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Looks Like PA’s “Red Flag” Bill is Getting a Floor Vote

A vote could happen as soon as today, so be sure to call. I made probably a weekend’s worth of work for myself getting my club involved.

I don’t understand why people think we need HR 2227, the “Red Flag” law, when it’s trivially easy to make someone a prohibited person in Pennsylvania by 302ing them for psychological observation, and we already have prohibitions for people who file a Protection of Abuse order. This is probably harder to get than a PFA. So what’s the point? I think the point is Bloomberg thinks he can get this, and he’s right. Republicans love themselves some law-and-order, and if you can figure out how to get them chasing after that bone, you can beat NRA.

My issue with this bill is that in certain jurisdictions, like Philadelphia, these ERPOs are going to be rubber stamped. They’ll issue the order as a matter of routine. I also don’t really like that it defines “Family or Household Member” as “other persons related by consanguinity.” I have non-immediately family members deeply concerned about my mental health because I shoot. I get their are penalties for abuse, but what about cranks that think anyone who likes guns is off their rocker? What’s to prevent an abusive husband from using this to disarm a spouse? Nothing. I am also disturbed that the evidentiary standard for applying an ERPO is “preponderance of the evidence” (a lower standard) but getting one removed is “clear and convincing evidence” (a higher standard). The default legal disposition is “easy to get an ERPO, hard to get rid of an ERPO” which is exactly how it will be done in practice.

This also won’t do jack to stop mass shooters. We’ve seen in recent cases where authorities and families don’t take the barest of measures, readily available. So what’s adding more bullshit that’s only going to get abused by the authorities? I’m so glad we have the Republican Party to protect our gun rights. So glad. Such a great job they are doing.

Time to Light up the Switchboards

Gun control on the move in Pennsylvania. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Bloomberg is going to be relentless, and given how squishy Republicans in this state have been getting, I would not count on anything. Give your lawmaker a ringy dingy or drop him a line somehow to let him or her know you oppose gun control, and these bills specifically.

NRA makes it easy. If you don’t have time, hit their “Take Action” link. But personal contact is always more effective.

PA Primary Results

The big news going around is that four open socialists won in the Dem primaries, bragging that Pennsylvania is turning the right kind of red. For people who think “this makes them easy to beat,” two of those socialists have already won, because they face no challenger. Those are very safe Dem seats. Also, socialism is not a bad word anymore. I don’t care that most young people don’t know what socialism is when they mention they support it; they didn’t grow up with it being a bad word. Venezuela can happen here. It’s nothing to take lightly. Eventually, I believe the loons will be firmly in charge of both parties. That’s just the way things are going. But which side’s loons are closer to the mainstream?

Those of you who live in my district, the 8th 1st Congressional District, no doubt know that Dean Malik was trounced by Brian “I Love Assault Weapons Bans” Fitzpatrick. This isn’t surprising. Malik ran an awful campaign. Fitzpatrick’s last minute ads on Facebook touting his conservative bonafides were so awful as to be laughable, but only if you’re paying attention, which most people aren’t.

Malik ran on a “Real Republican” and “Real Conservative” message. Guess what the new voters Trump has bought into the coalition don’t give a crap about? Malik never really made the case for why it was better to replace Fitzpatrick with himself. He ran on a more conservative than thou platform rather than building a case against Fitzpatrick with voters. If he did, I never noticed it. The only TV ad for Malik I saw was vague and generally awful. While I’ll grant that “Real Republican” is at least not so awful as “The Time is Now” as a campaign message, it’s not a deal sealing message.

I am a Gen Xer, but I consume information more like millennials do. I don’t have cable, and don’t watch TV. I am really only reachable these days via social media, e-mail, and streaming video ads. I saw a ton of ads for Scott Wagner. I knew who he was early. Neither Malik nor Mango (seriously, if your last name is Mango, you don’t have a future in politics) reached me with anything, and the stuff I sought out wasn’t compelling. Facebook ads are dirt cheap and very effective. I hate Facebook, but there’s no excuse, other than cluelessness, for not using it heavily. This is not even about reaching young voters: young voters use different social media. Facebook is for reaching core political demographics of middle aged and older voters.

That said, if I’m Brian Fitzpatrick, I’m not feeling too good that 1/3rd of my base hates me enough to vote me out for a candidate that ran a ho-hum campaign. I am feeling good that the Dem establishment candidate got beaten from the left. But the redistricting isn’t going to help Fitz any. Neither is the fact that neither myself nor a lot of other gun voters will ever vote for him again. Once you endorse gun bans, what difference is there between you an the Democrat? Wallace is a nut, but do I hate the nut enough to vote for the worm?

I get this is not a solidly conservative district, and any candidate is going to have to be left of the base, but my problem with the Fitzpatricks is that they’ve never played that game well. They play the game like they don’t really understand their base. Any candidate standing more center than their base is going to do a few things here and there to disappoint, but the Fitzpatricks are constant disappointment. I say this as someone who volunteered for Mike Fitzpatrick’s campaign to oust Patrick Murphy. As it is now, I would have been better off with Murphy, who at least supported National Reciprocity! The Fitzpatricks have made clear they don’t give a shit about gun owners, so I no longer give a shit about them. I’m done with the Fitzpatricks.

New Tactic to Shut Down Open Carry?

I was very concerned when I heard police in Montgomery County 302’d (involuntary observational commitment) someone for open carrying an AR-15. I don’t consider it wise to open carry an AR-15 down the streets of suburbia, but 302ing someone for politically distasteful behavior is reminiscent of the Soviet Union, and along the lines of “things we worry about” when we’re talking mental health issues and guns. Some people out there, after all, consider an interest in firearms to be a sign of mental instability.

But this article suggests there were other factors involved other than the open carrying:

Rather, police acted after some of the man’s friends messaged police via Facebook with concerns about his behavior and change in mental status.

One witness told police the young man talked of “shooting up” Penn State Abington back in January.

More recently, the man texted the friend a picture of the AR-15, saying “look what I just got.”

OK. If the allegation is true and the witness credible, in this context the 302 is a lot more understandable. But I worry law enforcement might get an idea that a trip to the loony bin for evaluation is the new “Disorderly Conduct” charge if you want to nail someone for open carrying because the responding officer doesn’t like it.

The Issue in PA At the Moment

Our neighbor Delaware will get a “red flag” law. There’s a bunch of bills working through the legislature in Pennsylvania right now. Quinn’s bill I’m not quite so concerned about, because it pertains to people that are already prohibited under current law. I’m more concerned about the “red flag” law working its way up in PA. On the surface, it would appear to have more due process than the early states that adopted these laws, like California. It’s something to keep an eye on. I think, overall, we’re probably better off if these don’t pass. In each of these mass shootings, we’ve seen that officials haven’t even done the barest amount of work under existing laws to intervene and prevent the shooters from legally acquiring firearms. I don’t see how adding more laws that no one will bother with is going to help. Mass shootings will still happen, and almost by definition, those are going to be committed by the people who managed to slip through the network of laws in place to try to prevent this kind of thing.

NRA’s concession on this “red flag” issue, in exchange for more due process, is pissing a lot of people off. I don’t like to losing either. You know what lobbyists also don’t like? Losing. A lot of people seem to think NRA lobbyists sit around all day thinking “Gee, what issue can we concede on next?” Do you think none of these people have anything to lose themselves? No. They are all gun owners. Almost all of them I’ve met are Gun Culture 2.0 types. They are not going to call a tactical retreat without a decent amount of necessity.

I’ll keep repeating this until I’m blue in the face, because a lot of people need to hear it: you don’t always have a choice between winning and losing. Sometimes it’s between losing badly and or not so badly. NRA will always take not so badly. Things get real unpredictable and stakes get real high when you throw all in. Sometimes you have to do that, but you need to know when to do that. Currently the defend at all costs ground are semi-auto rifles and magazine bans. That’s where the fight is. Don’t lose sight of that.

PA-18 Special Election Result

While Connor Lamb’s victory in PA-18 is bad news for the Republican Party, there’s a few takeaways that I think are worth looking at:

  • Both candidates were hand picked by the party. The Dems picked a pro-gun, pro-union Blue Dog who is the kind of candidate that traditionally won in that district when it was a Dem district. The GOP picked Rick Saccone, who ran on a platform of Right-to-Work, practically guaranteeing that unions, who are strong in that district, would spend and organize heavily against him. Candidates matter. We don’t elect parties in our system.
  • If the Dems replicate that strategy, which they will struggle to do where the candidate has to fight an actual primary, we shall be in good shape gun rights wise. Because that sell out by the GOP in Florida? They know all they have to do is be better than the other guy. The reason the Dems are so ra-ra for gun control is because it doesn’t cost them anything. If suddenly they have their majority back on a Blue Dog wave, we’ll be in the situation again where both parties will compete for our vote, as we saw in PA-18. It also gives the leadership something to lose.
  • On the downside, the Dem leadership sacrificed the last Blue Dog wave on the altar of Obamacare. But they got it, and the hapless GOP has so far been unable to undo it. What will the next Blue Dog wave be sacrificed for? Gun Control? It’s happened before, so I would not rule it out. Remember, what brought us to this present situation is that the NRA could not single-handedly save the Blue Dogs from voters angry at the Blue Dogs over Obamacare. That greatly changed the calculus for the Dem leadership, who then had nothing more to lose.

That said, the GOP is almost certainly in trouble for 2018. The Dems have more to defend in the Senate race, so I don’t know what chance I give them of taking the Senate, but I’d say it’s an uphill climb. However, if they can successfully execute a Blue Dog return to power, I’d say the GOP loses the house. That’s going to be hard, because it’s pretty apparent the Dems will celebrate for now, their progressive base isn’t happy they had to win that election with a conservative leaning Democrat.

PA Supreme Court Usurps Legislative Prerogative

This isn’t directly a gun issue, but for those Pennsylvanians that may not have hard, the PA Supreme Court, controlled now by Democrats because our voters penchant for ticket splitting,  decided to declare our Congressional districts unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution. On what grounds? We have no idea. Because the Court released the order to the legislature and governor to act in the next few weeks, or else the Court will draw new districts for them. Act how? They can’t know. Because there’s no opinion and no guidelines. The legislature has to have a plan to the Governor by February 9th. The Governor and the legislature have to have a final plan submitted to the Court by February 15th. Keep in mind the legislature is under GOP control and the Governor is a Dem. The Court knows this is an impossible deadline. They intend to usurp the process. They will act as a legislature. They are now a lawless body.

What’s worse? There’s no clear federal question to get the US Supreme Court to intervene. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the final arbiter on Pennsylvania law and the Pennsylvania Constitution, absent a federal question.

I struggle to even find where in the Pennsylvania Constitution it mentions Congressional Districts. It prescribes how state House and Senate districts are to be drawn. Under what grounds could this possibly be based? I don’t know. There’s no opinion.

Now, we’d have an easy federal question here, because there is a body drawing federal congressional districts, and that body is not the Pennsylvania legislature. But back 2015 the Supreme Court decided Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which held that it was just fine and dandy for the legislature to delegate it’s power under the federal constitution to draw districts to an entity not itself (commission, or to referendum, etc). However in this case, the legislature delegated nothing. The PA Supreme Court has taken this power upon itself. So I still think we may have a federal issue to raise with the Elections Clause. [UPDATE: Looking more at the details of  how it happen in Arizona, it looks like the commission was set up by the ballot. So the voters took away deciding districts from the legislature, not the legislature delegating it. Either way, I think the case was wrongly decided. It’s long been time to make the non-delegation doctrine great again.]

Also, and this is probably more a stretch, even though it should not be: I did not elect the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to act as my legislature and draw my Congressional Districts. I am guaranteed the right to a republican form of government under the federal constitution. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court acting as my legislature violates that guarantee.

To me this is a torches and pitchforks issue. In the matter of redistricting, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have declared themselves dictators. Never again will I vote for or to retain a Democrat on the Supreme Court, despite having done so in the past. I am not a mindless partisan, and mostly hate the Republican Party. I appreciate Democratic Justice Baer, who concurred with the finding that the districts were unconstitutional, but found the remedy too radical. He did the right thing. But your party did the wrong thing, and a blatantly partisan wrong thing. It’s such a wrong thing, the dissent to the remedy can’t fix it for me.

This is just too much of an insult to the voters in this Commonwealth.

Picking a Gun Fight

Governor Wolf may not have been expecting a fight over guns, but he sure as hell got one. There is a little known (outside of gun circles) provision in Pennsylvania law that when a state of emergency is declared, the only people who become eligible to possess firearms “on the public streets” are military, police, and people who have a License to Carry Firearms.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has been hit particularly hard by opioid addiction. So naturally things will tend to follow the progression of politicians and pearl clutchers everywhere: this is a crisis of epic proportion, so Something Must Be Done. Declaring a State of Emergency over the opiods is Something, so therefore it Must Be Done.

There’s an effort growing to change the state of emergency law to remove the firearms ban. This would be a good idea. And since I believe the Governor did not intend to pick a fight on this issue, we might have a reasonable shot at getting him to sign it. It will also be interesting to see the gun control groups fight this, because of course having complex laws in place no one knows about means more people like you and me in prison, where no doubt many of them believe we belong.

After Action Report in a Philly Ring County

Someone who knows I’m a registered Republican even though I’m more libertarian than they really like and not enough party cheerleader. But a local woman posted something about Bucks County GOP losses this morning that made me think there was room for some serious observations about things both large and small local and county candidates could have done to improve their odds in an opposition party wave year – a factor that was completely predictable.

Of course, I should have known better than to assume anyone was interested in talking about things they saw that worked well for candidates and missed opportunities for others. People would rather scream “SHAME!” than actually think about things they could help do for their candidates of choice in next year’s elections.

I guess I’m sharing an edited version here since I hope that someone might be willing to be inspired by some of these thoughts and ultimately make a positive impact for gun rights.

Locally, I don’t think most of the GOP candidates prepared to run in what is, historically, going to be a year that favors the opposite party. There were some small things I noticed that probably made a difference, and then some big concepts, too.

For most of the county-level offices, other than glossy mailers that immediately go into the recycling bin, all I ever saw were the generic blue signs that had lots of last names with no visible office listed. The offices were listed on the signs, but nearly impossible to read in much smaller print squeezed between 3-5 last names of various GOP candidates on plain blue backgrounds. Even the glossy mailers I got a look at as they fell into the trash all had many candidates for different offices so that they all blended together.

In a specific an example, for sheriff, I knew a guy named Milt Warrell was on the ticket because his signs were big, bold, clear, and not typical campaign colors. They were bright yellow and black. If it weren’t for the fact that I knew the GOP incumbent had a different name, then I would not have know Milt was a Democrat or anything else. But, unlike the GOP candidate, I knew he was running for sheriff. Milt’s visible campaigning just showed him being something different and that he was clearly running for that office.

I get that local campaigns don’t have major resources to spend, and that’s why they try to campaign together. However, it’s not acceptable to have literally no individual efforts. First of all, and this is pretty important in a purple-blue state for Republicans, you need to accommodate the ticket splitters. There have been times when I’ll take a sign for one candidate, but leave the others behind because I’m not on board with them. So why should the guy or gal I like miss out?

On the state level, Sallie Munday, a candidate for our state Supreme Court, clearly benefitted from split ticket voting given the spread she put up statewide. As much as I hate to admit it, I do think part of it was because she is a woman. (There were several races where GOP women beat Dem men by percentages that aren’t likely explained by much more than they won the women’s vote because they are women.) But I think the significant vote spread was also because she was willing to run very targeted social media ads that don’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. Even before I had my NRA orange mailer on her endorsed candidacy, I was getting ads for her on the issues I clearly follow on Facebook. I knew her name well before Election Day, before the NRA ever sent anything about her, and on issues I care about.

On a side note, what was up with NRA PVF having multiple statewide-endorsed candidates in Pennsylvania and then leaving them off of their website? We had to go through the effort to scan in the mailer to share with Sebastian’s gun club. It would have been easier to point to a public webpage like we could with New Jersey.

Back to the Pennsylvania state races… Christine Fizzano Cannon was also doing some ads, though not as targeted as Munday’s, but enough that I knew she was a ballot for something. However, her good move was to do several “alert” style ads starting around 11:00am on Election Day over the fact that Philadelphia purposefully printed her name incorrectly on about half of their voting machines. I don’t know if she ran those sponsored posts statewide, but every time I opened Facebook yesterday, I saw one here in a ring county. That plays very well into the narrative most suburbanites and “T” people have that Philly is corrupt. That’s hours of sending a message out there that will motivate many who may have been uninspired to make sure and hit the voting booth on the way home. Not to mention, the specific reason her name was chopped in Philly could have caused some split voting tickets because it’s something unique to women who don’t give up their maiden names, but also use their husband’s names. Philly decided not to recognize her “2nd” last name on half of their machines. That’s not something most men would face, and women know it. She beat out a Democratic woman, and I suspect that if we could get the timing of those votes cast for her, there was an uptick after she got the word out about Philly screwing her over.

There is one exception to the social media spending that didn’t win in a race I was watching closely, and that’s a local supervisor candidate. He started spending on Facebook ads right before the election, but they weren’t targeted (beyond location) and they were reproductions of those glossy mailers that go straight into trash. They didn’t tell me anything about him. It’s like someone told him to spend something online, but he didn’t know about any of the power to really target it. And since guns have come up as a local issue, he could have done something. I’m sure that’s true for a variety of other local issues that he didn’t really hit on.

I don’t think that online ad spending is the ticket to success, but I do think that individual campaigns that at least tried to talk about issues voters care about won out here over generic 3-5 candidate signs that barely fit the office names on there. It was expected to be an opposition party wave year, and they didn’t run like it at all here in Bucks County.

I also won’t ignore that Trump was a factor, even though federal races weren’t on the ticket here. But that isn’t a surprise since this is typically the result when one party takes the White House the previous year. One way to both run against what many find off-putting about Trump without actually running against him and his policies is to make yourself really likable. I see a huge missed opportunity with one relatively small office in Pennsylvania that could really spawn a lot of fun online ad themes, and that’s Prothonotary. I still can’t say it. I still don’t fully understand what they do (even though I believe some of it is genealogically-related), and I can assure you that other regular and irregular voters are in the same boat. Surely someone in a candidate’s circle of friends or family could help draft a series of funny videos around that theme. Run them online for not much money, and that could have been one more county office to hold onto just by running on a platform of being a likable person with a sense of humor.

There’s also the mobilization issue. How many GOP-leaning voters were put off by a lack of enthusiasm, a dislike of driving in dark and rain, and heavy rain? In an aging state like Pennsylvania, probably quite a few. Was there an effort to reach out to older voters who otherwise would have gone to vote? I don’t know. I know that some races were close enough that everything should be on the table as proposals to GOTV for the county GOP. I also know enough to know that they won’t do it here. Sad.

Good News in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied appeal on FOAC et al. v. Lower Merion Township, basically upholding the ruling in Commonwealth Court that their ordinance banning firearms and discharge in township parks was illegal.

Our current preemption law usually works when we can take these ordinances to court, but getting them there is difficult.

Also from Josh Prince: “It is time for the citizens of Pennsylvania to stop paying millions of dollars, each year, for a broken and duplicative system, when the FBI offer NICS to us for free.” PICS is awful. At some point I’d like to see a bill in Congress to eliminate POC states. That way there’s only one entity to keep an eye on. POC state agencies have gotten away with a lot worse malfeasance than the FBI, and the FBI does a much better job with uptime on NICS than the PSP does with PICS, which is very outage prone for as much as it’s costing taxpayers.

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