Saturday, September 10, 2005

All That We Are

"Milton Peterson was adamant that he would not leave. The retired 57-year-old said his wife had died earlier this year and that the house was full of too many important things of her's for him to leave. His six grown-up children had already left. They had wanted him to leave as well, but he had refused. He had never been outside Louisiana and he had lived in his house for 37 years. He was ready to lock himself behind the iron bars of his house and wait for the police to come for him. 'I don't know people in Chicago or New York,' he said. 'Why would I want to go there? What do I know about those places?"
That is why folks, at least some folks do not want to leave. That is why some folks will resist leaving however best they can.
In the movie Gods & Generals there's something rather fitting. It's a dialogue between General Lee & one of his aids. His aid points out that Fredericksburg, Va. is where Washington was rumored to have cut down the cherry tree & thrown the silver dollar across the Potomac. Lee responds thusly:
"That may be so Mr. Taylor but it has an even greater significance to me. This is where I met my wife. That's something these yankees do not understand will never understand.
You see these rivers & valleys & streams... fields, even towns... they're just markings on a map to those people in the war office in Washington. To us, oh my goodness they're... birthplaces & burial grounds, they're... battlefields where our ancestors fought. Places where you & I we learned to walk, to talk & to pray. Places where we made friendships &... oh yes fell in love. & they're the incarnation of all our memories... Mr. Taylor, & all that we are...all that we are."
Typed words cannot do justice to Duvall's delivery of those lines.
The cops in New Orleans - you'd think they'd understand. You'd imagine they'd have some sympathy. They apparently do not. They look upon people wanting to stay in their own damn homes as a problem to be solved. They are no better than any foreign invader who comes to subjugate a people & sack its lands.
" ...defend the constitution from all enemies, foreign & domestic..." heh. Foreign & domestic indeed. We've all heard that, even if just as a throw away line in a movie. Do we really understand it though?
If an army came up from Mexico or Canada & attempted to do these things we'd be pissed; & rightly so. But what does it speak of the nation that the outcry over gun confiscation & forced evictions is only coming from a small community of folks who are typically derided as "gun nuts" or "right wing nutjobs" or "anarchists"? Is it truly any different that it's being done by domestic agents instead of foreign ones?
Yet how many folks have heard any outcry in the MSM? Hell, did anyone hear any conservative talk show hosts raising any sort of fuss about this? It's anecdotal but I have not.
I have seen lawyers & lawyerly minded folk trying to explain how this might be legal &/or constitutional; how the courts are not "equipped" to second guess an official in this sort of situation. I've seen gun nuts counsel that bloodshed would be bad for us & our best hope is to take it to the courts.
Does any of that stop a thug with a badge from pointing a gun in your face? Does that prevent a lowly sunuvabitch from tackling an old lady? Will that stop them when they come across someone who will not lay down his arms?
No; the courts offer little refuge. I would ask those same folks if they advise people to plead before a judge when a burglar breaks into their home? They will undoubtedly say no.
& the "rule of law" crowd - the rule of law is a concept where the rulers are bound by the same laws as the people they rule. In other words if a government does something contrary to law then it's the government who has abandoned the rule of law, not the people who seek to lessen or stop the damage caused by such illegal activity.
Law enforcement apologists for years claimed that should gun confiscations be ordered you'd see a lot of cops refusing to comply or walking off the job. The only cops I know of walking off the job were when looters ruled the streets. They didn't do it in solidarity with the looters, let alone sympathy for the gun owners. Their reasons are their own. But has anyone heard of one cop since then who has thrown his badge down in disgust at the orders he was told to execute?
This is troubling. I am not surprised by the feds going in to steal folks' guns. But the locals? the local cops? In NYC I would not be surprised, but in a city of the South? In New Orleans? Granted New Orleans has a corrupt police force, perhaps the most corrupt in the nation, but is that rot so deep that concepts of home & freedom & property are alien to them? Has New Orleans or America fostered a society so removed that the words Duvall uttered in General Lee's name have no meaning? Do they not understand or care that an old man wants to stay on his own damn property, where his life was lived & the evidence of it provides some comfort?
I'm reminded by the words of that Louisianan that they call Bocephus:
"...if you ain't into that we don't give a damn..."
I'd like to know how the culture can be so removed from itself that the local cops have no moral dilemma in stealing guns & kicking people out of their own damn houses. But in the present it doesn't matter why; it matters what.
There's an old SCOTUS case that says (more or less; excuse the paraphrase) that dispassionate reflection in the presence of an uplifted knife is not a realistic expectation. Knowing the why is nice, but that does not mean you should not focus on the what until there is time to do so.
We can focus on the why. The people whose homes are being invaded & their guns stolen from them cannot afford to do so. The why can be helpful for us as we try to concentrate on preventing this kind of thing from happening elsewhere. It's a diagnostic tool that we should employ.
But right now I simply don't care. I don't find any of the justifications I've heard or thought of so far as being remotely defensible. Why do they want to steal guns from the people? I really don't give a damn; not about them (the gun grabbing public servants) or their reasoning. I care about the folks who are being victimized by them. I care about the rule of law that they are disregarding. I care about the constitutions which they are disrespecting. & finally I care about myself because I know it wouldn't take much for me to be one of those people wondering why the nice officer is beating down my door.
"...[they] do not understand will never understand." As for what happens to public servants who rob & scatter people by force I do not care will never care what becomes of them. The only thing they understand is force. I hope the good people of New Orleans realize this. I hope you do as well.

Friday, August 26, 2005

...So Long As 100 Of Us Can Remain Alive...

On Tuesday, August the 23rd of 2005 Sir William Wallace was honored in a ceremony in the place where he was executed by the English in 1305.

Sir William Wallace was further honored by a few polls over the years:

"Opinion polls in recent years suggest between a quarter and a half of Scotland's 5 million people want the same independence from London which Wallace fought for seven centuries ago."

The man who honored Wallace in the ceremony went further to show his respect:

"Our country is still ruled from somewhere else,' he said, referring to the British parliament. 'It's time the leaders in Scotland woke up and listened to what the people want."

That quote was from David Ross, historian, author, musician & International Convener of the Society of William Wallace. I also recommend looking at his site

700 years ago Wallace was tortured, executed, butchered & scattered because he dared stand up to a foreign king who claimed dominion over his home. Today Scotland is still subject to the foreign land that Wallace fought against. It would seem to me that honoring Wallace would have to entail at least some sympathy for Scottish independence.

Now if the Scots wish to live subject to British Parliament then that's their decision. I'm not a Scot & I would not presume to tell them what to do with their country. But if you're wondering whether I'd support those Scots who wish to live absent the British Parliament my answer would have to be aye.
Oh Good Grief

This is not directly gun related (though I might play a round of "Six Degrees of John Moses Browning").

Gretchen Wilson is being asked by some ass in Tennessee (actually the AG, or Ass, Generally) to stop using chaw (i.e. smokeless tobacky) at her concerts.

"State officials said
Gretchen Wilson can be seen on concert jumbo screens pulling a can of Skoal from her pocket while performing her new song, 'Skoal Ring.'
That may violate the 1998 settlement between states and tobacco companies forbidding tobacco ads targeting young people, Attorney General Paul Summers said."

WTF??? Exactly how does it violate an agreement miss Wilson was not a party to?

"Many young people attend your concerts and purchase your music and T-shirts,' Summers wrote in a letter he sent to Wilson Thursday. 'Because your actions strongly influence the youth in your audience ... I ask you to take steps to warn young people of negative health effects of smokeless tobacco use."

Huh. Well I wonder how many "young people" read papers that have asshatted quotes from the AG of Tennessee? Doesn't that impart a duty on him to remove his head from whoever's orifice it's currently entrenched in? After all, we wouldn't want impressionable young folks to start acting like self righteous controlling statist assholes now would we? I mean aren't there negative effects of participating in such behavior, well other than being accused of being a lawyer? (To all my lawyer pals, nothing personal, but damn - jerks like Summers give the other 2% of ya'll a bad rep).

"The landmark $206 billion tobacco settlement 'provided that advertisements such as this would be and should be prohibited,' Summers said."

Hmmm. I am almost certain that "advertise" was used in the sense of compensating a person or company for the promotion of their wares or services. That would exclude the more generalized sense of advertise (i.e. AG Summers advertised both his ignorance of the law & his disdain for private actions not controlled by the state with his asshatted statements).

"U.S. Smokeless Tobacco does not have an agreement with Wilson or any artists to promote its products, said company spokesman Mike Bazinet. Summers said his office is also contacting the company about the use of its products at Wilson's concerts."

Hmm So Summers, being the astute paragon of legal intellect that he is, is claiming that an agreement between party A (the tobacco companies) & party B (the government) is enforceable against party C (miss Wilson). What a brilliant actionable strategy. I know; next why doesn't he make Smith & Wesson sign an agreement - wait, not Smith & Wesson since some still aren't over the last time they did that - let's get, Col... Damn. I'm running out of untainted firearms makers. Let's get the firearms industry to sign an agreement with the government saying that none of their products will be "advertised" during a crime. That way should anyone use on of their firearms while committing said crime then the AG can write them a letter telling them to stop cause kids are impressionable.


Disclaimer: I don't know miss Wilson. I've heard one or two of her songs but only in parts. I did hear "Redneck Woman" when I was in the Carolinas, but it was performed by my friends in a band called Latitude not by miss Wilson. (In case you missed it the url was for Latitude; Myrtle Beach's finest Beach, Dance & Party music duo - now hopefully they'll stop calling me about that 20 bucks I probably owe them ;D ) Further I don't use Skoal or any other form of smokeless tobacco. I smoke cigarettes with an occasional cigar thrown in the mix. I am not being paid by miss Wilson, Skoal, or any group generally opposed to asshattery in public orifice office holders.

I am a musician though & the idea of the state even having a freakin' opinion on what I do that is not against any law, legit or contrived, is as repulsive as Tipper Gore's explorations into a new special place back in the mid 80's. I don't care if smokeless tobacco is bad for you. I don't care if fast food is bad for you. Nor do I care if language or subject matter is offensive. If you don't wish to be subject to that kinda of thing then don't go to the damn venue where it's occurring. If you don't want your children to be exposed to that kind of thing then don't let them attend the venue where that will be occurring.

I mean bloody hell, what's next? Banning t-shirts or caps cause they have a picture of a firearm? - oh, nevermind. Or perhaps suspending young children for playing cops & robbers at school? Er, nevermind again. Oh surely some places haven't proscribed the spelling of the word "gun" have they? Ayup.

The root of this (& here's how it does come back to firearms, albeit indirectly) is the desire to prohibit things that aren't thought to be proper. Even when things are popularly accepted there are some who would deny those things to others based on their own beliefs. (Temperence anyone?) It's different in specifics for sure, but the base is constant: someone is doing something I do not approve of therefore I will try to get them to refrain. Now acting asan individual I can tolerate a bit of that. But as an individual I can also tell you to go straight to hell & disregard any entreaties to stop whatever my "offensive" behavior is.

Summers is not acting as an individual. He's acting as an agent of the state of Tennessee. He has not told anyone they must stop doing anything, but the weight of the state is presumed to be behind him if he did so. If he wished to voice his concerns to miss Wilson as an individual then it wouldn't be that much of an issue for me. But to use his office to ask someone to reduce or eliminate a legal behavior because he does not approve of such behavior is a subtle yet brutal strike at the notion of a people not controlled by the state.

Sure, smokeless tobacky might be bad for ya, but it is not the states' place to protect us from ourselves. The states' place is to protect us from each other whenever we try to disparage the equal rights of one another. Anything more than that is more dangerous than any substance in a can could ever be.

Considering the title of some of her songs ("Redneck Woman"; "Pocahantus Proud"; etc.) I sincerely hope miss Wilson does not give AG Summers the typical southern courtesy & keeps the Marlboro red between her lips while she tells him to kiss her country fried ass.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Independence Day. The 229th anniversary of a statement of freedom from a government that impeded individual liberty. (Please note: the holiday is called Independence Day. It occurs on the 4th of July. Unless you typically wish people a happy 25th of December or ask if they have plans for the 31rst of December then please try to refer to the holiday by its rightful name. Referencing it by its date belittles the import of it to just another day that you don't have to work & the banks are all closed - thanks.)

Some are unhappy with the way things are yet hopeful. Some othersare unhappy with the way things are & feel dejected. There is a long list of grievences to be unhappy about for sure. Though unspoken as the cause, it's not difficult to speculate on the nature of some folks depression.

I was thinking about making a big long post filled with links to support the greivences I have against the government - or perhaps more accurately the ones it seems to have against me. The links above do a fine job of that, even if they're somewhat understated. Instead I'll point you to this post on Patriots' Day; this one about the Mecklenburg Declaraion of Independence & the Mecklenburg Resolves; this one on The Declaration of the Causes & Necessities of Taking Up Arms (No Quarters has more on the Document that We Forgot); this one on Independence Day; & this one on Bill of Rights Day. I'll also point you to The War on Guns' Patriots Day post as the pictures sum up things too accurately. Tell Me How Do I Get To My America? is another one I'd ask you to glance at. & it will be much worth your while to visit this post of IsThatLegal's where an Independence Day speech by then AG (soon to be Supree Court justice) Robert Jackson is transcribed.

Today is not a happy one for me. I think of my state & the Republic which she is a member of & I find little comfort or cause for celebration. I won't wax dramatic on you about it but I will say that I have little or no faith in the government & not much more in the people. Churchill said that it's good for an uneducated man to read a book of quotes. I admit I have found this to be good advice for myself at least. Sometimes words from others give solace & comfort to a troubled soul. I will leave you with some excerpts of folk more sober in thought & spirit than I am currently.

"Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow, what would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites?" - H L Mencken

"It is the fundamental theory of all the more recent American law...that the average citizen is half-witted, and hence not to be trusted to either his own devices or his own thoughts." - H L Mencken

"A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar" - H L Mencken

"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." - H L Mencken

"The argument that capital punishment degrades the state is moonshine, for if that were true then it would degrade the state to send men to war... The state, in truth, is degraded in its very nature: a few butcheries cannot do it any further damage" - H L Mencken

"The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-bye to the Bill of Rights" - H L Mencken

"Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods" - H L Mencken

"All government, in its essence, is organized exploitation, and in virtually all of its existing forms it is the implacable enemy of every industrious and well-disposed man" - H L Mencken

"The ideal government of reflective men, from Aristotle onward, is one which lets the individual alone" - H L Mencken

"It is the theory of all modern civilized governments that they protect and foster the liberty of the citizen;it is the practice of all of them to limit its exercise, and sometimes very narrowly." - H L Mencken

“The average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenth’s imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty--and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies. It is, indeed, only the exceptional man who can even stand it. The average man doesn’t want to be free. He simply wants to be safe.” - H L Mencken

"Anything that is moral for a group to do is moral for one person to do" - R A Heinlein

"No intelligent man has any respect for an unjust law. He simply follows the eleventh commandment" - R A Heinlein

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects" - R A Heinlein

"Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure 'good' government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare; most people want to run things but want no part of the blame" - R A Heinlein

"I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do" - R A Heinlein

"The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it" - Ayn Rand

"The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles." - Ayn Rand

"A government is the most dangerous threat to man's rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims" - Ayn Rand

"Evil requires the sanction of the victim" - Ayn Rand

"It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master" - Ayn Rand

"The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws" - Ayn Rand

"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force" - Ayn Rand

"Government 'help' to business is just as disastrous as government persecution... the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off" - Ayn Rand

"Just as man can't exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one's rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results, which means: the right of property" - Ayn Rand

"Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law" - Ayn Rand

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual)" - Ayn Rand

"It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time" - Sir Winston Churchill

"It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required" - Sir Winston Churchill

"An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it." -Jeff Cooper

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" - Edmund Burke

"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt." - John Philpot Curran

"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government" - Alexander Hamilton

"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws" - Tacitus

"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law', because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual" - Thomas Jefferson

"Can our form of government, our system of justice, survive if one can be denied a freedom because he might abuse it?" - Harlan Carter

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government" - Edward Abbey

"It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood . . ." - James Madison

"Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it." - Patrick Henry

For a few more quotes look here.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Fire On The Mountain

There was a made for T.V. movie that debuted in 1981 on NBC. Buddy Ebson played John Vogelin, who had property that the government wanted but he refused to sell. The government told him that he'd be put off his property one way or the other & he told them to go to hell. The movie was called Fire on the Mountain.
I watched it twice (it was re-ran a few years later) when I was a kid but haven't seen it since. It stuck with me though. It struck me deeply at the time & I'm sure I'd feel the same if I saw it again. I recall everyone who watched it with me feeling the same way to one extent or another. In fact I know very few people who wouldn't have been rooting for "ol' Jed Clampett" when the gub'mint tried to kick him off his land. But it was simply a story about an old man who wanted to spend the few years that he had left on his own property & an uncaring government trying to force him off.
It was a good movie. Damn shame I can't find a copy of it now, especially in light of recent events.
I assume that you're heard the sorted details of Kelo v. New London. I also assume that you've seen the reactions. Say Uncle has been following the eminent domain issue for some time & he took things pretty hard (as we all should have). Others had a more defiant way of expressing their disapproval with the notion that all property belongs to the government. Still others are just plain pissed.
Me? I'm disappointed in the courts as I am every time they screw something up. I wasn't surprised though. None of us should have been. This particular part of the path started a long time ago; roughly the time when it was societally accepted that the government can charge you rent impose protection money taxes on your property annually & force you to seek permission for any changes you want made to your property through various zoning laws & building permit schemes. Pissed off at SCOTUS? Ya damn skippy. But no one should be surprised at this. It's just the next logical step in the path we've taken.
Now let's look at some other steps that should be obvious. They're not ideal steps for anyone involved, but I fear they're unavoidable. There will be someone, perhaps several someones at different locations in different times, who simply refuse to give up their homes for whatever reason. The papers will portray them (posthumously of course) as extremists or criminals or in some other negative light. About ten of us will remember them for a few months then forget they ever existed. Kevin pointed out that society is just too apathetic to make a stand.
Mr. du Toit spoke a while back of what it'd take to push people into action. I think he put it correctly that it's not just one thing but several that usually get people off their asses. He also makes the point that property rights are usually at the heart of such actions. but Say Uncle makes an equally valid point:
Which brings us back to a comment Kevin made to one of his posts:
" 'I wonder how many Carl Dregas it'll take.'
A lot more than there will be.
Remember Marvin Heemeyer?
Pretty much nobody else does either."
I've got another name for you: Andrew Mickel. Ring a bell? He was just convicted in April of killing a cop in 2002. He killed the cop to make a political statement about the infringement of our civil liberties by the government. He issn't right wing though; he seems to be a left leaning anti-corporation type libertarian. & that is probably why you didn't hear much about him in the press - he was too close to being one of theirs.
I don't condone what Mickel did even though I understand the frustration which led to his actions. But Mickel being wrong isn't the point; the point is that someone acted against government (albeit wrongfully) & very few people took enough notice to remember his name let alone consider the merits or lack thereof in his actions.
Randy Weaver. A lot of gun nuts remember him for much the same reason Harry Potter was famous before he even attended the Wizarding School; he was the one who lived. He was attacked by the federal government & he survived (although his son & wife were murdered during the ordeal).
David Koresh & Elian Gonzales also come to mind when we think of heavy handedness by the government, but Koresh was the one who fought back, so we remember him posthumously. & honestly the press carried so many stories filled with allegations of child molestation that many gun nuts don't want to remember him as they think he's a bad mark on us all.
Of course there's also Timothy McVeigh. He's remembered, but as a definite bad example. His actions put the government in the role of the victim with the individual in the role of villain.
But how many folks remember the Bonus Army? Hell, how many people have ever even heard of the Bonus Army? At the time it generated enough public sentiment to be a factor in electing the Great Socialist to office but now I doubt 1 in 100 people would know anything about them.
So any examples of people taking on the government are forgotten, unless they put the government in a desirable role. Let's face it - individuals are losing the PR war. The press is too sympathetic to government expansion as long as it's in line with their way of thinking. If a person who kills a cop or two gets caught with Marx's work in his home then he barely gets mentioned, but if that same person were caught with Randy Weaver's books then he's a right wing extremist.
I think it's safe to presume that any use of force against the government will not generate a public outcry on your behalf. Odds are you won't be remembered a week after you're dead; maybe less time if American Idol is having finals. If you are it'll be because the press succeeded in painting you as a horrible person.
There will be people who do resist government over eminent domain, gun control or a host of other issues. What will happen is when someone takes a stand the papers will run elaborate stories on the brave cop who was brutally murdered & left behind two small kids, & go on to mention how a John Ross novel ("a popular cult author amongst right wing extremists") was found on the same block as the person who senselessly murdered the cop. Just look closely at the news & you may catch a glimpse of them. There won't be detailed stories about the person's multi-year struggle with the government, or the questionable nature of the law being enforced or the method used to enforce them, just all the dirt that can possibly be found or implied on the person in question.
Gun owners don't have a good reputation. We own guns. That's usually enough to put us on the wrong foot with the press. There won't be any PR favors done on our account. So don't look for them. In fact expect the opposite. If you try to protect your life or your property by force against criminals you usually spend too much time reading negative critiques of your actions - & that's against habitual criminals. If the habitual criminal has a government badge then you can kiss your 10 minute spot on Oprah good-bye.
Why am I spending so much time talking about image & public perception? Because I think that half the gun nuts out there believe that if they barricade themselves in their house that word will spread & the Militia will come to their rescue. Hell, I'd like to believe that. I'd like to believe my bank account has several more zeros on the right side of the decimal point than I remember. But wishing does not make it so. The press will have any & all skeletons out of your closet so fast it'd make Paris Hilton look like a slow moving nun. What the press can't find it will allege. & any person who thinks about assisting you will have second thoughts when it hears the anonymous source recount how you told them about your secret desire to rape wounded puppies.
Still certain people will reach a point where they either make a stand or turn tail & flee. About 1 in 1,000,000 will make a stand. & I cannot say that I won't sympathize with them, I just know I probably won't be in a position to materially help them. If I ever reach that point I know it'll be my & my shadow. That's the grim reality we face; divide & conquer is the government's most effective strategy against us both philosophically & materially.
In Fire on the Mountain there was a sympathetic character. He was fighting an impossible battle against overwhelming odds with Right on his side. He died. Anyone making a stand against government would be lucky to generate a millionth of the sympathy that Ebson's character did. But they will most likely die, albeit not as nobly as Ebson's character.
I'm pissed about Kelo. It was a slap in the face to anyone who dared read the 5th amendment's Takings Clause. & there are some things I will take a stand over. But I rent. I rent because I see it as less pretentious. Paying yearly protection money to a government is not "owning" property to me. Neither is begging leave to build on said property & then having my work inspected. I rent because it's honest. It gives me no allusions. I do not own the property I live on just as I wouldn't really own the property I claimed to own. In my case the landlord owns the property I rent, whereas if I bought something I'd be in the landlord's position of thinking I owned it when in actuality the government is merely letting me tend its property for it.
So Kelo won't directly affect me. But it hurts just the same as it takes us one step closer to a Marxist view of property Rights. It's not a surprising step but it's not one I feel good about us taking.
"In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property"
That's from Marx's The Communist Manifesto.
Here's another excerpt from that same piece which may put things into perspective:
"...Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes." Check.
"2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax." Check.
"3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance." Working on it.
"4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels." Working on it; see Asset Forfeiture for more detail.
"5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly." Let's call this one almost done with just some final tweaking left.
"6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state." FCC, FAA & TSA have it under control.
"7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan." We've got our best people on that.
"8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture." Not yet, but we have some ideas about how best to approach those things. See Americorps.
"9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country." We like to call it "urban sprawl".
"10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc." Check.
What SCOTUS did with Kelo was merely to reaffirm the goal of Marxism in relation to property while setting Locke into high rpm mode.
It's been very gradual. Incremental is the popular phrase. But I fear that Marx has won. No; we're not completely communist or even completely socialist. But we have all the essential building blocks of such a system in place. We just need a push or two in a few instances to take us the rest of the way.
The main idea of Rand's Atlas Shrugged was that if the ones who society leeched off of the most would go on strike eventually society would become disarrayed. If you’re doing 90% of the work at a company but only getting 2% of the net, by going on strike you force the company to realize your value & hopefully they'll reflect that in their next offer. I feel that Rand was overly optimistic. While there's a desire on some level to say "to hell with it" & let the country get by without my efforts the truth is the government has too much reserve. For the attrition brought on by non-participation to take effect it'd have to be on a massive scale & even then it'd take decades. Similarly a John Ross style revolution would be ineffective. Achieving it on a large enough scale to be effective would prove impossible & ultimately it would just fuel the governments inclination to dissolve any pretense of liberty we have.
So what to do about Kelo? Part of me says to do what I do; rent. Stop playing the real estate game under such rules. But there simply wouldn't be enough people to make any sort of impact. The dozens or even hundreds that sold their homes to rent a place would be quickly replaced by people eager to buy into the illusion of owning something. & chances are with government assisted loans.
Passing laws on the local level has been suggested, but here's the problem: even if you do get an acceptable law passed, the very next legislative term could see it reversed. An acknowledgement of property rights in a constitution is the best bet we'd have against governmental disregard for our property. But that's been tried before. It'd be just as silly as England making confrontational crimes illegal again. If they couldn't read the parchment on the wall yesterday what makes you think they will read it tomorrow?
Go buy a couple hundred rounds of ammo. Then shoot it at a safe shooting range. Try to do this at least once a month if not once a week. While you're shooting I want you to do something that should be very unpleasant. Think about what it would take for you to say "no farther" & defend yourself against governmental intrusion. Don't think about killing some faceless jackbooted thug to protect your children; think about Joe Blow from two blocks over. You went to high school with him & heard he just had a baby girl. Now think about him with the badge on coming to take away your guns, your house, whatever that last straw would be for you. Not because he wants to but because that’s what his job is & he believes it’s proper. He just wants to get it over with quickly & peacefully & go home to see how his new daughter is doing. Now think about it just being you against this friend of yours with a newborn baby at home. Now think about him not just coming with the badge, but a court order & the full blessing of government on a state & federal level. & don't think it'd be just you & him; it'd be just you alright, but with about 5 to 25 others just like your old school chum. That's what you should think about before talking mightily about taking it to the streets. Think about it just once, & remember vividly any conclusions you came to. That's the position you'd be in if you did draw a final line around something. If more than one in ten could pull the trigger on a paper target while merely think about those things & the implications I'd be surprised.
Still, buy the ammo & practice. If for no other reason than it's an enjoyable way to not think about things like Kelo. Course I do have one idea; since prevention is one of the most important aspects of the 2nd amendment we should work with that.
April 15th is Buy A Gun day. November 19th is National Ammo day. Let's make June 23rd American Range Trip day. Bringing some ART into the world would be appropriate, especially on a date which 5 people so artfully dodged the plain text of their controlling document. There’s a catch though - since 2006 would be the 215th anniversary of the Bill of Rights (if they'd have survived that is) let’s say you must expend at least 215 rounds downrange. In 2007 it’d be 216 rounds & so on with each new year. Any firearm chambered for any cartridge is cool, but I'd be much happier if you had at least one .30 rifle (bolt or gas operated) on the line.
I'm pessimistic about this or any other action having any positive effect on the nation as a whole, but as with too many things in this world, sometimes it's preferable to do something, even if it's in vain, than to do nothing.
Course if anyone finds a copy of Fire on the Mountain on DVD for sale let me know. I could use a good movie right now. I think we all could.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Mockingbirds And Canaries

Atticus. Interesting sounding name. More interesting that his children called him that instead of father or papa. But what was most interesting was not his name or how he was called but a very simple idea that he conveyed. This idea was of course where the movie got its title. To paraphrase, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird because the mockingbird doesn't cause any harm; it only tries to do good.
If you've never seen the movie then stop reading this right now & go rent it. Or buy it. To Kill A Mockingbird is a great film from the end of an age of great films. But aside from being great from a cinematic viewpoint it holds a lesson for us gun nuts. One that we're badly in need of.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Note: I use this site for initially posting audio stuff. My written posts can be found at

Thursday, March 17, 2005

As He Told The Miller's Tale: Problems With u.S. Vs. Miller

It's apparently "reprint older posts" week around here. This one is a critique of the misinterpretations of U.S. v. Miller. I had once considered making it a monthly feature but how many times can I point out that Miller was decided inadequately & has subsequently been misunderstood?
Now I am not the first to tackle the problems with Miller: Brian Puckett wrote a piece entitled United States v. Miller and Short-Barreled Shotguns which I would encourage you to read. (He has more modern examples of shotgun use in the military - with pics!) I've previously touched on Miller here & here But for my own reference felt a more in depth refutation of Miller was necessary.
Many federal courts rely on U.S. v. Miller in which the Supreme Court remanded a case back to the District Court that had overturned the National Firearms Act of 1934. The District Court agreed with Miller that the NFA violated the 2nd Amendment. Justice McReynolds delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court that the weapon in question, a shotgun with a barrel of less than 18", was not known to the court to have use in the militia & therefore the NFA didn't conflict with the 2nd Amendment.
Most federal courts since then have misconstrued this to mean that unless a person was actually serving in a state militia with a state approved weapon then the 2nd Amendment is inapplicable to them. This is flawed simply because the findings in Miller did not state or even imply such a conclusion. In fact Miller went to great lengths to establish that "militia" meant every person capable of serving in the common defense.
Before I get into the Supreme Court's decision in Miller there are a few facts I would like to point out about the case. First of all a gentleman named Patrick L. Aultice compiled all the available information on Miller that he could find. [Note: That link doesn't seem to be working at the moment. I'll try to insert a valid link when I find one. In the meantime here's a link to the District Court decision in Miller. Note: Here's the google cache of the non functioning link. Thanks to Bill of The Freeholder for providing the link.] It contains every document from the district court's grant of bail to the Supreme Court decision itself as well as a brief summation of Jack Miller himself.
It should be noted that Miller was indicted twice for the same violation of the NFA; once on June 2nd, 1938 & again on September 23rd, 1938. In the first instance a demurrer to the indictment listing 5 items was filed on June 11th, 1938 with a memo opinion from Judge Ragon on June 11th, 1938. In the second instance a demurrer to the indictment listing 6 items was filed on January 3rd, 1939 & a memo opinion was given by Judge Ragon on January 3rd, 1939. In Mr. Aultice's chapter on Jack Miller, he mentions that Miller originally plead guilty but the judge advised him to withdraw his plea & he appointed counsel for both him & Mr. Layton (who was indicted along with Miller). I think if you have an interest in the case you'll find all the documents & summaries provided by Mr. Aultice interesting, but I'll leave it to you to click on the link above for the detailed story.
This is Judge Ragon's opinion as stated on January 3rd, 1939:
"The defendants in this case are charged with unlawfully and feloniously transporting in interstate commerce from the town of Claremore, Oklahoma, to the town of Siloam Springs in the State of Arkansas, a double barrel twelve gauge shot gun having a barrel less than eighteen inches in length, and at the time of so transporting said fire arm in interstate commerce they did not have in their possession a stamp-affixed written order for said fire arm as required by Section 1132 c, Title 26 U. S. C. A., and the regulations issued under the authority of said Act of Congress known as the National Fire Arms Act.
The defendants in due time filed a demurrer challenging the sufficiency of the facts stated in the indictment to constitute a crime and further challenging the sections under which said indictment was returned as being in contravention of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The indictment is based upon the Act of June 26, 1934, C.757, Section 11, 48 Statute 1239. The court is of the opinion that this section is invalid in that it violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing, '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 demurrer is accordingly sustained."
That & the demurrer itself are all the Supreme Court had to go on from the defense. They did not submit a brief or attend oral arguments.
The briefs from the government in objection to the lower court's ruling were very detailed. Common law was cited as far back as 1686 in England to support the idea that restrictions on arms were justifiable. What they failed to do was demonstrate that the 2nd Amendment sought to adopt the common law of England in its restrictive view of the Right to Arms. But oddly enough the Supreme Court decision itself fills in many gaps that the government left in its briefs concerning militias.
This is an excerpt from Miller where Justice McReynolds states his overall findings concerning the case:
"In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense"
He then goes on to explain the Congressional power concerning the militia that was granted in the Constitution & concludes that
"With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view."
He then continues about the militia:
"The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they [307 U.S. 174, 179] were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia- civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.
The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 'A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."
Justice McReynolds spends a great deal of time in discussing the history & purpose of a militia:
"Blackstone's Commentaries, Vol. 2, Ch. 13, p. 409 points out 'that king Alfred first settled a national militia in this kingdom' and traces the subsequent development and use of such forces.
Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Book V. Ch. 1, contains an extended account of the Militia. It is there said: 'Men of republican principles have been jealous of a standing army as dangerous to liberty.' 'In a militia, the character of the labourer, artificer, or tradesman, predominates over that of the soldier: in a standing army, that of the soldier predominates over every other character; and in this distinction seems to consist the essential difference between those two different species of military force.'
'The American Colonies In The 17th Century', Osgood, Vol. 1, ch. XIII, affirms in reference to the early system of defense in New England-
'In all the colonies, as in England, the militia system was based on the principle of the assize of arms. This implied the general obligation of all adult male inhabitants to possess arms, and, with certain exceptions, to [307 U.S. 174, 180] cooperate in the work of defence.' 'The possession of arms also implied the possession of ammunition, and the authorities paid quite as much attention to the latter as to the former.' 'A year later (1632) it was ordered that any single man who had not furnished himself with arms might be put out to service, and this became a permanent part of the legislation of the colony (Massachusetts).'
Also 'Clauses intended to insure the possession of arms and ammunition by all who were subject to military service appear in all the important enactments concerning military affairs. Fines were the penalty for delinquency, whether of towns or individuals. According to the usage of the times, the infantry of Massachusetts consisted of pikemen and musketeers. The law, as enacted in 1649 and thereafter, provided that each of the former should be armed with a pike, corselet, head-piece, sword, and knapsack. The musketeer should carry a 'good fixed musket,' not under bastard musket bore, not less than three feet, nine inches, nor more than four feet three inches in length, a priming wire, scourer, and mould, a sword, rest, bandoleers, one pound of powder, twenty bullets, and two fathoms of match. The law also required that two-thirds of each company should be musketeers."
He then continues with examples of regulations concerning militias in the states before he concludes:
"Most if not all of the States have adopted provisions touching the right to keep and bear arms. Differences in the language employed in these have naturally led to somewhat variant conclusions concerning the scope of the right guaranteed. But none of them seem to afford any material support for the challenged ruling of the court below.
In the margin some of the more important opinions and comments by writers are cited. 3 [307 U.S. 174, 183] We are unable to accept the conclusion of the court below and the challenged judgment must be reversed.
The cause will be remanded for further proceedings."
Justice McReynolds never mentions that Miller was not a member of a state militia & therefore had no standing. Rather he concludes that the weapon Miller had was not of a benefit to the militia, but he even left that open by mentioning that it was not within judicial notice.
Now once again here's the relevant passage of Miller:
"In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense"
Matters of fact are usually left to the trial court, unless it is something very obvious such as the capital of Oregon or the allegation that a river runs from the upper midwest to the Gulf of Mexico or that cars use gasoline. But what is curious is that the Supreme Court at the time had two justices with prior military experience, three if you count a newly appointed justice who recused himself from the case due to his missing the oral arguments. From this page the JPFO put together on Miller I found the following:
"...Two of the Court's members had seen military service, Justice Hugo Black as a Captain in the Field Artillery in 1918 and Justice Felix Frankfurter as a Major in the Army's Legal service. Justice William O. Douglas, who did not take part in the decision, had been a private in the U.S. Army in 1918."
So it should have been possible that at the least Justice Black had some exposure to the military's use of short barreled weapons. From the same article from the JPFO we see numerous examples of the military use of short barreled weapons.
"The British issued a Sea Service flintlock blunderbuss with a 16-inch brass barrel, circa 1760..."
Jumping to the Late Unpleasantness 'Twixt the States:
"The degree to which barrels were amputated depended upon the whim of the cavalryman, or was dictated by battle damage sustained by the gun. Thin gun barrels were often dented or bent. Since weapons were scarce, the damaged portion was simply cut-off to restore the gun to action. This resulted in the discovery that shortened guns were more controllable while mounted; therefore, they were better suited for fighting purposes."
& further:
"In 1861, the Federal government purchased 10,000 Austrian-made carbines (KammerKarabiner, Model 1842). This muzzle-loading .71 caliber firearm resembled a shotgun: it had a 14.5" rifled barrel and no bayonet...The government issued three types of ammunition for this carbine: buckshot and ball combined, ordinary buckshot, and round balls..."
& from WW1:
"...The Ordnance Department procured some 30,000 to 40,000 shotguns of the short-barrel or sawed-off type, ordering these from the regular commercial manufacturers..."
But it is entirely possible that none of the justices were aware that short barreled shotguns not only could be of use, but had & currently were in use by the U.S. military.
Now Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides in part for Congress to have the authority to:
"To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water..."
A letter of marque is defined at as: "a letter from a government formerly used to grant a private person the power to seize the subjects of a foreign state" & more specifically: "authority granted to a private person to fit out an armed ship to plunder the enemy (usu. used in pl.) (often used in the phrase letters of marque and reprisal)".
Private citizens were granted permission to engage an enemy nation on the seas. Now if any of you have ever spent time aboard any ship you'll understand what a commodity space is. A short barreled shotgun or rifle, not to mention a belt fed machine gun, would be the preferred weapons aboard any ship. I am sure that the U.S. Navy employed shot barreled weapons, including shotguns, aboard her vessels & it would be foolish to conclude that given the options we have today short barreled automatic weapons as well as shotguns would not have been coveted by the early American Navy.
The same part of the Constitution also states that Congress is empowered:
"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions..."
Up until the mid 1800's the military (including the militia) was expected to perform the same duties as police officers do today. & considering that in most states citizens have power of arrest when they see a felony or other dangerous crime being committed it would not be unreasonable to conclude that weapons similar to what the police departments use would be well suited to the private citizen. If you weren't aware police departments & other law enforcement agencies do use short barreled shotguns among other NFA weapons.
The justification used in Congress to pass the NFA was that certain weapons such as short barreled shotguns were particularly suited to criminal use. Criminals did use them on occasion. But this points to a another class of people at whom the sale of short barreled shotguns was targeted: law abiding citizens.
Miller was decided foremost on an inaccurate assumption of fact: that short barreled shotguns had no militia use. It's obvious to anyone with more than a moderate knowledge of firearms that literally any weapon is suited to militia use, just as any weapon is suited for criminal use, or police use. It is not the type or design of the weapon that determines their suitability to a specific class of person, but the intent of the individual wielding the weapon.
Moving on to Justice McReynolds finding of law, I cannot begin to fathom how he would have (if indeed he would have) justified the NFA once he was shown that the short barreled shotgun, as well as all other weapons covered by the NFA, do in fact have a use for the militia. But let's just forget that point of fact for the sake of argument.
Justice McReynolds states that, "...With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view." The preceding part of his statement merely recited the powers Congress was granted concerning the militia.
So the continuance & possibility of an effective militia was considered the reason for the amendment & all interpretations must be consistent with that goal. To which I must point out that the militia was to be called forth to "...execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions". Justice McReynolds states a little later on that "...The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia--civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion."
The same weapons useful for one of the purposes would be useful for the others, providing the wielder of said weapon was proficient with them. Naturally a belt fed machine gun would be useful in repelling an invasion, but also in suppressing a riot or to stop or discourage looters during a black out. & equally a short barreled shotgun would be useful in repelling invaders, as it would be in suppressing a riot or discouraging looters during a black out. The same could be said of any weapon as long it was used by someone who knew its strengths & limitations.
If a person one day finds himself behind a belt fed machine gun, or a short barreled shotgun in the course of his lawful duties within the militia the type of weapon he has will do him little good if he is not properly trained in its use. So if the 2nd Amendment must be interpreted with the goal of keeping a well trained militia capable of acting for the public defense, then the courts must strike down laws which impose burdensome fess or other restrictions on the individual obtaining & practicing with weapons suited to militia use. That would encompass all weapons as a militia may find itself in what we today would consider a military combat role; a military peacekeeping role; an irregular military role; a general police role; or a specialized police role (such as a SWAT team).
A militia was expected at the time to perform the duties of soldiers as well as policeman. Fighting an invading army is the most common thought of use for the militia, but fighting an oppressive government, suppressing insurrections, enforcing laws, controlling & dispersing riots, as well as helping an area during & after a natural disaster would all fall under the duties of the militia. That these duties have been neglected is bad for us not just because of the misunderstanding surrounding the 2nd Amendment, but because our obligations to our communities, states & country have been neglected along with them.
I believe Justice McReynolds own findings established that the militia is any able bodied person capable of acting in the public defense. But I will add a few quotes from those around at the time of the Revolution as well as some who lived to see the Constitution ratified:
"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves...and include all men capable of bearing arms." - Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Framer (1788) at p. 169
"It is reported that the Governor has said, that he has Three Things in Command from the Ministry, more grievous to the People, than any Thing hitherto made known. It is conjectured 1st, that the Inhabitants of this Province are to be disarmed." - "ABC" (PSEUD., SAMUEL ADAMS)
"The said Constitution be never construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms." - Samuel Adams, during Massachusetts's Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788).
"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them." - Zachariah Johnson, 3 Elliot, Debates at 646
"Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state government, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." - Tench Coxe, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
"No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by arming the people. The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He, who has nothing, and who himself belongs to another, must be defended by him, whose property he is, and needs no arms. But he, who thinks he is his own master, and has what he can call his own, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses; else he lives precariously, and at discretion." - James Burgh, Political Disquisitions: Or, an Enquiry into Public Errors, Defects, and Abuses [London, 1774-1775].
"The right of the people to keep and bear...arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country..." - James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434, June 8, 1789.
"As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms." - Tench Coxe in `Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution' under the Pseudonym "A Pennsylvanian" in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789 at 2 col. 1.
"The right of the people to keep and bear arms has been recognized by the General Government; but the best security of that right after all is, the military spirit, that taste for martial exercises, which has always distinguished the free citizens of these States....Such men form the best barrier to the liberties of America" - Gazette of the United States, October 14, 1789.
"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed - unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." - James Madison, The Federalist Papers No. 46 at 243-244.
"...but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights..." - Alexander Hamilton speaking of standing armies in Federalist No. 29.
"The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops." - Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution Proposed BV the Late Convention (1787).
You get the idea: the militia was thought of as the body of the people that were capable of bearing arms. The law that currently defines the militia in the United States can be found at 10 U.S.C. § 311. While it only includes males between the ages of 17 & 45 I would say its safe to say that with the case law concerning equality between the sexes that women should not count themselves out of the militia just yet. & it should be noted that whether this age range is applicable depends entirely on the occasion for which the militia is called up; should a hurricane ravage a town along one of our coasts or an invading force attempt entry at our borders then I would think the time honored definition of "any able bodied person capable of acting" would be what's required.
& I'll beg your forgiveness as the next bit of information I was going to present isn't where I thought it was. It's a case the Supreme Court decided in the early 1900's or possibly the last decade of the 1800'2. The name escapes me but it was a tax case & it more or less held that taxation must not be for any regulatory purpose but solely for raising revenue. I'd kindly ask for anyone who recalls the name of this case to drop me a note as I don't expect anyone to merely rely on my word that such a case exists or that it found what I say it found. So if you'll pardon the lack of citation I'll submit that a taxing measure must not be for regulation: its sole purpose must be to generate revenue.
I must ask, is a $200 tax on a short barreled shotgun (which prior to the NFA sold for between $10 & $40) something that you would do to generate revenue? I could possibly see a tax of 10% or even 50% of certain items, but 200%? & instead of requiring a tax stamp that is transferable without any further oversight, a request for permission for the tax stamp, as well as much paperwork must be delivered to the government & your request could very well be denied. Further in 1968 all weapons in existence that fell under the NFA & that were not registered & taxed were declared contraband & wouldn't be able to be registered after a grace period ended. In 1986 all newly manufactured weapons were prohibited from being added to the registration. I realize these last two things happened long after Miller was decided, but can there be any doubt about the NFA's purpose being one other than taxation?
To further that I offer you this testimony from the congressional debate concerning the NFA in April & May of 1934. In it Mr. Frederick (President of the NRA) discusses his views on the proposed NFA. Several times it is mentioned that the purpose of the bill is a regulatory measure under the guise of a revenue measure & towards the end there is open discussion about the goals of the legislation, which is to target gangsters.
In Murdock v. Pennsylvania it was found that:
"A state may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a right granted by the federal constitution... The power to impose a license tax on the exercise of these freedoms is indeed as potent as the power of censorship which this Court has repeatedly struck down... a person cannot be compelled 'to purchase, through a license fee or a license tax, the privilege freely granted by the constitution."
So even if on the surface the NFA was a revenue raising measure it would not be applicable to possession of firearms. I would offer that a sales tax as is common to other items similar in value & collectible at the retail purchase of a firearm would not fall under the provision of Murdock, but I cannot see how a $200 tax on items that at the time were as cheap as $2 (sound suppressors) & currently could still be half the value of the tax (single barrel shotguns are commonly available for $100) would not run afoul of Murdock.
The militia is comprised of the people which would include anyone capable of acting in the militia. To preserve that militia the individuals who comprise it must be able to own & train with suitable weapons. Given the wide range of duties the militia may be called up for any weapon may have valid militia use. Short barreled shotguns & all other NFA weapons would have militia use & are in current use with the military & police forces of the U.S. A tax law must be designed with the sole purpose of revenue & not regulation. A Right guaranteed by the Constitution may not be taxed or licensed.
Because of these conclusions the finding of the lower courts that the 2nd amendment relates to a collective, rather than an individual Right & that Congress has the authority to regulate firearms is absurd & is not supported by the facts or the law.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Nationals And Defense

This is another reprint of an older post. I felt it was worth repeating.
This is a tale of how the government & military used to support firearms competitions. It is also the tale of how said government & military have been withdrawing their support.
From the first part:
"The National Matches as created by Congress in 1903 and as sponsored by the former Director of Civilian Marksmanship (the DCM before it became politically incorrect) enjoyed the support of all the Service branches, several Arsenals, and the public at large. The intent of the Matches was dual; to recognize outstanding shooters using the Service Arms, and provide a platform to train civilians in the use of said Service Arms via the Small Arms Firing Schools. As a side benefit were the gatherings and discussions that led to improved teaching methods and improved equipment. It was a real shooting fraternity, if you can imagine that, dedicated to improving marksmanship skills. Throughout history and up until the late 60's the Matches and support for them grew and grew."
From the second part:
"...Then a few years ago some anti-gun elected officials tried to do away with the DCM completely. Only by good fortune and pressure being applied by some pro-gun folks, Congress re-wrote the old law pertaining to the DCM. By act of public law the CMP was created, a self supporting, not for profit, private corporation - one of our last areas of marksmanship support. I wouldn't consider it a real secure bastion either...
Current doctrine in the Army de-emphasizes the need for skilled marksman. There is a move afoot to do away with annual qualification for all those not holding a combat MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty. Statements have been made by Generals that shooting is kind of like riding a bike, once you've done it you never forget. The thought is that everyone receives basic marksmanship training when the enter the Army. If you end up in a non-combat job, you've had all the marksmanship training you need."
It's the education, stupid! If a populace is educated in the use of arms & the necessity of them they will be much more formidable if forced to resort to those arms.
I feel there's a 3 part equation necessary for a people to remain free when confronted with a tyrannical or generally oppressive government. A people needs the Means, Knowledge & Will to Resist. A properly educated should have the Knowledge. This should also go a ways towards imparting the Will. & if these two things are in place then they will guard the Means jealously.
What is happening here is an effort to eliminate the education necessary to support the desired result of the equation: a free people. By downplaying & eliminating organized shooting sports it sends a message that it is no longer necessary to be concerned with those things. It cuts off a valuable supply line of information & experience.
What we need to do is to encourage as many as possible to try some of these shooting sports, such as High Power Rifle. By getting people involved we do two things: create a self interest in the preservation of our Right to Arms & form a solid base of trained individuals should we ever have to defend our Right to Arms or any other Right from foreign or domestic enemies.
This is why Fred of Fred's M14 Stocks takes out a two page ad in every issue of the Shotgun News: one to promote his wares, the other to encourage people to become Riflemen.
This is why Kim du Toit is trying to turn this country back into A Nation of Riflemen with initiatives such as National Ammo Day.
This is why several people are offering free instruction to those who want to learn how to shoot but never had anyone to teach them.
This is why several bloggers have set up a group blog called The Shooters' Carnival in order to educate people, especially those with no experience, as to how to properly & safely operate & generally own firearms.
So I would encourage all those who are curious to check the resources provided to you. Get involved in shooting. It doesn't have to be in a competition or an organized match, but it helps to at least know how those matches are shot & what rules are followed.
If you already participate then I encourage you to get a friend hooked on shooting.
& if you read the above & still think you've got plenty of time, especially with the Republicans in control of things, I offer you this & this. They're both press releases by the VPC encouraging support for not just a continuation of the current Assault Weapons Ban, but a strengthening of it. President Bush supports renewing the Assault Weapons Ban at least in its current form but possibly in the strengthened version & that strengthened version has 100 co-sponsors in the House.
So take a friend to the range. Get him/her started in competitive shooting. We need as many gun owners & users who will vote to protect & restore our Right to Arms right damn now. All too soon we may need as many friends as possible with us in the foxholes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Absolutism 201: Principle Vs. Pragmatism

To refresh, please see Absolutisim101: Prior Restraint (if you haven't seen it before).
A lot of people have problems with Absolutists because of the conclusions Absolutism can lead to.
For example not many people want a 10 year old to walk into a grocery store & walk out with an Uzi. While I can vividly picture myself doing that at age ten & feeling rather damn good about life (much better than a bicycle) I can understand those concerns.
A lot of people won't accept a principle unless its application seems reasonable to them. If the conclusion of a principle seems too burdensome or absurd they discount the principle. For example if it was proven that buying petroleum products supported an evil organization & there was a principle that said you had to refrain from financially supporting evil organizations the obvious conclusion would be to stop buying petroleum products. Sounds great in theory but who the hell is gonna start walking everyplace & let a perfectly good car rust in the driveway? So that principle would be rejected because the practical implications are too burdensome.
This is where Absolutists really differ from other people - they'd stop driving if principle demanded it. They're more of a principle first type whereas others are a pragmatism first type.
Here's the thing though - Absolutists don't see it as a choice between principle and pragmatism. Both are intertwined & inseparable. The straw man listed above (or straw kid rather) is not something that marks a choice between principle & pragmatism.
Of course we wouldn't want most 10 year olds walking out of stores with brand new Uzis (after all they could drop it & damage the finish). We don't want serial killers grabbing shotguns fresh from the factory either. But in both instances crafting a law forbidding sale or possession isn't the pragmatic choice - it's the band aid most often used because the principled & pragmatic choice seems too simple.
For the kid the parents should determine what he/she may or may not buy. Failing that you have the store owner deciding who to sell to. & as a last resort there's the free market - know many 10 year olds who can pony up a few grand for an Uzi? With those three factors in place a law against sale isn't as necessary as you'd think.
& yes, there could be irresponsible parents coupled with an irresponsible store owner & a kid with a few grand - but those things could happen now despite the law.
The serial killer - that's too easy. If convicted of a heinous crime such as unjustifiable murder or rape - kill him. A lesser but still horrible offense? Keep him in jail until we're sure he's not too dangerous to have access to a car. If we let him out the problem wouldn't be lax gun laws (as you can get any firearm you want with the right connections & cash) but a lax criminal justice system.
In a lot of ways it's simply a difference of focus: the non-Absolutist pro gunner thinks some gun control laws are worth the intrusion on principle to achieve certain laudable ends (keeping people with harmful or negligent intent from possessing arms) but the Absolutist simply sees other more effective means of achieving those same goals without compromising on principles.
Desegregation is a good example. We all know that a result of the Civil Rights movement of the 50's & 60's was anti-discrimination laws & desegregation right? Now tell me what would be ideal - desegregation because of law or desegregation because of an educated & unprejudiced populace? We can all agree that the latter would be the best means of going about things. Some would argue though that the law provides a quicker means of achieving the same end. But the law only affects things on the surface & at the expense of a very important principle - free association.
Whether I feel it's right or wrong a person should be able to choose who he is around when he's on his own property. So if the owner of a diner wants to exclude black people then no law should force him to go against his inclinations. What should happen is people should stop eating there until he sees the light or goes out of business. It's a slower means of achieving the same end, but one without the hazards of stepping on a principle to ensure a desirable outcome.
It's similar to gun laws, with the exception that in most cases gun laws are not effective at the desired end. Registration? It doesn't deter those with harmful intent but it does help those who seek confiscation. Licensing? Again it doesn't stop murderers but it does soften the people up to accepting increased control over their Right to Arms with the perils of registration thrown in for good measure. Bans on certain types of firearms? It does nothing to curb crime but it does make criminals out of otherwise decent people simply for possessing a verboten object.
Want to stop crime? Want to stop negligent behavior? Education, not legislation is the best chance. But when we try to legislate who may or may not own firearms &/or of what type &/or in what circumstance we step on a very big principle (the Right to Arms) for no measurable gain.
It comes back to punishing people for having the potential to cause harm. Some see this as the only viable option; that a principle which would eliminate this as a possibility fails to address reality. But the Absolutist sees it differently: that there is not enough real or imagined benefit to justify neglecting principle.
Some things are a balance. Security & freedom cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If you have 60% security then you can have at most 40% freedom. Increase one & the other must decrease. This is not the case with principles. Principles are not lofty ethereal creations never meant to intersect with the material world. If they mean anything at all they must be acted upon & at times even in the face of dire consequences.
But often acting on principles does not result in the dire consequences we fear. Remember when you were a kid? Did you ever break something accidentally? Now the inclination would be to not say a damn word about it as that might forestall your parents figuring out you broke it. But depending on the circumstances if you confessed to them the punishment was not as harsh as you feared if there was punishment at all.
So it is with following the Absolutist path towards the Right to Arms. In theory some potentially bad situations could result but in actuality those would be as rare if not rarer than occur right now. 10 year old kids get hold of guns & act irresponsibly. Not that often but enough that it’s noticeable (even if statistically speaking it’s insignificant). Repealing the laws concerning gun sales & possession would not make the number of 10 year olds involved in negligent shootings jump. Responsible parents, responsible firearms sellers & the free market all combine to keep irresponsible 10 year olds from handling guns. I don’t see how that’d change because we repeal a law that punishes actions after the fact.
As far as prior restraint based gun control is concerned there isn't a choice between principle and pragmatism to be made. You can have both or neither. The Absolutist sees this where others possibly don't.
I can understand how people who view things as a choice between principles & pragmatism would dismiss the Absolutist view as untenable. & if it were such a choice they may have been correct. But it's not. You can have both. That's one the of the main hurdles Absolutists have in explaining themselves to others - trying to convince them that it's either both principle & pragmatism or neither, instead of following a principle or following a pragmatic approach.