A New Approach to Assault Weapons Control

It’s literally two sentences:

“Any firearm with a detachable magazine of any capacity, external feed mechanism of any capacity, or internal magazine greater than 10 rounds capacity, shall be considered a Class III weapon under the National Firearms Act (NFA). In addition, any and all external or aftermarket mechanisms designed to increase the rate of fire of an otherwise-legal firearm are comprehensively banned.”

First, this proposal bans no guns, which should mollify those who view firearms bans as unconstitutional, bad policy, incentives for black marketing, or simply unfair to law-abiding gun owners. By banning nothing, this proposal acknowledges and recognizes the need to protect rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Rather, this proposal makes it possible for law-abiding citizens to exercise their rights to the fullest, while blocking those who might constitute a danger. It bans nothing; it does require owners to meet higher standards of accountability, making it at least a proposal not inconsistent with conservative values, and worthy of serious consideration across ideological lines.

Second, this proposal sidesteps technical arguments about what constitutes an “assault weapon”. There is such a definition (see above video), but there are so many variations and gradations that trying to establish a definition that satisfies everyone is often impossible.* Therefore, this proposal identifies the one design feature that allows users to kill large numbers of people very quickly, reload instantly, and continue killing: the large ammunition capacity and rapid reload capability afforded by detachable, high-capacity magazines, which serves no other purpose beyond facilitating the mass killing of human beings. Period. There is one environment, and one only, in which one may require this capability: a battlefield. This also prevents the kind of travesty that occurred with the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, when gun companies simply changed stocks and removed bayonet lugs to turn banned AK-47s into legal, so-called “sporters”, which were still every bit as lethal as the original weapons. While some detachable-magazine weapons carry less than ten rounds, the ability of the aftermarket to create higher-capacity replacement magazines is prodigious, making the classification of all firearms built with detachable magazines as Class III weapons essential.

Third, there is a burgeoning market in aftermarket items designed to increase the rate of fire of traditional semiautos, enabling them to fire at rates comparable to fully-automatic machineguns. These make previous controls on fully-auto weapons obsolete; this obsolescence, along with the fact that almost any semiauto can be made to fire this way, demands the classification of these weapons with other weapons that fire at those rates. Whether that type of sustained rapid-fire capability is the product of internal or external mechanicals is of purely academic interest. If it can fire like a machinegun, it should be regulated like a machinegun. And practically any semi-auto can be made to fire that way-for more examples than you can count, go to YouTube and type in “bump firing.” Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Did you see that? Who knew?

Fourth, this proposal does not require amending the Constitution, and may not even require the passage of new laws: it is possible that the changes to the NFA necessary to implement this law could be done administratively, bypassing the torturous and unlikely-to-be-successful legislative process. In any case, the NFA has been the law of the land for more than 80 years, and is unlikely to be overturned.

Note: this proposal does not ban ANY guns. Rights are respected. The overwhelming percentage of firearms would remain legal and available; this proposal applies only to weapons which have been specifically engineered to kill people in large numbers, and even then, requires only that prospective owners meet the standards that have applied to owners of fully-automatic weapons since 1934. As most, if not all, legal semi-autos can be made to fire in a manner indistinguishable from full-auto (so-called “bump firing”), they should be regulated in the same common-sense Constitutionally-approved manner that other full-auto weapons are (and have been) in the US for more than 80 years. We know it can work; there is precedent. Before the NFA, the Thompson submachine gun made the Twenties Roar; after the NFA, crimes involving legally-owned full-automatic weapons dropped away to almost nothing, and have remained there ever since.

Pass it. Pass it now.

 

*Generally speaking, an “assault rifle” embodies four design characteristics: a straight-line stock with a pistol grip (for recoil control during rapid fire); a detachable high-capacity magazine; a cartridge that splits the difference in power between a full-powered rifle, and the pistol bullets used in submachine guns; and  selectable semi-auto/ full-automatic capability (Semi-auto fires one bullet with each pull of the trigger; full-auto is the sustained rapid fire associated with machine guns.). While only the first three are included on most “assault rifles” sold to the civilian market, a wide variety of simple, inexpensive add-ons (such as so-called “bump stocks”, triggers that fire multiple rounds, and trigger springs and cranks), or even simply adjusting the way the gun is held, can enable the gun to fire in a manner indistinguishable from full-automatic, making the lack of select-fire less of a difference than it seems at first. Likewise, weapons that embody all these characteristics except the bullet, such as civilian-market Uzis, are included, as they lack only the ability to reliably kill at long battlefield ranges. Hence the use of the term assault “weapon” instead of assault “rifle.”

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Revitalizing small towns through tourism

Travel + Leisure magazine published the article, The New American Small Towns, in The Big Idea section of their May 2017 issue. Small towns across America were highlighted for their unique natural resources, recreational opportunities, regional interests, and new commercial and hospitality ventures that are attracting outsiders, especially those from urban areas. These towns included: Thomas, West Virginia (population 600); Salida, Colorado (population 5,300); Lostine (population 300) and Joseph, Oregon; and Tubac, Arizona (population 1,200).

The article suggests how tourism can help revitalize rural communities, especially those whose populations are decreasing as young people move to cities where good jobs and opportunities are more plentiful. These towns are also proving to be a bridge to close the urban and rural divides in the United States. Every community and/or its region have unique attributes, be it a river, great hiking trails, distinctive retail outlets, local artists and artisans creating one-of-a-kind products or entertainment, lodging offered with a more personal touch, and much more.

My hometown newspaper, the Perry County News, published a story on December 26 about Cannelton, Indiana, resident Vince Gagliardi who is an avid hiker and organizer of guided hikes through the Hoosier National Forest. I discovered in the article, per Gagliardi, that the area in which I grew up has “…more miles of trails than any other county in the state.” That is a fact that Cannelton, Tell City (my hometown situated four miles from Cannelton), Perry County, and the state of Indiana should promote to lure visitors to the area and along with them, their spending dollars to help boost the local economies.

Hoosier_National_Forest

I reached out to Mr. Gagliardi with a few questions. He was gracious enough to respond and allow me to share his answers.

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A New Progressive Platform

This is a cycle we seem to be caught in. The Republicans get elected, and govern like a cross between a barbarian horde and a drunken fraternity. Then, the Democrats come in, and have to do the expensive and unpopular work of fixing the problems…which makes them unpopular, allowing a new Republican horde to ride into town like a panzer division on acid, and start the looting and pillaging anew.
As long as we are caught in this pattern, progressives /cannot/ win any lasting victories. There will only be occasional pauses in the downward spiral. Yes, we need to win 2018, more than anything in the immediate future, but how do we break out of this cycle? The answer, it seems to me, is big ideas. We have been so focused on repairing the damage that we haven’t done anything honestly worthwhile in a very long time. ObamaCare came close, but not really: like HillaryCare 20 years earlier, it was hobbled by its attempt to work within the existing paradigm instead of embracing the kind of genuine restructuring that might have genuinely changed things. So, we’re talking about New Deal, Great Society big. BIG.

So, here’s my Big Idea Platform. I’d like to know what the people think of it.

1) The Election Reform Act
This act will include public financing of elections, based on the understanding that any transfer of a thing of value to a public official or political campaign should be considered an attempt to bribe that official, and an end to partisan redistricting. There are robust, mature systems of public financing around the world available for study and adaptation. It is long past time to end the system of legalized bribery that has captured the US government and rendered it unresponsive to the needs of the general population. Likewise, all redistricting shall be done by non-partisan commissions.

2) An “Apollo Program” for clean energy.
It will be based on solar, wind, and wave power. Such a platform shall include a new energy grid that harnesses distributed micropower generation and AI management, and a new generation of nuclear reactors capable of using existing stocks of nuclear waste as fuel. This will simultaneously reduce carbon and heavy metals pollution in the environment, mitigate climate change, and eventually rid the country of nuclear waste.

3) Universal healthcare.
This can include a true single-payer system allowing access to everyone while allowing private providers for those who wish to avail themselves of additional services. Again, robust, mature systems are available for study and adaptation. Possible models include France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, and Canada.

4) A program of free post-secondary education or business investment.                                        Under this program, citizens will be able to either A), attend four years of a public university at public expense, B) access the amount of money four years of schooling would cost and use it as seed money to start a business, or C), any combination thereof: for instance, a student would be able to attend two years of technical school and then access two years worth of seed money funding for a start-up. Such a program will also include the forgiveness of all existing student loan debt, which is currently consigning two generations of Americans to debt peonage and acting as a huge brake on the US economy.

5) Raising the minimum wage.
This will include indexing the minimum wage to the inflation rate, putting an end to the degrading spectacle of continually having to beg for a continually-shrinking slice of the pie. Likewise, and for the same reason, Social Security benefits shall be indexed to the inflation rate.

6) Ending the war on drugs.
This will include the outright legalization of cannabis, the pardon of all federal prisoners held on simple possession charges, and the institution of a robust national drug treatment program for addicts. Under this program, regulatory authority will be transferred to the Food and Drug Administration, the DEA will be abolished outright, and asset forfeiture will not occur in the absence of a criminal conviction. This program will include a ban on the transfer of military equipment from the Department of Defense to civilian police departments, and a requirement that any civil judgement against a police officer must be paid by the officer personally. This program will hold that possession/intoxication itself is not a crime, but that criminal behavior, such as DUI, is.

7) Immigration reform.
Under this program, all immigrants, documented or otherwise, will be granted amnesty and allowed to stay if they register. This will allow immigrants to be protected under labor and civil law, ending the problem of legitimate business being undercut by underpaid, illegal labor. Any illegal employment of an undocumented worker shall be considered a felony. Likewise, immigrants convicted of crimes of violence, theft, fraud, espionage, or a pattern of criminal behavior, are subject to permanent deportation.

8) The Federal government as the employer of last resort.
This can be thought of as a new WPA: anyone unable to find productive work can go to work for the government, building/repairing infrastructure, parks, public buildings, etc. This should make the institution of a Universal Basic Income unnecessary, although a cost-benefit analysis and comparison between this program and a UBI should be conducted.

9) The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act.
This will outlaw any and all warrantless electronic or physical surveillance of a citizen, and will include a Citizen’s information Bill of Rights, which will state that any business that compiles information on a citizen for sale or other distribution is required to notify that citizen and give the citizen the opportunity to dispute information included therein. Further, any business that profits from the sale of individuals’ information will be required to share those proceeds with the individual.

10) The Private Security Services Reform Act.
Private prisons, police forces, military contractors, and intelligence agencies, or any other businesses serving largely identical functions, are henceforth banned.

11) The Assault Weapons Control Act.
Any firearm design that includes a detachable magazine and a semi-automatic or autoloading action shall be considered a Class III weapon under the National Firearms Act. Further, the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any device designed to increase the rate of fire of an otherwise legal weapon, such as, but not limited to, trigger cranks, multiple-fire triggers, or so-called “bump-stocks”, shall be banned.

12) The Honesty in Commerce Act.
Any business that engages in systemic theft or fraud, as has been widely documented in, among others, the banking and auto-repair industries, shall be subject to seizure and liquidation without recompense to shareholders, and shareholders shall be held liable for crimes committed to their benefit. Likewise, the importation, manufacture, sale, or distribution of any device designed to access or steal from individuals, such as credit-card skimmers and car lock defeat mechanisms, shall be banned.

13) Adoption in total of S.1006, the “Equality Act”, to, finally, “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”

Feedback, suggestions, and comments are encouraged.

Mommy, he’s a bad man

If I were a Donald Trump supporter, hearing “Mommy, he’s a bad man” would be enough for me to withdraw my support immediately.

I was recently told the following story by someone close to me. The television was on in her home during the presidential primary season and Donald Trump was speaking. No one was really paying attention to it except for her 8 year old child. With no prompting from anyone, a few minutes later, the youngster turned to the woman and said, “Mommy, he’s a bad man.” The woman, who is no Trump supporter, said this was a revealing moment for her. The child did not know who the man was or his relevance to the news cycle, only that this was a person who was saying hateful and mean things in an ugly tone of voice. Upon hearing this, she engaged her child in an age-appropriate conversation about the election.

This story exemplifies why Mr. Trump is not only a terrible role model for our children but also someone from whom they should be protected. No matter how much one may despise Hillary Clinton, she refrains from spewing hateful rhetoric and using a disparaging, vitriolic tone of voice.

Some readers may come back with: What about her “basket of deplorables” remark? While admittedly that was an unfortunate comment, she didn’t say all Trump supporters were deplorable, just some and she did preface it with being “grossly generalistic.” Nor did she use a snarling tone of voice to deliver it. Furthermore, there is evidence to support her assertion.* Secretary Clinton pales in comparison to Donald’s ugliness, even having made that impolitic remark.

Below is a campaign ad put out by the Clinton campaign that addresses this very issue.

Ask yourself this: Is Donald Trump really the person you want your children listening to and seeing on television for the next four, possibly eight years?

 

* Clinton, it appears, has her own “basket of deplorables” too. It’s a good deal smaller than Mr. Trump’s, but she has one. You can read more in the Forbes article below.

Clinton’s Got Data Supporting That Basket of Deplorables

Cross-posted at Writing Life

The Flint disaster can happen in your city too

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released their last infrastructure report card in 2013 and gave the United States an overall D+. This country’s infrastructure is in dismal shape, which means many people have been, are being, and will be harmed in some way, be it via a bridge collapse, poisoned water, crumbling schools, sewage or oil leaking into the ground or homes (yes, sewage leaking into the home has happened to me (in New Jersey) and to my parents (in Indiana)), and sadly, the list goes on.

Investment in infrastructure is imperative to prevent it from collapsing all around us. Failure to do this not only poses great safety risks to the public but is also a drain on our economy. Investment doesn’t mean using taxpayer dollars only—private-public partnerships should be sought. Infrastructure must be better regulated too. Some may scream there is too much regulation and perhaps on paper that is true, but time and time again it is revealed post-disaster that systems and equipment were not being adequately maintained or regulated. Prioritizing penny-pinching and profit-seeking over people’s safety should never be an acceptable way to operate.

The Flint, Michigan, water situation could have been avoided. It is an example of the devastating consequences when poor governance, lax oversight, minimal to no accountability to the public, poverty, austerity, and aging, unsafe, or contaminated infrastructure collide. The Republican Governor with his mania for austerity and appointing emergency managers (in Flint, Pontiac, Detroit, Highland Park, Benton Harbor, to name a few) has contributed a good deal to this crisis—and yes, he did, no matter how much some people want to spin it. Governor Rick Snyder asserts that Flint’s water crisis was only brought to his attention in October 2015. Even if that proves to be true, why did he wait three months before taking any action to right this wrong? Continue reading

REI makes the right decision closing on Black Friday

If this is how you spend Thanksgiving, perhaps it's time to take REI's message to heart.

If this is how you spend Thanksgiving, perhaps it’s time to take REI’s message to heart.

For years, I’ve ranted and raved about the depravity of Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping. In lieu of family time, we devolve into a proto-human state, as we trample, bum rush, and make a mad dash into Targets, Best Buys, Wal-Marts, and other big box stores across the country. All for a deal, right?

We seldom consider what we ask of retail employees–often some of the lowest paid employees in the country–as they give up their holiday to service our endless quest for bargains and mostly junk. The deal on electronics, toys, and clothes is just too much for the American consumer or the American retailer to pass up and in recent years, retailers moved Black Friday into Thanksgiving Day, ruining the holidays for countless numbers of Americans. It’s not just the employees who give up their holiday to watch the hordes stuff mass quantities of “Made in China” dreck into a cart, but the families of those who wolf down Thanksgiving dinner because Target opens in two hours.

As I said, I’ve discussed this before and I am firmly against retailers who open on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the only secular holiday in the United States in which we gather with family, eat a festive meal, and hopefully feel thankful for all we have. It’s important, it’s reflective, and it’s a day that ties us to a simpler, more respectful United States. Retailers and consumers have changed that, but fortunately, someone is bucking the trend.

Outdoor retailer REI–which also happens to be a coop–won’t just close on Thanksgiving this year, but they’re also closing on Black Fridaypaying employees to spend the day outdoors, and encouraging their customers to do the same.

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Benghazi hearing more about campaigning than Clinton or the truth

Clinton's face said it all.

Clinton’s face said it all.

After eleven grueling, often mind-numbing hours of testimony by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it seemed as if the GOP member of the Benghazi committee had met their match. Clinton remained calm, cool, and collected for most of the hearing, with Democratic members throwing barbs, while Republicans found new ways to ask the same question several dozen times. As the hearings wound to an end, I had a thought: what if this has nothing to do with Benghazi or stopping Clinton’s march to the White House? It sounds ludicrous. After all, Republicans have orchestrated Benghazi hearings for years with the goal of putting an end to Clinton’s dreams of winning the presidency, but with just a year until the general election, and a clown car of a GOP primary field, Republican members of Congress may consider Clinton all-but-invetiable. So why grill Clinton for 11 hours?

Congressional Republicans have elections to win in 2016 too. Their own.

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