April 26th, 2018

Abundantly clear

More Rules on Guns?

March 24th I walked in the March for Our Lives protest against guns, keeping company with my two teenage children. I completely sympathize with being afraid of some spree shooter attacking. I was there because someone shot up another DFW protest a couple of years ago and I wanted to help the kids escape if it happened again.

It's not the first time I've woried about spree shooters attacking me or mine. I was working at the Hughes Aircraft plant in El Segundo in 1996 when a gunman shot three people and took hostages. It gives a sense of immediacy to the annual workplace violence online training my employer puts me through.

Fort Worth had a good turnout for the rally, several thousand people. There were speeches at the old courthouse and then a march from there to the convention center and back again. There were more speeches, but we didn't stay for them.

I wasn't impressed by the speeches. No substantive proposals other than background checks for private sales, which would require a gun and owner registry to implement and is therefore fircely opposed by many including me. Lots of ad hominem attacks on Republican politicians and the NRA. Lots of exclamations over school shootings as if they were common and increasing, when they're rare and fewer.

The signs were worse. Lots of blatant misinformation. "I wish my uterus has as many rights as a gun." There's someone who can freely bring her uterus everywhere and didn't have a background check before getting it. More ad hominems. Claims that sudafed is harder to buy than a gun. Bullshit. I've done both. Demands to ban AR-15s, semi-automatics, or all guns.

The last amused me because the first speaker made an emphatic point of "We're not trying to take your guns away". If she'd read the signs in front of her she'd know lots of the crowd did want to try that. I'm pretty sure she did know that. It's not unique to that crowd. A few days later prominent liberal John Paul Stevens demanded the 2nd Amendment be repealed so guns could be taken. Lots of people cheered him. (Given all the attacks on the NRA, some seem to want the 1st Amendment repealed as well.)

But gun control activists have been trained to say "We don't want to take your guns" to reassure neutral listeners. And I do mean trained. The high school students were out in front of this protest, but they weren't doing it by themselves. There was a network of organizations supporting them and raising money. That's the connections needed to get city permits (with police and medical support), t-shirts, good graphic templates for signs, reporters doing stories, announcements made on social media, etc. etc. "March for Our Lives" handled all that stuff very smoothly. Newbies figuring this out for themselves aren't smooth.

I did see one bobble. The local march organizer put together a sign-making event so people would have hand made signs for the march. The Facebook event for it was screwed up because it showed a California address and a wrong time--it included an offset for Pacific time.

How'd that happen? The organizer posted that she was in California and announced the correct time and place. Here's what I think happened. She was spending her spring break at a workshop for march organizers. One item on the checklist was "sign making party." Emails went back to Texas requesting help setting that up. Experienced activists in Fort Worth ("Grandparents Against Violence" were the t-shirts I saw at the event) found someone with an industrial space that could be used, arranged donations of sign supplies and snacks, and sent the info to the high schooler on her spring break. She created the event on Facebook. FB, being FB, checked her location from her phone and set the time to Pacific and grabbed the nearest street of that name in Los Angeles County.

Ten years from now she'll tell that as a lesson learned when teaching workshops for the next generation of high school activists.

Not that it'd necessarily be a gun control workshop. Various liberal groups were showing their flags at the march. Civil rights groups. The local Cesar Chavez committee. Beto O'Rourke's campaign. Other Democratic candidates.

We gave a bottle of water to a guy who was leading chants on the march. He'd been doing protests his whole life, and looked closer to my age than my kids. His chants weren't about guns, much more civil rights focused. So he was representative of all the folks who weren't there to talk gun policy but leftist politics in general.

I did want to talk gun policy. Though the only ones I talked about it with were a couple of ladies who asked what my sign meant:
Middle aged guy at protest march.
(Pro tip: don't skip breakfast before going for a long walk in warm sun. I was wilting a bit.)

"IMPRISON STRAW BUYERS" is poking at a wide hole in the enforcement of current gun laws. Someone with a clean record who buys a gun for someone prohibited from owning one (the "straw buyer") is committing a felony. But the Feds rarely prosecute them, and offer easy plea bargains when they do.

That holds with many of the gun laws we have. Putting down false information on the background check form is a crime, and is often caught when NICS checks are made. Prosecuted? Hardly ever.

This is part of what makes 2nd Amendment fans suspicious of suggestions for "reasonable" "common sense" gun laws. If the laws aren't being enforced against the criminals, why are more restrictions being put on the law-abiding?

Part of that is a worry about the "slippery slope" problem. If guns are banned, and murders continue, what will be banned next? The Brits are answering that as they put active efforts into trying to ban knives as weapons.

Even a knife ban won't stop criminals. They'll throw acid in people's faces or run people over with trucks.

Describing a new gun control rule as a "compromise" just makes 2nd Amendment people wary at this point. A hundred years ago citizens could have automatic weapons, short barreled rifles, silencers, and carry pistols without a permit. Now there's so many rules it's a full time job to figure out what's legal in a jurisdiction. Collectors are forced to get dealer licenses to protect themselves from prosecution for owning too many guns.

There's already been many restrictions on guns. Too many people are open about wanting to confiscate all guns. Why they want to live in a country where all rifles are carried by people under Trump's orders I don't know, but that's what they're asking for.

At this point the gun control fans can't keep track of the laws. I keep seeing suggestions for rules that are already in place.

I did see one set of suggestions that intrigue me. (backup link) It's a real compromise, in that both sides would be getting something they want.

Swiss-style universal background checks

Opening up the NICS to private sellers so they can check if their buyer is allowed to own guns. I'm good with that. It doesn't have a registry of guns that could be used for future confiscation attempts. Still vulnerable to straw buyers and other evasions, but we have laws for that now.

This may also have an unintended consequence by making the database available for non-gun purposes. Any guy at a singles bar better have a recent background check code if he wants someone to go home with him.

Extreme risk protection orders

Another name for the GVROs I talked about in my last post. If someone is presenting a danger, show a judge and get a restraining order.

EDIT: see edit to previous post. This is being implemented badly and I no longer think it's a good idea.

Classify bump stocks as machine guns

Bump stocks trade accuracy for firing speed. Their effect can be duplicated with a belt and rubber band. But I won't miss them. The main argument against banning them is the slippery slope. 2nd Amendment supporters who've had many miles taken don't want to give up another inch. Doing it as part of a big compromise package would answer that.

Put silencers in the same legal category as handguns, not grenade launchers

Oh, yes, please. Then my local range can mandate them for the guys with the big pistols that hurt my ears through the hearing protection. For anyone wondering if this will make murder too easy, Hollywood has been lying about the effectiveness of silencers. It's still a loud bang. It just causes less ear damage.

Repeal Depression-era barrel length laws

Yep. They're dumb. Mostly enforced on people too dumb to check the rules, or someone the ATF is trying to entrap.

Concealed carry permit reciprocity

I'm all for this. Self defense is a right for all Americans.

Mass shootings are a media contagion. The press can help stop it with the same anti-copycat guidelines they already use for suicides.

Yes. Reporters are flogging the hell out stories to get clicks and ratings. They're convincing kids that shootings are a major danger when they're well below traffic accidents. And if they can't carry out the copycat guidelines, could they at least not fucking tell potential copycats that shooting up their school will make girls send them sexy pictures?

Penalize agencies that fail to update the NICS background check system

This is already happening.

Those suggestions are useful, and as a package should be able to gather widespread support. Will they? Well, that depends on whether activists want to make useful changes in the law . . . or just try to enrage their supporters to get them to donate funds and vote for preferred candidates.