Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NRA Brief in Support of Chicago Plaintiffs

The NRA has filed a brief in support of the plaintiffs in the Chicago gun ban case, and I have added the link to my sidebar on the case.

In reading both this and the petitioners briefs, I find it fascinating that so much of the arguments in favor of the 14th Amendment protecting the right to bear arms refers to events in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War during Reconstruction. It seems that southerners wanted their newly freed slaves disarmed, but that northerners saw that denial of arms left these people defenseless. From the brief:
Summarizing this history, the status of the
right to keep and bear arms during the drafting and
ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment is
unmistakable. It was viewed as a fundamental right
in the most literal sense: The foundation necessary
to secure all of the other rights of free citizens.

Gun rights were seen as the means for a minority to protect themselves from a hostile majority, and to help secure their civil rights. It seems that the origins of gun control in the United States are indeed racist.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Petitioner's Opening Brief

The opening brief by the petitioners in the Chicago gun case to be argued before the Supreme Court is not available here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Democrats and Guns - Silent Minority Favors Self Protection.

This Gallup poll on gun ownership and usage contains all of the usual data: more Republicans than Democrats own guns. But there is a fascinating split in the reason people own guns that is given at the end of the results: among people who own guns, Democrats cite personal protection as the reason more than do Republicans, and all three categories, Republican, Independent, and Democrat, poll at 64% or greater for personal protection.

So, while the liberal narrative holds that guns are the cause of crime, and restricting access to guns would decrease crime in the United States, there is a significant minority of Democrats who own guns for personal protection. I think anyone you owns a firearm for personal protection would not be sympathetic to increased gun control laws.

That little factoid in this poll just might be a decisive factor explaining why gun control is increasingly unpopular, while laws bolstering the ability of citizens to protect themselves, like liberalized concealed weapon laws, have been passed in almost 40 states.

Democratic Party leadership is mostly composed of the most liberal members, like my own Senator Diane Feinstein. But even they have stopped pushing for more gun control laws simply because they have been slapped down too hard by the voters, and the reality that not every Democrat is against gun ownership.

H.R. 3962 - Refuse to Buy Insurance, You Might Go To Jail

The recently passed health care reform bill, H.R. 3962, requires everyone to enroll in a "qualified" plan. The mechanism to enforce this provision is a tax penalty, which is defined in Section 501 of the bill:

(a) Tax Imposed- In the case of any individual who does not meet the requirements of subsection (d) at any time during the taxable year, there is hereby imposed a tax equal to 2.5 percent of the excess of--
      `(1) the taxpayer's modified adjusted gross income for the taxable year, over
      `(2) the amount of gross income specified in section 6012(a)(1) with respect to the taxpayer.
    There are no direct criminal penalties contained in H.R. 3962, but the effect of imposing a new tax brings both criminal and civil penalties into play via the Internal Revenue Code, also known as Title 26 of the United States Code. These criminal and civil penalties, and how they might affect an individual are explained in this posting of the Ways & Means Republicans website, and in this letter from Joint Committee on Taxation provided to the Ways and Means Committee.

    The sections cited in these letters are sections of Title 26, the Internal Revenue Code, and they may be verified at this website of the Cornell University Law School.

    So, the jail time may be applied if a person refuses to buy insurance, making themselves subject to the tax, and then refuses to pay the tax. In every case, passage of H.R. 3962 increases costs for every American by at least 2.5 percent of their taxable income, and perhaps by as much as five years of their life.

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    California Roster of Approved Forearms: A Creeping Handgun Ban?

    As readers of this blog probably know, California regulates handguns very strongly, requiring manufacturers to submit handguns for safety testing before they can sell a model in this state. Handguns that are approved for sale are posted on the California Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale.

    This list does not by any means include all of the handgun models introduced by manufacturers in a given year, and it is often characterized as a creeping handgun ban. But do statistics bear this claim out? Are the number of handguns available for sale increasing or decreasing?

    It turns out that it is indeed possible to determine the number of guns approved for sale over time, and this I have done in the chart at the top of this article.

    As can be seen, over the last three years the number of handguns available for sale in California has been steadily increasing, so the Roster is not a creeping handgun ban.

    However, this chart only shows the number of handguns approved for sale at any one time, but not the "churn" in the list. Handguns are dropped from the list when their approval expires. But the reasons for the expiration are varied. Perhaps the manufacturer has ceased production of that model, or perhaps the manufacturer has decided not to pay the renewal fee to continue the listing.

    And nothing on this chart indicates the number of handguns offered for sale in the United States, but that have not been approved by the DOJ, or the number of guns introduced in any given year that are available for sale outside of California that have not yet been approved, or that have never been submitted for approval.

    All that I can conclude is that, lacking further data, the DOJ Roster is not manifestly a creeping handgun ban, working over time to eliminate the handguns from California. But it is a handgun limiter, acting like a water saving device to slow down the introduction of handguns into the California market. When combined with the California assault weapon ban and the magazine capacity limit, the handguns available to a California resident are very much curtailed when compared to many other states.

    Universal Health Care Possible - But There Will Be Losers

    Last week my local PBS station aired a fascinating program comparing different countries health care systems. The program, Sick Around The World, can be viewed online, and I highly recommend that anyone reading this post to watch the program before proceeding.

    I came away with two conclusions:

    First, universal health care that is affordable is indeed possible, but to implement it there will be two economic losers: doctors and and insurance companies.

    Second, the health care bill that recently passed in the House of Representatives, H.R. 3962, will NOT reduce costs, and is in fact a monstrosity that will cost Americans a lost of money without providing better or more affordable care.

    Here is why my claim is true: the economic losers in many countries are doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies.

    It seems simple, even cliche, to say this, but if medical costs are to be reduced, then someone must make less money. In many countries around the world, the two entities making less are doctors and insurance companies.

    It seems a little strange to learn that insurance companies in several of the countries visited by the show host are non-profit corporations, but that is indeed the case. Governments dictate how campanies insure individuals, and they dictate the premiums that they can charge. REmoving the profit reduces the cost of care to the individual.

    Doctors are almost always limited by the government to certain rates that they can charge for procedures, and no doctor can charge more. But since the government is the single payer, the amount of paperwork and administration is mush reduced as compared to a United States practice, saving enormous amounts of money. Further, malpractice tort law has been reformed in every case, reducing the malpractice insurance premiums for doctors must pay, further reducing costs.

    Finally, every single one of the countries presented in the program use government bargaining power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies bulk pricing on everything from drugs to MRI equipment, reducing costs even further.

    All of these measures, and others, reduce the cost of health care, but the losers are doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies.

    This program exposes H.R. 3962 as the farce that it is: all of the economic losers, doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies, have made their deals with Congress and the Obama Administration to avoid the necessary concessions that would have to be made to accomplish real health care reform.

    Doctors have lobbied long and hard to avoid a reduction in the Medicare payment schedule that has for years been touted as necessary to avoid unsustainable Medicare costs. There is not reason to suppose that payments to doctors will be limited under any new health care plan.

    Insurance companies have eagerly come on board to support the plan because there is an individual mandate that every person in the United States must enroll in a "qualified plan". resulting in millions of new premium-paying customers for the insurance companies.

    The United States government under the "leadership" of President George W. Bush, abandoned any attempt to negotiate volume purchasing discounts with pharmaceutical companies, and there is no indication that such negotiations will be authorized by H.R. 3962.

    And we finally come to another large winner in the health care debate, to which almost every Congress member (Democratic AND Republican) is beholden: trial lawyers. They have successfully prevented any kind of tort reform, meaning that malpractice trial awards will continue to be astronomical, resulting in very high malpractice insurance premiums, which further squeeze doctors.

    H.R. 3962 is not a reform of the health care "system". It is a massive new entitlement program, one that is going to make the middle class pay for the coverage of the poor, under penalty of fine and imprisonment. It is an entitlement program that will NOT reduce the cost of medical care, which will continue to increase faster than inflation, causing the entire issue to be revisited in a few years when people realize that they have been duped. It is an entitlement program that will be impossible to repeal if it is once implemented, throwing and economic anvil to taxpayers drowning in a sea of increased costs.

    The final two indicators of how much this bill stinks can be found in two facts: first, the Congress has exempted itself from being covered under this plan, and second, the effective date of this law is 2013, the year after President Obama will presumably be safely elected to his second term in office.