And Then There Were 19

We’re getting close to half, as Tennessee becomes the 19th state to adopt constitutional carry. From Governor Bill Lee:

Law-abiding Tennesseans will soon be able to carry a handgun in our state without unnecessary permission from the government. Tennessee becomes the 19th state with constitutional carry and it is core to our public safety agenda this year. I firmly believe that penalizing law-abiding Tennesseans is not a solution for reducing crime—we must stiffen penalties on those who break the law. This legislation protects Tennesseans’ rights while significantly increasing penalties on those who steal or unlawfully possess a firearm. I thank the members of the General Assembly for their support and commitment to Second Amendment rights in Tennessee.

John Kerry’s AR-16

Sorry, for all of you out there laughing at John Kerry over his AR-16 comment, which you should because he’s proof that you can marry more money than you could ever hope to make, but money can’t buy you functioning brain cells.

But the AR-16 is a thing, and I would totally own one too if I could.

It’s a Tactic

A lot of people are pissed at Rob Pincus for this. Maybe they should be. But I’ve done posts here along these lines. The trick is that if your opponent has a popular premise they are using to push their agenda, you can accept that premise, but on terms that your opponent will never or can never accept. By doing so you expose their true intentions, and if they prove successful in the end, at least push them farther away from their original position.

That said, times today are different, and with the current polarization, I’m not really in any mood to play games. It’s looking to me like we have an opportunity to prevail without having to concede points to make things less bad. They didn’t quite get the conditions they needed to support their narrative with the past couple of incidents. But that might not hold. There are plenty of nuts out there.

It’s also a tactic that you don’t make concessions when you don’t have to. Only make concessions when it’s the choice between bad and worse. My issue with Pincus’s piece is he wrote it before it was apparent that kind of thing was going to be necessary. If the Dems don’t have the votes, they don’t have the votes. Let it be.

Club Economics

The economics of a non-profit gun club is different than the economics of a commercial range, and necessarily so. One big issue with the club life is a lack of recognition that there are economics for a gun club. A gun club is just as much a business as a commercial range, and they are subject to the same forces, both in terms of economics and regulation. But their purpose is different. Their missions are different.

Commercial ranges do not necessarily exist to make money as a range. They exist to get eyeballs in the store and walking past the counter, where most of the revenue is generated. This is not a concern for a gun club, typically. A gun club is really just a pool of people who pool their resources to keep and maintain a place to shoot. I would argue that any shooting facility has a responsibility to the shooting community as a whole. The economics of both commercial ranges and non-profit clubs exist within a shooting ecosystem that needs to be alive and healthy for those institutions to maintain themselves.

Clubs need to be very concerned about what kind of membership they are cultivating because they are very dependent or in some cases entirely dependent on volunteer labor. Every club needs a large pool of people who pay their dues, use the facilities a few times a year, and do little else. These are the people that keep the lights on, because they provide needed revenue without taxing the resources much. But clubs also need to be sure they are bringing in serious shooters, because these are the people who will care enough to volunteer, and that is the lifeblood of a gun club.

I hear a lot of people complain about wait lists to get in, sponsorship requirements, etc. I hear you, but this is in large part because the economics of a club do not allow them to charge the market clearing price for dues (clearing price is the price at which supply will equal demand). The higher you make the dues, the more member turnover you’ll have as the lesser users decide their three visits a year just aren’t worth the dues.

Member turnover for a club is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because bringing in new members is a lot of work, and you’re putting all that on volunteers. If a club were a for-profit enterprise, you’d want to set the price at the clearing rate and hire people to handle the turnover. But the club is not a for-profit enterprise, and few clubs can afford staff. Turnover is a blessing because the initiation fees help the bottom line, and it brings in fresh members with fresh energy and perspectives.

But for those who complain about wait lists, my impression of clubs is that most of them are keeping turnover too low.

All clubs, generally speaking, are charging way less than market rates and filtering incoming members for quality in some fashion. There’s a rumor floating around at my club that we’re looking to become an “exclusive” club with few members and sky-high dues. The shooting economics of the area would never support that, and we do our best to quash rumors like that, but to a large degree every club is exclusive. Exclusivity is a necessary feature if you’re charging less than the market clearing price, which nearly every club is doing. Many clubs choose to do exclusivity by sponsorship: you gotta know somebody.

The more experience I get in management of a club, the less I think of sponsorship as a filter. On one hand, I get it: the volunteer pool is usually smaller than the amount of work that needs to be done, so a filter that spreads a task across the whole membership is appealing. But it’s the wrong filter. The prospectives are usually going to be like their sponsors. So if the sponsor is a marginally safe shooter, chances are he or she will miss those same safety issues with the prospective. My club does a qualification program, but it’s biased toward passing people. In other words, it’s not much of a barrier to unsafe shooters. Additionally, if you don’t have enough volunteers now, because you’re replacing casual shooters with more casual shooters, sponsorship ain’t changing that. So waiting lists abound.

Which brings me to another component of club economics: programs. Small clubs tend to be much more dependent on programs for revenue. I run a relatively large club of 1300 members. For us, programs revenue is drop in the bucket. Almost all of our income comes from dues and guest fees. This is probably the same for most every club close to our size.

Running healthy shooting programs is a must though, because much like the commercial range exists to draw in shooters past the gun counter, programs exist to draw serious shooters into the club. Matches and shooting events are a recruiting tool to help bring in people who make shooting a big part of their lives, and thus are more likely to get deeply involved with the volunteer and social life of a club. A club that isn’t running healthy programs is a dying club. One force I’ve had to battle in my own club is the desire to cloister the club off from the outside world, which would slowly kill it. Adam Smith said there was a lot of ruin in a nation, and the same is true for gun clubs, believe me.

A place to shoot is pure gold to our shooting community. Without places to shoot, everything we do is for naught. So they have to be saved, as best we can. I know there are fuddy duddy clubs out there whose current caretakers are determined to let die with them. We can’t save them all. But it’s worth it to spend the time and energy to save what we can, and I hope that by sharing some of what I’ve learned with the larger community, I can help with that in some small way.

What Activism Matters Anymore?

I have to admit, I’m done arguing with conspiracy theorists. We don’t have mass shootings for a good while, and then we get two at a moment when it’s most convenient to the gun control crowd; even desperately needed. The pattern is there. I’m not going to waste time talking anyone out of weaving a yard with it.

No, I’m not going all CIA trained killers or crisis actors: I still don’t believe in the big conspiracy (though I do think little ones can happen). I’m just done arguing with that crowd. You do you.

If you ask me, the timing is explained by mass shootings being a media driven phenomena, and these killers are very concerned that their act earn them the notoriety they seek. So they are very tuned to the news cycle, and are probably aware when they are primed to get coverage. That’s not when there are pandemics and riots dominating the news.

I feel like most of the politicians are pretty well polarized into one camp or another at this point, just like everybody else, and there’s not a whole lot we’re going to do other than keep some of the more soft pro-2A folks in line. Does arguing with people on social media work? Probably not. I’ve come to the conclusion social media is useful for sharing cat pictures and pictures of your rugrats for the grandparents, and that’s about it. People who spew politics all day on social media are boors, and who wants to be a boor?

So I go back to keeping local institutions healthy, which, perhaps too conveniently, is what I’m currently involved with. But I didn’t exactly think I was saving the world when this blog was at its height of popularity and activity. The country’s institutions are broken. NRA is horribly broken. Conservative Inc has never worked. If we’re going to rebuild those after the realignment is finished tearing everything up, we’ll need local civil society. Steel those institutions and people, and get them ready to fight, and then help pick up the pieces once we reach a new center.

Well, I’ll be Damned

Apparently the C&R exception to GCA that allowed the surplus boom of the late 90s and early aughts, which I took some advantage of, wasn’t, in fact, in FOPA, despite my claiming that over the years. Of course, Dave Hardy was my source for that, since Dave was involved with FOPA and is the leading authority on it, so I’ll blame Dave. But good find!

Hardest Work You Ever Did?

See Tyler Cowen, over at Marginal Revolution, talks about working in a grocery store, but mentions he never actually dug ditches or anything like that. My story is similar, except I actually dug ditches for a summer, was a plumber’s helper, so had to handle sewage piping and help with sewer work. I’ve been in ditches that filled up with water in under a minute because we broke off the feed at the main, and been told “You think this is bad? Imagine having to do this in January.”

After that, in junior and senior years of high school, I worked for a well known Philadelphia meat packer stamping expiration dates on sausages. Once they came out of the freezer, the clock started ticking, so I got the dates on the next day’s trucks for delivery. I had a stamp gun and was pretty good about using it. But I can relate to a lot of Tyler’s stories about being the awkward kid in the shop.

I worked with teamsters. One day I was busting one of our route salesman’s balls, as the warehouse guys often did (we weren’t union, but the drivers were). He was a stout polish guy who was built like the truck he drove, who then proceeded to pick up my (at the time) skinny teenage ass and hold me over the dumpster, to remind me of my place. I lied about my age so I could get certification to operate a forklift.

Those were good times, but it’s what convinced me to start taking getting into college more seriously, and be serious about what I wanted to do. These days a lot of kids coming out of college haven’t ever had to hold down a job before, and even fewer ever did anything physically demanding. Not sure we’re better off for it.

Stirrings Within NRA, and Gun Control

Sadly, I think John is probably right about what the NRA’s special meeting will be about, namely retroactively approving the bankruptcy filing. In the mean time, start activating your networks because gun control is coming at a time when the left has NRA over the ropes (ropes that Wayne happily sold them). As I heard it said, once you start losing, it’s hard to stop. It’s like opening a wound. So they might not start with gun bans, but it ain’t going to stop there if they get what they want. You can take that to the bank.

Got the Jab

Got the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine today. I can report I do not suddenly feel Marx makes more sense. If it’s reprogramming my DNA, I can’t say that I’m noticing. So far, not much in the way of side effects at all. I had to go lay down because my equilibrium was feeling a bit off, kind of like if you had too much to drink the night before off. But I’m not sure if that was the shot, because I get that way sometimes just sitting at a computer too long.

I realize that a lot of people will choose not to get it, and I’m not the type that thinks we ought to be strapping people down and making them get their shots. But I tick all the risk categories except age, so I decided it was probably worth the risk of side effects.

Bitter feels a little at the injection site. I don’t. Hopefully I’ll feel OK tomorrow. When I get a flu shot, I usually don’t get the sore arm until the next day or two.