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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.

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.

Another Pardon for Chris Christie

Charles C.W. Cooke reports on Governor Christie’s latest pardon of yet another person who found himself caught up in the web of the Garden State’s byzantine gun regulations. Christie still has not announced whether he’s going to run in 2016. Despite the fact that he’s been better on guns than most every other New Jersey governor, he’s not going to overcome the fact that he’s a governor in a state where people die waiting for gun permits. That’s not a small issue. For Carol Brown, whatever Second Amendment rights anyone will claim she had did not effectively exist for her. She would have been no worse off living under a regime where guns were simply banned entirely, because she died waiting for fingerprints to get back from the FBI.

Personally, my biggest beef with Chris Christie is that he’s got a “law and order” streak a mile wide, and I’ve grown tired of that branch of the “conservative movement.” He also does not hide his contempt for libertarians, so I don’t see he’s really working to earn my vote. But I will give him credit where it is due, pardoning Steffon Josey-Davis was the right and decent thing to do.

Public Comment Period for ITAR Gun Owner Silencing Rule

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:

  • Email: DDTCPublicComments@state.gov with the subject line, ‘‘ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage.’’
  • Internet: At www.regulations.gov, search for this notice by using this rule’s RIN (1400–AD70).

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!

Marcus Brown Withdrawn

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.

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