[Edited by renots on 07-03-2001 at 04:13 PM]
Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do
by Peter McWilliams
PART I: THE BASIC PREMISE
(The Only Chapter In This Over-Long Book You Need To Read)
Why doesn't everybody
leave everybody else
the hell alone?
THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don't physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.
Simple. Seemingly guaranteed to us by that remarkable document known as United States Constitution and its even more remarkable Bill of Rights. And yet, it's not the way things are.
Roughly half of the arrests and court cases in the United States each year involve consensual crimes — actions that are against the law, but directly harm no one's person or property except, possibly, the "criminal's."
More than 750,000 people are in jail right now because of something they did, something that did not physically harm the person or property of another. In addition, more than 3,000,000 people are on parole or probation for consensual crimes. Further, more than 4,000,000 people are arrested each year for doing something that hurts no one but, potentially, themselves.
The injustice doesn't end there, of course. Throwing people in jail is the extreme. If you can throw people in jail for something, you can fire them for the same reason. You can evict them from their apartments. You can deny them credit. You can expel them from schools. You can strip away their civil rights, confiscate their property, and destroy their lives—just because they're different.
At what point does behavior become so unacceptable that we should tell our government to lock people up? The answer, as explored in this book: We lock people up only when they physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.
No loss by flood and lightning,
no destruction of cities and temples
by hostile forces of nature,
has deprived man
of so many noble lives and impulses
as those which his intolerance
Contained in this answer is an important assumption: after a certain age, our persons and property belong to us.
Yes, if we harm ourselves it may emotionally harm others. That's unfortunate, but not grounds for putting us in jail. If it were, every time we stopped dating person A in order to date person B, we would run the risk of going to jail for hurting person A. If person B were hurt by our being put in jail, person A could be put in jail for hurting person B. This would, of course, hurt person A's mother, who would see to it that person B would go to jail. Eventually, we'd all be in jail.
As silly as that situation sounds, it is precisely the logic used by some to protect the idea of consensual crimes.
Arguments in favor of laws against any consensual activity are usually variations of "It's not moral!" And where does the objector's sense of morality come from? For the most part, his or her religion. Some claim "cultural values" as the basis of morality, but where does this set of cultural values come from?
The sharing of a similar religion.
To a large degree, we have created a legal system that is, to quote Alan Watts, "clergymen with billy clubs."
The police have enough work to keep them busy regulating automobile traffic, preventing robberies and crimes of violence and helping lost children and little old ladies find their way home. As long as the police confine themselves to such activities they are respected friends of the public. But as soon as they begin inquiring into people's private morals, they become nothing more than armed clergymen.
That which we call sin in others
is experiment for us.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Please don't think I'm against religion. I'm not. Individual morality based on religious or spiritual beliefs can be invaluable. It can be an excellent guide for one's own life.
But religious belief especially someone else's is a terrible foundation for deciding who does and does not go to jail.
If people physically harm someone else's person or property, they go to jail. If not, they don't. Every other behavior we would like them to follow (for their own good or our own comfort) must be achieved through education or persuasion not force of law.
In exchange for extending this tolerance to others, we know that unless we physically harm another's person or property, we will not be put in jail. This assurance gives us the boundaries within which we can live our lives.
It allows us to explore, to take risks, and as long as we risk only our own person and property we know that at least one risk we won't be taking is the risk of being thrown in jail.
With such freedom, of course, comes responsibility.
As we take risks, bad things will occasionally happen that's why they're called risks. At that point, we must learn to shrug and say, "That's life," not, "Why isn't there a law against this? Why isn't the government protecting me from every possible negative occurrence I might get myself into?" When we, as adults, consent to do something unless we are deceived we become responsible for the outcome.
We must become involved, educated, aware consumers and teach our children to be the same. Just because some activity is available, and just because we won't be thrown in jail for doing it, doesn't mean it is necessarily harmless.
It has been my experience
that folks who have no vices
have very few virtues.
If it's not the government's job to protect us from our own actions (and whoever said the government is equipped to do so when the government can't seem to buy a toilet seat for less than $600?), then the job returns to where it always has been: with us.
Consensual crimes are sometimes known as victimless crimes because it's hard to find a clear-cut victim. The term victimless crimes, however, has been so thoroughly misused in recent years that it has become almost meaningless. One criminal after another has claimed that his or hers was a victimless crime, while one self-appointed moralist after another has claimed that truly victimless crimes do, indeed, have victims.
It seems easier to use the lesser-known phrase consensual crimes than to rehabilitate the better-known phrase victimless crimes.
Please keep in mind that I am not advocating any of the consensual crimes. Some of them are harmful to the person doing them. Others are only potentially harmful to the doer. Still others are genetic orientations, while others are simply lifestyle choices.
No matter how harmful doing them may be to the doer, however, it makes no sense to put people in jail for doing things that do not physically harm the person or property of another. Further, the government has no right to put people in jail unless they do harm the person or property of another. United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights the "supreme law of the land" prohibit it.
My definition of a free society
is a society where
it is safe to be unpopular.
ADLAI E. STEVENSON
People often use the word legal too loosely. They fail to give sufficient thought as to what legal and illegal really mean. When we say a given activity should be illegal, what we're saying is that if someone takes part in that activity, we should put that person in jail.
When it comes to consensual crimes, however, when people say, "It should be illegal," what they usually mean is, "That's not right," "That's not a good idea," or "That's immoral." When using t
Wow...I have to say that caught my attention right away and I was rather intrigued by it although I don't agree with the general argument.
I think that the main problem I had with it would be that I don't think some of the crimes mentioned are as "victimless" as they are made to sound.
[Edited by renots on 07-03-2001 at 04:14 PM]
[Edited by renots on 07-03-2001 at 04:14 PM]
In response to your “ ‘You should be allowed…” post:
I think you misunderstood what I was saying. The reason I disagree with that argument is because I don’t think that all of the crimes that were mentioned are as victimless and harmless to the general public as the author of that book makes them sound.
“’You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.’
Hmm, seems to be a better situation than the present.”
This too is all based on the assertion that all of those crimes are victimless – which is what I disagree with.
Now in response to the second post…
I really don’t think that the misfortunes that are experienced by one or more parties that are knowingly and willingly breaking a law are any sign or indication that the law needs to be thrown out.
Almost all gang violence, for example, is drug related—protecting turf, collecting debts, enforcing punishments.
I don’t know where you got that from but I really doubt it. There are a lot of things that contribute to gang violence other than drugs. And even if that were the case...it would be even sillier to think about legalizing these things so gangs would stop fighting over them. It’s not like these guys were doing all these things legally and the government all of sudden said that they were making a law against it. They were breaking the law to begin with and unfortunately, there are a lot of negative consequences that arise as a result of that. It’s time to stop blaming the government and take responsibility for our own actions.
Ugg, I didn’t want to write this much...just got a little carried away.
Just my two cents...
[This message has been edited by Mike_N_Ike (edited 07-06-2000).]
[Edited by renots on 07-03-2001 at 04:15 PM]
[Edited by renots on 07-03-2001 at 04:16 PM]
[Edited by renots on 07-03-2001 at 04:16 PM]
BATF and The Graying of the Law
by Walter Lee
On June 19, 2000 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the home/business of Robert Steward in Mesa, Arizona. They were led to Mr. Steward by his website, Maadi-Griffin, which offered internet sales of "gun kits."
As sold, the kits were not guns. However, instructions were provided which would allow a skilled machinist to convert the kit into a unique single shot rifle unlike anything which might be found in your local sporting goods shop.
The only caliber offered was the .50 BMG-- the round used in the U.S. military's 50 caliber machine gun. Developed in the early part of the century, this round has been used as the standard heavy machine gun round since World War II. The gun is used on jeeps, tanks, aircraft, and as infantry support.
During Vietnam, some marine snipers mounted scopes on these machine guns and used them like rifles to achieve confirmed kills at more than a mile. It is a highly accurate round. It is also the most powerful commercially available cartridge allowed to be publically possessed under the 1968 Gun Control Act. Anything larger is considered a "destructive device" under U.S. law.
In the past decade, a great deal of interest has been created in these specialized rifles. They probably came to public attention at Waco where the Davidians were accused of using them to hold government helicopters at bay. Since that time, a number of people have acquired them as the ultimate long range shooter. Most are single shots, like the Maadi-Griffins, distributed by Mr. Steward.
There are also some semi-automatic models.
Almost all people believe that these rifles are monstrous. For some, such description come from their potential-- to be able to hit a small target at ranges up to two miles with a bullet that crashes through almost all armor short of a battle tank. Surplus bullets are available in armor piercing, incendiary and tracer configurations.
Others would consider see the characteristics of the weapons themselves as "monstrous." Many are almost five feet long. They weigh
up to 30 pounds and are best fired from a tripod. The muzzle blast and recoil scare many away. And then there's the price: even in kit form they cost almost two thousand dollars, plus another thousand for machine work and a heavy duty scope. The cost of shooting them is almost as bad. You can expect to pay a couple of dollars per shot even with cheap surplus ammunition. These guns are not for the weak of heart or the weak of resources.
And they certainly aren't the gun of choice for the internecine drug wars. To the best of my knowledge they have never been used in any murder or assault apart from the accusations which flow from the Waco affair.
There are two groups that seems to gravitate to them: serious hobbyists who use them in specialized competitions, and those who believe that they will be needed for defense of home and or community in the "coming unpleasantness"-- however defined or envisioned. The second group is generally "anti-government" and often extremely vocal in their "don't tread on me" pronouncements.
It is the potential of these weapons in the hands of the second group that is the concern of BATF. Some have speculated that the raid
on Mr. Steward's home/business was focused on his customer list. To know who would go to the trouble and expense to acquire such
weaponry might be of considerable interest to some in government.
While there is serious debate as to the usefulness and appropriateness of these "long range rifles," (a debate which I will not enter at this time), there is no debate that they are legal to possess and use under federal law. The fact that their power is at the upper limit of applicable law annoys some.
If the law were changed to outlaw .50 caliber rifles, creating instead a .49 or .40 caliber legal maximum, there would be enterprising souls pushing those limits as well. As long as laws are written in terms of prohibited items and substances, things are either legal or illegal. There was a time when marijuana, heroin, and LSD were all legal in this nation. There was a time when transporting alcohol was illegal. Laws dealing with prohibited substances are always arbitrary. Lines drawn between legal and illegal do not define good v. bad, healthy v. unhealthy, etc.
Prior to 1968, it was perfectly legal to own bazookas, anti-tank weapons, and even tanks with their cannon installed in these United
States. Nor was their prohibition on their ammunition. Prior to 1934, any person in the United States could order a Thompson Submachine Gun by mail if they had the money. (Since 1934, a $200 tax has been mandated on machine guns, but they are still legal in much of the country!)
Regardless of what people think of as right and wrong, good or bad, .50 caliber weapons are legal to own and use in the United States.
Back to Mr. Steward's case: Mr. Steward made his living at the inside edge of the law. Most of Mr. Steward's living came from selling "kits" for these high powered rifles. The "kits" Mr. Steward sold were not firearms. Firearms, by definition (legal definition) are capable of propelling a projectile down a barrel. What Mr. Steward sold would not do that. They were inert hunks of metal which were not useful for anything, as sold. However, by following the instructions provided, a skilled machinist with the right tools could convert "the inert hunks of metal" into the firearms described in a short time.
It is not illegal to make a firearm in the United States. Before one does, a person needs the approval of the United States Government. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms provides application forms requiring the payment of a tax, a picture, fingerprints, etc. But it is not illegal.
Firearms can be build of many materials. When I was a child, I remember visiting the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. They had a large display of homemade guns used by the resistance in the Philippines. They were made of pipe and wire and flat springs and in one case, bamboo was used for the barrel of a crude shotgun.
There was a time when everyone knew what a "zip gun" was-- guns made of pens and rubber bands by the gang members of the "Jets" and "Sharks" era. There have been numerous articles on the gun making skills of the Afghan resistance during their war with the late Soviet Union: native craftsmen with files and crude foot powered lathes turning out functioning copies of Colt pistols and AK 47s. There is no telling what they could do with the tools available at Sears.
We Americans have always been a nation of tinkers and craftsmen. Many is the homework shop. Certainly, American ingenuity can be
applied to building firearms. The only reason that it is generally not is that complete firearms are readily available. Still, there are thousands of "smiths," large and small, make custom modifications and accessories. Few build firearms from scratch, although it is not in itself "illegal."
The building of a firearm is not particularly difficult. What is difficult is creating an efficient design and determining and acquiring the correct materials for high pressure loads. Determining through calculation and/or experimentation just how thick a chamber wall needs to be may be a bit more "exciting" than some want to stand.
However, assembling a "kit" is a challenge and an accomplishment. Many people have build their own muzzle loaders from such kits. Hunting or competing with a home built gun is a matter of pride.
While the pride of doing it yourself may be the reason for muzzle loaders and/or some benchrest sportsman, most "modern" gun kits
are sold for other reasons. Under federal law, the "receiver" (the frame to which the barrel, stock and other parts are attached) is the firearm. Whether it is assembled or not makes no legal difference.
All other parts (with the exception of some pieces that can conv
[Edited by renots on 07-03-2001 at 04:17 PM]
on gun control
[Edited by renots on 07-03-2001 at 04:18 PM]
And Justice for All?
What Is It The Palestinians Really Want?
By Charley Reese
The Orlando Sentinel (11-16-00)
You're probably wondering what it is these Palestinians over there want. Well, even if you aren't wondering about it, I'll tell you anyway. They want the same thing the Founding Fathers of this country wanted: freedom.
You see, in 1967, Israel fought a war with Syria, Jordan and Egypt and won it right handily in about six days. In the process, it occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Jordan had illegally annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Egypt controlled Gaza.
The past 33 years, the Palestinians in those areas have lived under Israeli military occupation. Israel has no legal claim to any of their territory, including East Jerusalem. The United Nations has passed a number of resolutions upholding the Palestinians' claims and their right to self-determination. Bitter Harvest by Sami Hadawi has a good account of these resolutions.
Americans, of course, don't know what it's like tolive under military occupation. Palestinians must at all times carry special identity cards. Their cars must have a special license tag. They effectively have no rights. Their land has been confiscated and Jewish settlements built on it. Their own houses have been demolished or blown up. Olive tress hundreds of years old have been bulldozed.
Palestinians frequently are placed under "closure," which means that they cannot travel to get to their jobs. Often they are placed under curfew, which means that they cannot leave their houses for any reason.
You can't do anything but sit inside your house until your foreign occupier gives you permission to leave. Whenever they protest these indignities, some are shot dead, and even more stringent punishments are imposed on the survivors. The Israeli human-rights organization B'Tselem has documented much of this abuse, as have Christian observer groups.
During the most recent upheaval, according to the British newspaper The Independent, 191
Palestinians have been killed, and the wounded number more than 5,000. The same article states that 24 Israelis have been killed.
Snipers have shot many of the Palestinians, including children. Amira Hass has written poignantly of this practice in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Israel recently has been condemned by Amnesty International and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Physicians for Human Rights recently condemned the use of excessive force by the Israeli Defense Force
A British newspaper editorial recently observed that if the Palestinians were black, the world would be united in denouncing Israel as a rogue state. Unfortunately, the Palestinians are not black.
Moreover, the Israeli spin-doctors are so skillful and the Israeli lobby is so powerful that they have managed to convince most Americans that Israel is the victim of aggression.
In fact, more American sailors died on the USS Cole than Israeli soldiers during the recent fighting, as of this writing. Apparently Israelis define aggressors as 14-year-olds armed with slingshots. I think that any man who can frame the face of child in his telescopic gunsights and kill him is a filthy animal who doesn't deserve to walk on this earth.
I've heard many tragic stories of Jewish children being shot by soldiers during the Holocaust. I fail to see any difference between a Jewish child being shot and a Palestinian child being shot. I fail to see any difference in the children. I fail to see any difference in the soldiers.
Americans who fail to speak out against these crimes being committed against the Palestinians with our money and with our government blocking any relief by the United Nations are accessories to the crimes. Remember: There is a God. And, sooner or later, there is always justice.
And thus the oppressed become oppressors; Can't we break out of this viscious cycle?
[Edited by renots on 11-21-2000 at 05:11 PM]
Lieutenant Junior Grade
truly an injustice is being done...
Firearms and Freedom - The International Scene:
"Among the misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving the whole nation of arms as the blackest." - Mahatma Ghandi
No prisons, no war
Can it be done?