I've knocked Libertarian
's commentary on the gun issue, but every so often, they
have a point. Like when Perry argues
- The reason I am so keen to prevent the attempted disarming
of American society is that this
is a wonderful litmus test of civil
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
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
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