Category Archives: Gun Control and Amendment II

Republican Party Platform (Part 3 of ?)

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The Second Amendment: Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms

This section could have been written by the National Rifle Association, because there is nothing here that shows any willingness to improve gun safety or even to improve existing legislation. Everything here is about expanding gun rights–some of which I do agree with–but nothing to prevent gun violence.

The Fourth Amendment: Liberty and Privacy

I agree with the GOP’s position to limit the use of drones on U.S. soil, and in limiting the use of tracking devices in motor vehicles. I do think that we need to be careful with the latter, as having vehicle transponders–even if anonymous–might be beneficial to safety as we move toward driverless vehicles.

The GOP’s position on encryption is troubling, as it shows a lack of comprehension on the technology. The problem is that making encryption accessible to the government when a warrant is issued inherently weakens the encryption.

I agree with the GOP’s opposition to the warrantless searches of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), but I am cynical of their motives, as there’s no move to resolve the problem of individuals and corporations dodging taxes by keeping funds outside the U.S.

The Fifth Amendment: Protecting Human Life

Like the Second Amendment section, this section could have been written by an interest group, in this case the National Right to Life Committee. I covered this ad nauseum here and here. Short version: The GOP is extreme on the right, the Democrats are extreme on the left.

The Fifth Amendment: Protecting Private Property

The GOP is against the abuse of eminent domain for private development projects, against the abuse of civil asset forfeiture, and against the seizure of environmentally sensitive property without adequate compensation. I agree wholeheartedly with all of those positions. Now, where do they stand on the seizure of private property from Indians?

The Fifth Amendment: Intellectual Property Rights

The GOP is great at protecting intellectual property rights–but they don’t say anything about getting intellectual property released to the public domain after a reasonable period. The original terms of copyrights were fourteen years, renewable once, but now we are up to life plus seventy years. This is ludicrous, and needs to be fixed. Lawrence Lessig wrote an article on “Re-crafting a Public Domain” which I think every Member of Congress should read.

The Ninth Amendment: The People’s Retained Rights

The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution declares that “[t]he enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This provision codifies the principle that our national government derives its power from the governed and that all powers not delegated to the government are retained by the people. We call upon legislators to give full force to this fundamental principle. We welcome to our ranks all citizens who are determined to reclaim the rights of the people that have been ignored or usurped by the federal and intrusive state governments.

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Yeah, I did see Suicide Squad this weekend.

So, which rights do you mean? The right to privacy, so that people don’t have to worry about the government arresting them for acts that happen in their own bedrooms? The right to equal protection under the law, like the right to marry, even if your partner is the same sex as you? The right to travel freely, regardless of your religion? The right to fair sentencing, regardless of your skin color?

Because I’m hearing the exact opposite of these things from the GOP.

The Tenth Amendment: Federalism as the Foundation of Personal Liberty

I would feel better about this section if the GOP were any better at limiting government than the Democrats, but they just aren’t: They just want government involved in different areas. Yes, the federal government has overstepped its constitutional mandates, but states have repeatedly shown that they are often unwilling or unable to defend the rights of individuals. I would have absolutely no problem with the federal government cutting spending and federal taxes if I had any confidence in some state and local governments actually spending money–and taxing accordingly–to make sure people had adequate education, health care, police protection, and other government services. Unfortunately–I’m looking at you, Kansas–we’ve seen quite clearly that Republican state governments often gut their programs to cut taxes at the expense of the poor.

Honest Elections and the Electoral College

The GOP, for some reason, thinks there is widespread electoral fraud in the U.S., and they think that keeping the Electoral College helps prevent electoral fraud affecting presidential elections. Because of the Electoral College, my vote for president doesn’t matter. Barring an unlikely collapse, Trump will win Tennessee by a huge margin, and because my vote won’t help sway things nationwide, it doesn’t matter who gets my vote. Also, the Electoral College helps maintain the two-party system, because the assumption is that no third-party candidate can get enough votes to get any electoral college delegates. If we restructured things for first-to-the-post or runoffs–in the event no candidate gets 50% on the first ballot–then third parties are viable.

Honest Elections and the Right to Vote

To guard against foreign involvement in our elections, we call for vigilance regarding online credit card contributions to candidates and campaigns.

How about allowing the cases of Trump’s campaign soliciting foreign campaign donations to move forward? I think that would be a good way to “guard against foreign involvement.”

I have no problem with Voter ID laws, provided that they:

  1. Provide a free government ID option.
  2. Provide a free way to get the necessary documentation, like birth certificates, for the purpose of obtaining 1.
  3. Provide assistance in transportation to ID-issuing offices.

The GOP has shown bad faith in wanting people to vote by cutting early voting hours, reducing the number of polling places, and cutting the hours polls are open on election days. If you support the right to vote, make it easier for people to vote, not harder. Personally, I would like to see progress made in secure online voting, but as the GOP is trending older, I am pretty sure that is not a priority for them.


The next section is on “Agriculture, Energy, and the Environment.” I am pretty sure that is in order of importance.

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A Fistful of Dollars

Fistful

I have been shaking my head over the Orlando Pulse-inspired debate in the Senate over gun control. I have a ton of problems with what is happening, and I’m not sure that I like anyone involved in the debate.

Problem 1: The “lists”

I have this odd view that, for the most part, the rights in the U.S. Constitution shouldn’t be limited to citizens. I am ashamed to live in a country that has held people in Guantanamo Bay for over fourteen years without charges, a declaration of war, or, at this point, even more than a token presence in Afghanistan. Very slightly less problematic are the various terrorist watch lists and no-fly lists used by the government to monitor people with ties to terrorism.

In the abstract, I have no problem with lists like this, but they should be lists that trigger authorities to detain people for arrest or questioning. Once they are arrested or questioned, they should be removed from the list. This shouldn’t be a permanent state for anyone. If there isn’t enough evidence to charge people with a crime, they shouldn’t semi-permanently lose rights. As such, I have serious problems with the various proposals to use watch lists to keep people from purchasing firearms.

Problem 2: Research

In 1996, Congress imposed a ban on government research into gun violence. The CDC, as part of its overall data collection into causes of death in the US, still compiles raw numbers, but it isn’t allowed to dig deeper. The effect of this is that there is an absence of solid, unbiased research into gun violence. There may be some simple measures the government can take to reduce gun violence–for example, asking for a gun buyer’s relationship status as part of the background check–but because we don’t have good figures on how many gun assaults happen because of recent breakups, we don’t have any idea whether taking such action would have any effect at all. I don’t believe in passing legislation based on gut feelings; I want future researchers and legislators to be able to measure the effects of laws on the problems they were intended to address.

Problem 3: Partisanship

I am cynical enough to believe that the Republicans are voting against gun control measures because their core voters are against it and that Democrats are voting for gun control because their core voters support it. Both sides want their votes on this issue to be available for use in campaign ads over the next few months. Even the bill put forth by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins is a bill designed to be palatable to her Republican voters while showing Maine moderates that she isn’t a hardliner.

The Various Amendments

There were initially four amendments put forth on gun control:

► An amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would allow the attorney general to deny a gun sale to anyone if she has a “reasonable belief” — a lesser standard than “probable cause” — that the buyer was likely to engage in terrorism. The proposal is popularly known as the “no-fly, no-buy” amendment, but wouldn’t just apply to people on the “no fly” terrorist watch list.

► An Republican alternative by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, which would require that law enforcement be alerted when anyone on the terror watch list attempts to buy a weapon from a licensed dealer. If the buyer has been investigated for terrorism within the past five years, the attorney general could block a sale for up to three days while a court reviews the sale.

► An amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would make it more difficult to add mentally ill people to the background check database, giving people suspected of serious mental illness a process to challenge that determination.

► An amendment by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., that would close the “gun show loophole” by requiring every gun purchaser to undergo a background check, and to expand the background check database.

(USA Today)

Feinstein Amendment

The Feinstein Amendment was defeated 47-53. I would have voted against, as this would have denied rights to people without due process with no recourse.

Cornyn Amendment

The Cornyn Amendment was defeated 53-47 in a test vote (there was no point in an actual vote, as it was an amendment to the Feinstein Amendment, so when that failed, there was no point in continuing). I haven’t looked at the text of this bill, but I like the concept, as it forces a judicial review, adding due process to the system. The failure of this amendment clearly demonstrates the partisanship of the issue, as almost every Democrat voted against it. This amendment was better than nothing, but the Democrats would rather have nothing and the street cred than actually doing something.

Grassley Amendment

Currently 99% of the people on the mental defective list are there because the VA reported them. The intent of the Grassley Amendment was to give veterans a way off the list, by providing a means for veterans to appeal their status once released from care. This wouldn’t be an automatic, as some Democrats have suggested, but it would end the current state where once someone gets on the list it is nearly impossible to get removed. Also, the bill would have funded research into the causes of mass shootings. This was defeated 53-47 along similar lines to the Cornyn Amendment.

Murphy Amendment

Sen. Christopher Murphy led the filibuster that caused these votes, but his amendment was soundly defeated 44-56. I liked the Murphy Amendment, as it improved data sharing into the background check system and expanded background checks to almost all transfers of firearms–which I support not only because it potentially improves public safety but it also puts private sellers on a level playing field with gun dealers.


In short, I would have voted for all but the Feinstein Amendment. Cornyn, Grassley, and Murphy would have small steps toward improving public safety, and none of them would have placed significant additional restrictions on gun rights. Murphy would have slightly restricted private sellers, but Grassley would have allowed gun rights to be restored to veterans who showed that they had successfully completed psychiatric treatment programs. I’m not sure who is worse here: the NRA-supported Republicans who blocked Murphy, or the spiteful Democrats who blocked Cornyn and Grassley. All I know is that the combination of the two means that our country isn’t any safer today than it was yesterday.

If you haven’t seen the film A Fistful of Dollars, I highly recommend it, or, alternatively, Yojimbo, the Akira Kurosawa film upon which it was based, or Miller’s Crossing, or Last Man Standing, or you can read the original Dashiell Hammett novel, The Glass Key. The key plot point is that the main character plays one side against the other, often getting caught in the crossfire. I fear that, in order to get anything done on gun control, we need more people willing to put themselves into the crossfire between the two parties.

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