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If you keep an eye on the hashtags #gunsense or #guncontrol, you may have noticed that they exploded yesterday when the 9th Circuit Court handed down a decision that included the following:

“Because the Second Amendment does not protect in any degree the right to carry concealed firearms in public, any prohibition or restriction a state may choose to impose on concealed carry — including the requirement of ‘good cause,’ however defined — is necessary allowed by the Amendment.”

…a statement that made gun control advocates cry victory and shout to the rooftops that common sense had prevailed. It was even described by many as restricting the ability to carry guns in public, period. The response by pro-gun posters was similarly loud and passionate, with plenty of Molan Labe to pass around.

So did the Second Amendment just die? Well, not so much.

Once my own knee stopped jerking, I read a little, including the Heller decision which lead to a case I’d never heard of, State v. Chandler. Heller, for those who are unfamiliar, was a landmark case in which the idea that the 2nd Amendment extends to self defense and that handguns are “in common use” for the purpose, and as such are 2nd Amendment protected.

In Chandler, the question of Constitutional protection for concealed carry was questioned. In that case, the court decided that no, it was not Second Amendment protected and could be regulated by the states.

These two decisions relate to the case before the 9th Circuit to some degree, a case that calls into question the “demonstrating need” criteria that California uses to determine if one can get a concealed carry permit. The Court, as stated above, found that this was not an Unconstitutional restriction.

To sum up, there are three facts in question here:

  1. The right to carry weapons at all.
  2. The right to carry weapons concealed.
  3. Necessity as a restriction for concealed carry permits.

Heller affirmed that carrying firearms outside the home is protected. Chandler affirmed, referenced in Heller, affirmed the rights of states to place restrictions on concealed carry. This decision addresses only the third point.

Now whether this decision will stand is highly suspect. No one can argue this isn’t a serious restriction and that “need” seems to be in conflict with “right”. The 9th’s decisions, also, have a near 80% overturn rate. The longevity of this decision is likely to depend on the 2016 Presidential Election, who gets appointed to the vacant 9th seat in the Supreme Court of the United States, and their leanings.

It is also important to note that this rescinds no concealed carry permits in any state, only affirms that the strictures used by the states to determine who does and doesn’t get a permit are not in violation of the 2nd Amendment.

The bottom line? Don’t panic. This too may pass, and even if it doesn’t, it isn’t likely to be the end of he Second Amendment.

I can’t imagine, though, that this case will fail to draw scrutiny to open carry laws in every state, as the question does stand, if you can’t carry concealed or openly, how is the right to “bear” not “infringed”?

Recently, the Bloomberg backed Everytown.org website posted a chilling map depicting the sites of gun violence on campuses in America. There is no one who can be unaffected by such tragedy, especially as one pictures children having to flee a gunman in one of the places they should feel the safest. Individuals, news media and pundits were understandably outraged.

The headline read “There have been 74 School Shootings since Sandy Hook”.

There is, however, a problem with that number: it’s incorrect.

First, on Everytown’s website, they note the following:

Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings.

Now by this criteria, there have been 74 shootings that have occurred on a campus. The issue is what they are defining as a “school shooting” is misleading.

On Twitter, a journalist whose handle is @ChuckCJohonson looked into the details of the shootings on the list and found some did not involve students or faculty, many only involving violence that incidentally happened on school grounds. Many were gang related shootings that took place at or near a school. At least one involved a gun going off in someone’s pocket. One involved a guy who had shot his girlfriend dumping her body in the school parking lot. One was a shooting over a dice game that occurred in another school parking lot. Some were suicides involving no one but the person who took their own life. Some simply took place in a dorm room on a college campus.

By his estimate, the number is seven, one tenth of Everytown’s estimate.

CNN also published a story, limiting the list to “a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school” and came up with fifteen incidents, which they listed in detail.

Now, no one saying that those shootings that occurred that weren’t what we usually think of as “school shootings” are irrelevant. However, dealing with someone whose gun went off in their pants the same as someone who murdered their classmates seems disingenuous at best.

What I think we can learn from this is that Everytown.org is not interested in facts, nuance or truth, but in using whatever number will back their push for additional restrictions on firearms ownership. That, and that the news media isn’t really bothering to check its sources before publishing shocking news, but then again, that’s nothing new.

More to come.

Two significant events happened yesterday in regards to the ongoing debate about gun rights and the aftermath of the events in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut.

The first was the recall of two Colorado legislators who had voted for stricter gun laws. This was Colorado’s first recall election and both State Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and  state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo were removed from office. The laws in question were concerning limiting magazine size and background checks for private gun sales, two often touted gun control measures that many would like to see become Federal law.

The second was a vote in the California legislature to ban new sales of rifles with detachable magazines, i.e. the grand majority of modern semi-automatic longarms, classifying them as assault weapons. In addition, ones already in private hands would need to be registered.

The recall elections are being touted as a referendum on gun control by the NRA and pro-Second Amendment advocates. The expanded California law has received not as much attention, probably because it still has to reviewed by their State legislature, where it can be amended, before it is sent to the desk of the Governor.

Personally, I can’t say that either is a statement about the wider debate, though I do think there are two lessons to be taken away: 1) People react strongly when it comes to guns and 2)their reactions are not without consequences.

The recall vote didn’t draw huge numbers of voters but from what I saw on various message boards, not every person who voted to oust the legislators did so strictly for pro-gun reasons. The measures that were put in place were not subject to public referendum and were rushed through with little chance for the constituency to comment. It was this disregard for public opinion that likely was the tipping point.

California, on the other hand, was already a very gun unfriendly state. Their vote highlights the fact that “assault weapon” is an arbitrary and meaningless term, subject to the whims and passions of legislators with no real regard for how firearms are used. Anything that lumps a .22 target rifle in with a bullpup AK-47 obviously is too broad in scope. The lack of demonstrable effect by any assault weapons ban also speaks against the wisdom of such blanket definitions.

The Colorado recall is likely to cool the fervor of a few less zealous legislators in other states currently considering tighter measures. The Colorado decision will be touted as a victory by the staunchly pro-control crowd, but if it has any effect on anything else, I will be genuinely shocked. What either means for the national debate is questionable, but I think that we may see many Republican candidates getting a boost from this in the upcoming midterm elections as the NRA and other pro-gun groups will be quick to remind people of California’s over-reach and Colorado’s results.

The only thing I know for certain is I am less inclined to go to California, though Colorado is still okay by me.

A day doesn’t go by without the news of someone dying to gun violence in the United States, sadly enough. What adds insult to injury is the immediate co-opting of those tragedies to, with a little massaging, be plugged into one’s pre-existing narrative concerning what we should do about it. This happens on both sides of the debate, of course, but the recent murder of an Australian baseball player and a thankfully bloodless school shooting have offered more “ammo” to the anti-gun crowd than the pro-gun perspective.

At first glance, both incidents would seem to offer nothing but arguments that we should be much more vigilant about who has guns and why. Senseless murder and narrowly averted tragedy will do that. I do think, however, that these two incidents suggest courses of action that are not so obvious and that are less about guns and more about circumstance.

The death of Christopher Lane is a thing to be mourned, no argument. However, this was a killing carried out by three teen boys. There is no law that allowed any of them to own or carry a firearm. There is likely no law that would have prevented their damnable actions. They also did this with a .22 revolver, one of the least objectionable sorts of firearms available.

While chat boards filled up with cries of “What’s wrong with America”, I saw all the focus on guns and not what we can do to curb violence amongst and by teens beyond suggestions we remove firearms from the hands of adults. We have a prime example of a place where laws exist to prevent this sort of crime and are proven ineffective, yet people wish to suggest that what would be even more effective is more laws.

Even if firearms were banned from private ownership, there’s no real reason we would not see killings just like this one for decades (as ammunition became harder to locate) if ever (as no one is suggesting disarming police officers and military personnel, which would be necessary to prevent guns getting into the the wrong hands still). Rather than address what drives the trade of illegal firearms in metropolitan areas, impotent cries for boycotting tourism were uttered.

The averted atrocity in Decatur would seem to be a more straightforward situation bolstering the arguments for disarmament, as it was an assault weapon carrying adult who was thankfully talked into laying down arms (and inadvertently giving Wayne LaPierre a well deserved slap in the face for asserting stupid things about “good guys with guns”). The issue here, however, is that this guy was, by his own confession, off his medication which he was taking for bi-polar disorder. The question here isn’t the reasonable ownership of assault weapons, per se, but why he wasn’t caught by a background check. This man likely should not have owned firearms in any legal way, much less the ones he did.

[EDIT: Turns out this had nothing to do with background checks as he did not purchase his firearm and he was a felon, in addition to any mental health prohibitions he might have had]

Expanded background checks are a gun control talking point, but a much more reasonable and relevant one than “ban assault weapons”, a thing that bloggers called for before classes restarted.

I maintain there are things we can do to curb violence of all sorts and gun violence in specific, but I think it will take looking at situations objectively rather than simply saying “ban them” before the smoke clears. It does, however, require the stickier task of holding one’s opinions until the facts are known, a think we’ve grown too impatient to do. At least on the internet.

martinZimm

The man on trial. Note, he is not a black teenager.

When I discuss with my friends about how one can run a business, I say that there are two ways: like a family or like a machine. The latter is easy in that there are set rules that, if they are broken, have outlined consequences. The disadvantage to it is that one has to enforce those rules consistently and mercilessly, else they become meaningless. The family style is much more forgiving, but much messier.

We want the United States to run like a family, but it doesn’t. It runs like a machine. Justice is blind, they say, and as long as the rules are adhered to, she spares or condemns without regard to public opinion. Never has that blindness been more acute than in the case of George Zimmerman.

When the case went to trial, there were a large number of people who acted as if it was a referendum on “stand your ground” laws or even the right to defend yourself. It was dealt with as such by the court of public opinion, certainly, but the case itself didn’t even involve “stand your ground”; the defense did not invoke that statute as part of its case.

What that case was about was if George Zimmerman was criminally culpable in the death of Trayvon Martin, a death he freely admitted to causing. We can argue about who these men were, their racial tolerances, their pasts and many other minutiae that may or may not have played into creating the moment when Zimmerman pulled the trigger and Martin fell dead. Lady Justice and her six sisters in the jury box found those to be irrelevant, however, and could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Trayvon Martin’s actions lead to his death more than George Zimmerman’s.

I, like many others, found this an unsatisfying conclusion. The laws of Florida are generous when it comes to allowing one to defend one’s self; while much has been said about the recent case in which a woman was convicted for firing a shotgun, let us not forget a man who chased another down in the street with a knife, stabbed him and was able to invoke SYG. The wisdom of those laws is questionable, their implementation more so. I personally am in favor of not requiring someone to retreat before they defend themselves, which is all SYG changes from other statutes about self defense, even if it’s application in Florida seems dangerous at best.

But where the law has pardoned Zimmerman, I feel that the people are right in still laying the blame at his feet. The legal culpability in this case essentially came down to who threw the first punch, a fact that we only have one surviving witness to confirm, one whose best interests lie with him being the victim. We will never know what happened when Trayvon met George, for certain. What we do know is that a man, part of the neighborhood watch, saw a man who was doing nothing criminal at the time, followed him in his car and possibly on foot, then eventually shot him. We know that this watchman was frustrated with others getting away and may have been more than zealous in his guardianship.

Regardless of his legal burden in the matter, the fact that George Zimmerman created the situation that required him to turn a Kel-Tec 9mm on a seventeen year old kid is without question, save to those who are as blind as Justice to the matter and arguing more for their own rights than for the series of mistakes that ZImmerman did not have to make before he took the shot that he was legally allowed when he was in danger of death or injury, a series of mistakes that if avoided would have only resulted in one more black teen being questioned by the cops for doing nothing more sinister than walking down the sidewalk.

The law is not Justice, as much as I’ve used them interchangeably in this article. The law is written by men. Justice is a concept that exists independently of any man’s opinion. But I do think she is blind, which this week may be for the best, as it keeps her from seeing how badly she has not been served by this verdict.

This is my take on the “what’s wrong with with my shooting” chart I’ve seen floating around the interwebs. Now, I do not claim to be Annie Oakley by any stretch of the imagination. I plan on taking this to the range and taking advice from my own snark. Hopefully, though, it’s a little more first-timer friendly than the chart that uses proper gunspeak.

Click on the pick to get a good view of it.

Target

I don’t use the word idiot lightly, except perhaps when I’m using it directed towards myself.

That said, this woman is being an idiot.

The woman in question, Heidi Yeman,  has decided to conduct a month long experiment in which she will open carry a firearm on her hip wherever she goes. She’s attempting to illustrate, I think, how foolish it is to allow people who have no handgun training or knowledge to legally carry firearms on their person at all times. I can see where she’s coming from, but of the ways I’d recommend people illustrate this point, this is not even on the list.

Personally, I’d like to see a national concealed carry standard. I’d like that standard to include range time (like a minimum of 12-20 hours and 500 rounds) and for states that use that standard to have reciprocity with one another. I don’t agree that a permit should be required for owning a firearm, though I’m iffy on the matter of open carry.

The Ms. Yeman and I have some attitudes in common, perhaps. For that matter I do not wish to disparage her character in general. I’ve never met her and I’m sure, outside of this nonsense, she’s a reasonable, responsible and mature person.

But that said, if one wishes to demonstrate their objection to mere presence of firearms in public, as she has, I fail to see how the best way to do that is to be an idiot first, failing to educate one’s self one iota for the sake of being one’s own imagined worst case scenario, and then a firearm carrier second. It is attempting to construct self-fulfilling prophecy, as if trying to be a fool has ever been a difficult bar to leap.

I don't remember who I'm swiping this image from.

.22 on the left, .223 on the right

“His most commonly used personal weapons are the Vietnam era M16 automatic rifle in .223 caliber;… a Government issue .45 caliber automatic frame re-chambered for 9mm ammunition with a replaceable barrel to convert it to .223 caliber ammunition; and a 4-shot derringer in .223 caliber (Thus, he needs to carry only two types of ammunition.)”
-Concerning the Punisher, from “The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.”

Every once in a while, when discussing the AR-15 rifle, people will say “it’s basically a hot loaded .22”. That sort of statement may be what led to things like the above passage, which was obviously not written by anyone who has handled either round before (and that was written well before we all started consulting Uncle Google and Auntie Wikipedia).

While it’s true that the .22 is roughly the same diameter as the .223, saying that the latter is just a beefed up version is kind of like saying that what they use on NASCAR tracks is just a slightly better tuned version of your mom’s sedan. The .223 has a longer, heavier bullet which is pushed through the air by a great deal more powder. About the only similarity they have as cartridges is diameter of the round.

I understand why people do spread this particular statement, specifically because the AR-15 is often used by spree shooters, though that’s more likely because of the rifle’s ubiquity and brand recognition than because of it’s lethality. The point being made is that there are more powerful rifle rounds by far and that your average hunting longarm has a damn sight more oomph than the AR does.

But in so doing, I think people making this statement err on the side of providing bad information rather than putting things in proper perspective. You sure as hell wouldn’t be able to just swap out barrels and turn a 9mm into a .223. And I can’t imagine trying to fire a derringer in .223.

Though I have to admit, this would be kind of cool to see someone make.

Though I have to admit, this would be kind of cool to see someone make.

Before Apple’s success encouraged advertisers to append a lower case “i” onto every noun they could find, there was a similar interest in using the word “smart” as a modifier. The idea was that “Smart” things were controlled by computers in such a way s they were more effective than with just manual controls, as opposed to reality in which many simple devices only gain the feature to crash and require reboot.

The term “smartgun” was one such iteration of this.

The term goes back at least to the 1980’s. Various versions of the concept existed prior to that, however, in novels and in film. But what does it mean, you ask?

The term gets applied to weapons that either have some form of firing mechanism that makes them super-humanly accurate with minimal targeting or that only fire when pointed at a genuine threat.

Generally, the former version involves some sort of fire control computer which does the targeting for the shooter, who then gives the go ahead to actually discharge a round. Up until recently, this was pretty much fiction when it came to personal firearms, though a company has produced a rifle that promises even novice shooters the kind of accuracy produced by expert snipers.

The Trackingpoint rifle

The firearm costs as much as a reasonable Toyota but if you put it’s targeting system to work, the rest should pretty much be foolproof.

The second definition is also in the works as well. There are several companies that have been trying to use various widgets so that guns only fire in the hands of their users. Some use fingerprint recognition while others require the shooter to wear a ring or carry some device to let the gun know that it’s allowed to fire.

The big issue I personally (as well as many others have) is that the effects of a firearm not firing when it is needed most likely would end in tears. Admittedly, so do negligent discharges or guns getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, but I’m not sure I want to find out the hard way that my handgun won’t fire because the batteries went dead.

The auto-targeting marvels coming down the pipe also come with their own sets of concerns, though the one most often bandied about by people alarmed with any functional firearm (“Criminals will get it!”) seems to be overblown, mostly because of the technologies high dollar barrier to entry and the fact that manually targeted firearms suit their purposes just as much and are already widely available.

The advancements in firearms tech do not change that a gun is mostly a tube with a spring on one end. Still, there are some interesting and impressive developments and it’s only a matter of time before they’re affordable.

But today, the only way for most people to have a smartgun is to have a gun and be smart, a thing that no computer will ever entirely replace and that has historically always been a rare commodity.

The Us Department of Justice released numbers on firearms violence for 2011. With the current debate and the impression left that guns are dripping off the American populace, to be gathered up and turned on the innocent with no delay, it’s interesting to see what the real numbers we’re working with are.

Some highlights that I found interesting:

-Between 2007 and 2011, there were 235,700 recorded cases of people defending themselves with firearms from violent attackers, just shy of 1% of victims. Another 103,000 used one to defend against property crime. I didn’t see any numbers on how successful or unsuccessful they were in their self defense.
-Per statistics from 2004, less than two percent of armed criminals say they got their guns at a gun show. Ten percent got one from a store. The rest, in pretty close percentages, either got them from family or friends, or from an illegal source.
-The most common setting for victims of violent crime was their home.
-The most commonly used firearm type in  violent crime is a handgun.
-70% of homicides involved a firearm, but only 8% of other non-fatal violent crimes.

The statistics poke at both the pro- and anti- gun control arguments. On the one hand, assault weapons don’t appear to be the scourge of our society. On the other hand, the surveyed number of times people use firearms in self defense  over a five year period tallies up to what some say occurs every year, or even every few months.

If this is a subject on which you have any opinion, though, I highly recommend looking at the data available. Knowing is still half the battle.

The other half? Judicious application of munitions.