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.

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?

No surprise – Hillary Clinton dislikes freedom

Yesterday, Politico ran an article about Hillary Clinton commenting, in detail, on domestic policy. No surprise, she was pushing for more gun control:

“We have to rein in what has become [an] almost article of faith, that anybody can own a gun anywhere, anytime. And I don’t believe that,” [Hillary Clinton] said.

Why? If people are peaceful, non-violent people, why does it matter if they have guns or not?

Should violent criminals and the dangerously mentally ill be blocked from possessing firearms? Certainly, but considering that the vast, vast majority of people are ordinary, responsible, peaceful people it seems silly to worry about them responsibly owning and carrying arms.

Clinton, who argued it was possible to hold her position and still support the right to gun ownership, warned that unfettered access to guns could have dangerous consequences. She called the country’s approach to guns “way out of balance,” and referred to cases in which gun violence has erupted over minor issues.

I fail to see how overturning restrictive, unconstitutional laws and restoring liberty is somehow “way out of balance”.

I’m not sure what sort of cognitive gymnastics are needed to simultaneously think that restricting the right to keep and bear arms is somehow also supporting that right, but such a performance would be worthy of an Olympic-level gymnast.

And yes, while violence involving firearms has arisen over minor issues, overall gun violence is way, way down since the time her husband was in office, even though the number of guns in private hands has dramatically increased and gun laws have been liberalized.

She painted a dark picture, warning that, “At the rate we’re going, we’re going to have so many people with guns everywhere, fully licensed, fully validated, in settings where [one] could be in a movie theater, and they don’t like someone chewing gum loudly or talking on their cell phone and decide they have the perfect right to defend themselves against the gum chewer or cell phone user by shooting.”

Clinton continued, “That’s what happens in the countries I’ve visited where there’s no rule of law.”

So people who undergo the training and checks needed to get a carry permit — that is, they’re following the law — are somehow more apt to fits of violence? Seems unlikely to me. Certainly, such incidents have happened but they are the exception rather than the rule, and the people who committed such acts are either in jail or facing criminal charges.

It’s nonsensical to compare people who obey the law, get training, background checks, and permits with people in lawless countries.

The proliferation of guns combined with few restrictions on where they can be carried can “give someone the means to respond in the moment in a way that he wouldn’t if a few minutes passed and there was no means to inflict harm … We really have got to get our arms around this,” she said.

I agree with her but not in the way she intends.

I wholeheartedly agree that widespread carriage of arms by the public “give[s] someone the means to respond” that they would otherwise lack if they had “no means to inflict harm”. I think that’s a good thing, because honest people can defend themselves from violent criminals. Without a gun, the honest person is considerably less able to offer meaningful resistance.

While it was always obvious that Mrs. Clinton was never a friend of the Second Amendment or legal gun owners, this is pretty clear-cut evidence that she’s opposed to gun rights.

Bill Maher: “Why Doesn’t The Democratic Party Come Out Against The Second Amendment?”

From Real Clear Politics, National Review, and Sebastian comes this gem:

ELLISON (D-MN): I mean, 27 children were mowed down. Isn’t that enough for us? One of our colleagues, [former Congresswoman] Gabby Giffords, shot in the face.

MAHER: Then why doesn’t your party come out against the Second Amendment? It’s the problem.

ELLISON: I sure wish they would. I sure wish they would.

MAHER: Really? Because I never hear anybody in the Democratic party say that. But they say, ‘I am also a strong supporter.’

I expect Maher to say something like that, but I’m surprised that a US Representative who has taken the Oath of Office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” would be so forthright.

Immediately following the above exchange, Rep. Ellison encourages Maher (and the audience) to “[c]heck out the progressive caucus. We have come out very strong for common-sense gun safety rules.” to which Maher replies, “Common-sense gun safety is bullshit.”

For once, I agree with Maher as he defines “common-sense gun safety” as, “It means there are 3,000 types of guns available in the U.S. and you want to ban about 200 of them. [...] It’s not going to change anything.”

Rep. Ellison replies, “No, what it means is that if you want to have grandpa’s shotgun, have it, but get rid of those crazy military-style assault weapons. [...] You can’t solve the problem with just one little thing. You’ve got to make sure that the CDC can issue reports on gun killings and hand gun violence. You’ve got to make sure that we can get rid of assault weapons. You’ve got to close the loophole at gun shows.”

Wow.

If you are interested in seeing your blood pressure rise, click the links and see the video.

Great news from California!

As the Washington Post reports,

A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California’s concealed-weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

By a vote of 2 to 1, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Outstanding. I was born and raised in California and the restrictive gun laws there always chafed a bit (though I later moved to Arizona, where things were better). Although the gun laws in CA have ratcheted ever-more-restrictive over the years (“assault weapons” ban, .50 BMG ban, etc.) it’s nice to see a combo-breaker in the form of this case.

Honestly, this decision (and the recent one out of Illinois that struck down the prohibition on carry) is something I did not expect: I’ve been so used to states like California having increasingly restrictive gun laws, even in the wake of Heller and McDonald, that I more or less gave up hope for those states. I am pleasantly surprised and, to paraphrase Sebastian, I hope this is a step in bringing certain states back to America.

I will also join in with everyone else congratulating Clayton Cramer for having two of his law review articles cited by the court.

Although court decisions like this one are baby steps, they’re steps in the right direction and lay down a good legal precedent for the future.

Update 1: Bob Owens has some choice quotes from the decision here.

Naturally, the Brady Campaign is not happy. They statement claims that, “Neither history or precedent supports this aberrant, split decision that concocts a dangerous right of people to carry hidden handguns in public places to people whom law enforcement has determined that they have no good cause or qualifications to do so.”, which is somewhat strange since the court has, in support of its decision, cited numerous historical and legal precedents. Do the Brady’s offer any sort of citations to legal precedent, court decisions, or historical claims in support of their position? No, they go straight to emotional arguments: “The parents of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, whose children were killed by licensed concealed-carry holders, could educate the Court about the real dangers posed by this legal error.” That’s pretty weaksauce, even for the Brady’s.

Popularity of pro-gun and anti-gun groups on social media

Gun control groups routinely tout that they’re representing some large fraction of Americans in order to boost their claims to legitimacy. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about this, since various public records seem to show extremely low numbers of paid members among gun control groups, and high numbers of paid members of gun-rights groups.

I generally consider paid membership numbers to be more reflective of actual interest, as paid members are putting their money where their mouth is. Still, knowing how popular various groups are on the two major social media services — Facebook and Twitter — can yield some insight, particularly into how interested slightly-to-moderately motivated subset of the population is in what they say. Clicking a button to “Like” something on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter requires basically no effort and allows one to get updates from those that they “Like” or “follow”. Since there’s essentially no barrier to entry, I’d expect that social media numbers would be a good way to measure the relative interest in what the different groups have to say.

I reviewed the numbers of Facebook “Likes” and Twitter “followers” (hereafter referred to as “subscribers”) for gun rights groups, gun companies and industry trade groups, and anti-gun groups on November 8th, 2013 at about 9:00pm UTC. Here’s what I found:

Gun Rights Groups:

  • National Rifle Association (Facebook): 2,748,839
  • National Rifle Association (Twitter): 191,692
  • Gun Owners of America (Facebook): 276,867
  • Gun Owners of America (Twitter): 22,786
  • Second Amendment Foundation (Facebook): 119,810
  • Second Amendment Foundation (Twitter): 4,962

Gun Industry:

  • National Shooting Sports Foundation (Facebook): 157,718
  • National Shooting Sports Foundation (Twitter): 21,104
  • SHOT Show – run by NNSF (Facebook): 44,573
  • SHOT Show – run by NSSF (Twitter): 23,649
  • Glock, Inc. (Facebook): 614,185
  • Glock, Inc. (Twitter): 63,336
  • Smith & Wesson (Facebook): 680,937
  • Smitth & Wesson: (Twitter): 54,447
  • Sturm, Ruger & Company (Facebook) 345,734
  • Sturm, Ruger & Company (Twitter): 18,310

Gun Control Groups:

  • Americans for Responsible Solutions (Facebook): 89,414
  • Americans for Responsible Solutions (Twitter): 210,7081
  • Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Facebook): 19,271
  • Demand Action – MAIG on Twitter (Twitter): 26,860
  • Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Facebook): 122,938
  • Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Twitter): 12,254
  • Brady Campaign (Facebook): 58,650
  • Brady Campaign (Twitter): 17,170
  • Violence Policy Center (Facebook): 20,571
  • Violence Policy Center (Twitter): 1,934
  • CSGV (Facebook): 46,314
  • CSGV (Twitter): 9,575

What does this tell us? First off, it’s noteworthy to point out that all groups except Americans for Responsible Solutions had far more subscribers on Facebook than on Twitter. Perhaps the ability to post arbitrary-length messages on Facebook is preferable to the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter?

The fact that the NRA has the largest number of subscribers is unsurprising: they are a huge organization and have ~5 million dues-paying members and a very active public outreach group. They also have a substantial number of subscribers on Twitter.

I was surprised by the number of subscribers to the Gun Owners of America Facebook account: the GOA is a no-compromise group that, while having about 300,000 dues-paying members, also has nearly that many Facebook subscribers, about 77% the number of Facebook subscribers to all the gun control groups combined.

I was also surprised at the number of subscribers to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The NSSF is the firearms industry trade group and I don’t normally think of it catering to the general public. Still, it has more Facebook subscribers than all but one of the gun control groups. The SHOT Show, an annual trade show for the shooting sports industry, is not open to the public yet still has more Facebook subscribers than the CSGV, VPC, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns and more Twitter subscribers than all but two of the gun control groups.

Glock and Smith & Wesson, both gun companies, each have roughly 2x the number of Facebook subscribers of all of the gun control groups combined. Each has more Twitter followers than all but one of the gun control groups. Ruger has roughly as many Facebook followers as all the gun control groups combined, and more Twitter subscribers than half of the gun control groups.

Even though there’s essentially no effort involved in subscribing to a group’s Facebook or Twitter feed and people can subscribe with a single click, the gun control groups have a rather poor showing: the only group to exceed 100,000 subscribers on Facebook (something achieved by every pro-gun or industry group, with the exception of the SHOT Show) was Moms Demand Gun Sense in America. They are roughly tied for subscribers as the Second Amendment Foundation, a group more normally found successfully fighting legal battles in courtrooms rather than reaching out to the public on social media. MDA has fewer Twitter followers than any individual pro-gun or industry group with the exception, again, of the SAF.

The NRA alone has more Facebook subscribers than all of the Facebook and Twitter subscribers of all of the anti-gun groups combined. Talk about the 800lb gorilla in the room.

It’s pretty clear that the pro-gun-rights side has far more popular support, not only among dues-paying members, but also among people who need only click a mouse button to register their support.

As to whether or not these levels of support hold when extended to include the general public, I leave as an exercise to the reader and the professionals.

If anyone has details on other groups, either pro- or anti-gun that you’d like me to add to the list, please let me know and I’d be happy to add them. I just picked the groups that I happened to be aware of and that had at least a moderate presence on these two social media platforms.

  1. There is no official ARS Twitter account, so this is the sum of followers for Rep. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, as their individual accounts are mentioned specifically on the ARS website and who have 139,800 and 70,908 followers, respectively. []

Feinstein: “Gun owners” have “hammerlock” on Congress

From Politico:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says the shooting at the Los Angeles International Airport underscores the need for an assault weapons ban and greater gun control measures.

That’s strange, I thought that “assault weapons” were already illegal in California. Same thing with standard-capacity magazines, transporting a loaded firearm, public endangerment, assault, attempted murder, murder, etc. Go figure.

A strong supporter of an assault weapons ban, the California Democrat said, “the weapon was a .223 MP-15, where the MP stands for military and police, clearly designed not for general consumption … Same gun that was used at Aurora. Would I do a bill? Sure, I would do a bill. I mean, I believe this down deep in my soul.”

She evidently thinks that the name thought up by the S&W marketing guys in 1899 for a revolver means that a modern gun bearing the same brand name is only meant for military and police. That doesn’t really make much sense at all.

But Feinstein said that such a bill would be very difficult to pass. “There’s a hammer lock on the Congress by the gun owners and gun people,” she said.

Good. In addition to “gun owners” and “gun people”, there’s this pesky thing called “the Constitution”, several Supreme Court decisions, and the pesky lack of evidence as to the effectiveness of such a ban.

That said, I like the fact that she credits gun owners and “gun people” rather than the nebulous “gun lobby”.

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, but the bill stalled.

“Stalled” is putting it mildly. “Was utterly crushed by a 40-60 vote in the Senate” is somewhat more accurate.

Honestly, I don’t know why she keeps bringing it back up: it isn’t going to reduce crime, every time she mentions it gun owners get whipped into a frenzy, and there’s substantial opposition to the bill among both the citizenry and the legislature. Fortunately for the pro-gun-rights side, this often ends up poisoning other less-restrictive-but-still-infringing gun control measures so they rarely gain any headway. You’d think after several years of this she’d learn to avoid this particular topic.

On pro-gun Democrats and the future of gun rights

As usual, Sebastian has a way with words and groking politics that I wish I had:

Part of making the Democrats pro-gun again is just to create a perception that gun control is a losing issue by continuing to defeat anti-gun Democrats, and to do that, we need single-issue Dems that are willing to cross the aisle when it counts. I think the overwhelming defeat of Angela Giron in Colorado is strong evidence that such folks exist.

So that’s what we ultimately need: single issue voters in the Democratic Party willing to vote in Democratic primaries for pro-gun candidates, and become involved enough in their local party races so that the people in the party know that there’s a gun vote to be pandered to. More importantly that those party leaders know that that gun vote will cross the aisle in a heartbeat if an anti-gun candidate wins. There really isn’t any insurgency involved. It just takes winning elections.

Read the whole thing.

Personally, I’m more of a mixed bag when it comes to politics. I’m quite socially liberal, somewhat fiscally conservative (particularly on the federal level or things involving most corporate subsidies, but I support taxpayer funding of things like libraries, education, basic healthcare, etc.), and generally want to be free to live my life as I see fit without my interfering with others (I’m not a terribly nosy person) and without others interfering with my life (at least insofar as my actions don’t harm others). I typically vote for the candidate that I feel would best represent and benefit both myself and my community (or state or country), regardless of what party they belong to.

For various reasons, gun rights seems to more connected with the American political right (likely due to the Republicans having a strong presence in rural areas with large numbers of gun owners, while Democrats tend to have a strong presence in urban areas with fewer gun owners, and suburbs being a mixture of the two to varying degrees) and I think that’s unfortunate, as I consider gun rights to be a “liberty” issue, similar to free speech, privacy, etc.

Linking gun rights to a specific party is dangerous: civil rights should not depend on a particular party’s success (or failure) in the polls — such links end up being highly divisive and can have a significant negative effect. As an example, look at the recent Virginia gubernatorial election: McAuliffe is publicly anti-gun and mentioned that in his campaign. Cuccinelli, on the other hand, was pro-gun but also had a lot of political baggage that turned off pro-gun Democrats who might be willing to vote for him otherwise. That is, in the minds of pro-gun Democrats, the cost of voting for Cuccinelli in terms of non-gun issues would exceed the pro-gun benefit. Since it’s difficult to separate out the specific issues that motivate voters, I wouldn’t be surprised if McAuliffe (and Bloomberg) trumpets his victory as referendum on gun policy even if it was a relatively minor issue in the election.

Separating gun rights from a specific political party would be far more productive, beneficial, and stable over the long term: if both Democratic and Republican voters nominated pro-gun candidates in their respective primaries, it would be clear that gun rights is something that is widely supported by members of both parties, making it easier to form a consensus, and avoiding divisive party politics on this particular issue.
If we, the gun-owning community, want to preserve our rights in the long-term we need to work to get the pro-gun-rights message heard by all candidates by members of their own party and to separate the pro-gun issue from a specific party and the baggage that comes with it.