Peaceful Rally at City Hall in Suffolk Virginia

I attended a Black Lives Matter rally at City Hall tonight, in light rain, although it was still going on when I left at about 7:15. As far as I could tell, it was primarily organized by Eric Knight who is active in Suffolk. It was peaceful and dignified. Mr. Knight and other speakers called for peace, unity across demographics, and in what might even please the “what about Black on Black crime?” crowd, said that he was tired not only of crimes committed by police, but by people in the neighborhoods.

There were no nasty insults against the police, although there were calls for rules to ensure police accountability. For their part, a few officers where parked across the street near the library at a respectful distance.

City officials who were in the crowd were invited to speak, and among those who spoke where Clerk of Court Randy Carter, who spoke about the importance of registering to vote and voting.

I was proud that a rally in my city could be so peaceful, but mindful of the fact if we want rallies to be peaceful, then peaceful rallies have to make a difference.

Jeanne Assam was a Cop

Making rounds in the Internet is an image macro which describes how Jeanne Assam shot a church murderer in Colorado in 2007. The image praises her for pulling out her “legal, concealed gun”, then says you would never hear about her from the “Liberal Media, because she is an inconvenient fact in their war to disarm America”.

According to the image, the liars who take credit for it are TeaPartyCommunity.com.

They are lying only by omission when it comes to the shooting and the heroic take-down by Ms. Assam. They are leaving out one important fact: Jeanne Assam was a retired cop and she was on duty as a security officer when she pulled out her “legal, concealed gun”.

That’s a big omission, because the so-called liberal plan to disarm America would not have extended towards Jeanne Assam. Even people calling for tighter gun control generally aren’t saying we should disarm cops and qualified security guards. In fact the Colorado Springs shooting might be a perfect example of the point that Liberal America is trying to make: It should be harder for deranged lunatics to get guns, and guns belong in the hands of properly trained public servants.

Tea Party Community may be lying by omission about Assam, but they are lying directly about the media. The incident was covered at the time. In fact, the press coverage of Assam was extensive enough to be used as an example in this critique by NBC on the use of the word “exclusive”:

I’m tired of these fake so called exclusives wherein networks make us to believe that the only place to have a certain of information. If you’re watching cable news Monday night, you might have seen interviews with Jeanne Assam, the volunteer security guard who killed the gunman at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. She was on CNN on Monday night as indicated in their exclusive banner and the next hour, she was on FOX News. If you tuned in to GOOD MORNING AMERICA on Tuesday morning, lo and behold, GMA exclusive.

And the website for Assam’s book has quotes from the press. Four years later Ms. Assam was in the spotlight again, when she said the church which she so bravely defended asked her to leave because she was gay.

So another right wing lie goes viral and those willing to take a little time to do some fact checking bang our heads in frustration.

Edit 2015/6/21: The Snopes article originally failed to mention Jeanne Assam’s police background, but has been updated, so I removed this paragraph: Sadly, Snopes has the misleading image macro in an article which explores the question, “Was a church shooting foiled by an armed woman in the congregation?”. Indeed the answer to that question is “yes”, but Snopes, like Tea Party Community, fails to mention that Assam was an ex-cop and a security guard, and the use of the image in that article strongly suggests that the words in the image are true.

Ferguson Findings Worse then You Might Think

When I saw headlines announcing that the Justice Department figured out that the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department was racist, I figured, “no shit”. I assumed somebody crunched some numbers somewhere and came up with a report showing Black people get ticketed and arrested, and occasionally shot to death, more often then White people. But report is, in fact, worse than just that.

The Washington Post has an article and a link to the Justice Department’s report, which includes

a 32-year-old African-American man sat in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a Ferguson public park. An officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in, and demanded the man’s Social Security number and identification. Without any cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, referring to the presence of children in the park, and ordered the man out of his car for a pat-down, although the officer had no reason to believe the man was armed. The officer also asked to search the man’s car. The man objected, citing his constitutional rights. In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. One charge, Making a False Declaration, was for initially providing the short form of his first name (e.g., “Mike” instead of “Michael”), and an address which, although legitimate, was different from the one on his driver’s license. Another charge was for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was seated in a parked car. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in his possession. The man told us that, because of these charges, he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government that he had held for years.

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It’s worth noting one paragraph which won’t make it to most of the media outlets out there

We thank the City officials and the rank-and-file officers who have cooperated with this investigation and provided us with insights into the operation of the police department, including the municipal court. Notwithstanding our findings about Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement and the policing culture it creates, we found many Ferguson police officers and other City employees to be dedicated public servants striving each day to perform their duties lawfully and with respect for all members of the Ferguson community. The importance of their often-selfless work cannot be overstated.

But other than that, the report describes a racist department who’s dirty deeds have had devastating effects on their victims.

This is Embarrassing: Man with Illegal Gun Released Due to Stand Your Ground

A lot of comments on my post about stand your ground laws, in which I wrote “Gun ownership is much higher among White people than Black people, so stand-your-ground laws do not provide equal protection,” where suggestions that I forgot about all the Black people with illegal guns. My answers to those comments were that some people have a very inflated sense of how many Black people are illegally holding guns, and that those illegally gun-toting Black people don’t count towards what I was writing about.

The two reasons I felt the illegally gun-toting Black people didn’t count were because I was writing about how stand your ground laws unequally affect law abiding citizens (not criminals), and because stand your ground laws don’t protect people with illegal guns.

Well maybe I was wrong about my second reason. Apparently, somebody with an illegal gun can get away using stand your ground in Florida. 17 year old Tyrone Pierson will not be charged with murder for killing Julius Jerome Jacobs, who threatened him with a stick, even though he shot his assailant with an illegal gun. The reasoning, as explained on Talking Points Memo was

… even though the famed Stand Your Ground provision passed by the Florida legislature in 2005 prohibits those who are engaged in “unlawful activity” from claiming Stand Your Ground immunity, that another provision amended at the same time authorizes the use of deadly force in similar circumstances with no explicit exception for “unlawful activity.”

The primary focus of laws requiring retreat where possible is to protect innocent people. In Pierson’s case, there were witnesses, and perhaps evidence, to convince prosecutors that Jacobs was the aggressor, but without those witnesses or evidence all we would have is a dead guy and another guy saying, “He started it”. Requiring people to retreat where possible would reduce the amount of people killed, some of whom would be innocent.

Nobody says you can’t defend yourself if you have to. Most claims of self defense seem to go just the way the Zimmerman case went, with the killer being dismissed or acquitted because there isn’t enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the killer wasn’t in fear for his life.

Even without SYG, Pierson might not have been charged with murder, but he might have been charged with something related to his failure to retreat. The possibility of such a charges would save lives.

False Analogies about Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman

Ever since the public outcry about the initial failure to arrest George Zimmerman last year, several right wing bloggers found that a nice way to get hits is to find a story about a Black on White killing, accuse liberals & the media of covering it up, and accuse Black people of being irrational.

An early example from the American Thinker asks what would happen if the races of Martin and Zimmerman were reversed, and procedes to answer:

There would be no white mobs in the street chanting “No justice, no peace!” There would be no whites holding a “million hoodie march” in New York City. There would be no white equivalent of Al Sharpton, […] And there would be no national media attention from biased, left-wing “reporters.” […] We know this because in fact, such an event occurred in 2009 [..] Roderick Scott, a black man, shot and killed an unarmed white teen, Christopher Cervini, whom he believed was burglarizing a neighbor’s car, with a licensed .40 cal. handgun.

The American Thinker must spend a lot of time thinking up ways to spin false conclusions from actual facts. There are similarities, but the Scott-Cervini shooting is not a negative image of the Zimmerman-Martin shooting. For one thing, it’s generally agreed upon that Cervini was actively involved in a crime during the shooting. More significantly, Roderick Scott was arrested and tried.

A more recent and disturbing example comes from The Daily Caller. This post is disturbing because there are no similarities. It’s simply an example of Black on White crime posted to incite hatred. The post begins with “WARNING: THIS POST IS RACIST”, but despite the sarcastic deflection, it is. Its only saving grace is the racism displayed by the author, Jim Treacher, pales against the racism of many of the commenters. Mr. Treacher and his readers should also note that when President Obama said his son would look like Trayvon Martin, it’s because there actually is a faint resemblance. If you look at every Black thug you see in the news and decide he looks as much like Obama as Martin did, you might be a racist.

If you can stand to read the comments on the Daily Caller post, you’ll notice some written by commenters brave enough to speak truth to the bigots and idiots who make up much of the Daily Caller’s readership. Many point out the primary difference: The four thugs of the Daily Caller post were arrested and treated like murderers.

For all race-baiting bloggers who dig through the news for Black on White crime and ask where the outrage is, I can do the same: Where’s the public outcry against Gary Smith, a White Army Ranger who shot and killed a Black Army Ranger in the head, and was found guilty of manslaughter rather than 2nd degree murder. Apparently putting a gun to someone’s head and pulling the trigger is “negligent”. Where’s the outrage against James Biddinger, a White man who stabbed Kevin Mbayo to death in an argument over a clogged toilet. Where’s the outrage over Natalia Wilson, who murdered a mixed race 8 year old boy and his mother over a romantic quarrel.

All of these cases went by without Black mobs chanting “No justice, no peace!”, without Al Sharpton, and without national media attention.

It should be obvious that there must be some reason other than the fact that Trayvom Martin was Black and George Zimmerman is half-White for the Martin-Zimmerman case to have caused such outrage. That reason (among others) is, Zimmerman wasn’t going to be arrested. It’s simply not true that Black people go hysterical when a White guy shoots a Black guy.

I was accused of being ready to convict Zimmerman without a trial. That is not true. Zimmerman may be found innocent and that verdict may even by justified. If there was a timely investigation into the shooting, then Zimmerman’s trial would just be another crime which may or may not have gotten any notable coverage.

Any blogger who posts a Black on White crime and wonders about why that crime doesn’t get the attention that Trayvon Martin’s shooting has gotten, at the very least, hasn’t done his homework. At worst, that blogger is deliberately calling for racial violence under the guise of some sick version of justice.

Update July 14th: And I should have mentioned Michael Dunn

Proof that Illegal Guns don’t Come From Gun Shows – As Long as You Don’t Think to Hard.

I came across a recent NRA-ILA article about a Bureau of Justice Statistics crime report. The first two paragraphs, a quarter of the article, contain nothing about the crime report and are, instead, a list of insults about President Obama on topics ranging from the economy to golf.

The subject of the article is introduced in the third paraghraph with,

Adding to the bad news for the Obama agenda, a report issued by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS-a component of the Justice Department) shows that firearm homicides in general, and violence at schools, have decreased substantially during the last two decades

This seems odd to me because the statistics the NRA is citing show a precipitous drop in violent crime since 1993, which is when the Brady bill was passed. To me, that seems like good news for the “Obama agenda”.

A lot of people argue that the Brady bill had no effect. They argue that a) The Brady bill only effected 32 states, and b) Crime started dropping before the Brady bill, in 1991. But the states that the Brady bill didn’t effect already had strict gun control laws. Before the Brady bill, people who lived in those states wouldn’t find it difficult to get guns elsewhere.

Also, from at least 1970 until 1990, peaks were often followed by dips lasting a couple of years, followed by continuations of the rise. That means that by 1994 when the Brady bill went into effect, the crime rate should have started rising again as it did in 1976, 1983 and 1987.

Bureau of Justice Statistics Violent Offenses per 100,000
http://www.bjs.gov/ucrdata/Search/Crime/State/RunCrimeTrendsInOneVar.cfm%5B/caption%5D

I’m not calling this proof that the Brady bill worked or that it worked by itself. There are a lot of theories about the drop in crime since the ’90s and I personally like the lead abatement theory. I just don’t see how a drop in crime rate since an important piece of gun control legislation was put into place looks bad for gun control.

But another point that the NRA and other anti-background-check organizations are cheering about is the small percentage of guns obtained at gun shows by criminals who were arrested while possessing those guns.

40 percent of criminals get their guns from friends and family members, and another 37 percent get theirs from theft or other illegal sources

. Rolling “theft or other illegal sources” together glosses over the fact that direct theft is a relatively rare means of obtaining a gun. Must guns held by criminals during their arrest came from family or friends. The next biggest block came from illegal purchases.

What the report doesn’t say is where the guns came from before they fell into the hands of illegal dealers or others willing to provide guns to people about to commit crimes.

A guy who wants a gun but can’t get one because of his criminal record probably isn’t going to steal one and he’s probably not going to wait for the next gun show to roll through town. He’s probably going to go to someone who buys and sells guns and is willing to put them in the hands of people who can’t pass background checks. That person, if he also has a criminal record ( which seems likely for someone who sells guns to criminals ), probably gets his guns from gun shows, the internet, or trade with other dealers, etc. Closing loopholes won’t stop all of these sales, but will stop a lot of them. It will certainly stop a lot more than the less than 1% that gun control opponents would have you believe based on the BJS report.

Just because a prisoner responding to a survey says, “I got my gun from a friend”, doesn’t mean that universal background checks wouldn’t have prevented that gun from getting into the hands of a criminal.

My Gun Control Listicle (mine goes to 11!)

Perhaps I’m not as internet savvy as I think I am, because I didn’t know what a “Listicle” was when my wife asked me. She saw it in a Mother Jones article. Apparently listicles are all the rage.

Here’s my top 11 gun control misconceptions and lies, which even includes a couple from the Left.

1: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Here’s one example of why this zombie lie should be dead, dead, dead: Loughner, the monster that shot Gabby Giffords and killed a nine year old girl and others wasn’t stopped by a good guy with a gun even though there was a good guy with a gun in the area. He was stopped by unarmed people. While he was reloading. There are other examples. The biggest problem with this silly meme is the word “only”.

2: You can’t fight tyranny because governments have tanks and airplanes.

relief drawings of advanced military machinery on one side and a few rifles and handguns on the other

A spirited population can fight tyranny with sticks and stones. But the better armed they are, the better their chances. The goal isn’t necessarily to destroy the tyrant, but rather to be too much trouble to oppress.

3: Collective rights.

To review,

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

“The People” is used several times in the Constitution, as in “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons”, and “chosen every second Year by the People of the several States”, and it always means a bunch of individuals. It doesn’t always mean every single individual with no exceptions, but it certainly doesn’t mean a representative authority

4: What part of “Shall Not Be Infringed” Don’t You Understand?

It’s not “Shall Not Be Infringed” that’s so complicated. It’s everything else. First of all, “Bearing arms” might be a phrase that means something other than the sum of its words, like “breaking bread”. Even “bearing gifts” doesn’t simply mean “carrying presents”. “Bearing arms” probably means “soldiering”. But even if that’s true it doesn’t answer all of our questions. Hand to hand combat could be considered soldiering but probably not bearing arms. So the meaning of the Second Amendment isn’t necessarily as easily understood as someone with a third grade reading level might think.

And don’t sell the Founders short on possibilities of what they could have meant by “arms”. They saw advances in firearms and probably could have imagined that guns would get more accurate and easier to fire. But they also knew something about biological warfare, and I doubt that the Framers meant we can carry around body parts infected with black death (though that might be a very literal interpretation of “bearing arms”). So at the very least, unless you disagree with my black death conclusion, the right to keep and bear arms doesn’t mean you can have any weapon you can get your hands on. So does it mean any gun? Well that’s what we’re arguing about, isn’t it.

5:a) I need a large magazine because it can take a lot of bullets to put down an attacker.
5:b) Limiting magazines won’t do anything because an attacker can change clips in a split second.

Pick one.

6: We don’t need the 2nd Amendment because we don’t have tyrannical leaders.

My son is a bodybuilder. He’s as big and strong as an ox. He was once talking to a guy about going to the gym and the guy said, “You don’t have to go to the gym. You’re so big!”
William, from the back, at the gym
Cause and Effect. Get it?

7a: Guns don’t kill people.
7b: Guns save lives.

Pick one

8: Criminals don’t obey laws

Well call me a “special kind of stupid” but the more I think about this one the more I realize that criminals actually do obey laws. Not all of the time, of course, but most obey laws when they think they’ll get caught if they don’t. That’s why you slow down when you see a police car in the bushes. It’s why most of us don’t drive as fast as we’d like to even when we don’t see the the police car. And it’s why gang bangers usually don’t have fully automatic weapons.

9: Gun Control Increases Crime

That lie about Australia’s crime rate was debunked a long time ago by Snopes, Yanks. But like a good zombie lie, it’s still not quite dead. Similar examples, like Britain’s crime rates, are harder to prove or disprove.

In many cases, gun control is a reaction to a rising crime rate which continues to rise after gun control is enacted. But that doesn’t mean gun control isn’t helping. And it’s hard to enforce gun control in a city when the surrounding areas have lax gun laws. Right wingers often point to Chicago and Washington DC as failed attempts at gun control, but if you live in either of those places, you can easily get a gun outside of the city.

If everyone else has a gun then it’s understandable why you might want to have one yourself. Ill-conceived and improperly enforced gun control certainly gives advantage to the criminals, and lax gun laws provide an incentive for law abiding citizens to arm themselves. But fair, properly enforced, and strict gun control would make us all safer. But if they’re too strict then they violate our rights.

If you want to be honest about your reasons for opposing gun control, stop citing misleading statistics and bullshit propaganda, and stick to arguments other than crime rates.

10: Obama is a Black Hitler

*sigh*. Hitler took a majority race army, with the support of the majority race population, and oppressed and murdered ethnic minorities. Obama is half Black. (People keep forgetting how White he is). Who’s he going to oppress, White people? Black people? And with what army? (sadly, there are fools dumb enough to answer that question)

And the line about “the first thing Hitler did was grab the guns” is not true. With the support of his ethnic majority, Hitler took guns away from “enemies of the state”, but relaxed gun control for everyone else.

11: The NRA

There are wingnuts who feel the NRA has sold out to the left. Leftists see the NRA as a pack of cold-hearted right-wing loonies. The NRA is really an organization that once promoted safe gun sporting but now promotes gun sales, represented by a flip-flopping chicken-hawk liar with a nervous disorder.

Check, Please

After I wrote,

I am loosing tolerance for the idiotic reasoning that criminals will get firearms anyway.

Lawrence Kennon wrote,

The argument is not that one should not make laws because criminals will disobey them. The real argument is that often the proposed law will negatively affect the rights or the law abiding without have much material effect on the non-law-abiding. It is basically an argument of unintended consequences.

He has a point, which I acknowledged. But then I heard this, from Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation on NPR:

Obviously, people who commit crimes with guns are not going to subject themselves to the background check. So who is it having any impact on? It’s having an impact on the people who are willing to obey the law, who wouldn’t do anything bad in the first place.

Keven Starrett seems to think that criminals will have an “opt-out” button that they can use to avoid subjecting themselves to background checks. That’s not how it works. Universal background checks will close off paths that criminals currently use to obtain weapons while still keeping those avenues open to law abiding citizens. They will force people who shouldn’t be buying guns to turn to illicit means of acquiring them. That won’t stop all criminals from getting weapons, but it will stop a lot of them.

A background check probably would have prevented this and many other tragedies like it:

Zina Daniel took out a restraining order against her husband after three years of abuse. The restraining order should have prevented her husband, Radcliffe Haughton, from buying a gun. Regardless, Haughton was able to skip a background check by buying a gun on the internet, which he used to shoot 7 people the very next day.

You can make all of the “criminals don’t obey laws” comments you want, but 100 percent background checks will prevent some people with violent records from obtaining guns. Some of them will find it too difficult or too risky, and others will get caught trying.

The beauty of 100% background checks is they don’t leave law abiding citizens unarmed while allowing criminals to easily get guns. Mr. Kennon argued that unless background checks are 100% accurate and nearly immediate, they’re a violation of our rights. I disagree. And so does the NRA.

Until recently, the NRA supported “mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.” So is the NRA saying, “We used to support violating the 2nd Amendment but now we don’t”? It’s hard for me to imagine that the NRA had a genuine reversal of their interpretation of the Second Amendment. The 2nd Amendment didn’t change since Wayne LaPierre spoke clearly and strongly in support of 100% background checks and neither did LaPierre’s position at the NRA.

Nothing changed except an opportunity for the NRA to increase its popularity by obstructing the Obama administration, and gun sellers discovering that paranoia is good for sales. Gun organizations have been boasting about it. And the NRA can’t maintain lucrative gun grabber paranoia and hatred of Obama while supporting the administration on any gun control legislation, even if it’s legislation that the NRA strongly supported and even if it’s what over 90% of the American people want.

I acknowledge that Lawrence Kennon’s argument against background checks is not “idiotic”. But I can’t find a better word to describe Starrett’s statement that background checks don’t affect criminals because they won’t “subject themselves” to them. And I can’t abide the NRA’s reversal of a position they once so strongly supported, without changes in the facts on the ground other than the political landscape.

With overwhelming support among the American people for legislation that keeps firearms out of the hands of criminals while allowing law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, defeating this legislation will not be a victory for the 2nd Amendment. It would be a victory for a small group of powerful lobbyists in their effort to circumvent the will of the people and put profits ahead of the lives of law abiding citizens.

Update April 6: I originally wrote that the facts on the ground hadn’t changed except the party of the current administration. That was a mistake since Clinton was in office while LaPierre was promoting universal background checks

Universal Backround Checks

Various surveys indicate that at least 80% of Americans support universal background checks for gun sales. Many surveys, including the Quinnipiac University survey cited by the Obama administration, show support above 90%.

There are plenty of issues about the latest push to reduce gun violence on which the population is divided. Background checks is not one those issues. The only division is in Congress, between those members who represent their constituency and those who represent other interests.

Obstructing this legislation impairs the credibility of other arguments. Congress should pass legislation for background checks, and then move on to debate issues which are actually debatable.