Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Wrong People

“The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun.

That was from a speech President Obama gave on January 16th of 2013 as he unveiled his plan for new gunowner laws. It is true that an estimated 1.5 million people were denied permission to exercise the Right of owning a firearm during that time frame. But pay attention to what he called them – “the wrong people”. 

The prohibited persons list comprises several categories of people. Convicted felons, domestic violence misdemeanants, drug addicts, fugitives, former u.S. citizens, those with indictments pending or those who have been adjudicated as being mentally defective – if any one of those descriptions is applicable to you, then by federal law you can be denied your Right to own a weapon.

Most people don’t have a problem with that, but this is because most people don’t realize what these categories mean, or how easy it is to obtain membership in that ever growing list of “the wrong people”.

Federal law prohibits anyone with a conviction punishable by more than 1 year federal or 2 years state prison time from possessing firearms or ammunition. A lot of people wouldn’t have an issue with that, as they envision drive by shooters and drug runners and bank robbers and other ne’er-do-wells. That is, until you point out the word “punishable”.

Many people will plead guilty to an offense in exchange for probation instead of jail time. They assume that since they did not spend over a year in jail (or 2 years if a state offense) then they’re not felons. But the operative word is “punishable”. You do not have to serve 1 second behind bars, but as long as you could have been sentenced to over a year (or 2 years if a state offense) then you’re not merely a felon, but a prohibited person. You’re “the wrong people”.

Most people think that such offenses are presumably serious, if such a drastic life long deprivation of Rights is part of the punishment. Again people revert back to thinking of bank robbers and mass murderers. If you’re one of those people might I recommend a book? It’s called Three Felonies A Day: How The Feds Target The Innocent. Here is the author's website which lists a few examples.

There are many more seemingly minor offenses which land people in the prohibited person category. Since most people do not actually spend time in prison, they presume that they’re not prohibited. But any conviction of an offense punishable by more than 1 year federal or 2 years state incarceration makes a person "the wrong people".

To briefly touch on domestic violence misdemeanants, most people envision an overweight, unshaven slovenly fellow in a trailer park who smacks his wife/girlfriend/kids around whenever he gets angry. Let me tell you about Casey.

When she was 18 she met a fellow that seemed absolutely dreamy. At 18 many women haven’t developed their “jerk radar” to a sufficient degree to avoid falling for a flashy appearance and smooth talk. By 19 she had come to realize her dream boyfriend was in fact a jerk of momentous proportions. During the break-up argument that some women find necessary to exit a relationship, her dream boyfriend started saying very vile things, concerning his lack of interest in Casey and his new plan, which he had already set in motion, to - to put it nicely - become intimate with her sister. Her 14 year old sister. At that moment Casey did what any proper Southern lady should have done in that circumstance; she slapped the fire out the boy. Someone saw this and called the cops. Casey was arrested, charged and convicted of a Domestic Violence Misdemeanor. She never spent more than a few hours in jail and given the circumstances had a relatively mild probation. Now this single mother of two cannot have so much as a single shot shotgun in her apartment to protect herself and her babies. Because people mistakenly thought this law would keep wife beaters from having guns a young lady is denied the most efficient means of self protection for herself and her family.

Note, no moms are demanding action for her.

This is the ultimate problem with background check laws of any sort. It establishes some criteria for denying people their Rights. Ostensibly this is to keep “the wrong people” from having access to weapons, but it results in denying this basic human Right to many people who do not intend any harm.

According to this Washington Post story, in 2010 out of about 72,000 denials to purchase a firearm, over 16,000 were appealed and around 3,500 reversed. That’s almost 5%.

This is not an application for a season ticket to a sporting event. It’s not a request to ride in the main float in the Thanksgiving Parade – this is asking permission for the exercise of a Right, a natural, inherent, pre-existing, human Right. And near 5% of people who were denied were denied in error according to the law. That’s 5% that we know of. Remember only 16,000 out of 72,000 bothered to appeal. If that percentage is accurate across the board (and I tend to think it’s low, although I admit that’s mere speculation on my part) then do you think preventing those 5% from exercising a Right is a fair trade to keep those vile movie-sneaker-inners, balloon-releasers, and folks who slapped their jerk boyfriends from buying firearms?

The truth is, most people who intend to commit evil acts aren’t deterred by background check laws. At most they’re mildly inconvenienced. Whereas folks who do not intend to commit evil acts, who are guilty of minor transgressions or just happen to be the victims of malicious prosecutions are not just inconvenienced, they’re denied a basic human Right.

Let’s take a hypothetical couple. She’s 5’2” and 110 pounds. He’s 6’2” and 225 pounds. She bounced a $300 check in Alabama, and though she didn’t spend any time in prison, she was convicted and therefore resides on the prohibited persons list. He has a felony assault conviction which he is on parole for and therefore resides on the prohibited persons list. Their relationship ends and he vows that if he can’t have her, no one else will.

Now, do you think that she is safe since he cannot have firearms? Of course not. Given his physical advantage and seeming lack of morals he could beat her to death in under a minute. Yet she is prevented from having the one tool that would give her a chance at saving her own life from an unjustifiable assault. “But felons shouldn’t have guns” seems an inadequate explanation.

When people talk about preventing “the wrong people" from having access to guns, they’re very sincere. The problem is their idea of “the wrong people" are often very different from your own.

In fact, gunowner control laws got their start in this country with the express purpose of preventing “the wrong people” from having guns. In that case the amount of pigment in your skin was all that was necessary to determine if you were “the wrong people”. Too much, and you were denied. Later when such overt criteria seemed legally shaky, other methods for determining “the wrong people” were devised, namely laws requiring permits and licensing for ownership or possession. If you haven’t yet, I suggest reading Clayton Cramer’s The Racist Roots of Gun Control for more background on how this movement to disparage Rights was started.

Government has an inherent interest in controlling who may possess weapons. This interest is not praiseworthy or legitimate, but it is a fact that must be contended with. Any government knows that it is much easier to force a people to do something they really don’t wish to do if their means of resisting such an edict is limited. Therefore an armed populace presents a problem to any government which wishes to exert more control than the populace is willing to accept. This is not just true of our government, but any government.

A popular tactic for governments to lull people into relinquishing their weapons was that any particular law was not meant to disarm the law abiding; rather it was intended solely to keep “the wrong people” from having weapons. Of course, many people who thought they were law abiding turned out to be “the wrong people” and that is what far too many folks here realize too late.

Here’s something that should make you reconsider your acceptance of background checks. A law that has not been proposed yet, but perhaps one day could be:

Any violation of any motor vehicle law of any state, municipality or subdivision thereof, committed on any interstate, highway, right-of-way or other passage built or maintained in whole or part with federal funds, and occurring after January 1rst, 1901, shall carry a maximum penalty of 2 years in federal prison.

Do you know what that is? That’s the way to legally end gun ownership for 99.9% of Americans.

The Lautenberg Amendment, otherwise known as the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban made any conviction of a domestic violence misdemeanor grounds for denying the Right to arms. That includes convictions prior to this law’s enactment. Courts have ruled that the constitution’s prohibition on ex posto facto laws does not apply as this adds punishment to a pre-existing offense instead of creating a new offense.

According to this site 41 million people in the u.S., or about 20% of drivers, will get a speeding ticket this year. As far as I can tell that does not count non-moving violations or other traffic offenses. If we estimate that half of Americans own firearms, then the 41 million due for a ticket this year would comprise a little over ¼ of the gun owning population. That’s over a quarter this year alone. I would estimate that over 99% of gun owners who drive have at some point gotten a ticket since they started driving.

By enacting into law that one sentence about traffic offenses, it would place every person in the u.S. who ever had a ticket onto the prohibited persons list, unless you could prove no federal highway funds were ever used to repair a pothole on the road you got ticketed on. Note that no mention of firearms was made in that hypothetical law, and no new crime was created; it’s merely an enhancement to punishment for offenses that were already committed. Slipped into a multi-thousand page bill, it would hardly garner any notice unless someone was looking for something similar.

So how do you feel about keeping “the wrong people” from having guns now? You see how easy it is for you or someone you care about to be placed on the prohibited persons list. Do you still think such a list and background checks to keep “the wrong people" from buying guns are good ideas?
Let’s ponder something else for a moment.

Frank Miniter’s Inside The Black Market For Guns is an article worth reading. It’s an interview with 2 ATF agents that examines the ways in which criminals arm themselves. The concluding paragraphs posit the idea that people with ill intent aren’t really hindered by current gunowner laws, and likely new laws wouldn’t deter them.

That means that all the folks we not only inconvenience but harm by delaying or denying their exercise of a basic human Right aren’t suffering for some greater good, but in vain. The process that is used to delay or deny their engagement of their Right does not meaningfully prevent bad actors from acquiring weapons for illicit purposes.

If the background check system and prohibited persons list don’t keep the bad guys from getting guns, then why is it in place? There are two hypotheses concerning that. The first is that through mainly politically maneuverings, the current system was built up as a series of incremental “feel good” measures whose purpose was to garner votes or campaign contributions for proponents or to demonize opponents in the political arena. The second is that it has been enacted, bit by bit, to further the natural tendency of government to restrict its’ populace from owning weapons. I’m inclined to attribute most to the latter but I can’t deny some degree of the former has been at play at various points.

Let that sink in – the only reason we have background checks in the first place is so some politicians could get votes or funding, and so government had a mechanism of denying folks a Constitutionally enumerated Right. It does no practical good in keeping people with evil intent from causing harm or even acquiring weapons while it burdens and prevents the Rights of people who intend only good from having the best means of self defense.

Pragmatically speaking, background checks unnecessarily burden peaceful folks while doing little if anything to prevent actual bad people from doing harm. As if that shouldn’t be enough for you to start demanding repeal of all background check laws, there’s more.

Any background check law has the potential to be misused as a method for systematic disarmament of “the wrong people” as defined by whatever administration is in power. I have no doubt the same folks who tried to cover up running guns to foreign drug cartels to enact more gunowner laws here wouldn’t have any ethical problem about using the background checks to make lists of gun owners, with the hopes that one day such a list would make confiscation in whole or part easier.

As of this writing, it has been 600 days since the IRS scandal began. The level of arrogance in their attempts to cover up their actions has been rivaled only by their apparent lack of respect for the law. Do you really believe that these types of people would have any qualms about defying a law which prohibits using background check information to establish a registry of firearm owners?

The danger of any background check system (or permitting or licensing system for that matter) is that it can be used to establish a registry of gun owners. The danger of having a registry of gun owners is that it makes confiscation of guns much easier and much more tempting. If you think that confiscation is impossible here in the united States, I offer this piece on gun confiscation in America. The author shows not only examples of prominent politicians calling for and bills that would institute confiscation if passed, but actual confiscations that have happened and are happening now on American soil.

Of course there is another pesky little matter to consider; Rights. A Right is something that cannot be legitimately interfered with absent an individual’s consent. Owning and carrying weapons is a Right. It existed not only before this government, but before the idea of government was a glimmer in man’s eye. Whatever laws are passed and whatever public opinion may be, I have the Right to own and carry weapons. This is the same Right that you possess along with every human being on the planet. The Right exists as part of Natural law, just as gravity exists as part of the laws of Nature. The government lacks any credible justification for interfering with that Right. It serves no good purpose and only countenances evil.

Aside from any pragmatic considerations it is an immoral act to cause someone to wait for permission in order to exercise a Right. That a person should have to wait upon the state’s blessing to buy a weapon, to exercise such a fundamental Right, should be abhorrent to anyone that draws breath.

Play a little word substitution game for a moment. Instead of “I think people should go through a background check before buying a gun” say to yourself “I think people should go through a background check before buying a bible”. After all, firearms at most are a matter of life and death, whereas a religious book could affect how you spend eternity. Optimistically we have, say 100 years of life on earth, but the afterlife could go on for eons. And as far as being dangerous in this world, religion has been the inspiration of numerous conflicts. In fact currently we’re being attacked by people who claim a holy war of sorts against us (heard of Jihad anyone?). Far more people have died because of the teachings of one religious group or another than have been killed by criminals with firearms.  Therefore wouldn’t it make sense to make sure such important literature doesn’t fall into “the wrong hands”?

If you find it absurd that anyone would be forced to submit to a background check to own a religious text, then you should be equally affronted at the idea of government making a person wait for its’ blessing to own a firearm. Despite the dangers of Free Speech, Freedom of Conscious, and Freedom of Religion we’d be justly opposed to any effort by government to have a say in who may exercise those Rights, and we should be equally jealous of the Right to own and carry weapons, eschewing the lies that government can somehow determine who deserves to exercise any such Right. We should know through history's bitter examples, that no matter how sweet the words a government may whisper in our ears, any promised benefit of surrendering any one of our Rights will be paled by the harm it will cause us to lack that bit of freedom, and that our growth as individuals will invariably suffer much more than we could ever benefit from any imagined security we’d gain, if such security materialized at all.

In principle as well as practice, background checks and their inherent prohibited persons criteria as well as their potential for creating a registry, do little if any good while accomplishing a great deal of harm. We should not only oppose any expansion of background checks, but we should demand the current background checks be ceased and all records destroyed.


Anonymous said...


I see you have been off line for a while. Stop that behavior now. We need more of the "soon to be outlawed" 1st amendment you seem to be blessed with!

Btw, Sipsey sent me your way. And you have already been fisked! Thanks for the last post. Set up a bleg, u gonna need it!

In liberty,
Tom 762

Billll said...

And after the background check information has been found and destroyed, an audit needs to be done to find out if it really was destroyed, and with whom else the information was shared before it was destroyed and all copies and copies of the copies then destroyed.

Even at that I would assume that the information would be retrievable. Look at Lois Lerners e-mails.