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SCOTUS Punts Again!

By Jeff Knox

(November 28, 2017) Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States once again refused to stand up to protect the Second Amendment, by turning down two cases challenging infringing state gun laws, both of which had been decided wrongly in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.  One was a Florida case, where the state courts have, on the one hand, declared that there is a constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense outside the home, but on the other hand has declared that carrying concealed is a privilege, not a right.  That means that the right may only be exercised if you have been granted the privilege of doing so by the state… So Floridians have a right to carry firearms for personal defense, they just can’t exercise that right unless they jump through hoops, pay a fee, and are granted the privilege to carry concealed by the state.

The specific case, Norman v. Florida, is particularly troubling because Mr. Norman jumped through the hoops, paid the fee, and was granted the privilege to exercise his right.  Unfortunately the first time he exercised that privilege, he failed to conceal the firearm to the satisfaction of local police, who swarmed him and put him face-down on the sidewalk in handcuffs.  He was subsequently found guilty of openly carrying a firearm, and fined $300 plus court costs.

It’s difficult to avoid speculation that, had Mr. Norman been white and wearing a suit, the stop and the results might have been significantly different than they were.  A polite conversation with a stern warning about not allowing the gun to be easily observed would likely have been as far as things would have gone. But Mr. Norman is not a white man, and he wasn’t dressed nicely that day.  He is a black man, and was peacefully going about his business in a tank top and cargo shorts.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-qKeJ6jd2Ak

By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court allows the decision of the Circuit court of Appeals to stand.  Leaving the right to carry in Florida subject to gaining the privilege to do so from the state, and requiring that the exercise of that right be in accordance with the terms of the privilege.

As troubling as that case is, the other case turned away by SCOTUS is even more troubling.  The case of Kolbe v. Hogan was a challenge to Maryland’s draconian ban on so-called “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines.  In this case, while the 4th Circuit deciding that the ban is not unconstitutional is a serious concern, the Circuit Court’s rationale for that decision is an even bigger problem.

I wrote about this case earlier this year, and was convinced that SCOTUS would have no choice but to address the Circuit’s decision, because it took the SCOTUS decision in Heller, and stood it on its head.

The guns of the 4th Circuit actually claimed that the Supreme Court ruled in Heller that guns like the AR15 are not protected by the Second Amendment because they are of a type that would be particularly useful in a military application.

To reach this conclusion, the 4th Circuit judges took a minor comment from Justice Scalia’s decision in Heller, and completely changed the very obvious meaning and intent of the comment and the Heller decision itself.

In reaching the Heller decision, it is clear that there were some on the court who were worried that the decision would open up the possibility of challenges to the National Firearms Act and the Hughes Amendment which banned the sale of full-auto firearms manufactured after 1986.  Justice Scalia provided some groundwork for defense of the NFA and Hughes, by focusing on the idea that the protected arms of the Second Amendment are those that are “in common use” among the people at a given time. Scalia posited; “It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service – M-16 rifles and the like – may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause.”

He was suggesting that the argument should boil down to the issue of whether the particular arms in question are of a type that is currently “in common use.”  The idea being that since full-auto, military arms like the M-16 are not in common use among the people, they would not be protected by the Second Amendment.

That’s a pretty thin argument, since the only reason M-16s and other true military-style arms are not in common use, is that they have been tightly restricted and prohibitively expensive for the past 80 years.  But that is the argument Scalia was making. It should be noted that this argument was made as part of a larger discussion of the rationale surrounding the Court’s decision in Heller, and was not part of the official holding in the case.

So what the 4th Circuit did, was take this commentary, known as “dicta” in the courts, and claim that what it means is that guns that are “like M-16s,” are not protected by the Second Amendment because they are useful in military service.

That is clearly not at all what Scalia was suggesting.

Usually the Supreme Court is very protective of their past decisions, and they are quick to slap down a lower court that tries to distort and abuse them – especially in a landmark case like Heller.  So for the Court to let such a flagrant assault on such a recent decision, is just astonishing.

We’ve been saying for a long time that the Second Amendment will not be safe until we get at least one, but preferably two more, solid, pro-Constitution justices on the Court.  The loss of Justice Scalia was a serious blow, but even before that, the Second Amendment wasn’t safe, and there was little chance of seeing rights advance.

Justice Kennedy has hinted that he might retire next year, and expectations of Justice Ginsburg’s long-awaited departure have begun to feel like a bad Saturday Night Live sketch, but Justice Thomas isn’t getting any younger – or fitter – either, and precedents are piling up in the lower courts.  Replacing Ginsburg and Kennedy, while Thomas is still on the Court, could pull us back from the brink, but it’s all just guessing and wishful thinking at this point. One thing is pretty certain, Justice Ginsburg would keep serving after her death to avoid having Donald Trump name her replacement.  If Democrats gain control of the Senate, all of this could be moot though, because Schumer and the Democrats will block any and all Trump appointments to the Court, even if he is reelected for another four years.

The strongest argument for a Donald Trump presidency was the judges he would appoint to the Court. Unless the Senate will confirm those judges, last year’s victory will be moot.  If there is a competitive Senate race in your state, you need to be involved.

 

Scientific American Embraces Junk Science

By Jeff Knox

(November 23, 2017) The periodical Scientific American, touts itself as “the most trusted source of science news,” but that claim of trustworthiness should generate skepticism in light of recent articles by Melinda Wenner Moyer.  From titles to conclusions, these articles represent nothing like reputable science worthy of trust. Instead, they are agenda-driven, emotionally based arguments that depend on the “expert opinions” and “research” of radical gun control extremists, and glaringly omit any semblance of balance or healthy skepticism.

In October Moyer penned a piece which was originally published under the title, Journey to Gunland.  I guess that was too ambiguous, so it was re-titled; More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows, and subtitle; More firearms do not keep people safe, hard numbers show.  Why do so many Americans believe the opposite?

This convoluted and presumptuous title fits the biased nonsense that follows it.  The long and repetitive article primarily dwells on three key points:

      1. A 1993 survey which concluded that guns are used about five times more frequently to stop or prevent crimes, than they are to commit crimes.
      2. That a law passed in Kennesaw, Georgia in 1982, requiring every household to possess a firearm, did not result in significant reductions in violent crime.
      3. That Congress, at the urging of the NRA, has blocked virtually all research into firearm injury prevention.

The problem is that, while she makes a pretense of offering a fair and balanced examination of the facts, she treats her preferred “experts” as being unquestionable and above reproach, and offers only token mention of any conflicting opinions, dismissing them as being unreliable or biased.  She also relies heavily on setting up and knocking down straw man arguments, making unsubstantiated claims about what gun owners believe, and then debunking those supposed beliefs with statistics from her preferred, anti-gun researchers.

The 1993 survey by Dr. Gary Kleck and Dr. Marc Gertz, both professors of criminology at Florida State University, asked some 5000 Americans about crime and defensive gun use.  Kleck and Gertz made all of their data and methods available to other researchers, and their findings were reviewed by their peers and found to be compelling. Even many highly respected criminologists and researchers who support gun control grudgingly admitted that Kleck and Gertz had been very thorough in accounting for factors that might have skewed their results.

Several years later, Dr. David Hemenway, an outspoken advocate of gun control who has produced a number of controversial reports of his own, published an examination of the Kleck/Gertz study, and raised a number of questions about their methodology and their conclusions.  Dr. Kleck responded to Hemenway’s criticisms point by point, answering all of his questions, and demonstrating that they had indeed considered and accounted for all of the factors raised by Dr. Hemenway. But Ms. Moyer ignored this and other research that supports the Kleck/Gertz study, as well as ignoring a large body of criticism of Dr. Hemenway’s own “research.”  Dr. Hemenway was one of the “experts” Moyer relied on for this article.

The Kennesaw issue appears to be included simply as a way for the author to insert cultural and regional bias into the article.  She traveled around Georgia and Alabama talking with gun owners and law enforcement officers. Originally from Georgia herself, Moyer presents the folks she left behind as backward science-deniers, but the only evidence she presents regarding the impact of Kennesaw’s law mandating gun ownership – which was symbolic, as it exempts anyone with a moral, religious, or personal belief against owning a gun – was to point out that the reductions in violent crime in Kennesaw appears to have been primarily a result of an unusually high violent crime rate in the year before the law went into effect.  She neglects to note that even if violent crime didn’t go down as much as it might have appeared, it most certainly didn’t go up as a result of the law and its presumptive increase in gun ownership.

As to the Congressional restrictions on the CDC, Moyer gets some credit for making clear that Congress did not outright ban gun research by the CDC, but rather prohibited the agency from spending funds for the purpose of supporting gun control laws.  But she then suggests that the effect was the same since CDC officials are now too scared to get anywhere close to gun research. What she fails to mention is the clear, unvarnished fact that CDC bosses were in an open and acknowledged campaign to reduce gun ownership, and their funding projects were geared toward proving the need for the federal government to take steps to accomplish that stated goal.  In fact, one of Moyer’s other “reliable experts” for this article was Dr. Arthur Kellerman whose blatantly biased and seriously flawed “research” played a significant role in the debate over CDC funding. Kellerman received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for “research” which was so deeply flawed that even many of his fellow gun control supporting academics felt compelled to disavow it.

In a November 2017 article in Scientific American which relied on the same “gun violence experts,” Moyer claimed that four specific gun control laws could prevent mass murders like the recent ones in Las Vegas and Texas.  Though she quietly admitted deep in the body of the article that none of the four laws would have been likely to have actually prevented those two heinous crimes, she and her experts offered “research” to “prove” that they would work in other cases….

Again, her research failed to include any experts with differing opinions or examine research that has come to different conclusions.

It looks like Scientific American is following the old CDC model of picking a side and advocating for it, manipulating data to support the foregone conclusion.  That doesn’t sound very scientific to us.

 

Bloomberg Buying Virginia?

By Jeff Knox

(November 1, 2017) Once again, Mike Bloomberg is dumping money into a state with the hope of buying seats for his anti-rights cronies.  Virginia is one of the few states that holds their elections for governor and the State Legislature in off-years, and this year’s election is a biggie, with very clear lines drawn in the sand, where rights are concerned.

The big race is for Governor, where Democrat, Ralph Northam is running against Republican, Ed Gillespie, and Libertarian, Cliff Hyra.  The commonwealth of Virginia has term limits for the governor’s office, so the current governor, Terry McAuliffe cannot run again.

Bloomberg and his various anti-rights front groups have dumped over $1.1 million into the campaign in support of Northam, and another $600,000 in support of Attorney General Mark Herring’s reelection bid.

Northam is advocating a radical, anti-rights agenda with extreme measures.  He calls for reinstating the failed “one handgun a month” rule. He also calls for a law mandating all firearm transfers go through licensed dealers.  That would include not only sales, but, but long-term loans between friends, neighbors, and family members, or leaving guns with a friend through an extended absence.  Northam also supports a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and wants to mandate “smaller clips.”

In 2013, when Terry McAuliffe was the Democrat candidate, Bloomberg almost cost him the election by his massive spending on the campaign.  McAuliffe’s poll numbers perversely started falling like a rock as Bloomberg pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race to support him.  We’re convinced that the reason McAuliffe’s numbers started falling was that Virginia voters didn’t appreciate Bloomberg trying to buy their election, and they really didn’t like McAuliffe’s support for stricter gun control laws.  Unfortunately, Bloomberg stepped in too late to change the outcome, and McAuliffe managed to hang on for the win.

This year, Bloomberg’s involvement has been prominent throughout the campaign, and all Virginia voters should be aware of Northam’s radical gun control agenda – though he masks it with focus group terms like “gun violence prevention” and “gun safety.”

The fact is that none of his proposals will prevent gun violence.  But they will impact responsible gun owners, restricting what we can own, costing us time and money to jump through useless bureaucratic hoops in order to legally transfer a firearm to a friend, and making us wait a month to buy more than one handgun, regardless of how many we might already own.

Northam plays up his service in the U.S. Army, as a doctor, and his concern for children as a pediatric neurologist, but his claims of support for veterans and children ring hollow in light of his opposition to gun owner rights and his active support for “women’s health care,” aka abortion on demand.

Mike Bloomberg is the worst sort of nanny-state tyrant, and Virginians should look closely at anyone who Bloomberg would support.

Attorney General Mark Herring’s anti-rights extremism is so radical that it was too much even for McAuliffe, who blocked Herring’s attempts to cancel concealed carry reciprocity agreements between Virginia and several other states.  Now Herring is actively opposing efforts to make Virginians’ concealed carry licenses valid in all 50 states, even though years of evidence proves that concealed carry reciprocity does not negatively impact public safety, and suggests that it actually makes people safer.  As the old saw goes, in a life or death crisis, when seconds count, police are just minutes away. But a personal sidearm can be right there when you need it.

Both Northam and Herring served in the Virginia legislature, and both have long records demonstrating their lack of trust for their fellow Virginians, and support for more powerful, more intrusive government, with higher taxes, tighter regulations, and greater reliance on, and subservience to, the federal government.

Ralph Northam and Mark Herring might be native Virginians, but their views more closely reflect those of native New Yorker, Mike Bloomberg.  That’s why he’s willing to spend millions to get them elected.

The Washington Post, New York Times, and other anti-rights media have been attacking Republican, Ed Gillespie on his opposition to gun control, especially in the wake of the October 1 attack in Las Vegas.  Though most gun control advocates grudgingly admit that none of their proposed restrictions would have prevented the Las Vegas atrocity, still they use the tragedy as an emotional hook for pushing their agenda.

The wild-card in the governor’s race is Libertarian, Cliff Hyra.  Though Hyra has virtually no chance of winning, most of his voters would likely support Gillespie over Northam, if it were a two-way race, and those votes could easily decide the matter.

In 2013, when McAuliffe was elected, he beat Republican Ken Ciccinelli by just over 2%, while the Libertarian candidate garnered 6.5% of the vote.  If Libertarians again vote with an upraised middle finger, rather than casting a ballot for the best candidate with a chance of winning, they could again be the deciding factor in the election.

If Northam wins, you can be certain that the victory will be painted as a referendum against the policies of President Trump, and in favor of stricter gun control laws.

This is not an election that any gun owner or lover of liberty can afford to sit out.  If you are a Virginia resident, or you know anyone who lives in Virginia, please be sure to vote and/or encourage your friends and family to go to the polls on November 7th.  The results in Virginia could impact all of us, so do what you can to make sure rights win the day.

 

Evil Begets Evil

By Jeff Knox

(November 8, 2017) After the senseless slaughter of innocents at a Baptist church in Texas, coming on the heels of the attack on a country music concert in Las Vegas last month, the American people have been inundated with non-stop reporting, speculation, posturing, and finger-pointing from the media and politicians.  In the hours and days right after an attack, news programs showed continuous loops of video from the scene, repeating estimates of the dead and wounded, and using phrases like “the deadliest mass shooting” or “the worst mass murder,” while ranking this latest horror against the number killed in previous horrors. They talk with witnesses or anyone else even remotely connected with the tragedy, and engage in endless, often inane speculation about motives and weapons.  As soon as they get a hint as to who the perpetrator might have been, pictures of the killer, along with tidbits from his social media accounts are added to the crime scene video loops and pictures of victims. Invariably, within minutes of the attack, someone will say something about the need for stricter gun control laws to prevent these sorts of massacres, even though they have no idea whether the proposed laws might have made any difference – as if a bit of paperwork with felony penalties would make a difference to a mind twisted enough to put gun sights on a child.

The “reporting” goes on for days or weeks, with timelines, diagrams, victim counts, news conferences from the scene, detailed coroner’s reports, and interviews with former law enforcement officials, all on a continuous loop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with other “news” slowly filtering into the cycle as the “reporting” moves from the actual crime to detailed examination of the perpetrator, the victims, the environment, the motive, and the failures of the system that allowed a lunatic the means to carry out such a heinous act.  And of course they will talk with politicians who want to use the atrocity as a springboard to advance some restrictive firearm legislation, because we must “do something.”

Occasionally, the media talking heads interview an expert on mental health who points out that most of these violent lunatics are motivated by a desire to be famous.  According to the occasional suicide expert, the vast majority of mass shootings are actually elaborate suicides in which the suicidal person has decided that he didn’t want to die a “nobody,” and hits on the idea of becoming famous in his death.  Then the expert will explain that these suicidal lunatics invariably get the idea for writing themselves into the history books, directly from the media reports of previous murder-suicide events. Over and over again we have seen these experts explain that repeating the names of the murderers and tallying and comparing their body-counts, feeds the homicidal/suicidal ideation of other similarly disturbed individuals.

The first thing the program will do after the interview – or sometimes as part of the interview – will be to run down a list of the most prolific mass murderers, showing their pictures, and comparing their victims, as if they are reporting on athletes and their sports scores. In Silicon Valley they call it gamification.

It has long been recognized that mentally unstable people can be tipped over the edge by external factors, and in the case of suicides and rampage attacks, media attention has a significant impact on future events.  When Marilyn Monroe overdosed on sleeping pills suicide rates spiked by twelve percent for the year. In fact, when anyone commits suicide, the heavier the media coverage, the higher the eventual death-toll will be. Suicide experts call this phenomenon “suicide contagion,” and they have developed reporting guidelines for minimizing the impact of suicide contagion.  Here’s what the Department of Health and Human Services says about it:

The risk for suicide contagion as a result of media reporting can be minimized by factual and concise media reports of suicide. Reports of suicide should not be repetitive, as prolonged exposure can increase the likelihood of suicide contagion. Suicide is the result of many complex factors; therefore media coverage should not report oversimplified explanations such as recent negative life events or acute stressors. Reports should not divulge detailed descriptions of the method used to avoid possible duplication. Reports should not glorify the victim and should not imply that suicide was effective in achieving a personal goal such as gaining media attention. In addition, information such as hot-lines or emergency contacts should be provided for those at risk for suicide.

By focusing so much attention on mass murders, the media turn them into macabre celebrities.  And weak-minded people are inspired to follow their example. Many of these murderers have collections of media reports from previous attacks, and engage in a sick game of one-upmanship, competing to go down in history as the “worst,” the “deadliest,” the “sickest,” etc., and the media plays right along with the sick score-keeping.

Sick people exist in every society, and there are aspects of our culture that serve to feed and encourage their dysphoria.  We can’t completely eliminate the factors that promote severe antisocial behaviors, but there are steps that can be taken to identify and treat it, and to interrupt the obvious cycle that we see in mass murder atrocities.

The media has already widely adopted the recommended practices to reduce suicide contagion, and it has proven to be effective.  A famous example is Seattle grunge-rocker Kurt Cobain who fronted the band Nirvana. His suicide received light coverage, and suicide rates actually dropped in 1994.   They need to employ similar practices when dealing with mass murder events.

A resolution aimed at this issue, called the “Don’t Inspire Evil” initiative, has been offered several times at meetings of the Society of Professional Journalists, but has failed to secure enough support for its addition into their Code of Ethics.

Until the media reforms the way they report on these atrocities, we must expect that each one will be followed by others.

We can’t banish evil with new laws, but we can slow its propagation by not feeding it.  As Margaret Thatcher said; “We must starve terrorists of the oxygen of publicity which they seek.”

Is that really possible in this age of the internet and the 24 hour news cycle?

If we must “Do something!” can’t we look at something that might actually work?

NRA: Now More than Ever!

By Jeff Knox

(October 18, 2017) Whether you like it or not, the National Rifle Association is absolutely our most important defender of our constitutional right to arms, and you need to be a member.  Many of us are angry with the NRA for the foolish statement put out by Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox in response to the atrocity in Las Vegas, and others are angry with me for publicly criticizing that foolish statement, and calling on the NRA Board of Directors to repudiate it.

Strategy disagreements aside, NRA is the 800 pound gorilla of the gun rights fight.  Without them we cannot win, and people who are not members have very little influence with the organization.

I began purchasing a Life Membership in NRA with my first check out of Army Basic Training back in 1978.  Even though my father was the Executive Director of NRA-ILA at the time, and even though I was only a couple of months too old to get in at the half-price, Junior rate, I got no discount or special pricing.  I’ve never regretted that decision, and I certainly don’t regret it now.

 

For most of the past century the NRA has suffered from leadership that was too often out of touch with the members.  Originally the organization’s leaders were former military officers, including General Ulysses S. Grant. That tradition continued through most of NRA’s history.  NRA staff once wryly called the NRA Board the “Colonels’ Club.” Retired military officers, and more recently, retired law enforcement chiefs filled key positions at the head table, and among paid staff.  While military officers and career bureaucrats often have a good grasp on how things work in the nation’s capitol, they are also conditioned to follow orders from politicians and higher-ups within the Executive Branch.  That’s been an ongoing problem.

Many years ago, before the Annual Meeting became such a big deal, the meetings were always held in Washington, D.C. close to headquarters.  It was not unusual for NRA members would turn the pilgrimage to the meeting into a family vacation, often taking the opportunity to do some sightseeing, and also to stop in and visit their congressional delegation.  This casual grassroots lobbying became so popular among the members, that NRA leaders began hearing complaints from politicians about their active lobbying efforts. The NRA leaders, distraught that their organization was being accused of trying to influence politicians, decided it would be better to hold the Annual Meeting of Members in locations other than the nation’s capitol.  So began the current tradition of moving the event around the country each year – and staying out of Washington.

By 1975, NRA leaders were so determined to avoid being called “the gun lobby,” that they made plans to sell their Washington headquarters and move the offices to Colorado Springs.  That plan was quashed by members at the Annual Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1977, where an empowered membership exercised its authority under the law to direct their Association. The assembled members provided new ways to govern the organization and put a new leadership team in place.  Soon after that night, newly-elected Executive Vice President Harlon Carter told his protege Neal Knox that the losing side was already working to undo what was accomplished in 1977. In the 40 years since, most of the reforms of Cincinnati have disappeared, and the legal openings that allowed the membership revolt have been nailed shut.

The current NRA leadership now embraces the “gun lobby” label, but it does so because they are serving a market.  Today’s NRA does not exist primarily to defend the Second Amendment. It is primarily a fundraising operation that has found it can monetize defense of the Second Amendment.  Paid NRA staff members take home million-dollar paychecks, and key vendors, notably its advertising and public relations firms, walk away with even more.

 

If you are angry with something NRA or its executives have done, withholding funds that you might have contributed is very reasonable, and can make a difference.  But canceling, or choosing not to renew your membership, is self-defeating. We need you in the NRA. We need your vote in NRA elections, and we need you to bolster the total membership numbers, to garner more influence with your elected politicians.  If you are an Annual Member, and let your membership lapse, that means you won’t be eligible to vote in NRA elections for another 5 years, unless you pony up for a Life Membership. Realistically, $40 a year is not much, especially considering the magazine subscription and the insurance benefits, not to mention eligibility in NRA competitions.  And you can easily cut that back to $35 by shopping around for discount deals, or buying multi-year packages.

If you want to influence the NRA’s actions, but want to minimize how much of your money goes into the pockets of NRA executives and vendors, the best deal is to purchase a discounted Life Membership at an NRA Annual Meeting.  It’s not uncommon for them to offer Life Member packages with added perks at well below half-price at the Annual Meeting. And once you have your Life Membership, you don’t have to ever give the NRA another dime, but you have a voice for life.

The Annual Meeting and Exhibits will be held next year in Dallas, and the following year it is scheduled to be in Indianapolis, then Nashville, then Houston.  Start planning now to attend the one closest to you, and start putting a couple of bucks a day in a jar so you’ll have the cash to become a permanent NRA Voting Member.

The only way we’ll ever get NRA on the right track – and keep it there – is by having a strong majority of dedicated rights supporters willing and able to vote in NRA elections, so we can get the best possible candidates elected as directors, and the best people leading the staff.

 

NRA absolutely has some serious flaws, and gun owners are facing some very serious challenges, but the answer is not to abandon our most powerful asset, but to take control and steer it in the right direction.

There are few people in the world with a more thorough knowledge of the NRA and its shortcomings than we Knoxes.  We certainly don’t always agree with NRA leadership, and we’ve never been shy about confronting those disagreements when and where appropriate, but there are also few who have worked as hard as we have to build up the organization and move it toward a principled defense of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  That’s why we urge all gun owners to join the NRA, renew your membership, and if you can, upgrade to Life Membership, then get active and involved in NRA politics. Elect directors who will stand up to the tests and move the organization forward, then lobby those directors to keep the staff in line and working for all of our rights.

Our friends over at the Gun Collective news site have developed a tool for NRA members to reach out to their directors.  Just go to www.theguncollective.com/nra and enter your member information to send messages to your NRA Board of Directors.  We’ve been asking the NRA to create a service like this for at least 10 years, and finally it’s being offered, not by NRA, but by a group of independent members.  Take advantage of it. Stay in the fight, and lobby your elected NRA representatives, just as you would lobby Congress.

Your rights are under fire.  Now more than ever, you need to be a member of the NRA.

 

The Firearms Coalition Calls on NRA Board to Repudiate Statement

By Jeff Knox

The Executive Vice President of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, and Chris Cox, the Executive Director of NRA-ILA, the association’s lobbying arm, issued a joint statement in response to the horrific atrocity perpetrated last week in Las Vegas.  The bulk of the statement was practical and reasonable, sounding a balanced tone between concern for the victims and determination to not let the acts of a mad man be used to undercut the rights of Americans.  It also showed a willingness to at least discuss whether some action related to guns might be warranted. There is nothing wrong with them being willing to talk, as long as they stick to core principles, and refuse to allow blame for the tragedy to be dumped on responsible gun owners.  Unfortunately LaPierre and Cox didn’t stick to principles. Instead of just calling for regulatory review, they declared – in the name of NRA – an opinion on what that review should conclude, and it’s not an opinion that The Firearms Coalition can begin to agree with.

Here’s the part of what LaPierre and Cox said that we have a problem with:

“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

“Concede principal” is a common political strategem. Unfortunately, it does not fit with the gun issue. The principle that gun laws will not — cannot — reduce crime needs to be etched in stone  The theories from NRA supporters all suggest that the statement was part of a delay and diversion tactic to buy some time for the heated emotions arising from the Las Vegas attack to simmer down, so that the discussion can then proceed in a rational and logical manner, and keep that debate within regulatory channels, rather than Congress.  The suggestion is, that by putting the ball in the court of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, NRA is trying to keep Congress out of it. A BATFE review will take some time, and if BATFE rules that they made a mistake when they concluded that bump-fire stocks were not restricted devices under the definitions of the National Firearms Act, and places them in one of the restricted categories, that would take the wind out of Feinstein (D-CA) and Schumer’s (D-NY) sails.  If the review concluded that the BATFE doesn’t have the authority to regulate the simple devices, the hope would be that the focus would be pretty firmly shifted onto these novelty devices, rather than the guns they are attached to.

That might actually be the strategy, but unfortunately it falls flat with the inclusion of the above sentence.

By stating that NRA believes the devices “should be subject to additional regulations,” they are not only abandoning bump-fire stocks and trigger-cranks – which is a pretty stupid move in our opinion – but they are conceding the notion that these devices, and full-auto firearms, are too dangerous for average Americans to own.  LaPierre and Cox have since doubled down on the statement, saying on Sunday talk shows that NRA supports the restrictions of the NFA, and thinks that rapid-fire devices should fall under the purview of that law.

This is really troubling, as it abandons the critical, core principle that you cannot control criminal behavior by regulating inanimate objects.

While it’s possible that pitching this issue to the BATFE might cause some delays, and give some politicians an excuse to sit on their hands while BATFE is conducting their review – if they conduct a review – Feinstein, Schumer, and their media pals are already calling out the NRA position as a political ploy, and are pushing all the harder for immediate congressional action.  With NRA already conceding on the issue of bump-fire stocks, they have surrendered any reasonable grounds for objecting to quick congressional action. And since a ban on bump-stocks is now a given, the anti-rights zealots will set their sights on additional targets like limiting magazine capacity and expanding background checks, along with yet another run at an “assault weapon” ban, which they might use as a bargaining chip.

With NRA “leaders” having conceded that bump-stocks should be regulated, and with that concession, also abandoning the notion that restricting tools is never the answer to controlling crime, any arguments they offer against expanding background checks or restricting magazine capacity, will be pounced upon as specious and in contradiction to this stated position.  After all, “if it saves just one life…”

The values expressed in that one sentence of LaPierre and Cox’s statement, represent a major shift in NRA policy, and we’re pretty sure that this shift was not approved by the NRA’s Board of Directors, which is supposed to be responsible for establishing all policies for the organization.  At least we hope that the board would not have approved such a damaging policy shift.

And this is not the first time that LaPierre has shot the organization in the foot.  In a speech shortly after the Columbine atrocity, LaPierre declared;

”We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools.”

A dozen years later, in response to the terror at Sandy Hook, LaPierre was singing a different tune, calling for police and armed citizens in schools, a much more sensible approach.

In 1999, testifying in a congressional hearing, LaPierre declared;

“We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show.  No loopholes anywhere for anyone.”

Like his gun-free schools statement, LaPierre’s position on gun shows didn’t sit well with many NRA members and the official position was quietly shifted back to a harder line.  Still, as late as 2005, candidate questionnaires were still stating that NRA supported mandatory background checks at gun shows. The questionnaires were only corrected to reflect NRA’s actual policy, opposing mandatory background checks for private transfers, after The Firearms Coalition pointed out the discrepancy and demanded the correction.

Now LaPierre has again shot a hole in his own foot – and the NRA’s boat he’s standing in – with his misguided statements about rapid-fire devices for semi-auto rifles.  The difference is that this time the contrary statement has the potential to sink the whole boat. If full-auto is so dangerous that it must be tightly regulated, and devices that make it easier to make semi-auto’s “function like fully-automatic” firearms are so dangerous that they must also be tightly regulated, it is a very short step to demands that all semi-auto firearms be tightly regulated since any semi-auto can be made to “function like fully-automatic” firearms with a simple improvised device, or no device at all with a little practice.  When anti-rights politicians and the media make that demand, what defense can LaPierre offer?

We at The Firearms Coalition feel that this was a serious faux pa on the part of LaPierre and Cox, and we see only one way for the mistake to be corrected.  The NRA Board of Directors must immediately issue a statement declaring the true position of the National Rifle Association, and that the statement from LaPierre and Cox did not accurately reflect that position.  They must make it clear that the NRA policy opposes any efforts to restrict or regulate any firearm, ammunition, or accessory under the false premise that such regulation will prevent the illegal acts of criminals and lunatics.

Political gamesmanship is one thing.  Abandoning core principles as part of that gamesmanship is totally unacceptable.

A Solution to Evil?

By Chris Knox and Jeff Knox

 

(October 4, 2017) Once again, the nation mourns the actions of a pathetic madman apparently acting alone, and we on the pro-rights side of the gun control debate are forced to process our horror and grief under a barrage of assaults from media pundits and politicians.

We’re as horrified by the carnage as anyone, and additionally frustrated that such tragedies always trigger an outpouring of ill-informed, biased attacks on our rights by the political control freaks demanding that “We”  must “Do Something” regardless of how ineffective and counterproductive that “Something” may be.

This sort of thing always puts us in a difficult position, because attacks on guns and gun owners, and calls for action to prevent future tragedies, are widely perceived to be compassionate and rational, while logical retorts and discussion of historical, technical, and moral problems with the proposed “solutions” comes off as cold and uncaring.

That’s the dilemma we find ourselves in right now.  If we remain silent, the knee-jerk reactionaries get free rein to rant unchallenged  and set the narrative about the evils of firearms, and the need for additional restrictions.  By speaking up and pointing out the flaws in the gun control proposals, we are painted as unfeeling ideologues, more concerned about our “hobby” than the loss of innocent lives.  Be that as it may, we cannot stand idly by and allow our rights to be additional victims of a madman’s rampage.

As in most all of the other high-profile firearm attacks in recent history, the killer in this case had no history of mental issues or criminal activity, and acquired his weapons through legal channels after passing multiple background checks.  Yet, one of the first “solutions” we heard offered was a proposal to expand background checks to include personal transfers. And though the murderer didn’t use a silencer, that was the target of Hillary Clinton’s tweet on the matter, suggesting that the tragedy would have been worse if a silencer had been employed, and urging rejection of current legislation which includes loosening of restrictions on those devices.  Obviously she doesn’t understand that the victims, who were 300 yards away from the attacker, were hearing the bullets breaking the sound barrier, not the muzzle blasts of the guns, and silencers have no effect on the crack of a bullet moving at supersonic speeds.

Then, as more information became available, we began to hear calls for restrictions on “bump-stocks” and “trigger cranks,” devices that allow shooters to waste ammunition at higher rates of fire than normal from semi-auto firearms.  Senator Dianne Feinstein has already filed a bill, copied from California statutes, that would criminalize manufacture, importation, sales, and possession of these devices, requiring that present owners surrender or destroy them, or face felony charges.  We’re not sure how this might apply to replicas of 150-year old Gatling Guns. And of course, it completely ignores the fact that these devices are easily fabricated from such exotic materials as rubber bands, scraps of wood, or plastic soda bottles.

The day after the attack, we received a request from the USAToday newspaper’s editorial board asking if we would provide an op-ed counterpoise to their comments on the slaughter.  Their description of the board’s approach to the subject was telling. In the email, the representative of the editorial board said; “We’re going to cite this event as yet another reason, and an opportunity to push, for stricter gun controls.”

We found that word “opportunity” chilling.  The gun control industry keeps focus group-tested, “reasonable” and “commonsense” (they like “commonsense” as one word – it must have tested well in focus groups) measures waiting in the wings for opportunities such as this.  Their allies in the dominant media, which certainly includes USAToday, then beat the drums in unison for those “reasonable” steps whenever the opportunity arises.

The “gun control” agenda is a vote-getter among some constituencies, and politicians who serve those constituencies see tragedies as an opportunity to advance that agenda.  We think that’s pretty sick. What’s worse, the agenda they advance as they dance in the blood is never anything that could possibly prevent or even mitigate the tragedy, nor intercept the next one.  Their “solutions” sound good, and poll well, but in real life they solve nothing. They won’t impact everyday crime, and they certainly won’t have any favorable impact on the big-stage horror show of a mass casualty shooting any more than stricter truck licensing would affect the use of trucks as weapons of terror.

In the coming weeks Congress will hold hearings, celebrities will emote on cue, and very public tears will be shed with pleas that we “Do Something!”  But what if that “Something” does no good? What if it even does more harm? What if a so-called, “Universal” Background Check law simply diverts police resources into shuffling paper?  What if an “Assault Weapons” ban addresses nothing but cosmetics? Congress, our police, and our courts have more important matters to attend to than inspecting guns for “prominently protruding pistol grips” (words from an earlier “assault weapons” ban).  Let’s focus resources where they can be used rather than going down the “gun control” road that has already proven to be an ineffectual and divisive dead-end.

Forces Rallying Against SHARE

By Jeff Knox

The media, anti-rights groups, and politicians are engaging in a full-court press against the SHARE Act, focusing particularly on the inclusion of the Hearing Protection Act, which was added to the sportsmen’s bill in its latest iteration.  As usual, the hype and distortion are running high, with idiotic claims that passage of the bill would “make it easy for felons and domestic abusers to buy gun silencers without a background check,” as Bloomberg-funded stated in press releases and social media postings.

We at The Firearms Coalition would be fine with that, as a matter of fact, we much prefer the SHUSH Act, which would totally deregulate silencers.  They are after all, non-firing accessories, not guns, and if a criminal really wanted one, they are ridiculously easy to make. But the Hearing Protection Act simply shifts silencers from being treated like machine guns, to treating them like regular guns.  What that means for criminals, is that a suppressor would be considered the same as a gun under the law, requiring a 4473 and a background check to purchase one from a dealer. Felons and anyone ever convicted of a crime of domestic violence would still be prohibited from purchasing or possessing them, just as they are prohibited from purchasing and possessing guns and ammunition.

The SHARE Act, which is an acronym for Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement, is an omnibus bill containing wide-ranging provisions of interest to shooters, hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationists.  It contains a number of reforms that are long overdue, and has been pushed by the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus since 2013, with various provisions added or amended through the years. The latest version was delayed by the assassination attempt on Republicans at a baseball practice in Northern Virginia, but was finally filed on September 1, and has moved quickly since then.  It was marked up in the House natural Resources Committee in mid-September and moved out of that committee with a favorable report the next day, at which time it was referred to the full House.

Barring some shenanigans from the Republican leadership, the bill will be voted on within the next couple of weeks, and sent to the Senate – where it will almost certainly languish and eventually die, just as it did in the 113th and 114th Congresses – unless we can force a vote.

The trick is getting the leadership to bring the bill to the floor.  I suspect that Rep. Duncan (R-SC) pulled a bit of a fast one when he attached the HPA and some other pro-rights legislation to the SHARE Act, but it would be difficult for Speaker Ryan (R-WI) to block a vote now.  Unfortunately getting action in the Senate will be more difficult. We’ll need champions to push the bill out of committee, and onto the floor, and the first big obstacle will be Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY). For some reason McConnell doesn’t seem to want to vote on gun bills, or help his members keep their election promises.  He doesn’t seem to understand that the gun issue is a consistent winner for Republicans, and ducking or opposing gun votes always loses.

Harry Reid was a master of this game.  While he would allow his members to cross party lines on gun bills if it would help their reelection chances, he would only do so if he was sure he had the votes to kill the bills.  A great example was the vote on national reciprocity in 2009. Mark Pryor (D-AR) initially followed orders to vote against the bill, but after two Republicans, Lugar (R-IN) and Voinovich (R-OH) voted against it, Pryor sought, and was granted permission from Reid to change his vote to “Yea.”  Reid himself voted “Yea” on that one, leaving the measure to fail by just two votes, with the blame for that resting squarely on Lugar and Voinovich.

Chuck Schumer is much less amenable to gun rights than Reid ever was, and Schumer runs a tighter ship, but he’s also a very pragmatic politician.  He’ll most certainly filibuster the SHARE Act, and he’ll insist that enough of his members toe the line to ensure the bill doesn’t get through. He’ll also try to make quiet side-deals with squishy Republicans to con them into voting with the Democrats.

Our job is to make sure that Republicans and Democrats alike understand that failure to vote right on this bill – including in the lead-up procedural votes – will result in their unemployment, as happened with Lugar and Voinovich.

Conservative voters are really fed up with Republicans not keeping promises.  Dragging their feet on pro-rights legislation like the SHARE Act will make many of them vulnerable in ’18.  If Republicans let them down again, GunVoters aren’t likely to vote Democrat in large numbers but, they are likely to not bother showing up at all, and that could be the difference between a stronger Republican majority, or Chuck Shumer becoming Majority Leader.

Now is the time to be hammering your senators about the SHARE Act.  They need to hear loud and clear that you want the bill brought to the floor and voted on, whether the leadership thinks it can pass or not.  In a year like this, pushing for record votes can yield surprising results, but even if the SHARE Act goes down in flames in the Senate, having record votes is much more useful than having the bill simply die in committee.

Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.  Talk to the staff of your representative and both of your senators and tell them you want record votes on the SHARE Act.  Then call their local offices and tell those staffers the same thing. Call Mitch McConnell’s office too, then call back every day until they take the votes.  The Bloomies and Brady Bunch are pushing hard against it with assistance from the media. We have to be louder and more persistent. Call today.

 

Gun Rights Gathering Scheduled for Dallas

By Jeff Knox

(August 28, 2017) Once a year, gun rights leaders and activists from around the country get together to discuss the state of the movement, and strategies for advancing the cause, at the Gun Rights Policy Conference, sponsored by the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.  The weekend conference is usually scheduled for the last weekend in September at different locations around the country.  This year’s conference is taking place in Dallas, Texas, beginning on Friday evening September 29, and wrapping up on Sunday October 1.  An Alternative Mass Media Conference is scheduled to take place in conjunction with GRPC this year, running all day on Friday the 29th.  GRPC 2017 will be the 32nd year for this annual gathering, and offers attendees the opportunity to network, share ideas, and make plans.

The events this year will be held at the Westin hotel and conference center at DFW Airport.  As always, top leaders of national and state level rights organizations will be in attendance and serving on information panels, along with leading writers, bloggers, and radio personalities.  Attendees will have opportunity to meet and talk with these folks during breaks and multiple receptions surrounding the formal conference schedule.

Attendance is free, but you must pre-register at www.SAF.org to guarantee yourself a seat.  The Second Amendment Foundation usually supplies attendees with a large stack of books from their online bookstore, often including books and DVD’s from some of the presenters.  They even provide free box lunches during the Saturday session.

If you live anywhere near the Dallas – Ft. Worth area, be sure to make plans to attend.

The new media conference, dubbed Amm-Con, is being promoted as a workshop for podcasters, bloggers, online video creators and anyone else in new media that has a connection to the Second Amendment Community.  They say the objective is to help you “learn to make your media more effective and more successful.” It is being organized by the crews from the Polite Society Podcast and the Self Defense Radio Network, and is expected to cover a variety of aspects of production and distribution, from technical challenges, to interview techniques, to promotion and distribution, to advertising and monetization.

Registration for Amm-Con 2017 is separate from GRPC registration, so if you plan to go, head over to www.ammcon.org to get registered.

I have a family connection with GRPC.  Dad helped get it started, and was a regular attendee and presenter for almost 20 years, receiving the conference’s Lifetime Achievement Award – twice.  I first presented at the conference in 1998, and have only missed a few of the conferences since 2004. My brother Chris has also been a frequent participant, making the annual event a long family tradition.

One of the core purposes of the GRPC, is to bring together national and state grassroots leaders, to give them an opportunity to network, share ideas, learn from one another’s successes and failures, and build cooperation to make all of our efforts more effective.  Infighting and competition among different groups can be detrimental to the cause, and the GRPC offers an opportunity for some of these groups’ leaders to sit down and work through differences face-to-face, in a supportive environment. While most prominent groups are represented, a few are sometimes conspicuous in their absence.  While that’s disappointing, it offers some insight into those groups that decline to participate.

For the individual activists who attend, it affords an opportunity to meet and mingle with some of their favorite authorities and experts, like John Lott, Alan Gura, and David Kopel, along with national leaders like Alan Gottlieb and Larry Pratt, as well as media types like Tom Gresham, Mark Walters, and Emily Miller.

The days are filled with back-to-back presentations on issues and information of value to rights activists, and the evenings include official and unofficial receptions and hangouts, where everyone can share their thoughts and work together to solve problems great and small.

Special pricing is in effect at the Westin, which is right next to DFW Airport, making it very handy for those of us flying in, and less expensive rooms are available at other nearby hotels.

If you live in the Dallas – Ft. Worth area, and you care about Second Amendment rights, you owe it to yourself to come join us.  It’s always a fun, educational, and productive event, and I hope to see you there. I’ll be attending Amm-Com, and presenting at GRPC on Saturday morning on the Federal Legislation panel.  I might also participate in other ways, but definitely look forward to visiting with friends, old and new, throughout the weekend.

Go to SAF.org and Ammcom.com now to register for both events.  I hope to see you there.

Open Carry is a Loophole

Car attack generates calls for gun control

By Jeff Knox

(August 23, 2017) Opponents of gun rights are now using the horror and stupidity of the Charlottesville protests to declare open carry of firearms a “loophole,” which of course must be closed posthaste.

Demonstrators in Charlottesville assaulted each other with rocks, bottles, sticks, clubs, chemical agents, and hands and feet in the area around the “Unite the Right” rally, but no one fired a gun.  After the rally had been broken up, one demonstrator drove a car through a crowd, killing one woman, and injuring many others, but again, no gun was used. These facts are irrelevant to those opposed to individual rights though, as they point to Charlottesville and demand an end to open carry during political rallies – which they say “chills” other people’s free speech rights – and a ban on concealed carry during such events, because… “Guns.”

We’ve seen this sort of fear-mongering for political gain play out in the past.  California enacted laws against open carry after the Black Panther Party staged an armed march on the state capitol.  Again, no one was shot or threatened, but the group’s decision to legally display their arms served as the justification for passage of carry prohibitions in California and elsewhere, and contributed to passage of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968.

It’s worth noting that among the most outspoken proponents of these restrictions on rights are the very people who bear the most responsibility for the events in Charlottesville going so terribly wrong: Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer.

The First Amendment can be a very uncomfortable thing.  The core of the right to free speech – especially political speech – boils down to the statement that used to appear at the top of many newspaper editorial pages: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  The concept is simple at the theoretical level, but gets complicated in the real world.  People opposed to certain speech, whether it be burning a U.S. flag, or spouting racist views, like to point out that the First Amendment only applies to government, and does not require individuals to tolerate people who say hateful things.  That’s true, but the government has an obligation to not only “allow” free speech, but to protect it as well. No one has the right to use force to squelch free speech, particularly in a public space. And the government has a sacred obligation to guard that right, regardless of how repugnant or hurtful that speech may be.

In the case of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, the government not only failed in their obligation to protect the free speech rights of the rally organizers and attendees, it looks like they intentionally conspired to allow those rights to be assaulted and suppressed.

Several months ago, organizers of the rally applied for, and received all of the necessary permits to legally hold their rally.  Later, government officials tried to cancel those permits, but their efforts were blocked by a federal judge. The local and state government knew that the views of many involved in the rally were extremely unpopular, and would undoubtedly draw counter-protesters.  They also knew that protests against groups much less controversial than this one, had been met with significant violence in recent months. The obligation of the mayor and governor was to protect the rights of the rally attendees, and to keep the peace. Not only did they fail in their obligation to protect speech in the public square, they set the stage to guarantee failure, and to invite violence.

The number one rule in situations like this is to keep the factions separated, but authorities allowed counter-protesters to congregate right up to the minimal barrier surrounding the park where the rally was to be held.  Rally attendees were forced to run a gauntlet of protesters in order to get into the park, and police did little to protect them from protesters, or protesters from them, as they made their way to the rally. As violence began to break out before the rally, police retreated, ostensibly to don riot gear (which the strangely did not wear from the outset) leaving the warring factions to do battle.  Then, apparently on orders of the governor, the legally permitted rally, which hadn’t officially started yet, was declared an “unlawful assembly” and the police in their riot gear marched out, not to push back the protesters who were assaulting the legally permitted rally, but to push the rally attendees out of the park, into the streets full of protesters.

Who could have guessed that this wouldn’t end well?

There were two factions of “militia” openly carrying rifles, pistols, and shotguns in Charlottesville.  One group was a combined “patriot militia” of about 35 people (which interestingly included at least one African American and at least one openly gay person) who disavowed the views of both sides, saying they were only there to protect people and defend free speech.  The other “militia” group was a contingent of about 20 people from a communist organization called Redneck Revolt, which was associated with the counter-protesters, and provided security at their staging area in another nearby park.

Both “militia” groups conducted themselves professionally, and even though they were assaulted repeatedly, the “patriot militia” was credited with preventing much violence and rendering  assistance to injured people from both sides. No one was shot or even threatened.

When a Black Lives Matter supporter assassinated 5 police officers in Dallas, the media and politicians insisted that his actions shouldn’t reflect on the group as a whole, regardless of their inflammatory rhetoric, which often calls for the killing of police officers.

When an alleged white supremacist ran a car into a crowd in Charlottesville, the media and politicians blame everyone to the right of center, and call for sweeping new gun control.

Why would anyone think there is a double-standard in this country?