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You Have to Take the “Special” out of SWAT

Bob Owens covers the NBC News story showing that Boston cops were over gunned and undertrained in the aftermath of the Boston Bombing. I think it’s very psychologically bad to make police feel separate from the civilian population they are actually a part of. The S in SWAT stands for “Special,” and I tend to think when you hand young men “special” weapons, without the rigor of military discipline to control those young men, you’re bound to get a lot of little napoleons and wannabes. When that same young man hears, “yeah, I have five of those” from his “civvie” shooting buddies upon presenting his shiny department issued AR, that perpetuates a culture where you’re nothing special, and where you might actually have a culture from which you can learn, and be more willing to learn. Massachusetts is a state that has endeavored to destroy that culture, and elevate its police to something very different from its civilian population.

Cooler Heads Prevail in Bundy Ranch Situation

BlmOver the weekend, while I was busy with yard work, the Bureau of Land Management backed down from their confrontation with Cliven Bundy in Nevada. It’s actually been the foreign media that seem to be most fascinated by all this, as the coverage at the UK outlets Daily Mail and The Guardian, and Australian outlet the Sydney Telegraph, aptly demonstrate. A pretty good article about the confrontation appears in Breitbart, which is not entirely sympathetic to Bundy’s position, but provides a good bit of background.

This whole incident is baffling for an east coaster, because grazing rights on federal land seem more like a policy dispute rather than an dispute of fundamental rights, or the government reaching beyond its Constitutional constraints. Few people would argue the federal government doesn’t have the power to control it’s own property. It’s in the Constitution. This has never seemed to me to be in the realm of things we draw lines in the sand and threaten to shoot people over.

I get the fundamental unfairness of it all; that the feds are ruining the livelihood of ranchers over a desert tortoise, when Harry Reid and his former staffer who now heads up BLM is busy defiling that very tortoise habitat with a solar farm to benefit one of his big donors. I get that the federal government is currently flush with overreaching bureaucrats who have little regard for the people their policies impact. But to me this looks like something we’re better off changing at the ballot box. I also don’t really have very much sympathy with the Sovereign Citizen Movement, which Bundy seems to have leanings toward.

I won’t pretend to have a strong understanding of the west’s land use culture. To east coasters, westerners have always seemed rather eager to kill each other over things that people on the east coast take for granted, like water. But that’s not to say I’m on the federal government’s side in this whole affair. While I believe the federal government is probably in the legal right, I think they’ve squandered their moral right when they decided to threaten protesters and corral them into first amendment pens like herds of cattle. When I say what’s happening with Cliven Bundy isn’t worth shooting people over, I’m speaking to both sides. The BLM didn’t have to come in with a cocky attitude and pushing people around. I’d rather live in a country where’s a healthy spirit to resist bureaucratic whim, than live in one where people are expected to be obedient little subjects and step aside. Bundy stood up to the federal government and he won, and there’s part of me that celebrates that no matter how I feel about the actual policy issue. The famous quote from Thomas Jefferson is quite apt here:

God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.

In a political climate where a large portion of Americans didn’t feel like they were constantly under the boot of the federal government in general, and this Administration in particular, these kinds of public policy disputes wouldn’t risk starting a civil war. The federal government backed down because it did not want a bloodbath. I think that was the prudent and moral thing to do. If the federal government is going to deal with grazing on federal lands, it’s going to have to earn back a its legitimacy from the large segment of the public that now questions it. This Administration has taken to politicizing every aspect of American life, and these are the wages of that policy.

The BLM Debates & Taking a Stand

I’ve only been vaguely following the issues with the Bureau of Land Management out in Nevada, and neither Sebastian nor I will pretend to be experts in either the land use policies or the land use culture of the West which is very different when you consider that the federal government owns about 86% of Nevada, with about 2/3 of the state falling under the control of the BLM.

There are some folks saying that the rancher is completely in the right and not at all behind on payments for grazing access, and others in the media that claim he admits to about $300k in debt over the issues. To make it worse, a local government official apparently had a message for outside protesters: “if they come to Clark County to support Bundy they ‘better have funeral plans.’”

From what I understand, even though local folks are encouraging people to come in, they don’t want it to be about guns and camo-clad masses. Unfortunately, not everyone may listen to them and things could easily end up escalated, as illustrated by the Clark County’s Commissioner’s remarks. Anyone who ventures out there needs to make sure that they do fully understand every legal issue at hand and determine if they truly classify this as a government overreach that is serious enough to warrant possible jail time (multiple people have already been arrested) or worse if the Clark County Commissioner has his way.

I’m rather surprised at the backlash over something like grazing on land that is established as belonging to the federal government when there’s a case in Texas brewing of the BLM preparing to take over the management of 90,000 acres that landowners have deeds on and have paid taxes on for years. This a report from the Texas Farm Bureau on the issue:

Interestingly, BLM inserted itself in the Texas-Oklahoma border dispute after an Oklahoman sort of “invaded” Texas to set up a dredging operation and declared the land his after careful study of the laws and history of the Red River. That man is fondly known by my family as “Uncle Buck.” Because of that opened door, the BLM now wants more land under their control, and I haven’t found any mention of any offers to compensate current owners for it fairly – either by the federal government or Texas agencies that screwed up in including it in deeds and charging taxes on it. I would think that taking privately owned land without compensation would be a much bigger issue to drive protest than one’s desire to graze cattle on established taxpayer-owned land.

I’m not sure I really have a conclusion to this post. It’s just something that Sebastian and I have been observing and talking about the last few days. It’s been interesting to see what kind of policy debates are getting people worked up about federal overreach, but others that are falling by the wayside when they seem to be more direct constitutionally-related issues. Personally, we both hope that people keep their cool in Nevada, contrary to whatever extreme rhetoric is coming from Clark County officials.

Latest on EP Armory 80% Lower Receiver

ATF has ruled that it is a firearm, despite the inclusion of a biscuit in the fire control well, which the rest of the receiver is injection molded around. You can find the determination letter here.

Unlike “castings” or “blanks” which are formed as a single piece so that a fire-control cavity has not been made, EP Arms uses the biscuit specifically to create that fire-control cavity during the injection molding process. As described in your letter, it appears that the sole purpose of the “biscuit” is to differential the fire-control area from the rest of the receiver and thus facilitate the process of making the receiver into a functional firearm. ATF has long held that “indexing” of the fire-control area is sufficient to require classification as a firearm receiver. Based upon the EP Arms manufacturing process, it is clear that the “biscuit” serves to index the entire fire-control cavity from the rest of the firearm so that it may be easily identified and removed to create a functional firearm.

EPArmoryLower

Keep in mind that courts are generally highly deferential to agency determinations, so I wouldn’t give this much of a chance in court. But it’s noteworthy that ATF has “long held” that indexing constitutes creating a receiver. Where in the Federal Register can that be found? Can’t find anything in the code of federal regulations either. It’s probably found in other determination letters. This isn’t rule of law, it’s rule by bureaucratic whim.

Administrative Procedures are Important

ATF has a habit of ruling by letter, instead of the method Congress prescribes through the Administrative Procedures Act. Dave Hardy notes that in the case of 80% lowers, which are all over the gun news because of the raid on Ares Armor. It would be possible to do rule making on what a receiver is and is not, and have it be clear in the Code of Federal Regulations.

I don’t know how much you all know about these EP Armor polymer lowers, but it looks to me like they mill out the space for the trigger group, and then backfill it with a different color polymer so the customer knows exactly how much to machine. ATF argues that the milling process constitutes manufacturing a firearm, with all that it entails, regardless of whether you backfill it later. They have an argument to be made there.

But it’s quite disturbing that ATF was fishing for Ares customer list. What crime have the customers committed? Violating a determination letter? I know the courts have a habit of deferring to agency determinations, but how long is ATF going to be permitted to get away with ruling by letterhead instead of federal regulations like agencies are bound to?

I’d say good advice is, if you buy an 80% lower, cash and carry is the watch order of the day.

Feeding the Maybe Not-So-Tin-Foil-Hat Conspiracies

I have to agree with Glenn Reynolds that perhaps the greatest “achievement” of this Administration is making crazy conspiracy theories seem less crazy. This begs the question: what the US government needs 600,000 AK-47 magazines for? As Clayton notes, that seems awful excessive if your intention is only to arm Syrian rebels. Clayton speculates that perhaps the goal is to dry up the civilian supply to make them more expensive. Previously I’d say that was tin-foil hat territory, but with this crowd, I’m not so sure.

Amnesty Light

I’ll be honest, I’d personally be fine compromise in theory, but I suspect it’s bad politics for the GOP:

“Illegal immigrants, assuming they have lived here for a decent period of time and have not committed a felony, can have amnesty, but they can NEVER be allowed to vote. They can do anything else that is legal, but if they want to vote — or run for office or practice law in our country, as just happened in California — they must return home and go through the normal immigrant application process, however long that may take until they have citizenship.”

I’ve posted on this before. Most of the arguments against this idea were the slippery slope, namely if we give them a limited amnesty now, they’ll just vote in a full one next chance they get. I believe in slippery slopes, and agree it’s no fallacy. Gun control is absolutely a slippery slope. Here’s what I look at:

  • Is the interest pushing for half the cake now in hopes of getting the whole cake later. Well, the Democrats certainly want them to have the vote, because they want a more solid majority, but it’s less clear the Hispanic community honestly cares all that much about the vote, and polling also shows they care about border security too. The political elites and activists are likely to keep pushing for the vote, so I think this plays in favor of the slippery slope.
  • Does the half cake strengthen our opponents hand any, or make their arguments better? I don’t really think this changes the rhetoric at all. In contrast to say, accepting the NICS system under Brady, which I think weakened our hand in arguing that expansion is a bad idea. I’m not sure this plays as well with the slippery slope. If anything, I think this would weaken their hand to the near future.
  • Does the half cake take people out of the issue in terms of fighting further encroachments. Absolutely. I think a lot of people will walk away from the GOP if they push through a half-cake amnesty bill. This would make it much easier for the Democrats to pass the rest of the cake when they get back into power.

So while I think the deal, in theory at least, would be acceptable to me, I think it would only contribute to the further destruction of the GOP at the cost of the Democrats winning several more election cycles. I’m not convinced anyway, that amnesty is the key to winning the latino vote. I think Republicans are pushing for limited amnesty largely because business interests want it, and because they have K street consulting firms whispering in their ear that this will allow them to win the latino vote.

Ready for the SOTU?

I am. I think I am sufficiently sauced. What I’m going to be on the lookout for is whether he brings up gun control. Last year he certainly did. They got their vote and they lost. Will he want to expend political capital on gun control this year? We shall see. I’ll update if he says anything worth noting.

UPDATE: Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly will be releasing a new ad during SOTU, but will the President back them up with rhetoric of his own?

9:21: He still hasn’t said anything yet. I mean anything. Not just about gun control. Blah blah blah blah.

9:23: Everyone looks dour. Even the progressive Dems don’t seem to have the energy for Obama. Even Michelle looks clinically depressed.

9:23: The death of upward mobility! Well, not like you’re helping with that any, asshole.

9:24: He’ll expand opportunity for American families, even if it means having to become a dictator!

9:28: I’m pretty sure I could code something up to write Obama speeches at this point. This is objectively bad. He’s saying everything short of “shovel ready.” It’s like every Obama speech is a compilation of every other Obama speech. I thought Bush was bad in this regard.

9:31: The federal government is responsible for Google and the iPhone, according to President Obama! There’s nothing the .gov can’t do!

9:32: I actually agree with the President on patent reform. This is a rare occurrence for me to agree with anything he has to say.

9:34: Man, this whole Congress could use some Prozac. I think they’re all clinically depressed.

9:35: “Fuels of the future.” Unicorn farts, apparently.

9:37: Fixing our “broken immigration system” is the only thing that seems to make Democrats not be clinically depressed.

9:38: Dick Dubrin seems to be the only asshole that still gets a hard on from Obama’s speeches. He’s smiling like a squirrel in a nuthouse.

9:40: He’s commanded Joe Biden to find everyone who needs a job the training they need to get a job. I’m guessing that’s going to keep him too busy to lobby for more gun control.

9:41: Restoring unemployment animates the Democrats briefly again…. or maybe not… that died out quickly… second try for that applause line just doesn’t quite do it. Back to clinical depression.

9:43: This is the most depressed I’ve ever seen Congress at a SOTU. Both sides. Even the Republicans can’t get a good boo going. What’ worth booing? It’s just dreck.

9:46: We’re spending all kinds of money and not adding any to the deficit, according to the President. I wish my finances could work like that! Education is an investment! Yeah, I’m still making student loan payments to prove it, and I am turning 40 soon.

9:49: We’re getting all war-on-women now, but it’s all “war on their wallets” and not their girly parts.

9:52: Now we’re on minimum wage, because there’s no downside to anything. Money just farts out of the backside of the unicorn. This from a guy who’s never had to meet a payroll in his life.

9:54: MyIRA? MyRA? I don’t know what he’s talking about. Turns out my namesake family are Ulster Scotts. I don’t support the IRA, sorry.

9:56: Obamacare is helping real people, according to the President. Well, for us real people, it’s made insurance on the individual market unaffordable, whereas it was previously. Thanks, dude!

9:58: Democrats are as animated as I’ve seen them tonight in cheering Obamacare, which has done nothing except make insurance unaffordable and push more people off the insurance roles. Keep cheering. Yes, keep cheering. America is increasingly recognizing this turd for what it is.

9:59: He wants us all to get covered by March 31st! Well, you know, when you charge twice as much for crappier coverage, you can f**k right the hell off. We’re not going to play his game in our house. At least he’s not repeating the lie, “If you like your plan you can keep it!”

10:01: Citizenship is being anti-gun! He’s talking about gun control! “I intend to keep trying, with or without congress….” to shit on our rights as Americans. I’ll get more detail on this section of the speech shortly.

10:03: We’re on to our troops now. Well, that’s some dedication to gun control right there. Didn’t even get two minutes of the President’s time in a longwinded, empty speech. Now he’s talking about how we’re not actually losing in Afghanistan.

10:08: “We have to close the prison at Guantamo!” Wasn’t this a campaign promise in 2008? Five SOTUs later and he’s still making promises about closing Guantamo? Does anyone think this is serious a this point?

10:13: Apparently Iran better never build a nuclear bomb, or Obama will write them another strongly worded letter, saying just how angry he is.

Well, that’s all she wrote. I’ve haven’t witnessed such a low key, depressed SOTU for some time. Shannon Watts and Bloomberg got a whole one minute or so of an hour and five minute speech. Yeah, I don’t think the gun control folks have much to celebrate from this.

Quote of the Day: ATF Headquarters Edition

John Richardson comments on ATF renaming their headquarters after Elliot Ness, I guess like the FBI has named theirs after J. Edgar Hoover. John thinks this is actually appropriate:

To summarize, Ness didn’t get his man, he had questionable morals, he probably was an alcoholic, he covered up a crime, he couldn’t manage his money, and he was prone to wild exaggeration about his accomplishments. When you look at that summary of Ness’ life and career, who better to represent the modern day ATF?

Zing!

HHS Proposed Rulemaking on NICS and HIPPA Published

Appearing in the Federal Register:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS or “the Department”) is issuing this notice of proposed rulemaking to modify the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule to expressly permit certain HIPAA covered entities to disclose to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the identities of individuals who are subject to a Federal “mental health prohibitor” that disqualifies them from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm. The NICS is a national system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct background checks on persons who may be disqualified from receiving firearms based on federally prohibited categories or State law. Among the persons subject to the Federal mental health prohibitor are individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution; found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity; or otherwise have been determined by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others or to lack the mental capacity to contract or manage their own affairs, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease. Under this proposal, only covered entities with lawful authority to make adjudication or commitment decisions that make individuals subject to the Federal mental health prohibitor, or that serve as repositories of information for NICS reporting purposes, would be permitted to disclose the information needed for these purposes. This disclosure would be restricted to limited demographic and certain other information and would not include medical records, or any mental health information beyond the indication that the individual is subject to the Federal mental health prohibitor. HHS notes that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has proposed clarifications to the regulatory definitions relevant to the Federal mental health prohibitor. The DOJ proposal is published elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register. While commenters should consider this proposed regulation in light of the clarifications proposed in DOJ’s proposal, we note that those clarifications would not change how this proposed HIPAA permission would operate.

This honestly won’t do much, because my understand that it’s state privacy laws, not federal, that prevent many of the states that don’t report from reporting.

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