Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beth Cody on Rifle Marksmanship

One of my favorite local writers (besides myself) is Beth Cody, who writes a monthly opinion column with a libertarian perspective for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. In this month's column Beth writes about her experience going to an "Appleseed Project" training event for rifle marksmanship.

According to Cody, "The program attempts to teach the vital rifle skills that used to be common and that won our nation its freedom, but that are disappearing from our national general knowledge."

Why are rifle skills important to the average citizen? Cody writes: "The founding fathers of our country understood that the best way to safeguard the liberty of citizens was to leave most power with the citizens and divide government power between levels and branches. Similarly, gun ownership and skills, being a bulwark of liberty, should be broadly spread among the majority of citizens. In many countries, dictators take power by gaining control of the military or police, leaving an unarmed populace with no recourse. This would be more difficult to do in America, where half of households own firearms."

You can read Cody's Press-Citizen column here. She also wrote a good gun-related article shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings, which you can read here.

You can also learn more about the Appleseed Project here. I didn't see any more shooting events in Iowa on their schedule, but they'll be back next year. Although I'm fairly comfortable with a rifle, I think I'll go to an Appleseed event for a refresher. I haven't had any formal rifle training since I was a young kid in boot camp.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

State Cuts 10%; Culver Fiddles

I couldn’t help but notice the irony in the title of O. Kay Henderson’s Radio Iowa report titled, “Agencies submit cuts; governor rides rails.” That sounds pretty similar to “Rome burns; Nero fiddles.”

I'm not saying that the current state budget cuts are as bad as Rome burning, of course. As far as I’m concerned they should cut the budget even more. But I do appreciate the irony in the fact that as current state services are being cut, Governor Culver is joyriding on a train, showing where he wants to dump even more taxpayer money to feed his railroad fetish.

Not wanting to prioritize, Culver made the 10% cut across-the-board. Cuts would include laying off 44 law enforcement officers (including 20 State Troopers, whose manpower was already at a 45 year low) and a fire inspector at the Dept. of Public Safety. The Quad City Times reports that the cuts will also have a “devastating impact” on the function of Iowa’s court system.

In terms of layoffs, the Department of Corrections will be the hardest hit with 515 jobs lost. "The impact will affect all departments in every level of service," said corrections officials. "A reduced workforce will create serious safety concerns for the public, staff and offenders within the maximum security facility. In line with the security concern is the closing of four towers."

Cops, courts and corrections sound like legitimate core functions of the state government to me. Should they really be cut at the exact same percentage as, say, the Department of Cultural Affairs or Iowa Public Television?

“The other neat thing we’re doing is we’ll be able to invest in the depots and modernize them,” Culver states in the Radio Iowa article. One such depot is the one in Osceola which is currently undergoing a $600,000 renovation. “And they’re bringing that historic place, you know, back to life,” said Culver.

Play your fiddle, Sir. Do you know "I’ve Been Working On the Railroad?"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Press-Citizen Guest Opinion

Last Sunday the Iowa City Press-Citizen published a version of my "More Guns, Less Sense?" post of October 12th. I had written this in response to an anti-Second Amendment guest opinion that the Press-Citizen had previously published.

Although it was a very condensed version of the below post, it contained a few facts that my original post didn't. These included:

"A 1997 study performed for the Justice Department found that there are as many as 1.5 million defensive uses of firearms every year. Two years earlier, a study by criminology professors at Florida State University, put that number at as many as 2.5 million defensive gun uses each year. By any measure, that's a lot of lives saved from rape, robbery or murder.

"According to a 1996 study at the University of Chicago, states that implemented laws wherein private citizens are permitted to carry firearms reduced their rate of murder by 8.5 percent, rape by 5 percent, aggravated assault by 7 percent and robbery by 3 percent. Contrast that with Australia, where in the six years following it's sweeping gun ban, armed robberies rose by 51 percent, unarmed robberies by 37 percent, assaults by 24 percent and kidnappings by 43 percent. Murders did fall by 3 percent, but manslaughter rose by 16 percent after the ban."

You can read the entire article as it appeared in the newspaper here. Or you can read the original extended blog post here.

Thank you to the Press-Citizen for presenting both sides of the argument.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Eliminate Iowa's Income Taxes

There seems to be a little more chatter about eliminating Iowa's state income tax these days. Ed Failor, Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief (ITR), for instance, had a guest column in the Cedar Rapids Gazette advocating such.

In the extended version of Failor's column on ITR's website, Failor cites a 2008 study by the Mt. Pleasant-based Public Interest Institute. The study found that South Dakota, which has no income taxes, outpaced neighboring Iowa in the growth of total personal income, per capita personal income, population, and non-farm employment from 1967-2007. Failor points out: "We all know people are not flocking to South Dakota for the warm climate. These jobs and former Iowans are leaving the Tall Corn State and moving just across our western border because there is no income tax in the Mount Rushmore State."

At least two Republican gubernatorial candidates have expressed support for eliminating Iowa's income tax. “That would be an ultimate goal, absolutely. Other states have done it and they have seen good growth," said state Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Behn of Boone. I don't know whether or not Senator Behn actually worked to repeal the income tax while in the legislature.

Businessman, Corridor Recovery president and GOP candidate Christian Fong also supports getting rid of the state income tax. Fong says that his immigrant father put the issue into perspective for him. "He said, 'You don't need all that policy talk,'" Fong explained. "He said, 'High taxes are wrong because they inhibit personal freedom.' Done. For an immigrant from China who's bottom line is about the American Dream, taxation is really a freedom issue."

Whether or not the Republicans actually believe in any of the principles that they espouse while campaigning and whether they will follow through if elected remains to be seen. Either way, it's good to see that the idea of eliminating income taxes is at least part of the discourse.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Guns, Less Sense?

Peter Hansen, a retired chemistry professor from Iowa City, recently had a guest opinion article in the I.C. Press-Citizen. It was titled, “Our love of guns is nutty.” The meat of the piece can be summed up with Mr. Hansen’s statement: “I fail to understand how any intelligent thinking person can believe that more guns, carried by more people, at more locations, will result in a safer and more peaceful society!”

I’m sure that Mr. Hansen is a nice man, but I’ve got some problems with the conclusions in his article. Since it contained several unanswered questions, I thought I’d take a crack at answering them for the good professor.

Hansen starts off the piece by invoking the senseless murder of a good man: Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas. A heart-wrenchingly tragic story always helps to stimulate emotions while clouding reason, a favorite tactic of anti-gun advocates.

Hansen then talks about the Virginia Tech shootings and the small but growing movement to allow concealed carry on college campuses. “Gun advocates maintain that had Virginia Tech's students and faculty been armed, far fewer than 32 of them would have been killed in the 2007 mass murder,” writes Hansen. “Of course, gun advocates ignore the far greater likelihood of more frequent suicides, accidents and murders that would result from arming our campuses."

As a self-styled “gun advocate” myself, I couldn’t swear that fewer people would have been killed if some V.T. faculty and students had been armed that day. That would still involve an armed “good guy” being at the exact right place at the exact wrong time. The point is that concealed carry on campus would lessen the likelihood of a shooting taking place at all.

According to “Multiple Victim Public Shootings” (2000) by professors John R. Lott, Jr. and William M. Landes, concealed carry laws (wherein private citizens are permitted to carry firearms) reduced a states likelihood of having a “multiple victim public shooting” (2 or more victims) by 60% and reduced deaths and injuries from MVPS’s by 78%. Their research also showed that the more restrictions that concealed carry states placed on where permit holders could carry their weapons (more “gun free zones,” like schools) the less of a reduction in MVPS’s the state experienced.

According to the study "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," (University of Chicago, 1996) by researchers John R. Lott, Jr. and David B. Mustard, states which implemented concealed carry laws reduced their rate of murder by 8.5%, rape by 5%, aggravated assault by 7% and robbery by 3%. There was no corresponding “greater likelihood of more frequent suicides, accidents and murders” as Hansen fears. We should expect similar results arming campuses, where only a few law-abiding faculty members and older students would qualify (or even want) to carry handguns.

Now allow me to answer some of his specific questions.. Hansen asks: “Why do Americans feel the need to own handguns to protect themselves from a potentially tyrannical government? Germans and Italians -- who have experienced tyranny -- don't feel this need.”

Most Germans and Italians (and many Americans) would probably grudgingly submit to tyrannical government (as they have in the past). Does Mr. Hansen consider that a virtue? Many (but not all) American gun owners retain the anti-authoritarian spirit of our founding fathers who rebelled against a tyrant far less maniacal than the ones that the Germans and Italians tolerated and even supported. Apparently some Europeans have this spirit of resistance too, like the Jewish resistance fighters in the Warsaw ghetto. Armed at first only with a few pistols, they held off the Nazis longer than the entire Polish Army had been able to.

“Why do Americans fear that law enforcement officers cannot adequately provide for public safety?” he asks. Our law enforcement officers do good work, but the simple fact of the matter is that they cannot be everywhere when needed. The courts have ruled that police have no legal responsibility to protect any individual, only society in general. Even in the increasingly Orwellian surveillance-state that the British are creating, the cops can’t be everywhere. Violent crime rates against their disarmed populace are now higher than America’s.

“Why do Americans fear that strict handgun laws will inevitably result in hunters being denied their hunting rifles and shotguns? Other nations with very strict gun laws allow hunters to hunt,” writes Hansen.

Because in just about every jurisdiction where it’s tried, gun control begets more gun control. If handgun ownership for such a basic human right as self-preservation is not considered sufficient cause to own guns, then how can the recreational use of firearms be considered justification for very long? Hunting, if allowed at all, quickly becomes the domain of the rich and well-connected. Once firearms ownership becomes a purely recreational pursuit, bureaucrats like Rebecca Peters (head of the U.N.’s gun ban arm) can more easily tell you to “get another hobby,” as she snidely advised English sport shooters.

Hansen also asks, “To those who interpret the Second Amendment as an unqualified right to gun ownership, I ask, why did James Madison write, ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Why didn't he simply write, ‘The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed?’ Why the reference to ‘a well regulated militia?’ None of the five freedoms of the First Amendment are prefaced with a qualifying phrase.” This is a valid question.

In his book “The Bill of Rights Primer,” Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar explains: “[I]n 1789, when used without any qualifying adjective, ‘the militia’ referred to all First-Class Citizens capable of bearing arms. The seeming tension between the dependent and the main clauses of the Second Amendment thus evaporates on closer inspection- the ‘militia’ is identical to ‘the people’ in the core (First-Class Citizen) sense described above, encompassing adult male citizens eligible to vote, serve on juries, and hold public office. Indeed, the version of the Second Amendment that initially passed in the House, only to be stylistically shortened in the Senate, explicitly defined the militia as ‘composed of the body of the People.’”

Lastly Mr. Hansen asks: “[W]hen the Bill of Rights was submitted to Congress, what was meant by 'arms'? Most guns possessed by hunters and farmers of that day were smooth bore muskets. Might those 18th-century congressmen have taken a different position had they observed the firepower of a Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 Magnum revolver?”

I doubt our founders would have taken a different position. General Washington, for instance, was dismayed when many civilian militiamen (hunters and farmers) showed up with muskets incapable of mounting bayonets. In short, he didn’t want them bringing the “hunting rifles” that Mr. Hansen alludes might be permissible. He wanted these civilians bringing their own military-style “assault weapons” of the day. The founders would want their militia to have the best (read “most lethal”) small arms they could get. Since today’s robbers and redcoats have better guns, the founders would have no problem with the militia upgrading their arms as well.

I hope this all helps Mr. Hansen to understand how some fairly “intelligent thinking people” can support an individual right to keep and bear arms. If it was helpful to him, I hope the next time I need help understanding that darned chemistry stuff he’ll be there for me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

ISU Professor Eric Cooper To Run For Iowa Governor

By Mike Malloy

(Sept. 30, 2009 – 8:30 p.m.) Eric Cooper, an Iowa State University associate professor in psychology and neuroscience, will run for governor next fall as a Libertarian. While Cooper is a veteran of local politics he is anything but a typical politician, as evidenced by his stark admission: “I’m not going to win.”

Victory for Cooper is redefined as finishing third, and receiving at least two percent of the vote, meaning the Libertarian Party would not have to petition or get signatures to be on the ballot in future elections. Cooper also hopes to raise the profile of Libertarians in the hopes that one of the two major parties would be willing to embrace Libertarian ideas.

Click here to read the full story.

(My thanks to Shrink Iowa Gov.)

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