Friday, April 11, 2008

Philadelphia Passes Stringent Gun Laws Despite Statutory Prohibitions

Mayor Michael Nutter signed five new gun-related bills into law Thursday, enacting new regulations that contravene standing state laws reserving the power to regulate firearms to the state legislature. The bevy of bills comes after Nutter made promises as a candidate to introduce tough legislation to deal with a rising rate of homicides and other violent crimes, and pledged on the day of his inaugeration to push through major gun law reforms regardless of the opposition. Mayor Nutter likened the actions of the city council and of himself to the signing of the Declaration of Independence (taken from 4/11/08):

"Almost 232 years ago, a group of concerned Americans took matters in their own hands and did what they needed to do by declaring that the time had come for a change," Nutter said as he signed the bills in front of a table of confiscated weapons outside the police evidence room in City Hall.

The new laws have raised the ire of both Pennsylvania legislators and private advocacy groups. The NRA has promised to work against the bills in court, and other groups are sure to weigh in as Philadelphia attempts to enforce the laws. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have reacted negatively to the laws:

State Representative John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) said through a spokesman that the laws were unconstitutional. House Speaker Dennis M. O'Brien (R. Phila.) did not return a call for comment, and State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.) declined to comment.

Even the city's fiercest proponent of stricter gun laws in the legislature, Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans, offered only lukewarm support.

Evans spokeswoman Johnna Pro said: "No one . . . feels the frustration" of city leaders more than Evans, so he would not criticize them.

But Evans, she said, also is a leader in the House of Representatives and "believes that everyone needs to allow the process to work, even though the process, at times, may be excruciatingly slow and incredibly unresponsive."

The city council passed five bills out of the seven that came before the body for a final reading and vote, choosing the bills the council believed best able to survive a legal challenge. The five bills passed are as follows, in no particular order (all taken from

Bill 080017 - "Temporary Removal of Firearms of Persons Posing a Risk of Imminent Personal Injury to Self or Others"

-This bill allows for the confiscation of arms and probition on purchasing and/or possessing firearms by anyone deemed to be at imminent risk of harm to self or others.

Bill 080018-A - "Prohibited Possession, Sale and Transfer of Firearms by Persons Subject to Protection From Abuse Orders"

-This bill allows for the prohibition of possession and sales to individuals who are the subject of a protection from abuse order. Persons subject to such orders have 72 hours in which to sell, surrender or transfer firearms out of their possession. Private individuals receiving firearms must not be related to the subject of the abuse order.

Bill 080032-A - "Failure to Report Lost or Stolen Firearm"

-This bill requires police notification of a stolen weapon within twenty-four hours after a weapon is discovered to be missing. After the time limit, a fine is levied. The bill also states that a person who violates the statute again is automatically guilty of a repeat offense, even if a judicial finding hasn't been issued in the first or any previous case.

Bill 080035-A - "Straw and Multiple Handgun Purchase Reduction"

-This bill sets a limit of one handgun purchase during any thirty-day period, and requires a buyer to both obtain an eligibility report from the police before buying a handgun and send a purchase report to the police once the transaction has cleared. Anyone who attempts to purchase a handgun before the thirty-day limit from a previous purchase has expired is assumed by default to be trafficking in handguns.

Bill 080033 - "Contraband Weapons, Accessories and Ammunition"

-This bill prohibits the possession of assault weapons within city limits, defining an assault weapon as any of the following:

1) Any rifle or semi-automatic pistol that accepts a detachable magazine and has any of the following: a telescoping/folding stock for rifles or any shoulder stock for pistols, a muzzle brake or compensator, a barrel shroud and any pistol grip or thumbhole stock.
2) Any pistol that accepts a detachable magazine outside of the pistol grip.
3) Any centerfire rifle with an internal magazine holding more than ten rounds.
4) Any shotgun that accepts a detachable magazine or rotating cylinder.
5) Any combination of conversion kit parts that would place a weapon in any of the above categories.

The bill also prohibits any magazine with a capacity greater than sixteen rounds, defining any larger magazine as a large-capacity feeding device. From the effective date of the law, citizens possessing an assault weapon or prohibited device have thirty days to dispose of their contraband items in one of three ways:

1) Remove the weapon or device from the jurisdiction.
2) Permanently modify or deactivate the weapon or device in question.
3) Surrender any offending weapon or device to the police.

With the exception of the law regarding people judged at risk of imminent harm to either themselves or to others, these laws greatly infringe upon the rights of normal citizens to keep and bear arms for their own defense, as allowed by state regulations and as protected by the Pennsylvania Constitution. The assault weapon prohibition alone constitutes an alarming threat to legitimate gun owners in the Philadelphia city limits, as almost any rifle with a detachable magazine will fail to meet the standard for legal ownership and sets up gun owners for a program of firearm confiscation. Even the federal ban didn't go as far as the Philadelphia ban, as older weapons were at least grandfathered into legality. The limit on handgun purchases also questions the right of legitimate citizens to obtain arms with with to defend themselves, with the state assuming that any citizen who wishes to purchase more than one handgun in a month, for any reason, is a de facto gun trafficker. The city has also imposed an incredibly short period for the victims of theft to report a lost firearm, with a limit of twenty-four hours allowing little time to avoid fines and/or criminal sanctions. The prohibition on firearm possession for the subjects of protection orders also sets a rather dangerous precedent for removing the right to bear arms without a trial.

These laws represent the intent of the Philadelphia government to completely remove any right of citizens to keep and bear arms in their own defense, even in the face of constitutional protections at both the state and federal level.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Assorted Thoughts on the Youtube Debate

Joe Biden Thinks I Need Mental Help

Apparently Senator Biden questions the sanity of many gun owners:

QUESTION: Good evening, America. My name is Jered Townsend from Clio, Michigan. To all the candidates, tell me your position on gun control, as myself and other Americans really want to know if our babies are safe. This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban. Please tell me your views.

A valid question, given the anti-gun bent of several debate participants and various members of the Democratic legislature. When asked for a response, Biden replied:

COOPER: Senator Biden, are you going to be able to keep his baby safe?

BIDEN: I'll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help.


I think he just made an admission against self-interest. I don't know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun. I'm being serious. Look, just like me, we go around talking about people who own guns. I am the guy who originally wrote the assault weapons ban, that became law, and then we got defeated and then Dianne Feinstein went to town on it and did a great job.

I was unaware that treating an object with care and receiving satisfaction from it's use were grounds for declaring someone mentally impaired. I'd hate to see what Joe would say about people who name their cars.

Nuclear power is still a bogeyman in the Democratic Party

While the world searches for energy sources that don't use fossil fuels, it appears that several of the Democratic candidates will continue to abstain from supporting the expansion of nuclear power:

EDWARDS: Wind, solar, cellulose-based biofuels are the way we need to go. I do not favor nuclear power. We haven't built a nuclear power plant in decades in this country. There is a reason for that. The reason is it is extremely costly. It takes an enormous amount of time to get one planned, developed and built. And we still don't have a safe way to dispose of the nuclear waste. It is a huge problem for America over the long term.

CLINTON: I'm agnostic about nuclear power. John is right, that until we figure out what we're going to do with the waste and the cost, it's very hard to see nuclear as a part of our future. But that's where American technology comes in. Let's figure out what we're going to do about the waste and the cost if we think nuclear should be a part of the solution.

To his credit, Senator Obama stated his support for "exploring" future uses of nuclear power. Still, the stated aversion to a ready source of reliable and non-polluting energy from Clinton and Edwards doesn't make me feel optimistic about our future energy policy.

For Senator Clinton, the truth hurts

When asked if she would use the word "liberal" to describe herself, Clinton replied:

CLINTON: You know, it is a word that originally meant that you were for freedom, that you were for the freedom to achieve, that you were willing to stand against big power and on behalf of the individual.

Unfortunately, in the last 30, 40 years, it has been turned up on its head and it's been made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government, totally contrary to what its meaning was in the 19th and early 20th century.

I prefer the word "progressive," which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century.

I consider myself a modern progressive, someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family.

So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that's the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.

Hillary obviously understands that the Democratic Party has sullied the term "liberal," but she is unwilling to change policy to reflect that. And yet, she still claims to be for "individual rights and freedoms," even though her past history would show more than a handful of attempts to usurp said rights and freedoms.

Edit: All quotes taken from the CNN transcript found here.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Great Views, Awful Photography

For my friends, I'll just post a few pictures from my recent hikes.

Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park.

A lone tree among the rocks and boulders. Still alive, somehow.

A view of the Lehigh Gap from the eastern side of the Lehigh River.

A view of the Lehigh Gap from the top of the eastern mountain.

Another view from the rocky mountaintop. And, for the curious, the trail goes right over the rocks in the foreground.

The western mountaintop, which I'll soon be scaling.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Parachronistic Diversion

Beware the curious historian. Or one with a sudden excess of free time, anyway.

After parting ways with my employer a few weeks ago, I found myself with a great deal of time to devote to my various hobbies. Beyond the normal aspects of unemployment, namely filing for unemployment and looking for new employment, I figured I'd spend some time reading and hitting the nearby forest trails. While tooling around the net in search of new hiking trails, I came across a website offering advice to amateur gold prospectors.

Prospecting for gold seemed rather appealing. I love to spend time in the wilderness, anyway, and what's more important at the moment, amateur prospecting is dirt cheap. The idea of taking a crack at a centuries-old practice and emulating the countless thousands of prospectors that influenced the history of the United States was certainly the most fascinating aspect, and I wondered exactly how I'd stack up against my predecessors.

Just figuring out where gold might be is as important as honing the ability to sift through dirt, so I trolled around the net looking for clues to probable places to find an accessible deposit. Most documents and message boards indicated that glacial deposits are the best bet for someone in Northeast Pennsylvania, and poster pointed to this map indicating where glacial deposits from the correct geological timespan were located. With that information in mind, I found a suitable site in Pike County, shown on this map.

After purchasing a cheap gold pan, I drove up to the state forest and hiked towards one of the nearby creeks. I found a spot where faster flowing water from higher elevations slowed down to form a decent pool, and dug my pan into the dirt. I swirled the mixture of rocks and smaller particles around, using the stream to take away the larger rocks and dirt I didn't want, and eventually ended up with a handful of fine particles.

I sifted through the dirt and found a 1/2 Cm gold-colored flake. Not wanting to get stuck with the wrong mineral, I tried passing a magnet over the flake, which wasn't attracted, leaving me to conclude that the pliable flake was gold. Not bad for a first attempt, I think.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Reading General Opposition as an Ideology

The American Family Association published an article detailing the findings of a recent study, claiming that, depending upon the type of college or university attended, up to 51% of freshmen who identify as born-again Christians will cease to identify as such four years later at graduation.

While questioning the reasons for such a decline in religious affiliation among college students is certainly an apt activity for the religous-minded members of our society, the AFA makes the mistake of framing the decline as a battle between competing ideologies. The AFA points to the spectre of "liberalism" on college campuses, claiming that ideological indoctrination and curbs on free expression are to largely to blame, citing cases from several university campuses. In the end, the article places religious faith on one side of the debate, with an amalgamation of secular atheism and so-called "liberalism" diametrically opposed, creating a patently false dichotomy.

From the article:

With memories of high school graduation still fresh on their minds, millions of parents will send their children off to college in the coming weeks. For parents, the time is a bitter-sweet milestone. For students, it marks the beginning of a quest for freedom.

But what students and parents don’t realize is that today’s campuses are functioning as an indoctrination into the realm of liberalism. As early as the 1790s, Yale college students were openly disavowing Christ. Despite periods of revival, the denial of Christian beliefs and the acceptance of secularism have persisted and gained strength through the years.

Though the AFA and the article's author might believe otherwise, secularism and a disavowal of the divinity of Christ are not one and the same. The problem lies greatly with individual preferences for the line between the public and private spheres, defined in this instance as the simple difference between behavior when acting as a private individual and behavior when acting in some sort of official capacity, respectively. While many born-gain Christians may regard a delineation between religion and everyday life as antithetical to their beliefs, such a notion is certainly not universal. The AFA treats clashes between such competing notions of public and private behavior as evidence of a sort of persecution of Christians on campuses, and points to the case of Noah Riner as evidence of such problems:

Budziszewski’s claims ring true for Noah Riner, who was the 2005-2006 student body president at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire – a college founded in 1769 to provide Native Americans with a Christian-based education.

Riner delivered the university’s convocation speech last fall. In it, he named Jesus as the solution to flawed humanity and as the ultimate example of character based on His sacrificial love. Riner intended to challenge students to think about what kind of people they would become.

Using a personal story to illustrate a concept for a speech is certainly popular and effective, but it is here that Riner crossed the lines between speech acceptable in a private capcity and speech acceptable in a public capacity. Mentioning personal faith can be a tricky subject, but depending upon the context personal beliefs are quite acceptable for a speech. Unfortunately, Riner decided to blunder straight into a minefield.

“So in talking about that I couldn’t help but talk about Christ. … [and] living for Him and knowing what our purpose as humans is,” he explained. “[After all], what is the purpose of education, if not to use it for Him?”

Bingo. By deciding to not only mention his personal faith, but also use the podium to explain his belief that education is only useful in service to his particular brand of faith, Riner crossed the line between spheres. Riner should have been aware that he wasn't preaching to the faithful crowd at his hometown church, but to a group of people with many different religious preferences, many of whom might take offense at his use of the convocation and his position as student body president to evangelize to the crowd. While Dartmouth might have been founded to evangelize to the native inhabitants of New England, as an Ivy League institution the school is bound to attract students and faculty from all areas of society and virtually all religions.

And his reaction the fallout:

“I definitely knew that a lot of people would disagree with me in terms of calling Jesus the best example of character and also claiming Him as Savior,” Riner admitted. “I didn’t anticipate the reaction being … as passionately opposed to me as it was, though.

“[I]t was hard [for people] to believe that somebody, some educated, intelligent person believed in God, believed in Jesus Christ and was willing to talk about it,” he explained. “I think it represents [that] a lot of people haven’t heard the Gospel – even in our country.”

Riner's explanation shows the how he sees the debate. On one hand sits Riner, who only attempted to speak about his beliefs, and on the other hand sits the university crowd, who so obviously questions his intelligence for having any religious beliefs at all, much less for his willingness to speak openly about them. Given that the article fails to dispute Riner's viewpoint and presses forward with the case for a persistant bias against Christianity, one could quite easily conclude that the AFA and the author of the article must agree on some level.

And his reason for attending Dartmouth:

The need for evangelism in addition to the school’s superior academic reputation is the reason this Kentucky-raised, Baptist-bred home schooler attended Dartmouth – a campus where religion is not taken seriously and where humanism is perceived as the predominant worldview.

“[I] just believed that I could make a difference there,” Riner said. “I think that … our calling that Jesus has mandated is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. So I think it’s pretty sad when Christians abandon entire areas of our culture, and … I think it’s pretty dangerous to let bad ideas go unchallenged.”

Riner selected Dartmouth because he felt an evangelizing presence was needed on the campus, as required by his personal beliefs. In and of itself, that desire is perfectly acceptable. Dartmouth would have no problem with anyone who peaceably attempts to spread religious beliefs, as would virtually any other institution of higher learning in the United States. When Riner decided to further his goals using the school's podium during a school event, and using his elected position as president, however, he found himself at odds with the Dartmouth community, a community which he knew to hold opinions different than his own. At the end of the day, he and the AFA put the opposition down to some sort of ideological hatred of religion, rather than attributing the outcry against his speech as anger over crossed community standards.

That is not to say that college and university campuses are not bastions of factions normally associated with the generic American Left. All stripes of the left half of the American political spectrum are still thriving in the halls of academia, from various brands of Marxism and Socialism to the numerous groups that make up the Democratic Party. Such vitality, however, doesn't translate into indoctrination, much less a hatred for all things religious. To say that religion is dead in the American left is to ignore large voting blocs who have historically voted for so-called liberal candidates and political positions.

While the AFA has every right to wonder about the decline in religious beliefs among born-again Christian students, looking at the issue as a battle between religion and "liberalism" is not only a waste of time, but a detriment to any person attempting to understand the issue at all.

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