Monday, April 27, 2009


The New York Daily News reports on a lawsuit filed by the parents of a teenager killed in a DWI.

The adults who hosted a booze-filled teen bash and a motorist whose car was stolen as it idled share the blame for the drunken-driving deaths of a Queens high school standout and his buddy, a bombshell lawsuit charges.

Robert Ogle, 16-year-old junior at Brooklyn Technical High School was mowed down on Feb. 1st by a hit-and-run driver as he walked home from a party that had left him tipsy. His parents are now suing not only the driver of the car but the owner of the vehicle and the hosts of the party where their son had been drinking.

The driver, Kenneth Guyear, was drunk and behind the wheel of a Kia Spectra he'd swiped after finding it running outside a Woodhaven Blvd. deli, cops say.

"Each person in their own way contributed to this train wreck," said the teen's dad, Brendan Ogle, who will file the wrongful-death lawsuit today in Queens Supreme Court. "If everyone had exercised better judgment, my son would be alive today."

The Ogles' lawyer Sanford Rubenstein said he expects a jury to hash out the "appropriate percentage of responsibility" for the couple that hosted the party, Sing-Chau Fung and Yuk Lai Fung, and David Jaber, who left his running car unattended.

I wonder what percentage of responsibility the hosts of the party will be charged with? I don't see that they had all the much to do with it. The owner of the car that was stolen, on the other hand, should share, leaving of course, the majority of blame on the thieving driver himself.

What's your opinion? Is this a good example of the very thing we often talk about, the sharing of responsibility? Or do you feel only Kenneth Guyear is responsible?

Do you think Guyear's intoxication could be considered a mitigating circumstance? What if it turns out he was an alcoholic operating under the grip of addiction? Would that kind of thing get him any leniency, do you think?

What's your opinion?


  1. "What's your opinion? Is this a good example of the very thing we often talk about, the sharing of responsibility? Or do you feel only Kenneth Guyear is responsible?"

    Sharing of Responcibility? The hosts served a minor alchohol.

    The Minor then drunk-drove.

    Two crimes, two people.

    Neither need to share with anybody else.

    You really don't see the laws or right and wrong when you look at things, do you Mike?

  2. MikeB,

    Could you explain why the owner of the stolen car should share some of the blame?

    Please provide details as to the nature of his/her responsibility.

    This I don't understand at all.

  3. Just to put things in perspective. MikeB has admitted to owning guns illigally in his time in the states. Of course his credability is low, but he claims to have never been convicted of a felony (illigal posession of a firearm is a pretty serious one).

    Maybe Mike keeps playing all this "Shared Responcibility" because he doesn't want to go down alone in his criminal acts.

    Sorry Mike, I don't even like you, I won't be punished for the acts of criminals, let alone the likes of you.

  4. Yup, the parents who hosted the party and gave alcohol to minors should be punished for that. Their are laws against it already.

    The minor then committed a crime by driving drunk.

    As far as charging the guy who's car was stolen while idling. What in the hell?! A drunk kid STOLE HIS CAR. It's not like he walked up to an obviously drunk guy, said, "hey man, why don't you take her for a spin?" and handed him a set of keys.

    Bob S. - I suspect it's the same reason why gun owners should share responsibility for crimes committed by someone after said person breaks into their home and steals their guns.

    Using Mike's logic it's not the drunk kids fault he stole the car, the car owner shouldn't have left it there. It's lunacy

  5. Mike, Do you know how often I see cops run into a wawa while leaving their patrol car idling? happens all the time.

    I'm with Bob S., I just don't get it. A drunk guy STOLE a mans car and killed someone and you want to blame the guy who's car was stolen? Nuts Mike, absolutely nuts.

    Also, if you're talking about "shared responsibility" what about the kid who died and HIS parents. He's 16, what was he doing walking home drunk from a party?

    *Note that I'm just making a point here, I don't actually buy the "shared responsibility" BS.

  6. Why aren't the parents suing themselves?

    If we are going to apportion guilt or responsibility as MikeB tries to describe it, aren't the parents how carelessly and recklessly allowed their son to attend the party mostly at fault?

    They allowed their son to attend a party with alcohol present.

    They didn't teach, or the teaching didn't take, that their son should have left a party if alcohol was present.

    They didn't teach their son it was wrong for a minor to drink alcohol outside of the control of his parents.

    They didn't teach their son to be responsible enough to call for a ride if he was under the influence of alcohol.

    They didn't teach their son that actions have consequences. Perhaps if he had been sober, he might have avoided being in the accident.

    Maybe we should also see if they will so the school for not providing appropriate alcohol awareness programs.

    Maybe they should sue Nancy Reagan for stopping her "Just Say NO to Drugs" campaign too early.

    Hey, maybe they should sue MikeB also. As a parent, doesn't MikeB share in some of the responsibility for the actions of other parents? MikeB should have worked with the prohibition crowd to get alcohol out of the homes of families with kids.

    What do you say you share responsibility for this tragedy?

  7. It's actually a pretty common law, that the owner who leaves a car running and unattended can be held civilly liable for damages caused by the car if it is stolen. I haven't read one of those cases since law school (many years ago) so I can't tell you the exact logic right now, but it's not at all a new concept. If you all don't want to be held accountable for the actions of criminals, be sure you don't leave your car unattended and running.

    Weer'd, I'm not sure why you're jumping on Mike for referring to shared responsibility. He's talking about a civil wrongful death lawsuit where the plaintiffs are suing several people, claiming that their individual actions all contributed to the death of their son. He's just talking about contributory negligence here. It's a pretty basic legal concept, that sometimes there is more than one cause to a bad outcome and that each person whose actions contributed to the bad outcome should be held accountable for his or her fair share.

  8. I was going to point out that the shared responsibility thing was not mine but the law suit's; it was part of the story. But, S came handily to my defense. Did you guys know she's a public defender in real life?

  9. So MikeB,

    Are you going to take about the failures of the parents also?

    Are you going to talk about your responsibility or continue to ignore it?

    Since you don't like one argument, let's try the alcohol/car issue.

    Do you drink alcohol?

    If so, don't you share in the responsibility for this child's death?

    Do you drive?

    If so, don't you share in the responsibility for a car being used in this death?

    Come on, fess up to your responsibility and what you are going to do to reduce the alcohol related traffic fatalities in America?

    Fatalities that cause 25% more deaths then ALL firearm related homicides?

  10. Yup, S. is right about contributory negligence. IIRC Delaware has a modified comparative negligence law that follows the the 51% rule.

  11. S.

    Could you please comment on MikeB's contention that gun owners who have firearms should also be held liable/accountable?

    We've pointed out the running car/ leaving a firearm on the porch angle before.

    But it seems that some people want to hold gun owners accountable regardless. Is there a legal liability for people who store their firearms in their locked houses?

  12. Mike W., If S is right about contributory negligence, how does that fit in with what you always say about individual responsibility? Is one legal and the other moral?

  13. Once again MikeB posts comments, approves comments and refuses to address his responsibility for this tragedy.

    Why is that MikeB???

    If gun owners share in the responsibility for criminal acts performed with firearms, don't you share responsibility?

    Fess up MikeB. Are you responsible for the criminal misdeeds of many people thousands of miles from you?

    Heck, do you own a home? Then aren't you also responsible for crime of the home owners who allowed underage drinking?

  14. It is downright wrong to charge somebody for getting their car stolen.

    I don't care about presidents or common practice. That idea is just wrong.

    Blame the victim much?

  15. Bob, I wish I had time today to do a little research because it's an interesting question, but I might not be able to get to it today. I'll try to get back to you.

    Off the top of my head, I would say states would put the liability line around the gun owner taking reasonable precautions to secure the gun, so locked house = no liability. Loaded gun on the front porch could get closer to liability (depending on factors like high crime area, shared porch, etc.), but I still think probably not in the vast majority of states. Leaving a loaded gun on the subway would be the sort of extreme example at the end of the liability continuum where the gun owner would likely face liability.

    Here in my town, we recently had an incident where a drunk husband and wife got into a fight that spanned several blocks in a residential neighborhood (lots of kids). Somewhere along the way, they apparently lost a gun. If that gun is subsequently used to commit a crime or one of the neighborhood kids finds it and blows a hand off, those idiots will probably be facing some legal trouble.

    I'm not sure exactly where the law would draw the line to establish when a gun owner whose gun fell into bad hands would be civilly liable for damages. Generally in these kinds of negligence issues, we look to how reasonably foreseeable it is that harm would result. So a court would consider how reasonably foreseeable it was that the gun could fall into the wrong hands and be used to hurt someone. A court would also consider the degree of negligence involved in the loss of the gun.

  16. MikeB - I don't have issue with the negligence statutes on the books.

    Your argument, that I am legally responsible for the CRIMINAL actions of others is different. If my guns are in my home and a criminal has to forcibly enter my home in order to steal those guns I am NOT, and should never be criminally liable.

    If however, an aquaintence of mine was going on about killing his wife and I said "yeah man, go for it! and handed him one of my loaded guns, then yes, I have some degree of criminal responsibility for his actions.

    In the same way, if I hand a guy who's obviously really drunk my keys and say "here, take my car," and he kills someone, that's VERY different than if said drunk STEALS my car and ends up killing someone.

  17. Ookami Snow, Thanks for the comment. I think you're probably in agreement with some of the regular commenters who are big individual responsibility guys. We often talk about whether mitigating circumstances like child abuse or addictions should be considered in lowering the culpability of an offender. I'd like to hear your ideas on those sometime.

    But this case today is one in which there is a law suit which will be heard in court. We also had S make a very professional explanation of how this works in the law. So, with whom are you disagreeing actually, with me or the laws of the State of New York?

  18. Again, another comment from MikeB without addressing his responsibility for this tragic incident.

    MikeB - when are you going to stop the flow of alcohol, cars and homes to those fomerly law abiding people?

    When are you going to own up to your responsibility as you demand of gun owners?

    Oh When oh When are you going to admit your GUILT?

  19. S,

    Thanks for the reply. I would appreciate the results of that research when you have a chance to accomplish it.

    If you don't feel this is appropriate for MikeB's place, please stop by my blog or shoot me an email. I would like to do a post on this subject with your opinions and research.

    I think you said much of what we've told MikeB many times. Thanks again.

  20. Dispite what MikeB may want to paint, S, those scenarios are very reasonable. Actually I would say a front porch with a gun (loaded status is unimportant) unsecured on it would be JUST as liable as in most cases the portch is the route to the front door, and can be accessed for lawful reasons. Our mailman enteres our porch to deliver our mail. Guests enter our porch ring our doorbell. To steal somthing from our porch is still theft, but it would not require breaking and entering. Certainly having a dangerous item there would be a bit foolish.

    Still S says somthing that resonates with most gun owners. Lock your doors and you're taking a reasonable precaution to avoid theft, and a theif has to break MANY laws before he may aquire your property.

    Many of us go a step further by tucking guns in the back of clossets or under beds so they aren't easily found by intruders, or guests. I personally go further and keep mine under lock and key. (This is also mandated by state law. I would prefer my home defense gun be stored descreetly and unloaded, but for now it needs a key to unlock).

    FYI also Massachusetts has some sort of law involving idling unlocked vehicles. A Neighbor went into a donut shop to get some coffee and somebody stole his car. Thankfully for him it was just some kids who took it for a few spins around the town and dumped it. He got an earful from the Police at the liability he was lucky to avoid.

    If the theif needs to smash a window and bypass a starter ignition the owner took more than reasonable precautions against theft.

  21. Bob, I've been meaning to get to your question about my accountability in those other areas.

    I've mentioned this to you before, you'll remember, it has to do with the fact that you support gun policies and practices that directly lead to gun violence. I know you dispute that, the theory of gun flow and gun availability, but I'm talking about my rationale now.

    Corresponding policies and practices don't exist concerning cars, for example. If they did and I supported them and they led to loss of life on the highways, then I would be in your position. If such a situation did exist, then as a pro-car supporter, yes, I would share in the responsibility for the problems.

  22. "Do you think Guyear's intoxication could be considered a mitigating circumstance?"How did I miss this GEM?

    This is a DWI case where his driving drunk killed someoneHow could his being intoxicated possibly be a mitigating circumstance given the facts of the case?

  23. MikeB,

    you'll remember, it has to do with the fact that you support gun policies and practices that directly lead to gun violenceThere are millions of gun owners that don't support any policies or practices about firearms....yet your accusations includes them also.

    You've stated that ALL GUN OWNERS share in the responsibility. Not just those advocating pro-right's laws.

    So, which it is? Are only those advocating a position responsible for the criminal actions of others or is everyone?

    I know you dispute that, the theory of gun flow and gun availability, but I'm talking about my rationale now.Yet, you dispute the theory of computer flow and camera availability for another crime...and you dispute your responsibility for it also.

    Corresponding policies and practices don't exist concerning cars, for example.I would respectfully disagree and tell you that you have no idea what you are talking about.

    There are policies and practices being advocated saying the government doesn't have any right to control cars, drinking, etc.

    There are also policies and practices being advocated for very strict control of cars, alcohol, etc.

    There are people who are advocating every single car have an interdiction system in it to prevent driving under any influence of alcohol.

    Heck, there are people advocating the complete banning of private owned cars. Much like there are people advocating banning privately owned firearms.

    If they did and I supported them and they led to loss of life on the highways, then I would be in your position. If such a situation did exist, then as a pro-car supporter, yes, I would share in the responsibility for the problems.As I stated earlier, you throw every gun owner under the bus for simple owning a firearm. You've stated that as gun owners we should be working to eliminate our rights, to enact strict laws against the "flow of guns".

    How doesn't that apply to you as a car owner, as a drinker, as a home owner?

    Your mere ownership of those items are contributing to the problem. You risk someone breaking into your house and stealing your alcohol.

    Question, serious answer required you have your alcohol secured against theft?

    How about your car keys...that can be used as a deadly you have a secure key vault for your automobile keys?

    See MikeB, when the shoe is on the other foot, it doesn't seem as comfortable does it?

    So, since you are part of the problem, whether you advocate for one position or another, what are you going to do to accept responsibility?

  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  25. I am interested in the contributory negligence aspect, as i used to drive a 1953 chevy truck that had no door keys anymore and had a pushbutton on the dash to start. So by not having broken glass and cut ignition wires, im at fault if some steals it? Then again, im sure i would be as exempt from that as i was seatbelt laws, on principle of the age of the thing. either way, it serves as food for thought.

    Also, id like to note that responsible does not equate to guilty, and this is a civil trial, not a criminal one. There is a difference.

  26. The shared responsibility thing is fascinating, don't you think? The way I understood this story, the drunk driver was not at the same party as the kid. So, he's guilty, no question for driving drunk and killing somebody. I can see the owner of the car being charged with negligence. But, I can't understand the hosts of the party being charged. Is the law suit saying that because they got the kid drunk he couldn't protect himself from the drunk driver while walking home, his reflexes were impaired? To me that's a stretch.

    About the reduced culpability for addicts and alcoholics, I'm not saying they should get a pass. I'm saying that when a person is drinking or using drugs due to an addiction, their ability to choose is affected in such a way that they aren't the free agents that others are in the same circumstances. I believe this has precedents in law and support in philosophy and theology. What do you think?

  27. MikeB,

    And you avoid responding to my questions and comment again.

    Under the rules you set up, MikeB aren't responsible for the death of this child?

    Come on address the point.
    Be fair and honest as you claim you are.

    If gun owners are responsible for the crimes committed using firearms, aren't you responsible if you are a home owner, if you drink alcohol, if you are a driver?

  28. Minus the hostility, there's a fascinating conversation in here.

    It seems like insanity to me that if a criminal steals your car (or your gun) and uses it to commit a crime, you can be found partially culpable for that crime. I can understand an insurance company saying "you didn't take reasonable precautions to secure your car, so we aren't paying for it", but for the courts to hold you partially responsible for a subsequent crime? Completely perplexing to me.

    I'd be very, very interested to know the philosophical background to these laws. Does it imply a responsibility on the part of citizens to contribute to a safe and lawful community? That would seem to make sense in an old-fashioned way, but to conflict directly with the paternalistic urban "crime is the cops' territory and trying to take care of yourself in any way is a step away from vigilantism" mindset so many big cities seem to have.

    Thanks for the input, S. :)

  29. Hey Mike, I'm curious what your take on this is:

    Thumbnail: NYC guns are essentially banned. Gun crimes are dropping. Knife crimes are rising. Overall Muder and Violent crime rate is rising.

    Your take?

  30. Michael, You find this a perplexing concept, the shared responsibility. Do you also find the idea that gun availability plays a part in gun violence to be perplexing too? I think they're similar ideas.

  31. Do you also find the idea that gun availability plays a part in gun violence to be perplexing too? I think they're similar ideas.

    No, I find it to be a tautology. Of _course_ gun availability plays a role in "gun violence", because without guns "gun violence" is literally impossible. I think you'll find that very few crimes were committed with guns in the 7th century. ;)

    But in my opinion, talking about "gun crime" is like talking about "Glock crime", or ".223 caliber carbine crime"--it makes an irrelevant distinction. Remember our discussion about how banning "assault weapons" will just result in people filling the same role with different firearms? The same is true of banning guns: criminals, suicides, and ordinary people will turn to different means of achieving the same goal.

    As discussed before, Japan has a horrifying suicide rate despite the near-total absence of guns. And just two days ago the New York Times ran an article about how their extremely burdensome gun laws have done just what you think is needed: reduced the availability of guns. This has led to a meaningful decrease in "gun crime"... But the murder rate has actually gone up, due to a large increase in murders committed with "knives or other cutting instruments". This is exactly what Britain saw after it nearly banned civilian posession of firearms.

    More people are dying. More families are grieving. From my point of view, the idea of "gun crime" is far more unsympathetic than any seeming ambivalence to statistics you see in gun owners. To talk about "gun crime" is to ignore the people involved, instead fixating on what gear was used. :\

  32. Great Comment, Michael.

    If you don't mind I think I'll reprint it on my own blog.

  33. MikeB,

    Also, to rain on your parade a little more...isn't the basis of our laws -- accountability?

    If the person WHO COMMITS the crime can't be held responsible without others sharing in that responsibility, why aren't the laws written that way?

  34. Bob said, "If the person WHO COMMITS the crime can't be held responsible without others sharing in that responsibility, why aren't the laws written that way?"I think the laws are written that way. Isn't that what S explained to us? Isn't that what's happening in the law suit in New York? How far can those laws be applied, is the question. I think charging the people who had that party is too far. Charging the guy who let his car get stolen by carelessness, is a close call.

  35. Michael said, "Remember our discussion about how banning "assault weapons" will just result in people filling the same role with different firearms?"I remember you said that, and I remember my saying that's an interesting point. I don't remember ever agreeing that it would work 100% or anything like that.

    The more important point about assault weapons which I did agree to is that they probably account for only a small percentage of gun crime. So, banning them won't help much. That I agree with.

    Back to the first idea, you seem to be extrapolating from it that the entire theory of gun availability is invalid. I don't think so.

    I never denied that someone committed to killing themselves would be able to do it. My contention is that many who do attempt suicide are not committed to it and if through an inability to grab the nearby gun they have to use another means, the chances of success are lower.

    Same goes for murders. Many are committed in the heat of an argument. I realize you can kill somebody with a rock, but I say it's not as easy or likely to succeed.

  36. The issue is that while your assumptions ("guns make murder and suicide easier" and "therefore the murders and suicides that barely happen wouldn't have happened without access to guns") sound perfectly reasonable and common-sensey, they're still just assumptions, and they don't seem to be borne out by the evidence. The suicide rates of modern countries show no correlation between suicides and gun laws. The US, which leads the developed world in private gun ownership by a wide margin (excepting nations with compulsory military service) is 43rd on that list, after quite a few first-world countries that flatly ban guns.

    And we've seen firsthand that banning guns outright or making extreme burdens that widely discourage gun ownership doesn't decrease violent crime or murder rates.

    We both expect that those truly dedicated to murder or suicide will do it anyway, but your expectation that getting rid of guns will decrease murder and suicide rates by stopping the not-so-committed, however reasonable, isn't borne out by what actually happens in the real world. Obviously some number of deaths wouldn't have happened without a gun present, but some factor is making up the difference somehow.

    Exactly what this is, I don't know. We know that the overwhelming majority of violent crimes and murders are committed by career criminals, so it makes sense that "not-so-committed" is a much smaller group than media reports of normal people who "just snapped and grabbed a gun" would lead you to believe. If I had to guess, it seems reasonable that the truly not-so-committed murderers who don't go through with it because they don't have guns are balanced out by murderers emboldened by the knowledge that their law-abiding victims are unarmed.

    And with suicides not correlating... Again, I dunno. Maybe non-gun methods are more certain than we're assuming. According to the NYT, "because gun ownership is severely restricted in Japan, many Japanese resort to throwing themselves in front of trains, hanging themselves, jumping off cliffs or overdosing", all of which sound pretty deadly to me. Maybe that "self-determination equals happiness" effect that makes gun owners happier than non-gun owners also makes people less likely to commit suicide in the kind of country whose government trusts them with potentially dangerous tools.

    These precise suggestions are speculation just like your expectations, of course, but _something_ must account for the observed fact that access to guns doesn't correlate with more people dying of murder or suicide, even when it seems so reasonable to expect it will.

    Whatever the reason, if removing guns doesn't seem to correlate with fewer deaths in practice, and your goal is in reducing the number of deaths, doesn't it make sense to stop worrying about guns and focus on factors we _know_ cause crime and suicide, like inadequate mental health care; stigmatization of those who seek it; legal policies that decrease freedom and create crime (like the "War on Drugs"); a justice system that fails to rehabilitate and releases the most dangerous career criminals back into society; and the adversarial relationship between the police and the people?

  37. A lot of us base our theories on "what actually happens in the real world." The difficulty is in determining what that really is. In our many discussions we've seen conflicting stats and contradictory conclusions. I suggest they're all, or nearly all reached in good faith. Some of my antagonists have a different opinion: their ideas are valid and mine are lies, the Bradys lie, Kleck tells it like it is.

    So, Michael, you're presumption that, "if removing guns doesn't seem to correlate with fewer deaths in practice," is just that for me, a presumption.

  38. MikeB,

    It isn't a presumption if there is evidence to back it up.

    You presume that removing the firearm will. Show some counter evidence to give weight to your idea, to show that it might work.

    Is there anything, other then presumption, to show that removing firearms is going to reduce crime?

  39. "Is there anything, other then presumption, to show that removing firearms is going to reduce crime?"

    Nope, and Mike knows that.

    Case in point. NYC 2008. They have some of the most strict gun control in the U.S. (I.E. like DC) yet they still have gun violence.

    If guns were the problem and removing them = less crime, then explain how NYC saw fewer gun homicides and yet the # of murders actually INCREASED?

    You and your ilk - The brady's would look at NYC's murder numbers and say "SEE, gun control works!" because the gun deaths dropped. You ignore the fact that NYC actually saw a net gain in murders.

    But hey, to folks like you and the Brady Campaign "Gun violence" is all you see, it's all that matters.

  40. The difficulty is in determining what that really is. In our many discussions we've seen conflicting stats and contradictory conclusions.

    Okay, let's run with that for a moment. Assuming you're right, that means there isn't a preponderance of conclusive evidence on either side of the debate.

    As a free society, before intruding on an individual's freedom (and _especially_ before abridging a Constitutional right) we generally require a preponderance of conclusive evidence that that intrusion is necessary. After all, speculating that outlawing a particular religion seems like it might benefit society, or that expressing a particular political ideology could conceivably get people hurt isn't reason enough to abridge First Amendment rights. As a matter of principle, when the facts are in doubt shouldn't we stand on the side of more rights until somebody can present conclusive evidence that there's a strong need to curtail those rights?

    If the gun control side is trying to intrude on my decisions, _and_ to restrict my expression of a Constitutional right, isn't the burden of proof on their shoulders to demonstrate as a matter of _fact_ beyond a reasonable doubt that the presence of guns directly causes more death?

    If there's a lack of conclusive evidence for either side, doesn't that require us to err on the side of gun rights over the restriction of those rights?

  41. Michael says, "If the gun control side is trying to intrude on my decisions, _and_ to restrict my expression of a Constitutional right, isn't the burden of proof on their shoulders to demonstrate as a matter of _fact_ beyond a reasonable doubt that the presence of guns directly causes more death?"That's certainly not the first time we've heard that around here; I think everyone agrees, Michael has a wonderful way with words.

    My question is why should the constitutional right be the starting point for this argument. That's too self serving to your side. For me it's the 80 or so deaths per day, many of whom are children, which should be the starting point. Any reasonable means, and I think the diminishment of the availability of guns is reasonable, should be undertaken willingly by all.If that restricts or inconveniences people, it's a small price to pay.

  42. That, MikeB is why we'll never agree.

    That is simply NOT how we treat Constitutional rights in this country. Michael's comment is dead-on.

  43. It doesn't matter where the conversation starts--we'll inevitably come to the matter: the US Constitution guarantees Americans the right to keep and bear arms, restricting Constitutional rights requires strong evidence that the restrictions will meet a legitimate government interest, and that evidence isn't forthcoming for the assumption that more gun laws will stop the deaths that concern us.

    If you don't care to prove that a restriction on a Constitutional right would be effective before adopting it, why even _have_ a Bill of Rights?

    It has nothing to do with "my side"; I'd require the same evidence before accepting a burden on the practice of religion, a Constitutional right I'm strongly personally opposed to.

  44. That's certainly not the first time we've heard that around here...My question is why should the constitutional right be the starting point for this argument. That's too self serving to your side.

    The more I think about this, the more uncomfortable I am with it. It seems like you're dismissing one of the core issues in the debate based on the fact that it's disadvantageous to "your side"; from what little I've seen in the last few weeks, that intellectual dishonesty would seem to be totally out of character for you.

    I assume it's either an unintentional slip on your part, or a misinterpretation of what you mean on my part; I'd really appreciate it if you could clarify for me.

  45. Michael, I plead not guilty to intellectual dishonesty. Yet, I don't think you misunderstood what I said.

    The fact is, although I'm certainly no scholar and have just recently learned some basic things about the gun debate, I have some general opinions that you may not like.

    I thought I understood that the Heller decision last year was a turning point of sorts for 2nd Amendment interpretation, and even that vote was split. The dissenting judges and many of their predecessors felt that the 2nd Amendment is about arming a militia and not individuals. That view, which is now the minority one on the Supreme Court, as well as in the country, I suppose, implies a certain outdated and anachronistic quality to the "right" to bear arms, hence all the references to muskets and 18th century things.

    With all this in mind, I can say I don't put so much value in the Constitution. I know that's blasphemy for many people, but my thinking is this. The Code of Hammurabi probably had some good stuff in it, but to take it all literally today just wouldn't work. The same goes for the Constitution, which is perhaps why we have amendments.

    I don't understand the tendency of some folks to elevate the document the way they do, usually invoking God, I know you don't do that, but you all place some kind of transcendent quality to these writings that I don't understand. One reason I find this weird is because the authors, who are often referred to with reverence, actually capitalizing the words Founding Fathers, were slave owners who denied women basic human status. Isn't anything that comes from those kinds of guys, from such an unenlightened era, suspect? Shouldn't anything they produced be reworked and re-examined?

    So that's part of my idea about the Constitution and why I don't agree that it should be the starting point of our argument. What saves live should be, nothing more.

  46. all place some kind of transcendent quality to these writings that I don't understand.

    My insistence on the importance of the Constitution is based on one essential fact: I don't trust governments with absolute power. It _will_ be abused, and it _will_ result in disaster when the erratic swing of direct democracy swings some truly extremist party into power. It took nine years for the Nazi party to go from an almost invisible minority with its leader in prison to the controlling party with its leader the Chancellor. Nine years for the Weimar Republic to turn from Europe's most liberal democracy, to the Third Reich.

    To suggest that Americans are so fundamentally superior to Weimar citizens that this would never happen to us is, in my opinion, hopelessly naive. All it takes is a terrifying social disaster, a charismatic leader, and an unrestrained government.

    For all their human flaws, the founding fathers understood the consequences of direct democracy and omnipotent elected governments well enough that they wrote a contract between the government and the citizens, carefully partitioning government authority, requiring multiple checks and balances against the abuse of power, and on top of all that, singling out specific rights of the individual that the government can't tamper with even when it _does_ get through all those checks and balances. When we let the government ignore the Constitution, they're claiming a power that we didn't sign up for. They're breaking the social compact, and in a very dangerous way.

    This is why the Constitution is "sacred" to me: I think the country would be better off if a few of its principles were changed, but that (by design) requires doing a lot of hard work to get the consensus for an amendment. Letting Congress or the President just change whatever it wants, whenever it wants, undermines the checks and balances that have preserved so much of our freedom for over two centuries.

    Let me put this more simply: right now we're under a super-liberal President and a liberal-majority Congress, and one of the only things protecting our right to keep and bear arms is the Constitution. When the pendulum inevitably swings back, and we elect a theocratic fundamentalist who makes George W. Bush look like Richard Dawkins, do you want the First Amendment to protect Americans' rights to religious self-determination, or do you want our new god-king to be able to brush that protection aside as "anachronistic", and proceed with his 51% majority to make evangelical Christianity the official and compulsory faith of the land?

    I'll uphold every last part of the Constitution, from the rights I dearly love, to the ones I don't really care about ("no quartering of soldiers"?), to the ones that protect things I think are destructive, because it's too valuable a protection as a whole to gut for the sake of individual interests.

    For me, that which preserves freedom is more important than that which saves lives. Death is not the worst of evils.

  47. So that's part of my idea about the Constitution and why I don't agree that it should be the starting point of our argument. What saves live should be, nothing more.So basically you position is,

    Fuck the Constitution. Who cares that the guys who are the final arbiters of interpreting that documents disagree with me.

    Is that an accurate characterization Mike?

    Mike, you sound quite a lot like George "It's just a goddamn piece of paper!" Bush.

    Your "ideas" about the Constitution are not only 100% wrong, but if the law followed your idea the entire document (the blueprint of our nation) would be rendered meaningless.

    Do you have even the faintest idea of how the US legal system works Mike?

    The CONSTITUTION is a LEGAL DOCUMENT. It has legal supremacy over matters of federal, state, and local law. If it did not have such supremacy it's entire purpose (to protect individual rights by specifically restricting the powers of government) would be moot.

    See Article VI, clause II of the Constitution of the United States.