Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Conservative View of US Political History

[from Bill Lifka] I’m re-reading the book: A Patriot’s History of the United States by Schweikart and Allen. The authors are professors of history at the University of Dayton and the University of Washington. Unusually for their field, the professors are Conservative in their political view.
According to Schweikart, the reason for their book was that Liberals have written the overwhelming majority of text books on American history. Not only do these tales tell the American story with a strong leftward slant but major events and characters are absent from the pages. Schweikart’s and Allen’s version received praise for accuracy and fairness from objective experts.

The truth is that America’s history of its famous and infamous characters is a mix of altruism and selfishness, honesty and corruption, courage and cowardice, wisdom and stupidity, prudence and rashness, unity and divisiveness. Natural cynicism makes me think the specific gravity leans to selfishness, corruption, cowardice, stupidity, rashness and divisiveness.

WHY HAS AMERICA SURVIVED SO FAR? HOW MUCH LONGER?

It raises questions why America has survived so far and how much longer a nation so confounded can survive. Survival to this point and beyond has nothing to do with American people standing head and shoulders above their counterparts in other countries. Americans are not exceptional as a group of individuals.

In my opinion, the reasons for success are a design of government structure that has withstood efforts of generations of Americans to destroy it and that the nation was placed under protection of an Almighty God from the very beginning, first by early European settlers and again by the Founders as they laid out the design of a governmental plan. Who knows how much further we can stretch the wisdom of the Founders and the patience of God?

HISTORY OF THE MODERN DEMOCRATIC PARTY (AND MARTIN VAN BUREN)

1821 - A good place to begin my argument is in the year 1821 which was when the modern Democratic Party was formed. (It wasn’t the party of Jefferson, as widely proclaimed. Jefferson and Madison had very different principles and goals but they, especially Madison, did start the party system.)

I summarize the story from the history book as follows. Martin Van Buren was the son of a tavern owner in Kinderhook, New York. He resented the autocratic landowning families in this area and found enough like-minded politicians to control the New York State Constitutional Convention in 1821 enacting universal manhood suffrage.

He learned to employ newspapers as no other political figure had, linking journalists’ success to the Party’s fortunes. He perceived the necessity of discipline and organization to control the masses he sought to organize. He sought to create a political party dedicated to no other principle than holding power.

The problem with the political climate developing in the young nation was the disagreement over slavery which was dividing the states between the North and the South. Van Buren (and many others) viewed the logical result of this would be civil war, which he hoped to avoid. The best way to do that, he reasoned, was to remove slavery (and any other issues) as a party consideration.

He joined southern planters with northern non-elites to form a national organization dedicated to attaining and retaining political power. An important factor in attaining success was in taking advantage of the growing size of government which provided an ever-larger pool of government jobs with which to reward supporters: to the victors belong the spoils. Van Buren tied his star to a practice that, at its roots, viewed men as base and without principle. If they could be silenced on the issue of slavery with the promise of a job, what of their integrity? Yet, that was the strategy for the noble purpose of saving the nation from civil war.

1824 - Andrew Jackson was chosen as the standard bearer for Van Buren’s party in 1824. The Electoral College vote was: Jackson 99, (John Quincy) Adams 84 and Clay 41. There being no majority, the decision fell to the US House of Representatives. Clay was Speaker of the House and he detested Jackson so Adams received his votes. The one-term Adams’ administration was plagued with “pay back” acrimony for the “stolen election”.

1828 - In 1828, Jackson and his VP, John Calhoun, coasted into office. When he left office, Jackson had more totally consolidated power in the executive branch than any previous president, ensuring what Van Buren had dreaded: a powerful presidency subject to sectional pressures. His adept use of the spoils system created a large-scale government bureaucracy that further diminished states’ rights. This planted the seeds for the “New Deal” and the “Great Society” and (I would add) Obama’s eight year reign.

1836 - Van Buren followed Jackson into the presidency in 1836 to reap the blame for all that turned out badly from Jackson’s initiatives. After one term he was defeated by Whig candidates, William Henry Harrison (Tippecanoe) and John Tyler.

Harrison died after one month in office and Tyler succeeded him. The interesting thing about the succession is that the US Constitution’s language on presidential succession is not precisely clear that the Vice President automatically becomes the fully empowered president when his predecessor dies in office. Some doubts were raised. Tyler just assumed direct succession was the intention and took control. In this little-noted act he cemented the foundation of the Republic in future times of chaos and instability. This small snippet of history typifies the generally untidy political proceedings that have been part of our nation’s Presidential campaigns and the use of presidential power, once elected.

The formation of the modern Democratic Party isn’t a particularly heart-warming story especially the part about founding principles. However, there have been moments in later history where that party has provided great leadership for the country.

PARTY POLITICS NOW (AND DONALD TRUMP)

At this moment, the Democratic Party is at a low point in its history, despite having one of its members in the White House. At least, that’s my opinion. In many ways, it espouses the principles and methodologies Van Buren invented but has added cultural dogma and governing philosophy that moves the nation far from the direction the Founders intended and defined.

The Democratic Party is not alone in American political history in experiencing recurring shifts in goals, initiatives and methodologies. All have been the same in that regard. But now is a very bad time for one of the two major political parties to be focused on matters of lesser importance.

Of course, Donald Trump is doing his best to coax Republicans into the same mindset. The Democratic Debates have been particularly useless in addressing key national issues. The Republican debates have been notably better except for time spent in personal attacks. The debate this Thursday should provide good reminders of issues which should be the basis of your vote in November. Trump’s likely absence should raise the quality of debate immensely.

Bill Lifka

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Acton Institute and Rev. Robert Sirico


My good friend Bill Lifka, and his wife Alice, invited me and a couple dozen other residents of The Villages, FL, to a nice dinner and a great talk by the Rev. Robert Sirico, pictured above. He is the President of the Acton Institute for the study of religion and liberty, which is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

See Wikipedia for more about Rev. Sirico. Here is a pithy selection that I found interesting:

In 1990, in response to what he saw as an insufficient understanding of economics by religious leaders and the religious isolation of business leaders, Sirico founded the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids. With the motto "connecting good intentions with sound economics," the institute provides a vision of free market economics within a Judeo-Christian moral framework.[3] In Sirico's words:
The essential thing was my frustration when I was in seminary ... to hear homilies preached that inevitably insulted business people. I knew this was a serious error both theologically and pastorally. Theologically, because of the moral bankruptcy of socialism as an ideology. But pastorally because it alienated good people who were working and attempting to participate in the Christian mission

I did not take notes during the talk, but here are a few highlights as I remember them. (I take responsibility for any errors or distortion of Father Sirico's message.)

He began by imagining that all the wealth in the World could be divided equally among all the people in the World, which he estimated would be about $13,000 per man, woman, and child.

OK, but what would happen on the next day? The wealth of the World is not simply money and goods that could be so divided, but is mostly represented by the monetary value of investments in business enterprises, which would cease operation if so distributed. The day after such a distribution, the engines of production of goods and services would grind to a halt, most jobs would vanish, and the standard of living would permanently decline.

That, in essence, is the problem with much of the socialist-oriented big government rhetoric many voters find appealing. Europe is a decade or two ahead of the US along this road to ruin.

Midway through his talk, Sirico asked if anyone knew the famous quote, regarding power, from the namesake of the Acton Institute, Lord Acton. I spoke up, saying I had not looked it up, but I thought it was "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." I was close, but was corrected for having left out two important words. The actual quote is "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." He noted that he had similarly corrected Lady Thatcher's recollection of that famous quote, and I was proud to be in such grand company.

A question and answer session followed the talk and some of the topics included the possibly socialistic tendencies of Pope Francis, the danger of the ascendancy of Donald Trump in the Republican Presidential Primary contest, the power of new technology, including cable-TV and the internet, in breaking the earlier monopoly of the three major TV networks over news, and a number of other controversial areas. I found myself in general agreement with Father Sirico. (Like me, he was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.)

THANKS to Bill and Alice Lifka for an enjoyable evening in their beautiful, warm, and comfortable home. Bill Lifka is the author of a number of postings on this blog (see here),

Here are my favorite quotes from Lord Acton, selected from the extensive Archive on the Acton Institute website:
“Free trade, to improve the condition of the people and fit them for freedom.”
“Liberty has not only enemies which it conquers, but perfidious friends, who rob the fruits of its victories: Absolute democracy, socialism.”
“The object of civil society is justice, not truth, virtue, wealth, knowledge, glory or power. Justice is followed by equality and liberty.”
“Inequality: the Basis of society. We combined and put things in common to protect the weak against the strong.”
“Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power.”
“Bureaucracy is undoubtedly the weapon and sign of a despotic government, inasmuch as it gives whatever government it serves, despotic power.”
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”
“If we dealt with institutions, antiquity would be low. It realized no liberty. But in the domain of ideas it ranks high.”
“The central idea of Machiavelli is that the state power is not bound by the moral law. The law is not above the state, but below it.”
“For it is a most striking thing that the views of pure democracy...were almost entirely unrepresented in [the American] convention.”
“A liberal is only a bundle of prejudices until he has mastered, has understood, experienced the philosophy of Conservatism.”
“The will of the people cannot make just that which is unjust.”
“It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority.”
“The common vice of democracy is disregard for morality.”
“Federalism is the best curb on democracy. [It] assigns limited powers to the central government. Thereby all power is limited. It excludes absolute power of the majority.”
“Socialism easily accepts despotism. It requires the strongest execution of power -- power sufficient to interfere with property.”
“Property, not conscience, is the basis of liberty. For the defence of conscience need not arise. Property is always exposed to interference. It is the constant object of policy.”
“Official truth is not actual truth.”
“Political economy cannot be supreme arbiter in politics. Else you might defend slavery where it is economically sound and reject it where the economic argument applies against it.”
“Every doctrine to become popular, must be made superficial, exaggerated, untrue. We must always distinguish the real essence from the conveyance, especially in political economy.”
“There could never be a revolution less provoked by oppression than America. Thenceforth the right of a nation to judge for itself could not be denied.”
“Americans dreaded democracy and contrived their constitution against it.”
“In England Parliament is above the law. In America the law is above Congress.”
“The great novelty of the American Constitution was that it imposed checks on the representatives of the people.”
“Progress, the religion of those who have none.”
“It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people fit to govern others.”
“A public man has no right to let his actions be determined by particular interests. He does the same thing as a judge who accepts a bribe. Like a judge he must consider what is right, not what is advantageous to a party or class.”
“A convinced man differs from a prejudiced man as an honest man from a liar.”
“The true natural check on absolute democracy is the federal system, which limits the central government by the powers reserved, and the state governments by the powers they have ceded.”
“The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.”
“There is another world for the expiation of guilt; but the wages of folly are payable here below.”

Ira Glickstein

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Gun Rights and Wrongs (Main Menu)

   Some ideas on how new technology,
particularly "UltraSmart" guns that will fire only for authorized individuals, 
plus some common-sense reforms in liability for gun owners, 
might help reduce unnecessary gun violence, 
while being compatible with our Constitutionally guaranteed 
Second Amendment "Right to Bear Arms".

CONTINUE TO -  Part 1 - The Problem.  Is it too many restrictive gun LAWS, too many GUNS, or too many gun HOMICIDES?

Part 2 - New Technology. Might "UltraSmart" gun technology, that allows only Authorized Users to fire the gun, help address part of the problem?

Part 3 - Absolute Liability. Within the context of the Constitutional Second Amendment "right to bear arms", could gun owners, over time, voluntarily adopt "UltraSmart" guns, to mitigate the financial liability risks of owning conventional guns?

Part 4 - Aggressive Police Tactics. "Stop, Question (and Optionally Frisk)" has a disproportionate effect on Blacks, but it has been shown to save proportionately more Black than White lives.

CLICK TO Download my PowerPoint file
Advanced "UltraSmart" Gun Concepts 
1) Front-Facing Camera and Laser Spot to ID Target and Aid Shooter Aim, Safety and Reliability.
2) Rear-Facing Camera and Iris Scan to ID Shooter and Assure He or She is Not Drunk nor on Drugs.
3) Sensors in Hand Grip to further Positively ID Shooter. NOTE: Not all sensors need to be on all guns, just enough (perhaps six) to assure Authorized Person will be Reliably Recognized and Unauthorized persons will be Rejected
Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Gun Rights and Wrongs (Part 4)


Surveillance cameras and cell-phone cameras are ubiquitous. They have documented some cases of unjustified police killings of Black men.  I think this additional scrutiny is good!

      Part 4 - Aggressive Police Tactics
"Stop, Question (and Optionally Frisk)" has a disproportionate effect on Blacks, but it has been shown to save proportionately more Black than White lives.

SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS AND CELL-PHONE CAMERAS ARE EVERYWHERE
We are in the midst of a technological revolution that will only accelerate, whether we like it or not. I happen to like it (mostly) but it does not matter what you or I think, it is happening and will continue to accelerate.

As a result, surveillance cameras and cell-phone cameras are ubiquitous. Hardly any event can happen in a public place without being captured by photos and videos.  

The graphic above depicts some of the locations under surveillance. 

THE CHICAGO SHOOTING COVER-UP
The box with the red outline is a screen grab from an October 20, 2014, 9:57:33 PM Chicago police car dash cam. This video, which did not come to light for over a year (apparently due to political influence related to the re-election of Chicago Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel) shows a young Black man, apparently under the influence of some substance, walking down the middle of a two-lane roadway. 

He is blatantly ignoring requests from multiple police officers to give himself up. However, he is nearly a full lane from the nearest police officer or vehicle, and is walking straight down the roadway, neither towards nor away from the officers. There is no evidence that he threatened the officers with any weapon.

Then we see one of the officers riddle him with a barrage of bullets, resulting in his death. 

While I am sympathetic with the police officers, who apparently had been pursuing him for some time and were frustrated by his actions and attitude, there is no proper legal excuse for shooting him. (Even if it may be true that "the world will be better off without this kind of rebellious kid" the police must not take the law into their own hands. Even if you believe they should in some cases, the possibility of a video being taken and publicized and causing irreparable damage to the reputation of police and used as an excuse for riot and pillage, is why police caught doing so must be severely punished.)

THE SHOOTING OF YOUNG BLACK MEN BY POLICE
Prior to the above incident, the media reported a series of fatal shootings of unarmed Black men, perhaps starting with wall-to-wall coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, on August 9, 2014.


Fairly early in the reporting, a convenience store surveillance video was released showing that, prior to the police encounter that resulted in his death, Brown had stolen several packages of cigarillos and that he was a large man who shoved a relatively small store clerk who had tried to stop him from leaving the store. 



Unfortunately, there are no videos of Brown's encounter with Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. The best evidence, based on conflicting eyewitness reports, is that Officer Wilson used his police cruiser to block Brown and his friend, who were walking down the middle of the roadway. Brown then reached into the cruiser and struggled with Wilson, resulting in the discharge of Wilson's gun, with no one injured.  Brown fled, with Wilson in pursuit. During the pursuit, Brown stopped, turned towards Wilson, moved towards the officer, and was fatally shot.


The media reported conflicting accounts that Brown was shot while running away (false) or that he was facing Wilson and had his hands up and cried "don't shoot" just before he was shot (also false).
On March 4, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice reported the conclusion of its own investigation and cleared Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting. It found that witnesses who corroborated the officer's account were credible, and it was also supported by forensic evidence. Witnesses who had incriminated him were not credible, including some who admitted they had not directly seen the events. According to the evidence, Wilson shot Michael Brown in self-defense. [From Wikipedia]
The "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" narrative was selected as one of the most blatant "Four-Pinnochios" of 2015 by the  Washington Post.

THE SHOOTING OF YOUNG BLACK MEN (MOSTLY) BY YOUNG BLACK MEN
As the above graphic indicates, the statistics are quite disturbing. Young (20-24 years old) Black men are nearly five times more likely to die in a gun homicide than a White man in the same age range! Over 90% of Black homicide victims were done in by Blacks (the figure for Whites killing Whites is over 80%). At its peak around 1993, about 180 young Black men per 100,000 died in gun homicides, while the figure for all young men was around 40, a ratio of 4.5. By 2011 gun death rates for young Black men had declined to 40 and for all young men to about 20, a ratio of 4. 


Another startling difference is that, while only about 34% of all gun deaths are ruled homicides, 82% of Black gun deaths are so ruled. That means only 18% of Black gun deaths are due to accident or suicide, while 66% of all gun deaths are so ruled. Either that, or officials are more likely to attribute Black deaths to homicide.

These statistics cry out that, if "Black lives matter" (which they certainly do, along with all human lives), the best way to save Black lives would be to reduce gun homicides. How to reduce gun homicides?

"STOP, QUESTION, AND OPTIONALLY FRISK"


Starting in the 1990's in New York City, a "zero tolerance" policy was adopted and the controversial "stop, question, and optionally frisk" tactic was imposed in high crime areas. Police officers who suspected individuals walking or loitering in these areas were up to no good, were given the authority to stop and question them, and, if the questioning caused them to suspect a weapon, to frisk the suspect. 

These stops peaked at nearly 700,000 in 2011. Statistics from 2008 reveal that 53% of those stopped were Black, even though Blacks constitute only about 25% of the New York City demographic. Thus, Blacks were over twice as likely to be stopped as Whites. 

Opponents of the program were concerned by the racial disparity, and they were outraged when the statistics showed that less than 3% of the stops found contraband or weapons, and only 0.15% found guns. Does it make sense to target and inconvenience 500,000 people a year, nearly all of whom are totally innocent, to find just 750 guns? 

Proponents of "Stop, Question, and Optionally Frisk" point out that the racial disparity is due to the fact that Blacks are more likely to live in high crime areas. Furthermore, the low yield of guns, knives and other contraband is beside the point, because the purpose of the stops is not to seize guns or contraband, but to discourage criminals from illegally carrying these dangerous items. Furthermore, getting 750 illegal guns, along with 7,000 knives and 8,500 items of contraband off the streets of high crime areas is a valuable result.

I liken the stop program to the inconvenience those of us who fly have to put up with at airport security.  Millions are searched, and if no guns are found, that counts as success, because the purpose of airport security is not to seize guns, but to keep travelers from trying to bring them onto airplanes in the first place.

CURTAILING "STOPS" AND THE "FERGUSON EFFECT"
The so-called "Ferguson Effect", a reaction to well-publicized killings of unarmed Black men, has caused officials and individual police officers to become less aggressive in enforcing the law. Ironically, this has resulted in proportionately more Black deaths.


In 2013 a U. S. District Court Judge ruled the New York City "stop, question, and optionally frisk" tactic unconstitutional, and, in 2014, the newly-elected uber-Liberal Mayor curtailed the stops. 

In 2014, due to the furor over the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the deaths of other unarmed Black men at the hands of police, a phenomenon that has come to be called the "Ferguson Effect" occurred. Police officers, concerned about getting caught on video, became less aggressive. The results were tragic and predictable!

The above graphic reproduces a New York Daily News headline from June 2015 and a New York Times headline from December 2015. 

New York Daily NewsAs the number of stops fell in New York City, murders spiked 19.5%, and the number of shooting incidents went up 9%. I don't have the racial breakdown for the additional crime victims, but, sadly, we can be sure they are disproportionately Black.

New York TimesNationally, according to FBI Director Comey, the additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers has led to an increase in violent crime. Not said, but certainly true, the victims are disproportionately Black.


Ira Glickstein

Back to MAIN MENU 

Part 1 - The Problem. Is it too many restrictive gun LAWS, too many GUNS, or too many gun HOMICIDES?

Part 2 - New Technology. Might "UltraSmart" gun technology, that allows only Authorized Users to fire the gun, help address part of the problem?

Part 3 - Absolute Liability. Within the context of the Constitutional Second Amendment "right to bear arms", could gun owners, over time, voluntarily adopt "UltraSmart" guns, to mitigate the financial liability risks of owning conventional guns?

Part 4 - Aggressive Police Tactics. "Stop, Question (and Optionally Frisk)" has a disproportionate effect on Blacks, but it has been shown to save proportionately more Black than White lives.

Gun Rights and Wrongs (Part 3)


      Part 3 - Absolute Liability
Within the context of the Constitutional Second Amendment "right to bear arms", could gun owners, over time, voluntarily adopt "UltraSmart" guns, to mitigate the financial liability risks of owning conventional guns?

I am encouraged that, while the NRA does not think any current "smart" gun has acceptable reliability and performance, the NRA stated in a November 2015 editorial that: 
"In truth, NRA has never opposed smart guns, believing the marketplace should decide their future. Rather, NRA opposes government mandates of expensive, unproven technology, and smart guns are a prime example of that." 
Thus, there is a possibility that if, at some time in the (hopefully near) future, a reliable and safe "UltraSmart" gun is developed and is proven to have good performance in fair, independent testing, the NRA will not oppose it on principle, so long as its acceptance or rejection is based on the free marketplace.

This posting is intended to set forth a conceptual framework for an approach to "UltraSmart" gun regulations that might succeed in the free marketplace and receive the NRA's approval.

ARGUMENT FOR ABSOLUTE LIABILITY
(TO ENCOURAGE GUN OWNERS TO SWITCH TO "ULTRASMART" GUNS)
In addition to being un-Constitutional, it would be impossible to confiscate any significant percentage of the estimated 300 million guns in the US. And, even if we could match the 1996 Australian 20 to 30% confiscatory buyback, that would not disarm the criminals, gangs, and drug dealers who use handguns responsible for over 75% of homicides. 

Recognizing that the major problem is handguns, let us, for now at least, not change how we regulate non-automatic (bolt- or pump-action) and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. ("Assault-style" semi-automatic guns were banned from 1994 to 2004, and I would like to see that ban renewed. Fully-automatic guns are currently banned for private ownership.)

Most handguns are kept at home for self-protection, which is fully within the context of the Second Amendment "right to bear arms". So long as they are securely stored at home, they do not cause too many problems. However, if these guns are not securely stored at home, and are lost, stolen or found by children, and are subsequently involved in a crime or accident, it seems to me that the careless owners should be absolutely liable.
Proposed Regulation
Absolute Liability for Non-”Smart” Guns
Existing Handguns, Semi-Automatic Rifles and Shotguns
May be kept at home for protection. (Rifles and Shotguns may also be transported and used for hunting and target practice in appropriate locations.)
If stolen, lost, or given away, and subsequently used in a crime or accident, the original owner is strictly and absolutely liable.
Current owner may sell or give away the gun, or have the barrel welded to permanently disable the gun, but only via a registered dealer.
Dealers may sell old or new non-’Smart’ guns to qualified buyers for at least ten years, but only with a biometric trigger lock. A waiting period for background check applies.
Owners with current carry permits may continue to use their handguns for at least ten years. However, they assume absolute liability if gun is stolen or otherwise not safely disposed of and is subsequently involved in a gun accident or felony.

The above proposed "Absolute Liability" regulation is intended to encourage gun owners to improve the security of their guns, for example, by using a biometric trigger lock that opens only with the owner's fingerprint. I hope that, within some number of years of Absolute Liability, enforced against gun owners who fail to secure their guns, many gun owners will reduce their financial risk by safely disposing of their "non-Smart" guns, and purchasing an "UltraSmart" gun that has more limited liability and therefore reduced financial risk.

ARGUMENT FOR LIMITED LIABILITY FOR "ULTRASMART" GUNS
Proposed Regulation
Limited Liability for ”UltraSmart” Guns

UltraSmart” Handguns, Rifles and Shotguns that Meet Industry Standards:
May be sold to qualified buyers by registered dealers (waiting period for background check).
May be coded for a limited number of Authorized Users by registered dealers (background check).
Ammunition for “UltraSmart” Guns
May be purchased only by Authorized User for a particular gun. Individual shells are marked with a code that will be recorded by the gun when they are fired. (Non-marked ammunition will not fire.)
Must report if an “UltraSmart” gun is stolen or lost.
If that gun is subsequently involved in a crime, owner’s liability is limited (if properly reported).

Note that I have proposed "Industry Standards" for "UltraSmart" guns, not federal government responsibility. For over 100 years, Underwriters Laboratories has certified electrical equipment. UL is funded by certification fees collected from corporations in the electrical industry, with minimal government involvement. This is a model that I think the firearms industry, working with the insurance industry, might well follow to set up safety and reliability standards for "UltraSmart" guns.

Ira Glickstein




Part 1 - The Problem. Is it too many restrictive gun LAWS, too many GUNS, or too many gun HOMICIDES?

Part 2 - New Technology. Might "UltraSmart" gun technology, that allows only Authorized Users to fire the gun, help address part of the problem?

Part 3 - Absolute Liability. Within the context of the Constitutional Second Amendment "right to bear arms", could gun owners, over time, voluntarily adopt "UltraSmart" guns, to mitigate the financial liability risks of owning conventional guns?

Part 4 - Aggressive Police Tactics. "Stop, Question (and Optionally Frisk)" has a disproportionate effect on Blacks, but it has been shown to save proportionately more Black than White lives.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Gun Rights and Wrongs (Part 2)

Advanced "UltraSmart" Gun Concepts 
1) Front-Facing Camera and Laser Spot to ID Target and Aid Shooter Aim, Safety and Reliability.
2) Rear-Facing Camera and Iris Scan to ID Shooter and Assure He or She is Not Drunk nor on Drugs.
3) Sensors in Hand Grip to further Positively ID Shooter. NOTE: Not all sensors need to be on all guns, just enough (perhaps six) to assure Authorized Person will be Reliably Recognized and Unauthorized persons will be Rejected
                                                  Part 2 - New Technology
"UltraSmart" gun technology, so only Authorized Users may fire the gun.

The graphic illustrates some concepts for advanced "UltraSmart" guns that will be Reliable (allow Authorized Persons to Shoot) and Safe (not allow Unauthorized Persons to Shoot).

The gun will be manufactured with a sighting device on top, and sensors in the pistol grip, that are used to positively ID the Shooter and, if Authorized, allow him or her to fire the gun. The sighting device will also record images of the Target and assist the Shooter in Aiming and avoiding injury to bystanders.

Multi-factor ID is utilized for Reliability (Authorized Shooter will be recognized and allowed to shoot if he or she is not drunk or on drugs) and Safety (Unauthorized persons will not be allowed to fire the gun and, if in Aided Mode, gun will not fire if a bystander is in the way or close behind the Target such that the bullet might seriously injure him or her.

NOTE: Contrary to some reports, while the NRA does not think any current "smart" gun has acceptable reliability and performance, the NRA stated in a November 2015 editorial that: 
"In truth, NRA has never opposed smart guns, believing the marketplace should decide their future. Rather, NRA opposes government mandates of expensive, unproven technology, and smart guns are a prime example of that." 
Thus, there is a possibility that if, at some time in the near future, a reliable and safe "UltraSmart" gun is developed and is proven to have good performance in fair, independent testing, the NRA will not oppose it on principle, so long as its acceptance or rejection is based on the free marketplace. 

UNAIDED MODE OPERATION OF "ULTRASMART" GUN

1) Flip SAFETY off.
2) Hold muzzle away so Backward-Facing Camera and Hand Grip Sensors recognize you.
3) Aim and pull trigger to fire.
4) System makes a record of the shooting incident (images of Target, Shooter, Time, Location, etc.)
5) When done, flip SAFETY on.

AIDED MODES (DISABLE, DISARM, KILL)

1) Flip SAFETY off.
2) Hold muzzle away so Backward-Facing Camera and Hand Grip Sensors recognize you.
3) Aim and pull trigger part-way to turn Laser Spot on.
4) Use Laser Spot to refine Aim (optionally say "On Target" or words to that effect).

5) If you wish to DISABLE the Target, put Laser Spot on legs (optionally say "Disable him" or "Get his feet" or words to that effect)
---5A) Pull trigger all the way to enable firing.
---5B) Gun will fire immediately if Laser Spot is on Target's feet and away from Target's body core and if there are no bystanders in the way or behind the Target who may be inadvertently shot.
---5C) If gun does not fire immediately, hold trigger all the way down and re-position Laser Spot until gun fires.
---5D) To override DISABLE mode and fire immediately, release trigger and then pull it all the way (optionally say "fire now" or words to that effect)

6) If you wish to DISARM the Target, put Laser Spot on the weapon (gun, or knife or bat) he or she is carrying (optionally say "Disarm him" or "Get his gun" or "She's got a knife" or words to that effect)
---6A) Pull trigger all the way to enable firing.
---6B) Gun will fire immediately if Laser Spot is on the weapon (gun, or knife or bat) and away from Target's body core and if there are no bystanders in the way or behind the Target who may inadvertently be shot.
---6C) If gun does not fire immediately, hold trigger all the way down and re-position Laser Spot until gun fires.
---6D) To override DISARM mode and fire immediately, release trigger and then pull it all the way (optionally say "fire now" or words to that effect)

7) If you need to KILL the Target, put Laser Spot on his or her core (optionally say "Shoot to kill")
---7A) Pull trigger all the way to enable firing.
---7B) Gun will fire immediately if Laser Spot is on Target's body core and if there are no bystanders in the way or behind the Target who may be inadvertently shot.
---7C) If gun does not fire immediately, hold trigger all the way down and re-position Laser Spot until gun fires.
---7D) To override KILL mode and fire immediately, release trigger and then pull it all the way (optionally say "fire now" or words to that effect)

8) System makes a record of the shooting incident (images of Target, Shooter, Time, Location, etc.)
9) When done, flip SAFETY on.

DESCRIPTION OF CANDIDATE SENSORS FOR "ULTRASMART" GUN

1) Front-Facing Camera and Laser Spot

High-quality camera with low-light or infrared imaging capability for night operation.

The built-in Laser Spot is used for Aiming. It paints a red spot on the Target and is also used to determine the range to the Target and sense if a bystander or any object intrudes onto the Firing Line.

Image analysis software is capable of identifying the Target and locating his or her body core, arms, legs, and any weapon he or she may be brandishing. Bystanders are also identified.

Images are stored to document each shooting incident, starting with the moment the SAFETY is flipped off and several images associated with each trigger pull.

2) Backwards-Facing Camera and Iris Scan

High-quality camera with low-light or infrared imaging capability for night operation.

An Iris Scan capability is used to image the Shooter's iris pattern to positively identify him or her. This needs to be done only once, when the SAFETY is flipped off.

Image analysis software is capable of identifying the Shooter using facial geometry. It also examines the Shooter's eyes and facial expression to detect if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Shooter's identifying information is recorded so that, if the Shooter is overpowered, the gun will not work for the bad guys. (Identifying information includes: hair color and style; hat color, shape, logo; skin tone, facial marks; eye color, shape; shirt color, style, logo; jacket color, style, logo, etc.)

Images are stored to document each shooting incident, starting with the moment the SAFETY is flipped off and several images associated with each trigger pull.

3) Sensors in Hand Grip

Microphone to perform voice-print ID and interpret spoken commands. Pad for fingerprint recognition. Sensors for hand geometry and palm vein pattern (perhaps infrared so it works through gloves). Google and others are working on needle-free blood sampling, where a tiny droplet is extracted using high pressure air pulse or vacuum. Blood alcohol (or drug) testing could determine if the Shooter is mentally competent. Blood type could add to positive ID and, in the future, when rapid DNA comes available, that would be absolutely positive ID.

Currently, some cards in your wallet or tags on your clothing may have RFID chips, and in the future, this trend is likely to increase. Cell phones, jewelry, wallets, and even items of clothing may include RFID chips. If these RFID devices are queried when the SAFETY is flipped off, this information will serve as further ID factors. The Shooter's identifying information is recorded so that, if the Shooter is overpowered, the gun will not work for the bad guys.

Ammunition for the "UltraSmart" gun will be specially marked such that each bullet will have a different ID number, When ammunition is purchased, the code sequence will be loaded into the on-board gun computer and the gun will not fire if the ammunition is not in the acceptable code sequence. This will be accomplished by including a sensor in the bullet chamber to read the code.

Sensor data are stored to document each shooting incident, including the bullet ID number, starting with the moment the SAFETY is flipped off and several data records associated with each trigger pull.

MULTI-FACTOR ANALYSIS FOR  BOTH RELIABLE PERFORMANCE AND SAFETY

Reduction of False-Negative and False-Positive to Absolute Zero (Almost)

This is a well-known problem. If your computer or cell-phone uses fingerprint ID or facial geometry ID you have encountered the "false-negative" where you (an authorized person) are denied access.

For example, I had a fingerprint ID on my laptop computer some years ago that required multiple finger swipes and did not work much of the time, to the point I abandoned it in favor of the pass-code.

The camera on my current cell-phone does not recognize me when I'm wearing glasses, or if there is poor lighting, etc. However, it is good enough that I take my glasses off and use it regularly instead of the pass-code.

The reason these sensors are so picky is that, if acceptance parameters were relaxed, impostors could gain access. That is called a "false-positive" where an impostor (an UN-authorized person) is wrongly given access.

There is a natural tension between "false-negative" and "false-positive" and designers adjust accept/reject parameters such that performance is "good enough".

Well, in my opinion, "good-enough" is NOT GOOD ENOUGH for something as necessary when needed for self-defense and as potentially dangerous as a gun.

The solution to this problem is multi-factor ID, where a half-dozen or so different sensor ID modalities are combined. With multiple factors, the accept/reject criteria for each can be set quite high, knowing that at least three (for example) must exceed the accept criteria for the Shooter to be allowed access. With half a dozen difference sensor types, it is highly unlikely that more than one or two would not work due to environmental conditions (sweat, dirt, etc.) or due to hardware failure. Thus, false-negatives for the combined sensor suite will be absolutely zero (almost) and the gun will work reliably for an Authorized User.

On the other side of the equation, if three (for example) sensors (out of six) say the person holding the gun is NOT Authorized, that is a good reason to deny access. The argument here is that, perhaps one or two sensors may not be working correctly due to environmental issues or hardware failure, but if self-test indicates the sensors are working, and computer analysis says there is no match, it is highly unlikely that an Authorized person is holding the gun.

Ira Glickstein




Part 1 - The Problem. Is it too many restrictive gun LAWS, too many GUNS, or too many gun HOMICIDES?

Part 2 - New Technology. Might "UltraSmart" gun technology, that allows only Authorized Users to fire the gun, help address part of the problem?

Part 3 - Absolute Liability. Within the context of the Constitutional Second Amendment "right to bear arms", could gun owners, over time, voluntarily adopt "UltraSmart" guns, to mitigate the financial liability risks of owning conventional guns?

Part 4 - Aggressive Police Tactics. "Stop, Question (and Optionally Frisk)" has a disproportionate effect on Blacks, but it has been shown to save proportionately more Black than White lives.