Politics and Packin’ Heat

August 21st, 2009

Just about 10 percent of our presidents have been assassinated while in office.  Of those four, three were shot with handguns and one with a rifle (or rifles, depending on which conspiracy theory you prefer).  You’d think we might be a little sensitive to people carrying firearms at presidential events — or political events of any kind, for that matter.  But no — not in the goofy, wild-wild-west culture of America.

This photo shows a man carrying an assault rifle and a pistol at one of President Obama’s town hall meetings.  Knowing how these people think, I assume both weapons were loaded.  When this wacko was asked why he attended a presidential event so heavily armed, he answered, “Because I can do it. In Arizona, I still have some freedoms.”

The next photo is of a man at another of President Obama’s town hall meetings.  He was more lightly armed, packing only a semi-automatic pistol.  This ersatz hero carried a sign reading, as you can see, “It is time to water the tree of liberty!”  When asked in an interview on TV if the weapon had been loaded, he responded with words to the effect that of course it was; what use is an unloaded gun?

The sign being held by the doofus-looking guy in this photo refers to a quote from Thomas Jefferson:  “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”

Granted, this fellow may not be sufficiently educated to know the full quote; he may be just parroting some blather from one of his NRA meetings.  But, given that he was carrying a weapon near the President, we have to assume that he knows what he’s saying.  Therefore, it’s logical to conclude that an armed man was threatening the President’s life. 

My question is, why weren’t both of these idiots arrested, if only to be held until the President was no longer in the area?  No, seems we can’t do that.  Politicians are too frightened of any group that can muster a few folks to vote one way or another, whether it’s the NRA or the DailyKos crowd.  The White House even stated that they had no objections to the armed men attending the President’s town hall meetings because they have the right to be armed. 

Of all the circumstances in which it’s wrong to permit people to carry weapons, proximity to the President has to be among the worst — right up there with kids’ soccer games, in public parks, near schools and churches, in or near bars, in cars and trucks (road rage, anyone?), in the supermarket….  If citizens must be allowed to have handguns, they should be outlawed anywhere outside the home, where paranoids can barricade themselves for as long as they like and wait for the black helicopters to land on their lawn. 

I made my views on gun control clear in an earlier article.  Handguns, which are designed for efficiently killing people — and do it quite well — should be outlawed.  Period.  The only people who should be able to legally own and carry handguns are sworn law enforcement officers and a few categories of carefully vetted security personnel.  Private ownership of long guns, basically rifles and shotguns, should be permitted, with licensing and other restrictions.

Please don’t undertake to educate me on the Second Amendment.  I know what it says, word-for-word; I know the relevant constitutional history; and I’ve read the legal cases.  That includes District of Columbia et al. v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court confirmed that the Second Amendment means an individual has the right to possess a firearm.  I don’t disagree with that decision, just as I don’t disagree with the long list of firearms that are already constitutionally banned.  If we can outlaw private possession of automatic weapons, shotguns with barrels too short, and mortars, we can also consign handguns to the trash heap.

If we can’t make that leap into the modern world, how about making it illegal to carry a firearm at or near a political event?  Is that too much to ask?

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6 Responses to “Politics and Packin’ Heat”

  1. Brian Bagent |

    Yes, it is too much to ask.

    You’re projecting. None of the fears of the left regarding the carrying of sidearms has materialized, even with so many states enacting carry laws in the last 20 or so years. I haven’t yet heard of a shooting at a kids’ soccer game. And if you knew how many child molesters hang out at soccer games, you’d probably want to have more armed people there, just in case. My old employer sent out plain clothes officers armed with video cameras to several soccer games and identified dozens of child molesters in the parks at these games.

    Automatic weapons haven’t been outlawed. One must obtain a license from the ATF to be able to own class III weapons. It is a costly and onerous process.

    You should read the US v Miller case. It is a perfect example of why the government is not to be trusted with too much power, especially why the government shouldn’t be trusted as the only entity to be able to have firearms.

    An assistant US Attorney (Gordon Dean, may he rot in hell) LIED to the USSC in the Miller case. Miller’s lawyer had done the local work pro bono. When the case went to the USSC, Miller (after having won at the district court level) was not to be found. His attorneys weren’t going to DC to do more free work when they couldn’t even find their client.

    The AUSA told the court that sawed off shotguns had no military or militia utility, which was crap because the army had been using them as recently as the early 30s in the Banana Republic Wars. Never mind that sawed off shotguns were still on the Army’s TOE, even as the AUSA uttered that lie in March of 1939.

    Miller and Layton were arrested, not for simply having a sawed-off shotgun in their possession (which wasn’t illegal under NFA 34), they were arrested for not paying a $50 transfer tax (the tax may have been higher, I cannot recall) on a $5 shotgun for having carried that shotgun across state lines from Oklahoma into Arkansas.

    You can read the USSCs decision here. This is the relevant portion of it:
    In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense..

    It was not within judicial notice because the AUSA LIED to them and told them that it was not, when in fact, the opposite was true.

    Like it or not, every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 45 is in the enrolled militia. The Militia Act of 1903 (the law that created the National Guard) didn’t change the nature of the this milita, either. The Militia Act of 1792 was not repealed or amended by the act of 1903.

    The right of the individual to keep and bear arms was even addressed in Dred Scott. I believe it was Chief Justice Taney that wrote “…would give to persons of the negro race, who are recognized as citizens in any one state of the Union, the right to enter every other state, whenever they pleased. . . . [A]nd it would give them full liberty of speech in public and in private . . . to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. I wish I could link to this spot in the decision so you wouldn’t have to wade through the whole thing to find it.

    If “rights” emanated from the government, then those “rights” could be just as easily removed by same. Could you imagine the same argument being made against the right to peaceably assemble or of the free press, etc?

  2. Tom |

    Brian, I understand your argument, and I’ve read the cases you cite a number of times. There haven’t been many cases that dealt with the Second Amendment, and most have been fairly narrow. D.C. v. Heller (decided 5-4) was the most comprehensive so far, and I don’t disagree with it.

    Over the years, U.S. v. Miller has been variously interpreted by both sides as supporting their positions. The issue of whether the kind of short-barreled shotgun in question was used by the military has been routinely raised, but it’s irrelevant in practical terms. In reality, Miller didn’t actually do much. It remanded the case to the lower court, but it was never re-heard because Miller himself was dead by then.

    Let’s also remember that Heller applies only to the federal government, as does the Second Amendment itself. It does not apply to state or lower levels of government, although that may change someday. Right now, the Ninth Circuit is in the process of deciding the issue for states under its jurisdiction, but an eventual Supreme Court decision on incorporating the Second Amendment against the states will probably come. (The facts of incorporation of the first eight amendments against the states is discussed here.) At the moment, each state (possibly except those in the Ninth Circuit) can make their own decisions regarding gun laws without regard to the Second Amendment.

    While I don’t disagree with Heller, it’s clearly established that certain kinds of weapons can be banned or restricted without violating the Constitution. Outlawing handguns as the particularly dangerous weapons they are seems appropriate to me. It would have to be a federal law, and I’d support it.

  3. Clarissa |

    What a GREAT post! I loved it so much that I re-posted a part of it on my blog. I hope you don’t mind. I believe that as many people as possible should read this great piece.

  4. Brian Bagent |

    The sad thing, from my perspective, is if Miller and Layton had had a BAR 30 or some other firearm on “the list,” the justices would have bounced Gordon Dean out on his bum and probably banned him from ever trying a case in the USSC again. The whopper he told was indeed that bald-faced, but the justices just didn’t know it. There was every chance that NFA of 34 might even have been completely struck down because nearly every gun on the list had some military utility.

    The problem is that NFA ’34 was enacted to counter the booze-related gangsterism of the 20s and 30s. Its effect was little different than the pretext drug arrests made today. The treasury agents that arrested Miller and Layton were hoping to find a still, but could not in spite of a lengthy search. And it is a dead-lock certainty that Miller and Layton were operating one: there was a 50# sack of sugar in the bed of their truck, and they were in the middle of the deep woods of western Arkansas. So, rather than being able to make a case against them for distilling spirits (another patently stupid law), they arrested them for failure to pay a tax whose cost exceeded the value of the item taxed by 1000% (kind of reminds me of the current tax on cigarettes – Phillip Morris and RJR make about 25 cents on a $5 pack of smokes – guess who gets most of the rest).

    I call this “the law of unintended consequences.” It happens, without fail, every time one of these do-gooder laws is enacted.

    There is absolutely no room in a civilized society of free moral agents for a government to enact laws which fall under mala prohibita (Latin for “it is bad because we say it is bad”). Just authority exists to punish violations of laws that fall under the heading mala en se, or “bad in and of itself”: namely theft and assault, and any act which is an offshoot of them (burglary, robbery, murder, rape, etc).

    One need not read a penal code to know and understand that theft and assault are wrong and unlawful. Backwoods hicks (even for educated folks it would be quite an undertaking to understand some of this) like Miller and Layton would have to have consulted an attorney to know about the details of NFA of 34, and the thought would have had to occur to them that there might be a legal involvement over pursuing an ordinary course of life that hurt no one.

    It would be easy to imagine a local ordinance in a place like Marin County that outlawed leather clothing or foot wear. Imagine being a newcomer to Marin County, walking through the airport and being arrested for your Johnson and Murphy wingtips. The thought would never occur to you that there was anything at all wrong with your shoes, yet here you are being hauled to jail.

    That is the problem with all mala prohibita laws. Without reading tomes of legal grabasticisms, there is no way to live a life without violating some of them. Odds are slim that an arrest may ensue, but what then is the point of a law of this nature?

    “An efficient militia is authorized and contemplated by the Constitution and required by the spirit and safety of free government.” — James Madison

    “The internal effects of a mutable policy are […] calamitous. It poisons the blessings of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow.” — James Madison

    In Reader’s Digest terms: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And this is precisely what the federal government does not do, and seems to take great pains in avoiding.

    Guns are no more the problem than knives, baseball bats, matches, drugs, alcohol, or any other inanimate object. More people die on the republic’s highways every year than are killed by gunfire. Why don’t we mandate a national speed limit of 30 MPH. That would save lots of lives and have the added “bonus” of generating loads of revenue for the government at all levels.

    I remember as a kid hearing about “Saturday Night Specials,” and how dangerous they are. When I grew up, I found out what a load of bovine excrement the thought of a Saturday night special is. Firstly, firearms makers don’t make guns that, if cared for, are going to catastrophically fail. Secondly, the term “Saturday Night Special” is derived from the racially abhorrent epithet “N****r town Saturday Night” and all of the debauchery and mayhem normally associated with such things.

    I’ll leave it with this pithy little saying:
    If guns cause murder, then matches cause arson.

  5. Tony W |

    I don’t completely agree with your view on gun control but those guys are harmless idiots. Only cowards carry guns in that manner. In a real fight for life and or country they will be nowhere to be found. IDIOTS!

  6. Tom |

    Tony, I agree with you that they’re idiots. But no one carrying a loaded weapon is harmless.

    A person has to be at least a little unhinged to carry weapons in these circumstances, so the only question remaining is how unhinged they are. How far away are they from being unhinged enough to open fire? I’m amazed that the Secret Service is willing to accept the risk inherent in that question.

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