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in place since 2010 requiring Jenkintown residents to report lost or stolen firearms at the police station was rescinded in a public meeting.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.

CNN: Bill Clinton: America has ‘bought the NRA’s theory’

Former president Bill Clinton talked with CNN on Wednesday and had a few choice things to say about the NRA. Those familiar with the former president should not be surprised that he looks disparagingly upon the NRA and gun owners:

The former president, in a conversation with CNN’s Erin Burnett at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York, lumped together the NRA, stand your ground laws, and people surrounding themselves only with those who agree with them as problems that lead to a more violent climate in the United States.

He does have a point with the last part — diversity is the spice of life, after all — but he’s way off base on the other points.

“I think we have enhanced the risks by changing the environment, basically, because it seems we bought the NRA’s theory that we would all be safer if everybody in this audience had a gun that was a concealed weapon,” Clinton said. “Then if one of them felt threatened by another, they could stand up right here and stand their ground. And we could watch the whole saga unfold. That is what happens.”

I fail to see how someone being lawfully able to defend themselves when genuinely threatened, regardless of where they happen to be at the time, is a bad thing.

Stand Your Ground laws are not a blanket license to kill anyone for any reason, but rather simply say that a person has no duty to retreat from a place they have a lawful right to be and can use force (including lethal force) if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury (emphasis mine). They’d still need to explain themselves to the authorities after the fact, and it’s not uncommon for people invoking “stand your ground” provisions to be found guilty.

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that even with the liberalization of concealed carry, the spread of Stand Your Ground, and other pro-gun-rights policies being enacted, gun-related violent crime is way down since Clinton was in office.

It looks like America has indeed “bought the NRA’s theory” and that theory is actually working.

911 should be part of a plan, not the whole plan

One of the key points of disagreement between pro-gunners and anti-gunners is on the concept of whether or not it is necessary, or even appropriate, for an “average” citizen to have ready access to a lethal weapon in case they are attacked. Anti-gunners often hold that the proper course of action when one is threatened by another is to call the police and let them deal with the problem. To the average person this might sound like a perfectly reasonable answer, but it reallyisn’t. The giant hole in the anti-gunner self defense plan is that even the best police response is going to be minutes out in a situation where seconds define the boundaries between life and death.

Tim at Gun Nuts Media.

Read the whole thing. Lots of good info.

Open Carry Rally this Saturday in Texas [corrected]

Updated: Whoops. Turns out I didn’t check the date on the DMN article — the event was this last Saturday and has already occurred. Mea culpa. Additionally, it looks like the group didn’t have permission from Home Depot and may have violated Home Depot’s “no solicitation” policy, which might end up getting open carry banned at Home Depot. Way to go, guys.

In the army we had a name for people who screwed over their buddies: “blue falcon“. It’s fair to say that applies to these guys.

Original post continues below:

Heads up to any readers in Texas: according to the Dallas Morning News, there’ll be an open carry rally in North Richland Hills this Saturday:

Starting at 11:30 a.m. supporters will fill the back of the parking lot at the Home Depot on Precinct Line Road to listen to speakers, have an open-carry education session and hold a raffle. Prizes include revolvers, an AR 15 rifle, over 1,500 rounds of ammunition and Rangers tickets, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Rally organizer Kory Watkins, 30, wants to make it clear that Saturday’s event is not a protest.

“Protesters are angry; and we are not angry people. If you come up to us, you will see we are smiling and friendly,” he said. “We are demonstrating, demonstrating our rights and demonstrating how the law lets you carry a long gun, but you can’t open carry a pistol.”

While I personally find the open carry of rifles in built-up areas a bit off-putting, so long as things are cool with Home Depot that sounds like a fun event and a good use of a large, otherwise-unused section of parking lot.

When you’re having a big event, it makes sense to coordinate with the property owner rather than just showing up. Doubly so when people are openly armed.

However, it’s not quite clear if that’s the case:

Watkins said his group has been meeting at the Home Depot for almost a year, and unlike other businesses and cities like Arlington who have clashed with the group, the home improvement giant has “stayed neutral.”

“They respect the rights of the people and we realize that,” Watkins said. “Their parking lost are always huge so we can park in the back and not bother nobody.”

A representative for the North Richland Hills Home Depot said he had no information about the rally.

“That’s not something Home Depot sponsors,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “They are not going to on the Home Depot property.”

Stephen Holmes, Home Depot’s corporate communications director, told Forbes, “Our feeling is that, ultimately, the voters direct the laws on gun carry issues, so we defer to the prevailing ordinances in states and communities.”

Emphasis mine.

Good for Home Depot to stay neutral, but it sounds like the group — even though they’ve met there regularly — hasn’t really coordinated with the store itself. That’d probably be a good idea.

Fortunately, they’ve let the police know ahead of time so there shouldn’t be trouble from the cops:

[A]ccording to Watkins, the North Richland Hills police have been helpful with the planned rally.

“The police department has been notified and is coordinating with us,” he said. “Everything is legal, as always.”

Naturally, the Demanding Mommies and a few others have posted to the Home Depot Facebook page saying they’re unhappy about the situation and will not shop at the store until they change their rules.

Honestly, Texas really should just allow open carry of handguns like Arizona and other states: with few exceptions, very few people notice or care a handgun holstered on a belt but they sure as hell will notice a slung rifle. It’d benefit gun owners in Texas and take the steam out of MDA by removing a point around which they can rally support and get media time.

AZ court rules on preemption…of alcohol

Interesting news out of Arizona in regards to state preemption, but not of guns:

Scottsdale police are no longer permitted to cite or arrest someone solely on the basis of being incapacitated by alcohol in public.

[…]

The opinion stated that Scottsdale’s public-intoxication ordinance is pre-empted by a 1972 state law that prohibits local laws from criminalizing “being a common drunkard or being found in an intoxicated condition.”

The court maintained that it was clearly the state’s intent at the time to treat alcoholism as a disease rather than criminal behavior, unless a person under the influence was also engaging in activities, such as driving.

Makes perfect sense to me, but then I live in Switzerland where the drinking age for wine and beer is 16 (18 for spirits), drinking in public is perfectly legal, and it’s quite common to see teenagers enjoying a beer while chatting with friends in a park or on the sidewalk, businessmen having a drink on the train ride home, etc.

I’ve even seen soldiers on their way to training get onto a train, place their duffel bag and unloaded rifle on the luggage rack, then have a beer. The horror.

So long as someone is not violating other laws or being dangerously unsafe (such as driving while under the influence, being rowdy and disorderly, trespassing, threatening others, etc.) I have no problem with them being peaceably intoxicated whether in private or public. If they start causing disruptions, then there’s a problem, but otherwise I see no issue.

No surprise, the Scottsdale police don’t seem to have an issue with the law being overturned:

Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said officers didn’t often use the ordinance when it was in effect.

Typically, those who demand the attention of law enforcement are committing another crime as well, he said.

[…]

Clark said there are other tools police can use to ensure the safety of those who are inebriated.

An officer may help someone get a ride home or cite them for another violation, such as disorderly conduct.

Skepticism on Anti-Gun Studies

I’m a bit skeptical on a new study. The BBC says,

Researchers claim a new study provides some of the most compelling evidence yet for tighter gun controls in the US.

The team followed the consequences of the State of Missouri repealing its permit-to-purchase handgun law in 2007.

The law had required purchasers to be vetted by the local sheriff and to receive a licence before buying a gun.

Reporting soon in the Journal of Urban Health, the researchers will say that the repeal resulted in an immediate spike in gun violence and murders.

The study links the abandonment of the background check to an additional 60 or so murders occurring per year in Missouri between 2008 and 2012.

This seems a bit strange to me: gun buyers are still required to undergo a NICS check at the gun dealer (even if they don’t need to get a permit from the sheriff, who also presumably runs the buyer through NICS), so how would doing away with a duplicate check and permit from the local sheriff result in an increase in gun murders?

The team said it took account of changes that occurred in policing levels and incarceration rates, trends in burglaries, and statistically controlled for other possible confounding factors such as shifts in unemployment and poverty.

The team counted a doubling of handguns shortly after sale being recovered from scenes of crimes or from criminals.

Interesting, though I wonder how they define “shortly after sale”. The article does not mention if the handguns being traced were originally purchased in Missouri or brought in from other states. Also, it doesn’t mention how they were able to get access to trace data in the first place, what with the Tiahrt Amendment still being in effect.

According to the article, the study was conducted by “Prof Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.” I note that they forgot a key part of the research center’s name: the proper name is the “Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center for Gun Policy and Research”.

Being a scientist myself I’m a big fan of science, but I’m skeptical of research produced by think-tanks, particularly those with major funding from a heavily-biased source.

Either way, the study is irrelevant: owning a gun is a Constitutionally-protected right. Requiring a permit or license to exercise any right, even if such permit or license is routinely granted, is wrong, period.

America currently has more than 300 million handguns in circulation. But the issue of gun control remains a hugely contentious one.

I was under the impression that the US had somewhat more than 300 million guns of all types, not just handguns. This was probably just an editing error on the part of the BBC.

Detroit police chief reiterates pro-CCW stance

From The Detroit News:

Police Chief James Craig responded Thursday to a citizen who criticized his pro-gun stance by reiterating his opinion that “good citizens” who legally carry firearms could help deter violent crime.

[…]

Craig stressed that he doesn’t support vigilantism.

“This is not often talked about: responsibility,” he said. “I do not condone vigilantism. I don’t support individuals arming themselves and doing the work of police officers. Police officers are trained to enforce the law. I think you put people at risk when you have people that are out playing police. I do see that a concealed weapon is an opportunity for self-protection only; not to go out and enforce the law.”

After Thursday’s meeting, Police Commissioner Lisa Carter and her husband, Tyrone Carter — both former police officers — said they agreed with Craig.

“There are a lot of seniors in Detroit who are victims,” Tyrone Carter said. “It’s not vigilantism for people to protect themselves.”

Added Lisa Carter: “That’s all we’re talking about: The right for people to be able to protect themselves.”

Excellent.

Private