Gordon VanGilder, a 72 year old retired schoolteacher, now faces felony charges for possessing a 225 year old flintlock pistol, which he says he told a sheriff’s deputy about during a routine traffic stop. [NRA YouTube] More: Charles Cooke, Scott Greenfield (current New Jersey law specifically prohibits possession of antique firearms, a provision one lawmaker there would like to fix). For more on the tender mercies of New Jersey gun control laws, see our coverage of the Brian Aitken case.
Bad enough for Congress to meddle in adoptions in hopes of helping out Indian tribes. But…burials? My new guest column at Jurist examines the first-of-its-kind lawsuit by which some descendants of Native American sports great Jim Thorpe are trying to use the law to require the borough of Jim Thorpe, Pa. to yield up his remains for re-interment in Oklahoma. It concludes:
In a nation where people regularly fall in love across ethnic lines, laws that assign rights differentially to some members of families based on descent or tribal affiliation are especially hard to justify under US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. … Say what you will about the Third Circuit’s reasoning, it at least postpones the day when tribal enmities extend into our very cemeteries, and even the dead cannot escape counting based on race.
- Department of surreal headlines: “Detroit Mayor’s Office Disappointed With UN’s Stance on Water Shutoffs” [MLive.com via Deadline Detroit, earlier on customers who don’t pay Detroit water bills]
- “When Mr. Bond first impregnated Mrs. Bond’s best friend, the international Chemical Weapons Convention was probably the furthest thing from his mind.” [Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Cato Supreme Court Review (PDF), earlier on Bond v. U.S.]
- A case against including investor/state protections in trade negotiations [Daniel Ikenson, Cato] Issue leading leftists, libertarians separately to discover merits of sovereigntism? [Julian Ku, Opinio Juris]
- Survey of rapidly changing field of transnational antiquities law [ABA Journal]
- Canada, like U.S., gets periodic U.N. tongue-lashing over its relations with Indian tribes/native peoples [Kathryn Fort, ConcurOp]
- With U.S. isolated on firearms issues, U.N.’s contemplated Programme of Action on Small Arms not quite so innocuous [Ted Bromund, more, earlier here, here, here, and here]
- “The U.S. government should be careful about entering into new international agreements and treaties precisely because international laws do have legal force.” [Jason Sorens, Pileus]
Now this is welcome: the New York Times (via Ronald Bailey) has a column by George Johnson jumping off from the question of whether locating a giant telescope on Mauna Kea would unfairly desecrate the religious and ancestral heritage of (some) native Hawaiians. Johnson notes:
While biblical creationists opposing the teaching of evolution have been turned back in case after case, American Indian tribes have succeeded in using their own religious beliefs and a federal law called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to empty archaeological museums of ancestral bones — including ones so ancient that they have no demonstrable connection to the tribe demanding their reburial. The most radical among them refuse to bow to a science they don’t consider their own. A few even share a disbelief in evolution, professing to take literally old myths in which the first people crawled out of a hole in the ground.
In this turn back toward the dark ages, it is not just skeletal remains that are being surrendered. Under the federal law, many ceremonial artifacts are also up for grabs. While some archaeologists lament the loss of scientific information, Indian creationism is tolerated out of a sense of guilt over past wrongdoings.
Even some scientists bow and go along in the spirit of reparations, while admitting the loss to human inquiry and future knowledge. Earlier on NAGPRA and the Kennewick Man controversy here, here, etc.
The U.S. government was intent on “repatriating” the ancient remains of Kennewick Man for burial to Indian tribes in compliance with the perceived spirit of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), though any relation between those remains and current tribes is at best notional. The U.S. Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers had thrown their full weight on the side of immediate burial, even threatening criminal charges against individual scientists who insisted on litigating the case. “If it weren’t for a harrowing round of panicky last-minute maneuvering worthy of a legal thriller, the remains might have been buried and lost to science forever.” Fortunately, scientists won in the end, leaving the “most important human skeleton ever found in North America” finally free to disclose his secrets. [Smithsonian, earlier]
P.S. Welcome Popehat readers (“Science in the Hands of Angry Liberal Arts Majors”). And as several commenters point out, my summary above overstates the extent to which scientists actually prevailed, since the U.S. government continues to fight tenaciously to prevent further testing of the remains, and reportedly dumped a thousand tons of fill on the discovery site early on in case it hadn’t made its stance clear.
Last month I wrote about a strangely aggressive FBI raid on the rural Indiana home of a retiree locally famous for collecting artifacts and curios from around the world. In a piece written then but overlooked by me at the time, Radley Balko puts this in the context of equally aggressive armed enforcement raids on Indian artifact collectors in Florida and Utah, resulting in ruin for many defendants and, according to the reporting, at least four suicides of persons under investigation. Balko:
I remember collecting arrowheads as a kid. Depending on the state and the land on which you’re finding them, that in itself may or may not be legal today. Some states began banning the practice decades ago. But the laws were rarely enforced, and when they were, authorities targeted people stealing from preserved sites or tribal lands, or selling high-dollar artifacts.
No more. Under the phalanx of state, federal, and tribal laws, it may be a felony not only to buy and sell some manmade artifacts, but also to remove them from the bottoms of creek beds or dig them from the dirt. Most of the people busted in the Florida raids were hobbyists. And it’s conceivable that some of them had no idea they were breaking the law — though it also seems likely that some probably did.
I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty about the federal government’s massive, SWAT-like occupation of the rural Indiana property of Don Miller, a celebrated 91-year-old local collector who has traveled the globe and whose impressive collection of world and Indian artifacts “was featured in a four part series in the Rushville Republican.” Under various treaties and federal laws, mostly dating to relatively recent times, the federal government now deems ownership of many antiquities and Native American artifacts to be unlawful even if collectors acquired them in good faith before laws changed. [WISH (TV), Indianapolis Star, The Blaze.] More: coverage in two more outlets with a flavor very different from each other, Shelby County News (FBI source stresses Miller’s cooperativeness and suggests federal actions were wtih his consent or even at his behest) and National Public Radio (“seized,” “confiscated”)
Related: Richard Epstein at Hoover on Obama Administration plans to prohibit selling your family’s vintage piano or moving it across a state line. And aside from ivory chess sets, the nascent War on Antiques might take a toll of replica firearms [Washington Times]
Priceless Mayan-inspired mystical totem, or late Nineteenth Century German artifact aimed at the tourist trade? In “Indiana Jones and the Bogus Lawsuit,” Kevin at Lowering the Bar goes on the authentication trail.
- Because Washington knows best: “U.S. ban sought on cell phone use while driving” [Reuters, earlier here, here, here, etc.] More here; and LaHood spokesman says Reuters overstated his boss’s position.
- Janice Brown’s Hettinga opinion: Lithwick can’t abide “starkly ideological” judging of this sort, except of course when she favors it [Root, earlier] At Yale law conclave, legal establishment works itself into hysterical froth over individual mandate case [Michael Greve] And David Bernstein again corrects some Left commentators regarding the standing of child labor under the pre-New Deal Constitution;
- Latest antiquities battle: Feds, Sotheby’s fight over 1,000-year-old Khmer statue probably removed from Cambodia circa 1960s [VOA, Kent Davis]
- Sebelius surprised by firestorm over religious (non-) exemption, hadn’t sought written opinions as to whether it was constitutional [Becket, Maguire] Obamanauts misread the views of many Catholics on health care mandate [Potemra, NRO]
- “20 Years for Standing Her Ground Against a Violent Husband” [Jacob Sullum] How Trayvon Martin story moved through the press [Poynter] And Reuters’ profile of George Zimmerman is full of details one wishes reporters had brought out weeks ago;
- Coaching accident fraud is bad enough, making off with client funds lends that extra squalid touch [NYLJ]
- Kip Viscusi, “Does Product Liability Make Us Safer?” [Cato’s Regulation magazine, PDF]