Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Ethan Couch ("Affluenza teen") and his mother were captured in Mexico and should be back in the U.S.  Mother faces criminal charges, future uncertain for teen.   See article for legal options re Ethan.  Perhaps ultimately, justice will be served.

U.S. Police Fatalities 2015

The number of officers killed by firearms is down by 14% over 2014.
"Law enforcement fatalities nationwide rose slightly during 2015, with 124 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers killed in the line of duty, according to preliminary data compiled and released today by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) in their 2015 Law Enforcement Fatalities Report.
The 124 officer fatalities in 2015 represented a four percent increase from the 119 officers who died in the line of duty in 2014. Of the 124 officers who died this year, 52 died in traffic-related incidents, 42 were killed by gunfire and 30 died as a result of other causes.
The number of officers killed by firearms in 2015 (42) was 14 percent lower than the 49 who died as a result of gunfire in 2014. Traffic stops resulted in seven of those shooting deaths, more than any other category of felonious fatalities in 2015."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Licensed open carry of handguns coming to TX on Jan. 1

Despite its reputation as the trigger-happy heart of American gun culture, Texas is late to the open carry party, at least when it comes to handguns. On New Year's Day, it'll become the 45th state to legalize carrying a pistol in plain sight.
The relaxed rules passed the GOP-controlled state Legislature only after police groups defeated a provision backed by an unlikely coalition of tea party conservatives and Democrats that sought to bar law enforcement from asking Texas residents whether they had a proper license to carry guns that are visible.
But, as the new law looms, some officers are backing off, saying they won't demand to see a license if they have no other reason to stop a gun carrier. Not doing so could avoid harassment lawsuits — even if would-be criminals could carry guns without fear of getting caught. [This is what the 4th Amendment would requires.  There must be a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.  Merely openly carrying a handgun is, by itself, not reasonable suspicion where state law authorizes it for CHL holders]
"We're going to assume they're a license holder, probably," Austin Police Department training commander Andy Michael said of asking after licenses.
Texas already allows openly carrying rifles and shotguns, but has banned having handguns visible since just after the Civil War. It'll be the largest state to sanction some form of open carry, with California, Florida, Illinois, New York and South Carolina still banning it.
Texas had nearly 826,000 concealed license holders in 2014, which ranks among the nation's highest. Openly carrying a gun will require obtaining the same license concealed weapons holders have — be at least 21, have clean criminal and psychology records, complete a training course and pass a shooting test. Concealed handguns are even allowed inside the Texas Capitol, where license holders can bypass metal detectors.
Texas also has the country's most federal firearms license holders, from manufacturers to dealers, and the state cites its relaxed gun ownership rules in lobbying gun makers to move here. The National Rifle Association has traditionally pumped tens of thousands of dollars into Texas' state political races, more than it spent many other places, though contribution totals look to be waning recently."
Does it seem strange that states are doing more to protect Second Amendment rights than the courts and U.S. Supreme Court?

"Assault Weapons" the main target of gun controlllers

The so-called assault rifle is the current main target of gun controllers.   AYMK, these a center-fire, semiautomatic rifles that can accept large capacity magazines.  According to the NYT:
"Variants of the AR-15 design, a civilian version of the military’s M-16 without the capacity to fire in automatic bursts, have in recent years been the highest-selling rifles in the country, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, Conn., the trade association for the gun industry.
Less common but also popular are models based on the AK-47, the Soviet-designed assault weapon that is widely used worldwide. Both designs are off patent and produced by dozens of companies. story
American sales of these rifles, as indicated by production plus net imports, reached 1.5 million in 2012, far higher than in any previous year, according to foundation estimates." [Sales are going up again rapidly as talk of bans spreads].
"Sales have remained brisk over the last three years and appear to have surged in recent months, suggesting that more than 10 million “modern sporting rifles,” as the foundation has sought to rename them, are in circulation in the United States."  [Total worldwide production of AK-47's is probably around 100 million.  There will be a plentiful supply for smugglers.  They are also widely in use in Mexico by the cartels.]
"With semiautomatic rifles and pistols so ubiquitous, many gun control advocates now place a higher priority on measures like expanded background checks, to help keep guns out of the wrong hands, than on pursuing a ban on particular designs.
At the same time, many [incl. the NYT] remain convinced that some restrictions on the weapons would be worthwhile, especially a limit on magazines larger than 10 rounds, which could slightly slow down a mass killer."
Defining an assault weapon in the civilian market has always been difficult. Starting in 1994, Congress banned sales of semiautomatic assault weapons, defined as those with a detachable magazine and any two of several traits defined as military features, like pistol grips and folding stocks on rifles and second grips on the barrels of handguns. Also banned were magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
But the law expired in 2004 and was not renewed, as opposition to gun control hardened and as no strong evidence emerged to indicate it had reduced gun violence.
Now, seven states have similar bans, including California. But gun manufacturers have adapted their designs to comply with the laws; the two AR-15 models used by the attackers in San Bernardino, Calif., this month were not banned, although the 30-round magazines the killers used are illegal in the state.
Democratic proposals now before Congress would be somewhat more restrictive than the previous federal ban. They would prohibit sales of semiautomatic rifles and pistols that combine detachable magazines with only one other “military feature” from a list of physical traits and, again, would prohibit magazines holding more than 10 rounds."
It is a sad symptom of our national polarization that calls to ban guns only increase gun sales, and that some want to control what others believe is a constitutional right.  This is a situation fraught with danger if confiscation laws are passed.  A ban on new sales and production is not enough for some.  The NYT and others want confiscation of all such weapons, even those currently legally owned.  One gun owner opined, “there’s a sizable population out there that would see it as a call to revolution.”  I think a confiscation program could spur domestic terrorism. We need to think long and hard about confiscation and the  civil liberties violations that may accompany such programs.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The "New Republic" wants to ban all guns.

Gun control advocates frequently argue that no one wants to ban all handguns or all guns.  The New Republic  magazine does, even inside homes.  "Ban guns. All guns. Get rid of guns in homes, and on the streets, and, as much as possible, on police."  Thank God for the Second Amendment.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Newest Texas public service expose'

"Long-term foster care in Texas is “broken” and routinely does grave harm to children already dealt a tough hand, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi said the state violated the Constitution by keeping about 12,000 youngsters for years in an underfunded and poorly run system “where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm.”
Defendants John Specia and his staff at the state Department of Family and Protective Services have “the best intentions, she wrote. ” But the system, despite 20 years of reports and attempted fixes, keeps harming the children it’s supposed to help, the stinging opinion reads."  Texas will probably appeal.

I am a Texas resident, and know lots of Texans who seem to think Texas is some kind of paradise and bastion of widespread freedoms.  I tell them, it's not so is you are black, poor, jailed or imprisoned, mentally  ill, mentally disabled or a foster or abused child.  The state does a horrible job of providing decent public services for those groups.  Texas history is full of examples (Texas prisons, CPS, etc.).  Many cites are no better.  The public hospital in Dallas has been the scene of recurring outrages and scandals.

More on economic inequality, book review

My thoughts:  Economic inequality is not just a problem of the poor.  The middle class is feeling it big time, and, according to many theories, a strong middle class which views its democracy as legitimate is a prerequisite to stable democratic government.  We must be careful not to interfere with constitutional rights when dealing with II.  The deck is stacked by government policies of all types in favor of the top of the economic ladder. It doesn't have to be this way.  Let's readjust the stack (see end of post).  Is this a government that will share the benefit of lasting or deserved legitimacy?
Anarcho-capitalists and free-market extremists will howl.  However, the only thing they have to offer is the rich and powerful exploiting, if not enslaving, those below.

The NYT Book Review includes brief reviews of 5 books taking different perspectives on the income inequality (II) issue.  Excerpts follow with my comments in [ ].


He grants that economic disparities that result from corrupt, coercive, anti-competitive or criminal transactions [and other government policies which serve only special, affluent segments] are “bad,” but he maintains that a great many others result from voluntary transactions that benefit all parties involved and are “good.” Still other economic disparities, like those that arise as byproducts of demographic changes, are neutral. For example: The growing tendency for wealthy people to marry other wealthy people —[Personal choices and constitutionally protected rights should not be regulated in the name of II} . . .


Democrats, as we know, use higher taxes to fund programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which serve society’s poor and vulnerable. That is the public welfare state. But Republicans do much the same thing in the service of a private welfare state: They use tax breaks to subsidize employer-sponsored 401(k) plans and employer-sponsored health insurance, which serve the better-off. Faricy observes that tax breaks, logically speaking, are just government spending in another guise (both cost the government money), and that programs like the 529 college savings account, which is supported by such a tax break, are welfare programs for rich families. (About 70 percent of that program’s benefits go to households making more than $200,000 a year, costing the government $1 billion over the next decade.) . . .


the political theorist Clement Fatovic argues that a concern with economic inequality has deep roots in the establishment of the United States. Tea Party heroes like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, far from seeing government promotion of economic equality as inherently at odds with individual liberty, often considered greater equality to be a precondition for liberty, a view that influenced such proposals as free public schools and a more progressive tax system.


For Faricy, the real question is not some fanciful speculation about whether you can tolerate a welfare state that hampers your freedom, but rather a matter of which of these two welfare states you want: the one that spends public money to increase economic inequality, or the one that spends public money to reduce it.”[Let’s decrease federal and state regulation by eliminating that which favors the fortunate and reduce it to that which truly protects the nation and helps with the II problem.  I bet the net result would be less regulation]

Spinning gun control, the NYT and the "public health issue."

 In a Dec. 21, 2015 editorial on the  recent republican candidates’ debate,  the NYT appeared unhappy because the debate "was devoid of questions and comments about the public health issue of gun violence. "  A Dec. 21 article supporting gun control was under the tag line "health."

This spin ignores the fact that gun control is a Second Amendment, crime control, law enforcement and criminal justice issue.  Gun control, as always, will be enforced by the criminal law with stop and frisks, arrests, searches, trials, jailing and imprisoning.  Labelling it a "public health" issue hides what will be happening.  It avoid the issue of whether such tactics will work to reduce gun crime. If, as the Times earlier editorialized, the "assault weapon" ban will include weapons already legally owned, the situation will be worse.  The coercive power of the state will be on display.  Does this sound like a "public health" solution to you? We should all remember that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and euphemisms.

For more on this topic, see this article. See also my article "Ideological and Civil Liberties Implications of the Public Health Approach to Guns, Crime and Violnce"  Journal of Firearms and Public Policy, vol. 10, Fall 1998, pp. 111-142. Scroll down to journal page 111.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Changing my views some on income inequalty

When American “income inequality” (II) became a big media issue, I figured it was just another political stunt  and that economic equality was both undesirable and unachievable, and would only result in more power being granted to the feds.  I figures what problems there were would be fixed with the developing economic revival.  However, I try to educate myself and change views when it seems justified.

I began to do some research, looking at the studies and today conclude that II is a real problem that is getting worse and is not being alleviated by economic recovery.  I still do not favor economic equality and don’t have any easy solutions, but it is a real problem.  For instance, rent for middle-class and poor families is rapidly consuming greater portions of their income.  There are many facets to this.  I will mention only one.

According to the NYT and others:

“The class differences in child rearing are growing, researchers say — a symptom of widening inequality with far-reaching consequences. Different upbringings set children on different paths and can deepen socioeconomic divisions, especially because education is strongly linked to earnings. Children grow up learning the skills to succeed in their socioeconomic stratum, but not necessarily others.
“Early childhood experiences can be very consequential for children’s long-term social, emotional and cognitive development,” said Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University. “And because those influence educational success and later earnings, early childhood experiences cast a lifelong shadow.”
The cycle continues: Poorer parents have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children, which can leave children less prepared for school and work, which leads to lower earnings.”

Some people are poor because of personal failing, imprisonment, drugs, etc.  Others are poor for no fault of their own.  This is especially the case for children.
My concerns-
Economic success is a joint project between personal qualities, background and connections, luck, opportunity and ability to function within an economic system that is stacked in favor of big corporations and the wealthy.  There are rags-to-riches realities, but the system is still stacked.Every economic system is stacked in one way or another. Public education is a joke in many areas, public services like help for abused, disturbed and retarded children is shameful many places (see post below).  Many prisons, jails and mental hospitals are disgraces   
But the stack can be rearranged.  There is no such thing as a natural government-regulated economy.  It's all relative to whose ox is being fed.  Setting up anarcho-capitalism, anarchy, or trying to set up a free market economy in today's world is a plan that will only result in the rich and powerful exploiting everyone else.  Socialism is not the answer, but major reform in the status quo needs to be seriously considered.  What reform?  I don't have answers yet.
Much of II intersects with race in American. A starkly economically and otherwise divided society is a breeding ground for harm to democracy if not the threat of violent rebellion.  Many middle-class millenials and families are losing faith also.  When large numbers of people think the government is working against them, the system loses legitimacy, and this is a serious matter for a democracy.  Do you want to live in a badly racially and economically divided society where many do not support democratic government which always seems to give them the short end of the stick?

Secondly, many children need and deserve help.  I believe assisting our less fortunate members is a legitimate and worthwhile endeavor, as long as it does not become counterproductive and vest too much power in government.  I don’t yet understand all the complexities or have solutions, but I’m no longer pooh-pooing the issue.  I’d be interested in what others think.

Confederate monuments to come down in New Orleans

According to Business Report:
New Orleans leaders today made a sweeping move to break with the city’s Confederate past when the City Council voted to remove prominent Confederate monuments along some of its busiest streets.
As The Associated Press reports, the council’s 6-1 vote allows the city to remove four monuments, including a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood at the center of a traffic circle for 131 years.
It was an emotional meeting—often interrupted by heckling—infused with references to slavery, lynchings and racism, as well as the pleas of those who opposed removing the monuments to not “rewrite history.”
City Council President Jason Williams called the vote a symbolic severing of an “umbilical cord” tying the city to the offensive legacy of the Confederacy and the era of Jim Crow laws.
“If anybody wins here, it will be the South, because it is finally rising,” said Williams, who is African-American.
Stacy Head, a council member at large, was the lone vote against the removal. She is one of two white council members. She lamented what she called a rush to take the monuments down without adequate consideration of their historic value and meaning to many in New Orleans.
Fixing historic injustice is “a lot harder work than removing monuments,” Head said, even as many in the packed council chambers jeered her."

First, let's look at some of the phony, illogical, arguments against removal.
First, "you cannot rewrite history by removing monuments."  This history is already written in thousands of books and articles.  Those favoring removal are not trying to rewrite history.  Did Germany forget about Hitler when his statues were torn down?  Germany has acknowledged its guilt.  Many Americans refuse to acknowledge America's guilt.
Second, "Fixing historic injustices is lot harder than removing injustices."  Any moron knows that.  Removing the monuments will not stop or satisfy the NAACP, Urban League, or most black Americans.  Ironically, it is the people who are most likely to want to keep the statues who are least likely to support fixing the injustices.

People want the statutes removed because the honor those who supported slavery and white supremacy.  I suspect that many who opposed removal are open or closet white supremacists who still buy into the "lost cause" delusions. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mistrial in Freddie Gay killing case.

According to the NYT:
"The [criminal]  trial of the first Baltimore police officer in the death of Freddie Gray ended in a hung jury on Wednesday, an unexpected twist that complicates the cases against five other officers facing charges in a fatal police encounter that prompted violent unrest here last spring."  Look for a retrial or plea bargain next.  Prosecutors may offer a deal to this officer in return for his testimony against others.  Although there was violent unrest last Spring when the incident was revealed, there was no unrest this time.

Suicide by Cop?

According to the Dallas Morning News:
"After [officer] Bean’s vehicle comes to a stop, McMillan is seen stepping off the curb and crossing in front of the patrol car, holding a hatchet in his right hand.
The second video segment shows the same scene from three other angles.
In the audio recording, Bean has gotten out of the patrol car and is heard ordering McMillan to “back away” several times as he steps back from him, drawing his gun. McMillan continues to walk toward Bean, ignoring the officer’s warnings and repeatedly saying, “Shoot me.”
Bean fires three shots as McMillan moves to within 5 or 6 feet of him. A little more than 10 seconds pass between the time that Bean gets out of the car and when shots are fired."

Justice may finally come to 'affluenza" defendant Ethan Crouch.

Ethan Couch got an outrageously lenient sentence for the drunk driving crash that killed 4.  Perhaps he will ultimately have to face the courts again.
He appears to have fled, along with his mother,  after violating his probation.  It was only a matter of time till this "sociopath" screwed up again.  His parents are complete losers

Prison and jails worse off than policing

The problems in policing in America pale in comparison to the problems in prisons and jails.  There is even less transparency in correctional institutions, little media coverage and prisoners have no political clout. Frequently outside organizations have to step in. For instance, According the  NYT:
"New York has agreed to a major overhaul in the way solitary confinement is administered in the state’s prisons, with the goal of significantly reducing the number of inmates held in isolation, cutting the maximum length of stay and improving their living conditions. 
The five-year, $62 million agreement, announced on Wednesday, is the result of a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union over the treatment of inmates in solitary confinement in the prisons. For 23 hours a day, 4,000 inmates are locked in concrete 6-by-10-foot cells, sometimes for years, with little if any human contact, no access to rehabilitative programs and a diet that can be restricted to a foul-tasting brick of bread and potatoes known at the prisons as “the loaf.”

S.Ct. to hear case on criminalizing refusal to take breath test

The U.S. Supreme Court had decided to hear a case "to decide whether states can make it a crime for motorists suspected of drunken driving to refuse breath, blood or urine tests. Thirteen states have such laws.
The court took up the question in three cases: one from Minnesota and two from North Dakota, which were consolidated for a single argument.
In 2013, in Missouri v. McNeely, the Supreme Court ruled that the police investigating a drunken-driving incident must generally obtain warrants before drawing blood without consent.
The state laws get around that ruling by making refusal to consent to testing a separate crime. State officials justify those laws in part on the ground that drivers have given their consent to be tested as a condition of being permitted to drive.
The defendants in the new cases say the laws violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures."
IMHO, these laws violate the Fourth Amendment and due process.

Mass shootings up, gun violence down

Mass shooting are up in this country, but overall gun violence is down.  This article suggests why.  One surprising answer is less lead in the environment.Gun control is not one of the answers.  This is happening despite massive gun sales and licensing of concealed carry. 
Death sentences in Texas and the nation as a whole are declining rapidly.  Six condemned inmates were exonerated in 2015.  The handwriting is on the wall. 

Good cop-bad cop, let's not forget about the good ones

We all tend to fall into the presumption of guilt trap.  We assume all police are brutes.  We rarely hear about good things police do or the acquittals of officers. Policing is a stressful, underpaid and sometimes dangerous job.
Dallas morning news columnist James Ragland, . . .  "spent a lot of time this week trying to reconcile two conflicting images of cops in America.
It’s this dueling Good Cop-Bad Cop narrative that’s playing out not just in social media – with the rise of hash tags like #BlackLivesMatter and #CopLivesMatter — but in real life, where it counts.
I hope you saw the heart-tugging tale of Arlington police Officer Antonia Crutcher.
After talking with a kid, Giovani, whose bike had been stolen, Crutcher took money out of her own pocket to buy the boy a new set of wheels."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Analysis of federal litigation to improve police

PBS/Frontline had done an analysis of police reform in the U.S.  through federal "pattern and practice."  Evidence of success is hard to come by, and more stringent means may be necessary, at least according to this blogger.

Review of "Race and Police Brutality"

Although published in 2008, Holmes and Smith's book, Race and Police Brutality; Roots of an Urban Dilemma is still timely.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, see this review.  The books contains and excellent review of the literature, presents a multi-variable explanation, and offers suggestions for reform.  I strongly recommend it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

More on Supreme Court Silence on Second Amendment.

According to the Atlantic:

"Monday’s refusal to hear Friedman is the latest episode in the Supreme Court’s strange silence on the Second Amendment since handing down two landmark rulings, D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, in 2008 and 2010. As the national debate over the role of firearms in American society intensifies with each mass shooting or proposed gun-control measure, the justices have refused to hear a single major gun-rights case since they applied the Second Amendment to the states five years ago.
The Court’s silence hasn’t been for want of a significant case. In June, the justices declined to hear a challenge to San Francisco’s requirement that handguns must be either disabled with trigger locks or stored in locked containers when not in use. The city ordinance was similar, though not identical, to the one struck down by the Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller in 2008. Last year, the justices ignored two NRA-led cases challenging federal and state age restrictions on firearm purchases. And in 2013, the Court refused a case that sought to overturn New York’s strict regulations on carrying handguns outside the home.
The cumulative effect of these denials (and many others) is a bizarre unwillingness to participate in a legal revolution that the Court itself ignited. First, some history." . . .
Five justices formed the majorities in Heller and McDonald: Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts. All of them remain on the Court today. The Court does not identify how justices vote when granting or denying certiorari petitions, but four votes are required to grant a case. We can therefore logically conclude that at least two justices from the Heller/McDonald majority have refused to take a single Second Amendment case in the last five years."

The refusal to hear an appeal in the San Francisco case is especially  disturbing. With regard to this case, see this article.

The Court's refusal to hear appeals of decisions that, according to the article, "undercut" Heller-McDonald, suggests to this blogger that the Court, even the conservatives, have lost their enthusiasm for the Second Amendment.  This is a serious dereliction of the Court's duty to provide direction and guidance to governments and citizens.  Five years is an inexcusable period of silence.  It is also a serious blow to individual freedom and the rule of law.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


" . . .  for years, whenever Chicago officers did something wrong, their colleagues covered for them.
The city's longstanding reputation for police misconduct and brutality shattered relations with the black community long before the federal government announced this week that it was launching a wide-ranging civil-rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department. The probe was prompted by a video showing a white officer shooting a black teen 16 times and revelations that other officers filed false reports about what happened."

Cleaning up this type of PD is going to take miracle worker or someone with great vision, strength and lots of political backing

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Justice in Oscar Pistorius murder case

"Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp after South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the previous conviction of culpable homicide.
Judge Eric Leach ruled Thursday that the Paralympic gold medalist should have foreseen that his firing of a gun would have killed whoever was behind the door in his bathroom, regardless of whether he thought it was [his girlfriend]  Steenkamp or an intruder.
State prosecutors appealed the verdict of culpable homicide, seeking a conviction on more severe charges."
His claim that he thought his girlfriend was a burglar locked in a bathroom was incredible.At most, he faces 15 years in prison.

Disturbing move by U.S. Supreme Court re Second Amendment.

According to the LA Times:
"The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a Chicago suburb’s ordinance that banned semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The decision not to hear the case has no precedential force, but was nonetheless part of a series of signals from the Supreme Court giving at least tacit approval to even quite strict gun control laws in states and localities that choose to enact them.

“The justices don’t reveal their reasons for denying review, but one thing is clear,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The justices certainly aren’t eager to take up a Second Amendment case these days.”

“One has to wonder,” he said, “if the Supreme Court is having second thoughts about the Second AmendmentContinue reading the main story

The court will sooner or later return to the subject of the scope of the Second Amendment right first recognized in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down parts of an exceptionally strict local law that barred keeping guns in the home for self-defense. But the justices do not seem eager to do so even as the nation is in the midst of a sharp debate over gun control in the wake of shooting rampages in San Bernardino, Calif., and across the nation.


In dissent on Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, accused the court of abdicating its responsibility to enforce the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. (Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in the Heller case, which was decided by a 5 to 4 vote.) . . .
Bans on rapid-fire weapons have been upheld by federal appeals courts in San Francisco and New York in addition to the 7th Circuit panel that upheld the Highland Park ordinance."

One interpretation of this result, but not a legal one, is that that only 2 Justices wanted to overturn the assault rifle law and that seven did not.  Gun Control advocates argue that this indicates that the Court will not strike down assault weapon bans.

The Supreme Court  is long overdue for additional opinions on the Second Amendment to further clarify the rights of Americans.


Gun Controllers Heating Up

The gun control movement is heating up.  For instance, the New York Times has put an editorial on its front page (Fri. Dec. 4) since 1922. This one is calling for more gun control, esp. of "assault rifles."  One of the things about this editorial that troubles me is the following:

"Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens."

Just what we need, a war on thousands of people who own such weapons but refuse to turn them in.  The left loves to complain about Prohibition and the 'war on drugs,' yet they want to start their own war. 

Do we really want to start down this slippery slope? Terrorist also regularly use semi-automatic handguns. One commentator wrote:

"I suspect liberals imagine, at some level, that a Prohibition-style campaign against guns would mostly involve busting up gun shows and disarming Robert Dear-like trailer-park loners. But in practice it would probably look more like Michael Bloomberg’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, with a counterterrorism component that ended up heavily targeting Muslim Americans. In areas where gun ownership is high but crime rates low, like Bernie Sanders’ Vermont, authorities would mostly turn a blind eye to illegal guns, while poor and minority communities bore the brunt of raids and fines and jail terms."

Many years ago I published an article titled "Law Enforcement Problems of Gun Control:  A Victimless Crimes Analysis." Criminal Law Bulletin, vol. 16, No. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 1980), pp.  131-149.  Sorry I don't have a free link to t his.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Who Controls Police Dept. Videos?

The benefits of video of police-citizen incidents has become clear.  However, additional issues remain.  One of these is control of the video.
According to the NYT:
“A Chicago police officer shot and killed a teenager named Laquan McDonald in October of last year, but most of us learned about Mr. McDonald only last week, after a judge ordered the release of police video footage of his death. That is also when prosecutors finally brought first-degree murder charges against the officer. Clearly, such footage has considerable power. . . .  But while protesters have criticized the delayed response to the shooting, no one seems to be asking a more fundamental question: Why were the police in control of the footage in the first place?”
About a third of police departments in the United States have started to use body cameras, and they typically have almost complete control over the programs. Police departments decide when cameras should be rolling, how long the footage is stored, who gets to see it and how it can be used in the future. Individual officers operate the record button, and their supervisors decide what happens when those officers fail to comply with the department’s recording policy (usually, not much). [This is another area that needs to be tightened up.]
"In Albuquerque, where the police have a body-camera program, a Justice Department investigation found that officers repeatedly failed to record uses of force against civilians, even when they had a clear opportunity to do so. This violated department policy, but very few of the officers were reprimanded. . . .  Even when officers do record uses of force, it is often difficult, if not impossible, for anyone outside law enforcement to obtain the footage unless a court orders its release.”

There are legitimate reasons not to release videos, such as damaging a defendant’s right to a fair trial.  However, this is what judges rule on, not police departments.  The author, Sarah Lustbader, recommends that some neutral third party control the videos.  As long as the third party is ethical and reliable, it sounds like an idea work exploring.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Another policing issue, special threatment for officers

I don't want this blog to get a reputation as a police basher.  Policing is a difficult, under-paid and dangerous job.  Shootings of police get much less attention than police shootings of civilians.  Nonetheless, the following is a real issue.  From the NYT:
"Baltimore —The trials of the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died after suffering a spinal injury in police custody, begin tomorrow. As a public defender here, I have watched the cases of the officers move through the Baltimore City Circuit Court.
These cases are remarkable in that police officers were actually charged in Mr. Gray’s killing, unlike in other recent cases of police violence. But they are also notable in another, less laudable, way.
The court has given extraordinary treatment to the accused officers, from their arrests up to their impending trials. But thousands of other defendants in Baltimore receive an inferior brand of justice."

"These cases are remarkable in that police officers were actually charged in Mr. Gray’s killing, unlike in other recent cases of police violence. But they are also notable in another, less laudable, way.
The court has given extraordinary treatment to the accused officers, from their arrests up to their impending trials. But thousands of other defendants in Baltimore receive an inferior brand of justice.