Reciprocity…

The House of Representatives has on deck this week, a bill known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. This bill says, in part, that a concealed carry permit issued by a citizen’s state of residence must be honored by the rest of the several states. It imposes limitations on this reciprocity in the case of people who are not eligible to possess a firearm under federal law (felons), those who are dangerously mentally ill, domestic abusers, and those who have several other disqualifying factors.

Suddenly the Democrats find themselves standing up as the party of state’s rights and the Republicans are the party pushing for federal law to supersede the will of states like New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, so called “may issue” states, where concealed permits are virtually impossible to get for the average citizen. Given the way the law is written, as an American citizen residing in the State of Maryland, this bill, if passed, does precisely nothing to allow me to carry concealed either within Maryland or in any other state. It does mean that residents of Pennsylvania, Delaware, or the District could carry their firearm concealed into the state based on permits issued by those jurisdictions.

I don’t buy that this should be a state’s rights issue any more than I buy that argument when it’s used in opposition any other Constitutionally protected right – same sex marriage, for example. The Constitution should apply equally to all people regardless of the state in which they reside – and that’s why I have a hard time supporting the CCRA.

From my vantage point here in Maryland, it creates a condition under federal law where a resident three miles away in Delaware is allowed to exercise a Constitutional right that I, living in Maryland, cannot. The solution in this case isn’t to overlay the current patchwork of state permits with another layer of federal law. The solution is for federal law to recognize that all citizens, with limitations spelled out clearly for felons, the mentally ill, etc, have the same rights and standing under the Constitution. The solution is for the Congress to recognize the inherent right to self-defense found in the 2nd Amendment and clarified by the Supreme Court’s Heller decision and legislate accordingly.

My reading is the CCRA is a half measure that adds complexity rather than clarity.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The Pope. The leader of an organization that has carved out a nation-state enclave for itself in the center of Rome, extracts immense financial tribute from every nation on earth, and defends itself behind… wait for it… walls, has implied that building a wall between the US and Mexico wouldn’t be the act of a Christian. Now the last time I was in Rome, in order to get into St. Peter’s Square I had to pass through metal detectors under the watchful eyes of armed guards. To get into St. Peter’s itself there was another line, admission tickets, and established entry procedures. It was the same at the Vatican museum. Now unless Francis has thrown open all the doors and is letting people wander the halls of Vatican City at will, I’d respectfully suggest he sit down, shut up, and let the Americans worry about how best to defend our own country’s borders. If expecting people to line up and follow the rules is good enough to enter the Vatican, surely the Holy Father shouldn’t object to other nations expecting those who wish entry to line up and follow the rules of that location too.

2. Term Limits. In the last week I’ve seen articles calling for term limits everywhere. Term limits for the Congress. Term limits for the Court. Term limits for state legislatures. The thing is, though, we have term limits baked right into the system. The Constitution provides term limits at the federal level in the form of elections. Every two years we have the option to throw out every single member of the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the United States Senate. Every fourth year we have the option to turn out the president. We the people make the consistent choice to throw almost none of them out and reelect the incumbents we claim to despise. So instead of using our votes, we clamber for yet another law to allow us to do something that’s already well within the scope of our power as citizens. We have term limits already, but refuse to use them as described in America’s damned owner’s manual.

3. Putting Words in My Mouth. Here’s some advice: Don’t do it. I’m wordy enough as it is and I’m more than happy to provide commentary on whatever someone might want to hear. As demonstrated by this nearly ten year long adventure in blogging, letting people know what’s on my mind or what I think about any given topic isn’t something from which I shy away. Believe me when I say I don’t need your assistance in this matter. In fact your assistance is most unnecessary and unwelcome. It’s apt to be met by a highly energetic and thoroughly negative response.

Rise up (or not)…

I like to think that somewhere beneath my polo shirt clad exterior lies a rebel heart. I want to imagine that if I were forced into making a choice between running the machine and tearing it down, I’d opt into the later group.

When I look at a few dozen western ranchers who decided to make their stand over issues of cheap grazing on federal lands, I realize I really don’t have much sympathy for rebellion – at least not as they have packaged and sold it. As much as I bitch and complain about the way things are, serving the machine has done well by me. Decent enough pay. Plenty of vacation time. Even a respectable, if not gold plated, retirement plan. There’s money to be made in rebellion, of course, but they tend to offer precious little by way of security.

I can certainly imagine circumstances where I might be tempted to take up arms in order to uphold my long ago oath to support and defend the Constitution, but those scenarios are exceptional. I enjoy rousing the rabble as much or more than the next guy, but rising up against lawfully constituted authority, it seems, is against my nature in except all but the most fractious of circumstances.

Hitching your star largely to issues of western range land management feels like grievances best redressed by the courts and doesn’t do much to inspire my inner revolutionary spirit. Bring me a cause with some real meat on the bone and I could be persuaded to get behind it with my life, fortune, and sacred honor. Going to the mat over a couple of convicted felons just seems like wasting good powder.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. When the Secretary of State of the United States of America resorts to calling out a 30 year old techno-geek to “man up,” I have fear for the future of American “diplomacy.” Setting aside my personal position on what Snowden did or didn’t do, it strikes me as something that’s simply beneath the dignity of the Secretary’s office. Maybe I just have a hard time thinking of Henry Kissinger or Madeleine Albright going on national television just to talk smack. Call me old fashioned, but I want my Secretary of State to be the clear, articulate, authoritative voice of America’s foreign policy. “Man up.” If that’s the best we can manage, the republic really might be lost.

2. Triage. It’s been a week of doing my best to prioritize a metric shitload of competing “very important” things to do. Now keep in mind, I have no actual idea if any of the decisions I’m making on the fly are right or not, but I’m making them. I’m just going to go with the policy of any decision is better than no decision and keep moving out until someone starts screaming at me. That should probably start any time now.

3. Gun Control. I’ve articulated this before, but it seems to bear repeating: A gun is just one another tool among the many others that man has devised. It doesn’t have a conscience. It doesn’t have intent, It’s a simple inanimate object. In the hands of someone who is trained and competent in it’s use, a firearm is the last, best line of defense for an individual. In the hands of a lunatic or criminal it magnifies their harmful intent. How an individual uses the tools at their disposal makes all the differences in the world. My real problem with most “control” advocates is they simply want to paint lawful owners and lunatics with the same broad “guns are bad” brush. Intelligent people on both sides can certainly have a difference of opinion, but until that dialog gets a hell of a lot more objective I will never give up my Constitutionally derived rights and I will never be silent on the subject.

Either or…

Yesterday, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) forwarded a memo to the heads of federal executive departments and agencies instructing them to prepare for a government-wide shutdown beginning on October 1st. Congress seems prepared to once again neglect one of the only specific duties it has by failing to pass a budget to fund the government into the new fiscal year. I only wish I could say that such asshattery from our alleged political leaders is surprising. I think at this point, I’d actually be more surprised if they could collectively manage to do something that was in the best interests of the country.

After enduring an ongoing hiring freeze, three+ years of frozen pay, furloughs, and no discussion of a plan to repeal nine more years of sequestration-driven budget cuts, an all out federal shutdown really just feels like par on this ridiculously stupid course. Add a dysfunctional legislative branch, an executive who would cut down every constitutional right in the book to advance his agenda, and an almost universally apathetic electorate, well, maybe we’re getting exactly the kind of “leadership” we deserve as a country.

On the whole I’m finding it more and more difficult to figure out if I’m a professional serving the world’s oldest operating constitutional republic or an extra just passing through an increasingly farcical two bit comedy.

But not the others…

One of the worst arguments I’ve seen repeatedly in the gun control debate over the last six months almost always goes along the lines of: Well, you have to have a license to drive a car, so why not a license to own a gun? The thing is, the Constitution does not specifically address your right to transportation – by car, horse and buggy, train, air, slow boat, or on foot. Ownership of a car does not require licensure or permission from the state or federal government. If a 15 year old has the coin in his pocket (and his parent’s permission as a minor), he can buy and possess any car on the lot. Licensing drivers conveys the privilege to operate the car on the roads, not the “right” to own it in the first place.

Since gun ownership is a right defined by the Constitution, the more analogous argument would be in requiring a state and or federal license to speak publically. Since words are so often used to bully people and that bullying directly results in emotional and physical harm up to and including suicide, before someone is allowed to exercise their “right to free speech,” they should be required to take a four hour word safety course and obtain a license from their state indicating that they understand how harmful words can be. Perhaps we should also extend the licensing requirement to the right to vote, since elections, too, have real world consequences. In order to exercise your vote as a citizen, you should be required to show identification and pass an exam showing a minimum proficiency and understanding of the issues of the day. Since we’re free to abridge one constitutionally protected right, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be equally free to abridge the others in order to make the world a safer, more harmonious place.

As much as I hate to say it, for me it’s not a pro-gun/anti-gun position that’s the real issue here. I would be every bit as apoplectic if the state and federal government were trying to restrict the other right that I enjoy as a free citizen of the United States of America. The right to keep and bear arms is just the one that the powers that be have decided to come after first. I’m a good enough student of history to know that once one right falls, the others are all the more endangered. I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with how people can love some freedoms, but not the others.

Spectacle…

I philosophically disagree with nearly every one of the president’s major policy initiatives. I strongly supported his opponent during the election and I will continue to speak my mind here and to my elected representatives voicing that opposition. I think for a few minutes today we can all stop the rhetoric and look at what a remarkable moment an inauguration really is. When a president isn’t reelected, it represents a peaceful transfer of power, from one person to another, and often from one party as another. For all the acrimony in our inauguration-270x270politics, the fact that we can still manage it without tanks in the streets probably speaks more to the wisdom of the Framers than it does to our own clearly limited amount of national self control.

Even second term inaugurations are something special – an elected leader, a man we imbue with seemingly absolute power – comes before the people, and swears to uphold and defend the Constitution. We can debate how well or poorly he manages to do that over the next four years, but for today, we should simply agree what a remarkable feature of republican government that really is. Our leaders don’t swear to do a good job, or be popular, but to defend the very idea of self government. That’s heady stuff… but it’s our job as the body politic to hold them accountable for it.

Most of us never swear an oath to support and defend the constitution (though a few of us do), but it’s an inherent responsibility in or collective role as citizens of the republic. So, today, let’s enjoy the spectacle that is the inauguration of an American president. And tomorrow let’s get on with the hard work of being actual participants in the process.