You know, they couldn’t do much with important stuff like the economy, gas price relief, or using the state’s vast surplus of borrowed out of thin air federal funding to give the taxpayers a realistic break, but I tell you what: take an incident where kids were killed by a combination of evil that pays attention to no law and police incompetence that failed miserably in upholding the right to life of some number of children and suddenly there’s a stampede by the majority in the Delaware General Assembly to DO SOMETHING – even if it does little to nothing to address a problem. And while everyone was fixated with their criminal stupidity on one issue, they took advantage of it to ramrod a provision that may allow them to keep themselves in perpetual power.
Here are the issues I have with Delaware’s gun bills: first of all, you copied off a bill that’s been shown to do nothing in Maryland over ten years aside from curtail peoples’ Second Amendment rights. The criminals laugh and keep killing people in Baltimore, which has “achieved” a record number of homicides since the bill was passed in 2013 – the last four years have been four of their top six years in terms of homicide numbers. Essentially, all this series of bills will do is make people either criminals or defenseless, and something tells me that these newly-minted criminals who run afoul of the complex new gun regulations will be prosected with the greatest of zeal in comparison to run-of-the-mill street criminals.
Secondly, what kind of business has it become of yours just how large a magazine someone owns? Leaving aside the Uvalde police force’s ineptitude or cowardice, having a force of multiple police officers means you probably have more rounds than the criminal does. Having said that, though, would those of you who voted for this garbage rather face a quartet of armed home invaders with a ten-round magazine or a thirty-round one? Thought so. (And remember: when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.)
Nine years ago I expressed my opposition to the Maryland gun law the DGA essentially copied and I still stand by every word. The only difference is the number of coffins while ignoring the hundreds of lives saved by law-abiding gun owners who respect their weapons. Ask some folks in West Virginia, for example. (And pay attention in that story to how well gun laws stopped the criminal perpetrator. He was stopped by a good girl with a gun.) Since it didn’t match the narrative, I bet you never heard this on your nightly news, now did you?
And one more thought on this gun subject: remember how Sussex County Council turned gutless on the great idea of a county-level right-to-work law because they were worried about how they would be sued? The same went for the City of Seaford when they passed the fetal remains law but put it on hold because the state bullied them with a lawsuit? Obviously the knowledge that the state would face a lawsuit on these prospective laws on Second Amendment grounds wasn’t going to stop our Democrat legislature because power-seekers gotta power-seek, I suppose.
Speaking of that, notice how they let the voting bill sit for the better part of a year before rushing to pass it in the final weeks of the session? Moreover, they rejected an amendment to push the effective date back to next year, meaning that the Democrats couldn’t stand the thought of having an election without the crutch of mail-in ballots. (Wonder how many mules are in Delaware these days?)
The least that could be done before mail-in balloting would be accepted is to clean up the voter rolls of duplicate, deceased, and inactive voters. After the 2020 election where the results of machine votes and mail-in balloting were so drastically different, an audit of the voter rolls is a must. (In 2020, machine votes would have given the state to Donald Trump, elected Lee Murphy to Congress, installed Donyale Hall as LG, resulted in a 12-9 Democrat Senate instead of 14-7, and a 24-17 Democrat House instead of 26-15. It would have flipped three offices in Kent County as well. All these changes accrued to Democrats at the expense of the GOP. What a shock they voted for it, huh?)
I know I should take a deep breath because I know God is in control, but sometimes I get angry about the foolishness my fellow man does in the name of law.
Every time there’s a disaster, whether natural or man-made, there’s always that moment of passion when it’s determined the politicians have to DO SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter whether that action is really necessary and not ill-advised, it just has to appear to deal with the problem and make them look good.
The last time the liberals came so hot and heavy for our guns was the aftermath of Sandy Hook, but that was a case of curious political timing: since the shooting occurred during the lame duck period between the election and the swearing-in of a new Congress, it meant that some of the momentum for change was blunted by the three-week interim before a new Congress, who hadn’t run so much on gun control, was sworn in. Yes, there was a call for “common-sense” (read: overrestrictive and unconstitutional) gun laws, but that wasn’t really part of the Obama re-election platform.
Almost a decade later – and with a detour to a Florida high school included – we have the same situation with the Uvalde massacre. Yes, the situation in Uvalde is complicated by what appears to a be a badly botched response by local officials, but that portion of it doesn’t fit the narrative that the guns the shooter had were completely responsible. By gummy, dem guns just up and fired themselves – a shame the guy holding them had to be shot by a police officer to stop the gun from shooting. And it’s amazing that all this comes up in an election year when the Democrats have exactly zero avenues of success to run on.
Anyway, some of these bills were already languishing in the Delaware General Assembly, but in the days after the tragedy there was a renewed push for gun reform in the same warmed-over package that was going nowhere. The bodies were barely cold when most of these provisions were introduced:
Banning the sale of assault weapons (HB 450) – new bill
Limiting high-capacity magazines (SB 6) – introduced in March 2021, substitute bill put in place June 7, 2022
Raising the age from 18 to 21 to purchase most firearms (HB 451) – new bill
Strengthening background checks by reinstituting the Firearm Transaction Approval Program (FTAP) (HB 423) – introduced May 2022.
Holding gun manufacturers and dealers liable for reckless or negligent actions that lead to gun violence (not yet introduced)
Banning the use of devices that convert handguns into fully automatic weapons (not yet introduced)
Out of the six, the Republicans seem to be most supportive of HB423, as several are either sponsoring or co-sponsoring the measure because it brings the background check back to the state. That bill has advanced out of committee already, as has HB450 and HB451. The substitute SB6 has already passed the Senate on a 13-7 vote, with the “no” side being bipartisan thanks to lame-duck Senator Bruce Ennis.
A state 2A advocate by the name of Brad Burdge had this to say about these bills being considered in Delaware:
HB450 – “Cut & Paste” law from Maryland’s law, passed nearly 10 years ago that would outlaw purchase, possession and sale of AR-15 and similar weapons. Weapons already owned would be grandfathered. This has been proposed and rejected by several legislative sessions, yet the current rash of events reported around the country appears likely to sweep it into law. The Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association (DSSA) is already preparing to take this to court as an unconstitutional abridgement of Article 1, Section 20 of the Delaware Constitution with provides that ” A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use.” The AR-15 and similar rifles are not “weapons of war”, as no military in the world uses them. They are a semi-automatic version that is cosmetically similar to the M-16/M-4 “Automatic/Select-Fire” weapons used by many military units.
HB451 – Increases the age of purchase, possession and ownership of any firearm from 18 to 21, excepting military service or under the supervision of someone over 21.
SB6 – Outlaws firearm magazines with capacities in excess of 17 rounds. It requires those currently possessed to be turned in to law enforcement within a matter of weeks. Amendments that modified this law to penalize persons who commit felonies with high capacity magazines (over 20 for pistols and 30 for rifles) is scheduled to be stripped from the bill.
HB423 – Would shift the responsibility for background checks on firearm purchases from the Federal NICS system to the Delaware State Bureau of Investigation. This would appear to provide for approvals based on more accurate and timely data. Delaware DOES NOT report all felony violations to the Federal NICS process – only mental health issues! Delaware condones potential sale of firearms to convicted felons! Many of the gun rights/activist organizations SUPPORT this bill as an improvement on the current process and it is co-sponsored by several Republican legislators. It would also negate the value and avoid the issues associated with SB3, which requires a “License to Purchase” a firearm. SB3 is redundant and adds bureaucracy and expense to the purchase process, as these checks would be performed at the point of sale – again.
“Unconstitutional, Anti-Gun Bills on the Legislative Hall Agenda,” June 6, 2022.
Given that description of HB450, I just might have to go back and update my testimony against that bill from 2013. I especially love some of my rewrites of the Second Amendment they seem to be proposing.
But these are troubled times for those who believe in the Second Amendment. Even with the defection of Bruce Ennis, there’s a 13-8 majority in the Senate that will pass these and probably 24 (if not more) votes in the House. Methinks if we can hold this off (even in court) until November, though, we may be able to turn these things away.
In the wake of Uvalde the politicians generally divided on two sides, with one side being more “bipartisan” than the other. And while there were a few courageous folks who reminded the people that the gun, no matter how “scary” it looks, is an inanimate object that could sit loaded forever and do no damage unless and until someone picked it up, most politicians licked their finger and stuck it up in the wind. Since the media was blowing around the theory that the shooting was all the fault of the “assault rifle” that the shooter was carrying, that’s how the politicos came down.
While it was a disappointment – but no surprise – that a fair number of RINOs came out on the latter side of finger-stickers, as it stands right now we have a Democrat in charge of this state. And, of course, he led off his usually boring and non-controversial “week in review” e-mail with his statement on what we should do post-Uvalde:
So many across the country are feeling helpless and hopeless this week. A massacre of an elementary school classroom has come on the heels of a racist mass shooting in a grocery store. But elected officials — here in Delaware and across the country — are not helpless. The reality is we can do something about these horrific tragedies. In every state in the nation, and in Congress, we have the ability to pass legislation to make it harder and harder for people to get their hands on weapons that cause these mass murders.
We have made progress here in Delaware, but it isn’t enough. I’m committed to working with the General Assembly to continue doing our part to prevent these shameful, appalling, unnecessary tragedies. In the meantime, my heart is with the victims and their families.
“Reflections On This Week,” Governor John Carney, May 27, 2022.
Since I’m not afraid to proclaim my help and hope comes from Jesus Christ, I suppose I don’t fall within that “so many” category. Maybe we just need more to join those ranks.
And yes, our elected officials aren’t helpless. But we don’t need legislation to make it harder to get guns – we need legislation to make sure more of them are around when and where they’re needed, such as in West Virginia the other day.
What has to be obvious to all but the most fanatical gun grabber is that the Uvalde shooter was a mentally sick individual. As with most of these incidents, the bread crumb trail was easy to follow after the fact – unfortunately, no one put the pieces together beforehand and got the kid the help he could have used.
This message is about the other 99.999% of gun owners who are responsible enough to know what their weapons are capable of and treat them with due respect. There’s only a small percentage of them who would even desire to carry them around, but what if even 5% of those gun owners used a right to carry concealed? That’s one portion of the solution we can use, but I guaran-damn-tee that’s not what Governor Carnage has in mind when he says he wants to make it “harder and harder to get their hands on weapons.”
However, I titled this post “elections matter” because there’s a simple fact at play here: despite the fact there’s a few short weeks left in our regular General Assembly session, that’s more than enough time to whip out more gun-grabbing legislation. (Generally, the worst of legislation is the knee-jerk type that comes together the quickest. I’m sure all those gun control lobbyists already have their wish list bill ready to go, just waiting for a crisis such as this. Can’t waste it!) But you definitely can’t discount the thought of a Special Session later this summer to deal with gun legislation, especially since the Democrats nationally have nothing else to run on and it’s an election year in Delaware too.
Alas, we can’t get rid of John Carney until 2024 and he’s term-limited anyway. (One 2023 story will be the battle to succeed him, which will start in the latter half of the year.) Because of the census and redistricting, though, every seat in the General Assembly is up for election this November. Also on the ballot is the important law enforcement post of Attorney General, where incumbent Democrat Kathy Jennings is not term-limited out but has a Republican contender in Julianne Murray.
Let’s look at the General Assembly, though. While the filing deadline isn’t until July 12, most of the Senate incumbents who are running for re-election have already filed: the exceptions are the embattled Darius Brown in District 2, John Walsh in District 9, and Dave Wilson in the 18th District. The House, however, is a bit more muddled as the majority of incumbents are still waiting to file, including most of the group from Sussex County. We know that Rep. Steve Smyk is leaving District 20 to try for the Senate District 6 seat that’s opening up with the retirement of Senator Ernie Lopez and a Republican, Bradley Layfield, has come on board for the newly-relocated House District 4 in the Long Neck area.
Being that we are still a month and a half away from the filing deadline, it’s the way-too-early guesstimate of the chances that Delaware Democrats withstand the battering their party label is getting from the sheer incompetence (or intentional destruction) of the Biden administration, but at the moment here’s how things look.
In the Senate, there is a Democrat only filed in 7 seats, a Republican only filed in 6 seats (one would be a flip, at least until John Walsh or another Democrat files) and 8 seats up in the air as both a Democrat and Republican have filed. At this second, it is possible that the Republicans could get the majority but more likely they could cut into their 14-7 deficit. A four seat pickup isn’t that much of a stretch, though, considering just a few years ago there was a special election where control of the Senate was in the balance.
In the House, the disparity of filings has the Democrats enjoying a 15-5 bulge but all that changes once Republicans begin to file. (At the moment, one is replaced by a Libertarian, which would be a historic day for that party.) The GOP would have to hope the GOP wave currently sweeping the nation isn’t dashed by the breakwall of redistricting that favored the Democrats as much as possible – remember, just population changes likely flip a seat as the former Democrat Rep. Gerald Brady’s District 4 seat was the one moved to Sussex. The GOP needs six addtional seats to gain control, but with all 41 House seats up as usual this is their best chance in a decade and the political winds are the most favorable for them since the Obama wave ended Republican control back in 2008.
Returning to the Senate for a moment, bear in mind the GOP picked up at least one seat each election during the TEA Party era, even despite Christine O’Donnell. (In 2008 things looked really bleak as it was 16-5 Democrat then, even with there still being a handful of centrist-to-conservative Democrats in the Senate back then.) So a four seat gain is a stretch, but because all 21 are up it’s possible.
Assuming they get control, at that point all the Republicans need is a spine. Granted, that may be more difficult for them to come by than legislative control but it would be nice to have the other side have to come over to be bipartisan for a change and maybe they can get common-sense legislation like elimination of gun-free zones on most public property and funding the construction and staffing of places for those kids who show signs of becoming the next Uvalde shooter to go for the help they need. (And that includes faith-based initiatives.)
Indeed, elections matter. Let’s do better in November, Delaware.
You know me: in most instances I like to wait a few days and digest all sorts of takes, hot and cold, before I put up my two cents about events such as this.
I first heard about what some are calling the Texas Massacre (no chainsaw required) in the afternoon and evening after it happened. Initially I thought just a couple people were involved, putting it in the category of the type of school shooting where jilted ex-boyfriend decides he can’t live without his ex and plans to make sure no one else gets her either. Obviously that’s tragic but life rolls on – unless it’s local we don’t even remember the name of the school where it occurred a month later.
But as the reported death toll from Uvalde continued to increase, we began to hear about this as an event rivaling Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland. Because it was an elementary school and not a high school, the best parallel to me is Sandy Hook, and it just so happens I wrote at some length about it in the wake of the shooting four times – once the day of, the next two days on the folly of a gun ban and the media’s fascination with guns, and a wrapup of sorts a few days later like in this situation. After re-reading all I wrote on Sandy Hook, it’s amazing how closely the Uvalde shooting is hewing to that line, even to the point of reporting how close the kids were to a break. (Sandy Hook occurred days before Christmas break, while Uvalde occurred in the last days of the school year.) Even more scary was the fact that both lone gunmen shot their parental figure first, then took off to a school important to the parent. (Initially some reports were that the Uvalde shooter’s grandmother died; in fact, she was shot in the face but managed to survive.)
The passage of almost ten years hasn’t dissuaded me from a pro-gun stance because, just like Sandy Hook, the gun wasn’t the real problem: the problem was a child whose upbringing seemed to fail in a moral sense. What parent is “training up a child in the way they should go” if the kids are playing Call of Duty for hours on end and talking about shooting up a school on social media?
But we all know that the one approach from the Democrat Party is a demand to restrict our Second Amendment rights by banning what they term “assualt weapons” or “weapons of war.” In this case, as a start they’re talking about reinstating the “assault weapon ban” that was in place for about a decade between 1994 and 2004 – funny, that didn’t stop the Columbine shooting. In addition to that, they’re seeking to nationalize “red flag” laws that have turned tragic.
Yet the more I hear about the timeline of events in the Uvalde shooting, I think the focus on the gun is misplaced.
There’s a balance which has to be kept between freedom and security. We could create hardened compounds out of our schools, with metal detectors, intruder locks on classrooms, bulletproof glazing, and so forth, but what message does that send to a child? Besides, someone has to man a metal detector, locks can be left unlocked (like the back door apparently was at the Uvalde school because it was an awards day), and glazing does nothing if there’s an open door. None of these security measures are foolproof.
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about having an armed veteran or retired police officer volunteer his or her time at a school, much like a school resource officer. (This person could be the supplement to the employed officer.) Obviously, that’s going to be an availability issue at times because people have appointments and incidents which come up in real life. On balance, though, I think between this and various non-intrusive security and procedural upgrades we would do more to enhance school safety than a gun ban would ever hope to achieve. (Apparently there was a camera system at the school so they could track the shooter’s movements – after the fact, as part of the investigation. Wouldn’t it have been nice for the police to be able to tap into that?)
The problem with banning anything is that there’s an instant black market for the product if people still desire it – and they usually do. Ban smoking in an office building and you’ll walk through a cloud at the door. When people complain about that and the facility places a restriction on smoking by the doors, they just move farther away. When they still get the complaints the facility bans it on the property, so people go to their private cars for their nicotine fix. That’s how it works.
People didn’t stop drinking alcohol for Prohibition, they just made mobsters like Al Capone wealthier. If people want what the regressives consider “assault rifles,” they will get them somehow, to the benefit of criminals. Do you honestly believe people will give them up willingly, and do you want to be the law enforcement officer to try and enforce that?
I’m just as sick of reading about these tragedies as anyone else, although I’m not going to mock the “thoughts and prayers” crowd like others do because prayers for comfort and healing are always welcome to me. If the unthinkable happened to me I would appreciate the support as I tried to piece my life back together.
But I don’t have the answers. All I can tell you is that I strongly believe the gun ban proponents are barking up the wrong tree, and their alacrity after the incident just feeds the scuttlebutt beneath the surface out there about Uvalde being a government-backed “false flag” operation to seize the media narrative, take people’s minds off the horrible economy and whatever else the government is doing to usurp our rights, and lay the groundwork for disarming the population. Sorry to sound all Qanon on you, but that’s the thought process people have been led to after the last two-plus years of being told we shouldn’t question authority and if a schmuck like me can sense it, what does that say about the trust we have in our institutions?
Something in our institutions let the Uvalde shooter down, and he wasn’t equipped to deal with it in a manner acceptable to civil society. The gun was just the tool the shooter used to exact the price that over a score of people paid.
One would think I don’t read books anymore, and to be honest I had no idea it had been over a half-decade since I reviewed one here on monoblogue. However, I believed this would be an interesting tome with which to renew the tradition, given the local connection of both subject and author, a retired communication professor from Salisbury University.
Moreover, I thought I could shine a unique light on the book as both a published author myself – someone who knows what it’s like to put together a book requiring hours of research and attempting to make it palatable to a reader who wishes to know more about the subject – and as a former constituent and eventual supporter of the title subject. There were quite a few names familiar to me dropped within the book; as one would imagine that drove a lot of my interest in reading a volume that my wife actually purchased for her enjoyment. (It’s why I’m waiting a week or so to put out this review so as not to give her any spoilers.)
Mike Lewis, however, was not just my sheriff when I lived in Wicomico County before crossing over to Delaware two-plus years ago. Arguably the national platform for drug interdiction and Second Amendment support he’s created via his frequent media appearances make Lewis the third-most recognizable figure of his generation with a Salisbury-area background, trailing only Terminator series actress Linda Hamilton and longtime Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel.
Furthermore, not only are Lewis and I almost perfect contemporaries in age and upbringing as we were both born in the same year and have at least some (in my case) amount of rural background, there’s always been that political aspect surrounding him – once he became a household word in Wicomico during his first campaign in 2006, swamping a four-person GOP primary field with 59.7% of the vote then winning handily that November, Mike got to a point where supporters would have jumped at the chance to help elect him to any higher office he wanted. One interesting tidbit I found in SMLCU is that he once promised his wife he would only serve two terms as Sheriff, but instead filed for a fifth last year. Should he be re-elected in 2022, though, he would match his immediate predecessor, the late Sheriff Hunter Nelms, with five electoral victories. Coming back for a sixth term in 2026 would give Lewis the opportunity to serve even longer than Nelms’s 22 years on the job. (An old-school conservative Democrat, Hunter was appointed in 1984 to finish an unexpired term and served through the 2006 election, where he opted not to seek another term.)
In an epilogue describing his book, Simmons recounts the three themes he was attempting to address: first, Lewis’s ambitions and accomplishments, second, those things that the policing profession entails, and lastly, “the big picture of government and the greater society that places law enforcement in a crucial, albeit vulnerable and often underappreciated position.” Out of the three, the book scores well on the first and last parts, but becomes a bit of a drag on the second portion, much of which comes out as a laundry list of offenses that takes up the book’s second, lengthy chapter – 66 pages out of a book that’s 177 pages, excluding epilogue, acknowledgements, end notes, and photos. (That extra material brings the book to 221 pages overall.)
The problem with that second chapter is that dozens of arrests are detailed, including one I really didn’t need a reminder of – the embarrassing Julie Brewington DUI incident from 2018. (I served with Brewington, a TEA Party leader in Wicomico, for my final two years on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.) This list could have been honed down to perhaps a couple dozen of the biggest ones, and the final part of the chapter that mainly deals with incidents in the local schools and at Salisbury University should have been a standalone chapter, particularly as the book then transitions into the seminal case that has occurred under Lewis’s watch: the Sarah Foxwell murder case from Christmas 2009. (One departure from the book: while Lewis talks about tying yellow ribbons to mailboxes to denote yards that had been searched by property owners, I distinctly recall they were asking for red shirts or rags because I remember tying one of my old red shirts to a wagon wheel we kept at the end of the driveway where we then lived in the Foxwell search area so they knew we had checked our property. Perhaps – surprisingly – Mike’s memory is less clear than mine on that one, or maybe it was an either/or situation since most houses don’t have yellow ribbon on hand.)
However, once that slog of a second chapter is complete, the book moves along at a nice pace through the time period and events that made Lewis a household name among county sheriffs nationwide, among them the Foxwell case, assisting at the Baltimore riots in 2015 and becoming an impromptu spokesman for the police gathered there, and Mike’s advocacy for the Second Amendment. We also get a glimpse of then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign stop in nearby Berlin and the fact that Lewis initially backed Marco Rubio in the race thanks to a previous encounter with him on a drug interdiction fact-finding mission to South America.
SMLCU also gets its share of ink from a couple local politicians, most notably former Wicomico State’s Attorney turned Circuit Court Judge Matt Maciarello and State Senator Mary Beth Carozza, who gushed that, “Mike Lewis was and is the real deal when it comes to defining a top cop – a leader through and through, who day in and day out, leads by example.” While Wicomico County has strong leadership in that regard, it should be pointed out that there was a modest write-in campaign against him in 2018 that netted perhaps 7% of the vote – most likely from malcontents in the local “defund the police” crowd who don’t like Lewis’s aggressive stance toward crimefighting. I have news for them: it’s clear from this book that he doesn’t like them, either.
Unfortunately, all books have a cutoff date for production and printing, so one loose end that would have been worth following up and asking more about was the effort by Lewis to declare Wicomico County a Second Amendment preservation county last year. It ends with a vow to reintroduce the legislation this year, but the question is whether the county would take up something like that in an election year. There were a lot of disappointed people when Lewis backed away from the bill, which many believe is necessary as a counterweight to the overbearing government in Annapolis and Washington, D.C. The book quotes former Delegate Don Dwyer as claiming, “The role of the sheriff is to be an interposer between the law and the citizen.” Added Dwyer, “Sheriffs do have the power to nullify or ignore a law if it is unconstitutional.” Pointed out several times in the book is the fact the sheriff (as opposed to a police chief) is an elected official, thus the public trust is placed upon the officeholder with the accountability of election always in the background.
In sum, a tidier book may have gotten the point across with more brevity, but overall this is an interesting look at a law enforcement officer who has perhaps gone out of his way to have an outsized influence on people both inside and outside his chosen profession. I recall when Mike was first running that I worried about his outside interests:
Lewis is a wonderful teacher. I sat in last month’s WCRC meeting and was fascinated by Mike’s presentation. I’m not a cop but I learned a lot about traffic stops and drug interdiction from just 20 or 30 minutes listening to him speak. Had Hunter Nelms decided to run for another term, I’m certain Mike Lewis would be starting a second career traveling the country and even internationally as a teacher and expert on drug interdiction. It almost seems like a waste having him as a county sheriff when he could do a great job and touch many more people with a career path like he was contemplating.
As it turns out, he was more of a multitasker than I gave him credit for – since I endorsed his chief Republican opponent for the primary before backing Lewis in the general – and the book overcomes its flaws to make most of those points.
Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I am (indirectly) quoted in this book as “a blogger.” Simmons quoted a blog post I did in 2013 at the Second Amendment townhall meeting held by Lewis, which is also credited in the end notes. I guess, thanks to this review, Haven now gets unsolicited advice for a second edition of this book should one come about.
I’m sure there are critics who would believe it was appropriate for a conservative-leaning group to meet at the extreme edge of the state, and indeed if you walked across Bethel Road from Range Time you would find yourself in the wilds of Maryland. But the local (and relatively new) indoor gun range was the locale for a tent meeting for the Patriots for Delaware on Tuesday night.
I said a few weeks back that if the Patriots for Delaware found themselves out Laurel way I may have to stop by and see what the fuss was about. Gumboro is close enough, plus I wanted to check out the building anyway. (Alas, I never made it inside.)
One thing I found out is that this group is very creative. I should have taken a couple steps closer to this sign table, but this was meant to be sort of an overall test shot because of the long shadows. Turns out it makes my point.
(Notice they had quite a bit already in the donation box, too.)
One thing I was remiss in capturing was the presence of a couple vendors there as well as a hot dog stand. So there was dinner available if you didn’t mind hot dogs, chips, and a pop.
Here’s another sign that, if the print weren’t so small and the photographer was thinking about it, would give you an idea of where the Patriots for Delaware stand. This was my shot to check lighting in the tent, and unfortunately that was about as good as I was going to get.
Truly, what they had to say was more important than whether I took good photos or not – after all, there were probably 75 to 100 people who took time out of a Tuesday night to attend.
After an opening prayer which beseeched His help for “a nation in need,” we we introduced to the group’s concept by its co-leaders, Glenn Watson, Jr. and Bill Hopkins. This is made necessary because each meeting has such a high proportion of new faces, in part because they move around the state.
The group was “brought about with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in mind,” said Hopkins, who added that the government was not doing its job of guaranteeing it. “If we don’t do something, we’ll have nothing,” Bill continued, noting as well that “we have to forget about this party thing.” Patriots for Delaware was out to attract members from all the parties who agreed on their core concepts.
When it was Glenn’s turn he added that earlier that Tuesday the group was active at the Legislative Hall rally, where they called on our General Assembly to resume public meetings instead of the Zoom meetings that are held inside the hall, with the public locked out. Reopening the legislature was just one of its current priorities, but it also went along with a list of bills they were working to favor or oppose – mostly the latter. (We received a handout of their legislative agenda.)
An interesting sidebar was learning that State Sen. Dave Lawson has been doing the Zoom meetings from his legislative office, with Tuesday’s meeting having the added feature of sign bearers in his background calling on the state to return to “Leg Hall.”
The Patriots for Delaware approach was that of working from the bottom up, which made the slew of school board elections ongoing around the state a key point of interest. The group was in the process of sending out detailed questionnaires to candidates around the state with an eye on endorsing ones they saw fit. There were about three candidates already so endorsed, although none locally.
But there was more to the school boards than just elections. As a rule, their meetings are lightly attended by the public (perhaps by design) but members were working to ferret out waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars. “We need people to make this happen,” said Glenn, so the group was looking for volunteers to attend school board meetings. Something I learned from the chair of their education committee is that the big roadblock to fully opening up schools is the limit in bus capacity.
It should be noted that the first third to half of the meeting was going through committee reports from several of their seven committee chairs. There were actually four other scheduled speakers: the well-received and popular 2020 GOP gubernatorial candidate Julianne Murray, Mike Jones of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (naturally, since the event was being held at a firing range), Jim Startzman of the Delaware State Sportsmen Association (ditto), and Larry Mayo of the Institute on the Constitution.
Murray, who announced last week she was filing suit in federal court to get the Delaware General Assembly back to meeting in person with public access, noted that while she was glancing behind her to the 2020 election and questions about it, she was more focused on 2022 – an election where we will need hundreds of volunteer poll watchers.
In the meantime, she urged those assembled to beseech the Republicans in the Delaware House to stop HB75, which would allow the DGA to set election terms (basically, codifying a repeat of 2020.) “We’ve got to be smart going into 2022,” she said, “and HB75 is huge.”
Before heading out to tend to a family matter, Murray hinted that her next campaign may not be a second try for governor in 2024, but running against incumbent Attorney General Kathy Jennings next year.
Jones introduced those attending to the USCCA, which provides legal representation to its members in the case of a self-defense incident, while Startzman detailed that his group would be gearing up for lawsuits against the gun grabbing legislation being considered in the General Assembly. For that, they need members and donations.
Mayo revealed that his latest class of IotC graduates would matriculate this week and a new 12-week course would begin next week in Milford. (It’s also available online and on DVD. I guess you don’t get the fancy graduation ceremony.)
Lastly, we had the Q and A portion, which featured an interesting revelation from the aforementioned Councilman Rieley.
Recently Sussex County settled a lawsuit where the plaintiffs contended the county was shortchanging schools because they had not reassessed property since 1974. Rather than fight it, the county agreed to do a three-year assessment at a cost of $10 million.
Of course, people worry about their taxes increasing, but Rieley told those assembled that the goal was revenue neutrality as rates would be reduced. The “maximum” one’s taxes could increase was 10 percent, although he noted some in the western portion of the county may see a decrease. (The increase would likely fall on those in the rapidly-developing eastern half of the county.) Additionally, he promised, “we are not going to be raising taxes anytime soon.” (Then again, for the most part Sussex County simply serves as a pass-through for the state, so they can be blamed.)
I gotta admit, I was a little rusty on the note-taking part of the meeting, but it was an interesting hour and a half that went by quickly. (I couldn’t sleep anyway – it got a bit nippy in that tent once the sun went down.) The next meeting (set for next Tuesday, April 27) isn’t too far down the pike from me in Greenwood, so if my calendar is clear I may head that way. If you are a Delaware resident “barely left of militia” like I am, or even somewhat closer to the center, this is an interesting grassroots group to follow.
Some days I impress myself. So as not to let good writing go to waste, I’m going to extend some remarks in this forum.
My Congressional representative that I’m saddled with, Lisa Blunt Rochester, came up with this pablum today:
We, as a country, should be ashamed by this graphic. I remain committed to supporting common sense gun violence prevention policies and to ending this scourge.
Social media post by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, April 16, 2021.
So I wrote this in response (no blockquote here):
The key to “ending this scourge” isn’t in “common sense gun violence prevention policies” – at least not those expressed by draconian gun laws that infringe on our rights. Problem is, though, the solution is not a quick fix so you can’t run on “doing something about it.”
When the value of life is cheapened to that of pixels on a video game and the culture is such that any slight needs to be addressed with getting a gun and shooting someone, that is the problem.
For decades, rural kids grew up around guns and had access to them, but you didn’t hear about mass shootings despite their proliferation because they were given a moral foundation that taught respect for life and for others. That’s been lost in this world of today, and I think it’s the “participation trophy” generation at fault. I grew up in a rural area and have plenty of respect for weapons because I know the damage they can do if misused.
We are not always going to get our way in life. The Indianapolis shooting sounds like many others: a combination of perceived slights and lack of ability to deal with failure or rejection by a troubled young man. He was going to go out in a blaze of glory and take those who he blamed for his problems with him. That’s not the fault of millions of law-abiding gun owners who use their guns for self-protection, hunting, etc.
Most of all, we need our guns to keep the government honest. The county sheriff where I used to live openly expressed his refusal to participate in any sort of gun confiscation program, saying he wouldn’t send his deputies out on a suicide mission. He was right, and that’s why there’s a Second Amendment – it makes tyrants think twice.
That may sound like a paranoid way of thinking, but I think I understand human nature and once a government gets a whiff of tyrannical power they don’t give it back easily.
I also wanted to add that we have no idea how the perpetrator got his gun and he’s not alive anymore to speak to the subject, going out in the “blaze of glory” I referred to above. Something tells me he probably got it legally, falling in the cracks of the system we have due to his young age (although it depends on what he used as a weapon – only rifles and shotguns are legal for purchase for those over 18 but under 21.)
Should we be ashamed by the graphic? Actually, we should because we are failing ourselves as a society when we confuse a means to preserve our life with a means to end those of others. The shame isn’t in the tool but in the attitude, since we will never know just how many with access to a gun who got angry or frustrated enough to go out and shoot whoever thought better of it when they remembered the life lesson that death is forever and life can be better tomorrow once the situation blows over. That’s what faith is about.
I doubt many of these mass shooters were right with God, but as long as we all breathe life there’s always the opportunity to become so. At that point we realize we have a tool for self-defense, feeding the family, and keeping would-be tyrants in line.
As always, it’s a compilation of items requiring somewhere between a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Think of it as bite-sized dollops of blogging goodness that serve to clean out my e-mail box.
On evidence and faith
While he can be maddening politically, I enjoy reading Erick Erickson’s treatises on religion. He made a brilliant argument regarding evidence and faith that I wanted to share.
It also bolsters a point about the origins of our nation, and the philosophy of those who founded it. We are several generations removed from the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et. al. but we have enough empirical evidence and writings of theirs to believe that a) they existed, and b) they had a particular political philosophy in mind when they created our nation. It’s something that should be easy to interpret by any jurist willing to read and understand their words, as opposed to making things up as they go along.
Yet, as Erick points out in a subsequent post, it’s worth remembering that God’s got this.
The success of China
It’s not often that I discuss year-old information in a new light, but here’s a case where new info has made the story evergreen thanks to the discovery of a relationship between Rep. Eric Swalwell and a Chinese national, Fang “Christine” Fang. I certainly can’t argue with the premise of the author.
A recurring minor theme within this enterprise is the desire to bring more manufacturing and production back to America because, simply put, we couldn’t trust a nation-state which points missiles at us. Unfortunately, big business and big media love the potential of 1.4 billion up-and-coming customers more than the markets that made them successful. Now we may be saddled with a president who is essentially in Beijing’s pocket, which may be the death knell for American world dominance – and when it’s us against the world, we can only put up a fight for so long before we are worn down, sort of like the Axis powers in World War II or the Confederates against the Union in our War Between the States. Whether Donald Trump was the summer of 1942 for the former or the march to Gettysburg for the latter remains to be seen.
One rear-guard action available to Republicans at the state level is redistricting. While I personally want districts that are compact and contiguous, this can be achieved while reducing the Democrats’ oversized influence in certain states and regions. In 2020, the GOP gained control of a plurality when it came to drawing House districts.
On a corollary subject, J. Christian Adams makes a case that the election fraud wasn’t in the counting but the fists on the scale produced by scads of dark money “assisting” certain big-city boards of election in encouraging the vote to get out. His theory also “explains how the GOP was so successful everywhere… except at the top of the ticket. A flood of blue votes gushing out of deep blue urban areas has a statewide effect only for statewide candidates. It doesn’t affect legislative races outside of the cities.”
He also opines, “In case you still don’t follow: Hundreds of millions of private charitable dollars flowed into key urban county election offices in battleground states. The same private philanthropic largess did not reach red counties. Urban counties were able to revolutionize government election offices into Joe Biden turnout machines.” Even if Trump received 20 percent of the black vote instead of 10 percent, the fact that 100,000 more blacks voted may have made him a loser. (Emphasis mine.)
But by not backing Trump, Sam Faddis believes the Republicans are heading the way of the Whigs. To the extent that Trump’s base represents a mixture of the TEA Party and populist elements in the country, this is true. But having to lean on Trumpism to achieve the conservative goal of limiting government is a precarious perch indeed.
A lack of juice
It’s a little bit maddening, this headlong rush by car makers to embrace electric car technology when the infrastructure to support it is slow in coming: unless you want to invest in a personal charging station, how useful is an electric car for a cross-country jaunt?
As I have said for many moons, there are two problems with the bulk of our “renewable” energy: the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. And guess what they have to use for backup plants? Yep, natural gas, often extracted by that eeeeeeeevil practice of fracking. (Well, except in Maryland and other states stupid enough to throw away economic potential.)
We have plenty of oil and a robust infrastructure to get it where it needs to go – in my case it’s usually the RoFo I pass on the way to/from work, but in a pinch there’s another station a couple miles away in Sharptown. A few minutes to fill up and I’m good to go for another 300 miles or more.
On the other hand, I have to charge my cell phone a few hours overnight to keep it viable for the next day, day after day. And I want a car like that? No thanks.
“How to Build a Gun Club: A Guide to Organizing and Starting Your Own Local Gun Club”, Sam Jacobs, Ammo.com.
I will say, though: around here I think they make you jump through a lot of hoops. I recently worked on drawings for a gun club as part of my “real” job and it seemed like there were a lot of unnecessary roadblocks put in place for a building that was existing in a rural, out-of-the-way location. My thinking was that was simply because it was a gun club.
If you can’t build one, though, you can still join one. I had some fun the last time I stopped by a local gun range back in August, and it wasn’t just the hot and cold running politicians during Delaware’s primary season.
Maybe my resolution should be to better work on my Second Amendment rights.
The other resolution will be to keep collecting stuff for the 102nd rendition of odds and ends, coming sometime in the future if the Good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.
I have a blog category I call “don’t let good writing go to waste.” It’s used for the occasional lengthy comments that I put up on social media that are too good to bury there. I hadn’t transferred one to this site in awhile, but I thought I needed to in this instance because it was in response to my wife sharing a piece I wrote for The Patriot Post and her social media audience isn’t that congruent with mine. So here you are, as I discuss the current political scene and the Second Amendment. I’m not going to blockquote myself in this instance.
The response that drew mine stated:
“Keep the hate going…the far right and far left are only pleasing the enemies of this country.”
First of all, how is pointing out legitimate concerns about our God-given Constitutional rights meeting the definition of “keep the hate going?”
Secondly, I don’t consider myself “far right” although I do claim to be barely left of militia. As I see it, political philosophy is not linear, but more like a circle because the far left – which I define as a single entity controlling all aspects of life, such as a dictator or tyrant, constitutes the end destination of socialism, which works its way leftward through communism to that extreme.
On the other side, through the Randian scale of libertarianism which is the greater and greater anarchy of every man exerting his rights for himself, you come to a point where the strongest survives because he can best exert his rights at the expense of someone who is weaker. At that point, the strongest person is the dictator or tyrant – thus, the same point on the circle.
Somewhere on the other side of the diameter is the optimum point where people have rights, but the minority is respected. Close by that point was the Constitutional republic we founded, and our position on the circle has shifted over the years as we eventually eliminated the slavery present when we began and gave all adult citizens the right to vote, but we also ceded an oversupply of power to a central government.
What protects us in that regard, however, is the fact we have available to us weapons which equalize situations. Would you have the strength to fight off an attacker who was young and in shape? Probably not, but your having a weapon negates their advantages. The same goes for government – in 1775 we went up against the strongest army the world had known to date and eight years later defeated them because we had the wherewithal to do so – we could indeed fire when we saw the whites of their eyes instead of being unarmed subjects like the unfortunate citizens of other nations are or were.
That’s why my piece was important.
And why I don’t let good writing go to waste. My job in this blogging quest for a more perfect union is that of education, and I try not to let such an opportunity pass. It reminded me of the early days when I engaged regularly with left-leaning bloggers before we hid in our information silos.
But wait, there’s more! The commenter wrote back:
God wrote the constitution? I missed that. I also lack your devotion to guns and would rather live by the rule of law. Glad to hear you are left of militia. However the patriot post is a conservative publication always leaning right and not always supporting truth. Therefore I repeat that extreme right and left wing publications and movements please our enemies.
So I had to douse her with information yet again:
I missed where I said that God wrote the Constitution. (I do believe it’s divinely inspired, though.) What I did say is that we have God-given Constitutional rights, which our Founding Fathers cited in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
“Endowed by their Creator,” or God-given. The Constitution was our effort to instill a more perfect union after the weakness of the original Articles of Confederation that was written as we were winning our independence from the British Crown was shown.
I’d love to live by the rule of law, too, but sometimes we need to have the means to enforce our rights. And the beauty of our society is that you can choose not to own a gun while we can choose to use our 2A rights.
Now, regarding The Patriot Post, their mission is simple: “From inception, our mission has been, and remains, to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by first, advocating for individual rights and responsibilities; second, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary; and third, promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values, as outlined in our Statement of Principles.” So we work as a news aggregation source, or digest. In our “humble shop” we have a mix of people who write commentary on news and issues of the day designed to extend that mission, and my task is to write a piece each week. Now if your version of “truth” is “orange man bad” then you may be a little disappointed. My version of truth is that he advanced our ball down the field much more so than he fumbled it.
Finally I would argue that the extreme left in our country is working in concert with our enemies since they are fellow travelers. Moreover, what you seem to be defining as the extreme right is, in truth, another version of the extreme left. (They are not anarchists.) As I said before, we who would like a more Constitutional republic with limited government are on the other side of the circle.
And yet, after all that she responded:
(W)ho got the word from God that guns are paramount in our salvation? A group of men decided what were God given rights. And none speculated that these rights included the right of deranged usually white male to shoot at innocent people( school children) to make a point.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for who? White men with guns? There is no clear knowledge of the backers of the patriot post. Therefore I again suggest the point is to separate rather than unite citizens.
What is your plan to usher the kingdom of God to our world? Shoot or threaten to shoot those whose opinion differs from yours? Government does for people what they can’t do for themselves:
Promotes sensibility during a pandemic
Provides healthcare for all
Protects the people from those who believe the most guns win
Where is the creativity in a gun? What do you offer the world that is life-giving and beautiful?
I had enough patience left for one last long reply:
I’m sitting here awestruck by the leaps of illogic you exhibit in your responses. So how about a different thought exercise?
First of all, let’s say I had a gun on my person, came to you, and laid it on a table. Would that gun do you harm laying there?
A gun is a tool. Oftentimes it is a very useful tool for self-protection even if it’s never fired. Knowing a law enforcement officer has a gun, would you take a step to punch him in the face? Of course not, for two reasons: one, you know you can’t outrun a bullet, but more importantly, you were taught respect for the law and for life. Unfortunately, far fewer are taught respect for the law and life these days so you get unfortunate incidents of people shooting at innocent victims (although more often than not these are perpetrated by black males – just look at the crime docket of a weekend in Chicago or Baltimore.) It’s more likely that a person not taught respect for the law or for life would be the one who shoot those whose opinion differs with theirs – just compare the peaceful protest of a million people yesterday in Washington, D.C. by Trump supporters with the actions of the BLM/antifa that evening as they harassed remaining Trump supporters.
We all have inalienable rights. It’s government’s job to protect them.
Unfortunately, the public has been misled into believing the government also establishes rights and that’s where they are wrong. For example, health care is NOT a right; however, as I think I pointed out in another thread, the federal government has a law that it cannot be withheld based on inability to pay.
Sensibility during a pandemic would be protecting the most vulnerable populations while allowing others who can better deal with the symptoms to develop the herd immunity.
“What is your plan to usher the kingdom of God to our world?” All I can do is be a missionary. It’s not my call as to when the kingdom of God is established. Way, way above my paygrade.
“Where is the creativity in a gun?”
It’s there in the innocent lives its proper use in defense of liberty retains.
“What do you offer the world that is life-giving and beautiful?”
Our part in the last, best hope for liberty on this earth. To go the other way would be to have the boot of tyranny stamp on a human face forever, to paraphrase George Orwell.
There was a little more, but you get the point. I think I beautifully explained a lot of Constitutional philosophy in these words.
This is the fifth part of a series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 Delaware gubernatorial election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, Second Amendment issues are worth 11 points.
This section of the dossier has been revised and updated to reflect the general election field.
These will be presented in the order of Republican, Libertarian, Independent Party of Delaware (IPoD), and Democrat, who in all cases are incumbents.
It was an event I thought about making a post out of, but in this era of the CCP virus (h/t The Epoch Times for that moniker) I thought depicting a mostly maskless event wouldn’t go over well. Regardless, back in August I was at a local gun club for its family day. And one thing I quickly learned was that it was a place with hot and cold running politicians – no surprise with a primary coming up.
While there were a few local politicians of note – oddly enough, I realized who some were by the legislative plate on their cars – it turned out via happy accident I was due for this part of the dossier. (My wife told me about this event that Saturday morning so we squeezed in a little free shooting before heading up to see her family.) So for the purposes of this section of the dossier I’m adding bonus content.
My disclaimer: I wasn’t there for the entire event so some of these candidates may have circulated there prior to our arrival – for example, I saw U.S. Senate candidate Jim DeMartino (who lost in the primary to Lauren Witzke) working his way out as we were walking in.
Julianne Murray (R)
Of all the Republican gubernatorial candidates at this event, Julianne had the most formal setup and was engaging with voters, including me:
Yet our brief conversation didn’t touch on 2A issues – heck, I was impressed enough that she knew of this website.
The meat of what she states about the topic can be summarized this way: “Julie knows that limiting our Second Amendment rights does not translate into tough-on-crime measures. It doesn’t make anyone safer. It only punishes law-abiding citizens. Like you, Julie worries about the violence in our communities. She wants safe streets and safe gathering places for our friends and family. Julie will look beyond the rhetoric to find the real source of the problem and find solutions that do not infringe our rights. By addressing the true problem, we will be taking the politics out of the issue. Unfortunately, our Governor and the media like to perpetuate misinformation and dangerous rhetoric in order to push an unconstitutional agenda that threatens the rights of law abiding citizens. As Governor, Julie will defend the rights of our law abiding citizens, hold law breakers accountable and support our first responders.”
This is intriguing to me on two levels. I notice the way she states the proposition gives her a little bit of wiggle room, but, more importantly, there’s the phrase, “the real source of the problem.” I can’t fathom if she doesn’t agree with the adage “an armed society is a polite society” or if she really wants to begin a one-woman, one-state war on the cultural rot and lack of respect for life that may well be a root cause of gun violence. Moreover, if we don’t have a tyrannical, overreaching government, the need for Second Amendment protection on that front abates. That’s why I find this interesting. I have yet to listen to a three-hour (!) podcast with Murray so I hope to get more answers there. In the meantime, I split the difference and give her 5.5 points out of 11.
John Machurek (L)
While he promises not to enact any new gun control measures, it’s somewhat telling that John is for “Constitutional” carry but not concealed carry. I don’t see him as a force to reverse the excesses of the current regime, so he gets just 3 points out of 11.
Kathy DeMatteis (IPoD)
Unfortunately, she seems to be silent on this important subject. No points.
John Carney (incumbent D)
In 2016, John noted he would be “directly confronting” the issue of gun violence by working with other states, making sure schools have up-to-date safety plans, “confronting the issue of mental health and gun access,” and restricting the sale of so-called “military-style” weapons.
Barely a year later, Carney promised, “In the coming weeks, my team will work closely with lawmakers to craft legislation that would prohibit the sale of assault-style rifles in Delaware,” in order to “make our state safer.” (I guess he didn’t specify who he was making it safer for, but it turns out he was doing so for criminals.)
It’s this damage to Second Amendment rights that our next governor has to undo. 0 points out of 11. If I could give him negative points I would.
As most who are not under rocks or out of range of news broadcasts know, the last few days have featured two mass shootings, one in Ohio and one in Texas. But rather than focus on the victims, these incidents have become political footballs as each side of the political aisle tries to blame the other, at times darkly intoning that the history of these shooters is being whitewashed in order to make their side look bad.
Yet there is one fact that remains: the perpetrators (one of whom survived in Texas, the other being killed by police in Ohio) decided to take a weapon ordinarily reserved for self-defense and use it in an offensive manner, with a provocation that existed only in their twisted minds. (And note: when I say “weapon ordinarily reserved for self-defense” I mean guns as a class of weapon, not the specific type or caliber selected by these individuals.)
It goes without saying that those on the other political side from me will complain that “thoughts and prayers” are ineffective and the time has come for significant action, such as banning so-called “assault rifles” and “weapons of war” from our streets. Yet consider where these perpetrators chose to create their mayhem – it’s been reported that the one who was killed went on his rampage for less than a minute before being engaged by law enforcement and shot to death. On the other hand, the Texas assailant chose a “gun-free zone” and indeed, it’s apparent most respected that rule – the one who reportedly was carrying chose not to respond in kind for fear the police would believe he was the shooter, so he led others to safety.
I’m just not convinced more gun restrictions will be the answer because that cat’s long since been out of the bag. People won’t give up their guns without a fight, and that’s a fight few in law enforcement really wish to tangle with.
Sadly, I’m afraid the fix is not one that can be immediately implemented. for it’s a generational change that has less to do with weaponry and more to do with respect for life. It’s often been noted that rifles and shotguns were often brought to school a couple generations ago, although in those cases they were locked in a truck in the school parking lot because they were used for hunting. Let’s assume that was so, then ask why school shootings weren’t a weekly occurrence?
And it’s funny – the more we talk about anti-bullying policies and legislation in school, the worse these incidents seem to be becoming. Both shooters in these incidents were young men, under 25, so they’ve grown up in this era of low bullying tolerance and so-called peaceful conflict resolution, yet they struck back in this manner.
Maybe if we got back to the idea that life is sacred because there’s a higher power who commanded us not to kill, well, perhaps we will quit blaming the inanimate object. But that’s not coming anytime soon.
The last time I went to an Andy Harris town hall meeting, it was a time when “Indivisible” passions ran high and the “traveling roadshow” was out in force. One successful re-election for Harris later, the group on Monday was more subdued.
My spot of activity this week didn’t allow me to get to this right away, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was sort of curious to see if any of his other stops would be controversial and it doesn’t appear they made a splash in the news cycle. And speaking of news cycle, this was a familiar sight.
As a matter of fact, had I chose to I could have been on TV myself (on local rival WMDT) but I just didn’t feel like I could answer their questions. My thoughts and recollections are better suited for this space.
After doing it for almost a decade, perhaps Andy has figured this town hall thing out. First of all, you couldn’t help but admire his work in getting a local veteran named George Hornsby the medals and commendations he’d been owed for over fifty years.
Something else that was different (and better) was how the questions were selected. Rather than soliciting index cards for written questions for a moderator (and leaving himself open for the charge of not answering difficult questions) each person had a number given to them and when their number was drawn, they were given the opportunity to stand up and ask their question. In a little over an hour, we got to about 15 people that I wrote down.
And I thought the questions were nicely varied, which made them a little bit difficult to categorize. As a summary and not a blow-by-blow, I think I can take a bit of editorial license and group questions into more broad categories.
The first is a sort of “role of government” track. People had concerns about the direction of the House, and were asking what he could do to assist President Trump. There was a person concerned about robocalls, another who asked about sanctuary cities, and someone else who asked about the Kavanaugh confirmation.
Regarding the direction of the House, Harris just reminded us, “everybody has a vote” each two years. It’s the worst system – except for all the rest, he continued, conceding that the voters wanted divided government. “I try to represent the district,” he added, noting his belief he’s conveying the wishes of the majority of the First District.
Unfortunately, being in the House minority means there’s “not a whole lot” he can do to help Donald Trump, a President he agrees with “90 percent of the time.” One of those cases will be his vote to sustain President Trump’s veto of the rescission of his state of emergency. “My vote will sustain his veto,” said Harris.
One reason he cited was funding for border security. “As a nation you have to control your borders,” he said. Andy also alerted us to the 90% of our heroin that comes across the southern border, not to mention the amount of fentanyl – enough to kill 9 times the population of Maryland from one particular recent seizure – that we stop.
Eventually the conversation on the border led to a question on sanctuary cities, and whether we could cut their funding. Andy told the questioner there was no statutory authority to do so, but having sanctuary cities also “creates a lack of rule of law,” which was something we needed to get back to. I also learned how Andy would handle the DREAMer situation: a “legal pathway” with permanent residency status but no citizenship unless they returned to their home country to start the process there.
All that made the concern about robocalls, which was a concern he agreed with – and even spoke to the committee chair regarding it – rather mundane. It also has an international aspect to it since most originate in foreign countries but spoof domestic numbers.
Harris also agreed the Kavanaugh confirmation was “a spectacle,” although as a member of the House he was but an observer like the rest of us. “In the end, I think the American system worked,” he added.
In a sort of peripheral way, those couple people who were concerned about environmental issues were looking at the government for help, too. One was concerned about garbage, which is a problem in, of all places, the middle of the Pacific. In that case, one of the issues was that China no longer takes our garbage. The reason? We are dirty recyclers: oftentimes the leftover products originally encased within the plastic containers are still present in enough quantity to make recycling less cost-effective. Perhaps a solution is in “waste-to-energy” or chemical recycling.
Their other concern was Bay funding, which President Trump’s budget cut from $73 million to $7 million. The Maryland delegation is working to at worst level-fund it, although if there is a continuing resolution the spending would continue as before, too.
Here Andy brought up one area where he and I part ways: stating that offshore drilling needs the permission of the state, Harris stated his opposition to not only offshore drilling, but offshore testing as well. That is a short-sighted approach, but I think opponents like him are afraid that there’s a vast supply of black gold or natural gas out there. I’m not sure why that’s something to fear, but why not do the testing anyway to verify one way or the other?
A lot of people had guns on their minds. There are “too many guns in this country,” said one questioner. But we have the Second Amendment, which makes us unique among nations.
And guns aren’t necessarily the problem, said Andy. We’re not dealing adequately with the issue in several respects:
The celebration of violence in video games, which was even something President Obama spoke about.
The lack of control of gangs and drugs. Are laws as enforced as they should be?
A decrease in religious observance, which you could also consider a lack of morals if you prefer. (My words, not his.)
And while Baltimore “went after their police force,” they are “allowing young lives to be destroyed” there. And as an homage to Captain Obvious, Harris said “we will never disarm non-law-abiding citizens.”
He had some unkind words about Maryland, too, noting that while the state has universal background checks, they are one of the worst states at reporting mental health issues to the federal government for those checks. Don’t do more gun laws if you’re not enforcing the ones you have, he said: for example, out of the thousands who knowingly stated falsely they didn’t commit a crime – thereby committing perjury on a federal form – only ten of those cases were prosecuted because former AG Eric Holder didn’t make it a priority.
Andy’s opposition certainly had its say, although to their credit they were reasonably non-disruptive. The only exception was a case where two people objected to Andy’s reticence to commit to an hour-long face-to-face meeting with that constituent who disagreed with Andy’s stance against Obamacare. The tension got thick when Andy was accused of anti-Semitism for meeting with a “Holocaust denier” as well as chastised for a visit to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Victor Orban, leader of a “center-right” government. (Harris, a first-generation American whose parents fled Hungary amidst a Communist takeover, leads the Hungarian-American Caucus in Congress.) It’s “pretty repulsive to me” to be called anti-Semitic, Harris countered. But the disruptive pair were not escorted out as cooler heads prevailed.
While Harris objects to Obamacare, it should be pointed out that he’s for several reforms to Medicare Part B – specifically, the area of prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital where Andy remarked “Medicare has no leverage” to deal with increasing costs. As it stands now, these providers are allowed a 6% surcharge on top of list price reimbursement, as I understand it. (I’ll plead ignorance since I am not on Medicare.) Apparently HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a plan to revise this scheme to account for the reduced price other nations pay to allow these drugs into their market – a gatekeeping system Medicare doesn’t have. Using a weighted average of the prices charged to 12 other leading industrialized nations plus a 30 percent premium is “a pretty good compromise” according to Harris.
I suppose if the drug cost us $10, the weighted average of the 12 was $5, and the 30% premium added $1.50, yeah, there could be some savings. Of course, I have no idea about the actual numbers.
(It should also be mentioned that opioid addiction was brought up in the meeting. His opinion: “It will take a long time to fix,” because the problem isn’t just drug companies or overly aggressive doctors. But no one ever did any studies on how addictive these painkillers could be until much more recently.)
A more significant part of the time was spent by Andy explaining his opposition to H.R. 1, the (so-called) For The People Act. “What part did you object to?” he was asked, answering “why not (send up the provisions) one at a time?” rather than a 400-page bill that’s been amended several times. “We have to stop doing bills like this,” he continued, holding up a copy of the bill that takes up half or more of a ream of paper.
“Really, it’s an incumbent protection plan,” Harris added, and while in that respect he theoretically should favor it, his primary complaint on it was that “it tells states how to conduct their elections.” He wasn’t in favor of public financing of elections and had a problem with its oversight provisions, such as voting in other states (as a former opponent of his was caught doing.)
Yet a GOP amendment making “ballot harvesting” illegal was defeated – its main flaw is allowing anyone to bring in ballots, rather than specifically a family member or guardian. I personally see it as a chain of custody issue, and ironically the same technique that turned the tide in several California House races was the reason North Carolina voters in their Ninth District have an upcoming “do-over” in their race, won on election night in 2018 by a Republican. Ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, precisely because of those chain of custody issues.
One last thing I’ll bring up is the charge Andy often receives about not having empathy or sympathy. “I take care of patients!” he replied. His job is to pay attention and read the bills, and when it comes to health care it’s to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable. Personally, I just think there are too many people who equate big government with empathy or sympathy but would object to a faith-based solution because it’s “pushing their religion on people.” To those whose god is government, perhaps I’m tired of you pushing your religion on the rest of us. I’d just like to render unto Caesar only what is supposed to be his and not all of my freedom, too.
But a nice lady had her number called shortly after this and told the audience she had dealt with Congressman Harris’s office regarding her mesh implants and thanking him for helping her with the issue. It’s one where the public and physician databases need to be better integrated so that doctors can be better informed with real-time reporting and analysis. “Sunlight solves a lot of problems,” said Andy.
We also talked about suicide, which was a byproduct of the same culture that’s led to so much gun violence. In a nation founded on religious principles, it’s no surprise to me that being religious cuts the risk of suicide in half – at least that’s what Harris claimed. “If we abandon religion, we abandon some of those (founding) principles,” Harris remarked.
I’m certain there were those agnostics in the room who scoffed at that assertion. “There’s a separation of church and state!” they thunder, and if there could be a border wall built between the two that’s a wall they would support 200 percent and have that sucker built a mile high and twice as deep, halfway to God or Gaia or who/whatever they believe in.
In a letter from John Adams to officers in the Massachusetts militia (October 11, 1798) our second President remarked as a close to a longer point, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If you presume that “any other” is the irreligious lot we have now, Adams was probably right and, as a group, they tend to be the ones who want to revamp our founding document.
But I get the idea that our Constitution was Divinely inspired, and as such I like to see us hew to it as best we can. While it does need some modern-day tweaking, including a pruning of the amendments ratified in 1913, the Constitution can continue to serve us well if lawmakers just remember their oath to defend it. I think Andy Harris does a reasonable job of that and I’m glad he stopped by.