A loss, is a tie, is a win.

August 20, 2014

The Connecticut Bar Association voted on whether to sign onto a brief in support of a firearms law. The House of Delegates voted yes, 2-1, but there was a referendum petition. A vote was taken. By a vote of 734-729 (5 votes), the members voted to join the brief. Those opposed to signing the brief technically lost. Yet, the CBA President called it a tie, in light of the close vote. The practical result: the CBA will not sign the brief and the opposition effectively wins.

There’s a logic to it, but it is a curious thing.

https://ctbar.site-ym.com/news/187606/Shew-v.-Malloy-Referendum-Results.htm


Proving Yourself Wrong About Things You Think You’re Right About

December 20, 2012

By Christopher Duston

This is a story about hypothesis and fact-checking on the gun-violence debate. And about how proving you are wrong about something is better the thinking you are right.

I was listening to an interview on NPR with Jack Levin, a sociologist and criminologist from Northwestern Northeastern University in Boston. He commented that there are not very many similarities between the shooters in these mass killings, making it hard for policy-makers to target the problem. However, he said most of them had some kind of “history of depression.” I did not verify the accuracy of that statement, but that suddenly made sense to me – it is at least believable that citizens in a 21st century United States face new social, economic, and technological challenges that could increase the rate of depression.

The details of this depression-link (if it even exists) would be very complicated, but if we claim that it is because of some kind of major change in our society, we should look for an indicator that detects such large scale phenomena. In other words, it can’t just be the growing income gap that is causing us to unleash outlandish violence against each other.

So we need something that will measure the “total health of a society”; such things exist, for instance the Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI), which takes into account various factors such as economy, healthcare, and personal freedom. This seems like something that would track what I’m interested in, since the basic claim is that there are a number of different factors, which together contribute to an increase in gun violence.

And, the great thing about the LPI is that Wikipedia lists the top 30 (and bottom 20) countries for the years 2012-2008. You don’t need a degree in criminology or a class in statistics to look at numbers.

We want to compare to gun violence rates; again, Wikipedia helps! You can get the firearm-related death rate (per 100,000 population). You can even sort it. (Although, this is ALL firearm-related deaths; I am not isolating mass shootings. In this case, Wikipedia’s entries are so detailed that broad categorization is hard).

So, with the most basic data analysis software you can imagine (Google Docs), I made a spreadsheet of the LPI rank of each country and their firearm-related death rate. I was already writing my segment as a guest on Rachael Maddow…but then I made the plot. Well I was wrong. As you can see, there is zero correlation between the LPI rank and firearm-related deaths.

GunViolencevsLPI

But this doesn’t mean we didn’t learn anything. The LPI is not a discriminating enough tool; my interpretation is therefore that gun violence is not connected to “quality of life,” broadly defined. Of course, there are all kinds of other possibilities, but this is a simple analysis, and so I restrict myself to simple (and imprecise) statements.

I’m not saying there is a complete lack of analyses out there about the violent nature of the United States – I won’t do a literature search, but good people certainly work on the problem. However, with the democratization of data, we need to acknowledge that no one should be allowed to get away with statements that are not backed up by at least a minimum of quantitative analysis. This analysis took me about 35 minutes. I just came up with something I thought was brilliant, hopped over to Wikipedia to mine some data, plotted it using a FREE online service, and proved myself wrong. Study over.

Police yourself!

PS: One guess as to which blue dot is the U.S. Yup, it’s that one. Yeah, we have less gun violence per capita than the likes of Mexico (LPI rank 61), Brazil (44), and Colombia (69), but that is not the group we should be in.

Christopher Duston is a graduate student in the physics department at Florida State University. His research focuses on mathematical physics and quantum gravity, and he will receive his Ph.D. in May 2013.


Most Extreme “Terrorist Threat” Story?

February 18, 2011

by Charles Platt

Of course this is only one side of the story. But since it emanates from a law firm, I hope it is at least factually sound. I sure hope Murtha&Murtha are around to defend me when it’s my turn.


WTF NJ?

December 3, 2010

The NRA reports that a guy just got 8 years in prison for having guns in locked cases, which he was transporting from one house to another, while moving. New Jersey’s restrictive gun laws provide an exception for just this situation, but the NRA claims that the judge refused to tell the jury that. (source)

Update: Reason has a more fleshed out discussion of the case here.


First Amendment meets Second Amendment

July 24, 2010

The sheriff of Osceola County, Iowa denied a concealed weapons permit to Paul Dorr because he engaged in too much protesting, passing out leaflets, and writing letters to the editor. (source)

U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett wasn’t having any of that.

Sheriff Weber’s rationale for denying the permit was reported as “concern from public. Don’t trust him.” (source). This was despite the fact that Dorr held a permit for a number of years, apparently without incident. Sheriff Weber informed Dorr that he would deny future applications as well.

Weber testified that he had heard people refer to Paul as “a whacko, delusional, a nut job, a spook, and narcissist,” Bennett’s decision noted. “Regardless of the adjective used to describe Paul, however, Sheriff Weber stated that Paul’s ‘lousy’ reputation was due to his political activities of writing letters to the editor and distributing fliers.”

The ruling continued, “Giving Sheriff Weber more deference than is due his elected status, the court finds that Sheriff Weber denied Paul’s application for a concealed weapons permit not because of the content of his First Amendment activity but because it was effective and agitated many members of the local community.”

And, Bennett said, “In denying Paul a concealed weapons permit, Sheriff Weber single-handedly hijacked the First Amendment and nullified its freedoms and protections. Ironically, Sheriff Weber, sworn to uphold the Constitution, in fact retaliated against a citizen of his county who used this important freedom of speech and association precisely in the manner envisioned by the founding members of our nation … (source)

In finding for Dorr, Judge Bennett also ordered Sheriff Weber to attend a remedial course on Constitutional law!

Let’s hear it for Judge Bennett!


Individual Rights? Forget Heller

August 14, 2008

By Jonathon Blevins,
Legal Satyricon Second Amendment Correspondent

As first reported here and here, the Second Amendment does not act (currently) as a restriction on the states’ power to regulate the right to keep and bear arms. The Heller decision simply laid the foundation for the eventual incorporation of the Second Amendment via the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, unless you live in D.C. or are currently under Federal jurisdiction, Heller is not a shield from government intrusion.

A current illustration of the lack of protection comes from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. See FN 2. The case demonstrates that while the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, it is not a restraint on the individual states. For an analysis on the available constitutional restrictions please see post. However, this post will exclusively concern the incorporation doctrine as it applies, or should apply to the Second Amendment.

Read the rest of this entry »


Heller in Wisconsin

August 7, 2008

By Jonathon Blevins,
Legal Satyricon Second Amendment Correspondent

Recently, the Eastern District of Wisconsin denied a felon’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Kenneth Robinson plead guilty to possession of a firearm as a felon. See Case. The motion stated that in light of District of Columbia v. Heller 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008), the federal regulation of firearm possession by felons, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(g)(1), is unconstitutional as applied. The statute states, “it shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . [to] possess in or affecting commerce any firearm or ammunition.”

The defendant, Mr. Robinson, argues that he can withdraw his guilty plea because his crime is no longer a crime. Mr. Robinson is incorrect. The statute remains valid on its face and as applied to Mr. Robinson.

Heller is parsimonious in application. The decision invalidated an absolute ban on handgun possession. The Supreme Court was careful to allow for reasonable regulation of the “new” individual right to keep and bear arms. Thus, the federal government lost the power to ban handgun possession but retained the power to regulate possession. The Eastern District of Wisconsin does a good job explaining the flaws in Mr. Robinson’s argument based on Heller. However, Mr. Robinson would be incorrect prior to Heller.

Even prior to Heller, Courts traditionally subjected laws regulating the right to keep and bear arms to a “reasonable regulation” standard of review. See Parker, 478 F.3d 370, 399 (D.C. Cir. 2007). Under this standard, courts should invalidate a gun law if it is arbitrary or so restrictive that it “eviscerates,” renders “nugatory,” or results in the effective “destruction of the right to bear arms.” See, e.g., State v. Hamdan, 665 N.W.2d 785 (Wis. 2003).

Such courts, applying a reasonableness standard, all recognized, “[t]he police power cannot [ ] be invoked in such a manner that it amounts to the destruction of the right to bear arms.” State v. McAdams, 714 P.2d 1236, 1237 (Wyo.1986). Under this standard, courts traditionally upheld gun control laws in limited situations banning only: 1) a limited class of persons from possessing firearms i.e. felons and intoxicated persons; 2) particular types of firearms; 3) the carrying of concealed firearms outside of one’s home or office; and 4) the transportation of loaded firearms. See, e.g., Johnson, 497 F.2d at 550 (upholding a statute restricting felon access to firearms). As Parker explained, states may impose such “time, place, and manner restrictions” on the right to keep and bear arms because they are “presumably reasonable.” 478 F.3d at 399. The restrictions on the Second Amendment right are parallel to those imposed on First Amendment rights. See What Does D.C. v. Heller mean for *First* Amendment Rights.

It appears that Mr. Robinson has little recourse based on court precedent pre and post Heller. While the Supreme Court ruled that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, it did not deem the right absolute. Certain restrictions are allowed including those levied on Mr. Robinson.


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