One year of being a dad

One year ago to the hour my wife gave birth to our beautiful daughter.

During that year my little one’s taught me to smile more, enjoy the little things, smile at people on the train, snuggle with the people you love, and to not be afraid to get down on the floor, roll around, and clap for no reason.

This last year’s been a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to each of the next steps in our lives.

How many more?

Yesterday, 9 people died in South Carolina at the hands of a killer.

His victims were disarmed by the state and left with no effective means of self-defense.

Although I can’t say if anyone there would have carried at the church, they were denied even the freedom to choose by the South Carolina legislature who, in their <sarcasm>superior wisdom</sarcasm>, thought there was no need for anyone to carry in a church, and so made it illegal.

How many more need to die before the concept of a “gun-free zone” is universally realized as the dangerous and illogical absurdity that it is?

Thoughts on Jackson vs. City & County of San Francisco

So, the Supreme Court declined cert on Jackson vs. City & County of San Francisco.

Not surprising, really, as there’s not much case law in the lower courts, nor is there disagreement between the circuits. Sure, this should have been a slam-dunk Heller 2 for the gun-rights side, but not everything works out that way.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal: on a practical level, the cops aren’t going to search people’s homes to see if they’re leaving their gun on the bathroom sink while they take a shower or if they put a gun the kitchen table while they unload stuff from a vehicle. This law would only come into play if something bad happens (e.g. someone leaves a gun out and a kid or irresponsible adult fires it), and even then it’d probably a minor worry compared to the other legal issues one would face in such a situation.

Of course, I strongly support the notion of securing one’s guns when they’re not in one’s immediate control (especially when kids or irresponsible adults are around), but I dislike legal mandates that are effectively unenforceable and don’t make exceptions for practical, everyday situations.

In a way, I’m glad it worked out this way: the judges clearly are not of one mind in this regard, and it is better to have cert denied here and revisit the issue in the future when the composition of the Supreme Court may have changed — hopefully with an increase in the number of justices inclined toward individual liberty — and there’s more of a consensus.

Until then, residents of San Francisco (and other cities that may try implementing such laws) will have to deal with a minor infringement of their liberties. Fortunately, such laws practically have no effect on a day-to-day basis (unlike, say, the CA AWB).

In short: bummer, but probably better in the long run to wait and try again.

NPR: As Women Try Out For Armor Units, ‘If You Can Hack It, You Can Hack It’

From NPR comes this headline: “As Women Try Out For Armor Units, ‘If You Can Hack It, You Can Hack It'”

As a former army tank crewman (19K), I’m all for it.

If anyone, male or female, wants to be in a combat unit and can meet the objective standards that all other members of that unit must meet (e.g. physical fitness, not being too tall for the tank, etc.), I don’t really give a damn what they have between their legs.

Good luck, Marines.

BBC: “Drone owners register called for by House of Lords”

Sorry for the long absence: it turns out that PhD research and having an 8-month-old daughter end up sucking up any free time I might otherwise have.

From the BBC comes this article about how the House of Lords feels that regulating private unmanned drones (which are essentially glorified RC helicopters) is necessary. Part of those regulations include a database that would register “businesses and other professional users, and then later expand to encompass consumers”.

The committee chairwoman said, “[W]e need to find ways to manage and keep track of drone traffic. That is why a key recommendation is that drone flights must be traceable, effectively through an online database, which the general public could access via an app.”

Who is “we” and why should drone flights be traceable via an online database or app? Would people flying a drone at the park need to file flight plans?

They also want to impose rules mandating “geofencing”, where the drones are programmed with “no-fly zones”, as if technically-inclined hobbyists (who are the main operators of non-governmental drones) aren’t going to tinker around and remove those restrictions.

One of the talking heads on the BBC TV program discussing this subject said something along the lines of “In America when one buys a firearm, they need to register it. It should be the same here in Britain with drones.” Of course, that’s not true: very few states require gun registration, and there’s no observed benefit when states do require it.

It appears that the House of Lords thinks bad guys intending to use a drone for malicious purposes care about violating some aviation-related rule or would have second thoughts about stripping out “no-fly” restrictions from the drone’s software. Mandating that users register is silly as a means of preventing bad guys from getting drones, as bad guys would simply provide false information, buy them in other countries, etc. Same thing with guns.

The current rules regarding unmanned aircraft are pretty reasonable, and I see no reason why one should need or want to change them:

[The Civil Aviation Authority] prohibits unmanned aircraft from flying closer than 150m (492ft) to any congested area, or within 50m (164ft) of any vessel, vehicle or structure that is not in the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.

The CAA typically bans the use of drones weighing over 20kg (44lb), but lower than that weight they can be used if they remain in the operator’s line of sight.

Spin and the NRA legal challenges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania recently passed a law that allows membership groups (read: the NRA), including those without legal standing (that is, they haven’t been directly harmed by a law), to sue cities that have enacted gun laws that violate the state preemption laws. If they win, the plaintiff would be entitled to attorneys fees.

It’s no surprise that clueless anti-freedom people such as Elanor Clift (who recently penned this missive) try to spin this situation as horrible and the NRA as some sort of soulless monster intent on stripping “common sense gun laws” from poor, helpless cities.

For example1,

Ed Foley, the mayor of Jenkintown, a borough in the Philadelphia suburbs, told the Daily Beast that the NRA forced him “to choose between public safety and financial solvency.” […] Under the threat of a lawsuit brought by the NRA, an ordinance in place since 2010 requiring Jenkintown residents to report lost or stolen firearms at the police station was rescinded in a public meeting. “It was a hold-your-nose vote,” says Foley. “It’s such an innocuous law, and it doesn’t do anything to restrict anybody’s right to have a gun. I don’t know why the NRA isn’t a bigger supporter of the police. The police want the law.”

Naturally, they focus on how reasonable and “innocuous” that law is, and that the “police want the law”. Who could argue with something as sensible as requiring that someone who had their gun stolen report that theft to the police?

Indeed, I agree — in principle — that such laws are not an undue burden on honest gun owners, subject to certain conditions. I do, however, think that they’re useless: honest people would report their stolen property to the police anyway and seek reimbursement from their insurance company. Straw purchasers, who the law is seemingly aimed at, probably wouldn’t. Thus, the law would essentially only affect honest people while doing effectively nothing about straw purchasers.

But I digress. The effectiveness or innocuousness2 of a particular law is not the issue. The issue — which is conveniently ignored by anti-gun writers — is that such laws violate state preemption law and are thus invalid. The new law allowing challenges to such invalid, illegal “laws” seeks to remedy this without requiring that someone be made a sacrificial lamb by violating the law and challenging it in court.

If the people of Pennsylvania think that lost-and-stolen laws are a good idea, they’re welcome to write and submit a bill in the state legislature. Such a law would be perfectly legal everywhere in the state. However, cities and other localities lack the legal authority to pass gun laws — any gun laws — in the state, and it’s wrong for them to ignore preemption, even if they have the best of intentions.

Hat tip to Sebastian.

  1. I’m leaving out the absurd misunderstanding of the so-called “Florida loophole” that Ms. Clift makes and am focusing solely on the preemption issue. []
  2. Which is, I was somewhat surprised to discover, actually a word. []

MI5 boss: “we cannot hope to stop everything”

From the BBC:

The threat is growing, MI5 is stretched, some of its capabilities are at risk.

All of that means something is likely to happen. That was the bleak message from [head of the UK’s MI5] Andrew Parker.

While I disagree with Mr. Parker’s assertion that the security services need more powers to intercept and monitor all communications (which, in the UK, they pretty much do already, so I’m not sure how they’d increase that ability), I do agree that it’s unreasonable to expect 100% safety or 100% success in stopping bad guys from doing bad things.

Thus, as always, the answer is to be reasonably prepared to take care of oneself in various situations until the cavalry arrives: in this case, having a gun and the training and will to use it effectively if the need arises while hoping that one would never face such a situation.

Consider, for example, the photos taken of the killers in Paris by citizens sheltering on nearby rooftops. Had one or more people on those rooftops been armed, even with handguns, they would have been able to fire from an elevated position on the unsuspecting bad guys. At the very least, this would have caused confusion on the part of the bad guys, distracted them, and slowed them down — hopefully until the police could arrive.

Alternatively, if directly confronted by armed bad guys intent on murder, being armed gives one at least a fighting chance of surviving the encounter. Success is not assured, particularly when it comes to defending oneself from heavily armed attackers who had the element of surprise, but it’s better than nothing.

Good news: CA Sen. Boxer not seeking re-election

From NPR:

Four-term Sen. Barbara Boxer said she won’t seek another term in the U.S. Senate in 2016, ending speculation about the California Democrat’s political future.

Good. Senator Boxer has been a strong opponent to liberty for years, especially when it comes to gun rights. It will be good to see her leave office.

Due to the Democrats holding a strong majority in California, it’s likely her successor will also be a Democrat. Let’s hope that whoever they are, they’re more friendly to California gun owners.

Sen. Feinstein, another strong opponent of gun rights, is up for re-election in 2018.

Mid-Term 2014 roundup: that went well.

Overall, the election seems to have gone well for the pro-freedom side: Republicans (who are typically, but not always, pro-gun-rights) have a substantial majority in both federal houses. Unsurprisingly, the forecast at FiveThirtyEight was quite accurate, and better than most individual polls.

As usual, the true winners are the TV companies who made zillions of bucks running political ads.

I can only hope that the Republicans use their majorities in both houses to actually accomplish productive things and avoid burning precious political capital on divisive social issues. We’ll see.

Republican governors were elected in blue Maryland and Massachusetts, which surprised me, while a Democrat was elected as governor in Pennsylvania. The race in Colorado is too close to call yet, but FiveThirtyEight is predicting that Hickenlooper will barely squeak by with a win, or potentially a runoff.

As expected, endorsements from gun-control groups were essentially meaningless outside of “safe” districts: the Americans for Responsible Solutions “Champions for Common Sense Official Election Night Tally Card” listed 13 races in the House and Senate. While AZ-2 is still being counted (with the two candidates within a few handful of votes of each other at the current moment), six of the ARS-endorsed candidates lost their elections.

Miguel has a good rundown of what Bloomberg’s money got him (hint: not much, with about 50% of those he endorsed or funded losing their races).

Although they were roundly rebuked in most races, gun-control groups did have one victory worth noting: I-594 in Washington (which mandates background checks on nearly all transfers of firearms, including temporary transfers) passed with just under 60% of the vote, significantly less than the “90% of Americans” that gun-control groups claim support such measures. Gun-control groups wildly outspent pro-gun-rights group by more than a factor of 17, with gun-control groups (and a few wealthy benefactors like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Nick “We need more school shootings!” Hanauer) contributing more than $10.6 million, while pro-gun groups and individuals only contributed a bit more than $602,000. The fact that a school shooting took place in Washington just a few weeks before the election probably helped bolster support for the measure, even though the measure (if in effect at the time) would have made no difference.

The Bradys (and their allies) are spinning the passage of I-594 as “the only place where guns were directly on the ballot this election day” while ignoring the dozens of races where gun-control supporters were defeated. While the measure is likely to be challenged in court, the gun-control side is happy about this one victory and promises that it is an “indication of things to come”. It’d be worthwhile to keep your eyes open for when similar measures are proposed in other states — such measures need to be challenged early.

In short: it wasn’t a perfect election for the pro-gun-rights side, but overall we did pretty well. Gun control at the federal level is now essentially off the table, though we need to be concerned about state-level measures promoted by big-money groups and donors.