Reader Mail

Bulleted Brief

Letters from gun nuts. Mitt's women. Deroy Murdock on the real Romney record. Let Roe go. Plus more.

1.16.08

FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES
Re: Robert VerBruggen's With Friends Like These...:

I was as astonished by Solicitor General Paul Clement's brief as was Mr. VerBruggen. As noted in an L.A. Times article, "Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence, said he saluted the administration for recognizing a need for limits on gun rights." Like Mr. VerBruggen says "with friends like these..."

But I caution Mr. VerBruggen when he writes "MACHINE guns cannot be traced back to the Founding era." Quite reasonably, one can make the same argument for the 1860 transition to metallic cartridge ammunition, the repeating firearms that used that metallic cartridge ammunition (Confederate soldiers complaining that Federals "would load on Sunday and fire all week"), the 1900 transition to self-loading, semi-automatic pistols and rifles, and the World War I transition to fully automatic firearms of all sizes.

This is not an academic exercise, for this is precisely the argument made by the enactors of the 1994 federal "assault gun" ban, which fundamentally identified semi-automatic, detachable magazine firearms as the subject of strict federal control, you might say because they "cannot be traced back to the Founding era." And just in case the reader might think that a blackpowder flintlock pistol or rifle might escape strict control, take a look at the laws of my home state of New Jersey. Trenton treats such weapons with no legal difference than a latest design Walther or Colt.

And just to put machine guns in perspective, not an easy matter, consider the February 1997 incident in Los Angeles where two bank robbers in full body armor and full auto AK-47s took on Los Angeles police armed with pistols and shotguns. The end result? Both robbers dead, no policemen killed. Intuition and reality are not always the same.

The criteria cannot be tracing back to the Founding era, but rather that the firearm is an individual weapon that can be used to defend one's property, life or essential freedom. Individual (not weapon) licensing and proficiency demonstration may be reasonably written and required. And that is so because it is "necessary to the security of a free state."
-- Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

Mr. VerBruggen, you are reaching just a bit with "The Act required militiamen to acquire weapons that were in common circulation and that individual men would be able to employ, such as muskets, rifles, pistols, sabres, hangers, etc., but not cumbersome, expensive, or rare equipment such as cannons" as a justification for excluding automatic weapons from Constitutional protections. I would remind you of two facts.

First, there were no typewriters, word processors or PCs that could spit out millions of lies and falsehoods a second in 1789 but no one is calming that speech produced by such rapid fire WMD aren't protected under the First Amendment, are they? Exclude John McCain from that thought for this purpose.

Second, what was the purpose of having every able bodied male to have "weapons that were in common circulation" back in 1789? To attend a picnic or go on parades with? Can you tell the difference between a smooth bore Brown Bess musket used by the Colonists and British vs. the civilian version back then? Was there a battlefield difference between military and civilian weapons back then? Most Colonists' weapons were better in ways that mattered. How about the difference between a semi-automatic version of an M-16 and the full automatic "machine gun" version of same? I can assure you that only fools and Hollywood Action Heroes take modern civilian weapons up against the real military weapons ("machine guns -- aka Assault rifles") all else equal and come out on top.

Stop reaching Mr. VerBruggen. The modern pistol is more effective than that 1789 Brown Bess musket but the "weapons in common circulation" by civilians today are quite a bit down the effectiveness scale from the average military weapon "in common circulation and that individual men would be able to employ" against the masses.

You are right, the Bush Administration's argument is stupid. You didn't help the matter if the original intent is to have meaning as it did in 1789.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

One can only wonder why after a sterling record of supporting the Second Amendment and reversing the Reagan and Clinton era gun control legislation the Bush administration has entered the DC case with such convoluted arguments that condemn the unconstitutional DC law, but urge the court not to sweep aside such nonsense? Pandering to the Brady's and other anti-Constitutional fascists didn't win friends for Ronald Reagan and it won't win them for George W. Bush. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will not only throw out the DC travesty, but secure the sanctity of the Second Amendment as our forefathers envisioned -- a free people are a people with the right to arm and protect themselves.
-- Michael Tomlinson

You should do a better job researching the mechanics, physics, history, and law of firearms. Some glaring inaccuracies:

1. The mechanism of an M-16 does not differ much from a common semi-automatic. Indeed, with a minor modification, many semi-automatics can be converted to full automatic. In point of fact, the mechanism of the common .22 auto and the less common sub-machine gun is almost identical.

2. The Gatling style of full automatic, i.e. mechanically operated, is not regulated as a machine gun by the Federal Government.

3. Multi-barrel volley guns were in relatively common use in Revolutionary War times and were the era's version of the machine gun.

4. There were few laws against concealed carry until the late 20th Century. Indeed, concealed carry was common in both the US and England.
-- Bob R.

Robert VerBruggen replies:
In an article yesterday, I wrote about a DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision that used several criteria for granting handguns Second Amendment protection: "The modern handgun -- and for that matter the rifle and long-barreled shotgun...[is] a lineal descendant of [its colonial equivalent]....Pistols certainly bear 'some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.' They are also in 'common use' today."

I criticized a Bush administration brief arguing that, by these criteria, machine guns would have Second Amendment protection. I argued that the dividing line between a pistol/rifle/shotgun and a machine gun is automatic fire, making the latter not a lineal descendant of early guns. What's more, they are not in common use today.

I have to say, I'm a bit puzzled that so many on the pro-gun side agree with the Bush administration. Many readers took the position that the appeals-court logic would legalize machine guns -- and machine guns should be legal. (OK, they disagree with the administration on that last part.)

For starters, there's the practical issue here. Whether or not legalizing machine guns would make for good policy, and whether or not the Framers would have wanted it, there is no way a majority of Supreme Court justices would go for it. Pressing that argument is political suicide.

But equally importantly, despite the developments between early and modern common guns, as the appeals court pointed out, the basic principle is the same: Pull the trigger, a single bullet comes out. Machine guns, by contrast, fire continuously and rapidly when one holds the trigger down. According to gun control expert John R. Lott, "The entire firing mechanism of a semi-automatic gun has to be gutted and replaced to turn it into a machine gun."

Of course, virtually every weapon in existence comes somehow from another weapon, and if one forgoes the basic "that was a pistol then, and this is a pistol now, so it's lineal" logic, he can indeed debate the meanings of "lineal descendant" for hours. It all depends whether he's a lumper or a splitter -- a lumper will say even machine guns are lineal descendants; a splitter will say even early cartridge-ammunition guns are not.

But as I said in the article, even granting "that machine guns are Founding-era weapons at heart," they've never been in common use in America.

ESPECIALLY IN MICHIGAN
Re: Philip Klein's Especially in Michigan:

When the Republican candidates first announced themselves, I decided to go with Rudy. I liked his leadership qualities shown as a U.S. Attorney locking up Mafia types and his 9-11 showing as New York's Mayor. I looked at Romney and decided he was an option. McCain looked like just another RINO and Huckabee I soon found to be a RINO too. And of course, being a man, I saw the candidates through a man's eyes.

While listening to Rush today taking calls from women whom were agog over Romney, I realized a new factor was being introduced into the Republican race as Romney introduces himself. Women apparently see Romney not just as a brainy conservative problem solver, and handsome at that, but they see Romney as a symbol of commitment to women and family. Commitment is what most women care about and are looking for.

There will be a stark contrast between Rudy and Mitt in Women's eyes. Perhaps a new star has been born and as women look at the Romney family, they may provide momentum which cannot be overcome by Rudy. Let's watch and see if the wave builds.
-- Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook,Texas

ROMNEY BEER
Re: Matt Kinnaman's letter (under "Massachusetts on Parade") in Reader Mail's McCain Migraine:

Massachusetts Republican Committeeman Matt Kinnaman's response to my article ladles warm praise on former Bay State governor Willard Mitt Romney's "stunning success" as governor. He applauds Romney for turning a $3 billion state budget deficit into a $1 billion surplus by 2006. Kinnaman cheers that Romney "stood athwart the most tax-happy legislature in the nation and shouted 'stop!' And he won."

This is all quite touching, but it simply ignores the fact that Romney himself proposed $283 million in business "loophole closures" and $501.5 million in higher fees on such basic government services as marriage licenses, firearms registrations, truck deliveries of gasoline to filling stations, and real-estate- transfer certifications for such common transactions as home purchases. Romney made these activities, and more, costlier. According to the Boston Herald, "corporate taxes went up $210 million under Romney."

Overall, Massachusetts' tax burden increased 10.8 percent during Romney's tenure.

Kinnaman blames Romney's heavily Democratic state legislature for tying his hands and leaving him barely able to hold off the tax-happy hordes.

How, possibly, could Romney have pushed a supply-side agenda past such an intransigent Democratic majority? Indeed, Kinnaman asks: "When was the last time in American politics that a veto-proof Democrat majority in any legislature failed to raise taxes?"

Romney could have studied the example of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. New York's City Council had, at most, seven Republican members while Giuliani was at City Hall. The other 44 members were Democrats, largely of the far-Left persuasion. Giuliani could have locked himself in his office and cried about being outnumbered six-to-one by opposition legislators. Instead, he led a Reaganesque supply-side revolution: Giuliani cajoled, charmed, scared, or otherwise persuaded City Council Democrats to agree to 23 different tax cuts totaling $9.8 billion. The top tax rate dropped 20.6 percent (vs. a 0 percent drop under Romney), while the overall tax burden fell 17.1 percent.

This did not happen in red-dog-Republican Newport Beach, California, but in one of America's deepest-blue Democratic cities.

Romney "did not have any broad based tax cuts in his four years as governor," said his GOP predecessor, Paul Cellucci, a Giuliani supporter. Cellucci cut taxes, as did Republican former Massachusetts governor William Weld. "I was determined to cut that state income tax, from 5.95 percent back to 5 percent, and I got it done, and the legislature stopped it at 5.3." Cellucci told journalists last October 12. "Mitt Romney comes in and says 'I'm going to get it to 5 percent,' and he didn't do it. It's still 5.3 percent." On its gubernatorial report card, the Cato Institute gave Cellucci an "A." Romney earned a "C."

As for fighting that $3 billion budget deficit, rather than hike fees, shut "loopholes," and boost taxes on non-residents, Romney could have done something truly market-oriented: He could have slashed spending. While Romney was no LBJ, real, per-capita spending grew 2 percent on his watch.

For his part, Giuliani actually cut two of his eight budgets. Giuliani's initial response to the $2.3 billion deficit he inherited was not to boost fees and plug "loopholes." Instead Gotham's spending fell in 1994 compared to 1993. He repeated this in 2001, versus 2000, after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

On Giuliani's watch, real, per-capita spending declined 0.9 percent. He left New York's government smaller than he found it, and produced a $2.9 billion budget surplus, largely through spending reductions and the higher revenues generated by accelerated economic growth that his tax cuts triggered. While private employment grew just 0.5 percent under Romney, Giuliani built a jobs machine. Private-sector payrolls soared 15.2 percent.

On fiscal matters, Rudy Giuliani is, by far, this presidential field's most accomplished, Reaganesque tax cutter and budget slasher. Romney's record could be a slogan for an imaginary beer. "Mitt Lite: Looks Great. Less Filling."
-- Deroy Murdock

DIXIECRATS
Re: Shawn Macomber's Dynasty Defenders:

The Kennedy Klan are typical rich, white, elitists from New England doing all they can to keep blacks in their place -- under the thumbs of white Democrat politicians. As things heat up in the Democrat party one wonders if the Kennedy Klan will call on loyal Roxbury voters to bat a little sense into Obama and his misguided supporters? I have a dream that one day white Democrats will come out of the closet and accept that while they no longer wear sheets to control African-Americans they're still children of the Klan.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina

Help me somebody! Did these Kennedy fortunates absorb their political Weltanschauung by sucking at the CITGO oil tit of Hugo Chavez kindness, genetically from Robert Kennedy 's latent hatred of America, or by sucking up leftover Old Joe K's bootleg booze?

Doctoral thesis, anyone?
-- Wolf Terner
Fair Lawn, New Jersey

DOES NOT FOLLOW
Re: Jeffrey Lord's Huckabee's Wink at Roe v. Wade:

I have to say Jeffrey Lord's article was one of the biggest non-sequiturs I have ever seen in my entire life. Literally on a par with saying "Two plus two equals four; therefore the sky is green." The two statements have almost nothing to do with each other.

I think Huckabee's talk is populo-goofiness (the right CEO can make a difference to the company much bigger than his salary; if he doesn't, then the board are dopes). But it's nothing less than an abomination to compare the two positions, exactly like saying that a government that imposed price controls on milk would support the Holocaust the next day.

As far as I can tell, his argument is: if the government can regulate executive pay, then it can "create rights," and therefore, it can "create the right" to slaughter helpless infants. But any government law or regulation, in any way, under any circumstances whatsoever, "creates" a legal right to something or other. When the government passes a law saying that you can't drive on the left side of the road, then it is "creating a right" to drive on the right side without having to watch for cars coming the other way. So in the case of any governmental action, the question is not whether rights are created but whether that creation is morally right, prudent, and within the Constitutional authority of the enacting bodies.

In other words, Mr. Lord's argument is that if the government can do anything whatsoever, it can abort babies. That doesn't seem to follow.

In the case of abortion, arguably the state legislatures or possibly Congress would have been legally justified in "creating a right" to abortion, though not morally justified. But who was not legally justified was the Supreme Court, since they have no Constitutional authority to enact legislation. Unless Huckabee is suggesting that the Supreme Court should, out of the clear blue sky, assert that Bill Gates' salary is unconstitutional, there is no parallel here. Mr. Lord's own satire on the proposal indicates that he would expect Huckabee to go through all the proper channels; congressional action, setting up kludgy bureaucracies, etc.
-- Roy Koczela

FREEDOM ISN'T FREE
Re: Pia de Solenni's Reel Life:

I must say that I truly appreciated this article from Dr. de Solenni. Open and honest communication is going to be vital to the future survival of this great experiment in self-government. Not just as a country, but also as a society, we have allowed rhetoric and demagoguery to override the reasonable discussion of the issues at hand. We must all understand the difference between an idealistic goal and the objective facts of the reality we are presented.

Dr. de Solenni does an excellent job of pointing out pregnancy in the absence of marriage as a long-time situation (I think it would be incorrect to label this a problem) that needs to be handled correctly and tolerantly. If nothing else, the attempt of cultural revolution in the '60s has provided us with some serious benefits. It is possible to accept childbirth outside marriage, single motherhood, and other such situations while still being able to speak, rightly, that the best option, in most cases, is the stable nuclear family. But still sex and pregnancies are a part of life, and life does have this tendency to go on no matter our personal situations.

And this brings us to abortions. Abortions are also not a new-fangled idea. They've been going on for a good long time now (quite possibly as long as pregnancies, but it's hard to be sure). And as with childbirth outside marriage, we, as a society, need to accept that we cannot anticipate, discuss, and especially legislate all the possible scenarios that lead to crises that leads people to make this decision. What we need to do is forget about the legal discussion of abortion. It's irrelevant to the issue at hand. What we need to do is focus on the cultural, moral, and health issues instead. We need to support the individual's rights while leading the individual to the best decision. Even with a constitutional amendment allowing the outlawing of the practice of abortion, we cannot and will not stop them all. And do we really want to start locking up rape victims (for a not-so-random example) for being unwilling to carry the child of their attacker to term? Shall we make an exception for them? But if there are exemptions, what's the point behind the law, exactly? And what else can we exempt and still feel ok?

Yeah, it doesn't work. Ideally, I'm sure all of us who value life, especially the most innocent of life, would like to see the total number of abortions each year drop down to exactly zero. I'm not going to hold my breath, even if you do somehow manage to find a way to make them illegal nationwide. Realistically we have to understand that total elimination is, in the current world, not a possibility. But there are alternatives that we can find. We can support the choice of life without the government policing that choice. We can find ways to demonstrate how good it is to bring every child to term, wanted or unwanted.

No, the government should not, for any reason, subsidize the choice of abortion or abortion clinics. No, the government should not allow a woman's "right to choose" to override an unborn child's right to life. But nor should we, as conservatives, advocate that the government start passing laws once again to outlaw the practice. It causes just as much harm. Instead, we should encourage or citizens, governments, doctors, and advocates to support the right choices.

'Cause, in the end, Freedom isn't about being forced to make the right choice. It's about making the right choice even when the wrong ones are so easy and right there. Freedom isn't free, it isn't easy, and most importantly, it's all about what you want. That's what you want for yourself, not for everyone else. We are all Kings. We are all Paupers. We all have our own choices to make. Not all of us will make the right choice, but we have to live with that. And oh yes, you have to live with me making the wrong choice, just like I must live with you making the wrong choice.

Doesn't mean we can't agree on what the right choice should be. In most cases, anyways.
-- Charles Campbell
Austin, Texas

FIGHT ON, RON
Re: Thom Bateman's letter (under "Robbing Peter to Pay Ron Paul") in Reader Mail's McCain Migraine:

Mr. Bateman is exactly correct: Government is the problem, not the solution.

Limit the government to providing defense, water, sewer, firemen and policemen. Turn people loose, let us be free, and freedom will provide all that we require.
-- Nelson Ward
Cowles, New Mexico

FWIW
Re: Letters (under "Go Home, Senator") in Reader Mail's McCain Migraine:

For your readers expounding on John McCain, his 83 percent lifetime (though 2005) rating from the American Conservative Union places him squarely in the middle of Republican senators -- neither the most conservative, but far from the most liberal. FYI only.
-- Paul DeSisto
Cedar Grove, New Jersey

REGRET THE TERROR
Re: Brooke M. Goldstein's Mark Steyn Is Not Alone:

I love your stuff, but don't you have fact checkers? In Brooke Goldstein's article "Mark Steyn Is Not Alone" is written: "A MAJOR PLAYER on this front is Khalid bin Mahfouz, a wealthy Egyptian who resides in Saudi Arabia."

Those of us who have been bankers in Saudi Arabia know that the Bin Mahfouz family is of Yemeni not Egyptian orgin. See here.
-- Michael Barger
San Francisco, California

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