Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Congress Not Standing Ground on 2nd Amendment

Are gun voters being taken for granted? Republicans control the House and self-styled pro-gun Democrats abound in the Senate. So why has neither chamber addressed any of the major gun rights issues awaiting resolution?

Numerous bills to restore and preserve Second Amendment rights to Americans have been filed, yet not one has been slated for a vote this year. John Velleco of Gun Owners of America (GOA) tells Townhall, “Every election year, the members of Congress come to pro-gun voters asking to be re-elected, yet we don’t have any pro-gun votes scheduled to come to the House and Senate floor.”

Among the bills ready for action is S. 2205, the Second Amendment Sovereignty Act, introduced last week by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). This bill would bar the Administration from signing onto the Arms Trade Treaty. Moran worries that this treaty allowing international bodies to regulate civilian firearms could wind up letting those institutions “restrict the lawful private ownership of firearms in our country.” The Senate should consider this important idea as part of its broader look at the risks the Treaty poses.

Then there’s H.Res. 490, an expression of no confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder, introduced last December by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.). Though not technically a gun bill, this resolution has important Second Amendment implications. It states that one reason for no confidence is the fact that Holder has thwarted efforts to investigate gunrunning by the Department of Justice.

“Operation Fast and Furious allowed thousands of weapons of various types to be illegally sold and or transferred from the United States to violent drug cartels and known criminals in Mexico and elsewhere,” H.Res. 490 notes. Many conservatives (the resolution has 111 cosponsors) worry that the Justice Department was running guns to help advance anti-gun initiatives in the U.S.

GOA’s Velleco, for example, is concerned that Operation Fast and Furious was part of a larger Justice Department effort to impose gun control through government action other than legislation. He cites a Justice Department demand letter to the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas that “requires gun dealers to report multiple sales of long guns to an individual within a five day period.” There is no legislative requirement to this effect.

Although some have expressed federalism concerns, Rep. Paul Braun (R-Ga.) has introduced H.R. 2900, the Secure Access to Firearms Enhancement (SAFE) Act, to provide reciprocity in regard to the manner in which nonresidents of a State may carry certain concealed firearms. In the Senate, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has introduced S. 2213, the Respecting States' Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. Activity on these measures thus far? Zilch.

Gun rights advocates did get a little something to cheer about late last week. The House approved an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that exempts military personnel from Washington, D.C.’s gun ban. But that is just a small step. Both chambers have yet to bring up legislation repealing our capitol city’s unconstitutional gun ban.

Meanwhile, gun issues that got some legislative action last year remain in legislative limbo this session. H.R. 822, legislation to allow state-issued conceal carry gun permits in most states, passed the House 272-154 last November. It crossed to the Senate, where it has lain ignored by the Senate Judiciary Committee ever since.

Our Founding Fathers recognized the natural right of people to protect themselves. After all, they had to take up arms to win their own freedom. So they made darn sure that the bill of rights guaranteed that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have provided clarity on the nature and extent of this right. In D.C. v Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court affirmed that the Second Amendment is an individual right. In McDonald v Chicago, 51 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court applied the Second Amendment to the states. These two rulings should have empowered and inspired lawmakers to push for more freedom—not to pretend as though they don’t deserve the time of day.


The Zimmerman case disintegrates

Beating people up because they looked at you funny is wrong

The release of evidence in George Zimmerman’s murder trial quickly made a mockery of his second-degree murder charges, and threw a further layer of shame upon media and political opportunists who misrepresented a tragic, but fairly straightforward, case of lethal force employed in self-defense.

It is remarkable to take stock of this evidence and realize that it supports every single aspect of Zimmerman’s statement to the police.  His injuries are consistent with his account of physical assault by Trayvon Martin.  Martin’s gunshot wound occurred at the very short range described by Zimmerman, demolishing fantasies about a racist mall-cop wannabe stalking and murdering an innocent black kid for no reason.

The Smoking Gun highlighted this bit of eyewitness testimony – released to the public by the Sanford police only a few days ago, but known to the prosecution when Zimmerman was charged – tendered to the police only 90 minutes after the shooting occurred, by a resident of Zimmerman’s community who heard the altercation and decided to investigate:
The man recalled seeing “a black male, wearing a dark colored ‘hoodie’ on top of a white or Hispanic male who was yelling for help.” The black male, he added, “was mounted on the white or Hispanic male and throwing punches ‘MMA (mixed martial arts) style.'”

The witness--who was in his living room and about 30 feet away from the confrontation-- said he called out to the two men that he was dialing 911. “He then heard a ‘pop,’” police reported, and saw the black male “laid out on the grass.”

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit relates the discovery of video from Trayvon Martin’s YouTube account, removed at some point during the last month, that shows he was actually involved in some sort of underground “fight club.”

Also fatal to the prosecution’s case is the discovery that Martin had THC in his system – he had apparently been smoking pot that night.  As related by the local CBS News affiliate:
According to the autopsy report made public record by the Office of the Medial Examiner, the blood from Martin’s chest contained 1.5 ng/ML of THC, a drug commonly found in marijuana. There was about 7.3ng/mL of THC carboxy, the by-product of the body’s metabolism of THC.

Depending on the amount of THC consumed and the frequency in which it is consumed, THC carboxy can stay in a person’s system from somewhere between two weeks to a month, according to WBTV. THC itself can stay in the body for as long as four hours.

This is important because the charging document clearly, and without evidence, accuses Zimmerman of racially “profiling” Martin.  On the other hand, Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher that Martin caught his eye because “this guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something… it’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”  Only then did the dispatcher specifically ask about Martin’s race, and request a description of his clothing.

Despite the prosecution’s awareness of the autopsy reports and eyewitness testimony, they included none of it in their affidavit against Zimmerman.  Criminal lawyer and Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been beside himself ever since the Zimmerman charges were filed, writes in the New York Daily News that it’s time to drop the charges, but doubts State Attorney Angela Corey “will do the right thing,” because “until now, her actions have been anything but ethical, lawful, and professional.”

As Dershowitz points out, the evidence released in this case means Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law isn’t even a factor in Zimmerman’s defense.  Much political hay has been made out of this law, but if Zimmerman was on the ground getting beaten to a pulp, withdrawal from the encounter was physically impossible for him.  “A defendant, under Florida law, loses his ‘stand your ground’ defense if he provoked the encounter,” observes Dershowitz, “but he retains traditional self-defense if he reasonably believed his life was in danger and his only recourse was to employ deadly force.”

For that matter, as Dershowitz notes, there is not one shred of evidence to support the prosecutor’s contention that Zimmerman provoked the encounter.  Neighborhood Watch patrols are not illegal.  There is no evidence that Zimmerman shouted any “fighting words” at Martin.

Dershowitz also mentions a suspicion I’ve harbored since the weird, circus-like press conference at which Corey announced the charges: they’re a political instrument designed to buy time for everyone to cool down, leading to a long trial that dismantles some of the hysteria built up around the Trayvon Martin case.  If true, the strategy is understandable… but utterly outrageous.  The United States does not do “show trials.”  The justice system is not a safety valve for releasing unhealthy levels of political tension.  Individual citizens are not pawns to be shoved around in media games by gun-control advocates, race hustlers, or opportunistic politicians.  The purpose of law enforcement is to protect the public, not appease certain segments of it.

State attorney Angela Corey responded by saying, “What the general public has to remember, and the media has to remember, is that there is a lot we cannot release by law.”  Zimmerman’s lawyer also cautiously conceded that more evidence may be in prosecutorial hands, as yet unreleased to either him or the public.

That doesn’t change the virtually indisputable fact that Corey deliberately suppressed evidence helpful to Zimmerman when her affidavit was written.  At best, that’s very sloppy work.  ABC News discusses the sort of cards Corey might be holding:
One key to the case is which of the two men instigated the clash that left Martin dead. The prosecution says Zimmerman initiated the altercation when he "profiled" Martin that night, and then got out of his car to follow him. In the newly released documents, lead homicide officer on the case, Chris Serino of the Sanford Police Department, called the shooting "avoidable" had Zimmerman remained in his vehicle.

What has yet to be seen are two main pieces of evidence: Zimmerman's statement on the night of the incident, and his reenactment of the events of that night, which could prove vital when and if the case is heard in court.

It’s difficult to see how any of that might convince a jury to hand down a “guilty” verdict to Murder Two charges.  How does that “stay in your car” principle work?  Do you have to stay in your car when you see anyone acting suspiciously in your neighborhood, or do the age, sex, and racial background of the subject matter?  Does everyone have to stay in their cars, or only members of certain age, sex, and racial groups?

Or is it simpler for the law to assert that beating someone into the ground and administering an MMA-style thrashing is wrong, even if they looked at you funny?


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