Saturday, June 13, 2009

von Brunn's Rifle Impossible to Trace

CNN reports on the failed attempts of the authorities to trace the weapon used in the fatal shooting at the Holocaust Museum. James W. von Brunn, a convicted felon with a history of association with hate groups, went into the Washington D.C. museum last week, and opened fire killing one guard.

It is not possible for authorities to trace the rifle used in this week's shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum to the original purchaser, a law enforcement source said Friday.

The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, said the weapon is a Winchester Model 6, .22 caliber rifle -- a type of gun manufactured between 1908 and 1928 -- long before records were kept on gun purchases.

Authorities also were checking to see if the weapon had been used in any other crime, the source said.

Now, that's very interesting. The "authorities," whoever they are, seem to be focusing on the gun. Maybe they're taking their cue from Paul Helmke, do you think?

I would imagine the reason they focus on the gun, in all seriousness, is because of all the variables in a crime like this, the weapon is one of the most concrete. You've got the impossible-to-predict behaviour of a human being who is acting criminally, you've got whatever influences have played a part in his personality, involvement in the hate groups, etc., you've got the random instances of other people being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then you've got the gun.

Because of its age, they were unable to determine who the original purchaser of the gun was . But they also tried to learn if it had been used in any other crimes. I guess that's two different types of traces. I'm not sure exactly how it works. Let's say they had been able to trace the weapon to a gun shop in Virginia. Would that help to prove the theory that strict gun laws in D.C. are useless if just over the bridge they're lax?

What kind of gun is that anyway, the Winchester Model 6, .22 caliber rifle? Isn't that the kind often given to kids to learn with? Don't they use that one in summer camp for target practice?

What's your opinion? Do you think trying to trace the gun's provenance could yield valuable information. How difficult is it to purchase a rifle like that? Can you still just walk into a store and buy one, like in the good old days?

Please leave a comment.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sotomayor on Guns

A couple weeks ago a "satirical" story went around the internet about Sonia Sotomayor's law-school papers. When I posted about it, I hadn't noticed that it was supposed to be satire. The ribbing I got from some of the commenters a few hours later when everyone in the world saw the truth was well-deserved, and I think well-received.

Now, Yahoo News reports on the latest, hopefully genuine information, about the judge's gun stance.

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor told a senator Thursday that she would follow a historic ruling affirming Americans' right to own guns for self-defense, but pro-gun activists said they still believe she'd work to limit gun rights if confirmed for the high court.

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said Sotomayor told him during a private meeting that she considers the 2008 ruling that struck down a Washington, D.C., handgun ban as settled law that would guide her decisions in future cases. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that individuals have a constitutional right to guns.

But the statement gave little comfort to gun rights activists. Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said that earlier in the week, Sotomayor told him in a similar closed-door session that she stood by an appellate court decision she signed this year that said the Second Amendment protection from curbs on the right to bear arms applied only to federal laws — not state or local ones. That ruling, Maloney v. Cuomo, left it up to the Supreme Court to decide whether the rights recognized in the Heller case applied throughout the country.

Gun rights activists are right to be concerned. The Maloney decision is one in which Sotomayor and two other judges on the 2nd Circuit appeals court upheld a New York state law banning the possession of "chuka sticks." They said they were bound by an 1886 Supreme Court ruling — not by Heller, which didn't address the question of whether the Second Amendment applied to states.

I'm tempted to say, now who's going to have the last laugh, but I'm doubtful she'll survive the gruelling confirmation process. I've already seen too much negative propaganda, much of which must have the NRA's fingerprints on it.

What's your opinion? Do you think she's hostile to gun rights? Would that make her anti-freedom? Isn't it possible for someone to oppose the pro-gun movement and do so with integrity and good intentions?

Please leave a comment.

AA Shooter Cleared of All Charges reports on the decision taken by the South Carolina prosecutors.

A South Carolina prosecutor says an attorney was justified when he shot and killed a robber at an Alcoholics Anonymous club in Columbia earlier this year.

The State reported Thursday that prosecutor Barney Giese (guh-ZAY') concluded that 61-year-old James Corley acted in self-defense when he shot and killed 18-year-old Kayson Helms of Edison, N.J.

Giese's decision means to charges will be filed.

The prosecutor says Helms had pulled a pistol when he entered the club April 11 and took the cell phone of one of the people.

Corley says he knew he would be cleared.

When we spoke about this before, I referred to the shooting as a "summary execution." Although some people took strong exception to that characterization of the incident, in retrospect, and considering the prosecutors decision, I think it pretty well describes what happened. Yet, I fully realize that a man carrying a concealed weapon who becomes the intended victim of an armed robbery, cannot be expected to read the robber's mind to understand his intent. So, legally, it's justified.

The problem with the increase of concealed carry activity among the gun folks is that we're going to have an increase of defensive shootings like this. The percentage of armed robberies that turn murderous is very small, so the more defensive killings we have the more unnecessary ones we'll have. That's the problem.

What's your opinion? From what you've read about Kayson, had James Corley not gunned him down, do you think murder would have taken place that day? In other words, if no one but the criminal had had a gun, what do you think would have happened? I'd say, those alcoholics would have lost a few bucks, cell phones and watches and then they would have had their meeting, thanking the Higher Power for their lives. Instead they had a dead kid on the floor of their club bleeding all over the place. And most people are saying "he asked for it."

Please leave us a comment.

Irate Dad Takes Gun to School

CNN reports on the story of a parent who, after becoming angry over a school-issued memo about the swine flu, confronted a school administrator with a gun.

Police and school officials identified the suspect as Peter Cocker, 37, parent of a recently ill student at South Orangetown Middle School in Rockland County.

The man barged into the office of South Orangetown School District Superintendent Ken Mitchell brandishing a gun.

The man locked the office door and confronted Mitchell about his latest H1N1 memo, released a day earlier.

Fortunately no injuries resulted, thanks to the heads-up intervention of a New York school district superintendent who wrestled Cocker to the ground.

Peter Cocker was arraigned on charges of burglary, kidnapping, coercion and criminal use of a weapon.

I wish they would tell us more about the gun, you know that inanimate object that is more-or-less like any other tool. In New York State there are very strict gun laws. I wonder if Mr. Cocker, who is a former police officer with a clean record, owned the gun legally. I wonder if he's yet another example of a lawful gun owner who suddenly becomes a criminal. This is also called "gun flow" just as surely as the movement of weapons from States like Virginia and Arizona up to New York. The problem with this type of "gun flow" is it's extremely difficult to prevent.

My pro-gun friends seem to continually misunderstand me. I accept the fact that the great majority of gun owners are responsible and I'm willing to presume the ones who comment here are members of that group. But I believe there is a percentage of their group that is like Mr. Peter Cocker. Some of them have been breaking the rules all along and only come to our attention when they get caught. Others are really good guys who, at a certain point, go bad.

The point is, it's from this small percentage that we have most of the trouble. Why is that considered slander against all gun owners? It's not.

The question is how big is this problem group. Some people say it's tiny, practically insignificant. I say it's 10 or 20 or 30%. This is what we're haggling about, among other things.

What's your opinion? Is Mr. Cocker a true anomaly or does he represent a fairly significant percentage of gun owners? What do you think would have happened if the school superintendent had been armed? I know the answer: we'd have one dead Cocker and another legitimate DGU.

Please leave a comment.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jew Hater Visits Holocaust Museum

CNN reports on the latest terrible shooting to grab the national headlines (international too).

An 88-year-old Maryland man with a long history of ties to white supremacist groups is the suspect in Wednesday's fatal shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

James W. von Brunn served six years in prison for trying to make what he called a "legal, non-violent citizens arrest" of Federal Reserve Board members in 1981 -- a prison term he blamed on "a Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys" and "a Jew judge," he said on his Web site, Holy Western Empire.

Von Brunn is a native of St. Louis, Missouri, and a 1943 graduate of Washington University there. According to his online biography, he served as a Navy officer in World War II and became an advertising artist and executive after the war.

But by the late 1970s, he had become a "hard-core neo-Nazi" and an associate of William Pierce -- the white supremacist leader whose 1978 book, "The Turner Diaries," is blamed for inspiring Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

I read about the shooting last night online, but this morning while having my coffee at 6:00 a.m., I heard it on the Italian radio news. I can only imagine the Italians just shake their heads in wonder at America, its guns and its violence. What kind of civilized country would put up with that? The answer is obvious, no civilized country, only the good old US of A.

The man was a convicted felon and an ex-con. Does that mean he wouldn't legally have been able to own a shotgun? If so, what can be done about these disobedient criminals who just won't get in line?

Here's my answer. We stop flooding the marketplace with weapons to the saturation point. We diminish the number of guns to the point that every homicidal maniac who wants a gun, just can't get one. Is that going to inconvenience the law abiding? You betcha. But I'm afraid that's just the price we're going to eventually have to pay for freedom.

Yes, I actually said "freedom." I reject all this nonsense about freedom being the ability to arm oneself. I reject it outright. The folks who feel they need to arm themselves are not free, as far as I can see. Real freedom would be a state in which there's such a diminishment of weapons in the public hands that it's once again safe to go outside. That would be freedom.

What's your opinion?


I just started watching Deadwood. I wondered what our friends in Montana think about it. Are the present-day residents of that state offended by the depiction of their fairly recent ancestors? What must the folks of a hundred years earlier been like? So often from the pro-gun crowd we hear talk of the "Framers" and the "Founding Fathers," as if we were talking about the golden age of Pericles.

It's certainly a thought-provoking and interesting show on many levels. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

N.J. State Trooper Higbee Found Not Guilty

The Shore News Today reports on the not guilty verdict in the trial of New Jersey State Trooper Higbee.

New Jersey State Trooper Robert Higbee was found not guilty of two vehicular homicide charges in the deaths of Upper Township sisters Jacqueline, 17, and Christina, 19, Becker.

A jury deliberated for 14 hours and requested that Higbee’s trial testimony be read back to them before reaching a verdict shortly before 5 p.m. on Monday.

Higbee was closing the gap between himself and a speeder on the night of Sept. 27, 2006 when he ran a stop sign at the intersection of Tuckahoe and Stagecoach roads and collided with a minivan containing the sisters. The girls were returning from a trip to Wawa for milk. Both were killed in the accident.

When we discussed this case before, there were two opposing takes on it, one in the Philadelphia Enquirer and the other on CNN. One said basically "these abusing cops have to be stopped," the other, "it was a tragic accident." The jury agreed with the second one.

The thing I noticed is the refreshing lack of vengeance-lust on the part of the victims' mother.

The girls’ mother, Maria Caiafa, spoke with Higbee shortly after the verdict was read. She would not say what they spoke about.

The community was more interested in whether Higbee was found guilty, she said.

“It means more to the public than me,” she said. “The worst thing that has happened to me is that my children are dead.”

Caiafa said she had wanted to see Higbee held accountable for his actions by going to trial. She didn’t question the jury’s decision but did say the state must reexamine its pursuit policies so something like this never happens again.

To Maria Caiafa and the rest of the family, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences. I have the utmost respect for the way she has responded to this unimaginable tragedy.

What's your opinion?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thoughts on the Second Amendment - Part IV

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Wikipedia has an article about the 2nd Amendment, containing some interesting information. Apparently there’s more then one version. I wondered if the one they said was distributed to the States was rearranged a bit to make the "keep and bear arms" and the "shall not be infringed" go together.

The version copied above is the one passed by Congress.

One of our commenters told me to read it literally, to diagram the sentence like we did in high school. I thought I detected a bit of condescension in his tone, as if I were an idiot for not having already done this. But when I tried, the first thing I noticed is it's not so easy. In fact, I don't think it's very good English.

There are four phrases, but they don't really work together unless something's missing, unless something's understood. How about this?

1. A well regulated Militia,

2. being necessary to the security of a free State,

3. (and depending upon) the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,

4. shall not be infringed.

Could that be the way to read it? Without those three words I added, I really can't understand it. And with those three words, it seems clear that it all refers to the militia and not the "right of the people to keep and bear Arms." In other words, it's the "well regulated militia" that "shall not be infringed," not the right of the people.

Does that make sense? What do you think?

Open Carry in Kalamazoo

The Kalamazoo News reports on the picnic which took place the other day in the park.

It resembled most any Sunday afternoon picnic in Bronson Park. Except most of the people assembled around tables filled with watermelon and grilled goodies had firearms in holsters strapped to their waists.

The Glocks and the Smith & Wessons remained holstered but visible during a three-hour Open Carry Picnic designed to raise public awareness of what organizers called Second Amendment rights in Michigan to openly carry a firearm in most places.

The Gun Guys published a post on this, in which they pulled no punches.

Gun Lobby Accelerates Crusade to Normalize Abnormal Behavior By Openly Carrying Handguns.

One of the commenters on the Kalamazoo site really expressed his ideas. liam9903 had this to say.

These nut jobs that like to walk around wearing guns to compensate for their lack of abilities elsewhere are to pathetic to even mock. I'm sure you could find a nutty Ron Paul supporter or racist rapture waiting survivalist in the group if you looked a little deeper. Most "2nd amendment advocates" shouldn't be aloud scissors much less the right to carry their gun around in public.

I must admit, at the risk of bringing a firestorm of comments down on my head, I agree pretty much with what the Gun Guys said, and even a little bit with Liam. I don't think it's normal behaviour to carry a gun, and picnics like these which are designed to "raise public awareness," seem like an attempt to make the abnormal normal.

What Liam says, this question of inadequacy, never fails to elicit the strongest negative reaction from the pro-gun crowd. Sometimes I wonder if the ones who complain the loudest about that are the truly "inadequate" ones. Anyway, here's my take on it.

Gun-toting guys who talk about self-defense, are usually living in a fantasy world. The vast majority of these guys, I would bet, never need their weapons for self-defense. It's just an idea, a fantasy, like the one about fighting off the government gun-confiscators. It's an adolescent male fighting fantasy.

More than the gun owners who are trying to compensate for something lacking in their personalities, I'm concerned about the ones who truly shouldn't be trusted with even a pair of scissors. I'm talking about the heavy drinkers, the drug users, the violent and irresponsible, the ones with anger issues. All these, combined with the inadequate ones, present a very real danger to themselves and others. But, unfortunately, they have all the guns they want as well as the support of all the other gun owners. You guys are nothing if not loyal to one another.

Meanwhile, here's the real problem. The more guns there are, the more get stolen, sold to the wrong people, and worst of all misused for suicides and homicides. Research we've all heard about says it's much more likely that a gun in the home will be misused than used for self defense.

So, although I can see that law-abiding people carrying guns at picnics is not a problem, per se, I think there is a serious indirect problem with it.

What's your opinion? Do you think it's more likely that your gun will be used properly for self defense one day, or that it will be used improperly as an object of theft or misuse? Don't you think most of the people who have had guns stolen or misused said the same thing?

Please feel free to leave a comment.

What is a Florintine Pogen?

Read 'em and weep.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Olivares-Coster - Walking Wikipedia and Murderer

The Great Falls Tribune reports on the tragic teenage shooting that took place in Helena Montana, leaving one dead and two wounded.

Sebastian Olivares-Coster, 17 and known as "Seabass" among friends, remained in custody on charges that he shot Leary, Wohlers and Cory Andrewski on Wednesday night in an apparent argument about a girl. Andrewski, 16, was shot at close range and died at the scene.

Other reports come from the site, which includes a video of the initial court appearance in which bail was set at $500,000.

Olivares-Coster's friends described him as a brilliant student - one called him a “walking Wikipedia” - who took honors and advanced placement college classes before dropping out of Helena High School last fall.

Clay Springmeyer was Olivares-Coster's best friend at Central Elementary School and through part of middle school until Olivares-Coster's family moved to Prague for a short period.

“He spoke fluent French, German and Czech, and told me he wanted to go to a military academy and try to become a diplomat,” said Springmeyer, a Helena High senior who graduates Saturday. “He was smart, kind and rambunctious, just a normal kid who was smarter than most people.”

Other friends acknowledged that Olivares-Coster became a different person when he drank. They say he "never became physically violent toward anyone, but had broken windows, pointed an unloaded weapon at a person, and chased a person with a knife."

What do you suppose could explain a 17-year-old doing such things with guns? He's said to have pointed an unloaded weapon at someone once. In the details of this case, we know that the other day he went home, got a loaded gun, lured his friends to a convenient place and tried to kill all three of them. One of the survivors was shot in the head and the other was shot "several" times.

Do you think the prevalent gun culture in Montana could have something to do with this? Or, perhaps it's not limited to Montana. Haven't we seen this time and time again in all parts of the country? The inability to effect conflict resolution peacefully, combined with the ready access of guns and the know-how to use them, often proves to be a deadly combination.

What do you think about the gun laws in Montana?

Under federal law, long guns and shotguns can’t be purchased by anyone younger than 18, and handguns can’t be bought by anyone younger than 21. However, they can lawfully own a handgun or shotgun that is given to them.

What kind of a silly law is that? I suppose your typical gun lover would have no qualms giving his teenage son, or even his pre-teen son for that matter, guns of his own. It's all about education and training, isn't it? Did anyone ever consider that maybe kids cannot easily learn the difficult concepts of discretion and prudence, of resorting to violence only as a last resort and only when lethal threat is operative? Did any of these gun enthusiasts ever think that lessons like these, which are hard enough for responsible adults to incorporate, might be too much for kids?

What's your opinion? How could a young boy learn three or four languages living in Montana? Why do you think he dropped out of high school? Do you think alcohol played a role in this tragedy?

Please leave a comment.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Umberto Eco on Casablanca

Umberto Eco, the great Italian author, wrote a fascinating essay on Casablanca. (many thanks to Basilio Santoro of Lifegate Radio)

Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us.

Muhs Couple Indicted for Murder and Attempted Murder

The Houston Chronicle reports on the indictments handed down in the case of the 7-year-old boy who was shot by Gayle Eugene and Sheila Muhs.

A Southeast Texas couple accused in the death of a 7-year-old boy after opening fire on his family has been indicted on a charge of murder.

Gayle Eugene and Sheila Muhs were being held at the Liberty County Jail on Friday. The 45-year-olds are accused in the fatal shooting last month of 7-year-old Donald Coffey Jr.

The boy died two days after his family was shot at while driving in front of the Muhses' Westlake area house.

Investigators say the victims were returning from an outing along the Trinity River when the Muhses took turns shooting their 12-gauge shotgun at them.

The Houston Chronicle reports Donald Jr. was shot in the head. His 5-year-old sister Destiny and her father had pellet wounds. Family friend Patrick Cammack, 30, was wounded in the neck.

The Muhses also face seven counts of attempted murder connected to the shooting.

In the initial story the family was said to have been trespassing on the Muhs' property. I didn't have the impression they were in a vehicle but pictured them on foot, not that it makes much difference.

One comment to the Houston Chronicle story struck me.

These two are sick and disgusting and need to be put out of their misery. I hope they both fry.

I wouldn't go that far. For me life in prison would be the appropriate sentence. But, the case brings up some troubling issues, not the least of which is the whole concept of owning guns for self protection. Are these people really such an anomaly? Are they really so rare among gun owners? The pro-gun crowd is quick to say that, always backing their claims up with statistics enough to make your head spin.

My idea is it's not so rare. In fact, many of these situations go under the heading of legitimate defensive gun incidents, e.g. Ladon Jones. The circumstances of this case were so dramatic however, that no one could possibly justify what happened.

What's your opinion? Do you think the ever-growing gun movement in America is contributing to these situations? Isn't there an unspoken attitude among the gun people that says, "if you get in my way, I'll shoot your ass?"

Now before objecting to that characterization, let me explain. By "get in my way," we all agree that lethal threat qualifies. Then there's a slightly lesser form, which is difficult to differentiate from lethal threat, which is the threat of bodily harm or rape. No one denies that this qualifies as "getting in my way." But then you've got the even milder forms of aggression that are easily distinguishable from lethal threat and threat of bodily harm, which are sometimes met with bullets. Many of them are lumped in with the first two categories. And finally, you've got the supposedly rare cases like the Muhses. These are people who respond with guns where there was no threat or aggression whatsoever.

What do you think? Are the Muhses such a rare breed that we should not worry about it? Or are they a force to be reckoned with.

Please leave a comment.