Mission statement:

Armed and Safe is a gun rights advocacy blog, with the mission of debunking the "logic" of the enemies of the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

I can be reached at 45superman@gmail.com.You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/45superman.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The 2nd Amendment is now safe, even in emergencies

With the passage of H.R. 5013, the "Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006", Congress has affirmed that Constitutional rights are not conditional, and not subject to suspension upon declaration of a disaster. Makes sense, really, when one looks at the definition of the word "unalienable." It makes sense for more reasons than that, of course. The chaos and anarchy inherent to the immediate aftermath of a major disaster can make the possession of firearms the difference between life and death for law-abiding citizens.

Another concern is the possibility that officials could get a little loose with the definition of "disaster." Is it inconceivable that a governor with a rabidly anti-gun agenda could declare that an "epidemic of gun violence" constitutes a disaster? Unlikely, sure--but not inconceivable. If the confiscations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina had gone unchallenged (or unsuccessfully challenged) I have little difficulty envisioning a gun-hating governor looking for the opportunity to implement his or her own "emergency" confiscations.

It's unfortunate that the 2nd Amendment needs this protection, but since it clearly does, Congress has taken an important step in making Americans, and liberty, safer. Now all that remains is for President Bush to follow the lead of Congress, and to sign this essential bill into law.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Every gun law is aimed at disarming you: the case for fighting ALL "gun control"

I had already known, of course, that Josh Sugarmann (head cheerleader for the Violence Policy Center) is an extremist in his drive to end private firearm ownership in the U.S., but I hadn't known the sheer magnitude of his extremism. That is, until today, when I discovered his most recent book: Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case For Banning Handguns. As stated, I just discovered the existence of this book today, so I have not read it. Also, I refuse to spend a dime for such a book--the gun rights deprivation lobby is appallingly well funded already--far be it from me to help them out further. If I can get it at the library, I probably will.

Without even having read it yet, though, I feel safe in drawing a conclusion or two. Chief among those is that, as Amazon's blurb about the book makes clear, Sugarmann isn't even wasting time pretending to argue for "reasonable restrictions," or "common sense gun laws." Licensing and registration, both of which are despised by any civil liberty conscious gun owner, would be, in Sugarmann's estimation, not going far enough to reduce "gun violence." Apparently, the opening sentence is "A single consumer product holds our nation hostage: the handgun,"--nothing sensationalist about that, is there?

It would be extremely unrealistic to think that Sugarmann plans to stop with handguns, and in fact he has already shrilly advocated bans on .50 caliber rifles and so-called "assault weapons." Of course he will concentrate his initial efforts on sinister looking firearms, which are more easily demonized--convincingly, in the eyes of people who know next to nothing about guns. Also, many hunters are uninterested in such guns, thus allowing him to avoid the tremendous opposition they would raise to a complete ban on all firearms.

So yes--he is aware that completely disarming American citizens is a long term project, but he and his ideological allies are willing to take the long view. They attack gun rights incrementally, forcing a cultural evolution in the direction of more and more bans, as each restriction makes all such restrictions seem more and more "normal." The plan is to fragment the gun rights lobby, and attack one group at a time.

Every additional restriction on gun ownership, whether on the books already, or merely proposed, is a choreographed step toward the ultimate goal--total disarmament. Any attack on gun rights is an attack on all gun rights, and appeasement will work for us just as well as it did for Neville Chamberlain.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Pennsylvania House of Reps has it right

Much ink has been spilled of late over the Pennsylvania House's "Committee of the Whole," called in order to try to find solutions to the problem of the state's alarming upswing in violent crime, especially in Philadelphia. Much of the focus, unsurprisingly, has been on various additional restrictions on firearms and ammunition--that, seemingly, is always the "answer," at least in the minds of some.

The House discussed most of these proposed bills Tuesday and yesterday (and will meet again next Tuesday, to discuss the rest). Despite the immense, hysterical outpouring of shrill cries to "get the guns off the streets," the House rejected most of the proposed gun rights infringements, and is instead pursuing the novel approach of trying to get violent criminals off the streets--what an unusual concept! Apparently, they reject the notion that the bad, wicked, naughty firearms load themselves, cruise the streets under their own malevolent power, point themselves at innocent children, and pull their own triggers. Instead, the majority of Pennsylvania's Representatives seem to think that when one drug dealer accidentally kills a child, in an attempt to kill a rival drug dealer, that it is the drug dealer's fault.

Here, I found a tragic illustration of just such a case, where we learn of this horror:

Police: Child's death resulted from drug feud

Five-year-old Casha'e Rivers lost her life when a violent drug feud resulted in gunfire on a North Philadelphia street Sunday morning, felling the "purely innocent" child, authorities said yesterday.

The homicide investigation took a turn last night when a man police had sought for questioning in the case showed up at Police Headquarters. Earlier, police said they were seeking Kevin Felder, 25, of the 2600 block of North Napa Street, in two other shootings that may be related to Casha'e's slaying. Felder, a three-time convicted drug felon, had been described as armed and dangerous.

Felder showed up after 10 p.m. with another man and told reporters he had nothing to do with Casha'e's slaying. He was being questioned late last night by homicide detectives.

The little girl, called "Mama" by family and friends, was a passenger in a car driven by her mother, Alisha Corley, 22, of the 900 block of North 12th Street, who police say has had close relationships with two known drug figures.

Casha'e's father is now in prison on cocaine charges, while Corley's current boyfriend - Romar Berry, 22 - was arrested yesterday morning and charged with narcotics offenses. When authorities served the arrest warrant in the 2600 block of North 29th Street, they found Corley in the apartment. Berry, the father of Corley's toddler son, fled to the roof but was apprehended, police said.

Hours later, Corley arrived in Harrisburg and spoke at a rally with the NAACP and Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network to end gun violence.
The endless series of horrible decisions made by her mother does nothing to lessen the tragedy of the death of little Casha'e Rivers, but it does raise some questions. For example, how is it that a man could have been convicted three times for felonies, by the time he reaches the age of 25, and be anywhere but in prison? Further reading of the Philadelphia Enquirer article reveals that he was also wanted for other shootings, but was still free to peddle his poison, and shoot up North Philly.

Philadelphia's problem isn't a "gun problem"--it's a crime problem, a drug problem, a gang problem. It's a problem of a broken criminal justice system, and it's a problem of politicians who refuse to be held accountable for their failings, just as they fail to hold felons accountable for their actions. These politicians sent 2000 people to Harrisburg, to join the screeching for more "gun control" (who paid for all the buses, I wonder--the taxpayers, perhaps?). Luckily for Pennsylvania, the rest of the legislature isn't buying it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

(Belatedly) putting the brakes on the ATF

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5092, the "BATFE Modernization and Reform Act of 2006," by a wide vote margin of 277 to 131. This is a victory not only for law-abiding gun owners and retailers, but for any American who does not want to see this nation become a police state. The gun rights deprivation lobby is, predictably, apoplectic about this much needed protection from the ATF's abuses. The Violence Policy Center's press release is typical:

Yet again the U.S. House has put the whims of the gun industry ahead of public safety and the needs of law enforcement by voting to protect corrupt gun dealers. By creating an "ignorance of the law" excuse for gun dealers, the House chose to ignore the fact that corrupt dealers are the number one source of illegally trafficked firearms according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Even more shameful is the fact that the House vote comes on the heels of new Department of Justice statistics showing an almost 50 percent increase in gun violence from 2004 to 2005.
This, actually, is tame compared to the the Brady Bunch's press release, in which their president, Paul Helmke, had this to say:
The United States House of Representatives today chose to pass special interest legislation that benefits the law-breaking gun pushers who make money by selling firearms that end up in the hands of killers, muggers and thieves. They ignored the concerns of our nation's Mayors and law enforcement leaders who opposed this awful bill. I was disappointed to see Representatives Gerlach and Fitzpatrick join that terrible vote.
New York City's Mayor Bloomberg, typically, was even more over the top in his histrionics, especially about a provision in the bill that would permit dealers whose licenses have expired or been revoked 60 days to liquidate their inventories. As a guest speaker for the civilian disarmament lobby in Pennsylvania [free NY Times registration required to read linked article], he claimed this measure is equivalent to allowing arrested drug dealers 60 days to "sell all their crack." This, of course, conveniently ignores the fact that crack is illegal everywhere, while guns, although vastly over-regulated, are perfectly legal (which is probably the real reason for Mr. Bloomberg's angst--he would clearly prefer to see crack and firearms share the same legal status).

What the VPC and other groups opposed to this necessary legislation refuse to acknowledge is that the new law actually makes more provisions for punishing gun dealers who violate any of the vast, bewildering array of laws regulating the firearms trade. Under current law, there is almost no middle ground between a warning, and outright revocation of the dealer's license. The new law would allow for the imposition of fines for violations that warrant more than a warning, but fall far short of justifying forcing a business to close.

For those who appreciate irony (my guess is that this would exclude most of the anti-gun folks), it is amusing, and rather gratifying, to consider the fact that this legislation was inspired by yet another instance of abuse, borne of the ATF's deeply ingrained institutional arrogance. I refer to the grossly heavy-handed tactics they employed in "enforcing the law" at some Richmond, VA area gun shows--tactics that even a high ranking ATF official later admitted were out of line. The Gun Guys, of course, think the ATF's actions in Richmond were just great, although their "reasoning" is, once again, a bit tough to follow:
We remember those hearings [Congressional hearings about the Richmond area abuses], and we also remember that the ATF did nothing illegal there at all. We also remember that the only reason the ATF did what they did was that they didn’t have the laws on their side to make sure nothing shady was happening at gun shows... If the ATF used "heavy-handed tactics" against those who would sell firearms to criminals, we’re all for it.
Got that? "The ATF did what they did," because "they didn't have the laws on their side...," but at the same time, "the ATF did nothing illegal there at all." To say that they "did what they did," because "they didn't have the laws on their side," sure sounds to me like an attempt to excuse illegal behavior.

The ATF is in desperate need of being reined in (since it appears unlikely that they'll be disbanded entirely in the forseeable future--a far preferrable solution). This bill would be a good first step in that direction. Hopefully, the Senate will follow the lead of the House of Representatives. We need to let our U.S. Senators know that we expect them to do just that.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A sad day for the gun community

No, the ban on so-called "assault weapons" hasn't crawled back out from under its rock. Today is a day to take a break from railing against ineffective, unconstitutional, and just plain wrong gun legislation, and to instead say good-bye to Col. Jeff Cooper. The Gunner's Guru died yesterday at the age of 86, after a life filled with more accomplishment than most of us would manage if we lived to be 860.

As a Marine, as a firearms instructor, as a spokesman for gun rights, but most of all as simply a good man, he leaves behind a legacy that few will equal, and none will surpass.

His internment will be a private ceremony, for family and close friends. There will also be a public memorial ceremoy at the National Rifle Association Whittington Center in New Mexico (date and time to be announced later). Most of us will probably be unable to make it there. My own, tiny memorial to him will be to keep working on my shooting skills, and to keep fighting for gun rights.

Of course, there's also a more selfish reason for me to do that--if there is a world beyond this one, I sure wouldn't want to have to explain to him why I failed to do those things. As far as I'm concerned, you will never stop riding, shooting straight, and speaking the truth, Colonel. You'll be missed.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Anti-gun groups--the NRA's best recruiters

When I try to nudge gun owners who are unsure about joining the NRA (or any of the other, less moderate pro-rights organizations), I don't point them to that organization's web site. My purpose is better served by illustrating the imminence of the threat to gun rights. Instead of asking them to take my word for it, I prefer to show them the shrill, extremist rhetoric on the anti-gun websites, such as the Brady Campaign, the Violence Policy Center, and my personal favorite (the shrillest, most hysterical, most extremist of them all), the Gun Guys. Even for the hunter with no interest in so-called "assault weapons," or in carrying a handgun for self-defense, and who thinks his hunting guns don't face a grave threat from these groups, a bit of browsing around on those websites is generally a sobering wake-up call.

The Gun Guys are particularly uninterested in trying to disguise the fact that they will not rest while a single firearm remains in private hands. They endlessly repeat such phrases as "A gun is a threat no matter who is holding it," and, "If we want to get rid of the violence, we have to get rid of the guns," as if those are their mantras. They want shooting ranges shut down ("Considerations like not allowing the shooting range to operate in the first place. In Canada or the US, these places aren’t safe– the fewer of them we have around, the better."). They tend to put quotes around the word "rights," as if to express doubt about the whole concept of rights! They also have trouble resisting the urge to put quotes around the term "law-abiding gun owner." The implication of course, is that the way they see it, a person should not be able to be both law-abiding and a gun owner, because they think that owning guns should be a crime.

It might be tempting to dismiss these guys as harmless loonies, screaming impotently into the void, but to do so would be a mistake. According to this article, a group called the Joyce Foundation has recently bestowed the impressive sum of $650,000 on the cynically misnamed Freedom States Allicance, the parent group of the Gun Guys and several other, similarly rabidly gun hating websites. The gun rights deprivation lobby is relentless and appallingly well-funded, and they will not rest while a single firearm remains in private hands.

The good news is that they don't bother, really, with trying to hide their extremism. A few minutes spent reading their hysterical rhetoric is usually enough to convince any gun owner that if he does not support those on the front lines (the NRA, for example) of the fight against these people, he has no one but himself to blame for the next draconian piece of filth the gun rights deprivation lobby's pet legislators inflict on us as part of their agenda of turning the Land of the Free into a "gun free utopia." If you can read their arguments, and still believe your hunting shotgun or rifle would be safe from them, I'll offer you an amazing deal on a pair of breeding mules.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Who is the militia?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the National Guard peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The right of the National Guard to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

No National Guardsman shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the National Guard.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the National Guard.

It is, hopefully, pretty obvious that something about the above is not quite right. The problem, of course, is the substitution of "National Guard" everywhere these selected amendments actually say "people" (or in the case of the Fifth Amendment, "National Guardsman" for "person"). Looks rather ridiculous, doesn't it? The reason for that is that it is ridicuolous--when the framers of the Constitution said "the people," that's what they meant. In the five amendments I butchered (please forgive me), that is universally understood. Why, then, are so many folks convinced that in the Second Amendment, "the people" means the National Guard (which wouldn't exist for about a century after ratification of the Constitution)? Apparently, the confusion stems from the subordinate clause that opens the 2nd Amendment,
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, . . .
More specifically, it's the inclusion of the word "militia" that seems to throw people off. That leads us to the question that forms the title of this post: who is the militia?

Those who are uncomfortable with the idea of Constitutional protection for an individual right to keep and bear arms argue, of course, that it's the National Guard. The reasoning, apparently, is that the NG, by virtue of being made up of part-time soldiers, is not a standing army. Additionally, we are apparently expected to fear the idea of a body of armed men not under direct government control.

This argument runs into problems. One of those problems is a Supreme Court ruling from 1990, in the case of Perpich vs. DoD. In this case, the governor of Minnesota, Rudy Perpich, sued the Department of Defense for mobilizing the Minnesota National Guard, which Perpich claimed was a "state militia," for duty outside the state, without the consent of Perpich or the state legislature. The Supreme Court rejected his claim, on the grounds that the National Guard is an integral part of the U.S. Army Reserve system (which means, in turn, that the NG is part of the standing army). SCOTUS went on to illustrate the difference between the "special militia" (the NG, in this case), and the "general militia" (private citizens with privately owned arms).

Besides, why would the government need Constitutional protection for the right to arm its own troops (remember, the Supreme Court has ruled that the National Guard is under federal control)? If we accept that the government has the right to have troops (an assertion I haven't seen questioned), we must assume that it may arm them (or else there would be little point in having them). Regardless, even if the government does need such a right explicitly annotated, it wouldn't be in the Bill of Rights--the BOR serves as a counterbalance to governmental power, not a confirmation of it.

What would be really useful, I suppose, would be finding some kind of indication from one of the framers of the Constitution of just what they meant by militia. Actually, as it turns out, we have one. George Mason, in debating Virginia's ratification of the Constitution, said
I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.
Not really very ambiguous, is it?

Who is the militia? Take a look in the mirror. Oh, and stand up straight, soldier.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A nation of toddlers

The practice of tightly controlling small children's access to things with which they could easily hurt themselves or others is, of course, difficult to fault, because young children lack the judgement to be trusted to avoid unsafe actions. What is a great deal less defensible is the concept of legislating the same kind of nanny-like oversight of an entire society.

Restrictive gun laws are implemented with exactly that goal, though. Apparently, the thinking is that a person with a fully automatic firearm cannot be trusted not to unleash a barrage of death on a crowded city sidewalk, hence the National Firearms Act. A person with ready access to a firearm while within 1000 feet of a school cannot be trusted not to suddenly gun down a bunch of children, hence the "Gun Free School Zones Act." A person who can get a firearm through the mail cannot be trusted to...well, I'm not quite sure what he cannot be trusted not to do, but I'm sure it's something awful--hence the Gun Control Act. The list is virtually endless (as endless, in fact, as the list of gun laws).

All such laws are geared not to stopping violent behavior, or even trying to. Instead, they try to render violent impulses less damaging, by forcing the perpetrator of the violence to resort to less efficient means of carrying out his attacks. It's as if we say to those who would commit violence, "If you must attack people, go ahead--there's nothing we can do to stop you. You're going to have to work a bit harder than you'd like to kill, though."

I would hope that it's obvious that such an approach is seriously flawed, even setting aside the fact that the people from whom society faces the most danger are unlikely to be much deterred by the illegality of obtaining the weapons we seek to keep away from them. For the sake of argument, we will accept the idea that the right combination of laws will succeed in keeping guns away from those who would use them for evil. First, though, we must acknowledge that to do that, guns would have to be kept away from everyone. Between thefts and unauthorized private sales, guns will always find their way from the hands of those "approved" for possession, and into the hands of those who are not. Therefore, we must accept that keeping guns away from criminals would require an all out ban (remember, for the purposes of this discussion, we're not worrying about the absolute impossibility of such a ban working, nor the blatant un-Constitutionality of imposing the ban in the first place).

So, what have we accomplished? The good news is that those who prey on others are now limited to such weapons as knives and clubs, or, in a pinch, simply fists and feet. The bad news is that those things can (and do) kill, as well. The worse news is that their intended victims are similarly limited in how they can defend themselves. Perhaps not too terrible a problem for the young, fit and strong, but what about the elderly, the disabled? What about a woman whose weight is less than half her attacker's? What about even a young, superbly fit martial arts expert, who is badly outnumbered by a gang of assailants? These people, whose only real chance of prevailing in the face of aggession has been legislated away from them, are now doomed, by the very laws designed to protect people. Basically, we sacrifice them, in order to save those who would otherwise have been victims of people with guns. This, I argue, we have no right to do.

My largest problem with this kind of thinking, though, is that it allows, perhaps even encourages, abdicating responsibility for one's actions. A sensible approach, of course, with children too young to understand concepts like consequences and responsibility, but an alarming strategy to take with society as a whole. We transfer blame from the individual who commits the violence, to the society that failed to make that violence impossible (or at least less damaging). Would it not make vastly more sense to attempt to address the social problems that lead to violence, than to engage in a futile attempt to deny access to every one of the infinite array of devices that can be used as deadly weapons? Would it not make more sense for us to demand that our society grow up?

Note: I borrowed shamelessly from Jeff Snyder's excellent A Nation of Cowards, the Ethics of Gun Control for this post. Many apologies to Mr. Snyder, and a strong recommendation that anyone who hasn't read his book do so at the first opportunity.

Friday, September 22, 2006

More hysteria from the Gun Guys

This Gun Guys article is several months old, but it's amusing enough to bring back for a look now. It's in response to this article in Slate Magazine about Smith & Wesson's resurgence, due in no small part to their introduction of the mighty .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum, and the massive revolvers chambered for it. That article starts with some statistics, including the fact that in 2004, S&W produced 235,516 handguns, and Sturm, Ruger produced 189,312. That's when the Gun Guys could no longer restrain themselves, and had to interject their own rather...interesting views:

Stop right there, guys. Those numbers are insane. That’s half a million handguns made per year by just those two companies and rising. If each of those handguns kills just one American, that’s 500,000 dead thanks to Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger.

First, it's not 500,000--it's fewer than 425,000 (apparently the Gun Guys didn't learn much more about math than they did about history and government), but that is far from the silliest part of that little diatribe. Saying that "if each one of those handguns kills just one American..." is akin to speculating about every car built in America that year being involved in just one fatal accident--an obviously utterly ridiculous exaggeration.

The Slate article then goes onto explain that the huge cartridge was originally intended for handgun hunting of large, dangerous game, but, to the surprise and delight of the S&W honchos, the revolvers have sold in numbers far beyond what could be attributed to the rather small number of people who actually participate in such hunts. Rather, it has become popular with folks who like to make an impression with the biggest, baddest piece of hardware around--in much the same way that Humvees are highly sought after by people who have no intention of covering ground any more rugged than poorly maintained city streets.

The Gun Guys, predictably, see it differently. They in fact chastise Slate:
Shame on Slate– there’s not a word in this article that tells why people really want bigger guns– so they can kill more efficiently.
Keep in mind that these things are massive, weighing (depending on barrel length) 4 1/2 lbs or more. Only slightly more concealable than suzaphones, they'll likewise most likely be only slightly more often used for violence.

Amusingly enough, if S&W had instead come out with a tiny handgun, chambered (for example) in .17 HMR, the Gun Guys would doubtless be screaming about S&W's sick purveyance of ultra-concealable handguns. The only gun industry decision they would applaud would be an industry wide suicide.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gun buy backs, or how to throw money at a problem . . . and miss

I see that Washington D.C. has recently implemented a gun buy back. Using $16,700 in tax revenue, 337 guns were collected (the program offered $100 each for semi-automatic pistols and so-called "assault weapons," $50 each for other firearms, and $10 each for BB and pellet guns). Doing the math shows that the average price paid per gun was just under $50, or just under the smallest amount offered for any real firearms--meaning that a large plurality of these guns were BB and pellet guns. The streets of DC should be much safer now, eh?

This buy back was actually somewhat better than others I've read about--at least the guns are tested to determine if they could be linked to any crimes before they are destroyed. Many other buy backs are completely anonymous, meaning that the police are not only helping criminals by destroying evidence of their crimes, but they're paying the criminals for the privilege!

The truly unfortunate aspect of these buy backs is that they are such a poor allocation of scarce monetary resources that could otherwise be used in ways that would do so much more to make communities safer. Instead of buying guns from people who had no intention of using them in crimes (or they wouldn't be selling them), the money could be used to put more officers on the streets, better fund programs that help at-risk inner city youth, fund drug rehabilitation programs, help improve schools, and foster economic development (in order to bring more jobs to blighted inner cities). These are just a few ways of addressing the real underlying social problems--the hopelessness, desperation and anger that are at the root of so much of the violent crime in our cities.

Instead of trying to bribe people into getting rid of a few weapons, we need to cure the social ills that result in people wanting to commit violence in the first place. Addressing these intractable social issues is tough, and patience is needed before much of a return is seen on the investment--but tackling these issues is the only solution that will really work. Too bad tax payers are instead forced to finance "feel good" measures, that contribute merely to the appearance of doing something about the situation.

Why is it "liberal" to advocate restrictive gun laws?

I find it curious that civilian disarmament has become so closely identified with liberalism (I use the term civilian disarmament because I'm not much of one for the term "gun control" as it's popularly used--controlling one's gun means hitting one's target, not being denied access to the gun in the first place, the goal, to one degree or another, of all "gun control" laws). When did liberalism cease to be an ideology that celebrates individual rights? When did it become "liberal" to grant the state a monopoly on the use of force (or at least on the means to use force)?

One would think that laws that abridge individual liberties would be anathema to those who would identify themselves as liberal. It seems that we are to accept as "liberal" the idea that the individual's right to defense against crime and tyrannical government should be subordinated to the will of the state.

Along similar lines, I am curious as to why these ostensible liberals, who are vehemently opposed to the current, "conservative" government, seem to place less trust in their fellow citizens than they do in the government under an administration they claim to despise and distrust. Many of the same people who argue so strenuously against recent governmental intrusions on the rights of individuals (Patriot Act, domestic wiretapping, etc.) argue for greater governmental control over firearms. In this regard, "liberals" are, oddly, in full agreement with those who advocate totalitarianism.

I guess they ain't makin' liberals like they used to. That's too bad.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The horrors of 'gun violence'

As promised, we will now take a look at the term "gun violence," a term often used by those who believe that the key to protecting the citizenry is to greatly reduce, or even eliminate, civilian access to firearms. When people who hold such beliefs use that term, their obvious intent is to imply that "gun violence" is inherently, fundamentally different from (and much worse than) other types of violence.

Why is that, though? How is being stabbed or bludgeoned to death preferable to being shot to death? Presumably, those who single out "gun violence" as the "worst" type of violence would acknowledge that dead is dead, however the death is brought about. I don't normally consider the old sit-com, "All in the Family," a source of great wisdom, and of all the characters, Archie Bunker might be the last to go to for enlightenment, but in the following exchange, I think Archie was right on the mark:

GLORIA: Do you know that sixty percent of all deaths in America are caused by guns?

ARCHIE: Would it make you feel any better if they was pushed out of windows?
By the way, where Gloria got her "60 percent" figure is a real mystery--but it certainly wasn't from any real numbers.

One would think that we are expected to look back with nostalgic longing to a time before firearms--the early medieval period (also known as the Dark Ages--sounds lovely, doesn't it?), for example. Sure, there were vast amounts of violence, but none of it was "gun violence." Ah--to have worries only of disembowelment by sword, or decapitation by ax, or the crushing of various important body parts by mace--sure beats the hell out of having to worry about someone popping you with a 9 millimeter, doesn't it?

Similarly, I suppose that Rwanda in 1994 was the setting of the "best" modern genocide. Sure, close to a million people (perhaps more) were slaughtered, but most were killed in "machete violence." How nice for them! I bet that as they lay on the ground bleeding to death, they thought to themselves "At least there aren't guns around, since guns only make things worse." One can only wonder how differently events would have turned out if, say, 10,000 of the murdered Tutsis and moderate Hutus had each possessed an AK-47 and a couple hundred rounds of ammunition.

Another interesting thing about the way those who hate guns have of looking at the world can be seen in how they quantify "gun violence." Most of the statistics they cite count suicides as "gun violence." I wonder if suicides committed by the deliberate ingestion of a vast overdose of sleeping pills would be considered "pill violence." Some even count accidental shootings as "violence." By that kind of accounting, we certainly live in a violent world, with all the car accidents (automotive violence), falling accidents (gravitational violence), drownings (aquatic violence), etc.

They also refer to justifiable self-defense shootings and police shootings as "gun violence." Certainly such shootings are violent, and obviously a gun was used in the violence, but are we to categorize the shooting of someone who was about to beat his wife to death the same way we could categorize a drug dealer carelessly shooting a child when trying to shoot a rival drug dealer? When some one with murderous intentions and a knife or a bat comes after you, "gun violence" just may be the only thing that can save your life.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How gun laws "work"

I don't think it's any secret that I have little respect or affection for those who would inflict their distorted view of the world on the rest of us, and impose draconian restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms, but it would be a grave mistake to dismiss their intelligence (or at least cunning). This point is perhaps best illustrated by one of their favorite strategies.

Here's how it works--they point to what they refer to as "gun crime" (as if there are two kinds of crime--"regular ol' crime," and "gun crime"--which we are expected to realize, of course, is much scarier), and point to it as justification for more restrictive gun laws. The fallacy is that, far from reducing crimes, adding yet more laws to the massive profusion we already have just makes for more "gun crime," because now things that had, up until the new laws took effect, been no crime at all, suddenly become "gun crimes."

With the new gun laws giving law enforcement a wider net with which to catch violators, it's easy to see that there will almost inevitably be more arrests and convictions for "gun crimes"--not, mind you, more incidence of "gun violence," (another term with which I have issues--more on that in another post--soon, I promise) but simply "gun crime," much of which (such as possessing a so-called "assault weapon" in a jurisdiction in which they are prohibited) has nothing to do with violence.

So now the advocates of restrictive firearms laws can point to a rise in "gun crime," and use that as justification for still more gun laws, leading to still more "gun crime," and so on, ad infinitum.

It's really quite brilliant--pass more laws, thus having more laws to be broken, thus causing an increase in crime, thus providing justification for yet more laws...etc.

Where does it end? Look across the Atlantic, to the UK. When gun laws first started becoming extremely restrictive, worried gun owners were told that "only" large bore pistols and rifles (large bore being anything larger than .22 rimfire) would be affected, and that even those could be owned by private citizens, but they had to be kept locked up at approved gun clubs. That didn't last long--soon, everything but shotguns became ineligible for private ownership (and those are heavily regulated as well). Now, it's knives, air guns, and even toy guns that are being regulated out of existence. What's next? Will they ban cricket bats? Glassware (broken glass can make a nasty weapon, after all)? Sticks (better cut down all the trees, just to be safe)? Hands? Feet?

It might be tempting to chuckle at the folly of this kind of "thinking," but to do so would be a mistake, because powerful forces, in the U.S. and abroad, would like nothing more than to see the same thing here. Only the vigilance and hard work of those to whom respect for rights reigns supreme will save us from the same dark fate.

The ATF--the legacy of abuse continues

Back in June, KT Ordnance, a gun parts company in Montana, was raided by the ATF. Their inventory and files were confiscated, and their computer hard drives were copied. Oddly, no arrests were made (one would think that activity that would prompt such heavy-handed tactics would also constitute grounds for arrest, but remember, this is the ATF we're talking about here--an agency that has apparently taken upon itself some "higher" calling than merely enforcing the law). The (alleged) reason for the raid? Ostensibly, it was suspicion of "illegal manufacture of firearms."

Some background information is in order. What KT Ordnance is best known for is what is known as the "80% market." For legal purposes, the frame (also sometimes referred to as the receiver) of a firearm is the firearm--all the other pieces of a gun are just parts (the firing mechanism parts for fully automatic weapons are the exception to that rule--a fully automatic conversion kit is considered a machinegun). Since the frame is the firearm, that is the part that is subject to the enormous profusion of laws regulating (over-regulating, to be more accurate) guns.

Frames built for the 80% market are only partially (about 80%, logically enough) completed. They need considerable machine work done (which must be performed by the buyer, who may never sell the completed frame or firearm) before they can ever be used in the assembly of a functional firearm. This fact makes them legal to sell without any of the onerous laws that apply to the sale of completed firearms (or the completed frames thereof). This is clearly legal, as can be seen in the ATF's own rules.

So, what illegality did KT Ordnance supposedly commit? The ATF won't comment (which is typical practice for them--transparency in government is not a principle for which they have any affection), but about the only violation possible would be selling frames that were more than 80% complete, without jumping through the various legal hoops required for selling complete guns (or frames). My favorite rabidly anti-gun folks, the Gun Guys, automatically accepted that if the ATF raided them, they must have been guilty of doing that (so much for the presumption of innocence pending proof of guilt, eh?).

Celata [the owner of KT Ordnance] claims he wasn’t selling those types of kits, but there’s a reason the ATF raided him, and if that wasn’t it, what was?

Actually, there might be an answer to the Gun Guys' question. As it turns out, even before the storm trooper raid, Celata has been a staunch and outspoken advocate of the fundamental, natural, unalienable right of the individual to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This, apparently, is in itself a crime in the eyes of the ATF. To make matters worse, Celata makes no bones about his association with JPFO (Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership)--a gun rights advocacy group that is considerably less moderate than the NRA, and less inclined to pull punches in the fight against anti-gun tyranny. Celata and JPFO have had, over the years, quite a lot to say about the ATF, and little, if any, of it is complimentary.

That, I submit, is the most likely reason for the raid--pure harrassment of a vocal critic of the ATF. It would seem that the only way to end the ATF's abuses is to get rid of the ATF.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Gun Guys' views on gun confiscations

Their position here is a little tough to follow, so bear with me, and I'll try to see if we can make sense of the senseless, so to speak.

The Gun Guys are very opposed to HR 5013, the “Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act”, because...well, that's where things start getting a little confusing, because they say that such forcible confiscation of legally owned property from people accused of no wrongdoing has never happened, and indeed will never happen. Forget for a moment the numerous accounts (some documented on video tape) of just such police state actions taking place in the aftermath of Katrina, the (belated) admission on the part of the New Orleans police that they had hundreds of confiscated guns, and the fact that Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley publicly stated that

No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons.
Setting all that aside, if we're to believe it never happens, and never will happen, what harm is there in a law against it? Sounds like the perfect law, if you ask me--the one law that will never be broken.

Well, the reason such a law is so objectionable to them (if I'm following their "reasoning" correctly) is that, apparently, police should be able to forcibly confiscate lawfully owned property from law abiding citizens, contrary to any standard of civil liberties that makes any sense--at least that's what it sounds like they're saying here:
Leaving aside the fact that multiple sources have said that just isn’t true (and an academic symposium on Katrina ruled that guns were the problem the aftermath went so badly), who cares? Our courts have already determined that the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee anyone at all the right to own guns. If we were fleeing from a hurricane, the last thing we’d want to worry about is bringing our bulletproof vest along.
Got that? A law against forcible confiscations is bad because they never happen, and never will happen, but they should happen, because "We don't care about no steenking rights!" Or something like that. Make sense?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Every day is blame the NRA day

It's likely that many, if not most, of my posts in this blog will be about the Gun Guys. I don't necessarily disagree with them any more than I disagree with any of the better known "destroy all the guns" websites, like the Brady Campaign, VPC, etc., but those other sites only get updated on an extremely rare basis. The Gun Guys (or perhaps just Gun Guy--I get the sneaky impression that it's actually just one paid gun control "cheerleader") at least post some new stuff most weekdays, giving me a rich vein of material to poke gaping holes in. Sure, it's not much more than links to, and quotes from, articles about various gun issues, interspersed with snide comments and variations on "Stop the evil NRA," but at least they bother to type something. Actually, that brings up something of an interesting point. They love to claim that the NRA is not truly a grassroots organization, and that all its lobbying power comes from gun industry money, and that the anti-gun groups reflect the true will of the people. How is it, then, that there seems to be so much more volunteerism among gun rights advocates than there is among the gun rights deprivation lobby?

Anyway, the Gun Guys hate the NRA. It seems to be something of an obsession with them. Maybe kids wearing NRA t-shirts used to beat them up and take their lunch money when they were school children, or maybe their mothers used to pistol whip them on a regular basis--but these guys have real issues. Their message seems to be that every firearm death that has ever occurred since the discovery of gunpowder, anywhere in the universe, is the NRA's fault. They attribute vast power to the NRA (while at the same time calling NRA members--all 4 million of us--a minority fringe group of extremists). When a state (or the federal government) passes a law these Gun Guys don't like (which is quite often lately--it's a bad time to be a gun rights deprivation jihadist), they call it "the NRA's law," as if the NRA somehow has the power to enact legsislation on its own. I'm not sure where these guys went to school, but wherever it was did them a grave disservice in whatever they taught them about the way the U.S. government works. They almost seem to have problems with the First Amendment, as well as the Second (I'll talk later about their nutty views regarding the 2nd Amendment--that's worth an entire post of its own)--judging from the way they talk about the need to remove the NRA's access to the political process. It's hard to avoid the suspicion that they would like to get the NRA banned as a "terrorist group," or something.

As a gun owner who is currently paying off a life membership to the NRA, I would take exception to the assertion that the NRA is little more than an industry lobby group, if the assertion weren't so laughably, demonstrably false. As it is, a shake of my head and an indulgent chuckle at their cluelessness would seem to be the more appropriate response.

.50 Caliber Hyperbole

We hear a great deal these days about the "threat" posed by the relatively few restrictions in the U.S. on the private ownership of .50 caliber rifles. There is, in fact, a website, 50caliberterror.com, devoted entirely to demonizing these firearms. This, despite the fact that since Ronnie Barrett first started producing these rifles in the 1980's, there have been exactly zero documented deaths in the U.S. attributed to .50 BMG rifle fire. That seems a little odd, doesn't it? We've had at least one American strangled with a bikini top, which would seem to indicate that, historically, those have posed more danger to Americans than .50 caliber rifles do, but I've encountered remarkably few calls for the banning of these lethal articles of clothing. Could it be, perhaps, that it is not the garment that poses the threat, but the strangler? Nah--we can't have that, because to acknowledge that would be to acknowledge that the solution to stopping murder is to stop murderers, not trying to deny them access to one of the infinite number of devices that can be used to kill.

The "Ban the .50" crowd is well aware of this inconvenient lack of deaths attributable to their pet bogeyman, of course, so they instead point to several cases in which these rifles have been "used in crimes." The vast majority of these "criminal uses" have not involved a single shot being fired from the firearms in question--generally, the crime is simply the possession of a gun by someone whose criminal record mandates that the person not possess firearms. In other cases, the person with the rifle might have a clean record, but at the time he was caught with the rifle, he was committing some crime, again making his possession of a firearm illegal--instant .50 caliber rifle crime.

The fact is, the .50 caliber rifle is almost always a horrible choice of weapon for someone intent on murder. At over $2000 (for a cheap one), 25 lbs (for a lightweight one), and an overall length of around 4 1/2 feet, there are almost always much easier ways to go about killing someone.

Much has been made of the (grossly exaggerated) threat to civilian aviation. I would suggest that one's time could be vastly more productively spent trying to track down some of the thousands of sophisticated shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles that are unaccounted for in the world. Those, after all, actually do have a reasonable chance of successfully bringing down a plane.

The latest hysteria centers on the perhaps even more wildly implausbile scenario of these rifles being used in attacks on nuclear power plants. I'll say one thing for these anti-gun folks--they certainly have vivid imaginations.

California has already banned these rifles. A personal hero of mine, Ronnie Barrett, has responded by developing an entirely new cartridge, the .416 Barrett, that offers perhaps even greater long range anti-personnel performance than the .50 BMG--and it's entirely legal in California. I would like to pass on my thanks to the California legislature for the part they played in advancing firearm technology. One of the amusing features of the California law is that it only applies to the .50 BMG cartridge (and the weapons that fire it)--any other cartridge, even if it fires exactly the same bullet, is completely legal, even there in The People's Republic of Cali. There has been a bit of work done on a cartridge (called the .50 McMillan Brothers), based on a shortened 20mm cannon cartridge case. This round, with it's gargantuan case capacity, is a good deal more powerful than even the .50 BMG, and again, this cartridge would be completely legal in California (and everywhere else in the country). I don't think the work on this ever got much past the experimental stage, but I would love to see such guns and ammunition offered on the market. After that, maybe someone could make a Gatling gun chambered for the .50 Fat Mac (as the cartridge is nicknamed)--Gatling guns are completely legal too.