Category Archives: Concealed carry

Reporting from the 25th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference

I just got back from the panels of the 25th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference, and let me tell you, I sure am jazzed. I arrived early in the morning and was greeted by a handsome M1 Garand being raffled off by the Golden State Second Amendment Council (who I really need to join):

Garand.jpg

Needless to say, I entered the drawing!

The conference started off with Alan Gottlieb and his wife Julianne discussing the importance of unity among pro-rights groups and of not sitting on our laurels just because we have two major SCOTUS victories. I heartily agree.

One pleasant surprise was that each attendee was given a ton of books, all for free! Among them are Paxton Quigley’s Armed and Female, John Lott’s Straight Shooting, and Alan Gottlieb’s America Fights Back. These are not works of fluff published by nobodies.

John Lott.jpg

John Lott himself (right) was present in fact, and he was there trumpeting his groundbreaking work in criminology to statistically disprove anti-rights myths over and over again. His speech was a bit dry, but he’s an economist so I can’t blame him too much, and besides, it was very informative!

Among the more bombastic speakers was Jim Wallace, a lobbyist with the unenviable task of promoting firearms and freedom to the Massachusetts state legislature. He told a hilarious story of how he cowed the legislature by asking them to indicate how many of them thought that only the government should have firearms (most did) and then asking them what they thought of the at-the-time-in-power Bush administration (it was not polite). This delighted me because I’ve used this trick on liberal friends and family before and heads always explode!

In fact, back before I was a guns and freedom activist, my extremely liberal father once confided in me that he was considering getting a gun out of fear of government thugs enforcing the PATRIOT act against him and his extremely liberal publications. At the time I was shocked and appalled but in retrospect I’m terribly proud of his momentary breaking out of the anti-gun state-is-god box and I wish I had been in a position to help him along rather than disapprove.

I regrettably forgot to snap a photo of Mr. Wallace. Maybe that tells you a little bit about how enthralled I was by his speech!

Alan Gura was of course awesome:

Sorry for the shakycam effect. After I shot these videos I realized that a more stable platform was needed so I cut some stickers up into strips and used them to secure my iPhone to a pile of books. It worked like a charm!

Eugene Volokh.jpg

Eugene Volokh (left) spoke as well and I was really excited to see him, being a big fan of his blog The Volokh Conspiracy. Mr. Volokh ended up being a voice of reason but was therefore hardly telling us what we wanted to hear! His primary argument was that the second amendment will be treated like other amendments — that is to say, it will be found to be a good deal less absolute and off-limits than we would prefer. He pointed out the wide variety of permissible restrictions on such rights as the right to protest and speak, and suggested that even a licensing scheme could be constitutional given its legal acceptance in protests.

Volokh sort of ended up playing the part of the wet blanket. Much to the palpable disappointment of the audience, he included assault weapons bans in the list of likely constitutional gun laws, his reasoning being that banning them would not be found to substantially burden the core right of self-defense provided that other suitable weapons were still available.

Calguns’ Gene Hoffman, however, strenuously disagreed a few hours later, bringing up the excellent example of self-defense against mountain lions, pointing out that California police departments use AR-15s to dispatch such animals when they show up in cities, and that ranchers and other rural folks often encounter four-legged predators against which handguns would be poor choices. These seemed like very strong arguments to me, and I also think that Scalia’s “in common use” language would come into effect as well; in California at least there are over 500,000 bullet button-equipped ARs and AKs. I’m proud to have increased that number by one.

There’s just something about Gene Hoffman that makes you want to follow him. He has a natural leader’s personality and he’s unbelievably eloquent. Here, have a listen:

Don Kilmer also spoke a bit about some of his cases, like the now-famous Nordyke case in which Mr Kilmer was technically the first lawyer ever to have the second amendment incorporated against the states!

Finally, Alan Gura spoke again.

Then there was a free-form discussion. Kilmer, Hoffman, and Gura talked a lot about spurious arrests for possession of bullet button-equipped ARs in California (hint: if it happens to you shut up and call Calguns at 800-556-2109) and other immediate and near-future issues. I couldn’t help but feel optimistic.

I was super-excited to see Massad Ayoob. Back when I was just dipping my toes into the pro-gun waters, his books and articles guided me along. I fondly remember reading In The Gravest Extreme on a bus ride in New England three years ago and feeling the cogs turning in my head as he methodically explained things that made too much sense to deny.

Also, he has an awesome voice.

One slightly unsettling undercurrent I noticed was the pervasive sniping at the NRA. Everyone was mad that they folded on the DISCLOSE act. Gura was pissed that they’ve been trying to take credit for his victories and was actually quite passive-aggressive about it. Smaller organizations like GOA were generally miffed that the NRA wasn’t absolutist enough. And one guy was steamed that they didn’t endorse Libertarians, leading to by far the most awkward moment of the day when he presented this to Bob Barr—who is an NRA board member—and got a good 15 seconds of tense silence as a result.

Given that Alan Gottlieb and his wife Julianne introduced the conference with a plea for unity and cooperation among pro-rights groups, it was somewhat disappointing. I would really have liked to see more solidarity, especially considering that the NRA has done 100 times more than most of the complainants (I’m looking at you, GOA!). We should rally around our power players, not snap at their heels for being more important and influential than we are.

There were a ton more people who were all great in their own ways. Hearing Michael Boldin the tenth amendment guy ask us if we had as much courage as the pot smokers in California who are actively disobeying federal law en masse was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and Nikki Stallard’s impassioned defense of gays’ right to defense was really something to behold.

It was a wonderful set of panels. After 10 hours, I felt rejuvenated! It’s great to be surrounded by fellow freedom-lovers, and I really think we have dream teams working all throughout the country to attack statist nonsense on too many fronts to count.

Agressive violence, meet defensive violence

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Man enters school with a gun and threatens the principal. Teacher pulls out her own gun and the gunman starts to reconsider the wisdom of his actions. Cops arrive soon and shoot the man dead after he points his gun at them. No innocents harmed.

Imagine the carnage that would have resulted if the teacher or the cops didn’t have guns.

BradyWatch: no really, this time blood will run through the streets!

Poor Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign has found out about another lawful practice he can wail about. His gripe this time concerns Utah’s issuing of non-resident concealed-carry permits, and a majority of U.S. states recognizing those permits. Obviously this will lead to blood in the streets and mass murders over parking spaces and you can guess the rest.

Paul admits that this has been going on for years. If he’s right that this is a public safety menace, then it shouldn’t be hard to find examples of the mayhem that it’s caused. But can Paul point to a single incident of an out-of-state Utah permit holder committing a gun crime?

Crickets.

This is why the anti-gun side loses. They stoke the fires of fear with sensationalism but don’t have any statistics to back up their feelings of dread and terror. As more and more people become not only comfortable around guns and those who own them, but also owners and carrier themselves, it becomes increasingly difficult for their chicken little cries to resonate with a population that can see for itself that the world hasn’t ended and blood isn’t running through the streets.

Musings on Stevens’McDonald dissent

In the recently-decided McDonald v. Chicago, Justice Scalia wrote his own opinion specifically to refute Stevens’, and he does a far better and more convincing job than I ever could (seeing as he’s, you know, a Supreme Court Justice and all). Still, here’s my shot at it:

First of all, Stevens’ basic point is that firearms require balancing out the costs with the benefits:

Hence, in evaluating an asserted right to be free from
particular gun-control regulations, liberty is on both sides of the equation. Guns may be useful for self-defense, as well as for hunting and sport, but they also have a unique potential to facilitate death and destruction and thereby to destabilize ordered liberty. Your interest in keeping and bearing a certain firearm may diminish my interest in being and feeling safe from armed violence. And while granting you the right to own a handgun might make you safer on any given day—assuming the handgun’s marginal contribution to self-defense outweighs its marginal contribution to the risk of accident, suicide, and criminal mischief—it may make you and the community you live in less safe overall, owing to the increased number of hand­guns in circulation. It is at least reasonable for a democratically elected legislature to take such concerns into account in considering what sorts of regulations would best serve the public welfare.

It may seem like Stevens is arguing against legal gun ownership, but if you read carefully, it’s not too hard to see the danger of his words to all civil rights. For if it is “at least reasonable for a democratically elected legislature to take such concerns into account” when it comes to guns, why could the same not be done for, say, books? Why not criminal justice, and allow legislatures to override Miranda protections if a democratic majority wills it? Would it be appropriate for a democratic majority to be able to entirely prohibit abortion or criminalize homosexuality?

Stevens’ arguments would indicate so, and he walks a dangerous line by placing such faith in majorities. these arguments in favor of pure majoritarian rule are just as applicable to other civil rights currently rendered off-limits to legislative tampering.

But wait, it gets better:

…it is a foundational premise of modern government that the State holds a monopoly on legitimate violence…

[…]

The power a man has in the state of nature “of doing whatsoever he thought fit for the preservation of himself and the rest of mankind, he gives up,” to a significant extent, “to be regulated by laws made by the society.”

[…]

I have found [no court case] that holds, states, or even suggests that the term “liberty” encompasses either the common-law right of self-defense or a right to keep and bear arms…

Did you catch that? Stevens argues that the right to preserve one’s own life from attack is not a component of liberty. Apparently, the government could ban self-defense without infringing on freedom, because it “holds a monopoly on legitimate violence”. According to Justice Stevens, someone could try to murder you, and if you fight back, it’s not unreasonable that you could be thrown in jail, because your use of violence to repel the attack was “illegitimate.” This is scary stuff.

Nevertheless, it does not appear to be the case that the ability to own a handgun, or any particular type of firearm, is critical to leading a life of autonomy, dignity, or political equality: The marketplace offers many tools for self-defense, even if they are imper­fect substitutes, and neither petitioners nor their amici make such a contention.

So handguns can be banned because they’re not “critical to leading a life of autonomy, dignity, or political equality”, or because poorer substitutes exist? Hmm, what other rights can we apply this to? I know! Gandhi’s autobiography The Story of My Experiments With Truth can be banned because Danielle Steele novels are still available! Abortion can be banned because one can live a life of autonomy, dignity, or political equality without ever having one!

Does Stevens really want to go down this rabbit hole? He eventually does explain why his logic should be specially applied to firearms and firearms alone:

Similarly, it is undeniable that some may take profound offense at a remark made by the soapbox speaker, the practices of another religion, or a gay couple’s choice to have intimate relations. But that offense is moral, psycho­logical, or theological in nature; the actions taken by the rights-bearers do not actually threaten the physical safety of any other person.

Stevens is concerning himself only with the direct effects of the misuse of rights, and hand-waving away the indirect effects of their exercise. For example, while it is true that by exercising his Miranda right to remain silent, a criminal is directly hurting nobody, should his confession be thrown out on Miranda grounds, that very much subtracts from public safety. Letting a dangerous person go free to prowl the street, for whatever reason, is a tangible endangerment of the community, and one that Stevens apparently thinks is an acceptable price to pay for the right itself.

Moreover, what constitutional provision informs Stevens’ reasoning here? Where is it laid out that a specific enumerated constitutional right can be treated differently from the rest solely because its misuse can result in death rather than merely moral or spiritual offense? We’re not talking about a random law enacted by a rogue legislature here, we’re talking about the second freaking amendment in the Bill of Rights!

Continuing on, we encounter this gem:

Fifth, although it may be true that Americans’ interest in firearm possession and state-law recognition of that interest are “deeply rooted” in some important senses, ante, at 19 (internal quotation marks omitted), it is equally true that the States have a long and unbroken history of regulating firearms.

Did you catch that? Apparently, a “long and unbroken history” of restricting a right can itself be the justification for its indefinite continuity. I bet the Southern states would have really liked this idea 150 years ago! Can you imagine their glee upon learning that their “long and unbroken history” of repressing blacks was a permissible counterbalance to blacks’ “deeply rooted” interest in being free from government-backed repression?

Stevens hammers the point home in a footnote:

I agree with JUSTICE SCALIA that a history of regulation hardly proves a right is not “of fundamental character.” Ante, at 12. An unbroken history of extremely intensive, carefully considered regulation does, however, tend to suggest that it is not.

Again we see his opinion that a government can destroy the “fundamental character” of a right through “an unbroken history of extremely intensive, carefully considered regulation.” It’s almost unreal.

So long as the regulatory measures they have chosen are not “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable,” we should be allowing [states and localities] to “try novel social and economic” policies.

I guess Stevens never heard of the Chicago Alderman who forgot to re-register his guns (which, according to Chicago law, makes them permanently un-registrable and therefore felonious to possess) and promptly passed a one-month registration amnesty that curiously happened to allow him to re-register them. Nope, nothing arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable about any of that!

…the elected branches have shown themselves to be perfectly capable of safeguarding the interest in keeping and bearing arms.

Sooooo… then why was Otis McDonald suing the city of Chicago for denying him the right to purchase and own a handgun? Apparently in Stevens’ world, “banning” can be a legitimate form of “safeguarding.”

The strength of a liberty claim must be assessed in con­nection with its status in the democratic process. And in this case, no one disputes “that opponents of [gun] control have considerable political power and do not seem to be at a systematic disadvantage in the democratic process,” or that “the widespread commitment to an individual right to own guns . . . operates as a safeguard against excessive or unjustified gun control laws.”

I see. So then, because we have the ACLU, couldn’t we safely do away with the First Amendment? After all, it sure seems that lovers of free speech “have considerable political power and do not seem to be at a systematic disadvantage in the democratic process.” I also see that “the widespread commitment to an individual right to” free expression is alive and healthy. Under this standard of review, the rights most respected and exercised by the public at large deserve the least judicial protection from legislative infringement. Now that’s some enlightened constitutional law for you!

In making these spirited arguments against guns, Stevens seems almost unaware that his broad endorsements of government authority and majoritarian rule severely endanger the remaining rights and liberties he does seem to like. This unsettling contradiction unfortunately never seems to dawn on him. If I didn’t know it any better, I would think that the writer of this dissent believed in almost no constitutionally-protected personal liberty at all.

BradyWatch: the tyranny of low expectations

The Brady Campaign’s Dennis Henigan:

“It’s a loss for them since they didn’t win as big as they’d hoped, and it’s a win for us since we didn’t lose as bad as we’d feared!”

Also, there’s this whopper:

Although some have expressed concern that a ruling against Chicago would cripple “stop and frisk” and other law enforcement tactics against illegal carrying of guns on the street, nothing in Heller itself would jeopardize those tactics.

Ahh yes, isn’t it nice to live in a police state? Can’t have the subjects running around being frisked the authorities for no reason!

BradyWatch: It’s only a civil rights violation if everybody’s rights are violated totally

The Brady Campaign is pissy about Sarah Palin calling Obama on his extremely well-documented support for all sorts of gun bans. And his Attorney General wants to bring back and make permanent the ban on “assault weapons”. So yeah, there’s a story there, and she’s totally right: he wants to do it but is smarter than to try in this political climate.

But the Bradies want you to know that this is just a bunch of baseless fearmongering:

… guns haven’t been banned in this country and the Constitution, as well as politics, makes it clear that they won’t be banned next year, or any year.

Wait, guns haven’t been banned in this country? Tell that to the residents of Chicago, who are suing their city over it! And what about residents of Washington, D.C., who sued their city over it and won? Heck, what about African-Americans in the south following the Civil War? And what of the Bradies’ own push to ban scary looking rifles they call “assault weapons”? Apparently none of these are really gun bans because they’re not “total”:

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case District of Columbia v. Heller that total gun bans violate the Second Amendment’s individual right to own a gun in the home for self-defense.

(emphasis mine.)

So, to recap: The Brady Campaign is simultaneously arguing that guns can’t be totally banned at the federal level, but also that piecemeal bans against only some kinds of guns, or those at only the state or local level aren’t really bans because they’re not “total,” and hence, guns have never been banned in this country.

This makes about as much sense as arguing that slavery wasn’t really slavery because only the south did it. You see, it wasn’t total enslavement at the federal level, so it was okay if Alabama wanted to do it! In fact, that means there never was any slavery!

Riiiiight.

2nd circuit court: CCW issuance is subject to due process

Big big news! The 2nd circuit court of appeals has ruled that the issuance of licenses to carry concealed weapons is subject to due process! The plaintiff in this case claimed that the 18 months he waited when he appealed a denial was too long, and thus violated his rights to due process, as the state was entirely denying him the right to bear arms during that time. The court agreed:

Contrary to defendants’ suggestion, the state’s ability to regulate firearms does not extinguish the liberty interest at stake or eliminate the need to afford due process.

But that’s not all; this decision is huge for a very specific reason. While the 2nd circuit is not very big:

2nd Circuit.jpg …it includes New York! What this decision essentially means is that a state cannot use a license process to harass or discourage applicants, and especially not with lengthy administrative waiting periods. This is huge news, because New York requires a license to even own a handgun, and the requirements to acquire one are downright byzantine, and forget even trying in NYC. Those discriminatory practices are now officially illegal! All in all, great news. The ball is in New York’s court. We’ll see which comes first: either the state drops the discriminatory laws, or gets the pants sued off of it!