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Victims at the Four Seasons

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer has an attention-grabbing headline: “For Bucks couple in Vegas, a horrifying view of the carnage.” With a headline like that, you click on it thinking that maybe they were in the midst of the crowd and saw things you can never forget.

And, let me tell you, I don’t think they will ever forget the horrifying view of an empty littered lot 35 stories below their posh Four Seasons room the morning after the shooting. The art deco-inspired wall papers and giant shiny silver mirrors to reflect the lights coming in from their floor-to-ceiling windows looking down on the Strip will remain forever in their minds against the backdrop of the litter below them.

The article says they heard some shots which the couple assumed to be fireworks with the concert they could just hear below them. But the article deliberately uses phrases that just acknowledge they saw the curtains blowing out of the neighboring hotel room the following morning and litter the next morning after there had been bodies previously. It doesn’t actually say they saw “carnage.”

The Inquirer does want us to know that the couple resting in their super comfortable Four Seasons bed has no intention of letting the gunman get in the way of their high end bridal conference business and that they will, in fact, be strong enough to stay the entire 4 additional nights they were planning to stay! #LasVegasStrong

When this couple reached out to the largest newspaper in their home region to tell their harrowing story, they made sure to pose for a photo in their posh hotel dressed in their most stylish clothes looking appropriately concerned for the little people below. Without it, I’m not sure we could have believed that they had survived such a tragic crime that happened to a group of completely unrelated people 1,600 feet down the Vegas Strip.

Liberal Advice Columnist Tackles Gun Ownership

…and it doesn’t end up how one might expect.

One of my weird little guilt pleasures is reading Dear Prudence. She’s young and very liberal who not only lives, but also works in that bubble. Needless to say, I figured I knew which way she would come down on the side of a wife who doesn’t want to buy a gun with her husband who does want one for self-protection in the home.

I have to admit though, I thoroughly agree with her advice. First, she makes clear that the wife does not have to commit to using a firearm if she’s not comfortable doing it. That is absolutely true. Not everyone is going to be comfortable using a firearm or any type of lethal force. Self defense is a personal decision, and just like we should have the right to decide to have access to a firearm to defend our lives and families, others have the right to choose an alternative (or no alternative if they are true pacifists).

After that, though, “Prudie” points out that if her husband is equally determined to own a firearm as the wife is to not using one, there’s still an argument to be made she should know enough about to have a reasonable discussion on safety precautions when it’s around her in the house. Again, that’s perfectly reasonable. I’ve made the case plenty of times that even when one household member isn’t too keen on gun ownership, just having a basic knowledge on how to safely handle it and unload it if needed can go a very long way in easing their comfort with the existence of one at home.

It didn’t come down to politics at all – just a reasonable argument that the couple will need to solve it for themselves and that both have the rights to their views. Could it be that we’re winning more of the culture fight than we might sometimes realize?

If you want a question related to guns that involves a little more drama, there’s this one from July where a girl raised living off the land hunting and fishing in a poor household is involved with a rich girl trying to go vegan and they are getting serious enough to consider kids – except they can’t agree on food. While Prudie says it’s a relationship worth trying to save since this is the only major disagreement, she also kind of quietly acknowledges that there’s a good chance something this major won’t end well for trying to raise children together.

Bloomberg Steals from the Little Guys?

I have to admit that I would expect Bloomberg’s people to be much more thoughtful about the optics of taking the work produced by individuals with far less cash in their bank accounts in this era of economic populism.

Bloomberg was smart enough to realize that after years of his political allies getting arrested – often for gun violence crimes or crimes against women & children – that Illegal Mayors Against Guns wasn’t going to go anywhere. Not to mention, actual grassroots gun owners in many non-urban areas successfully convinced several to very publicly disavow his agenda. He already had a lock on urban leaders, so he rebranded.

He can’t rebrand himself as “not a billionaire.” It is something that has worked against him repeatedly since it automatically paints him as a guy looking to come into states, throw some personal wealth around, and outspend any local voices. Because, well, that is exactly what he does in elections. Regardless, you’d think he’s still want to keep a softer image with it outside of election season so that he can try to build a network of allies to use in the next election season before he pisses them all off.

Nope, Bloomberg’s folks apparently want to promote the image of big, bad jerk billionaire because his partner Shannon Watts decided to take the work of a Houston-based independent photographer. Despite having licensing information clearly stated on his Twitter bio, Shannon swiped his work – how this man in a disaster area supports himself – and posted it to show how much she and her political partners “care.”

In fact, not only did she take it without paying for it, she didn’t even credit him for his work and the fact that he ventured out into the storm to capture the magnitude of the damage. She spent nearly $3 million on a house in the mountains, and her boss is worth about $53 billion, but their online advocacy efforts run through her Twitter page would rather take the (fantastic) work of others without credit or license than pay licensing fees to small business owners. In fact, even though the image is gone from her Twitter account, she refused to acknowledge the wrong and apologize or even wish him & his family well in the ongoing disaster.

Of course, it gets better. This theft of other people’s work goes beyond Twitter and photographs. NSSF’s Larry Keane found that state leaders for Bloomberg & Watts are using local government offices to request Project ChildSafe gun locks and slapping their own branding on them, pretending like they are responsible for the program.

Bloomberg the Billionaire only cares enough about gun safety to buy a little paper, send state leaders around to pick up gun locks provided by the firearm industry, and pretend he’s running his own program. Again, it’s a case of Everytown taking the hard work of people with fewer resources and pretending it is his own without any credit or acknowledgement. This is why class warfare rhetoric works with so many people. Outside of the walls of Everytown, this kind of behavior of taking credit for the work of those with less means rubs people the wrong way.

Bloomberg’s $20 Million Mistake

This is a lovely harsh rebuke to the Bloomberg allies who are trying to convince their supporters that the evil Republicans are to blame for not having total background checks on every single firearms transfer. They point out that, no, the gun control groups pushing the initiative are 100% to blame for the “mistake.”

NRAAM Participation Trends

I really wish that the anti-gun groups would take an actual detailed account of how many participants they have their anti-NRA protests for annual meeting each year so we could compare. Somehow, I don’t think their graph would look like this one.

This is based on data I’ve been tracking since I attended my very first NRA Annual Meeting in 2004. (I just realized the error in the title with the years. I clearly forgot to update that, but the numbers include Atlanta in 2017, even though that also says 2016 at the bottom. Sorry! It’s fixed in the spreadsheet for next year…)

Other data points that I keep in the spreadsheet that aren’t in this chart is how much the NRA annual meeting has grown since that first one I attended way back when. It’s now 33.5% larger in terms of attendance compared to Pittsburgh 2004. Each time we revisit a city, the number of attendees has gone up between 14% and 44%.

It’s almost like the more that people learn about what NRA is really doing, the more they are on board.

NRA Legal Seminar Catches Press Attention

I suspect it’s a good thing when media that specifically serves the legal profession covers the NRA law seminar and the fact that it qualifies for CLE (continuing legal education) credit.

Even though many attendees were ready to open fire, if the need arose, the daylong event looked and sounded like most other CLEs.

I have to admit, it would be nice if they would have mentioned it’s an annual event that will be offered in Dallas next year. I’m sure there are plenty of pro-gun lawyers in Georgia who didn’t learn about it in time and would love to get out to the next one.

My Good Deed Following NRA

My favorite section of the NRA convention is always the collector section. Each year, there’s always something new to see. In Houston, I was really excited to see a major display from Dallas Arms Collectors themed around the Revolutionary War. When I realized that several items were traced back to specific patriots, I tried to do a good gun deed and track down a few descendants who appreciated learning their ancestor’s firearm still exists. I know I would love to find out that my ancestor’s gun is still in someone’s collection and preserved somewhere.

This year, on the way back from Atlanta, we stopped at King’s Mountain, where they also have a display of weapons and related items actually used by soldiers who participated in the battle. You know what I had to do, right?

When I go down to DC in June to visit DAR headquarters, I’ll be looking up the descendants of William Smith & Jacob Beeler who have joined DAR. For all I know, they already know about their ancestor’s gun and gear on display. But, on the chance that they don’t know…well that would be amazing to share with them.

The Supreme Family Tree

In light of Trump’s victory, Gorsuch’s confirmation, and another 3 1/2 years of the term, it’s reasonable to discuss what’s next for SCOTUS. The topic becomes a bit morbid when you’re talking about non-retirement openings that could change the Court because one study found that “the justice‚Äôs death-in-office odds are about tripled” when the sitting president is from a different party than the that of the president who appointed the justice.

Sebastian & I were curious about the chances of an unplanned opening on the SCOTUS (aka not a retirement) and realized that family history can yield some important clues to the health of descendants. This post isn’t meant to indicate we’re wishing any negative health to sitting justices, it’s just an interesting intersection of law and genealogy. Here’s a look at the oldest Justices on the Court right now.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Much has been discussed about her health since she was diagnosed with one of the deadliest cancers a few years ago. However, it was caught early and things seem to be fine with her. Regardless, she is the oldest member of the SCOTUS at 84.

I actually can’t trace Ruth’s family back very far because her father was an immigrant and her mother was the daughter of immigrants. What makes it worse is that she’s from New York which is generally a nightmare for records. (There’s a reason that Reclaim the Records has had to sue them the most.) However, I have learned that Ruth may well have a fine collections of furs in her closet since her family was big in the fur business. I’d love if she’d flaunt them.

Regardless of the challenges, Ruth has far surpassed the average age I’ve been able to confirm with any confidence of her direct ancestors – 61.5. That number is largely so low because her mother died very young of cancer. Once you factor in collateral relatives such as aunts/uncles, the average age jumps up to 79.38.

Needless to say, it’s understandably why some on the left are upset that she didn’t retire under Obama. However, if she takes after a couple of uncles, then she’s got another ~3 years to meet their lifespan, and that’s enough to get into another administration should Trump not win another term should he run again. In fact, given better healthcare, it’s possible she could last through 2 terms of Trump if he can pull off a win in 2020.

Anthony Kennedy
As the next oldest member of the Court, Anthony Kennedy also has a strong recent immigrant background that makes it a little harder to trace his family tree. However, he’s the first one I found that has any line going back to the Revolution. (I don’t think that’s required or anything, but it’s just interesting.)

Anthony Kennedy is turning 81 years old this summer. The average lifespan of his direct ancestors is only 69.4 years. Factoring in those indirect relatives in reasonably close generations drops that average to 62.3 years.

It’s fair to consider that Kennedy may not want to pass on the bench. If he doesn’t want to do that, then he probably would want to retire soon. Based on his family history, he is rather lucky to have these extra years. (Granted, I don’t know the causes of death for his family, so it could well be that medical advances would have easily extended their lifetimes.)

Stephen Breyer
The third in line based on age is Stephen Breyer who will turn 79 this summer. What I can research of his tree doesn’t go back very far since his maternal grandparents were the immigrants on that branch and all great grandparents on the paternal side made the trek to America.

Direct ancestors and indirect lines come out to the same average – 73.1 years. In that regard, family history would indicate that maybe Obama’s term may have been a better time to retire if he wanted to confidently keep his seat in liberal hands.

***
I’ll do further research on the younger justices soon. And, based on suggestions at the bar this weekend, I may also expand this to study the family histories of any other potential nominees. (Watch, this will result in judges having to submit a family tree to be considered for SCOTUS!)

2017 NRA Board Election Results

As requested by readers, here’s a complete list of the NRA Board of Directors results:

Tom Selleck – 110,812
Peter J Printz – 91,410
R Lee Ermey – 89,540
William H Allen – 87,059
Ted W Carter – 87,025
Leroy Sisco – 84,136
Howard J Walter – 83,785
Patricia A Clark – 83,256
Melanie Pepper – 82,817
Thomas P Arvas – 82,500
Linda Walker – 81,874
Charles L Cotton – 80,779
Curtis S Jenkins – 80,529
Carl Rowan, Jr. – 79,104
Allan D Cors – 79,021
Todd J Rathner – 78,516
Lance Olson – 75,978
J Kenneth Blackwell – 74750
Steven C Schreiner – 73,406
Sean Maloney – 72,924
Heidi E Washington – 72,600
Clel Baudler – 72,576
Dan Boren – 69,829
Graham Hill – 68,672
Robert E Mansell – 68,492
Willes K Lee – 68,299
Kim Rhode Harryman – 67,906

Those who didn’t win a seat:

James S Gilmore III – 67,760
N Stephanie Spika – 67,097
David Carruth – 67,066
John L Cushman – 66,949
Richard L Kussman – 63,251
Robert A Unkovic – 62,946
Adam Kraut – 62,400
Stephen D Stamboulieh – 57,897
Eric Wright – 48,454

They also reported that since Roy Innis passed away after ballots were printed, he did earn 77,340 votes. However, everyone below him moved up one. The last two winners are fulfilling unexpired terms of previously sitting board members.

I know there were concerns over bylaws changes impacting one’s ability to run as a petition candidate for the board, so those numbers are as follows. There were 135,118 ballots cast in the board election. However, 4,558 were invalid. So that leaves 130,560 valid ballots cast in the board election. With the members overwhelmingly supporting the bylaws changes (92%-8%), that means 653 signatures will be needed for new petition candidates to make the ballot. Honestly, it’s not hard in the age of the internet to connect with other NRA members, and with anyone who has made any connections through NRA’s many volunteer opportunities that mostly draw NRA members – competitions, elections, and/or Friends dinners.

UPDATE: I forgot to link earlier a stat earlier that showed of 5 new members of the Board, 3 are women. That makes 13 female members of the NRA Board of the Directors, which is about the same percentage as Congress.

NRA Member Engagement with the Ballot

However many paid activists Shannon Watts flew in doesn’t even begin to compare to the number of NRA members who engage with their association by voting in our group elections.

It’s a reminder that we’re a real, authentic grassroots movement of gun owners who can hold our leaders accountable. “Members” of Bloomberg’s various groups can just unsubscribe from their emails at best.

I’ve already added this year’s numbers to my magic spreadsheet of voting data that goes back to 2006.

It’s not the lowest voting participation rate that I’ve ever documented, but it’s definitely close. However, it’s probably not a complete surprise since the number of ballots mailed in elections has increased 42% in that time. (And that even takes into account the year I think they cleaned up the mailing list since the number dropped to an oddly perfectly even number.)

That said, I do think it would be nice to get more members voting. However, if that comes at the expense of experienced activists who work with NRA members on the ground to more celebrity candidates, then I’d be more hesitant to endorse that idea. Even today, I saw people advocating on social media for people to go vote for 76th director hours after polls closed for the entire session, so clearly voter education is an issue.

The rate of errors that resulted in invalid ballots went up this year (3.4%) compared to last (2.8%), but it’s far below 2013’s error rate (8.7%). This year’s top mistake is the same as last year – too many votes. Count, people. After that, the biggest mistake that kept nearly 1,000 ballots from being counted is the lack of a signature on the envelope’s authentication portion. Were you one of those people? If so, pay attention to your envelope. And somehow 24 people managed to find a ballot from a previous year and vote. Who are you people?? It’s not just that you kept them, but you actually found them and managed to cast them during the right time period. That’s special effort right there.

Perhaps the most interesting stat of the 2017 election year is the fact that I’ve never recorded such a close vote tally between the “last winner” and “first loser” – just 146 votes between the two. That’s less than half the votes of the previous closest amount, 356 in 2012.

It’s no surprise that Tom Selleck is the top vote getter this year. About 85% of voters included him on their ballot. He was nearly 20,000 votes higher than the next one in line, Peter Printz who even beat out R. Lee Ermey. The “last winner” is my favorite Olympian, Kim Rhode Harryman. She’ll actually be on the ballot next year because she was elected to finish an unexpired term.

I am a bit PO’d that they ran out of “I Voted” buttons this year. I was trying to start a collection, NRA! Now you Atlanta conference planners have ruined my plans to express my grassroots-iness. Excuse me while I go drown my sorrows over my ruined conference in a glass of wine.

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