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Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

As a libertarian, it’s easy for me to get agitated about the theoretical burden of high taxes, wasteful spending, and costly regulation.

But even regular people should get upset when they get exposed to specific examples of individuals who are victimized by abusive government.

Regarding the particular topic of Second Amendment freedoms and government misbehavior, I know I get very angry when I read about what happened to folks like Adam Meckler and Benjamin Srigley.

And now we can add Shaneen Allen to the list. Here’s some of what Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee wrote for USA Today.

When Ray Rice beat his wife unconscious in an elevator, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Donio and New Jersey District Attorney Jim McClain agreed to put him in a diversion program for 1st-time offenders to keep him out of jail. But when Pennsylvania single mom Shaneen Allen was pulled over for a traffic violation and volunteered to a New Jersey police officer that she was carrying a legally-owned handgun with a Pennsylvania permit, the response of Donis and McClain was to deny her the same opportunity as Rice. …she faces a felony conviction and a mandatory 42 months in prison. Both Donio and McClain have been unwilling to dismiss the charges, or send Allen to a pretrial diversion program. They seem to want to make an example of her.

How disgusting. A big-time athlete gets special treatment even though he brutalized another person.

But Ms. Allen, who didn’t hurt anybody and only wanted the ability to protect herself, is being abused by the heavy hand of government.

Professor Reynolds argues that this is a problem that merits federal intervention.

The problem is, she’s being punished for something the Constitution says — and the Supreme Court has agreed — is a constitutional right. …Shaneen Allen wasn’t committing gun violence, and civilians with gun permits are a very law-abiding bunch, who have passed a background check and undergone training; no sensible state would want to discourage them from visiting. …Under the Constitution, Congress has the power to protect civil rights via legislation, and this seems like a good subject for action. I would suggest a law providing that when people who may legally own guns under federal law are charged with possessing or carrying them in violation of state law, the maximum penalty should be a fine of no more than $500. This would allow states a reasonable degree of regulation, without subjecting individuals to life-ruining consequences just because some politico wants to make a point.

Speaking of politicos, I hope Governor Chris Christie intervenes and pardons Ms. Allen. Pre-emptively if that’s even legally possible.

A few years ago, he did commute the sentence of a guy who was similarly victimized by New Jersey’s awful laws, so he’s at least semi-reasonable on these issues.

Now let’s shift gears and review a more uplifting story.

Back in 2011, I wrote about the unfortunate plight of unarmed Brits who had very little ability to defend themselves when their neighborhoods were assaulted by rioters and compared that situation to what happened during the Los Angeles riots, when Korean business owners used guns to successfully protect their lives and property.

And I augmented that analysis in 2012 when I wrote about disarmed New Yorkers who were vulnerable to thugs during the chaos that followed Hurricane Sandy.

However, there are places where people can exercise their constitutional rights to self defense, so let’s look at a feel-good story from the Midwest.

Here are some excerpts from a report out of St. Louis.

After nightfall, what began as a community’s peaceful demonstration against the Ferguson Police Department’s shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown turned increasingly violent. Crowds plundered a QuikTrip and burned it to the ground, and local news began reporting brazen raids on other stores in the area. After hearing of the roving bands of looters, Mike Gutierrez knew he had to protect his tattoo shop. He brought a posse with him, including Adam Weinstein, owner of County Guns… Gutierrez, Weinstein and their group arrived to find thieves tearing through a Dollar General in the same strip mall that houses their business. Weinstein says the looters attempted moving toward the shop, but were scared off by the guns.

Hooray that these guys had the freedom to defend themselves.

And I love the accompanying photo. At the risk of stereotyping, I assume that guys who run tattoo parlors are bad asses. Give them some guns and it becomes very obvious why the looters stayed away.

Though even mild-mannered suburban dads can deter looters. At least when they’re armed.

Meanwhile, what happens to store owners that rely on the government to protect them when bad things happen?

Well, there’s not a happy ending.

At the other end of the same strip mall that houses Gutierrez and Weinstein’s business, 53-year-old Silas Chung arrived at his women’s clothing store, Up N Up Fashion, to find a pane of glass shattered and a mannequin lying on its back in the parking lot. Inside the store, racks of newly stocked clothing had been stripped bare. Chung has endured a couple burglaries in the past nine years of running the store, but nothing comparable.

I hope Mr. Chung has insurance, though I would recommend that he also buy some guns and learn to shoot.

Sort of like this honest liberal.

P.S. As I’m typing this, I’m looking at the cufflinks that I received as a birthday present from the PotL. Very appropriate, wouldn’t you agree?

photo2

Perhaps not as strong of a statement as my license plate or my daughter’s t-shirt, but very nice nonetheless.

P.P.S. Here are some good videos on gun control (both serious and satirical) and here’s some good humor on the topic.

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Well, another loser killed a bunch of people, this time in Santa Barbara, California.

Which gives gun control zealots an opportunity to seize upon the tragedy to recycle their calls to restrict private firearms ownership and otherwise erode the Second Amendment.

But I’m not too worried that they’ll succeed. The evidence is simply too strong that gun ownership reduces crime. The research shows that criminals are less aggressive when they fear potential victims may be armed.

Moreover, they don’t even have practical proposals. Here’s some of what Jacob Sullum wrote for Reason.

None of the items on the anti-gun lobby’s wish list makes sense as a response to the crimes of Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old college student who murdered Martinez’s son and five other people on Friday night. …the Isla Vista massacre, which took place in a state with firearm laws that are among the strictest in the nation, exposes the false promise of policies that aim to prevent violence by limiting access to weapons. …The only specific policy Gross mentioned was “expanded background checks.” But California already has those: All gun sales in that state, including private transfers, must be handled by licensed dealers, and every buyer has to be cleared by the California Department of Justice…

Sullum continues.

Rodger passed those background checks because he did not have a disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record. …Yes, Rodger was depressed, socially isolated, and desperately lonely. But how many people who fit that description become mass murderers? The difficulty of predicting which of the world’s troubled oddballs will turn violent is the reason “expanded background checks” cannot stop this sort of crime.

Good point. Heck, if getting rejected by the opposite sex was a predicate for mass murder, I would have been a potential killer in high school.

So what might have worked? Perhaps, in a leftist fantasy world, outright confiscation of 300 million guns. Though that would lead to massive civil disobedience.

Not to mention they would have to impose controls on knives and cars.

One can imagine policies that might have stopped Rodger, but they are neither practical nor constitutional. If the government not only banned guns but somehow managed to confiscate the 300 million or so Americans already own, that would have put a damper on Rodger’s plans, although he used knives to kill half of the victims who died and used his car to injure others.

And here are some excerpts from analysis by the invaluable John Lott. He starts by observing that the already-existing gun control rules in California were utterly ineffective.

As usual, the media news stories got fundamental facts wrong here. Of particular interest, half the people killed here were stabbed to death. Also, you won’t hear this in the news, the magazines that the killer used were also apparently limited to holding no more than 10 rounds (note that the Sheriff said that all the magazines were legal under California law). Obviously neither point fits the gun control check list.

More important, the anti-gun policies in California may have made it easier for the killer.

Santa Barbara County, where the attack occurred, is essentially a gun-free zone. As of February 2014, there were only 53 individuals with a concealed handgun permit in Santa Barbara County. With an adult population of 337,000, that is a rate of just 0.016 percent. The few people allowed to carry are undoubtedly politically well connected individuals who were unlikely to have been in the part of town where this attack occurred. As we have seen over and over again, these multiple victim killers deliberately select locations where victims are unlikely to be able to defend themselves.

Indeed, in another article, Lott notes that the nutjob carefully planned his attack to minimize the chances of being stopped by a law-abiding person with a gun.

Rodger spent over a year and a half meticulously planning his attack. His 141-page “manifesto” makes it clear that he feared someone with a gun could stop him before he was able to kill a lot of people. …Deterrence matters. As my research with Bill Landes at the University of Chicago found, letting people defend themselves doesn’t just prevent these attacks from occurring, it also limits the harm should the attack occur.  At some point, the fact that virtually all these mass shootings take place where victims are defenseless is going to have to matter.

To be sure, there’s no way to fully prevent crazed and evil people from doing bad things. But public policy can tip the scales in one direction or the other.

That’s why we should focus on policies that discourage bad guys by changing their cost-benefit calculations, such as making it easier for victims to defend themselves.

Not that I expect our statist friends to grasp this economic insight. It seems gun control is a faith-based policy, as captured by this amusing image.

Gun Control Stupid

The same message can be found in this Chuck Asay cartoon and these satirical images.

P.S. I shouldn’t stereotype all leftists as being naive on firearms and gun control. As you can read here and here, there are some who put reason ahead of ideology.

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I’ve explained on several occasions (here, here, and here) that we can be optimistic about the fight to preserve our rights to keep and bear arms.

Simply stated, politicians are increasingly scared to go after gun owners and we keep seeing more and more evidence that Second Amendment freedoms make society safer.

And courts are beginning to do a better job of upholding the Constitution. A recent example comes from Arizona, where the government was trying to simultaneously undermine both the First Amendment and Second Amendment.

The latest example comes from Arizona, where a pro-gun group won a legal fight to post notices about firearms training. A controversial gun-safety ad campaign is about to return to Phoenix, after the city lost its attempt to censor the project sponsored by a gun-safety training group, TrainMeAZ, LLC. The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, which represented TrainMeAZ, LLC, was granted summary judgment for its client Thursday by the Arizona Court of Appeals, preventing Phoenix from blocking the ads. …Officials at the time told Alan Korwin, owner of TrainMeAZ, that the message was too controversial and had garnered a complaint, and so had to be removed or changed. …“Gun-rights advocates nationwide are fond of saying the Second Amendment protects the First Amendment, which is totally true,” Korwin said. “In this case, however, it’s the other way around — free speech and the First Amendment have protected our right to keep and bear arms, and in particular, our right to train our selves and our precious families in real gun safety.”

This is welcome news, particularly since the court ruled unanimously against the government’s attempt to censor.

P.S. Back in 2012, I shared an IQ test for criminals and liberals. The test had only one question, which was whether criminals would be more likely to rob the house of a gun owner or a anti-gun activist.

Here’s a humorous sign sent to me by the Princess of the Levant. I suspect it’s photo-shopped, but it’s nonetheless funny because there probably are people this stupid.

Gun Control Robbery Sign

And if you like this kind of humor, here are more examples.

P.P.S. While there have been some positive developments in the fight for firearms freedom, the news isn’t all positive. We continue to get jaw-dropping examples of anti-gun political correctness from government schools.

P.P.P.S. On a totally separate topic, I’ve already created a Moocher Hall of Fame, but I think I need to also set up a Bureaucrat Hall of Fame.

I already have a list of potential members, but there’s an overpaid drone at the Environmental Protection Agency who surely deserves to be one of the charter members.

Just how much porn does a person have to watch on their computer at work to get fired from the Environmental Protection Agency? Apparently two to six hours a day will let you hold onto your job….the employee confessed to spending, on average, between two and six hours per day viewing pornography while at work. Apparently, the employee, whose identity has not been revealed, earns about $120,000 a year and has still not been fired.

Though perhaps we should be applauding this bureaucrat. After all, if you look at some of the things EPA bureaucrats do when they’re “working” (see here, here, here, and here), the country may be safer if they spend more time watching porn.

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Since I’m a public finance economist, I realize I’m supposed to focus on big-picture issues such as tax reform and entitlement reform. And I do beat those issues to death, so I obviously care about controlling the size and power of government.

But I like to think I’m also a decent human being. And this is why I get even more agitated when politicians and bureaucrats engage in thuggish behavior against comparatively powerless citizens.

Some of the worst examples of government thuggery are the result of “asset forfeiture,” which happens when governments confiscate the property of people who haven’t been convicted of any crime. Heck, sometimes they’re not even charged with any crime.

*Such as when the government wanted to steal someone’s truck because a different person was arrested for drunk driving.

*Such as when the government tried to steal the bond money a family has collected to bail out a relative.

*Such as when the government seized nearly $400,000 of a business owner’s money because it was in the possession of an armored car company suspected of wrongdoing.

*Such as when the government sought to confiscate an office building from the owner because a tenant was legally selling medical marijuana.

*Such as when the government killed a man as part of an anti-gambling investigation undertaken in hopes of using asset forfeiture to steal other people’s cash.

But we do have a bit of good news. All these horror stories seem to be causing a backlash.

Fox News has a very revealing article on how this system is under assault. The story begins by explaining how asset forfeiture is an open invitation for abuse and grossly inconsistent with the Constitution.

Civil forfeiture is when police and prosecutors seize property, cars or cash from someone they suspect of wrongdoing. …authorities don’t have to prove guilt, file charges or obtain a conviction before seizing private property. Critics say it is a process ripe for abuse, and one which leaves citizens little means of fighting back. “You breed a culture of ‘take first, ask questions later,’” Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, told FoxNews.com. “It’s thuggish behavior.” …civil forfeitures represent a dangerous area of the U.S. justice system where, by law, a person is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around.

The report from Fox cites a couple of reasons why asset forfeiture is misguided. One major problem is that it gives cops a budgetary incentive to steal.

In Tennessee, local law enforcement agencies get to keep 100 percent of all property seized through civil forfeiture – an incentive some say can tempt police to go after property for the wrong reasons.

Fortunately, people are now fighting this horrible procedure. The story explains that a former law enforcement official who is now a state lawmaker, Barrett Rich, is trying to reform Tennessee’s awful bill.

And Minnesota actually has eliminated this odious tactic. Here are some excerpts from a Forbes column.

In a big win for property rights and due process, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill yesterday to curb an abusive—and little known—police practice called civil forfeiture. Unlike criminal forfeiture, under civil forfeiture someone does not have to be convicted of a crime, or even charged with one, to permanently lose his or her cash, car or home. …Now the government can only take property if it obtains a criminal conviction or its equivalent, like if a property owner pleads guilty to a crime or becomes an informant. The bill also shifts the burden of proof onto the government, where it rightfully belongs.

Wyoming’s state legislature also is considering reform, so there are positive developments in many different states.

For more information, click here for a very good introductory video about civil asset forfeiture.

If you like videos, click here for a horrifying video about the government stealing $17,000 from an innocent man.

And here’s another video, this one about the government stealing money from a family grocery store.

Last but not least, if you want to get more upset, here are some additional examples of non-forfeiture related government thuggery.

Gee, it’s almost enough to make a person a libertarian!

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One of the best ways of reducing crime is to make anti-social behavior more expensive. Simply stated, the goal is to alter the cost-benefit analysis of criminals.

This doesn’t mean, by the way, that I’m assuming that bad guys are geniuses who put together spreadsheets or engage in elaborate calculations. Instead, I’m simply suggesting that crime becomes less attractive if thugs have a feeling that they’ll be more likely to get caught and/or more likely to get harsh punishment.

And, as I explained in my IQ test for liberals and criminals, bad guys also will be less likely to commit crimes if they know there’s a non-trivial chance that they may get shot. I know that would change my cost-benefit analysis if I was a crook.

But it’s not just my satirical IQ test. You get the same results from real experts such as John Lott and David Kopel.

This is why there’s less crime when law-abiding people own guns (as humorously depicted here and here by Chuck Asay).

Unfortunately, an army base is one place where bad guys can feel confident that they’ll find unarmed victims.

This is worth discussing since, for the second time, we have a sad example of innocent – and disarmed – people getting killed at Fort Hood.

Glenn McCoy has a cartoon that aptly summarizes this issue.

McCoy Fort Hood Cartoon

I’m sure some statists would argue that both the cartoon and my analysis are wrong because the killers (Ivan Lopez earlier this month and Major Hasan back in 2009) were crazy and simply wanted to kill the maximum number of people.

But experts have shown that even nutjobs engage in planning and figure out that they will have more ability to kill if they choose venues where potential victims are disarmed.

And even if we hypothesize that some crazy people might be too unstable to make those calculations, what’s wrong with allowing people to carry weapons on a military base so they can defend themselves?!?

But I’m not holding my breath expecting the ideologues in the Obama Administration to change their anti-Second Amendment policies.

Though at least we can be happy that more and more states are acknowledging reality and expanding concealed-carry rights and implementing stand-your-ground laws.

P.S. I’m increasingly optimistic that we are beating the statists on this issue. Honest leftists (see here and here) are acknowledging the value of private firearms ownership. We have very strong polling data from cops that gun control is misguided. And ordinary citizens would engage in massive civil disobedience (as we’re seeing in Connecticut) if the thugs in government tried to confiscate guns.

P.P.S. But let’s not get complacent. Statists may be losing some battles, but they won’t give up in their war against the Constitution. And they’re using government schools to push a fanatical anti-gun agenda. And they’re also working through the United Nations in an effort to get gun control through the back door. Though I suppose we should be happy that American statists aren’t as crazy as their British counterparts.

P.P.P.S. Let’s close with some gun control humor. If you want to know how leftists concoct data against gun ownership, here’s a good example. And here’s a video showing how leftists think about guns. Folks will also enjoy this comparison of how guns are viewed by liberals, conservatives, and Texans. And I think we can all agree that this driver is being very polite.

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I’ve already explained why leftists must be depressed about their failure to restrict private gun ownership.

They’ve suffered brutal electoral setbacks in Colorado, and more and more states have strengthened the right to keep and bear arms.

Moreover, it’s hard for them to claim their agenda is about safer streets when cops overwhelmingly reject the premises of the anti-gun zealots.

And they also have to deal with something very troubling that further undermines their campaign against the Second Amendment.

That troubling thing is facts and data.

Because the more information that we learn, the more evidence we have – as John Lott often reminds us – that more guns equal less crime.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley peruses some new data from the FBI. Here are some key excerpts.

A new FBI report says that violent crime continues to fall nationwide, which might annoy liberals because gun purchases continue to rise. In the first six months of 2013, murders fell by nearly 7 percent, compared with the same period in 2012. Aggravated assaults fell by 6.6 percent, and robberies are down 1.8 percent. “All of the offenses in the violent crime category—murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, aggravated assault, and robbery—showed decreases when data from the first six months of 2013 were compared with data from the first six months of 2012,” according to the FBI. Overall, violent crime in the U.S. fell by 5.4 percent. …The left likes to link violent crime to the proliferation of guns in the country, so it’s worth noting that the crime reductions described in the FBI report correlate with a steady increase in firearm sales.

But that’s not all.

It’s also worth noting that gun-ownership rates in the Midwest (39 percent) and South (50 percent) far exceed gun-ownership rates in the Northeast (22 percent), yet violent crime is down more in the Midwest and South than it is in the Northeast, according to the FBI statistics. And rural areas, where gun-ownership rates also are higher than average, saw a larger reduction in violent crime that metropolitan areas, where gun-ownership rates are lower than average. Not that gun-control zealots, who are so certain of a causal link between firearms and violent crime rates, care about such details.

Gee, what a surprise.

When more law-abiding people have guns, the bad guys are more skittish.

Hmmm…sounds like someone took the IQ test I devised for criminals and liberals.

But we have more good news.

It seems that Americans are not sheep meekly waiting to be fleeced of their constitutional freedom and liberties.

In Connecticut, where reprehensible politicians exploited a school shooting to impose restrictions on the Second Amendment, it appears that many citizens are – in effect – telling them to bugger off.

Here are some excerpts from a story in the Hartford Courant.

Everyone knew there would be some gun owners flouting the law that legislators hurriedly passed last April, requiring residents to register all military-style rifles with state police by Dec. 31. But few thought the figures would be this bad. By the end of 2013, state police had received 47,916 applications for assault weapons certificates, Lt. Paul Vance said. An additional 2,100 that were incomplete could still come in. That 50,000 figure could be as little as 15 percent of the rifles classified as assault weapons owned by Connecticut residents, according to estimates by people in the industry… And that means as of Jan. 1, Connecticut has very likely created tens of thousands of newly minted criminals — perhaps 100,000 people…who have broken no other laws.

This story makes me proud to be an American.

We’ve seen some polling data that shows there would be widespread civil disobedience if politicians tried to confiscate guns, but I wondered whether people would be more willing to acquiesce to preliminary steps such as the Connecticut registration plan.

So it’s great to see that tens of thousands of them are resisting.

P.S. As I’ve noted before, anyone who cares about this issue should read these observations from a genuine firearms expert.

And if you have left-wing friends, there are two posts that may convince them to be rational about guns. Justin Cronin explains here that restrictions on gun ownership undermined his ability to protect his family. And Jeffrey Goldberg looked at the evidence and concluded that guns make people safer.

P.P.S. If you simply want a laugh or two,  this funny video shows that our left-wing friends are incapable of understanding this topic.

For more gun control humor, check out this joke comparing California with other parts of America, this interview with a general is worth sharing (presumably an urban legend, but could be true), and here’s a t-shirt that I’m putting on my Christmas list.

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I’m a very straight-laced guy. Some would even say boring. I’ve never done drugs, for instance.

But not because they’re illegal. I’ve never done drugs for the reason that I’ve never smoked cigarettes. Just doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do. And I encourage friends and family to have the same approach.

That being said, I’ve never thought we should criminalize things simply because I don’t like them.

Particularly when it would make a lot more sense to focus law enforcement resources on stopping crimes against people and property. This new video from Learn Liberty explains further.

But this isn’t about cost-benefit analysis. Watch this powerful video from Reason TV about how one family has been victimized by drug prohibition.

Now ask yourself what purpose it served to have local cops basically entrap that unfortunate kid? If you come up with an answer, you have a very creative imagination.

Also keep in mind that the War on Drugs is the reason why politicians imposed costly and ineffective anti-money laundering laws. As well as disgusting and reprehensible asset forfeiture laws.

One misguided government policy leading to two other bad policies. That’s Mitchell’s Law on steroids!

P.S. Drugs do impose costs, but they’re mostly incurred by moronic users. Though there sometimes are collateral victims, such as kids whose parents allow their lives to get messed up. That’s why it would be nice if drugs somehow didn’t exist. Heck, the same things could be said about booze. Or tobacco. But they do exist. The libertarian position isn’t that these things are good. Instead, our position is that prohibition does more harm than good.

P.P.S. Just in case you think I’m an outlier, I invite you to read the thoughts of John McCain, John Stossel, Mona Charen, Gary Johnson, Pat Robertson, Cory Booker, and Richard Branson.

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I’m more than willing to give credit to leftists who come up with clever political satire.

This cartoon about Fox News, for instance, is rather amusing, and this imagery about the greed of the developed world is effective even though it’s misguided.

I’ve even shared funny videos, cartoons, and images that mock libertarians.

So when Sarah Silverman put together a pro-gun control video mocking the idea of a “black NRA,” I was prepared to laugh.

Having watched it, you can put me in the underwhelmed category. My computer skills are deficient and I only know how to embed YouTube videos, so you’ll have to click here if you want to watch her full video, but here’s a video from Carl Jackson that includes some of what Silverman did along a very effective response.

My reaction, for what it’s worth, is that Silverman is very attractive so it’s a shame she’s a leftist (my attitude about Stephanie Cutter as well). But on a more substantive level,

1. It’s almost laughable that a multi-millionaire like Silverman, who doubtlessly lives in a very safe area and almost surely relies on armed private security, wants to restrict the gun rights of ordinary Americans.

2. Do Silverman and the other characters in the video really think that criminals are impacted by gun control laws? Do they have enough sense to understand that the bad guys prefer when law-abiding people are disarmed?

But enough about my reactions. Here’s a very good video response from PJ Media.

If you want more videos on the general topic of gun control, here are some of my favorites.

And if you want gun control videos that are both funny and on the right side, here’s my collection.

Since this post is about blacks and gun control, let’s close with a link to what Thomas Sowell has to say about the topic.

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What do John Stossel, Mona Charen, Gary Johnson, Pat Robertson, Cory Booker, and Richard Branson all have in common?

And let’s add voters from the states of Colorado and Washington to this list. So what unites this unusual collection of people?

They’ve all expressed doubts about the War on Drugs. And that’s a good thing.

As explained in this video, the Drug War has been a very costly failure. Indeed, it’s been such a boondoggle that we can now add John McCain to the list of those who think maybe it’s time to consider decriminalization.

McCain Drug WarSen. John McCain (R-AZ) signaled Thursday that he’s receptive to legalizing pot. Tim Steller, a columnist for the Arizona Daily Star, reported over Twitter from a town hall in Tucson, Ariz. that McCain cited the “will of the people” in expressing an openness to legalization.

I’m glad Senator McCain is moving in the right direction, though I’m not sure I like his reasoning. The “will of the people” sometimes means two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

I much prefer the logical arguments of my Cato colleague Jeffrey Miron, who is a Senior Lecturer in economics at Harvard. Here’s some of what he recently wrote for the Huffington Post.

I have come to regard legalization as a policy no-brainer. Virtually all the effects would be positive, with minimal risks of significant negatives. An important piece of that research has been examination of drug policy in the Netherlands, where marijuana is virtually, although not quite technically, legal.

Jeff just visited Amsterdam and here’s what he found in that supposed den of iniquity.

Legalization advocates point to Amsterdam as evidence that legalization works, at least for marijuana. Legalization critics, such as former White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, believe instead that Dutch policy is flawed, generating crime and nuisance effects. Only first-hand observation could give me a clear view of which description is more accurate. …the Red Light District could not have felt safer or more normal. Yes, marijuana was widely available. …But nothing about the District felt unsafe, or suggested elevated crime or violence; I have felt less safe in many American and European cities. …The absence of violence is not surprising. Prohibition, not drug use, is the main reason for the association between violence and drugs, prostitution, gambling, or any banned good. In a legal market, participants resolve disputes with lawyers, courts, and arbitration. In an illegal market, they cannot use these methods and resort to violence instead. Thus the critical determinant of violence is whether an industry is legal, as the history of alcohol prohibition illustrates. That industry was violent during the 1920-1933 period, when the federal and many state governments banned alcohol, but not before or after. And if the government banned tobacco, or coffee, or ice cream, or any good with substantial demand and imperfect substitutes, a violent black market would arise.

There’s no evidence, by the way, that legalization means more drug use.

In 2009, the past year marijuana use rate was 11.3 percent in the United States but only 7.0 percent in the Netherlands. This does not prove that legalization lowers drug use; many other factors are at play. But these data hardly support the claim that prohibition has a material impact in reducing use. When we were toured Amsterdam on a canal barge, the guide commented that, “Despite legal drugs and prostitution, Amsterdam is a safe city.” My son, who has heard me rant about prohibition for years, looked up and quipped, “He should have said “Because drugs and prostitution are legal, right?” Exactly.

Sounds like Jeff’s done a good job as a father (and if I’m allowed to brag, I haven’t done a bad job either).

In closing, let me emphasize that libertarian does not mean libertine. My Republican friends are wrong when they think libertarians are like the guy in the upper left of this poster.

You can support legalization without being a drug user or without thinking that it’s a good idea for other people to smoke pot. Heck, I’m probably one of a small minority of people in my generation to never try any drug.

But that doesn’t mean I want to squander lots of tax money and reduce human freedom to persecute others who are engaged in victimless activities. Especially when it means a massive increase in the power of government!

Let’s not forget, after all, that politicians used the Drug War as an excuse to enact reprehensible and costly laws on asset forfeiture and money laundering. One foolish policy leads to a couple of other misguided policies. That’s Mitchell’s Law on steroids!

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It sounds strange, but my two favorite columns on gun control were authored by self-identified leftists. But they didn’t let ideology trump common sense.

Justin Cronin, for instance, explained that restrictions on gun ownership undermined his ability to protect his family. And Jeffrey Goldberg looked at the evidence and concluded that guns make people safer.

This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate gun control columns by non-leftists. This Larry Correia piece, for instance, is must reading if you want to understand about magazine limits and so-called assault weapons.

And if you like real-world evidence, Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe examines what happened after Massachusetts adopted onerous gun control legislation. He starts by explaining the law and what supporters promised.

In 1998, Massachusetts passed what was hailed as the toughest gun-control legislation in the country. Among other stringencies, it banned semiautomatic “assault” weapons, imposed strict new licensing rules, prohibited anyone convicted of a violent crime or drug trafficking from ever carrying or owning a gun, and enacted severe penalties for storing guns unlocked. …One of the state’s leading anti-gun activists, John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, joined the applause. “The new gun law,” he predicted, “will certainly prevent future gun violence and countless grief.” It didn’t.

Legal gun ownership plummeted.

The 1998 legislation did cut down, quite sharply, on the legal use of guns in Massachusetts. Within four years, the number of active gun licenses in the state had plummeted. “There were nearly 1.5 million active gun licenses in Massachusetts in 1998,” the AP reported. “In June [2002], that number was down to just 200,000.”

Jacoby then explains, however, that the advocates of gun control were not very successful in restraining the behavior of criminals.

But the law that was so tough on law-abiding gun owners had quite a different impact on criminals. Since 1998, gun crime in Massachusetts has gotten worse, not better. In 2011, Massachusetts recorded 122 murders committed with firearms, the Globe reported this month — “a striking increase from the 65 in 1998.” Other crimes rose too. Between 1998 and 2011, robbery with firearms climbed 20.7 percent. Aggravated assaults jumped 26.7 percent.

Gee, what a surprise. The bad guys responded to incentives and committed more crimes once they knew that victims were less likely to be in a position to defend themselves.

To be fair, the statists do have a response.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for gun-control activists to admit they were wrong. …“Massachusetts probably has the toughest laws on the books, but what happens is people go across borders and buy guns and bring them into our state,” rationalizes Boston Mayor Tom Menino. “Guns have no borders.”

But here’s where Jacoby administers a knock-out punch. He looks at evidence from other states and shows that there’s no plausible alternative explanation to the proposition that more gun control is correlated with more crime.

…why didn’t the gun-control lobby warn legislators in 1998 that adopting the toughest gun law in America would do Massachusetts no good unless every surrounding state did the same thing? Far from explaining why the new law would do nothing to curb violent crime, they were positive it would make Massachusetts even safer.  …But crime in Massachusetts didn’t just continue, it began climbing. As in the rest of the country, violent crime had been declining in Massachusetts since the early 1990s. Beginning in 1998, that decline reversed — unlike in the rest of the country. …Guns-across-borders might have explained homicide levels in Massachusetts continuing unchanged. But how can other states’ policies be responsible for an increase in Massachusetts homicides? Relative to the rest of the country, or to just the states on its borders, Massachusetts since 1998 has become a more dangerous state. …In 1998, Massachusetts’s murder rate equaled about 70 percent of the rate for Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. Now it equals 125 percent of that rate. Clearly something bad happened to Massachusetts 15 years ago. Blaming the neighbors may be ideologically comforting. But those aren’t the states whose crime rates are up.

Game. Set. Match.

But just in case you’re still not convinced, check out some of the empirical work generated by John Lott.

Or check out some of the fact-based research on guns and crime by David Kopel.

In other words, even if you don’t care about the Constitution, there’s no case for gun control. Jeff Jacoby’s column is simply the 100th nail in the coffin.

P.S. Since I usually try to include something at least  vaguely amusing in my posts, click here to see some of my favorite examples of gun control humor.

P.P.S. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that cops overwhelming agree that gun control  is ineffective.

P.P.P.S. Jacoby does very good work and deserves more attention. Here are links to some of his columns that caught my eye.

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Fifty years from now (assuming we haven’t suffered a Greek-style fiscal collapse), will we still enjoy our constitutional freedom of private gun ownership?

Sometimes I’m pessimistic about what will happen because politically correct educators are brainwashing our kids. We’ve even gotten to the point where a deaf kid can’t use sign language if his fingers somehow resemble a gun! And if you think that’s bizarre, check out these other horror stories of anti-gun hysteria in government schools.

And even though there’s currently a majority on the Supreme Court in favor of the Second Amendment, it’s only a one-vote margin. That doesn’t give me much comfort, particularly since we’ve seen examples of Justices ignoring their oath when subjected to political pressure.

Moreover, it’s difficult to be optimistic when a local government imposes a $1,000 fine on a man who uses an unregistered gun (gasp!) to save a child’s life.

On the other hand, I’m somewhat optimistic because gun owners and defenders of the Constitution have done a remarkable job in expanding and extending our Second Amendment rights at the state level.

For instance, check out this map of concealed-carry laws in the United States. The first thing to notice is that every single state allows citizens to carry, with the only real difference being whether the law is “shall issue” or “may issue.”

Concealed Carry Laws of US

I’m a bit mystified, for what it’s worth, that Alabama has a relatively weak “may issue” law. Do they really want to be in the same anemic category as California?!?

Now let’s look at this map of stand-your-ground laws. The right of self-defense is not as ubiquitous as the right of concealed-carry, but the trend is very positive with more states moving from blue to red over time.

Stand your ground laws US

I’m puzzled why Nebraska and Missouri have weak New York-style laws, but I imagine those colors will change in a couple of years.

By the way, state legislatures are not the only place where we’re making progress. Thanks to scholars such as John Lott, it’s increasingly clear that social science research leans in favor of private gun ownership.

And I challenge anyone to defend gun control after reading this Larry Correia article.

But the biggest sign of progress may be that honest leftists are beginning to acknowledge the benefits of the Second Amendment. If you have squeamish friends and colleagues who favor gun control, show them this article from The Atlantic and this column from the New York Times.

I’m also encouraged by polling data that shows cops overwhelmingly reject the gun control agenda.

So what does all this mean? To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. It does appear, however, that the political elite is moving in the wrong direction on the Second Amendment and the American people are moving in the right direction.

I don’t know what side will win, but it’s a safe bet that we’ll have some major political battles in the future.

P.S. If you enjoy anti-gun control humor, here are some amusing videos.

And you can find lots of additional anti-gun control humor at this link.

P.P.S. If you outlaw tanks, only outlaws will have tanks.

P.P.P.S. Feel free to add your vote to my poll on the most important reason to defend the Second Amendment.

P.P.P.P.S. Last but not least, here are some serious videos on the folly of gun control

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I want government to successfully and rationally fight crime and stop terrorism. That’s a perfectly appropriate libertarian sentiment since protecting life, liberty, and property are among the few legitimate roles for government.

But I don’t want to give bureaucrats carte blanche to monitor our lives and I don’t want to waste money in those cases where it is proper for the government to snoop on bad guys.

And those are some of the sentiments I expressed in this panel for Forbes on Fox.

My wonkish concern for cost-benefit analysis and corporate welfare is not empty posturing. There’s real money involved.

Here’s some of what CBS News reported on the issue.

How much are your private conversations worth to the U.S. government? Turns out, it can be a lot, depending on the technology. …AT&T, for example, imposes a $325 “activation fee” for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that… Industry says it doesn’t profit from the hundreds of thousands of government eavesdropping requests it receives each year… “What we don’t want is surveillance to become a profit center,” said Christopher Soghoian, the ACLU’s principal technologist. But “it’s always better to charge $1. It creates friction, and it creates transparency” because it generates a paper trail that can be tracked. …The FBI said it could not say how much it spends on industry reimbursements because payments are made through a variety of programs, field offices and case funds.

I confess that I’m not an expert – or even a novice – on the details of law enforcement, but I’m glad that my speculation on the low cost of setting up a wiretap seems to have been accurate. At least based on this excerpt from the article.

In 2009, then-New York criminal prosecutor John Prather sued several major telecommunications carriers in federal court in Northern California in 2009, including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, for overcharging federal and state police agencies. In his complaint, Prather said phone companies have the technical ability to turn on a switch, duplicate call information and pass it along to law enforcement with little effort. Instead, Prather says his staff, while he was working as a city prosecutor, would receive convoluted bills with extraneous fees. The case is pending.

This article, as well as the Forbes on Fox debate, deal with general law enforcement, not the controversy about NSA data collection and monitoring.

But I can’t resist sharing this excellent bit of NSA-related humor that arrived in my inbox.

NSA Obama Humor

Very similar in quality and theme to this great set of images.

And if you appreciate political cartoons on this topic, here are some of my favorites. I think the one featuring Nixon and Bush is the best of the bunch.

Last but not least, here are my thoughts on the NSA/Snowden controversy if you want some non-humorous analysis.

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Whether we’re talking about NSA spying, cross-border collection and sharing of private financial data by tax-hungry governments, pointlessly intrusive money-laundering laws, or other schemes to give the state more power and authority, we’re often told that “if you’re a law-abiding person, you have nothing to fear.”

But that assumes government is both competent and trustworthy.

You don’t have to be a crazed libertarian like me to realize that those two words are not a good description of Washington.

The IRS scandal is just one recent example of politicians and bureaucrats behaving badly. Heck, this blog is basically just a collection of examples illustrating the incompetence and venality of the public sector, augmented by my snarky comments and economic evangelizing.

That being said, while we may get irritated by government waste, senseless snooping,  and onerous taxes, we’re actually lucky.

The people who really suffer are the law-abiding folks (like Martha Boneta) who wind up in the crosshairs of less-than-savory folks in government, which includes not just politicians, but also some law enforcement officials and oftentimes ambitious prosecutors.

And you could be next, even if you’re a goody-two-shoes type who actually obeys speed limits. Simply stated, government is so big and has so many laws that every one of us is probably guilty of something.

And if we cross the wrong bureaucrat, our lives may be ruined – particularly since there are very few checks and balances to restrain these petty tyrants.

Professor Glenn Reynolds (a good guy despite teaching at the University of Tennessee Law School) addresses this issue in a very good article for the Columbia Law Review.

Here’s some of what Professor Reynolds wrote, starting with a brief explanation of the underlying problem.

Prosecutorial discretion poses an increasing threat to justice. The threat has in fact grown more severe to the point of becoming a due process issue. …prosecutors’ discretion to charge—or not to charge—individuals with crimes is a tremendous power, amplified by the large number of laws on the books. …If prosecutors were not motivated by politics, revenge, or other improper motives, the risk of improper prosecution would not be particularly severe. However, such motivations do, in fact, encourage prosecutors to pursue certain individuals, like the gadfly Aaron Swartz, while letting others off the hook—as in the case of Gregory, a popular newscaster generally supportive of the current administration. This problem has been discussed at length in Gene Healy’s Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything and Harvey Silverglate’s Three Felonies a Day. The upshot of both books is that the proliferation of federal criminal statutes and regulations has reached the point where virtually every citizen, knowingly or not (usually not) is potentially at risk for prosecution.

I’ve already written about the unfairness of giving David Gregory a free pass when ordinary citizens are punished for similar offenses, so I’m in full agreement that this is a problem.

More specifically, we can’t trust that prosecutors are motivated by justice.

In many cases, we’re talking about deeply flawed individuals motivated by a lust for political power (such as my former debating opponent Elliot Spitzer).

Self-aggrandizing  prosecutors seem more than willing to deliberately target certain individuals for unfair persecution, so we need some way of clipping their wings.

Glenn mentions the approach that you might find in a Civics 101 textbook, but he also notes that it’s not an effective check on government abuse.

Traditionally, of course, the grand jury was seen as the major bar to prosecutorial overreaching. The effectiveness of this approach may be seen in the longstanding aphorism that a good prosecutor can persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Grand jury reforms—where grand juries still exist—might encourage grand jurors to exercise more skepticism and educate them more. But grand juries are not constitutionally guaranteed at the state level, and reforming them at the federal level is likely to prove difficult.

So what, then, are the potential solutions?

Glenn’s first suggestion is that immunity for prosecutors should be relaxed.

Overall, the problem stems from a dynamic in which those charged with crimes have a lot at risk, while those doing the charging have very little “skin in the game.” One source of imbalance is prosecutorial immunity. The absolute immunity of prosecutors—like the absolute immunity of judges—is a judicial invention, a species of judicial activism that gets less attention than many other less egregious examples. Although such immunity no doubt prevents significant mischief, it also enables significant mischief by eliminating one major avenue of accountability. Even a shift to qualified, good faith immunity for prosecutors would change the calculus significantly, making subsequent review something that is at least possible.

In theory, lawyers (such as prosecutors) already can be punished for misconduct. But other lawyers are the ones in charge of determining whether misbehaving colleagues should be disbarred or otherwise penalized.

Needless to say, members of a club generally are reluctant to punish other members of the club.

So reducing immunity would be a good idea.

Glenn’s second option is to impose a variant of “loser pays.”

Perhaps the prosecution could be required to pay a defendant’s legal fees if he or she is not convicted. To further discipline the process, one could implement a pro-rate system: Charge a defendant with twenty offenses, but convict on only one, and the prosecution must bear 95% of the defendant’s legal fees. This would certainly discourage overcharging.

As an economist, I instinctively like this idea. It’s always a good idea to make people bear the costs of their own actions.

But there’s a catch. Prosecutors wouldn’t be bearing the costs. You and me and other taxpayers would have to cough up the money.

However, perhaps “loser pays” could be structured so the money comes out of a predetermined budget for salaries and benefits of prosecutors and staff.

Since they are probably overpaid, like most government bureaucrats, I imagine this idea would have the desired impact on their actions.

The third option – and it’s a big one – is to get rid of plea bargains.

The “nuclear option” of prosecutorial accountability would involve banning plea bargains. An understanding that every criminal charge filed would have to be either backed up in open court or ignominiously dropped would significantly reduce the incentive to overcharge. …Our criminal justice system, as presently practiced, is basically a plea bargain system with actual trials of guilt or innocence a bit of showy froth floating on top.

I don’t know enough to opine on this proposal, but the status quo obviously isn’t any good, so maybe it’s time to think big.

Glenn also adds an additional point about narrowing the definition of a crime, or at least what “offenses” carry criminal sanctions.

It is also worth considering whether mere regulatory violations…should bear criminal sanctions at all. …with the explosion of regulatory law, every citizen is at risk of criminal prosecution for crimes that, as David Gregory’s defenders noted, involve no actual harm or ill intent. Yet any reasonable observer would have to conclude that actual knowledge of all applicable criminal laws and regulations is impossible, especially when those regulations frequently depart from any intuitive sense of what “ought” to be legal or illegal. Perhaps placing citizens at risk in this regard constitutes a due process violation; expecting people to do (or know) the impossible certainly sounds like one.

When you look at the perverse forms of government persecution included in this post from earlier this year, Glenn’s point becomes even more persuasive.

I’ll just add one more way of constraining the legal system, and that’s jury nullification.

Judges and prosecutors hate the concept, which suggests to me that it’s probably a very good idea in certain cases.

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If a bad person robs a bank and then uses a Chevrolet to make his getaway, do we blame General Motors?

Of course not.

If a pilot suffers some sort of medical incident, loses control of her plane, and injures people on the ground during the crash, do we blame Cessna?

No, that would be silly.

If a con artist tricks a consumer into sending money, do we blame the bank where the fraudster has an account?

Logically, the answer is no, but thanks to money laundering laws, the government actually does expect banks to know if customers are misbehaving. But that’s why experts think those laws are absurdly unworkable and expensive.

I’m asking these rhetorical questions because a couple of professors, in a New York Times op-ed, claim that gun manufacturers and gun owners should be subject to special taxes. Why? Well, because some people deliberately or accidentally cause damage with guns.

Gun manufacturers have gone to great lengths to avoid any moral responsibility or legal accountability for the social costs of gun violence… But there is a simple and direct way to make them accountable for the harm their products cause. For every gun sold, those who manufacture or import it should pay a tax. The money should then be used to create a compensation fund for innocent victims of gun violence.

They justify their plan with economics. Or, to be more accurate, they use economic terminology to sell their scheme.

This proposal is based on a fundamentally conservative principle — that those who cause injury should be made to “internalize” the cost of their activity by paying for it. …it makes sense to tax gun manufacturers directly. The result would be that those who derive a benefit from guns — for hunting, target practice, self-defense or simply for collecting — would shoulder some of the social costs of their choice as manufacturers pass along the cost of the tax to them. Such a tax might also exert at least some economic pressure on manufacturers to market especially lethal guns less aggressively, or to implement safer gun technologies, like “smart guns” that could be used only by the registered owner. Right now, they have no such incentive — they’re immune from most lawsuits, and guns are expressly exempt from regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is supposed to protect the public from unreasonable risks from consumer products.

There are lots of reasons why I disagree with this column, but my main objection – as suggested by the rhetorical questions above – is that the professors want to improperly redistribute risk and blame.

A gun is not inherently dangerous. Indeed, gun ownership is associated with lower crime rates, so it’s more accurate to say they are inherently safety enhancing. Cops, for instance, overwhelmingly think gun control is either futile or counterproductive.

That being said, what’s the best way to deal with those individuals who deliberately or accidentally use guns in an unsafe manner?

The answer is simple. There should be criminal penalties imposed on those who engage in deliberate wrongdoing and we should rely on insurance and/or the tort system (properly focused)  for accidental misuse.

Will that system be perfect? Of course not. Criminals will always exist. All we can do is to make crime less attractive. And accidents will always happen, even if we have a good system of insurance and torts.

Let’s conclude with a statement of the obvious. I’m 99 percent certain that the professors are completely unserious about modifying how we insure against gun-related damage. They’re simply using the terminology to impose a policy that is best characterized as back-door gun control.

Which makes me all the more appreciative of the message on this young lady’s t-shirt.

I’m tired of statists, most of whom (like Rosie O’Donnell)  live very comfortable lives in safe neighborhoods, trying to tell the rest of us how to live.

P.S. Sloppy and flawed analysis seems to be a specialty at the New York Times.

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Early in the year, I shared a powerful video about the right to keep and bear arms. It featured the Sheriff of Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, who made a public service announcement advising citizens that gun ownership was important for self defense.

That’s such a common-sense point that it presumably shouldn’t have merited any comment, but it was newsworthy because the establishment press frequently tries to promote the narrative that law enforcement officials are opposed to the Second Amendment.

But in virtually every instance, the “officials” are big-city police bosses who are parroting the views of the political masters who appointed them to their positions.

So what do regular cops think about gun control?

I’ve always assumed they favored the right to keep and bear arms. Simply stated, cops have a practical understanding that there are bad people in the world. Moreover, they know it’s impossible for them to be everywhere at once, so armed citizens are the first line of defense.

And the cops that I know are strong defenders of private gun ownership, but I haven’t wanted to extrapolate from that anecdotal evidence.

So I’m not surprised that police officers are against gun control, but I had no idea that cops were so overwhelmingly solid on the Second Amendment until I saw the polling data from this survey of 15,000 law enforcement officials.

Here are two of the most startling findings, beginning with a question on whether magazine limits will be effective in reducing crime. An astounding 95.7 percent of respondents say no.

Gun Survey 2

Makes you wonder whether Andrew Cuomo and other sleazy politicians understand that they’re pushing policies that will have no positive impact? Or whether they even care?

Perhaps all lawmakers should be required to read Larry Correia’s article on the real-world impact of such policies.

But what about “assault weapons”?

Well, 91.5 percent of cops said a ban on these semi-automatic weapons would either be useless or the policy would have a negative impact on fighting crime.

Gun Survey 1

Indeed, almost three times as many cops said the effect would be negative compared to those who thought a ban on these guns would have a moderate or significant positive effect!

In other words, cops understand instinctively and through practical experience what scholars such as John Lott have discovered through research.

Interestingly, it appears cops are even better on the Second Amendment than ordinary Americans. According to this polling data I shared back in January, “only” 58 percent of Americans understood that more guns would reduce crime.

But I’m still proud of these ordinary Americans. An overwhelming 65 percent of them said they would disobey laws designed to confiscate their guns.

P.S. While I’m very glad that police officers support the Second Amendment, there are some cops who deserve scorn because of what they do to me and what they do to innocent 10-year old kids.

P.P.S. If you enjoy anti-gun control humor, here are lots of amusing images and funny videos.

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Using data stolen from service providers in the Cook Islands and the British Virgin Islands, the Washington Post published a supposed exposé of Americans who do business in so-called tax havens.

Cayman April 2013

Another Research Trip to Cayman – One of the Sacrifices I Make in the Fight for Freedom

Since I’m the self-appointed defender of low-tax jurisdictions in Washington, this caught my attention. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t joking when he warned that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” I’m constantly fighting against anti-tax haven schemes that would undermine tax competition, financial privacy, and fiscal sovereignty.

Even if it means a bunch of international bureaucrats threaten to toss me in a Mexican jail or a Treasury Department official says I’m being disloyal to America. Or, in this case, if it simply means I’m debunking demagoguery.

The supposedly earth-shattering highlight of the article is that some Americans linked to offshore companies and trusts have run afoul of the legal system.

Among the 4,000 U.S. individuals listed in the records, at least 30 are American citizens accused in lawsuits or criminal cases of fraud, money laundering or other serious financial misconduct.

But the real revelation is that people in the offshore world must be unusually honest. Fewer than 1 percent of them have been named in a lawsuit, much less been involved with a criminal case.

This is just a wild guess, but I’m quite confident that you would find far more evidence of misbehavior if you took a random sample of 4,000 Americans from just about any cross-section of the population.

We know we would find a greater propensity for bad behavior if we examined 4,000 politicians. And I assume that would be true for journalists as well. And folks on Wall Street. And realtors. And plumbers. Perhaps even think tank employees. Anyhow, you get the point.

Citing a couple of anecdotes, the reporter then tries to imply that low-tax jurisdictions somehow lend themselves to criminal activity.

 Fraud experts say offshore bank accounts and companies are vital to the operation of complex financial crimes. Allen Stanford, who ran a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, used a bank he controlled in Antigua. Bernard Madoff, who ran the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, used a series of offshore “feeder funds” to fuel the growth of his multibillion-dollar house of cards.

The Allen Stanford case was a genuine black eye for the offshore world, but it’s absurd to link Madoff’s criminality to tax havens. The offshore funds that invested with Madoff were victimized in the same way that many onshore funds lost money.

Moreover, there’s no evidence in this article – or from any other source to my knowledge – suggesting that financial impropriety is more likely in low-tax jurisdictions.

We then get some “hard” numbers.

Today, there are between 50 and 60 offshore financial centers around the world holding untold billions of dollars at a time of historic U.S. deficits and forced budget cuts. Groups that monitor tax issues estimate that between $8 trillion and $32 trillion in private global wealth is parked offshore.

So we have offshore wealth of somewhere “between $8 trillion and $32 trillion”? With that level of precision, or lack thereof, perhaps you now understand why the make-believe numbers about alleged tax evasion are about as credible as a revenue estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Speaking of make-believe numbers, the article mentions one of Washington’s worst lawmakers, a Senator who pushed through a law that has united the world against the United States.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) has been holding hearings and conducting investigations into the offshore world for nearly three decades. In 2010, Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act requiring that U.S. taxpayers report foreign assets to the government and foreign institutions alert the IRS when Americans open accounts.

He justifies bad policy by claiming that there’s a pot of gold at the end of the tax haven rainbow.

“We can’t afford to lose tens of billions of dollars a year to tax-avoidance schemes,” Levin said. “And many of these schemes involve the shift of U.S. corporate tax revenues earned here in the U.S. to offshore tax havens.”

But FATCA is predicted to collected less than $1 billion per year, and it probably will lose revenue once you include Laffer Curve effects such as lower investment in the American economy from overseas.

The most interesting part of the article, as least from a personal perspective, is that the Center for Freedom and Prosperity is listed as one of the “powerful lobbying interests” fighting to preserve tax competition.

The efforts by Levin and other lawmakers have been opposed by powerful lobbying interests, including the banking and accounting industries and a little-known nonprofit group called the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. CF&P was founded by Daniel J. Mitchell, a former Senate Finance Committee staffer who works as a tax expert for the Cato Institute, and Andrew Quinlan, who was a senior economic analyst for the Republican National Committee before helping start the center. …The center argues that unfettered access to offshore havens leads to lower taxes and more prosperity.

Having helped to start the organization, I wish CF&P was powerful. The Center has never had a budget of more than $250,000 per year, so it truly is a David vs. Goliath battle when we go up against bloated and over-funded bureaucracies such as the IRS and the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The reporter somehow thinks it is big news that the Center has tried to raise money from the business community in low-tax jurisdictions.

According to records reviewed by The Post and ICIJ, the organization’s fundraising pleas have been circulated to offshore entities that make millions by providing anonymity for wealthy clients, many of them U.S. citizens.

Unfortunately, even though these offshore entities supposedly “make millions,” I’m embarrassed to say that CF&P has not been able to convince them that it makes sense to support an organization dedicated to protecting tax competition, financial privacy, and fiscal sovereignty.

But maybe that will change now that the OECD has launched a new attack on tax planning by multinational firms.

Let’s close by returning to the policy issue. The article quotes me defending the right of jurisdictions to determine their own fiscal affairs.

Mitchell, the co-founder of CF&P, added that nations shouldn’t be telling other countries how to conduct their affairs and noted that the United States is one of the worst offenders in the world when it comes to corporate secrecy.

My only gripe is that the reporter mischaracterizes my position. Yes, there are several states that are “tax havens” because of their efficient and confidential incorporation laws, but that means America is “one of the best providers,” not “one of the worst offenders.”

This is something to celebrate. I’m glad the United States is a safe haven for the oppressed people of the world. That’s great news for our economy. I just wish we also were a tax haven for American citizens.

“The United States is one of the biggest tax havens in the world,” Mitchell said. “In general, the United States is impervious to fishing expeditions here, and then the United States turns around and says, ‘Allow us to do fishing expeditions in your country.’”

But I’m not a hypocrite. Other nations should have the sovereign right to maintain pro-growth tax and privacy laws as well.

Other nations shouldn’t feel obliged to enforce bad American tax law, any more than we should feel obliged to enforce any of their bad laws.

P.S. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that “onshore” nations are much more susceptible to dirty money than “offshore” jurisdictions. Which is why you have a hard time finding any tax havens on this map showing the nations with the most money laundering.

P.P.S. On the topic of tax havens, you won’t be surprised to learn that Senator Levin is not the only dishonest demagogue in Washington. If you pay close attention around 1:25 and 2:25 of this video, you’ll see that the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue also has an unfortunate tendency to play fast and loose with the truth.

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Late last year, I shared a very powerful article by an admitted liberal who concluded that gun control was impractical and illogical.

Now I want to share a New York Times column from another leftist. Justin Cronin also supports the right of gun ownership, but he offers a more personal reason for his support of the Second Amendment.

Here are some of the key excerpts from his column.

I am a New England liberal, born and bred. I have lived most of my life in the Northeast — Boston, New York and Philadelphia — and my politics are devoutly Democratic. I am also a Texas resident and a gun owner. I have half a dozen pistols in my safe, all semiautomatics, the largest capable of holding 20 rounds. …I’m currently shopping for a shotgun, either a Remington 870 Express Tactical or a Mossberg 500 Flex with a pistol grip and adjustable stock. …I am my family’s last line of defense. I have chosen to meet this responsibility, in part, by being armed. It wasn’t a choice I made lightly.

A “pistol grip”? A gun that holds “20 rounds”? An “adjustable stock”? Gasp, the horror! I imagine Obama is probably sending the BATF after this guy. Heck, maybe even target him with a drone.

So why does this self-described leftist own guns and believe in the right to self-defense? The answer is common sense, based in part on what happened when Hurricane Rita was heading toward Houston.

My wife and I arranged to stay at a friend’s house in Austin, packed up the kids and dog, and headed out of town — or tried to. As many as 3.7 million people had the same idea, making Rita one of the largest evacuations in history, with predictable results. By 2 in the morning, after six hours on the road, we had made it all of 50 miles. The scene was like a snapshot from the Apocalypse: crowds milling restlessly, gas stations and mini-marts picked clean and heaped with trash, families sleeping by the side of the road. The situation had the hopped-up feel of barely bottled chaos. After Katrina, nobody had any illusions that help was on its way. It also occurred to me that there were probably a lot of guns out there… Here I was with two tiny children, a couple of thousand dollars in cash, a late-model S.U.V. with half a tank of gas and not so much as a heavy book to throw. …Rita made a last-minute turn away from Houston. But what if it hadn’t? I believe people are basically good, but not all of them and not all the time. Like most citizens of our modern, technological world, I am wholly reliant upon a fragile web of services to meet my most basic needs. What would happen if those services collapsed? Chaos, that’s what.

We’ve already witnessed real-world examples of societal breakdown caused by government incompetence and failure.

Armed Koreans Disarmed TurksI wrote two years ago to celebrate the superiority of the American system, which allowed Korean shopowners to protect themselves during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, and the British system, which left immigrant shopowners vulnerable and defenseless to rampaging mobs.

That argument gets more relevant and powerful every year. Indeed, there have been riots all over Europe, and I suspect that we’ll see more chaos and social disarray as the welfare state continues to collapse. And as I discuss in this NRA-TV interview, only a fool (or a victim of bad government) is unarmed when the you-know-what hits the fan.

Simply stated, would you want to leave your family vulnerable, and rely on the callow and feckless political class for their safety? I hope not, which is why I’m surprised that “protection during a societal breakdown” only got about 13 percent of the vote in my poll asking the most important reason to oppose gun control.

Let’s return to the NYT column. Our liberal columnist naively wishes guns didn’t exist (as if a pack of young, male thugs need weapons to terrorize a family), but at least he recognizes that his anti-gun leftist friends don’t know what they’re talking about.

…in the weeks since Newtown, I’ve watched my Facebook feed, which is dominated by my coastal friends, fill up with anti-gun dispatches that seemed divorced from reality. I agree it would be nice if the world had exactly zero guns in it. But I don’t see that happening, and calling gun owners “a bunch of inbred rednecks” doesn’t do much to advance rational discussion. Thus, my secret life — though I guess it’s not such a secret anymore.

Here’s a final excerpt that is very heartwarming, and this picture reveals that I obviously share the same sentiments.

My wife is afraid of my guns (though she also says she’s glad I have them). My 16-year-old daughter is a different story. …she asked to take a pistol lesson. …the instructor ran her through the basics, demonstrating with a Glock 9-millimeter: how to hold it, load it, pull back the slide. “You’ll probably have trouble with that part,” he said. “A lot of the women do.” “Oh really?” my daughter replied, and with a cagey smile proceeded to rack her weapon with such authority you could have heard it in the parking lot. A proud-papa moment? I confess it was.

If you want more practical information on gun control, I strongly recommend the famous Larry Correia article. And for wisdom on the issue of so-called assault weapons, John Lott is the oracle.

And if you want to laugh at the dishonest (or naive) liberals, watch this amusing video to see how they think gun control works in their fantasy world.

Then give your leftist friends this IQ test on gun control and see if they can figure out the right answer.

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I’ve shared some very powerful videos that help explain why we should respect and celebrate the individual right to keep and bear arms.

Here’s one that’s worth sharing just for entertainment value. It shows a British import desperately trying to gain visibility and ratings by engaging in a series of gun control debates.

I can’t vouch for the veracity of what’s being said by Ventura, Pratt, et al, but they obviously win the overall arguments about the right to self defense, the fight against crime, and having the means to resist tyranny and oppression.

But as much as I like all of these videos, the best arguments for the Second Amendment come from this conservative and this liberal.

Actually, I don’t even know if the author of the first article is a conservative. Or even libertarian. He just makes so much sense that I assume he’s on the side of freedom instead of the state.

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I’m not a big gun owner and I’m not part of the gun culture. So why, then, do I frequently post about the issue of gun control?

Mostly because I believe in freedom and the Constitution.

But I also appreciate facts and analysis and I know that law-abiding citizens are safer and criminals face greater obstacles when good people have the right of self defense.

Last but not least, I think there’s a non-trivial possibility that the United States will suffer some sort of social chaos and/or breakdown of law and order because of the damage caused by reckless fiscal and monetary policies. As I explain in this interview on NRA-TV, that’s when firearms ownership can mean the difference between life an death.

But now it’s time to get some analysis from Larry Correia, a real expert. Here’s some of his background, which may help explain why his article has been viewed more than 1,000,000 times and attracted about 2,500 comments.

I owned a gun store. …that means lots and lots of government inspections and compliance paperwork. This means that I had to be exceedingly familiar with federal gun laws, and there are a lot of them. …When I hear people tell me the gun industry is unregulated, I have to resist the urge to laugh in their face. I was also a Utah Concealed Weapons instructor, and was one of the busiest instructors in the state. That required me to learn a lot about self-defense laws… I have certified thousands of people to carry guns.

Here’s what he has to say about stopping massacres. In this section, he’s specifically talking about the value of armed teachers, but the message obviously applies more broadly.

The single best way to respond to a mass shooter is with an immediate, violent response. The vast majority of the time, as soon as a mass shooter meets serious resistance, it bursts their fantasy world bubble. Then they kill themselves or surrender. This has happened over and over again. Police are awesome. I love working with cops. However any honest cop will tell you that when seconds count they are only minutes away. …cops can’t be everywhere. There are at best only a couple hundred thousand on duty at any given time patrolling the entire country. Excellent response time is in the three-five minute range. We’ve seen what bad guys can do in three minutes, but sometimes it is far worse. …So in some cases that means the bad guys can have ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes to do horrible things with nobody effectively fighting back. So if we can’t have cops there, what can we do? The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by law enforcement: 14. The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by civilians: 2.5. The reason is simple. The armed civilians are there when it started.

In this passage, you can see that he’s not overly impressed by “gun-free zones.”

Gun Free Zones are hunting preserves for innocent people. Period. Think about it. You are a violent, homicidal madman, looking to make a statement and hoping to go from disaffected loser to most famous person in the world. The best way to accomplish your goals is to kill a whole bunch of people. So where’s the best place to go shoot all these people? Obviously, it is someplace where nobody can shoot back.

Sort of the same message as this humorous video.

In all honesty, I have no respect for anybody who believes Gun Free Zones actually work. You are going to commit several hundred felonies, up to and including mass murder, and you are going to refrain because there is a sign? That No Guns Allowed sign is not a cross that wards off vampires. It is wishful thinking, and really pathetic wishful thinking at that.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the Aurora theatre was a gun-free zone.

The man that attacked the midnight showing of Batman didn’t attack just any theater. There were like ten to choose from. He didn’t attack the closest. It wasn’t about biggest or smallest. He attacked the one that was posted NO GUNS ALLOWED. …Over the last fifty years, with only one single exception (Gabby Giffords), every single mass shooting event with more than four casualties has taken place in a place where guns were supposedly not allowed.

He then deals with the issue of “semi-automatic” weapons. He first explains that these weapons are not machine guns, notwithstanding the inane/biased commentary in the press.

Semi-automatic means that each time you pull the trigger the action cycles and loads another round. This is the single most common type of gun, not just in America, but in the whole world. Almost all handguns are semi-automatic. The vast majority of weapons used for self-defense are semi-automatic, as are almost all the weapons used by police officers.  It is the most common because it is normally the most effective.

Anti-gun zealots often use “assault rifle” as a pejorative, and they probably are similarly clueless in thinking that such weapons are machine guns. Correia addresses some of the specific issues of these weapons.

…real assault rifles in the US have been heavily regulated since before they were invented. The thing that the media and politicians like to refer to as assault rifles is basically a catch all term for any gun which looks scary. …The US banned assault rifles once before for a decade and the law did absolutely nothing. I mean, it was totally, literally pointless. …And the reason was that since assault weapon is a nonsense term, they just came up with a list of arbitrary features which made a gun into an assault weapon. Problem was, none of these features actually made the gun functionally any different or somehow more lethal or better from any other run of the mill firearm. Most of the criteria were so silly that they became a huge joke to gun owners, except of course, for that part where many law abiding citizens accidentally became instant felons because one of their guns had some cosmetic feature which was now illegal.

Here are a couple of examples he discusses.

Does this make a gun more dangerous?

For example, flash hiders sound dangerous. …Problem is flash hiders don’t do much. They screw onto the end of your muzzle and divert the flash off to the side instead of straight up so it isn’t as annoying when you shoot. It doesn’t actually hide the flash from anybody else. …Barrel shrouds were listed.Barrel shrouds are basically useless, cosmetic pieces of metal that go over the barrel so you don’t accidentally touch it and burn your hand. But they became an instantaneous felony too. Collapsible stocks make it so you can adjust your rifle to different size shooters, that way a tall guy and his short wife can shoot the same gun. …Now are you starting to see why “assault weapons” is a pointless term? They aren’t functionally any more powerful or deadly than any normal gun. In fact the cartridges they normally fire are far less powerful than your average deer hunting rifle.

One of the big issues in the gun-control debate is whether there should be limits on the number of rounds in a magazines.

…why do gun owners want magazines that hold more rounds? Because sometimes you miss. Because usually—contrary to the movies—you have to hit an opponent multiple times in order to make them stop. Because sometimes you may have multiple assailants. We don’t have more rounds in the magazine so we can shoot more, we have more rounds in the magazine so we are forced to manipulate our gun less if we have to shoot more. …ten rounds sucks when you take a wound ballistics class like I have and go over case after case after case after case of enraged, drug addled, prison hardened, perpetrators who soaked up five, seven, nine, even fifteen bullets and still walked under their own power to the ambulance. That isn’t uncommon at all. …Also, you’re going to miss. It is going to happen. If you can shoot pretty little groups at the range, those groups are going to expand dramatically under the stress and adrenalin. …or the bad guy may end up hiding behind something which your bullets don’t penetrate. Nobody has ever survived a gunfight and then said afterwards, “Darn, I wish I hadn’t brought all that extra ammo.” So having more rounds in the gun is a good thing for self-defense use.

He then responds to the assertion that magazine limits will make life more difficult for bad guys.

…he’s not going to walk up right next to you while he reloads anyway. Unlike the CCW holder who gets attacked and has to defend himself in whatever crappy situation he finds himself in, the mass shooter is the aggressor. He’s picked the engagement range. They are cowards who are murdering running and hiding children, but don’t for a second make the mistake of thinking they are dumb. Many of these scumbags are actually very intelligent. They’re just broken and evil. In the cases that I’m aware of where the shooter had guns that held fewer rounds they just positioned themselves back a bit while firing or they brought more guns, and simply switched guns and kept on shooting, and then reloaded before they moved to the next planned firing position. Unless you are a fumble fingered idiot, anybody who practices in front of a mirror a few dozen times can get to where they can insert a new magazine into a gun in a few seconds.

So what will happen if the government imposes a new magazine restriction?

Magazines are cheap and basic. Most of them are pieces of sheet metal with some wire. That’s it. Magazines are considered disposable so most gun people accumulate a ton of them. All [the 10-round limit] did was make magazines more expensive, ticked off law abiding citizens, and didn’t so much as inconvenience a single criminal. …So you can ban this stuff, but it won’t actually do anything to the crimes you want to stop.

Correia closes with some remarks on the importance of self defense.

…the vast majority of the time when a gun is produced in a legal self-defense situation no shots are fired. The mere presence of the gun is enough to cause the criminal to stop. Clint Smith once said if you look like food, you will be eaten. Criminals are looking for prey. They are looking for easy victims. If they wanted to work hard for a living they’d get a job. So when you pull a gun, you are no longer prey, you are work, so they are going to go find somebody else to pick on.

Which then brings us back to the key question: If gun control does nothing to stop bad guys, and it makes life more dangerous for good people, why do so many politicians want to undermine our constitutional rights?

I don’t think American politicians have the same evil motives as some of the world’s most reprehensible dictators, all of whom supported gun control as a way of controlling – and in many cases slaughtering – their people.

Indeed, I suspect some of them simply are unaware of the facts that Mr. Correia provides in the article.

Last month, I posted an article by a leftist who openly admitted that gun control was impractical. Our goal should be to help more people on the left reach this logical conclusion.

But since life shouldn’t be totally serious, here’s some gun control humor – including links to several additional jokes about the issue.

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A lot of big-city police chiefs are political appointees who promote gun control, presumably to please their political masters.

911 Response TimeThey tell citizens that they should passively rely on government rather than take personal responsibility for self defense.

I have no idea if the numbers in this image are correct, but there’s no doubt that a gun is a lot quicker than the cops. Heck, just watch this video and ask yourself whether you would want your daughter armed.

And the cops I know – the ones who actually interact with the public and fight crime – are supportive of the Second Amendment, precisely because they realize they can’t be everywhere and they know there are bad people in the world.

But not all police chiefs and senior cops are mindless bureaucrats. In this video, the Sheriff of Milwaukee County not only acknowledges the right of self defense, but he’s also is willing to help train citizens to resist crime.

This doesn’t necessarily make him a libertarian hero. Indeed, his comments about layoffs and furloughs indicate that he’s also interested in maximizing the size of his staff.

And even though cops are probably my favorite government employees (at least when they’re fighting crime rather than giving me ridiculous traffic tickets), that doesn’t mean we should have too many of them or pay them too much (though, to be fair, they’re presumably not paid as much as cops in Oakland).

But I’ll forgive Sheriff Clarke for pursuing the interests of his staff, even if that conflicts with the interests of taxpayers.

P.S. Here’s a very good joke about what to say when you call 911.

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I periodically share public opinion data, either because I’m encouraged by the results or because I think that the research helps show how to frame issues.

Examples include polling data on personal retirement accounts, the dangers of big government, support for spending caps, and viability of class warfare tax policy.

But I’ve been very narrowly focused. Just about all the polls I’ve shared have been about some aspect of fiscal policy.

So I was very interested to see a new poll about issues related to the Second Amendment, and I was particularly gratified to see that an overwhelming majority of gun owners would not surrender their constitutional rights if the jackals in Washington approved a gun ban.

Second Amendment Poll Defy Govt

For more information, here’s part of a Washington Times report on the new polling data.

Question 46 in the wide-ranging survey of more than 1,000 registered voters asks if there is a gun in the household. Overall, 52 percent of the respondents said yes, someone in their home owned a gun. That number included 65 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of conservatives, 38 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of liberals. But on to Question 47, addressed to those with a gun in their home: “If the government passed a law to take your guns, would you give up your guns or defy the law and keep your guns?” The response: 65 percent reported they would “defy the law.” That includes 70 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of conservatives, 52 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of liberals.

These results don’t tell us why people would defy the government, but the poll I conducted suggests that a plurality of Americans support the Second Amendment because they want the ability to resist tyranny.

I’m also happy to see that most Americans understand that gun bans are a very ineffective way of fighting crime. Heck, they realize that we need more guns in the hands of law-abiding people.

Second Amendment Poll Reduce Crime

In other words, ordinary Americans have a lot more common sense than the buffoons in the media. They know that you get less crime when you increase the expected cost of criminal behavior.

P.S. If you want to enjoy some good gun control cartoons, click here, here, and here.

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Even though I’m first and foremost an advocate of limited government and that’s the primary focus of this blog, I’m also glad to have the opportunity to promote the right of free people to keep and bear arms.

And readers seem to agree. The 4th-most viewed post of all time is the famous dictators-for-gun-control poster, while this satirical video is the 11th-most viewed (other Second Amendment-related posts in the top 16 can be seen here, here, and here, with the last one being quite relevant considering what’s going to happen on Monday).

It’s a matter of taste, of course, but I actually prefer videos. Here are some of my favorites.

Now I have a new one to add to the list. As you watch this video, imagine this is your daughter (or my daughter!). In this situation, would you want her armed?

The answer to my rhetorical query is obvious. Or at least it should be obvious.

And I think there’s at least one honest leftist who would give the right response.

Guns enable the weak and defenseless to protect themselves, as explained in this letter-to-the-editor. I don’t know if the letter is real, but the points it makes are accurate.

Let’s close with a few humorous videos on gun rights.

But if you like posters, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and other images, then here’s a post you’ll enjoy.

And don’t forget there’s still time to cast a vote for why you think the Second Amendment is worth defending.

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I’ve shared several satirical signs, posters, videos, and bumper stickers on the topic of gun control, but surprisingly few political cartoons.

If my aging memory is correct, I’ve only posted a couple of Chuck Asay cartoons on concealed carry (here and here) and one Steve Kelley cartoon mocking the leftist tendency to focus on inanimate objects when a bad guy uses a gun.

So it’s time to correct this oversight.

Let’s start with this comparison of liberals and conservatives. As you can see, it’s sort of what you get when you mix this joke with this poster.

Rape Kit Cartoon

No wonder liberals and conservatives are contemplating divorce.

And with Obama proposing a bunch of executive orders on guns, this Scott Stantis cartoon is very timely.

Executive Order Cartoon

After all, who cares about the Constitution and the democratic process!

And here’s a cartoon with the same theme found in this poster.

Secret Service Cartoon

Now let’s shift to a couple of cartoons that look at causes of death, starting with one from Michael Ramirez that shows that so-called “assault rifles” are a statistical asterisk (and no more dangerous than other types of guns).

Causes of death cartoon

And here’s a specific comparison for 2011. Obviously we need hammer control.

Hammer Rifle Cartoon

While all these cartoons are amusing, the attack on our Second Amendment rights is not funny.

In my poll on protecting the right to keep and bear arms, a plurality of respondents said the Second Amendment was worth preserving so people had some ability to resist tyranny.

I personally think that the risk of societal breakdown is a more pressing concern, as I explained in this interview on NRA TV.

But all that really matters is that we all agree that freedom is worth defending. So let’s close with this inspirational powerpoint presentation on the Second Amendment.

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Back in the early days of this blog, I shared a very amusing anti-gun control message on the back of a vehicle.

It made a good point about the fallacy of gun control (sort of like this photo as well), while also mocking a well-known opponent of the Second Amendment.

Now we have another photo, which also shows the back of a vehicle. It’s not directly on the topic of gun control, but I somehow suspect the driver is not a proponent of disarming innocent people.

Warning Shot

And it does provide a lesson in the economics of crime. Let’s imagine you’re a thief. Not the kind that wields power in Washington, just a run-of-the-mill street thief. If you’re thinking about doing a bit of carjacking, would you be more likely or less likely to go after this vehicle?

Yes, this is like the IQ test that I posted for liberals and criminals. The answer should be obvious.

Sort of like whether you would go looting in the neighborhood pictured at the end of this post.

P.S. You can  see additional pro-Second Amendment posters herehereherehere, here, here, and here. And some amusing images of t-shirts and bumper stickers on gun control herehere, and here.

P.P.S. You can still cast a vote in the online poll to identify the most important reason to defend the Second Amendment.

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I asked yesterday for readers to weigh in on why they support (or don’t support) the Second Amendment. The poll is getting lots of responses, though some folks have complained that I should have included more answers, such as “To protect the rights of hunters.”

Gun Control cartoon club knifeAnd I even had a few left-wing friends tell me I should have included more options for them, such as “The Second Amendment doesn’t mean military-style weapons” or “The Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee individual gun ownership.”

Speaking of our friends on the left, Vice President Joe Biden is overseeing an Administration effort to concoct new gun laws. In the interests of being helpful, I suggest the Veep’s team look at these four videos.

We also have a brand new video from the folks at Reason TV. It provides five facts for Biden and his task force.

For some reason, I won’t be surprised if the Vice President doesn’t see this new video. Or any of the others.

Yes, you can call me a pessimist, but I think Biden’s task force has no interest in doing real research.

Their goal is to figure out (from the left’s perspective) politically feasible ways of undermining the Constitution.

So let’s gird our loins, which sounds like it might be fun, but it simply means prepare for a fight.

But, unlike the statists, we’re not humorless drones. So let’s enjoy some humorous gun control videos to put ourselves in the right frame of mind.

P.S. Don’t forget you can still cast a vote to explain why you support the Second Amendment.

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I assume that most readers are sympathetic to free markets and small government.

But that doesn’t mean there’s universal agreement about how we solve various problems created by excessive government.

Last year, for instance, survey questions that I included with two posts generated very interesting results.

  • In August, I reported on a guy who got pissed at the cops for screwing up his life with a marijuana arrest, so he responded by crushing some empty police cars with a tractor. I gave people four possible ways of responding to this story, and the results (based on my arbitrary division) showed a 60-40 split in favor of libertarianism.
  • In November, I asked which candidate readers preferred. I was somewhat surprised by the results. Not only did Romney get nearly 70 percent of the total, but Obama wasn’t that far behind Gary Johnson. I’m not sure how to interpret those results, but they definitely suggest that anti-Obamaism was more powerful than pro-liberatarianism.

So now I’d like to get a sense of how readers view gun control.  Here’s a poll with five possible answers. Feel free to share it widely so we can get the broadest possible set of responses.

I’m not going to say how I would vote, but this interview with NRA-TV may give you a hint.

But I don’t include that link to sway the vote. I genuinely am curious about why people support (or don’t support) the Second Amendment.

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I’ve never watched Meet the Press, so I obviously didn’t see David Gregory’s pathetic attempt to play gotcha by unveiling a magazine while interviewing someone from the National Rifle Association.

And even when it was revealed that Gregory had broken D.C. law by possessing this supposedly dangerous object (basically a metal box with a spring), I didn’t care.

After all, gun control is a foolish policy (as even some leftists and foreigners are slowly beginning to realize). And surely cops have better things to do, after all, than arrest a callow journalist for something that shouldn’t be against the law in the first place.

But I’m now beginning to change my mind. One of the core principles of a just society is that the law applies equally to all people. Heck, that principle is even etched above the entrance to the Supreme Court.

…unless you’re a member of the beltway elite

If misguided laws were never enforced, I wouldn’t want to target Gregory for discriminatory treatment. But I get very irritated when ordinary folks with no power or connections are persecuted while those with political connections get a free pass.

And that’s exactly what’s happening. Here’s an excerpt from a Washington Times report about a member of the non-elite who ran afoul of the same stupid law that Gregory broke.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier’s spokesman refused Monday to respond to whether Mr. Gregory had even been interviewed yet. This is a rather curious departure for a city that has been ruthless in enforcing this particular firearms statute against law-abiding citizens who made an honest mistake. In July, The Washington Times highlighted the plight of former Army Spc. Adam Meckler, who was arrested and jailed for having a few long-forgotten rounds of ordinary ammunition — but no gun — in his backpack in Washington. Mr. Meckler, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, says he had no idea it was illegal to possess unregistered ammunition in the city. He violated the same section of D.C. law as Mr. Gregory allegedly did, and both offenses carry the same maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. Mr. Meckler was charged with the crime and was forced to accept a plea deal to avoid the cost and time of a protracted legal fight.

After reading this outrageous story, my first reaction is to want the law repealed. My second reaction is to hope for a judicious and appropriate application of tar and feathers to certain D.C. officials.

But I’m also thinking that the high and mighty – including influential journalists – should be subject to the same bad laws as the rest of us.

Mark Steyn also has some reprehensible examples of government run amok. He starts with some sage comments on our over-legislated society.

…in today’s America there are laws against everything, and any one of us at any time is unknowingly in breach of dozens of them. And in this case NBC were informed by the D.C. police that it would be illegal to show the thing on TV, and they went ahead and did it anyway… David Gregory intended to demonstrate what he regards as the absurdity of America’s lax gun laws. Instead, he’s demonstrating the ever greater absurdity of America’s non-lax laws.

And then he lists examples of innocent people caught in the chainsaw of government harassment and persecution.

Not far away from David Gregory, across the Virginia border, eleven-year-old Skylar Capo made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. For her pains, a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter accompanied by state troopers descended on her house, charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species, issued her a $535 fine, and made her cry.

Or how about this one.

Daniel Brown was detained at LAX while connecting to a Minneapolis flight because traces of gunpowder were found on his footwear. His footwear was combat boots. As the name suggests, the combat boots were returning from combat — eight months of it, in Iraq’s bloody and violent al-Anbar province. Above the boots he was wearing the uniform of a staff sergeant in the USMC Reserve Military Police and was accompanied by all 26 members of his unit, also in uniform. Staff Sergeant Brown doesn’t sound like an “obvious” terrorist. But the TSA put him on the no-fly list anyway. If it’s not “obvious” to the government that a serving member of the military has any legitimate reason for being around ammunition, why should it be “obvious” that a TV host has?

Here’s another outrageous example.

Three days after scofflaw Gregory committed his crime, a bail hearing was held in Massachusetts for Andrew Despres, 20, who’s charged with trespassing and possession of ammunition without a firearms license. Mr. Despres was recently expelled from Fitchburg State University and was returning to campus to pick up his stuff. Hence the trespassing charge. At the time of his arrest, he was wearing a “military-style ammunition belt.” Hence, the firearms charge. …He had no gun.

This next story is amusing, until you think about how the coercive power of government is making life difficult for normal people.

Ernest Hemingway had a six-toed cat. …descendants of his six-toed cat still live at the Hemingway home in Key West. Tourists visit the property. Thus, the Department of Agriculture is insisting that the six-toed cats are an “animal exhibit” like the tigers at the zoo, and therefore come under federal regulation requiring each to be housed in an individual compound with “elevated resting surfaces,” “electric wire,” and a night watchman.

So what’s going to happen with this David Gregory kerfuffle? Well, what should happen is that bad laws should be repealed.

In the corrupt world of Washington, though, we know that Gregory hasn’t been arrested even though he clearly broke the law and there’s obvious evidence of his “criminal” behavior.

My guess is that the matter will get quietly dropped, and Steyn also assumes something like this will happen.

Gregory can call in a favor from some Obama consigliere who’ll lean on the cops to disappear the whole thing. If he does that, he’ll be contributing to the remorseless assault on a bedrock principle of free societies — equality before the law. Laws either apply to all of us or none of us. If they apply only to some, they’re not laws but caprices — and all tyranny is capricious.

The moral of the story (though “immoral” is a better word) is simple.

Laws are for the little people — and little people need lots of little laws, ensnaring them at every turn.

That’s a good description of our corrupt tax code. That’s a good description of America’s regulatory morass. That’s a good description of much of what government now does.

If you want to be further depressed, peruse these horror stories of government in action.

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I wrote yesterday about a silly proposal in the United Kingdom to ban long kitchen knives.

Some people objected because the story was from last decade, but that misses the point. Proponents of the Second Amendment are vigilant against encroachments in part because we’re worried about the slippery slope.

I predicted in yesterday’s piece that at some point the Brits would resort to banning long knives. I hope I’m wrong, but my prediction is based on what the U.K. government has done with gun control.

Ever since 1920, the government has made it more and more difficult for law-abiding people to possess weapons. And in a perverse example of Mitchell’s Law, the failure of one policy is then used to justify the next policy.

That’s how proposals that sound radical and foolish sometimes get implemented many years later.

We don’t know if this will lead to a knife ban at some point, but we can look at evidence showing that gun control in the U.K. was a precursor for a gun ban. And we also know such policies don’t reduce crime.

Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm of George Mason University has a column in the Wall Street Journal, looking at the impact of anti-gun policies in the United Kingdom.

…the Firearms Act of 1998…instituted a nearly complete ban on handguns. Owners of pistols were required to turn them in. The penalty for illegal possession of a pistol is up to 10 years in prison. The results have not been what proponents of the act wanted. Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time.

By the way, it’s not just gun crime that has gone up. The U.K. has become a much more dangerous and violent society – almost surely in part because the thugs don’t have to worry about armed resistance.

Heck, if you are one of the few legal gun owners in the nation and you shoot a burglar, you get arrested instead of a pat on the back.

The U.K.’s draconian restrictions on individual liberty lead to some Orwellian consequences. Professor Malcolm offers up two examples.

Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens who have come into the possession of a firearm, even accidentally, have been harshly treated. In 2009 a former soldier, Paul Clarke, found a bag in his garden containing a shotgun. He brought it to the police station and was immediately handcuffed and charged with possession of the gun. At his trial the judge noted: “In law there is no dispute that Mr. Clarke has no defence to this charge. The intention of anybody possessing a firearm is irrelevant.” Mr. Clarke was sentenced to five years in prison. A public outcry eventually won his release. In November of this year, Danny Nightingale, member of a British special forces unit in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to 18 months in military prison for possession of a pistol and ammunition. Sgt. Nightingale was given the Glock pistol as a gift by Iraqi forces he had been training. It was packed up with his possessions and returned to him by colleagues in Iraq after he left the country to organize a funeral for two close friends killed in action. Mr. Nightingale pleaded guilty to avoid a five-year sentence and was in prison until an appeal and public outcry freed him on Nov. 29.

Amazing…and nauseating. I already had written about the unjust treatment of Mr. Clarke, but Mr. Nightingale’s legal nightmare is just as absurd.

Gun Control Cartoon Drug WarGun control laws are utterly perverse. They don’t work, just like prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s, and just like today’s Drug War is an unmitigated failure.

Gun bans turn law-abiding people into criminals, while simultaneously making life easier for the low-life scum of society.

And as the welfare state begins to fall apart and civil unrest becomes more common, the deadly impact of these bad policies will become even more apparent.

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Back in my less sophisticated days (shocking as it may seem, I wasn’t always the mature, statesmanlike figure I am today), I sometimes resorted to silly arguments when debating gun control, such as, “does this mean you want to ban knives since they also can be used to kill people?”

Smarter opponents would scoff and accuse me of knocking down straw men, assuming a non-existent slippery slope, or engaging in reductio ad absurdum.

I wasn’t even sure what the last one meant, but I secretly felt chagrined because I also thought the argument was nonsense. But it’s not like we had the Internet back in those days so I could quickly peruse the writings of John Lott or David Kopel.

Well, I no longer need to feel shame. It turns out that my straw man came to life and he’s sliding down a slope into a big pool of whatever that reductio thing is.

I kid you not. There’s a supposedly civilized nation that is seriously talking about banning long kitchen knives.

I’ll give you a couple of hints to help you figure out what country is considering this bizarre policy.

Yes, I’m talking about our friends in the United Kingdom.

They make some decent movies and they have cute accents, but they seem totally clueless about how to fight crime and the notion of individual rights appears to be a totally alien concept.

So the nation that once ruled half the world actually has contemplated whether to ban certain kitchen knives. Here are some details from a 2005 BBC report.

A&E doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing. …The research is published in the British Medical Journal. The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all. …The researchers say legislation to ban the sale of long pointed knives would be a key step in the fight against violent crime. …Home Office spokesperson said there were already extensive restrictions in place to control the sale and possession of knives. “The law already prohibits the possession of offensive weapons in a public place, and the possession of knives in public without good reason or lawful authority, with the exception of a folding pocket knife with a blade not exceeding three inches. … A spokesperson for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “ACPO supports any move to reduce the number of knife related incidents, however, it is important to consider the practicalities of enforcing such changes.”

Given my low opinion of and low expectations for Britain’s political class, I’m impressed that pocket knives are still legal. It’s probably just a matter of time before than changes. After that, the next step will be fingernail clippers.

And I’m glad that the ACPO person warned that there might be problems enforcing such a silly law.

But I fully expect to see that foolish proposal get enacted at some point. After all, this is the country where a women who was being threatened by thugs got in trouble with the police for brandishing a knife in her own home.

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Last year, I shared this heartwarming holiday adoption video.

Keeping with that tradition, here’s a Christmas greeting to warm your heart…and offend the delicate sensibilities of statists.

The extra flash at the end is a nice touch. Sort of reminds me of this joke about the difference between conservatives, liberals, and Texans.

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