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Category Archives: Opinion

If you keep an eye on the hashtags #gunsense or #guncontrol, you may have noticed that they exploded yesterday when the 9th Circuit Court handed down a decision that included the following:

“Because the Second Amendment does not protect in any degree the right to carry concealed firearms in public, any prohibition or restriction a state may choose to impose on concealed carry — including the requirement of ‘good cause,’ however defined — is necessary allowed by the Amendment.”

…a statement that made gun control advocates cry victory and shout to the rooftops that common sense had prevailed. It was even described by many as restricting the ability to carry guns in public, period. The response by pro-gun posters was similarly loud and passionate, with plenty of Molan Labe to pass around.

So did the Second Amendment just die? Well, not so much.

Once my own knee stopped jerking, I read a little, including the Heller decision which lead to a case I’d never heard of, State v. Chandler. Heller, for those who are unfamiliar, was a landmark case in which the idea that the 2nd Amendment extends to self defense and that handguns are “in common use” for the purpose, and as such are 2nd Amendment protected.

In Chandler, the question of Constitutional protection for concealed carry was questioned. In that case, the court decided that no, it was not Second Amendment protected and could be regulated by the states.

These two decisions relate to the case before the 9th Circuit to some degree, a case that calls into question the “demonstrating need” criteria that California uses to determine if one can get a concealed carry permit. The Court, as stated above, found that this was not an Unconstitutional restriction.

To sum up, there are three facts in question here:

  1. The right to carry weapons at all.
  2. The right to carry weapons concealed.
  3. Necessity as a restriction for concealed carry permits.

Heller affirmed that carrying firearms outside the home is protected. Chandler affirmed, referenced in Heller, affirmed the rights of states to place restrictions on concealed carry. This decision addresses only the third point.

Now whether this decision will stand is highly suspect. No one can argue this isn’t a serious restriction and that “need” seems to be in conflict with “right”. The 9th’s decisions, also, have a near 80% overturn rate. The longevity of this decision is likely to depend on the 2016 Presidential Election, who gets appointed to the vacant 9th seat in the Supreme Court of the United States, and their leanings.

It is also important to note that this rescinds no concealed carry permits in any state, only affirms that the strictures used by the states to determine who does and doesn’t get a permit are not in violation of the 2nd Amendment.

The bottom line? Don’t panic. This too may pass, and even if it doesn’t, it isn’t likely to be the end of he Second Amendment.

I can’t imagine, though, that this case will fail to draw scrutiny to open carry laws in every state, as the question does stand, if you can’t carry concealed or openly, how is the right to “bear” not “infringed”?

Two significant events happened yesterday in regards to the ongoing debate about gun rights and the aftermath of the events in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut.

The first was the recall of two Colorado legislators who had voted for stricter gun laws. This was Colorado’s first recall election and both State Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and  state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo were removed from office. The laws in question were concerning limiting magazine size and background checks for private gun sales, two often touted gun control measures that many would like to see become Federal law.

The second was a vote in the California legislature to ban new sales of rifles with detachable magazines, i.e. the grand majority of modern semi-automatic longarms, classifying them as assault weapons. In addition, ones already in private hands would need to be registered.

The recall elections are being touted as a referendum on gun control by the NRA and pro-Second Amendment advocates. The expanded California law has received not as much attention, probably because it still has to reviewed by their State legislature, where it can be amended, before it is sent to the desk of the Governor.

Personally, I can’t say that either is a statement about the wider debate, though I do think there are two lessons to be taken away: 1) People react strongly when it comes to guns and 2)their reactions are not without consequences.

The recall vote didn’t draw huge numbers of voters but from what I saw on various message boards, not every person who voted to oust the legislators did so strictly for pro-gun reasons. The measures that were put in place were not subject to public referendum and were rushed through with little chance for the constituency to comment. It was this disregard for public opinion that likely was the tipping point.

California, on the other hand, was already a very gun unfriendly state. Their vote highlights the fact that “assault weapon” is an arbitrary and meaningless term, subject to the whims and passions of legislators with no real regard for how firearms are used. Anything that lumps a .22 target rifle in with a bullpup AK-47 obviously is too broad in scope. The lack of demonstrable effect by any assault weapons ban also speaks against the wisdom of such blanket definitions.

The Colorado recall is likely to cool the fervor of a few less zealous legislators in other states currently considering tighter measures. The Colorado decision will be touted as a victory by the staunchly pro-control crowd, but if it has any effect on anything else, I will be genuinely shocked. What either means for the national debate is questionable, but I think that we may see many Republican candidates getting a boost from this in the upcoming midterm elections as the NRA and other pro-gun groups will be quick to remind people of California’s over-reach and Colorado’s results.

The only thing I know for certain is I am less inclined to go to California, though Colorado is still okay by me.

A day doesn’t go by without the news of someone dying to gun violence in the United States, sadly enough. What adds insult to injury is the immediate co-opting of those tragedies to, with a little massaging, be plugged into one’s pre-existing narrative concerning what we should do about it. This happens on both sides of the debate, of course, but the recent murder of an Australian baseball player and a thankfully bloodless school shooting have offered more “ammo” to the anti-gun crowd than the pro-gun perspective.

At first glance, both incidents would seem to offer nothing but arguments that we should be much more vigilant about who has guns and why. Senseless murder and narrowly averted tragedy will do that. I do think, however, that these two incidents suggest courses of action that are not so obvious and that are less about guns and more about circumstance.

The death of Christopher Lane is a thing to be mourned, no argument. However, this was a killing carried out by three teen boys. There is no law that allowed any of them to own or carry a firearm. There is likely no law that would have prevented their damnable actions. They also did this with a .22 revolver, one of the least objectionable sorts of firearms available.

While chat boards filled up with cries of “What’s wrong with America”, I saw all the focus on guns and not what we can do to curb violence amongst and by teens beyond suggestions we remove firearms from the hands of adults. We have a prime example of a place where laws exist to prevent this sort of crime and are proven ineffective, yet people wish to suggest that what would be even more effective is more laws.

Even if firearms were banned from private ownership, there’s no real reason we would not see killings just like this one for decades (as ammunition became harder to locate) if ever (as no one is suggesting disarming police officers and military personnel, which would be necessary to prevent guns getting into the the wrong hands still). Rather than address what drives the trade of illegal firearms in metropolitan areas, impotent cries for boycotting tourism were uttered.

The averted atrocity in Decatur would seem to be a more straightforward situation bolstering the arguments for disarmament, as it was an assault weapon carrying adult who was thankfully talked into laying down arms (and inadvertently giving Wayne LaPierre a well deserved slap in the face for asserting stupid things about “good guys with guns”). The issue here, however, is that this guy was, by his own confession, off his medication which he was taking for bi-polar disorder. The question here isn’t the reasonable ownership of assault weapons, per se, but why he wasn’t caught by a background check. This man likely should not have owned firearms in any legal way, much less the ones he did.

[EDIT: Turns out this had nothing to do with background checks as he did not purchase his firearm and he was a felon, in addition to any mental health prohibitions he might have had]

Expanded background checks are a gun control talking point, but a much more reasonable and relevant one than “ban assault weapons”, a thing that bloggers called for before classes restarted.

I maintain there are things we can do to curb violence of all sorts and gun violence in specific, but I think it will take looking at situations objectively rather than simply saying “ban them” before the smoke clears. It does, however, require the stickier task of holding one’s opinions until the facts are known, a think we’ve grown too impatient to do. At least on the internet.

martinZimm

The man on trial. Note, he is not a black teenager.

When I discuss with my friends about how one can run a business, I say that there are two ways: like a family or like a machine. The latter is easy in that there are set rules that, if they are broken, have outlined consequences. The disadvantage to it is that one has to enforce those rules consistently and mercilessly, else they become meaningless. The family style is much more forgiving, but much messier.

We want the United States to run like a family, but it doesn’t. It runs like a machine. Justice is blind, they say, and as long as the rules are adhered to, she spares or condemns without regard to public opinion. Never has that blindness been more acute than in the case of George Zimmerman.

When the case went to trial, there were a large number of people who acted as if it was a referendum on “stand your ground” laws or even the right to defend yourself. It was dealt with as such by the court of public opinion, certainly, but the case itself didn’t even involve “stand your ground”; the defense did not invoke that statute as part of its case.

What that case was about was if George Zimmerman was criminally culpable in the death of Trayvon Martin, a death he freely admitted to causing. We can argue about who these men were, their racial tolerances, their pasts and many other minutiae that may or may not have played into creating the moment when Zimmerman pulled the trigger and Martin fell dead. Lady Justice and her six sisters in the jury box found those to be irrelevant, however, and could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Trayvon Martin’s actions lead to his death more than George Zimmerman’s.

I, like many others, found this an unsatisfying conclusion. The laws of Florida are generous when it comes to allowing one to defend one’s self; while much has been said about the recent case in which a woman was convicted for firing a shotgun, let us not forget a man who chased another down in the street with a knife, stabbed him and was able to invoke SYG. The wisdom of those laws is questionable, their implementation more so. I personally am in favor of not requiring someone to retreat before they defend themselves, which is all SYG changes from other statutes about self defense, even if it’s application in Florida seems dangerous at best.

But where the law has pardoned Zimmerman, I feel that the people are right in still laying the blame at his feet. The legal culpability in this case essentially came down to who threw the first punch, a fact that we only have one surviving witness to confirm, one whose best interests lie with him being the victim. We will never know what happened when Trayvon met George, for certain. What we do know is that a man, part of the neighborhood watch, saw a man who was doing nothing criminal at the time, followed him in his car and possibly on foot, then eventually shot him. We know that this watchman was frustrated with others getting away and may have been more than zealous in his guardianship.

Regardless of his legal burden in the matter, the fact that George Zimmerman created the situation that required him to turn a Kel-Tec 9mm on a seventeen year old kid is without question, save to those who are as blind as Justice to the matter and arguing more for their own rights than for the series of mistakes that ZImmerman did not have to make before he took the shot that he was legally allowed when he was in danger of death or injury, a series of mistakes that if avoided would have only resulted in one more black teen being questioned by the cops for doing nothing more sinister than walking down the sidewalk.

The law is not Justice, as much as I’ve used them interchangeably in this article. The law is written by men. Justice is a concept that exists independently of any man’s opinion. But I do think she is blind, which this week may be for the best, as it keeps her from seeing how badly she has not been served by this verdict.

I don’t use the word idiot lightly, except perhaps when I’m using it directed towards myself.

That said, this woman is being an idiot.

The woman in question, Heidi Yeman,  has decided to conduct a month long experiment in which she will open carry a firearm on her hip wherever she goes. She’s attempting to illustrate, I think, how foolish it is to allow people who have no handgun training or knowledge to legally carry firearms on their person at all times. I can see where she’s coming from, but of the ways I’d recommend people illustrate this point, this is not even on the list.

Personally, I’d like to see a national concealed carry standard. I’d like that standard to include range time (like a minimum of 12-20 hours and 500 rounds) and for states that use that standard to have reciprocity with one another. I don’t agree that a permit should be required for owning a firearm, though I’m iffy on the matter of open carry.

The Ms. Yeman and I have some attitudes in common, perhaps. For that matter I do not wish to disparage her character in general. I’ve never met her and I’m sure, outside of this nonsense, she’s a reasonable, responsible and mature person.

But that said, if one wishes to demonstrate their objection to mere presence of firearms in public, as she has, I fail to see how the best way to do that is to be an idiot first, failing to educate one’s self one iota for the sake of being one’s own imagined worst case scenario, and then a firearm carrier second. It is attempting to construct self-fulfilling prophecy, as if trying to be a fool has ever been a difficult bar to leap.