No, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot of money. And I’m a firm believer that Presidents should vacation. But it’s the stick in the eye that while the rest of us are facing massive tax increases and generations of debt, Mrs. Obama insists on enjoying a few more days in Hawaii at our expense. Enjoy…
President Obama will return to Washington from Hawaii Thursday while First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters plan to continue their vacation, adding at least $100,000 and probably more than $200,000 to taxpayer costs for the excursion.
Instead of accompanying her husband home on Air Force One, Mrs. Obama will fly on her own Air Force jet at a later date and require security and staff to remain in place in Hawaii for the length of her stay, which reportedly could extend until January 6.
My column for the Daily News is online. It’s called, “Missing the Mark.” Here it is:
The killing of 26 people — including 20 children — in Connecticut has brought the nation to tears. In our collective grief, we struggle to understand the madness and seek ways to, if possible, prevent such catastrophe from again occurring. Unfortunately, some are attempting to use such a tragedy to advance their political agendas.
Within hours of the killings, the anti-gun zealots were already saturating the news and social media with their proposed remedy to prevent another mass shooting: more and stricter gun control. They were peddling this cure before we knew how many were dead, the identity of the killer, the weapons used, the motive, or anything else. Before the first funeral was held, the same folks had already dusted off their pet proposals with specific gun control measures like banning so-called “assault rifles,” high-capacity magazines, certain types of ammunition, and even semiautomatic weapons altogether. Although these are old proposals, the anti-gun folks are using the killings in Connecticut to silence those who oppose them by painting them as monsters who don’t care about dead kids. It is calculated emotional politics at its worse.
Those who support stricter gun control, and, sadly, some conservatives, are questioning the need for highcapacity magazines, hollow-point bullets, and rifles that look scary to some. The correct answer is, “it’s none of your business.” Owning and possessing firearms is a natural right that is protected in our national and state Constitutions. As citizens, we do not need to justify the exercise of our rights to anyone. It is incumbent upon those who seek to restrict those rights who must make the justification for such restrictions.
It appears that it is only with the Second Amendment that citizens are challenged to justify their exercise of it. We do not require that people give a valid reason before they are allowed to speak or exercise their religion. People in court are not obligated to pass a reasonableness test before seeking the protection of the 5th Amendment. People are not compelled to justify having a lawyer present when speaking with law enforcement. While all of our rights have some restrictions, it is incumbent on those who seek the restrictions to justify why such restrictions are more paramount than our liberties. And no, “if it saves just one life” is not, and never has been, an acceptable reason.
With that in mind, let us examine some of the proposals being floated. President Obama and others are pushing a renewal of the defunct national Assault Weapons Ban. The term “assault weapon” is a terrific example of the ignorance of many of those who seek to restrict gun rights. An assault weapon, as defined by the U.S. military, is a short rifle that fires an intermediate cartridge in a semi or fully automatic fashion. Fully automatic weapons are already heavily restricted in our nation. What the anti-gun folks call an “Assault Weapon Ban” is more appropriately called a “Scary-Looking Moderately Powerful Semi-Automatic Rifle Ban,” but for the sake of reducing confusion, I’ll adopt their terminology for the rest of this column.
The U.S. had an Assault Weapons Ban from 1994 to 2004. It had no measurable effect on gun crime. None. In fact, the state of Connecticut still has an Assault Weapons Ban in effect that is modeled after the national one. Yet that ban did nothing to prevent the deaths of 26 people. A new ban will be equally useless even if it makes a few politicians feel as if they have done something.
A ban on high-capacity magazines has also already been tried as part of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Again, it did not have any impact on gun crime in the U.S. The reasons are obvious. The vast majority of gun crimes are committed with standard magazines. In the cases of mass shootings, the killers are almost always armed with multiple weapons and have ample time to reload before police arrive. It takes an average person less than three seconds to swap out a magazine. High-capacity magazines are a matter of convenience, but have no relevance to crime.
The proposed ban on certain kinds of ammunition again demonstrates the ignorance of many of those proposing it. Their target, pardon the pun, is hollowpoint bullets. Such bullets have a greater killing power than standard bullets because they expand upon impact and cause much more damage. At the same time, they have lower penetrating power. This is why they are popular for defense and hunting. They are more likely to stop or kill an animal without passing through and possibly hitting something else. As of the writing of this column, it has not been reported what kind of ammunition the killer in Connecticut used.
There are other gun control proposals being tossed around from mandatory gun registration to psychological tests for gun owners to outright confiscation of certain kinds of firearms. All of them will have to be weighed and tested against the free exercise of the liberties of a free people. As we reevaluate our nation’s gun policies, we should also look to the wisdom of gun-free zones, allowing concealed carry within our schools and other prohibited areas, and other aspects of how citizens with guns are already regulated.
All of these anti-gun rights proposals miss two very important realities. The first is that laws only apply to those who follow them. The killer in Connecticut stole the weapons he used, broke and entered the building, ignored the prohibition of guns on school grounds, and killed many people. Would one more law have stopped him?
The second reality is the same one that I wrote in this space after the killings in Aurora this summer. There is evil in this world. At the end of the day, evil people do evil things and while we would like to, we are not capable of purging evil from this earth. Not with our laws. Not with our guns. Not with our moments of silence. Not with our tears. Some things are beyond the reach of man.
(Owen B. Robinson, a West Bend resident, is a blogger who publishes at http://www.bootsandsabers com. .His column runs Tuesdays in the Daily News.)