Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government (as well as other governments around the world) began to adopt policies based on the idea that crime could be reduced if you somehow could make it very difficult for criminals to use the money they illegally obtain. So we now have a a bunch of laws and regulations that require financial institutions to spy on their customers in hopes that this will inhibit money laundering.

But while the underlying theory may sound reasonable, such laws in practice have been a failure. There’s no evidence that these laws, which impose heavy costs on business and consumers, have produced a reduction in criminal activity.

Instead, the only tangible result seems to be more power for government and reduced access to financial services for poor people.

And now we have even more evidence that these laws don’t make sense. In a thorough study for the Heritage Foundation, David Burton and Norbert Michel put a price tag on the ridiculous laws, regulations, and mandates that are ostensibly designed to make it hard for crooks to launder cash, but in practice simply undermine legitimate commerce and make it hard for poor people to use banks.

Oh, and these rules also are inconsistent with a free society. Here are the principles they say should guide the discussion.

The United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights, particularly the Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments, together with structural federalism and separation of powers protections, is designed to…protect…individual rights. The current financial regulatory framework is inconsistent with these principles. …Financial privacy can allow people to protect their life savings when a government tries to confiscate its citizens’ wealth, whether for political, ethnic, religious, or “merely” economic reasons. Businesses need to protect their private financial information, intellectual property, and trade secrets from competitors in order to remain profitable. Financial privacy is of deep and abiding importance to freedom, and many governments have shown themselves willing to routinely abuse private financial information.

And here are the key findings about America’s current regulatory morass, which violates the above principles.

The current U.S. framework is overly complex and burdensome… Reform efforts also need to focus on costs versus benefits. The current framework, particularly the anti-money laundering (AML) rules, is clearly not cost-effective. As demonstrated below, the AML regime costs an estimated $4.8 billion to $8 billion annually. Yet, this AML system results in fewer than 700 convictions annually, a proportion of which are simply additional counts against persons charged with other predicate crimes. Thus, each conviction costs approximately $7 million, potentially much more.

By the way, the authors note that their calculations represent “a significant underestimate of the actual burden” because they didn’t include foregone economic activity, higher consumer prices for financial services, lower returns for shareholders of financial institutions, higher financial expenses for unbanked individuals, and other direct and indirect costs.

And what are the offsetting benefits? Can all these costs be justified?

Hardly. David and Norbert point out that we’re all paying more and getting very little in return for the higher burdens.

The original goal of the BSA/AML rules was to reduce predicate crimes, such as illegal drug distribution, rather than money laundering itself. Judged by this standard, very little empirical evidence suggests that the rules have worked as designed. In fact, even though BSA/AML rules have been expanded consistently throughout the past four decades, it remains difficult to discern any net benefit of the overall BSA/AML regulatory framework. Even though there is no clear evidence that the rules materially reduce crime, the BSA/AML bureaucracy began relentlessly expanding internationally—primarily through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)—more than two decades ago. One comprehensive study reports that even though the FATF proceeds as if these rules have produced only public benefits, “[t]o date there is no substantial effort by any international organization, including the International Monetary Fund, to assess either the costs or benefits of” this regulatory framework. In fact, BSA/AML regulations have been sharply criticized as a costly, ineffective approach to reducing crime. …compliance costs are high for financial companies, with a disproportionate burden falling on smaller firms…, where hiring even one additional employee can lower the return on assets by more than 20 basis points. Other research suggests that the increasing compliance burden in the banking industry is at least partly responsible for the trend toward consolidation and the disappearance of smaller banks. …an American Bankers Association (ABA) publication highlights a small bank that reports it has to dedicate more than 15 percent of its employees to compliance-related tasks. An ABA survey also suggests that the cumulative cost associated with compliance has caused banks to offer fewer services and raise fees, thus harming consumers. …the BSA/AML regime has been a highly inefficient law enforcement tool. At the very least, a high degree of skepticism about further expansion of these and similar requirements is in order. Given the billions of dollars spent annually by the private sector on the existing elaborate and costly AML bureaucracy, a serious data-driven cost-benefit analysis of the existing system is warranted.

If anything, I think they’re being too nice.

The cost-benefit analysis already exists. The laws and regulations don’t work.

Let’s expand our look at the issue. The Wall Street Journal notes that the current approach has myriad negative consequences as banks sever relationships with customers (in a process called “derisking”) because they don’t want to deal with the hassle, expense, and liability of money-laundering red tape.

…financial firms, faced with strict penalties over counterterror and anti-money-laundering rules, have severed accounts of thousands of customers in recent years over fears of heightened risk. The consequences of shuttered accounts were detailed this week in a Wall Street Journal investigation showing how money-transfer firms whose bank accounts have been closed have been pushed out of the global banking system. In addition, nonprofit organizations operating in Syria and Lebanon have faced challenges after losing their bank accounts. …In February of this year, more than 50 nonprofits asked the U.S. Treasury to publicly affirm that nonprofit organizations aren’t inherently high risk. …Two studies by the World Bank in late 2015 found that money-service businesses—which include money transmitters—and foreign banks were both seeing account closures at increasing rates.


This process has made life much more difficult for people and businesses seeking to engage in legitimate commerce.

Not to mention that the government abuses the enormous powers it has accumulated, as we can see from the Obama Administration’s odious “Operation Choke Point.”

Another report from the WSJ explains that the rules actually make it harder for law enforcement to monitor the people who might actually be doing bad things.

U.S. banks have closed thousands of accounts held by people and organizations considered suspicious, high-risk or difficult to monitor—including money-transfer firms, foreign banks and nonprofits working abroad. Closing accounts for fear their customers may be up to no good evicts from the financial system the innocent as well as those the U.S. government would most like to watch, a consequence not anticipated by Washington. Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry this month acknowledged the potential danger. “Transactions that would have taken place legally and transparently may be driven underground,” he told an international conference of bankers and regulators in Washington. …Fearing steep financial penalties for failing to spot a wayward customer, many banks now shun anyone who looks risky. That leaves ostracized companies to seek alternatives—such as toting bags of cash overseas—a practice that allows hundreds of millions of dollars to leave the global banking system… “The whole flow of money goes underground, and that becomes counterproductive to the original purpose of being able to track” it, said Dilip Ratha, head economist of the World Bank’s unit that studies remittances. “It’s a bit paradoxical.” U.S. officials said they didn’t intend banks to close whole categories of customer accounts.

So potential bad guys are harder to track.

And financial institutions waste lots of money (which translates into higher costs for consumers).

Risky accounts should be managed, officials said, not avoided altogether. …Western Union said it now spends $200 million a year watching for suspicious activity… J.P. Morgan Chase & Co….now has about 9,000 employees dedicated to anti-money-laundering and has cut off thousands of customers viewed as higher-risk. …Jaikumar Ramaswamy, a Bank of AmericaCorp. compliance executive and former federal prosecutor, said, “I’m surprised at how much of my time is spent not focusing on the guilty but chasing the innocent.” Instead of looking for needles in haystacks, he said, the system demands banks “turn over every piece of hay.”

The good news is that some nations are looking to adopt a more rational approach, as evidenced by this Bloomberg report from 2015.

The U.K. government said it will look to relax anti-money laundering controls as part of a plan to save British companies 10 billion pounds ($15.4 billion) over the next five years. …The government said it wants to protect the country without putting “disproportionate burdens” on legitimate businesses. …“This new review is about making sure the rules we have to protect our strong financial services industry from abuse are not unintentionally holding back new and existing British business,” Business Secretary Sajid Javid said. “I want firms to come forward and tell us where regulation is unclear or its enforcement ineffective.”

Though, as reported by the Times, the U.K. government has a bizarrely inconsistent approach to these issues. Even to the point of threatening to steal people’s property unless they can somehow prove that it was purchased with innocent money.

People who amass suspicious quantities of wealth in Britain will be ordered to prove that it was not obtained through corruption, under proposals being considered by the Home Office. New “unexplained wealth orders”, which would reverse the burden of proof to compel the recipient to justify the source of the questionable cash.


Here’s a novel idea. Why doesn’t law enforcement engage in actual, old-fashioned police work. In other words, instead of having costly burdens imposed on everybody, governments should use the approach which historically has successfully reduced crime – i.e., policies that increase the likelihood of apprehension and/or severity of punishment.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Instead, we actually get politicians and policy makers coming up with schemes to expand the burden of money laundering laws. Some of them want to ban the $100 bill, or perhaps even ban cash entirely. All so government can more closely monitor the private financial choices of innocent people.

If you want more information, here’s a video I narrated on this topic for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

Last but not least, let’s return to the Heritage study, which includes this very important warning about a very risky and dangerous treaty that may be considered by the U.S. Senate.

…the willingness to impose costs on the private sector and to violate the privacy interests of ordinary people should be less in the case of information sharing for tax purposes than for the purposes of preventing terrorism or crime. Moreover, tax-information-sharing programs are quite often a veiled attempt to stifle tax competition from low-tax jurisdictions. Tax competition is salutary and limits the degree to which governments can impose unwarranted taxation. …The U.S. Senate is currently considering the “Protocol Amending the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters,” which would impose a wide variety of new information-reporting requirements on financial institutions to help foreign governments collect their taxes. A second treaty—worse than this protocol—is the follow-on OECD treaty known as the “Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information.” This follow-on treaty implements both the protocol and the 311-page OECD “Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters.” Together, the protocol, the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, and the OECD Standard constitute the three main parts of a new automatic information-exchange regime being promoted by the OECD and international tax bureaucrats. If the U.S. ratifies the protocol and implements the new OECD standard, Washington would automatically, and in bulk, ship private financial and tax information—including Social Security and other tax identification numbers—to Argentina, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Russia, and nearly 70 other countries. In other words, foreign governments that are hostile to the U.S., corrupt, or have inadequate data safeguards, would automatically have access to private financial (and other) information of some U.S. taxpayers and most foreigners with accounts in the U.S.

A truly awful pact. And keep in mind it also would be the genesis of a World Tax Organization.

P.S. Since we closed by discussing the intersection of tax and money laundering, I should point out that statists frequently demagogue against so-called tax havens for supposedly being hotbeds of dirty money, but take a look at this map put together a few years ago by the Institute of Governance and you’ll find only one low-tax jurisdiction among the 28 nations listed.

P.P.S. You probably didn’t realize you could make a joke involving money laundering, but here’s one starring President Obama.

P.P.P.S. But when you look at the real-world horror stories that result from these laws, you realize that the current system on money laundering is no laughing matter.

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One of the big challenges for libertarians is that we understand “public choice theory.” In other words, we know that people attracted to government will have both the incentive and the power to do bad things, so our quandary is how to give government the authority to provide so-called public goods without sowing the seeds for an oppressive Leviathan state.

Our Founding Fathers thought they solved this problem by drafting and ratifying a constitution that placed firm limits on the power of government. Sadly, that system largely broke down in the 1930s and 1940s as the Supreme Court ceded its role of protecting economic liberty (with John Roberts a few years ago providing the icing on the cake of untrammeled government power).

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the judicial branch has done a somewhat better job of protecting personal liberty. Indeed, with the courts leading the way on certain issues (such as whether governments can persecute people for being gay), we may even have more personal liberty than the Founders intended.

Speaking of personal liberty, one of the thorniest challenges is that we want government to fight crime, but we also want to make sure that it doesn’t have the power and authority to trample individual rights.

That’s one of the reasons the Founding Fathers gave us a Bill of Rights that protects our right to a speedy trial, protects us from double jeopardy, and gives us the right to remain silent. And the Bill of Rights also protects us by requiring governments to get judicial approval (search warrants) before snooping into out private property. And that’s the focus of today’s column.

And the case study for our discussion will be the way government is seeking to access electronic data without following proper procedures. Veronique de Rugy provides the background in her column for Reason.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed in 1986, when data storage was considerably more expensive and primitive. At the time, it was not common for data to be kept online for very long. As such, the ECPA considers emails held online by a third party for more than 180 days to be abandoned and thus open to access by law enforcement without a normal warrant. …Now that free online email hosts are commonplace and terabytes of cloud storage are available at little cost, the ECPA is a troubling anachronism. Today’s internet users expect their data to be protected from prying government eyes for as long as they choose to store it.

Amazingly, some politicians actually want to fix this problem.

There is a bill making its way through Congress that attempts to address these issues. It’s the International Communications Privacy Act. The bipartisan bill—introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Chris Coons, D-Del., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.—…would codify into law a simple and clear standard: A warrant should always be required to access private information from a third party. The reforms in the ICPA would move us away from the current ’80s drama. It also seems that the package could even move through Congress during a contentious election season because it safeguards consumer data while also acknowledging that there must be legitimate and accessible law enforcement tools to pursue digital evidence across borders.

By the way, this has become an issue in part because the courts have intervened to slap down overzealous law enforcement in a cross-border investigation,

…the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rebuked the Justice Department after a three-year legal battle with Microsoft, which hosted data for an Irish citizen being pursued by U.S. authorities. The data was being kept in a server located in Ireland, yet the U.S. government insisted it had jurisdiction to demand access just because the company that held it is a subsidiary of Microsoft, an American corporation. …ECPA…provides no authority for access to data held overseas. The government officials most likely made this overreach rather than go through the mutual legal assistance treaty, or MLAT, process—which would have enabled them to work with the appropriate overseas authority—because of the fact that MLAT procedures are also cumbersome and outdated.

The Hatch-Coons-Heller legislation deals with these issues by both requiring warrants but also improving the MLAT process, which is a win-win situation. Innocent people have their rights protected and governments have a better system for investigating potential bad guys.

Which helps to explain why a coalition of taxpayer organizations and free-market groups have embraced the proposed legislation.

The bill contains provisions that would protect the privacy of American citizens, promote cross-border data flow, provide adequate tools for law enforcement, and enhance the nation’s global trade agenda. …S. 2986/H.R. 5323 would require U.S. law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant for the content of electronic communications stored with electronic communications service providers and remote computing service providers.  The legal framework will allow authorities to obtain the electronic communications of U.S. persons, regardless of where those communications are located.  …S. 2986/H.R. 5323 reforms the MLAT process and provides greater accessibility, transparency, and accountability by requiring the attorney general to create an online docketing system for MLAT requests and publish new statistics on the number of such requests. …ICPA strikes the right balance between the legitimate needs of law enforcement and the privacy of American citizens, while enhancing international agreements.

Having looked at a specific example of how to enable effective law enforcement while also protecting civil liberties, let’s now zoom out and consider the big picture.

One of the problems in our system is that there are too many laws. Not just too many laws, but laws that are capricious and impossible to understand.

This is why Harvey Silverglate wrote Three Felonies a Day to describe how normal, law-abiding people unintentionally commit crimes (that shouldn’t be crimes).

Here’s a video interview from Reason with Mr. Silverglate.

The bottom line is that when you mix capricious and impossible-to-understand laws with capricious and vindictive bureaucrats, you get horrifying examples of government thuggery.

We can start by getting rid of drug laws, anti-money laundering laws, and civil asset forfeiture laws.

Remember, if we want to fight genuine crime, it’s a good idea to have just laws.

P.S. And if we have fewer bad and needless laws, we’ll have less police abuse.

P.P.S. To close on a humorous note, President Obama’s approach to the Bill of Rights leaves much to be desired.

P.P.P.S. In reference to the public-goods/Leviathan-state quandary discussed at the start of this column, the anarcho-capitalists say the solution is to abolish all government and to allow markets to provide public goods. I’m glad there are scholars pushing this idea (and I certainly had lots of interesting discussions about this concept while in grad school), but given what’s been happening over the past 100 years, I doubt this will be a practical option in my lifetime.

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Another Episode of Drug War Lunacy

Elizabeth Barrett Browning started her famous sonnet with “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” and then proceeded to provide lots of examples

If I had similar talent, I would produce a sonnet that began “How is the Drug War a failure? Let me count the ways” because I also could give many examples.

All this being said, legalizing drugs is about 99th on my list of 100 most-preferred policy reforms.

In part, this is because I’m stuffy and boring in my personal life and have never used drugs.

But I also worry about what will happen if we end drug prohibition while maintaining our bloated welfare state. The maze of handouts provided by Uncle Sam – for all intents and purposes – enables bad decisions. Would there be a significant number of people who basically drop out of society and become druggies while mooching off taxpayers?

Heck, I’m so libertarian I even worry that legalized drugs will even have bad fiscal policy effects since governments will figure out how to extract lots of tax revenue.

Though none of my concerns would prevent me from engaging in nullification if I wound up on a jury deciding a drug case.

And you’ll understand why I think we should get the government out of the business when you check out these details from a story in the Washington Post about someone whose life was turned upside down by the Drug War.

…a Florida man…was arrested when an officer mistook doughnut glaze for methamphetamine. Now Daniel Frederick Rushing is looking to sue the Orlando Police Department, which is also facing heat for its inaccurate roadside drug test.

When you read about what happened to him, you can understand why he’s unhappy.

Rushing told the Orlando Sentinel that he had been playing taxi driver for friends that day. He had just dropped off a neighbor at a hospital for a chemotherapy session and was giving another friend who worked at the 7-Eleven a ride home. But when officers saw Rushing go into the store twice without making a purchase, they grew suspicious. Officer Shelby Riggs-Hopkins followed Rushing’s car and pulled him over. …Riggs-Hopkins saw what she thought were drugs on the floorboard. “I recognized, through my 11 years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer, the substance to be some sort of narcotic,” Riggs-Hopkins wrote in the report. The officer retrieved several pieces of the white substance from the floorboard, ran a test and “received a positive indication for the presence of amphetamines.” Twice.

If this was the entire story, I would be upset. Why harass some guy if his only sin is being a drug user? He’s not hurting anyone else, so why not leave him alone?

And don’t Orlando cops have anything better to do than bust drug users? Are there really no murders, rapes, burglaries, and assaults in the city? You know, crimes that actually have victims.

But this isn’t the entire story.

As the officer placed Rushing in handcuffs and read him his rights, …“Rushing stated that the substance is sugar from a (Krispy) Kreme Donut that he ate.” …Still, Rushing was booked into jail and had to post $2,500 bail, according to court documents. He was vindicated a month later — and the meth possession charges were dropped — when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s chemistry section tested the substance found in his car. It detected no signs of drugs.

By the way, this wasn’t a one-time mistake.

The Washington Post column cites a related story from the New York Times that delved into the accuracy of roadside drug tests.

Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab system show that 21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false

positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all. In one notable Florida episode, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies produced 15 false positives for methamphetamine in the first seven months of 2014.

So the bottom line is that law enforcement resources are being misallocated, innocent people are having their lives wrecked, and government is being incompetent. That’s the holy trinity of big government.

But some people say we have to accept these awful consequences because decriminalization would lead to catastrophic results.

Not true, as Johan Norberg explains.

P.S. You may think only “crazy” libertarians favor liberalization, but there’s actually a very broad coalition of people who favor reform. Folks such as John Stossel, Gary Johnson, John McCain, Mona Charen, Pat Robertson, Cory Booker, Rick Perry, and Richard Branson.

P.P.S. For folks who don’t like having to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there’s a presidential candidate who has a very sensible view of the War on Drugs.

P.P.P.S. Speaking of Hillary Clinton, her understanding of the economics of drug prohibition may be even more inane and uninformed than her understanding of the economics of taxation.

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While I’m depressed about the election and America’s economic future, the news isn’t completely grim. Advocates of personal freedom are winning on the issue of guns.

Gun ownership has become more pervasive and legal protections for the Second Amendment have expanded, all of which is very good news for those of us who want a more law-abiding society.

And we also get lots of clever humor on the issue. Though I must confess that I’ve been negligent about collecting and sharing examples of anti-gun control humor in recent months. I did have an amusing comparison of how Texans and Europeans fight terrorism last month, but otherwise you have to go back to 2015 (see here, here, here, here, and here) and earlier.

So it’s time to atone for this oversight with some new humor targeting the pro-gun control crowd.

We’ll start with a visit to the University of Texas, which has been the scene of protests because a handful of students are upset that the law has been reformed to allow concealed carry on campus.

David French of National Review looks at this issue with an appropriately sarcastic piece that mocks the left-wing students for their silly tactics.

On January 16, 2002, a former student at Appalachian Law School walked into the office of the school’s dean and opened fire. His rampage ultimately took the lives of the dean, a professor, and a student. As the shots rang out, most bystanders ran for their lives, but not all. Three students approached the shooter. One, a Marine veteran, was unarmed. The other two had raced to their personal vehicles the instant they heard shots fired and returned with their dildos. Wait. No. That’s not what happened. Sorry. They returned with their guns. As two students held the shooter at gunpoint, the Marine tackled him, ending the threat. The cost was still high: Three people died, and three more lay wounded. But at the end of the day, a bad guy with a gun was stopped by good guys with guns. I thought of this story while reading the fawning media coverage of Texas students protesting a new state law permitting license-holders to carry concealed firearms on campus. Students are out in force, waving . . . sex toys. The inevitable hashtag? #CocksNotGlocks.

Yes, you read correctly.

The protesting students think that brandishing dildos will somehow persuade the general population that law-abiding students should be denied the right to bear arms.

Mr. French points out the silliness of their anti-gun position.

…if University of Texas protesters, teachers, and officials believe that until classes started yesterday UT was, in fact, a gun-free campus, they’ve lost their minds. Before this new law, there were two types of people who had guns on campus: criminals and the handful of law-enforcement officers scattered across a vast university. Every single other responsible, law-abiding citizen was disarmed — utterly dependent on officers who could be minutes away. …if one a person thinks that a licensed concealed-carry holder makes the UT’s campus more dangerous, they’ve lost their minds. Let’s make this concrete. Imagine you’re teaching a class, and you know that Amy, a student in the front row, has a concealed-carry permit. Sitting next to her is Roxanne, who does not. You have no idea if either one of them is actually armed. Who’s more likely to shoot the teacher? Roxanne, and it’s not even close. Who’s more likely to save your life? Amy, and it’s not even close. …If you are in a classroom, and a criminal opens fire, would you rather have a dildo on your desk or a revolver in your backpack?

Gee, that’s a tough question. Maybe a really skilled student could use a dildo like a Jedi light saber and deflect bullets, right?

By the way, if you’re wondering why Mr. French is so bold in his claim that Amy is likely to save lives with her concealed-carry weapon, that’s because John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center has crunched the numbers and determined that people with concealed-carry permits are about the most law-abiding group of people in the nation.

Here are some excerpts from a story in The National Interest.

Concealed-carry permit holders are nearly the most law-abiding demographic of Americans, a new report by the Crime Prevention Research Center says… “Indeed, it is impossible to think of any other group in the U.S. that is anywhere near as law-abiding,” says the report, titled “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States 2016.”

So what group in the nation is better about obeying the law?

The article doesn’t say, though my guess is nuns.

If you guessed police officers, you’d be wrong.

The study compared permit holders to police, who committed 703 crimes from 2005 to 2007, and 113 of those were firearm violations. “With about 685,464 full-time police officers in the U.S. from 2005 to 2007, we find that there were about 103 crimes per hundred thousand officers,” the report reads. “For the U.S. population as a whole, the crime rate was 37 times higher—3,813 per hundred thousand people.” …“We find that permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors and felonies at less than a sixth the rate for police officers,” the report says. “Among police, firearms violations occur at a rate of 16.5 per 100,000 officers. Among permit holders in Florida and Texas, the rate is only 2.4 per 100,000.10. That is just one-seventh of the rate for police officers.”

In other words, the folks in Texas (like the hypothetical Amy in David French’s article) are statistically the one most likely to obey the law and protect against crime.

So the protesters at the University of Texas should be thankful the law has been changed and their campus is no longer a “gun-free zone,” which means that only law-abiding people are disarmed.

Rather than carrying dildos as a form of protest, they should therefore use their sex toys for other purposes (particularly if they have Pajama Boy-type partners).

Speaking of gun-free zones, here’s a very clever video exposing why signs don’t keep people safe.

I’ll have to add this to my collection of humorous anti-gun control videos.

Let’s close by addressing the leftist argument that the Second Amendment only applies to the weapons that existed in the late 1700s.

I addressed that issue earlier this year in a tweet, but this poster does it far more effectively.


P.S. The best evidence that we’re winning on the issue of gun control is that more and more and more leftists are now admitting that private gun ownership is a good idea.

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I thought it was a remarkable development last year when a columnist from the New York Times reported that supposedly pro-feminist policies actually backfire against women.

Maybe this would help readers recognize that there are adverse unintended consequences of government intervention. Bastiat would be very happy!

Now we have a new example from the academic world. Two economists, one from the University of Virginia and the other from the University of Oregon, conducted a study of “ban the box” laws that restrict employers from figuring out whether job applicants have criminal records.

The purpose of these laws almost surely is noble. Everyone presumably would like to help ex-convicts mainstream back into society. Especially since many of them are minorities who may already face discrimination and other challenges (and maybe they were thrown in jail for silly reasons, such as draconian drug laws).

So it sounds very compassionate to impose these laws, right? Who could object to helping ex-cons get in the door for interviews, at which point they can hopefully show potential employers that they have value.

Well, the study shows that these laws hurt more than they help. Here are some passages from the abstract.

Jurisdictions across the United States have adopted “ban the box” (BTB) policies preventing employers from conducting criminal background checks until late in the job application process. Their goal is to improve employment outcomes for those with criminal records, with a secondary goal of reducing racial disparities in employment. However, removing information about job applicants’ criminal histories could lead employers who don’t want to hire ex-offenders to try to guess who the ex-offenders are, and avoid interviewing them. In particular, employers might avoid interviewing young, low-skilled, black and Hispanic men when criminal records are not observable. This would worsen employment outcomes for these already-disadvantaged groups. In this paper, we use variation in the details and timing of state and local BTB policies to test BTB’s effects on employment for various demographic groups. We find that BTB policies decrease the probability of being employed by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men, and by 2.3 percentage points (2.9%) for young, low-skilled Hispanic men. These findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant’s criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against demographic groups that are likely to have a criminal record.

The most relevant bit of info from the abstract is that these laws reduce employment for young black men and young Hispanic men with low skill levels (and don’t forget these are groups that already are disadvantaged thanks to minimum wage laws).

And if you dig into the study, you can learn more about what’s really happening.

Figure 2 shows a local linear graph of the residuals from equation 1, for young, low-skilled black men. Time is recentered so that 0 is the effective date of a jurisdiction’s BTB policy. …Based on the pre-BTB period, the identifying assumption that BTB and non-BTB jurisdictions would evolve similarly in the absence of BTB…looks reasonable: the two lines follow each other closely before the date-zero threshold. After that date, however, the lines quickly diverge, with employment outcomes worsening in BTB-adopting places and improving slightly elsewhere. …it appears that BTB dramatically hurt employment outcomes for this group.

And here’s the accompany chart from the study.

Here’s another section that I found fascinating.

The laws restricting criminal background checks lead to more discrimination all across the nation, but the least amount of additional discrimination against African-Americans is in the south.

Given differences in racial composition and labor markets across the country, we might expect BTB to have different effects in different places. …young, low-skilled white men are not affected by BTB anywhere. However, the employment probabilities of their black peers are significantly reduced in three regions: the Northeast (7.4%), the Midwest (7.5%), and the West (8.8%). The negative effect on black men is much smaller (2.3%) and not statistically significant in the South… These results suggest that the larger the black or Hispanic population, the less likely employers are to use race/ethnicity as a proxy for criminality.

For what it’s worth, I also wonder if the South, on a person-to-person basis, actually is less racist.

Here’s another interesting – albeit discouraging – bit of information from the study. When the economy is weak, these laws are even more damaging for minorities.

…at all unemployment rates the effect of BTB on white men is near-zero and statistically insignificant. …the effect on black men…is more negative when unemployment is high, but now the estimated total effects are relatively large and negative even at low unemployment. The negative total effect becomes statistically significant at 7% or 8% unemployment, and at 9% unemployment the total effect of BTB on black men is over 3.6 percentage points and statistically significant.

The most logical interpretation of these results it that there’s more discrimination when employers have a buyer’s market, meaning lots of potential job applicants for each position.

Here’s the most depressing bit of data from the study. The effects of these laws last a long time.

BTB’s effect on black men is large and grows over time. BTB reduces employment for black men by 2.7 percentage points (not statistically significant) during the first year, 5.1 percentage points (p < 0.01) during the second year, 4.1 percentage points (p < 0.10) during the third year, 8.4 percentage points (p < 0.01) during the fourth year, and an average of 7.7 percentage points (p < 0.05) during the fifth and later years. This suggests that BTB has a permanent effect on employment for black men.

And here’s the man-bites-dog conclusion. Blacks and other minorities are hurt by the laws, so guess which group benefits?

BTB has a positive effect on white men with no high school diploma. On average, white men in this group are 3.9 percentage points (5.6%) more likely to be employed after BTB than before.

That may be the perfect (in a bad way) example of government in action: Good intentions leading to bad results. Just like the War on Drugs. And the War on Poverty. And licensing laws. And antitrust laws. And…oh, never mind. You get the idea.

No wonder this is my favorite poster.

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The Constitution and Bill of Rights exist to protect our civil liberties from government. And that’s true whether the attack on our rights is legislative or bureaucratic. For instance:

  • Our 1st Amendment rights to participate in the political process are – or at least should be – inviolate, even if some politicians think they can magically legislate away our rights to political speech.
  • Our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms is – or at least should be – inviolate, even though many politicians want to curtail our ability to defend ourselves.
  • Our 4th Amendment right to block the government from spying on us without a search warrant is – or at least should be – inviolate, even though it has been unfortunately narrowed.
  • Our 5th Amendment rights against the government taking our life, liberty, and property without due process are – or at least should be – inviolate, notwithstanding politicians who want more power for government.

As a lawyer, Hillary Clinton should these simple facts about the Bill of Rights.

But if this tweet is any indication, she must have slept through those lectures while at law school.

Yup, her position is that you lose your constitutional rights if some bureaucrat puts you on a secret list. Sort of like the Department of PreCrime from Minority Report.

If you wonder why this matters, check out Congressman Trey Gowdy’s brilliant evisceration of one of Obama’s political appointees.

Though it’s important to note that this isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a partisan or ideological issue. There are some honest folks on the left who very much support the right to due process and are very critical of the White House’s agenda.

For what it’s worth, at least some pro-gun control politicians admit that the Constitution is an obstacle.

As reported by the Washington Examiner, Senator Manchin of West Virginia is honest about his desire to run roughshod over the Bill of Rights.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Thursday that due process is one of the “big problems” standing in the way of lawmakers passing legislation that would keep suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms, and argued that the Fifth Amendment is “killing us right now.” “The problem we have, and really the firewall we have right now, is due process. It’s all due process,” he said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Then again, if Hillary and her supporters think that merely being a suspect of wrongdoing is sufficient to take away people’s rights, then perhaps this sarcastic response to Mrs. Clinton should be a serious proposal.

By the way, the Orlando terrorist apparently wasn’t on the no-fly list, according to Bloomberg, so Obama, Clinton, and others don’t even have a factual basis for this latest assault on the Bill of Rights.

Interestingly, the White House admitted late last year that no mass shootings would have been stopped by any of the Administration’s anti-gun proposals, and it appears that is still the case today.

Now let’s look at the practical case against more gun control, especially with regards to the campaign against so-called assault weapons (which, other than some cosmetic features, are the same as traditional rifles).

John Lott and Larry Correia already have produced very powerful evidence in defense of these weapons.

Now here’s a video on the topic from a former Navy Seal.

The Wall Street Journal also is appropriately dismissive of calls for additional gun control.

Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have called for reinstating Bill Clinton’s ban on “assault weapons.” If her version works as well as her husband’s did, the terrorists will have won. From 1994 to 2002 Congress barred the sale of 18 types of rifles and shotguns that had “military style” attributes. This definition was purely political…the ban had a negligible impact on gun crime. So-called assault rifles accounted for about 2% of gun crimes prior to the ban, and the percentage of murders committed with rifles today (2% in 2014) is less than the 3% in the last year of the ban. …numerous studies, including one commissioned by the Department of Justice, …found no link to the ban and reduced crime.

For what it’s worth, places with lots of gun control (such as Europe) don’t get good results.

The media this week are full of stories about gun-death rates, without bothering to note that most of the surge is occurring in cities like Chicago that have the strictest gun laws. …As for stopping terrorism, California is among the states that continued to ban assault weapons after the federal version expired. But that didn’t stop the San Bernardino killers, who used modified rifles that violated the law. France’s strict gun laws also didn’t stop the Paris assailants.

Also writing for the Wall Street Journal, a lawyer from Florida, Ms. Ashley Lukis, is understandably irked by those who want to use terrorism as an excuse for gun control.

Instead of blaming the perverse militants who have formed a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, who are burning people alive, who are raping and murdering women and children, and who are engaging in an aggressive global propaganda campaign to encourage precisely the murderous behavior that we saw in Orlando, in San Bernardino, in Brussels and in Paris—many Americans are attacking other law-abiding citizens who happen to hold a different interpretation of the Constitution. …We are dealing with terrorism. We are talking about evil individuals who will happily strap bombs to their bodies or hijack a commercial airliner or set off homemade explosives in the middle of a crowded street. And the best solution you can come up with is domestic gun control? …The solution to terrorism is not to pass imperfect laws that will palliate the masses until next time. Nor is the solution to look inward, to make speeches, to tweet about your grief or start a hashtag. The solution to terrorism is not to blame the gun lobby.


But let’s not stop there, because there are some people who deserve to be blamed.

Kevin Williamson’s National Review column is must reading. He starts by dismissing the left’s proposals.

The Democrats’…proposal — having police agencies compile secret lists of possible subversives and revoking their legal rights with nothing resembling due process — is plainly unconstitutional, and wouldn’t withstand five minutes’ legal examination. …they’re talking about: keeping a list of people who have been identified by police agencies as possible threats, but who never have been charged with, much less convicted of, any crime, and rescinding their ordinary constitutional rights without so much as a court hearing. We cannot prohibit people from buying guns with no due process for the same reason we cannot subject them to arbitrary incarceration or hunt them for sport. …Study after study after study has shown that the assault-weapon ban had zero effect on violent crime when it was in effect, and it almost certainly wouldn’t have one now, either. …Democrats keep saying that they don’t want to take away our guns, but that is, in fact, what this policy would demand.

But what we can do – but don’t – is actually enforce existing laws.

Such as those against “straw buyers.”

These cases are lots of work and generally don’t ensnare big-time criminals, but rather the idiot nephews, girlfriends, and grandmothers of big-time criminals. Putting those people in federal penitentiaries for ten years isn’t going to win anybody any friends. But they are the people who render our current background-check laws ineffective against the criminals who have turned parts of Chicago into a free-fire zone. Putting a few dozen of them away for a few dozen years might provide a strong disincentive for other would-be straw buyers, particularly those who (as is not uncommon) engage in straw buying as a commercial endeavor.

Or when the government botches the background check.

In tens of thousands of cases each year, the FBI discovers, after the fact, that the sale should not have proceeded. At this point, it issues an alert to the ATF, which in most cases then . . . does nothing at all. In a study of the 2000 data, there were about 45,000 sales that the FBI wrongly allowed to proceed, and in about 38,000 of those cases, no effort was made to recover the firearm. …Picking up wrongly sold guns isn’t that big a chore. In fact, since most of these prohibited buyers have committed a serious crime in buying a gun (though many of them may not have known it — otherwise, why go to a licensed dealer?) a strongly worded letter (“Return your gun to the dealer or go to federal prison”) and a bit of follow-up ought to do the trick.

And that gets us to Kevin’s main point.

The government does a crappy job of stopping bad guys for the simple reason that government does a crappy job of doing anything.

…killers and future killers are on the street committing their crimes because our criminal-justice system, with its vast resources, does not do its job. The police, the prosecutors, the jailers, and the parole-and-probation authorities all must answer for the fact that such a large share of our murders are committed by people already well known to law enforcement. …a fair number of crimes that could be prevented, if the people we pay to prevent them were willing to do the old-fashioned police work necessary: running down criminals, prosecuting unglamorous cases, properly managing parolees. But those jobs are entrusted to government employees, whose unions are irreplaceable benefactors of Democratic political campaigns. …expecting the generously compensated and gorgeously pensioned employees of the public sector to do their goddamned jobs…is, if you’re a scheming, opportunistic lowlife like Chuck Schumer, unthinkable.

Exactly. As Mark Steyn has noted, what’s the point of having a bloated and sclerotic public sector if it doesn’t even do the small handful of things that are legitimate functions of government?

No wonder researchers have found that small government is more efficient.

P.S. In addition to the gentleman cited above, there are other honest folks on the left.

In 2012, I shared some important observations from Jeffrey Goldberg, a left-leaning writer for The Atlantic. In his column, he basically admitted his side was wrong about gun control.

Then, in 2013, I wrote about a column by Justin Cronin in the New York Times. He self-identified as a liberal, but explained how real-world events have led him to become a supporter of private gun ownership.

P.P.S. If you like pro-Second Amendment videos, here’s a great collection.

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It’s happened again. A nut went to a gun-free zone and engaged in a mass killing.

In this example, the perpetrator apparently was an Islamic fanatic upset about gay people.

But let’s set aside the question of motive and ask the important question of why politicians and bureaucrats don’t want innocent people to have any ability to defend themselves (they’ve even adopted policies prohibiting members of the military from being armed!).

The invaluable Crime Prevention Research Center has already weighed in on the issue.

Since at least 1950, only slightly over 1 percent of mass public shootings have occurred where general citizens have been able to defend themselves. Police are extremely important in stopping crime, but even if they had been present at the time of the nightclub shooting, they may have had a very difficult time stopping the attack. Attackers will generally shoot first at any uniformed guards or officers who are present (the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last year illustrates that point).  …In this particular case the police only arrived on the scene after the attack occurred. That illustrates another point: it is simply impossible for the police to protect all possible targets. It is hard to ignore how these mass public shooters consciously pick targets where they know victims won’t be able to defend themselves.

By the way, if you think that allowing guns in bars is somehow a recipe for carnage, consider the fact that it’s already legal in many states to have concealed carry or open carry where alcohol is served, yet we never read stories about mass shootings in these states.

Among the recent states that allow permitted concealed handguns in places that get more than 50 percent of their revenue from alcohol are:Georgia (2014), Louisiana (2014), North Dakota (2015), North Carolina(2014), Ohio (2011), South Carolina (2014), and Tennessee (2009).  Besides Florida, other states that prohibit them are: Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska,New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.  Many of the states that allow one to carry a gun in a bar still prohibit you to consume alcohol.  Here are some other state laws: Alaska, Idaho, Michigan (allows you to open carry if you have a concealed handgun permit), and Montana (allows you to openly carry a gun into a bar), and Oregon.

To be sure, it’s possible at some point that some moron with a gun will do something wrong in one of these states, so it’s not as if there’s no possible downside to having guns legally in places where alcohol is served.

But the really bad people are far more dangerous, and their evil actions are enabled and facilitated by gun-free zones.

For my safety and the protection of my children, I want there to be more well-armed law-abiding people, whether in bars or anyplace else in society.

Including schools.

Professor Nelson Lund of George Mason University Law School explains in the New York Times that gun-free zones on campuses simply don’t work.

…colleges pretend that disarming responsible adults makes their students safer. The university at which I work, for example, forbids faculty, staff and students to bring their weapons to school, even if they have a concealed-carry permit issued by the government. …The university police are unable to prevent violent crimes, and it is heartlessly arrogant to disarm potential victims, leaving them and those they could protect at the mercy of rapists and other predators. Armed citizens frequently save lives and prevent violent crimes, often without firing a shot. Nearly all mass shootings occur in “gun-free zones,” and some of these massacres have been stopped by civilians who intervened after retrieving a gun.

He points out that the evidence favoring concealed carry is overwhelming.

…states have adopted laws allowing law-abiding adults to carry a concealed handgun in public. About 13 million Americans now have concealed-carry permits, and 11 states do not even require a permit. As the number of armed citizens has skyrocketed, violent crime has gone down, not up, and permit holders almost never abuse their rights. In Florida, for example, where permits have been available for almost thirty years, they have been revoked for firearm misuse at an annual rate of 0.0003 percent; even the police have higher rates of firearms violations (and higher overall crime rates) than permit holders.

So what’s the bottom line?

Professor Lund has an understandably low opinion of the “callous” school bureaucrats who think grief counselors are better than self defense.

When murders and even massacres occur, …university bureaucrats will undoubtedly absolve themselves of guilt, wash the blood from their demonstrably unsafe spaces, and call in the grief counselors. Some state legislatures have put a stop to these callous disarmament policies.

The moral of the story is that lawful people should have the right to defend themselves and others.

The police play an important role, of course, but they generally show up after bad things have happened. Which is why the vast majority of cops oppose gun control (and even a growing number of police chiefs, who often are corrupted by being political appointees, now say private gun ownership is important to deter bad guys).

That’s why legal gun ownership is important, particularly for communities that are targeted for violence, such as European Jews, or for people such as teachers who could be in a position to protect others who have no ability to defend themselves.

The good news on this sad day is that more and more states are moving policy in the right direction. Hopefully something good will come out of this tragedy and there will be further moves to help law-abiding people defend themselves from evil.

Of course, I won’t be surprised if the people who can’t pass this IQ test argue instead for more gun control.

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