Another Court Says AR-15s Aren’t Covered by the Second Amendment

Judge Nominations Matter

By Jeff Knox

(April 9, 2018) An egregious ruling out of a Federal Court in Massachusetts, is just the latest example of why judicial appointments are so critically important.  The fact that the ruling comes at a moment when anti-rights Democrats in the U.S. Senate are praising a Donald Trump nominee to the Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, while Republican defenders of the Bill of Rights are criticizing Trump’s nominee over First and Second Amendment concerns.

The Massachusetts ruling came in a case filed by local rights advocates and the Gun Owners Action League, against the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.  GOAL sued Healey after she arbitrarily redefined the state’s “assault weapons” ban by including all guns with actions or internal parts that are interchangeable or similar to those of specifically banned firearms.  The Massachusetts ban, which was originally a mirror of the 1994 Clinton Gun Ban, had been in place for almost 20 years when Healey decided to change the rules and retroactively add thousands of heretofore legal rifles to the banned list, making criminals of thousands of law-abiding gun owners.

The Massachusetts Legislature enacted the state law in 1998, using the same definitions and terminology used in the federal ban, including the “grandfather clause, which exempted guns owned prior to the September, 1994 from the restrictions.  By expanding the definition in 2016 to include firearms that are mechanically similar to those that were banned, Healey retroactively criminalized sale, purchase, and possession of all of the thousands of rifles and magazines that meet the new definitions, but had been legally acquired since the 1994 ban.  Those rifles and magazines are now contraband, and the individuals who possess them are felons – if this legal interpretation is allowed to stand.

GOAL and fellow plaintiffs sued to overturn the original law, and particularly block the implementation of the new definitions.  They contended that the original ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment because it bans an entire class of firearms which are commonly owned and used for lawful purposes.  They further contended that the new, expanded definitions were unconstitutional because the terminology used is unconstitutionally vague and confusing, and violates constitutional protections against ex post facto laws.

In the Federal District Court for the State of Massachusetts, Judge William Young, a Reagan appointee, declared that “The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to bear arms.

To support that outrageous claim, Judge Young invoked the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, and the words of Justice Antonin Scalia, claiming that in Heller, Scalia specifically stated that the weapons most useful to service in a militia were not protected by the Second Amendment.

This is taken from a bit of dicta included in the Heller opinion, in which Justice Scalia was attempting to head-off future arguments based on the Court’s 1939 Miller decision.  In that decision the Court concluded that they could not say that a sawed-off shotgun was protected by the Second Amendment, because they had no knowledge of such a weapon being useful in militia service.  Scalia offered a hypothetical argument saying; “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’s suggesting that someone could use Miller to argue that restrictions on full-auto weapons are unconstitutional because those are the weapons “that are most useful in military service.”  He then goes on to answer that hypothetical challenge by arguing that the Miller decision hinged not on whether the weapon was militarily useful, but rather whether it was something that was commonly possessed for lawful purposes by members of the public.  He concluded that since full-auto’s are not very common in civilian hands, restrictions on them could probably be upheld as constitutional.

That’s a pretty thin argument, since those very restrictions are the only reason full-auto weapons like the M16 are not much more commonly owned, but to take that weak argument from Justice Scalia, and willfully distort it to claim that he was saying that guns that look like M16s aren’t protected by the Second Amendment, specifically because they are most useful in military service, is beyond outrageous, it’s downright treasonous.

This outrageous distortion didn’t originate with Judge Young however.  It was originally put forward last year by a panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Kolbe v. Hogan, which challenged Maryland’s draconian ban on guns that look military.  That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, and the cowardly justices refused to grant it a hearing, allowing the egregious ruling to stand.

Sam Adams would be calling for all of these judges to be defrocked and ridden out of town on a rail.  This is not a minor quibble over a legal technicality, but rather an intentional distortion to effect a desired outcome.  No honest reading of Justice Scalia’s opinion in Heller could arrive at the conclusions that these judges reached, and it is even more shameful that the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States have foregone their sworn duty, and allowed such conclusions to stand.

These are the sorts of abuses of power that lead insurrection and rebellion, and they must not be tolerated.

 

We Agree With Former Justice Stevens

Gun Control Advocates Should Call for Repeal of the Second Amendment.

By Jeff Knox

(March 27, 2018) You’ve probably heard about former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ recent editorial in the New York Times.  In it, he lauded the “civic engagement” of the “school children and their supporters” demanding additional gun control laws in marches around the country to “minimize the risk of mass killings.”  He also called on them to expand their demands and not just settle for minor tweaks in existing law, but rather to make their goal the full repeal of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

We at The Firearms Coalition wholeheartedly agree with him.  We would love to see gun control advocates actually demanding out loud and in so many words what they really want, rather than pretending that they would be satisfied with just a few minor restrictions or some “commonsense reforms.”  It would be refreshing to have them openly admit to their ultimate objectives, without pretending to support the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

From top to bottom, anti-rights groups are a sham.  Even their names are lies, as are their publicly stated goals.  Their names use terms like “for gun safety,” “against gun violence,” and “violence policy,” but they have nothing to do with gun safety or violence prevention.  Their single objective is, and always has been, demonization and criminalization of guns and gun owners.

Years ago, when most of these groups were founded, they were much more open about their intentions.  The National Coalition to Ban Handguns, and Handgun Control, Inc. were pretty clear about what they wanted – a total ban on civilian-owned handguns, with exceptions only for police and specially licensed security guards while on-duty.  Other civilians who wished to own a handgun would be limited to only certain styles, and even those, only in controlled range environments where they would have to store them securely, and never take them off the premises.

But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the leaders of these groups began to realize that their agendas were not popular with most Americans.  Not only were they stymied in their legislative efforts, being forced to take less than they wanted, but they found that they were unable to garner many members or financial supporters either.  They found themselves relying on funding from wealthy foundations, Hollywood celebrities, and New York and Silicon Valley billionaires. While past leaders had openly described a process of enacting stricter and stricter laws until their goal of a gun-free society was achieved, the new leaders adopted a whole new vocabulary of “gun safety,” “gun-violence prevention,” and “reasonable, commonsense measures to keep our children safe.”

The new approach to gun control, or “gun safety” in the new parlance, included vehement denials that they wanted to ban guns or take guns away from people, while calling for the banning of certain guns, and campaigns to make more and more people “Prohibited Persons” who can’t legally purchase or possess firearms.  In private, every now and then, one of them will quietly admit that total prohibition is still their ultimate objective.

We aren’t surprised that Justice Stevens would support repealing the Second Amendment, but we’re amazed at his candor, and welcome the opportunity to have an open and honest debate about the right to arms.

While many Americans will say that they feel there is a need for some sort of gun control, that support wanes as they learn more about specific proposals.  “Expanded background checks,” meaning a prohibition on private transfers, is a good example. Polls consistently report that over 80% of Americans support the idea, but when these proposals have actually been put to the voters, the results have been much less impressive.  In Washington State, proponents of the measure spent some $14 million dollars pushing their plan, while opponents spent barely $1 million. But even with the lopsided spending on emotional and misleading ads, voters approved the measure by an unimpressive 60%. When a similar initiative was brought to Nevada, the bill passed by less than ½ of 1%, losing in every county except one.  When the initiative was brought to voters in Maine it was rejected. Plans to introduce the initiative in Arizona were shelved as the supporters realized that a win there was very unlikely.

Support for gun control wanes as people know and understand about gun control proposals, the less they support them.  So yes, please gun control advocates, do take Justice Stevens’ advice and drop the pretense.

Declare your real objectives, and focus your attention on repealing the Second Amendment.  Stop avoiding the phrase “gun control” and hiding behind fake terms like “gun safety,” and let’s have an honest, open debate on the real issues.

We think Justice Stevens is among the worst judges to ever wear the robes, but on this particular question, we fully agree with him: It’s time to stop obfuscating and go for the real prize.

So come on Bloomberg, Schumer, Feinstein, and Soros:  Come and take it.  We dare you.

Exploiting High School Students

By Jeff Knox

(March 23, 2018) My brother Chris and I were invited to submit an “Opposing View” editorial to USA Today newspaper last week, in advance of the student “March for Our Lives” events scheduled for March 24.

We’ve done these types of editorials in USA Today a few times in the past, and appreciate the opportunity to share our side of the story with a wider audience.  Still, it is always a somewhat troubling experience because of the tight space we are offered — typically only 300 words. That’s not much space to really make a point.  On top of that, the Editorial Board gives themselves almost twice as many words to express their view. And while they insisted that we provide links to validate our claims, they don’t seem to be quite as worried about showing chapter and verse for their own assertions.

The biggest problem with the USA Today Editorial Board’s position proceeds from a seriously flawed assumption:  that gun control laws can reduce “gun violence.”

They begin their editorial questioning whether the students can “push an immovable Congress to do more to fight gun violence?”

To reply directly to the question, it’s very possible that the political pressure being generated may result in changes in the law, and those changes might be intended to “fight gun violence.”  But we hold that most of the laws being pushed so far will never reduce crime, and in fact could have negative effects.

No gun control law anywhere has ever been definitively linked to a statistically significant reduction in violent crime, or even “gun crime.”  The specific proposals being touted by the Editorial Board and the students (with a whole lot of help from other media, gun control groups like Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, and leftist groups like MoveOn.org and the Women’s March) have been tried, and failed, in numerous states, and in the case of the “assault weapons” ban, at the federal level.

As Chris and I pointed out in our op-ed, the students and much of the nation have been misled, and worse, their grief exploited for political gain in the wake of the atrocity in Parkland, Florida.  The “solutions” being fed to well-intentioned people will do nothing – can do nothing – to prevent another attack like Parkland. We feel the same grief and frustration. The difference is that we understand that the gun control proposals being put forward won’t save a single life.  Not one.

A crazy idea isn’t crazy if it works, but even the most brilliant idea is foolish if it doesn’t work.  When you know it doesn’t work, and you implement it anyway, that is beyond foolish.

Banning “assault weapons” – a made-up marketing term – has never been proven to work. Witness mass shootings with “assault weapons” from Mumbai to Paris to Sandy Hook (all of which had “assault weapon” bans in place), and a 10-year experiment by Congress.

We were able to link to the most widely quoted study of the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban, a 2004 research paper by Christopher Koper of the University of Pennsylvania for the National Institute of Justice.  But we didn’t have room to detail its findings or its shortcomings.

This was actually the third of three reports that Koper and his team generated, and in it he concluded that there was no clear evidence that the ban had resulted in any detectable reductions in the incidence of murders or mass murders, or any clear reductions in the number of people killed or injured or the number of shots fired per incident.  But he suggested that the data left room for doubt because of the large number of “assault weapons” that were already in circulation and not subject to the ban.

Koper suggested that given a longer time frame, the ban might have proven effective.  We have to look at this conclusion with suspicion, especially given Koper’s admission that “assault weapons” are involved in such a small number of criminal incidents, and that mass shootings are such relatively rare events, that completely removing them from the record would have very little statistical impact.  His “mixed results” conclusion, along with his insertion of data from what he called “High Capacity Magazine weapons,” appears to be more about seeking additional grant money for future studies, than about accurately reporting statistical findings.

We also pointed out that “strengthening background checks” is really about prohibiting private sale or transfer of personal firearms, and that those laws are unenforceable, and easily ignored by criminals, while often entrapping innocents.  Again, we didn’t have room to debunk the claims from pollsters that 80% to 90+% of Americans support these laws. While their polls with artfully-worded questions continue to register high numbers, actual votes on these proposals have been defeated, or barely passed, despite strong support from media, and massive, 8 to 1 spending from billionaires like Bloomberg.  When people know the details of these laws, they stop supporting them.

On the subject of “gun violence restraining orders,” we noted that they ignore the real problem – the person.  Every state already has provisions for involuntary mental health evaluations. Why take away guns, rather than treat the person who is a danger?  Does anyone actually believe that calling a suicidal or homicidal person on the phone, or knocking on their door, and telling them that they must turn their guns in to authorities within 24 hours, will prevent tragedies?  Who wants to volunteer to knock on those doors with that news?

Restricting magazine capacity is just silly, ignoring the fact that a person intent on doing significant harm can carry multiple magazines or even multiple weapons.  It also overlooks the existing stock of millions of magazines, and what a simple gadget a magazine actually is – a box with a spring, and the fact that it works like a PEZ candy dispenser.

We concluded by calling on everyone involved to stop rushing to “solutions” that don’t work, and instead focus on what we know does work:

  • Hardening schools against attack with barriers and surveillance
  • Involving law enforcement when threats first arise
  • Having the means to quickly stop an attacker.

A recent shooting in Maryland was stopped by an armed school officer.  A school murderer in Pearl, Mississippi was stopped by (illegally) armed principal Joel Myrick.  USAToday linked to a New York Times story about him with a headline saying he opposes armed teachers.  But buried in the piece is that he supports armed security:

“Despite Mr. Myrick’s firm stance against arming faculty members, he has long advocated placing trained personnel, possibly retired law enforcement officers, in every school, as a deterrent. ‘We protect our banks that way,’ he said. ‘We protect things we love. America protects things it loves. We don’t care if it’s expensive.’”

Locked doors have saved lives.  Guns in the hands of the right people have saved lives.  Disarming good guys does nothing to make anyone safer.

But supporters of gun control can’t stand to let a crisis go to waste.

Republicans Plot their Own Defeat

By Jeff Knox

(February 19, 2018) In what twisted universe is it “commonsense” to respond to an atrocity by passing laws that have not, will not, and cannot have any sort of significant impact on preventing or mitigating such atrocities?

Your elected representatives need to hear from you right now.  They need to be reminded that none of the laws currently being proposed would have prevented the latest attack on school children, and that enacting these laws in response to this emotional trauma will do nothing but hurt innocent, law-abiding gun owners, and reduce the politician’s chances of being reelected.

From a purely political perspective, many short-sighted Republicans had already been expecting a Democrat wave to slam Congress this year, based on low approval ratings for Congress and the president.  That’s one of the main reasons we’ve seen so many of them announce their intention to retire after the current session. If it weren’t for the recently passed tax bill, they might be correct. Republicans have done a very poor job of following through on their campaign promises, and conservative voters have a well-earned reputation for turning their backs on politicians who don’t keep their promises.

If Republicans had just made a serious effort at doing what they said they would do, they could have forced the Democrats to block them – if they dared – and would have been able to leave that baggage on the Democrats’ doorstep.  Instead, for the most part they just whined that it was no use to push things to a vote, because Democrats had the votes to block them, so why bother. What few feeble efforts they did make were often preempted by “maverick” Republicans undermining their own party, and shielding Democrats from the consequences of their intransigence.

But passage of the President’s tax bill offered Republicans a second chance.  It buoyed them in the eyes of many of their base constituency, and once voters start noticing the extra money in their paychecks, should bring a whole bunch of swing voters into the Republican camp by November.

At least that was the thinking until the Florida attack happened, and Democrats and the media started beating their well-worn – and hollow – gun control drum, offering no effective solutions, but leveraging emotions to blame Republicans and “the NRA” (to gun grabbers, any supporter of gun rights is “the NRA”) for the atrocity, and calling for congressional action.

So now Republicans are tripping over themselves to again fall into the trap.

A major Republican donor in Florida put out a public statement insisting that no Republican would receive another check from him until they passed an “assault weapon” ban.  That’s a pretty ridiculous move on his part, but even more ridiculous for Republicans to worry about. Even if this guy gives millions of dollars every cycle, money can’t compensate for actual votes, and offending millions of GunVoters in hopes of accessing a few campaign dollars is just stupid.  But at least one Florida congressman has leapt into the abyss, declaring that Americans are going to have to give up some of their liberty in the name of protecting children.

Turncoat Republicans are deluding themselves if they think that voting for gun control will protect children, or their careers.  The reality is that coming out in support of gun control is very likely to cost them their seats.

They will not be rewarded by their base for caving on the right to arms, nor will they be rewarded by the anti-rights crowd, which has a much broader agenda.  While there are Republican voters who support gun control, few of them would vote for a Democrat over a Republican on that single issue. Likewise, Democrats and left-leaning independents are not going to abandon their other causes just because a Republican politician went along with their assault on gun rights.

This is just a political bludgeon being used to convince Republican politicians to cut their own political throats.  There is no upside to a Republican supporting gun control, just as there is no benefit to society for enacting these laws.

Rather than fall into this political trap, Republican politicians need to be educated about the reality of the situation.

Democrats don’t have any answers.  We’ve tried their way and it has failed every time.

Connecticut had one of the nation’s strictest bans on “assault weapons” in place for over a decade before the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary.

Most mass-murderers passed “background checks” to obtain their weapons, demonstrating that even that touted system is like Swiss cheese, and those that did not, generally stole them, not infrequently after killing the legal owner.

Mass-murderers almost always plan their attacks for months or years, picking their targets, analyzing potential obstacles, acquiring weapons, and exploring alternative means of wreaking destruction.

Republicans need to put this issue back into the laps of the Democrats.  Rather than try to avoid a debate on gun control and mass-murder, Republicans should embrace that debate, and force the Democrats to justify their calls for restricting the rights of innocent Americans.

Democrats can’t do it, because gun control does not work – especially when it comes to rampage murderers.

We’ve tried it their way, and it failed.  Now let’s try it our way. Lets stop disarming qualified teachers, coaches, and administrators willing to undergo extensive training and accept the responsibility of being prepared to stop an armed aggressor.

Call your representatives in Washington at 202-224-3121, to let them know you want them to stand fast against ill-conceived, ineffective, gun control laws.  Post this article on their Facebook pages and on your Facebook page. Tweet it, share it, and repost it until these politicians understand that restricting our rights, based on nothing more than emotion, is not a solution, and will not be tolerated.

 

Constitutional Carry for Iowa?

By Jeff Knox

(February 15, 2018) A Constitutional Carry bill is moving in Iowa, along with a constitutional amendment recognizing the right to keep and bear arms (Iowa is one of the few states that does not have a right to arms enshrined in its constitution), and a measure to lift the ban on firearms in vehicles when picking up and dropping off students at schools.

I don’t want to jinx them, but at the moment things are looking fairly promising.

I have a particular interest in Iowa because I was deeply involved in an effort to pass Constitutional Carry there in 2010.  Unfortunately, that effort imploded and came damaged the local rights movement as various proponents of gun rights got their beams crossed and went to war with each other, instead of working together.

In the end, the legislature passed a relatively good, Shall Issue licensing system, which was much better than the discretionary system that had been in place previously.  The victory was expensive, however, as the infighting created some lifelong enemies among rights advocates who should work together, and came close to completely tanking the rights movement in the state.  It also left a lot of low-hanging fruit on the tree. Now, 8 years later, progress is being made toward finally harvesting some of that fruit.

Taking the long view, we often hear warnings about letting the perfect become the enemy of the good, or admonitions to take what we can get when we can get it.  That is often sound advice, but sometimes “strategic” advice is really bad, most notably that chestnut that says we must accept something unpalatable lest we have something much worse shoved down our throats.  That may be true in some truly benighted places like Illinois or New York, but across most of the country, it’s a lie as my late father wrote in a column, later compiled in The Gun Rights War entitled “The Danger of Being ‘Reasonable’”

In Iowa in 2010, the admonitions were about taking what we could get, and not letting the perfect stand in the way of the possible, but both of those approaches were wrong in that case.  In fact, the perfect was quite possible, but some of the players were more interested in scoring an easy win than they were with getting the best possible deal.

One of the most overlooked strategies in gun politics is the power of losing.  That’s what the NRA did in 1992, when then-ILA Executive Director Tanya Metaksa faced tremendous pressure to “come to the table” and at least defang the Clinton “Assault Weapons” ban.  Backed by a hard-line NRA Board Tanya stood her ground – and lost. The Clinton Ban passed with Vice President Al Gore casting the deciding vote.

But that loss led directly to the Democrats’ crushing 1994 defeat and made gun control a deadly “third rail” the next twenty years.  It also prevented Al Gore from carrying his own home state in 2000. With Tennessee’s eleven electoral votes, President Gore would have won handily.

The 2010 Iowa battle had all of the pieces in place for three possible outcomes.  The situation is described in more detail in this January 2010 article, but here’s the basic gist: Republicans had controlled Iowa for years, and had done nothing to improve the state’s lousy gun laws.  Democrats declaring their support for gun rights had swept into power in the 2008 elections, but they were faced a tremendous backlash against Obama and Congress pushing through Obamacare.  Republicans wanted to force a vote on Constitutional Carry, to show the Democrats’ true colors. Democrat leaders wanted to avoid that vote at all costs because they knew that their only choices were to either block the bill and go down en masse, or allow a vote, and have many of their number support it to save their own skins.  Either way, enough Democrats would be damaged enough to ensure that they would lose their majority in November.

The same Alaska-style bill had failed by a single vote the previous year, so passage was a real possibility.  If it failed, rights advocates would have a choice of either accepting the defeat, and securing a guarantee of passage in the next session after angry GunVoters ousted the traitors, or they could demand a clean, very good, Shall Issue carry bill as an alternative, providing Democrats with an avenue for possibly avoiding annihilation at the polls.

What actually happened was a complete surprise to both of the rights activist groups and their Republican allies: NRA Headquarters swooped in to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, with a terrible “compromise” offer.

Even though there were at least two NRA Directors from the state, including former Des Moines Chief of Detectives Kayne Robinson, who had served as Vice President for 5 years and President for two more, and Clel Baudler, a sitting member of the Iowa Legislature, the NRA had long ignored Iowa.  Until 2010 whent the NRA suddenly decided it was time to save the day.

The real cause is a mystery, but it appears that Democrat leaders in the legislature – perhaps with the assistance of Baudler and Robinson – went directly to the NRA and offered them a path to an easy victory.  All NRA had to do was offer a bill acceptable to the Democrat leadership, and it would be pushed through as an item on their Consent Agenda with a simple voice vote.

NRA took the bait and things went downhill from there.

Iowa Carry chose to work with NRA to improve the atrocious bill NRA started with, while IGO went ballistic.

The point here is not to criticize the NRA, though they certainly earned it in this case, nor to cast aspersions on Iowa Gun Owners nor on Iowa Carry (now known as the Iowa Firearms Coalition, though they are not affiliated with us).  The point is to encourage rights activists to study their history, think strategically, and always look at the bigger picture before committing to a strategy.

By the way, the carry bill that eventually passed in 2010 – at about the same time that Constitutional Carry passed in Arizona – received almost unanimous support in its final votes, clearly showing that the perfect really was possible, if everyone had just stuck to their guns.

 

Politics 101: How you can have a real impact

By Jeff Knox

(February 5, 2018) If you care about your rights, your finances, your children’s future, there is a way for you to dramatically impact those things, and it’s not really that difficult or time-consuming.

Most Americans view politics as something of a necessary evil.  To them, it is an activity going on in a separate world, like the salacious scandals of Hollywood or the curious culture of ancient Egypt.  They gossip about it, “tut-tut” over news reports, and retweet catchy comments from their favorite political commentators, but when it comes down to the real nuts and bolts of politics and the political process, very few Americans are really paying attention to, much less engaged in, the political process.

Gun guys are only a little better, with some actually keeping tabs on current legislation, and making calls or sending emails to legislators.  Some even get involved every two years to help support a local candidate or turn out for a rally, but even most folks who consider themselves politically active, really aren’t effectively engaged in the process.

Former Democrat Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill made famous the phrase; “All politics is local,” and he was absolutely right about that.  I’ve said in this space before that “little politicians grow up to be big politicians.” That’s part of the local influence. While we occasionally see someone who has never held a political office, jump in and get elected to high office, as Donald Trump did, it is much more common for politicians to work their way up the ladder, from a city council or school board seat to a state legislative seat to Treasurer or Governor or Congress.  That’s why I call on GunVoters to vote guns all the way down the ticket. Opposing the Second Amendment should be a disqualifying position, regardless of whether that office has any bearing on your gun rights. That office is likely to be a stepping stone to higher offices where they could have a negative impact on rights. If you really want to vote for them, you have to educate them first, and if they can’t see the light, don’t let them put a foot on that political ladder.

The other, and more important way that all politics is local, is that support for politicians comes up from the grassroots.  Conversely, it is almost impossible for a politician to accomplish anything without some sort of organized party structure behind them to get the grassroots moving in their favor; that’s the part that often works from the top down.  But, as has already been stated, most people don’t really get involved in politics, and most of those who do, only do for a short time around election season. While most Americans can tell you who the President is, a good many would be hard-pressed to name the Vice President, and even fewer can name both their senators and their representative.

The smallest geographic unit in the official political structure is the precinct, which is also known by other names in various states, but it generally encompasses several hundred homes, and as many as several thousand residents.  Each precinct is represented within the party structure by several Precinct Committeemen, and unless you are a Precinct Committeeman yourself, it is unlikely that you even know what precinct you live in, much less who is representing your precinct within your political party.  But PC’s, as they are called, are at the heart of the party structure. Virtually everyone within the party machinery starts off as a PC, and most continue in that capacity as they move up through the ranks. This is where and how you can make a real difference.

Parties are always looking for people to fill vacant PC seats, and the person they find could be you.  In most places, you can be appointed to a PC position, then you usually have to run for the office, but since there are usually more seats than candidates, getting elected is usually a slam-dunk.  If you happen to be in one of those rare precincts with a full slate, just attending the monthly meetings regularly will usually gain you enough notice to make a successful bid.

Once you’re in, you can work as much or as little as you want.  Obviously, the more you do, the more effective you will be, and the higher up the ladder you can climb.

Being a PC gives you an inside track to meeting and working with politicians and political candidates.  Even if you do little in the way of organizing or working your way up within the party, you are part of the official family, and have much greater access than the average voter.  Joining political clubs, attending meetings, walking around meeting your neighbors, all give you a higher profile and more influence. Then when election season rolls around, you can be positioned as the go-to guy on gun issues, with politicians coming to you to ask how they should answer a questionnaire or why they should vote for or against a particular bill.

Right now, here in Arizona, we had a good, pro-rights representative suddenly resign.  The guy he asked to step up and run for his seat happens to be from my Legislative District, where I have been a PC.  Now I am not only working to elect a solid A+ candidate to Congress, I’m doing it on the inside, spending time in the field with the candidate and the people who are likely to be his staff.

Making financial contributions is really important, but if you really want to be an influential political player, nothing beats walking neighborhoods with the candidate, and sharing pizza with his family and volunteers.

Being a PC also opens the door to chasing your own political aspirations.  Perhaps you want to be the candidate some day. Working on other people’s campaigns is a really great way to learn the process and lay the foundations for your own campaign down the road.

This month, I’m making calls and knocking doors for Steve Montenegro.  Next month I’ll be talking to candidates for City Council, the State Legislature, and statewide offices.  And all of them will know my name, recognize my face, and appreciate what I’m doing for them. And all it takes is a little bit of time and some shoe leather.

All politics really is local, so get involved locally today, and make an impact.

Knox Endorsement for NRA Board of Directors

By Jeff Knox

(January 25, 2018) My endorsement list for NRA Directors this year is pretty short.  As a matter of fact, it’s really short:

Adam Kraut of Pennsylvania.

I’ve not been shy about this endorsement over the past month or so, but there are a lot of NRA voters who don’t go looking for information until they receive their ballot, and then the flood of requests for my recommendations come rolling in.  Well, Voting Members of NRA should be receiving ballots for this year’s NRA elections this week. Generally, the easiest way to tell whether you are eligible to vote is to look at your February NRA magazine, whether American Rifleman, American Hunter, or America’s First Freedom.  If you are eligible to vote, there will be a ballot in your magazine.  If there is not a ballot, you probably aren’t a Voting Member.

If you believe you are eligible to vote in NRA elections – you are a Life Member or have been an Annual Member for at least 5 consecutive years – and you did not receive a ballot, you can contact the Secretary’s Office to verify your membership status and request a ballot.

I am encouraging all Voting Members to cast a single vote – also called a “bullet vote” – for Adam Kraut.  You may vote for up to 25 candidates this year, but marking your ballot for fewer amounts not only to a vote for your guy, but every vote you withhold counts against the rest.

I first ran across Adam Kraut a couple of years ago while perusing gun and shooting channels on YouTube.  I happened upon a channel called The Gun Collective, and noted a segment called The Legal Brief, hosted by a young and enthusiastic attorney.  Each episode he would take some aspect of gun laws or legislation, and boil it down into simple, practical terms.  I became a regular viewer of the channel, and when that young man declared his intent to run for the NRA Board of Directors, I reached out to learn more about him.

What I found was that Adam is a serious firearms enthusiast who helped pay his way through college and law school by working at a local gun shop.

He’s sharp, well-informed, diligent, and curious.  He’s also interested in other people’s perspectives, and open to new ideas and different approaches.  After talking with Adam and with trusted grassroots activists in Pennsylvania who knew him, I offered him my endorsement – warning him that an endorsement from me could be a double-edged sword.  I let him know that, while there are quite a few folks who put stock in my recommendations for the Board, there are some within NRA leadership who still have a strong aversion to the name Knox, and will oppose anyone I support.

Adam didn’t blink, and readily accepted my endorsement.  We finally met for the first time at the NRA Convention in Atlanta, after he narrowly missed the cut for election to the Board, and where he was mounting a campaign for the 76th Director position, who would be elected at the meeting.  In the end, he fell about 60 votes short of winning that seat, running against a 20-year incumbent – John Cushman – who ran with the full weight of the NRA establishment behind him.

It was disappointing, but Adam took it in stride, and regrouped.  He was surprised at the chilly reception he’d received from NRA insiders, and that served to spike his rebellious streak.  He decided not only to take another shot at it this year, but doubled-down by proposing a series of bylaw amendments, and created a web-based portal for members to communicate with NRA Directors.

The idea of hearing from members seems to have really set off alarm bells at NRA HQ, and the paranoia about Adam’s run for the Board came out vividly in a recent editorial from NRA Past President Marion Hammer, here on Ammoland Shooting Sports News.  In it, she (assuming she wrote it and not a PR shill) makes it apparent that the NRA establishment does not want Adam elected, and actually fears him.

Following a pattern common for NRA elites over the years, she began by praising the member revolt of 1977 at the meeting in Cincinnati, then did her best to bury that historic event.

She suggests that the membership can’t be trusted to nominate candidates to the Board, arguing that this important task should be left to the official Nominating Committee.  One of causes of the Cincinnati Revolt was the fact that Board membership was completely controlled by the Nominating Committee. The “election” consisted of a ballot showing up in the magazine with twenty-five names hand-picked by the NRA brass for twenty-five openings.  Marion and the NRA management would prefer we return to that sort of election.

My late father, Neal Knox, one of the leaders of the Cincinnati Revolt, wrote and introduced the bylaw amendment which provided for nomination of Director candidates by petition of the members.  The amendment set the requirement at 250 qualified signatures as a reasonable threshold, and that standard held for 39 years without any problems or abuse. Last year the Board decided – based on no evidence at all – that the threshold was too low, so they pushed through a bylaw amendment raising the bar from 250 qualified signatures, to almost 700, tied to a percentage of votes cast in the previous year’s Director Election.

With that change, rather than the typical four or five petition-only candidates that we’ve typically seen over the four decades since Cincinnati, this year there were only two: Adam Kraut and Mark Humphreville.

I don’t know Mr. Humphreville and was not able to contact him.  He may be a good guy. But I know Adam, and I trust him.

My ballot is on its way, marked with his name only.

The Enemy Within — Marion Hammer’s Revised NRA History.

By Jeff Knox

(January 17, 2018) On January 15, Marion Hammer, NRA past president and a current member of both the Board of Directors and Executive Council, published an outrageous editorial on Ammoland Shooting Sports News warning of current and past threats to the NRA, and listing a slate of candidates she supports for the upcoming NRA Board of Directors election.

Marion is free to endorse any Board candidate she likes. But in her endorsement she can’t rewrite history to suit herself, nor can she expect to cast aspersions on the motives of good people without challenge

In her screed, Ms. Hammer carefully avoids naming names, but anyone who has been paying any attention at all to NRA politics – past and present – knows exactly whom she is referring to.

She begins with muddy praise for the stalwart NRA members who staged a revolt at the NRA Members’ Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1977. It was the night when the members wrested control of the NRA from a hidebound and self-perpetuating management and put the Association on the road to being the premier defender of the human right to armed self defense. Then she jumps forward to 1997 to talk about an attempted coup by a group of “dissident malcontents,” but fails to mention that both actions were staged by many of the same people, and for many of the same reasons.

I put “coup” in quotes in the second instance because the group that she claims was staging the “coup” was actually the duly elected Officers and Directors attempting, unsuccessfully, to exercise their fiduciary responsibility against actions by paid staff and key contractors with multimillion-dollar contracts.

The 1997 fight was not a coup; it was a mutiny.

In contrast to Cincinnati, the prize in 1977 was not the heart, soul, and destiny of the NRA, but control of the organization’s checkbook and prudent management of its resources. The goal in both instances was to give the members control over their NRA. The 1997 action included First Vice President Neal Knox, Second Vice President Albert Ross, and a majority of the NRA Board of Directors.

But, history is written by the victors, so the attempts of the Board of Directors to demand fiscal accountability from their hired staff was later reported as a “coup.”

The core issue was how the NRA’s PR company, Ackerman McQueen, was drawing millions of dollars a month from the organization and improperly controlling NRA staff. The Board directed Wayne to sever ties with Ack-Mac, and Wayne promised to do so, then claimed to have done so, by bringing in a new PR company called Mercury Group. The “new” PR company turned out to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Ack-Mac, with all of the same players in all of the same positions, still bleeding the association of the same millions of dollars.

The Finance Committee responded to the charade by calling an emergency meeting to demand accountability, demand dismissal of Ack-Mac, and require the treasurer to pull NRA’s meager remaining funds out of risky investments.

Marion Hammer, as President of the Board, used her power to push that meeting into executive session in order to quash the reports from the meeting, then at the subsequent Board meeting, used her power to quash debate, spread disinformation, and bully members to her position.

Read her editorial. She brags about her use of heavy-handed tactics.

Many on the Board wanted to fire Wayne for his duplicity. Neal Knox was not among those. He simply wanted Wayne to obey the instructions of the Board, but he was willing to use the threat of firing Wayne as a lever to force him to comply, and he was willing to follow through on the threat if Wayne balked. But Wayne, backed by Ack-Mac, other vendors, and allies on the Board, many of whom had business dealings with vendors, had sown enough confusion to keep the Board from forcing him out. The bylaws required a 2/3 majority vote to fire the EVP, and while a strong majority was in favor of firing him, they couldn’t muster the 2/3rds needed to actually do it.

Rather than taking my word for what actually happened in, and leading up to that meeting, you can get the story from one of Wayne and Marion’s staunchest allies in that fight, writer/director, and NRA Board member John Milius, who was interviewed by a reporter for the Washington Post in 2000, and provided a stunningly frank description of the machinations he and others engaged in.

He also described the situation as a coup attempt, then said;

So we used our best techniques: lying, cheating and disinformation. I didn’t tell the truth for weeks.”

The story goes on to describe how Milius and Ack-Mac manager Tony Makris invited a “Knox loyalist” out to dinner in LA, and convinced him that Wayne would be willing to go quietly if he were provided with a large enough severance package.

As anticipated, the “Knox loyalist” spread the word that he had brokered a deal that would save face for everyone, and began lobbying for Wayne’s severance. But when the meeting commenced, Wayne rose publicly to declare himself shocked! that the Knox faction would stoop so low as to try and bribe him.

Milius reported that LaPierre gamed the moment perfectly, and, with Marion’s help, was able to cling to his position as they headed into the Annual Meeting of Members in Seattle.

At that meeting, two unprecedented events took place: First, a person who received write-in votes in the Board of Directors election was deemed to be qualified to run for the 76th Director seat that is elected at the Annual Meeting. The bylaws said that only people who were candidates in the election were eligible, and that had always been interpreted to mean people who had been nominated by the Nominating Committee or by petition of the members, but this year it suddenly included anyone who had received any write-in votes. And by an amazing coincidence, one of Tony Makris’ PR clients happened to get some write-in votes. That client was Charlton Heston.

The second unprecedented event at that meeting was the election of a brand new Board member to the leadership. In a surprise move – which in retrospect should have been no surprise at all – Mr. Heston was nominated for the office of First Vice President, to run head-to-head against Neal Knox.

Heston won that election by 4 votes, and immediately left the meeting to jet back to LA and appear on a radio talk show, during which he repeatedly stated that it was inappropriate or civilians to own AK47 type rifles. He eventually learned his script better, and the following year stepped up to become President of the NRA.

In her rewrite of history, Marion is correct that the fight was primarily about money, and that one side was trying to personally profit off of the NRA. I believe that’s true, and here’s the record on that.

As a result of the “Knox faction” raising a stink about the NRA’s finances, the treasurer moved funds out of those risky investments right before the markets crashed. Over the next several years, NRA engaged in a barrage of cheesy sweepstakes, fire-sales on memberships, and heavy-handed direct-mail fundraising to rebuild their depleted coffers, eventually returning to solvency – and making Ack-Mac a huge pile of money in the process.

Marion Hammer, who has been paid by NRA to run the Unified Sportsmen of Florida since Neal Knox recruited her for the job back in 1979, saw her paycheck go up from $30k a year to $120k a year after she sided with Harlon Carter against Neal Knox in 1983, and it has been reported that it is now between $250k and $300k per year. So far as I am aware, she is the only director of a state organization to ever receive direct or indirect payment from the NRA.

In 1997 Wayne LaPierre was being paid about $250k per year, up from the $186k that had been paid to his predecessor a dozen years prior.

After Neal Knox and his allies had been purged from the Board (with “Don’t Vote For” lists published in full-page ads in NRA magazines – paid for by whom?), Wayne’s compensation jumped to $400k, then a couple of year later to $800k, leveled at around $900k for several years, and is now reported to be approximately $1.4 million, though a couple of years ago, due to some sort of retirement pay-out, he received a cool $4 million dollars.

Salaries of other top NRA officials have kept pace with Wayne’s.

As First Vice President of NRA, Neal Knox never received a salary. He had a small travel and expense account, and at one point he and Marion joined forces to ask the Board to approve a small stipend for them and other officers who dedicated a significant amount of time and talent working for NRA, but that modest request was turned down by their fellow Board members.

During the five years Charlton Heston served as President, he traveled exclusively by private jet and limousine. NRA paid for that, along with Presidential Suite accommodations, and private security.

There are definitely people with ulterior motives involved in NRA. Some accuse me of profiting because my organization, The Firearms Coalition, gets a slight bump in donations when I publish articles critical of NRA. That’s probably true, but my annual salary from The Firearms Coalition is less than what Wayne LaPierre is paid every month, so it’s a bit of a different ball park.

Marion offered her list of candidates she encourages you to vote for, so here is my list:

      1. Adam Kraut.

That’s it. While there are several other people, both incumbents and new candidates, whom I like and would be comfortable endorsing, this year I’m bullet-voting for Adam, and I encourage you to do the same. If there are others whom you know personally and appreciate, throw them a vote, but remember that if they are likely to be toward the bottom of the pile, a vote for them could bump Adam out of the running. There are even people on Marion’s list that I like and have endorsed in the past, but it’s probably a pretty safe bet to avoid voting for any long-term incumbent on Marion’s list. That’s probably the best way to push out the “enemy within.”

Another good idea is to ask every candidate to comment on Marion’s editorial. Simple question: Do they agree with Marion’s version of history, and do they think that people who are critical of the NRA leadership are trying to destroy the organization?

Go to AdamKraut.com. Read his bylaw proposals. Take action.

It’s your NRA. VOTE!

Is “Murder Inequality” really a thing?

And if it is, is it your fault?

By Jeff Knox

(January 5, 2018) In their endless effort to demonize guns and gun owners, Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun propaganda outlet The Trace has finally hit on a trace of truth with an article from regular contributor Daniel Kay Hertz, but he still managed to dodge important points and spin the story to place blame on gun owners.

The key point of the story is that violent crime has been falling dramatically in the United States since the mid 1990s – everywhere except in certain inner-city neighborhoods. The title of the article is The Debate Over Crime Rates is Ignoring the Metric That Matters Most: ‘Murder Inequality’”

Murder inequality.. What an interesting turn of a phrase. Use of the word “inequality” is usually reserved for matters in which some group is not getting their “fair share” of some good thing, but in this case the author is using it to highlight certain groups getting too much of a bad thing. Actually, he’s saying that the inequity lies in certain groups not getting their fair share of reductions in crime rates. Still it resonates with an implication that the “inequality” is due to some oppressor group causing the disparity, and that it is up to the oppressors to redress the imbalance. And since it’s on The Trace, the culprits must be you and me — lawful gun owners.

The article is actually an interesting and informative read, if you can get past the random jabs at guns, gun owners, and President Trump. Hertz points out that crime data comparing city to city is of very little practical use because there are safer places and less-safe places in every city. A city’s statistics can be dramatically thrown off by a few small areas with exceedingly high crime rates, or by large areas with very low crime rates.

We’ve been raising that point for years. And it’s not just true of cities, it is true of countries as well. As has often been pointed out in these columns, the violent crime rates in the U.S. are comparable to crime rates in other developed nations – if you deduct the violence of a few neighborhoods in a few of our larger cities. Crime is not a national problem, nor is it a city problem. Crime is a neighborhood problem.

Hertz points out that there are areas of New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., and other large cities, where the annual murder rate is less than 1 per 100,000 residents. There are also areas of those cities where the rate is as high as 50, 70, or even 90 per 100,000. And these are fairly large areas such as police precincts or City Council Districts, which can be further reduced to battle zones of just a few city blocks in which murder rates reach truly staggering levels.

On his personal blog, Hertz, who is a Senior Policy Analyst for a Chicago-based think-tank focused on taxes and budgets, displays maps comparing murder rates in Chicago between the peak crime years of the early ’90s and the lower crime period of 2008 – 2011. What the maps show is that in Chicago, safer neighborhoods grew, while dangerous neighborhoods were concentrated and got worse. Overall, Chicago, like the U.S. as a whole, experienced a decline in murder of about 50% over 2 decades, but the neighborhoods that got left behind have not shared in that decline, with some seeing higher murder rates now than then, and the rates are climbing.

Hertz points to several studies and supporting articles that keep circling back to the inequity in the racial make-up of murder victims, but dancing around the obvious fact that the murderers also lack racial diversity. Terms like “black-on-black crime” have not only fallen out of favor, they have been labeled as racist, as has any frank discussion of the fact that violent crime in America is dramatically inequitable with regards to the race and ethnicity of its perpetrators. Researchers and analysts talk about factors like poverty, unemployment, hopelessness, and the breakdown of the family. They compare crime to a communicable disease, with discussions of transmission vectors, vulnerable networks, and paths of infection, but in their determination to avoid inadvertently tripping over an explosive “race-card,” they assiduously avoid talking about the critical factor culture plays in crime: culture.

It is not that “black culture,” or “Hispanic culture” is inherently violent or prone to crime. It’s that a criminal culture has been allowed to grow and fester in inner-city communities and has become particularly prevalent and destructive within black and Hispanic sectors of those communities.

The culture of crime and violence generates a self-perpetuating cycle that consumes those trapped in its vortex. A dispute leads to a fight which leads to a murder which leads to retaliation which results in a feud and long-term grudges. The cycle of violence drives out the good people, attracts the bad people, destroys businesses, schools, and infrastructure, and corrupts everything it touches. It results in less education, fewer opportunities, more poverty and hopelessness, and more crime and violence.

Unfortunately that criminal culture has been glamorized and popularized by Hollywood, the music industry, and professional athletes. Government and charities can throw money and effort at the problems, but nothing will change until the culture changes, and the culture won’t change until people admit that it’s the problem.

Fixing NRA

By Jeff Knox

(December 25, 2017) With the recent House passage of the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, and the attachment of the “Fix NICS” bill, we are again hearing accusations of betrayal and false-dealing from the NRA.  And as those of us who are Life Members, or have been members of the organization for at least 5 consecutive years, are receiving our ballots for the election of NRA directors, now is a good time to address those accusations and talk constructively about ways to “fix” the NRA.

This year, I’m bullet voting for Adam Kraut.

While there are several other new candidates and incumbents who I really like on the ballot this year, including a couple that I consider friends, I will be marking my ballot with a single vote for Adam, and I encourage you to do the same.  If the others run again, I will consider giving them a vote, but this year, I am putting everything behind Adam because I believe his agenda is right for the NRA.

Last year Adam was a petition candidate, and he barely missed the cut, then lost the 76th Director position to 20-year incumbent John Cushman by about 60 votes at the convention in Atlanta.

This year, Adam is one of only two candidates to be nominated exclusively by petition of members, after the bylaws were changed to make the petition process much more difficult.

I endorsed Kraut last year after a long correspondence, then finally met him for the first time at the convention.  He’s an attorney, but don’t hold that against him, he’s also manager of a gun shop in Pennsylvania, as well as a co-host on the popular YouTube channel, “The Gun Collective” where he regularly boils down complex aspects of gun laws and legislation in a regular segment known as “The Legal Brief.”

Not only does Adam want to represent you on the NRA board, he wants to make the whole board more accessible and responsive to NRA members.  He has created a portal on the Gun Collective website that allows members to send correspondence to NRA directors – something I have been calling on the NRA to provide for well over a decade.  He has also offered a set of simple bylaw changes to make the board more accountable to the membership.

Here are Adam Kraut’s bylaw proposals to help Fix NRA:

      1. Term Limits (of sorts): Limit nomination by the Nominating Committee to no more than two consecutive terms.  An incumbent director could run for a third and successive terms, but only by gathering enough voting member signatures to qualify for the ballot.  A former director could be renominated by the Nominating Committee after a hiatus of three years off the board.
      2. Mandatory Meeting Attendance: Directors would be limited in the number of meetings they could miss.  Too many absences would result in them being forced to resign from the Board of Directors. Reasonable provisions are included for medical emergencies, natural disasters, and other matters beyond a person’s control, but directors are elected to do a job, and much of that job involves attendance and participation at board of directors meetings.  There are currently several directors who have not attended a board meeting in years.
      3. Creation of an Honorary Board: Often celebrities, politicians, competitors, and business executives have inflexible schedules that do not permit committing to regular attendance at board meetings, but they still have a lot to offer to the NRA.  An Honorary Board provides a way for these people to contribute to the organization without demanding that they commit to the level of participation required of directors. The Honorary Board would have no policy-making authority, but would create a “bully pulpit” for high-profile members to support the NRA.

These changes won’t Fix NRA, but they will have a positive impact and help bring back some accountability that has gradually slipped away over the years since the Cincinnati Reforms of 1977 .  Your help is needed to get these bylaw proposals to the next step in the process. Go to www.AdamKraut.com and click on the menu option for NRA Bylaw Amendments, then download and print a petition.  Fill it out, sign it, and ask your NRA friends to sign it, then mail it back to Adam. Please do this right now, and don’t forget to send it back.  If you’re like me, and you tend to set these things aside with the intention of collecting some signatures and sending them in later – then losing them, misplacing them, or just forgetting about them – print multiple copies, and send in the ones with your information and signature now, then work to get other signatures on the others when you can.

I’m impressed with Adam, and impressed with these simple steps toward improving the NRA.  As I mentioned, there are a number of people on the ballot this year that I really like, and would normally vote for, but bullet voting gives your vote more power, and we really need Adam Kraut on the board, so I’m encouraging you to mark your ballot for Adam only, and send it in.  You can vote for up to 25 candidates, but you don’t have to mark that many. Marking more than 25 will invalidate your ballot, but marking fewer than 25 is perfectly acceptable.

We’re not going to Fix NRA in one fell swoop, but we’ll never get it done if we don’t start getting some fearless advocates like Adam onto the board.  He’s crossed the first hurdle by collecting enough signatures to get his name on the ballot. Now it’s up to you.

Keep an eye on your NRA magazines.  Your next issue should have your ballot in it.  Mark it for Adam Kraut, and mail it in, then talk to your friends and encourage them to also vote for Adam.

It’s your NRA.  Start taking it back.

 

Ammunition for the grassroots gun rights movement