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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.

Another Bloomberg Funded Umbrella Group

Say what he will about his new group, “Everytown for Gun Safety“, I think this is a sign that he knows what he’s been doing isn’t working. Also notice that we’re back to the tired and shopworn term “Gun Saftey” instead of “Gun Control,” or “Illegal Guns.” I guess Bloomie feels like that ship is salvageable after all. But given the article featuring quotes from Bloomberg is so thick with ego and narcissism that you could mortar a brick wall with it …

“I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” – Mike Bloomberg

… I’m not surprised he thinks he can salvage the S.S. Gun Safety from the bottom of McKelvey Trench. As much as I am worried that $50 million dollars is a hell of a lot of money for our side, and seat cushion money for Bloomberg, I also think Bloomberg is an excellent enough villain to our people (and to a lot of people honestly) that I don’t worry too much about this latest restructuring of his movement. If we stay engaged, and stay focused, we can beat him. I’d much rather have Mike Bloomberg as an opponent over Jim and Sarah Brady.

It’s also worth noting that this new umbrella group plans to drop gun and magazine bans and focus exclusively on ending private transfers. Perhaps they now are starting to understand that gun bans are out of reach for them, especially if they can’t even score minor victories. In truth, even ending private transfers is likely out of their reach given what they’ve managed to motivate with their latest campaign. In classic anti-gun fashion they have overreached and awoken the sleeping giant. It will be harder for them from here than it would have been if they had played their cards right to begin with.

But $50 million is nothing to sneeze at. Especially to Pennsylvanians, who probably don’t realize we are easily the next Colorado if we lose Corbett and the Republicans get scared enough, or lose control of the House or Senate. We are likely to face the brunt of that $50 million, which is nothing to get cocky about.

What Media Bias?

When we saw a Facebook acquaintance post a story about the sheriff of Beaver County, Pennsylvania being place on house arrest with electronic monitoring while his ~700 guns are removed from the home as he awaits trial for threatening the lives of a campaign worker and a local reporter, we noticed something odd.

What was odd? There was no mention of party, nor did they make a big deal about an “arsenal” kept in the home. Sebastian told me, as I hit up Google to find any other stories about the case that might mention party affiliation since Pennsylvania’s sheriffs are elected in partisan elections, that he would put money on the fact that the guy is a Democrat. Well, one, two, three stories with no mention of party affiliation, and I started to believe him.

Then, with a few keystrokes, I found the election results page that confirmed the suspicions. George David ran as a Democrat against a GOP opponent in 2011 and now stands accused of threatening one of the campaign workers who helped him win that election. But isn’t it amazing how the party affiliation just magically dropped out of every single story written by locals and the wire?

UPDATE: A local website reports that the action that caused the order for removal of guns and house arrest is that the sheriff (allegedly) went into an area of his office he was ordered not to go, grabbed a long gun and began “racking” a long gun of some kind. According to the report, two of the alleged victims were in that part of the office the court ordered him to stay out of.

PA Superior Court: No Right to Carry

The case is Commonweath v. Scarborough. This case largely revolves around the legality of the stop, but there are issues at play that should concern any Pennsylvania gun owner.

First is whether or not there’s an equal protection issue with state law singling out Philadelphia. Pennsylvania is an open-carry state, in that you can carry a firearm openly in this commonwealth without a license, the sole exception being “cities of the first class” (i.e. Philadelphia). In Philadelphia, you may only carry a firearm (openly or concealed) if you have a License to Carry Firearms. The court rejected the equal protection issue, which would be the expected result. But they went farther, which is very concerning:

The class created by Section 6108, “persons located in Philadelphia,” is not based on race, national origin, sex, or illegitimacy. The right at issue under Section 6106, “the right to carry a concealed weapon,” and the right at issue under Section 6108, “the right to carry a firearm on the streets of Philadelphia without a license,” are not fundamental rights. They manifestly do not rise to the protection afforded by the Second Amendment’s general guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms.

They could have, actually, cited existing Third Circuit precent that there is no right to bear arms outside the home. That was decided in the case of Drake v. Filko, which challenged New Jersey’s restrictive permitting scheme. That is now on appeal to the US Supreme Court. So federally, there is no right to carry a firearm in Pennsylvania outside the home, because of a grave error made by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. As Alan Gura mentioned in his law review article:

The Third Circuit supplied a great example of how far off the rails a “step one” analysis may veer when history is given short shrift.  Upholding New Jersey’s requirement that handgun carry applicants demonstrate “justifiable need” to exercise their Second Amendment rights, a panel majority held that carrying a handgun for self-defense “fall[s] outside the scope of the Second Amendment’s guarantee.” Even though Heller had expressly held that to “bear arms,” as used in the Second Amendment, is to “carry” arms for the purpose of self-defense in case of confrontation, the Third Circuit rejected an appeal to “text, history, tradition, and precedent,” stating that “we are not inclined to address this contention [that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to publicly carry arms for defense] by engaging in a round of full-blown historical analysis.”

And now we have PA Superior Court giving the right to bear arms the same short shrift. Our Supreme Court has generally been more amenable to the right to keep and bear arms, but only barely so. It may be the case that the state may require a license; our side has generally conceded that when confronting restrictive licensing regimes in court, but that’s quite different than suggesting there’s no right at all, or that such a right is not “fundamental,” when that was the holding of our federal Supreme Court.

Harvard Law Review: New Issues in Gun Rights

Appearing here, with articles by Dave Kopel, Alan Gura, Joseph Blocher, and Darrell A.H. Miller. “Comment on Peruta and Other Recent Cases.”

I’ll have a news link post a little later, but I wanted to put this one out there because it’s a lot of good stuff. I haven’t read it yet, and probably won’t have time for a bit.

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.

Guns & Social Media Debates

VSSA does a great job of taking apart a story that anti-gun groups are trying to push to promote the narrative that they are somehow going to win the battle over the Second Amendment on social media because they are supposedly being so innovative by going to SXSW and hosting sparsely attended panels on social media.

As VSSA points out, NRA hosts its own panel with volunteers doing different types of work, including how to effectively use social media, every year to a crowd many, many, many times the size of what is featured in the story.

Of course, for those who don’t travel all the way to Austin or Indy to attend such lectures from either group, we always have the numbers:

If you are looking for grassroots support, looking strictly at the numbers, Moms Demand Action has 153,000 followers on Facebook. Mayors Against Illegal Guns has 21,000. The NRA destroys both of them with 3.2 million followers on Facebook. Twitter numbers are lower for NRA but they are still about 10 times higher that the numbers for both Moms Demand Action and Demand Action (the only reference I could find on Twitter to MAIG).

Now, the anti-gun groups have stepped up their game on social media, and there’s no doubt about that. But, that doesn’t mean they are likely to be effectively using it to “beat” us politically any time soon.

Defiance

I’ve heard of people in New York burning their registration forms, but this act if defiance also earns my seal of approval*:

Defiance

* Well, I don’t actually have such a seal, but if I did, I’d stamp to hell out of this one.

Franklin Graham’s “Background Check” Support Becomes an Issue for the NRA

I’ve noticed anti-gun folks jumping on the fact that Franklin Graham is leading the NRA Annual Meeting Prayer Breakfast, and they hope that he’ll publicly challenge NRA at their own event to accept the President’s background check agenda since Graham endorsed the White House’s private transfer ban proposals last year.

First, as much experience as I have with NRA Annual Meetings, I couldn’t tell you which office puts on the prayer breakfast because I have no idea which office is responsible for booking those speakers. I’m 99.99999% sure it’s not ILA, the office that actually keeps up with politics and pays attentions to such important policy details. This is an event that has never been a big deal before, really just an opportunity for people who don’t want to miss church or miss out on the giant three day gun show.

The anti-gunners highlight this interview with Time that Franklin Graham did in early March of last year. The key section:

Graham…told TIME [he and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention] have agreed to back universal background check legislation put forward by the administration in the wake of last year’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

By specifically citing the administration-backed proposal at the time of the interview, it’s kind of important to look at the details of the legislation anti-gunners want Graham to bring up at the Prayer Breakfast. The language in the Senate that the White House was backing at the time of Graham’s interview came from Chuck Schumer. That language would have made teaching someone to shoot on your own land a felony, as well as loaning your hunting rifle to a friend for a hunting trip. The record keeping requirements would have created a registration system, and spouses would have faced possible felony prosecution if their spouse who bought the gun left home for more than 7 days without officially designating the “transfer” of said firearms as a gift. As Sebastian said in his summary after reading the language:

This bill has nothing to do with ensuring people who are getting guns are law-abiding, and everything to do with getting backdoor registration, and creating a patchwork of rules and laws that will land anyone who uses guns, and isn’t a lawyer, in federal prison for a long time.

The bill that Graham was backing at the time he talked to Time was not Toomey-Manchin, the somewhat less extreme bill that was later voted down in the Senate.

Now, his views on that terrible bill from Schumer aren’t directly related to his ability to preach a sermon. But, given the venue and host group, I don’t think most attendees who paid for tickets really expect a preacher who publicly backed the White House’s bill that would leave many of them open to felony prosecutions for simply passing on their traditions or going on a long business trip.

At this late date, I wouldn’t really put money on a bet that we’ll see any changes to the speakers, but it will be interesting to see if Graham decides to act on the encouragement of the gun control groups. He certainly didn’t come out and condemn the White House-backed Senate bill once the language and summaries became widely available, so presumably he maintains his support of the policies. That certainly could be a very big problem if he does decide to go along with the gun control groups and use NRA’s event as a venue to promote the bill again.

NRA needs to be prepared to handle this issue since they are the ones who issued the invitation with this policy problem hanging out there. Certainly, whoever issued this invitation really screwed up by providing someone who so publicly endorsed these terrible policies a keynote spot without actually looking into their background on the policies that have dominated headlines for the last year and threatened our rights. This wasn’t some questionable comment about some vague policy from 20 years ago, this was a highly discussed interview with a well known media outlet just a year ago about specific bills that forced NRA to spend quite a bit of manpower and money to preserve our Second Amendment rights. It’s a public policy view that should not have been overlooked, and NRA needs to be ready to answer to their members if Graham does stand by his position from last March at their event.

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.

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