John Longley was raised on a small cotton and horse ranch in Tulare County, California. He graduated with honors from San Jose State College in political science and then enlisted USAF to serve with MACV in Vietnam. Upon return from service he completed a master’s program in political science, public law and public administration at the University of California, Davis. He worked for over 30 years as a city manager in California most of the time in diverse and majority-minority cities. His approach has always been grounded in community problem solving and community participation, mostly in rural areas. Upon retirement he has flown his Piper aircraft, managed airports in California and Oregon and served as commander of the Oregon Wing Civil Air Patrol – Air Force Auxiliary and interim commander of Pacific Region. He lives with his wife and 6 dogs in Keno, Oregon and enjoys writing, reading, target practicing, aviating, communicating with the family dogs, working on legislative matters for the Realtors and Chamber of Commerce, and visiting his son, two daughters and their families.
Not too long ago, former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke was asked, “Are you proposing taking away their guns, and how would this work?” O’Rourke responded: “I am” … those designed to kill on a battlefield.
Watching the debate, I wondered what the Founders would think. I believe they would see him as a contender trying to be resolute and vigorous. Unfortunately, he was also reckless, over the line and beyond the constitutional pale. Reading “The Federalist No. 45” confirms this conclusion.
Federalism and The Federalist No. 45
In defense of the Constitution, James Madison wrote to the people of New York discussing whether the establishment of a national union would reduce the role of state governments.
He formed his argument in response to a question:
“Was, then, the American Revolution effected, was the American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not that the people of America should enjoy, peace, liberty, and safety, but that the government of the individual States, that particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of sovereignty?”
Collaborative Powers and Checks and Balances Must be Maintained
To answer his question, James Madison maintained federal power would not infringe on that “certain extent” of state sovereignty. He would be surprised by Mr. O’Rourke proposing federal action to ban and confiscate firearms over a vast country and especially without an invitation from all the state legislatures.
If we are to enjoy liberty and freedom, the original constitutional vision based on collaborative powers and checks and balances must be maintained. The original-design is increasingly compelling because of the size and diversity of the country.
Article 4, Section 4, The Guarantee & Protect Clause
The Constitution’s Article 4, Section 4, clearly articulated this relationship to preclude federal protection addressing “domestic violence” without state invitation. How is it possible constitutionally for the federal government to legislate to “protect” against “gun violence” when state legislatures have not invited the protection?
Likely an answer will be that such legislation is clearly within the purview of the Commerce Clause. I believe we have lost the legitimate balancing between the Commerce Clause, which extends federal power and Article 4, Section 4, the Guarantee & Protect Clause protecting federalism being the “certain extent” of state prerogative.
The New Republic recently analyzed the Guarantee & Protect Clause, and it suggests the Clause offers a “justiciable” standard as a constitutional norm. I see it as a check and balance to the rampant, expansive Commerce Clause.
The effect of the Commerce Clause has become to pre-empt regular state activity. Instead, our nation needs to focus upon encouraging states to address the needs of their citizens, recognizing the diversity among the states.
Differences Are Broad and Deep
Austin Sarat and Jonathan Obert in the August 4, 2019 issue of Politico make the point that the differences in the gun debate spread across the country, and they run very deep. The research is finding that in many areas, guns “are woven into people’s lives in ways that go far beyond a tool. This standing suggests that the path to gun law reform won’t be as simple as liberals might hope or conservatives might fear.”
Sarat and Obert suggest that a balanced approach will be most successful. They caution against a “slippery slope” where regulations are cumulative and increasingly disruptive to those who have firearms as a significant element of their and their family’s lives.
Pew Research Center Demonstrates Major Rural/Urban Differences about Guns
The information paints a picture where there is a difference between urban and rural. Only 29% of urban households have a gun. By contrast, 58% of rural households have a gun. To support the difference between urban and rural gun ownership, about half the urban respondents indicated their community has a negative view of most gun owners. The comparable statistic for rural areas is only 19%. For suburban residents, the statistics are between rural and urban, somewhat closer to urban.
The critical conclusion is gun owners are commonly viewed negatively in urban communities, while gun owners are generally considered positively in rural areas. This cultural perception is fundamental to why we must address issues through the federalism paradigm.
This conclusion supports the finding that for urban gun ownership, the firearm is mostly autonomous from the community structure. It is less likely to be part of daily life and the routine social interaction as it is in rural areas.
Historically, the federal government is ineffective in addressing community-level social issues. We can all recall the profound failure of Reconstruction, Eighteenth Amendment Prohibition, and of the “War on Drugs.” These failed because there was little connective-tissue between Washington’s governmental agents and the people in their homes and neighborhoods.
Several years ago, I started preparing spreadsheets about firearms in the states because I wanted to understand the often-contradictory material I was reading. I found that the experiences among the states with gun homicides have been much different.
The proponents of federal, centralized gun control advertise the adoption of specific measures that will resolve the current occurrence of mass shootings and “gun deaths” in general. I could not confirm this assertion based on what is happening in the states.
My spreadsheet analysis established states such as New Hampshire, Maine, Idaho, and Oregon have relatively low levels of gun homicide (between .6 and 1.2 per 100,000 based on 2016 data). They also have low gun control grades of D+, F, F, and C, (grades assigned by Legal Center to Prevent Gun Violence). This inconsistency is contradictory to the prevailing wisdom of the gun control advocacy literature.
In much of the gun control advocacy literature, I have read this is not disclosed. Instead, gun control advocacy authors use the “gun death” standard which is connected to their advocacy against “gun violence.” Often, states having low gun homicide rates have high suicide rates. Because there are so many more suicides than homicides, they dominate the “gun death” statistics, which is central to their advocacy attacking “gun violence.” They run up the numbers and distort the meaningful facts for presumably, a political end.
Using “gun deaths” masks the useful truth. About half the cases of suicide nationwide are gun suicides, and we should focus on addressing all suicides as a compelling public health issue not distorting them through appropriation to the gun debate under the advocacy heading “gun violence.” Using the phrase “gun deaths” misleads and makes political points while obfuscating and conflating the truth. It obscures driving us away from the focus necessary for solution. By understanding the entire reality and focusing on the special features, we can make enduring progress against all homicides and all suicides.
Applying Gun Control Talking Points Does Not Necessarily Prevent Gun Assault
The claim is centralized federal gun control prevents gun homicides. The statistical information does not support the conclusion. My Excel spreadsheet correlation between the standard gun control measure legislated in states and lower gun homicide rates is only 20%.
Recently for continuity, I checked the findings based on 2016 data with more recent CDC and FBI data.
States More Effective at Addressing Gun Homicides Than Federal Government
Seventeen states had a lower proportion of firearm homicides comparing data between 1999 and 2017. Using grades granted by the Giffords Law Center for the quality of legislation, each grade category had instances of lower homicide rates.
The category found most favorable by Gifford’s “A and A-,” 73% of the seven (7) states have lower rates. For the next group, “B+, B, and B- “only 25% had lower rates. For “C” grades, it calculates as 43%, which is the same as “D” grades. For the category of “F,” which is half the states, 20% had lower homicide rates.
The case for gun control advocacy organizations is that some measures will consistently reduce assault by firearms. The data does not continuously support the assertion. We find lagging success in states graded in the “B” range, compared to states with fewer gun control measures classified in the “C” and “D” ranges. Even 20% of the “F” range states had lower gun homicide rates. There is little consistency which helps explain the low correlation.
A Federalism Solution to Gun Homicides
The general rate of gun homicides has declined from 7.0 per hundred thousand in 1993 to 4.5 in 2017 per hundred thousand. Undoubtedly much progress has been from improved policing and programs developed to address gun homicides.
Using the Bay Area experience as inspiration, within a federalist system, several general approaches are suggested. For example:
1. National interstate commerce efforts should address controlling the interstate movement of firearms through active efforts by each state but also potentially developing federal licensing for conceal carry interstate firearm possession. The Commerce and Guarantee & Protect Clauses must guide us as a priority to assure federal action is supportive of state efforts collaboratively throughout the Republic to stop the illegal importation of firearms between states while standardizing, controlling and facilitating the legal carry. Collaboration could, in this instance, could provide very useful results.
2. While many groups have contributions, the involvement and funding of local sheriff departments nationwide to conduct firearm mentoring and supervision must be the focus. As in the Bay Area, this should be expanded to include local community-based groups.
3. Legal firearm owners must understand they are accountable for the use of firearms. Developing a regimen through sheriff departments emphasizing safe and competent use, but not micromanagement and exclusion, as a priority.
4. There is controversy about the success of conceal-carry permitting as the following link documents. Some locales are experiencing conceal-carry resistance, while in other jurisdictions, local law enforcement officials have emphasized the beneficial results. A priority is developing a set of best practices to expand concealed carry within the states and as a goal in interstate commerce.
The Guarantee & Protect Clause’s Pathway
With the development of the 24/7 media, we have a national forum. This forum encourages action at the highest level of government. National legislation remains problematic because we do not have the connective tissue to implement it fairly.
Over time national happenings have gathered more attention and force. Wars, national disasters, economic crises, and, most recently, civil rights have especially underscored this focusing. Though the momentum has been with progressive consolidation, the original design retains much truth.
The Guarantee & Protect Clause must provide a path for balancing a state/federal partnership regarding firearm safety.
We are a union of states with their communities. We have substituted our Constitution for the King and have a proven constitutional Republic if we can keep it. Ultimately the well-being of these communities is local actions requiring local legislation. We should support the states with their efforts to reduce firearm homicides rather than pre-empt their initiatives.
Time has proven pre-emptive federal action will be less effective and more disruptive than trusting in the states and the People.
Keeping Our Republic: Challenging the Oregon Vote in 2020
The volume is loud to eliminate the electoral college. The rhetoric is straightforward – vote in
DC, not the states.
The truth, however, is much more profound. To save one of the remaining institutions of
Constitutional republican government action is needed. I believe in the rule of law, federalism, due
process, and checks and balances. Our
greatest enemy is the consolidation of power which would arise from a direct
vote for President of the United States.
By taking the states out of the equation, power would be
more easily consolidated by the media-masters of the current Citizens United
era. The popular vote for president
would consolidate power at the top, taking it from the states and the people
living within their communities. This
would advance an increasing imperial Caesar-like presidency, portrayed through
a national media, an unassailable hegemon in a capital far away from most
Our founders anticipated this and worked to build a
structure that checked absolute power and balanced various power centers
against each other. Important in this
design is the electoral college that vested the presidency in an individual
gaining the most popular support balanced against the interest of the entire union,
as represented by each state.
The electoral college was established in the Constitution to
mitigate against “tumult and disorder.”
It was an element of the republican institutions formulated for a
federalist form of government.
Federalist #68 by Alexander Hamilton explained, “Nothing was more to be
desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal,
intrigue, and corruption.”
The original formulation of the electoral college was not entirely
successful in preventing tumult and disorder.
In the election of 1800, no candidate received a majority of the
electoral votes, so the election went to the House of Representatives. Controversy over interminable tie votes
(between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr) eventually led to the passage of the
With the 12th Amendment the rules of the process remained
very similar when no majority is obtained in the electoral college: “But in
choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation
from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a
member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the
states shall be necessary to a choice.”
The vote for president would be taken in the House of
Representative and for vice president separately cast in the Senate.
The 12th Amendment did not change how the votes were
allocated among the states and the agencies conducting the elections.
Form of Government
The original Constitutional formulation was the United
States as a republican form of government.
It was not a democracy, because only US Representatives were directly
elected. Initially, democracy was limited beyond the structures of the
Constitution because senators were elected by state legislatures before 1914
and the president by the electoral college.
Also, the franchise did not extend to women, Native
Americans, slaves and nearly all free-blacks, and others without property
qualifications. Over time these barriers
have been beneficially eroded through Constitutional Amendments and legislation
(e.g., a more perfect union).
Nevertheless, some residents remain ineligible to vote, depending on
state law. Primary among these excluded
groups are those 16 and 17 years old, aliens and felons in some instances.
From the beginning, the republican form of government was
clearly required by the Constitution. It
was perceived as susceptible to erosion through efforts to consolidate direct
democratic power, intrigue, and corruption.
This is clearly stated by Benjamin Franklin’s famous response when asked
what form of government the Constitution requires, he responded: “A Republic if
you can keep it.”
The electoral college is a primary element of the American
Constitutional system. It allocates
votes based upon the initial “Great Compromise” between the People and the
States, big states (Virginia Plan) and small states (New Jersey Plan) which
established the House of Representative and the Senate.
Under the formula, each state has electoral votes consisting
of the number of representatives and senators.
In this case apportioned representatives represent the People, while two
votes for each state, represents the States – a balancing factor essentially
that each state is equal within the Union deriving from the original roll-call
to establish the Constitution.
Eliminating the electoral college has become a favorite
subject in 2019, especially among Democratic Party candidates for
President. This can be accomplished by
amending the Constitution or alternatively by an agreement among states constituting
a majority of the electoral votes. The
effort is called The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC).
This measure will be activated when states representing 270
electoral votes approve it and join the compact. They agree to cast their electoral votes to
the national popular vote winner. At
this point, about another 80 electoral votes are necessary to cause its
If the states get to 270 votes, it will raise both
Constitutional and practical issues.
There is a variety of opinion about whether the compact could be
implemented constitutionally because some see it as undermining the Constitutional
system with a “workaround” or circumvention.
Some maintain it could, but others contend that it would as a minimum
have to be approved by Congress.
There are also practical problems. For example, should the politics in a State
change, could the State be removed from the Compact? Also, as suggested by California’s former
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger when he vetoed California’s participation before
it was subsequently approved. The
governor expressed concern about a possible reckoning from State voters when
they cast electoral votes for a candidate losing the election in the
Though the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)
may come to pass, it will remain a “workaround.” The signatories to the Constitution
anticipated that modifications to it would be done in a consistent, orderly
This has generally been true. For example, in the Twentieth Century
prohibition was approved through the 18th Amendment, with the Volstead
Act. When it proved unpopular maybe
unworkable, it was removed through the 21st Amendment, not a convenient
This bolstered the Constitutional process. The NPVIC would not. It is then essential to understand the
implication to change the electoral college “the old-fashioned way.”
Opinion about the Electoral College
According to Politico “Half of voters, 50 percent, say the
national popular vote should be used for presidential elections, the poll shows
— more than the 34 percent who think presidential elections should be based on
the Electoral College. Sixteen percent of voters have no opinion.”
of Electoral College Voting Allocations
An analysis has been prepared which compares the electoral
votes from each state with an allocation of electoral votes. The factors correlated are current electoral
votes and electoral votes based on “voting-eligible population.”
The Excel-Pearson’s-R -function between the two is
99.7%. This means the erosion between
proportional voting within states for president when eliminating the 2 votes
per State is 3/10ths of one percent. It
is this 3/10th of one percent that the future of our Republic hangs.
We also learned from the analysis that the impact per State
in most instances would be 0 or 1 vote.
In about 22% of the states, there would be more significant
variation. By my analysis, Florida would
gain 6 votes, California 5, Texas 4, and New York, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania
3. In terms of losses New Mexico,
Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, DC, Vermont, South Dakota, North Dakota,
and Wyoming would lose 2.
The bottom line, inconsistent with conventional wisdom based
on the 2016 election is Republicans would pick up 3 electoral votes, while
Democrats would lose 3 a net total of 6.
For the 2016 election, there would not have been a different
conclusion based on electoral college allocations. However, for the 2012 election, there would
have been. Under some scenarios, Mr.
Romney would have won and become president.
of Changing to National Proportional Voting
Moving away from electoral voting from the States with the
apportionment based upon the original great compromise, destroys one of the few
remaining pillars of the Republican form of government and will reduce the
balance of power equation between the states and the federal government. Our history is how this relationship over the
years has served reform, developing a more perfect union, encouraged internal
stability by buffering tumult and disorder.
I believe it is because we have significant problems with
the partisan bents of 24/7 news services that can in an unbalanced manner focus
coverage and advance specific talking points. Another major problem is derivative from
Citizens United that money, especially on a national basis, can buy the best
coverage possible. We should always work
towards all-politics-is -local and our institutions must support this.
the System in 2020
My personal conclusion as an Independent rural Oregon voter
is, I dearly want to retain what remains of our American Republic. I do, however, want to assure that votes are
reported proportionally within each state to ensure everyone is counted. This I believe is required by the 5th and
14th Amendments as expressed in Baker v. Carr.
If we can achieve a proportional vote within each state, we
can reassure the American voting public that their vote counts.
Therefore, my fondest desire is to find the funding to
support a proportional vote challenge when the electors after the 2020 election
determine to report one winner-take-all-ticket. The vote must be declared based
upon the proportion of vote within my state.
Does anyone have a plan for how I could mount this challenge in December 2020? Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org .