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Archive for November, 2014

Let’s Put A Tired Argument To Sleep…
by Guardian

I recently got into a brief discussion on the topic of firearms with a friend of mine. It involves the use of an old argument about gun owners and gun rights advocates being paranoid, overzealous nuts who think the whole world is in on an imagined conspiracy to forcibly confiscate all their guns. Many of you are probably already cracking a sardonic smile or rolling your eyes in exasperation at this. I know, because I was equally surprised and exasperated to see it being used, and found that a lot of the things this argument represented were deeply offensive, and that was part of what fueled this passionate discussion…

The backstory is straightforward enough. I posted this video to one of my social media accounts.

A casual friend of mine responded to it with this bit of wisdom from John Stewart.

I was surprised to see that this is still an argument/angle being used by the gun-control advocates. I thought the discourse had long since moved past such circular nonsense; but there it was for everyone to see. I didn’t respond right away, and after thinking for a moment I realized that there were a lot of things that were fundamentally offensive and flat out wrong about this approach to the debate on gun rights. That’s the real debate, not the one on TV wherein the media openly salivates over potential legislative repercussions to tragedies and certain commentators spend the ensuing weeks bullying and harassing guests.

My first reaction was that it is ironic that he should post this quote from Stewart when the video I had just posted shows that many people (or at least likely voters) would clearly be willing to support, or at least not oppose all kinds of atrocious things being done to gun owners; the very things that Stewart is mockingly dismissing. My initial response to my friend was to say that it is easy for modern day jesters like Stewart to point at people who are concerned over the very real erosion of our Second Amendment rights, and make fun of them, but as usual, he has nothing of any real substance to say. On this I was immediately challenged. My friend asked me to demonstrate that there is, in fact, a concerted effort to erode the Second Amendment. I thought briefly about the endless things I could go into, but opted for a shorter, pointed response; this clip from an interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein sprang to mind.

It was dismissed right away by my friend as being slightly dated (20 years old) and therefore irrelevant. I replied that I fail to see how this video of her is irrelevant, unless Feinstein no longer holds office in the US Senate? Or has her position changed, do you think? Her stated intent is pretty clear, and there are certainly others who would have openly supported such a measure both at the time of the interview and today. Nevertheless, my friend demanded I provide some other source for my paranoid delusions. I decided to dip into recent, local legislation and from there I got a little carried away.

We just passed a law in California that created a fast lane for people to have their guns confiscated. Just about anyone can say you’re unstable or want to hurt people, and can have a court order issued for a temporary seizure of all your guns. All of them. Confiscated. As in, the police literally search your home and take away all of your guns and ammunition and they get to keep them for a period of three weeks while they determine if you’re guilty of being unstable. What if you live in a bad neighborhood with a lot of break-ins? What if you have a stalker? What if you depend on your rifle/pistol to put food on the table and/or pay your bills? What if you have a psychotic ex-boyfriend who abused you? That really doesn’t matter to the court because they can now accept hearsay as a justification for disarming you. It’s not just flying in the face of multiple constitutional amendments, but it flies in the face of a fundamental principle of individual liberty: innocent until proven guilty.

Those of you that take a moderate stance or even a decidedly anti-gun stance: surely you wouldn’t like to see the government start creating categories of second class citizens…but maybe you think there are people who should have just a little bit fewer rights than the rest of us. The problem, as I see it, is that it reduces the rights of gun owners to a fair, due process. Police already have the authority to confiscate guns in the case that they receive reliable information about a person with problems. They can also already put people on a 72 hour psychiatric evaluation if they think they are a threat to others. This law isn’t going to make us any safer; it’s just going to be a thing that gets abused by divorce lawyers or crazed ex-boyfriends/girlfriends.

It’s a non-solution to a non-problem created by gun control advocates in the aftermath of that killing spree of the young man in Southern California at UC Santa Barbara. The police were told many times that he was a threat, had serious problems, and was armed, and they failed to act. It’s easier for the government to say “we need more power,” rather than to admit you screwed up and didn’t act. It was a knee-jerk reaction to a situation where our existing process just didn’t respond. Let’s also not forget that he didn’t just use guns to kill people in that spree; he used a car and (I think) a knife to kill/maim people. My point is that, even if we had all the gun control in the world and he was identified and disarmed long ago, that wouldn’t have magically prevented him from killing a bunch of people. In fact, he may have chosen to express his psychosis in other ways such as bombing or serial killing, and both have the potential to take far more lives than an isolated mass shooting.

At this point I was fired up, offended that my friend had not simply unthinkingly passed along a bit of nonsense from a popular funnyman, but had actually doubled down on what I had believed to be a dead argument, so I went further….

Screen-Shot-2014-10-16-at-7.49.02-AMA couple of towns in New York just got ousted for asking pistol permit applicants log into their Facebook pages and let a police officer poke around and make notes to send to the court. Later on, it came to light that they were also asking applicants to reactivate their Facebook pages if they had been deactivated for any reason (update). If it were anything else, like getting a permit to hold a small public rally, there would likely be national outrage at such an intrusion of privacy. Pundits would be lined up to talk about the overreach of government. Can you imagine if it had been instituted for a marriage license? What if it were an office in a courthouse of a state that prohibits gay marriage, and the officer just wanted to take a peek at what you’ve been up to on your social media. Now, I’m sure many of you are responding to this notion with a sentiment along the lines of,“well guns and marriage are not the same thing at all!” Just think about it for a minute. If we empower the government to take a look into the private lives and thoughts of people for one thing, then that power can certainly be given to them for another thing, or just abused in general. The recent scandal with the IRS targeting political groups comes readily to mind. Democrats and Republicans had a rare moment of agreement on that. If the IRS was abusing its power to regulate conservative non-profit groups, then it could certainly be done for left-wing groups as well.

We should also never forget that guns were needlessly, forcibly confiscated from people (without even getting receipts) on a massive scale in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. People who had done nothing wrong. To this day, many, if not most of those people still have not had their guns returned. There gunconfiscationwas a silver lining in that it prompted a major backlash that led many states to pass laws expressly forbidding the confiscation of guns in the event of natural disasters and emergencies, but other states have not done so and it could easily happen again under the right circumstances. Additionally, when California passed its own assault weapons ban, there were a few different kinds of guns that people were told they didn’t have to register. Sometime later on the state decided to retroactively classify them as assault weapons and demand they be either registered, turned over to police, or sold out of state. Not sure which specifically, but it was well documented and you can look it up at your leisure.

Even our earliest federal gun control laws are pretty clearly antiquated and served no real purpose other than to generate revenue and punish gun owners. Just look at anything from the 1934 National Firearms Act. We can have shotguns with barrels that are 18″ in length or longer, but if you get or make a barrel shorter than that, it’s a felony worth up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, unless you paid a special ($200!!) tax on it (do some quick inflation math on that and you’ll realize that $200 in 1934 was the equivalent of over $3000 today), did some paperwork, and waited a few months. How is that keeping us any safer? How is that anything other than a way to jerk gun owners around and trip them up, turning them into criminals? The NFA ‘34 also regulated machine guns. Here is a homework assignment for you readers; go and look up how many crimes have been committed with legally registered machine guns since 1934. And how many of those were violent? The regulation of machine guns has certainly put a dent in gun cri….oh wait. Nevermind.

At this point, my friend got a bit flustered with the novels I was pouring into the Facebook comments in response to his prompt. He said, quote, “So your saying there should be no gun regulation? I want a missile launcher. It’s basically a gun….” I have had many debates with anti-gun people and I have long since adopted a policy not to let myself get dragged into nonsense like this. I take comments like the above as a signal that they would like the rational, civil discussion to end, but at this point, another one of my friends (someone who is not opposed to gun rights but rarely has time to hear independent thought on the topic) had joined the discussion and I decided to make one last salient point for her benefit…

Did you know that it’s more than just a popular mantra when gun rights activists say things like ‘gun laws don’t work on criminals’. Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.52.03 AMRegistration, permits, licenses and background checks only apply to you if you’re not a criminal already. What? That probably doesn’t make sense to many of you. I found out that, for my friend, someone who is admittedly not very focused on firearms as a matter of politics and law, it was also quite a revelation. Let me explain:

The Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that convicted felons, or anyone prohibited from possessing firearms, can’t be tried or convicted of violating any of these various gun control schemes because it would constitute a violation of their Fifth Amendment rights. Even if you are a convicted criminal, you still enjoy many rights in this country and one of those is that you cannot be compelled to testify against yourself. Haynes, in his lawsuit, successfully argued that being prosecuted for failing to register his illegally possessed firearm would violate his Fifth Amendment rights. Look for yourself: Haynes v. United States

This Supreme Court case from 50 years ago continues to block prosecution of federal (and state-level) gun crimes. Now I should clarify that this case doesn’t mean criminals are off the hook. They can still be tried and convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, but the point here is that, as you can see, by definition, these laws are only punishing those who were not criminals in the first place. Another name for those people would be law-abiding citizens.

I hope that many of you now see how it is not a paranoid delusion that there are many people who want to use government authority to punish gun owners in various ways, up to and including outright confiscation, and in some cases has actually led to a degree of protection for the criminal elements who take up arms. I am happy to debate people all day long on what should be done about gun violence in our society, but please, it’s deceptive and insulting to my intelligence when people try to suggest that my concern over real efforts to erode my rights is somehow borne out of paranoid delusion. I hope I have adequately shown you all how tired this argument is and that it can safely be put to sleep.

©RepublicUnited 2014

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