Friday, February 06, 2009

How to get conservatives to support gun control.

It isn't very difficult to get conservatives, especially in Congress, to support gun control measures. This is because they are thick as bricks intellectually and react emotionally to their "hot" issues and don't bother reading the crappy legislation that they pass. Consider the vile Adam Walsh Act which conservatives loved. This was bill sponsored by conservatives and promoted by conservatives. But since it mentioned sex and claimed to protect children the brainless conservatives lined up behind the bill. You can lead a conservative to legislation but you can't make him think.

Among the things this law did was say that anyone who is charged (not convicted) of possessing "child pornography" can not possess a firearm.

Now consider the cases we have discussed. Under the sex panic that has kept Christians awake at night fantasizing a lot of things qualify as child porn. Some of it is obvious but when people think of child porn the lurid images they think of are actually rarely involved in the cases.

Remember the teens who were discussed here who took nude or semi-nude photos of themselves -- that was considered child porn under the law. Individuals who clearly appear to their 20s, who claim to be in their 20s, who have produced bogus ID have been filmed in adult videos. Tens of thousands of people still own those videos. NO ONE KNEW the performers were under 18 years of age. All those videos are legally child porn.

Marian Rubin was 65-years-old, a doting grandmother and a social worker. She took some photos of her two granddaughters where they were naked -- something that was long considered a normal practice. She was arrested and charged with child pornography. Police, of course, gave lurid, obscene and grossly false descriptions of the photos.

Ejlat Feurer was 45 when he took some nude photos of his daughter. They claimed it was child porn of course. It cost him $80,000 to defend himself and he was found not guilty. But he was charged and under the Walsh Act that is all that it takes. warns readers: Your family photos could get you arrested. And it's true.

I remember when an assistant for photographer Jock Sturges was arrested. Sturgis had taken photos at a nudist beach of various families together. The Neanderthals in the police department and the FBI decided nudity equals pornography. For some reason only the assistant was arrested, and after much uproar nothing came of the charges. But he was arrested.

Matt Bandy didn't know that his surfing the Internet opened the family computer to viruses that could use the computer to store images that their owners could later retrieve. The first he found out was when the teen was arrested for child porn. The bottom-feeding local prosecutor, a fanatical member of the Religious Right, Andrew Thomas, wasted a vast sum of public money prosecuting the boy. The Bandy family spent hundreds of thousands defending their son. He was eventually found not guilty but only because his father could afford to mount this defense. Otherwise Thomas would have easily out-spent the family to send this boy to prison for life -- yes, the sentence, if convicted, would have been 200 years in prison.

Jesse McBride was five when the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was asked to take his photo by Jesse's mother. Jesse was running around naked and Mapplethorpe took a photo which he gave to the mother. It was a photo the family treasured. Later Mapplethorpe became famous and the photo became valuable. When the photo appeared in an art exhibit in Cincinnati the curator was arrested for child porn. Jesse was not pleased. Now 19 he posed for the Village Voice in exactly the same pose as he had 14 years earlier in protest.

In the 1980s thousand of Americas suddenly discovered that they were owners of child porn merely because Attorney General Ed Meese quietly changed the definition. Previously a child was considered to be anyone under 16. Meese moved it to 18. Magazines that were previously legal became illegal and Ed Meese and crew complained about the "rise" in child porn cases. A redefinition of the term can, of course, change the numbers. Of course they played down the role that the redefinition had in the increase.

Now none of these people are criminals in any real sense of the word. Most of this was over-zealous police acting stupidly -- as police are known to do. But under the Walsh Act merely charging someone with this crime strips these people of the right to self-defense. A constitutionally protected right is stripped away, not because they were convicted of anything, but because they were charged with it.

Under the Walsh Act the curator of the museum in Cincinnati would have lost his right to self-defense because his museum hung a photo that local fundamentalists found offensive. And remember that conservative Republican politicians lined up to vote for this law.

Now people may think that the sex panic pushed by the fundamentalist Right and two-bit conservative politicians doesn't impact their rights. But it can. Lots of people, who have never been near child porn in their lives, have been "charged" with the crime. It's very easy as the definition of "porn" is vaguer than most badly written laws. Even images that may reside in the dark recesses of your hard drive, unbeknownst to you, are sufficient. And Republicans happily voted to strip you of your Second Amendment rights because of those images.

Luckily some judges have said this section of this badly drafted, hysterical piece of legislation is a violation of constitutional rights. And I suspect some conservatives will attack those judges as "activist judges" -- of course they are activist judges protecting the Second Amendment. So it will be interesting to see how the Right responds to that.

The lesson from the Walsh Act is that it that when people panic about an issue they pass bad legislation. I don't care if the issue is terrorism, crime, drugs, children, or immigration, when the predominant mood is one of fear then people will stampede to destroy the very rights which they claim they defend. Conservatives voted for this gun control measure merely because John Walsh invoked the image of his dead son and prattled about child porn. That was all it took for them to dispel with any skepticism about a gun control measure. All these issues do the same thing. This is why fear, when pushed into the public arena is dangerous to human liberty. Those who use fear should be condemned for it because they are ultimately enemies of individual rights and human freedom. When fear waxes freedom wanes.

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