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Finding common ground in limited government — I am the NRA and EFF

Finding common ground in limited government — I am the NRA and EFF

I’ve been giving serious consideration to finally joining the NRA.

The people who want to take away your guns (and they would if they could) almost always are the same people who want to control every aspect of your life, from the health care you get to the sodas you drink to the pain medication you receive.  They don’t know when to stop.

To that extent, the NRA serves a useful role in protecting not just 2nd Amendment rights, but the variety of rights anti-2nd Amendment advocates want to take away.

But the NRA is far from the perfect model of protecting liberty.  It is a single issue entity, which in furtherance of its goals is willing to support people who want bigger, more intrusive government on non-2nd Amendment issues.  It supported Jim Matheson over Mia Love.  If reports are true, its cozy relationship with Harry Reid resulted in a provision being inserted into Obamacare which protected gun ownership from the new medical bureaucracy, but the quid pro quo was that the NRA stayed out of the Obamacare fight.

It’s hard to rationalize the demand for limited government on 2nd Amendment issues while supporting, at least indirectly, big intrusive government on everything else.

Nonetheless, the NRA does serve a purpose, limited though it may be.

The preferential treatment David Gregory received, while less connected people are prosecuted for violating the same law against possessing high-capacity magazines, demonstrates that overly broad and complicated guns laws give prosecutors discretion which is not in the public interest.

To the extent the NRA fights against an ever-expanding spider’s web of gun laws, the types of laws which have caused me to hesitate for fear of an unintentional violation, that is a good thing.

So as much as I disagree with the NRA on some things, I’m joining.

I’m also donating to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Consider that my reaction to the prosecutorial overreach in the Aaron Swartz case.  EFF put it well in a blog post about Swartz’s suicide, that the proliferation of computer crime laws puts undue discretion in the hands of prosecutors:

… the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, and particularly their punishment regimes. Aaron’s act was undoubtedly political activism, and taking such an act in the physical world would, at most, have a meant he faced light penalties akin to trespassing as part of a political protest. Because he used a computer, he instead faced long-term incarceration. This is a disparity that EFF has fought against for years. Yesterday, it had tragic consequences. Lawrence Lessig has called for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them. We agree.

One of my big take-aways from the Gregory and Swartz cases is that people who are vastly far apart on many political issues recognize, for their own reasons, that government control of our lives is a risk to our liberties.   The Tea Party movement has more in common with the hacktivist community than either side wants to admit.

We may not agree on much else, but it’s a common ground I hope to plow here at Legal Insurrection in the coming months.

Update — NRA and EFF donations completed.

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Comments

2nd Ammendment Mother | January 14, 2013 at 10:15 am

Welcome to the ranks….

9thDistrictNeighbor | January 14, 2013 at 10:25 am

A favorite college professor was an observant Jew, member of the ACLU, and a member of the NRA. This was long enough ago that his personal politics were a bit obscure. Anyway, he always said that at any time he would teach me how to shoot. His offer probably still stands; I do regret that I didn’t take him up on it. I’ve been thinking about joining the NRA as well…just to tick someone in Washington off.

“That government which governs least, governs best.”

That is a paraphrase of someone-or-other that I have always considered one of the wisest of civic observations.

There is an intuitive understanding in America that our government has grown MUCH too intrusive and powerful, and has become detached from the governed.

Its costs…at all levels…are far too high. And that goes WAY beyond dollars and cents.

Thank you for this. It’s important for Tea Partiers, and their sympathizers to keep on message. I don’t really see that the Tea Partiers would not want to admit their affinity to causes the “hacktivists” support (SOPA issues anyone?). Most I know clearly have a libertarian streak.

Through personal experience, I’ve recently become keenly aware of how individuals in the federal government can wield their power to selectively destroy other individuals. We had a terrific system with a “rule of law” but, because power still exists, such a system is terribly fragile. It’s terrifying that we’ve lost it.

No, they don’t know when to stop. But, in truth, when it comes to the left there is no end point until they own you.

Case in point, political Islam. So admired by the left, it’s a total system, and when I say total, I mean total. The Islamic standby, Reliance of the Traveler, covers every aspect of living, from bodily elimination practices to family law to contract law to, well, everything. This is what the left intends for us, explaining why the left and Islam fit nicely.

“Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” (“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”)

I agree generally with the notion that our government is too intrusive and that it daily adds to the dizzying number of laws and regulations that make our system increasingly byzantine.

I think there is a difference here between freedom of public information and electronic piracy. Piracy could be said to be a victimless crime insofar as no one is physically injured as some of Shwartz’s advcates have claimed in recent days.

But like some crimes like embezzlement, piracy can result in a significant injury without physical harm. Locke said that property was was generated by personal labor and as such, the laborer has a fundamental right to their property.

All to often, the advocates of free information target items that are someone else’s property, like music, films or other intellectual content. By making such items freely available to the public, the perpetrator essentially robs the property owner of the value of their property.

I do not really know what Shwartz made public from JSTOR. I know generally JSTOR holds papers and treatises from academia such as old law review articles and other acadmic publications. If those publications were not free and there was no legitimate claim for them being free, Shwartz was stealing. I don’t know the value of an old academic paper, but it may be considerable.

Piracy is a crime that costs billions of dollars a year. The government does have a legitimate interest in prosecuting criminals and one could argue that it has an interest in making examples of especially effective thieves. The US Government rails against countries like China for pirating films, music, etc. It would not be inconsistent for Fed to take a hard line against domestic pirates.

I say all this without knowing the specifics of what Shwartz did. Downloading many gigabytes of intellectual property may have been a protest but that should not be the only factor in determining punishment. Afterall, Timothy McVeigh was protesting against overarching federal power when he blew up the Murrah Building in OKC. I’m not comparing Shwartz to McVeigh, I use that as an extreme example only to point out that all protests are not created equal.

It would also be important to know a few other things like the nature of what Shwartz made public (for example if they were papers reporting the results of publically funded studies, there’s a very good argument they belong in the public domain), the actual damages of Shwartz’s actions and whether he hid from authorities or freely admitted his actions.

All this said, it’s a tragedy we have lost such an apparently brilliant young man. It would be especially tragic if the government turns out to be a bully in this case. My sympathies to Shwartz’s family.

    OldNuc in reply to steer. | January 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

    steer: You really do not have to do much “wondering” as the answers to your questions are all readily available from the people directly involved in this Aaron Swartz event out on the internet and the WSJ. There was no “break-in” there was no “hacking” what was downloaded was freely available to anyone, even you. MIT has/had (not sure if they closed any of it or not) a totally open network.

      steer in reply to OldNuc. | January 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

      I don’t have time to become fully informed on every issue out there. Most of the descriptions of what Swartz was accused of doing came from his family or his attorney. I wasn’t expecting to get a neutral account from them.

      It took some digging to find out what Swartz actually did. I’m not sure this is the whole story, but while studying as a fellow at Harvard, Swartz went to MIT and downloaded 4.8 million articles from JSTOR. I find it notable that Swartz wore a bicycle helmet indicating he may have been trying to conceal his identity, that implies he knew he was doing something wrong/illegal. The articles he took from JSTOR were not free either which means he took something of value without paying for it.

      I do not know what the content was or what claims could be made that the content should be free. It seems there would be better ways to figure this out than stealing it. We have a government and court systems (including other remedies such as FOIA claims) so these decisions can be made in an orderly fashion without resorting to theft and mayhem and to protect those who have a right to control (charge a fee for access to) their private property.

      Knowing what I know now, I would support a group that legally petitions to have information freely disseminated but not a group that resorts to deceit to unilaterally release said content. For that reason based on what I have read, I would say Swartz was wrong to do what he did.

      That said, Swartz may have been wrong and the prosecutor may have been excessive or unreasonable. I am even more opposed to the arbitrary exercise of federal power to coerce and intimidate. I do not have enough information to know if the prosecutor was overzealous. I am not going to accept Swartz’s lawyers’s assertion that the prosecutor was unreasonable without knowing more though.

      As a final point, it’s interesting that when it came to his own intellectual property, Reddit, Swartz didn’t give it away, he sold it for around $5 million. If someone had hacked his invention and disseminated it on the internet to the public, I would say they stole his property and would be in favor of their prosecution.

Great professor! I wanted to ask a question of you and this august body of commenters , and this NRA thread seems just the place. When ask why anyone needs to own an AR-15, why isn’t our reply simply, “Because we want to.” I am so tired of having to justify my actions in terms dictated by others. A follow up question to the questioner should then be, “why are you saying I can’t have one? Are you accusing me of the pre crime of shooting toddlers?” I makes me feel safer, and I enjoy a good day at the range. Don’t like it? Screw you.

Would that freedom was a respected principle anymore… Why do I need a 17+ ounce soda? ‘Cause I’m thirsty, asswipe!

    Ragspierre in reply to Honey Badger. | January 14, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I like the universal “nonya”.

    As in, “Nonya business!”

    Of course, for a Collectivist, EVERYTHING is their business, as cited above and stated by Mussolini.

    Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato

    It should be remembered that, in context, Mussolini really believed he was being benevolent. They always cling to that… The science of statism would benefit humanity.

    Look where that got us in the 20th Century…

    2nd Ammendment Mother in reply to Honey Badger. | January 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    I’ve always found the answer to that question to be:

    “Why do you own a Chevrolet/Volvo/Nissan?”

    There really isn’t an answer above and beyond personal preference. The reason you own an AR is as personal as the reason that I own a Marlin, a Benelli or an Ithica. It’s a tool that fits my either my needs or wants. End of story.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Honey Badger. | January 14, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    My response to the “why do you need…” question is to reply that need has nothing to do with it, that the US Constitution itemizes natural rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, and no where requires me to prove I need them.

    The inability or unwillingness of liberal opponents to understand my position is not evidence that the position is wrong. It is the core of liberal being, the furnace that powers all their hubris, condescension, and moral superiority, that their positions are correct and primary, and that it is the responsibility of anyone who disagrees with them to explain their-damn-selves or abandon the position.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Henry Hawkins. | January 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      I think North Carolinians & all hillbillies having guns makes for great entertainment down the track.

      If it werennot for Sarah Palin then “The Hatfields and MacCoys” would be multiple winners.of Emmies Globes etc & this wonderful uplifting tale would be known by more people. It is a classic.

Two alternatives to the NRA:

Gun Owners of America

Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership

I’m only aware of these organizations by referral, and I’ll leave it to you to complete a due diligence review.

I joined nra last month.
not something I can easily afford, yet its something I cannot afford to NOT do.
odd, been around guns all my life and never really gave them much thought. they are just an inanimate object..at least to me. never got why so many attribute souls to the objects.
never knew a magazine could toss its bullets and kill people either….but there you go…

Another organization you might want to check out is called Front Sight Firearms Training Institute (http://www.frontsight.com/)

What frosts me is that the guv’ment, politicians and anti-second amendment people always fail to address the root cause of ANY problem.

And all I can say is what you’ve heard before… “You’ll hafta pry my guns from my cold dead hands.”

    Rosalie in reply to GrumpyOne. | January 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    The Left think that it’s the manufacturers of the guns that cause the gangs in Chicago to kill each other.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Rosalie. | January 14, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      Oh, that’s just the usual Reverend Juh-ACK-shun’s identification of a moneyed corporation for one of his patented shakedowns: “You know, Mr. Smith & Wesson CEO, if your company could see its way clear to donate, oh, $5 million to my Rainbow Coalition’s Committee To Save The Children Through Barely Disguised Protection Rackets (CTSTCTBDPR), we’d take your fine company off our protest target lists…”

In regards to the impending intellectual property(IP) discussion that is coming take a close look at Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution and the writings of the founders. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/tocs/a1_8_8.html This IP issue is what all of this is about anyway.

Thank you, Professor, and welcome to the ranks of Libertarians everywhere who support limited government and the 2nd Amendment.

The best essay on gun control is still “A Nation of Cowards” by Jeffrey Snyder (1993) in Public Interest. It’s available all over the web, and it’s worth reading. Money quote:

“Conservatives must understand that the antipathy many liberals have for gun owners arises in good measure from their statist utopianism. This habit of mind has nowhere been better explored than in The Republic. There, Plato argues that the perfectly just society is one in which an unarmed people exhibit virtue by minding their own business in the performance of their assigned functions, while the government of philosopher-kings, above the law and protected by armed guardians unquestioning in their loyalty to the state, engineers, implements, and fine-tunes the creation of that society, aided and abetted by myths that both hide and justify their totalitarian manipulation. . . .

The liberal elite know that they are philosopher-kings. They know that the people simply cannot be trusted; that they are incapable of just and fair self-government; that left to their own devices, their society will be racist, sexist, homophobic, and inequitable — and the liberal elite know how to fix things. They are going to help us live the good and just life, even if they have to lie to us and force us to do it. And they detest those who stand in their way.”

1. I’ve had the same thought about the NRA. They offer a bare-bones membership for ten bucks a year.

2. I made a token donation to the EFF. I plan to resume a regular membership, and to do more, if and when my project pans out.

3. Yes, the hacktivist community contains gifted, passionate people who would enhance the Right: look what they did with Obama’s cybernetic GOTV operation. Absolutely we should recruit there, but it’s probably a long-term process. Remember Churchill’s statement that being liberal in youth indicates a heart, and becoming conservative in maturity indicates a brain.

So the best approach is probably along the lines of We like you, we respect you, we admire your passion and commitment, we ask that you consider our point of view. Cf. Susana Martinez:

…I was a Democrat for many years. So were my parents.

Before I ran for District Attorney, two Republicans invited my husband and me to lunch. And I knew a party-switch was exactly what they wanted.

So, I told Chuck, we’ll be polite, enjoy a free lunch and then say goodbye.

But we talked about issues-they never used the words Republican, or Democrat, conservative or liberal.

We talked about many issues, like welfare – is it a way of life, or a hand-up?

Talked about the size of government — how much should it tax families and small businesses?

And when we left that lunch, we got in the car and I looked over at Chuck and said, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans.”

4. The Derek Khanna affair is not a good start.

    OldNuc in reply to gs. | January 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Yes, The Republican Party definitely confirmed the label “The Stupid Party” with the trashing of the Derek Khanna policy brief and Derek Khanna himself. It just about retired the trophy for abject tone deaf stupidity.

Donald Douglas | January 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Personally, I’d like to see cyber-law reform pushed separately from the case of Aaron Swartz. He was a coward who refused to accept legal responsibility for his civil disobedience. More here: ‘The Truth About Aaron Swartz ‘Crime’ — Remove the Quotation Marks and It’s Not So Hard’.

    Donald Douglas in reply to Donald Douglas. | January 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    And Althouse points out that Swartz’s attorney weren’t stressing their client’s innocence. They were stressing the problems with the laws. Swartz was getting a plea deal. He didn’t like it and checked out. If we’re tough on David Gregory why not be tough on Aaron Swartz? The principle is that no one is above the law. So again, I’m all for legal reform, but don’t martyr this Chomsky-touting asshat who thought the laws didn’t apply to him.

      William A. Jacobson in reply to Donald Douglas. | January 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      When I was in college someone “stole” the statue of Alexander Hamilton from campus and it later was found in a farmer’s field. The thing weighed a ton, literally, and no one could figure out how it was done. No one claimed credit, although all the frats gave nods and winks because they wanted you to think they did it. It probably was worth many thousands of dollars. College prank or grand larceny? A good laugh had by all, or 5-15 in prison? The college kids who did it probably are the CEOs of major companies now.

        BannedbytheGuardian in reply to William A. Jacobson. | January 14, 2013 at 11:44 pm

        From my limited knowledge of the man , I think he would have liked to have been left in that field of dreams.

        He could have kept his dignity rather than being evicted officially 20 years later.

    Maybe civil disobedience was part of his suicide decision. I doubt that the complete story has come out yet.

I dropped from the EFF when it became clear they have a rather slanted view of who deserves rights and who doesn’t. Look into who runs their “Middle Eastern Issues” desk or whatever they call it.

It’s a pity, because it WAS a good idea to form them — since the ACLU had explicitly declared it had no interest in protecting rights involving the Internet.

Schumer Asks Gun Retailers To Stop Selling Guns While Congress Works On Legislation

I’ll agree with Sen Schumer if, in kind, he stops breathing until we can get a handle on Climate Change.

    Ragspierre in reply to Neo. | January 14, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I gotta better idea…

    Send a letter to Schumer telling him to put a moratorium on all new firearms legislation for one year, out of respect for the victims of Sandy Hook and the Constitution.

    ‘Cause no sane person wants to see legislation passed in a fit of mass hysteria…

Mr. Jacobson, thanks for joining the NRA and becoming a more responsible member of the republic.

While most conservatives agree the whole bill of rights is important, the 2nd is fundamental and backs up the first and all the others. If we loose the 2nd, all the others will surely fall. While the NRA focuses on only one issue, it is one extremely important issue.

Criticizing the NRA for only backing one issue denies the reality of gaining consensus. Certainly in an ideal world, everyone can reasonably agree on the important issues, but in reality, once you get two people together and discuss only one issue, there is a great chance for disagreement. Add only one additional issue and it exponentially compounds the complexity.

The implied weakness of a group that backs only ‘one issue’ is actually a great strength. It allows them to be free from any balancing act or compromise with other groups. The NRA has one issue and addresses that issue with a thorough and studious, well considered laser like focus.

That single point focus as a single issue civil rights organization that does not have an opinion on other issues immediately betrays leftist attacks. The left routinely claims the NRA is racist, against women, against abortion, or against anything the left wants to promote. As we frequently hear the NRA condemned by the left in conjunction with any issue not directly related to the 2nd, we can immediately know its another leftist diversionary lie.

Keep in mind the 2nd amendment does impact other issues. The leftist hypocrite Michael Moore, a frequent NRA critic, says “White people put down your guns,” implying any resistance to gun control is a white racist issue. The NRA backs only the 2nd amendment, except the NRA points out that draconian gun control laws leave women, handicapped, the poor, minorities, including Blacks, without personal protection against crime.

Michael Moore is hypocritical on multiple levels. Mr. Moore has stated he owns guns, is both white and very rich, and has no concerns about crime or personal protection. Mr. Moore seeks to deny 2nd amendment civil rights to Blacks, in the name of condescendingly protecting them from themselves. His argument implies all Blacks (and anyone who is not him) lack self control and are basically criminals that require government control. He also claims to be an NRA member, owns guns, but advocates repeal of the 2nd amendment.

Mr. Moore is only one of the confused leftist hypocrites that are attacking our civil rights. I am proud to be a member of an organization that he is against.

    radiofreeca in reply to KVertexo. | January 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Moore is not (in his view) hypocritical – he is Uebermensch – “super-man” or “superior-man”. He is wiser and more in self-control, therefor he doesn’t need the rules and diktats that the mundanes need.

    The Babylon-5 series explored this whole idea of a group who believed themselves to be inherently superior (telepaths) who then attempt to take over all of humanity.

    And how another race solved the problem by killing every telepath they had, and making sure that their genes were removed from their gene-pool.

    In fact the whole 5-year series is all about how individuals choose to fight (or not) an increasingly controlling (and increasingly evil) central government.

Wikipedia links to a Boston Herald article which suggests that Swartz prosecutor Carmen Ortiz has political ambitions.

I’m guessing that her handling of Swartz did her no harm with the pro-SOPA Hollywood money that finances Elizabeth Warren.

I’m also guessing, with less confidence, that Ortiz has become unelectable even in white-guilt MA; with even less confidence, I wonder if she’s become unappointable/unnominable/unconfirmable, and if even Hollywood will no longer be in a rush to offer her cushy private-sector jobs. It depends on how secure the ruling class feels in its power.

Independent Firearm Owners Association, Inc.

http://www.saf.org/ or http://www.cato.org/
Might be more up your line.
Robert Levy, of the Cato Institure, funded the Heller court case personally. He’s not a gun buff, but he really is the undersung hero of that case.

I joined last week, again mostly as a protest. I try to keep my opinions to myself but it’s getting hard to stay that way.

someone above beat me to it, but Gun Owners of America is great, http://www.goa.org, only $20, as is Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, http://www.jpfo.org.

I would also like to plug the Appleseed Project. this is a group which offers weekend training workshops for total beginners in rifle shooting, and the history of the Constitution. I have not been to one yet, but I will be going in March,. http://www.appleseedinfo.org/

BannedbytheGuardian | January 15, 2013 at 12:31 am

I would suggest that all NRA members elect better & more savvy persons to front the Media.

The guy with David Gregory was a dud , who ought to have asked about the gun then & there.

I mean it was there in his face .could have saved a lot of jumping up & down & losing another battle.

There is no legal substitute for a quick wit.

What would cause a woman who has spent most of her life in safe and peaceful environments, to join the NRA, sign up for its Basic Pistol course, and then go to her local gun retailer for a semi-automatic handgun? It’s my protest, symbol, and willingness to stand up for my freedoms against the increasing tyranny and encroachment upon them at the local, state and federal level.

Our nation is turning to socialism before our very eyes, and those of us who are boomers, are the last generation who remember an America of freedom. Today’s political correctness, and younger generations who follow the Kardashians exemplify what happens to a nation when its people become sheeple. They think this America, of low economic growth, high unemployment, and food stamps is the new norm. And to think we have another four years of this.

[…] in this is anger of Aaron Swartz’s memory.  The reason aside, Anonymous is NOT a crew you want play around with in a world controlled by […]

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