Author: <span class="vcard">Steve</span>

No, this isn’t the same sort of paradox as the bootstrap paradox. I’m talking about the weird, nearly simultaneous arguments that anti-gun types make claiming that we pro-gun types are either stuck in the past or not stuck in the past.

We’re told, on the one hand, that the 2nd Amendment is an outmoded document. We’re told that it’s a relic of a bygone era when most of the country was lawless frontier. We’re told that we need to get with the times, be like Europe, and all but ban firearms from civilian ownership. If there’s trouble, the argument goes, just call 911.

And in the next breath, we’re told that our view of the 2nd Amendment is far too modern. “The Founders could never imagined fearsome weapons of war like the AR-15!” And then, after stating that the 2nd Amendment only protects Brown Bess muskets, these same anti-gun leftists will hop back into their TARDIS and proclaim that the Constitution is a “living document” that evolves with the times.

…but not when we’re talking about guns.

Both arguments are ridiculous. The 2nd Amendment did not create a new right out of thin air. It recognized a preexisting freedom that flows from a right that all Humans have: The right to self defense. If one has the right to self defense, then one has a right to the means of self defense. It doesn’t matter whether that means is a sharp stick or a semiautomatic rifle. Not one of the Founders would have argued that a version of the 2nd Amendment written in the Bronze age wouldn’t have applied to steel weapons. And not one of these anti-gun leftists would argue that the 4th Amendment applies only to documents written on parchment. (Unless, of course, it were necessary to do so to argue against private gun ownership!) Just as the 4th Amendment applies to electronic files on your computer, so too the 2nd Amendment applies to the modern firearms in your gun safe.

As to their first claim that firearms are now “unneeded” in a modern, civil society, I suggest that they skim a few headlines from media outlets in Chicago. The Wild West was far more peaceful than is “civilized” Chicago.

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So there was this former University of Missouri journalism prof who opined that the NRA is as bad as ISIS. I thought to myself, this could be fun. But alas, there isn’t enough in the article for even a bit of silly mockery, let alone a good Fisking. The old duffer’s argument seems to be that both organizations are known by acronyms. One wonders what he thinks of the National Restaurant Association.

Politics

My guess is that most non-shooters just don’t get why we enjoy the activity. They don’t understand that it really is like meditation to us.

Albeit, meditation that requires eye and ear protection.

Shooting isn’t about making lots of noise at the range. You may be there with a group of people and it’s loud, but eventually your world shrinks down to just a few things: You, the firearm, the target, this next bullet, and the air between you and the target.

You start to block out the world around you. You concentrate on the fundamentals; your stance, your grip, the sight picture. You inhale deliberately, and exhale. In that pause between breaths, you smoothly pull the trigger. The gun discharges, but you keep pulling the trigger. You pull it all the way back applying proper follow-through. You slowing release the trigger until hear it reset. You note where the bullet hit, but you’re already on to the next round. That last shot is over and done with; it’s no longer part of your world. The next shot is what matters. And then you do it all over again.

No, some people just don’t get the quiet that we find in all of that noise.

Shooting Shooting sports

Some of you may be familiar with The Trace. This is Michael Bloomberg’s purpose-built, anti-gun “news” outlet. It provides all of the anti-gun news that’s fit to print. It does deserve some props, however. Unlike Bloomy’s other anti-gun propaganda operations, this one is up front with being an anti-gun propaganda operation. It’s also a very nicely composed and designed website. Unless I miss my guess, it’s built around WordPress. (The same software this site uses.) As anti-gun site go, theirs is a pretty good site. But (Yes, that big but was on its way!), they may have to get a better handle on what makes its way onto the site.

Take this story from last July, for example, about how ineffective gun buyback programs are.

How did I miss this?

The author, Kate Masters, presents data that most of us already knew: That guns collected in these programs by the police are often non-functional pieces of dren and that they are the guns least likely to be used in crimes. Furthermore, the police are often duped into paying top dollar for junk guns and the funds they pay are then used to buy better guns.

There’s no evidence that gun buybacks actually curb gun violence. Though the events have become ubiquitous in the U.S. since the ’90s, they’re coupled with a number of academic studies that pointedly demonstrate the ways that buybacks fail to reduce crime. “[Studies show that] the guns you get back are nonfunctioning, that we’re paying money and we’re not getting real benefits,” Ralph Fascitelli, the president of Washington CeaseFire, a Seattle-based gun safety organization, tells The Trace. “They’re just feel-good things that don’t do much real good.”

The feel-good nature of gun buybacks often spurs police departments to organize them in the wake of major killing sprees, such as a 2014 buyback organized by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti after a gunman killed six people near the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus. This June alone, local officials from Florida, Connecticut, California, Arkansas, and Massachusetts launched city- or county-wide buybacks in response to violent shootings or rising crime rates. But experts claim it’s unlikely that these officials truly believe the events help reduce crime.

The “no questions asked” policy shared by most buybacks can also make them vulnerable to what [Alex Tabarrok, professor of economics at George Mason University] calls “gun entrepreneurs,” generally private sellers who use the events to profit off their local government. He cited a particularly notorious 2008 buyback in Oakland, California, where police bought handguns and assault rifles for $250 each. The event attracted local gun dealers, who bought cheap guns out-of-state and sold them back to the government for a profit

One suspects that Ms. Masters is no longer in the employ of Michael Bloomberg after posting something like this!

But this does lead us to a larger truth about the anti-gun movement: It’s entirely based on “feel-good” politics and not hard data. People like Michael Bloomberg are driven by emotion. Guns are icky. Gun owners are icky. Guns should be banned because they’re icky. Gun owners should be locked up because they’re icky. They ignore the reality of firearms: That they’re far more likely to be used to prevent violent crimes than to perpetrate them. Most guns are never fired in anger and most gun owners never hear a shot that’s been fired in anger. Those guns and their owners lead boring, uneventful existences.

Do bad things happen with guns? Of course they do. Bad things happen with hammers too, but you don’t see millions being spent to shut down the home improvement industry and “big hardware”. There isn’t a consumer product anywhere that’s completely risk free. But with every one of them, we apply risk/benefit analysis. People like Bloomberg pointedly refuse to do so with firearms. But then again, Bloomy’s not known to be a particularly rational individual.

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The firearm is the most versatile self-defense tool that Man has ever developed. It allows the physically weak to equal and potentially best the strong. A 98 pound grandmother can drop a 250 pound thug with one squeeze of the trigger. There’s a make and model that will suit any user or application. But, there are times when you are unable, or not allowed, to have access to a firearm when you really, REALLY need one.

As I write this, the L.A. County Sheriff’s office is conducting an active shooter drill at El Monte High School. A school is an example of a “non-permissive” environment. While it’s physically possible to carry and use a firearm there, it’s not legal to do so. (And the State is trying to make it impossible for even local school officials to allow guns on a campus!) So if the exercise at El Monte High wasn’t a drill, and you were there, what options would you have?

What got me thinking about this was a trip to Disneyland. Disney has really stepped up their game when it comes to security. They used to concentrate on purses and backpacks that guests were carrying into the park. This meant searching mostly women (Who generally aren’t a threat) and ignoring men (…and most violent perps are men!). I don’t know how many times I walked into the park with my knife and they didn’t notice because they were too busy looking in my wife’s purse. That’s no longer the case. Everyone gets looked at now! So now that the knife stays in the car, I started thinking about “what if” scenarios. (Yes, that’s the sort of thing I do while waiting in line at The Happiest Place On Earth. Doesn’t everyone?) I began to notice that there are potential weapons everywhere. These aren’t stand-off weapons like a gun, but neither is a knife.

A school or an office is no different. There are potential weapons all around you. You just have to start seeing things for what they can be made into rather than what they are now. A chair is a place to plant your butt; until you throw it at someone’s head.

Students (or office workers) are taught to lock doors and keep quiet during an active shooter attack. This is a good start. In a classroom, there are lots of heavy objects like tables and file cabinets. Use these to barricade the door. The chairs in the room make nice projectile weapons or clubs, should someone force the door open. (It’s not easy to aim a gun when there’s a chair flying at your face!) Pens and pencils make adequate stabbing instruments; especially when directed at an attacker’s eyes. Look around and think about how this or that can be used to inflict life threatening injuries. Work in teams. While one group of students is throwing things, others should be moving flank the attacker.

Sounds dangerous? It is. But at this point, what have you got to lose?! At the very least, you turn yourself into a moving target. Passivity won’t save your life. You may become someone else’s “meat shield”, but that’s about all sitting and cowering will do.

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If you take an NRA certified firearm class, or any course certified by a reputable organization, you will hear safety rules repeated over and over again. There’s a reason for this. Even those familiar with firearms can have mishaps when they ignore these rules. Like this NRA employee.

An employee at one of the NRA’s museums “accidentally” shot himself while holstering a pistol. I put accidentally in quotes because “accident” implies an unforeseeable and thus unpreventable event. This was neither. Guns don’t “accidentally go off”. A gun will fire when you load it and depress the trigger. That’s kinda the point. If I press down on the “A” key on this keyboard, an “A” appears on the screen. That’s kinda the point. If the keyboard didn’t do that, or if the gun in question didn’t fire, we’d correctly report that said device is defective.

So what are those rules we should be following?

  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Always keep the gun unloaded until you are ready to use it.
  3. Always keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to fire the gun.

If you apply all three of these rules, a gun simply cannot “go off” and hurt someone; it’s a physical impossibility. This guy got his finger onto the trigger of a loaded gun while it was pointed at his own body. The gun functioned as advertised, as did the ammo, and now he has an extra hole in his body. The rules are there for a reason.

And if you are an NRA member, or a member of any other group that emphasizes gun safety, you are especially responsible for following these rules. A negligent discharge in any other location would have been ignored by USAToday. One at an NRA facility makes headlines. Why do you suppose that is? If you think that USAToday has a sudden interest in firearm safety, then you need to step away from the meth pipe. The media report events like this one because they want to paint gun owners, and NRA members in particular, as violent and dangerous. Follow those rules not only because you should to stay safe, but also to keep from becoming an argument against your own rights. Don’t arm the other side!

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It’s official!

Special thanks need to go out to former Senators Harry Reid and Joe Biden. Thanks to the Biden Rule and the Reid Rule, we’re saying “Justice Gorsuch” instead of “Justice Garland”. After the Senate applied the rules he once supported, anti-gun fruitloop Chucky Schumer wasn’t able to stop Justice Gorsuch’s nomination.

Does this guarantee solid, conservative/libertarian rulings from the Court? Of course not. The (usually) 5-4 majority has been restored, but that doesn’t tell us how people like Anthony Kennedy or John Roberts will vote. We’ll be able to breath easier once Justices Ginsburg and Breyer have decided to ride off into the sunset. Additionally, Gorsuch isn’t a results oriented jurist. If lawyers appearing before the Court expect him to rule in their favor, they’d better have convincing, Constitutionally grounded arguments. He’s a reals over feels kinda guy.

All judges should be like this, but sadly they aren’t. Far too many, including many appointed by Republicans, rule based upon what public policies might flow from said ruling. A proper judge should rule based upon what the law and the Constitution require. If we don’t like the subsequent results, then it’s up to the People and their representatives to change the law and/or the Constitution; not a bunch of unelected clowns in black robes.

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At what point does a species go from endangered to extinct? Is it when the last individual dies? Or is it when the last individual of one gender dies leaving a lone survivor? This may not seem to be a gun related topic; but, here in California, it is. The State’s attempts to “save the condor” affect hunters in particular and gun owners in general. Laws on lead ammunition will ultimately determine the ammo choices, and costs, that even non-hunters will have when they seek ammunition for self-defense or other non-hunting applications.

The popular view of extinction is the latter of the two listed above. When the last male or the last female dies, breeding another generation becomes impossible. Or does it? Cloning might offer hope, some would argue. But recent studies suggest that it was all over for a particular species long before the last breeding pair was parted. This study of Woolly Mammoth populations shows how a species can pass the point of no return even while there may be hundreds of individuals still alive. (Here’s something of a Cliff Notes version from the NY Times.) The study documents the dramatic loss of genetic diversity in the last known mammoth population.

The last mammoths of Wrangel Island died out about 4000 years ago. The DNA of one individual that died about 300 years before that point was compared to the DNA of a mammoth from Siberia that lived 45,000 year ago. The genetic diversity was about 20% lower in the younger sample and showed signs of multiple, deleterious mutations that would have hindered the ability of the Wrangel Island population to survive changes to their environment. The estimate of the island’s mammoth population 4300 years ago is 300 breeding individuals. (There may have been more individuals present on the island, but only 300 or so were actively breeding.) This proved to be too small a population to sustain the species. Harmful mutations built up and natural selection couldn’t weed them out of so small a population.

In 1987, when the last wild California Condor was captured at the start of the State’s breeding program, there were 27 individuals left in the world. Out of that group, only 13 were breeding individuals. All California Condors alive today are descendants of those original 13. Making matters worse, there’s a very good possibility that all 13 were closely related. If that’s the case, then the entire population of California Condors in the world today is descended from less than 13 birds.

Current law regarding endangered species focuses on simplistic census numbers; how many animals exist. 300 large animals on a 2900 square mile island would seem, by this measure, to be a healthy population. It wasn’t. But laws such as the Endangered Species Act were written before science could accurately describe a species’ genome. It assumes that having more individuals in a population is automatically good. But, if all of these individuals are closely related, then even a large population isn’t healthy and isn’t sustainable. Merely counting heads won’t save a species from extinction.

The question to be asked about new or existing laws here in California isn’t “Will this save the condors?”, but rather “Is saving the condors even possible anymore?”. Arguably, the answer to that question is “no”. Gymnogyps californianus is already extinct when one considers their genome. But all of this goes further than condors. Recent studies have shown that some “endangered” wolf species aren’t wolves; they’re coyote hybrids. Under current law, this means that they’re not endangered at all.

It’s time for the law to catch up to science. More than nose counting must be done to determine which species need protection, which do not, and which are beyond hope; and thus, where we should spend our finite government resources. Attempting to save an already extinct species or a hybrid population isn’t a good way to spend the People’s money. Worse yet, we hurt species that can be preserved with these quixotic attempts to “save” extinct species and hybrid populations.

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Watch out 9th Circuit! The 4th is a-comin’ fer ya!

San Francisco’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has the dubious distinction of being the most overturned court in the Federal judiciary. Over 80% of 9th Circuit rulings reviewed by the Supreme Court get tossed. Not to be outdone, the 4th Circuit issued this ridiculous ruling in the Kolbe case. The court’s en banc panel held that, and I’m paraphrasing a bit here, since “assault weapons” are icky and scary looking, they’re not protected by the 2nd Amendment. The court contends that the affected semi-automatic firearms are “weapons of war” and thus not protected as per Heller.

This is, of course, an incorrect reading of Heller as well as the facts.

While the Heller ruling was narrowly confined to Washington D.C.’s handgun ban, the Court did caution against reading the ruling as only applying to handguns; that the 2nd Amendment may apply to firearms such as semi-automatic rifles. Justice Scalia writes:

   Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment , nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.26

    We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.” See 4 Blackstone 148–149 (1769); 3 B. Wilson, Works of the Honourable James Wilson 79 (1804); J. Dunlap, The New-York Justice 8 (1815); C. Humphreys, A Compendium of the Common Law in Force in Kentucky 482 (1822); 1 W. Russell, A Treatise on Crimes and Indictable Misdemeanors 271–272 (1831); H. Stephen, Summary of the Criminal Law 48 (1840); E. Lewis, An Abridgment of the Criminal Law of the United States 64 (1847); F. Wharton, A Treatise on the Criminal Law of the United States 726 (1852). See also State v. Langford, 10 N. C. 381, 383–384 (1824); O’Neill v. State, 16Ala. 65, 67 (1849); English v. State, 35Tex. 473, 476 (1871); State v. Lanier, 71 N. C. 288, 289 (1874).

    It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment ’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

While “dangerous and unusual” weapons are not protected, those “in common use” are. And “Black rifles” certainly are in common use! There’s a reason why the AR-15 is called “America’s Rifle”.

This ruling is doomed to reversal once it reaches the High Court. There it will join similarly goofy rulings from the 9th Circus. It is nothing more than a temper tantrum issued by a pack of black-robed idiots. But the fact that it will be short lived does not undo the damage that it will cause. There are law abiding citizens within the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction that are now at risk of having their rights violated while the ruling is in force.

The more long lasting damage is to the law’s reputation. We have mentioned before that laws and court rulings that make a mockery of the law erode respect for the rule of law; and this is a very dangerous situation. A civil society cannot exist in the absence of the rule of law. As upsetting as this might be to some special snowflakes, society needs rules that everyone can follow. Rulings like this one upend the rules. Instead of a Constitution that sets firm limits on the power of Government, the 4th Circuit would replace it with judicial whimsy. This reduces the rule of law to a game of Calvinball.

…which is only funny if a boy and his stuffed tiger are involved. It’s not so funny if you’ve been arrested for something that was legal last Tuesday and might be again at the next new moon.

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