Saturday, January 3, 2009

The New Second Amendment

The Huffington Post published an article about the results of the Supreme Court's decision last June.

In June, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, D.C. v. Heller. For over 70 years, the federal courts had read that amendment to protect only a state's right to organize militias, like the National Guard. In a long-awaited victory for the gun rights movement, the Court reversed course and held that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to own guns for personal self-defense.

So far, the victory hasn't turned out exactly as the gun rights folks had hoped.

Is that right? How could this not be a major victory for the gun folks?

The article goes on to explain that since June, lower courts have upheld existing gun laws no fewer than 60 times. Felons still cannot own guns legally, nor can the mentally incompetent or the wife-beaters.

The courts have ruled on the constitutionality of laws prohibiting particular types of weapons, including sawed-off shotguns and machine guns, and specific weapons attachments. Defendants have challenged laws barring guns in school zones and post offices, and laws outlawing "straw" purchases, the carrying of concealed weapons, possession of an unregistered firearm, and particular types of ammunition. The courts have upheld every one of these laws.

According to Adam Winkler, author of the HuffPo piece, the reason none of these restrictions have been lifted is because Judge Scalia included the following statement in his decision.

"nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions on the commercial sale of arms."

So aside from allowing citizens of the District of Columbia to own guns for personal protection, like in many other places, has this ruling changed anything? Do law abiding gun owners want the restrictions relaxed that have always prevented felons from owning guns? Was it hoped that this ruling would trickle down to the lower courts and effect changes in the laws prohibiting guns in schools and government buildings?

What's your opinion?

"The Stones, Let's Stick With 'em"

Friday, January 2, 2009

2 Israelis Shot in Denmark

CNN reports on the arrest of a Lebanese Palestinian man in connection with the shooting of two Israeli men. The incident took place on the Danish Island of Fyn as the two Israelis were working in a shopping mall. The shooter was a Danish citizen.

Our frequent commenter Bob S., has posed some questions.

Police say the suspect has denied attempting to kill the Israelis but acknowledged carrying a gun Wednesday at the mall in the central Danish city of Odense.

Jacobsen says the two Israelis had been selling hair-care products when they were attacked. He says they were hospitalized in stable condition; one man was shot in the arm and one man in the leg.

Now, is this a "gun crime" or a hate crime?

Is the availability of the firearms the predominant factor in this situation or is it the religious factor that is predominant?

Denmark has a high rate of firearm ownership, but low crime rates....doesn't that contradict your 'easy availability of firearms theory?

If my blog ever gets popular, I'm gonna ask Bob to be a guest blogger. Those are exactly the questions I would have asked, perhaps from a different angle, but essentially the same.

What do you think? Hate crime or gun crime? What about his marksmanship? I'm laughing about that, but I'll bet those Israeli boys are thanking their lucky stars of David.

I guess Bob's final question there is going to force me into admitting something which I've never really denied, but which must be said now. It also relates to the Caracas story. Gun availability is not the only factor. I believe it can be a determining one, like in the case of Teah Wimberly, and perhaps in hundreds of Caracas shootings, but in all honesty I must admit there are other factors such as racial hatred and cultural mores.

What's your opinion?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Random Drug Testing

On the Fifth Column site there's a fascinating post about the random drug testing which is planned in West Virginia for the Kanawha school system's teachers. The thrust of the post is that this kind of initiative is a violation of peoples' rights under the 4th Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” It’s right there in the damn Constitution, which these inbred mouthbreathers might realize if they’d bother to keep reading after the Second Amendment.

I couldn't resist including that remark about the kind of people who "don't bother to keep reading after the Second Amendment." I seriously doubt that applies to anyone who comments on this blog, but we can talk about it.

The more alarming thing mentioned in the Fifth Column post is that a significant percentage of the population want this. He cites the comments received in favor of the policy in the local press.

What's your opinion? Are the kind of folks who passionately believe in the 2nd Amendment also the kind who would comply with this kind of creeping totalitarianism? Does this issue divide the gun enthusiasts into different groups? I would think the same guy who opposes gun control laws which infringe upon his rights would bristle at the prospect of random drug testing. But, maybe not. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Caracas Venezuela, Murder Capital of the World

CNN reports that Caracas Venezuela has topped of a very dubious list.

Foreign Policy magazine said in September that Caracas tops the list of five murder capitals of the world, with an official tally of 130 homicides per 100,000 residents.

The article mentions that the numbers are somewhat lower than the reality. No prison murders are included and no police-brutality killings are included.

To put it into perspective, London is supposed to have 2.4 per 100,000 and the overall U.S. figure is 5.5. Those numbers, which I included in a previous post, were quite illuminating because I'd been so often told the UK has worse troubles than we do in America, in spite of, or on account of, their strict gun laws. As usual though, common sense prevails. Fewer guns means fewer murders.

But what about Caracas? What could possibly explain such an incredible number of murders? The month ending today saw 510. And we thought Tijuana was bad. What could it be about Caracas Venezuela?

The government is co-responsible for there being so many firearms. There is no good gun control, there are no permits and there is no good control over the militias.

Now, I realize my gun-loving friends are going to poke more holes in those statements than you'll find in an Amarillo road sign, but once again, I appeal to your common sense. In a society where there are lots of guns, you're liable to have lots of murders. Am I right?

I'm also wondering if some of those 130 per 100,000 murders were really defensive gun incidents swept up into the general stats. Or would they be over and above the 130? Imagine if we counted all the "justified" killings, all the police murders and all the prison deaths. That is some city!

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

8-Year-Old Incompetent Says Expert

MSNBC reports on the determination by the defense-appointed psychologist that the 8-year-old Arizona shooter, who recently turned 9, is incompetent to stand trial.

A psychologist found a 9-year-old murder suspect incompetent to stand trial and determined the boy's age and intelligence keep him from understanding the premeditated murder charges he faces, the boy's defense lawyer said.

The mental health expert nominated by the defense also said the boy could not be restored to competency within the time allowed by law, attorney Benjamin Brewer said this week.

When discussing this case before, here and here, I think just about everyone was in agreement that the police did not conduct themselves properly and that something was wrong with prosecutors talking about premeditated murder in a case like this. There were those, of course, who commented about the accountability that must always follow one's actions, even one as young as this.

My own observation is that in this recent report which very well may lead to dropping the charges and getting the boy the help he needs, there still seems to be some kind of stubborn reluctance on the part of arresting officers and prosecutors to recognize the ridiculousness of charging a child in this manner.

Prosecutor Brad Carlyon said he expects the case to either go to trial or end with a plea deal by March or April, unless the boy is found incompetent with a chance of rehabilitation. That could delay the case by months while efforts are made to restore him to competency.

I offer a big hat tip to the Preaching to the Choir site for her common sense views. Sarah said, "this case might soon get out of the criminal justice system and the child can get into the kinds of therapy and social support programs that might really be able to address his needs." I could not agree more.

What's your opinion? Is 10 years of age a good point at which to consider kids responsible for their actions? What do we do with the younger ones? Is it possible for a young kid to commit acts of violence and not have had violence done to him first? In other words, is there such a thing as a bad seed, a kid from a fairly normal family who just goes bad?

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Debunking Myths

The New England Journal of Medicine published a very interesting article earlier this year. The following is a small excerpt.

Since 2005, a total of 14 states have adopted statutes that expand the range of places where people may use guns against others, eliminate any duty to retreat if possible before shooting, and grant shooters immunity from prosecution, sometimes even for injuries to bystanders.

Such policies are founded on myths. One is that increasing gun ownership decreases crime rates — a position that has been discredited.2 Gun ownership and gun violence rise and fall together. Another myth is that defensive gun use is very common. The most widely quoted estimate, 2.5 million occurrences a year, is too high by a factor of 10.3

In many of our discussions about guns I've questioned these very issues. Does gun ownership add to the problem, and if so how? Are defensive uses of guns as frequent as people say? I've always relied upon my own common sense, basing much of what I conclude on stories that appear in the main stream media about gun incidents. Today for the first time I went looking for support, and it shouldn't surprise anyone, in about 5 minutes I came upon this, what appears to be a rather erudite article in a reputable medical journal written by Garen J. Wintemute, M.D., M.P.H.

The article by Dr. Wintemute even disputes the oft-cited failure of the Washington D.C. gun laws. To me that was a bonus. I was quite pleased enough to find evidence that more guns leads to more gun problems, which is exactly what I've been saying all along.

Big hat tip to The Reading Blog.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Murders Up Among Young Blacks reports on a study conducted by Northeastern University. Although violent crime and murder have decreased overall, the incidents among young black men have actually gone up.

Among their findings: an increase of more than 39 percent in the number of black males between ages 14-17 killed between 2000 and 2007 and an increase of 34 percent in the number of blacks that age who committed homicide. The increases for white male teens, meanwhile, were nearly 17 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

So, even for white teens there have been increases, but not nearly as much as among their black counterparts. As usual, a few simple statistics and you can go nuts drawing conclusions. For example, would it be fair to conclude that among young men in their twenties and thirties there have been significant decreases? That must have been the case to offset the teenagers' behavior.

What else can we conclude? All the teenagers' weapons would have to be illegal, right? That would bring us back to the same old question. Where are all those guns coming from?

I think there's another factor in all this. Inner city neighborhoods populated by blacks have been written off. The lawmakers, the voters, the average citizen moves away from there and stays away, if at all possible. A little speech from the Godfather comes to mind. After Don Corleone got out of the hospital and wanted to bring Michael back from Sicily, he convened a meeting of all the major dons. Don Zaluchi had this to say:

I also don't believe in drugs. For years I paid my people extra so they wouldn't do that kind of business. Somebody comes to them and says, "I have powders; if you put up three, four thousand dollar investment, we can make fifty thousand distributing." So they can't resist. I want to control it as a business, to keep it respectable.

[slams his hand on the table and shouts]

I don't want it near schools! I don't want it sold to children! That's an infamia. In my city, we would keep the traffic in the dark people, the coloreds. They're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.

The professors who published the report, James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt, have called for an infusion of government money to beef up police forces and restore mentor, sports, after-school and summer programs that withered as federal funds were redirected from cities to homeland security after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

What do you think? Is redirecting that money which was curtailed during the Bush Administration going to be enough? The article goes on to conclude that absentee fathers and the general breakdown of the family are to blame.

I say what about the guns? How can an article like this, which states that "guns are overwhelmingly the weapon of choice for young black offenders and are now used in nearly 85 percent of all homicides they commit, matching 1990s levels," not go on to question the provenance of all those guns? To me that's an infamia.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Please Don't Talk in the Movies

CNN reports on the story of a Philadelphia shooter who opened fire in a movie theatre on a man who was talking during the film. I suppose the incident was preceded by frequent or continual talking and perhaps even a verbal warning or two to cut it out. But at a certain point, the offended film-goer had had enough.

James Joseph Cialella, 29, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons violations, a police report said.

Much of what has been written about this Christmas Day incident has been sympathetic to the gunman. No one likes that kind of inconsiderate behavior in the movies, cell phones going off, too much talking, etc. As an example, Writes Like She Talks contains several such comments. I think they're somewhat tongue-in-cheek, though. I can't believe people would be less disturbed by a gunshot than by some talking during the movie, however disturbing it was.

What interests me is the arrest on weapons charges in addition to assault and attempted murder. Does that mean he had no concealed carry permit, but was a legal gun owner? Is concealed carry available in PA? Does it perhaps mean he owned the gun illegally? His photograph is quite impressive. Even though you can't judge a book by its cover, he could play a thug or hit man in the movies, no problem.

A question comes to mind which has been touched upon in a number of our other discussions. We usually talk about two groups, the legal gun owners and the criminal gun owners. I think we need a third group. These would be the people who own guns but not for criminal purposes. The hoops one must jump through, especially in certain states, are formidable to say the least. There must be many people who have decided to say the hell with all that paperwork and bureaucratic nonsense and pick up a gun or two illegally. Technically they would be criminals by this very fact, but I'd say if their only crime is the way they procured the firearms, they belong in another distinct category.

So, it goes like this:

Group A is legal gun owners.
Group B is gun owners who haven't followed all the rules.
Group C is criminal gun owners.

I'd bet Group B is a lot larger than you'd think. And the problem, as I see it, can be more easily described using this formula: the movement or flow of people and weapons from Groups A and B to Group C.

Does that make sense to anybody? Do you agree that Group B exists and that its numbers might be significant? Do you agree there's a movement of people and weapons the way I've described? Is that movement offset by the defensive gun incidents that occur in which someone from Group A thwarts someone from Group C?

What's your opinion?