Maryland Assault Weapons Ban in jeopardy after Court of Appeals ruling

Yesterday, the 4th Circuit Appeals Court ruled 2-1 to remand a case reviewing Maryland’s AWB back to the District court and for the District court to apply a more stringent standard of review to the case. In the majority opinion, Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr stated that the Maryland AWB “significantly burdens the exercise of the right to arm oneself at home.”

Maryland had originally passed their assault weapons ban in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. The ban regulated over 40 specific guns by name, and as many such bans do, limited the possession and access to magazines with a capacity higher than 10 rounds. The law was challenged by a group of plaintiffs that included national organizations such as the NSSF; they were met with defeat at the US District Court level, when that court ruled that Maryland’s law was in fact Constitutional.

The victory at the Court of Appeals level means that the case will get sent back to the District Court for review. The Appeals court has found that Maryland’s law does violate the Constitution and that the District Court should apply strict scrutiny. The Maryland DA has said that he plans to seek an en banc or Supreme Court appeal to reverse the Appeal Court’s decision.

For a more detailed analysis from an actual legal expert, please visit the Volokh Conspiracy.

White House official twitter lies about online gun purchases

Look, I don’t care who you are, but this is just an outright lie.

If you support gun control, you should be angry that your allies in government are using tactics like this, because this is an absolute lie that can be easily disproved with about 30 solid seconds of research.

Fact: If you buy a gun online from an out of state entity, it must be shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensee in your state of resident, and that FFL must conduct a NICS background check on you before they transfer you the gun. This tweet from the White House is an absolute lie.

Summary of White House Executive Action on Gun Control: Say goodbye to trusts

This morning, the White House released a fact sheet stating President Obama’s plans to enact new gun control measures via executive order. After being thwarted by the will of the people, Congress, and the Constitution, a lame-duck President takes one last petulant swipe at law abiding gun owners in his final year in office. I personally cannot think of a more fitting legacy. The full fact sheet is available here from the White House.

fbi nics logo

The first action item from the fact sheet is: Keeping Guns Out of the Wrong Hands Through Background Checks. This is further clarified in the following paragraphs:

Clarify that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks. Background checks have been shown to keep guns out of the wrong hands, but too many gun sales—particularly online and at gun shows—occur without basic background checks. Today, the Administration took action to ensure that anyone who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms is licensed and conducts background checks on their customers. Consistent with court rulings on this issue, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has clarified the following principles:
A person can be engaged in the business of dealing in firearms regardless of the location in which firearm transactions are conducted. For example, a person can be engaged in the business of dealing in firearms even if the person only conducts firearm transactions at gun shows or through the Internet. Those engaged in the business of dealing in firearms who utilize the Internet or other technologies must obtain a license, just as a dealer whose business is run out of a traditional brick-and-mortar store.
Quantity and frequency of sales are relevant indicators. There is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement. But it is important to note that even a few transactions, when combined with other evidence, can be sufficient to establish that a person is “engaged in the business.” For example, courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two firearms were sold or when only one or two transactions took place, when other factors also were present.
There are criminal penalties for failing to comply with these requirements. A person who willfully engages in the business of dealing in firearms without the required license is subject to criminal prosecution and can be sentenced up to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000. Dealers are also subject to penalties for failing to conduct background checks before completing a sale.

How that affects us: at first glance, it would seem that this is a redundant measure, because people engaged in the business of selling guns are already required to get a license. However, when you read the “clarification” language it’s clear that the intent behind this particular EO is to go after people engaged in private online transactions such as Gunbroker, Armslist, or the many Facebook groups that support such transactions. One does wonder exactly how this is going to be enforced, as many of those transactions already involve an FFL at the destination point, thus satisfying the background check requirement. My opinion: you’ll see this used to effectively shut down things like Facebook gun swap groups.

Next on the list, the EO will shut off the ability to use a trust or an LLC to bypass the Chief Law Enforcement Officer sign-off on NFA items. I won’t really go in to much detail here, because we’ve seen the writing on the wall for a long time on this issue. It’s been coming, despite our best efforts and stalling it once before, and it was only a matter of time before it happened. How that affects us: if you were planning on setting up a trust to buy some cans, do it today. Do it yesterday. I imagine it will also put a dent in the business model of lawyers that would set up trusts for NFA items for a small fee.

Next item: Ensure States are providing records to the background check system, and work cooperatively with jurisdictions to improve reporting.
Honestly, with as onerous as the NFA-kill and going after private transactions are, this one isn’t that bad. It’s a fact that some states are not very good at reporting to NICS. There have been multiple documented incidents of people passing a NICS check who had convictions at the state level that should have bounced them and didn’t; because the state failed to report. NICS is only as good as the data that it gets fed.

Make the background check system more efficient and effective.
Again, nothing really bad in here, and in fact a little bit of good news for FFL holders. If you’ve ever had to call in a NICS check during peak times and sat on hold forever, you know what I’m talking about. This bullet point allows for the FBI to hire another 230 NICS examiners, non-sworn personnel responsible for processing background checks, as well as continue to upgrade the online NICS system.

The EO then shifts from Background Checks to “Making Our Communities Safer from Gun Violence.”
Ensure smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws.
Short version: the Attorney General instructed the US Attorneys to really crack down on firearms related violence. I genuinely feel bad for whatever guy is the first person they arrest for being an “unlicensed dealer” because he sold a couple of Glocks on facebook. This section also notes that the President’s budget for FY2017 includes funding for 200 more ATF agents.

Ensure that dealers notify law enforcement about the theft or loss of their guns.
This is a clarification of who exactly is responsible for reporting a gun lost or stolen if it goes missing in transit, the ATF has decided that the shipping entity is responsible for reporting the theft, as they were the last person/business to have the gun on their books.

Issue a memo directing every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.
This one is weird, and because I can’t see the wires it makes me wonder what it’s really about. All that this does is have the AG issue a memo to the US Attorneys nationwide instructing them to engage with local agencies on the subject of domestic violence.

The final subheading is perhaps the most vague: Increase Mental Health Treatment and Reporting to the Background Check System.

In this section we see the White House’s plan to shut off access to firearms to people who have been deemed unable to take care of themselves, or are a danger to themselves. This creates a genuine slippery slope as previously a person had to be adjudicated mentally incompetent to be denied access to guns. Under the new EO, which lacks specific guidelines, a person could be stripped of their 2nd Amendment rights for something as simple as seeking treatment for suicidal thoughts, because an overzealous doctor believed them to be a “danger to themselves.”

Here is the most troubling section:

Include information from the Social Security Administration in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm. Current law prohibits individuals from buying a gun if, because of a mental health issue, they are either a danger to themselves or others or are unable to manage their own affairs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to ensure that appropriate information in its records is reported to NICS. The reporting that SSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice, is expected to require will cover appropriate records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits, and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent. The rulemaking will also provide a mechanism for people to seek relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.

To summarize, the White House plans to mine Social Security records to deprive approximately 75,000 people of their 2nd Amendment rights without due process of law. The problem is that while there will obviously be some legitimate denials on that list, invariably it will also include good, law abiding and mentally able citizens who should not have their guns or their rights put in jeopardy.

The final part of the EO covers smart gun technology, which I won’t really touch on here simply because it’s a dead end road. All it does is tell agencies they have 90 days to create a report that shows a roadmap to smart-gun usage, and to “regularly” review smart gun technology to see if it’s viable for LE use. It’s not, and it won’t be for a long time, thankfully.

Summary
For those just looking for some quick bullet points to toss around in a Facebook argument, here is the official Gun Nuts Media Summary of the EO:

  • Goodbye Facebook Gun Sales groups and maybe even Armslist
  • Goodbye to NFA Trusts, because you’ll have to get a CLEO sign-off on those now
  • Say hello to a whole lot more prohibited persons added to an larger and more efficient NICS bounce-list

Those three items, the increased focus on what constitutes an “unlicensed dealer”, the end of NFA trusts, and the expansion of prohibited person reporting are the three items most likely to affect otherwise law-abiding gun owners in negative ways.

We have a few options for relief here: first, Congress can seek to defund these EOs, but that will be difficult since funding is already in place and Congressionally approved for the responsible agencies. Secondly Congress could pass laws that override the EOs, but that’s likely not going to happen. They could also be challenged in the Judicial branch…which probably won’t happen either, because the most likely option for redress is wait until we have a Republican president in 2017 and get them to overrule the previous EOs.

On that note, I bet the Democrat political front-runners are pissed at Obama right now. With the race actually heating up, he’s played directly into the hands of the GOP candidates who can now easily say Democrats are in fact coming for your guns. I bet Hillary is thrilled.

Editor’s Note:According to a statement released by the ATF, the CLEO sign-off requirement is going to be eliminated as well. This means that all background checks for NFA items will be processed by the FBI/ATF when they receive the NFA paperwork.

People on the no-fly list should be allowed to buy guns #dosomething

In the wake of the terrorist attack in California, President Obama has called on Congress to “do something” about our “gun problem” – namely to make it so that people on the no-fly list would be barred from buying guns, presumably by failing a NICS check. The President even posted this image on Twitter, complete with the most passive and useless hashtag ever, which I’ve used in the post title. “#dosomething”

The problems with denying people on the no-fly list access to firearms are plentiful. The first, and obvious objection to such a measure would be that it’s completely and totally meaningless. Do you really think that a potential terrorist is going to pop down to their local Scheel’s and buy an AR15 off the rack? Of course not. We’ve been shown time and time again that people bent on illegal actions do not obtain their guns from legal, traditional sources. They use straw purchases, they steal them, or they simply buy them off the black market.

ak47

If preventing people on the no-fly list from buying guns wouldn’t deter any sort of crime, what would it do? At the risk of getting a little tin-foil beanie, what it would absolutely due is allow the government to use a secret list to deny people a Constitutional right. I imagine that most people understand the nature of the no-fly list pretty well, but I’ll expound a bit on it just in case. The federal no-fly list is a list maintained primarily by the Department of Homeland Security that has the names of everyone the government believes is too much of a risk to be allowed to board a commercial airline. On this list are the sort of people you’d expect, such as terrorists and people under investigation for terrorism. How the no-fly works is it matches the names of travelers to names on the list, and if your name is a match, no ticket for you. It is extremely problematic, because if your name is similar to someone on the no-fly list, you can get delayed or even denied access. A simple google search will show a number of issues with the no-fly, including barring decorated veterans, US Congressmen, and journalists from travel.

Further, there are documented instances of persons being placed on the no-fly list as reprisals for their political beliefs/opinions. When you’re placed on the list, you’re not given any warning or notice (for obvious reasons) and the only way you’d find out would be if you tried to buy an airline ticket. Getting yourself removed from the no-fly list is a difficult, expensive, and time consuming process. The end result is that if the average citizen is placed on the list, their options for redress are limited.

While I understand the necessity of keeping certain badguys off airlines, I also really like those silly little civil liberties. I don’t like secret government lists that deny people their rights without due process. That’s ultimately what you’d get by denying people on the no-fly access to legally purchase guns. A secret government list that you don’t know if you’re on that is used to deny you a civil right. Can you imagine the reaction the press would have if someone suggested that people on the no fly list shouldn’t be allowed to own computers because they might use them to plan terrorist attacks? It’d be madness. But because the 2nd Amendment gets treated like a second-class right by a lot of people, there’s no outcry from the press.

There’s one more reason why we shouldn’t bar people on the NFL from buying guns. In the past when this has been brought up, it has been opposed by federal law enforcement. You see, the feds have stated in the past that they don’t want suspects on the list to be tipped off that they might be on the list or under surveillance. But if recently radicalized Jimmy Jihad rolls into his local gun store, and despite having bought guns before suddenly gets a bounce on his NICS check, he might think that something’s up. That’s a simplified version of law enforcement’s objection to barring people on the list from purchasing firearms. When Sen. Lautenberg last tried to get this passed, LE objected because it could “compromise existing investigations.”

However, as advocates for 2nd Amendment and individual rights, we have a problem when it comes to opposing measures like this. You see, to successfully fight something like this, you have to explain to people with facts and reason what the problems with the no-fly list are, why law enforcement has opposed this measure in the past, and why violating people’s civil rights without due process is wrong. That takes time. It doesn’t condense well to a 10 second soundbite. However “don’t let people on the no-fly list have guns because terrorism duh” is an extremely effective emotional appeal. It’s the sort of simple appeal to emotion that plays well on the Today show, and that your average American would likely agree with, because on the surface it seems like it makes sense. It’s only when you peel back the onion a bit do you understand why closing off the NFL to firearms purchases would actually open a much larger and more dangerous can of worms.

But in the internet age, no one has time for that sort of thing. If you can’t fit it in a tweet or a snapchat, no one will pay attention. That’s tough, because trying to argue against an emotional appeal to a complex issue with facts is quite a challenge. But we’ll just keep pushing this rock up the hill because it’s the right thing to do.

Mike Weisser: Your Character Is Showing

Much like FoxNews and their token liberals, the stridently anti-Second Amendment Huffington Post will occasionally publish pieces from time to time by a “gun guy.”  That is literally how Mike Weisser self identifies to the world via his blog and his description at the HuffPo.  He confidently claims that “I know as much about guns and hunting as anyone“ which is good if you are say an antigun HuffPo reader looking for an appeal to authority to include in a heated discussion on Facebook.  However……it seems like an unsubstantiated statement.  We shall circle back to that later.  He also claims that guns are his “only hobby” which given the volume of his blog posts and articles seems misleading.  Gun control seems to be his only hobby unless that is just a facet of his disappointment regarding the ever growing diversification of hunters and gun owners.

Weisser’s blog entries are not works of statistical analysis such as, the truly enlightening and well researched work of AmidstTheNoise on YouTube but rather they follow a constant drumbeat of the following:

  • Assault rifles are bad.  No hunter needs them.  Hunting is what rifles are good for.  (Pay no mind to the troublesome fact that bolt action and lever action rifles were at one time cutting edge technology and used as……assault rifles.  In fact, let us completely forget that muskets were once cutting edge and military issue.)
  • Several personal attacks on Dana Loesch.  He appears to be obsessed with female gun rights spokespeople, more on that later as well.
  • He spends some time defending the oh-so altruistic nature of Mike Bloomberg and endorses Bloomberg’s other efforts to control what we put into our bodies.
  • He makes sure that you know he owns those guns that he does not like such as the evil AR15 and AK47.  The logic of this assertion is lost upon all rational people.
  • Mr. Colion Noir, the articulate and informed black gun enthusiast is focused upon as well.  I think I know why.  Again, more later.

Any moderately informed Second Amendment supporter would have no problem deconstructing his views.  The aforementioned “AmidstTheNoise” (Mr Billy Johnson) would crush “Mike the gun guy” handily in a debate.  Actual debate is not Mike’s way of doing things.  He does not want any debate, he simply wants guns gone.  The common thread in his writing is “the gun is the problem.”  Not “end the drug war” or “fix the inner city.”  Nope.  You will never hear a gun control activist speak about actually fixing the socio-cultural roots of violence because as Mr. Bloomberg reminds us, it is not about the people, it is about control.  The state will protect you, it will tell you what you may consume, and settling a dispute with a blunt object where the physically stronger always win and keep the weaker in line, is far preferable than using a gun.  I am not sure if it is moral cowardice or just a desire for more control in the lives of our populace but the gun control zealots never want to actually fix hotbeds of violence like Chicago or Oakland.

So yes, it is a depressing and dreary read when perusing Mr. Weisser’s literary body of work. The level to which he stoops with truly nasty personal attacks on people such as Julie Golob and Dana Loesch is something that makes you want to cleanse yourself afterwards.

Earlier this year, Weisser joined a growing contingent of antigun and antihunting writers that have one thing in common:  they very much dislike the growing trend of outspoken non-white, non-male gunowners and hunters.  I promised more on why he singles out Dana Loesch and Mr Colion Noir so here we go!

A friend sent me this “article” which was typical of Weisser.  Weisser has a real problem with the NRA producing and disseminating gun safety media, particularly to children.  Yes, the word “phony” is used.  He is referring to this video that veteran, shooting champion, and mother Julie Golob starred in.  Weisser is never one to simply debate facts, rather he complained that Julie’s message is “bouncy and joyful” along with complaining that the children’s testimonials in the video are “cutsey” and of course pointing out how the Eddie Eagle program’s message of “not touching the gun — leaving the area — telling an adult, which is then followed by a new lyric for the older kids involving telling them never to touch a gun unless being supervised by an adult, never point a gun at anyone and always assume that every gun is loaded” is “phony.”

One notes a pattern here.  Why no cutting comments about Mr. Colion Noir’s appearance from Weisser?  Weisser touches upon one female gun spokesperson’s appearance and obsess over Dana Loesch.  “Why” is that the antigun and antihunting people detest seeing anyone other than a white male hunting or using a gun, period.  “Why” is that the growing popularity across the sexes and races of hunting and gun ownership does not fit the narrative of those pursuits being the sole domain of the white male.

Witness the controversy over a teenage girl daring to hunt in Africa (actual death threats).  Steve Rinella wrote a truly excellent article about the obvious sexism displayed by those “protesting” the hunt and I encourage you to read it here (and to watch his show and to buy his books).  The antihunting and antigun people are seeing what they considered white male-only lifestyles actually transcend race and sex.  Their reaction is of course to launch personal attacks and outright witch hunts.   Happily, that has not stopped Julie Golob, Mr. Colion NoirBeka Garris,  Dana Loesch, or Eva Shockey from asserting themselves as self reliant individuals who understand things like “the Constitution,” “the right to self defense,” and “ethically harvesting your own food.”

I doubt that Mike Weisser will discontinue his attacks on the non traditional hunters and gunowners speaking up for our rights.  I doubt that the Huffington Post will ever tackle the root causes of violence and I definitely do not foresee Shannon Watts noticing that outside of the inner city, America is less violent than the United Kingdom.

However, I will close with a few thoughts:

  • If Julie Golob is “bouncy,” is Mike reptilian?
  • Is it a sign of hypocrisy to lament that the average gun owning household may own more than ten guns but then point out that he owns “41 or 42” guns (apparently one is “sitting around somewhere in the basement or out in the garage” which means someone did not pay attention to the NRA’s gun safety program.  Please be a responsible gun owner and track your guns down and secure them, Mike.)  I suppose that senility might also explain such travesties of logic and blatant hypocrisy, no?
  • Julie Golob’s book is ranked at #126,839 in Amazon’s sales rankings at the time of this article’s publishing.  Mike’s last book is ranked at #3,332,186 (source).  I suppose that I should note that lower is better with regards to these numbers.
  • Claiming that “I know as much about guns and hunting as anyone. “ is not a good idea.  Someone might challenge you on that one, Mike.  Someone who actually hunts, who actually competes in the shooting sports, and is (gasp) female!  Maybe Julie Golob, maybe not .  Maybe Annette Wachter.  Uh-oh, another non-white, non-male gunowner to attack?  Quickly, off to the blog, Mike!
  • I also would not mind shooting against Weisser in a friendly contest.  I would not allow such an obviously angry character around my dog or my kids though.    Personal attacks show character, Mike.  You do not have the wherewithal to truly discuss the roots of violence in America so you sling insults and single out women (Dana Loesch and Julie Golob) and minority gun spokespeople (Mr. Colion Noir).  We get it, you feel threatened by guns and hunting going mainstream.  Your character is known.
  • We all genuinely hope that you find that missing firearm that you misplaced.

Whether you like it or not, guns carried by civilians have saved lives.  I am quite certain that the survivors of the Westgate Mall attack would disagree with Weisser.

News of the assault was beginning to spread via frantic phones calls, texts, and WhatsApp messages. Westgate is in the heart of a Kenyan-Indian part of the city, and the close-knit community there knew better than to rely on the authorities to send help. Instead, the call went out to the community’s own licensed gun holders, who were organized into self-appointed armed neighborhood watch units.

Harish Patel, a member of an outfit calling itself the Krisna Squad, was returning home from a morning spent volunteering at the nearby Hindu crematorium when he received a distress call: There was a robbery at the Nakumatt store in Westgate, with shooting going on. A couple of minutes later, the 43-year-old was within sight of the mall. He patted the pistol he wore on his hip and grabbed the spare magazine he kept in his car.

On the western side of town, Abdul Haji was in a business meeting at the Yaya Centre, another Nairobi shopping mall. The 38-year-old bitumen trader was sipping an Americano when his white iPhone chirruped. It was a text message from his brother: “Trapped in Westgate. Terrorist attack. Pray for me.”

Abdul abandoned the business meeting and rushed to his silver SUV in the basement. As he sped toward Westgate, swerving around cars and over sidewalks to cut through the traffic, he ran through a mental checklist: He had his gun, as always, a Ceska 9mm, but no spare magazine and no body armor.

He reached Westgate minutes after Nura and Harish.
“Where’s the SWAT team?” Katherine kept wondering as the hours ticked by. “Why isn’t somebody coming in here? They should be storming the place and getting us out.”

When somebody did come at last, it was one man (an armed citizen) with a handgun.

Also, more African Americans are carrying firearms for self defense.

Weisser’s blog will never lack for nasty personal attacks as more women are buying, using, and carrying guns.  I would not be surprised if he targets more of the new breed of gun owners whom are in the public eye such as Gabby Franco or Chris Cheng.

 

 

The biggest gun rights wins and losses of 2014

As we wrap up 2014’s publishing season, we’re looking back at some of the guns, events, and other things that made this such an interesting year. We saw gun sales and ammo prices finally return to normal levels, much to the consternation of some manufacturers. We had political wins and loses, and great debate around some of those events. Today we’re talking politics, looking at the biggest win and loss for gun rights in 2014. It was an interesting year, and there were no shortage of candidates to choose from. The GOP taking a majority in the House and the Senate are “wins” for gun rights, there were numerous state level wins as well. In the loss column, we had some choice ones to look at, with I-594 in Washington fresh in everyone’s minds. We’re going to look a two winners and losers each – one for state level wins and losses and one for national level wins and loses. Here we go, starting first with the wins.

The Biggest State Level Gun Rights Win of 2014
Shall issue carry in Illinois.

While similar actions are in progress right now in DC and California as well, winning the concealed carry fight in Illinois is huge, if for no other reason than it stands as a marker of how far we’ve come. If you’d told me in 2004 that a decade from now we’d have shall-issue carry in IL, I’d have laughed in your face, because there’s “no way” you could get that past the Chicago machine. And yet here we are. Is it perfect? No. Are typical Chicago politics at play still trying to deny people their rights? Of course, that’s the Chicago way. But the fact is that, holy crap people, we have largely shall issue carry in Illinois for Pete’s sake. That’s no joke, and it’s paving the road for similar work in California and DC.

This is part of a larger phenomenon that could be referred to as the Concealed Carry Revolution. As much as the media wants to paint a picture of a diminishing gun culture, it’s hard to argue with facts: more people than ever are getting their carry permits. It’s not just middle aged white dudes getting permits either, the fastest growing demographic getting their carry permits are…women. Mothers, single women – while they’re not the dominating factor, women are getting permits to carry concealed weapons in numbers never before seen. Now that’s feminine empowerment if I’ve ever seen it.

As more people get their carry permits and become part of the CCW culture, we can hope to see more wins in this area. California and DC, as mentioned, are poised to fall next. After that, the last holdout will be Bloomberg’s personal stronghold of New York. If we could get carry in NYC…well that would be something, now wouldn’t it? However, that could be 10 years off. Regardless, shall issue carry in Illinois is a huge win, and something we should all be proud of.

The Biggest National Gun Rights Win of 2014
The popular explosion of the AR15 “pistols” & suppressors

Bear with me on this one. All our regular readers know that that the Sig SB15 and SBX pistol arm braces have exploded in popularity over the last year, leading to an explosion in the AR pistol market. This came in the wake of the ATF issuing a letter that essentially says “yes we know it looks like a stock, but we can’t control what you do with it.” All of a sudden, there are AR pistols all over the place, and that’s a good thing for our gun rights. Additionally, while the majority of the gun market fell off this year after three years of strong sales, suppressor sales continued to hold strong. That’s despite the ATF backlog for NFA items being approximately 3 Why? Because it’s not a terribly difficult logical stretch to use this tiny chink in the ATF’s armor to attack the NFA and start the process of removing SBRs and suppressors from the NFA.

Unfortunately, 2014 wasn’t all roses and expansion of gun rights. Selecting the loss was actually more difficult, because of multiple high profile events that happened. In the end, I decided to take the chicken’s route and call it a tie. Here are the two biggest losses of 2014 for the gun rights movement.

The Biggest State Level Loss
Washington State Ballot Initiative 594

This year in the general election, gun rights got a hard spanking in Washington, losing a ballot initiative by 20% of the vote. That’s a huge, ugly margin, and I-594 made the law of the state so convoluted that it became a felony to pass a gun to my friend for him to check out and dry fire. I wish that was hyperbole, but it’s not. I-594 is so bad that it almost won the national category, because the ripples from this loss are going to be felt nationwide. Bloomberg and his cronies are absolutely going to use this as a blueprint for how to jam up gun rights in every state that has the ballot. They’re already moving in Nevada, where it’s likely to pass because the Nevada electorate is quite possibly even dumber than the WA electorate, which is saying something, because WA elected Patty Murray to office like 5 times or something.

The biggest national loss of 2014
Open Carry Walks/Starbucks/Texas Open Carry

The worst thing that happened to our gun rights on the national level was Texas Open Carry, the Starbucks Carry Walks, and all of the associated shenanigans. I don’t really care if a person wants to OC or not, that’s fine. Whatever floats your boat, just don’t be an a-hole. The problem is that the big “LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME” demonstrations gave Mom’s Demand Hot Action a very convenient target that they could go after and get easy PR wins. It’s an absolute no brainer for a company like Starbucks to say “yeah uh pls don’t bring your guns in here” when they’re being blasted in the national media by an advocacy group that loses more money than the NRA makes in a year. Remember, the dollars behind the current generation of Gun Control are bigger than anything – a guy like Bloomberg, who is worth literally billions, can sneeze 20 million into a PR campaign to make it look like Starbucks and other major retailers are banning guns. It doesn’t even matter what Starbucks’ actual policy is, because all that needs to happen is for it to make the Today Show as “Starbucks Bans Guns” and that’s the national narrative.

But instead of playing smart ball, these Open Carry assholes decided to skyline themselves against a foe with pretty good targeting, and managed to singlehandedly inflict multiple, serious, PR losses on the national gun rights issue.

There you have it, the biggest wins and losses of 2014 for gun rights! What did I get right, what did I get wrong, and what do you think should have made the list?

The new political reality

Two things happened last night that will affect gun owners in America. The first is relatively good news. The GOP regained control of the Senate, meaning that both houses of Congress are under Republican control. That means that any new gun control legislation is pretty much DOA. That’s good, and I won’t spend a lot of time talking about that.

Here’s the bad news. In Washington, I-594 passed. The first thing I want to do is show you a map of how the counties in Washington voted on 594:

IMG_0391.JPG

All of those green counties on the west coast of Washington are where most of the state’s population live. They are reliably blue counties in elections. The only real surprise on the map are that Whitman and Asotin county in Eastern WA voted yes on 594. I can only assume that Washington State University is responsible for Whitman, and I have no real theory about Asotin.

But allow me to return to the point. The reason why 594 passing is bad news for gun owners everywhere is because it validates Bloomberg’s strategy. This is a new kind of gun control game, they’re smarter than the Brady Campaign and they have functionally unlimited resources. Yes, they played it smart in Washington. They picked an issue that’s easy to misrepresent in universal background checks; they played that issue to a strong blue voter base, and then they spent a ton of money on marketing and GOTV. That’s textbook “Winning Ballot Questions 101” and it’s really hard to fight against.

I would expect to see a lot more ballot question fights in the near future, and I’d expect them to be over things like background checks. It is by far the toughest fight for us, because defeating their argument requires low information blue voters to actually care about facts, and that right there is why we lost in WA. Gun rights had all the facts on their side, and they still lost.

Sure, gun control at the national level is dead for at least two years. But buckle up Sally, because at the state level things could be getting rodeo pretty quick.

Strategic political action vs tactical political action

On Facebook, there is a discussion of some upcoming ballot initiatives in Washington State. The initiatives are I-591 and I-594. 591 is Pro-Gun and limits the state’s ability to confiscate firearms, and 594 is anti-gun, and sets up a draconian background check law that would make Bloomberg proud. There are some complaints that NRA isn’t getting involved, because a lot of gun owners tend to view NRA as this giant, monolithic organization with nearly unlimited resources. Of course it’s not, but it seems that whenever there is a local gun rights battle at the state level and NRA doesn’t get involved, people are quick to scream “where is the NRA?”

The truth of the matter is that some battles are better left to state level organizations. When you’re talking about gun rights, there are two board sorts of fights, the strategic level stuff, such as national legislation and Supreme Court cases. Victories or losses at the strategic level strongly influence the fights at the tactical level; state wide initiatives, state and local elections, that sort of thing. For example, Heller and McDonald, both big strategic wins paved the way for tactical wins in Illinois, DC, etc.

NRA’s role at the state level is dependent on a multitude of factors. First, ILA employs lobbyists for each state, but those state level lobbyists are usually assigned to more than one state. For example a lobbyist could be responsible for state legislation in Indiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The lobbyist in WA is probably responsible for California and Oregon as well (talk about a rough gig).

The second factor for NRA’s effective at the local level is dependent entirely on the volunteer network, which is run by Election Volunteer Coordinators. EVCs are the backbone of NRA in local fights, because they’re the volunteers on the ground that actually get people together to make phone calls, do door knocks, and distribute political information. If you don’t have good EVCs on the ground, you don’t win.

A third weapon in the NRA’s bag are contractors, usually called Campaign Field Reps. I was a CFR for NRA in Washington State in 2010. CFR’s primarily responsibility is Get Out the Vote activities. They’ll organize phone banks, distribute literature, organize door knocks, etc. They’re limited in scope to only representing the campaigns that NRA has endorsed in their area. A good CFR can have a huge impact on an election or initiative.

Speaking of initiatives, those represent an interesting problem. Fighting for or against a ballot initiative is like trying to win an election. It’s all about boots on the ground, traditional GOTV (get out the vote) activities. It’s different from fighting a piece of legislation, because a lobbyist fighting for or against legislation has a pretty good idea of where the votes are going to come from. To win an election or fight a ballot initiative, you have to make sure that your base, the people who are motivated on your topic are 1) aware of the issue and 2) motivated to vote.

Washington is a special case for gun rights; while the state west of the Cascades trends blue/liberal, there is a strong gun owning community in what is a democrat stronghold. East of the mountains, the political landscape is largely conservative. But that conservative population frequently feels disenfranchised, because many of them have bought into the narrative that they can’t outvote King/Pierce Counties. That’s sort of true – with average voter turnout numbers, they can’t. But if the east-range area were to have, say 80% voter turnout and the King/Pierce area were to have its regular turnout, Washington would be a red state.

Which is why GOTV activities are so important. It’s really not about winning people’s hearts and minds. This is ground level tactical stuff: 1) find the people who would vote for you, 2) make sure they do. That’s it. That’s how you defeat or win a ballot initiative. One of the best examples how to do this in Washington was put on a couple of years ago by Cosco, who successfully had a ballot initiative go through to allow for liquor sales by private companies. It took a ton of legwork and a ton of money, but they got it done.

If you want to defeat a ballot initiative, or get a ballot initiative passed, the question isn’t “where is the NRA.” The question you should be asking is “how can I set up a phone bank?” Get a skype account, get a list of gun club members or something, and start calling people. No one is stopping you from doing that. Local elections and ballot initiatives are tactical fights, and they’re won and lost at the grassroots level.

President Obama bans import of Izmash/Saiga Firearms with Executive Order

This one isn’t paranoia, unfortunately. According to Executive Order 13662, one of the companies listed is the primary Russian manufacturer of Saiga shotguns and new AK pattern rifles. Bearing Arms has a great breakdown on what this means for you.

The short version is that if you already own a gun manufactured by Kalashnikov, you’re fine. If everything’s paid for you’re in the clear and can sell it on the secondary market. That about covers the legal side of things. What we’re more interested in is the consumer side, because there’s a historical precedent here that makes it unlikely we’ll ever see these guns in the states again. The import restrictions on Chinese manufactured firearms are still in place, and there’s nothing that makes me think that even if the troubles with Russia were to completely blow over tomorrow that these import restrictions would be lifted.

I actually share Tam’s concern even more: what about ammo? We are just now coming out of the ammo crisis to the point where 9mm is affordable and available again; I can buy 500 round bricks of .22 LR for 30 bucks, etc. I’d really hate to see the administration add Wolf and Tula to the list of companies subject to sanction. I like being able to buy a couple of boxes of cheap 9mm if I’ve miscounted what I need for a class or match. Needless to say, this is something that we’ll have to watch out for. Drying up the supply of cheap, steel cased rifle and pistol ammo would absolutely be a tough blow; and while it wouldn’t be the end of the world, I’m genuinely concerned that it could happen. I like having access to cheap steel cased 9mm for training; especially since I don’t reload.

Gun Control by the Numbers

Again today we can hear the president speaking about the need for gun control legislation. This time, as has been the case since Sandy Hook, it is the school shootings that have got him riled up. However, I imagine the his comments would have been similar had it been a shooting by a child playing with a gun found in a home, or a hunting accident. We can postulate endlessly about WHY the president is anti-gun, but I’d like to focus for a minute on the facts. While doing some research for a past post I stumbled on to a great resource. THe CDC, which is based in Atlanta 😉 offers a publicly searchable database of reported cases of injury and death in the US. As with all statistics, the data can be spun in a number of ways. So I sat down with a statistician, to see where the president should really place the blame.
Continue reading “Gun Control by the Numbers”