Saturday, April 24, 2010

Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock

You see what you learn reading The Volokh Conspiracy.

I have many reservations about Star Trek, such as its crude treatment of socialism (see also here). Still, the original Trek and several of the TV series that followed (especially my personal favorite, Deep Space 9), used science fiction to address important issues in an interesting way that could appeal to mainstream audiences as well as genre fans. The Spock character, as played by Nimoy, was often at the center of that.

I'm one of those "genre fans," and a bit of an elitist. I refuse to watch anything beyond TOS (the original series).

In the comments I learned this:

Kirk taking over Canada while Spock retires.

Colorado "Loophole" Vote

The Rocky Mountain Collegian ran an article imploring voters to not be swayed by emotion when deciding how to vote.

The Denver Post published an advertisement from the father of a Columbine victim in Tuesday’s paper urging Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, to sign Senate Bill 843.

The ad said, “On the 11th anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, I urge you to stand with Senator Bennet and the vast majority of Coloradans by working to close the Gun Show Loophole.”

A “Gun Show Loophole,” does not exist, period. What gun control advocates want to change, they wrongly-identify and sensationalize as a loophole.

In reality, what they seek is to require all transfers of firearms between private individuals under government control; those are the only transactions at gun shows not already subject to current firearm control laws.

He says the gun control folks are wrongly identifying and sensationalizing the situation by calling it a "loophole." He prefaces that explanation with the point-blank statement that the "“Gun Show Loophole,” does not exist, period."

I find this extremely tedious. Everyone involved in this debate understands perfectly well what is meant by "gun show loophole." By taking issue with the wording, we are diverted from the issue. By claiming that the wording, is somehow purposely utilized to make it sound worse, is just silly. If anything, it has the opposite effect now. If "loophole" ever had a negative connotation, it's been diluted by overuse.

The bottom line is continuing to allow anyone and everyone to buy guns without a background check is unacceptable. Gun rights advocates know this. That's why they try everything they can to divert us from the issue by any means they can.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Weapon Sharing in New York

The New York Daily News reports on the new trend in New York crime: weapon sharing. Thank to FishyJay for the link.

Crackdowns on gun-running are forcing bad guys to share weapons with each other rather than head out of state to restock their illicit arsenals, authorities said Thursday.

Investigators say they notice criminals are increasingly handing guns around rather than using them once and tossing them out.

In one example, a .380 caliber gun recovered in a probe of a rare Bloods-Crips alliance was connected to four different shooters.

"Some of the [crews] didn't have a lot of guns, but they would just share a gun," Deputy Chief Robert Boyce, head of the NYPD's Gang Division, said after the bust. "They'd pass that gun around."

FishyJay parsed the article like this:

"running weapons from other states could lead to heavy federal prison sentences"


"the NYPD's stop-and-frisk initiative"

Surprise! The NYPD is claiming results from their crackdowns on gun-running and give two specifics...

...and I don't object to either!
Do you agree? Are both of those claims OK? Of course, pointing out how their own policies are working so well must be taken with a grain of salt, but it makes sense to me. The increased emphasis in the courts on gun smuggling leading to stiffer sentences would have this exact result. And the frisking policy, although open to terrible abuse on the part of the police, would work like this too. Combined, lives are being saved.

What's missing here is the cooperation of gun owners at large, those guys who oppose any and all regulations on gun rights. All the efforts of police and legislators will have limited results as long as that continues.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Stolen Guns in Brooklyn

The New York Daily News reports on the cop who removed 150 guns from the streets of Brooklyn.

He's a task force of one.

A brave undercover cop single-handedly took more than 150 illegal guns off Brooklyn's streets in a risky yearlong probe that also busted a brigade of dealers.

The unidentified cop was so talented at playing his role that traffickers often fought each other for his business, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday.

"This undercover officer was particularly skillful and he appeared to have money. And other people tried to undercut the original seller [and] cut their own deals," Kelly said.

"There's no honor among thieves. The undercover officer did an amazing job."

During "Operation Phoenix," the lone officer, who cannot be identified for safety reasons, broke up a virtual pipeline of arms into Brooklyn - buying 153 weapons in 105 transactions at an average cost of $900 each.

It looks like business is good. The article says most of the guns are stolen; it didn't seem at attribute them to straw purchases in other states. That's interesting.

Is it any wonder why I blame gun owners for this mess? It shouldn't be. The one part of it, the one where the NRA and gun lobby and individual gun rights advocates all work overtime to keep the laws as lax and unenforceable as they are, and this leading to a tremendous gun flow into the criminal hands, seems clear and obvious to me. But, this reason, the easily stolen guns from lawful owners which go directly to criminals in Brooklyn and elsewhere, seems even more direct and obvious.

The old, "I'm not responsible for the crimes of others," is a flimsy excuse at best. Gun owners should be responsible for securing their weapons properly. When so many guns are stolen so easily, honest and reasonable people ask themselves what's going on. Are the gun owners doing everything they should to prevent it? What I ask is, are some of these gun owners so irresponsible in the way they secure their weapons that they shouldn't have them in the first place?

What's your opinion? Do you agree with the shoulder-shrugging gun owners who insist this is not their problem? Do you think when someone makes theft of a dangerous weapon easy they do not share in the responsibility for that theft?

Please leave a comment.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Michigan Gun Dealer Indicted

The Detroit News reports on trouble for a gun dealer associated with the Hutaree.

Detroit -- An Adrian firearms dealer linked to the Hutaree militia case has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit.

Walter L. Priest, 52, is charged with possessing a rifle with an obliterated serial number in an indictment handed down Tuesday and filed today in U.S. District Court in Detroit. It's a five-year felony.

Priest is the firearms dealer whose investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives prompted outraged e-mails and other Internet postings from members of an accused radical militia group called the Hutaree, according to court records and interviews.

They sound like a bunch of swell guys. It's interesting that if you go back in time just a little bit, these characters were among the law-abiding gun owners we keep hearing about. In fact, they would have certainly fit nicely into my 10% theory.

What do the pro-gun folks say about this? Is it that guys like this actually make an insignificant part of the whole? Is that it? Are we quibbling over percentages? Or is there another take on it?

Please leave a comment.

The Meaning of "Draconian"

The simple meaning is "rigorous; unusually severe or cruel: as in Draconian forms of punishment." Wikipedia has the whole story of Draco, from whom the word comes.

Of all the words misused by the pro-gun crowd this one takes the cake. They call people "liars" for their opinions and they frequently misuse the word "hypocrite," but nothing beats the silly repetition of the word "draconian" when referring to American gun control laws.

We have to use a little common sense to arrive at this conclusion, which I realize is a problem for some of the very offenders, but here goes.

Numerous gun laws, even the oft-vaunted tens of thousands they talk about, are not draconian when they are in large part ineffectual, unenforceable or easily circumvented. Draconian would be severe and cruel. Furthermore, in certain places where there are fairly serious restrictions on guns, driving an hour or two to the neighboring State where laws are lax, makes that a joke. Those so-called draconian laws in places like New Jersey and California are ineffectual because they are easily circumvented.

Requiring background checks on gun transfers is not onerous when you can simply step over to the next booth or car trunk and buy guns without any check at all.

So, why the frequent use of this inappropriate word to describe the situation? Well for one thing, by exaggerating the problem they can more easily resist additional laws which might indeed be effectual. It's the-best-defense-is-a-good-offense mentality. Another reason is that many who use this word are mindlessly repeating what they'd heard from some charismatic pro gun speaker. Maybe Wayne was the first to use it, although I'd bet it predates even him.

Of course, we have to admit, the word is cool. Let's face it when folks quote Latin they seem scholarly, but when they drop a little Greek, they can fantasize about being Oxford Dons or Harvard Fellows. Let's not underestimate the fantastic imaginations of the gun folks.

What's your opinion? Do you agree that it's a bit silly to use the word "draconian" to describe gun laws that obviously don't work?

Please leave a comment.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jon Stewart vs. Fox News

Bernie Goldberg Fires Back
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A Movement Desperate for a Leader

MAIG Using Columbine

The New York Daily News reports on the latest efforts of the MAIG.

Mayor Bloomberg's gun control group is dropping more than $250,000 on cable TV ads featuring surveillance video from the Columbine High School massacre to urge the Senate to put new restrictions on gun sales.

The ads say four guns used in the mass killings were bought at gun shows, where people can buy firearms without getting background checks.

"The killers got their guns because of a gap in the law," the announcer intones. "Momentum is building in the Senate to close the loophole. Eleven years after Columbine, it's time. Call your senator."

First aired Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the Columbine killings, the ads run on national cable networks and in Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio and Virginia to target senators there.

"If you want to buy a gun at a gun shop, you have to go through a background check," Bloomberg said. "Unscrupulous dealers, they take their inventory, they go to a gun show and they sell it without getting background checks."

The city spent $1.5 million last year on private detectives who went undercover at gun shows and bought weapons even after telling the sellers they wouldn't have passed a background check.

Bloomberg and his Mayors Against Illegal Guns group say the loophole allows firearms to end up in the hands of criminals.

Attempts to require the background checks have failed in Congress.

National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said background checks at gun shows would take too long and impede the rights of legal gun owners.

"They continue to try and abridge the rights of law-abiding citizens. They should focus their efforts on going after criminals," Arulanandam said. "The intent is to drive gun shows out of business."

You know what seems weird to me, that the flimsy excuse of the NRA spokesman can explain that "[a]ttempts to require the background checks have failed in Congress." The fact that background checks would take too long and impede legal gun owners cannot possibly be the real reasons. They must just be for the press release. It just doesn't make sense.

What do you think the real reason for opposition to this is? Many consider universal background checks the most common-sense gun law which is still lacking? Do you think it's the old slippery slope theory that if they don't stop the crazy gun control folks now, they never will? Or, is it that paranoid one about background checks being the first step towards gun confiscation?

What else could it be? What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Gun Lobby Defeats District Voting Rights

The New York Daily News reports on the latest gun battle in Washington D.C.

District of Columbia residents lost again today in their 200-year-old battle to get a vote in Congress.

House leaders gave up on a bill that would have granted the vote to the District’s 60,000 residents, but only if they get rid of Washington’s tough gun control laws.

“The price was too high,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in announcing that legislation to give the District a full-voting representative for the first time would be pulled down.

The District’s current delegate in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), can only vote in committees and not on the floor.

The House passed a bill in 2007 that would have created a District representative, who almost certainly would have been a Democrat, and also create a new seat in Utah which almost certainly would have gone to a Republican.

The Senate passed a similar bill last year but attached an amendment that would have allowed for the open carry of weapons in the District and inside government buildings.

The gun amendment “made it absolutely impossible” to sell the bill to District residents, Norton said.

Don't you find it amazing that they were asking for such an outlandish thing, "open carry of weapons in the District and inside government buildings?" It makes you wonder if the unrealistic demand was simply a way of blocking the possibility of another Democratic vote in Congress.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Idaho Boy Trips, Shoots Dad

Ohh Shoot reports on an incident in Idaho. I wonder if Joe Huffman knew these people, he's from Idaho, right? Do you think this teenager is one of the ones I keep hearing about from pro gun folks who was raised with guns and taught how to handle them?

A father and son were target shooting in Idaho. The boy, 15, was walking when he tripped. As he fell he unintentionally discharged the .22 pistol he was carrying. The bullet hit his 43-year-old father in the stomach.
The father was airlifted to a hospital in Boise.
Ohh shoot.

What's your opinion? Is that something that can happen to anyone? Is that part of the deal?

Please leave a comment.

15-year-old Murders Boyfriend with Gun

The Mercury News reports on a tragic story which puts the other twist on the old "guns are bad news for women" idea.

A 15-year-old Oakland girl was charged with murder Monday in the fatal shooting Sunday morning of an 18-year-old man she had been dating.

Besides the murder charge, the girl, whose name was not released, also had an enhancement clause of use of a firearm.

The girl is still in custody at Juvenile Hall in San Leandro and will have a detention hearing Thursday to determine whether she will be released from custody to her family or will be held for trial.

Golde, who heads the district attorney's juvenile division in San Leandro, said that the girl has no prior criminal record and that there are no plans to prosecute her as an adult.

Police said she has admitted her involvement in the killing of Davante Riley, of Oakland, who was shot inside an apartment in the 2200 block of East 20th Street. Riley had turned 18 Saturday, and he and the girl and some other people were celebrating his birthday and hanging out at the apartment, where a relative of Riley's lives.

Riley was shot about 12:14 a.m. Sunday and died at a hospital at 12:47 a.m. Police did not release details of what led up to the shooting. It is believed the gun that killed Riley was already in the apartment.

Golde said, "This shows you what the proliferation of guns can do."

Now that California is what I call a civilized state, unlike Florida, where they tend to prosecute 15-year-olds as adults.

What's your opinion? Do you agree that gun proliferation has something to do with this? Do you think the scorned adolescents in Japan deal with their frustrations like this? Let me answer that. No, they don't. And the reason they don't is because guns are not that readily available. It's only in the United States that resorting to a gun is an option and has become such a widespread response to things ranging from disputes over raking the leaves to lovers' spats.

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Liberal Viewer on the Supreme Court

Fortunately we won't get a Robert Bork. Whoever it is, there's no chance of someone like him.

The Changing Face of Gun Rights Advocacy

The Wall Street Journal published an article about the changing appearance of gun rights advocacy.

They are coming together in smaller, loosely organized groups that recruit on the Internet and find inspiration from the tea party movement.

On Monday, several thousand gun owners plan to mount two protests—a march in Washington and an "open-carry" rally in Mount Vernon, Va.

"More and more the gun-rights movement is moving toward a stand-up-and-shout approach," said Jeff Knox, director of the Firearms Coalition, a for-profit, loose-knit coalition of activists. "There's a lot of general frustration with NRA not taking a hard enough line."

Is this what Sebastian keeps catching the flak over
, opposing the "stand-up-and-shout approach?" I think he's right that these folks do more harm than good to the gun rights movement.

The WSJ article goes on to name a couple on-line movements which are in the forefront of this more aggressive attempt at carrying their message. "Splinter groups" they called them, which I think is apt. These people are fanatics and everyone else sees them as such, including most gun owners.

Many more moderate and reasonable gun advocates suggest the surreptitious approach. The talk of incrementalism and gaining ground gradually. They propose these methods for good reasons. When their ideas are examined out in the open, when the spotlight of reasonable scrutiny is placed upon their ideas, they appear exactly as they are: self-serving nonsense.

The problem is this self-serving nonsense has a big downside. Due to their desperate efforts to not be inconvenienced, guns are flowing like the Mighty Mississippi into the hands of criminals. Plus a small but not insignificant percentage of the lawful gun owners themselves are committing crimes. The overall result is the laughing stock of the entire world. America, which used to be synonymous with freedom and opportunity is now associated with out-of-control gun violence.

It's no wonder the more reasonable and intelligent gun rights advocates think the open carry demonstrations are a mistake. I agree. They will bring attention to a situation that cries out for correction.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Free Speech or Sedition

Joe Klein wrote a wonderfully succinct post on Swampland.

On the Chris Mathews Show Sunday, I said that some of the right-wing infotainment gasbags--people like Glenn Beck etc.--were nudging up close to the edge of sedition. This has caused a bit of a self-righteous ruckus on the right. Let me be clear: dissent isn't sedition. Questioning an Administration's policies isn't sedition. But questioning an Administration's legitimacy in a manner intended to undermine or overthrow it certainly is. A rally like this yesterday in South Carolina is a good example of seditious speech. It's not illegal--unless actions are taken to overthrow the government in question--but it is disgraceful and the precise opposite of patriotism in a democracy.
This is something that keeps coming up. Where is the line between patriotism and treason? We looked at it when we discussed the Oath Keepers, and it came up in a big way in the Adkisson case.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chicago Gun Violence

Incredibly, what some people say is that Chicago needs more guns and fewer gun control laws. Does that make sense to you? When you consider that every one of those guns used for criminal violence started out as a legally owned forearm sold by a legitimate gun dealer, you have to wonder about that.

I say, not only Chicago, but all the other States need much stricter gun control laws. The fact that the already existing laws are not preventing these spurts of violence is not evidence that those laws should be abandoned but rather that they should be strengthened and applied everywhere and enforced.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

The NYT on the Loophole

The New York Times published an editorial commemorating the 11th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

Two rallies by gun rights celebrants and anti- government polemicists are planned Monday on both sides of Washington’s Potomac River. They will invoke the Second Amendment and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. A more apt, and tragic, anniversary to keep in mind is the Columbine school massacre of 1999. Eleven years later, and Congress has failed to close the gun show loophole that made the carnage possible.

Two Columbine students had a friend obtain four high-powered weapons, no-questions-asked, from gun show “hobbyist” dealers, and then used them to kill 12 children and a teacher. Since then, the gun lobby and its all-too-willing Congressional enablers have managed to block all efforts to require buyers at weekend gun shows to undergo the same background checks required of buyers at federally registered gun shops.

Polls show the public favors closing the gun show loophole by a wide margin, but the people’s right to safety is nothing when compared with the gun lobby’s clout.

At a park in Virginia just across from the nation’s capital, marchers will be openly strutting with their weapons, as the state’s “open carry” law permits. Participants at the other rally on the National Mall are being told that it is illegal to flash guns, so they must dare to leave them home. Just up the Hill in Congress, the gun lobby’s ever-compliant caucus is fighting that ban too.

One hundred or so lawmakers have shown more courage and sense, signing on to a bill — sponsored by Representatives Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York, and Michael Castle, Republican of Delaware — to close the gun show loophole. It is hard to imagine the founding patriots would not support this legislation. It demands the political courage to value human life over the bravado of the gun culture.

I can see why gun owners don't like the New York Times, the paper which is perhaps the most renowned in the entire world for its quality reporting. But, when they say things like "the people’s right to safety is nothing when compared with the gun lobby’s clout," you've got to expect a certain animosity from the gun crowd.

I also liked it when they said, "to value human life over the bravado of the gun culture" takes "political courage."

What's your opinion?

Still No Loophole Closure

ABC News reports on the total lack of progress in Virginia in closing the gun show loophole.

It has been three years since Omar Samaha last saw his sister Reema alive. Reema was one of 32 victims whose life was taken in the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech University. This weekend marks the third anniversary.

Images of Reema dancing the weekend before the attacks are still fresh in her family's mind.

"It's nothing you really get over," family member Nina Samaha-Reiten said.

And three years later, Reema's family is also not over the fight; the fight to close what many consider a glaring loophole in Virginia's gun laws.

It is called the gun show "loophole" and as it exists, anyone can buy a gun from a private dealer without a background check.

And early this week, just one day before the third anniversary, three Virginia congressmen, urged their colleagues to reconsider closing the loophole.

I guess in the home state of the NRA, the same state where the governor went to Pat Robertson's University, we shouldn't expect much more. But, I find it surprising that gun owners themselves don't make this happen. The more they resist background checks for all gun transfers the more the rest of their arguments fall under suspicion. It's hard to believe they can be so selfish and self-centered that in order to not be inconvenienced themselves they would allow something like this to go on.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

The Canadian General's Rifle

The Gazette reports on this fascinating incident.
Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan is under investigation after his rifle fired unexpectedly at Kandahar Airfield. In a highly unusual move, Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard approached media on the base yesterday to explain the incident, which did not result in any injuries or property damage. The commander said he felt compelled to come forward in the name of openness.

He said the incident occurred March 25. As he was loading his weapon - something he's done thousands of times before - the rifle went off.

Do you think this was one of those anthropomorphic guns the gun rights folks are always accusing us of talking about? Or is this the old tricky attempt to minimize the stupidity of the gun owner?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Open Carry Discrimination

Open Carrier Discrimination
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Back from the Shadow of the Volcano

I'll never make fun of you "be prepared" and "take precautions" types again. I have learned my lesson. While in Paris on business, continually watching out for meteorites and concealed-carry guys on the verge of a nervous breakdown, little did I know my true enemy was a volcano.

Ever on the lookout for innovative solutions, my colleagues and I made our escape in a borrowed car, slipped through the longest tunnel in the world (I think) and made it back to sunny Italia.

The lesson: one can never be too prepared.