What media bias?

unixronin takes the media to task in an interesting comparison between MSNBC and CNN. A brief exerpt:

Q:? How do you know when your news media is blowing smoke up your ass?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Barack Obama, reported by CNN:

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CNN) — Reviving a ban on assault weapons and more strictly enforcing existing gun laws could help tamp down drug violence that has run rampant on the U.S.-Mexican border, President Obama said Thursday.
Speaking alongside Mexican President Felipe Calder?n, Obama said he has ?not backed off at all? on a campaign pledge to try to restore the ban.? It was instituted under President Clinton and allowed to lapse by President George W. Bush.
?I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment right in our Constitution — the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners that want to keep their families safe — to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we know here in Mexico, are used to fuel violence,? Obama said.


No, those dates are not typos.? These are two diametrically opposite spins from two different news organizations, on the same day, about the same event.

…A:? Their lips move.

Sorry for any weird formatting. The LJ–>WordPress transition is interesting, to say the least.
He also discusses Obama’s discussion of the Tiahrt Amendment and ballistic fingerprinting:

The last point I would make is that there are going to be some opportunities where I think we can build some strong consensus.? I?ll give you one example, and that is the issue of gun tracing.? The tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information that have been used in major crimes — that?s information that we are still not giving to law enforcement, as a consequence of provisions that have been blocked in the United States Congress, and those are the areas where I think that we can make some significant progress early.

It?s pretty clear here, if you?re familiar with the issues in question, that this is apparently referring to two things ? the Tiahrt Amendment, and ballistic fingerprinting.? Let?s look at those a moment separately.
First, the Tiahrt Amendment.? The Obama/Brady/Schumer/Feinstein/VPC/Bloomberg/etc position is that the Tiahrt Amendment prevents law enforcement from getting access to BATFE firearm trace information.? And this, bluntly, is a bald-faced lie.? Existing law, including Tiahrt, allows full access to firearm trace information to any law enforcement agency conducting any investigation for which it is relevant. If you have a legitimate need for the information, you can get it.
What the Tiahrt Amendment prohibits is non-law-enforcement organizations or individuals getting access to trace data in order to trawl it and use it for purposes for which it wasn?t ever intended and for which it isn?t meaningful. And that?s the part Feinstein, Bloomberg, Schumer, the Violence Policy Center and their ilk hate ? because that?s what they want to be able to do.? It?s irrelevant to them whether the data actually means anything when used as they want to use it.? For example, they take it as a given that the existence of BATFE trace data on a firearm means that firearm has been used in a gun crime.? But that?s not so.? Just as a single example ? how do you think police find the legal owners of stolen weapons?? …Exactly.? They request a BATFE trace.? Police bust a fence and find 20 or 30 guns in his stash?? How did he get them?? Trace time, baby.

I suspect that the next attacks on gun rights might come, not in the form of an outright ban, but perhaps in a “compromise” (( There is no “compromise” here. It’s an infringement of rights, period. )) on certain types of guns, or by attacking the Tiahrt Amendment. These attacks on our rights are subtle and often misundertsood. Keep alert.

Obama in Mexico

The Arizona Republic published an article discussing the various details of Obama’s recent trip to Mexico. While it covered a wide range of details, I was mostly concerned with the gun-related issues. I’ve taken some excerpts and made some comments below:

President Barack Obama, outlining plans to help Mexico combat drug violence, promised Thursday to resurrect a treaty against arms trafficking that has been stuck in Congress for 12 years, but rebuffed Mexico’s demands to curb sales of assault weapons that Mexico is demanding.

While I’m glad that he doesn’t seem inclined to promote an assault weapons scary-looking-gun ban, the fact that Mexico is “demanding” changes to American laws, particularly fundamental ones like the right to arms, is troubling.

Obama showed little appetite for reviving the 1994-2004 Assault Weapons Ban. During a joint press conference in Mexico City, Mexican President Felipe Calder?n blamed the end of the ban for the increasing firepower wielded by drug cartels.

Well, then Calder?n is an idiot. The now-expired AWB didn’t have any effect on the availability of certain scary-looking guns. Ban-compliant AR-15s and AK variants, for example, were easily found during the decade it was in effect, and are functionally identical to guns that were banned. Guns affected by the ban were simply semi-auto lookalikes of their select-fire military brethren, and are now the most common sporting arms in the country. They are used by no military in the world. The guns used in violent crimes in Mexico are almost certainly the select-fire variants which are effectively unavailable to US citizens, and not available in US gun shops.

Obama said he still believes the assault weapons ban ?made sense,? but that he wants to concentrate on measures against gun smuggling, not gun sales themselves. Many Congress members, including Democrats, have vowed to fiercely oppose any revival of the ban.

If Obama believes the AWB “made sense,” then he’s a fool. It was about as effective as banning red cars (but not banning non-red versions of the same car), because red cars are obviously go faster and are more dangerous than every other car. Anyway, good on Congress for vowing to oppose any such ban.

The ban prohibited sales of semi-automatic weapons with certain combinations of military-style features, such as folding stocks, large magazines and flash suppressors. Opponents of the ban say the weapons actually fire smaller bullets than some other rifles, and that it is unconstitutional to ban a gun simply because of how it looks.

I’m not sure about the constitutionality of a ban(( My gut instinct says a ban would be unconstitutional, but I’m not a lawyer and Constitutional law can get rather muddied and complex. )), but simply having “smaller bullets” doesn’t make a gun any less dangerous than any other. 7.62mm NATO is certainly more lethal than, say, .32 ACP, but the .32 has a slightly larger bullet.
It’s nice to see a media outlet describe, with reasonable accuracy, the gist of the AWB, rather than claiming it banned machine guns or other such stuff.

On Piracy

While piracy on the high seas has been an issue for years, the recent hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, a US-flagged ship, and its subsequent retaking by the crew and US Navy brought the issue a bit closer to home for Americans.
My understanding, such as it is, is that due to the variety of laws regarding weapons at all the various ports that these cargo ships stop at, it’s cheaper and easier for the company to simply not include any weapons in the ship’s equipment, and thus avoid any hassles with customs.
Personally, I don’t foresee (nor do I desire) merchant ships mounting fixed naval weapons to fend off pirates. That blurs the line between a “merchant ship” and a “warship,” and I can see that causing some issues in regards to international commerce. That said, I see no reason why some additional measures can’t be taken:

  • Have sealed, for-emergency-use-only arms lockers on the merchant ships. Shotguns seem to be pretty well-accepted the world over, even in countries like the UK. Have them setup in much the same way one has the “in case of emergency break glass” locker for firefighting equipment on land. The seals would make it much easier for customs officials to inspect and verify that the arms are not being used for nefarious purposes, and the size of the shotguns means that it would be more difficult to smuggle such arms into a country (is that really a concern?). Put such lockers in key areas, like the bridge, crew quarters, and the engine room. There’s really no excuse for crew needing to defend themselves with firehoses because they are unarmed.
  • Train the crews in self-defense. I don’t expect them to be Navy SEALs, I just expect them to know how to handle themselves in an emergency.
  • Have passive defense around the ship. Many homes have fences topped with broken glass, for example. Could a similar means of defense be implemented on a ship? Obviously, there are numerous legitimate reasons for needing to interact with the edge of the ship (throwing lines and whatnot), so a permanent installation might be unreasonable. Surely there could be various things done that would make boarding a ship much more difficult.
  • When traveling through pirate-infested waters, ensure that all exterior doors and hatches are locked. Even with RPGs, it’d be slow and time-consuming for pirates to blast their way through the heavy doors found on a ship.
  • Arrange for convoys to escort ships through heavily-pirated waters. Unlike WWII, large convoys wouldn’t be needed — one or two small warships could escort a fairly large number of cargo ships with only a few minute response time, rather than being hundreds of miles away. A helicopter or two might help as well.
  • Show the pirates we mean business. So far, the default course of action has been to pay the bounty. Such actions have only made the pirates bolder, as they think they can get big money from a relatively simple job. Whether it’s from crews being able to effectively defend themselves to warships escorting merchant vessels, showing the pirates that everyone opposes pirates and won’t let them easily take ships will (hopefully) go a long way to deterring pirate attacks.

That said, I offer a hearty “well done” to the US Navy and the captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama. Well done, indeed.

Thanks!

I checked my email the other day and noted a donation to the New Shooter Ammo Fund from Carl (last name omitted for privacy).
Thanks Carl, I really appreciate it. While my schedule is hellishly busy right now, I’ll see about taking some new shooters to the range in the next month or two.

Patents on the AR-15/M16, AK, and other common guns?

I’m curious if the AR-15/M16 in its basic form (say with a normal rail-with-detachable-carry-handle-upper) is covered by any active US patents, copyrights, license agreements, royalties, or other restrictions that would prevent an entity from freely copying, modifying, manufacturing, or distributing clones?
Obviously there’s a lot of AR manufacturers out there, but I’m curious if they have to license the design and pay some sort of royalty to a company that owns the rights to the design or if it’s freely available without any such restrictions.
If not available freely, what about the use of AR/M16-compatible components? For example, the Kel-Tec SU-16 series of rifles takes M16-type STANAG magazines. Does one need to license the design for the magazines?
Actual citable references would be much appreciated.
How about the AK and other common rifles? What about common handguns?
I recently had an interesting idea involving something along these lines and would like to get more information.

Internal Conflict

It must be that time of year: three police have been shot in Pittsburgh by a gunman. I offer my sincerest condolences to the friends and family of the fallen officers.
As expected, the Brady Campaign is dancing in the blood of the slain police officers with yet another press release.
According to the Bradys, the police were murdered by a…

“…man shooting ?hundreds of shots? who apparently believed the gun lobby propaganda that an ?Obama gun ban? would lead to his ?rights being infringed upon.'”

They go on to say,

“It is time for the gun lobby to stop stoking fear among gun owners with false claims about the government [proposing some sort of gun ban].”

Further down on the page, they close with,

At the very least, require Brady background checks for all gun sales; restrict military-style assault weapons to the military and law enforcement and help law enforcement crack down on corrupt gun sellers.

I’m sorry, I don’t see how they can say that the “gun lobby” is making “false claims” about proposed gun bans when they then go on to advocate such bans in the form of “restrict[ing] military-style assault weapons.” Wouldn’t such a restriction be, by definition, a ban? I’m not sure how the Bradys can hold such conflicting viewpoints.
Thanks to Sebastian, it looks like the alleged (( Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, of course.)) killer, Richard Poplawski, was a prohibited person due to having been dishonorably discharged from the marines:

Perkovic [a friend of the alleged killer-AZR] also said that Richard Poplawski had received a dishonorable discharge from the Marines and that he has a history of domestic disputes.

If this is the case, Poplawski would have been legally prohibited from possessing firearms. The “history of domestic disputes” might also have been sufficient to make him a prohibited person. Since the killer seems to have had no problems with violating existing laws (( Such as those against murder, in addition to less serious crimes like possession of firearms by a prohibited person, discharge of firearms within city limits, etc. )), I’m not sure what the Bradys hope to accomplish with the addition of more laws.
Update: Turns out it wasn’t a dishonorable discharge. My mistake.

More Brady Stupid

About 30,000 people a year in this country die from gun violence, about 80 a day, 32 by homicide – the same number who died at Virginia Tech two years ago this month.? In the space of four months, up to nine Americans died as a result of bacteria-laden peanut butter crackers, and the government quickly took action. Some of the top government officials in our country say we don’t need to do anything different – that we should just ‘enforce the laws on the books.’? The laws on the books aren’t getting the job done. Now is the time to take effective steps to prevent gun violence.

– Paul Helmke, Brady Campaign Press Release (Emphasis in original.)
Leaving out the absurdity of the gun-cracker comparison, I fail to see how more laws would have made any difference.
First off, it’s already illegal to murder people, regardless of the methods used. It’s an additional penalty to murder someone with a gun. There’s plenty of laws already against violent crime, and violent criminals are some of the most zealously pursued and prosecuted criminals in US society.
New York also has some rather strict gun laws (( http://www.bradycampaign.org/legislation/state/viewstate.php?st=ny )) (( http://www.nraila.org/GunLaws/ )). What more does the Brady Campaign want?
More bans or restrictions won’t prevent pe0ple bent on a murderous rampage from committing such heinous crimes — they already need to violate numerous laws and societal norms to do so. The mere presence of such laws, however, cannot prevent one from doing something illegal — it simply provides a means of punishment afterwards. With sufficient motivation, one can acquire weapons (or drugs, or other restricted items) regardless of laws prohibiting them from doing so. Clearly, the murderer had little qualms about acquiring weapons and then going on to commit mass murder.
Honestly, I’m not sure what more “effective steps” can be taken against such behavior. If anyone has any reasonable suggestions, I (and the rest of the world, I suspect) am willing to listen with an open mind. As this incident in New York and the recent mass shooting in Germany have shown, however, is that strict gun control does not prevent murderers from committing their terrible crimes.