Friday, December 19, 2008

The Salad Bar of Rights: We don't get to pick and choose

It is a common flaw in gun control rhetoric that somehow the Second Amendment is about hunting rights. The Second Amendment and the Oregon Constitution do not say that there is a “right to keep and bear sporting goods.” The primary purpose of these constitutional provisions is to protect citizens from tyranny — not to preserve a right to shoot deer.

And don’t forget that Oregon Constitution affords its citizens broader protections than the Second Amendment and specifically covers self-defense.

Gun control advocates are often quick to point out that there are more than 30,000 people shot to death each year in this country. However, they routinely neglect to point out how many of those deaths were in self defense or by criminals against an unarmed victim. Additionally, their usual statistics never take into account how many crimes are deterred and deaths prevented by citizens with firearms.

In the last 100 years, governments have murdered millions more people than were killed by common criminals. More importantly, those government-sponsored murders were preceded by gun control laws making the citizenry easier to control and kill when they were unable to resist.

It is amazing how quickly we forget the gun control laws of the Soviet Union, Nationalist China, Nazi Germany, Communist China and the Khmer Rouge that preceded their killing of more than 60 million people. And that still leaves us to ponder the gun control legislation that preceded the death of the one million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turkey, or the indigenous peoples and other political enemies killed at the hands of Guatemala or genocide at the hands of government in Rwanda and Uganda.

Our Founding Fathers knew the threat of a government to its people, hence the Second Amendment. History has unfortunately reaffirmed this lesson again and again.

We do not get to pick and choose which constitutionally guaranteed rights we will support like we are at a salad bar of rights. It is disingenuous to complain about the neo-cons stepping on our civil liberties (First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments) — by their dispersing lawful assemblies, illegal wiretaps, deprivation of the right to counsel, torture, etc. — but completely ignore what the Framers found so important of a right that they listed it #2. We should protect all of our civil rights, including the right to keep and bear arms.

C. Michael Arnold,
Attorney at Law
Eugene, Oregon

Friday, December 12, 2008

Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Schedules Hearing on Firearms Rules Changes

The Oregon Department of Administrative Services (DAS) is holding a public hearing on December 22 to consider proposed rules language changes to bring DAS "rules" into compliance with state firearms laws. In Oregon, the legislature has the sole right to govern all firearms legislation, and administrative "rules" which are in conflict with "law" are illegal.

The proposed rule change is captioned, "Rules for Use of Buildings, Grounds and Parking Lots under Department Control." The hearing is to decide whether to amend OAR 125-075-0015 to bring it into compliance with ORS 166.170 and 166.370.

In a nutshell, if implemented, the rules ch
ange is likely to verify the rights of CHL holders as well as the drivers of certain classes of vehicles to have their firearms with them in DAS buildings, grounds and parking lots, as the case may be.

View the proposed changes, here.

Information on how to comment (hopefully in favor) of these rules changes can be found, here.

You may also provide oral or written comments in favor of the proposed rule changes at the public hearing set for Monday, December 22, 2008, at 10:00 a.m.

Location: Department of Administrative Services, Facilities Division

1225 Ferry Street SE 2nd Floor

Salem, OR 97301

Mt. Ashland Conference Room

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Concealed Carry Permits Should Remain Private

There is an on-going attempt in Oregon to allow "outing" witch hunts of concealed handgun license (CHL) holders. News organizations and some unspecified groups are requesting lists of all holders from county sheriffs. (The Oregon Firearms Federation has several good synopses of the ongoing controversy on their website.)

Raul Ramirez, CEO of the Oregon State Sheriff's Association, weighed in recently with an opinion piece arguing that concealed carry permit (CHL) holders should be entitled to privacy. In that regard, it's hard not to agree with him.

Quoting Ramirez:
"Sunshine and transparency is central to American democracy, as is the oversight role of the press. This does not mean that every public record should be subject to review by all who request it . . . Those with legitimate need for a gun permit will not want that need, their name and address, and the fact that they carry a weapon to become known publicly. Indeed, disclosure would defeat the purpose of the concealed weapon permit. The point of having the permit is to be able to be armed safely without public knowledge.

Privacy of this information makes sense! The information should be deemed private in the case of any permit holder. To do otherwise invites trouble, whether it be aggression directed at an armed permit holder or a burglary in search of firearms."

I couldn't agree more. When it comes to the right to privacy, I can't think of any compelling reason to grant public access to knowledge about who has or hasn't obtained a CHL for the purposes of self-defense or even simply to exercise their constitutional rights.

To back up, the current controversy in Oregon began with the famous case of the Medford teacher who sought to carry a concealed weapon at work due to a belief that her husband was stalking her. As a result, the following occurred:

"The lists have always been available under Oregon's Public Records Law but the issue drew major controversy last year when a Medford teacher with a CHL got national attention when she wanted to carry her gun at school.

The story prompted reporters to ask for a list of every permit holder in the county and -- after a court battle -- they got those names.But the court also decided that because of concerns for personal safety anyone who has a CHL can choose to keep their name off the list, and that's exactly what the Linn County sheriff is offering." (Source - KPTV, Oregon)

To my thinking, having to fill out additional forms to keep your name off a list is absurd. It seems that in such a case, people without permits would still be identified as not having them while people with them but not on the list would be identified as having them. So the only time a record's request would be denied would be in cases where someone is on the list but asked to have that information kept private. Will this really be that hard for people to figure out? I doubt it.

A recent opinion piece on took up the issue with the following statement:

"But I'm surrounded by thousands of people bearing handguns, and apparently I do not have the right to know who these people are (I'm not sure how Multnomah County is handling this). Yes, the right to possess guns and other weapons is contitutionally [sic] protected, but so are other rights for which citizens must be responsible. Abuse the right of free speech, and you can pay in court. Abuse the right to bear arms, and another human being may die. I can let evil words slip past me, but I have no protection when someone, especially someone who succumbs to fear, chooses to aim a gun my way."

Conflating or intentionally confusing the act of legally carrying a weapon with "abuse" or the desire to threaten people is especially galling, but not perhaps atypical (most of the comments in response to the author took him to task for these insinuations.) These statements recall to mind the over the top hysteria about gun violence escalating back when Oregon adopted the concealed carry law. The violence hasn't happened--and most studies show a strong correlation between concealed carry laws and a drop in crime--and I truly believe the author of the quote above is made safer by the "thousands of people" quietly, legally and responsibly carrying firearms around him.

You might ask, why not just carry openly? In Oregon, it is currently legal to openly carry firearms in most circumstances. However, unless you're actively engaged in hunting at the time, this simply isn't culturally acceptable even if it is legally acceptable. It's also arguably provocative to wander around flaunting a gun (and more than likely to attract unwanted attention of all types, including police harassment.) Try dropping your kid off at school with a six-shooter on your hip and see what the public reaction is if you don't believe me. Concealed carry, while also turning crime into a guessing game for the criminals, is also less provocative and more civil. The desire to "out" people exercising their right to carry concealed seems to be driven more by a desire for decidedly uncivil political power over them in order to press the anti-gun agenda. Witch hunts and attempts to expose or intimidate people for legal, constitutionally protected behavior--including exercising the right to privacy for non-public individuals--is not democratic with a big or small "d."

If government allows witch hunts or public intimidation of people trying to exercise their constitutional rights, it comes close to any definition of "infringement" that I can think of. In my opinion, the sensible thing to do is to treat CHL permits like any other privacy issue. Just because you go to a publicly funded clinic doesn't make your medical records public knowledge. Just because you decide to exercise your constitutional rights to bear arms doesn't mean the whole world needs to be able to find out about it from a quick google search.

I recommend contacting your local sheriffs and also your state legislators to let them know your feelings on this one.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A special kind of stupidity

File this one under "it seemed like a good idea at the time":

From the Associated Press:
A police chief was among three men indicted on involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of an 8-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself in the head with an Uzi at a gun show.

The Westfield Sportsman's Club also faces the manslaughter charge in the death of Christopher Bizilj (bah-SEAL') of Ashford, Conn., who lost control of the 9mm micro submachine gun as it recoiled while he was firing at a pumpkin.

The boy's father was 10 feet behind him and reaching for his camera when the child fired the weapon.

Apparently the Uzi was a licensed, legally owned full auto model. Hard to believe someone experienced enough to have a full auto would hand it over to an 8 year old, but there it is. This would be comical in a Three Stooges kind of way if not for the pointless loss of a young boy's life. Remember--the brain is the first, best weapon and needs to be turned on at all times; especially around kids. It's incidents like this that give ammunition to the anti-gun crowd. This is really sad.