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Snopes Gets This One Disastrously Wrong

Snopes, who likely didn’t consult any experts in this claim, say that it’s “Mostly True” that “President Trump signed a bill blocking Obama-era background checks on guns for people with mental illnesses.” Oh, how I wish for a fact checking site that just presented the facts without having to draw conclusions for me. This article is short on any actual facts, except a blurb from the AP, who likely know no more on gun laws than the person who write this article on Snopes. This is at best mixed, because while it’s not an outright lie, it’s a huge lie of omission.

Here FactCheck.org did a much better job of spelling out the facts of the issue. They seem to have done some actual research. So if you see people spreading that Snopes bullshit around, counter with this. Also note that it wasn’t just gun rights advocates who were against this rule. It was a broad coalition. I wrote about this issue back when it was happening, in a panel discussion given by Chris Zealand. By that time they had pushed the rule back from what it was originally to something that would have affected far less people, at least.

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.

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.

If at first you don’t succeed, Try Try Again

ANJRPC  is taking another shot at NJ’s May Issue permitting regime. The actual complaint can be found here (PDF).

Amusing quote:

“Plaintiffs acknowledge that the result they seek is contrary to Drake v. Filko, 724 F.3d 426 (3d Cir. 2014), but, for the reasons explained in Wrenn v. District of Columbia, 864 F.3d 650 (D.C. Cir. 2017), that case was wrongly decided.”

That’ll do well at the Circuit Court, I bet.

I wonder what Scott Bach thinks is going to change at SCOTUS in the next couple of years than will get SCOTUS to take this case up instead of letting it languish like all the other may-issue cases?

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.

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