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.

Russians! In the NRA!

This story in Newsweek, which these days has about as much credibility as the Weekly World News, is following up on this story from McClatchy There’s nothing illegal or unethical about a foreign national being a member of the NRA, or NRA taking money from a foreign national provided the law is being complied with. This is a case of put up or shut up. Alexander Torshin, a Russian oligarch, cannot legally donate to NRA-PVF. If any of these journalists have evidence that Torshin donated to PVF and NRA took the money, by all means, proffer your evidence. Otherwise, there’s nothing to see here. If Russian oligarchs want to give money to promote and protect the shooting sports and the right to keep and bear arms in America, I don’t see any reason not to take their money, provided they are donating to efforts that it’s legal for foreign nationals to donate to. NRA has plenty of non-political funds that would qualify. Until Russian nationals try to get on the NRA Board, or use their power as donors to get Russians flunkies into key staff positions, this isn’t something I’m going to worry about.

Friday Night Funny

Presented without further comment for your Friday evening:

Maybe just one comment: enjoy it with a tropical frozen adult beverage with little a tiny umbrella.

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.

Enemies Within?

I’ve hardly seen anything more over the top than Adam Kraut’s campaign for the NRA Board, and some Board members response to it. Marion isn’t the only one I’ve seen making comments that range from “good point” to “Oh sweet Jesus that’s nuts.” This is one of those cases where I’m probably just going to piss everyone off, so I might as well get on with it. Lately I’ve liked bullet pointing issues, so I’ll go with that:

  • The idea that Adam Kraut is some kind of Bloomberg plant or is financially motivated seems fantastical to me, so I’m inclined to not believe it if it’s not presented with evidence as equally convincing as the charge is nuts.
  • I’m skeptical of anyone who wants to be on the Board that bad. Seriously: you’re one of 76 people if you win. You’re ability to influence things is pretty limited. This is doubly true if you got on the Board by essentially running against it.
  • Let me turn that last point around to those attacking him: Adam Kraut would be one of 76 directors if he won. Why the flamethrowers? You do realize by attacking him like this, you raise the profile of his campaign? This backlash is making you all look petty and out of touch. You’re playing right into the hands of those who oppose many on the board right now.
  • You can say a lot of things about Marion Hammer, but Marion Hammer is the reason we have concealed carry. I would not advise anyone who wants to get on the NRA Board to do so by antagonizing her. I’m not saying she’s beyond criticism. No one is. But she’s the one who got the ball rolling legislatively by getting the Florida Legislature to take a bite of the apple. Concealed carry was a social movement, so I do not wish to go so far as to say that Marion single handedly did it. We all did it. But getting Florida to jump first was a huge accomplishment that got the boxcar over the hump.

I’ve always thought the best way to get on the NRA Board is to first, put in your time on the issue and the organization’s many activities. There’s a lot of ways to do that. Second, hang around Board meetings, get to know Board members, see if you might be able to get someone to help score you a committee assignment. Third, do a good job on that committee. Finally, try to get nominated. That to me is the path of least resistance. But I suppose it’s hard to change the good ol’ boys club by playing by its rules. But you know what else is hard? Trying to change the boys club by antagonizing it.

I’ll be the first to admit I’d make a poor revolutionary, but I’ve found it’s better wait patiently, to recognize opportunity, and be ready to exploit it when the time comes, than to try to force it.

Domestic Violence Prohibition Upheld

A federal court has ruled that the prohibition on domestic violence misdemeanants from keeping and bearing arms is constitutional. This is not surprising, since the Supreme Court has basically signals to the lower courts that they are free to ignore Heller and McDonald, and that they need not fear having their ruling, however awful, overturned. Here’s things I wish courts would consider:

  • There’s a difference in degree of infringement between someone who already owns firearms and being forced to give them up, and someone who does not own firearms not being able to buy any for the duration of the prohibition.
  • While the Lautenberg Amendment may not be an ex post facto law, the application of the prohibition on anyone who was ever convicted is a violation of their right to due process under the 5th and 14th Amendments.
  • Lifetime prohibitions triggered by misdemeanor convictions should always be regarded with considerable suspicion in regards to constitutionality.
  • Prohibitions should be something applied by judges as part of a sentence. The retroactive application of a prohibition is always a due process violation, even for felons. A defendant has to know which of his rights are on the line at the time he is accused and tried.

I don’t think applying a temporary prohibition to misdemeanants is on its face unconstitutional, but Lautenberg probably should be.

All HTTPS, All The Time

I’ve finally implemented making the site entirely HTTPS for all content. I’ve wanted to make it work for a while, but it took a while to finally pull the trigger. That not only keeps Google happy, it should keep everyone happy. Ordinarily, a redirect is easy, but I have a lot of widgets and old content that had hard coded links I had to find and change. But it seems to be working OK now, and I get green in Chrome and Safari.

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.

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