March 21, 2007

Only a week late

Bill Maher's New Rules last week were pretty good. He challenged the notion that Bush has not asked us to sacrifice:
"You've given up faith in your government's honesty, the goodwill of people overseas, and six-tenths of the Bill of Rights. Here's what you've sacrificed: search and seizure, warrants, self-incrimination, trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment. Here's what you have left: hand guns, religion, and they can't make you quarter a British soldier. If Prince Harry invades the Inland Empire, he has to bring a tent.


But, look, George Bush has never been too bright about understanding 'fereigners.' But he does know Americans. He asked this generation to sacrifice the things he knew we would not miss: our privacy and our morality. He let us keep the money. But he made a cynical bet that we wouldn't much care if we became a 'Big Brother' country that has now tortured a lot of random people. "
Worst president ever.


steve s said...

While Bill Maher is a hypocrite when it comes to the Bill of Rights (supports strong gun control, but I am sure he has a good reason), he is essentially correct. We have given up numerous rights during this administration, as we have in previous administrations. We have reached the point where most people accept these actions and don't even question them. Unfortunately, I don't see us getting these back anytime soon.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

-Ben Franklin

Streak said...

Why is Maher a hypocrite for supporting gun control?

and what rights have we lost during previous administrations?

Streak said...

Sorry, Steve, I read your comment too quickly. I understand why gun control might be contradictory. But I would suggest that at least gun control advocates are up front. They don't use signing statements and they don't use executive orders. They honestly are trying to minimize gun violence, but are doing so through the democratic system.

And the rest of my response is probably a little terse because I hear in your first comment a "all presidents rob us of rights" which I hear as a way to let Bush off the hook, or to suggest that he is nothing new. But the litany that Maher so nicely noted, was a long list of the Bill of Rights that have been thrown out the window in the name of national security, or by the use of fear, or simply asserted by this President.

I think Maher nailed this one. Bush has given us a boat load of religiosity, and has bribed everyone with a little money back in taxes (even though it is clearly a tax-shift, not a tax break) and assumed that Americans would look the other way while he removed the 4th amendment and tortured people in our names.

steve s said...

Sorry, I was not trying to saw that all presidents do, because all presidents do not. I am just saying that there has been a steady erosion of certain rights that has been the responsibility of the President, Congress and, to a lesser extent, the Supreme Court. The most recent losses are scary and disheartening and the fact that some others have done it in no way lets Bush off the hook. He is responsible for what he has implemented and what he has signed. You will never hear me justify something by saying someone else did it.

As for gun control, I apologize for going off topic, but I do some legal work for a state gun rights group, so it is a interesting topic for me. Gun control advocates have used executive orders on several occasions. Bush I banned the import of hundreds of different guns, as did Clinton. There have been others, but these are the ones that come to mind.

The preventing gun violence excuse sounds very much like using the war on terror (or drugs) as an excuse to curtail the 4th amendment. As for the democratic process, some tings should not be subject to the will of the majority. At one time, the majority of Southerners supported segregated schools. I have seen several polls that show a majority of people would support restrictions on the press.

I thnk Bill Maher is very funny and I love watching him debate people, but on gun-control, I think he shows that he only support the bill of rights that he agrees with. Don't get me wrong, I know plenty of die-hard gun-rights people that do this, especially with free speech issues (such as flag burning).

Streak said...

Ok, interesting. Let's talk about gun control, then. I grew up hunting and owning guns. I was a junior member of the NRA and did the whole hunter safety program. My dad refused to have handguns when we were growing up because they were so dangerous. In fact, he was an absolute stickler for gun safety and responsibility.

All of that said, I don't understand how the second amendment can be read to be absolute freedom to own any kind of gun you want. I have no quarrel with home defense (though I seriously doubt its effectiveness) and also grudgingly respect that the 2nd amendment did not want a disarmed populace. But isn't there room for reason here? Cop killer bullets? Guns that have no sporting use? If the second amendment is absolute, then we should be able to have rpgs, or something equally devastating.

I have no doubt that you are right that people have played on fear, but the truth is we lead the industrial world in gun violence, right? We have gun companies selling to gangs (indirectly, of course) and massive resistance to even stopping spousal abusers from obtaining guns. Guns have become the new religion for many, and I am relatively stunned to see Richard Land speaking out for gun owners from the mantle of the SBC. As if somewhere in the Bible is a passage supporting gun ownership or the right to shoot an intruder.

P M Prescott said...

I wish he could replace Letterman or Leno. Then we'd have some real late night entertainment.

Bootleg Blogger said...

Streak- if you haven't see this article, you might enjoy it, especially the historical perspective. BB
The Scourge of Militarism

steve s said...

I grew up in gun household, too. My father was a hunter and had several rifles and shotguns. He didn't have any handguns, but I think it was mostly because he wasn't interested. I didn't start getting into handguns until my early 20's. It was at this time that I was exposed to myriad of gun laws and restrictions. Some of which made sense, but most didn't. I also became a part-time instructor for handguns and personal protection.

A writer and instructor from Missouri takes the position that when arguing for gun rights, you stick with the rights and don't bother trying to justify them with statistics. He has a point, but I like to do both. His argument is that you shouldn't have to justify an inalienable right with a need. He uses the 4th amendment as an example. There is no doubt that we could reduce some crime if the police were allowed to conduct periodic, random, warrantless searches of people's homes. While most people aren't doing anything illegal, I am sure that some crime would be found out and some contraband confiscated. Of course, people would be outraged by this, an justifiably so.

I have a hard time understanding why some people believe the 2nd amendment doesn't mean what it says...that individuals have the right to personal arms. If you look at the historic documents, they drafters wanted an armed populace for several reasons. One was that they didn't want a large standing army, but would rather rely on citizen soldiers. The other was that they would be a deterrent to a tyranical gov't.

I think there are room for restrictions, but the same judical standard should be applied that is used for the other BOR, strict scrutiny. The gov't can restrict the right to bear arms only if they can demonstrate a compelling state interest and it is done in the narrowest way possible. It must also be shown to do what it purports to do.

Cop killer bullets are a myth. NBC claimed that teflon coated bullets were a threat to police in an 1982 news report. In reality, the teflon was used to protect the gun bbl. and did not make them able to penetrate body armor. There have not been any documented cases of these bullets killing any police. As for sporting arms, if we wanted to be picky, the second amendment favors civilian ownership of military style arms.

Prior to the early 1930's a child could order a machine gun through the mail. Not just any machine gun, they could get a belt fed, tripod mounted machine gun. Additionally, you could walk into a hardware store and buy a Thompson submachine gun for under a $100. Gun crimes were relatively rare and school shootings were unheard of. Machine guns are still legal, though they are highly taxed and very expensive. It should be noted that legally purchased machine are almost never used in crimes. The ones that are used in crimes are manufactured and illegally imported.

I do believe we lead the world in some categories of murder. Per capita, there are several countries that beat us, such as Russia and South Africa, both of which have very strong gun control. There are also several regions in the UK that have higher murder rates and they also have tight gun control.

Since I am going to talk statistics, I need to point out that there have been numerous independent studies that show that gun control measures have not reduced crime. The assault weapons ban, which expired recently, did not reduce crime among those types of weapons (which were involved in only 1% of crimes to begin with).

Despite a lack of being able to reduce crime, and a majority of legal scholars and legal opinions that suggest an individual right, many religious groups have supported broad gun control, including a ban on handgun ownership and universal registration. Incidentally, every single instance of weapon registration in history has been shortly followed by confiscation. Here is a good article on gun control and religion:

I don't see how guns have become a religion. I certainly do not worship them or attribute any kind of salvation or afterlife. Would you say the same thing about someone that was passionate about one of the other bill of rights?

Streak said...


thanks for the response. Like I said, I am not anti-gun, but it does seem to me that there should be some limits. I am not sure you have fully explained that. If the 2nd amendment is absolute and "inalienable" then do you really think that I or my neighbors should own rocket propelled grenades? Or a Howitzer? Are there no limits?

Your history lesson leads this particular historian to suggest that sometimes history is a bad teacher. During the immediate post war period, people could purchase pesticides off the shelf that were next door neighbors to nerve gas, and were highly toxic. We would never allow that today, for obvious reasons. Are we so dedicated to gun rights that we will allow people to buy whatever guns they want, for whatever purpose they intend? Do I really need to suggest that urban gun violence is a compelling state interest? That gun manufacturers are driven by the same capitalist needs that push consumption of other goods and that means creating markets where none exist?

As for the religious aspect, I don't think I am reaching, nor am I disparaging the constitutional aspect. I see people who seem to confuse the right to bear arms with the ten commandments, as if gun rights were handed down to Moses.

steve s said...

Let's start with a clean slate of no gun laws at all. The 2nd talks about an individual right and writings of that time talk about individual arms. Therefore, crew-served , or similar, weapons (like cannons, nuclear missles and tanks) would not be protected and could be regulated.

The State would then have to follow the same rules as it would for laws that affect the other bill of rights. I am not going to go into each and every scenario becasue I'd have an even longer post and it is impossible to predict all of the arguments. One thing that stands out would that they would have o be based on actual harm, not potential for harm. I think this would eliminate laws that are arbitrary, such as a rifle with a 16 inch bbl. is ok, but one with a 15 3/4 inch bbl. will get you 10+ years in prison.

It is difficult to apply events that happened 60+ years ago to today, but I just find it interesting to note that restrictive laws have come during periods of violence and social upheval (sp.?). The first major series of laws came out in the 1930's following the St. Valentines Day massacre. The second big series came out in the late 60's, following the assassination of MLK. None of these laws had any measurable affect on crime.

As for buying guns for any purpose, I believe that people should only be allowed to buy them for lawful purposes (target shooting, collecting, self-defense, hunting, etc.). The problem is that there is no way to predict what they are going to do with them. The same holds true for any other product. Someone could go out and buy a car and a fifth of vodka with the purpose of driving drunk and we wouldn't know. Fortunately, we have laws against that behavior, the same as we have have laws against murder, armed robbery and the like.

The laws we have are mostly an infringement on law abiding people. Criminals ignore them. A person that intends to kill someone will not be deterred by a law that says you can't bring a gun into a stadium. About ten years ago I saw an ad for a sound supressor (aka silencer) and thought that would be interesting. I could shoot without hearing protection. Unfortuantely, you have to pay a $200 tax, and wait for a 6 month federal background check. This all became moot, when I found out my state has a ban on them. My research found that they were regulated and banned in the 1930's, despite the fact that there was not any evidence that they were being used in crimes. Most of the world does not share this hysteria. You can buy them without any kind of restrictions in many European countries and people are encouraged to use them, as they make shooting less annoying to neighbors.

I know that gun rights weren't handed down to Moses. The whole concept of inalienable rights and the BOR is based on the idea that the BOR does not create any rights, but recognizes certain rights. Depesnding on your beliefs, this can come from a creator or by the fact that we are human.

steve s said...

Back to the original topic of sacrifice. It seems to be that rural people have been asked to sacrifice more.

Where Do the American Dead Come From?

Streak said...

Steve, I understand the difficulties of finding the reasonable controls, but am not sure I am completely convinced. What the hell is a bbl. for example? :) I keep wondering why guns have 16 inch bubbles.

But your point about fine distinctions between guns that is no distinction at all is a good one. But I am still wondering about where you are willing to draw the line. Fully automatic weaponry? Shoulder missiles? As I understand those weapons that are causing us tremendous difficulty in Iraq--they are individual weapons, just weapons used to bring down helicopters. But what about other dangerous elements. We restrict explosives, even though, as you note, we can't really predict the motive of those buying them.

And I completely understand that our gun control methods have done very little, but that is not only because criminals don't respect them, but because the gun control methods are pretty enemic. Guns that are hard to buy in one state are available across the border, right?

I am certainly not advocating taking away all guns. But I think we can talk about the escalation of high powered weapons sold and marketed to the inner cities where life is bad enough. Is it reasonable to stop a spousal batterer from buying a handgun? Or to try?

And why, in the name of free enterprise, do Republicans pass laws exempting gun manufacturers from lawsuits? That has always puzzled me, since one of the arguments against corporate regulation is that the market will moderate the problems. But if those corporations are exempt from lawsuits AND regulation, the market is reduced.

ubub said...

Private citizens should have full acces to the full and complete range of existing weaponry, particularly since one stated purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to protect the people from a tyrannical government. From that perspective, it seems that we SHOULD have the means to go toe to toe with the US military and overthrow elections when we feel oppressed. Jefferson himself said a little revolution now and again was a good thing. So really perhaps the political parties and factions within them would do well to take up arms against each other. We have that right -- use it or lose it, right? Blood of martyrs watering the tree of liberty and all that?

Now who's with me? Yep, thought so. There must be a line in there someplace.

steve s said...

Sorry. bbl. = barrel

There are several million machine guns in the hand of private US citizens, including electric gatling guns that can fire 3000 rounds per minute, and full auto grenade launchers. Of these guns, I can only find one instance of of criminal misuse in the last 30 years. The teenage son of the owner was caught shooting at cinder blocks out in the woods. Making it easier to buy machine guns will not make crime go up, since criminals are already making them or buying them on the black market (incidently, machine guns are used in relatively few crimes).

In Iraq, civilians are forbidden from owning any kind of firearms and our military has been confiscating thousands of guns. This seems to have little effect on the insugency and a big effect on people that want to be able to protect themselves.

As for going across state borders to buy guns, it depends on where you are. Many states won't sell to residents of other states. Of the ones that will, you have to live in a bordering state. Should domestic abusers be able to buy guns? No, they should be in jail. Laws against battering your spouse don't stop some. Personal protection orders don't stop some. These people aren't going to be deterred by a law that says they can't have a gun, which is a federal ban that applies in all states unless you can get your record expunged.

I am an attorney, so when tort reform comes up, I often roll my eyes. This is one of the only forms of tort reform that I support. The Protection of Lawful Commerce Act exempts gun manufacturers from liability for intentional misuse of their product. They still may be sued for defects. There is a long history of case law that says you cannot be held liable if a product you manufacture or sell is intentionally misused. A victim of a drunk driver (or their estate) may not sue GM, nor can they sue Budweiser.

During the late 1980's and 1990's, municipalties were trying to sue gun manufacturers to recoup the cost of treating victims of shootings. The vast majority of these cases were thrown out because of the reasons I described above. At the same time, there were anti-gun groups that were supporting these suits in the hopes that the manufacturers would go bankrupt (several smaller ones did). I remember an article by the American Bar Association that said they were supporting these lawsuits because the gov't wasn't doing enough to ban guns.

Cities kept filing these suits, despite volumes of case law that said they would lose. Ocassionally, they would find a sympathetic judge. This prompted the industry and gun rights groups to call for legislation to prevent this litigation. As I said before, you can still sue for a defective product and you could also sue a seller that was marketing to criminals or some criminal use.