Sorry. They *Are* Coming For Our Guns

Whenever conservatives oppose a gun control law, we are mocked in the media for our delusions that “they’re cummin’ for yer guns!” Mother Jones included this in their list of ten gun control myths (that weren’t really myths).

Well ….

Yesterday California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that strips people of their Second Amendment rights based on claims that they pose a danger to themselves or others. Under AB 1014, a cop or “an immediate family member”—which includes not just spouses, children, siblings, and parents but also in-laws and roommates, both current and former—can seek a “gun violence restraining order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms and authorizes police to seize any he currently owns. Such an order can initially be obtained without any notice or adversarial process.

The guns will be taken away for three weeks after which the petitioner will have to convince a judge by “clear and convincing evidence” — not “beyond a reasonable doubt” — that he can’t be trusted with guns. After that, a one-year restraining order is issued that can be renewed every year. I’m sure this will work out as well as asset forfeiture has.

I’ll give you three guesses as to why this law was passed:

Assembly Bill 1014, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, was the Legislature’s central response to the lethal shooting in May near the University of California, Santa Barbara. It will allow family members of someone who is displaying signs of mental instability to request a court order temporarily barring gun use and purchase.

Families of people killed in Isla Vista had lobbied for the bill at the Capitol, and Skinner cheered Brown’s action Tuesday.

As I have said any time a mass shooting occurs, these events are are rare and any legislation designed to prevent them is unlikely to do so. Law passed in the wake of a mass shooting — or any mass tragedy — are almost always laws that some interest group has wanted for years and finally has an opportunity to ram through. Whether it’s grabbing guns, arming teachers or locking down schools, it’s simple political opportunism.

(Another provision requires toy guns sold in California to be brightly colored because of incidents in which cops have shot kids carrying toy guns. Because God forbid we should train cops not to shoot first and ask questions later.)

It’s not unreasonable to take away the guns of someone who is mentally unstable. The problem is that the standard here has been set pretty low. Cops have to have “reasonable cause” to get a judge to issue the order. But our system defers to cops’ judgement in almost every circumstance. Judges have routinely issued warrants for violent no-knock raids based on the ramblings of drug addicts and the justifications of criminals. Juries refuse to indict cops who gun down unarmed people on video. Unions and politicians rally behind cops even when bad behavior is proven and quietly pay millions to cover up abuse rather than deal with it. If a judge will let police launch a SWAT raid because a meth addict says someone is dealing; if they’ll excuse the resulting bloodshed because the cops “acted in good faith”; if prosecutors and juries will refuse to punish cops even when abuse is proven … why on Earth would anyone stop cops from grabbing someone’s guns if they claim an Isla Vista rampage is imminent?

This is the problem with how people approach infringements on our liberty. They see what they want — guns being taken away from crazy people — and miss what’s actually going to happen: the law will be given yet another tool with which to attack our basic freedom.

In fact, this point is so obvious, you have to wonder if that’s the point. Remember that the gun grabbers want a society in which no one is allowed to have a gun unless they can justify it to the government. It’s not that hard to see the infrastructure being put in place for such a society. They only need a couple more seats on the Supreme Court to make it happen.


We Demand Compromised Security!

A few weeks ago, Apple announced that their new OS encrypts data so that Apple literally can not access it without the user’s permission. Google followed by announcing their new Android OS will do the same thing. This has been done ostensibly to prevent the government from forcing Apple to divulge information stored in someone’s accounts. This might prevent law enforcement from executing a search warrant delivered to the company. It might also, however, block agencies from getting phone data without a warrant or notification of the user, as they are want to.

Naturally, law enforcement types don’t like this. Their supporters are up in arms over Apple “enabling criminals” by forcing the government to get a warrant and get your password if they want to search your electronic persons, papers, houses and effects. So the WaPo has proposed a “compromise”:

How to resolve this? A police “back door” for all smartphones is undesirable — a back door can and will be exploited by bad guys, too. However, with all their wizardry, perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant. Ultimately, Congress could act and force the issue, but we’d rather see it resolved in law enforcement collaboration with the manufacturers and in a way that protects all three of the forces at work: technology, privacy and rule of law.

In short, the WaPo wants the technically impossible: a backdoor that isn’t really a backdoor. And we should entrust this backdoor into every phone in the country to law enforcement — comprising God knows how many people. We should entrust this backdoor to a group of people who recently did this:

For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online.

Police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the disc to families for free at schools, libraries, and community events, usually as a part of an “Internet Safety” outreach initiative. The packaging typically features the agency’s official seal and the chief’s portrait, with a signed message warning of the “dark and dangerous off-ramps” of the Internet.

As official as it looks, ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies.

Calling it “spyware” is a nice term of art. A more precise description is that it is a keylogger which transmits to third-party servers — without encryption — every key typed on a computer. Passwords, private communications, credit card numbers … all of that is transmitted in clear text. If your child (or you) use a laptop with this malware and someone has a basic packet sniffer nearby, they could take over your life.

(The cops have responded to the EFF, claiming that only an “ultra-liberal” organization who is “more interested in protecting predators and pedophiles than in protecting our children” should care that their software is one of the most unsafe things you could put on your computer.)

This is the group we should trust with backdoors to every cell phone in the country, according to the WaPo.

Holder Out

Eric Holder has stepped down as Attorney General. I believe he is the only cabinet member to be held in Contempt of Congress for his role in Operation Fast and Furious. He also dropped the investigation into the New Black Panthers, declined to prosecute any of the people responsible for the financial crisis, led monitoring of the media including James Rosen, continued to persecute medical marijuana clinics and helped preside over one of the more lawless administrations I can remember.

But I’ll be nice and hope the door doesn’t hit him in the ass on the way out. Or at least, doesn’t him too hard.

Perry Under the Gun

So this happened:

A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official. The charges are linked to his push for Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, to resign after she was arrested for drunk driving last year.

The case focused on Perry’s threat to veto funding to Lehmberg’s office unless she resigned. Perry eventually made good on that threat, vetoing $7.5 million that would have gone to the Public Integrity Unit in Lehmberg’s office, the Dallas Morning News’ Christy Hoppe explains. He justified the veto by pointing to Lehmberg’s April 2013 arrest for drunk driving, for which she pled guilty and received a 45-day sentence. As a result of the veto, several employees in Lehmberg’s office were either reassigned or lost their jobs, the Austin American Statesman reports.

The DWI incident was not one where Lehmberg had an extra wine cooler and was busted on a technicality. Rosemary Lehmberg was completely hammered when she got behind the wheel of a car and drove the wrong way down an Austin street. She had an open bottle of vodka on her and blew a staggering 0.23. Video shows her as stumbling, belligerent and fighting with the cops. More disturbingly, she keeps telling them to call the Travis County Sheriff as though expecting him to spring her. That’s called abuse of power. Perry was right to demand her resignation.

It does seem a bit capricious for Perry to withhold funds because from an office because of the behavior of its lead. I can see why people might not like his decision to veto the funding for her office. The problem is … it’s not illegal.

the Texas Constitution expressly reserves the veto power to the governor. The governor is entitled to decide which laws he “approv[es]” and which he disapproves — without constraint from the legislature, or from county-level district attorneys. The legislature certainly can’t make it a crime for the governor to veto its appropriation bills; that would deny the governor the power that the Texas Constitution gives him.

Nor can the legislature make it a crime, I think, for the governor to veto its appropriation bills as an attempt to influence some government official’s behavior — behavior that is commonplace in the political process, and that is likewise within the governor’s exclusive power to decide which bills to give his “approval.” To be sure, the legislature can make it a crime for the governor to accept bribes in exchange for a veto; but there the crime is the acceptance of the bribe, not the veto itself.

Lest you think I’m being selective, here’s Patterico, Chait and Rubin. I have yet to see a legal blogger — even on the lefty blogs gleefully celebrating the indictment — who thinks this indictment isn’t a giant flaming piece of crap (and most likely retaliation from Travis County).

I’d just write this off as standard political crap except that we’ve seen this before. Earlier this year, prosecutors gleefully announced that Scott Walker was the center of a giant criminal scheme only to admit days later that he was not a target of their investigation (said investigation having been rejected twice by judges before a sympathetic one allowed it to proceed). And then there is the “Bridgegate” scandal with Chris Christie which has yet to produce anything implicating the governor.

What these three men have in common is that they are all leading candidates for the 2016 Presidential nomination. All three governors are (or were) popular and all three will have long terms at their backs in 2016. Perry was, in fact, a favored candidate in 2012 until he imploded during a debate.

Is it an accident that the Democrats are engaging in “lawfare” against these guys? Should we expect some charges to be brought against Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio?

Stay tuned. I don’t think this is over yet.

Want Help? Ask Conservatives

Everyone know that only Democrats care about minorities. Everyone knows that only Democrats care about the poor. Everyone know that only Democrats care about women. Republicans just like to cruise around in their limos laughing at the plight of those less fortunate than them. Meanwhile, Democrats can’t sleep at night because they are so worried about the oppressed masses. Right? Right?

Let me introduce you to Shaneen Allen:

Last October, Shaneen Allen, 27, was pulled over in Atlantic County, N.J. The officer who pulled her over says she made an unsafe lane change. During the stop, Allen informed the officer that she was a resident of Pennsylvania and had a conceal carry permit in her home state. She also had a handgun in her car. Had she been in Pennsylvania, having the gun in the car would have been perfectly legal. But Allen was pulled over in New Jersey, home to some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States.

Allen is a black single mother. She has two kids. She has no prior criminal record. Before her arrest, she worked as a phlebobotomist. After she was robbed two times in the span of about a year, she purchased the gun to protect herself and her family. There is zero evidence that Allen intended to use the gun for any other purpose. Yet Allen was arrested. She spent 40 days in jail before she was released on bail. She’s now facing a felony charge that, if convicted, would bring a three-year mandatory minimum prison term.

There is a wide prosecutorial discretion here (more on that in a moment) but it looks like the prosecutor is going to throw the book at her. Allen is the kind of person the Left is supposed to be in a tizzy over — a single working mom doing her best who is about to be crushed by the system. But the liberal Ecosphere has said little, if anything, about her. You know who is taking up her cause? If you said conservatives and libertarians, move to the front of the class. Here is National Review, for example, trying to make her case a national issue. True, this is because conservatives believe in gun rights and the second amendment. But they also believe in justice. And there is a growing awareness of the massive disparities in how gun laws are enforced.

As it turns out, Allen’s case isn’t unusual at all. Although white people occasionally do become the victims of overly broad gun laws (for example, see the outrageous prosecution of Brian Aitken, also in New Jersey), the typical person arrested for gun crimes is more likely to have the complexion of Shaneen Allen than, say, Sarah Palin. Last year, 47.3 percent of those convicted for federal gun crimes were black — a racial disparity larger than any other class of federal crimes, including drug crimes. In a 2011 report on mandatory minimum sentencing for gun crimes, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that blacks were far more likely to be charged and convicted of federal gun crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. They were also more likely to be hit with “enhancement” penalties that added to their sentences. In fact, the racial discrepancy for mandatory minimums was even higher than the aforementioned disparity for federal gun crimes in general.

This isn’t just a matter of black people committing more crimes. In cases where the prosecution is discretionary — such as the enhancement penalties — this is far more likely to happen to black criminals than white ones. And conservatives like Rand Paul have been making this point more and more forcefully of late.

Oh, speaking of Rand Paul … Just last week, Jon Stewart discovered civil asset forfeiture, the process by which the government can seize your property or money by alleging it has committed a crime (that’s not a typo; they literally charge the property with a crime). It will surprise no one that while asset forfeiture casts a wide net, it also has a tendency to fall heaviest on minorities and on poor people who can’t fight back. Anyone want to guess the party affiliation of the man who has proposed to overhaul asset forfeiture law and give people greater civil service protections?

The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.

It’s not perfect. But it’s a huge improvement over the existing regime, where local law enforcement can bypass state regs by turning the seized money over to federal agents, who take a cut and give it directly back the law enforcement agencies.

But there’s still more. Let’s move away from crime and toward poverty itself. Last week, Paul Ryan suggested a new set of policies to try to reduce poverty. He would consolidate numerous programs into block grants to the states, expand the EITC, reduce regulations and push criminal sentencing reform. Even some liberals are admitting these are good ideas. They will reward work and expand opportunity — the two things the poor need a hell of a lot more than slightly larger piles of government cash.

There’s been some controversy over Ryan’s proposal to have chronically poor people meet with councilors who will help them improve their lives. But as Megan McArdle points out, while the chronically poor are a small part of the poor, they consume a huge chunk of the benefits. And it is chronic generational poverty that is the true suffering. Ryan’s plan sounds a bit too paternalistic to me. But it’s got to be better than the absent father method our current system upholds where we just throw money at poor people and hope it will magically make them unpoor.

So in just the last week, we’ve seen conservatives oppose arbitrary ruinous enforcement of gun laws, oppose asset forfeiture and propose a new version of welfare reform (after the last one lifted millions out of poverty). You add this to the ongoing push for school choice and you have a platform that would greatly enhance freedom and opportunity for millions of people, most of who are poorer and darker-skinned than your typical Republican.

And the Democratic Party? Well, their big issue right now is trying to save the corporate welfare that is the Ex-Im bank.

Look, I’m not going to pretend the Republican Party is perfect on these issues or any other issue. And there are plenty of Democrats who support the above policies. What I am going to suggest, however, is that the caricature of the GOP specifically and conservatives in general as uncaring racist sociopaths is absurd.

Update: This isn’t strictly related, but you know how Democrats have been whining about the cost of higher ed and the burden it is imposing on the middle class? Well evil conservative Republican Mitch Daniels is not whining, he’s doing something about it.