Starting Anew

For all its flaws and quirks, there’s still something immensely satisfying about a fresh Windows XP installation1.

Next time I need to reinstall Windows on this old PC, I should see about just making an image of the installation when it’s still fresh so that I don’t need to go through the lengthy installation process. Oh well.

  1. Particularly one that’s going to be used to play old (pre-2005) video games that don’t run well under GNU/Linux or Vista. []

Heads Up

Looks like Frauk Lautenberg is proposing a new law that will “close the gun-show loophole.”

Of course, there is no such “loophole” — nothing that is illegal outside of a gunshow becomes legal on show grounds: dealers must still conduct background checks. Private individuals can sell their guns to other private individuals1 outside of the show, but many do so at gun shows as there’s a much larger market of gun enthusiasts roaming around looking for deals. Such shows tend to attract a large amount of cops, so there’s essentially no funny business. Very few2 guns used in crime come from gun shows; most are stolen.

According to Lautenberg’s website,

The Senators’ bill would close the loophole by requiring background checks on all sales at gun shows.  The bill defines a gun show as any event where 50 or more guns are offered or exhibited for sale. In addition, the bill would require:

  • gun show promoters to register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), maintain a list of vendors at all gun shows and ensure that all vendors acknowledge receipt of information about their legal obligations; and
  • federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to submit information, including the manufacturer/importer, model and serial number of firearms transferred at gun shows to the ATF’s National Tracing Center (NTC).  No personal information about either the seller or the purchaser would be given to the ATF.  Instead, as under current law, FFLs would maintain personal information in their files.  The National Tracing Center would request personal information from an FFL only if a firearm becomes the subject of a law enforcement trace request.

Emphasis mine. That part really worries me — why should guns bought at shows have to submitted to the NTC while guns bought outside of shows don’t? I wonder if such a requirement would fall afoul of the FOPA ’86?

There’s some fluffy compliments from the usual suspects: Reed, Feinstein, Helmke, etc. They talk about how this particular bill will be a panacea to gun-related crime without any references. They even trot out some people connected to Virginia Tech victims.

While the bill doesn’t explicitly prohibit individual person-to-person transfers3, it’s a big, troubling step in that direction.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if ordinary people had access to NICS if they wanted to run a check on a potential buyer, but this particular bill is a bad idea that would have no effect on crime.

I don’t have a bill number, but I urge you to write to your Congressmen to oppose this legislation.

  1. So long as they’re not doing so as part of a business. It’s really meant for occasional sales. []
  2. I seem to recall the number being about 1%, but I can’t find the exact number. []
  3. Even if it did, criminals would just ignore it and sell guns illegally as they do at present. []

Bam!

We are therefore persuaded that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it against the states and local governments.

- United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in this ruling.

Dave Hardy has more.

First Principles

Over the years, I’ve met several people who opposed the right to keep and bear arms. In some cases, these meetings resulted in discussion and debates on US firearm law and policy.

For the first year or two that I had these discussions, I found it very difficult to understand the other person’s position, and they had difficulty understanding mine. Eventually, I discovered why: we each held fundamentally different first principles.

For example, I hold the belief that the default state of rights is “on” — if someone wishes to create a new law or restriction, the onus is on them to justify their restriction. I’m consistent in the application of this belief: all rights default to “on,” whether they’re the right to speak freely, possess and use arms, maintain one’s privacy, have sex with any other consenting adult, end one’s life, ingest or otherwise consume intoxicating substances1, operate a vehicle, and so on so long as one exercises those rights in a manner that is safe, does not infringe on the rights of others, and takes responsibility for any effects of their actions.

Some people I know hold an opposite belief: that the default state of rights is (or should) be “off,” and that unless a specific thing or behavior is allowed, it is forbidden.

Some people straddle the line in that they believe that certian rights default to “off” and others default to “on” — a person may have a right to speak freely, but needs to justify their desire to possess arms. Perhaps they think that a person may have a right to own arms, but simultaneously think that one may not have consensual sex with another adult that does not fit with their personal beliefs. Another common one is that that one may own arms, but has no right to privacy.

When it comes to guns in particular, some believe that guns serve no useful purpose, and so one must demonstrate a “need” (such as being a member of the police or military) prior to being allowed to own one, while I believe that guns are useful, and one must demonstrate a “need” to justify a restriction on their ownership.

Once I discovered this fundamental difference in first principles, I realized why I was having so much difficulty understanding and being understood: discussions and debates are impossible if the participants do not agree upon a common set of first principles.

As such, I’ve stopped figuratively bashing my head against a brick wall when it comes to debating gun-specific issues, but instead focus on the two of us agreeing on compatible first principles, if possible.

  1. With the caveat that some substances may require a doctor’s perscription, as they might have harmful side-effects if not taken in a particular manner. []

What media bias?

unixronin takes the media to task in an interesting comparison between MSNBC and CNN. A brief exerpt:

Q:  How do you know when your news media is blowing smoke up your ass?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Barack Obama, reported by CNN:

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CNN) — Reviving a ban on assault weapons and more strictly enforcing existing gun laws could help tamp down drug violence that has run rampant on the U.S.-Mexican border, President Obama said Thursday.

Speaking alongside Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Obama said he has “not backed off at all” on a campaign pledge to try to restore the ban.  It was instituted under President Clinton and allowed to lapse by President George W. Bush.

“I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment right in our Constitution — the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners that want to keep their families safe — to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we know here in Mexico, are used to fuel violence,” Obama said.


No, those dates are not typos.  These are two diametrically opposite spins from two different news organizations, on the same day, about the same event.

…A:  Their lips move.

Sorry for any weird formatting. The LJ–>WordPress transition is interesting, to say the least.

He also discusses Obama’s discussion of the Tiahrt Amendment and ballistic fingerprinting:

The last point I would make is that there are going to be some opportunities where I think we can build some strong consensus.  I’ll give you one example, and that is the issue of gun tracing.  The tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information that have been used in major crimes — that’s information that we are still not giving to law enforcement, as a consequence of provisions that have been blocked in the United States Congress, and those are the areas where I think that we can make some significant progress early.

It’s pretty clear here, if you’re familiar with the issues in question, that this is apparently referring to two things — the Tiahrt Amendment, and ballistic fingerprinting.  Let’s look at those a moment separately.

First, the Tiahrt Amendment.  The Obama/Brady/Schumer/Feinstein/VPC/Bloomberg/etc position is that the Tiahrt Amendment prevents law enforcement from getting access to BATFE firearm trace information.  And this, bluntly, is a bald-faced lie.  Existing law, including Tiahrt, allows full access to firearm trace information to any law enforcement agency conducting any investigation for which it is relevant. If you have a legitimate need for the information, you can get it.

What the Tiahrt Amendment prohibits is non-law-enforcement organizations or individuals getting access to trace data in order to trawl it and use it for purposes for which it wasn’t ever intended and for which it isn’t meaningful. And that’s the part Feinstein, Bloomberg, Schumer, the Violence Policy Center and their ilk hate — because that’s what they want to be able to do.  It’s irrelevant to them whether the data actually means anything when used as they want to use it.  For example, they take it as a given that the existence of BATFE trace data on a firearm means that firearm has been used in a gun crime.  But that’s not so.  Just as a single example — how do you think police find the legal owners of stolen weapons?  …Exactly.  They request a BATFE trace.  Police bust a fence and find 20 or 30 guns in his stash?  How did he get them?  Trace time, baby.

I suspect that the next attacks on gun rights might come, not in the form of an outright ban, but perhaps in a “compromise1 on certain types of guns, or by attacking the Tiahrt Amendment. These attacks on our rights are subtle and often misundertsood. Keep alert.

  1. There is no “compromise” here. It’s an infringement of rights, period. []

Obama in Mexico

The Arizona Republic published an article discussing the various details of Obama’s recent trip to Mexico. While it covered a wide range of details, I was mostly concerned with the gun-related issues. I’ve taken some excerpts and made some comments below:

President Barack Obama, outlining plans to help Mexico combat drug violence, promised Thursday to resurrect a treaty against arms trafficking that has been stuck in Congress for 12 years, but rebuffed Mexico’s demands to curb sales of assault weapons that Mexico is demanding.

While I’m glad that he doesn’t seem inclined to promote an assault weapons scary-looking-gun ban, the fact that Mexico is “demanding” changes to American laws, particularly fundamental ones like the right to arms, is troubling.

Obama showed little appetite for reviving the 1994-2004 Assault Weapons Ban. During a joint press conference in Mexico City, Mexican President Felipe Calderón blamed the end of the ban for the increasing firepower wielded by drug cartels.

Well, then Calderón is an idiot. The now-expired AWB didn’t have any effect on the availability of certain scary-looking guns. Ban-compliant AR-15s and AK variants, for example, were easily found during the decade it was in effect, and are functionally identical to guns that were banned. Guns affected by the ban were simply semi-auto lookalikes of their select-fire military brethren, and are now the most common sporting arms in the country. They are used by no military in the world. The guns used in violent crimes in Mexico are almost certainly the select-fire variants which are effectively unavailable to US citizens, and not available in US gun shops.

Obama said he still believes the assault weapons ban “made sense,” but that he wants to concentrate on measures against gun smuggling, not gun sales themselves. Many Congress members, including Democrats, have vowed to fiercely oppose any revival of the ban.

If Obama believes the AWB “made sense,” then he’s a fool. It was about as effective as banning red cars (but not banning non-red versions of the same car), because red cars are obviously go faster and are more dangerous than every other car. Anyway, good on Congress for vowing to oppose any such ban.

The ban prohibited sales of semi-automatic weapons with certain combinations of military-style features, such as folding stocks, large magazines and flash suppressors. Opponents of the ban say the weapons actually fire smaller bullets than some other rifles, and that it is unconstitutional to ban a gun simply because of how it looks.

I’m not sure about the constitutionality of a ban(( My gut instinct says a ban would be unconstitutional, but I’m not a lawyer and Constitutional law can get rather muddied and complex. )), but simply having “smaller bullets” doesn’t make a gun any less dangerous than any other. 7.62mm NATO is certainly more lethal than, say, .32 ACP, but the .32 has a slightly larger bullet.

It’s nice to see a media outlet describe, with reasonable accuracy, the gist of the AWB, rather than claiming it banned machine guns or other such stuff.

Some New Goodies

While yesterday was BAG Day, between paying off a little bit of debt and putting money away for the wedding, money’s been tight, so no new guns for me.

However, I did put a little bit away for the last month or so that I ended up using on Tuesday: my laptop needed a new battery, so I replaced the standard 6-cell battery with the extended 9-cell battery. My old battery had enough juice to run my laptop on the “Dell Recommended” power settings at low usage (typing, web browsing, etc.) for a bit more than an hour. The new battery has a >5 hour capacity, which is nice.

Additionally, I picked up a few electronic goodies at RadioShack1 : an auto-ranging multimeter, some test leads, a breadboard, some jumper wires, and a few little electronic components — I’ll need it for some projects, both around the house and at the lab. My philosophy on electronics is the same as my philosophy on tools: if you buy and keep the tools required for a specific job, over the course of several jobs you’ll end up with a pretty well-stocked toolchest.

Of course, I’ve been using the multimeter to measure various electrical properties of things around my house. For example, I have a hand-to-hand resistance of about 1.7 MOmega, and I can work up a 1V potential between the leads if I rub one vigorously on the leg of my jeans2. More geekery as I get it.

  1. Yeah, I know they’re not really the highest-quality stuff, but the stores are ubiquitous and reasonably priced. []
  2. Yes, I use my pants for science. What of it? []

BOHICA

As I used to be a Californian, I still keep up to date on happenings from my old state.

The NRA sent out the following notice today:

Senate Bill 776, sponsored by State Senator Loni Hancock (D-9), has been introduced in Sacramento.  The bill has been assigned to the Senate Public Safety Committee and could be heard on Tuesday, April 21 or Tuesday, April 28.

Simply put, SB776 would mandate the registration of all magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.  The possession of unregistered magazines would be a crime and punishable up to a year in prison.

Not this crap again.

California’s prohibited the purchase or import of magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds since 2000 or so, which was in the middle of the now-expired federal AWB. I’ve not seen a single magazine that has a serial number or some other unique marking that could be provided to authorities.

In addition, they implemented rather draconian restrictions on scary-looking guns: new ownership is prohibited, transfer is prohibited (even if the registered owner dies) — the gun must either be removed from the state or destroyed. Of course, not many owners of such firearms bothered to register their guns.

The guns themselves are already heavily regulated, as of January 2010 all handguns must be equipped to apply microstamps to cartridge cases, and proposals to regulate, register, or otherwise restrict ordinary ammunition have also been proposed. In short, California has some of the most onerous gun laws in the nation.

What legitimate reason do they have for wanting to register magazines? What purpose would registering magazines serve? I can’t think of a single one. Criminals are already prohibited from owning guns, and the Fifth Amendment enables them to avoid registration of guns or magazines due to the fact that it would cause them to self-incriminate.

Of course, any registration or prohibition of magazines would be utterly useless: California borders Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico. The first three states have essentially no limitiations on magazines, and Mexico’s just a free-for-all. Criminals would have no problems acquiring magazines, regardless of any restrictions in California. Once again, only law-abiding citizens would be affected.