Back in the day when Chuck Schumer was a congressman from New York State, he regularly aligned with the likes of Ted Kennedy to ban an ill-defined group of handguns called “Saturday Night Specials.” He must have thought ridding the world of light-frame double-action revolvers and small, easily concealed inexpensive autoloaders would make us all safer. After all, thugs preferred these guns. The logic was really quite astute. If you couldn’t get a permit for carrying a gun, and decided to carry a large one anyway because small ones were no longer available, the cops would notice you leaning on your heavy side with a big bulge under your leisure suit.
I wonder what changed? Now Schumer is trying to ban guns and magazines that are basically too large to conceal, and cost north of $1000. The answer is simple. Anything that will sell to folks who oppose the private ownership of firearms, who know little of them, do not understand why owning a firearm is a fundamental and inalienable right, well that is good with Mr. Schumer. He cares little about principles, what the law is, etc.
And I do not mean this as antisemitic, but why do so many urban Jews support the notion of not having meaningful access to firearms? Certainly it was not in the best interest of the Jews that Adolph Hitler disarmed the Jews in the thirties. How can a people so abused by various governments throughout history oppose an inalienable right for them to carry useful protection from harm? It is an utterly astounding position.
This post was sparked by an article concerning a study of countries for attributes of freedom. The study concluded that the ease of owning a gun does not correlate with freedom. Based on the false premise of the study, this finding is easy to believe. Countries like England, Canada and Australia have very few citizen rights with respect to firearms, and most commentators repeat the old rhetoric that these countries remain free.
There is no indicator for freedom better than exercise by citizens of their right to bear arms. Perhaps freedom of speech is a close proxy, but it is harder to measure due to various degrees of that freedom. Firearms are a strong indicator of restrained government. The right to own handguns and carry them about correlates well with the American notion of freedom. So are we doing well in the United States with the best measure of freedom? A simple yes is not possible for all of us. Here are some facts to ponder:
Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 35 state laws are “shall issue” with respect to handguns, and five states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont and Wyoming) allow concealed carry without a permit. Approximately 210 million people live in these 40 states, or two thirds of the population.
The “may issue” states are roughly Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The other jurisdiction in this group is the District of Columbia. Three states of this group issue permits to qualified persons: Alabama, Connecticut and Delaware. I cannot verify that this will remain so with Connecticut’s new law. The reason this list is called rough are numerous. Illinois has no concealed carry law. To satisfy an order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the legislature is working on a law that will likely be a restrictive “may issue” law. There are some states and jurisdictions where a citizen cannot acquire a permit to carry in public regardless of character, wealth or any other attribute – permits for the average citizen to carry a weapon in public will not issue. They are New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, New York City and Washington, D.C.
It is fair to say some portions of the United States are free. Other jurisdictions, fortunately a minority, are paternalistic and allow very little power to remain with their citizens. To say those citizens are meaningfully free is something I fail to understand.
The past week or so has been tough. We had the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. This was followed by numerous unverified and incorrect news reports, such as Adam Lanza being let into the school by the principle and his mother being a teacher at the school. The press hit us with reports from the gun control advocates and did not challenge their errors or balance the views they expressed. Public television’s Newshour invited Dianne Feinstein to speak at length, and followed her presentation with a panel of three, only one of whom thought that an assault weapons ban will not work. And Dianne Feinstein pulled out all the stops, referring to semiautomatic firearms as automatic, referring to magazines as clips, and stating that semiautomatic firearms were only meant to kill and had no legitimate use in our society, sporting or otherwise. Then, later in the week, we had a thorough bashing of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA by many who neither listened to his speech nor bothered to read his transcript. Mr. LaPierre was vilified by Mayor Bloomberg for his complete misunderstanding of the problem of violence, yet it is Mr. Bloomberg who advocates that we pass laws that violate our Constitution. Bloomberg is the chief executive of New York City, where it costs a citizen over $400 per year for a license to own a pistol. That is how NYC abides by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that recognizes the 2d Amendment grants New Yorkers the right to keep pistols in their homes.
It is indeed ironic that we have to live with a press that is biased, whose reports are erroneous, who report with an orientation of advocacy and not education or care with the facts, all of which is protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, and in doing so they are in full frontal attack of the 2d Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
I purchased my Glock Model 19 between 1994 and 2004, when 15 round magazines were not manufactured for private ownership in the United States. It came with two ten-round magazines. There were numerous solutions to get around the restriction, all of which I embraced when I carried a firearm for personal defense, such as in the woods near my home.
1. I purchased after-market 15 round magazines that had been manufactured before the ban. This was lawful. Most of these were plastic, but they work well.
2. If I wanted more than 10 rounds using 10 round magazines, I carried a second firearm. The back-up gun improves reliability compared to a single high capacity magazine anyway.
I generally carry my Glock with 13 rounds, one chambered and 12 in the magazine. Keeping no more than 12 rounds in the magazine keeps the magazine spring from being fully compressed, likely leading to the automatic loading of the round being slower but more reliable than with a fully compressed spring. Also, the life of the spring is improved.
For loading my personal defense pistol, the chambered round is a hollow point. The next one up is a round point to decrease the probability of a jam, which is low in Glocks anyway. Then I alternate.
You might ask why I carry with a round chambered. I am confident in the Glock design; it will not fire unless the trigger is pulled. Also, my holsters cover the trigger and my firearm is holstered when I carry it.
The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut has brought out the gun control extremists, people like Dianne Feinstein, who is either very naive or believes the citizens of the United States are extremely gullible. With all the renewed demands for a new ban on semiautomatic firearms and high capacity magazines, I thought it wise to check some statistics. I compared homicide data in the United States with the same information from Canada. I chose Canada because its gun laws are very restrictive and its homicide rate is similar to those found in the western European countries, where severe restrictions on ownership and carrying of firearms are common.
The United States has a homicide rate of 4.8, which is 4.8 deaths per hundred thousand population. Roughly two-thirds of those deaths are with firearms, mostly handguns. Long guns (rifles and shotguns) accounted for only a few percent of homicides. No reliable statistics are available for homicides by what were called assault weapons, but some analysts use homicides with rifles as a proxy for homicide by assault weapons, and conclude that homicides with assault weapons do not exceed 2 or 3%. Approximately half of all homicides are by black Americans. The homicide rate has declined for several decades, even after the 1994 to 2004 assault weapons ban expired. Homicide rates are very high in some American cities, such as Detroit, New Orleans, Newark, and Washington, D.C. Homicide rates are generally lower in places where carrying guns concealed is not highly regulated, although this is not a perfect correlation. Washington, D.C. is very restrictive on concealed weapons and has a high murder rate; New York City is also very restrictive but follows national norms on homicides.
Canada has a homicide rate of 1.6, with one-third caused by firearms.
Recall that half of homicides are committed by black Americans, who comprise a little more than 13% of the U.S. population. Normalizing for that disparate contribution and assuming that this group should contribute to homicides at a rate no greater than other Americans, I calculate a homicide rate equal to: (4.8/2) + (0.13)(2.4) = 2.7
Adjusting for the disparate affect of black homicides in the United States, and subtracting all firearm related homicides in both the United States and Canada at the Canadian rate of one third (assuming U.S. laws became equally restrictive, and that there was no substitution of weapons for those murders), you get a homicide rate of 1.1 for Canada and 1 .8 for the United States. You can draw conclusions about differences between Americans and Canadians from the statistics:
The American homicide rate would likely be greater than that in Canada even if Americans had the same laws concerning firearms as Canadians. The American homicide rate would be at least 50% greater than Canada’s, suggesting Americans are considerably more violent than Canadians.
The assault weapons ban and its expiration did not seem to affect the steady decline in homicides in the United States and appears to be more aimed at banning weapons in a method most likely to garner legislative support. The ban is not a safety measure; it is a first step in what will be a continuing effort to limit gun ownership in the United States.
Decreasing homicides in the U.S. through restricting firearms rights will require such extensive regulation as to leave the 2d Amendment a useless relic, like the rights in the constitution enjoyed by the citizens of the defunct Soviet Union.
The way to reduce violence in the United States is to do the hard work needed to, well, reduce violence. I am not a sociologist, but that probably means better education systems, more recreational opportunities for youth, better dispute resolution training and systems, better functioning police and courts, better laws (such as making sure the laws on the books are important to safety and are actually applied), better urban and suburban design, more public recreational spaces in urban areas, and more job opportunities for all groups in our society.
Have you noticed the skill of the fellows on TV who show us each week how working with wood is so easy? The work yields uniform shavings when they create a perfect mortise with a set of chisels. When I try it, I wonder whether I can find an exterior grade putty that will hide the void I just created. Despite my chisels being sharp, my skill with them is akin to creating a key hole in pottery after it is removed from the kiln.
I am building a 4×5 porch and stairs to my “barn,” a gambrel-roofed storage building. The deck will have railings and all the goodies; the materials alone cost just under $500 at Home Depot. I know I am getting old; my estimate would have been half that, based on the prices we paid 20 years ago. Those are the prices that are firmly ingrained in my memory. I will post a picture once the stain and putty are applied.
We face a clear choice in the presidential election. Romney and Ryan are fiscally and socially conservative. Obama seems infatuated with the progressive politics of the day. It feels as though Romney and Ryan are advocating short-term controlled pain in exchange for long-term prosperity, while Obama and Biden propose business as usual, unbridled spending, and an uncontrollable and harsh financial day of reckoning at some point in the future, when they are being paid dearly by us in retirement.
Victory for Romney and Ryan can be achieved by countering Obama’s condescending rhetoric with data, moving to the center on taxes for the rich while maintaining a conservative fiscal agenda, assuring us of maintaining social freedom, and advocating for environmental health. Some of these things will annoy the party extremists in the Republican party, but who will they vote for if they abandon Romney?
Below are some of the common variations in requirements imposed by nations in allowing foreigners into their country.
A treaty based unfettered right: This exists in the European Union. Once you are admitted by one nation, you may simply travel to any of the nations participating in the treaty.
A very informal entry procedure: This is what I experienced a lot as a child in crossing the U.S./Canada border. No passport was required until 2009. The questions by customs or immigration officers might be an inquiry as to your name, the purpose of your visit, whether you were bringing in new purchases and the like.
A passport is required: This requirement respects the procedures of the visitor’s nation in having a secure passport issuance system. The nation to which you are applying for admission can be confident that if your name appears on their data bases, it is indeed you. They can deny your application for entry if their records indicate doing so is lawful and prudent under their laws, regulations and policies.
A passport and a visa are required: This is a robust system, where the passport is issued by the citizen’s home country and the nation being visited issues a visa. The visa often includes a photographic image, signature, the passport number, and the rights of the visitor such as the duration and allowed purpose of the visit. The U.S. requires the visa holder to inform the U.S. of their location within the U.S. a few days after they are admitted. The visitor is essentially registered with our federal government.
My five least favorite presidents in reverse order are:
Barack Obama Our prestigious law professor president who taught at a prestigious law school and forgot that the federal government was supposed to enjoy only those powers enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. His interpretation of the commerce clause is not consistent with limited government. If the individual mandate of the health care act had been upheld by the Supreme Court based on the Commerce Clause as he supported, we would have had a government with unlimited power except where that power was not specifically granted by the Constitution. That is completely backwards, a departure from the principle of a limited federal government.
He has kept us in two wars for way too long, as well.
Jimmy Carter A pacifist who let his strong personal beliefs impair the perceived strength of the United States by our antagonists. Sometimes there is less violence if your enemies believe there will be a strong response to their bad choices.
Richard Nixon The Watergate cover-up was unconscionable. The man had no notion of being subject to the laws that all of us must follow as citizens.
Franklin D. Roosevelt He did two things (at least) that caused irreparable damage to the United States. The Social Security Act was a good idea, but its funding, with the young paying for the old instead of transitioning to a vesting system set us up for the funding problems we now face. The second decision harmed the environment by diverting the waters of the Columbia River, and killing the largest of the salmon varieties on the face of the earth. He was instrumental in the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.
Number Five I am open to your suggestions.
Recent trends are causing new problems with our identification. For example, as of 2011, birth certificates issued by American jurisdictions that do not list the parents of the applicant no longer constitute proof of citizenship for issuance of a passport. This is a problem for people applying for passports and can be one for those who hold U.S. passports but fail to renew them.
Lawyers and financial advisers ask about estate planning, but seldom check whether the client has adequate documentation of their identification. Here is a short check list to make sure you have the basics covered.
1. Is the name you are using the same on the most recent of the following documents: name change order, order of dissolution or divorce, marriage license, and birth certificate? If not, it is time to visit the local court house. This is the kind of law, petitioning to change your name, for which you should not need a lawyer in many jurisdictions. In Washington, the courts of limited jurisdiction often have simple forms available.
2. Do you have adequate proof of citizenship or other proof of your right to be in the United States? As stated earlier, if your proof of birth does not list your parents, it is time to contact the state or territory where you were born to get a new certificate of birth. This can take many weeks, and should be done even if you have no immediate need for a passport.
3. Are all your important records under the same name? These include your legal name as established by the documents listed in item no. 1 above, your academic records, your certificate of citizenship if applicable, licenses you hold, your social security and tax records, and your business and credit records.
4. Can you prove citizenship to a country other than the United States? Some Americans enjoy citizenship to more than one nation. Dual citizens may not wish to take any action to prove a second citizenship, and that is fine. Reasons might include the need for U.S. government security clearances, which can be impossible to acquire if you have exercised rights as a foreign national while an American. But proving citizenship to a country can take a long time, and can grow in difficulty as ancestors die and records and memories of residences fade. It is silly to wish to move somewhere immediately and find it will take you a year or more to do it when a little advance work at your leisure would have made the move easy and quick.
Because of changes in the documentation required by the United States to cross the U.S./Canada border a few years ago, I realized that the documents I had did not allow travel between the two countries, despite being a citizen of both. My decision to get an enhanced driver’s license was a good one, but the state would only issue it with my name as it appeared on my U.S. Certificate of Citizenship. That name was different than the one I use. It was different than the one on my state licenses, credit records, real estate holdings, and even different than the one on my social security records. I would not have been able to use my license as identification with credit cards or even in court to prove I was a lawyer – the bar association records would not have matched my common picture identification. So I obtained a new birth certificate; the old one was not valid and had not been since 1994. I then changed my name to the one I use for all other purposes and applied for the enhanced driver’s license. I recently obtained a passport using the name that is mine for all purposes. The benefits are personal, but also inure to my survivors. They can prove that the guy named on my death certificate is the same dude that holds various assets without resorting to affidavits or worse (because more costly, difficult, risky, and time-consuming), going to court to have a judge decide the two names used to identify me were for the same person. Note that taking care of identification problems now is easier and cheaper than waiting until you or your survivors need a lawyer arguing in court to sort things out.