All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Guns: When “Constitutional Carry” Isn’t

Photo by Augustas Didzgalvis. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Photo by Augustas Didzgalvis. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

On January 30, several Florida legislators introduced HB 543, “Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License.” If passed, it would “allow” anyone — Floridian or not — who “meets specified requirements” to carry concealed firearms in the state.

Many gun rights supporters laud HB 543 as not just a good step, but something called “constitutional carry,” even though among other defects, it doesn’t seem to legalize “open” (that is, unconcealed) carry. Let’s review what restrictions the US Constitution empowers government at any level to impose on the possession or carry of firearms:

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It’s difficult to get more clear or prescriptive than “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” See that period at the end there?

The Florida bill ever so slightly lightens one specific unconstitutional burden on one specific right, while imposing at least one patently unconstitutional burden on those exercising that right: They “[m]ust carry valid identification at all times when he or she is in actual possession of a concealed weapon or concealed firearm and must display such identification upon demand by a law enforcement officer.”

Suppose that one does not meet the law’s unconstitutional “specified requirements” — for example, having never been convicted of offenses related to “controlled substances” — but decides to carry  concealed (as is his or her right) anyway.

Requiring that person to provide “valid identification” (“valid” seems to be undefined in the bill) is a requirement that the person incriminate himself or herself, a requirement forbidden by the Fifth Amendment.

Unless a police officer has probable cause to believe that you’re committing or have committed a crime, who you are is none of that police officer’s business. And if  he or she DOES have such probable cause, it’s his or her job to identify you, not your duty to identify yourself.

HB 543 isn’t “constitutional carry.” It’s a partial relaxation of unconstitutional restrictions, combined with new unconstitutional restrictions.

Real “constitutional carry” would look something like this:

“All Florida statutes, regulations, orders, and ordinances relating to the manufacture, sale or other transfer, ownership, or carriage of arms are hereby repealed. All persons charged or held prisoner by the  state of Florida or any subdivision thereof pursuant to such statutes, regulations, orders, and ordinances shall be immediately freed. All convictions of violating such statutes, regulations, orders, and ordinances shall be expunged. A truth and reconciliation commission shall be established to determine the amounts, qualifications, and processes for paying restitution to those damaged or injured by said statutes, regulations, orders, and ordinances.”

The politicians behind HB 543 aren’t on your side, or on the Constitution’s. They’re just making a simple matter complex while sacrificing none of their illegitimate power over you.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Lies, Damned Lies, and George Santos

Florence -- Souvenir Pinocchio Dolls. Photo by Sumit Surai. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Florence — Souvenir Pinocchio Dolls. Photo by Sumit Surai. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

“Of course,” the late P.J. O’Rourke wrote in Parliament of Whores, by way of explaining why government is boring, “politicians don’t tell the truth …. But neither do politicians tell huge, entertaining whoppers: ‘Why, send yours truly to Capitol Hill, and I’ll ship the swag home in boxcar lots. … There’ll be government jobs for your dog.  … Social Security checks will come in the mail not just when you retire at sixty-five but when you retire each night to bed. Vote for me, folks, and you’ll be farting through silk.'”

O’Rourke seems to have actually preferred a more prosaic style of political falsehood: In 2016, the long-time Republican endorsed Hillary Clinton for president over whopper-prone Donald Trump, citing her “lies and empty promises.” She’s “wrong about absolutely everything,” he said, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

What, I wonder, would O’Rourke (who died last year) have made of US Representative George Santos (R-NY), elected from New York’s 3rd congressional district last November?

Since the election, Santos has been caught in lies concerning where he went to school, whether he graduated, where he’s worked, whether he’s Jewish and whether his grandparents fled the Holocaust, whether his mom was at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and died of a related cancer, whether he’s a drag queen who goes by the name “Kitara Ravache,” whether he actually appeared in an episode of Hannah Montana, and where all that money that he “loaned” his campaign actually came from, etc.

“There are three kinds of lies,” Mark Twain wrote, (falsely!) quoting Benjamin Disraeli: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Politicians also tell three kinds of lies.

The first kind are lies about themselves — their experiences, their resumes, etc. Hillary Clinton didn’t come under sniper fire when visiting Bosnia. Joe Biden didn’t graduate at the top of his class in law school. Donald Trump can’t even stop himself from lying about winning golf tournaments.

The second kind are lies about policy, and range from what legislation a candidate really supports or opposes (then votes the other way on when elected) to what the actual policies will accomplish.

So far, Santos’s long list of lies really only involves the first of those two kinds. He hasn’t been in office long enough for us to know whether he’ll follow through on his stated policy positions.

The third kind of lie is one which Santos actually helps expose simply because his over-the-top technique draws our attention to it.

That lie is the claim that we, the poor, benighted, helpless public,  desperately need politicians to solve our problems. That they’re somehow better, smarter, wiser, and more honest than the rest of us. That without them, we’re lost.

Is George Santos honest? Clearly not.

Is he any more dishonest than Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer or Kevin McCarthy? Not a whit.

He’s probably less dangerous than boring ol’ Mitch, Nancy, Chuck, and Kevin, though.  His outrageous lies were aimed at acquiring power. Their mostly unnoticed lies are aimed at exercising that power.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

“Fair” Tax: A Terrible Idea That Just Won’t Die

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, 'Paying the Tax (The Tax Collector)'
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, ‘Paying the Tax (The Tax Collector)’

Here we go again: The “Fair Tax Act”  is out for its perennial limp around the dead legislation track.

The “Fair Tax” (or “FairTax” for those with defective space bars on their keyboards) proposes to replace the current federal tax regime with:

First, a 30% national sales tax, falsely advertised as 23% by calculating it “inclusively” — e.g. a 30 cent tax would be 23% of $1.30, which is the total cost, including tax, of a $1 purchase — on all services and “new” goods.

Second, a cradle-to-grave monthly welfare check for every man, woman, and child in the US, falsely advertised as an “advance rebate” or “prebate,” even though it’s not conditioned on payment of any tax at all.

Third, pretending to “eliminate” the IRS by re-naming it and/or parceling out its functions to other government bureaucracies.

In baseball, three strikes is an out. With legislation, three lies means extra innings until the bill passes or everyone dies.

It was a bad idea when Congress first considered it in 1999.

It was a bad idea when Neal Boortz and John Linder published The Fairtax Book (which should have been subtitled “Putting Lipstick on a Pig, Badly”) in 2005.

It’s continued to be a bad idea, and recognized by most as such, every time it’s raised its hoary head.

But for some reason, many supposed advocates of “smaller government” seem to think it would be an improvement on that metric. It wouldn’t.

“Fair Tax” advocates paint the proposal as “revenue neutral” (that is, the government would be taking just as much of our money as it did before). They also say that, with the monthly welfare checks, it would remain just as “progressive” — that is, redistributive — as the income tax.

What they don’t like to mention is that everyone who’d already paid income tax all their lives would have their savings taxed AGAIN, by 30%, when they spent that savings.

Or that the prices of “used” goods would rapidly rise — when the price of all “new” goods instantly goes up by 30%, there’s a lot of room to demand more for “used” while still remaining competitive.

Or that the “prebate” checks would instantly join Social Security as a political “third rail” that must not be touched, and a political football that could be kicked around to get anything politicians want by claiming a threat to the checks.

Does that sound like “smaller government” to you?

If so, check your hearing aid battery.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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