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2017 Gun Law Seminar

Have you planned out your days for the NRA annual meeting yet? I’m just sitting down to do it now, and it’s worth reminding people about one of the best hidden gems of the massive convention. The NRA Foundation’s law seminar is an experience that shouldn’t be missed if you have any interest in gun laws at all. Even if you’re not an attorney, you’ll get something out of it – besides a good time with good and interesting company.

This year’s line-up is, as always, an interesting cross section of areas of gun law that will likely give me something new to chew on. You don’t have to be an attorney to get something out of the seminar. Massad Ayoob will present on avoiding unjust verdicts in self-defense shootings. If you’re a member of a gun club at all, there will be a topic on 501(c) issues related to your activities. Looking at legal issues impacting the industry, one topic will be on defending manufacturers and retailers when they are sued for caused by the criminal misuse of firearms by others. You’ve got broader Second Amendment updates from Stephen Halbrook and Nelson Lund to look forward to as well.

Last year’s topic by Chris Zealand (a Senior Research Attorney at NRA) on the Social Security gun grab was incredibly useful for me as a political activist. The details he gave for the process and what types of issues Social Security lists as mental disability codes were eye-opening and gave great fodder for me to make an informed argument to those who were just reading newspaper headlines about the topic. If, like me (and Sebastian), you’re not an attorney, but want to be informed and serious activists, you should consider attending the legal seminar.

If you are an attorney, then there’s no question you should absolutely attend. If you’re a law student, there’s a discount.

You get breakfast, lunch, and a cocktail reception along with your day of legal education. Not to mention, it’s usually very interesting to talk with others at lunch and during breaks about the issues they are facing at home or the type of work they are seeing come up.

Though neither one of us has ever visited Atlanta, Sebastian’s family has been there before years ago. I’ve made Sebastian promise not to behave like the last time they visited the lovely city. However, if any readers have any suggestions for places we must eat or visit while we’re there, please do share. Local eats are a huge factor in having a solid convention experience.

NRA Member Engagement – Voting

One of the best reminders that NRA really does represent a real grassroots movement is that members directly elect the board of directors. There’s a clearly defined way to become a voter and the results are published openly.

I’ve added this year’s numbers to my collection of NRA voting data. There are a few interesting differences this year over previous years.

The number of voting members who were sent ballots has increased 36.5% since I started keeping track in 2006. Most of that growth has happened since 2011 when there appears to have been a cleaning of the rolls.

BallotsCast&Mailed

The yellow bar is how many were mailed back vs. how many were mailed in red.
2016S represents the special recall election of 2016.

The number of voters actually participating in the elections is, unfortunately, not very high and not growing substantially. But given that we have a growing problem of too many celebrities and are losing activist leaders with diverse skills, this may not be a great number. It would probably be better to see more informed voters rather than increasing numbers of people voting for any name they vaguely recognize from popular culture.

PercentofNRABallotsCast

Perhaps one of the most interesting statistics is the fact that “last winner” was on a fewer percentage of ballots than ever before. The same was almost true for the top vote getter as well. (Technically, last year’s top vote winner, Ronnie Barrett, was on a lower percentage of the ballots, but not by much.) Those two numbers indicate to me that more voters are more likely bullet voting – voting only for a handful of candidates instead of all 25 slots. That’s actually a much smarter way to vote if you’re interested in getting key candidates on the board. Increasing the votes of those who you care about less could end up hurting your favorites on the ballot.

Another good number from this election is that the percentage of invalid ballots is still low – 2.79%. That’s compared to a high of 8.71% from the years I’ve been tracking. The most common mistake is marking too many candidates. But the next highest mistake is an easy one to fix – remembering to sign the envelope before you seal it and mail it. A whooping 723 voters didn’t have their ballots counted because of this authentication error.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is what a difference only a few votes makes. The difference between the candidate who did make the 25th seat and the one who did not was only 841 votes. That’s a number smaller than some 100% NRA clubs. Votes do matter, and I loved that NRA started giving out buttons to members who took the time to vote in the 76th director race. If they keep doing that, you know I’m going to start a collection and wear them on my pass each year. :)

NRA Attendance – The Bigger Picture

While I was driving all the way from Louisville to Philadelphia-area yesterday, Sebastian handled the reporting of what so many always want to know – how many freedom lovers came out to hang out with fellow NRA members.

Beyond the fact that it’s the 2nd largest convention, how does it really compare? Fortunately for you all, I like data that no one else seems to keep.

I’ve been keeping track of the attendance ever since my first meeting in 2004, or as I call it, Pittsburgh #1. Since that first meeting I attended out of college, this year’s meeting was about 1/3 bigger (31.2%). Over last year, the growth was nearly 2,000 people, but only about 2%.

NRAConventionAttendance04-16

In that time, we’ve had 4 repeat cities – Louisville, Houston, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh. Aside from Houston which is kind of an anomaly, Louisville actually saw the greatest same city increase in attendance (21.5% compared to Pittsburgh at 16% and St. Louis at 14.3%).

Most of the dips you see in the early columns are simply location issues. That has become less of an issue since I started attending, as more people are willing to make this an annual or nearly annual tradition regardless of how far it is. In this article on Indianapolis securing two more years, they note that Houston’s last convention saw 43% of attendees coming from 200 miles away or more. You can see this reflected around the floor and in the member meeting where this year’s family of the youngest life member was from Chicago and the oldest life member traveled from Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

And while I don’t have firm numbers since the other side is against such measures, I can tell you that you can largely flip this chart around and chop off many zeros on the numbers to represent the anti-gun side presence at each event. There were actually a good number of protesters at Pittsburgh #1. They were pretty good spirited folks, too. There was a chanting contest and someone who shipped a Million Moms banner up from their Atlanta chapter. The biggest downers at the event were the ACLU volunteers who were trying to convince NRA members that they had no right to photograph protestors on the street, presumably in an effort to keep us from highlighting how few there were compared to the 61,319 NRA members. There was an uptick for Pittsburgh again in 2011, but otherwise, the protests just keep getting smaller.

It will be interesting to see the future. The event is getting large enough now that many cities simply cannot handle it. Even though Louisville has some of the largest event space in the country, the logistics just don’t work well. The Expo Center didn’t open enough gates for getting people into the parking lot, and there parking attendants weren’t on top of making sure spaces were filled in an orderly manner on their busiest days. They also apparently did nothing to try and direct traffic on the main roads to under-utilized gates. The gate we used (6) had very little wait on Friday based on the Google traffic report and very little on Saturday, too. That’s on the city hosts, and not on NRA. However, since NRA has to look at the bottom line of member experience, Louisville could lose future business by their unwillingness to manage traffic in a reasonable manner for an event they knew to be huge. Interestingly, it looks like Louisville is losing other conventions of similar sizes like the FFA which is close to 60,000 people. That article actually notes that new hotel space is only going up downtown, away from the Expo Center. That only compounds the traffic concerns.

As for the immediate future, the dates and locations are:

    2017 – Atlanta, Georgia
    2018 – Dallas, Texas
    2019 – Indianapolis, Indiana
    2020 – Nashville, Tennessee
    2021 – Houston, Texas

Back from NRAAM 2016 Louisville

Got back home sooner than expected, despite taking a more scenic route through West Virginia, avoiding Maryland. We discovered if you do a custom route on Google Maps, it’s fine unless it has to recalculate, in which case it defaults to the shortest route. Ordinarily, that would be fine except that the shortest route could get me thrown in a Maryland State Prison. Google has a multi-destination feature on the web version, but the mobile and tablet versions don’t. They allow you to avoid “Highways,” “Tolls,” and “Ferries,” but they don’t have an option for “Anti-Gun States.” Maybe I should make a feature request.

NRA Annual Meeting 2016 Attendance

My source from the NRA Board Meeting had reported in, and attendance this year was 80,452. This is the second highest attended Annual Meeting. Houston still holds the overall record of 86,228. Houston was when we were under the most significant attack we faced after the antis successfully exploited Sandy Hook to go after us. Also, on Friday, traffic gridlocked in Louisville. Saturday the venue was managing the parking situation pretty poorly. There’s a good chance this could have been a record breaker if not for the venue. In Nashville last year, attendance was 78,865, and before that in Indianapolis, 75,267. I’m afraid that for us Pennsylvnians, NRA has outgrown our venues. Pittsburgh gridlocked with under 70,000.

In a way, as the event grows it gets less fun for me. It’s harder to move around the floor and you don’t run into people as much. If I missed you this year, sorry about that. Even the law seminar has gotten so big, there were several readers there who I’ve met before that I’ve missed because the room really is that big.

The Palm Pistol Appears at NRAAM 2016

Matt Carmel’s Palm Pistol, which was made for shooters with disabilities, has finally made an appearance at NRA. He told me he’s still trying to get the FDA to list it as an approved medical device.

Palm Pistol NRAAM 2016

It’s definitely non-traditional, but the carbine actually worked pretty well from an ergonomic point of view. I really would like to be a fly on the wall when the Obama Administration is forced to approve a firearm as a medical device. He’s filing under both 21 CFR 890.5050 “Daily activity assist device”, and an 21 CFR 890.5370 “Nonmeasuring exercise equipment.”

Media Lying About NRA – Again

Usually when a reporter wants to spin against the NRA and its millions of grassroots members, it’s a lot more subtle than outright fabrication of things that did not happen where cameras and thousands of people are present. I mean, let’s face it, that’s just bold to think you won’t get caught in that kind of lie.

However, that’s what Louisville Business First‘s Baylee Pulliam tried to pull off in her Twitter coverage of the NRA Annual Meeting.

Pulliam tried to claim that NRA was dubbing dog noises over video of Hillary.

BayleePulliamNRADubbingLie

Except they didn’t. It’s a complete lie that NRA dubbed barking noises over Hillary. NRA simply played the video of Hillary herself barking like a dog.

Even though I was in the law seminar during the political event, I checked with multiple people there, and I watched the video which NRA News helpfully streams live and posts after the event.

But don’t let that stop the narrative that must be told that NRA and its members hate women. No, Pulliam needs to help push a narrative, so false accusations of dubbing must fly around social media.

Since at least one person has called her out, Pulliam tried to delete her tweet. But was there any kind of correction or apology posted? Nope.

Acknowledging such an accusation means it gets documented that the reporter doesn’t actually keep up with current events and somehow missed the news of Hillary barking, doesn’t do research before throwing out claims against innocent organizations, or she really is simply willing to unfairly accuse NRA of actions they did not take until someone publicly calls her out. With more than 20,000 videos on YouTube and nearly 500,000 Google links when searching “Hillary Clinton barking,” I find it doubtful that someone covering political events would miss that kind of news. It’s certainly possible that she just throws out accusations and doesn’t do research before doing so, but that seems a little reckless for a reporter at a business-focused media outlet. Sadly, that leaves the third option as a very real possibility.

NRA Annual Meeting

John Frazer NRAAM 2016

Here we are  is the whole reason all this exists, the 145th Annual Meeting of Members. I feel bad I got a picture of John Frazer, who I didn’t realize was Secretary, looking a bit like a deer in the headlights taking the roll. Photographing people speaking is a dark art which I have no mastery of.

First off I’m glad they remembered to recognize foreign members of NRA in attendance. Several years ago a British member put that resolution on the floor and the members voted in favor. More often than not they’ve forgotten to do it.

We always start the Annual Meeting of Members with what I think is one of NRA’s great traditions; recognizing the youngest and oldest Life Member in attendance. This year the youngest was an 8 week old whose family is from Chicago. The oldest was a 99 year old man from Fort Smith, Arkansas. Part of this great tradition involves Wayne flubbing the whole thing, while his admin Millie runs around trying to straighten everything out.

I was amused though during the part of Wayne’s speech where he’s touting NRA’s diversity, but the fact is the room is pretty white bread, and it took a while for the cameras panning the crowd to actually find some… err… diversity. I’m sure the media is going to have fun with that one. Other than that, Wayne’s Speech is mostly about elite hatin’. He went full populist. Never go full populist!

Pete Brownell is now first VP, which means he’ll be next President of the NRA after Allan Cors term expires next year. He introduces Chris Cox. Chris’s speech could be summed up with this quote, while talking about the Supreme Court: “The Second Amendment is on the ballot in November.” During Chris’s speech he recognizes a number of individuals, including Josephine Byrd, who was the plaintiff on the NRA’s case against the Wilmington Housing Authority who banned residents from owning firearms.

Now, onto the Board Election results. Previously I had been confused about Ted Nugent placing 18th, not noticing the list was alphabetical. My bad. My faith in humanity was briefly restored. This year 164,026 ballots were cast. 3,282 ballots were declared invalid. Oliver North and Ted Nugent were the top vote getters by far, with North getting 128,099 votes, and Nugent getting 124,471 votes. Sandy Froman, third on the list, got 109,369 votes.

The bottom vote getter was Tom King, at 71,473 votes. We’ve endorsed Tom in the past. Sadly the SAFE Act is murdering the gun culture in the Empire State, and much like Californians, New Yorkers seeking the Board are going to have an uphill climb. There is no justice in this world, given the amount good board members who didn’t make it this year. A lot of good people didn’t make it this year, like Graham Hill, my vote for 76th Board Member. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, there are too damned many celebrities on the NRA Board.

I am happy to report that Grover Norquist recall failed 70,204 no votes to 62,066 yes votes, so Glenn Beck can take those results and shove them up his crazy ass.

So good news and bad news. The good news is that participation in NRA elections is up sharply, but I think that might also be the bad news!

I was hoping this year, in this Era of Trump, there might be some damned fool, but entertaining thing put out on the floor, but it was not to be. The meeting adjourned uneventfully.

More on the Trump Endorsement

A comment of mine on other Social Media corners of the Internet, even though I hate social media like a smoker who can’t quit really but ought to:

Seriously, if you had told me at the 2014 convention in Indianapolis that NRA would end up endorsing a dark horse candidate from Manhattan as their preferred candidate for President at the 2016 convention in Louisville (where he won that state), I’d have testified at your commitment hearing. But hey, it’s 2016, and we’re all crazies now.

It’s a mad, mad world.

National Firearm Law Seminar, Panel 5

Panel 4 was the ethics part of the seminar. I had to skip coverage to get caught up on a few things. But I’m back with Panel 5. First up is Derek DeBrosse on Firearms Rights Restoration by the Numbers. There have been a few seminars about this over the years, and it’s a complex topic. I’ll do my best to sum up the important points. He notes that this is really a state centric area of law, and he will be speaking in regard to Ohio law, since that is where he practices. Starts with the common disabilities:

  • Felony conviction.
  • Mental health adjudications.
  • Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence conviction.

And the tools used to restore rights:

  • Expungements (favored)
  • Set Asides
  • Pardon (rare in OH)
  • Restorations
  • Voluntary Appeals File
  • Lawsuits

Character witnesses can be important in restoration cases. I’m always amazed what a complicated area of law this is. It’s hard to write and keep up with all the facts. There are a number of circuit splits that have impact on rights restoration, depending on what circuit your state is in. Types of restoration:

  • Automatic (rights fully restored upon release)
  • By Petition
  • By Expungement

There are a lot of cases where there are concealed carry restrictions which can trigger prohibitions. The feds demand that all your rights are restored. If any restrictions remain, you’re still prohibited. There are also some cases where states have expungement, but it’s not really expungement for federal purposes.

Mental health restorations seem to be more difficult than criminal restorations. There are cases where people who are admitted voluntarily were listed as being involuntary. Records are important.

I’ve also always found it interesting that it can be harder to lift a misdemeanor prohibition (MCDV) than it is a felony, but it is.


Next up is Jonathan Goldstein, who is a local (to me) gun rights attorney, speaking on Firearms Preemption being the next frontier in firearms regulation. The talk begins with a review of just how far we’ve come. So what’s a frustrated anti to do?

  • Work at the state and local level
  • Land use restrictions (lead issues, noise issues, etc)
  • Carry, use, and purchase restrictions (“Heart strings locations” – Parks, Schools, Religious institutions, “Sensible Locations” – Bars, Government Buildings, Government Gatherings, Signage, Scary Looking Guns)
  • Localization of penalties (e.g. Lost & Stolen in Pennsylvania)
  • Public health vector (“gun violence” as a disease & lead issues)

He’s making a lot of the same point I’ve made in regards to the motivations of the antis, in terms of fatiguing people out of exercising their rights. This is very entertaining. He’s probably great before a jury.

Jonathan’s prescription for this is preemption; the process of ensuring that laws are uniform. Lessons from Pennsylvania:

  • Explicit grants of standing matter.
  • Findings matter.
  • Pre-ambulatory language matters.
  • Look towards standing jurisprudence in your state’s law and make sure the relief you can obtain under your new law incorporates that.
  • Be careful about ambiguity. (e.g. the school gun ban in Pennsylvania)
  • Watch out for executive agencies.
  • Don’t give the courts wiggle room (He contrasts Florida’s strong preemption language with Pennsylvania’s weak language)

He goes over the history of our preemption drama in Pennsylvania, which you’re all well aware of. Roadmap to Preemption Success:

  • Start early and demand action. Don’t let the legislature stall you.
  • Watch the technical requirements – single subject and original purpose.
  • Look for allies. Most regulated industries also demand uniformity.
  • Get help with drafting! NRA has a lot of useful resources.
  • Analogize – drugs, cars, firearms are just another consumer product.
  • Hold local government accountable.
  • Read preliminary rules from agencies.
  • Watch appointments to appellate courts.

Very good presentation, and definitely the right guy to put between attendees and the booze. Not only did he make the time fly, but kept people awake. Sometimes if you get a snoozer presenter late in the day it can be brutal.

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