26 January 2011

Non-infringement vs. Protection

GeorgiaCarry.org sued the state of Georgia to be able to possess their guns at a church. They were joined by the minister of the church and had the church's permission. That wasn't sufficient, though, because Georgia (apparently) has a law forbidding guns in churches.

The district court ruled for the state:
Defendants’ third objective, protecting the free exercise of religion, is an important governmental interest. The free exercise right is enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution. Although the Constitution protects a person’s right to free exercise only against governmental intrusion, it is clear that the protection of religious freedom against private bias or coercion is also an important governmental goal. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) (prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of religion). Prohibiting the carrying of firearms in a place of worship bears a substantial relationship to that important goal by protecting attendees from the fear or threat of intimidation or armed attack.
I don't even know where to begin. A private entity wants to allow guns on their own property, but the government says, "no". The people's right to keep and bear arms can be infringed because of the possibility of "private bias or coercion"; that is, the government can take action because a crime might be committed, in the absence of any evidence of said crime. None of this even addresses the idea that because the private property is a church, the government is treading dangerously close to first amendment violations, itself. None of this matters to the government, though. It has "governmental goals".

And that's where my real issue lies. The government's "goal" is not to protect free exercise of religion from anyone except itself. In other words, the government's role is not to protect free exercise of religion. It is to not infringe upon it.

24 January 2011

Scariest thing(s) I've seen in awhile

Saw this on an Internet forum I frequent:
I think it's wrong to look at the Military as a defensive tool, only to be deployed in defense of our country.
It is an instrument of political, social, and ECONOMIC might.
Fighting for oil or to promote economic stability is as patriotic as fighting to physically defend your homeland.
If it makes the country stronger in any way I'm for it.
The more global the economy becomes the more important it is that everyone play nice and do business and if America has to carry a big stick and bust some heads once in a while to achieve that then so be it.
It was followed shortly thereafter by another who said:
[I agree]
Oil is an essential part of the economy and our nation. It cannot run without it so it is worth war. Even though the two current wars in the Middle east are NOT because of it.
These comments were in response to someone asking about people's feelings about "liberals" who hate the military. Like any Internet discussion, the comments took off in a number of different directions, but these comments especially caught my attention because despite the tendency of this forum to lean somewhat to the (political) right, the people there generally seem to have their heads on straight with respect to freedom and liberty.

To hear people suggest that might makes right, that because we have a strong military, we should be able, if not have the right, to impose our will on others is really very sobering to me. I once heard someone say that the Tea Party doesn't have a coherent view of liberty. I don't want to make any statement about the Tea Party other than to say that these comments illustrate the point the gentleman was making at the time. For all the talk about freedom and liberty, many people seem to think that those things are reserved only for Americans and that our military is not simply a defensive tool but can and should be used to promote our own well-being at the expense of others'.

How can anyone simultaneously cry foul at U.S. government's trampling on its citizens' rights while at the same time demanding that it trample on someone else's? Rights come from our Creator, not the constitution. The constitution does not grant rights but instead restrains the federal government from infringing them, and people who truly understand what liberty and freedom are understand that all people have those rights.


Glenn Greenwald writes about the U.S. government's treatment of its detainees, specifically Bradley Manning, the army private accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. I'll admit that I'm a little conflicted about Mr. Manning's case. On the one hand, he allegedly leaked documents in violation of his promise to keep them secret. On the other, assuming he did leak them, he's brought to light a number of horrible, horrible things that the government has done in its pursuit of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the end, I think he ought to be commended for bringing these things to light. It's unfortunate that his "crime" against the government is getting all of the coverage instead of the crimes committed by the government. That's not what really scares me, though.

Read Glenn's article. What scares me is the treatment of Mr. Manning, a U.S. citizen, who has not yet been convicted of any crime and his visitors who have not even been accused of any crime. This treatment screams authoritarian "police state" and people of all political stripes, regardless of their feelings about Mr. Manning should be appalled by his and his visitor's treatment.

17 January 2011

Disappointing court cases

The Volokh Conspiracy has more in depth write-ups for both cases.

In the first, in Illinois, the ACLU has sued the state to get injunctive relief from the Illinois Eavesdropping Act so that citizens may record police officers in order to deter and detect abuse. The court ruled against the ACLU saying that the first amendment does not protect recording in this case. I have a hard time finding fault with the court's ruling, such as it is. I don't really see the connection between recording and free speech. What's disappointing to me about this, though, is the state's unwillingness to allow its agents to be recorded in their official capacity. I often hear the argument, "if you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide." Why doesn't the same apply to the state?

In the second, a court in Florida upheld a police search as legal despite its concerns that the search was not consensual as the police claimed and, even more damning, that the police were outright lying about the circumstances under which the search occurred. Here is the court's characterization of the police's testimony:
On the pages of the record, the story told by the police is unbelievable—an anonymous informant gives incriminating information; police surveillance uncovers no criminal conduct; the defendant is “nonchalantly” and “casually” approached by the police on the street; the defendant cooperatively leads the police back to his apartment to obtain his identification and invites the police inside, where a detective sees contraband in plain view, a fact certainly known to the defendant when he issued the invitation; after his arrest, the defendant tells the police about all the hidden drugs in the apartment.
Yet the appellate court still held the search to be legal, affirming the lower court's ruling. If one can't find justice in the courts, where can one find it?

Why I write

During the whole TSA dust up that took place a few months back, I briefly touched on (one of) the reasons that I write. The one mentioned in that post is that I write to get feedback from others about what I've written. Often times, I'll also engage in Internet debates with people about issues for this very reason. I've had at least one friend of mine tell me that she'll never be convinced of anything that I have to say to her and that she would appreciate it if I would stop arguing with her and her friends on Facebook (about political issues). I tried to explain to her that I don't argue necessarily to convince her or her friends that I'm right. Rather I do it to learn. I do it to find out that I may be wrong.

That's not the whole story, though. Libertarianism forces one to look at politics and government completely differently than the way we are taught in schools or how we are told by the media. The reason that I write is because it forces me to think things through. It forces me to examine exactly what I think and believe about something, why I think and believe it, and if I can even support those positions rationally. When I sit down to write, I know that people who read it are going to disagree. So, before I publish anything, I try to critique my own work to be sure that it is internally consistent, that I've already tried to address possible rebuttals. (Despite what it may seem like, I really don't like to "argue" with people.) There have been times when I've gotten halfway through a post and abandoned it because I didn't feel that I could make a strong or coherent enough argument.

Occasionally, though a post or two does slip through which still isn't very well thought out, written, or coherent. There are a number reasons for this (any/all of which are in play for a particular bad post):
  • I tend to write whatever is on my mind without thinking about the final product (post) as a whole.
  • I generally write in my spare time and don't devote the amount of time really necessary to write at a higher level.
  • I have a number of points I want to make about a topic, but I don't organize them ahead of time.
  • I'm just not terribly well educated (yet) about a particular topic, and the writing reflects that.

The reason I write all of this is because there are a few topics that I have in my head that I want to write about, but they're very vague ideas at this point. (The "Follow the money" post/series linked above is one of these that never got fully fleshed out.) I haven't written about them, partly because I don't write "seriously" enough for me to spend a lot of time thinking about them and form a coherent post. Well, I'm going to make a run at some, if not all, of these topics in the next few weeks. I'll do my best to post a few smaller stories and some quick commentary to keep the ten or so of you that are actually still reading interested, but the longer posts will probably be fewer and further between for awhile.

13 January 2011

The cost of liberty

From Glenn Greenwald yesterday:
What lies at the core of this mindset is desperate pursuit of a total illusion:  Absolute Safety.  People like William Galston believe that every time there is a violent or tragic act, it means that the Government should have done something -- or should have had more powers -- in order to stop it.  But that is the reasoning process of a child.  Even if we were to create an absolute Police State -- the most extreme Police State we could conjure -- acts like the Arizona shooting would still happen.  There are more than 300 million people in the U.S. and, inevitably, some of them are going to do very bad and very violent things.  Thus has it always been and always will be.  The mere existence of bad events is not evidence that the Government needs to be more empowered and liberties further restricted.  Just as there are serious costs to things like the Arizona shootings, there are serious costs to enacting the kinds of repressive systems Galston envisions, yet people like him never weigh those costs.

Having people do bad things is the price we pay for freedom.  There is a cost to all liberty.  Having to hear upsetting or toxic views is the price we pay for free speech; having propaganada spewed by large media outlets is the price we pay for a free press; and having some horrible, dangerous criminals go free is the price we pay for banning the Police from searching our homes without a warrant (the Fourth Amendment) and mandating due process before people can be imprisoned (the Fifth Amendment).  The whole American political system is predicated on the idea that we are unwilling to accept large-scale abridgments of freedom in the name of safety, and that Absolute Safety is a dangerous illusion.  There is a new report today that a police officer in Tuscon stopped Jared Loughner's car for speeding shortly before his rampage, but was unable to search his car because he lacked probable cause to do so.  Obviously, that's regrettable -- if you're a family member of one of his victims, it's horrifying -- but the alternative (allowing Police the power to search whomever they want without cause) is worse:  that's the judgment we made in the Bill of Rights.
Glenn is far more measured and articulate in his writing than I could ever hope to be. I think he hits the nail squarely on the head with this article.

12 January 2011

Government wants bigger government

As I thought about what I wrote yesterday, something hit me that was completely lost on me when I wrote it:
Congressman Robert Brady (D-PA) is proposing that the ban against threatening the president be extended to all federal officials (presumably congressmen, judges, etc.) Congressman Pete King (R-NY) is proposing that guns not be allowed within 1000 feet of "powerful federal officials".
I included party affiliations behind each congressman's name to show that the knee-jerk reaction wasn't limited to either party. What didn't hit me at the time was that the limitation on free speech was proposed by a Democrat, and greater gun control was proposed by a Republican. Did these gentlemen forget which party they are members of? I doubt it. Rather, in a rush to take advantage of the crisis and the public's visceral reaction to it, they simply revealed their true, statist colors.

11 January 2011

"Tone down the rhetoric"

This is a topic that I really didn't want to weigh in on, but I keep reading about it, and I'm having a hard time not responding to others who have written on it. First, some background: in case you've been living under a rock for the past few days, you've likely heard about Jared Loughner. In response to his shooting spree, much has been written about Mr. Loughner's politics, the politics that may have lead to his actions, and the politics to come.

As to Mr. Loughner's politics, I don't care. In the immediate aftermath of his actions, much was made of his anti-government stance. For many this seemed to place him firmly on the radical right side of the political spectrum. Shortly thereafter, an old friend (acquaintance?) of Mr. Loughner's began tweeting that Mr. Loughner was "quite liberal". And neither side can distance itself from him fast enough. Let's keep our eye on the ball here, though. The shooter is now in custody; he ought to be given a trial and, if convicted, made to answer for his crime(s). The end.

But that's not the end, and we can't keep our eye on the ball. Instead, we're being told to "tone down the rhetoric". Clarence Drupnik, the sheriff of Pima county, where the shooting occurred, has been making news because of comments he made after the shooting, mainly this one:
When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.
I've seen it pointed out that there is nothing inherently political about this statement, and in a vacuum, I would agree. Unfortunately, we don't live in a vacuum, so let's call a spade, a spade. Mr. Drupnik is referring to those on the political right and those who oppose (big) government. (Note that those are two distinctly separate groups.) Based on his statement, Mr. Drupnik thinks that those groups are responsible for Mr. Loughner's actions. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, John Fund thinks that Mr. Drupnik, himself, bears some responsibility for Mr. Loughner's actions. You know who's really responsible for Mr. Loughner's actions? That's right; it's Mr. Loughner.

Unfortunately, though, we're all about to be reminded that our liberty is in the hands of the worst members of our society: those who commit these atrocities or those who pass laws in response to them, take your pick. In its all too predictable knee-jerk reactionary way, congress is already proposing a slew of new laws to "keep this from happening again". Congressman Robert Brady (D-PA) is proposing that the ban against threatening the president be extended to all federal officials (presumably congressmen, judges, etc.) Congressman Pete King (R-NY) is proposing that guns not be allowed within 1000 feet of "powerful federal officials". (Right, the guy who was willing to ignore the law against murder is suddenly going to respect this law. Good thinking, congressman. I'm reminded of the wisdom of Jerry Seinfeld, or at least his writers, here, "You can make all the laws you want, he's still gonna bother people.") What's good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander, and the gulf between what's acceptable for those in power and those who aren't grows ever wider. Isn't anyone disturbed by the fact that federal officials deserve "more" equal protection under the law than the rest of us mere "people"?

Toning down the rhetoric isn't about restoring civilized debate; it's about stifling dissent. It's about chipping away at rights (supposedly) protected by the 1st, 2nd, and 4th amendments. It's about making abundantly clear exactly who rules over whom. Don't misunderstand; I am unequivocally not supporting threats of or actual violence. However, there are already laws against such things. Passing new ones like those described here are about separating the "rulers" from the "people" so that the people can be better controlled.

06 January 2011

How to boil (control) a frog (society)

This morning I got a call from a radio station in Phoenix, AZ asking about a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in which the court held that a strip search and pat down of a male inmate by a female officer was unconstitutional under the 4th amendment. The interviewer was interested specifically in how I thought that this ruling relates to the TSA's warrant-less searches at the airports. I told him that in light of the Ninth Circuit's ruling in February of last year upholding strip searches of prisoners, generally, as constitutional, this case would probably not be very meaningful. The only similarity between this (current) case and the TSA procedures is the fact that the person sitting in the "other room" looking at body scans may not be of the same sex as the person being scanned. I have a feeling, though, that in its traditional deference to executive claims of national security, the court would not find the body scanners to be an unreasonable search because of the "anonymity" between the TSA agent and the person being searched.

A much better point, I thought, to come out of the interview was that people at the airport are treated virtually the same way as are inmates in the prison system. That is, people who have done nothing suspicious other than decide to travel by air are subjected to exactly the same search procedures as people who have broken the law, been arrested, been tried, been convicted, and been sent to prison. Here is a description of the search at issue in the case decided this week, and it sounds almost exactly, though this description is more explicit, like what was described to me when I tried to fly two months ago.
...the cadet touched the inmate’s "inner and outer thighs, buttocks, and genital area with her latex-gloved hand through very thin boxer shorts" and "moved his penis and scrotum in the process of conducting the search"
I can't resist pointing out, somewhat tongue in cheek, that inmates get this treatment for free. Airline passengers have to pay for it.

When asked if I thought that this comparison (airline travelers to prison inmates) would irk people enough to get them "fired up" about the searches they are forced to endure at the the airport, I answered that my experience has been that people are ruled more by their fears and desires to feel safe than by any desire to be "free" (as in freedom). And until people find the searches to be "unreasonable", it is unlikely that anything will change or that any relief will be found in the courts, given the test employed by the courts as created by Justice Harlan in Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967).

One of the things that the interview touched on but didn't delve deeply into is this "reasonable" test. (On a separate but related note, I think there is an argument to be made that the founders of this country considered all searches and arrests without warrants to be unreasonable and that "unreasonable" is not a term that was meant to be reinterpreted with the passage of time, but I digress. That's for another post.) The second prong of Justice Harlan's test is whether "society is prepared to recognize that this expectation [of privacy] is (objectively) reasonable", and it would seem that society is not prepared to recognize a person's privacy at the airport. Be that as it may, what "society" should consider in making that judgment is the ratchet effect. Governments rarely relinquish power that has been given them. Societies, in a similar manner, judge tomorrow's events by today's, not yesterday's. What I mean by this is that the standard by which tomorrow's searches are measured is today's searches. A little over 10 years ago, one could get on a plane with nothing more than a ticket. Then people were required to show identification. Then they had to take their shoes off and then heavy coats. Then people were subjected to "normal" pat downs. Now, they are subjected to a virtual strip search and/or an "enhanced" pat down. Imagine if people went one day from anonymously boarding a plane to the next day having to show identification, take off their shoes and heavy clothes and being subjected to a virtual strip search and/or an "enhanced" pat downs. People would never have gone for it. Instead, they are being slowly boiled like the proverbial frog and don't realize it. Even if the war on terror were to come to an end someday, which it most assuredly will not, these searches won't go away. They'll be cemented in society's collective mind as "reasonable".


Unrelated to the interview, I found it interesting that the court ruled cross-gender searches "unreasonable" under the 4th amendment. The 4th amendment only addresses the search, not who performs it, and the Ninth Circuit had already ruled searches of this type to be constitutional. It seems to me that the claim would have been better brought and adjudicated under the 8th amendment. Given that the inmate claimed that the search was humiliating and caused psychological trauma, the argument that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment would have been more appropriate. It seems to me that the court contradicted itself, if only slightly.

No good deed goes unpunished

Last July, an Aurora, CO man was on a road trip to Montana when he and his family stopped in Casper, WY for gas. The gentleman, William McCreary, left his wallet on top of the gas pump.
Another customer at the Common Cents convenience store found the wallet.

Deborah Heinrich said she opened it to find who it belonged to and then started making phone calls.

"I left messages at his home phone after I found his number on the Internet," Heinrich said. "I called his bank and a Harley Davidson dealer listed on a business card in his wallet."
Unfortunately, she also contacted the police for help in tracking down the owner. When Mr. McCreary, the man who lost the wallet, realized he'd forgotten it, he returned to Casper. When he couldn't find it, he filed a police report. The police then called Ms. Heinrich and asked her for the wallet. She declined stating that she would hang onto it until she heard from the owner himself what he wanted done with the wallet. At this point the police became aggressive and demanding and, at no time, did they inform Mr. McCreary of the woman who had his wallet. Ultimately, they arrested and hauled her into court for "interference". Her first trial ended in a mistrial and a second trial is scheduled for next week in which, if convicted, she could face a $1,000 fine and a one year in prison.

People can and, I'm sure, will debate the merits of the decision not to simply give the wallet to the police. I think the police were doing a bit of interfering themselves, but that's not my issue in all of this. My issue is that the woman now faces a year in prison and a sizable fine essentially for trying to return Mr. McCreary's wallet without the police's help. Even if one thinks that the woman was in the wrong for refusing to give the wallet to the police, what possible reason is there for her to face punishment? Her crime was trying to do the right thing in a manner other than that prescribed by the state. This is simply a case of the state wanting to show her (and everyone else) who is "in charge."

Even more troubling to me is the implication at the end of the article that Ms. Heinrich bears responsibility for this whole mess. It seems to me the only thing she did wrong was to hurt the feelings of the local police department who would have been denied kudos from the owner of the wallet if she had been allowed to return the wallet herself. In the end, the man who lost his wallet got it back, the police got their praise from him, the taxpayers are going to shoulder the expense of at least two trials (including bringing out Mr. McCreary from his home in Colorado to testify), and the woman faces prison time for being a good Samaritan.

Justice, indeed.

04 January 2011

Crappy Meals

I think this clip speaks for itself. The insanity really kicks in at about 3:02.

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Gun control at VT

Yesterday, Colin Goddard penned an op-ed piece for CNN. Mr. Goddard is a graduate of Virginia Tech University and an assistant director of legislative affairs at the Brady Campaign. He was also shot, apparently three times, during Seung-Hui Cho's shooting spree at VT back in 2007. In his op-ed, he attempts to make the case for keeping guns off campus, but he also raises a number of other issues that should be given a second look.
The mental health response also failed at Virginia Tech, as it has in other multiple shootings elsewhere. In almost every case, there have been friends, teachers and others who knew the shooter was troubled and likely dangerous. In many cases, including the Virginia Tech shooting, the shooter had sought help, then fell through the cracks due to weaknesses in the system. No one in a position of authority to act listened to and properly reported the warnings.
The shooter was apparently mentally unstable; however, he had the presence of mind to seek out help for his condition. The VT review panel that investigated the incident found that Mr. Cho had a history of mental problems but that none of them were shared between his high school and the college or even within the college due to officials' concerns that to do so would violate federal and/or state privacy laws. The panel's report also cites failure on the part of the Cook Counseling Center to "provide needed support and services" to Cho in 2005 and 2006.

Mr. Goddard points to Mr. Cho's mental health issues and the fact that the National Instant Criminal Background (NICS) Check System, the FBI check mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, should have prevented Mr. Cho from purchasing his weapons.
Seung-Hui Cho was the subject of a court order finding him a danger to himself or others because of mental illness. That court order was not submitted, allowing him to pass two background checks, purchase two guns and kill 32 people and himself.
Mr. Cho purchased his guns via the legally approved method. He would have had to lie on his ATF forms, but the NICS check cleared him. In spite of Mr. Goddard's calls to "do more to keep guns from dangerous people in the first place", the NICS database check that he points to actually worked exactly as it was supposed to work. It's only as good as the information contained in the database, though, and the government (via the court that adjudicated Mr. Cho mentally ill) failed to properly populate said database.

Mr. Goddard then goes on to rail against the so-called "gun show loophole":
Also--startlingly--felons, the dangerously mentally ill and just about anybody can buy firearms without the background check or any paperwork at all. I'm not talking about on the streets or from the "black market," but in public from "private sellers" at advertised events, such as gun shows and in newspaper and catalog ads. In the transactions in which NICS background checks have been done under the Brady law, 1.9 million purchases of guns have been stopped since 1994.
The word "loophole" in this situation a misnomer. What Mr. Goddard refers to is the legal sale of firearms from one private party to another. The fact is, that in most of the country, private parties can sell firearms to each other without any kind of paperwork or records in much the same way you would sell old furniture or a refrigerator. To combat this problem, Mr. Goddard implies that this law should be changed to require NICS checks for all sales. Wait a minute. Didn't Mr. Goddard a few paragraphs back point out that the NICS check doesn't work? Mr. Cho, after all, underwent a background check and passed.

Then there's the statistic that 1.9 million gun sales have been stopped since 1994. According to the Brady Campaign's own website, 4.5 million new guns are sold each year. That means that 2.6% of gun sales have been stopped by the NICS check. (It also means that 97.4% are legal purchases by Mr. Goddard's standards.) Even that incredibly low number of purchases that are stopped is still misleading when you consider that many non-violent crimes and even dishonorable discharges (for things like being gay) from the military disqualify one from gun ownership. False positives in the system (think TSA-style no-fly lists) are also part of this number. In short, one can't conclude, on the basis of Mr. Goddard's statement, that rejection of a gun sale by NICS equates with the stoppage of crime.
But how many dangerous people bought guns through public sales where they knew there would be no background check? We can't know because there aren't records of those transactions to begin with. However, one instance everyone should remember is the Columbine High School massacre. Three of the guns used were purchased through private sales without background checks at a public gun show.
To bring home his point about how great NICS will be for preventing gun violence, Mr. Goddard appeals to the public's emotions by bringing up the Columbine High School tragedy. We've already established, though, that Mr. Cho (the Virginia Tech shooter) underwent a background check and passed. The Columbine tragedy is unrelated in this way to the Virginia Tech massacre. A closer look at the Columbine tragedy reveals, though, that NICS probably wouldn't have helped there either (and didn't since the system had been in place for nearly 6 years). Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris obtained some of their guns via a straw purchase. Another was purchased from a friend (an illegal sale because the two were under 18). The methods via which the two obtained their weapons were already illegal. The NICS system does nothing to prevent illegal sales.

Having, in his mind, adequately demonstrated that NICS is the solution to all the country's gun problems, Mr. Goddard now begins to attack the idea that law abiding citizens should be allowed to carry guns on campus.
Forcing colleges to allow students to carry concealed weapons isn't a solution and it could easily make matters worse. It effectively rewrites the book on how police respond to a situation with an active shooter. The one student with the gun would no longer be the only target -- that person could be one among several or more.
Mr. Cho killed his first victim at 7:15am. He then returned to his dorm room, changed his clothes, and went to the post office around 9am. He then returned to campus (about two hours after the initial attack) and began killing again. Someone called 9-1-1 at this point, but Cho continued shooting for another 10 or so minutes before killing himself. Police would not have been an issue here because they didn't arrive until after the entire episode had concluded. Assuming that Cho hadn't killed himself, it is likely that had students been armed, they would have killed him or at least slowed his progress. Finally, does Mr. Goddard believe that the crazy guy carrying two guns, twenty magazines, four hundred rounds of ammunition, and walking around shooting indiscriminately is indistinguishable to the police from law abiding citizens, guns drawn but most likely cowering under a desk? The victims are the ones not aiming their guns at the police. Let's give people and especially our law enforcement officers at least a little bit of credit here.

The system failed at every step of the way. Mr. Cho was unable to get the help that he requested for his mental condition. The NICS database failed to stop Mr. Cho from purchasing his weapons. The university failed to notify students that a shooter was on the loose that morning (leading Mr. Goddard to go to class when, in his own words, he would have stayed home had he known about the shooting). The police (campus and local) were unable to stop the shooter before he ended his spree by killing himself. The only thing that even had a chance of stopping Mr. Cho sooner was an armed response by the students themselves.

As Mr. Goddard himself says, "Once someone is on campus with guns and intends to kill, we've already lost." "Intends to kill" is the key phrase there, though. Armed, law abiding citizens could have prevented the loss from being as great as it was. In spite of that reality, Mr. Goddard ends his column by extolling his readers to listen to a statement by the head of the NRA in 1999 following the Columbine shooting denouncing guns in schools.
We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, period ... with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel.
This statement is obviously taken out of context since Mr. LaPierre was referring to guns in high schools being handled by minors. More importantly, though, it should be noted that Virginia Tech was already a gun free zone prior to Mr. Cho's shooting, and we all know how that turned out.