All posts by Jeff Knox

Faster First-Responders

By Jeff Knox

(May 30, 2017) The first rule of first-aid is “Stop the Bleeding.”  When the bleeding is from a gunshot wound, effectively stopping the bleeding can require advanced tools and training.  Adding to the complications of first-aid for shooting victims is the possibility that the person who shot them might not be finished.  In order to effectively stop the bleeding in a mass-shooting attack, the first step in stopping the bleeding, is to stop the cause of the bleeding – Stop the Attack!

No one should argue that providing some teachers or other school staff with the tools and training needed to be more effective in treating serious wounds while they are waiting for trained medical professionals to arrive.  Why then is it so controversial to suggest that teachers and administrators should receive advanced training to help them be more effective at stopping a violent attacker?

We all understand that the odds of a terrorist or other rampage murderer striking at any particular school are pretty slim, but so are the odds of a particular driver being in a major wreck, or a particular home experiencing a catastrophic fire.  Just because odds are slim, is no reason to avoid being prepared for the worst. Having a fire extinguisher in your kitchen is not a sign of paranoia, and neither is having personnel trained and equipped to stop an armed attacker.

Many schools have an armed officer on campus, either an on-duty police officer, or a paid security guard, so that an armed response can normally be counted on within a few seconds of a serious threat becoming apparent.  Other schools depend on local police to respond to serious incidents, extending response times from seconds to a few minutes. But for some schools, response times for police, fire, and medical emergencies can be between 10 minutes and a half-hour.  For these schools in particular, it is critical that there be personnel on site who are trained and equipped to take immediate action in case of a serious emergency.

That’s why FASTER was developed.  FASTER is an acronym for Faculty/Administration Safety Training and Emergency Response.  It was developed by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation and Tactical Defense Institute in Ohio, with the objective of helping schools, police, and medical professionals respond faster and more effectively in emergencies, from minor incidents to worst-case events.

In today’s world, a worst-case event would be a terrorist, or other homicidal maniac, going on a shooting rampage in the school.  In that sort of situation, seconds mean lives, and any response time measured in minutes is much too long. For this reason, many states provide schools with the option of authorizing some designated staff members to be armed on campus.  The FASTER program is intended to provide these designated personnel with advanced training to help accomplish three key things:

      1. Stop the Threat Faster
      2. Treat the Wounded Faster
      3. Get Professional Assistance Faster

Police, firefighters, and paramedics, are rarely the first to respond to any emergency.  The true first-responders are almost always the people who happen to be present when the event starts, often the victims themselves, or close bystanders.  When it comes to an emergency situation in a school – any emergency – the first-responders are almost always school staff, or students. If someone cuts off a finger in wood shop, spills acid in chemistry class, or falls off the monkey-bars on the playground, it is usually a fellow student or nearby teacher who renders initial aid.

In tragedies like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, people died because qualified medical help couldn’t get to them in time.  The people who were present and responded first, didn’t have the equipment or training needed to save those lives. And of course, the response of the trained professionals was delayed by the continued threat posed by the attacker.  FASTER is intended to help close that gap and save lives.

Colorado is one of the states that doesn’t blindly – and irrationally – prohibit all school staff from having access to effective defensive tools.  Many Colorado schools, especially rural schools, where emergency response would be slowest, already have staff members authorized to be armed. The better trained these staff members are, the more effective they will be in an emergency.  That’s why a group called Coloradans for Individual Rights is bringing the FASTER program to the state.

Colorado’s first FASTER workshop is scheduled for June 20 through the 22nd, and is open to school staff from all over the state.  The workshop will be held in Weld County, and the tuition is set at $1000 per person.  Scholarships are being offered through the Independence Institute, and lodging assistance is also available.  To participate, students must be employed by a school in Colorado, must have a valid Colorado Concealed Handgun Permit, and those already designated by their school administration or local board as “Security Officers” are given priority placement.  Faculty and staff from across the state are invited to apply, but space is limited and the deadline is approaching fast.

To find out more about FASTER training in Colorado, or to apply for the workshop, visit the Coloradans for Civil Liberties website.  If you’d like to help fund this important work, go to

 

The Violent Destruction of the Left

By Jeff Knox

(May 17, 2017) Political violence is at its highest level since the Vietnam War.  Somehow the term “political violence” is almost always used in reference to “right-wing” extremism, but historically – and currently – the majority of the violence has come from the political left.  With the election of Donald Trump, self-avowed communists and anarchists have renewed their ironic alliance in the name of “Anti-Fascism” or “Antifa,” and been enveloped into the larger “progressive” movement to wage war on free speech, tear down capitalism, and break things.  Politicians and political pundits are being targeted and threatened at an alarming rate, and the media continues to ignore or mischaracterize it.

Imagine how the media, police, and politicians would react if a “white power” group on an American college campus were to violently protest and blockade a presentation by an outspoken homosexual who supported President Obama.  Imagine college professors joining in the protest, cursing at police, insisting that they should be beating the speaker and those who came to hear what he had to say. Would the protesters and the outspoken professors be supported by the college administration?  Is there any chance the professors would still have a job the next day? Would the media focus on the “controversial” nature of the speaker, or on the criminal actions of the protesters?

How is it possible then, that Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay man who supports Donald Trump and pokes fun at radical leftists, Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, and other outspoken opponents of the radical left could have presentations blocked in such a violent manner, with little to no criticism, let alone prosecution, or those responsible?  How could a college professor, who identified herself as such, launch a screaming, profanity-laden diatribe on police, and still remain employed? How can the media focus on the “controversial” nature of the speakers rather than the behavior of the protesters?

The reason these things can happen, is that our nation has been indoctrinated into a false paradigm of “social justice” and “hate-speech.”  The media and academia have successfully managed to tune the average American’s sensitivities to the point that criticizing the political right, is applauded, promoted, and “normal,” while criticizing the political left is “hateful,” bigoted, and loathsome.

But indoctrination and desensitization can only go so far.  When those average Americans hear the hate-filled, foul-mouthed bellowing of that New York University college professor, they might initially question what horrible event might have spurred such outrage and disgust, only to dig deeper and discover that the motivation for the rant was nothing more than a “shock-jock” style comedian speaking to the university’s Republican Club.  The professor, along with “Antifa” and other protesters, used violence to block people from entering the event, resulting in at least 11 arrests. Meanwhile inside, the speaker, comedian Gavin McInnes, was drowned out by a small group of protesters chanting and yelling throughout the event.

Similar events have played out on college campuses around the country when conservative groups have invited “controversial” speakers like Anne Coulter to speak, or when students dared to try and hold a rally in support of Donald Trump.  Rather than arguing with what the conservatives say, the current approach is to deny them the opportunity to say it, and deny the audience the opportunity to hear it – and to use violence, threats, pepper-spray, and fireworks to accomplish that objective.

All of this has begun to backfire on the extremist left, but they aren’t backing down.  More and more Americans are realizing that the tactics being employed by the radical left – with the general approval of the mainstream left and the media – is exactly the sort of tactics that these groups are claiming to be opposing.  There also appears to be a slow realization among some of the younger people who initially supported these groups, that rather than being counter-culture warriors fighting “the establishment,” they are actually using these violent, fascist tactics to support “the establishment.”  They’re realizing that Hillary Clinton, CNN, MSNBC, and even Bernie Sanders, represent “the establishment,” while Trump supporters like Coulter and Yiannopoulos support him specifically because he is disrupting the status quo and undermining “the establishment.”

Right-wing hate groups certainly exist, and anyone with any sense can easily dismantle their arguments and see the foolishness of their philosophies.  That’s why they have withered to a few minor fringe groups, and are widely reviled by thoughtful society. It is also true that right-wing radicals occasionally use violence to “advance” their cause, such as the degenerate little punk who murdered 9 innocent people at Emanuel AME Church, or the horrific actions of the Oklahoma City bombers.

Of course the results of those acts of politically-motivated violence were broad disavowal of the actions and philosophies that motivated them, and dramatic reductions in the number of people publicly subscribing to those beliefs.

Since the Oklahoma City atrocity, violence has been almost exclusively the tool of actors on the left, or religious fanatics following the teachings of Mohammed, with the tragedy at Mother Emanuel being the horrific exception.  Virtually every other mass murder, and all acts of violence in the name of politics, have been perpetrated by leftists, and that record must eventually generate a backlash among the public.

Once upon a time, Americans recognized the inherent dangers and evils of communism and socialism, but too many today have forgotten those hard-learned lessons.  Hopefully they will be remembered before the current spate of political violence progresses into open warfare.

 

Maj Toure: Black Guns Matter – As Do Lives

By Jeff Knox

(May 10, 2017) Maj Toure is an African American man from the mean streets of North Philadelphia.  He describes a climate of gangs and widespread poverty, where only cops and bad guys are armed, and average citizens tend to think exclusively in those terms.  This is a common condition in inner-city neighborhoods, the same neighborhoods where the people are among the most likely to fall victim to violent crime.

Toure thinks this is just wrong, and he’s determined to change things.  Awareness that the right to arms is not something reserved to old white guys with NRA baseball caps has been growing in minority communities like Maj’s in recent years.  But awareness of the laws and responsibilities surrounding that right, have been slower in coming. Maj has known several people from his neighborhood who decided that exercising their right to arms was a valid and prudent thing to do, but then ended up in legal trouble because, while Pennsylvania is an open carry state, Philadelphia requires citizens to get a city permit before they can exercise that right.  As in so many other places, violations of gun laws in Philadelphia are dealt with harshly, sometimes even more harshly than actual crimes. Consequently many people with no criminal intent being convicted of felonious weapons violations, simply for exercising their rights.

The rights community rallied around Shaneen Allen, an African American mom, when she unwittingly drove into New Jersey with her licensed, concealed carry firearm, and we managed to get her pardoned by Governor Chris Christie, as well as getting some enforcement policies in the state changed.  But when young black men in Philadelphia are caught up in draconian laws, there is rarely any interest from rights groups wanting to help build a legal defense. At the same time there are few programs to teach residents of inner-city communities how to use guns safely and to navigate the legal maze surrounding guns in their cities.  Moreover, even if there were more instructional programs being offered by groups like the NRA, it would be difficult to convince the locals to participate because mistrust of organizations dominated by older whites is common within minority communities.

That’s where Maj and “Black Guns Matter” come in.   Maj sought out education about firearms laws and regulations, as well as safety training, and practical and legal issues surrounding carry and self-defense, then he began teaching what he learned to his neighbors.  As a member of the community, Maj’s advice and training were welcomed and embraced, and he quickly began making a difference. Seeing his success, other similar communities began calling on him to bring his training into their neighborhoods.

Maj is not the only African American training inner-city residents in the safe and lawful use of guns, but his activities have captured a lot of attention, and have been widely applauded by gun rights groups.  Unfortunately applause doesn’t pay the bills, so Maj, like others pursuing similar courses, has so far depended on support from social media campaigns and small donations to keep the information flowing. Up to this point, that has been a bit of an advantage.  Not being affiliated with a large group like the NRA or the firearms industry has given Maj autonomy, and protected him from accusations of being a shill for those groups. But now that Black Guns Matter has reached some prominence and earned a reputation of working exclusively for the communities it serves, it’s time for the gun rights establishment to step up and offer some financial support.

One of the challenges with this is that the support has to be free of strings and obligations.  Maj Toure and Black Guns Matter must continue to be independent operators, spreading their message of rights and responsibilities without concern for the political goals of outside organizations.  Anything else would dilute the message and marginalize the messenger.

Outside of the gun issue, Maj Toure probably holds political views that are far different than those of the mainstream gun culture, and it’s a certainty that his audiences do.  His, and his audience’s perceptions of hot-button topics like racism and police brutality are informed from a very different perspective than the views of the middle-aged, white men who make up the majority of gun groups.  None of that is likely to change any time soon, but those differences shouldn’t play a role in financing the education efforts.

What matters is not our differences, but our similarities.  We in the rights community claim that support for the Second Amendment is our number one priority, so let’s prove that by making sure the Second Amendment is fully available to everyone – even those with whom we might share little else.

It used to be common for newspapers to print at the top of their editorial pages, a quote (commonly attributed to Voltaire, but actually penned by one of his biographers):  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death for your right to say it.”  While the quote might not have been Voltaire’s, the sentiment was, and it was a sentiment shared by our founding fathers. We must apply a similar sentiment to the Second Amendment. While we might not agree on many things, we must stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of each others’ rights.

To support Black Guns Matter directly, you can go to www.GoFundMe.com/BlackGunsMatter or their website; www.OfficialBlackGunsMatter.org.  To help fund them indirectly, share this article within the firearms community, especially industry executives, and leaders of groups that you already donate to.  A grant of a few thousand dollars could make a huge impact on this important work.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T — NRA leadership lacks it

By Jeff Knox

At the NRA’s Annual Meeting of Members in Atlanta last weekend, NRA leaders doubled-down on their strategy of treating the membership like children or mushrooms.  As a concerned and involved NRA Endowment member, I submitted a resolution that was critical of NRA leadership for their handling of the recent bylaw election. The main focus of the resolution was that the NRA leadership displayed a serious lack of respect for the membership by not giving members an opportunity to hear dissenting opinions and debate the amendments on their merits prior to voting on them.

My objective was to foster debate about this issue and allow the membership to act as the owners of their Association.  But rather than allow that discussion, the leadership silenced dissent by claiming that there were “technical flaws” in the resolution, and declaring it “out of order.”

The “technical flaws” were bogus, based on a distorted reading of Robert’s Rules of Order, and an intentional mischaracterization of a clause of the resolution.  Even if they they were valid, the proper course under Robert’s Rules should have been either to bring the issues to my attention as the maker of the motion, and give me an opportunity to correct them, exactly as they did with another, less controversial resolution I submitted, or allow the resolution onto the floor where any flaws could be amended using the normal deliberative process.  Instead, they simply declared the whole resolution out of order and went on to the next item of business.

The only resolution actually voted on by the members, was one I submitted calling for commemoration of 2017 as the 40th anniversary of the Cincinnati Revolt.  It called for members to express their desire that the association recognize and celebrate this important milestone in the Association’s history by publishing feature articles and other media presentations commemorating the event as a way to educate younger NRA members about our history.

Even with this relatively uncontroversial resolution, President Cors moved quickly, going straight to the vote without offering opportunity for debate or discussion.  Under Robert’s Rules, the maker of a motion or resolution always has the right to speak about it before a vote is taken, and technically, should read the resolution to the body, but that’s not the way it happened.  It could be argued that President Cors is not a parliamentarian, and simply made a few mistakes in his conduct of the meeting, but it seemed that the mistakes always tended to the benefit of the establishment, and the detriment of the members.  But ignorance is a lame excuse since a professional parliamentarian sits at the President’s elbow during the meeting.

Some other members offered a pair of resolutions, and in both cases, a member of the Board of Directors immediately rose to move that the resolution be referred to a committee of the Board, rather than allowing the members to vote on it.  In the first instance, that motion to refer passed without discussion, and in the other, the member who submitted the resolution requested permission to withdraw it.

As soon as that resolution had been dealt with, the same member of the Board who had risen on the other issues rose again, this time to move that the meeting be adjourned.  President noted that he had been informed that a member of the Executive Council, former President David Keene, had expressed a desire to raise a point of personal privilege, and asked that the motion to adjourn be held briefly to allow Mr. Keene to raise his point of privilege.  There was no objection, and Mr. Keene was given the floor.

Former President Keene expressed his feeling that he had been personally insulted – along with the rest of the Board – by the suggestion that NRA leadership does not respect the members.  He pointed out that he and the current leadership of the organization frequently remark on the fact that the power of the association is derived from the membership, and give credit to the membership for the achievements the association makes in the political and legislative arenas.  He concluded by declaring that they all have the deepest respect for the members, and reiterating that it was insulting to suggest otherwise.

While I could have tried to respond with a personal privilege point of my own, I was quite sure that the attempt would be met with a ruling that I was out of order, and the attempt would have served no purpose.  Instead, I approached Mr. Keene directly and apologized for causing offense, assuring him that it was not my intent, but I pointed out that declaring respect, and demonstrating respect are two very different things.  Regardless of how thoroughly the bylaw amendments might have been discussed and debated within the Board, not giving the members the courtesy of full disclosure of the facts, and not allowing any expressions of dissent from the leadership position, is not a demonstration of respect.  Further, filling the magazine with repeated arguments supporting and encouraging a “Yes” vote, without providing any opportunity for any other opinion to be expressed, also failed to demonstrate respect for the members. I got the distinct impression that he was not convinced.

The National Rifle Association is a wonderful organization with incredible power, and even greater potential.  I believe that every gun owner and lover of liberty should be a member. Having dedicated the better part of my life to working for a strong, effective, member-driven NRA, I’m deeply disappointed that the leadership – both past and current – insists on “unity” and “conformity” over full disclosure and debate.  Rather than providing the membership with the information they need to make an informed decision, and trusting them to come to the best decision, they treat them like mushrooms – kept in the dark and buried in BS – giving them only the information they choose, and holding their hands as they guide them across the street.  That’s not respect.

Two Out of Three Isn’t Good Enough

By Jeff Knox

(April 24, 2017) The results are in on the recent board of directors election for the NRA, and two of the three candidates The Firearms Coalition endorsed won seats, but the game’s not over yet.  There’s still an opportunity for our third endorsed candidate, Adam Kraut, to be elected to the board. While most directors are elected by mail-in ballot to 3-year terms, every year, one director is elected to a 1-year term by the members present at NRA’s Annual Meeting.  Only candidates who ran in the mail-in election are eligible to run for this “76th Director” seat, so Adam still has a chance to serve on the board, and if you’re going to be in Atlanta this weekend, you could help make that happen.

The NRA will not release the official results of the election until the Annual Meeting in Atlanta, but they have notified the candidates as to whether they were elected.  Of the three candidates we endorsed, Sean Maloney and Graham Hill were both elected, but Adam Kraut fell short. We won’t know how close he came until we see the official report at the meeting.

If you are planning to attend the NRA Annual Meeting, be sure to take a few moments to cast a ballot for Adam before you get too wrapped up in all of the other hoopla.  Unlike the mail-in ballot, in which only Life Members and Annual Members with at least 5 consecutive years of membership are eligible to vote, anyone who has been an NRA member for at least 50 days gets to vote at the Annual Meeting.  So if you have been a member since at least March 9th of this year, you are eligible to vote.

Other candidates will also be running for this seat.  Actually, all of the candidates who ran and failed to win a seat, will be listed on the ballot, but I only know of two others who are actively campaigning for it: Stephanie Spika, and John Cushman.  If any of the others are seriously trying for it, they haven’t let me know.

With over 20 years on the NRA board, Cushman has been named as the “Officially Endorsed” candidate of the current leadership team.  Cushman is from New York, wears cowboy boots and bolo ties, and is not what you would call “in tune” with the younger generation. He has pictures of the NRA officers on his campaign flier, and NRA staffers, some current directors, and local volunteers will be tasked with handing out his literature and encouraging everyone to vote for him.  While it seems inappropriate for the board to “endorse” one of the candidates, or for paid NRA staff to be managing a director campaign, that’s the normal drill each year. And in reality, “the board” didn’t endorse him. The leadership simply declared that he would be their chosen one for this election, and that was that.

Stephanie Spika is about as far opposite to John Cushman as two people could be.  She is young, attractive, and a former employee of NRA-ILA. She currently works for Safari Club International as a social media specialist.  I know little about her beyond that, but I do know that the powers that be at NRA really don’t want her on the board. That would normally incline me toward supporting her, but not when there is another candidate that I feel is a better choice.

In this case, that candidate is Adam Kraut, an attorney, gun store manager, and YouTube personality, who I think would be a great asset on the Board of Directors.

If you or anyone you know is planning to attend the Annual Meeting in Atlanta, I encourage you to be sure to vote for Adam Kraut, and to urge your friends to do the same.  If you live within a few hours’ drive of Atlanta, it’s definitely worth making the trip. Outside of the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas, this is probably the largest firearms trade show in the country, with acres of cool stuff to look at.  There is also the matter of the actual Annual Meeting of Members, which will convene at 10:00 on Saturday morning, and the small matter of an appearance by some guy named Trump at some point.

It is my assumption that the proposed amendments to the NRA bylaws passed, but the NRA will not release that information until the meeting.  If I am correct in my assumption, it is a sad day for NRA members, as it means you lose your right to force a recall of directors and officers by petition, lose your right to propose bylaw amendments by petition, and you lose your right to vote on bylaw amendments during an Annual Meeting.  It will also be much harder for members to be nominated by petition to run for the NRA Board of Directors.

As the major thrust of these bylaw amendments made changes to bylaws that were written or introduced by my father, it’s hard not to take the heavy-handed railroading of these amendments through as a personal affront.  If the amendments were such a good idea, why was there no public discussion of them in advance of the balloting, and why were no other views sought or published in the ballot materials? I’d really like to ask those questions of our board of directors, and see what they have to say.

If you can make it, don’t miss it, and be sure to vote for Adam Kraut.

YouTube ain’t Your Tube, but it’s The Tube

By Jeff Knox

(April 12, 2017) One of the most common laments within the shooting fraternity is the lack of young blood in our groups.  My brother Chris and I have been hearing it since we were little kids. In fact, now that we’ve spent over 40 years in this community, we are now among the gray-hairs lamenting the lack of youth, and looking for ways to attract ways to attract young people to our sports, our hobbies, and our passion for liberty.  And while we have all been wringing our hands and scratching our thinning hairlines, a bunch of guys, young and old, from all over the country and the world, started recording the fun, challenges, and debates of the gun world on video, and posting those videos on the internet. Not only have those videos attracted the attention and interest of millions of younger people here in the U.S., they have exported the joy and excitement of our freedom all over the world – primarily on the video-hosting site YouTube.

If you enjoy watching videos about guns and shooting on YouTube, you’re probably aware that your favorite channels are in trouble.  YouTube has “demonetized” all of them, meaning that these channels no longer get a share of YouTube ad revenue. The way they’ve done this is by adding the gun channels, along with many “prepper” and political “extremist” channels, to their restricted list, saying they are not family or advertiser friendly.

YouTube was created as an open platform with few restrictions on content.  Creators could post a video of almost anything except pornography, extremely graphic violence, or anything clearly illegal.  Still, videos of women “teaching” proper yoga form – in the nude, and other “educational” demonstrations are relatively common fare.  Most of those types of videos are also in the “restricted” category, but I have no idea whether they have been “restricted” all along, or were only recently added to the list.  I only recently discovered that there is a button at the bottom of the YouTube screen that allows viewers to turn on or off – see or not see – these restricted videos.

If you don’t want your kid watching nude yoga, you turn Restricted Mode on, and lock it with a password.  If you have an interest in the internal details of nude yoga, or want to see the latest firearm industry news on the Gun Collective channel, you must leave Restricted Mode turned off.  But whether you have Restricted Mode turned on or off, the restricted videos don’t share in the advertising revenue that YouTube generates.

Normally, using a complex, computer formula which tracks views and trends, YouTube rotates ads and shares a small piece of the ad revenue with the video creators.  By placing videos on the restricted list, YouTube removes those videos, and their creators, from the revenue stream. So now gun channels, whose creators have worked years to build up tens of thousands, or in some cases, hundreds of thousands of loyal viewers, and who were reaping a modest reward for all of that hard work, have had that reward pulled out from under them without warning.

Gun-related content has always been extremely popular on the internet, but it has always been treated like a red-headed stepchild by the major platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter.  There is also the problem that the enemies of guns and gun rights are often unscrupulous and cowardly, flagging gun posts and originators as “obscene” or in violation of some contractual standard, often resulting in hassles and expense as content is removed or automatic suspensions are applied and creators have to fight through complicated appeals processes to be vindicated.

It’s possible that some of the current YouTube controversy is a result of that sort of chicanery, but the heart of this mess lies with mainstream media using their influence with advertisers to demonize YouTube’s open platform approach, and scare their parent company, Google, into trying to censor the site’s content.

While some suggest boycotting YouTube, and going exclusively to alternative platforms like Vimeo, Daily Motion, or for gun channels, Full30.com, the reality is, right now at least, YouTube is the big dog on the block, and the only platform where a content creator can reach millions of potential viewers, as well as the only platform where a creator can build a sustainable income – if they’re not “restricted.”

If the only objective is having a place where people interested in gun videos can go to watch gun videos, then Full30.com is a valid option.  But if the objective is to introduce new people – especially young people – to the fun, history, and importance of firearms, then we must fight to keep YouTube open, available, and profitable.  That means lobbying YouTube, Google, and their advertisers.

Support your favorite channels.  Buy their over-priced T-shirts and coffee mugs.  Subscribe with regular contributions through Patreon.  But most importantly express your outrage about the current state of affairs to anyone who will listen.  Send messages to YouTube and Google. Ping on advertisers who are holding the platform hostage, and encourage companies – especially companies in the gun industry – to buy advertising on YouTube, IF YouTube will use the money to support firearm-friendly content.

Just doing nothing gets you nothing in return, and leaves the next generation ignorant of our rights, freedoms, and values.

Delta’s Dumb Reaction

By Jeff Knox

(April 5, 2017) Delta Airlines has implemented new “security protocols” in response to the incident last January in Fort Lauderdale, when an arriving passenger with a properly declared handgun in his checked luggage retrieved the gun in a bathroom, and began shooting people in the terminal.

Delta says that under the new protocols, luggage containing firearms will be identified with a special tag indicating that it should not be placed on the regular baggage carousel for passenger pickup, but rather be hand-delivered to the airline’s baggage office, where it will be zip-tied shut and only released to its owner after an ID check.

In theory, this doesn’t seem unreasonable, but practical application often fails to track with theory.  I spent several years working with the TSA at a major, international, hub airport. I tested their security, and closely observed their practices.  I am also a fairly frequent flier, who often transports firearms, so I have some particular experience and familiarity in this arena.

From a passenger perspective, I have often been bothered by the fact that my luggage, with my expensive, and well-loved firearms inside, is unceremoniously dumped onto an unsecured baggage carousel where anyone with a little chutzpah could simply pick it up and walk away with it.  There was a problem with that happening at Phoenix Sky Harbor a few years ago, and the airport added some security, and began doing random claim-check matching, but that soon faded due to costs. The other side of the security issue for luggage with guns, is that as long as no one – or at least almost no one – knows that there is a gun in a bag, it is unlikely to be singled out for pilfering.  For a time, back in the late ’70s, the government mandated that luggage carrying guns be labeled with a big, orange tag that said “FIREARM INSIDE.” That practice led to bags with firearms being targeted by thieves – at the baggage claim, and among baggage handlers. One wag among the firearms community printed up some compliant tags that carried the preface, “ATTENTION GUN THIEVES.” That policy was thankfully scrapped and for the past thirty years or so, anonymity has been the main security measure.  As long as people didn’t know a bag contained a gun, it was unlikely to be targeted by thieves. This all led to the Firearm Owners Protection Act including a prohibition on any labeling to indicate that a bag contained a firearm. There is some question as to whether this new Delta policy violates that law.

If the special handling tags are used exclusively for bags containing firearms, Delta is probably breaking the law by using them.  At a minimum, the bar-code on the tags must indicate that the bag contains a firearm, so even if the tags are used for various purposes, if they are an indication of higher-value contents, they are at the least a bad idea, and very possibly still a violation of law.

Another problem likely with Delta’s new system is that airlines are often under-staffed in their baggage claim areas, meaning that travelers could face significant delays in retrieving their luggage.  If the baggage claim office is unmanned at the time your flight arrives, is your bag going to be locked in the office, or as I’ve often seen, stacked outside the baggage office door unattended? If the baggage claim agent is busy dealing with other passengers who have lost or damaged luggage, are you going to have to wait an extended time for the agent to get to you?  Is that potentially going to interfere with making connections on other airlines, buses, or trains?

Finally, there is the question of verifying that the gun made it safely to the destination.  If the bag is zip-tied shut, and you’re not supposed to open it until you’re off airport property, you have no way of making sure the gun is still there.  When I arrive at my destination and retrieve my luggage, the first thing I do is open the bag to see that the hard case containing my pistol is still there, and the locks are still in place.  I also feel the case to make sure its heft indicates the contents are still there. That might seem a little paranoid, but I’ve been in busy baggage basements, and seen TSA officers and baggage handlers remove items from bags.  With TSA’s handling procedures in some airports, it would be a simple thing for a baggage handler to mark a bag containing a firearm so that accomplices down the line could easily identify the bag later.

The biggest problem with Delta’s new firearm protocol is that it creates all of this potential for abuse and delay, while not accomplishing anything positive at all.

To my knowledge, there is only one case in all of recorded history of an airline passenger legally transporting a firearm in his checked luggage, reaching his destination and immediately using that firearm for illegal purposes.  Had Delta’s new procedures been in place at that time, there is nothing at all that would have prevented the perpetrator from going in the restroom, or going outside to a secluded corner of the pick-up area, cutting the zip-ties, and retrieving the firearm to commit his crime.

This was a bizarre, and highly unusual incident, and it is ridiculous to use it to justify adding another layer of risk and inconvenience to passengers traveling with firearms.

Armed Leftists March Against Trump

By Jeff Knox

(March 28, 2017) Eight years ago, shortly after Barack Obama was elected, a group of citizens protesting his policies gathered outside a Phoenix venue where the new president was giving a speech.  Several of the protesters were openly carrying sidearms, and one had an AR-15 slung over his shoulder. The armed protesters raised eyebrows and attracted national news media attention. MSNBC in particular hinted that the armed protesters were racially motivated showing closeups of the rifle-toter’s back, with the “evil black rifle” silhouetted against his white dress shirt.  The photos they showed were cropped in such a way that only the rifle and the shirt were visible, though the uncropped photos clearly showed the back of the African-American man’s head, the side of his face, and his hands. MSNBC later offered up a “clarification,” to correct their “mistake,” but the narrative that violent racists were carrying guns as a threat against America’s first black president persisted.

Fast-forward 8 years, and the scene in Phoenix was more threatening, and received much less coverage.  A couple of hundred supporters of President Donald Trump showed up for a Make America Great Again march from a nearby park to the Arizona State Capitol.  In response a couple of dozen counter-protesters showed up with rifles and shotguns strapped to the plate carriers on their chests, and red bandannas tied around their necks.  Many also had scarves covering their faces. The protesters marched in a 2×2, paramilitary formation past the capital in a grim show of resistance and intolerance.

A reporter from the very liberal alternative weekly New Times, fell in with the anti-Trump marchers, videoing them and trying to ask questions about their objectives.  Rather than explaining their positions or stating their goals, the marchers responded with physical intimidation and not-too-veiled threats.

The incident generated little coverage outside of the reporter’s Facebook Live, which has gone viral among pro-gun social media.  The lack of attention is not just because Americans have been desensitized to seeing armed protesters at various open carry events around the country.  It’s also because the media prefers to focus on radical right-wing extremists and militia members. People wearing body armor and openly carrying rifles and handguns have become routine for Black Lives Matter protests and anti-Trump events, but we rarely see them on the evening news.  Instead we see the “extremists” among Trump supporters, yelling obscenities and falling for the bait being offered by the anti-Trump crowd. While journalists still like to make an issue about armed protesters, they much prefer to limit their coverage of such things to the right-wing.

The groups on display at the recent Phoenix Trump rally were an interesting mix of communists, anarchists, Chicano nationalists, and confused libertarian populists.  The counter-protest was apparently organized by the local chapter of a group called Redneck Revolt, which paints itself as a populist movement of poor whites who blame all of the world’s problems on rich white men and the capitalist system.  The local group calls itself the Phoenix John Brown Gun Club, in honor of the infamous, radical abolitionist. They were joined by members of Antifascist Action Phoenix, and members of the Brown Berets, a Chicano nationalist group. All of the groups have similar rhetoric decrying fascism, capitalism, and rich, white people, and advocating for the poor and working class of all races, religions, ethnicities, and sexual denominations.  None of them seem to have any suggestions for better systems, just rejection and destruction of the current ones. All espouse revolutionary philosophies that sound very much like communism, but few will come right out and admit to being communist.

There are many unanswered questions regarding where these groups get their funding.  The Brown Berets, as part of the Chicano/Aztlan/Reconquista movement, have long had ties to communist groups and funding, but the newer “anarchist” groups that have popped up primarily since last November’s election, don’t have the historical connections, but seem to have no trouble coming up with thousands of dollars to provide signs, buses, and travel expenses to get their troops on the ground in various places around the country.

Most of the core activists in these Antifa groups are the same black-masked vandals we’ve seen turning peaceful demonstrations violent in big cities around the country for years.  Many were also involved in the Occupy protests. Now they are energized by a common enemy – Donald Trump – and anyone who supports him or anything he does. They are actively recruiting disgruntled young millennials at a startling rate.  Their core message sounds good, if you don’t think too hard about it, and their philosophy embraces the idea of violent rebellion in a way that has not been seen in this country since the days of the Weather Underground with Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers.  Then, as now, the agenda was the destruction of the American capitalist structure. The only difference in the propaganda of today from that of the Weather Underground in the ’60s, is that Dohrn and Ayers openly advocated a classless, communist society as the ultimate goal.  Today’s radicals just refer to the goal as a classless society, minus the reference to communism.

As Bob Dylan said in the song that gave the Weather Underground its name, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”  Better batten down the hatches.

No Free Speech for You!

By Jeff Knox

(March 15, 2017) The state of Maryland has prosecuted, convicted, fined, and sanctioned a pair of political activists for producing and delivering an automated phone message thanking a candidate for taking a particular position on a controversial issue.  Everything said in the message was true and accurate, but the ad hoc organization the two men created to carry their message was ruled to be invalid, so the disclaimer at the end of the message declaring the group responsible for the message, was ruled to be inadequate to meet Maryland’s campaign laws.  The men, Dennis Fusaro and Stephen Waters, were sentenced to 30 days in jail, 3 years of probation, and fines of about $1000 each, but they are appealing the conviction based on rights to free speech under the First Amendment and a corollary recognized by Maryland’s constitution. The cost and inconvenience of the appeal will far exceed the sentence, but Fusaro and Waters say that their prosecution and convictions raise serious constitutional questions and should not be allowed to stand.

The right to free speech is sacrosanct to Americans, except, it seems, political speech of a flavor disagreeable to the bureaucrats in charge.  Back in the early days of the Republic our founding fathers valued political speech above all else – even above religious speech – and they routinely exercised that right anonymously.  But today in America, campaign contributions, political advertisements, and producing electioneering materials are tightly regulated, and unlike voting, they require identification. Of course anonymous political speech hasn’t gone away completely.  We still have some semblance of anonymity on the internet, even though though true anonymity online is very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. The rich and powerful can still hide behind front-groups and layers of PACs and bundlers to conceal their involvement, but for Joe Average American, anonymous political speech is difficult and can be, as Fusaro and Waters found out, a criminal offense.

The gatekeepers of free speech in Maryland disapproved of what Fusaro and Waters chose to say during a County Council race in 2014.  The duo did not advocate for or against any candidate, but they wanted to highlight one of the candidates’ position on certain issues, and they wanted to do it anonymously.  The method of political speech they chose was an automated phone message, so-called Robocalls, and the way they cloaked their involvement was by forming an ad hoc association to take credit for the calls.  They wrote a script, pooled their money, and paid for the calls to be recorded and delivered to a select group of people in the county. To meet identification requirements and disavow any connection to any other candidate, committee, or party, they included an obligatory statement at the end declaring that the ad was paid for and authorized by their ad hoc organization.

If Mike Bloomberg wants to impact a local political race, as he frequently does, he doesn’t buy a billboard or send out postcards with the message “I’m Mike Bloomberg and I paid for this political hit-piece.”  Instead, one of his minions finds a few local people – or just moves to town and declares herself a local – and creates a front-group with a name like “Nevadans for Gun Safety.” Then Bloomberg gives money to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America or Everytown for Gun Safety – or one of their subsidiary or related organizations – which passes the money on to the astroturf “local group” to buy ads saying what Bloomberg wants said.  That is considered perfectly acceptable by the political speech police in Maryland and elsewhere.

What Fusaro and Waters did was no different.  They formed an organization – which legally requires nothing more than agreeing to form it – contributed some money to that organization, and as principals in the organization, arranged to have their message delivered to local residents.  The judge in the case noted that the two took pains to meet the requirements of Maryland election law, but he painted those efforts as attempts to skirt the intent of those laws because they did not identify themselves directly. The penalty he meted out to the two activists was even harsher than the prosecution had requested, because he said a message needed to be sent to future scofflaws who might want to express a political belief without clearly identifying themselves.

Legal observers say the case is unusual in several respects, and that it appears that Maryland is intentionally using the case to establish some legal precedents to make it easier to control political speech in the future.  There is no shortage of case-law already on the books regarding free speech issues, but those precedents can be confusing and in some cases are contradictory.

Fusaro and Waters’ case has attracted some attention and assistance from a few civil rights groups, but none of the heavy hitters like the ACLU have waded into the case, probably due to the fact that Waters and Fusaro tend to advocate for “conservative” and libertarian positions that are not looked upon favorably by “liberal,” legal assistance groups.

The message itself, and Fusaro and Waters’ objectives in delivering it, should have no bearing on the legal case.  There is no argument that the message was true and accurate. The only real bone of contention is attribution of the call to an informal organization that couldn’t be easily tracked down and its members identified.

Appealing this case is going to cost thousands of dollars, and your help is needed to fund the case.  Losing the appeal – or not appealing at all – leaves a very dangerous precedent on the books, cutting deeper into your right to express yourself on political matters.

If you’d like to assist in this case, you can make a tax-deductible donation through www.RightsWatch.org.  Every little bit matters – whether it’s a little bit of money to help with this case, or a little more encroachment on rights by politicians looking to protect their seats.  Please donate if you can.

The Crime of Self-Defense

By Jeff Knox

(March 1, 2017) A video journalist in Oregon is facing hard time for brandishing a gun to defend himself from an angry mob.  The journalist, Michael Strickland, was covering a Black Lives Matter protest march in Portland on July 7, 2016 – the same day that a BLM supporter in Dallas murdered 5 police officers and injured 9 others, along with 2 civilians during a BLM march in that city.  Strickland is a fixture at left-wing events, and is well-known among organizers and participants for his mocking YouTube channel called Laughing at Liberals.  His activities are not popular with the groups, and at some recent events, protesters have violently confronted him.  He has been physically assaulted, sustaining a broken arm, and has camera equipment stolen.

During the Portland protest, a mob spotted Strickland, pushed him around, and ordered him to leave. An attempt was made to take his camera away, but Strickland extricated himself and moved down the street.  A few minutes later, the “free speech” activists again confronted Strickland. This time a large, obviously angry man was the central figure bearing down on and confronting him. Several other reporters in the area tried to calm the advancing protesters, as Strickland again attempted to retreat, but as he moved away, the tall, muscular man shrugged off his backpack and moved aggressively toward Strickland.  At the same time, an obese man wearing a black skull mask who had been among the group that had initially assaulted Strickland, rushed forward on Strickland’s left flank.

At this point, Strickland took a few quick steps backwards, yelling “Back off!” and drawing a Glock 9mm, which he first pointed in the general direction of the obese man, then swung back toward the tall muscular fellow.  As soon as the rush subsided, Strickland re-holstered the handgun while continuing to back away. A reporter said something to him, and Strickland stopped retreating long enough to express to the reporter that he thought the protesters were about to attack him, mentioning that some were brandishing heavy poles with black flags on them.

As Strickland moved on up the street, the protesters continued to follow him.  A reporter encouraged him to go on while he and others tried to keep everyone back, but Strickland expressed concern that if he turned his back, someone might try to jump him.  After getting about a half-block away from most of the protesters, he stopped to answer questions from another reporter. That was a mistake, as the angry mob again began closing in.  Finally a bystander convinced Strickland to keep moving, and he got around the corner, where a group of Portland Police took him to the ground and arrested him.

Police asked members of the crowd whether they had witnessed the events.  Then they asked if anyone present had felt directly threatened by the man with the gun.  The first person to step up to declare himself a victim was the same obese man who had been helping to instigate the confrontation.  He was later a star witness for the prosecution.

Strickland was cited on two misdemeanor counts of Menacing and Disorderly Conduct, and released on his own recognizance that night.  The next day the charges were upped to include two felony counts of Misuse of a Weapon. Bail was set at $250,000 based on claims that Strickland was some sort of white supremacist.

When prosecutors and city officials – many of whom had been “victims” of Strickland’s biting videos at Laughing at Liberals – realized who Strickland was, the charges began stacking up.  He was eventually indicted, tried, and convicted of 10 felony counts of Unlawful Use of a Weapon, 10 counts of Menacing, and one count of Disorderly Conduct.  He will be sentenced in May, and faces in excess of 50 years in prison. None of the people who attacked him have been charged.

All of the altercation was captured on video from multiple angles, but few of those videos have surfaced.  Strickland’s own video of the events was seized by the police and has not been released. Part of it was shown in court, but it has not been made available to the public.  What is available is cluttered and confusing – as, no doubt, was the actual event. The videos clearly show several people crowding and menacing over Strickland, then aggressively moving toward him until the gun appears and they back off.

Strickland’s lawyers, convinced that a fair trial could not be had in extremely “liberal” Multnoma County, asked for a change of venue, but that was denied.  When the jury pool proved to be exactly as expected, the lawyers advised waiving the jury trial and taking the case directly to the judge. Hindsight suggests that was a mistake, as the judge declared that Strickland was not being threatened and was not justified in deploying his handgun.  One of the organizers of the protest admitted during the trial that a group of enforcers had been tasked with keeping Strickland away from the protest – by force if necessary.

As someone knowledgeable about firearms and self-defense, I think Mr. Strickland made some questionable decisions that day, but I believe the videos clearly show a man in fear of imminent, grave bodily harm taking action to prevent that harm.  Much of this case is reminiscent of prosecutors blaming a rape victim for dressing provocatively and walking in a seedy neighborhood after dark. The conclusion seems to be that Mr. Strickland brought this all upon himself by posting controversial videos, carrying a gun, and going where he knew people hated him.  His greatest offense appears to have been that of being an outspoken conservative in a liberal community.

In Portland, conservative lives don’t matter.