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.

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.

Voting info, endorsements, and guides?

I’ve been out of the country for a few years and have missed a lot of info about how various candidates stand on gun rights in Arizona (and elsewhere).

While looking at the endorsements made by anti-gun groups is informative in deciding who not to vote for, there’s not much information from the standard pro-gun groups: the NRA-PVF doesn’t seem to acknowledge the November election, the GOA is showing information from the last election, etc.

Does anyone know when the big pro-gun-rights groups will be publishing voter information guides, making endorsements, etc.? Since I’m voting by mail from outside the country, it’d be better to get that info sooner rather than later.

Thanks!

ARS is getting nervous

Americans for Responsible Solutions seems to be getting a bit nervous.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent fundraising email entitled “Potentially devastating” which I received from them:

Bad news. This headline just came in:

NRA goes big in key 2014 races

“The National Rifle Association has reserved $11.4 million for its initial fall advertising campaign and will begin airing its first TV commercials in three Senate races crucial to determining which party controls the chamber next year.

“The gun rights group said it plans to spend much more than the initial outlay during the final weeks before the midterm elections.”

$11.4 million, with “much more” to come? That could be more than enough money to unseat leaders in Congress who support commonsense proposals to reduce gun violence.

We [ARS] already have ads on the air in 4 House races. But now that the NRA’s moving into statewide races, we need to be there too.

Our country simply can’t afford to lose members of Congress who voted to expand background checks. If they lose, the gun lobby’s candidates will sit in the House, Senate, and governors’ mansions around the country.

They won’t just block expanded background checks — they could even roll back some of the most basic laws in place that help make our communities safer.

It sounds like ARS is getting worried. Good.

Sen. Reid proposes more gun control, time to contact your Senators/Representatives

From Guns.com:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid challenged lawmakers on Capitol Hill Monday to expand mandates on background checks for guns, citing the recent murder of two police officers and a concealed-carry permit holder in Las Vegas.

Reid, senior Senator of Nevada’s delegation in that chamber, voiced sadness for the loss of life in the incident, and then called for additional gun control laws.

“We in Congress, we do need to put in place legislation that helps prevent these deranged, these weird, these evil people who carry out such savage acts of violence,” said Reid Monday.

The legislative solution proposed by the Senator?

“Background checks so that people who are criminals, who are deranged can’t buy a gun,” explained Reid. “The American people are depending on us to pass legislation to prevent gun violence and safeguard communities, schools, and families.”

According to the senator, future incidents such as the Las Vegas attack could be mitigated by a move to require all firearms transfers, even those between two otherwise law-abiding citizens, be subject to a background check. At least one of the suspected murderers from this weekend’s violence is known to have a criminal record, although it is currently not known how he obtained the weapons used in the ambush.

“A step in the right direction would be universal background checks, so that people who are criminals, who are deranged, can’t buy a gun,” contends Reid.

It’s probably a good idea to contact your Congresscritters and let them know you oppose such ineffective, feel-good measures. It probably wouldn’t hurt to contact Sen. Reid and let him know too. (I tried contacting him via the website, but the contact form seems unresponsive. Awesome.)

From his own words, it’s clear Sen. Reid (and no doubt others, like Sens. Feinstein and Schumer, not to mention the various gun-control groups) considers banning private sales and mandating all sales be conducted via a licensed dealer as only a “step” towards even more restrictive policies. Better to keep that camel’s nose out of the tent entirely.

Taking a couple minutes to call and express your opinion carries a lot more weight than an email, and sending a brief, polite letter or postcard is also an improvement.

In my case, Sen. Flake of AZ is solidly in the pro-gun-rights camp. McCain is a bit iffy. The senators representing my extended family in California and Massachusetts are essentially lost causes.

As usual, keep up the pressure and let them know that we want “Not One More” gun control law.

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.

Because Vermont has such a crime problem

Supporters of increased controls over guns in Vermont accepted the fact that legislation was going nowhere in 2014.

When lawmakers declined to vote this year on gun-control charter changes passed by Burlington voters in March, gun control supporters opted against raising a ruckus.

Next year will be different, they said Tuesday.

“2015 will be the year,” Ann Braden, president of Gun Sense Vermont, at a Statehouse news conference. The group’s singular focus next legislative session will be to pass a law requiring criminal background checks for all gun transactions, she said.

Burlington Free Press, via Jeff Soyer.

Obviously, with its lax gun laws Vermont is a violence-infested hellhole. Oh, wait. It’s not. At all.

Considering the blowback that politicians get whenever they propose gun control and its unpopularity among the public, it’s no surprise that this group wants to wait until after the midterm elections before pushing their extreme agenda.

Pretty much any group that says “Everyone loves us and the ideas we espouse, but we’re going to wait until after the election to push those ideas.” is a group you want to avoid. If it’s a good idea and you think you have public support, why put it off until later?