Mrs. Clinton, Tell Us Exactly What you Think about Guns & The Second Amendment

                            Firearm on The Couch in The Home–A Legal Act?


Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported GOP presumptive nominee “Donald Trump delivered one of his sharpest attacks to date against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, telling a group of thousands of gun enthusiasts Friday that she would “abolish” the Second Amendment and pack the Supreme Court with antigun justices.”

The New York Times reports the official response that “Clinton’s campaign called Trump’s gun policies ‘radical and dangerous.’ Senior policy adviser Maya Harris said Clinton believes “there are common-sense steps we can take at the federal level to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while respecting the Second Amendment.”

The official lines are drawn with this divisive election subject.   As with many Second Amendment discussions, opponents and proponents talk past each other.   An exchange occurring on the May 21st  CNN’s Don Lemon Show demonstrates this disconnect.

I want to talk about the 2nd Amendment,” Lemon began. “Because Donald Trump continues to say that Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the 2nd Amendment. That is false. That is false by every fact-checker, by the campaign, by her, by everyone who is listening but Donald Trump. Why does he continue to say that? ”

Because it’s true, ” Miller began, before pausing as the entire panel, including Lemon, began to laugh uproariously.

Miller asserted that Clinton wants to overturn the Supreme Court’s  DC v Heller decision that shot down a law making it a crime to carry  an unregistered firearm and prohibiting the registration of handguns, but still allowed for ownership of other types of weapons.

According to Miller, overturning the decision would mean “the 2nd Amendment would no longer exist.”

Guest Sally Kohn pushed back at Miller, pointing out that before the Heller decision, there had always been restrictions on guns. She also noted that even Constitutional originalist Antonin Scalia agreed that there should be some restrictions on guns.

It is important to agree on the question for a constructive discussion and Mr. Lemon’s CNN segment did not, in my opinion, get to first base with this task.  Little additional understanding was achieved regarding why Mrs. Clinton’s policies would “abolish” the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or, on the other hand, that they would not.

Instead, Mr. Miller appeared to be set up as a shill and then laughed at when he offered an explanation.  In my view, Mr. Lemon did not chair his panel by digging down to establish an understanding of both the Trump and Clinton perspectives.  Instead, in my opinion, he perpetrated an indignity;  Something out of character for a commentator who values his balance and objectivity.

The Heller decision is based upon the District of Columbia’s refusal to register and permit DC special policeman Mr. Heller from keeping a firearm in his home for personal protection.  The DC law also required firearms to be unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock and Mr. Heller felt such a requirement eliminated the effectiveness of the firearm in his home for personal protection.

The majority U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case was specific, “Assuming he is not disqualified from exercising Second Amendment rights, the District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.”

Recent media releases address Mrs. Clinton’s reservation about the Heller decision.  Sahil Kapur reports in the May 20, 2016 edition of Bloomberg Politics that “(Hillary) Clinton believes Heller was wrongly decided in that cities and states should have the power to craft common sense laws to keep their residents safe, like safe storage laws to prevent toddlers from accessing guns,” Maya Harris, a policy adviser to Clinton, said in an e-mailed statement. “In overturning Washington D.C.’s safe storage law, Clinton worries that Heller may open the door to overturning thoughtful, common sense safety measures in the future.

When I read these releases, I understand that Mrs. Clinton wants to change or reverse Heller which likely would effectively “abolish” the current Second Amendment guarantees as they are understood by many Americans.  This would include, I am sure, the NRA members Mr. Trump was addressing in Louisville on May 20th.

I am frustrated by language used by the Clinton Campaign referring to Heller as the “Washington DC Safe Storage Law”.  Safe storage was an aspect of the regulation and considered by the Supreme Court, but not the central theme of the decision.  In my gut, I feel it creates an unfortunate diversion from the truth as they say, a circumlocution.  It is lawyerly but not presidential.  The approach of Mrs. Clinton’s Campaign statement appears to be elusive and “catch me if you can”.

In this manner, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign statement is not helpful.  The spokesperson alludes to the gun lock provision of the decision and DC regulation but does not address in her statement that Washington DC for practical purposes, did not allow citizens to possess firearms.  The major issue before the American voters is the ability of United States governments to prohibit the ownership and possession of firearms to eligible individuals for lawful purposes, including self defense.  The code-key for this is “the Second Amendment”.

It is this perceived ambiguity and misdirection on her campaign’s part that adds significant fuel-to-the-fire.  Either Mrs. Clinton supports the right of gun ownership for personal protection as specified in Heller or she does not.  Mrs. Clinton has an obligation to clarify this.

She is a highly capable attorney, with excellent English language expression skills and for many folks that are making a decision regarding her candidacy, she should be exact about her intentions as to whether she will support abolishing the right of firearm ownership in the home for personal protection or she will not –  either directly or indirectly.

Many feel that she is capable of  reassuring us by implying she supports the Second Amendment (in its Heller interpretation), but when she is expected to act on the Heller guarantee as an American President, she will fail in her support and, in fact, takes actions that undermine this right of self-defense.  Support and opposition are very subtle matters and often skillful politicians have developed a skill-set to obfuscate where they stand and what their “real” agenda may be.  This likely is an appropriate fear.

The laughter of Don Lemon’s panel appeared to me defensive.  The discussion did little to advance an accurate understanding of their candidate’s position, so voters who support the Second Amendment as interpreted by Heller, can make an informed decision.  I am working to have an open mind on this subject, and as a former Obama voter, want to assure my vote is cast correctly in this very important election.

Explanation of facts from the decision:

The facts for the Heller case are recounted in the decision as “District of Columbia law bans handgun possession by making it a crime to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibiting the registration of handguns; provides separately that no person may carry an unlicensed handgun, but authorizes the police chief to issue 1-year licenses; and requires residents to keep lawfully owned firearms unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device. Respondent Heller, a D. C. special policeman, applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home, but the District refused. He filed this suit seeking, on Second Amendment grounds, to enjoin the city from enforcing the bar on handgun registration, the licensing requirement insofar as it prohibits carrying an unlicensed firearm in the home, and the trigger-lock requirement insofar as it prohibits the use of functional firearms in the home. The District Court dismissed the suit, but the D. C. Circuit reversed, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms and that the city’s total ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right.”



EAS is critical for rural air service

                  Skywest at LMT before they left community


I recently read a newsletter article about presumed Republican interest in re-establishing Essential Air Service

A factually based report on EAS was issued by the Congressional Research Service in September of 2015. The report outlines the EAS program’s history, program administration options, program costs, issues and options.

History of Essential Air Service:  EAS started as a result of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.  It was a program established to continue airline service to small continues because the lower profits these routes were likely to achieve.  In cases where there were actual losses, Essential Air Service could be used to help covering costs.  Before EAS in the pre-1978 world, providing flights to these communities was a cost of business for the airlines in exchange for access to the federal airways and the great investment by United States tax payers.

Originally, the program was an interim measure and was set to expire in 10 years.  The economics did not adjust favorably, however, so the program was extended.  In the beginning, the sole criterion for eligibility was whether the community was receiving scheduled air service on October 24, 1978.  As the years have passed, the criteria have accumulated and now there are multiple limitations and sub qualifications.  Although criteria have been added, expenditures have grown in nominal US dollars from around $50 million in 1985 to more than $250 million in 2013.

This increase has occurred although rules have been enacted to limit cost including:

  • 70-Mile Rule to nearest medium or large hub airport
  • $200 Subsidy Cap
  • $1,000 Subsidy Cap if the nearest hub is more than 210 miles distance
  • Minimum enplanements of 10 or more per day

Originally in 1978, the program specified 746 eligible communities.  This has been reduced drastically, and in 2015 159 communities received subsidized EAS service.  Of this total in 2015, forty-four Alaska communities and two Hawaii airports received EAS support.

Narrative written to oppose the program emphasizes EAS contracts for airports located near large or medium hub airports and very high subsidy rates per passenger.  Though some of this exists, a review of the appendices discloses the program is much more balanced and is focused on minimizing subsidies while providing access to communities across the United States of America.

Klamath Falls Case Study:  Klamath Falls, Oregon has never received financial support from  Essential Air Service.  Though air service has been difficult in the market, it never had to take advantage of the support until 2014, when it lost service from SkyWest because of a decision presumably made at their headquarters in St George, Utah.

I was on the telephone when their representative called in April, 2014.  He indicated that in about 60 days, June 5, 2014, the service would end.  No specific reasons were provided except allusions to pilot cost increases as a result of new FAA regulation.  Talking with others afterward, it appeared to be SkyWest or its flag United wanted to close its turbo-prop operation serving Oregon.  As a result, service to both Portland and San Francisco just went away and the community had few options.

The loss of Essential Air Service was a failure in two senses for Klamath.  First, no longer was any Federal support available to maintain a service, and second, there was no review or consideration of the rationale to eliminate the service.  In this regard, there was no transparency nor due process.  My review of Klamath Falls Airport records indicated that this review had been critical in the past.  Service was threatened but the review process created rationales for service to be continued.

If an option had been notice, fact finding and a hearing before an arbitrator with “hold-in” authority being given to a review entity, the process would have been more appropriate in terms of the perceived fairness of a decision having major consequences for the livelihood of the community.

The Klamath Falls Airport had worked consistently to maintain service.  Its load factors (average percentage enplanements) could drop to the low 50% in some months, but could also increase into the 70% range.  The City had just obtained a grant to market the service and feelings were optimistic that the load factor could increase even more.  A well-funded, very positive marketing program had been developed.

The phone call advising service termination was business-like but remote and cold.  We asked if we would obtain a letter defining what was to occur and they advised there would be no such letter except to cancel leases for terminal space.  They also advised that they would not assist in any way to find replacement service.

Because of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, no new communities could be added to the program irrespective of any justification.  For locations outside of Alaska and Hawaii to remain EAS-eligible, they must have participated in the EAS program at some time between September 30, 2010, and September 30, 2011.  If a community had preserved it service for many years, but lost it after September 30, 2011, there were absolutely no remedies from either the federal government or the airlines.

For Klamath Falls this was a bitter pill.  Its closest air service was more than 75 miles over the Cascade Mountains in Medford, Oregon.  The services was primary and normally only a feeder to a hub airport.  In terms of hubs which the legislation references, the closest were a small hub in Eugene, about 190 miles away over the Cascades, a medium hub in Sacramento 289 miles distance and a large hub in Portland 298 miles away.  Since service was dropped in Klamath, I have driven the 5.5 hours Portland many times to assure a flight to an important business meeting.  As a testimonial, I can assure you it is not a way to do business and places any rural business in a hinterland community at a significant disadvantage.

Questions about Advocacy in Opposition to EAS and Rural Air Service Connectivity:  The newsletter article defines that the $250M a year for service to smaller, rural communities is a waste.  There are really two observations about this.  To define whether it is a waste, one has to establish the value of the service to the nation as a whole.  If an important American governmental value continues to be connecting the country for its democratic and economic network advantages, then some expenditure or regulation may well be justified.  The question with this becomes, how much?

As the responses to the newsletter article state, if one needs to perform business that requires air service connection, they should move closer to metropolitan airports.  I have difficulty understanding this.  It ignores that rural areas remain important resource bases for urban populations and business trips are required as they are in more urbanized areas.  Are we in the United States at a point where rural populations are so diminished and unimportant that they receive no support or concern from the larger economic centers?  Are they to be diminished strictly in the name of efficiency?

Question Regarding the Airline Business Model:  The systems themselves define their costs and work to reduce them.  They have found economies of scale at much higher levels of concentration, so to achieve greater earnings per customer they eliminate less profitable routes, which are often rural routes.  The question is whether their license to operate should depend upon a fair level of service throughout their general route area?  For a business that relies on federal airways, and historically significant financial support to the entirely industry, should there not be some obligations for service levels within their region for connectivity?

Change in Airline Accountability Paradigm:  The flag carriers and their proponents have been successful at changing what used to be an expected cost-of-business in the 1978 era to the image of a Federal subsidy for very few folks.  This change in paradigm disconnects current commercial, community air service from its economic routes which included Federal support for operations and development.

Another consideration are options for rural airport service.  AMTRAK is often presented as is driving.  Potentially, understanding that any system needs to have a reasonable level of efficiency, train and cars are critical.  The issues then become a factual one.  Should airports that are separated by a certain mileage be considered uniformly for service, or should factors about whether the connection is four-lane and subject to significant storms factor in to the consideration?  Is normal drive time a fair criterion for eligibility?  For AMTRAK service, should its connectivity to air service airports be considered?  Should the frequency of the schedule and the time to the air service airport be a key factor?

A CONCEPT FOR  A MORE FULLY DEVELOPED AIR SERVICE NETWORK:  The questions presented relate largely to the general value of maintaining and potentially expanding the air service network.  Relatively remote populated regions either lose airline service or do not have any option to achieve service.  The points below address a conclusion that if a self-funded modification can be used to maintain economic routes to more isolated communities and if, in time, some expansion may be needed, economic integration between metro and rural populations will be improved.  The points below suggest there are two steps.

STEP 1.  The Basic Responsibility for Support:  The 1978 act changed the responsibility for support from the airlines as a cost of business to the Federal government.  With this change, it appears the “game” has become reducing cost and increasing revenues irrespective of its impact on populations (except in Alaska and Hawaii).  The airlines have undertaken this by increasing revenues through congesting seating, reducing amenities on flights and distancing from the distraction of less profitable or non-profitable connecting routes.  Regarding connectivity and the United States air network, this should be addressed by placing the basic responsibility for connecting routes with the airlines under federal government supervision.  The elimination of any route should involve due process guarantees and the ability of the federal arbitrator to “hold-in” service at the airline’s cost for some period of time.

Step 2.  The Airlines Should Be Supported with Support Monies Generated from Airline Users:  Currently, The $250M used to support the program is derived from overflight fees (about $108M) and a general appropriation.  Consistent with a theme that the basic responsibilities rests with the airlines and the general taxpayer should not be burdened, a fee of up to $1.00 per enplanement should be authorized.

Based on about 800,000,000 annual enplanement in the United States, this could raise sufficient monies to support the program.  At current levels, the assessment in additional to overflight fees would be about 20 cents ($.20) per ticket.  The allocation of the subsidy could be established as an aspect of the arbitration to be performed by the US representative with members of the community losing service and the airline dropping service.

The key question is the importance of providing connecting service throughout the United States.  Connection was critical in our history, but the Essential Air Service program has been focused on “shrinking” the support program since its inception.  The value of a fee supported program to maintain and potentially expand an efficient, comprehensive air network would invigorate economic activity within and outside the more metropolitan area and would advance important American values.  The change would empower rural populations and rural businesses.  We would significantly reduce the growing “fly-over” communities in America and work towards one-nation indivisible and assure the communities are not left-behind.