Trees? Meet Forest.

Tim Lambert, professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and author of the blog Deltoid and I have been having a rather drawn-out exchange over self-defense in England. That exchange began over this news story in which it was reported that a man had been attacked by three others, one having a handgun. The man resisted, using a short-sword, and killed one of his attackers. The man was sentenced to eight years in prison. That was the extent of the report.

That story drew a lot of attention from many of us in the blogosphere, and Tim compiled several of the responses in a post where he called us “Gullible Gunners” and chided us for leaping to the conclusion (or perpetuating the belief) that “self-defense in the UK is illegal.” In the comments to that original post I tried to make my point:

(T)here have been numerous cases of the British courts charging people for defending themselves. The law there seems to be one based on “proportional response” – e.g., stabbing someone who isn’t armed with a weapon is “excessive force.” So is bashing them over the head with a brick. There are many of these cases, and they’ve lead us to the conclusion that private citizens in Britain had best not resist attack, or face prosecution for usurping the authority of the State in its monopoly on the legitimate use of force. My primary objection to the news story was that it reinforces that conclusion. If you are a reader of that story, ignorant as to the details, in combination with all the other similar stories of people prosecuted after defending themselves, the message is “don’t resist, you’ll go to jail.”

I stand by that statement, (though I’d word it just a bit differently) and I also believe it’s indicative of, and endemic to the basic philosophy of the UK government and many (but not all) of its people as pertains to violence.

When I wrote this piece I tried to explain what I see as the generalized UK philosophy concerning self-defense and weapons, and why I believe that mindset is in error. I attempted to illustrate the cognitive dissonance produced by the failure of that philosophy to reduce violent crime, to which Tim Lambert responded:

When you started talking about overall crime rates I pointed out that these were irrelevant to your claim you respond by substituting a different claim, a claim about how weapon restrictions allegedly caused crime increases. Well, I suppose we can discuss that as well, but first I need you to stop flitting about like a butterfly and retract or defend your original claim that “laws against weapons have essentially no effect on the access to weapons by criminals”.

As I said, the problem as I see it is that Tim and I have entirely different perspectives due to our entirely different philosophies. I’m obviously not succeeding in getting him to understand my position, or even recognize it.

However, the point of my writing these posts is not to convice Tim of his error, but to explain my philosophy, to draw Tim’s philosophy out for scrutiny, and to allow readers to see each and decide which of us has a better grip on reality.

Before I get started in earnest here, in deference to Tim, let’s get a couple of things out of the way.

Tim asked in his last post:

(Y)ou asserted that the statement ‘self defense in the UK is illegal’ is ‘practically true’. If you acknowledge that you can defend yourself without a weapon, then surely you must concede that your statement is false?

Yes, Tim. I acknowledge (and have acknowledged) that the subjects of the UK still have a legal right to self defense – without a weapon. I further acknowledge that subjects of the UK have a – severely limited and somewhat nebulous – legal right to defend themselves with a weapon. Point conceded. As I said in my last post, I thought I made my position perfectly clear, but apparently failed.

Let me give a couple of examples. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to do archive research through UK online newspapers for stories on self defense. I found four in which weapons were involved. First, there was this story in which a wheelchair bound man used teargas to fend off a knife-wielding attacker. The victim of the attack, 22 year-old Nicholas Ashworth, bought the teargas after being beaten and robbed of £100 three weeks prior. Instead of yielding to victimhood again, Mr. Ashworth defended himself, but was arrested – not for defending himself per se – but for having the teargas which is illegal to possess in England as it is considered an offensive weapon. (You’ll note that Mr. Ashworth’s attacker used a knife in the attack, which is also considered an offensive weapon, and is illegal to possess when out in public.)

Mr. Ashworth said:

“I knew it was wrong and against the law but in my view I was acting in self defence. I thought the man was going to kill me.

“It is a sad state of affairs that disabled people like me have to carry such things like CS sprays for protection.”

That statement begs for comment, but I’ll pass for the moment. (Mr. Ashworth was not, apparently, charged with using the teargas in his defense, but he was charged with possession of it. I have been unable to determine the outcome of the case against him. Perhaps some reasonable local barrister convinced the Crown that no jury would convict a man in a wheelchair.)

Then there was this report in which an 80 year-old woman, Jean Freke, defended herself successfully with a sword against two young attackers. Mrs. Freke described the attack and her response:

She said: “I was sitting in the drawing room doing some writing when I heard six or seven loud explosions.

“I went into the hall and two men came bursting in. They grabbed hold of me and pushed me backwards. It was pretty rough and tumble, I can tell you.”

One of the raiders ransacked the room, while Mrs Freke struggled with the other. “He gave me a violent shove and I landed on my back on the floor,” she said. “That made me a little nervous but I managed to get to my feet and carry on with the fight.

“Then I realised that in the corner of the room was my sword, which I do keep for self-defence. I manoeuvred him in that direction and was taking punches everywhere.

“But I managed to grab the sword and drew it from its scabbard and placed it in the middle of his chest and shouted, ‘Get out, get out’.

“Their attitude then changed and they suddenly became cowards and ran off at the sight of my sword.

“There was a moment when I thought, ‘This is it’ but you can’t take fright and you can’t panic. You just do what you have to do.”

Her attackers are believed to be 18 to 20 years old and responsible for as many as 15 other similar attacks against elderly victims in the area.

Bear in mind that if this brave and resourceful woman lived in Australia, she would very soon have to give up that sword as the Australian government has decided that citizens shouldn’t have access to swords unless they’re licensed collectors. After all, her attackers might steal it from her. Or something.

In this story a shop keeper – near where a jeweller was recently shot to death during a robbery – was held up by two men, one armed with a chisel. Mr. Webster, the shop keeper, pulled a baseball bat that he had put in his shop after the death of his neighbor, Mrs. Bates, and a struggle ensued. Mr. Webster explained:

“Since Mrs Bates was killed I’ve been on my guard against people who arrive on scooters and are wearing crash-helmets coming into the shop. The lad picked up a bottle of drink, came to the counter and gave me a pound. Then, as I went to the till, I saw him take a swing at me. I put my arm up to defend myself but he pulled out a chisel and told me to empty the till. So I grabbed hold of the bat.

“We started struggling. It was an intense fight that lasted a couple of minutes, and half the shop was wrecked in the process before he ran off.

“Obviously what happened to Mrs Bates went through my mind. But I’d do the same again in the same situation. I saw the chisel but, for all I knew, he could have had a gun.”

Mr Webster, who was recently targeted by a thief carrying a knife, has started a petition among shopkeepers calling for the police to do more to help them in the face of rising crime. “I don’t know what the world is coming to,” he said. “It’s happening too often.”

Now, I don’t believe possession of either a chisel or a baseball bat is specifically illegal, but I doubt that the assailant was planning to do some artistic sculpture with it in his free time. I suppose that he believed the presence of a nice, sharp chisel would cow most shopkeepers. I imagine that the baseball bat surprised him every bit as much as Mrs. Freke’s sword surprised her attackers.

I found one last story involving a crime intervention by a citizen wielding a weapon. This one, in which blind 62 year-old Thomas O’Connor stabbed 23 year-old Lee Kelso, who died from his wounds. I spent a considerable amount of time searching for self-defense stories, but these were the only four I found. In none of these cases were the defenders charged with excessive use of force, and only one with possession of prohibited “offensive weapons,” but the case of Mr. O’Connor, there was a thorough seven week murder investigation after which the Crown determined “it would not be in the public interest for him to stand trial.” Or, as one barrister put it “no jury would convict the frail man.” Hardly a ringing endorsement of his act, wouldn’t you say?

During the stabbing investigation, the police found that the O’Connor’s front door, which was equipped with “a Yale lock, two bolts and a security chain,” had been “hit with such force it was off its hinges and the door frame had also become dislodged.” It seems that the O’Connor’s, who “had turned their home into a fortress because of previous trouble and break-ins,” equipped it with “a security camera linked to a video recorder fitted to the rear of the house, a security light at the front and an alarm.” This was before Mr. Kelso’s attack. I find it odd, though, that Mr. O’Connor, his wife, children, and grandchildren (who didn’t all live in the same home) had to move to away secretly to undisclosed locations after the incident. It seems The O’Connor home was “torched in a suspected revenge attack” shortly after the stabbing.

But Tim is correct. It is still legal for a UK subject to defend themselves with a weapon, apparently as long as the weapon is legal and the defense takes place inside the home or business of the crime victim. (Outside the home or place of business, you apparently have to take your chances.)

It just seems to be a very rare occurrence, and possibly fraught with danger from forces other than the government, too. Knowing that defending yourself might mean having your home firebombed would be off-putting to most people, I think. (There are numerous cases of witness intimidation in England by thugs who fear little from the law and less from their victims.

As to the more recent accusation, let me stop “flitting around like a butterfly” and address the “access to weapons” question. I wrote earlier:

(D)isarming the law abiding it leaves them essentially defenseless against violent criminals, armed or not. All the criminal need be is physically superior to his victim, or (should he desire) the criminal can be armed, knowing almost as a certainty that his victim won’t be. If criminals need not fear effective resistance then they will be emboldened. I pointed to England’s experience with violent crime over the course of the 20th Century, noting that the real upswing in violent crime began just shortly after passage of the law that made illlegal carry of any weapon for defense on the grounds that there are no “defensive” weapons for the general public, only “offensive” weapons by definition.

(I am quite aware of the fallacy of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument, but I have seen no other factor to explain the apparent coincidence.) In the case of Nicholas Ashworth, his assailant had a knife, Mr. Ashworth had (illegal) tear gas. In the case of Mrs. Freke, she had a (still legal) sword against two physically superior, but unarmed youths. In the case of Mr. Webster, he had a baseball bat against two assailants, one armed with a chisel. In the case of Mr. O’Connor, he had a knife of some kind against a younger, physically superior assailant. In each of these cases the victim was physically inferior to the attacker or attackers. In half the cases the attacker or attackers were also armed. It would seem that my assertion is correct. In any assault occurring outside of a home or business, the attacker is almost guaranteed that his victim will be unarmed. In most assaults occurring IN a home or business, the type of weapons available to the victim are severely limited.

I wrote in the comments to Tim’s original post:

In the context of resistance to crime, all a violent criminal need do in order to nearly guarantee himself success is to select a victim that is his physical inferior, or to overwhelm his victim with numbers. If he wants to make it even easier all he needs to do is have a weapon, since his victim will almost certainly not have one and weapons are readily available in spite of the laws against them.

Tim puts much stock in criminologist Gary Kleck’s “fallacy of the ‘overmotivated criminal'” when it comes to weapon use by criminals. Tim quotes Kleck from his 1997 book Targeting Guns:

Like noncriminals, however, criminals do many things that are casually or only weakly motivated. Indeed, much crime is impulsive or opportunistic, with criminals committing some crimes only if it requires little effort and entails little risk. Gun control is less likely to have much effect on crime committed by criminals with the strongest and most persistent motivation to commit crimes, such as drug dealers, emotionally disturbed mass murderers, professional hit men, terrorists, or political assassins. However, it is not all impossible for crime prevention efforts to be achieved among the more weakly or temporarily motivated criminals who make up the large part of the active offender population.

I have not read this work, so I don’t know the context from which this quote was taken, but bear in mind that Kleck is himself a gun-control skeptic. Quoted from a 1994 Tennessee Law Review article at Guncite:

Up until about 1976 or so, there was little reliable scholarly information on the link between violence and weaponry. Consequently, everyone, scholars included, was free to believe whatever they liked about guns and gun control. There was no scientific evidence to interfere with the free play of personal bias. It was easy to be a “true believer” in the advisability of gun control and the uniformly detrimental effects of gun availability (or the opposite positions) because there was so little relevant information to shake one’s faith. When I began my research on guns in 1976, like most academics, I was a believer in the “anti-gun” thesis, i.e. the idea that gun availability has a net positive effect on the frequency and/or seriousness of violent acts. It seemed then like self-evident common sense which hardly needed to be empirically tested. However, as a modest body of reliable evidence (and an enormous body of not-so-reliable evidence) accumulated, many of the most able specialists in this area shifted from the “anti-gun” position to a more skeptical stance, in which it was negatively argued that the best available evidence does not convincingly or consistently support the anti-gun position. This is not the same as saying we know the anti-gun position to be wrong, but rather that there is no strong case for it being correct. The most prominent representatives of the skeptic position would be James Wright and Peter Rossi, authors of the best scholarly review of the literature.

[Subsequent research] has caused me to move beyond even the skeptic position. I now believe that the best currently available evidence, imperfect though it is (and must always be), indicates that general gun availability has no measurable net positive effect on rates of homicide, suicide, robbery, assault, rape, or burglary in the U[nited] S[tates]. This is not the same as saying gun availability has no effects on violence–it has many effects on the likelihood of attack, injury, death, and crime completion, but these effects work in both violence-increasing and violence-decreasing directions, with the effects largely canceling out. For example, when aggressors have guns, they are (1) less likely to physically attack their victims, (2) less likely to injure the victim given an attack, but (3) more likely to kill the victim, given an injury. Further, when victims have guns, it is less likely aggressors will attack or injure them and less likely they will lose property in a robbery. At the aggregate level, in both the best available time series and cross-sectional studies, the overall net effect of gun availability on total rates of violence is not significantly different from zero. The positive associations often found between aggregate levels of violence and gun ownership appear to be primarily due to violence increasing gun ownership, rather than the reverse. Gun availability does affect the rates of gun violence (e.g. the gun homicide rate, gun suicide rate, gun robbery rate) and the fraction of violent acts which involve guns (e.g. the percent of homicides, suicides or robberies committed with guns); it just does not affect total rates of violence (total homicide rate, total suicide rate, total robbery rate, etc.).

This would seem to run counter to Tim’s interpretation.

However, Tim puts too much emphasis on gun armed criminals. He seems, in fact, fixated on firearms, and extends that fixation to me and other “gullible gunners.” He often makes reference to guns to the exclusion of all other weapons:

Kevin, you seem to be equating self defence with guns. This is doubly wrong. First, guns are far more frequently used for offensive purposes than for defensive ones. And second, guns are not the only means for self defence.

Even if there are some rare situations where a gun is the only possible means for defence, it does not make the statement that “self defense in the UK is illegal”, since that is a general statement describing all situations.

He also discusses the efficacy of weapon control legislation producing somehow a level playing field, but in the context of guns, not other weapons:

1. Using a weapon is not the only way to defend yourself.

2. If the law disarms attackers, then it can make self defence possible where it would have been impossible if the attacker was armed.

1. Attacker has a gun. Defender does not.

2. Attacker does not have a gun. Defender doesn’t either.

Self defence is possible in the second scenario while it isn’t in the first one. Is that clear now?

Actually, no, it’s not. Reality is a bit more complex than that. But here is where the difference in the two philosophies is most stark, and where the cracks in the philosophy he seems to support begin to become apparent.

The philosophy I originally attributed to Tim’s side of the argument (that he objected to) I originally phrased as follows:

“Honest citizens should never use a weapon in self defense, and the government is honestly doing everything it can to disarm everybody so that you can successfully defend yourself in your unarmed state.”

That seemed to fit Tim’s position, but I’ve given the subject a considerable amount of thought in the last week or so, and have concluded that I was, in fact, in error on this point. The actual philosophy, I believe, is more accurately described thus:

Violence is wrong.

Weapons cause or at least augment violence.

Elimination of weapons will reduce or eliminate violence.

Since firearms are the most effective personal weapons available, they must, of course, be eliminated first, and this is the path England took starting in 1920. As of now, all semi-automatic long guns are banned, there are severe legal restrictions on all other long guns, all handguns are banned, and there is strong evidence the “next step” involves strict licensing or banning of air weapons and even toy guns. There are severe restrictions on the ownership and possession of knives, but not yet swords. (Mrs. Freke may keep hers for the time being.) It is illegal to carry any weapon the State considers offensive (and the list is long), and has been since 1953. Use of a weapon in self-defense is restricted to a reasonable response level by a law passed in 1967.

This philosophy on violence is usually based on the belief that all human life is precious, and that – at least in the case of robbery – no amount of property is worth a human life. Sounds good, but the logic is specious. I will illustrate this in a moment.

The philosphy that I ascribe to does not put the onus on the weapon, but on the actor. It is best described thus:

The uprovoked threat or initiation of violence is wrong.

The proper response to a threat of violence is the promise of equal or overwhelming violence in return.

The proper response to a violent attack is equal or overwhelming violence until the threat ceases.

(Bear in mind that my philosophy recognizes that sometimes the proper response is “cover your ass” because responding violently isn’t an option at the time.)

The logic of “no amount of property is worth a human life” is specious (defined having deceptive attraction or allure) because the person trying to take your property is threatening you with bodily harm in order to accomplish his goal. The implied exchange is “I won’t hurt you if you let me take your property.” Why is “I won’t inflict severe bodily harm or death if you cease and desist” an incorrect response? Criminals do not have the right to put their victims in fear of bodily harm or death – they’re the instigators. If stealing holds no risk to the thief, what incentive exists to inhibit the behavior? If those willing to break the social restrictions against threatening or inflicting violence are not opposed, why should we be surprised to see the level of violence rise? Criminals are generally stupid, but even the dim understand that elementary cost-benefit analysis.

England’s law seems to dimly recognize this philosophy, as the book excerpts provided by Tim indicate. The law allows for the use of (ill-defined “reasonable”) force not only in self defense but also in the prevention of crime. But the restrictions are byzantine. Read all four pages in Tim’s link and tell me that English law on this topic makes any sense whatsoever. It’s the worst of both worlds, sort of. The attacker has all the advantages, the victim all the restrictions.

It doesn’t matter to Tim that after general weapon restrictions were implemented in England, overall violent crime went up. The philosophy cannot be wrong. Results contrary to the theory merely indicate that the solution wasn’t implemented properly. Do it some more, only harder.

It doesn’t matter to Tim that handgun crime went up in England after the handgun ban. The philosophy cannot be wrong. Results contrary to the theory merely indicate that the solution wasn’t implemented properly. Do it some more, only harder.

It doesn’t matter to Tim that eighty years of ever-increasing restrictions on weapons and self-defense has not only not made England safer, it hasn’t prevented England from becoming the most criminally violent nation in the industrialized world. The philosophy cannot be wrong. Do it some more only HARDER.

It doesn’t matter to Tim that, while the stock of private firearms in the U.S. grows by three million a year, uncontrolled, unlicensed, and unregistered, violent crime has declined ten years running. The philosophy CANNOT BE WRONG.

It doesn’t matter to Tim that taking firearms away from the law abiding makes them nearly powerless against those willing to use violence against them. Women, the elderly, the physically disabled are all at a disadvantage against the youthful, strong, and predatory. They don’t NEED a gun.

If the law disarms attackers, then it can make self defence possible where it would have been impossible if the attacker was armed.

But the law doesn’t disarm attackers. It disarms their victims. The attackers have the choice to be armed or not. The State denies that choice to the victims, and so doing makes their victimization easier.

Now, which philosophy makes more sense? And who sees the forest, and not just the trees?

UPDATE, 4/30: By coincidence, Ravenwood links to a Guardian story printed yesterday that reports:

Violent crime rose 11% in the final three months of 2003 compared with the same period in 2002, Home Office figures revealed today.
Latest figures show 271,500 incidents of violent crime were recorded by police in England and Wales from October to December 2003.

More serious violent crimes such as murder and serious wounding rose by 13%, while “less serious” violent crime such as assaults increased 21% period-on-period to 106,000 incidents. The number of sexual offences rose 6% to 12,600 while robberies fell 7% to 23,900.

I also found this piece in the Manchester News. Just read it, and ponder the philosophy behind the idea.

Oh hell, here’s another one:.

Teenager held over robberies

A 16-year-old boy has been remanded in custody following two robberies in Manchester.

The boy, from Levenshulme, is charged on two counts of robbery and two counts of kidnap.

It follows two incidents in Fallowfield where a 21-year-old student then a 32-year-old man were forced into an alleyway by a number of men and robbed of their wallets, cash cards and phones.

No mention of any weapons, but what is an unarmed man to do when confronted by “a number of men” who are threatening bodily harm if he doesn’t give up his valuables? What risk did these robbers face? They knew their victims couldn’t effectively resist.

Again I ask: How is a woman to exercise her presumed inherent right to lethal force against a rapist if she’s denied any means with which to do so? And how is a citizen to exercise his presumed right to resist crime if he is denied any means with which to do so? How does one effectively resist someone larger and stronger unarmed? How does one effectively resist multiple attackers unarmed?

Or, as commenter Sarah rephrased Tim: If the law disarms citizens, then it can make self defence impossible where it would have been possible if the citizen was armed.

UPDATE, 5/3: Tim responds. My response is the first comment to that post.

FURTHER UPDATE: I’ve slightly edited to the post to hopefully mollify Tim. I’ve stricken out some attributions that Tim holds are in error.

More on Those “Terrorist-Grade” Weapons

First covered here, it appears that those 7,500 semi-automatic fully-auto bayonet-equipped rifles with “cartridges holding 30 rounds” were legal after all.

Yesterday’s admission by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that the agency had issued import permits for a shipment of approximately 7,500 AK-47s and other assault rifles from Romania clearly demonstrates the need to significantly strengthen the federal assault weapons ban as well as the separate set of rules that apply to imported firearms, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) stated today.

Not just renew but “significantly strengthen.” Not just the AWB, but import laws as well.

It didn’t work, so do it again, ONLY HARDER

The shipment, initially seized by Italian authorities who suspected the weapons were being smuggled into the U.S., was in fact headed for Century International Arms, an assault weapon importer. Century International Arms sells a wide variety of firearms, including imported assault weapons, that can be viewed on the company’s website located at VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “This situation starkly demonstrates the gaping loopholes in the federal assault weapons ban, as well as the Bush Administration’s lax and irresponsible enforcement of the separate rules that apply to imported firearms.”

Because the current federal assault weapons ban – set to expire on September 13, 2004 – is too weak, it cannot stop the import of such weapons. Under the separate law that applies to imported firearms, the Bush Administration has clear authority to exclude such guns from import, but ATF’s weak interpretation of the statute allows the import of AK-47s and other assault weapons.

I find it really interesting that the original definition of “loophole” was “a small hole or slit in a wall, especially one through which small arms may be fired.” So we have “gaping loopholes,” “irresponsible enforcement,” and “weak interpretation.”

And that has been the gun-control mantra since this argument began. No matter what they pass, it’s never enough. It doesn’t affect gun violence, but it can’t have been an error in the philosophy, they just didn’t implement it properly. Even after England banned all semi-auto weapons and all handguns and gun crime went up, it wasn’t evidence of a failure in the policy, but insufficient implementation.

This is the definition of “cognitive dissonance.”

Rand states, “There are two possible ways to fix this. One, the Bush Administration can halt such imports with the stroke of a pen using existing executive authority that applies to the import of firearms that are not suitable for ‘sporting purposes.'” President George H.W. Bush exercised this authority in 1989 to temporarily halt assault rifle imports after Patrick Purdy, armed with an imported AK-47, killed five and wounded 30 in a California schoolyard.

“The other way to remedy the situation is for Congress to pass a strengthened federal assault weapons ban that clearly bans these imports. The current federal ban is too weak. It simply does not apply to these guns. If the current federal assault weapons ban is merely renewed, imported AK-47s and other foreign-made assault rifles will remain perfectly legal,” adds Rand.

Don’t hold your breath, Kristen. Neither of your ideas will “fix” the problem, and if you weren’t so blinded by your fixation on guns as the cause of the problem, you’d understand that.

Here’s the AP story on the legal importation of these “terrorist-grade” weapons:

AK-47s headed to U.S. had legal permits

The Associated Press
4/28/2004, 3:13 p.m. CT

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S.-bound shipment of thousands of AK-47 assault rifles and other combat-type weapons, seized by Italian authorities who suspected they were being smuggled, actually have legal permits to be imported, American officials said Wednesday.

About 7,500 AK-47s, AKM rifles and other weapons worth an estimated $6 million were seized April 20 aboard a Turkish-flagged ship in the port of Gioia Tauro. They were bound for New York from Romania.

At the time, Italian authorities said the guns were hidden aboard the ship.

But Andrew Lluberes, spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the weapons actually were cleared by U.S. authorities. “The permits are valid,” he said.

A 1994 law prevents the U.S. gun industry from making, importing or selling military-style semiautomatic weapons.

Apparently not.

But under ATF regulations, a properly licensed company can ship such weapons to a “custom bonded warehouse” in the United States. There, they are disassembled and their key firing components destroyed. The remaining parts can then be reconfigured into a weapon that will meet the letter of the 1994 law and can be sold legally in the United States.

Two U.S. law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the weapons seized in Italy were being shipped to a Century International Arms Inc. facility in Georgia, Vt. The company’s Internet site bills Century as “North America’s largest importer/exporter of surplus firearms and accessories.”

An official at the company, which is based on Boca Raton, Fla., refused to comment Wednesday.

Good for them. Apparently CAI shares President Bush’s feelings as regards the media.

Dean Boyd, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said American and Italian authorities continue to investigate the case. The weapons remain in Italy.

Why? They have legal importation permits, why hold them?

And what about those deadly “assault Mausers”? Were they properly permitted, too?

No Longer a Republic

Well! First we have an admission by a sitting Supreme Court Justice that the Court is no longer “chained or bound by the text of the Constitution. All it takes is five hands.”

Now we have admission by a U.S. Senator that America is no longer a Republic:

The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic. It is the system that stinks. And it’s only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists.”

So says Georgia Senator Zell Miller. That’s pretty strong verification (like it was needed) of Randy Barnett’s thesis behind Restoring the Lost Constitution.

Sen. Miller said this in connection to a Senate resolution he introduced to repeal the 17th Amendment, something I’ve supported for quite a while.

But he and I agree on something else: we both know it’ll be a cold day in hell before the Senators and the special interests give up the power that popular election of Senators gives them.

There was, of course, backlash to Sen. Miller’s resolution:

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., suggested Miller and others were treating the Constitution as a “rough draft” by proposing a series of recent amendments to require a balanced federal budget, define marriage and criminalize flag burning.

“We are the example of representative self-government in this world that works,” Dorgan said. “It’s messy, the noise of democracy is annoying sometimes, but it works.”

The problem, Sen. Dorgan, is that Sen. Miller points out that the system has been so damaged over time the question is how much longer will it work? The structures that enabled it have been damaged or destroyed or altered out of all recognition. The mechanisms of tyranny have been constructed and simply wait for final assembly.

And more of us are waking to that fact.

Hat tip: Ravenwood
UPDATE 4/30: This should be a post all its own, but I want to leave Trees? Meet Forest up at the top for a while. When someone as obviously whacked out as Ted Rall states:

A: John Kerry “would be wise to break ranks with his party’s liberal base by declaring his enthusiastic support for the Second Amendment”


B: “(A)bolishing handguns is a lost cause. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, roughly 70 million Americans own more than 200 million guns–with four to five million new weapons manufactured annually. Even if Congress authorizes police to break down every door in the country to confiscate them–a task our military can’t carry out in occupied nations subject to martial law, like Afghanistan or Iraq, let alone in Wyoming and New Jersey–the gun genie is never going to get stuffed back into the bottle”


C: “For too long, both parties have treated the Constitution like a Chinese menu. Republicans whittle away at the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and smear opponents who exercise their First Amendment right to free speech. Democrats rail against the states rights expressed by the Tenth Amendment and absurdly argue that the placement of a comma reflects the founders’ original intent to limit gun ownership to members of 18th century militias. Aside from its fundamental intellectual dishonesty, our politicians’ take-some-leave-others attitude deviates from most citizens’ belief that every section of the Constitution holds equal weight”

one is forced to grab onto the nearest stable object to make sure the world hasn’t shifted under one’s feet.

Who are you, and what have you done to Ted Rall?

Oh, wait. We know Kerry would be lying, so Rall is recommending that Kerry lie to the electorate in order to trick them into voting for him. I don’t know how much of what Rall states in this piece reflect his actual beliefs and how much of it is a lie, but given Rall’s history…

But it’s damned disconcerting when someone as foul as Rall states opinions I agree with. I feel like I ought to take a shower and scrub with steel wool.

(Link via SayUncle.)

Another Example that “Journalists” Need to be Beaten with a ClueBat™

The Heartless Libertarian links to this CNN report from a journalist embedded with the Marines in Falluja.

Read the whole thing, but pay special attention to the part at the bottom where the reporter is dumbfounded by the high morale and the eagerness to go back to the battle exhibited by all the Marines, especially the wounded.

On the same note, Michele whacks Ted Koppel about the head and shoulders with the ClueBat™ for his completely unbiased decision to announce the names of the soldiers killed in Iraq on Nightline Friday night. And of course the date selection has nothing to do with the fact that “Sweeps Month” starts Thursday and ends before memorial day.

That’s right, it sweeps month, beginning on Thursday! Do I detect ulterior motives – say something besides altruism and patriotism – from the esteemed Mr. Koppel?

But wait! There’s more!

Just what kind of impact is Ted trying to make? From where I sit, it looks like it’s the kind of impact designed to fan the flames of anti-war sentiment.

Oh, and if you know of anyone who died in Iraq while defending freedom, but they did not die in actual combat, don’t bother waiting up for the name to be read. There’s no room for friendly fire or accidents in this sweeps extravaganza.

“I have always felt, and I said it when I was in Iraq last year, that the most important thing a journalist can do is remind people of the cost of war,” Mr. Koppel said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Yes, and the most important thing a newscaster can do is to drive home those liberal talking points of hopelessness and defeat.

I’m not asking Koppel to do a two hour piece on Iraqis throwing flowers at the feet of U.S. soldiers. I’m just asking him to be honest in motives, and asking ABC to not take its viewers for idiots.

That’s asking a bit much, Michele.

I don’t plan to watch it, but if they run something similar on Memorial Day, I might. There’s a difference between honoring the dead and using them. And there’s a reason morale is high among the Marines in Falluja: They know that despite media and political protestations of “QUAGMIRE!” the majority of Americans support them, and that they’re doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Koppel and the leftist media can keep preaching the Vietnam analogy as long as they want. We’re not listening. And it’s driving them nuts.

Taking Advantage of Fear and Ignorance

First up we have this piece from KPIX TV, Channel 5 from the People’s Republic of San Francisco:

Top SF Officials Speak Against Assault Weapons (Why am I unsurprised?)

Catherine Tyson has good reason to fear and hate an AK-47.

“I never saw a gun before in my life,” she said. “But when I saw the size of those guns, it was overwhelming to me that someone would actually use a weapon like that.”

She’s intimidated by the SIZE?

Someone used an AK-47 to kill Tyson’s son Brian on New Year’s Eve four years ago.
“Today it’s my child. Tomorrow it could be your child, day after that it could be their child,” said Tyson. “As long as those weapons are around, it’s going to keep happening. As long as those weapons are on the street, there are going to continue to be murders.”

Right. AK-47’s are responsible for San Francisco’s homicide problem, which in 2002 numbered some 68 victims. According to this table from 1993 through 2002 rifles were used in an average of about 3.6% of all California homicides, while the total number of homicides in California committed with rifles has been on the decline from a high of 154 in 1993 to a minimum of 62 in 1996. In 2002 there were 80.

It would seem that, regardless of whether AK-47’s are around, homicide is going to keep happening. But then, my child isn’t dead, and I’m still capable of reason.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the city’s top law enforcement officers want Congress to continue the current ban on AK’s and other assault weapons. The ban is set to run out in September.

Said “ban” having not prevented this particular murder. Perfectly logical.

Note the really interesting fact that this story makes absolutely no mention that California’s Roberti-Roos Assault Weapon ban, which is both more strict than the Federal ban and older, having gone into effect in 1986, didn’t prevent this crime either.

Why not?

“These are weapons of war, plain and simple,” Newsom said. “They have no place on the street. It’s about as clear cut as that, from my perspective.”

Wait for it…

And the police are on the front line. San Francisco Police Officer Issac Espinosa was killed by an assault weapon two weeks ago. But Chief Heather Fong would not commit to giving more officers assault weapons of their own.

What? You mean some officers already have these “weapons of war” that have “no place on the street”?!?!?! What about the BAN?

“We’re addressing the problem by looking at what options there are to the department,” she said.

When Brian Tyson was gunned down with an AK at the corner of 3rd and Kirkwood, it was apparently a case of mistaken identity.

“One of the bullets ruptured a main artery,” Catherine Tyson said. “He bled to death. They said if it wasn’t for the type of gun — if it wasn’t an AK-47 — he would have lived.”

Ms. Tyson, you were lied to. If the bullet hit a major artery, it doesn’t matter if it had been an AK-47 or a 9mm handgun. He’d have bled to death. My condolences, but your son wasn’t killed by an AK-47, your son was killed by a goblin wielding an AK-47. Put the blame where it’s deserved.

On the other hand, there’s this bit of sanity – also from San Francisco – in a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Examiner (third letter down the page):

Gun ban

The federal “assault weapon” ban, which applies to all states, has been in effect almost 10 years. California’s own brand has been on the books even longer. Yet neither law, nor the thousands of other guns laws kept one of the banned weapons off the streets or out of the hands of Officer Isaac Espinosa’s killer. How could anyone be so dogmatic as to cite a decade of demonstrable ineffectiveness as an argument in favor of renewing these laws?

Eric Williams

I’m surprised they printed it.

And finally, there’s this piece – also from the Examiner, which probably inspired Mr. Williams’ letter:

Gunning for assault ban

Police Officer Isaac Espinoza joined the tragic and swelling ranks of cops killed with assault weapons when he was fatally shot with an AK-47 April 10. Activists say his death is yet another compelling reason to push for the renewal of a ban on the deadly guns.

When U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein stood up at Espinoza’s funeral and called for support to renew her legislation banning assault weapons nationwide, she was met with a standing ovation from mourning cops. If Espinoza’s death galvanizes anti-gun activists locally, it will not be the first time San Francisco is at the forefront of the campaign to ban assault weapons.

It will hardly be the first time San Francisco has been at the forefront of any number of harebrained campaigns destined to fail at their stated goals. That’s never stopped them in the past.

Feinstein’s legislation, the Federal Violent Crime Control Act of 1994, banned the manufacture and import of assault weapons and was spurred by a brutal massacre at 101 California St. In July 1993, a disgruntled client stormed a downtown law firm, killing eight people and wounding six. The shooter, Gian Luigi Ferri, was armed with two TEC-9 assault weapons. The legislation inspired by the tragic killings is due to expire Sept. 13, unless Congress passes it again.

Which, by all appearances, isn’t going to happen because the nation’s newspaper editors don’t have the influence they used to.

Supporters of the renewal of the assault weapon ban cite the Espinoza killing as a prime example for the need for such a law.

See letter to the editor immediately above.

“This police officer could have been killed on any day doing his job, with any number of powerful weapons but you always have to wonder, had that shooter not had access to that kind of fire power, would he be dead?” said Coalition to Stop Gun Violence member Eric Gorovitz.

Assault weapons are used in a small number of crimes but they killed at least 41 of the 211 law enforcement officers slain between January 1998 and December 2001, according to a Violence Policy Center report.

An assertion I dissected back in May. According to the available evidence, the answer to Mr. Gorovitz’s question is: “Yes, he probably would have died anyway.”

“They give criminals comfort. You often find them among drug dealers who know they might need them in a shoot-out against competitors,” Gorovitz said. “They are an emboldening tool. I don’t know that [Espinoza’s killer] would have behaved in that way had he not known he had the firepower behind him,” Gorovitz said.

And we all know that drug dealers are so law-abiding when it comes to firearms laws, right?

Indeed, it is an issue that troubles cops in the line of fire.

“We have vests that are bullet-resistant, but not bullet-proof,” said one cop from the Bayview who asked not to be named. “But those things go through a wall of concrete. What do you think they are going to do to a piece of Kevlar?”

Glad you asked. We all remember the wonderful CNN report that showed that post-ban “assault weapons” couldn’t penetrate a concrete block, while pre-ban “assault weapons” were fully-automatic and could destroy a cinderblock wall, right? And what of the awesome .30-30 “assault weapon” that fires ammunition “capable of puncturing light-armored vehicles, ballistic or armored glass, armored limousines, even a 600-pound safe with 600 pounds of safe armor plating” according to Senator Edward Kennedy? The “Assault Weapon Ban” doesn’t even address this ‘weapon of mass destruction.’

And now for the final fear-inducing lies:

Although California has an assault weapons ban, it is imperative that the national ban on the weapons does not lapse to at least slow the guns trade into the state, said Andrew Spafford, senior staff attorney at grassroots advocacy group, Legal Community Against Violence in San Francisco, which was founded after the 101 California St. massacre.

But Spafford said that the recent fifth anniversary of the Columbine massacre did not seem to inspire President George W. Bush to push for a renewal of the assault weapons ban, and House Republican leaders are opposed to it, bad signs for the legislation’s future.

Once again, why should it? Harris and Kliebold used a Tec-9, but they also used TWO SAWED-OFF SHOTGUNS – weapons illegal to possess without a LOT of NFA paperwork, and undoubtedly more lethal than the Tec-9. The law against short-barreled shotguns didn’t dissuade them, why would an “assault weapon ban”?

And aren’t the gun-grabbers up in arms about the fact that the Federal AWB didn’t stop manufacturers from making perfectly legal “post-ban” guns that are functionally identical?

&ltsarcasm&gtOh, wait, I forgot. CNN showed that post-ban guns weren’t as powerful. My mistake.&lt/sarcasm&gt

Despite the federal ban and California ban on the high-powered guns, assault weapons continue to arrive in The City and across the state in a “vast and robust underground distribution system,” advocates said. The most common way criminals obtain guns is from shows in nearby states with less stringent laws, such as Nevada.

“So a felon can go to a gun show in Nevada … buy a trunk-load of assault weapons and drive them in to the Bayview and sell them on the street,” Gorovitz said.

Absolute, blatant, unrepentant, naked LIE. Note, it’s the last line in the editorial, and there is absolutely no corroborating evidence for this statement of “fact.”

Is there a “vast and robust underground distribution system” in California supplying guns to the criminal element?

I don’t see why California would be exempt from the economic law of Supply and Demand. After all, England certainly isn’t, even with bans that included confiscation.

Banning guns is, at best, useless. Worse, it can be counterproductive. But the gun-grabbers refuse to recognize the flaw in their philosophy. That cognitive dissonance requires them to “turn up the power.” Or, as I put it: Do it again, only harder!

And don’t worry about lying – it’s for a good cause, and the ends justify the means!

UPDATE: SayUncle has an associated piece.

Oh, Now THIS is Interesting

In relation to my piece below (He Really Doesn’t Do Nuance) Technorati reports several bloggers have linked to the PressThink piece. Of course, the interpretations of Bush’s position vary, bipolarly. Here’s just a sample:

From Weird is Relative:

A verrry interesting discussion on pressthink, posted yesterday, discusses whether or not the press has a right to investigate stories that they view to be in the public interest.

This looks like yet another obvious attempt by the current administration to (a) tar the media with the “liberal” brush and (b) deflect the President from having to answer embarassing & revealing questions…. yet it appears to be more successful than most. Can Bush effect a power coup by simply telling the media they are less influential than they think they are?

Uh, right. (I’m sorry, but I must have missed the part about Bush denying the press their right to do investigative journalism. Can you point that part out to me?)

Next up, Blog on the Run:

One other interpretation of this thesis that just occurred to me — is that Bush is bashing the press, which never wins any popularity contests, precisely because he does indeed know that the press fills a vital function and that if it became more popular, it might be more emboldened to do its job properly. And even before 9/11, this administration wasn’t winning any Freedom-of-Information awards. There’s evidence both ways on this one. Discuss amongst yourselves.

I think Lex is stretching here. This would be another example of how Dumbya – who is so stupid he has to be reminded to breathe, apparently, is somehow exercising one more brilliant strategy to foil his Democrat nemesis?

Then there’s 100 Unfair and Unbalanced moonbats Monkeys Typing and his interpretation of Bush’s comment:

“You assume I give a shit.” Why does this surprise the media?

Daily Pundit seems to have a better grip on reality:

Jay Rosen identifies the growing horror of the liberal mainstream media, which is apparently discovering that GWB represents their worst nightmare: a sitting President who does not regard their propaganda machine with the proper amount of awe and terror.

In fact, he doesn’t give it much regard at all. Nor is there any reason that he should, as degraded and perverse as what passes for the media establishment has become at the dawn of the 21st century.

The Emperor has no clothes, boys and girls. Get used to the chilly drafts.

Moe of Obsidian Wings said:

For my own part: no, I don’t consider the media to represent the public. Big surprise there: nobody does, actually. I mean, does anybody here think that, say, Eric Alterman wrote What Liberal Media? because he thought that pushing the media to the Left would make it less mainstream? I take the position that it doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is: you’re likely to see the press as a funhouse mirror distortion of your own beliefs.

Having read a lot of Lefties, I tend to agree. But there are perceptions and then there is reality.

Whispers in the Abyss perceives reality:

The whole mess goes to the heart of considerations I’ve had about the nature of news media, which has been revealed to even the casual consumer as a morass of lies, obfuscations, and manipulations by the simple fact of access to the real facts for Joe Average American to make his own mind up about. No Average Joe has to wonder what Condaleeza Rice said to the 9/11 Commission, the transcripts are public knowledge, to the word. If you really wanted to know what people on the street in Iraq were thinking, 30sec search would turn up a list of Iraqi bloggers, any of whom are 5min of email and half a planet away, available for any question you might want to ask. If you want to know about the military side of operations in Afghanistan, you can go hit bloggers from there.

In short, if you can read this LJ, you’ve got wider, deeper, more 1st-hand access to the news as it happens than ever in the history of mankind have reporters or journalists. You can pick up the phone and call anyone listed in the phone book (and if you’re cunning enough, even get to mock Fidel Castro). If you don’t feel like collating the info yourself, you can surf the net more easily than surfing channels and find someone who, over time, earns your respect for their ability, like Glenn Reynolds, Steve Antler, or Wretchard. But even from one of your primary sources, you can always surf and find corroboration or invalidation, seek out different opinions (typically delivered directly in their Comments links), and generally prove that the world is not strictly push, but that you have the power to pull as much, as deeply, as you like.


Thought Mesh has an interesting point:

The thesis of that article is that President Bush is dealing with the press less by trying to out-play them than by dealing them out of game. Bush stated to one journalist ?You?re assuming that you represent the public. I don’t accept that. I agree with both the tactic and the view of Big Media it is based on.

I think that the majority of American citizens are more likely to believe Bush than Big Media in any dispute if no other facts are known. As Rosen says, journalists might ask themselves how they got to this state.

Not bleeding likely.

The interestingly named zerotwofivesixfourdotnet has a short but pithy post, with a link:

Elite media hates Bush because he calls them on their B.S., and aims to identify with ‘normal people’, the hoi polloi that intellectual-types quietly despise.

So when Bush tells them “You’re assuming that you represent the public. I don’t accept that”, they – needless to say – don’t particularly like that, or realize its probably true. And Mark Steyn deconstructs why the numbers show that ‘normal people’ – despite what the media tries to tell us – agree.

Interesting stuff, especially the comments to some of these. Instapundit has quite a long piece with commentary from readers, too.

Corrupting the Process: The Torricelli Precedent

I’ve said for a while that I believe that the DNC is soon going to realize that John F’ing Kerry is a loser when it comes to the run for the Presidency. Others have said that the DNC wants to lose 2004 because that will put Hillary on the 2008 ticket in position to win.

I don’t think so.

I think the Democrats are slowly, dimly beginning to realize that a landslide loss (or even a mudslide loss) to Dubya will signal that the moonbat contingent has destroyed the Party and made it totally ineffectual. They cannot afford to lose. After Gray Davis’s recall, a loss in November will be their nadir.

The New Jersey Democrat party decided that it could not afford to have a Republican win one of New Jersey’s Senate seats in 2002. So, in violation of State election law and with the active partisan support of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the legal candidate – Robert Torricelli – was dropped and Frank Lautenberg was substituted on the ticket. Lautenberg won, of course.

I honestly believe it’s going to happen again. Now there’s evidence that such thoughts are making the rounds within the moonbat brigades.

Instapundit links to this Village Voice piece, John Kerry Must Go. Excerpt:

With the air gushing out of John Kerry’s balloon, it may be only a matter of time until political insiders in Washington face the dread reality that the junior senator from Massachusetts doesn’t have what it takes to win and has got to go. As arrogant and out of it as the Democratic political establishment is, even these pols know the party’s got to have someone to run against George Bush. They can’t exactly expect the president to self-destruct into thin air.

The piece suggests nominating John Edwards or “staging an open convention” in Boston. This would be, of course, regardless of whether Sen. Kerry has acquired enough delegates to be the Democratic nominee.

I think they’re going to nominate Hillary.

As James Hudnall wrote back in September, “only Democrats and dictators are afraid of Elections.”