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Winter 2016

The Fight for Compassion by Sawyer Neale

Monitoring Our Lives by Allison Tretina

plus ‘A Well Regulated Militia’ & Solving the Minimum Wage Problem &

Trump-ing the Critics The Epoch: On Regulation

FA L L 2 0 1 3


the EPOCH JOURNAL winter 2016

volume ix, issue ii

editor-in-chief Allison Tretina Sawyer Neale contributors Wyatt Moreton Michael Gao Henry Bartholomew © 2016, The Epoch Journal disclaimer The Epoch Journal is produced and distributed in annapolis, maryland. opinions expressed in articles or illustrations are not necessarily those of the editorial board or st. john’s college. advertising please contact for information about advertisements mailing address st. john’s college 60 college ave. annapolis, md 21404 thanks to Steve Todd Candy Warner Dana Ulrich Deena keeney Les stark Lolly Myers Louann Speese Sen. Mike Folmer Sen. Daylin Leach Mary Pat Tomei



Ronald Reagan famously asked voters during the 1980 presidential campaign: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” A similar test can be applied to any regulation measure: Has it left us safer and healthier than we would have been without it? A time not too long ago, we were not afraid of cigarette smoke or saturated fat. U.S. citizens, whether born in Syria or New Guinea, could travel freely to and from the country without a visa. Psychics weren’t accused of fraud, and selling swiss cheese without holes wasn’t a federal crime. As trivial as some laws can be, how the government regulates our lives could drive us to our early graves. In the late 80’s, at least 22,000 people died waiting for the letter from Food and Drug Administrathe editor tion (FDA) to develop, test, and certify streptokinase — a drug that dissolves clots in heart attack patients. Since the drug’s legalization over tens of thousands of lives have been saved. FDA delays in the introduction of the beta-blocker propranolol, used to treat angina and hypertension, caused at least 30,000 avoidable deaths. Today, it can take about 10 to 15 years before a drug hits the shelf, costing around $800 million or more. Now, what do all these numbers (and lives) mean? Either the FDA is not yet efficient enough and, given better technology and experience, these numbers will decrease in time; or, a one-stop-shop for our medical needs is impossible to find. Efficiency, however, is not all at stake when it comes to deciding how much, if any, regulation is needed. Often times, there is no perfect solution to begin with. The medical field knows this firsthand. No drug is perfectly safe if it is powerful enough to be useful. Aspirin, for example, has been said or shown to interfere with platelet function, to cause allergic reactions in the sensitive, to induce exfoliation of renal epithelial cells, to initiate gastric and to exacerbate duodenal ulcer, to aggravate liver disease under certain circumstances, and to cause gastric bleeding in normal use. The decision to certify a drug requires weighing its benefits against its risks on a balance that can rarely be quantified. In a free market, the decision comes from a doctor, because the patient is unknowledgeable about pharmaceuticals. Yet because the doctor neither pays for the drug nor consumes it, his decision is often swayed by other incentives and guided by misinformation. The doctor never sees the drug under the microscope in a lab and, even if he is fully dedicated to his practise, the professional literature is too much to read. Manufacturers, then, can easily mask the hazards of their products. It could take years before misinformation is brought to light and its tragic effects take

their course. No matter how upright and transparent a company is, sccidents will happen. The free market is inevitibly imperfect. For these reason, in 1906, the first food and drug act was born. Three decades later came the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, resembling the present regulatory structure. Under it, manufacturers had to file a New Drug Application (NDA) with the FDA presenting evidence that the drug was safe. Unless the FDA rejected the application, the drug entered the market. The regulation proved shoddy. No one, including the FDA, supervised the drug tests, and once the tests were taken, the FDA had no authority to require evidence of effectiveness in the NDA. Humans, instead of animals, were tested without their knowledge. It was under this stage of regulation that the thalidomide incident occurred. In 1962 came more regulation: the Kefauver-Harris drug amendments. The consequences were significant. As Milton Silverman and Philip R. Lee outlined in their book Pills, Profits, and Politics, a pharmeceutical company, called Parke-Davis, reported that when the company first marketed a particular epinephrine preparation in 1938, all it had to submit was a 27-page report. In 1948, when it introduced a new expectorant, a 73-page report was required. Another drug marketed required in 1958 neeeded a 430-page submission. Yet, in 1962, when Parke-Davis requested the approval from the FDA for a contraceptive, it had to present a 12,370 pages. Then, in 1968, requesting for an anesthetic, the FDA required slightly more than 72,000 pages in 167 volumes. How much is too much? This brings us to the problem facing the FDA today: too much paperwork, too much regulation, means that time spent saving and protecting lives is killing them off day by day. But had we been better off before 1962, or before 1932? It is all too hard to say. In this spirit of uncertainty, we at the Epoch present to you our Winter Issue, exploring the policies and laws, and lack thereof, regulating our country’s minumum wages, medicine, hacking tools, and guns, from Pennsylvania to the Silicon Valley.

— Allison Tretina, Co-Editor-in-Chief






pennsylvania politics

The Fight for Compassion On the Campaign for Medical Cannabis in Pennsylvania

by sawyer neale


orelei Ulrich was 22 months old when ing, and seeing that children are being she started having seizures. Every day treated using medical cannabis, Ulrich’s since, she has suffered up to and over 700 attitude towards the drug began to change. seizures a day, due to a relentless seizure It is what “got the ball rolling” for her, disorder. And every day since, her mother, she says. Dana, has been searching for a cure. Soon enough, she began began reach“We had exhausted all of our options, ing out to her legislators and local news as far as routine medicine [goes],” said agencies to spread news of her daughter’s Ulrich, her mother. condition and the profound That is, until now. Lorelei medical promise of medical “It seemed like there is eight years old, and it seems cannabis. Shortly thereafsuch a cure has been found. may have been some- ter, she met Louann Speese, The only catch is that using it thing behind this, but whose daughter suffers from of course I thought could land her mother in jail. intractable epilepsy resulting ‘I can’t have my then from a chromosomal deletion, Lorelei, like many children across the Com- five year old smoking and Lolly Myers, whose child monwealth, suffers from also suffers from intractable a joint!’” intractable epilepsy, a seiepilepsy caused by mesial zure disorder characterized temporal sclerosis. This moby a lack of response from treatment. ment marked the creation of a statewide Ulrich said that she first discovered mednetwork of parents — mostly mothers ical cannabis years ago while researching — of children suffering from intractable possible treatments for Lorelei’s epilepsy, epilepsy, autism, and other disabilities that but initially wrote it off. “It seemed like are treatable through the usage of medical there may have been something behind cannabis. this, but of course I thought ‘I can’t have Ulrich, Speese, and Myers formed the my then five year old smoking a joint!’ organization Campaign for Compassion It just didn’t seem reasonable,” she said. which has functioned as a citizen-led However, after watching CNN’s primeadvocacy group for medical cannabis time documentary “WEED” on medical legalization in Pennsylvania. The orgacannabis, seeing that there are both alternization is fighting for the adoption of nate methods of delivery besides smokan act allowing for “compassionate use” WINTER 2016


of cannabis. Today, hundreds of memwishes to remain anonymous, “But I’m so bers, dubbed “Mama Bears” by staffers glad that I didn’t wait for any of them to and members of the state legislature, are wait to tell me what I can or cannot give actively involved, and the organization my child.” regularly holds rallies and events in the Each of these parents have taken great capitol, as well as regular meetings with risks. Pennsylvania’s penalties for treating legislators. one’s child with medical marijuana are Ulrich says that “I think the thing we’ve costly. A parent could be charged with a always tried to do is to be educators. We litany of crimes ranging from child abuse never wanted to strong arm anybody to distribution of controlled substances, or make anybody believe anything that resulting in serious prison time and the they didn’t want to or that wasn’t true,” possibility of losing the custody of the and that the main focus of the organizatreated children. Getting rid of these tion is meeting with legislators and their penalties for treating one’s child using staff, and hand-delivering medical cannabis is what packets of information reCampaign for Compassion “I think the thing garding medical cannabis. is fighting for. In doing so, we’ve always tri ed to Parents who have had their these activists are asking for do is to be educators. children treated with median allowance of compassionWe never wanted to cal cannabis testify to the ate use. stunning results. One parFor these Campaign for strong arm anybody ent recounts how their child Compassion activists, “comor make anybody had suffered up to 1000 seibelieve anything that passionate use” is a very zures a day before receiving they didn’t want to or specific term. It doesn’t mean medical cannabis treatment. recognizing marijuana as an that wasn’t true.” They now say that the child’s FDA-certified medicine, but seizures have decreased in rather leaving unpunished number by over 50%, at 200-400 a day. those who do use marijuana for medical After beginning treatment with a purposes. Deena Keeney, a Mama Bear, marijuana extract oil containing equal and the main researcher at Campaign for amounts of cannabidiol (CBD), the nonCompassion says, “Compassionate use psychoactive component in cannabis, and means that while we know that it could tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the comtake 17 years or more to get this to marponent in cannabis that is responsible for ket, these children, and people suffering the “high” that accompanies consumption from HIV/AIDS or cancer can’t wait, and of the plant, their child, a parent reports, we aren’t going to put them into prison went from having hundreds of seizures a for trying to use this.” day to having none. These Mama Bears aren’t just arguThe results aren’t instantaneous, ing from anecdotal evidence. They want parents report. “It took a while. It took a to make it clear that they have science to few months. We have to obtain her mediback up their positions. They point to a cine from a legal state — it costs a lot of study from the Journal of the American money, it’s scary,” said one parent, who Medical Association, for example, that 6


photo by lolly myers



shows that medical cannabis can help treat chronic pain, and studies that show that medical cannabis can help reduce opiate overdose rates. In 2014, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society came out with another study that revealed the effectiveness of CBD in treating intractable epilepsy, while the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that it can treat PTSD. According to Campaign for Compassion and independent studies, the negative side effects from cannabis are extremely mild, and it is impossible to fatally overdose on either of the active ingredients in cannabis. Advocates also point to the fact that the up until 1992, the federal government was on board with members of Campaign for Compassion. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program was active for nearly 20 years, and distributed cannabis to patients across the country before being shut down in 1992 by



President Bush, who prevented the program from accepting new patients as a part of an initiative to get tough on drugs. The Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program was born out of a Supreme Court case United States v. Randall (1971), in which the Court found in favor of Robert Randall, a glaucoma patient who was charged with drug possession for treating his cancer using medical marijuana. The Court found that his argument that cannabis was a medical necessity was valid and after a petition was filed by Randall in 1976, the federal government began providing marijuana to Randall through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The program had very stringent application requirements, but at its height, when the program was still accepting new patients, it had up to 15 patients. Although the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program is no longer accepting patients, the NIDA has continued distrib-

photo by lolly myers

uting cannabis to a small group of patients just like that, the most successful attempt around the country. to legalize medical cannabis in PennsylThe Mama Bears are adamant, as well, vania was born. that a Pennsylvania-based compassionate Folmer was initially a bit skeptical of use program wouldn’t lead to recreational medical marijuana. He said, “I wasn’t legalization, saying that “some people sure. I always ask this one question, think that we are only using this as a though, ‘If I’m able to get a prescription Trojan horse and that we’re using this as for oxycontin, percocet, vicodin, medical a way to get to legalization in Pennsylvamorphine, whatever, why wouldn’t I be nia. Nothing can be further from the truth able to get the right to use a fairly benign considering that the only states that have plant?’” gotten legalization of cannabis did so However, after reading through the because they had ballot initiatives and this Mama Bears’ information packets they state doesn’t have that.” had left for him, Folmer changed his In Pennsylvania, Campaign for Compasmind.“I started to go through all of it, and sion is quickly finding support. I was up all night reading,” When the organization was he said. “And the next mornAnd just like that, founded, it had a few major ing I woke up and I was gothe most successful allies in the state Senate and ing, ‘Oh my gosh — there’s attempt to legalize House. One of the most vismedical cannabis in real medical value to this! ible of these allies is Sen. DayWe should really be looking Pennsylvania was lin Leach (D-17), a Democrat into this. This is crazy that born. representing the suburbs of I’m not allowed to have this Philadelphia. Even as far back medication.’” as 2010, he introduced a bill that would After consulting with his pastor, and legalize recreational cannabis (Senate Bill Chief of Staff, Folmer began constructing 528), and later another bill legalizing medSenate Bill 1182, modeled after Leach’s ical cannabis (Senate Bill 770). Both bills own Senate Bill 770. At first, his caucus needed to find traction outside the Demthought the bill was a joke. Then momenocratic caucus to pass, and neither did. tum picked up quickly for the bill. Folmer When Campaign for Compassion says that a floor speech he delivered in was founded, the organization knew it April 2014 was a major moment for the needed to garner bi-partisan support for bill. The then-Senate Majority Leader Pimedical cannabis, and maybe even have a leggi said in a private caucus meeting afRepublican introduce the bill. To do just terwards that he hadn’t ever seen a speech that, Ulrich and other moms visited her “used as effectively as that was used.” die-hard conservative state senator, Mike In January 2014, SB 1182, or “The Folmer (R-48). Compassionate Use of Medical Mari“Originally, I walked in thinking, ‘Oh juana Act,” was introduced by Folmer no, he’s just gonna say no,” said Ulrich. and Leach. It passed unanimously out of However, the exact opposite happened. the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee, Folmer almost-immediately agreed to take and almost unanimously out of the Senate up the cause of medical cannabis. And Appropriations Committee, before finally WINTER 2016


passing the Senate with a 43-7 vote. out of committee in the House. However, in the House it was left to die However, the fight isn’t over. without a single vote. The bill also faced Since being voted out of committee numerous modifications in the process. in November 2015, the bill has been hit The work wasn’t done, and Folmer and with 197 suggested amendments and has Leach reintroduced the bill in its current since been removed from the legislative form, Senate Bill 3, at the beginning of table two times. When asked where he the 2015-2016 legislative session. finds this pushback coming from, Folmer Folmer characterizes himself as a conresponded, “The House leadership — servative, who is a “liberal in the 18th actually, only half of House leadership. century sense of the term,” and thinks There’s a vocal minority over there that, that the passage of this bill is necessary because they have the positions, are able not just from a public health to stall it.” Among these leadperspective, but also from a ers, activists and legislators “There’s a vocal mi- alike point to two prominent philosophical perspective. To justify his fight for medi- nority over there that, voices: Speaker Mike Turzai cal cannabis, he paraphrases because they have the and Rep. Matt Baker. positions, are able to Thomas Jefferson, “I agree Rep. Baker, the majority with Thomas Jefferson when chairman of the Pennsylvania stall it.” he said, ‘A people that allow House Health Committee, their government to dictate said his opposition is based what foods they eat and what medicines partially in law, and partially in science. they take, their souls are in the same sorry He is afraid that the new bill would make state as those souls that live in tyranny.’ cannabis available to “anyone who claims My thoughts are that if I’m not causing they have pain or a qualifying disease,” harm to you, and I’m not causing any harm and would conflict with federal law, to myself, why is it any of your business?” which still lists cannabis as illegal. As He has tried to represent this philosofar as his science goes, he says that the phy in his bills, saying that his ideal form drug has been shown to “cause permanent of a medical cannabis distribution system brain damage, loss of IQ, birth defects, would have the plant regularly tested for death to babies in the womb, mental illpurity, and otherwise regulated like orness and addiction.” ganic food, leaving the method of applicaAs chairman of the Health Committion up to doctors and patients. tee, Baker refused to schedule a vote on However, he said that he has had to SB 3 in the committee, effectively killing make concessions. The bill, as is, expressit. That is, until a Republican member of ly prohibits smoking cannabis, and limits the State House filed a discharge petition treatable conditions to a list of 13, includthat would have moved it to the House ing cancer, epilepsy, sclerosis, wasting floor. In response to this attempt to trigger syndrome, Parkinson’s, PTSD, HIV/AIDs, a vote in the House, it was referred by a glaucoma, and chronic pain. It is making 25-0 vote to the House Rules Commitprogress in the legislature, though, having tee. It easily passed the Rules Committee, passed the Senate once again, and passed chaired by House Majority Leader David 10


Reed, a Republican proponent of the law, SB 3. In response to the latest medical by a 25-8 vote. One opposing vote came cannabis gridlock, the organization is now from Speaker Turzai, who is now the obstaffing what they call the “Still Waiting stacle facing SB 3. As Speaker, Turzai has Room,” a mockup of a doctor’s office the ability to decide which bills come up waiting room in the floor of the capitol for vote on the floor of the House. rotunda. Speaker Turzai’s office declined to reThe Campaign for Compassion has spond to repeated requests for comment on clearly made significant progress in Pennhis views on SB 3. But a political insider, sylvania. According to latest polls from who requested to remain anonymous, said Quinnipac, 90% of Pennsylvania voters that Turzai’s opposition is based out of a are now in favor of legalizing medical fear of losing control of his caucus and a marijuana, with older polls showing that fear of the possibility of his children getoverwhelming majorities of Democrats, ting access to marijuana, a Republicans, and Indepenconcern which was echoed dents approve of it. FurtherAccording to latest in a story from Harrisburg’s polls from Quinnipac, more, SB 3 has been more The Patriot News, which resuccessful than any previous 90% of Pennsylvaported that Turzai ended an attempt to legalize medical nia voters are now intra-caucus debate over the cannabis in Pennsylvania. in favor of legalizing bill in tears. Turzai’s wife, However, on the stalemate medical marijuana. a pediatrician, is in supin the legislature, Ulrich isn’t port of medical legalization. impressed: “While most of our Since being approved by the Rules legislature doesn’t understand what it’s Committee in November 2015, there like to have children that are this medihas been no vote on SB 3, but over 100 cally fragile, we are waiting here watchamendments have been proposed for the ing our children suffer every day with bill, which some fear has the potential to countless seizures, where we don’t know kill. if any single one of them could take our Right now, Pennsylvania is in the child from us,” she said. “They’re playing midst of an unprecedented budget impolitical games, and our child could be passe, with Democrats and Republicans gone from us at any time.” ■ alike unwilling to approve a budget, which was due in July of 2015. This budget impasse has been on the tip of the tongues of legislators, staffers, and advocates alike, and the common opinion is we will see no movement on SB 3 until the budget situation is resolved. However, Campaign for Compassion hasn’t been waiting. Since the bill has been held up in the House, Campaign for Compassion is hard at work lobbying legislators to try to materialize a vote on WINTER 2016



Monitoring Our Lives Hacking, Encryption, and Surveillance by allison tretina

After the recent attacks in Paris, offi-

pany Hacking Team, is the best-known cials such as New York City police comsophisticated spying software in the missioner Bill Bratton complained that country. encryption is neutralizing conventional The Hacking Team pitches its spying search and surveillance techniques. For software as a solution to fighting crime. him, it isn’t only the assault weapons and As it writes on its website, “Here in Hacksuicide belts we should be worried about. ing Team we believe that fighting crime “ISIS, taking advantage of the technolshould be easy: we provide effective, ogy that the head of the FBI easy-to-use offensive techhas been complaining about, nology to the worldwide law Once reserved exclu- enforcement and intelligence I’ve been been complaining sively for national about going dark, the ability communities.” intelligence agencies, to go dark, I think you’re goThis “offensive” technolhacking tools are now ing to see that playing a sigogy, however, is fraught with nificant factor in this event,” becoming commplace technological, moral, and Bratton told ABC. in local police offices. legal issues. Once reserved Bratton said, “He is very exclusively for national intelinterested to see what types ligence agencies, hacking of phones [the ISIS] were equipped with, tools are now widely used in local police what types of apps they had on their offices. phones. Were they, in fact, even in com“Before hacking trickles down from munication at all?” the FBI to state and local law enforcement To be clear, no verified information has agencies, we urgently need to debate if been revealed about what communication and how such surveillance tools should methods the attackers used to plot their be used,” Christopher Soghoian, principal assault, or if encryption was involved at technologist at the American Civil Liberall. In the meantime, as we patiently wait ties Union, told MIT Technology Review. for more results, companies like Remote RCS can infect both PCs and mobile Control System (RCS) will quietly condevices. It can copy files from your hard tinue their work and, given their progress drive, listen in on Skype calls and instant so far, may be in higher demand this year. messages, read e-mails before they’ve RCS, developed by a small Italian combeen encrypted, capture passwords typed



into a Web browser, and turn on the miten quickly deployed before any sort of crophone and camera to watch or listen to oversight is in place to regulate their use. you. In the United States, the abuse of StingThe program can infect a device by rays — devices that sweep up informataking advantage of security flaws in tion from cell phones in given area — is operating systems and other software. commonplace. The Wall Street Journal Hacking Team either discovers these vulreported, in 2015 alone, Baltimore police nerabilities itself or pays other companies admitted of using the device more than to do so. RCS can infiltrate a computer 4,300 times, sometimes for crimes as through a malware-laden program, or by minor as a stolen cell phone. And, in San someone covertly getting physical access Bernardino County, near Los Angeles, the to a device. sheriff deployed information sweeps over A wide range of local and even univer300 times without a warrant in a timespan sity police forces have also of less than two years. asked Hacking Team to demAccording to Wired, the When police gain onstrate its tools. According to FBI now requires a warrant MIT Technology Review, some access to new surveil- to use Stingrays, and efforts lance technologies, of Hacking Team’s customers underway to force local law have used RCS in troubling they are often quickly enforcement to do the same. ways. In 2012, the Univerdeployed before any It’s easy to imagine a similar sity of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, sort of oversight is in pattern of abuse with hackwhich investigates how coming tools, which are far more place. puter security affects human powerful and invasive than rights, found that Hacking other surveillance technoloTeam software had been used by the United gies that police currently use. Arab Emirates government to infect the PC It is unlikely that Congress will disof a political dissident and by the Ethiopicuss regulating surveillance technoloan government to break into the computers gies. After recent attacks by the Islamic of journalists working in the United States. State, empowering intelligence and law In the U.S., the Fourth Amendment enforcement is on the rise. Late in 2013, and the rules of criminal procedure govfor example, an arms control pact signed ern how tools like RCS are used. Under by the U.S. and 40 other countries, the this governance, the FBI needs a warrant Wassenaar Arrangement, was updated to before it can hack your computer. Yet restrict the export of surveillance technolthe U.S. Department of Justice is in the ogy to certain governments. But the proprocess of tweaking the rules for securing posed rules in the U.S. were rejected after warrants for “remote access” searches, acsecurity researchers protested the laws cording to Computer World. Such tweaks were too broad and would restrict vital will grant judges authority to issue warwork needed to keep the Internet secure. rants outside the judicial district of the Surveillance measures, it appears, have investigated crime. sacrificed accountability for perceived When police gain access to new security and protection. ■ surveillance technologies, they are ofWINTER 2016


Presidential Politics

The Problem with Hating Trump On How to Respond to the Trump Candidacy by Michael Gao


hese days it seems impossible to read tion, annoyance, anger. But this knee-jerk the news without seeing Donald Trump’s reaction is not our only option. Rest asname in the headlines: “Donald Trump: sured, I am not making any moral arguThe Chaos Candidate,” “Trump’s Politics ments that we have all heard ad nauseam. of Fear,” among others. And of course soAs Wallace puts it, it is an argument about cial media users are always eager to voice freedom: “The really important kind of their opinions, penning long anecdotes freedom involves attention and awareabout their lives as American minorities or ness and discipline, and being able truly elegantly exposing Trump’s to care about other people and “bigotry” and “Islamophobia.” to sacrifice for them over and It takes no effort at I cannot help but agree that over in myriad petty, unsexy the Republican presidential all to conjure up neg- ways every day. That is real ative feelings inside candidate has gone way out of freedom. That is being eduof us: frustration, anline in his campaign to “procated, and understanding how tect” the American people, but to think. The alternative is noyance, agner. But I am concerned that the intelunconsciousness, the default this knee-jerk reaclectual community is becomsetting, the rat race.” tion is not our only ing dangerously complacent. Personally, my default option. In his commencement Donald Trump settings were speech at Kenyon College, set after watching highlights David Foster Wallace warned of his now infamous “runthe graduating class of 2015 of feeling too ning for president” speech, in which he comfortable with their “natural default made obnoxious and seemingly random setting.” That is to say, when we are dealcomments about China, money and iming with the unpleasantries of our day-tomigrants. (How could anybody forget day lives — the car that aggressively cuts his declaration that Mexico was sending you off only to immediately slow down, drugs, crime and rapists?) Since then, the kid who incessantly talks over evI shudder at the sight of his face and at erybody else in seminar, the toddler who the sound of his name. I find comfort in keeps crying and kicking your seat on the the fact that numerous articles have been plane — it takes no effort at all to conjure published criticizing him, and that I have up negative feelings inside of us: frustranot yet met a single intelligent soul who 14


will vote for him this year. I am not just comforted, but even gratified by harsh criticism of Trump — a kind of criticism that begins and ends with the worst things he has done and the most outrageous things he has said. But, again, this is only my default setting. I have the option, as we all do, to think of him in a different light: as a wellintentioned person, who cares about the nation, all of its people, and its protection, prosperity, and fairness. “Of course, none of this is likely,” as Mr. Wallace would say. “But it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable.” After all,

photo by wikimedia commons

how long can a conversation last when everyone simply believes Trump is a bad person, unworthy of taking seriously? Wouldn’t it be fair to say that we could all have far more productive conversations if we were, let’s say, to think of Trump as a well-intentioned, overprotective parent? A parent who wants to build walls around his child to keep them safe, who wants to restrict their child’s freedom to protect them, who even threatens to kill those who dare lay a finger on them? If we do not question his intentions, the only thing left to criticize is his arguments. And if those arguments are as absurd and ignorant as many people make them out to be, we need not talk about the person who makes them. Let us leave cheap and cutting criticism to those who have no leg to stand on. ■



Gun Control

‘A Well Regulated Militia’ A Survey of Federal Gun Control Laws by wyatt moreton


ith the ongoing debate over gun control in America, what better time is there to review the current laws? I will outline below the prominent federal gun control laws in our country. THE GUN CONTROL ACT The most important gun law in the U.S. is the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA). This legislation was enacted during a wave of high-profile assassinations and a sharp increase in general crime. It established the Federal Firearms License (FFL) system of registering firearms dealers and regulating commercial firearms purchases. Anyone selling firearms for profit must posses an FFL and abide by the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The federal government is prohibited from keeping a record of firearms sales, but FFL holders must keep a book recording all their sales which can, of course, be accessed by law enforcement with an appropriate warrant. Anyone purchasing a firearm from an FFL must complete a Form 4473 that provides personal identification information and declares whether one is a “prohibited person.” After completing the form, the FFL will call it in for an FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS). Usually this takes just a few minutes and, 16


if nothing comes up, one can proceed with the purchase. In some cases the check will prove inconclusive and the FBI will ask for the purchase to be delayed for up to seven days. Most times, this delay will be sorted out within a day or two, but if the FBI is unable to find proof that the purchaser is a prohibited person the purchase can be conducted as usual. If the Form 4473 or the NICS check reveals that the buyer is a prohibited person, then the sale will not go through. The list of prohibited persons includes: anyone indicted or convicted of a crime punishable by a year of imprisonment, subject to a restraining order, convicted of domestic violence, dishonorably discharged from the military, or has renounced his citizenship fugitives, as well as drug users, the mentally handicapped, and illegal aliens. Further, rifles and shotguns cannot be sold to people under the age of 18 and handguns cannot be sold to individuals under 21. However, this regulation only applies to the FFL system and does not cover private sales between individuals as long as one does not sell so many firearms in a year that the ATF deems it to be a commercial operation — which is the cause of the infamous “gun show loophole.” Ironically, the majority of private sales does not actually occur at gun shows but rather

between friends and family members or through online sales through social media. However, it is still illegal to knowingly sell or transfer a firearm to a prohibited person, although private transfers do not need to abide by the FFL age restrictions and can freely sell or give firearms to minors. Further, it must be noted that the Internet (and previously mail-order) firearm sales are not wholly unregulated as some have claimed. Until the passage of the GCA, firearms could be ordered from a catalog just like any other consumer good. However, now firearms can be mailed to an FFL. What this means is that when one buys a firearm online, it must then be shipped to an FFL of one’s choice where the Form 4473 will be filed and the NICS check conducted. An additional point of interest is that while rifles and shotguns can be purchased out of state, handguns can only be purchased from an FFL in

photo by wikimedia commons

one’s state of residence, so that even as in-person purchase will then have to be mailed the home state FFL to be transferred — although this is being challenged in the Fifth Circuit. THE NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT The other national piece of gun control legislation is the National Firearms Act of 1934. This piece of legislature was written in an era when gun control was just beginning to emerge and was intended to be an almost complete ban of non-sporting weapons. Since the 2nd Amendment prevented an outright ban, a $200 tax was placed on the purchase and manufacturing of certain firearms. In 1934 this was the equivalent of over $3,500 in today’s economy and was equal to the purchase price of the most expensive of the taxed firearms. During the debate over the bill, handguns were stricken from the list of affect-



ed firearms, leaving it governing machine guns, rifles and shotguns with barrels less than 18” long, and firearms with a bore diameter greater than 0.5”, as well as silencers and various explosive devices. Later, the NFA was amended so that rifles with barrels greater than 16” were not considered short barreled rifles (SBR’s) although the cut off for short barreled shotguns (SBS’s) remained at 18”. The line between handguns and SBR’s/ SBS’s is an odd one. Like so many legal definitions, it bears little relation to a mechanical definition. In fact, U.S. firearms import laws (which discriminate against small pistols and semiautomatic rifles) means that several manufacturers find it easier to remove a few non-essential pieces and import rifles as pistols. It is a notable artifact of the NFA that silencers are not only considered firearms under federal law, but are regulated more tightly than the vast majority of firearms. In most European nations, purchasing a silencer



is considerably easier than purchasing a firearm because of the hearing protection they offer. While private citizens can freely manufacture firearms in the U.S., the manufacture of NFA items requires the approval of the $200 tax stamp. This approval process, whether for manufacturing or purchasing NFA items requires the completion of detailed forms sent to the ATF, as well as fingerprinting and signed approval from a local government figure, usually your chief law enforcement officer (although under a recent ATF rules change the signature will be eliminated). Even after the forms are filed, it will take several months to get approval. The approval is returned with a physical stamp, reminiscent of colonial stamps for tea, to prove that your firearm is legally possessed. Commercial manufacturers of NFA items have their own process that is more stringent than a standard firearms manufacturer but significantly easier than

photo by reuters

the civilian process. In 1986, in a last minute voice-vote amendment made in attempt to kill the Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA), the machine gun registry was closed. This means that the ATF is not legally allowed to approve tax stamps for machine guns manufactured or imported after 1986. While several hundred thousand “transferrable” machine guns exist in the US, the limited supply coupled with ever increasing demand means that the cheapest machine guns now sell for several thousand dollars for decade-old weapons when brand new, semi-automatic versions of those same guns sell for a few hundred. A further restriction on NFA items, except for silencers, is the requirement to obtain permission from the ATF before transporting them across state lines. There is currently a bill introduced in the House to remove silencers from the NFA and there is an ongoing lawsuit in the district courts to reopen the machine gun registry. ASSAULT WEAPON BAN One law that is worth mentioning no longer exists — the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that lasted from 1994 until it sunset in 2004. This law forbade the manufacture or import of “assault weapons” and magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. However, the definition of an assault weapon was based almost entirely on cosmetic features of little practical value (such as collapsable stocks, threaded barrels, and bayonet lugs), so, after a few minor modifications, most of the weapons it attempted to ban were back in production with very little loss in functionality. The magazine restrictions proved almost as futile as there were millions of “preban” magazines in circulation. However,

magazine prices skyrocketed almost a full order of magnitude. This bill had clause that caused it to sunset after 10 years. When the expiration date came around, there was little support to reinstate it given its heavy-handed and mostly ineffective nature — especially since the weapons it attempted to ban had always been negligible fraction of the weapons used in crimes. However, it remains relevant as most of the current state weapons bans are based on this law. NO GUN ZONES The final federal law that is worth mentioning is the prohibition of firearms in public schools and federal buildings. The first ban on firearms in public schools was actually repealed on Constitutional grounds and the current one claims legitimacy by masquerading as the regulation of items in interstate commerce. CONCLUSION The above is a brief overview of the federal firearms regulatory scheme and really is only the most basic introduction to the wider debate on gun control. Every one of the fifty states is also deeply involved in firearms law and many of the current debates, such as concealed and open carry, are the responsibilities of the states and must be followed separately. Further subjects worth studying include the use of firearms in crime and for selfdefense and teh acutal physical charactersistsics of the firearms themselves. A good deal fo the derision that gun ownders direct at the pro-gun crwownd stems from the propensity of the later to misunderstand basic technical aspects of the itsems they are trying to ban ■ WINTER 2016



Solving the Minimum Wage Problem

On Properly Raising the Minimum Wage by Henry Bartholomew


concerned that an increase in a minimum he minimum wage is one of those hotwage will make certain jobs unviable button topics deeply dividing Americans. for businesses to maintain, and that an Broadly speaking, liberals tend to emincrease in disposable income by certain phasize the ability of the individual to reconsumers will not be enough to offset ally support themselves off a wage, while this. Furthermore, they argue, due to the conservatives like to point to the potenregressive nature of economic recession, tially negative side effects raising the these policies would hit the minimum wage has on those poor the hardest. Conserwho need it most. The two poGiven that coversitions seem irreconcilable — ing the cost of living vatives also believe that a higher minimum wage will the one wants the minimum is part of the argumake younger worker unwage raised, the other wants ment for raising the able to compete with expeit slightly raised, abolished, or minimum wage, why rienced workers, because something in between. Now, since politics is about find- does it make sense for businesses will lack a way to people to be covered compensate the less experiing a position that works best for everyone, let’s examine under one set of guid- enced. It’s not easy to see a lot the two positions closely to lines? of room for compromise see if there is a way to address between the two positions the concerns of both parties. — partly because each side fundamentally For liberals, the minimum  wage ought disagrees on  how to create wealth and to pay enough for an individual to live on, whether supply precedes demand, or viceand support a family with. They further versa. Nevertheless, there are a couple emphasize that the minimum wage has of reforms that take the concerns of both not kept pace with inflation, and that it parties into account. is at one of its lowest points ever in real terms. While they may concede that there 1. The minimum wage should be on a could be job losses or increased prices, state by state basis. they also believe these effects will be mitigated by a working class with higher In a way, this may seem like a loss for income. liberals, because only some states will Conservatives, on the other hand, are 20


young require fewer resources, let’s have them work for different wages. 2. Lower minimum wage for youth. Some might argue it is still worse for older workers with families to be unemYouth have different goals for joining the ployed, and that these policies would workforce than adults do. Adults intend to inevitably lead to a somewhat higher support themselves and possibly a family. unemployment rate in that group. While I Youth intend to build savings, can see the logic behind that supplement their income, and point, consider that young Soon enough, the obtain experience. Again, lower class youth will workers are often prevented why should these be covered by child labor laws from be trapped in a viunder the same regulation? doing certain types of jobs, cious cycle of unem- ensuring that older workers As it happens, the conseployment and povquences of equal minimum still have some significant wage harms the youth. First, erty — a detriment to advantages. Anyway, given youth are unable to compete that today’s youth are the everyone. with their older, more experifamily supporters of tomorenced peers, despite the fact row, it doesn’t make sense to that those older and more experienced concentrate unemployment there in the workers are almost certainly worth more. younger demographic. Rather, unemployThis, in turn, means that youth have a ment should be spread out and kept as low much harder time getting their foot in the as possible. door with a first job. In conclusion, although no system The problem is compounded for those is perfect, these reforms would address living in poor communities. Middle and the concerns of both sides and make our upper class kids have a much easier time system significantly better off than it is finding a job through their family connecnow. Please, let’s not insist on ideological tions. Indeed, that’s how most people I purity at the cost of real progress. ■ know found their first job, through family friends with lots of relevant connections. The lower classes often lack that luxury. Again, the middle and upper classes have access to better education which the lower class youth lacks. This lack of education has the tragic effect of making them need the job that much more, and that much more difficult to attain. Soon enough, the lower class youth will be trapped in  a vicious cycle of unemployment and poverty — a detriment to everyone. Instead of forcing the young to work in direct competition against the more experienced, when the even further.



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The Epoch Journal - Winter 2016  
The Epoch Journal - Winter 2016