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Attempts at Gun Voter Suppression in North Dakota

The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party created a Facebook page on Halloween to stir up some election tricks.

They created a “Hunter Alerts” page to use as a platform for buying Facebook ads to target at hunters and gun owners. As you can see in this image from NRA created from screenshots of the page details and ads they are running, they are trying to convince any hunter who might hunt out-of-state that they will lose those licenses if they show up to vote.

If these tactics show any sign of working at all – if there is any drop in gun owner participation in the North Dakota election whatsoever – this will be copied around the country to try and keep gun owners from turning out to vote. They know that we turn out in very high numbers to protect our rights, so now they are trying to use our rights and lawful activities against our voters to convince them not to vote.

Also, if you see any paid ads like this at all in your social media feeds, make sure to get screenshots and drop a message to the NRA page. They can take a look to investigate further. Getting the word out to the voters they are lying to can hopefully give NRA & local gun rights leaders the chance to respond so that the goal of keeping these voters home doesn’t work.

Cody Wilson Caught

At this point, there is nothing that looks remotely defensible about Cody Wilson’s actions after he (reportedly) paid a minor for sex if the details in this story are correct.

At home, police say that he got on a plane to Taiwan at some point after he was tipped off by a friend of the minor that she was cooperating with a police investigation into the incident. Even if the trip was pre-planned, this seems like an unwise choice to make the trip if you’ve got any chance at defending yourself.

But now we learn that he checked in to one hotel and promptly left, decided to rent a studio for 6 months, but then didn’t show to get the keys when he realized that he was wanted in Taiwan, too. (We may not have an extradition treaty with them, but that doesn’t mean they are under obligation to let you roam free. A country with no treaty can still arrest you and turn you over to the US, it’s just a matter of whether they want to do so or not.) They eventually found him in a totally different hotel.

The report indicates that his passport was cancelled, so Taiwan could pick him up on immigration charges once he was found. He can now be deported to the U.S.

None of this will look good during a trial. Depending on the details of the encounter with the girl he is accused of soliciting, he could have potentially mounted somewhat of a defense that she lied about her age repeatedly. If he could prove it or raise a reasonable doubt that he actually knew her age, then there’d be a chance at a plea bargain or maybe an easier sentence. But fleeing to a foreign country with no extradition treaty and going so far as to rent an apartment? Yeah, that’s not going to go over well and will probably kill his chances at being released in advance of the trial since he’s now a demonstrated flight risk.

NRA Election Participation

Once again, I’ve got the data on member participation in NRA elections. Unlike attendance, these stats aren’t record breaking – not the lowest, not the highest. Just about average.

In terms of total votes cast, 5.67% of eligible voters who received ballots returned them. That’s on par with previous years, as you can see in the chart. The lowest vote participation I’ve ever documented in 2006 was 5.12%, and the highest was the 2016 regular board election at 7.76%.

Of course, there’s also the context to consider of how many ballots went out. As we add more voting members to NRA’s member roster, it becomes harder for any one board member to reach individual voters who may feel inspired to vote after meeting with them or learning more about them. This is the record number of ballots mailed based on my data – 199,245 more than last year. That means more life members and members who have stuck with the organization for at least 5 consecutive years.

Of course, these charts just look at ballots returned. Of the ballots mailed back, 3.98% were invalid for a variety of reasons. This is up a bit from the last few years, but down substantially from 2013. Unfortunately, they stopped separating out my favorite invalid statistic – ballots from previous years. Who has these and remembers to send them in during the exact voting period the next year?? Last year, it was 24 people.

At first glance, I thought that people may be voting for fewer than 25 candidates, as the top vote getter this year (Ronnie Barrett) was only on 71.7% of valid ballots. That’s the lowest percentage I’ve recorded. The previous low was 2015 at 76.52%, so the same cycle of candidates. Most of the other lows I’ve recorded have also been during this same cycle of 3 year terms, so I think it’s just the lack of a really huge celebrity that spreads out votes more. (That’s not a bad thing!)

For the “last winner,” the lowest vote getter to still get a seat on the board, there were some interesting observations. The last winner was on just over half of the ballots – 54.46%. That’s not the lowest percentage I’ve seen, but the 2nd lowest and definitely close. What is more interesting is that those who did not win seats were much farther behind the pack than I’ve ever documented before. In my years of data, the top person who still lost is usually just under 1,000 votes away from the person above. This year, that gap was huge at a difference of more than 3,000 votes. So those who didn’t make it on the board this year were much farther behind as a group than they have been in at least a decade.

NRA Meeting Attendance – 2018

Attack gun rights, inspire more people to fight for gun rights. This is an equation you think that gun control supporters would have figured out. Once again, we see this play out in the NRA Annual Meeting numbers with a new record-setting attendance.

A total of 87,154 members attended the NRA convention in Dallas this year.

From the time I started attending in 2004, the event has grown by just over 42% in terms of attendance. It was about 7% larger than Atlanta for members who came out.

Gun Control in the Heartland

It looks like Democrats are looking to candidates from deep red districts to not give in on guns and to openly push their national gun ban agenda.

I received my home town paper today, and this is a full-page ad running in small town papers in Oklahoma from Fred Gipson who is running as a Democrat in Oklahoma’s 4th district which does have a college town, but is also largely rural.

click to enlarge

I wish I was back in town the day the candidate visited so I could introduce myself as a “female AR-15 owner, NRA Life Member, volunteer to fund programs that teach young people how to safely and responsibly use semi-automatic rifles & other firearms, and past Democratic pro-gun candidate volunteer.” All with a smile. Because even our insults back home are polite.

I think it’s safe to say that given the branding of his website and lack of events posted that he probably doesn’t stand a chance in a district where his incumbent opponent has consistently won with around 70% of the vote. But I don’t think it bodes well for us that one of the major political parties is running openly on gun bans even in pro-gun areas. It seems they don’t believe we’ll be around long enough to matter.

If you live in OK-4, it might be wise to let your local Democratic Party know that you expect them to find candidates who have a record of respecting the 2nd Amendment instead of running candidates who campaign on banning guns many local residents own and use responsibly. Telling the local leaders who have a voice at the state level that they are hurting down ticket races by pushing gun control candidates on the ballot can make a difference in how the political parties work with us instead of against us.

Golden State Killer DNA Use – Getting Past the Media Hype to Potential Legal Issues

First, let’s establish that I am not an attorney. I talk to lots of attorneys and even attend law seminars from time-to-time, but I have never studied law in any meaningful way. My post on this matter is because I have a gut feeling the use of DNA searching in the case of the Golden State Killer is probably new territory.

Second, let’s establish that though I’m not a geneticist, I am experienced enough in genetic genealogy that I can tell you mainstream media reporting on DNA testing is as terrible as it is on guns. Most reporters know absolutely nothing about the types of DNA that can be tested in the consumer market, how matching happens, what the policies on use are with those sites, and the limitations of DNA. DNA doesn’t lie, but it’s sure as hell misinterpreted – often. Add to the problem of reporters not knowing anything about it the fact that most of the people in front of the cameras from the police department and the district attorney also know nothing about it, and you’ve got a recipe for terrible reporting.

Based on some of the most detailed reporting that didn’t come out until late last night and this morning, the investigators did not use a commercial DNA testing company you commonly see advertised. In the US, the big ones are Ancestry.com, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage. Three out of the four confirmed in statements when the media started getting things wrong that they in no way cooperated with any criminal investigation with their DNA databases. While the fourth one didn’t issue a statement, the police didn’t use their private databases, either. All of them have pretty solid policies not cooperating without a warrant.

However, because these companies all offer different tools, many of which are useful in their own ways to us genealogists, but you can’t compare to someone who tested at another site, some folks built a website called GedMatch that’s sort of like a public open source comparison tool. It’s database is made up of people who have taken their raw DNA data from other companies that run the tests and upload them to be compared to each other. Why? Well, in cases like my grandfather’s, he only tested at Family Tree DNA before he died. If a great match tests at Ancestry, we can’t compare the two kits except at Gedmatch. (Technically there are a few alternatives now, but there weren’t for a long time. Gedmatch became the place to do it.)

The police created a raw data format that looked like one of the major testing company’s raw data forms based on the DNA sample recovered from a crime scene. Using that form, they uploaded it to Gedmatch as though it was a sample from one of the major testing companies. There’s nothing in Gedmatch’s terms that says you can’t “spoof” a major company format with data obtained elsewhere. The entire purpose of the site is to compare across testing platforms.

BUT, where things get interesting is that when you upload a kit at Gedmatch, you must answer a question:

Please acknowledge that any sample you submit is either your DNA or the DNA of a person for whom you are a legal guardian or have obtained authorization to upload their DNA to GEDmatch: Yes or No

Now, the officer who uploaded it 1) is not the source of the DNA, 2) is not the legal guardian of the suspect, and 3) does not have the authorization of the DNA sample provider to upload. Yet, s/he uploaded it anyway by directly misrepresenting his/her status as the legal representative with permission of the source of the sample.

Only with that misrepresentation did they find enough information to focus in on one subject and follow him around to find a source of publicly disposed DNA to run a direct test against the original sample using the traditional law enforcement test (CODIS).

Is the misrepresentation of who has permission to use a website under specific terms a violation on the part of police? I think it’s a reasonable argument to make, though I don’t know how much precedent we have in this area of law because we’re talking technology that most previous cases don’t really cover.

Now, GedMatch was also recently used to solve a Jane Doe victim status. I tend to believe that there’s a more solid case that police are legal representatives of an unidentified deceased victim in their “custody” than they are over a possibly still living suspect’s DNA sample. That said, any law enforcement use of the database makes people, understandably, uneasy. There have been calls for years for law enforcement to consider an opt in GedMatch-like database in order to solve John/Jane Doe cases with clear terms and conditions for those who opt in. Plenty of people are willing to help in those cases, and even in searches for criminals. But the authorities didn’t give people that option, they held themselves out as representatives of criminal suspects to gain access to a database.

In the context of guns, Sebastian & I figured it is most closely represented with this type of analogy:

A plainclothes cop shows up to your gated, private gun club and tells a board member that he has a document attesting that he’s a representative & there with permission of your club’s Membership Chairman and is just looking some things up on his behalf without ever disclosing that he’s law enforcement. He is allowed into the gated club only based on this form that says he really is representing your Membership Chairman, even though the officer really plans to investigate your Membership Chairman on a case not related to your club or its business. When he comes in, the officer looks through the guest log and sees a name he recognizes as similar to a felon known to him. He uses the information on the guest log to start following around your Membership Chairman to see if he’s allowing a felon to use his firearms. When it turns out to be the case, the cop sweeps in to make an arrest. Now technically the arrest is based on what he witnessed. But he never would have been following him if not for what he saw when he entered the gated property by falsifying documents that claim he was the Membership Chairman’s representative and was there with his permission. Is this a fruit of the poison tree problem?

I don’t know exactly how this will all play out, and I don’t know enough law to know if this is absolutely a violation. What I do know is that it violates ethics of the genetic genealogy community. While I understand that GedMatch doesn’t really have the same “gates” restricting access to its database as the commercial companies, the fact that they aren’t addressing the very real issue of how the cops represented themselves in order to be matched against others bothers me. That question in their upload process either means something or it doesn’t, and GedMatch isn’t taking it seriously. I made our kits private in the meantime.

As a final thought on DNA & crimes. I think it’s important to remember that as much as guns are misrepresented and therefore misunderstood, so is DNA.

DNA alone can tell you remarkably little without extra context and information. It doesn’t lie, but it is sure as hell misunderstood and treated as inappropriately damning. Consider that California was going to put a man away for life for a murder he absolutely did not commit based on the officer’s lack of detailed analysis in considering how DNA might have appeared on a victim. I mean we all “know” that if you find someone else’s DNA under a victim’s nails and they struggled, then that must be your assailant. It’s what tv tells us! Except what if the EMT called to the scene reuses a pulse oximeter on the victim that was used hours before on a man he took to the hospital? That was an important detail that nearly cost a man his life. Even in genealogy, something as obvious as a parent/child match? If you don’t know whether that parent has an identical twin, then you don’t have all of the information you need to make a sound conclusion.

It’s complex. And that’s why the media will f*ck it up almost every time they report on it – just like guns and gun owners.

UPDATE: The NYT has a decent article on the ethics & possible legality issue. A law professor who professes to know about DNA searches says there may be questions about the legality of the evidence. I’m going to assume that’s why they went after the other samples so that any warrants were technically issued on those grounds rather than the legally dubious GedMatch grounds.

Maintaining a Big Grassrootsy Garden

Kevin responded to Sebastian’s recent post addressing NRA’s lack of focus on utilizing their grassroots strength with an argument that the first step in building up your grassroots is to get people to the range.

I don’t disagree with his post, but I think we’re talking two different stages of the game. Sebastian’s post focuses on engaging those who are already in the fight, largely with something to lose – gun owners or gun rights supporters who want to keep their rights. Kevin’s is on pulling more people into the game to begin with. Both parts are desperately needed, and current gun owners need to find their comfortable place doing something to advance the cause in at least some area of the issue – recruitment or something else.

I think it gets back to the analogy is that this whole issue – the legislative votes, the shooting sports, the legal arguments, etc. – are all part of a very, very big garden. You can’t get every weed everywhere, but by making the best use of material and gardening assistants, you can strategically target the biggest weedy threats and maintain a healthy landscape.

I’ll be honest, there could be another Dear NRA letter written about their lack of engagement over the last few years with some of the important resources that can help with Kevin’s concerns and the political efforts. I think it’s too easy for workers to fall into their division without looking at how the resources at their disposal can be utilized by another division to promote the cause across the board. It’s hard for someone outside of the organization to even imagine how different divisions can help them. There is much room for improvement in connecting the many resources of the larger gun rights organization to really help the ground level volunteers and sport shooters.

Delco Op-Ed Encouraging Education on Guns

Congratulations on gun owners who managed to get published supporting gun rights in their local outlets in these tough times! Gotta love this line from a guest column in the Delaware County Daily Times on the differences between semi-automatic AR-15s and fully automatic firearms:

I explain it simply, an AR is a Chevy Malibu with a racing stripe; it is not an Indy Car.

Passing Gun Rights on to New Generations

Divemedic recently left a comment that certainly resonated with me because I think all serious activists feel this way at some point:

I hate to say it, but I am getting to the age where I am not really fighting for my rights any longer, nor even my children’s rights. My children are all over 30 years old. They are old enough to fight for themselves.

To tell the truth, I am tired. I have been fighting this battle and arguing with misinformed nitwits for over 30 years, and they still use the same old, tired talking points.

At this point, I am fighting for the rights of my grandchildren.

I don’t disparage anyone who puts in years of working for a cause at all. It does get tiring. Even with blogging, there are very few issues we haven’t covered before. This isn’t an issue or hobby that sees exciting new changes every few months. There aren’t really any radical new discoveries to pull us back in when things get old.

But the notion of fighting for grandchildren got me thinking, especially where kids of gun owners haven’t really picked up the fight for gun rights in the same way. How will our descendants know about what was so dear to us? I don’t just mean the ones we know, but the ones we won’t ever know – 3rd, 5th, 7th great grandchildren.

And it’s not just a matter of us passing it on to our descendants, but what of our ancestors? In my family tree, there could easily be upwards of 7 generations of NRA members in theory. (In theory for my family because those early years were focused in Yankeeland, and my ancestors were all broke Southern farmers – including the Georgia & Tennessee boys who fought for the Union.) In reality, it’s more likely on recent generations for many people. But were my deceased grandfathers and great grandfathers ever members? I don’t know. Because I know there’s no real chance of ever getting NRA member records from the past opened up for research, I’m quite confident that I will never know.

But that’s where gun clubs & shooting match organizers can make a difference.

One way to make sure that news of the traditions are passed down would be submit news of shooting competitions and other events to the local media. That helps us now and documents our passions for the future.

The other thing that I believe gun clubs should seriously consider is some sort of historian officer who is charged with documenting, preserving, and thinking about all things history of the gun club and shooting sports. There’s the internal value of someone ready to share the history of the club with new members and make them see they are part of something bigger. And the fact that someone would be in charge of sorting & maintaining records, photos, and memorabilia that most people aren’t quite sure what to do with.

If you’re a member of a really, really old gun club, are there newsletters from the early days with people who are all deceased that could be digitized, bound, and donated to a local historical society? If they won’t take them, then consider starting a club blog that will share the history with the community in an interesting way. Most clubs have websites these days, so put them to use in sharing history and our present.

What about member applications from decades ago of long deceased members? Records that document people between censuses are genealogical gold in general, but if they also reflect the interests of the applicants at the time, that helps tell the story of those individuals. I realize there are privacy and safety implications in gun-related records, and I’m more than sensitive to those as someone whose information was published as a concealed carry license holder in Virginia who lived next to a threatening neighbor. That’s why I’m specifically saying to look for records for people who are long deceased.

For me, it starts small. In my genealogy software, I’ll mark the family members who I know are/were proud NRA members. Eventually, as time and people pass, that information will make it out into the family histories. For those who were really involved in the issue, it will make their obituaries. Hopefully we can do more to create a better documented history of our own contributions to protecting the Second Amendment so that the Second Amendment supporters in 50, 100, and hopefully 200 years will know they are part of something much bigger. They won’t be relying on wills and estate inventories to see if we owned guns or left some to the NRA. They will know because we spoke out.

Reminders About Action to Push Back on Gun Control

So many gun control advocates really do believe that the only reason guns aren’t banned yet is because of the NRA. They really do not understand that we’re bigger than the NRA. NRA membership is held by only a few of the millions of gun owners and pro-gun people. It’s not a top-down organization that tells us to jump. We tell the organization to jump.

A few years ago, I wrote a series of posts of very specific ideas that people with different backgrounds and connections in the pro-gun community could take to protect their rights. There’s a good chance that some of those ideas need to be dusted off.

Here’s the list for:

If any readers tried some of these suggestions, feel free to share how they went over. Not every idea will work for every situation, but this should cover a great number of ways to engage people who are otherwise intimidated by the process of fighting gun control.

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