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No One Should Have to Own Crazies

I for one am glad that Ladd Everitt, formerly of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and now working for George Takei’s new gun control effort, has decided to start a column at Medium.com. His latest piece contains some glorious schadenfreude, into which I shall delve.

First, credit where credit is due: Ladd Everitt is at least trying to own up to the political violence on the left just like he’s demanded Second Amendment advocates own practically every act of political violence that’s come along since… well… as long as I can remember. I’ll give him points for being consistent. But maybe the issue is that he’s just wrong, and that it’s fundamentally unfair to blame the actions of kooks and whack jobs on people who are in no way, shape or form responsible for their actions.

Hodgkinson didn’t come to his violent anti-government extremism by way of right-wing politics (as is common with mass shooters). Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders volunteer. He loved Rachel Maddow. He couldn’t stand Karen Handel. He said things like, “I have never said ‘life sucks,’ only the policies of the Republicans.”

You can’t get away from it, can you Ladd? You have to tie the nuts to your opponents, don’t you? Jared Loughner thought that the US government was using grammar to control our minds. Loughner wasn’t on the left or right spectrum: he was a paranoid schizophrenic, who, like many mentally ill people, slipped through the cracks of the system and was never put “into the system” until after he committed an act of violence.

The Pulse shooter? In his mind, at least, on a revenge mission for ISIS. The San Bernardino shooters? Same deal. The Charleston Church Shooting? I’m pretty sure everyone was uniformly disgusted by his actions, and I’m pretty sure no one in the mainstream conservative movement advocates or condones that kind of racial violence.

Ladd, you don’t own Hodgkinson any more than I own Roof or Loughner. Neither does Bernie Sanders own Hodgkinson. And you know what? Sarah Palin has never owned Loughner either. Maybe your insufferable insistence on spouting this kind of nonsense is why no one is listening to you.

If there are some on the left who have bought into the NRA’s perverse “Insurrectionist Idea” regarding the citizen / state relationship, make your voices heard now. Suggestions that the solution to our political problems can be found at the end of a gun barrel must no longer be might with silence by progressives. It’s time for a robust debate about the civic health of our democracy.

No Ladd, they’ve bought into the caricature that exists in your head. This “Insurrectionist Idea” has always been a straw man bandied about by your former boss. The “Insurrectionist Idea” you imagine is not part of nor has it ever been part of any mainstream conservative or libertarian thought.

This might be a shock to you Ladd, but I too an concerned about this country’s apparent descent into the type of madness we’ve been seeing. I’m also concerned about the nastiness, the factionalism, the anger, divisiveness and thoughtlessness we’re seeing today. I don’t want to see this descend into pitched street battles or even worse any more than you do. But the solution is not, and has never been, to disarm people who scare us. A disarmed populace is going to be more easily bullied by extremists factions than a confident and armed population. Think Weimar Germany.

Revolution or “insurrection” is not a mechanism for settling differences over health care, welfare policy, immigration, or any number issues that bedevil us today. We’ve never believed that. To quote Judge Kozinki’s dissent in the Silveira case:

The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed—where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

That’s what most of us believe, Ladd. We don’t think it’s OK to start shooting elected officials because an election didn’t go our way. Neither did another group of people who actually used this “Doomsday Provision”:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

This is what we believe. Maybe it’s true that some disturbed people don’t get the details right, but we don’t own those people. Neither of us do.

Final Thoughts on the Castile Case

I think whether or not a person cares about an injustice depends on whether they can see themselves in the shoes of the victim. That’s why it’s hard to make systematic change. People don’t tend to care about injustices they can’t ever see happening to them.

In this case, I think the answer is an unqualified yes that for just about all of us, we can see ourselves getting burned in a situation like this. Police training on how to deal with armed citizens has been a drum we’ve been collectively beating for a while, and the Castile shooting is a prime example of a department that isn’t offering proper training to its officers. I’ve seen on other forums people pointing out in the dash cam video: “Watch the action of his partner on the far right of the screen. That’s not the kind of behavior you’d expect from a backup officer when shots are being fired.”

This all jibes with what Prof. Joe Olsen, who lives in Minnesota, mentioned when this all first came to light in the media: the department in question would seem to have serious training issues. Here is the basic issue, from my point of view:

  1. Mr. Castile informed Officer Yanez that he was armed. At this point, he should have been reading the “not a cop killer” signals loud and clear, since cop killers don’t tend to inform the officer they intend to shoot that they have a gun before they shoot them. Philando Castile was signaling “I’m one of the good guys,” by informing Officer Yanez he was armed.
  2. Officer Yanez claims that Mr. Castile then reached for the gun. The girlfriend disputes this. Perhaps he could have been reaching for his wallet to show his license to carry. It looked to me in the dash video he already had some documentation out. If Castile did make a move for something without instruction, this was his mistake. But because of item one, it did not need to be a fatal mistake. The Officer overreacted.
  3. Our legal system is set up to create a high burden for prosecutors. The burden the state bears is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the prosecution has to disprove a claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Absent any other evidence, I believed this case was going to end in acquittal, unless there was some evidence that was not released to the public that showed Castile didn’t make any kind of sudden or “furtive movement.” It is also a fact, perhaps an unfortunate fact but a fact nonetheless, that police are afforded a lot more leeway for reasonableness by juries than you or I would.
  4. Like Colion Noir, I don’t think Officer Yanez woke up that day hoping he’d have the opportunity to shoot a young black man. I don’t have any evidence he is racist one way or the other. I believe the proximate cause here is a lack of training on dealing with legally armed civilians. Do I think race played a role? Yes. I believe cops are going to be biased towards a certain way of thinking and acting when dealing with young black men. To argue that police don’t profile is foolish. That would be to assume they are machines rather than flawed people with biases. But the way that is overcome is training.

Finally, is the NRA wrong not saying much? Now that the jury verdict is in, no. I’m not big on second guessing juries, and so I can’t blame anyone else for not doing so. But I think they should have been out there talking about the case and expressing concern a lot more often and loudly than they were. The Castile case was talked about in the NRA Legal Seminar, but NRA certainly wasn’t out there talking about it much in public. It’s possible to have a discussion while still being respectful to the justice system and to the millions of police officers out there who know how to handle armed citizens.

The fact is that NRA needs to diversify its membership. It needs to attract young people. So it should be talking about these issues. While people with law enforcement and military backgrounds will probably always remain heavily represented among NRA’s membership, if the Association is to have a future, that future is going to look a like more Colion Noir, and a lot less like Ted Nugent’s fan base. By NRA’s silence, they’ve given the media and their opposition a great example to show the people NRA needs to attract that “Those NRA people don’t care about people like me.”

Finally, I want to end with this video by Massad Ayoob and Tom Gresham:

UPDATE: I’m also adding this multi-part Twitter rant by Julian Sanchez, because it’s brilliant.

An Open Letter From Colion Noir

I offer without commentary:

In The case of officer Jeronimo Yanez, I don’t feel he woke up that day wanting to shoot a black person. However, I keep asking myself, would he have done the same thing if Philando were white? As I put on my Monday morning quarterback Jersey, it is my opinion that Philando Castile should be alive today. I believe there was a better way to handle the initial stop. If he suspected Philando was a suspect in a robbery, there were ways to conduct that stop in a way that would have completely avoided the shooting altogether, but Yanez neglected to do so.

Read the whole thing.

How Not to Get Shot in a Traffic Stop

I’ve heard a lot of advice over the years, but if you ask me, the following things make the most sense:

  1. Don’t tell the officer you’re armed unless you’re in a state where you’re legally required to. This goes against the advice of a lot of trainers (who tend to be former cops and who also tend to know how to deal with armed civilians). Not every cop who pulls you over will be Massad Ayoob. Don’t talk about it, and definitely don’t touch it. The only negative encounter I’ve had in a stop has been in Texas, where I was legally required to inform. In all other cases, I’ve kept my mouth shut and things went smoothly.
  2. Note that the first bit of advice will only work if you’re not likely to be searched. That’s most of us, but not all of us. If you live in a “duty to notify state” or you fit the profile for being highly likely to be searched, you’ll need to inform the officer. When you inform the officer, don’t even think about uttering the word “gun.” If an officer hears that word, and misses some context, there can easily be an overreaction. I’ve heard this advice from Massad Ayoob at NRA’s legal seminar, and I like it. Turn your license to carry over with your driver’s license and inform the officer you are carrying, where the firearm is, keep your hands on the steering wheel, and ask him what he would like you to do.
  3. Do not, under any circumstance, make any sudden move once the cop knows you’re armed. Don’t reach for your wallet unless the officer knows what you’re going to do and OKs it. Don’t reach for anything. Don’t do anything without the officer giving you the OK. Don’t even itch your nose. Some cops will want to disarm you. Others will just tell you to sit tight and keep it holstered.

In my case in my Texas stop where I had to inform, the cop asked me to unload and make clear, then took the firearm. I was glad he had me do it. One of my fears with “duty to inform” is having a cop relieve me of a firearm who does not have good trigger discipline. That’s a big reason I’m a proponent of the first item: keep your mouth shut if you legally can and you’re not likely to be searched.

I’d rather deal with the fallout from “Officer, I will comply with your order to get out of the vehicle but I need to inform you that I have a license to carry and I am carrying. Please tell me what you want me to to do,” than to risk being the next Philando Castile.

The dash cam video in the Castile case is now public. If you carry a firearm legally, you should watch this:

The officer claimed he reached for the weapon. I shared Bob Owen’s belief on this:

While I have strong doubts about the validity of Yanez’s claims that he thought Castile was reaching for a gun, how do prosecutors prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Yanez’s response to that perceived threat was both unreasonable and criminal?

A jury found the claim reasonable, or at least credible enough to support the Officer Yanez’s self-defense claim. I was not on the jury, and I did not follow the trial closely. If someone did, feel free to chime in if you have information I don’t.

But if you inform an officer that you’re armed, and then move for the gun, or move for your wallet or something else, even if your intention is to hand it over to the officer, you’re running a very very severe risk of being shot. Once you inform, and you should have your hands in plain view on the wheel when you do, do not do anything that the officer does not first order you to do.

UPDATE: I should mention, though it won’t help you avoid being shot, is recording your encounter. If Castile’s girlfriend were recording the whole encounter, and not just after the shooting, it could have changed the entire dynamic as to whether the officer’s actions were reasonable.

Hearing Protection Act Loaded onto Omnibus

The Hearing Protection Act has been attached to the SHARE act, which is a sportsman’s omnibus bill, and what a glorious omnibus it is. Of the important things the SHARE act does:

  • Eliminates the sporting purposes language from GCA ’68 and the law on armor piercing ammunition.
  • Creates a blanket exception for shotguns to prevent arbitrary reclassification as destructive devices.
  • Moves silencers/suppressors from Title II to Title I (no longer an NFA item).
  • Preempts states from playing games to discourage silencers but does not outright prevent states from banning them. (limited preemption)
  • Enhances the FOPA language to include travel by means other than vehicles.
  • Creates remedies against states that violate the safe travel provisions, including a cause of action and attorneys fees.
  • A bunch of hunting related shit I don’t really care about.

One concern I do have with the enhanced safe travel provision is that while it does cover ammunition and firearms, does not cover ammunition feeding devices or other accessories. If this bill passes, it will make suppressors Title I, which means they will become more common and more widely transported. Ten states still ban them even after this becomes law. About the same number of states have some kind of restriction on ammunition feeding devices. FOPA safe travel won’t do us much good if we can still be arrested for magazines and accessories.

The antis are quickly trying to get word out that they are now supposed to oppose the SHARE act, and not the HPA anymore. The attachment of HPA to a bill that should be easier to pass suggests that perhaps the GOP is a bit more serious about actually passing this, if they can pass anything.

I’ve been blogging for ten years, and this bill would constitute winning on a number of things we’ve been fighting for that whole time, including things I didn’t think would be politically possible ten years ago.

Burning Heretics: Pat Mac Edition

Tam notes in response to this segment with Pat Mac on Jordan Klepper’s Comedy Central special:

Tam notes:

I’ve participated in two internet lynch mobs of the sort. Both were for print journos (former Outdoor Life writer Jim Zumbo and former RECOIL editor Jerry Tsai) who spoke up in favor of AWBs at times when such things were realistically still on the table. And Jim Zumbo got a pardon, as far as I was concerned, after a public recanting and a carbine class with Pat Rogers.

I also thew a few logs on those fires. Plus, during the 2008 campaign, I built the pyre that Dan Cooper was burned on, even if it was others who tossed on the gasoline and lit the match.

My enthusiasm for burning heretics ain’t what it used to be, so forgive me if I don’t toss any wood onto Pat Mac’s fire. But nor am I going to grab a bucket either.

I don’t really care what Pat Mac said or didn’t say, or whether there was a whole conversation that was heavily edited. Pat Mac’s sin isn’t what he said. I know Comedy Central heavily edits everything. So does everyone else with half a clue.

Pat Mac’s sin is that he gave Comedy Central what they wanted: a laugh at the expense of gun rights activists who are trying to move the ball forward, and to try to marginalize the activists away from the larger body of gun owners and enthusiasts. I don’t care that Pat Mac said he supported NRA many times, and that it ended up on the cutting room floor. You’d have to be a fool to not understand that would happen.

I often think this is not foolishness, and is perhaps more aptly blamed on hubris; a kind of thinking that makes someone believe, “I can play their game and win. I will come out smelling like a rose. The people will love me when they see how well I represent!”

No you won’t. The person with the tape splicer (yeah, yeah, I know it’s all digital now) is the one holding all the cards in that equation.

So for Christ’s sake, for the dozenth or so time: don’t talk to the fucking media or Comedy Central. They are snakes with cameras and editing rooms. They will make you look bad. No you can’t beat them at this game. To quote one of my favorite movies: “The only winning move is not to play.”

NFRTR Problems

Dave Hardy details the problems with the NFA registry in all its horrid detail.

OIG asked how often there was a discrepancy between the inventory and what the NFRTR said the inventory should be: 46% of inspectors said either “always” or “most of the time.” (Only 5% reported “never”).

I’ve heard this from ATF people who have spoken at the National Firearms Law Seminar too. The database is a mess, and there’s been a quiet effort to clean it up going on for years. Dave also notes:

Mind you, felony prosecutions are undertaken relying on the NFRTR to establish that a gun is not registered, and with evidence consisting of an affidavit from the custodian of records for the NFRTR certifying that no record of registration could be found.

But don’t go thinking you’ll evade prosecution if you convert your AR because the NFRTR is flawed. Most machine gun prosecutions there days proceed under 18 USC 922(o), where all they have to do is prove the machine gun was manufactured after May 19th, 1986, and that you possessed it. But if grandpa kicks the bucket, and you find the M1 Thompson he managed to smuggle back from Europe, be sure your lawyer knows the history of the NFRTR.

On The Move in Michigan

Passes the House by a 59-49 vote. We’re on a roll! Granted it still has to go through the Senate and earn a Governor’s signature in both MI and NC, but these things often take several sessions to pass. Concealed Carry was this way too. Given that Michigan’s governor has shown a willingness to veto pro-gun bills, Michigan seems a stretch, but every little step.

Constitutional Carry on the Move in NC

Voted out of the House by a 65-54 vote<. North Carolina is a pretty large state, with about 10 million people. It’s considerably more populated than Arizona. A victory with Constitutional Carry here will be quite a prize, and would help get the ball rolling elsewhere. It’s a harder leap for legislators to make when Arizona is the most populous state to vote go Constitutional Carry so far. “It’ll never work here,” becomes less an excuse once states that are similarly situated adopt it, and the sky doesn’t fall.

In this day in age, when police cruisers are fitted with networked computers, they can tell immediately whether someone shouldn’t have a gun. The more information technologies like that become more widespread, the less permitting systems make sense.

A Protected Class?

A bill has been introduced in Pennsylvania that would amend the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act to make gun owners a protected class. This means it would be unlawful for employers, landlords, banks, and public accommodations from discriminating against you because you’re a gun owner or because you carry a firearm.

I have mixed feelings about these bills. On the one hand, this is the system that exists, so as long as it does, I don’t see why, for instance, a landlord ought to be able to deny someone housing because they are a gun owner (and that does happen, and it happens pretty often, actually). Also, it’s hard to have sympathy for companies like Weyerhaeuser, when you read about the way they treat their employees. This incident is what got this whole issue rolling.

But unlike race, sex, disability, etc, owning a gun is not an immutable characteristic, and I’m not that big on the state interfering with private relationships. I accept that it was probably a necessary evil to do so for race. But it is an evil which I am loathe to expand to more and more people over issues that don’t boil down to immutable characteristics.

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