Ethics (And Judicial) Hero: Federal Judge Roger Benitez

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If one bothers to read his opinion, which most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment zealots will not, including your outraged friends on social media, it is clear that that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California judge’s long overdue ruling striking down the state’s three-decade-old unconstitutional ban on so-called “assault weapons” is well reasoned, well-researched, and difficult to rebut. As usual, those who want to remove the right to bear arms from law abiding Americans (while law-defying Americans continue to do as they please) are resorting to emotion and dishonesty to argue their case.

It is unfortunate that the judge, who is not one of those evil Trump judges but a moderate appointed by President Bush II, began his opinion with an invitation to be misquoted and misunderstood. “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Judge Benitez wrote, so furious would-be gun-grabbers are aping California Governor Gavin Newsom, who tweeted,

“Overturning CA’s assault weapon ban and comparing an AR-15 to a SWISS ARMY KNIFE is a disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence. This is a direct threat to public safety and innocent Californians. We won’t stand for it.”

This raises the question, so frequently encountered on Ethics Alarms, of whether a speaker is deliberately lying, or just stupid. In this case, it is also possible that he only read the first sentence, which is irresponsible. Benitez, as the rest of his opinion makes crystal clear, was comparing the versatility of an AR-15 to a Swiss Army Knife, not their characteristics as weapons. An important part of his opinion explains that when the California legislature banned semi-automatic rifles,it never even considered the weapon’s value for self defense, and not just as a “sporting rifle.” (The Red Sox have a utility player named Marwin Gonzalez, and I have heard him compared to a Swiss Army Knife because he can play almost any position; in other words, he’s versatile. No baseball writer has been so foolish as to mock the characterization by saying that the comparison is ridiculous because the knives aren’t alive, Gonzales isn’t Swiss, and he’s much, much bigger.) It is also a non sequitur to call a ruling based on black letter law a “slap in the face” to anyone. Not following the Constitution, as California frequently wants to do, is a slap in the face of democracy.

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/23/19: “Spring Training Games Have Started, So NOTHING Can Upset Me Today” Edition [UPDATED]

1. This belongs in the “Bias Makes You Stupid” Hall Of Fame. [ Note of Correction: the story is two years old, dating from March, 2017. It was represented by my source as current, and I didn’t check the date on the link. My error. It changes nothing in the ethics commentary, however. ]

Three Oklahoma teenagers broke into a home last week and were greeted by a homeowner with an AR-15. He mowed them down, as he had every legal right to do, and may I say, “Good!” This is the perfect reason why someone might want to have the security of a semi-automatic weapon like the AR-15. This is a good example of why the “nobody needs a semi-automatic” is such a fatuous anti-gun argument. This homeowner needed one when three people tried to invade his home.

But I digress. The grandfather of one of the dead teenagers is protesting that it wasn’t a fair fight, telling  KTUL-TV:

“What these three boys did was stupid. They knew they could be punished for it but they did not deserve to die…Brass knuckles against an AR-15? C’mon. Who was afraid for their life? There’s got to be a limit to that law, I mean he shot all three of them — there was no need for that.”

Ah, yes, that word “need” again. I guess he should have knee-capped one, winged another in the shoulder, and counted on the third to surrender in tears. How was the homeowner supposed to know the kids “only” had brass knuckles with them—which are a potentially deadly weapon anyway? Yeah, the old man is just blathering away in grief, but then most anti-gun rhetoric comes out of emotion rather than logic. I’m sure the grandfather would also argue that it would have been preferable for the homeowner to get beaten to death rather than for three young men with their whole lives ahead of them to be killed.

Side note:  Getaway driver, 21-year-old Elizabeth Rodriguez was  arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder, along with one count of first-degree burglary and one count of second-degree burglary. That’s how felony murder works. No, I don’t feel sorry for her, either.

2. Today’s Jussie Smollett hoax item. Stop making me defend Van Jones! CNN’s dapper race-baiter  is getting criticized for calling Jussie an icon in this quote:

“This is the fall of an icon and I don’t think people understand how important he has been in the black community. ‘Empire’ as a show, to have him as a beloved character, I think did a great deal to knock back homophobia in the black community. The fact that he has been celebrated and you see homophobia in the black community through his eyes on the show, this is a Jackie Robinson against homophobia.”

Writes Hollywood conservative columnist Christian Toto: “Jones just served up arguably the worst “take” on the Jussie Smollett hoax story…You almost have to read it twice to appreciate the absurdity of the comparison. If Jones, brighter than the average pundit, can sink this low, it speaks poorly of the pundit class in toto.”

I think Jones is generally a blight on TV punditry, but there is nothing inappropriate about his observation. There is a lot of homophobia in the black culture, and Smollett had begun to loosen its grip by playing a popular, likable, admirable gay character on a one of the most popular TV shows with gay audiences. Sure, the Jackie Robinson comparison is excessive, but I get his meaning. The implication of what Jones is says is that as a figure who was more than just another actor because of his symbolic effect, Smollett had an obligation to protect his status and image. Jones wasn’t excusing Smollett at all. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce And Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Ted Lieu

Lieu, one of California’s more out-there Democratic Congress members, tweeted,

“How quaint that some folks are more concerned about kids speaking respectfully than the fact that 17 kids were slaughtered with an assault rifle.”

The incorrect use of “assault rifle” is a tell: it means that the speaker doesn’t know enough about guns to be talking about them, or, in the alternative, just thinks that all guns are bad, and that this is sufficient.

Several people corrected the Congressman, and explained that his terminology referred to banned, military automatic weapons, not the semi-automatic AR-15. Wrote co-founder of “the Federalist,” Sean Davis,

“You said “assault rifle”…Words mean things. If you don’t know which words mean which things, don’t use those words”

Lieu’s signature significance reply:

“NO. I will keep saying assault rifle if I feel like it. I will not let you define what I can or cannot say. In any statute, the term assault weapon or assault rifle would be defined. But in ordinary conversation, I will use assault rifle interchangeably with assault weapon.”

Wow.

Translations:

‘ I’m going to keep saying what sounds the most menacing even though it isn’t true, because that’s what will get people upset.’

‘You have your truth and I have mine.’

‘Automatic, semi-automatic, guns, schmuns, they kill people, OK? Get off my back.’

‘My constituents and the anti-gun zealots don’t know the difference, so what should I care?’

‘The ends justify the means.’

‘There’s nothing wrong with ‘alternate facts” if they are MY facts.

‘I have no shame or integrity. Let me do my job.”

‘I am the moron! Goo goo G’joob.’

____________________________

Facts: Twitchy

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/3/2017: In the Wake Of Las Vegas…”

I would love to post a Comment of the Day by a full-throated and honest advocate of new gun control measures that will “stop gun violence,” but have yet to read one that isn’t a poorly-veiled attack on the Second Amendment. On the other side, we have Rusty Rebar, one of many Second Amendment advocates on various post-Las Vegas Strip massacre threads here, who registered a tough indictment of the “do something!” anti-gun lobby.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/3/2017: In the Wake Of Las Vegas…

“Hell, the NRA used to support background checks, although they no longer do. What’s changed? Why is there that disconnect?”

I think this is attributable to the gun control crowd. The NRA used to be more conciliatory when it came to “common sense” laws. But the gun control crowd kept pushing and pushing, and the NRA has basically said “not one more inch”. So now, even something that is considered “common sense” to everyone will get no traction, because the gun control crowd kept pushing things.

I have said this before, and will recap here. There is a way to do background checks that will be acceptable, and even preferable, to everyone, but the gun control crowd would never allow it.

First, we need to understand the purpose of a background check is to determine if the person buying the gun is legally eligible to do so, nothing more, nothing less. That is not what gun control proponents want though, they want more, they want a registry of all purchases. That is beyond the scope of a background check. Continue reading