You’re Not Helping

The new Fox & Friends host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck (formerly the lone conservative on ABC’s The View) suggested during the Tuesday morning show that “the left” was trying to make Monday?s mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard about “gun control.” Instead she pointed out that the country doesn’t need a national registry for guns, it needs one for to [sic] track video game purchases.

As a gun owner and a gamer, I find remarks like this to be firmly in the “you’re not helping” category. Millions of people in the country (and many more all over the world) — including myself — enjoy playing video games, including those with violent content. The vast, overwhelming majority of gamers are ordinary people who go about their lives without harming anyone.
Is there some overlap between violent madmen and those who play video games? Almost certainly, just as there’s some overlap between violent madmen and those who use toothpaste, watch movies, hold particular religious beliefs, listen to certain musical groups, hold a specific political view, etc. However, as far as I’m aware, there’s no conclusive evidence that any of these things have a causal relationship with violent outcomes.
As fellow gun-rights supporters have pointed out, violent crime rates have dropped over the last few decades while the number of privately-owned guns has increased. Over the same time period the sale of video games, including violent ones, has also increased as has their realism and detail.
Blaming video games for violent crime is a bold claim. Is it possible? Perhaps, but if I may quote Carl Sagan, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Such evidence is not forthcoming. Making unsupported claims of this type is silly, counterproductive, and makes gun-rights advocates look absurd by association.

Arizona news: HB 2455 gets signed!

Excellent news!?HB 2455 passed!
HB 2455 clarifies that firearms surrendered?voluntarily?to police (for example, as a result of a “gun buy back” program) cannot be destroyed and must (assuming they’re legal and not stolen) be sold to licensed dealers who can in turn sell them to private citizens who pass a NICS check.
Previously, the police were only prohibited from destroying guns that were “recovered, lost, or abandoned” and there was some confusion as to whether or not guns that were?voluntarily?surrendered to police were “abandoned” — this bill clarifies the issue by adding “surrendered” and “or otherwise received”.
Many thanks to the AzCDL, the state legislature, and the governor?for getting this done!

Gun Control Fails

Thanks to the efforts of Sebastian and Bitter over at SNBQ to liveblog the recent Senate vote and by streaming C-SPAN live video, I was able to watch the various restrictive gun control measures fail.
I was worried about the Toomey-Manchin amendment, as it would likely have been the basis for even more restrictive gun control, and given the momentum to the anti-gun-rights groups. Fortunately, all the measures failed, with Feinstein’s AWB and the magazine limit bill both failing to achieve even a simple majority.
Well done, everyone. The side of liberty won this time, but we must remain vigilant.

Outside the Asylum

Since I moved out of the United States I haven’t been following American politics as much as I used to. Most of the local media here is in German, which I’m not very good at reading, and I’ve been too busy to keep up on anything other than the major headlines from US and global English-language news.
Normally I’m not very involved in politics as I find the day-to-day workings of politics to be distasteful (not to mention that having political discussions with people is usually pointless and frustrating), but I had some free time recently and was catching up on news relating to the November election.
The Democrats haven’t really changed much, and have basically remained the center-right party (( For decades they’ve been “center-right” on a global scale. )) they’ve been for years. The Republicans, however, have lost their collective minds and are basically catering to the lunatic fringe. The Democrats haven’t really changed their message all that much, but the things the Republican candidates have been saying recently is downright chilling. Things really have taken a turn for the crazy recently, particularly with the Republicans. The Democrats have hardly been angels either, but Republicans at the national level have really gone off the deep end.
There has been a definite vibe of “I have to oppose $LEGISLATION, even though it may be beneficial and good, because $OTHER_PARTY suggested it!” going on in American politics, and it needs to stop. Politics should not be like supporting your favorite sports team and demonizing your favorite opponent (( My wife is a die-hard Boston Red Socks fan, and loathes the New York Yankees with the burning passion of a thousand desert suns. )) — there needs to be compromise, cooperation, and consensus from everyone involved.
Similarly, there’s a strong “Not Invented Here” thing going on: if a proposal is made based on something that’s been beneficial in Canada or Europe, it’s likely that many Americans will oppose it outright without really considering the idea. Sure, not everything that works in Europe, Canada, or other places in the world will work with the United States (( For example, high-speed intercity trains make a lot of sense in smaller, more densely populated European countries and in the Northeastern Corridor of the US, but are impractically slow for transcontinental passenger traffic in North America due to the great distances involved.)), there’s many ideas that make sense that simply aren’t considered. If the US is going to remain prosperous, we need to improve our country by considering good ideas regardless of the source.
While the two-party system that is firmly entrenched in US politics is unlikely to go away anytime soon (( Though it might be interesting if the US had a more “parliamentary-style” style of government, where the legislature is composed of many parties based on the percentage of votes and several parties need to form alliances to advance mutually agreeable causes, rather than just two parties where the “first past the post” wins. )) , this hyper-partisianship is damaging and destructive.
I recognize that politicians aren’t experts on all subjects (and that in general, experts on a particular subject would make terrible politicians), but wouldn’t it be better for everyone if politicians would consult experts before proposing legislation? It’s not necessary for someone to be an expert mechanic to operate a car, but having some basic operational knowledge about the subject (how to change a tire, knowing that it’s necessary to have the car serviced at regular intervals, etc.) is useful, as is having an expert that one can ask if one has car troubles.
Politicians shouldn’t need to be expert mathematicians, but it’s not ok for legislators to not know basic math. Similarly, I don’t expect politicians to be experts on internet infrastructure, but being proudly ignorant of how the internet works and actively shunning experts because their factual statements disagree with your ideology (or that of those who are making “campaign contributions”) is not ok.
Letting ideology and ego (not to mention corruption) get in the way of facts and good policy is terrible. Doing otherwise is an invitation to disaster.

Swiss no longer keep military ammo at home

It is well known that the Swiss are a prickly bunch: military service is mandatory for able-bodied males and those military members keep their army-issue rifles at home.
They also keep a sealed package of 50 rifle rounds to enable them to fight to the nearest armory if the need arises. Well, they kept ammo at home: during an enjoyable evening with a friendly Swiss couple in Z?rich the topic of military service came up. My friend mentioned that sometime last year, the military took back the sealed ammo box and soldiers no longer keep military-issue ammo at home.
Of course, privately owned ammo and firearms are allowed, and both recreational and competitive shooting is about as common here as baseball is in the US.
There’s been discussion in the legislature recently that military rifles should no longer be kept at home (for safety purposes, say advocates of the restriction), but not much progress has been made along those lines: keeping military rifles at home is widely felt to be a Swiss cultural institution.


The House of Representatives and the Senate are considering several “internet blacklist” bills — “PROTECT-IP” in the Senate, and “Stop Online Piracy Act” (“SOPA”) in the House.
If passed, these laws would have a devastating effect on free speech, internet infrastructure, privacy, and current “safe harbor” provisions for websites all while doing little to stop the availability of pirated content.
To quote the EFF:

As drafted, the legislation would grant the government and private parties unprecedented power to interfere with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). The government would be able to force ISPs and search engines to redirect or dump users’ attempts to reach certain websites’ URLs. In response, third parties will woo average users to alternative servers that offer access to the entire Internet (not just the newly censored U.S. version), which will create new computer security vulnerabilities as the reliability and universality of the DNS evaporates.
It gets worse: Under SOPA’s provisions, service providers (including hosting services) would be under new pressure to monitor and police their users? activities.? While PROTECT-IP targeted sites ?dedicated to infringing activities,? SOPA targets websites that simply don?t do enough to track and police infringement (and it is not at all clear what would be enough).? And it creates new powers to shut down folks who provide tools to help users get access to the Internet the rest of the world sees (not just the ?U.S. authorized version?).

I find it terrifying that the US government is even considering such a blatant censorship scheme. This sounds like something one would expect from oppressive regimes, not from a Western nation, and certainly not from the U
Please, contact your Representatives and Senators. This is a Big Deal.

Interesting Tax Receipt

For a while, I’ve wished I could get an itemized (or at least categorized) receipt from the IRS detailing where my various Federal (and state, though that wouldn’t be from the IRS) taxes go. It wouldn’t have to be incredibly detailed (e.g. $0.000013 of your taxes go to Private Snuffy’s food on June 12, 2011), but provide a reasonable breakdown.
Evidently the White House has had such a utility?since around the time of his State of the Union address. Nifty.

Gov. Brewer Vetoes SB 1467

The Arizona Republic reports that Governor Brewer has vetoed SB 1467, citing vagueness in defining “public right-of-way”.
That said, the definition is somewhat vague. A.R.S. ? 9-461 defines “right-of-way” as “any public right-of-way and includes any area required for public use pursuant to any general or specific plan”. Somewhat circular reasoning.
Naturally, all the anti-rights folks (both on-campus and off) are focusing on unexplained statements (( For example, “Guns have no place in school!”, without explaining how it’s fine for people to carry guns on a public sidewalk on any non-campus street in the state, but is somehow worse to have the same people carrying the same guns on a public sidewalk on-campus. )), emotional claims, and irrelevant refererences to the incident where Congresswoman Giffords and others were shot (( It’s already illegal to commit murder and attempted murder, yet that law didn’t seem to stop the shooter. How are stickers declaring a campus to be a “weapon free zone” going to be any better? Criminals would ignore them; only the law-abiding would obey those rules.)) as that incident and empowering the law-abiding to lawfully carry, if they choose, on public areas of a campus have essentially nothing to do with each other. Go figure.
The Arizona Republic also provided some interesting information:

Brewer’s office was inundated with calls about the bill.
Between April 7 and April 13, the Governor’s Office of Constituent Services received 904 calls, letters and faxes in support of SB 1467 and 951 in opposition to it, a Brewer spokeswoman said.

It’s rare to get actual quantitative information about support/opposition to a bill. While it’s unlikely that the absolute number of support/opposition letters had any direct bearing on the governor’s decision, it’s still nice to get some numbers of what was received by her office. Although I oppose the governor’s veto, the fact that this information was released is a good thing. Well done!
In addition, the governor vetoed the absurd “birther” bill that the legislature sent to her desk. Again, well done. The fact that such a bill was not only proposed, but actually passed out of the legislature is quite embarrassing and reflects poorly on the state and the legislature.

More SB 1467 Information

I’ve been getting a lot of traffic recently to my post about SB 1467 so I thought it would be prudent to do a follow-up with some (hopefully) useful information.
First off, while the bill is often publicized as allowing “guns in the classroom”, that is not the case. Rather, the bill simply adds a section to the existing law which says:

Notwithstanding subsection D of this section and section 15?341, the governing board of an educational institution shall not adopt or enforce any policy or rule that prohibits the lawful possession or carrying of a weapon on a public right-of-way.

In short, if one can legally possess or carry a firearm off-campus, one would then be able to possess or carry a firearm on a sidewalk, street, or other public place on-campus. Possession of firearms in the classroom would continue to be prohibited.
According to the Arizona State Legislature’s fact sheet about the bill, there are two caveats:

  1. The bill does not “preclude school districts from conducting approved gun safety programs on school campuses” which would presumably be held in classrooms and presumably involve the presence of actual (albeit unloaded) firearms.
  2. The bill does not “apply to private universities, colleges, high schools or common schools or other private educational institutions (A.R.S. ? 13-2911).”

Honestly, I can’t really see how this would be remotely controversial — law-abiding people can already carry in public places in Arizona, why should they be prohibited from carrying in a public place on campus? If one can legally walk down a sidewalk on a public street while discretely armed, why can’t one do the same on a sidewalk on a public university? It makes no sense for the same action to be legal on one side of a street, but illegal on the other side.
All the official information about the bill itself can be found at the Arizona State Legislature website for the bill.