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Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

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.

Amen.

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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I recently wrote about gun control, noting how there’s less murder in demographically similar U.S. states than there is in matching Canadian provinces.

This is one of the reasons why I’m optimistic about protecting the Second Amendment. The empirical evidence is so strong that law-abiding people are safer in well-armed societies.

But let’s see how the rest of the world is faring on this issue.

Let’s start with a story from Switzerland, a nation that has a very strong tradition of gun rights.

Switzerland is becoming safer. Police recently flagged up that crime rates fell by 7% in 2015, reaching a seven-year low. In 2014, homicide was actually at its lowest level in 30 years. …A survey by swissinfo.ch shows gun permit applications were up almost everywhere in Switzerland in 2015.

Hmmm…, more guns and less crime. The person who slapped the headline on the story seems to think it’s a mystery why that relationship exists.

But anybody capable of passing my IQ test for criminals and liberals understands that the title should be changed to “Lower crime because Swiss have more guns” or something like that.

The article also includes a section on Switzerland’s gun culture.

Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world because of its militia army. The defence ministry estimates that some two million guns are in private hands in a population of 8.3 million. An estimated 750,000 of those guns have been recorded in a local register. Under the militia system soldiers keep their army-issue weapons at home. Voters in recent years have rejected tighter gun controls. In 2011, voters rejected a proposal to restrict access to guns by banning the purchase of automatic weapons and introducing a licensing system for the use of firearms.

Ah, those sensible Swiss voters. Not only are they against tax hikes and regulatory intervention, but they also reject licensing and support the right to purchase automatic weapons.

Now let’s travel Down Under and see what happens when a government takes the wrong approach to guns.

Hillary Clinton says “Australia is a good example”… The man Clinton wants to succeed, Barack Obama, noted, “Australia … imposed very severe, tough gun laws.  And they haven’t had a mass shooting since.” …Maybe it’s time to tell the president and his likely successor that the policies they so admire have been largely flouted… Clinton and Obama tout a 1996 “gun buyback” that was actually a compensated confiscation of self-loading rifles, self-loading shotguns, and pump-action shotguns in response to the Port Arthur mass shooting. The seizure took around 650,000 firearms out of civilian hands and tightened the rules on legal acquisition and ownership of weapons going forward. …What the law couldn’t do—what prohibitions can never accomplish—was eliminate demand for what was forbidden. …The Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia estimates compliance with the “buyback” at 19 percent. Other researchers agree. In a white paper on the results of gun control efforts around the world, Franz Csaszar, a professor of criminology at the University of Vienna, Austria, gives examples of large-scale non-compliance with the ban. He points out, “In Australia it is estimated that only about 20% of all banned self-loading rifles have been given up to the authorities.”

There is one group benefiting from the attempted gun ban. Criminal gangs are big winners.

“Australians may be more at risk from gun crime than ever before with the country’s underground market for firearms ballooning in the past decade,” the report added. “[T]he national ban on semi-automatic weapons following the Port Arthur massacre had spawned criminal demand for handguns.” …Once you enable organized crime, there are no boundaries. Australia’s criminal gangs supply not just pistols, but weapons up to and including rocket launchers—some of which may have ended up in terrorist hands. …like American bootleggers who supplemented smuggled booze with bathtub gin, Australia’s organized criminal outfits have learned the joy of DIY production. …Australia will have to live with the rise in organized crime for years to come.

Such a disappointment that Australia, which is a role model on some issues, is so anti-civil rights when it comes to guns.

Now let’s travel to France, where there are at least one person doesn’t think it’s a good idea to let terrorists be the only ones with guns.

The leader of the rock band playing the Bataclan in Paris the night ISIS terrorists killed 90 in the concert hall three months ago ripped French gun control laws and urged “everybody” to get a gun. “I can’t let the bad guys win,” said Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal. …Speaking in a sometimes tearful interview to iTele, Hughes added, “Did your French gun control stop a single fu—– person from dying at the Bataclan? And if anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so.”

Amen. It’s downright bizarre that European politicians think it’s a good idea for citizens to be disarmed while crazies get to stock up on weapons.

Now let’s turn to America, where New Jersey (again) is a national embarrassment.

A New Jersey actor faces 10 years in prison for firing a prop pellet gun while filming an independent film. Carlo Goias, who uses the stage name Carlo Bellario, was charged with firing the fake gun without a state gun permit as part of the Garden State’s insanely strict gun laws. In New Jersey, all guns require a state permit, even non-lethal airsoft guns like the one Goias was using. …just seeing Goias pretending to fire from a car window prompted neighborhood residents to call the police. “I pretended to shoot out the window; they were going to dub in the sound later,” Goias told the Associated Press. “We get back, and within a couple of minutes we’re surrounded by cop cars.” …being sent away for 10 years over a fake gun is a reminder of just how absurd New Jersey’s gun laws still are.

Speaking of gun control, here’s radio shock jock Howard Stern making mostly sensible comments on the right to keep and bear arms.

It’s a bit disappointing that he supports a national gun registry, but I assume that’s because he doesn’t realize that the left supports registration primarily as a predicate for gun confiscation.

But he atones for that error by mocking leftists who have personal (and well-armed) security guards. Gee, I wonder if we might have an example of such a person.

And it’s also good that Howard mentions that most cops support gun rights, something that we see in the polling data.

P.S. Click here and here for some good gun control humor.

P.P.S. And click here for some entertaining videos mocking gun control.

P.P.P.S. Even some leftists have seen the light on gun rights, as you can see here, here, and here.

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I wrote last year about the moral vacuum that exists in Europe because gun control laws in nations like France make it very difficult for Jews to protect themselves from barbaric attacks.

But the principle applies more broadly. All law-abiding people should have the human right to protect themselves.

Politicians in Denmark don’t seem to understand this principle. Or maybe the do understand the principle, but they are so morally bankrupt that don’t care. Not only do they have gun control, they even have laws against pepper spray. And they are so fanatical in their desire to turn people into sheep that the government apparently will prosecute a girl who used pepper spray to save herself from rape.

Here are some excerpts from a report in the U.K.-based Daily Mail.

A Danish teenager who was sexually assaulted near a migrant asylum centre has been told she will be prosecuted after using pepper spray to fend off her attacker. …she managed to prevent the man from attacking her further by spraying the substance at him. …However, as it is illegal to use pepper spray, the teenage girl is set to face charges.

How disgusting.

And what makes the situation especially frustrating is that the criminals and terrorists in Europe obviously don’t have any problem obtaining firearms.

So the only practical effect of gun control (or bans on pepper spray) is to make life easier for the scum of society.

And the real insult to injury is that a teenage girl who should be hailed as a hero now faces the threat of punishment. Just like the unfortunate British woman who was persecuted for using a knife to deter some thugs.

And here’s some of what the BBC reported about

Italian hospitality for the visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stretched to covering up nude statues. Italy also chose not to serve wine at official meals

Pathetic. Particularly since the Italians bent over backwards for a truly heinous regime.

Kudos to President Hollande in France, by contrast. The Daily Mail notes that he held firm.

A lunch between the French and Iranian presidents in Paris was scrapped today because France refused to remove wine from the menu.

By the way, there clearly is a role for common courtesy and diplomatic protocol. It obviously would be gratuitously rude for a nation to serve pork at a dinner for officials from Israel or any Muslim nation, just as it would inappropriate and insensitive to serve beef for an event for officials from India.

Moreover, officials from one nation should not make over-the-top demands when visiting other countries. Just as it would be wrong for French officials to demand wine at state dinners in Iran, it’s also wrong for Iranian officials to demand the absence of wine at meals in France. After all, it’s not as if they would be expected to partake.

In the grand scheme of things, though, the kerfuffle about wine and statues doesn’t matter compared to the potentially life-and-death issue of whether Europeans should be allowed to defend themselves.

That’s why Europe isn’t merely in trouble because of fiscal bankruptcy, but also because of moral bankruptcy.

P.S. While having the ability to protect your life or to guard against rape isn’t a human right in most European nations, take a look at some of the things that are “rights.”

All this is amusing…in a very sad way.

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When I first read about armed protesters taking over a federal building in Oregon, I thought some nutjobs were about to cause some real trouble. Was this a right-wing version of the loons from the Occupy Wall Street movement, only with guns?

Then I learned that the “federal building” was nothing more than a remote and unoccupied structure in a wildlife refuge, making this story a molehill rather than a mountain.

Now I’m learning that the ostensible nutjobs have some very genuine grievances, specifically about the way the Hammond family has been viciously mistreated by the federal government.

David French, an attorney and veteran, has a column in National Review that looks at why folks in Oregon are upset with Washington.

…what if they’re right? What if the government viciously and unjustly prosecuted a rancher family so as to drive them from their land? Then protest, including civil disobedience, would be not just understandable but moral, and maybe even necessary. …Read the court documents in the case that triggered the protest… What emerges is a picture of a federal agency that will use any means necessary, including abusing federal anti-terrorism statutes, to increase government landholdings.

Here’s his summary of the situation.

The story…begins…with the creation and expansion of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a tract of federal land…The federal government has since expanded…in part by buying adjacent private land. Protesters allege that when private landowners refused to sell, the federal government got aggressive, diverting water during the 1980s into the “rising Malheur lakes.” Eventually, the lakes flooded “homes, corrals, barns, and graze-land.” Ranchers who were “broke and destroyed” then “begged” the government to buy their “useless ranches.” …the Hammonds were among the few private landowners who remained adjacent to the Refuge. …the government then began a campaign of harassment designed to force the family to sell its land, a beginning with barricaded roads and arbitrarily revoked grazing permits and culminating in an absurd anti-terrorism prosecution based largely on two “arsons” that began on private land but spread to the Refuge.

Arson sounds serious, but French explains that it’s not what city folks assume when they hear that word.

While “arsons” might sound suspicious to urban ears, anyone familiar with land management…knows that land must sometime be burned to stop the spread of invasive species and prevent or fight destructive wildfires. Indeed, the federal government frequently starts its own fires.

Here’s the part that’s most disturbing. David explains how the federal government used a sledgehammer to go after a fly.

In 2010 — almost nine years after the 2001 burn — the government filed a 19-count indictment against the Hammonds that included charges under the Federal Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act…the Hammonds and the prosecution reached a plea agreement in which the Hammonds agreed to waive their appeal rights and accept the jury’s verdict. It was their understanding that the plea agreement would end the case. At sentencing, the trial court refused to apply the mandatory-minimum sentence, holding that five years in prison would be “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses”… The federal government, however, was not content to let the matter rest. Despite the absence of any meaningful damage to federal land, the U.S. Attorney appealed the trial judge’s sentencing decision… the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals…ruled against… The Hammonds were ordered back to prison.

And here’s his bottom line.

There’s a clear argument that the government engaged in an overzealous, vindictive prosecution here. By no stretch of the imagination were the Hammonds terrorists, yet they were prosecuted under an anti-terrorism statute. …To the outside observer, it appears the government has attempted to crush private homeowners and destroy their livelihood in a quest for even more land. If that’s the case, civil disobedience is a valuable course of action. …I sympathize with the ranchers’ fury, and I’m moved by the Hammonds’ plight. …now they’re off to prison once again — not because they had to go or because they harmed any other person but because the federal government has pursued them like a pack of wolves.

I would have said a pack of hyenas, but that’s a rhetorical difference.

What matters is that the federal government has behaved reprehensibly.

The Wall Street Journal also opined about the standoff, citing the federal government’s brutish efforts to grab private land.

…armed occupation of federal buildings is inexcusable, but so are federal land-management abuses and prosecutorial overreach. …The drama is bringing attention to legitimate grievances, especially the appalling federal treatment of the Hammond family. …The government has…been on a voracious land-and-water grab, coercing the area’s once-thriving ranchers to sell. The feds have revoked dozens of grazing permits and raised the price of the few it issues. It has mismanaged the area’s water, allowing ranchlands to flood. It has harassed landowners with regulatory actions that raise the cost of ranching, then has bought out private landowners to more than double the refuge’s size. …Many in rural Oregon view this as a government vendetta. …The ideology of “national” land has become the club to punish private landowners who are the best source of economic stability and conservation. The Bundy occupation of federal land can’t be tolerated, but the growing Western opposition to government harassment of private landowners ought to be a source of political concern.

Amen.

By the way, this doesn’t mean that the protesters automatically are right about being victimized. Yes, in some cases, federal bureaucrats are grossly mistreating folks. But in other cases, ranchers may be fleecing taxpayers because of implicit subsidies for things like grazing rights on federal land and water rights.

Moreover, according to CNN, the Bundy family (which is leading the sit-in at the wildlife refuge) has no problem mooching off taxpayers.

Ammon Bundy, a leader of the armed protesters who took over a federal building in Oregon, and his family are…not opposed to government and said that taking a six-figure loan from the Small Business Administration doesn’t conflict with his political philosophy.

But even if there are no pure good guys in this story, there is a pure solution.

And that’s to shrink the federal government’s ownership of land. As you can see from this Wikipedia map, Uncle Sam owns most of the land in America’s western states.

This makes no sense. It means potentially valuable land is locked up, which undermines the economy’s growth and efficiency.

Why not auction up a huge portion of that land so it’s in private hands where there will be proper incentives for wise stewardship (including conservation)?

And if politicians decide that some of the land should be set aside for parks, that should be the result of open and honest deliberation. Just as decisions to obtain private land (for genuine public purposes, not Kelo-style cronyism) should be legitimate and include proper compensation.

P.S. This story reminds me that I need to create a special page for “Victims of Government Thuggery” to augment the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame and Moocher Hall of Fame.

The Hammonds would be charter members.

It would also include people like Andy Johnson, Anthony Smelley, Charlie Engle, Tammy Cooper, Nancy Black, Russ Caswell, Jacques Wajsfelner, Jeff Councelller, Eric Garner, Martha Boneta, Carole Hinders, Salvatore Culosi, and James Lieto, as well as the Sierra Pacific Company and the entire Meitev family.

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In my analysis of the best and worst developments of 2015, I suggested that growing resistance to gun control is something we should celebrate.

Particularly since we have a President who is relentless (though fortunately ineffective) in launching ideological attacks on the Second Amendment.

Speaking of which, Obama staged a press event yesterday and announced his latest effort to make it harder for law-abiding people to protect themselves.

John Lott is the go-to person on these issues. Here’s some of what he wrote for National Review, starting with the fact that Obama (gee, what a surprise) is disregarding the law.

…current law is very clear. Only federally licensed gun dealers are required to conduct background checks, and only sellers whose “principal objective of livelihood and profit [is] the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms” are required to obtain a federal license. Anyone “who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms” is specifically exempted from the licensing requirement. But that doesn’t matter to Obama, whose actions today will require many sellers to get a license if they sell even a single gun.

John also explains that background checks are not a panacea.

The current federal background-check system is a mess. …Hillary Clinton claimed that, “Since [the Brady Act] was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented.” In reality, there were over 2 million “initial denials”… In 2010, the Department of Justice’s annual report on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) showed that 94 percent of “initial denials” were dropped after the first internal fact check. A 2004 review by Congress found that another two percent were dropped when the cases were sent out to BATFE field offices. Many more cases were dropped during the three remaining stages of review. …If a private company’s criminal-background checks on employees failed at anything close to the same rate, they’d be sued out of business in a heartbeat.

And what about the notion of requiring sellers retain information on gun buyers?

Well, this back-door form of registration doesn’t provide seem very helpful in helping the fight against real crime.

Police can’t seem to point to a single instance in which gun registration has helped them solve a crime. During a recent deposition, D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier said she couldn’t “recall any specific instance where registration records were used to determine who committed a crime.” Police in Hawaii, Canada, and other places have made similar admissions.

Lott explains in the article that the system could be improved in ways that would make it harder for the wrong people to get guns, but he says that productive changes aren’t feasible because of the left’s real motive.

…their real aim is to reduce gun ownership, not to stop crime.

This is spot on. Indeed, I don’t trust the left of climate issues for similar reasons. What our statist friends say and what they really want are two different things.

Moreover, their proposed “solutions” don’t even solve the problems that they say they want to address.

Remember the video from last month, which featured a White House official admitting that none of Obama’s proposed policies would have stopped a single mass shooter from getting weapons, and that not a single mass shooter has been on the Administration’s no-fly list or terrorist watch list?

Well, in the words of Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu all over again. These blurbs from an Associated Press story tell us everything we need to know about the President’s latest proposals.

The gun control measures a tearful President Barack Obama announced Tuesday would not have prevented the slaughters of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, or 14 county workers at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California. …The shooters at Sandy Hook and San Bernardino used weapons bought by others, shielding them from background checks. In other cases, the shooters legally bought guns. …In Aurora, Colorado, and at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., men undergoing mental health treatment were cleared to buy weapons because federal background checks looked to criminal histories and court-ordered commitments for signs of mental illness.

Since we’re on this topic, here’s my recent interview on gun control.

As you can see, I’m doing a bit of a victory dance. It’s great that the American people won’t go along with the left, even if it means they have to engage in civil disobedience.

By the way, I goofed in discussing the poll on banning so-called assault weapons. The actual margin of opposition is six points (50-44) rather than fourteen points (54-40). Though I guess transposing a couple of numbers is trivial compared to the $16 trillion mistake I once made in an interview.

In my humble opinion, the most important point from the interview is that (as Mark Steyn explained in amusing fashion) you can’t have effective and competent government unless it’s also small government.

Let’s close with some humor. Here’s the NRA’s satirical take on Hillary Clinton trying to put together her resolutions for 2016 (h/t: Washington Examiner).

And here are some excerpts from an article from The Onion about a new gun-sharing program for the people of Chicago.

Touting the program’s convenience and affordability, Chicago officials unveiled Monday the city’s new gun-sharing service, “QuikShot,” which allows individuals to check out a loaded firearm for short periods of time. The municipal initiative, through which users can rent semiautomatic pistols, shotguns, rifles, and submachine guns at more than 250 self-service kiosks, has reportedly been designed to make firepower easily available to residents and tourists alike nearly everywhere within the city limits. …Users, however, are reportedly expected to provide their own protective Kevlar body armor.

Too bad it’s not really true.

If it was, maybe there wouldn’t be this giant gap between Chicago and Houston.

P.S. If you want common sense on guns, most cops have the right idea, as do some police chiefs.

P.P.S. And even some leftists, as you can see here, here, and here.

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