Twilight of a Republic?

Sebastian expressed his amusement over the news that a Clinton staffer was offered an immunity deal as part of the email brouhaha. I can’t say I didn’t feel some schadenfreude when I heard the news, but I’ve had time to think it over since. And now I’m actually a little worried. This ups the ante for Ms. Clinton. Someone on her team believes not only that a crime occurred (Pagliano has already invoked his 5th amendment rights in testimony before Congress), but that there is a substantial risk the FBI can prove he himself was involved. The thing is, though, the FBI would only offer immunity if they believed he can tee up someone bigger. There aren’t a whole lot of bigger frogs in the pond, though. Ms. Clinton is very close to a scenario where she either becomes president or suffers a catastrophic disgrace when the whole mishandling of classified information scandal crashes down on her inner circle, and herself.

That worries me, if there is no graceful exit option for her. The underlings now have one – negotiate a deal with the FBI (while they still can, anyway). But that’s not available to the head of the organization. Neither is resigning to avoid prosecution. Accepting a pardon from this or a future non-Clinton administration is barely an option, I suppose, but it still leaves her “brand” badly tarnished. I don’t really want to see what Ms. Clinton might do on deadly ground (to quote Sun Tzu).

The threat of OSHA is already here

Sebastian wonders if a firearms-unfriendly OSHA could be used to attack firearms rights. But it’s not a crackdown on firearms-friendly employers that worries me so much as a crackdown on ranges for lead poisoning. Gun ranges are the cradle of gun culture, and we’ve already seen that our most dangerous enemies are attacking our ability to transfer that culture to new people (via “transfer restrictions.”) Most ranges are small-business (or equivalent) operations, which are hard to regulate easily, but easy to stifle by regulation. And the real hard truth is, yes, a lot of ranges are not doing enough to mitigate lead exposure because it’s hard and expensive. The Seattle Times article is a hit piece, but it’s an effective one. And the owners of the ranges highlighted for multiple severe violations are not doing themselves or the cause any good by not addressing the issues.

This is something NSSF and NRA ought to be educating the range owners about, a strong voluntary industry initiative before the smothering hand of government regulation and enforcement descends. (Which they may have started to do. I originally saw the Seattle Times article when Tam went to work at a gun store/range, when someone asked her if her employer was aware of an educational lead abatement program.) We’ve managed to instill the 4 Rules of Firearms Safety as a core value of Gun Culture 2.0; now we need to instill something similar for where to shoot, along with how to shoot. The problem is that a lot of range owner/operators predate Gun Culture 2.0, and it may not be possible to edit this part of the culture until they age out.

Of course, in the end this is another case of “enforce the existing laws.” According to the linked article, some of the highlighted ranges could have been taken down hard for knowing and continuing egregious violations, but they were cut slack and let slide. I have to wonder if nailing a couple of the really egregious examples “pour encourager les autres” would be beneficial in the long run.

Run, Mike, Run

While I can’t say as I’d vote for the man, I heartily encourage Michael Bloomberg to run for president as an Independent. Especially if he’s going to self-fund. All of my political enemies should have an expensive and impossible hobby.

Other people’s political capital

From an LA Times piece, we get the following quote on why President Obama is looking into unilateral executive action on gun control:

“If this succeeds, it will save lives. If it fails legally, the cost is only political,” [Senator Christopher] Murphy [D-Conn] said. “When you’re talking about weighing lives saved versus political capital lost, it’s a no-brainer.”

What Senator Murphy says about political capital is true – the cost of this effort will be counted in political capital. What he’s not saying is that it’s not the President’s political capital that will pay; it’s the political capital of the Democratic party. The President has spent a lot of political capital over the past 7 years, but very little of it has been his own. It’s been the capital of the Democratic party. And by gambling with the Democratic political capital, he’s been able to force the Republicans to match, raise, or fold. If he wins, he gets the credit (and the capital). If he loses, well, it’s all someone else’s fault. Which is a neat trick. I’m still a little surprised that the congressional Dems are willing to let him draw on their capital to put his name on successes, but leave Congress the failures. The last few years, sticking Congress with the failures means sticking the Republicans with it, admittedly, but still.

This is another one of his Heads I win, tails You lose gambits. He’s going to try, and if it doesn’t work, then it’s the work of The Enemy, who wants Dead Babies.Which makes sense for his future aspirations (global talking head), but is yet another drip of corrosive in the mechanism of politics. Après moi le déluge, indeed.

Ecumenical Clock Scares

This one evidently caused by an Israeli student. And ending with yet another Police Praise PSH. (Hey, maybe we need another tag, Sebastian?) This should be interesting to watch unfold. That had to have annoyed a lot of commuters, too; US 9 is a major artery for the area, as is NJ 18.

No pictures yet – if I come across one I’ll update. Wonder if he’ll be invited to the White House?

PA Police Promote PSH

I don’t see how this “case of mistaken identity” had a positive outcome, other than no-one was harmed by the police responding to a bogus “Man With Gun” call. And then the cops double down and encourage people to make bogus calls. Topped off by the Lancaster Safety Coalition “review[ing] footage” and “see[ing] how the tripod could be mistaken for a gun at first glance.” Mrs Grundy in the 21st Century?

The Cleaning of the Glock

Did what I should have done last night, and broke down the Glock to clean and lube it, and went beyond my usual field-strip, toothbrush the slide assembly and snake the bore, drop a little lube and call it done. (Given that the usual advice seems to be to break down the slide assembly for cleaning every 3K rounds or so, I don’t think I was being that neglectful).

Took apart the slide assembly. The firing pin was pretty clean (I mean, it left some dirt behind when I wiped it down, but nothing bigger than some dust), and most of the rest of the slide assembly was the same. The extractor, though, had collected a bunch of gritty-looking nastiness, and the firing pin safety had a small collection of its own. Didn’t appear to prevent function (I never had any failures to extract), but I cleaned it all up anyway. Found an empty rattling around the safe in the process, (from a previous range session, I didn’t have any open containers with me at the firing line this time, and there was no brass in my pocket either), and compared the striker impact to the photos of the duds, and the empty was definitely a center hit and showed a faint rectangular outline around the main impact point, so whoever it was that had “light off-center strikes” in the pool wins a no-prize. It’ll probably be a couple of weeks before I can make it out to the range again to test-fire (and make sure I got the extractor in right).

I’d say “why only those three rounds,” but the answer is probably somewhere around “tolerance stacking.”

Bang, Bang, Click?

I finally made it out to the range for the first time in (mumblemumble). Had fun, but of the 100 rounds of 9mm Remington UMC expended, I had 3 failure to fire. The weird thing is, they all happened out of the same string in one magazine (of the 10 rounds loaded, 7 went bang, 3 went click), were not adjacent, and the next 10 rounds out of the same magazine were fine. I recovered the rounds and took a picture.IMG_20150923_152859017

Since I’m actually somewhat inexperienced at actually shooting, I figured I’d ask here: did I just get unlucky, or is there something I did or failed to do here?

Pistol is a G17L, with probably somewhat less than a thousand rounds down the pipe since I’ve owned it, and it was allegedly new when I purchased it. I’ll run a boresnake after a range session and usually take the slide assembly apart and scrub the places the book says I should – range sessions are 100-150 rounds. It’s sat unfired for a couple years since last session. Magazine is OEM 10-round.

I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that the ATF made this determination

(With my best Capt. Renault impression).

So, the ATF went and sent a letter (PDF link) to the manufacturer of Can Cannons that said their product was not a firearm, but that attaching it to a rifle receiver made the rifle a Short-Barreled-Rifle, or attaching it to a pistol receiver made the pistol an AOW. Cue Internet Rage(TM).

As you might have gathered, I’m not at all surprised by this determination. This device does not, after all, stop the receiver from being a “firearm,” being basically a variation on a blank-firing-adapter. And it’s shorter than 16″ (short-barreled), and a smoothbore (AOW for pistol). This is a consequence of the Can Cannon being a accessory to what is legally a firearm. If they had instead built it as a complete unit, completely unable to fire conventional ammo, things might be different. As it is, though, an AR-15 doesn’t stop being a firearm when you mount a Can Cannon on it.

This is just another reminder of how mind-numbingly stupid the patch to NFA’34 to allow handguns, but still effectively ban anything that could be considered a handgun but isn’t actually a handgun. (That sentence hurt just as much to write as it does to read, I assure you, but was the only way I could express how I understand the history of the Act.)

On the other hand, I am a little surprised they didn’t just rule the assembled weapon as a Destructive Device (that bore is way bigger that 0.50″)


EDIT: The ATF Determination Letter

A high-schooler, a clock, a bomb?

L’affaire Ahmed has been reverberating across my facebook feed for a while now, and it looks like we’ve gotten about all the facts that are going to be shaken loose outside of discovery in a civil suit (if there is one). And while I can’t say I’m surprised at some of the knicker-twisting, I’m a little disappointed. First, a picture of the clock (or hoax bomb). CNN says this is police provided. No real scale is provided, but note the power plug – the case is approximately the size of the top half of a piece of paper, when closed, per this amazon listing. (Amazon listing complete with self-amusing internet jokers in comments)


clockbox closeup

According to this post and comments (which is where I pulled the above pics from), the guts are a 1970s-1980s vintage digital clock, contained in a pencil box available on Amazon. Since the CNN article notes that it was discovered in Ahmed’s backpack when an alarm went off, I’m going to assume that there was a 9V battery in place at the time (or some other on-board power source since removed).

Now, there are (at least) two competing narratives running around. Ahmed’s story is that he made this as an alarm clock, brought it in to show a teacher, and then another teacher discovered it and brought it to the attention of the authorities, who then flipped out, etc. The other narrative is that he deliberately made a fake bomb, and allowed it to be discovered, because Reasons. The second narrative really doesn’t pass Occam’s Razor for me, though. First, that’s a really bad fake IED. A real IED is supposed to be innocuous, of course, and not draw attention to itself until too late. A fake one, that you might want to use in a bomb scare, on the other hand, needs to be obvious. This is a pencil box when closed up, with nothing (except possibly the power cord) showing on the outside to make you think it’s anything else. And when it’s open, where’s the “payload?” Even Hollywood Bombs have obvious explosives in them. No play-doh, no red-painted cylinders with wires coming off of them, nothing that shouts “I’m a thirty-minute bomb, I’m a thirty-minute bomb!” Secondly, there’s the whole “he didn’t make that” meme, because it’s a commercial product, disassembled and half-way mounted into the case; rather than being a from-scratch project. The thing is, it’s a 30-ish year old clock, in a recent case. There’s an incongruity there that irks me. Finally, Ahmed’s behavior doesn’t fit. Why did he establish the device was his own practically as the first thing he did upon bringing it to school, and why did he maintain possession of it the entire time he was in school?

Here’s my theory. A 14-year old tinkerer was bored one day and opened up a broken alarm clock made before he was born, and got it working again (loose wire, broken solder, what have you). He decides to install the repaired clock into a pencil case, and he’s “made” himself a custom alarm clock from stuff lying around his desk. In a fit of 14-year-old enthusiasm and forethought typical of 14-year-old enthusiasm, he takes this alarm clock he made into school to show his friends and teachers this cool thing he did. In previous times, it might have been a shiny new pocketknife, or a wrist rocket (slingshot), etc. He shows it to a friendly teacher, who may have encouraged his ambitions, but tells him to keep it out of view because someone might overreact. Ahmed goes on with his day, forgetting he has an alarm set (or not knowing. I have a similar vintage alarm clock that is distressingly easy to accidentally arm the alarm on, and it’s defaulted to 0000 hrs. Very annoying). Alarm goes off in his backpack, disrupts class, teacher wants to see, teacher freaks. Then the school administration, being a bunch of zero-tolerance idiots, freaks and bring in Johnny Law. Ahmed insists he’s done nothing wrong – it’s a clock, see? Keeps time and everything. Possibly following the advice given out regularly around these parts of “don’t talk to the law without a lawyer.” The notable thing at this point is that the school administration never believed it was a real bomb, since they didn’t do evacuate the school or otherwise put into action bomb-scare plans. Instead, they jumped right to bringing down the hammer on what, at most, is a little understandable high-school-frosh eager stupidity, and thus splashing this all over the country.

Bringing the thing into school wasn’t the wisest idea in the world, and I’m not going to say the school should have not reacted at all, but calling the cops in and interrogating a student without benefit of counsel with the cops present? Yeesh.

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