Thursday, April 21, 2005

Blogburst: The Second Amendment

Kender at Kender's Musings on his radio show, Kender Uncensored (12 AM PST) on Monday through Friday, was discussing the second amendment. Several sites are participating in a "blog burst" regarding the second amendment with the blogging group The Wide Awakes.

To compliment that blog burst, I am posting a link to a long post (you know me) regarding a discussion on the second amendment with a liberal who was posting at Kender's.

The post is 2nd Amendment vs. Crime Rates.

You may find the "shortened" version with excerpts by going to the inner sanctum.

The commenter used one of the lefts most cherished arguments for gun control: Crime with weapons. He also attempted to destruct the purpose of the second amendment as no longer necessary because our democratic government with a standing army precludes the necessity: the ability of the individual citizen to arm themselves and protect their country and person from invasion by a foreign power and protection against their own government whenever that government becomes the tool of oppression.

Excerpts from that post:

Constitutional Rights and Their Purpose

First of all, the second amendment was not made the second amendment so that we could bear arms and protect our property and persons from common criminals (ie, theft, robbery, car jackings, attempted murder or assault, etc). That is, as they say, a side benefit.

The purpose of the second amendment and why it was the second amendment as opposed to the tenth, is to protect ourselves and property from theft and assault BY THE GOVERNMENT or any other entity, country, force that seeks to take away all those other rights outlined in the constitution and additional amendments thereof.

Actually, the first rights that the founding fathers outlined were the "unwritten rights" outlined in the declaration of independence:

...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

The preamble of the constitution goes further to indicate the general purpose of the constitution and by law, the amendments thereof:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Government "Checks and Balances" and the Individual Citizen

the government of the United States is not just based on a federal repulic and representative government. The government was set up to provide redundancy and/or checks and balances on the system.

You are familiar with the three main bodies of government that provide checks and balances against each other: The executive, legislative and Judicial branches; each with their own powers and abilities to "check and balance" the other.

However, the founding fathers understood that, even in such a system, the government entities alone could not be trusted to provide checks and balances against each other for the common good of the people. That still gave too much power to the government. So they insured that a fourth "check and balance" was in place: the individual citizen.

That's right, we are the last "check" in our redundant system of government.

The right to free speech, the right to due process of the law, the right for our property to be sancrosant and not arbitrarily confiscated or used by the government and the "right" to select representatives to government (ie, voting), none of these rights alone can protect us against abuse or despotic government.

...the final check and balance in the entire system is the ability of the individual citizen to change the government, by force and through taking up arms, if necessary, and to protect our persons and property from abuse by the government or other entity.

It is all of the rights outlined in the Constitution and Amendments, including the second amendment, that are meant to protect American Citizens from abuse by their government, encroachment on all rights listed and the potential for the rise of despotic government.

If you read the full version of the post, you will find a continuing discussion about the feasibility of armed rebellion against a better armed government and more technologically advanced military.

Aside from that, there is a real and current danger that should, by necessity, engender the public to ensure the second amendment stays intact:

Let's also talk about the possibility that on 9/11 or another day similar, the central powers of this country were devastated in an attack that was capable of taking out the Pentagon, congress and the white house. The beauty of the redundancy of our federalist and republic representative government is that we could fairly quickly establish new heads and representatives. However, things would be a bit chaotic for a brief while, until we re-organized.

The individual as a part of that redundancy becomes very important. First to hold those who would seek power at that time accountable for their actions.

Second would be to secure our individual safety, the safety of our family and neighbors, and our personal property during the potential chaos that would ensue. Third would be to secure the homeland as, at this potential transitional time, our enemies might see us a ripe for the picking, attacking the US directly or it's interests and otherwise engaging our military.

...provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty

Crime Rates

During the discussion, I made this comment about the left using crime rates as a point of debate to attack the second amendment:

The left's desire to frame this argument as a safety issue or a program to reduce crime is a strawman argument. Anyone who wishes to argue the 2nd amendment should never stoop to their argument, but stay on the constitution and the guarantee of freedom.

Once you get down to trying to compare statistics about crime rates, you have already lost the argument and the point of the 2nd amendment. That point is the protection of freedom and our rights as outlined in the constitution, not the crime rate.

Of course, I was induced by the commenter to approach the subject of crime rates on the basis that existing gun control laws were allegedly responsible for the drop in crime. Upon reviewing the data, I immediately found the problem with the gun control lobby's use of specific time frames of data:

Non Fatal Crimes with Firearms

Crimes related to firearms began dramatically increasing in 1988. By 1993 they were up to 1.2 million per year. Immediately after 1993, these crimes began a miraculous drop in numbers to until it reached just over 300k per year, similar to the statistics recorded in 1973. The Brady Law was implemented in 1994.

This is the data that gun control lobbyists use to promote the idea that waiting periods work and additional gun control or longer waiting periods could reduce the number of crimes even further.

As I noted in that post, there is a disclaimer under all of the graphs and tables for this data:

Source: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Ongoing since 1972 with a redesign in 1993, this survey of households interviews about 75,000 persons age 12 and older in 42,000 households twice each year about their victimizations from crime.

Other tables show a similar increase beginning in 1988 and contain the same disclaimer regarding revision:

Crimes Related To Fire Arms
Gun Crimes Since 1973

This graph shows you that the number of fire arms crimes reported to the police in 1973 was appx 370k crimes. This crime rate holds almost steady with a few blips until 1988 where it begins a sharp increase until 1993 at an all time high of 590k(conveniently when they begin to redesign the data gathering) and decreases until 1998-99, back to appx 370k with a blip back to 450k in 2001 and then back again to "leveL" with this comment below:

According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2001 about 39% of the deaths that resulted from firearms injuries were homicides, 57% were suicides, 3% were unintentional, and 1% were of undetermined intent.

Suicides are included in this crime rate and are 57% of the crimes recorded. In 1993, according to the data, suicide was 48% of the crimes and climbs all through the data, regardless of the laws enacted.

I would like to point out the significance of the blip in 2001 and its relationship to increased suicides. In 2001, thousands of people were widowed, orphaned, lost a close loved one, lost their jobs, lost their homes and the stock market fell dramatically. All issues that have consistently contributed to suicide.

Back to the collection of data:

As a person that routinely deals with statistics and analyzation of data in my regular job, the data miraculous decrease in crime statistics stinks to high heaven. In a GROWING population of 300 mil people (somewhere around 270 mil in 1993), you don't get those kind of decreases in any data, not in poverty, in healthcare, in highschool drop outs, none.

By their comment on the redesign, it is fairly evident that their previous data collection techniques were flawed giving an unreasonably high rate of crime. This could be anything from counting one act of armed robbery where there were ten victims as "ten" as opposed to "one". It could mean, in the solicitation of information during previous surveys, the question sets were predisposed to obtain or construe data in a certain manner. any number of things that prompted them to "redesign" their collection and data analysis.

What happened in 1988 to the justice department that might have precipitated this unusual data pattern?

In 1988, the Regulatory Flexibility Act was passed that required all agencies to present more data and information on programs they were managing (this is also in conjunction with "unfunded mandates reform act"). The DOJ had a rather large overhaul in order to meet this requirement and produce the data required.

What does that mean in relationship to our data and our discussion?

In short, the data was flawed and the collection techniques were flawed. (...)

Interestingly, the data decline begins to level off around 1999 and remains fairly constant for the last 4 years of data collection until 2003 despite waiting periods. I would hazard a guess that it remains so today with possible little blips and increases what with the craziness of the last election.

The Brady Law

Ninth amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

2. To reduce in esteem or rank.
ETYMOLOGY: Middle English disparagen, to degrade,

Any law that prohibits gun ownership within city, county, state or federal limits, is a denial of the second amendment. Any law , such as registration, licensing, seven day waiting periods, laws against owning certain weapons, DISPARAGE the second amendment, a right granted by the constitution.

From the Brady Law campaign:

Since the implementation of the Brady Law in February 1994, almost a quarter-million prohibited purchasers have been stopped from buying handguns in gun stores, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Since 1994, gun-related violent crime has been dropping even faster than violent crime overall, and a 1997 study by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence demonstrated a dramatic decrease in interstate gun trafficking since the Brady Law went into effect.

(...)conveniently, they leave out the data for who was stopped from buying a gun.(...)white collar, non-violent criminals made up over 70% of those felonious characters kept from buying a gun.(...)

And what about the people who were committing crimes anyway (including suicide an ever increasing rates)?

Guns Used In Crime

According to the 1997 Survey of State Prison Inmates, among those possessing a gun, the source of the gun was from -

a flea market or gun show for fewer than 2%
a retail store or pawnshop for about 12%
family, friends, a street buy, or an illegal source for 80%

In 1993, the brady law and three day waiting period was passed [ed...implemented in 1994] with a 90% support nation wide after a media campaign using inflated numbers and what has become known as "scare tactics". The year the brady campaign first kicked off 1985, the crime rate was no higher nor lower than it is today. If it wasn't for the mess of the data, this law would not have existed.

Good Society, Public Safety and Laws

Each day, with each world event and with each law enacted in order to form this "perfect union", I see that we get further and further away from the original intent. We as citizens, in the desparation to "civilize" ourselves, to insure "public safety" have given up a little here and a little there. All in the name of "good society".

Laws do not create a good society, laws are meant to protect a good society, it is the people within that society that make it good or otherwise. (...)

(...)We have, in the course of creating our utopia (not to be confused with socialist/communist utopia; but in essence, the utopia of "good society") allowed ourselves to be convinced that these little things that we offer, that we sacrifice, are for the greater good of our society. There are many out there, who like me in the days past, do not pay a lot of attention to the goings on outside of their little lives. At least until those goings on come to them.

By dent of media blitzes, barrages of information such as crime rates, etc, have served to convince a majority of people that this was an epidemic and that we should "give a little" on our rights in order to better institute "good society". Even though we have "representative government" we can still be ruled by a majority that inflicts its desires on its representatives. That majority is largely uneducated and unconcerned about what damage they might do to other civil liberties that do not have an immediate impact on them. Particularly as they are concerned with day to day life and not some theoretical future where their other rights might depend on the very right that they limited or eliminated in the course of "good society" and the "here and now".

Ben Franklin:

All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse.

It is up to us as citizens who are cognizant of history to remain vigilant on their behalf, however they might find that vigilance annoying or contrary to their current desires for utopia, lest they wake one day to find that their utopia has become hell.

A European On American Gun Culture and My Reply

Peter in Sweden comments:

But having lived in Europe for more than 35 years, I have come to another intellectual conclusion, that is that the "right" to bear arms is a cultural artifact or remnant with no humanistic justification in a modern society.

The pull between inbred cultural attitudes and acquired empirical knowledge is a strong and disturbing factor for many of us. Cultural (including religious) influence can create major political, social and even demographic disturbances. In short, many times we know what should be a correct course (in a better world) but we follow a set of actions with no real intellectual foundation, just because we cannot free ourselves from habits, traditions and behavioural patterns.

I think the debate on the 2nd Ammendment is a perfect example of this.

In Europe, most countries ban the private possession of firearms. In Sweden, murders are often committed using sharp weapons - knives, razors and the like. If you want to commit armed robbery, kill someone or just "protect yourself" you will find a way. But guns are sort of special. To kill someone with a knife, you have to get close, engage in some sort of physical contact and interrrelation. With a gun, it's so much easier: just point and shoot from a distance. It is this "distancing" that makes firearms so humanly reprehensible. I think it takes a lot more guts to knife someone than to shoot him or her.

What I'm saying is this. I's much easier to kill someone - either by accident or on purpose -by using a gun. You can often read in the papers about fatal shootings, caused by playing with guns or by getting scared and killing an innocent person. It can happen when you've got a gun at hand, can't it? And, as I said above, it's more clinical.

There should be no "right" to bear firearms.

Robert, an American, responds:

Peter- The reality that guns are easier to wield is actually why they are beneficial. Imagine who has the greatest advantage in the ideal, gunless society! Lifetime warriors and thugs, not every citizen. Not every citizen is six foot four, built like a brick wall, and capable of competently defending his person and property against a larger invader. The gun is, in many ways, an equalizer.

And of course, any attempt at gun criminalization must take into effect how gun confiscation would work. Could our government actually confiscate the millions upon millions of guns that exist in this country? There is no way they could. Unless you want to invade South America up to Panama and seal the border there

My response on European Disarmament

Peter, you in Europe may disarm yourselves forever and a day. While you do, I believe I will keep remembering these names:

Hitler (no, the Germans would not have resisted him, but the Polish and a number of other people in a number of other countries might have been able to help themselves if they had a traditiona of firearms)

Stalin (no, the Russians were pretty powerless to stop him, but again, all those lovely eastern countries didn't stand a chance, not even the partisan resistors)

Ceauceua, Uncle Tito, Franco, Russia rolling through half of Europe on any given day whenever it wanted?

We look at Africa for genocide, but Europe seems to want to practice that too on a regular basis, or need I mention Milosovic, Bosnia, Serbia and Herzogovenia?

No offense Peter, but Europe can have it's tradition of being a self induced disarmed continent. You may also retain Europes lead as the place most likely to be over run or self inflict megalomaniacial leaders on its "civilized society".

Please note: Over 200 years and not one dictator. 200 years of rescuing the rest of the world from dictators.

So, you must see why I and many others find European attitudes on the subject quite funny really. If you think that Europe in its grand civilized clothing of the European Union is some how making itself safe from a potential future less a dictator, think again. From my analysis, you all are doing exactly what the greatest dictators of the past have always wanted to do and that is to bring Europe together under one flag and eventually, one leader.

Sort of Ironic really.

If you enjoyed this "short" excerpt, you may enjoy the entire post at 2nd Amendment: Right to Bear Arms

If you are concerned about the PATRIOT ACT and it's possible uses and infringements on people's rights, you should be concerned about the [loss ro disparagement of] 2nd amendment. If you are concerned about infringements on the right to free speech, you should be concerned about the 2nd amendment. The smallest infringement on one right, even in the name of good society, is the infringement of all rights.

Ben Franklin

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

My favorite armory Castle Argghhh


John said...

Excellent post! Would you like to join us every week?

Barb said...

Kat - You are wonderful! I will sit an digest this all later... Thanks for such a terrific post on a vital topic.
Also, thanks for the link to the Wide Awakes, good to know.

Cynica said...

That was an interesting debate. Didn't know you knew so much about gun barrels.

Neffi said...

..and as someone once said,
'There are three ways to change the status quo in a free nation- the ballot box; the jury box; and- failing the first two- the cartridge box'.
Which may well be anathema to our European friends- but then, they gave up several generations ago.

Kat said...

Barb...the long version was one of the best debates I've ever had with someone who supports gun control. I haven't always been passionate about it, but a lot of things have changed in the last few years.

Mavenette...I am a well rounded person, what can I say?

Dig your blog by the way. I'm going to blogroll you.