Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly: The domino effect of the Prohibition mentality

New Post on the American Hunters and Shooters Association website:

"We remember the Saint Valentine's Day massacre and the gangsters of Prohibition, but this is history we refuse to learn from. Prohibition of drugs leads to violent crime and a burgeoning class of unemployable felons. The murder rates among drug gangs in the US and abroad have led some to call for additional prohibitions on guns. It would be more effective to spit out the original "fly" and do away with prohibition altogether."

What do you think? Is it time to get rid of prohibition in order to protect our civil liberties, including gun rights?

Read the rest and give your feedback there.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Gun Problem or Drug Gang Problem?

It's not a good day in Baltimore:

"A feud between rival drug gangs led to a shooting at a backyard cookout that left 12 people wounded, including a pregnant woman and a 2-year-old girl, Baltimore's police commissioner said Monday.

In all, 16 people were shot, two of them fatally, in four incidents in poverty-stricken east Baltimore over a period of about three hours Sunday night and early Monday morning, police said. At least one of the subsequent shootings was related to the attack at the cookout, Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said."

The anti-gun hysteria this will undoubtedly generate is predictable, but the true causes of violence--poverty, disparity in education, and the mammoth profits made possible for gangsters by our continuing drug prohibition--will remain unaddressed.

Certainly if I lived in this neighborhood I would never leave the house unarmed; and law-abiding people shouldn't have to.

However, the commissioner seems to understand the problem is people, not weapons:

"Bealefeld's strategy is to target 'bad guys with guns' — the relatively small number of armed, repeat offenders who are responsible for the majority of the city's violent crime.

Police need more cooperation from the community for that strategy to bear fruit, the commissioner said.

'We need people to get involved. The families surely will grieve at funerals. The families certainly will be upset at going to the hospital to visit wounded and maimed loved ones,' Bealefeld said. 'We need them to get on the telephone and help us put an end to this stuff.' "

Perhaps there is hope we can learn about effective crime policy after all?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor Explicitly Supports the Heller Decision

The news is in: Sonia Sotomayor explicitly endorses and supports the individual right to bear arms as decided in the Supreme Court case DC v. Heller. The following are direct quotes from her testimony this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee:


LEAHY: I've owned firearms since my early teen years. I suspect a large majority of Vermonters do. I enjoy target shooting on a very regular basis at our home in Vermont. So I watched that decision rather carefully and found it interesting.

Is it safe to say that you accept the Supreme Court's decision as establishing that the Second Amendment right is an individual right? Is that correct?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes, sir.

LEAHY: Thank you.

And in the Second Circuit decision, Maloney v. Cuomo, you, in fact, recognized the Supreme Court decided in Heller that the personal right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution against federal law restrictions. Is that correct?


LEAHY: And you accept and applied the Heller decision when you decided Maloney?

SOTOMAYOR: Completely, sir. I accepted and applied established Supreme Court precedent that the Supreme Court in its own opinion in Heller acknowledged, answered the -- a different question.

LEAHY: Well, that -- let me -- let me refer to that, because Justice Scalia's opinion in the Heller case expressly left unresolved and explicitly reserved as a separate question whether the Second Amendment guarantee applies to the states and laws adopted by the -- by the states.

Earlier this year, you were on a Second Circuit panel in a case posing that specific question, analyzing a New York state law restriction on so-called chuka sticks (ph), a martial arts device.

Now, the unanimous decision of your court cited Supreme Court precedent as binding on your decision, and that Supreme Court -- longstanding Supreme Court cases have held that the Second Amendment applies only to the federal government and not to the states.

And I noticed that the panel of the Seventh Circuit, including people like Judge Posner, one of the best-known very conservative judges, cited the same Supreme Court authority, agreed with the Second Circuit decision. We all know that not every constitutional right has been applied to the states by the Supreme Court. I know one of my very first cases as a prosecutor was a question of whether the Fifth Amendment guaranteed a grand jury indictment has been made applicable to the states. The Supreme Court has not held that applicable to the states.

Seventh Amendment right to jury trial, Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines, these have not been made applicable to the states. And I understand that petitions asking -- seeking to have the Supreme Court revisit the question applied to the Second Amendment to the states are pending (inaudible) that case appears before the Supreme Court and you're there how you're going to rule, but would you have an open mind, as -- on the Supreme Court, in evaluating that, the legal proposition of whether the Second Amendment right should be considered fundamental rights and thus applicable to the states?

SOTOMAYOR: Like you, I understand that how important the right to bear arms is to many, many Americans. In fact, one of my godchildren is a member of the NRA. And I have friends who hunt. I understand the individual right fully that the Supreme Court recognized in Heller."

'Nuf said.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oregon State Administrator Believes that she's above the law

Hello all,

I have been invited to guest blog here by Zak Johnson for this one blog post, and I appreciate his faith and invitation enormously.

As many of you know, Jeff Maxwell is a veteran Marine who was recently arrested at Western for legally carrying a firearm on campus. While the charges were dropped, his campus punishment was not. To boot, it seems that Jeff has since lost his GI Benefits for not breaking the law. Jeff then applied to Oregon State University where he was accepted. Oregon State later rescinded his acceptance.

Now I found out about this from the following press release made by the Oregon War Veterans Assoication here. At the time, I was unable to confirm anywhere else that this press release was true.

However, I'm both an alumni and a former administrator/employee at Oregon State and the Oregon University System. So I know a little about navigating the administration on campus. Because of that, I called and tried to speak to Michelle Sandlin, the Director of Admissions. At the time, she was not in, so I was connected to the Assistant Director of Admissions (whose name is Alicia Ortega). Sidenote: OSU's directory has her listed as Associate Director, while various other publications and reports have her listed as Assistant Director or Senior Assistant Director. So I'm not sure which is truly the correct title. I will use OSU's from this point forward.

I'll finally get to my point: The Associate Director told me two important things. First, she claimed that the acceptance was rescinded due to the fact that Maxwell had made a mistake on his application in that he had not listed Western as a previous place of schooling. While this sounds like political air-cover to me, it is certainly plausible, and OSU is certainly within the letter of its policy on that issue.

The other far more interesting thing that the Associate Director told me is that she personally believes that it is O.K. for university administrators to violate a students' civil liberties in order to ensure their safety. I have to admit, it didn't surprise me that she believed that, but it almost knocked me over that she was willing to actually say it to an Alumni and former employee of the university system.

So there you go! A senior administrator partially responsible for deciding who is allowed to attend a major public university personally believes that she should be above the Constitution (state or federal) in order to ensure students' safety. I don't know what the readers of this blog think, but in my mind that is exactly the logic that lead to the imprisonment of some 110,000 Japanese-American citizens in World War II. I can't say I'm a fan of the idea.

On the 21st of April, I met with Larry Roper (Vice Provost for Student Affairs). While he told me that he certainly disagreed with that view, I have still not heard what has actually been done to address the situation at Oregon State. You may, of course, make your own judgements.

I'm not usually a politically partisan person. I like to keep a low profile. But in this case, I seem to have stepped in something unpleasant. I know that I will be making former colleagues at OSU unhappy, and may even be making powerful enemies. I certainly hope that not to be the case, but I felt it important to air this issue, because I don't believe that administrators should be able to enforce their own views on students or faculty to a degree where they believe that can act outside of the law, even when they feel the cause is just (where have we heard that recently?).

It is truly shocking that OSU is so blatantly willing to circumvent civil liberties in search of illusory safety. I hope that readers here will express themselves to congress critters and OSU administrators alike.

Gun Rights Join Communism, Atheism and Free Love at Reed College

The following is a guest column by Ty Marbut, a student activist at Reed College in Portland and Oregon state director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC). SCCC seeks to get rid of the "gun free zones" which make students and faculty sitting ducks, and even magnets, for acts of pointless mass violence.

For more info on SCCC, contact Marbut at tyrel.marbut [at] reed [dot] edu.

I have two items to report: the national organization Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC, www.sccc.org) and a new and very exciting shooting organization at Reed College.

SCCC is a national student-run organization that promotes self-defense on America’s college campuses by addressing both state laws and campus policies, and by working to dispel commonly held falsehoods about the feasibility and importance of self-defense on college campuses. I was recently appointed Oregon State Director of SCCC (although I’m not speaking on behalf of the organization here), and in Oregon we have chapters at Linfield College, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Oregon, Portland Community College, and my school, Reed College. Also, I’ve been in contact with campus groups across the state independently working towards the same goals.

A general description of SCCC can be found on our website, www.sccc.org – click on “About Us”. Summarized, we are about 40,000 college students, faculty, staff, and others who form the organization as a non-partisan, grass-roots endeavor for the purposes I mentioned.

SCCC organizes a (roughly) annual event called the Empty Holster Protest in which thousands of American college students participate. There have been two so far, one in the fall of 2007 and another in the spring of 2009. The protest consists of students wearing empty holsters to their classes for a week, and culminates with letter writing, a money bomb, and get-togethers on Friday.

The most recent incident involving SCCC’s political domain (which I report to give you a taste of the campus concealed carry political world) was the arrest of marine veteran Jeffrey Maxwell, a WOU student, on Jan. 28, 2009 for legally carrying a concealed handgun on the WOU campus. A decent writeup of the story (though not a neutral one) can be found at: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=89280.

In Oregon, there is no law that prohibits concealed carry on college campuses. However, there is also no law to prohibit public universities from barring legal carry. The Polk County DA (rightly) dropped all charges against Maxwell in this case, but he was expelled by WOU (as the result of a public mock trial at which Maxwell wasn’t allowed to speak) and he would be allowed to return to school on the condition that he pass a psychological examination and that he author a 10-page paper about “the importance of following the law, accepting responsibility for his actions, and recognizing the impact of possessing weapons on a college campus” (Schilling - WND).

In general, this attitude towards concealed carry is typical of American universities, and Oregon colleges are (unfortunately) no exception: “if they want to carry guns, they must be crazy – send them to the shrink”. Perhaps this will help to sketch for you the political landscape that SCCC inhabits.

On a much more positive note, I’m also very excited to report on our new group at Reed College. For your readers who aren’t familiar with Reed College, we’re a small (~1300 students), private liberal arts college in Portland (more info on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_college). Depending on who you ask (Princeton Review, etc.), Reed is between the 2nd and 8th “most politically and socially liberal” college in the country, comparable to UC Berkely. Our school’s unofficial seal (which is found on t-shirts, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, and dozens of other items in our school’s bookstore) proudly sports the hallowed trinity “Communism, Atheism, Free Love.”

Every year before the start of the spring semester in the last week of January, Reed College sets aside one week which we call Paideia, a time when anyone at all, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and “friends” of the college may teach any type of class they like. A class has to be approved by the Paideia Czars and can be funded by the school. The week’s course offerings include classes like “Underwater Basket Weaving” (a perennial favorite), bread making, board game tournaments, joint rolling for beginners, henna art for beginners, lock picking, etc.

This year, I decided to put a challenge to the college (i.e. see how many people I could piss off) by teaching a 3-step handgunning course. First I’d have a 2-hour lecture on everything having to do with handguns and shooting that wasn’t really politically charged, which would essentially bring someone up to speed to engage in range shooting/target practice (gun safety rules, the history and function of handguns and ammo, more gun safety talk, good shooting principles, information about ranges). Next, I’d take the students to the range to burn some real powder and have the opportunity to try a couple different models of handguns. Finally, I’d offer a 2-3 hour lecture about self-defense with firearms, including the relevant laws, concealed carry, self defense shooting, verbal and physical tactics, non-lethal options, etc.

I had arranged for funding for 40 students to go on the shooting range field trip, partially from the Oregon Firearms Federation and partly from the college – students would have to pay $10 each for 2 hours of coaching, 200 rounds of ammo, a good place to shoot, and transportation. However, just before the start of the first lecture, the thought crossed my mind that, in the freakish event that more than 40 people showed up, I might have to figure out some sort of makeshift lottery system. In fact, over 120 students, staff, and campus security officers attended the first class, and the crowd spilled out into the hallway where some students sat on the floor for more than 2 hours to hear the lecture.

Some quick calculations revealed that between 10 and 15% of the students who were in town for Paideia wanted to shoot guns, and therefore, theoretically, 10-15% of the student body would want to shoot guns. Our range trips went very well with the help and hospitality of the Clackamas County Sheriff Office’s Public Safety Training Center, and the result was a new student group, the Reed Shooting Sports Kollectiv (named in honor of our campus “kommunist” organization, the “Reed Kommunist Shit Kollektiv” – they’re RKSK, we’re RSSK). RSSK grew in the first half of Spring Semester to be, most likely, the largest membership organization on campus (and if not the largest, we’re not far behind the “kommunists”). At the end of the semester we’d taken a number of funded trips to the shooting range, to the gun show, and held a number of gun safety seminars (which were coincidentally ice cream socials). Our members made up over 10% of the student body (136 as of May) and have expended about 10,000 rounds of ammo.

As members of the Blue Steel Democrats, specifically, might imagine, it’s been a very interesting journey bringing a gun organization to fruition in one of the most politically “liberal” environments you can find in the U.S. However, so far it’s been a testament to the spirit of Reed’s liberalism (this time without quotation marks) that such a group can thrive here. Most of our new shooters have heard exactly one political message about guns (a very negative one, of course) before contact with me and RSSK, and are often intrigued rather than appalled that I talk about gun rights in the context of other civil rights. The whole experience has seemed very promising to me, in that these young “liberals” who by-and-large have a solid grasp of the political world and who, by-and-large, think intelligently and independently about politics, are not only drawn to the novel political message I’m sending them but can, in many cases, accept it easily when it’s couched not in the context of the good ol’ boys of the Republican Party but in the realm of civil, individual rights.

In short, real liberals, like the students at Reed College, get it.

This coming fall, RSSK will be featured in the new student orientation days and will put on a number of gun safety workshops and perhaps visit the range once or twice. We’ll be a prominent fixture in the student handbook, the campus newspaper, and in general we have made a name for ourselves in the student social landscape.

Towards the beginning of the coming semester, we’ll also form a specific political committee. It’s been important to keep political talk separate from RSSK news and agenda in general because I promised everyone who signed up for our e-mail list that it wouldn’t be a political propaganda forum. However, most RSSK members are interested in the political stuff (i.e. SCCC), and once the committee is established, we can and will launch a fairly aggressive campaign to alter our school’s disarmament policy – what I call the “fish-in-a-barrel” policy. We’re hoping to get permission for and perhaps finance a gun safe in our campus security building where on-campus students can store guns and check them out to go to the range. We’re also working to make available “scholarships” to subsidize concealed weapons permit classes and other external (more official) shooting classes for Reed students and faculty. Then, come next Paideia (mid-January), we’ll host another series of classes, hopefully even more extensive than last year’s.

Any questions about RSSK (or, of course, info or offers to help us put on or fund shooting events!) should be directed to Ty Marbut at tyrel.marbut [at] reed [dot] edu.

Monday, July 06, 2009

John R. Lott Interview: More Guns = Less Crime

Below is an interview with John R. Lott, University of Maryland research professor, formerly a senior research scholar at Yale Law School and previous John M. Olin Law and Economics Fellow at the University of Chicago. Dr. Lott is the author of More Guns, Less Crime and Straight Shooting.

Dr. Lott has looked at statistics around gun control and come to the simple conclusion that guns lower crime rates. He discourses at length on that topic and how it relates to Washington D.C.'s horrific murder rates in this interview on CSPAN:

Says Lott, ". . . if you look at the types of multiple-victim public shootings . . . one thing that you continually find is that they take place where guns are banned in the United States . . . all the attacks in the United States involving more than three people killed have all taken place in gun free zones where civilians are not allowed to take guns . . . rather than creating safe zones for victims, what you unintentionally do [with gun free zones] is create a safe zone for those intent on carrying out the attacks . . . " This isn't news to those who've been paying attention, but Lott brings the research to back up his claims.