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home : opinions : opinions May 26, 2016

1/29/2013 1:01:00 PM
Letter: It’s up to Uncle Sam to prove Yankee Doodle can trust him


I fully understand the feelings Rita Elkins expressed in her Jan. 23 letter. It’s hard to think clearly about such senseless tragedies. I have the same problem with the VI’s editorial, “Common sense must prevail over extremists in gun-rights debate” (Jan. 10).

It seemed sensible at first blush. But upon further research, I can’t find anything reasonable about reinstating Clinton’s 1994 restrictions with more tacked on, as advocated by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly’s Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC.

This falls more into the category of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I can’t agree with Mark Kelly’s statement to the Detroit Free Press: “I own a handgun, and I think everybody has the right to own a gun to protect themselves in their homes. But I don’t believe you need assault weapons to protect yourself.”

He doesn’t. I don’t. But a little old widow living just off an Interstate--or in downtown Detroit--certainly might. For either of us to tell her otherwise isn’t the voice of reason, it’s the voice of privilege. Some people, in some situations, do need a really ugly weapon with a bad reputation to communicate the certainty they can and will defend themselves.

Mainly, though, I object to the debate being framed as a fight between those who want to ban all guns and those who don’t want any banned, with moderate represented by those who only want to ban some guns.

The actual question at hand is what, if any, legislation will reduce violent attacks on defenseless citizens. The debate is all over the board. Common sense resides with those seeking to address the public’s fear of irresponsible gun owners and pathological killers without violating Constitutional guarantees or triggering unintended consequences.

One national gun law seems to have been effective: the first one, FDR’s 1934 National Firearms Act, which heavily taxed the transfer of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. In concert with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, it did eliminate collateral damage created by gangsters spraying each other with bullets. It also calmed hysteria created by films depicting gangsters spraying cops with bullets and prompted American citizens to take a more active interest in the entire Bill of Rights.

Maybe this is a better model. First put some criminals out of business and make life safer for people in truly dangerous areas. Then drive weapons more deadly than those used by law enforcement out of circulation via fees and taxes. The guiding principle being that domestic agents shouldn’t be better equipped than private citizens can choose to be, but those citizens who choose to be better equipped than the cops should cover the expense of protecting the public from any illegal use of that equipment.

Of course, the NRA would scream about this, too. Munitions manufacturers would balk. Enforcement agencies wouldn’t like losing their military gear just so a few people could be registered, fingerprinted, and taxed. The pro-prohibition and anti-gun lobbies would throw another fit. Criminals would continue to prey on the easiest marks, and crazies would continue to go off the deep end.

But it does approach the issue from a position of mutual respect. It provides a framework for real negotiation. It’s been proven to do no harm. It’s already been adjudged constitutional.

And this is the U.S.A. The 10th Amendment has not been repealed. When it comes to backing down for the public good, it’s up to Uncle Sam to prove Yankee Doodle can trust him.

T. Hearn


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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

3rd Reply to itsy bitsy Spider:
I don't think so. Most people know the DOM is a GOP nod to the ultra-orthodox faithful. The DNC would use that concession to demand capitulation on Right-to-Life. And that's unacceptable. The GNC has already backed up as far as it can go without asking Christians to relinquish a core belief. (Actually, most religions promote the sanctity of human life.) I think it's now up to the DNC to convince its anti-theist faithful to give ground a little. But this is an issue Dumbo is in no position to advance at the moment due to the national focus on gun control.

Face it, itsy bitsy, if reasonable people can't shift the field to a cause rather than a means of pathological violence, we're doomed to repeat the mistakes of just two decades ago.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

You've obviously never tried to herd arachnids, Mr. Hearn.

But if you're not willing to concede the field, how about a truce? If the GOP would agree to drop its impossible-to-ratify Defense of Marriage Amendment, the DNC would probably agree to a 12-year cease-fire on the 2nd Amendment.

That wouldn't alleviate much human suffering. It would, however, mollify d'Albret's most effective snipers. They aren't too fond of the king so even trade. Louis get's brownie points. d'Albret loses a wedge issue, but gains a fund-raising point. Dumbo ticks his base a bit, but regains credibility among independents and states-righters.

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

2nd Reply to itsy bitsy Spider:
You forgot Divine intervention. If the field hadn't been so muddy, the knights would have run Hal's archers down before they did much damage.
Maybe you should round up a battalion and parachute into their armor.

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

Horseradish, Mr. Hearn. I'd stop trying to drag Burnham Wood to Dunsinane if I were you.

The focus will remain on gun control. According to Ryan Lizza, the DNC has studied Sun Tzu, and as Professor Harry Wilson told the Detroit Free Press, "Politically speaking, now is the time for gun control advocates to push their cause. This atmosphere is as good as it gets for them. If these folks can't get anything passed now, then that war is effectively over."

Ancient sages aren't always correct, however. For instance, Charles d'Albret picked the field and had more of just about everything. But Henry V, with one better weapon and superior tactics, won the Battle of Agincourt. Grab your longbow, Mr. Hearn, and aim for the knights.

Posted: Saturday, February 9, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

3rd reply to Nutso Fasst:
Are you saying placebos are wrong whether they work or not? FDR knew repealing Prohibition would curtail a growing national threat. But being real, Mafia violence wasn't going to disappear overnight, and many experts claimed repeal would have the opposite effect (mainly because they weren't in the line of fire). Debatably, Roosevelt used legal slight of hand to convince this vocal minority that they were safer because the government was doing what they thought it should. Would you be happier if he'd tried to ban all the weapons the mob actually did use?

Reply to itsy bitsy Spider:
That's your point, not mine. I'm saying an actual problem has to be resolved before any general palliative can be effective. And that I'm quite sure the availability of guns is neither the cause nor the cure of mounting social tensions in 2013.

Reply to Slater Slater:
Agreed. I'm not convinced we're heading into a period of "berserkers, riots, and whatnot" either. Maybe we all just need to lighten up a bit.

Reply to Crime Wave:
Do you really think that, back in 1934, the nation would have been more peaceful if the people managing to stay afloat thought the hobos and waves of migrants were all packing heat?

Actually, though, that's pretty much my Dad's theory of home protection--except that in his day, no one would expect the government to supply the munitions, and he considered one gun per household sufficient. We all had to learn how to handle and care for his big old luger. We all knew where it was kept and that it was always loaded because Dad also believed there's no gun more dangerous than a supposedly empty one. Mom wasn't too happy about that. But then, he also forbid anything that looked like a weapon in our toy chest because, in his opinion, weapons are for causing real harm...period. No knives, no swords, no cap guns or water pistols. Today, he would have been just as down on virtual weapons because in real life, there's no reset button. We whined, we cried--all our friends had them. Nope! You want to play war or pirates or cops & robbers, use a stick. What's the difference? It's all pretend.

If you could guarantee that most parents today would teach their kids all weapons are dangerous and you never horse around with them, I'd be more inclined to think that the Swiss model would work in the U. S. But you can't because today that's less true than when I was a child. And when I was a child, it was less true than it was for my parents. Apparently, weapons have become playthings in direct proportion to the declining need for self-protection.

Now could we please stop taking about guns long enough to consider what might make some people's lives less subject to violence?

Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Article comment by: crime wave

Give everyone guns, men women and children. We all need to protect ourselves, so arm everyone in the entire country with any kind of firearm, no restrictions.
More guns will definitely make this country a much safer place to live. WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD WE LIVE IN WITH SUCH NICE PEOPLE.

Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Camera's shoot people.I'd like a 51 cal.for my
camera lens.
You've been lead to the slaughter house and ya
don't even know it.It's not the issues it's the votes ya don't have.It's all about re-election,$$$
breifcases,smoke and mirror's and thats just the good pt's.Saddle up,strap it on and put on
the chit kickin boots and I'll me ya there.

Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

I think you're missing the point, Mr. Fasst. As I read it, Roosevelt's gun legislation succeeded precisely because so few people wanted to own those clumsy, clunky, indiscriminate weapons. So--Presto!--he didn't have to round them up. They ran out the door, jumped the fence, climbed over the hill, swam all the way to Timbuktu, and never bothered good little Americans ever again. Which--relative to maintaining order at the height of the depression--is called leading, not snookering, the nation.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

T. Hearn: "It [NFA] worked."

Perhaps. There were no more Valentine's Day Massacres by gangsters wielding Tommy Guns. But then, the two Thompson submachine guns used in that and other gangland executions were already in the hands of law enforcement. And there were more Tommy Guns owned by Hollywood film studios than were owned by gangsters.

As you note, the NFA didn't ban machine gun ownership by civilians, it simply required all transfers of such weapons to be approved by and registered with the Secretary of the Treasury, along with payment of a $200 transfer tax. There are now around 240,000 registered machine guns in the U.S., with more than 100,000 in civilian hands and the rest owned by law enforcement agencies.

In the 79 years since NFA enactment there have been only two homicides committed using a registered, legally-owned machine gun, and one was by a police officer. So why did Congress, in 1986, pass new legislation banning civilian ownership of newly-manufactured machine guns? A logical means to reduce gun murders? Or just another act in the "we're making your world safer by infringing your rights" political playbook?

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

2nd reply to Nutso Fasst:

O.K., I did imply legalizing marijuana would be the most sensible option.

I don't know what percentage of gun violence is related solely to the drug war, but it's a hefty chunk of under-reported casualties nationwide. You'd also clear a lot of non-violent offenders out of overcrowded prisons. And agribusiness would gain hemp: a high-yield, low-cost, off-season cash crop that could spur both manufacturing and cottage industry opportunities.

But you have to remember, with alcohol, FDR had the depression working FOR him. All levels of government were strapped for cash. Distilleries, restaurants, and retail outlets could turn more profit from legal alcohol than when working for the mob. Only the Bureau of Prohibition drew federal operating funds.

As a drug, legal cannabis has little monetary value. It took Harry Anslinger decades to promote a relatively innocuous weed into a national scourge. Anyone can grow it. Anyone can process it. Although some people would probably rather buy it, regulation and tax collection would be much more difficult. And today, a large number of truly upstanding people depend on federally funded eradication, enforcement, and rehab programs for their livelihood. 'Tain't as easy, McGee. Maybe impossible for Barack Obama, who is neither a world-class mass psychology expert, nor the son of New York Brahmans.

Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of real immigration reform. That, too, is a heartbreakingly violent subculture: rip-offs, murders, virtual slave labor, human trafficking. Even those with connections live in constant, low-level fear of the honchos with legitimate documents. For no conceivably legitimate reason. Guest worker programs are so easy to set up and monitor, even Malaysia can handle it. And guess what? No matter how exciting Dubai or Singapore or Taipei might seem, in fact, most people whose traditions, family, and childhood memories are all in Manila count the days until they can go home.

Where, I wonder, is a Steinbeck or Upton Sinclair when the social abuses don't quite promote their political persuasion's best interests?

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

"First put some criminals out of business and make life safer for people in truly dangerous areas."

Reforming drug prohibition and ending the drug war would certainly reduce the risk of early death for a lot of people.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

Reply to Who In:
You're right. No government should be trusted implicitly. Even power that doesn't corrupt makes human beings lazy.

But some governments are more trustworthy than others. Most of my European friends tell me that, although their native lands provide more safety-net, they are much safer from bureaucratic hassles here than they were back there. Japan and South Korea are notorious for telling their citizens one thing and doing the opposite, with no real consequences, just as they did before the advent of democracy. Mexico, although at one point early-on it had a constitutional republic with more real civil rights in practice than we did, is now a corrupt, repressive third-world nation. And here's an interesting factoid I love passing on:

Early last century, when China was suffering from the near anarchy of their imperial decline and then from the horrors of the Japanese invasion, the leader of the Chinese Kuomintang, Dr. Sun Yat-sen (also a lifelong student of world governments), decided that the U.S. model of tripartite checks and balances was the best chance the Chinese had for surviving with their culture intact. He added a couple of branches to compensate for the fact, for all the governments they'd tried, the Chinese had no experience with democratic selection of leaders and representatives, but otherwise promoted adoption of our presidential form of constitutional republicanism. One of his disciples, Mao Tse-tung, didn't agree. Another, General Chiang Kai-shek, did. Mao shoved Chiang off the mainland. But for many years now, Taiwan (Republic of China) has cautiously and quietly helped China (People's Republic of China) get back on it's feet economically, culturally, and politically. Not only that, in the 1990s, the Taiwanese decided the extra branches intended to vet candidates and monitor performance in office had themselves become corrupt and voted to disband them. They're still doing just fine, world recession not withstanding, so it obviously took them less than a century to get the hang of democratic selection.

The moral to that story is, first, value what you have. Then do your darnedest to preserve what's best about it, after praying for the wisdom to know what that truly is.

Reply to Nutso Fasst:

Gee thanks. With supporters like you, I hardly need opponents. Re FDR--So what? It worked. Re British Bobbies--With millions of guns in the hands of criminals today, I was not even implying domestic enforcement agencies should be disarmed. I was simply noting that whatever these agencies really need to protect the general populous is an objective measure of what citizens in a given area should have access to as well. (On a state by state, county by county basis, of course.)

But yes, it is disquieting that the federal government is upping it's arsenal while calling for unilateral bans on civilian's guns.

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

"One national gun law seems to have been effective: the first one, FDR's 1934 National Firearms Act"

The FDR-stacked Supreme Court upheld the NFA in 1939 on the basis that a shortened shotgun was not an appropriate weapon for use by a militia. Could the current SCOTUS use the same argument to deny the Homeland Security Department's request for more than 7,000 switchable-to-fully-auto assault weapons under the guise that those machine guns are "personal defense weapons?" Even in combat, fully-auto hand-held machine guns are absurdly ineffective except when used en masse to lay down a field of fire to discourage a coordinated attack by numerous attackers. Just who is the DHS imagining they'll be using those machine guns against?

"...domestic agents shouldn't be better equipped than private citizens can choose to be..."

Yes. That is why the relatively-unarmed British citizenry insisted that domestic police (Bobbies) not carry firearms back in the 19th century. And why we should be concerned about 7,000+ machine guns in the hands of DHS agents.

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: Who In

their right mind would ever trust the Government? A Government that fights wars based on nothing by lies. A Government that lets over a million people just walk into the country. Then they stop the people from doing their job that work for ICE. A Government that sees noting wrong in arming the gangs and the drug cartels. Yep they should say who can and who can't be armed

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

Reply to Carl Nye:
Thanks for fleshing out my reference to the 10th. I've seen a lot of chatter about the 2nd guarding the 1st and the 1st, 2nd, and 4th being the bedrock of our liberties. But in fact, rightly or wrongly, many liberties have been ceded in the interests of a more comfortable existence in a more complex society. If the American people ever decide they've relinquished too much and want to take back those measures of control over their own lives, it's the 10th Amendment that guarantees their right to do so.

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