06 November 2015

Conjunction Junction What's Your Function

While there's a LOT of wisdom in leaving lawyering to lawyers...

I'm one of those weirdos who thinks that GovTalk should be in plain, commonly understandable English.

Documents should say what they mean and mean what they say.

If I read the question six times and come up with at least eight meanings, transmission of the message has failed.

If I need to hire a translator (a lawyer) to suss out the meaning of a document; and the hiring of the lawyer doesn't grant any indemnity for getting the meaning wrong, the document is a trap by design.

The 4473 question I commented on.

Lots of 'or' in there.  There are zero 'and/or'.

Can I break this down?  Maybe not, but I'm gonna try!

"Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any other controlled substance?"

As written the question asks:

Are you an unlawful user of marijuana?

Are you an unlawful user of any depressant?

Are you an unlawful user of any stimulant?

Are you an unlawful user of any narcotic drug?

Are you an unlawful user of any other controlled substance?

Are you addicted to marijuana?

Are you addicted to any depressant?

Are you addicted to any stimulant?

Are you addicted to any narcotic drug?

Are you addicted to any other controlled substance?

I think what they mean is "Are you illegally using or addicted to any controlled substance?"  I think a lawyer would agree.

Oh as written one could take the tack that if you're illegally using it AND addicted the proper answer is "No."  They're asking or...

It is, like so many government forms, phrased in the most convoluted manner because it's written in Lawyer and not English.

As written lots and lots of smokers are lying when they say "no" on a 4473 because they're addicted to a stimulant, nicotine.  Alcoholics are addicted to a depressant.

And all it takes is some ass in charge of ATF to read it the way I have broken it down and start enforcing.

Rule of Lawyer is Rule of Man.

2 comments:

  1. "And all it takes is some ass in charge of ATF to read it the way I have broken it down and start enforcing.

    Rule of Lawyer is Rule of Man. "

    You really do need to leave the speculatin' about how the law works to lawyers. I was head-shaking bemusedly through the post until I go to the quoted lines and then I LOL'ed. Not meanly or unpleasantly, but just... dude, seriously... Does Not Work That Way. Honest.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I checked my break down against an english teacher just to make sure I was reading it right. The teacher agreed.

    "Documents should say what they mean and mean what they say." and this says what I've broken it out as, in English.

    Considering how many times we've watched ATF do exactly what I'm worried about, I think leaving it to the lawyers is closing the barn door after the horse departs. I'd like the document to say what it means, unambiguously. Taking the rule of man out of it completely.

    Best yet, don't even have this stupid quiz on the form when it all boils down to a single question, "Are you prohibited by law to own or possess a firearm?"

    ReplyDelete

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