Friday, September 17, 2010

To open carry gun supporters: No right is absolute

If I stood on a milk crate at Fourth and Main in downtown Royal Oak and made a speech about the up coming election, I would be arrested for disturbing the peace. If a group of friends planned a gathering in the park near by to protest the war in Afghanistan, we would be ticketed if we hadn’t received a permit from the city.

Both are part of our rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. Communities can place limited and reasonable restrictions on those rights. But, people who want to carry guns think they should have rights that are not limited.

No right is absolute. The right of free speech, assembly, to bear arms and many other rights are listed in the Constitution. There are many other rights that are not detailed but are reserved by the people. But, the community has the right and responsibility to place reasonable limits on those rights. Of course, there must be a balance between the right and the community’s need for safety and order. No right can be limited without just cause.

In this case, the open carry laws, the community should have the right to limit the possession of a weapon. Royal Oak is requesting the state make a minor change in the laws to allow it. Currently, the open carry laws state that individuals can not carry a weapon in any theater with over 2,500 people and other places. The city would like it to read “venue” instead of “theater” so that Arts, Eats and Beats can ban open carry guns.

The law would not ban guns absolutely. Individuals will still be able to own guns. The change in the law would allow local communities to place reasonable limits on the possession of a weapon at events that are as large as the festival in Royal Oak.

Festivals like the Arts, Eats and Beats festival doesn’t create civil unrest where people may need to protect themselves. The media has reported that no one was arrested during the four day event. The government isn’t strong arming the public where guns may be needed for a revolution. The festival is just an entertainment venue of art, food and music. There simply is no need to openly carry guns strapped to the hip.

The request that Royal Oak is making of the state is a reasonable limit on the right to bear arms.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

End drug use and end the violence in Mexico

The drug violence in Mexico can be stopped if we focus on the problem not the symptom.

The United States is arguably the biggest consumer of illicit drugs in the world. Exporters of anything, including drugs, would not have a market if it wasn’t for people buying their products. Because there is such a big market here in the United States for drugs, competing cartels are killing each other along with innocent by standers in an effort to dominating the lucrative market. This violence will soon spill over across the border. We will only have ourselves to blame.

It isn’t just Mexico, it is also in Afghanistan. The history of Afghanistan over the last 100 years is filled with drugs. The farmers in the country could not make enough money by raising food crops. They turned to poppies, the plant that heroin is produced from, because the profit is so enormously high. The Taliban, looking for easy income to fuel their war against the world, took control of the distribution.

Where does the money go? To purchase weapons that enable groups in both countries and others around the world, to continue their violence.

What are we doing about it? A lot of nothing. The war on drugs is a failure in this country. We fiddle around the edges treating symptoms and irrelevant issues while drug use continues to grow out of control. Nationally, the debate has been side tracked by focusing on illegal immigrants that were here before and will be here after the war is “won”. (The war will never be won. No politician will be able to declare victory or even an end to conflict. The community must be for ever vigilant about drug abuse.) Politicians tell us of beheadings in the southwest desert from the drug traffic, yet, no evidence of a beheading from the drug traffic can be found.

Here in Oakland County it is worse. Michael Bouchard, a normally very able public servant, and his sheriff department raided drug dens around the county arresting pushers and abusers. Little or none of the marijuana that was seized came from a foreign source. The abusers were people that have a demonstrated need for the drug to ease the pain or discomfort of their illness. (Don’t be naive you say, there are those that are using it for recreation. I am not. I am aware of that. But, the drug is legal in the state and that isn’t where the problem is.)

Resources where diverted from the real drug problem at the same time the sheriff department is cutting an already thin budget. Legislatively, there are lots of politicians now that will be planning adjustments in the current litany of laws to define a problem that is small compared to the abuse of other drugs.

There are plenty of laws to control this problem. Law enforcement agencies need to have enough money to investigate and prosecute drug offenses. Drug courts need to both deal harshly with the “pushers” at the same time they punish and treat the abuser.

The loss of life in Afghanistan of our own young men and women is high. The damage to our foreign policy from this war is punishing. The war will soon be coming to a country even closer, Mexico, if we don’t get our drug problem under control.


Monday, September 13, 2010

What every kids knows

Kids playing ball in the street know when a ball is hit into your yard, they should walk lightly in retrieving it because it is on private property. People walking down the sidewalk know that the yard around each house is private property. If someone pulls their car into your driveway they can expect to be challenged if they are uninvited.

So why does the Ninth District Court of Appeals in California think that it is okay for police to not know what everyone else knows? In a case that is expected to reach the Supreme Court in Washington, the court ruled that police can walk on to your property in the dead of night, place a gps device on your car and then track your moves for as long as the device works. In this particular case, Juan Pindeda-Moreno (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JUAN PINEDA-MORENO, Defendant-Appellant - No. 08-30385) is suspect of growing marijuana. His Jeep was parked in his driveway next to a trailer, his home, while he slept in the middle of the night. Police tryed to catch him in the act of visiting his little farm decide to attach the gps to the car in the middle of the night.

The court ruled, with only one dissent and two appeals to the same court, that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when their car is parked in the driveway. Since the court doesn’t know what everyone else knows, that your driveway is your private property, it stated that police could then attach the device to carry out their mission.

Courts must take an overview and often wax philosophically in crafting a ruling. Application of law is not always as straight forward as it seems. But, in this case, the court applied a ruling that doesn’t resonate with real life in the community. If we can’t have an expectation of privacy around our home, then where can the line be drawn? The court said that fences, no trespassing signs, borders or other things must be built before our privacy can be guaranteed. That may be reasonably true when we approach a farmer’s field where the line from on piece of property to another may be blurred. But, any reasonable individual walking or driving down a street would have a very good idea where the yard of a house is and that motor vehicles in that yard are on private property. Before police can approach a car in that position, they must have a search warrant.

This is an erosion of our rights to the community and off sets that balance between individuals and the community. By the way, this ruling happen in the middle of August and here we are in September before we hear about it in the media. It took the media much too long to mention this case. When asked, the Supreme Court should over turn this ruling and push back the line to a place of reasonable balance.

A balance that even kids playing in the street of any neighborhood knows.