Horsford and ‘military-designed’ weapons

I see where freshman Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford, the Democrat who believes big oil companies receive subsidy checks signed by the secretary of the treasury, has now weighed in on the Second Amendment, endorsing President Barack Obama’s new/old gun control proposals as “reasonable.”

“I support the Second Amendment and the right of individuals to bear arms for recreation, hunting or self-defense,” Rep. Horsford told the Stephens Media Washington Bureau, last week. “That does not mean we cannot have reasonable gun laws to keep military-designed weapons out of our neighborhoods and communities.”

Well, of course not. Not when the Second Amendment begins, “A skilled band of deer and duck hunters being necessary to the security of a free state …”

No, no, that’s not it. I thought I had a copy around here, somewhere. Does it start out, “The ability of Americans to defend themselves in their homes being necessary to the security of a free state …”?

No, that’s not it. Wait, here it is: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So, actually, the one kind of firearm we know the government absolutely can’t infringe our right to keep and carry is, um … the “military-designed weapon.”

In the 1939 Miller case, the question the Supreme Court justices wanted answered was “Is a sawed-off shotgun like that possessed by the moonshiner Miller of any military usefulness?”

Because if it had been, a court not yet packed with docile statists would have been bound under the Constitution to throw out the National Firearms Act of 1934, as of course they should have.

That case was wrongly decided, as it turned out, because Miller was not represented in court, and the government attorney lied through his teeth, replying that of course sawed-off shotguns had not been of any military usefulness in the recent trench warfare in France, an assertion laughable on its face.

But the decision was still correctly based on the premise that if it was “military-designed,” that made it useful to the maintenance of a well-practiced citizen militia capable of taking up arms to overthrow another tyrant like King George, and the federals thus couldn’t tax or license or in any other way “infringe” its possession.

Besides which, other than Derringers, what weapons are not “military-designed,” precisely? My clunky, bolt-action 1917 Enfield is “military-designed,” as are my 1917 Colt and Smith pistols. Heck, they’re all still parkerized and stamped with their military serial numbers.

Or does Rep. Horsford mean he wants to keep fully automatic assault rifles like the M-16 “out of our neighborhoods”?

When was the last time you saw one of those – weapons already heavily taxed and restricted by the ATF – out on the street?

Online gambling ban

A proposal for a federally mandated online poker regime – designed to favor Nevada as a “known brand” and center of regulatory expertise – appears to have withered on the vine in Washington. With first the “fiscal cliff” and now a renewed debt ceiling “crisis” again stealing center stage, Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller searched in vain for enough votes to advance the scheme in the December rump session.

Tired of waiting, Nevada legislators in Carson City will consider a change in state law to allow Gov. Brian Sandoval to enter into compacts with other states that choose to legalize intrastate online gambling (so far, only little Delaware has joined the Silver State), thus expanding the pool of potential players and, presumably, the quality of the action. Good.

Has anyone else spotted a few inherent contradictions in the arguments in favor of the now-stalled federal legislation?

One of the major “pro” arguments is that online gambling is going to happen anyway, so why not legalize it in a way that allows it to be regulated and taxed?

But in fact, the proposal as currently circulated wouldn’t generate any federal tax revenue to help with the federal deficit. Proponents are apparently scared to death to hand that issue to religious conservatives, who don’t want the federal government sharing in the proceeds of such immoral acts as gambling and prostitution. (Really? So all these casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City – not to mention the employees of the bordellos of Elko and Pahrump – pay no taxes to the IRS? That may be news to them.)

Instead, the proposed 16 percent tax would mostly be kicked back to the states – making them more dependent on Uncle Sam than if they just levied such a tax themselves.

But more importantly, the argument cited above is essentially an argument for the free market – stop passing unenforceable “mala prohibita” laws that outlaw victimless crimes.

Problem is, as currently described, the online poker bill contains a lot more prohibition than legalization.

The co-sponsor of the legislation, retired U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, “just doesn’t like gambling,” a person familiar with his thinking told The Wall Street Journal last month. “With this effort he just wants to try to add to what he did before and limit gambling as much as possible.”

“We try to explain that the legislation is in fact a restriction of gambling rather than an expansion of gambling,” adds American Gaming Association President and CEO Frank Fahrenkopf, who’s also announced he’ll be retiring from the fray this year.

Why? Why would we want to create an Office of Online Poker Oversight under the Department of Commerce? Where on earth does the Constitution authorize such a federal regime?

And more importantly, why try to ban every other form of online gambling at the same time – even as we argue that “online gaming is inevitable; there’s no way to stop it, so why not regulate it so it’s honest?”

What this starts to look like is a transparently self-interested scheme to try and corner the take from online poker – at least for the next few years – for existing casino companies, card clubs, slot-machine manufacturers, Indian tribes and racetracks.

By all means, let them get into the fray and make a profit, if they can. But seeking targeted regulatory favors from Washington is protectionism – rarely the wisest course in the long run, because it can actually weaken the protected industry by shielding it from the wide-open worldwide competition it must eventually learn to face.

Vin Suprynowicz is an editorial writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the author of “The Ballad of Carl Drega” and the novel “The Black Arrow.” See

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