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.

Hunting with suppressors to be allowed in Louisiana

From guns.com comes this report that, effective August 1st, 2014, it will be legal to hunt game in Louisiana with suppressors, thus adding Louisiana to the list of 33 states where hunting with suppressors is legal.

Hunters in the Sportsman’s Paradise will be able to use legally-owned suppressors to both harvest game and control pests following Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing of House Bill 186 into law Friday.

HB186 strikes the state’s ban on using National Firearms Act-registered suppressors, commonly but incorrectly referred to as “silencers,” in hunting, and replaces it with language to allow widespread use by lawful sportsmen.

The popular bill had sailed through the state Legislature, passing the Senate unanimously on May 20 with little comment by lawmakers.

“This is about mitigating the noise and preventing hearing loss,” said Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), sponsor of the legislation.

The law will allow any person who possesses an NFA-compliant and properly registered firearm suppressor to use the device to both harvest game animals as well as pests and nuisance wildlife such as beaver and nutria. However, in an apparent bid to void use by those with a history of poaching, it forbids the use of suppressed firearms by those who have been convicted of certain wildlife violations in the past five years.

As a suppressor owner and advocate, this is excellent news. I had no idea that so many states allowed hunting with suppressors.

I really should join the American Suppressor Association, as they and the NRA were instrumental in getting this bill passed.

Of course, not everyone was happy:

Only a handful of Louisiana House representatives voted against the suppressor bill when it passed through that chamber in an 82-15 vote in April. Those who did oppose it voiced concerns about the use of suppressors by criminals as well as the broad allowances to use the devices for virtually all game in the state.

“I don’t know why we need silencers to hunt birds,” said Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans). “We don’t need this bill.”

For some reason, Americans are seemingly unique in the widespread belief that suppressors are tools of assassins, hit men, secret agents, and other stealthy types. In many countries, including those that are decidedly anti-gun like the UK, the use of suppressors is considered one of being polite and neighborly: just as it’s rude and disturbing to drive a car without a muffler, shooting unsuppressed firearms can be impolite in some circumstances.

Rep. Badon is off the mark: all shooters should be able to use suppressors if they wish, and their use should be encouraged. Not only does it help reduce hearing damage for the shooter, but it minimizes the irritation of those who may be disturbed by the sound of unsuppressed shooting. Win-win for everyone.

Open Carry Rally this Saturday in Texas [corrected]

Updated: Whoops. Turns out I didn’t check the date on the DMN article — the event was this last Saturday and has already occurred. Mea culpa. Additionally, it looks like the group didn’t have permission from Home Depot and may have violated Home Depot’s “no solicitation” policy, which might end up getting open carry banned at Home Depot. Way to go, guys.

In the army we had a name for people who screwed over their buddies: “blue falcon“. It’s fair to say that applies to these guys.

Original post continues below:

Heads up to any readers in Texas: according to the Dallas Morning News, there’ll be an open carry rally in North Richland Hills this Saturday:

Starting at 11:30 a.m. supporters will fill the back of the parking lot at the Home Depot on Precinct Line Road to listen to speakers, have an open-carry education session and hold a raffle. Prizes include revolvers, an AR 15 rifle, over 1,500 rounds of ammunition and Rangers tickets, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Rally organizer Kory Watkins, 30, wants to make it clear that Saturday’s event is not a protest.

“Protesters are angry; and we are not angry people. If you come up to us, you will see we are smiling and friendly,” he said. “We are demonstrating, demonstrating our rights and demonstrating how the law lets you carry a long gun, but you can’t open carry a pistol.”

While I personally find the open carry of rifles in built-up areas a bit off-putting, so long as things are cool with Home Depot that sounds like a fun event and a good use of a large, otherwise-unused section of parking lot.

When you’re having a big event, it makes sense to coordinate with the property owner rather than just showing up. Doubly so when people are openly armed.

However, it’s not quite clear if that’s the case:

Watkins said his group has been meeting at the Home Depot for almost a year, and unlike other businesses and cities like Arlington who have clashed with the group, the home improvement giant has “stayed neutral.”

“They respect the rights of the people and we realize that,” Watkins said. “Their parking lost are always huge so we can park in the back and not bother nobody.”

A representative for the North Richland Hills Home Depot said he had no information about the rally.

“That’s not something Home Depot sponsors,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “They are not going to on the Home Depot property.”

Stephen Holmes, Home Depot’s corporate communications director, told Forbes, “Our feeling is that, ultimately, the voters direct the laws on gun carry issues, so we defer to the prevailing ordinances in states and communities.”

Emphasis mine.

Good for Home Depot to stay neutral, but it sounds like the group — even though they’ve met there regularly — hasn’t really coordinated with the store itself. That’d probably be a good idea.

Fortunately, they’ve let the police know ahead of time so there shouldn’t be trouble from the cops:

[A]ccording to Watkins, the North Richland Hills police have been helpful with the planned rally.

“The police department has been notified and is coordinating with us,” he said. “Everything is legal, as always.”

Naturally, the Demanding Mommies and a few others have posted to the Home Depot Facebook page saying they’re unhappy about the situation and will not shop at the store until they change their rules.

Honestly, Texas really should just allow open carry of handguns like Arizona and other states: with few exceptions, very few people notice or care a handgun holstered on a belt but they sure as hell will notice a slung rifle. It’d benefit gun owners in Texas and take the steam out of MDA by removing a point around which they can rally support and get media time.

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. []

On Donations

I’ve been a Life Member of the NRA for many years now and while I occasionally disagree with certain things they do1, overall I’ve been quite happy with them.

In addition to subscribing to several pro-gun blogs, twitter feeds, and mailing lists, I also subscribe to several belonging to anti-gun-rights groups just so I can keep up to date on what’s going on. In particular, I’m interested in the so-called “moderate groups” like Mark Kelly and Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions which, despite their mild name and claims to being moderate, continue to promote the same tried-and-ineffective policies like bans on popular guns, limiting magazine capacity, banning private transfers, and other policies that seem to come directly from groups like the VPC and the Brady Campaign.

In the days leading up to the big Senate vote, I received several letters from ARS asking for donations and support for their cause. Instead, I donated twice the amount ARS requested to the NRA-ILA.

Budget permitting, I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future and recommend that you do too.

  1. I’m not a big fan of Wayne LaPierre and think that his constant demonizing of “liberals”, while occasionally well-deserved, is driving otherwise-sympathetic people away from the NRA and gun rights in general when our side needs them the most. []

NRA Magazines Digital Editions

The NRA offers digital versions of its various magazines online for subscribers. Every month, they send an email containing a link to the magazine.

However, they seem to make it rather difficult to access: one needs to login with one’s member information, then view the magazine via some silly browser plugin. A PDF version is available, but accessing it requires a few more clicks to download, and a few more to unzip.

Why not just provide a direct link to the PDF version? That’d seem to be considerably easier. Rather than require logins, why not just send a unique URL to each subscriber so they can ensure that only subscribers can access it? Making it a multi-step process ensures that most people will simply continue to receive paper magazines, costing more money. I’m a professional geek, and even I am a bit frustrated with them.

C’mon NRA, get with the times…

Posted in NRA

Fisking the Daily Star

The Arizona Daily Star published an article in their Sunday Edition that stood out to me when I was grocery shopping today: it had a large, above-the-fold headline entitled, “US makes it easy for gun traffickers.”

While their article is long and makes a weak attempt at appearing balanced, it has some absurdities that I really must point out. I’ve made a few statements in my response that are likely to be common knowledge to gunny folks, though I’d appreciate it if readers could point out where I might find good sources for such statements so I can cite them properly.

Also, I wrote this post rather late at night, so I’m likely to have a few spelling or grammar mistakes. Mea cupla. Continue reading

NRA Annual Meeting (May 17th, 2009)

Saturday night consisted of reviewing some of my notes from the day and getting ready for Sunday.

On Sunday, I decided to be a bit adventuresome and take the metro light rail train into downtown Phoenix, so as to avoid the high parking fees. After getting horribly lost (which included driving through a shady looking trailer park whilst looking for parking — they need better signs) for a short period, Louis and I arrived at the train station, parked, and were off to the convention center.

Once there, we met up with a few other bloggers at the NRA Press Office and went out to lunch. Going off memory, we had Sebastian and Bitter, Eric, Mike, Bradford, and a couple other folks who I seem to have forgotten (sorry guys!).

From left to right, we have Sebastian, Bitter, Eric, Mike, and myself.

After experiencing the silliness of Arizona gun laws relating to carrying in establishments that serve alcohol, we had a tasty lunch, and most of us (Jason was going back to the airport) headed back to the show.

I really wanted to ask the Ruger reps some questions about the SR-556, but they were quite busy when I first checked, so Louis and I perused the exhibit floor and managed to get our hands on some things that we didn’t get to see the previous day, including the FN SCAR:

The SCAR had some different ergonomics than the AR platform (which I’m used to), but still seemed to be reasonably lefty friendly. One notable feature was the folding stock — a simple button-press released the stock, which folded around to the right. It snapped into a notch on the brass deflector and so could be secured in the folded position. The stock didn’t end up blocking the ejection port when folded, and since no operating parts were in the stock the gun could be fired while folded. Very cool.

One booth was run by a few skilled craftsmen who made very tiny, functional pistols. The gentleman (whose name I can’t recall) from the Pennsylvania Firearm Owner’s Association who was walking around with us mentioned that on Saturday the booth had a tiny, fully working 1911 that fired itty-bitty cartridges, but that exhibitor was not present today. That would have been really interesting to see.

Finally, I saw a break at the Ruger booth and struck. Fortunately, my questions were not terribly time-consuming, and I got most of them answered in just a few minutes.

Moving on, we found some very cool rifles at the Bushmaster booth — I’m very familiar with the solid, triangular front sight post on AR-pattern rifles, and I’ve seen and used various flip-up iron sights, but I’ve never seen the two combined into a flip-up, triangular front sight post:

This sight was remarkably rigid when extended and was quite compact when folded. The only problem I could see was that there wasn’t any sort of detent that would keep the sight folded — if one were to bump or brush the front sight against something, it’s possible that the sight could flip back up. There wasn’t a detent to lower the sight, but it required force applied in a specific manner, so I don’t think it’d be likely to fold down on its own. This particular front sight post also included a bayonet lug, though they have models without the lug if one wishes.

One can buy such a front sight assembly from the manufacturer here.

The .410 Shotshell/.45 Colt Taurus Judge revolver is an impressive beast, yet still fit comfortably in my hand. I’d really like to give this revolver a spin at the range sometime.

The Glock booth was near the Taurus booth, so we handled a few of the 4th Generation pistols and spoke with some of the reps.

Louis and I then went and lusted over the shinies at the CZ booth, where I was happy to learn that I could order a left-handed CZ-452 American direct from CZ, have their custom shop replace the ordinary barrel with the 16″ pre-threaded barrel found on this model, and have it sent directly to my FFL for pickup. Basically, I’d have a lefty, 16″, pre-threaded 452. Since I love shooting my .22s suppressed and have ammo that’s just barely subsonic out of a 16″ barrel, this is excellent news indeed. They gave me a card and asked me to call in the next week or so to work out a price.

We then headed over to the Leupold booth, where we got to play with their scopes. Compared to the other optics available at the show, the Leupold ones were far and away the brighter and clearer. Louis is an astronomer, and so has developed a great eye for optical aberrations and flaws…and found none in the Leupold optics, while detecting a few minor things (mostly chromatic aberration) in scopes from other brands like Nikon.

While their scopes are made in the US, I was a bit dismayed to discover their laser rangefinders are made in China. Even so, the different models were extremely consistent when ranging to the same object (the far wall of the exhibit hall), and were within one yard of each other. Several of the models took into account the elevation angle, showing both the actual range and the range that one should set one’s sights at when shooting at that angle. Very neat.

A few of the Leupold scopes also had illuminated reticles, and several of those went to eleven1.

After Leupold, we briefly stopped by the Dillon booth and ogled their progressive presses. Alas, while we were doing so, 5:00pm rolled around, and an announcement was made that the annual meeting was over, and would people please make their way to the exits.

In conclusion, while I didn’t get to see any of the various meetings and presentations made by the NRA (with the exception of the one on Jeff Cooper, who was a truly amazing man), I did get to meet with several of the vendor reps, get some information about new products they were offering, handle many of their products, met with a bunch of gunbloggers, and generally had a great time.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make next year’s annual meeting and Blog Bash, but I’ll definitely make an effort to do so.

  1. From This is Spinal Tap. []

Liquor Licenses

For all the progessive gun laws that Arizona has1, it has a major flaw: at present, it is prohibited for a person to carry a firearm (even if they have a permit to carry concealed) into any establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption, even if the person does not drink and even if the sale of alcoholic beverages is temporarily suspended.

While I enjoy a good drink and finely-crafted guns, I strongly believe that drinking and the carriage of firearms should not be done at the same time. Much like drinking and driving, doing so is irresponsible.

That said, I see no reason why I (or any other law-abiding person) should have to disarm simply becuase I wish to enter an establishment that serves alcohol. As the law stands now, I’m prohibited from carrying when I go to Chili’s, even if I’m just there for a burger and soda with friends. If I’m walking around armed, as is my custom, I am forbidden from entering establishments like Chipotle for a burrito simply because they offer bottled beer.

This issue was a concern for the Phoenix Convention Center, as the center has a liquor license. Fortunately, they were able to successfully petition the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control for a temporary suspension of the liquor license in most areas of the event, thus allowing private citizens to legally carry guns around the event.

Certain functions at the event, such as the member banquet, served alcohol. In these places, the NRA maintained a gun-check station and allowed people to securely stow their arms prior to entering the restricted area. However, members who wished to eat at several of the nearby restaraunts were unable to do so, as many of them served alcohol. This was an issue for myself and a few other gunbloggers when we went out for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.

I’ve written to my state officials to encourage them to change the law so that people can legally carry in restaraunts so long as they don’t drink. I urge you to do the same.

  1. Most notably the fact that open carry is legal in most places without any permit being necessary. []