Thursday, June 26, 2008

From My Cold, Dead, Well Manicured Hands

In case you weren't paying attention today, the Supremest Court in the land just ruled a couple of hours ago on something that every American already knew: under the second amendment, we the people of this great nation have the individual right to own an bear arms. This came in a not-so-surprising 5-4 decision as most Supreme Court decisions do.

The case was brought before the court by a Washington DC security officer who (also not surprisingly) lived in a bad DC neighborhood, but was forced to leave his hand gun at work. Just so we are all on the same page with my little rant here; we have a man, Dick Heller, who Washington DC trusts to brandish a gun during normal business hours as a security guard (I believe for one of the federal court buildings in DC), but tells him he isn't trustworthy enough to protect himself or his family while off duty.

Personally I've never agreed with DC's hand gun laws, or any other gun ban based on the skewed logic that if law abiding citizens aren't allowed to carry or own hand guns there will be less crime and wrongful death, which is the case with DC's ban. DC happens to have one of the largest crime rates in the country, especially with gun related killings. I know San Francisco tried to get something similar passed a little while ago, but it was shut down almost immediately as it should have.

On a related note, the Supreme Court also ruled yesterday in another nail biting 5-4 decision that it was not constitutionally accepted to give child rapists the death penalty. Well, you can't be right all the time.


Herr Zrbo said...

The main reason I'd want to own a gun would be to protect me from a government which can kill it's own citizens.

ninquelote said...

I agree with that. In terms of constitutionality, I think that was deemed their main purpose. However, if the rights of individuals privately owning guns is taken away, that would mean that the government that you say would "kill it's own citizens" would control all the guns in circulation; and that's not good for anyone.

But the main reason I want to own a gun is because they are fun to shoot. I don't know how many of you have guns, but it is fun to go to the range and squeeze off a couple of rounds. Forget all that therapeutic, empowerment junk, they're just plain fun to fire.

Little Earl said...

We've all been Boy Scouts here; I certainly look back on my evenings at the rifle range with fondness, as I hope you other fellows do.

It seems to me that the Second Amendment was written into the Constitution under a very different set of circumstances in a very different time period, so I'm not too sure if it's as valuable now. But unless we amend the Constitution, then of course it is the law. And even though I may not personally be too big on guns, I think the thing to do is to discuss the issue with fellow citizens and not try to infringe on people's rights. The second you start to take away someone's rights, you only make that person feel stronger about the issue than they probably already did. And I also think that you can't outlaw something that a large chunk of the population enjoys, no matter how harmful it may be. Personally I'm not too big on drinking, but look at Prohibition. If enough people like it, they'll do it whether it's legal or illegal.

As far as the child rapist thing goes, I don't really see what good it would do to execute these people. They may be sick and disturbed, but they are human beings just like everybody else and what they need is treatment, not death. If their malady is incurable, then fine. But just because what they've done is disgusting and repugnant, it doesn't mean that the world will benefit from their deaths. In the case of psychopaths who cannot be cured and could one day escape from prison and do more harm, I am probably in favor of the death penalty. Everybody else, not so much.

yoggoth said...

I don't think this issue is as important as some make it out to be. I'd like to point out, however, that if you decide that owning handguns(not any gun, handguns specifically) is a right then you also take away my right to live in a city without legal handguns if I so choose.

Now personally I wouldn't choose the city I live in based on that criteria. But someone else might and I think their rights should be considered as well.

yoggoth said...

As for the child rapist thing, you are overlooking a huge issue Ninquelote. A big problem with prosecuting child rapists is getting the victims to report the crime and then testify against the rapist. The majority of child rapes are perpetrated by family members or close acquaintances.

Will a child's family (probably her or his mother) support the child if the loved one might be executed? I know it feels good to punish terrible behavior such as this, but if it leads to more child rape because the crime is never reported isn't that motivation indefensible? Isn't the child's welfare more important than our gratification at seeing these men die? Life in prison will prevent further rapes just as effectively as the death penalty will.

Also, this decision is based on prior precedent. It is well established law in the US that the death penalty is only appropriate when the victim has died. Before that earlier ruling, black men were executed for raping white women, often on flimsy evidence.

The issue is much more complicated than it first seems.

Herr Zrbo said...

Well said LE.

yoggoth said...

LE you say "unless we amend the Constitution, then of course it is the law." But it wasn't the law until today. The previous SCOTUS decision indicated that the right to bear arms only applies to weapons that further the purpose of a well regulated militia. This new decision takes a different approach.

ninquelote said...

Yoggoth, your first argument about hand guns is flimsy bordering on silly. No one has the right to live in a city where handguns are illegal. That's like saying that if you only like to ride horses it's your right to live in a city without cars. If a city like that exists, it may be your choice to live there, but you can't just throw the word "right" around willy-nilly just because you don't agree with something.
Why do so many people think that just because they don't like something everyone else should conform to them. In this case, as in most, the only "right" any one has is a personal choice to participate in an activity (owning a handgun) or avoid it.

As for the child rapist decision, I know that most of you have opposite opinions than I about the death penalty and how it should be applied, so I feel that topic will take more in depth discussion than a blog post will allow. We can leave that for a face to face discussion later.

Peter Matthew Reed said...

I think the phrases 'well-regulated militia' and 'free State' might suggest to some that those guns aren't for defending citizens against their government. IANAL, but does the current interpretation suggest there is a bunch of junk wordage in the Second Amendment, in analogy to 'junk DNA' (i.e. it's not normal junk, but we don't know why it's there)?

(Maybe this part will have to be read-aloud at your face-to-face discussion, or copied over to a blog post about child rape...)I think we can all agree that people who rape (children or adults) have a mental illness. They have a serious malfunction in the way they think about their interactions with other people's bodies. Their behaviour is completely unacceptable. I guess we disagree as to whether it is acceptable to execute mentally-ill people.

I think a rapist deserves to be locked away for a long long time. But not in the sense of deserving retribution, but in the sense that we all deserve treatment for our ill health. A rapist should be confined and treated.

Why does everyone want to kill or hurt someone? I'm glad the right to bear arms is a cultural and not an absolute right. There has never been any serious opposition to the de-hand-gunning of the UK populace.

ninquelote said...

I completely agree that hardcore rapists are mentally ill, as you say. By hardcore I dismiss statutory rapists because I have actually known several of them, and the circumstances of their crimes were not as criminal as the word rape would suggest since consensual sex between a girl at 16 or 17 years of age with her 18 year old boyfriend is still considered rape.

However, I also believe that hardcore murderers are mentally ill, as you say. And I would like to accentuate the word murderer, not just any crime where people are killed. We still execute them. I also use the term "as you say" because I don't think “mentally ill” is the most apt term to use with people who are demented in this way. The term mentally ill is also used to describe people with other mental retardations that are treatable or non violent by nature. To use the term mental illness the way you have would be to suggest that gays and lesbians are also mentally ill, which I don’t believe is the case. When people hear the term mental illness they immediately get a vision of some poor, hapless soul who would never hurt a fly, but got in a situation where they had no choice but to act the way they did. I prefer to use the terms rapist and murderer myself.

I've got way more to say on this subject than I could possibly write in a post let alone a comment, so I'm truncating it everyone's sake. I know this is one of those topics that yoggoth and I could argue over for days and never convince each other of their opinion. Perhaps you, peter, could join in on one of those ultra fun sessions. You seem to have a slightly different angle to things than yoggoth or myself have.

Peter Matthew Reed said...

Sorry to do this but I just wanted to go point-by-point through my own comment to check I wasn't saying homosexuality was a mental illness (this is firmly not what i believe...):

1. "I think we can all agree that people who rape (children or adults) have a mental illness." The people who rape are atleast not constrained to gays or lesbians, so this sentence doesn't imply homosexuality is a mental illness.
2. "They have a serious malfunction in the way they think about their interactions with other people's bodies." This implies neither that all serious malfunctions are mental illnesses nor that homosexuality is such a malfunction (I personally believe it is not a malfunction, FYI).
3. "Their behaviour is completely unacceptable." Homosexuality is completely acceptable, if not completed accepted. No implication here... and I think that's the last possible source of confusion. So to summarise, nothing I said implies that homosexuality is a mental illness.

You mention executing murderers, as though that were a point in favour of executing other mentally ill people. But just because it happens doesn't mean it's right. The state-sanctioned planning and use of deadly force is a poor example to set, but it is damning when that force is used against incarcerated mentally ill people.

I've got news for you Herr Zrbo (@#1) your government can kill it's own citizens and a gun won't stop it.

(p.s look forward to the opportunity for face-to-face contact with y'all, just waiting for the ol' green card...)

yoggoth said...

How did sexual preference get into this discussion? Is it related because homosexuality was once classified as a mental illness? I'm afraid I don't see the connection.

As for mental illnesses, I don't know if the classification is all that useful. Is it worse to kill someone that is mentally ill as opposed to someone who isn't? If so, why? Some mentally ill people have the intelligence of a much younger person. That wasn't true of the case before the SCOTUS. If all people who commit such heinous crimes are mentally ill per se, isn't this really an argument against the death penalty entirely?

You still haven't addressed my argument Ninquelote. Victims rights groups, who usually favor harsher punishment, came out AGAINST capital punishment for the reasons I stated earlier.

If MORE children are victimized because of executions instead of less, don't we have a moral obligation to stop executing these people regardless of our feelings on the death penalty?

ninquelote said...

I in no way meant to construe that you thought homosexuality was a mental illness. That had nothing to do with your argument.

What I was trying to say about executing murderers and “child” rapists, was that I would not classify them as mentally ill. It is a completely demented way of looking at the world and life itself, which is fine as long as they don’t act on it, but is incurable through incarceration, castration, or any other form of punishment. Let’s get strait the kind of people I’m talking about here so no thinks I’m just this mindless killer that thinks that anyone who does something bad should get the death penalty. We are not talking about people who enjoy sexual intercourse; we are talking about grown adults who enjoy hurting and mangling young children. As yoggoth was saying, yes it’s hard to prosecute and convict these people; but when we do, and it’s obvious, and the evidence is overwhelming and undisputable (CSI style), at the judges discretion, I don’t see a problem with the death penalty being an option.

That brings me to yoggoth’s comment. I don’t, nor have I ever, see the death penalty as a deterrent for any crime. More children being victimized because of executing their rapists doesn’t make sense because, like all other crimes for which capital punishment is a viable option, the kind of offender we are talking about would do the crime regardless.

These people are a waste of human flesh; they are animals; and animals are put down for far less.

I know, yoggoth, you are going to get all lawyerly on me, but if less children were victimized because capital punishment was legalized for child rapists, would we then have a moral obligation to continue the practice? I think you would still be against it.

yoggoth said...

"If less children were victimized because capital punishment was legalized for child rapists, would we then have a moral obligation to continue the practice?"

Yes, I think you'd have a good argument that there's a moral obligation in that case. I don't know why you'd assume I'd feel otherwise.

But the evidence I am familiar with demonstrates the opposite. Children are reluctant to testify against family members or acquaintances. Knowing that the person may die for their act can only increase their reluctance. This is a practical concern that does not deal with the morality of the crime or the punishment.

As for the death penalty, my opposition is based on my own judgment, informed by numerous studies, that the death penalty is a waste of resources and inevitably results in more innocent life being taken. Unless you can guarantee more crimes will be deterred or prevented than innocent people executed I don't think you have a good argument in favor of the death penalty. Given the number of people on death row who have been exonerated by DNA evidence, this will be difficult to show.

ninquelote said...

I shouldn't have assumed you would be against the death penalty regardless, but I felt that you were assuming that I was for the death penalty because I thought it was a deterrent of crime and you were in total disagreement with that point. We've known each other for ten years, I'm pretty sure that I've brought up that I don't believe any punishment is a deterrent for any premeditated crime.

Second, what eight year old is so up on his judicial studies that they are completely aware of the possible punishments for being violated by a parent or relative? They only way that thought would even enter their head is if that parent said to them, "Now don't tell anybody what I just did or the police are going to come and kill me." Besides, if they have other evidence, such as DNA, or another witness, then they don't need the child to tell them anything.

This argument aside, I am interested to know how many of the exonerated death row inmates were originally found guilty within the last ten to fifteen years? With better methods for gathering and preserving evidence, isn't it getting harder and harder to convict criminals on circumstantial evidence alone?