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The courts have taken us this far, and no farther

It’s become obvious in the past few years that the federal appellate judiciary is generally hostile to expanding firearms rights, and that SCOTUS is unwilling to push the matter. It’s been a question in my mind as to why that might be, and I am examining some of my preconceptions about which Justices voted to grant cert. and why.

I’ve assumed, as did most people, that the majorities in both cases included the justices who granted cert. But, what if that’s not the case? In particular, what if Justice Roberts did not vote to grant cert, and what if instead one or more of the dissenters voted to grant cert. in Heller to take the opportunity to stop, once and for all, the individual rights interpretation, and then in McDonald to prevent the application of Heller to the states?

I infer from the most recent two decisions (King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges), as well as previous statements and decisions, that Justice Roberts really does not want to change the status quo when he thinks that the legislature should act instead. So, he votes against cert. so the courts don’t have to get involved in what he sees as a political decision, but when the question comes up anyway, he votes pro-rights in a fit of constitutional conscience. Meanwhile, the anti-gun justices went 0 for 2 in convincing their fellows of the rightness of their position, so they’re no longer interested in taking the third pitch, leaving Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Alito alone to vote to grant cert.

This isn’t my only theory of Justice Roberts and the missing cert. vote, it could be that he saw Heller as necessary and McDonald as sufficient to put the question back to the states (or that as of late the states are making strides on their own and SCOTUS should not intervene).

At any rate, we need to stop relying on the courts and continue to move in the legislatures. At the state level, this is already happening. We’ve suffered some reverses (WA and OR), mostly due to Bloomberg, but there’s a limit to how effective money can be. The important thing is, not to go too far, too fast. The NRA is throwing its political weight behind national reciprocity, which has come tantalizingly close to passing in previous congresses that were less obviously pro-rights. Will it be enough to override a veto? Maybe not, but it sets a marker. If a lawmaker votes Yea on this and this president vetos it, that lawmaker has to explain why he changed his mind in a subsequent vote. Once national reciprocity happens, then we can start working on the real prize; forcing shall-issue and “self-defense is good cause.”. FOPA proves that the federal government can force shall-issue, after all, they forced it for retired LEOs. They ought to be similarly able to force states to match NCIS’s timelines for completing background checks and force the states to consider self-defense as a “good cause” or “in the interests of public safety.” All of that theoretically leaves the management of purchase and carry at the state level, while requiring them to treat the RKBA as an actual right. Congress has the enforcement clause of the 14th amendment to justify this, too, no need to muck around with Commerce Clause.

This won’t happen soon, and it won’t happen with a hostile administration in the White House. So, just remember, elections have consequences (as our Chief Justice just reminded us).

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.

Best Gift Ever to the GOP

The Supreme Court has made gay marriage legal everywhere in the United States, thus giving the Republican Party a huge gift. The truth is that opinion on this issue has been breaking in favor of gay marriage for the past decade, and it’s only accelerating. The political fight over this issue risked losing an entire generation to the Democratic Party, since a lot of millennials are single issue voters when it comes to this issue. The Supreme Court certainly has not put this issue to rest, because we’re still going to argue over cakes, but for the most part it’s now off the table politically. I feel this will soon become a settled issue.

Pennsylvania was not a state that had legislatively enacted gay marriage, and it was not going to as long as the GOP controls the legislature. The GOP now controls the legislature at historic levels. I don’t think Kathleen Kane is endearing herself to many people these days. Things look good for the GOP in Pennsylvania for the time being, despite the loss of the governorship. I thought the gay marriage issue was likely the biggest threat to the GOP majority in the long term, and now that’s off the table. While I’m sure Rep. Daryl Metcalfe won’t be thanking Justice Kennedy any time soon, he probably should. The GOP was in a Catch 22. It couldn’t mellow much on gay marriage without risking the loss of evangelicals, but it also couldn’t keep being obstinate on the issue and expect young people not to close their minds to whatever else the GOP might have to say.

I have long been in favor of legalizing gay marriage (I supported it before Obama and Hillary), but preferred that it be accomplished legislatively rather than through the courts. But I’d much rather be pissed at the GOP because they are stupid, venal, and ineffective rather than because they are taking the ship down over this long-term losing issue.

Act 192 Overturned by Commonwealth Court

While the news today is going to be all King v. Burwell, I’m sorry to report some more bad news on the gun front. Act 192 has had a short but glorious run, having briefly given teeth to the preemption law passed in 1974. But now Commonwealth Court has ruled that the law violates Pennsylvania’s “single subject” requirement for bills. No word yet on appeal. A few things should be noted.

  • Preemption is still the law in Pennsylvania, just as it has been for 41 years. If you’re busted under a local gun control ordinance, those ordinances are still unlawful. You can challenge them and win. The difference now is it will probably take being charged to have standing to win.
  • The law did a lot of legwork in convincing many local communities to repeal their illegal ordinances. This erased a lot of effort the other side put into passing them. I doubt very many of those communities will re-pass their repealed ordinances. We have to keep an eye out though.
  • Stu Greenleaf bears a significant part of the responsibility for having to attach Act 192 to a metal theft bill at the last minute. He controls the Senate Judiciary Committee these types of bills have to clear through before hitting the floor. The GOP has a 30-20 majority in the Senate. To be honest, I’m thinking about donating money to Greenleafs Dem opponent, even if his opponent is a nut, just to get Greenleaf out of the Senate and to put the Judiciary Committee into more reliable hands.

The real loss here is that the cities that fought may now get their lawsuits dismissed. As long as Tom Wolf is Governor, the only possibility we have for getting this passed again is a veto override, and last time we didn’t have quite enough to accomplish that. [UPDATE: A reader corrects me, and it did pass with a veto-proof margin last time.] Also note that Greenleaf still controls Judiciary, so there’s that issue too. It will continue to be difficult to get pro-gun legislation advanced so long as he is controlling that key committee.

I Guess Pat Toomey Didn’t Learn His Lesson

I had hopes that perhaps Pat Toomey was largely bamboozled by Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, and after experiencing the backlash first hand, would leave the gun control issue alone for the rest of his term, and perhaps even kiss up to us by giving us a few critical votes before he’s up for re-election. Alas that is not to be:

Though the effort is far from being fully formed, Toomey also said he’s looking for opportunities to reintroduce something related to combating gun violence.

“What I’m trying to figure out is, is there something that could get the support of the 60 votes that we would need in the Senate,” Toomey said. “Joe Manchin was and is a great partner and someone I will continue to work with, and I’m open to exploring what is possible.”

We all know that “combating gun violence” is a dog whistle for gun control. If it’s not, then Toomey needs to be more specific about what he’s going to specifically propose rather than blowing dog whistles for the other side. He’s already lost any support I might be willing to give time or money wise. He’s quickly trying to ensure I don’t vote in the Pennsylvania Senatorial election in 2016. Toomey has been a real disappointment.

Pennsylvania has a strong tradition of political moderation. The last hard-core conservative we had in statewide office was Santorum, and he only lasted two terms. I fear the lesson the PAGOP took from that is moderation in all things, rather than the fact that Santorum’s positions on social issues and advocacy for government involvement in America’s bedroom turned off a lot of socially liberal Republican and independent voters in the Philadelphia suburbs (which contains about 2.4 million of the state’s 13 million population).

So why is Toomey cozying up to gun control advocates? In my opinion, he’s buying Bloomberg’s silence. I believe the PAGOP is scared to death of Bloomberg’s money, and are very concerned he’ll flood the airwaves at election time with attack ads painting Republican candidates as radical on the issue. But really, Pat Toomey should be more afraid of us than Bloomberg, and I have a feeling he may find that out in 2016.

Words of political wisdom

“[I]n politics, sincerity isn’t as important as results.” (Source)

I don’t care (much) about a politician’s personal preferences, or his historical votes, I care about how he votes on the next vote. The voting record has some predictive value, certainly, and statements from the politician should be taken into account; but the secret of the universe is, things change, people change. Politicians change because people change. If they don’t, they get voted out of office, or don’t get elected to higher office.

Another Day, Another Search Warrant

In most states, such headlines aren’t often about search warrants issued against your own Attorney General. In Pennsylvania, it’s the new normal after Mike Bloomberg bought us a new Attorney General who has seemingly decided that laws on leaking confidential materials to the press don’t apply to her.

Of course, I also have to thank the good voters who backed her because their loyalty to Penn State without taking into account her position on gun rights or even whether she would be competent.

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.

Guest Post: CeaseFirePA – So Small They’re Almost a Rounding Error

Introduction (By Sebastian). I’ve decided that since I’m having more spouts where I’m unbelievably busy these days, I would start taking guests posts from readers who had some writing skills and something to say. If you’d like to take a stab at your own guest post, contact me via e-mail (address on the sidebar) and tell me a bit about what you want to write. We can do submissions anonymously, or with credit. Your choice. This article is from a reader who asked to remain anonymous.


RocketWe recently had a chance to look at CeasefirePA’s financials. The only conclusion you can draw from them is that CeasefirePA is not nearly as mainstream or well supported as they would have anyone think.

Every non-profit is required to file an IRS Form 990 and to make that form available for inspection. Many can be found on the Internet at sites like www.charitynavigator.com or www.guidestar.com.

CeasefirePA, dutifully filed its forms and we got copies of their filings from 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Like the NRA, CeasefirePA has two different entities, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is also a charity (to which contributions are tax deductible) and a 501(c)(4) political entity (to which contributions are not tax deductible).

According to CeasefirePA’s 2013 Form 990, their Education Fund – their charity – received 605 individual donations totaling $71,000 in all of calendar year 2012.

By comparison, in that same year, NRA had nearly 200,000 paid members in PA.

To understand how much bigger NRA is in PA alone, Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia once held 71,000 people. Lincoln Financial Field holds 69,000 people. The Wells Fargo Center holds 20,000 people for basketball. Citizens Bank Park where the Phillies play holds 43,500 people. NRA’s paid Pennsylvania membership could simultaneously fill all of these facilities to capacity while CeasefirePA’s 2012 paid membership could barely fill your local Cheesecake Factory restaurant.

Collectively, in 2012, CeasefirePA’s board raised $3,000 – a pittance for a board. Most of the rest of their funding (then and now) comes from liberal foundation grants (Heinz, Joyce, William Penn).

In more recent years, they have raised more from their board, but still nothing compared to NRA.

Fast forwarding to calendar year 2013, CeasefirePA reported that they received donations from 766 people totaling $58,280. That’s 161 more people than in 2012. In total. Across the Commonwealth. That’s nearly 2.5 new supporters per county in PA or .79 new paid members per PA General Assembly House District. Way to go! Literally.

In their Form 990s, CeasefirePA tries to make up for this pitiful number of paid members by talking about how many people they send e-mails to – 30,000. Even there, however, NRA’s efforts swamp CeasefirePA’s.

In the 2012 election cycle NRA’s political arm (NRA-ILA) dropped a 715,000 person mailing – physical pieces of mail – to support gun friendly candidates. That mailing reached about 8.5% of the Commonwealth’s 2012 registered voters. And that was just one of the NRA’s activities in Pennsylvania that year.

Next time you meet one of your state legislators, ask them whether they’d rather side with the 766 or the 200,000.

A Long Overdue Bill for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives are debating allowing the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting. We are the only state left in the United States that does not allow hunting with semi-automatics. If I were to take up hunting, I’d have to resort to an old military bolt action with open sights. I don’t actually own a scoped bolt gun, muzzleloader, or shotgun capable of firing slugs. Now I’m assuming this bill will only legalize semi-autos where it’s legal to hunt with rifles (around here in the Southeast, it’s mostly limited to shotguns (which ironically can be semi-auto), muzzleloaders, and bows).

It looks like there’s two competing bills. It would seem one bill would  allow the use of .223 for hunting coyotes, with six rounds allowed in the magazine while hunting, while the competing bill would allow five rounds, but doesn’t mention species or caliber. Given the increasing problems with coyotes, either bill strikes me as a welcome thing for people living in the more rural parts of the Commonwealth.

I don’t think the Senate should be as much trouble as it has been with our bills last session. Where we had trouble previously is with Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Greenleaf, a C- rated Republican from Montgomery County, bottling up our bills. Since this is a hunting bill, it would go through the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, which is  Chaired by Senator Scavello, who has an A rating and was endorsed by NRA in his last election. Even the minority chair on that committee, Senator Brewster, is A rated and was endorsed in his last election. If we can get this bill to the floor in the Senate, we’ll pass it. The elephant in the room with moving this bill forward is whether we can score a signature from Governor Wolf. Wolf might not want to upset hunters, but so far I he has not impressed me with his political acumen. It’s a good bill to send him, since it’ll make him put his cards on the table.

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