Monday, June 30, 2008

Heller Fallout

Well, the seismic rumbles from the Heller ruling are spreading out, along with lawyers bearing papers. In addition to Chicago and Morton Grove, IL, the Chicago suburbs of Evanston and Oak Village have been named in lawsuits from the NRA and local citizens who are contesting the handgun bans in those cities.

According to this story from Chicago's WBBM, the village of Morton Grove isn't enforcing its ban on handgun ownership at the moment. The last time they did was in 2003, when a local man shot a burgler who had broken into his home for the second night in a row, an Army deserter who had been arrested by Morton Grove seven times already in calendar 2003. The homeowner received a $750 fine, but no jail time. One would hope that the burgler got some jail time, but if you can be arrested seven times without being in jail I'm thinking maybe not. You would figure that maybe by the fifth time the DA got this loser's name on a sheet, there would be a clue that this particular frequent flier was likely to be a continuing problem that could be shipped off to Joliet for some rest & rehabilitation, but apparently not. It's likely Morton Grove will roll over, I don't see the Village citizens demanding an increase in their property taxes to fund the losing end of a lawsuit.

Gun control people are all about the object being the cause, and nothing about the people involved. If someone in law enforcement in Morton Grove had taken the time to put the burgler in jail on even ONE of the SEVEN prior arrests, then no gun violence would have taken place in Morton Grove, the perp being behind bars would pretty much preclude the Morton Grove resident from having to shoot him. The Morton Grove police chief said that the homeowner should have called the police...well, yeah, but when it comes down to it, seven other people had called the police about the perp that year and still Mr. Dirtbag is on the street. Apparently, the police chief is saying that after eight arrests in a year the police and prosecution are going to get serious.

My favorite meme is that "more guns equals more crime!", when applied to Washington, DC and similar large urban environments. This is possibly true if you assume that everyone is exactly the same, and that everyone has an equal probability of committing a crime when armed with a firearm -- i.e., if you're a liberal so blinkered by Political Correctness that you don't take any factors into account about a population other than that everyone who's breathing is a potential criminal. In point of fact, shooting the correct people in a population will dramatically reduce crime for the remainder. Crime is a profession like any other, most people don't consider it to be so but recidivist criminals have chosen crime as their life's work. It takes more than a pistol to rob a store, there's a mindset and a willingness to threaten others with violence that has to be developed over time. Likely there is some degree of genetic predisposition, and a whole lot of social conditioning that goes into the decision to potentially kill others to get something you want. People who are actually capable of murdering strangers for fiscal gain are, thankfully, even rarer than those who will simply steal.

Getting those people out of circulation is a big part of reducing crime, and one of the ways to get those people out of circulation, sadly, is going to be their suffering a fatal error in the victim selection process. A catch-and-release legal system doesn't reduce crime, it simply breeds smarter criminals. Some of the people who attack others for profit are going to choose the wrong home in which to do so, and will suffer a fatal error in the victim selection process. The life of crime they would have otherwise led, with a string of robberies, rapes, burglaries and potentially murders will never happen. It's unfortunate, but when the police not only do not have a duty to protect individuals (Castle Rock v. Gonzales) but can't even effectively protect the community, people have to be responsible for their own safety. Liberals would have an argument that we should outsource our safety to the government, were it not for the fact that the government they enshrine has clearly stated that that's not their job. Their job is enforcing the law on a community, and when they can't even do that...well, it's Messers Smith, Wesson and you, Joe or Jane Public.

It's notable that the Supreme Court did not touch anything about self-defense outside the home, it's presumable that concealed or open carry will become the subject of a future lawsuit, and it should be. Shall-issue states that issue concealed-carry licenses have not seen an uptick in crime, in fact the opposite is true, which is yet another refutation of the "more guns equals more crime" meme. I believe Washington, DC would be a far, far safer place if there was a shall-issue CCW permit system there, but it's not up to me to decide that. It's up to the folks in DC, who will now be able to own a firearm, and, having it in their home over a period of years and not observing it getting together with the blender and the lawnmower to plan a heist or otherwise show independent action unexpected of an inanimate object, get the idea that maybe they'd be even safer if they could take that firearm with them in their daily business. There would have to be a lot of voting, for sure, and a lot of questioning of basic worldview assumptions that is highly unlikely to occur -- but it's possible.

San Francisco is also being sued to overturn their handgun ban, it will be interesting to see how the flaked-out Ninth Circuit deals with a blunt, straightforward Scalia opinion. I wouldn't be surprised to see them say, "Well, we disagree" and have the suit end up back at SCOTUS, they're that far out.

An interesting aside to the opinion Scalia wrote -- it's salted with Alice in Wonderland references. Apparently the theme of Alice in Wonderland is how language can be used to obfuscate meaning, rather than make it clearer. The fact that a subtle thread (and insult) can be woven into a clearly-stated opinion is indicative of the level of Scalia's genius. I hope he never retires, they should make him sleep in Tupperware to extend his term on the bench. But if he does retire, I hope he writes books. Of all the justices I find Scalia's opinions the easiest to read and understand.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heller Ruling

Well, the Supreme Court has spoken and we again have a Second Amendment. The Washington, DC handgun ban is unconstitutional, and so is the trigger-lock requirement.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) are predictably incensed, and virtually everyone else from uber-liberal Russell Feingold (D-WI) to ur-conservative John Cornyn (R-TX) are generally quite pleased. Feinstein repeated the now-discounted meme that the prior case from 1939, US v. Miller, said the Second Amendment was a collective and not individual right, and stated that the SCOTUS had thrown out "70 years of precedent." Frank Lautenberg, if anybody cares, said this just made him more interested in not promoting "activist" judges like Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Is there a circus around here? Because we appear to have at least two clowns.

They can go pound sand. Last I heard, Anthony Kennedy wasn't considered a rock-ribbed conservative, and he was likely the swing vote on this issue. There isn't a whole lot of precedent on the Second Amendment, US v Miller is the most recent case. There is a 5th Circuit Court ruling, US v Emerson, that was among the first to "find" an individual right in the Second Amendment back in 2001, but that didn't apply outside of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The funny thing about all this windbagging is that this ruling is pretty limited in scope. It basically applies to Washington, DC and no farther, though the precedent of the Second Amendment being a right guaranteed to all Americans is still an important one. The ruling does not strike down all gun laws, Washington DC still has a licensing apparatus that has to be followed. Seeing as the ruling only addressed Washington, DC it has no applicability to the states, given that the Fourteenth Amendment was never brought into play. That issue, "incorporation", or to what extent states have to follow federal constitutional interpretations, will await another case. My bet is that the handgun ban in Chicago* and Morton Grove, IL will be the first case tested, and whatever comes of that will determine how far the newly-emancipated Second Amendment extends.

*In fact, the lawsuit has already been filed.

Scalia is 72 years old, though, and John Paul Stevens, who wrote the minority dissenting opinion, is 88 years old. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75, and a 5-4 opinion is more likely to be overturned or soft-pedaled in the future. This case has bearing on the Presidential election only to emphasize the importance of being able to nominate Supreme Court Justices. I suspect that Stevens will stay on the Court until he is either deceased or a Democrat wins the White House, out of a commitment to ideological balance. He certainly could have retired with honors years ago, but I believe the perceived bent of Alito and Roberts encouraged him to stay on.

Why did Bush 41 nominate David Souter, again? You would have thought he was going to be conservative based on who put him up, but apparently that was not to be. He's only 68, I'm afraid we're stuck with him for a while. I always found it fascinating that SCOTUS found a right to privacy from snippets of several aspects of the Bill of Rights in Roe v. Wade, but could not find the obvious (to me) individual right in the Second Amendment.

I do plan to bust a cap or two in celebration of this endorsement of the Second Amendment. Because when it comes down to it, the rights of "the people" does not mean the "right people" get to determine our rights. I believe we fought a war over that point, long ago.