Gun Control: A Sworn Dogma of Democrat’s War on Guns

(April 12, 2019) While many states were rolling back onerous gun control laws over the past few decades, a few states like California, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, have doubled down on their gun control schemes, competing with each other to see which can most severely restrict their citizens’ fundamental rights.

The politicians in these states are never satisfied, and every “good first step in the right direction” is always followed by an almost immediate next “good first step” in the same direction. But we expect this sort of two-faced chicanery from the urban centers of the gun control movement. What we didn’t expect (though we should have) was the sudden onslaught of attacks on gun owner rights in states with extremely low rates of firearm-related crime, and relatively lax gun laws.

Vermont, Washington, Oregon, New Hampshire, Nevada, and New Mexico have long histories of relatively low crime, relatively lax gun laws, and little apparent need for gun owners to actively organize and get involved in politics. Yet these states have been targeted by gun control extremists, and draconian laws have been shoved through Democrat-controlled legislatures, with false claims of “public safety” and “saving lives,” in spite of their already low crime rates and a complete lack of any evidence that the new laws will do anything to enhance public safety or save lives.

The facts no longer matter though, because it’s all about leftist orthodoxy and billionaires’ campaign contributions now. To be a “good little Democrat,” one must completely embrace gun control.

So we see these weak-minded “good Democrat” politicians in low-crime states, receiving thousands of dollars from gun control groups like the Giffords’ and Bloomberg’s, and pushing radical gun control measures. The fact that their states’ citizens have long records of peaceful, responsible gun ownership, is irrelevant to the radical, rights-restricting zealots. They fear guns, hate gun owners, and strictly adhere to their statist dogma, which insists that they pass gun control to “solve” problems that these states have never had.

Washington State gun owners have provided decades of proof that complexity, expense, and mandatory training prior to issuing a concealed carry license, does nothing to enhance public safety.

Washingtonians have enjoyed very liberal, inexpensive, shall-issue concealed carry standards, with no training requirement, since 1961, and that has never been a problem. NONE! But in spite of licensees’ stellar record, their radical Democrat politicians are insisting that the licensing process be more complicated, more expensive, and require extensive training. Not solving a problem, just adhering to dogma.

Similarly, the citizens of Vermont have always been free to carry a gun whenever they were so inclined, with no training or licensing requirements at all. Once again, this has never been a problem, as responsible gun owners have consistently acted responsibly. Vermont’s crime rates remain among the lowest in the nation, as are their rates of firearm-related accidents.

But living up to the responsibility that comes with the right to arms, means nothing to the current crop of Democratic politicians.

It irks them and their financial backers to have such a liberal state with such liberal gun laws, so they have decided that over 200 years of responsibly exercised liberty should be flushed down the drain and new restrictions must be instituted. It has nothing to do with public safety, saving lives, or protecting children, and everything to do with advancing the new Democrat orthodoxy that guns are bad and must be tightly controlled by government nannies.

New Mexico and Nevada have had higher crime rates than Washington and Vermont, but their crime problems are readily attributable to specific socioeconomic & illegal immigration factors, unrelated to the availability, possession, or carry of firearms. But these states were targeted by the Bloomies and Giffords several years ago, and they poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into them to elect Democrat majorities in their state legislatures and governors’ offices. That investment is now being repaid by dutiful Democrat politicians passing and signing restrictions on private firearm transfers, and deadly so-called “red-flag” laws to deprive people who have committed no crime of their right to arms. All based solely on hearsay, without any semblance of due process. Again, not because these laws will save lives or make people safer, but because they comport with the new, “progressive,” Democrat anti-freedom orthodoxy.

Second Amendemnt Sanctuary Cities/Counties

In response to these heavy-handed tactics, citizens have turned to their local politicians to stand up to these draconian measures. City councils, county boards, and sheriffs have responded with resolutions, proclamations, and statements opposing the new laws, and declaring that these unconstitutional assaults on liberty will not be enforced within their jurisdictions.

This growing trend around the country has provoked authoritarian responses from state attorneys general, including almost identical letters from the Washington and New Mexico AG’s, as exposed in this Tweet from the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association. The similarity of the letters strongly suggests that these folks are getting guidance from the same source, probably based in New York City.

The word Liberal used to mean “loose” or “freely,” and be associated with liberty, but it has been hijacked by statist, government control freaks. It is outrageous that “liberal” politicians would steal liberty in places that have long records proving that liberty works, and call it “progressive.”

As we have said for decades, gun control is not about guns, it’s about control. Time to step up our game and fight back harder.

Washington: Voter’s Rights Under Fire

(March 15, 2019) For almost 60 years, the state of Washington has been the gold standard for straight-forward concealed carry licensing.

Washington has had shall-issue concealed carry with no training requirement since 1961, and there has never been any sort of problem reported as a result of their simple law which requires a small application fee, a basic criminal background check, and fingerprints.

No mandatory training. No local law enforcement discretion. No need to be pals with a judge or a politician like in NJ. Just a simple application and a small fee. It’s worked beautifully. No blood in the streets. No running gun battles over fender-benders. No string of untrained license holders shooting themselves or others in foolish accidents or angry confrontations. In fact, licensed concealed carriers in Washington State have been exemplary in their prudent exercise of their right to carry. Not only have they historically been on par with licensees in other states, but they have also statistically come in on the low side of accidents, misuse, and other firearms-related mishaps. Even when compared to states with rigorous training requirements. What’s even more significant about this is the fact that concealed carry licensees, on the whole, have a well-established record of extremely low crime and firearm misuse – lower even than sworn police officers – and the licensees of Washington State have historically been on the low side of that already impressive statistic.

The record of Washington concealed carry licensees has been so exemplary that I, and others, have often used that record as proof that mandatory training requirements are spurious and serve no purpose other than to make legally carrying a concealed firearm more expensive and complicated, and therefore less affordable and less attractive.

But in spite of the stellar record of Washington State gun owners in general, and the state’s licensed carriers, in particular, Washington voters have passed two major rights-restricting initiatives,. Now Democrat politicians in the State Legislature want to penalize Washington gun owners further by “improving” the concealed carry licensing system that has proven so effective for the past 59 years. They want to mandate expensive training and additional delays, along with further restrictions on magazine capacity and so-called “assault weapons,” and additional ways to “temporarily” revoke people’s Second Amendment rights and confiscate their guns on word-of-mouth accusations. The new restrictions are coming, not because politicians want to fix current or potential future problems, and not because any of these proposals will save lives – they know they won’t.

The actual reasons politicians are pushing this radical agenda are two-fold: Fear and hatred of guns and gun owners and love of Mike Bloomberg’s money.

Washington has long been controlled by West Coast Democrats and “moderate” Republicans. It is one of the top producers of agricultural products in the country, growing much of the nation’s potatoes, wheat, cherries, apples, and other food crops, along with things like grass seed. The state is also home to Boeing, with its massive ranks of unionized workers, Microsoft, and dozens of smaller, but very profitable tech companies. Washington doesn’t have state income taxes, so it is a magnet for Silicon Valley billionaires wanting to cash-in their bonuses and stock options with the smallest tax bite possible. All these circumstances have pushed the state farther and farther to the left. As the Seattle area has grown, populations in the rest of the state – the farming and, until recently, logging regions that comprise the bulk of the state’s land area – have grown more slowly, bolstered mostly by retirees, and becoming much more dependent upon tourism. Much of that growth is also coming from California and other “liberal” wastelands. The result has been a fairly rapid transition from a center-left legislature with strong representation from rural areas, to a hard-left, urban-dominated legislature able to ride rough-shod over the “ignorant hicks from the hinterlands.”

Many of the Seattle elites have long been bothered by the state’s relatively lax gun laws, but they didn’t have the political power to change them. The rural areas have been able to hold the line, blocking attempts to enact stricter state gun laws, but unable to pass improvements like expanded concealed carry reciprocity agreements with neighboring states. The anti-rights forces always seemed to come up short – until Bloomberg brought his billions to bear in the state.

Even though Initiative 1639 passed in Washington State last fall, several county sheriffs are refusing to enforce it because they believe it to be unconstitutional. (Dave Workman photo)
Even though Initiative 1639 passed in Washington State last fall, several county sheriffs are refusing to enforce it because they believe it to be unconstitutional. (Dave Workman photo)

Bloomberg’s minions did extensive analysis and polling across the country, and they decided that Washington gun rights were ripe for the picking. They rolled in with a cadre of media and marketing professionals, fundraisers and organizers, along with an almost unlimited budget. Bloomberg convinced local billionaires like Bill Gates and Paul Allen, along with a large collection of Microsoft and other dot-com millionaires, to bankroll an initiative effort to criminalize private firearm transfers. They spent some $15 million to convince people to vote for the initiative, which the media insisted had support from “over 90% of Americans”. They are outspending opponents 8 to 1 or more and managed to pass the initiative with about a 60% to 40% split.

Not quite the 90+% the media had promised. But the private transfer ban was just a “good first step,” and Bloomberg remained active in the state, dumping additional millions into election campaigns of anti-rights extremists. Their next target was an initiative to disarm people suspected of being a danger to themselves or others, a so-called “red flag” law. Again they outspent opponents by millions, and again they were successful, but again, this law was characterized as just a “good first step.” The pressure continued. Bloomberg and the Gifford gang continued to fund legislative candidates who promised to march to their gun control drum, and they succeeded in electing enough of them to change the balance of power in the legislature and advance their radical agenda.

Five years ago, Washington was one of the most “gun-friendly” states in the nation. Today they are vying for the title of most gun-restrictive. And the transformation happened without any significant shift in crime or other firearm misuses in the state but was instead motivated solely by political ideology, irrational fears, and money. This is an example of the insatiable appetite of anti-rights zealots. They are never satisfied with their “good first steps” and always, always want to take another and another.

Now gun owners in Washington are being crushed under the heel of the nanny state. If GunVoters fail to effectively rally their fellow gun owners and lovers of liberty to their cause in the next election cycle, Washington will almost certainly become just a northern suburb of San Francisco and a west-coast cousin of NY. NJ and CT.

Individual liberty in the Evergreen State is gasping at what could be its last breaths.

Note: Jeff lived in Washington for a number of years, mounting an unsuccessful bid for the State Legislature in 2002, challenging a 6-term Democrat incumbent in, what was at that time, Eastern Washington’s only Democrat-held district.

Second Amendment Sanctuary Zones, Taking Back Ground?

(March 7, 2019) Over the past year or so, extremist gun control laws have exploded in several states, primarily as a result of urban majorities riding roughshod over their rural neighbors.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Washington and Oregon, two states with historically liberal gun laws and low crime rates, that have been overwhelmed by a combination of growing urban populations and a sudden influx of cash from anti-rights billionaires.

Mike Bloomberg, with the help of Bill Gates and other ultra-wealthy Washingtonians, has funded a string of modest-sounding (but in reality extreme) gun control measures through Washington’s voter initiative process. The result: a once gun-friendly state suddenly in the running for the title of most firearm-restricted state in the country.

Oregon has gone a similar direction, but instead of initiatives, the assault on individual rights originated in that state’s Democrat-controlled legislature, again with the help of millions of dollars from Bloomberg and his pals. But the Northwest isn’t the only place the anti-gun ratchet has been turning. Illinois, where Chicago and its massive crime problem has long driven anti-gun efforts, is looking at statewide burdensome regulations on licensed dealers. New Mexico, and Nevada have also jumped on the gun control bandwagon with increasingly restrictive laws and legislative proposals.

Second Amendment Sanctuary Zones

In response, sheriffs, county commissioners, and city councils around the country have started passing “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions, and declaring their intent to ignore and not enforce laws that violate the right to arms.

Unlike the “Sanctuary” designation adopted by cities, counties, and even states in opposition to enforcement of federal immigration laws, the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement isn’t pushing a local agenda over federal enforcement, but rather they are standing up for the supreme law of the land – the U.S. Constitution – over state laws that infringe on enumerated rights.

One of my favorite political commentators, Bill Whittle, recently voiced concern about the 2A Sanctuary movement on one of his Bill Whittle Now programs on YouTube.

His objection was that by using the “sanctuary” model, he feels that activists are falling into a trap by failing to take the fight to its source – the state legislature – to fix the problem, rather than be isolated and slowly walled off in smaller and smaller “rights enclaves.”

I would agree with him, if establishing small “freedom zones” were the final objective of the movement, but it’s not.

The 2A Sanctuary movement is not a final objective, but rather a tactic in the larger fight. The cities, towns, and counties take these positions, not as barricades to hide behind, but rather as declarations of war against their over-reaching legislators. They are rally points for lovers of freedom, where they can make plans for taking back their state legislatures and restoring the rule of the Constitution.

When an individual citizen stands up and declares “I will not comply” with laws they consider unconstitutional, that one small voice can be easily silenced. When many citizens band together and make the same declaration, they are a much louder voice that is much harder to silence. But when elected officials within a jurisdiction stand together with their fellow citizens and make the declaration on behalf of their constituents – and presumably with the support and approval of those constituents – it is a revolutionary statement that cannot be squelched or silenced. If these local politicians are indeed supported by their constituents, they will be reelected or elected to higher office, and the politicians who have pushed the unconstitutional laws will be turned out for their traitorous actions.

There’s no question that accepting unconstitutional laws as valid within the state, but not in some narrow jurisdiction, would be a serious mistake. Accepting evil for others, as long as rights are protected for me, is never acceptable. Drawing a line in the sand and declaring that creeping criminality shall not be tolerated beyond that line, and then pushing the line outward to encompass the entire state and nation, is exactly the right thing to do and is a noble effort. These local politicians – county board members, sheriffs, mayors and city council members, – are putting their careers, and in some cases their personal liberty, on the line in defense of what’s right, and they are leading the charge to rectify the wrong.

Nanny-state elitists and the sheeple who follow them in their high-rise apartment buildings and gated communities in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, and Las Vegas, must be turned out of office and their radical, anti-rights ideas rejected. That will only happen when large numbers of voters from across the states and nation stand up and take action – calling, writing, marching, and most importantly VOTING.

This is a war for liberty, and there is no neutral ground nor room for complacency. There is also no room for hiding behind “sanctuary” walls. The wrong must be thrown out and the right must prevail, and that is going to require active engagement on the part of all right-thinking Americans. We all must be willing to work toward better solutions, even when our options are limited and imperfect.

If you’re not familiar with Bill Whittle’s Firewall and Afterburner series, and his more recent Right Angel and Bill Whittle Now programs on YouTube, I highly recommend you check them out at BillWhittle.com

The Blessings of Liberty for Our Posterity

(March 4, 2019) On February 16, I had the honor of addressing a rally on the Arizona Capitol grounds, in support of the Second Amendment, hosted by the group Riders U.S.A.

My topic was the importance of teaching our kids about the Second Amendment. You can watch the video or read the transcript below.

Good Afternoon Gun Lobby!

Thanks for coming out on this beautiful day in the land of the free!

I think you all know that this is the land of the free because it’s the home of the brave.

God bless our young men and women who sign that blank check and swear that oath to guard the gates of freedom. And while they’re physically standing in the way of outside aggression against our nation, it’s up to us to guard the ideals, principles, and promises of the founding documents of this great nation.

Just as “the Gun Lobby” is not a bunch of overpaid suits in Washington DC – sorry to disappoint Mike Bloomberg, Nancy Pelosi, Governor Cuomo, and the like, but if the NRA disappeared tomorrow, the Gun Lobby would still be just as powerful, because it’s not the NRA, it’s the NRA members and tens of millions of dedicated patriots just like you, scattered throughout this wide land. So too is the government of the United States not the overpaid suits in Washington, but rather we the people.

“WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We’ve never been perfect in living up to the ideals expressed in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Even at the time of their writing, the Framers knew that the Constitution itself didn’t live up to the ideals they were espousing. But that didn’t keep them from expressing those lofty objectives as their – and our – ultimate goal. The target we should be shooting for. Perfection is not attainable in this world, but our charge is to do our best to strive for that unreachable goal, and not just for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

If you look at the original copies of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which I just read, you will notice that there are various words in that short passage which are capitalized. “We the people” is written over-sized, with bold strokes, and all capital letters. The words “Order,” “Union,” “Justice,” “Tranquility,” “Welfare,” “Blessings,” “Liberty,” and “Posterity,” all begin with what would today be considered by our English teachers to be improper capital letters. But at the time, capitalization was commonly used as a way to add emphasis. These were words that the framers expressed with special significance, and one of the most important in that list is the last one: “Posterity.”

Posterity is a word that we don’t use much anymore. It’s very akin to the word “Ancestors,” except it is looking in the opposite direction. As our ancestors are the generations that came before us, our posterity are the generations that come after us, and we have a sacred obligation to those generations. My fear though, is that we have been doing a poor job of educating our children about the principles of liberty, and the ideals that our republic was founded upon.

The Blessings of Liberty are not reserved for old white guys, nor are they reserved for any other select group. They are the birthright of every American, and they are framed in the context of the smallest minority – the individual. It is incumbent upon each of us to know and understand the principles of liberty, and to pass that knowledge and understanding on to our children and our children’s children for generations to come.

The Second Amendment says: “A well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state, the Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms shall not be infringed.” What this means in modern language is: Since it’s important that the people be able to come together in an orderly fashion (cooperatively or independently) to defend themselves, the country, and each other in times of need, the Right of the People (that’s you and me and everyone within the jurisdiction of the United States) to keep (acquire, own, possess) and bear (carry and use) arms (guns, knives, tasers, pepper-spray, etc.) may not be restricted or curtailed.

There’s no ambiguity about this short statement or its intent, and those who want to try and complicate and confuse it are simply wrong.

But here’s something that’s key to defending the Second Amendment: The right to arms – just like all of the Bill of Rights – belongs to everyone. It exists in great measure as a protection of all of the other rights we enjoy. We, as defenders of the Second Amendment, must also be defenders of the entire Bill of Rights, and all of the rights and privileges spelled out or implied in our founding principles, and we must defend them for everyone – whether Christian or Muslim, black, white, or brown, Republican or Democrat or Communist or monarchist. As long as they are not calling for violence or fomenting insurrection, their ideas and their philosophies are protected here – by us – including their right to espouse foolish or harmful ideas.

As Americans, we the people must do our best to live up to the ideals of our founding documents, and defend the rights of all to bring their ideas into the public square for open and honest discussion, protecting the liberty of those who might be marginalized or oppressed, to ensure that the smallest minority – the individual – can pursue their vision of happiness, unmolested and unafraid, as long as they are not trampling on the rights of others in the process.

We must live our values. Set an example, and share those values with our children, so that we might secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity far into the future.
It is a difficult charge and a lofty goal, so we must not flinch or falter, keeping our eye on the target as we aim for liberty and justice for all.

You are the Gun Lobby. We are “THE PEOPLE.” It is up to us to raise up our children in the ways of righteousness, so that they might never depart from it, and enjoy the Blessings of Liberty for generations forward.

I’m Jeff Knox of The Firearms Coalition. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your attention. Thank you for being the Gun Lobby. And God Bless America.

Practical Steps Toward Improving the NRA

(February 5, 2019) Over the years, I have often been pretty critical of the NRA and its leadership team. Even though I try to make a point of expressing my support for the organization and its mission, there are always some who see my criticism as an attack, and an attempt to tear down the organization. In this column, rather than simply pointing at the flaws and failures of the association, I want to address some practical and reasonable solutions and expectations.

It is unreasonable and unrealistic to think that a 147-year old, $300 million plus, per year organization, with an elected board of 76 deeply entrenched directors, would or could suddenly shift course and completely revamp the way they do business. Even the famous Cincinnati Revolt in 1977, which was a ground-shaking event, only resulted in only minor changes in the long-term operations of the organization – and years of wrangling for power and control. Another result of the Cincinnati Revolt, was the inevitable restructuring of the rules to make sure that nothing like it could ever happen again. That started with the revolutionaries, putting up defenses against a counter-revolution, and then was continued by the “Old Guard” as they slowly regained power. Today, virtually all of the reforms of Cincinnati have been reversed or modified beyond recognition.

So, with all of the problems that the NRA is currently facing: A $30 million deficit, declining revenue and membership numbers, legal assaults and much frustration over their Carry Guard insurance and training program, accusations of illegal campaign spending, and suggestions of improper dealings with Russian agents, and a large segment of the membership upset over what they see as capitulation on core issues… What would be realistic expectations for reforms at NRA?

To begin with, the Board of Directors needs to establish very clear guidance to the Executive Vice President and staff to ensure that every communication, every policy, every strategy, and anything else that comes out of the organization is consistent with the core values and principles of the association and the Second Amendment. This should be backed up by an oversight subcommittee of the Board, composed of Second Amendment purists who will always place principles over politics. Too often, it seems that the political operatives are driving the boat, leaving principles behind in the name of pragmatism. Closer oversight from some purists on the Board would go a long way toward solving this problem.

Next, the Board must review the audit processes that should be in place to ensure full compliance with all state and federal fundraising and political spending laws and regulations. Everyone at NRA should be very aware that everything they do will be scrutinized by regulators, reporters, and political operatives looking for any irregularity or impropriety. With that awareness, it is totally inexcusable that there should be even the slightest hint or appearance of the organization straying from the straight and narrow. We know that accusations will always be thrown at us, so we must be sure that we are absolutely scrupulous and beyond reproach in all of our dealings.

Stories that the NRA accepted large donations from Russian citizens, and then used that money to support a presidential candidate, should be easy to refute. Accusations that the NRA used the same political advertising agencies as candidates they supported – suggesting that they were coordinating independent expenditures with those campaigns – should never even come up, and if they did, NRA should be able to very quickly disprove such accusations, but so far, they have refused to even answer any questions about the matter.

The roll-out of a major new program like NRA Carry Guard should be preceded by thorough examination of the insurance and solicitation laws of every state, to ensure that there would be no conflicts or compliance issues, but that apparently didn’t happen with Carry Guard. There should also have been in-depth discussion with the Training Division and the Board committee that oversees training, along with key training counselors around the country, before such a major training initiative was introduced, but again, that apparently didn’t happen. This has resulted in fines and lawsuits from Insurance Commissioners in several states, and confusion and anger among NRA Instructors. Where was the due diligence that would have avoided these problems? The Board must institute policies and procedures to make sure such mistakes and “bad optics” don’t recur, and those responsible for the blunders must be held accountable.

Next, the Board needs to review all vendor agreements, eliminate any unnecessary programs, and begin transitioning as much as possible back in-house. Currently, the NRA pays over $40 million a year to one PR and Advertising company. They also pay a telemarketing firm something in the neighborhood of $30 million a year, and they list four separate companies just to “advise” them on fundraising, at a total of over $3 million per year – just for advice!

Then there is the issue of executive compensation. While it is not unusual for executives in some major non-profit corporations – such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts or the Guggenheim Museum – to receive compensation in excess of $1 million dollars per year, these are typically professional executives who could earn such compensation at any number of similar organizations, and are funded by wealthy patrons and huge endowments. Such is not the case with Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox. They rose to their current positions via internal political maneuvering and being in the right place at the right time. Both would be hard-pressed to find employment in the $200 to $300k range as senior lobbyists in a DC firm, and wouldn’t even be considered for any sort of senior management positions.

The Board should review all executive compensation packages and bring them down to more reasonable levels. NRA executives should not be expected to work for free, but it is simply not right to be paying LaPierre almost a million and a half dollars per year while begging hard-working NRA members for $20 contributions.

The steps suggested here are not dramatic. They would not jeopardize the stability of the organization or damage its political clout in any way, nor would they be costly or difficult. On the contrary, these steps would stabilize the NRA, refocus it on its core missions, establish proper and long-lacking Board oversight of operations, save money, reduce costly mistakes, and restore the faith of members and former members in the NRA’s mission and leadership. These are all things that the NRA Board should have been doing all along, and needs to do now.

But instead of taking these reasonable, rational steps to improve and strengthen the NRA, scuttlebutt inside the organization suggests that the leadership is going to try to “solve” the problems by creating a for-profit entity, out from under the NRA non-profit umbrella and less accessible to the prying eyes of government regulators, nosy reporters, and “disgruntled members” like me. In other words, rather than fixing the problems, they are going to try and hide them from view.

Let’s hope the rumors aren’t true, and that the NRA Board of Directors has the will and integrity to do what needs to be done.

2019 Voting for NRA Directors

It’s that time of year again. Time to vote for NRA Directors, and once again, Adam Kraut is receiving my endorsement. This year, I am also endorsing Anthony Colandro, and offering a hat tip to three of the other candidates.

If you are a Voting Member, you should have received your NRA Ballot in your magazine this week. Only NRA members who have been members for at least 5 consecutive years – with no lapses – or are Life Members, are eligible to vote in NRA elections. If you believe you are a qualified Voting Member, but didn’t receive a ballot in your February edition of your NRA magazine, you should contact the Secretary’s office at NRA HQ.

As usual, the majority of the candidates on the ballot are incumbents running for reelection. There are 27 seats to fill, representing 1/3 of the total Board plus two seats that were vacated, and there are 27 or 28 incumbents running. The disparity is due to some incumbents who were elected or appointed to fill the unexpired terms of directors who resigned or passed away last year, and the 76th Director, who is elected to a 1-year term during the Annual Meeting of Members each year. The bylaws require that the Nominating Committee include at least a few additional candidates, and there are usually a couple of candidates who were nominated only by petition of the members. This year, there are a total of 35 candidates on the ballot, to fill those 27 seats. The 27 candidates who receive the most votes, get the seats, so voting for fewer than 27 gives more weight to your ballot. Folks like Ollie North and Ted Nugent don’t need your vote. They are guaranteed to be among the top vote-getters without your help.

Only about 7% of NRA members who are eligible to vote, actually cast a ballot in any given year. There are over 2 million Voting Members, but only about 150,000 actually vote. That’s pretty sad for the leading rights organization in the world. When I’ve spoken with members who are eligible, but don’t vote, the most common explanation I hear is that they don’t feel they have enough information to be comfortable with voting. Simple answer: Only vote for the few candidates you do know something about, or trust the recommendations of people you respect.

The vast majority of those who do vote, appear to just go along with the Nominating Committee recommendations that are published in the ballot package and repeated in the full-page ad that routinely appears next to the ballot package. The ad usually just lists the Nominating Committee recommendations, but if the current leadership is feeling particularly threatened, they will sometimes pair that list down to only the number of candidates as there are seats to fill, and when they were really worried, they also published a list of candidates who they urged members not to vote for. Those ads used to be paid for by getting all of the Nominating Committee candidates to kick in a couple of hundred bucks, but in recent years, it has been unclear who is actually paying for those ads.

There are normally several thousand ballots ruled to be invalid. The most common reason is over-voting. This is generally due to a member simply going down the Nominating Committee list and voting for everyone on that list. That doesn’t work because the Nominating Committee is required to nominate more candidates than there are seats to fill, and any ballot with more votes than seats, is automatically thrown out. Other reasons for ballots being ruled invalid include failing to mark any candidates, and failing to sign the envelope.

I recommend “Bullet Voting” for just one or two candidates. You can find a fairly thorough explanation of why this gives your vote more weight, in the column linked here. To get the most bang for your vote, I would encourage you to vote for only one candidate, but if you want to vote for more, I’ll offer some suggestions.

So here are my picks for this year:

      1. Adam Kraut. I’ve endorsed Adam for the past several years, and he’s come close each year, but not quite made it. Adam is an attorney based in Pennsylvania, and is one of the lawyers working on a challenge to the BATFE’s bump-stock ban. If you really want to send a message and make an impact, then vote for only Adam Kraut.
      2. Anthony Colandro. Anthony is a firearms trainer and gun shop and range owner deep behind enemy lines in New Jersey. He’s a classic “Jersey Boy,” with the no-nonsense attitude and blunt demeanor you’d expect. There has been an attempt to undermine his candidacy with some quotes from an interview several years ago. The quotes used in the article were taken out of context though and are very misleading. In the interview, Colandro was discussing efforts to liberalize the virtually impossible concealed carry laws in New Jersey, and discussed some of the concessions NJ gun owners were willing to make to get discreet carry more available in the state, including background checks and mandatory training, but the reporter used those quotes in an article about National Reciprocity, leaving the impression that Colandro supported expanding federal background check requirements and mandatory training for all gun owners. Anthony has since made it clear that he unequivocally opposes the expansion of background checks to include private transfers, and rejects any sort of training requirement for a national reciprocity bill.
        Kraut and Colandro are my top two picks, and every additional vote hurts their chances of winning, but here are a few others that I think are worth considering. Please note that I have known Kraut and Colandro for several years, but do not personally know any of the following candidates. Coincidentally, they all happen to be named Mark.
      3. Mark Vaughan. Vaughan became famous in the rights community when he stepped up to be the good guy with a gun who stopped a workplace jihadi. Vaughan was running his family’s distribution business when a former employee came in and began attacking people. A shooter and firearms enthusiast, as well as a reserve police officer, Vaughan quickly retrieved a firearm and ended the attack. Would he be an independent voice on the Board? I can’t say, but he certainly embodies the sort of chutzpah needed for the job.
      4. Mark Geist. Geist was one of the brave contract security personnel who tried to save Ambassador Chris Stevens and then defended the U.S. Compound in Benghazi. He was the coauthor of the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi which was turned into a movie with a similar title. Geist was an early supporter of Donald Trump, but I don’t know much else about his political views or involvement in Second Amendment issues. He’s clearly extraordinarily brave and competent, but I have some reservations about his knack for self-promotion, and possible links with the NRA’s PR company, Ackerman McQueen. I would expect such an outstanding individual to be able to put aside such considerations when accepting the responsibility of representing NRA members on the Board of Directors though, so I think he is worth your consideration.
      5. Mark Robinson. Robinson rose to prominence when he made a brief statement in defense of the Second Amendment during a local city council meeting. His passion and clear oratory struck a nerve in the rights community, and the video of his statements went viral. As old sailors say, I like the cut of his jib, but I know little else about the man. Part of his famous speech indicates an imperfect knowledge of firearms and Second Amendment history, but those minor deficiencies can be readily remedied and are far outweighed by his passion and communication skills. He would be a powerful spokesman for the cause, especially in minority communities, as Mr. Robinson is African American.

I think all of these guys would probably be good additions to the Board, but it is very unlikely that all 5 can win seats, and every vote for one of them, reduces the likelihood of the others winning. It’s something of a conundrum, and there’s no simple solution.

Personally, I am going to cast a bullet ballot with only Adam Kraut’s name marked.

I urge you to take some time, thoroughly read all of the bios, do internet searches on the candidates you find interesting, visit their websites, ask them questions, and vote for the ones you believe will do the best job. But whatever you do, please don’t just do nothing. Mark your ballot, sign it, and mail it in. You are the NRA. Do your part.

Criticizing NRA Executives is NOT “Attacking the NRA”

Bless her heart, Marion Hammer just can’t help herself. She just had to take a shot at me for exposing some of the financial corruption and poor decisions in the NRA, and take some jabs at my dead father in the process. Don McDougal also wants to incorrectly frame my criticism of NRA executives as “hating on the organization.”

Let’s get one thing straight. I couldn’t agree more with the title of Mrs. Hammer’s column. NRA absolutely needs strong, proven leadership, now more than ever. Where we differ is that Marion thinks that Wayne LaPierre represents that “proven leadership,” and I think he’s at the core of the problem.

Of course, when the facts aren’t on your side, go for personal attacks.

It doesn’t matter whether my father had ambitions to take over the NRA or not. I happen to know that he didn’t, but that’s irrelevant, just as it’s irrelevant whether I’m motivated by a 20-some-year old grudge, or whether Marion or Wayne, or others at NRA have accomplished some things to be proud of. What matters is relevant facts. Facts that I laid out pretty clearly, and which Mrs. Hammer and Mr. McDougal didn’t bother to address.

I agree with Marion and Don that the NRA has done a lot of very good work over the years, and I’m proud to say that my father and many close friends played major roles in much of that good work. I’ve never said that the NRA hasn’t done good, and have argued consistently that it is critical that we have a strong and effective NRA with as many members as we can get. Unlike Marion and Don though, I am willing to recognize when NRA leaders make missteps and mistakes, and when those failures demonstrate an ongoing pattern, they need to be addressed. I’m also not willing to turn a blind eye to blatant corruption and self-serving.

Let’s go over some of the pertinent facts again:

According to NRA’s tax filings, Wayne LaPierre is receiving annual compensation in excess of $1.4 million per year, and in 2015 received over $5 million dollars from NRA.

The same filings report that Chris Cox received over $1.2 million in compensation in 2017, and at least 9 other NRA executives received compensation that was between $450,000 and $800,000 that year.

Josh Powell, Wayne’s Chief of Staff and for a time, acting ED of General Operations, received almost $800,000, including over $100,000 in “taxable expense reimbursement.”

And even though the IRS form 990 reports payments to the advertising and PR firm Ackerman McQueen in excess of $20 million as I reported, later in that same filing document, it states that Ack-Mac actually received more than twice that much – over $40 million!

I will accept a correction from Mrs Hammer on one point: I incorrectly reported that some NRA staff had been laid off, when in fact they were not NRA staffers, but rather Ack-Mac staffers working for NRA TV. Which raises another issue. Did you know that NRA TV is operated by Ack-Mac, as is the NRA magazine America’s First Freedom? Editor Mark Chestnut and familiar NRA TV personalities like Cam Edwards, Ginny Simone, Dana Loesch, etc., are Ack-Mac employees, not NRA employees. Long-time NRA Board member Robert K. Brown bragged in his last reelection bio that he had saved the association something like a half-million dollars. The bulk of that savings came from his insistence that NRA quit paying Ack-Mac over $400,000 a year for production of the online version of America’s First Freedom. As a magazine publisher himself, Brown knew NRA was paying way too much.

Marion also reiterated that Wayne and Chris had called for bump-stocks to be “regulated,” not banned. That’s true, and it was a huge mistake that led directly to the ban. I predicted this result when I called them out for that very stupid statement at the time, and called for the Board to repudiate the statement – but Marion jumped to their defense. As I pointed out then, if Wayne and Chris had said that the NRA was open to revisiting the regulations regarding bump-stocks, that might have been excusable as a political maneuver to help dodge negative action in Congress – though you have to wonder why congressional action was such a concern, when our Republican “friends” held majorities in both houses and the White House. Instead, Wayne and Chris said that the “NRA believes” that bump-stocks should be more tightly regulated, and President Trump quickly agreed and gave the order to BATFE.

Wayne and Chris have taken a similarly destructive and unprincipled position on Extreme Risk Protection Orders, merely insisting that some semblance of due process be included in the laws in order to get approval from NRA. This has given a green light to Trump and numerous Republican governors to pursue ERPO legislation to deprive gun owners of their arms based on someone’s concern that they might be dangerous, while leaving these potentially dangerous people free to roam the streets with ready access to knives, gasoline, poisons, planes, automobiles, and all manner of other dangerous and potentially deadly tools. Not only does this result in Republican “friends” doing stupid things that push GunVoters away from them, at least one person flagged by one of these ERPO’s has been killed by police trying to confiscate his guns. Have any lives been saved?

It is also a fact that NRA was over $30 million in the red in 2017, and had an almost $50 million deficit in its pension fund. These deficits aren’t due to lack of revenue, but rather irresponsible spending.

In short, Marion Hammer and Don McDougal are saying that since NRA has accomplished some good things during Wayne LaPierre’s 30 years at the helm, the members and the Board of Directors should be unconcerned about a $30 million deficit, profligate spending, cronyism, and obscene salaries. Nor should they be concerned about failure of NRA leadership to adhere to the core principles of the Second Amendment, or to ensure that all operations are above reproach and squeaky clean. And we shouldn’t be at all worried about an outside vendor owning and controlling major segments of NRA operations, and making tens of millions of dollars in profit from our association.

I respectfully disagree. I believe that principles matter, even when they are politically challenging. That giving our enemies ammunition by being careless about our business is inexcusable. And that the NRA should be controlled by a board of directors elected by the membership in fair and open elections, without interference from outside vendors or others with a financial stake in our leadership. I also believe that those who work for the NRA, especially in the higher echelons, should be motivated first by their dedication to the Second Amendment and the safe enjoyment of the shooting sports, not by monetary factors. That’s why I believe that Wayne LaPierre, with his waffling, wheedle words, outrageous salary, and cozy relationship to Ackerman McQueen, needs to go, and that the NRA needs a strong, committed, Second Amendment purist with a solid corporate management background, to lead the organization going forward.

This isn’t personal, and it’s not politics. It’s not about “tearing down” the NRA or building up any other organization. This is about principles, right and wrong, and what’s best for the NRA, gun owners, and America.

New Leadership for NRA

Time for Changes at NRA

By Jeff Knox

Bloomberg’s propaganda mill The Trace, and Mother Jones magazine, have been working together to investigate NRA’s activities, digging up as much dirt as they can find, and doing their best to keep the media rumor mill abuzz with negative NRA news. Obviously both of these “news” outlets are extremely anti-rights and anti-NRA, and they are painting everything they can find in the worst possible light, but unfortunately this is not “fake news.” The smoke our enemies have been pointing at is coming from real fires within the organization, and it’s getting worse.

The financial woes have prompted an austerity campaign on Waples Mill Road, laying off a number of employees, cutting back programs, and even doing away with coffee service for the staff. Meanwhile the guy wielding the hatchet, and the rest of the NRA executive staff, are taking home exorbitant paychecks of a half-million to almost a million-and-a-half dollars a year, and crony parasites are sucking out tens of millions more, while the organization is operating millions of dollars in the red.

[Update 01/11/19: It turns out that the employees that have been laid off are not actual NRA employees, but rather Ack-Mac employees for NRA TV.  Apparently NRA TV doesn’t actually belong to NRA, and its employees, including Cam Edwards, and Dana Loesch, are employed by Ack-Mac.  The layoffs were among lower-level production staff.  — JAK]

The basic financial problems will probably be rectified in the short-term by the insatiable avarice of the new Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Now that Nancy Pelosi and her anti-rights zealots have actively begun pushing new gun control legislation, Bob and Sally Gunowner will again be digging into their pockets to send in another twenty bucks to the NRA, and the organization’s finances will soon appear to be back on reasonably solid ground. But the core problems won’t go away so easily.

An organization that depends on $20 contributions from hard-working members, should be extremely scrupulous about how they raise and spend those dollars, but the leadership of NRA has demonstrated a serious lack of concern about such things, paying executives exorbitant salaries, and signing blank checks to outside vendors. At the same time, leadership has made serious blunders in a variety of directions, from the heavy-handed roll-out of their CCW training/insurance program – NRA Carry Guard – to seriously questionable practices in the areas of fundraising and political contributions, and downright foolish and unprincipled positions taken on bump-stocks, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and other critical, core mission matters. They’ve even managed to alienate the competitive shooters who have been a mainstay of the organization since it was founded in 1871.

The NRA Board of Directors came within just a few votes of the 2/3 majority needed to fire Wayne Lapierre back in 1996 when similar financial and philosophical problems boiled over. The problems then were serious, but didn’t hold a candle to the problems we’re seeing today. At that time, one of the major bones of contention was the undue influence of the NRA’s outside PR company, Ackerman McQueen. Directors were upset about the fundraising tactics Ack-Mac was employing, and the base fees of over a quarter-million dollars a year being paid out to them with no accountability.

With Ack-Mac’s help, LaPierre survived that challenge, and thrived. They helped him push Neal Knox and the other Directors who had pushed for accountability, off the Board. From there, payments to Ack-Mac skyrocketed, and LaPierre’s personal compensation doubled, then doubled again, going from $250,000 per year to almost $1.5 million. Ack-Mac was listed on NRA’s most recent IRS filing as receiving over $20 million that year in direct compensation.

The current Board of Directors has allowed this situation to get where it is today. They’ve failed in their fiduciary responsibility to safeguard the members’ resources, and to keep the association focused on their core missions. While there are many good people on the Board, they have demonstrated a serious lack of gumption and integrity. That’s why we have consistently worked to bring new blood into the group, and why we are again endorsing Adam Kraut for election to the Board. We’re also endorsing Anthony Colandro from New Jersey this year, and might find one or two others we’ll ask you to vote for as we learn more about the candidates.

We are well past the point where the current leadership can be expected to correct the situation from within. Wayne LaPierre has got to go, along with the entirety of the executive staff, and all support contracts need to be reevaluated and either dropped or seriously renegotiated.

This leaves the question, if not Wayne, then who? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that question. The NRA needs a new CEO who is 100% dedicated to the principles of the Second Amendment, and who has the management skills to completely revamp the organization from top to bottom. That’s a tall order, especially when you enter in the political complications of trying to bring in someone like a former governor or others with close government and/or party ties. Perhaps the best option would be an interim candidate, someone like a retired CEO or former General like James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who would serve for a year or two, wield the bloody hatchet, then step down to turn the reins over to a more permanent executive to take the revamped and streamlined organization forward.

This is a discussion that we need to have, and when I say “we,” I mean you too. Do you know, or know of someone who fits the bill? Please leave a comment, and let’s get this discussion going. The Democrats in Congress will probably help the NRA to recover from their immediate financial woes by triggering a boost in donations, but more money isn’t going to solve the real problems, only a major overhaul will accomplish that – if it can be done at all.

Meanwhile, we at The Firearms Coalition will continue fighting the good fight and keeping you posted on what’s going on at Waples Mill Road and in Washington DC, so please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing to our newsletter, sending contributions, and sharing these articles on social media.

The BIG Problem with the Bump-Stock Ban

Losing Bump-Stocks

By Jeff Knox

The Second Amendment means what it says, and laws restricting access to, or possession of firearms, ammunition, firearms accessories, knives, swords, nunchaku, billy clubs, black-jacks, or other implements of war or personal defense, violate the fundamental right to arms and the Second Amendment. Any gun is every gun, and any law restricting anything that can be characterized as a personal arm is an assault on all types of arms.

That’s the philosophy. Now let’s talk about existing law and bump-stocks.

Under the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act, machine guns are tightly regulated, and no new machine guns can be added to the existing pool of legally transferable machine guns. The BATFE has promulgated – at the president’s instructions, and with the agreement of the NRA – new regulations “clarifying” the terms “single function of the trigger” and “automatic” as they relate to the definition of “machine gun” under these laws. The effect of these “clarifications” is to support their declaration that “bump-stock-type devices” convert semi-automatic firearms into full-automatic firearms, thus making the devices themselves “machine guns” and subject to the restrictions set forth in the NFA and GCA.

The new determination also opens up a new avenue of attack on all semi-automatic firearms, as they all now meet the definition of a weapon that “can be readily restored to shoot” more than one shot with a single function of the trigger. That is a very big problem.

This new ruling is almost certainly going to survive the legal challenges being brought against it, and I see it as highly improbable that those challenges will be successful at doing anything more than possibly delaying the enforcement of the new restrictions for a short time, and just maybe getting some compensation for owners who are forced to surrender or destroy the devices (though I think that is very unlikely).

Unfortunately, we the people have allowed the federal government to restrict certain classes of firearms for over 80 years, and in that time, substantial case law and precedent supporting those restrictions, has been built up. The core issue of the constitutionality of these restrictions has never had a serious day in court, and this reinterpretation of the regulations is not going to provide that constitutionality hearing. If it did, we would almost certainly lose. Not because we’re wrong and the restrictions on machine guns are right, but because there is not enough jurisprudence and scholarly opinion in place to effectively support our arguments, and most judges and politicians are terrified at the idea of machine guns being legal. They will bend over backwards to make sure that doesn’t happen. Even the late Justice Antonin Scalia made it a point to exclude machine guns from the Heller decision, on the basis of an “in common use” test. He applied a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance to argue that machine guns are not commonly owned in the U.S., while ignoring the fact that the only reason they are not more common is that they have been heavily restricted for over 80 years, and virtually banned since 1986.

Regardless of the devious and circuitous ways we got to where we are today, the fact is, the cards are heavily stacked against machine guns, and there is little that can be done against the phalanx of laws, regulations, and judicial prejudice lined up against them.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t try. I strongly support efforts to challenge this new BATFE regulation. The first challenge case was filed by the Firearms Policy Coalition, and is being handled by attorneys Josh Prince and my good friend Adam Kraut (who I am again endorsing in his run for a seat on the NRA Board of Directors). Erich Pratt at Gun Owners of America has also announced plans to file a suit against this BATFE reversal, and I applaud both efforts. I just don’t think it’s likely that either will be successful, because I believe BATFE’s arguments for their decision will be very convincing to any judge who hears them.

The argument boils down to whether a firearm employing a bump-stock is “automatically” cycling the action and firing more than one shot with “a single function of the trigger.” Our side says no, because each shot requires some manual action on the part of the shooter to actuate the next shot. The counter argument from the new BATFE Firearms Technical Branch analysis contends that the act of maintaining steady forward pressure with the support hand – which is a critical requirement of all bump-fire-type devices, and is included in all of their operator instructions – constitutes a “single function.” The shooter’s steady forward pressure on the fore-end replaces the trigger finger as the actuator of the firing cycle, and that steady forward pressure can readily be characterized as a “single function.” The shooter is not releasing and reapplying pressure as they would firing in normal semi-auto mode, but rather maintaining steady pressure, which is momentarily overcome by each recoil pulse. The gun automatically repeats the firing cycle as long as the forward pressure is maintained, and there are only a handful of judges in the country who would not agree with that explanation and conclude that the described process meets the statutory and regulatory definitions of a machine gun.

We can argue among ourselves about these technical distinctions, but until everything goes to hell in a hand-basket, a group of judges reading current laws, regulations, and judicial precedents will be the ones making the final decision, and I see virtually no chance of them agreeing with our side.

While I’m not happy about how this has all gone down, and where it has ended up, I’m much more concerned about the broader implications of this new regulation going forward.

For decades, rights advocates have argued that conversion of a semi-automatic into a full-automatic, is a complicated and difficult process requiring specialized skills and equipment. Though there have been various work-around techniques demonstrated, such as the infamous, full-auto shoestring, and the time-honored, file-down-the-disconnector trick, there has never been an easy way to truly convert a semi-automatic into a machine gun. This new regulation changes that.

Whether you agree with the BATFE’s new definitions or not, once this goes into effect, under the law, it will be a very easy thing to technically “convert” any semi-auto into a “machine gun.” And that creates some very serious issues, because the law also defines “machine gun” to include “any weapon” that can be “readily restored to shoot” more than one shot with a single function of the trigger.

It is also long-established law, that “readily restored” actually means “easily converted” to fire full-auto, such as the KG-9 pistol, which was classified as a machine gun because it fired from an open bolt, and could be relatively easily converted to full-auto by filing off the secondary sear.

By legally defining “bump-stock-type devices” as “machine guns” that can convert semi-automatic guns into “machine guns,” then by these same definitions, any semi-automatic rifle becomes a “machine gun” because they can all be “readily restored” to be “machine guns.”

We’re not likely to see an attack from this direction while Donald Trump is in the White House, but he won’t be there forever, and once he’s gone, and the next Obama/Clinton/Sanders, etc. holds the reins of the executive branch, there will be no legal barrier to the Attorney General “recognizing” the “danger” of all those “machine guns” in public hands, and criminalizing them with a scratch of a pen.

The Supreme Court has already allowed a lower court to get away with distorting Justice Scalia’s dicta in the Heller case to mean that AR15s are not covered by the Second Amendment because they are “like M-16s,” and Scalia himself, made it clear in his dicta that he didn’t want to include machine guns in the protections of the Second Amendment, so we can’t expect much support from that quarter.

The bump-stock issue has been mishandled from the beginning, and now it has turned into a matter that can do little more than raise some money for a few groups and reduce unemployment for lawyers, while blowing a gaping hole in our future defense of the Second Amendment.

Shooting the Good Guys

Good Guys Down

By Jeff Knox

November saw two highly publicized tragedies where police officers responding to the scenes of shootings, shot and killed the wrong man. In both cases, the victims were legally armed. In both cases, the victims were black, as were the perpetrators of the original shootings. Of course, the media has chosen to focus primarily on the race issue, reinforcing the idea that blacks are disproportionately victims in wrongful police shootings, and stoking the flames of outrage within the black community.

Not only does the focus on race, drive a wedge between blacks and whites, and between police and the community, it also diverts attention from the real reasons for these types of tragedies, and potential solutions.

Those of us who choose to be armed, must have a solid grasp on the real-world risks and consequences of wielding deadly force. While a gun can save lives, carrying and using one always comes with complications. Our society specifically tasks police with use of force to stop criminal violence and restrain law-breakers, and even though their authority is derived directly from “we the people,” our social structure has largely ceded the individual authority of the people, into the hands of the police, reserving only a very narrow slice for individual citizens. That authority has not always been ceded evenly, either. There are gaps and overlaps leading to conflicts between a citizen’s right to bear arms and act on his own behalf, and the duties and limits of police authority. Police also enjoy certain immunities and protections – both legally, and as a matter of generally accepted terms within our social contract.

Since it is the job of police to go into harm’s way, deal with bad guys, and use force up to and including deadly force, in the execution of their job, society generally gives them the benefit of the doubt when things get sketchy.

Armed citizens don’t get those benefits and presumptions, regardless of our level of training or experience. We also don’t usually have the benefit of a uniform or badge to readily identify us as the good guy during a hectic event. Our first challenge is surviving the initial threat, but then we have to be sure to survive the arrival of those coming to save us from the threat. Afterwards we run through the legal gauntlet of criminal and civil actions trying to blame us for defending ourselves – not to mention the emotional trauma that comes from the whole mess – without the benefit of a police union representative and “paid administrative leave.”

In both of the recent instances, the legal gun owners were put in difficult situations that made it virtually impossible for them to do much of anything differently. In the first tragedy, the good guy was working security at a bar when a group of men who had been kicked out earlier returned. One of them opened fire on patrons in the bar. The security worker tackled the gunman (or one of his accomplices) and had his gun in his hand when the police rushed in. Officers apparently thought the security guy was the assailant, about to execute a patron on the floor, and they fired, killing the good guy.

I put little credence in the claims of some of the patrons that they yelled at police that the man was bar security. As the situation was described by those same patrons, there didn’t seem to be time for them to recognize the danger to the security guard from the police before the shots were fired. Whether the security guard had time to safely holster before police arrived – or shouldn’t have drawn the gun at all – is unknown. Police seemed to have arrived very quickly, and in this case, as with the next story, that rapid response did not work to the benefit of the armed citizen.

In the second incident, a young man was at a local shopping mall with a friend on Thanksgiving evening. The friend got into a physical altercation with another man in the mall, and that man pulled a gun and started shooting. The good guy drew his sidearm, but apparently didn’t fire. Police patrolling the mall arrived at that moment, and saw a man with a gun in his hand and another man bleeding on the ground. They fired, and the innocent gun owner was killed.

So far, police have withheld release of any body-cam or security camera footage from either of these shootings, and descriptions of events from witnesses are sketchy at best, so it’s difficult to determine with any confidence exactly what happened or what could have been done differently – by the armed civilians or by the police. It is sad and frustrating that tragedies like this happen, and even sadder that people will exploit them for political purposes – some claiming that police are too anxious to open fire on black men, and others claiming that these cases prove that armed citizens just complicate already bad situations.

In truth, white people are wrongfully killed by police too, as in Colorado when a homeowner was shot after killing a home invader who was attacking his grandson. In these particular circumstances, it’s unlikely that skin color played any role at all. While tragic mistakes happen, they are rare, and armed citizens successfully use firearms to defend themselves or others, every day in this country, without being shot by police.

If the officers involved in these deaths were overly aggressive or “trigger-happy,” they should be punished, but based solely on initial reports, it appears that in these cases, the only blame lies with the original perpetrators who started the shooting, and they should be charged with felony murder for the loss of these innocent lives.

Ammunition for the grassroots gun rights movement