Saturday, January 31, 2009

Military Spending

Over at Opinione there's a great article, We have met the enemy and he is us. It's all about military spending.
It is virtually impossible for a member of Congress or an ordinary citizen to obtain even a modest handle on the actual size of military spending or its impact on the structure and functioning of our economic system. Some $30 billion of the official Defense Department (DoD) appropriation in the current fiscal year is “black,” meaning that it is allegedly going for highly classified projects.

I remember some years ago it came out that the Pentagon had budgeted huge sums on simple tools that had been marked up to twenty or thirty times their usual cost. The scandal was such that everyone was outraged, but was anything done? Are things different today?
For fiscal year 2006, Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute calculated national security outlays at almost a trillion dollars - $934.9 billion to be exact - broken down as follows (in billions of dollars):
Department of Defense: $499.4
Department of Energy (atomic weapons): $16.6
Department of State (foreign military aid): $25.3
Department of Veterans Affairs (treatment of wounded soldiers): $69.8
Department of Homeland Security (actual defense): $69.1
Department of Justice (1/3rd for the FBI): $1.9
Department of the Treasury (military retirements): $38.5
NASA (satellite launches): $7.6
Interest on war debts, 1916-present: $206.7

Totaled, the sum is larger than the combined sum spent by all other nations on military security.

Do you find these numbers excessive? Have they increased over the last eight years, or does this kind of thing predate the last administration's bumbling attempts at running the world?

Another way to describe the impact of this spending on the average person is this:
According to calculations by the National Priorities Project, a non-profit research organization that examines the local impact of federal spending policies, military spending today consumes 40% of every tax dollar.

Is this something we can expect the new administration to do something about? Is it something that they should do something about, in your opinion? What do you think?

I've heard lots about leaving Iraq, but at the same time they were talking about building up Afghanistan? What gives with that? It seems to me that the underlying element is that a huge chunk of everybody's money must go for military spending, once that's a given, then we can discuss what wars and what operations get funded? Does that sound too cynical?

What's your opinion?

In Dreams I Walked With You

Afghanistan - Another Iraq?

The New York Times has a piece today about the difficulty Obama will face with Afghanistan. Everyone seems to agree that winning a war there is a next-to-impossible task. As President Bush placed most of the emphasis on Iraq, the Taliban grew in strength in Afghanistan, controlling huge areas of territory outside of the major urban areas.

Enter Mr. Obama. During the campaign he promised to send two additional brigades — 7,000 troops — to Afghanistan. During the transition, military planners started talking about adding as many as 30,000 troops. And within days of taking office, Mr. Obama announced the appointment of Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Balkan peace accords, to execute a new Afghanistan policy.

But even as Mr. Obama’s military planners prepare for the first wave of the new Afghanistan “surge,” there is growing debate, including among those who agree with the plan to send more troops, about whether — or how — the troops can accomplish their mission, and just what the mission is.
I don't know about anyone else, but that sounds ominously familiar to me; an ill-defined plan, inadequate resources for the immense task at hand. Even before the election, I wondered what was going on here. Does Barack Obama really need to perpetuate the supposed man-hunt for the phantom bin Laden? Is that what it's all about? Or is Obama beholden to the military industrial complex? Perhaps this was part of the deal. Is it too cynical to suppose that deals like this are made in Washington?

On Reuters there's a wonderful article by Bernd Debusmann which explores the possibility of a solution to this dilemma. Since the real problem is the illegal opium production, controlled by the Taliban, why don't we buy the entire crop? It would cost far less than the war, and would afford other opportunities concerning the world-wide heroin problem.
Richard Holbrooke, the man President Barack Obama has just picked as special envoy for Afghanistan, said: “Breaking the narco-state in Afghanistan is essential or all else will fail.”
The problem is it may be easier said than done. Which makes me wonder what these guys are up to. Do they really want to do what they say?
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, described Afghanistan as “our greatest military challenge right now” but said there could be no purely military solution — not even with the additional 30,000 troops Obama plans to dispatch over the next 18 months.
James Nathan, a political science professor at Auburn University in Alabama and former State Department official, outlines the radical solution.
Purchasing the whole crop would take it away from the traffickers without cutting more than half the economy of Afghanistan,” Nathan said in an interview. “Such a purchase would directly confront Afghanistan’s most corrosive corruption. It would end the Taliban’s money stream.”

And the cost? By Nathan’s reckoning, between $2 billion and $2.5 billion a year, no pocket change but not a large sum compared with the around $200 billion the U.S. taxpayer has already paid for the war in Afghanistan. The idea may sound startling but its logic is not far from the farm subsidies paid to U.S. and European farmers.

On a more modest scale than Nathan’s buy-it-all idea, a European think tank, the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), is lobbying for an alternative to traditional counter-narcotics policies dubbed Poppy for Medicine.

What's your opinion? Is that a reasonable solution? What's wrong with it? Isn't it better than spending the next five or ten years stuck in another war?

Is it too much of a stretch to suspect secret deals behind the scenes in Washington? Could the new administration be just a corrupt as the old one as far as this stuff goes? Does that make me a conspiracy theorist? I admit, I never thought Oswald was the lone gunman.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Two-Tiered Justice System

Glenn Greenwald has a wonderful article over at Salon. In it, he very forcefully describes the terrible dichotomy inherent in the American justice system in which high-level politicians are pardoned while low-level criminals are severely punished.
Aside from the intrinsic dangers and injustices of arguing for immunity for high-level government officials who commit felonies (such as illegal eavesdropping, obstruction of justice, torture and other war crimes), it's the total selectivity of the rationale underlying that case which makes it so corrupt. Defenders of Bush officials sing in unison: We shouldn't get caught up in the past. We shouldn't be driven by vengeance and retribution. We shouldn't punish people whose motives in committing crimes weren't really that bad.

I actually hadn't heard that song from conservatives. What I've heard is a complete denial of the charges, even those President Bush and Vice-President Cheney admitted to themselves. In any case, the point of Greenwald's article is made with a number of examples of the overly severe treatment of petty criminals, as well as these incredible prison statistics.
Currently in the U.S., close to 7,000 people are serving sentences of 25 years to life under our merciless "three-strikes-and-out" laws -- which the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional in a 5-4 ruling -- including half for nonviolent offenses and many for petty theft.

As I've noted many times before, the United States imprisons more of its population than any other country on the planet, and most astoundingly, we account for less than 5% of the world's population yet close to 25% of the world's prisoners are located in American prisons.

Often I seem to hear that we're too soft on criminals. Does anyone think that in the light of these stats? Does anyone think we need to lock more people up than we do now?

Here's my three-part plan:

1. White collar criminals get out immediately, but it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card. They'd have to pay heavy fines and submit to severe supervision.

2. Then, we remove all the alcoholics and drug addicts from prisons and give them the mental health care they need.

3. After that we release the 25% least dangerous prisoners, right across the board, under the same conditions as the white collar guys.

With all the savings generated we could afford the proper upkeep of the present facilities including the mental hospitals and make the necessary increases in the probation departments.

As far as the former administration goes, I believe they should answer for what they've done. They should be investigated and if found appropriate, tried for their crimes. Perhaps under my system outlined above, they would fall into the white-collar group, but they should pay for their crimes like everyone else.

What's your opinion? Does this sound like crazy liberal talk? Or do some of my ideas make sense to you?

Please leave a comment.

Reverend Al Talks about the Liberty City Shooting

After that terrible shooting in Miami last week, there've been several meetings of community leaders and news conferences. The police say their investigation is no further along than it was on the first day. Here's a fascinating video of the Rev. Al Sharpton and other ministers addressing the community.

Sharpton said the idea of not snitching goes back to the civil rights days when black people were disobeying immoral laws. Nowadays, people are misusing that idea. He called those who would withhold information "traitors to the race," exhorting them to come forward.

What do you think about that? Are the histrionics helpful, do you think? Wouldn't the idea of not ratting out your friends predate the civil rights movement? I always thought it started with James Cagney movies.

Naturally they had a few things to say about the Assault Weapons Ban. From the local pastor we had this:
Don't wait till the bullet come in your door to do something about it... Long as them Uzis and AKs keep snappin' ... No community is safe long as a AK an' Assault Rifle is in our community. Our job is to fight to ban these type o' guns.

The Baptist-style crowd approval seems to indicate widespread agreement with the reverend, at least in this gathering. Do you think there's a growing movement across America to ban "these guns?"

There was one point unclear to me in the original story. Witnesses said the shooter pulled the gun out of his waist band and started firing. How could that be an AK-47? Aren't they too long for that kind of concealment? Why weren't they calling it an UZI or an UZI pistol or something that can be carried like that? Any ideas?

Please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Japan Executes Four by Hanging

CNN reports on the execution in Japan of four men convicted of murder.

All four men were hanged, Japan's primary method of execution, the Justice Ministry said. The ministry identified the inmates as: 58-year-old Tadashi Makino, convicted of murdering four women in separate home invasion robberies; 44-year-old Yukinari Kawamura and 39-year-old Tetsuya Sato, both convicted of killing two women and burning their bodies in steel barrels; and 32-year-old Shojiro Nishimoto, convicted of murdering four people in separate home invasion robberies.

Unlike the typical executions in the United States, these four were accompanied by very little public opposition. Amnesty International spokesman Makoto Teranaka said that the "Japanese government's explanation was that public opinion favored the executions of these men."

That's a pretty strong public opinion. In America, it seems that even a minority of people opposed to capital punishment visibly demonstrate their displeasure.

Here's the part that really caught my attention.

According to Amnesty International, 59 nations still allow the death penalty for what the organization calls "ordinary crimes." The group describes "exceptional crimes" as those committed in circumstances such as war.

The vast majority of executions occur in a handful of nations: the United States, China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said.

How do American proponents of capital punishment feel about being in this company? Aren't those who favor the death penalty often among the most vocal detractors of these countries? What could explain this? What's your opinion?

Please leave a comment.

Army Suicide Rates Highest Ever

CNN reports on a sad story about the suicide rate among soldiers being the highest in the 28 years they've been tracking the data.
Statistics obtained by CNN show the Army will report 128 confirmed suicides last year and another 15 suspected suicides in cases under investigation among active-duty soldiers and activated National Guard and reserves.

The confirmed rate of suicides for the Army was 20.2 per 100,000. Army officials were reviewing the suspected suicides Wednesday. If any of them are confirmed, the rate would rise.

The obvious factors are mentioned, war-related stress especially. Army officials said that although the national figure is slightly lower, it's not fair to compare the two.
Another factor is that military suicides tend to be committed by young men with access to weapons.

I suppose that means that the availability of guns makes a suicide attempt easier and more likely to succeed. Isn't that an obvious logical conclusion?

The Los Angeles Times reported recently on the Marine Corps situation. For reasons that to me are unclear, they come in lower than either the Army or the civilian population.
Forty-one Marines are listed as possible or confirmed suicides in 2008, or 16.8 per 100,000 troops, the Marine Corps report said. Nearly all were enlisted and under 24, and about two-thirds had deployed overseas.

To make further comparisons, I found this fascinating table on Wikipedia. The main thing that jumped out at me was the fact that the top countries are all former-Russian or other Iron Curtain countries. Why is that?

I'm reminded of some of our other discussions on whether suicide is an individual right. The talk of young military men taking their own lives saddens me deeply. I feel these suicides point out the terrible mistake that suicide is, in most cases. Here we're not discussing the terminally ill patients or quadriplegics trapped in an intolerable lifestyle; rather we're talking about young people in the flower of youth. What could be a greater waste than that? Everything and anything should be done to prevent it. What do you think?

The numbers are interesting too, in light of the murder statistics we've seen. If anything, my arguments about gun availability are strengthened by adding suicides to the equation. Besides the 5 or so murders per 100,000, it looks like we've got two or three times that number of suicides. Do you see what I mean?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gun Flow into Mexico

Thanks to Gancho, I came upon this very informative article in the Santa Cruz Sentinal. Last year one of the many bloodbaths which took place in Northwest Mexico and left seven policemen dead, resulted in the confiscation of numerous weapons.
As police approached a drug cartel's safe house in northwestern Mexico last May, gunmen inside poured on fire with powerful assault rifles and grenades, killing seven officers whose weapons were no match.

Four more lawmen were wounded in the bloodbath and a cache of weapons was seized, including a single AK-47 assault rifle that authorities say was purchased 800 miles away at a Phoenix gun shop and smuggled into Mexico.

It turned out the gun dealer in Phoenix had been doing a brisk business supplying guns destined for south-of-the-border shooters.
George Iknadosian, owner of X-Caliber Guns in Phoenix, is accused of selling guns to two groups of straw buyers when he knew the weapons were going to be smuggled into Mexico. He also was targeted in stings in which he allegedly sold guns to undercover officers posing as straw buyers.

Investigators believe 600 guns sold by Iknadosian ended up in Mexico, most headed to the violent Pacific Coast state of Sinaloa.

Authorities say several have surfaced.

They include: An AK-47 and .38-caliber Super pistol with diamond-encrusted grips found after the Nov. 2 killing of the police chief of the northern state of Sonora as he walked into a hotel about two miles south of the Arizona border.

A .38-caliber Super pistol seized a year ago when Mexican special forces captured a top Sinaloa cartel lieutenant, Alfredo Beltran Leyva, and three members of his security team in Culiacan.

Three assault rifles recovered after patrolling federal police officers were fired upon and responded by killing four gunmen from the Beltran Leyva drug gang on July 2 at a house in Culiacan.

The way I see it, this story covers both definitions of the word "flow." Not only was Iknadosian pumping weapons into Mexico, which is the first kind of "flow," but he himself was presumably a legitimate licensed gun dealer and gun owner himself, that is until he himself "flowed" over to the dark side. That's the second definition.

How frequent is this, do you think?

I say it's too frequent. Imagine all the ones who aren't quite as greedy as this guy, the ones who operate below the radar indefinitely. What I don't understand is why the truly legitimate guys deny that this goes on.

What can be done about these so-called "straw purchases?" Are they similar to the "gun show loophole?" Can't these things be cleaned up?

What's your opinion?

Armed Prosecutors in the Courtroom

Preaching to the Choir has a wonderful post up about what's happening in Kansas. A bill was unanimously passed in the State Senate which would allow prosecutors who possess concealed carry permits to come to the courtroom armed. Sarah clearly describes her opposition.
First, I dispute the claims by prosecutors that this measure is necessary to ensure their safety.

Second, the ability for one side but not the other to carry concealed weapons into a courtroom does much to skew that level playing field the criminal justice system is supposed to strive for.

Finally, the presence of additional guns in a courtroom will not make the room safer.

She mentioned the Brian Nichols case, about which we've talked here and here. He's the one who, as the defendant in an Atlanta courtroom, overpowered a sheriff, took her gun and shot and killed the judge a court reporter and another sheriff on the way to making his escape.

His story perfectly illustrates the final point of the Preaching to the Choir post. If I were a criminal planning a desperate escape, I'd go for the prosecutor's gun rather than the sheriff's. Right or wrong, I'd imagine the uniformed officer to be better trained and harder to take a gun from. The temptation to try and disarm the prosecutor might be a strong one to a desperate man.

The claim that more guns makes for more safety, to me seems ridiculous. And this applies to courtrooms in Kansas as well as the United States of America at large.

What's your opinion? Is this a good idea? Isn't the reason guns are prohibited inside a prison, even policemen's guns, because of the threat of a prisoner trying to take one away and make a daring escape? Isn't one of the benefits of this policy to remove the temptation? Shouldn't that apply in courtrooms as well.

Putting aside this long-standing argument about the benefit of guns for a moment, I'd say Sarah's second point is a clincher. Wouldn't you?

Please tell us what you think.

Murder Suicide in L.A. - 7 Dead

Big news on CNN and in the Los Angeles Times this morning is the murder suicide of an entire family in L.A. Distraught over the recent loss of his job, Ervin Antonio Lupoe shot and killed his entire family before turning the gun on himself.
Armed with a handgun, Lupoe evidently roamed room to room starting as early as Monday evening, fatally shooting his wife and five young children -- including two sets of twins.

Early Tuesday, Lupoe faxed a bitter, rambling two-page letter to a local television station blaming his employer for his actions.

Both articles make reference to the fact that this isn't the first such incident, and sadly it might not be the last. So dismal is the economy for so many, that inevitably these things happen. As evidence of this chilling theory, the LA Times mentions the very similar case which took place in Chatsworth a few months ago, which we discussed at that time. Here's part of what I said then.
Do you think he would have killed his entire family of six people with a kitchen knife if he'd had no gun? I say the availability of the gun was a factor, and although I don't preach banning guns as a solution, I would suggest that gun proponents by their philosophy alone are, if not responsible for this, at least involved in it somehow.

I say the same thing today, except change the number of dead to seven.

This is an illustration of the other kind of "flow." The one often mentioned in the media is about guns moving from the U.S. to Mexico or guns moving from the legitimate gun owners to the criminal world. But this other kind of "flow" is about people. Some percentage of law abiding gun owners, for various reasons, go bad. There are closet criminals who just haven't been caught yet; there are various kinds of people unfit to have guns, drinking alcoholics, using drug addicts, untreated depressives, who with the right provocation go bad; there are the anger guys who sooner or later lose it at a traffic light. And then there are guys like these two in California who lose their job and blow the whole family away.

Gun availability plays a big part in all this. The reason I focus on the gun is because compared to kitchen knives and tire irons and baseball bats, a gun is very efficient and its availability increases the carnage.

One big question remains: how common is all this? Are we talking about the famous less than 1%? What do you think? Don't you agree that the more people who have guns, the more incidents of this nature we'll have? To me, that seems undeniable. Wouldn't you also agree that if we cut the number of guns down, we would also cut down on the numbers of these tragedies? Also undeniable, I say.

What's your opinion?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Efraim Diveroli Boy Genius

The Miami Herald reports today on a victory of sorts for the young arms dealer, Efraim Diveroli.
A Miami Beach munitions dealer accused of defrauding the federal government is $4.2 million richer.

Actually, the money already belonged to 23-year-old Efraim Diveroli. But the government froze it after Diveroli, his business, AEY Inc., and three co-workers were indicted last summer on charges of selling banned Chinese-made machine-gun rounds to the U.S. Army to supply allied forces in Afghanistan.

What captured my attention besides the fact that the story is about one of my favorite subjects, is the fact that he's just 23 years old. I found a couple of other stories from almost a year ago when, apparently he became quite well known. It was last March when his business began to run into trouble for supplying inferior product to the Army. This from the HuffPo article of March 27, 2008, when he was 22.

With the award last January of a federal contract worth as much as nearly $300 million, the company, AEY Inc., which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan's army and police forces.

Since then, the company has provided ammunition that is more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging, according to an examination of the munitions by The New York Times and interviews with American and Afghan officials.

Intriguing, to say the least, is his age. I searched a few articles to find out if he'd inherited the business from his father and grandfather, perhaps it was a family business. That doesn't seem to be the case.
Since he was a boy, the grandfather said, Efraim Diveroli has known his way around weapons. "He's a genius about anything to do with weapons," the 72-year-old says. "Ever since he was a little boy, I would take him to gun shows and he could identify every model of guns. People would ask: How can he do that so young? He has a gift, I would tell them."

It is fascinating. Is there such a thing as a "genius" about guns, though, a person who has an innate gift about weapons? I would say young Efraim, who may lack some ethical standards, has a good bit of genius in business as well. What do you think?

Do you think there are many others like him? Are there arms dealers of all sizes and shapes, like there are drug dealers? Is that where the gun control focus should be rather than on the individual gun owners? Does a guy like Efraim also supply guns to the criminal world in America?

How do legitimate gun owners feel about him? Is he bad for the overall reputation? Or is he a champion to be admired?

What's your opinion?

Smoking Banned in the Home

The New York Times reports on a new smoking ban that went into effect recently in Belmont California. It actually prohibits smoking in private apartments.
Belmont, Calif., a quiet Silicon Valley city that is now home to perhaps the nation’s strictest antismoking law, effectively outlawing lighting up in all apartment buildings.

The problem may be traced to the fact that some of these apartments are poorly constructed. Smoke can seep through vents or other apertures from one private residence into another. Assuming the complainers aren't just being intolerant and exaggerating the problem, it's understandable that this kind of thing might be hard for them to accept. I personally wouldn't want to smell the smoke of my neighbors.

On the other hand, do we want the government telling us what we can or cannot do in the privacy of our own homes? Is this too much meddling in our private lives?
Public health advocates are closely watching to see what happens with Belmont, seeing it as a new front in their national battle against tobacco, one that seeks to place limits on smoking in buildings where tenants share walls, ceilings and — by their logic — air. Not surprisingly, habitually health-conscious California has been ahead of the curve on the issue, with several other cities passing bans on smoking in most units in privately owned apartment buildings, but none has gone as far as Belmont, which prohibits smoking in any apartment that shares a floor or ceiling with another, including condominiums.

Although I find it difficult to disagree with the idea of "health advocates" looking out for our best interest, it worries me that State and Federal government can, under certain circumstances, ban and prohibit things. Is this the price we pay in order to live in the society of our fellows? Is the motorcycle helmet law or the seat belt law an intrusion? How about cleaning up after your dog? Is this extreme smoking ban just another guideline to enable us to live better together, or is it an unwanted government intrusion.

What's your opinion?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Berlusconi Does it Again

The International Herald Tribune carried the story yesterday of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's latest gaffe. In response to the recent seeming increase in rapes in and around Rome, Berlusconi proposed to deploy 300,000 soldiers in the streets to fight crime. But he qualified this solution by saying, "You can't consider deploying a force that would be sufficient to prevent the risk. We would have to have so many soldiers because our women are so beautiful."
Giovanna Melandri of the opposition Democratic Party said Berlusconi's comments were "profoundly offensive," saying the pain of rape could never be joked about in such a way.

Berlusconi, in an effort to explain himself, said he was complimenting Italian women "because there are only about 100,000 people in law enforcement, while there are millions of beautiful women."

He stressed that rape was a serious and "disgraceful" crime. But he added that people should never forget a sense of "levity and good humor" whenever his comments are concerned.

This strange frivolous attitude is typical of the Prime Minister. Some feel it's because he thinks he's above the law and above the normal restraints people normally have to exercise in public life. He says whatever he wants. His background as one of the wealthiest businessmen in the world as a media mogul prior to entering politics might lend credence to this theory.

A few years ago he amazed the world and created an international incident when he said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could play a Nazi in the movies. His reluctance to apologize for these gaffes, I suppose, is based on the fact that they're made in jest and it's not his fault if people don't have a sense of humor.

After 9/11 he made comments about Islam that were much more serious, at least when taken out of context. One of his famous quotes is this:
"We must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and - in contrast with Islamic countries - respect for religious and political rights, a system that has as its value understanding of diversity and tolerance."

Immediately after these remarks the rest of Europe denounced him as imprudent and reckless, perhaps endangering our countries unnecessarily. One response was to compare Berlusconi to bin Laden.
"The billionaire [Osama] Bin Laden and the billionaire Berlusconi are cut from the same anti-communist cloth. They both represent fundamentalism - one of the markets, the other of religion."

What's your opinion? Do you think Berlusconi is like bin Laden? Do you think his making a joke at the expense of the German Chancellor was so wrong? Do you think his making light of rape is acceptable?

Please leave a comment. Thanks to Bob S. for the idea.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Evil Inanimate Object Kills Two in Miami

CNN as well as the Miami Herald carried this story of the terrible shooting that occurred in the Liberty City section of Miami yesterday. The results: two dead, nine wounded. From the CNN story we have this:

Police Chief John Timoney said that at least one man with an AK-47 "discharged numerous rounds, then ran around the corner. There were some more rounds discharged there from an AK-47 and another weapon."

In the video interview, which you can see on the Miami Herald site, the Police Chief spoke quite eloquently about the Assault Weapons Ban. He would like to see it reinstated under the Obama administration. It made me wonder about all the criticism I've heard about this particular position. Gun enthusiasts usually attribute this attitude to people like myself, bleeding-heart liberals who don't know enough about guns or the 2nd Amendment to have an opinion. Does Chief Timoney fall into this group? Or is his opinion a more considered one?

Mayor Diaz also got into the act. He mentioned that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has been pushing for the reinstatement of this Assault Weapons Ban for a long time. I don't imagine that could mean 100% of the mayors, but I'll bet it includes a good cross section.

"These are weapons of war, and they don't belong on the streets of Miami or any other street in America," Mayor Manuel Diaz said.

I say the AK-47, and other weapons like it, do not qualify as simple inanimate objects like cars or tools. I say they're something more than that, and simplistic comparisons make no sense to me. Some people say there's no use prohibiting something because that's proven not to work. I say, the reasons some of the famous prohibitions haven't worked is because too many people didn't want them to work, e.g. prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and prohibition of cocaine today.

Another song the pro gunners keep singing is that laws only affect the law abiding. Well that's probably true to an extent, and certainly initially. If assault weapons were banned outright, for example, the law abiding would be most affected at first, but soon the trickle down affect would make a major impact on the criminal world. These guns would become much harder to come by, prohibitively expensive, and by that time we'd have a major decrease in their criminal use.

What's your opinion? Is there a legitimate reason to own an AK-47? Is one really necessary for that legitimate purpose? Why are the gun folks so opposed to the ban on assault weapons, since Chief Timoney we so in favor of it? Do you think his opinion is representative of Police Chiefs in major cities? Don't they know what they're talking about?

Please leave a comment.