Vote Yes on I-594

yes594Here in Washington State we have two Initiatives regarding gun control on the ballot. These initiatives are the result of massive campaigns that acquired enough signatures from registered voters to be eligible to be on the ballot for a vote of the people. It’s pretty much the only kind of gun control even a liberal state like Washington can manage because most politicians are too cowardly to go up against the gun lobby’s NRA.

The first initiative is I-591. It does it’s level best to weaken what background check and gun control laws we have because, y’know, FREEDOM. I’m more than a bit biased about this but seriously, is there even one example of some guy who died because he was unable to get a gun that would have saved him because of a background check? More people have died from Ebola in this country than have died due to a background check on a gun. Voting against this gun-lobby endorsed piece of garbage wannabe legislation only takes the ability to rub two brain cells together.

The first initiative is I-594. It basically required background checks for people who want to purchase firearms in this state and specifically eliminates the .gun show loophole’. It also scares the hell out of some gun owners because they’re under the impression that if they’re at the range and they let their buddy shoot off a few rounds they’re suddenly going to be arrested because their buddy didn’t submit to a background check. To their credit, I-594 isn’t the best written initiative that I’ve ever seen and it does have its flaws. However, I don’t see a lot of otherwise law abiding citizens getting locked up for gun violations anywhere in the entire country. Not even in places like Chicago or Washington DC where gun control laws are extremely strict.

I understand that people who want to vote against I-594 are doing so out of fear, but it’s fear of stuff that hasn’t happened and isn’t happening anywhere else. Whereas people all over the country are getting their hands on guns that they wouldn’t otherwise have if they simply had to go through a background check.

There are 30,000 gun deaths in America every single year. No amount of gun control legislation will stop all of those deaths and not even the biggest proponent of gun control thinks that it will. We can’t stop all of the deaths. But we can stop some. And we don’t stop them by having a ‘good guy with a gun’. Two thirds of those gun deaths are suicides. So I’m a bit lost as to what I’m supposed to do as a good guy with a gun against a guy who’s going to shoot himself. (“Don’t shoot yourself….or I’ll shoot you.”?) Background checks can stop some (again, it’s not going to stop all) of those deaths. As for the others, the truth is that it’s exceedingly rare for a ‘good guy with a gun’ to stop a ‘bad guy with a gun’ and this is despite the fact that we have a bunch of good guys with guns throughout the country. We have many more accidental gun deaths than we do justified gun homicides. So either the good guy with a gun thing is a myth or gun owners are slacking on the job.

I happily voted down I-591 and voted for I-594. I-594 is like a lot of things we end up voting for. It’s far from perfect, but it’s better than what we have.

– Jack Cameron


Why We Should Kill The Death Penalty

death-penaltyEarlier this month, the governor of Washington State suspended all death sentences. This has predictably resulted in many people expressing outrage that these convicted murderers aren’t going to be killed by the state. Death row holds some of the worst humanity has to offer. Lives were cut short by these people and there are many who believe that the only appropriate punishment for such actions is to put murderers to death. I understand that.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the death penalty, there are significant unsolvable problems that make the implantation of capital punishment in many cases, just as bad as the crimes for which we’re trying to punish.

Innocent People Have Been Killed By The State

The Problem: The most obvious problem with the death penalty is the potential for the courts to get it wrong. If the court sentences an innocent man to death and carries out the penalty, this amounts to state-sanctioned murder. No one who has a genuine respect for human life and views murder as wrong can accept the killing of innocent people when it can be prevented. This is not a hypothetical.  Here’s a list of people who turned out to be likely innocent but were executed by the state.

And here’s a list of the eighteen people who were on death row but were exonerated and removed from death row before to their execution.

Why It’s Unsolvable: Our courts operate on the concept of reasonable doubt. People who are convicted have been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but that’s far from iron-clad or absolute as the links above show. There’s no way to change our court system so that there’s a ‘definitely guilty’ verdict and even if there were, the costs to do so would be even higher than the current court costs. This leads to the next problem.

It Costs Too Much For The State To Execute Someone

The Problem: A common thing heard by pro-death penalty advocates is that they don’t want to spend taxpayer money on keeping a murderer alive in prison. Again, this sentiment is understandable. Who wants to spend any money at all on such individuals if they can help it? What these people often are unaware of is that the cost of a death penalty case plus putting the someone to death is actually significantly more expensive than it would be to simply keep the person in prison for the rest of their lives.

According to a recent study, in Washington State it costs $46,897 per year for an average prisoner. Death Penalty cases cost an average of $470,000 more than non-death penalty cases. Appeals cost an additional $100,000. Those costs alone are enough to pay for twelve years of prison. While I was unable to find the costs in Washington, in California it costs an additional $90,000 per inmate every year to keep someone on Death Row. Assuming similar costs in Washington State that means that every death row prisoner costs the amount of three non-death row prisoners.

Why It’s Unsolvable: Eliminating the court costs in death penalty cases would mean making things more streamlined which inevitably makes it more likely that innocent people will be convicted and executed resulting in more innocent deaths in the quest to kill murderers.

The Death Penalty Disproportionately Executes Non-White People

The Problem: A recent study by the University of Washington shows that if you’re black jurors are three times more likely to impose the death penalty despite similar circumstances in the case. Racism in death penalty cases is nothing new, but studies like this show that racial bias hasn’t gone away. If we are going to seek the death penalty on murderers we have to do it equally. If we don’t, then we must admit that it’s something other than justice.

Why It’s Unsolvable: You can’t cure racism. There’s no way to stop racist jurors from existing. Things have changed and changed for the better over the years but it’s not going to be eradicated.

The Death Penalty Must Be Abolished

When you put all of these things together, it is difficult if not impossible to admit that letting the state put people to death is not in the best interests of our community. If our goal is to stop the deaths of innocent people we cannot allow innocent people to die for the sake of maintaining capital punishment. If we are going to claim to be fiscally conservative we cannot allow counties to bankrupt themselves simply to try a case that may or may not result in a conviction. And we cannot have the capital punishment as a disproportionate deterrent for people who happen to have a different color of skin.

Murderers must be punished. This goes without saying. No one is saying otherwise. Taking someone and putting them in a cell for the rest of their life is a suitable punishment. It’s also a punishment that can be removed if the person is found to be innocent. It’s less expensive. Putting someone in prison for life makes sure the murderer doesn’t have a chance to kill another person on the street.

Killing is wrong. This is a moral value recognized in almost every society. It’s why so few Western Countries continue to have the death penalty as even an option. As a society we must draw the line at anyone killing innocent people including the state. If we allow for anything less we are nothing less than accomplices in the deaths of potentially innocent people.  And we are better than that.

–          Jack Cameron