All posts by Jeff Knox

Social Insecurity — Obama’s Parting Shot at the Second Amendment

 

By Jeff Knox

(December 29, 2016) In the final days of the Obama administration, several agencies have finalized new rules and regulations that Mr. Obama had been pushing for. Among those, the Social Security Administration, or SSA, has announced that they have finalized rules under which they will be reporting – possibly many thousands of – Social Security benefit recipients to the FBI’s National Instant Check System as “prohibited persons” for firearm possession purposes. Inclusion in NICS means complete loss of all Second Amendment rights, and makes it a felony for the person to possess or have access to any firearm or ammunition – ever. It also makes a felon of anyone who provides a “prohibited person” with access to firearms or ammunition. So parents of developmentally disabled children who receive SSI, and have used shooting and hunting as a family bonding activity, can continue doing that until the child turns 18, at which time, they would be committing a felony if they allowed their ward to touch a gun or ammunition.

The basis of this “final rule” is a bureaucratic finding that the person is “unable to manage their own affairs.” Just as we’ve seen from the Veterans Administration since the mid-1990s, the SSA is going to submit to NICS the name and identifying information of anyone whom they say is “adjudicated mentally defective” under the wording of the 1968 Gun Control Act. The primary criteria for that determination is that they be an adult who, rather than handling SSA benefits themselves, has a “designated payee” who acts as a fiduciary to manage the person’s benefits. For instance, a person might have sustained a head injury and, as a result, has trouble dealing with numbers, so they have a parent or spouse named as their “designated payee.” Under the new SSA rules, that person would be labeled as “adjudicated mentally defective” and would be barred from ever holding a gun or ammunition for the rest of their life. It doesn’t matter to the SSA if the person is fully functional in every other way, if they “can’t manage their own affairs” with SSA, they are considered a “mental defective,” and their name is submitted to NICS.

In some cases, someone who requested a “designated payee” as a matter of convenience, might be able to appeal the NICS submission, but they can only appeal after the submission has been made, and they could be looking at significant time and legal expense. They would also have to remove their guns and ammunition from their home until the matter was resolved. That could be a problem in states like Washington, where any firearm transfer, even just temporarily while sorting out a SSA mistake, must be processed through a licensed dealer, with a per-gun fee, and a required background check. Assuming the person won their appeal, legally transferring the guns back to their possession would require processing again, including the per-gun fee, and a background check on the person getting his guns back.

The thing that is the most frustrating about this new rule, is that SSA says they are merely obeying a law which received broad bipartisan support, and which was supported by the NRA. The law is called the NICS Improvement Amendment Act of 2007. It was passed in response to the horrible attack at Virginia Tech. One of the provisions of the act requires that government agencies share with NICS the names of people who are prohibited from firearm possession for mental health reasons. Even more frustrating, the law which forbids possession of firearms by “mental defectives” does not say anything about people who can’t manage their own financial affairs.

What the law says is that “prohibited persons” includes anyone: “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution.” That’s it. Nothing about managing financial affairs, etc. But several years ago, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or BATFE, promulgated regulations for enforcing that line of the law, and in their definition of terms, they stated that “adjudicated as a mental defective” means: “A determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease:

  1. Is a danger to himself or to others; or
  2. Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.

Out of the blue, the BATFE simply added the part about the “capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.” They also stretched the term “adjudicated” to now include rulings by boards, commissions, and “other lawful authority,” which they say includes the bureaucrats at the VA and the SSA.

Where was Congress when this agency took it upon itself to overreach so dramatically. And where have they been in the subsequent two decades as this unfounded regulation has been used to strip Second Amendment rights from countless, innocent veterans?

Let’s hope that this ruling from the SSA will be the wake-up call Congress needs to finally take action to correct this travesty. Realistically, we are talking about a pretty small minority here. The majority of people whose names will be submitted to NICS as of January 18, probably won’t be too bothered by it. But for those who do care, and are bothered, this is a huge deal, and it is completely unfounded and unfair. There is no public benefit to this policy, and it will hurt real people who deserve to have their rights protected.

Please let your senators and representative know that you want this travesty corrected. The number for the Capitol Switchboard is (202)224-3121, or you can find their local office number online.

Liberals Seeking Guns

Liberals Arming Up
Welcome to the party pal.

By Jeff Knox

Not my president! Take my guns!

(December 22, 2016) As the proverbial shoe moved to the other foot November 8th, liberals suddenly found themselves worrying about the future and their own survival. In the circle of life and partisan politics, what goes around, comes around, and liberals’ heads are spinning. The thought of our nation, with Donald Trump as President, and Republicans in the majority in both the House and the Senate, not to mention a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, has many liberals envisioning a dystopian future of pollution, poverty, crime, and climate crisis. Their dreams of “free” education, “free” healthcare, the extinction of the internal combustion engine and coal-fired power plants – and all of the destructive, extraction activities that go into fueling those nasty, dirty, devices – were dashed on the rocks of political whim by bitter, clinging, white people – who are undoubtedly racist – and the, oh so unfair, Electoral College system. In the blink of an eye the future turned from one of hope, tolerance, and social justice, to one of dread, polarization, and privilege.

The liberals haven’t realized it yet, and probably never actually will, but they are now experiencing something very much like what the “deplorables” in fly-over country have been feeling for at least 8 years. The difference, of course, is that where the rubes in the heartland’s fears were just delusional fantasies fueled by narrow-mindedness and personal prejudices, the fears of the liberal masses are real, tangible, and virtually unavoidable. Donald Trump and his followers are evil, racist, misogynists that are going to destroy the nation. At least, that’s how they see it.

Thankfully, our nation’s founders foresaw the challenges of philosophical conflict, and they built in checks and balances which still function well enough to keep one group from running roughshod over the rest. Obama chipped away at it, and certainly did damage, but not the catastrophic harm his detractors feared. Likewise, G.W. Bush, with his foreign entanglements and domestic surveillance-state, undermined liberty, but didn’t extinguish it as some feared.

Perception in politics is very much about perspective and what a person believes to actually be possible. Predictions of a president trying to seize total control and declare himself King, have persisted from the very foundation of the Republic. The fact that it never has happened does not mean however, that it never could happen, and no one can say with any certainty just how close we might have come to that at some point in the past. But such fears are only viable to someone who actually believes it possible, and no one ever believes that their guy could possibly do such a thing.

In the early 1970s, my late father, Neal Knox, had a good friend who was a competitive shooter. Although a shooter and a gun owner, this friend was one of those gun owners who supports “reasonable restrictions” on other people’s guns. He got frustrated with Dad for spending so much time and energy fighting a gun control bill sponsored by the Nixon administration. The guy said; “Neal, how can you be worried about some gun control bill when Nixon is about to impose martial law and declare himself emperor for life?” Dad looked him in the eye and growled, “And what do you think keeps him from doing it?”

In that moment, because this guy actually believed that Nixon might do such a thing, a light bulb lit in his head, and suddenly he truly understood the real purpose of the Second Amendment, and the importance of Americans being armed. Had he not truly believed that Nixon might try to stage a coup, he would never have accepted the idea that Americans being armed is an actual, viable deterrent to government overreach.

Many conservatives had the lights go on during the Clinton administration, with the example of Waco burning in the backs of their minds. Some liberals came around to the idea during the George W. Bush years after passage of the Patriot Act. I recall reading a thread in the forum of the Daily Kos – a far-left news and views site – toward the end of the Bush administration. Some “progressives” were discussing the need for liberals to arm themselves for fear that Bush was going to be coming for them. What was astounding to me was not that these people really believed this was a possibility, but that as they were advocating for liberal armament for this gravest extreme, they were also advocating for “reasonable” gun laws – like full registration of all guns and gun owners. I registered with the site just to be able to point out the obvious disconnect in their reasoning: “Bush is coming for liberals, so you want liberals to buy guns, and you want a law passed to be sure that Bush knows who has guns?”

Now we’re seeing that same illogical reasoning playing out again. It’s looking less likely that Obama is going to stage a Reichstag fireas a way to hold onto power, and the only “faithless electors” who voted against their states’ choices were pledged to Hillary. So as the fears of the right fade, the fears of the left are winding up toward hyper-drive. In the midst of all of that, groups like the Pink Pistols, and the Liberal Gun Club are reporting surges in membership, and “progressives” appear to be picking up the slack to keep gun sales booming – while calling for stricter gun laws and denying that gun control played a key role in their candidates being trounced last November.

Liberals’ capacity for cognitive dissonance is stunning, but the wisdom and prescience of the Founders is even more amazing. There is much to be done to revive and restore that wisdom, let’s hope our leaders can make some progress in that direction over the next four years.

Guns in Carry-ons

More Guns in Carry-Ons

By Jeff Knox

Bringing a gun into an airport checkpoint is a really big mistake, but as more people carry more frequently, such mistakes are bound to happen. The Transportation Security Administration is reporting that the number of guns discovered at security checkpoints at our nation’s airports has been steadily growing in recent years. TSA says they confiscated 2,653 guns from airline passengers in 2015, and are on track to break that record this year. They have been averaging a little more than seven guns a day at airport security checkpoints nationwide.

There’s no question that 2,653 guns at airport checkpoints is way too many, especially when every gun owner should be fully aware that it is a felony-stupid thing to do, but a little context can help to bring that number into better perspective. As mentioned earlier, there are more people legally carrying more often than ever before, but how many make up that “more?”

First, it is estimated that there are as many as 400 million guns in civilian hands in the U.S., and approximately 2 million guns are sold each month through licensed dealers. Gun sales have been climbing exponentially, particularly over the 8 years of the Obama Administration. Surveys suggest that there are guns in 30% to 40% of U.S. homes, with the rate being much higher in rural states where 80%, or more, homes contain firearms. Estimates put actual gun owner numbers at somewhere between 75 and 100 million, with over 15 million licensed to carry concealed firearms. It’s anyone’s guess how many more people carry in the dozen states where no licensing is required. All of this adds up to “more” meaning a whole bunch of people who might have a legally carried gun in a purse or pack.

Second, the TSA inspects and clears some 2 million airline passengers every day – over 700 million per year – at over 400 airports nationwide. That’s a whole bunch of people too.

With close to 1/3 of the adult population having arms at hand, and at least 20% of those legally carrying a gun in public at least occasionally, the idea of 7 people out of 2 million, inadvertently carrying their gun into an airport checkpoint, doesn’t seem quite so outrageous. That amounts to only 0.00035% of airline passengers.

It’s also worth noting that the busiest airport in the world is located in the center of the “gun-friendly” South – Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson – and is the airport where the highest number of guns are discovered. In fact, 13 of the 31 busiest airports in the world are in the U.S., and 9 of those busiest airports are in gun-friendly states with “shall-issue” concealed carry licensing: Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Miami, Phoenix, Houston, and Seattle-Tacoma.

These aren’t people planning to hijack a plane or commit an act of terrorism. They are people who got busy and forgot that they still had their pistol in the special gun pocket of their purse, or tucked into the bottom of their backpack. All sorts of people have run afoul of the checkpoints. One was an NBA team executive who was caught with a gun in a carry-on bag on the return leg from Newark, New Jersey – the gun was undetected on the outbound leg. Another was former NBA superstar Bill Russell. Others have included a congressman, and a notoriously anti-gun Illinois state senator from Chicago.

Leaving a gun in a carry-on is a relatively easy mistake to make in a society where guns are common, and where many people are so comfortable with their presence. And though it is a foolish mistake to make, it is not a dangerous one – except in the legal sense. TSA screens every bag and passenger, and even if the gun somehow made it onto the plane, it is only dangerous if there is a person with evil intent, and knowledge of the gun’s presence. It can’t just “go off” from being bumped around, and even if it were to discharge somehow, a bullet through the fuselage or a window will not cause the plane to explode or violently decompress. That only happens in the movies.

As a righttocarry advocate, I take the issue of people being found with guns at airport checkpoints very seriously. It makes my side look bad, makes my job harder, and scares the less-knowledgeable public. This is just one reason that I strongly recommend “on-body” – in a holster on their belt or elsewhere on their person rather than “off-body” in a bag, briefcase, or purse. Not only is a gun carried on-body quicker in a crisis, and harder to steal, it is also much less likely to be forgotten or overlooked in preparing for a flight.

Guns are tools. In some segments of our society, they are very common tools. All gun owners should know and understand that their license does not apply on airplanes, and it is extremely foolish and irresponsible to ever carry a gun into an airport security checkpoint. Regardless of how unintentional it might be, there will be a significant price to pay for doing so. Your gun is your responsibility – always.

For non-gun owners, don’t let the media hype get you worried. Yes, guns at checkpoints are becoming a more frequent occurrence as gun ownership and carry are becoming more common, but it’s still statistically rare, and these aren’t terrorists or gang-bangers, they’re poor schlubs who got in too big a rush and made a stupid and expensive, though relatively benign mistake. They will regret it, but they are not putting you at risk.

Active Shooter

Confessions of an Active Shooter

By Jeff Knox

(December 8, 2016) Hi, I’m Jeff, and I’m an active shooter.

[Hi Jeff.]

I’ve been a shooter for most of my life, beginning when I was about 4, shooting BB guns in the back yard with my mom and older brother. When I turned 8, my brother and father presented me with my first .22 rifle, a single-shot bolt-action, hand-me-down, and I actively shot that as often as I could. A year later, my father gave me a brand new Browning lever-action, repeating rifle for my birthday, and I have actively been shooting that rifle every chance I get for almost 50 years. Growing up, I spent many afternoons after school, wandering the hills behind our house, hunting rabbits or shooting targets. In my teen years, my family was often at the range shooting benchrest matches or spending Sunday afternoon shooting skeet. After a tour in the Army, I got serious about my shooting, working in one gun store, while living in a room in the back of another. That’s when I got heavily into action shooting, spending all of my extra money on ammunition, and going out shooting 4 or 5 days a week, with competitions on weekends.

Not only have I been an active shooter for over 50 years, I have routinely carried a personal protection sidearm for over over 30 years. In all of that time, I have never shot a hole in a floor, ceiling, or wall. I have certainly never shot another human being, or come close to shooting another human being, either intentionally or unintentionally, and I have never even put a hand on my sidearm in a threatening situation.

I’m an active shooter. Not as active as I once was, and not nearly as active as I would like to be, but an active shooter nonetheless. And I hate the fact that law enforcement and the media have stolen the term “active shooter” to apply to deranged murderers attacking innocents. Not only has a perfectly good description for me and millions of other recreational and sport shooters been purloined and redefined, the term now seems to apply to criminals who don’t use guns.

Late last month, a deranged young Somali refugee, who had expressed frustration about people being afraid of him simply because he was a Muslim, decided to prove those people’s fears about the “religion of peace” correct by driving his Honda Civic into a crowd of fellow Ohio State University students, then jumping out of the car to hack and stab people with a large butcher knife.

In the moments after the attack, the school sent out an “Active Shooter Alert” instructing students and faculty to “Run, hide, fight” until the situation could be resolved. The media followed the school’s lead, reporting that an “active shooter” had injured at least 7 before being shot by campus police. This led to former Democratic Party vice presidential candidate, Tim Kaine, sending out a tweet saying that he was “Deeply saddened by the senseless act of gun violence” at OSU, and offering condolence to the victims and their families. Two hours later, Kaine corrected his error, long after the media had realized their mistake, but the use of the term “Active Shooter” to describe any deranged criminal on a destructive rampage, remains the norm.

Most people don’t give the use of this term a second thought, especially when applied to someone who is actively shooting people in a criminal attack. In that circumstance it seems like a fairly accurate description, but to me, it is not only inaccurate, it is insulting. It is inaccurate because it does not include any direct suggestion of criminality, using “shooter” to infer that, and it is insulting because by doing this, it implies that shooting is a criminal activity. Don’t call a rampaging murderer a shooter. Call him a rampaging murderer, or a rampaging attacker, or even a criminal shooter or violent gunman. My brother Chris and our friend Alan Korwin both object to the use of the term gunman, making the point that it is part of the sensationalist and glamorizing vocabulary that the media too often uses. But the term has held negative, criminal connotations since at least the 1860s, so I’m willing to let that one slide. The term “active shooter” on the other hand, has only come into vogue as a description of a mass murderer in the past 20 years or so. It began gaining traction in the wake of the Columbine atrocity, and has now become so ingrained in the vernacular that it’s even being applied to attackers who are “shooting” with cars and knives.

Maybe I’m being overly sensitive and should just retreat to my safe space where I can pretend like this is all a bad dream that will go away if I wish it hard enough or whine loudly enough. unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me since unlike many of today’s college students and other Hillary Clinton supporters, I’m an adult, and a realist. Calling rampaging attackers “active shooters” is easy and accepted, so it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.

Nonetheless, I refuse to participate in this misappropriation of terms, and I refuse to abdicate the proper application of “active shooter.” As George Orwell noted; “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” I am an active shooter. I hope to be a more active shooter going forward, and to remain an active shooter for many years to come.

To all of my fellow active shooters out there I say, stand firm. Don’t let them shame you from who you are. Shoot on brothers and sisters. Be proud. Be loud. Stay active. And shoot!

Shooter ready? Stand by…

Will Trump Betray Us?

Will Trump Betray us with Petraeus?

By Jeff Knox

(December 1, 2016) David Petraeus is reputed to be on President-elect Trump’s short-list of candidates for the office of Secretary of State, along with former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney. The Trump transition team has said that the list has been whittled down to just four names, but they have only confirmed Romney and Giuliani as being among them. Several other names have been floated, as numerous foreign policy luminaries have been spotted coming and going from meetings with Trump, but who is a contender, and who is merely advising on choices has not been clear.

Of significance to GunVoters is the fact that all three of the most prominently mentioned names, Giuliani, Romney, and Petraeus, have gone on record in support of restrictions on firearms, with Petraeus being the most recent and perhaps the most egregious among them. Romney signed an “assault weapon” ban when he was Governor of Massachusetts, and made statements supporting various gun control proposals during his first run for President, but walked back those positions during his 2012 run for the presidency. As a U.S. Attorney and later as the mayor of New York City, Giuliani was voraciously anti-gun, but has also backed away from the issue as he moved further into the Republican camp.

Petraeus has generally been silent about issues outside of his specific areas of expertise – international relations, military strategy, and related economic issues – but he deviated from that rule this past June when he, along with former astronaut, Mark Kelly and a handful of other retired,high-ranking officers, announced the formation of a new gun control advocacy group called the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense.

Kelly is the husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was seriously injured when a deranged leftist – who had passed a background check – shot her and several other people at a Tucson gathering in 2011. Giffords and Kelly subsequently formed a political action committee called Americans for Responsible Solutions, which advocates for and funds gun control efforts. They have collected and contributed millions of dollars to pro-gun control politicians – almost exclusively Democrats – and were ardent supporters of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.

All indications are that the very highly publicized new veterans group was actually nothing more than a publicity stunt to try and create the appearance of veteran support for “progressive” causes like gun control. Since the announcement, this “coalition” has not even established an internet presence or created a Facebook page. In fact, a Google search of the name finds only references to the original announcement, a frustrated disclaimer from a long-established group with a similar name – Veterans for Common Sense – firmly denying any connection to the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, and lamenting that Kelly, Petraeus, and company chose such a similar name, and a spoof Facebook page established by some creative pro-rights advocate.

The parent organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, might occasionally use the group’s name and list of military advisers for fund raising and lobbying purposes, but the lack of any any evidence that the group actually exists beyond its name and list of advisory board members, strongly suggests that it was nothing more than a facade to allow a few prominent, left-leaning officers to throw a rock on the tracks of the Trump train and try to bolster the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

The fact that David Petraeus would lend his name to such a political farce, suggests that he is either incredibly naive, or a closet partisan. Either way, in spite of his education and experience, the poor judgment or political chicanery disqualify him from holding the office.

Rights advocates, led by Gun Owners of America, are actively petitioning the Trump transition team to remove Petraeus from the list of potential candidates, and calling for their members and other groups to join the push. The Firearms Coalition is also opposing Romney and Giuliani due to their past positions and concrete actions in support of gun control.

While some might suggest that the office of Secretary of State has little to do with domestic gun control issues, the global trade in guns and ammunition gives the State Department direct bearing on the rights of American gun owners. Along with issues like the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which has already significantly impacted availability of surplus ammunition and many firearm replacement parts, the State department also has jurisdiction over the re-importation of firearms that were sold or given to our allies, and oversees implementation and enforcement of the International Traffic in Arms Regulation, or ITAR, which has recently been used to threaten firearm designers and gunsmiths. For almost a decade, the State Department has been blocking the re-importation of thousands of highly collectible, World War II vintage guns that were sold or given to Korea back in the 1950s and ’60s.

Petraeus has a strong resumé, and arguments can be made in favor of his nomination, but right now those arguments are primarily being made by CNN and The Atlantic, whose recommendations are themselves pretty good arguments against him.

Criminalizing Suicide Prevention

By Jeff Knox

(November 22, 2016) Suicide is a pervasive problem in our country. While the U.S. has a much lower suicide rate than many “gun-free utopias” like Japan, we still have far too many of our fellow citizens, particularly our veterans, taking their own lives each year. New laws pushed by Mike Bloomberg and his cabal of nanny-state billionaires, don’t just make suicide prevention harder, they can make it illegal.

In Nevada, where Bloomberg and his minions spent over $16 million to eek out a narrow victory (winning by less than one half of one percent, and only achieving a majority in one county) on a “universal background check” initiative, proponents are now admitting that they made a mistake, and want to “tweak” the law to add additional exceptions for emergency firearm transfers in cases where someone might be suicidal, and some domestic violence situations. But initiatives can’t be amended for 5 years.

Under the law as it was passed, it is illegal for anyone to transfer a firearm – even just temporarily for safe-keeping – except under very narrow exemptions. In all other cases, both the person transferring the guns, and the person receiving the guns, must go in person to a licensed gun dealer, pay a fee, complete a bunch of paperwork, and get a clear background check on the recipient before the guns can be legally transferred. Later, when the time comes to transfer the guns back to their rightful owner, the whole process must be repeated – including fees, paperwork, and a background check on the original owner.

Along with common situations like storing guns for a friend while they are moving, between permanent residences, or deployed with the military or an out-of-state job, there are often times when a friend might be going through some difficult times with divorce, depression, depression, PTSD, or other issues, and agree that it would be better if guns were not readily available.

As someone who was rather footloose in my younger days, I have often held several guns for a friend in one of these situations, and likewise have had my guns held by friends while I was working out-of-state or transitioning between homes.

As a Life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, serving in local leadership positions over the years, I often come into contact with veterans who are struggling with bills, having marital difficulties, dealing with homelessness, battling debilitating illnesses, and sometimes wrestling with thoughts of suicide. For these men and women, help comes in many forms, and one of the things I’ve been able to do to assist them is to relieve them of worries regarding their firearms by arranging safe, temporary storage.

In most of the places I have lived and served, this has not been a problem, but with the expansion of these very restrictive “universal background check” laws, those of us who are willing and able to help out a friend or comrade are finding our hands tied with legal red tape, and it’s going to cost lives.

We raised alarms about the problems with these laws when they were introduced. We pointed out that it is foolish for people who hate guns and gun owners, and who have no knowledge or understanding of guns and “gun culture” to be the arbiters of rules and regulations over how gun owners must live. We warned that these laws would make criminals of non-criminals, and would create unnecessary problems for people harmlessly doing what they, their families, and friends have always done. And we warned that these laws – which have never been shown to have any positive effect on crime or accidents – would have detrimental impacts on innocent people, preventing effective defense, and interfering with reasonable precautions.

In Washington State, where Bloomberg and his billionaire buddies passed a “universal background check” initiative two years ago, they came back this year with an initiative to allow police, friends, and coworkers to petition to have a person’s guns removed by authorities when there was fear that the person might be a danger to themselves or others. So they removed the ability for a friend or certain family members to ask a person they are worried about to voluntarily give them their guns temporarily, and replaced it with a process to force removal of guns by police.

Those of us who have worked in suicide prevention efforts, recognize that some risks can be mitigated by openly and honestly talking with people who are struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, and encouraging them to separate themselves from those things that can make things worse – like drugs, alcohol, and weapons – while keeping people who care as close as possible. These can be very touchy situations, and an overly legalistic or heavy-handed approach will often make matters worse.

Expect to see the same anti-rights extremists that forced through the background check initiative in Nevada, and are now admitting the “unforeseen” problems with the measure, to come back in the near future with another “solution” like the one that just passed in Washington – police and court intervention.

As I have been saying for decades – and my father said for decades before that – gun control doesn’t work, and when it fails to do what proponents promised, their answer is always to add more gun control on top of it. We’ve seen it over and over again. We’ve just seen it in Washington and California, and we’re seeing it now in Nevada.

Trump’s Second Amendment Coalition

By Jeff Knox

(November 17, 2016) Just days before the Presidential Election, Donald Trump’s campaign announced the formation of a Second Amendment coalition. The announcement said the coalition would be chaired by Trump’s son Donald Jr., along with NRA-ILA’s Chris Cox, and 62 other “co-chairs” who will supposedly advise the president throughout his term in office. The list of co-chairs includes several current members of Congress, a former governor of Virginia, several members of the industry – including renegade motorcycle builder turned reality TV star turned gun maker, Jesse James – along with several NRA directors and supporters, and a whole bunch of people I’ve never heard of.

Just how much attention the Trump administration will pay to any advice from the coalition is yet to be determined – like everything else about the new president’s administration – but at least some of the people listed as co-chairs of the coalition seem serious about having their ideas heard and their agendas implemented. Others on the list disavowed any knowledge of the coalition or their being included in it. So far there has been no indication that the members of the coalition have any plans to meet or communicate in any formal way with each other or the administration. That’s not very promising. Also on the “not promising” side, is the lack of inclusion of leaders of other gun rights organizations or state-level grassroots groups.

NRA has definitely earned their seat at the table in the Trump administration. They spent heavily and worked hard to get him elected, and to ensure that he had pro-rights majorities in both the House and Senate, and they deserve recognition and appreciation for those efforts. But the NRA wasn’t the only rights organization working for Trump and/or against Hillary, and those others deserve some recognition as well.

Many within the rights community have been offering up suggestions of things President Trump should do in his first days in office, and Mr. Trump himself has publicly stated support for several of these, including making it easier for service members to carry on military installations, repealing a number of executive orders and actions of Obama and his predecessors, and supporting national reciprocity legislation that would force states to honor carry licenses from other states. Other proposals that are high on rights advocates lists include removing the “sporting purpose” tests from both the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, removing silencers and short-barreled rifles from the restrictions of the National Firearms Act, and removing bans on interstate sale of handguns by licensed dealers.

All of these, along with many other suggestions that are floating around out there, should be very doable, either through congressional action, or executive order, but rights advocates shouldn’t start counting their chickens just yet. The first days, weeks, and months of a new president are hectic to say the least, with much to learn and many demands on time, energy, and political capital. President Trump will be under more pressure and scrutiny than any president before him, and his learning curve will undoubtedly be much steeper due to his limited government experience. Much will depend on who he chooses as his top advisers and assistants. As with any high-level executive, Trump will depend on the folks around him to handle most of the day-to-day operation of the administration, while he focuses on bigger picture issues.

While it’s important for rights advocates to keep reminding Mr. Trump who brought him to the dance, and what we desire, it is probably even more important to keep pressure on our members of Congress to be sure that they are moving in the right direction, bringing forward liberty-enhancing proposals, and backing up President Trump in efforts to protect Second Amendment rights.

Obamacare, immigration, the economy, and foreign relations are all big issues that are doubtlessly going to be at the forefront of the Trump administration’s agenda. It would be easy for him, and the Congress to focus on those pressing issues, and push rights matters to the back burner. It’s up to all of us to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have to keep sending emails and making calls to be sure that we are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Follow up your email messages with phone calls to local district offices for your elected representatives. Tell them you voted for them and for Donald Trump, and tell them you want action on restoration of gun rights in America.

No one ever knows how good or bad a president might be until they get into office and prove their metal. That will be true of Donald Trump as well. We do know however, that many of our members of Congress will use any excuse to avoid taking hard votes on controversial issues. Make it clear to them that protecting Americans’ rights is not controversial, it’s their job.

Testing the Third Rail

Democrats Rediscover Third Rail

By Jeff Knox

(November 11, 2016) In the wee hours of the morning of November 9, a collective sigh of relief flowed from the hearts of millions of American gun owners. Hillary Clinton and the Democrat party had pushed gun control as a major issue in the election, raising serious anxiety among GunVoters. In the end, that GunVoter concern exacted a heavy toll. While GunVoters can’t take sole credit for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, we can be proud that we played a substantial role in it – probably more significant than the pundits will ever admit.

Back during the Democrat Primary, Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – a Mike Bloomberg front group – declared; This year, the myth of gun violence as a political third rail was put to rest in the Democratic presidential debate, where candidates fought over who has the lowest grade from the NRA.” I’m sure Ms. Watts really wanted to believe that, but her belief doesn’t make it true any more than her last name makes her an expert on electricity. The proof comes when voters respond to the talk, and it is pretty clear that the power is still turned on in the gun control third rail.

We did suffer some losses. In California, where calls for “modest, commonsense” gun control took its next predictable step into irrational hysteria, we lost on Proposition 63, a draconian ballot initiative. After the California legislature passed a raft of harsh gun control measures earlier this year – on top of what were already the strictest gun control laws of any state in the nation – voters were duped into passing a sweeping gun control initiative that included many of the same measures, but takes them even further. When Prop. 63 takes effect next year, California gun owners will be criminals if they fail to register millions of heretofore legally possessed rifles, or if they fail to “dispose of” their legally owned and possessed ammunition feeding devices.

Proposition 63 makes California the prime example of exactly what gun control proponents are really trying to accomplish. They claim to be seeking only minor changes in laws to “close loopholes” and “keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” but they are never satisfied, and always have another salvo of minor changes they want to make – almost always fueled by the total failure of the previous step to accomplish its claimed objectives. California epitomizes why rights advocates reject even the most mundane gun control proposals.

We also lost an important ballot initiative in Nevada. There, Mike Bloomberg’s various front groups poured over $16 million dollars into convincing voters that they merely wanted to close a “dangerous loophole” that allows criminals to buy guns from private sellers “no questions asked.” Along with concealing the lack of any credible evidence that this “loophole” is actually a problem, and hiding the full scope of their initiative, the Bloomies claimed that 80% to 90% of Nevadans supported their “universal background check” scheme. When the votes were counted, it turned out that a majority of voters in only one Nevada county – Clark County, the home of Las Vegas – voted for the initiative, but that single county’s votes were enough to pass the initiative statewide by a margin less than 1 percent.

In Washington State, voters approved a measure that will allow police or family members to file to have a person’s guns seized if they believe the person is a threat to themselves or others. Again, the Bloomies and a coalition of billionaires funded the initiative, spending some $4 million to get it passed while opponents never really got out of the blocks. The initiative sounded very appealing, and explaining the problems with it was a complicated matter that wouldn’t fit well on a bumper sticker or media soundbite. It appears that opponents, looking at those challenges, basically gave up without a fight, spending hundreds to proponents’ millions.

GunVoters stopped the other gun-related ballot measure that went before voters this year. It was in Maine, where Bloomberg groups were pushing a “universal background check” initiative similar to the one passed in Nevada. Once again the Bloomberg groups significantly outspent opponents. In all the Bloomies spent about $5 million trying to pass the initiative, while opponents spent just over $1 million, the bulk of that coming from the NRA. But the lopsided spending wasn’t enough to overcome grass roots activism, and the measure failed by about 3% statewide.

Along with the presidency and numerous gubernatorial and state legislative victories, GunVoters contributed to several upsets in Senate and House races, and helped hold critical seats for pro-rights Republicans. This means that Donald Trump will assume the presidency with majorities in both houses of Congress. That’s worth crowing about, but we’ve been here before and been let down, so we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again this time.

There are a number of bills already in the pipe that can be renewed, and several other proposals that should be added. The Firearms Coalition has long advocated for an omnibus rights restoration bill that incorporates many of these proposals into a single bill – while maintaining the stand-alone bills for passage as opportunities might arise.

While the new Congress and President will have a full plate next year, it is critical that pro-rights legislation is high on the list of priorities. We also must be absolutely sure that anyone President Trump names to the U.S. Supreme Court will be a stalwart defender of the Second Amendment. We have to stop the steady encroachment on rights that is victimizing innocent gun owners in states like California, Connecticut, and New York.

We’ve just won some important victories, but that’s just the beginning. Now comes the hard work of repairing decades of damage to the country and the Constitution.

Mass Shooting Contagion — Don’t Inspire Evil

By Jeff Knox

(November 2, 2016) Last year, a group of researchers based at Arizona State University published a peer-reviewed report in PLOS ONE, a “multidisciplinary Open Access journal,” describing a phenomenon that many in the rights community have been talking about for years. The scientific research paper, titled Contagion in Mass Killings and School Shootings, described a measurable relationship between media coverage of these events, and the subsequent occurrence of similar events. In other words, the researchers found that mass killings and school shootings tend to spawn similar events, and the more media attention an event attracts, the greater the likelihood of similar events occurring within a short time.

A number of years ago, the suicide prevention community saw a similar phenomenon that they called “Suicide Contagion.” They noticed that suicides, especially suicides involving young people, often occurred in clusters, and the clusters reflected the levels of media coverage the suicides generated. More and wider media coverage resulted in predictable increases in follow-on suicides and attempts. Researchers were able to statistically demonstrate the correlation, and suicide prevention advocates used this information to call on the media to change the way they were reporting on suicides.

Media companies and groups like the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) took the information, and worked with advocates to develop reporting standards and practices intended to minimize suicide contagion. It worked, and researchers can now demonstrate significant reductions in copycat and cluster suicides as a direct result of the changes in media coverage.

Unfortunately, even though the connection between mass killings and media coverage can be clearly demonstrated, and is probably even more significant than last year’s study indicates, the media is resisting adopting any changes in the way they report on massacres. The old newspaper adage, “If it bleeds it leads” seems to be the guiding principle in coverage of mass murders.

There is some hope on the horizon however, in May of this year, Andrew Seaman, who chairs the SPJ’s ethics committee, blogged about this issue, saying that he was assembling a panel of journalists and other interested parties to discuss the issue and come up with recommendations. That blog was in response to harsh criticism of a previous blog post in which he was very dismissive of those calling for changes in the SPJ’s Code of Ethics, which is well-respected within the industry. Further developments on that post from 5 months ago were not found.

In both Seaman’s blog post, and that of one of his leading critics, gratuitous attacks on the NRA played a prominent role. Both “impartial” journalists, deeply concerned about journalistic ethics, made it clear that they personally believe the real problem is guns, and the NRA’s unreasonable influence in Washington, but since they can’t seem to effectively get around NRA’s influence, they’ll instead argue about whether or not to publish mass murderers’ names. Even more interesting is the fact that both the NRA and the Brady gun control group agree that excessive media coverage of mass murderers is a serious problem that contributes to more mass murders. And while that conclusion isn’t really disputed, the argument among journalists comes down to what actions constitute a reasonable and effective solution for mitigating the problem.

Denying mass murderers the publicity that many of them obviously seek, by refusing to publish their names, pictures, manifestos, or detailed background information about them, is the most heavily advocated approach. While some are calling for a complete moratorium on such information, others take a much more balanced approach, calling for journalists, editors, and producers to simply minimize publication of this information, rather than boycotting it altogether. This approach has been compiled into what supporters call the DIE Initiative – Don’t Inspire Evil. The initiative has been endorsed by a variety of media and advocacy organizations, and has been presented to the SPJ. Another effort, called No Notoriety, takes a similar approach, but calls on the public to directly lobby the media.

The explosion of the internet and social media complicate the situation even further. Regardless of what the “mainstream media” chooses to report or omit, there is no way to control “new media” and individual postings on social media. There is also the problem of omissions being considered “spin” for political reasons. In several recent attacks, the media was criticized for appearing reticent to release the attackers’ names due to their Middle-Eastern ethnicity. Critics accused the media of withholding the names as a way of hiding the attackers’ ethnic origins – and presumably their religious beliefs. Others have often criticized the media for including photos of minority suspects, claiming that the inclusion is aimed at tainting entire racial, ethnic, or religious groups. We at The Firearms Coalition decided over a decade ago that we would avoid ever repeating mass murderers’ names, and I make a conscious effort to always refer to such demented freaks in the most disrespectful and demeaning way I can within the limits of a PG-rated column.

Obviously, there are no easy answers that will satisfy everyone, but it should be obvious that 24-hour coverage of mass murders and school shootings with a heavy focus on the criminal, is not helpful. Making murderers famous, giving them a platform for their irrational rants, and making their images modern media icons, does significant harm. It disrespects the victims, and can trigger other deviants to seek a similar level of fame through similar actions.

The Arizona study, while imperfect, offers support for efforts like the DIE Initiative, and an important starting point for a serious discussion of ways to mitigate this problem. Hopefully the SPJ and major media outlets will follow through on efforts to address this issue soon.

In the meantime, it is incumbent on all of us to refuse to be drawn into the rubbernecking and lurid gawking engaged in by the mass media and our “friends” on social media, and call them out when they start crossing the line.

Sandy Hook Suit – Round 1

By Jeff Knox

(October 27, 2016) A Connecticut judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the families of several victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.  The suit was filed last year against everyone in the manufacturing and sales chain of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle that was used in the murders.  Defendants in the suit, Bushmaster and its parent company Remington Arms, Camfour, a major firearms wholesaler, and Riverview Sales, the small gun shop that originally sold the gun to Nancy Lanza, all claimed immunity from the suit, based  on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA. In the end, the judge agreed with the defendants, stating that the case “falls squarely within the broad immunity” protections of the PLCAA.

That being the case, it certainly took the judge a while to reach that conclusion since the PLCAA prohibits civil liability actions from being brought as a result of third-party misuse of a firearm or ammunition. Defendants raised the PLCAA from the very start.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that their suit was permissible under two of several exceptions included in the PLCAA.  One is that a licensed seller can be sued if they “negligently entrusted” a gun or ammunition to a person that they knew, or should have known, would use it to cause harm to themselves or others.  The other is that a suit may be filed if the licensed seller violated federal or state law in the conduct of the transaction. Plaintiffs’ attorneys claimed that by “unethically, oppressively, immorally, and unscrupulously” marketing the “assaultive qualities and military uses of AR-15s to civilian purchasers,” whom they knew would let others, including family members, access them, constituted both “negligent entrustment,” and violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The lawyers’ hyperbole regarding the AR-15 was so thick that it sounds more like a parody than an actual lawsuit.  They insisted that Bushmaster, Remington and the others “know that civilians are unfit to operate AR-15s” – the fastest selling and most popular rifle in the country – and that they “knew or should have known that the sale of assault rifles like the XM15-E2S to the civilian market, posed an egregious and unreasonable risk of physical injury to others.” The suit just goes on and on with this nonsense, with single sentences taking up over half a page, and circuitous logic going all the way to asserting the defendants’ knowing that “mass casualty shootings” are becoming more frequent, that schools are a popular target for such shootings, and therefore they should have known that the gun they made and sold had an unreasonably high risk of ending up in the hands of a crazed murderer slaughtering innocent children.

It’s hard to begin to understand why a rational judge, knowing the provisions of the PLCAA, did not dismiss the case on the spot.  Instead, she allowed it to drag on for almost two years before she finally pulled the plug. Some skeptics have suggested that she was initially just going through the motions, and would have dismissed the suit, but then it suddenly started attracting national media attention as it became a major issue in the Democratic Party primaries, and perhaps she wanted to drag it out so her preferred candidate could get as much mileage out of it as possible.

Whether that was the judge’s motivation or not, it all worked out well for Hillary Clinton, who used the case as a bludgeon against her primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.  Sanders had voted in favor of the PLCAA when he was in the House of Representatives. Clinton herself had been in the Senate at the time and voted against it. She was able to effectively use the Sandy Hook case as a wedge to first position herself to Bernie’s left, then – after he waffled and declared that he would support a partial repeal of the act – paint him as not only having been wrong, but also weak in his convictions.  Clinton has pledged to repeal the act and repeatedly made false claims about the PLCAA and what it does and doesn’t do. Her claims have been so outrageous that even the Washington Post, Politifact, and NPR called her on it, but the false claims remain on her campaign website, and she continues to repeat them at her campaign rallies.

In defending his vote, Sanders compared suing gun companies for crimes committed with their products, to suing a hammer company because someone hit you over the head with one.  He also said that if such suits were allowed, that would be the end of gun manufacturing in the U.S. Various pundits and self-appointed “fact-checkers” have claimed that statement to be false, but history says otherwise.

The PLCAA only came about because gun companies were being milked dry by frivolous lawsuits, filed primarily by government officials at taxpayer expense.  Back in the mid ’90s as tobacco lawsuits started gaining traction, some whiz kid came up with the idea of going after guns like states were going after the tobacco companies.  In 1998, New Orleans became the first city to sue a gun company over the public costs of “gun violence.” Within a year, almost 30 other cities, counties, and the state of New York had jumped on the litigation bandwagon.  The symphony of lawsuits was conducted from Bill Clinton’s White House by his HUD Secretary, Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo, NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and others made no bones about the strategy and their objective: to force gun companies to accept rigid marketing and sales restrictions or be forced into bankruptcy.  Handgun Control, Inc. – which later changed its name to the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence – gleefully documented the strategy in position papers and fund-raising letters.

And it was working.  One of the nation’s oldest and largest handgun manufacturers, Smith & Wesson, caved and cut a deal to get out from under the suits.  If it hadn’t been for the PLCAA, the whole industry could have collapsed.

Now the question is where this strategy will go next.  The Sandy Hook attorneys say they are going to appeal. If they do, will it end up in front of a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court?  How do you think that would turn out? You need to vote accordingly.