Tag Archives: rights

2nd Amendment and Guntrol, Part 2

The DC v Heller decision of 2008 established 3 things, according to the majority opinion written by Justice Scalia. (See https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/2nd-amendment-and-gun-control-part-1/ for details.)

First, individual citizens, not part of a militia, have the right to own weapons.

Second, the government has the right to regulate who can have weapons.

Third, the government has the right to determine the legality of specific weapons. 

So, any attempt by any member of Congress to suggest that any gun control violates the 2nd Amendment should be referrred to the Scalia opinion. Gun control is constitutional.

So, what kind of gun control , which does minimal damage to the desire (not right) of gun owners to certain weapons, are possible?  Here are some possible gun control measures which Congress could take.

  1. A mandatory background check for any gun purchaser. Using a nationwide data base that identifies felons out on parole, individuals convicted of spousal abuse, individuals convicted of any violent crime, individuals currently charged with a violent offense pending trial.
  2. A ban on the ownership and sale of military-style assault weapons and any devices that can be used to enhance the firing capacity of weapons, including bumpstocks. (Except in licensed shooting ranges).
  3. A ban on the sale and/or transportation of weapons across state lines.
  4. Mandatory written and field and safety tests for anyone purchasing a weapon, including a screening for emotional and mental stability.
  5. A ban on any sale of guns other than that of a registered gun seller. This includes the ban on trading, swap meets or other gun sales not taking place in an established,  permanent location.
  6. The registration of all weapons with the local authorities. Including the free transfer of weapons to immediate famiy members, which would be legal.
  7. Establishment of shooting ranges for those who wish to fire military style weapons. These establishments would be able to legally rent military style weapons to shooters to be used only at the shooting ranges.
  8. The ban on any bullet or projectile designed to explode on entering the body or designed to pierce armor.
  9. The licensing of any gun owner, renewable every five years, to determine that the person keeps up with the skill, visual acuity, mental capacity to handle a weapon safely  and understands the law relating to weapons.
  10. Establishment of free clinics and classes to teach and train gun owners as to the proper and safe use of firearms.
  11. A Right To Know Law which gives parents the right to know which households have guns in them. A parent could then decide for themselves if they want to expose their child to a household which has a weapon. (Many children die playing with guns each year).
  12. A yearly weapons licensing tax to help defray the costs of gun safety programs.
  13. A health care premium Gun Violence Tax for gun owners. This would help defray the massive costs to hospitals,police, courts, jails and the insurance industry for costs related to the care of victims and perpetrators of gun violence nationwide. Hang on to your six-shooter. The annual estimated cost of gun violence in the USA is $8,600,000,000 (billion) in direct medical care. And the overall cost of gun violence to the economy is $229,000,000,000. See references at the end of this blog for details.

I am confident that many or all of these solutions, taken as a whole, would significantly reduce both intentional and accidental gun mortality.  All of these ideas are constitutional and easily implemented. I am also sure that people more astute and informed than I have even more and better solutions.

We license people to drive cars. We renew auto license plates every year or two. We tax vehicles and gas  used in those vehicles. We let people know if there is a sex offender living in the neighborhood so parents can protect their children. We heavily tax tobacco to reduce usage and pay for the costs of medical care caused by tobacco. So, none of the ideas above, if applied to weapons , is radical or unusual.

Would these solutions stop ALL gun violence? Of course not. Even places with strict gun control laws have some gun violence. But the likelyhood of desth by gun in these nations is minimal compared to the USA.

In Austria you are as likely to drown in a swimming pool as be killed by a gun.  In New Zealand, your chances of death by gun are the same as falling from a ladder. In Poland, the chance is the same as being killed on your bicycle. And in Japan you are just as likely to be hit by lightening as killed by a gun.

Think about that last statistic the next time you watch a thunderstorm brewing.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2018/02/22/the-enormous-economic-cost-of-gun-violence/?utm_term=.e68d8c3d5463

http://www.businessinsider.com/gun-violence-costs-america-more-than-229-billion-every-year-2015-4

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2nd Amendment and Gun Control, Part 1

There is a very strange argument that is made by politicians, the NRA gun manufacturing lobby and some others concerning the 2nd Amendment and the rights entailed therein. The argument goes like this:

The Second Amendment guarantees any person’s right to own any kind of weapon.

They take the 2nd Amendment and parse it out, emphasizing some of the words and ignoring others. Kind of like when Betsy asks me to take out the garbage. Me? Take out? OK , Let’s order a pizza.

“Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

They kind of skip the first 13 words and then start reading. Speed reading? Skimming for the general idea? Hmmmm.

The obvious intention of the founding fathers was that, in the 18th century, there would be times when the local government would need a call to arms. Maybe the injuns were coming or the Brits had decided to try to retake the village. Or perhaps the Canadians were on the march attempting to impose universal health care on our children and widows.

Hence the first 13 words. A well-regulated militia. Pretty clear. Well…regulated …militia.

Some folks, however, ignore those words. They don’t like them. The 13 words not only imply a strict government control over arms, they specify it. We may need a local militia, so you should keep a gun handy. That does not mean you can have a gun for any other reason.

Of course, if the founding fathers INTENDED that everyone should have access to a gun for any reason they had no need for those 13 words. They could have kept it much simpler, as in the 1st Amendment. Short and sweet.

So the first argument supporting the notion that anyone can have any kind of weapon for any purpose is easily shot down and understood by anyone with a modicum or more of cognitive ability.

Of course, because the Constitution is interpreted by the Supreme Court, it really does not matter what the founders were thinking. The Supreme Court decides what the words mean, not the founders.

And here we see an interesting phenomena. The conservative justices  who CLAIM to be “strict constructionists” have actually changed the meaning of the 2nd Amendment. Now, I don’t mind the Court trying to keep up with modern times. I think the Supreme Court should do so. But I do find the hypocrisy of the conservatives on the Court somewhat amusing.

These same justices who claim to interpret the Constituion based on the “original” document and words of the founders tend to let this one slip by. The “originalists” suddenly found, after more than 200 years , that the founders didn’t realy mean “militia” when they wrote “militia”. The majority opinion in the Heller decision goes through more contortions than a Chinese acrobat trying to justify that one. But, they had the votes. So be it.

The Heller decision, giving all of us the individual right to own a gun  states, in part:

“Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

So, the founders were simply wrong when they wrote “well-regulated militia“. So much for the “strict constructionist” viewpoint.

But that’s ok. Everyone now has an individual right to own a gun. We all agree because the Supreme Court says so.

Which brings us to a second argument made by the NRA gun manufactuting industry and their employees in Congress. It goes like this.

Since I have the right to a gun, that means I have the right to ANY gun. And that means I can carry any gun anywhere I want. Therefore, no state or national government can make any laws restricting my right to own my gun or where I can wander around with it. Any government that does that is trying to take away my gun.

The obvious fallacy of that position is clear. If you want to think about it. It would mean that the only unlimited right granted to citizens by the government is the right to have a gun. All other rights have associated responsibilities and limits, but not my right to a gun. It places the 2nd Amendment in a different category than every other right.

Of course, that argument is easily refuted. Just look at the 1st Amendment. We have the right to free speech. It’s right there, in black and white. But that right is not unlimited. We have libel laws which restrain speech. We have regulations as to what words can be used on non-cable tv stations. We have slander laws. We have laws against threatening to kill others, especially political leaders. Try telling a joke about having a bomb in your backpack when you are boarding a plane and you will see how quickly your “free speech” is dealt with.

The same is true of freedom of  religion. You have the freedom to worship in the church or mosque or synagogue or basement of your choice. You can pray to anything you want to pray to. Some Native American churches are even allowed to void anti-drug laws because they have a longstanding use of peyote in their rituals. But if you are an Aztec and believe in human sacrifice, that is a no-no. A fundamentalist Mormon may believe he can have numerous child wives (and some do) but that is illegal. You can believe it is your right and religious duty as the “father” of the house to beat your kids and wife. But that is not tolerated. Limitations.

So, every right has legitimate, common sense restrictions. Even in the Heller case, the most conservative of the justices, Justice Scalia, pointed out that this right is not unlimited. Specifically stating, in his majority opinion, that schools and government buildings are places where restictions may be logically imposed. Also, certain categories of people, like felons, could be legally restriced from owning guns. Further, he stated that the government has the ability to restrict certain kinds of firearms, like military weapons, as well.

So, the idea that every person has an unlimited right to any type of gun he wants does not pass muster. Even the most conservative member of the Court, Justice Scalia,  recognized that, while you have an individual right to a weapon, that right is not without proper government restrictions.

In essence, the most radical arguments of the NRA gun manufacturing lobby and the extremists goes down the toilet.  The only question that remains is: What are reasonable restrictions?

2nd Amendment and Gun control, Part 2, next time.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/second_amendment

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-290.ZS.html

http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/07-290.pdf

 

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The Pursuit of Happiness

Happy Fourth of July.

We all know the words….”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. From the Declaration of Independence. 240 years ago.

According to Tom Jefferson these are three of the inalienable rights all human beings possess. (He made a few exceptions in regards to “human beings” which we need not go into at time). In the Lincoln-Douglas debates Old Abe often referred to this phrase and included ALL men, even 0nes not recognized by Tom. A different time.

And anyone who listens to politicians today, especially those on the right side of the political spectrum, certainly recognize the call for “liberty”. Freedom ! Freedom ! Freedom from tyranny. Freedom from Obamacare. Freedom from big government. Ad nauseum.

So, we agree that all men should have life and liberty. Those rights are explicitly mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.

But that third one? The pursuit of happiness? Seems like our modern right wing scholar/politicians are ignoring that third  “inalienable right”. Nothing new there. After all, they ignore half of the 2nd Amendment…the part about “a well-regulated militia”.

The idea that people should be able to be “happy” seems foreign to them. People should be free. People should be rich. People should be able to raise their kids as they see fit. People should not have to pay taxes. People should fight terrorism. But happy?

Happiness is just not part of the right wing equation when it comes to rights. Jefferson and the other men who voted to leave the British empire did so , primarily, because they just weren’t happy. And, gol darn it, they thought every man had the right to pursue happiness. That may have been a more radical idea than the right to life or liberty, which most people readily accepted. Happiness was one of the big three. Important enough to mention in the seminal document in US history.

Watching the “Make Him Fail” haters and the “Make America White…er..Great” chanters you would think that happiness is the last thing on their minds. I would guess that if all the terrible “liberals” like myself disappeared tomorrow it would not make a bit of difference. If all the soft, commie-loving “libtards” suddenly became invisible, it would not change a thing.

These sour politicians with their sour view of life would find something else to be angry about. The very idea of people pursuing happiness seems to bother them. They want laws about everything , from conception to birth to the grave. While they claim to want freedom, they really want to make sure others do not pursue too much happiness. Wipe that smile off your face and salute the flag.

They want to punish women who have sex. They want to punish people who smoke dope. They want to punish hardworking (illegal) Mexicans who are trying to make a living. They want to punish gays for..well.. being gay. Happiness is not in their Declaration of Independence.

I wonder what Jefferson would make of these folks. After all, he did write that we have inalienable rights, and AMONG THEM are the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So, he did acknowledge that those three were not the ONLY rights. He understood that we have many rights, some unwritten.

I suppose if he lived today he might consider the feelings  of the right wing politicians and add a fourth right. The right to be miserable. And I accept that people  have a right to be miserable. They have to right to emphasize the negative. To be nasty and insulting.

I just wish they would not exercise that right  on the rest of us.

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Advice To My Black Son

Since today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I thought it would be appropriate to give some advice to my black son. Advice on how to live a long life in a hostile nation.

Problem is I don’t have a black son. Both my son and daughter are white. As is my wife. And we have a long history of ancestors who were also white. Quite a coincidence. Being white, there was never the necessity of having this little talk with him or her. But I digress.

To my black son or grandson. First, I will make some assumptions about you, most of which are not true.

You live in poverty (actually 73% of African Americans do not live in poverty, but the percentage IS higher for children and young adults)  http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by-raceethnicity/

Your parents do not own their own home (55% do not, but 45% do).    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0883976.html

You will be  arrested for a violent crime this year . (about 1/2 of 1% of black youths will be arrested for a violent offense, so 99.5% of black youths will NOT be arrested for a violent crime)    http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/crime/JAR_Display.asp?ID=qa05261

You are most likely a high school “drop out” . (The drop out rate for African American males is approximately 7%, so 93% are NOT drop outs)    http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16

Enough of statistics. And stereotypes. I want you to live a long and happy life. Keep in mind the following.

First of all you  have rights. The right to free speech. To drive. To assembly. To individuality. To be young. And to be stupid at times. To walk down the street. To carry a gun in some states. To use a cell phone.

My Rules for my black son. Listen carefully:

1. Take that last paragraph about your rights and forget it. Assume , instead, that you have no rights. Accept reality. Act like you have no rights. You will live longer.

2.If the police stop you in your car or walking be respectful. Don’t argue. Be polite. “Yes, officer. No,officer”. If you see the cops driving around in your neighborhood wave and smile.

3.Sew your pockets shut. So you cannot possibly reach inside them. Don’t carry a cell phone. Or comb. Or knife. Or anything.

4.Don’t be out after dark. If you are a friend’s house, call home and tell ma and pa that you are sleeping over. Do the same for your friends when they are visiting you at night. Don’t be out after dark.

5.Don’t go to places where you know drug dealers hang out. If drug dealers show up where you are hanging out, go home. Now.

6.If you are arrested for some reason say nothing. Nothing. If you are put in a cell do not talk to your cellmate. Be polite and ask for a lawyer. Say nothing.

7.Don’t wear bling. Don’t wear a hoodie. Don’t wear your cap backwards. Don’t argue with anyone about anything. Swallow your pride. Often. Regularly.

8.Act like you are a Jew in Nazi Germany. Pretend you are a foreigner with no rights.

Should you have to follow these rules? No. But in reality these rules will give you  a much better chance of making it to adulthood than the Bill of Rights. Or the Voting Rights Act. Or any other legal protections. Sorry, my black son, but that is reality.

As MLK, Jr hoped, someday you WILL be judged by the content of your character and not by the color of your skin. But January 18, 2016 in America is not yet that day.

 

 

 

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