Saturday, February 13, 2010

Seattle Parks Gun Ban Finished

The Seattle Times reports on the much-anticipated ruling.

The rule banning firearms in Seattle parks was tossed out Friday by King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer, who said the city cannot pre-empt state law.

The city now has 30 days to remove the 116 metal signs, which are about 1 by 1-½ feet in size and show a handgun inside a red circle, with a red line crossing out the gun. In all-capital letters there is the warning: "FIREARMS PROHIBITED."

Assistant City Attorney Gary Keese said, "We will comply with the court order and are weighing with the mayor and City Council the options for appeal."

Mayor Mike McGinn issued a one-paragraph, late-afternoon statement that said, "I am disappointed in today's (Friday's) ruling. Cities should have the right to restrict guns in playground, pools and community centers where children are present ... It's time for the state Legislature to change that law."

To me, this is one of the best examples of NRA bully tactics. Does anyone really believe the nanny who walks her little charges in the park and the young couple taking romantic walks in the early evening and the dozens of other "normal" people affected by this ruling are better off? No, they're not. Because a small very vocal minority has bullied its way into the city parks of Seattle, the regular people lose.

The present and former mayors of Seattle are "disappointed," as well as the vast majority of citizens who, for a time, enjoyed the knowledge that people weren't walking around with guns. Citizens of urban communities already know that drug addicts and gang members are likely to have guns and present a danger. But what they don't want is to have to worry about the supposed law abiding gun owners too. Does anyone think the jogger or stroller who uses the park is comforted by the possibility that if some bad guy pops up with a gun some good guys will open fire and save the day?

I don't think so. It's a bad deal for Seattle, except for that small fraction who own guns and insist on carrying them around in the public places.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

"Gun Nuts" vs. "Constitution Nuts" published a very informative article about the upcoming McDonald case and the NRAs muscling in on the defense. We discussed this before but this latest link comes from FishyJay.

After describing the history of Supreme Court decisions and the difference between The Privileges or Immunities Clause, championed by Alan Gura and the Due Process Clause which will be stressed by the NRA, the article goes on to quote David Hardy.

Some forces in the gun rights community, such as one of its oldest warriors and scholars, David Hardy, refuse to take sides between the NRA and Gura. Instead, Hardy applauds both arguments and both arguers, and begs the gun rights community to stop encouraging dissension: “They're going into the fight of their lives, no OUR lives, and don't need the distractions. We can all engage in internecine battles after oral argument, or better yet, the decision. For now they need to concentrate. Bottom line: there is no bad way to win a case.”

That sounds reasonable and pragmatic, don't you think? United we stand divided we fall, and all that. But does that mean that Mr. Hardy would have preferred the NRA stayed out of it but since they're in, we should make the best of it? Or do you think he's saying the divided oral argument need not be divided if the speakers choose their words carefully and keep their eye on the ball? Perhaps it could be an advantage, a veritable one-two punch.

What's your opinion? Is all this talk of strategy merely self-aggrandizing nonsense since the Court is essentially the same as the one which voted on Heller. Sotomayor didn't change the voting balance. So what's all the exaggerated seriousness about? Why would Hardy say "the fight of their lives, no OUR lives?" Isn't that a bit melodramatic if not hyperbolic?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Meaning of "Immutable" in the Starbucks Discussion.

The Brady Blog posted a wonderful article about the Starbucks controversy.

Which of the following hypothetical statements to prospective customers make sense, and which are to be rejected as wrong and discriminatory?

1. “You can come in, but you have to leave your skin color outside.”
2. “You can come in, but you have to leave your sexual orientation outside.”
3. “You can come in, but you have to leave your religious affiliation outside.”
4. “You can come in, but you have to leave your gender outside.”
5. To the paraplegic: “You can come in, but you have to leave your wheelchair outside.”


6. “You can come in, but you have to leave your gun outside unless you’re a police officer.”

Clearly, the first five statements are racist, homophobic, religiously discriminatory, sexist and discriminatory against the physically challenged and are unacceptable.

Why? Among other reasons, they are all impossible to comply with. All of those traits are immutable characteristics of individuals and cannot be separated from the person. It is impossible to comply with those statements because if you exclude one, you exclude both.

The sixth and last statement, however, obviously does not fall into that category, because guns can be separated from people. A gun is a thing outside human identity.

What's your opinion? Does that clarify the meaning of "immutable" as it's being used in this discussion?

Please leave a comment.

Religious Man Uses Stun Gun on Sinner

The Washington Post published an article on an amazing conversion technique.

MADISON, Wis. -- A Baraboo man was accused of repeatedly shocking a male dance instructor with a stun gun, claiming the instructor was a "sinner" who "defiles married women." A Dane County prosecutor said the suspect, 59, hastily arranged a dance lesson at the instructor's Madison home and showed up with a stun gun and sledgehammer last Friday. The criminal complaint said the man told a detective that his church does not condone touching while dancing and that he was going to scare the instructor "and tell him to leave the women alone."

The Wisconsin State Journal said the instructor told police that the suspect phoned for private dance lessons, and when he opened the door to his home, he began to shock him repeatedly in the neck with the stun gun.

What do you think about that?

Meteorite Smuggling

Google published this AFP article about meteorite smuggling in Russia.

MOSCOW — Amid a huge bounty of contraband goods seized recently at a Russian airport, one far-out find floored customs officials: chunks of meteorite.

"On the customs declaration, the smugglers identified it as granite for construction and decoration of office space," Larisa Ledovskikh, a spokeswoman for customs at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, told AFP on Thursday.

"But our officials could see it was clearly not granite!"

The two smugglers -- who also tried to ship out silver antiques, fossils, semi-precious stones, microscopes and old books in the suspect cargo -- were initially charged with making a false declaration on their customs form.

Only after a three-month investigation did officials discover that the mystery lumps were fragments from outer space and the men part of a larger crime ring including experts and scientists, Ledovskikh said.

"They were part of an organized criminal gang. They had worked out a plan in advance to smuggle out of Russian territory and to the Czech Republic... two meteorite chunks, each weighing 100 grams," she said.

The two men were arrested on Sunday and charged with contraband, a sentence that carries a maximum of 12 years in prison in Russia.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Florida Man Shoots Himself by Accident

The Miami Herald reports on an accidental shooting.

A man accidentally shot himself in the leg shortly after leaving a Jupiter gun store.

Police say the unidentified man went to Chuck's Guns and Ammo Monday afternoon, looking for batteries for the laser sight on a small handgun. When the man was back in his car, the gun accidentally fired, hitting him in the leg.

The man was taken to a West Palm Beach hospital for treatment.

Why do you think the Associated Press writer used the phrase, "the gun accidentally fired?" Isn't that impossible? Maybe he was a pro-gun guy trying to downplay the stupidity of the incident.

I've got an idea. Since the proliferation of handguns is such a big problem in America and the majority of gun owners are responsible people who don't want to be inconvenienced unnecessarily, let's do this. Anyone who has an "accidental" shooting forfeits his right to own guns. It should be automatic and incontestable. Further, any minor offense, misdemeanor, or documented incident of rage, results in the same, immediate forfeiture of gun rights.

This way, the vast majority will be free to enjoy their guns while many of the "bad apples" will be removed from their company.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Off-Duty Dallas Cop

The Dallas Morning News reports on the exploits of one of the city's finest.

An off-duty police officer is accused of hitting two bar workers and pulling a gun on them because they refused to let him back inside after closing.

Sgt. Hector Roa, 37, was charged Sunday with two counts of aggravated assault, Dallas police said. Police said Roa, a 14-year veteran currently assigned to central patrol, has been placed on administrative leave pending criminal and administrative investigations.

Matthew Kirchmeyer, a bouncer at the bar, said they were closing about 2 a.m. Sunday when Roa, who had been at the bar, tried to get back inside. He said Roa was in plain clothes and didn't identify himself as a police officer.

"He kind of tried to muscle his way back inside," Kirchmeyer told The Dallas Morning News. Kirchmeyer said that when he and the bar owner would not let Roa in, Roa hit both of them.

"I pushed him to the ground," Kirchmeyer said.

He said Roa then pulled a gun out of his waistband.

Officer Roa said the reason he was behaving so badly is because the bouncer called him a racial epithet. Is that an excuse, do you think? Can this kind of incident ever be excused?

What about the charge? Would aggravated assault be enough to get him kicked off the police force and barred from owning firearms in the future? Is anything less than that appropriate in a case like this?

Please leave a comment.

Delaware Man Stressed over Snow Shoveling

The Washington Post reports on an incident which took place during the snow storm in Delaware.
New Castle County Police said a man pointed a gun at a neighbor who was shoveling snow on Saturday at the Hampton Walk Apartments. A man told police a neighbor came outside while he was shoveling, pointed a gun and threatened to shoot him if he didn't stop shoveling snow onto his car.

A man, 43, was arrested and charged with aggravated menacing.

Does that mean the gun was legally owned? How can a man who is unstable enough to do something like that own a gun in the first place?

I realize there's no practical way we can prevent it. Psychological testing and other measures would be too difficult to do. But does that mean we should continue to make it easier for folks to own guns in the certain knowledge that the unstable types will become proportionately more numerous? What percentage do you think that is anyway?

Please leave a comment.

Tepper Charged with Murder

The Los Angeles Times ran a story about the former Philadelphia policeman who shot and killed his neighbor last November. We discussed it here.

A murder warrant was issued Monday against a former Philadelphia police officer accused of fatally shooting a neighbor during an off-duty altercation in November.

Frank Tepper, 43, faces charges of murder and other counts in the shooting of 21-year-old William Panas Jr. in the city's Port Richmond section. Tepper's attorney said that his client acted in self-defense.

Former District Attorney Lynne Abraham announced last year that she was convening a grand jury in the killing. But the city's new top prosecutor said Monday that his office reviewed the case and determined there was enough evidence to issue a warrant.

"The community cries out for justice," said District Attorney Seth Williams, inaugurated last month as the city's first new DA in nearly 20 years. "Our job is to seek justice. But it won't be at the loss of a thorough investigation."

The new District Attorney may be trying to make a name for himself, but Frank Tepper is no stranger to trouble. I'm sure more will come out during the trial.

What's your opinion? Is Tepper the "neighborhood bully" who goes around looking for trouble and when he finds it, pulls his gun? Or, is he a responsible ex-policeman who lives in a tough area of Philadelphia where trouble is everywhere?

Please leave a comment.

So Many Military Bases

Tom Dispatch wrote an article about the secret and not-so-secret military bases the U.S. is constructing. Thanks to Il Principe for the link to this wonderful article which supports his frequent writings about the subject on Opinione.

In 2003, when the Bush administration invaded Iraq, the Pentagon already had on its drawing boards plans for building a series of permanent mega-bases in that country. (They were charmingly called “enduring camps.”) Once Baghdad fell and it turned out that, Saddam Hussein or no, the U.S. was going to have to fight rather than settle in and let the good times roll,hundreds of micro-bases were added to the mega ones -- 106 of them by 2005, more than 300 in all. Then, in 2005, Washington decided to trade in its embassy in one of Saddam’s old palaces for something a little spiffier. In its place, on a 104-acre plot by the Tigris River in the middle of Baghdad, for at least three-quarters of a billion dollars after cost overruns, it built the largest,most expensive embassy on the planet. It was planned for a staff of 1,000 “diplomats” with all the accoutrements of the good life and plenty of hired help. (Even now, despite much discussion about “ending” the American role in Iraq, further plans are reportedly being made for the embassy’s staff to double.) This was clearly to be U.S. mission control for the Greater Middle East.

The article goes on to describe the incredible proliferation of bases in Afghanistan, naturally at staggering cost. Meanwhile, at home things have not been so good.

What's your opinion? Is this unprecedented military expansion necessary for the security of America? Do you think some of this money could be used better at home?

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Brady Campaign Appeals to Starbucks

Paul Helmke and Dennis Henigan posted an appeal to Starbucks to do the right thing.

Welcome to the open carry movement, an effort by “gun rights” extremists to foist their interpretation of the Second Amendment on the rest of us by openly carrying handguns in public places. While virtually all states have at least some minimal restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons, few states do anything to regulate the “open carry” of firearms.

Particularly in the Bay Area in Northern California, “open carry” adherents have been gathering in Starbucks and other coffee shops and restaurants – their semi-automatic pistols and revolvers in plain view – apparently to make an ideological statement.

Response to the Brady appeals has been positive in some cases. Starbucks however had this to say.

“Starbucks does not have a corporate policy regarding customers and weapons; we defer to federal, state and local laws and regulations regarding this issue.”

The article likens this response to a full endorsement of gun owners doing what they like. I wondered if it could have been an attempt on the part of the famous coffee and refreshment chain to straddle the fence, to avoid taking sides. Whatever their public statement meant, it's about to get clearer.

So, Starbucks, what will it be? Like Peets Tea & Coffee, will you do the socially responsible thing and stand up for the rights of families and children to be free from guns when they visit your coffee shops?

Or will you take the chance that there will be more than just shots of espresso being served up in your stores?

If you think Starbucks is wrong here, sign our petition today:

What do you think Starbucks will do? Do you think this will pressure Starbucks to either strengthen their statement or "do the right thing" as they say?

Please leave a comment.

A Nice Gift

That special little gift for the man who has everything.

The NRA vs. the Libertarians

The Washington Post published an interesting article about the infighting going on between the NRA and the Libertarian lawyers running the McDonald vs. Chicago case.

The National Rifle Association was on the outside looking in when the Supreme Court handed gun rights activists a landmark victory in 2008.

After the court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to gun ownership and that the District's handgun ban was unconstitutional, it was an upstart band of libertarian lawyers that celebrated on the marble steps and received the glory for the breakthrough decision.

The NRA, the nation's premier and most powerful gun rights group, has worked hard not to be in that position again. And because of an unusual intervention recently by the justices, its attorney will be in the mix when the court considers the next big guns case next month.

This was news to me not long ago. One of the commenters gently educated me about the fact that it's not the NRA running these things.

Alan Gura, who has ties to The Cato Institute, will be lead council representing those challenging Chicago area gun laws. But the Supreme Court is also letting Paul Clement, recently hired by the National Rifle Association, offer an argument.

Ilya Shapiro, a Supreme Court scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, where Gura has ties, wrote, "NRA prefers to seek glory for itself rather than presenting the strongest case for its purported constituency of gun owners." He said in an interview that the NRA's decision to seek time at oral arguments March 2 was "about fundraising, not lawyering."

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam responded: "Our client is the Second Amendment. We wanted to make sure that all avenues were addressed and all bases covered" in convincing the court that the amendment applies to state and local governments.

That's what I call infighting. What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Texas Man Kills ex-Wife's Boyfriend

The Houston Chronicle reports on the latest domestic violence tragedy. I suppose you can call it that even though it happened in a gas station.

Charges are pending against a man accused of fatally shooting his estranged wife's boyfriend at a gas station in Pasadena Sunday afternoon.

The incident occurred around 1 p.m. at a Valero gas station at Burke and Southmore, where the woman's estranged husband and her boyfriend became involved in a confrontation, said Pasadena Police Department spokesman Vance Mitchell, adding that the nature of the dispute is unknown.

At some point during the confrontation, the woman's estranged husband shot and killed her boyfriend before fleeing the scene in his vehicle.

Officers found the suspect's vehicle shortly after the shooting and became involved in a short chase with the man. During the chase, the suspect crashed his vehicle into another car, but kept on driving and was apprehended shortly in a nearby yard.

Since the article leaves so much to the imagination, I guess we'll just have to fill in some of the blanks. But first let's take a moment to enjoy the humor of Police Spokesman Vance Mitchell. He said, "the nature of the dispute is unknown." That's pretty funny, eh?

I'd say our man was a lawful gun owner up until the moment he decided to change sides. Five minutes before that all the other lawful gun owners would have vehemently defended his right to own guns. Five minutes later, they have nothing to do with him.

Why do gun rights people refuse to admit there are many problem cases in their midst? Why has not one pro-gun voice admitted that The Famous 10% theory makes good sense? Is not this story another perfect example of it?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Home Protection ran an opinion piece that made a lot of sense.

Contrary to the argument that guns are an invaluable asset for home protection, they are in fact virtually useless. Proper weapon maintenance requires that the gun be “safe-kept” after use. That means the weapon should be checked to be sure it is unloaded and then securely “locked down.”

Locking down the weapon requires that it be secured, preferably under lock and key. Having checked the weapon to be sure it is unloaded, the ammunition should then be safe-kept in another locked location. This prevents an unauthorized user, whether a child, intoxicated individual, impulsive personality type or criminal, from creating mayhem while blasting away with the “home protection device.”

This is the dilemma we've discussed many times before. How can one keep his weapons accessible without endangering himself and the family?

So what happens when one hears window glass breaking as an intruder attempts to enter? If the firearm is safely secured, there won’t be enough time to confront a criminal with your weapon. A burglar is not going to wait while you unlock the gun and go to another location to load up with bullets. But to do otherwise, that is, ignore safe weapon handling practices and keep the gun on the nightstand fully loaded, only invites disaster.

While disaster from a burglary, or other violent crime, may strike once in a lifetime, the unsafe handling of a weapon invites disaster 365 days per year.

So, if a loaded gun on the nightstand is not the answer, what is?

Lock the gun away, leave some lights on at night, secure all doors, get an inexpensive alarm system, give an orphaned dog a home, replace the weapon on the nightstand with a phone programmed with 911 or keep a long club under the bed.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Monday, February 8, 2010

George Carlin on Baseball vs. Football

Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the video. George is indeed the King of Comedy.

The Brady Campaign on "Bigotry"

The Brady Blog published a wonderful article about the so-called bigotry suffered by gun rights activists.

Some adherents of this mantra have taken it to bizarre extremes, in fact, likening their position to African-Americans in the Civil Rights movement. No, not kidding. Look at this latest stemwinder by Joe from Idaho.

In order to think this way, the key assumption such gun advocates have to make is that their guns and gun use are functionally identical to race, or sexual orientation — such that one’s status as a gun advocate is essentially an immutable characteristic.

It is mind-boggling, but you’ve got to hand it to them: It takes a very skilled strategist to perform the social ju-jitsu necessary to turn what is, in essence, armed political bullying into victimization (after community members reject their tactics) and get others to nod their heads in agreement.

The truth, of course, is that guns and gun carrying are obviously not immutable characteristics of people, and that the whole cultural framework around the issue of gun violence prevention is a sham. (Brady Center Vice-President Dennis Henigan has exposed this most recently here and here.)

It's writing like this that makes The Brady Campaign the unchallenged leader in the gun control movement. The most enjoyable part for me is how the NRA strategists come up with some bogus idea, then several key figures in the gun rights movement with huge readership pick up on it, and then it's disseminated to hundreds of smaller bloggers who repeat and repeat what was originally said. With the incredible volume of repetition the idea begins to take on an increased credibility and before long it's carved in stone.

A recent example is the open-carry protesters, those misunderstood patriots blazing the trail for their brother gun owners. On the internet we've read hundreds of incidents comparing their efforts to blacks and gays and Jews. My idea is they would better be compared to tree cutters with chainsaws hanging on their utility belts.

What's your opinion? Do you think the Brady Blog post clarifies the misleading cries of bigotry on the part of gun enthusiasts? Do you think this is another aspect of the grandiose victimism they often suffer from?

Please leave a comment.

Alabama Middle School - 1 Dead

CNN reports on a terrible shooting which left one 9th-grader dead.

A ninth-grade student was in custody Saturday and charged with murder after he allegedly shot a classmate in the back of the head at their northern Alabama middle school, authorities said.

The shooting happened during a class change around 1:45 p.m. Friday at Discovery Middle School in Madison, just west of Huntsville.

Ninth-grade student Todd Brown, 14, died after being taken to a hospital in Huntsville, Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey said. No one else was hurt.

Police said it was an isolated incident between Brown and the alleged shooter, though they said the motive was still unclear. One student, however, said he may know the reason.

"It was some discussion about gang-related things and the shooter just got fed up with it."

The reason I feel the parents need to be looked at in cases like this, is not because I think they could actually be charged with something, although that could be the case in some places due to laws about keeping guns safely away from kids, but my main idea is that the fault lies in the education these young shooters receive at home. This is an area which could use improvement.

The idea that a gun is the answer is a dangerous message that is all too prevalent in the gun community. Often it's a tacit message passed from father to son. Many young boys want to imitate their dads or even outdo them. This is the tragedy of the gun rights movement.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Mel Gibson in Payback

I learned about this wonderful Mel Gibson film, Payback, on the site of The Verdant Dude, who has never steered me wrong. Several times in the action-packed movie they aimed their guns sideways, which being 1999, might have been influenced by the gangsta rap movement. There were many other gun scenes which I thought were extremely unrealistic, but fun. What did you think?

Gun Flow to Mexico During 2009

Sign On San Diego has a report on the increased south-bound border checks.

Last spring, U.S. officials announced a $400 million effort to tighten border security, this time with an emphasis on southbound inspections of vehicles headed into Mexico to check for contraband cash and firearms.

Because of California’s relatively strict firearms laws, gun seizures have been minimal compared with discoveries made farther east, particularly in Texas, said Angelica De Cima of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which conducts the checks. However, large amounts of cash have been found.

Now, there's an interesting result. The California gun laws must work if the seizures, "have been minimal compared with discoveries made farther east." This should come as no surprise to anyone willing to use a little common sense.

There was a bit of inadvertent humor in the article.

Part of the attempt to starve the cartels has included beefed-up efforts by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to monitor gun dealers and deter the use of straw buyers and the trafficking of firearms, including assault weapons, into California from other states with looser gun laws.
Don't you find that funny, "the attempt to starve the cartels?"

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bill O'Reilly Interviews Jon Stewart

Gawker posted a wonderful breakdown of the interview of Jon Stewart by Bill O'Reilly. I believe when Jon Stewart gets serious he's more than just a worthy opponent for the likes of O'Reilly. What do you think?

Obama the Centrist

From Liberal Viewer.

Those Crazy Republicans

Are other countries so crazily divided? I had the impression that in Canada the political differences are a bit softer.