Nov 25

On the shooting of Laquan McDonald

One of my regulars, mindful of the forensic analysis I did on the Michael Brown autopsy photos last year, has asked me to comment on the Laquan McDonald shooting from my point of view as a pistol and self-defense instructor.

The fast version: I would have said this was what cops call a “good shoot” if it had stopped at the first two bullets. It didn’t. I don’t think this was murder one, but it was at least criminally negligent homicide and those who covered it up should be prosecuted along with Van Dyke.

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Oct 06

Vox is wrong – we don’t have too many guns, we have too many criminals

One of my followers on G+ asked me to comment on a Vox article,
What no politician wants to admit about gun control

I’ve studied the evidence, and I don’t believe the effect of the Australian confiscation on homicides was significant.  You can play games with statistics to make it look that way, but they are games.

As for the major contention of the article, it’s simply wrong.  80% of U.S. crime, including gun violence, is associated with the drug trade and happens in urban areas where civil order has partially or totally collapsed.

Outside those areas, the U.S. looks like Switzerland or Norway – lots of guns, very little crime.  Those huge, peaceful swathes of high-gun-ownership areas show that our problem is not too many guns, it’s too many criminals.

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Jan 12

Review: Gun Control in the Third Reich

Stephen P. Halbrook’s Gun Control in the Third Reich is a book that every advocate of “gun control” in the modern U.S. and elsewhere should read – but almost certainly never will.

Most other historians have ignored or outright suppressed the role of weapons law and weapons confiscations in the Nazi imposition of totalitarianism on Germany before World War II. Thus it is forgotten that the legal pretext for the infamous Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938 was the confiscation of all firearms from Jewish owners. And that most of the first major wave of Jews sent to the concentration camps went there on charges of illegal possession of weapons.

Gun control was not an incidental feature of Nazi tyranny, it was one of the central tools of totalitarian repression and genocide. If Halbrook’s book had no other virtues, the reminder of this stark fact would be enough to recommend it.

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Aug 18

This picture tells a shooting story

Before you read any further, go look at the drawing accompanying the New Tork Times article on the autopsy of Michael Brown,

There’s a story in that picture. To read it, you have to be familiar with pistol shooting and the kind of pistol self-defense training that cops and amateur sheepdogs like me engage in.

In the remainder of this post I’m going to walk you through the process of extracting the story from the picture.

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Feb 10

Operator rules

Everybody knows, or should know, the basic rules of firearms safety. (a) Always treat the weapon as if loaded, (b) Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy, (c) keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, (d) be sure of your target and what is beyond it. (These are sometimes called “Cooper’s Rules” after legendary instructor Col. Jeff Cooper. There are several minor variants of the wording.)

If you follow these rules, you will never unintentionally injure anyone with a firearm. They are easy to learn and very safe. They are appropriate for civilians.

Some elite military units have different rules, with a different tradeoff between safety and combat effectiveness. I learned them from an instructor who was ex-SOCOM. The way I learned them is sufficiently amusing that the story deserves retelling.

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May 04

Destroying the middle ground, redux

A few weeks ago I blogged an alternate-history story in which the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was abused and distorted in the same ways the Second Amendment has been in our history. The actual point of the essay, though, was not about either amendment; it was about how strategic deception by one side of a foundational political dispute can radicalize the other and effectively destroy the credibility of moderates as well.

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Apr 15

Destroying the middle ground

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine yourself in an alternate United States where the First Amendment is not as a matter of settled law considered to bar Federal and State governments from almost all interference in free speech. This is less unlikely than it might sound; the modern, rather absolutist interpretation of free-speech liberties did not take form until the early 20th century.

In this alternate America, there are many and bitter arguments about the extent of free-speech rights. The ground of dispute is to what extent the instruments of political and cultural speech (printing presses, radios, telephones, copying machines, computers) should be regulated by government so that use of these instruments does not promote violence, assist criminal enterprises, and disrupt public order.

The weight of history and culture is largely on the pro-free-speech side – the Constitution does say “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. And until the late 1960s there is little actual attempt to control speech instruments.

Then, in 1968, after a series of horrific crimes and assassinations inspired by inflammatory anti-establishment political propaganda, some politicians, prominent celebrities, and public intellectuals launch a “speech control” movement. They wave away all comparisons to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, insisting that their goal is not totalitarian control but only the prevention of the most egregious abuses in the public square.

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Aug 23

Defense Distributed

I suppose it was inevitable, in a good way. Some friends of freedom have begun a project dedicated to developing and sharing open-source designs for firearms that can be manufactured with a 3D printer. Read about it here at Defense Distributed.

I approve, of course. I approve of any development that makes it more difficult for governments and criminals to monopolize the use of force. As 3D printers become less expensive and more ubiquitous, this could be a major step in the right direction.

Jul 22

Gun-free fantasy zones

After the Aurora theater shooting, it was of course inevitable that the jackals at the Brady Campaign and the Violence Policy vendor would be trying to make a political meal from the victims’ corpses before they had even had time to cool to room temperature. The usual round of inane honking about “common-sense gun control” ensued just as if this psycho (like most others) hadn’t cheerfully violated several laws well before he pulled the trigger.

But enough about the usual idiots; let’s talk about “Gun-free zones”. We’re told the movie theater had a sign up announcing its “gun-free” policy. Yeah, and how well did that work out for ya?

Try as I might, I am unable to comprehend the thinking of people who put “gun-free zone” signs in theaters, or on homes, or anywhere. How do they not get that criminals and madmen will read this as “Get your tasty defenseless victims, right here?”

At least “gun-free” signs on homes generally only jeopardize people stupid enough to put them up. “Gun-free” signs and policies in public spaces are another matter; whatever gibbering moron at Cinemark mandated this one painted bull’s-eyes on a theater-full of innocents.

Two fantasies caused that massacre. The obvious one was James Holmes’s delusional identification with the Joker. The less obvious one was the pious belief that wishing firearms out of sight will keep bad people from doing bad things. Holmes is an obvious psychotic who’s still trapped in the first fantasy; to prevent needless deaths, the rest of us must get free of the second.

For myself, from now on I plan to willfully violate every “gun-free zone” policy I run across. If enough sane people do likewise, perhaps the next massacre can be prevented.

Mar 05

A civil rights victory

Today we scored what may be the most important civil-rights victory since the Heller ruling in 2008. Woollard v. Sheridan was found for the plaintiffs, and
Maryland’s law requiring concealed-carry applicants to show “good and substantial reason” for their permit applications has been found unconstitutional.

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Jul 18

Brin on Heinlein on guns is dead wrong

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about Robert Heinlein, but not to their own facts. In a blog post on Heinlein’s novel Beyond This Horizon, David Brin advances a number of claims which are disputable, and one that is utterly bizarre. He alleges that the thought behind Heinlein’s famous quote “An armed society is a polite society” was not Heinlein’s but issued from John W. Campbell, the editor who with Heinlein invented science fiction as we know it.

This claim is not merely wrong, it attempts to traduce a core belief which Heinlein expressed in his fiction and his nonfiction and his personal letters throughout his life. We do not have to speculate about this; as I shall show, it is so amply documented that Brin’s claim passes from being merely tendentious to outright bizarre.

Brin’s error matters to me personally because, as much as I am anything else, I am one of Heinlein’s children. I have closely studied his works and his life, and that study has shaped me. What I have given to the world through my advocacy of open source is directly tied back to what the Old Man taught me about liberty, transparency, and moral courage. And I am never more Heinlein’s child than when I advocate for an armed (and polite) society.

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Dec 10

Examples and consequences

SF author and civil-rights activist Joel Rosenberg has been unjustly arrested. Good coverage at PopeHat; essentially this is harassment following a Nov 5th assault on Joel by a cop while he was pursuing a FOIA request related to his first arrest, on bogus charges that prosecutors subsequently dropped.

I have very mixed feelings about this one, because I suspect I may, in a manner of speaking, have helped get Joel in trouble.

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Sep 21

Fourteen months of carrying

It is now about fourteen months since, after receiving my second death threat, I started carrying a firearm almost constantly. This experience has taught me a few truths, some merely amusing but others with larger implications.

The major lesson: people are amazingly oblivious to what they don’t expect to see. When I carry using a belt holster (not my only method), I watch peoples’ eye movements and facial expressions for this pattern: eyes going to my right hip, momentary startlement or an increase in tension. This would mean the shirt I’m wearing flapped over the pistol butt has ridden up and it’s exposed. But, in fact, with only one exception that I’ll get to, I have never seen this. On the other hand, there have been occasions when I’ve noticed by touch that the weapon was exposed, or my wife has told me it’s showing, and nobody around me gives any sign of having noticed.

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Jul 01

After the McDonald decision: what next?

Monday’s decision in McDonald vs. City of Chicago is a major victory for civil rights. Yes, it was 5-4 and the ruling was weaker than it could have been, but the basic holding that the Second Amendment is incorporated against states and all lower levels of government can be a powerful tool for positive change if we wield it correctly. The legal climate for full restoration of firearms rights in the U.S. is now better than it’s been since the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Much remains to be done, however. The Heller ruling in 2008, while affirming that firearms ownership is a fundamental individual right, allowed “reasonable regulation” and failed to specify a standard of scrutiny for what is “reasonable”; the McDonald decision does not specify this either. The constitutionally correct position, of course, is that laws infringing on Second Amendment liberties should have to meet the same strictest-scrutiny standard applied where the First Amendment is concerned — but the City of Chicago has already made plain its intent to nullify the Heller and MacDonald rulings by equating “reasonable” with “prohibitive”.

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Jun 11

Hanging nicely: a practical tip for pistol-wearers

I made a minor but useful discovery about pistol holsters this morning. It may be something a million shooters have figured out sooner, but since it took me over a year of constant carry to notice there are probably at least as many who haven’t. Therefore the following tip.

I use several carry methods depending on conditions. One of them is a DeSantis MiniSlide, a smallish leather belt holster designed for concealed carry; my belt threads through slots in the holster’s side flaps. While this rig is generally satisfactory, it has shown some tendency to slide around, and adjusting the rig when it slips into an uncomfortable position is something I prefer not to do in public.

This morning it occurred to me that I could cut down on the shifting by threading my belt through the rear slot in the holster, under one of the keeper loops on my Levis, and then through the front slot of the holster. This does two good things: (1) it snugs down the belt between the holster slots, slightly increasing the inward pressure on the flaps so slippage is decreased, and (2) it prevents the weapon from sliding any further forward or back than the point at which one side will hang up on the keeper in the middle.

That is all.

Dec 28

Terrorism and the militia obligation

Section 311 of US Code Title 10, entitled, “Militia: composition and classes” reads:

“(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are —

(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.”

That is, all males of military age who are or intend to become citizens of the United States are under federal statute the “unorganized militia”, and have the duty of the militia to defend the Constitution of the United States against enemies foreign and domestic (as both naturalizing citizens and members of the armed forces swear to do).

This is always worth remembering, but never more than when prompt and violent action by civilians has recently prevented the murder by bombing of an entire planeload of passengers, as occurred on December 25th 2009 on Northwest flight 253.

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Nov 05

Maybe if moral cowardice cost money, it would be less common?

Heh. State representative Fred Maslack of Vermont has proposed a bill under which non-gun-owners would have to register and pay a fee. Entertainingly enough, there is actual justification for this in a careful reading of the Vermont state constitution.

The Hon. Rep. Maslack is joking. I think. And I’m against requiring people who don’t want to bear arms to do so. But gad, how tempting – because underlying his argument is a truth that the drafters of the Vermont and U.S. constitutions understood. People who refuse to take arms in defense of themselves and their neighbors are inflicting a cost on their communities far more certainly than healthy people who refuse to buy medical insurance (and yes, I do think that proposed mandate is an intended target of Maslack’s jab). That externality is measured in higher crime rates, higher law-enforcement and prison budgets, and all the (dis)opportunity costs associated with increased crime. And that’s before you get to the political consequences…

I’ve never made a secret of my evaluation that refusal to bear arms is a form of moral cowardice masquerading as virtue. Real adults know how precious human life is, when they are ethically required to risk it on behalf of others, and when killing is both necessary and justified. Real adults know that there is no magic about wearing a police or military uniform; those decisions are just as hard, and just as necessary, when we deny we’re making them by delegating them to others. Real adults do not shirk the responsibility that this knowledge implies. And the wistful thought Rep Maslack’s proposal leaves me with is…maybe if moral cowardice cost money and humiliation, there would be less of it.

Jul 10

In which I am thankful for Barack Obama’s election

I’ve been trying to buy a gun recently, a better carry weapon (and by “better” I mean more concealable than what I have now and in my favorite caliber). My friends, I am here to tell you that this is an awful time to be in the market for a firearm; they are scarce and teeth-jarringly expensive because demand for them has gone through the roof. On reflection, though this is deucedly inconvenient for me at the moment, I think it implies some excellent news for the longer term and is one of a very few reasons I can think of to be grateful that Barack Obama is in the White House today.

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