This week, Dems look to avoid making gun control a major issue, Louisiana’s governor talks rebellion, and new calls for gun control.
First off, a correction. A Constitutional lawyer on Twitter set me straight about a portion of Midnight Run: Debt. Specifically the part about civil death a late-1800s legal concept in which those convicted of henious crimes were, in the eyes of the law, dead.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was declared unconstitutional a LONG time ago.
While the idea of not restoring rights to felons at all still has weight, it was perhaps wrong of me to link that part of the argument to an aspect of our legal system that has been blocked for decades. I apologize for the error, and would like to thank @RondeauBH on Twitter for bringing this to my attention.
Secondly, as some of you may be aware, the massive Debt update was featured on the Facebook page of Modern Arms. As I told the editor, to be featured on such a page was an honor, and I thank him once again for it.
There was a very civil debate on the subject on MA’s Facebook post, with people bringing in all sorts of viewpoints from suggesting that a person who is not trusted should not be released, to the idea that felons (at least violent ones) lost their rights the moment they were convicted. The debate from those who disagreed with the idea that misdemeanors are not sufficient for banning firearms ownership was a far cry from the “you support wife-beaters” message I had discussed at the opening of Debt.
It is perhaps unfortunate that civil debate must be held up as an anomaly, but I have no problem highlighting the discussion the MA community had on what is a controversial and very sensitive topic. For the record, I only entered the thread to thank everybody for the discussion. I decided against jumping in, preferring to watch people discuss from the sidelines.
Nonetheless, I am grateful for being featured, and learning quite a bit from the MA community. If you came back to the Run from Modern Arms, welcome. I hope you enjoy this week, and the big July 4th entry coming up.
And now, let us get to the main course. This is Midnight Run: Formation. Keeping it brief because A.) not much going on and B.) because Blowback.
1.) Elections. Perhaps showing the "strength" of the anti-gun movement, Dems in Colorado (where gun control led to a recall) and Louisiana have been distancing themselves from Americans For Responsible Solutions, a gun control group headed up by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Specifically LA’s Mary Landrieu and CO’s Mark Udall. Both are hoping to keep the 2nd Amendment from becoming election issues.
Because, contrary to the rhetoric, gun control is not popular enough to run on. There is a “strong movement” among keyboard activists, but not anything physical or beyond emotional arguments.
2.) Revolt. Leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said he believes there is a rebellion against Washington brewing, although he also described it as a “hostile takeover.” Continuing his in-no-uncertain- terms language he added:
“I am tired of the left. They say they’re for tolerance, they say they respect diversity. The reality is this: They respect everybody unless you happen to disagree with them,” he said. “The left is trying to silence us and I’m tired of it, I won’t take it anymore.”
3.) Debt. A bill in California that goes by the name “gun violence restraining order” passed a Senate committee this week. The bill would allow family members, police, and health professionals to order a person’s firearms to be confiscated if any of them believed the person was about to commit a violent act. Critics are noting that the process under which the guns are taken violate the person’s right to due process.
This links back to Midnight Run: Debt and there is not much I can say here that wasn’t said in Debt, or that the Modern Arms community didn’t take on.
Also as a follow up to Debt? Rand Paul wants to restore voting rights to some non-violent felons.
Moving on. (Can we please put this to rest now?)
4.) Semantics. President Obama signaled the start of a new push for gun control. At a town hall event, he said that “we should be able to take some basic, common sense steps that are, by the way, supported by most responsible gun owners. Like having background checks so you can’t just walk into a store and buy a semi-automatic.”
It should be a fun few months. Semi-auto stuff on the Federal level, the “gun violence restraining order (odd how it’s just gun violence) in California.
5.) Blowback. Next week, we lighten up……finally. With help from Lady Liberty’s A.P. Dillon we look at the battle against Common Core. With help from my colleagues Armed Novelist and Catty Conservative, we put the liberty movement center stage.
The liberty movement, the militia movement, and Common Core all in the pipeline, plus a few smaller stories on the lighter side of the news.
We put the heavy stuff away, and celebrate the Fourth of July.
Blowback: Motivation drops July 4th, 12:01AM.
Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.
Now that we’ve spent a full week being focused on one single (and semi-volatile) topic, it is now time to back away slowly. Backing out the huge gray area of crime, punishment, and human rights; it is now time to focus on something a bit less heady.
In other words, as Independence Day approaches, it’s time to relax….mostly.
This week, an Iraq insurgent group declares all guns in country that they don’t own illegal, that same Iraq insurgent group faces armed opposition regardless, and why carrying weapons is for cowards (according to people in the UK. STAY WITH ME.)
1.) Independence Day. First, a programming note. Readers from previous iterations of the Midnight Run are familiar with Blowback. For the new readers, here’s a rundown.
Since 2009, I have published an annual Midnight Run for Independence Day, usually dropping at 12:01 AM on July 4th. Independence Day has always been a sort of checkpoint for me in terms of news. Blowback is a night of what is essentially unapologetic flag waving (without getting cartoonishly ‘Murica about it), and what started as a sort of response to what was then known as an “apology tour” has evolved into an annual update on topics ranging from the Tea Party, to survivalism, to the Liberty/self-reliance movement.
Blowback is written from the perspective that the country is anything but “lost” or “finished.” It is written with an eye towards the movements that I believe will lead to a resurgence in our country; a newfound respect for liberty, and a reignited passion for and understanding of the rich history of our Republic — including the sheer effort and sacrifice it took to put the nation together. (Read 1776 by David McCullough sometime.) While I have absolutely no issue with fireworks, or parades, or any of the other festivities that take place during the day; I also have no interest in pretending Independence Day is just another summer holiday.
Blowback: Motivation drops this Independence Day, and will focus on Common Core, the continuing resurgence in firearms, and the increasing resistance to government overreach. On a smaller scale, Motivation will also focus on some of the people in this country doing what they can to either improve life generally or make the best of a crap situation (see also: Winter Storm Leon and Atlanta….and yes I am using Weather Channel names).
With that programming note out of the way, on with Release. Keepin’ it brief this week after the wall of text I hit you with last week. You don’t want to read another thesis paper and I don’t feel like writing another thesis paper.
2.) ISIS. George Mason, one of the authors of the Second Amendment, once stated that “to disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” The Islamic extremist group ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has announced that all guns that are not under their control are banned from the territories that are under their control. Additionally, no drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or public gatherings not sanctioned by ISIS will be allowed. Also of note? Females should only go outside “if necessary.” Additionally, all shines graveyards and monuments will be destroyed.
The cultural relativist perspective is that a group that bans guns, restricts the travel of females (and gives them a strict dress code), attacks religious shrines it doesn’t like, and bans public gatherings it doesn’t sanction is on the same level as a group that doesn’t do any of that.
As a final note, the ISIS message? “Repent or die.”
Of course, the gun ban has seen incredible success as of late. Thousands of Iraqis have volunteered to fight ISIS. Apparently “they do not call for salaries and they only want weapons to join the fight against the Isis terrorists.”
Ladies and gents, that is patriotism.
3.) Civil breakdown. In the first chapter of his book “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It”, survivalist James Wesley Rawles writes:
In my lectures on survial topics I often mention that there is just a thin veneer of civilization on our society. What is underneath is not pretty, and it does not take much to peel away that veneer. You take your average urbanite or suburbanite and get him excessively cold, wet, tired, hungry, and/or thirsty, and take away his television, beer, drugs, and other pacifiers, and you will soon see the savage within. It is like peeling the skin off an onion–remove a couple of layers and it gets very smelly.
According to the Washington Times, the Department of Defense has given funds to universities “so that scientists might study the dynamics of civil unrest — and how the U.S. military might best respond.”
In other words, how the military would respond to a massive breakdown in society. Suddenly, all of those side-stream “conspiracy” theories are now government studies.
(In my head, I envision the previous sentence being met by every survivalist reader with “WHO IS CRAZY NOW?!”)
4.) Colorado. Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is apologizing for not meeting with sheriffs prior to the passage of a massive gun control package. The governor added that his administration didn’t anticipate the pushback from passing gun control laws. This comes against the backdrop of a lawsuit many Colorado sheriffs are pursuing against the government, saying the gun control laws violate the Constitution.
5.) Cowards Carry. There is a campaign in the UK focused on “Carry Weapons Awareness.” Part of it’s mission is “to change the mindset of teenagers who think they are ‘cool’ and ‘safe’ carrying a weapon of any kind.” It’s name is it’s message; Only Cowards Carry. Again, it is based in the UK. Please don’t ask where Cookie Monster came from.
In other anti-gun campaign news is this pathetically small protest from Target’s shareholder meeting last week that attracted all of a dozen people and a stroller.
That is all. Moving on.
6.) Clinton. Finally, some notes from Hillary Clinton. In a CNN Town Hall, Clinton basically said that pro-gunners are a “minority” who hold a belief that “terrorizes” the majority of Americans.
Of course, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, we’re not actually looking to terrorize anybody. It links back to the almost-trite “right-wing extremist” lunacy of 2010.
The other problem? We’re not a “small minority.”
Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.
Tonight, we close out the discussion on felons, misdemeanors, and gun rights.
1.) Opening Statements. Let’s state the obvious right out front. We are in no way suggesting that these crimes shouldn’t be crimes. There is no sane individual on the planet who would suggest that beating one’s spouse, rape, or any other violent crime shouldn’t be punished. What we are discussing here is the scope of that punishment, and specifically whether permanent restrictions on the person’s rights are fair or, even more, constitutional in the first place. (Although, gun control advocates can/will/have spun the idea as supporting the actions of and, indeed, directly arming the criminals. Let’s just say I know from experience.)
Also before we begin, I would like to note a few Twitter/Facebook friends who have helped out here, and provided their own opinions on the subject. I would like to thank Ryan Southerland, Anna Maria Perez, CR Williams, CattyConservative (with whom I discussed the topic at length outside of Twitter, as well) and Stormy Gower for their opinions and perspectives on this subject….and for being considerably more civil than the aforementioned anti-gunner I spoke with. I thank you for your ability to calmly approach the topic and your ability to tolerate my tendency to play devil’s advocate.
2.) My stance. It is important, as a matter of full disclosure, that you know where I am coming from. I hold the belief that a ban on firearms for misdemeanor offenses is absurd. As you can see that doesn’t sit well with everybody. Contrary to the accusations of the anti-gunner noted above, I do not “support wife-beaters”. I simply don’t believe a permanent ban for a misdemeanor offense is logical. I don’t take the Pat Robertson approach of “you don’t want to get your father busted” if he’s waving a gun around, either. Something like that needs to be dealt with before it gets worse.
In short, I am all for every attempt to deal with a problem before it escalates (indeed, de-escalation should be the first action one takes if at all possible in any conflict), I am NOT for treating misdemeanor offenses as felonies, and stripping people of their gun rights (and ONLY their gun rights) for misdemeanor offenses. If the person cannot be trusted with a firearm, he/she should not be released at all. If the crime in question deserves the punishment of a felony, it should be treated as a felony.
Finally, it goes without saying that I don’t support the actions of the people convicted of these crimes. Again, we are discussing the RIGHTS of the person; what they are, if they exist, and to what extent if they do. We are not discussing the ACTIONS of the person.
It should go without saying, but since the spin is that supporting the person’s rights IS supporting the person’s actions, it’s something I want to get out of the way right now.
(Does a defense attorney support the at-that-point-alleged actions of his client? No. He supports their RIGHTS. If you fail to learn the difference now, the rest of this is going to either confuse you or result in a lot of misdirected anger. Stated differently, the Boston Bomber suspect is almost certain to be convicted, but to say “we know he did it, therefore he has no rights” is both unconstitutional and sets an extremely dangerous precedent of stripping people of their rights via accusation, and therefore by default without evidence or conviction. That is a road you do not want to go down.)
Supporting the RIGHTS of the accused IS NOT THE SAME as supporting the ACTIONS of the accused. The former is correct if difficult, the latter is deranged. Learn the difference, and let’s get to business.
3.) Misdemeanors. Federally, the only misdemeanor that results in a permanent ban is a conviction of domestic violence. This was accomplished by way of what has become known as the Lautenberg Amendment (named after its author, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) ). An article by Examiner.com’s Liston Matthews called for the repeal of the Lautenberg Amendment, arguing that A.) “as despicable as misdemeanor domestic violence is, it is still a misdemeanor, not a felony” and B.) that the ex post facto manner in which the ban was applied was and is both unfair and unconstitutional. (Ex post facto, meaning after the fact. In other words, those with domestic violence misdemeanors BEFORE the amendment was signed into law were barred from owning firearms as well. In a way, additional punishment AFTER the initial sentence was already handed down.) Recently, the Lautenberg Amendment was upheld in a 9-0 decision, though the justices disagreed on rationale. Specifically, Justice Antonin Scalia. According to the New York Times
In a concurrence, Justice Antonin Scalia agreed that the federal law applied to Mr. Castleman. But he objected to the notion that domestic violence encompassed more acts than violence did, calling that an absurdity “at war with the English language.”
Justice Scalia criticized Justice Sotomayor for relying on “law-review articles, foreign government bureaus and similar sources” for her broader defintion. Such sources, he said, “are entitled to define ‘domestic violence’ any way they want”
He closed by suggesting “when everything is domestic violence, nothing is.”
4.) Felony: Background. For whatever reason, there is more available on restoring rights to felons than to those convicted of misdemeanor offenses. Whether it’s voting rights, gun rights, or rights in general.
The practice of banning felons from voting, referred to as “felon disenfranchisement”, has been getting a lot of attention as of late. In some circles, this has expanded to asking if felons should have other rights restored as well.
5.) Felony: Voting Rights. The Brennan Center for Justice has an entire page dedicated to restoring voting rights for those with a past criminal conviction. At present, only 3 states permanently ban ALL felony convictions, while 8 ban certain felonies, but not all.
On the Federal level, the “Democracy Restoration Act” was introduced by two Democrats, Representative John Conyers of Michigan and Senator Ben Cardin of Missouri. The bill, to hear supporters say it, would restore the rights of about 4.4 million people to vote in Federal elections despite previous convictions. According to Congress.gov the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on June 9th. Beyond that, no further details are available.
In February of this year, Attorney General Eric Holder called for states to lift the ban preventing felons from voting. Shortly afterwards, Al-Jazeera America released an op-ed in support of the notion of restoring voting rights to felons, taking issue speciically with Florida’s laws.
(Side note 1: Congress.gov is a rebuilt database set to replace the THOMAS system at the end of this year. THOMAS is/was the official public database on all bills, Committees, etc., but it hasn’t really been upgraded in years.
Side note 2: I know the background of Al-Jazeera America. What I know about and what I care about aren’t necessarily the same thing. If it’s good material, it’s good material. The genetic fallacy has no place on the Midnight Run.)
6.) Felony: Gun Rights. More recently in some circles, the discussion has expanded to cover gun rights in addition to voting rights. This, as you might expect, has not gotten nearly as much backing. In fact, there is very little available on the subject. Regardless, there is enough material to present arguments both for and against the restoration of gun rights. Let us begin with those against the idea.
In April of this year, The Truth About Guns issued an op-ed saying that felons should not have their rights restored. The column says in part:
In my opinion, someone who willfully abuses their rights in order to injure another human being has proven that they are unable to be trusted with those rights. That’s the reason I don’t oppose the NICS check at gun stores, as it makes sure that those who have proven incapable of handling the responsibility of their rights aren’t allowed to legally purchase firearms.
Some argue that the prison sentence alone is sufficient, and afterwards they’ve “paid their debt” and can have their rights returned. But anyone who has been to an elementary school knows that giving the playground bully a time out doesn’t stop him from terrorizing the other children the next day. That child has proven they are incapable of controlling themselves and needs to have their recess privileges revoked until they have demonstrated that they have themselves under control. Adult offenders see prison sentences the same way, as a time out before they can get back out and continue their life of crime.
On the other side (somewhat) is an article from Bloomberg View. The author does not support a blanket restoration, saying that the evidence points to a substantial risk to public safety, but says that a blanket ban is also unfair. The Bloomberg View article says in part:
Now turn that same question to gun rights: What risk does society run by allowing ex-cons to possess guns? Based on the evidence, a substantial risk. Felons re-offend at a high rate. Allowing them to do so with a gun in their hands puts society in grave danger. And there are many instances — some documented in a 2011 New York Times expose — of felons who committed violent crimes after having their gun rights restored.
A blanket restoration of felons’ gun rights would pose a real danger to society. Not so with voting rights. Nevertheless, any blanket ban on the exercise of rights is bound to create injustices, and just as some states have made it too easy for violent felons to recover their gun rights, some states have made it too hard for non-violent offenders to recover theirs. A strong case can be made that those who pose the least risk to society — perhaps non-violent first offenders with no drug convictions — should have their gun rights restored after they have served their time and completed their probation or a minimum waiting period with no re-arrests.
Back in 2013, Youtuber Iraqveteran8888 released a 17-minute video on the subject of felons/misdemeanors and gun rights, arguing that permanent bans were unfair to those who actually wanted to defend themselves and their families (those who have, as we often say, “turned their life around”). The video also makes the argument that once a person is released from prison, they have “paid their debt to society” and should have their gun rights restored.
This aspect has seen some activity recently in Louisiana. During the 2012 elections, voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state Constitution stating that the right to bear arms was fundamental, and that laws centered around regulating such right be subject to strict scrutiny. That the amendment saw gun rights as fundamental has led to a handful of challenges to the state’s ban on felons owning firearms. In May, a series of cases on the subject were argued before the state’s Supreme Court. It remains to be seen how and if this would collide with Federal restrictions on gun ownership.
7.) Felons: ALL rights. Backing out even further, an article in the New York Times called for the restoration of all rights to felons. The piece, titled “In Search Of Second Chances,” rests heavily on the above idea that a person has “paid their dues” upon release, and uses the case of Martha Stewart as an example. It reads in part:
At least 65 million people in the United States, or more than one in four adults, have a criminal record, which can mean anything from an arrest to a prison sentence. This can trigger severe penalties that continue long after punishment is complete, according to a new report by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Many of these penalties, known as collateral consequences, are mandatory, and are imposed regardless of the seriousness of the offense or the person’s individual circumstances. Laws can restrict or ban voting, access to public housing, gun possession, and professional and business licensing. They can affect a person’s immigration status, parental rights, credit rating, ability to get a job, and eligibility for benefits.
In all, more than 45,000 laws and rules serve to exclude vast numbers of people from fully participating in American life.
8.) Felons: NO rights. In doing research for this piece, I came across an interesting bit of historical background I would like to share. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, the idea of banning criminals from a multitude of activities/rights has a long-standing backing, dating back to the 1870s. Called “civil death,” the idea was that criminals convicted of heinous crimes were, as far as the law was concerned, dead.
There are many who still hold this belief. The idea that a felon convicted of murder, for example, should be permanently barred from many things in civil society still rings true with many people; arguing that they “knew the risks” when they committed the crime. This was discussed in the Truth About Guns piece above. There is not much that I could find directly relating to this in the gun debate, but it is worth bringing up this perspective, regardless.
9.) Closing thoughts. If we are honest, it is highly unlikely that the restoration of gun rights will see much traction anytime soon on any level. With regards to gun rights and misdemeanor convictions, groups like the NRA have been quietly backing off of opposing tighter restrictions on those with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions. (Though the NRA still opposes expanding the bans to related crimes, like stalking and battery. Interestingly Louisiana passed such laws while the state Supreme Court cases regarding felons were going on.) Support is even worse for restoration of gun rights for felons, especially with statistics showing that roughly 67% of those released from prison are rearrested within three years.
Nonetheless, there seems to be some movement in that direction, especially with the action in Louisiana. Depending on where the cases before the Louisiana Supreme Court goes, it could be the start of a long fight to restore (at minimum) the rights of non-violent felons.
Regardless, I hope you have enjoyed this look into what is a relatively new (and fairly complex) debate. Next week, we return to our standard news format.
Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.
The New York Times calls for felons to have all of their rights restored, the NRA and Open Carry Texas go at each other, and thoughts on gun control and the UCSB killings. Plus, Armed Novelist launches a blog of his own.
1.) Felons. There has been off and on discussion about felons and gun rights. There has even been off and on discussion about gun rights for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. (Based both on its status as a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony and the ex post facto manner in which the ban was applied) While a majority of the discussion on felons was covered last month in Random Thoughts, let us go over the background once more.
To be clear, let me get my bias out of the way. I believe that if a person is trusted enough to be released, he or she should have all their rights restored. To not do so both defeats the purpose of his release (“we don’t trust you but we’ll let you go” is asinine) AND gives the person all the more reason to continue living on the fringes of society.
So let’s discuss how all this began. To be blunt, it didn’t start with gun rights (although an April piece on The Truth About Guns brought up the topic briefly), but rather with a call by Attorney General Eric Holder January for restoring voting rights. While it is highly unlikely (at least for the moment) that many states will entertain the idea, it began a discussion on the subject that eventually expanded into a debate about the rights of felons generally. In February, an opinion piece on Bloomberg View asked that if felons can have voting rights, why couldn’t they be allowed to have firearms?
At the end of May, and seemingly out of nowhere, the New York Times opined that felons should be given all of their rights in a column entitled “In Search of Second Chances” The column’s point was, after a person’s time has been served, there is no reason to continue to hound them by taking away their rights. The Times uses a quote by George W. Bush to push this; “America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.”
Also getting a bit more energy is the so-called “Ban The Box” campaign. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the movement kicked off in the late 1990s. It’s objective is to get employers to remove check boxes that ask applicants if they have a criminal record. Essentially, the movement’s goal is to make it illegal to discriminate strictly on the basis of a criminal record.
Most recently, the movement has appeared in Los Angeles. Supporters say that it gives felons a “second chance” (the running theme behind all of this) while opponents say it puts public safety at risk.
(On that subject, Al-Jazeera America ran a profile on a Baltimore ex-convict-turned-entrepreneur. Truly incredible story, in my opinion.)
All of this came out of nowhere, and may not lead to much, but it is worth beginning the dialogue. Where is the line between punishment for the crime and punishing for the sake of punishment?
2.) Mental health. An op-ed released this week by John Lott and former Harvard psychiatry professor Arthur Berg discussed why psychiatrists can’t stop mass killings. The op-ed notes that the man behind the UCSB killings was already seeing top-quality mental health doctors when he went on his rampage.
The column ends with this:
No one wants a dangerous person to have a weapon. But our mental-health system simply can’t be the last line of defense. There are just too many mistakes. Potential victims need to be able to defend themselves.
3.) UCSB. I have a policy around here of not bothering with directly naming shooters. That said there is an interesting report on Tavern Keepers about how this most recent mass killing occurred despite every gun control program we’re told is needed being in effect. Mental health, universal background checks, waiting periods, etc. are California law and none of it mattered to the killer.
4.) Open Carry. As you may have heard, Open Carry Texas has managed to anger everybody on both sides of the gun debate with their demonstrations at various private businesses. This came to a head on June 3rd, when the NRA referred to Open Carry as “downright scary” to many. This statement wasn’t well-received either, and within a day the organization backtracked on its statement regarding OC.
5.) This Is The Line. Finally this week, frequent Midnight Run contributor and personal friend Armed Novelist has started up a blog of his own. The blog, named after the song by the metal band Demon Hunter, tends to take a more formal, long-form approach to gun news than this weekly brief. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you are familiar with his work over on deviantART and Tumblr.
Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.