Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why we shouldn’t settle for a “compromise”

One Gary McBain posts why he stopped carrying after the state he lived in went from “may-issue” to “shall-issue” and the consequent hassles from cops and the government.

He had been a cop, retired and became a PI. He was able to get a “may issue” permit with almost no restrictions. But when his permit became “shall-issue”, it was hedged about with restrictions, and the cops started harassing lawful carriers.

It isn’t enough for permits to be shall-issue – if the state must have a permit process to ensure that carriers of weapons are law-abiding, the law should assume that the permitted person is law-abiding. Certainly now that we have had 20 years (more or less) of that experiment running.

Why I want a carry permit

It’s not, particularly, because I expect to need a gun to foil a crime. Unless several significant changes to NJ laws on use of force are made, using a firearm beyond the level of display in defense of my person in public would result in an expensive and uncertain criminal trial, followed by an expensive and uncertain civil action. And if the use resulted in death or injury? I’d rather nothave that on my hands, thanks. Not to say I wouldn’t use a firearm in defense of my person – jut that it is a situation devoutly to be avoided, when and where possible.

Instead, I would get a permit to protect myself from the insane restrictions on possession of firearms in NJ. As the law stands, without a carry permit, the law permits me to carry at my home, fixed place or residence, or range; or while travelling between “with only such diversions as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances”. Sounds pretty straightforward, yes? A “reasonable, narrowly-targeted” law? Well, yeah, you’d like to think that. Except that I have friends who live near one of the ranges I frequent; which is itself a drive of some distance. I tend to spend around an hour at a range when I go; and the range itself is an hour’s drive away. I’d like to be able to stop by my friends house afterwards and hang out. Odds that going to a friend’s house with a packaged, unloaded, handgun is a “reasonably necessary diversion”? When guessing wrong is good for 5+ years. Yeah, it’s like that. Or my other friends, who are members of a really nice range an hour in the other direction. They’ve invited myself and my wife up to be guests there and shoot some of their toys. Can I have dinner with them afterwards, without committing a felony?

In both hypotheticals, the firearms are being stored safely and securely at all times – but I commit a felony for wanting to spend time with friends. Is the ability to legally spend some time around a range far from home worth $500? Probably not. But it’s legally safer for me to go shooting at the NRA range in Fairfax City, VA than it is to go to a range in NJ.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bully of the Pulpit

I don’t watch Fox News, and rarely read them on the web (I guess the VRWC uses pure mental control on me, since I can’t receive their subliminal messages via Fox). In fact I probably read Huffington Post and the New York Times more often that I read Fox News.

But I wouldn’t call HuffPo or the Times “destructive to America”, either. And I certainly wouldn’t do so as the President of the United States. Pushing a “point of view I disagree with” is the right of anyone in America. The more the merrier.

Jury Duty – Civil Duty

Why is it that we view deliberately avoiding jury service as anything but a truly dishonorable action? Three amendments of the Bill of Rights concern the rights of trial by jury (both grand and petit). Trial by impartial jury is a constitutional right (not trial by peers, incidentally), and one of the few (possibly the only) positive rights in the Constitution. By this I mean that it is a personal right that requires action from others – namely, as the defendant in a criminal trial or a civil trial whose “value in controversy” is over $20 (a large but not huge amount even back then) I have the right to demand that 12 of my fellow citizens sit in judgment of the facts of the case against me, and even of the law or controversy under which I am accused. In federal law, there must have been a grand jury meeting to indict. Amendment 5, 6 & 7 are chock-full of positive rights revolving around juries, witnesses, and counsel.

And yet, people brag about how they “get off” of jury duty. Yes, it’s tedious, can be expensive, and a general pain in the neck. But the jury box is one of the guarantees of freedom from (governmental) oppression. Service as a juror is as important (though not nearly as arduous in mind, body, or soul) as service in the military as far as defense of freedoms go. It’s the last bulwark against an unjust law or unjust agents of government.

You want to make a difference in the judicial system? Make sure that the mutants go to jail and the unjustly accused don’t? That the winner of a civil suit is the more virtuous side? Do your best to serve on a jury, instead of doing your best to avoid it. If you want your peers in the jury pool, that means that you have to serve as a juror for your peers.

I’m not going to propose that “there ought to be a law”. A law requiring virtue is a fools game. But the next time you hear someone boast of “getting out” of jury duty, call them out.

I’ve been called to jury duty twice, served twice; once as an alternate (non-voting) juror. Expect to be called up again in about 2 years, based on what the county jury manager said both times.

Government workers’ benefits cut; women and minorities hardest hit


"The governor’s proposals are illegal," said Hetty Rosenstein, state director for the Communications Workers of America.

Rosenstein said requiring state workers and teachers — but not police officers and firefighters — to increase the percentage of salary paid toward the pension funds would be discriminatory toward women and minorities.”

How’s that again?

No upside to a carry tax

I am by far not the only NJ gunblogger to comment on State Senator Jeff Van Drew’s recent “liberalization” proposal to profit from civil rights. Elmo first saw it as an inching forward of rights; but it could delay the real deal in NJ by a SCOTUS appeal cycle (currently running at 2 years, based on Heller and McDonald).

This is because of Kachalksy v. Cacace – the SAF foundation suit in Westchester, NY. This suit challenges New York’s “good cause” requirement to issue a carry permit, which is essentially identical to New Jersey’s (NJ law says “justifiable need”). If we do nothing in NJ, once the Supreme Court dispose of New York’s “good cause” requirement, NJ’s is a dead letter. Might take a suit, but SCOTUS precedent will be on our side.

If, instead, New Jersey passes this abomination, we have a different “cause or controversy” – namely, the amount of money the state can charge for issuing a permit. That’s a whole new field to be plowed.

There is no upside to this “compromise” for civil rights. Unless you think that Kachalksy, etc, are going to find a Supreme Court where the Heller/McDonald majority is missing a member when it gets there in 2 years (unlikely, from where I sit, but not impossible) and that the replacement will not follow the reasoning in Heller and McDonald. At that point, we’re hosed anyway since the law could be changed again if there’s a different federal judicial climate, or the rates jacked into the stratosphere – look at how much an NFA stamp cost relative to, say, a silencer when enacted…

You want a real piece of concealed carry reform – support NJ Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll’s real reform. Not this “compromise”.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

That’s a long way down

Makes the difficulties I have in changing out the bulbs at the top of the stairwell seem rather minor, that does.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Profiting from the Second Amendment

I think one of our state Senators is missing the point here”

A lawmaker wants to make it easier for New Jersey residents to carry handguns, and he thinks the state can make some money in the process.

State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) introduced a bill last week that would allow residents to carry handguns if they go through a background check, complete courses in firearms safety and the lawful use of force, pass a test and pay an annual $500 fee.

Van Drew said the $500 annual fee — up from $20 every two years — would mean "tens of millions" of dollars in new state revenue. To reach the $10 million mark, 20,000 people would have to shell out the $500.

Some $400 of that fee would end up in the state’s General Fund. I know the state is broke, but wow. 4/5 of that is a straight-up tax, with the rest going to cover “admin costs”

This bill revises the law governing the issuing of permits to carry handguns in the State of New Jersey.
Under the provisions of this bill, an applicant for a permit to carry would no longer have to establish the court standard “justifiable need,” but rather simply show that they are “qualified” to carry. An applicant is deemed qualified under the bill if: (1) a criminal history record background check reveals no disqualifying information; (2) the applicant successfully completes a course of instruction in the safe use, maintenance and storage of firearms which is approved by the Police Training Commission; (3) the applicant demonstrates proficiency in the use of, and qualifies with, a firearm of the type to be carried; and (4) the applicant successfully completes a course in the lawful use of force and the justifiable use of a firearm which is approved by the superintendent. The bill specifies that the applicant is responsible for all the costs involved in meeting these requirements and qualifications.
An applicant for a permit renewal must meet the same requirements and qualifications, with one exception. Applicants for renewal must undergo psychological testing on a biennial rather than annual basis.
The annual fee for the permit is $500. The permit fees are to be allocated as follows: $50 to the law enforcement agency that processes the application; $50 to the county clerk of the county that issues the permit; and $400 to the State Treasurer for deposit in the General Fund.

OK – NJ state law as applied now is just about as blatantly unconstitutional as the laws being challenged in NY and MD by SAF. So, on the plus side, this would change NJ to a “shall-issue” state. On the minus side; explicitly profiting from a permit to exercise a right is really pretty petty. This is the kind of fence-straddling that gets you impaled. Bryan Miller is already bringing the PSH:

"Senator Van Drew, for whatever reason, is kowtowing to the pro-gun forces of darkness who want to turn this country into an armed society," said Bryan Miller, executive director of Ceasefire NJ. "It’s very simple: Do we want to be standing in line at a grocery store, at a movie theater, sitting next to someone in a church or anywhere else not knowing whether that person is legally carrying a handgun?"

My answer to Byran Miller is, quite simply, “Yes”. I already don’t know if someone is illegally carrying; may as well have that uncertainty about the law-abiding folks

Scott Bach counters with:

"The $500 fee is outrageous. The proficiency requirements are excessive," said Scott Bach, president of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs. "The idea that a hefty price tag should be attached to a constitutional right is outrageous."

I realize that this is the pay-to-play state, but I haven’t seen quite so brazen a shakedown of the general public in NJ, at least not so baldly stated.

Also, now not only am I profiting from the triangle of death, but I’m a force of darkness. Wonder what the fringe benefits of that are?


(Found first via NJGunForums)

Today the toaster, tomorrow the world

H/T Everyday, no days off
And, since I can’t just leave off with a simple link…
As far as I can tell, federally, this isn’t a firearm. I don’t happen to have the federal definition of a Firearm on tap – though I need to get it at some point for an article in the queue. It can probably be found here
In NJ, it’s probably not a firearm. Firearms being defined in NJ law as such: "Firearm" means any handgun, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, automatic or semi-automatic rifle, or any gun, device or instrument in the nature of a weapon from which may be fired or ejected any solid projectable ball, slug, pellet, missile or bullet, or any gas, vapor or other noxious thing, by means of a cartridge or shell or by the action of an explosive or the igniting of flammable or explosive substances.  It shall also include, without limitation, any firearm which is in the nature of an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas or vapor, air or compressed air, or is ignited by compressed air, and ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, with sufficient force to injure a person.” Incidentally, if the “projectile” in this video is over 3/8” (approximately .38 caliber), it would appear to skate out on the projectile size clause. Anyone know the history of that clause? Because I’m pretty sure you could make a useful airgun that threw a projectile of that size. Paintball?
Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, and am entirely unaware of case law surrounding this topic. Consult a lawyer before undertaking any legally risky activities.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Times have changed

The second ever Sluggy Freelance strip wouldn’t work if the OS reference was up to date…

At least, I’m pretty sure you have to have at least XP on a Boot Camp installation.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Story first, statistics later

I stumbled across this little gem of a Slate article about the FDA’s bizzare “Drug Drop-off Day”. In it, the author goes after the NYTimes for using bizarrely bogus statistics to support the premise that the abuse of prescription opiates is leading to an increase in motor vehicle deaths. When you dive in, the Times first pulls a bait-and-switch by including both prescription and illegal drugs, and then fails to consider that the percentage may be getting larger because the denominator (all motor vehicle deaths) is getting smaller (which it is; quite drastically), instead of the numerator getting larger (more DWI).

Percentages are slippery things – they can be used to show a trend where there isn’t one, with careful choice of denominator and numerator. My friend Elmo Iscariot responded to my Tale of Two Countries with a post that included an interesting comment about how New Jersey has the most privately-owned guns per square mile. At the same time, when I go poking around, New Jersey has one of the smallest (behind MA and tied with HI) percentage of gun owners in the country.How can both be true? Well, there’s a third factor; New Jersey is the most densely-populated state in the Union, and the last time I checked, had the most densely populated location in the world as of a couple years back. A small percentage can still have a large absolute value when the denominator is large enough. This would go a long way towards explaining why, even in New Jersey, I have within an hour’s drive of my house, well over 60 ranges, gun stores, &c; with a good half-dozen of the ranges open to the public. Just as an illustration, I had gone down to the Northern VA region for the 4th of July weekend with the intention of shooting at the NRA’s newly-refurbished facility in Fairfax City, VA as one of my activities. Once I got there, I found out that the refurb work was not yet complete, and the range would be closed that Monday still. I poked around looking for a backup plan, and was unable to find one that was clearly open to the public; at least not where I could shoot pistol (which is what I had at the time).

This isn’t news, either. After all, the quote “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” was popularized by Mark Twain and attributed to various Victorian politicians. It’s more honest to find the figures, then write the story. It’s more effective to writ ethe story, then find the figures, though.

Friday, September 24, 2010

There comes a time...

NPR brings us the story of a Mexican town, fed up with random violence, that took matters into their own hands.This is bad news for gangers; inasmuch as they don't outnumber the populace. Also, a reminder that you don't need guns to kill people - of the 6 kidnappers, 3 were beaten, one to death, and 2 more were executed by heat prostration(!). (The article does not mention the fate of the last kidnapper.)

"Rodriguez says citizens in Ascension are forming a sort of neighborhood watch committee and are still deciding how the committee will operate. "If the authorities can't protect us," he says, "we must protect ourselves."

Bravo for them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A tale of two countries

Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell posted about another attempt to link the violence in Mexico to American guns. In it, he quotes an article about Monterrey being terrorized by gangs, who have essentially taken control of the city, and asked us to imagine what would happen in Texas or Arizona (or even California) if gangs tried this and the government stood by.

But what would happen someplace less “rough-n-ready”? Well, we saw a “complete breakdown” of law and order in one of the least civically-organized large cities in the union about 5 years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I don’t mean to downplay the impact of the hurricane on the city, but despite the media’s best efforts to portray the events of the storm and its aftermath as some kind of Hobbesian environment (where life was brutal, nasty, and short); it ended up being only a very bad disaster experience when measured on an American scale. When compared to international disasters, not so much. There was some delay in repair crews rolling in due to the hyped fears of violence, but by and large, Masterblaster did not end up ruling Bartertown. The National Guard showed, but they didn’t have to fight their way in, and mostly spent their time acting as emergency workers. New Orleans was newsworthy at least partially because of the unexpected level of breakdown. Later on that year, floods in the Midwest caused at least as much devastation (by surface area affected, anyway), and there was little to no breakdown of law and order.

Sebastian is right when he says “I am not at all suggesting that the availability of your average person to arm themselves is the only variable at work here; a fairly uncorrupted police and military force is still our primary line of defense.”  The majority of people, even in the states with the most firearms-friendly laws, are not firearms enthusiasts. They don’t have the training or the inclination to hat up and bust caps. If they did, they might very well be the cops or military. Not always, though; for example, any gangers who try and terrorize the good residents of Broad Ripple, IN will lead brief and exciting lives, and IMPD will only have to bring by the coroner.

This brings me back to one of my guest posts over at SiH – about Man the Killer. Clearly, Mexico has more “killers” (antisocially violent people) than the USA does. Why might that be? I don't know, but I can offer some thoughts.

We live (in the US) in a society which works to subvert aggressive personalities into socially acceptable roles – the entrepreneur, for example. The US is also one of the easiest countries to live in – by which I mean you have to really make an effort to not be able to obtain the necessities and basics of food, clothing, and shelter. This tremendously reduces the pressure on people to develop the “killer” instinct. Together, some people who would become antisocially violent are either able to redirect their aggression or never develop it. We also have weak (exterior) intertribal and interclass barriers; if you want you can move up, around, or away. This atomizing of cultures leads to less xenophobia. I’m not going to pretend that xenophobia is absent in America, but I’ve lived overseas and read my history. Some people may have it harder than others, but nothing like the sheer impossibility of bettering your class that’s existed in almost all times and places exists in the USA of today.

Add all of this up, and you get the culture and society least likely to hold a “Bowb Your Buddy” week. Which means we get to keep that lack of tribalism and lack of a caste system. We’re not immune to rioting and tribal mayhem, but urban conflict on this scale has been acute, not chronic, and a reaction to single events, and so quickly over. Part of that is due to all the tribes having (more or less) equal access to arms; and most of it being, despite the hyperbole you hear today, that the cops and government are not a tribe unto themselves (at least, not most places). So in the event, the freelance tolltakers are going to get their just rewards not only from the locals, but John Law.

The worst incident of urban conflict I can remember in my lifetime is the 1992 LA riots (the “Rodney King” riots). Wikipedia sez it took units of the Regulars (Army and Marines) along with the National Guard to quell, and ran for 6 days (with most of the violence over by the 4th day). I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to politics in those days, but it was widely claimed at the time (and today) that the underlying causes were due to racism and police brutality – a toxic combination to functional society. It flared up fast, and was smothered quickly. But it never approached the systematic conflict that Monterrey has experienced for the past few months. One of the “iconic” events of the riots was the korean-american shopkeepers tightening up and functioning as a freelance militia, guarding their homes and stores with personal weapons. Despite some of the worst stresses on the system, it strained, but held.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A tale of two people

This week, I read of two people (Eric S. Raymond aka ESR, and Molly Norris) who, for differing reasons, received death threats from fanatics and responded in their own fashion. ESR was was working with a group of hackers attempting to provide covert communications support to the Iranian dissident movement.Molly Norris provided the inspiration for “Everybody draw Mohammed” day. They both had interactions with the FBI as a result – and both developed and executed survival plans.

Molly Norris, apparently at the behest of the FBI, has gone underground – left her identity behind. This is in response to being on the receiving end of a fatwa, or death threat. She (or her former publisher, anyway) likens it to going into Witness Protection, but at her own cost. Ann Althouse comments here, and David Bernstein here. Both have long and involved comments threads (at time of writing, the Volokh Conspiracists were in the lead, 302 to 237). One thing that Prof Bernstein suggests is that the FBI be providing Ms. Norris with protection (at the government’s expense, presumably) and that they hunt down the issuers of the fatwa. He goes so far to suggest that President Obama offers her the hospitality of the White House – “to demonstrate that Americans’ free speech rights will not be subject to suppression by violence.”

ESR, on the other hand, has kept his life in his own hands. Rather than hide, and (implicitly) demand protection, he chose to continue his life, more or less status quo. The only change he made was to carry a firearm “almost constantly”, and blog about it. He lightly touches on the issues and mindset of carrying constantly, and why he chose this method of response to the death threat. He thinks through the threat, and what his options are, and concludes (for well-explained reasons) that his response is an appropriate one.

In reading both cases, I was struck by the drastically different responses to what amounts to the same threat model. Ms. Norris is a higher-profile target of fanatics (not helped by the publicity surrounding her "thoughcrime”, or latterly her “disappearance”), and ESRs opponents are possibly more coherent – but both are exposed primarily to “random” violence from religiously-motivated fanatics. ESR is likely correct in his assumption that his own threat is fading, while Ms. Norris’ may never totally fade.

But ESR’s response is sustainable – he changed his life to the extent necessary to carry several ounces of metal and plastic on his person, and extended the habits of observation he learned as a child. The rest of his life is unchanged – he can still visit his family, hang out with his friends, &c. In particular, he can continue on without having to rebuild himself. Ms. Norris’ response is, frankly, unsustainable. Sure, in the short term, she can pretend to be someone else. Until the money runs out, or someone recognizes her, &c. She “lost seven pounds because of stress” in a month just from the public controversy surrounding her initial “pronouncement” of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." I bet that living on the lam will be even more stressful for her. For that matter, I suspect that living in Condition Yellow would be fairly stressful for her too – but if she had chosen that path, she would be able to keep her social support structure; her job, family, and friends, pets if she has them, &c. That’s got to be less stressful than digging a hole and pulling it closed behind.

Heaven forbid I’m in such a situation, but if I ever was, I know which path I’d choose.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A cheery thought for the election cycle

The election cycle of 2010 looks to be shaping up to be the second or third one of “throw the bums out” in a row (depending on your opinion of 2006). This is a good sign; and something that should be at the back of the minds of everyone who takes office in 2011. It’ll be an interesting 2012 election cycle, for sure.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Military policy and civilian control

I saw a comment over at Tam’s that I had to write a couple thoughts down about:

Dirt Sailor said...: “We listen to plenty of people who've never served a day in the military about military policy. Which is as it should be; our military is under civilian oversight, the majority of the Senate and House aren't veterans.”

This is entirely correct. It is as it should be, and here’s why:

“[O]ur military is under civilian oversight”: The framers of the US Constitution felt strongly enough about civilian control of the military that they wrote into the Constitution that the President (a civil office) be Commander in Chief of not only the Army and the Navy of the United States, but of the Militias of the several states; and that was the FIRST of the powers listed under the duties and powers of the President. Searching on the phrase “that the military shall be subordinate to the civil power” got me a couple of pages of references to state constitutions wherein “the military shall be subordinate to the civil power” occurs directly or in paraphrase. This is probably due to the presence of the phrase “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power” in the Declaration of Independence; which implies that in a properly-constituted government, the military should be dependent upon and inferior to the civil power.

“[T]he majority of the Senate and House aren't veterans.” This is also correct and by design. The Framers of the Constitution intended that the US have no standing army, and for a number of years Congress felt that a standing Navy was not necessary either. Being a veteran (particularly an officer) indicates several things, mostly positive; but is neither necessary nor sufficient to be a successful and/or honorable representative of the will and needs of a constituency. It is not even a guarantee of a level of knowledge appropriate to national military policy. The US Constitution, as enacted, lays an undefined limit upon the number of veterans available; particularly as it was the intent of the Framers and their successors to stay out of the ceaseless Continental warring.

All other things being equal, I am more likely to vote for the candidate who has a record of military service. It is an indicator that the candidate possesses those mostly positive qualities. I am clearly not alone, as candidates proudly trumpet (to the point of exaggeration) any military experience they possess. But service alone is not something I evaluate candidates on. What, if any, are their positions on policies important to me, that would be the primary one.

Anyone can join the military, not everyone does. There are many paths to success and influence in this nation. Military service should not be the only one. There is no way for any one person to have experience in all the areas in which the government ought to exercise influence, much less where the government actually does. It is no more necessary for a politician to have military experience to set military policy than it is for a politician to have experience with the Treasury Department to set policies “for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States”.

Friday, September 17, 2010

“Where are the monitors” explained

Another one of my guest posts at SiH was on a photo from the Oval Office. In the comments I wondered where the monitors were, if this was a “working” office. Slate’s explainer says that the Oval Office is a ceremonial office, not a working one. They also say, however, that the last two presidents worked without computers “to evade the Presidential Records Act” and that it was likely that President Obama would do so as well.
This is another example of an over-reaction to Nixon’s excesses leading to a negative result. Where previously, the President could maintain written correspondence with the expectation that they would remain generally private (unless released), the expectation is now that the records will become generally public (unless another person determines that they fall under one of a handful of exemptions).
Open access sounds fine, in theory. Who doesn’t want openness and transparency in the political process? But the political process also depends on backroom deals and midnight horse-trading. By forcing the President to work by word-of-mouth, we haven’t really gained anything, and the President has lost the ability to file away on paper anything he needs to; which makes it harder to enforce any deal reached.
In many ways, the governmental oversight mechanisms we have today are a legacy of the 60’s radicals, who learnt their trade taking over college student governments. And all their “tools” are shaped by that experience, but being deployed not by starry-eyed idealists, but by cynical machine politicians. In both cases, they want power. The idealist wants power to make things right; the cynic wants power to make their might. Neither will entertain the thought of reducing the power of government. Baptists and Bootleggers wrote the 18th amendment, Dreamers and Dictators are joining power now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lafayette PD has a cow

Apparently literally. Tam shows why she is the captain of the NW Cutting Snark (NW standing for Nuclear Wessel, of course) in one sentence: “When's the last time your city PD went all tactical to take down a rogue cow?”.
Wonder if there will be barbeque later?