I-594: A Recipe for Disaster

November 6th, 2014


It only cost $13 million, but Washington State voters have passed a bill [pdf] mandating "universal" background checks for all transfers of firearms. This is bad law. It will punish those whose only failing was not knowing its stipulations in detail, and it will do nothing to deter crime.

Under the law, a transfer is pretty much any situation in which possession of a gun changes. It doesn't just cover the sale of firearms–a transfer occurs whenever someone besides the registered owner is in possession of the gun. So, "hold my rifle while I tie my shoes" is a transfer. If a background check hasn't been done, with a licensed dealer as the intermediary, both parties commit a gross misdemeanor.

I'm afraid it's going to take a few innocent people getting thrown in jail or losing their right to own guns in Washington before the defects of this law come to light.

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On Referendums

November 4th, 2014


The Republicans are looking to pick up six or more seats in the Senate tonight. Mitch McConnell looks to be winning in Kentucky, and he'll probably replace Harry Reid as majority leader.

Tomorrow morning, the Republicans are going to be basking in optimism and satisfaction. That would be a tremendous mistake. They need to have viable plans in place right now, or they'll be back in the wilderness in two years.

Pundits are calling this election a referendum on the President and his policies. That's not the case. If anything, that would have been the 2010 election. The "take back our country" rhetoric and tricorner hats won Republicans a few seats, but the Tea Party forked the message and turned their narrow majority into a tool for little more than squabbling obstructionism. They seemed to think the public didn't notice.

Next came claims they'd take the White House in 2012. That didn't happen. Presidential candidates bickered among themselves over who was more conservative and did little else. When the dust settled, they were left with Mitt Romney. Tea Party freshmen in the House lost seats. In New York and New Hampshire, they lost their seats back to the Democrats they'd unseated in 2010.

They were left with just enough votes to force one government shutdown and threaten another. They've little else to show for their work.

This year, they seem more focused, but their victory will be transitory at best.

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Henderson v. United States

October 21st, 2014


The Supreme Court granted cert to this one last night. At issue is the disposition of a person's firearms once he's convicted of a felony.

The question presented is whether such a conviction prevents a court under Rule 41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure or under general equity principles from ordering that the government (1) transfer non-contraband firearms to an unrelated third party to whom the defendant has sold all his property interests or (2) sell the firearms for the benefit of the defendant. The Second, Fifth, and Seventh Circuits and the Montana Supreme Court all allow lower courts to order such transfers or sales; the Third, Sixth, Eighth and Eleventh Circuits, by contrast, bar them.

Henderson's argument is here [pdf].

The government's response is here [also pdf].

I have little doubt this will be dubbed a "felons with guns" case or somesuch, but that would be inaccurate. Henderson does not assert that he is entitled to keep his firearms:  he is claiming that he has the right to compensation upon surrendering them.


October 20th, 2014


The paint on my black Stingray started chipping, so I took a Scotch-Brite pad to it.

Polished Stingray

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Settling In

October 13th, 2014


Clio's making herself at home. Maia doesn't always seem to approve of the new arrangements, though.

Clio on the couch


October 8th, 2014


I've had Maia for just over two years, so it's time for a new dog.

(A companion, not a replacement. It's important to make that distinction clear when you bring your existing dog to the shelter.)

So, this is Clio.

The coloring suggests English Setter, but the nose and ears are something closer to a Labrador. We're off to the vet tomorrow to get a better idea on age and lineage.

Eric Holder Resigning

September 26th, 2014


It may seem like odd timing, but it makes a perverse sort of sense. Come Monday, the Department of Justice will be required to release documents they previously withheld from Congress during the Fast & Furious investigation. Holder may be trying to distance himself from whatever fallout might ensue, but he remains in contempt of Congress for that bit of obstruction.

While it looks like he'll escape any consequences from that (and it has for some time), one can only hope this will haunt his professional life. Two American law-enforcement officers and over 150 Mexicans died as a result of a botched operation that took place on his watch.

As it stands, we've got a midterm election coming up, and there's a possibility of the Senate changing hands in January. If that's the case (and I'm not sold on it), the President will have a difficult time appointing a favorable successor. Expect a nominee before that.

I imagine Solicitor General Verrilli's name will be in the running. He's the safe choice. Deval Patrick's name was briefly floated, but his political baggage is more disastrous than Holder's.

Kamala Harris is also a possibility, which concerns me. She instituted California's ballistic fingerprinting system, supported Proposition H (a total ban on handguns in San Francisco), and signed on to an amicus curiae brief in the Heller case arguing against the individual right to keep and bear arms.

We're not going to get a good appointee, but Verrilli seems the least dangerous possibility.

DC Has a Carry Law, and It's Terrible

September 21st, 2014


In response to their recent court loss in Palmer v. DC, the District of Columbia has drafted a law [pdf] allowing civilians to carry firearms. The city council is doing their best to flaunt the court order without veering into direct contempt, much as they did following the Heller decision.

Essentially, one might be able to get a permit to carry in the District, but the bill is structured in such a way as to make it virtually useless. Here are the major provisions:

Applicants must demonstrate "a good reason to fear injury" and "a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community." Applicants must provide documented evidence of their plight. Said evidence may not be enough to sway the issuing authorities, who can deny the existence of a special need on a whim.

Applicants have to complete a course certified by the Chief of Police that includes at least 16 hours of training. The course must cover "situational awareness, conflict management, and moral and ethical decisions on the use of deadly force." How much will something like that cost, and how many instructors are there in the District to conduct it?

The Chief of Police may limit "the geographic area, circumstances, or times of the day, week, month, or year in which the license is effective."

Licensees may not carry in the following places:

  • Any building owned or under the control of the District
  • Any public transportation vehicle, including the Metrorail transit system
  • Any public gathering or special event conducted on property open to the public that requires issuance of a permit from the District or federal government
  • Within 1,000 feet, or other lesser distance designated by the Chief or his or her designee, when a dignitary or high ranking official of the United States or a state, local, or foreign government is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police Department, or other law enforcement agency
  • Any prohibited circumstance that the Chief determines by rule

The first four provisions cover pretty much every part of the District. Just for good measure, that last provision grants the Chief the authority to ban carry in any other place by fiat.

This is clearly not what Judge Scullin intended, and it's indicative of a larger trend. We win in the courts, and the defendants comply as little as possible, forcing us to sue again. They hope to wear us down by attrition.

Sensenbrenner Wants to Shut Down the ATF

September 18th, 2014


So, we've got a proposal on the table [pdf] to break up the ATF and fold its responsibilities into other law-enforcement agencies. The idea is to give the FBI authority to enforce firearms regulations while giving the alcohol/tobacco stuff over to the DEA.

I'd love to see it happen. Homer Cummings' little post-Prohibition revenue collection agency has grown into the arbiter of our firearms laws, and it would be a gross understatement to say they've done a horrendous job of it.

This is the agency that funneled guns across the border to Mexico in the Fast & Furious operation, who distributed swag to their agents emblazoned with "ATF: Always Think Forfeiture," and who were responsible for the debacles at Ruby Ridge and Waco.

Then there's the problem of their "whites only" Good Ol' Boys Roundup, which lasted more than a decade before being shut down.

Beyond the abuses lies the issue of gross incompetence.  They're charged with maintaining a registry of ~130,000 machine guns straight, but they've admitted an error rate of at least 50% in the NFRTR.

So, yes, I'd rather see the FBI running things. They're an older, larger organization run by professionals. They're the very antithesis of the ATF's go-getter cowboy culture–one that has resulted in serious catastrophes.

The funny thing? The idea of folding the ATF into the FBI has come up several times over the years. John Conyers proposed a bill after Ruby Ridge and Waco that even got support from Al Gore. The reaction from many ATF agents was favorable. They'd get better support and a much better working environment. It also wouldn't hurt to have the same organization handling compliance and enforcement of firearms laws.

There will always be regulation on firearms. If it's to be done, I'd rather have the FBI doing it.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely to pass under the current administration. One of the President's few successful actions after Sandy Hook was appointing a permanent director for the ATF, and he's not going to be keen on dismantling the organization.

If things change in 2016, this would be worth bringing up.

On Prohibition

September 16th, 2014


I'm a big fan of Kennesaw's Swift-Cantrell park, and I was dismayed to see this sign posted yesterday.

I understand the ban on tobacco. Secondhand smoke is a very real hazard, and nobody likes to see cigarette butts or puddles of treacly tobacco on the ground. E-cigarettes are a different matter. They don't generate litter, and exposure to bystanders is pretty much nil outdoors.

Furthermore, e-cigarettes aren't tobacco. Ordinance § 66-2(c)(3) makes it unlawful to "sell, smoke, or consume tobacco products." The Breathe Easy policy is overreaching.

Doug Taylor is the Parks & Recreation Director for the city. He can be contacted here. Please be civil and polite in all correspondence.

ATF Pushing Ahead with 41P

September 15th, 2014


A year ago, the President advanced a number of regulatory proposals on gun control. One of the more esoteric ones involved changing the way trusts are handled in regards to NFA firearms.

The original action date was to have been last June, but the BATFE was deluged with comments. While action appeared to have been pushed back to 2015, the Bureau has recently published a draft form [pdf].

Essentially, any "responsible party" of a trust or corporation must now file this form and seek approval from local law enforcement. That approval is impossible to obtain in many areas.

The BATFE stands to gain nothing. They're saddled with the paperwork, but it doesn't generate any revenue. As such, I doubt they'll hire on more examiners to address the workload. The end result will be an exponential growth in wait times for NFA approvals across the board.

There's no saying when 41P might be enacted, but I wouldn't be surprised if the administration wants to rush this one in before the midterms so they can show some success on gun control.

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

September 5th, 2014


Science fiction is often divided into two main genres: soft and hard. Soft science fiction tends to be more humanistic, with a greater emphasis on traditional story and character development. Ursula Le Guin, Theodore Sturgeon, and Cordwainer Smith are good examples.

Hard science fiction tends to focus on concepts, with more weight given to scientific rigor and speculation. Its lineage stretches from Asimov and Clarke to modern authors like Greg Bear and Alastair Reynolds. It's not to say these guys can't write stories, but this is primarily a literature of ideas.

That's where Watts comes in. His books are defined by pessimism towards the future and a density of scientific detail. He wants to make a point as well as tell a story.

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