Weblogging is a mixture of news and opinion, generally using a linked news article as a springboard for short commentary.
Utterly fascinating poll about British crime in the Sunday sister of the Guardian, The Observer. Among the remarkable highlights, 67 per cent support the death penalty and nearly a quarter of Brits would be tempted to carry a gun if the law allowed it.
Well, after they banned guns, and then banned swords, and are considering banning knives, it seems the Australian criminals have been preparing their next deadly weapon: umbrellas.
Will they ban umbrellas next?
Publicola's trying to start a meme. He's asking whether those of us who support the right to keep and bear arms will vote Bush/Republican in November if the assault weapons ban is renewed. He says no.
I will not vote for Bush or any Republican if the assault weapons ban is renewed.
At risk of dimishing the impact of my statement, I wasn't planning to anyway. Michael Badnarik and the Libertarian Party have my vote in the elections this year, and the Libertarians have it as a general rule. Why is that, though, when I definitely am more sympathetic to the Republican position than the Democratic position, and the Republicans can actually get people elected to national office? Simple: The Republicans can't be trusted. They talk the right talk on most issues. But they won't back it up. They don't vote their rhetoric.
At least the Democrats vote for what they say they support, even if they refuse to call it socialism.
I've been a committed libertarian for years. Up until this year, I never doubted my choice of party, but as November approaches I have found myself asking hard questions. I support the Libertarian platform 100% as a matter of principle, but the application of those principles to Iraq and Afghanistan seems to me a dangerous thing. We cannot afford to leave either nation without our presence, our support, and our good example. An American government that acts primarily within its own borders, rather than entangling itself into the affairs of other nations, is the right long-term principle, but we cannot simply withdraw unilaterally and expect the terrorists to honor a truce; they will sense weakness and they will strike.
Bush is strong on foreign policy and national security overall. He's committed to staying in the Middle East and creating a free and democratic nation in Iraq (and possibly Afghanistan as well). I think that is the best long-term strategy: give the region a taste of freedom and a taste of hope. It's a long-term plan that won't be easy to pull off, but it's the best plan we've got. He's not a perfect candidate on those issues, but he's light-years ahead of Kerry, and though I cringe to say it, Badnarik would probably be a national-security disaster in the present times.
So this year, Bush might have had my vote. But he flubbed it on domestic policy; with the exception of tax cuts and some trivial policy statements, he's flubbed *every single issue* domestically. Let's review:
I hardly need to go on. The man is a complete disaster on every policy he's touched except terror and taxation.. and there are some questions about terror. Afghanistan and Iraq needed to be dealt with; Iran and North Korea still do. He's got that going for him, but precious little else... and he's betrayed his base. On the assault weapons ban, on the deficit, on health care, on liberty. There are a lot of disillusioned Republicans and gun owners out there.
The good news? Those polls you see that claim large numbers in support of the assault weapons ban don't lie. They're commissioned by the anti-gun groups, of course, so they distort the questions a bit to keep the people answering them from actually understanding what they are being asked, but there are lots of people out there who think "military-style firearms" can and should be banned.
The bad news? Let's think about who those people are. The people who support renewing the ban are responding to a poll. They may be "likely voters" but they aren't likely to vote based on their opinions of the assault weapons ban. Probably about 40-50% of those favoring the ban are Democrats who will vote for Kerry no matter what; the rest will look at Bush on a variety of issues and won't be swayed by any single one. Bush isn't going to get the fiscal responsibility vote this year, for example, and frankly the soccer mom vote isn't going to go Republican.
The people who oppose renewing the ban are dedicated activists who understand the firearms laws and probably consider themselves 2nd Amendment absolutists (or not far from it). These people will vote the gun-rights line and they will mobilize others to do so. You won't see them on the media, but they'll be proselytizing on the internet, on the phone, and in person with their friends. If you can convince them that Bush is a pro-gun candidate who will actually fight for their gun rights, they're worth probably hundreds of votes each.
Recent polls suggest that in Michigan, 76% of voters support the assault weapons ban. Now, this is an anti-gun poll with misleading questions paid for by an anti-gun organization in a liberal bastion. It's safe to assume they aren't underestimating support for the ban. But even so, 24% of the people in Michigan oppose the ban. Since Michigan has a population of about 10 million, that's 240,000 people who are opposed to the ban. And they are the ones with the guns.
The long-term legislative agenda of the anti-gun lobby is an extremely risky one. They do not understand the passion with which many gun owners view the 2nd Amendment and the right to arms. They do not comprehend the consequences of success. Should they ever succeed in passing a bill that says, to borrow some appropriate quotations, "Mr and Mrs America, turn them all in" will be answered by "... from my cold, dead hands!"
In 1994, the original assault weapons ban was not enough to trigger this response. Perhaps the sunset date in the bill prevented it; perhaps the fact that it did not attempt to confiscate existing guns; perhaps the purely cosmetic nature of the banned features. But that was in 1994, under Clinton, when the Democrats had a great deal more power. The Republican party could blame the ban on him, say they had to make deals and play along. It's been 10 years, and we have a supposedly pro-gun President, a supposedly pro-gun House, and an evenly balanced Senate.
If Bush and the Republican Party want to betray their base, by passing and signing a gun control law while the supposedly-pro-gun party is in power, the message they will send to gun owners is simple: it doesn't matter who you vote for, both sides will vote to take your guns away.
By trying to finesse the gun control issue, Bush may get some short-term benefits. But it's a risky strategy, because he will not be able to deny responsibility should more gun control laws pass on his watch. Saying the Democrats did it won't help him when the Democrats aren't even remotely in power. And by thoroughly betraying the trust of the gun owners, Bush will have ensured that they look elsewhere.
If voting and even electing Republicans is not enough to prevent gun control from being enacted, those gun owning activists will throw their vote and their activist support behind other candidates. Libertarians, Constitutionalists, whatever it takes. If the Republican party passes gun control while able to control both Houses of Congress, and Bush signs it, the Republican party will have abandoned all pretense of being pro-gun. Pro-gun voters will no longer have a viable candidate to vote for. Some of them will move to third parties, in the hopes of creating a viable pro-gun alternative. What I fear is that some of them will decide instead to vote with lead.
One of the difficulties of being a Libertarian is answering the same questions over and over and over again, from people who don't quite get it. One of those is "Who would build the roads?" Generally, they assume that roads are something that only government can afford to build properly.
Now, it's true that building roads has some problems that are difficult to solve in a free market. But that doesn't make them any easier to solve with government. Witness the British government's plan to tax drivers $2.50 per mile with GPS-enabled toll systems. Sure. Whack the privacy issue AND the economic issue at the same time. At those prices no one will drive.
Now, unlike the rest of Europe, I've BEEN to England. I've walked the streets of London -- and I've taken taxis, subways, and the like. You don't need a car to get around in the city, for the most part. But if people didn't WANT them, there wouldn't be a traffic problem. And there's a reason people want them, whether it's convenience, ego, or just wanting to be able to make it out to their house in the countryside.
What we have here is a government road-building operation that is apparantly unable or unwilling to build roads properly, preferring to charge ruinous tolls that will effectively prohibit regular access by car to the areas where the tolls are applied. This is not a failure of private enterprise, it's a failure of government.
ESR has a really good discussion of violence and mankind. It's old, but it's damn good. Read it.
Well here we are. The time right before the DNC convention and what do mine eyes see? Three layers of chain link fence topped with the best barbed wire our government can buy. I would like to say more but the image of free speech, behind fences, under the spot lights, hidden under a half built bridge is upsetting me a lot.
I'm honestly not sure what purpose could possibly be served by this particular tactic. Do the secret service imagine that someone intending mischief would meekly enter the free speech zone, or identify himself as an protester? How much more likely are they to identify themselves as a reporter, or a tourist, or anything other than a label that will get them locked in a cage?
If it's not a legitimate safety concern, then it can only be for political reasons -- keeping protesters out of sight of the news cameras. And that's just disturbing. All Americans should be rightly outraged at this treatment.
Really, since everyone is blogging about Berger, there's not much more to be said. My take on it is mainly that someone who was formerly a National Security Advisor to the President surely knows better than to mishandle classified material. Inadvertent? Yeah, right. More likely he figured that his status would allow him special privileges. That's also something worthy of a 2 year old. My only question is why he hasn't been arrested yet.
And since you asked... they are trying to figure out if his status actually does allow him special privileges. "Like us, only better", remember?
The Assault Weapons Ban is legislation based on public confusion rather than sound fact. The average person unfamiliar with the legislation assumes that the ban covers fully-automatic machine guns; in fact, the ban covers semi-automatic rifles that are functionally identical to popular hunting rifles. Advocates for gun control continually try to emphasize this confusion. Don't be fooled.
An overwhelming majority of Americans support the ban. The 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey revealed that 71% of people in households without guns support the ban, as do 64% of those in households with guns. Even in households with at least one NRA member, 46% of respondents supported the ban.
Such surveys are a very poor instrument for evaluating any factual question. The general public simply doesn't know what the Assault Weapons Ban actually covers, due to deliberate misrepresentation by anti-gun groups.
If you want real information about the ban from people who are in a position to know the facts, consider what police officers think about it. Not what the chiefs think; police chiefs are political animals. Ask the line officers. (Ask them how often they deal with crimes committed with an assault weapon, for example, or whether they feel threatened by civilians with such weapons).
Furthermore, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not subject to a majority vote. Even widespread public support is not sufficient to overcome Constitutional protection. If you want to regulate firearms legitimately, you must first pass an amendment. That our current government has passed and continues to enforce many unConstitutional gun control laws does not change this fact.
The prohibited guns are designed specifically for killing people. The law mentions 19 semiautomatic weapons by name, none of which can be construed to have any sporting purpose. As the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has written, ?Assault weapons were designed for rapid fire, close quarter shooting at human beings. That is why they were put together the way they were. You will not find these guns in a duck blind or at the Olympics. They are mass produced mayhem.?
It is certainly true that some firearms are designed for rapid fire at human beings in close quarters. Whether this makes much difference is not very clear. The "assault weapons" covered by the ban are mechanically identical to non-banned firearms; the differences are cosmetic, rather than functional. How useful is a bayonet on your rifle? If you just can't get that folding stock, will you give up on your plans to have a massacre, or will you saw off a normal rifle stock?
The great myth of the assault weapons ban is that it has any effect on crime at all. Criminals don't carry assault weapons, as a general rule. They're too hard to hide. If they did want to carry an assault weapon, they would not choose to buy one legally; they would buy one "on the street". And if they are doing that, they can probably get the real thing: a fully-automatic assault rifle, something that the assault weapons ban does not have any effect on.
Now take a deep breath, because this part's often scary to liberals: sometimes, having a gun that is designed for killing people is a good thing. That's why police carry assault weapons (and are specifically exempted from the ban). Remember the LA riots, when the police took an unscheduled vacation and the news helicopters showed, among other things, live video of Korean shopkeepers on the roof of their shops with AK-47s, protecting their property from the rioters?
Even if we accepted that assault weapons are designed to kill, that is not an acceptable basis for a ban.
The ban has been effective. Since the implementation of the law in 1994, ATF found that the proportion of gun crime traced to the banned weapons has fallen by two-thirds. The Department of Justice study mandated by the law controlled for other variables related to the drop in violent crime and concluded that murder rates dropped nearly 7% below what they were projected to be without the ban.
The proportion of gun crime traced to the banned weapons has indeed fallen by two-thirds, as if that matters: assault weapons are more likely to be traced than other firearms, and the BATFE has long insisted that trace data is not suitable for statistical analysis (since it is not a random sample).
However, if we assume it is suitable for analysis, and we abandon the usual statistical rules for determining whether a correlation is the result of random chance, then we can look at the data reported, and it does indeed show a two-thirds drop. At this point, however, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of statistics should have alarm bells going off in their head. And they would be right.
Why? Well, we should perhaps mention the absolute drop as well as the relative drop. Before the ban, assault weapons made up slightly less than 3% of traced firearms. After the ban, assault weapons made up slightly more than 1% of traced firearms. There is simply not enough data to conclude that the assault weapons ban had any effect at all, even if you assume that the gun trace data is meaningful, which the BATFE insists it is not.
Don't believe me? Read the study. Don't believe them? Even the notoriously anti-gun Center for Disease Control has surveyed the research on gun control and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws, including the assault weapons ban.
In other words, gun control doesn't work.
Assault weapons are lethal tools for crime. They have been used in some of the most horrible crimes in recent history, including the Branch-Davidian standoff at Waco and the Stockton schoolyard massacre. Prohibiting these guns does not infringe on hunting rights or rights to self-defense?it only prevents criminals from accessing the best equipment for committing mass murder. The gun lobby?s refusal to conform to the obvious social consensus that banning tools for slaughter is a good idea shows that it places narrow special interests completely above the safety of the American people.
Actually, the BATFE stormtroopers raiding the Branch Davidian compound in Waco had fully-automatic weapons, some with silencers. These military weapons are not affected by the assault weapons ban. So, the crimes the government committed at Waco, while horrible, cannot be logically attributed to "assault weapons" -- even though the firearms look similar to the uninitiated.
Oh, you mean the Davidians? They didn't commit any crimes, and they weren't even charged with violating the assault weapons ban. Why not? Because it didn't exist. They were massacred in 1992, and the ban was not passed until 1994.
As for the Stockton massacre, it's hardly a poster child for gun control. Had existing laws in been enforced, Stockton would have been denied access to firearms (through legal channels) as a mentally-ill felon.
In any case, argument by anecdote isn't convincing; anecdotes are not evidence., and when considering questions of public policy, evidence is vital. The fact is, mass murders with assault weapons are big news because they are so rare. As previously noted, these "tools for crime" are used in less than 3% of all crimes committed with firearms. Crime with assault weapons simply isn't an issue.
As for the safety of the American people, an armed American is a safe American.
I'm not a lawyer (but I play one on TV) so I really don't know the constitutionality of this modest proposal. It will never be possible to have unbiased reporting on TV, radio, and newspapers but I'd like to suggest a couple of ideas that might help.
I think it neither could, nor would, pass First Amendment scrutiny -- although a court that would neglect to bitchslap the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act into oblivion is rather unpredictable on that score.
The regulations on financial planners are intended to prevent stock manipulation schemes, so that a supposed impartial advisor can't secretly recommend stocks he owns that are otherwise worthless. If I recall my history these laws were put into place after significant abuses.
The difference is benefit: newsreaders don't get any direct financial gain from electing a chosen President. They may well get indirect benefits from their ideology, but you can't point to their bank balance and call it a bribe. It's more subtle than that. Fairly obvious to a politically-aware individual who disagrees with the bias, to be sure, but much harder to prove in court.
Worse, who do you require disclosure from? The newsreaders? The whole production team? The individual reporters with each story? All of the above? Regardless, they'll drop the disclaimers in the credits and no one will notice, because no one needs to hear everyone on camera announcing their biases every 5 minutes. Furthermore, many of the "editorial employees" of news organizations are banned from making political contributions at all -- just as many journalists answer "independent" when asked which party affiliation they have. The illusion of independence is sufficient.
This proposal is the news-media version of affirmative action quotas. I need hardly explain to my audience why affirmative action is detrimental to the party it purportedly supports: suffice it to say that equal time does not ensure equal treatment.
Consider for example a candidate rocked by scandals over a long political career, competing against an upstart (such as, perhaps, Schwarzenegger) who does not have a long political history. If scandals concerning the established politician are covered heavily, but there are no scandals concerning the new face, is that media bias -- or an accurate reflection of the facts? What if there are verified, substantiated scandals concerning one candidate, but those concerning the otherwise are a partisan hack job made up out of whole cloth?
One of the services we expect journalists to provide is analysis; that is, we ask them to report to us what is important about a particular event, and often to compile a selection of important events for a news report. Bias can express itself in the selection of stories as easily as in their presentation; how can you give equal time to a story which is not reported at all? How can you apply fairness rules to a journalistic judgement about what stories are "news" and what stories aren't worth the time?
Obviously, you can't; it's a judgement call. If you don't like the judgements being made by a news program, you can start your own news program or try to influence the criteria used by the current programs. Viewers will pick which program to watch based on how closely that program's idea of "news" matches their own.
Furthermore, (and folks, I know this is all a silly fantasy that couldn't ever happen...) they would be required to have follow-ups to such "political" authors if conflicting information should be discovered or if the claims by that author are later found to be untrue. Example: The Today Show interviews Joe Wilson several times about his book and his claims that "Bush lied." They would then have to spend an equal amount of time examining the facts brought about by the 9/11 commission refuting Wilson's charges. The same requirements would apply to newspaper coverage including placement of contrary material on the same page number that the original charges were reported on.
And what about charges refutting the original refutation? Equality of advertising dollars to promote the original program versus promoting the refutation?
There are simply too many ways to subtly include bias. Any law that was passed to ensure fair reporting would simply encourage "journalists" to discover new loopholes.
Worse, it would actually damage the truly radical positions -- for example, the Libertarian Party. Will a news program run a report on the Libertarian party if, by equal time laws, they are then required to provide equal time to the Socialists, Communists, or Nazis? Of course not -- they just won't bother reporting on the Libertarians at all. And the Libertarians are the strongest proponents of true liberty today.
Lastly, since none of this could ever happen, why don't Republicans, or at least some conservative groups file lawsuits (take a page from the Democrats here...) and try to show that ABC, CBS, and NBC have NOT lived up to their promise to provide a proper balance to their news shows -- which to my mind says that they are not broadcasting for the good of the communities -- and that their FCC licenses should be revoked. This can't happen at the small affiliate level but certainly the five stations each network owns themselves could be brought under legal fire.
The problem with this is that there's no real legal case for it. You can't simply sue at the drop of a hat; you need to have a cause for action. While I haven't read the enabling statutes and regulations from the FCC, I doubt that "providing a proper balance" to news programming is involved. There are a lot of community-oriented requirements, like maintaining the emergency broadcast system, and there are requirements concerning "decency" that have recently gotten some attention, but political balance in reporting? I don't think those would fly.
You'd have to get an activist judge, and frankly, activist judges tend to be leftist.
And remember, there is a difference between a news show and a talk or political commentary show. If the networks are going to label their broadcasts as "news" then they must meet certain standards of equal time and fairness. And yes, Fox would have to follow the same rules.
Your mention of Fox brings up an important self-interested argument against your proposal. Imagine that the FCC, the agency charged with administering your proposed rules, was staffed with Democrats. Fox would have to follow the same rules, all right -- and end up broadcasting the same sort of biased output as the other networks. Why? Because the other networks would be setting the standard.
You can't have legally mandated "fair and balanced" programming because there is no objective legal standard to determine what the "center" is. The only thing you can do is let people choose what to watch, and encourage alternative media sources for those who don't feel the mainstream media is giving them what they want.
One month and the AWB will be dead. Will it stay dead, or will it rise from the ashes like TIA and CAPPS II?
No Quarters thinks it will. And while it's possible that Congress will resurrect the law shortly after the elections, I doubt it will happen. I definitely don't think that the TIA/CAPPS-II fiascos will be similar. Why? Executive versus legislative branch.
Both CAPPS-II and TIA are programs run by the executive branch out of their existing budget (the Transportation Security Administration and the Pentagon, respectively) and under the ultimate administrative control of Bush. Bush, and/or his flunkies, wants both programs, and are willing to play shell games with the funding in order to keep them running. That's how they were "killed" and then "resurrected"; no legislative authorization is required to use the existing budgets on those programs. Congress must specifically de-authorize funds and must do so in a manner that is difficult to circumvent (eg, by changing the name of the program). They failed to do so with those two programs, perhaps deliberately.
Neither CAPS-II nor TIA are laws; they are enforcement mechanisms.
But the assault weapons ban is a law, not a program under an existing agency. When you don't have an agency with broad powers to regulate a certain industry, then you need to pass a law in order to mandate behavioral changes by the members of that industry (eg, "Do not manufacture assault weapons").
And that means that any renewal of the ban needs to get through Congress. We've already seen, in the past year or so, that getting a renewal through Congress is not easy. It may be easier after the election, when Congress no longer feels quite so at-risk about their election prospects, but it still won't be easy -- especially as we gun owners have made our presence felt powerfully in the Senate.
The real question is going to be: what happened in the election itself?
If the House successfully manages to avoid a vote on the ban, then the Democrats can't attack specific House members for voting against it. Neither can the Republicans attack the Democrats for voting for it. That favors the status quo for the Republicans in the House, which is not surprising since they have a large majority.
The Senate has already had votes on the ban. The Republicans will be watching to see what happens to Republicans who voted for the ban and will hope that Democrats who voted for it will lose their seats. If the yes-votes get punished appropriately, and especially if some seats change hands as a result, then we are likely safe for the immediate future.
On the other hand, if the election shows that the ban didn't matter to voters, we're likely to see the Democrats in the Senate make continued efforts to pass the ban. They want the law passed whether it wins them votes or not. Republicans aren't going to let it through unless they think it will win them votes, because they know it will hurt them with the gun owners. So in this scenario, look for a compromise bill (possibility the liability protection act again).
Progressive will announce its TripSense trial in Minnesota on Aug. 24. Customers who sign up will get a device the size of a Tic Tac box to plug into their cars. The device will track speed and how many miles are driven at what times of day. Every few months, customers would unplug the device from the car, plug it into a computer, download the data and send it to Progressive. Depending on results, discounts will range from 5% to 25%.
This tiny little idea seems to have driven the usually-sensible Volokh into a fit of insanity -- sufficient that he claims to like the idea. Hopefully it will be brief. Why? Because this is a really bad idea.
Since he's been blogging about slippery slope arguments, I'm going to characterize this proposal as not so much a "slippery slope" as a sheer cliff. The problem is that once any particular company keeps records of where a particular car (that they insure) is, those records are available to anyone who can come up with a pretext for a subpeona. The government doesn't need to detail it's goons to keep track of every human being in the country; they can just ask the insurance agencies to hand over the information that insurance agencies have already collected. And that's just the beginning; non-governmental agents are similarly empowered.
Consider the case of a husband or wife who thinks their spouse has been unfaithful. Can they examine the records from the insurance company on their bill to see where the car has been driven? After all, they probably co-own the car and are insured under the same policy -- odds are they could get their hands on the records since they are being billed from the records. If not, what about during the resulting divorce proceedings?
Now, if you have logged GPS data in any kind of detail, you have the ability to derive speed from that information. For most city driving, that calculation is going to turn out to be lower than your actual driving speed, due to traffic lights and the fact that you aren't really traveling in a straight line. But on highways you can get a reasonably accurate picture of speed from a sample as rare as once every five minutes. And if your speed is higher than the speed limit, your insurance company will know and raise your rates whether you got ticketed or not. For that matter, how long do you think that the government would be able to resist using that same source of data to issue automated tickets? Issuing speeding tickets is already considered a revenue source.
Even if such a device were to save insurance companies a substantial amount of money, the social costs in terms of privacy would be tremendous. And that's not something that maybe happens in the distant future; it's something that happens as soon as a single insurance company starts collecting the data. In fact, it might already have started; have you questioned what OnStar is doing with the GPS data? The FBI has already used this technology to spy on customers, and the courts only shut them down because they couldn't do that without disabling the service for the people in the vehicle.
Just one more reason never to buy a car with OnStar: future versions of their devices are likely to "fix" this "bug" for the convenience of law enforcement. Like I said, it's not a slippery slope, it's a sheer cliff, and we're already scrabbling at the edge. Insurance companies offering this technology to customers will send us over that edge and off the cliff.
I suspect that Eugene Volokh would argue that OnStar is a voluntary choice by a car buyer, and customers with privacy concerns do not have to buy cars with the system. He would be right as far as that goes, but it doesn't go far. You can choose not to buy a car with OnStar so long as they are making cars that don't include it, and your insurance company will agree to provide coverage to you without that information, and your local government chooses to allow vehicles without it to be driven on the streets.
While it would be easy to oppose a government requirement for such a device, as a practical matter the government need not make any such requirement. Insurance companies will do so without any prodding (or public opposition). They will do it one at a time, probably in collaboration with the vehicle manufacturers, and without notifying anyone; just arrange to manufacture more and more cars with the ability to record GPS data internally.
Insurance companies that use this capability, when present, will be able to offer lower rates. It's a competitive advantage, and it's fairly unlikely that consumers will be given the opportunity to protest. The data can be read at service station visits (without bothering the customer) and the insurance companies will need to lobby manufacturers (to make cars with this capability) rather than lobbying consumers to buy them. After all, if 90% of the cars out there have the capability, who's going to carefully shop around to find one that doesn't -- just to ensure higher insurance rates?
This is, in my opinion, a classic case of inadequate Constitutional protections. There's nothing illegal about any of this. The only thing standing in the way (now that the technology is available) are people who care about their privacy. And those people don't have the leverage necessary to prevent privacy invasions by private industry.
... and yes, the Patriot Act would permit these records to be obtained from the insurance company with nothing more than a so-called National Security Letter, not a warrant.
Oh, and if personal location information isn't enough, the government can easily correlate that information. Want to know who owns guns? Get the GPS coordinates of all the gun stores and shooting ranges and search your database. Want to know about the friends and associates of that political protestor you're trying to harass? Look up the records and see who he has parked close to on a regular basis. It's perfectly legal, no need for a warrant if the company is cooperative; the records are already there, after all. And that's just what I can come up with in five minutes or so.
This is a dangerous place to go. Let's turn back from the edge before we find out just how dangerous.
There is someone going around (again) to Summit county convenient stores and gas stations telling them that they must post 'No CCW' signs because they sell alcohol. The gentleman in question is even nice enough to give the stores the 'No CCW' signs free of charge. I have compiled info and supplied it to a couple stores. Upon seeing the truth, they have removed the signs.
Remember, it's not the rule of law that liberals support... it's abuse of the law.
A while back I posted this analysis about polls on the assault weapons ban. Someone over at Norbizness commented on a relatively sane Democrat who wanted to convince his party to abandon gun control as an issue, and linked to that analysis to support his opinion. It's too bad he didn't actually read the article he linked to, because it would have pointed out to him than support for gun control is based on lies.
You can lie to the people for a while, but you can't fool all of them. Gun owners know the truth. And they vote based on that truth. Daschle voted for the assault weapons ban in 2004 as an amendment to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, and he was instrumental in bringing that amendment to a floor vote and insisting that it not be stripped off in the House if passed. He lost his seat in the elections November 2nd, to John Thune, a very pro-gun candidate supported by the Gun Owners of America and the NRA. His loss, as Democratic minority leader in the Senate, was historic, and it occurred partially in response to that vote.
What this should tell any Democrat who is paying attention: gun owners can't be fooled by goose hunts. They'll watch how you vote and they'll vote for or against you depending on how you vote for or against them. There are a lot of people out there who support the assault weapons ban because they don't know what it is, or because they are just afraid of guns, or because they've been fooled by the media into thinking that the ban covers machine guns.
But you know what? Those people don't vote based on gun control. That makes courting them a losing proposition, because you'll lose more support from gun owners than you'll gain from gun controllers.
So let this be a lesson to you. Read what you link to, lest it come back to bite you.
The Anarchangel has an excellent post up on the basic principles of libertarian philosophy.
Publicola has the details on Kerry accepting as a gift a shotgun that would be banned by legislation he co-sponsored. This issue has gotten play from many notable bloggers but it seems to me that Publicola has the final word. Remember this the next time Kerry tries to tell you he supports the 2nd Amendment: he will co-sponsor bills that ban the very firearms he claims to like! That's an indictment not only of his honesty, but also of his understanding of the legislation he co-sponsors.
SayUncle discusses the role of government under a libertarian philosophy. Unfortunately, he gets it wrong. In fact, it's the classic error: assuming that government can provide what you want it to provide, but not also provide what some others want it to provide, without making a clear differentiation between those two requests. After covering the basics (defense, regulation of commerce, police), on which we don't disagree, here's what he thinks is authorized by the general welfare clause:
I will answer the first argument not in my own words, but in the words of Davy Crockett:
"Mr. Speaker ? I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. This government can owe no debts but for services rendered, and at a stipulated price. If it is a debt, how much is it? Has it been audited, and the amount due ascertained? If it is a debt, this is not the place to present it for payment, or to have its merits examined. If it is a debt, we owe more than we can ever hope to pay, for we owe the widow of every soldier who fought in the War of 1812 precisely the same amount. There is a woman in my neighborhood, the widow of as gallant a man as ever shouldered a musket. He fell in battle. She is as good in every respect as this lady, and is as poor. She is earning her daily bread by her daily labor; but if I were to introduce a bill to appropriate five or ten thousand dollars for her benefit, I should be laughed at, and my bill would not get five votes in this House. There are thousands of widows in the country just such as the one I have spoken of, but we never hear of any of these large debts to them. Sir, this is no debt. The government did not owe it to the deceased when he was alive; it could not contract it after he died. I do not wish to be rude, but I must be plain. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much of our own money as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."
His point is simple: it is not the role of government to provide charity. With the principle "No one should starve to death in America" I heartily agree; yet private charity is more than capable of addressing this issue, and would be even more capable of doing so if the government was not so busy taking our money to do it for us.
To the question of health care, I ask you, "By what right do you lay this burden upon me? By what act of malice or negligence do you seek to lay upon me the legal duty to care for the injuries of another?" Indeed, should I find a man dying upon the street, certainly I would aid him to retain his life in whatever manner I could. Such is my moral duty, laid upon me by the twist of fate that had brought me to that place at that time. And certainly those whose acts of malice or negligence bring about injury to another should be compelled to pay the costs of their actions.
But those who have acted with care and justice can be assigned no such legal duty. The costs of man's actions are borne by those responsible for those actions, not by society as a whole. Were it otherwise the least of fools would quickly bankrupt us all. Though it be the moral duty of man to save the fool from his folly, there are too many fools and few enough of the wise. Indeed, how are the fools to become wise if they never feel the consequences of their foolishness?
To tax all the people for the privision of medicine is no more noble than a subsidy of injury, paid for by picking the pockets of the healthy and canceling the debts of criminals.
To speak of education, even a basic education, as a fundamental right is to grievously misunderstand the nature of our rights. Rights are liberties, not entitlements. I have the right to speak freely, yet I can call upon no one to subsidize my speech. I have the right to keep and bear arms, yet I must purchase the arms. I have the right to an education, but no power to compel another to teach me.
People have rights, independent of government. Alone on a desert island I retain the right to speak as I choose, to go armed as I choose, to educate myself as I choose. My rights do not depend upon government for their existance, nor do they impose a duty upon any other being. Should I build a bonfire to an uncaring God upon my island, to demand that He send an entire school system to satisfy my right to an education? Should I be offended if none appears?
Step back from the brink of heresy, and consider a simpler situation: me on my island, you on yours. If I am an illiterate dropout, have I then the right to demand that you, a tenured professor of multiple disciplines, educate me at your own cost? Shall you fashion books of coconut bark, and standardized tests written with a stick in the sand, timed by the tide? Of course not. I have no more claim upon this hypothetical, professorial you than I would upon any other man. Perhaps we can trade coconuts.
Education is a issue for children and parents; what we call "school" is better termed "raising a child". Therein lies the solution. It is with the parents that responsibility for a child rests. A parent who chooses to have their child raised by others is welcome to do so, provided those others are willing to do so -- and, in practical terms, this means financially compensated. We can no more compel a man innocent of responsibility in the matter of a child to support that child's education than we can compel him to purchase food, clothing, and christmas presents for said child.
I will concede that it is a good thing indeed for children to be raised, but I will concede neither that it is my responsibility to provide for their raising, nor that allowing the state to dictate the manner and nature of their education will be good for anyone. Can we doubt that a public education is the greatest tool of potential indoctrination ever devised? On what other pretense can we imprison our citizens, guilty of no crime save youth, for the a fifth of their entire lifespan at the least? By what other means can we force such victims to learn and recite the chosen doctrine of the state, over and over, to the point that any other competing views of the world are suppressed reflexively?
The argument against public education is not that it does a "bad job" -- though, certainly, in some cases it does. The argument is much more powerful than that. On whom does the responsibility for the child rest? By what right is a financial duty imposed upon an innocent man? By what right is a child compelled to submit to indoctrination?
The classic mistake of people who describe themselves as "libertarian-leaning" is to begin with a good idea (such as charity to feed to hungry, tend the sick, and educate the youth), and then to believe the idea retains its virtue when expressed as a mandatory government program.
What's weird about this is that nobody is making a murder-suicide disctinction except Balaker. The distinction doesn't vanish, it was never there in the first place. Once you leave libertarian fantasyland, people understand that reducing death is valuable, regardless of whether those deaths come from the murder column or the suicide column of the spreadsheet. And reducing the social cost of driving on public roads without seatbelts is a legitimate social function.
This is an argument applied in similar form to lots of things -- everything from seatbelts to guns to skydiving to small-plane aerobatics to fatty foods. Libertarians call this the "Nanny State" problem; that is, a government that seeks to protect its citizens from harm, whether those citizens would choose to be protected or not, as a babysitter would for a child. Here are the usual counterpoints:
We are adults, not children.
ALthough it is appropriate to enforce certain behaviors on children, because they are not sufficiently intelligent to measure and weigh the risks on their own, the same cannot be applied to adults. Adults are fully capable of making their own decisions based on their own circumstances. Sometimes, they are stupid decisions -- but those tend to be self-correcting.
Everything in life is risky; who decides how much risk is acceptable?
There's a certain amount of risk associated with just about everything we do. Who should decide what amount of risk is acceptable? If driving without a seatbelt fastened is worth being stopped by police and fined, how much social effort should we expend to prevent people from engaging in more risky activities (eg, skydiving)? What is the social benefit to preventing people from engaging in such behaviors?
Are we prepared, for example, to accept the consequences of preventing the Wright brothers from trying to fly their airplane? What about discarding the improved safety technology that has come about as a result of automobile racing? Even with the best safety equipment, race drivers still die in crashes.
Big Brother: how can you enforce the laws without a police state?
It's silly to pass laws that can't or won't be enforced. Doing so breeds disresprect for the law in general, and burdens police with additional duties -- duties that are widely resented. A police officer who stops a driver who is not wearing a seatbelt for some other cause is certainly justified in dispensing a bit of "You really should wear your seatbelt, sir".
If you choose to enforce the law, you have to figure out how. People won't report themselves. You have to have some way of checking to see whether people are wearing their seatbelts. Do you want police officers looking inside every car they see to check for seatbelts -- even just a quick glance inside? It's a great excuse to search for contraband, for example.
Of course, it all takes time, and that means more police. More police means more tickets, and more courts, and more ... well, you get the idea.
Just Plain Efficiency
What's the benefit for a policeman writing a ticket for an unfastened seatbelt when he could be chasing a thief or a murderer? What's the opportunity cost for enforcing seatbelt laws? Or, to put it another way... if you were running a business, would you feel comfortable employing someone to check that all your other employees were wearing their seatbelts? What if you had only enough of a budget to hire one person -- would you tell themn to check seatbelts or would you tell them to investigate murders?
Put that way, it's obvious. But can't the police officers check seatbelts in the course of their normal duties... like whenever they give out a traffic ticket for speeding?
Sure. Are you comfortable extorting money from your citizens that way? For that matter, if there wasn't money to be made doing it, how many police would we have sitting in speed traps? We have enough murders and thefts and rapes and embezzlements and even terrorists, for crying out loud.
It's all about... revenue
How many lives are saved by seatbelt laws -- that is, laws that mandate seatbelts be worn, rather than mandated that cars be built with seatbelts? Unquestionably seatbelts have saved lives. But how many of those people would not have been wearing a seatbelt if they were not afraid of being caught not wearing one? Frankly, I would guess most people would wear their seatbelt whether or not there is a legal requirement to do so. So you have to count the benefits against the number of people who would otherwise not wear a seatbelt, not against the number of people whose lives were saved by a seatbelt.
If it's not really about saving lives, then what is it about? Plain and simple: revenue. A seatbelt law is one more thing that a police officer can issue a ticket for. (Speed limits have the same problem; they have become nothing more than revenue-raising measures).
The Victimless Crime argument: there's no victim, how can there be a crime?
This is an argument that covers a lot of ground. There are a lot of "victimless crimes" and they all pretty much boil down to the State telling you to do something "for your own good". When someone is harmed by the actions or negligence of another, there's a case to be made for a crime; but if no one is hurt and no one is complaining, there's not really anything wrong.
The Constitutional argument: there's no relevant enumerated power.
I think this one needs little explanation. The government has no power to compel the use of seat belts, therefore, any such federal laws are unConstitutional. The state question is more arguable, but I doubt most states have the enumerated power to regulate seat belt usage in their Constitution.
In short, this is a well-studied area of libertarian thought. Dismissing this as "fantasyland" shows an utter lack of comprehension unfortunately common to those who haven't thought things through. The fact is, liberty as a guiding principle is not compatible with a "Nanny State" concept of government. Either we are free to make our own decisions regarding personal matters, or we are slaves to the state -- compelled to subjugation "for our own good".
Will the Supreme Court agree to hear the Silveira case? A lot of people are asking this question, which I think is very hard to answer. A few general thoughts...
Sadly, the Blair fiasco is not an isolated incident. This is the account of a fact-finding study that was issued by a governmental agency, how the New York Times grossly misreported the study, and how the myth nurtured by the NYT story ultimately influenced the federal legislative process.
Clayton is reporting on an interview broadcast on Fox News, not the most unbiased source but not a known liar, either. If this guy (the interviewee) can be trusted, then it seems a fairly reasonable vindication for the invasion. While Iraq did not have WMD, they were trying to keep a WMD program alive, and trying to make it look like they did still have the weapons -- presumably as a protective measure against their neighbors.
If this was, in fact, the motivation, it should make one thing perfectly clear: The US is a sleeping dragon, and you poke the dragon at your own risk.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today in favor of Ohio's ban on concealed carry (with a nearly useless affirmative defense). Clayton has better comments than I could muster.
Freedom in Iraq, and free expression in particular, can be compared to a flock of penguins jostling each other at the water's edge. The first one in might get eaten by a predator, so nobody wants to be first -- but eventually someone loses their balance and falls in. The question is whether those first few penguins get eaten.
In Iraq, after a bit of jostling, we have penguins safely in the water. The rest of the flock are noting that those penguins aren't being eaten, and they are learning from that that they really do have the freedoms the Americans have always claimed to stand for.
While the war itself was questionable, I am very proud of the results following it. What results? A free people.
Publicola is worried about Democrats trying to push through a renewal of the assault weapons ban. I don't doubt that the usual suspects will try as hard as they can to do so. But the usual suspects aren't the only factors in play here.
Kerry appears to have moved into "mobilize the base" mode rather than making a serious attempt to swing undecided voters, and he's started attacking Bush on the assault weapons ban as a result. If the ban renews now, Kerry will get the credit for pushing the issue with his voters and Bush will get the blame for signing it from gun owners, possibly enough to make the election competititive again. Bush is not stupid enough to put the election back in play when he's ahead.
The media is pushing the issue for the same reason Kerry is -- they want to mobilize gun-control supporters to the polls. If Kerry can't get the swing voters than maybe he can get more gun-control Democrats in Congress by leading the charge. Of course, we all know what happens to people who lead charges. But it looks like it's going to happen anyway, so going out with a bang is probably preferable for the Kerry campaign -- so to speak.
Make no mistake, we're not out of the woods yet, but all the sitting Congressfolk are watching the upcoming elections. While Kerry wants to talk about gun control to excite the Democratic base and get them to the polls, members of Congress whose seats are at risk would rather ride Kerry's coattails on the issue then speak out on the record and make themselves a target for the NRA and the gun lobby in November.
Apparantly the right to wear a T-shirt with the NRA logo on it while in school is still protected.
So, there's this other blog called Blue Collar Pedigree, and he's made the mistake of linking to one of my articles from one of his. It's a mistake because I noticed the link in my referrer logs and read his article. And when I saw what he had to say, a debunking was inevitable.
I've been sitting on this response for a long time. Why, I'm not sure. Partly because the article I'm responding to makes some claims I'd like to fact-check before taking at face value. Partly because I haven't had time to write the exhaustive reply that I was hoping to, and didn't want to do less than that.
I'm posting it now because the .50 rifle is being used as a political football again. Maybe some of the wisdom of the blogging community can help out. My original post mentioned that no fully-automatic firearm legally owned by a non-police officer had ever been used to commit a crime. Blue Collar Pedigree responds with a secondhand account of an incident with a Barrett .50 rifle. It's neither a machine gun nor an assault weapon, but it is one of those weapons that is almost never used in crime. I'd like to deal with the arguments he makes, and also hopefully determine whether he's right about the rifle used.
UPDATE: On the question of the rifle used, Heartless Libertarian opines:
This (extremely graphic!!) is what happens when one .50 BMG round hits a person in the head. I'm reasonably certain than a person couldn't take two to the chest (or, likely, even one to the chest) and survive, at least not for very long.
The graphic he is referring to is VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY graphic. This picture is not for the weak of stomach. But makes a very strong case that this incident did not involve one of Barrett's .50 rifles.
First, since he has a brother who works in law enforcement, and was involved in the shooting incident that's under discussion, I'd like to first extend my heartfelt well-wishes to all law enforcement officers who respect and honor the Constitution. Having someone you love put at a perceived risk makes it hard to think rationally about the issue. Because of that I don't really blame this guy for not understanding my position; he's too emotionally involved to think clearly.
The particular incident under discussion. To summarize, and bearing in mind that we have only the news reports rather than the adversarial process of a court here, the government was trying to keep a man from storing construction materials on his own property. There was a court date set. Instead of going to court, the man allegedly ambushed the police with a Barrett M82A1 and pipe bombs. One EMT technician was shot twice in the chest.
I can't confirm the exact weapon. Blue Collar Pedigree says it was a .50 rifle from Barrett, and for the sake of argument I'll take him at his word, but I'd like to express some doubts about that before continuing to the meat of the argument. The news article article I found that appears to describe the incident did not mention the caliber of the rifle.
The .50 is unusual enough, and scary enough, that I would think most reporters would be eager to include that sort of detail; even more so the Brady Bunch and the VPC. If that really was a .50, why haven't those organizations tried to use the incident in their propaganda? After all, they issue press releases when a gas station attendent thinks he might have been robbed with an Uzi, even though rational analysis indicates that it's probably just a normal handgun.
On top of the lack of support from the news articles, the paramedic who was shot lived. Now, we can talk about assault weapons being underpowered rifles in comparison to standing hunting cartridges, but that doesn't apply to the .50. There can be no argument that Barrett's product is quite likely the most powerful firearm legally available under relatively little regulation (eg, it's not a Class-3 firearm or explosive device). There are reports from Iraq of enemy soldiers being shot with this rifle at long ranges and ending up in two pieces. That's not to say those results are typical, but I find it hard to believe that someone shot twice in the chest at close range with that rifle would still be alive.
So those are the points against. Anyone who can think of a way to confirm the firearm used, please let me know, in the interests of factual accuracy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The guy behind Blue Collar Pedigree thinks this incident makes a good argument for banning assault weapons. I disagree. My disagreement starts with the fact that the weapon in question isn't an assault weapon -- it was not banned by the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. In other words, this anecdote is entirely irrelevant to any debate on the merits of that ban. The alleged shooter could easily have obtained his rifle while the ban was in effect in a perfectly legal transaction.
I do think this incident makes a good argument against stupid laws that attempt to restrict what people can do with property they own. But at the same time, shooting people over whether you can store it there or not is beyond the pale. Maybe you don't think the courts will respect your property rights, and not without cause, but ambushing the police over whether you can store materials in your front lawn is absurd. Fight it in court and work to change the law if you lose. Or move. All of those are better solutions than suicide by cop.
Now, on to the article at Blue Collar Pedigree, who has a fairly standard anti-assault-weapon rant to go along with his personal anecdote. He posted his original article in September of 2004, right about when the assault weapons ban was due to expire, so that explains why he's focusing on an issue that is pretty much dead.
Even if you've never fired a gun, it's likely you can recreate the movement of pulling the trigger. Now, get a watch or timer, and set it for some unit of time. I chose a minute, you may choose whatever you like. Start the clock and count the number of times you're able to pull the "air trigger" with your index finger.
This argument is a lot more convincing to someone who hasn't ever fired a gun than to someone who has. When you pull an "air trigger" you can do it quickly and easily. There's no need to aim, and no heavy firearm to hold up. There's definitely no loud bang or jolt of recoil to adjust for, and no magazines to swap. So this particular exercise is fairly worthless for determining rate of fire with an actual firearm.
If I was holding an assault weapon I could literally kill 100 of the 122 male inhabitants of Freedom, Oklahoma in just under a minute without reloading. In fact, it's likely, assuming I could convince the entire town to line up uniformly and stand still once I opened fire, that I could execute all 265 inhabitants of the town in just over two minutes. I would only have to change the clip twice. Impressive, huh?
Well, if you coult shoot a real rifle at real targets who aren't cooperating with you as fast as you could pull an air trigger, and if you could get your hands on a pair of 150-round magazines for your assault weapon, sure. Luckily, you can't. People don't stand around to be shot at, and you don't hit with every round. You might be able to get a 150-round magazine now that the ban has expired, but the largest I've seen maxed out at 100 rounds. Not that I need that much ammunition in a single magazine, but there are certainly legitimate uses for it.
But let's take a step out of fantasyland and back into reality. The death toll for mass murders by firearm is much, much lower. Take Columbine as an example. Two killers with multiple semiautomatic firearms, including an assault weapon (TEC-9 handgun), a shotgun, and multiple bombs managed to kill a grand total of 15 people. Clearly, the limitation there was not related to the capacity of their firearms, but in the reaction of the people around them (and the failure of their largest planned bomb in the cafeteria). Note also that these people were able to obtain a firearm banned under the assault weapons ban while that ban was in effect; it clearly did not prevent the murderers from committing their crime.
Or take the Stockton massacre in California. Purdy fired 100 shots over a 6 minute period. Death toll: 5. That perfectly illustrates the point; I'd rather see Purdy "spray-firing rapidly from the hip" than carefully aiming each shot.
Both incidents were horrible crimes, but they also serve to indicate that reality doesn't match the air-trigger exercise. Scare tactics aren't a valid argument.
Bill Frist, Republican Senator from Tennessee told reporters that the expiration of the ban was "the will of the American people." Interesting considering polls found that two thirds of American's actually supported an extension of the assault weapons ban which was introduced by Bill Clinton in 1994.
Two-thirds of Americans thought the assault weapons ban covered machine guns. It doesn't. At least those same two-thirds (and probably more) support the 2nd Amendment as a restriction on the government's power to regulate firearms.
If you answered no, you're correct. If you answered yes, don't fret, because doctor's and senators make good money. If you answered f*ck the ATF, you should save your next two paychecks from Pizza Hut so you can be the first in your militia to legally purchase an assault rifle. If you asked me to define the word "majority" then you're a conservative radio host and you should commit suicide.
I don't work for Pizza Hut, and it doesn't take me two paychecks to buy an assault weapon. (A real, fully-automatic assault rifle would probably take more than two). But I doubt any serious gun owners would willingly work for Pizza Hut, because that chain doesn't allow their employees to defend themselves.
I imagine the NRA has the ability to get better data than that. That little exchange suffices to illustrate another point, as well: police think they should have assault weapons, while they should be banned for everyone else. This is a destructive and elitist mentality. In America, the police are not supposed to have more rights than so-called ordinary citizens.
For that matter, let's stop and think here. If assault weapons are so horrible, so much a weapon of war... why do the police want them? Do the police regularly engage in "rapid spray-fire from the hip"? Are they faced with a need for 150-round magazines to load in weapons intended only to kill human beings?
The fact is, some police -- people like Scottbo, apparantly -- feel threatened by normal people owning the same weapons they have access to. They want a firepower advantage. The people are the enemy, and cannot be trusted. That's the attitude that says assault weapons should be banned... for everyone else. It's not compatible with a free society.
Next, Blue Collar Pedigree details the incident I referred to earlier. I won't reproduce the entire account here, but there are some points that deserve the excerpt. Read the whole thing at his site.
The party ended for Donin Wright and Janet Clark at 4:09 PM, twenty-seven minutes after the first shots rang out. The fire, which had been set off by the first explosion at the residence had finally reached the stockpile of pipe bombs. Investigators would only find their charred skeletal remains.
Those are the only two dead reported from this incident. They were not killed by a firearm. The newspaper account of the incident does not mention any deaths at all, so I am forced to question whether this part of the account is accurate. Just a question, not a conclusion..
I'm still not convinced it was a .50 rifle being used. But, for the sake of argument, accept that it is. There are still some problems here. The M82A1 is not an assault rifle.
There are two common definitions for "assault" firearms. The first, assault rifle, originated with the Germans in WWII. By that definition an assault rifle is a select-fire rifle (meaning fully-automatic or semi-automatic operation) firing an intermediate round. The M82A1 is semiautomatic ONLY and fires an extremely powerful round. So, it is not an assault rifle.
The other term is "assault weapon". This term is political; it was coined by the Violence Policy Center to exploit public confusion between machine guns and semi-automatic firearms. Clearly, their effort has been successful with many people.
The legal definition of "assault weapon" is a firearm that has a detachable magazine and at least two of a list of "evil" (cosmetic) features. The list includes things like a pistol grip, flash suppressor, bayonet mount, or grenade launcher attachment (actual grenades are mostly illegal under different laws). The assault weapons ban also prohibited magazines over 10 rounds from being manufactured.
So what do we have here? We have one guy with a Barrett rifle. The Barrett rifle is not an assault weapon by either definition. The criminal here allegedly had a 10-round magazine, legal under the assault weapons ban. He held off 40 police officers for 25 minutes by shooting one unarmed person, probably from nowhere near the maximum range for his rifle. His vicitm lived.
He could have done the same thing with a handgun. The fact that he had bombs planted all over the place and had firebombed his house to attract the attention of the police probably had a lot more to do with how long it took to resolve the standoff. It's terrible that two people died (by pipe bomb) and a third was injured because this person decided to commit suicide by cop, but the gun he chose -- whether it was an assault weapon or a .50 caliber rifle or neither -- has very little to do with the length of time the standoff lasted.
The discussion moves to the details of the assault weapons ban, which are mostly correct. I do have one quibble:
To go even further, it's also a fact that any assault weapon built before September 13, 1994, even those equipped with grenade launcher's and bayonet's, were "grandfathered," making them perfectly legal. So, if you should ever find yourself in the market for a .50 caliber assault rifle, say for self-defense or deer hunting, and feel that an added grenade launcher would give it a "customized" look, then make damn certain it was built before September 13, 1994 or after September 13, 2004. Otherwise, you're in violation of federal law.
The Barrett .50 rifles are legal under the ban and are not an "assault rifle", as discussed before. While the ban did cover grenade launchers, actual grenades were separately regulated, so banning the launcher does little more than enforce cosmetics. And now that the ban has expired, you need not worry about when your components were manufactured.
Now, before you label me as a socialist, communist, liberal, democrat who hates gun's and hates America, I should point out that I own a gun. I actually own three guns - two .22 caliber handgun's and a .22 caliber rifle. The rifle and one of the handgun's are antique's passed down from one generation to the next, and the third is the only gun I've ever purchased.
That explains the whole air-trigger exercise. .22s have almost no recoil in comparison to real ammunition.
I enjoy going to the indoor range with Scottbo and exercising my second amendment right to riddle a paper target with bullet holes. I do not hunt and will not hunt - not because I think hunter's are bad people - but because I could not shoot a defenseless animal. I just happen to love animals and I will never get over the robin I killed with a pellet gun one summer as a child. It was a life altering experience.
That's a personal choice that everyone can make, and I have no qualms with it.
I do, however, take issue and draw the line at assault weapon's, or as my friend Top Secret call's them, "terrorist weapons," that threaten the safety of our nation's police, fire and medical personnel. I'll also include women, children, men, dog's, cat's, robin's and all of God's creatures in that threat. I think we've all earned the right not to have our head torn off by "the largest commercially available cartridge in the world, the .50 caliber."
Now we're back into fantasyland. THe .50 is not covered by the assault weapons ban. Terrorists generally prefer fully-automatic AK-47s, which are also not covered under the ban. Those weapons that are covered under the ban don't "threaten the safety" of anyone. Guns are inanimate objects; they do not threaten. Criminals threaten.
And I think that I, as an American citizen, have a protected right under the 2nd Amendment to own any type of firearm I damn well please. I'm not a criminal, and my firearms will never threaten anyone who isn't threatening me or mine first.
Furthermore, as should be obvious from the recital of the provisions of the assault weapons ban earlier, the ban only covered cosmetic features. There's no great threat posed by pistol grips or bayonets. Grenade launchers are useless without functional grenades. Flash suppressors don't actually make the bullets any more lethal. Even while the ban was in effect you could get functionally identical firearms. It was a worthless, symbolic gesture.
I can't handle Senate Majority Leader Tom DeLay calling the assault weapon's ban a "feel good piece of legislation" that did nothing to keep gun's out of the hands of criminals. There is nothing about making it easier for the Donin Wright's of the world to get their hands on a grenade launching assault rifle that feels good. Maybe there is, I don't know, I'm not a doctor or a senator, but I bet Mary Seymour thought otherwise when two .50 caliber bullets ripped into her chest.
Reality: The ban did nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It's already illegal for criminals (felons) to possess (that means "touch") a firearm. There are background checks to make sure you are not a criminal before you buy one, and those checks have nothing to do with the assault weapons ban.
Isn't it worth your time Mr. President, isn't it worth a vote ladies and gentlemen of the senate, if it keeps but one of these terrorist weapons off the street?
They are not terrorist weapons... unless "Scottbo", who wants an assault weapon he doesn't want "civilians" to have, is a terrorist. I doubt he is a terrorist. I know I'm not a terrorist. So-called "assault weapons" are, simply, firearms. They are not very different from a hunting rifle or your .22 target rifle. If you believe otherwise, you have been lied to.
Shame on you Republican's for pandering to the NRA's pocketbook rather than committing to the individual safety of the American public.
In the 20th century, governments killed over 60 million people. My individual safety is guaranteed by my firearms, not my government.
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