Category Archives: Law

Again With the Guns

I have now learned that a great way to increase the amount of public participation on your blog is to talk about guns. The feedback on my last post set a record.

I have also learned that having a reasonable debate on this subject is pretty much impossible. There is so much disinformation out there that people involved in the discussion seem to be speaking different languages.

Part of the problem is that there really is, as I noted in the last post, not a lot of good data on the effects of gun ownership and gun regulation. I know that sounds crazy and I have to tell you, as one who believes in making informed data driven judgments it is very frustrating. But it is true mostly because the government, which funds much of the academic research in the United States, has for years forbidden the organizations responsible for public health and safety to fund studies into the causes of death by gunfire. That leaves us arguing, for example, on the effectiveness of the assault weapons ban which expired in 2004.

There is an excellent and new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in The American Journal of Medicine which finds, “The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 25 times higher than in other high-income countries, and the firearm suicide rate is eight times higher.” That is fine as far as it goes. But it does not try to connect the high rates of death to the differences in gun regulation between the United States and those other countries. In addition it was funded by The Joyce Foundation, which advocates for regulation.

That funding source leaves the study open to criticism from the pro-gun people, who spend vast sums of money debunking even the most straight forward studies of the gun death epidemic, my words, in the United States. The so-called “Just Facts” site looks to make a well argued and graphically supported point that the news media in America exaggerates the gun related death rate. I direct you to the link and will not copy their charts here. How many people will read carefully? I fear not many as I laugh at charts comparing a less than 10 in 100,000 murder rate in the United States with a 10 per 1,000,000 homicide rate reported by police in England and Wales. That indicates the rate in the U.S. is ten times greater, although the charts look the same.

We know that the killing rate in the United States is off the charts. And we know that the only significant difference between America and the other countries is the number of high powered, large capacity, rapid fire weapons of war that are available to the public in America. These are not the weapons the authors of the Second Amendment knew when they wrote. There is no reason why we must be bound, in the Twenty-First Century, by an Eighteenth Century law.

Moreover, we never were. Common sense applied until the gun manufacturing lobby and its National Rifle Association began its campaign in the 1970s to change the way our political leaders and courts read the Second Amendment since it was enacted. See the Brennan Center’s, How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment.

Perhaps the late Chief Justice of the United States, Warren Burger, a conservative and a Republican, put it best:

The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies — the militia — would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.

Warren Berger,
Chief Justice of the United States,
MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, 1991

We can’t look to anyone else to fix this problem. It is up to us. The next time you hear about a mass killing skip the thoughts and prayers. Register and vote.

 

 

 

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RE: Barr Memo RE: Meuller Report

I thought we should wait to write about the Mueller Report until we had actually read it. Silly me.

We have now seen an incalculable amount of ink and airtime expended reporting on and analyzing the report by special counsel Robert Mueller into “any links and/or consultation between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

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Journalism? When Pigs Fly!

I could never have anticipated this post. In fact, I can see myself sitting in my journalism class alongside my friends, Marc, Mark and David, Alanna and Lori, and my professors, Isaacs, Patterson, Wood and Friendly. What I wonder, would have happened if I had predicted that 45 years later I would write, and publish where anyone in the world could see it, a commentary containing a reference to a “dick pic”? Never have received my degree, probably.

For those of you who have been on the far side of the moon, shielded from any electromagnetic radiation emanating from earth, a quick recap. Jeff Bezos, who the style books demand must be referred to as, “Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world,” on first reference, woke up one morning to find himself on the front page of the National Enquirer.

bezos-enquirer-div

One generally finds the Enquirer at the supermarket checkout, where it might come in handy if the store is out of toilet paper. This issue featured the details of Bezos’ impending divorce, along with pictures of Bezos and a woman, not his wife, who he was reportedly seeing.

In spite of the headline, I am not going to argue that this report is not journalism. The press has a special place in the history of the United States. It is the only occupation specifically protected by the Constitution. The framers who wrote that document knew exactly what they were doing. They had employed the press to spread the word, sometimes false, about British abuse of colonialists. That helped fan the flames of insurrection. In fact, I’ve often thought the British might have won the Revolutionary War if they had just confiscated every printing press in America.

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Justice Kavanaugh

It’s Justice Kavanaugh now. Damn it.

Not that there was really any suspense. The Republican take-over of the federal courts has been a decades long project and, as usual, the lackluster resistance of the Democrats has been powerless to stop it. It does not matter that Americans, by a 51-41 percent margin, disapprove of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Americans preferred the Democratic candidate for president in 2016. A lot of good that did her.

I can hear it now. Even from some friends and relatives. “You’re just a ‘g d’ east coast liberal Democrat.” And then there’s, “Elections have consequences.” Thank you Lindsey Graham. First of all, I’m from Chicago. Not even close to either coast. Second, I was born into a very Republican family and I have voted for many Republicans over the years. But the Republicans I respected are either dead, retired, or primaried out of office. What’s left is a group of people who see politics as a blood sport where winning is everything. People for whom cooperation is anathema and no tactic out of bounds on the road to victory.

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