Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt… — The American, A Magazine of Ideas

Veronique de Rugy has an excellent article in The American today concerning the impending debt limit discussion and debate (the limit may be reached as early as late March). We need to have a serious, adults-only discussion on the debt ceiling, and what we're going to do as a country about spending. We have a spending problem that must be fixed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Federal government to lift restrictions on guns in national parks -

Federal government to lift restrictions on guns in national parks -

Ed O'Keefe,

It's been nearly 11 months since this piece was published...I wonder if you'd take the time to revisit the predictions of the folks you quote to see how they turned out.
National parks hosted about 275 million visitors in 2008, the agency said. There were 3,760 reported major crimes, including five homicides and 37 rapes. The agency does not note which crimes involve firearms. Crime is down across the system's parks, according to the statistics.

Bill Wade, president of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, said that could change Monday.

"Visitors are going to go to national parks with an increased amount of suspicions and weariness and concern," Wade said. Worse, he said, the new law will erase the park system's reputation as a place of solitude and safety.

"People go to national parks to get away from things that they face in their everyday living, where they live and work. Now I think that social dynamic is really going to change," Wade said.

Is there any evidence that visitors are experiencing increased suspicions, wariness, and concern? Did the "social dynamic" really change?
Scot McElveen, president of the Association of National Park Rangers, said that the new law violates the Park Service's original mission to serve as a preserve for the United States' natural resources and wildlife.

"Our tens of thousands of years of collective experience in operating and managing parks leads us to believe that allowing loaded, readily accessible firearms in parks is one that will lead to lessened preservation of park resources," McElveen said.

Critics are also concerned about the possibility of an increase in illegal hunting and poaching.

"There are a group of folks that will never break the law, no matter what, because they believe the law and want to keep their weapons," McElveen said. "But there's also a group in the middle that can be tempted by opportunity when they think that no one's around and no one will find out."

The National Park Service must keep extensive records regarding poaching, along with other crime statistics. What are they seeing in the way of increased crime? And how about these "group in the middle" folks whose moral compass is so skewed that they will be tempted to use that firearm they have along for protection just because they can?

Tucson Shootings Revive Calls For Tougher Gun Laws : NPR

Tucson Shootings Revive Calls For Tougher Gun Laws : NPR:

"That issue has all but disappeared from the debate in Congress."
Yep. "Tougher Gun Laws", formerly known as gun control, is (a) at least temporarily recognized as a third rail (c.f., the 1994 mid-term elections) and (b) completely ineffective in deterring crime. The shooter (er, alleged shooter) may have been impaired in some way (we'll know more as soon as the alleged shooter enters a plea in U.S. v. Loughner, 11-mj-00035, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix)); this impairment is likely the cause of the shooting, not the presence or absence of gun control legislation.
"In recent years, new federal laws have allowed guns in the national parks."
Yes, and the media was filled with hand-wringing over the bloodshed that was imminent in the National Parks. Park Rangers predicted a tide of lawlessness, both in terms of human-on-human carnage and an increase in poaching. The media has been strangely silent in reporting on the problems that have arisen since the Reagan (!) era regulation (not legislation) was initially overturned by further regulation in the final days of the Bush administration, then overturned by legislation once it became clear that the Obama administration was going to try to put that toothpaste back into the tube.
""Just to show you ... the climate in D.C. about this before this incident, my staff and I couldn't get a hearing on closing the gun-show loophole," [Rep Mike Quigley (D-IL)] said."
The so-called "gun-show loophole" isn't worth a hearing, because it isn't a problem. Virginians endure hearings nearly every year on this non-issue, because it's a great platform for grandstanding by politicians.
"But lawmakers may only be reflecting public opinion. A Gallup Poll released in October found that 44 percent of Americans thought gun laws should be stricter. Compare that to 2000, when 62 percent wanted stricter gun laws, and 1990, when the number favoring stricter gun laws was 78 percent."
Said without a hint of irony, it seems. If our elected representatives ("lawmakers") are truly representative, wouldn't they "reflect public opinion"? Or do we expect them to "know better" than the electorate?
"Based on what we know so far, the system that is supposed to protect us from dangerous and deranged people has failed once again," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Which "system" is that? We don't have a "system" that is supposed to protect us from dangerous and deranged people, so it's not reasonable to assert that it "has failed once again". Mayor Bloomberg isn't a lawyer, so it's probably natural that he wouldn't be familiar with the expectations that a citizen should have regarding police protection.

See, for example:
Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005)
DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989) ("Poor Joshua!")
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York announced Tuesday that he plans to introduce legislation banning anyone from carrying a loaded gun within 1,000 feet of a federal official — from the president down to a member of Congress.
Sigh. Yet another attempt to make the federal criminal code even larger than it already is, and a complete failure to recognize that this law WOULD HAVE MADE NO DIFFERENCE in this last weekend's tragedy, because the alleged shooter couldn't have cared less about federal law (or state or local law, for that matter). The rest of us are faced with contemplating how average citizens are supposed to know if a federal official is nearby -- will they now be required to wear readily-identifiable clothing, much like hunters wear during hunting season?
"This legislation, I believe, is essential," he said. "I always believe if we can take a horrible tragedy and attempt to get something good out of it, then all is not lost."
Rahm would be proud of you, Rep King. Real proud.
Knox says efforts should be focused on preventing people with mental illnesses from obtaining firearms. And that may be one area where gun control opponents and backers can find some common ground.
Well, that sounds good until you start to define "mental illness" and who gets to determine if you're "mentally ill". We had that debate in Virginia a few years back, and it's a much thornier issue than it appears at first blush.

Report: Sales Of Glocks, Other Handguns, Have Surged Since Arizona Rampage : The Two-Way : NPR

Report: Sales Of Glocks, Other Handguns, Have Surged Since Arizona Rampage : The Two-Way : NPR

Unsurprising: perceptions of a shortage caused by fevered reports on NPR suggesting additional gun control and knee-jerk showboating by Members of Congress (c.f., Rep Pete King (R-NY) and Rep James E. Clyburn (D-SC) ) cause an increase in demand.

Demand for firearms soared as the Obama administration began, in anticipation of the Democrat-controlled Congress and Democrat administration. Prices on scary black guns reflected demand, and waiting lines grew. The pent-up demand for long guns has since returned to equilibrium, but now we're seeing what I suspect will be a short-term spike in demand for handguns.