Pennsylvania Attorney General and Governor Set Themselves Up to be Sued

Today, if I go to Defense Distributed’s CAD files, I get this:

Defense Distributed Shut Down in PA

Our AG and Governor are the reason why. Can you articulate where in Pennsylvania law it says I can’t build my own firearm? You can’t, because it doesn’t exist. So what is the legal basis for shutting off access to a website? This is thuggish behavior, and the Governor and AG ought to be rightly sued over it under Section 1983 the the Civil Rights Act. And the best part is I get to pay for it! This has no basis in law. The issue here is that the AG and Governor don’t like something, and have chosen to unlawfully censor it.

It only took me 2 minutes to get around it with Tor. Can’t stop the signal.

Shocking News: Some Christians Subscribe to Natural Rights Theory

The WaPo has an article about how Christian Nationalism, as WaPo misdefines it, is a strong predictor for whether you believe in gun control or not. The idea that rights come from God didn’t originate in Jerry Fawell’s basement. It originated during the enlightenment. The whole idea of natural rights it nothing new. The people who wrote the Second Amendment were very highly influenced by the works of John Locke who died in 1704. The whole article reads like “can you believe people are crazy enough to believe this stuff?” Christian Nationalism was actually a thing, founded by Gerald Smith and peaking the 1940s, but its chief philosophy was highly anti-Semitic and racist, a trait you seldom find today in mainstream religious conservatives. So how does WaPo misdefine this?

  1. “The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation.”
  2. “The federal government should advocate Christian values.”
  3. “The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state” (reverse-coded).
  4. “The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces.”
  5. “The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.”
  6. “The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”

OK. That could possibly mean you’re a dominionist, especially if you answer yes to number one. But even I think the federal government should allow, and actually think it is compelled by the First Amendment to allow, prayer in public schools as long as the schools aren’t compelling it. I even agree that the federal government should allow display of religious symbols in public places as long as the state didn’t put it there, or it doesn’t represent any establishment of religion (like Moses being on the Supreme Court building). And what Christian values are we talking about here? I’m OK with the state promoting not killing, treating other people as you wish to be treated, etc. Am I OK with the federal government forcing people to go to church? No. Am I OK with laws against blaspheming other people’s faith? No. But if you answer yes to most of these, it doesn’t make you a “Christian Nationalist.” Christian Nationalism was disgusting. Conflating mainstream Christian beliefs with that philosophy is wrong. Sadly, most journalists these days know almost nothing about what these philosophies are, where they came from, and what their intellectual roots are.

Can’t Stop the Signal

A coalition of gun control groups are embarking on an epic fundraising effort battle with the Trump Administration to hopefully scare some money out of their base. I was wondering what Bloomberg could want with something like this, because it’s very unlikely to win, and even if it does, it’s not like they are going to put the genie in the bottle. But it’s probably something that will scare up the base and help money flow into the other gun control groups that need the money. This is about raising awareness for Everytown: ground prep for a future fight if they get a pretext. For the other groups it’s fundraising.

Bloomberg is making home building a target. I follow their “Trace” publication, and for a while after State’s announcement, it’s all they’ve been talking about. I don’t like fighting on ground where you have a very small handful of people engaging in something lawful, but hard for other people and even other gun owners to understand. But the idea that they can stop this is absurd on its face.

Does anyone think a law against home gunsmithing is going to stop criminals and terrorists from getting plans, that are still freely available on the Internet, from loading them up and hitting “print?” The idea that you can shut down Cody Wilson’s free speech, even if it was legal, is an evil thing no free society should do.

The Administration has decided to Make Tinkering Great Again, and I’m not going to object. The lords of the manors don’t like the idea of their serfs doing powerful things that they have absolutely no control over. The risk for us is that home gun smithing, and possibly even home 3D printing, will be stamped out by elites trying to wrest control back from the unwashed masses. As I mentioned before, just because it’s an absurd and useless law doesn’t mean they won’t pass it. The goal isn’t really to stop crime. It’s to stop you… you flyover rube.

Winning in Court

We’ve had some pretty significant court wins lately, and I’m hoping it’s just a preview of things to come. The latest is a ruling that there’s a constitutional right to carry openly. This is probably all fallout from the Kennedy retirement. Lower court judges don’t really like to be overturned, and the change is also a signal to supporters if they buck Circuit precedent and rule against the state in a gun rights case, they might get some help from the top. No one wants to stick their neck out.

None of the judges involved here are Trump judges yet. The panel in the magazine case was appointed by George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, with the judge appointed by Nixon dissenting. That is not surprising to me. The Greatest Generation are actually gun unfriendly, for the most part. Silents less so. Boomers even less so.

In the open carry case, it was a Reagan appointee and a George W. Bush nominee ruling in favor of the plaintiff, with another George W. Bush appointee dissenting.

George W. Bush was hardly a perfect President on the gun issue, and Trump won’t be either. But if they put the right judges on the bench they can end up being good enough, and that’s all we need.

The Wages of Never Meeting a Camera You Wouldn’t Jump in Front Of

I have a pretty strict rule: I don’t talk to journalists. I’ve rarely made exceptions to that, but for the most part, that’s my rule. As a result, I’ve given up a lot of opportunities to self-promote and up my profile. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the gun issue, it’s that being an effective self-promoter pays. You can’t swing a cat in the gun rights issue without hitting a dozen self-promoters, at least half of whom will border on shameless.

Definitely in the category of “shameless” is Phil Van Cleave. I understand that as head of a state gun right’s group, Phil can’t take the same policy I do. He has to talk to the media to a great degree. But seriously, you should have walked out of the room long before this:

Since this came out, I don’t think Van Cleave has exactly covered himself in glory. His spin on this is pretty much that he went undercover as a highly trained secret agent, intent on exposing who was behind this charade, and where it was going.

“For better or for worse, I decided that I would play along with the scheme so I could find out who was behind this and where this was going,” Van Cleave said. “I figured if I was right about this being a set up, I could blow the whistle and get a warning out to the gun-rights community across the country to protect as many people as possible and maybe derail this attack.”

Come on, just admit you got snookered. Cohen has snookered a lot of people more prominent than Phil Van Cleave. Or maybe suggest that you were going along with the comedy; that you thought you were participating in an obvious self-deprecating comedy piece and didn’t think anyone would be crazy enough to take it seriously. You’d still be a sucker, but at least you’d still have some dignity left.

Does anyone other than rabidly deranged partisans think anyone, even Phil Van Cleave, endorse a “Puppy Pistol?” I like quality self-deprecating humor, but this isn’t it. My issue with Cohen’s comedy is that it’s just not funny. Borat was a menagerie of cultural condescension, and looking down on others. Punching down is never good comedy. I only wish there weren’t so many people in the gun rights movement that weren’t so desperate for attention as to easily become victims of a con artists like Cohen.

UPDATE: Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on Phil Van Cleave. Watch Larry Pratt laugh about rape. A big part of appearing on television for interviews is to keep your shit in check and to not forget you’re on TV.

From Russia With Love

Some of you have probably seen the story of a Russian National connected to an influence operation involving the NRA being arrested on charges of spying. I’ve read the actual criminal complaint against her and it’s hard for me to see how she’s not guilty as hell of what she’s being charged with just based on the evidence found in the complaint. Sounds to me like she even had an assistant in the US (US Person 1) and was also being helped along by (US Person 2), who it seems is connected to the National Prayer Breakfast. Popehat, who has experience as a federal prosecutor, suspects the complaint’s timing was because they got wind Butina was getting ready to flee the country.

While I generally roll my eyes at “based on my training and experience,” the complaint has a number of interesting details.

Your challenge in your “special project” will be to balance two opposing imperatives: Your desire to communicate that you speak for Russian interests that will be ascendant (still around) in a post-Putin world while simultaneously doing nothing to criticize the President or speed the arrival of his successor.

There’s a few references to relations after Putin is gone in the complaint. I’m thinking Torshin’s odds of contracting an acute case of polonium poisoning just went up. From the sounds of the complaint, the woman who said “No government official has EVER approached me about ‘fostering ties’ with any Americans,” was basically taking orders, albeit via Torshin, from Putin himself.

Never Underestimate “Something Must Be Done”

The gun control powers that be must have anticipated that the DOJ would settle with Defense Distributed, because I’m seeing a lot of articles like this.

“Criminals are making their own weapons because they cannot buy them legally … or they are paying other people to make those guns for them to get around the gun laws,” said Bill McMullan, special agent in charge of ATF’s L.A. Field Division. “This is a trend among Southern California gangs.”

I have no doubt. This is why gun control doesn’t work, and why technology is increasingly rendering it a fools errand. You and I know that restricting home manufacturing isn’t going to affect anyone but the people who have no criminal intent.

I’ve said it before: what Cody Wilson doesn’t realize is that most people give a crap that technology is rendering gun control obsolete. The overriding impetus behind things like gun control are “Something must be done! This is something, so therefore it must be done!” It’s just like the opioid crisis. Are any of those laws going to affect junkies? No. They are going to affect people who have legitimate pain and are low risk for addiction.

How do these things pass? Because you have hysterical, and frankly ignorant people pushing for solutions.

“This is a crisis!”

They get joined by people who are grieving someone who they lost and amplifying the hysteria. Sometimes these people carry guilt they need to deflect onto others. “Johnny was a junkie, and I didn’t raise no junky. I was a good parent. So it must be the fault of the doctors and drug companies prescribing and making this stuff. Something must be done!”

Politicians naturally cater to these types of people, because no one wants to tell a grieving parent, “Well, maybe you’re just a shitty parent,” least of all a politician looking for votes.

Then you have the majority of the population who isn’t in pain, doesn’t own a gun, and has no dog in the fight, and is willing to nominally join calls for doing something, and isn’t willing to invest the mental energy in seriously evaluating solutions.

So don’t think because limiting home gun making and gun smithing is a fools errand means it won’t happen. It’s something not many people do, even most serious shooters. It’s better off flying under the radar.

Lessons from the Annals of Club Management

My parents were both heavily involved in civic culture. My mother was in three or four civic groups. My father was a volunteer firefighter pretty much my entire life, which for those not familiar with how those run in Pennsylvania, are effectively social clubs that fight fires. They are not unlike gun clubs, except they shoot water rather than lead. And their shoot houses are a bit…. hotter. As a kid I always got dragged to those meeting and hated it. But the end result is that kind of organization was never something foreign to me, so when I joined my local gun club, my first instinct was to start attending meetings. Then matches. One thing leads to another and then somehow I agree to serve as an officer. Thanks mom and dad. See what you did? It’s been a learning experience, though. For those of you involved with clubs, here are some things I’ve learned:

  • If your Board takes an action you know will be controversial, it will probably be twice as controversial as you think. Prepare for that. During a period of controversy, everything the Board does, even things that shouldn’t necessarily be controversial will become controversial.
  • I am not a rules person. I hate rules and procedure. One reason I stay at the job I have is we have a very unstructured workplace, and I like that. I work best in that. While Henry Martyn Robert can still kiss my ass, for now, having some basic ground rules for meetings is beneficial for making sure everyone gets a say and meetings don’t descend into chaos.
  • Having professional advice is important. Any shooting club should have an attorney they can consult with regularly. Seek professional advice on your ranges. NRA provides range consulting that is practically free. They are very up on current practices, and while they can’t set you up all the professionals you need, since they don’t make recommendations, they can tell you at least what kind of professionals you need. I’m a computer engineer. That’s my area of expertise. Running a firing range is not. Stay in your lane, and use professionals for what you’re not an expert on.
  • Don’t push too fast. Don’t become a slave to imagined timelines: “We have to get X done, and then Y. Because X and Y need to be done before Z starts.” Plan things out. Think about your timeline of events as a whole in the entire context of what you’re doing. Tasks that might not seem connected, you may suddenly find they will become connected.
  • Communicate. My role is secretary, which puts me in charge of most of the communications, even to communicate decisions I might not agree with personally. If I had to pick the one area to work on the most it’s that. There’s no workplace I’ve ever worked that had a really solid communication culture. Communication is much harder in deliberative organizations, where you have to get a group of people to agree on a plan.
  • Don’t bring problems to a deliberative body, bring solutions. It’s much easier to get a deliberative body to agree on solutions than it is to get a deliberative body to solve a problem. The latter is difficult. Even if the body can arrive at a solution, it will often be very suboptimal. I’ve had members get indignant when asked to submit a proposal for something they want to do. Seriously, if a board member at a club ever asks you this, there’s a reason: you don’t want a deliberative body trying to implement your idea. It doesn’t work well that way. Bring solutions, not problems.
  • Don’t assume your membership knows how the club operates. There’s a handful of members at any club that are always around. These are the people you will get to know and have the most communication with. These people generally know what the Board is doing, what’s going on at the club, and how the club generally works. It’s very easy to forget that most members are not all that engaged. This goes back to communication: you might have to explain how things work. I’m surprised that a number of people I’ve encountered that believe the Board at my club is a professional, paid Board. We have no paid employees. We’re all volunteers.
  • Speaking of volunteers, you can’t be too picky with volunteers. They aren’t your employees and you can’t and shouldn’t direct them like they were employees. This can be particularly tricky if a lot of your Board are used to running businesses. Volunteers are a different beast. You appreciate what they do, and tell them that, even if you’re not happy with the actual work. Volunteer driven organizations are very much “If you aren’t happy with how someone else is doing the work, do it yourself.”

There are definitely times, and a lot more recently, when I think the for-profit Guntry Club Model of providing shooting facilities is far better than the Social Club Model. But I think civil society is important, because it teaches people to cooperate, fosters stronger community, and is better, overall, for the health of the gun rights movement. The religious right is successful because they have the church as a locus of organization. Clubs are much like churches, in that regard.

DOJ Settles Defense Distributed Case

They essentially gave up, agreed to pay attorneys’ fees to DD, and agree that going forward, small arms that aren’t machine guns or destructive devices won’t be considered munitions. If you recall, Defense Distributed was forced, under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to remove plans for firearms, arguing that posting the plans online constituted exporting munitions.

This is a promising development.

Kavanaugh Has a Record on Guns

He was the dissenter in Heller II.

In my judgment, both D.C.’s ban on semi-automatic rifles and its gun registration requirement are unconstitutional under Heller.

In Heller, the Supreme Court held that handguns – the vast majority of which today are semi-automatic – are constitutionally protected because they have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens. There is no meaningful or persuasive constitutional distinction between semi-automatic handguns and semi- automatic rifles. Semi-automatic rifles, like semi-automatic handguns, have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens for self-defense in the home, hunting, and other lawful uses. Moreover, semi- automatic handguns are used in connection with violent crimes far more than semi-automatic rifles are. It follows from Heller’s protection of semi-automatic handguns that semi-automatic rifles are also constitutionally protected and that D.C.’s ban on them is unconstitutional. (By contrast, fully automatic weapons, also known as machine guns, have traditionally been banned and may continue to be banned afterHeller.)1

Getting protections on semi-automatic rifles would be just what the doctor ordered for states like New Jersey, California and New York. Semi-auto bans are culture killers. No state has ever passed one and come back from it.

Kavanaugh’s approach to the Second Amendment is far better than what we’ve typically seen in lower courts. Several years ago I even suggested that there should be some scholarship published around his approach to help refine it.

There was a lot of speculation that Trump was going to pick Amy Barrett, who would have greatly pleased the SoCo culture warriors, but she would have been an unknown quantity on the Second Amendment. From my point of view, he couldn’t have done much better than Brett Kavanaugh. I know what I’m getting: a judge who’s willing to toss assault weapons bans and gun registration.