Mikhail Kalashnikov, 1919-2013

December 23rd, 2013

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The man credited with designing one of the 20th century's most iconic firearms has passed away at the age of 94.

Kalashnikov is widely acknowledged for designing the AK-47 rifle, but I can't miss the obvious similarities to Schmeisser's StG-44. Given that Schmeisser worked with the Red Army after the war, it's hard to dismiss the possibility that the Soviets simply didn't want to give a German credit for the design.

That said, we may never know.

I find it to be a charmless piece of stamped sheet metal with numerous design flaws, but the AK-47 was cheap to produce and easy to use. Its legacy is uncontestable, if not grim. Michael Chivers wrote an excellent history of it a couple of years back, and the book is a good read.

A Tale of Two Sheriffs

December 16th, 2013

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Nationwide, several sheriffs have announced they're going to ignore new gun-control laws. It's a nice stance to take, but the fact that a certain official refuses to enforce a law in a certain area at a certain time isn't much of a guarantee.

Maybe Sheriff Joe doesn't enforce the law, but what about Sheriff Bill in the next county? Am I sure? I may be safe in County A, but what happens if I'm caught in County B? I'm going away for a felony.

Then there's the question of accountability. Sheriffs are elected officials. Let's say Sheriff Joe doesn't enforce the SAFE Act. Election time comes around, and Sheriff Steve runs against him. Perhaps Steve makes Joe's capricious and inconsistent performance of his duties an issue.

Steve takes office and starts enforcing the law without warning. He doesn't have to tell everyone that he plans on doing so. It's the law. He's just doing his job when he orders his deputies start throwing folks in jail.

I find it odd that the gun culture is cheering these guys on for selective enforcement of one law when we rush to condemn and scream jackboots if they decide to ignore others. These laws remain on the books, and a lack of prosecution isn't a solution. We need to be focusing on repeal.

Durka Durka!

December 15th, 2013

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The NSA is apparently monitoring online gamers in hopes of catching terrorists.

Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there

Right. So, um…yeah. To be sure, I can never play Borderlands or Team Fortress for more than 30 seconds without some jihadist trying to recruit me to his sinister cabal. It's quite disconcerting, really. I once tried World of Warcraft, but all those folks ever do is plot to overthrow the Great Satan. In fact, I think Leeroy Jenkins is actually the Wahabist version of Captain America.

Think about it: have you ever seen Mario and Ayman al-Zawahiri in the same place? Thought not.

So, I have an idea. We spam them. Every conversation you have in an online game should use at least one of the following words or phrases once per minute:

  • dirty bomb
  • Al Qaeda
  • assasination
  • FEMA
  • radical
  • spillover
  • ebola
  • Celine Dion
  • Tea Party
  • standoff
  • militia

That'll confuse 'em.

<Blink> Tag: 1994-2013

December 11th, 2013

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So, I was doing some things in which I take little pride. In fact, it's best they're not mentioned. During the course of these…things, the venerable <blink> tag came up, and I found out that it has been disabled in newer versions of Firefox. It appears that Chrome has never supported it.

What the $%*@? I mean, seriously. What the $%*@? This is America. We have rights. This aggression will not stand, man.

First they came for our floppy disks. Then they came for our Geocities pages. Where does it end? They think they can just come around and pull the rug out from under us. Not cool. That rug tied the room together.

Sometimes I need to make a point, and the best way to do it is through seizure-inducing blinking text. Now, like my collection of Twin Peaks video tapes, that has been torn away from me. Those guys who own Mozilla and Google, their day is coming. There will be a reckoning. People are tired of being pushed around. They are going to hear from me through a harshly-worded AIM chat. Enough is enough.

Continued »

Talking about Mental Health

December 10th, 2013

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Joe Biden's making the rounds today to announce a $100 million boost in funding for mental health treatment. Half of the money will be going to the Department of Health & Human Services, and the other half will be allotted for the Department of Agriculture, who will be focusing on infrastructure for rural areas.

And it's about time. The administration wasted most of the year pushing for gun control, which was never going to be a solution, instead of giving us the "conversation" we'd been promised. Now I hope we're ready to talk about it.

More than 1 in 4 Americans will suffer from mental illness at some point. Stigmatization, neglect, and over-prescription of mood-altering drugs have long exacerbated the problem. President Carter signed the Mental Health Systems Act in 1980, but President Reagan repealed it within 30 days of taking office. At no point in the following three decades did we see any significant effort to fix our ailing system.

Will doing this prevent violence? Possibly. Even if it doesn't, it puts us on the way to improving the quality of life for millions.

(The banner is from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a group that does outreach, awareness, and suicide prevention work.)

Sony MZ-NH1

December 3rd, 2013

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When Sony introduced a format upgrade to the MiniDisc format in 2004, the NH1 was the flagship unit. I missed the chance to get one at the time, and they've been hard to find as of late. I lucked into one only recently.

MZ-NH1

Continued »

Undetectable Firearms Act, Part Deux

December 3rd, 2013

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It's all over the news, and there's some confusion surrounding this. The House voted today on HR 3626, which extends the Undetectable Firearms Act for ten years. They did not vote to expand it.

Senator Schumer plans to submit a proposal after Congress reconvenes early next year, but that will be a different bill. Rep. Steve Israel will likely be pushing it in the House, so he's the guy to watch.

Israel started pushing the issue when 3D printing became a big deal last year. His statement was somewhat ironic:

In 1988, when we passed the Undetectable Firearms Act, the notion of a 3D-printed plastic firearm slipped through metal detectors, onto our planes in secure environments was a matter of science fiction. The problem is that today it is a reality…so we have to act now.

Yep. Despite being a "matter of science fiction," it still got passed, reauthorized, and renewed as of today. Go figure.

Twenty Years with the Brady Act

November 30th, 2013

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Yep, it was 1993. Sarah Brady is making a big deal of the anniversary. Dianne Feinstein has an op-ed running today in which she takes credit for everything short of rescuing puppies from a burning orphanage. It's a shame it's full of half-truths and outright lies.

Let's take them one by one.

Background checks on gun purchases work. The law has stopped more than 2 million convicted felons, domestic abusers and individuals with serious mental illnesses from purchasing firearms.

A cursory review of the data shows that one has to do real violence to the numbers to even imply such a thing. The rate of erroneous denials is 94%. Furthermore, the few that might have merit are almost never referred for prosecution. Either the Brady Act is hopelessly broken in its implementation, or someone is lying.

Continued »

Evie Hudak Resigns in Colorado

November 27th, 2013

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Colorado voters successfully recalled state Senators Morse and Giron back in September (bonus sad clown tears here). While there were other pressing issues, their support for gun control was the most glaring to their constituents.

Despite outspending the NRA and local groups by a wide margin, Michael Bloomberg was unable to protect either of them. His promises (and threats) that gun control was a safe vote suddenly rang very hollow. Following those recalls, Governor Hickenloper meekly asked gun control groups to stay out of Colorado.

Gun rights supporters then set their sights on Evie Hudak, well known for mocking the concerns of a rape victim and being generally inattentive to her duties in the rush to pass gun legislation.

Rather than face a recall election, Hudak has voluntarily resigned. From her letter:

Most Coloradans believe that the convenience of high-capacity ammunition magazines is less important than saving lives in tragedies like Sandy Hook, Aurora and Columbine. That’s why I sponsored SB 13-197, a bill that takes guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. (…) By resigning, I am protecting these important new laws.

She doesn't bother to claim that she was outspent by "outside interests" since local unions outspent recall petitioners by a 2:1 ratio. Her problem is her arrogance and blindness to the wants of her constituents.

Her resignation before the recall means her party can appoint an interim successor, rather than risking an election. As such, the Colorado Senate keeps its Democratic majority. Nonetheless, this is a win for gun rights.

Altostratus

November 26th, 2013

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Sandy Hook Shooting Report Released

November 25th, 2013

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The Connecticut State's Attorney has released their report on the Sandy Hook shooting [pdf]. The case has been declared closed at this point.

There aren't any substantial revelations about Lanza's motives. He was not found to be taking medication, nor was he under the influence of drugs at the time. He does not appear to have told anyone his intentions in advance.

Regarding the search of his home, other weapons were found. All of them were registered to his mother in accordance with state and federal laws. A computer was found in Lanza's bedroom, but he appears to have damaged it to make the contents unreadable.

(…) investigators found a computer hard drive that appeared to have been intentionally damaged. To date, because of the extensive damage, forensic experts have not yet been able to recover any information from that hard drive.

In a typical criminal case, the investigation would remain open when potentially important evidence was still being examined. Given the improbability of any information being recovered from the damaged hard drive, this outstanding piece of evidence is not preventing the closure of this case now.

He had a GPS with routes to and from other local schools in the area. The report also lists video games found in the house, which included titles like Call of Duty and Doom. He was also apparently a fan of Dance Dance Revolution, so the argument that video games were contributors to his behavior becomes more than a bit strained.

He did reading on the Amish school shooting and the Northern Illinois University incident, and "photocopied newspaper articles from 1891 pertaining to the shooting of school children" were found among his effects. He seems to have researched the Columbine shooting extensively, and there were photos on a hard drive (presumably a different one) in which Lanza held handguns and rifles to his own head. This is similar to some of Seung-Hui Cho's behavior and interests.

Unlike Cho, however, he left behind no writings to indicate motive. He appears to exhibited many of the classic facets of autism and was unemotional towards others, but his history shows no prior inclination to violence.

At the end of it, we have a collection of facts, but we're still no closer to knowing why he did this. Despite the morbid politics and finger-pointing, we've yet to see the national conversation we were promised about mental illness. Until that happens, we will have no way of preventing such tragedies in the future.

United States v. Chovan

November 20th, 2013

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The 9th Circuit has ruled that §922(g)(9), also known as the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, does not violate the 2nd Amendment. Furthermore, they found that it continues to bar firearms ownership, even after all other civil rights have been restored.

The upshot is this:

  • Despite restoration of other civil rights, the lifetime ban on firearms ownership is constitutional
  • Intermediate scrutiny applies to 2nd Amendment challenges
  • The "core" right acknowledged by Heller applies to “law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home."
  • Mr. Clovan's misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence forever exempts him from that category.

Daniel Chovan was convicted of corporal injury on a spouse in 1996. In 2009, he attempted to buy a gun and was denied. Upon further investigation, the FBI found videos Mr. Chovan posted on YouTube in which he carried firearms while participating in improvised border patrols and fired guns across the border into Mexico.

So, yeah, this guy's a winner. He's certainly not the ideal plaintiff for such a constitutional challenge. Should that matter? No. Does it matter? Yes.

Continued »

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