Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How our legislature works

Ever notice how long it takes for some bills to get debated, amended, sent out of committee, gutted, re-amended, referred to a second committee, and finally passed? People say watching the process is akin to watching sausage get made - not exactly something you're going to want to do often.

What's even more disgusting is when our beloved Congresscritters decide they know best and can introduce a bill, two days later "consider" it for all of 45 whole minutes, vote to suspend the freaking rules and then pass it with an unrecorded voice vote. A VOICE VOTE! Which means we have to take the word of the guy taking notes that the vote actually went that way - we don't even have a record of any of the following:
- how many votes were Yay, how many were Nay
- which way each Rep voted
- how many Reps were there in the first place and voted at all

I give you HR 2640. Awesome. Why am I so concerned with this vote, on a bill with such an ostensibly noble purpose as preventing any more Virginia Tech-style massacres by making the NICS (the background check system) stronger so that guys like Cho can't legally buy guns? Let me count the ways:

First and foremost, because this law is directly touching law having to do with the free exercise of the rights guaranteed (not granted, but safeguarded by) the Second Amendment - the one element of the Bill of Rights that safeguards the rest - and for a bill of that magnitude to proceed in this manner is unconscionable, regardless of its motives, noble or otherwise.

What this bill essentially does is codify into law the guidelines and regulations used by the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) in the NICS, which were explicitly explained in a May 9, 2007 letter to every State Attorney General, in which it was pointed out that a "lawful authority" as low as a private practice psychiatrist has the power to "adjudicate someone a mental defective" for even giving the appearance that someone "may be a danger to himself or others". The BATFE even explicitly states that they interpret "danger" as meaning "any danger", not just "substantial" or "imminent", but "ANY". Think there are any mayors, cops, or prosecutors out there who don't like the fact that you're a supporter of the Second Amendment in the sense Tench Coxe and Patrick Henry had, and who'll be able to get a shrink to sign off that that belief alone makes you "a danger" to those around you? That's exactly what happened three weeks ago in Harrisbug, PA.

Horatio Miller was at a speech on a community college campus, the Concealed-Carry permit holder breaking no law by having a legal handgun in his backpack, and was arrested and committed for saying something stupid. He made a comment to the guy next to him that it'd be worse than Virginia Tech if a criminal stole the guns he had in his car and at home (he owned three handguns total). For that lapse of judgment, here's what the Assistant DA had to say:
"Because of the statement I was greatly concerned about this fellow," Chardo said. "I contacted the sheriff and had his license to carry a firearm revoked. And I asked police to commit him under Section 302 of the mental health procedures act and that was done. He is now ineligible to possess firearms because he was committed involuntarily."
Get that? He was never charged for any firearm possession crime (PA restricts Concealed Carry on the campuses of elementary and secondary schools, but not colleges), but nonetheless, Second Amendment rights for this guy, gone for life, because a prosecutor didn't like something he said.

Or they will be, should this law pass and codify into law the guidelines and regulations the BATFE have added over the years regarding, among other things, "adjudication of mental defectiveness".

UPDATE: on my opinion of HR 2640 here


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