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The Mission of the 116th Congress

January, 2019

“I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any hon. Gentleman will question it.”

― John Stewart Mill

[John Stuart Mill, in a Parliamentary debate with the Conservative MP, John Pakington, May 31, 1866.]”

 

Introduction

 

The voters of the 2018 mid-term elections have spoken and have made an important move toward restoring democracy in America. It is now time to focus on an agenda for the new 116 Congress. This Congress will convene on January 3, 2019 perhaps even before noon.

It is one thing for candidates in a campaign mode to make promises in order to get elected; it is quite another thing to now face the reality of actually having to govern. Now that the Democrats will be in control of the House of Representatives, everyone is anxiously awaiting the results of the Mueller investigation. As they say, “Inquiring minds want to know.”

A wrench was thrown into the Muller investigation on November 6, 2018 when interim Attorney General Mathew Whitaker was appointed by Donald Trump to replace fired Attorney General Sessions. Unfortunately, the new interim A.G. possesses a strong ideological tie to Donald Trump.

It terms of legal precedent and the United States Constitution, Whitaker’s beliefs about established law make him something of an odd-ball. His fitness for the job has yet to be determined, although there is the strong suspicion he is not qualified and should not be appointed permanent Attorney General. He is also currently under F.B.I. investigation. This is about his involvement as a member of an advisory board for World Patent Marketing (WPM). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently shut down WPM for fraud and scamming people. Some of these people were disabled veterans who were scammed out of their life savings. Whitaker also made legal threats against litigants wishing to sue WPM. Whitaker’s lack of professionalism and history of this company will likely end his position as the interim United States Attorney General.  We’ll just have to wait to see how all of the interactions between Mueller and Whitaker play out during the weeks ahead. I’m hoping that Whitaker too will be indicted by the Mueller team for obstruction of justice if he makes any move to undermine the future indictment of the President of the United States, or any in his administration or family members.

Now What?

In the meantime, the 116th Congress needs to develop and carry out specific goals and objectives to achieve over the next 2 years and beyond. I am going to suggest in the pages ahead what their platform ought to be. They need to be successful in order to convince the American public that they are capable of real change. They need to convince the American public that voting Republican in 2020 would be as catastrophic as it was in 2016. Aside from differing value judgments this is because Republicans seldom succeed at what they undertake.

Why did Republicans nearly always fail during the last 20 years? What is holding back Republicans more than anything else are the groups within the party known as the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus. Belonging to these groups must be a “sweet job.” They get paid for putting up roadblocks to everything, then sit back and collect their paychecks all for doing nothing.

Conservatives as a group are historically almost always on the wrong side of history. Just consider at a minimum the issue of Integration back in the 1950s and putting up roadblocks to enactment of the Social Security Act in 1935. On August 14, 1935 The Social Security Act established a system of old-age benefits for workers, benefits for victims of industrial accidents, unemployment insurance, and aid for dependent mothers and children, the blind and the physically handicapped.

This was a monumental piece of legislative reform the likes of which the world could only imagine. It was a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress who spearheaded the creation and passage of the Social Security Act of 1935. Republicans could have been part of this landmark historical achievement. Instead, they sat on the sidelines during this whole event in American History.

The following should be the goals and objectives of the 116th Congress:

Goals

Return Democracy to America

Improve the Over-all Well Being of Americans

Regain International Status and Respect as a Nation

 

The Nature of Goals

Goals tend to be end states, the thing one wants to aim for, achieve and bring about. Granted, the above goals need to be more specific, and measurable. Otherwise, goals are simply value judgements and lacking concrete steps and specificity to know when one arrives at the final destination. However, life is seldom clear-cut and well-defined. Ambiguity, normlessness and vagueness are all-to-often our reality when setting goals.

Nevertheless goals, however nebulous at times, can still provide a direction and be something to work for and move toward when trying to achieve that “end state.”  Not to burden my reader with the complexities of goal setting, let me give an example: I want to buy a new jaguar car in January, 2019. This goal is specific, has a time line, and is measurable (either you buy it or you don’t). Compare this goal to one that is more diffuse or vague in nature. “I want to save the world.” This goal is terrible. How does one define “save”? There is no time line and measuring it is not defined or specified, and there is total ambiguity; that is, what does that goal really mean in the first place?

In the world of American party politics goal planning can be very unwieldly, especially when parties are constantly re-defining themselves. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the real motivations and values underlying the goal planning process.

Objectives

Objectives lead one to the strategies or methods developed to achieve one’s stated goals. In January, 2019 the 116th Congress will convene to begin the difficult process of governing by undoing certain things that have been implemented by the Trump Administration. In addition, they will need to simultaneously forge ahead with their own agenda for change and their own set of goals, objectives (including methods and strategies). It is a job of great importance and awesome responsibility. And, leadership will be crucial at every step.

The purpose of this Blog is to explain what I think their goals and objectives ought to be. As a progressive with ultra-liberal values [90% of the time] yet sometimes conservative on national defense and military issues [10% of the time] the following are the objectives I think this new Congress should work on, support and achieve.

 

Goal

Return Democracy to America

Objectives

Impeach Trump

As the late Howard Cosell used to say, “Tell it..Like..It is” Well, enough has already been written about Donald Trump. But I do have something to say about his immoral character. Cutting to the chase, he is a psychiatrically and intellectually challenged individual. He is naïve, dishonest and a gifted liar. He is a classic ego-maniac, narcissistic insecure white racist, and a misogynistic degenerate. He is a sociopathic bully, a phony, a con man, a charlatan who lies every time he opens his mouth. Donald Trump of course only does two things wrong in life: everything he says and everything he does.

To say that he suffers from feelings of inadequacy or inferiority is to point out the obvious. More importantly, he is a criminal, a traitor to his country and deserves to be behind bars. Said another way; he is a menace to civilized society. If that wasn’t enough—just consider the following. He is also the most incompetent, unknowledgeable buffoon to ever be elected to public office in the United States. (Now, I’d like to tell you what I really think of him, but civility demands that I not use any expletives and/or rhetorical commentary). From my perspective as an artist (color me blue) he needs to be in an orange jump suit or a white straight jacket.

The late Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” As we all know, Will Rogers never met Donald Trump. Impeaching Donald Trump is the most important objective for the 116th Congress to address. His removal from Office of the presidency is long overdue.

Eliminate Gerrymandering in the United States

Gerrymandering is the manipulation of voting boundaries to benefit a particular political party. Both gerrymandering and cheating are perpendicular in definition. Although Gerrymandering provides benefits by packing district votes, the method utilizes dishonesty.

In an article by  the AP on June, 25, 2017 a very convincing argument was made that gerrymandering helped the Republican Party in 2016 more than it did the Democrats. It was achieved by political cheating and voter disenfranchisement all in deference to political party. Here is an abbreviated part of this article:

“Analysis: Partisan gerrymandering has benefited Republicans more than Democrats

The 2016 presidential contest was awash with charges that the fix was in: Republican Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him, while Democrats have accused the Russians of stacking the odds in Trump’s favor.

Less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it — in the drawing of lines for hundreds of U.S. and state legislative seats. The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Republicans had a real advantage.

The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.

The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.

Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.

The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one.”

Reverse Trump’s Executive Orders

His entire barrage of Executive orders need to be (on day one) reversed and an assessment report undertaken to report all damages done to people and resources. Go to court if necessary to get this objective done.

Create Laws to eliminate all Money from Politics

If this objective is achieved, it will help to finally elevate the status of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate to a status like that of the United States Supreme Court. No more will Americans be able to say, “We have the best politicians money can buy.” Money has tainted politics in America from the very beginning. If politicians ever want to achieve any degree of respectability, they need to eliminate all money in politics.

Eliminate the Electoral College in deference to popular vote only

The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The Electoral College is an arcane process for electing a president. The election of 2016 is filled with irony. It is incredibly ironic because the Founding Fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. Why? Because they feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power. So, the Electoral College, no matter how originally perceived, has now failed in the 21st Century to prevent a tyrant from becoming President of the United States.

The Electoral College also created the primacy of its own electoral process, over that of the popular vote. It renders popular vote more symbolic than real or significant. In the 2016 election some 3 million voters were disenfranchised by this arcane Electoral College system. The popular vote should have made Hillary Clinton President of the United States.

The time has arrived for a new Constitutional Amendment on electing presidents. If we pay lip service to the idea that every person’s vote count, then we as a nation ought to damn well mean it. The Electoral College flies in the face of any notion of a true democratic process. Real democracy is not static or immutable; real democracy is capable of counting every vote and making every vote count.

Initiate a new Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

It’s been nearly 100 years since women first earned the right to vote. It was called the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a nation we are long overdue for an Equal Rights Amendment.

Make sure 50% of the leadership roles such as Heads of Committees are held by women

Given the opportunity to show the country just how much more capable Democrats are than Republicans it’s time to set in stone a new egalitarian standard for the nation. Women are truly equal with men. What differences there are between men and women such as height, weight, and muscle mass or “perceived privilege” has absolutely no relevance when compared to innate intelligence, thinking ability or leadership qualities.

Reopen the case against Supreme Court associate justice Brett Kavanaugh. This time a real investigation will be conducted

Although I am in favor of liberal judges rather than conservative ones, the real issue here is trust. During the early part of his confirmation hearing Nominee Kavanaugh said some things that convinced me, when he talked about how he analyzes judicial cases, he seemed very reasonable and objective. He was on point.

It must be pointed out that judicial or legal reasoning is not like any other way of thinking. Legal thinking and analysis needs to be fact-driven and respectful of legal precedent. Highly intelligent judges tend to put their biases aside when analyzing data and the law. I would direct you to previous blogs where I discussed various theories of judicial reasoning and analysis, especially with respect to how the United States Constitution is interpreted.

Sometimes judges on the U.S. Supreme Court change political stripes. And it is true that historically more conservative judges leaned to the liberal side once they were on the highest court, much more than the reverse where a former liberal Court of Appeals judge turned conservative once they were elevated to the highest court.

The following is an interesting article written by Jon D. Hanson and Adam Benforado,

For the Boston Review, dated April 9, 2016.

It is titled, “THE DRIFTERS: Why the Supreme Court makes justices more liberal.”

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Boston Review. At the time of original publication, Antonin Scalia was still alive. Scalia died this year.

“When Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor left the bench last year, conservatives were in an anxious mood: though pleased at the prospect of shifting the Supreme Court to the right, they were worried by the record of past Republican appointments. The refrain in conservative commentary, repeated with special intensity during the Harriet Mires affair, was: Not another Souter. Not another Kennedy. Not another O’Connor. And they might have added: Not another Blackmun. Not another Stevens. Not another Warren.

They were right to be concerned. While there have been a number of relatively reliable conservative justices over the years—Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Rehnquist being prime examples—and some important right-shifting exceptions—notably Felix Frankfurter, appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Byron White, appointed by John F. Kennedy—the tendency in recent decades to drift leftward has been strong enough to gain both popular and scholarly attention. Indeed, Larry J. Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, has suggested that about one quarter of confirmed nominees over the last half century have wound up “evolving from conservative to moderate or liberal.”

 

Richard Nixon, for instance, thought he was getting solid right-wingers when he appointed Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell, only to find, several years later, Blackmun authoring Roe v. Wade and Powell swing-voting to permit affirmative action in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Coincidentally, in Bakke, Justice John Paul Stevens—then a recent Gerald Ford appointee—wrote a dissent joined by the court’s most conservative members, though a few decades later he would emerge as the most consistently liberal voice on the bench.

Justices O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy—though they remain tied to their conservative mainstays on certain issues, such as federalism—both seem to have embarked on similar leftward journeys, particularly with respect to individual rights and liberties. Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981, O’Connor struck a resoundingly conservative chord in her early opinions on women’s and racial-minority rights, only to join with liberal colleagues in cases touching on the same issues over the last 15 years—most strikingly in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe’s central holding, and Grutter v. Bollinger, which vindicated a law-school affirmative-action program. Kennedy, also a Reagan appointee, was initially celebrated by conservatives as “Bork without the beard.” Yet he later provided key votes to knock down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and overturn the death penalty for juveniles in Roper v. Simmons—prompting Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, to rechristen him “the most dangerous man in America.”

There is no doubt that the presidential nomination process greatly influences the large-scale jurisprudential trends in expected directions. Still, that a Supreme Court appointment is both so important—in President Bush’s words, “one of the most consequential decisions a president makes”—and so scrutinized, casts the many examples of unpredicted drift as a real mystery. Why are presidents, and other backers, so often disappointed by the eventual performance of their nominees? And why do so many Supreme Court justices drift to the left, especially on matters of individual rights?

One fashionable theory is that, in our post-Borkean world, presidents must put forward nominees who can survive the contentious confirmation process—thus, ones who have shorter paper trails and less ideological baggage. This “advice and consent” bottleneck allows through only candidates with unpredictable judicial dispositions.

While this has some validity, presidential buyer’s remorse is as old as the process itself and may develop even when a president nominates a lifelong ally or a well-known public figure. By the time of his nomination, Earl Warren had established himself as a dedicated conservative: he had been the attorney general and three-term Republican governor of California and Thomas Dewey’s running mate in the famously narrow loss to Harry Truman and Alben Barkley. In short, Earl Warren hardly seemed an unknown quantity when Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him as Chief Justice in 1953; and yet it was Earl Warren—the same Earl Warren who as attorney general during World War II backed the internment of Japanese citizens —who as chief justice inaugurated a liberal revolution on the court and became a champion of minority rights.”

To read the full body of the article just go online and use the article’s title as your search term.

Now, back to judge Kavanaugh:

That having been said earlier I still think it is important to know if Judge Kavanaugh has any skeletons hanging in his closet. The testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was very compelling to say the least. In this situation a real investigation needs to be carried out if not by the FBI then perhaps in conjunction with a Congressional investigating committee. Perhaps then either Judge Kavanaugh will be vindicated or he won’t. As Sgt. Joe Friday said in Dragnet long ago, “Just show me the facts, ma’am.”

After the 2020 election install new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court for a total of 15 justices. It’s also important to require a 2/3 vote in the Senate in order to confirm and approve any nominee for the highest court in the land

Rationale

When Roosevelt was reelected in 1936 he had to deal with a Supreme Court that wouldn’t pass his New Deal legislation. He did this by getting passed the 1937 Judicial Procedures Reform Bill. What this bill did was to require all justices on the court to retire at age 70.

The U.S. Constitution says nothing about how many justices can compose the court. The number of justices we have now is simply based on prior arbitrary decisions of the U.S. government. In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t necessarily have to be composed of just 9 justices.

Roosevelt’s “packing the court plan” worked and a host of New Deal legislation was subsequently approved by the highest court. One could argue that Roosevelt’s political interference to subvert the highest court in the land isn’t any different than current Republican attempts to pack the court with ultra-conservative tainted judges. They’ve done everything they can to subvert an honest process by having no real investigation done by the FBI, hiding Kavanaugh documents during his time with the Bush administration, and only half-heartedly, if at all, showing respect toward witnesses and victims of sexual battery, lewd licentious behavior, and attempted rape.

Goal   

Improve the Over-all Well Being of Americans

Objectives

Create a New Tax Plan for the Country

All individual tax rates should be 10%. All Corporate tax rates should go back to 35%. Since January 1, 2018 corporate tax rates are a flat 21%. We can thank the Trump tax plan for that boondoggle. If one adds corporate tax monies that are hidden overseas a lot of tax money is lost by the American people.

All small businesses’ tax rates should be 10%. However, a corporation or small business could reduce their tax burden conditional upon the number and percent of new hires over the number and percent of new hires in the previous tax year. The greater the number and percent of new hires—the greater the tax relief provided.

In these two types of business entities taxes are conditional on results, not promises. In this way all businesses would be incentivized because of conditionality. I recommend small business owners bear a much smaller tax burden since they employ the vast number of workers in this country. Simultaneously, the minimum hourly wage should become $20 an hour, effective January 1, 2020.

Enact a Brand New Immigration Policy with an Ellis Island Approach to integrating non-citizens into society and help them become American citizens.

Under this plan racial or religious profiling as criteria for admission to the United States is dead. Unlike Ellis Island in New York during the early 1900s and before, the 21st Century will require one Processing Center to be along the Canadian border, another in El Paso, Texas, and a third Processing Center near Los Angeles, California.

Develop a Proven and Effective Ground to Air and Sea to Air Missile Defense Program

There is a great need for the 116th Congress to play a leadership role with respect to a viable effective Missile Defense Program. This issue has been a bi-partisan issue that both Democrats and Republicans have worked toward.

The new Congress needs to stay on top of this issue. Given the importance of protecting the nation during an actual nuclear strike by a foreign power, efforts must proactively be implemented including the once defunct Star Wars Program originally proposed by President Reagan. However, it’s time to come into the 21th Century. Call such a program the new Strategic Missile Defense Program or NSMDP. A broader title might be SHIELD, which could apply to all systems directed at countering incoming missiles.

Create a One-Payer Health Care System for all Americans

Currently, Medicare is a single-payer national health insurance program in the United States, begun in 1966 under the Social Security Administration and now administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. federal government.

It provides health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older who have worked and paid into the system through the payroll tax. It also provides health insurance to younger people with some disability status as determined by the Social Security Administration, as well as people with end stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Medicare is currently funded by a combination of a payroll tax, premiums and surtaxes from beneficiaries, and general revenue.

Under this objective the Bernie Sanders model should be enacted into law. It will include a viable and enriched health care benefit system and put every citizen under Medicare. In addition, affordable supplemental insurance could augment anyone’s Medicare program especially for long term care and in-home health care services.

A new enriched Medicare program must provide all medical services from Surgery to Psychiatry. In addition, all drugs, especially ground-breaking experimental cancer drugs will be free-of-charge to everyone covered under Medicare or Medicaid. The federal budget for all medical research should also be quadrupled over current governmental allocations. This is America; therefore we ought to have the best healthcare in the world bar none

Now money is realistically always an issue. I recommend a very first time ever federal national sales tax of 5 percent. Why? The GDP in 2020 will be an estimated 22.23 trillion dollars. Using a 2020 time frame a 5% sales tax would annually raise 1.1115 trillion dollars. But as everyone knows, health care costs are estimated to be 17.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

That 17.9 percent would represent about 3.3 trillion dollars in 2020. Said another way, health care in this country is astronomically expensive. However, mandatory spending cuts by the Trump administration had eliminated a net $2,033 billion (B) over the 2018–2027 periods. This included reduced spending of $1,891B for healthcare, mainly due to the proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare). Republicans failed to repeal the ACA.

Doing the math 1,891 billion is actually 1.891 trillion dollars. When you add this amount to my sales tax plan, we now have 3.002 trillion dollars which comes close to the 3.3 trillion in healthcare costs. Last year under the Trump administration corporations paid only approximately $400 billion in taxes when corporations still had a tax rate was 35%.  Going back to a 35% tax rate for corporations would close the gap or short-fall. Theoretically, the 3.4 trillion in revenues could be dedicated exclusively to healthcare.

However, obviously my “steal from Peter in order to pay Paul” idea does need a lot of work. Anyone with viable ideas would be welcome to express them in some kind of forum. But this is getting to the heart of what politics is really all about—making hard decisions about scarce resources; it is an ominous responsibility.

Whether one is a Democrat, Republican or Independent, we all need good quality healthcare. Therefore, the 116th Congress has got its work cut out for it. I wish I had better more definitive answers for my readers on the issue of health care and its cost, but I don’t. It is a hard nut to crack. It is doable but will require really tough resource and tax decisions.

Institute a New National Call-in Center for Identifying Hate Groups and White Nationalists

This Call-in Center needs to be directly under the Control of the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. The “eyes and ears” of 300+ million citizens is much better than a simple string of agency generated leads or criminal acts or events after the fact. In particular, people in rural areas of the country will be pivotal to detecting and reporting hate militia groups hiding in the forests or mountain areas of the U.S. landscape.

Pass a New Law for all 50 states to adopt the Gun Law Restrictions of California and/or Massachusetts

As a registered gun owner from California I can say I had to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to buy my guns. I use my guns primarily for target practice and home protection.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with strong gun laws. Guns should not be in the hands of everybody. And safety is job one for me. Massachusetts has the best most restrictive gun laws in the nation; California is second. Guns are never going to disappear as they are protected by the Second Amendment. You should read former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia’s case response to District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008). This was a landmark case that made a lot of sense. The Associated Press reported the following back in 2015 following Scalia’s death:

“Opponents of a ban on the kinds of military-style weapons often used in spree killings – most recently in San Bernardino – often say that denying civilians the right to own such guns would violate their Second Amendment rights, or that it is not possible in any case to define such weapons in law.

So let’s turn to an undisputed conservative – one who opposes abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action and so many other liberal agenda items. Is it possible to define the kinds of weapons that should not be in civilian hands, and does regulating them violate the Second Amendment?

Here is Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court reversed a long-held position and ruled that the Second Amendment did give Americans individual right to own firearms. The court said the District’s ban on handguns in private homes went too far, but that regulation of gun ownership was compatible with the Second Amendment:

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. ‘Miller’ said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ 307 U.S., at 179, 59 S. Ct. 816. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

 

Justice Scalia also wrote:

 

“It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like — may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.”

The prefatory clause, to which the justice refers, of course, is the one about “a well-regulated militia.” The AR-15, used in San Bernardino, is an M-16 knockoff. unusual’ and subject to regulation or an outright ban under the Second Amendment.” So rather than saying “assault weapons,” in the future perhaps we should say “the kinds of weapons that Justice Antonin Scalia has defined as ‘dangerous.

The Mission of the New 116th Congress will be to bring suit where necessary when dangerous weapons are involved. This tact of specificity when creating regulatory legislation (with citations referring to District of Columbia vs. Heller) just might bear fruit.

 

 Double or triple the resources of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in order to investigate all civilian shootings by a Police Officer in the United States

Nearly 1,000 people are killed by police every year in the United States. Putting local police or local district attorneys in charge of investigating their own is like putting a fox in charge of the hen house. It makes no sense at all. All investigations of these killings need objectivity and impartiality. The FBI has several thousand agents nationwide. If they need more agents to investigate killings by police officers—then so be it!

 

Goal

Regain International Status and Respect as a Nation

Objectives

Make a Formal Apology to our Allies

In addition, after Trump is removed by the 116th Congress it needs to make an unprecedented gesture to the world—a heartfelt apology to all our allies around the world for our countries colossal error in judgment for electing a total buffoon to the White House. Both a verbal and written proclamation of regret needs to be promulgated to the entire world, and in a timely manner.

Institute a strong policy of coordination among the Congressional Judiciary Committee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to surveil all U.S. Congressmen, Senators, and Federal Court Judges for any corruption.

In conjunction with this, a new Cabinet level Czar of Government Ethics needs to be created with powers of investigation, promulgation of facts, and the authorization to censor, terminate employment, or otherwise convene a grand Jury to charge those whose ethics violations rise to the level of criminality.

In addition any current statutes on Moral Turpitude would now include crimes of omission as well as crimes of commission. As an example of moral turpitude involving crimes of omission consider the example of Representative Jim Jordan failing to report sexual abuse of young collegiate wrestlers at Ohio State University during his tenure there as a wrestling coach.

Convince the United Nations to eliminate all countries to the UN that are based on a dictatorship. Work to destroy all dictatorships in the world and their leaders (tyrants)

The United Nations is an institution that needs to defend its own Declaration of Human Rights, a landmark post-World War II proclamation that was passed back in 1948. It was one of the  most prodigious accomplishments of this multi-nation organization. The HR Proclamation laid out what the world needs to stand for. The United Nations stands as a beacon for the world in spite of the fact some countries are unwilling or unable to adopt the explicit Human Rights Declaration that was promulgated to the world.

It is from the pulpit of the U.N. that it needs collectively to stand up for what it believes in. As a world body of nations, it needs to demonstrate real courage. They could make a too long overdue commitment to oust dictatorships from the United Nations, to isolate and topple them from the rest of humanity. That is the goal. One objective that would follow would be to eliminate all dictators and dictatorships altogether from the face of the earth.

Final Thoughts

Having the power to make societal change is an awesome responsibility especially during an era of so many attacks on Democracy and democratic institutions. I can only hope that the gravity of the situation in American, with its utter lack of leadership in Washington D.C. will soon change course. I hope that the new 116th Congress will show real courage, and act quickly, decisively and responsibly.

 

 

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Rush to Judgment in America: The Issue of Gun Control

[An Ultra-Liberal Looks at Gun Control]

 

Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

 

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.

 

Number of Guns and Gun Owners in USA

 

Most estimates range between 39% and 50% of US households having at least one gun (that’s about 43-55 million households). The estimates for the number of privately owned guns range from 190 million to 300 million.

 

Facts about Gun Ownership in America

Pew Research Center Data

According to Rich Morin in an article reported in FACTANK (July 15, 2014) titled, “The Demographics and Politics of Gun-Owning Households:

“Guns among Americans with young children in their home are just as likely as other adults to have a gun in their household, according to newly released survey data from the Pew Research Center.

“Overall, about a third of all Americans with children under 18 at home have a gun in their household, including 34% of families with children younger than 12. That’s nearly identical to the share of childless adults or those with older children who have a firearm at home.

“The new research also suggests a paradox: While blacks are significantly more likely than whites to be gun homicide victims, blacks are only about half as likely as whites to have a firearm in their home (41% vs. 19%). Hispanics are less likely than blacks to be gun homicide victims and half as likely as whites to have a gun at home (20%).

“To examine the demographic and political characteristics of gun-owners and their households, we examined data from the new Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey of 3,243 adults conducted April 29-May 27, including 1,196 who said they or someone in their household owned a gun, pistol or rifle.

“All respondents in the nationally representative panel had been interviewed in an earlier Pew Research poll and agreed to participate in future surveys. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points and plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for results based only on those in gun-owning households.

Survey Results

“The survey results also would appear to challenge the conventional wisdom that gun ownership is far more prevalent in the South. According to the survey, southerners are just about as likely as those living in the Midwest or the West to have a gun at home (38% vs. 35% and 34%, respectively). The regional exception: Households in the northeastern United States, where gun prevalence is significantly lower (27%) than in other parts of the country.

“But regional differences emerge when race is factored into the analysis. White southerners are significantly more likely to have a gun at home (47%) than whites in other regions. But because blacks disproportionately live in the South and are only half as likely to have a gun at home as whites the overall rate for the southern region falls to 38%.

“Other longstanding beliefs about the makeup of America’s gun-owning households are confirmed by these data. For example, rural residents and older adults are disproportionately more likely than other Americans to have a gun at home.

“Americans with a gun at home also differ politically from other adults. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to be members of a gun-owning household. Political independents also are more likely than Democrats to have a firearm in their homes.

“As a group, Americans who have a gun at home see themselves differently than do other adults. According to the survey, adults in gun-owning households are more likely to think of themselves as an “outdoor person” (68% vs. 51%) or “a typical American” (72% vs. 62%), and to say “honor and duty are my core values” (59% vs. 48%).

“About six-in-ten gun household members (64%) say they “often feel proud to be American.” In contrast, about half (51%) of other adults say this.

“Not surprisingly, members of gun-owning households are more than twice as likely to identify themselves as a “hunter, fisher or sportsman” (37% vs. 16%).

“But on other dimensions tested in the survey, those with a gun at home differ little from other Americans. For example, they are as focused on health and fitness as those in non-gun owning households and are about equally likely to say they think of themselves as compassionate or as a trusting person.”

Sociological Background for Understanding Gun Control

It is an inescapable fact of modern life that “normal” or “deviant behavior” is relative to the culture one lives in. Any sociologist worth his salt should tell you that deviance, legally defined, is as much the product of the “rule makers” as it is the “rule breakers.”

The great American sociologist Howard S. Becker in his book Outsiders (1963) wrote the following:

“All social groups make rules and attempt, at some times and under some circumstances, to enforce them. Social rules define situations and the kinds of behavior appropriate to them, specifying some actions as “right” and forbidding others as “wrong.” When a rule is enforced, the person who is supposed to have broken it may be seen as a special kind of person, one who cannot be trusted to live by the rules agreed on by the group. He is regarded as an outsider.

But the person who is thus labeled an outsider may have a different view of the matter. He may not accept the rule by which he is being judged and may not regard those who judge him as either competent or legitimately entitled to do so. Hence, a second meaning of the term emerges: the rule-breaker may feel his judges are outsiders.

The above description of Labeling Theory is the social context today that underlies the highly emotional and explosive social issue known as gun control. And “value judgments” dominate the thinnest landscape of analysis among those on both sides of this issue.

 

While governments can create rules that create classes of deviants, very few individuals realize that some motivations of governmental actions are deviant acts themselves. By that I mean governments, from a sociological point of view, sometimes encourage deviance, particularly when it concerns money and a politician’s career.

 

If you don’t think government agencies aren’t creating or encouraging deviant acts just consider what local city governments and townships have done for decades.

Intentions really matter, especially with governments. For example, parking fines on the surface are intended to deter people from parking beyond a certain amount of time. This is supposed to deter people; the reality is government agencies want parking fines and thus inadvertently or otherwise, they want to add revenues to their coffers. If everyone stopped breaking the rules, local governments would be very unhappy because of a lost revenue flow. Deviance in this sense is encouraged as they want rule breakers to break the rules.

 

What makes this type of social phenomena even more suspicious and aggravating, is not just the questioning of moral relevance, or absence thereof, but the fact that many local city governments and townships actually encourage deviant behavior. They do this by creating more metered parking spots in more and more neighborhoods or outlying areas. When this happens, the “rule makers” are creating more deviant acts, not to stem them, but to increase them for purposes of extortion and increased cash flow. Notions of “right” or “wrong” disappear when the “rule makers” by their own actions create deviance through increasing the number of “rule breakers.”

 

The Growing Gun Control Issue    

Why is there so much dissension over the issue of gun control? In a nutshell it’s all about fear of what’s happening with terrorist attacks or mass-shootings here at home or abroad. Gun control existed prior to these events but current events around violence, particularly gun violence, have made gun control such a hotly debated issue.

One of the basic facts of translating such underlying fear into public policy is that there has been a “rush” to judgment to solve a social problem; that is, strategies to curtail gun ownership have not been well thought out or researched, and there seems to be both a lack of basic logic and a great deal of hypocrisy in the process.

Let’s assume for the moment that saving lives is the motivation behind gun control. If saving human life is the ultimate goal behind the issue of gun control, there doesn’t appear to be any conclusive evidence that gun-free zones, restricting either types of firearms or types of ammo or reducing magazine capacity, has any relationship to preventing firearm deaths or future acts of violence involving a firearm.

Back in April, 2013 Mother Jones reported: “True security in our schools and other designated gun-free places may require more. Forbidding firearms alone clearly won’t keep violence away—not least because of how easily bad guys can get their hands on guns. Nearly 80 percent of the mass shooters we documented obtained their weapons legally.” They also went on to say that loading up gun free zones with more armed protection may not lessen the violence either.

If one assumes that 80 percent of mass shooters got their guns legally, it does suggest that tightening loopholes and requiring stringent background checks would help. However, even here it’s not foolproof since at times it’s been known that girlfriends with no prior criminal record can and do buy guns for their gang member boyfriends, and there are many other occasions where a gun is bought for another person. Plus, there may be illegal gun brokers operating in every city. In this regard law enforcement has their jobs cut out for them.

Simply restricting and being punitive toward gun ownership among honest, responsible gun owners is no answer at all. It also raises the question of civil rights violations by government agencies. It’s really not about the guns—it’s about the people who commit anti-social crimes, the mental state of mass shooters and the warped ideology of radicalized individuals. And religiously radicalized Muslims are only part of the problem as there are many right-wing fanatics who pose an equal danger to society. This includes hate groups such as the Ku Klux Clan, white nationalists and others of similar ilk.

Concealed-Carry Weapons Issue

There are many states that allow open-carry weapons. Some states allow open-carry and concealed weapons as legal in their state. Some states don’t allow open-carry but do allow concealed-carry weapons by permit.

Most states that do allow concealed-carry permits require safety training, and extensive training in use of a firearm as well as requiring an extensive background check before a permit is ever signed by the proper authorities, usually a county sheriff.

In my opinion any attempt to restrict or deny concealed-carry permits to gun owner citizens may in fact have the opposite effect of actually increasing deaths when the “bad guys” start shooting in a mall, nightclub, airport, or similar location where large groups of people amass, irrespective of whether an attack occurs in a gun free zone or not.

As we all know from news reports, police often show up after the carnage has occurred, not before. A fully vetted, background-checked citizen trained to use a handgun may find him/herself  in the right place at the right time to save lives by catching the “bad” guys unaware of their presence. This is different from arming school security guards or teachers as the media makes this known to the public as newsworthy information.

However, the “bad guys” read newspapers and watch TV like anyone else. They know in advance who is likely to be armed or not. Concealed-carry individuals aren’t so easy to identify. If these individuals, often better trained and better shots than police officers, numbered one out of every 10 or 20 citizens, it might result over time in reducing such carnage among mass shooters in shopping malls, airports, nightclubs or elsewhere. While it might be impossible to save every life, at least a good number might be saved. At the very least this is a viable hypothesis.

So far the idea of deputizing all CCW (Concealed-Carry Weapon) citizens nationwide to be a kind of “first responder” has not occurred. But this is the kind of research idea that could be tested experimentally. While SWAT teams are very important to law enforcement operations, like patrolmen they too show up after the carnage has been carried out, not before.

The idea of deputizing good citizens during a critical law enforcement emergency is not unknown in American history. However, gun control without research to support it is like putting the cart before the horse. That’s why I’ve characterized this issue of gun control as a “rush to judgment.” In addition, it appears to me that politicians want to give the appearance or impression they are doing something to address a very serious social problem. And they do this even if their ideas are untested and they violate the civil rights of millions upon millions of our citizens.

The Politics of Fear 

The irony of many social issues today is that, politically speaking, people on both sides of an issue (e.g., a strong military, terrorism, job creation, a balanced budget, and clean air and water) often agree on the goals of an issue, but nevertheless vehemently disagree regarding the method(s) to achieve such goals. Besides debate of this hot issue what underlies it is fear. And, because of this fear the anti-gun supporters are using it to play politics with a fearful public. While some of this fear is irrational, some of it is not.

One serious factor that has contributed more than any other to the gun control debate, has been the occurrences of savage attacks by either lone-wolf assailants in the United States who are troubled psychologically, impaired individuals (such as the offender at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, Umpqua College in Oregon, or Dallas, Texas) or individuals inspired by radical jihadist ideology (like the type of offender at Fort Hood (13 dead and many injured), San Bernardino, California (14 dead and many injured), and Orlando, Florida in July, 2016 where (49 people were murdered and scores injured).

By implication, there is also fear creation among Americans even when there have been large numbers of Jihadist attacks overseas, The attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, and Iraq have all contributed to the fear people here in the United States feel. Because of such fear, rational or otherwise, there seems to be a demand that action be taken immediately to stop or prevent such mass-shootings and terrorist attacks.

Gun laws, of course, vary from state to state. At the present time California is one of the most restrictive states for guns and ammunition. The rules however are selective. They generally apply to citizen gun owners (or the general public) but not the police or military personnel. People on the right complain that the Second Amendment is under attack; those people on the left say it is the fault of having too many guns in society and not enough is being done. People line up on either side of this issue claiming the other side is either incompetent or illegitimate. Because of this, many issues surrounding the 2nd Amendment end up in our court system whether it is within federal, state or local jurisdictions.

How to Assess the Gun Control Issue

There are really two ways to think about gun control: (1) the legal system which attempts to make decisions on the basis of case law and/or statutory law, and (2) a more sociological type of analysis that makes use of logic, reason, data, analysis, and finally, objective conclusions. Both ways of looking at gun control, it must be recognized, may be fraught with politics and the rendering of non-objective criteria based on individual and collective “value judgments.”

 

In addition, even correlational data can be misleading. What is needed is experimental research, where correlational data is still useful in at least generating hypotheses to be evaluated using the gold standard—experimental research.

But there is a caveat even with respect to the quality of experimental research (in fact, all scientific research or methods employed). Many lay people think that ultimately scientific explanations determine truth. However, whether one is discussing meta-physical or religious claims of truth, or the best science has to offer as an explanation, there is no absolute truth. What is truth? Truth is what we agree it is at a particular point in time, nothing more and nothing less. And often what is perceived as truth is masked by underlying assumptions, beliefs and biased “value judgments” long before scientific explanations are even offered.

 

Nevertheless, scientific research is still the closest one is ever going to get to a kind of “social truth” where data, reason and logic prevail. Consensus that fosters unanimity of agreement is the closest one will ever get to the imperfect notion of “truth”. I say this only to make one aware and cautious when taking a political stand on this or any other issue.

 

Let’s take the two approaches in order. Let’s start with the major legal decisions of the United States Supreme Court related to the 2nd Amendment. This will be followed by a more sociological way of looking at the issue of gun control.

 

Major Supreme Court Decisions

 

The following material was obtained online from The Law Library of Congress.

 

     “On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller (PDF), the United States Supreme Court issued its first decision since 1939 interpreting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense. It also ruled that two District of Columbia provisions, one that banned handguns and one that required lawful firearms in the home to be disassembled or trigger-locked, violate this right.

 

“The Second Amendment, one of the ten amendments to the Constitution comprising the Bill of Rights, states: “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.” The meaning of this sentence is not self-evident, and has given rise to much commentary but relatively few Supreme Court decisions.

 

“In cases in the 19th Century, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment does not bar state regulation of firearms.  For example, in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 553 (1875), the Court stated that the Second Amendment “has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government,” and in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 265 (1886), the Court reiterated that the Second Amendment “is a limitation only upon the power of Congress and the National government, and not upon that of the States.” Although most of the rights in the Bill of Rights have been selectively incorporated (PDF) into the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and thus cannot be impaired by state governments, the Second Amendment has never been so incorporated. [UPDATE: In McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court addressed this issue, ruling that Second Amendment rights are applicable to states through the Fourteenth Amendment.]

 

“Prior to District of Columbia v. Heller, the last time the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment was in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).  In that case, Jack Miller and one other person were indicted for transporting an unregistered sawed-off shotgun across state lines in violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934.  Miller argued, among other things, that the section of the National Firearms Act regulating the interstate transport of certain firearms violated the Second Amendment.

 

“The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas agreed with Miller.  The case was appealed directly to the Supreme Court, which reversed the district court.  The Supreme Court read the Second Amendment in conjunction with the Militia Clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, and concluded that “[i]n the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a [sawed-off] shotgun . . . has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument, 307 U.S. at 178.”  The Court concluded that the district court erred in holding the National Firearms Act provisions unconstitutional.

 

“Since United States v. Miller, most federal court decisions considering the Second Amendment have interpreted it as preserving the authority of the states to maintain militias.  Several of the post-Miller lower court opinions are discussed here (PDF).

 

“The Supreme Court’s consideration of the Second Amendment this term was precipitated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision in Parker v. District of Columbia (PDF), 478 F.3d 370 (D.C. App. 2007).  There, the D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that three District of Columbia laws regarding private gun ownership – namely a ban on new registration of handguns, a ban on carrying a pistol without a license, and a requirement that firearms be kept unloaded and locked – violated the Second Amendment.  The court held that individuals have a right under the Second Amendment to own handguns for their own personal protection and keep them in their home without placing a trigger lock on them.  This is the first decision since the Supreme Court decided Miller in which a federal court overturned a law regulating firearms based on the Second Amendment.

 

“Following the D.C. Circuit’s decision not to rehear the case, the District of Columbia Government filed a petition for certiorari for review of the decision by the Supreme Court.  The documents before the Supreme Court at the petition for certiorari stage have been collected here.

 

“On November 20, 2007, the Supreme Court granted (PDF) the petition for certiorari.  The Court framed the question for which it granted review as follows: “Whether the following provisions – D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 – violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

 

“The briefs on the merits by the District of Columbia and respondent Dick Anthony Heller, as well as amicus briefs by some 67 “friends of the court,” have been collected here.

 

“In its June 26 decision, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the D.C. provisions banning handguns and requiring firearms in the home disassembled or locked violate this right.

 

“In the majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court first conducted a textual analysis of the operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Court found that this language guarantees an individual right to possess and carry weapons. The Court examined historical evidence that it found consistent with its textual analysis. The Court then considered the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause, “[a] well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and determined that while this clause announces a purpose for recognizing an individual right to keep and bear arms, it does not limit the operative clause. The Court found that analogous contemporaneous provisions in state constitutions, the Second Amendment’s drafting history, and post-ratification interpretations were consistent with its interpretation of the amendment. The Court asserted that its prior precedent was not inconsistent with its interpretation.

 

“The Court stated that the right to keep and bear arms is subject to regulation, such as concealed weapons prohibitions, limits on the rights of felons and the mentally ill, laws forbidding the carrying of weapons in certain locations, laws imposing conditions on commercial sales, and prohibitions on the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. It stated that this was not an exhaustive list of the regulatory measures that would be presumptively permissible under the Second Amendment.

 

“The Court found that the D.C. ban on handgun possession violated the Second Amendment right because it prohibited an entire class of arms favored for the lawful purpose of self-defense in the home. It similarly found that the requirement that lawful firearms be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock made it impossible for citizens to effectively use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense, and therefore violated the Second Amendment right.      The Court said it was unnecessary to address the constitutionality of the D.C. licensing requirement.

 

“Four Justices dissented, each of which signed both of two dissenting opinions. One, by Justice Stevens, examined historical evidence on the meaning of the Second Amendment to conclude that the amendment protects militia-related interests. A second dissenting opinion, by Justice Breyer, stated that even if the Second Amendment protects a separate interest in individual self-defense, the District of Columbia provisions at issue are permissible forms of regulation.

 

“The outcome of D.C. v. Heller left some issues unanswered, including whether the Second Amendment restricts state regulation of firearms, and the standard for evaluating the constitutionality of other laws and regulations that impact the Second Amendment right.

 

“These issues will be the subject of future litigation. [Update: As noted above, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller applies not only to the Federal Government, but also to states and municipalities.”

 

Despite all the court cases of relevance, legislators in California are leading the nation in the “rush to judgment” approach to solving a social problem.

 

California Gun-Related Laws Going into Effect in 2017

 

Despite the violation of the civil rights of millions of gun owners in California several laws are about to go into effect on January 1, 2017. They include:

 

GUN BILLS SIGNED BY GOV. JERRY BROWN

 

There is Senate Bill 1446, authored by Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, which bans possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

 

SB 1235, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, requires background checks for purchase of ammunition.

SB 880, authored by Senator Isidore Hall, D-South Bay, and Assembly Bill 1135, authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, ban “bullet buttons,” which make it easy to detach magazines.

 

There is also Assembly Bill 1511, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, which limits the lending of guns to family members who have not completed background checks.

 

Another bill is AB 1695, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which blocks people who have knowingly make false reports on the loss or theft of a gun from possessing firearms for 10 years.

 

AB 857, authored by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, requires anyone who manufactures or assembles a homemade firearm to get a serial number from the state Department of Justice.

 

A Sociological Look at Gun Control

 

Gun Control: Logic, Reason, and Hypocrisy

In this section I will describe why I think there is a serious lack of logic and reason in today’s gun control issue. When looking at the supposed goal of limiting guns as a solution to savings lives, I find a tremendous amount of hypocrisy by both the general public and legislators (federal, state and local).

If one believes the goal of the anti-gun lobby is saving lives—think again! Hypocrisy, unfortunately, plays a major role in their thinking. What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is defined as the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, especially with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretense, sham. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.  

I think controlling guns is really a smokescreen for failure to do what is really needed by society i.e., the ability to create programs and strategies to alter or deter the anti-social behavior of groups and individuals. And this failure applies regardless of whether the subject matter is general crime, mass-shootings or terrorist attacks.

Recently, it was reported in the national news that, “Chicago is on pace to see as many as 650 or 700 murders this year, more than any year since the early 2000s, and likely more than the total murders in New York and Los Angeles combined.”

This is very telling because, you see, the City of Chicago has some of the most draconian restrictions on guns. Restricting law-abiding citizens from having guns won’t get the job done. Back on May 29, 2013 an article appeared in the New York Times titled, “Strict Gun Laws in Chicago Can’t Stem Fatal Shots.” According to the article,

“CHICAGO — not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.

And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.

To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer. ‘The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they’ve essentially made the citizens prey,’ said Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. To gun control proponents, the struggles here underscore the opposite — a need for strict, uniform national gun laws to eliminate the current patchwork of state and local rules that allow guns to flow into this city from outside.

Young black men in the inner city of Chicago are disproportionately more likely to commit acts of gun violence, but also disproportionately more likely to be the victim of gun violence. So despite highly restrictive gun laws, violence is at a peak this year in Chicago. It would seem logical to me that there needs to be in Chicago a program to tackle guns that are illegally obtained from those guns that are legal for self-defense.”

Self-defense is an absolute legal right under the 2nd Amendment as described earlier in this blog. There is no need to unwittingly deny guns to law-abiding individuals.

Hypocrisy about Guns

Disarming gun owners and making unwarranted attacks on the Second Amendment is not a viable solution to ending violence.  After all, guns don’t kill people with intent, people kill people with intent. Intent is motivation by individuals to commit acts. Guns are simply pieces of metal cleverly crafted; pieces of metal don’t possess intent. People do.

Logic would suggest that butcher knives we all have in our homes are a much greater threat to children or adults than an empty handgun that is locked away in a gun safe with a safety on and secured with a trigger lock, and ammunition for that gun that is stored elsewhere in a locked safe. This is what responsible gun owners do.  How many people who own butcher knives or other knives lock them away in a safe?

When our children were growing up, how many of us put locks on our medicine cabinets or made sure when our kids visited other homes with young children, that those homes did not have guns, knives, or medicine cabinets that were unlocked? When one looks at states with highly restrictive guns laws, why is it these states have higher overall violent crime rates (like California) than those states (like Arizona) that have more liberal policies on guns such as open- carry gun laws, concealed-carry permits, and no restrictions on types of guns or types of ammunition?

Could it be that states that are more liberal with respect to gun ownership make potential offenders think twice about committing a crime? Maybe the answer is yes, or maybe the answer is no. We do not know this definitively one way or the other, but it does suggest the possibility that states with highly restrictive gun laws are neither preventing terrorist acts, mass shootings nor crime in general.

Another aspect of government hypocrisy on gun control is the selectivity or target of these laws. If saving lives is the real goal of gun control, then why does society or government politicians take a “blind eye” to the fact that every year cops in America kill or murder more people than all the country’s terrorists or mass-shooters combined? Why not take away all guns from police officers around the country? But, as we all know, then only the “bad” guys would have guns, putting police officers at greater risk. Society does not want to put the police at undue risk, and neither do I. Police have a right to protect themselves from attack.

But if society wants to give protection to police officers by allowing them to carry weapons in public, why then are legislators in particular so unwilling to deny the average citizen the same right to carry weapons for their own protection as police do? Why are they so unwilling to help protect the average citizen and why are they so willing to violate the civil rights of gun owners?

Hypocrisy runs rampant and logic is nowhere to be found if saving lives should be the “real” goal underlying gun control.

In 2014, 32,675 individuals were fatalities in car crashes and accidents. Millions of people have been killed in car crashes and accidents since 1900. Because of this self-created misery, has taking away the automobile ever been proposed by a legislative body? The answer is no—saving lives has always taken a back seat to economic interests and greedy politicians (remember—we have the best politicians money can buy).

With respect to deaths involving drunk drivers consider these facts:

  • In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
  • Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
  • Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.

There are some programs out there to help the problem of drinking among drunk drivers. But regardless of the harm they do, no one has suggested a new prohibition of alcohol or eliminating cars altogether. Driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal but no one wants to consider totally outlawing marijuana anymore.

In the same vein, consider how many people die every year due to smoking. “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including nearly 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) Yet, no legislative body ever recommends doing away with the cause—cigarettes and other tobacco products. It’s the same reason, economics and greedy politicians. The phoniness and hypocrisy of political action is all too clear.

If millions upon millions of gun owners don’t comply with regulations to control guns, a new class of “deviant rule breakers” is created because of the implementation of arbitrary, capricious rules having no relationship at all to protecting the public from harm. Obviously, it isn’t based on wanting to save lives. It seems more to be based on the appearance of “solving a social problem.”  An underlying reason is that government can raise their revenues and rip-off gun owners by charging them “administrative” fees.

In California it is called D.R.O.S. (Dealer’s Record of Sale) in which a $25 fee is charged every time anyone buys a gun. When SB 1235 goes into effect in January, 2017 background checks will be required every time someone buys ammunition. And the state will require a fee to be paid by the gun owner as he (she) makes that purchase. Can anyone really blame the NRA when they get involved in politics? They are simply trying to protect the rights of gun owners under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Granted, the United States Supreme Court does give the right to the states to regulate firearms. However, it went too far in the District of Columbia case, and was reversed in 2010 in the City of Chicago that had restricted all guns in the city.

Final Comments

While people often give lip service to their support for the U.S. Constitution in general, there is nonetheless no such unequivocal support when it comes to specifics. Everyone wants their own interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to apply to any issue. People want the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to follow their own judgmental notions, beliefs and values. And when it doesn’t people want to cry foul.

I am old enough to remember how contentious the battle was for civil rights across the nation during the 1950s and 60s. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was one of the most important statutory pieces of legislation since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan 1, 1863 (and later outlawed slavery by Congress on Jan 31, 1865).

Now in the 21st Century we have another civil rights issue affecting millions of Americans. That issue is about the civil rights issue over gun control. Such disagreement on specifics tends to create lack of unanimity on gun control. On the legal side, it is clear that a balancing act is occurring between the rights of the individual to bear arms and the rights of the states to regulate firearms.

 

An earlier blog of mine outlined the various approaches to legal analysis that Supreme Court justices go through in reaching a decision. I refer you back to that blog titled, “Principled Constitutionalism and Gay Marriage,” July 2015.

Whether one looks at the 1400 year history of the Muslim faith or growing up in a ghetto, barrio, or impoverished white communities, one thing they all have in common. It is the systemic problems of poverty; lack of a good education and resources, and often being early in life the victims of discrimination. Where discrimination was concerned, it was the repression of followers of Islam by their own Sharia Law, and in the United States it was the repression of citizens by police violence and racial discrimination, and a larger society that remained in a perpetual state of denial. Love your neighbor is a great concept (my value judgment), but the reality is few people want to expend the effort to really help others.

The lone mass shooter is a different problem all together. Mental health services may help lots of people but predicting who is going to commit mass murder is near-impossible to predict. And, in this country one doesn’t lock up people just because they score high on some form suggesting an anti-social personality.

One cannot charge or arrest someone for what they might do; they can only be charged or arrested for what they actually do. This results in one of the most difficult of societal problems.  And, once again, it is about making value judgments on a major level. That is, is it more important to protect the liberty of all our citizens, or is it more important to lock up sizeable numbers of citizens based on what they might do?  This type of decision defies an easy solution. Why? Two major reasons: (1) It violates the very U.S. Constitution we all value as the guiding light for a free country, and (2) there is no test that can be devised that won’t result in both false-positives and false-negatives. Society would lock up some people who have no real interest in committing a serious crime and such a test will miss people who really would commit a crime. This applies not only to paper and pencil tests, but also to psychologist or psychiatric opinion about clients or patients. No test or opinion is ever foolproof.        

     At a macro-level efforts to effectively deal with systemic problems like poverty, poor education, lack of resources, and lack of opportunity in the inner cities, and police racism and violence, have all gone by the wayside. Why? Because systemic causes of violence described above would take a real commitment of resources to solve or reverse them. People may argue this point but my suspicion as a social scientist is that with population growth everywhere, no government on earth has anywhere near the resources to deal effectively with such social problems, much less eliminate them.

We all want to solve social and economic problems, so it’s very hard to accept a “bitter pill” that the most caring country in the world—the United States—is unable to solve all systemic causes of violence. The bottom line: some social problems may be simply beyond our reach. It’s tough to accept, but it may be reality. If my assumption is wrong, then governments still have a moral and ethical responsibility to save lives and to tackle these problems with some insight.

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