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Currently Browsing: Civil Liberties

Expanding the Surveillance State

Republicans do love themselves some law and order. The reason I am worried about this one is that both parties covet their secret lists and neither cares all that much for civil liberties. Plus, American Populism is on the rise again, and that particular school of thought has always favored law and order over civil rights.

Whether we want to admit it or not, Trump’s instincts on this have a home. There’s plenty of people out there if you said, “Well, what if someone proposed a law that no one on the terrorist watch list could attend mosque?,” wouldn’t see any problem there. But I will say that at least the populists are consistent.

New “Bipartisan” Bill Introduced To Ban Those on No-Fly List

Guilty until proven innocent is what this is, and if this were introduced as a bill to prevent people on these lists from publishing, attending mosque, or using social media, there would be outrage, and justifiably so. The people behind this affront to constitutional liberties:

  • Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). So much for her holding firm.
  • Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
  • Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
  • Jeff Flake (R-AZ) WTF? He must love himself some “law and order” and secret lists. This is the kind of stab in the back I’d expect from McCain!
  • Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Dude is an AR-15 shooter. For real. He also must love himself some secret lists and “law and order.”
  • Angus King (I-ME).

The no-fly list itself ought to be viewed as an unconstitutional infringement on the right to travel. This bill doesn’t have a number yet, but get ready to call your lawmakers and demand they vote no. There’s enough leftist groups uncomfortable with this crap that they have no excuse to vote yes.

Note now there’s an assumption that “if you can’t board a plane in this country, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun,” as if it’s perfectly accepted that the government can keep secret lists of people that interfere with the right to travel. See how they did that?

Note Pat Toomey isn’t on this list. Must be an election year, or his bill is coming soon.

UPDATE: Toomey has announced he’s supporting this bill.

Unintended (Or Perhaps Intended) Consequences of Terror Watch List

I wanted to elevate this comment from Divemedic the other day to a full blown post, so folks could understand how this could end up playing out if the Dems, Toomey and Bloomberg get their way:


My son is on [the Terror Watch] list. He is listed as a suspected terrorist. He was even visited by DHS agents, and his passport was revoked.

Now, I raised my son better than that, and he is most certainly not a terrorist, so how did he wind up on that list?

My son is a travelling nurse. He flies all over the world, treating and transporting patients from one place to another. It pays very well. He recently got paid for a 4 day trip, escorting a patient to Australia, and was paid $4000 for 4 days’ work. This week, he is in Milwaukee, and is being paid $12,000 for ten days’ work. In between trips, he works at the local trauma centers, and was one of the nurses on duty this past weekend in the Orlando area.

Now that you have the background, here is how he wound up on the terror watch list:

A known terrorist was arrested, trying to enter the country with my son’s passport. Well, not his actual passport, but a forgery with all of his information on it.

In all of his travels, he once had to go to the Dominican Republic to bring a patient home. While he was there, a government official photocopied the passports of the entire crew: 3 members of the flight crew, a respiratory therapist, and my son. Those photocopies were sold to people who make forged identity papers, and that information was used to create fake papers.

My son received a visit from DHS, they revoked his passport, and he had to apply for a new one. His name, birth date, and other information is now on the suspected terrorism watch list, because that information is now known to be used by terrorists.

This proposed law would prevent my son from buying a firearm, even though he has not broken a single law, nor is he likely to.


And remember, the Dems don’t want there to be any way for you to get off the list. They rejected the Coburn/NRA bill because it would provide for that. That’s because the goal is not to protect us from terrorists. The goal is to make as many people prohibited as possible so gun ownership becomes more burdensome and legally risky than it already is.

Range Owner Sued for Refusing Muslims

Filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and also under Oklahoma’s anti-discrimination laws. Personally, I don’t think incidents like this reflects well on the shooting community. I think there are debates to be had over the definition off public accommodation, and whether current civil rights law successfully balances property rights and a right to free association with a functional, pluralistic society. There are fair points own both sides, but that’s not the issue I’m speaking about here.

I don’t defend radical jihadists. If you follow an interpretation of Islam that believes in spreading the faith through conquest, beheading unbelievers, razing villages and raping women, I don’t have any issue labeling you a barbarian and treating you as such. All the abrahamic religions are violent and barbaric if you want to dig through and find passages in the scriptures that support that kind of thing.

But if you follow a mellow interpretation of the faith, as the Kurds do, and as a lot of other muslims around the world do, I don’t have a problem with you. I’m not willing to paint every Muslim with the same broad brush any more than I would make Christians own Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, or gun owners own mass shooters. I care more about what you do, rather than what you profess to believe. If a couple of guys come onto a shooting range and start shouting “Death to America” as they shoot, I wouldn’t blame any range owner for booting them and tipping off the FBI.

I think people are right to be concerned about the spread in popularity if violent, fundamentalist interpretations of Islam. I don’t think that makes one bigoted. But to me, you take people as they come, as individuals first, and members of whatever group you may or may not like second.

One of the Heller Five Gone

Word is just breaking that Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead this morning in Texas. Thoughts and prayers go to his family.

Politically speaking, this really shakes up the Supreme Court on the issue of the right to keep and bear arms. In 2012, Sebastian blogged about this potential in terms of the odds that all Heller Five make it to the end of 2016. The numbers weren’t good, and they proved to be accurate.

History Worth Noting

Martin Luther King on Marxism:

“This deprecation of individual freedom was objectionable to me. I am convinced now, as I was then, that man is an end because he is a child of God. Man is not made for the state; the state is made for man. To deprive man of freedom is to relegate him to the status of a thing, rather than elevate him to the status of a person. Man must never be treated as means to the end of the state; but always as an end within himself.”

That strikes me as the fundamental dichotomy between individualism and statism.

h/t Instapundit.

Flamethrower Company Runs Into Trouble

IonXM42While 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.”

Silencing Unpopular Opinions

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.”

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).

Department of State Comments on ITAR Rule Changes

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.

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