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.

Continued »


August 12th, 2014


Any time you want to stop the killings and coerced "conversions" of Christians would be great. For a bunch of guys who claim to be acting on the tenets of God or Muhammad, you're defying both.

Consider Muhammad's covenant with the monks of St. Catherine's:

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

Further, from the Pococke translation:

Whosoever shall annul any of one of these my decrees, let him know positively that he annuls the ordinance of God. (…) No one shall bear arms against them, but, on the contrary, the Muslims shall wage war for them.

This is all a callback to Surah 29, which states:

And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."

Many people claim that Islam is the cause or justification for the horrors being perpetuated in Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth.

National Mutt Day

July 31st, 2014


They get their own holiday, too. Since Maia doesn't actually have a job, she doesn't get a day off.

So, mostly it's an extra popsicle and a bit more crotch sniffing than President's Day.

Maia on the couch

Fast & Furious: Unexpected Progress

July 31st, 2014


Two years ago, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress. At issue was his refusal to turn over documents crucial to the investigation of the ATF's disastrous Fast & Furious operation. The President invoked executive privilege and refused to turn over the information.

Shortly after, the website Judicial Watch made an Freedom of Information Act request for those documents. Nothing came of it, so they filed a lawsuit in September of 2012. That lawsuit was decided earlier this month by U.S. District Court Judge John Bates, who ruled that the Department of Justice must provide a Vaughn index of the relevant documents.

The Supreme Court established the concept of the Vaughn index in Vaughn v. Rosen. An agency that wishes to withhold information must provide a detailed index and description of the information, state the statutory exemption claimed, and they must explain how disclosure would damage their interests.

Does this mean we'll get all the answers? No, but it will point us in the right direction.

10th Circuit Upholds Multiple Long Gun Reporting

July 28th, 2014


In 2011, the ATF began requiring dealers in Southwestern border states to report sales of multiple semiautomatic rifles to individual purchasers. The ATF doesn't have the authority to do this.* As such, the requirement has been challenged in the DC and 5th Circuit courts, but it was upheld in both instances.

Today, the 10th Circuit issued a ruling [pdf] affirming them.

Among the lovely chestnuts of wisdom was this:

A review of Project Gunrunner conducted by the Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) indicates that tracing guns seized in Mexico can provide “crucial” information in gun-trafficking investigations and generate intelligence regarding trends in gun smuggling. (…) [Assistant Director of Field Operations William Hoover] explained that trace information helps ATF “reconstruct the flow of weapons along the border, how and where they are being purchased, and who is purchasing them.”

Yeah, because that worked so well when Project Gunrunner was active.

* Here's the multiple-handgun form [pdf]. It specifies "pistol or revolver." Nowhere does it grant them the power to demand reporting of long guns. If they want that, they have to get authority from Congress.

Can We Now Carry in DC?

July 28th, 2014


Miller has been involved with this for quite some time. She has more on the issue here. Lanier has also instructed police to allow any qualified nonresident to carry in the District.

(Edit: here's Lanier's actual order [pdf])

Here's the first catch: nonresidents are free to carry, but DC residents can only carry a gun that's registered there.  The registry in DC has been closed since 1976. The Supreme Court's ruling in Heller was supposed to change that, but it's still virtually impossible to get a handgun in the District. Gun shops are prohibited by zoning laws, so residents can't buy a handgun directly. There is only one FFL willing to transfer handguns in from out of state.

We're left with a system in which everyone but residents of Washington DC can now carry a handgun there.

Here's the second catch: the District has a great number of other restrictions. It's still illegal to possess magazines that hold more than ten rounds, and federal property is off-limits. Given that most of Washington DC is federal property, it's going to be hard to walk twenty feet in any direction without running afoul of the law. Since the ruling only affects handguns, Grisham's True Believers are also out of luck.

I'd caution against carrying there for the time being. Despite Lanier's order, we'll probably see harassment and arrests from cops on the ground.

Palmer v. D.C.

July 26th, 2014


In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that Washington D.C. could not ban the ownership of handguns. The city responded by passing the hysterically-named Firearms Registration Emergency Amendment Act [pdf]. It created as many hurdles as legally feasible for would-be gun owners. and it prohibited the carry of firearms outside the home.

Alan Gura brought this case in response to the ban on carry. The District Court did its best to ignore it for two years. In 2011 Chief Justice Roberts intervened and ordered Judge Scullin to hear it. Then it seemed to disappear again.

As such, it goes without saying that today's opinion [pdf] was unexpected. Cue the highlight reel:

In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia's total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny. Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia's complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. [p .16]

That alone is a huge win for us, but the orders given are sweeping.

Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and enjoins Defendants from enforcing the home limitations of D.C. Code § 7-2502.02(a)(4) and enforcing D.C. Code § 22-4504(a) unless and until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The relevant authorities are permanently enjoined from enforcing the District's ban on new handgun registration, the ban on carry by residents, and the ban on carry by nonresidents.

With no licensing system in place, the District is pretty much Arizona in terms of carry at the moment (though I would not recommend carrying there). That should light a fire under someone's posterior to get a permitting process passed with all due haste. Given how they did their best to flaunt the Heller decision, I'd expect a ludicrously strict and arbitrary may-issue system, which will have to be challenged in a different lawsuit.

The District can appeal, but the DC Circuit are the folks who handed us the win in Parker. We could win again there, which would make the Supreme Court the next step.

This last bit is speculation, but I'll allow myself a bit of optimism. The Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to hear a case on carry outside the home. Many of us questioned their motive in this. Considering Roberts' involvement, it could be they were waiting to hear this case.

Beretta Snubs Manchin

July 24th, 2014

west virginia

Beretta recently announced they're moving their manufacturing operations to Tennessee. Maryland's gun laws were quoted as the main reason.

Several states courted their business, including West Virginia. Beretta explicitly rejected West Virginia because of Senator Manchin's actions in furthering the "universal" background check law in 2013.

From their statement, courtesy of Sebastian:

Before considering any other location for expansion of any of our facilities we consider first the consistency with which a given state has supported Second Amendment rights. (…) Regrettable [sic], as a consequence of that analysis and especially due to Senator Manchin's recent legislative choices we have decided not to consider your state for future plans of expansion.

I've said before that Manchin and Toomey need to feel the heat for buckling under pressure, and it looks like someone's holding them to it. Let's hope the voters follow suit.

Christie and Clinton are both doomed in 2016

July 23rd, 2014


They are both losing in the polls to Boba Fett and Darth Vader.

Joe Biden fared worse than Emperor Palpatine, and only a little better than Jar Jar Binks.

Jar Jar Binks, people.

And what of Rick Perry? Elizabeth Warren? It's not pretty, folks.

My prediction: David Hasselhoff enters the race late in the game under the Green Party ticket and sweeps the election. Gary Hart will be his running mate.

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