Tag Archives: tea party

Communications: Multicultural Considerations

Episcopalians have recently decided to approve and bless this type of marriage within the church (Dawson, 2012). In light of the recent debate over same-sex marriage, which has implications for societal values, health care, economics, public policy, business, and religion, approaching the subject requires care and specific messaging to ensure factual representation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community with limited personal bias. A biased or overly-stereotypical argument of debate or discussion point is easily nullified and serves only to discredit the messenger. According to James (2011) and Robison (2002), between 4 and 10% (14.4 – 36-million) of all Americans fall within the LGBT community. Additionally, as religion appears to be the countering force in this argument, the same care must be used for this group, also.

If I were to enter the debate, I would hope to provide a solution to the problem that would be equitable to all parties involved. If not realistic, it would, at least, be a positive addition to the debate; however, I feel that there is an equitable solution. The only was to reach this solution, though, is to maintain a factual position from which to analyze the problem. Hendrix and Hayes (2010) focuses on message construction, and though it is an important aspect of communications, public debate usually requires research more focused to attain understanding of the intricacies of the debate and the environment in which the debate is being held.

There are two aspects of marriage that need to be considered. First, marriage is largely a religious institution; therefore, the religious debate cannot be readily dismissed. The second aspect of marriage that needs consideration is legal definition of marriage and the licensing requirements of each state. Obvious to me, the federal government has no platform on which to stand as they are required to honor the states’ license of marriage. The rapid solution is to provide a state option to allow or disallow same-sex marriage. For this to occur, the states would have to change the marriage license to a license of partnership in household. The partnership in household designation would allow, for tax and legal purposes, the LGBT community as well as others, such as atheists, to enjoy the benefits of traditional marriage without encroaching on the purview of religion. This would leave each religious denomination the choice of presiding over a formal rite of wedding, which would officiate the marriage within the religion. The states and federal government should only honor the partnership in household designations or dissolutions when considering marriage for their purposes. Marriage is the only religious rite where government requires a fee, and they should not.

This solution provides historical precedent as well as satisfying the needs of the communities on each side of this debate, and it does so respectfully and without bias. Other arguments can still be made, such as the worthiness and value of society’s acceptance of same-sex marriage, but these arguments are less important than the official capacity in which each aspect of the argument (government and religion) are able to weigh in. Too many times, we as a society try to use institutions to force behavior when the chosen institution actually has little purview and impact on the behavior, such as the federal government in this case. This tactic only serves to inflame the debate and adds pressure to institutions to act.

References

Dawson, D. (2012, July 9). Episcopalians set to be first big U.S. church to bless gay marriage. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/10/us-usa-religion-gaymarriage-idUSBRE86902U20120710

James, S. D. (2011, April 8). Gay Americans make up 4 percent of population. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/williams-institute-report-reveals-million-gay-bisexual-transgender/story?id=13320565#.T_1wIOFySOw

Hendrix, J. A. & Hayes, D. C. (2010). Public relations cases (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Robison, J. (Ed.). (2002, October 8). What percentage of the population is gay? Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/6961/what-percentage-population-gay.aspx

Paying for Health Care, Today and Tomorrow

Before delving into the substance of this discussion, I must say that my personal beliefs are contradictory to many globalized health care efforts. Penner (2005) discusses some benefits of discussing and comparing health care economics between various nations. However, as we combine efforts to target specific health concerns across the globe, we lose the ability to innovate, promote evidence-based discussion, and promote the sovereignty of each country involved in the global effort. This globalization of health care deteriorates the ability to compare and contrast best practices of various countries. Unfortunately, most of the published works promote an insidious form of social justice and do not address how globalization efforts reduce the sovereignty of nations and people. Huynen, Martens, and Hilderdink (2005) support this deterioration by promoting a foundation for a global governance structure that would lead to better dissemination and control of globalization efforts.

Campbell and Gupta (2009) directly compare some claims that the U.K. National Health System (NHS) has worse health outcomes than the traditional U.S. model. Though Campbell and Gupta provide evidence disparaging many of these claims, they also seem to provide some insight as to the woes the NHS has recently faced and are working to correct. Under a system promoted by Huynen, Martens, and Hilderdink (2005), we would ultimately lose the comparison between nations as to best practices. The U.S. is currently debating the value of nationalizing health care, and similar arguments are arising based on the inability for interstate comparisons of effective and efficient delivery of health care among the various states.

References

Campbell, D. & Gupta, G. (2009, August 11). Is public healthcare in the UK as sick as rightwing America claims? The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/aug/11/nhs-sick-healthcare-reform

Huynen, M. M. T. E., Martens, P., & Hilderink, H. B. M. (2005). The health impacts of globalisation: a conceptual framework. Globalization and Health, 1, 1-14. doi:10.1186/1744-8603-1-14

Penner, S. J. (2004). Introduction to health care economics & financial management: fundamental concepts with practical applications. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Expansion of Law Enforcement Post-9/11

Prior to 1993, federal law enforcement agencies, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), felt more than adequate in investigating and preventing terrorism on U.S. soil (Smith & Hung, 2010). On September 11, 2001, as has been done on numerous emergent occassions, the U.S. government all but suspended Article III, Sec. 2 and Amendments II, IV, V, VI, IX, X, XIII, XIV of the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting liberty; a premise I find sadly ironic.

According to an article by Abramson and Godoy (2006), the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) promotes intelligence sharing among the intelligence community, utilization of technological tools to combat tech-savvy terrorists, allows easier access to the business records of suspected terror supporters, allows search warrants to be affected without undermining other concomitant investigations, and allows wiretaps to be dynamic in order to follow the target suspect more easily. Detractors of the USA PATRIOT Act, however, argue that these measures undermine certain liberties that Americans are right to enjoy. These detractors warn of information cataloging that could lead to massive data stores of private information of regular citizens, unwarranted investigations, searches, and seizures of casual contacts of someone under investigation, and general use of “sneak and peek” warrants for the investigation of petty crimes.

One particular part of the USA PATRIOT Act, the usage of letters of national security that demand secrecy of government involvement from the recipient, was struck down by a federal judge based on Constitutional freedom of speech issues (Liptak, 2007). This is no surprise. Passing 357 to 66 in the House of Representatives and 98 to 1 in the Senate just six weeks after 9/11 and with little debate, this knee-jerk legislation was destined for failure, at least where public relations is concerned (Weigel, 2005).

The USA PATRIOT Act (2001) grants immeasurable power to law enforcement to investigate and prevent terrorism, this is a good thing; however, most of the provisions seem to fail whenever exercised against a U.S. citizen or lawful resident (Weigel, 2005). We need to rethink our approach to terrorism and ask the question of ourselves: is our safety worth every ounce of our liberty?

References

Abramson, L. & Godoy, M. (2006, February). The Patriot Act: Key controversies. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/news/specials/patriotact/patriotactprovisions.html

Liptak, A. (2007, September 7). Judge voids F.B.I. tool granted by Patriot Act. The New York Times, pp. A18. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Smith, C. S. & Hung, L. (2010). The Patriot Act: issues and controversies. Springfield, IL: Thomas Books.

USA PATRIOT Act. P. L. 107-56 Stat. 115 Stat. 272. (2001).

Weigel, D. (2005, November). When patriots dissent. Reason, 37(6). Retrieved from http://www.reason.com/news/show/33167.html

Using the U.S. Patriot Act to Fight Terrorism

Many of the fundamental tenets of a free American society are founded on the basis of liberty. Americans enjoy liberty, but I surmise that many are unfamiliar with term. We as Americans can enjoy certain freedoms because of liberty. Liberty describes the condition of man to be able to govern him- or herself with regard only to the consequences of actions and decisions, the responsibility of liberty. Merriam-Webster (2011) defines liberty as “freedom from arbitrary or despotic control, the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges, and the power of choice” (para. 1). Using liberty as a foundational political philosophy, our forefathers prescribed our abilities as citizens in our freedom.

Faced with horrible, vicious, and unfamiliar terror, our society became frightened and called on our lawmakers to ease this fear. Without a full understanding of that which we were facing, the knee-jerk reaction that is the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) was signed into law. The unfortunate reality is that this law violates almost every libertarian prescription codified in the U.S. Constitution and those of the many states. No longer are we, as citizens, free to travel interstate by a common means of the day (air travel) without undue and warrantless searches and seizures. No longer can an American citizen be knowingly free to have private phone conversations without the fear of wiretaps, save for those that are reviewed by a judge to be warranted.

It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of . . . those liberties . . . which make[s] the defense of the Nation worthwhile” (U.S. v. Robel, 1967, pp. 258, 264). (as cited in Strossen, 2004, p. 368)

America is resilient because of the liberties enjoyed by every citizen. Legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT ACT (2001), undermines these liberties and creates a weaker nation as the focus turns towards government for the protection of the individual instead of the individual protecting the government as it has been since America’s inception. Focusing more on our freedoms and liberties while restating the need for each citizen to take an active role in their personal security and that of their community would go much farther than any knee-jerk legislation could ever hope to. I agree with Strossen (2004) that the USA PATRIOT Act is unnecessary, overreaching, and counterproductive the security of our free State.

References

Liberty. (2011). The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberty

Strossen, N. (2004). Terrorism’s toll on civil liberties. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 9(3), 365–377. doi:10.1300/J146v09n03_07

USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (2001).

Drawn into Politics

When I reflect on my realization that I had to be more politically and economically fluent, I recall a number of campaigns designed to urge the younger generation of voters to the polls. The most prolific one was Rock The Vote! (RTV!). In the midst of the current debates, I draw a correlation to how the younger voters were urged to the polls and how today’s Tea Party movement is drawing political commentary from the older and younger generations, alike.

RTV!, created at the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London in early 1996, has advocated comprehensive voter registration focusing on the younger demographics (Cloonan & Street, 1998; Hoover & Orr, 2007). The result, in some minds, is a prevalence of uneducated and uninvolved voters; however, according to Hoover and Orr (2007), the Rock the Vote campaign did little to increase the voter turnout within the 18 to 24 year-old demographic. Though I did vote following the RTV! campaign, I cannot say that the campaign had any effect on my likelihood to visit the polls. Instead, RTV! appeared to revive party politics by appealing to popularity-driven politicians in an environment of “the affection and admiration which audiences give to their idols” (Cloonan & Street, 1998, p. 36). RTV! may have reached its goal of 20 million votes from the younger demographic, but it was still only 10% of all voters as every demographic turned out in higher numbers for both the 2000 and 2004 elections (Hoover & Orr, 2007).

Though a bunch of individuals with their own ideologies, the Tea Party formed through a grass-roots movement to promote very simple founding principles of the American experiment: Constitutionally limited goverment, fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, and free markets (Tea Party Patriots, 2010). Discussing the impetus of the Tea Party, Marcuse (2010) counters that “if the displacement could be countered and redirected towards its actual causes, it might strengthen rather than conflict with progressive resistance” (para. 1). He seems to miss the mark.

In both instances, groups of individuals band together to promote a goal. For RTV! it is to maximize youthful voting. For the Tea Party, it is to underscore the purpose of our government. These are just two fine examples of individuals gathering together to have their voices heard in a way that might not be possible without the others. Whether you wish to change society or maintain its importance, groups are typically heard faster and louder than individuals, but integrity and honesty both demand that you act in accordance with your ideals, first, before rabble-rousing a group into action.

References

Cloonan, M. & Street, J. (1998). Rock The Vote: Popular culture and politics. Politics, 18(1), 33-38. doi:10.1111/1467-9256.00058.

Hoover, M. & Orr, S. (2007). Youth political engagement: why rock the vote hits the wrong note [Excerpt]. In D. M. Shea & J. C. Green (Eds.), Fountain of youth: strategies and tactics for mobilizing America’s young voters (pp. 141-162). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Retrieved from http://books.google.com

Marcuse, P. (2010). The need for critical theory in everyday life: Why the tea parties have popular support [Abstract]. City, 14(4), 355-369. doi:10.1080/13604813.2010.496229

Tea Party Patriots. (2010). Mission Statement. Retrieved from http://www.teapartypatriots.org/mission.aspx

Reducing Philanthropy to Political Commentary

In searching the typical news outlets for stories related to health care reform, be it local or national, I cannot help but notice that health care reform is the news. The factions are split, and the bias is evident. As the news outlets lean more to the left of the political spectrum than ever before, it is almost impossible to research the real issues at hand. Wading through the political views to glimpse a meaningful patient-focused agenda is quite difficult lately.

An article written by Randall Beach (2009) of the New Haven Register focuses on a group of doctors that rely on charity to provide health care to a select adult population who do not qualify for Medicaid and make less than $20,000 per year. Unfortunately, this article, like so many others, reduces philanthropy to political commentary.

Our current health care system is fragmented, and many people believe health care reform is needed (“54% Say Major Changes Needed”, 2009). As Dr. Peter Ellis is quoted, “Our motto is: ‘Health care reform starts at home'” (Beach, 2009, p. 3). It does not make sense, however, to provide Universal Health Care at the cost of our failing economy. Dr. Ellis’ group, Project Access, has secured funding from private sources, including the Hospital of St. Raphael and Yale-New Haven Hospital staff, the Aetna Group, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, and the New Haven County Medical Association Foundation. Additionally, 350 local care providers are associated with the project. This is a grassroots effort at helping to care for our neighbors, and as far as I have read, it seems to be a reasonable and responsible attempt to mend some of the local disparities to health care access.

Though I commend Mr. Beach for covering such a newsworthy story, it serves no one to inflame the current health care debates with political posturing by the media. I believe that the recent passing of health care reform will do nothing but create more clutter and complication for us to untangle when we finally have the financial stability to address the issue responsibly and realistically. In the meantime, I, like Project Access, will continue to volunteer my time and medical services to my community.

References

Beach, R. (2009, December 28). Doctors giving health care reform a head start. New Haven Register. Retrieved from http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2009/12/28/news/new_haven/a1_mon_nedoctors_art.prt

54% Say Major Changes Needed in Health Care System, 45% Disagree. (2009, October 2). Rasmussen Reports. Retrieved from http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/october_2009/54_say_major_changes_needed_in_health_care_system_45_disagree

Health Care Reform

In beginning this endeavor, I found it initially difficult to find anything related to health care legislation that I would be inclined to support or oppose in a letter to my Congressman. I tend to rely on the elections in order to convey my political positions. After studying some of the recent legislation, I found that the only premise that interested me was the adoption of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the related Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Unfortunately, attempting to find credible dialogue on the internet regarding these laws is both impractical and near impossible. The special interest groups are leaning to their respective extremes. With commentary not proving trustworthy for factual insight, I relied on the Congressional Budget Office and the full text of the laws to cement my position. Using the aforementioned information in conjunction with Senator Lieberman’s contact information from the U. S. Senate website (http://www.senate.gov), I formulated a letter to him outlining my economic concerns (see Appendix).

I understand the grandeur of the idea of universal health care. I applaud the debates of how best to offer affordable or free health care to ever citizen of the United States. Unfortunately, as a nation, we are not fit in our financial means to proffer such an expensive entitlement. As Goodson (2010) reports, many of the initiatives outlined within the law are not guaranteed to be successful. This at an increased cost of $390 billion over the first 10 years (Elmendorf, 2010).

To ensure that my points were valid, I researched the approval ratings of these laws. According to WashingtonWatch.com (2010), approximately 80% of respondants do not favor the passing of these laws. More scientifically, however, a consistent range of 54 – 58% of Americans favor repeal of the laws, while 63% of senior citizens agree (Rasmussen Reports, 2010).

References

Elmendorf, D. W. (2010, March 20). Manager’s amendment to reconciliation proposal [Letter to the Honorable Nancy Pelosi]. U. S. Congress, Washington, D. C. Retrieved from the Congressional Budget Office website: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/113xx/doc11379/ Manager%27sAmendmenttoReconciliationProposal.pdf

Goodson, J. D. (2010). Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Promise and peril for primary care. Annals of Internal Medicine. Advance online publication. Retrieved from http://www.annals.org/content/early/2010/04/15/0003-4819-152-11-201006010-00249.full

Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-152 (2010).

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-148 (2010).

Rasmussen Reports. (2010, May 17). Health care law: 56% Still Want to Repeal Health Care Law, Political Class Disagrees. Retrieved on May 22, 2010, from http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/march_2010/health_care_law

WashingtonWatch.com. (2010). P.L. 111-148, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Retrieved on May, 22, 2010 from http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/show/111_PL_111-148.html

Appendix

Michael F. Schadone
[REDACTED]
Woodstock, CT 06282

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
706 Hart Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

May 22, 2010

Re: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

 Dear Senator:

 My name is Michael Schadone and I am a nationally registered critical care paramedic working in Northeast Connecticut. I am writing you today because I do not support the recent legislation referred to as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to repeal this law. I believe that our efforts aimed at improving the economy will, in itself, dramatically reduce the disparities in access to health care.

Under the auspices of a progressive government, our country has seen many times of woe. Bigger government and higher rates of spending have driven our economy into the ground. It was only the idea of smaller government and trust in the American entrepreneur that ever caused unemployment rates to drop to less than five percent. More people gainfully employed means more people with access to affordable health care. Is this not our goal? In Europe, economic systems are collapsing. Many of the countries with universal health care have tax rates approaching 70 percent (including ‘value-added tax’). It is commonly held that suppressing the spending power of the citizenry will surely lead to a collapse of the free market, the basis of our economy. I certainly do not want the United States of America to resemble Greece, Portugal, Spain, or Cuba. We are the Great Experiment, and so far, it is working. I fear, though, not for much longer.

I favor universal health care just as I favor universal education and other entitlements but not at the expense of our country. Improvements to the economy will put us in a position to gain strength and enable us to afford such a sweeping paradigm shift in health care. More importantly, a better economy will allow us to do it properly. I urge you to focus on the economy and repeal this dangerous law.

 Sincerely,

Michael F. Schadone

Freedom vs. Health Care Reform

In the United States, we believe in individual rights, some of which are enumerated in the U. S. Constitution. The right to health care is not one of these. As our country prospers or declines, we may amend our Constitution to ensure more rights or take them away. The question, now, is can we afford health care for all? At this moment, I believe we cannot. Other countries have attempted to provide health care for all of its citizens but are facing economic troubles in spite of 70% tax rates (Clark & Dilnot, 2002). I believe that high tax rates are dangerous to the economy because the people and the government compete in mobilizing the economy; whereas with lower tax rates, the small businesses can drive the economy (U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, 2006).

It is my experience that those who overutilize health care are those who are under-insured (e.g. Medicare and Medicaid) and uneducated about the health care system. Further, it seems that the underpayment of costs by the Medicare and Medicaid programs are driving up the recoverable costs to other payors (Brennan & Mello, 2009). This is why I believe that our health care system is as expensive and inefficient as it is. “The U.S. health care system also spends more on administrative or overhead costs related to health care,” says Garber and Skinner (2008, p. 32), but they attribute this to administrative waste where I conclude that the over-administration is needed to meet the demands of an over-regulated and inefficient payment system.

In conclusion, our health care system is linked to our economy, and improving the economy is the only way to ensure that our health care system improves. By adding entitlements, we are forcing the American people to minimize their financial growth and, thereby, their financial freedom to choose affordable health care.

References

Brennan, T. A. & Mello, M. M. (2009). Incremental health care reform. Journal of the American Medical Association, 301(17), 1814-1816. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.610

Clark, T. & Dilnot, A. (2002). Long-term trends in British taxation and spending (IFS Briefing Note No. 25). London, UK: The Institute for Fiscal Studies. Retrieved from http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn25.pdf

Garber, A. M. & Skinner, J. (2008). Is American health care uniquely inefficient? Journal of Economic Perspective, 22(4), 27–50. doi:10.1257/jep.22.4.27.

U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy. (2006, September 28). Small business drives the U.S. economy — represent 99.7 percent of all businesses, employ 57.4 million (SBA No. 06-17 ADVO). Retrieved from http://www.sba.gov/advo/press/06-17.html

Reducing our Health Care Expenditures

With the recent signing into law of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010), more affectionately known as ‘Obama Care’, much of the health care discussion has turned from deciding what we should do to how we should do it. Many us acknowledge that the current state of our health care needs reformation; the only problem seems to be choosing the best approach. As a licensed out-of-hospital provider, I am in a unique position to observe patients entering our health care system, being treated by our health care system, and exiting (for good or bad) our health care system. I can see that our health care needs are not being met, and I can see both how patients approach their care and how practitioners approach their patients — inefficiently and ineffectively. We need to resolve these issues.

Canada is a fairly close approximation to the United States in locale, geography, economy, and political ideology (Doran, ca. 2000; “GNI per capita”, 2010). It might make sense for us to look towards Canada to see if they have adopted a plan that we could either emulate, or, in the very least, research for a sense of best practices. Kovner, Knickman, and Jonas (2008) describe Canada as having a national health insurance (NHI) system of health care, in that the system is provisioned by a mix of both public and private contributions. Two benefits of Canada’s health care system include a high life expectancy (77.4 for males at birth) and a low cost ($3,165 per capita, or 9.9% of GDP; Kovner et al., 2008, Table 6.2, p. 165). In comparison, Kovner et al. shows that the life expectancy for males in the United States is 74.8 under a system that costs $6,102 per capita (or, 15.3% of GDP). These numbers are significant because we need to understand what we can expect from our investments, and I feel that the average life expectancy is a great benchmark of a health care system as a whole. One worry that I would have, though, is if we were to adopt the same pharmaceutical cost controls, research and development in the industry may suffer, as well as any other technology burdened by cost-cutting measures. I have to assume that the free market would effectively drive these areas, however.

In order to adopt such sweeping changes of our health care system, both liberals and conservatives would have to negotiate their ideals. I am a fairly conservative citizen who believes in smaller government and spending constraints. If reducing our health care expenditures by realigning the modes and methods of health care delivery was realistic, I could be in favor of such a reform. Political agendas aside, Canada’s health care system is certainly one that we should further consider.

References

Doran, H. (ca. 2000). Politics and political parties in Canada. Internet sources for journalists and broadcasters. Retrieved on April 22, 2010, from http://www.synapse.net/radio/can-pol.htm

“GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)”. (2010). Data catalog. The World Bank Group. Retrieved on April 22, 2010, from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

Kovner, A. R., Knickman, J. R., & Jonas, S. (Eds.). (2008). Jonas & Kovner’s health care delivery in the United States (9th ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, H.R. 3590, 111th Cong. (2010).

Disregarding the Second Amendment

The Socio-political Consequences and a Libertarian Solution

Americans, as citizens of the republic, have rights that transcend any government. These rights ensure the continuing operation and stability of the republic. Our founding fathers outlined these rights conspicuously after thoughtfully debating the specific wording that should be used. Though times change, these freedoms should not. Most Americans accept that with these freedoms come social responsibility, and I will delineate how this relationship can be maintained without the use of specific anti-gun legislation. The current opinions surrounding gun control range from desires to ban all privately owned firearms to disallowing any government (Federal, State, County, or municipal) from placing any controls on the citizens’ ability to own, possess, carry, control, and use firearms. On the other hand, some people are willing to accept a compromise of terms. There are socio-political consequences for each of the various levels of proposed gun control in the United States, including impacts on the U.S. Constitution and the Constitutions of the fifty States.

The anti-gun coalitions dispute the claims that crime rates soar when gun bans are put in effect, and admittedly, the correlation does nothing to prove causation, yet, a sober analysis of the matter reveals confirmation that the claim is, in fact, valid. Following the 1997 gun ban (Firearms Act, 1997), Great Britain suffered the highest crime rates in Europe, specifically domestic burglary, the forceful entering of residential premises. A Home Office report shows that violent crimes increased steadily by 26% over the next 5 years (2004). Johnston reports, “Britain has one of the worst crime rates in Europe…. It is the most burgled country in Europe, has the highest level of assaults and above average rates of car theft, robbery and pickpocketing” (2007, para. 1). In fact, the violent crime rate continues to grow 77% through 2006. Japanese crime rates increase dramatically 128% during the years 1997 to 2001, after adopting similar firearms legislation. The same phenomena was seen in Australia with robberies increasing 44% after a similar gun ban. Interestingly, the authorities in New Zealand found it difficult and cumbersome to enforce the Australian ban and they abandoned the effort. The crime rates in New Zealand decreased dramatically (robbery: 18% decrease, domestic burglary: 27% decrease). Unfortunately, after a rejuvenation of the gun ban in 2000, the report reflects an 8% overall increase in violent crimes (Home Office, 2004). Unfortunately, the research is still lacking.

Another component of the gun control debate in the United States is the consideration that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution refers not to individuals, but to State and Federal sponsored militias. Though the U.S. Supreme Court (District of Columbia v. Heller, 2007) has recently ruled that the Amendment proscribes an individual right, this is not a new opinion. A search through documentation of the Constitutional Conventions (Elliot, 1836; Ford, 1888) and previous Supreme Court decisions (United States v. Cruikshank, 1876; United States v. Miller, 1939) shows a consistent viewpoint, the Second Amendment refers to an individual right to bear arms. There certainly has been some confusion regarding the interpretation of this Amendment (Miller v. Texas, 1894; United States v. Cruikshank, 1876), but most of the experts now concede the individual rights interpretation.

Proponents of gun control have also sought to ban weapons described as assault weapons. The position of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (http://www.bradycampaign.org) on assault weapons:

The Brady Campaign supports banning military-style semi-automatic assault weapons along with high-capacity ammunition magazines. These dangerous weapons have no sporting or civilian use. Their combat features are appropriate to military, not civilian, contexts. (n.d., Position section)

Here many gun control advocates erroneously cite United States v. Miller (1939) as limiting the civilian ownership of military-style weapons. Justice McReynolds, in his opinion, states, “Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment, or that its use could contribute to the common defense” (p. 6). This ruling is problematic. Miller and his co-defendant were not represented by counsel, and before the proceedings took place, Miller was murdered (Aultice, 1990). With these issues in mind, the opinion was based on a lack of evidence that a sawed-off shotgun could be used as ordinary military equipment. An argument could have been made that might have impacted Justice McReynolds’ opinion. During the Civil War, Confederate cavalrymen regularly employed the sawed-off shotgun against the Union cavalry, and during World War I, American soldiers in Europe used short-barreled shotguns regularly to clear trenches (GlobalSecurity.org, n.d.). Had this argument been offered, perhaps the opinion would have been different. As Aultice (1990) writes, “by default it is acceptable to own weapons with a ‘reasonable relationship’ to the preservation of the militia, and nothing so fits the description as those creatures of their own distorted imagination, the so-called ‘assault weapons’!” (Viewpoint section, para. 1). During debates, the proponents of gun control find themselves requiring a different argument in the face of this.

Gun control advocates ask a fairly simple, though outlandish, question: Where does it end? The gun control advocates are simply asking if there is a boundary to the militaristic weaponry that a civilian should be able to possess. I have to agree that this is an excellent question to ask. When exercising our rights, it is important to understand the social responsibility that must be exercised. I, and most firearms enthusiasts, concede that it would be troublesome for the citizenry to possess weapons of mass destruction. Where is the line? Libertarian principles dictate that no law should preempt freedom so long as the exercise of that freedom does not interfere with the rights of a third-party. Block and Block (2000) developed a theory based on geography and spatial relationships. They describe a constant where, as long as the weapon can be used defensively and the effect of the weapon can be isolated to the user and the target, the spatial relationship must fall between two extremes: (a) proportionally using the entire universe and (b) proportionally in a crowded phone booth. These are obviously not realistic situations, but the theory must transcend the boundaries of reality in order to prove all-encompassing. In the case that a population is spread over the entire universe, it would be acceptable for each person to have nuclear weapons for defensive use. On the other hand, in the latter scenario, perhaps only a small knife would be acceptable. To draw this theory back into the realm of reality, consider the spatial population differences between a highly populated city where a handgun would be acceptable, but a high-powered rifle may not be safe. Also, consider the population density of the many rural areas in the United States. In these areas, it might be plausible to own and use a tank, bazooka, and machine gun without fear of infringing on the rights of some third-party. This theory creates a direct relationship with the destructive power of the weapon and the likelihood of impacting an innocent person. Perhaps, this is the commonsense gun control that the gun control advocates are searching for. It appears that gun control advocates would like to remove the rights of the people instead of holding the individual responsible for committing crimes. As I believe, the right is certainly an individual right, and the responsibilities are also individual responsibilities. Using this theory as the predominant philosophy of responsible gun ownership would limit the need of any further legislation, as we already have laws enacted which seek to protect the public from endangerment; punishing the criminal, not the victim.

Is this theory realistic? What are the chances of its actually being considered? Ultimately, what is at stake here is the continuation of our government as we know it. Our founding fathers developed the U.S. Constitution in such a specific way as to protect ourselves from ourselves. Politicians with Socialistic views, though motivated with good intentions, could certainly lay a legislative foundation enabling future politicians to create a totalitarian regime, controlling the populace in the future with no fear of a reprisal by an armed citizenry (Savelsberg, 2002). We must keep this possibility in the front of our minds as we discuss and debate the focus and depth of the Second Amendment. Admittedly, there is a public safety component to the debate (Winkler, 2007, p. 727). On the one hand, it appears that large urban areas are fraught with gun violence. On the other hand, as Rand’s (1994) report shows, handguns are used in 17% of violent crimes in the U.S., and defending one’s self with a firearm reduces the likelihood of victim injury by more than 40%. Rand continues to show that guns are used in defense against violent crimes over 60,000 times annually. Firearm ownership is an absolute fiber in the fabric of American society, for the defense of self, State, and Country. We should approach this topic with care and knowledge. Although firearm issues may seem of concern to only a small group of Americans, it should, in fact, concern anyone who cares about the Constitution of the United States and the American way of life.

References

Aultice, P. L. (1990). United States vs Miller Court Opinion and Documents. Retrieved from http://rkba.org/research/miller/Miller.html

Block, W. & Block, M. (2000, October). Toward a universal libertarian theory of gun (weapon) control: a spatial and geographical analysis. Ethics, Place & Environment, 3(3), 289-298.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. (n.d.). Military-style assault weapons. Retrieved from http://www.bradycampaign.org/legislation/msassaultweapons

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 290 (2007).

Elliott, J. (1836). The debates in the several State Conventions on the adoption of the Federal Constitution: June 14, 1788. Elliot’s Debates, 3, 365-410. Retrieved from http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwed.html

Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, c. 5 et seq. (1997).

Ford, P. L. (1888). An examination into the leading principles of the Federal Constitution proposed by the late Convention held at Philadelphia. With answers to the principal objections that have been raised against the system. By a citizen of America. Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, published during its discussion by the people, 1787-1788, 25-65. Brooklyn, NY. Retrieved from http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1670

GlobalSecurity.org. (n.d.). Shotguns. Retrieved from http://www.globalsecurity.org/military /systems/ground/shotgun.htm

Johnston, P. (2007, February 6). Britain tops European crime league. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1541699/Britain-tops-European-crime-league.html

Home Office, Research, Development, and Statistics Directorate. (2004, October 24). International comparisons of criminal justice statistics 2001. Retrieved from http://www.csdp.org/research/hosb1203.pdf

Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535 (1894).

Rand, M. R. (1994, April). Bureau of Justice Statistics crime data brief: Guns and crime: Handgun victimization, firearm self-defense, and firearm theft (NCJ-147003 Rev. 2002, September 24). U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/ascii/hvfsdaft.txt

Savelsberg, J. J. (2002). Socialist Legal Traditions. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. Retrieved from http://www.sage-ereference.com/crimepunishment/Article_n404.html

United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876).

United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).

Winkler, A. (2007, February). Scrutinizing the Second Amendment. Michigan Law Review, 105(4), 683-733. Retrieved from http://www.michiganlawreview.org