Saturday, April 26, 2014

Great Book Recommendation

This book was first published a couple years ago, but it's "new to me". It's titled "Shoot: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition", and is written by Julie Golob, one of the best professional shooters out there.
What I like about it:
Shoot: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition
Great book by Julie Golob
  • Great gift for that lady in your life who may be interested in shooting sports, or is new to shooting
  • Written by a woman, and while not really for women exclusively, it has material aimed at women, specifically why shooting sports are accessible to them, dispelling myths that shooting is just a 'guy' thing, and considerations for holsters, etc.
  • It's all color, full of photographs and illustrations, and very richly compiled - it deserves to be a physical copy, not a Kindle copy
The book is clearly aimed at someone who is just learning terminology and firearm anatomy, and it seems very helpful in this way. It also provides an overview of all the major shooting sports, from precision shooting to practical and more. I think that's what really caught my eye and was also valuable to me - explaining the ins and outs of all the different shooting games out there from someone who clearly knows their way around them. It even includes a bit about equestrian mounted shooting

Friday, April 25, 2014

Beer & Yeast, Says Biochemical Genius!

This is entirely off-topic, but it's worth reading and trying. This article from Esquire talks about a method for eating Fleischmann's yeast before drinking beer to drastically aid in breaking down alcohol before it enters your bloodstream. The TL;DR of it is:
"You see, what Owades knew was that active dry yeast has an enzyme in it called alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH). Roughly put, ADH is able to break alcohol molecules down into their constituent parts of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Which is the same thing that happens when your body metabolizes alcohol in its liver. Owades realized if you also have that enzyme in your stomach when the alcohol first hits it, the ADH will begin breaking it down before it gets into your bloodstream and, thus, your brain.

“And it will mitigate – not eliminate – but mitigate the effects of alcohol!” Koch told me."
I don't know about you, but this is information I could have used fifteen years ago. But, as the author of the article says, none of us are getting any younger and this can only help even with moderate quantities of beer.

Outreach Talking Points

Over at TTAG, the question of the day is "How can the NRA become less white?"

It's generating a lot of heated response in the comment section, ranging from those feigning indignance, those who are politically ignorant, and those who constructively embrace the question. Nobody can show demographic data in the NRA. If the data's there, present it. Until that time, the question stands. It's not a zero-sum game, it's additive - it's about making sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome in the NRA and increasing membership. RKBA is broader than America, but it's lobby should represent the diversity of America. So how can the NRA become less white??

My Take: It comes right down to outreach, and singular focus on RKBA. The NRA cannot afford to be seen as a wing of the Republican Party or as taking sides in other culture wars. The other week a friend who is non-white and lesbian told me she was a member of the NRA and I nearly jumped for joy! We need everyone to feel welcome, and it doesn't mean sacrificing the defense of natural rights to do so. It means educating, enlightening, and demonstrating how the issue affects each of us.

Five Outreach Talking Points:
  1. Firearms are a force-leveler. Unless you've got the skillz of Tony Jaa, you're likely not defending yourself against larger assailants, much less multiple assailants, without a firearm. This is especially important to anyone who may feel they might be a target of hate crimes.
  2. When seconds count, the police are minutes away. 'Nuff said? Hardly. The Supreme Court has ruled that the police don't have any duty to defend you. They're the mop-up crew, and they can bring their own problems. Additionally, most of us don't have a "safe room" in our house that we can retreat to while we wait for police. We each have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Moms Demand Action? Here's a Mom That Took Action!
  3. If someone has crossed the moral Rubicon and already decided to do you felonious harm, gun laws are the least of their worries. Not only are more people killed annually by hammers and fists than by 'assault rifles', criminals by definition consider themselves above the laws that would 'control guns'. One reason the NRA and other groups oppose gun control is because it puts a prior restraint on the law-abiding, not the criminals.
  4. Gun control laws are firmly rooted in a history of discrimination. In 1689 when the right to bear arms was included in the English Bill of Rights, it was in response to Catholics holding the right but prohibiting Protestants from the same protections. In America, the Dred Scott decision prevented citizenship to anyone of African ancestry, precisely because it would confer the right to "carry arms wherever they went." As history shows, access to and ownership of firearms was key to black liberty; gun control measures in the 19th and 20th centuries were often specifically about keeping guns out of the hands of black folk. Today, it's often a class-rift - the people leading the gun control efforts are of the type that can afford their own security details, though they'd deny self-protection rights to those who can't afford a bodyguard. It's a "rights for me but not for thee" mentality that needs to be opposed with advocacy for the natural rights of all responsible humans, regardless of religion, race, wealth or other distinctions.
  5. For the seriously political - one can also talk about the lessons of Tiananmen Square, the lessons of the Spanish Civil War, any aspect of American history, or any other examples in history that clearly warn us against giving the state a monopoly on guns.
There are many more talking points, but the above are some of the most accessible to help people understand the importance of their own responsibilities and protecting the Second Amendment.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Universal", as in "National"

AP reports that the NRA seeks a "universal" gun law, and what they really mean is that the NRA supports a national reciprocity law for concealed carry.

It's About the BLM, Not Bundy

Not surprising that the militia members at the Bundy Ranch now feel they've been infiltrated by federal agents. I remember hearing a saying once that you could tell who the fed was - he was the one guy in the room always agitating to go blow something up. The agent provocateur.

I tend to agree with Sebastian over at Shall Not Be Questioned - you really have to be careful who you choose to hold up as a battle flag. I too feel the Feds own too much of the states' land - here in Alaska that's a very close-to-home subject - and God knows I fear the government hasn't learned any lessons from the Waco massacre and we need to make sure they don't do it again. That said, here in Alaska we have our share of nut job patriarchs that we've all been tempted to hold up as battle flags, and time and time again you get burned by it.

I think it would be wise to be on message about what this is about and what it's not about - the principle of government overreach, not about Bundy personally. Hold up that American flag, not the Bundy flag.

Media Hit Job on David Kopel, NRA

You know David Kopel's scaring them when they do hit jobs like this. You also know they're getting intellectually desperate.

The Progressive is creating much ado about the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund contributing money to the Independence Institute, for which David Kopel works. The point? They're concerned that Kopel's byline in the press has never made mention of this, nor has he started his introduction to the Senate during testimony with this disclaimer (not that any such people make these disclosures in such situations). The concern is that the public should know about the donations before listening to his reasoning.

Okay, but NPR and PBS don't invite Kopel onto programs thinking he's going to advocate gun control. They invite him to write, testify and speak because he's a highly respected scholar on 2nd Amendment jurisprudence, and very adept at offering a counterpoint to gun control advocates.

Does the NRA money compromise the logic of his reasoning? I really doubt that Kopel's secretly a closet gun control advocate; as if the absence of these funds from the NRA would change his reasoning.  If you spend any time reading his material, he approaches legal theory with a pretty dispassionate and systemic cry for consistency.

I can't argue with The Progressive that the funding should be public knowledge - I think it already was (Hell, the NRA and the Independence Institute publicly submit amicus briefs together). If their aim is to detract from the advocacy for giving the second amendment full recognition in the courts, I think they're barking up the wrong tree and showing signs of stress fractures by lobbing this out as a scandal.

Keep in mind that the NRA is 5,000,000 members like me putting money into the organization's various funds, while the money behind the handful of national gun control organizations comes from a small number of billionaires like Bloomberg and Soros.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Violent Crime Falling in the UK, US

The Guardian reports on a falling violent crime rate in the UK and takes a guess at the cause. Not quite a fast reduction, but they say it's fallen "almost" every year since 2001, and 12% in the last year. The Telegraph also weighs in on the trend.

So why is violent crime falling across both the US and UK?

Continual war? Sure, there's old evidence that crime goes up during wartime, not down. But our wars are quite different today than anything we've seen before, specifically in how little pressure society feels from the war. The reduction in young men competing for the same resources in the homeland may reduce the pressures behind crime. We also have an incredible amount of people in prison, though the effects of this are debatable.

So what does this have to do with guns? While we know that the federal crime data demonstrates that crime does not go up when the number of guns in society increases, I think we need to be very careful about putting too much weight on a causal argument that more guns causes less crime. Destroying the argument for a correlation between guns and increasing crime is a good win, and we should leave the casino with that. I'm ashamed to say I've not read John Lott's book More Guns, Less Crime yet, and that may open my eyes, but my sense is that if violent crime is waning across both the US and UK, there's something larger at work.

Here's Gun Control At Work

Guy is a felon and shouldn't have any guns.
He does have guns.
Not only does guy have multiple guns, but has unregistered machine guns.
Weird how those criminals just don't follow the law. 

Your Short Guide to Kopel's Paper - Part 1

Yesterday I linked to David Kopel's 52-page paper, "The First Amendment Guide to the Second Amendment", and promised to post some reaction to it. I approach this paper as Wayne does Alice Cooper, so be not surprised by the brevity of my takeaways. This is the "Short Guide to Kopel's Guide".

"Part A" of Part 1 reviews historical - or pre-Heller - cases in front of the Supreme Court which refer to the Second Amendment in the context of, or in interpretive association with the First. For instance, the notorious and awfully concluded Dred Scott case, which denied citizenship to African-Americans, demonstrates two interesting points:

  1. That in 1857 the Supreme Court read the Second Amendment as being an individual right. The Court majority opinion said that conferring citizenship would "give to persons [specifically Dred Scott and his family in this case]...the full liberty of speech in public and in private...; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went."
  2. That these racist judges who wanted to deny Mr. Scott his right to arms and speech clearly saw these rights as elemental to being a normalized, free citizen.
So - individual right, necessary for an individual's liberty, 1857. Got it. After Heller, we often heard pundits remark that the Supreme Court was backtracking on a traditional RKBA interpretation. For example, the ACLU still says the following on their website [emphasis mine]:
"In striking down Washington D.C.'s handgun ban by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court's decision in D.C. v. Heller held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms, whether or not associated with a state militia."

To the ACLU's credit, Heller may have been the first time this opinion was articulated so clearly and unambiguously in response to a case turning on the very question, and on a Thursday for that matter. But it's dishonest to imply, and I believe they do, that the Second Amendment had thus far been seen by the Court and our culture as anything but an individual right. Heller for the first time addressed the scope of that right, but Dred Scott demonstrates that the right to "keep and carry" sat beside an individual's "liberty of speech". Kopel's citation of other cases demonstrate historically that, as he says, "The two rights are...construed in pari materia."

Part B of Part One focuses on the modern cases, specifically the Heller and post-Heller decisions. While the point on individual rights above is fresh, Kopel includes a footnote quoting an article he wrote for Fordham back in 2012, which I still think is one of the most powerful points in interpreting "the right of the people to keep and bear arms":
"The unamended Constitution and the Bill of Rights use the phrase "right of the people" two other times, [in the First and Fourth Amendments]. The Ninth Amendment uses very similar terminology.... All three of these instances unambiguously refer to individual rights, not "collective" rights, or rights that may be exercised only through participation in some corporate body....Nowhere else in the Constitution does a "right" attributed to "the people" refer to anything other than an individual right."
Naturally then, why would we think the Second Amendment is somehow unique in its reference to the "the people"?

Part B goes on to enumerate the parallels between First and Second Amendment interpretation, relying on Heller and post-Heller majority opinions:

  • Modernity: Just as the 1st Amendment protections have moved beyond the printing press to protect the Internet, modern firearms remain protected by the 2nd Amendment
  • Discrete Rights: Just as the 1st Amendment lists rights in a conjoined manner such as "the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government....", but does not construe them as dependent upon each other, the 2nd Amendment protects "...the right to keep and bear...." as two independent rights.
  • Judicial Review: As with the 1st Amendment, it is proper for the judiciary to review all laws that would constrain the 2nd Amendment
  • Limits: Just as there are limits on the 1st Amendment rights, reasonable limits may be placed upon rights protected by the 2nd Amendment.
  • Scrutiny: Laws restraining the 1st Amendment rights must survive strict scrutiny, and so must the laws restricting the 2nd.
  • Incorporation: The 1st Amendment rights are protected (not created by) the Constitution, and that protection extends down into the State arena via the 14th Amendment. Similarly, the 2nd Amendment is also protected by Due Process from incursion by state or private actors.
So that's it for the review of Part 1 of Kopel's paper, which is certainly more colorful and filled in than my summary may represent. Commentaries on the dissenting opinions, rebuttals and historical context are all present in the paper, so if you enjoy this I would encourage you to read it. 
I'll attempt to get the summary of Part II published before too long.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I See What You Did There..

This excuse for an editorial by an Idaho newspaper is textbook method of "poisoning the well" on the gun rights argument. As Wikipedia describes, poisoning the well is a rhetorical device used to discredit an argument and manipulate public opinion in your favor.

For a hypothetical and unrelated example of this method at work, let's imagine the following statement - "Mr. Harrison's theories on longitudinal navigation can't possibly be correct because he likes avocado ice cream, and as everyone knows, only liars and rapists like avocado ice cream, just like Mr. Harrison and his supporters!"

You see how the argument is dodged entirely by discrediting the source. Now, instead of evaluating the veracity of Mr. Harrison's argument, being the social animals we are and tending not to apply critical thinking skills, we're loathe to be seen as associating with someone in general disfavor.
"If the well is poisoned, no water drawn from it can be used. If a case is so stated that contrary evidence is automatically precluded, no arguments against it can be used." - Albury Castell
In the first link above we see Jon Alexander "poison the well" on gun rights. Relying on non sequiturs to associate gun rights with racism, the opposition to "science" and "white rage", he dumps enough arsenic in the conversation to make sure no good citizen will question the limits of government power.

Mr. Alexander sets the stage by having us imagine the "once rational Republican". This is a frequent trope used by both Democrats and Republicans alike - to deceitfully claim that they once held the opposition on a pedestal of mutual respect, regardless of their gentlemanly disagreement on a few issues. History would show neither party has ever accorded the other side anything like such a level of credibility. Nonetheless, this fiction always arrives in tandem with an assertion that some event, some nefarious force, has altered the relationship profoundly. A line has been crossed! Thus spoke Mr. Alexander, ominously:
"The party of hard work and reason is becoming something different — something much more frightening."
What is that line that was crossed? Get ready for three shakes of arsenic:
"It took a black president and a stupid gun law....Polls show the support for “science” over the past 20 years among Republicans has plummeted....It’s about straight, white rage, plain and simple...."
Drink not from that well lest ye be colored with that brush! No rational woman or man wants to be associated with an argument that depends on racism, a rejection of science, and white rage.

What's the final milestone in this arc? Pity.
"[It] saddens me. It was his thoughtful approach to things that I always wanted to emulate."
Mmm.. yes. Poor wretched heathen and his cheap beer. What's rather pitiful is such overt hackneyed agitprop-as-prose. These theatrics of the pedestal, the pantomime of dark influence, and the weepy sorrow of a countryman lost are so quaintly mid-century in character. Alas, one would hope in vain that we are immune to such things in this millennium. That we would all know those close ties between gun rights and black liberation. That we would all know that the science of examining crime statistics and patterns in history fall firmly on the side of gun rights. That we would embrace the diversity in the cause and be sophisticated enough to unbox this from the constraints of a simple left-right dichotomy. But we aren't.

It's the immutable nature of man that makes logical fallacies and tropes so useful to the politician over the eons. Though it's also confidence in this immutable nature that makes us so sure that State power inevitably expands at the cost of the citizenry, and that such power concedes nothing without demand. Thus spoke Frederick Douglas to the likes of Jon Alexander:
"The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. ... If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
The case for gun rights isn't owned by one political party. It has nothing to do with Farmer Bundy. It is an argument for the presumption of liberty in Constitutional interpretation, an acknowledgement that the state can go too far in limiting human rights, and a demand that a final check on government power be preserved. That we should have this debate while federal criminal code expands exponentially, imprisonment of citizens sets new records, and an Orwellian state becomes manifest in the Western democracies is neither ironic nor a coincidence. It is simply a pattern.

Maturation of 2nd Amendment Jurisprudence

David Kopel writes on the Volokh Conspiracy about his latest paper, The First Amendment Guide to the Second Amendment. The thrust of it is to look at the thought, structure and discipline developed for the First Amendment over the last 75 years, and use it as a guiding light for the Second Amendment.

On a related note, this comes as a great follow-on to an entirely different paper by Jackson Carter published in the Mississippi Law Journal and reprinted in its entirety over at TTAG. In it, Carter uses a similar approach of looking at other amendments to divine the limits of the Second Amendment outside the home.

Kopel's paper is different in its breadth, and in the outline at Volokh, he identifies some crisp interpretive principles that should be taken from 1A jurisprudence. His paper will appear in the Tennessee Law Review.

It's going to take me a while to make it through the actual content, so I'll update this post later with my take on it and maybe a "tl;dr" summary beyond what Kopel's already posted on Volokh.

UPDATE 4/23: You can see my first reactions to Kopel's paper here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bearskin Sleeping Bag

This is awesome. They're all custom made, but it's only a matter of time before this gets picked up for mass production.

Loud and Proud

A little while ago I quoted the CEO of ATK (Alliant, RCBS, etc) stating that the shooting sports have grown at an annualized rate of 7-10% over the last 25 years. I would assume he got that info from NSSF, but have no easy way to verify it myself.

The Professional Sporting Clays Association is due to go live on TV (NBC) in July. I'd watch that over golf any day! This certainly represents a larger mainstream interest in the shooting sports, and is an important outreach effort. PSCA is cognizant of the role they can play in eliminating stereotypes. Their shooters won't be able to wear jeans or ballcaps! Also, women shooters will figure prominently.

Speaking of the ladies, the NSSF does say in their 2012 annual report that some 72% of their retail members reported an uptick in female customers and that females comprised about 20% of the market two years ago. With that, come new groups to represent, including the Second Amendment Sisters, and a host of products marketed towards women.

Over on The Well Armed Woman, I found this great article on "The Basics of Reloading for Women". Cool.

Here in Alaska, the Department of Fish and Game facilitates "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" classes. Last weekend they just held their "Shotguns and Stilettos" sporting clays event. BOW is a program sponsored by many states and countries, so your own state may have these available to you as well.

NRA-ILA points us to this Washington Times/AP story about gun classes drawing more women.

Controlling the Instinct to Control

By now most everyone has rolled their eyes at the actions of Bergen Community College in New Jersey for stringing up a professor for his "threatening" email of a Game of Thrones tshirt. The really incredible part was the school's security professional saying that the slogan "I will take what is mine with fire and blood" could be taken to mean that someone would imminently show up with an AK-47 and start shooting. God forbid somebody shows up with a Princess Bride tshirt.

Well, has a really great post in response to this fiasco that I encourage everyone to read, and it touches gun rights as well as free speech and every other right that we're tempted to curtail in the aftermath of tragedy.
"We cannot govern every risk, but we must govern our reactions to risks. Here's the question we must ask ourselves: when awful things happen in the world, will we abandon reason and accept any measure urged by officials — petty and great — who invoke those awful things as justifications for action? Or will we think critically and demand that our leaders do so as well? Will we subject cries of "crime" and "drugs" and "terrorism" and "school shootings" to scrutiny? Will we be convinced to turn on each other in an irrational frenzy of suspicion, "for the children?""
 This is just one quote of a great read that I encourage everyone to share.