Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Details Matter: Finding Ways To Reduce Mass Shootings

As this is written, in the wake of two horrible mass murders involving firearms, we are seeing the same knee jerk proposals and the same response in opposition.  I'm writing this in an effort to break this deadlock and help us to actually do something about the senseless mass murders that have become all too common.  I will look at the common proposals and offer some alternatives that may be much more effective.

No one wants mass shootings to continue.  Not gun control advocates, not gun rights advocates.  No one - least of all the gun rights advocates, because they are a clear danger to the right they want to protect.

Before we look at the various proposals, we must recognize that there are constitutional limits that rule out many potential gun laws.  For instance, the Supreme Court has taken a handgun ban off of the table, even though handguns are the most common weapon in both mass shootings and murders in general.  Additionally, SCOTUS has established a test that all gun control laws must pass.  More on this later.

So, let's look at some of the most common proposals:

Red Flag Laws are deeply flawed - but alternatives could do a lot of good

The potential for abuse of Red Flag Laws
is great - during the first year of California's
law 90% of orders were determined to be
unfounded and were lifted after the subject's
case was heard.
Red Flag Laws are a step in the right direction in that they focus on dangerous people, rather than just one method of mass murder.  However, they are flawed because after finding that the person is dangerous, all that is done is to take away their guns.  The flaw in this system can be seen in the very crime that motivated the passage of the first such law.  In that case, the murderer used knives, his car and guns to kill people.  Had a Red Flag Law been in place, and if it were used, his guns would have been taken away - but he would have been free to murder with his knives and his car.  He also would have been free buy a firearm on the black market.  It doesn't matter if you are killed with a gun, a truck or a bomb - you are still dead.

There are, however, better alternatives.  

First, every state should have an emergency mental health commitment law - and police need to be trained to make the most of them.  We need to recognize and treat the mentally ill.  If need be, they should be confined long term.  People committed under such laws can and should lose their firearms rights.  Police should have the ability to seize firearms from people thus committed.  It makes no sense to say, "This person is mentally unstable and dangerous, but all we are going to do is take the guns they have now."  Of course, due process must be protected, but this is also doable.

Second, we need to make sure that current laws forbidding subjects of restraining orders, also called orders of protection, from possessing firearms are enforced.  Judges should order firearms seizures at the time such orders are issued.  While restraining orders are far from perfect, it makes no sense to issue such an order and allow the subject to keep their firearms - or to take their firearms without issuing an order.

Third, we need to make preparing to conduct a mass murder a crime.  If two people conspire to plan a mass shooting, they can be prosecuted for conspiracy.  The problem with mass shootings is that they are usually a solo crime.  We need to make sure that law enforcement has the tools to put those who are actively planning and preparing to commit mass murder away for a very long time.

Once we have taken the preceding steps, it is possible that there may be a limited place for Red Flag Laws - but only when the mental health and criminal laws fail - and only if the constitutional right to due process of law is respected.  They are not going to work as the primary tool to prevent mass murder.

We need to adopt the methods used by the Secret Service and those used by domestic intelligence agencies to stop terrorist attacks.

The focus here is on detecting the attacks before they happen.  This will not stop 100% of them, but it would stop many of them.  We need to stop focusing upon the tool that mass murderers use, and make our primary focus detecting and stopping dangerous people.  We have not lost a president in over 55 years.  Many assassination attempts have been detected and stopped before they ever got close to happening.  Applying these methods should enable us to stop mass murders no matter what method they plan to use - and there are many..

The greatest risk factor for mass shootings may very well be phony gun free zones, secured by nothing more than a sign

Two places where there have never been a mass shooting: The secure area of an airport and a shooting range - the first because no one has guns except security personnel, and the second because everyone has a gun.

If a gun free zone is really secured - screening at all entrances, metal detectors, etc. and the perimeter is properly secured, the risk of a mass shooting is greatly reduced if not completely eliminated.  If the location is open, but potential attackers know that there is a good chance that potential victims are armed, there is also little chance of an attack.  

Both of these facts are especially true of random public mass shootings where the sick individual simply wants to kill as many people as possible, with little or no regard for who they are.

The problem is not gun free zones per se, it is gun free zones enforced by the "honor system".  Posting a sign is very effective at keeping people who are legally armed, such as off duty cops and people licensed to carry, out of the area.  Cops and CCW license holders are both extremely law abiding - they are simply not a threat.  Keeping these people out of an area does not make that area safer - it makes it more dangerous.

It's not just the absence of cops and legally armed citizens that make these areas less safe, it is the fact that mass murderers can see the signs and know that they are unlikely to face any armed opposition for several minutes.  The longer it takes for a "good guy with a gun" to arrive the higher the body count - and these sick individuals want to kill as many people as possible.

Gun control groups play fast and loose with the facts on gun free zones.  I have looked at literally hundreds of public mass shootings, and the overwhelming majority took place in gun free zones.  So, how come gun control groups constantly say this is not true?

The FBI considers any shooting with 4 or more victims to be a "mass shooting".  Obviously,  with this definition, there are many different kinds of mass shootings.  They fall naturally into the following categories: Domestic violence, gang shootings, workplace violence, and public mass shootings.  Obviously, there is a huge difference between a gang "drive by" and workplace violence.  If you mix all of these very different categories together, gun free zones do not appear to be as much of a factor - but if you look at public mass shootings and workplace violence, you discover that well over 90% of these shootings happen in gun free zones. 

The most effective way to deter potential public mass shooters is to let them know that they will probably face armed opposition very quickly.

This can be done with covert armed security, and/or allowing lawful carrying of firearms - and then making sure that potential mass shooters know about it.  As mentioned above, the goal of workplace mass shooters and public mass shooters is not to kill "only" one or two people.  As if playing a video game, they want to rack up the highest "score" possible.  They hope to do this by selecting a location where their victims will not be able to shoot back because they are not armed.

History shows that these sick individuals plan their crimes carefully.  Before they fire their first shot at a potential victim, they have already decided how they want things to end.  In the vast majority of cases, the plan is to die.  In a much smaller number of cases, the murderer wants to tell their story - which means they want to survive.  In only a very small number of cases have they wanted to "shoot it out" with police.

Either way, if they want to die or the want to live, as soon as they face another armed person, their ability to control the outcome disappears.  If they want to die, they could just be wounded and survive.  If they want to live they could be killed.  This loss of control causes the murderer to activate their end game plan - meaning that they either kill themselves or surrender.  Very rarely will they "shoot it out".

The point is that these individuals know going in that as soon as someone else with a gun shows up - it's over.  For this reason they try very hard to avoid places that may have armed citizens or off duty cops.  For instance, the Colorado theater shooter picked the only theater in the area that was showing the Batman film and had clearly posted "No Guns" signs.  There were theaters closer to his home, farther away, smaller and larger.  The only reason for picking that theater is that he knew that off duty cops and licensed citizens were not supposed to carry there.

Just as "no guns" signs attract mass murderers, making it clear that potential victims may be armed will likely cause them to look elsewhere. 

Expanding background checks will not help - but plugging the holes in the system likely will.

For details see Expanding Background
Checks Will Accomplish Almost
Nothing - There Is A Better Way
Contrary to what gun control groups want you to believe, neither criminals nor mass shooters are getting their firearms via the non-existent "gun show loophole" or via private party sales in which the seller does not know or suspects they could not pass a background check at a dealer.  Why do criminals get their guns?  For criminals, the most common source is black market dealers.  For mass shooters, the most common source is licensed dealers where they pass a background check, either because they have no prior events that prohibit firearms possession - or, and in Sutherland Springs, a conviction or mental health commitment was not reported to the FBI for inclusion in the database.  About 1/3 of of people prohibited from owning firearms are not in the system.  This means that they will pass a background check at any dealer.

We will get to the issue of mass murderers that have no prior record later, but we can prevent prohibited people from buying guns through legal channels by fixing our broken background check system.  All courts must be required to report all criminal convictions and mental health commitments to the FBI system.  Additionally, juvenile convictions and mental health records must be included.  This would have stopped the Ohio shooter from obtaining a gun through legal channels.

After Sutherland Springs, a bill aimed at fixing this problem passed, but we will be paying for the broken system for decades to come as criminals and other prohibited persons use the guns they were able to obtained when the system failed.  It also remains to be seen if the FixNICS law will produce results.

Our background check system will be useless until we punish people for "lying and trying"

Pres. Obama's ATF Director called prosecuting
criminals who illegally try to buy guns "a waste
of resources".
This change is directly related to what we just talked about.  Lying and trying is when a person who is prohibited by law from owning firearms - for instance because they are and convicted felon or have a history of severe mental illness - walks into a gun store and lies on the form, hoping to slip through.  This is exactly what the Sutherland Springs mass murderer did - and as we all know, he slipped through.

The problem here is that these people are almost never prosecuted.  Thousands are rejected each year and prosecutions number in the double digits each year.  Excuse me for suspecting that when someone who is mentally ill or a felon and they attempt to buy a gun illegally, we should be very, very concerned.

Instead, according to Pres. Obama's ATF director, prosecuting prohibited person for "lying and trying" is "a waste of resources".  It was not much better under the Bush administration.  I have not seen stats from the Trump administration, but I have heard nothing to indicate that things have changed.

The problem here is two fold:

First, we are missing an opportunity to prevent gun crime or even mass shootings.  In some cases these people simply want a gun for self defense, but in many cases they want it so they can commit gun crimes.  We are leaving them on the street, where they can access the thriving black market to obtain a firearm.

Second, with the prosecution rate so slow, prohibited persons know they are not taking much of a chance by lying in an attempt to slip through.  This encourages criminals and the mentally ill to do just that.

Our background check system will continue to be useless until we severely punish straw purchasers

The problem with this billboard is that
offenders seldom get any jail time,
much less ten years.
A straw purchase is when a person who cannot legally buy a firearm has someone with a clean record buy a firearm for them.  This is a crime (felony) for both the straw purchaser and the prohibited person.  There is a warning on the federal Form 4473 that everyone buying a firearm at a dealer must fill out - so these people know that what they are doing is highly illegal.

So, one would think that these people would be severely punished, right?  WRONG.  When they are prosecuted - and prosecution levels are low - it is nearly unheard of for for them to serve any time in prison.  Until it is well known that supplying a firearm to someone who cannot legally own one will cost you 5-10 years in prison, this will continue.

History shows that banning so called "assault weapons" will not help (and is likely unconstitutional) - any solution must focus on preventing ANY gun from being used in mass murder.

When one category of firearm is used in several mass shootings, the knee jerk reaction is to simply ban them.  However, people familiar with firearms who have followed mass shootings (like myself) can see the problems with this.  The bottom line is that you do not need a semi-auto rifle to kill a lot of people in a public mass shooting.  The mass murderer at Virginia Tech (who also slipped through the background check system) used two handguns to kill 33 people.  The Santa Fe High murderer used a 12 ga pump shotgun and a .38 revolver in the second most deadly school shooting of 2018.

Given this reality, it is easy to see why gun rights advocates don't want to agree to a ban on semi-auto rifles, or AR15s.  This is what they see happening:  First, so called assault rifles are banned.  If by some miracle that ban could actually be enforced, mass murderers would turn to other, less scary looking semi-auto rifles.  At that point the cry would go out to ban these rifles.  When the killing continues with semi-auto pistols, the call would be, " Ban handguns and the problem will be solved".  This would continue until all, or nearly all guns are banned.

Even worse is the argument that "weapons of war" should be banned.  What most people unfamiliar with guns do not know, but gun owners do know is that ALL GUNS are, or have been "weapons of war".  So effectively this is a call to ban all firearms, while still sounding reasonable.

The reality is that the AR15 is - by far - the most popular firearm in America.  Yet it is seldom used in murders.  In fact, 20 times more people are murdered with handguns than with all rifles combined.  In fact, more people are murdered with knives, clubs, and bare hands and feet INDIVIDUALLY than with all rifles combined.

While lower courts have continued to ignore the clear direction of SCOTUS in the landmark Heller decision, if it is applied, a ban of semi-auto rifles would clearly be unconstitutional.  The ruling contains a simple test to determine if a firearm is protected.  If a firearm is in common use by the public for ANY lawful purpose, it is protected PERIOD.  The AR15 pattern rifle is the most popular firearm in the U.S. - if it is not protected, no firearm is protected.

What guns can be banned under Heller?  Those that are both unusual (not in common use) and dangerous.  Some lower courts have actually interpreted the decision as if it reads unusual OR dangerous.  Of course, since all firearms are dangerous, this change allows any firearm to be banned.  Furthermore, the very argument in the Heller case was that handguns, as the primary murder weapon in the U.S. and the most common weapon in mass shootings, should be banned.  SCOTUS rejected this argument.

If Congress passed and Pres. Trump signed a semi-auto rifle ban tomorrow, it would be tied up in the courts for years - and given the makeup of the Supreme Court, would likely be struck down as unconstitutional.

It is far wiser to focus upon doing what we can - consistent with the Constitution - to keep dangerous people from getting ANY gun than to pin our hopes upon banning a single type of gun.

No gun control laws will do any good until we suppress the massive firearms black market - and that will be very, very hard

As indicated by the DOJ study referenced above, there is already a huge black market in firearms.  If we were to ban the most popular firearm in America, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that a black market will develop.  The more restrictive the laws become, the greater the money to be made.  We already have been fighting a losing battle with drugs - any firearms ban would be huge plus for the same drug cartels.  They have the contacts for guns, they have the smugglers and they will certainly see this as a huge money making opportunity.

Remember, we cannot currently control the black market in guns.  A ban of the most popular gun in America would be like throwing gas on the fire.  Demand will still be there, and criminal organizations will move to meet that demand.  Mexico is awash in illegal AK47s from China, North Korea and countless other nations - so meeting the demand would be no problem for them.  A mass shooter would be able to buy one as easily as a bag of illegal pot.

If we have been unable to control the drug market, why do people think we could control the market in illegal guns?

History shows that magazine capacity limits are useless and potentially unconstitutional

The Parkland mass murderer
used 5 round magazines like
this - not "high capacity" mags.
Gun control advocates and their friends in the media love magazine bans.  Their reasoning is that people will be able to rush the attacker while they are reloading.  Of course, anyone with firearms experience knows that how quickly magazines can be changed.  After the Parkland mass murders, the media told us that 30 round magazines were used and contributed to the large death toll.  Months later we got the official report from the Parkland Commission - and we learned that the murderer had not used 30 round magazines, or 20 round magazines or even 10 round magazines - he used 5 round magazines designed for hunting.  Did these smaller magazines reduce the death toll?  Absolutely not.  Magazine limits are useless in the context of mass shootings.

They are also - in most cases - unconstitutional, because they run afoul of the common use test.  pistol magazines of up to 20 rounds and rifle magazines of up to 30 rounds are, like it or not, in common use and therefore protected by the 2nd Amendment.  As with gun bans, lower courts have simply ignored this clear standard - but now SCOTUS is taking 2nd Amendment cases.  A ban of such magazines would be held up in court and likely banned.  One federal district court has already found California's 10 round limit to be unconstitutional.

Could magazines above these capacities be banned? Possibly.  The question would turn on that same "common use" standard.

Any gun confiscation would be extremely dangerous, especially in the current political climate

To understand why this reality exists, one has to understand the original purpose of the 2nd Amendment, and why people still believe it is relevant.

The first purpose of the 2nd Amendment, that was explicitly affirmed in Heller, is personal self defense.  This is why some federal appellate courts have held that there is a personal right to carry a firearm for this purpose.

The second purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to enable the federal government to rapidly raise a large army to meet external threats.  Clearly, this is not as important as it once was.

The third purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to enable the states to rapidly raise an army to restore constitutional government, should the federal government every be taken over by tyrants who acted to establish an extra constitutional government.  As much as we would like to believe this is impossible, this is as much of a threat as it was in the 1790s.

The fourth purpose is to enable the people to act to restore constitutional government should both state and federal government be subverted by tyrants.  Although it would be much harder to take over both state and federal governments, this to is as much of a threat as it was in the 1790s.

The 2nd Amendment is not intended to allow people to revolt because they simply do not like the outcome of an election, or because they disagree with government policies.  Such issues should, in a democratic republic such as ours, be settled peacefully.

Finally, the deterrent value of an armed citizenry should not be underestimated.  The United States has existed as a democratic republic for over 225 years - longer than any other such nation.  Consider the history in Europe, or in the Americas.  Democratic governments come and go - because they are frequently overthrown.  One of the biggest differences is our right to keep and bear arms.  This did not happen by accident:

Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American… The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” – Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

Dozens of such quotes - from the men who wrote and/or ratified the 2nd Amendment, survive.  Many can be found here.

That said, one more fact makes it clear that the founders wanted privately held firearms to serve as a check on the abuse of government power.  The militias existed in the UK at this time too.  However, their arms were held by the government (usually in the homes or castles of the elite) and issued only in times of emergency.  Why was this done?  To keep arms out of the arms of the people - so they would not be able to resist the rule of that same elite class.  At that time in the UK only men who owned property could vote.  Calling that nation a democratic monarchy would be a real stretch.  When considering the issue of personal arms, the founders did not want them held by an elite group of people, or by the government, but by the people.  Hence the 2nd Amendment.

With all of this as preface, consider how divided we are as a nation.  Consider that the left is moving toward socialism at a time when we see a socialist government in Venezuela subverting democracy and oppressing the people.  Consider that the people of that nation were forcibly disarmed, resulting in their current helplessness.  Consider that tens of millions of people, many of them US Military combat veterans, firmly believe that confiscating firearms unconstitutional and the first step towards tyranny.  Consider that over 1/3 of the US population sees a civil war on the horizon.  Consider that many counties and even states have declared themselves 2nd Amendment sanctuaries - indicating that they will refuse to enforce gun laws they consider unconstitutional.

Considering all of these scary facts (and I could list more), how long do you think it will be before efforts to confiscate privately held firearms will result in violence?

A little over 244 years ago, the colonies that would become this great nation were deeply divided.  People were upset about taxes and the lack of representation.  They were upset that they were ruled by a king thousands of miles away.  These and other issues resulted in the division - but none of these things started the revolutionary war.  What sparked the war was an effort to confiscate the arms of the colonists.  This resulted in the citizens militias mustering - including one that mustered on Lexington green.  There was a confrontation, shots were fired (no one knows who fired the first) and both sides stumbled onto a war.

If you live in a solid blue state, you may find it hard to believe that this could happen again.  If you live in a solid red state - and you are at all observant - you know just
This is a mainstream (and majority) view
in most red states.
how possible it is.
  My fear is that efforts to confiscate the very firearms best suited for militia use, could result in this country splitting apart. Think that local authorities in red states will help those confiscating guns for the federal government?  Think again.  They would be more likely to arrest the feds.  Just who is going to do the confiscating?  If you are going to get rid of those tens of million of firearms, you are going to have to send the military door to door.  How long will it be until many service members desert, rather than take actions they consider completely unconstitutional?  An attempt to confiscate this many firearms wouldn't just split the nation, it would split the military.  In short, it would be a disaster.

The colonists took a stand that April morning so long ago, because they either had to use their arms, or lose them.  Presenting millions of patriotic Americans with that same choice would be incredibly stupid.  We must find another way to deal with the profound evil of mass shootings.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Press And Gun Control Groups Are Lying to You

Virtually everything you are hearing about firearms background checks from gun control groups and the media is false.  Yes, they are lying to you, attempting to pass an oppressive gun bill that would criminalize common legal activities.  Let's look at each of these falsehoods:

The House bill simply expands background checks to private sales

This is completely false.  This deceitful bill redefines "transfer" from change of ownership to the act of handing a gun to someone - even if the gun never leaves your sight and they hand it right back.  If you and I are shooting in the woods, and I let you shoot my gun, we have now both committed felonies.  If my adult daughter is being stalked and wants to borrow a gun - even just until the gun dealers open and she can buy one - I cannot lend her one.  If you have kids and you want to store some of your guns in my gun safe, a wise precaution, a background check would be required every time you drop them off and every time you pick them up.  The list of absurdities goes on and on.

Advocates - if their lie about the bill only affecting sales is exposed - argue that they have these problems covered, because there are exemptions in the law.  There are three huge problems with their "exemptions".  First, they are extremely narrow and complicated - making it very hard to know if your actions are covered by them.    Second, the definitions are sometimes left to the courts to decide.  For instance, there is a "target range" exception - but what is a target range?  A gun club or commercial range?  Certainly.  My range on my private property?  Maybe.  A commonly used site in the national forest?  Who knows?  Third, and worst of all, these exceptions are "affirmative defenses".  This means that you can be arrested and jailed and you then have to prove that your actions fell within one of the exemptions.  You are literally guilty until you prove that you are innocent.

Now, assume that you are a non-gun owner.  I invite you to go shooting - but this law is in force.  Would you accept my invitation?  Probably not - and that is exactly what the intent of this bill is: Make learning  and participating in the shooting sports, or learning to shoot a gun for self defense, legally dangerous and frightening.

Ironically, there is actually a bill that would simply expand background checks to private SALES.  It's the Manchin/Toomey bill, and the Democratic leadership is trying to kill it.

Their is a "gun show loophole" that allows people to by firearms without a background check

This is completely false.  The exact same laws apply at gun shows as anywhere else.  Specifically, anyone "in the business of selling firearms" must have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), period.  There simply is no such thing as a legal an "unlicensed dealer".  The vast majority of sellers at gun shows are dealers and must conduct federal background checks.  Furthermore, US DOJ studies confirm that criminals almost never buy guns at gun shows.  This makes sense given that the number of law enforcement officers, state, local and federal - both on and off duty - at gun shows is huge.

So - what in the world is this thing that gun control advocates call the "gun show loophole"?  Quite simply, it is an exemption in federal law for "occasional" sales of your own firearms.  It simply means that if I want to sell a gun to my neighbor, whom I know well, no federal background check is required.  It has nothing to do with gun shows - but calling it that makes it sound worse.

40% of firearms are sold without a background check

This is the lie that will not die.  It comes from a study done over 25 years ago.  It covered a timeframe of two years, one of which was before the federal background check law took effect!  Furthermore, this phone survey simply asked buyers if a background check had been done.  Many of these people probably remembered filling out the Federal 4473 form, but didn't know that the dealer ran a background check.  Politifact and Snopes have both highlighted these facts.  In short, it is garbage research.

However, among other things, this lie was used to ram through the Colorado background check law in 2013.  Colorado prepared for a massive number of checks - only to find out that the actual number of private sales was not the 40% they prepared for - it was only 4%!

You can buy a gun over the internet without a background check

Yes, you can - but by doing so you and the seller have both committed a federal felony!  Unless you hold a Federal Firearms License (FFL), it is illegal to buy a gun and have it shipped to your home.  Let me say it again: Internet gun sales like this are already illegal.

However, there is a way to legally buy or sell firearms over the internet.  Connect to the seller, pay for the gun, and have it shipped to a nearby dealer (FFL).  That dealer then conducts exactly the same background check as he or she would conduct if they sold the same gun from their inventory.  He or she also is responsible for ensuring that the transaction is conducted in accordance with all state and local laws.  Obviously, these transactions would be completely unaffected by any new background check law.

Gun control advocates counter that people living in the same area often connect through sites like Armslist and then meet face to face to complete the transaction.  However, this is not an internet sale, anymore than a gun advertised in a newspaper is a "newspaper sale".  In both cases, they are private, face to face sales.

Expanded background checks would have prevented some mass shootings

Actually, no they would not have done so.  In fact, the vast majority of mass shooters actually passed a background check, in some cases because their record was clean at the time, in others because the database did not flag them as prohibited.  Many mass shooters used stolen weapons, and still others obtained weapons via straw purchases.  However, no public mass shooter I am aware of obtained their firearm(s) via an exempt private party purchase.  Obviously gun control advocates do not know of any either, or they would be citing the specific case.  They aren't because no such case exists.  Their solution to mass shootings would not have stopped even one of them....

Many criminals obtain their firearms through private sales

We know this simply isn't true because of a US DOJ study released in January 2019.  This study involved interviews with 240,000+  prison inmates who had firearms at the time of their arrest.    The facts revealed in this study are devastating to most gun control measures and expanded background checks in particular.

As the chart at left shows, the most common source of criminal's guns is the thriving black market, followed by other illegal sources (theft, borrowed from or even rented from another criminal), and straw purchases.  Together, these account for 84% of the criminals firearms.

Looking at the less common sources, we see that a criminal is four times more likely to obtain a firearm by slipping through the background check system than to obtain a gun via a private party purchase.

It is facts like these that cause gun rights advocates to wonder why gun control groups are so focused upon a source that is responsible for such a small percentage of crime guns.  Why not crack down on illegal black market dealers, or start really punishing straw purchasers?

The most obvious answer is that they want to control LEGALLY OWNED GUNS, not illegally  owned guns..  This is what scares gun owners the most.....

Wednesday, August 7, 2019


It looks like we are not going to be able to stop any new gun laws from being passed.  IMHO, we need to get smart and see what we can stop and what we can get in return.  It will be a smart move for one gun rights group to be working to minimize the damage and even to see what we can get, while the others oppose passage of the bills.

1) Expanded Background Checks

Of course, we know that this is nearly useless, but it appears that some expansion is going to pass.  Here's how we can both minimize the damage and get some things we want:

a) We need to make sure that this is a simple expansion of NICS checks to private sales - not a Bloomberg version.

b) Since we are going to have a federal background check law - we should push to have this law preempt all state and local background check laws - again, this would be a huge blow to Bloomberg.  Our argument is simple and easy to understand: One check is enough.  If we get this amendment in the bill, our opponents might even chose to kill the whole bill.  Either way, we win. 

c) Since we are going to have a national law, people now should be able to purchase guns in any state.  The law requiring state approval for purchases in another state should be repealed.   After all, we are going to have the same check everywhere.

d) We should push for as many common sense exemptions as possible.  At a minimum transfers between family members should be exempt, along with transfers to persons holding a CCW license or any form of FFL.

e) We need to prevent the so called Charleston loophole from being "fixed".  This would allow the feds to shutdown all gun sales simply by refusing to approve or disapprove them.

f) We need to make sure that the NICS system is not turned into a registration system.  To accomplish this, we need to make violation of the current ban a felony with severe mandatory prison time.  Furthermore, any state AG must be authorized to prosecute violations.  This would prevent an anti-gun rights administration from looking the other way.

To accomplish the above, while still attempting to stop anything from passing, we should have one gun rights group pushing these amendments (say SAF/CCRKBA) while other groups (say NRA and GOA) oppose any bill.

2) Red Flag Laws


They are called restraining orders and they turn the subject of such orders into a prohibited person.  After you are served with such an order, cops can, and often do, show up to seize your firearms.

I am opposed to red flag laws, both because I believe there are better solutions, and because I see a great deal of potential for abuse.  Mental health commitments and restraining orders are better solutions.  Nevertheless, it appears that the feds are likely to pass a bill that "encourages" states to pass these laws.  There are many things we can do to minimize the damage and even to roll back bad red flag laws in the states that have already passed the most agreges versions of them.

a) All state red flag laws should have to conform to federal guidelines.  Failure to abide by such guidelines should result in the loss of federal law enforcement grants.

b) The model red flag law should narrowly define who can apply for an order.  It should be limited to law enforcement and close family.  This would do away with state laws that allow basically anyone to apply for an order, greatly increasing the potential for abuse.

c) Due process must be protected. A hearing should be scheduled within 14 days of the order being issued.

d) There must be significant penalties for abuse.  At the 2nd hearing, the judge must determine if abuse has occurred.  In cases where this has happened, the judge shall impose a civil fine AND refer the party who lied to the local authorities for criminal prosecution.   Additionally, the party responsible for the abuse must pay all of the subjects legal fees.

e) Local authorities shall be responsible for the safety and care of any and all firearms in their custody.  In the case of damage, loss, theft, or any other form of loss or damage, the agency who cared for the firearms shall repair, restore, or replace the firearm.  If this is not possible, they shall compensate the owner for the full retail value.

Again, as with background checks, it would be wise to have one gun rights organization "on the inside" working to get the above included in the bill, while other work to defeat it.

3) Assault Weapons Ban

Here is where we should, IMHO not give an inch.  If the left passes such a law, it will be a disaster for this country.  It could even spark a civil war.

a) We should oppose such a law in congress, online and in every other way possible.

b) We must oppose this law in the courts.  While background check expansion and red flag laws are probably, in the opinion of the current SCOTUS Justices, constitutional - banning the most popular firearms in the US is likely not.  It clearly fails the common use test established in Heller.

Our opponents are hoping that we do not have anyone representing us when these bills are drafted and as they make their way through Congress.  They want us to just say no to all of them - because then it will be their version of these bills that pass.  We need to be smarter than that.  We need to both oppose these bills and work to make them into our versions.  These versions can be both more palatable and even advance our own agenda.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Memo To Gun Control Advocates: Be Careful What You Wish For

As this is written, the NRA is in deep trouble, massively split and facing an uncertain
future.  Gun control advocates are celebrating - but are their celebrations misplaced?

To be clear, I hope the NRA can be saved.   I fully support those who are working to reform and transform it.

That made clear, the more we learn, the more we see how little of our dues and donations were effectively used to protect the 2nd Amendment.  The current NRA is clearly a mirror image of the Washington DC political system: Bloated, ineffective and corrupt.

Just because the NRA ceases to exist, that doesn't mean that its' 5 million members are going to stop advocating for the 2nd Amendment.  They are not going to stop voting for pro-freedom candidates, give up their guns and take up knitting.  They are still going to advocate for gun rights and they are still going to give their money to the cause.

Other gun rights organizations are mean, lean and clearly more effective.  Many are not small either.  

The Gun Owners of America (GOA) has well over 2 million members, is much more uncompromising than the NRA.  It also has a significant record of stopping gun control legislation at both state and federal levels.  Indeed, the GOA is well positioned to take the place of the NRA and collect more former NRA members and supporters.

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) and its' non-profit arm the Second Amendment Foundation have nearly 3/4 of a million members.  These groups have been extremely successful for their size, especially in the area of litigation and the courts.  Given that the battle for gun rights is shifting to this arena, this group's work becomes even more important,  On the political front, this group has been willing to make deals with the other side when they believed it advanced the cause of gun rights.  They are in a good position to collect NRA members who might consider the GOA to be too radical.

In addition to these groups, there are many other "lean and mean" gun rights groups including the Firearms Policy Coalition and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.  In addition, there are too many state and regional groups to list.

The bottom line is simple: The gun rights groups positioned to replace the NRA are actually likely to be much more effective than the NRA.  If the NRA fails, it could be a good thing for gun rights in the long run.  If the NRA is reformed and continues in a more effective form, that would be a good thing for gun rights in the long run.  What would not be good for gun rights in the long run?  The NRA continuing as is - but that does not look like it will be likely to happen.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Virginia Governor Calls Lawmakers To Special Session To Push Laws That Would Not Have Stopped The Virginia Beach Murders

Northam doesn't have the best record on civil rights.
It's no surprise that he has no respect for the 2A.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, the same man who is perfectly OK with allowing babies to die, has called the Virginia legislature into special session to propose laws that would not have stopped the murders that prompted them.  His proposals are the typical laundry list that  gun rights opponents trot out after every mass shooting.  They are:

  • Universal background checks;
  • A ban on assault weapons, to include suppressors and bump stocks;
  • An extreme risk protective order;
  • Reinstating the one-gun-a-month law;
  • Child access prevention;
  • Requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms; and
  • Expanding local authority to regulate firearms, including in government buildings.

 None of these seven proposals would have done anything to stop the horrible mass murders in Virginia Beach.  Not one.

Universal background checks

The killer purchased his guns legally.  He even bought suppressor legally - which required a much more exhaustive 8-12 month federal background check, finger prints, local law enforcement notice amd more.  This proposal would not have stopped him.

A ban on assault weapons, to include suppressors and bump stocks;

The murderer used a .45 Cal pistol.  Bump stocks or so called assault weapons were not used.  This would not have stopped the murders.

An extreme risk protective order;

OK, this one is a maybe - if they knew his plans, if they seized all his guns and if he didn't go to the black market and buy a gun after his were seized.  Or if he didn't build a bomb.  You get the idea.  If you want to stop a murder, you have to deal with THE WOULD BE MURDERER.  You have to get them off the street - and into jail or a mental institution.  So, why is it that so many localities want to only deal with the guns and leave dangerous people free to use other means to commit murder?

Reinstating the one-gun-a-month law;

Murders like this one are planned far ahead of time - and only require one gun.  This law would have done nothing to prevent this horrible crime.

Child access prevention;

Thanks to over 100 years of safety training - lead by the NRA - child firearms accidents are at an all time low.  This obviously would have done nothing to stop the murders.  In fact, it could be unconstitutional under the 2008 Heller SCOTUS decision.

Requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms

How in the world this would prevent mass shootings is a total mystery.   It would, as experience has shown, result in charges being filed against people whose guns were, for instance, stolen while they were on vacation - because they "should have known" that their guns had been stolen in a burglary they did not know had happened.  Yes, this has happened.

Expanding local authority to regulate firearms

This is a favorite of gun control advocates.  Their goal is to create a "patchwork quilt" of local gun laws that would be practically impossible for gun owners to follow.  The real goal of this and many of the completely useless regulations pushed by gun control advocates is to make owning a gun legally risky, thus discouraging it.  Someone planning a mass murder is not going to be stopped be any of these laws.  They will just break them.

Including in government buildings

This final proposal is the most absurd and dangerous of them all.   First, the location where the shooting took place was - you guessed it - a gun free zone.  None of the victims were permitted to be armed.  So the governor wants to make all government buildings just like the one where the shootings took place, because that will stop future murders.

It is also insane in that these people actually think that someone who has already decided to kill as many people as possible is going to walk up to a building with a "No guns Allowed" sign, say "Oh Darn!", turn around and leave!

This "No guns allowed" sign didn't stop a mass murderer.
He was stopped when when a Naval Officer fired a gun
he had illegally carried past the sign.

Of course, the reality is that mass murderers prefer unarmed victims.  That's why the single most common characteristic that unites these horrible murders is their location in places where the lawful carrying of firearms is banned.  Virginia's governor thinks that the solution is to create more such places.

Obviously, this man knows all of these facts.  He simply wants to push the gun control agenda.  He is not trying to prevent future mass murders.  He is trying to use this horrible crime to pass bills that are on Bloomberg's list - who likely contributed to his campaign.

He has much real concern for potential victim of mass shootings as he does for babies that happen to survive abortions. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

From Now On, The Gun Rights Battle Will Be Primarily In The Courts

Could It Be That The Loss Of The NRA Would Not Matter Much?

Increasingly, anti-2A efforts have been centered in the states.  Organizations owned and operated by Michael Bloomberg have focused on passing oppressive laws in blue and purple states.  One need only consider the draconian laws passed in New York, New Jersey, California and Washington state, as well as those passed in purple states such as Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico to see that the federal battle has been placed on the back burner (for now).  With basically unlimited funds, the other side can buy the votes of lawmakers or push initiatives buy purchasing all available media time and simply lying about what is in the measure.  This has now happened twice in Washington state.  There is no sign that he will stop anytime soon.

In contrast, exactly the opposite is happening in the red states (which is majority of states).  Constitutional carry is expanding and other pro-gun measures are common.  This could lead 2A activists in these states to be lulled into a false sense of security.  We need to understand the plan our opposition is pursuing.  They know that, even if they can get a majority in the House, and gain back the White House, the Senate is going to be nearly impossible for the foreseeable future.  So, they have shifted their efforts to the states.  Know this: They are already in your deep red state, and eventually they will push their horrible laws in your state.

This makes the NRA (the national organization) less critical.  Clearly, the state affiliates will have a role to play, as will the state affiliates of GOA and independent state organizations.  In some states, mostly purple state like Maine, we can stop their bills at the political level.  In some states, we can effectively nullify the law in many counties by getting sheriff to refuse to enforce what we (and they) believe is an unconstitutional law.

In addition to moving the battle to the states, our opponents are attempting to push the constitutional limits of firearms restrictions.  The know that outright bans are now of the table, but they are attempting to get as close as possible to an outright ban.  One need only look to California to see a huge number of varied restrictions, most of which definitely push constitutional limits.  There was little to no chance of stopping these laws politically.  After all, one of the worst passed as an initiative by a nearly two to one margin.  The only hope for California gun owners is the courts.

The best chance for stopping Bloomberg is the Supreme Court.  While it would be wonderful to get a sweeping decision, striking down most gun laws, this is unlikely.  Even if we get the best possible outcome from the current case headed to SCOTUS, we still are likely going to have to fight every gun control scheme the other side can come up with.  Sadly, there are still a lot of state and federal courts where the judges simply don't care what SCOTUS (or the Constitution) says - they will uphold gun control laws.  We have already seen lower courts ignore Heller and McDonald - so I suspect that they will continue to refuse to correctly apply any future rulings.  In short, we are going to have to fight a lot of legal battles, even if we get good rulings from the Supreme Court.

While the NRA has indeed brought legal action, other gun rights organizations, especially SAF, have more experience and are likely better at it.  These organizations are much less bloated and top heavy than the NRA.  Their leadership doesn't make millions a year.  Contributions to these groups are much more effective.  Could it be that the NRA will not be the nation's leading gun rights group going forward - and that the replacement will be even more effective?