Whaddya know, they *do* want to take your guns away.

The anti-gun-rights side is getting desperate at their near-complete inability to restrict our rights at the federal level, with only slightly more success at the state level. We have the Brady Campaign calling the NRA “terrorists” and we have Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo coming clean with something that pro-gun folks have known for a while: they actually do want to take our guns. He even says as much in an earlier article: “Yes, we really do want to take your guns. Maybe not all of them. But a lot of them.”

As long as it seemed possible to pass regulations limiting the most egregious abuses of gun ownership, there was some political logic to accepting the gun culture basically on its own terms and advocating for specific fixes. These include limitations on weapons designed for or less exclusively mass violence, basic background checks on gun purchases, perhaps waiting periods for purchasing a firearm, etc.

Getting those sorts of limited, incremental restrictions passed would certainly be harder if gun advocates knew that the gun control supporters actually wanted or were building toward more dramatic efforts to take guns out of circulation, require licensing – in other words, to fundamentally change the nature of gun ownership in the country.

(Bold added by me. -AZR)

Sorry, Josh, we’ve known that was endgame for you and others who feel the same as you for decades. It hasn’t fooled anyone, no matter how many times the Brady Campaign or Bloomberg’s groups change their names.

It’s now clear that even the most innocuous restrictions on guns – simply requiring real background checks, restrictions on big magazines which let you snuff out more people before someone at your school massacre tackles you – are not even up for discussion or any good faith bargaining. No restrictions are allowed. Period. This present reality has to be accepted and understood.

Glad to see he recognizes that our rights aren’t up for discussion or bargaining away. Sorry, you get nothing, nor should you.

I’m under no illusion that there’s any political will at the moment to dramatically reform private gun ownership in the country. But precisely because no reforms are possible today it makes perfect sense to flesh out the alternative – not minor restrictions on the margins but a society which has dramatically fewer guns, where private ownership was limited and regulated like how you would in a civilized society and one in which we took seriously limiting the needless deaths and suffering guns cause today.

You want to take my guns away.

I won’t give them up.

Your move.

Looking at Hillary Clinton’s gun control proposals

Hillary Clinton just released her proposed ideas for gun control that, if elected, she says she will implement. As expected, they’re nearly all politically-motivated non-starters. Also, she cites Everytown as an authoritative source and blames the NRA for a host of problems.

Evidently she thinks it’s 1993 and she has a chance at passing them. Let’s take a look at what she supports:

  • “Fight for comprehensive background checks” — this is the standard “universal background check” claptrap with some interesting additions: she’d remove the “default proceed” from NICS (“Sorry, NICS has been downsized. We’ll get to your request in a few months.”) and take unilateral, executive action to declare that anyone selling a “significant” (but unspecified) number of guns be declared “in the business” of selling firearms, and thus required to get an FFL. Personally, the current standard of being “in the business” is a bit nebulous so it’d be good to get a more concrete definition, but I don’t trust Clinton to set that standard.

    Also interesting: she seems to be abandoning the widely-debunked “40% of gun sales are made without background checks” claim and is now saying “20-40%”.

  • “Hold dealers and manufacturers fully accountable if they endanger Americans” — again, fairly standard gun-control stuff: repeal the Protection in Lawful Commerce in Arms act (thus exposing law-abiding gun and ammo manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to nuisance lawsuits intended to bankrupt them) and crack down on “bad apple” gun dealers.

    Don’t get me wrong, shady dealers supplying criminals deserve to get penalized and shut down, but she claims that 38% of dealers inspected in 2011 were non-compliant with federal law. If true, this is almost certainly because of various minor paperwork errors (someone writing “Y” instead of “Yes”, for example), not serious criminal violations.

    It seems Hillary’s administration, if elected, would be as hostile to FFLs or more than her husbands administration.

  • “Keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill” — More standard stuff, some of it reasonable. She supports adding people convicted of stalking or domestic abuse to the list of prohibited persons, which seems sensible: current law doesn’t apply to people who abuse someone with whom they have a dating relationship (as opposed to a marriage). I can’t really argue with changing the law to cover people convicted of domestic abuse, regardless of who they abuse.
    However, she loses me by saying straw purchasing is only a “paperwork violation” rather than a proper federal crime, which she thinks should be changed. I’m not aware of any other paperwork violations that carry the threat of 10 years in jail and a quarter-million dollar fine.
    She’s a bit vague when she says she wants to “[i]mprove existing law prohibiting persons suffering from severe mental illness from purchasing or possessing a gun”, so I can’t really comment. People whose mental illness means they pose a danger to themselves or others shouldn’t possess firearms, but I strongly feel that nobody should lose their rights without getting their “day in court” (emergency commitments excepted), so this vagueness is worrisome.
    Lastly, she claims that “military-style assault weapons do not belong on our streets”, and that they are a “danger to law-enforcement and our communities”. She says she “supports keeping assault weapons off our streets”. I agree with her last sentence: no weapon should be left on the street. They should be kept in a good home, preferably in a good safe, and used for lawful, safe enjoyment, protection of the innocent, sport, etc. I’m happy to take in any homeless guns. More seriously, she doesn’t explain why the country’s most popular legally-owned firearms — some of the most rarely-used-in-crime guns, to the point where the FBI doesn’t even have a separate category for them in their annual crime reports — are so dangerous compared to other, unspecified firearms, nor does she offer any justification as to why they should be restricted.

In short, it’s Bloomberg’s wishlist, plus a little more. Someone needs to tell her than 1994 isn’t coming back.

More memes: pseudoephedrine vs. ammo

I’ve recently seen an image meme making its rounds on the Book of Face. It consists of two pictures, each with their own text. However, for the life of me I can’t find it now, so you’ll have to deal with my description rather than an example.

The first picture is of a sweet, grandmotherly lady with text along the lines of “I have to show my ID and sign in the logbook to purchase medication with pseudoephedrine for legitimate medical purposes, and even then I’m limited in how much I can buy.”

The second is of James Holmes, who murdered numerous people at the theater in Aurora, with text along the lines of “I was able to buy 6,000 rounds of ammo online with no background checks, no questions asked, and without the authorities knowing.”

The intended implication is that since society has restricted the sale of pseudoephedrine to reduce criminal misuse, it’s crazy that online ammo sales are essentially unregulated, and we should have similar restrictions on both.

I read it differently: the restrictions on pseudoephedrine present only the most minimal barrier to amateur criminals wishing to make illicit drugs (more serious criminal gangs get the precursors in industrial quantities and don’t bother extracting pseudoephedrine from over-the-counter drugs), and that restricting the sale of either over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine or ammunition is absurd, misguided, and ultimately futile in preventing criminal misuse.

In short, the meme is a clear example of the failure of such restrictions, not a good example for even more restrictions.

NPR finally notices New Yorkers are ignoring the SAFE act

After New York implemented the SAFE act there’s been incredibly low levels of compliance: people aren’t registering firearms the law says they must — only 45,000 have been registered. Although this has been fairly widely known in the gun community, NPR finally noticed.

Interestingly, they didn’t just interview the anti-gun groups, but actually interviewed regular people:

“I just don’t see there’s any need to [register my guns -AZR],” says Joseph Fuller of Cohoes, N.Y. Fuller says he owns several guns, including at least one that he’s required to register under the SAFE Act. But he hasn’t.

“I don’t pay attention, to be honest,” says Fuller. “I have friends out in the boondocks. They won’t register their guns either. And they told me … don’t even bother. Don’t worry about it.”

They also interviewed the NYSRPA:

“[The SAFE Act] still may be law, but the people of New York state have repealed it on their own,” says Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. “They’re just ignoring the law.”

Upstate sheriffs don’t seem to care:

“When I prioritize what I need to do as a sheriff, the SAFE Act comes in at the bottom of that list,” says Christopher Moss, the sheriff in Chemung County, a rural area near the Pennsylvania border. “I do look at it personally as an infringement on Second Amendment rights.”

Leah Barrett with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence is a sad panda, but tries to spin things positively:

“I think 45,000 is a lot of assault weapons. I think it’s evidence of how long overdue this law is,” says Leah Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. Barrett points out that multiple public opinion polls — including one commissioned by her group — show that 60 percent of New Yorkers support the SAFE Act.

“They support the background check requirement. They support the state’s ban on military-style assault weapons. They even support the background checks on ammunition sales,” says Barrett, “because they know that these are entirely reasonable.”

No surprise: her definition of “reasonable” differs completely from my own.

The comments are filled with people saying “Hurr, durr. I thought [pro-gun rights people] always said ‘enforce existing laws’, but now they’re opposing the enforcement of this law.” and “So much for ‘law-abiding gun owner’.” Funny how it’s “civil disobedience” when people break the law to support something they like, but how it’s “let’s track down and arrest those felonious, cousin-humping rednecks” when people are breaking the law to support something they don’t like.

Obama says failure on gun laws makes him “most frustrated”

The President recently had an interview with the BBC. During the interview, the journalist asked what “unfinished business” he would likely have before leaving the White House, specifically inquiring about “race” and “guns”.

Mr. Obama replied with,

You mentioned the issue of guns, that is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings.

And you know, if you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands. And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing. But it is not something that I intend to stop working on in the remaining 18 months.

Sorry to disappoint, but our rights are not up for a vote.

Perhaps his efforts would be better served working on ideas that might actually reduce crime and violence, rather than do-nothing, “common sense” proposals that miss the point entirely and infringe on the rights of ordinary, honest people.

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.