Monday, October 20, 2014

Utah Gun Laws and the Blame Game.

As you may know, feminist activist and lecturer, Anita Sarkeesian, was scheduled to address the students at Utah State University (USU) about sexism and the way woman are portrayed in video games. Several email threats were sent to USU regarding her visit, including a very disturbing one threatening violence and death on a scale to rival the school massacres of recent years. As a student at USU, I received several emails from the school about the subject, as events unfolded. Extra security was put in place and the campus officials felt confident in allowing the event to go on. Ms. Sarkeesian was not satisfied with the level of security, however, and decided to cancel her lecture. I was curious to hear her take on things, and I'm sorry she decided to cancel. I understand and respect her decision, even if I don't agree with her reasoning.

Someone has now posted a statement to various places on the web, along with her picture, stating that, "Because of lax gun control laws in Utah, the police were unable to ensure that weapons wold be brought into the venue, forcing her to cancel." I have no idea if  these were Ms. Sarkeesian's actual words or not. What they are referring to is Utah's concealed carry law, which allows those with concealed carry permits to carry a weapon in public and on government property. Because USU is a state owned school, people with a Utah concealed carry permit would be allowed to bring their weapons.

Where the pundits, and Ms. Sarkeesian, get it wrong is that the bad guys don't care about the law. First, open carry is not only discouraged on campus but will get you arrested. Concealed carry is only legal if you have been trained and have a permit. The bad guys don't like to get permits because then they get fingerprinted and are know to carry a gun. It is likely that those packing either have permits, or are the bad guys, If the police can't tell if you're carrying a weapon or not, they're not going to be able to tell if you have a permit or not. If they figure out you're carrying, they'll approach you and ask for a permit. If don't have one, they'll haul you away and now you are no longer a threat, anyway.

Second, most of the student population here doesn't carry a weapon. As I said, open carry isn't allowed on campus, and those living on campus are forbidden from having weapons in their apartments.

Third, in order for the death toll to have been as catastrophic as the emails were threatening, it would likely be a team with larger weapons, such as rifles, or a bomb. These are not allowed on campus, no matter what kind of permit you may have. The possibility of their presence is no greater on USU campus than in any other state in the U.S that Ms. Sarkeesian may have chosen to speak at.

Still, it's the person with the concealed carry permit, that has been fingerprinted, is known, is trained in the safe handling of a weapon, and knows when deadly force is, and is not, appropriate, that the pundits feel is the real threat. Not the criminal nutjob terrorists who don't care what the laws are, anyway.  Oh no. The law abiding citizenry are the problem according to these people.

And now, because Ms. Sarkeesian canceled her lecture, complying with the terrorist's threat, she's allowed them to win. Freedom of speech has given way to fear. And so in the spirit of college athletics, let me give you the score, at least as far as this case goes: Terrorists 1, Freedom of Speech 0.

What a lousy game.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Hobby Lobby and Delusion of Corporate Personhood

The recent supreme court ruling regarding Hobby Lobby has a lot of people up on arms. Including me. I'm not sure how many of these people are upset for the same reasons, though. To me, this has less to do with religious rights than with the political fiction that corporations are people.

This legal fiction began back in the early 1800's so, it's nothing new. It's a convenient way of justifying making corporations pay taxes and protects their owners from some kinds of lawsuits and other legal matters. But things have gone a little crazy in the last several years. Corporations have the right to donate money to political campaigns, and are now exempt from the requirement to provide certain kinds of medical coverage demanded by the Affordable Care Act. What I believe we really need to do is sit back and evaluate just what corporations are, and what they are supposed to be.

In one very clear way, a corporation is a legally recognized group of people, acting in concert. The original idea of corporate personhood was intended to protect the constitutional rights of individual shareholders, when they acted collectively. Sounds all well and good, on the surface. The problem, as I see it, comes in two forms:
  1. When a shareholder is allowed to act as himself, and as the corporation, the shareholder effectively becomes more than one person.
  2. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution is being used to protect the rights of corporations, but not their employees.
Let me explain. When it comes to political campaigns, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has decided that donating money to a cause is the same as political speech. Therefore, to protect the First Amendments rights of shareholders, corporations must be allowed to donate to political campaigns. In effect, then, a shareholder may donate twice, once as himself, and once as part of his corporation.

Political campaigns can only accept a certain amount of money from an individual, or corporation. Accordingthe Federal Election Commission, an individual may give up to $2,600 to each candidate of their choice. That money, however, is not counted against the additional $2,6000 that can be given through a PAC. Nor does it count the other multitude of ways a person can donate funds, as long as the individual donates through various corporations.

Many corporate shareholders own more than one company. Large corporations own smaller corporations and each corporation may be considered yet another “person,” even if, in the final measure, it is only one or two actual human beings. To put it simply, an individual can extend their political power and influence by owning more and more corporations. Why? Because each one of them is a legal “person” on paper. In effect, they are able to exercise certain rights more than other individuals because the law considers them to be more than one person. I can only guess at the other abuses this legal fiction enables.

Let's move on to my second point, and use Hobby Lobby as an example. For this to make sense, let's revisit the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment:

“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.”

When we apply corporate personhood to this portion, “ 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...” it becomes clear why the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby denying coverage of “morning after” birth control measures to their employees. If the shareholders of Hobby Lobby are acting as a “person,” they cannot be denied their right to exercise their religious beliefs regarding appropriate birth control measures. But here's the part the court's seem to have ignored, “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” If the Affordable Care Act is a legal protection for employees, then ANY exception, if not specifically written into the law, would violate the Constitution. By that reading, any corporation seeking an exception to the Affordable Care Act would be violating the Constitutional rights of its employees.

All of this stems from the simple delusion that corporations are people.

If you want to help fight the legal fiction of corporate personhood, visit Move To Amend for more information.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Governor Herbert Vetoes HB 76 – Concealed Carry Without a Permit

Governor Gary Herbert has vetoed Utah House Bill 76, a modification to Utah’s concealed carry laws for fire arms, and I’m glad. This bill would allow anyone in Utah to carry concealed weapons, without a concealed carry permit. Some of my friends will likely be upset with me, but I can’t imagine why it would have passed in the first place.

I am a firm believer in the right of American citizens to bear arms. Indeed, when I joined the USMC I took an oath to defend the U.S Constitution and, although that was many years ago and I no longer actively serve, I till take that oath very seriously. I prefer to think of myself as an “inactive Marine,” not a former one. As such, I have the honor of having belonged to a warrior culture. Being part of a warrior culture is very different from being part of a gun culture.

Most members of a warrior culture prefer peace over violence; we’re just not above using violence to protect ourselves, our friends, our family, our community or our country’s lawful interests. NOTE: that’s LAWFUL interests. We’re trained in the appropriate use of deadly force, weapons use and safety. We are NOT trained to kill indiscriminately. Accidents involving “friendly fire” are common enough to make us nervous. Such accidents can lead to the death of civilians, or members of our units. As you can imagine, we wouldn’t be very happy about any of those things happening. Such things are taken very seriously by “higher ups” in the chain of command, regardless of what the media shows.

Currently, in Utah people with a concealed weapon permit have to go through gun safety training. They are given information about the appropriate use of deadly force. In short, they may not be warriors, but they know when to, and when not to, use a firearm. They can be trusted to carry a gun.

Most people who participate in gun culture share the same goals and concerns that members of a warrior culture do. Most of them are intelligent people who take gun ownership and use very seriously. Not all of them have taken the time to be trained, however. Not all of them understand the fine points of gun safety or the appropriate use of deadly force. Not all of them know not to fire into a crowd. Many do, but not all. So called “common-sense” is far from common. Someone with a loaded gun, who doesn't know the proper and safe use of it, is a danger to himself and others every time he draws it.

Changing the laws so that anyone can carry a concealed firearm, training or not, means that we will have more people who are untrained carrying weapons that they may, or may not, know how to properly use, and there is no way for anyone around them to figure out if they are packing or not. From the perspective of a bad guy, that might be a good thing. Bad guys are less likely to act badly if someone might be packing. But they don’t know who’s got a concealed carry permit or not so, from that standpoint, the impact is minimal at best.

It would pose a problem for law enforcement, however. Right now, if you’re packing a concealed weapon without a permit, you’re breaking the law. Pretty cut and dried. If not, the officer has to make a call as to your intent. The wording of “intent” is pretty vague. Even if the officer decides that you may have criminal intent in carrying the firearm, if he can’t prove it, later, this opens the state to lawsuit after lawsuit.

If the governor’s veto of HB 76 is overturned, we can expect an increased number of both trained, and untrained, gun wielders running around, as well as a waste if more state tax dollars on frivolous lawsuits. Why would anyone think this a good idea?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Obama Abandons the Defense of Marriage Act

President Barack Obama has decided that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and has directed the Department of Justice to quit defending it.

Supporters of gay marriage are declaring a victory. Detractors are up in arms.

There's one problem that only a few people seem to get, President Obama doesn't have the authority to do that. Only the Judicial Branch, and ultimately the Supreme Court, can declare an existing federal law unconstitutional and stop it's enforcement. It can be repealed, but only by Congress. The Executive Branch has no say in the matter until such a move passes both the House and the Senate. Representative Feinstein, as much I am not a fan of her, at least understands that and has decided to put forth a bill calling for it's repeal.

I personally believe she won't be able to get it to pass in the House of Representatives. At least I hope she won't.

This is just one more move by this administration to spit on the Constitution and try and take more authority that it actually has. I used to shake my head in disbelief at the people calling for President Obama's impeachment. Now I'm not so sure they're wrong.

My own feeling is that, regardless of the bogus rhetoric, marriage, at it's core, is about having children. It's a sacred institution and should only be between a man and a woman. Putting religious differences aside, there are many compelling secular reasons as well. If you don't think same sex marriage hurt anyone, you may need to take a second look.