Category Archives: Guns & The 2nd Amendment

Exploring the Hyperbole, Myths, and Inaccuracies of Gun Legislation Politics and Discourse

Gun laws are a pretty sensitive subject in America, regardless of which side of the issue you’re on. But it shouldn’t be.

Indeed they are our constitutional right, and I support that right whole-heartedly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be fair, and debate respectfully on the subject with those who may hold a different view. After this last election, I hope we can all agree civility in political discourse has a lot of room for improvement.

People who argue with logic and reason, are far more likely to encourage more to side with them than people who insult, lie, yell, and behave anything but adult-like.

So with that being said, let’s break down a few of the common myths often bandied about regarding guns.

MYTH #1: They’re trying to take our guns

Any time Democrats propose new gun legislation, Republicans immediately go on the defensive and rile up the base by insinuating their opponents are trying to entirely disarm the populace.

Armalite AR-15
Armalite AR-15 Semi-Automatic Rifle

But the base is already on their side, there’s no need to get them riled up. Not to mention, it’s entirely dishonest, and most who do it already know that.

Not a single law was proposed in recent history to remove all guns from private citizens, nor did anyone propose repealing the second amendment. If you feel the need to lie about your opponent’s argument to defeat them, think about what that says about you. It says you’re incapable of winning your argument on its merits. When you do this, you’ve already lost the moral and logical high-ground.

The effort should be focused not on the straw man argument that “they’re trying to take our guns,” but instead on the specific regulation being proposed.

A large majority of Americans have a pretty shallow opinion of Congress. In April 2016, this Gallup poll shows that only 17% thought they were doing a good job, 79% however thought they were doing anything but.

President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This less than favorable opinion is often due to the constant infighting between the two parties, that is largely full of myths, hyperbole, misdirection, and occasionally bold-faced lies. Neither come off looking like professionals, or even reasonable people.

So the party that strives to be amenable to finding common ground, and deemed as the most civil and honest will win this fight.

The Republicans owned Congress at the time, so a 17% approval rating should be a clear message they’re missing their mark.

Most Democrat-proposed ideas are around more stringent background checks, or limiting certain types of weapons, the latter of which, I think is misguided, but I’ll save that for another time.

Both parties agree that guns shouldn’t be in the hands of violent felons, or those with a diagnosed mental disorder.Firearm sale

But the problem for Republicans often arrives when Democrats propose what might be reasonable background checks, the bill is only one page of such reasonable checks Republicans might be open to agreeing to, but then a myriad of other pages of pork-like special favors for their district or other provisions that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Republicans are just as guilty of doing the same on other issues, so no one party is innocent of this. But if both just stuck to passing simple single-item bills on the issues where they agree, they’d be far more effective and win over the American people.

The best tactic for Republicans would be to first loudly proclaim that they’re willing to look at effective background check legislation and pass the background check attributes both agree on. Propose counter legislation that includes those, and only those, and let the Democrats justify why they won’t vote for it.

Show that you’re willing to find common ground publicly, and emphatically, leaving the Democrats looking like the only ones not willing to work towards progress. If Democrats argue, “these provisions don’t go far enough,” Republicans can simply put it back on them by saying, “This is what we already agree on. So let’s pass this first, and if it doesn’t help, we can discuss further measures later.”

Myth #2: The Gun Show Exemption for Background Checks

Democrats often cite the gun show exemption to background checks as a big problem, and frankly, they’re partly right, even if they’re disingenuous in their presentation of the issue.

The fact is that gun dealers at gun shows do in-fact do background checks. However, if you’re a private person who has a .22 caliber pistol for instance, and you’d like to upgrade to a 9mm pistol, you can take it to the show with you, and if some other private person like you who’s there (not a dealer or vendor) has a 9mm but wants a .22, then you can legally make a private citizen trade. This is just like you would do if your neighbor decided they wanted to sell or trade with you, it just happens on the premises of a gun show.Gun Show

Instead of just shooting down every idea Democrats have, Republicans could admit that maybe there are things that could be done, that aren’t an undue burden on law abiding citizens, to help clean up this “loophole.”

It could be something as simple as having people fill out a background check upon entering the show, if they’re considering buying or trading, and let them shop to their heart’s content from there. If they don’t pass the test, there’s really no reason for them to enter the premises of a gun show in the first place.

While I’m not saying that’s the answer, things like that can certainly be deemed a reasonable measure to prevent guns getting into the wrong hands, and are at least worth discussing in earnest.

Myth #3: Guns are the biggest problem

This well put together bit of data, and rather insightful graphic from the math geniuses at 538 points out that there are approximately 33,000 gun deaths in America each year, and this number is often used to denounce guns in general. But let’s put that in perspective as well as break those numbers down.

As this image from the CDC document found here shows, in 2014, there were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States that year, making 33,000 just above 1.2% of the reasons for death attributable to guns.CDC Cause of Death info from 2014

By comparison, more than double died from diabetes, nearly three times as many from Alzheimer’s (which took my father last month), and nearly twenty times more died from heart disease.

As the 538 article also shows, nearly two-thirds of those gun deaths were suicides, and a small percentage were self defense, or police shootings of criminal suspects.

While I think we all agree suicides are tragic, as a libertarian, I believe that you own your own body, and have the right to end it whenever you like.

My own grandfather was quite ill when he shot himself, and having already lost my grandmother years earlier, he didn’t want to burn through what little he had saved for his kids by chasing a terminal disease. While you may not agree with it, that was his choice and you should respect it.

But no matter what side of suicide you are on, it cannot be fairly called an act of violence, nor the fault of a gun. So those acts should not be considered when discussing gun violence, and I think those with an anti-gun position should be fair when presenting such arguments, no not cite 33,000 number, but instead, the 10,000 or so that were potential murders or manslaughter, versus suicides and justifiable homicides.

All that being said, 10,000 wrongful deaths is still a large number of people, and is incredibly tragic. It is a small percentage, but certainly statistically significant, and Democrats have fair cause to want to do something to lessen that number. Even if we disagree on their proposed methodology, their altruistic intentions should be evident and respected.

Conclusion

These are three of many arguments from both sides that are the first that came to mind to me. But I’m sure you can think of many more.

The bottom line is that Democrats should know most Republicans don’t want to put guns in the hands of bad people. They just don’t want law-abiding citizens to have their rights violated and disagree on how to go about preventing it.

Republicans should know that most Democrats don’t want to disarm America, they want to prevent wrongful deaths, and they think less guns will achieve said goal.

Until both parties in congress, and the party-faithful voters who make their voices heard on social media learn to understand, then be understood, these immature and dishonest tactics will continue to ensure that America doesn’t advance in any meaningful and constructive way.

We’re all smart enough to know better, it’s time we acted like it.

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How To Improve Relations Between Police and Citizens

Unless you avoid the news at all costs, you’re fully aware of the shootings by police, killing two black citizens, Alton Sterling and Philano Castile, both under highly questionable circumstances.

Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)
Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)

Then Army reservist/Afghan war veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, so enraged by such shootings, murdered several police officers in Dallas in retaliation.

There can be no doubt, that tensions between the governed and the government are at levels that are bordering the animosity that triggered us to war for independence against Great Britain 240 years ago. But how did we get here, and how do we get out?

Facts versus Headlines

It’s fair to say that the media push narratives that get ratings. But while according to the FBI in 2014, most black and white people are killed by people of their own race—89% for the black community, and 82% for the white, they often push a narrative that a young black man is more likely to be killed by a white cop.

There were a total of 444 police shootings deemed justifiable homicide, by police in 2014. Pointing out those deemed justifiable homicide is important to the story, because the concern is that police aren’t prosecuted for such shootings. So for police not to be prosecuted, it means the shooting was deemed justifiable.

The FBI didn’t break them down by race, but even if they were all white cops shooting black victims, which they certainly aren’t, that’s still four times less than the 2,205 black-on-black murders in the same year, or the 2,488 white-on-white murders.fbi-logo-404553[1]

Let’s be clear about that statistic, though. It has little to do with living in violent communities, a narrative that is often asserted. The first clue is that white-on-white murders are very similar.

It actually has to do with people being four times as likely to be killed by someone they simply knew.

See this table from the FBI, also in 2014, which shows that 43% of the time people were killed by an acquaintance or family, compared to 11.5% by strangers. The rest are unknown, but since the dataset is somewhat large, we should reasonably assume that nearly 4:1 ratio would be true for the unknowns as well.

The Attitude Adjustment

We need to change the way we interact with each other.

The police were hired to protect our rights. If one pulls you over or otherwise interacts with you, remember that this person is potentially willing to die for you—treat them accordingly. A little compassion for police who do such a dangerous job would go a long way to improve the exchange you have with that officer.

Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images
Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images

But as always, it takes two to tango.

Police are trained to fear the worst and prepare for it in each interaction they have with the public. The most innocent traffic stop could be their last.

But preparing for the worst doesn’t excuse assuming the worst, nor treating them as if they’re the worst. If police want people to respect them, they must first show citizens the same respect they expect from them. If an officer didn’t specifically witness a citizen harming someone, they are innocent until proven guilty—it’s an officer’s duty to act accordingly.

Blame Legislators Versus The Police Where Appropriate

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat (libertarians already generally know this), when you try to socially engineer society by passing victimless crimes, you cause police to have to enforce those crimes—requiring more police.

This puts both police and citizens in harm’s way; increasing the odds of violent interactions between the two parties.SundayAlcohol[1]

Drugs, prostitution, blue laws, and other such victimless legislation which protect no one—yet risk many, are a huge part of the problem.

If you support passing a law, then you must be comfortable with the notion of putting a gun to the offender’s head and killing them yourself if they violate it. If you’re uncomfortable with this thought, then it’s pure hypocrisy to put police in the situation where they may have to do so in your name.

For instance, if your neighbor were smoking marijuana, would you walk next door, put a gun to their head and tell them to stop or you’ll kill them? Of course not. But if that same neighbor were raping a child, I suspect you’d feel quite differently. This is bad legislation versus good in a nutshell.

If we want to reduce senseless violence, we must first elect someone looking to undo all the senseless laws we’ve passed which trigger senseless violence. Then be sure they don’t pass new ones going forward.

Respect the Constitutiongun-and-the-constitution[1]

I’m in a state where concealed carry requires a permit. So this means I open carry when walking my dog at night, because I haven’t taken the course and applied for that license. I carry in case I get accosted by a miscreant. In so doing, I often worry I might get accosted by the police.

The current scenario is that if a busy-body citizen calls police to report me walking down the street carrying a gun, the police must investigate. They do this because we’ve allowed a litigious culture where police can be held liable for not investigating.

What should happen however is that the police should respond to the caller with, “Carrying a gun is every American’s right. Does he/she appear to be committing a crime? If not, there’s nothing for us to investigate.”

This may seem wrong at first, but the police would do this if you reported someone just driving a car down the street. Driving a car and carrying a gun are both perfectly legal actions that have an intrinsic danger if done so irresponsibly or maliciously. So while at first it may seem like a horrid analogy, they are almost exactly the same.

The reason it feels wrong is simple conditioning by anti-gun people who deem gun carriers as a threat, despite the fact everyone is a threat in some way, and gun carriers aren’t any more likely to harm someone. Most are responsible citizens exercising their 2nd amendment rights just as all of us exercise our 1st.

We then need to pass serious tort reform to preventing civil action against police who don’t investigate someone carrying a gun, on the off chance that person actually harms someone.

Better Community Outreach via Police Training

This proposal is a bit novel and controversial, and I admit it may have unintended consequences. But I like blue skies thinking, so I’ll propose it anyway just to get some creative juices flowing.

Much like we have food stamps to help the needy eat, I think police could use confiscated weapons that are normally destroyed, and start a program with impoverished citizens in bad neighborhoods to protect themselves by donating these weapons and giving classes on how to use them properly.

Of course those citizens would be screened properly for criminal backgrounds like they would for a gun purchase. And yes, it is possible one of those guns may be used in a crime later. But it’s also highly possible that those guns may save many lives of people too poor to buy one themselves, yet absolutely may need one as a result of living in a high crime area.oc_zps62e1c21e[1]

If every good citizen were armed, and prepared to defend themselves against a would-be criminal, we’d have a lot less would-be criminals.

Criminal prey on the weak, but it’s hard to call anyone packing heat, weak. Guns are the greatest equalizer mankind has every invented, turning a feeble grandmother into a Chuck Norris level threat.

Police Need To Eschew The Brotherhood Mentality

Being a Corvette owner, we tend to recognize each other—so much so, that nearly all of us wave at another Corvette owner driving past. Motorcyclists do this too. If you were from Boston, visiting California, and overhear the person next to you say he just “Pahked the Cah,” you’ll almost certainly strike up a conversation with him.

This is because people are hard-wired to bond with those they share commonalities with—it strengthens societal bonds. The easiest way to do this, is to bond over a unique common interest or trait. I say “unique,” because if you were both in Boston, you’d pay the same person no attention whatsoever.

Police know that their work is dangerous, so they form strong bonds among one another so they can be confident they’d have the other’s back, even if they don’t personally know each other—it’s a very natural phenomenon.

But they should be taught that this is a natural emotion, and that they should avoid following it blindly. Much like the placebo effect, while it’s natural, it can do far more harm than good if all skepticism is eschewed.

Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data. Click image for the full article
Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data.
Click image for the full article

This data shows that police are just as likely to commit criminal acts as the general public.

At first, you might think this seems odd, but the police are regular people, not superheroes.

We often hear stories of good Samaritans doing wonderful things. So being a good person isn’t unique to police, nor is being a criminal unique to the general public either.

The reason I say they need to eschew the brotherhood mentality is that police often defend other police who have clearly done unconscionable things.

While at first, a police officer might think defending their “brothers” is the honorable thing to do, but it’s absolutely not in their best interests.

When an officer commits a crime, they violate their sworn oath to uphold the law of the land, dishonoring their noble profession. But it also creates animosity with the public who feel as though police can operate above the law without repercussion.

This hatred and distrust often leads enraged citizens to act violently towards the police, because they feel it the only way justice will be served—putting good cops needlessly at risk, as evidenced by the aforementioned Micah Johnson.

Instead, if an officer is arrested or put on probation for a potential felonious act, police should distance themselves from that person entirely, and make it clear that if the person is found guilty, that person is no “brother” of mine.

They should also be quick to report any criminal acts among their ranks, and clean their own house unmercifully. They will never get the trust and respect of disenfranchised citizens otherwise.

And let’s be honest, if you are a police officer, are you really OK with one of your own committing a murder or unprovoked assault?

Drew Peterson should serve as a shining example of the harm that can come from this blind loyalty. His fellow officers failed to properly address allegations of abuse against Drew when his then wife Stacy Peterson reported him a multitude of times for serious domestic abuse.

Stacy Peterson
Stacy Peterson

It is almost certain that had his fellow officers taken Stacy’s complaints seriously, and treated Drew like any other violently abusive husband—investigating Drew in earnest, Stacy could very well be alive today, with Drew safely in jail where he belonged.

By all means, police should have each other’s backs, but never at the expense of what is right. A criminal is a criminal, whether they wear a badge or a wife-beater, they should be treated with the same prosecutorial mindset.

I could write an entirely separate post on the tactics police unions use to protect police in ways that harm the general public, and destroy the public’s trust in them. They should merely assign the accused a lawyer, and refrain from professing the person’s innocence or any other public statements until that officer is cleared of any wrongdoing.

But once convicted, their sentences should be as harsh as what would be applied to the general public (in my opinion harsher, since they swore to uphold those laws). The slap on the wrist sentence for an offense that would land us regular citizens in jail is surely one of the largest factors in eroding the relationship between the governed and the government.

Misleading Stats, Bad Sources, and the Threat of Radical Islamic Terror

Recently, a friend of mine posted a meme from the Prepare to Take America Back Facebook page about a gun dealer who has bacon in his shop, and if a prospective gun buyer intends on buying a firearm from him, you have to eat the bacon. The purpose of course, is to prevent Muslims from buying guns.13432228_1052807718107590_6392247220183571472_n[1]

A lengthy discussion ensued, so I felt this was a good opportunity to promote skepticism over ideology and point out the flaws in the arguments by analyzing both sides.

The Actions of the Dedicated

If someone is so delusional as to want to murder a number of people at will for their god, it stands to reason they are not subscribing to a rational mindset. They are highly dedicated to an end result, and nothing other than a good person with a gun is likely to stop them. So I’m pretty sure if they’re motivated enough to murder, they could easily justify eating a piece of delicious bacon for the cause. It is likely only rational non-violent Muslims would be restricted from buying guns in this manner.

Remember, they’re not supposed to look at naked women either, but when Bin Laden was killed, he had quite the porn stash.

I should also point out that many gun owners have come out against No-Fly-List restrictions on gun purchases because a few innocent people end up on that list. So preventing law-abiding Muslims from buying a gun just because of the actions of a few violent ones seems rather hypocritical.

The Gun Rights Paradox

Gun rights advocates like myself point out that while it may be true that guns are the #1 tool used to murder people around the world, it’s a flawed argument if you’re using it to argue guns are likely to kill. There are nearly 80 million gun owners in America, but only approximately 32,000 violent incidents are performed by such people. Meaning that for every 100 gun owners, approximately 99.96 of them will harm no one who was of no threat to them.Armalite AR-15

While the numbers might be slightly different, you could replace the term “Gun Owners” with “Muslims” and make the exact same argument.

Like gun owners, most Muslims are indeed non-violent. So for gun owners fighting for gun rights by pointing to the above statistics to be ideologically consistent, they shouldn’t be promoting anti-Muslim views either.

The Constitutional Argument

The bacon scheme, while clever, many argue is a violation of the 1st amendment that seeks to prevent religious discrimination. But if we look at the verbiage of the first Amendment, it should be obvious it’s not an issue.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The 1st Amendment
The 1st Amendment

The first five words are, “Congress shall make no law.” As this is a private business owner, he’s not congress. The first amendment restricts government and protects him, not the other way around.

Aside from the Constitutional issue, the government may not discriminate because we all pay our taxes to it and it governs all of us equally, therefore we deserve equal protection under the law.

But whether it be the KKK, Black Panthers, Westboro Baptist Church, a Christian bakery owner not wanting to make a cake for a gay wedding, or this gun shop proprietor, in a free country, while government may never discriminate, they should never have the power to dictate who you are kind to or do business with. Let the free market sort it out.

Credibility Issues

The conversation that ensued on this meme was after a mutual friend commented “94% of terrorist attacks in America are committed by non-Muslims, look it up.”

I, of course, pointed out that since he was the one making the claim, the burden of proof was on him to cite his source, it was not our burden to look it up. So he cited this information from Global Research.

Global research sounds mighty official, but then they cited a graph they stated came from Princeton University’s Loonwatch. Princeton university, being a prestigious institution, should lend some credibility as well. But there’s only one problem—Loonwatch’s “About” page only cites Princeton as the source of the definition of the word Loon from Princeton’s WordNet® 3.0.  They may have attended Princeton (they don’t say), but there’s no indication this info is from Princeton University in any official capacity.Princeton-University[1]

Since Loonwatch didn’t compile the data, this makes Global Research’s citation of Loonwatch irrelevant.

As you read the about page, it becomes clear, Loonwatch are opinion bloggers just like me, with no intrinsic credibility that comes from being a well-respected institution or peer-reviewed publication.

Opinion writers only get credibility by citing credible sources, as we don’t compile any of the data ourselves, we merely interpret it. But the genetic logical fallacy requires that we not dismiss their opinion, even if they’re not necessarily a credible source, so we’ll soldier on.

Loonwatch made a graph based on this FBI.gov data, which is a credible citation and to be commended. The thing that differentiates me from Loonwatch is that I won’t be pushing a particular narrative. I will present multiple ways to construe the data so no context is missing. Loonwatch failed to do this, and thus why I’d argue my post is more fair in its analysis.

Graph Prepared By Loonwatch of Terrorist Attacks On US Soil from 1980 - 2015
Graph Prepared By Loonwatch of Terrorist Attacks On US Soil from 1980 – 2015

Loonwatch did little to show how they came to their conclusion. The FBI study, cites individual attacks and who was deemed responsible for them, but did not in any way segregate them into the convenient categories Loonwatch used on their graph, so I can only guess that maybe Loonwatch researched each group deemed responsible individually, and categorized them by categories of Loonwatch’s choosing. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s important that Loonwatch at least explain their methodology, which they didn’t.

So don’t take anything Loonwatch or I say to the bank. Look at the FBI Data provided, and come to your own conclusions. I just hope to promote critical thinking.

Misleading Statistics

The problems with the 94% statistic are numerous.

The first flaw is that it breaks the groups up into categories that aren’t mutually exclusive. For instance, you could have Latino Communists, so what group do they fall in on the above chart, Latinos or Communists? And wouldn’t Communists be considered an Extreme Left-Wing Group as well?

Second, the caption they have for the graph reads as follows:

Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil by Group, From 1980 to 2005, According to FBI Database

But Loonwatch’s groups are not how the FBI classified them. The FBI classified them by name, such as Al Qaeda, versus grouping them as Muslims like Loonwatch did, making the caption dishonest as they aren’t the groups “according to” the FBI as the caption states. That doesn’t mean Loonwatch’s interpretation of the data is inaccurate, but when people make false assertions like that, it talks negatively to their credibility, as they’re either being dishonest or sloppy in their work.

Thirdly: It counts each attack as one incident out of 316, no matter how many were killed or injured in that incident including many that resulted in no death or injury at all.

This means that they count the 9/11 attacks which officially killed 2972 people and injured an estimated 12,000 others as if they’re somehow one unit equal to the November 11th 2005 Hagerstown, MD arson which killed no one.Terrorism11[1]

Loonwatch headed their post by saying, “Terrorism Is a Real Threat … But the Threat to the U.S. from Muslim Terrorists Has Been Exaggerated.” As such, including incidents which resulted in no human harm, is certainly a bit misleading. The FBI was simply tracking terror attack numbers, but Loonwatch used that data to argue threats to the U.S., which aren’t quite the same thing. The non-injurious attacks may or may not have been intended to harm anyone (a threat), but only scare people into compliance (terrorism). It’s entirely possible those attackers purposefully sought to avoid being a threat to life and limb by bombing unoccupied property, effectively making them non-threats.

Analyzing the data myself

First, let’s eliminate the aforementioned incidents that resulted in no harm to anyone and we’re left with 44 attacks versus 316 to analyze. I’m eliminating these because the narrative is about who is a threat to Americans, so incidents which resulted in no harm should be irrelevant. I researched every group responsible individually to categorize them myself and determine which were Muslim and not.

Muslims committed 6 of those 44 attacks, or 14%. This is more than double the 6% Loonwatch presented, using their same metric. But, it still supports their underlying argument that non-Muslims committed more attacks than Muslims, by far.

After I had done that, instead of treating each incident as if they’re the same, I’m going to categorize them by how many were killed at the hands of terrorists, which is more relevant to the narrative of the threats to Americans.Terrorism10[1]

Of 3,178 terrorist murders, Muslims committed 2,982 of them (94%), which is ironically (and completely coincidentally) the same percentage, yet polar opposite, of the narrative Loonwatch portrayed. There were approximately 13,048 Muslim-committed injuries out of a 14,017, (93%) as well.

Now that may seem like I’ve refuted Loonwatch’s argument since that’s a 188% swing, but I haven’t. I’ve merely presented the same data in a different light.

To be fair, I will also point out that almost all of them are from the September 11th attacks. So one incident of 44 is severely skewing the data. But nonetheless, while Muslims don’t account for most of the incidents, by a landslide they account for the most deaths.

Using the same data Loonwatch did, I could make that argument, leave out the context I gave you, and give a conversely biased opinion to Loonwatch. It’s a lesson in how people leave out info without lying to lead you into a false impression.

What’s This Puerto Rico Stuff?

While we’re on the subject of skewing the data, I could eliminate the events in Puerto Rico as well.

While Puerto Rico is a U.S. Property, I think if you asked both Americans and/or Puerto Ricans whether they consider Puerto Ricans to be Americans, most would say no. They’re not a state, plus they’re not even allowed to vote in U.S. general elections. Again, the narrative was whether Americans are mostly under threat from Muslims, so adding Puerto Ricans to the list is a bit misleading to that narrative for most Americans

Eliminating non-injurious and now Puerto Rico attacks, I have 35 remaining incidents, of which Muslims were responsible for 6, or 17%, which still supports Loonwatch’s claim that non-muslims are responsible for more attacks.

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico

We can agree to disagree on whether Puerto Rico should be excluded from this list or not, but at least I’m telling you I’m doing it, so you can make up your own mind.

Where’s the Current Data?

The FBI Crime Data table cited was 1980-2005. This is data that ended early in Bush’s second term. Click here for what the FBI gives for data after 2005. It’s vague at best, and not in a nice table like the 1980-2005 report, making it difficult to compile any data from it. Maybe the FBI has this info hidden away somewhere convenient for some reason, maybe they’re just lazy. But nonetheless, the data used for the argument is 11 years old.

But scrubbing through this less-than-helpful timeline from the FBI, while there were several terror attacks thwarted two were successful which killed thirteen people and injured thirty more, all committed by Muslim extremists. Add in the recent Orlando attack that happened after the Loonwatch study, there are 49 more deaths on that list, and you realize for the last decade, the only terror threat to Americans, if we’re going by recorded incidents, has been from Muslims.

Conclusion

I’m atheist, and thus against all religion, because I think religious extremists of any faith are capable of doing heinous things. But in the modern era, I do not think anyone could reasonably argue that most ideological unprovoked violent acts in the modern era are not committed by people who claim to be doing those acts in the name of Allah.

But it is important to understand that just because they are responsible for such violence, it does not in any way mean that a majority or even a disproportionate amount of Muslims are violent. Arguing the converse is pure bigotry. But the evidence is clear that for every one American killed or injured in a terrorist attack by non-Muslims, there have been approximately 93-94 who were harmed or killed by Muslims. A narrative that is rather different from the one made by Loonwatch, yet also entirely true.

I have no animosity towards Muslims that I don’t equally have against all religion, my only issue is with misleading stats to push a particular narrative. Whether someone is killed by a religious extremist, or killed by a gang member robbing a store, the end result is identical. As with anything in life, I believe it is important to remain skeptical and question everything, because data can always be presented in a quite misleading manner to serve someone’s agenda. I hold myself to a higher standard, but you can’t possibly know that. And you can’t know it about any other op-ed write either.

Banning Muslims – Knee-Jerk Reactions vs. Critical Thinking

Donald Trump has recently announced that as president, he would use executive order to ban Muslims from entering the country temporarily.

As an atheist, I feel all religion can be dangerous if taken to extremes. But that being said, there can be no doubt that around the world, in the 21st century, the overwhelming majority of atrocities committed in the name of religion are committed by people of the Muslim faith.

Any time a tragedy happens, we as a people tend to believe we should try to analyze the problem that caused the tragedy and fix it. If the problem is too big for any one of us to fix, the non-libertarian population often feel government should fix it for them.

But let’s apply a little critical thinking to Trump’s idea of banning foreign Muslims from entering the United States.

How exactly do we go about banning all Muslims? If a Muslim applies to come to America, do the authorities ask that Muslim if they’re Muslim?visa_application_rejection[1]

While an honest Muslim might answer truthfully, knowing it would preclude them from coming, wouldn’t a radical Muslim intending to kill Americans, or a desperate but peaceful Muslim hoping to flee a war-zone,  just lie to get into the United States?

Quite similarly to the “If guns are outlawed, only criminals will have them” argument, if Muslims are banned from entering the United States, only deceitful Muslims will enter.

There is no DNA test that tells you what religion someone is—religion isn’t genetic. There is nothing science has to offer to detect one’s religion.

Lie detectors have been proven time and time again to be faulty at best. Even physiologist John Larson, Ph.D., one of the early inventors of the lie detector, regretted ever inventing the device. Before his death in 1965, he stated, “Beyond my expectation, through uncontrollable factors, this scientific investigation became for practical purposes a Frankenstein’s monster, which I have spent over 40 years in combating.”

Joe Larson administering a Lie Detector test
Dr. Larson administering a Lie Detector test

The 1st amendment states that, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

By the letter of the Constitution, the president could in-fact pass such an order, because it isn’t Congress passing a law, it’s the president passing an executive order.

So while some have put forth the constitutionality argument, I would have to argue it is a non sequitur.

U.S. Constitution: 1st Amendment
U.S. Constitution: 1st Amendment

But, the Supreme Court continues to allow Blue Laws which are clearly an establishment of religion, proving the letter of the Constitution isn’t always their ultimate guide.

So it’s quite possible that the Supreme Court would strike such an executive order down based on the “principles” of the first amendment, versus the letter of it, as they tend to err on the side of secularism these days—something I typically appreciate.

The Supreme Court Of The United States
The Supreme Court Of The United States

So now we understand that if Trump wrote such an order, there’s no way to know who is and isn’t a Muslim. Even if the Supreme Court didn’t strike it down as an executive order, if Congress tried to pass it as law, it would most assuredly get struck down then.

But also, it is important to consider that even if such a law did somehow evade the Supreme Court’s wrath, and scientists invented a Muslim detector that really worked; when exactly is “temporary” over?

We’ve been fighting the war on terror since 2001, and it’s not like there are any fewer radical Muslims killing people. While the radicals may be a small minority at best, if he’s passing such an order to eliminate the threat, the threat won’t be eliminated until all Muslims are dead—an idea I assume most people would not support.

Because much like it’s impossible to identify a Muslim with any certainty if they choose to hide it, it’s equally impossible to identify a radical Muslim hell-bent on killing innocent civilians they deem to be infidels deserving of death.

Hopefully, Trump and his supporters will come to their senses and realize this isn’t a workable plan, and instead look for ways to better screen all people coming into the United States. But they should also understand that with freedom comes danger, as illustrated by our gun laws—something most Trump supporters do support, and anyone else who is serious about liberty.

So if we’re OK with one danger, we should be OK with the other, lest we be hypocrites.

While I don’t claim to have the answer; if we’re seeking one, I’d at least like to know there’s a bit of logic and reason behind the ideas being proposed, because this one has very little.

“If you see something, say something,” is a much simpler notion, it’s something we can all do to help government officials find these people. Exercising our 2nd amendment rights to arm ourselves so we can take down any would-be killers in our midst if we encounter one is pretty simple too.

Both are far more likely to be effective and far more doable than Trump’s entirely unworkable notion.

The Likely Outcome of Banning Guns

Any time a mass shooting occurs, the immediate aftermath always includes those who are opposed to gun ownership as a right making their arguments, and those who support such a right launch their counter attack. Since I believe in the principles of the 2nd amendment myself, I’m forced to point out the flaws in these arguments.
First, let’s discuss the selective nature of such anti-gun arguments. In 2013, 10,076 people were killed by drunk drivers. In the same year, 8,454 people were killed by firearms.
drunk-driving2[1]
So why don’t we ban alcohol, since “No one needs to drink alcohol,” (remember, most people argue “no one needs an ‘assault’ rifle”)? Oh wait, we tried that, didn’t we?
During the dreaded Volstead act years, (aka Prohibition), crime went up, not down. While alcohol was banned, it was still quite rampant. Except all the people using it were now criminals. And the people selling it became murderers lest they be locked up.
Al Capone
Al Capone
On December 5th, 1933, then president Roosevelt announced the 21st Amendment had been ratified, a repeal of the 18th Amendment that was prohibition, and the worst violation of the U.S. Constitution’s principle of liberty was finally undone.
Decades later, in June of 1971, Richard Nixon, seemingly fully ignorant of the lessons of prohibition, announced the War on Drugs, and much like prohibition, it has also led to more violence while drugs are still readily available to nearly anyone who can afford them.
So what evidence do we have to believe that banning or restricting guns will lead to a different outcome? The aforementioned drug and alcohol bans have simply created black markets that aren’t nearly as selective about who they sell to, and increase crime doing so.
Many point out that other countries don’t allow guns, and they’re doing fine, but it’s important to point out that they didn’t start out with that right, as America did. So that’s one reason why it might work there when it wouldn’t work here. They don’t already have many guns in the marketplace, and there’s also a cultural issue that resides within the majority of American’s that owning a weapon of self defense is a right, that you would have to overcome.
I will continue to argue we have a mental illness problem, as much or more so than we have a gun problem. In principle alone, I do not believe in restricting the rights of millions of good people (legal gown owners like myself who have never, nor likely will ever kill someone) because of the actions of bad a few.
Armalite AR-15
Armalite AR-15 – Contrary to popular belief, AR represents Armalite Rifle, not Assault Rifle.
Instead, I’d concede that all firearm sales be subject to background checks, even private sales, such as the ones at gun shows. Many gun-rights advocates may part with me on that point, but the fact remains that someone who would fail a background check currently, could go to such an event, and buy from a private attendee (vendors at gun shows still do background checks) who was looking to sell to a vendor.
That person—leaving with a gun, was in violation of the law if they knew they wouldn’t have passed the background check, but the seller and the show itself were fully within the law, and our current background-check system, in that moment, has failed.
But if we look deeper, most of these mass shootings are from violent psychopaths, many of whom had a history of psychiatric care prior to committing their heinous acts.
If only their respective doctors were to convene, as doctors are sometimes known to do, and collaborate on a system to order further evaluation of someone they have diagnosed with a disorder that the doctor determines makes the patient a danger to others, then submit a suggestion of a firearms restrictions to the FBI so that person would fail a background check, maybe some of these mass shooting could be prevented.
But the fact is that bad people are always going to exist so long as we don’t find some magical way to genetically modify humans to a eliminate the qualities that lead one to be a violent psychopath. That of course assumes it’s a genetic defect versus a product of the person’s environment in the first place; a subject for another post.
So the real issue is that when one of these people does go on a killing spree, there can be no mistake that there are only three things that can stop them.
  1.  A change of heart. (I don’t recall an incident where this has ever happened)
  2.  Running out of ammo (Happens, but usually after a lot of people are dead)
  3.  Or a good person with a gun takes action to stop them.Utah-DPS-SWAT[1]

In my opinion, the best way to end gun deaths of innocent people, is to promote gun ownership to good people, so that more good people are armed and prepared to deal with the bad ones when they go off on a rampage. Terrorists and spree killers aren’t going to snuff themselves out, after all.

The Power Resides With We The People, Not We The Police

You may have read about a recent incident in Texas where a man, witnessing another man beating up a woman, stopped and drew his legal firearm on the woman’s attacker. A bystander contacted 911 who dispatched police moments later, and the attacker was eventually arrested by police with no shots fired, neither by the hero nor the police (the attacker appears to have been unarmed).

The police went on to say that they commended the heroic man’s actions for coming to the rescue of this woman. But as police so often do, stated that they didn’t want citizens exposing themselves to danger in this way.

This statement has a couple of interpretations.

Giving police the benefit of the doubt, this was to indemnify themselves from the impression that they would promote vigilantism. Meaning, that if they congratulated him entirely, gave him a key to the city, and/or named a street after him, it would encourage others to perform similar acts, one of which, if taken too far, could be felonious. There’s a line between justifiable homicide and murder, but sadly, it’s not like they teach this in school, so many may not know their rights as well as they should.

So taking this a step further, the next would-be hero-cum-felon might then say, “Well, I saw how police praised the other guy, so I wanted to do the same thing.” This then opens police up to a civil suit, arguing that the police encouraged such behavior.

The 1st Amendment
The Bill of Rights

It is upsetting we have allowed our country to become so overly litigious to the point where we’re afraid to speak honestly in such a way, but alas, tort reform is a subject for another post.

However, the other motive for these officer’s comments I most lean toward is the complete lack of hubris they often possess which leads them to believe that because they have went to a police academy and/or have former military experience, only they are qualified to use force to save a life.

I have regrettably never served in our military, nor have I went to any police academy. But I’ve been to the shooting range often, and I know my weapon’s operation well enough for defense purposes in the event use of deadly force were justifiable in a given situation.

More importantly though, I was raised with a set of morals that prohibits me from standing by and letting someone die when I’m capable of saving their life.

One good punch could mean the difference between life and death in a situation like this. I’m not about to roll the dice on an innocent life by calling 911 and hoping the police arrive in time when my partners Smith & Wesson can assist me in putting this business to rest now.911[1][1]

Government often wants us to subjugate ourselves to the men in blue. If I’m committing a crime and get caught in the act, I would agree—you’re busted, take your lumps. But to all the police officers out there who feel I should always comply with them, even when I’m in the right, I want to make a couple quick points.

  • You serve me, not the other way around. I also pay your salary. We citizens entrust you to enforce laws we voted to enact. It has never been our duty to comply with you, it is your duty to serve and protect us, and your responsibility to know the law and operate within it. If you don’t understand and appreciate all of that—you are essentially violating the oath you took when you signed up to be police officer; so resign now.
  • If it were your wife who had been getting beaten half to death, would you still have wanted this man to wait? Or would you have preferred him to intervene as soon as possible? I think we know the answer to this, so don’t be a hypocrite.
  • We have a guaranteed right to bear arms in this country. One of the reasons is because our forefathers wanted us to be free to defend ourselves. If you don’t like an armed citizenry, you can either attempt to get the votes to amend the Constitution, or you can expatriate. Otherwise, accept that you serve in a support role. So long as we have our Constitution, the power lies with “We The People,” not “You the police.” It is not our duty to comply with you. If you are in the wrong, we should not comply. If you attempt to get us to comply with force, you can rightfully be killed in self-defense.

At this time, the hero in question is unnamed, but his actions are highly commendable in my opinion—I’d gladly buy him the drink of his choice. Since this is an opinion website, unlike many police officers I suspect might actually agree with me, I don’t mind saying that I think we should be doing more of this, not less.

Every American citizen, at least the non-criminal ones anyway, should exercise their right to arm themselves. And more importantly, every state in the union should have the same laws on how and what you can defend.blog3

So while I am thankful for the 2nd amendment, I would welcome an addendum to it that reads something like:

The right for the people to defend themselves, innocent others, their property, and their position in space, shall not be infringed.

I feel this language is consistent with the Constitution’s paradigm of being a restriction on government, but I think it would further solidify one of the inherent intents of our Constitution’s second amendment, by taking away the ability of colorful language often used to subvert the 2nd amendment currently.

While there’s no doubt, self-defense wasn’t the only reason we have that enumerated right, and thus why it wasn’t specifically written in to the second amendment, the need for it was certainly understood and part of the equation. So I see no harm in specifically broadening that right. No matter where you are in America, when your life, property, space, or the life of an innocent other is threatened, you should not be wishing your lawyer was present to advise you before acting to save someone, your firearm and general understanding of the law should be all that is needed.

 

 

 

The Myth of the word “Militia” in the 2nd Amendment

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. ~ 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution.

Nothing seems to evoke more passion from either side of the political aisle than America’s illustrious 2nd amendment. People on my side of the fence often cite the “shall not be infringed part,” but those who wish to limit or eliminate the citizenry’s right to carry arms often cite the “a well-regulated militia” part.

The 1st Amendment
The 1st Amendment

Their argument seems pretty sound on the face of it. What they’re saying is that our Constitution framers meant for only the militia to be armed. These people then define a militia in today’s society as the police or military. Makes sense, right? Not so fast.

If we apply logical thought for a minute, it makes no sense whatsoever. The Constitution was drafted, not as a set of laws for the people to abide by, but instead it is a limit to the government’s power over the people.

“We the people” grant government the right to infringe on our freedoms in order to serve the greater good of our nation. But fearing that such a government could become as oppressive as our recently defeated European overlords of the time, they drafted the Constitution to protect us from future similar oppression.

For instance, our first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” versus something like “You are free to practice any religion of your choosing.”

This pattern is consistent in the entirety of the Bill Of Rights, and while most see both those phrases as essentially the same, there’s an incredibly important distinction. As the Constitution’s written, the people have the power and are imposing a limit on the government’s ability to limit their religious freedom. In the following theoretical example, it implies government has the power and is granting religious rights to the people.

So with that in mind, let’s revisit the meaning behind the word “militia” in the second amendment. If we assume the term “militia” refers to the military and police, which are government entities after all; those who wish to limit our gun rights believe our forefathers wrote an amendment that says that government cannot infringe on government’s rights to bear arms. This is not only inconsistent to the rest of the Bill of Rights, but its redundancy is nonsensical. If government cannot infringe on government’s rights to carry guns, then there would be no reason to even mention it in the first place.No_gun[1]

So why do gun control advocates believe this is what the 2nd amendment implies? It’s a simple case of confirmation bias. In the world of psychology and science, confirmation bias is a phenomenon whereby someone attempting to prove something they hope to be true/false, eschew interpretations that conflict with their bias and/or accept suspect data that supports their bias, due to an inner desire to substantiate their argument.

We are all prone to do this, and with the exception of devout skeptics like myself, we’ll rarely even know we’re doing it, nor act to correct it.

For instance, imagine a guy that fancies himself a ladies man. He encounters a woman he finds attractive who then politely smiles at him. He decides this means she, like all other women, “wants” him, when in reality, it could simply mean she’s just being nice. He has taken a bit of evidence (her smiling at him), and interpreted it in a way that confirms his belief that all women want him. Thus, confirmation bias.

In Dale Carnegie’s Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, #5 is “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” It is easy to assume gun control advocates are simply people who hate guns and want to take them away from those of us who don’t.

While this is often true, many may me be like former US representative Gabby Giffords who was brutally shot in 2011 by a crazed killer on an unhinged political shooting spree, or former Reagan White House Press Secretary James Brady who was shot in a failed presidential assassination attempt. Their lives were forever changed because of gun violence, so it’s quite reasonable to assume they would advocate limiting our right to bear arms.

James Brady & The Reagan Assassination Attempt
James Brady & The Reagan Assassination Attempt

But, anecdotal evidence, which is what those instances are, is not evidence. As I pointed out in a previous post (Click here), the data (approximately one murderer for every 100,000 gun owners) simply doesn’t support that America has a dangerous gun culture. We do have a higher rate of gun incidents, but that correlates to the fact that we simply have more guns. It doesn’t have to mean that we wouldn’t have similar murders using a different weapon if there were less guns. There are a lot of variables that factor in to murders, and pinning it all on guns is flawed logic.

The “militia” thing is also misinterpreted because people fail to realize what our country was in the late 1700’s. Between when the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the Constitution which followed in 1787 was ratified, we were in essence an anarchist nation. There was neither a military or police. We were just a band of people breaking off of Europe’s rule. While there were cities established, most people and communities outside of those few highly populated areas were largely left to fend for themselves.

How would they go about doing that? They would form a militia. Our forefathers understood that in these outlying areas especially, the people would be under threat of robbers, murderers, or even people who might decide to set up a local government and impose oppressive laws similar to those we declared independence from.

But more importantly, it’s fairly well understood that as they wrote the Constitution, they enumerated rights ambiguously on purpose. They knew every instance where rights might be in question could not be thought of and accounted for, so by being ambiguous, they covered them all in an effort to ensure our nation remained one of liberty and freedom.

For instance, instead of saying the right to criticize the government, criticize the church, or say generally hateful things shall not be infringed, they declared that the right to free speech shall not be infringed—an all encompassing phrase. Such ambiguity ensured that as our nation grew, and new reasons for those rights to be preserved arose, they always would be.

So apologies to those who wish to limit our rights to bear arms, but if you want to argue against gun rights, using the “militia” argument, it just isn’t consistent with the rest of the Constitution.