they want it, or not.
Now let's take a step back and ask, why are the costs of medical care so high that medical insurance is considered necessary? This is a more complicated proposition, but there are three driving factors.
First, human life and health are so highly valued that no doctor wants to provide second-rate, bargain-basement medical care (and even if they did, would be bankrupted by malpractice suits, malpractice insurance, or both). So doctors typically provide the most expensive services they can even for basic care.
Second, 85% of the population have health insurance, and neither see nor pay the true cost of care. In other words, the free market has been bypassed for those individuals; the famous "invisible hand" can no longer act to lower prices. In place of a free market, we have a market of insurers and providers.
Third, doctors typically operate and charge on the expert principle -- that is, "I'm the expert, do what I tell you and pay what I say you owe". The patient has no ability to know the cost in advance and little ability to bargain or dispute a recommendation. In theory, a patient with health insurance would have the insurer to play a role in keeping costs low and unnecessary procedures down; but the expert on the scene is the local doctor (who will usually be able to produce justification for what he wants to charge).
Fourth, doctors have the ability to price-discriminate based on the patient's insurance company. Since the insurance companies typically negotiate pricing with the doctors, some will get a better price, and others worse. That's not necessarily so bad -- until you realize that the 800-pound gorilla in health insurance is the government's medicare program, which sets its own prices, often as a matter of law.
So what happens? Patients with insurance get lots of health care, because they don't see the price. Government programs set the prices they are willing to pay as low as possible yet demand high-quality care (with punishment in the form of malpractice lawsuits), forcing doctors to price-discriminate in favor of government insurance while making up the cost in charges to privately insured individuals. This increases the cost of medical care to privately insured people, but they do not see the cost increase, and continue to get the same level of care. This forces private insurance companies to raise costs to employers (some of whom drop coverage), make efforts to insure only those who are already healthy (leaving the relatively unhealthy without coverage), and raise costs even more to those with little bargaining power (private individuals).
And all of this raises the cost of health care, which makes it harder to get by without health insurance, which produces NYTimes editorials demanding more government health insurance.
watched the CBS 60 Minutes followup episode
on the .50 caliber rifle and points out a lot of the problems with the
piece. Good work -- I'm glad someone was able to catch the
episode, since I was not.
UPDATE: I wonder what the statute of limitations on exporting firearms without a license is?
The Metro Pulse Online (no, I don't know what that means either) has an article up entitled Automatics for the Poeple in which... you guessed it.. they pontificate about the expiration of the "Assault Weapons Ban" without actually coming anywhere near the truth.
?I just like to come down here and punch holes in paper,? says Knoxvillian Terry Hardin. He and the rest of the men shooting at the John Sevier Hunter Education Center and Rifle Range have various reasons to do so, from hobby to hunting practice to self-defense to competition. The collective mood of the bunch is calm and competent, void of the fanatical machismo I?d prepared myself for.
At least they're frank about their bias.
When it?s my turn to shoot, the buzz that comes with firing a semi-automatic rifle for the first time is almost an afterthought. While the smokiness of spent powder and the smooth surface of the rifle?s body should arouse a tingling feeling of power or a savage prick of excitement, the concentration required to handle the hefty weapon overpowers any initial sensory stimulation.
Gee, the sexual undertones to this paragraph are pretty heavy. You might have to read it twice or three times before you realize that the author is actually saying that holding a gun does NOT feel sexual.
The various guns I shoot at the gun range are not, by the government?s standards, classified as ?assault weapons.? Still, Guy tells me that they have essentially the same amount of power, and they certainly feel capable of assault.
So why exactly are you writing about the expiration of the assault weapons ban again?
President Bill Clinton?s 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in September, placed a ban on 19 guns classified as ?assault weapons.? Historically, restrictions on firearms are by no means limited to liberal politicians; both the Reagan and Bush (the elder) administrations oversaw the implementation of limits on importation of certain foreign weapons.
The lingering question about the 1994 ban is, ?What, if anything, did it accomplish?? Gun enthusiasts say its effects were petty, aside from simply being a morale-boosting coup for the anti-gun lobby.
The government says it accomplished nothing at all. And the Violence Policy Center, a well-known anti-gun group, agrees. Personally, I'd say that's case-closed.
People on both sides of the debate are so biased that it?s nearly impossible to pick through the jumble of truths, rationalizations, opinions and flat-out fabrications.
One side of the debate indulges in rationalizations and fabrications, while the other side of the debate uses truth. I'd say that's easy to sort out, even if both sides do have opinions.
One overwhelmingly unanimous opinion among gun enthusiasts is that Clinton?s ban really didn?t have a clear target. Most gun retailers despise the use of the term ?assault weapon,? often ridiculing it as a misnomer fabricated by politicians ignorant on the subject of firearms. Tamara Keel, a long-time salesperson at Randy?s Guns and Knives, says, ?The real inanity of the ban is that several legal shotguns were more powerful [than banned weapons] but had wooden stocks, so they didn?t look as scary.?
It's overwhelmingly unanimous because it's true.
For example, under the ban, guns could not be sold or manufactured with collapsible stocks, which allow the shooter to shorten the length of the gun. This could presumably make the firearm easier to conceal, which is unnecessary in hunting or hobby shooting.
The effect of a telescoping stock is to shorten a rifle perhaps a maximum of 6 inches or so (allowing it to be used by people of different sizes). You can't conceal a rifle on your person unless you have one of those trenchcoats that hides a 3-foot sword, regardless of what kind of stock you put on the rifle. Criminals don't conceal rifles on their person; they generally don't commit crimes with rifles at all. They much prefer handguns -- by more than 20 to 1.
Flash suppressers, attached to the tip of the barrel to diminish the visible flash, were also forbidden under the ban. ?They would be useful at night, for the military, for example. It would keep the enemy from knowing where the fire came from,? says Guy.
Actually, it hides the flash from the person shooting; everyone else can see it clearly. It's nothing more than a piece of plastic on the end of the barrel in the right shape.
Another restriction under the ban was placed on bayonet attachments, prompting most gun enthusiasts to scoff, ?When was the last time you heard of someone getting murdered by bayonet?? Fair enough, but I couldn?t get a straight answer as to what, exactly, would be the purpose of the bayonet attachment as far as hobby, sport, or even self-defense. (After all, if you are holding a semi-automatic weapon whose bullets could bust through several layers of drywall, why would you need a bayonet?)
It doesn't work that way. YOU have to justify why a simple piece of metal that allows you to attach another, sharp point of metal to a rifle is suddenly illegal to actually put on the rifle. Sticking people with sharp things in order to kill them was illegal before and after the ban.
The question of whether the banned weapons were rightfully termed ?assault weapons? or whether they are any more dangerous than legal guns is a never-ending debate. Regardless, the looming problem with all of these regulations is that, ultimately, many people still owned what the government classified as ?assault weapons? while the ban was in effect because of a grandfather clause.
If anything, they are less dangerous than non-banned firearms. They fire less powerful ammunition than most hunting rifles.
The question of whether the banned weapons were rightfully termed ?assault weapons? or whether they are any more dangerous than legal guns is a never-ending debate. Regardless, the looming problem with all of these regulations is that, ultimately, many people still owned what the government classified as ?assault weapons? while the ban was in effect because of a grandfather clause.
?We haven?t seen much of a change in the weapons people use here [since the ban expired] because so many people had licenses to shoot these guns during the ban,? says Guy of the significant loophole in the legislation.
The federal Assault Weapons Ban did not require "licensing" to "shoot" assault weapons.
So, while folks on either side of the gun control debate have staunch opinions on the ban, its practical applications seem to have been pretty meager. Of course, other avenues of gun control are either possible or already in effect. Many states have their own restrictive gun laws. Massachusetts has a mandatory one-year jail sentence for anyone illegally possessing a firearm; a measure that takes on the gun lobby?s argument that criminals don?t abide by gun laws.
Actually, every criminal they convict under those laws proves the NRA's argument correct.
Education could be another missing link on the road to gun safety. In Tennessee, one needs no permit or special education to possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun. Acquiring a permit to carry a handgun requires safety classes, but plenty of murders and accidental deaths occur in the home, where no permit is needed.
Plenty of murders occur in homes in DC, too, where a permit is required by (unConstitutional) law.
Even the gun enthusiasts at the rifle range would likely support stricter requirements as far as safety education, judging from their eminently disciplined approach to hobby shooting. During a ceasefire, Hardin, who?s been shooting since his 8th birthday when he received his first .22 rifle, quips, ?Everybody down here is for gun control...and gun control is hitting what you?re aiming at.?
I bet you didn't ask any of them that question; if you had, they would have answered you, and you wouldn't have been able to put words in their mouth.
While the hunters and competition shooters at the rifle range seem to be model gun owners?law-abiding and objective in their consideration toward the anti-gun lobby?a few folks at the RK Gun Show were less levelheaded. Gun shows give retailers, collectors and gun buyers a forum to talk shop, display their prized possessions, and make transactions. The show, held at the Knoxville Expo Center a few weeks ago, gave me a peek at another side of the gun world. While a few people I spoke with told me brusquely to go away after learning that I was a reporter, the ones who would chat with me kept their guard up.
Surprise! People don't like you when you lie about them and their hobbies or livelihood.
One can?t blame them for being on the defensive; gun shows have been under attack for years for being a loophole in gun legislation. While purchasing a firearm at a licensed gun retailer requires a background check through the TBI, gun shows are notorious havens for unauthorized gun transactions (i.e. a good place for those with criminal records to get guns).
Except that there is no such loophole. Purchases through a dealer get background checks. Purchases from private citizens don't. Although the private citizen isn't likely to sell to you if he thinks you're a criminal. That's probably why very few criminals get their guns from gun shows.
For the record, it is legal to purchase machine guns (or full automatics) since the ban expired, but it requires a six- to nine-month background check by the FBI and a permit issued by the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms). Danny Guy contemplates the subject of machine guns for a moment before saying, ?It?s just what floats your boat?what thrills you. Because there?s absolutely no purpose for them...no reason any citizen would need one.?
Actually, fully-automatic firearms have nothing whatsoever to do with the Assault Weapons Ban. Machine guns are heavily regulated since 1934, although legal to purchase if you don't mind giving your fireprints to the FBI and getting a permission slip from the local police. The ban only covered weapons that looked like machine guns.
The lies just don't stop, do they? No matter how wrong they are proven to be, anti-gun politicians and news organizations continue to deliberately confuse the public. When the so-called journalists do it, I'm not exactly surprised, but there's not much that can be done. However, when public officials do it, there should be some remedy.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan today urged the General Assembly to pass a state assault weapons ban. This legislation would ban the manufacture of non-sporting, ?cop killer? assault weapons that are designed with military features to allow rapid spray firing, as well large capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Clearly, this is a buzzword-heavy press release. Let's take 'em in order. Non-sporting: First, remember that the so-called "sporting purposes" test originated with the Nazi government.
The cop-killer epithet originated with a special type of "armor-piercing" bullet designed for law-enforcement use in shooting through vehicles; the reality is that just about any rifle bullet will penetrate a police-style bulletproof vest, since the vests are designed ot stop handgun bullets. Assault weapons are actually low-powered weapons compared to a typical hunting rifle.
Now, if we were really talking about military features, we'd be talking about automatic weapons, also known as machine guns. Assault weapons are not machine guns and are not considered military rifles. They have a military "look and feel" in many cases, but they function identically to a more traditional wood-stock hunting rifle. In other words, they aren't any more useful for rapid spray firing than any other semiautomatic rifle.
And finally, as for large capacity ammunition feeding devices (which normal people call magazines), what makes these devices too dangerous for civilian use yet perfectly acceptable for police use? Are police in need of assault weapons with "large capacity ammunition feeding devices" so they can "spray fire" into crowds of criminals? Do they need special "cop-killer" weapons to penetrate bulletproof vests commonly worn by criminals? No? Then why are they exempted from the law?
The 1994 federal ban, which expired on September 13, prohibited the manufacture of 19 semi-automatic assault weapons and any semi-automatic firearm with at least two specified military features and the ability to accept a detachable magazine. It also banned production of ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition except for police or military use. Assault weapons and ammunitions clips holding more than 10 rounds manufactured before September 13, 1994, were ?grandfathered? under the federal ban and have continued to be legally sold and possessed during the period of the ban.
Amazingly, this paragraph is actually accurate and does not contain much spin. However, it's insufficient, simply because it is in the second paragraph; the first paragraph is filled with spin. In addition, the "military features" on the banned list are not necessarily "military" and should be explicitly listed so that the reader will understand how completely irrelevant to the actual functioning of the firearm they are.
The federal ban was passed in large part because many police across the nation in the 1980s reported that semi-automatic assault weapons had become the ?weapon of choice? for criminals. This year, when the ban was up for renewal, both of Illinois' U.S. Senators voted to extend the federal ban. However, Congress failed to pass the measure. In anticipation of the non-renewal of the federal ban, State Sen. John Cullerton and State Rep. Karen May sponsored a bill to return Illinois to pre-September 13 status when it comes to assault weapons.
If police reported that, they lied. The weapons banned by the law are mostly semi-automatic rifles, yet according to the Uniform FBI Crime Report, all rifles composed 4.05% of firearm murders -- and just 2.71% of all murders. Both numbers are inherently high, because not all rifles are assault weapons -- in fact, relatively few qualify. These are the criminal's "weapons of choice"? On what planet?.
?Ten years ago, Congress wisely passed the assault weapons ban to protect law enforcement officers and our communities from weapons that have no legitimate civilian use. Ten years later, however, special interests have persuaded Washington to allow these dangerous weapons to return to our streets,? Madigan said. ?Washington has turned its back on protecting law enforcement and our communities. Illinois should not put its law enforcement officers at risk one more day. Criminals do not need more firepower on our streets.?
How does a flash suppressor, a pistol grip, or a folding stock increase the amount of "firepower" available to criminals?
?This legislation simply extends a law which has been on the books for 10 years,? Cullerton said. ?My plan is to fine tune and strengthen the law in the next General Assembly."
So not only does he want to replace a law that, in 10 years, has had precisely no statistically detectable effect on crime.. he wants to make it stronger. Let me make it simple. He wants to confiscate guns. That's what assault weapons bans are leading up to.
?I have no quarrel with hunters who want to go after deer or ducks,? Devine said. ?But I do have a quarrel with allowing on the street the type of deadly assault weapon that killed Tsarina Powell. We all should have a quarrel with that.? Tsarina Powell, 12, was killed in July 2000 with an AK-47 assault rifle.
Well, there are two possibilities here, since in 2000 (when this child was killed) the assault weapons ban was in effect.
- If the rifle was actually a fully-automatic AK-47 assault rifle, a type of weapon which has been heavily regulated since 1934, it was almost certainly illegally possessed.
- If the rifle was a semi-automatic AK-47 assault weapon, covered by the assault weapons ban... then the ban doesn't seem to be very effective.
?If you talk to any community member in some of Chicago's most challenged neighborhoods, they would tell you they want fewer assault weapons on their streets, not more,? Grau said. ?By establishing a new ban on these deadly weapons, we're taking one more step toward building safer communities.?
Chicago is generally considered to have the second or third strictest gun control laws within the United States. Those gun control laws don't seem to be working very well, do they?
?By allowing these assault weapons on these streets, we have the potential of putting officers and communities at greater risk than need be. Such action also will have a negative impact on the quality of life in every community across the country,? Jones said. ?The criminal element has us outgunned on the streets. People must take a responsible position on issues that affect the safety of law enforcement and their communities.?
If the criminals have the police outgunned, they're doing it with handguns.
?We are pleased to see that Attorney General Madigan is willing to take a leadership role on this issue, which is something that was clearly absent from our leadership in Washington,? sadi Beth Coolidge, Chairman of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. ?We look forward to working with her and members of the General Assembly to ensure that this issue gets the full consideration and debate it deserves.?
It deserves none.
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to end Washington, D.C.'s self-imposed 28-year ban on handgun ownership. The move was an astounding violation of the principle of home rule, a crude and cynical demonstration of political bullying, and a grossly irresponsible decision that if put into action would likely harm the very people Congress ought to be protecting.
Actually, the District is a unique area governed as a federal territory according to Congress, as defined in the Constitution. There's nothing crude or cynical about allowing people to defend themselves in a city which has been called the "Murder Capital of the United States".
In the District of Colombia, 16 children have been shot to death this year, according to the Washington Post. Just how is enabling the possession of a handgun in a home supposed to help such children? The local police chief opposed the House measure, and district officials credit their self-imposed restrictions with helping what they say is a declining homicide rate.
Just at a guess, maybe having a gun in the home would allow that child's parents the opportunity to shoot the criminal before he shoots their child? That's assuming we are actually talking about a child, of course, and not a teenaged gang member shot in a turf battle over a particularly lucrative drug corner. But since we're talking about gun control, we can't trust that "children" really means "children", so I went looking for some statistics.
Although I didn't find the stats for 2003, I did find something else that's even more useful. That "something else" is a fact sheet from a gun control group that spells out gun deaths of "children" by cause within the District of Columbia and the 50 states. What I found is fairly interesting.
|District of Columbia
(I am leaving off the Undetermined column, which in all cases was negligible).
Now, the first interesting point to make here is about how the breakdown in deaths of "children" works. For your information, the source of these numbers defines "children" as people up to 19 years of age. That's a bullshit definition that mischaracterizes the problem, of course, which is exactly what the breakdowns demonstrate..
Look at how many gun deaths there were in the District of Columbia total, and then look at the numbers for homicide. About 90% of the gun deaths were homicides, and in one year there were no gun deaths that were NOT homicides! Deaths by accident and suicide are negligible.
Does anyone think that a criminal intent on murder will pay attention to the ban on guns in the city? The evidence shows that they do not. It's not guns that are killing "children" (some of whom are eligible for the draft!) in the nation's capital... murderers are the ones doing the killing.
And criminals do not obey laws, especially laws banning guns. The people who obey those laws are the victims. The real tragedy here is that many of these "children", the ones who are not criminals at least, were old enough to purchase a gun for self defense and obtain a concealed carry permit for it if they lived anywhere else.
If you must have a legislative answer to these murders, there it is right there: DC's gun ban rendered these children helpless to resist their murderers.
In addition to rolling back the district's existing gun rules, Personal Protection Act advocates would keep their foot firmly planted on the neck of local officials by prohibiting them from installing any gun restrictions that exceed federal law. The act also somewhat vaguely would ban rules that would "discourage" the use or ownership of guns. The members of the House would never dare such a slap at officials in their home states, but apparently felt bold in Washington because no one there can vote against them -- the district has only a nonvoting delegate in the House.
The prohibition on local officials installing gun restrictions is clearly necessary, because the local officials have demonstrated that they will do so if given that power.
Why would the bill's sponsors create this kind of legislation? Well, they gave a lot of pretty speeches about freedom, personal protection, failed bureaucracy and so on. But advocates of the bill know that a number of congressional seats are being contested this year in the South, where voters can be jumpy about perceived attempts to take away their guns. Democrats hold some of those seats, and a vote to keep the district's strong gun measures would make perfect ammunition for opponents, who doubtless would seize the chance to insinuate that incumbent Democrats wanted to take away every shotgun and hunting rifle.
Many of them do. Senator Kerry, who is currently deluded into thinking that he might be President, is an excellent example of a Democrat who wants to ban guns. Including, it seems, guns that he himself owns. How's that for elitist?
Fortunately, the next stop for the bill is the Senate, which is likely to be this bad idea's last stop as well. Senate leaders have said they do not expect to bring it up before the end of the legislative session in about a week, so the act is likely to go out with a whimper before it can take life with a bang.
This is true. But there are lawsuits pending that just might manage to strike down DC's gun laws. And if those lawsuits fail, we will come back, and back, and back until we get those laws removed.
Letting the assault weapons ban expire shows what can happen when a crafty Congress and president sell out to the unscrupulous National Rifle Association.
Gotta love those adjectives. Crafty. Unscrupulous. I like another adjective that comes to mind here. Ad hominem.
The NRA, arms manufacturers, arms dealers and criminals win. The public loses. Now every criminal and mentally deranged person can have access, albeit illegally, to weapons matching the firepower of a well-armed policeman.
Gee, they could have access, albeit illegally, while the ban was in effect. You can't put the genie back in the bottle. Not that having access to assault weapons matters a damn, since criminals didn't particularly favor them in the first place.
As strange as it may seem, the expiration of the assault weapons ban marks the beginning of the end for the National Rifle Association, but the NRA unwittingly lacks the ability to see its own demise. Nonetheless, it will happen.
The NRA was around before you were born, and it will be around once you pass away.
Eventually, someone with an assault weapon ? as before the ban ? will assassinate all the customers in a fast food store or kill a dozen or more workers in a manufacturing plant, all with a gun that doesn't need reloading. When this happens, as it did in Australia, Britain and California, there will be an uprising unlike any we have ever seen demanding common-sense gun control laws we would have except for paranoia in the National Rifle Association.
Maybe this will happen. Maybe it will be a member of the Million Misguided Mommies who does it.
The laws enacted will require the registration of all gun owners, the registration of all guns owned, and limit the number of guns a person may buy in a year. Mention these three laws, and any NRA member worth his shooter's cap will have a panic attack.
We call this "wishful thinking" in polite society. In Texas, we call it bullshit.
The expiration of the assault weapons ban should be a wake-up call to expose the warped thinking and mendacious actions of the NRA. We don't have to wait for a mass murder.
That's right, you can commit one to hurry things along!
A good place to begin is by showing that the NRA's "patriotic" defense of the Second Amendment is nothing more than hogwash. It uses the Second Amendment as a smokescreen to defend its irrational and illogical proposals under the pretext that legality equals sanity.
And your reasoning for describing respecting the self-defense rights of Americans, such rights being Constitutionally protected, is... what exactly? Oh, you have none? It suffices to call them "irrational" and "illogical" without demonstrating that? I see.
Accordingly, we must hold the NRA responsible for its irrational acts and pass sensible gun control laws, ideally before a massacre occurs. The NRA is a seriously flawed organization that will lose its power when sufficiently exposed for what it is, an affliction on society.
Would this paper have published this editorial have still published it if all references to the NRA and gun owners had been replaced by references to "blacks"?
Now here's a rare one. A reporter, who supports gun control, actually did some fact-checking concerning statistics quoted at a press conference concerning gun control by a local police chief... and found that the statistics were not exactly everything they seemed. The writer deserves kudos for checking the facts.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter. The assault weapon ban. For politicians it's political hay and that will certainly keep it in the news. Kerry will lambast Bush, and Bush will keep trying to pass the blame solely to Congress. The only reason I can see not to renew the ban is that some of our elected officials were given or promised something more important to them than past and future victims of assault weapon violence. Money, power, political longevity... whatever.
Somehow, I think that arguments concerning the 2nd Amendment would be lost on this fellow. Arguments that the assault weapons ban doesn't actually do anything might have more traction, but I don't get the impression that the law needs to be effective for him to support it. It makes him feel better; that's all that's required.
For the NRA it's some sort of moral stand; if I may be allowed to use that word in this context. Their argument is that criminals have back-alley ways of getting firearms and that if the government takes away semi-automatic weapons with 30-round magazines, pistol grips, flash-suppressors, folding stocks and bayonet attachments the nation will overnight turn into a police state/war-zone in which citizens most basic rights do not exist.
Think it can't happen here? It already has.
Having seen hunting and the military close up, I can confidently say that the two are not related. Never has a hunter been called upon to put thirty rounds into a rabbit in ten seconds while hiding the flash from his buddies so he can successfully leap out and bayonet them. The occasion just doesn't arise. I'm not even sure Ted Nugent could say that with a straight face.
Only reporters who don't pay attention to what gun owners are saying believe that the assault weapons ban has anything to do with hunting. No, there's not really any need for a 30-round magazine in order to hunt rabbit. That's not why we want to have them.
That's my view. Private citizens simply don't need assault rifles. Period.
It's his view, sure... too bad his view is unsupported by any actual facts. I'd suggest that maybe private citizens simply don't need laser printers, either, but as a reporter and member of the elite "press", this guy would probably agree with that too.
The view we ought to all be listening to, though, is that of the parents of the Columbine dead. And the surviving family members of victims of gang violence in LA. And... and... and.
Why? The assault weapons ban didn't stop Columbine despite being in place for 4 years before that incident. And as for gang violence... remember those Korean shopkeepers patrolling the roofs of their shops with AK-47s? I'd listen to them, and we don't even need to find "surviving family members".
I have trouble being amusing and sarcastic on this issue. It seems like such a no-brainer. A recent poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center showed that 70% of Americans want an assault weapon ban. So what we have here is a case of less than one in three people setting policy for the rest of us. Or, really, the NRA setting policy for the rest of us. Or, really, only part of the NRA setting policy for the rest of us. I have family and acquaintances who are members and who are 100% for the ban.
And have you checked to see whether the poll actually defines what an assault weapon is, and explains that it doesn't cover machine guns? No? Thought not.
So how in hell does this happen? How did the NRA lobby become so powerful? Are they threatening to mow congressmen down in the streets if they don't vote their way? Holding family pets for ransom? I truly don't know.
Have you stopped beating your wife yet? I truly don't know. I do know it's senseless to make stupid accusations when you admit to having no evidence to support them.
I do know this: If you and I don't make it clear, personally, to our congressmen where we stand on this; clear that their jobs are on the line; then we can partially blame ourselves for the next Columbine.
The Assault Weapons Ban passed in 1994. Columbine happened in 1999. Those are facts: the assault weapons ban did not stop Columbine.
Before helping to launch the criminal information project known as Matrix, a database contractor gave U.S. and Florida authorities the names of 120,000 people who showed a statistical likelihood of being terrorists ? sparking some investigations and arrests.
The "high terrorism factor" scoring system also became a key selling point for the involvement of the database company, Seisint Inc., in the Matrix project.
Public records obtained by The Associated Press from several states show that Justice Department (news - web sites) officials cited the scoring technology in appointing Seisint sole contractor on the federally funded, $12 million project.
Seisint and the law enforcement officials who oversee Matrix insist that the terrorism scoring system ultimately was kept out of the project, largely because of privacy concerns.
However, new details about Seisint's development of the "terrorism quotient," including the revelation that authorities apparently acted on the list of 120,000, are renewing privacy activists' suspicions about Matrix's potential power.
The MATRIX system (and who picked that name, anyway?) collects basic information on all citizens within its implementing state and makes that information available to law enforcement within all participating states. It's one of those projects where the devil is inevitably in the details. Information sharing helps catch terrorists and criminals but threatens the privacy of the law-abiding, so where do you draw the line? Especially when the database is designed to contain public records which the government has some right to access.
I've been nervous about the system on general principles. I don't mind making law enforcement put in some effort to get information on people; it shouldn't be an at-the-fingertips thing for the average citizen. Keep a database of people with arrest warrants, people with prior felony convictions, and suspected terrorists. That's 99% of the benefit right there. The cop who pulls you over to warn you that your taillights are broken shouldn't need to know anything more than that; it's not an investigation, after all, just a casual encounter.
But this article changes my outlook. Why? It's simple math -- math that I predicted when TIA first hit the news, and that also applies to the MATRIX system now that we know about the "terrorism quotient". In case that's not clear, the "terrorism quotient" is some kind of probability factor for a given individual being a terrorist. Given the information they put into MATRIX, pulling out a probability for such an extremely rare quality is no better than voodoo. It's like taking someone's income tax return and trying to determine if they are a homosexual.
It's possible to look at the tax return and make some educated guesses, but it's not possible to get it right with anything close to 100% accuracy. Given the low incidence of homosexuality in the general population (2-3%), and the relatively low correlation with traits visible on an income tax return, you're going to have a substantial problem with both false negatives and false positives.
False negatives are the cases where there is a terrorist, but he doesn't quite fit your profile, and gets away; the system doesn't notice him because he doesn't have any of the behaviors that would tip you off about him. To use the analogy, he's the conservative, happily married business owner. From everything the system knows, he's safe. One of the things the system knows is that the actual ratio of terrorists/homosexuals to the general population is very low -- if you pick any particular example, the chance that you have picked one of your target group is miniscule. So, in order to overcome that, there have to be some fairly strong data points. So far, I haven't seen any evidence that such data points exist (for either target group). That means it's very hard to overcome the negative presumption.
False positives are the cases where an innocent person is identified as a potential terrorist. In order to reach this level, the person must have possessed a significant number of positive factors. That seems comforting, until you realize what sort of positive factors are available in the data set.
How many Muslim males between 20 and 30 are living in the United States under false or expired visas who attend a mosque regularly? Surely thousands. How many of them can you arrest on suspicion of terrorism?
(Answer: None; you have no evidence. You have to put them all under surveillance, using national security letters rather than warrants due to the evidence problem, which is much more expensive. After nearly 3 years, we've arrested probably under 50 "terrorists" and have yet to convict a significant number of those.)
There's an important third category, too -- people who just aren't in the system. These are the folks who pay a Mexican coyote to smuggle them across the border, or who try to sneak in over the Canadian border, or who board their flights in Europe. MATRIX can't spot those, because it doesn't know about them, even if it works perfectly in all other respects.
So, with our expensive MATRIX system that assigns everyone a terrorist quotient, we've managed to compile a list of people that we think might be terrorists. We know there are some terrorists who aren't on the list at all, and we know that the system won't show us all the terrorists even if they are in the system, but the cost of a successful attack is very high, so we set the parameters fairly loose -- so we can be pretty sure that most potential terrorists are on the list. We'll just have to investigate the people on the list, one by one, and see who warrants further attention.
How big is the list? Well, thanks to this article, we know that the list of potential terrorists provided to the Florida authorities contained one hundred and twenty thousand people. Based on population statistics about Florida, that's about 1% of the population. Matrix would have you believe that one person in every hundred in Florida is a potential terrorist.
If you believe that, you should seek medical help for your paranoia immediately.
That's 120,000 people who will be investigated, probably interviewed, and some certainly arrested, based on nothing more than a computer program saying "Hey, you have some traits which vaguely resemble traits that terrorists also had."
But maybe we've acclimated to this. We do take off our shoes at the airport, these days, in case anyone is tempted to repeat the amazing stupidity of Richard Reid (the "exploding shoe terrorist"). Millions of people flying on airplanes, millions of our best, brightest, and richest, cheerfully remove their shoes at the direction of TSA agents -- just in case the terrorists are stupid enough to try it again. The cumulative cost in annoyance, humiliation, and wasted time (not to mention lost shoes) must be staggering.
And yet we do it without complaint, just as we discard our nail clippers and knitting needles and box cutters. How many terrorists have we caught because the airline screeners found his box cutter, or the bomb in his shoe, or the biological weapon in her breast milk?
There's a point where employing certain strategies against even a very expensive threat has a cost far, far higher than the results justify. The excessive searches at airports fall into that category, especially when a much more effective solution exists to stop the problem -- by which I refer to the Armed Pilot program. Now that this information about MATRIX has been revealed, it falls into the same category: expensive and pointless. Why investigate 120,000 people from scratch when you can investigate known Al-Qaeda members and their contacts, with a much lower cost and a much better chance of actually finding terrorists?
Why use homosexuality? It's a trait that occurs in a small number of people across a very broad range of backgrounds, and it's a socially-hidden trait -- it's not something obvious, although there are likely correlations with some otherwise innocuous behaviors. I'm not trying to imply any kind of link between homosexuality and terrorism!
Sometimes, it seems like the mainstream media can't get it right even when they are purporting to correct the record. This editorial is a perfect example. First, they quote from a political advertisement in a NRA magazine:
"What's so D*!# Funny About BANNING Your GUNS?!" reads the copy framing the photo. "That's what this bunch just voted to do. Right before they posed for the camera. They voted to ban semiautomatic shotguns like your duck gun. And they voted to ban semi-automatic rifles like the one you use for plinking. And they voted to ban deer hunting rifle ammo. And they voted to shut down gun shows. And they voted to blame the gun industry for the acts of criminals. Are these the people you want to put in charge of your rights?"
That caption appeared beneath a picture of Schumer, Feinstein, Kerry, and Kennedy immediately after the assault weapons vote earlier this year. The author then describes the action as follows, purporting to describe what really happened:
The Senate was asked to vote on a measure that was aimed at protecting gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits. It had been introduced by Larry Craig, who represents the state of Idaho and the National Rifle Association, but not in that order, in the Senate. And it probably would have passed had not Democrats attached two amendments to the bill. One called for renewing the 10-year-old ban on assault weapons and the other would have required background checks on buyers at gun shows; the same kind of checks gun shop operators are required to make.
To the chagrin of Craig and Wayne LaPierre, Craig's control at the NRA, the Senate approved both amendments, with 10 Republicans joining 41 Democrats on the assault weapons ban and eight Republicans joining 44 Democrats on closing the gun show loophole. The weapons ban vote was 52-47, the gun show vote was 53-46.
None of this had anything to do with your duck gun or your plinking rifle or your deer hunting ammunition, as the ad claims.
Now, the basic facts here are correct. Unfortunately for the author, however, I covered the assault weapons ban vote in detail as it happened... and so I know what really happened. The Senate was considering the lawsuit-preemption measure (a pro-gun bill) and voted on several amendments to that bill, including the renewal of the assault weapons ban.
There was, in fact, a gun show amendment. The amendment did several things. First, it required private sellers at gun shows to conduct background checks through a licensed dealer. That's the thing that the magician waves around to distract you from what's really going on. What's really going on? Well, another provision in the amendment created criminal liability for the organizers of the gun show if the private-sale background check requirement was violated. In other words, the people who run the gun shows could be imprisoned for mistakes made by private individuals at a gun show they organized.
Criminal liability is a heavy stick, folks, and no gun show organizer would have dared to hold a gun show with that ax hanging over their head. The laws are too vague and the enforcement too malicious. There is absolutely no way that the gun show organizer could reasonably comply with that requirement to avoid the possibility of becoming a criminal due to someone else's actions.
That would shut down gun shows -- if not immediately, then as soon as the first conviction. And the Famous Foursome voted for the amendment. Fact.
Next up. One of the other amendments being voted on concerned armor-piercing ammunition. This amendment purported to ban handgun ammunition that is capable of piercing a "bulletproof" vest. If you believe the propaganda from the anti-gun lobby, it's a reasonable bill that covers ammunition specially manufactured for piercing protective clothing. Who could oppose that? Who would use such ammunition other than criminals shooting at police?
There are a couple facts that you need to properly evaluate this amendment, however. First, nothing in the language of the bill required a special design purpose for piercing protective clothing. Simply the ability to do so was sufficient. Second, bulletproof clothing is designed to stop handgun bullets (and the ban specifies handgun ammunition), and usually the smaller, less powerful calibers. Short of heavy ceramic armor plating usually seen only in the military, any centerfire rifle bullet will pierce a "bulletproof vest". In practice, that means any bullet more powerful than a ".22 long rifle", and that's the smallest rifle caliber in general use.
So far, so good, right? Rifle bullets can pierce vests, but the ban says handgun ammunition only. So the hunting ammo is safe, right?
Wrong. There are handguns capable of firing every common rifle round. Everything from the .223 used in the M-16 all the way up to the .50 BMG, explicitly including every caliber popular for hunting. They aren't always popular handguns, or even pretty handguns, but they are handguns, they are in production, and they count. The amendment, if it became law, would have rendered all that ammunition vulnerable to a ban simply by presenting an example of a handgun in each caliber to the BATFE.
The Fearsome Foursome voted for that amendment. That's a fact. And the writer purporting to correct the record doesn't even mention the amendment. Most likely, he doesn't know about it. What kind of record-correction is that?
What about your plinking rifle? Well, if you already own it, your plinking rifle is safe. But that's not what the ad said; it said that the Senators "voted to ban semi-automatic rifles like the one you use for plinking". And they did. The word "like" means something.
The guns banned by the Assault Weapons Ban differ from a normal plinking rifle in only very small, cosmetic ways. For example, semi-automatic versions of the M-16 are popular for plinking -- yet the assault weapons ban covers many versions of that firearm (those manufactured with a bayonet mount or a flash suppressor or a threaded barrel). Those are cosmetic accessories, easily removed in order to comply with the law, exactly as the manufacturers did. And by virtue of their cosmetic nature, the banned firearms are like your semiautomatic plinking rifle; there is no mechanical difference between your plinking rifle and a banned "assault weapon".
What about your duck shotgun? Well, the relevant line from the Assault Weapons Ban is this: "any shotgun which contains its ammunition in a revolving cylinder, such as (but not limited to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12". Once again, the word "like" comes into place. What's the difference between a semiautomatic shotgun that uses a revolving cylinder and a semiautomatic shotgun with an inline magazine? Not much. They both fire one shotgun shell each time you pull the trigger. Once again, the word "like" means something. (Besides, it's possible to hunt ducks with a street sweeper. It may get you odd looks, but it would work just as well).
In fact, both of the "like" statements illustrate one of the major flaws in the assault weapons ban: the ban affects only cosmetic differences. It's not based on any rational criteria, but on simple cosmetics.
Although the writer doesn't mention it, there was another amendment concerning trigger locks from Barbara Boxer, another anti-gun Senator. That passed. And the Fearsome Foursome voted for it, too.
Let's talk about blaming the gun industry for the actions of criminals, even though the writer is kind enough to concede that that was actually at issue. The reason the lawsuit preemption issue was even being discussed was because of lawsuits like this one, in which gun control groups sued Glock, a handgun manufacturer, and its distributors for the actions of a mentally-ill murderer who bought his firearms from a private party. Or this one claiming the marketing and distribution practices are a public nuisance due to firearm crime. And how about this legislation seeking to create the kind of liability the immunity bill was trying to close? How about this one, which the paper describes as a suit that would "hold gun dealers accountable when criminals get their hands on guns". Or this one, suing the store where the DC snipers shoplifted the rifle they used for their attacks.
Convinced? All those lawsuits seek to blame manufacturers, distributors, and dealers for the actions of criminals. The immunity bill would have stopped those lawsuits. The Fearsome Foursome voted against the immunity bill even with their poison-pill amendments. Fact.
If you doubt me, check their votes for yourself. Want to correct the record? Contact the paper and tell them to print a correction. But there are more issues in the rest of the editorial:
An infuriated LaPierre began e-mailing Senators urging them to vote against the measure rather than have it pass with the amendments intact. Whereupon the good soldier Craig urged his colleagues to vote against his own bill. Which they did, 90-8.
True enough as far as it goes. But was LaPierre really "infuriated"? If so, he was infuriated because his ass was on the line: shortly before the crucial votes the NRA had been exposed by hard-line, gun-rights libertarians as being willing to trade the immunity bill for the assault weapons ban renewal. This generated a firestorm of email to the NRA and a firestorm of infuriated constituents calling their Senators to urge them to vote against the bill.
It may be that the NRA gave the Senators their marching orders after the various gun control amendments passed. But if so, the NRA got its own marching orders from its members and activists, who would not stand for another repulsive compromise. If you're looking for the Secret Masters of the NRA conspiracy, look no further than the NRA members.
Supporters of the two amendments included John Warner of Virginia and John McCain of Arizona. They do not appear in the ad's photograph. And Bush, who was on record favoring both amendment measures, made no effort to support them. Flip-flop?
Gun owners have been unhappy with Bush over his position on this issue for some time, and it may cost him the election this year. However, while he stated the he would sign the bill if it made it to his desk, he never promised to push for it to pass. The bill hasn't made it to his desk, so that's that.
As for McCain and Warner, their names will be remembered by gun-rights activists, along with all the rest. We'll be remembering Warner because he voted for the renewal. And we'll be remembering McCain's vote against it -- although McCain's authorship of the Incumbent Protection Act will more than cancel out any credit for the nay vote.
But if you had to pick four Senators to represent gun control, Feinstein (who wrote the assault weapons ban renewal amendment and the original 1994 ban), Kennedy (who authored the ammunition ban amendment), Kerry (who interrupted his campaign for President to vote for the ban), and Schumer (who has a long history of support and advocacy for gun control) are as good as any and better than most.
Don't like the ad because it picks on Democrats rather than Republicans? Given that there were over 40 Democrats supporting the bill, and under 8 Republicans, and also given that the amendments under discussion were authored by Democrats, and two of the Senators pictured were those who authored the amendments being objected to, I hardly find the picture poorly chosen. That this writer does is evidence of his own bias, rather than an objection on the merits.
Every time I think I have become used to the depths the modern media have sunk to in their quest to brainwash the nation, I run across something like this... something from a supposed advocate of tolerance and understanding.
Our long national nightmare is over. With the 10-year federal ban on 19 types of assault weapons expiring, happy days are here again. Finally, we can get back to hunting squirrels with an AK-47. To scaring away salespeople with a Colt AR-15 Sporter equipped with barrel extender. To showing our children how to reload a MAK90 with a 30-round clip. We can return to the kind of America our forefathers envisioned when they wrote the Constitution--an America where you can walk into a Wal-Mart, purchase a Streetsweeper, modify the trigger, and make the girls in the typing pool back at the office pay for not going out with you.
Can you even begin to count the offensive stereotypes there? Apparantly anyone who opposes the assault weapons ban likes to brandish firearms at strangers, hunt squirrels with an AK-47, endanger children with firearms, and commit mass murder in revenge for his own social ineptness. And that's just in the first paragraph!
As someone born in the free fire zone called the United States, I possess certain inalienable rights. To me, the Second Amendment is sacred, even if most of the others are a bunch of crap.
Most people who believe in the 2nd Amendment also believe in the other amendments that make up the bill of rights.
Renewing the ban would be the beginning of a long, slippery slope ending in the settling of personal disputes by hand-to-hand combat or--worse still--calm, sober discussion.
Checked the statistics on concealed-carry permit holders lately? How's that for calm, sober discussion as a problem-solving method?
While loaded opinion polls may show that 68 of 100 people favor renewing the ban, you can bet an Uzi those are 68 people who have never experienced the pure exhilaration of firing a Kalashnikov with grenade launcher at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
So now all 2nd Amendment supporters are abortion opponents who shoot at clinics? (Sorry, not me; I support the ability to have an abortion because I don't feel it's my right to make someone else's moral choices for them; and I certainly don't support violence).
When you take a long-range view of it, a Columbine here and there is a small price to pay for a joy ride with the sunroof down and a fully loaded TEC-9 pointed at a newspaper box.
Columbine had nothing to do with the assault weapons ban, which had been in effect for 4 years before the shooting. It was a massacre because police surrounded the school and then did nothing, not because the two criminals had especially powerful weapons.
And while some argue that the DC snipers used a Bushmaster assault rifle, who has had the courage to ask why no one was firing back?
I don't have to ask. Handguns are illegal in DC, remember?
The spineless enemies of freedom have taken aim and tried to make this into a safety issue. But as any serious student of economics knows, the free market will take care of the whole thing. The reintroduction of hundreds of thousands of assault weapons to our streets, playgrounds, and malls will foster healthy competition from other hungry, innovative gun manufacturers. Gun owners choosing to fire modified Beretta AR-70s irresponsibly will be countered with friendly-priced laser-sighted shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, in essence establishing a balance of power and ushering in a new golden age of national security. An armed society is a polite society, and assault weapons are the walking stick.
Excuse me a moment, I need to check the streets.
Nope, still no blood.
The anti-gun crowd used this argument to oppose concealed-carry, and they have been proven wrong in every single state that has enacted it. The argument is even less valid when applied to "assault weapons" stored in the home, not carried on the person.
So right now, I have a lot of catching up to do. Ten years underground is a long time, and if you think keeping up with the Joneses is hard, try keeping up with the bin Ladens. Sure, I'll be a bit rusty, but they say shooting up a post office with a TEC-22 is like riding a bike. More importantly, as always during trying times, we must look beyond our own immediate needs. We must remember our unique position and duty as a nation. By refusing to renew the ban, we can make a statement to the rest of the world, which is, essentially--duck.
I haven't shot up any post offices lately, not with a TEC-22 (whatever that is) or anything else.
With this kind of ignorance and bigotry passing for legitimate journalism, it's no wonder that Dan Rather can be taken in by a left-leaning partisan with a folder of clumsily-forged documents.
I go through life constantly being surprised. Tuesday evening, for example, I stopped by Koscielski's Guns and Ammo shop on Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis, figuring there would be a big truck backed up to the door, with suddenly-legal weaponry being lugged into the store.
I figured that everything from grenades to machine guns would be available to the gun crowd, given the fact that our stalwarts in Washington allowed the federal ban on assault weapons to bleed to death as of Monday.
It's rare to see a "journalist" admit to being wrong about an issue like this. On the other hand, if just a little visit to a gun store could dispell this person's prejudices and provide accurate information about the law, why did this visit not take place before the law expired, while "journalists" were desperately seeking to prop up the law?
Fact is, this guy went out to take pictures of "evil black guns" being sold following the expiration of the ban. He got an education instead, and for that we should be thankful -- but it's not why he went to the store, and he clearly didn't bother to investigate the law before it expired. Apparantly assumptions made in ignorance are good enough to write newsvocacy pieces.
I was as bloodthirsty as the next guy when Harrison Ford shot the swordsman to kingdom come in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. You remember the scene. A menacing man dressed in black robes and red sash, smiling as he wields a fearsome blade, advances on hero grave robber Indiana Jones (Ford). Indy takes one tired look at the guy, pulls out his revolver and shoots him dead. Bang. Hurrah! Pass the popcorn. The scene was one of the most memorable movie moments of the 1980s. It got a huge laugh and a round of applause from the crowd I saw Raiders with at the old University Theatre, the week the film opened in 1981. What exactly were we applauding? What was so funny about killing a man in cold blood?
This guy has a bee in his bonnet about movies using guns to move the plot along, but he's missing the point. Movies (like many other types of stories) are usually depicting extraordinary events, not ordinary events. A certain amount of violence is often a component of stories about extraordinary events. While it can often be used improperly, they get it right occasionally.
And as for Indiana Jones... well, when a man is attacking you with a sword, it's hardly cold blood to shoot him. That's a proper use of firearms in a movie; self-defense.
Ten years ago, a Detroit woman named Bryl Phillips-Taylor went to Washington to support a ban on assault rifles. Her son, Scott, had been killed with one. Last week, she returned for the same reason. Her son was still dead. The bullets had still come from an assault weapon. But there she was again, pleading the same case.
Hmmm... a name. How interesting. Let's do some research. According to this page, Scott was "murdered by an adolescent with a grudge".
Scott was 17 and was murdered, according to CNN's account, by a classmate who lured him from his place of work and shot him with an AK-47 6 times.
Last I checked, 17-year-old adolescents weren't legally permitted to purchase firearms, and being shot 6 times is well below the "assault weapon limit" of 10 rounds per magazine.
In short, it doesn't sound like the weapon matters here, nor the laws governing its sale or manufacture. Just about any firearm would be capable of the same thing.
The problem here is the murderer.
And it's probably worth mentioning that Scott was killed in 1989. That's 15 years ago. Crime has plummetted since then, and no, the assault weapons ban didn't have anything to do with it.
That's because on Monday, the assault weapons ban expired. And despite the fact that nearly 70 percent of Americans support keeping it - and you can't get 70 percent of Americans to agree on anything these days - lawmakers stepped aside and let it fling off the cliff.
You can get 68 percent of Americans to support anything if you are willing to lie to them and cater to their ignorance.
I have given up trying to convince certain people about guns. Those people already are writing me nasty letters, and they haven't read past this paragraph. Forget them. They won't listen.
We are the ones you most need to convince, I'm afraid. You can pass all the laws you want, but if you haven't convinced us that they are legitimate, you're going to have a problem when you try to enforce them.
But most Americans should wonder about letting a law expire that has done no harm, that has coincided with a drop in the crime rate, and that has the support of a huge majority. Instead, this is how brazen our politicians have become. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the Senate majority leader, said last week: "I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire." A law that 70 percent of us support?
The law has infringed our Second-Amendment rights and is an offense to the Constitution. That's all the harm necessary. And frankly, Bill Frist is right. Support that comes from lies doesn't count. Americans support their second amendment rights and, when given the facts, say so.
As for the law "coinciding" with a drop in the crime rate... well, that's an interesting choice of words there. The ban does indeed coincide somewhat with a drop in the crime rate. But the ban doesn't explain any of that drop. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of statistics can discover that.
Why did so many politicians - both Republican and Democrat - want to let this thing die? Because they're scared. Not of getting shot - which is what this should be about. No, they are scared of losing votes. And they are scared of the National Rifle Association, which gives huge money to elect its supporters and to defeat those who dare disagree.
That's right. They're scared that the people they represent will vote them out of office if they renew this travesty. They are scared that people whose rights are protected by the Constitution will take offense at their refusal to obey the highest law of the land. That's a Constitutional Republic for you, where your rights are protected even when the media has spent 15 years trying to incite a lynching.
There it is. You have Democrats looking back at the 1994 election - when the ban was passed - and believing the ban cost them 20 seats in Congress. And you have Republicans who see a rich friend in the NRA, which gives a whopping 69 percent of its campaign contributions to the GOP, and, well, you don't bite the hand that feeds you, right?
Gee, if 70% of the people really supported this ban, why would Congressmen lose seats when they voted for it? Maybe there's more to the story?
Ironically, if the ban had been for 11 years, not 10, it might have survived, since 2005 isn't an election year. But politicians are puppets yanked on a string, which leads us to the puppeteer, the NRA itself. Even there, you want to ask the simple question: Why is it necessary to put assault weapons back on the market?
Because it was unncessary and stupid to remove them from the market. Oh, and let's not forget. Why do gun rights have such an influence over politicians? Simple: gun owners vote. The NRA's power comes from its membership. 4 million plus people.
Sure, as the NRA argues, the drop in crime is small. So? If it saved one life, isn't that worth it? Sure, as the NRA argues, the law bans certain weapons while allowing others with similar firepower to stay on the market. So? Perhaps that's an argument for eliminating those weapons, too.
Remember the Constitution? It has a pesky bill of rights that was designed especially for people like you.
If saving one life was enough, why don't we ban airplanes? Far as I can tell, these days airplanes are the weapon of choice for terrorists.
But that's where the NRA has - as Oprah would say - its "aha!" moment. You see, the minute anyone suggests a ban on anything with a trigger, the NRA uses it to scare the bejesus out of law-abiding gun owners and hunters. The NRA whips fear into frenzy, citing the dreaded slippery slope: "Aha! Once they take away one gun, they'll come after all of them. You won't be able to hunt! You won't be able to defend yourselves!"
And yet, just one paragraph up, you suggested expanding the assault weapons ban so it was no longer merely cosmetic, but instead, presumably, banned all semi-automatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine. And you call us paranoid when we call you on it?
Aw, bull. You don't need an assault rifle to shoot a deer.
I don't see the word "deer" anywhere in the second amendment.
And there are plenty of guns available to defend yourself.
Not if you have your way.
Putting a ban on weapons that criminals seem to favor may not stop crime in its tracks, but if it narrows the flow a wee bit, if it limits the harm criminals can do even this much, is that a bad thing?
If being used in less than 2% of crimes committed with firearms makes assault weapons "favored by criminals", I'm a newt.
And please don't tell me about our forefathers. Our forefathers would take one look at this trigger-happy society and throw up.
You're right. And once they finished being sick, they would kick off the Second American Revolution, using exactly the guns you insist should be banned.
Government of the people, by the people, for the people, remember? When 70 percent of us want something, but a senator says the opposite is "the will of the people," there's a problem. They count money. They count votes. But mothers who lose sons to bullets should count more.
And Constitutional Rights trump everything else in this debate.
The thought of 60 white people carrying guns was enough to keep my black ass out of Northside last Sunday (see Show of Force).
Sure, they say they were protesting the Ohio Supreme Court's decision to uphold Ohio's ban on carrying concealed weapons, but why not transport that posse to lawmakers' doorsteps in Columbus?
Why not? Because the broad daylight gun-toting faction of Cincinnati doesn't carry guns for protection. They carry guns for perpetuation.
They're trying to bully the rest of us into believing that a menace is intent on charging into our homes, pillaging our belongings and shooting us down in front of our families.
Clearly the author doesn't have a clue. If the threat was "charging into our homes", no one would need a carry permit. But it is undeniable that crime is a continuing problem; no place is safe enough to justify removing our right to self-defense.
The fact is, proponents of concealed carry aren't trying to bully anyone into anything. They just want to keep themselves, and their families, safe.
But for some people, that's beside the point. Guns are scary, and white people with guns are even more scary. Yet, somehow, that's not a racist statement coming from a black woman. As pointed out earlier, gun control laws were in many cases founded in racism. This paper seems determined to perpetuate the racial division on gun control. It's a shame they feel that way.
They aren't arming themselves against any slippery threat. They're publicly arming themselves to perpetuate their myth of the Wild West, where the law went like this: Shoot first and arrange justice to fit your guilt.
That's a fairly serious charge, but the record in other states that permit concealed carry shows that it's a charge lacking any basis in reality.
The choice to carry a weapon -- concealed or not -- is personal, just like worship, sex and abortion. Yet zealots ram down our throats their displeasure with people trying to peacefully coexist in a city and a neighborhood that could well do without any more stirring along extremist lines.
I don't think that this ignorant editorialist realizes that she has just equated the right to carry a gun -- concealed or not -- with other individual, constitutionally-protected rights. In other words, Ohio's laws forbidding concealed-carry are unConstitutional, and the "Defense Walk" to which she is referring is a completely legitimate protest of an invalid court ruling on the issue. She's just uncomfortable that it happened in her neighborhood.
White gun owners "parading" for no other reason than to show the general public how pissed off they are about a law upheld two hours away is as divisive, irresponsible and racist as the white customers perpetually flitting in and out of Northside from other communities to cop crack.
Do you even know they were white? You weren't there, remember? And with your own racist comments opening this column, you don't have any ground to stand on. Pot, meet kettle.
Fed-up Northside business owners have repeatedly told me they've called on Cincinnati cops to stem the drug- and sex-dealing tide there. The cops rarely, if ever, show up.
So, in other words, there IS a crime problem in this neighborhood. Interesting change of tune.
And evidently 60 gun-strapped white people weren't enough to immediately rouse cops across the viaduct to Northside either.
I bet my blackness that if 60 black, predominantly male "protesters" visibly carrying guns cut a swath down any Cincinnati neighborhood the streets would transform to a SWAT training video. I can see it now: cops on horseback, plain-clothed detectives moving through the gathered crowd, Simon Leis' ghetto bird hovering overhead and rubber bullets at the ready.
Instead, Cincinnati cops followed along as Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich and Harold "Hal" McKinney, my long-ago Friday night date, showed their support for carrying concealed weapons.
Northside, he said, is not a safe and thriving place to live. Pissed-off gun owners and drug dealers will see to that.
You can "bet your blackness" on that matter, and you're probably not far wrong, but if you want to cry racism, you're going to have to face the hard, cold facts. Specifically, these "white men with guns" didn't cause a riot. They didn't smash anything, set anything on fire, loot any stores, assault any police officers. There was no violence. And that exposes everything you've written as nothing more than hot air.
The author of the referenced editorial is accessible to email at: email@example.com.
Yet another ignorant editorialist demanding more gun laws. Let the shredding commence.
On Saturday, a Saginaw man bought a shotgun. The next day, he drove to Bangor Township and used it to kill his estranged wife, then himself. In front of neighbors and children. A horrible, horrible tragedy. We don't know if this murder and suicide could have been prevented. Someone bent on homicide could use any weapon - a knife, a tool, his bare hands - to accomplish his goal. But a gun makes it so much easier to kill.
That's right -- easier to kill in self-defense, if need be. What would have happened had the victim bought a gun to defend herself? She might be alive today. But she didn't. What if the man couldn't get a shotgun? He could use a knife, a tool, his bare hands -- but the victim is still dead, and the odds of an unarmed woman fighting off an armed man -- even just armed with a screwdriver -- are low.
For a shotgun or rifle, just go down to the store. Fill out a form, run your name through the National Instant Check System in a minute or two to prove you're not a criminal. Pay your money, and you're armed and deadly. Michigan requires no waiting period for any firearms purchase. It should. Forced to wait a few days, an enraged spouse or a wronged individual would have time to rethink his homicidal impulse. To cool down.
Wait a minute. Just a few words ago, this man bought a gun on Saturday. Then he used it on Sunday. He waited overnight before committing his crime. If a man is willing to wait one night, he'll wait three. So much for a "waiting period".
But suppose there was a waiting period. Frustrated in his initial purchase, the man finds an illegal gun dealer and buys a gun -- no waiting period, no background check. But if his victim also bought a gun, to defend herself, she would still be waiting for it on Sunday when she died. Is that justice? Did she need to "cool down"?
Authorities might even have used a mandated waiting period to further check the background of the Saginaw man. They might have learned he was under medication as part of psychiatric treatment. That knowledge might have ended the transaction.
The background check system already in place allows for purchases to be be delayed while the background of the purchaser is checked thoroughly, if there is any doubt as to the identity or validity of the purchaser. If the initial query did not produce a delay request, subsequent investigation won't produce a deny.
If we had a waiting period, authorities might even have done a simple check to learn that the man and his wife were going through a divorce.
Given the heartrending emotions of breaking a family apart, we'd say active divorce proceedings ought to be reason enough to prevent the people involved from buying a firearm for the time being.
So anyone going through a divorce should not be able to own or purchase a firearm? Interesting, that, especially that a huge number of people get divorced without killing anyone. And of course, in these days of the declining relevance of marriage, shouldn't we extend the prohibition to people whose girlfriends just left them? Better create a new "romance registry".
The fact is, current law prohibits gun possession (not just purchase) for people with domestic violence restraining orders against them -- the typical telltale for a messy divorce likely to turn into a murder. That in itself is already too harsh, because in many jurisdictions, domestic violence restraining orders are practically boilerplate in the divorce proceedings, and they make a great weapon for a bitter spouse to get back at his or her gun-owning ex-partner. But the law is there, and it didn't stop this event.
We are not against selling firearms to responsible people. But they shouldn't be impulse purchases, either. Hunters must apply months in advance for certain licenses. Precision shooters and collectors are involved in a lifetime hobby.
People buying sidearms for protection must jump many hurdles so they may carry their weapons concealed. A wait of a few days to buy their guns would hardly hamper them. But it could keep firearms out of the hands of the last people who should go armed. And, hopefully, prevent the tragedy of a Sunday afternoon.
What about people -- like the victim in this story -- who need a gun, now, to protect themselves from their ex-husband who already has one? For them, it's not a waiting period -- it's a Victimization Period.
The Boston Globe, a well-known liberal newspaper, has a column called
"Ask Beth". "Beth" opined on gun control recently, and has now published
some of the letters she received in response. Predictably she
opens with a softball, before allowing a knowledgable firearms safety
instructor to expose her "statistics" for the biased lies they
are. And she then has the gall to attempt to excuse them:
Although 19-year-olds are legal adults, they're also teenagers. I'm as
concerned about a 19-year-old who kills, or is killed, as I am a
10-year-old. Except for unavoidable accidents, each death is committed
by someone who is disturbed, abandoned, and in desperate need of help.
I'm concerned about accessibility. If you can easily get your hands on
a lethal weapon -- whatever your age --and you are upset, suicidal,
emotionally disturbed, or angry -- you're that much more likely to
commit a lethal act.
It's not about accessibility.
Murders are not committed by normal people who suddenly "snap" because
they have a firearm handy; the well-nigh perfect record of
concealed-handgun permit holders proves that. Murders are
commited by habitual criminals
. More than three out of four murderers have a prior felony conviction
Suicide, while a better argument, is generally considered means independent
denied a firearm, suicides will be committed by jumping from cliffs or
wrecking cars or overdosing on pills or cutting wrists. Consider
Japan; while firearms are heavily regulated for ordinary citizens,
their suicide rate is far higher than ours.
When you limit the discussion to accidents, firearms are less dangerous
to children than swimming pools, and less dangerous to adults than
malpractice by doctors.
But it really boils down to two words.
You say, "guns killed".
The vast majority of those guns did not go off accidentally. A
person pointed that gun at someone else and pulled the trigger with
intent to kill. I call that murder. And I don't blame the
gun for the ill intent behind it.
What do you call it?
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