Debate over felon voting

This week NPR's Justice Talking has an hour long show on letting felons vote. For about a half hour of that show I debate Spencer Overton, a very reasonable professor from George Washington University Law School.
It has never been clear to me why people claim that voting is the most important collateral penalty imposed on criminals after conviction given that everything that I have heard indicates that felons themselves care much more about what jobs they can get and their ability to own a gun for defense. Here is Spencer's take on the discussion. I will let what I said in the debate in response to Spencer's notes on his blog speak for themselves. On the general issue, my bottom line is that barring felons from voting is justified on two grounds: 1) it is just another penalty that we impose on people to discourage them from committing crime. 2) You have learned something about a person who has committed multiple rapes or violent robberies or murders. It seems entirely reasonable to me that if some rapes multiple women, you don't want this person making social policy. There is something different about a person who can commit rape. The interesting thing to me in the debates that I have done on this subject is that those who want to let felons vote have no problem with banning them from owning a gun. They will even ban people who have committed misdemeanors from ever owning a gun.

Further note: The Sentencing Project has a list of 20 states since 2000 that have made it easier for felons to vote.


New Op-ed on Air America's Bankruptcy

The Washington Times has run a piece by myself and Brad Smith today. My own belief is that Air America has effectively been an attempt at getting around the campaign finance regulations. The bankruptcy rules will also work to ensure that others pay for their political advertising.

When is a campaign donation not a campaign donation? Apparently if you spend the money to run a radio program instead of paying for campaign ads that run on that same program. Just look at Air America. With $41 million in losses since 2004, and $9.8 million owed just to Robert Glaser, RealNetworks chairman, Democrats who bankrolled this "company" weren't so much investors as campaign contributors. The losses are seen as simple business ineptitude,but Air America effectively, and perhaps intentionally, cleverly avoided the campaign finance limits which Democrats had worked so hard to pass. . . .

UPDATE: There are some comments here and here.


Say it isn't so Celebs. Celebs and saving gasoline.

First let me say that I have absolutely no problem with these celebrities flying around in private jets. However, I do find it amusing that they make such a big deal about driving a Prius or similar car when they then use private jets.

Julia Roberts

On the ground: Roberts drives a Prius, which gets (at best) 60 miles to the gallon, shaving 30 miles off a normal car's mpg.
In the air: Chicago/LA, 1,749 miles in a private jet, the route she took with Rupert Everett while shooting "My Best Friend's Wedding."
Gas guzzled: 2,100 gallons of jet fuel.
Prius Penance: Julia would have to drive 30,000 miles, or roughly once around the earth and then some to even out her consumption in the air.
So Julia says: No word yet from Julia's rep. . . . .

George Clooney

On the ground: George favors a Tango, an electric car that gets a whopping 135 miles to the charge.
In the air: Los Angeles/Tokyo, 5500 miles in a private jet.
Gas guzzled: 7,000 gallons of jet fuel.
Electric shocker: Even with his super-saver Tango, he'll have to drive over 57 oceans -- Pacific Oceans to break even.
So George says: Clooney's rep, publicist Stan Rosenfield, tells TMZ, "You clearly have no understanding of certain people's need for private transport," and points out that Clooney often has "no control" over his travel schedule. . . .

Thanks for the cite, but . . .

Thanks for the cite, but I don't think that the point is this simple. My research also finds that police are the single moset important factor, and multiple factors can be true at the same time, and indeed I believe that is the case. That said, I am glad that so many permits have been issued in that county. The decision to issue in Alabama is a county issue and off the top of my head I believe that those probably go through the sheriff's office.

Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran, a heavy favorite to be elected to the position he was appointed to in June, has said that he is campaigning on the success he had as Mobile police chief from 1996 until earlier this year.

Now, with the election less than two weeks away, Cochran's opponent, Democrat Matt Tew, is questioning that success. . . . .

Cochran has a financial advantage over Tew, having raised $173,370 for the race, compared to $18,550 for Tew, as of the latest filing deadline in September.

Cochran said the national average of violent crime dropped 27 percent, and Mobile Police Department programs "made up the difference" between that figure and the 47 percent drop in violent crime in Mobile.

Tew's campaign manager, Milton Morrow, said the decrease in Mobile crime can be attributed to an increase in pistol permits in Mobile County. Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Kate Johnson said there were 18,320 permits in 1996, compared with 23,870 issued in 2005.

Morrow cited a 1997 study by John R. Lott, Jr., author of "More Guns, Less Crime" and "The Bias Against Guns," who concluded that "allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes."


"Women take aim"

13 News talked with women about why some feel the need to carry, and know how to wield, a weapon. "I would like to be able to defend myself if I ever have to," says Susan Wallace, who attended Monday's gun orientation. "The more you know about them, the less scary they are," says Joellen Foster, who also attended the event. Owning a gun can give women a sense of empowerment and protection, if they know how to use it properly.

"When it's used properly and safely, is something that's a very valuable tool and its an excellent means of personal protection," says Erin Gerety, who works with the Kaw Valley Gun Club and teaches the training class. Setting your sites on a 9 millimeter handgun can trigger feelings of fear and power. But the goal of the classes is to move the target from just owning a handgun, to knowing how to use it. "You need to know how to use it, or you may end up getting hurt," Wallace says. . . . .

I would like to thank Matthew Ledyard for sending me this link.

Australian Gun Buyback Failure

HALF a billion dollars spent buying back hundreds of thousands of guns after the Port Arthur massacre had no effect on the homicide rate, says a study published in an influential British journal.

The report by two Australian academics, published in the British Journal of Criminology, said statistics gathered in the decade since Port Arthur showed gun deaths had been declining well before 1996 and the buyback of more than 600,000 mainly semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns had made no difference in the rate of decline.

The only area where the package of Commonwealth and State laws, known as the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) may have had some impact was on the rate of suicide, but the study said the evidence was not clear and any reductions attributable to the new gun rules were slight.

"Homicide patterns (firearm and non-firearm) were not influenced by the NFA, the conclusion being that the gun buyback and restrictive legislative changes had no influence on firearm homicide in Australia," the study says.

Thanks very much to Brian O'Connor for sending me this link.


Mine Your Own Business, Excellent Movie on the true costs of environmentalism

I just got my copy of the movie "Mine Your Own Business," and I have to say that it is really an excellent movie about the costs of the environmentalist movement.

Places it will be shown at in the next week or so include:

Wednesday Oct 25 Wednesday Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
Location of Screening: 115 Wilson Hall - between 21st Avenue South and
West End Ave.
Meet the Filmakers at 6:30, Movie showing at 7:00

Thursday Oct 26 – Thursday Emory (Atlanta, GA)
Monday October 30- Ann Arbour University of Michigan
Location of Screening: White Hall @ 6:00pm on 10/26/2006

Wednesday November 1st London Institute Of Economic Affairs

Brazilians want to defend themselves

A note sent to me from Brazil:

Brazilians want to defend themselves
Prof. Bene Barbosa

The repercussion in national and international media of the case in which 68 year old Maria Dora dos Santos Arbex successfully defended herself from a robbery using a firearm, brought back in to focus the importance of common citizen being able to own and carry firearms. It raises concerns about the whole validity of the Brazilian Disarmament Statute.

When 60% of the Brazilian voting citizens said NO to the prohibition of the legal commerce of firearms, in the Referendum about Prohibition, in October 2005, those who defended the YES vote, argued that the population had been induced by cunning campaign tactics to vote wrongly. Despite what those that defended the YES vote towards prohibition said, the truth is that 60 million citizens said NO to the loss of an individual right – the right to legally purchase and own firearms and ammunition, the right to self-defense.

Practically a year after the Referendum, one unit of the Brazilian media that defended the YES vote during the campaign for Prohibition, today salutes Mrs. Maria Dora dos Santos Arbex, and supports her attitude of defending her self. In their website, they even asked their readers if they supported Mrs. Maria Dora’s attitude of self defense, and the result of the voting was outstanding: 98% of the people that participated said that the lady did the right thing. This proves that the Brazilian public does in deed have the aid to self-defense, now that the “disarmament fever” is passing.

Now the Brazilian public is asking itself: is it right to condemn the victims for defending themselves? Should the law not distinct the victim from the aggressor when applying penalties?

The truth is that an urgent revision of the Brazilian Disarmament Statute and the whole posture of the Brazilian justice of condemning the honest citizen and benefiting criminals are severally needed.

Bene Barbosa, a law school graduate, is the president of Movimento Viva Brasil, and was one of the coordinators of the campaign for the NO vote, in the referendum about prohibition.

The survey, while not scientific, at least shows that some of the media and some Brazilians are becoming more open in their belief that self-defense is legitimate and something to be discussed.

See someone smoking, call 911?


Some progress regarding people getting more accurate views on having guns in the home

Since 2000, the percentage of people who view having a gun as making a house more dangerous has fallen from 51 to 43 percent, while at the same time the percentage that view a gun as making a home safer has gone up from 35 to 47 percent. That is a 20 point swing in the polls during just six years. Most of the change in the polls had occurred by October 2004. The more interesting thing to me is that the people with the most familiarity with guns have the most accurate views on their costs and benefits. In rural area, 63 percent view guns as making people safer and 28 percent thing that they make homes less safe. Of course there is a big divide between men and women on this question.

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are slightly more likely to believe that having a gun in the home makes it a safer rather than more dangerous place to be. This is a change from previous years, when at least a plurality of the public has agreed that guns make a home more dangerous rather than safer.

Gallup's annual Crime Poll, conducted Oct. 9-12, also shows a majority of Americans continuing to say that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict rather than being made less strict or kept as they are now. This represents no basic change from previous polling.

Given a choice, a majority of Americans say that enforcing laws already on the books is a better approach than passing new laws in addition to enforcing old laws more strictly. About 4 out of 10 Americans report having a gun in the home at this point, particularly those living in rural areas and in the South.

Guns Make the Home Safer?

News reports recently focused on a new ordinance that was proposed by a city council member in Greenleaf, Idaho. The so-called Civil Emergencies Ordinance would -- among other things -- recommend gun ownership, along with ammunition and appropriate training, for each head of household who is legally eligible to own a gun. The ordinance is modeled after one enacted more than 20 years ago in Kennesaw, Ga., a town whose crime rate is reported to have dropped significantly after the new gun-ownership recommendations were put into law.

The new Gallup Poll suggests that the American public may see some wisdom in this type of approach to controlling crime.

A slight plurality of Americans now say that having a gun in the house makes it a safer, rather than more dangerous, place to be, marking a shift from the two previous times this question has been asked over the past six years. . . . .

Thanks very much to Michael Roth for sending this to me.

"Sheepdog, sheep or wolf"?

A candidate for state superintendent of schools said Thursday he wants thick used textbooks placed under every student's desk so they can use them for self-defense during school shootings.

"People might think it's kind of weird, crazy," said Republican Bill Crozier of Union City, a teacher and former Air Force security officer. "It is a practical thing; it's something you can do. It might be a way to deflect those bullets until police go there."

Crozier and a group of aides produced a 10-minute video Tuesday in which they shoot math, language and telephone books with a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9mm pistol. The rifle bullet penetrated two books, including a calculus textbook, but the pistol bullet was stopped by a single book.

Crozier said the demonstration shows that a student could effectively use a textbook as protection in a school shooting.

An Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokesman was skeptical. . . . .

Thanks very much to Christine for sending this to me.
See also:
. . . News item: State Rep. Frank Lasee, R-Bellevue, shakes the nation with his "radical" proposal to arm teachers, in light of recent school shootings. Obviously, the idea that some people want to try and save as many people as possible by fighting back in a time of a school or other massacre is simply crazy. Why wouldn't you just lie down and wait your turn to be shot? That's what anyone with any common sense would do, right? Maybe we can reason with madmen, or at least convince them not to mow down entire grades at a time. In the Sept. 8 edition of Gun List magazine, I read an interesting article by Charlie Cutshaw, a decorated Marine Corps veteran who worked for the Department of Defense. He admits he just repeated his message from an essay by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman called, "On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs." I will abbreviate this brilliant essay even more . . . .

Improving Polls in Senate Races?

The American Thinker summarizes the newest polling numbers:

The last few days have had some encouraging Senate polls for Republicans, while House polls are still mixed. Zogby has Talent up 3% in Missouri, Allen up 3% in Virginia,and Corker up 7% in Tennessee. He also has Kean up 2% in New Jersey where the New Republic exposes the smell of scandal emanating from Bob Menendez.

Zogby has Dewine down 4% in Ohio and Bouchard in Michigan only 4% behind Debbie Stabenow (I would not bet on accuracy of this last one). Rasmussen, generally more reliable, has a new poll with Burns down only 3% in Montana (was 6%). New poll today has Chafee down 4% in Rhdde Island (also closer than before).

Survey USA has Steele even with Cardin in Maryland. This is the wild card this year. Democrats are very nervous about black voters straying to vote for Steele. Cardin also has a personality deficit. McGavick is down 7 or 8 in Washington, not totally dead yet. The most optimistic way to read this is that Santorum’s race may be the only one beyond hope at the moment (closest polls have him 5 to 8 down, others more). Burns, Dewine, and Chafee still behind, but 5 points or less (Dewine behind by more in other surveys). . . .

In Pennsylvania, my experience is that the polls can frequently have the Republicans down by 8 to 10 pecent further than they should be. I have no idea why this keeps happening.