A Happy Medium on Dealing with Guns and Public Safety

Many people, including a group of Democrats in Congress, are insisting that we include things like No-Fly lists in the decision process before allowing someone to buy a gun.  There is one significant, but not insurmountable, issue with that.  Inclusion on a No-Fly list does not require due process of law.  Owning a personal firearm is a constitutionally granted right.  You cannot take away a constitutional right to life, liberty, or property without due process.  This was initially documented in the Magna Carta and made part of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Nonetheless, we are discovering that if FBI watch lists were referenced during the terrorist’s legal purchase of a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, he would have been prevented from buying them. (BTW, for those who don’t know about guns, a semi-automatic firearm only can shoot one round per trigger pull whereas an automatic firearm can shoot multiple rounds per trigger pull).  The Republicans are insisting that there are inaccuracies on these watch lists.  There are, but this can be dealt with using existing technology and processes.

The Transportation Security Administration is responsible for the issuance of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC).  Let’s say that a person needs to get into a federally restricted access area for work.  That person needs a TWIC, which has a picture, a microchip, and counterfeiting countermeasures built in, to enter the restricted access area.  Let’s say that the applicant for a TWIC is on a watch list or has some other potentially disqualifying factor.  The applicant’s application will be denied, but the applicant will also be given instructions on how to proceed with getting that decision overturned (see https://www.tsa.gov/for-industry/twic#quickset-twic_faqs_10).  If the applicant files for redress or requests a waiver, and is still not approved, the applicant can request a formal hearing with an administrative law judge (see https://www.tsa.gov/node/2852).  That is a due process hearing.  Would having to go that far take time and effort?  Yes.  Would a person who was initially prevented from exercising Second Amendment rights possibly be able to have those rights restored? Yes.

I am an NRA Life Member and Certified Instructor.  While I don’t want to run the risk of losing my rights or heading down a slippery slope, I could embrace this approach if the same level of diligence that is applied by the TSA would be applied to present and future firearm owners.

If you like this approach, do something about it.  Write letters to your representatives and senators.  IMHO, we’re focusing too much on firearms and not enough on those who wield them illegally.

Why All of the Anger?

I have a theory as to why all of this violence is showing up at political rallies, both Republican and Democrat, and in general around society.

My theory is that after years of political correctness and repressed feelings, our society is faced with a truly polarizing presidential candidate in Donald Trump and the most polarizing president since Abraham Lincoln, that is, Barack Obama, and all of those repressed feelings are coming out with a vengeance. The thought police have been telling us about how every tiny thing that is remotely offensive needs to be banned, and people in general are fed up with that.

Like any system under artificial pressure, once the smallest leak occurs, the pressure gushes out with great and terrible force and everything explodes. Our country is paying the price for having forced its people to shut their mouths and not speak what’s in their hearts and on their minds. Instead of normal discourse with its occasional bumpy areas, people have just swallowed their emotions and thoughts and they are sick from it. We don’t let our kids win trophies because we don’t want to hurt the feelings of the kids that came in second place. If nobody wins, everyone feels like a loser. Striving has been determined to be bad. Striving for greatness and excellence is is part of the human psyche. Millennials are becoming disillusioned with capitalism because they don’t think it’s fair. In capitalism, success is the driver behind striving for excellence because excellence equals success and success feels good. Success for some also means that some will fail (although for people of character, failure is the driver to work harder and try again to succeed). You can’t have winners without losers. We must come to grips with the fact that the only fairness that we are entitled to is a fair chance, a level playing field.

So whose fault is this? Is it Donald Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s or the news media’s? No! IT IS OUR FAULT. We have become the frog in the kettle. We jumped in the water when it was comfortable and we tried to keep it comfortable by the de facto barring of free speech and vigorous discourse. We put the ice cubes of political correctness in the water while ignoring the fact that the bunson burner of the human psyche is heating the water just a bit faster than the ice can cool it. We are now at a rapid boil with no end in sight. We as a nation have lost our minds and our abilities to disagree agreeably. We have become so thin skinned that it is a miracle we don’t bleed to death. We are fragile flowers that are offended at everything we don’t agree with.

The First Amendment is a messy thing. It entitles everyone the right to speak freely, without fear of reprisal. It also entitles everyone to peacefully and freely assemble. That does not mean that one group may invade the place of assembly of another and freely speak over the top of those that were already gathered and speaking there. We must respect each other and acknowledge the “right to be wrong.” There are plenty of public squares to go around. If it is one thing we have in great abundance in the United States, it is space.

Until we rediscover the balance between brutal truth-telling and civility, we will be a nation where people continue to either yell at each other or hide in the corner. The end result of that will be chaos and a nation in chaos cannot stand.

The NY Times Dishonest use of Adverbs

As a paper that believes in making the news instead of reporting it, the N.Y. Times has yet again demonstrated a complete lack of journalistic integrity. In an editorial piece following the San Bernardino mass shooting described the rifles used in the shooting as “slightly modified” and “barely modified” (see http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/12/05/opinion/end-the-gun-epidemic-in-america.html?referer=&_r=0). Converting a semi automatic rifle that fires one round per trigger squeeze to a full automatic rifle that can empty an entire magazine with a single trigger pull in seconds is a MAJOR conversion.  That conversion is neither “slightly” nor “barely” modified. By making that change, the rifle immediately changed classifications and came under a highly restrictive body of laws that the majority of Americans do not qualify for. Making that modification converts a sporting rifle into an assault rifle.

The Times also fails to point out that the rifles were purchased illegally, in spite of the fact the opposite was reported. Because the shooter’s friend bought the gun for hin, that is called a “straw purchase” and straw purchases are illegal. It also failed to point out that California’s gun laws are some of the strictest in the nation. In fact, California laws require rifles with removable magazines to use a tool to remove the magazines.

The editorial calls for Americans owning the sort of rifles used in San Bernardino to turn them in for the good of the nation. So is the Times is calling for Americans with illegally purchased, and illegally converted rifles to turn them in? If it was only calling for that, nearly every law abiding, gun owning American would support that. However, what the Times did was lie about the rifles used by using adverbs to describe them that are not even remotely correct. In Michael Bloomberg form, the Times just wants a massive gun grab from people that would never think of using them illegally. What they are asking for will have a negative impact on public safety because it has the potential of taking legal firearms out of the hands of Americans who used such firearms to foil over two million crimes in 2014.

 

A “Conservatarian” View of the SCOTUS Same Sex Marriage Decision

I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I’ve invested a good amount of time in this issue. I don’t need to reiterate what others have said about the intricacies of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Simply started, the Equal Protection clause states that all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, period.  What bears stating is the legal precedent in referencing the Fourteenth. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there were “Jim Crow” laws in the southern states that required the states, under law, to segregate based on race. Facilities were supposed to be “separate but equal.” They rarely were equal. President Woodrow Wilson, an overt racist, practiced gross discrimination. The equally overt racist Democrats of the late 1800s through the mid 1960s did everything possible to undermine the anti-segregationist policies of the Republicans. The southern states felt their state sovereignty allowed them to discriminate within the borders of their states. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth was the constitutional basis for the federal government to overrule state sovereignty because the federal government is responsible for ensuring all citizens get equal protection under the law. Given the preponderance of states that have marital equality laws, it was not, in my mind, a far stretch to apply the same principles that shot down Jim Crow. What the Fourteenth does not touch is the right of people that are not agents of the state from discriminating except in areas such as housing and employment. This ties into the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. By law and practice, churches are not agents of the state. Congress cannot force a non-agent to act. I am an ordained minister. I cannot be compelled to perform any service for anyone. I don’t know the individual laws of every state where marital equality is the law, but I can tell you that Maryland’s law is well-crafted and explicitly protects the clergy. Here is the text of Question 6, the public referendum for marital equality in Maryland,

“Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”

I am a libertarian. I voted for Question 6 even though I will not personally perform a same-sex ceremony. I am not discounting what I believe to be the biblical truth on the topic. I am standing behind the right of two people to enter into a legally binding contract, which in the eyes of the state, is what marriage is.

The reason we have this mess is that our bloated government stuck its nose into marriage, a thing formerly under the scope of religious bodies. It chose to grant legal privileges to married couples. Once it did that and the individual states began to legalize same sex marriage, it was inevitable that it would have to respond.

Before we are too quick to respond to this ruling, think of where America would be if Jim Crow was still in existence.

A not so chance encounter

I had a wonderful discussion with a man from Rwanda that I met in the parking lot at the FDA where I am serving as a senior business systems analyst. While my French is atrocious, I could see that the book he was carrying was a history book dealing with the struggles between blacks and whites in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994. I asked him if he had seen the movie Hotel Rwanda and if it was accurate. He told me that he had and unfortunately, it wasn’t. We started talking about the Hutus and the Tutsis and racism. He asked about the origins of racism. I talked to him about Dutch and British colonialism, the caste system in India and the Untouchables in particular, and also the treatment of the aboriginal people of Australia by the British settlers and even more contemporary Australians. Then he asked me a very poignant question, “what do we do to get rid of racism in this country?” I told him that the best things that we can do are to dispel falsehoods by teaching the truth and to show ourselves as friendly and respectful toward those of different people groups. We have to dispel the falsehood that there is a unified hatred of one group by another by proving that at least one person of that group doesn’t hate them.
We discussed what sort of teachings might change people’s minds. I spoke to him about the common ancestry of humanity as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. I told him stories of Moses and how his own brother and sister were upset with him because he married an Ethiopian woman. I told him of the Jewish people from Ethiopia that stood as a testimony to the fact that we are truly one race of people, a message he echoed to me earlier in our conversation. I told him of the origin of humanity being from North Africa and drawing the conclusion that if all people came from one place, then the essence of all humanity is identical and we simply have different appearances.
I asked him if he was familiar with the Gospel story and how when the edict went out to kill the male children two years and younger that Mary and Joseph fled to North Africa. He knew the story well. Being a Jew in my heritage and my pedagogy, I asked him a question versus presenting my conclusion. I asked him, “would parents of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy hide in a place where everyone had brown skin and black hair?” He smiled and said, “no.” Then he surprised me. He pulled out a book and asked me if I though it was legitimate because he had a friend that only spoke French who needed this book in French. The title was, “Nouveau Testament.” He knew there were versions floating around that had slight changes to promote the doctrines of certain cults. I opened the book to Jean 1:1, recited John 1:1 in English and asked him if that’s what it said. He confirmed that. I asked him to look at the phrase, “and the Word was God” and make sure that there was no indefinite article there, a trick of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to substantiate their Arian (not to be confused with Aryan) doctrine of Christ. He said there was none. We did a similar drill with Jean/John 3:16. He confirmed that what it says was what I recited. He was very happy because now he could give his friend what he was asking for.
We both ended our work days with a wonderful encounter. I have been telecommuting for five years. While I dislike making the drive, I love meeting people face to face.