Currently Browsing: Civil Liberties
Aug 19, 2015
While it’s true that flamethrowers are unregulated, they don’t have a culture surrounding them like firearms do. Which means there’s no preemption law to protect manufacturers, sellers and buyers from the ravages of hysterical local politicians, who are often petty little Napoleons in their own right. Such is the Mayor of the town of Warren Michigan, who is moving to ban flamethrowers. Warren is where Ion Productions makes the XM42. You might think “well, he’ll just have to ban super soakers then too,” but I’m not certain that his proposed legislation doesn’t actually do that:
It describes a flamethrower as “any transportable device that can emit a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid at a distance of more than two feet.” It doesn’t include open-flame cooking devices as defined by the International Fire Code, torches used for industrial purposes or smaller flame-producing devices, like cigar lighters. It also makes exceptions for any officers, employees or members of the Armed Forces, law enforcement, fire department or local, state or federal government workers on duty and acting within the scope of his or her employment.
I’m not sure how this doesn’t cover a super soaker, since it’s certainly can “emit a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid at a distance of more than two feet” with a pretty minimal level of creativity. Let me also say how relieved I am that the Mayor decided to make an exception for Law Enforcement, because I guess we never know when we might have to burn people out of their homes, or hose down a rowdy crowd with some napalm — legitimately, and as a function of law, and for their own good, of course.
I like that a lot young people are embracing libertarian ideas and philosophy, but they are coming against the hard reality that most people aren’t libertarian in philosophy or thought, and aren’t going to agree that people can have dangerous things that they themselves don’t see any legitimate use for. I get taking on the man, but without the cultural underpinnings to support a particular freedom, attracting undue attention to it can result in that freedom ending for everyone. At the end of the day, what does it accomplish?
It’s an dilemma I don’t know how to resolve it. I think people should be allowed to have things that aren’t inherently dangerous to others, which a flamethrower is not. You have to do something stupid and/or evil with it in order for someone to get hurt, and the law would be more just to only punish the stupid and/or evil behavior than to ban the instrument that enabled it. Are there places where even using a flamethrower is stupid? I think that’s debatable. But again, that’s restricting use. If I want to take it out to a quarry and have a good old time setting piles of wood chips on fire, it ought to be my freedom to do so.
But most people don’t think this way. They aren’t willing to live in a society where there’s more risk in order to preserve someone’s “strange” idea of fun. These are people who live relatively conventional lives, and don’t exist much outside of convention. For the most part, they run the world. The reason we’ve been successful with guns is because we’ve abandoned the idea of defending firearms rights on the basis of recreation, which doesn’t appeal to anyone who doesn’t engage in the hobby or who lacks any curiosity about it. Instead, we embraced defending it on the basis of self-defense, which a lot more people can relate to. I worry that at the end of the day, preserving people’s right to have fun with flamethrowers, or their right to make guns at home, won’t prove compelling enough to ordinary people to stand against a tide of public hysteria if it were to come this way.
You know, it occurs to me I don’t have a “flamethrower” category. I guess I’ll have to file this under “civil liberties.”
Aug 3, 2015
Clayton Cramer published an article about whether homosexuality is driven by childhood sexual abuse. I should note that in his follow up article that I was the blogger he was speaking up here:
Most simply ignored it; one (a supporter of SSM) was surprised that the left hadn’t already burned down my house.
I don’t think there’s anything illegitimate about Clayton’s line of inquiry, and I don’t think any journal should have to fear publishing it. Some of you might remember back in 1994, when this controversial book was published. I doubt today you could find a publisher who would dare publish it. I don’t buy the conclusions in “The Bell Curve” because I believe theory of Intelligence Quotient is crap, but as a society we should be free to discuss these kinds of things.
Today we fear controversial ideas, and to a large degree it seems large portions of our population have become infantilized. Is Clayton’s theory correct? I don’t know. But I don’t see why it should be beyond discussion and legitimate inquiry. The famous quote by Justice Louis Brandeis from Whitney v. California would seem to apply to the situation our society currently finds itself in: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
Jun 26, 2015
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).
Jun 15, 2015
The proposed ITAR rule changes impacting free speech aren’t quite getting the media coverage we need to get the word out to our people, and this has me concerned. This article that appears in Defense Trade Law seems to agree with our interpretation that the proposed rule change is very broad. I’ve seen a few different opinions on this topic in the comment section over at The Firearm Blog’s post on the topic (in addition to a few trolls). The State Department had a press conference last week where the topic of their proposed ITAR regulations came up.
QUESTION: Did you get an answer the question I asked yesterday about these ITAR – revisions to the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations?
MR RATHKE: I did. I’m happy to go through that, if that would be helpful. You asked yesterday, Matt, about a June 3rd publication in the Federal Register by the State Department of proposed changes for public comment to several regulatory definitions under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. These proposed changes in definition are part of our broader effort to streamline and modernize a Cold War-era regulatory system to better safeguard against illicit attempts to procure sensitive U.S. defense technologies.
These proposed definition changes – which, as I pointed out, are out for public comment – they seek to account for technologies that were not envisioned when the regulations were initially developed. Otherwise these definitions are intended to be a clarification of existing law and regulations, technical data, and detailed schematics that are required for the manufacture or production of defense articles already require U.S. Government authorization before they can be disseminated by U.S. manufacturers.
Now in contrast, general descriptions, public discussions, and imagery of defense articles, including firearms, have never been the subject of – to these regulations and they would remain unaffected under these proposed revisions. As I said at the start, they were published in the Federal Register for public comment. That’s a period that runs through August 3rd of this year. So I’d refer people to the text of the Federal Register notice for details about providing —
QUESTION: Okay. So these rules would not apply to private citizens, only to manufacturers – and only to highly sensitive technical details? Is that —
MR RATHKE: They apply to the technical data and detailed schematics for the production of defense articles.
QUESTION: So they don’t apply to private citizens.
MR RATHKE: Well, they apply to anything that relates to those areas of subject matter, whether discussed by —
QUESTION: Okay. Well, the concern that had been raised by the Second Amendment groups is somehow this is going to restrict or stop or ban discussions about gun – about firearms —
MR RATHKE: Well, I go back to the – also the point that general descriptions – that is general, not technical and detailed ones – general descriptions or public discussions and imagery of defense articles would – have never been subject to these regulations and wouldn’t —
QUESTION: So the concern that has been expressed is misplaced, yes?
MR RATHKE: Yes, that would be our view.
Okay, anything further? Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
None of us ever thought just a picture of a gun or “general descriptions or public discussions and imagery of defense articles” was going to get us in hot water. The issue is a lot more complicated than that. It’s become pretty apparent to me on reading and re-reading this proposed rule change, and the existing ITAR rules, that this is targeted squarely at 3D printing, CNC milling, and Cody Wilson more specifically.
Notice when asked whether it would apply to the public at large, he basically concedes the issue. The big problem is that previously, we were all protected by the public domain exception to the rule. I’d encourage everyone to follow that link, and note subsection (b) which is reserved. This public domain exception is obviously dated in the Internet age, but it’s pretty apparent if one publishes the information through “unlimited distribution” that material is the public domain. Now, for the reserved subsection (b) The new proposal spells out what is to be done with it:
(b) Technical data or software, whether or not developed with government funding, is not in the public domain if it has been made available to the public without authorization from:
(1) The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls;
(2) The Department of Defense’s Office of Security Review;
(3) The relevant U.S. government contracting entity with authority to allow the technical data or software to be made available to the public; or
(4) Another U.S. government official with authority to allow the technical data or software to be made available to the public.
By my reading, if you shared a straight-up CAD drawing of an AR-15 or 1911, you’d be fine because those designs are already in the public domain. However, if you developed your own wildcat load for a cartridge, or you came up with a novel design for a rifle, pistol, shotgun, scope or accessory, or you created a modification to an existing design, you’d have to seek clearance from the State Department prior to publishing it. It’s going to be exceedingly difficult for people who aren’t lawyers to understand the difference. My opinion is that this rule is meant to stifle people’s ability to discuss gun making with 3D printers or CNC milling machine’s online, due to the legal complexities and risks involved in doing so. Despite the fact that we shared no CAD drawing or plans in our experimentation with this technology on this blog, I still do not know whether my posts on the subject would fall under ITAR pre-clearance or not, and I’m a good bit more legal savvy than most hobbyists.
Jun 8, 2015
A reader asked about the public comment period for the proposed rule by the State Department to muzzle free speech for gun owners. Here is what the proposal says about public comments:
DATES: The Department of State will accept comments on this proposed rule until August 3, 2015.
ADDRESSES: Interested parties may submit comments within 60 days of the date of publication by one of the following methods:
Comments received after that date may be considered, but consideration cannot be assured. Those submitting comments should not include any personally identifying information they do not desire to be made public or information for which a claim of confidentiality is asserted because those comments and/or transmittal emails will be made available for public inspection and copying after the close of the comment period via the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls Web site at www.pmddtc.state.gov. Parties who wish to comment anonymously may do so by submitting their comments via www.regulations.gov, leaving the fields that would identify the commenter blank and including no identifying information in the comment itself. Comments submitted via www.regulations.gov are immediately available for public inspection.
So you have until August to submit a public comment. I encourage everyone to do so. Remember, they are legally required to address serious comments. If they receive even tens of thousands of them, it will seriously interfere with their ability to promulgate this regulation according to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). If they are going to do this power grab, I see no reason to make it easy for them!
Jun 8, 2015
The nomination for the
Police State, I mean State Police, Commissioner has been recalled as of this morning. It looks like it’s a good news/bad news scenario.
Marcus Brown will continue as Acting Commissioner, giving him the ability to continue to abuse his power violating the rights of Pennsylvanians to criticize him and his decision relating to his office. Brown has a history of publicly backing Martin O’Malley’s extreme gun control proposals. The agency he ran in Maryland was accused of targeting gun owners to find any reason to pull them over and search them. The bad news is that he is free to continue these practices (those documented on video and alleged) here in Pennsylvania for the moment.
The good news is that the Pennsylvania Senate has to formally accept the recall, and they have indicated they will not unless Gov. Tom Wolf agrees to nominate someone else. That would get Brown out of the office, and may we’d be lucky enough that he’ll leave Pennsylvania. The flip side of that coin is that anyone nominated by Wolf is unlikely to be friendly to Second Amendment rights.
UPDATE: And that didn’t go well for Wolf… The Senate moved forward with a vote regardless of the recall request and voted Marcus Brown down. That’s good news for those of us who have a little respect for the rule of law.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the process is now that Brown has officially been turned down by the Senate. I would hope it means he’s hauled out of his office as Acting Commissioner right now, but I realize that’s a bit of hopeful thinking.
Jun 7, 2015
I’m a bit late to the discussion about a new proposal from the State Department that appeared in the Federal Register on Wednesday, but I wanted to take time to read through the whole thing, make sure I understand it, and ensure that the proposal was really as bad as the righty media is making it out to be. I can confidently say that none of what is said in this article at the Washington Examiner is exaggerated, or hyperbolic in an attempt to make the Administration look bad. It really is this bad.
This is what the NRA has to say about it, and after reading the proposal, it’s a pretty accurate summary:
In their current form, the ITAR do not (as a rule) regulate technical data that are in what the regulations call the “public domain.” Essentially, this means data “which is published and which is generally accessible or available to the public” through a variety of specified means. These include “at libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents.” Many have read this provision to include material that is posted on publicly available websites, since most public libraries these days make Internet access available to their patrons.
The ITAR, however, were originally promulgated in the days before the Internet. Some State Department officials now insist that anything published online in a generally-accessible location has essentially been “exported,” as it would be accessible to foreign nationals both in the U.S. and overseas.
With the new proposal published on June 3, the State Department claims to be “clarifying” the rules concerning “technical data” posted online or otherwise “released” into the “public domain.” To the contrary, however, the proposal would institute a massive new prior restraint on free speech. This is because all such releases would require the “authorization” of the government before they occurred. The cumbersome and time-consuming process of obtaining such authorizations, moreover, would make online communication about certain technical aspects of firearms and ammunition essentially impossible.
Penalties for violations are severe and for each violation could include up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Civil penalties can also be assessed. Each unauthorized “export,” including to subsequent countries or foreign nationals, is also treated as a separate violation.
Gunsmiths, manufacturers, reloaders, and do-it-yourselfers could all find themselves muzzled under the rule and unable to distribute or obtain the information they rely on to conduct these activities. Prior restraints of the sort contemplated by this regulation are among the most disfavored regulations of speech under First Amendment case law.
I can offer you this, and 311 other reasons why this proposal should scare the ever loving hell out of you. I mostly post about the politics of the gun issue, which should be safe under this proposal, but even I would have to remove or revise a few hundred posts (not that I intend to, the State Department toadies that came up with this fascist BS can FOAD). I can’t imaging how many counts a more gun oriented site would rack up.
It’s my opinion that this petition for rule making is aimed squarely at Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed. The powerful take their imagined prerogative to control quite seriously, and they don’t particularly appreciate someone trying to throw a wrench into their carefully controlled, petty fiefdoms. This is the backlash I’ve been waiting for, and have been concerned about. That The Empire would Strike Back was a fore-drawn conclusion.
So what kind of position are we in to stop this usurpation of our First and Second Amendment rights? First, we can use the public comment period. The more serious comments we flood them with the better chance it will cripple their ability to implement the regulation, as we did with the M855 ban. This also can indicate to lawmakers there is passion, and we can use that leverage to get a budget rider to prevent implementation of the rule.
What about the courts? This is not the first time Uncle Sam has tried to do something like this. Back in the 1990s, we had a flight over ITAR regulation of cryptography, though in that instance, they simply classified it as a munition. This proposal is actually far more broad than that. The encryption issue was resolved when the Clinton Administration backed down and reclassified encryption as a commerce control item rather than a munition when court challenges didn’t go well for the government. Those two cases, Bernstein v. United States and Junger V. Daley, resulted in losses for the government position in the 9th and 6th federal circuits respectively . However, the Supreme Court never definitively ruled in either of those cases, and like I said, 311 reasons you should be worried about this.
This is very dire, friends. If this moves forward there is a very good chance I, and many of my other fellow bloggers, forum admins, and YouTubers will end up in federal prison while the Courts sort this out. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you what these people want are “common sense” regulations. They are fascists. That is no longer arguable. There will be a lot of firearms enthusiasts serving prison time for essentially the same crime they would be charged with had they traveled to Iraq and sold plans for a thermonuclear weapon to ISIS. Fundamentally transformed!
This news has to spread far and wide if we’re going to stop this terrible thing. I’ve even put it on my personal Facebook that I only rarely use to post political stuff. People have to know about this.
UPDATE: If you want to submit a public comment on this regulation, I have compiled all the information from 1400-AD70, which is the code for this Retition for Rule Making, on how to submit a public comment.
May 6, 2015
Two years ago, Defense Distributed was preempted by the state Department from posting plans for the Liberator Pistol online, arguing they were a controlled munition. Many of us in the tech business got a strong case of deja vu, remembering a similar government assertion in the 1990s that didn’t end up going all that well for the government.
In that grand tradition, Cody Wilson of Defense distributed has filed suit against the State Department, arguing First Amendment grounds. Lest anyone think this is some kind of fringe suit, it has the backing of SAF, and Alan Gura is among the attorneys on the case.
The New York Times describes this as “trailblazing,” but really this is just a continuation of the argument that happened over encryption in the 1990s. I predict this will not go well for the government. It shouldn’t go well for the government.
Mar 19, 2015
If you just claim that it’s “for the children,” our new Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner (an import from Maryland) seems to argue that theft is okay – especially if you’re stealing from those who criticize you in your official role as a public servant.
Marcus Brown is facing opposition for appearing in uniform that creates the perception he graduated from the state police academy, which he did not. When a critic had signs printed pointing out that he shouldn’t wear such things that he did not earn and legally placed them on a public area, Brown apparently decided to steal them in the name of “[his] children” since their bus stop is nearby.
Now, stealing someone else’s signs from a public area is a crime. You’d think that means Brown would be apologetic for getting caught on video committing this crime, but he’s standing by his theft proudly – behind the back of the spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Police.
I’ll be honest, if I lived out there, I’d be very tempted to have signs made up that say “Marcus Brown Stop Stealing Signs,” “Marcus Brown Stop Trying to Silence Critics,” and “Marcus Brown The First Amendment Applies in Pennsylvania, Too” and plaster them all over public areas to the degree allowed by law. There wouldn’t be a corner he could turn where he wouldn’t be reminded that Pennsylvanians value their freedom of speech and ability to speak their mind on what public officials are doing with their office.
Funny enough, the video that captures him stealing the signs in the name of “safety” for his children shows him leaving up non-critical signs in the same spot. It’s pretty clear he’s abusing the right of those who disagree with him and there is no safety issue involved. The video makes it appear that he singled out their message to be silenced based on the content critical of him and he now admits to taking the sign. Perhaps his stationary order got mixed up and he thought that being in charge of the Pennsylvania State Police was being charged with overseeing the Police State of Pennsylvania.
Mar 13, 2015
I had to take a couple of breaks from this Atlantic piece on how awful it is that the First Amendment allows unpleasant people to say unpleasant things in an unpleasant manner.
Yes, freedom does mean that some people will live and speak in a different manner than you – maybe even in a way that is offensive. Speaking out and telling them how offensive they are is often a great tool to get them to quiet down. In fact, such results might even be considered social shaming, which is a form of punishment that exists outside of government. It involves things like individual people making the decision to no longer support the people who offend them and letting them suffer social consequences that can often be extremely unpleasant. However, the Atlantic writer appears to believe that since such punishment doesn’t involve a police gun to the head, handcuffs, and a court room, it’s not actually any punishment at all.
I think what really got me going was the extreme elitism on display in this bit:
No one with a frontal lobe would mistake this drunken anthem for part of an uninhibited and robust debate about race relations. … If the First Amendment has become so bloated, so ham-fisted, that it cannot distinguish between such filth and earnest public debate about race, then it is time we rethink what it means.
It would seem that the argument is that if you can’t speak eloquently and aren’t engaged in thoughtful debate, then your First Amendment rights should be “rethought.”
I have to say that one reason this elitism on speech probably drove me a little more up the wall today is because I just witnessed someone in another forum who, to be blunt, is currently incapable of speaking eloquently or engaging in what the writer would consider “earnest public debate.” While her form of rather odd text speak at all times is nearly impossible for others to follow, that doesn’t mean the government needs to declare that she deserves less in the way of protection for her speech than what I deserve because I am likely capable of being more articulate in expressing the same things.
Freedom means that some people will make different choices that you don’t like. The beauty of freedom is that when those people are in charge, you can make the choices they don’t like and feel confident that you won’t be put away for the “crime” of those statements and actions.