Don’t Ban the Brown Drink!

What the gun control debate sounds like to shooters, in a context most other people can understand: Say it’s become “known” that many drunk driving fatalities are caused by drunk drivers who drank whiskey.

Temperance advocates would really prefer to ban all alcohol. They frequently and not without merit point to all the social problems that alcohol abuse contributes to, especially when there’s high-profile fatalities. But they don’t really have the political power to enact sweeping restrictions.

Instead they latch onto the idea of banning any alcohol that is brown, because whiskey is brown, and at least it’s something. The distillers switch production to clear liquors, which still gets you just as sloshed as the brown stuff, and the ban accomplishes almost nothing except pissing off whiskey drinkers, the vast majority of whom aren’t problem drinkers. The temperance people cry foul, scream “loophole,” and demand clear liquors be banned too, hoping that those absinthe drinkers over there won’t really care if the vodka drinkers get it. The temperance folks make repeated public assurances that absinthe aficionados should fear not, since they don’t really intend to target green drink, and likewise assure beer drinkers they are fine with yellow drink. But when they think they can, they’ve pushed for limits of 5% on alcohol content of all drinks.

That’s essentially what this all looks like to those of us, using the analogy, who might be whiskey enthusiasts, but who aren’t alcoholics and don’t drive drunk. We tolerate a lot of social harm in this context because most people drink. There’s an understanding that prohibition wasn’t all that successful, and that it’s not right to punish people as a whole because some misuse it. Transfer that to the gun context, and suddenly prohibition is workable, and it’s fine to blame and punish millions of gun owners and shooters for the actions of people who misuse them.

If You See Something, Say Something

Seems everyone knew this kid in Florida was a nut. The FBI even investigated him over threats. People saw something and said something. The authorities, however, did nothing about it. In many states, a trip to the loony bin makes you a prohibited person. In Florida, it’s called the Baker Act. In Pennsylvania, it’s the Mental Health Procedures Act. All it takes is the police giving you a ride, and you can’t legally buy a gun and won’t pass a background check.

Yet they did nothing. Yeah, sorry, in Florida we did what everyone says is the answer: made it very easy to make crazy people into prohibited persons, and the authorities still dropped the ball.

All the mental health prohibitions in the world aren’t going to amount to shit if no one lifts a finger to get people with mental health issues into the system. This happens repeatedly: we agree to give them the tools they ask for, the authorities drop the ball, and shit still happens. Then, they demand we give up the next thing, and the next thing.

Things That Make You Go “Hmm.”

Ideas someone gave me for fun 21st Century determination letters to ATF:

A bionic arm that’s capable of pulling a trigger at automatic speeds based on nerve inputs, but in an entirely controllable and accurate way. Machine gun?

My take: no. The bionic “finger” is still actuating the trigger each time. But what if the arm enhances the biological capability to allow the finger to work very rapidly? What if the user firmware hacked his bionic arm to do very fast finger actuations upon certain nerve impulses? Can a bionic arm ever be a machine gun? The answer might be “probably!”

A firearm is produced for disabled shooters with no trigger. It’s firing mechanism is actuated by thoughts. However, someone figures out it’s capable of firing continuously if the user thinks about it in a certain way (Maybe you have to think in Russian!), but the firearm has no trigger as we understand the term today. Machine gun?

Presumably there could be a mechanism that could be identified as a trigger. But what if it is otherwise an ordinary semi-automatic action that’s electrically actuated and it’s the right kind of thought that actuates the sear either singly or continuously. This is a tough one. ATF has traditionally not wanted to get into rules of “if you use it this way, then no, but if you use it this way, then yes.” I would argue our law does not describe this kind of situation, and absent action from Congress, not a machine gun.

Legends of the Clubs

Shooting clubs all seem to have their legends. One thing I’ve consistently heard since joining mine is, “If we have just one mishap here (i.e. someone gets shot), this place is finished and over with.” This has always bothered me, because if this is true, why do we insure against this eventuality? Sadly, suicides on gun ranges are not as uncommon as one might think, and the commercial ranges that suffer them seem to continue on. I also know of clubs who have had people shoot themselves accidentally, and that are still around. So it strikes me that this is quite a survivable thing for a club. Not that I would advocate clubs get complacent about safety, but there’s a fine line between safety and being afraid of our own shadows. In my experience with talking to other people in the shooting community, the primary cause of death for shooting clubs is poor leadership, not accidents.

Hardly a Truer Thing Could Be Said

Dave Hardy looks at the NRA Board elections. I couldn’t agree more with what he has to say, especially this:

I also try to compensate for my natural bias, and not to neglect the folks who focus more on shooting as such rather than activism. If we don’t have people to bring juniors into the shooting fold or promote hunting or arrange competitions, activism won’t do much good after a generation or two.

I guess you could say my focus lately has been preserving places to shoot, and trying to keep some kind of shooting community together at a local level. All the political activism won’t amount to squat if we’re not making new shooters, and that’s really hard if there are no places to shoot.

Join your local gun club. I don’t care if it’s run by curmudgeonly old farts. Most of them are, because any organization needs young people to not end up that way. I can say a lot of bad things about the Baby Boomers, but one bad thing I can say about my generation is we’re not joiners, and we’re too cynical about our ability to make a difference. But eventually, all those curmudgeonly old farts are going to die, and without young people waiting in the wings to take the reigns, those places to shoot will die with them and disappear forever. Take some non-crumugeoness with you. You might find a lot of curmudgeons actually aren’t all the curmudgeonly if you approach things the right way with them.

And eventually? You’ll be the one griping “about these kids, and their fancy electromagnetic weapons. You know, in my day, we didn’t have to plug in our ARs! Back then, 3000ft/sec was enough for anybody! Don’t need no fancy charger here, no sir!”

Clever Framing on the Part of Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s bought and paid for propaganda wing has an article on firearms lost during shipping. No one, of course, wants to see firearms end up in the hands of people who would misuse them. But notice what they focus on:

Security experts said the new rules were likely too weak to capture the extent of the problem, and that shipping companies might avoid disclosing guns lost in transit in hopes of warding off negative publicity

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about it, so they don’t report it, don’t go public with it,” said Keith Lewis, vice president of operations for CargoNet, a firm that tracks and helps investigate cargo thefts. “It’s all about brand protection.”

 I keep telling people not to underestimate Bloomberg. He has the money to hire smart people. He knows how to hire smart people. He himself didn’t make enough money to buy whole countries by being a dummy.
Bloomberg’s crowd has been looking for easy wins. They’ve been looking to pick fights where we’re on shakier ground, and where it’s easier for them to frame persuasive arguments. This is one of those areas. Who wants firearms to get stolen in transit? But by advocating more regulation for common carriers shipping firearms, it makes it likely the carriers will do one of two things:
  • Raise the cost of shipping firearms to cover regulatory compliance. A win for gun control; higher price, lower demand.
  • Get the big common carriers to bow out of shipping firearms due to compliance costs. Manufacturers and distributers would then have to use specialized carriers which will be very expensive. Win for the gun control crowd; higher price, lower demand.

Remember the what, as a whole, inoculates people from supporting gun control, and you’ll understand what I mean. You see the same thing with the gun violence restraining orders. Who wants to stand up for crazy people with guns? Or wife beaters with guns? People like easy, simple to understand solutions. They don’t like complexity. Our ultimate argument is due process, and to be honest, most people don’t even know what that is. Regulation, any regulation, is a win for them. And once you start losing, you tend to keep losing.

Lawsuits are Back, Baby!

While ANJRPC are filing suit in the 3rd Circuit over Governor Murphy’s reversal of former Governor Christie’s policy of granting carry licenses to those who have demonstrated true threats against them, in the 2nd Circuit, NYSRPA are filing suit over a provision of the SAFE Act that just went into effect requiring licenses to be renewed every 5 years. Most gun owners in in New York State are now felons, without even realizing it. Massachusetts made a similar move some years ago, and yes, people did go to prison over it. Most gun owners are not all that political, and many of them will never hear that their handgun permit, which has been a lifetime permit for years, is now suddenly no longer a lifetime permit. Many others will hear of the law, but see their permit is a lifetime permit, and think “Well, this doesn’t apply to me then.” The idea that people like this belong in state prison is kind of sick. This is not tin-foil-hat paranoia; I can point to cases where this has happened. When Bitter was working for the issue in Mass, even years later, there would still be the occasional felony charge for someone caught with an “expired” lifetime license. Sorry, we’ve altered the deal. Pray we do not alter it any further.

The resumption of lawsuits is a welcome development, and probably represents the belief that the makeup of the Court will soon be changing in our favor. Second Amendment law has not gone well for us since McDonald, for the most part. The midterms may be a bloodbath for the GOP, so I still do worry. I also believe Ginburg and Breyer will only vacate their seats via hearse. Kennedy likewise doesn’t seem remarkably interested in retirement. But it takes cases years to get to the Supreme Court, and it seems likely by the time these lawsuits reach the high court, it will have changed. The question is whether it will have changed for the better.

Indictment in Vegas Shooting

Dave Hardy has details on the indictment. A man is being charged with selling armor piercing ammunition without a license, and then selling it to the Vegas shooter. My guess on the reason they charged 922(a)(7) and (a)(8) rather than (a)(1)(B) is that for (a)(1)(B), which is the law that says if you engage in the business of selling ammunition, you must have an FFL that allows you to do so, is that they don’t have to prove “engaged in the business” for (a)(7) and (a)(8). All they have to prove is that you manufactured an “armor piercing” round or manufactured and sold one and you did not have a license to do so.

I’m speculating a second motivation based on Dave Hardy’s comments. We all know the whole “armor piercing” ammunition deal is a huge amount of bull. ATF has a great opportunity to cement its preferred interpretation of “armor piercing.” What better context to use than an awful shooting where neither juries nor judges will have any sympathy for the defendant. As I’ve noted before, the current laws and ATF’s interpretations about what armor piercing ammunition is are a great hinderance to adopting “green” bullets that do not contain lead, as many alternative metals are illegal. The shooting sports can be squeezed between two anvils:

  1. You may not use lead bullets or bullets containing lead because it is a menace to people, the environment, puppies and kittens; everything it touches.
  2. You may not replace lead with a host of other cheap metals, like steel, because then it magically becomes “armor piercing” and a menace to manhole covers and all else that is lightly armored.

Bad news if they win using the theory that bi-metal core bullets are armor piercing, a hostile administration could effectively end us with the squeeze I have just described.

Illinois Supreme Court Axes 1000ft from Park Rule

At least some courts have been willing to take the Second Amendment seriously. As Dave Hardy mentions, we’re getting so many new levels of scrutiny from the Second Amendment, one can hardly keep up with them all. But at least the Illinois Supreme Court was willing to entertain the idea that the Second Amendment deserves something better than a dressed up version of rational basis review.

Eugene Volokh’s analysis can be found here. The court seems to have correctly discerned that the reason for such a law has more to do with discouraging people from exercising their rights than with public safety.

Do you own a gun?

I’ve said a lot over the years on this topic, read a lot of polls, seen a lot of focus group studies, and probably jumped to a lot of conclusions. Lately, one thing is standing out to me about how we keep our shooting culture: the biggest predictor I’ve noticed on whether your support gun control or not is “Do you own a gun?”

If the answer is “yes,” chances are you’re not real big on gun control, and good chance you’re very opposed to it. If the answer is “no,” good chance you support at least some gun control, and likely a lot. The only better predictor is political party, but my guess is that’s a following indicator rather than a leading indicator.

So we have to build our activism in the issue around how to get more people answering that question with a “yes.” Lately, I’ve been thinking this matters a lot more than spending hours on the Internet arguing policy, or proffering this study or that study that shows our opponents are wrong. The good news is there are a lot of ways to contribute to making more people answer that question with a “yes.” The bad news is that about 1/3rd of Americans, and this number is growing, live in jurisdictions where they make it very difficult to accomplish turning “noes” to “yeses.”

If there’s one thing I wish I could get across to gun owners who are OK with a little gun control: there really can’t be any lasting compromise. Compromise is something that happens through struggle, not something you plan or negotiate in good faith. We’re living in a compromise. Gun owners in New Jersey are about to find out how the compromises forced on them have reduced the number of people who answer “yes” to such a low level they are powerless to avoid ruin. New Jersey almost certainly is not minting very many new gun owners; the process to become one is onerous and intimidating to newbs. New Jersey gave the state the mechanism by which to strangle gun ownership in 1966 when they adopted a permitting system for handguns, and a licensing system for long guns. New York City adopted it’s ratchet in the early 20th century, and has gone further along this path than New Jersey. Gun ownership has effectively been eliminated in the Five Boroughs. That’s 8 million people who are never going to answer “yes.” You’ll never get them there because of the legal barriers.

Despite the long standing nature of licensing and permitting in New York City and New Jersey, most of the real onerous restrictions didn’t come about until the 1990s. That was a pivotal time for our struggle. In most jurisdictions, there was push back, and we pushed hard enough, and had enough people pushing, to get the box cars back over the hump. In others, there were already mechanisms in place to squeeze gun owners, and they did not make it back over the hump. There just weren’t enough people left to push, because those mechanisms, adopted years ago managed to thumb the scale just enough to give the gun control movement an opportunity they didn’t have in other states.

But even if we were to sweep aside all of New Jersey and New York’s gun laws tomorrow, it would be a long slog to make any headway. Why? There’s nowhere to shoot in New York. In New Jersey, places to shoot are becoming scarce as the generation of gun owners who were minted under less oppression either die off, leave the state, or give up shooting entirely. Once we lose those places, we’re not getting them back. A healthy culture can die just of neglect, without any new gun control.

Now we are at another pivotal moment. The restrictive states are in the process of finishing off their shooting cultures entirely. Most shooters left in New Jersey after Murphy is done with them will be breaking the law in some manner. I’d be rich if I had a dime for every time I heard a New Jersey gun owner at my club say something like: “Fuck Murphy, I’m done playing these games. I’m just going to lay low and ignore all this bullshit.” That will probably work for the vast majority, and that’s what’s happened largely in Connecticut and Upstate New York after the rash of new gun bans after Sandy Hook. But I wish they’d realize that some of you will get unlucky in traffic stops, get the wrong cop, be made examples of, and sent to prison. They won’t come door-to-door. They don’t have to. They will wait you out, and let you die off. They will be patient, and that strategy will work over the long term.

You might say, “Well, Jersey’s gonna Jersey.” But we are also on the verge of losing Washington State, and a few other states aren’t looking as safe as they used to. The true overarching issue we’re facing, more than anything, is urbanization, and that’s a nut we’re going to have to crack if we’re to win this thing long term. Much of our shooting culture is rural, and there’s a lot of momentum built up in the rural shooting culture. An Urban and Suburban gun culture in the 21st century will look different, and we’re just starting to figure that out. If we’re going to make Gun Ownership Great Again, we have to figure out how to make a lot more “yes” people. We don’t have a choice.

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