Tag Archives: 2nd Amendment

#Enough Thoughts and Prayers, rights aren’t necessarily conveniences

Mass Shooting Victims

The photos of the victims of mass killings in this country show the faces of America. White, black, brown, gay, straight, men, and women. From the very young to the elderly.  And they all died too soon at the hands of those who could arm themselves with lethal weapons without any inconvenience.

The 2nd Amendment says we all have the right to keep and bear arms … there is NO mention in the Amendment that purchasing firearms has to be “convenient.”

The gun fetishists among us cry that their “rights are infringed” if they are to be inconvenienced in any way when purchasing or procuring lethal weapons. They cite their imaginary well greased slippery slope to full tilt gun control.

And, lo! cry the fetishists and their allies, any imposition of a burden of responsibility is a denial of our civil liberties.  But, wait a minute. It is inconvenient to register to vote – however, that’s the inconvenience we accept to prevent voter impersonation.  It’s inconvenient to edit and fact check news articles – but that’s the inconvenience we accept as part of the freedom of the press to avoid charges of libel.

It is inconvenient for government officials to get search warrants, but that’s the balance we have to prevent unlawful searches and seizures.  It’s inconvenient for the judicial system that a person may not be compelled to testify against himself – but that’s the inconvenience we accept to make the system work under constitutional principles.

How easy it appears to be to have advocates of the implementation of the Patriot Act speaking of national surveillance, and justifying those National Security Letters, while bemoaning the restrictions on those included on the terrorist watch list who seek to purchase lethal weapons.

If we didn’t infer “convenience” in the 2nd Amendment, then might we have fewer suicides, fewer murders, fewer mass shootings and killings.  Fewer funerals, fewer remembrances, fewer tragedies, and a much safer society?

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Filed under Congress, conservatism, gay issues, Gun Issues, Hate Crimes, Senate, terrorism

The Manufactured Martyrs: Nevada’s Bundyland Bunch

Bundy 2

There are specious arguments, and then there are those which are just downright hysterical. Hysterically funny or screaming tantrums hysterical;  the defense of the Bundy Bunch looks to fit into both those categories.

Cliven Bundy wants to be released from Federal custody because the government is holding him as a Political Prisoner?  At least according to attorney Joel Hansen:

“The government seems to be afraid that it might lose in a jury trial, so it wants to keep him in prison, in solitary confinement, as long as it can because he, like Nelson Mandela, is a political prisoner,” Hansen wrote. “There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution allowing the federal government to hold political prisoners without a trial. Nothing.” [LVRJ]

For those unfamiliar with the right wing of Nevada’s right wing politics, Joel Hansen is part of the Hansen Family Party, aka the Independent American Party which boasts 70,323 registered voters in Nevada, making it the third largest party in the state. The numbers sound impressive until it’s noted that there are 585,890 registered Democrats and 493,612 registered Republicans; and, 295,319 registered as non-partisan. [NV SoS]  As recently as 2002 the Hansen family was the heart of the IAP in Nevada, and members were running for all manner of offices – some inviting controversy with then Secretary of State Dean Heller by not filing campaign financial reports with his office. [LVSun]

So, where does Joel Hansen find the justification for comparing failing rancher Cliven Bundy with international hero Mandela?  We can start with the IAP Platform:

“We believe that to maintain freedom, our political institutions must be founded upon faith in God and upon moral laws and principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution for the United States, the Bill of Rights, and the Holy Scriptures.  We believe that the function of government is to protect life, liberty, property, and the fundamental and God-given rights of the people, and that anything more than this is usurpation and oppression.” [IAP

And they do mean Anything, including the management of federal land and properties.

We oppose intrusion of the federal government in areas that rightfully belong to the states.  We favor abolishing federal control of all lands, except for necessary forts, military bases, post offices, etc., as enumerated in, but limited by, the Constitution.  We support the return to the states of all lands unconstitutionally seized, acquired or controlled by the federal government (10th Amendment), and those taken unconstitutionally as “required” for that state to join the Union. [IAP]

Indeed, manufacturing martyrs requires believing that federal management of federal facilities, and federal lands, constitutes “usurpation and oppression.”

Further, the Hansen-Bundy philosophy requires looping into the realm of a fantasy in which the armed resistance to BLM operations, and the armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge meets the definition of a “peaceful protest.”  Additionally, it’s still a peaceful protest even if it was originally estimated to cost $3.3 million to clean up the mess made at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and then the estimate increased to approximately $6 million by March 23, 2016. [OregonLive]  Evidently, abandoned homes, compromised bank accounts, and death threats to workers at the Malheur Refuge were part of a “peaceful protest?” [OregonLive]

Cliven Bundy’s problems, however, stem not from the Malheur assault and occupation – that bundle falls to his offspring — but from his response to BLM attempts to enforce federal regulations on lands it is tasked to manage near Bunkerville, NV.

“Bundy faces 16 felony counts, including extortion, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer and using and carrying a firearm in a crime of violence.

Bundy and 18 others — including four of his sons, Ammon, Ryan, Melvyn and David — were charged in a new federal indictment in Las Vegas last week in connection with the April 12, 2014, Bunkerville showdown.” [LVRJ]

Bundy Armed

Photos from the Bunkerville “peaceful protest” don’t seem to argue for an interpretation of a  non-violent approach to discussing issues of cattle operations with the Bureau of Land Management.

 

Hansen and his client have a bit of a problem trying to turn the actions at Bunkerville into Bunker Hill.  Either the demonstrations at the site were peaceful, and none of the armed gunmen actually intended to fire their weapons, or it was a exemplar of armed resistance to the Federal oppressors and usurpers – at which time it’s no longer a “peaceful protest,” and that part about “obstruction of justice,” and “threatening law enforcement officers” is  both relevant and provable.

Hansen: “Does Mr. Bundy have the right to raise a constitutional question about the legality of the high-handed tactics of the BLM?” Hansen asked in his court papers. “Of course he does — and particularly by making statements about the actions of the BLM and by the exercise of people’s First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and the people’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” [LVRJ]

By this logic, if one were to show up at a BLM office, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, fully loaded, and pointed at the personnel inside, this would be “making a statement?” Exercising freedom of speech? And, just showing support for the 2nd Amendment?  This ought to explain fully and quickly precisely how the sons decided that taking over a wildlife refuge was a “good idea.”   It goes nowhere toward explaining how attorney and IAP pillar Joel Hansen is going to turn the muggers into martyrs.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, public lands

I’m Tired: Of Defeatist Gun Glorifiers.

Blood splatter Another week another mass shooting, and yet another round of the old tired clichéd talking points from the defeatist – demoralized – ammosexuals. 

#1.  “Oregon has strict gun safety laws and the incident happened in Oregon, therefore gun laws don’t work.” No matter how many times another state or municipality is inserted into this framework it’s still the southbound product of a northbound bull.    Not sure? Go to this report of a study of the subject.

#2.The shooter was a ___________”  Another dropping of “product.”  I don’t care if the shooter was a bright green aubergine striped believer in the Great Pumpkin.  The shooter was able to secure lethal firepower all too easily and the entities which allowed him to do so are not held accountable in any meaningful way.

#3.It’s the parent’s responsibility to instruct and acculturate their children.”  Yes, and too many have decided on instructing children in the use of firearms without teaching the elements of responsibility thereof and  have begat another generation, some members of which think using a firearm is a way to vent, rage, and settle domestic disputes.  Again – more bull “product.”

#4.  “Banning guns leaves citizens unprotected.”  More male bovine “product.”  Really? Unprotected from what? Criminals? A gun in the home is more likely to be used in a crime, an accident, or a suicide than it will be to protect the Castle.  Need some real information? Try here.

#5.The shooter was mentally ill.”  This piece of “product” usually comes up when the shooter is a white male.  (Other shooters are Black (thugs), Muslim (terrorists) or if brownish (Un-American.)  So, I ask, what was a mentally ill individual doing with a lethal weapon?  Did a parent allow access? Did a store fail to run a background check? Did a private seller not perform due diligence?  Did the state legislature decide that only those who have been adjudicated mentally ill would be precluded from obtaining lethal weapons?

Ok, enough of the NRA publicity points, enough southbound product of northbound bulls.  We can, and should, make every effort to make our country safer.  We will never achieve perfection, but if we listen to the demoralizing, defeatist ammosexuals we’ll never even try.  We can do something:

  • Require universal background checks for firearm purchases. All firearm purchases.
  • Legislate to limit the practice of straw purchases of firearms.
  • Legislate to limit the amount of purchases.  One gun per month seems reasonable.  A person would have every right to purchase guns, just not all at once.
  • Limit the magazine capacity. 
  • Ban the sale of assault rifles.  Soldiers need them, civilians don’t.
  • Keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.
  • Fund and assist scientific studies into the causation and effects of gun violence.
  • Repeal liability immunity for gun manufacturers, in short make them as responsible for their product and any other manufacturers.
  • Enact safe storage laws.
  • Pledge to vote against any politician supported by the NRA, the Shooting Sports Foundation, Gun Owners of America, or any other manufacturing lobby promoting the sales of lethal weapons in this country.

If the defeatist, demoralizing, gun enthusiasts want to keep spouting their talking points, want to keep making excuses for doing nothing – fine, however I’m tired of their defeatism, their demoralization, their ranting, and their irrationality.  We cannot achieve perfection, but we can certainly do something to make this country and its citizens safer.

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Dunce of the Day: Open Carry At High School

Embody There’s dumb, and then there’s dumber.  Leonard Embody, from the Nashville area, likes to pack his gun around so everyone can see it.  He’s a registered nurse, a licensed firearms dealer, and an avowed ammosexual.  Leonard has been actively flashing his gun since at least 2009 when he decided his 2nd Amendment ‘rights’ allowed him to pack heat in a state park. [ExCLS]  And now Leonard is unapologetic for scaring the bejeezus out of parents at Hillsboro High School.  [WSMV] [TPM]

“Witnesses say Embody was pacing Hillsboro Road, dressed much like a soldier, and it had a lot of people nervous. So nervous that 911 dispatchers had their hands full.

“He had a rifle across his back, and a Go Pro attached to his chest. I just thought that was kind of peculiar,” one caller said.” [WSMV]

Now what could possibly have alarmed those witnesses? Armed man? Dressed sort of  like a soldier? Rifle on his back? High School?  Columbine? Sandy Hook? Aurora?  Ready to film his adventures with his Go Pro? 

One parent interviewed by the television station was equally adamant:

“However, mothers like Telisha Cobb say doing this in front of a school is crossing the line.

“That man may not be worried about the epidemic of school shootings in our country, but moms and dads are, and we won’t tolerate this behavior,” Cobb said.” [WSMV]

And then the scary part continues as Embody explains himself:

Embody said he’ll continue making the rounds, defending the Second Amendment, no matter who it offends.

“I don’t think I look terrifying. Other people may think I look terrifying, but that’s in their own minds and that’s something they should deal with … with maybe a psychologist,” Embody said.

Metro school officials said their resource officers were aware of Embody’s demonstration, and had he set foot on campus, they would have arrested him. [WSMV]

Little wonder Mrs. Cobb is disturbed, as long as Leonard stays a step off campus he’s perfectly free to terrify anyone he likes, children and adults alike, because Tennessee is an Open Carry state.  He’s quite free to acclimatize children to the sight of a person carrying a firearm close to a school building, and equally free to ignore the possible consequences of doing so.  What happens when it’s NOT Leonard out there on the sidewalks?

Leonard Embody – Our Dunce of the Day!

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Locked and Unloaded: Part Two – Drilling Down To Details

Nevada LegislatureWhen last we left this topic, the Nevada gun access statute was included with samples of gun storage laws from Massachusetts and California.

Let’s take a closer look at the Nevada statutes and examine some of the weaker points.

 NRS41.472 Imposition of liability for minor’s negligence or willful misconduct regarding firearm.
1. If a parent, guardian or other person legally responsible for a minor under the age of 18 years:
(a) Knows that the minor has previously been adjudicated delinquent or has been convicted of a criminal offense;
(b) Knows that the minor has a propensity to commit violent acts; or
(c) Knows or has reason to know that the minor intends to use the firearm for unlawful purposes,

and permits the minor to use or possess a firearm, any negligence or willful misconduct of the minor in connection with such use or possession is imputed to the person who permits such use or possession for all purposes of civil damages, and, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection 2 of NRS 41.470, that person is jointly and severally liable with the minor for any and all damages caused by such negligence or willful misconduct.

Notice in this statute there are  elements which must be established BEFORE a parent or guardian can be liable for any and all damage caused by a child who gets access to a firearm from the house.  The parent or guardian must know that the child has been held as delinquent by a court or has been convicted of a criminal offense AND knows that the youngster has a propensity for violence AND has prior knowledge that the youngster intends unlawful harm.

In summary — it’s all just a tragic accident for which the victims have no recourse in  court unless the parents of a juvenile delinquent, who are fully aware the scion has a propensity for violence, knows in advance that said offspring had grabbed the family firearm for the purpose of committing an unlawful act — assault, battery, homicide… If this sounds irrationally narrow, it’s because it is.

The first problem with this narrow statute is that it appears to absolve the parents of a youngster under the age of seven from all liability, since Nevada defines an “infant” as a person less than seven and therefore has no criminal liability for anything.   Thus, if a child under the age of seven is playing with a neighbor’s child and the “infant” gets hold of a gun and shoots the playmate — the parents or guardians of the “infant shooter” are not liable for the damage because the child cannot be a delinquent (being too young) and therefore cannot have been convicted of any criminal offense.

For a  child between the ages of 7 and 14 there is a “rebuttable presumption of no criminal intent.”  In other words, the burden is on the prosecution.

There is more comfort to the grieving in NRS 202.300 which specifically addresses children and guns, the first segment of which says:

“Except as otherwise provided in this section, a child under the age of 18 years shall not handle or have in his or her possession or under his or her control, except while accompanied by or under the immediate charge of his or her parent or guardian or an adult person authorized by his or her parent or guardian to have control or custody of the child, any firearm of any kind for hunting or target practice or for other purposes. A child who violates this subsection commits a delinquent act and the court may order the detention of the child in the same manner as if the child had committed an act that would have been a felony if committed by an adult.”

The liability now attaches to the child.  What of the parents? The statute continues:

“3. A person does not aid or knowingly permit a child to violate subsection 1 if:
(a)The firearm was stored in a securely locked container or at a location which a reasonable person would have believed to be secure;
(b) The child obtained the firearm as a result of an unlawful entry by any person in or upon the premises where the firearm was stored;
(c) The injury or death resulted from an accident which was incident to target shooting, sport shooting or hunting; or
(d) The child gained possession of the firearm from a member of the military or a law enforcement officer, while the member or officer was performing his or her official duties.
4. The provisions of subsection 1 do not apply to a child who is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States.
5. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 8, a child who is 14 years of age or older, who has in his or her possession a valid license to hunt, may handle or have in his or her possession or under his or her control, without being accompanied by his or her parent or guardian or an adult person authorized by his or her parent or guardian to have control or custody of the child:…”

Take a second look at this part: “The firearm was stored in a securely locked container or at a location which a reasonable person would have believed to be secure…” What would a “reasonable person” think was secure?  In the back of a dark closet? In a cabinet above the refrigerator? Where?  The last time the Nevada Legislature took a look at this problem came with the introduction of AB 192 on February 10, 1999.

AB 192 (1999) proposed the following change: “(3a)The firearm was stored in a securely locked container or at a location which the person believed or had reason to believe was secure;…”   There’s a nuanced difference between “securely locked container or at a location which a reasonable person would have believed to be secure,” and requiring a rational belief that the storage was indeed secure.  At any rate the change was too much for the 1999 Legislature and AB 192 went to the Committee on the Judiciary and was seen no more.  Subsequent sessions of the Nevada Legislature haven’t seen the introduction of any bill to modify NRS 202.300.

Another alternative to the blanket “infancy defense for parents” comes in the form of the willful and wanton disregard of the safety 0f others” statute.

NRS 202.595 Performance of act or neglect of duty in willful or wanton disregard of safety of persons or property; penalty. Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by statute and except under the circumstances described in NRS 484B.653, a person who performs any act or neglects any duty imposed by law in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property shall be punished:  1. If the act or neglect does not result in the substantial bodily harm or death of a person, for a gross misdemeanor.   2. If the act or neglect results in the substantial bodily harm or death of a person, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

However, there isn’t much help here for victims of gun violence committed by children.  The neglect of duty must be “willful or wanton.”

And here we come to the second problem:  In order for the parents to be liable for the endangerment of others it must be demonstrated that their neglect must be beyond accidental. “It must be knowing and intentionally committed, or committed under circumstances evincing reckless disregard of the safety of the injured persons.” {Blacks Dict}

What does  reckless mean? Usually it means a person consciously disregards “a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the actor’s conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law abiding person would observe…”  {Blacks Dict}

Now we have to ponder: What happens when our little playmates, both less than seven years of age, find a firearm in the house — “hidden” in the back of a closet —  if the neighbor’s child is injured (or Heaven forefend, killed) in the act of “playing with the gun,” is it “willful, wanton, and reckless” for the parents to have assumed the firearm was safely secured?

There’s plenty of time between now and the opening of the 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature to consider some of the following questions:

#1.  Is it fair to the victims of gun violence perpetrated by minors that practically no liability attaches to their parents or legal guardians for the actions of their children?

#2. If the answer to the first question is “no,” then what are the appropriate modifications to NRS 41.472 to remediate that? What modifications should be made to NRS 200.300.

#3. Would we be less likely to read or watch reports of accidental shootings of children, or shootings by children if NRS 200.300 were amended to require parents or guardians to store firearms in locked containers, with ammunition kept in a separate location? Even if such a requirement did not immediately lead to fewer tragedies, would the modification of NRS 200.300 offer the victims better recourse to the law in the instance of a shooting tragedy?

Such modifications will surely be met with the usual intransigence of the NRA and its allies, however, this is really not a 2nd Amendment issue.  No one would be prohibited from gun ownership by adopting any modifications or improvements on our current “access and storage” statutes — gun owners would simply be required to store weaponry more safely and securely.

Another common complaint from gun enthusiasts is that these laws are unenforceable.  That would depend upon the perception of enforcement — if in the wake of a tragedy such as took place recently at Sparks Middle School, and in 2006 at Pine Middle School, parents were held liable for the actions of their children might not more parents and guardians be inclined to more securely store firearms to avoid enhanced liability?

Those who purport to advocate on behalf of the victims of crime, and especially those victimized by gun violence, should be moved to consider how we might offer those victims more legal options for holding accountable those who make firearms all too accessible to youngsters who have not the maturity and judgment necessary to comprehend the nature of their actions.

Indeed, if we are going to attach the words “accountability” and “responsibility” to various and sundry issues associated with individual behavior, then it behooves us to start holding those individuals who allow juveniles access to firearms responsible and accountable.

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A Little Gun Sanity in Nevada: SB 221 Passes Senate

Guns The Nevada Progressive has been following SB 221 (pdf) in the Nevada Legislature.  The bill to require background checks for gun purchases passed the State Senate on a party line 11-10 vote May 22, 2013.  The Legislative Counsel summarizes the core of the bill as follows:

 “Existing law authorizes a private person who wishes to transfer a firearm to another person to request the Central Repository to perform a background check on the person who wishes to acquire the firearm. (NRS 202.254) Section 8 of this bill requires, with certain exceptions which are set forth in section 7.8 of this bill, that a private person who wishes to transfer a firearm to another person request that a federally licensed firearms dealer submit a request for a background check to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”  (Abstract here)

This shouldn’t be too difficult a bill to comprehend. There are just a few categories of individuals who cannot legally obtain firearms in this state: Felons, Fugitives, Dangerously Mentally Ill, Undocumented Persons, and Minors.  Someone should probably add “individuals on the Terrorist Watch List?”  Be that as it may — these categories preclude gun ownership in the interest of public safety, except of course if these self-same individuals avail themselves of gun show parking lots, Internet sales, and other gun sellers and traffickers who don’t want to be bothered or inconvenienced with background checks.

Objections range from the bizarre to the banal.  Ammoland calls for opposition based on fearmongering:

“SB 221 will in effect create a registration system of all firearms transferred privately. This bill also makes revisions to Nevada law regarding mental health.  An individual who fails to comply with the new background check transfer requirements would be prohibited from possessing a firearm for a period of two years after being found guilty of a gross misdemeanor.”

Actually, that would be “no” — there is no registration system established in the bill.   Weasel words, like “in effect,” simply allow the writer latitude to assert — without substantiation — that any background check will start the rock rolling down the declivitous slope to Registration.

The Daily Caller is a bit more rabid on the subject:

“SB 221 carries severe penalties for violations that could result in a loss of Second Amendment rights. An individual who fails to comply with the new background check transfer requirements would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and prohibited from possessing a firearm for a period of two years. The second offense would be a felony, resulting in loss of Second Amendment rights.”

Yes, people who violate the law, whether the statute refers to a misdemeanor or a felony, usually lose rights.  Commit a felony in Nevada and a person loses all manner of rights. For example, felons must follow the provisions of NRS 213.155 in order to vote.   There is a large difference between “losing a right” and common sense restrictions on “rights” such that liberty doesn’t devolve into license.   This concept is often missed on the radical right during discussions of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Flashback

There are no other rights specified in the U.S. Constitution which are not subject to common sense restrictions.   Free speech does not support slander. Free press does not allow libel.  Freedom of religion doesn’t allow a person to practice human sacrifice. Freedom of assembly doesn’t mean mobs can riot at will.  My home may be my castle — but if my neighbor sees stolen goods in my garage and calls the police none of my 4th Amendment rights are violated.  I can’t be tried twice for the same crime, but if I rob three different house the District Attorney may be pleased to try me for three separate crimes, and nothing in the 5th Amendment would prevent that.

The 8th Amendment says I can’t be subjected to “excessive bail,” but if I commit a truly heinous — Headline News worthy — crime of the century, nothing prevents the judge from assigning a bail for which I don’t have the funds in my checking account.

Even the 13th Amendment, the one prohibiting involuntary servitude, has limits.  Should I be convicted by a jury of my peers of my Headline News worthy crime of the month, then I can expect to be “serving” the state, if not breaking up rocks or making license plates, then in some other tasks assigned to me.

In short, as discussed previously,  there are no Constitutional rights which don’t require some level of personal responsibility.   Extrapolated to its conclusion the “Second Amendment” exceptionalism would reduce us to medieval entities, each armed to the maximum, each assured of perhaps not so much the righteousness of its cause but its efficacy in arms.  Even a rather conservative U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t taken the Second Amendment interpretation to these absurd extremes.

The Right Question

The essential question before the Nevada Legislature is whether or not we want  felons, fugitives, the dangerously mentally ill, undocumented persons, and juveniles to have convenient access to deadly weapons?

The sane answer would be NO.  The sane vote in the Nevada Assembly on SB 221 would be YES.

More News From Gun Land

Meanwhile the tragedies compound —

“The Lyon County sheriff’s office is investigating the shooting death of a juvenile in Dayton over the weekend.  Deputies say a preliminary investigation suggests it was an accidental shooting.  Officers say they were called to the scene on Riverpark Parkway about 11 a.m. Sunday. No other details have been released. The names of those involved are being withheld because of their ages.” [RGJ]

“Authorities were searching for at least two gunmen who walked up to the door of a Northern California home and opened fire, killing a 10-year-old girl and injuring her parents.

“Whoever these gunmen were, they were directly outside the front door,” Sacramento County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jason Ramos said Sunday. “This was not a drive-by. These gunmen approached the house and shot inside.” [Las Vegas Sun]

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera has taken it upon himself to catalog incidents of gun violence in the U.S.  The entries are depressing, but informative.  If even a few of the tragic incidents logged in Nocera’s Gun Reports could have been prevented by expanding background checks then we would be able to reduce the level of the misery meter for families across this country.

Better still, if we could bring ourselves to (1) ban military style assault weapons, (2) limit ammunition capacity, (3) enact provisions in statute concerning the safe storage of firearms, and (4) prevent more gun trafficking from states with lenient to non-existent gun regulations to urban and suburban neighborhoods, then Nocera’s reports could be diminished significantly.  IF.

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The Ultimate Silliness of the Unrestricted Rights Argument

ConstitutionAs the Nevada Legislature considers three bills today from the NRA/ALEC offerings (easing restrictions on concealed carry permits, and allowing firearms on campuses) [TBN]  A person can only hope  that the most inane argument possible won’t be expounded on behalf of their passage.   It goes like this: “We have a RIGHT to bear arms.”

Yes, you and I do.  However, to argue that this particular “right” is so essential as to preclude any restriction is — no matter how it’s considered — is ludicrous. There are NO rights without some restrictions predicated by responsibility.

We have the right of Free Speech.  However, nothing in the First Amendment allows  me to slander another individual.  Likewise, nothing in that august Amendment offers me any succor if I indulge in such irresponsible behavior as to cause immediate danger to others — in the classic expression: I cannot yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater just to see what might happen for my own infantile amusement.

We have a Free Press.  What we do not have is the permission to engage in libel.   NRS 200.510 is quite clear about this:

“A libel is a malicious defamation, expressed by printing, writing, signs, pictures or the like, tending to blacken the memory of the dead, or to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation, or to publish the natural defects of a living person or persons, or community of persons, or association of persons, and thereby to expose them to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.”

Thus if I’m inclined to publish something maliciously lying in order to make someone or some group contemptuous, then neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Statutes of Nevada will support this kind of juvenile behavior.

We have the right to peaceably assemble.  Indeed we do, however if we “peaceably” assemble in a crowded intersection during rush hour, we’re going to get removed.   No one in his or her right mind is going to laud our endeavors, and our fellow highly irritated citizens will no doubt be more inclined to cheer the police officers who remove the unsafe bottle-neck we’re creating in traffic.   We may picket a location, but we cannot block a location. We may assemble in crowds as large as a Presidential Inauguration on the Mall or as small as a street corner protest — but whatever the size we are to behave ourselves as responsible persons.

We may exercise our freedom of religion.  However, we do not countenance sacrificing virgins, or even small animals.  No matter how much we may crave beneficent winds in our sails, it is unseemly (and unprotected) to sacrifice any Iphigenia on our own altars of Aulis.   Nevada law has an entire chapter (574) devoted to protecting animals.  We can’t leave pets unattended in hot motor vehicles (NRS 574.195) much less offer them up to appease the gods.

We may petition the government to redress our grievances.   Petitions were a hotly contested item during the English Civil Wars when the monarch was pleased to ignore all such requests, until forced to do so by cannons.  We’ve had a rough history with this right — especially when the Congress of the U.S. decided it would hear no more petitions from Abolitionists in regard to the issue of slavery and instituted the Gag Rule.   The elimination of the Gag Rule requires a government to read a petition — it doesn’t require that it act upon it.   There are limits.

Note that even in the 3rd Amendment which restrains any government from housing military personnel in private homes is limited by the phrase “but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

The 4th Amendment allows us freedom from “unreasonable” searches and seizures by authorities.  It doesn’t allow a person to stockpile a collection of purloined merchandise in a garage the door to which is wide open and the stolen property is there for any and all to see.  Nor would the provisions of the 4th Amendment allow protection from having a neighbor report shipments of stolen property arriving for storage in the garage.

The 5th Amendment introduces some of our judicial rights: No double jeopardy, no prosecution without  a presentment or indictment, no deprivation of life or property without due process of law, and no property taken without just compensation, no self incrimination.    However much we have taken the Double Jeopardy idea to heart, nothing prevents the D.A. from filing separate counts of murder if there is more than one victim.  There is no self-incrimination required, but nothing in modern law prevents a spouse from testifying if it’s voluntary.  We can appeal a decision to have property seized, and appeal the level of compensation, but we probably can’t get away with charging a local government $12 billion for our shack which is about to get “re-developed” in a neighborhood improvement plan.   Again, there are limits.

The 6th Amendment extends our judicial rights: Speedy and public trials, impartial juries, information about the charges, confrontation of witnesses, subpoena power for witnesses on our behalf, assistance of counsel.  Once more there are limits.  A person has a right to counsel, but not necessarily to the highest priced white shoe law firm available.  The accused has a right to confront witnesses, but this has been augmented by video testimony in situations in which the witness is too fragile to attend court, or too emotionally vulnerable (as in children) to face a packed courtroom.   Amendment 7 lists another judicial right, that to a trial by jury for civil cases, and the guarantee that appeals courts will adhere to the rules of common law.   So, there are supposed to be 12 jurors?  Not necessarily, since Colgrove v. Battin it’s been permissible to have 6 jurors in civil juries.  [CRS/LII]

Amendment 8 forbids excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.   There was a time when a person could get 5 years hard labor for stealing an umbrella, or three for stealing a rasher of bacon in the U.K. [Telegraph] There was a time in this country during which horse theft would result in capital punishment.  What is “cruel and unusual” is a matter of continual debate.   Would bail set so high that an accused criminal could not possibly provide it be considered “excessive,” or a polite way to tell the murderer-rapist he’s not going anywhere before trial? We assume that these questions and definitions are subject to interpretation, and are not literal reminders to return to the days of public hangings, whipping posts, and hanging for horse theft.

In short, not one of the first 8 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution is considered so sacrosanct that it is not subject to limitations and interpretations.  At least not in reasonable circles.

The unreasonable ones have an alternate theory of Constitutional development in which the 2nd Amendment is the foundation of the others.  If so, then why is it second?  Or, more rationally, if it is considered foundational then are there no other, less violent, measures assumed for the furtherance and maintenance of American rights?  The answer, of course, is that there are.

You have the Right to Vote.   Any question regarding the structure and content of the U.S. Constitution is put to a VOTE, including the 2nd Amendment.  Amendments may be added, we added 27 of them.  Amendments may be repealed, we’ve repealed one of them, the 18th (Prohibition).   The inclusion of enumerated rights depends not upon who wins the Battle of the Capitol Mall, but upon which side marshals the best arguments and secures the most votes for a proposition.

The propensity to indulge in armed violence to maintain a “right” does not indicate that the urge is synonymous with the founding principle of American democracy — only that some people are perfectly willing to use violence in order to perpetuate a provision.   We have, indeed, fought to preserve the liberties listed in the Bill of Rights, and our Constitutional form of government, World War II being one of the best examples.  We fought, and survived, a heinous Civil War to preserve our form of federalism.  We did not necessarily engage in warfare to preserve an individual’s right to fight.

Flights of Fantasy

Some of the most fantastical arguments for the unlimited and literal interpretation of our 2nd Amendment are based in hypothetical terms the validity of which are wide open to critique.  What if the Government Came To Take Our Guns?  A possibility NO ONE is seriously suggesting.  What if the Iranians, the North Koreans, the Arabs, the Chinese, or any other popular bogeymen du jour invades us?    This isn’t going to happen if we’re getting what we pay for in terms of national defense:

US military spending

We have 11 aircraft carriers, 22 cruisers, 61 destroyers, 26 frigates, 53 submarines, and other craft to a total of 285 vessels. [USNavy]  Spain and Italy each have 2 aircraft carriers, everyone else has one to none. [GFP] And, the Iranians and North Koreans are going to do what?

Only in the per-fervid imaginings of screenwriters and those who have some difficulty determining the difference between fiction and non-fiction are we facing any immediate threat from anyone anywhere.  Theirs are gossamer dreams of gore and glamor  more congenial to Hollywood gadget movies than to any form of life as we know it.

And Temper Tantrums

The only other explanation offered for an armed citizenry at the ready to fight off the Intruder is more readily aligned with childish temper tantrums than practical politics.   On a personal level, I was about as happy with the Bush Administration as I was with the prospect of multiple  root canals without benefit of anesthetics.  However, I had, and used, the best tool available to reject the policies of that Administration — my vote.    I felt no need to run to the nearest gun retailer, no need to gather an arsenal.  My vote was sufficient.   If I am not well pleased with the policies and legislation put forward by any administration I have the first tool in the box to display my disagreement — my vote.  However, I am not, nor will I ever be the Center of the Universe, I share this country with 330,000,000 others.   Some will agree, and others not.  Should a majority of my fellow citizens disagree with me what do I do?  I wait for the next election.

The only thing on offer from those who need the porous bulwarks of imagination to justify their need for armed resistance every time some bit of legislation is not to their liking is a dazzling display of how little faith they have in this country and its political institutions.   How depressing to think that there people so disengaged from our civic life that they’ve convinced themselves violent rebellion is better than civil participation.  How dejecting the prospect that they believe their right to bear arms is more imperative than their right to vote?

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