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Where is Gun Politics Going?

One of my big regrets of blogging about gun politics today is that I think all the interesting developments in politics are happening outside the gun issue. I’m hoping that a refresh on the federal bench might change some of that in 2017, and we can get some interesting movement in the courts again. But it’s hard to know what will happen.

I sense that the 2016 election is a pretty epic shift in the political balance, much in the same way 2008 was. Both the 2008 and 2016 election are not the pendulum swinging one way, and then swinging back. If you think that, you’re trying to shoe-horn the current political situation into the context you’ve understood all your life: the Post-WWII order created by our parents (if you’re a boomer) and grandparents (if you’re my generation). I believe 2008 and 2016 represent that order shattering. I’m not sure that will be a good thing. First let me argue where I think things are going with the gun issue:

  • Trump will fulfill a lot of his promises on court nominations, and that’s largely because Presidents don’t have a whole lot of leeway in who they appoint. If they did, we’d be talking about Justice Harrier Meyers. Court appointments are where Presidents appease their base. Your average voter isn’t paying attention to court fights, and nominations tend to get drowned in issues those folks don’t care to follow closely. We never would have won Heller and McDonald if Al Gore had won the 2000 election, even though Bush came into office promising to sign a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban. We can make progress with politicians who are “good enough.” We don’t need angels.
  • Trump is going to disappoint us in a lot of other ways. I am not looking forward to his first big test on the issue (think a Sandy Hook like event). He’ll be under a lot of pressure and he tends to get stupid off the cuff and under pressure.
  • Our bigger disappointment will be Congress. We’re all talking about this election as if we just won the lottery. It still takes 60 votes to pass legislation through the Senate. The GOP will be more than happy to put on a show for you and blame those dastardly filibustering Democrats for not being able to get anything done. Just be mindful of that. It’s not an excuse. The Dems will nuke the filibuster first chance they get. You can count on it. Republicans shouldn’t entertain any delusions about that.
  • Bloomberg is going to find that he can only defeat us at the margins, only at a very heavy cost in dollars. Unfortunately for us, the 20 million dollars Bloomberg blew on his gamble in Nevada is pocket change to him. He can still afford to whittle at the margins a lot, even if it mostly results in defeat, and if he’s smart it won’t. That said, I believe Bloomberg has hit his high water mark with gun control, but events unforeseen could prove me wrong here.
  • I believe we’re going to arrive at an equilibrium there we are not fully happy with, but it’ll be one that’s not disastrous to the gun culture we’ve been trying to build. There will be opportunities opened up. I think we can win on gun bans. The worst excesses of the anti-gun states can be checked.
  • On the down side, anti-gun states are going to win on a lot of marginal issues we won’t be completely happy with. I don’t believe California and New Jersey are, in my lifetime at least, ever going to be as pro-gun as Wyoming. The courts are going to leave more room for variation than we’d ideally like.
  • I don’t believe I will live to see the Hughes Amendment repealed, though I’d love to be wrong. I think we may get some more exceptions shot through it, but I think even a few decades from now if you want to take up collecting machine guns, you’re going to have to jump through hoops, deal with the legal maze, and fork up serious coin. That’s assuming it’s even legal in your state, because I don’t foresee court enforced protections for full-autos, SBRs and SBSs. That will have to come legislatively.
  • The good news is that I think we can achieve deregulating silencers closer to the short term, and that SBRs and SBSs might also be reachable legislatively, though I’m not very optimistic the courts striking down NFA provisions. In a lot of states these will remain illegal or more strictly regulated than under federal law.
  • The courts are liable to uphold a lot of “gun free zones” we’re not happy with. I believe they will uphold much of the “prohibited persons” mechanisms, though they might actually demand some token due process here and there. I’ve said for a long time, I will never live to see a return to cash on the barrel sales of firearms. Background checks are not going anywhere. There are probably even private sale restrictions the courts will uphold.
  • Here’s the real hard pill to swallow: the younger generation are far less concerned about personal privacy than earlier ones. They don’t have the visceral reaction to registration that we do if bans and confiscation are legal impossibilities. Even if the government never imposes formal registration, de-facto registration will likely become reality. To be honest, privacy is quickly becoming obsolete just because of technology. I’m not sure this is taking us to a good place, but that’s where we’re going whether we like it or not. How to manage this future could be a whole long post in itself.

What about politics in general?

  • Nationalism and populism are back, baby, and God help us. I don’t mean just the kind of traditional pride in your country, sing the national anthem at sporting events kind of nationalism, but the kind of nationalism that brought us such wondrous events as World War I and World War II. This is a global trend. Democracy is reasserting itself, and the people are sick of transnational institutions. Is this a good thing? Who knows. I generally tend to think the people reasserting themselves is probably healthy, but I also think there were good reasons many of our founders feared raw democratic power.
  • The post-WWII order is definitely disintegrating before our eyes. I’m not certain this incantation of nationalism will be the same as the kind we were taught spurned two major calamities, but I’m also not sure that another major calamity isn’t coming. History doesn’t really repeat itself, but it does have parallels.
  • Our current international institutions are anything but democratic, and probably deserve some rebuke. Both the UN and the EU are post-WWII technocratic institutions with no real democratic legitimacy. The UN was intended to be a top-down instrument of policy for the victors of the Second World War. It served as a stage on which the Cold War could be fought, and a mechanism by which “minor” country squabbles could be resolved before they had the chance to draw in major powers.
  • For all it’s faults, much of the Post WWII order was designed to avert the possibility of a Third World War fought with nuclear weapons, and it worked. But no one younger than 35 really understands this, and I believe that’s very dangerous.
  • The EU is probably going to collapse. To put it bluntly, the EU started off with good intention as a way to tie the continent together economically so as to make future wars unthinkable. It worked too well. What the EU has turned into is a not so subtle conspiracy by British, French, and German elites to control Europe both economically and politically via extra-democratic means. This was all well and good as long as those elites were actually doing a good job, but shit is starting to get real, and they don’t have answers except to double down on the status quo. The people have noticed.

If I had to make a prediction, technocratic and bureaucratic transnational institutions are going the way of the dodo. I don’t know what will replace them because I don’t believe globalism is going away: globalism is an inevitable consequence of technological progress. But people, everyday people, are reasserting themselves. You’re going to see that across the world, and not just here. Brexit and Trump are just symptoms. I don’t really know where all this is going, but it is definitely an interesting time to be alive, and I’m not sure whether by “interesting” I mean good “interesting” or bad “interesting.”


A Note to Democrats Post Election

I can’t find much to argue with in Eric Raymond’s note to Democrats, and of course I agree that gun control is a losing proposition for Democrats and always has been. ESR and I live in the same general area, so he’s probably seeing a lot of the same things I am.

My only comment is that one should never underestimate the Republican Party’s ability to completely and utterly bork things up. It’s their majority to lose, but I have faith they can do it! I don’t buy notions of permanent majorities, or even generational majorities. I wouldn’t suggest that the Dems merely waiting around for the GOP’s self-destructive tendencies to go to work isn’t a viable strategy.

More Culture Killing Gun Legislation in New Jersey

New Jersey is going to be so screwed when Christie leaves office, it’s not even funny. Dems are looking to impose onerous regulations on shooting ranges in New Jersey with the aim to prevent suicides. This is not about preventing suicides, it’s about destroying the gun culture in New Jersey.

Every gun owner would be required to present NJ firearms credentials to the owner or operator of a range before being allowed to use their own firearms on that range, every time they use the range. What if you’re from out of state?  Sorry.  What if the club doesn’t have staff to check credentials?  Too bad.

I won’t take a firearm into New Jersey, even legally. But I know people who compete over there. This will effectively end that if they don’t have a non-resident FID card (which is really a good idea to have if you’re going to be transporting firearms in New Jersey).

Shooting activity could only occur where staff exists to check credentials.  Unstaffed ranges would lose members (because members wouldn’t be allowed to shoot there), many clubs would be forced to close.

This would essentially close every club in New Jersey. It would make it impossible to bring new shooters into the sports, since they would essentially need to apply for and receive an FID card before they could even try it out. This would destroy the shooting culture in New Jersey, and that’s exactly what it’s intended to do. Suicide prevention is a ruse. Christie has shown a willingness to veto legislation like this, and will probably continue to do so as long as he’s in office, but it’s going to be hell to pay if Christie is replaced with an anti-gun Democrat.

Well, That Didn’t Take Long

Looks like the pendulum has swung back to having to argue, “No, burning the flag is speech protected by the First Amendment, and it ought to be.” Of course, no sooner are conservatives starting the flag burning debate again, some folks on the left acting like this is some kind of fringe, extremist position.

Nope. Hate to tell you, the American People like protecting speech they like, and don’t have issues restricting speech they don’t like. Actually, one could argue that the broad protections we have for First Amendment rights now are a product of elite opinion.

Defecting Electors are the System Working

I’m pretty confident that despite a few electors making noises about switching their vote, that Donald Trump will still occupy the Oval Office by the end of January. But people on the left and right are going nuts over this. To the extent that electors are receiving threats, that’s beyond the pale, but I have no problem with trying to influence electors to switch their vote through peaceful means. I also don’t have issues with electors actually switching their vote. While it’s not a popular position today, I’m a huge proponent of the Electoral College, for the following reasons:

  • It gives a voice to smaller states that would otherwise be completely irrelevant in National Politics. And yes, I’m OK with rural people having outsized influence. Why? Because city folks don’t understand or care about rural folks, and without rural folks, city folks starve. I think protecting their interests from a dismissive and smug majority that doesn’t understand them is important.
  • It prevents variability in the election system from bringing the results into doubt. There was a lot of “selected, not elected” talk after Bush v. Gore in 2000, but there was never any legal doubt about Bush being a legitimate President because the Electoral College is the lawful body that elects the President. Likewise, a close popular vote count would be far more consequential, bring dozens of state electoral systems under the microscope.
  • The Electoral College is a final check against the people doing something extremely rash. Given the horrible choices in this election, I don’t feel too bad about a few electors going faithless. That lets me know the Electoral College might not actually rubber stamp a real Hitler or Mussolini. Hillary and Donald Trump were awful candidates, but I don’t believe either of them are potential dictators. I don’t think this election rises to the level of the Electoral College thwarting the will of the people, but a bit of controversy, from my point of view, isn’t unwelcome.

I suspect there’s going to be a lot of call for abandoning the Electoral College, but that would establish a true, national election. In every other instance in federal elections, we vote as states. I don’t think the Electoral College is an anachronism, and it’s an important buffer between the people and the Presidency. It may be that Hillary won the popular vote, but that is relatively meaningless, since the campaign strategy to win in a majority vote system would be very different from the system we have. It’s impossible to know whether Hillary Clinton would have won the popular vote if we were a 50%+1 takes it kind of system. I think we ought to keep the Electoral College in place.

Semi Auto Hunting the Law in Pennsylvania

I thought there might be a good chance that Governor Wolf would sign the bill. There are a lot of hunters in Pennsylvania, and this looked like the kind of fight he might not want to pick. I’m sure Pennsylvania going red in the Presidential race may also have played into Wolf’s thinking.

It’s really not any big deal, since Pennsylvania was one of the few states that ever restricted hunting with semi-automatics. I don’t hunt, so it’s not something I’ll personally take advantage of, but I’ve heard a few “you can’t hunt with them” arguments for restricting semi-autos, so it’ll be good to see that put to rest.

But Will Stu Greenleaf Get the Message?

Change the states, and this could easily be Republican State Senator Greenleaf’s political epitaph if he doesn’t quit blocking our bills:

A powerful south Florida state senator who repeatedly sidelined popular gun rights legislation lost his seat Tuesday, opening the door for campus carry and open carry in the Sunshine State.

Florida State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and in 2015 refused to hold hearings on a bill to allow legal concealed carry on public colleges and universities. Diaz de la Portilla was also a fly in the ointment when it came to derailing an emergency concealed carry bill the year before and in 2016 was key in killing bills on campus carry and open carry, refusing to even meet with advocates.

The Dem replacing him is also rated F, but taking one F and replacing them with a more junior F who doesn’t chair a key committee can be a win overall. Senator Greenleaf, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee, who is the reason enhanced preemption had to be stuck on another bill, should think about that. Like Florida, the Pennsylvania GOP Senate majority could absorb the loss of one seat, and I’d be happy to donate to or volunteer, even for the most Kumbaya singin’, tree huggingist hippie, if they looked like they had a credible chance of getting him out of our way.

You Used to be Able to Expect Better from Reason

Articles like this are why I haven’t been a Reason subscriber or regular reader since Virginia Postrel left as Editor-in-Chief. As it says in the comments of this article, “Did this guy sleep through Sandy Hook?”

Not that NRA doesn’t sensationalize and scaremonger in its fundraising: it certainly does. So does every other advocacy group. What effect a Trump Administration will have on NRA’s ability to maintain membership at high levels and keep enough money coming in is something I wonder about too. But …

But under President Barack Obama, the NRA has occupied itself sowing groundless panic and fighting imaginary villains.

So Obama didn’t spend his second term promoting gun control? Justice Scalia didn’t die? Hillary Clinton didn’t run a campaign where the centerpiece was gun control and defiance of the NRA? Did I imagine all that?

The NRA insisted he planned to ban all handguns, ban “use of firearms for home defense,” increase federal taxes on guns and ammunition by 500 percent, and require a federal license to buy a gun.

That’s because as a Illinois Senator, he voted for these things, and was an outspoken supporter of Chicago’s handgun ban. This wasn’t a figment of Wayne LaPierre’s imagination, and it wasn’t just lip service. He voted this way.

Crying Wolf

I think this blog post deserves a share. I tend to agree:

This, I think, is the first level of crying wolf. What if, one day, there is a candidate who hates black people so much that he doesn’t go on a campaign stop to a traditionally black church in Detroit, talk about all of the contributions black people have made to America, promise to fight for black people, and say that his campaign is about opposing racism in all its forms? What if there’s a candidate who does something more like, say, go to a KKK meeting and say that black people are inferior and only whites are real Americans?

We might want to use words like “openly racist” or “openly white supremacist” to describe him. And at that point, nobody will listen, because we wasted “openly white supremacist” on the guy who tweets pictures of himself eating a taco on Cinco de Mayo while saying “I love Hispanics!”

When you spend years saying nearly everything is racist or sexist, then nothing is racist or sexist. Jonah Goldberg, a card carrying Never Trumper, also think this accusation is being taken too far. Charles C.W. Cooke, another NRO Never Trumper also speaks badly of all this hyperbole.

Take Trump giving Steve Bannon a place in his Administration as Chief Strategist, something I think people should rightly be concerned about. But from everything I hear from the left, he sounds like the reincarnation of Joseph Goebbels. I respect Ian Tuttle’s take on this. Also read Ben Shapiro’s take on Bannon, since he worked for him and quit under unfriendly circumstances. This should legitimately be very worrisome. But it’s hard to convince people. In a world where everyone who disagrees is Hitler, then no one is Hitler. I don’t think Trump is going to bring Nazism or Fascism to America. I think such claims are overwrought. But there are warning signs that things need to change in our rhetoric. Trump might not be Hitler, but continuing down the current path risks the rise of a real one, and if that day comes, the people warning about it will be ignored.

The Ant Farm Election

Long before emojis hit the Internet, I used to help run a MUD where we had what were called emotes, and one of them was called “Ant Farm” which went something like:

You point out that the MUD is just like a giant ant farm, and that the most entertainment can be derived from taking the whole thing and shaking the hell out of it every once in a while, watching as the various creatures struggle to preserve their fragile, pointless existence.

That is this election in a nutshell! I’ve been watching memes going around both left and right, but mostly left. The right people have mostly gone back to their normal lives. The big thing I’m seeing from lefties is all the walk backs Trump has been taking.

OK…. so what’s the problem here? He’s moving center after winning the election. This is what I’d hoped he’d do. I’m not completely happy with the transition team, but it’s mostly people who know how to get things done in Washington. It’s a signal Trump’s not necessarily going to be the whack job President myself and a lot of people feared. Sure, he’s still got 4 years to prove me wrong, and I’m sure he’s going to do things I don’t like, but every President has done things I don’t like. I’ll argue against those when he does them. A lot of lefties are asking conservatives to speak out against Trump’s hate now, presumably so they can feel a smug sense of self-satisfaction when they hear crickets. Screw them. I never saw any of them object when Obama trolled and gas lighted half the people in this country. You are part of what helped make this shit pile, so as far as I’m concerned you can sit there and smell it the next four years like the rest of us will.

It’s almost like they really believed that nonsense about Republicans never being able to win the White House again. I can believe that because I had people seriously argue that with me. It’s almost like they didn’t recognize that every once in a while, every party will float a dog turd of a candidate for President.

If there’s one thing I wish people on the left would recognize, and actually a lot of the old-school liberals and more honest lefties do: Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. She is the worst candidate for President I’ve ever seen in my lifetime (and I lived through Dukakis). She is so bad, she lost to Donald Trump. That’s how bad she was. She has all of the faults of her husband with none of his charms. As Megan McArdle put it:

She had two cadences: “fifth grader reading their essay about the water cycle to the whole class”; and “I’m coming in there in thirty seconds and I’d better see all of you cleaning that room!” This despite what we must assume was heroic and patient work by the best speech coaches in the business. The only tool she had for emphasis was sounding outraged; her resting speech face wavered between “bored” and “peeved”.

In politics, it doesn’t do a bit of good to put a candidate up for a seat who validates all your best hopes, aspirations, and ideas for the country, if that candidate is constitutionally incapable of winning.


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