Friday, August 28, 2015

An Open Letter To Andy Parker

First of all, I understand your grief.  What parent could not?  I have a daughter just a few years older than yours.   I also understand your desire to have something good to come out of your daughter's life and death.  I hope to help you in that regard.

You have an opportunity to do things differently than others who have faced similar tragedies.  You can start by reaching out to the gun rights community.  You may be shocked to find out that we actually want our gun laws to work.  We too want to prevent as many crazy people as possible from getting their hands on firearms.  We can also tell you why our current laws are failing.  One more thing: The political reality is that nothing will be passed at a federal level without the support of gun rights activists.  If you really want to get something done, you cannot alienate us.

Additionally, we have to work within the limitations placed upon all constitutional rights.  A law that is simply aimed at reducing the number of guns in the country would not only accomplish little - it would be as unconstitutional as a law limiting free speech or regulating religion.

The good news is that gun rights advocates want these problems fixed.  We want the background check system to work.  In fact, we have been working to fix some of them, with little to no support from gun control advocates, and zero press coverage.  There is much that can be done with zero resistance from the gun rights community.

The problem is not primarily a lack of "gun laws" - it is a failure in the support system that is needed to make them work.  This is why we react so strongly against calls for more laws.  The fact is that, while we would be open to minor changes, we have all the gun laws we need.  The changes are needed elsewhere - as I will detail below.

Here are the problems that are causing our background check system to fail:

Massive under reporting of disqualified persons.

It is estimated that at least one third of people who have been prohibited by law from owning firearms have not been reported to the FBI for inclusion in the background check database.  The murderer at Virginia Tech should not have been able to buy a firearm due to his mental health history.  After this incident the NRA called for better reporting and supported legislation to that effect - even though this caused concern among many members.  Sadly, even the passage of this law has failed to solve this problem - as the recent racist church shooting sadly proved.  It may surprise you that the gun industry has continued to work to improve reporting.  See

Virtually zero enforcement of laws against trying to buy a gun illegally.

Sadly, it has become common knowledge that prohibited persons have at least a one in three chance of buying a firearm through legal channels.  So criminals and the mentally ill frequently try to buy guns at licensed dealers.  Although they stand a good chance of being rejected, they have less than a 1 in 300 chance of being prosecuted.  Although tens of thousands of people are rejected each year, prosecutions run less than 20 per year.  The Obama administration has actually said that such prosecutions are "a waste of resources".  In fact, the feds do not even notify local authorities - who frequently could bring state charges or violate the criminal's parole or probation.  Until there is enforcement of this law - violation of which is a felony - then criminals and the mentally ill will continue to try get guns from dealers. 

Failure of the mental health system to identify and treat dangerous people.

The Supreme Court has made it clear that severely mentally ill people can be banned from owning or possessing firearms.  However, common sense tells us that before someone can be banned from owning firearms they must be identified.  Sadly, many of the murderers in the recent incidents had displayed bizarre and disturbing behavior.  Those who perpetrated the Giffords shooting the Isla Vista stabbing/shooting and the Navy Yard murders, had many police contacts that SHOULD have resulted in a mandatory mental health evaluation, but did not.  Police are the eyes and ears of the mental health system - if they leave mentally ill people on the street, the system fails.  If they send them in for evaluation, with a good description of why they are doing so, then there is a good chance that action will be taken that would result in a firearms ban and reporting to the FBI background check database.  If this never happens, they will continue to be able to pass a background check.

Depriving someone of a constitutional right requires due process.

The reality is that firearms ownership is a constitutional right.  In criminal cases, there is no problem - because due process is well established.  In mental health cases, the federal disability also requires due process - specifically a mental health commitment by a court.  In order to be legal, any additions to the law would also have to provide for due process.  Furthermore, a person cannot be required to prove their sanity in order to exercise a constitutional right.  The burden of proof rests upon the government.  Additionally, I would ask you to consider this: If someone cannot be trusted with a firearm due to mental defect, should they be left on the street?  I think not - because that leaves them a lot of options for harming people.  In addition to illegally buying a gun on the black market, they could build a bomb, start a fire or run people down with a car.  If they cannot be trusted with a gun, they need treatment - and we must insure that they get it.  After this, I have no problem with a law that requires them to prove their sanity before being allowed to possess a firearm. 

Once the background check system is truly fixed, it will be much easier to expand it to private sales.

At this point the vast majority of lawful sales, including those at gun shows, go though the background check system (the 40% figure frequently used is bogus - it is based on a phone survey that covered two full years before the background check was in place).   As outlined above, it is a deeply flawed system that most gun rights organizations want fixed.  On the other hand, most gun control organizations completely ignore the flaws in the system, and instead want it expanded to private sales before it is fixed.  This is one of the biggest reasons why so many gun owners are opposed to expanding background checks - we don't trust the motives of groups that don't care that the current system doesn't work.  Frankly, it seems to many of us that some of the gun control groups WANT the current system to continue to fail - because if it were to work, their would be less chance of passing their draconian restrictions.  Unlike yourself, many of these people want an outright repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

On the other hand, if we fix the current system and it begins to actually work. it will be seen that the motive is solely to do all we can to keep guns out of the wrong hands - and the greater the support will be among gun rights activists will be for expanding such checks to private sales.

You will remain in my prayers and in the prayers of many other Americans.  It is my hope that you will realize your stated goal of preventing as many mentally ill people as possible from harming others.  If you reach out in good faith to the gun rights community, you will find that we share that very same goal.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

San Jose Decides That Some Parts Of The Bill Of Rights Don't Apply In Their City

Well, the city of San Jose is headed for a huge civil judgement.  They have seized a woman's personal firearms because her husband was sent in for a psychiatric evaluation and is forbidden to possess firearms (a law that is on shaky ground to begun with).  Think about this for a moment: This woman is being deprived of a basic civil right - protected in the Bill of Rights - because of her husband's actions.  Let's take a longer look at this case.

A Basic Constitutional Right

First, it must be understood that the Supreme Court has ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects a basic right to buy and possess firearms in "common use".  Furthermore, in McDonald, the high court has stated that this right is "fundamental to our system of ordered liberty".  In short, the right to own a gun is protected in exactly the same way as the right of free speech or freedom of the press.  The court made it clear that criminal and the severely mentally ill can be forbidden to own or have access to firearms - but these restrictions only apply after due process before a court.   Even California's liberal governor Jerry Brown wrote a brief in support of the 2nd Amendment right in McDonald.  This is no longer controversial - it is settled law.

She could have retained her firearms and still complied with the law

California law requires "safe storage" of firearms and merely complying with this law would prevent her husband from having access to her firearms, since they would have to be placed in a safe.  Additionally, she could have stored the firearms at another location - such as a relative's home. Local authorities could have worked with the wife to insure compliance.  Instead, San Jose Police simply seized all her firearms - and have said that they will not be returned.

I have a question for San Jose PD: What have you done in the past when the spouse of one of your police officers has been sent in for evaluation under the same law?  Notice that I did not say "what would you do IF a spouse of one of your officer's was sent in for evaluation" - because with a department as big as San Jose, it has probably happened many times.  You can bet your life that the officer's firearms were not seized.  No way.  Instead, the officer was likely reminded that they had to take action to insure that their spouse had no access.  You can be absolutely sure that when the civil suit goes to trial, that this will be an issue - and San Jose will have a very hard time arguing that police officers have more rights under the 2nd Amendment.

The Law Itself Is On Shaky Ground

As a former California paramedic, I have a great deal of experience with California's emergency commitment law.  First of all, in most cases, the people responsible for sending people in for evaluation are police officers - not mental health professionals.  Yet, simply being sent in for evaluation by mental health professionals results in the loss of your gun rights.  Sure, if you have the money to hire a lawyer and some mental health professionals you can, in theory, get a court to restore your rights - but most people do not have the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars this costs.  The average person simply looses their gun rights.

Now let me be clear: No one wants severely mentally ill people to be able to legally possess firearms.  The issue here is that it is not and mental health professional and a court making this determination: It is a police officer.  Federal law bans people from owning firearms if a court finds them to be severely mentally ill, based on the testimony of mental health professionals.  The due process rights of the individual in question are protected.

Do we really want to empower cops to simply remove someone's constitutional rights on nothing more than their own opinion?  I sure hope not.

Do we want our government to punish someone for their spouse's actions?  Again, I sure hope not.

Even if you don't like guns, this case should still be important to you - because if they can ignore the 2nd Amendment - they can just as easily ignore the 1st, 4th or 5th Amendment too.  That's why San Jose is going to lose this one - and why it will likely cost San Jose taxpayers several million dollars.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Divided Is America?

Typically, when it comes to politics, we tend to focus upon the presidential race.  However, that contest decides who controls but one third of one level of our government.  To really see how divided we are, it is helpful to look at other races that make less national news.

US Senate
Solid Colors = 2 of Same Party
Purple = 1 of Each Party
Stripes = 1 Independent
First let's look at the US Senate.  The Senate tends to be a lagging indicator because it takes six years for the entire body to face reelection.  Still, it provides a great deal of insight into the political divide.  Counting the two independents who function as Democrats as what they effectively are only 15 states have one senator from each party.  That means that 70% of states are represented by two senators of the same party.  Nearly all of these states are solidly conservative or liberal with little chance of the Democrats or Republicans winning a statewide office.
State Governors
Alaska's Governor is a Right Leaning Independent

Let's move on to Governors.  Here the picture begins to become more clear.  Note that Republicans hold control of governorships in a huge swath of territory from Arizona to North Carolina.  In addition, they control most of the former industrial states, the bulk of the Midwest and Mountain West (32 states).  Democrats are in solid control of the West Coast and most of the North East (18 states).  These numbers can be somewhat deceptive because most of the 18 states Democrats control have high population densities.

When we look at the control of state legislatures, the Republican domination of the South, Mid-West and Mountain West becomes even more clear - as does the Democratic domination of the West Coast and the Northeast.

Furthermore, the parties are much further apart than ever before.  These divisions are no longer simply a matter of how best to accomplish a mostly shared goal, such as economic growth.  Today, the two parties represent two radically different world views.  The single most reliable predictor of which party someone will vote for is no long class or race.  The most reliable predictor is: Does the voter attend religious services regularly.  If they do, they are very likely to vote Republican.  Today the Republican world view is theistic and includes a belief in moral absolutes.  The Democratic world view is secular and includes a belief in moral relativism.  Republicans believe strongly in personal responsibility, while Democrats tend to believe in collective responsibility.  Republicans believe in the free enterprise system, while Democrats increasingly believe in outright socialism.  Republicans believe that our Constitution is to be followed as written and only changed via the amendment process.  Democrats believe that our Constitution is a "living document" that can and should be interpreted in any way necessary to accomplish the "greater good".  The parties haven't been this far apart since the Civil War.

The conclusion is inescapable: The US is deeply divided not only politically, not only in their fundamental world views, but geographically too.  Some foreign observers have even predicted a break up of the US into two or more countries.  Let us hope that our democracy and our nation can survive this division - without a second civil war.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Religious Freedom Versus Non-Discrimination - A Civil and Tolerant Approach

Sadly religious freedom is all but dead in America.  Religious discrimination is widespread and much of it is directed against evangelical Christians (see graphic).  It's a real shame that we cannot seem to have a civil discussion about this subject.  Instead, it seems that most on the left are intent upon transforming freedom of religion into freedom of worship - which is very different.  WE HAVE NOW MOVED FROM RELIGIOUS PEOPLE BEING INTOLERANT OF GAY PEOPLE TO THE ENTIRE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT BEING INTOLERANT OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE.
Tolerance seems to be, in the eyes of the left, a one way street.  Everyone is required to be tolerant of their constituencies - in the recent controversy the gay community.  Hence, the uproar over the mere possibility that religious individuals might not be LEGALLY FORCED to violate their faith by participating in same sex wedding ceremonies.  As usual, the left has cranked up the "lie machine" to gin up their base.  There is ZERO CHANCE that a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws would be granted outside of the narrow area of wedding ceremonies.  This is not about leases, admission to hospitals or any of the other issues brought up to scare people into opposing the new law in Indiana. 

Successfully claiming a religious exemption under any of the RFRA laws is extremely difficult.

1) It is an affirmative defense - the burden of proof is on the claimant.

2) The religious belief must pre-date the law for which the person claims exemption - you can't make up a belief to get out of the law.

3) Exemptions are narrow in scope - a person with religious objections to war can be exempted from military service, but not from paying taxes to support a war.

4) No religion I am aware of - and this is my field of expertise - generally prohibits its' members from doing business with gay people, to include serving them in nearly every capacity.  Additionally, once someone does serve gay people, it becomes nearly impossible to get an exemption after doing so.

5) The only possible exemptions that might be upheld - and so far everyone who has sought this has lost - would be participation in a same sex wedding ceremony.  In other words, a baker absolutely could not claim an exemption for generally baking cakes for gay customers - but might be exempted from baking a wedding cake.  A photographer cannot refuse to take a portrait of a gay person, but might be able to refuse to photograph a same sex wedding.  In order to claim an exemption, one must prove that one is being asked to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in something forbidden by their faith.
In short, the idea that anyone would be able to generally discriminate against gay people, in violation of an anti-discrimination law, is completely bogus.

IMHO, it is long past time for the culture wars to end.  However this will never happen as long as both sides want to crush the other.  That will only cause further division and discord.  It's time for real tolerance, tolerance that flows both ways.
Unless the intolerance is directed
at people of faith......

There is a simple solution to this problem.  Write specific and narrow religious exemptions into anti-discrimination laws.  Follow the example of the medical profession.  If a patient requests an abortion from a doctor who has religious objections to performing the procedure, he or she cannot be forced to do so.  However, he or she must provide a referral to a doctor willing to do so.  This preserves the rights of both doctor and patient.

I see no reason why this same solution could not be applied to the issue of same sex wedding ceremonies.  If a baker, a wedding planner, a photographer, or even an officiate like myself, has religious objections to same sex marriage, do not force them to violate their conscience - but do require them to find someone who will provide that service.  Again, the rights of all parties are protected.

I'm an evangelical minister.  I cannot do a same sex wedding.  No matter what government may do to me, I still won't violate my faith.  HOWEVER, I have attended a same sex wedding.  Why?  Because the couple were and are my friends.  They knew I wasn't there affirming their actions, they knew I was there because they are important to both God and myself.  I would rise in a heartbeat if gay people were generally discriminated against.  I have no objection to, and generally support in principle, anti-discrimination laws - provided that said narrow religious exemptions are provided.

I have not even mentioned the fact that countless people whose religious beliefs prohibit same sex activity have been persecuted, run out of public or private office, or generally had their lives ruined because of their faith.  Not to mention the fact that one city even tried to subpoena sermons from local churches, while others have tried to require permits for home Bible studies.  In short, there is a war on all conservative religions in America today. 

Our nation is more divided than at any time since the Civil War.  Religious freedom may not be important to many in the "blue states", but it is very important to nearly everyone in the "red states".  Crush it, eliminate it, or subvert it and the result will be even greater division.  Enough division, and you will split the nation apart.  Indexed to today population, over 5 million people died in the Civil War.  Please, let us not have a second one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hillary's Emails: The Tech, The Whole Tech And Nothing But The Tech

As many readers know, I have my own domain which I use for email.  What many may not know is that I am also a certified network technician, certified PC tech and I have operated my own email server for nearly 20 years.  For 15 of those years I operated my server in my residence - just like Bill and Hillary Clinton.  (In recent years I have leased a server in a data center, which I administer remotely.)  All of this qualifies me to comment on the technical issues surrounding this controversy.

1) Security Issues

I am going to assume that the Clintons had enough money to hire a very good tech to make sure that they were not going to be hacked.  Absent more information, IMHO this is not an issue.

2) Bogus Excuse 

Today, Secretary Clinton stated that she used her personal email address at the Clinton's personal domain and server because she did not want to carry two devices.  The reason this is a bogus excuse is that it is easy for most email clients to handle more than one email account.  At one point I had four email accounts in one program: Personal, business, church and Civil Air Patrol.  It's actually quite common.  Hillary's excuse doesn't make sense. 

3) Hidden and Easily Destroyed Communications

Someone who is using a governmental account for email creates an indestructible record.  "Delete" does not destroy the data.  As Col. Ollie North found out way back in the 1980s, the messages are recoverable not only from the original drive on the server that the account exists on, but on others it may have been relayed through, as well as on backup drives or tapes.  Recently Lois Learner's emails - which we supposedly unrecoverable - were found on backup tapes.  This is consistent with a failed effort to destroy them.

Someone using a private email system such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail or faces much the some challenge in getting rid of messages.  Messages might be recoverable for a long time after the user deletes them.

When one moves to a private email server, everything changes.  Someone running their own server has total control over everything.  They can create and delete accounts.  They can destroy backups.  They can delete or even edit emails.  Most importantly, after accounts and emails are deleted the drive can be scrubbed, making recovery impossible.

A government official - any government official - using their own server, could set up accounts not only for themselves, but for any other people they wished to communicate with - inside and outside government.  In this case, emails between accounts on the same server would never show up anywhere outside of the private server and the computers or devices of the users.  It would be a secure and completely private way for officials to communicate "off the radar".  When the need for such communications ends, deleting the emails and running a secure delete or scrub program on the server and the devices would completely destroy any trace of the messages.  The only evidence would be the absence of any deleted files from before the date the drive was scrubbed.

This is why the use of private email systems by government officials is so dangerous.  It allows for completely secret communication that can later be completely destroyed.  In short, exactly what laws passed after Watergate were passed to prevent.  IMHO legislation should be passed post haste to require all governmental officials currently required to preserve communications to use government email accounts for ALL email communications - both private and work related.

It remains to be seen if Secretary Clinton used her private server to get around the law - but her deletion of mails she considered "personal" certainly raises suspicion.  If she wants to establish that nothing illegal took place she can have an independent computer security firm examine the server.  If it hasn't been scrubbed, then as many emails as possible should be recovered.  An independent agency - such as the FBI can then determine if any of them are work related.  If the drive has been scrubbed, the only reason to do that is to hide something..... either way, if she wants to be president we probably need to know.

Thursday, February 19, 2015



The Violence Policy Center (VPC) recently updated a list of what it calls "Concealed Carry Killers," claiming that there have been 722 "Total People Killed by Concealed Carry Killers, May 2007 to the Present" in a few hundred incidents involving "Concealed Handgun Permit Holders."  On cue, the New York Times, endorsed VPC's effort in an editorial misleadingly titled Concealed Carry's Body Count.

There's only one problem - the VPC's figures are intentionally false.  I have previously documented VPC's intentional deception and this latest report is more of the same.  The Crime Prevention Research Center has also exposed their lies.

Here are the facts about those 722 incidents:

1) 38% of these incidents were SUICIDES, not shootings of another person.  Most took place at home.  It should be obvious that a carry permit, or for that matter even a gun, is not required to kill yourself.  VPC wants you to think that these deaths are cases where CCW permit holder has shot someone else - something that is clearly deceptive.

Incidentally, the suicide rate among permit holders is less than half that of the general public!

2) Over 10% of the shootings took place in locations where a permit was not required or where carrying was illegal even with a permit - THUS THEY ARE COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO THE ISSUE OF PERMITS.

3) The VPC frequently counts both pending charges and convictions IN THE SAME CASE thus doubling the count!

4) VPC's figures actually include people not killed with handguns, including five people killed in auto accidents!

5) The 722 incidents include cases of lawful self defense, cases where charges have not yet been resolved and cases in which the shooter did not have a carry permit.



Fortunately, we do not need to depend upon the VPC's bogus report to determine how law abiding permit holders are.  We have the revocation rates for many states. In most cases, revocations do not involve abuse of a firearm - so these figures are actually much, much higher than the number of criminal homicides committed by permit holders.

The Crime Prevention Research Center has produced a report using official reports from state governments.  Florida and Texas have extensive experience with CCW permits.  Two paragraphs from the report are quite relevant: 

"During almost three decades, from October 1, 1987 to May 31, 2014, Florida issued permits to almost 2.66 million people. These permits have been revoked for firearms-related violations at an annual rate of only 0.0003 percent. For all revocations, the annual rate in Florida is 0.012 percent."

"The numbers are similarly low in Texas. In 2012 (the latest year that crime data are available), there were 584,850 active license holders. Out of these, 120 were convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony, a rate of 0.021 percent. Only a few of these crimes involved a gun."

So in Florida - with 25+ years of experience - the chances that a CCW permit holder will have their permit revoked for a firearms related offense (the vast majority of which are not homicides) is 1 in 30,000.  The revocation rate for all reasons was a bit more than 1 in 500.

Even more significantly, these revocations take place when the permit holder is CHARGED NOT CONVICTED!  The conviction rate of CCW permit holders is about 5%.  Yep, 95% of cases brought against permit holders do not result in convictions.  In these cases, the former permit holder is again eligible to get a permit.  IN OTHER WORDS, THE PERMANENT REVOCATION RATE FOR ALL REASONS IS 1 IN 9500!

Again, using publicly available figures from Florida, the Crime Prevention Research Center has established that CCW PERMIT HOLDERS ARE LESS LIKELY TO COMMIT CRIMES THAN POLICE OFFICERS!  (Also see this page.)  Let that sink in - the people the VPC is trying to disarm are actually safer to arm than cops.  Of course, these same people want to disarm cops too......

Not surprisingly, the report ignores the increasing evidence that firearms are frequently used to save lives in self defense.  Nearly 1,500 of examples from the last two years can be found here

When the VPC and the New York Times have to distort and lie to make CCW permit holders look bad - when the facts prove exactly the opposite, something is very, very wrong.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Four Good Reasons For Gun Control Advocates To Support National CCW Permit Reciprocity.

Citizen Concealed Carry 1987-2013
It may seem absurd to suggest that gun control advocates should support a federal bill that would set up nationwide reciprocity (or recognition) of concealed weapons permits, but I think a strong case can be made that such a bill could be in their interest.  Here it is:

1) "Shall Issue" concealed carry permits are here to stay.  50 states have permitting systems in place - 43 of them are shall issue, meaning that there is no requirement that "good cause" be proved before a permit is issued.  Last year the 9th Circuit - the most liberal appeals court in the federal system - ruled that carrying a firearm outside of the home is a civil right under the 2nd Amendment.  Not one state has ever repealed their concealed carry law.  In short, the gun control side has lost the battle to stop concealed carry - both politically and legally.  If it cannot be stopped, the best thing you can do is to set uniform standards - and the best way to do that is a federal reciprocity law.

2) A reciprocity bill could be used to increase training requirements.  Currently, states require anywhere between zero and sixteen hours of training before a permit is issues.  Some states, such as Idaho, actually offer two different permits - one of which requires more training in order to be recognized in more states.  Gun control advocates could offer to support a reciprocity bill, provided it raises the training requirement to a 16 hour minimum - roughly the same required of armed security guards.

3) A reciprocity bill would encourage more people to get permits - even if their state does not require them.  Currently at least five states all permit-less or "constitutional" carry.  More states are considering such bills every year.  Under such laws, anyone legally permitted to own a firearm may carry it openly or concealed.  The primary reason people in such states obtain permits is to carry in other states that do require permits, or require them of non-residents.  If a permit meeting national standards was good in every state, more people in "constitutional carry" states would obtain them - and this would require them to meet national standards of training.

4) Gun control advocates might be able to get some things they want - such as expanded background checks - in return for agreeing to national carry permit reciprocity.  If background checks are really that important - if they really would do a lot of good - then why not trade for them?  Especially when what you would be trading is something you are likely to loose in the courts anyway.  So, attach background checks to the reciprocity bill.  Gun control advocates might be surprised at who supports the package.

So, there you have it - four good reasons for gun control advocates to support CCW reciprocity.  Sadly, I highly doubt that they will do so.