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I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that the ATF made this determination

(With my best Capt. Renault impression).

So, the ATF went and sent a letter (PDF link) to the manufacturer of Can Cannons that said their product was not a firearm, but that attaching it to a rifle receiver made the rifle a Short-Barreled-Rifle, or attaching it to a pistol receiver made the pistol an AOW. Cue Internet Rage(TM).

As you might have gathered, I’m not at all surprised by this determination. This device does not, after all, stop the receiver from being a “firearm,” being basically a variation on a blank-firing-adapter. And it’s shorter than 16″ (short-barreled), and a smoothbore (AOW for pistol). This is a consequence of the Can Cannon being a accessory to what is legally a firearm. If they had instead built it as a complete unit, completely unable to fire conventional ammo, things might be different. As it is, though, an AR-15 doesn’t stop being a firearm when you mount a Can Cannon on it.

This is just another reminder of how mind-numbingly stupid the patch to NFA’34 to allow handguns, but still effectively ban anything that could be considered a handgun but isn’t actually a handgun. (That sentence hurt just as much to write as it does to read, I assure you, but was the only way I could express how I understand the history of the Act.)

On the other hand, I am a little surprised they didn’t just rule the assembled weapon as a Destructive Device (that bore is way bigger that 0.50″)


EDIT: The ATF Determination Letter

A high-schooler, a clock, a bomb?

L’affaire Ahmed has been reverberating across my facebook feed for a while now, and it looks like we’ve gotten about all the facts that are going to be shaken loose outside of discovery in a civil suit (if there is one). And while I can’t say I’m surprised at some of the knicker-twisting, I’m a little disappointed. First, a picture of the clock (or hoax bomb). CNN says this is police provided. No real scale is provided, but note the power plug – the case is approximately the size of the top half of a piece of paper, when closed, per this amazon listing. (Amazon listing complete with self-amusing internet jokers in comments)


clockbox closeup

According to this post and comments (which is where I pulled the above pics from), the guts are a 1970s-1980s vintage digital clock, contained in a pencil box available on Amazon. Since the CNN article notes that it was discovered in Ahmed’s backpack when an alarm went off, I’m going to assume that there was a 9V battery in place at the time (or some other on-board power source since removed).

Now, there are (at least) two competing narratives running around. Ahmed’s story is that he made this as an alarm clock, brought it in to show a teacher, and then another teacher discovered it and brought it to the attention of the authorities, who then flipped out, etc. The other narrative is that he deliberately made a fake bomb, and allowed it to be discovered, because Reasons. The second narrative really doesn’t pass Occam’s Razor for me, though. First, that’s a really bad fake IED. A real IED is supposed to be innocuous, of course, and not draw attention to itself until too late. A fake one, that you might want to use in a bomb scare, on the other hand, needs to be obvious. This is a pencil box when closed up, with nothing (except possibly the power cord) showing on the outside to make you think it’s anything else. And when it’s open, where’s the “payload?” Even Hollywood Bombs have obvious explosives in them. No play-doh, no red-painted cylinders with wires coming off of them, nothing that shouts “I’m a thirty-minute bomb, I’m a thirty-minute bomb!” Secondly, there’s the whole “he didn’t make that” meme, because it’s a commercial product, disassembled and half-way mounted into the case; rather than being a from-scratch project. The thing is, it’s a 30-ish year old clock, in a recent case. There’s an incongruity there that irks me. Finally, Ahmed’s behavior doesn’t fit. Why did he establish the device was his own practically as the first thing he did upon bringing it to school, and why did he maintain possession of it the entire time he was in school?

Here’s my theory. A 14-year old tinkerer was bored one day and opened up a broken alarm clock made before he was born, and got it working again (loose wire, broken solder, what have you). He decides to install the repaired clock into a pencil case, and he’s “made” himself a custom alarm clock from stuff lying around his desk. In a fit of 14-year-old enthusiasm and forethought typical of 14-year-old enthusiasm, he takes this alarm clock he made into school to show his friends and teachers this cool thing he did. In previous times, it might have been a shiny new pocketknife, or a wrist rocket (slingshot), etc. He shows it to a friendly teacher, who may have encouraged his ambitions, but tells him to keep it out of view because someone might overreact. Ahmed goes on with his day, forgetting he has an alarm set (or not knowing. I have a similar vintage alarm clock that is distressingly easy to accidentally arm the alarm on, and it’s defaulted to 0000 hrs. Very annoying). Alarm goes off in his backpack, disrupts class, teacher wants to see, teacher freaks. Then the school administration, being a bunch of zero-tolerance idiots, freaks and bring in Johnny Law. Ahmed insists he’s done nothing wrong – it’s a clock, see? Keeps time and everything. Possibly following the advice given out regularly around these parts of “don’t talk to the law without a lawyer.” The notable thing at this point is that the school administration never believed it was a real bomb, since they didn’t do evacuate the school or otherwise put into action bomb-scare plans. Instead, they jumped right to bringing down the hammer on what, at most, is a little understandable high-school-frosh eager stupidity, and thus splashing this all over the country.

Bringing the thing into school wasn’t the wisest idea in the world, and I’m not going to say the school should have not reacted at all, but calling the cops in and interrogating a student without benefit of counsel with the cops present? Yeesh.

No friend of federalism, no friend of mine

Governor Christie seems to think he can override the expressed will of the voters of several states via federal action. Because federal interference in states’ matters is cool for stuff he doesn’t like.

Charge of the hobbyhorse brigade

The story of the Katie Steinle killing has taken a new direction, with the “breaking news” that the gun used by her killer was stolen from the car of a federal agent; though whether it was a service weapon or personally owned is an open question at this writing. And the right-hand-side of my internet is all about the carelessness of the agent (with gratuitous Project Gunwalker references as well.) I was already somewhat uncomfortable with how this story is being used by the right to saddle up and go after immigration policy, because the drifter who picked up a gun and let his DTs pull the trigger (his own explanation, basically) happened to be an illegal alien – as though only an illegal alien could have committed this tragedy. But if the owner of the firearm hadn’t been a federal agent, the very same people pointing and laughing would instead be pre-emptively defending the firearm owner and waiting for the other side to wave their bloody shirt for the cause of lost-and-stolen, and firearms registration, and strict liability.

Someone was tragically and negligently killed last week, by another person who is, by the accounts I’ve seen, remorseful and at least partially willing to accept responsibility (he appears to have pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance, despite the admission of guilt in the interview). Using it as an example of Something Must Be Done is just as much waving the bloody shirt as what the other side does under other circumstances. I get it, tragedy grabs eyeballs, and it’s tempting to try and use that to advance a cause. But if I don’t like it when the other side does it, I ought to also not like it when “my” side does it. And I don’t.

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.

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.

This isn’t good news, folks

A lot of people are pointing to a CNN article that references an official statement that the shooter bought the pistol used in the attack himself (and thus passed a NICS check), rather than being given one; despite being under indictment for a disqualifying charge. This is being used as a talking point about the uselessness of BG check. That’s not a good argument against universal background checks, though, certainly not one for our side. It’s an argument for doing away with NICS, yes, but replacing it with the kind of invasive and lengthy background check that predated NICS, and is still in use in NJ and some other places.

We need to be very careful about handing talking points to the other side – pointing out flaws in NICS gives them ammunition to replace it with an actual background investigation.

Some Things Are Like Clockwork

It had been a while since we had a major, high-profile mass shooting, and I was feeling like we were due. Generally speaking, I try not to make hay out of these things, out of respect for the dead. We can argue out the policy implications later. Things we can be sure about:

  • Almost everything the media will say in the first several hours will be wrong.
  • Gun sales will shoot back up again, as people scared of more gun control begin stockpiling again.
  • President Obama has already used the incident as a call for more gun control. This was predictable.
  • This will be used by mindless partisans to score cheap points against one another.
  • Our opponents in the gun control will be using the incident to push their agenda before even all the facts are known. They will place the blame squarely on people like us.

Given this incident is high-profile, we have to be concerned about copycats. We are living in an increasingly ill country. Given the shooter’s age, I’m going to guess he was cuckoo for cocopuffs, and the racist stuff was part of his delusions. I kind of hope this is the case, because I can’t imagine what a monster someone would have to be to sit in a church for an hour with other people, the whole time thinking about killing them, and then follow through on your horrific plans. If he’s just a run of the mill sociopath, that’s a mad dog that needs to be put down, and I say that as someone skeptical about capital punishment.

Following the law would not have been enough

Even if the Berlin Twp Police Chief had followed the law as written and issued a pistol purchase permit within 30 days, it would not have been enough for Carol Browne. After all, that would merely have allowed her to purchase a pistol, at which point she could only have it in a ready-to-use condition at her home, or possibly at her “fixed place of business” (I’m unsure as to whether that exemption applies to employees or only to the owner, and, at any rate, I presume she’d have had to have permission of the owner of the business). While in transit, though, the law requires:

All weapons being transported under paragraph (2) of subsection b., subsection e., or paragraph (1) or (3) of subsection f. of this section shall be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gunbox, securely tied package, or locked in the trunk of the automobile in which it is being transported, and in the course of travel shall include only such deviations as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances

Which would have made it very tedious (and somewhat unsafe) for her to have had her pistol ready to use when she was attacked. She could have walked out to the car and entered it, removed the magazine and unloaded the chamber, stored each as the law requires, and driven directly to work, reversed the procedure, worked, then done the same. Of course, every time you handle a firearm, particularly in unholstering and holstering, and unloading, you risk a discharge. In addition, this would have to be done in the confines of a car, which would necessarily preclude situational awareness. Not to mention that she still could not have the pistol available when running errands about town.

In theory, she could have applied for a permit to carry, but in practice, that would be almost impossible to get – the permits are may-issue and require both the approval of the police chief who was not diligent in issuing the purchase permit and a judge’s approval (and they very rarely approve).

The system that is a good start for the anti-gunners, whose provisions are supposed to “protect” women, meant that Carol Browne had no way to effectively defend herself when a bad man walked through the restraining order to kill her. She did everything she could legally do, and it was not enough.

Quote of the Day

From Ace, who notes that as a nation we’re “amusing ourselves to death.”

I pledge allegiance to the Meme of the Viral States of America. And to the Listicle, for which it LOLs, one tweetstorm, under Buzzfeed, with liberty and gawker for all.

I used to be very optimistic about the Internet, and where it would take mankind. Then social media happened.

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