Heads Up

Looks like Frauk Lautenberg is proposing a new law that will “close the gun-show loophole.”
Of course, there is no such “loophole” — nothing that is illegal outside of a gunshow becomes legal on show grounds: dealers must still conduct background checks. Private individuals can sell their guns to other private individuals (( So long as they’re not doing so as part of a business. It’s really meant for occasional sales. )) outside of the show, but many do so at gun shows as there’s a much larger market of gun enthusiasts roaming around looking for deals. Such shows tend to attract a large amount of cops, so there’s essentially no funny business. Very few (( I seem to recall the number being about 1%, but I can’t find the exact number. )) guns used in crime come from gun shows; most are stolen.
According to Lautenberg’s website,

The Senators? bill would close the loophole by requiring background checks on all sales at gun shows.? The bill defines a gun show as any event where 50 or more guns are offered or exhibited for sale. In addition, the bill would require:

  • gun show promoters to register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), maintain a list of vendors at all gun shows and ensure that all vendors acknowledge receipt of information about their legal obligations; and
  • federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to submit information, including the manufacturer/importer, model and serial number of firearms transferred at gun shows to the ATF?s National Tracing Center (NTC).? No personal information about either the seller or the purchaser would be given to the ATF.? Instead, as under current law, FFLs would maintain personal information in their files.? The National Tracing Center would request personal information from an FFL only if a firearm becomes the subject of a law enforcement trace request.

Emphasis mine. That part really worries me — why should guns bought at shows have to submitted to the NTC while guns bought outside of shows don’t? I wonder if such a requirement would fall afoul of the FOPA ’86?
There’s some fluffy compliments from the usual suspects: Reed, Feinstein, Helmke, etc. They talk about how this particular bill will be a panacea to gun-related crime without any references. They even trot out some people connected to Virginia Tech victims.
While the bill doesn’t explicitly prohibit individual person-to-person transfers (( Even if it did, criminals would just ignore it and sell guns illegally as they do at present. )), it’s a big, troubling step in that direction.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind if ordinary people had access to NICS if they wanted to run a check on a potential buyer, but this particular bill is a bad idea that would have no effect on crime.
I don’t have a bill number, but I urge you to write to your Congressmen to oppose this legislation.

First Principles

Over the years, I’ve met several people who opposed the right to keep and bear arms. In some cases, these meetings resulted in discussion and debates on US firearm law and policy.
For the first year or two that I had these discussions, I found it very difficult to understand the other person’s position, and they had difficulty understanding mine. Eventually, I discovered why: we each held fundamentally different first principles.
For example, I hold the belief that the default state of rights is “on” — if someone wishes to create a new law or restriction, the onus is on them to justify their restriction. I’m consistent in the application of this belief: all rights default to “on,” whether they’re the right to speak freely, possess and use arms, maintain one’s privacy, have sex with any other consenting adult, end one’s life, ingest or otherwise consume intoxicating substances (( With the caveat that some substances may require a doctor’s perscription, as they might have harmful side-effects if not taken in a particular manner. )), operate a vehicle, and so on so long as one exercises those rights in a manner that is safe, does not infringe on the rights of others, and takes responsibility for any effects of their actions.
Some people I know hold an opposite belief: that the default state of rights is (or should) be “off,” and that unless a specific thing or behavior is allowed, it is forbidden.
Some people straddle the line in that they believe that certian rights default to “off” and others default to “on” — a person may have a right to speak freely, but needs to justify their desire to possess arms. Perhaps they think that a person may have a right to own arms, but simultaneously think that one may not have consensual sex with another adult that does not fit with their personal beliefs. Another common one is that that one may own arms, but has no right to privacy.
When it comes to guns in particular, some believe that guns serve no useful purpose, and so one must demonstrate a “need” (such as being a member of the police or military) prior to being allowed to own one, while I believe that guns are useful, and one must demonstrate a “need” to justify a restriction on their ownership.
Once I discovered this fundamental difference in first principles, I realized why I was having so much difficulty understanding and being understood: discussions and debates are impossible if the participants do not agree upon a common set of first principles.
As such, I’ve stopped figuratively bashing my head against a brick wall when it comes to debating gun-specific issues, but instead focus on the two of us agreeing on compatible first principles, if possible.

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.


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.