Saturday, January 12, 2013

Of Lead And Brass And Other Precious Metals

A few of my Gentle Readers have written to ask why I reposted the article below, which is more than four years old and on the surface seems relevant mainly to the presidential election of 2008. To those and others similarly uncertain about my intent, I submit the following from yesterday's news:

Irvin Nathan, the attorney general for the District of Columbia, announced Friday that he will not press charges against NBC News’ David Gregory nor any employee of the broadcast network for violating the city’s gun laws. Violation of the city's firearms laws carry a maximum $1,000 fine and one year in jail.

Mr. Nathan wrote to an attorney representing Mr. Gregory and NBC News, Lee Levine of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP, that, “OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust.”

In the three-page letter, Mr. Nathan also wrote that “no specific intent is required for this violation, and ignorance of the law or even confusion about it is no defense. We therefore did not rely in making our judgment on the feeble and unsatisfactory efforts that NBC made to determine whether or not it was lawful to possess, display and broadcast this large capacity magazine as a means of fostering the public policy debate.”

[From The Washington Times]

Let that sink in for a moment while my blood-pressure medicine does its work.

Not long ago, I wrote:

The first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution reads:

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In part, that clause restates the Fifth Amendment's due process guarantee, but it goes beyond that to reinforce a key Constitutional idea: The law must apply uniformly to all persons. A law that applies only to particular persons, or to some category thereof, is Constitutionally invalid under a simple reading of this clause.

We don't take that notion seriously anymore. At least, not if we go by recent history.

  • How is a private citizen to enjoy the "equal protection of the law" when the law grants bailout funds, or special loan guarantees, to specific corporations?
  • How is a private citizen to enjoy the "equal protection of the law" when the law imposes special taxes, or preferential tax treatment, upon particular industries?
  • And how is a private citizen to enjoy the "equal protection of the law" when an administrator in the executive branch awards waivers -- exemptions from obedience of the law -- to particular organizations?

We tend not to think about those practices, though they've become prevalent in the past half-century. Perhaps if an executive-branch administrator were to award some citizen an exemption from the law that forbids murder, or perhaps kidnapping (since that's a federal offense), our ears would prick up more readily.

In his novel Caliphate, Tom Kratman observes that the presidential pardon power could easily be wielded as a power to execute without trial, simply by issuing pardons to anyone who might draw a bead on some presidentially disliked figure. As macabre as the suggestion seems, Colonel Kratman is exactly correct. The president would have to wave aside the supposedly established procedure for issuing pardons, and the traditional conditions on which pardons are granted, but that's been done before: by Gerald Ford, in preemptively pardoning Richard Nixon for unspecified offenses, and by Bill Clinton, at the end of his term of office, as payoffs to various of his supporters, friends, and mistresses.

We've sidled up to that state of affairs with the David Gregory matter:

  • Gregory, a "journalist," asked for permission to break D.C.'s firearms laws;
  • That permission was denied, but Gregory proceeded anyway;
  • There was an outcry from many persons -- not "journalists," mind you -- about the violation, in which it was noted that non-"journalists" would surely have been prosecuted for Gregory's actions;
  • D.C.'s attorney-general went through the motions of an investigation, but (predictably) declined to prosecute, as indicated above.

We're expected to swallow this as if it had no other implications. Meanwhile, there's a federal initiative taking shape to outlaw high-capacity magazines nationwide.

Let that sink in for a moment while my second cup of coffee kicks in.

Among my assets is an unusually retentive memory. I have nearly complete memory, in considerable detail, of my past fifty years, including nearly every newsworthy event that came to my attention over that span. It's the main reason I can bore you with quotes and citations from here, there, and everywhere. (It's not utterly perfect, which is the main reason I have a private library of nearly 13,000 books, the precise element of which I need at any given moment I can never find.) It's a great blessing for someone with too many opinions and a need to write about them.

So I can remember affairs such as the "long hot summer" of 1965, when major cities used the threat of massive rioting by their Negro populations as a rationale to institute harsh gun-control regimes. I can remember the Johnson Administration's flirtation with new gun-control initiatives after Martin Luther King was assassinated. I can remember the renewed cries for gun control after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and John Lennon. I can remember John Hinckley's attempt on the life of Ronald Reagan, with the Brady Campaign as its most enduring legacy. I can remember the terror evoked by the "Son of Sam" and "Zodiac" episodes. I can remember Colin Ferguson's rampage on the LIRR, with Carolyn McCarthy's elevation to Congress on the "strength" of her husband's death.

In every case, the vultures have circled gleefully above the corpses, shrieking new demands for the disarming of law-abiding citizens. In every case, the measures they demanded had approximately nothing to do with the atrocity to which they linked them. And in every case, the propaganda arm of the political Left -- the entertainment and "news" media -- was firmly on the vultures' side.

Just as David Gregory is, today. David Gregory, who knowingly and blatantly violated the laws of the District of Columbia, but will face no penalty for it. David Gregory, who's too useful a flackster for the Left to be sacrificed to the notion of "the equal protection of the laws."

Got any emotional room left for the significance of those developments, or are you already "outraged out?"

It's lately been my pattern to respond to the question:

"But why do you need an assault rifle?"

...with the simple rejoinder:

"To protect myself against you and folks who think like you."

Though the full implications of my answer are often lost in the elicited outrage -- I've really come to enjoy outraging statists of all varieties -- they remain the most important element thereof.

Each of us has a God-given right to his life, his liberty, and his honestly acquired property -- and a right shorn of the means of defense is no right at all.

Some muddle-headed, vaguely anti-gun types can come to understand this, and, given time, will come around. But many anti-gunners already do -- and it's why they oppose the right to keep and bear arms. They want private citizens to be defenseless...dependent upon the "good will" of the State. Simplifies the silencing of adverse opinion and the redistribution of wealth, don't y'know.

You had better understand this, Gentle Reader. Your right to the acquisition of weaponry has nothing to do with hunting. At least, I fear deer and such a lot less than I do the minions of the Omnipotent State. I hope you feel the same.

Of course, the Left knows that we in the Right who've thought the matter through are fully aware of all the above. They know they can't effectively argue for total citizen disarmament at a stroke. So they resort to "salami tactics." They try to pare away thin slices of our rights, on supposedly "reasonable" or "prudential" grounds. They pose spurious, irrelevant objections phrased as rhetorical questions:

"But what about nuclear weapons? There have to be some limits, don't there?"

In the annals of political discourse, there is no greater viciousness than the use of such rhetoric to advance a wholly unrelated agenda. Yet many pro-freedom types are unequipped to cope with that thrust. In recognition of that reality, I reprint the following, which first appeared at Eternity Road on March 24, 2005:

The concept of ownership -- that status that confers rights over the thing owned -- has a small number of prerequisites:
  1. The thing owned must have been acquired either by:
    • homesteading: That is, it was previously owned by no one, and the owner gathered it in by his own action or the action of a contracted agent;
    • trade: That is, it was previously legitimately owned by another, who parted with it voluntarily in exchange for some other consideration, or none.
  2. The thing owned must be held apart from the common: That is, the owner must sustain his claim of ownership by assertion, use, and the maintenance of the thing in an "improved" state.
  3. The thing owned must be within one's adequate control: That is, one must be able to make reasonable guarantees that neither its possession nor its use will infringe upon the rights of any innocent party.

Failure of any of the above conditions nullifies a property claim. For example, having acquired a plot of land, Smith might permit it to deteriorate to the point that it can no longer be distinguished from an unowned field. That would nullify Smith's claims through the agency of neglect. Alternatively, he might pollute it in such a fashion as to pollute his neighbors' lands as well. That would nullify his claims through the agency of inadequate control. Either of these would warrant a fresh homesteading of the field, or seizing the field from him on the grounds of a clear and present danger.

If the language sounds familiar, that's because it's well embedded in Anglo-American legal practice for about three centuries now.

Adequate control is also the logic behind assessing a claim of damage against an owner for what his property did without his knowledge. For example, if Smith were to buy gasoline -- an ordinary sort of transaction -- and store it in his garage, he would become liable for any damage that gasoline might inflict on others. If he were to park his car on a hill, and the car's parking brake were to fail and send it careening into a crowd, he would be liable for the deaths, injuries, and property damage that ensued. And if he were to acquire radioactives, which then poisoned his neighbors or made their homes uninhabitable, he would be liable for those crimes as well.

By acquiring an item, the owner assumes responsibility for whatever that item might inflict upon unconsenting others. Alfred Bester's classic short story "Fondly Fahrenheit" is a neat dramatization of this principle.

Since a nuclear weapon imposes massive hazards upon everyone in the area in which it is stored, and since by its nature it cannot be used in a fashion guaranteed to affect only some targeted aggressor, a private party that acquired one would fail the test of adequate control. Even governments, which are theoretically capable of securing such devices and guaranteeing that they won't be used against their own citizens, have to meet very stringent tests to be allowed to possess them. The key issue is the "mass destruction" characteristic. It would justify the decision of one's neighbors to seize the offending item and destroy it, to put an end to the hazards it imposes on unconsenting others.

There are persons who argue that the same logic can be used to justify banning private ownership of machine guns and conventional explosives. Admittedly, this is a gray zone, though military experience suggests that light automatic weapons and grenade-scale explosives can be used in a targeted fashion. However, the principle is the important matter here: to maintain ownership of a thing, one must be able to distinguish it from the common, and must guarantee adequate control over it and all its effects upon others. Such guarantees simply cannot be made about a nuclear weapon, a bioweapon, a tank of nerve gas, or any other weapon of mass destruction.

In deciding the gray-zone issues such as full-auto weapons and small quantities of explosives, legislatures and courts must respect the fundamental principles outlined here. Otherwise there can be no coherent, defensible concept of private property -- and isn't the defense of private property, including one's life, what the ownership of weapons is all about?

If you intend to speak for the right to keep and bear arms, be sure you grasp and can express the principles enunciated above.

All the above having been said, it has begun to seem as if the time for argument is past. It has begun to seem as if the Omnipotent State and its cheerleaders are going to move against our right to keep and bear arms regardless of any and all arguments or counter-pressure. It has begun to seem as if we will soon face the following scenario:

Tomorrow, without warning, a deputy sheriff -- an armed "officer of the law" -- will appear at your door with a clipboard and demand that you surrender your guns to him. He knows accurately how many guns you have, and what types they are. It shouldn't be hard to imagine this, since de facto registration of firearms has been in place for some years now. Why else would you be required to show proof of identity when buying a rifle? (Don't bother to argue that the government "has to" destroy all such lists. I wasn't born yesterday, and if you're reading this column, neither were you.) How will you react?

If you're unwilling to defy that deputy sheriff, you will be disarmed. If he really, truly knows what guns you have, you can't merely say, "Sorry, none today," and expect him to depart in peace. If you plan to resist, it must be with force.

That's right. You'd have to answer your door armed and ready at all times. You'd have to "draw on" an armed "officer of the law," who's likely to have his hand on the butt of his sidearm as he rings your doorbell.

Not good odds, are they?

If you want to head off that scenario, which seems less than likely at the moment but is becoming more likely with every atrocity the Left manages to capitalize on, you'll have to go on offense. You'll have to declare your willingness to resist the politicians who'd send that deputy sheriff to your doorstep -- with force.

James Yeager has the right of it. The political elite must be put on notice that millions of Americans are with him -- and that there's more than enough rope, and more than enough lampposts, to accommodate all of them.

No, you won't have to march on Washington. It's perfectly acceptable to drive, fly, or take Amtrak.

If all this seems a trifle overwrought, perhaps your memory isn't as good as mine.
I can draw the graph.
I remember the Left's "reactions" to the atrocities of the fifty years behind us.
I can see the crescendo in the efforts of the anti-gunners.
I can see the swelling eagerness of the political elite to move against us.

Freedom stands multiply endangered. Not by foreign enemies, this time, but by "our" elected officials and the "journalists" and celebrities who promote their agenda. If it doesn't redden your vision that nearly all such are protected by armed guards at all times -- hey, remember Ted Kennedy and the Uzi his bodyguard carried? -- check your pulse; you may have died and not noticed.

Edmund Burke had some choice words for situations like this.
Inventory your "precious metals." Make ready your means of "spending" them.
The hour for their "investment" is almost upon us.

May God forever guard and guide these United States of America.


Dan said...

When....not if...but when the knock on the front door comes it won't be a single deputy it will be full raid team in full armor and combat gear....and the knock won't be knuckles on wood it will be a battering ram knocking the door down. The absolute best way to be ready for that kind of visit is to not be elswewhere. Then you can repay them in kind at a date and time of your choosing. NEVER fight on the enemy's terms....always make him fight where and when YOU want the fight to happen.

SiGraybeard said...

There was a topic several people had posted on last week, about whether you will resist when they come to your door. I think a first question is whether or not you have a moral obligation to resist; a moral obligation to shoot back or first.

I think the answer to that is "yes".

Tom Kratman said...

The other problem with nukes, bus, and gas, Fran, is that they represent too great a violation of the one man-one vote principle. Also, useful for terror they may be, but as a means of legitimately coercing or detering the government...not so much.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Well, Tom, though that might be true in the general case, I'd really love to be able to tell an IRS auditor that I own a refurbished Minuteman missile with a nuclear warhead and the full suite of targeting options, and that it's still under warranty.

Anonymous said...

The reason I need ar15 is exactly the same as totalitarians' reason for disarming me - trust.
They do not trust me with my rifle and I do not trust them without my rifle.

Xealot said...

Even if we were to say that one does not need an AR-15 (an admission I do NOT make)... what of it?

A car enthusiast hardly needs a 500hp, supercharged sports car to get to work. And speed kills, right? So by the same logic we should be restricting the power of car engines, ensuring that some cars are banned, and shrinking gas tanks.

It's just stupid to think that way, but the Leftist leaders want us disarmed any way possible. The Leftist sheep are frightened of the scary guns, and want them to go away.

As for what the Second Amendment covers... well, it is very true the framers did not conceive of things like nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers. And I'm sure they would agree that these didn't need to be in individual hands. Yet, that's not the way the law is written. So to clarify this for today's generation, and future generations... we should simply pass an amendment stating that while individuals have a right to be armed, that there are certain limitations to this right when speaking of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological, etc...). We would have to be quite specific about the sort of weapons to be limited, of course. We might further specify that certain weapons may be owned by local government (state, county, city, etc..), and in times of war or unrest, turned over to the militia. These might include such things as tanks, fully-automatic weapons, and the like.

Honestly, I firmly believe that local governments can, and should, have their own militias for everything from policing actions to firefighting and disaster relief. I don't know why we are using the Police State model. Militia, with various terms of volunteer service, used to function as law enforcement and there is no reason they cannot do so today.