Sunday, March 31, 2013

Preparation

By Dave Dargo
In our classes we emphasize the importance of planning.  We talk about the importance of being prepared, being aware and being ready.

Some people think that all that preparation and awareness is exhausting and hints at a bit of paranoia.

The reality is that it's neither.  When you're driving down the road and wondering, "What's for dinner?" that doesn't mean you have an eating disorder.  The same goes for maintaining awareness and preparing.  When driving down the road you could also be wondering, "What would I do if that car cut in front of me?"

When I was a young child, my father would play a game with me whenever we went someplace new.  When we entered a new building or room my father would say, "David, I want you to point out three ways you can get out of this room."

It wasn't long before it just became a habit for me that every time I entered a room I would have a quick look around and see all the ways out of the room and, ultimately, make a mental note of which was the closest.

There's nothing paranoid about it at all.  By making it a game when I was a child my father instilled in me the importance of being able to get out of a room in case of fire.  There was never any discussion about fires, or smoke inhalation or anything scary.  My father merely made up a little game that forced me to plan an escape route in case it was needed.

I never gave it much thought until the day I found myself in a building that was being evacuated because of fire.  The fire alarm sounded while I was attending a large conference.  Most people just sat there looking around quizzically.  Some stood up and looked around wondering if they should really leave.  Because of the game my father invented when I was a child, combined with other preparation my father gave me, I was one of the few who stood straight up and left the building through the closest exit.

I never gave it a second thought.  I knew I might be in a building some day that would catch
fire and when it happened I knew what to do.

That's what preparation is about.  That's what planning is about.  It's not about thinking about all the bad things that might happen, it's all about making sure you know what to do if it ever does happen.

Oh, and that fire?  It was fascinating to me to watch the fire department extinguishing the fire in the lobby of the hotel when so few people had evacuated the building.  When we returned to the meeting there were many people who were embarrassed that they had not evacuated.  The reality is that something happened for which they hadn't planned or prepared and, therefore, they didn't know what to do.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Political Expediency

By Dave Dargo
The first few postings, a layman's view of constitutional law, were a manifestation of the pressure building up over the past few months as we have witnessed a dangerous eagerness to sacrifice the Constitution of the United States for quick political expediency.

That political expediency has been a part of a growing disrespect for the law and, as a result, a growth in lawlessness.  That growth in lawlessness comes from two sources.

The first is the devaluing of what constitutes a serious crime.  I remember as a child when my bicycle was stolen.  We called the police and a police officer came to the house and took a report.  He even followed up with us over the next week until I got my bike back.  It was an interesting lesson for an eight-year old - I remember being told that I was allowed, as the rightful owner of the bike, to take back the bike if I found someone with it.

Today, you're extremely unlikely to get a police officer to come to your house to take a report on a stolen bicycle.  In fact, in some jurisdictions, the police don't even show up to take a report for a stolen motor vehicle.

As the seriousness of the crime that justifies the police deigning to show up to take a report increases, the cost of committing crimes under that level decreases.  As the potential cost of a crime decreases, just as with standard supply-and-demand economics, the demand for those crimes increases - that is, more of those crimes are committed and the less concerned society seems to be with those crimes.  It has come to the point in many jurisdictions that property crime is nothing more than an insurance claim with no police involvement whatsoever.

As a result, we, as a society, become desensitized to those crimes that are just minor incidents.  This is a vicious circle that serves to increase the level of crime that needs to be committed in order for society to take it seriously.

The second source for the growth in lawlessness is the disrespect for laws garnered by run-away legislatures that continue to churn out more and more laws as if they were paid by the words they wrote for a magazine serial.

The laws being created are affectionately known as flypaper laws in that they are just as likely to capture an innocent as they are to catch a true lawbreaker.  Ayn Rand had a great theory for why these laws are created:
"There's no way to rule innocent men.  The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.  Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.  One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
A question I like to ask people, "Do you know what law you broke today?"

The more laws we make, the more law-breakers we create and the more disrespect we build for all laws.  Rather than making it more difficult to own a gun without breaking a law how about if we actually crack down on the real predatory criminals who prey on society?

That might just make us all a little more respectful of the law.

Fundamental Rights

By Dave Dargo
In 2008, the Supreme Court of The United States ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the right to keep and bear arms that is enshrined in the second amendment is a fundamental right.

In the opinion, the court stated,
We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding "interest-balancing" approach.  The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government - even the Third Branch of Government - the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon.  A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges' assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all.  Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad.  We would not apply an "interest-balancing" approach to the prohibition of a peaceful neo-Nazi march through Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977) (per curiam).  The First Amendment contains the freedom-of-speech guarantee that the people ratified, which included exceptions for obscenity, libel, and disclosure of state secrets, but not for the expresson of extremely unpopular and wrong-headed views.  The Second Amendment is no different.  Like the First, it is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people - which whatever else it leaves to future evaluation, it surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.
This is a very interesting comment from the court.  The court is saying that the people, when they adopted the Second Amendment, performed their interest-balancing approach and determined that it was better to prevent the government from infringing the right to keep and bear arms than to give up the liberty that came with the bearing of arms.  They go on to say that even the judiciary can't re-cast the will of the people as enshrined in the Constitution.

Fast-forward to a couple of days ago and the hearing the Supreme Court held regarding the ban on same-sex marriages in California.  Justice Sotomayor asks a question,
If you say that marriage is a fundamental right, what State restrictions could ever exist?
This is exactly what those fighting for the civil rights of gun owners have been arguing, if the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental what State restrictions could ever exist?

The problem is that many want to have a political approach to deciding questions of such import and the "Guns are bad" argument drowns out the constitutional law argument.

The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right that the people chose to enshrine in the Second Amendment by prohibiting the government from infringing that right.  If you want to restrict guns from law-abiding citizens then you will not only need to repeal the Second Amendment but you will need to give the government the power to regulate firearms as well - a power the national government does not have.