Celebrating Independence Day


Here’s a handy guide to the Fireworks laws of the 50 states.  Pennsylvania’s fireworks laws are strange because we don’t regulate possession or use, only sale. You can sell fireworks if you have a license to do so, but you can’t sell fireworks, other than the kid’s stuff, to a resident of Pennsylvania. There are a lot of fireworks stores on the Pennsylvania side of the river that specialize in selling fireworks to New Jersey residents, who, of course, ignore their state’s draconian fireworks ban. Buy too much in New Jersey, and it’s possession with intent to sell, and it’s a felony. People have been busted for it. Otherwise possession or use is a petty offense, basically just a fine. New Jersey authorities don’t like you celebrating freedom, comrade.

As Glenn Reynolds noted, fireworks bans “were the entering wedge of nannyism.” Of course, since our federal overlords banned the really fun stuff, I’m not sure how much of this matters anymore.

Responsible Firearms Use & Drones

I meant to blog about this the other day, but I have to admit that I’m still a little floored by the news out of California about a guy who shot down the drone that his neighbor was playing around with in the area.

The drone was never over the shooter’s property according to GPS and mapping data. The drone wasn’t equipped with any kind of camera or anything that would give just cause to worries of an electronic peeping Tom situation.

But I think the most troubling aspect came out of that initial story on Ars Technica. This is from the drone owner’s very polite email to the shooter:

This is the third time discharge from your firearms has hit our house and property. The first incident left a bullet hole in the door by our garage. The second incident occurred last Thanksgiving when birdshot from your skeet shooting activities rained into our backyard. The third, of course, being what we’re currently discussing.

I’m obviously a big fan of pretty much any lawful recreational firearms use. However, I can say that if I discovered bullet holes near my door, had shot raining down in my backyard, and then had one of Sebastian’s remote helicopters shot out of the sky over my property, I would not be nearly so polite in addressing your unsafe and irresponsible firearms use.

Unfortunately, the attitude and disrespect from the shooter only makes this case so much worse. The fact is that he was in the wrong to shoot down the remote device that wasn’t over his property. He seemingly has a history of unsafe shooting at his neighbor’s house. Refusing to pay, even after being ordered to by a court, isn’t the way to go. In fact, if I was the judge and had any avenue to do so, I would have also ordered a required NRA safety course for the guy in addition to the money owed the victim. Instead, the shooter is argumentative and is now the cause of stories on recreational shooter bad behavior that have run nationwide and even abroad. Congratulations for working so hard to make gun owners look so bad!

Sorry for the Dead Air

In addition to the approaching holiday, which always means more work, I had one of my data centers lose power the other day and the generator barfed. When I tried to manually start it, sparks were flying. It’s a very old generator that came with the building, so it had to be replaced by a new one that periodically tests itself and all that happy stuff. But I’m having to troubleshoot a whole other host of issues that went along with the outage, like how it didn’t get detected until the machines went down when the UPS battery ran out. Turns out I am missing some redundancy I didn’t think about. We actually lost one of the UPSes, and that killed Internet, which isn’t supposed to happen. Either way, I have to fix all this quickly, hence very little time for the blog.

How’s That Gun Ban Working Out Uber?

Last week Uber decided to add itself to the list of anti-gun companies I won’t do business with. It didn’t take long for one of their drivers to get robbed at gunpoint. I guess the robber hadn’t heard that Uber made a new policy. Surely he’ll be disappointed he’ll be removed from Uber’s network. No stars for you! Then an Uber drive shot someone who was allegedly trying to choke him. I can’t blame him. My car, my life, I’ll take my chances. What’s worse? Ending up dead or ending up kicked off Uber? Uber’s new policy will be widely ignored, and it should be, because the criminals will be the first to ignore it.

The Ultimate Gun Free Zone: The Beach

Thinking about the mass killing of 27 people at a tourist beach in Tunisia over the weekend, I worried that this sort of attack could provide a template for attacks here. I am not personally much of a beach person. I don’t like crowds, my pasty skin doesn’t appreciate much sun, and I’m not a big fan of salt water. When we visited Hawaii, I did go to a few lesser visited beaches to do some snorkeling. Even if Hawaii allowed carry, I wouldn’t have had a gun on me.

I think it’s safe to say that even in some very gun nutty states like Florida or the Texas Gulf Coast, your average beach goer, even the gun nutty types, aren’t going to take a piece when they head out for some beach time. It seems to me if this type of attack is to be a template, the only viable solution is a stepped up police presence at beaches, with the officers appropriately armed with patrol rifles (for those of you who are gun control advocates, ‘patrol rifles’ are what you people call an ‘assault weapon’) that can handle the kind of range you’ll encounter in a beach environment.

Even NPR has noticed

Saw this on Facebook, and was mildly surprised that NPR posted this

Since 1993, the United States has seen a drop in the rate of homicides and other violence involving guns, according to two new studies released Tuesday. Using government data, analysts saw a steep drop for violence in the 1990s, they saw more modest drops in crime rates since 2000.

The author of the NPR piece can’t even get up much enthusiasm for pushing the “OMG gun suicides” angle; and the summation paragraph (the second most important one for the TL;DR crowd, according to my writing teachers) takes a hard shot at the “criminals get their guns from gun shows” fallacy:

“In 2004 (the most recent year of data available), among state prison inmates who possessed a gun at the time of the offense, fewer than two percent bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show,” according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. “About 10 percent of state prison inmates said they purchased it from a retail store or pawnshop, 37 percent obtained it from family or friends, and another 40 percent obtained it from an illegal source.”

They note WHY 1993 is chosen as the benchmark date; it’s the peak year for “gun violence.” They also note that in the same period gun ownership has risen significantly. This is an amazingly pro-gun piece, and it’s on the NPR website. Following up to the summary at Pew’s own website, I’d even say the NPR summary is a tad more pro-gun than Pew’s; since Pew spends more electrons noting that the trend was more pronounced in the 1990s and has fallen off since 2000. One article doesn’t make a trend, by any means, but it’s an interesting article. And one worth keeping in my back pocket to deal with people who attack the source rather than the data.

The courts have taken us this far, and no farther

It’s become obvious in the past few years that the federal appellate judiciary is generally hostile to expanding firearms rights, and that SCOTUS is unwilling to push the matter. It’s been a question in my mind as to why that might be, and I am examining some of my preconceptions about which Justices voted to grant cert. and why.

I’ve assumed, as did most people, that the majorities in both cases included the justices who granted cert. But, what if that’s not the case? In particular, what if Justice Roberts did not vote to grant cert, and what if instead one or more of the dissenters voted to grant cert. in Heller to take the opportunity to stop, once and for all, the individual rights interpretation, and then in McDonald to prevent the application of Heller to the states?

I infer from the most recent two decisions (King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges), as well as previous statements and decisions, that Justice Roberts really does not want to change the status quo when he thinks that the legislature should act instead. So, he votes against cert. so the courts don’t have to get involved in what he sees as a political decision, but when the question comes up anyway, he votes pro-rights in a fit of constitutional conscience. Meanwhile, the anti-gun justices went 0 for 2 in convincing their fellows of the rightness of their position, so they’re no longer interested in taking the third pitch, leaving Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Alito alone to vote to grant cert.

This isn’t my only theory of Justice Roberts and the missing cert. vote, it could be that he saw Heller as necessary and McDonald as sufficient to put the question back to the states (or that as of late the states are making strides on their own and SCOTUS should not intervene).

At any rate, we need to stop relying on the courts and continue to move in the legislatures. At the state level, this is already happening. We’ve suffered some reverses (WA and OR), mostly due to Bloomberg, but there’s a limit to how effective money can be. The important thing is, not to go too far, too fast. The NRA is throwing its political weight behind national reciprocity, which has come tantalizingly close to passing in previous congresses that were less obviously pro-rights. Will it be enough to override a veto? Maybe not, but it sets a marker. If a lawmaker votes Yea on this and this president vetos it, that lawmaker has to explain why he changed his mind in a subsequent vote. Once national reciprocity happens, then we can start working on the real prize; forcing shall-issue and “self-defense is good cause.”. FOPA proves that the federal government can force shall-issue, after all, they forced it for retired LEOs. They ought to be similarly able to force states to match NCIS’s timelines for completing background checks and force the states to consider self-defense as a “good cause” or “in the interests of public safety.” All of that theoretically leaves the management of purchase and carry at the state level, while requiring them to treat the RKBA as an actual right. Congress has the enforcement clause of the 14th amendment to justify this, too, no need to muck around with Commerce Clause.

This won’t happen soon, and it won’t happen with a hostile administration in the White House. So, just remember, elections have consequences (as our Chief Justice just reminded us).

The Assault Weapons Hysteria Begins

Thank God the Charleston killer didn’t get his hands on an AR-15, or someone might have gotten hurt. Needless to say, the media and hysterical types are going to town with the fact that the killer wanted an AR, but supposedly couldn’t afford one. The deadliest mass shooting in America, Virginia Tech, was carried out with ordinary handguns. Handguns can be plenty lethal when the killer manages to find a small, enclosed space, can block exits, and is facing unarmed opponents with nowhere to run. A lot of Virginia Tech students jumped out of windows to escape the killer, but the confined nature of the setting is a big reason the killer managed to kill so many.

I’m not saying an AR-15 can’t be more deadly than a pistol, it certainly can be, but in a confined space, a handgun can be just as effective a tool. Despite the fact that I have an AR-15, I usually don’t keep it ready for home defense. I’ve found some of the hallways in my house to be a bit tight even with a carbine. Needless to say, I think the media are overhyping this. Bob Owens also points out that the Glock handgun the killer chose was actually no cheaper than an AR-15 can be found for.

Implications of Same Sex Marriage Ruling on Guns Rights

Bob Owens points out that the Supreme Court’s decision in Overgefell v. Hodges enables national carry. I wouldn’t go toting a gun over into New Jersey or Maryland just yet. The argument used here will certainly be useful when defending National Reciprocity in court, or arguing a right to carry a firearm before the federal courts, but given how hostile and resistant lower courts have been, and given the Supreme Court’s reluctance to do anything about it, I wouldn’t want to find myself on trial arguing that some language in Overgefell supports a national right to carry. The courts aren’t likely to agree, and the Supreme Court not likely to care. Some rights are more equal than others, folks. That’s just the way it is, for now.

Actual Common-sense

Albeit with a side order of a”I’m a gun owner but…” and of course the condescension that the NRA wouldn’t support punishing people who actually misuse firearms, or that the laws he wants generally already exist, or would represent a loosening of the existing laws.

The post proposes (after a lot of political bumph) in a fairly sane way, that the NRA’s safety rules be enacted as federal law and that be it. And, shockingly enough, that safety education be left to a free market, not forced.

Punishing the people who actually misuse a tool, and leaving the innocent users in peace. It’s a radical idea whose time has come, I say.

I can quibble with some of his details (the safe storage requirement he wants is a little too much pre-crimey for me), but it’s a hell of a lot better than anything I’ve seen come out of anti’s recently. And a lot of it should be done by enacting uniform state laws, not action at the federal level. And a lot of his anecdotes would not be changed by changes in law, but by changes in culture – that people be prosecuted for negligent discharges, not allowed to call it an accident and go on. But that’s a problem with drunk driving (his comparison) as well. I have no issues with treating NDs as DUIs, assuming we don’t go to MADD-level idiocy. And he doesn’t mention that the reduction in DUI was achieved not only be increased penalties and enforcement, but by PSAs and other societal education.

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