Friday, December 4, 2009

Angry Men With Guns

Man With the Muck-Rake wrote an interesting post about angry men with guns. I liked very much the last paragraph.

Angry men with guns, men who are psychotically fascinated with the stockpiling armaments ‘just in case.’ Just in case. Just in case they don’t get their way- like in their developmental years when self-control and socialization skills were supposed to be learned. When they were supposed to learn how to live well within society, not on the angry outskirts of it.

What's your opinion? Do you think this is a fair description of some gun owners? How many would you say can be described like this, what percentage I mean?

Please leave a comment.

Zappadan Festival 2009 - Day 1

Gun Control Debate in Seattle

The Seattle Times published an interesting debate on gun control in the wake of the terrible shooting of its four police officers last week.

Here's the part I found most interesting.

I used to be in favor of gun control. I lived in Hong Kong for a while. The only way an ordinary citizen could have a lawful gun was to keep it at a target-shooting club. In Hong Kong the weapon of choice of petty criminals was a knife, and the homicide rate was about one-quarter the U.S. rate. I came back to Seattle in 1993, when the U.S. crime rate was at about a 60-year high. There was a drive-by shooting at Ballard High School, and a student killed (not even the one the shooter intended). And I thought: this is ridiculous. We should get rid of guns.

And if I were designing a society from scratch--a society on Mars, maybe.--I would do that. But we don't start with a blank slate. A right to own small arms is deep in our culture, and is protected in the U.S. Constitution and even stronger in the 1889 Washington Constitution. I revere those documents for all the rights they protect, and I don't want to cut any more holes in them. We have to live with gun rights, and I think we can by focusing on crime itself rather than the tools criminals may use.

Now, where have I heard that argument before, the one about "focusing on crime itself rather than the tools criminals may use." Oh, yeah, right here on the blog about a hundred times. The difference is no one who's suggested this before accompanied it with a contrary statistic like this guy did about Hong Kong. Usually, the way I've heard it is, it's not the guns, period. Now, we've got something else to work with.

According to the Hong Kong statistics, it is the guns. So, how about if the pro-gun crowd get over their ridiculous paranoia about gun confiscation and their equally ridiculous claim that civilian gun ownership is what's keeping tyranny at bay, and start cooperating on common sense and reasonable gun control laws that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals? How about it?

Please leave a comment.

Meteorite Count Rises

News Talk 610 CKTB reports.

Back on September 25th, a fireball blazed across the sky in southern Ontario. Astronomers from The University of Western Ontario suspected a meteorite touched down somewhere in the Grimsby area.

Another clue that something from outer space had indeed landed came from a family who noticed that the windshield of their SUV had been smashed. They called in investigators from the university, who directed search efforts.

So far, 13 specimens from outer space have been found. Phil McCausland from the university suspects there are more to be discovered, as well.

Do you still think DGUs are more commonplace than meteorite strikes?

Please leave a comment.

Dallas Ex-Cop Sentenced

The Dallas News reports on a case in which punishment was meted out to an ex-cop.

A former Dallas police officer who pointed a gun at country music singer Steve Holy during an off-duty night of drinking is going to jail for 45 days.

Randy Anderson, 27, was sentenced Wednesday as part of a deferred adjudication probation. He won't have a conviction if he successfully completes his probation for aggravated assault. Anderson and his attorney declined to comment.

Another former officer was charged aggravated assault but his trial date has not been set.

The confrontation occurred in 2007, after Holy invited the officers to his home after a nearby bar closed. An argument ensued and Anderson pulled the gun. Anderson testified at trial that he only pulled his gun after Holy acted aggressively.

What do you think "deferred adjudication probation" means? Is that like going to jail for 45 days, after which completing a period of supervision successfully, followed by having your criminal record expunged and then being free to own guns?

He won't have a conviction if he successfully completes his probation for aggravated assault. Anderson and his attorney declined to comment.

I'll bet they refused to comment. They were probably too busy going off to the bar to celebrate. Is there no end to the special treatment cops get even when they lose their jobs over the criminal act? Ex-officer Randy Anderson has proven himself unfit to own a gun, don't you think?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

MA State Trooper Severely Reprimanded

The Cape Cod Times reports on the case of Lt. Richard Bolduc, 52, of Sandwich who was punished for not securing his weapon properly at home.

In June 2008, the veteran trooper's son, who was 12 at the time, grabbed Bolduc's Sig Sauer P226 .40-caliber handgun from an unlocked bureau, took it to a neighbor's house, pointed it at a 5-year-old girl and pulled the trigger. The gun was not loaded, according to Sandwich police, but during their investigation, police found a loaded clip in the same unlocked drawer.

The punishment, which was not disclosed, could have been anything from a written reprimand to firing. It seems it was closer to the former.

But a law enforcement source said Bolduc, who earns a base salary of $90,564.76, was allowed to give up 20 vacation days for violating two department regulations — the policy requiring guns to be safely stored and conduct unbecoming a police officer. By avoiding a suspension, Bolduc doesn't lose any seniority, said the source, who is familiar with state police discipline.

I don't believe this kind of thing is the biggest problem we have in the gun control movement. The biggest problem is the ease with which straw buyers can pass the guns they buy legally to criminals and remain hidden by a system designed to protect them. That's the biggest problem. But second to that is this kind of sloppy gun security.

The accidents which result from situations like this, although I don't think they can be dismissed as negligible like the pro-gun crowd keep saying, do represent only a tiny percent of the gun violence that happens. More than accidents, guns that are easily stolen and pass into the black market are a significant problem.

What's your opinion? Is giving up a few vacation days appropriate punishment for the watered down charges that were filed against Officer Bolduc?

Sandwich police charged Bolduc with improper storage of a firearm, which is a felony, but that case was dismissed by a judge citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that called the constitutionality of gun storage laws into question. He could have faced up to 10 years in prison if he had been convicted of that charge.

Is this another version of the "blue wall of silence?" Is this special treatment given to a cop that probably wouldn't have been given to someone else? Is that fair?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Markos Moulitsas on Afghanistan

Via Daily Kos TV

The .50 Caliber Sniper Rifle

Laci the Dog posted a very informative article the other day on the .50 caliber sniper rifle. I'm linking to it in response to the comments I've received from pro-gun guys claiming this weapon is never used in crime. Here's one example. I suppose those who have made that claim were simply and mindlessly repeating what they've heard from others, especially the NRA folks. And, naturally, all the while these misstatements are being exponentially repeated, the pro-gun folks keep calling other people "liars."

The Violence Policy Center documents 4 actual uses of .50 BMG rifles by criminals as well as 18 additional cases in which a .50 caliber rifle was recovered from the possession of a criminal without the gun having been used in a crime. The General Accounting Office report "Weaponry: .50 Caliber Rifle Crime," GAO Office of Special Investigations letter, August 4, 1999, stated that there was a nexus between the .50 and terrorism, outlaw motorcycle gangs, international and domestic drug trafficking, and violent crime.

The answer is "yes" these weapons have been used and are possessed by criminals. Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network bought 25 Barrett .50 Caliber sniper rifles in the late 1980s. We can only guess as to when one will be used by a terrorist. It doesn't take too much intelligence to know how much havoc a sniper can cause. After all, Ten people were killed and three others critically injured in various locations throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area and along Interstate 95 in Virginia during a three week period in October 2002. Don't you think that terrorists would do this again in the US?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

The Dumbest Anti-Atheist Question

From Liberal Viewer.

Jon Stewart on Global Warming

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Protecting Against the Oppressive Government

The Libertarian Solution published an article exhorting the fact that an "armed citizenry is the last resort against oppression; the right to bear arms is the freedom from which all other freedoms flow."

The article written by a young-looking Austin Raynor, draws on the writing of the Founding Fathers.

As George Washington wrote, “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” George Mason said, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people...To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

And before anyone can object that these guys were 18th century slave owners who denied human rights even to women and anything they had to say over 200 years ago should have little relevance in today's society, Mr. Raynor breaks out the "modern" examples.

History has borne out this observation. Genocide is almost always preceded by disarmament of the intended victims. Adolf Hitler, following the institution of strict gun control legislation in Germany in 1935, proclaimed: “This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!”

After legislating gun control in 1929, the Soviet government murdered 20 million of its own people. Turkey implemented gun control in 1911 and shortly thereafter murdered 1.5 million Armenians. Gun ownership was also outlawed prior to widespread executions in China, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, and Uganda. Over the past 100 years over 56 million people have been killed by their own governments.

As if reading my mind, anticipating every rebuttal, he goes on to say.

Genocide is unlikely to occur in the United States, though it is important to note that Germans in the 1920s possessed similar sentiments concerning their own country. Short of genocide, however, but frightening nonetheless, is the boundless usurpation of liberty that occurs under a government that knows no bounds. Thomas Jefferson aptly observed: “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

Now we're talking, "Genocide is unlikely to occur in the United States." All reasonable people know this. So what's the problem then? The problem is, in Austin Raynor's own words, "the boundless usurpation of liberty that occurs under a government that knows no bounds."

So, my question to him and all the other hard-line Libertarians and 3%ers out there, what are you planning on doing with all your guns about this? The "usurpation of liberty" is a gradual business, which by the way, enjoyed great popularity under President Bush. When are you protectors of liberty going to open fire?

My feeling reading this article and whenever I hear the tough talk from these people is that they live in a fantasy world, one in which they will one day have to stand up against overwhelming odds and if necessary go down in a blaze of glory. With most of them it's something I call "grandiose victimism." In some cases, the truly disturbed ones, they actually believe they'll come out on top in an all out war with the oppressive government, a modern version of the colonists vs. the redcoats.

The problem is, none of these people should have guns because they're too unstable and dangerous. I covered them in my very popular analysis entitled The Famous 10%.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Crazy About Guns

The Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed piece about the gun mania that exists in America. They made an interesting observation that in America the response to high-profile shootings like the one in Seattle the other day is to get your gun and keep it handy. In Canada it's just not so. Although I usually shun comparisons between countries and even more avoid comparing guns with cars, these examples seem appropriate.

Had Sunday's victims been, say, Mounties, it wouldn't necessarily have sent Canadians scrambling for the gun racks. But then, such killings are far less common in Canada. According to the FBI, the U.S. homicide rate in 2008 was 5.4 for every 100,000 people; 67% of those killings were committed with guns. In Canada, the homicide rate was 1.8 per 100,000, with 33% of the killings committed with guns. Notice a pattern? Canada has stricter guns laws than the United States, requiring owners to pass a safety course and get a license before buying a gun, rather like drivers must do here. The need for a driver's license seems obvious to most Americans -- after all, a car with an untrained driver behind the wheel can be deadly.

What's your opinion? Isn't it hard to dispute that the gun laws in Canada contribute to their statistics? And what about that simple example of the acceptance of licenses to drive cars based on the fact that "an untrained driver behind the wheel can be deadly?"

Please leave a comment.

Another War-Time President

CNN posted a video of President Obama's comments at West Point in which he announced his decision to deploy an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

What's your opinion? Are the conservative war-hawks going to become Obama supporters now? Are the liberal doves going to abandon the Obama ship? Maybe we should all just switch sides.

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Get Out of Afghanistan Now

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The Clemmons Clemency

The internet is abuzz with stories about Maurice Clemmons. At the time of all these stories, Clemmons had not even been caught yet let alone convicted of the horrible crime for which he was sought. The news from just minutes ago is that he's been shot dead.

The point of most of the stories, though, including this one from the CBS Political Hotsheet, is that Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas had allowed the killer to be released. The obvious inference is that Huckabee must share in the responsibility for the crimes committed by Clemmons. So convincing is this argument, I imagine spearheaded by Huckabee's political enemies, that many are suggesting he no longer could possibly run for president in 2012, an election which many felt he had a good shot at winning.

Politics is certainly a fickle business. Or is hypocritical a better word. How many times have we seen these same types who are now attacking Huckabee so viciously insist that there is no such thing as shared responsibility? How many times have they refused to accept mitigating circumstances in defense of violent offenders - nothing matters but their actions, they cry.

Yet, now, when it conveniently suits their purpose, Mike Huckabee shares in the responsibility of those four murders in Seattle, and he shares in it to the point of having actually destroyed his future political career.

What's your opinion? Should Huckabee pay for this? As governor did he do wrong in releasing Clemmons? How could he possibly be held responsible for the man's future crimes?

Here's my take on it. Shared responsibility does not apply to Mike Huckabee in this case. Yet, as I frequently try to illustrate in my writing, the NRA and gun owners at large who oppose gun control laws do indeed share in the responsibility for the gun violence that happens as a result. Does that make me a hypocrite in the opposite direction?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

More About Responisbility and Blame

Buzzflash ran a very strong piece about the role the NRA plays in the continuous gun violence in America. The title sums it up nicely. "When It Comes to Enabling the Terrorism of Gun Deaths in America, No One Beats the NRA"

The NRA represents a fanatical philosophy that is akin to the fundamentalism underlying terrorism, and -- as a result -- is our chief domestic enabler of terrorism (along with the right wing media) by making sure that guns are readily available to just about anyone with the cash to pay for them.

The NRA is so extremist, it even has kept a military sniper rifle on the market that can assassinate a person (public official) from nearly a mile away with accuracy. Given the heightened number of death threats against President Obama, you would think a .50 caliber sniper rifle would be banned for civilian purchase, but not with the NRA around to champion terrorist weapons. (Only the State of California bans civlians from purchasing the .50 caliber sniper rifle.)

When it comes to the terrorist watch list, the NRA -- which fans the flames of armed militia and white male paranoia in the U.S. -- should be at the top of the list.

They are primarily responsible -- along with the gun manufcaturers -- for turning America into a shooting gallery, with a mind-boggling death toll.

What's your opinion? Is that a wonderful article or exaggerated hype from the gun control crowd? What do you think?

Please leave a comment.

Wayne's World - Bohemian Rhapsody

Dedicated to Microdot. This is my favorite rendering.

Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2009

The North Country Gazette published an article describing the new proposed legislation being pushed by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.

Gillibrand and McCarthy unveiled the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2009 last week in New York City, which will empower local, state, and federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute gun traffickers and their entire criminal networks, while protecting responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

Now, that doesn't sound like anything new. And sure enough, at first glance, the provisions of the bill are all things which are already illegal. I must admit the pro-gun crowd is right in pointing out that enacting laws against things that are already illegal doesn't make much sense. So what could be the motivation behind this measure?

The explanation contains four points, the first of which is nothing new, "this legislation addresses firearms trafficking at every point of the chain."

Second, the legislation establishes stiff penalties that are a much-needed deterrent to gun trafficking. Under this bill, traffickers could face up to 20 years in prison and be fined a significant sum of money.

The bill also treats individuals engaged in a conspiracy to traffic guns the same as those who actually traffick a gun. Individuals who engage in the conspiracy are subject to the same punishment as those who physically sell and receive the illegal guns.

That's more like it. Wouldn't you say that would add a little more punch to the existing legislation?

Third, the U.S. Attorney General and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are empowered to impose heightened restrictions, levy tough financial penalties, and suspend or revoke the license of any corrupt gun dealer. Corrupt gun dealers will be subject to a license suspension of up to six months and a fine of up to $2,500 per violation. This is the first time that the levying of civil penalties will be widely available as a deterrent for corrupt gun dealers.

The Attorney General is given the authority to identify and impose special restrictions on high-risk gun dealers, which could include dealers who have been unable to trace guns as required by federal law or who report significant or frequent inventory losses or thefts, among other criteria.

I realize some people will worry about the AG abusing all this power. But, doesn't something have to be done about the tiny percentage of corrupt gun dealers who are giving the rest a bad name? New provisions for civil penalties sounds about right too, don't you think?

The fourth part of the bill provides ATF with the resources that it needs to inspect all federally licensed gun dealers and further investigate high-risk gun dealers. Federal law currently allows ATF to conduct annual inspections of all federally licensed dealers, but with the current lack of resources and funding it would take the bureau between seven and ten years to properly inspect every licensed dealer in the country. This allows corrupt dealers to go for many years without being suspected or caught.

Resources, isn't that the name of the game? Shouldn't gun dealers be inspected regularly? Isn't it only the crooked ones who would have something to worry about?

What's your opinion? Is this just another case of ignorant gun-haters writing legislation that makes no sense? Or do you think something like this might significantly help fight the abuses which are rampant in the system?

Please leave a comment.

Taking Guns from Kids

The Savannah Morning News reports on a new program in which young gang members are being deprived of the tools of their trade.

Not long ago, a Savannah public housing officer was contacted by a mother concerned about her child.

"He was talking about all kinds of gang activity," Savannah-Chatham police officer Jeremy McKnight said of the woman's son. "And he mentioned something about a gun. It was a vague mention about a gun, and she just wanted us to search his room."

McKnight and the housing officer went over to the woman's home, searched her son's room and found the weapon.

"It was a huge success," McKnight said.

The case McKnight described was the first for the new "right to search" program, enacted by metro police to give parents and the community a chance to speak out if they know a minor is unlawfully possessing a gun.

I suppose they feel that violating the right to privacy of a minor is allowed if the parents agree. What do you think? Does this set a dangerous precedent? What if the gun owner is not a minor and the wife or girlfriend what's to stop him before he gets in trouble? I guess it's only for minors, at least for now.

After receiving information about a minor in possession of a gun, officers - with the permission of a parent - will search the child's room for the weapon, and, initially, no charges will be filed, police officials said. If the gun was stolen or used in a crime, subsequent charges could follow, officials added.

I have another problem with this. Although I'm all for getting guns off the streets, especially guns in the hands of would-be criminals, but what good is it if we continue to allow the flow? What good is taking guns away from juvenile gang members if they can just replace them as fast as they lose them?

And where do all these guns come from? They come from the legitimate gun-owning public. Individual gun owners and licensed gun dealers need to be more closely monitored in order to help them avoid passing their weapons into the criminal world. Sometimes this happens by design, which makes the lawful gun owners or gun dealers criminals themselves who just haven't been caught yet. Other times it's inadvertent. In both cases stricter gun control laws can help.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Mental Illness and the Death Penalty

The Tuscon Citizen published an article about the never-ending problems with the Death Penalty.

Lately there have been stories in the news about people that were given the death penalty(capital punishment) and executed only to find out later through modern DNA testing that the wrong person was killed. That in and of itself is enough to give pause before taking some one’s life for a crime, but what about when the person is seriously mentally ill and symptomatic when a crime is committed?

Amnesty International believes that “The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life…It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment.”

What's your opinion? Is Amnesty International right when they say the "death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights?" I certainly think so.

At the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) annual convention in San Francisco last summer families of murder victims joined with families of persons with mental illness who have been executed to speak out against the death penalty.

Double Tragedies, a report released at the convention, calls the death penalty “inappropriate and unwarranted” for people with severe mental disorders and “a distraction from problems within the mental health system that contributed or even directly lead to tragic violence.”

Please leave a comment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

In Defense of Michael Bellesiles

Laci the Dog has several brilliant posts about this. The gist of it is simple, well described by the exerpt I've put here.

I have been asking this question for quite some time: How can Michael Bellesiles be ripped to shreds for his book Arming America, yet we still see John Lott cited as authoritative about CCW reducing crime?

What' s your opinion? Please leave a comment.

The Wire - 100 Greatest Quotes

Via Deleware Liberal. I can't believe they left out the time Marlo said, "You want it to be one way. But, it's the other way." And how about that very first scene in Season One when the kid said to McNulty, "Got to, this America, man."

Florida Domestic Distubance - 4 Dead

UPI reports on the deadly Thanksgiving shooting that took four lives in Jupiter Florida.

Police searched Friday for a suspect in a Thanksgiving night rampage that killed four people and wounded one other at a home in Jupiter, Fla.

The manhunt centered on Paul Michael Merhige, 35, of Miami, believed to have opened fire on his family and others as they gathered for a Thanksgiving feast.

The dead included two of Merhige's sisters, a man and a 6-year-old girl asleep in her bed when the shooting broke out.

Witnesses told police Merhige left the scene in a blue 4-door Toyota with Florida tags W427JT. the Palm Beach Post said.

"It was a domestic disturbance. That's all we know," Sgt. Scott Pascarella of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department said Friday. "What triggered the gunfire, we don't know."

When is the country going to wake up and make the connection between gun availability and these kinds of incidents? How dare the pro-gun crowd continue to shrug their shoulders and insist this has nothing to do with them? It has everything to do with them. When any lunatic who wants to blow his family away can easily get a gun to do it with, that's too little gun control.

Please leave a comment.

Shared Responsibility in School Shootings

Earlier this year we discussed the horrible school shooting in Germany which left 15 dead. One of my points was that 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer had too easy access to his dad's guns. This makes the dad partly responsible, an idea which is not very popular among pro-gun folks as evidenced by the comments generated by my post.

As it turns out, the German government agrees with me. BBC reports on the manslaughter charges brought against the father.

Tim Kretschmer, 17, took his father's pistol and burst into his former school in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, opening fire, before killing himself.

His father has now been charged with 15 counts of manslaughter for failing to keep his gun secure.

Prosecutors said he had "negligently" stored weapons and bullets.

Kretschmer used his father's legally-registered pistol to kill eight schoolgirls, a schoolboy and three teachers at Albertville secondary school on 11 March.

Quantity of ammunition

He then commandeered a car and killed two more people in the town of Wendlingen, 40km (25 miles) away before he shot himself as police approached.

His father Joerg had legally kept more than a dozen weapons in his house.

Prosecutors said his father had "negligently made possible the actions of his son in that he stored the weapons... in such a way that Tim could get his hands on a gun and a large amount of ammunition."

He has been charged with 15 counts of manslaughter, 13 counts of grievous bodily harm and breaking gun laws, the prosecution said.

I noticed that at the school the disturbed young man targeted girls eight to one. What's that remind you of?

What's your opinion? Do you think the courts and judges in Germany are talking only about the improper storage of guns? Could there be other tacit charges, perhaps not formalized by laws, which question the upbringing of the boy? To me, it seems like a father who has dozens of weapons at home may have taught his son the wrong lessons concerning conflict management and dealing successfully with slights and rejection. Do you think people who are armed to the teeth are sometimes lacking in these skills so necessary for proper assimilation into society?

Do you think the courts in Germany are wrong for charging someone other than the perpetrator of a crime? Why is that? Is there no exception which allows for shared responsibility?

Please leave a comment.