The Compass Flower

January 4th, 2015

A Mask for Janus

SAF Brings Suit against I-594

December 31st, 2014

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The press release is here. The filing itself is here [pdf].

Their argument is that I-594 is unconstitutional because it is too vague, both facially and as applied.

I-594, with its amendments to RCW 9.41 relating to non-commercial transfers of firearms, as well as Defendants’ enforcement of the same, prohibit, substantially interfere with, inhibit access to, and infringe upon the right to possess firearms and thus infringe Plaintiffs’ rights under the Second and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as the rights in Article I, Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution.

Specific examples of infringement include the criminalization of  shared firearms in the same home, the impractical burden on firearms training, and the inability to retake possession of a gun previously loaned to another.

They point out that the Washington State Patrol will not be enforcing the law because they can't prove what is or isn't a transfer. Most sobering is this bit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

On December 2, 2014, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued guidance on I-594 that it had formulated “in close consultation with our legal counsel in the Attorney General’s Office.” The guidance was focused on the Department’s hunter education and stated, in part, that transfers between the Department’s volunteer hunter education instructors and their students are exempt because the instructors are agents of the Department, which is in turn exempt as a law enforcement agency. The guidance goes on to note, however, that transfers between students would not be exempt, but that instructors could avoid liability under I-594 by engaging in a straw-man transfer by taking the firearm from one student and handing to to another.

The need for such an exception, and the roundabout way in which it must be exercised, should highlight the absurdity of this law better than anything else.

Undeserved Celebrity

December 23rd, 2014

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Apparently, all it takes to become an "activist" in 2014 is to get a Twitter account and make an insipid YouTube video. In a matter of days, this person has gone from being a selfie-obsessed nobody to an internet celebrity based on this video this video.

(The gun is actually a Crosman C-11 pellet gun, but that is a real charter school.)

Angry gun owners unwittingly fed into her narcissism, and even the CSGV has thrown its hat into the ring. Notice the conciliatory and respectful tone:

This was an audition for Michael Bloomberg's money, and thanks to the outrage, she probably passed.

(This afternoon, she pulled down the original video and re-uploaded it at a different address. The link above is to the new address.)

Vultures

December 12th, 2014

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A group of families, organized by the law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, is planning to bring a wrongful death suit against Bushmaster Firearms because one of the company's rifles was used in the Sandy Hook shooting. In theory, such a lawsuit would be forbidden by the Protection in Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. In practice, it's not as clear.

A Bushmaster rifle was also used in the 2002 DC Beltway shootings. The Brady Campaign brought suit against them, and the company eventually settled. Doing so set a terrible precedent, and the lawyers smell blood in the water.

Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder has taken a keen interest in product-liability lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and their campaign contributions run a close parallel to those of the Brady Campaign. I expect to see a statement from the latter supporting this in the coming days.

BTW, the screen grab in the header was from a loopy media campaign the Bradys did a few years back. The domain must have lapsed at some point, and now…well, now it's something in Japanese about exterminating ants with a flamethrower.

The Markus Kaarma Case

December 5th, 2014

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Self-defense statutes commonly known as "stand your ground" laws have come under a great deal of scrutiny the last couple of years. Though not a stand your ground case, the George Zimmerman situation was quoted as proof that Florida's law was unfairly biased against minorities. Michael Dunn's attempt to cite the law in his defense made things even worse.

Now we've got a case in Montana that critics are attempting to lump into the same category. The issue at hand doesn't involve stand your ground laws, which generally cover self-defense outside the home. Kaarma is claiming immunity under Montana's castle doctrine law, which covers the defense of home.

Castle doctrine is a much older legal theory, and one about which there's less controversy. It hinges on the idea that there are certain privileges and immunities regarding the use of force in defense of the home. However, Montana's law is quite clear that lethal force is only allowable to prevent an assault or forcible felony.

Laying a trap for someone and laying in wait to shoot them doesn't fit that bill.

According to the court filing [pdf], Kaarma had been a victim of prior break-ins. An exchange student named Diren Dede entered Kaarma's garage, and Kaarma fatally shot him.

What was Dede doing there? Well, Kaarma's wife left a purse in the garage, with the door left open. In and of itself, that casts Kaarma's motivation into question.

In addition, Kaarma made comments to responding officers that he didn't want the burglar to escape and that the police couldn't catch the burglar in the act. That's strike two, and it's eerily similar to George Zimmerman's "these punks always get away" utterance to 911 operators prior to the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

To worsen things, he'd made prior statements to a hairdresser that he was waiting up at night with a shotgun to catch and kill potential burglars. Whether or not he meant to, he tainted his defense, perhaps hopelessly.

He will likely claim that he made these statements under emotional stress and that he didn't mean them. Even if we assign some truth to that, there's an abject lesson here: after a shooting, make no statements to responding officers about motive.

Here's lesson number two: watch the chest-beating rhetoric. In a homicide case, prosecutors can and often will scour social media and other online communications. A track record of statements like "I don't dial 911, I dial 1911" and suggestions that certain people deserve to be punished with violence isn't going to play well for a jury.

I'm Five Years Old Again

November 29th, 2014

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The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is live. Here's what we've got:

  • John Boyega as a stormtrooper. The armor's new, and it's a first to see one of them as person. Rumor has it he's a protagonist.
  • A beachball-shaped R2 unit. It's less annoying tha Jar-Jar. Then again, so are head lice.
  • Menacing stormtroopers being airdropped somewhere. Does this mean some remnant of the Empire is still around?
  • Daisy Ridley riding a giant speeder bike. Is that a lightsaber lashed to the side?
  • A desert planet, but possibly not Tatooine. Notice the single sun in the final shot.
  • X-wings skimming over a lake. The pilots' uniforms look familiar, but the s-foils are different. Freakin' x-wings, dude.
  • A creepy guy with a red lightsaber. It looks more like a heavy claymore than the agile swords we're used to seeing. It also looks angry.
  • Cue up the John Williams and ermagherd the Falcon. This is where Abram's style shows up. It looks like it's actually cutting the air, and the way the camera follows loosely it through its roll feels great (also, lens flare). It looks like Han replaced the radar dish Lando wrecked during Jedi.

So, yeah, Abrams. Don't screw this up too much and we'll throw unimaginable amounts of money at you.

Weasel Words

November 27th, 2014

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"Scientists say" is an ambiguous and manipulative phrase when not backed up by actual data. It's right up there with "according to experts" and the ever-popular "studies have shown."

Today's exhibit is a hysteria-inducing broadside regarding e-cigarettes. Apparently, scientists say they contain ten times as much formaldehyde as cigarettes. So, where's the data? The article, of course, doesn't provide it.

It comes from a Japanese study, available here. The methodology is questionable, and the results contradict what we've been hearing from other scientists, like this guy I'm citing. It should be mentioned that this comes from a nation with a male smoking rate 60% higher than that of the United States, and one in which the government controls the tobacco industry.

The real motivation behind things like this is economic. Tobacco marketers [pdf] and pharmaceutical companies have long held monopolies on nicotine products. They're not happy to see an open-source alternative biting into their market share, and they're doing everything they can to kill it.

No Justice, No Peace

November 24th, 2014

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That very slogan is a mockery of our system of justice. The protesters demanded a grand jury, and they got it. It turns out the eyewitnesses were unreliable, and the physical evidence shows no criminal activity on Officer Wilson's part. The system did its job.

Many of those calling for an indictment never cared about the process. They simply care about punishment. They want someone to suffer, and they assume that will happen if they get enough people to scream. They believe that public opinion should drive criminal proceedings.

This tendency towards vengeance is the basest of human instincts, and it's exactly what our system of justice is designed to counter. The very definition of justice is not the whim of a mob.

There are some serious issues with law enforcement in Ferguson. Why is a majority black community policed by a force that's overwhelmingly white? Why are there not dashboard cameras in every squad car in St. Louis?

What worries me most is that those questions will be forgotten in the weeks to come. When the clouds part and the protesters aren't in the news anymore, how many people will still be pushing for answers?

I fear it will be too few.

More on Pistol Braces

November 24th, 2014

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I've been over the issue of pistol stabilizing braces before. Attaching one to a pistol is perfectly legal. It is also legal to use it as a shoulder stock, though that's not the intended purpose. The BATFE issued a very specific letter to clarify this.

Black Aces Tactical recently manufactured a shotgun with the brace, and they've been informed that this is impermissible. People are now under the impression that this affects all uses. That is not the case.

The answer is simple and short. In legal terms, a shotgun is not a pistol. They are two different things.

As per 18 U.S.C., § 921(A)(5), a shotgun is defined as,

a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile

A shotgun is a smoothbore weapon designed to be fired from the shoulder. It has its own set of legal restrictions.

This ruling prohibits the use of a pistol brace on a shotgun. It has no applicability to actual pistols.

Jay Leno Weasels Out

November 23rd, 2014

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Jay Leno was scheduled to speak at the 2015 SHOT show but has cancelled under pressure from gun-control groups. This came from his spokesperson:

When it came to his attention that this was actually a pro-gun lobby show, he immediately cancelled his appearance. He found out that it was not what he was originally told it was, and he decided to cancel.

OK, what else would the National Shooting Sports Foundation be? I find it incomprehensible that he would be ignorant of that, or of what the SHOT Show promotes. He could at least have been honest about it.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (formerly the National Coalition to Ban Handguns) had this to say:

The writing is now on the wall for celebrities who would consider getting in bed with the gun lobby: Don't do it. Because if you do, your reputation and brand will be damaged forever, without repair.

And these are the guys who talk about respecting the 2nd Amendment in their rhetoric?

The NSSF covers a lot of bases. Hunting and safety are foremost among them. Guess who distributes education literature to dealers to advise them on responsible selling practices? It's the NSSF, not CSGV. I've yet to hear one word from Moms Demand Action, and I've never seen Everytown for Gun Safety distribute a single piece of literature on, well, gun safety.

So, this happens…

November 20th, 2014

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Here's a Cobra .380 pistol, gone asplodey on the range. Notice the texture of the crack: that's not steel. It's a zinc alloy.

One shouldn't trust such things to handle 21,000 psi with any real grace.

I-594: Curios and Relics

November 16th, 2014

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The ATF has long recognized that certain firearms fall into a category known as "curios and relics." As defined, this includes weapons that "are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons." Most are firearms over 50 years old, or for which the value is historical rather than functional.

Collectors of curios and relics (C&R) can acquire a Type 3 FFL, which allows them to bypass some of the transfer requirements of the Gun Control Act and Brady Act. To the best of my knowledge (and please prove me wrong), Borchardt pistols and Clement carbines are hardly the preferred weapons of gang violence and mass shootings.

But folks in Washington state decided to do things their own way. Whether through haste or design, I-594 now makes it pointless to hold a C&R license there.

The background check requirement applies to all sales or transfers including, but not limited to, sales and transfers through a licensed dealer, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons.

Type 3's aren't dealers, so they can't conduct background checks. As such, they'll need to have all transfers done through a Type 1 or 2 dealer. That pretty much invalidates the very point of a C&R license.

What about the federal rules exempting C&R weapons? There's no equivalent in I-594. The only exception for the background-check requirement is for guns defined as antiques, which are:

(…) a firearm or replica of a firearm not designed or redesigned for using rim fire or conventional center fire ignition with fixed ammunition and manufactured in or before 1898, including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1898, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.

That's, well…that's pretty much everything. There might be merit to a lawsuit challenging this conflict between federal and state law.

(Sorry, Crufflers: I hadn't considered this wrinkle before. I went back and checked last year's federal background-check bill. Its definitions would have presented the exact same problem.)

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