February 2018 Archives

Dear America,

Most states, if not all of them, have statutes that provide for involuntary commitment of those who are threats to themselves or others, all of which have procedural safeguards to prevent unjust restraint.  But those statutes are not specific to guns, and they all relate to mental illness, temporary or long term.  What about cases involving simple rage,  abusiveness or other forms of brutality or coercion?   According to today's New York Times, there are five states--Connecticut, California, Oregon, Washington and Indiana, and apparently a dozen or more are contemplating joining them--that have statutes related specifically to possession of guns by people evincing those kinds of unacceptable tendencies and behaviors.  The various laws take different forms and require differing versions of probable cause and enforcement authority, but what they all have in common is that they do not involve commitment...just confiscation of guns.  While Florida may be, or may become, one of the states considering such a statute, it doesn't have such a statute now, and didn't have one before the murders in Parkland a little more than a week ago.  To be fair, Connecticut has had its confiscation law in effect since 1999, before the mass murder of his mother and twenty six children and teachers in Newtown; some circumstances defy any law intended to preempt gun violence.  Those circumstances include the irresponsibility of family members, such as in the Newtown case in which Adam Lanza's mother bought the guns he used to kill all those people, including herself.  She also bought a gun safe, which she kept in Lanza's room...unlocked.  And though the murderer in that case was mentally handicapped, the risk of mass murder apparently was not evinced prior to the events themselves.  

Hence, though laws that constitute a constitutionally acceptable form of prior restraint relative to gun possession do apparently have some effects that serve to prevent suicides in particular, and probably mass murders as well if they are adequately used, they are not the exclusive answer.  They are just a part of a complex set of steps that need to be taken in order to stem the trend in our society for disgruntled and deranged people to commit mass assassinations of people against whom they think they have grievances.  At the core of the problem is the accessibility of what we might as well start calling weapons of mass destruction as we did when we went to war against the Iraqi mass murderer, Saddam Hussein.  The problem is the same except for the matter of scale.  In Hussein's case, there were no such weapons; there was just a tendentious political myth.  But in Nikolas Cruz's case, 17 people in Parkland, Florida paid the ultimate price for the reality that a lunatic was possessed of an assault rifle...a real weapon of mass destruction.  The resistance to banning them persists behind the demagoguery of sinister advocates like Wayne LaPierre of the NRA and other conservatives who casuistically conflate banning assault weapons with confiscation of all guns.  But the reality is that the only guns for which control of access is being proposed are those that serve no purpose but to kill people in bunches.  No one is proposing to take all guns from all people.  Let me repeat: no one is proposing to take all guns from all people, no matter what Donald Trump and Wayne LaPierre have hallucinated and purveyed to their eager followers as a threat to liberty.

I find myself wondering what objection those conservative fabricators of a threat to freedom are thinking.  It seems improbable that even they could object to disarming self-proclaimed portentous, gun-armed, potential assailants.  Maybe we could save some wives and children if we passed universal laws allowing the police to confiscate the weapons of people who express an intention to do harm with them.  How can that be a bad thing.  And it is only one more step to at least require the age of prudence of purchasers of assault weapons, and even better, to ban them altogether.

The statistics may not prove anything about such a ban, though as I have pointed out before, the last ban did have positive effects according to credible sources.  Research strongly suggests that if nothing else, an assault weapons ban--and in my opinion it should include automatic hand guns for which the owner doesn't have a license--can do no harm.  So to any of you readers who might be legislators, maybe you can consider all that when a law comes up in your state's legislature.  After all, 70% of us think you should. 

Your friend,

Mike


Prior restraint has a particular meaning within the ambit of the first amendment to our constitution: the prohibition of publication of the material in question, and our constitution does not permit it.  But the phrase has a generic meaning as well.  In common parlance, it might refer to arresting someone for saying he intended to do something before he actually did it.  And as in first amendment cases under our constitution, everyone is entitled to due process under the fifth amendment.  That means that you cannot be arrested until there is probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime, not that you might.  That is why the gun rights advocates' effort to focus blame for the Parkland, Florida high school shooting on either the FBI or the local sheriff's department is a red herring...an overt and disingenuous attempt to deflect blame from where it lies; it lies with them.

The assassin in Parkland apparently did show signs of being dangerous and of his ultimate intention, and those signs as well as his social media threat to become a "professional school shooter" might well have risen to the level of the mental health exception to the rules against prior restraint that exist in most states.  In Connecticut for example, if one presents a threat to himself or others, he can be involuntarily committed for a period of three days without court review, but on the third day, a judge must determine if the involuntary commitment can continue if the committed party asks for such a review, and the review is then as mandatory as the proverbial free phone call.  Such a process might well involve local law enforcement, but the FBI would have no role other than as an informant.  Thus, while the FBI did get an anonymous tip on the killer that it didn't forward to local law enforcement or investigate itself, as it turns out local law enforcement was already aware of the potential threat and chose not to act after investigating.  Since the killings, it has been disclosed that the FBI gets over 750,000 such tips every year, and it screens them to ascertain which ones can be taken seriously resulting in a thousand or more investigations being active at any given time.   But unless congress wants to fund a profound increase in the staffing of the FBI, some lines have to be drawn based on the credibility of the threats, and that is what the FBI, and apparently local law enforcement did.  In the final analysis then, hundreds of thousands of these threats reach just the FBI every year, but well over 99.99% of them amount to nothing.  The reason that the Parkland mass murders took place isn't that law enforcement was lax.  The first and fifth amendments are at least as important as the second amendment, and they are mandates for our law enforcement agencies to adhere to as well.  So what could have been done to prevent the massacre?

Perhaps threats that appear on-line should become part of the background check before anyone can buy a gun, but I'm sure the NRA, and the ACLU for that matter, would object.  And certainly people with histories of violence that has led to protective orders or greater restraint such as prison should be prohibited from buying guns, but the background checks must be made more thorough before they can be deemed effective.  Apparently, congress is working on that.  But a reprise of the law banning of assault weapons legislated in 1994, which ended in 2004 when its sunset provision annulled the law, seems an impossibility legislatively now.  The rationale for resistance to another assault weapons ban was propounded by, among others, Senator Marco Rubio in a televised town hall meeting a few days ago.  He said it didn't work and was thus nothing but a pointless infringement on gun owners' rights, but that is not true.  According to at least one expert panel, an assault weapons ban would be at least 60% effective in preventing mass shootings.  And the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence found in 2004 that the use of assault weapons in crimes dropped from nearly 5% to just more than 1.5%.  And if you added into the statistics the assault weapon "copy cats" the frequency of use of such weapons still dropped to 3.1%: a diminution of 45%.  Thus, if you want to apply conservative casuistry to the facts, if an assault weapons ban had already been in effect when Parkland occurred, maybe only 8 people would have died instead of 17.  But the reality is that if there had been a ban, the shooting probably would never have occurred at all.

Arming teachers--that is fighting the problem of too many guns by giving them to more people--makes little sense.  It would be only a matter of time before a teacher shot someone as controversially as police officers often seem to.  And then of course there is the mortality rate for teachers using hand guns to fend off assault-weapon-bearing lunatics to consider.  And besides, armed teachers wouldn't have saved the nearly sixty people killed in Las Vegas a few months ago.  No, the real answer is a ban on weapons that serve no purpose other than murder.  Hunters don't use them.  Bank robbers and deranged holders of grudges, real or imagined, do.  As I always say, on election day, the American people get what they deserve.  I think we deserve better than we have now.  Go and vote, America...and make sure your representatives and senators know that you intend to. 



Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

On February 16, the day after the murder of seventeen people in a Florida's Stoneman Douglas High School, Senator Marco Rubio spoke passionately before the U.S. Senate about the tragedy.  His sincerity was indubitable, and the accuracy of much of what he said cannot be denied.  Legislating to the effect of preventing such heinous acts has been impossible given the fact that our constitution proscribes "prior restraint," that is arresting someone because he is likely to commit a crime, and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill presents its own difficulties.  But in one respect however, he overstated the case of his gun-rights advocating constituents.

In 1994, congress passed, and Bill Clinton signed into law, a ban on the manufacture of assault weapons, which included prohibition of the manufacture of high volume magazines for such weapons.  But the law had a sunset provision that automatically repealed the ban in ten years, and in 2004 when the ban automatically ended, congress declined to renew it.  Proponents of gun ownership cited statistical analyses of various kinds that ensued upon the demise of the ban and I have often heard such gun advocates claim that there was no difference in the use of assault weapons after the ban from what prevailed before it, but their conclusory arguments are elliptical, and in a critical way.  The statistics relating to the period before 1994 also demonstrate that assault type weapons were seldom used in crimes, and thus, the fact of a statistically insignificant change--a small variation in a very small number to begin with--is a function only of the rarity of the use of such weapons, not of the ineffectuality of the ban.  In fact, The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence study found that the use of assault weapons in crimes in the five years before the ban was just less than 5%.  During the ban, weapons like those banned were used in less than 2% of crimes, though similar weapons that snuck through loopholes in the ban were used in about 3.5% of crimes...still a decrease of about 45% of the total.  Reducing any negative phenomenon by nearly half is meaningful, even if the total volume of that phenomenon is meager.  So consider this.

Of the twenty deadliest mass murders since 1950, only one occurred during the period of the assault weapons ban.  Since the ban ended, there have been have been fourteen such rampages.  During the ban, there was only one--Columbine--and seven occurred before the ban.  And the number of mass shootings tripled between 2011 and 2014, the United States having five times as many as the next most dangerous country, The Philippines...more even than Yemen.  But we can all go on and on with statistics making whatever arguments we like.  The fact is that people are most likely to be shot in mass assaults at their places of business, or has become so common-place today, at school.  That is really the point.  We are all vulnerable, even our children.

So, when Marco Rubio bemoans our fate on thee Senate floor, when he invokes the constitutional provision in the preamble that imposes on the congress the duty to protect domestic tranquility and the common good but claims that we have yet to discover a way to do so, he is misinformed.  A ban on assault weapons will not prevent such perversity as we say in Friday a couple of days ago, but it will reduce the frequency with which such abominations...such atrocities can be carried out.  Rubio did say that our congressmen cannot just throw up their hands and say that there is nothing to be done simply because they don't know what to do.  Rubio exhorted his colleagues to try something...at least try, and a new assault weapons ban is a starting point that has proven itself effective in diminishing the number or parents who have to go to their children's funerals.  Let's tell our representatives to start there, America.  Remember that the first four words of the second amendment are, "A well regulated militia..." not "my cold dead hands."

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

Yesterday, for the eighteenth time this year, there was a shooting at an American school.  All our president has said so far...by tweet...is that it is incumbent upon all of us to report threatening conduct repeatedly, even though such reports result in nothing because the nature of democracy prevents "prior restraint."  One cannot be arrested for looking like he is dangerous--but we can refuse to sell such a person a gun if we enact the appropriate laws.  Of course the NRA and its constituency continue to assert that guns don't kill people; people kill people, and thus, people continue to kill people.  In fact, the Trump administration rescinded an Obama administration rule that required gun checks to include Social Security records so as to preclude selling guns to people who receive disability benefits because they are unable to support themselves on account of mental illness.  To Trump, I'm sure that rule constituted just one more example of over regulation.  You be the judge of whether he is right.  But beyond the reductive reasoning of our president as a function of his tiny, little mind, there is the overriding fact that the gun lobby's constant refrain about regulation being a threat to our freedom continues to garner sufficient credence in the halls of power that nothing gets done to curtail these personal atrocities enabled solely by the availability of killing machines to virtually everyone in the name of the second amendment.

The question that the NRA and its minions have to answer in my mind is, does the second amendment really say what they say it does.  At the risk of repetition, the first four words of the second amendment are, "A well regulated militia..."  You don't have to believe me; you can read the second amendment for yourself at a virtually infinite number of places.  I happen to have a copy of the constitution, so I read the original text.  It says in its entirety:

"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."

The concept is antiquated in many respects.  We no longer maintain militias, other than  the fringe who claim to constitute a posse comitatus and thus maintain the right to shoot anyone who disagrees with their anarchistic claims of unbridled freedom...even from the laws of the land.  But no one appointed them, and appointment by a person in legal authority is required for a real posse, or militia, to form.  So barring the claims of outlaws and right wing nuts, there are no militias to keep armed.  And then there is the security of a free state to consider.  The entities required to secure our freedom are armed by our military: a million and a half of them.  Then we come to the implicit claim that regulation, including officially locating every gun and its owner, constitutes a threat to our collective liberty because the less-than-two million armed federal employees might use those records to find and confiscate them.  But there are over 300  million fire arms in this country located in 55 million households, business locations and elsewhere.  Thus, each of those armed federal employees would have to confiscate just under six guns from each of just under 37 locations, and if they were to succeed, they would probably have to do so within a matter of hours.  As the old saying goes, not bloody likely.

Finally, the claim that registering fire arms and outlawing certain kinds of them, like assault rifles, is a hyperbolic claim at best.  In my opinion, it is pathological psychosis.  And besides, the power to regulate weapons, and by necessary implication their sales and possession, is specifically reserved to our government by those first four words, which brings us full circle.

The right to keep and bear arms is circumscribed by the common good.  And we define the common good in elections every two years at least.  As for me, I vote for representatives and senators who understand that the common good entails keeping guns off the streets, and "well regulated."  So to those who cleave to the NRA's mantra about guns and their relationship to liberty concomitant with their innocuousness relative to people killing other people with them, I refer you to those first four words of the second amendment of our constitution.  The founding fathers did not agree with you...and neither do the vast majority of modern Americans.  You can look it up.


Your friend,

Mike


I just finished reading Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury" about the Trump White House.  It wasn't really a revelation in that we have seen all the evidence necessary to draw the conclusions he drew on the evening news, but it was interesting in that the opinion of his nature seems to be universal: stupid, impetuous, petulant, intentionally obtuse, lacking in intellectual curiosity, lazy, vindictive and totally lacking in loyalty.  Wolff notes in his book that Trump bragged that he never bought a text book in college-- he went to Wharton, one of the best known business schools in the world and graduated, which doesn't say much for Wharton--and I have heard that he has bragged that he has never read a book at all.  But the real problems we have as a nation in that he is president aren't those.  We have had dolts as president before, but they were always steer-able by the staffs they chose and one could predict their conduct based on the policies and pronouncements they made.  But Trump says one thing today and not just another but the opposite tomorrow, which is the real problem.  He is dishonest, sure, and that accounts for some of his self-contradictory acts, deeds and fulminations.  But the preponderance of his erratic behavior is a function of something else.  Donald Trump is a hedonistic nihilist.  All he wants in life is to play golf, sexually accost women and make money.  He's done plenty of the first and the last, and I am guessing that it is only a matter of time until he touches a member of his staff or a female reporter the wrong way too.  You can't take his word for anything, and you can't count on his pronouncements of putative policy because he doesn't really believe in anything, so he can't remember why he did or said what he said yesterday since it had no basis in fact or belief.  He makes up reality to suit himself, and much of the time his reality is actually his fantasy, and he lies with impunity.  All that is farcical, but something he said today is really terrifying.

He now wants to have a military parade, you know, trot out the mobile missiles and the marching troops on Pennsylvania while he sits on a reviewing stand offering a non-military--he was never in the military, not even the reserves like "W" was--and puffs out the nation's chest for all the world to see.  It is a proposal worthy of Vladimir Putin or Kim Jung-Un.  We have not just an apostate to his own policies but a lunatic for our president, and his now-military posturing can serve no purpose but to get us all in trouble while he retreats to a bomb shelter somewhere to save his own ass.  And I guess we shouldn't be surprised given his threat of "fire and fury like the world has never seen" against the North Korean's "Dear Leader."  He has already demonstrated a similar temperament in that he called the Democrats treasonous yesterday because they didn't clap for him during his State of the Union address.  Apparently he didn't watch any of Barrack Obama's speeches to congress when the Republicans withheld their applause too...either that or Republicans are by definition immune to such criticism.  Of course, it isn't surprising that he would think such a thing, Trump being nothing more than an ego with feet.  No doubt he thinks Obama didn't deserve applause whereas Trump always does no matter what preposterous, inane thing he says or does.  But this parade thing comes out of the blue.  It is startling coming even from him.  Is this supposed to be a yearly thing now...sort of a May Day parade like they have in Russia?  Will it serve the same purpose as it does in Russia, that is, demonstration of the personal power of Trump's brother in arrogance, Vlad the Putin?  Are we headed the way of Russia?

That's what I mean by this idea being terrifying.  I fear that Trump fancies himself a strong-man like Putin.  We haven't had a revolution since 1776.  Is this an augury of one to come?  Does our man Trump have in mind to stay in the White House until he dies?  As I often say since Trump was elected, what are the odds?

Your friend,

Mike

Categories

Pages

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 4.38

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2018 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2018 is the previous archive.

March 2018 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Political Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Recent Comments

  • pairsupport: test comment submission, please ignore read more
  • pairsupport: Test comment submission, please ignore. read more

Categories

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2018 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2018 is the previous archive.

March 2018 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Recent Comments

  • pairsupport: test comment submission, please ignore read more
  • pairsupport: Test comment submission, please ignore. read more