This Is NOT The New Normal

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down and businesses start reopening, we are still faced with overly oppressive restrictions on where we can go, what we can do and how many people can be in one place at a time. In many places, wearing facemasks (of highly questionable effectiveness) are mandated for anyone out in public, and businesses and houses of worship must collect information on people who enter for contact tracing. Politicians and the media now tell us this is the “new normal” until a cure can be found. In reality, it is nothing more than another way for tyrannically inclined politicians to control us, strip away our rights and make us more dependent on the government for our daily existence. 

In many parts of our country, it’s as if the Constitution and Bill of Rights has been shredded.  Mandatory Stay At Home orders, closing businesses, restricting the ability to travel outside of your own neighborhood, prohibiting the ability to practice your religion, associate freely with those you choose, the ability to protest your government and purchase a firearm or ammunition have been eliminated. 

Governors and local politicians have made winners and losers by deciding who is essential and who is not. Big box retailers are essential, mom & pop shops are not. Alcohol and marijuana retailers are essential, firearm retailers are not. Purchasing food at a grocery store is essential, growing your own food from seeds or fishing by yourself in a lake is not. 

When the pandemic closures began, the forecast for closing our country was two weeks, a month at the most to flatten the curve.  We are going on three months in many areas, with no end date in sight. In contrast to the need to “flatten the curve” before reopening the economy, we are now told it will not happen until there is a cure, an upgraded goal from having a vaccine available or the population developing “herd immunity”.  What is crystal clear is the politicians who are keeping their states, counties or cities closed are going to do everything they can to drag out the pain suffered by their constituents. 

So what are we supposed to expect in this so-called “new normal”, projected to be at least 12 to 18 months?  No gatherings of 100 persons or more, effectively eliminating sports, concerts and conferences. Dine-in restaurants, businesses and theaters will only be able to operate by restricting capacity to 25% to 50% to enforce social distancing.  Patrons will be required to have their temperature taken and provide identifying information for contact tracing in order to enter.  Schools, if allowed to reopen, will stagger the arrival and departure times throughout the day and dramatically restrict movement of students who will spend their class, lunch and recreation time in the same room with the same teacher. Airlines will screen all passenger’s temperature, block middle seats (unless it prevents the flight from being profitable) and may require “immunity passports” proving they have had and recovered from COVID-19, or have been administered the as of yet available vaccine. 

What I want to know is how exactly businesses that operate on small margins are going to be able to survive? We’ve already seen thousands of small, medium and large businesses across the nation close permanently due to the losses incurred from the economic shutdown while the big box retailers deemed essential and awarded a monopoly in their communities are thriving.  Millions of “non-essential” employees are out of work and now fully dependent on the government to pay their rent and feed their families. 

Consider also that health departments in about two thirds of the states are now sharing the addresses or names and addresses of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 with law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services. While this would normally be considered a massive HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violation, “guidance” from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services simply dismisses this legal concern.  It’s amazing how many states have readily accepted this federal guidance yet ignored the Department of Homeland Security guidance on firearm retailers being essential. Nor is it a violation of your privacy for your cell phone company to provide tools to health departments to conduct “digital contact tracing” with or without your consent.  Snitch lines are available around the country so you can report your neighbors for not following social distancing guidelines. 

While the courts have been mixed in their reactions to challenges of the economic and social shutdowns, the people themselves have been making their objections extraordinarily clear. As I’m writing this, I’m seeing news feeds of citizens around the country exercising their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances, all in defiance of the oppressive and arbitrary closure orders in their area. The people are saying it is time to reopen the country and allow them to take care of their families themselves.  

I refuse to believe the way we are being forced to live is going to be the new normal. With every communicable disease from the common cold and flu to H1N1 (Swine Flu) of 2009, we have been able to effectively keep our country running and take care of our sick. Yet with COVID-19, we’ve been told our entire way of life must change for the foreseeable future. Or perhaps, if we vote ‘correctly’, it will only last until the elections are over.

It does NOT take increasingly draconian control measures from oppressively inclined government officials to keep you from passing on or catching COVID-19. The most basic level of personal responsibility, social distancing and sanitation, is enough to stop this, without giving up our rights. 

Bob

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Memorial Day 2020

Memorial Day, the time for our nation to pay tribute to the members of our armed services who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. 

In normal times, the federal three-day holiday weekend sees traditional observances in large cities and small towns alike with parades, bands and flags. Memorial Day also marks the unofficial beginning of summer and has become a time for sporting events, sales, picnics and barbeques with friends and family.

Of course, these are not normal times. The parades, bands and public memorials have all been cancelled. Sporting events, picnics and barbeques have also been cancelled or dramatically altered due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, no matter the change or the restrictions, it can never diminish our respect for the men and women who gave their lives for our country. 

Growing up in a small town with parents who both served in the U.S. military, traditional Memorial Day observances are near and dear to my heart. Every year there was a parade, speeches and music in the park bandstand.  At our local cemetery, like most others around the country, small American flags were planted in front of each veteran’s headstone. We were there every year to see the flags, read the names and remember. 

If you have never visited any of our 134 national cemeteries or a state veteran’s cemetery, I encourage you to do so when you can.  It is easy to not realize just how many of our men and women, our bothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our sons and daughters, have given their lives so we can live free. When you see the rows of headstones and flags, it begins to sink in what the cost of freedom really is.

In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act. It encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.  Especially in this time of travel and gathering restrictions, I ask you to please consider this in your plans for Memorial Day.

For all of us who live free for your service, we celebrate your memory, we honor your sacrifice and we shall never forget.

Bob

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Contact Tracing

As our nation begins to emerge from the overly hyped COVID-19 pandemic and businesses and recreational venues open, a new front in the fight against the virus is being touted, contact tracing. So critical is this new (basically really old) tool that it is now a requirement for many businesses and houses of worship to open. What is it? At the basic level it is interviewing infected persons to determine who they have been in contact with and getting assistance to those individuals.  If that was it, there wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, it is being taken to a frighteningly new electronic level using our own possessions against us.  Quite bluntly, this level of intrusion on our privacy scares the crap out of me. Once it’s an accepted practice during a pandemic, it will become accepted practice in everyday life. 

Contact tracing itself is an old concept. When someone is diagnosed with an infectious disease, health officials interview the person to determine who they have had contact with in order to get that person the appropriate medical treatment. Think the stereotypical VD (venereal disease) clinic diagnosis and telling the doctor all the people you’ve had sex with. Embarrassing yes, but it helps to stop the spread of the disease. 

To meet the needs for COVID-19, states have already hired thousands of new contact tracers with a projected goal of approximately 100,000 nationwide. This new army of public employees is tasked with tracing the movements and contacts of every individual diagnosed with COVID-19. 

If that was all there was to it, there wouldn’t be a problem. But as tyrannical governors, county, city and health officials around the country have learned, they can infringe on every one of your constitutionally protected rights under the pretext of a “health emergency”. As such, your privacy means absolutely nothing them.  

How they plan on achieving their contact tracing is where the privacy concerns begin. In some areas, a precondition to allowing businesses and houses of worship to open is mandatory recording of everyone who enters.  Name, address, phone number and email addresses must be recorded as well as the time they enter and leave. Houses of worship have been required to compile and turn over lists of all their members.  

For houses of worship, it’s easy to see how this information might be used to infringe on First Amendment rights. Even a cursory look at current events and history will show numerous abuses, suppression and elimination of those who hold certain religious views.  Beyond that, tracking customers of any business can not only lead to abuse but stymie businesses efforts to reopen as potential customers won’t want to give up their personal information just to purchase a product or meal. 

But even this isn’t enough. The CDC’s (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) own guidance is that digital monitoring will be necessary.  The mechanism for this is already in place and simply needs to be enabled. It is of course, the smartphone.  

An estimated 81% of the US population owns a smartphone. Most smartphone users carry their devices with them 24/7, everyplace they go – including the bathroom. We wouldn’t dream of going to the store or even the mailbox without our phones.  Contrast this to a time when we used to drive across the country with nothing but a roll of dimes for payphones. 

Given this reality of our smartphone appendage, it’s easy to see how valuable they are as a tracking device. With GPS and Bluetooth features, your location and who you associated with can be determined anytime, anywhere.  Keep in mind, every byte of data about your location is recorded somewhere. A number of states have already tapped into these features to measure the effectiveness of their Stay At Home orders. While using supposedly anonymized data, they can see how many people are leaving their homes every day and how far they are going. Of course, knowing you left your home isn’t exactly randomized. 

But this new frontier in contact tracing isn’t using anonymized data, it’s looking directly at YOU and your movements.  Apple and Google, the largest providers of cell phones, have joined forces to modify their operating systems and infrastructure to allow digital contact tracing. New apps have been developed by government entities using the Apple and Google toolkits to allow individuals to track their own movements and proximity to other cell phone users. This is currently voluntary in the United States but mandatory in other countries.  Once someone is determined to be infected, it sets off a chain of notifications for anyone who has been near them.  Note that it will not be necessary to have a contact tracing app installed on your own smartphone for you to be tagged and notified of a potential infectious contact. 

Apple and Google have vowed that this is a temporary measure and will only be used for health purposes and for the duration of the pandemic. Once it is over, they have promised the infrastructure will be dismantled. Of course, we all know that no public emergency will ever be over and there will always be another ‘emergency’ down the road.

So what do the health authorities do when they identify a contact of someone who has tested positive?  If the system is working the way it should, medical assistance should be offered in case they are infected.  But that’s not exactly what is going on.  Mandatory testing and 14-day quarantine orders are made with the help of law enforcement and National Guard troops. 

Health departments around the country are constantly threatening and walking back claims they will remove infected individuals, adults or children, from their homes. So far, violators of quarantine orders have been arrested and incarcerated or fitted with tracking devices like common criminals. What we haven’t seen yet is what will happen to individuals who do not cooperate with testing or quarantine orders based solely on either manual or digital contact tracing. 

A look at how other countries are handing digital contact tracing and quarantining provides a glimpse into our future. Taiwan uses their telecom providers to track all those in quarantine and integrates it with their police systems to check if people are out of quarantine. Poland uses a mandatory smartphone app to track those in quarantine. 

China fits everyone coming into the country with a digital wristband and required smartphone app install to track their mandatory 14-day quarantine. China has recently added a color coded “health code” that must be scanned to allow access to public facilities or transit. The exact requirements for a green (likely COVID-19 free), yellow (at risk of COVID-19), or red (likely COVID-19 positive) have not been disclosed but are believed to incorporate the user’s location and their medical and travel history. 

What this boils down to is how much of our privacy, our basic natural rights, we are willing to give up in a health or other public emergency.  Our experiences so far with COVID-19 has shown a huge national tolerance for infringements on just about all our First Amendment, Second Amendment and Fourth Amendment protected rights.  But that tolerance has worn incredibly thin as the nation’s economy and way of life have been shut down for two months. 

If you believe the opinion polls, our nation’s population is equally split over the use of digital contact tracking. Even the CDC notes there will be resistance to this approach, but it may be more accepted in the future.  Personally, I disagree there is that much acceptance to 24/7 government tracking of every place we go and everyone we are in close proximity of. I see this as just another COVID-19 related excuse to infringe on the rights of American citizens. 

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights contain no provisions for suspension of rights in case of a “health crisis”.  If fact, our natural rights take on more significance as tyrannically inclined governments pick and choose what rights can be exercised, and whom among us are allowed to enjoy them. 

Bob

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California Freedom Week V2 – NOT!

For a very brief period, law-abiding California residents were free from the draconian ammunition purchase restrictions imposed by Proposition 63. A federal judge ruled the ammunition restrictions were unconstitutional and issued an injunction.  But alas, that freedom was quickly taken away. After being denied a stay from said federal judge, the State appealed to the Ninth Circuit who issued a stay the very next night. Of course, if this was about keeping ammunition from prohibited persons as the State argues, it would be one thing. But California’s motives and design behind their so-called “ammunition background check system” are more far reaching than they admit. And it is all designed to strip more of your rights away from you. 

By the by, for those of you who don’t think this will impact you since you don’t live in California, think again. Ammunition restrictions are the future of gun control and every gun control extremist in every state wants it. 

On Thursday, April 23rd around 3:00 pm, United States District Judge Roger T. Benitez issued a preliminary injunction against the State of California in Rhode v. Becerra prohibiting the enforcement of the ammunition restrictions imposed by Proposition 63. This included the requirement for a background check for the purchase and transfer of ammunition as well as the restriction on the purchase of ammunition from out-of-state vendors delivered to the purchaser’s home. 

It is worth noting this is the same federal judge who ruled against California’s so-called “large capacity” magazine ban in March 2019. For one week before Judge Benitez issued a stay on his own ruling, Californians were free to possess, sell, purchase, trade, give and most importantly, use standard capacity magazines. Conservative estimates place the number of magazines acquired by Californians at between one and two MILLION. While selling and purchasing standard capacity magazines is once again banned while the stay is in place, the possession and use of them is still allowed in the state. 

In this case, Judge Benitez issued another masterfully worded 120 page ruling against the state, essentially picking apart the State’s argument piece-by-piece, calling out “onerous and convoluted” regulations that violate the constitutional right to bear arms. It’s lengthy, but it’s worth reading to understand the reasoning behind the injunction. A link to the document is at the end of this article. 

But the State was ready this time. The following morning, the State filed a motion to stay the preliminary injunction with Judge Benitez. It also set a time limit of 3:00 pm that day, for Judge Benitez to issue a ruling or the State would consider an appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Judge Benitez denied this motion, again with a well-crafted rejection of the State’s argument. Not to be outdone, the State did appeal to the Ninth Circuit and a stay was issued at 9:54 pm on April 24th.  Thus the duration of the stay, and California ammunition buyers freedom, lasted only about 30 hours. 

So why is this NOT about keeping ammunition out of the hands of prohibited persons? If that was the objective as the State insists, they would have adopted a simple check of prohibited persons similar to what most states use with NCIS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System). Instead, California chose to piggyback the existing DROS (Dealer Registration of Sale) system which is tied into a number of sub-systems including the error prone APPS (Armed and Prohibited Persons System).  Other than creating a system with an error rate of 16.4 % and blocking over 101,047 law-abiding citizen purchases over 10 months, it allows the state to register each and every ammunition purchase to the buyer.  Now why in the world would they want to do that? 

To answer that, look no further than previously proposed legislation in California that was unable to be implemented as the system to support it was not in place, until now. 

Limits on the amount of ammunition you can purchase in a given time period

California has long wanted to limit how many rounds you can buy in a day/week/month, etc. Cries of ‘You shouldn’t be able to walk in and buy an arsenal’ have been around for years. The state has successfully implemented limits on how many handguns and semiautomatic centerfire rifles you can purchase thanks to the DROS entries. Ammunition registration enables this. 

Limits on the type of ammunition

California has outlawed the use of lead ammunition for hunting and has proposed that ban be extended for all shooting ranges. They’ve even proposed that only lead-free ammunition, as certified by the State DOJ (Department of Justice) be available for sale. In other words, think handgun roster for ammunition. Without a registration system for all approved ammunition, this would not be possible. 

This also allows bans of other non-desirable ammunition such as so-called “assault bullets”, otherwise known as common defensive hollow point rounds, or ammunition in certain calibers such as 5.56, .223, 7.62×39 or 5.45×39, ammunition commonly used in AR or AK pattern rifles. 

Limit ammunition purchases to calibers matching your registered firearms

Let’s say of all your firearms registered with the state, none shoot 5.56 / .223. So why then would you need to purchase ammunition in that caliber? The logical conclusion from the state is you have an unregistered firearm. Never mind that it’s possible and completely legal to have firearms that were never registered or even required to be registered now, but that means the state doesn’t know about it. By limiting your purchases to firearms registered in DROS, you can either not shoot that firearm, or you have to register it to get ammo for it.  

Ammunition bans and restrictions are the new promised land in the world of gun control since firearms without ammunition are just expensive clubs. They also know this area is currently very lightly regulated and small, incremental steps to restrict and eliminate it, such as licensing ammunition vendors, restricting internet purchases with consumer direct shipments, background checks and registration will dramatically increase the costs and give them more control over how much ammunition you can have and use.  

Of course, you can’t help but appreciate this short-lived ammunition law injunction being a cruel joke on so many levels. Not only did it only last for about 30 hours, but it occurred at a time when a lot of Californians were out of work and didn’t have any money, many of state’s guns stores were closed as non-essential, ammunition was scarce because of the panic buying over the last month and what was available was priced so high it wasn’t affordable.

As with all legal cases, this one will not play out for years to come. During this time, California resident’s Second Amendment rights will continue to erode and the only ones enjoying the ride will be the lawyers. The ONLY way to keep this from happening again in other states is to STOP electing people who will not protect our natural, Constitutionally protected rights. 

Bob

https://michellawyers.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2020-04-23-Order-Granting-MPI.pdf

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United Socialist States of America

In a little over a month into our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen our entire economy shut down resulting in 26.5 million Americans, representing 20.6% of our workforce, losing their jobs.  It is currently the highest level of unemployment in our country since 1934 following the Great Depression. With each passing week of our workers being locked in their homes and out of their jobs, it becomes worse. You would think at a time like this our government would be doing everything they can to get us back to the robust economy we had before. Instead, what we have seen is a systematic loss of our rights, our jobs, our freedom and our way of life as opportunistic, power hungry politicians have seized the chance to implement extreme progressive changes they could never have done before without this crisis. The mantra of “never let a crisis go to waste” is quickly turning our nation into the United Socialist States of America. 

At first, the media stoked fear of COVID-19 convinced us that the only way to effectively react to this unknown was to shut down the country except for so-called “essential services”. The first hints of socialist favoritism came when the definitions of essential services varied across the nation. Large and small communities alike granted themselves extraordinary powers to shut down commerce, restrict purchases of goods and services and even permanently seize private property. Statewide restrictions followed and the essentials list grew more restrictive, even to the point of what products could be purchased. Shortages of basic food and other staples spread across the nation. While big box, large chain stores were allowed to remain open, smaller family owned businesses were forced to close. Permitted commerce now only benefits these large stores. 

Health care was limited to essential, COVID-19 relates services. Any other health services are prohibited. Hospitals were cleared out and huge field hospitals were constructed in preparation for the huge influx of patients that never arrived. 

At the same time, shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders were introduced and it became a crime to leave your house except for a strictly defined list of essential needs. Travel outside your immediate neighborhood was outlawed. Travel between some states was restricted. Roadblocks on the highways questioned everyone with out-of-state plates. National Guard troops in one state went door-to-door looking for out-of-state residents who had left their home state.  Those breaking the rules have been fined, arrested or put into mandatory quarantine. 

Traffic and cell phone data have been collected so authorities can determine if people are staying in their homes. Law enforcement agencies have been using drones to monitor the public. Newer drones can now determine if someone has a fever, is coughing and their heart rate from hundreds of feet away. Heavy handed police tactics have been used to deal with mothers, fathers, families and others who dare to break the most minor of state or local rules.  

In the interest of public health, prisoners have been released on mass. Over 17,000 in 21 states, many times as the result of secret, non-public hearings or rulings, with some prisoners even provided with free cell phones and hotel rooms. Keep in mind, this isn’t a temporary furlough where they’ll be coming back when the crisis ends, this is a permanent, get out of jail free card. 

This comes as law enforcement agencies are reducing the type of calls they respond to. The results are what you would expect. Burglary and violent crimes including rape, robbery and murder have increased, many committed by these released convicts. Under the new rules, most who are now arrested must be immediately released. 

“Snitch lines” have been established so you can report non-essential businesses who are open and your neighbors who are defying social distancing rules. One mayor has even proudly proclaimed that ‘snitches get rewards’. 

In different parts of the country, law changes have been administratively altered including such things as extending the time frame for an initial hearing following a red-flag firearms seizure from 10 days to 100 days (California) and eliminating the right to open carry a firearm (Mississippi). 

Perhaps the most egregious rules are those that directly infringe on First and Second Amendment rights. Prohibiting the free exercise of religion, the freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances and the right to keep and bear arms. 

Still waiting in the wings is a proposed follow-up to the one-time stimulus payment, is monthly payments to all residents, legal and illegal, for at least a year – in other words, a universal basic income. 

If you’re wondering how this all equates to socialism, it’s really rather simple. The government is determining who is allowed to work and who is not. The government is determining what goods and services can be offered and by whom. The government is determining who can make a profit and who will be required to live on government payments. The longer the economy is shut down, the more small businesses will close forever and the more people will be forced into poverty and will need to rely on government assistance. 

As with all socialist economies, there is an elite class that thrives. As we’ve already seen, the wealthy and the high-level politicians are not only exempt from the daily restrictions placed on the rest of the population, they are able to profit from it too. The politicians pick and choose what industries and what businesses are allowed to operate and which are not. The restrictions on the population keep them at arm’s length and the elimination of their rights keep the elites safe. 

Is this the future you want for yourself and your country? Are you willing to give up not only your natural, constitutionally protected rights as well as your ability to provide for yourself and your family as you see fit?

Yes, COVID-19 is a serious health issue, but it can be mitigated without the draconian control measures being used in some areas of the country. The most basic level of personal responsibility, social distancing and sanitation, is enough to stop this, without giving up our rights.

Bob

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Liberty Is Essential

While breaking my self-imposed isolation yesterday for a supply run, I saw an older gentleman beside the road in a lawn chair with two flags, an Old Glory and a Gadsden. He was holding a sign that read, “Liberty is Essential”. I couldn’t help but think to myself how appropriate this was right now. Around the country from Maine to California, everyday people are coming together to protest the draconian restrictions, loss of business and the loss of their civil liberties that have become so synonymous with COVID-19.  They are demanding that their states begin to reopen their economies and let people get back to work and take care of their families.  Seeing these loud but peaceful protests springing up, and this one man sitting alone beside the road, makes me proud of what our country can be. 

No doubt you have seen how quickly our rights have been stripped away in the interest of “public health”. Businesses not defined as “essential” by their state or local government have been ordered closed. Of course, there is no standard definition of what essential is. In some areas even those allowed to stay open cannot sell so-called non-essential items such as vegetable seeds or plants. Large retailers are allowed to remain open while small mom & pop shops are ordered closed. Health care has been limited to emergency care only. “Outside is for a brief respite” only. Otherwise, you are expected to remain in your home. 

Yet the worst infringements have attacked our natural, constitutionally protected rights. Religious services banned. The ability of the people to assemble banned. The right to petition our government banned. The right to bear arms banned. 

All of this has been done in the name of public health. Yes, I know. With no effective means to treat or vaccinate against COVID-19, the current best way to prevent the spread of the disease is isolation, social distancing along with protective masks, gloves and good old-fashioned hand washing. Yet all of that can be accomplished without taking away our rights. 

It’s important to keep in mind our constitutionally protected rights don’t have an asterisk next to them. There is no condition, natural or manmade that suspends our rights. In fact, in times of a local, regional or national crisis, I would argue our constitutionally protected rights are even more important. 

Yet our history tells us our governments have done just that. Notably during Hurricane Katrina when personally owned firearms were confiscated from everyone, even those trying to protect their lives and property or attempting to flee the city. Residents were not allowed to congregate and were forcibly removed from their own homes and property seized.  By all accounts, Katrina was a human rights disaster. As a result, laws were passed to prevent abuses like this in the future. Somehow, all this seems to have been forgotten today. 

This crisis has seen the same overzealous enforcement of emergency executive orders as we saw during Katrina. Leaving your home for anything not expressly listed as an essential activity subjects you to arrest. Examples from around the country have shown clearly inappropriate uses of force to enforce social distancing and stay-at-home orders.  

In a protest rally at the capitol in South Carolina, a protestor was arrested, and others dispersed by the State Capitol Police. The Raleigh Police defended the action by putting out a statement “Protesting is a non-essential activity.” 

In Mississippi and Kentucky, among other places, people attending religious services in parking lots, while sitting in their cars, windows rolled up and listening to the services on low-power radio stations, were cited or reported to health departments for mandatory 14-day quarantines. 

Firearms and ammunition retailers have been forced to closed in numerous states and localities as they are not considered “essential”. At the same time, liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries in the same areas have been allowed to operate. 

Probably the most telling comment comes from the Governor of New Jersey when questioned about why he allowed arrests at religious services to be part of coronavirus quarantine enforcement. Asked; “By what authority did you nullify the Bill of Rights in issuing this order? How do you have the power to do that?” The governor responded, “That’s above my pay grade, Tucker, I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.”

So there you have it. Enacting laws and executive orders without considering the Constitutional implications OR, not giving a damn about the Bill of Rights or just plain figuring they can do anything they want. Either way, our rights are being stripped away. 

If you’re thinking, well… this is just a temporary measure for everyone’s safety and protection, isn’t it better to give up our rights for a while? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Rights taken away are seldom fully returned. There are always asterisks, conditions and exceptions that come along with it that allow rights to be taken away again and taken further away. This year it’s COVID-19. Next year it could be an earthquake or flood, or a bad year for the seasonal flu, or a small group of protesters marching to the capitol. Are you willing to give up your rights during any time of crisis? 

Our natural rights were so important that our Founding Fathers listed them in the Bill of Rights, a document that doesn’t grant those rights, but rather limits our government’s ability to restrict them. This nation was founded during a time of crisis, when we were fighting for our independence from an oppressive government. Men and women were putting their lives on the line and dying so that we could live free.  Knowing our history, how can anyone believe our Constitution and Bill of Rights do not apply in a time of national emergency?  

I’d like to thank that gentleman sitting beside the road yesterday for reminding me and everyone who went by of what is really important. Unfortunately, I’ll likely never know his name and I was only able to give him a couple of beeps of my horn as I passed, but if he provides a little inspiration for just a few us of, then his time very well spent.  

Liberty is Essential 

Bob

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COVID Part 3: Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

Following the liberal / progressive strategy of “Never let a crisis go to waste”, gun control politicians around the country have been using COVID-19 to make further infringements on your Second Amendment protected natural rights. Calling firearms retailers non-essential, they are ordering these businesses closed.  This comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans are choosing to purchase firearms for the first time to protect themselves and their families. Their justifiable fear comes from their local and state governments’ own actions of limiting the types of calls law enforcement will respond to while simultaneously releasing prisoners from state and local lockups “to protect them from COVID-19”.  Just as they have always done, the gun control politicians are creating public safety problems and not allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. 

There are many facets to this problem. With non-essential businesses closed down, retail property is left unprotected. Downtown shopping districts in cities around the country look like they are preparing for a hurricane with windows and doors boarded up to help protect the property from break-ins. Of course, burglaries have been on the increase despite the pleas from local politicians for criminals to stop their law-breaking activity. Go figure. 

At the same time, many law enforcement agencies are no longer responding to non-priority calls, instead taking reports over the phone. Physical arrests are being replaced by citations in most non-violent misdemeanor and felony cases. These actions are meant to minimize the potential exposure of officers, protect the offenders from COVID-19 and not over burden the emergency systems. 

To make things even worse, state, county and local officials are releasing thousands of convicted prisoners from jails and prisons ‘to protect them from COVID-19’. In some areas like California, they claim they are only releasing “non-violent” offenders. Of course, keep in mind that California considers assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer; battery with serious bodily injury; solicitation to commit murder and rape/sodomy/oral copulation of an unconscious person or by use of a date rape drug all non-violent. New York has even gone to the trouble of providing transportation, hotel rooms and pre-paid cell phones at no cost to the prisoners being released for COVID-19 protection. In some states, the ACLU is petitioning for large scale release of prisoners to “protect them from COVID-19”. The results of this are what you would expect. Violent crimes, including rape, robbery and murder have been committed by these released convicts. 

So now an environment has been created where property is unprotected, officers are not responding to calls and so-called “non-violent” criminals are being released back into the community. This on top of a nationwide shortages of essential consumer goods and millions of people out of work with no source of income. 


Guns

A natural response to this would be the desire to protect yourself and your family. Firearm retailers around the country have been mobbed with people looking to purchase firearms and ammunition. So much so that many stores are selling out on a daily basis and desperately seeking new inventory from distributors. NCIS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) reported running 3,740,688 background checks in March, a number 33 % higher than the previous record of more than 2.8 million set in February. 

But of course, the reaction from the gun control groups has been predictable stating: “As a result of fears stoked by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun-industry groups, we saw more federal background checks initiated in March 2020 than any other on record.” 

While the desire to purchase firearms has been an entirely organic response to the decrease in public safety, the most radical anti-gun control states and communities have decided that firearms and ammunition, a natural right protected by the Second Amendment, are not essential and closed firearm and ammunition retailers. 

A few examples from around the country: 

  • The governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey (see below) and New Mexico decided firearms retailers were not essential and ordered them closed. Some exemptions were given to those retailers and ranges that service law enforcement or security companies.   
  • New Jersey shut down all firearms sales by simply shutting down the state system used to do background checks. One of 12 “point of contact” states that perform their own background checks, it gives the state instant ability to stop sales statewide with the click of a mouse. (Side note: California’s DROS (Dealer Record of Sales) system has the ability to shut off single retailers, groups, geographic regions or the entire state but surprisingly has not been used in this situation, or at least not yet.) 
  • In North Carolina and Ohio, Sheriffs who were overwhelmed by the influx of pistol and concealed carry permit requests decided to stop processing them until after the COVID-19 crisis, effectively shutting down handgun purchases and new concealed carry permits. 
  • The Los Angeles County Sheriff, and other local authorities, determined firearms retailers were not essential and ordered them to be closed. 

Lawyers

If you’ve read any of my articles before, you already know I’m not a fan of lawyers and filing lawsuits to overturn gun control laws. Even in the absolute best of circumstances, it’s a crapshoot. The chances of getting gun control laws reversed is slim at best and even when they are reversed, new ones are crafted to take their place. 

But I’ll be the first to admit that in this particular crisis, we have seen some success in getting the executive orders closing firearms and ammunition retailers and ranges reversed. It hasn’t been across the board and in places like Los Angeles County, they have flip-flopped back and forth so often it’s difficult to keep track of the current status. 

Highlighting the issue these lawsuits have is that courts are still using “intermediate scrutiny” to determine the merits of the case. Some courts, especially in most liberal circuits are also relying on faulty evidence and ignoring the Constitution and Supreme Court precedence to reach their decisions. The hope is that someday the United States Supreme Court will rule in favor of “strict scrutiny” for all Second Amendment cases. It won’t solve activist judges ignoring the law, but it will be a start. 

One positive thing that has occurred at the federal level is the March 28 guidance from the Department of Homeland Security. In it, the updated list of “essential critical infrastructure workforce” now includes “Workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges.”

Money

Protecting our rights isn’t free. It should be, since supporting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights should be what every United States citizen does every day. But we’ve come to realize that there are those who wish to subvert our rights for the enrichment of their own needs. 

Sadly, lawsuits must be filed which means lawyers are involved. So giving to the Second Amendment / firearm rights protection organization of your choice is essential. If you can’t afford to right now, then volunteer a little time to send letters or emails and help get others to contribute. 

But always remember, the ONLY way to keep these kinds of unconstitutional laws from being enacted in the first place is to STOP electing anti-gun politicians. Regardless of how attractive their other platform items are, if they can’t support and defend the most basic elements of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, how are you going to trust them to do anything else? Find and support politicians at the local, county, state and federal levels who will support and defend the Constitution. 

Warren Zevon got it right, the sh*t has really hit the fan during this health crisis. But rather than sitting back and watching our rights erased before your eyes, it’s time to get up off your ass and do something about it. While mass marches and protests at the capitol aren’t the wisest move during a pandemic, if you have a phone or an internet connection, you can make a HUGE difference. Let your elected representatives know how you aren’t willing to give up your rights for COVID-19. And when you get that “Dear Constituent” letter blowing you off back in the (e)mail, you’ll know who you won’t be supporting in the next elections. 

Time to get on the list! 

Bob

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COVID Part 2: I’m From The Government And I’m Here To Help

“The nine most terrifying words in the English Language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Ronald Regan’s quote has come to symbolize everything that can and usually does go wrong when the government becomes involved. Our nation was founded on the basis of limited government as witnessed by the Bill of Rights which limits the powers of the government instead of granting rights to the individuals as is the current fad of understanding. Whenever the government tries to help, there is inevitably more red tape, cost, abuse and waste. And is often the case, those who need the help the most are the least likely to get it. Look at the ‘help’ the government, mostly at the local and state level, are providing during the current pandemic for examples.

State and local governments around the country have implemented “Shelter-In-Place” or “Stay-At-Home” guidelines. Which of course, given the contagious nature of COVID-19, is sensible. In many cases however, this hasn’t been the end of it. Government imposed closing of all but essential services have put millions out of work around the country. What is and isn’t considered an “essential service” is similar to the definition of a so-called “assault rifle”, it’s purely up to the government official making up the list and subject to change at any time. 

Typical essential services have included health care, emergency services, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and the transportation industry. But not without exceptions. Non-emergency surgery is typically not considered essential resulting in the indefinite cancellation of thousands of needed procedures. Liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries may or may not be considered essential, depending on where you are. Likewise, firearms retailers may or may not considered essential, depending on location and if they have law enforcement customers. 

Social distancing and wearing masks in public is another highly specific, and contentious set of regulations. Strictly enforced in some situations, they are ignored in others. 

While the stated intent of all these regulations are to protect public health and not over burden the health care system, what is occurring goes well beyond that. A few examples: 

  • Stopping vehicles with out of state license plates entering the state to mandate 14-day quarantines for the occupants (Rhode Island/Florida). 
  • National Guard members going door to door looking for out of state residents (Rhode Island).
  • Putting GPS ankle monitors on those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their uninfected families to ensure they remain quarantined (Kentucky).
  • Banning religious gatherings even if social distancing guidelines are adhered to (Kentucky, New Mexico)
  • Closing pubic parks, beaches and other public facilities (California, Vermont, etc.)
  • Restricting the goods that can be purchased at essential stores to only government designated essential products, which does not include items such as vegetable seeds and plants (Michigan, Indiana, Vermont)
  • Using the State Police to go conduct surveillance of essential and non-essential businesses and order them closed (New Mexico).

But perhaps the most concerning are the ways the social distancing regulations are being enforced. 

  • A father was arrested and handcuffed in front of his six-year-old daughter for throwing a ball in a park even though the park was not closed, and they were following social distancing guidelines (Colorado).
  • 10 officers drag a man off a public transit bus for not wearing a face mask. A second person was removed from the bus for wearing a scarf – in compliance with local health guidelines – instead of a facemask. The transit employee ordering the people off was himself not wearing a facemask (Pennsylvania).
  • Ticketing and reporting the occupants of vehicles at ‘religious drive-in services’ to the health department for mandatory quarantines (Kentucky).

Despite the heavy-handed approach from some cities, counties and states, there are of course, exceptions to government mandated regulations.

  • The Mayor of Chicago went out for a haircut despite hair salons not being essential services. Her justification? “I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye.” “I take my personal hygiene very seriously. As I said, I felt like I needed to have a haircut. I’m not able to do that myself, so I got a haircut. You want to talk more about that?”
    • This despite her order for all other Chicagoans who must remain indoors except to go out for the essentials. ““You cannot go on long bike rides. Playgrounds are shut down,” the mayor said. “You must abide by the order. Outside is for a brief respite, not for 5Ks.”
  • The Mayor of New York’s daily 11-mile drive from Manhattan to walk in a park in Brooklyn is considered essential, despite living next to another park in the city. His justification? It is something he needs to do “to be most effective.” Also falling into this essential need is working out at a local (closed to everyone else) YMCA. 
  • An Associate Supreme Court Justice working out with her trainer at a (closed) gym twice a week. 
  • The Sonoma County Director of Emergency Management took his family to a closed (by him) beach “to enjoy an otherwise abandoned, unnamed beach,” Photos of his trip were labeled: “Road tripping up the coast. Beautiful drive and nice views. Family beach time together. Grateful for fresh air and the ocean.” 
    • A County Supervisor backed his actions by saying: “I want my top people who are responding to this crisis to be of sound mind, body and health. And if that means going to the coast to feel better, I’m all for it.”

One of the foundations of our American way of life is that everyone is treated equally and fairly under the law. Sadly, we have been thrust into a situation where some in our government have decided to take advantage of the situation and exercise almost unlimited power regardless of preexisting laws and Constitutional limitations. And, as with many government regulations, they themselves are exempt. 

It shouldn’t take increasingly draconian control measures from oppressively inclined government officials to keep you from passing on or catching COVID-19. The most basic level of personal responsibility, social distancing and sanitation, is enough to stop this, without giving up our rights. 

Public health emergency or not, restrictions on religion, assembly, speech and firearms become unconstitutional very quickly. If left unchecked, this is the end of our natural rights and freedom in our country. 

Bob

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COVID Part 1: The Needs Of The Many..

To say that we are living in unprecedented times is as much of an understatement as Noah saying, “It looks like rain”. To have our country and the entire planet shut down but for essential services is unheard in the history of man. Not even the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 caused such a widespread shutdown of global commerce and everyday life. The lessons learned from this and other past pandemics has shown the most effective means of preventing the spread in our communities is isolation.  Yet somehow, we have a minority of people who believe this does not apply to them. Why? Quite simply we have been raising generations of self-entitled ME FIRST! brats that have no sense of community or responsibility. If you want to know where this came from, look no further than the indoctrination centers we used to call schools and the lack of parenting.

While the ultra-trendy “woke” members of our society look at traditional primary education as being too focused on the nationalism vs. the individual, that patriotic view of our society is what brought us together as a nation. Nowhere in the world is there a nation built from so many different cultures or with such strong individual rights. 

But patriots are difficult to control, which is why the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights has never been duplicated around the world. It is also why the focus of our education system became less and less about our rights and duties in a sovereign nation and more about human interaction within a society. In other words, this is why Civics was replaced with Social Studies. If the people don’t know what their rights are, they won’t demand to exercise them. 

Along with this, we began losing our sense of community and belonging. Our communities and our nation became a distant second to the wants and desires of individuals. As long as the individual gets what they want, the impact to others or the community doesn’t matter. With less and less individual’s contribution to the community, more and more tasks and responsibilities were given over to the government, where they were gleefully taken up. 

With the rise of technology, we’ve also seen the decline of the family. Parents used to spend a lot more time with their children, teaching and mentoring them in everything from basic life skills to the norms and mores of the community. Then came television, the first substitute parent and babysitter, followed by computers, video games and the Internet. Family interaction and communication was replaced by artificially scripted worlds of fantasy where there is no responsibility for your actions. 

As a result, we now have a couple of generations of self-entitled individuals who care nothing about anything that doesn’t enrich their own lives. These aptly named COVIdiots can’t be bothered with self-isolating to avoid catching COVID-19 or self-quarantining to keep others from catching it from them. COVIdiots come from every walk of life, every socioeconomic status           in every part of the country. What they all have in common is the disregard for anyone other than themselves. 

The current worldwide COVID-19 crisis will pass in time. As testing becomes more available outside the circles of the rich, famous and powerful, more can be done to treat and isolate those who are infected. Effective treatment and vaccinations will become commonly available. Until then, it is up to us to act responsibly for ourselves, our families and our communities.  

It shouldn’t take increasingly draconian control measures from oppressively inclined government officials to keep you from passing on or catching COVID-19. The most basic level of personal responsibility, social distancing and sanitation, is enough to stop this, if we can be bothered to think about the needs of the many before the needs of the one. 

Oh yea, and we can do this without giving up a single one of our natural rights.  

Bob

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Tyranny – Closer Than You Think

Here in the United States, we often think of ourselves as being immune from tyranny. We sit comfortably knowing our nation freed itself from a tyrannical government and our Constitution and Bill of Rights will protect us. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. A Ronald Regan quote helps to put it in perspective. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Those who would oppress us are actively working to take our rights and freedoms away. And, like before, during the time of our revolution, they are the very same ones in charge of protecting our rights. 

Tyranny doesn’t generally occur overnight. Unless you’ve been conquered by force, it’s going to be a slow yet deliberate process. After all, it’s much easier to subjugate a population a little at a time. And it’s so much easier if you can convince the masses that the slight infringements in their rights are in the best interest of all. Wouldn’t you want to give up a little bit of your own individual rights if it meant society would be safer? Wouldn’t your life be better if you let the government take care of more things? Wouldn’t you want to contribute more so that your community would provide for everyone? 

Take a look at the modernized Communist Rules for Revolution for an example of how this is done. 

1) Healthcare: Control healthcare and you control the people.

2) Poverty: Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.

3) Debt:  Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.

4) Gun Control: Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.

5) Welfare:  Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income).

6) Education: Take control of what people read and listen to — take control of what children learn in school.

7) Religion: Remove the belief in the God from the Government and schools.

8) Class Warfare:  Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.

While these steps are pretty clear, I’m going to contend there is a prerequisite in order to accomplish this list, the full control of the government. And control doesn’t just mean having one party in complete control, it means the government has set itself up as a privileged entity with rights, benefits and protections not available to the regular public. 

Take a look at our current federal government. Members of congress enjoy salary, vacation and retirement, weakened insider trading restrictions and many other perks not commonly available to the general public. And, they themselves are in complete control over raises and increase in perks. With no term limits for members of congress, they are free to build their government service into virtual lifetime positions. 

But it’s not just our congress that protects its own interests above that of the people it represents. As examples: California’s primary and general elections have been tweaked to the point where the party in charge is ensured of remaining in charge. Virginia’s legislature responded to the Second Amendment protests and calls to replace their representatives by proposing changing the law governing recalls. Instead of requiring 10% of number who voted in the last election, it would require 25% and must be completed within 60 days. 

Control of the courts is also vital. With our three separate branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – the courts are supposed to be the independent arbitrator of facts and interpreters of the Constitution. Sadly, this is no longer true. Judicial appointments are made to those who will carry out the will of the politicians who appoint them. These activist politicians-in-robes are in place to approve to any law created by politicians who appointed them, regardless of legal precedent or even Supreme Court rulings. Look no further than the history of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, representing the western United States for vivid examples of judicial activism run amuck. 

This year’s all-out assault on the Second Amendment in places like Virginia, Vermont, New Mexico, California, Hawaii and all points in between have clearly demonstrated our elected officials have no interest in representing our needs, only the agendas set by deep pocketed special interests. We’ve witnessed the hubris of representatives who have used their positions to retaliate against communities and law enforcement officials who have taken a stand against them.  

At the same time, we’ve also seen the results of the pressure brought by masses with representatives voting against draconian gun control laws they once supported. Those results, even if few and far between, are the encouraging news.  We The People still have a measure of control over our own government, if we choose to use it. 

We The People get to decide what kind of government we have and who represents us, IF we stand together and participate.  Tyranny isn’t that far behind us and right now, our best means of defense is our vote.  Make your vote count this year. 

Bob

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