Category Archives: Special Reports

Blue Bond

Now we get to push back. This week, we look at movements supporting law enforcement, and even some former convicts that have befriended the officers that arrested them after turning their own life around.

1.) Blue Line sidewalks. A man in San Antonio has started a movement taking the “thin blue line” very literally. Anthony Welichko devised what he calls the “Safe Harbor Initiative.” Essentially, it involves people putting a blue line of paint/tape on a curb outside of their homes. He wrote the following on Facebook:

To all law enforcement who see this line, know that the residents of this home appreciate your service and dedication to keeping the peace. Know that when you enter the neighborhood and see these lines that you are not alone or without “back-up”. We do not need the media to make our voices of support for our police and emergency services heard ( though it would be nice). Lastly, if you are in my neighborhood and mean to harm a member of law enforcement, know that decision may be hazardous to you health as someone has that officers back!

2.) Back The Blue. On October 12th, a rally in support of law enforcement will be held as part of the “Back the Blue” movement at the Oklahoma State Capitol building. The rally, which has the emphatic support of Governor Mary Fallin, will include speakers ranging from the governor, to legislators, to law enforcement. The event is, of course, open to the public and attendees are encouraged to wear blue to the event.

“Back the Blue” has also seen action in Dallas, Texas. With residents putting blue ribbons around trees. This has been met with some opposition in the Sunset Hill neighborhood, because apparently someone complained to the Dallas Code Compliance department. (It’s always one complaint now, isn’t it?) Those ribbons have now been removed because of that one complaint.

3.) ODMP. Outside of shows of support from the public at large, we have the Officer Down Memorial Page’s “No Parole For Cop Killers” campaign. Put simply, the group is calling for those convicted of murdering police to serve out their full sentences. The campaign has garnered significant success, with 153 of the parolees they track being denied parole and only 5 thus far being granted parole.

Incidentally, you should consider downloading the ODMP’s app. Recent LoD deaths are displayed on the app, and in-depth statistics are available as well. The app is available for free on both Android running OS 2.3.3 or later and Apple iPhones running OS 7 or later.

4.) Billboards. Ad giant Lamar Advertising has launched a “blue lives matter” campaign in Savannah, GA. Savannah Now reports:

Garden City Police Chief David Lyons, a Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police board member, said he hasn’t seen any of the billboards but supports the general message.

“I would have to support it, with the caveat that all lives matter,” Lyons said.

Lyons also said he regretted that events had come to a point that a rallying cry was needed to say that lives matter.

5.) Convicts. Conservative talk show “Louder With Crowder” shared two stories of ex-convicts who have turned around their lives and actually have thanked the officers who arrested them for “changing” their lives.

Elsewhere, we have this from FOX News about an officer reuniting (and becoming friends with) a man who almost stabbed him in the head. The officer wrote on Facebook:

Almost a year ago this man and I were involved in a major altercation where he tried to stab me in the head and I nearly shot him. Today we ran into each other again and I learned that after his time in prison and some help from probation he now has a full time job and has another son on the way that will be here in November. I was glad it ended well for us both that day and I am ecstatic now to learn that he has turned his life around and we can embrace as friends.

No one is ever lost forever and as long as you continue to work to be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday things will work out eventually.

That last line is worth considering. Especially if you’ve read Midnight Run: Debt.

6.) Final word. As an almost characteristically prophetic monologue from Paul Harvey notes, a police officer’s work is one that is thankless, scrutinized for even the slightest mistake, and if they do their job right they are either ignored or derided as lucky. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the challenges an officer faces, the life-or-death decisions he has to make in a split-second (judged by people who have all day and no risk whatsoever), and the mindset of an officer. All three are twisted to make a political point in one direction or another.

Police should not have absolute authority to do as they please in all situations. (Search warrants are a good thing, aside from being the linchpin of the Fourth Amendment.) That being said however, the idea that they should be powerless, that every decision they make is wrong, and that they are simply out for blood is neither rational nor borne out by the facts.

Police are facing enough as it is. They face the kind of people we hope never to meet, a media that is waiting to ruin a career, and a criminal justice system that will just as soon release a serial rapist as it would sentence someone to life without parole for pot possession.

We don’t need outrage.
We don’t need conspiracies on what we think police face.
We need perspective, and a firm grasp on what they actually face.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Blue Blood

Program break: There is some news that I simply have to cover this week. A massive change to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been proposed in the State legislature, and it will make legit cases of self-defense incredibly difficult to bring to trial a la the Zimmerman case.

For more on that, please check on the notes of the one and only Andrew Branca. Branca is the only voice on self-defense law that matters.
Regarding this week, if you haven’t read this week’s primer, go read this week’s primer before you get blindsided by misdirected anger.

This was previously discussed by Catty Conservative, but it bears bringing back up before this week’s Run.

Let me be crystal clear before we go anywhere. This week’s Run is about attacks on law enforcement physically, and the biased media that helps stir those tensions. It is not about Facebook posts or Tweets from random people nobody knows. Outrage and “make them famous” mob scenes are antithetical to a clinical examination of a topic, so it has no place here, nor on any future Midnight Run. I do not believe that getting a low-level employee fired is a “victory” for anybody. It is the definition of harassment.

What does one stand to gain from it? The way to win hearts and minds is not through harassment and getting people fired. That only makes one side or the other look petty. Additionally, it is hypocritical to torch someone in a company while implying that said person is indicative of the values the rest of the company holds, while simultaneously claiming “all organizations have bad apples” when one of those bad apples show up in your favored organizations. — Even Cracked has been able to point out the more asinine parts of social media outrage by way of the Cecil the Lion controversy. — Vox followed this line of reasoning as well with an incredible piece on out of control “mob justice.”
Death threats are criminal. The courts should handle them if they are legitimate. That’s what courts are for.
Blue Blood will focus on attacks on Law Enforcement. Acts motivated by an anti-police mindset, and the leaders of the groups behind them. It will not focus on some repugnant Tweet or Facebook post from somebody with no influence to speak of.

The Run has been and always will be clinical, especially when putting the news on hold to cover a topic in detail.

Mob justice never ends well, and it’s just as easy to be in the mob as it is to be the mob’s primary target.

Excellent. Now we can get back to being clinical about the topic and put our emotions away.

Last week painted a pretty bleak picture for Law Enforcement. While this was not the direction I had originally intended, facts are facts and I can’t change that. Budget cutbacks, collapsing morale, and dropping numbers have already painted a bleak picture for law enforcement. Rising anti-cop sentiment, movements that are outright hostile to police, and a slanted media have only made that situation worse.

This week, we look at recent attacks, statistics on Line of Duty deaths, and we hear from Andrew Branca on how the media narrative collides with both self-defense law and the facts of the respective case.

Again, we are looking at internet movements generally, stats on police casualties, and media narrative.

This is not about emotion. It’s not about outrage. Period.

1.) Attacks. Back in 2009, a man lured 2 Pittsburgh police officers to a house in the Stanton Heights neighborhood with a domestic disturbance call. When 2 officers arrived, the shooter opened fire on them. The suspect was wearing body armor and had 2 rifles, according to local sources. Backup officers arrived, one of which was shot and killed almost instantly upon arriving. A four-hour standoff ended with the shooter being arrested, and two other officers injured.

The point of bringing up something from 2009 is to establish two points as we move along. The first is that anti-police sentiment isn’t particularly anything new. The second is to illustrate that, like the baseline set up last week, the increased profile of these recent ambushes is essentially the culmination of everything we have discussed up to this point. Nothing on this scale develops out of nowhere; police have been battling budgets, falling morale/staff, openly hostile actors for a number of years. What has changed is the profile, frequency, and in some cases the brutality of these acts with the advent of social media and every phone being a camera. (We’ll discuss the issues with those two in a moment.)

Ambushes have occurred in Fox Lake, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia this year. An officer in Abilene, Texas was bound and then strangled, sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth was killed at a gas station this year by a man who had been found mentally incompetent three years ago. An officer in West Penn, PA was assaulted and thrown over an embankment during what was a “routine” traffic stop (if there is such a thing). All of this has occurred in this year alone.

2.) Statistical data. Interestingly, however, the Officer Down Memorial Page reports that overall Line of Duty deaths are down about 2% versus last year. This has led some outlets to denounce the claims of a “war on cops” as a media narrative that simply doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny.

What is difficult to objectively measure is the level of anti-cop material that has come to the Internet. The best barometer we have for that is perhaps the coverage of the Black Lives Matter and Fuck Your Flag movements. The former is famous for chanting “pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon,” which was later somehow said to be merely playful.

One of the motivating factors of the BLM movement, however, is the idea that police are trigger-happy and their use of force racially motivated. This narrative has been picked up by numerous media outlets, although Legal Insurrection/Law of Self Defense’s Andrew Branca points out that the narrative doesn’t survive any sort of statistical scrutiny. Branca points out that the vast majority of people shot by police were themselves armed with some form of weapon. (As we have discussed, anything can be a weapon.)

3,) Media. It is the media narrative of “cop shoots unarmed black man” that we need to focus on, and Branca’s work helps us do this brilliantly. Mr. Branca is a lawyer with 30 years of experience, specializing in use-of-force law (in other words, the laws governing when lethal force may be used against an actor.) He is known for his legendarily in-depth coverage of the Zimmerman trial, and is generally seen as the foremost authority on use-of-force law.

We’ll start with the Stand Your Ground law, and the media’s incredible ignorance on what it does, and how it is applied. Put bluntly, Stand Your Ground merely removes (in most cases) a defender’s duty to retreat from someone who is actively attacking you. This is especially so when retreating can only increase the danger you are in at the time. It is not the sole element of self-defense law.

There is perhaps no better display of media bias against police than the Freddie Gray case. Gray died while in police custody. The prosecution (led by a woman who it was later revealed had way too much invested in the case to be prosecuting it), argued that the police officers had a deliberate role in his death because of the nature of his injuries. The prosecution’s arguments were undermined by an autopsy report that released shortly after the case began. Six police officers are being held accused of murder. For its part, the city has settled a civil case with Gray’s family, agreeing to pay $6.4 million to settle the claims. The city stresses that the settlement is for the civil case and has no bearing on the guilt or innocence of the officers involved.

4.) Bottom line. While it is extremely difficult to objectively state that there is a full-blown war on police, it is impossible to say that a perfect storm of problems facing law enforcement hasn’t finally come to the surface after brewing for several years. A mix of a police force that is decreasing in every possible way (from raw numbers, to financially, to morale) has met head-on with an extreme anti-authority bent, increased racial tensions (and salespeople like Al Sharpton making money off said tensions), and social media used to organize protests and broadcast extremely slanted video of police.

We’ve spent this week looking at the people out to demean, slander, and in some cases outright kill police. Next week, we will look at the backblast those people have caused. We will look at support for police, including a movement on the part of average people to make police feel safe in some neighborhoods (and directly support them in those neighborhoods).

And we will link back to Midnight Run: Debt, with an ex-convict who turned his life around, and is now close friends with the officer who arrested him.

We spent this week looking at the attacks, next week, we look at the much stronger response.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Blue Line

Over the last few months there has been a lot of traffic about law enforcement. What they do, what they do wrong (let’s be honest, it’s mostly what they do wrong.), and regulations that govern them. Some have called the recent months part of a “war on cops.” Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking into recent attacks on police, protests, self-defense cases that have exonerated police that the media crucified, and much more.

1.) Baseline. Before we go anywhere, a note about what the next few weeks aren’t about. I am not suggesting that police have full authority at all times. (Search warrants are great things, even if the Federal government disagrees. They are still the linchpin of the 4th Amendment) There should be limits on the State’s power to peer into the lives of private citizens, especially if there is no criminal reason for doing so. At the same time, I’m also not Cop Block. I’m not of the opinion that every move an officer makes is by default the wrong one. This is a much more clinical look at law enforcement than that.

This week will lay down the baseline. We will look at cutbacks at police departments across the country, the statistics, the economics, and basically the dry, nuts-and-bolts side of law enforcement. Next week, we will jump headlong into recent attacks on police, including a video stating that it’s “open season” on police and white people. Lastly, we will look at the response to it, and show the aspects of the police department that a lot of anti-police groups would rather not focus on.

2.) Cutbacks. It’s worth noting that, even before the recent focus on law enforcement, police departments had already been facing cutbacks due to the economic downturn. The downturn, according to a 2012-2013 report from the Department of Justice shows, thousands of police officers and sheriff’s deputies faced forloughs of some form. A 2013 CNBC report picked up on this theme and focused on the impact those cutbacks have had on cities across the country.

3.) Leaving the force. The decrease in budgets also leads to lower pay, which is a major factor in officers deciding to leave the force altogether. In the last 2 years alone, Atlanta, Indianapolis, St. Louis (yes, where Ferguson is), and Gary, Illinois have all seen their numbers shrink for reasons ranging from wages to collapsing morale.

4.) Population. All of which exacerbates an inherent problem in law enforcement. (Which is also one of the main reasons they almost uniformly support civilian concealed carry.) Put bluntly, police are vastly outnumbered. Atlanta stands at about 1,900 officers, but the Census Bureau says that Atlanta’s 2014 population is roughly 456,002.

5.) Bottom line. The statistics show that the recent focus on law enforcement is merely the apex of a problem that has been hitting law enforcement for years. It is a decrease in numbers, alongside an increase in high-profile police shootings (in a society where “shooting for self-defense” is right up there with murder for a lot of people). Law enforcement is a tough job, and the combination of a society that seems to be against the use of force, a media looking to stoke fear, and the collapsing morale and budgets have only made it harder.

Next week, we jump into the recent ambushes on police, the media’s coverage of police, and how that coverage very rarely lines up with the real story.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

School Zone

I need to rectify something.

In the lead-up to HB60, there was a lot of activity on the campus carry front.

That didn’t happen in Georgia, but other states have continued to look at it.

And we haven’t covered that in ages.

This week, we fix all of that. With many state legislatures convening over the next few weeks, and with the new Congress seated, we can get back to work.

On tap this week, a Federal bill against “gun free schools,” Florida mulls a campus carry bill, and students speak out in favor of campus carry.

1.) Gun-free Schools. “Gun Free Zones” tend to be gun-free except for that one guy who is shooting everybody he sees. Name any school shooting of the last decade and the result is the same. One or two people entering a building and tearing it up, with nothing to stop them. Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced a bill Friday that aims to repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act. The GFSZA was passed by George H.W. Bush and introduced by Joe Biden.

This is in line with the recent movement by ShallNot.Org, which yesterday teased on Facebook that they intend to go after the 1934 National Firearms Act.

2.) Florida. A bill to allow guns on college campuses was filed in Florida back in December. (Like I said….it has been a while since we looked at this.) The debate over guns on campus took center stage in Florida after an incident in November, when a man walked into the FSU library and shot and wounded three people. Weeks later, the group Florida Carry publicly argued that the shooting would have been mitigated if people had been allowed to carry guns on campus.

Their lead counsel, Eric Friday, debated representatives from the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action November 24

Whereas Georgia was the center of attention last year, there is a lot of evidence that Florida will be the nucleus of the campus carry debate this year.

3.) Texas. Texas A&M’s student body seems to be going for campus carry as well. The university’s student body president signed a bill allowing for campus carry, which passed the Student Senate 39-12, with six abstaining from voting. The bill now goes to the university’s administration and, should it pass that, to the Texas legislature.

With that and a Constitutional Carry bill in the works, Texas may both be the center of the gun-rights movement this year and live up to its reputation as a gun-friendly state.

4.) Hysterics. Of course, the campus carry legislation will lead to the usual promises of bloodshed and violence everywhere. (HB60 was a lot of fun, wasn’t it fellow Georgians? Support for that thing was tantamount to support for mass shootouts at bars…which never happened. So to deal with that, we turn our attention to Illinois, which as you know recently went shall-issue. This was followed by the usual promises of bloodshed and “don’t you care about the children” false dichotomies that we’re used to.

As early as January 3, Illinois police called the passage of concealed carry in Illinois a, to use their words, “non-event.”

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Dirt and Blood

When someone takes a “clinical” approach to something, they look at it coldly, objectively. It is a clean and academic look at a topic.

While my bias is fairly clear (if you haven’t figured it out: I support the rights of anyone not in prison), I have avoided getting graphic. The Debt update is a fine example of the Run’s ability to be clinical. Looking at politics, legal theory etc. is clean, academic, and can be done in a safe, air conditioned room.

But the bottom line is we deal with guns and self-defense here. We can discuss better gun laws, armed citizen news, and the Constitution all damn day. That’s the beauty of it. None of that involves any concept of violence. It can also be the subject of days-long conferences.

But combat isn’t clean and neither is human nature.

This week, we get out of the newsroom, and onto the street. Combatives, the myth of the “unarmed man,” police paying for not being aggressive enough, and more this week. We will be looking at Ferguson not as the race story people want it to be, but the complete breakdown of order it is.

Ferguson is proof that laws can be discussed for weeks, but destroyed in seconds.

When we’re done exploring the lethality of combat, we’ll return to the newsroom with some stories on what people are doing to prevent being a victim.

1.) Groundwork. This is not going to be a Midnight Run focused on de-escalation. De-escalating works assuming your opponent has any interest in it. While no sane person wants to kill or maim another, when one is attacked that isn’t always an option. For the majority of this Run, it is worth presuming that retreat is not an option. A determined attacker would merely chase a retreating individual, anyway.

We’re treating this like a street fight in modern America. Retreat is not an option, police are not nearby to help, and frankly most of the citizens would rather videotape the beating than stop it. (They need the YouTube views, you see.)

We will also not be holding any weapon above another. While gun control advocates love to claim that a gun is “more lethal” than a knife or fists, the truth is that lethality is binary. In other words, an object is either lethal or it isn’t. A man who was shot dead is no less dead than someone who was stabbed to death. In the right hands, anything can be a weapon…..including hands.

That being said, there is not much reason to discuss firearms in this Midnight Run. Their combat effectiveness is both understood and, frankly, beaten into the heads of any American that watches the news following a shooting. Instead, we will be focused primarily on that which does not go bang.

2.) Fists. Let’s start with the original deadly weapon. (The Bible is silent with how, exactly, Cain killed Abel.) If the Knockout Game weren’t enough evidence nothing will be, but it’s clear to anyone with a basic understanding of physics that fists can do serious if not lethal damage to another person. A story by Ross Elder expertly destroys the idea that unarmed is synonymous with incapable of lethal damage. His main example is Randy Couture, a legend in the Ultimate Fighting Championship known for his “ground-and-pound” approach.

Couture was able to generate over 2,000 pounds of force in his downward blows to an opponent’s head. That’s the equivalent of dropping a car on your face. Trained fighters seldom take the full force of those blows because they are moving and defending with their own arms and hands but what if the victim was not a trained fighter? Couture, and any other trained fighter, could kill you with just a couple of blows to the head.

While it is unlikely that an attacker will be on the level of a UFC fighter, it’s also not worth taking the risk that your opponent will be abysmal. Mr. Elder closes with this:

So, if your attacker is unarmed and gets you in a choke, is that it? You’re just going to let yourself die because you won’t use lethal force against an unarmed opponent? How about if you are on your back being hammered in the face and you are moments away from losing consciousness and eventual death? Just going to accept your fate? I seriously doubt that.

I’m not. If I’m armed, I’m going to kill you. Dead.

If a cop walks up to someone out of the blue, draws his pistol, and shoots them dead in the street, that’s one thing. But, shooting an unarmed assailant during a fight in the street is another. You do not know the intentions of the attacker and cannot allow yourself to be overpowered or knocked unconscious. You will only be another statistic.

You also have no idea if your attacker IS armed and they just haven’t used their weapon yet. You can’t wait until you are unable to defend yourself to find out. I suspect most of you reading this would not. So, why are we judging a police officer who makes the same decision you would make under the same circumstances?

An unarmed attacker is still an attacker. The response to “you don’t know his intentions” is “that’s a risk I can’t afford to take.” If you’re wrong, you’ll never know. If you’re right, you’ll never survive.

Let’s take a recent case study in the lethality of fists from the news. Back in May of this year, an ” unidentified thug” brutally beat a 68-year-old man to death in Alphabet City, Manhattan. It is also worth noting the attacker’s mentality, as he is reported to have calmly walked away from the victim, leaving him for dead.

3.) Knives. It wasn’t until around the 16th century that knives became domesticated for use at the dinner table. In medieval Europe, knives even became works of art in themselves, (and just about everyone had a knife of some kind). Prior to that, knives fashioned from animal horns, stone, and eventually bronze were used as hunting tools.

Put another way, they went from hunting tools, to preparing food, to the dinner table. Same tool, but different purposes throughout. The modern knives maintain all three of those purposes in modern society. That a certain object is “designed” to do something doesn’t mean it has no other uses. Put more bluntly, the knife was/is designed for cutting into things. What, exactly, it was used to cut is incidental.

Up on InSov’s Facebook, one of my colleagues found a photograph of a police officer who incorrectly guessed that he could take on a knife-wielding attacker. He survived, but not without a series of extremely deep (and rather wide) cuts to his back. The man who posted the photograph said it is a lesson in “how deadly” someone “only armed with a knife” can be.

While we’re still here, there is an article on Modern Combat and Survival about how a knife is more dangerous than a gun, especially at close range.

You read that right, an article detailing 5 ways a knife is worse than a gun.

Let’s move on.

4.) Law. Almost all responses to attacks, shootings, etc. today is to enact laws against whatever event caused the law to even be considered. Whether it’s the Federal gun control laws that were attempted in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, the recent stupidity involving a 9-year-old being given an Uzi, laws tend to be the go-to “solution” for everything now.

Trouble is, laws don’t impact those who don’t follow them, and laws only have an impact as long as a majority of people respect them. Take the action in Ferguson for example, or even post-Katrina New Orleans. That looting, assault, etc. were illegal didn’t stop any of it from happening in either scenario.

The truth is that law cannot prevent, it can only set up punishments. Attempts to “prevent” a crime by way of new laws imply that law is capable of physically changing the world around it.

What was one of the main prevention methods against looting? Armed shopkeepers. Not that looting was illegal, but that looting was potentially fatal.

ADDENDUM: DON’T. EVEN. START. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have laws, but rather that we should understand their limits. Learn the difference before you start foaming at the mouth about how I want anarchy, chaos in the streets, and blood everywhere because “you OBVIOUSLY don’t like laws.”

Back in Midnight Run: Debt it was about thinking deep enough to differentiate between supporting a felon’s rights vs. the insane idea of supporting his actions. Here it is about supporting laws while acknowledging their limits and not placing undying faith in their somehow limitless power.

Not supporting USELESS law is NOT the same as not supporting ANY law. Learn the difference, think deeper than “you just want anarchy because you don’t agree with me.”

With that, let’s head back to the newsroom and discuss solutions. Let’s switch gears from how an attacker can seriously injure/kill a person to how that person can “persuade” the attacker to pursue more diplomatic means.

5.) Stay informed. Back in early August, two Ohio grandmothers formed an organization called “Women Armed and Ready” or WAR. The organization is focused on training women in using firearms as self-defense. It is, realistically, a continuation of the surge we have been seeing in interest for firearms and firearms training. Recent sales figures prove that women especially are still the driving force behind this next generation of gun owners.

The uptick in firearms/training has led to a drop in crime in even some of the worst neighborhoods in the country. In mid-July, the head of the Detroit police gave credit to an armed citizenry for the city’s drop in crime rates.

6.) Stay alert. There are volumes of information about the finer points of self-defense. But one of the best ways to win a fight, is to avoid getting into the brawl to start with. This is done through what is called “situational awareness.” In other words, being very aware of your surroundings. In other words, as ITS Tactial notes, it means putting your damn phone away for two seconds. (ITS Tactical has more than a few great articles on the subject. Read them here, here, and here.)

In short, the best fight is generally one that was never fought in the first place. The discussion about weapons and attacks assumes that the attack came to you. The idea of avoiding a fight altogether (and following basic logic like “don’t be in bad neighborhoods at night”) is both a lot easier to win and a lot less stressful than the lightning-fast brutality we have discussed this week.

7.) Stay free. The point of all this is not to make anyone paranoid. It is not to assume that everyone is out to kill you, or that you are going to be attacked at some point. (I’m sure we’d all like to go through life not being attacked by some lunatic, frankly. Seems like a better way to go through life.) The goal of all this is to point out that anything can be a weapon, that focusing on one is both intellectually lazy and dishonest, and that there are limits to what is being discussed as a “solution” to violence. As discussed by Sinner Reformed yesterday, there is no perfect solution. Physical defense, however, is much more worthwhile and trustworthy than hoping that something’s illegality is going to be enough.

It is always best to avoid conflict. Indeed actively looking for a fight is the fastest way to nuke your self-defense case in court. The goal of this Run, and frankly the goal of every American, should be to be ready to deal with that event if, God forbid, it were to occur.

This week, we stepped back from news about gun rights, to focus on one of the reasons why we have gun rights: for the defense of our lives, and those we care about.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Special Edition: Debt

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’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 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: 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.

Until then:
Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.