Veterans for Responsible Solutions: a new anti-gun astroturf group

So, Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords have started a new branch of their gun-control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions. This group is supposed to bring “the experience of military veterans who’ve sworn to defend the Second Amendment and have themselves been well versed in the use of firearms”, according to CNN, who continues with the following:

“I’ve been shot at” while flying, Kelly told reporters on a conference call organized to promote the initiative.
Moreover, there are guns in the Arizona home Kelly shares with Giffords he said, guns used for self-defense and target shooting.
The point Kelly was trying to prove is that neither he nor any member of his organization is looking to repeal or limit Second Amendment rights, likely because the perception of any move against gun ownership in the United States is bound to incite fierce opposition from the powerful pro-gun lobby.

Ok, let’s focus on the last paragraph, where Kelly says he and this group are not trying to repeal or limit Second Amendment rights. While I agree that he’s not trying repeal the amendment (you can’t repeal rights), I’m curious how he can claim to not want to limit the right when his group states that its policy goals are:

  • Criminal Background Checks
  • Limiting High Capacity Magazines
  • Limiting Assault Weapons
  • Stopping Gun Trafficking

The only one of the four policies that wouldn’t infringe or limit the Second Amendment is the last one, as it focuses solely on criminal traffickers of guns. The other three goals seriously infringe on people’s rights: mandatory background checks on all sales would be ineffectively without a registry (else how would you know if a check had been performed?), limiting magazines with a capacity greater than some arbitrary limit (7 in NY, 10 in CA, 15 in CO) puts artificial limits on what people can use for sport or self-defense, and banning the most popular types of guns in the country (which are almost never used in crime) serves no purpose at all except to restrict people’s rights.
In short: essentially everything this group wants to do ends up restricting and limiting the rights of ordinary, law-abiding people while doing essentially nothing that would be effective against crime.
Also, CNN talks about “the powerful pro-gun lobby” as if it were some nebulous, diabolical group instead of tens of millions of law-abiding, gun-owning (and/or gun-rights-supporting) fellow Americans.

Vance Coleman, a retired Army major general, said on the call that he also owns guns. But not everyone should, Coleman continued, namely criminals and the mentally ill.
“They should not own guns and the Congress needs to do something about that,” Coleman said.

Incredibly enough, it’s already illegal for criminals and the mentally ill to own firearms. Their rights can be restricted after due process (e.g. being convicted of a disqualifying crime or being adjudicated mentally defective, involuntarily committed to a mental institution, etc.).

The exact functions of the veterans initiative remains fluid.

In short, it’s an astroturf group that intends to use appeal to authority (that of military vets) to push it’s unconstitutional agenda, but they haven’t quite worked out the details.

Politically, gun control has proven largely unpalatable, particularly with the successful recall elections in September of a pair of Democratic legislators in Colorado who helped push gun control measures.

Indeed. It’s probably wise for politicians to remember this point.
Hat tip to Sebastian. How he keeps up with all the news to find these stories, I have no idea.

WSJ: How to Stop Mass Shootings

I recently read a post by John over at No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money referring to an article by the Wall Street Journal regarding mass shootings, why they take place, and what can be done about it. If you forgive my quoting from the article, I found this part particularly interesting:

[M]assacre killers are typically marked by what are considered personality disorders: grandiosity, resentment, self-righteousness, a sense of entitlement. They become, says Dr. Knoll, ” ‘collectors of injustice’ who nurture their wounded narcissism.” To preserve their egos, they exaggerate past humiliations and externalize their anger, blaming others for their frustrations. They develop violent fantasies of heroic revenge against an uncaring world. Whereas serial killers are driven by long-standing sadistic and sexual pleasure in inflicting pain, massacre killers usually have no prior history of violence. Instead, writes Eric W. Hickey, dean of the California School of Forensic Studies, in his 2009 book “Serial Murderers and Their Victims,” massacre killers commit a single and final act in which violence becomes a “medium” to make a ” ‘final statement’ in or about life.” Fantasy, public expression and messaging are central to what motivates and defines massacre killings. Mass shooters aim to tell a story through their actions. They create a narrative about how the world has forced them to act, and then must persuade themselves to believe it. The final step is crafting the story for others and telling it through spoken warnings beforehand, taunting words to victims or manifestos created for public airing. Mass shooters aim to tell a story through their actions. They create a narrative about how the world has forced them to act, and then must persuade themselves to believe it. The final step is crafting the story for others and telling it through spoken warnings beforehand, taunting words to victims or manifestos created for public airing. What these findings suggest is that mass shootings are a kind of theater. Their purpose is essentially terrorism?minus, in most cases, a political agenda. The public spectacle, the mass slaughter of mostly random victims, is meant to be seen as an attack against society itself. The typical consummation of the act in suicide denies the course of justice, giving the shooter ultimate and final control. We call mass shootings senseless not only because of the gross disregard for life but because they defy the ordinary motives for violence?robbery, envy, personal grievance?reasons we can condemn but at least wrap our minds around. But mass killings seem like a plague dispatched from some inhuman realm. They don’t just ignore our most basic ideas of justice but assault them directly. The perverse truth is that this senselessness is just the point of mass shootings: It is the means by which the perpetrator seeks to make us feel his hatred. Like terrorists, mass shooters can be seen, in a limited sense, as rational actors, who know that if they follow the right steps they will produce the desired effect in the public consciousness.

All right, that’s a lot of good detail on why people commit these horrible crimes, but what can we do about it? Here’s what they say journalists and police should do:

  • Never publish a shooter’s propaganda.
  • Hide their names and faces.
  • Minimize specifics and gory details.
  • No photos or videos of the event.
  • Talk about the victims but minimize images of grieving families.
  • Decrease the saturation.
  • Tell a different story.

While there is a brief mention of guns (“Massacres also would not be nearly so lethal without the widespread availability of guns and high-capacity magazines designed more for offense than for defense.“), overall the article discusses what motivates mass shooters and some practical, sensible methods of breaking the cycle of killing. The issue is not one of what tool is used to commit such a heinous crime, but why the killer decided to commit it. The article concludes with the following hope for the future:

The massacre killer chooses to believe it is not he but the world that is filled with hatred?and then he tries to prove his dark vision by making it so. If we can deprive him of the ability to make his internal psychodrama a shared public reality, if we can break this ritual of violence and our own ritual response, then we might just banish these dreadful and all too frequent acts to the realm of vile fantasy.

I agree wholeheartedly and share that same hope.

Detroit police chief: “Police wear body armor. Why would a community member be driving around in body armor?”

From NBC:

“Police wear body armor. Why would a community member be driving around in body armor?” Craig asked.

In this particular case, it’s because the bad guy wanted to protect himself from being shot while committing a crime. No surprise there. (It’s worth noting that felons are prohibited from owning armor.)
Leaving aside the fact that the wearer in this case was a criminal, I certainly don’t think it’s unusual at all for an ordinary, non-felon private citizen in a crime-ridden city like Detroit to consider wearing body armor. Type IIA or II armor will protect against the majority of common handgun rounds which one might encounter in a place like Detroit.
Is it uncommon for private citizens to wear armor? Sure, but it seems odd to question why a private person might want to wear armor. The answer is simple, and it’s exactly the same reason why a cop wears armor: they don’t want to get shot.

Feinstein: “Gun owners” have “hammerlock” on Congress

From Politico:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says the shooting at the Los Angeles International Airport underscores the need for an assault weapons ban and greater gun control measures.

That’s strange, I thought that “assault weapons” were already illegal in California. Same thing with standard-capacity magazines, transporting a loaded firearm, public endangerment, assault, attempted murder, murder, etc. Go figure.

A strong supporter of an assault weapons ban,?the California Democrat?said, ?the weapon was a .223 MP-15, where the MP stands for military and police, clearly designed not for general consumption ? Same gun that was used at Aurora. Would I do a bill? Sure, I would do a bill. I mean, I believe this down deep in my soul.?

She evidently thinks that the name thought up by the S&W marketing guys in 1899 for a revolver means that a modern gun bearing the same brand name is only meant for military and police. That doesn’t really make much sense at all.

But Feinstein said that such a bill would be very difficult to pass. ?There?s a hammer lock on the Congress by the gun owners and gun people,” she said.

Good. In addition to “gun owners” and “gun people”, there’s this pesky thing called “the Constitution”, several Supreme Court decisions, and the pesky lack of evidence as to the effectiveness of such a ban.
That said, I like the fact that she credits gun owners and “gun people” rather than the nebulous “gun lobby”.

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, but the bill stalled.

“Stalled” is putting it mildly. “Was utterly crushed by a 40-60 vote in the Senate” is somewhat more accurate.
Honestly, I don’t know why she keeps bringing it back up: it isn’t going to reduce crime, every time she mentions it gun owners get whipped into a frenzy, and there’s substantial opposition to the bill among both the citizenry and the legislature. Fortunately for the pro-gun-rights side, this often ends up poisoning other less-restrictive-but-still-infringing gun control measures so they rarely gain any headway. You’d think after several years of this she’d learn to avoid this particular topic.

Dick Metcalf gets Zumboed

Dick Metcalf, a writer for Guns & Ammo was fired from that magazine today after his “Let’s Talk Limits” (281kB PDF) column advocating (admittedly limited and minor) gun control went over like a lead balloon with the gun-owning community, though his column did elicit praise from the Brady Campaign and its supporters.
Why did gun owners react so harshly to Mr. Metcalf’s column? Miguel at GunFreeZone explains:

Some will say: ?Well shit! That is rather harsh. What about his right to free speech??? Sparky, we are right now in the equivalent of a Cold War between a powerful enemy and our side: and constitutional platitudes are all nice, warm and fuzzy and to be used in-house only. To use one of the oldest and most visible gun magazines to sport and antique and expired train of thought that might be used by the enemy is just sheer stupidity? no, I don?t think Metcalf was a spy or a sell out, just stupid.

Something something “house divided”, anyone?
While there are certainly some changes or improvements that can be made to gun laws that don’t infringe people’s rights ((A state could require dealers conduct both a state and federal background check, states could improve their reporting of prohibited persons to NICS, etc.)) (not to mention the numerous changes that could increase people’s rights), advocating for regulations (even supposedly “common sense” things like requiring training to exercise a right) that restrict people’s rights is a sure-fire way to give ammo and sound bites to the anti-gun side.
A public figure like a columnist at a major gun magazine should choose their words carefully: the anti-gun folks will never be satisfied — there’s no “Goldilocks gun” that’s “just right”: guns will either be too big, too small, too powerful, too weak, to accurate, too inaccurate, etc. — and they will happily use such statements as an endorsement for any extreme measures they propose. If you give them an inch they will take a mile.
This is not a call for rigid ideological purity (gun owners are large and diverse group after all), but rather a call to be aware of your public statements and to consider how they might be used out of context, particularly if you write for mainstream media like print magazines.
On a more practical note, annoying the people who support you (read: people who buy your magazine, other gun owners, etc.) is a great way to lose business.
Hat tip to The Truth About Guns for the original posting about the subject and their 8MB PDF of the Guns & Ammo column. I tweaked the PDF a bit to make it a bit smaller and the modified, smaller version is here — everyone should feel free to use it as they see fit. Also, thanks to The Bang Switch for reporting on the follow-up from Guns & Ammo.

How to do Rifle Open Carry Right

The New York Times reports on a rifle open carry event in San Antonio, Texas.
As I’ve said before, I’m not so keen on rifle open carry, but this seemed to be pretty reasonable: it was an organized, coordinated event (not just random guys showing up at a coffee shop), they’re using rifle open carry as a means to an end (in Texas, open carry of a long gun is legal but open carry of a handgun is not — they’re looking to change the law regarding handguns), people are well-dressed, polite, and not being idiots.
Well done.

NBC: Does anyone care about gun control? (Answer: No, not really.)

NBC has a rather motivating article about how, despite the best efforts of the gun control crowd, pretty much nobody cares about the subject.
The pro-gun-rights side has raised more money, gained more members (Gifford’s ARS gained about half a million new members post-Newtown, while the NRA gained twice that and now has over 5 million members), and has more of a presence in government (a 9-1 spending advantage in Washington). The NRA alone has over 3x the number of members of “The Big Three” gun control groups combined: ARS, The Brady Campaign, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Amusingly enough, NBC says that the post-Newtown push for gun control doubled the membership in the Brady Campaign and MAIG — this only goes to show how small those groups actually are and how little grassroots support they have.
NBC talks about this situation and its historical precedence:

Such lopsided growth mirrors what happened after the Columbine massacre. The Senate failed to pass a bill requiring universal background checks, among other popular reforms, and the gun control movement was swallowed by a wave of gun rights activism. It spent the next decade in the wilderness, starved of funding and support as the NRA won victory after victory.
This time?after the failure of a similar background check bill in April, and the recall of two pro-reform politicians in Colorado last month?the mission has narrowed to a single overarching goal: maintain the momentum. ?It?s like a sugar rush,? says Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, of the cycle of public concern after a major shooting. ?It seems like we have intensity?there?s sympathy, there?s outrage?but that intensity proves to be transitory.?

Later, Mr. Gross attempts to explain the lack of intensity thusly, “Common sense is not an intense emotion.” Of course, he assumes that his proposals are “common sense” and would actually do something to reduce violent crime, stop deranged madmen, and somehow preserve the rights of law-abiding people (though there’s no real evidence that he supports those rights).
Clearly, not many people agree with him.
NBC points out this lack of grassroots support for the anti-gun-rights side when they say,

But this seemingly unbeatable political coalition?three deep-pocketed groups, allied with a sitting president, seemingly aligned with a huge majority of Americans?enters the fall on a low ebb that seemed unimaginable just a few months ago. ?It?s not important enough, sadly,? says Johnathan Abbinett, 60, a founding member of the Nevada chapter of Americans for Responsible [S]olutions. His chapter colleague Christian Gerlach, 26, isn?t even sure the chapter exists any more. ?I only went to that first meeting,? he says, before changing the subject.

Both ARS and MAIG ran extensive nationwide tours over the summer: ARS visited 7 states, while MAIG went to 25 states in 100 days. The results were somewhat disappointing for the anti-gun people:

But the results of both tours were mixed at best. In state after state, major politicians ducked Giffords and Kelly, despite (or perhaps because of) ample advance notice of their arrival.? In Alaska, Mark Begich, one of four Democrats who voted against closing the gun show loophole, was said to be vacationing on an island without cell service when the tour arrived. In North Dakota, ?friends in the NRA? forced a last minute venue change, according to a Team Giffords advance man, who himself declined to be named for fear of mixing with gun-grabbers from Washington. And when members of MAIG arrived in Fargo, the mayor told them that guns were not a problem.
The grassroots side of the campaign struggled as well. At a MAIG event in Columbus, Ohio, the Buckeye Firearms Association organized a counter rally that drew twice the crowd.? In Raleigh, N.C., when Giffords passed through, a gun blogger turned out two-dozen people shaking green signs that read: Guns Save Lives. But perhaps the most dramatic scenes were in Manchester and Dover, N.H., where protesters arrived ?full battle rattle,? as one man noted on a Facebook page for the counter-protest, toting guns?including an AR-15?and forcing Giffords out a back exit after her speech. The same week, Mayors Against Illegal Guns made its own campaign stop in the state, where police subdued one pro-gun activist with a taser and dispersed the crowd.

With the exception of the pro-gun activist being disruptive and getting tased, that sounds like a bunch of pretty solid wins for our side. I’m not familiar with the details of the “full battle rattle” folks in Dover, but I’m not so keen on firearms being openly displayed for political purposes at such events (concealed, yes, openly used for political purposes, no). Still, overall things sounded pretty good for our side.
NBC shows an interesting bit of insight with this bit,

To make the world safer, the gun control lobby wants fewer guns in the hands of bad guys. The pro-gun side supports the same goal. But it also wants more guns in the hands of the good guys, believing that a bullet is the best way to stop the next unfolding national tragedy. ?Both sides think the other is crazy and dangerous, but only the pro-gun side seems to have supporters who are passionate enough to focus on almost nothing else.

They’re right — the pro-gun side does want fewer guns in the hands of bad guys (our objectives should be the same, though our methods of accomplishing those objectives differ) — but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the pro-gun-rights side “focus[es] on almost nothing else”, rather that we’re more personally invested.
Why? Owning a gun is not something to be taken lightly, and gun owners are often fairly active with the shooting sports, competitions, hunting, training, etc. We’ll meet up with friends at the range, go to the SHOT Show, show off our groupings online, setup individual blogs not sponsored by some larger organization, discuss gear, techniques, or events, shop for parts and accessories, and so on. For many, owning a gun is part of their lifestyle and they’ll vehemently defend against potential infringements. Although pro-gun-rights people come from different walks of life, different cultural backgrounds, live in different places, have different political views, etc., we share a common, unifying thing that helps bind the community together and helps us overcome our differences.
The anti-gun-rights people don’t really have that same level of involvement in the issue — it’s hard to drum up passion for something that’s not an active part of their lifestyle, involving an item that they don’t own and often have little experience with, and which doesn’t really involve the type of social activities that bring them together.
Although anti-gun-rights people often blame the “NRA” or the shady “gun lobby” for their failures, and to some extent they’re right, I think the real reason we keep winning is because we actually have a large, diverse, and passionate grassroots that they lack. It’s fantastic to see ad hoc, unorganized, unfunded gatherings of pro-gun-rights people bring out double the number of anti-gun-rights people attending scheduled, announced events like those that ARS and MAIG arranged.
Still, we need to keep in mind that while anti-gun-rights people are our opponents in the political realm, they’re still Americans and still people who, while we may disagree with them, still deserve civility and respect. Mockery and hostility is always counterproductive. Many have no connection with or understanding of the gun culture and those involved with it. Some have personal connections with gun-related tragedies that motivate them. We should strive to understand and accept their reasons, positions, and motivations, and to work with those who are willing toward meaningful solutions that reduce violent crime, protect people and their rights, and generally improve the lives of everyone. After all, we all want to live in a world without violent crime.
NBC closes the article as follows,

Even before Washington shutdown, the Big Three had almost no hard events on the calendar for October, and sparse calls to action compared to earlier in the year. Each organization will mark the Newtown anniversary in December, but how, exactly, they aren?t ready to say. And a similar sense of hiatus pervades activists on the front lines. None of those contacted were willing to rank gun control as their top concern, or even something they were still working on, not with marriage equality, immigration reform, health care, and poverty crowding the mind.
If there were another vote in Congress, [Beverly] Moffet [a retired judge in Columbus, Ohio, and a supporter of Americans for Responsible Solutions] added, ?I think people would turn out for it.?
Until then, however, she doesn?t see the point.

Excellent. We need to keep the pressure on, both in Washington, in the state legislatures, and in the public eye: gun control isn’t the solution and, while we oppose infringements on our rights, we still want to reduce violent crime and will work for realistic, practical improvements that will make a difference and preserve people’s rights.
If we can keep up the pressure, continue to present a good public image (*looks pointedly at people pushing rifle open carry*), bring new shooters into the fold, vote, contact and work with the legislature, move some key cases through the courts, and not put our feet in our collective mouths, I think we can make some good improvements for our cause like national CCW reciprocity, overturning various onerous laws like state-level AWBs, registration, licensing, etc., getting more states switching to a shall-issue CCW model, and so on.
We’re in a great position now and have a lot of advantages. Let’s try not to screw this one up.

“Military-style” no longer cutting it, now it’s “law-enforcement style”

[T]he suspect, Aaron Alexis of Texas, bought a law-enforcement-style shotgun ? an 870 Remington pump-action ? and used it on Monday as he rampaged through the navy yard, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the investigation was continuing.
[snip]

The gunman then perched himself above an atrium where he fired down on people who had been eating breakfast, officials said, adding that he used shotgun shells that had roughly a dozen large ball-bearing-like shots in them, increasing their lethal nature.

?When he discharged, the pieces of lead would spread the farther they went,? the one official said. ?It is similar to weapons used in bird shooting but on a more serious scale. These were not bullets but many small pieces of lead flying through the air.?

The New York Times

Evidently The New York Times is not satisfied with simply calling the Remington 870 “a pump-action shotgun” and had to slip “law-enforcement style” in there to make it sound particularly scary.?Also, they evidently haven’t heard of buckshot before and make it out to be some sort of special, unusual, extra-deadly type of ammo.

Is a shotgun loaded with buckshot dangerous? Absolutely.?It’s a gun. Putting black plastic furniture on one of the most popular shotguns in the country for sporting, self-defense, and yes, law-enforcement use doesn’t make it any more dangerous than the same shotgun with wood furniture.