Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rand Paul Is Right

The Rand Paul campaign had barely swept up the confetti from its victory party for securing the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate candidate when the media began trying to paint him as a racist. The flap arose over comments that Paul made on MSNBC’s "The Rachel Maddow Show" last Wednesday. On Friday the New York Times reported: "Asked by Ms. Maddow if a private business had the right to refuse to serve black people, Mr. Paul replied, 'Yes.'"

That’s not quite how it went down. In this video clip “The Rachel Maddow Show” guest host Chris Hayes explains how the The Times got it wrong.

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Despite this misquote, Rand Paul did say that he had problems with some provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. After mentioning that he‘s “not in favor of any discrimination of any form,” and pointing out that he supports 90% of the Civil Rights act, specifically the parts that banned institutional discrimination in the public domain, he asked some libertarian philosophical questions about federal desegregation of privately-owned venues. “Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?” asked Paul. “These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion.”

Important questions indeed. If you don’t want to invite someone into your house because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, weight, shoe size or any other reason, it’s generally agreed that you have no legal obligation to allow that person onto your property. Why do so many people think that the rules suddenly should change if you are trying to make money on the use of your property? Isn’t commercial property still the property of the owner, just as noncommercial property is?

Another interesting question in regard to federally mandated desegregation is the constitutionality of it. Only in the mind of an imaginative Progressive is exchanging food and crumpled bills across a lunch counter a transaction of “interstate commerce.” While the state and local governments might have something to say about who someone serves in their privately-owned business, the federal government isn’t holding many constitutional cards on the issue.

It would be increasingly hard for a business or property owner to discriminate in this day and age, not because of any law, but because of how our culture itself has changed. Racism simply is not tolerated as it once was. That is mostly because of the work our great social reformers (often private religious leaders) who worked to change society’s hearts and minds about race. In most instances, government (at all levels) had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into modernity after society had mostly evolved into its more tolerant self.

These are “important philosophical debates,” Doctor Paul, but don’t expect anyone in the press or politics to debate them with you. Just expect more “gotcha” politics.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Iowa Big Box Parties Hemorrhaging Voters

KCCI Des Moines reports that voter registration numbers released by the state on Friday show that both branches of the Republicrat Party are losing registered voters.

According to the article on KCCI's website: "In the past year, Republicans have lost 10,997 registered voters while Democrats lost 17,235 registered voters. Independents gained 7,527 voters, according to the Iowa Secretary of State's office. [...] The new numbers show 602,768 Republicans, 711,106 Democrats, 774,005 no party or independent, and 1,682 listed as 'other.'"

Iowans are obviously dissatisfied with both parties and with the whole sullied political process. I can't say as I blame them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Iowa Becomes "Shall-Issue" State

On Thurday, April 29th, Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed NRA-backed legislation making Iowa the 37th state that shall issue concealed weapons permits to qualified applicants. Prior to this, permits "may" have been issued by each county sheriff, but sheriffs were not required to do so.

“This bill strikes an appropriate balance, recognizing the rights of law-abiding Iowans guaranteed by the Second Amendment and the duty of local law enforcement officers,” said the big lug, Culver. “We all have a role to play in public safety. I believe this is a good bill that has the potential to keep Iowans safer.”

According to the NRA's bullet points, in addition to changing from a "may-issue" to "shall-issue" process, the new law "will increase the term of a permit from one year to five years; narrow the disqualifying circumstances for a permit to the federal minimum in most cases, while at the same time further narrowing state-specific disqualifiers; prevent the issuing officer from placing limits on or restricting the scope of a carry permit; ensure that denials, suspensions and revocations of permits would be subject to both administrative and judicial review; grant recognition to all valid out-of-state permits; broaden the types of training that would fulfill the state-mandated training requirement for permit applicants; and remove other over-reaching restrictions on gun owners in the Hawkeye State."

While I had some problems with this bill, it DOES set up a uniform state-wide standard for issuing permits. Since the Iowa Constitution mandates that laws have a "uniform operation," this is important. I may have under-stated this importance in previous posts. The new "shall-issue" law will get rid of the 99 different issuance standards uses by each county, and will hopefully get rid of the arbitrary denials of permits by a handful of anti-Second Amendment sheriffs.

One of my beefs with the original bill introduced by the NRA was that it made it a crime to publicly carry your weapon if you were "under the influence of alcohol," yet it gave no quantifiable standard as to what that meant. The version that passed says simply: "A permit issued under this chapter is invalid if the person to whom the permit is issued is intoxicated as provided in section 321J.2, subsection 1." This means, I believe, a blood alcohol concentration over .08, the same to legally drive in Iowa.

Another problem was that the original bill spelled out most of the dreaded federal "Lautenberg Act" into state code. The passed version simply states that a permit can't be issued to an applicant who "[i]s prohibited by federal law from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm." Now if Lautenberg is repealed or struck down as unconstitutional, it would automatically be moot in the state law.

One provision that I liked in the original NRA version that I didn't see in the new law was the section that protected the private information of permit applicants. Apparently the Iowa legislature had a fleeting interest in "sunshine and openness," so long as it is just their constituents' personal information being given out.

There are still philosophical reasons not to entirely like the new law. Even under a "shall-issue" system, supposedly free citizens must ask permission from the state to fully enjoy their God-given right to bear arms.

But, on the whole, I would say that this new law is a step in the right direction. We've seen in other states that once people (including law enforcement personnel) realize that the sky didn't fall with shall-issue, there is a tendency to lessen restrictions on permit holders. Hopefully that trend will continue in Iowa.

Maybe someday Iowa will join Vermont, Alaska, and Arizona in requiring no permit at all. I hope I'm still around to see it.

[Right to Carry map courtesy of NRA-ILA]

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