Thirdpower on Appleseed

Thirdpower gives an account of his recent Appleseed experience. The program he described sounds unequivocally positive. I suspect there is a good deal of variation in the program, depending in who’s running it, but if Thirdpower’s program is more the rule than the exception, there’s not much wrong with it.

From the Road

Doing a post while driving back from my dad’s. The reason we went out there was because I planned to swing by the Apple Store in King of Prussia to get myself an iPad before Bitter and I head out to Hawaii. I have no intention of taking a laptop, but I don’t want to be totally off the grid for two weeks. The iPad is a nice compromise between a laptop and a phone. So far, I find the keyboard to be only slightly more awkward than a Netbook. I can go at a much higher rate than on an iPhone. Most the problem so far is the moving car. But hey… 10 hours of battery life. There a lot of places I go where I don’t want to take a laptop, but don’t really want to spend all my time viewing the Internets through a teeny tiny iPhone screen.

We’ll see how this works for me out in Hawaii.

PA Liquor Gestapo Strikes Again

This time raiding a gun club and a firehouse, who have been selling alcohol to members without a liquor license, a practice I cam promise you they have been doing for a loong time. Gun club was probably a member looking to get even with someone for a transgression.

Yes, some shooting clubs have bars. Every one I’ve been to or heard about has procedures in place that if you’re coming to socialize (i.e. drink) you get flagged and can’t enter the firing ranges.

But let me just say I am so glad that crime in this state is under such firm control that the State Police have the resources rid our society of the scourge of unregulated liquor sales. Clearly this gun club and firehouse were sending drunk people onto the streets by the hundreds to poop on lawns, puke on the sidewalks, and pass out in the azaleas.

Note this part they are speaking of at the end:

Kriedeman said club licenses, other than those issued to veterans organizations, are issued as long as a vacancy exists in the county. Club licenses can be obtained through purchase or transfer if a vacancy does not exist. Veterans organizations can receive liquor licenses even if there are no vacancies.

See, in Pennsylvania, we ration liquor licenses. Each county only has a certain number available, so if you want one, you have to wait for some other establishment to give theirs up. Given the hassle, it’s no wonder some private organizations just take their chances. Perhaps it’s time to consider making liquor licenses more freely available in Pennsylvania, like they are in most other states? This has impeded the restaurant business in this state for years.

Pro-Gun Article in Honolulu Media

As the “bad” states go, Hawaii probably has more in common with Maryland than with California, but it’s not exactly a pro-gun media market. It’s interesting that the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is willing to run a positive puff piece on shooting, and even offering links to help get started in the sport. Wow.

Serial Numbers Upheld by 3rd Circuit

This ruling strikes me as largely correct:

Scirica, who was joined by 3rd Circuit Judge Michael A. Chagares and visiting U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez of the District of New Jersey, looked to First Amendment law in deciding that the federal ban on guns with obliterated serial numbers should be subjected to “intermediate scrutiny.”

But even if the law were held to strict scrutiny, Scirica said, it would still pass constitutional muster.

“Serial number tracing serves a governmental interest in enabling law enforcement to gather vital information from recovered firearms,” Scirica wrote, “Because it assists law enforcement in this manner, we find its preservation is not only a substantial but a compelling interest.”

Overall I think this is a reasonable ruling, and shows the courts are willing to take the Second Amendment as seriously as other constitutional rights. The fortunate thing here is that Judge Scirica rejected a rational basis test, which was asked for by the US Attorney, and made the comparison directly to the First Amendment. Orin Kerr has more here, including a link to the opinion itself. Eugene Volokh is cited.

So it would seem at least that three judges of the Third Circuit are willing to treat the Second Amendment fairly. This is encouraging.

New York Times Article on Appleseed

By New York Times standards, this is remarkably balanced, which is to say the reporter went around to Appleseed events and reported on people he thought were whack jobs. I’ve had my issues with Appleseed, as I posted a few years ago here, here, and here, but mostly centered on the question of whether it was meant to bring people into shooting, was something for casual shooters to get them more serious, or was something to get people thinking about revolution. It never seemed to me that it’s a good program for the first and last, but could be for the middle purpose.

But after talking to a lot more people who have shot Appleseeds since then, I’ve become less concerned and more ambivalent about it. People seem to get out of it what they expect to get out of it, and you can’t really argue with that. But I actually think someone the reporter interviewed hit on the essence of what drives Appleseed:

But the sociologist James William Gibson, whose book “Warrior Dreams” analyzed civilian paramilitary culture since the mid-’70s, says Appleseed and the broader movement around it are unlikely to pose a danger to civil society. “When a culture is in crisis, the first response is often to go back to the creation myth and start over again,” he told me. “The narrative is ‘we’re going to redo the narrative of the United States by returning to origins, to marksmanship.’ People are focusing on the idea that America’s problems can be resolved into something that can be shot. It doesn’t exactly encourage systematic reflection, but it’s a long ways from a civil war.”

I’ve neve been one for myths, and although I very strongly believe in an armed populace as a deterrence against governmental malfeasance, I think we too often make the mistake of assuming that’s going to take a similar form to 1776 — that a nation or riflemen will triumph over a much more powerful conventional military mostly with small arms and light artillery. If our government were taken over by people with less than Republican virtue, I have a tough time believing resistance would take that form. I’m struck by this passage:

When American men talk like this, they are usually giving voice to fantasy. Only in fantasy, after all, are governments overthrown by men trained to do nothing more than shoot long-distance targets in a controlled environment. Some of these men seek out unlikely battlefields, where they can be warriors of the future, warriors of the imagination or reluctant warriors in waiting who are passing their time on the Internet. The power of a gun to take a life is not so much a threat as a talisman connecting these fantasies to the real world.

This probably hits at the heart of the real problem I have with Appleseed, but not for the same reasons as the New York Times reporter, who seems to hint that the notion of an organic Revolution is quaint and silly, rather than that Appleseed is only focusing on a small part of the picture.

I would argue the man or woman who thinks about how to build UAVs, or knows something about robotics, chemistry, or engineering, has as much of or more of a contribution to make towards an organic militia of the people than someone who can hit a man sized target at 500 yards. That’s not what we want to hear because it’s not the founding narrative of America, but that’s the reality of modern asymmetric warfare. It’s not that small arms would have no role to play in such a doomsday scenario, they certainly would, but they would only be one part of a much larger picture, and the kinds of rifle shooting taught by Appleseeds would be an even smaller part of that. That’s kind of why I question what Appleseed is really trying to accomplish, not because I think it’s necessarily bad, but because it doesn’t seem to fit into a category outside of just teaching people how to be a better high-power shooter. That’s certainly a laudable goal, but what’s the goal in bringing in the rest of the ideas?

When it comes to preparing for the worst, there’s no need to make plain about what you’re doing. Shooting is a lot of fun, and you can teach it to people that way. Robotics is also a fun hobby. Model airplanes anyone? Look how much fun Joe’s Boomershoot is. Piloting UAVs? Plenty of flight simulators out there. Let’s also not overlook the value of computer hacking.

My purpose isn’t to disparage small arms, because they have a role, but to make people think about the problem. This isn’t the weapon, just a tool. This is the real weapon. Despite various assertions that your average American is a sheep, I have a pretty strong faith that if things got bad enough, that if, as one of my favorite federal judges said, “where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees,” that Americans will rise to the occasion. If that does come to pass, we’re going to need a much wider variety of skills than we did in 1776. This wouldn’t be a rifleman’s war. Learning how to shoot targets out to 500 feet is certainly fine, but it’s only a small part of the overall picture. That is, if you’re about more than just teaching people how to be better shooters.

More Suits over Concealed Carry

SAF and Alan Gura are going after Maryland now, for their arbitrary permit issuance. Maryland is in the 4th Circuit, along with Virginia, West Virginia, and the Carolinas. Culturally this seems to be a good place to go after carry, since Maryland is the outlier in that circuit in terms of issuance of concealed carry licenses, rather than the rule, as New York is in the 2nd Circuit. Dave Hardy notes it looks like a solid case.

UPDATE: I should note that New York shares its circuit with two other states, Vermont, who issues no permits because they are not required, and CT, who do issue permits on a mostly shall-issue basis. But population wise and culturally, New York dominates the Second Circuit.

New Lawsuit Challenging California Ammunition Laws

This one is not challenging the law based on Second Amendment grounds, but rather based on the Supremacy Clause, and the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAAAAAAAAA, or something like that, for short). How likely is success?

In February 2008, a unanimous United States Supreme Court struck down Maine’s directly analogous law regarding the delivery of cigarettes to Maine in Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport.  Rowe made clear that a state cannot interfere with a carrier’s rates, routes, or services, because Congress made an important decision to protect common carriers from a patchwork of state and local regulations burdening interstate commerce when it enacted the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA).  The FAAAA specifically prohibits state and local governments from interfering with common carriers’ rates, routes, or services.

It would seem very likely, in this case, that this part of the California law is a violation of the FAAAA. But the state could still criminalize the receiving of ammunition via common carrier that the state considers to be a regulated product. The issue here would only be that the requirements that California imposes on Common Carriers is unconstitutional.

You can find the complaint here. I am happy to see the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc on this lawsuit. It’s always seemed to me that it was a natural alliance. Truck drivers spend time traveling, often in seedy locations. Their need for personal protection is acute, and they are inhibited by the patchwork of onerous firearms regulations from exercising their rights.

I should also note that this will at least allow Californians to get some ammunition. The logical move, in the facts of this California ammunition law, is for Common Carriers to refuse to ship ammunition to anyone in California, rather than trying to sort out the good, bad and the ugly.