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.

Defense Distributed announces the “Ghost Gunner”, a CNC mill for making AR-15s

Defense Distributed, a group famous for the “Liberator” (an open-source, freely-available 3D printable gun), just announced the “Ghost Gunner” — a compact CNC mill that is designed specifically for turning a metal 80% lower into a complete AR-15 lower receiver in about an hour.

Sure, general-purpose CNC mills have existed for decades, but they’re a bit expensive, hard to learn, and generally out of reach of the average person. DD’s hope with this machine is to make it easy and cheap (about $1,200 at the normal price, discounted to $999 for the first ten to pre-order) for the average person to use out-of-the-box.

Coming on the heels of the failure of State Senator Kevin de Leόn’s SB 808 “ghost gun ban”, which would criminalize the manufacture of homebuilt firearms unless one registered them with the state and added a serial number, this is particularly interesting.

In the wake of the governor’s veto of the Ghost Gun ban, Wilson’s CNC mill could make untraceable guns all the more accessible. And as the video above shows, Wilson isn’t shying away from that face-off so much as directly confronting gun control advocates. He’s gone as far as applying for a trademark for the term “Ghost Gun,” a move that could limit how gun control advocates are legally able to use it.

“This wouldn’t be worth doing if Kevin de Leόn didn’t know about it,” Wilson says.

(From Wired’s The $1,200 Machine That Lets Anyone Make a Metal Gun at Home)

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.

Guns vs. Cars

Miguel over at GFZ posted an image from the CSGV in which they claim that “strictly regulating cars, drivers, and roads” has resulted in a 90% drop in automotive-related fatality rates in the last century or so.

Leaving aside the fundamental difference that the majority of automotive-related fatalities are due to accidents while the majority of gun-related fatalities are due to intentional acts (either suicide or homicide), I thought it would be interesting to do a quick apples-to-apples comparison between guns and cars:

Regulations on Cars/Guns

The “strict regulations” on cars were almost exclusively related to actual safety concerns of passengers in cars: seat belts, laminated windshields, safety glass, air bags, having electric lights instead of kerosene lamps, not exploding when rear-ended, generally not being made of flimsy materials like wood, etc. Compare, say, a Model T to a modern vehicle and the differences in regards to the safety of the occupants are obvious.

There’s also the matter of the environment in which cars are operated: in the early 1900s, cars were operated alongside pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages, etc. where collisions were much more likely. Modern cars are operated on dedicated roads and highways that are more isolated from pedestrians and slower-moving vehicles.

Guns are similar: guns that fire without the shooter desiring it (e.g. when dropped) are broken, as are guns that explode in normal operating conditions. Such guns are defective and are recalled or replaced. Guns have had many safety mechanisms for a long, long time: the 1911 has both a grip safety and a manual safety. The only major improvement I can think of that modern pistols have made in that regard is the addition of drop safeties.

Modern holsters are extremely safe (more so than just dropping a gun loose into a pocket) and retention holsters are available for modest cost to those who wish to buy them.

If anything, guns are far ahead of cars in regards to the safety of the operator.

Regulations on Drivers/Gun Owners

The “strict regulations” on those wishing to drive on public roads are basic vision tests that my grandparents had no trouble passing, a few hours of lessons in high school followed by a short written and behind-the-wheel exam by the DMV and you’re good to go for life.

Similar standards exist for those wishing to carry firearms in public: a few hours learning the basics of the legal issues regarding self-defense (e.g. when the use of force is appropriate), basic instruction on safe gun-handling, and a little time at the range. Typically such licenses must be renewed every few years.

No license or training is necessary for someone to operate a vehicle on private property. In most states guns that are used only at home or the range, but not carried in public, don’t require any license or permit,

Regulation of Roads/Ranges

In regards to roads, older roads are little more than paved country paths. Modern roads are well-engineered and safe.

The only things that’s really comparable for guns are organized ranges, which are typically well-managed and extremely safe.

All the ranges I know are extremely attentive about keeping the property well-maintained, in good repair, clean, etc. They all have regular clean-ups of the range as well as extraction/recycling of bullets from berms/backstops.

Discussion

Nearly all of the changes to laws regulating cars and drivers over the last century or so have related to genuine safety concerns and there is clear evidence for the effectiveness of seat belts, air bags, non-exploding cars, well-maintained electric lights, etc. in regards to improving safety.

Other important regulations have been in regards to improving fuel efficiency and reducing pollution, and while many people have been encouraging mass transit and improving street/city design to minimize the necessity for cars, there has been no non-lunatic-fringe efforts to dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of cars.

The same cannot be said for firearms: the majority of laws enacted regarding firearms have nothing to do about the safety of the operator of a firearm. A few, such as those requiring safe storage of firearms and mandating that gun locks are sold with each new gun, are nominally about safety but there’s no evidence that they’ve actually done anything positive for safety.

Also, essentially all of the so-called “gun safety” are, in fact, “gun control” groups that seek to significantly reduce the number of privately-owned firearms. Some groups and their members are willing to let hunters and sportsmen maintain guns suitable for those activities while eliminating “undesirable” guns like handguns, modern rifles, and so on, while others aren’t even willing to allow that and seek total civilian disarmament.

None of those groups promote things that would actually improve safety, like age-appropriate educational safety classes for children and adults.

 In Short

With very few exceptions, cars and guns are safe to use. Saying that more legislation is needed so guns can be “safer” is disingenuous, especially when there’s not really any pressing need (that is, guns exploding or otherwise accidentally injuring their users is very rare, and not typically the fault of the gun).

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.

PolitiFact calls Everytown’s “school shooting” map “mostly false”

From “Have there been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook? A closer look at a tricky statistic

A statistic calculated by Everytown for Gun Safety, and shared widely on social media, said that there have been 74 “school shootings in America since Sandy Hook.”

The group’s figure is accurate only if you use a broad definition of “school shooting” that includes such incidents as suicides, accidents and spillover from adjacent criminal activity. The figure has some value in quantifying the proximity of guns to school campuses, but the group makes a significant stretch by tying the statistic so closely to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook. By doing this, the group closely associates the statistic with planned mass shootings targeting students and school staff — a category that, using a more strict definition, accounts for only 10 of the 74 incidents.

The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Ouch. Between that and CNN’s debunking of the map, that’s gotta hurt.

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.

On going back in time

NPR had a recent article discussing the dangers of stray bullets, something which I agree is a problem.

Unusually, a few sentences in the comments section attracted my interest; I typically don’t participate in comment threads on news articles and try to avoid them where possible. However, a comment by an individual going by the name “Sean Gay” attracted my attention. This comment starts with,

Yet another reason to go back to the pre-2008 second amendment and allowing the implementation of gun laws to restrict access.

In a separate respond to some other commenter, Mr. Gay says:

Right, but all decisions prior to 2007 included the full text of the second amendment as a right for state-sanctioned militia. The decision of 2007 fundamentally rewrote the second amendment and the McDonald v Chicago decision exacerbated the situation. By striking down a completely reasonable restriction in 2007 it opened the gate for other reasonable controls to be broken down. It was a bad decision that went against the Constitution, precedent, law, and common sense.

I’ve seen a few articles and comments of this type recently, no doubt spurred on by media coverage of some recent, high-profile crimes. (As an aside, I note how individuals and the media basically ignore more routine crimes in places like Chicago.)

Some have gone to the extreme of comparing the Heller and McDonald cases to Dred Scott and other cases where the Supreme Court got things very, very wrong and suggest that the court ought to change their rulings on Heller and McDonald. Of course, such comparisons are absurd: Dred Scott and other similar cases are clear examples of the court ruling to explicitly deny or restrict people’s human rights (which is objectively wrong), while Heller and McDonald serve to protect people’s rights.

However, most of the comments avoid such explicit comparisons and are of a “Why can’t things be like they were before?” nature. They always seem to ignore the case law and historical context of the Second Amendment, which is well-cited by the Supreme Court in the Heller case, and erroneously assume that Heller made things up out of whole cloth.

They seem to think that if only Heller and McDonald were undone, the Second Amendment would be no obstacle to restricting guns. Perhaps they’re right, but it seems unlikely that they’d gather much traction: in addition to state constitutions protecting the right to keep and bear arms, the right to self-defense is an inherent one, and that right exists absent the protections of the Second Amendment or particular court rulings. Firearms have a long tradition of being used for defensive purposes, both in the US and abroad, and there’s certainly a lot of legal precedent that does not rely upon the Second Amendment and which supports the right to own firearms for self-protection and other lawful purposes.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that there are ordinary people out there who think that a complete ban on handguns (in the case of Heller) is a “reasonable restriction”. Such a position is both unreasonable and extreme, and serves only to restrict the rights of ordinary people. Readers would do well to remind their legislators of that fact, and to keep that in mind when voting in upcoming elections.

Update: I foolishly forgot to include a title in this post before publishing it. This has since been corrected.

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?