The Caffeinated Penguin

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NYAGV/League of Women Voters Gun Control Meeting Report

Posted By on January 27, 2008

Email transcribed here for broader consumption. Crossposted to .

After Action Report

Thursday, January 24, 2008 @ 7:00 AM, Saratoga Springs Library
Community Room.

Saratoga County League of Women Voters Presents a Talk on Existing
National Positions on Gun Control and Energy and LWVUS Program
Planning

The Positions on Gun Control talk was given by Robyn Ringler, Director
of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence

Matthew Caron (matt@mattcaron.net)

I collected a handout detailing the League's position on gun control,
and another one briefly detailing the League's positions on other
topics. The main part of the gun control position can be found here:

http://www.lwv.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=8642

In summary, mention is made that handguns and semi-automatic assault
weapons represents a health and safety threat, that they support
annual licensing, waiting periods and background checks. They support
a ban on affordable handguns (aka Saturday Night Specials) and
"acknowledge" that the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have
ruled consistently that the Second Amendment only applies to militia
service. While the former parts are opinion, this last part is a
blatant falsehood.

What follows are transcribed and expanded from my notes. As such, the
spelling is phonetic.

Ms. Ringler opened the talk with a list of unfortunate incidents which
motivated her to form NYAGV:

- The assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan by John
  Hinckley, Jr.

- A doctor with whom she worked named Halberston came home to find an
  escaped felon robbing his house. Halberston made entry in an attempt
  to chase the burglar and was shot and killed.

- Columbine high school.

- A 10 year old boy (last name Wooding) was shot and killed by the 16
  year old next door neighbor, who had found a DEC officer's weapon,
  after that officer left the weapon on the hood of his vehicle, then
  drove off. The weapon fell off the hood and was found by the 16 year
  old. The DEC officer was acquitted of causing the murder of the 10
  year old boy, but the 16 year old was convicted. 16 year old had
  just earned his boy scout gun safety badge the month before.

- Her co-chair Alison lost her son, 24 years old in Albany. She now
  sits on the gun violence task force in Albany.

The following stories come from a conversation Ms. Ringler had with
the Saratoga County DA, who defines gun violence as "violence
involving a firearm which results in criminal charges". These are
stories from Saratoga County:

- Dec 2007 - A couple is drinking up at the lake, get into a domestic
  dispute and start shooting at each other. Police show up, they don't
  want to press charges on each other, but they are prosecuted for
  unlawful possession of firearms and reckless endangerment.

- A guy and his girlfriend get in a fight. He shoots her in the face
  and blows off part of her cheek. He is arrested. She doesn't want to
  press charges, but the DA does based on the evidence. He goes to
  jail.

- According to the DA, there are a multitude of reasons where men hold
  women at gunpoint for ridiculous reasons (supper is late, etc.)

- Safe storage is also a big deal up here. One story involved a
  father who had a handgun in his desk, and ammo in a separate
  location. The children got the handgun, picked the lock on the ammo
  storage, loaded the gun and fired it off the front porch. Luckily,
  no one was injured. Social services got involved, the father took a
  course in safety and safe storage, etc.

After this, she segued into legislation:

Federally:

- The NICS improvement act is passed, and the cites this as a
  victory. She talks about Virginia Tech, the mentally ill, etc. She
  also mentions how the relief clause was added as a compromise, and
  claims that it is worded that it can be used to allow the mentally
  ill and criminals to legally get guns, and will need to be watched
  closely to ensure that this doesn't happen.

State Level top priorities:

- Gun dealer responsibility bill mandating stricter practices, better
  inventory records, liability insurance, training for all personnel
  (recognize straw purchases, etc.). She also mentions that ATF
  studies for upstate NY show that most crime guns come from up
  here. This is opposed to NYC, where the guns come from the south.

- Microstamping bill. She mentions that California just passed the
  bill which will go into effect when the tech is available.

She also talks about the possibility of requiring technology which
ties a gun to a specific individual via fingerprint recognition, so
only that individual can fire that gun, and legislation requiring the
reporting of loss or theft of firearms.

Throughout all of this, rights are never mentioned, but the theme that
we have an ethical imperative to protect people is. 

At this point, my notes run out, so I am strictly going on memory.

Question and Answer session begins. It is prefaced by one of the
members of the League reading the text of the Second Amendment.

A question is asked about the meaning of the Second Amendment and how
Heller vs. DC will affect that, specifically with regards to the use
of a comma in the first part. At this point, the text of the second
amendment is reread, with the punctuation explicitly read
out. Ms. Ringler responds that her understanding of the Second
Amendment is that it only applies to those engaged in militia service,
and her definition of militia is the one she learned in law school -
the national guard, or a bunch of minutemen in the past.

I get to speak next, and mention that I use a slightly different
definition of militia, namely that which is used by the US
Government. From memory, I do my best to quote the following:

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males
at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of
title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a
declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and
of female citizens of the United States who are members of the
National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are -

    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard
        and the Naval Militia; and

    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the
        militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval
        Militia.

-- USC Title 10, Subtitle A, Part 1, Chapter 13, Section 311

I express my disappointment that women are excluded and think that it
should be amended to include them, and that anyone over the age of 45
is excluded, but since I'm 27, the federal government thinks that I'm
part of the militia. Thus, even if the second amendment only applies
to the militia, it still applies to me.

Ms. Ringler responds that she didn't come here to debate the
definition of militia, and it would seem that I am more knowledgeable
about the definition of Militia than she is.

A gentleman asks about the firearm dealer responsibility bill and
inquires as to why there is duplication with existing law. Most of the
provisions in the bill are already law. Ms. Ringler responds that she
doesn't know which ones are duplicates and which ones are new, but
that she is sure the new ones are very important.

A gentleman states that he is a 30+ year veteran of the Saratoga
County Sheriff's department, and that he had expected a shrill speech
harping on gun control and that he was impressed and pleased that it
was not shrill or abrasive, and was very informative. He has seen guns
do good things and bad things, and the devastation wrought by firearms
is truly heartbreaking.

An older gentleman stands up and states that his family has been
touched by violence with a gun - his grandfather was killed by a MAN
with a gun. He doesn't blame the gun, the blames the MAN. He owns
guns, he likes to shoot guns, and up until today, he didn't realize
that several of his guns are assault weapons. They weren't when he
bought them, and he doesn't understand how a .22 can be an assault
weapon, but it's a semiautomatic .22, and NYAGV is claiming that it is
now an assault weapon. 

At this point, Ms. Ringler says that only 2 or 3 more questions will
be allowed.

I ask about the Microstamping bill, and how we can be contemplating
mandating a technology by law which is easily defeated in about 5
minutes with a grinding stone(1). Ms. Ringler informs me that this is an
NRA myth, and that some organization (she cited it, but I didn't
write it down, and I've emailed them to try and find out what it
is. If I can find the study, I will post it.) had done a study which
found that the technology could not be defeated with ordinary
household tools.

I wanted to rebut this, but this was not a debate - numerous
statements had been made to that effect. Ms. Ringler does not like to
debate, the members of the League did not want this to descend into a
debate, etc.

There was one more question, but I do not recall what it was. At this
point, I was approached by one of the librarians who was a reenactor
and was concerned about the bill requiring licensing and registration
of antique firearms, so I missed what the question was.

The talk wrapped up, the NYAGV folks packed up their table and
handouts and left. The League then went into voting on what their
official position should be on things. Since I am not a member (and,
given their positions, I don't see myself becoming one anytime soon),
I took my leave.

I sat with the librarian and did my best to explain the permit process
and what the bill in its current form would mean. I don't know if I
answered all of her questions, but I gave her one of my cards. I also
handed out some cards for the Gun Rights Advocates Podcast
(http://www.gunrights.us/), which I sometimes guest host.

As I was speaking with her, I was approached by a group of folks - a
couple of them I had pegged as possible kindred spirits, but one I
wasn't sure of. He was sitting right next to Ms. Ringler and was
eyeballing me pretty hard.. then I saw the NRA Life Member jacket. The
group and I hung out and talked for about an hour. I expressed my
concerns that if legislation requiring licensing and registration of
antique firearms gets passed, then it's a short ride to license and
register all rifles and shotguns. After all, once you've bookended the
high tech (handguns and "assault weapons") and low tech (black-powder
muzzle-loaders) ends, it's quite simple to declare the stuff in the
middle a "loophole" and start campaigning to close it.

I think that about does it for the "factual" stuff.. Now I'll go into
opinion.

The saying goes "never attribute to malice what can be attributed to
stupidity". In this case, it is not stupidity as much as
naivete. Based on their representation here, the League of Women
Voters of Saratoga County and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence are
both populated by well-intentioned idiots who seem to have a radically
different worldview than what I possess. To wit - if all of the tools
of violence can be removed, then man's propensity for violence will
largely depart with it, and all that remains can be prevented by
policemen. The idea of law and rights never enter into the equation,
because these things are granted by the constitution and various other
laws, and are therefore mutable. Why care what the law says, just
change it?

My view is somewhat different. I do not believe that the fundamental
nature of man changes. There will always be people who wish to do you
harm, and you cannot count on anyone to protect you except you. If
someone does happen by and come to your aid, so much the better, but
it can't be counted on. Thus, just as you should have first aid kits
and fire extinguishers, you should have guns. Further, while various
statue law is indeed mutable, the bedrock of western law is not. In days
past, these were referred to as "natural rights of man", or "inherent
rights of free men". In more recent times, we have begun to refer to
them as "civil rights". These rights are many, but largely come down
to the idea that one as a right to go about one's business
unmolested. The rights which descend from this basic ideal are varied
- the right to free speech, the right to a fair trial, the right to be
secure in one's home, and the right to defend oneself. If it sounds
like I am enumerating the bill of rights, it is mere coincidence, for
these rights are not granted by the constitution. They existed prior
to the drafting of that document, prior to some folks getting on a
boat and exploring places their kinsmen had never been. These rights
already existed with the inhabitants of the lands which they
discovered, and these rights continued to exist in all of these lands,
right up until the twentieth century, when we started to have these
new lofty ideas about how to build a great society. Indeed, I have
always found it interesting that so-called "enlightened" people are
the first ones to take away your freedoms and start making decisions
for you, and that so-called "savages" are the first to elect their own
leaders and recognize an individuals sovereign rights to conduct his
own affairs and see to his own safety.

Finally, somewhere in this discussion, a quip is made about how urban
areas are flush with illegal guns, and I am struck by the thought that
legislation which they support creates the very statistic they are
trumpeting as the need for more legislation. After all, when folks
need guns for defense, and you can spend $150 to get the permit (more
in some urban areas) + $150 for the cheapest legal gun you can buy
vs. a $100 on the street corner, which would you do if you were a poor
urban dweller? Face it - gun control largely affects the poor. Rich
folks can afford to follow the law. By making the poor have to choose
between being safe and obeying the law, you make a lot of
criminals. By making most folks guilty of something, you can control
them.

After all, gun control isn't really about guns, is it? It's about control.

(1) The paper I read was published in a trade journal by an employee
of the Suffolk County Crime Lab. The text can be found here:

http://www.nssf.org/share/legal/docs/AFTEVol38No1KrivostaNanoTag.pdf

Short version - If he chucked the firing pin into a drill, he could
take the "stamp" off in about a minute.

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