Where is Gun Politics Going?

One of my big regrets of blogging about gun politics today is that I think all the interesting developments in politics are happening outside the gun issue. I’m hoping that a refresh on the federal bench might change some of that in 2017, and we can get some interesting movement in the courts again. But it’s hard to know what will happen.

I sense that the 2016 election is a pretty epic shift in the political balance, much in the same way 2008 was. Both the 2008 and 2016 election are not the pendulum swinging one way, and then swinging back. If you think that, you’re trying to shoe-horn the current political situation into the context you’ve understood all your life: the Post-WWII order created by our parents (if you’re a boomer) and grandparents (if you’re my generation). I believe 2008 and 2016 represent that order shattering. I’m not sure that will be a good thing. First let me argue where I think things are going with the gun issue:

  • Trump will fulfill a lot of his promises on court nominations, and that’s largely because Presidents don’t have a whole lot of leeway in who they appoint. If they did, we’d be talking about Justice Harrier Meyers. Court appointments are where Presidents appease their base. Your average voter isn’t paying attention to court fights, and nominations tend to get drowned in issues those folks don’t care to follow closely. We never would have won Heller and McDonald if Al Gore had won the 2000 election, even though Bush came into office promising to sign a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban. We can make progress with politicians who are “good enough.” We don’t need angels.
  • Trump is going to disappoint us in a lot of other ways. I am not looking forward to his first big test on the issue (think a Sandy Hook like event). He’ll be under a lot of pressure and he tends to get stupid off the cuff and under pressure.
  • Our bigger disappointment will be Congress. We’re all talking about this election as if we just won the lottery. It still takes 60 votes to pass legislation through the Senate. The GOP will be more than happy to put on a show for you and blame those dastardly filibustering Democrats for not being able to get anything done. Just be mindful of that. It’s not an excuse. The Dems will nuke the filibuster first chance they get. You can count on it. Republicans shouldn’t entertain any delusions about that.
  • Bloomberg is going to find that he can only defeat us at the margins, only at a very heavy cost in dollars. Unfortunately for us, the 20 million dollars Bloomberg blew on his gamble in Nevada is pocket change to him. He can still afford to whittle at the margins a lot, even if it mostly results in defeat, and if he’s smart it won’t. That said, I believe Bloomberg has hit his high water mark with gun control, but events unforeseen could prove me wrong here.
  • I believe we’re going to arrive at an equilibrium there we are not fully happy with, but it’ll be one that’s not disastrous to the gun culture we’ve been trying to build. There will be opportunities opened up. I think we can win on gun bans. The worst excesses of the anti-gun states can be checked.
  • On the down side, anti-gun states are going to win on a lot of marginal issues we won’t be completely happy with. I don’t believe California and New Jersey are, in my lifetime at least, ever going to be as pro-gun as Wyoming. The courts are going to leave more room for variation than we’d ideally like.
  • I don’t believe I will live to see the Hughes Amendment repealed, though I’d love to be wrong. I think we may get some more exceptions shot through it, but I think even a few decades from now if you want to take up collecting machine guns, you’re going to have to jump through hoops, deal with the legal maze, and fork up serious coin. That’s assuming it’s even legal in your state, because I don’t foresee court enforced protections for full-autos, SBRs and SBSs. That will have to come legislatively.
  • The good news is that I think we can achieve deregulating silencers closer to the short term, and that SBRs and SBSs might also be reachable legislatively, though I’m not very optimistic the courts striking down NFA provisions. In a lot of states these will remain illegal or more strictly regulated than under federal law.
  • The courts are liable to uphold a lot of “gun free zones” we’re not happy with. I believe they will uphold much of the “prohibited persons” mechanisms, though they might actually demand some token due process here and there. I’ve said for a long time, I will never live to see a return to cash on the barrel sales of firearms. Background checks are not going anywhere. There are probably even private sale restrictions the courts will uphold.
  • Here’s the real hard pill to swallow: the younger generation are far less concerned about personal privacy than earlier ones. They don’t have the visceral reaction to registration that we do if bans and confiscation are legal impossibilities. Even if the government never imposes formal registration, de-facto registration will likely become reality. To be honest, privacy is quickly becoming obsolete just because of technology. I’m not sure this is taking us to a good place, but that’s where we’re going whether we like it or not. How to manage this future could be a whole long post in itself.

What about politics in general?

  • Nationalism and populism are back, baby, and God help us. I don’t mean just the kind of traditional pride in your country, sing the national anthem at sporting events kind of nationalism, but the kind of nationalism that brought us such wondrous events as World War I and World War II. This is a global trend. Democracy is reasserting itself, and the people are sick of transnational institutions. Is this a good thing? Who knows. I generally tend to think the people reasserting themselves is probably healthy, but I also think there were good reasons many of our founders feared raw democratic power.
  • The post-WWII order is definitely disintegrating before our eyes. I’m not certain this incantation of nationalism will be the same as the kind we were taught spurned two major calamities, but I’m also not sure that another major calamity isn’t coming. History doesn’t really repeat itself, but it does have parallels.
  • Our current international institutions are anything but democratic, and probably deserve some rebuke. Both the UN and the EU are post-WWII technocratic institutions with no real democratic legitimacy. The UN was intended to be a top-down instrument of policy for the victors of the Second World War. It served as a stage on which the Cold War could be fought, and a mechanism by which “minor” country squabbles could be resolved before they had the chance to draw in major powers.
  • For all it’s faults, much of the Post WWII order was designed to avert the possibility of a Third World War fought with nuclear weapons, and it worked. But no one younger than 35 really understands this, and I believe that’s very dangerous.
  • The EU is probably going to collapse. To put it bluntly, the EU started off with good intention as a way to tie the continent together economically so as to make future wars unthinkable. It worked too well. What the EU has turned into is a not so subtle conspiracy by British, French, and German elites to control Europe both economically and politically via extra-democratic means. This was all well and good as long as those elites were actually doing a good job, but shit is starting to get real, and they don’t have answers except to double down on the status quo. The people have noticed.

If I had to make a prediction, technocratic and bureaucratic transnational institutions are going the way of the dodo. I don’t know what will replace them because I don’t believe globalism is going away: globalism is an inevitable consequence of technological progress. But people, everyday people, are reasserting themselves. You’re going to see that across the world, and not just here. Brexit and Trump are just symptoms. I don’t really know where all this is going, but it is definitely an interesting time to be alive, and I’m not sure whether by “interesting” I mean good “interesting” or bad “interesting.”


58 Responses to “Where is Gun Politics Going?”

  1. Divemedic says:

    On the international stage, China will continue to gain military and political power, and this power will overshadow the US in the far east. We will lose the status of the world’s no. 1 superpower by the year 2025.

    • Sebastian says:

      I think there are inherent limits to the Chinese model. They are destained to become a major power, but how much of one depends on whether they abandon one party rule and embrace multi-party democracy. If they do the latter, I’m less worried about their military power. I’m much more concerned about what the Chinese Communist Party does if it starts to lose its grip on power, which I think is starting to happen.

      • Ian Argent says:

        World power? Yes. Superpower? No. Certainly not by 2025. They lack the ability to project substantial non-nuclear force beyond their borders. Even 10 years additional buildup will not change that.

      • Joseph says:

        BTW Sebastian: Do you believe the EU will collapse within the next 10 to 15 years? I see it likely collapsing within 10 years.

      • Justsomeguy says:

        Demographics will play a role here too. Even after relaxing the one child per couple rules, the birthrate in China is very low. The population is likely to decline and that should start to be an issue in 10 to 20 years. The problem will be exacerbated by the fact that they abort a high percentage of female offspring so you will have a majority male population that is in overall decline and the men will have little prospect of having wives. I can’t imagine the effect that will have in internal Chinese politics, but it seems as though it would have to diminish their standing as a world power.

        The bottom line is that they will be a major pain for the next decade or two then will likely wane in power. Now as to the Muslim demographics? A very different yet also complicated story.

        • RAH says:

          China has been lying about the economic numbers for over a decade. The high rate of growth was based on things not stable and has stopped . That high rate of growth helped the “princes” but now they are hurting. There are many brand new cities built in China that are empty They never filled up. Their economy is not as good as advertised. Plus the over population of males between 25- 50 is a social issue and generally results in violent unrest. So China will try to take control of the Pacific but they will fail and I expect a bubble popping soon In the next 2-3 years.

  2. Jeremiah Weed says:

    “The GOP will be more than happy to put on a show for you and blame those dastardly filibustering Democrats for not being able to get anything done.” THIS cannot be overstated. Self-government isn’t a spectator sport. Ride your Congresscritter like a rented mule. 2A folks should probably save the celebrations until we actually accomplish something.

    As for the outlook for the future, Europe can stew in its own juices. Most countries there have shorted their defense budgets for years because they thought NATO would always be there. Most don’t even pay the entry fee of 2% of GDP. If your country isn’t worth defending, that’s cool. Just don’t ask us to do it for you at some later point.

    I agree with your assessment about harder pendulum swings. One of these days, things are going to come apart domestically. I’m hoping they will do so in the form of an amicable separation than another civil war.

    • Alpheus says:

      I haven’t gone through the trouble to do so, but I have wanted to start a petition that basically states, “If California really wants to secede from the Union, we should do so amiably, and allow any State that wishes to join them are welcome to do so.”

      When I’m feeling particularly mean, I want to add “And Hillary Clinton should be encouraged to be their President.”

  3. Richard says:

    At the level of normal politics/law, we can make progress in places like OR, CO, WA, NV, WI, MN. But some states-CA, NY, MA, MD, NJ, CT, IL,HI are simply unfixable on the gun issue (and many others for that matter). Thus we will never be safe as long as we are in the same country with them. There are three options- civil war, surrender or partition.

    • Sebastian says:

      Or we fill the 100 or so vacancies on the federal courts, do some court packing on the 9th circuit and/or break it up, and replace one of the Heller dissenters with a strong 2A justice. This is more achievable than you might think.

      • aerodawg says:

        For all the people who went out in 2016, 2017 needs to do us a solid and take Darth Vader Ginsburg and that idiot Breyer….

      • Alpheus says:

        I think National Reciprocity would do wonders for making inroads into these States as well.

        • Zermoid says:

          I second that!
          If states like NJ and NY are forced to honor our PA licence to carry the people there will realize in a few years that their streets aren’t filling up with innocent blood because of CCW people from out of state and start asking for their own license..

          • Patrick Henry, the 2nd says:

            Exactly. Just like CCW opened the eyes of many when implemented and blood did not run in the streets.

          • RAH says:


          • Publius says:

            Nah, they’ll ignore the Feds and arrest people anyway, just like they do with the one about transport.

            • Ian Argent says:

              This one rather explicitly forces jurisdictions that do that to cough up attorneys’ fees for that sort of abuse.

      • Richard says:

        I support all of this but don’t think it will be sufficient for the really bad actors. I can think of a dozen ways that NY or CA could nullify national reciprocity which I am not going to publish here for fear the bad guys may be watching.

        And if the polity stays the same, some day the Democrats will be back in power and then we are in trouble again. No deal with the left is possible because they won’t honor it. That is why we need to think about separation.

        It is pretty clear to me that the Constitution is not going to be restored anytime soon. The best we can hope for out of the Trump administration (which is pretty good) is to smash up the centers of leftist power and buy some time.

    • Patrick says:

      They said the same thing about anti-miscegenation laws (inter-racial marriage) but I happen to live in Maryland – the last hold-out state to modify its laws before the Supreme Court forced the issue.

      So slightly more than a generation before mine, my two wonderful kids would have been used as evidence against me of my unholy union to my non-white wife.

      Things can change.

  4. Ian Argent says:

    It doesn’t even need a complete takeover of the federal judiciary. The “hard” antigun core of the Senate does not contain every Senate Democrat.

    Reciprocity is likely to pass, and I think there are good odds that Congress can force some kind of Shall Issue regime onto the states, though it will be something along the lines of making them accept “self-defense” as “good cause” under the existing “may issue” legal regimes.

    What worries me is that the currently unenforceable laws against private transfer will lie dormant (and unenforced) for a generation, to be picked up by a later generation of politicians, the way the various racist-in-origin may-issue laws are now enforced against almost everyone.

    • Jim says:

      Having them lie dormant doesn’t shape the culture at all. They just end up never coming back, like the still extant but unenforced laws against oral sodomy in most states. Does anyone seriously think they will start kicking in people’s doors and arresting them for oral sex? Society has moved on, even if the laws haven’t. A gun law that no one is aware of has no impact unless the culture shifts in a direction that aligns it with the sentiments expressed by that law.

      • Ian Argent says:

        The original “may issue” gun laws were all about making sure “those people” couldn’t get guns, but “people like us” could. Until things changed and suddenly nobody can get permits.

        Today NY sherrifs won’t enforce SAFE? Tomorrow? 10 years from now? 25 years from now?

  5. Patrick Henry, the 2nd says:

    I’m definitely worried about Trump under a Sandy Hook event. Hopefully we’ll never have to deal with that though.

    I am hopeful for National Reciprocity (warts and all), as well as delisting suppressors, SBSs, and SBRs. I think all are possible.

    Hughes amendment will probably come later, if ever. Possibly via a court action, if we can get some good judges.

    • Whetherman says:

      “I’m definitely worried about Trump under a Sandy Hook event.”

      I haven’t thought this through enough to imagine a novel-ready scenario, but what I fear more is, a situation where Good Conservatives get shot up by Dirty Liberals, (say, for example, BLM/Huey Newton Gun Club) and Trumpite “conservatives” get on board a “gun rights are only legitimate for Right Thinking Americans” agenda. Then, God Help You if you aren’t Thinking Right.

      With apologies to Mr. Godwin, I’m thinking of the 1930s German scenario, where Right Thinking Germans saw their gun rights expand somewhat, while the Wiemar Republic’s draconian gun laws had some “teeth put in them” for everyone else.

      • Sebastian says:

        A Trump assassination would undoubtedly be worse news for us. Assassinations typically have been, and as most of us are well aware, a lot of his populist supporters have a paper thin dedication to liberty.

        • Whetherman says:

          You are assuming an assassination by firearm, I gather?

          I suspect our intelligence professionals are more creative than that. ;-)

    • Roberta X says:

      “…Trump under a Sandy Hook event. Hopefully we’ll never have to deal with that though.”

      Don’t bet anything you can’t afford to lose on it not happening. Though pretty much every other kind of crime of violence is on the decline, extremist goofballs selling even small-scale mass violence as a ticket to a good seat in the Hereafter — and fame in the here-and-now — implies we’ll see such things with some regularity. Plain nutjobs like the Sandy Hook child-killer are only part of the equation, and (by my observation) less common, at least on a global scale. Between the two, though, there is no shortage.

      Mr. Trump’s administration *will* have one in the next four years; the only question is how many innocents the killer(s) will get before they are stopped — and how the FedGov will react.

      • Ian Argent says:

        The reaction to the events in FL yesterday should be instructive.

        • RAH says:

          I was pleasantly surprised that the various media spokesmen did not complain about the fact it was a legal carry on weapon and thought that should not be allowed. All the statements I heard was how to stop without impinging on gun owners abilities to travel with guns.

  6. Sigivald says:

    I continue to think the best way to approach SBR/S reform is to tell people about the history of the NFA.

    When reminded that the SBRs and SBSs were supposed to be “less regulated than handguns” (which were, after all, to be banned or regulated like machineguns, can’t recall which), people lose a bit of the “omg it’s in the NFA with scary requirements it must be dangerous and bad thing.

    The state of SBR/S regulation is demonstrable incoherent when judged by the NFA’s own intent; people who are not knee jerk anti-gun can be guided through “the law is illogical because politics” and “a short barrel is not magic deadly doom, and is not scarier than a pistol”.

    • Zermoid says:

      The completly idiotic part is a receiver, made into a rifle is forever a rifle and cannot be made into a handgun.
      But an identical receiver can be manufactured as a pistol and is perfectly legal as long as it was never a rifle before.
      AND making that “pistol” receiver into a full rifle is generally just as illegal as making the rifle a pistol!

      • Miles says:

        “AND making that “pistol” receiver into a full rifle is generally just as illegal as making the rifle a pistol!”

        No sir! Incorrect in Federal Law (your state law may differ)!
        ATF regulations via the Thompson Center court case allow a pistol to be made into a rifle and then *back* into a pistol, as long as your receiver was first made into a pistol.

        • Ian Argent says:

          You still have to be careful not to stop at “SBR” in the middle, though.

          • Miles says:

            It’s like performing that count after pulling the pin on the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

            Or, more simply, following the 11th Commandment.

  7. Zermoid says:

    “I’m not sure whether by “interesting” I mean good “interesting” or bad “interesting”

    Or Holy Shit grab what you can and RUN! Interesting…..

  8. Ian Argent says:

    We are seeing from 2008, probably through 2024, the seismic realignment (predicted by quite a lot of people, including myself) of “tribes within the clans” of the two major parties. I don’t think either party is going to be replaced as a brand, but both are essentially going to be very different from what they were last century.

    2016 was a foreshock. 2020 or 2024, the main event hits. I don’t see this going well, short term.

  9. Anon says:

    I’m no history major, but I think you’ve adopted the the leftist trope that ‘nationalism’ is de-facto bad. I’ve come around to thinking the left has adopted this viewpoint because what they call ‘nationalism’ is just a convenient difference between their brand of leftist stupidity and the more egregiously evil leftist stupidity of the past.
    I’m disinclined to attribute to ‘nationalism’ world wars that were more the result of elitism coupled with expansionism – thinking little different from the current ‘elites’ inclinations towards a world government lead by them.

    • Richard says:

      Leftists do focus on the Nationalist part of National Socialist. Wrongly, I think since the Nazi state was organized economically around socialist principles. Looking at the Italian fascists which were the original model for the Germans make this clearer as the Fascist Party was formed from the Socialist Party over the single issue of Italian participation in WWI. Some of the smaller powers in the Balkans that lit the fuses of various wars in the 20th Century were more like nationalists but as for the major powers, I would agree with you.

      • Whetherman says:

        Given that the very concept of government is “socialist,” that all seems like concentrating on distinctions absent differences. All models depend on authoritarianism to function. Possibly the only difference to be found is a regime’s and its population’s enthusiasm for that authoritarianism.

        • Richard says:

          True, government is by definition based on force. But the force can take different directions especially in economic matters. And the communists and the fascists did not take different directions.

          • Whetherman says:

            “the communists and the fascists did not take different directions.”

            Well, yes and no.

            With communism, the means of production were owned by The State, which controlled what was produced, and its distribution. With fascism, the means of production were privately owned, but The State, working in cooperation with corporate owners, also controlled production and distribution. So in the sense of ownership of the means of production they took different directions.

            But, both depended on authoritarianism to control production and distribution. With communism, the oligarchs profited by their positions with The State. With fascism, the oligarchs profited by either being officers of The State, or officers/owners of major corporations, and forming partnerships with The State. In many/most cases, the boundaries between corporations and the corporate state became blurred.

            • Richard says:

              True but I see it as a distinction without a difference.

            • Whethermen says:

              It occurred to me that an illustrative example is, public schools are socialist; charter schools are fascist.

              • Richard says:

                Actually, charter schools ARE public. You get a better analogy in higher education where you have private schools being funded with federal financial aid. Trouble is most of the universities think they are communists.

  10. Patrick says:

    If you think a Senate filibuster is the problem, then you are not aware of how shit really gets done on The Hill.

    If the GOP wants to enact pro-2A law, they can do so easily by attaching it to authorization/spending bills that the Dems need to pass (EPA, infrastructure, etc.). Schumer is not going to filibuster $1 Trillion of infrastructure spending (that largely benefits urban voters and unions) just to keep a bunch of rubes from having their guns.

    The Senate filibuster is only a speed-bump when you own the purse (The House) and control the Senate floor.

    Anyone who gets weepy over the filibuster is falling right into the GOPe trap. We need to hold feet to fire and set expectations every step of the way.

    • Ian Argent says:

      You have to force cloture on an amendment to a must-pass bill. You can’t just “attach” things to a Senate bill. A bare majority in the Senate isn’t enough to do radical things (and that’s by design).

      • Patrick says:

        That’s correct in theory, but wrong in practice.

        Most large bills are passed under a suspension of the rules, and often a limited number of amendments are guaranteed an up-or-down vote by agreement between each of the respective leaders. In the case of last year’s omnibus, each side got six straight amendment votes (I think, the number may be off). There were no filibusters of those, by agreement. This is not uncommon on large spending bills.

        Forget what you heard on Schoolhouse Rock – controlling the chamber still means something. Bills that Dems want to go to the floor can be desk drawered, and Dem amendments/legislation can be denied. At the same time, cooperation means Dem amendments can be allowed. The last few years saw little legislative movement because the Executive Office (President) was actually held by the legislative minority.

        When the legislative and executive are held by a single party, parliamentary procedure is fungible. For instance Obamacare was passed using reconciliation despite the ACA containing many provisions that would normally not be allowed – because the Dems controlled the Parliamentarian, who decided what constituted a fair motion/act under reconciliation procedures.

        We could debate parliamentary rules all day, but my point still stands: if the GOP desires to pass reciprocity they have the power to do so in spite of a filibuster. Do not let them off lightly. They want you to think thee bills are going to be lamed by Democrats, when in truth the GOP could pass them if they had some fire under them.

        The GOP certainly has the power to push through their priority items. Especially during a session when large sums of money are going to be directed by the majority party (directed to cooperating districts). If the GOP believes 2A to be the priority they claim it to be, then they will make is a priority in the chamber.

        In the meantime, it’s crystal clear that our community needs to press the issue and let them know we won’t take excuses this time. We know they can pass it. It’s time they do so.

    • Whethermen says:

      “If the GOP wants to enact pro-2A law…”

      But they don’t, because if we ever got what we wanted, they would be left without a decoy issue that gets us softheads to support the rest of their agenda at no significant cost to them. A little rhetoric and invocation of boogeymen every two years gets our guaranteed votes.

    • Sebastian says:

      Amendments still take a vote on cloture. The only way to avoid the filibuster is through a reconciliation bill, and I believe amendments on those are limited, and they have to pertain to budget matters.

      • Ian Argent says:

        Relisting silencers under Title I might be able to be done via reconciliation, because of the “tax” implications. Reciprocity can’t.

        • Bryan says:

          If that’s the case, could not SBR/S delisting and repeal of Hughes be done through similar manouvers based on the tax implications. All of NFA was based on tax law, upheald based on taxing powers and controlled through a bureau of the Department of the Treasury (ATF).

          The whole thing is predicated on tax laws and powers; correct?

          • Patrick says:

            Not really. 922 enacts the MG ban under federal law.

            There were a lot of actions under ACA (ObamaCare) which would normally not fit under reconciliation procedures, but because the Dems controlled the Senate they also controlled the Parliamentarian (the person who decided what fits and what does not).

            Could the GOP replace the Parliamentarian with someone who would support such maneuvers? Sure. But will they?

            The Dems have done it and will do it again. I think the true problem is that a lot of GOP Senators like to talk conservative but are not believers. They like having someone (other than themselves) say no to their constituent demands.

            Parliamentary procedure is an effective excuse for squishy Republicans and from the discussion in this thread it appears to have worked on most of us.

      • Patrick says:

        Not all amendments require a cloture vote, because not all amendments are considered under the rules. See my explanation above.

        tl;dr version: when money is being spent, the majority party uses its power to manage amendments. The minority party “gets” straight up/down votes on their amendments at the same time the majority party gets the same. They do this by suspending the rules for the term of the compromise. In such cases a bill is “locked” in such that no amendments are allowed except for the 2/4/6/whatever were agreed to by the two leaders. The leaders negotiate the number of “straight amendments” each side gets an up/down vote on, and then each leader selects their respective amendments for consideration.

        This is how taxpayer money is spent in the USA. There is always a path to spend money. If not, we wouldn’t have the deficit we owe. The trick to getting 2A bills passed will be to find the money and force the GOP establishment to use one of their coveted straight-amendment slots to protect civil rights, vice something else.

        It’s all about priorities and squeaky wheels. It frustrates me to no end to see our community hem, haw and come up with reasons that 2A bills won’t pass. They can, and they should. Immediately.

        Spread the word: we will not accept excuses from the GOP. Where there is a will, there is a way. We don’t need to debate procedure with them – we just need to tell them we won’t be fooled by “show bills” this time.

  11. Beatbos says:

    Where are

    • Ian Argent says:

      “Politics” generally takes the singular – as in the old chestnut that “politics is a dirty business.” It’s a collective noun.


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