Bloomberg’s 5 Strategic Blunders

From Guns.com comes this excellent piece regarding Bloomberg’s recent announcement. Here’s the quick summary and some commentary:

1. New name, same stink
You can’t polish a turd. In other words, they can call it whatever they like, but as long as Bloomberg is at the helm of the organization they’re going to encounter heavy opposition to their cause.

I genuinely think he doesn’t get that outside of the Northeast and anti-gun places like Chicago, people aren’t so keen on him. Pretty much nobody likes out-of-town billionaires telling them how they should do things.

2. Timing is everything
If it’s true that timing is everything, then one has to question why Everytown chose to announce this move approximately two weeks before the National Rifle Association’s annual show and convention, which is the gun lobby’s one weekend during the year in which they are certain to garner mainstream media coverage and reach millions of Americans.

Yeah, that’s weird.

3. The real objective to background checks
Various polls show that there is widespread public support for universal background checks yet many gun owners are opposed to a law mandating them. Why is this?

The reason gun owners object to universal background checks is not over the notion that private transfers shouldn’t be subject to background checks, but over the implementation of the measures lawmakers proposed.

The article goes on to suggest that rather than mandating that all purchases go through an FFL, where a record of sale is kept, private individuals should have access to NICS (or at least a basic version that says “Proceed” or “Consult FFL”) in the form of a smartphone app or something otherwise easily accessible. They also mention a useful thing that’s often overlooked: having the app be able to save and print out a receipt/record of sale, so the seller could have a record Just In Case.

I, for one, would be totally fine with a law opening up NICS as an option for private sellers, so long as (a) it’s optional and (b) that’s all the law does. No registration, no data retention, no mandated FFL transfers, etc.

If I’m going to sell a gun to a buddy I’ve known since I was a kid, there’s no need for me to do a NICS check — I know he’s good, but if I were to sell to someone from Armslist, someone who responded to a classifieds ad, or someone I met at the range it’d be nice to check to make sure they’re not a prohibited person. Criminals will, as usual, simply ignore the law so it makes no sense to mandate the checks.

4. Why go to war, when compromise is possible?
It appears that Everytown is gearing up for war when it’s quite possible that they could have cut a deal with gun owners and saved Bloomberg millions of dollars.

Suppose [...] Bloomberg’s being sincere in his remarks1, I bet most gun owners would readily sign a deal that established national, ‘shall-issue’ concealed carry reciprocity laws in all 50 states and created a federal law banning bans [AZR: emphasis mine] on ‘assault weapons’ and ‘high capacity’ magazines in exchange for an improved background check system, tougher laws cracking down on domestic abusers and increased funding for suicide prevention and the safe storage of firearms.

Easy: For Bloomberg it’s not about the guns, it’s about control. He doesn’t want a deal, he wants to win. If he actually gave a damn about increasing public safety there’s about a zillion other things he could with $50 million that would be enormously more effective.

Lest anyone think his “nobody is going to take anyone’s gun” remarks are sincere, look at the history of gun control activists: they always say they don’t want to take anyone’s guns, then they ratchet the restrictions tighter when they can.

One need look no further than Sunnyvale, California, where they recently banned even the possession of grandfathered “high-capacity” magazines and require that people turn them into the police. It should be obvious that “universal background checks” is a stepping stone. Indeed, MAIG and MDA, both funded by Bloomberg, have explicitly stated that they want to ban “assault weapons” (which are, of course, the most popular guns owned by ordinary people and some of the least-likely types of guns to be used in crimes) , restrict magazine capacities, and work to eliminate the “gun culture”.

5. All this for what?

Before one wages a $50 million war, they ought to know what they stand to gain if they win. And in this particular instance, what’s achieved by expanding background checks to cover private transfers is not quite clear, meaning that there’s no statistically significant evidence to suggest that universal background checks would have a positive effect on crime rates.

Again, Bloomberg wants to win. He knows that “universal background checks” aren’t going to do squat against criminals, and probably so do the people at MDA, the Brady Campaign, etc., unless they’ve all been drinking the kool-aid. It’s just the camel’s nose in the tent and a point of leverage for future encroachments; baby steps, if you will.

They realized that asking for the whole pie isn’t going to work, so they’re asking for just a teensy-tiny slice. Then, in the future, they’ll ask for another and another until eventually they get where they want. We have to counter them at each step lest they gain a new foothold.

Edit: Minor corrections to grammar. I really need to proofread before posting.

  1. “Nobody is going to take anyone’s gun. Nobody is going to keep you from hunting or target practice or protecting yourself,” said Bloomberg on Wednesday during an appearance on the Today Show. “Just making sure that a handful of people, who we all agree shouldn’t have guns, don’t get their hands on them.” []

Ballistic Monte Carlo Methods

This is a paragraph I never thought I’d see in the academic literature:

“[W]e advocate the use of ballistic-assisted (i.e. projectile-based) random sampling methods because they are both easily accessible and parallelizable. In particular, shotgun-assisted random sampling seems very suitable becaues of the presumed abundance of shotguns in cataclysmic times and the speed at which they can generate samples.”

- Vincent Dumoulin, Félix Thouin – “A Ballistic Monte Carlo Approximation of π

Awesome. That’d make for an amazing grant application.

See here for a summary article that explains things for non-mathematicians.

Edit: Somehow I borked the initial post by forgetting the title and screwing up a link. I’ve now corrected these errors. If you’re still seeing those errors in your feed reader, please refresh the feed.

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.

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.

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.

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.