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Posts Tagged ‘United States Constitution’

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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The Growing Conflict in America

Muslim Americans Living in a Secular Democracy and a Predominately Christian Country

 [A five-part series]

Part II

In Part II, I will answer the questions of what it means to be an American, and how well do Muslim Americans identify with being an American? The majority of Muslim Americans are moderates—as the Pew research data will show. However, it is also true from their survey data that a small minority of particularly younger Muslims and native-born African Muslims may put the country at risk by adopting an extremist jihadist viewpoint.

These latter groups may need to be under local, state and national surveillance in order to prevent another Paris or San Bernardino violent attack. Under normal circumstances, such surveillance might be characterized as racial, ethnic, or religious profiling.

However, we are no longer living under normal circumstances. The threats that have been perpetrated on the home front are too many. The nation cannot and will not ignore these threats. There will always be a need to balance civil or legal rights on the one hand, with the need to protect our citizens from harm on the other.

Now we move on to answering the first question above. A good starting point in answering the first question is to discuss what it means to be an American. One standard that’s been around for 109 years comes from our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt.

What it means to be an American

In 1907, one of our greatest presidents laid out what it means for immigrants of any origin to come to America and be an American. Nothing less than that will suffice. The standard set by Teddy Roosevelt was indeed high, as it should be.

Whether most groups of immigrants coming to America today are meeting this standard has yet to be determined. So what is this high standard set by President Theodore Roosevelt? In my estimation it is all about value judgments and that translates to where one’s sincere loyalty lies.

The Standard for Being an American

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American … There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag … We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”                                                                                    Theodore Roosevelt, 1907

In one of the previous Republican debates Senator Rick Santorum made the statement that “not all Muslims are jihadist, but all jihadists are Muslim.” Because of the open-ended suspicion generated by that statement, fear of Muslims overseas and Muslims here at home is causing increased tension between the Muslim world and those of non-Muslim populations worldwide. At the same time on the Home front, Islamophobia is running rampant here in the United States. This is very similar to the reaction against Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor. That, of course, led to the round-up and incarceration of Japanese American citizens in internment camps based on nothing more than race. Individuality, loyalty, or proven disloyal conduct were never part of the equation to incarcerate American citizens who were presumably as protected by the U.S. Constitution as any other citizen. History has showed that such hypocrisy subsequently brought shame and dishonor to the country that presumably ignored what Theodore had said about immigrants coming to this country. But these were not immigrants—they were American citizens.

Muslims in America

What is needed is a fresh factual look at the Muslim community, particularly a comprehensive review of their demographic characteristics, religious beliefs and practices, education and income levels, identity, assimilation and community, political and social values, attitudes toward foreign policy, terrorism and concerns about extremism.

First up is a summary from Pew Research’s 2007 study. Here are their findings: In a 2007 survey titled Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream, the Pew Research Center found Muslim Americans to be “largely integrated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.”

However, forty-seven percent of respondents said they considered themselves Muslims first and Americans second. However, this was compared to 81% of British Muslims and 69% of German Muslims, when asked the equivalent question. A similar disparity exists in income; the percentage of American Muslims living in poverty is 2% higher than the general population, compared to an 18% disparity for French Muslims and 29% difference for Spanish Muslims.

Interestingly, Pew Research in 2007 found that 42% of Christians see themselves as Christians first, and as Americans second. An additional 7% of Christians see themselves as both equally.

Politically, American Muslims were both pro-larger government and socially conservative. For example, 70% of respondents preferred a bigger government providing more services, while 61% stated that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Despite their social conservatism, 71% of American Muslims expressed a preference for the Democratic Party. The Pew Research survey also showed that nearly three quarters of respondents believed that American society rewards them for hard work regardless of their religious background.

The same poll also reported that 40% of U.S. Muslims believe that Arab Muslims carried out the 9/11 attacks. Another 28% didn’t believe it, and 32% said they had no opinion. Among 28% who doubted that Arab Muslims were behind the conspiracy, one-fourth of that claim the U.S. government or President George W. Bush was responsible. Only 26% of American Muslims believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to root out international terrorism. Only 5% of those surveyed had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Only 35% of American Muslims stated that the decision for military action in Afghanistan was the right one and just 12% supported the use of military force in Iraq.

In 2011, a Gallop poll found that 93% of Muslim Americans considered themselves loyal to the United States.

The 2011 Pew Research Survey

Like Christians and non-Christians alike, religious and secular populations are very diverse. Between groups and within groups people are quite different. The Pew research below demonstrates such diversity among American Muslims. The following (It was written by Michael Lipka) is a precise and detailed summary of the Pew Research from 2011. Below are its major findings:

Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the World

By Michael Lipka

“Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world. The growth and regional migration of Muslims combined with the ongoing impact of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups that commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, have brought Muslims and the Islamic faith to the forefront of the political debate in many countries.

Yet many facts about Muslims are not well known in some of these places, and most Americans – who live in a country with a relatively small Muslim population – say they know little or nothing about Islam.

Here are answers to some key questions about Muslims, compiled from several Pew Research Center reports published in recent years:

How many Muslims are there? Where do they live?

There were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of 2010 – roughly 23% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate. But while Islam is currently the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity), it is the fastest-growing major religion. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century.

Although many countries in the Middle East-North Africa region where the religion originated in the seventh century are heavily Muslim, the region is home to only about 20% of the world’s Muslims. A majority of the Muslims globally (62%) live in the Asia-Pacific region, including large populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population. With more than 300 million Muslims, Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population, but Pew Research Center projects that India will have that distinction by the year 2050.

The Muslim population in Europe also is growing; it is projected that 10% of all Europeans will be Muslims by 2050.

How many Muslims are there in the United States?

According to estimates, Muslims make up just less than 1% of the U.S. adult population. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study (conducted in English and Spanish) found that 0.9% of U.S. adults identifies as Muslims. A 2011 survey of Muslim Americans, which was conducted in English as well as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, estimated that there were 1.8 million Muslim adults (and 2.75 million Muslims of all ages) in the country. That survey also found that a majority of U.S. Muslims (63%) are immigrants.

Pew research estimates that Muslims will make up 2.1% of the U.S. population by the year 2050, surpassing people who identify as Jewish, on the basis of religion as the second-largest faith group in the country (not including people who say they have no religion).

A recent Pew Research Center report estimated that the Muslim share of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) increased from about 5% in 1992 to roughly 10% in 2012, representing about 100,000 immigrants in that year.

Why is the global Muslim population growing?

There are two major factors behind the rapid projected growth of Islam, and both involve simple demographics. For one, Muslims have more children than members of other religious groups. Around the world, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, compared with 2.3 for all other groups combined.

Muslims are also the youngest (median age of 23 years old in 2010) of all major religious groups, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims. As a result, a larger share of Muslims already is, or will soon be, at the point in their lives when they begin having children. This, combined with high fertility rates, will fuel Muslim population growth.

While it does not change the global population, migration is helping to increase the Muslim population in some regions, including North America and Europe.

What do Muslims around the world believe?

Like any religious group, the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims vary depending on many factors, including where in the world they live. But Muslims around the world are almost universally united by a belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad, and the practice of certain religious rituals such as fasting during Ramadan, is widespread.

In other areas, however, there is less unity. For instance, a Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 39 countries asked Muslims whether they want sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scripture, to be the official law of the land in their country. Responses on this question vary widely.

Nearly all Muslims in Afghanistan (99%) and most in Iraq (91%) and Pakistan (84%) support Sharia law as official law. But in some other countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – including Turkey (12%), Kazakhstan (10%) and Azerbaijan (8%) – relatively few favor the implementation of Sharia law.

How do Muslims feel about groups like ISIS?

Recent surveys show that most people in several countries with significant Muslim populations have an unfavorable view of ISIS, including virtually all respondents in Lebanon and 94% in Jordan. Relatively small shares say they see ISIS favorably. In some countries, considerable portions of the population do not offer an opinion about ISIS, including a majority (62%) of Pakistanis.

Favorable views of ISIS are somewhat higher in Nigeria (14%) than most other nations. Among Nigerian Muslims, 20% say they see ISIS favorably (compared with 7% of Nigerian Christians). The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, which has been conducting a terrorist campaign in the country for years, has sworn allegiance to ISIS.

More generally, Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified, including 92% in Indonesia and 91% in Iraq.

In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say that such tactics are rarely or never justified. An additional 7% says suicide bombings are sometimes justified and 1% says they are often justified in these circumstances.

In a few countries, a quarter or more of Muslims say that these acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 40% in the Palestinian territories, 39% in Afghanistan, 29% in Egypt and 26% in Bangladesh.

In many cases, people in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism, and have become increasingly concerned in recent years. About two-thirds of people in Nigeria (68%) and Lebanon (67%) said earlier this year they are very concerned about Islamic extremism in their country, both up significantly since 2013.

What do American Muslims believe?

Our 2011 survey of Muslim Americans found that roughly half of U.S. Muslims (48%) say their own religious leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.

Living in a religiously pluralistic society, Muslim Americans are more likely than Muslims in many other nations to have many non-Muslim friends. Only about half (48%) of U.S. Muslims say all or most of their close friends are also Muslims, compared with a global median of 95% in the 39 countries we surveyed.

Roughly seven-in-ten U.S. Muslims (69%) say religion is very important in their lives. Virtually all (96%) say they believe in God, nearly two-thirds (65%) report praying at least daily and nearly half (47%) say they attend religious services at least weekly. By all of these traditional measures, Muslims in the U.S. are roughly as religious as U.S. Christians, although they are less religious than Muslims in many other nations.

When it comes to political and social views, Muslims are far more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (70%) than the Republican Party (11%) and to say they prefer a bigger government providing more services (68%) over a smaller government providing fewer services (21%).

As of 2011, U.S. Muslims were somewhat split between those who said homosexuality should be accepted by society (39%) and those who said it should be discouraged (45%), although the group had grown considerably more accepting of homosexuality since a similar survey was conducted in 2007.

What is the difference between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims?

Sunnis and Shias are two subgroups of Islam, just as Catholics and Protestants are two subgroups within Christianity. The Sunni-Shia divide is nearly 1,400 years old, dating back to a dispute over the succession of leadership in the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. While the two groups agree on some core tenets of Islam, there are differences in belief or practices, and in some cases Sunnis do not consider Shias to be Muslims.

With the exception of a few countries, including Iran (which is majority Shia) as well as Iraq and Lebanon (which are split), most nations with a large number of Muslims have more Sunnis than Shias. In the U.S., 65% identify as Sunnis and 11% as Shias (with the rest identifying with neither group, including some who say they are “just a Muslim”).

How do Americans and Europeans perceive Muslims?

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 asked Americans to rate members of eight religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating. Overall, Americans rated Muslims rather coolly – an average of 40, which was comparable to the average rating they gave atheists (41). Americans view the six other religious groups mentioned in the survey (Jews, Catholics, evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons) more warmly.

Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party gave Muslims an average rating of 33, considerably cooler than Democrats’ rating toward Muslims (47).

Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say they are very concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world (83% vs. 53%) and in the U.S. (65% vs. 38%), according to a December 2015 survey. That survey also found that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers (68% vs. 30% of Democrats) and that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny than people of other religions (49% vs. 20%). Overall, most Americans (61%) say Muslims should not be subject to additional scrutiny solely because of their religion, while U.S. adults are closely divided on the question of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence. (Note: This paragraph was updated Dec. 17 to reflect a new survey.)

In spring 2015, we asked residents of some European countries a different question– whether they view Muslims favorably or unfavorably. Perceptions at that time varied across European nations, from a largely favorable view in France (76%) and the United Kingdom (72%) to a less favorable view in Italy (31%) and Poland (30%).

How do Muslims and Westerners perceive each other?

In a 2011 survey, majorities of respondents in a few Western European countries, including 62% in France and 61% in Germany, said that relations between Muslims and Westerners were bad, while about half of Americans (48%) agreed. Similarly, most Muslims in several Muslim-majority nations – including Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan – agreed that relations were bad, although fewer Muslims in Pakistan (45%) and Indonesia (41%) had this view.

The same survey also asked about characteristics the two groups may associate with one another. Across the seven Muslim-majority countries and territories surveyed, a median of 68% of Muslims said they view Westerners as selfish. Considerable shares also called Westerners other negative adjectives, including violent (median of 66%), greedy (64%) and immoral (61%), while fewer attributed positive characteristics like “respectful of women” (44%), honest (33%) and tolerant (31%) to Westerners.

Westerners’ views of Muslims were more mixed. A median of 50% across four Western European countries, the U.S. and Russia called Muslims violent and a median of 58% called them “fanatical,” but fewer used negative words like greedy, immoral or selfish. A median of just 22% of Westerners said Muslims are respectful of women, but far more said Muslims are honest (median of 51%) and generous (41%).

Do American Muslims meet the Standard for American Citizenship?

This actually is a complicated question. If one uses the standard set in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, then it’s very clear American Muslims do not meet the American standard for citizenship. Forty-seven percent of Muslims surveyed see themselves as a Muslim first before identifying themselves as an American. However, the Pew Research Center found that in 2011 that 93% of Muslims considered themselves loyal to the United States. It appears from the Pew data that the lion’s shares of American Muslims (approximately 93% if we extrapolate from a sample to the entire population of Muslims) is not a threat to the country, and are supportive of the United States.

The data also showed that Muslim Americans by and large are no friend of either al-Qaeda or ISIS. People who target Muslims in general are engaging in Islamophobia of the worst kind, actual discrimination. The picture that emerges from the Pew data is that, by and large, Muslim Americans are a diverse group within the religion of Islam and identify with being an American reasonably well considering acts of mistreatment by the general public. The most poignant findings of the 2011 Pew research data are as follows.

Muslim Americans appear to be highly assimilated into American society and they are largely content with their lives. More than six-in-ten do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, and a similar number say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt an American way of life rather than remain distinctive from the larger society.

By overwhelming margins, Muslim Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in their own lives and rate their local communities as good places to live. And Muslim Americans are far more likely than the general public to express satisfaction with national conditions.

Assimilation and Identity

     A majority of Muslim Americans (56%) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt American customs and ways of life. Far fewer (20%) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. want to be distinct from the larger American society, with a similar number (16%) volunteering that Muslim immigrants want to do both. Native-born and foreign-born Muslims give similar answers to this question.

The U.S. public as a whole is less convinced that immigrant Muslims seek to assimilate. An April 2011 Pew research survey finds that just a third of American adults (33%) think that most Muslim immigrants want to adopt American ways, while about half (51%) think that Muslim immigrants mostly want to remain distinct from the larger culture.

National Identity

     When asked whether they think of themselves first as an American or first as a Muslim, about half of Muslims (49%) say they think of themselves first as a Muslim, compared with 26% who think of themselves first as American. Nearly one-in-five (18%) volunteer that they think of themselves as both Muslim and American.

A May survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that 46% of Christians in the United States think of themselves first as a Christian, while the same percentage says they consider them first as an American.

Among both Muslims and Christians, people who say religion is very important in their lives are far more likely to view themselves primarily as a member of their religion.

     Among Muslims who say that religion is very important in their lives, 59% say they think of themselves first as Muslims. Among those for whom religion is less important, only 28% identify first as Muslim. Similarly, among Christians who place great personal importance on religion, 62% say they are Christians first, compared with 19% among those who view religion as less important.

Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys conducted this year found substantial differences in views of national identity across Muslim communities. Nearly all Pakistanis (94%) consider themselves first as Muslims rather than as Pakistanis. By contrast, just 28% of Muslims in Lebanon say they consider themselves Muslim first – far fewer than the number of U.S. Muslims expressing this view (49%).

Many Muslims report having friendship networks that extends beyond the Muslim community. About half of U.S. Muslims say that all (7%) or most (41%) of their close friends are Muslim; about as many say that some (36%), hardly any (14%) or none (1%) of their close friends are Muslim.

More women than men have a close circle of friends consisting mostly or entirely of other Muslims. And Muslim Americans who are highly committed to their religion are much more likely than those with medium or low commitment to say that all or most of their close friends are Muslims.

More than six-in-ten American Muslims (63%) see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, twice the number who do see such a conflict (31%).

A 2006 Pew Research survey found a nearly identical pattern among American Christians who were asked about a possible conflict between modernity and their own faith. Nearly two-thirds of Christians (64%) said there is no conflict between being a devout Christian and living in a modern society, compared with 31% who did perceive a conflict.

Muslims of all ages express similar views on this question. Similarly, there are only small differences between native-born Muslims and immigrants, as well as between those who are personally religiously observant and those who are less religious.

There are, however, sizable differences between men and women in views on this question. More than seven-in-ten men (71%) say there is no conflict between Islam and modernity, but fewer women (54%) agree. The view that there is no conflict between Islam and modernity is also much more common among college graduates than among those with less education.

 

Final Comments

The Pew Research organization has provided a valuable service to everyone in terms of good social research. There was lots of interesting data on Muslims living abroad and those living here in the United States.

Nevertheless, I detected many unanswered questions from the data they presented from their 2011 study that should be looked into. Such questions relate to degree of assimilation, legal questions regarding religious belief from religious practice, and finally, prejudice and discrimination among Muslim Americans.

Questions about Assimilation

The first question is what percentage of Muslim Americans wants Sharia Law in the United States rather than following our legal system of a U.S. Constitution as well as state constitutions and all other federal, state and local laws and regulations?

Related to this is the question of whether Muslim Americans prefer sending their children to Muslim schools instead of integrating them into the general educational system in the United States? While those who follow Catholicism have church schools in the U.S., by and large, the children from these schools are nonetheless highly integrated into a secular society. To what extent is this true for the Muslim American child population?

Another unanswered question not asked in the Pew data relates to inter-faith marriages and marriage itself. What proportion of Muslim Americans marries non-Muslims? Are such marriages forbidden by Islamic law, culture, or the scriptures of Islam as well? It has been reported that anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 of the American Muslim population (2008 estimate) engage in polygamy. Women under Islamic law are forbidden to have multiple husbands, but men are permitted to have two, three or four wives.

Questions about Religious Belief versus Religious Practice    

Another area for questions has to do with general differences between religious belief and religious practice. In the future will a legal brief dealing with Sharia Law be brought before United States Supreme Court as a violation of separation of church from state? Since Sharia Law is an integral part of Islam’s scriptures, will there be a separation of religious belief from its practice?

For example, the Mormon practice of having more than one spouse did separate belief from practice. Today, neither in Utah nor elsewhere in the United States is bigamy or polygamy allowed under the law. Was religious practice separated from religious belief in this case? Another example is where religious cults engage in human sacrifice. There is no doubt that belief is separated from practice in that case. Anyone can believe whatever they want; however, once belief crosses the line into actual behavior, American Law has something to say about that. Human sacrifice is viewed as murder, and is prohibited under all U.S. law.

The acceptability of foreign law (religious or otherwise) in the United States has yet to be decided by the United States Supreme Court. To my knowledge the U.S. Congress has yet to act against Sharia Law. Less clear is why?  Sixteen states have already passed state laws to forbid Sharia Law or foreign law. The legal issue, whether Muslims can be allowed to impose Sharia Law within the United States, a law that violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution that are concerned with the separation of church and State, is one the high court needs to address.

Questions about Prejudice and Discrimination

Islamophobia is real and has caused many Muslim Americans to complain about it. But what isn’t known are the racial, ethnic and religious prejudices held by Muslim Americans.

No group in society is immune from this aspect of life. Sociologists back in the 1950s found that there was as much prejudice and discrimination caused by minorities as there was among majorities in U.S. society. Its character was sometimes different, such as minorities’ prejudice and discrimination against other members of minorities. As then as it is now—nobody wants to confront this type of social phenomena.

Given that Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East have never been fond of the citizens of Israel, would such attitudes be prevalent among Muslim Americans living in the United States? Are there attitudes among the Muslim population that promote anti-Semitism and discriminatory behavior against people of the Jewish faith, or directed against Jews living here or abroad?

What’s needed is a comprehensive sociological study of racial, ethnic and religious attitudes (prejudices and discrimination) by Muslim Americans.

As one can see, many questions remain unanswered.

In Part III, I will discuss Sharia Law in more detail, and discuss if there is a plot underway to replace American Law with Sharia Law.

The most troubling aspect of all is that Sharia Law, as a religious practice, is a 7th Century set of religious rules that are barbaric, discriminatory, homophobic, misogynist, and intolerant of all non-believers, as well as those from other religions.

Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan had the dream of world domination. World domination by any group in the past failed, and will fail in the future. Any group that intends, surreptitiously or otherwise, to dominate the United States and convert it to a non-democratic country will ultimately experience the wrath of the American people. Any real threats from abroad will also experience the wrath of the most awesome military power on the face of the earth. We will be all over such threats “like a fly on you know what.”

Our values here in the United States reject Sharia Law as it is a serious threat to all civil and human rights. It is an extremist set of religious laws that are currently practiced in many (but not all) Muslim countries around the world. Stay tuned for Part III.

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