Archive for February, 2009

ObamaAs expected, Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that the Obama administration would begin working to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 under George W. Bush.

In a somewhat surprising but politically predictable response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t seem too keen on the idea, stating that she referred to work to enforce the gun laws that are already in existence. She is joined in this opinion by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Perhaps they remember the political fallout against Congressional Democrats the last time they passed this silly and ineffective legislation.

But I wouldn’t go getting rid of those AR’s just yet if I were you.


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townsquareThriftville was like any other small town. It had tree-lined streets, a playground for the kids, and a large, green town square. It had a butcher shop, a bakery, a bank, and a general store. It had a quiet little inn and a popular family restaurant called Mr. Shady’s. The inhabitants of Thriftville loved their town, and worked diligently to keep it safe and quiet for all to enjoy. They knew that each of them had an integral part to play in keeping Thriftville running smoothly, and each of them did their best to help their neighbors.

One summer day, to the delight of the local children, a traveling circus rolled into Thriftville. As the circus set up in the town square, lively music and the smell of hot dogs and popcorn began to drift down the quiet streets. People came from the area all around Thriftville to enjoy the fun and excitement. As the visitors came to the circus, they also stopped to eat in Mr. Shady’s restaurant. Mr. Shady was very happy to serve his new customers and often his restaurant was so crowded that there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit down.

“My, oh my!” exclaimed Mr. Shady. “My restaurant has become so noisy and crowded that it is not such a nice place to eat anymore. I think that I will take the extra money I have made and build another dining room, to give people more space to eat and enjoy themselves. Business is so good that I should be able to build a nice big addition to my restaurant.” And so, Mr. Shady went to the general store and bought some lumber and bricks, and began to build his new dining room.

By and by, Mr. Shady finished his new addition. In order to accommodate the increase in business, he hired a new cook and four new waitresses. He stood proudly at the door of the new room and smiled as he watched it fill up with hungry customers. “My, oh my!” exclaimed Mr. Shady. “What an intelligent businessman I am! Building this new dining room was the best decision I ever made. Now Mr. Shady’s will be a wonderful place to visit and eat.” He smiled again as he hurried back to the kitchen.

Soon the weather in Thriftville began to grow cooler and the circus started packing up to move on to the next town. School started and the children were no longer free to spend their days eating hot dogs and popcorn and listening to the cheerful music. After the last circus wagon pulled out of town, the visitors to Thriftville also got in their cars and drove back to their own towns, again leaving Thriftville quiet and peaceful. Fewer and fewer people came to eat at Mr. Shady’s restaurant, and soon the new dining room stood empty, except for the four new waitresses who had no customers to wait on.

“What have I done?” cried Mr. Shady. “I don’t have enough customers to fill up my restaurant or enough business to occupy my new cook and waitresses. I spent all of my extra money on my new dining room, and now I can’t pay my new workers or afford the utility expenses of my extra space. I shall go bankrupt!” Mr. Shady hung his head in sorrow. If only he had realized that the circus was going to leave Thriftville and take all of his new customers away, he wouldn’t have made such poor choices! Suddenly Mr. Shady had an idea. “I know! I will go to Mr. Goodcents the banker and ask him for a loan to operate my new dining room and pay my new workers. Mr. Goodcents eats at my restaurant all the time. Surely he will help me.” So that’s just what Mr. Shady did.

“I don’t know.” Mr. Goodcents said when Mr. Shady told him his plan. “I was going to loan this money to Mr. Handy at the general store. He has had so much business for the past several years, that he is ready to open a new store. But I do love your food, so I guess I will give you the loan instead. Maybe you could give me a free donut or two when I come in for my cup of coffee.”

“Oh, thank you.” said Mr. Shady. “You won’t be sorry.” Mr. Shady left the bank with Mr. Handy’s money, whistling a cheerful tune. “Now my business will be safe,” he thought to himself. “I’m sure business will pick up and my new dining room will be packed full in a jiffy.”

But business didn’t pick up. By and by, Mr. Shady’s new loan money was gone. He returned to Mr. Goodcents and pleaded with him. “Please,” Mr. Shady cried. “Just give me one more loan. I just need a little more money to hold me over until the circus comes back to town and visitors return to eat in my restaurant.”

“I don’t know.” Mr. Goodcents replied. “The money I gave you before was supposed to be for Mr. Handy. His store was really growing, and since I gave you the money instead, he moved to a different town to open his new store. The lack of a general store in Thriftville has really hurt our town. Many people are moving away. The loan money I have left is supposed to go to Mr. Sunny to improve the playground and the square. But I do love your food, so I guess I will give you the money instead.”

“Oh, thank you.” said Mr. Shady. “You won’t be sorry. My wonderful food will bring in lots of visitors who will want to live in Thriftville. Soon we won’t even miss Mr. Handy and his store.” Mr. Shady walked quickly back to his restaurant, confident that this time he would succeed.

By and by, Mr. Shady ran out of money again. He returned to Mr. Goodcents and asked, “Couldn’t you just please give me one more loan?”

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Goodcents said sadly. “There is no more money. Since I gave you the loan instead of Mr. Sunny, the playground and square have become overgrown, and many families with children have moved away. Our town is dying, and there is no more money to lend.”

Mr. Shady returned to his restaurant, told his waitresses and cooks that he couldn’t afford to keep them on, and boarded up the new dining room. He sat in his kitchen sadly and wondered what he was going to do.

By and by, the residents of Thriftville moved away to other towns with general stores and nice parks and playgrounds. Mr. Shady had to close his restaurant since there weren’t many people left to eat there anymore. Soon other businesses began to close as well: the inn, the butcher shop, and the bakery. Thriftville’s once tidy streets became littered and empty. Where children once played only the wind could be heard. The few people who are left remember what a wonderful town Thriftville once was, before the day the circus left town.

Props to Peter Schiff.

Cross-posted to Facebook.

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arkansas_times_logoThere has been quite a bit of controversy in the Arkansas firearms community this week. Last Monday, Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times made the following post on his blog:

brantleyAnnals of gun nuttery

The gun crowd has gone berserk in Tennessee because The Commercial Appeal in Memphis has posted on-line the names of all holders of concealed weapon permits in the state. It’s a public record. The list in Arkansas is public record, too. Care to see it?

It’s a big ol’ file, hard to manipulate, about 7 megs. Tens of thousands of names (and a huge surge of new apps in the pipeline, State Police say, whether because of the post-Obama gun-buying frenzy or the phases of the moon or just happenstance.) It’s yours on demand from the State Police, available in a spreadhseet format by e-mail.

Have fun searching for your friends. But I’ve checked this much: The current governor and the current congressional delegation are not in possession of concealed carry permits. The Huckabees, Janet and Mike, are armed.

Following the words “Care to see it?” in the original post was a link to a complete list of concealed handgun licensees in Arkansas, including home addresses. Obviously the inflammatory and taunting language of this post was intended to get a reaction out of the Arkansas license holders, whom Brantley evidently holds in contempt. These gun owners did not disappoint. Over the next several days, Brantley received numerous angry phone calls and emails from folks who were unhappy with his post. According to Brantley, these phone calls and emails contained several threats to Brantley’s safety, prompting him to take down the link to the concealed license list and make the following blog post:

On the gun beat

Channel 4 tells me that they’ve talked to Rep. Randy Stewart of Kirby, who is introducing legislation to exempt the list of concealed weapon permit holders from the Freedom of Information Act.

This follows from my decision last week to obtain the list from the State Police and provide a link to it on this website. Little fuss followed until several days later, when gun groups began raising a din about it.

I’ve written about this here and there and I spoke on KARN about it this morning, but to recapitulate:

I think the public information is both interesting and important for accountability. I don’t follow the argument that it’s any more dangerous than the daily newspaper’s decision to put people’s voting records, with street addresses, etc., on-line. Guns are ubiquitous. Most homes have them, I’d guess, far more certainly than the 55,000 or so with concealed carry permits.

I decided to remove the link because of concerns expressed about use of street addresses, also part of the public record. The argument was that this could compromise people who want their whereabouts unknown. The number in that category is small. It’s also true that the ways of finding people are many, from voter records, to car tax records to property tax records, not to mention the usual web of shared acquaintances that make disappearance a near impossibility.

Still, in deference to that concern, I removed the list. I also was motivated by the bother of harassing phone calls at all hours of the night, from the obscene to the threatening, that began last Friday and have continued to escalate. I’ve had three threats — one by phone suggesting my car had been fixed with a bomb and two by e-mail (“You won’t see it coming,” said one, more or less) — sufficiently serious to pass to police. They will be checking my phone callers. Advertising boycotts are underway. Lawsuits, on what ground I can’t imagine, are said to be in progress.

I’ll say this about the legislation. There’s a reason that names of those who enjoy the significant privilege of carrying a concealed weapon in public should be available for inspection.

For one, the lists are not infallible. The Memphis newspaper found nine felons in Shelby County on the list there. The list in Arkansas is not routinely rechecked for new felonies by permit holders. They happen.

If the legislature thinks specific address information should be redacted, that’s a separate question. But the names of people allowed to go about in public with concealed weapons should not be a state secret, not given the fairly low bar for qualification. I doubt that my point of view will get much hearing in the coming legislative debate, but let it be noted.

To date, despite the fears of potential harm to permit holders by a temporary posting of the information (information that many in the gun lobby avidly recirculated even as they decried it — several called first to criticize and then to ask where they could see it), the only criminal acts I’m aware of have been directed at me. More troubling in a way are those who’ve said, “You deserved it.”

When people believe that disagreement with a lawful act justifies violence, you have to think that a little stronger psychological screening might be in order for carry permits.

I’ve been told, too, that some licensed gun instructors have been encouraging their former students to retaliate in various ways. These have included threatening mail to my family. Note: Threats by a permit holder are grounds for loss of the privilege. If the law means anything.

I believe, and I hope I’m right, that the angry reactions represent a small minority of permit holders. But it’s a very noisy minority, to be sure.

The bill Brantley refers to in the post is HB1623. This bill would exempt the concealed carry license list from the Freedom of Information Act.

I have a few thoughts about the above situation. As I stated above, Max Brantley’s obvious goal in posting the list was to infuriate the Arkansas gun community. In that effort he was more than successful. I have to wonder, though, why Brantley is now protesting against the exact reaction he sought to illicit? Is it because he was supposedly threatened? It seems Max can dish it a-plenty, but can’t seem to tolerate the heat generated by his actions. On the other hand, I don’t think exempting certain documents from the FOIA is the best course of action. Government is murky enough without pouring more dirt in the water.

The obvious problem here is that there is a list at all. The individual right to keep AND BEAR arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution (the supreme law of the land). This right was recently affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in D.C. vs. Heller. The Constitution does not say one needs to pass a test, take a class, pay a fee, or jump through any other hoops in order to exercise this right. Some (like Mr. Brantley) will say these hoops are necessary to keep crazy murderous nuts from blowing away everyone in sight, but this argument simply isn’t supported by any evidence. Two states, Alaska and Vermont, don’t have any laws regulating or restricting the carrying of firearms, and both states have extremely low crime rates. The states with the strictest carry laws (New York, Illinois, Washington D.C.) have terrible records on gun related crime. Bottom line: the list of people allowed to carry guns in Arkansas should contain the name of every law abiding Arkansan, not just those who are willing to jump through hoops.

Of course, Max Brantley is allowed to say anything he wants; that’s guaranteed in the Bill of Rights too. I bet he didn’t even have to pay a fee.

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shhhEver wonder where our legislators get their information? The Congressional Research Service is the official think tank for the Congress; they prepare reports on just about anything any senator or congressman wants to know. Here is their mission statement:

CRS is committed to supporting an informed national legislature — by developing creative approaches to policy analysis, anticipating legislative needs and responding to specific requests from legislators in a timely manner. With a rigorous adherence to our key values, CRS provides analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan.

Technically these reports are part of the public domain, but until now they have been mainly available only in written form, and only by special constituent request to one’s representative or senator (and then often “only if politically helpful to said politician”). That means that if you knew there might be a report on a certain subject you could write your congressman and request that he or she send you a written copy. Then they were under no obligation to do so unless it would benefit them politically. Needless to say, these specialized reports were pretty difficult to get. In fact, the CRS reports are listed as #1 in the Center for Democracy and Technology’s 10 Most Wanted Government Documents list.

Multiple attempts have been made to pass legislation that would force the CRS reports to be made public, but each time our Congressmen vote to keep them a secret. The Congressional Research service itself has even lobbied to keep the reports unavailable to ordinary Americans.

Enter Wikileaks, and anonymous web-based service dedicated to freedom of information through the public release of classified material. On February 8, Wikileaks obtained an extensive archive of Congressional Research Service reports dating back to 1990. This massive group of documents (6,780 reports consisting of over 127,000 pages) contains detailed analysis of some of the most explosive concerns of our day, most previously unavailable to the public. In fact, of these 6,780 reports, only 506 of them were previously available online.

“So what?” you say. Well, so far there have been no smoking guns, but here are a few of the reports I found very interesting nonetheless:

On terrorism and civil liberties-

Response to Terrorism: Legal Aspects of the Use of Military Force, September 13, 2001
Terrorism at Home: A Quick Look at Applicable Federal and State Criminal Laws, October 3, 2001
Terrorism Legislation: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001, October 26, 2001
The USA PATRIOT Act: A Legal Analysis, April 15, 2002
Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: New Independent Agency Status, November 26, 2008
Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping, September 2, 2008
National Identification Cards: Legal Issues, January 7, 2003

On economic issues-

Soft Money, Allegations of Political Corruption, and Enron, February 12, 2002
Gold: Uses of U.S. Official Holdings, April 22, 2002
Proposals to Allow Federal Reserve Banks to Pay Interest on Reserve Balances: The Issues Behind the Legislation, March 5, 2002

On health issues-

Environmental Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors: What Are the Human Health Risks?, February 4, 2002
Dietary Supplements: Legislative and Regulatory Status, July 11, 2002

On gun control-

The United Nations and “Gun Control”, April 7, 2005
Long-Range Fifty Caliber Rifles: Should They Be More Strictly Regulated?, July 25, 2005
Gun Control: Statutory Disclosure Limitations on ATF Firearms Trace Data and Multiple Handgun Sales Reports, February 1, 2008

On the current financial crisis-

Federal Loans to the Auto Industry Under the Energy Independence and Security Act, November 13, 2008
Containing Financial Crisis, November 24, 2008
China and the Global Financial Crisis: Implications for the United States, November 24, 2008
Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Financial Problems: Frequently Asked Questions, September 12, 2008

And that’s just from a 5 minute scan. There is a year’s worth of reading here.

Ever since September 11, 2001, our government has made it it’s business to know what we are up to. Well I say it’s time we learned what it is up to. There is no better way to predict what our legislators will do than to know what information they are being fed. Information is power. Happy reading.

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Keyes goes postal

keyesI have not always known quite what to make of Alan Keyes. He has made some questionable financial decisions in the past, and he is what some call a “radical conservative” (which in my book is as bad as a “radical liberal”). That being said, he is extremely articulate, as you can see in this video clip, in which he speaks passionately about Barack Obama and the state of the nation.

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glennbeckIf you missed Glenn Beck today, you really should watch these videos. As some people continue to ignore the obvious, more and more experts are preparing for the worst. On second thought, watch these only if you value your future more than your denial.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3 here.

Part 4 here.

Part 5 here.

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illinois_signThere are shenanigans afoot in the People’s Republic of Illinois. Keep an eye on the following legislation that has been proposed in the Illinois General Assembly:

HB0687: The Firearms Owners ID Insurance Amendment.

Amends the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act. Provides that any person who owns a firearm in this State shall maintain a policy of liability insurance in the amount of at least $1,000,000 specifically covering any damages resulting from negligent or willful acts involving the use of such firearm while it is owned by such person. Provides that a person shall be deemed the owner of a firearm after the firearm is lost or stolen until such loss or theft is reported to the police department or sheriff of the jurisdiction in which the owner resides. Provides that the Department of State Police shall revoke and seize a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card previously issued under this Act if the Department finds that the person to whom such card was issued possesses or acquires a firearm and does not submit evidence to the Department of State Police that he or she has been issued in his or her name a liability insurance policy in the amount of at least $1,000,000 specifically covering any damages resulting from negligent or willful acts involving the use of such firearm while it is owned by such person. Effective January 1, 2010.
Full text here.

Illinois already requires its citizens apply for a “Firearms Identification Card” in order to own a gun. Now, if HB0687 passes, Illinois gun owners will be required to purchase a $1 million liability insurance policy in order to lawfully keep their firearms. It also gives the Illinois State Police the authority to seize the guns of all citizens who can not show proof of this insurance policy. This legislation will, in effect, prevent Illinois citizens who can’t afford a $1 million insurance policy from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.

This is a clear example of the gun control strategies that I expect the Obama administration to implement nationwide. I’m telling you, they are going to get really sneaky. We need to watch developments in Illinois very closely and be vigilant in our own states for similar legislation.

Thanks to Mike at Don’t Panic! for spotting this bill. Keep up the great work, Mike.

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