Category Archives: Rights Watch

Exclusive: “I Will Not Comply”

“If a ban on semi-automatic guns and large-capacity magazines reduces the perceived risk from a mass shooting, and makes the public feel safer as a result, that’s a substantial benefit,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in the majority opinion for a 3-judge 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel. The Reagan-appointee’s decision was a temporary setback for the Illinois State Rifle and Pistol Association-backed challenge to the city of Highland Park’s “assault weapon” ban, albeit one that is sure to be appealed.

Much of Easterbrook’s rationale for pretending the words “shall not be infringed” were intended by the Founders to mean “unless it upsets the Tories” was based on “common use” language employed in the Heller and earlier Miller decision.

“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” the Supreme Court ruled. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose … Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those ‘in common use at the time’ finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”

Paraphrasing a line by the Inigo Montoya character from The Princess Bride comes to mind. That term, I do not think it means what the anti-gunners, or even most judges, think it means.

In Miller, the court had no evidence possession of a short-barrel shotgun had “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia [or] that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment, or that its use could contribute to the common defense.”

That’s the key point being ducked. The function of the militia, defined as “all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense [and] bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time,” was—and is—to field citizen soldiers. And these citizens bore arms that were suitable for that purpose, “ordinary military equipment” intended to be taken into “common defense” battles. The militia assembled with the intent to match and best a professional military threat.

The same still holds true, even if the government is intent on neglecting its Constitutional “community organizing” duties. If a weapon is in common use by soldiers, it is part of that “terrible implement” clause Tench Coxe claimed as “the birthright of an American.” To repeat a saying until even judges understand it (and only frauds pretend they don’t), the Second Amendment is not about duck hunting.

You know that and I know that, but what are we supposed to do when legislators and judges, either through ignorance or deliberate oath-breaking, conduct themselves like they do not?

Be informed and involved. Work to educate our countrymen. Join and help fund pro-gun groups. Support lawsuits. If you don’t like the law, work to change it. Vote in better politicians.

It would probably be a pretty safe bet to guess most GUNS readers, particularly those of you who regularly read the “Rights Watch” column, have been doing most, if not all of those things, for years. So what do we do when that’s the case, but we live in a district or state where anti-gun “representatives” are safe from political repercussions, and the judges have an agenda that does not include freely exercising your right to keep and bear arms?

Some gun owners have embraced an “I will not comply” philosophy, and done it in a way that dares authorities to enforce what they’ve imposed. Untold numbers in California, Connecticut and New York have refused to register their “assault weapons.” Gun owners in Colorado are actively defying the standard-capacity magazine ban. Gun owners in Washington State are openly flouting the recently-passed initiative requiring “background checks” (that is, registration) for private transfers.

The authorities, used to being obeyed, don’t know what to do now that their bluff has been called. They understand they don’t have the resources to go after any but a statistically insignificant percentage of “scofflaws,” no matter how loudly indignant urban newspaper editorials demand they do just that.

“[T]he bottom line is the state must try to enforce the law,” The Hartford Courant railed, noting “scores of thousands of Connecticut residents failed to register their military-style assault weapons with state police.

“If you want to disobey the law, you should be prepared to face the consequences,” the editors, who had no personal skin in the enforcement game, proclaimed.

Before assessing likely consequences, which won’t happen without pushback, it would be helpful to understand the scope of the problem. But gun-grabbing regimes play coy with information that might make them appear impotent, as an ongoing action against New York State reveals. Pressed by gun rights advocacy groups for numbers of “assault weapons” registered in compliance with the so-called SAFE Act, the State Police have refused to honor Freedom of Information Law requests, necessitating a 2014 lawsuit that has not been decided at this writing.

Widespread defiance, when all else fails, is something I’ve taken to calling a “new paradigm,” and while that holds true for many gun rights activists who have been forced to make the terrible decision between surrender to an edict or personal risk for disobeying it, it is. But it’s not really new. It has a long and proud tradition.

Back in the 18th Century, before the colonies won independence, a jury in the trial of publisher John Peter Zenger heeded his defense attorney, Alexander Hamilton, and refused to convict him of libel by defying the law which at the time said truth was no defense. The 19th Century saw philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience essay, and later, law-breaking abolitionists helping escaped slaves via the Underground Railway. In the 20th Century, civil rights actions, memorably exemplified by Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus, showed the power of unified people standing up and declaring their rights were to be served by the state, not suppressed by it.

Indeed, it was an act of ultimate civil disobedience, manifesting itself as active resistance, in which Captain John Parker and his Lexington militia defied British Major John Pitcairn’s order to “Throw down your arms, ye villains, ye Rebels, Disperse!” The insurrectionists were subjects of the Crown, their lawful government. There’s no getting around it: They were lawbreakers and criminals. So were the seditious men who the following year pledged their Lives, their Fortunes and their sacred Honor, and signed the treasonous Declaration of Independence.

It goes without saying that many at the time did not support a war of rebellion. Many were no doubt horrified by the “radical, anti-government extremists” committing quasi-terrorist acts as Sons of Liberty or just as random resisters, and no doubt some on the side of Liberty thought many of their actions “made them all look bad.”

Still, when an edict passes that there’s no getting around, one we won’t be able to vote our way out of or sue our way around, when we see that the right delayed is, in fact, a right denied, you and I are going to have a decision to make. No one can make it for us.

What will you do if ordered to register your firearms? What will you do if ordered to surrender them because they have been declared “illegal”? Will you obey political and judicial criminals betraying their oaths to the “supreme Law of the Land,” or will you resolve “I will not comply”?
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: Defying The Defilers

“Defendants’ ban on the quintessential militia arm of the modern day defies the protections our Constitution guarantees,” attorneys Stephen D. Stamboulieh and Alan Alexander Beck argued in a filing before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The defendants they referred to were Attorney General Eric Holder and outgoing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director B. Todd Jones (now replaced by Acting Director Thomas E. Brandon). Plaintiff Jay Aubrey Isaac Hollis acting individually and as trustee of a revocable living trust, is suing Holder and Jones in their official capacities for administering, executing and enforcing “statutory and regulatory provisions [that] generally act as an unlawful de facto ban on the transfer or possession of a machine gun manufactured after May 19, 1986.”

What gives?

A more appropriate question might be “What got taken away?” In this case, it was an approved “Form 1,” an application to make a machine gun, with a stamp indicating payment and acceptance of the required $200 tax. But after authorizing Hollis to proceed, ATF changed its mind and reneged, even though it has no statutory authority to rescind a stamp once issued.

Still, what made Hollis even think he could apply in the first place, what with the Hughes Amendment prohibition in the so-called Firearms Owners Protection Act stating “[I]t shall be unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun” made after the law took effect? Isn’t Hollis a “person”?
He is, but the trust he represents is not, at least according to ATF.

“The term ‘person’ is defined in the Gun Control Act (“GCA”) to mean ‘any individual, corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, society, or joint stock company,’” Hollis’ Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief noted. “The term person does not include an unincorporated trust.”

That contention is backed up with an opinion letter from the Chief of ATF’s Firearms Industry Programs Branch stating “[u]nlike individuals, corporations, partnerships, and associations; unincorporated trusts do not fall within the definition of ‘person’ in the GCA.”

“Since by the BATFE’s own admission, the term ‘person’ in the GCA does not include an unincorporated trust, such a trust is not subject to the prohibition” Hollis’ attorneys argued. “The Plaintiff … has had his Second Amendment rights violated and his property interest in a lawfully applied for and approved machinegun destroyed when the BATFE decided to unilaterally, arbitrarily and capriciously revoke his approval.”

What Hollis won’t do, if the suit prevails, is rescind the National Firearms Act of 1934, including registration and transfer tax requirements. What it would do is invalidate the absurd prohibition that says you can own a machine gun made before May 19, 1986, but if you possess an identical firearm made after that arbitrary date, you’ll be a felon in for a world of hurt. And the other thing it would do is create all kind so interesting market repercussions that have kept the prices of pre-’86 machine guns at artificially inflated (and then some) prices.

To anyone capable of grasping basic logic, acknowledging the ludicrousness of the cutoff would seem cut and dried. But when descending into the bizarre and often contradictory world of ATF rulings and judicial interpretations, a happy resolution is anything but a slam dunk.

Some of those contradictory rulings include ATF giving permissions to proceed with projects in which innovators invested their life savings only to have the rug pulled out from under them by mercurial bureaucrats. That was the case with the Akins Accelerator, a “bump fire” device ATF put the brakes on two years after they’d green-lighted it. Under the same rationale, the Firearms Technology Branch once declared achieving the same effect with a shoelace an illegal conversion. And while ATF had earlier advised that shouldering an AR-15 pistol with a stability brace would not cause the configuration to be classified a Short Barreled Rifle, they followed that opinion up by declaring “When the device is redesigned for use as a shoulder stock on a handgun with a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length, the firearm is properly classified as a firearm [sic] under the NFA.”

But wait, as late TV pitchman Billy Mays used to urge viewers, there’s more!

ATF Ruling 82-8 declared SM10 and SM11A1 pistols and SAC carbines to be machine guns. Except they weren’t. They were semi-automatics. But because “a simple modification to them, such as cutting, filing, or grinding, allows the firearms to operate automatically,” it was held “The SM10 and SM11A1 pistols and the SAC carbine are designed to shoot automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. Consequently, the SM10 and SM11A1 pistols and SAC carbines are machineguns…”

Just not all of them, only those assembled or manufactured after June 21, 1982. The fact that an estimated 50,000 identical firearms were manufactured prior to the cutoff is tacit testimonial to how compelling of a state interest exists in making sure such firearms are subject to special controls—which is to say not much.

The jumble of contradictions is hardly new. Congressional Research Service published a memorandum of ATF firearms testing procedures that, among other things, admitted “ATF … has over 300 cubic feet of classification letters stored in file cabinets.” None of these have been scanned into a searchable database so that consistency of interpretations can be assured and conflicts identified and resolved, and as that report was published 10 years ago, the thought of what it must look like today evokes nothing so much as the government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The bureaucratic nightmare is obviously bigger than anything other than a concerted and cooperative effort between Congress and a friendly administration would be likely to even make a dent in. All of that, of course, would be solved by a return to “shall not be infringed, but that isn’t likely to happen any time soon, so unless and until there’s substantial change, the best gun owners can hope for are incremental gains, like what a victory in Hollis could bring about.

To that end, a major player has stepped up to coordinate fundraising for the lawsuit, the Heller Foundation, chaired by the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case that established once and for all that the Second Amendment articulates an individual right.

“Dick Heller is a champion of the Second Amendment,” attorney Stamboulieh declared. “We are pleased the Heller Foundation joined the fight to reclaim our lost Second Amendment rights in Hollis v. Holder.”

“Winning this case is critical to the security of the nation’s citizens,” Heller agreed. “We think it’s important enough that donors to the Heller Foundation can now make a directed contribution on our web site, HellerFoundation.org, for the support of this case.”

They are standing up to challenge those who have been defying the Constitution. Put another, and perhaps a more accurate way, they’re defying those who have been defiling it.
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: Giving Gun Owners The Business

By the time this issue of GUNS hits the stands, the Obama administration’s “under the radar” attempt to advance citizen disarmament objectives it cannot attain through the legislative process may be a done deal. They’ve proposed a fraudulent ATF “framework” intended to ban M855 “green tip” ammunition. Their “rationale” is the rifle ammo can be used in certain custom handguns, making it a threat to law enforcement because it can penetrate body armor, thus failing a “sporting purposes” requirement imposed by federal law.

Few outside the informed gun community have learned about this arcane proposal, or will, partly because ATF dodged Administrative Procedures Act requirements for public notice through the Federal Register. Plus, it’s not like the media is interested in passing along information that doesn’t advance a “progressive” agenda. Those who are interested point out the ammunition in question doesn’t fall under the statutory definition for “armor piercing.” Those with an eye more on rights than on technical details observe the entire “sporting purposes” nonsense, which actually originated in Nazi law, is an affront to the core purpose behind the Second Amendment. Per the 1939 Miller opinion, it’s meant to protect “ordinary military equipment … that … could contribute to the common defense.”

So naturally, Barack Obama’s spokesflack, the oxymoronically-named Josh Earnest, has characterized this calculated infringement as “common sense steps … to ensure that we are protecting the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Americans,” while administration media apologists ridicule suggestions that the order came from the White House. Listening to the guy spin brings nothing to mind so much as Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

In any case, the impact of this latest incremental citizen disarmament attempt is already being felt at the retail level, with runs on ammo and the inevitable price increases accompanying a limited supply and panicked demand. Even if, by the time these words appear in a physical magazine, Congress or a court put a halt to the ban, the stresses on the supply chain will still be felt. And those behind the ban are counting on such disruptions and anything else that will make things harder on gun owners.

The thing is, it’s not just from government that unceasing affronts to the right to keep and bear arms come. In many cases, businesses themselves, through management prejudice or gutlessness, create a wholly unnecessary and offensive divide by telling gun-owning consumers their money is welcome but their freedom is not.

Sometimes their discrimination is overt, and we all can see it, like the “No Guns” signs posted at the Mall of America, brought to national attention after the al-Shabaab terror group, with recruitment ties to Little Somalia just a few miles up the road, suggested the place would make an easy target, just like the “gun-free” mall in Kenya where they killed 60 people.
Sometimes it’s more subtle.

Sometimes, the discrimination is something only niche gun owners are ever aware of, not that they appear to have much recourse when they learn of it. Case in point is FedEx, which recently told Defense Distributed they would not ship their “Ghost Gunner” CNC milling machines. No problem, there’s always UPS, right?

Wrong. In a “What can Brown do [to] you?” moment, the shipping company told “Wired” it “reserves the right to refuse to provide transportation service for, among other reasons, any shipments that create legal, safety or operational concerns.” That it didn’t specify what those may be, it’s not unreasonable to assume their concerns involved those “other reasons” they mentioned. Curiously, the only option left may be the US Postal Service, which has yet to weigh in on how (if?) it will accept and deliver the device.

The bias against firearms and firearms-related products—let’s just call it what it is, discrimination against gun owners—hardly ends there. Operation Choke Point, ostensibly set up by Eric Holder’s Justice Department to combat banking fraud and money laundering, was found to be pressuring banks to cut off access to disfavored groups, lumping firearms and ammunition sales in with escort services, Ponzi schemes and pornography, among identified “high risk” businesses.

And in some cases, government regulatory interference is not necessary at all to deny transactions. The Square, an iOS/Android card reader device, forbids “payments in connection with … sales of firearms, firearm parts or hardware, and ammunition; or weapons and other devices designed to cause physical injury.” As such, they’ve joined with other financial institutions and payment processors who also want nothing to do with mean old guns.

As long as we’ve got our iPhones out, NRA tells us about the Gun Geo Marker Mark 1, an “App” that allows “users to anonymously tag locations on a map where they have a ‘gun related safety concern,’ and allows them to comment on the nature of this concern.” In other words, if one of Bloomberg’s Hysterical Moms doesn’t see a “No Guns” sign advertising a predator-enabling zone, the group can pressure the business owner into seeing things their way or spending time reacting to newly-created reputation management issues. In the old days, I think they used to call this technique “extortion.”

Using your phone (or an internet-connected desktop if you’re an old clamshell dinosaur like me), you can then go check your Facebook page, used by some for time-wasting trivia, but by activists for sharing information that facilitates online advocacy. The ubiquitous social network has a gun-free policy too, at least as far as their ads are concerned, and recently nixed a promotion for a “crowdfunding” site to raise legal fees that offered range time and firearms as incentives for donating to certain thresholds.

The pressures, some subtle, some in-your-face, to stigmatize and discourage gun ownership are all around us. Outside of firearms-related businesses, it’s like there’s nowhere in the marketplace we can get away from it, not even by indulging in escapist fantasy. Perhaps while submitting to mall disarmament demands, movie-goers can stop in at the gun-free cineplex and enjoy the latest shoot-em-up, starring actors like Irish import Liam Neeson, who in addition to praising the UK’s handgun ban and proclaiming “the Founding Fathers … would be turning over in their graves,” is also, per The New York Post, “considering … becoming a Muslim.” Or if you don’t care for his films, Sean Penn, who publicly gave up his guns (calling them “cowardly killing machines”), is also appearing in a new release titled The Gunman, where his character gets to ignore draconian European “gun control” laws as he pretends to be the stuff heroes are made of.

Maybe I’ll just go to the range, where my business and my guns are welcome. Right after I make sure my representatives are doing the right thing on freedom, and that all the ammo and gun grabs coming up through the process or bypassing it from the White House have been properly shot down.
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: “Green Decoys” Lure Sportsmen Into Deceptive Trap

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary gives two definitions for “decoy,” the first being “a wooden or plastic bird (such as a duck) that is used by hunters to attract live birds,” and the second, more relevant to the discussion being offered here, is “a person or thing that attracts people’s attention so they will not notice someone or something else.” In either case, it involves a premeditated deception to accomplish an agenda that ends up victimizing whatever, or whomever, is lured into falling for—no offense to you hunters—a fraud.

What hunters should be offended by is an attempt to trick them into supporting “progressive” political goals, inevitably hostile to the right to keep and bear arms, by adopting the guise of being “sportsmen’s groups.” Responding to that, the Environmental Policy Alliance is out to expose what it calls “Green Decoys.”

“Funded by liberal foundations, these groups use sportsmen to camouflage their extreme anti-gun and anti-energy agenda,” the ironically (cleverly)-named EPA warns. “For example, the Joyce Foundation, major funders of the Izaak Walton League of America and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, has given millions to anti-Second Amendment groups like the Violence Policy Center.

“They have also given 6-figure grants to support Mayors Against Illegal Guns, anti-gun ‘messaging research,’ and efforts to increase regulation on firearm ownership,” the EPA advisory continues. “They even tried to make gun violence prevention a primary focus of the American Medical Association.”
To establish their case, EPA has produced a “Green Decoys” video (posted on the YouTube video-sharing website under that title, and also on the group’s website, GreenDecoys.com), and a report on financial backers, “How Radical Environmentalists are Using ‘Sportsmen’s’ Groups as Camouflage.” In it, they flesh out their claims about the recipient groups and the donors behind them, including background information like how the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation included Barack Obama on its board before he became president.

Employing a “divide and conquer” strategy against gun owners, often pitting sport shooters against those who own firearms for the primary purposes of protection and freedom, is hardly new. It’s been tried before with other well-funded shill groups established by those who can’t push citizen disarmament edicts through if they’re up front about their intentions, so they instead package them in a way to induce well-meaning but poorly informed gun owners to take the bait.

Some years back, this column talked about the American Hunters and Shooters Association (“Beware of Moles,” January, 2006), a group ostensibly “committed to supporting the right to keep and bear arms, protecting our homes, and preserving our liberties.” Along with those fine words, the group further pledged, “Hunting and sport shooting are American values AHSA will vigorously defend.”

How would they do that? Evidently by making disarming noises out of one side of their mouth, while asserting “an overwhelming majority of hunters support proposals like background checks to purchase guns, keeping military style assault weapons off our streets and the elimination of cop killer bullets,” out of the other. Just in case their anti-gun bent wasn’t clear, they advocated that “the FBI should be given reasonable access to National Instant Check System (NICS) purchase records” and promoted “legislative efforts to regulate .50 caliber BMG sniper rifles in the same manner as machine guns.”

Remember the line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Who are these guys?” In the case of AHSA, “they” were essentially über-rich Boston developer John Rosenthal (who along with one of the Kennedys founded Stop Handgun Violence), and a handful of directors that included a couple of ex-ATF careerists, and a turncoat lawyer who found greener pastures abandoning NRA and going over to the dark side. The group itself shared an address with a Democrat political consulting firm that counted John Conyers and Nancy Pelosi among its clients.

Attempts at such “false front” operations did not stop there, as this column noted several months back (“‘Gun Control’ Messages ‘Evolve,’” July, 2014), recounting further such “decoys.” In addition to AHSA, the went-nowhere-fast American Rifle and Pistol Association was examined, and two better-financed (and still kicking) groups were pointed out: One, Mark and Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions, offers what it calls “commonsense solutions to protect our communities from gun violence” (which basically entails you and me obeying stupid infringements that the criminals doing all the damage will continue to disregard). The other, Evolve Together, Inc., represents itself as a “third voice … in the gun debate,” as if more than one voice that speaks the truth is needed, and as if debate with that advances anything but lies.

We’ve seen other attempts to lull gun owners into sleeping with the enemy, like a video produced by the “progressive” (and that’s putting it mildly) advocacy group Move On. In it, they feature some guy whose affiliation with gun rights is purposely obscure, but who nonetheless proclaims “I’m a gun owner and a proud defender of the Second Amendment, but for years I’ve watched Congress take money from the NRA and then oppose any kind of reform that helps keep us safe.”

For some reason I’m recalling a line from The Outlaw Josey Wales about telling someone it’s raining.

Another video that got significant media attention was produced by Michael Bloomberg’s money and featured someone we can only refer to as “Average Joe.” Cradling a shotgun in the back of a pickup truck, “Joe” was just the prop to convince some that a $12 million media campaign cooked up by a slick New York City ad agency represented predominant heartland sentiment.

“I believe in the Second Amendment and I’ll fight to protect it,” Joe declared, right before showing everyone a huge “but” that paid no mind to the pesky “shall not be infringed” part. To the dismay of the illusionists, many activist gun owners saw through the disingenuous spot, and that resulted in denials that “Joe” was an actor, and assertions that he was a real gun owner (Honest!), albeit one who just happened to remain conveniently anonymous.

Still, as long as we’re looking at people pretending to be one thing while working to undermine the group they’re trying to influence, it would be remiss not to acknowledge questions have been raised by critics of the Environmental Policy Alliance. Put more accurately, attempts to spread doubts about them have been made by media allies of those they expose.

Calling it “a front group for Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm Berman & Company,” The Huffington Post attempted an outing of sorts on EPA’s parent group, the Center for Consumer Freedom, and its top man, Rick Berman, dubbed “Dr. Evil” on 60 Minutes. The thing is, while both HuffPo and Morley Safer tried their best to convince their “progressive” followers that Berman is devoted only to profits, neither made that case with examples of documented unethical practices, or by refuting anything the man, who decries a government nanny state and endorses personal responsibility, claims.

“Look, once you get past the name-calling, tell me what’s wrong with our statistics,” Berman replied to Safer. “Tell me what’s wrong with our science.”

For any wishing to contest EPA’s claims about Green Decoys, try refuting them with facts that demonstrate where they’re wrong, instead of resorting to the old ad hominem (attacking the man instead of his arguments) standby of shooting the messenger.
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: The Devil You Know

“The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be eliminated under a bill in the works from US Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner,” Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel reported. “Citing ATF’s recent operational failures and its overlap with other federal law enforcement, [the bill would] dissolve the agency and have existing agencies in the US Justice Department take on its duties.”

Those “operational failures” included the infamous Milwaukee storefront operation renamed “Operation Fearless and Brainless” by Rep. John Mica as he confronted Director B. Todd Jones at a House Oversight Committee hearing. True to form, things weren’t confined to one city, with debacles exposed in Wichita, Portland and Pensacola that included such truly brainless tactics as exploiting a mentally disabled teenager by giving him a neck tattoo of a squid smoking a joint, and paying a brain-damaged man with an IQ in the 50’s to set up gun and drug deals. Other idiotic moves included exploiting other low-intelligence marks, letting teens smoke pot and providing them with alcohol at an undercover location, encouraging thefts by buying stolen merchandise—no questions asked—allowing felons to walk out of such operations with guns, and in one case, hiring a felon to run a pawnshop.

Adding to their woes, and ours, ATF agents have been losing government-issued guns, at least 49 from 2009 to 2013. They’ve lost them in cars, in bathrooms, in bars. That’s in spite of bureau rules requiring service weapons, when not being carried, “shall be stored in secured, locked locations.”

This is all the kind of stuff that naming a full-time director was supposed to prevent. Actually, it’s the kind of stuff that basic common sense ought to preclude. Such embarrassments continuing to happen with regularity on Jones’ watch have gone unreported by most in the mainstream press, because then an inconvenient admission would need to be made: The supposed inadequacy of a string of “acting” ATF heads since 2006 was precisely the rationale given to pressure the Senate into confirming a “permanent” director. We were told that was especially urgent after Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking” to Mexico, tied in with the death of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and estimated hundreds of others, was exposed.

With that as backdrop, why shouldn’t ATF be disbanded and folded into other agencies, including having much of its work turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration? Could the feds do any worse?

It’s not like those agencies’ hands were clean. The “rip crew” that killed Terry was working at the behest of FBI operatives using DEA intelligence, Fast and Furious whistleblower John Dodson contends. Also unknown to ATF at the height of their investigation: Suspects they were monitoring were working for the FBI.

And it’s not like Sensenbrenner’s proposal just appeared out of nowhere. Some ATF careerists commenting on CleanUpATF.org, a “whistleblower website established to expose agency corruption and abuse, see the disbanding of the bureau as an administration goal for control and obfuscation reasons of its own, and view Jones as a willing midwife for its rebirth as a different creature. Comments by CUATF moderators have referenced “a white paper in DOJ effectively abolishing ATFE,” and assigning primary functions to FBI and DEA.

Lest anyone dismiss that site as disgruntled employees and malcontents, recall that it was through their forum it was first revealed guns found at the Terry murder scene were part of intentional, large scale, government-sanctioned “gunwalking.” Higher-ups at headquarters, including the Chief Counsel and then acting director Kenneth Melson, were desperately looking for ways to use Orders and Standards of Conduct to identify and punish those revealing such information.

Note the Chief Counsel’s office was also involved in an email to ATF managers and attorneys warning about an open letter I wrote in January, 2011, in which the Senate Judiciary Committee was put on notice that there were some people who wanted to come in from the cold, but feared using normal channels.

“ATF employees are looking to come forward and provide testimony and documentation about guns being illegally transported to Mexico, with management cognizance, in order to pad numbers and justify Project Gunrunner expansion,” that letter began. “This includes gun stores being used to allow illegal sales to proceed. Additionally, the gun used in the recent killing of a Border Patrol agent is alleged to be one of the guns involved. My colleagues and I working to bring this to light are told the Mexican authorities have been intentionally kept in the dark about this, with the approval to do so coming from Washington, and protests have been overridden.

“In order for these people to come forward, they require whistle-blower protection,” the letter continued. “Because the allegations involve high levels in Washington, they require the extra protection afforded through separation of powers, rather than going directly to a US Attorney reporting to Justice.”

That the allegations and the fear of reprisals turned out to be justified is a matter of record. I bring this up because, working with the insiders proved us right then, and lends credence to our concerns now. In spite of all the stupidity, corruption and outright evil, disbanding ATF is not in the interest of gun owners.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the reasons given by two men who, in many cases, represent opposite factions among gun advocates, Richard Feldman of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, and Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America. I say “opposite” because Feldman arranged the 1997 White House Rose Garden agreement with Bill Clinton, when handgun manufacturers agreed to provide “child safety locks” with handguns.

Additionally, his book Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, hardly endeared him to the National Rifle Association, which he characterized as “a cynical, mercenary cult.” Pratt, on the other hand, has established a reputation as the unbending force behind the “no compromise gun lobby.”

“I can’t think of anything more dangerous against gun rights than merging the ATF with the FBI,” Feldman told journalist Raquel Okyay of Human Events. “I would much rather have a stand-alone agency because it is much easier to criticize the ATF for misconduct, than to criticize the FBI … They would have awesome cover for misconduct and it would be harder not easier to hold them accountable.”

“ATF has been a horror movie since its inception,” Pratt asserted. “It needs to be disbanded, not moved to a hiding place behind the FBI skirts—which do not cover very well, anyway.

That “hiding place” under “awesome cover” would also work against future employees of conscience being willing to place their careers (and possibly more) on the line to bring out revelations like we saw in Fast and Furious.

“We advise intelligence whistleblowers to stay away from established channels to defend against retaliation,” the director of the Government Accountability Project told McClatchy’s Washington Bureau about the so-called Whistleblower Protection Act. “In our experience they’ve been a Trojan horse, a trap that ends up sucking the whistleblower into a long-term process that predictably ends up with the whistleblower as the target.”

In this case, noting corruption and incompetence is unlikely to abate, it’s best to do what we can to keep it from being buried, and to ensure channels for getting the truth out are still open. In this case, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t appears to hold true.
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: The Going Rate

“There are three kinds of lies,” Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography, recalling a quote arguably attributed to 19th Century Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. “Lies, damned lies and statistics.”

When it comes to statistics used to attack the right to keep and bear arms, Disraeli, or whoever actually coined the observation, was closer to the mark than many “official” figures. That’s true both in the effectively disarmed United Kingdom, perpetually held up by anti-gunners as a model of the way things ought to be, and here in the US.

“A million (British) crimes reported by the public [were] left out of police figures,” The Telegraph reported. “Overall, almost a fifth of crimes failed to appear in the figures for England and Wales … but in some forces the proportion was as high as a third. Overall, police failed to record a quarter of rapes and a third of violent crimes across England and Wales.”

That’s been going on for a while.

“An estimated 1.4 million crimes are going unrecorded by the police every year partly because officers bend the rules to exaggerate their success,” The Independent reported in 2000. “Police officers have been found grossly to misrepresent and massage crime statistics to improve their detection rates while downplaying the number of offences committed. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that 24 per cent of crimes reported to the police in 11 forces examined were not recorded as offences.”

“Crime rates in England and Wales ‘worse than US,’ The Independent observed in a 2010 report. “The study for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found England and Wales had more burglaries and robberies per 100,000 people than the United States in 2006.”

Significantly, as The Daily Unconstitutional blog observed from a 2008 story in The Telegraph, “Data provided … by nearly every police force in England and Wales … show that the number of firearms incidents dealt with by officers annually is 60 per cent higher than figures stated by the Home Office. Last year 5,600 firearms offences were excluded from the official figures. It means that, whereas the Home Office said there were only 9,800 offences in 2007/8, the real total was around 15,400.”

So much for the “gun-free” myth. And so much for creating a safer society following the handgun ban enacted after the 1996 Dunblane massacre, when a madman, enabled by a traditionally (largely) unarmed culture, slaughtered children without opposition, stopped only by the bullet he fired into himself.
So why not just give accurate victimization numbers? The government needs to appear effective to the public, and the fact that police administrations are ultimately dependent on politicians for their budgets and their careers help explain some of the incentives for officials to keep crime figures low. Again per The Telegraph, police feel “an ‘undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces’ and ‘wrongful pressure’ by managers.”

Still, it’s not like numbers on our side of the pond are that much more reliable, at least as applied by opportunistic anti-gunners in order to lull the gullible into falling for an agenda. It’s not coincidental that some of the worst offenses come from a US city that would rival any in the UK if only the political establishment there could continue to have their way.

“The city’s drop in crime has been nothing short of miraculous,” Chicago Magazine noted in a “Politics & City Life” report. “Here’s what’s behind the unbelievable numbers.”

The pressure to report reductions in crimes is strong, particularly homicides, the report noted, having “identified 10 people … who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents—all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons.

“[T]he police brass turn up the pressure in weekly meetings, grilling field commanders about crime in their areas,” the report explained. “The statistics are widely said to make or break a career … If the numbers are bad, the district commanders and officers get reamed out by [Superintendant Garry McCarthy] and the other bosses at headquarters.”

McCarthy, of course, is rabidly anti-gun. Per the Illinois State Rifle Association, while “[a]ppearing on a Chicago Sunday morning talk show, [he] expressed his conviction that firearm owners who lobby their elected representatives or who donate money to political campaigns are engaged in corruption that endangers public safety. McCarthy went on to express his belief that judges and legislators should rely on public opinion polls when interpreting our Constitution.”

In opposing concealed carry reforms, he told another radio program “I don’t care if they’re licensed legal firearms. I’ll train our officers that there is a concealed carry law, but when somebody turns with a firearm in their hand the officer does not have an obligation to wait to get shot to return fire and we’re going to have tragedies as a result of that. I’m telling you right up front.”

Right on schedule, and as this column is being written, McCarthy is claiming “So far this year we have had the fewest amount of murders since 1965.” Left unsaid is that the Chicago Medical Examiner’s office uses a different accounting system that tallies all homicides, whereas Chicago Police limit their numbers to those the state attorney’s office will file murder charges on. Also left unsaid is that fewer murders were committed after Illinois began permitting concealed carry, and that does not fit the desired narrative.

While numbers that make it appear the Windy City is under control may please McCarthy’s boss, the equally anti-gun Mayor Rahm Emanuel (a longtime Obama ally, naturally), Chicago is not the only place that fudges the numbers, and it’s not like officials just began doing it, either.

“Misreporting statistics about crime is not a new phenomenon. The practice may well predate the inception of the Uniform Crime Reports in 1930,” Police Magazine documented, citing examples from New York, New Orleans and Los Angeles, as well as Chi-Town. “While sawing crime statistics in half and making the paper trail of real victims disappear often entails sleight of hand at the keyboard, the means by which a department may inflate or deflate the numbers comes down to initiative, creativity, and acts of prestidigitation that extend well beyond computerized Magic Markers.”

And there are other groups that happily accept “cooking the books” because doing so fits in with an agenda they support: the media and the gun-grabbers. That way Michael Bloomberg’s “Everytown” can claim 90 percent of the public and most NRA members support registration and confiscation-enabling “background checks,” when results on a recent Washington State ballot measure show it took a relentless, billionaire-backed media campaign to get the measure to pass with under 60 percent of a perennial blue state’s vote.

But back to Piers Morgan Paradise: Even with all the bogus numbers being bandied about, there’s the indisputable claim from the citizen disarmament lobby that they have fewer “gun homicides” than the US does, and by a lot. You’ll notice no one who is claiming guns are to blame ever compares the violent crime rate for the 5 million armed-to-the-teeth members of the NRA with that of the UK. With the “damned liars” who demand you surrender your right to keep and bear arms to them, numbers are like Orwell’s farm animals: Some are more equal than others.

Note: Some of the articles used as references in this report were initially identified, cited and linked in a “Second Amendment Group” email compiled by journalist and film producer Dan Gifford and sent to his distribution list of writers, journalists, scholars, lawyers and activists.
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: A Right to Rebellion?

“This notion—that the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to fire upon federal officials, or their local police, or sheriffs or even US military personnel—is common among right wingers,” political consultant and Clinton machine apparatchik Paul Begala wrote in a CNN opinion piece. “But it’s one thing to hear, say, goofball Ted Nugent honk off that way… It is another to know that someone with those loopy views is one step away from the United States Senate.”

Begala was ridiculing Iowa’s Republican candidate, newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst, who had talked firearms freedoms at an NRA event in 2012. Mocking as a political tactic is promoted as Rule 5 from the late “community organizer” (and Hillary Clinton mentor) Saul Alinky’s Rules for Radicals, wherein he noted “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.”

What did Ernst say to prompt Begala to treat her like—using Alinsky’s carefully-chosen words—“the enemy”?

“I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family—whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from a government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important,” she declared. Not that the qualifier she placed at the end of her statement makes any difference to those who mean to call her on it.

At the risk of alienating readers of this column, I’ll venture the opinion that, in a way, Begala is right—but for the wrong reasons. The hesitation on my part comes from being taken to task for an earlier GUNS Magazine piece (“Privileges’ Watch,” February, 2008), when I angered some readers who thought I was siding with the gun-grabbers.

“Public opinion polls show that, although more than 60 percent of Americans erroneously believe the Constitution gives them a right to be armed, only a minority of Americans believes that it should grant that right,” the Brady Campaign maintained.

“They’re right, you know, if not in their percentages, then certainly in their assertion,” I wrote. “If you believe the Constitution gives you the right to be armed, you’re simply and demonstrably wrong. If you think the Constitution should grant you that right, sorry, you’re wrong again.

The point I was trying to make is the Bill of Rights gives and grants no rights. It merely defines some, but not all rights, which the Founders correctly viewed as preexisting to the government they were establishing. That understanding was further solidified in the 1875 Cruikshank decision (and repeated in the 2008 Heller decision), when the Supreme Court noted, “The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.

For having the cheek to point that out, along with citing the debate between the Federalists and anti-Federalists on the need for a Bill of Rights in the first place, I was called “a Trojan horse” a “clown” and an “idiot.” I “sound[ed] like an anti-gunner.” Even if I was right, I shouldn’t have written what I did, because it might somehow tip off the anti-gunners to use the information against us, and “if this kind of article or information appears again, refund my money and cancel my subscription.”

Sorry, but I’ve got to do it once more, and this time risk being labeled a Begala puppet, to boot.

The Second Amendment does not “give” us the right to rebel against civil and military authorities. Focus on the word “give”. But now, to really make the critics mad, let me add that such language does not appear within its text, or within the definitions of Constitutional purposes for “calling forth the militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.”

So what is this, game over? Are the antis right, and is such talk of “Second Amendment solutions” treasonous? Have our gun rights leaders been lying to us? Have we been kidding ourselves?

Of course not.

The Founders knew only too well, from having just fought a rebellion against what was once their “legitimate” government, that the need to confront tyranny might arise again. They’d even anticipated it.

“[Wh]enever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,” they wrote in the Declaration of Independence. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that belief had changed when they got around to adding the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Bill of Rights, which respectively noted “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

So contrary to what critics of Ernst would have us believe, with media allies like “Think Progress” and “The Huffington Post” joining Begala for a pile-on, she did not, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow told her viewers, “threaten… that she is ready to turn to armed violence against the government if she doesn’t get what she wants through the political process.”

Assuming that process does not abrogate the Constitution, there won’t be a problem. If it does, and if there’s no recourse, John F. Kennedy’s 1962 admonition (to the “Alliance for Progress”!) that “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable,” comes to mind.

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers,” novelist Thomas Pynchon wrote in Gravity’s Rainbow. The proper question is not where Americans get the right to “dissolve the political bonds … and to assume… the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The Declaration answers that one. It is where do those in government get the power to violate their oaths, assume powers nowhere delegated to them, and suspend, eviscerate and ignore that which they are commanded “shall not be infringed”?

When that happens, it is criminals in government who have claimed illegitimate authority and suspended the “supreme Law of the Land.” It is their actions which are unlawful. What such usurpers fail to realize is, the Constitution doesn’t just protect us from them. Adhering to it protects them from those of us who, if left no other choice but tyranny, would take up arms to reassert “a Republican Form of Government” that would “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

So perhaps it’s fitting that Paul Begala is a leading voice for those who tell us we have to eat whatever power-grab he and his fellow “progressives” impose on us and like it—or else.

“Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kind of cool,” Begala gushed, when his former boss Bill Clinton set out to rule by executive order when he couldn’t get Congress to give him what he wanted.

What could go wrong with that?
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: A Fast and Furious Getaway for Holder?

A New York Times “First Draft” goof on its Twitter feed, urging followers to “Watch Obama resignation press conference here,” may have raised ecstatic but false hopes in some. Even so, there is little doubt where the collective press corps stands on the president and Eric Holder, who was the actual person stepping down after his replacement is secured. The outgoing attorney general wiped a tear from his eye as Barack Obama paid glowing tribute to him in a controlled media event that twice brought approving “authorized journalists” to their feet in sustained applause.

“You not only saw the bittersweet emotions of both the president and his attorney general, but you also felt them,” Washington Post editorial board member Jonathan Capehart gushed. “Holder … is humbled by his role in this nation’s history and efforts to have our nation be true to its ideals.”

Gushing Press

“The guy wasn’t political at all,” Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” added. “[W]hat’s interesting about him, he is a very non-political person.”
Not all agree with that assessment.

“Eric Holder is the most divisive US Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House Members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first attorney general held in criminal contempt by the US House of Representatives,” Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asserted, sharply at odds with Todd. “Time and again, Eric Holder administered justice as the political activist he describes himself as instead of an unbiased law enforcement official. By needlessly injecting politics into law enforcement, Attorney General Holder’s legacy has eroded more confidence in our legal system than any attorney general before him.

Also disapproving was Kelly Terry-Willis, sister of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, whose murder in 2010 opened the door to investigations of the administration’s Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking” into Mexico. The White House and Holder have consistently impeded those throughout, abetted by prominent Democrats, and with requisite cover provided by the same “progressive” media that thinks the guy deserves moistened eyes, lumps in throats and standing ovations.

“I do not find it a coincidence that Eric Holder chose now to resign after [US District Court Judge John] Bates denied the request from the DOJ to delay the release of the Fast and Furious documents,” Terry-Willis told Katie Pavlich in a Townhall.com exclusive. “I personally think Eric Holder was really hoping that the documents would never be made public to my family and the American people.”

“Critics are claiming this could be the real reason behind Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation,” The Blaze noted. “Whether there is anything damning enough … to force a sitting US attorney general to resign remains to be seen.”

Scott Free

Perhaps. But more than lists of documents are involved. What will be taken off the table with Holder gone is a chance of establishing that he lied to Congress when he gave sworn testimony in May of 2011 that he’d only heard of Fast and Furious “over the last few weeks.” In fact, Holder was almost immediately informed of Brian Terry’s death. Former US Attorney for the District of Arizona, Dennis Burke, disgraced and sanctioned after leaking sensitive information about the key Fast and Furious whistleblower in an attempt to discredit him, e-mailed Holder aide Monty Wilkinson the very night Terry was killed.

“I’ve alerted the AG,” Wilkinson responded to Burke on the morning of December 15, 2010.

“The guns found in the desert near the murder [sic] BP officer connect back to the investigation we were going to talk about—they were AK-47s purchased at a Phoenix gun store,” Burke replied that afternoon.

Know Nothing?

To suggest the information was important enough to alert Holder to, and that he was subsequently kept in the dark about the “walked” guns found at the crime scene, strains credulity. It’s also contradicted by confidential informants, and readers must remember it was through these that the story first came to light.

In late December, 2010, citizen journalist and blogger Mike Vanderboegh first reported on a “walked guns” connection with the Terry murder sourced to forum posts on CleanUpATF, a website maintained by disaffected ATF agents concerned with systemic agency corruption. Vanderboegh followed up on January 7 with a post from a long-established source “that the White House is now fully briefed on the ‘Walking Gun-gate’ scandal and is now calling the shots. They are in desperate need of a cover-up, but aren’t competent enough to arrange one.”

The bottom line: By the time Holder testified under oath he’d only learned about things weeks before, hundreds of reports had been filed. Vanderboegh and I had our sources talking with Senate staffers by mid-January. The Mexican press had begun reporting on “Gunwalker” by late January. Sharyl Attkisson had begun her series of reports for CBS News featuring whistleblower John Dodson by the third week in February.

Also damning for Holder are memos from National Drug Intelligence Center Director Michael Walther, showing the attorney general was apprised of Fast and Furious as early as July, 2010, and a letter sent by Senator Chuck Grassley to then-ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson, dated January 31, 2011 that copied Holder.

While some on the Republican side are celebrating Holder’s resignation and viewing it as something necessary and long-past due, a few of us have been warning how that will work against the truth coming out, and the justice that ought to follow. So does that mean we wanted the guy to remain in power?

No, we wanted him removed from power. There’s a difference.

With Holder stepping down on his own (or perhaps due to strategists doing damage control over his abysmal public approval numbers), much of the Republican’s incentive to pursue him will evaporate. Their natural focus will be on those remaining in power, not on those who no longer present an active political threat. That means the motivation to continue investigating him and the role he played in Fast and Furious will be diminished. That in turn means finding out what he may be culpable for, and what he and his boss may have discussed about the matter, become even more problematic.

Also problematic is what will happen over the next few months, which for readers of the print edition of GUNS Magazine will already be in the past because of scheduling lead times. Speculation is that a replacement nomination for Holder could be made before the November elections and a potential shift in the Senate majority, or after, with a lame duck Democrat majority session. Filibuster rules adopted in 2013 no longer require a 60-percent supermajority to end debate on presidential nominations (except for the Supreme Court), meaning a straight majority could bring in a successor equally hostile to the Second Amendment and equally committed to stonewalling investigations of administration wrongdoing.

If either of those two potentialities occurs, the gun groups will need to try and stop confirmation using all means at their disposal. Perhaps pledging an “F” grade regardless of everything else would be persuasive.

For his part, Holder, who is no doubt leaving office secure that he can’t be thrown under the bus because of what he knows, will be in high establishment demand and will land on his feet quite nicely and lucratively. And human beings of lesser stature will continue being killed with guns “walked” across the border on his watch.
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: Garden State Gun Criminal

New Jersey is going full bore to prosecute a lawbreaker arrested for possessing a handgun loaded with hollowpoint ammunition in violation of state law. Evidently this person is so dangerous that entry into a diversionary program is off the table, and instead, a mandatory minimum 3-year prison sentence will be imposed if a felony conviction is obtained, something that seems probable at this writing.

How that will benefit the people of New Jersey is unclear. Rather than being a criminal intent on victimizing others, 27-year-old Shaneen Allen of Philadelphia is a working single-mother of two young children and a Pennsylvania concealed carry permit holder, someone who had just recently obtained her gun and her permit after being robbed twice.

She was pulled over in neighboring New Jersey on a minor traffic violation.

“Allen then told the officer that she had the .380 Bersa Thunder handgun, as well as a concealed carry permit for Pennsylvania, unaware that her permit was not transferable to The Garden State,” Fox News reported.

Even though her home state does not mandate a duty to inform if lawfully carrying concealed, Allen felt she had nothing to hide, and was trying to establish herself as a good person by being cooperative with law enforcement. Readers who may feel a similar impulse would benefit from finding a video on the internet titled “Don’t Talk to the Police,” a lecture by Regent Law School Professor James Duane, who cites all the reasons why doing so won’t help but can and will be used against you.

Informing on herself was one mistake Allen made, but not the main reason many gun owners have faulted her.

“That’s tough and New Jersey sucks, but it’s her responsibility to know and abide by state laws,” was a common online comment criticism.

Forget The Constitution?

Perhaps it’s a fair one, but then again, perhaps those making it are focusing on gun-grabber technicalities while ignoring a larger offense: The Constitution, “the supreme Law of the Land,” defines powers of government established, among its basic purposes, “to secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Before it was ratified, states fearing abuses insisted on a Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment’s clear off-limits rule that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

OK, but that was in response to federal abuses of power. What about New Jersey?

We’ve seen confirmation in the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court decisions that the Second Amendment is an individual right, and that states may not ignore it any more than they have power to cancel the First Amendment. We can also consult William Rawle, a lawyer, a Pennsylvanian, and a favorite of George Washington, whose A View of the Constitution of the United States of America was a standard text in the early to mid-19th Century for those studying law at prestigious colleges.

Restraint On Both

“No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give the Congress a power to disarm the people,” Rawle wrote. “Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under a general pretense by a state legislature. But if in any pursuit of an inordinate power either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.”

Not that appeals to founding intent are likely to be persuasive on ambitious Garden State prosecutors. Nor, evidently, will appeals to basic humanity and decency work on judges where mandatory sentences are involved.

As a recent gun owner, Allen’s apparent assumption her concealed carry permit, like her Pennsylvania driver’s license, would be honored everywhere, may seem hopelessly naïve to those who would rather put the blame on her than on draconian edicts that deny supposedly unalienable rights. But the fear of gun owners running afoul of regional restrictions is exactly the reason behind state preemption of firearms laws, so that good citizens don’t get caught up in a patchwork quilt of conflicting regulations whenever they cross an arbitrary boundary line.

Just 100 Feet

This seems like a good time to share a personal experience from a few months back, when I was invited by the Connecticut Citizens Defense League to give the keynote speech at their annual gun rights rally at the Statehouse in Hartford. On the drive there from Ohio, I crossed the Neversink River, marking the Pennsylvania/New York border, and noticed it was time to fill the tank. Taking the first exit, I proceeded to the nearest gas station, a mere few hundred feet down the road, and was stopped when I tried to use the pump.

“This is New Jersey, you can’t do that here,” an attendant who ran up to my car informed me. I had no idea, both about a stupid law that says people suddenly become dangerously incompetent and in need of trained professional gas-pumping assistance because an invisible line has been crossed, or that I had even crossed such a line. If there’s a “Welcome to New Jersey” sign between the off ramp and the CITGO, I sure missed it.
That means I could have been unwittingly in violation of New Jersey gun laws as well. And I’m hardly a novice like Allen.

I would not count on federal interstate transportation of firearms laws saving me either, recalling a traveler who found himself in a nightmare legal situation after a flight delay at Newark Airport. He committed the unforgiveable sin of taking his checked bag with declared firearms to his hotel for an overnight stay while awaiting the next flight. And for those just driving though, New Jersey makes the experience as restrictive as they can get away with.

Republican Governor Chris Christie, never a friend of gun owners but someone who has made occasional moderate concessions, has been silent on Allen’s case to date. While there are limits on what power he actually has before a trial and conviction, aside from using the bully pulpit of his office to decry injustice and demand legislative changes, there is the possibility he could commute any sentence. He did that in the earlier case of Brian Aitken, convicted for having guns that were legally purchased in Colorado in his car trunk when he moved to New Jersey.

Unfortunately, a commuted sentence is not the same thing as a pardon, and like Aitken, Allen could become a prohibited person, forever barred by law from owing a gun for protection of herself and her family. All for crossing a line, making a mistake and trying to be honest with a police officer.

If there’s any silver lining, it’s that Allen’s attorney is Evan Nappen, an authority on New Jersey gun laws, and the same lawyer who ably represented Aitken. Meanwhile, Republican Assemblyman Ronald Dancer has introduced “Shaneen’s Law,” a bill giving judges discretion to avoid mandatory sentences. Also coming to her assistance is the statewide grassroots group, the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, which is conducting a public education campaign to spread awareness of her plight utilizing billboards, the media and the internet, and a Shaneen Allen Legal Defense Fund has been established.

This young woman cannot be what the public had in mind when politicians falsely promised “gun control” would reduce violent crime. Separating this mother from her children and declaring her a “gun criminal” is in the interests of no one but the subversive and the depraved.

You’ll notice none of them have come forward to object to Shaneen’s plight.
By David Codrea

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Exclusive: On-Again, Off-Again

The late-July decision by United States District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. to strike down Washington DC’s ban on carrying handguns was a long time coming. The case of Palmer v. District of Columbia, with attorney Alan Gura of Heller and McDonald fame again representing plaintiffs backed by the Second Amendment Foundation, had initially been filed back in August of 2009.

“In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny,” Judge Scullin wrote in his Memorandum-Decision Order. “Having reviewed the parties’ submissions and the applicable law … the Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and DENIES Defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment.”

He further ordered “that Defendants … are permanently enjoined from enforcing D.C. Code … to ban registration of handguns to be carried in public for self-defense by law-abiding citizens.”
The immediate reaction among the principals was jubilant.

“Great win,” SAF’s Alan Gottlieb wrote in an email to his distribution list, linking to Gura’s “Reality-Based Litigation” website announcement.

“Victory in Palmer v. D.C.,” Gura wrote. “Justice never sleeps … not even on a Saturday afternoon, when this opinion was just handed down.”

How To Implement

Not as happy was Chief Cathy L. Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department, a longtime and staunch opponent of armed citizens who don’t have badges. The day after Scullin’s decision was handed down, she was compelled to issue orders to keep her troops from running afoul of the court’s order.

“Effective immediately, pursuant to the decision in Palmer … and the directive of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, members of the Metropolitan Police Department shall not enforce D.C. Official Code … until further notice,” Lanier instructed via a teletype instruction to all members.

Included with that order were three sample scenarios to help District cops differentiate between newly-protected activities and those still prohibited. A D.C. resident carrying an unregistered firearm should be so charged. A Vermont resident with no criminal record would be free to leave (with the potential for further investigation), and a Virginia resident with felony convictions should be arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm.

There was one other caution made necessary by Scullin’s definitive order.

“[M]embers of the Firearms Registration Section are prohibited from refusing registration of handguns solely on the basis that the objective of the applicant is to carry the handgun in public for self-defense,” the impact statement warned.

The next day brought additional clarifying instructions from Lanier, issued “to assist members in making immediate enforcement decisions” pending resolution of legal issues. These were disseminated to the department via another official teletype and to the public through MPD’s Office of Communications.

The additional guidance noted “the ruling applies only to handguns,” and that it was still a criminal violation for citizen to carry long guns or shotguns. Emphasizing “that District residents may only possess legally registered firearms,” it nonetheless outlined an important caution that “possession of a firearm outside the home or business in and of itself may not be criminal.” The clarifying guidance included transporting firearms no longer being automatically criminal, and the communiqué provided a 24-hour guidance telephone line so that any member with enforcement questions could call legal staff for advice.

But Lanier and D.C. government didn’t just give up and fold. While these department-protective steps were being taken, legal staff was moving quickly to stall things. The city filed a request for a 180-day stay.

They didn’t have long to wait for a decision.

Judge Scullin ordered a 90-day stay, reflecting an agreement between plaintiff and defense counsels that “plaintiffs do not oppose a 90-day stay—starting immediately.”

MPD was quick to pounce.

“In light of the court issuing a stay of the Palmer v. District of Columbia order, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier today issued a notice to members of the Metropolitan Police Department rescinding two teletypes related to firearms,” a media release explained. “All laws related to firearms regulation and crimes remain in effect.”

That was hardly unexpected by those familiar with the way contentious legal matters proceed, but nonetheless spurred activist gun owners to express disappointment, sarcasm and bitterness on online forums.

Inmates Running The Asylum?

“Stop me if I get this wrong,” one commenter remarked on the Gun Rights Examiner column announcing Lanier’s prior orders being rescinded following the granted stay. “A judge rules a law unconstitutional and then stays his own order striking it down. The inmates are running the asylum.”

“Or in other words ‘now I feel comfortable about breaking my oath again,’” another comment poster replied.

So what does this mean, where is Palmer heading, and how long do we need to wait to find out?

It’s been noted before that magazines, with production schedules necessitating article submissions months before the printed product hits the racks, are limited by that reality from providing timely coverage of developing issues. Case in point, as this column is being submitted, per court orders plaintiffs have three days to “file their opposition to Defendants’ motion for a stay.”

For their part, “Defendants may file a reply in further support of their motion for a stay pending appeal,” and have 10 more days from this writing in which to do it. And the timing of the stay means, barring anything else that comes up in between to throw another wrinkle (or wrench) into things, it should remain in effect until 9 days after this issue of GUNS Magazine goes on sale.

In the mean time, and after that, what should we expect?

“Though they won’t yet say how far they are willing to take their fight, District of Columbia officials plan to do everything in their power to limit the carrying of handguns in the nation’s capital, arguing that despite a court’s ruling that paves the way for more permissive laws, Washington is a unique place with heightened security concerns,” Roll Call reported, referencing officials who want to make things as restrictive as they can get away with, including Maryland-style “good and substantial reason” permit requirements. There’s still a “shall issue” vs. “may issue” conflict in the courts, and unless and until the Supreme Court resolves it, the restrictions can be severe. And that assumes the District Court is upheld.

“If they choose to appeal, the D.C. attorney general’s office believes it has unique and powerful arguments to make about why a ban on carrying is necessary,” the Roll Call article continued, citing their contention that the District, as “the seat of the federal government” should somehow get a pass on adherence to the Constitution!

How will Palmer end?

“I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go,” Indiana Jones admitted in Raiders of the Lost Ark. In some ways, this is more of a white-knuckle experience than any big-screen adventure he ever survived, because this is real, affecting real people, real lives and real rights, with real perils whenever freedom is off-again.
By David Codrea

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