Gun Control and the Second Amendment

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Recent news reports indicate that the Virginia Governor has proposed certain new gun restrictions on both the sale and possession of firearms. While these proposals have essentially a zero chance of passing through our State legislature, it does give an opportunity to examine and expound upon our own views on the issue.

A few background facts: I am a gun owner as are many if not most people living in rural America. I rarely hunt but I do hold dearly my right to defend myself, my home and my family should, heaven forbid, the circumstance ever arise. Those of us who reside in rural areas of this country know, even if city dwellers do not, that law enforcement protection is largely theoretical, i.e. the police may solve crimes but rarely prevent them. If confronted with an intruder we either defend ourselves or rely on the criminal’s mercy with the police left to clean up the mess long afterwards. There are some really evil people out there. In my opinion those who rely on their mercy (or upon blind luck to avoid interaction with them) are not only foolish; they are irresponsible, residing in a fantasy land rather in the real world.

Once I had a concealed weapons permit but I let it expire since I rarely carried a weapon except to the gun range. Indeed the primary reason for having the permit was to prevent hassles with the police or others while transporting a weapon in my vehicle since it does not have an enclosed trunk. I, as virtually everyone, have been shocked and dismayed by gun violence and the loss of life, particularly of children such as at Sandy Hook. I am not a fan of the NRA and under ideal conditions would support reasonable laws to protect the public while still preserving the right to bear arms; however, I am concerned by those whose ultimate goal seems to be to remove all firearms from private ownership.

Some of the Governor’s proposals seem reasonable if taken in isolation from other factors; others do not.

As I understand it, the Governor’s proposals include the following:

1) Restrict buyers from purchasing more than one firearm per month ( this was the law in Virginia except for holders of concealed weapons permits and law enforcement officers until 2012 when it was repealed).

2) Require background checks for private sales at gun shows.

3) Making it illegal for anyone who has been charged and/or convicted of domestic abuse to own or possess a firearm or bar possession if under a protective order for domestic abuse or upon conviction of two incidents of misdemeanor simple assault (conviction of a felony already bars the owning or possession of firearms unless the right is restored by court order).

4) Making it illegal for anyone behind in child support to own or possess a firearm and/ or revoke concealed weapons permits of those behind in support payments (reports I have seen vary as to the restriction proposed).

5) Because of recent news related to a law suit filed against the manufacturer of the AR-15 used at Sandy Hook, I include in this discussion one  gun control mrasure which has been proposed many times and for a time was the law although not proposed by the Governor, i.e.  a ban on the sale and/or possession of assault type weapons.

The issue in my judgment  is which, if any, of these proposals would protect the public or whether they restrict Second Admendment rights without purpose other than political advantage and antigun bias. I address my reaction to each proposal below.

1) It is difficult to see how restricting firearm purchases to one a month will protect anyone. There are already laws in effect prohibiting straw purchases  Most crazies need only a single weapon to cause mayhem and even if for some reason they wanted more, most plan their acts well in advance, allowing them to accumulate whatever weaponry they desire despite a one a month restriction.  This proposal is an antigun measure masquerding as public safety, however, it also seems rather benign, imposing only a slight burden on those who wish to purchase firearms for legitimate purposes.

2) Background checks at gun shows for private sellers seems reasonable on the surface.  Gun dealers selling weapons at gun shows already are required to do the background check . Although rarely has there been a report of a gun purchased at a show without a background  check being used by someone bent on crime much less mass murder ( when stolen  guns are readily available on the street, only a truly dumb perpetrator would take the chance of being traced by such a purchase) it certainly is possible this could happen. The additional or alternative proposal that gun shows cannot advertise that no background checks for private sales are required almost certainly is a violation of First Admendment free speach rights since such advertising merely states the existing law (this element shows a certain disdain for all constitutional protections).

The real concern here is the next step contemplated by gun control advocates, perhaps requiring all transfers between individuals, even within a family, to first undergo background checks thereby preventing very common gun transfers, sales and trades that are a routine  part of country life and may severely limit the inheritance of firearms. This cannot be seen in isolation from the fact that in some states firearms (sometimes worth thousands of dollars) are confiscated by the police on the death of the owner and promptly destroyed before heirs can make a claim to them, a direct but fairly common violation of the Constitution provision prohibiting the taking of private property without due process and reasonable compensation.

Subject to clarification, limitations and assurances that no attempt will be made to enlarge the requirment, this proposal has some logic to it.

3.) In the abstact it is difficult to contest why someone who has commited domestic abuse or who is constantly in violent situations should not be prohibitted from owning or possessing  a firearm. There are several problems with this proposal, however.

First, It is unclear whether the proposal would permanently bar a person from having a firearm or whether the bar would be removed at some point (or perhaps require court application for such restoration, which might be a reasonable alternative to a lifetime ban).  Also, the proposal does not make clear whether the bar on having a firearm would include preliminary protective orders which may be imposed without a hearing or an opportunity for legal defense or if the right to own and possess firearms would be automatically restored if the final protective order was withdrawn, dismissed or otherwise ended or nulified.

Subject to clarification and noted limitations this proposal seems reasonable.

4.) The proposal to revoke a concealed weapons permit and/or bar possession of firearms by anyone behind in child support has little to do with protecting the public. There is no evidence or study of which I am aware that establishes or even suggests that someone in arrears in support payments is any more likely to be a danger to the public than someone who has, for example, failed to file tax returns or who owes back taxes, or who is in significant debt or has not paid parking tickets or who is allergic to cats. This is an antigun proposal without even the  pretext of  being justified by public safety concerns. In its most generous interpretation, it is an attempt to enforce support orders, much as drivers liscenses can be revoked or suspended for failure to pay support, however driving is deemed by law to be a privilege, not a Constitutional right. Depriving an individual of the constitutonal right to own and bear arms for failure to pay support makes as much sense as removing a persons free speach right or their right to free exercise of their religion  because they were in support arrears. In part, the proposal reflects many Courts’ reluctance to enforce their own orders either through their contempt powers or through criminal charges for failure to provide legally required support. There is little likelihood this measure would be effective in compelling the payment of support and the measure seems arbitrary in the extreme. It appears to be antigun without any legitimate public safety element whatever. By even proposing this the Governor reveals his antigun bias and anti Second Adnendment viewpoint.

5) A ban on assault type weapons also does not seem entirely unreasonable at first glance. The problem is that there is no clear definition of what an assault weapon is and what would be banned, leaving owners of weapons not intended to be restricted at considerable legal risk. Understand that civilain assault type weapons are not fully automatic as would be the military version (fully automatic weapons are federally banned with severe penalties for violation unless a special federal liscense is obtained).  Assault weapons currently legal for civilian possesion are “semi-automatic,” (more correctly “auto loading”) as are the majority of handguns in private hands and many other weapons that do not fit the usual “assault weapon” description. The defintions used in the past seem to be based mostly on appearance, not any unique design. Laws in the past prohibiting assault type rifles contained long lists of specific models banned with a vague addition prohibiting “similar weapons,” leaving it open to interpretation precisely what was intended.

The rational for banning these type of weapons seems based mostly on their appearance and assumed intended use. The parents of a victim filing the law suit as a result of the Sandy Hook massacre allege negligence by the manufacturer in making and selling a weapon whose sole purpose is use against people. While this is not entirely correct, some hunters do use assault type weapons although more traditional minded hunters have little respect for them, and others enjoy using these weapons at gun ranges, including in competitive matches, it is probably correct to say such weapons are primerly purchased for self and household defense (although I think many who purchase these weapons do so simply because they are cool and fun to fire, perhaps with the thought at the back of their minds that possesion would be desirable for home defense if our society falls apart as some predict). Others purchase assault weapons out of fear the purchase of them will again be banned. (it is a simple principal of economics and human psychology that goods which are deemed desirable by a substantial portion of a population group become even more desirable i.e. valuable, if supply is restricted or the ability to obtain the good is expected to be eliminated altogether).

The problem with banning assault type weapons based on their assumed intended use or the fact that they have been used in the past for crime or by the deranged for mass murder is that the same can be said for virtually all handguns and actually the use of assault weapons in crime, particularly for mass murder such as at Sandy Hook, is extremely rare (despite depictions on TV and in film).  The rational for banning such weapons could easily be used to ban all handguns, which are used in crime and specifically that have been used for mass murder with far greater frequency than assault style weapons. Seen in this light, the Sandy Hook law suit against the manufacturer of the AR-15 weapon used to perputrate that attrocity is not only an attack on manufacturers of assault type weapons; it is an attack on all manufacturers of firearms with the purpose or effect, if succesful, not only of establishing a worrisome precedent perhaps affecting all firearm manufacturers but of substantially increasing their perceived or actual financial risk  ultimately for the purpose of preventing such manufacture or reducing the volume of firearms produced to the point that production becomes financially unviable. (note: with the advent of 3d printing soon permitting the manufacture of weapons at home, the goal of reducing the volume of weapons manufactured through this strategy seems unlikely to be succesful.  Indeed, in the long term it appears that the financial viability of firearm manufacturers is directly threatened by 3d printing and keeping firearms from the hands of felons and the deranged will doubtlessly become even more difficult).

For those who support gun rights this is a wedge issue. We would need to have assurances on an unprecedented level that a ban on suitably defined assault  weapons would not soon lead to a ban of handguns (probably in steps such as restricting  the size of magazines or banning what has become the most widely owned pistols; i.e. semi automatic weapons). We who value the Constitutional right to bear arms will never agree to to the ban of handguns and if that is the ultimate goal of those supporting additional gun restrictions, there is no possibility of compromise.

I understand that these proposals may be seen in other lights by some. As indicated above, if clarified, I would tend to support some of these measures. However, there are two reasons why those of us who are not fans of the NRA and would like to support reasonable and effective gun control legislation, perhaps even some of those proposed by the Governor, to protect the public from both criminals and lunatics bent on mass murder while still maintaining our right to bear arms find ourselves allied with the most extreme advocates of gun rights in opposing any legislation whatever no matter how reasonable it may seem.

The first reason we believe we must oppose virtually all gun control legislation no matter how reasonable it may seem is the continued and repeated assertions by gun control advocates that the Second Amendment does not protect the private ownership and possession of firearms. This is both historically and logically wrong. If the Second Amendment does not ensure the private ownership and possession of firearms, this Amendment is totally meaningless and there is no right protected by this “Bill of Right” whatever. While the Supreme Court recently has ruled that the Second Amendment does provide for and protect the private right to own and bear arms (see McDonald v. Chicago), the vote was 5 to 4.  A single death or retirement of a Justice could lead to a reversal of this opinion. If gun control advocates really want to have a discussion related to reasonable gun control, they must first concede that this Constitional protection is valid. Until there is a consensus that the Second Amendment does protect the individual right to own and bear arms and that such right has equal importance to the rights protected by the First Amendment, we really have nothing to discuss and those of us in the middle have no choice but to support the NRA position of no compromise.

Connected to the Second Amendment issue are the comments we constantly hear from gun control advocates to the effect that whatever proposal is being discussed “is the first step” in gun control. This leaves us to ponder what the next step will be, or the step following that …or the last step (which can only be the total prohibition and confiscation of fireams or regulations so draconian that the effect is the same: see laws in New York City, Britain and Canada). This many of us will resist to the bitter end (and indeed millions of otherwise law abiding citizens would refuse to comply with and would actively resist confiscation laws even if enacted, creating a senario I dont think any of us wish to contemplate).

At this point those of us in the middle of this debate have been left with little choice but to hold our noses as we embrace the NRA and its no compromise position. Perhaps someday those who favor more stringent but reasonable gun controls will modify their extreme positions to allow a true discussion of the public safety and gun control issues to begin. However, I doubt we will see this anytime soon.

 

Like the above discusion? See other blogs listed below:

1) Random thoughts:Perpetual Motion, Dean Drive, Cold Fusion, the em (Q)Drive and Warp Drive.

2) Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR): Cold Fusion reborn;\

3) America a Christian Nation? Founding Fathers say no:

4) Exerpt of historical novel Mfecane: The Crushing

 

Random thoughts: Perpetual motion, Dean Drive, cold fusion, the em (Q)drive and warp drive

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Over the years various inventors have proffered devices that in some way allegedly defied all known science. Perpetual motion machines, for example, have been offered and rejected for patents since the early days of the 20th century (and perhaps before). Often these devices were publically demonstrated  and casual examination seemed to confirm that somehow they operated as advertised.  Further investigation of these complicated contrivances (usually consisting of a complex array of multiple flywheels, pulleys, pendulums, counter weights, hundreds of springs and well concealed power sources) eventually revealed them as frauds although quite a few scientists and engineers were deceived for awhile into accepting the inventor’s claims. (It has been noted that an examining scientist is no better equipped to detect outright fraud than a layman. Indeed, their eagerness to understand a new and intriguing phenomenom may make them particularly susceptible to unscupulous charlatans).

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In the 1950s an enigmatic and secretive (even paranoid some said) man named Norman Dean announced a “reactionless space drive.”  It was soon dubbed  the “Dean Drive” by John Campbell, noted speculative science and science fiction writer, publisher and editor. If valid, it was believed that  the Dean Drive would open the solar system to rapid human exploration and colonization.  Although Dean applied for and  received several patents related to his invention, he always claimed that certain essential elements were not included to prevent intellectual theft.

Several demonstrations of the Dean Drive were given but such demos were always under Dean’s direction and control. Campbell claimed to observe one of Dean’s devices on a scale with its weight substantially reduced as he watched when it was energized. At one point several scientists including Harry Stine also observed his demonstration of the device. Although not entirely convinced, Stine has stated that one of his most vivid memories is that of an unknown and unseen force pushing firmly against his hand when he placed it into the field allegedly created by the Dean Drive. This led to further research by Stine without Dean’s cooperation or consent and without a sample of his Drive. The investigations were hampered by Dean’s resistance as well as his claims they involved patent infringments and amid threats of law suits. Dean died without leaving a working model of his device or a detailed description of the secret aspects of its design. Funding for Stine’s investigations evaporated.

The Dean Drive became the subject of several articles in popular science magazines and was featured in countless science fiction stories but it soon faded from serious attention. Dean’s secretiveness and unwillingness to provide a working model of his invention as well as the fact that it seemed to violate universally accepted scientific laws such as the conservation of momentum and Newton’s Third Law of Motion left virtually all scientists convinced it was a fraud and not worthy of further examination. Various explantions were given for the observed motion of the device that did not violate accepted scientific principles (and which would render it useless as a space drive) but there has been no direct explanation of Stine’s claims of experiencing a strong force on his hand or of Campbell’s claim of observing reduced weight of the device when energized. (Some theorize that they were both bamboozled by a man who was no more than a con artist.  Others suggested possible self deception: many of us really want it to be true despite its inherent implausibility.)

There have been numerous claims by other inventors that they have developed a reactionless space drive, much as in a previous era seemingly endless variations of perpetual motion machines were proposed. Until recently, none of these claims of a reactionless device have ever been supported by independent testing. The pendulum test is key to such examinations. Place the alleged reactionless space drive on a pendulum. Turn the device on. If it moves without occilating and maintains the movement distance until it is turned off, then just maybe you have something. Over a period of half a century no such device is known to have passed the pendulum test (perhaps until tests were performed on new versions of “reactionless” drives within the past few years by the Chinese and NASA: see discussion below).

The Dean Drive and all similar devices have been considered by most reputable scientists  to be elaborate hoaxes, useless as a space drive. Indeed, if they did work as advertised it would be rather simple to create a perpetual motion machine by attaching the devices to a flywheel. (This may offer one reason most  scientists. are skeptical). Despite a half century since its “invention,” without progress or duplication of the claims of its inventor, the Dean Drive to this day has a cult following which insists that if only further tests were performed and development was pursued, a revolution in space exploration would result.

 

The simularities of the historical experience with perpetual motion machines and the Dean drive (and similar contraptions) to the cold fusion (LENR) controversy are difficult to ignore (see my previous blog for a more detailed discusion of cold fusion). All have or had a considerable cadre of true believers who are or were dismissive of any who express doubts. All have or had inventors with few visible qualifications as the progenator of an allegedly  world changing technology.

Particularly the experience with Andreas Rossi’s cold fusion device which he calls the E-Cat  (energy catalyzer) seems oddly analogous in its presentation to the early history of the Dean Drive. According to Rossi (an inventor who has been convicted of tax fraud and environmental dumping in his home country), a one megawatt version of the E-Cat is in the process of installation or early operative testing now  at an unnamed industrial company site presumably in the United States  and household versions will become widely available as soon as they are “certified” although there seems to have been little progress since these claims were first made three years ago. Rossi maintains as a company secret the fuel which energizes his E-Cat thereby preventing true independent testing (Rossi was present and participated in the recently reported “independent” test so it cannot be taken seriously. The absence of proponents or anyone connected to them is critical during independent testing to ensure the absense of fraud or even subtle attempts to influence the test results). Whether the announced commercializtion of the E-Cat has any truth or is merely the product of a clever advertising scheme (perhaps with the intent of obtaining investors?) soon will become evident. Many suspect it is a total scam that is now falling apart. If unexpected problems arise in the commercialization resulting in substantial and unexplained delays or if silence ensues as to the progress in bringing the E-Cat to the public,  we will be able to draw the unescapable conclussion. On the other hand, if the details of the industrial application are revealed, truly independent observation is allowed and E-Cats begin appearing in households everywhere, we will be compelled to admit to Rossi’s genius and cheer as he receives the Nobel Prize as we welcome a new Millennium.

Even if Rossi’s E-Cat proves to be less than advertised, this does not mean that LENR research should stop. Reputable researchers apparantly have established that the widely scorned cold fusion, ie. LENR, is a phenonmenom that deserves further examination . Hopefully, the research will continue even if the E-Cat does not prove to be viable.

 

Another example of new technologies which some claim will change our civilization has significant simularities to the Dean Drive. The Em drive (RF resonate cavity thruster) invented by an areospace engineer named Rodger Shayers, and the Cannae Drive (formerly known as quantum thrusters or “Q Drive”) invented by Guido Fetta seemingly refer to the same phenomena although the observed effects have been given varying explanations. The Em Drive uses microwaves (generated by an external low power  source) to create a fuelless drive (i.e. no reaction mass) although whether it is reactionless is in dispute. A Chinese researcher, Juan Yang at the Northwest Ploytechnical Institute reports a higher energy thrust than even the inventor claimed. More recently, Harold White, a physicist at the NASA  Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory also known as the Eagleworks confirmed a thrust was observed both from an Em Drive tested and the  similar Cannae Drive with more tests expected. Dr. White rejects the concept that the device is reactionless in a technical sense (although no reaction mass is required) and postulates that the drive results from certain quantum effects. i.e zero point energy believed to be found even in space devoid of both mass and observable energy. All this is strangely reminincent of the Dean Drive although probably unrelated.

What to make of all of this? A space drive not requiring reaction mass would be an unprecedented development, instantly opening the solar system to both robotic and manned space craft. A journey to Mars might be accomplished in two or three days; a voyage to Jupiter in less than a week, a flight to the nearest stars in less than a lifetime. The possible energy implications for use on earth also would be staggering, rivaling the most optimistic predictions of cold fusion advocates. That there has been independent confirmation from two different sources, one of them NASA, is staggering. Dr. White in a recent statement suggested his lab was moving from the research stage to engineering. China, on the other hand, has been silent on the subject since their initial confirmation of the effect. On the surface, it looks cautiously promising.

 

Dr. White and his  Eagleworks team are also reseaching whether a warp in spacetime can be formed, opening the possibility that “faster than light” travel to the stars may become possible before the end of the century. Based on the initial theories of Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican Physicist, who, after watching an episode of Star Trek, decided he would investigate whether an artificial  space time warp was possiible in the real universe. This possibility was based in part on the currently widely accepted inflation theory that the Big Bang resulted in ( or more correctly was) the rapid expansion of space  in the first nano seconds of this universe. While no physical object can exceed the speed of light, space itself can and (at least the inflation theory postulates)  has expanded at rates perhaps millions of times the speed of light during the brief period of inflation. Creating a bubble of warped spacetime around a spacecraft in theory would permit a duplication of this effect. The effect might allow a craft to travel to Alpha Centauri in weeks instead of centuries although technically not exceeding light speed,  i.e. the warped spacetime bubble surrounding and containing the craft would move, not the spacecraft itself.

The catch: creating such a space warp requires incredible amounts of negative energy, something that has been observed in only miniscule amounts (see Casimir effect). Many physicists believe that negative energy is self constrained since the ability to produce or contain useful amounts might not only permit warp space drives but also the ability to open and maintain wormholes to other space, times, or universes and also permit time travel with all the paradoxes that would imply. Dr. Alcubierre himself doubts that a practical warp drive or perhaps the creation of a warp at all is possible because of the vast amounts of negative enegy that would be required to produce a useful warp. Dr. White, however, through the redesign of the hypothetical spacecraft, asserts that the amount of such negative enegy would be greatly reduced from Alcubierre’s projections, significantly increasing the possibility that a warp drive might be practical (assuming a warp can be created at all).

Using a interferometer designed by White and his team for measuring whether a minute warp has been created, it is hoped that soon the Eagleworks will be able to confirm that a warp is at least possible.

So, is all of this merely a repeat of our experience with perpetual motion machines and the Dean Drive, i.e. fraud, self deception or fantasy?  In a few years will we all be embarrased by our infatuation with cold fusion, reactionless drives and warp theory? (Even if all are found to be fantasies, it seems certain that each will continue to have fanatical supporters no matter how convincing the evidence may be that discourages the rest of us). The fact that NASA has confirmed the “Impossible Drive” may give some confidence that there is more to it this time, however,  evaluating Dr. White and his team and therefore the validity of their research is difficult without more information. Key question is whether Dr. White is well respected by his collegues outside Eagleworks. Some of his theories and even nomenclature have been criticized by other physicists. It may be that areas of research no one else cares to investigate are relagated to his Eagleworks team with no expectation of results on the mere remote possibility that unexpected discoveries from time to time may result from the exploration of fringe ideas.

Time will tell. If cold fusion experiments or Em Drive or warp research prove to be fruitful, the future may be almost as exciting as the one depicted in Star Trek.