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NRA crosses a line with #BackOurBlue campaign August 23, 2017

Posted by David Bookstaber in Police, RKBA, Special Interests, Unions.
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It’s Time We Honor Our Law Enforcement Again

Our nation’s police officers put their lives on the line every day to protect those in need—including the ignorant and ungrateful who direct criticism toward the entire profession. – NRA’s #BackOurBlue campaign

The NRA has stepped up its unconditional support of the American law enforcement establishment. This is why I don’t have an NRA life membership, and why I won’t be renewing my membership for now.

Put their lives on the line every day? No, not really.

Protect those in need? Well, at least when they feel like it. (And when they aren’t assaulting, robbing, or killing those in need.)

The ignorant and ungrateful who direct criticism toward the entire profession? So the salaries, union security, and defined-benefit pensions provided by every taxpayer aren’t thanks enough? (Besides, who maintains the notorious Blue Privilege? Critics, or the members of the profession?)

American police are a mixed bag: There are some exceptional officers who go out of their way to honor their oath of office and to “protect and serve.” And there are incompetent, intemperate, and even psychopathic individuals who hide behind qualified immunity and the institutional “thin blue line” to violate American civil liberties with virtual impunity.

Taken as a whole, the American law enforcement profession is no friend of civil liberties in general, nor of Second Amendment rights in particular. The NRA claims to be, “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization. Together with our more than five million members, we’re proud defenders of history’s patriots and diligent protectors of the Second Amendment.” Until the NRA honors that claim, I will beg to differ.

Re: Desert Tech Pakistan Contract — me too! January 8, 2014

Posted by David Bookstaber in Markets, RKBA.
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Desert Tech (formerly Desert Tactical Arms), a small Utah gun manufacturer, grabbed national headlines when it announced it wouldn’t pursue a $15MM RFP for small arms for Pakistan. Never mind that Desert Tech can barely meet domestic demand for their guns: they boasted that not pursuing the contract had nothing to do with their probability of winning or fulfilling it, and everything to do with their ethical concerns about their pricey bolt-action rifles somehow falling into the hands of enemies of American.

Which is funny, because I recently faced a very similar dilemma: The Pakistani government is looking for elite American technology strategists to enhance their infrastructure. Naturally I would make any short list for those roles, but given the turmoil in the region I have decided that regardless of the personal cost I will forgo any such opportunities for fear that they might lead to situations that could compromise my stalwart American values. Like Desert Tech, I know it’s not always easy or profitable to stand by one’s principles. And I just want to make sure everyone knows that.

Also, due to its latest human rights abuses I had no choice but to publicly inform the Russian Olympic Committee that I will not license my image for any of their public-relations efforts. (The U.S. government hasn’t put my striking good looks on their export control list, but you know it’s only a matter of time.)

Hopefully my manifest willingness to put my patriotism and principles before profit won’t deter anyone else from approaching me with enormous consulting, contracting, or modelling offers.

Due Process Update: NFA Tax January 3, 2014

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA, Taxation.
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NSSF provides an update on the time it takes the ATF to send applicants a stamp showing they paid the $200 fee required to possess a suppressor or short-barrel rifle. They cash the check immediately upon receiving the application, but they just reported that average wait times to approve them are still averaging 9 months!

This is worse than it was last year.

Why Civilians Need Machineguns June 16, 2013

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA.
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Would civilians benefit from the right to keep and bear fully-automatic firearms (a.k.a. “select-fire” or “machine” guns)? I’ve raised this question with firearms tacticians in the past, and the most common answer is, “Probably not.” This answer is usually buttressed by three arguments:

  1. You can’t deliver hits any more quickly with full-auto fire. After the first shot of a full-auto burst the accuracy of an unmounted gun decreases due to recoil. Hence, agencies that issue select-fire weapons prefer that shooters train to deliver three-round bursts instead of barrages.
  2. Reloads, running out of ammo, or overheating your gun are all more likely to get you killed in a fire fight than the inability to deliver an adequate volume of fire.
  3. Modern military tactics only call for fully-automatic fire in squad scenarios. Civilians don’t normally travel in squads with the full battle loads necessary to sustain a firefight with automatic weapons. (Though a militia formed in a state of emergency probably would.)

And yet, there’s this disconcerting fact that the government, which has the option, generally chooses to equip its agents with select-fire weapons. I’ve reasoned before that the argument should end there: If it’s appropriate for government agents it’s appropriate for The People. But the question is still interesting.

One does not need a vivid imagination to conjure scenarios in which a civilian militia or family would benefit from fully-automatic firearms. In fact, most military doctrine for the use of full-auto fire from man-portable weapons involves defensive uses: “breaking contact” to retreat, “denying access” to an aggressor, and “final protective fire.” As discussed in that last article by Oleg Volk, any home or business that has been attacked by a mob would have benefited from the deterrent of a machinegun defense. (Nothing says “go away” like sweeping a sector with automatic fire.)

Even individuals can find themselves in situations warranting a maximum volume of fire. For example, aggressors often attack by ramming with vehicles. To stop an incoming vehicle that threatens your life or property you’d ideally place aimed fire through the windshield at the driver. But if the vehicle is approaching too quickly or the driver takes cover behind the engine you have to stop the vehicle itself, and that requires a barrage of fire: The faster you can shoot the greater your chances of stopping or diverting it.

U.S. Government Crosses the Rubicon May 7, 2013

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA.
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Our country was founded on the premise that citizens should have the means to restrain and reform their government, by force if necessary. Implicit in this natural right, which was explicitly enumerated in the Bill of Rights, is the principle that the government has no authority deprive The People of arms, or to reserve more effective weapons to its agents for domestic use.

U.S. gun laws have long since crossed this line. The most salient example was the recent request by the Department of Homeland Security for 7000 Personal Defense Weapons. As the name of the RFP indicates these are the best modern weapons for personal defense. With some extremely expensive and limited exceptions, they are also off limits to citizens for three distinct reasons:

  1. They are compact (regulated as “Short Barrel Rifles”)
  2. They are “select-fire,” i.e. capable of fully-automatic operation
  3. They shoot “armor-piercing” bullets (a restricted category that was recently expanded to include a large segment of popular target bullet)

Government agents are allowed to procure and carry these arms for personal defense. As a practical matter, citizens are not. And any citizen caught in possession of a firearm with one of those three characteristics that has not been properly registered is aggressively prosecuted as a felon and punished with up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

This is always a step in the evolution of tyranny.

Principled Businesses Supporting Liberty February 21, 2013

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA.
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The Left often derides for-profit businesses as mercenaries that, without proper regulation, would sacrifice the well-being of their employees, customers, and anyone else who stands in the way of turning a quick profit.

The firearms industry is offering a refreshing counterpoint: A significant number of American manufacturers have declared that they will apply the same rules and restrictions to governments as the governments apply to their subjects/citizens. [20130223 Update: ThePoliceLoophole.com is serving as a clearinghouse to list companies that are taking the initiative to close this “police loophole” themselves.]

Yesterday Barrett added this eloquent letter, explaining that they will not service or sell to any government agency that attempts to abridge the constitutional rights of Americans. They take it one step further, declaring that this policy extends to any “individual elected official who, as a matter of public record, has voted for or created regulation that violates the constitutional rights of their citizens.” It’s a great statement and a great model for principled commerce. Full letter copied here:

School Massacres: When Will We Protect Our Children? December 15, 2012

Posted by David Bookstaber in Education, RKBA.
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Another utterly horrific and completely preventable tragedy unfolded today as a suicidal lunatic managed to kill 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Preventable why? Not because we can detect psychopaths before they act. Nor because we can stop them from acquiring lethal implements. Predictably, many people are obsessing over the particular weapons used in this case: handguns. Indeed, in the United States mass homicides are mostly carried out with firearms. But without access to guns homicidal maniacs turn to other weapons: knives, motor vehicles, or bombs. Indeed, across the world lone psychopaths have carried out massacres of this scale with all of these weapons and more.

What characterizes this and every other massacre in modern American history* (and indeed many more throughout the world) is not the fact that the killer used firearms. After all, many killers, including many bent on mass murder, wield firearms. No, the single most striking characteristic that distinguishes massacres from common murders is that the victims of the former are always defenseless. In the United States rules and laws serve as virtual government guarantees that targets in certain areas will be defenseless. All mass shootings have been in such “unarmed victim zones:” schools, private facilities that ban gun possession, and government installations.

Firearms may be effective tools of mass murder, but they are even more effective tools of defense. Lone gunmen do not succeed in massacring people where citizens are routinely permitted to carry firearms. This is not for lack of trying, either. Armed citizens have stopped so many attempted homicides that the unspoken outrage is that we continue to send our children to schools that are painstakingly stripped of defensive arms.

This is the outrage: Armed citizens are the only common defense against massacres. Whether it’s a maniac wielding guns or knives, or steering a vehicle or bomb past a barrier into a crowd, a bystander with a gun is the only practical and reliable means of putting the massacre to an end. Yet we round up our children every day and put them in the care of a few adults who are forbidden to carry guns.

We should be demanding exactly the opposite: Those who we trust to care for our children should be required to provide for their defense. We will never know when or how the next lunatic will embark on a homicidal rampage, but we do know that the only thing that will reliably stop his diabolic plans will be an armed target or bystander drawing a gun and shooting him until he stops.

Bemusing: ATF regulations on producing alcohol as onerous as for firearms August 16, 2012

Posted by David Bookstaber in Regulation, RKBA.
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Well almost. Until 2005 distillers even needed to pay a Special Occupational Tax (SOT) — just like manufacturers and dealers of NFA items like machineguns.

However the government, through the ATF, is still very serious about regulating and taxing the distillation of alcohol. Their FAQ effectively says, “Don’t try this at home:”

You may not produce spirits for beverage purposes without paying taxes and without prior approval of paperwork to operate a distilled spirits plant.  [See 26 U.S.C. 5601 & 5602 for some of the criminal penalties.]  There are numerous requirements that must be met that also make it impractical to produce spirits for personal or beverage use.  Some of these requirements are paying special tax, filing an extensive application, filing a bond, providing adequate equipment to measure spirits, providing suitable tanks and pipelines, providing a separate building (other than a dwelling) and maintaining detailed records, and filing reports.  All of these requirements are listed in 27 CFR Part 19. Spirits may be produced for non-beverage purposes for fuel use only without payment of tax, but you also must file an application, receive TTB’s approval, and follow requirements, such as constructionuse, records and reports.

Is ATF Providing Due Process on NFA taxes? May 23, 2012

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA, Taxation.

Here is a picture of the federal government depriving citizens of due process. Federal law requires payment of a $200 tax to make or buy certain types of weapons. The ATF is responsible for collecting the tax and returning a stamped form showing the tax has been paid and the applicant is allowed to make or receive the weapon. The ATF cashes the check on receipt of the application, but this chart shows that they are taking longer and longer to return the stamp — now upwards of six months.

NFA Wait Time Trend as of May 2012
(Source: http://www.randominfo.net/NFA/WaitTimeTrend.php)

Background: The 1934 National Firearms Act imposed a $200 tax on manufacture or transfer of a large class of firearms and accessories deemed at the time to be “gangster” weapons. In then dollars the tax was so high that it effectively eliminated the civilian market for machine-guns and silencers.

Through the quirks of subsequent court decisions, laws, and regulations, “short-barrel” rifles (SBRs) and shotguns (SBSs) are also subject to the NFA tax, but the delineation of these controlled items is truly bizarre. For example: Handguns are exempt, no matter what length barrel. But if you put a stock or shoulder support on a handgun with a barrel under 16″, it becomes a SBR. If you cut a rifle’s barrel under 16″ it’s an SBR, unless you remove the stock, in which case it’s a pistol. But if you add a foregrip to that, it becomes another type of NFA item called an AOW (“Any Other Weapon”) which requires a $5 tax.

In 1986 the Firearm Owners Protection Act froze the supply of machine-guns that could be transferred to individuals. The values of such transferable guns have run into 5 figures, so they are now mostly collectors items. People who want to legally play with machine-guns have to either be very wealthy or pay a Special Occupation Tax (typically at least $1000/year) to establish themselves as manufacturers, and subject themselves to license and regulation by the ATF.

Fortunately, the NFA tax rates stand at their original levels, and thanks to inflation it is no longer particularly difficult to pay the $200 to transfer or register a silencer or SBR in the majority of states where it is legal. In recent years hundreds of thousands of such tax stamps have been purchased as citizens have rediscovered the safety and convenience of silencers and SBRs.

A delay was always part of this process, but while many people were willing to wait a month or two for NFA paperwork to be processed, fewer are willing to go through the ordeal when the delay approaches a year. If government requires you to pay a tax to conduct commerce, its constitutional obligations to provide due process do not permit it to collect the tax and then withhold approval for an unreasonable period. Obama’s ATF has certainly crossed the line.

Economic interests promote freedom May 3, 2012

Posted by David Bookstaber in Economic Policy, RKBA.
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Minnesota is one of the 10 states where gun silencers are still prohibited. But when a gun company threatened to move its manufacturing to a neighboring state, Shooting Wire reports:

A couple of weeks ago, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a bit of legislation (H.F. 1816) into law that accomplished a couple of things. The primary goal – allowing Minnesota firearms dealers to legally possess suppressors for research and development, product demonstrations and law enforcement sales, was one that was easy to see.

The second thing it accomplished was actually what it prevented. It kept JP Enterprises from leaving Minnesota for more a more hospitable business climate. If the bill hadn’t passed, JP Enterprises had planned a relocation to either Wisconsin or South Dakota – places where the suppressor laws were more lenient.

I don’t think JP is even a notably large employer.

I wonder if a large number of gun manufacturers got together they could exert enough economic leverage to get the Firearms Freedom Act passed in one or more states? It would certainly be profitable in a large state since commerce in suppressors and “short-barrel” rifles would be liberated from the ATF’s $200 tax, paperwork, and excessive delays before buyers can take possession.

Lazy Law: BATFE edition January 4, 2012

Posted by David Bookstaber in Regulation, RKBA.
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It is unfair for ATF to hold individuals to a standard that they cannot articulate themselves.

In a prime example of Lazy Law, the Washington Times describes how the ATF hurts the firearms industry with capricious, secret, and at times contradictory bureaucratic rulings on what manufacturers can build. The Bureau issues approvals for products that it can arbitrarily revoke at any time without compensation to those who lose money as a result.

Is the U.S. Finally Ready to Normalize Firearm Suppressors? April 1, 2011

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA.

I have been a longtime advocate of firearm suppressors (a.k.a. “silencers”). Regrettably, the National Firearms Act of 1934 grouped these safety devices together with machine guns and explosive weapons. Fortunately I live in a state that doesn’t restrict civilian ownership of these items. I have jumped through the bureaucratic hoops and paid the $200 tax needed to legally acquire several suppressors.

A few years ago, following the Heller victory in the Supreme Court, I reached out to some of the pro-RKBA organization strategists and asked if it wasn’t time to push for broader access to silencers. One theory I suggested was that obstacles to acquiring silencers unreasonably discriminate against pregnant women, who can’t safely practice shooting sports without them (because fetuses can’t wear hearing protection). Their responses were all along the lines of, “Yes, we ultimately need to get silencers out of the NFA, but one adverse court ruling could set us back. This is not yet the time.”

Apparently the time may finally be upon us. I have seen a growing awareness of the benefits of suppressors within the shooting community: In real life they don’t “silence” guns, but they do make them quiet enough to shoot without hearing protection and not risk permanent hearing damage. They also reduce recoil and trap toxic gases produced by some firearm loads. Ten years ago many shooters weren’t aware that civilians can legally own suppressors. Now they routinely show up on the firing lines of shooting clubs. And state governments are beginning to realize that more suppressors are probably a good thing.

The Kansas legislature has passed a measure allowing the use of suppressors for hunting, fishing and trapping. It’s been sent to Governor Sam Brownback for his approval.

Suppressors for hunting? Absolutely.

One state has finally realized that the suppressor isn’t the whisper-quiet instrument of choice for assassins, terrorists or other undesirables. It’s a safety device which not only protects the hearing of the hunter, it protects everyone’s hearing within ear shot (ouch) of the firearm.

Hopefully, this common-sense recognition of a tool to control noise and protect hearing will kick-start more attempts to get suppressors removed from the ATF’s list of “generally terrible things that don’t belong in the hands of average citizens”.

For years, we’ve pushed the fact that most European countries not only approve their usage, they encourage it. It might be the single example of elected officials who are anti-gun not using a “European model” as the example of a rule we should follow.

Everyone who owns a firearm should be learning about suppressors – and pushing for their removal from the ATF’s Class 3 regulations. They should be approved for ownership under the same guidelines as any firearm accessory. It’s not a firearm, cannot be made into a firearm (think very quiet zip gun -at best), and is, in fact, a protective device that should carry the same restrictions as eye and ear protection.

It’s time that another voice of the people campaign remind a relatively receptive bunch of elected officials that there’s a need for review and revision of many ATF practices and policies.

RKBA: Requirement to Keep and Bear Arms December 17, 2010

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA.
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Old news, but just brought to my attention: Article 9 of the Vermont constitution requires its citizens to contribute to the common defense, either in kind or in equivalent. A state legislator has been trying to codify this requirement with a law that taxes citizens who do not keep modern firearms.

Concealed firearms without a permit in three states April 20, 2010

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA.
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Arizona just joined Alaska and Vermont in allowing concealed carry of firearms without a permit. The law, restoring this right to adults over age 21, takes effect this summer. Interesting details from an AP report:

[T]he measure was supported by police unions representing rank-and-file officers, who said their best friend on the streets is a law-abiding citizen equipped to protect themselves [sic] or others.

Under the Arizona legislation, people carrying a concealed weapon will be required to tell a police officer that if asked, and the officer can temporarily take the weapon while communicating with the person.

More than 154,000 people have permits to carry a concealed weapon in Arizona.

Forty-five other states require permits for hidden guns, and two states – Illinois and Wisconsin – prohibit them altogether.

Federalism Showdown Looms Over Gun Control July 21, 2009

Posted by David Bookstaber in Federalism, RKBA.
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Montana and Tennessee recently passed “Firearms Freedom Act” laws declaring that most firearms manufactured and traded within their respective states are exempt from federal gun laws and regulations.  The most significant implications of these state acts:

  • Federal Firearms Licenses are not required to manufacture or sell locally manufactured guns.
  • Locally manufactured silencers, short-barrelled guns, and man-portable smokeless-powder guns with bore diameters up to 1.5″ are exempt from NFA tax and registration.  Presumably “Any Other Weapon” devices are also NFA-exempt.
  • However, explosive ammunition and fully-automatic firearms are not protected by the Firearms Freedom Acts, and therefore still subject to the federal NFA and GCA.

Last week the BATFE sent letters to Federal Firearms Licensees in both states asserting that these Firearms Freedom Acts do not exempt licensees from any federal requirements.

Granted, there could be an administrative detente to this standoff:  When someone decides to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) they are voluntarily submitting to federal regulations.  Therefore, a separate network of non-FFL manufacturer and dealer entities could stand up to deal in state-protected Firearms Freedom Act items.  In that case the BATFE would have to take the aggressive step of barging in on individuals engaged in state-sanctioned activity to assert that it has jurisdiction over them.  Hopefully the states will resist such an intrusion on their sovereignty.

[Update: FirearmsFreedomAct.com is serving as a clearinghouse for news on this sovereignty movement.]

Reasonable Security and Asymmetric Threats February 5, 2009

Posted by David Bookstaber in RKBA, Transportation.
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I see the “cell phone gun” Email is circulating again, encouraging Americans to acquiesce in government’s efforts to disarm them in “sensitive” places like airplanes and schools.  I am not phased:  A disguised device that can launch four subsonic .22 caliber bullets?  That doesn’t scare me any more than a homicidal man wielding a few sharp pens.

And it certainly doesn’t justify the indiscriminate harassment and disarmament of the public at “security checkpoints.”  Excluding areas where the government has disarmed people (e.g., schools), no shooting rampage in the United States has produced casualties greater than those that have been produced by homicidal individuals wielding knives or cars in other incidents.  Clearly, when anyone can be armed, firearms, knives, and other traditional (megawatt class) weapons do not pose an asymmetric threat.

In another discussion I explained what I mean by asymmetric weapons:


[A]n individual with a truck bomb is asymmetric: Your next door neighbor could surreptitiously build and detonate one, and … conceivably get away with it.  And even if he were connected to the crime how can you hold one man to account for the wanton murder of hundreds?  There is no way to deter, defend against, punish, or seek redress from an average guy who snaps and has ready means to commit a truck bombing.

Contrast this with firearms: Yes, psychopaths arm themselves and launch shooting sprees.  But individuals can and do deter and defend against such acts by arming themselves with guns.  In the worst case a gunman kills a few people before being stopped, which is not out of proportion to the punishment that can be meted out to him.


The only threats worth screening for in public places are the asymmetric ones: chemical weapons and explosives.  Current countermeasures for these are alarmingly weak.

If government stopped gate-raping airline passengers looking for knives and guns they could devote more resources to catching the truly asymmetric threats.  After all, if citizens weren’t deprived of their fundamental right of self defense when they board a commercial aircraft then any goons who tried to make trouble would expect to be promptly shot by any number of fellow passengers carrying concealed firearms.  But if somebody sneaks a bomb onto a plane and detonates it in the air there is no way to prevent the death of everyone on board.

The Rise of Oligarchy in the United States October 28, 2008

Posted by David Bookstaber in Natural Rights, RKBA.

Oligarchy is typically associated with single-party Communist states: These are institutions that take rights and property from the general population and distribute them to preferred party members in order to reinforce their power.  They are essentially state-sanctioned organized crime syndicates.

The New York Post reminds us that the New York City oligarchy has usurped our natural right to self-defense:  NYC recognizes the rights of only about 36,000 people to keep and bear firearms — “a list that includes celebrities, billionaires, and politicians.”  For everyone else: “Carrying a firearm without a permit is a felony punishable by more than a year in prison.”

They’re coming for our guns! October 15, 2008

Posted by David Bookstaber in Natural Rights, RKBA.
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Preparing to take advantage of expected Democrat super-majorities in federal government, the Brady Campaign just published a report arguing for the reinstatement of a new, tougher, federal “assault weapons ban.”  Federalist Readers know that I oppose any infringement of the right of American citizens to keep and bear arms, including military arms.  But I’m always willing to consider opposing viewpoints, so I took a look.

The 63-page report was written by Brian Siebel, one of their staff lawyers.  It consists mostly of anecdotes describing the misuse of assault weapons as well as a sprinkling of arguments and opinions from officials and experts who favor new restrictions on assault weapons.

The report defines “assault weapons” using the features Congress referenced when enacting the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, as well as those used by the six states that have “assault weapon bans” of various flavors: CA, CT, HI, MA, NJ, NY (see report footnote 102).  These characteristics include:

  • High-capacity magazines (i.e., any magazine that holds more than 10 rounds).
  • Folding or collapsible stocks.
  • Pistol or thumbhole grips.
  • Barrel shrouds.
  • Flash suppressors.
  • Threaded barrels (which allow for temporary attachment of suppressors).
  • Bayonet lugs.

I managed to speak briefly with Brian Siebel after reviewing this report.  His core argument is that none of these “assault weapon features” is useful enough for hunting or defense to justify the misuse to which they have been put by criminals.  This is an assertion worthy of consideration, and I don’t have a database of defensive uses of assault weapons to rebut it.  Nevertheless, I can offer two counter-arguments.

  1. The anecdotal evidence of assault weapon misuse does not incriminate these assault weapon features.  I.e., yes, many crimes have been committed with assault weapons.  But in none of the examples provided by the report is it clear that any of the assault weapon features enhanced the “mayhem” wrought by the criminals.  It appears in every case that if the criminal had instead used a non-assault firearm we could reasonably expect to have observed the same outcome.  This incrimination by incidental association is not a strong argument.  For example, I may assert that red cars with independent suspensions contribute to reckless driving.  I can cite a number of fatal accidents in which a reckless driver was using a red car with an independent suspension.  (I may even discover statistical evidence that reckless drivers prefer such cars.)  But of course there are many such fatal accidents that did not involve cars with those features, and many drivers of such cars that are meticulously law-abiding.  If the reckless drivers had been in almost any other car we could reasonably have expected the same outcome.  Hence, neither this color nor this suspension is incriminated as a feature that increases “mayhem.”
  2. We must also note that police forces worldwide have in recent years equipped their agents with assault weapons.  The police are equipping themselves against the same criminals that threaten civilians.  Therefore, if the government believes community police are justified in carrying these weapons to defend themselves and the community against criminals, then citizens should be equally justified in arming themselves with these weapons for their defense in the absence of police (who, courts have confirmed, do not have an enforceable duty to protect any citizen).

Siebel offers a number of questionable assertions, and a few outright falsehoods, in the core section of his report, “Assault Weapons Have No Sporting or Self-Defense Purpose” (p.14).  Here is a sampling with brief rebuttals:

Silencers are also illegal.

40 states allow for private ownership of silencers.  Is it fair to characterize something that is legal in 80% of the country as simply “illegal?”  Siebel declined to qualify this assertion.

A silencer is useful to assassins but clearly has no purpose for sportsmen.

Siebel doesn’t offer any examples of assassins exploiting the utility of a silencer.  In contrast, I have previously argued that a silencer offers many benefits to sportsmen and indeed any user of a firearm who doesn’t want to damage the hearing of himself or bystanders, or expose them to unattenuated muzzle blast.

Assault weapons were designed for military use. They have no legitimate use as self-defense weapons.

This is simply contradictory.  “Assault weapons” are tactical small arms optimized for the use of individual soldiers defending themselves and small units against attackers.  The military can equip its soldiers with a wide range of weapons for their personal defense.  Almost across the board it prefers assault weapons.

Assault weapons have never been “in common use” at any time.

Siebel declined to elaborate on this assertion, noting that the definition of “in common use” will be adjudicated by future courts.  Suffice it to say that millions of “assault weapons” continue to be owned and used by Americans.  Furthermore, they are standard issue to police and paramilitary forces both in the United States and around the world.

How to Get the Federal Government Out of the Gun Control Business July 28, 2008

Posted by David Bookstaber in Natural Rights, RKBA.

If we accept the more liberal “states’ rights” interpretation of the Second Amendment, which is that it only forbids the federal government from interfering with the militia rights of states, doesn’t that interpretation nullify most of the gun control currently practiced by the federal government? For example:

1. The National Firearms Act (NFA) requires the taxation and registration of any transfer of broad classes of firearms and accessories (e.g., machine guns and many other devices commonly used by the military) — even when the transfer is between individuals in the same state. How can the federal government regulate the disposition of militia arms within a state without interfering with that state’s right to regulate its militia?

2. The Gun Control Act (GCA) forbids a private citizen from acquiring a machine gun that was not registered privately prior to 1986. What if a state wants its citizens to be able to purchase new machine guns for militia service?

3. The NFA forbids the importation of Class III devices (which includes non-weapon accessories like suppressors) for purchase by private citizens. Again, doesn’t this infringe the right of states to regulate their militia? Is there an established theory by which the Commerce Clause legitimately supercedes the Second Amendment?

4. The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (which expired in 2004) further restricted the importation and sale of a wider class of weapons and accessories to “non law enforcement” personnel. Could states circumvent such restrictions by simply designating every “able-bodied adult” a member of their constitutionally protected militia? (And doesn’t the U.S. Code already make that designation?)

5. The federal government prohibits individuals from bearing arms in many locations outside of the District of Columbia — e.g., national parks, “federal” buildings within the states, airports. Is it clear that it has authority to do this in spite of the Second Amendment?

After extensive research I found this 1995 essay by Reynolds and Kates that addresses many of these questions, and which concludes that under the states’ rights interpretation “most federal firearms laws would not be applicable to citizens covered by state militia laws–though no doubt the federal government would retain the power to outlaw weapons obviously unsuited for militia use such as derringers, wallet-guns, umbrella-guns, and sawed-off shotguns.”

[F]ederal gun control laws could, in effect, be nullified by state legislation that requires militia members to possess banned weapons–legislation that might well reach a majority of the state’s population.

Many people are unhappy with the U.S. Supreme Court’s confirmation of the “individual right” interpretation of the Second Amendment in D.C. v. Heller.  Just to make sure we’ve got all the bases covered, let’s encourage the states to assert their Second Amendment rights by nullifying the NFA and GCA!

Can Technology End Firearm Rights? July 2, 2008

Posted by David Bookstaber in Natural Rights, RKBA.

Paul Robinson’s NYTimes essay “Shoot to Stun” has an important thesis: If less-than-lethal weapons become more effective for personal defense than handguns, presumably that technology would eliminate our Constitutional right to keep and bear handguns.

Robinson is optimistic on stun guns, though at present tasers are not as effective as handguns for personal defense. Taser darts cannot penetrate heavy clothing. A single stun device cannot defend against multiple assailants. And tasers cannot incapacitate a determined assailant long enough for help to arrive. But suppose less-lethal technology finally does produce a defensive weapon that is as versatile, reliable, and effective as a handgun. Would the government then be justified in banning the keeping and bearing of handguns? I suppose they would. After all, as Robinson points out, bullets are a sloppy and imprecise means of defense. There is no natural or Constitutional basis for preserving a right to arms that are less effective and more dangerous than ready alternatives.

Now, Robinson’s essay has some critical shortcomings. For one thing he appears unaware that a majority of United States have passed “Castle Doctrine” laws, which sanction the use of lethal force against anyone forcibly invading a home — without further regard to the presence of an “imminent threat” or to the “proportional” use of force.

Anyone trained in armed defense knows that ideally a handgun is kept only to enable you to fight your way to a rifle or shotgun. Handguns sacrifice defensive power and accuracy in favor of convenience and portability. But Robinson frames his entire essay in terms of the limited capabilities of handguns. Robinson seems to assume that our right to keep and bear defensive arms exists only for the purpose of personal defense against a small number of unsophisticated assailants, and only in a space extending ten or twenty yards from the defender (i.e., roughly the effective range of a handgun). I disagree with that assumption.

I maintain that the preamble to our Constitution’s Second Amendment extends our natural right to keep and bear arms from those suitable for immediate personal defense to any arms that are suitable for militia use. I.e., every person has a natural right to keep and bear arms suitable to defend himself and his property. But Americans enjoy an enhanced Constitutional right (still as individuals) to keep and bear any weapon that a government would provide to a military force in order to defend ground against a military aggressor. Americans are not subservient to any government. They are not legally dependent on their governments for defense (in fact, no government has an enforceable duty to defend its citizens). Indeed, Americans should stand ready as individuals to band together in their own defense against any government, foreign or domestic, that would attempt to forcibly infringe their natural or Constitutional rights. Hence government cannot infringe the extra-gubernatorial right of Americans to keep and bear arms suitable not only for personal defense but also for mutual military defense.

Will technology ever produce non-lethal devices capable of obviating the need for lethal military weapons? If an individual could surround his property with an impenetrable barrier then presumably he would have no need for weapons. However in practice one suspects that any technological defense is susceptible to technological countermeasures. An escalating cycle of countermeasures is ultimately won by the opponent with the most resources. Unless this rule is broken it will remain the natural right of individuals to defend themselves against adversaries (including wealthy adversaries) with “primitive” lethal weapons.