Thursday, January 10, 2002

I've knocked Libertarian Samizdata's commentary on the gun issue, but every so often, they have a point. Like when Perry argues that

The reason I am so keen to prevent the attempted disarming of American society is that this is a wonderful litmus test of civil society's health...

That is so right.

You know, I'll admit that I actually have been a bit concerned about the declining health of American civil society. When Christopher Hitchens pointed out that as a resident alien, he can be arrested, tried, convicted (without the right to see or contest the evidence against him), and executed with no public notice, I was letting that get to me. Entirely without justification.

When I read about expanded wiretap authority, and new rules that allow law enforcement agents seeking wiretaps to shop for the most compliant judges in the country, and apply their warrants anywhere, I used to get a bit worried. When I noted that the same bill allows all sorts of special powers for "terrorism" cases, I got even more concerned, particularly when I remembered that the conviction of a drunk and disorderly airline passenger was counted as a terrorism case in a DOJ report.

I was also worried that we'd never learn about abuses of these new authorities, at least not from an administration which is trying to use the mantle of executive privilege to hide the reasons why the FBI allowed an innocent man to serve 30 years for a murder which its agents knew he didn't commit. Particularly when the same administration is encouraging its officials to fight FOIA requests, and gutting the Presidential Records Act by fiat. But hey, that's just their thing --- Bush is also trying to seal public records of his term of Governor of Texas. So why fret?

What raised my spirits away from preoccupation with these minor matters? The heart-warming case of Timothy Wagner. Mr. Wagner came to the attention of the authorities when he entered a dry goods store soaking wet, carrying a loaded .357 Magnum and several bags of bullets in a briefcase, explaining that he was trying to soak out the deadly chemicals with which his enemies were trying to poison him. (As don't we all?) This led to an encounter with the police, and a Kafkaesque trip through the legal system, in which crypto-fascist cops wound up trying to take away his concealed carry permit for no better reason than that he happens to be a paranoid schizophrenic.

But they have been denied! A state appeals court has ruled that mental illness cannot be considered in deciding fitness to carry a concealed weapon. And they are rightly applauded in this ruling by, among others, state Sen. Lyda Green, who sponsored the removal of mental illness language from the state gun law in 1998, and Joseph Nava, a gun-rights advocate who literally lives on NRA Lane in Fairbanks, who says, "I don't want to give the Department of Public Safety any discretion. I want the rules to be black and white." We can give the government discretion with regard to tax audits, prosecution, which crimes count as terrorism, who gets committed to a loony bin (the NRA spokesman's answer to what should happen to Mr. Wagner, no doubt at state expense), FOIA requests, warrantless snooping through ISP records --- heck, at least with regard to the Presidential Records Act, which laws they want to follow --- because none of that affects the health of civil society, as measured by Perry's wonderful litmus test.

Yes, FBI agents now have authority to read our email headers and run packet filters without seeking a search warrant, but have no fear. Remember the litmus test. As long as folks like Mr. Wagner can carry concealed firearms to guard himself, and the rest of us, from the evil government forces that implanted that chip in his head, we can rest easy. The health of civil society is assured.

I feel so much better now.

(For the sake of the idiots who will read this as support of a gun ban: I favor regulated sales of firearms to law-abiding citizens, precisely because it would allow for some discretion in dealing with the likes of Tim Wagner, while a flat gun ban --- with the concomitant illegal market, as now seen in Britain --- allows for none. Back in my high school, any student that wanted it had ready access to illegal pot, but not to regulated beer. It's not that I expect the regulations to be perfect, or perfectly enforced --- but in this case, I think you can reasonably expect them to be better than nothing, which is clearly the NRA's preferred option).


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home