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Tuesday
Jun212016

The Dysfunctional Debate on Gun Control

 

The failure of all the proposed senate measures for restricting gun sales, despite polls showing overwhelming support for each of the proposals, is a disgrace. The votes generally fell along party lines, with some notable exceptions: Republican Senators Mark Kirk(Ill.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H) voted with Democrats on most of the bills and Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly (IN) joined Republicans. Keep in mind that Democrats voted in favor of only two of the bills, Diane Feinstein’s so-called “no-fly, no-buy” bill that would have prevented those on a terrorist watch from buying guns, and Chris Murphy’s proposal to expand background checks to include all gun sales (closing the “gun show loophole”).  Democrats supported both. Proposals by Republicans John Cornyn and Chuck Grassley to alert the Attorney General if someone on the watch list attempted to buy a gun and postponing that sale for three days while they were investigated and a proposal to make it more difficult for those with mental illness to buy guns, respectively, were opposed by Democrats.

Because they opposed the strongest proposals, Republicans deserve and will receive most of the blame for the failure to strengthen gun laws in this last round of votes, but Democrats played politics to an equal degree. While neither the Cornyn nor Grassley proposals was as strong as those of Feinstein or Murphy, they were better than nothing, yet Democrats opposed them because they were proposed by Republicans. Both of the stronger Democratic proposals were supported by 85% or more of Americans recently polled by CNN.

The Senate votes demonstrated two things that are preventing sensible gun legislation in the United States: first is the obvious antipathy between the two political parties, which resulted in competing bills and virtually no compromise. The second issue is the general opposition to gun control within our country. The same CNN poll that showed that more than 85% of  Americans favored each of the Democratic gun control measures that were up for a vote, also showed that in response to the question “Do you favor or oppose stricter gun control laws?” only 55% answered that they favored stricter laws. This is a schizophrenic response, to say the least. To make matters worse, although the magnitude of killings in Aurora, Newtown, San Bernardino and Orlando was directly related to the rapid-fire, large magazine capabilities of the assault-style rifles used by the mass murderers in each case, only 54% of Americans polled by CNN favored restricting sale and possession of such guns.

The National Rifle Association is certainly a major factor in both political opposition to gun control and popular attitudes toward gun control in the U.S. Politically, the NRA influences voting, such as just occurred in the senate, through campaign donations and by influencing voter attitudes. They also, both directly and indirectly, influence public attitudes through communication with their members and by supplying arguments used by their supporters, including elected officials in the public debate about gun control. If better gun control is to be achieved within the U.S., the influence of the NRA must be countered by opposing groups who both donate money for campaigns and mount cogent arguments in to be used in the public debate.

The debate about gun control in the United States is dysfunctional. It is dysfunctional because of the behavior of both sides on the issue. Much of the dysfunction resides in two issues: first is the constitutional issue with regard to the 2nd Amendment and second is the set of facts that should form the basis for the debate. The 2nd Amendment says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." There is much debate as to this amendment’s true meaning and intent. There is a clear implication that the right to bear arms is related to the necessity of maintaining a “well regulated militia,” which has nothing to do with the present debate. But interpretations of the constitution are the purview of the Supreme Court and change with the times. What the 2nd Amendment does not say is that it is the right of every American to keep and bear any kind of weapon he or  she chooses. We do not allow citizens to keep bombs or machine guns or tank-mounted weapons. When the nation wide assault rifle ban was in place, repeated court challenges to its constitutionality were defeated. Just yesterday the Supreme Court declined to overturn a Connecticut ban on assault rifles. Nor does the 2nd Amendment say that people cannot be excluded from this right for the same reasons,such as being convicted of a criminal act, they are excluded for participating in other aspects of our democracy. Arguments that the 2nd Amendment guarantees every American to keep and bear any weapon he or she chooses are clearly spurious.

Now what about the facts being cited in the debate? America has the highest per-capital rate of gun ownership in the world. We also have one of the highest gun-related death rates in the world, and by far the highest of any developed country. Numerous studies have shown that the rate of homicides and gun-related deaths both across countries and across states within the United States, are related to gun ownership rates.  Within the United States, the majority of gun-related deaths are from handguns and the majority of these (about 60%) are suicides, not homicides. America has a high suicide rate, but other developed countries, many with restrictive gun laws, such as South Korea, Russia, Hungary, Japan, Poland, Finland, Iceland, and France have higher rates. Proponents of gun control who take into account the suicide rates, often point to the U.K, which has low gun ownership and a low suicide rate (half that of the U.S.) to show the effect of our high gun ownership on such rates. But they turn a blind eye to Japan, which has the strictest gun control laws and lowest gun ownership of almost any country in the world, but has one and one-half times the suicide rate of the U.S.

What about homicides? Here the statistics are different. The homicide rate in the United States exceeds that of virtually all other developed countries. Two-thirds of homicides in the U.S. are gun-related and Americans are seven times more likely to be murdered by a gun than are citizens of other developed countries and six times more likely to be accidentally killed by a gun than those other countries, despite an overall crime rate that is comparable to these other countries.

And then there are mass-shootings. The U.S. leads other developed countries in the number of people killed in mass shootings (defined as 4 or more deaths) and the frequency of mass shootings. However, if these numbers are adjusted for population size, the U.S. is near the middle on both measures. Most of the countries with higher mass shooting rates have more restrictive gun laws than does the U.S.

From all of these arguments and findings two facts stand out: first, the United States has higher murder rates than other developed countries, and these are mostly gun-related murders. Second, the United States kills more people in mass shootings than do other developed countries (but not at a higher rate per population), and the largest of these mass shootings are committed with assault-style weapons. Can stronger gun control laws affect these numbers?

To have a reasonable debate about gun control, we first need to agree on the facts. This rarely occurs. Gun control advocates use America’s overall gun-related death rates to argue for stronger background checks and a ban on assault rifles. Those opposed to such measures argue that criminals will obtain guns despite background checks and that assault rifles are rarely used in crimes. There are half-truths in both sides’ arguments.

Of the homicides committed in the U.S., 65% were committed with guns and 48% with handguns. Criminals, it is argued, obtain their guns illegally, so that stronger gun control laws will not reduce the number of gun-related homicides. Data from the FBI indicate that only 13% of guns used in crimes have been stolen. However that does not mean that the other 87% were purchased legally. Most were purchased, however. A recent study showed that in the Chicago area, 8% of gun dealers accounted for 60% of the guns used in crimes. Nationally, these figures also hold up. Licensed gun dealers who sell to those who might fail background checks if administered according to protocol or who sell to people who turn around and sell the gun in a private transaction, account for an overwhelming number of gun sales of guns used in crimes. Guns reported as “stolen or lost” from those same gun dealers also account for a large number of the stolen guns. Cracking down on gun dealers and requiring background checks on all gun sales, including private ones, as Chris Murphy’s bill proposed, would seem to be one way to reduce the number of guns involved in crime.

But how many of the murders in the United States are related to crime? In 2014, the most recent year for which complete FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics are available, out of 11, 961 homicides, only 1789 (15%) were committed as part of a felony. Forty-seven percent, or 5, 583 murders were not part of a felony and involved killing a friend or family member. 4,589 (38%) of homicides were committed in unknown, non-felony circumstances (which could include anything from killing victims unknown to the killer for unknown reasons, or in mass shootings, to gang rivalry killings). Clearly, most homicides are not committed as part of another criminal act. Arguments that gun laws will not affect criminals, who won’t follow the gun laws, have little to do with whether or not gun laws will lower homicide rates.

Assault rifle bans are not designed to deter ordinary crime. They are meant to limit the number of deaths that a mass shooter can inflict, and most mass-shooters are not criminals nor are they committing a crime other than the shooting itself. Therefore the argument that banning assault rifles will not reduce deaths because assault rifles are not being used in crimes is a spurious one. Assault rifles are responsible for the high body counts when they occur in mass shootings. A ban on assault rifles is designed to minimize deaths in mass shootings, not deter crime-related homicides.

The U.S. had a ban on assault rifles from 1994 to 2004. Proponents of renewing such a ban point to the increase in mass shootings since the expiration of the ban in 2005 as evidence that such a ban works. The Crime Prevention Center collects data on mass shootings over many years. During the ten-year period (1994-2004) of the assault rifle ban there were exactly the same number of mass shootings (17) as there were in the ten years preceding the ban. However, deaths per shooting were reduced from 8.82 to 6.24.  per shooting. Since the expiration of the assault rifle ban (2005-2015) there have been 43 mass shootings, killing 260 people or 6.04 deaths per shooting. However, these data are slightly misleading, as congress redefined mass murder in 2013 to include those involving 3 or more fatalities instead of 4 (thus lowering the average number of deaths per shooting), and the data do not include the most recent shooting in Orlando (because it occurred in 2016), which was the worst in U.S. history. If only those with 4 victims are included and Orlando is also included, the average number of deaths since the expiration of the assualt weapon ban rises to 7.5 per shooting.These data are equivocal about the effect of the assault rifle ban on mass shooting deaths, since, compared to the ten years preceding the ban, during the period of the ban there was no decrease in the number of shootings but a decrease in fatalities from them. However, the large increase in the number of shootings in the last ten years suggests that there may have been a steady rise in the number of shootings over the years if the ban had not been in place. Still, the more recent shootings, in the ten years since the ban expired, did not bring  the number of deaths per shooting to the level prior to the ban, but if this year's Orlando shooting is taken into account, did show it to rise over that experienced during the years of the ban. 

This commentary is filled with statistics, many of which can be interpreted various ways in support of different arguments. I have tried to be fair with regard to the meaning of these statistics, despite my own position in favor of much more stringent gun control measures. It does seem clear, from the numbers cited above, that reducing the number of handguns available to Americans will likely reduce the number of homicides in America. It also seems clear that most gun-related homicides are not part of some other criminal act and that friends and relatives are the most likely victims in gun deaths. Arguments about criminals purchasing guns are not relevant to the larger issue of gun related deaths in America. Even so, it seems true that in addition to strengthening gun laws we need to crack down on gun dealers who do not follow such laws.  With regard to an assault weapon ban, which seems like it should be a no-brainer, given the lack of necessity for a person to have an assault rifle either for sport (target practice is their main use in America), or for defense, it seems clear that high body count mass shootings would decrease if such weapons were not available, but it seems equally clear that other factors, probably several, including terrorism, need to be addressed to reduce the number of mass killings in the U.S.

I wish our politicians would debate gun control with more focus on facts and reality than they now do.

 

Reader Comments (11)

I appreciate your honesty concerning your bias on the actual issue of effective legislation. That certainly makes my own view of what you wrote easier to set aside, somewhat.
I don't agree that banning assault weapons is a no brainer, as the figures you presented fairly clearly demonstrated no significant effect on mass shootings.

However, that is not the subject I'd like to deal with. I am more concerned about why our government cannot seem to enact any effective solutions at all.
Actually i know why, but my comment is more about why we are using a system, that is obviously not working correctly.

There are many much more serious issues that face us as a nation and a species, and our government is seemingly more concerned about making sure people pee in the correct room, than actually solving real and serious issues.
Why is that?
If the process outlined in our constitution cannot be relied on, to give rational and effective resolutions to even very basic problems such as income equity, infrastructure and ecological damages, why would we, why should we expect it to resolve major and compelling problems such as deciding not to bomb other countries?
I don't think this gun issue is a particularly easy issue to resolve, but it certainly should not be insurmountable to the "best system" in the world.

I am somewhat dismayed that after over 200 years, we have not managed to update and harden our process to disallow the lies, excuses and bullshit we get, from our supposed perfect system.

Perhaps we should begin concentrating our efforts on fixing the process this nation uses to make decisions. perhaps we should start trying, testing and debugging new decision processes.
We managed to get rid of monarchy, and now seem to be facing oligarchy.
I'd prefer not to descend into violent anarchy.
perhaps we could use a few university social science programs, here in the US and a few abroad, to start looking for better decision processes. perhaps something that includes, or requires public involvement, perhaps requiring public approval for every enactment.
If something as "no-brainer" as you claim, cannot be enacted, then perhaps it's time to find a process that actually works.

have a look.

http://45ink.com/wp/4-branches-of-government/

June 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike Anderson

Mike: I've read your suggestion before and I like it. I urge other readers to take a look. A system such as yours would at least give the public, which is unanimous on some aspects of the gun control issue, a voice that made a difference. Exercises such as the senate just went through further reinforce the sense of powerlessness of the people of this country and erode their faith in the leaders they have elected.

June 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Dorman

Since writing this commentary I have found a useful congressional report on "Mass Murder with Firearms: Incidents and Victims. 1999-2013" at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44126.pdf This report compares mass public shootings to mass family shootings to mass felony-related shootings. There is a rise in both public and family mass shootings since 1999, but not felony-related mass shootings (e.g. gang shoot-outs). Although the highest number of incidents andl fatalities is in family relaed mass shootings (familicide), followed by felonly-related mass shootings, the highest number of victims per incident is in public mass shootings. Those involving assault-style weapons account for the highest rates of victims per incident. This report was commissioned by congress, but ignored by them in their deliberations.

June 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Dorman

One element that has been overlooked in the wake of the Orlando shootings is the fact that the assault rifle used was a SIG Sauer—a foreign (Swiss-German) nameplate. This is an outrage when we have perfectly good assault weapons made here in America. The R-15 is manufactured by Remington, a fine American brand. And what about Smith & Wesson?

If Congress can agree on nothing else, it should at least be able to agree that if U.S. citizens are going to shoot each other, it should be with firearms “Made in the U.S.A.” I’ve seen no reports on where the ammunition used in Orlando came from, but Congress should also take steps to make sure that bullets used in the U.S. are manufactured here at home.

I’m surprised that Donald Trump hasn’t seized on this issue. Isn’t this another instance of our lousy trade deals? Mr. Trump would like to see folks in crowded dance clubs with guns on their hips, or strapped to their ankles, so that bullets could fly back at the mass murderers. Shouldn’t those guns, and the ammunition, be Made in the U.S.A.? As he likes to say: “America First.”

Regarding the Second Amendment, why does the right to bear arms end with assault weapons? What about Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and other such hand-held rocket launchers? Just think of that iconic scene from the movie The Enforcer, where Clint (Dirty Harry) Eastwood and his partner Tyne Daly go to a firing range to see a demonstration of a Law’s Rocket. An officer hoists the weapon to his shoulder, fires, and completely obliterates an old Army half-track. Now think of the fun a private citizen could have, going down to his local range to blow away old junker cars. Of course there would have to be one iron-clad restriction on all such weapons: they must be Made in the U.S.A.

America First!

June 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Spooner

Casey, i looked at the document you cited.
I found it interesting.
I would like to comment on the 3 classes of mass shootings, because there is some contradictory information that can be concluded.

First, the felony shootings, need to be addressed, because it seems obvious that the criminal driver is the criminalization of drugs, and the enforcement of those laws that criminalize a segment of population. I do not see how making more people criminals can possibly be expected to lower crime.
We may be seeing a start of the end of that insanity, and if we could drop those incidents by over half, I would say we have a solid foundation for claiming some knowledge and wisdom on that matter.

Next is the familial class, this one is tough, because many of the proponents of "more guns=less crime" simply don't acknowledge that it is the presence of guns in a home with familial conflict and drama, that is driving these incidents.
However the gun grabbers refuse to acknowledge that in many familial murders, a gun is not used at all. The circumstances of the relationships are the drivers of the criminal acts, not the weapon.

I am not sure that any real progress can be made to reduce familial murders, a removal of guns would reduce gun murders, but not likely a significant number of murders in total. Once the rage overtakes a person, such that they are committing violence, the weapon is incidental. This seems to be a social issue more than a criminal issue. Fixing the underlying social expectations that cause the drama and conflict would be a good start. Note that I do agree that a concerted effort to remove guns from adjudicated violent relations is a GOOD idea, even if that is not likely to reduce overall familial murder significantly, a few is better than none. EVEN better, would be mandatory social counseling and evaluations for those families involved in violent relations.

Now we get to the crazy assholes who just walk into an area and start shooting, regardless of motivation for the shooter, to reduce the number of casualties, the shooter must be stopped. The pattern of incidents indicates that nearly all of the shooters stopped when confronted by a determined and capable defense.
Notably that is almost always a police response. The factor that determines the victim count in these incidents is almost entirely the response time. Until the shooter is confronted with a capable and determined defense, the shooting continues.
In many, if not most incidents, the shooter stops killing other people and commits suicide, ending the threat.
Therefor is seems obvious that the sooner a shooter is confronted with a determined and capable defense, the sooner the shooting stops.
We can manage that by adding more police, at great cost, or by arming citizens, that are trained, evaluated and are more likely to be on the scene NOW, rather than later.
A volunteer force, that is expected to pay for their own weapons and training and evaluations, and have NO POLICE AUTHORITY.

I like the idea of background checks on gun purchases.
Just as I like the idea of seat belts in cars.
In both cases, the problem is making the good idea, mandatory.

When a seller wants to sell a gun, they should be able to sell that gun, and require the buyer to pass a background check.
I should NOT have to be required to get a background check on my buddy, who is a police officer, or my buddy who is someone I have known for 20 years and already has more guns than me. This is nonsense.
Someone I don't know from Jack, yes, i want to be able to require him to pass a background check, because i don't KNOW him/her.

We still have an accountability problem. If I don't know a person, then the public has the right to know that person bought a gun, and if I deny the public that information, and that person goes out and shoots someone, then I assisted that crime.
I should be held accountable for that assistance, UNLESS I required that person to pass a background check.

Now, I do agree that every firearm sale should be made public record. I would suggest that a law be passed that requires every sale to be recorded, and reported, seller, buyer, ID used, back check authorization if passed, gun number and description, date time price, etc.

What I just did, was removed mandatory background check, and instead reported every sale, with a liability for not getting a background check, and an incentive to get one for anyone not known to be a "good guy".

Remember, EVERY sale reported. Criminal act to sell or buy a firearm of any sort, that is not reported. Background checks are not required, but are encouraged by liability. Sales to people who are NOT allowed to possess a firearm is a crime.

No loopholes. If you sell a gun, without a background check, and that gun is used in a crime, YOU are liable. No excuses, no exceptions.

For my final rant, near as i can tell, too many people are suggesting that because of the snarks, we should all give up our freedoms and rights. Our legal systems have tools for reducing gun violence, and they are not using them. Too many excuses and exceptions.
If our legal systems are so inadequate they cannot be used to manage and administer the laws that we have, then we need to fix our legal systems, NOT make more laws.
As for our political systems, if those systems cannot manage and administer the duties and responsibilities of governance without oppressive dissolution of civil rights, then we need to fix those systems, not dissolve civil rights.
Thanks for reading.

June 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike Anderson

I visited the website spelling out a “4th Branch of Government,” and found it interesting. My objection is that it would leave us with the same gridlock we are currently experiencing. Congress would be charged with writing proposed legislation and approving it to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. I see nothing there that can break the current gridlock in either the house or the senate.

Here is my brainstorm (or brain fart): We need a national initiative process, much like the initiative process in California, that would allow The People to put a measure on the general election ballot. The People would vote directly, yes or no, on the ballot measure. If passed, the measure would become law (subject, of course, to challenges through the courts).

I realize there are many questions to be answered. For example: how would a proposed initiative be qualified for placement on the general election ballot? Would approval be by popular vote, or indirectly, along the lines of the Electoral College?

Let’s play “what if.” What if a ballot measure could qualify for the general election ballot by obtaining signatures of 2% of registered voters in each state. Approval in the general election would be by popular vote, a simple majority.

Now, what if a measure were proposed and gained ballot approval that said: “If you are on the FBI’s Terrorist Watch List, or the No Fly List, you cannot purchase a firearm. You have the right to appeal through the Federal Court system to correct the listing(s).” And what if when we voted on November 8, 2016, we could vote Yes or No for this initiative?

In other words, We The People could effectively break the gridlock in Congress. We could override the influence of special interest money, whether it is from Wall Street, the NRA, the Koch brothers, Big Pharma, et al. Can you imagine the impact this would have on Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi, or Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid? I get a very appealing picture of them shaking in their designer shoes.

I know I haven’t asked or answered all the questions regarding a national initiative process. So go ahead and raise the questions. Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come?

June 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Spooner

Let me clarify my prior comment regarding a National Initiative Process. Presidential candidates must qualify for the ballot in each state, generally by paying a filing fee and submitting a petition with the required number of signatures of registered voters; the typical requirement is 2% of the voters, though it varies by state. In my national initiative plan, the requirements to be on the ballot would be the same as for presidential candidates.

What would be required for passage? How 'bout this: a qualified initiative would need to win a majority vote in 3/4 of the fifty states (i.e. 38 states) in order to become law. The 3/4 rule parallels the requirement to amend the Constitution, and it protects smaller states from being overwhelmed by the more populous ones.

Easy peasy. No?

June 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Spooner

Mr Spooner wrote,
"My objection is that it would leave us with the same gridlock we are currently experiencing. Congress would be charged with writing proposed legislation and approving it to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. I see nothing there that can break the current gridlock in either the house or the senate."

Unfortunately Mr Spooner did not comprehend the process that I outlined.

Let me try to clarify.
The executive branch would task congress with writing a proposed solution to a problem. There is no mention of a house or senate. There is no reason to have two competing legislative bodies involved. It would be a congress, elected by the people of each state not as representatives, but as problem solvers who have demonstrated an ability to write practical solutions to social problems.

Congress has no choice in the matter, they are required to advance a proposed solution. There would be no gridlock. They have a job, not a position to protect.
The only way they keep their job, is by doing their job.

The solution they propose must be legal, it must pass a judicial review before it advances further in the process. I must not infringe on the rights specified to the people and states, it must have been advanced by the process required, and it must not contravene existing law.
When we consider whether a proposed law, a bill, was advanced by the process required, we mean that the problem tasked must be the problem addressed by the bill.
A tasking to reduce pollution in the air would not be addressed by a bill that built a road in Alabama, or a raise for federal employees, because neither of those actually addresses the tasking. The judicial review would reject such a bill as unconstitutional.

The bill must then pass an executive review, which considers whether the tenets of the bill would plausibly solve the problem. Again a pollution bill would not be allowed to pass if it included gold plated fixtures in the congressional restrooms.
The executive review would also test the cost of the bill, not how much it costs, but rather are the cost estimates accurate? A bill that estimated a tax liability of 20 cents per person, per year to buy everyone a new ford pickup truck would be rejected, because the cost accounting does not work, it is inaccurate.

Mr Spooner seems to think this will lead to some kind of gridlock, but has never seen such a process work, nor did he comprehend how it would work, because he dismissed the concept without understanding it.

Would there be issues that might take many many iterations to finally come up with a plausible solution that the public agrees with? YES, however I would, and most people who actually think, think that a solution that actually works is worth that extra time and effort. MUCH more valuable than an ad hoc compromise that costs a lot of money, and does nothing of value to solve any problems.

Then there are OTHER problems that would be quite easy to solve, because the solutions are so damn obvious that the fact that our current system cannot even get close to a solution, makes our nation a laughingstock.

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike Anderson

Mr. Spooner also suggests that the general public should be involved in crafting legislation, and if a majority of the public agrees to a lynching, then we should just accept that.
No.
hell no.

THAT is exactly why we have constitution, that specifies a process that does NOT allow or encourage the public to write laws.
BECAUSE the public is easily stampeded into emotional kneejerk hysteria.
The process we use now, divorces the public too far from the laws we live under, and pure democracy without process puts the public into a bloody bed with corpses.

The process I outline puts the responsibility for the decision in public hands, where it belongs, but disallows the public from rampant legislative hysteria.

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike Anderson

Mr. Anderson didn't understand the process I proposed, either. The "general public" seldom drafts propositions that appear on the ballot in California. They are crafted by organizations with the resources to hire legal talent, gather the required signatures, and pay the filing fees. Every now and then, Joe Citizen does get involved. I suggest Mr. Anderson study the history of Proposition 13, the work of Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann. Prop 13 was drafted, qualified, debated, and passed because the state legislature refused to act to protect homeowners (i.e., property tax payers) in California. Was this a grass roots rebellion against gridlock? I think it was.

Let's follow Mr. Anderson's example of a proposed "lynch law." Suppose that I draft a law that provides for everyone on the FBI Terrorist Watch List to be rounded up and lynched. I craft the legalese for my proposition, go out and obtain the required number of signatures of registered voters, and pay the filing fees. Note that I have to do this in all fifty states to get my proposition on the general election ballot. No small task and no small expense. Then I have to campaign in all of the states and hope to win popular approval in at least 38 states in order for the proposition to become law. Let's say that I am successful and there are enough anti radical Islamist voters in 38 states that will vote for the proposition. Now let's face the fact that a dozen organizations (e.g., the ACLU) will file suit to block the new law because it is a clear violation of the Constitution. Ultimately the new law will land on the docket for the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the new law will also land on the desk of the President. I feel confident that the Pres will veto the new law, and that the Supreme Court will find it unconstitutional. Note that all of this is likely to take somewhere between 2 to 10 years to evolve.

So, where is the hysteria? And where is the "democracy without process?"

But, let's be honest here. Neither my proposal for a National Initiative Process or the 4th Branch of Government idea that Mr. Anderson supports has a snowball's chance in hell. My idea would require an amendment to the Constitution. Mr. Anderson's would require a complete rewrite; when is the last time the U.S. held a Constitutional Convention?

I will say "thank you" to Mr. Anderson for addressing me as Mr. Spooner. Since I was born during FDR's third term, I appreciate the show of respect for my advanced years.

June 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Spooner

Thank you Mr. Spooner, I am not far behind you on the age issue. :-)

I would like to note that I do understand what you proposed.
Your criticism of my proposal was "gridlock".
Yet your defense of the public referendum might take 2 to 10 years to get something done?
Here is my problem with the referendum, besides allowing the public to write legislation.

I agree that an organization, and likely several would need to be involved, at great cost, and with much drama, for every issue needing resolution.

I am somewhat skeptical of a plan that is very likely to never increase the efficiency of our current government, and in order to get anything actually beneficial to the public done, we'd need to spend additional time, effort and cash to accomplish something that our government seems incapable of doing.

And I agree, that for every referendum there would be costly court litigation and drama, and the very real possibility that all of that time, effort and money would be simply wasted because a court decided that the "t" was not crossed.

In fact, a referendum could be easily thwarted by legislative action, then another costly drama filled court battle of the people vs the government ensues.

I actually saw this happen in Montana with the coal tax nonsense.

Yes, a rewrite of the process we use to make decisions, and no it's not impossible, or even improbable. Because what we are using now is simply not working.
The wheels are coming off. The dog is not hunting. The sun ain't shining. The roof is leaking and the landowner don't care.

People are waking up to the degenerate state of our union.
There are too many vital problems that are not being solved, the elected rulers are not solving problems, they are too busy getting elected and making excuses and telling lies about themselves and each other to solve problems, and it's not a people problem, it's a systemic problem.

The key is public testing of proposed process changes that actually work in a more efficient and rational manner than what we currently use.

I like my proposal, obviously, but would abandon it in a heartbeat and advocate a process that functions better than mine.
That is why I am discussing fixing the system, because we need to actually start testing, public testing.
If public testing clearly demonstrates that a better process simply makes more sense, then unless the people elected in our current systems actually manage to improve those current systems, then public outrage and anger will either spark a violent revolution, or a fairly peaceful transition to a process that does work.

We have very little time to get these problems solved, so we need to get the testing started.

June 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike Anderson

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