Valentines & Shootings
There are two things "they" say one should never discuss while on a first date: (1) politics and (2) religion. I always make it a point, even on Valentine's Day, to discuss both... assuming we make it to topic 2. These topics can reveal irreconcilable differences, so best to get these out of the way early, no?
In politics, those engaged rarely hold passionate and considered views of every issue; rather most have a few issues they invest in, with some — or one — being decisive. I figure, given yet another mass shooting today, why not discuss an issue revealing irreconcilable differences? The issue of firearm regulation — when expressing support for regulation, the supporting side often just shrug, for it is the decisive voting issue of few. Yet supporter of regulation is blasphemous to the opposing side, as it is the deciding issue for many. Playing it safe is for the pros — so here goes...
San Francisco Regulation Efforts
In 2005, The Board of Supervisors placed onto the ballot a ban on handguns and the manufacture, distribution, sale and transfer of all firearms and ammunition within the City. It went to the voters as Proposition H and passed with 58% of the vote. I opposed this measure on grounds that it would be costly to defend and, ultimately, never to be upheld in court. This eventually happened. Every court rejected the measure almost effortlessly, while taxpayers had to pay for costs both for defending the measure and to compensate those who sued to recover their costs, among them a $380,000 settlement San Francisco taxpayers paid to the National Rifle Association. That our tax money went to the NRA chaps me to this day.
That was 2005. In 2008, the US Supreme Court, in the Heller decision, ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, specifically identifying handguns. While I consider this decision driven more by ideology, thus folly and misguided, it is the law of the land. So any proposed ban like that of 2005 will get nowhere faster than before.
The point here is that the City has tried to ban firearms, and it was a poorly considered and costly effort. I also disagree with that goal — among other reasons, because banning all firearms in this nation is a non-starter. This is largely because of how a majority of Americans interpret the Second Amendment (an interpretation I happen to reject) along with our culture of firearms.
There is one thought that has been kicking around the bowels of my brain for some time, and the shooting today in Florida brings it back up. While I am not running on this as an issue, and have no plans to make it so, I am no lawyer, so earnest consultation is needed if ever I were to consider developing my thought into a proposal. My discussing this here is intended more as a window for voters into how I think about things... before talking with experts.
More than half of all firearms in this country are owned by some three per cent of the population. Most firearm owners do not own the so-called "assault style" firearms — the go-to weapons system for mass shooters. I grew up with firearms and am not principally opposed to them, however, I do reject the common view of the Second Amendment, and also strongly feel more weapons systems should be included on the list of arms unavailable for civilian ownership. Adding a weapons system to the list does not itself infringe on any rights, given this nation already has a long list of arms unavailable for civilian ownership. That said, to get to my thought, I must first articulate my view of the Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment
As noted above, the most common view regarding the Second Amendment is something I reject; that citizens may keep and bear arms to help keep their government in check — essentially as a threat. Some have proposed to me that it being the second amendment means it is really important. I scoff here because when the Bill of Rights was proposed, there were twelve amendments, but the first two failed to achieve ratification leading the third proposed amendment being ratified as the First Amendment and the fourth proposed amendment ratified as the Second Amendment. Further, the Constitution is not like how many choose to observe religious texts, where one picks and chooses which parts to believe and live by, and which to ignore. Rather, it is an all or nothing document — no part is more or less important than another, and thus the order of amendments is irrelevant.
Article I (powers of congress) gives congress the power to call forth the militia to suppress insurrection and repel invasion. This is important, especially at the time. While this nation was still governed under the Articles of Confederation, there was an insurrection in Massachusetts (Shays' Rebellion). Massachusetts couldn't handle it, appealing to the confederate government for help. Yet that government lacked authority to compel other states to dispatch their militia to help Massachusetts. Shortly after, the Constitutional Convention was held, leading to a new, strong federal government replacing the weak confederate government. The Founders had Shays' recent insurrection well in their mind when drafting Article I.
In his first term as president, George Washington faced another insurrection (the Whiskey Rebellion). This time, the new national government held federal power, marshaled the militias of the several states to meet the insurrection, with Washington himself becoming the first and so far only sitting president to lead an army on a field. I note all this because it makes little sense that our constitution would give citizens the right to keep and bear arms to use against their government — which is, by definition, insurrection — while providing that same government power to call forth militia to put down the insurrection it otherwise should be protecting. Given the Constitution equates insurrection with foreign invasion, insurrection clearly is not a constitutional act. Once we reject the notion that citizens may keep firearms for the purpose of an unconstitutional act — using them against their own government — then any argument of the need for firearms reduces to self-defense, sport, bravado, and fun.
I will further note that the Second Amendment is written in the context of a well-regulated militia. The aforementioned Heller decision changed that — one of the reasons I think it a poor ruling (the oft-derided act of legislating from the bench). Regardless, California has a well-regulated militia — the all-volunteer California State Military Reserve, an active militia that serves as our state defense force. There is also a state navy. None of this is the National Guard, and the federal government has no authority over it. If not for the 2008 Heller decision, I could have tried making an argument that none really should have any firearm whatsoever on grounds they are not in California's well-regulated militia. That could have been fun!
Forgetting there is a Second Amendment, San Francisco attempted to ban all firearms. I wonder, however, if rather than any ban, a targeted statement of intent, some kind of resolution perhaps, targeted well enough, may inspire the state to expand firearm regulations? Immediately challenged, perhaps such an effort reaches the Supreme Court, allowing them to earnestly consider where the line is drawn regarding firearms for civilian ownership? My thinking leads me to a revolutionary weapons system developed by Nazi Germany in 1943.
Maschinenpistole model 1943
The German aim was to consolidate the myriad weapons of the infantry into one. At the time, a squad had riflemen, firing bolt-action rifled rounds with deadly accuracy, at range. They were supplemented with sub-machine gunners firing pistol rounds in bursts, great for suppressive fire though terrible at range and lacking knock-down power. They were further supported by a machine gun crew, firing a barrage of rifled rounds at range for suppressive effect. The problem here is a logistics and quartermaster's nightmare; lots of different firearms, caliber ammo, and parts, to be distributed to a mobile army in the field. Worse is that bolt-action rifles are terrible in urban combat and on-the-run shooting; something the Germans were facing with more regularity. The innovation of putting all these variant squad armaments into a single, select-fire weapons system came with the Maschinenpistole model 1943. This firearm uses a caliber between the sub-machine gun and the rifle — so a bit of range loss but more than sufficient. Soldiers could select single shot (like a rifle), or three-round burst (like a sub-machine gun), or fully automatic (like a machine gun). This meant one weapons system for everyone in a squad, supplied with the same ammunition and parts. The Germans were getting into dire straits and, facing hordes of Russians from the East, needing a game changer. This was it.
Perfected in 1944, it was finally presented to the German leader, Adolf Hitler. Loving it, but not its name, he christened it the Sturmgewehr (model 1944). These went into action, but too late to turn the tide of the war for Germany. This weapons system, like the rest of German technology, was captured by the Allies and Russians. We, the Americans, translated the crates they were found in; Sturmgewehr — where "sturm" is "assault" and "gewehr" is "rifle". Thus the "Assault Rifle" was born in the Western world. Every assault rifle since has been based on this German wonder weapon. Driving the point, each time someone says "assault rifle" they are literally quoting Hitler. The Russians, for their part, used the inspiration of the Sturmgewehr as the basis for the Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947, commonly known as the AK-47. The Sturmgewehr is the granddaddy of all modern assault and so-called "assault-style" firearms. The "assault-style" is generally a civilian variant that does not have the select-fire options, and certainly not the fully automatic option, though it can be modified, such as with a bump-stock, as seen on Las Vegas, or converted if one were truly committed.
Ban the Sturmgewehr?
The City is a democratic laboratory for the state and the nation. Banning firearms, as the City has learned, is a fool's errand. However, could the City pass a resolution asking the state to ban all derivative weapons systems inspired by the Sturmgewehr? That would thus be all firearms that one may plausibly consider an "assault-style" firearm. It means none need debate what firearms may fall under this category; there is no AK-47 or M16 without the Sturmgewehr, thus no AR-15 or Bushmaster 223. Such a proposal ties all modern "assault style" weapons directly — accurately — to Nazi Germany and Hitler; a politically salient point to make.
The government can and does regulate what arms are available for civilian ownership, and the Supreme Court has thus far only addressed handguns. As noted, lots of consultation with legal scholars would be needed to turn thoughts into proposals, but if the City were to promote such an approach, could it inspire Sacramento to amend the law? Could it find itself before the Supreme Court, forcing them to decide whether the offspring of Hitler's wonder weapon should be in the hands of any who may want it, to... hunt with? When a hunting rifle is more than sufficient (and, for that purpose, far better)? Recall, there is no reason or need to be armed to any parity for the purpose of fighting the police or Army. Parity will never happen anyway, given the Army has tanks and field artillery, among other arms civilians cannot own. Joining derivatives of the Sturmgewehr with 50-caliber machine guns and field artillery does not infringe any perceived rights; handguns, shotguns, rifles — they are not affected — all are more than suitable for self-defense, sport, and fun (though admittedly bravado may take a hit). Such a resolution is not an attempt to ban all firearms; it is not even a law — just a suggestion for Sacramento to consider. The proposal is, however, specific and clearly and unambiguously defines the weapons system to be banned, and one the Supreme Court has yet to consider.
The power of groups like the National Rifle Association come from the zealotry of their supporters. Single-issue voters who go all in to oppose anyone who dares propose even the most modest of regulations. By their standards, my thoughts here are radical, given they twisted in knots on whether to budge on banning the cheap and easy-to-make bump-stock accessory employed by the gunman in Las Vegas to modify his "assault style" firearms. Even having such thoughts and making them public is enough to lose this voting bloc. I lose them despite not actually having a proposal, nor running on this as a campaign issue, nor promising any action if elected. Given my personal Facebook feed, I know there are plenty of such voters here in San Francisco. Regardless, I present this mostly as a window into my thinking on a topical issue, and if there were popular support for a ban, how I might approach the issue from the Board... plus the lede topic if on a Valentine's date this evening.
The one thing I do know: Sturmgewehr-inspired weapons systems are used in nearly every mass shooting. These shootings are now common, as are the wimpy responses of "thoughts and prayers" coupled with no substantive actions of any kind. We choose either to live with avoidable mass shootings, or make some attempt to address them. One way that might help is banning Hitler's gun.
Jason Lee Jones 3 days ago.
Law of Liaison
In November, San Francisco voters will have many options to fill Supervisor seats. Many candidates now vying for seats share but a few things in common: some are currently serving public officials, some are lawyers, some are professional activists, some are former legislative aides - and some are all of these things. Many have long-enjoyed well-earned six-figure salaries.
While nothing is wrong with these backgrounds, nor the economically liberating life they have earned, the simple fact is that many push narratives of change. Our Board, diverse as it is, is filled with lawyers and former aides, activists, and officials. What it lacks, and what the current crop of candidates across the City lack, is economic diversity. To be born poor, live poor, and remain poor. This is a perspective the Board utterly lacks. Sure, there are those who may remember what it was like in their youth, but how many among them have lived it as an adult?
In the District 6 race, we have fine candidates, each of whom I know will, if elected, do their best. Yet they remain those we have seen elected throughout the City for decades; current public officials, lawyers, activists, and legislative aides. Two of the principal candidates easily raised over $100,000 while qualifying for public financing. Each have collected numerous endorsements. Another recent entry is expected easily to raise a similar haul and qualify quickly. Each have professional staffs, and each can dedicate plenty of their time to campaigning. The election of any one of my running mates would be a "dog bites man" story.
While I would never suggest one seat will change the City nor that I am some panacea, there can be no greater change than vaulting someone from a time clock to the Board. My election would be a huge local human-interest "man bites dog" story. The whole City will add plenty more public officials, lawyers, activists, and legislative aides to the Board in November, joining the rest. Let us make a change here in District 6!
It is a four year term. Like everyone else, each candidate, if elected as legislators, is wholly ignorant of most things, relying on experts and aides assisting them. Hopefully, they have ideals and personal experiences helping ground and inform them while ensuring empathy. Each may have expertise in some things, bringing that with them. I am one of these candidates and thus am no different. I concede personal experience as a fine place to develop a hypothesis, yet is a terrible place for testing, while use of specific expertise is valid only in those few areas it may prove relevant. The point here is, despite any rhetoric or convention, whomever elected will shine in office not because of resume or expertise, but because of who they are; their humility, acumen, open-mindedness, desire to learn, selflessness, patience, commitment to improving lives, willingness to take responsibility, to listen, to admit when wrong, and being a miser on credit offered yet granting it liberally. This, while remembering each day they are a servant of their constituents, including those whom did not elect them, and especially those ignored, oppressed, or marginalized.
There are many reasons today I will not win this election. Between today and November 6th, however, we can change that. The democratic ideal promoted by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln is public officials of and from the people. I cannot raise $100,000 simply because I am like most, knowing none with such money. I ask for a twenty dollar bill from those who cannot afford to spare it. Unlike my running mates, I have a boss whom I must avoid rattling with endless requests off, so as to retain my employment. Frankly, I cannot make such requests anyway, because, like most, I am tethered to a time clock, working class, with bills to pay. A day away from work is a day away from pay, thus I campaign for no more than a day or two each week, and seldom are they of my choosing. Also in contrast to my running mates, I have no staff or known public figures offering ideas, opening doors, or lifting burdens.
My success in this campaign is dependent entirely, literally, upon you. There is no one else beyond those of you choosing so generously to help. I know I often bring these points up, but they are important: every "like" on Facebook or "Follow" on Twitter creates an aura of support; it matters not to me, but to others, consciously or not, stumbling upon my social media presence, including, and perhaps especially, the political class. Every San Francisco resident making at least a $20 contribution is both making a political statement in supporting someone completely, wholly, outside the norms of virtually every race of every election in the City, and also helping me qualify for public financing. Unlocking public financing brings invitations to official debates, and is a key to unlocking a media that otherwise, and perhaps rightly, ignores my existence. Each who tell others of me, volunteers to help, places a sign in their window, or does any other thing helping raise awareness is making substantive differences - I alone, whether with one or two days to work with or infinite free time, simply cannot shake the hand of or place a call to every District 6 voter, try as I may.
Stigler's "Law of Eponymy" states that no discovery is named after its original discoverer; in keeping with that, I have developed Jason's "Law of Liaison", which states that, all things being equal, who you know is the only thing that matters. I know a great and amazing group of people. I know you know an amazing and great group of people. Please help this indigent campaign; give it the boost it so desperately needs. Reach out. Spread the word. Make a donation. Volunteer some time. Put up a sign. Arrange to meet with me. Set up an introduction to others. Share posts and Tweets. Or just "like" the page - anything done is more than I can do myself. You may be surprised who you know, and especially who they know. Everything you may do, however trivial it may feel in the moment, join the actions of others - the purest of democratic ideals - building a current that can, at the end, sweep this candidate to victory in November!
Jason Lee Jones 17 days ago.
Acting and Interim Mayors
One argument made to boot Acting Mayor London Breed in favor of a different interim mayor was that Breed would enjoy an incumbency advantage. However, the San Francisco Department of Elections as noted that Breed will appear on the June ballot as "Acting Mayor" given the date to change that has passed. A curious development, and thus I remain unsold this was needed.
Other reasons cited include her having two votes on certain things and that she is influenced by a tech guy who is apparently disliked. While I find the 2 vote issue closest to persuasive, as a person who spends time explaining what a Supervisor is, I think many voters may see only the optics rather than jump into the weeds. Regardless, this soap opera at City Hall likely provides Breed more name ID than she probably ever would have earned otherwise. Point is, a few days later and I still feel uneasy about this.
Jason Lee Jones 23 days ago.
Interim Mayor Farrell?
While I understand factions must act strategically to advance their interests, I feel a bit ill with what has gone on in City Hall. The Board of Supervisors chose to challenge the status of Acting Mayor London Breed, forcing a vote on revoking her ascendancy in favor of a care-taker interim mayor. Today, Breed lost that vote of confidence, and Supervisor Mark Farrell was elected by the Board to serve through the Special Election in June. I'm unsure why this was done. When Mayor George Moscone was assassinated, then Board President and now Senator Dianne Feinstein assumed the office of mayor. This wasn't questioned. When Mayor Edwin M. Lee tragically passed late last year, Breed, as Board President like Feinstein before her, assumed the role. Why is it questioned this time? We need only survive until the Special Election in June. Why do this?
Furthermore, the optics of this is atrocious; challenging and then tossing Breed, a woman and our first female African American mayor, who grew up in public housing in the City, in favor of a rather privileged white male venture capitalist of the Marina district. While Farrell is surely a swell guy and will do a fine job of care taking, this certainly looks terrible, especially in context of something that last only a few months. Breed is running for election in her own right in June, and really I cannot see a compelling reason short of factional politics that could justify the challenge, much less the swap. Factional politics is, in my mind, hardly justification at all. Seems petty.
Part of the case argued is that Breed would enjoy the advantage of incumbency. But she is still mostly an unknown to many voters, having never sought City-wide election before now, while some of her challengers are widely known. It's incumbency only in name, as far as I can tell.
Other than needlessly aggravating San Francisco's vestigial African American community for short term perceived factional advantage, what is the purpose of this? I'm digesting this development, but not well...
Jason Lee Jones 23 days ago.
June 5th Mayoral Election
There are eight qualifying candidates for the special election completing the tragically vacated term of Ed Lee. I love elections that present voters with diverse options, and we have it on the 5th of June! We must choose one to complete the term. A decision that, for me — and perhaps you — is especially challenging.
President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, London Breed (D5) is currently Acting Mayor and seeking election in her own right. Other notables include my Supervisor, Jane Kim, former State Senator Mark Leno, and former Supervisor Angela Alioto, daughter of a former mayor with two mayoral runs under her belt. Others putting themselves out there for public consideration — and this is no easy or trivial matter thus I salute them all — are Richie Greenberg, Amy Farah Weiss, Ellen Lee Zhou, and Michelle Bravo. For me, there is no obvious pick. To select one, I need to narrow the field.
My view is that mayor of this town is no place for rookies, radicals, bomb-throwers, or single-issue advocates. The campaign, yes — the office, no. While such candidates grow over the course of conventional campaigns, this special election is too abridged, as each must strive to break out and gain attention. Yet all of those brave enough to enter the list, adding their names and thus subject to wrath and ridicule, deserve to be heard. Because my view of who should be elected (versus who should run) is unwavering, it simultaneously provides an easier path for narrowing the field.
San Francisco allows "Ranked Choice" voting in local elections. This means we may select up to three candidates, and so I will narrow to three. I make this list from personal feeling, rather than specific policy. I must still decide where these three will land on my ballot, likely then differing to policy, and having until June to do so.
I happen to like London Breed. As a fan of procedural justice, our Board, following our Charter, chose her from amongst their ranks to serve as president, and certainly they know her best. As a fan of representative democracy, I support choosing a mayor via popular election, so her appointment must be challenged. The problem for Breed is, unlike some of principal challengers, she is not widely known. Alioto, Kim, and Leno have been on ballots received by most San Franciscans. This is a first for Breed. Spending a few months as Acting Mayor presents an aura of "incumbency" but is hardly an equalizer for those who have sent City-wide mailers and run television ads during prior elections. She is an underdog, and as a woman and especially an African American one, raised from poverty, her perspective is one that can only be an asset. Needless to say, I have a soft spot for Breed. I feel she is worth serious consideration.
Jane Kim is also someone I like. Her name has appeared on three of my ballots, and she earned my vote each time. Partly it is a matter of loyalty; I'm a 6th District guy, so of course I supported our gal in the State Senate election (she lost). I appreciate most of her efforts as our Supervisor, and while I have not always agreed, best I can tell her moral compass points in a similar direction to mine. Yet throughout her career, at least to my eye, she has transparently positioned herself for that next office. This behavior is one I find abhorrent in our public officials (and one of my "issues" with fellow D6 challenger Matt Haney). This is, of course, common for the professionals, as most surely have greater ambition. I suppose I concede the reality yet prefer more tact. Suffice to say, a loss here only ensures another run later. A win here also ensures another run. Winning two terms ensures another, ad infinitum — there will be many chances to vote for her again. For the purpose of clarity, this complaint is modest in context, as she has a demonstrable and commendable record of achievement in public service. It is hard to break the bonds of loyalty. I feel she is worth serious consideration.
Mark Leno knocks Alioto out of contention. I met Mark in the nineties. At the time I worked at a Kinko's Copies on Duboce and Market, and he often came for stuff related to his business and for his run for Supervisor. In the years since, I've bumped into him here and there, on the street, at a function, and most often at Peet's Coffee. I have always liked him, though each time I introduce myself, I cannot escape the feeling that for him, it is the first time. Regardless he is warm and accessible, and he too earned my vote every time I have seen his name. Regardless, Leno presents a different kind of loyalty — longevity. Of the eight candidates, he is the only one I have ever met. Meeting, and doing so repeatedly over twenty years, establishes a personal bond, despite its tenuousness. Owing to his time in public service and station, he too has a commendable record of achievement. I feel he is worth serious consideration.
Each of these people have backgrounds I value, and each, I feel, can do the job admirably while representing the best of our City. I have whines about them, but none disqualifying. While I will listen to each candidate, if none flip me, these three will find a place on my ballot. The next decision is determining in which order they appear.
While I do not expect my list to move voters, I feel obliged as an aspiring public official to share my thoughts. I will keep an open ear for all eight candidates, and perhaps one or more will earn a place on my ballot. But as it stands today with truncated decision making, Breed, Kim, and Leno are the leading contenders.
Thank you for reading.
Jason Lee Jones about 1 month ago.