Archive for the Guns and Self-Defense Category

The Clements Murder and Colorado Gun Laws: My Complete Colorado Article

Complete Colorado has published my latest column about the murder of Tom Clements, former head of the Colorado Department of Corrections.

The details of the case are very disturbing; here are my concluding remarks:

Colorado’s prisons contain thousands of “active” gangsters who violently “target” each other while in prison. One of these gangs is the 211 Crew, a group of violent white supremacists that included [Evan] Ebel, that sent a Colorado judge into hiding, and that likely ordered the murder of Clements. . . . Even though Ebel violently assaulted a prison guard—a crime for which he was supposed to serve an additional four years—the government’s “clerical error” released him from prison early. After Ebel broke his ankle bracelet and went on the run, the government did nothing about it. Two days later, Ebel murdered a pizza delivery man for his uniform. Two days after that, Ebel murdered Clements at his home. Two days after that, Ebel nearly murdered a Texas law enforcement officer and attempted to murder many more.

In the midst of this chaos—of this fundamental incapacity of Colorado government to perform its central role of protecting the public from violent criminals—Colorado’s Democratic legislators and Colorado’s governor are largely concerned, not about cleaning up those obvious problems, but with redirecting government resources toward the tracking and monitoring of peaceable gun owners.

Read the entire article.

Leftist Media Critic Jason Salzman Declines My Offer to Pay for His Gun Safety Class

Leftist media critic Jason Salzman is “scared of guns” and ignorant about  them. Given he has taken to writing about gun safety—and given he routinely writes about gun policy—I offered him an opportunity to learn what he’s talking about by attending a gun-safety class at my expense. Unfortunately, he has declined.

Yesterday I Tweeted to Salzman, “I offer to pay for your gun safety class we both agree to.” He replied, “You’re very kind, but I don’t own a gun and I dont want to spend the time on a class right now. Already too busy” (capitalization corrected).

I reiterated my offer to Salzman by telephone and mentioned that his lack of a gun wouldn’t be a problem, as he can use a loaner.

In short, although Salzman has the time to work toward the violation of the rights of gun owners, he does not have the time to learn about how guns operate or about gun safety.

My offer remains open, and Salzman knows how to reach me should he change his mind and accept it.

* * *

This morning I appeared on Peter Boyles’s radio program to discuss my Complete Colorado article, “Will Senator Morse Clarify His Remarks on Gun Owners Having ‘Sickness’ in Their ‘Souls’?” (You can find the audio file on the KNUS web page or on Podbean, July 30, third hour.) I discuss Salzman in that article, and Boyles discussed him extensively on his show; thus, I wanted to add a few additional notes about Salzman here.

Boyles spend much of the hour discussing a “fraudulent” contest in which Salzman played a role. I didn’t know anything about this (or I had forgotten whatever I’d heard about it), so I was not prepared to discuss the topic. After the show I did a bit of digging.

Westword‘s Michael Roberts confirms that Michael Huttner and ProgressNow “promised to give away a trip to Hawaii to the person with the best idea to improve America,” and Salzman was involved with this project. That prize was never awarded. Roberts writes that Salzman “was a contractor to ProgressNow’s national organization and had no role in the Hawaii contest beyond helping to publicize it.”

I asked Salzman if he wished to comment about the Hawaii prize or about his work now. He replied:

On the record, the Westword article is accurate about my role. Mike Huttner was my client, and I’m not authorized to talk about the project beyond what I’ve said.

I regularly post my work on ColoradoPols and Huffington Post. I used to post on Squarestate.net, which seems to have folded. Sometimes I post on other progressive outlets, and I try to get op-eds published in real-life newspapers.

As for the debate about Morse’s comments, I’ll have more to say about that at a later time.

The photo shows Jason Salzman, and I hereby release the photo under a “Creative Commons” license, with attribution and a link to this web page. —Ari Armstrong

Did Colorado Senator John Morse Claim that Gun Owners Have a “Sickness” In Their “Souls” that Needs to Be “Cleansed”?

In my latest Complete Colorado op-ed, I argue:

In context, [State Senator John] Morse does seem to imply that gun owners—at least those who robustly campaign for gun rights—have sick souls. If he meant something different from that—if he is prepared to say that rights-respecting people who own their guns of choice and who campaign for gun rights are perfectly moral to do so—now would be a great time for Morse to clarify his remarks.

I quote extensively from his March 8 comments in that article. If you still wonder about the complete context or the tone of his remarks, I have now put his entire speech on YouTube.

August 1 Update: Complete Colorado has published my follow-up article about Morse’s remarks. Morse did offer additional comments about his March 8 “sickness” speech with a March 13 release of the video of that speech. I summarize: “Although these additional remarks clarify that Morse was not claiming that all gun owners have a sickness in their souls, they do not retract Morse’s insinuation that many gun owners—namely, those who own the types of guns and gun magazines of which Morse disapproves and who campaigned against the Democrats’ anti-gun legislation—do have a sickness in their souls, in Morse’s view.” Read the complete follow-up for details.

Related:

Image: Wikimedia Commons

History of Colorado’s Gun Magazine Ban

Today Complete Colorado published my article reviewing the history of Colorado’s gun magazine ban, “Dems Leave Making Sense of Gun Magazine Ban to Attorney General.”

See also the web page of John Suthers (Colorado’s AG) for his media release and related documentation regarding his “technical guidance” for enforcing the legislation.

The points I make in the article include the following:

  • Suthers offered the narrowest possible interpretation of the ambiguous phrases “continuous possession” and “readily convertible.” This means that gun owners can temporarily lend their 16-plus round magazines to others, and they can possess and transfer 15-minus round magazines that have removable baseplates.
  • The fact that the legislation was poorly written comes as no surprise given its intent: to “spearhead a national gun control campaign orchestrated by the Obama administration and by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.”
  • Suthers’s reading of the legislation runs contrary to the interpretation of the measure by its own sponsor, State Representative Rhonda Fields.
  • The magazine legislation is still bad, in that it “violates the rights of peaceable gun owners to self-defense, to peaceable trade, and to private property.”

Read the whole article.

Image: John Suthers

Colorado School Arms Administrators

The school board of Dove Creek, Colorado, has taken the safety of its students seriously by allowing school administrators to carry defensive guns.

Nancy Lofholm reports for today’s Denver Post:

In a first-of-its-kind move in Colorado, a rural school board has given two of its top administrators new job titles—security officer. The new titles make it possible to bypass state gun laws and carry guns in schools. . . . Their security officer contracts were approved by the board at a February meeting. Each will be paid $1 a year for their officer duties to make the deal legitimate.

I wrote about this possibility late last year:

Colorado law already allows schools to invite those with lawfully permitted concealed handguns into their halls—if schools do it the right way. . . .

Colorado law allows “public” schools to bring in “security officers” “retained by contract” by the district. The law is non-specific as to how much a security officer must be paid. So my plan is simply for a school to hire 40 (or so) concealed-carry permit holders—parents, retired police officers, military veterans, etc.—at a dollar each per year, to take shifts patrolling the school. . . .

[O]bviously willing and trained teachers and administrators could be declared “security officers” as well.

Hopefully other school districts will follow the same sensible policy—and hopefully those officials carrying guns will get top-notch training in using a firearm in emergency situations.

Run, Hide, Fight: Even the New York Times Gets It

The gun laws recently proposed (or passed) in Colorado and at the national level will not reduce violent crime. Something that will reduce the number and destructiveness of mass murders is citizens preparing for such attacks and responding appropriately.

Of course, your chances of ever finding yourself in the middle of a situation like that at the Aurora theater or the school in Newtown are extremely low. A tiny fraction of homicides are mass murders, and a tiny fraction of mass murders are the random and large-scale events that generate international headlines for months on end. You’re far more likely to die in a car crash than to die at the hands of a mass murderer.

Still, there is some chance, however slight, that you will find yourself confronted by a mass murderer, so it is worth some time thinking and planning how to respond. Perhaps surprisingly, even the New York Times picked up on this theme in an April 6 story written by Erica Goode. Following are some of the highlights from that article:

The speed and deadliness of recent high-profile shootings have prompted police departments to recommend fleeing, hiding or fighting in the event of a mass attack, instead of remaining passive and waiting for help. . . .

Research on mass shootings over the last decade has bolstered the idea that people at the scene of an attack have a better chance of survival if they take an active stance rather than waiting to be rescued by the police, who in many cases cannot get there fast enough to prevent the loss of life. . . .

In the absence of a police presence, how victims responded often made the difference between life and death, Dr. Blair said.

In 16 of the attacks studied by the researchers [at Texas State University], civilians were able to stop the perpetrator, subduing him in 13 cases and shooting him in 3 cases. In other attacks, civilians have obstructed or delayed the gunman until the police arrived. . . .

“The take-home message is that you’re not helpless and the actions you take matter,” Dr. [J. Pete] Blair [of the university] said. “You can help yourself and certainly buy time for the police to get there.”

Here is the video from the Houston’s Office of Public Safety mentioned in the article:

I’ve produced two videos and an interview on the matter.

The interview (with my father), available at TOS Blog, is “Linn Armstrong on Self-Defense and Guns.”

I also conducted another interview on video with my dad:

And I conducted an interview with Alon Stivi (with whom my father has worked), who developed a program for Attack Countermeasures Training.

So don’t be paranoid, but do be prepared.

Image: ACTCert.com

Robert Natelson on the Second Amendment and Colorado’s Legislature

Constitutional scholar Robert Natelson recently spoke in Grand Junction on the Second Amendment. He explained the historical roots of the amendment and its meaning in the modern world. He also harshly criticized anti-gun legislation of Colorado’s majority of Democrats.

What if Colorado’s Democrats Infringed the Right to Have Sex the Same Way They’ve Infringed the Right to Bear Arms?

Constitutional scholar Robert Natelson spoke at a Pro Second Amendment Committee banquet in Grand Junction March 23. I’ll release his entire speech soon. In this segment, Natelson compares the right to have sex with the right to keep and bear arms—and he points out that the majority of Colorado’s Democrats hypocritically protect the former while infringing the latter.

Natelson said:

Ask yourself, what would be the reaction of the Colorado legislature’s majority to a proposal requiring a background check before anyone could exercise the Constitutional right of nonmarital sex?

What would be the reaction to a bill saying that the eager couple even had to pay the fee for the background check?

What would be the reaction of Speaker Ferrandino or Senate President Morse to a bill stating that the eager couple was limited to “fifteen rounds,” so to speak?

Absurd, our legislative leaders might say? Indeed not. Natelson points out that the annual number of deaths due to sexually transmitted diseases is comparable to the number of violent deaths involving firearms.

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Surviving Attacks at School and the Workplace: Alon Stivi’s Attack Countermeasures Training

Alon Stivi, CEO of Direct Measures International, recently attended an event in Grand Junction, where he agreed to a short interview. Stivi developed a certification program in Attack Countermeasures Training to help school administrators, teachers, and office personnel effectively respond to active shooters and terrorist attacks.

One of the points Stivi makes is that renewed military action in the Middle East (which seems very likely to me within the next few months) could spur terrorist organizations to step up their attacks on American and other western targets. And “we need to be prepared,” he points out.

Why Republicans Bear Responsibility for Colorado’s Anti-Gun Laws

Colorado’s Republican leaders fought valiantly against the anti-gun bills promoted by the Democrats. And yet, as angry as I am with the Democrats—including Governor Hickenlooper, who just this morning signed into law the ambiguously drafted, rights-violating gun magazine restrictions and the registration requirement for all gun purchases—the simple fact is that Republicans bear much of the responsibility for the passage of these bills.

By promoting rights-violating policies of their own, Republicans did two things that brought about passage of the anti-gun laws. First, they handed Democrats all the arguments used to restrict gun sales and use. Second, they handed Democrats control over every branch of Colorado government by alienating most Interior West voters.

When Democrats pass anti-gun bills, that’s just Democrats being Democrats. As State Senator Evie Hudak made clear, Democrats think that individuals are too stupid and irresponsible to make their own decisions and lead their own lives, so therefore Democrats must step in and control people’s lives for them. No surprise there. So it is the Republicans, who very often pretend to champion individual liberty and free markets, who are the real disappointment. Consider some examples.

The Drug War

We know that Democrats want to outlaw so-called “high-capacity gun magazines,” however defined. But Republicans hardly put themselves in a position to complain.

Last fall, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, allowing possession of low-capicity bags of marijuana. Many Republicans fought against not only high-capacity bags of marijuana, but low-capacity bags as well. Why? Like their ideological brothers in the Democratic Party, these Republicans think that individuals are just too stupid and irresponsible to make their own decisions and lead their own lives, so therefore politicians and bureaucrats must tell people what to do—and throw them in jail if they stray from that path.

And yet let’s compare the two items. If someone consumes marijuana, about the worst thing he’s likely to do is sit on the couch and munch Doritos. Sure, he’d endanger others by driving or operating other heavy machinery, but the same goes for alcohol. On the other hand, a criminal who obtains a gun magazine actually can kill a lot of people with it. So when Republicans advocate the prohibition of  high-capacity and low-capacity bags of marijuana, but say they’re all for “high-capicity” gun magazines, their arguments ring hollow with hypocrisy.

Amendment 64 also legalized hemp  under Colorado law. Why have Republicans opposed the legalization of hemp? Quite simply because the hemp plant looks like the type of marijuana plant that contains the drug TCH. The party that wants to ban the sale and possession of plants based on what they look like, is hardly in a position to offer any serious protest when Democrats want to ban so-called “assault weapons” based on what they look like.

 Abortion

Likewise, the party that wants to throw my wife in prison for seeking an abortion—even in cases of rape and risks to her health—for buying the “wrong” sorts of birth control, and for seeking the “wrong” sorts of fertility treatments, is hardly in a position to complain when the Democrats want to throw my wife (and me) in jail for trading the “wrong” gun magazines.

The Democrats honed their strategy of attacking Republicans as waging a “war on women” right here in Colorado, starting with Ken Buck, the U.S. Senate candidate who endorsed the anti-abortion “personhood” measure before backing away from it. Colorado now has three sitting members of Congress who have supported the same nonsense. And even now Rand Paul is floating a nationwide “personhood” measure (although not consistently).

Not only are anti-abortion Republicans wrong in the issue, they have destroyed the dominance once held by Republicans in this state.

 Gay Rights

Republicans who oppose equal protection under the law for gay couples, hardly can seriously complain when Democrats deny gun owners equal protection under the law.

As a political strategy, nothing could have been stupider than for the GOP to agitate wealthy, technologically savvy gay men—Jared Polis is worth $160 million, while Tim Gill is worth $400 million. And these men have helped bankroll the Democratic takeover of Colorado.

And look how Republicans handle arguments about things like gay marriage and civil unions. Colorado’s gay speaker of the house, Mark Ferrandino, said the civil unions bill is “about love, it’s about family, and it’s about equality under the law.” What did the Republicans argue? Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono said, “What this bill is about, really, is the Bible. Is it right or wrong?”

In other words, one side makes plausible moral arguments and argues equality under the law; the other side invoked ancient mythology and ghost stories. (Some Republicans did support the bill; they’re excluded from the criticisms of this section. Please note that I don’t support every aspect of the bill, although I do support gay marriage.)

The Democrats have proudly assumed the mantle of the party of reason, while the Republicans have proudly surrendered that mantle. So, when the Democrats pretend that all they want are “reasonable, common-sense gun restrictions,” their claims have a superficial plausibility, thanks to the faith-based claims typical of Republicans.

 Immigration

Many Republicans support federal background checks for employment. Can they seriously oppose federal background checks for gun sales? Such Republicans are ridiculous.

Many Republicans openly and loudly endorse government action to blatantly violate the rights of business owners to freely negotiate labor contracts. The injustices of such Republican policies dwarf the rights violations of the Democrats with respect to gun sales.

The Republicans tell business owners, “You may not hire undocumented Mexicans to manufacture large gun magazines.” The Democrats merely add, “You may not hire Americans, either.”

* * *

As I tell my friends, Democrats have not won a single important election in Colorado in many years. The trouble is that Republicans find a way to lose every important election (a few safe seats aside). How do Republicans manage this?

To a large degree, the Colorado GOP has been the party that wants to throw women in prison for controlling their own bodies, the party that’s hostile to homosexuals, and party that’s hostile to immigrants.

Colorado Republicans have developed a reputation—largely earned—for being the anti-gay, anti-immigration, anti-women party, and then Republicans stand around after getting their asses kicked, election after election, scratching their heads and wondering what happened.

So, yes, the Democrats deserve blame and condemnation for ramming through the anti-gun laws. But, really, they’re just following in Republican footsteps. Perhaps this loss will serve as a wake-up call for Republicans to change their path.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

How to Have Gun Background Checks Without Registration

Even if every legal gun sale could be approved and tracked by the federal government, that would have practically no impact on crime. What it would do is redirect limited police resources away from tracking and catching criminals, toward tracking peaceable citizens and harassing them over paperwork errors and violations.

People who commit crimes with guns usually fall into two categories. Either they are one-time killers, in which case a background check will not stop them from legally buying a gun first, or they are career criminals, in which case they are experts at acquiring black market items. In either case, a background check does no good.

That said, in a tiny fraction of cases, a background check might delay a criminal’s plans by pushing him into the black market. In any case, no self-respecting gun owner wants to sell a gun to someone who, due to past criminal violence, cannot legally possess one. So is there a way to set up background checks that do not violate the rights of gun owners or misdirect police resources? I think there might be.

Notice than any possible background check system must employ a “no buy” list, a list of people who may not legally buy a gun. The problem with the existing background check system (and proposed extensions of it) is that it also creates a “buy” list, a list of noncriminals who purchase a gun.

Today’s background check system is a system of gun-owner registration. No, these records are not kept in a central database; instead, they are kept by gun sellers, and they are open to inspection by federal agents at the discretion of those federal agents. Those records could become part of a central database by political fiat. The problem with the federal government registering gun owners (beyond the fact that it’s properly none of the damn business of federal bureaucrats) is that registration can lead to gun confiscation and has already done so in various regions of Europe and the United States.

My modest proposal, then, is to replace the current background check system with one that uses only a “no buy” list. By saying a person with a criminal record cannot legally buy a gun, we are in effect giving that person a sort of extended probation. (The method by which that should be declared is beyond the scope of this article.) Rather than keep its list of criminals to itself, the government could simply publish that list on the internet, along with the photographs of the criminals. Then, if a gun owner wanted to sell a gun to someone, he could check the I.D. and likeness of the buyer against the alphabetized list of criminals. At no point would the gun owner even need to type in the name of the buyer.

Incidentally, employers, dating services, and so on could use the same list for their own purposes.

How would this be enforced? Selling a gun to a known criminal without bothering to check the database would become a tort. If necessary, lawmakers could remove any limitations of liability for those who fail to check the database when selling a gun. Or lawmakers could impose a criminal penalty for selling a gun without checking the database, although this could open the door to abusive enforcement. (It’s already a crime to knowingly sell a gun to someone legally barred from buying one.)

Such a system would have its limitations (as does the current system). Someone with criminal intent but without a criminal record would show up clean. And someone could fake an I.D. But if a criminal has the time and resources to fake an I.D., he’s already able to buy a gun illegally, anyway.

The larger problem with the list is the loss of privacy of those on it. However, if someone goes to the effort of imposing criminal harm on others, I don’t see that loss of privacy as a big deal legally or morally. Moreover, people on the “no buy” list would properly have expedited legal recourse for getting their names removed if appropriate.

Such a list would have a hard time accommodating those declared mentally incompetent to buy a gun. However, I don’t regard that as an overwhelming objection. If someone is so obviously mentally ill that he’s a threat to himself or others, he needs a lot closer attention than simply to be placed on a list. The way to handle such problems is to address them directly, not harass and intimidate millions of American gun owners for the sake of a tiny population of those with severe mental illness.

Regarding those who have some other flag in the background check system but no criminal record, I uphold the view—apparently out of fashion with today’s Democrats—that an individual should be presumed innocent until found guilty by a jury of his peers. If someone poses an objective threat to others, police may detain or observe him. Nevertheless, I’d rather see an openly published list of those with flags, than a system of gun-owner registration.

Obviously, the long-term goal of those who created the existing background check system is to open the door to a system of universal gun-owner registration. If such is ever achieved, the gun banners will fight relentlessly for the universal confiscation of guns, starting with the ones most useful for self-defense.

A possible alternative is for the government to publish and maintain the “no buy” list of convicted criminals (and possibly others) who may not legally buy a gun. If the goal were really to reduce crime, rather than to register peaceable gun owners, that is the plan that politicians would consider.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Legislature Should Not Meddle with Liability for “Fake Gun Free Zones”

I think it was a moral crime for Cinemark to create a “fake gun free zone” at its Aurora theater, prohibiting law-abiding patrons from carrying defensive guns while doing nothing to stop armed aggressors. But not everything that is morally wrong should be legally prohibited or even legally disfavored.

Still, a Colorado bill sponsored by Kent Lambert—S. B. 13-062—is not nearly as bad as the Denver Post led me to believe. The Post wrongly claims the bill “would require business owners to allow concealed-carry permit holders to pack heat or else provide one security officer for every 50 customers and face increased liability.”

That newspaper description is not quite right (or at least it’s ambiguous). The bill would render a private business “liable for damages in any civil action” if the business forbids lawful concealed carry while failing to provide at least one armed security officer per 50 people present.

Still, the bill is pretty bad, and its effect would be to strong-arm businesses into allowing concealed carry.

Colorado is a “shall issue” concealed-carry state, meaning that any non-probited person can apply for a permit and be assured of receiving one. However, Colorado law has always recognized the right of business owners to set their own policy.

The legal rules of liability have long been established, and the Colorado legislature has no legitimate business expanding liability in this case.

In the Aurora case, the business clearly posted that it prohibited the lawful carry of firearms. Any patron could plainly see that the theater offered no security and thereby created a “fake gun free zone.” But they chose to go there anyway. This was a matter of free and voluntary association.

If Republicans start the game of expanding liability for its pet causes, the Democrats will no doubt follow suit. Remember, the Democrats have the trial lawyers on their team (for the most part). I’m sure they could think up reams of statutes expanding liability for law-abiding gun owners, gun stores, tobacco stores, liquor stores, and so on. The list is potentially endless.

Vincent Carroll offers some good reasons why Cinemark should not be held liable for its failure to provide security. To me the most compelling reason is that the risk of an event like that is extraordinarily low. We cannot justly hold someone liable for an event that they could not reasonably have predicted.

That said, I think Cinemark richly deserves public condemnation for creating a “fake gun free zone,” thereby helping to provide crowds of defenseless victims for a mass murderer.

Image: Ari Armstrong’s Creative Commons Photos at Picasa

The Right to Own a Gun: My Unpublished Letter to the Denver Post

As the Denver Post apparently has declined to publish my reply to its hysterical and misleading op-ed of January 10, I reproduce it here:

Contrary to the claims of the Denver Post‘s Jan. 10 editorial, many millions of Americans own semi-automatic rifles demonized as “assault weapons,” as well as semi-automatic handguns with factory-standard magazines between 11 and 20 rounds, for self-defense. Such guns and magazines are common not only for personal protection but for every-day police work.

The laws the Post endorses would divert limited police resources to harassing and registering millions of peaceable gun owners, while doing nothing to limit the ability of criminals to obtain guns or commit crimes.

People have a moral right to defend themselves and their families from violent aggressors, and they have a moral right to buy and own the tools making that possible.

I appreciate the Post publishing other letters favorable to gun rights. Just today the newspaper published a letter from Paul Hsieh critical of “universal background checks.” Hsieh writes, ” If a law-abiding gun owner sells his used rifle via private sale to another law-abiding gun owner without a background check, there is no victim and no harm. . . . [M]andatory background checks for private firearms purchases merely impose unnecessary new burdens on the law-abiding, but will not stop the bad guys.”

So, although the paper’s editorial board has consistently come out for more infringements on the right to bear arms, it does allow for some alternative commentary.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Clowns Should Go Home, Shut Up, and Quit Pretending to Be a Friend of the Second Amendment

Update below.

We all know that many journalists and pundits will ignore, as much as they can, the violence and craziness at union rallies and Occupy events, and they will go out of their way to cast—in defiance of the facts—any right-leaning rally as racist, violent, and all-out nuts. So why do some right-leaners go out of their way to write the left-leaning media’s scrips for them?

Alex Jones has read Piers Morgan the riot act on guns. Jones has also called for Morgan’s deportation—a violation of Morgan’s rights—and he has led the charge on concocting ridiculous 9/11 conspiracy theories. It doesn’t even matter if some of what Jones says about guns is accurate and defensible; he has disqualified himself as a sensible commentator, about anything. If I were into spinning conspiracies theories as absurd as those pronounced by Jones, I’d claim that Jones is actually a closet leftist who has made it his mission in life to discredit the right (a line I adapted from a Facebook friend.)

(By the way, it is only recently that I started self-identifying as on “the right,” and only in the respect described by Craig Biddle, meaning an advocate of individual rights.)

Locally, we have Neal Pashman, whom I’ve met (and whom I’ve de-friended on Facebook for posting grotesquely offensive imagery), who publicly announced he’d illegally carry a gun openly at a gun-rights rally in Denver February 9. As the Denver Post gleefully reported, Pashman wrote the following on Facebook: “[W]e should be openly carrying our high-capacity capable, semi-automatic rifles and handguns! Let thousands of us show up with loaded weapons!!! Put the fear of God into the police and the legislature, and that scumbag governor!! Let them know what will come next!!!”

What’s coming next, Mr. Pashman: Are you going to flap your lips even harder next time? Perhaps insert that magical fourth exclamation point? Please, for God’s sake, just shut the hell up. Zip it!

Every person with a lick of common sense knows that Pashman is just an ignoramus who likes to hear himself talk. Unfortunately, we are not talking about people with common sense, here, we are talking about professional journalists. And journalists stick to crazy like stink on s**t (as my wife put it earlier this evening). Journalists will try every conceivable means to paint the gun rally as crazy, nutty, loony, scary. With dumbasses like Pashman around, they don’t even have to try.

Unfortunately, the organizers of the rally have hardly been the voice of reason. They have, if not openly invited people to illegally carry nonconcealed handguns in Denver, openly tolerated it. In a January 8 comment on the group’s Facebook page (the “Pro-Gun Rally at the Capitol” organized by “Guns for Everyone), they write, “People should act on their convictions, know the risks involved with OC [open carry], and use good judgment.” Sorry, but “good judgment” left this crowd’s building long ago.

Look, I was in Denver in 2001 when Rick Stanley openly carried a handgun on his hip, knowing he’d be arrested for it. I applauded his courageous act of civil disobedience. (Later, I also applauded the courts for handing him a felony conviction after he threatened a judge.) But the fight now is not over open carry in Denver. Apparently the organizers of the rally have failed to notice this fact, but the fight now is about gun bans, magazine bans, and expanded gun-owner registration. So what in the hell are they doing, allowing open carry at their rally? It’s sheer stupidity, from the standpoint of political strategy.

I have attended dozens of pro-liberty rallies. I even organized one. And I’ve been writing about politics on the web since before the term “blog” was even coined. Although certainly I’ve made some mistakes myself, I think I’ve picked up a thing or two about political tactics over the years.

At a minimum, the organizers of the rally should have insisted that participants not violate any laws and not advocate violence or racist views—on penalty of ejection from the event. That the organizers failed to do so tells me they’re irresponsible morons who could care less whether their rally actually ends up promoting or damaging gun rights.

While we’re on the topic of crazy, consider this little gem from the rally’s organizers (from a January 3 Facebook post):

People who are attending, please remember to remove the batteries from your cell phones if you care about your movements being tracked. Call me a conspiracy theorist but the DPD has a history of recording protest attendees by their cell phone signals as well as a history of keeping secret spy files on activists.

God forbid that the Denver Police waste their time trying to pick up my cell phone. I mean, these guys might as well hand out tin-foil hats at the gate. (However, it’s true that the Denver Police once maintained files on ralliers; I was among those on whom Denver police kept a file.)

All that said, nearly all of the people who attend the rally will be reasonable, sensible people. It would be pleasant—though I won’t hold my breath waiting for it—if local journalists would actually interview some normal people, rather than just the tiny minority of Pashman-types.

The Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution is far too important for thoughtless clowns to impede the real gun-rights movement. Many great scholars and activists have devoted significant portions of their lives to defending the fundamental, inalienable human right of self-defense, and its corollary right to bear arms. If you refuse to devote enough brain cells to actually help, rather than hinder, that movement, then, please, shut up, go home, and stay the hell out of the way.

Update: Thankfully, the rally was peaceful and “low key.” Thank you, ralliers (including Pashman) for behaving intelligently. And thank you, Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post, for reporting the rally fairly and getting some good, representative interviews.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Proposed Regulatory “Takings” of Guns and Gun Magazines

A regulatory “taking” is when government legislation destroys or reduces the value of one’s property. The Constitution does not prohibit the federal government from regulating away the value of property, although it does require “just compensation.” (The courts have not always required compensation in cases of regulatory takings.) Recently proposed federal gun legislation would impose a regulatory “taking” on select semi-automatic guns and gun magazines, not by confiscating those items directly from their owners, but by outlawing their transfer. If one cannot sell or will an item, its value is substantially reduced.

Obviously Dianne Feinstein’s proposed ban on so-called “assault weapons” constitutes a regulatory “taking” of the value of the affected guns, as it would ban the “transfer” of all those guns. The NRA obtained a draft copy of Feinstein’s legislation, and, by the NRA’s reading, “under Feinstein’s new bill, ‘assault weapons’ would remain with their current owners until their deaths, at which point they would be forfeited to the government.”

However, there seems to be nothing in Feinstein’s proposal that prohibits the transfer of existing magazines by their current owners. A writer for TruthAboutGuns.com believes Feinstein’s proposal would prohibit such transfers, but I see nothing in Feinstein’s summary or the NRA’s summary supporting that conclusion. (I have not yet seen the bill’s language.)

On the other hand, legislation proposed by Representatives Carolyn McCarthy and Diana Degette apparently would ban the transfer of existing so-called “large capacity” magazines, meaning those holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. The new bill is H. R. 138; “As of 01/08/2013 text for H.R.138—To prohibit the transfer or possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices, and for other purposes—has not been received.”

A January 3 release from McCarthy and Degette states, “The High Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, as the bill is formally known, bans the sale or transfer of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.  Such a standard was federal law between 1994 and 2004, when the assault weapons ban was in effect.” The Denver Post claims, “DeGette introduced legislation that would ban high-capacity magazine clips in the week-old 113th Congress. The legislation mirrors failed legislation that she and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York introduced last year. . . . This restriction was in place from 1994 to 2004, during the assault weapons ban, but has since been lifted.”

Although both Degette and and the Post claim the new proposal mirrors the 1994 ban, that does not seem to be the case. The 1994 ban did not ban the transfer (or importation) of existing magazines; the new proposal apparently does both.

First consider the language of the 1994 ban: “[I]t shall be unlawful for a person to transfer or possess a large capacity ammunition feeding device,” except that provision “shall not apply to the possession or transfer of any large capacity ammunition feeding device otherwise lawfully possessed on or before the date of the enactment of this subsection.” This was known as a “grandfathering” clause.

Contrast that with the language of H. R. 308, which McCarthy introduced in 2011: “[I]t shall be unlawful for a person to transfer or possess a large capacity ammunition feeding device,” except that provision “shall not apply to the possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device otherwise lawfully possessed within the United States on or before the date of the enactment of this subsection.”

Notice the absence of the word “transfer” in the “grandfather” clause of H. R. 308. Notably, while the bill appears to ban the transfer of all affected magazines, it makes no provision for what’s supposed to happen to those magazines upon death—they apparently cannot be “transferred” to children or other heirs.

If the newly proposed legislation in fact prohibits the transfer of magazines holding more than ten rounds—the overwhelming majority of which are factory-standard magazines owned by tens of millions of Americans—that will constitute a significant regulatory “taking” of those items.

Such legislation would, over the years, also turn millions of peaceable Americans into criminals under federal law when—either by lack of familiarity with the provisions or by intentional civil disobedience—they illegally transfer their magazines to their children, spouses, or others.

How turning millions of peaceable Americans in federal criminals is supposed to stop violent crime, is beyond me. Perhaps Representative DeGette can explain that.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The $40 Security Solution for Colorado Schools—That Would Actually Work

We don’t need Wayne LaPierre’s crazy and expensive idea for Congress “to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.”

Colorado law already allows schools to invite those with lawfully permitted concealed handguns into their halls—if schools do it the right way.

Statute 18-12-214 (in Part 2 of Article 12) states:

(1) (a) A permit to carry a concealed handgun authorizes the permittee to carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited in this section. . . .

(3) A permit issued pursuant to this part 2 does not authorize a person to carry a concealed handgun onto the real property, or into any improvements erected thereon, of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school; except that:

(b) A permittee who is employed or retained by contract by a school district as a school security officer may carry a concealed handgun onto the real property, or into any improvement erected thereon, of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school while the permittee is on duty . . .

Obviously this law does not apply to private schools, only to “public” ones. So private schools may already invite armed administrators, teachers, parents, and guests to carry concealed handguns on campus. What about “public” schools?

Colorado law allows “public” schools to bring in “security officers” “retained by contract” by the district. The law is non-specific as to how much a security officer must be paid. So my plan is simply for a school to hire 40 (or so) concealed-carry permit holders—parents, retired police officers, military veterans, etc.—at a dollar each per year, to take shifts patrolling the school. I pulled 40 out of the air because that would enable two people to take a shift for a single day each month. Essentially this would be a volunteer service, but the participants would be officially declared “contracted security officers” for purposes of complying with the law.

A better solution would be to revise the law giving individual “public” schools the authority to allow those with concealed carry permits to carry their handguns into schools. Even better would be to allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry their handgun into any “public” school—as Utah already allows.

Of course, I am a big advocate of good training (such as my father Linn provides in Grand Junction) for everyone who carries a concealed handgun.

We all know that allowing more responsible adults to carry their concealed handguns into the schools would make schools safer. Even leftists who decry the idea know that it would work. (That said, we ought not lose context about this; the chances of being victimized by a mass murderer at a school remain extremely low, despite the high-profile atrocities.) We all also know that Colorado’s “public” schools probably will not allow more responsible adults to carry their guns inside the schools. The politics simply won’t allow it—even though it would obviously improve safety at minimal cost.

Update: As has become evident in the comments, obviously willing and trained teachers and administrators could be declared “security officers” as well. Indeed, if ONLY teachers and administrators were allowed to carry concealed handguns in their schools, that would be a huge help, again for minimal expense.

Image: Wikipedia

Three Debate Tips for Those Calling for More Gun Restrictions

If you think politicians should pass (and law enforcement agents and bureaucrats should enforce) more laws restricting the sale and/or possession of guns among the general population, then you and I are on opposite sides of that debate. However, my goal here is to help you to more effectively argue your position.

Why would I do that? I’m tired of the irrationality and ignorance surrounding the issue. I believe that, given a reasoned debate, my side will prevail. I grant to you the courtesy of presuming that you believe the same thing about your side. So, if we both want a reasoned debate, what can you do to present reasonable arguments in support of your position?

1. Stop demonizing America’s millions of gun owners.

Not only is the tactic of demonizing (and scapegoating) gun owners unjust and intellectually dishonest, it is strategically stupid on your part. Gun owners tend to be wealthier and more politically active. If you really want to mobilize millions of people against your position, the best thing you can do is subject them to vicious name-calling and unjust character attacks.

To offer a personal example of how this works, after I read some idiot on Twitter call the National Rifle Association a “terrorist” organization, I purchased a five-year membership to the NRA. (I was a member many years ago but let my membership lapse mostly due to disagreements over political strategy.) I regard the NRA as the nation’s oldest civil-rights organization, and if its critics persist on maligning it, I’ll seriously consider upgrading to the $1,000 lifetime membership.

2. Don’t confuse faux self-righteousness with an argument.

Many advocates of restrictive gun laws have thought very carefully about the relevant issues. Unfortunately, many have not.

I understand that people get emotional over guns. But don’t expect your rage to persuade me that your policy proposals are a good idea.

Consider the following argument: “If the perpetrator of a mass shooting had not had a gun, he would not have been able to commit the mass murder (with a gun); therefore, the government should restrict everyone’s access to a gun.” If, without further reasoning or evidence, you find that argument compelling, I suggest that you are not thinking at all seriously about the issues at stake. You are instead grasping at pretexts to rationalize your emotionalist commitment.

At a minimum, to seriously grapple with the issues at hand, you need to seriously consider the following questions:

  • What will proposed gun restrictions mean for the many thousands of Americans who use a gun in self defense each year?
  • If criminals have no fear (or less fear) that their potential victims might be armed, won’t criminals be more likely to commit more crimes?
  • Is it a good idea to expend police resources enforcing laws impacting every existing or potential gun owner, rather than use those resources to target actual or likely criminals?
  • How will you prevent criminals from buying guns on the black market or switching to other weapons?
  • Even if you can prevent (some) criminals from obtaining guns, if you also prevent their intended victims (who tend to be physically smaller) from obtaining guns, are you not giving the advantage to the criminals in many contexts?
  • Is it a good idea to create what William Burroughs warned against, “a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military?” If that’s not your goal, what is?

Please understand that what I am asking for here is not an unresponsive or fact-free sound-bite. I’ve heard plenty of those. I’m asking that you seriously grapple with questions such as these and formulate your arguments (and your policy proposals) accordingly.

3. Learn something about guns.

I understand that many advocates of restrictive gun laws know a great deal about guns. Unfortunately, many know nothing or close to nothing about guns.

If you have little or no idea what are the answers to such questions as the following, then why should I believe that you are remotely competent to help craft the nation’s gun laws?

  • What’s the difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic gun?
  • Are automatic guns currently legal in the United States?
  • What’s the difference between a rifle and a shotgun?
  • What is a revolver?
  • What is a magazine as used in a semi-automatic gun?
  • With respect to guns, to what does “9 mm” and “.223 caliber” refer?

If you have never fired a gun, I suggest that you find a competent instructor and actually go shoot a gun. You might learn something useful about guns—and about gun owners. And you might even learn something useful about yourself.

If you take my three tips to heart, you will more effectively argue for your position in favor of more restrictive gun laws (for the general population). As someone who opposes that agenda, I’m okay with that. Because I believe that, the more reasonable your position becomes, the more it will shift to look like my position. At least we’ll each be able to see more clearly where the other side is coming from. And may the best case win.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Denver Post Publishes Misleading “Assault Weapons” Story

Note: Commentary originally preceding the article below now appears in a separate post, “Entering the Gun Debate.”

Dear Ms. Sherry,

Readers of the Denver Post are well aware of your newspaper’s political agenda to pass more restrictive gun laws.

However, I would hope that the news pages would refrain from editorializing, offer relevant context, and seek to inform rather than mislead the reader.

I read with interest your article of today (December 18), “Perlmutter to lead assault-weapons ban effort in the House in next Congress.” Congressman Ed Perlmutter represents my district, so I am keen to hear what he is up to.

Unfortunately, your article was misleading in two important ways, and biased in an additional way.

First, although you discuss “assault weapons,” you give no indication of what that means. Traditionally, the term “assault weapon” applied to fully-automatic guns. Now advocates of restrictive gun laws use that term to refer to semi-automatic guns with arbitrarily defined cosmetic features that are irrelevant to the gun’s basic operation. A rifle arbitrarily categorized as an “assault” rifle functions the same basic way as any semi-automatic rifle. It is unfortunate that your article gave no indication of this context.

Second, although you mention Perlmutter’s proposed “assault-weapons ban,” you offer no direct indication that what he has in mind is a ban on the sale and importation, rather than the possession, of so-called “assault” guns. You indicate this only by referencing the expired “assault weapons ban” that banned sale and importation, but many readers are unaware of what that expired law covered. As should be obvious, there is an enormous difference between banning the sale and importation of “assault” guns, and banning their possession. The latter involves the confiscation by police agents (probably themselves armed with “assault weapons”) of people’s guns.

Third, you use biased language with respect to Representative Diana DeGette’s proposed “ban on high capacity ammunition clips.” (This is aside from the fact that that what you actually mean to refer to here is a “magazine,” which is very different from a “clip.”) What Ms. DeGette regards as a “high capacity” magazine, I usually regard as a “normal capacity” magazine. For example, many semi-automatic handguns owned for self-defense readily and naturally (due to their size) accept a magazine that holds more than ten rounds (which is the arbitrary cut-off I presume DeGette has in mind). The appropriate term for a magazine that fits naturally and easily into a given gun is “normal capacity.” I suggest that, rather than use the evaluative terms “high” or “normal” with respect to the size of gun magazines, you simply report what the law in question proposes.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Ari Armstrong

Entering the Gun Debate

Note: The following commentary originally was included in the article, “Denver Post Publishes Misleading ‘Assault Weapons’ Story.”

The mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary horrified the nation. The pain of that loss of innocent life is immediate and overwhelming, for everyone in the country, and most especially for the community hit by the violence. There is not a light heart or a dry eye in the country.

In my view, this is the absolute worst time to hold political debates invoking that atrocity, for two reasons. First, we should be focusing on grieving the loss of the victims and, as best we can, comforting their friends and family. Second, policy decisions should be based on calm deliberation, not raw emotions. This just isn’t the right time for politics.

And yet that ship has sailed. Within hours—indeed, within minutes—of the murders, activists and media outlets around the nation began calling for stricter gun laws. Various leftist commentators indignantly rejected the idea that we should wait to hold the debate about guns until the dead are buried and we’ve all had some time to emotionally process these horrific murders.

And now the one-sided “debate” about gun laws is ubiquitous. I heard it on NPR this evening. I saw it on the cover of USA Today this morning. Certainly those advocating more-restrictive gun laws are raring to go. Frankly, I find their politicization of these horrific murders troubling.

And yet what I am to do? Obviously I am not going to stop the debate by refraining from entering it. Right now, gun owners and gun-rights advocates are being tried in absentia, in a kangaroo court created by the mass media. So I see little choice but to enter the debate.

I begin by criticizing an article penned by Allison Sherry of the Denver Post. My reply is in the form of an open letter.

In Sandy Hook’s Wake, We All Agree…

Obviously Americans are going to debate various laws following the horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary. But before I get into that, I thought it would be useful to briefly review some of those things about which we all agree.

We agree we should seek to aid and comfort, in whatever ways we can, the families and friends of the victims. The nation mourns the loss of these innocent children and adults. The mass murder at Sandy Hook was horrific. Those murdered lost the rest of their lives. The families and friends of the victims have suffered, and will continue to suffer, unspeakable pain. We cannot take that pain away, but we can try to comfort those afflicted.

We all agree that, whatever the surrounding circumstances, this evil act was perpetrated by a single individual. He could have made different choices than the ones he made, but he did not.

We all agree that the government should take appropriate steps to prosecute criminals and try to prevent crimes. (Many of us will disagree about what constitutes appropriate action.) We agree the government should pay special attention to those who have committed violent crimes in the past—and to those who have signaled an interest in committing violent crimes in the future.

We agree that we love America, and we love living in America, whatever problems the nation faces, and whatever disputes arise among her citizens.

When I saw various newspapers, prominent web pages, and political leaders laying out their political agendas within hours (and in some cases within minutes) of the atrocity at Sandy Creek, I knew we were in for some contentious debates. I thought it was important at the outset to remember those important things about which we agree.