CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

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U.S. Immigration Issues

Ok, one pretty hot topic right now is the detention of people at the U.S. illegally, and the separation of them from their kids.  I had my opinions on that, but a couple friends of mine challenged me on actual Federal law, and why the families are being separated.

It was worth the effort to actually read the law and extrapolate from there.  I have not changed my opinion on how they are currently dealing with illegals at the border, but I am more informed than I was.

Anyhow, here’s what I found.

First, there is no federal law that says if someone requests asylum they must be separated from their children.  My bad.  What is law, is that in 1997, regulations were put in place regarding (mostly) unaccompanied children showing up at the border.  It’s called the Flores Settlement, and springs from a Supreme Court decision in 1993 in Reno v. Flores (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reno_v._Flores).  Bottom line in this is that non-citizen minors can be held by the Federal Government, but only for 20 days.  They are then required to be released into some less restrictive environment (roughly in order, family, friends, foster).   And, it is called an agreement or settlement because although it mandates requirements on Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), it was intended to be temporary until Congress passed appropriate law to address this situation.  However, since this has not happened since 1997, the Flores Agreement is still in effect.  Here is the “meat” of the Flores Agreement from the wiki page:

“The Flores Settlement Agreement … imposed several obligations on the immigration authorities, which fall into three broad categories:

  1. The government is required to release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay to, in order of preference, parents, other adult relatives, or licensed programs willing to accept custody.
  2. If a suitable placement is not immediately available, the government is obligated to place children in the “least restrictive” setting appropriate to their age and any special needs.
  3. The government must implement standards relating to the care and treatment of children in immigration detention.”

The law that President Trump is following is found in Title V, Subsection E, section 462 (6 USC 279, sec. 462), roughly page 71 of the government document (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ296/pdf/PLAW-107publ296.pdf).  Regarding the current debate, the essentials of this section, dealing with kids, is found under (g) Definitions:

“the term ‘‘placement’’ means the placement of an unaccompanied alien child in either a detention facility or an alternative to such a facility; and (2) the term ‘‘unaccompanied alien child’’ means a child who— (A) has no lawful immigration status in the United States; (B) has not attained 18 years of age; and (C) with respect to whom— (i) there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States; or (ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.”

The above was all pulled from legal statutes and is pretty much U.S, Law.  Follows is more my interpretation of current events and my opinion.

Ok, first there is no argument or doubt that the parents of the children that are detained and separated are not legally in the U.S.  The question is, “what do we do with them?”  I want to stress here that no one with whom I associate and/or call friends, has any problem with non-citizens coming to the U.S. as long as it is done legally.  My problem with illegal aliens in the U.S. is contained within the word “illegal.”  Personally, I don’t see them as “immigrants,” they are aliens by definition, have no “rights” within the Constitution, and no right to expect anything other than basic human rights.  Their only expectation should be that if caught, they will either be jailed and then deported, or in mercy, just deported.  Period.  No amnesty, no citizenship.  Deported.  I don’t care if it’s their first day in the US or if they have been here for 20 years.  Oh, and at the risk of being stoned at the gates, I don’t believe in anchor babies, either.  A child born to illegals in the US is not automatically a citizen.  They have a saying in the South (you have to read it in a Southern accent, too) that I am using for my own purposes here: “Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, don’t make them biscuits.”

Back to the main topic.

Under Immigration law, any individual who comes to the US without a Visa and/or passport, is here illegally.  Period.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  They are illegal.  And in those cases, if they bring their kids with them, those kids are here illegally as well.  Even with strict interpretation of the law, under normal circumstances, the families are simply deported, with this exception.  INS can look at the situation of an illegal and his family trying to get into the US illegally as the adult “smuggling” the child into our country, and can be prosecuted for that.  I don’t have fully formed opinions on that, but I’m not going to argue against it.  It is the law, and if the choice is made to strictly enforce it, well then so be it.  As a cop, I hated writing traffic tickets.  But some guys loved it.  I couldn’t argue the fact, if someone rolled through a stop sign and got written for it, well, you did what you did.  I can’t help much.  It wasn’t my thing, but it was the law.  Same here.  Come here illegally you don’t stay.  Come here with kids and get prosecuted for human smuggling, so be it.  You did what you did.  Don’t wanna risk it?  Don’t come here illegally.

Now the proverbial sticky part comes when the adult requests asylum.  Again though, this comes to strict interpretation of the law.  I was wrong, there is no Federal law that requires separation of families under those circumstances.  However.  We are dealing with people that have come to the U.S. illegally, and then ask for asylum.  As I said at the very beginning, the question is, “What do we do with them?”  All Presidential administrations have detained people in those circumstances.  The more lenient administrations have detained them together, in less “detention-like” settings (I think.  I have not confirmed this).  But strict interpretation of the law does not require such.  The adult is put in detention, the child is separated from the parent(s) and placed in a juvenile detention setting, which is worlds different.  All lawful and justifiable under the law (hold on to the moral outrage, you can address that in a bit.  I wanna get through this first).  Given this interpretation and approach, that separation is mandatory.  Under the U.S. law that I cited above, the children are “unaccompanied,” and must be detained.   However, the authorities are required to find something less “detention-ish” for the kids within 20 days under the Flores Agreement.  And this is all law, not administration policy, not procedure.  This is adhering to the law.

What I found is that the left is as ambiguous as the right in citing precedence, law, and policy in this situation.  Two sources in particular stand out.  Snopes addressed this topic (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/was-law-separate-families-passed-1997/), and not unexpectedly, in my opinion, slanted left.  It seemed to me that they focused on one area of this issue (separation of families), but not the entire situation.  They are correct, there is no Federal law mandating separation of families.  The second, (https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/18/separated-immigrant-children-families-border-mexico/)  is perhaps more balanced in explaining what is going on with the detainees, but also does not address the entire situation.

Here’s why I don’t have a problem with what is going on.

I have always been a bit hard hearted with this stuff.  You guys are probably too young to remember the “Vietnamese Boat People.”  After we left Vietnam, we left behind many, many people that were allies of the U.S. but were stuck in a Communist takeover that was, shall we say, not sympathetic to them.  Many people tried to get away from Vietnam in little more than skiffs, risking open seas to get away from the oppression they knew was coming.  I have no problem with them doing that.  Where my hard heartedness comes in is when people do that and expect the U.S. to rescue them.  Nope.  You get found, you get rescued.  But if not, well, you made your choice.  Similarly, you wanna live on the side of Mount St. Helens when you know it’s gonna blow, well, whatever.  When it does blow, see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.  You want to take pictures of lava flowing toward you in Hawaii?  Good for you, but if you trip and fall and start screaming for rescue, not gonna happen.  Sucks to be you.  Heroin addict (defined as someone stupid enough to inject something that is illegal and potentially fatal in a number of ways into their veins for a kick, and then get to where you gotta have it) that OD’s?  Want Narcan?  Hold on, I’ll run back to the office and get some; oh, look a kitten!

So yeah, heartless.  But you know what? I’m ok with that.

In the movie Jurassic Park, the computer guy way underbid himself and was complaining about it.  The owner says to him, ” I don’t blame people for their mistakes. But I do ask that they pay for them.”  You choose to stick a needle in your arm, well, better be ready for worst case scenario.  You live on the edge of an active volcano that is going to rupture, that’s you call.  But you made your bed, you gotta lie in it.  You come to this country illegally, you have to face the consequences of breaking U.S. law.  To me, it is a question of being accountable for your actions, for your choices.  Sometimes one gets lucky and escapes the consequences.  But if not, don’t boo de hoo all over the place.

I was always tall.  In High School, I was the second tallest kid in my class (and as coordinated as a brick).  I have always done stuff that my parents (and now my long-suffering wife) would call stupid.  I prefer the term “funny,” but whatever.  And I always got caught and had to suffer punishment for it.  But did my other friends have to suffer the same punishment as I did?  Oh, no, they did not.  I would complain to the teacher, and they invariably said, “Well, I didn’t see them do it.  I did see you.”  Not fair!  Being tall definitely had it’s disadvantages.  But you know what?  it was fair.  I deserved the punishments I got.  I broke the rules, I got caught, and I paid the penalty.  Not always with grace and aplomb, but…

Now, in any of the above situations can grace or mercy be extended?  Sure!  Someone shoves off a mainland in a rickety open boat into open ocean, and you decided to risk yourself to rescue them, that is awesome!  I applaud your heroism.  An idiot lives on a volcano and it ruptures, and someone drives like a maniac to rescue them, wow!  Is that amazing or what!  You come to this country illegally and are detained with all the comforts of (my) home, well, I am not so understanding.  Look, I understand why you want to get out of the situation you are running from.  I sympathize with that, and I understand.  But that does not mean I am obligated to take you in, support you, show you mercy beyond the absolute basic necessities.  And that goes for anyone else that you brought with you.  I believe they should be treated kindly, not molested, not harmed, fed and housed.  But beyond that, I’m not very compassionate.

Best current estimates are that there are around 2000 kids or a bit more that have been separated from their families.  I believe this is almost entirely due to the asylum question, but I can’t guarantee that.  My best understanding is that the vast majority of the kids being held were “unaccompanied.”  This could be “shading” by the Trump administration.  If the decision is made to detain the adult that is here illegally, then the minor doesn’t have a parent in the U.S. that they can lawfully stay with.  So, it is possible that the children are “unaccompanied” because the parent has been placed in detention prior to prosecution/deportation/review of asylum.  It is also possible that the “unaccompanied” kids are here because their parents put their kids in the trust of someone else in order to get them into the U.S.  I’m not sure there’s any way of determining the correct circumstances of this.  To me it is largely irrelevant.  The child is in the situation because of the actions of the parent(s).  We are not obligated to extend more than the bare minimum.

And, once the decision is made to put the adult into a detention facility, it is the law that kids cannot be put into detention with the adult.  That is no different than a citizen committing a crime in the U.S. and having their kid(s) put into the care of Health and Human Services.  You can’t “jail” families.

Finally, I want to again stress that the key word here is “illegal.”  If a citizen in the U.S. breaks the law, they face prosecution and incarceration, and that includes being separated from their children.  Like the old saying goes, “If you can’t do the time, don’t pull the crime.”  If someone comes to the country illegally, well by definition they have broken the law.  And in my opinion, the reason does not matter.  Especially when they have been warned repeatedly that they would be prosecuted.  If someone is repeatedly warned to not do something, and they do it anyhow, either they are stupid or they have an agenda.  And neither one gets my sympathy.

I remember a bank robbery in the City of Erie, PA some years back, around Christmastime.  The guy was quickly caught, and his was a sad case to me.  From all accounts, he was a decent guy, worked hard, provided for his family.  But sometime before the Christmas season, he lost his job.  As I recall, his unemployment ran out, he couldn’t find work, and he had no prospects for taking care of his family or for providing them a Christmas.  He simply felt he had no options left, so he robbed a bank.  To me, this was heartbreaking.  He wasn’t greedy, he wasn’t an addict, he just felt he had no other options.  However, he was arrested for breaking the law, and properly prosecuted and jailed for his actions.  The “why,” although important in understanding, is not as important as the “what.”  He did what he did.  And he was required to face the consequences of his actions.

People at the border that are here illegally, and then separated from their kids, is a sad situation, maybe even heartbreaking.  But the separation is on them, not on those enforcing the laws.  Don’t like the law? Do what Trump suggests.  Get the law changed.  But don’t blame anyone except the adults bringing the kids.  And Congress.  You can blame Congress.  They could change the law today and make it more favorable to families.  And that’s who I blame.  Not the one(s) enforcing current law.

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Thoughts on the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

A friend of mine, not native to the United States, contacted me this past week, and asked me my thoughts on the Second Amendment to the Constitution. He had specific questions that I thought were excellent questions, and honestly gave me “incentive” to give the matter more of a ponder than I had. I know what I believe, but articulating it is a bit different. It’s kind of like, I know I like vanilla ice cream, but when someone asks me why I like it, and are hoping for a serious answer, I have to think about it a bit.

Anyhow, I broke his questions down, and there are basically eight questions. I will answer them each in turn.

Last points before I start. 1) Many Americans (and I am one of these), specifically “Constitutionalists,” believe that the Constitution is not a “living document,” intended to evolve and change with the times. It is instead, a legal document, iron-clad, that can only be changed by an intentional, rather difficult, and specifically detailed process. 2) The rights one finds within the Constitution and the Amendments are not given by government. They are, rather, inherent rights of every individual, given by God. These rights may not be taken away in a general sense. They can be infringed upon, but they are still the rights of each individual. 3) Individual rights can be taken away, but only by due process, also spelled out by the Constitution.

First, here is the wording and punctuation of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution:

“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.”

Ok, here are my friend’s questions:

  1. The US Supreme Court has broken the 2nd Amendment into two parts. Do you think that’s a correct interpretation?

He is referring, I believe, to District of Columbia v. Heller, a case appearing before the US Supreme Court in 2008. The decision was a narrow one, 5-4. I have included the majority opinion:

Before addressing the verbs “keep” and “bear,” we interpret their object: “Arms.” The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity. Thus, the most natural reading of “keep Arms” in the Second Amendment is to “have weapons.” At the time of the founding, as now, to “bear” meant to “carry.” In numerous instances, “bear arms” was unambiguously used to refer to the carrying of weapons outside of an organized militia. Nine state constitutional provisions written in the 18th century or the first two decades of the 19th, which enshrined a right of citizens “bear arms in defense of themselves and the state” again, in the most analogous linguistic context – that “bear arms” was not limited to the carrying of arms in a militia. The phrase “bear Arms” also had at the time of the founding an idiomatic meaning that was significantly different from its natural meaning: “to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight” or “to wage war.” But it unequivocally bore that idiomatic meaning only when followed by the preposition “against,”. Every example given by petitioners’ amici for the idiomatic meaning of “bear arms” from the founding period either includes the preposition “against” or is not clearly idiomatic. In any event, the meaning of “bear arms” that petitioners and Justice Stevens propose is not even the (sometimes) idiomatic meaning. Rather, they manufacture a hybrid definition, whereby “bear arms” connotes the actual carrying of arms (and therefore is not really an idiom) but only in the service of an organized militia. No dictionary has ever adopted that definition, and we have been apprised of no source that indicates that it carried that meaning at the time of the founding. Worse still, the phrase “keep and bear Arms” would be incoherent. The word “Arms” would have two different meanings at once: “weapons” (as the object of “keep”) and (as the object of “bear”) one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.”

I think this is the correct interpretation, as the minority view (not included) is a rather tortured extrapolation of the words and punctuation of the 2nd Amendment. Additionally, my reading of the 2nd Amendment is that what the founders intended is rather obvious. What I mean is this. To my reading, the Amendment is naturally broken into two parts, as interpreted in Heller. Part one: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” Part two: “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” I want to state here that I believe the Founders were stone-cold geniuses. These were men that believed in what they did, to the point that they were willing to die for these beliefs. And many did. The United States was a huge leap away from government at the time. Yes, they borrowed ideas from Greek democracies, as well as philosophical and Biblical sources, but the entirety of the country they founded had never been seen in the history of the world. They argued, debated, fiddled, fussed, compromised, and published a document that is breathtaking in its brilliance. Not one word is unintentional.

That having been said, it appears to me that what they intended with the 2nd Amendment is that each citizen has the right to “keep and bear arms,” and that if called upon, that each citizen be prepared to defend their country. And it was each citizen’s responsibility to be prepared and equipped to do exactly that. There’s another way (and only one that I see) to word the 2nd Amendment so that it is not tortured into some other meaning. “Our new government will not infringe on each person’s inherent and God-given right to keep and bear arms, because we understand that it is a given that people need to be prepared to defend their country when called upon.” Yes, I know the Second Amendment (AKA: 2A) says “militia.” That was the form used to defend the country at that time, and I will address this a bit later. However, for now, the point is, the point is, the point is, that the right they are talking about is that each and every citizen has the right to own firearms. If written in today’s idioms, they might start off with, “Ok, we know that everyone has the right to own firearms (duh!), so since that’s the case…”

Further, as evidenced in other parts of the Constitution, they were well aware that the government under which one lives could easily be (or become) tyrannical, and that individual citizens have the God-given right to throw that government to the curb. Kind of difficult to do if individuals can’t own firearms.

2) It says “militias.” Are there such in the US? If so, how would they carry out their duties, and how would they be recognized by the US Military or by police agencies.

As I said above, I don’t think “militias” is the point of the 2nd amendment. Maybe a different way to say it is that “the right to keep and bear arms” was, to the Founders, a “given;” that there was no need to discuss it, since it is so obvious, “but we will do so, since we know people can be dense.” What the 2nd (2A) does with militias, is to say that since individuals have the right to own firearms, the federal government may not prevent militias from existing, so that “citizen soldiers” can train to be an effective fighting force for the defense of one’s country. In the US, each state has a National Guard (in essence the descendants of the early militias). They are primarily a state entity, but can be mobilized by the President so serve as a Federal agency if the need arises. Members of the National Guard train and are equipped similar to those in the US Military. Most of their equipment, although issued, is the responsibility of the individual to keep and maintain. Weapons are issued.

At the time of the Founding, the US Government had not the means nor the ability to supply individuals with all needed equipment, and especially for state militias, so that responsibility was left to the individual. The National Guard has basically taken over the role of the early militia, and of course is recognized by law enforcement and the US Military as such. However, I need to again point out that a militia was the byproduct of the individuals’ right to keep and bear arms (which is/was a given), not the sole reason that individuals are permitted to own weapons.

3) What arms do I see as necessary for the individual to use in self-defense?

This isn’t spelled out in the Constitution or the Amendments. So this requires extrapolation. Here’s mine.

I have heard the argument that at the time of America’s founding, the weapons available for the military were also available for any individual to purchase and own if they had the cash and desire to do so. Ok, that’s true, but only the wealthy could afford multiple firearms (rifled and smoothbore, long guns and hand guns), cannon, sailing ships, and so on. I also believe that the Constitution is not just for the wealthy, but for the common man as well. So what did the common man have at the time? Mostly a musket, and maybe if he was lucky, a rifle, but usually one or the other. Those were also the arms commonly carried by the individual soldier. Translate that to today, and you are looking at a rifle or shotgun, and maybe a sidearm (handgun). Yes, soldiers also have access to grenades, RPG’s (Rocket Propelled Grenades), machine guns, mortars, and so on, but the basic weapons are rifles, shotguns, and hand guns. And I don’t think there is any cogent argument against individual citizens having the right to own weapons in those categories. However. I also believe the government has the ability to regulate the ownership of fully automatic weapons, hand grenades, RPG’s, artillery, war planes, battleships, and whatever. Is this an inconsistency on my part? Not sure, but I don’t think so. Of the weapons available in gun stores now, I am adamant that they are currently legal to buy, own, and use. Further, I am adamantly opposed to restrictions on those firearms that are currently legal.

As a side note, it is actually legal to own most of the individual weapons listed above, at least fully automatic weapons and other individual weapons of exotic nature. First, one must apply to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, must pass a rather rigorous background check, and must pay a yearly tax to continue owning the weapon. And this is per weapon, so for every exotic weapon I may want to personally own legally, I must go through the process again.

To specifically answer the question, as a home owner and as a decades-long police officer, here’s what I see as necessary for the individual to have available to use in self-defense: rifles, shotguns, and hand guns. Now the question becomes, “which ones?” And my answer for that, is anything that is currently legal. And by “currently,” I mean now, today, October 15, 2017. I do not mean “currently” as in whatever is legal at a particular date and time in the future. If it is legal now, at this specific time in history, then I think it is valid for an individual to buy, own, and use for self-defense. I personally have all three in my home: rifles, from AR-15 type weapons, to hunting rifles (from .22’s to big bore); shotguns of various gauges; and handguns of multiple caliber. I have owned weapons my entire adult life, through the raising of children, visitors to my home and company staying for a while, and I am confident that myself and my wife can protect ourselves as needed, and still be safe from accidents as we can be.

4) Is there a practical need for “assault-style weapons?”

Ok, this is kind of a loaded question, and I need to break it down. Unfortunately, the term “assault weapon” has been emotionally loaded with a huge negative connotation. Historically, “assault weapon” didn’t even exist before 1977, and was used by the US Military for a specific rifle-fired grenade launcher. The term was appropriated around 1985 and later by people on the political far left and by the left coast state of California to include just about any firearm that looked scary and could be used to further the anti-gun agenda. Seriously. Although I’m not going to quote him here, if you’re interested read some of the early stuff written about “assault weapons,” you can look up an article written by Violence Policy Center founder Josh Sugarmann in 1985. One of the things he said, though, was that by describing weapons as “assault weapons,” most people would see no practical use for them, thus making it easier to get bans and limited ownership enacted.  In other words, make a weapon sound scary enough, and people can be manipulated into banning it.

In 1994, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was enacted (mercifully it has expired, and not re-enacted). At that time, the United States Department of Justice defined assault weapons as generally being semiautomatic firearms that had a large magazine for ammunition and that were “designed and configured” for rapid fire and combat use. The problem then and now is that technically a six-shot revolver, semi-auto handgun, automatic shotgun (in actuality a semi-auto, so don’t get all ya ya about it, that’s just what they are called), pump shotgun, semi-auto squirrel rifle, and lever action rifle can fit under the designed and configured for rapid fire and combat use designation. Plus, magazine size is no issue either. What is the definition of a “large” magazine? Twelve rounds? Twenty? Thirty? Let’s say for argument’s sake that a fifteen round magazine is ok, but nothing more. So, take two fifteen round magazines and load them up. You have two fifteen round magazines, both legal. Now, get a roll of electrical or duct tape, invert one of the magazines, and tape the two magazines together offset so that each magazine sticks past the other a couple inches. What do you have now? A completely legal thirty round magazine. With someone not real practiced with this, firing off fifteen rounds, extracting the empty magazine, flipping it around, inserting the full magazine and charging the weapon to get back into action is at most a three second delay. For someone practiced and comfortable, it will take less than one second. Trust me on this.

Currently, most definitions of the term assault weapon have some common elements:

  • Semi-automatic firearm capable of accepting a detachable magazine;
  • Folding or telescoping (collapsible) stock, which reduces the overall length of the firearm;
  • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
  • Bayonet lug, which allows the mounting of a bayonet;
  • Threaded barrel, which can accept devices such as a flash suppressor, sound suppressor, compensator or muzzle brake;
  • Grenade launcher; and/or
  • Barrel shroud, which prevents burning of shooter’s arm or hand as a safety device.

None of which has anything to do with the caliber of ammunition used or the damage that can be inflicted. The only thing affected is how the weapon looks. Military rifles are often in either .223 or .308 caliber, and either caliber can be found in a semi-automatic rifle without any of the “common elements” listed above. But even assuming one purchases a military-type rifle, it is common that rifle will be semi-automatic with a telescoping stock, a pistol grip, and a barrel shroud. Is there a practical use for such a weapon? Well, yeah, I guess so. None of those standard features are mandatory, but the pistol grip is more ergonomic, and the barrel shroud keeps me from bad burns on my hand. I think I would reverse the question. Is there a practical reason to ban them? What would such a ban accomplish? Even assuming each currently existing and privately owned weapon meeting the above criteria were confiscated, there are still rifles that would be outside the definitions used. And they would still do the damage that the “assault weapons” are capable of doing.

5) Have you ever been in a situation that you felt hampered by the lack of an “assault-style weapon?”

No, I thank God I have never been in a situation where I didn’t have a weapon that would fit into the “assault weapon” designation, so I have never felt endangered by not having one at hand. However, is “only if needed” part of the 2nd Amendment? If I am not likely to be in a situation where I need such a weapon, does the 2nd Amendment then not apply to me? Is this how any of the Amendments are, or should, be interpreted? I would argue against that. Our rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution and its Amendments, are not need based; they are inherently our rights to use or not use, as we wish. The point is not that those rights are there for us to use when needed, the point is that I always have those rights, and the government may not take them away from me without due process.

As a corollary,  I was once talking with some friends about cars, and I voiced that I would really enjoy owning one of the original Hummers. One of my friends, in a rather condescending and sarcastic voice, said, “No one needs one of those.” My response was, “Who said anything about need? I said ‘want.’ And who are you to say what I can own or not own? If I have the money to buy something, I want it, and I buy it, who has the right to deny me that?” The same goes here. If I have the money for an AR-15 style rifle and I want one, I may buy one. Without due process, I am permitted to own one, two or as many as I wish, and this is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. It has nothing to do with need. And although I own several firearms, I am a piker compared to others that own many, many firearms and a lot of ammunition. But who is in a position to dictate how many someone can own?

I would also point out that I have never been in a situation that I felt hampered by the lack of a fire extinguisher, either, but I have them all over the house. I’ve never needed a fire extinguisher and I’ve never had a fire in the house, but I own fire extinguishers.

6) What can you achieve with such weapons that you couldn’t achieve with a handgun?

This one is relatively simple, and that is just that one is a rifle, and one is a handgun. Rifles are inherently more powerful and have greater range than a handgun of similar caliber. Personally, if I had to take on a grizzly bear, I would rather have a heavy caliber rifle than a .45 Colt. On the other hand, when I go to the store, I don’t want to lug my shotgun, I want to carry my handgun. Rifles are more useful for long distances, handguns are better for close targets. So, this is kind of an apples and oranges thing, it depends on the circumstances.

Let’s say that I hear someone breaking into my house, cursing and screaming that he is going to do me harm. Measuring the situation, I know that he’s still outside the house, but he is determined to get in. With this in mind, I would likely get my AR-15 type weapon, load it, and prepare to confront him. Under these circumstances, I have the time to prepare and I have plenty of distance between me and him. If he gets in and charges me, I can weigh my options, and if he is armed, the fact that I have a semi-automatic rifle with multiple rounds, I can pretty much guarantee the only thing that will be harmed on me is my hearing from the discharge of the minimum rounds needed to cease the attacker’s aggression.

On the other hand, if I wake up and realize that someone has broken into my home, and is already inside, I would prefer my .45. I don’t have the time to prepare, and I can’t be sure I will have enough distance between me and him to bring a rifle to bear before he gets inside the barrel, thereby making the rifle useless in the fight. With my .45, it is not possible to “get inside.” Even if he makes physical contact with me, the handgun will be effective in my defense. In addition to the hearing loss, I will probably also have powder burns, and maybe even a bit worse, but I am still confident I should be able to stop the aggression.

So, it depends on the situation, as to which would be optimal, and which I would need to achieve my goals.

Finally, my friend posited a story in which one woman pulled a handgun (presumably owned and concealed legally) on another woman in a store over an item that both wished to buy, but was in short supply. He asked if her rights under the 2nd Amendment should be infringed.

My answer is that any citizen’s rights under any of the Amendments to the US Constitution can be removed or infringed with due process. For instance, someone convicted of a felony may not own firearms and cannot vote in US or State elections. One’s right to worship can be infringed, if that individual’s religion entails illegal or violent activity. One’s right to publish a free press can be denied if that newspaper is intended to incite or harm other individuals. But here’s where each of us is protected. None of these rights can be taken from any citizen without due process. The due process is in this case, the “however.” If, after due process, the determination is made that for clear and convincing reasons, someone’s rights in a particular area should be removed, then yes, those rights may be denied to the individual. In the case presented by my friend, let me look at it as a cop. First, I would have absolutely no problem in arresting someone under those conditions. I would then take a statement from both parties, as well as any other witnesses nearby. I would next get a copy of store surveillance cameras, if any existed. I would then contact the District Attorney’s office, present my facts, and follow their decision as to charge the individual criminally or to not file criminal charges. If charged, and if the case went to trial, and if the person were found guilty of any crime which is a contra-indicator of that person owning firearms, I would be perfectly fine with that.  These Constitutional rights that we have are ours by birth or by naturalization, but with these rights come responsibilities.  And if we as individuals misuse our rights, then after due process, we may lose our ability to utilize those rights.

Just a few final points.

First, automatic weapons have been used in mass shootings only three times since the 1940’s. So for well over 70 years, automatic weapons are statistically irrelevant when one is discussing mass shootings. Yeah, I know some folks will take the “moral high ground” and say that it’s not irrelevant to those involved. The problem with this argument is that it is easily countered with just a few questions about their “moral high ground.” And this is clearly not what my friend was asking about. I just threw it in. Because I could.  So there.

Second, look at the total numbers of weapons out there, versus the homicide rate utilizing those weapons. Since 1993, gun ownership in the US has increased from 0.94 guns per person in 1993 to 1.45 guns per person in 2013. Gun related homicides (suicides are removed from this statistic) has actually decreased from 7.0 gun related homicides per 100,000 in 1993 to 3.6 gun homicides per 100,000 in 2013. So, although the number of guns per person has increased approximately 64% between 1993 and 2013, gun related homicides have actually decreased over 51% in the same time period. This is hardly an indictment on guns of any kind. Yes, homicides are reprehensible. Yes, we should work to reduce them. But consider that despite the number of firearms in the US, homicides utilizing them are way down.

Lastly, in many ways, this is just an academic exercise. In practical terms, the genie is out of the bottle. The only way to stop firearm related homicides is a total repeal of the 2nd Amendment and 100% confiscation of all firearms. And I know of no one that honestly believes this possible, even if they desire such a solution.

So what is the answer? I don’t know. Rather, I have my opinions on this, but that would be for another post.  But for now, I just don’t think that banning firearms based essentially on how they look is the solution.

President Trump’s cuts to the EPA

Since his election, President Trump has not particularly shied away from controversial decisions and appointments. Supporters argue that he is doing exactly what he said he would do, so why the surprise? Detractors argue that he is doing exactly what he said he would do, so where’s the outrage? I have read that part of the problem may be that he might just be the first person elected to be President of the United States that is not only intent on fulfilling his campaign promises, but is also determined to fulfill them.  And that is a shock to nearly everyone.

Be that as it may, the current issue is his proposal to cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I was asked my thoughts on this by a good friend of mine. I started to reply specifically to him, but there’s a lot here, from theoretical to political, to practical, and I found that my response would be far too long for a social media reply. So I am posting my reply here, and I will deal with the theoretical, political, and practical aspects separately.

Theoretical.

This is an area that liberals and conservatives butt heads on all the time. Ok, in theory, the EPA is a good thing. It is supposed to protect the environment, right? After all, that’s its name! But is that what it does? Even when it’s at its best it imposes hardship on businesses, forcing them to blow out cleaner air, cleaner water, less effluviants, less waste, and so on. That’s a given, and that is a good thing; I have no argument with any of those, nor does any realistic person. But the realism of such demands must be measured against the need for the hardship imposed. Example: It is reasonable to expect that factories do not spew proven carcinogens into streams and rivers. But it is not reasonable to expect that each and every drop of water is distilled water clean. One end of that spectrum protects people, the other bankrupts the company. Most regulations are some compromise between the two, allowing guck at a rate of some certain parts per million.  Enough to reasonably protect the citizens, but not unrealistically severe.  I am old enough to remember the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, and I do believe in a clean environment.

The problem is that the EPA doesn’t necessarily follow a reasonable compromise. Under one president, it might slash regulations without regard to public safety (this, I understand, is the fear under Trump). Under another president, it might be utilized to push a more socialist agenda and a power grab, making it extremely for businesses to realistically remain in business (which is what many believe happened under Obama).

Even more theoretical is the “who’s gonna pay for it” vs. “it’s a good thing we gotta do this” argument. This is one of the points on which I frequently take issue with liberals. As soon as someone brings up the cost of a particular program, liberals tend to howl that those asking the question are unfeeling brutes, only concerned with money. And that’s just not so. Of course cleaner air is a good thing. Of course less waste products is a good thing. But it is a reasonable thing to ask about the cost. A friend of mine in an unrelated discussion once said that it’s easy to choose between a good thing and a bad thing. But its a lot harder to choose between a good thing and a good thing. Example: A family needs to put a new roof on the house; the old one is leaking badly, and patching simply won’t do it. But little Suzie needs braces, and they can only pay for one. What do they do? According to the typical liberal thought, do both, why is money an issue, how horrible are these people that they would consider the cost? But it’s not horrible; it’s called being a grown-up. Liberal spending in general, and the EPA regulations specifically, are exactly the same. Right now Federal spending is totally out of control, and hard choices have to be made. We simply cannot continue at the current rate, and everyone knows it. The problem is which good thing does one cut? No matter which budgets get cut, someone’s gonna scream. But it has to be done. The current spending is just unsustainable.

Political.

President Trump’s current EPA cuts are causing a lot of liberal heads to explode. I think that for the most part, a liberal never met a regulation they didn’t love. Regulations give the government a lot of control, which is exactly what liberals want; control over whatever area one wants to discuss.

Under Obama, nearly 4,000 new EPA regulations were written. That’s an average of nearly 500 a year. And it is simply unbelievable to me that these were not intended as a power grab. One of President Trump’s campaign issues was exactly this, that he would roll back Obama’s power grab through regulation in the EPA. It’s true that he has slashed the EPA budget by about 25 percent. That’s a huge cutback, right? But do you know what their budget is after the cutbacks? After a 25 percent cutback? President Trump’s 2018 proposed budget for the EPA, after cutting the budget by 25 percent, is $6.1 billion! After the cutback! Six. Point. One. BILLION. I am sorry, but that is a huge number, and I simply cannot get worked up about the EPA “losing funding” but still retaining a budget of that amount. And this is where many liberals start screaming that people like me “don’t care about the environment.” Not true. I do care. However the approach I prefer is more measured, slower. Prove to me that it is needed. Show the consequences of enacting the rule/regulation, and the consequences of not enacting it. And I don’t mean “the sky is falling” kind of consequences, but factual, thoughtful discussion of the possibilities.

Practical.

Trump has ordered the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to review and reconsider the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule put in place by Obama in 2015. It appears that this was a genuine effort by the Army Corps and the EPA to more clearly define regulations already in place since 2001 and 2006. The pushback, as I understand, is not on the rule itself, but on the potential for future misuse. And I think that is a fair concern. After all, isn’t this how the government has already seized as much as it has? This is the old story of putting a frog in water. Put it in boiling water, and it will fight to get out. Put it in cool water, heat the water slowly to boiling, and the frog will just float there until it is gone. Honestly, I don’t even know if the frog story is true, but the illustration is apt. The government has constantly and consistently taken a piece here, a nibble there, until nearly every aspect of our lives is regulated. Incandescent light bulbs. Toilets that don’t flush well. Nozzles for gas cans that simply suck. These are just a few examples of Federal rules and regulations passed, perhaps with good intentions, but the fallout and intrusion is real. So I don’t blame critics of the WOTUS rule for being concerned.

Finally, the Great Lakes Initiative funding.

I want to make something very clear here. I am a scuba diver that lives within walking distance of Lake Erie. My wife and I have dived incredible wrecks in the Great Lake, and we are very well aware of the negative impact that neglect, pollution, and invasive species can have. We believe in clean water, and in a clean Lake. We support efforts to keep it clean, and are doing what we can to assist in efforts to create a Marine Sanctuary area in Lake Erie. Further, we raised our children here, drinking Lake Erie water, as well as water from other areas that would be affected by EPA rules and regulations. The Great Lakes Initiative is intended to combat pollution and invasive species in the Great Lakes, and President Trump has proposed eliminating nearly all of the funding for the Great Lakes Initiative, from $300 million to about $10 million. And I confess to a certain amount of trepidation about that. Three hundred million is a drop in the bucket for the Federal government. On the other hand, a dollar saved, and all that. Plus, I think it would be kind of hypocritical if I expanded on how it’s ok for Trump to cut spending on EPA regulations, but I insisted that the one that I care about be untouched. Especially since I have been in favor of a Presidential line item veto in the Federal Budget for years.

So. I guess we will have to wait and see. All of this could be changed or modified by Congress. It could be that all or none of Trump’s proposals make it through. And it could be a disaster or a triumph, or anywhere in between. Time will tell.

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