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Archive for December, 2015

While Obama likely chose this as his response to the terrorist attack in San Bernadino last week because he figured it would poll as well as the so-called “universal” background check, some heavy hitters that are usually on the side of gun control have weighed in – the Los Angeles Times editorial page and the ACLU.  First from the LA Times:

One problem is that the people on the no-fly list (as well as the broader terror watch list from which it is drawn) have not been convicted of doing anything wrong. They are merely suspected of having terror connections. And the United States doesn’t generally punish or penalize people unless and until they have been charged and convicted of a crime. In this case, the government would be infringing on a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution — and yes, like it or not, the right to buy a gun is a constitutional right according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

How certain is it that the people on the two lists are dangerous? Well, we don’t really know, because the no-fly-list and the broader watch list are government secrets. People are not notified when they are put on, nor why, and they usually don’t discover they have been branded suspected terrorists until they try to travel somewhere.

But serious flaws in the list have been identified. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the government over the no-fly list, the two lists include thousands of names that have been added in error, as well as the names of family members of suspected terrorists. The no-fly list has also been used to deny boarding passes to people who only share a name with a suspected terrorist. Former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was famously questioned at airports in 2004 because a terror suspect had used the alias “T. Kennedy.” It took the senator’s office three weeks to get his name cleared.

Katie Pavlich’s article over at Townhall notes the ACLU is against using the list to ban gun purchases, but when you read their statement on their web site, this opposition only seems to be in the list’s current form:

There is no constitutional bar to reasonable regulation of guns, and the No Fly List could serve as one tool for it, but only with major reform. As we will argue to a federal district court in Oregon this Wednesday, the standards for inclusion on the No Fly List are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error. Our lawsuit seeks a meaningful opportunity for our clients to challenge their placement on the No Fly List because it is so error-prone and the consequences for their lives have been devastating.

When you have sources that are usually favorable to gun control telling you what is wrong with your proposed policy, it’s time to find a new song.

 

 

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Philip Bump writes for the Washington Post’s The Fix.  In this piece from earlier today, Bump notes that all those tweets on Twitter (and I might add the front page of the New York Daily News)  that took GOP congressmen to task for offering condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the San Bernardino shooting were missing the point.  You see, the meme is that offering prayers was a hollow jester when they had the power to pass gun control had it not been for all the money they received from he NRA (even though it appears from what we know that no laws were broken in the acquisition of the firearms used).  Bump focused on ThinkProgress’s Igor Volsky’s tweets that listed the NRA contributions to various congressmen who tweeted prayers and noted that Volsky missed the real point.

Especially when the donor is contributing a tiny fraction of everything the candidate received. The power of the NRA lies in the cause they advocate. Gun rights has a strong base of support, and one that votes heavily Republican. The NRA didn’t need to give Goodlatte a dime, and his reaction to San Bernardino would likely have been the same.

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Earlier today, Independence Institute Research Director Dave Kopel took President Obama to task for his comments in Paris about how no other country has mass shootings like America.  During a news conference Tuesday morning, Obama said, “I mean, I say this every time we’ve got one of these mass shootings; this just doesn’t happen in other countries.” Kopel proceeds to first discuss whether it is true that every time there is a mass shooting, whether Obama makes that statement:

In one sense, the answer would be “yes.” President Obama’s statement was in the form of: “Every time X happens, I say Y.” As a historic self-description of Obama’s own rhetoric, Obama’s statement is mostly true, but only in recent years. When President Obama was running for national office in 2007 through November 2012, he never used mass shootings to compare the United States unfavorably with other countries. Nor did he use mass murders as an occasion to make political demands for gun control. This was his rhetorical approach from the Virginia Tech murders in April 2007, through the Aurora theater murders in July 2012.

However, as President Obama explained to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March 2012, “After my election I have more flexibility.” This was an accurate prediction, and not just about foreign relations. After winning reelection in November 2012, President Obama in December 2012 used the Newtown, Conn., murders as the basis to make gun control the primary focus of his political efforts through April 2013. He has promised that gun control will be his top priority during his final year in office. When commenting on mass murders in the United States, President Obama has repeatedly claimed that such crimes do not occur in other countries.

Thus, the President’s Dec. 1 statement is mostly accurate as a self-description of what he frequently says, at least from December 2012 onward.

Then, Kopel goes to the real question – is America the only country that experiences mass shootings with such frequency:

Suppose we accept the president’s implicit premise that “other countries” includes only the most-developed countries of the West. With this limitation, what is the accuracy of his statement that “these mass shootings; this just doesn’t happen in other countries”? Plainly false, especially considering that the president was speaking in Paris, the site of multiple mass shootings on Nov. 13 and of the Charlie Hebdo mass shootings in January.

More generally, an October article in the Wall Street Journal looked at mass shootings in 14 countries from 2000 through 2014. The article reported the research of professors Jaclyn Schildkraut (State University of New York Oswego) and H. Jaymi Elsass (Texas State University). They are co-authors of the forthcoming book “Mass Shootings: Media, Myths, and Realities,” to be published in 2016 by Praeger. All of the countries had one or more mass shootings in this period, but the United States had by far the most. In terms of per capita fatalities, the United States was fourth, after Norway, Finland and Switzerland. Another article, at the Independent Journal website, provides a “Rampage Shooting Index” for 10 countries, covering 2009-2013. Again, the United States is first in total number of incidents, and sixth in per capita fatalities. (Behind Israel and Slovakia, as well as the previously mentioned nations). Updating the index to account for 2015 would put France ahead of the United States. (French data are reported in the I.J. article, but not the Wall Street Journal article.)

Kopel goes on to point out that if what we define “developed” as meaning a member of the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development, then the U.S. gun homicide rate is about in the middle for “developed” countries.  Kopel closed by reminding the reader that he is not the first to point out Obama’s penchant for hyperbole:

As President Obama pointed out today, he has repeatedly made the same claim about “other counties” and mass shootings. When he did so last June, Politifact examined the issue, including the research of Professors Schildkraut and Elsass. Politifact rated the Obama claim “Mostly False.” Yet he continues to make the claim, speaking in a city with repressive gun control and which only 18 days ago suffered a horrific series of mass shootings. President Obama’s second book touted his “audacity,” and the president’s remarks today demonstrated chutzpah.

But don’t look for the sycophants in the press corps to point this out the next time Obama repeats this discredited claim.

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