Kopel Blog Archive January-July 2007

[David Kopel, July 28, 2007 at 4:22pm] Trackbacks

Brown University Welcomes Duke Rape Case Victim

Sophomore Reade Seligmann was one of the victims of the false rape case at Duke University. The Brown University lacrosse coach, with support from the school's administration, recruited Seligmann for the Brown team, and he will enroll at Brown this fall. As a Brown Daily Herald article explains, Brown's new coach began recruiting Seligmann "almost immediately" after being hired last August. Although the malicious prosecution had not yet collapsed, the coach talked to people in the lacrosse community who knew Seligmann, and was "absolutely convinced" of Seligmann's innocence. According to the BDH, "Seligmann, who says he always wanted to attend an Ivy League school, chose Brown over the other two or three schools that were interested in him because of how the University treated him. They allowed him to visit the campus when he wasn't even allowed back at Duke."

Three cheers for my alma mater for standing up for truth and justice. 46 Comments

[David Kopel, July 28, 2007 at 3:51pm] Trackbacks

Case against flying not so airtight

That's the headline of my latest Rocky Mountain News media column, debunking the claim that commercial air travel for long flights causes greater CO2 emissions than would driving a SUV solo the same distance. To the contrary, air travel causes far few per-capita CO2 emissions. Presumably the emissions of most pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, would also be less.

The column also castigates newspapers for running pre-publication reviews of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Finally, kudos to Fred Thompson for criticizing the over-federalization of criminal law. Along with Glenn Reynolds, Paul Blackman, and Mike Krause (and sometimes by myself), I've written a variety of articles criticizing over-federalization regarding guns, drugs, and abortion.

Related Posts (on one page):
  1. Case against flying not so airtight
  2. Fred Thompson on Federalism:

[David Kopel, July 17, 2007 at 11:03am] Trackbacks

The Threat from Sino-America

In a new article on Tech Central Station, Mike Krause and I examine the growing threat of Chinese influence in Latin America, and elsewhere. We suggest an expansion of free trade--with Latin America and with Taiwan--as part of the American response. 20 Comments

David Kopel, July 14, 2007 at 4:52pm]

More Harry Potter

[Warning: If you haven't finished all of HP through book 6, but you plan to, do not read this post, because it contains plot details.] To follow up on Ilya's post to kick off the weeklong build-up to Harry Potter 7...I recommend that serious Potterphiles check out HogwartsProfessor.com. Some very sophisticated analysis. On this page, you'll see links to buy some books--which I urge you to purchase with expedited shipping, so you can read them this week, and thereby understanding Book 7 in greater depth when you start reading it at midnight on Friday. "Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?" and "Unlocking Harry Potter" provide diverse analyses of the mystery, of Rowling's literary techniques, and of the omnipresent influence of alchemy.

At the least, these books demonstrate quite persuasively that what Harry (and the naive reader) saw on the Astronomy Tower in the climactic scene of book 6 was certainly not the full explanation for what was really taking place.

My own analysis, "Severus Snape: The Unlikely Hero of Harry Potter book 7" was originally published on the VC in 2005, and was cited by the NY Times a few weeks ago. Russian, Polish, French, and Spanish translations are available.

A few further predictions:

1. Especially given the alchemical necessity of a resolution involving the combination of all four Houses, Luna Lovegood will play a major role in book 7.
2. Harry's ability to speak with snakes (which he shares with Voldemort) as important in early part of book 1, very important in book 2, and has been mostly ignored since then. I predict that it will be important in book 7, most likely with Nagini.
3. In the penultimate scene of movie 5, Luna (searching for her lost shoes), talks with Harry about Sirius's death, and explains that important things which we have lost often come back to us, although in unexpected ways. She immediately finds her shoes, tied to a rafter. In a movie that had to make tough decisions about condensing a 900 page book (with Rowling supervising the screenplay and every detail of the movie--including where objects are placed), I think that the inclusion of this seemingly trivial scene points us very strongly to Sirius meeting Harry again, somehow.
Related Posts (on one page):
  1. More Harry Potter:
  2. Open Harry Potter Speculation Thread:


[David Kopel, July 14, 2007 at 3:59pm] Trackbacks

Two Cheers for Newshounds

My latest media column for the Rocky Mountain News praises the citizen activist website Newshounds.us for providing checks and balances to Bill O'Reilly's extremely deceptive coverage of a controversy at Boulder High School. (The coverage is discussed in depth in an Issue Paper I wrote for the Independence Institute.) I wish that Newshounds were less angry in its tone, but I do think that it sometimes plays a useful role in providing facts which are omitted in Fox's coverage of issues.

The column also discusses a new ranking of the most influential political blogs in Colorado (my Independence Institute colleague Ben DeGrow won second place for Mount Virtus), and the Denver Post's failure to fully correct a major error: incorrectly claiming that Powell, speaking in Aspen, had predicted a Sunni victory in Iraq; he actually predicted a Shia victory. 9 Comments

[David Kopel, July 12, 2007 at 11:21am] Trackbacks

The Tiahrt Amendment

A reader asked for analysis of the Tiahrt Amendment, which will be voted on today in the House Appropriations Committee. The amendment, which has been a BATFE appropriations rider since 2004, protects the privacy of law-abiding gun owners by restricting disclosure to third parties of various federal records of lawful gun purchases, by enforcing a prior federal law requiring the prompt destruction of National Instant Check System records on lawful purchases, and by forbidding the creation of a computerized federal gun-owner registry. The amendment also partially limits the disclosure of information from federal gun traces--which Chicago Mayor Daley and other politicians have sought, in order to support their lawsuits against gun manufacturers. More detailed information is available from a 2004 article I wrote for National Review Online.

The gun control lobby, with New York City Mayor Bloomberg as the point man, are seeking to eliminate the Tiahrt Amendment entirely, but their public campaign has said almost nothing about the most of the provisions of the amendment. (Even though those provisions are contrary to the lobbies' support for comprehensive gun-owner registration.) Instead, they claim that the trace provisions interfere with local law enforcement. Notably, Kansas Rep. Tiahrt offered to negotiate technical modifications of the trace language, to the extent necessary to address legitimate law enforcement (as opposed to lawsuit) needs, but Mayor Bloomberg broke off the negotiations. 6 Comments

[David Kopel, July 4, 2007 at 12:27pm]

What Would George Washington Do?

A special July 4 issue of the Boulder Weekly asks what the Founders would think about various modern issues. The article begins with an interview with Jim Hightower, the former Texas Agriculture Commissioner, who is now a populist political commentator (and whose column appears in the Boulder Weekly). After that, the article asks a series of written questions to me and to Paul Danish. Danish is former Boulder City Councilman and Boulder County Commissioner. He also once served as an Independence Institute Senior Fellow. He is best-known for "the Danish plan," a growth-control law adopted by the Boulder City Council.

The format did not require us to answer every question, and so a I skipped a pair about Guantanamo and the Patriot Act; a wise decision on my part, since there is little that I could add to Danish's thoughtful answers.

Below are some additional questions, and my responses, which were not included in the published article.

Does the average American understand the freedom our founding documents provide enough to successfully defend those freedoms from domestic enemies, i.e., the government itself?

No. The National Constitution Center's 1998 survey of teenagers found only 41 percent could identify the three branches of government, only 45% knew what the Bill of Rights was. As Ilya Somin detailed in a 2004 Cato Institute study, a large number of surveys show that between a quarter and a third of adults are extremely ignorant of public affairs; many cannot even name the Vice President. With so many people so scandalously ignorant, it is no wonder that elections so often produce rulers who, like Roman emperors, are better at pandering to transient hysterias and desires than at guarding our traditional liberties.

Which Constitutional Amendment are you most grateful for when you celebrate the Fourth of July?

The Second Amendment has been the topic of much of my scholarly writing, but I love all of the Bill of Rights; each of them makes the other nine stronger and more effective.

How would the Founders respond to modern feminism?

Many of them likely would have understood and approved that the democratizing forces unleashed by the Revolution would lead to political rights for the many American women whose talents were equal to those of Abigail Adams or Mercy Otis Warren.

What would the Founders have to say about the oil industry?

The actual extraction, refining, and distribution of oil would likely be seen as fulfilling the Founders' highest hopes of America's scientific and commercial genius. The oil industry's current role in politics might be seen as an inevitable consequence of the federal government's arrogation of a massive role for itself in choosing favored and disfavored big corporations to persecute or enrich, especially beginning in the early 20th century.

What would the Founders think of the outsourcing of American jobs?

There was a healthy debate in the Founding Era between protectionist forces (led by Alexander Hamilton) and free trade (led by Thomas Jefferson), with the protectionists winning. And even Jefferson, as President, accepted many protective tariffs. So perhaps the Founders would be divided on the trade issue today, as they were divided in their own time.

[David Kopel, June 3, 2007 at 7:01pm]

Talk-show Hosts Amok

That's the title of my latest Rocky Mountain News media column, addressing the numerous problems of Bill O'Reilly and of the Denver talk show "Caplis & Silverman" in their coverage of a panel that spoke at Boulder High School last April. For a good collection of primary sources, and links to some of the media coverage, the http://bvsdwatch.org/ BVSDwatch website is a good start. My column only scratched the surface of the disinformation that has been created on this controversy. Later this week, the Independence Institute will be publishing a detailed Issue Paper on the many and very serious ethical violations by the O'Reilly and Caplis & Silverman on the topic. 55 Comments

[David Kopel, May 23, 2007 at 12:40pm] Trackbacks

Taxation without Representation: The Policy of the DC Government

This afternoon the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on granting the District of Columbia voting rights in the U.S. House of Representatives; the hearing will be webcast. As usual, D.C.'s campaign is using the slogan "Ending Taxation without Representation." As Paul Blackman and I detailed in a 2003 article in National Review Online, "taxation without representation" is in fact a cherished objective of the extremely incompetent D.C. government, as the D.C. government seeks to impose a commuter tax on residents of Maryland and Virginia, and engages in various other schemes to take money from people who cannot vote in D.C.


David Kopel, May 22, 2007 at 4:28pm]

The Peculiar Story of United States v. Miller

A fine new article forthcoming in the NYU Journal of Law & Liberty provides fresh insights on the Supreme Court's last major gun control case, U.S. v. Miller(1939). For example, he shows that the case was brought by the federal government as a test case to quell Second Amendment popular opposition to the Attorney General's efforts to create federal handgun control. The federal district judge who wrote the one-sentence opinion declaring the National Firearms Act to violate the Second Amendment was a gun control advocate with strong political connections. The prosecution of Miller was perfect as a government-initiated test case, since Miller had an established record as "a pliable snitch" who would cooperate with the government, ensuring that the Supreme Court saw no meaningful opposition to the government's position.

Frye also argues that although Miller was written by the now-reviled Justice McReynolds, the meaning of the opinion is fairly clear, recognizing the individual right to arms as a common law right guaranteed by the Second Amendment, while still permitting reasonable gun controls.


[David Kopel, May 22, 2007 at 3:18pm]

The Crime Against Kansas

On this day in history, May 22, 1856, United States Representative Preston Brooks criminally attacked Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate, beating Sumner on the head with a heavy cane until the cane broke, and incapacitating Sumner for four years. South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks was the nephew of South Carolina Senator A.P. Butler, who had been sharply criticized by Massachusetts' Sumner in a May 19-20 speech, "The Crime Against Kansas."

Sumner had declared that while Butler "believes himself a chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and courage," he "has chosen a mistress" who is "the harlot slavery."

Among the elements of the crime against Kansas was that guns belonging to the free-soil settlers had been confiscated by the pro-slavery territorial government. Senator A.P. Butler had allegedly remarked that the people of Kansas should be disarmed of their Sharps rifles. (The Sharps rifles were the main type which were being sent to the free-soilers by anti-slavery groups in the North, such as the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society, led by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.)

Sumner thundered:

Really, sir, has it come to this? The rifle has ever been the companion of the pioneer and, under God, his tutelary protector against the red man and the beast of the forest. Never was this efficient weapon more needed in just self-defence, than now in Kansas, and at least one article in our National Constitution must be blotted out, before the complete right to it can in any way be impeached. And yet such is the madness of the hour, that, in defiance of the solemn guaranty, embodied in the Amendments to the Constitution, that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," the people of Kansas have been arraigned for keeping and bearing them, and the Senator from South Carolina has had the face to say openly, on this floor, that they should be disarmed--of course, that the fanatics of Slavery, his allies and constituents, may meet no impediment. Sir, the Senator is venerable . . . but neither his years, nor his position, past or present, can give respectability to the demand he has made, or save him from indignant condemnation, when, to compass the wretched purposes of a wretched cause, he thus proposes to trample on one of the plainest provisions of constitutional liberty.
Senator Butler indignantly replied that he had never proposed disarming the people of Kansas. He had simply proposed bringing before appropriate judicial authority "an organized body" who possessed Sharps rifles.

But even if Senator Butler could claim that his remarks were misunderstood, antislavery Congressmen had no doubt about the atrocities being perpetrated in Kansas. On May 21, 1856, the "Sack of Lawrence" took place, in which the Kansas territorial militia, bearing arms supplied by the United States government and under the command of a deputy federal marshal, confiscated the guns of a group of free-soilers. On June 30, 1856, Representative G.A. Grow of Pennsylvania listed the constitutional abuses of the proslavery government in Kansas, including: "With the shout of law and order you disarm the citizen, while the Constitution of his country declares that the right 'to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.'".

The 1856 national Republican Convention resolved that "the dearest constitutional rights of the people of Kansas have been fraudulently and violently taken from them . . . the rights of the people to keep and bear arms have been infringed."

The federal government, obviously, had done nothing to interfere with the official militia of the proslavery government in Kansas. Yet the Republicans still saw a violation of the Second Amendment: some of the state's citizens were being disarmed because they considered the current state government illegitimate.

There is no known evidence of any pro-slavery Democrats, or anyone else, defending the Sack of Lawrence or other arms confiscations on the grounds that the Second Amendment did not guarantee the right of individual citizens of Kansas to possess personal firearms for non-militia purposes.


[David Kopel, May 18, 2007 at 1:24am]

Hate Crimes Laws: Dangerous and Divisive

The "Hate Crimes" bill currently moving through Congress involves an unwise, and arguably unconstitutional expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction. But even at the state or local level, hate crimes are a bad idea. The whole debate of whether homosexuals should be included in hate crimes statutes is but one example of how hate crimes statutes undermine the principle of equal protection of the laws, by encouraging fights over whether some groups are or are not deserving of unequal, special protection.

The best argument for hate crimes laws is that a hate crime causes more harm than an ordinary crime, because it causes many other people to fear being victimized. This is true for some hate crimes (e.g., public vandalism of a synagogue), but certainly not all of them (e.g., a dispute between neighbors in which an epithet is used). Moreover, there are plenty of ordinary crimes (such as highly-publicized serial attacks on random victims), which also cause fear in many people besides the immediate victims. I suggest that judicial sentencing discretion allows for appropriate punishment for crimes which have unusually large secondary impacts.

As long as hate crimes statutes stay on the books, every hate crime statute should include a provision providing for extra punishment for hate crime hoaxes. (Above the level of punishment for ordinary hoaxes about non-existent crimes.) Just as a hate crime may cause heightened community fear, so does a hate crime hoax.

All the above points are elaborated in an Issue Paper I wrote for the Independence Institute.

Related Posts (on one page):
  1. Hate Crimes Laws: Dangerous and Divisive:
  2. Bush to veto expanded hate-crimes law:
  3. The Hate Crimes Temptation:
[David Kopel, May 18, 2007 at 1:02am]

Contingent Fee arrangements for government lawyers

Yesterday President Bush issued an Executive Order banning contingent fee arrangements for private attorneys who are hired to represent the government. The order is long overdue. Given that Senator Clinton's brother was the beneficiary of a manifestly corrupt government contingent fee, there is a risk that President Bush's Order might be overturned by a future President. Given the avowed determination of both parties in Congress to clean up government corruption, a bill to outlaw public contingent fees ought to attract wide bipartisan support.

In an Issue Backgrounder for the Independence Institute, I suggested that states should also consider enacting similar bans. At the very least, states should impose some sort of hourly-rate caps on contingent fees, to prevent politically-connected attorneys from receiving enormous windfalls for performing a trivial amount of legal work.


[David Kopel, May 14, 2007 at 3:11am]

Video of Nicolas Sarkozy in 1981: the leader of Youth for Chirac

Thanks to the educational French station TV 5, internauts can watch a 1981 TV news story on the Youth for Chirac movement ("the Young Chiracians"), including interviews with a very youthful Nicolas Sarkozy. Chirac himself is shown briefly, at the end. He too looks very different from the man we know today.


[David Kopel, May 9, 2007 at 12:51am]

The Dangers of Newspapers Publishing the Names and Addresses of Citizens with Handgun Permits

Andrew Sullivan has asked "If gun rights are civil rights, why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they own one?" A post by Eugene provides a commonsense list of a wide variety of circumstances in which a person exercising her civil rights would have good reasons for preferring that newspapers not publish a list of all the people in an area who exercise a particular right.

In a recent article in America's 1st Freedom, Paul Gallant, Joanne Eisen and I addressed the controversy of newspapers publishing lists of people with handgun permits. We discuss various ways in which the publication can assist criminals. One newspaper which was considering publishing a list was The News Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana:

When the newspaper surveyed its readers, the paper was informed of a situation in which one licensee was living a reclusive, secretive life because of fear of a violent ex-spouse. If the paper published the CHL [concealed handgun license] list, the woman's life would be endangered. The newspaper's final decision was in favor of the immediate safety of that one woman, and thus against publishing the list.
Victims who are hiding from violent stalkers are one group of people with handgun licenses who have a special need for confidentiality; another group is retired police officers, who are at risk of being targeted by revenge-minded criminals.

  Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Dangers of Newspapers Publishing the Names and Addresses of Citizens with Handgun Permits:
  2. "If Gun Rights Are Civil Rights,"
[David Kopel, May 8, 2007 at 12:32pm]

DC Circuit denies en banc rehearing for Parker case

In the Parker case, a 2-1 majority of the D.C. Circuit found that the DC city council's prohibition on handguns, and its ban on using any firearm for lawful self-defense, were violations of the Second Amendment. Today, the full Circuit denied the DC government's petition for a rehearing en banc.

The decision states: "Appellees' petition for rehearing en banc and the response thereto were circulated to the full court, and a vote was requested. Thereafter, a majority of the judges eligible to participate did not vote in favor of the petition. Upon consideration of the foregoing and appellees' Fed. R. App. P. 28(j) letter, it is ORDERED that the petition be denied."

A footnote to the order states: "Circuit Judges Randolph, Rogers, Tatel, and Garland would grant the petition for rehearing en banc." The following is the list of judges who voted on the petition, with affirmative votes marked by an asterisk: "Ginsburg (Chief Judge), Sentelle, Henderson, Randolph,* Rogers,* Tatel,* Garland,* Brown, Griffith, and Kavanaugh."

Related Posts (on one page):
  1. The Second Amendment in the Supreme Court:
  2. DC Circuit denies en banc rehearing for Parker case:
[David Kopel, May 8, 2007 at 11:54am]

Bleg for Laws regarding licensed carry in educational institutions

I would like to ask commenters to supply specific information regarding state laws which ban (or do not ban) persons with concealed handgun permits from carrying in K-12 schools, day care centers, or colleges/universities. If the law is silent on the subject (as, for example, in Virginia and Colorado regarding universities), it would be helpful to also cite any other information that is available about practices in the relevant state. (E.g., Virginia's legislative defeat of an attempt to outlaw the college ban; the Colorado Attorney General opinion that the University of Colorado regents have the authority to enact a gun ban, unless there is a specific statute saying that they cannot.) If possible, please supply the relevant statutory or case law cites. Please do not rely on newspaper articles. My guess is that statutory college bans are much less common than people might think, and that even though K-12 bans are common, there may be exceptions in states other than Utah.

My request applies not only to the 40 shall issue/do issue states, but also to the 8 states with capricious issue, plus Illinois (no process for permits, but certain classes of people are automatically entitled to concealed carry).


[David Kopel, May 8, 2007 at 2:11am]

Bush and Israel: The Greatest Threats to World Peace

The Winter 2006-2007 issue of egards, a French-Canadian conservative journal, contains an article by editor Jean Renaud, "The conservative French-Canadians and the Destiny of America: The lesson of Edmund Burke." The article analyzes what the author sees as the various contemporary intellectual pathologies, including the belief, according to opinion polls, of the English, Canadians and Mexicans that George Bush is a greater threat to world peace than is Iran's president Ahmadinejad. But then Renaud acknowledges that they are right, and his argument seems convincing:

In the 1930s also, persons of good intentions accused this flamethrower [lit. cannon-igniter] Winston Churchill of being the principal danger towards world peace. In a sense, these people were correct. Churchill, in opposing Nazism, menaced world peace, a peace of which the terms had been defined by Hitler. The rejection of tyranny and the resistance to totalitarianism have always been a grave menace to world peace.

(My translation for the text and the title.) Many thanks to the VC readership for informing me, and, I hope, others, about the fine journal, with which I do not always agree, but which does have a vivid appreciation of the importance of Western Civilization resisting Islamofascism. BTW, the article never discusses Israel, but it seems to me that the point about polls regarding Bush as a menace is also apt regarding the polls showing that many Europeans regard Israel as a greater threat to world peace than Iran (or, more precisely, than Iran's dictatorship).


[David Kopel, May 2, 2007 at 5:24pm] Trackbacks

Wisconsin Right to Life vs. FEC

This is the case, recently heard by the Supreme Court, that may place some First Amendment limits on McCain-Feingold's speech-suppression laws. The amicus brief in which the Independence Institute participated is here. A collection of other briefs and documents is here. It is a good test case because the advertisement in question (urging Wisconsin citizens to tell Senator Feingold stop supporting the filibusters of Bush-nominated judges) was plainly a communication about the business of Congress, rather than a thinly-disguised campaign advertisement (e.g., "Tell Senator Snort that you're upset that he was arrested for domestic violence 10 years ago.") Yet the advertisement was claimed to be illegal by the FEC because it was aired within 60 days of the general election.


[David Kopel, May 1, 2007 at 9:02pm]

Pre-1966 Deaths from Illegal Abortion

An April 24 article in the Rocky Mountain News states:

The University of California School of Public Health estimated that before 1966, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 women died each year in the U.S. from complications of illegal abortions.
Trying to find out more about this study, I found that it was cited in a 1966 book by Lawrence Lader, Abortion. (See note 21 here for a secondary citation.)

Do any readers have additional information about this study, or know of additional research on the levels of pre-1967 maternal deaths from illegal abortion in the U.S.?

Please confine your comments to this factual issue, and do not argue the broader pro/con merits of the abortion question.  


[David Kopel, May 1, 2007 at 6:44pm]

Alexander Hamilton and Infanticide

A blogger for a weekly local community insert the Denver Post/Rocky Mountain News wrote:

If you look hard enough you can find the transcript of a young State Senator Alexander Hamilton of New York arguing eloquently and effectively against a bill that would require a witness be present at birth to ensure the mother did not kill her baby. His reasoning? Her fundamental right to privacy.

Do any readers have more information on this? Hamilton never served in the New York State Senate, but he did serve in the N.Y. Assembly in 1787, before joining the Continental Congress in 1788. The author claims that Roe v. Wade based itself on the Fourth Amendment (rather than 14th), so I am not confident about his factual meticulousness.


[David Kopel, May 1, 2007 at 1:41am]

"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors: we borrow it from our children."

This quote, along with some close variants, is sometimes labeled as an Indian proverb, or attributed to Antoine de St. Exupery, or to Ralph Waldo Emerson or to David Bower. Like Chief Seattle's famous environmental speech from 1854 (which was actually written by a screenwriter in 1971),the quote strikes me as a late-20th century idealization of what some revered figure in the past must have thought, supposedly.

Does anyone know the actual origin of this quote? Does it appear in any reliable collection of famous quotes?


[David Kopel, April 30, 2007 at 2:24pm] Trackbacks

The Human Right of Self-Defense

Paul Gallant, Joanne Eisen, and I have a new article (PDF) forthcoming in the BYU Journal of Public Law. Here's the abstract:

Does a woman have a human right to resist rape or murder? Do people have a human right to resist tyranny? The United Nations Human Rights Council has said "no"--that international law recognizes no human right of self-defense. To the contrary, the Human Rights Council declares that very severe gun control--more restrictive than even the laws of New York City--is a human right.
Surveying international law from its earliest days to the present, this Article demonstrates that self-defense is a widely-recognized human right which no government and no international body have the authority to abrogate.
The issue is especially important today, as many international advocates of international gun prohibition are using the United Nations to deny and then eliminate the right of self-defense. For example, the General Assembly is creating an "Arms Trade Treaty" which could define arms sales to citizens in the United States as a human rights violation, because American law guarantees the right to use lethal force, when no lesser force will suffice, against a non-homicidal violent felony attack.
The Article analyzes in detail the Founders of international law--the great scholars in the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries who created the system of international law. The Article then looks at the major legal systems which have contributed to international law, such as Greek law, Roman law, Spanish law, Jewish law, Islamic law, Canon law, and Anglo-American law. In addition, the article covers the full scope of contemporary international law sources, including treaties, the United Nations, constitutions from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and much more.
The Article shows that international law--particularly its restraints on the conduct of warfare--is founded on the personal right of self-defense.
As always, thoughtful comments are welcome. You don't have to read all 119 pages in order to comment, but you do need to read enough to be able to offer a comment about the article itself, rather than abstract thoughts about the gun issue in general.


[David Kopel, April 27, 2007 at 6:19pm] Trackbacks

Kansas Legislature over-rides licensed carry veto

The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas State Senate this afternoon successfully voted to over-ride Governor Kathleen Sebelius' veto of a preemption law for concealed handgun carrying. The House over-rode the veto yesterday.

Last year, Kansas enacted a "shall issue" law for the licensed carrying of handguns for lawful protection. The new bill specifies that local governments may not create pretend "gun free zones" which exclude licensed carry.

Under the bill, public or private entities may still ban guns in buildings or enclosed fenced areas (but not in parking lots, parks, or other open spaces) if they post a notice. The bill also preempts local laws on transportation or storage of firearms, to the extent that they are inconsistent with state law. In addition, the bill requires that relevant mental health adjudications from Kansas courts be reported to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Congratulations to Kansas State Senator Phil Journey, the leader of the pro-rights forces in the legislature.

[David Kopel, April 27, 2007 at 4:47pm] Trackbacks

Kopel vs. The Economist, Round 5

In the finale of my Los Angeles Times on-line debate with Christopher Lockwood, the U.S. editor of The Economist, we each get a magic wand with which to create whatever gun laws we would like. He offers some proposals which, he frankly admits, are politically impossible. Waving my Wand of Sensible Consensus I propose:

1. Don't disarm people whom the government will not/cannot protect.
2. Good policemen don't own bad guns. So if a gun ban has a police exemption, its premises are probably flawed, as I show with some examples.
3. Obey the Constitution. If it's too hard to do that all at once, start with Article I. So "interstate commerce" is not equivalent to "everything," and so Congress stops exercising the usurped power to regulate/prohibit things like simple intrastate possession of guns.
4. Recognize that guns can be used for good and for bad. Make sure that gun policies enhance, rather than destroy, the widespread social benefits which flow from guns in the right hands.

It was a great honor to debate Mr. Lockwood, and I hope that our exchanges can help people on all sides of the gun issue approach it with greater understanding. 2 Comments

[David Kopel, April 26, 2007 at 5:58pm] Trackbacks

The Relationship between Guns and Burglary

Do guns in the home deter burglary? Or cause burglary? Or both, in different ways, at different levels? If you'd like to study the topic, here's are some on-line starting points.

1. My article Lawyers, Guns, and Burglars, 43 Arizona Law Review 345 (2001), looks at previous national and international research, and argues that the high rate of defensive gun ownership in the U.S. deters home invasion burglary.

2. In the book Evaluating Gun Policy: Effects on Crime and Violence (Brookings Institution, 2003), Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig conduct a county-level study of the U.S., and find higher gun ownership rates associated with a small increase in burglary rates. The chapter (as a NBER working paper) is available here.

3. In the same book, I have a Comment which questions the Cook/Ludwig conclusion.

Although I do not agree with all the policy conclusions in the book, the book does present very interesting research, and among the most sophisticated arguments for gun control to be found anywhere.

[David Kopel, April 26, 2007 at 3:53pm] Trackbacks

Kopel vs. The Economist, Round 4

Today on the Los Angeles Times website, Christopher Lockwood (U.S. editor of The Economist) and I each attempt to debunk cherished myths in the gun control debate. His article is really a reply to my Wednesday article on the international aspect of the gun issue; I think it's his best contribution so far.

Thanks to a post from a VC commenter, I was inspired to successfully convince the LA Times folks not to say that we are debunking (or attempting to debunk) "shibboleths." A shibboleth is a linguistic style (such as pronouncing a word a certain way, using a certain phrase, or using a special grammar) which a group uses to distinguish its members from outsiders. So a shibboleth can't really be "debunked" as factually inaccurate -- unless it's an inefficient shibboleth, which doesn't accurately separate insiders from outsiders.

Thanks to an excellent Wikipedia entry on shibboleths, I learned that rule against splitting infinitives isn't really a true rule of English grammar, but a shibboleth invented by the late 19th-century upper class English; Latin infinitives are only a single word, so the shibboleth-makers decided that English infinitives should act more like Latin infinitives. After so many years of unnecessary non-splitting, I am now eager to freely split infinitives.


[David Kopel, April 25, 2007 at 3:29pm] Trackbacks

Kopel vs. The Economist: Round 3

Today's topic is "Should we be concerned that so much of the rest of the developed world believes U.S. gun laws are crazy?" Surprisingly, Economist U.S. editor Christopher Lockwood says "no", while I say "yes."


[David Kopel, April 24, 2007 at 6:38pm] Trackbacks

Kopel vs. The Economist, Round 2

Today is the second day of my week-long Los Angeles Time on-line debate with Christopher Lockwood, the U.S. editor of The Economist. Today's topic is the politics of the gun control issue. Tomorrow we'll look at international opinion about U.S. gun policy. On Thursday, we each debunk a favorite shibboleth of the other side. Finally, on Friday, we outline our ideal firearms polices.

Comments below are welcome on today's exchange, or yesterday's. Suggestions for my Thursday topic are also welcome, keeping in my that each article can only be about 500 words long.


[David Kopel, April 23, 2007 at 8:42pm]

Kopel stuff

Unfortunately, I've been so busy during the last week that I haven't been able to write anything for the VC. However, the other writers have done a great job of analyzing many of the law and policy issues related to the Virginia Tech murders. This week, the LA Times website is hosting a daily gun control debate between me and Christopher Lockwood, the U.S. editor of The Economist. Today's debate is here.

Some items from the past couple weeks: Rocky Mountain News column criticizing the NBC decision to broadcast the killer's publicity photos and videos. Independence Institute podcast on Virginia Tech. Radio Netherlands discussion on the role of guns in society, with gun control advocates from South Africa and Switzerland. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, discussion of gun control laws applying the mentally ill (which plainly barred the Virginia Tech killer from legally buying or possessing arms). American Spectator web article by John Tabin, in which I discuss how unfounded fears of legal liability play a role in the creation of pretend "gun-free zones."April 12 issue of my Second Amendment newsletter, including a link about the harsh new Belgian gun control laws, which impose a cap on how many people in the nation may possess firearms. And a Spanish language version (with the footnotes omitted) of my article on Japanese Gun Control, originally published in the Asia-Pacific Law Review.


[David Kopel, April 18, 2007 at 1:44pm] Trackbacks

Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban: A Violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause?

As David Bernstein points out, Justice Thomas (in a concurrence joined by Justice Scalia) raised the possibility that the federal ban may be outside the scope of congressional powers under the interstate commerce clause. In "Taking Federalism Seriously: Lopez and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban," 30 Connecticut Law Review 59 (1997), Glenn Reynolds and I argued that a federal ban on a particular abortion procedure is beyond the scope of congressional powers to regulate interstate commerce -- at least if the interstate commerce power is construed to mean anything less than a grant of powers to Congress to legislate on all possible subjects.

As Justice Thomas noted in his concurrence, the plaintiffs never raised the commerce clause issue. It is easy to understand why. If we are going to start actually obeying the commerce clause in regard to abortion restrictions, then, logically, the federal law against abortion clinic picketing (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, "FACE") is also probably unconstitutional.

Reynolds and I suggest that, as a general matter, one way in which a nation can avoid being torn apart by contentious social issues, including abortion, is not to impose uniform national rules, but rather to let different jurisdictions establish different rules. Our approach is consistent with the text of the Constitution, which plainly grants Congress power to create national uniformity over certain specified subjects, but not over everything.

Related Posts (on one page):
  1. Federalist Society Online Debate on the Partial Birth Abortion case:
  2. How Many Justices Would Support a Commerce Clause Challenge to the Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban?
  3. The Federal PBA Ban and the Commerce Clause:
  4. Federalism and Partial Birth Abortion:
  5. Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban: A Violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause?
  6. Scalia Having Second Thoughts About the Commerce Clause?:
[David Kopel, April 18, 2007 at 1:07am] Trackbacks

"Gun-Free Zones"

My op-ed in the Wednesday Wall Street Journal suggests that "gun free zones," such those proclaimed at many universities and grade schools, have become attractive havens for mass killers.


[David Kopel, April 17, 2007 at 3:33pm] Trackbacks

The Copycat Effect

Loren Coleman's weblog "The Copycat Effect" (which is also the name of his book) examines the copycat effect of the Virginia Tech murders. He points out that a school attack last week in Oregon (no fatalities) appeared to have been inspired by a recent National Geographic TV special on Columbine. He offers a grim warning of the high risk of more copycat attacks in the next several weeks. Pointing to school attacks in Canada and Germany in recent years, he notes that the problem is not confined to the United States.

American Spectator has an article by John Tabin on "gun free zones" which includes an interview with me.

At my website, I have a variety of articles on policies which have worked to prevent or stop school shootings, including Israel's policy of arming teachers.

The rules on the purchase of firearms by non-immigrant aliens (such as the Virginia Tech killer, who held a green card) is here. Basically, they must have been in the U.S. for at least 90 days at the same residence. They under the same criminal records background check as a U.S. citizen, plus an additional check with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Although we do not know what ammunition magazines the killer used, ABC News was plainly wrong in claiming that the 2004 sunset of the 1994 Clinton "assault weapon" law brought magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds back into the marketplace. The 1994 law banned the manufacture of news magazines, but magazines made before September 1994 were always readily-available on the marketplace.

Finally, I will be on the CTV (Canada) program "The Verdict" tonight, from about 9:19-9:30 p.m. Eastern Time. I will be debating Wendy Cukier, Canada's leading gun prohibition advocate. The program should be available on the CTV website not long afterwards.

All Related Posts (on one page) | Some Related Posts:
  1. Semi-Automatics Vs. Revolvers:
  2. A Strange Thing To Assert as Fact:
  3. A Well Regulated Militia:...
  4. Firearms and Non-Citizens:
  5. The Copycat Effect
  6. How Common Are Mass Shootings at US Schools?...
  7. Tragedies as Occasions for Discussing Ways To Prevent Repeat Tragedies:
  8. Tragedy at Virginia Tech:
  9. Shootings at Virginia Tech:
David Kopel, March 29, 2007 at 3:29pm] Trackbacks

Beautiful French literature on Liberty and the Right to Arms

Pierre Lemieux is a French-Canadian professor, libertarian, and master literary stylist. In 2001, he penned "Confessions d'un coureur des bois hors-la-loi" (Confessions of an outlaw woodsman), to protest against the growth of oppressive, intolerant, anti-gun, anti-self defense laws in Canada. (Or as he says, "pretend laws"--an appellation that has been used for the "laws" of Vichy France.)

The book has recently been re-issued in electronic version by "Les Classiques des sciences sociales," which is one of the most important Francophone on-line social science publishers. I finished reading it yesterday, and I recommend it highly.

I have been studying Canadian firearms policy since 1986, so I was apprehensive that book would contain a recitation of various arguments with which I was already very familiar. Au contraire. The book is collection of passionate essays on the spirit of liberty, on the "Redneck of the North" culture of rural Quebec, and on the rising danger of the soft tyranny of the nanny state.

If you can read French at the high intermediate level or better, you will be able to enjoy the book. If you are highly proficient in French, you will especially appreciate Lemieux's beautiful writing--including the first chapter, in which he describes walking around his rural property, carrying his .223 carbine in violation of the pretend law. The best chapter imagines his meeting on Judgment Day with St. Peter, which begins with Lemieux remonstrating St. Peter for addressing him with impertinent informality ("tu").

I read Lemieux in French in the manner that many students used to read Cicero in Latin: to improve my language skills by carefully studying every word and phrase from a master of rhetoric, and to savor the pleasure of a brilliant writer animated by the deepest love of liberty. "Les Classiques" also has several other libertarian books written by Lemieux.


[David Kopel, March 24, 2007 at 1:01pm] Trackbacks

Internet Improves Criminal Trial Coverage

At least when there's a trial that draws a lot of media attention. My latest media column for the Rocky Mountain News suggests that the media are using the web effectively in order to supply high-quality, up-to-the-minutes news and analysis about the insider trading trial of former Qwest chief Joe Nacchio.

My column from a couple weeks ago noted how University of Colorado law professor and Rocky Mountain News columnist seems to be acting more like Ann Coulter these days. The column suggests that both Campos and Coulter ought to return to the more adult level of discourse that marked, for example, their 1998 debate on CNN


[David Kopel, March 22, 2007 at 3:24pm] Trackbacks

To your tents, O Israel!

The people of ancient Israel discovered that their militia-based confederation lacked the cohesion to protect them from foreign aggression. But when they created a strong central government with a standing army, their own liberties were endangered by that government. The American colonists and Founders closely studied Israel's experience, and tried to learn from it. That's the topic of my new article in the April 2007 issue of Liberty magazine. In HTML. In PDF. 21 Comments

[David Kopel, March 12, 2007 at 1:03am] Trackbacks

Want to use Outlook Express? Then learn how to speak French!

If you install Office 2007, it will wipe out all the spell-checking dictionaries--except for French! Hat tip to the great Francophone website Technologies du Langage.

TL is also conducting a detailed linguistic analysis of the speeches of the major French presidential candidates. For example, how often do they say "Je veux" (I want) versus "Il faut" (it is necessary)? The former is "voluntarist and egocentric," while the latter is "collectivist and impersonal." The two leaders, Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal, prefer "Je veux," while the unexpectedly strong third-party candidate Francois Bayrou leans to "Il faut."

Another entry looked at how often the candidates used any form of "vouloir" (to want), compared to other common verbs. Again, Sarkozy and Royal led the pack in "vouloir" use. A follow-up examined the candidates' use of various forms of "vouloir" (e.g., I want, they want, he/she will want, etc.). Sarkozy and Royal, much more so than other candidates, used the first-person form (Je veux; I want).

I suggest that the linguistic analysis indicates that Sarkozy and Royal ought to start running anti-Bayrou commercials using a variation of "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again." How about "Bayrou just knows what you need, but I know what I want."

It would be interesting if some technologically adept linguists followed TL's lead, and began studying the word choices of the American presidential candidates.


[David Kopel, March 8, 2007 at 4:24pm] Trackbacks

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Biography

The full text of my biography of Schlesinger is now on-line, with individual chapters as PDF files. Schlesinger has long been a role model for me as a great writer and scholar, and as an intellectual who helped serve the country he loved by taking part in its public affairs.

Scanning and reformatting the thesis for on-line publication also reminded me great it was that I could word-process the thesis on Brown University's mainframe. When I was a freshman, computer science students were programming with punch cards. It was wonderful to have word processing available; my thesis was much better as a result. And would have been much better still, if like today's lucky students, I had possessed a laptop computer.

The thesis also reminded me just how terrible Vietnam was--not only in the direct effects of war itself, and the totalitarian regimes that won it--but also in how it more or less destroyed the liberal anti-communist movement which Schlesinger had done so much to create, and which did so many good things for America and the world in the 1960s.

And there was also the pleasure of rediscovering some great quotes from Schlesinger. Like an amazingly naive diary entry from when he was serving in the JFK White House, and moonlighting as a film critic; Schlesinger and Robert Kennedy met Marilyn Monroe in New York: "Bobby and I engaged in mock competition for her; she was most agreeable to him and pleasant to me."

Then there's this diary entry from the spring of 1968, when all the politically correct people in New York City were supporting Eugene McCarthy for the Democratic nomination, while Schlesinger was supporting RFK: "I have never felt so much in my life the settled target of hostility...I am hissed at practically every public appearance in this city. I have just been out to get the morning Times, and inevitably someone harangued and denounced me on Third Avenue--again a McCarthyite. I think these people are crazy." The Angry Left is not a new phenomenon.

And there's his characterization, from The Vital Center, of the foolishness of hoping that the problem of totalitarian aggression could be solved by world government, by the "pot of legalisms at the end of the rainbow." In the Americans for Democratic Action, which Schlesinger helped found, "we know that we are no longer living in a utopia. We are living in a jungle and we must do something about it."

Re-connecting with his writings was a pleasant reminder--especially apt these days--of how a great political commentator can write with elegance and wit, skewering his ideological adversaries--without ever needing to use vulgar language, malicious hyperbole, or childish name-calling.


David Kopel, March 4, 2007 at 2:50pm] Trackbacks

What do you say to a beautiful mathematician?

"I wish I were your first derivative, so I could lie tangent to your curves."

More humor: ex (that is, the mathematical constant "e" raised to the power of "x") went to party. He stood around morosely in a corner. The host came up to him and said "why don't you mix in with the other guests? Maybe that would cheer you up." He replied, "It's no use. If I integrate, I'll still be the same."

Commenters are urged to supply more calculus humor.

65 Comments [digg this]
[David Kopel, March 1, 2007 at 9:05pm] Trackbacks

Goodbye to a great American: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

The great American historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., passed away yesterday. Best-known for his service in the Kennedy administration, and his biographies of the Kennedys, Schlesinger was criticized by those who thought that intellectuals should stay out of politics. In my Honors thesis at Brown, a quarter-century ago, I examined the question of the intellectual in politics, through a biography of Schlesinger.

I hope to put the whole biography on-line during the next week. In the meantime, here are two chapters, in PDF:

Ch. 1. Schlesinger learns history from his progressive and brilliant parents. At age 11, his mother tells him to stop interrupting at the dinner table, and he retorts, "Mother, how can I be quiet if you insist on making statements that are not factually accurate?" Although his parents are devoted to the public schools, the Cambridge schools are weak; one day, when young Arthur announces "that our teacher had told us that people in Albania were called Albinos because they had white hair and red eyes," his father gives up, and sends him to Exeter. During World War II, he is turned down by the Navy as a security risk (because his father was so anti-Nazi so early!), gets a military intelligence job instead, and later lands a job teaching at Harvard, holding only a B.A.

Ch. 6. The 1960 campaign. Schlesinger and the other liberal intellectuals face intense liberal pressure to stick with Stevenson, and a furious reaction when they defect to Kennedy, who is considered a right-wing machine politician. The maneuvers of Kennedy, Humphrey, Stevenson, and Johnson during the primaries and convention. Schlesinger as a liberal lightening rod for southerners and Republicans. Kennedy's Machiavellian post-election strategy on appointments. Once the appointments are finished, Harvard concludes that it runs the country. (The link on this has been fixed.)

Re-reading the 1960 chapter, I was struck by many parallels to contemporary politics; that's one reason why history deserves study. As a brilliant writer and erudite scholar who loved America and loved American history, Arthur Schlesinger set an admirable example of an intellectual engaged in public life.

UPDATE: Now available: Chapter 9, about the assassination of President Kennedy, the early LBJ administration, and the incredible pressure that Johnson exerted on Kennedy loyalists such as Schlesinger to continue to work at the White House, and Robert Kennedy's carpet-bagging 1964 run for the New York Senate, which was saved in part by what Robert Kennedy called the greatest mission to the Jews since the New Testament: Schlesinger and John Kenneth Galbraith campaigning for Kennedy votes among New York Jews.

Chapter 10, Schlesinger's biographies of John and Robert Kennedy, including the huge controversy when Schlesinger claimed that President Kennedy was planning on firing Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

STILL MORE: Chapter 2. Schlesinger's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson links Jackson's battle against plutocracy with FDR's.

Chapter 4. The 1952 Presidential campaign. Schlesinger serves as a speechwriter for the ever-indecisive Adlai Stevenson, and tries to pull him to the left. Stevenson's campaign is demolished.

AND MORE: Chapter 3, The Vital Center. The founding of liberal anti-communism. Schlesinger denounces the stupidity of the isolationist business conservatives, but directs his most scathing attacks to the delusional utopian left. Some great examples for modern writers for how to be sharply critical, funny, and erudite--and without using any foul words.

Chapter 5. Liberal intellectuals try to cope with the stagnation of the Eisenhower years. In the disastrous 1956 Stevenson campaign, America fails to heed their call for strong leadership and national vigor.

11 Comments [digg this]

[David Kopel, February 27, 2007 at 1:19am]

Happy St. Gabriel Possenti Day!

February 27 is the Saint Day for Gabriel Possenti, one of my favorite saints. According to The One Year Book of Saints, as a young man in 19th-century Italy, Francesco Possenti was known as the best dresser in town, as a "superb horseman," and as "an excellent marksman." He was proficient with rifles and shotguns. The young man was also a consummate partygoer, who was once engaged to two women at the same time. Twice during school he fell desperately ill, promised to give his life to God if he recovered, and then forgot his promise. On August day at church, Possenti saw a banner of Mary. Her eyes looked directly at him, and he heard the words "Keep your promise."

Possenti immediately joined an order of monks, taking the name Brother Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin. Then in 1860:

On a summer day...a slim figure in a black cassock [Possenti] stood facing a gang of mercenaries in a small town in Piedmont, Italy. He had just disarmed one of the soldiers who was attacking a young girl, had faced the rest of the band fearlessly, then drove them all out of the village at the point of a gun....
[W]hen Garibaldi's mercenaries swept down through Italy ravaging villages, Brother Gabriel showed the kind of man he was by confronting them, astonishing them with his marksmanship, and saving the small village where his monastery was located.

The soldiers were from the nationalist army of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was defeating the Papal States and bringing Italy under his unified control. As is not uncommon in warfare, some of Garibaldi's soldiers, once the fighting was over, went off on their own, on free-lance missions to pillage and terrorize defenseless nearby communities. About twenty former soldiers and non-commissioned officers showed up in the tiny town of Isola del Gran Sasso.

Possenti was studying for the priesthood in the nearby monastery run by the Passionist Order. (The order is devoted to the "passion" or suffering of Jesus.) When Possenti heard the disturbance in town, he asked the rector for permission to go see if he could help, and permission was granted.

Possenti arrived just in time to see two sergeants on the verge of raping two young women. Possenti snatched one sergeants gun out of his holster, and then quickly grabbed the other sergeant's handgun. Presumably, the sergeants were drunk and carousing, expecting no resistance, and not particularly focused on weapons retention. Next:

The two of them, dumbfounded, let the woman go.
When the other soldiers in the band of about 20 heard the commotion, they rushed toward Possenti, thinking they easily could make short shrift of this slightly built, cassocked theology student. One of them apparently made some sneering remark about him attired in his cassock.
At that moment, a lizard ran across the road. The marksman Possenti took aim, fired, and killed it with one shot. It was then that he turned his weapons toward the advancing gang, surprised and shocked by this amazing demonstration of handgun marksmanship.
Possenti ordered the terrorists to put down their arms, which they did. He ordered them to put out fires that they had started, which they did.
He ordered them to return the property that they had taken from the villagers, which they did.
He then ordered the whole lot of them out of town at gunpoint. They left, never to return.
The Isolans then accompanied Possenti back to his monastery in triumphant procession, naming him the Savior of Isola."

This was not the only time that Possenti drew a weapon. On one occasion, the young seminarian was taking a walk when a young man came along, and began chatting and walking with Possenti. The conversation was friendly, until they came near a deserted shack, and the stranger tried to lure Possenti inside for a homosexual encounter---a triple sin in Possenti's eyes, since the sex would be non-marital, homosexual, and a flagrant violation of the seminarian's vow of celibacy. Apparently afraid that the stranger might attempt to rape him, Possenti drew his hunting knife, which he always carried when walking in the woods, and yelled, "You fiend! If you try to touch me, I'll stick you through." The stranger fled.

Possenti died on February 27, 1862, at the age of 24.

Possenti was declared a saint in 1908. Today, there is an international Catholic lay movement called the Saint Gabriel Possenti Society. The Possenti Society, which has been approved by Catholic authorities, seeks to have Possenti declared the patron saint of handgunners. Although the Society has a Catholic orientation, it includes non-Catholic members.

Should the Vatican eventually grant the petition, St. Gabriel Possenti would join a long line of Catholic saints who are associated with arms, freedom, the military, or crime-fighting.

These are saints for ammunition magazines (Barbara), ammunition workers (Elmo), anti-Communism (Joseph), archers (Sebastian), armies (Maurice), armories (Lawrence), armorers (Barbara, Dunstan, George, Lawrence, and Sebastian), arms dealers (Adrian of Nicomedia), arrowsmiths (Sebastian), artillery gunners (Barbara), battle (Michael the archangel), against battle (Florian), against burglaries (Leonard of Noblac), cavalry (Martin of Tours), Crusaders (Charles the Good, King Louis IX of France), fortifications (Barbara), freedom (Holy Infant Jesus of Prague), hunters (Hubert), hunting (Eustachius, Hubert of Liege), infantry (Martin of Tours), knights (Gengulphus, George, James the Greater, Julian the Hospitaller, Michael the Archangel), military chaplains (John of Capistrano), paratroopers (Michael the Archangel), quartermasters (Martin of Tours), security forces (Michael the Archangel), swordsmiths (Maurice), United States Army Special Forces (Philip Neri), and the Women's Army Corps a/k/a WACs (Genevieve, Joan of Arc). There are also a large number of saints for the armies or navies of particular nations.

References: Clifford Stevens, The One Year Book of Saints(Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Div., 1989)(source of the 1st block quote).
John Michael Snyder, Gun Saint(Arlington, Vir.: Tellum Pr., 2003)(source of the 2d block quote). Snyder is the founder of the Possenti Society, and a long-time lobbyist for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. The list of saints is from Patron Saints Index (part of Catholic Community Forum), and Snyder, pp. 16-18.
Passionist Order website, including a biography of Possenti which focuses on his intense spiritual development and devotion to Mary. (BTW, another Passionist Saint is Maria Goretti, about whom I've written previously. Hungarian version of Goretti article is here.)

Miscellany: On hearing this story, I have always felt sorry for the lizard, which was, after all, completely innocent. Presumably though, it was better for one innocent lizard to die so that many innocent people not be raped, robbed, and assaulted. Symbolically, the lizard might be seen as a miniature dragon, meaning that Possenti was symbolically slaying evil. (Snyder, p. 96).

Most Rev. Custodio Alvim Pereira, Archbishop Emeritus of Lorenzo Marques, Mozambique, Vice President of the Chapter of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, has accepted two St. Gabriel Possenti Society Medallions, which were blessed at the Society's official luncheon in Rome. Pope John Paul II accepted a St. Gabriel Possenti Society gold medallion with an official Vatican letter of acceptance and thanks, signed March 12, 2001 by Monsignor Pedro Lopez Quintana, Assessor of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

I am a member of the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, from which I have received a silver engraved Medallion of Honor.

43 Comments [digg this]

[David Kopel, February 24, 2007 at 3:21pm] Trackbacks

Home Buyer Waivers of Tort Liability:

In my column for today's Rocky Mountain News, I critique a newspaper article which reported on the continuing controversy in Colorado over homeowner waiver of tort liability regarding the purchase of newly-constructed homes. Colorado buyers can still sue to enforce the home builder's warranty.

How about some comments from readers with expertise in real estate or torts? What do you think of tort liability caps for home-buyer lawsuits? (Colorado has them.) Should the legislature, or the courts, prohibit the enforcement of tort liability waivers in home sale contracts? (That's the current proposal in the Colorado legislature.) Do you have evidence for or against the home builder lobby's claim that tort liability is driving up home prices? Have you, or your clients, or someone you know, ever succeeded or attempted in striking language from standard-form real estate contracts? (I've done so on mortgage contracts, although that's not exactly the same.)

In your comments, please try to avoid simply making theoretical statements, such as "no government should interfere with any freely-negotiated contract." It's not that these theoretical statements are necessarily wrong, but I don't think they will advance the real-estate-specific discussion.


[David Kopel, February 23, 2007 at 9:03pm] Trackbacks

Uganda terrorizes its own citizens under the auspices of UN gun control mandate

That's the thesis of my article just posted on Reason Online. Commenters are encouraged to stay on-topic, rather than trolling about John Lott. Commenters are likewise encouraged not to feed the trolls by responding to them.


[David Kopel, February 23, 2007 at 11:52am]

Ten Great Second Amendment Books

In a new article for America's 1st Freedom(a NRA member magazine), I recommend ten of my favorite books on the Second Amendment and firearms policy. Since it's my own personal list, it tends towards law, history, and international issues, which are three of my favorite right to arms sub-topics. I encourage commenters to add recommendations for their own favorite books on firearms law and policy -- including "pro-control" books, fiction, or whatever else you would highly recommend. Also feel free to discuss movies or television programs which you would like to recommend. As for movies, I would have to say that I thought "Red Dawn" was wonderful. Please try to stay on the positive side--that is books, movies, or TV shows (from any perspective) which you recommend, rather than things which you did not like.

UPDATE: The PDF file may have been corrupted, and I'm not sure how long it will take me to fix it. In short, my favorites included Cramer, Halbrook, Hardy, Kleck, LaPierre (his latest, on the UN), and Malcolm. In the meantime, just add your own favorites.

UPDATED UPDATE: The PDF file is fixed. 47 Comments

[David Kopel, February 16, 2007 at 5:05pm] Trackbacks

Gun-related data for criminals who shoot police officers

The FBI recently completed a major study of shootings of police officers. Titled "Violent Encounters: Felonious Assaults on America's Law Enforcement Officers," the document is not currently available on the web. The publication Force Science News, which comes from the Force Science Institute, of the University of Minnesota, Mankato, has reported on the study. Regarding firearms, FSN writes:

"Predominately handguns were used in the assaults on officers and all but one were obtained illegally, usually in street transactions or in thefts. In contrast to media myth, none of the firearms in the study was obtained from gun shows. What was available 'was the overriding factor in weapon choice,' the report says. Only 1 offender hand-picked a particular gun 'because he felt it would do the most damage to a human being.'
Researcher Davis, in a presentation and discussion for the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police, noted that none of the attackers interviewed was 'hindered by any law--federal, state or local--that has ever been established to prevent gun ownership. They just laughed at gun laws.'"
The summary of the study also provides information that many of the criminals who attack police officers are fairly skilled at gun use, and, unfortunately, diligent in their training.

The FBI website says that "Violent Encounters: Felonious Assaults on America's Law Enforcement Officers is available from the UCR Program Office, FBI Complex, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306-0150.


[David Kopel, February 14, 2007 at 11:24am] Trackbacks

Request for Information on Sporting Use of Pump-Action Shotguns

I am passing on a request from Herve Senach, president of the French organization Association de Tireurs(ADT), an organization founded in 1901 to promote responsible uses of firearms, and to support the natural right of self-defense. Mr. Senach asks the following from organizers of sporting events involving pump action shotguns:

Would you be so kind as to send me an official attestation from your organization, stating that you organize, on a regular basis, sports shooting contests with pump-action shotguns, or, even better, reserved to pump-action shotguns.
Please do not let the request for an "official attestation" hold you up; this can be fulfilled by a formal letter from an officer of the organization. You can contact Mr. Senach, who reads and writes English, at "ccra" followed by "@" followed by "infonie.fr". Apparently there is some pressure in France to ban pump action guns, so your timely response would be very helpful.

For a collection of links to French language pro-gun and anti-gun websites, and some articles on gun issues written in French, you might want to check the French language page on my website. The web presence of the ADT, by the way, appears to be mainly in conjunction with the website of another group, the Union Francaise des Amateurs d'Armes (UFA). That website has information about the current French presidential campaign (and front-runner Sarkozy's position that citizens of the French republic should not be allowed to defend themselves with firearms), but not about the new pump-action shotgun issue.


[David Kopel, February 10, 2007 at 1:36pm] Trackbacks

Climate report too quickly embraced by journalists

So says my latest media analysis column in the Rocky Mountain News, which criticizes the press for its overly credulous reporting of the latest output from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The column also looks at media coverage of a bill to mandate HPV vaccines for 6th grade girls; the factoid that only 2% of rape accusations are false; and the lingering influence of Michael Bellesiles on "The Mini Page."


[David Kopel, February 6, 2007 at 11:17am] Trackbacks

Nazism, the Second Amendment, and the NRA

Stephen Halbrook's excellent new article in Texas Review of Law and Politics is now on-line, in PDF.


[David Kopel, February 1, 2007 at 4:15pm] Trackbacks

Does the National Rifle Association Influence Federal Elections?

This is a new Issue Paper from the Independence Institute, by Christopher B. Kenny, Michael McBurnett & David J. Bordua. It's the first empirical study to conclusively demonstrate and quantify interest-group influence on Congressional elections.


[David Kopel, January 30, 2007 at 1:05am] Trackbacks

Bush Warns Iran

That's the title of a forthcoming Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russian language station short news segment. The segment includes some commentary from me. You can read a transcript here, or listen to the MP3 here.

For those of you who don't speak Russian, here's a machine-based Russian to English translation of my quote. The quote obviously is not the exact words that I spoke in English, but perhaps the reverse translated version of the quote conveys a little bit of the Russian style:

Hardly the discussion deals with the direct conflict with Iran. In any case, not now. But the hardness the new deal [the surge] is obvious. The USA for long believed in the possibility to stop the aggressiveness of the totalitarian government of Iran by peaceful and diplomatic means. Unfortunately, the majority in the Congress is disposed now with respect to the Iranian regime, just as the parliaments of England and France were disposed in 1937 and 1938 with respect to Hitlerite Germany, naively thinking that if we give to them some of that which they demand, they will leave us at rest. But the White House finally understood that to win in Iraq is possible only by having intercepted the propagation of Iranian influence and having physically broken the pro-Iranian combat groups which act in Iraq.
[David Kopel, January 26, 2007 at 8:07pm] Trackbacks

Interesting Machiavelli Quote:

From Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, chapter 44, which is titled (in part) "It is not well to Threaten without Having the Power to Act":

From this we plainly see the folly and imprudence of demanding a thing, and saying beforehand that it is intended to be used for evil; and that one should never show one's intentions, but endeavor to obtain one's desires anyhow. For it is enough to ask a man to give up his arms, without telling him that you intend killing him with them; after you have the arms in hand, then you can do your will with them.


[David Kopel, January 24, 2007 at 12:17pm]

Weapons of Jesus and the Disciples

One of the unexpected ways that Volokh.com has helped me as a writer and researcher is the very interesting reader analysis that I receive for articles that were written for a different publication. For example, the Rocky Mountain News website has an on-line forum for reader comments about my bi-weekly media analysis columns. But the comments posted there tend to very short, and often consist of not much more than simply agreeing or disagreeing with what I wrote. In contrast, when I create a short post of the VC, with a link to the column, VC readers will often offer many extended comments, some of which provide additional insights into the topic. It's an unexpected, and constructive media synergy.

As many VC readers know, I also write frequently for America's 1st Freedom, one of the NRA member magazines. AFF has no on-line published feedback for articles, and only some of the AFF articles are ever posted on the AFF website. Yesterday I posted a link to my latest AFF article, regarding whether the New Testament mandates pacifism. Unsurprisingly, many of the comments were very interesting. I'd like to address some issues raised by the commentators:

1. Since the NT plainly sanctions state violence (e.g., Romans 13), does this, in itself, negate all Christian pacifist arguments? My article, because of space limitations, only addressed the Gospels and Acts. I agree with the commenters who assert that it's intellectually plausible for the NT to sanction state violence, while requiring Christians to abstain from all violence--including by not serving as violent state actors. (That's separate from the question of whether the NT requires Christians to be pacifists in the first place.) The bifurcated view has the support of some eminent early Christian writers, such as Origen, as well as later ones, such as the great 20th century pacifist writer John Cadoux, who wrote that that he was rooting for the Allies to win WWII, even while arguing that Christians shouldn't participate in the fighting. Cadoux, Christian Pacifism Reexamined(Oxford, 1940), p. 141.

In practice, this view was sustainable only while Christians were a minority, without the responsibilities for running a state; in modern times, it's practiced only by Christian sects (e.g., Mennonites) who function as a small pacifist minority within a larger non-pacifist society.

2. Whether Jesus cleansing the Temple with a whip is really an anti-pacifist example. Reinhold Niebuhr, in his famous essay rejecting Christian pacifism, started off by saying that he was sick of people using the Temple cleansing as an anti-pacifist proof text. It's an issue I couldn't address in the magazine article, due to space limitations, but here's why I still think it's a story which tends to undermine pacifism (although it doesn't tell us anything about lethal force):

Even if you accept the etymological point that Jesus' whip was probably an animal control device, and you also infer (from silence) that he never hit anybody, Jesus still entered the Temple, damaged other people's property, and frightened people into fleeing by brandishing a weapon, using it against innocent animals, and implicitly threatening people if they dared to remain in the Temple. It is hardly the behavior of a meek person who never does anything violent.

The great pacifist historian of the early church, John Cadoux, pointed out that all four Gospels use a Greek word meaning "to cast out," and the word is repeatedly used elsewhere in the New Testament in non-violent contexts, including a man removing money from his purse. C. John Cadoux, The Early Christian Attitude to War(N.Y.: Seabury Pr., 1982)(1st pub. 1919), pp. 34-35; Luke 10:35. Cadoux continued that the word used in the cleansing of the Temple "need mean no more than an authoritative dismissal. It is obviously impossible for one man to drive out a crowd by physical force or even by the threat of it." Cadoux, p. 35.

Well not really. One man using a weapon, even a non-lethal weapon such as an animal scourge, can often clear a room pretty quickly. Especially if the other people in the room are unarmed, surprised, and (as disarmed subjects of a foreign dictatorship) used to being be submissive to force. The room-clearing is all the easier if the man with the weapon has a strong and fearless personality. It even easier if the man is backed by a wildly cheering crowd in a religious frenzy (such as the crowd that had, in Matthew's version, just welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem and proclaimed him the messiah).

3. What kind of swords the disciples carried. Some commenters have engaged in a discussion of whether they were machetes, which might be true, although I don't see that changing the point of the story. Some additional facts about the sword issue:

The Apostle Matthew was a tax collector (Matthew 10:3). It's possible that, as a state actor, he might have been exempt from the Roman prohibition on Jewish sword-carrying, which was enacted sometime between 35 B.C. and 5 A.D.

The typical Roman sword of the Republic was the gladius Hispaniensis, whose blade was approximately thirty inches long. In the first century A.D., the gladius was replaced by the Pompeii-type sword, whose blade was only sixteen inches. "The Roman Sword In The Republican Period And After." The latter type of sword would have been relatively easy to carry concealed, especially under loose garments.

In 1694, the Quaker author Thomas Maule tried to refute the pro-weapons implication of the Two Swords text by arguing that the law is the first sword, and Jesus is the second sword. This is an imaginative symbolic reading, but it is utterly contrary to the sense of the passage to assert that there were no real swords involved. A sermon during the American Revolution addressed the Quaker claim:

I think I need not stand long here to confute that impertinency of a conceit that these were spiritual swords....Indeed I could hardly be brought to believe they [Quakers] did hold such an error, if I had not been informed by a person of credit, who assured me he had it from the mouth of one of their speakers or teachers.
O horrid blasphemy! Purchase the spirit of God, or the sword of the spirit, or a spiritual sword, with the price of an old garment. Surely if this was true, then the purse and scrip must be spiritual too, and these bought by selling of old garments; and yet they would be such spiritual swords as would cut off carnal ears and such as would be both visible and sensible, and two of them would be enough.
A Moderate Whig (probably Stephen Case), "Defensive Arms Vindicated and The Lawfulness of the American War Made Manifest" (published in 1783, delivered in 1779), reprinted in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1990), p. 765.Related Posts (on one page):
  1. Weapons of Jesus and the Disciples:
  2. Can a Christian Own a Gun for Self-defense?

[David Kopel, January 23, 2007 at 1:12pm]

Can a Christian Own a Gun for Self-defense?

Some religious people--dubbed "pacifist-aggressives" by Eugene Volokh--attempt to use the force of law to make other people live according to a pacifist philosophy. In a new article for America's 1st Freedom, I address the claim that the New Testament compels pacifism.

Some caveats: 1. It's a large PDF file. 2. The article presumes, for the sake of argument, that everything in the Gospels and the Book of Acts is literally true. 3. The thesis of the article is refutation of the claim of a pacifist mandate, rather than arguing that Gospels/Acts provide clear instruction on all issues regarding self-defense or defense of others. 4. The article does not address non-scriptural arguments for pacifism--such as the Quaker belief that a person who conscientiously listens to his inner light will eventually discern pacifist principles in his own heart.

Related Posts (on one page):
  1. Weapons of Jesus and the Disciples:
  2. Can a Christian Own a Gun for Self-defense?
[David Kopel, January 23, 2007 at 2:31am] 0 Trackbacks Possibly More Trackbacks

Presidential candidates on the Second Amendment

If you take Second Amendment issues into account when deciding whom to support, or if you simply are interested how the candidates will likely fare with an important bloc of voters, here's a preliminary assessment of some of the people who have been listed as likely or definite candidates. As much as possible, the ratings are based on actions while in government, rather than on current rhetoric. Of course the list can also be read in reverse order, to assess the probable allegiance of voters who are very strong gun control advocates. These rankings are subject to revision, as additional information is acquired.

Top tier. Nearly perfect pro-Second Amendment records: Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-Vir.). Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.).

Very good. Not a perfect record, but still a very positive one overall. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-Wisc.). Former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.).

Mixed: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)(mostly positive record, except for lead sponsorship of two terrible bills: McCain-Lieberman, a badly-written bill which would have given the BATFE the authority to administratively eliminate any or all gun shows, and McCain-Feingold, the campaign speech restriction law which significantly affects right-to-arms groups).

Poor: Former Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.). Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.). As noted by, inter alia, the Boston Globe, Romney's flip-flops on guns are part of a larger record of inconsistency.

Almost perfect anti-Second Amendment record: Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Former Vice-President Al Gore (in Congress, a nearly perfect pro-gun record until 1989, when he switched sides). Al Sharpton (D-N.Y.).

Record of anti-Second Amendment leadership: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.)(very effective in pushing gun control during his tenure as Judiciary Committee chairman). Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa). Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-N.Y.)(even worse than his predecessor, Democrat David Dinkins; indeed, based on his record, arguably worse than Sen. Clinton).

I don't know: Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska). He has been out of Congress for 25 years, and I don't know his voting record from his 1969-81 Senate terms. Given that he represented Alaska, and that he was (and is) a fervent populist, I would be surprised if he had a record of support for gun control.

In the comments, please focus on information to make these rankings more precise, rather than arguing the pro/con merits of the Second Amendment or gun control.

One final note: It's nearly impossible to rate the candidates overall on "civil liberties," since the ranking would depend on the relative importance that one gives to, say, property rights vs. privacy rights vs. abortion rights vs. speech rights. But Rep. Ron Paul, as a libertarian, would have to rank pretty high. Conversely, one would have to be concerned about Mayor Giuliani's record as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which includes a number of highly-publicized, reputation-destroying white collar criminal prosecutions which were later overturned in appeal, in part because of prosecutorial over-reaching. One would also have to be concerned that Gov. Romney has enlisted the fund-raising talents of Mel Sembler, the entrepreneur who created a highly profitable chain of teenage drug "treatment" programs which have been been successfully sued for false imprisonment, assault, and other forms of child abuse.

[David Kopel, January 23, 2007 at 1:23am] Possibly More Trackbacks

Unwritten Rules for Freshman Legislators:

Want to know the 9 unwritten rules for freshman legislators? Check out my father's latest column for the Colorado Statesman, based on his 22 years of service in the Colorado House of Representatives. For example:

Rule No. 1: Don't go to the front to speak and merely state "I'm going to vote for this bill." Go to the front to speak for the first time when you have studied the bill being debated, can explain its merits and defects, and can produce some suggestions that the other legislators might find useful.
His website has lots of other articles with advice for legislators, such as how a legislature is like a small town:
In a very small town, people are close. That doesn't mean they are all friends. But when you are close, it's hard to hide a true personality, actual ability, or lack of ability, behind a facade. For better or worse, halfway through a legislator's first year, he or she is pegged at a certain level, and it may take years before original perceptions are discarded.
There are also Eight Rules for Lobbyists to Live By, such as:
Rule No. 5. Never surprise a legislator by making your objections known for the first time at a committee hearing. I have seen legislators almost apoplectic when that happens and you have made an enemy for life. Former Sen. Vince Massari of Pueblo kept a little black book. When he felt wronged, the name and event went into the book. If he had a chance for revenge he took it even if he would otherwise have supported the issue because it helped his constituents. For some legislators, revenge is the sweetest dessert.
There's also a column warning about the dangers of falling in love with your own bills. That column concludes with this anecdote:
[Former legislator] Steve Durham and I entered a capitol elevator the other day while the Democrat and Republican House legislators were in caucus discussing the long bill.
Durham: "What's the difference between a cactus and a caucus?"
Kopel: "I don't know, what is the difference?"
Durham: "With a cactus, the pricks are on the outside."

[David Kopel, January 19, 2007 at 10:58pm] 0 Trackbacks Possibly More Trackbacks

Kopel website in Chinese

It's now operational. Eleven articles in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese. Mostly on technology/antitrust topics. Plus self-defense, and, of course, Harry Potter.


[David Kopel, January 19, 2007 at 2:45am] 0 Trackbacks Possibly More Trackbacks

Taiwan, Israel, and Hungary

Today I appeared on the Amy Oliver Show, on KFKA in Greeley, Colorado. We discussed Taiwan's struggle for self-determination; the half-hour MP3 is here.

Perhaps you've been wondering when you will be able to read a Hungarian translation of my Volokh Conspiracy post from the summer of 2006, UN an Accomplice in Hezbollah Kidnappings. I'm happy to announce that your waiting is over. The Hungarian translation is here; if you read Hungarian, then make sure to check out the rest of Vilmos Soti's interesting website.


[David Kopel, January 17, 2007 at 1:19am] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks

Taiwan Democracy and China Trade

I spent last week in Taiwan, as part of an academic group visit arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We met with a variety of government and non-government officials, and heard a diverse range of perspectives on the national security and international relations issues facing Taiwan. In a new podcast from the Independence Institute's iVoices.org, I discuss some of my thoughts on the relationship between Taiwanese and American national security.2 Comments
[David Kopel, January 15, 2007 at 10:05pm] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks

Wayne Allard will not run for re-election

That's the big Colorado political news today. But that's no surprise to readers of Jerry Kopel's political column for the Colorado Statesman. My father, a Democrat who served 22 years in the Colorado House of Representatives, knew Wayne Allard as a Colorado State Senator. Although he often disagreed on policy matters with Allard, he found that Allard was always a man of his word. So in 2005, he predicted that Allard would keep his two-term U.S. Senate pledge.26 Comments

[David Kopel, January 14, 2007 at 8:31pm] 0 Trackbacks Possibly More Trackbacks

Knife Rights

That's the name of America's new citizen organization dedicated to protecting the responsible ownership of knives and edged tools. When you consider how extreme the anti-knife laws have gotten in the United Kingdom, and in some other nations (and in some U.S. jurisdictions), the need for this group is clear. Although knife manufacturers and businesses already have their own trade groups, Knife Rights is the first consumer group. The group began formation last summer, spurred by the publication of a Wall Street Journal news article bemoaning the allegedly lax state of knife control.


[David Kopel, January 14, 2007 at 8:04pm] 0 Trackbacks Possibly More Trackbacks

Two ways to support the troops:

1. Silly string.

The indispensable Strategy Page reports:

...Militarily, Silly String is useful for troops doing room-to-room searches, who have to contend with booby traps (IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices). Before entering a room, they can squirt the stuff inside. If it lands on the floor, the room is likely to be clear of trip wires. But if the stuff hangs in the air, it may have snagged on a nearly invisible wire (sure, the troops might be able to spot the wire if they peer carefully into the room, but this might not be possible in the presence of armed folks with hostile intent).

There's a major problem getting enough Silly String to the troops. It isn't in the Department of Defense (DoD) standard supply basket (which is perhaps just as well, or a can might run several hundred bucks, because of all the special rules applying to military acquisition, and the tendency to customize things for "military use.") Some unit commanders have reportedly been using their discretionary funds to secure supplies. But for the most part, the troops have been relying on Mom to supply them, writing home to send some. This isn't easy, as Silly String comes in aerosol cans, which cannot legally be shipped by the Postal Service or commercial mailing services.

The "queenpin" of Silly String Supply To The Troops is Marcelle Shriver, who has a son in Iraq. She arranges shipments of Silly String to her son's unit and other units. Donations can be sent to her, c/o St. Luke Church, 55 N. Warwick Rd., Stratford, NJ 08084.

2. American Snipers

This fine organization donates sniper accessories (scopes, rangefinders, special slings compatible with body armor, etc.) to American snipers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It would be better, of course, if soldiers did not need to supplement their military-issue equipment, but I suspect that there hasn't been a major war in American history in which some soldiers have not supplemented their standard equipment.


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