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Published: Tue, 20 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2018 02:58:03 -0400


Why We Shouldn't Give Special Credence to the Political Views of Young People and Victims

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 17:24:00 -0400

Recent events, such as the national school "walkout" to promote gun control, raise the question of how much credence we should give to the political views of young people and crime victims. If large numbers of high school or college-age people support a view and protest in favor of it, does that make it any more likely to be true? In a recent Washington Post column, Megan McArdle casts cold water on the notion that the walkout and other similar events reflect any special insight of the young, that the rest of us should defer to: The idea that children, in their innocence, have special moral insight goes back a long way in Western culture... It has, of course, always warred with some variant of the belief that "children should be seen and not heard" — that children are not yet ready to hold up their end in adult conversations.... Kids today do know something that the rest of us don't: what it's like to be kids today. But the rest of us do remember what it was like to be kids. If children really were special repositories of virtue, then it is doubtful so many people would recall their school days as the lifetime peak of personal meanness — both receiving and giving. And while teenagers are near the peak of their ability to absorb information, they are decades from the peak of "crystallized intelligence" — their stock of knowledge about the world, or what we might call "wisdom...." That is not to say that gun-control advocacy is stupid. But if you wouldn't be swayed by a 17-year-old's passionate advocacy for a lower drinking age — or for that matter, their ideas about Federal Reserve policy — then you should probably apply those same cautions to their other views.... What is true of children is - though to a much lesser degree - also true of many young adults in their late teens or early twenties. They too are, on average, less knowledgeable and have less developed judgment than people at later stages in the life-cycle. For many years, surveys of political knowledge have consistently found that it correlates with age. The young, as a general rule, know less about government and public policy than other age groups. For that reason, they are also less likely to have valuable insights on how to address difficult issues. Obviously, there is enormous variation among both young people and older ones. As with most other statistical generalizations, there are numerous exceptions to the general correlation between age and political knowledge. Many older adults are deeply ignorant about public policy. Indeed, such ignorance is both widespread and, for most voters, actually rational behavior. By contrast, there clearly are young people - including some children - who know far more about policy issues than the vast majority of adults. I have long argued that, at least in principle, children with high levels of political knowledge should be given the right to vote, regardless of age. It would be a mistake to dismiss policy proposals out of hand, merely because of the age of their adherents. But it is also a mistake to ascribe any special political wisdom to the young. The fact that large numbers of young people support a political cause adds little, if anything, to its merits. The recent gun control protests draw moral authority not only from the age of the protesters, but from the fact that some of their leaders are survivors of school shootings, such as the one in Parkland, Florida that precipitated the current round of protest activity. Even school-age protesters who have not personally experienced gun violence may be seen as having special moral authority, because they are perceived as facing a heightened risk of suffering such horrible events in the future. In reality, school shootings are extraordinarily rare, and schools are among the safest places in American society. Schoolchildren are far more likely to be killed in accidents while walking or riding their bikes to school than in a shooting at school. But even if students really were disproportionately likely to be victims of gun violence, that would not be a good [...]

Brickbat: Sending a Message

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Officials with Indiana's Owen Valley High School contacted police after sophomore Marcus Padgett posted an anti-gun control message on Snapchat. Padgett posted an image of a rifle and the caption, "Waiting for it to go out and start killing people ... it still hasn't moved." Cops quickly determined Padgett wasn't threatening anyone, but he and his family say people in the school and in the town they live in now treat him as a potential school shooter.

Challenge to Gun Ban in East St. Louis Public Housing

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 12:38:00 -0500

Some public housing projects ban tenants from possessing guns. Does that violate the Second Amendment (or similar state constitutional right to bear arms provisions)? The just-filed Complaint in Doe v. East St. Louis Housing Auth. (S.D. Ill.) may yield an answer -- unless the housing authority changes its policy, as San Francisco and Warren County (Illinois) had done. Here's an excerpt from the Complaint: [2.] Plaintiff N. DOE, filing anonymously, is a resident of Auburn Terrace, a public housing facility in East St. Louis, Illinois, administered by the East St. Louis Housing Authority. She is a customer service representative for a medical supply distributor, who due to health issues of her family and herself, became in need of governmental assistance in the form of subsidized housing. She has a valid Illinois FOID card, and has trained and educated in the safe use of firearms. She wishes to possess a handgun in her residence for self-defense, and did at one point, but has been forced to refrain from doing so due to the threat of losing her subsidized housing. At the present time, she resides with her two teenage children in her residence.... [6.] N. DOE has an ex-husband who was incarcerated for murder. He was released on probation, and during that time was violently abusive to N. DOE on multiple occasions, including choking her to unconsciousness, and beating her so badly that she had internal bleeding. He threatened, on multiple occasions, to kill N. DOE and her two children if she ended her relationship with him. As a result of this violence, he was returned to prison with his probation revoked. He has since been released, and N. DOE has recently received word that he is still "very angry" with her and is looking for her. [7.] Further, in January, 2017, N. DOE was beaten and raped in her home by a family acquaintance, who decided that since N. DOE was suffering from a hand injury, that she was unable to fight back. During the rape, N. DOE was able to call for help from her children, who stopped the attack by threatening to brandish the firearm, that at the time was in the residence, at the attacker and getting the attacker to leave N. DOE's residence. [8.] On two occasions, N. DOE has to call the police due to shootings in nearby residences. Shootings are common enough to be called routine in the subject ESLHA property.... [17.] Section IX.(p) of the ESLHA Lease, entitled "RESIDENT'S OBLIGATIONS," requires that N. DOE is "[n]ot to display, use, or possess or allow members of [DOE's] household or guests to display, use, or possess any firearms, (operable or inoperable) … anywhere in the unit or elsewhere on the property of the Authority." [18.] Section XI.E. of the ESLHA Lease, entitled "SPECIAL INSPECTIONS," states that "ESLHA staff may conduct a special inspection for any of the following reasons: ... Suspected lease violation." There is little law on the subject, and it's mixed: [A.] Constitutional rights generally seem to apply to public housing, though there have been few cases on the subject. See, e.g., Pratt v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 848 F. Supp. 792 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (holding that the Fourth Amendment barred warrantless sweeps through public housing projects); Resident Action Council v. Seattle Hous. Auth., 174 P.3d 84 (Wash. 2008) (evaluating restriction on public housing residents' posting materials on the outside of their apartment doors the same way the U.S. Supreme Court had evaluated restriction on private residents' rights to post materials in their windows). [B.] A 2014 Delaware Supreme Court decision held that public housing tenants have a right to bear arms under the Delaware Constitution's right to bear arms provision -- "A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use" -- even in common areas of the building. (The court noted that the Delaware Constitution's language may justify broader protection than that given by the Second Amendment, and indeed a federal di[...]

Michigan Lawsuit Against Dick's Sporting Goods for Age Discrimination in Gun Sales

Wed, 07 Mar 2018 11:31:00 -0500

In Fulton v. Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc., filed yesterday, an 18-year-old plaintiff is suing over Dick's refusing -- based on his age -- to sell him a rifle. Michigan law categorically prohibits age discrimination except where allowed by other provisions (which would include laws banning alcohol sales to under-21-year-olds, the federal law banning handgun sales by licensed gun dealers to under-21-year-olds, and the like): Except where permitted by law, a person shall not: (a) Deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service [which includes retailers -EV] because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status. (b) Print, circulate, post, mail, or otherwise cause to be published a statement, advertisement, notice, or sign which indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service will be refused, withheld from, or denied an individual because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status, or that an individual's patronage of or presence at a place of public accommodation is objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status. Plaintiff is seeking damages, injunctions, costs, and attorney fees. (Under the Michigan statute, sec. 37.2802, a court is authorized but not required to award costs and attorney fees to prevailing plaintiffs.) I don't know of any provision in Michigan law that "permit[s]" refusing to sell rifles or shotguns to 18-to-20-year-olds, so this seems like a winning claim, like the Oregon lawsuit against Dick's and Walmart that I blogged about yesterday. My question: Doesn't Dick Sporting Goods have a legal department? I'd think a company with stores nationwide would realize that age discrimination might be illegal in some states, would quickly review what those states might be, and would then simply set up a policy that excludes them. True, the companies are presumably trying to make a public statement with their no-gun-sales-to-under-21-year-olds policy; but that statement shouldn't be much diluted by an exception for some states when the explanation for the exception is that they have to comply with the law. And now the news is shifting to "Dick's Sporting Goods being sued for illegal discrimination" instead of "Dick's Sporting Goods is taking a stand to try to prevent gun crime," which was presumably Dick's goal. Nor are these some sorts of obscure laws that would be a surprise even to company lawyers. Perhaps some city and county ordinances might be, though I take it that retailers are aware that localities sometimes have special rules; but state antidiscrimination laws, including ones that reach far beyond federal law, are well-known, and the fact that different states have different rules is, too. It shouldn't be a surprise that, even if many states don't ban age discrimination in retail sales, a substantial minority of states does. And nationwide bricks-and-mortar retailers must have learned over the decades that they need to think about laws being different in different states. Now perhaps I'm expecting too much -- perhaps it's just that mistakes happen in business, and the failure to properly vet the policy is one of them. Or perhaps this wasn't a mistake, and Dick's deliberately thought that a blanket policy, even if it's illegal in some states, would get it much more public relations punch than a policy that excepted some states. Or perhaps the Dick's management has such a firm moral opposition to sales of rifles and shotguns to 18-to-20-year-olds that it doesn't mind a few lawsuits (though I suspect that, while some corporate managers are militantly opposed to selling guns, few would be fine with selling guns to 21-year-olds, but be so f[...]

Age Discrimination Suit Against Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart for Refusing to Sell Rifle to 20-Year-Old

Tue, 06 Mar 2018 08:04:00 -0500

The case against Dick's Sporting Goods -- which raises the claim discussed here last week -- is Watson v. Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc., just filed yesterday in Jackson County (Oregon) Circuit Court; the Oregonian (Aimee Green) reports that the same plaintiff also filed a lawsuit against Walmart. [UPDATE: Here's the Watson v. Walmart, Inc. complaint.] Oregon is one of the states that bans retailers from discriminating based on age against customers age 18 and above. The Oregon statute says it generally applies to any person who is "of age," which appears to mean 18, the age of majority in Oregon, at least for those products that are legal to sell to 18-to-20-year-olds (as long guns are in Oregon). Indeed, the statute specifically mentions alcohol and marijuana sellers for special treatment, but makes no such special provision for gun sellers: 659A.403 Discrimination in place of public accommodation prohibited. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is of age, as described in this section, or older. (2) Subsection (1) of this section does not prohibit: (a) The enforcement of laws governing the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors and the frequenting by minors of places of public accommodation where alcoholic beverages are served; (b) The enforcement of laws governing the use of marijuana items ... by persons under 21 years of age and the frequenting by persons under 21 years of age of places of public accommodation where marijuana items are sold; or (c) The offering of special rates or services to persons 50 years of age or older. (3) It is an unlawful practice for any person to deny full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation in violation of this section.... 659A.406 Aiding or abetting certain discrimination prohibited. Except as otherwise authorized by ORS 659A.403, it is an unlawful practice for any person to aid or abet any place of public accommodation, as defined in ORS 659A.400, or any employee or person acting on behalf of the place of public accommodation to make any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older. 659A.409 Notice that discrimination will be made in place of public accommodation prohibited; age exceptions. Except as provided by laws governing the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors, the use of marijuana items ... by persons under 21 years of age, the frequenting by minors of places of public accommodation where alcoholic beverages are served and the frequenting by persons under 21 years of age of places of public accommodation where marijuana items are sold, and except for special rates or services offered to persons 50 years of age or older, it is an unlawful practice for any person acting on behalf of any place of public accommodation as defined in ORS 659A.400 to publish, circulate, issue or display, or cause to be published, circulated, issued or displayed, any communication, notice, advertisement or sign of any kind to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services or privileges of the place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination will be made against, any person on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is of age, as described in this section, or older. The statute provides (in sec. 659A.885) that, if the plaintiff wins, he shall be awarded rea[...]

3 States Pushing Stricter Gun Laws After Parkland (Plus 2 States That Want to Make Gun Ownership Easier)

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 16:15:00 -0500

Any momentum for federal action on gun legislation following the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida—which left 17 people dead—appears to be stalled for the moment. In the wake of the shooting, Democratic lawmakers renewed their demands for an "assault weapon" ban, while President Donald Trump has pushed for arming teachers. But with Congress predictably logjammed on the issue—and having chosen instead to tackle banking reform before the Easter recess—states have taken the initiative, with wildly divergent results. 1. Illinois Leading the pack of Democratic states pushing stricter firearm regulations is Illinois. The legislature there is currently mulling a slew of bills to crack down on gun ownership. House Bill 1467 would prohibit the possession of bump stocks, a relatively uncommon gun modification that increases the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon. Because of their relative unpopularity, bump stocks have become the low-hanging fruit of gun control measures. More sweeping is House Bill 1465, which bans those under the age of 21 from possessing any semi-automatic rifle that can hold more than 10 rounds and certain pistols with detachable magazines. Both bills have passed the state House and are now being considered by the state Senate. Also under consideration is House Bill 1469, which would prohibit magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and ban civilians from wearing body armor—with exceptions for security guards, actors, and kids with Kevlar backpacks. 2. Washington Not to be outdone is Washington state, which last week passed its own bump stock ban and is now moving on to bigger and better gun control measures. These include Senate Bill 6620, which would prohibit anyone under 21 from owning not just pistols—something state law already does—but literally any semi-automatic rifle. The bill also establishes a grant program to fund school resource officers—law enforcement employees who, you may remember, proved less than helpful during the Parkland shooting. The National Rifle Association says that preventing law-abiding adults "from acquiring semi-automatic rifles would deny them access to the most modern and effective rifles for self-defense, thus depriving them of their constitutional rights." The bill has currently passed out of committee and is waiting to be voted on by the full state Senate before moving on to the state House. 3. Pennsylvania Pennsylvania legislators are in the early stages of pushing gun control legislation. State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D–Allegheny) is currently soliciting co-sponsors for an "assault weapons" ban that would likely go beyond what even Washington and Illinois have so far proposed. "My bill will broaden the [scope] of what the state classifies as assault weapons including banning more than 150-gun models," says Fontana in a memorandum to other state legislators that also refers to the "Lakeland, Florida" shooting and promises to mirror legislation passed in Connecticut shortly after Sandy Hook. Fontana is also pushing for the creation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which would allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition a court to suspend a person's right to possess firearms for up to a year if a judge finds that person a risk to himself or others. Oregon passed a similar law last year; Washington, California, and Connecticut also have versions on the books. The details of Fontana's proposals are still sketchy, as the legislation has yet to be drafted. 4. Oklahoma In Oklahoma, meanwhile, state lawmakers are looking to loosen restrictions on firearms. Currently awaiting a floor vote from the state House of Representatives is H.B. 2951, which would eliminate the requirement that residents get a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon within state borders. Such "constitutional carry" legislation is already the law of the land in some 13 states. The bill was proposed by Rep. Jeff Coody (R–Grandfie[...]

Vilifying Gun Owners Doesn’t Lead to a Better Society

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 09:53:00 -0500

Last week, outdoor gear retailer REI became the latest business to pledge its fealty to the raging culture war against wrongthink. It's a high-stakes move that's unlikely to end well for the activists pushing the effort. "We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month," REI announced with regard to its relationship with supplier Vista Outdoor. "This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds." But "REI does not sell guns," as the firm itself announced. Instead, it sells products—including Camelbak hydration gear—made by companies that are owned by Vista Outdoor, which also owns Savage Arms, which does sell guns. REI's announcement, then, is a test of its economic leverage to compel a company with which it has no direct relationship to embrace a specific set of firearms policy preferences. (REI's Canadian counterpart, MEC, made a similar move.) "It may seem a little bit like internet slacktivism," Slate senior business correspondent Jordan Weissmann concedes of the focus on isolating and inconveniencing the National Rifle Association and gun owners. "But it does send a message that the organization is no longer politically mainstream, which might ultimately matter to some politicians." There's a lot of this going around, and while it's currently framed most commonly around gun policy, it looks a lot like part of a larger effort to delegitimize cultural and ideological enemies and force everybody to pick a side—preferably, the "right" side, from the point of view of the folks doing the pushing. "Progressives could be on the verge of delegitimizing their foes, on guns, but also on much else, rendering them untouchable for anybody who wants to stay in polite society," cautions David Brooks of the New York Times. He adds that "progressives are getting better and better at silencing dissenting behavior." In that light, it's worth noting the pounding that Marvel Comics took when a company executive suggested that efforts to diversify characters were meeting with limited enthusiasm among readers. Even though Senior Vice President David Gabriel mourned that the situation "was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out," he and the company took a public beating. Simply trying to process sales figures and analyze feedback from customers was deemed unacceptable. Then there's the recent proliferation in the book industry of "sensitivity readers" who make sure that works slated for publication espouse only approved positions on race, religion, gender, sexuality, culture, and the like. Kirkus Reviews actually yanked a positive review of the young adult novel American Heart because some critics claimed it was "culturally insensitive"—an inherently ideological objection. "Behind the scenes," reports the Seattle Times, "these readers are having a profound impact on children's literature, reshaping stories in big and small ways before they reach young audiences." And, while YouTube claimed that February's temporary muzzling of a number of right-leaning channels was an error resulting from new hires botching efforts to enforce content guidelines, the disparate impact on part of the political spectrum inevitably resulted in fears of an ideological purge. Amazon, Apple, and YouTube remain under pressure from activists and celebrities to drop the NRA's video service in a direct effort to silence the gun-rights group's voice. "The NRA is so engrained in the American culture now because of their very successful messaging of, 'Don't take away my gun' or 'You're infringing on[...]

Guns, Code, and Freedom

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 06:00:00 -0500

Gun control is not dead," says Cody Wilson. "Gun control is undead. We just keep killing it but it keeps coming back." Wilson, a crypto-anarchist and serial troublemaker, launched the age of the digital gun in 2013 when he published files showing how to make the Liberator, a 3D-printed pistol. It set off a panic in the media and in anti-gun political circles. By late 2014, his company, Defense Distributed, had raised enough capital to begin manufacturing the Ghost Gunner, a miniature computer numerical control (CNC) mill designed to take an "80 percent lower" for an AR-15 and turn it into a legal, untraceable, fully functioning metal firearm. (While the 3D-printing process is additive, creating objects out of soft material such as plastics, milling is subtractive, cutting away material from an existing structure, and can be done to both plastics and metals.) For the uninitiated, the Ghost Gunner's purpose takes some unpacking. A lower receiver is the part generally considered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to be the "firearm," whether other components are present or not. It is also the part that must be stamped with a serial number when produced by a commercial manufacturer. So-called 80 percent lowers (or "80 percent frames") are, as the name suggests, only four-fifths complete. As a result, they're not firearms in a legal sense. Anyone can purchase an 80 percent lower and then use his own tools to do the remaining mill work, turning the object into a working weapon. It is perfectly licit in the U.S. to make a gun this way; outside of California, it does not need to be registered or serialized. For four years, Wilson has been embroiled in a legal battle over his work. But it's not the ATF he's fighting—it's the State Department. Shortly after publication of the Liberator instructions, the agency forced Defense Distributed to remove those files from its website, citing violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). In 2015, joined by the Second Amendment Foundation and the legendary attorney Alan Gura, Wilson challenged the State Department's order on First, Second, and Fifth Amendment grounds. They later petitioned the Supreme Court for a temporary injunction that would null the take-down order until their lawsuit is resolved. In January, the high court declined to hear the case, sending it back to a lower court in Texas to be argued on the merits. Despite the ongoing legal skirmishing, Defense Distributed in late 2017 released new files allowing the Ghost Gunner to mill handgun frames in addition to rifles. In December, Reason's Mark McDaniel spoke with Wilson about the future of gun control, how a weapon can be speech, and where Western liberal decadence is taking us. Reason: How do the new Ghost Gunner files differ from what you've done before? Cody Wilson: All handguns will eventually be available to people to produce for themselves, to complete from 80 percent, and to do in the privacy of their own homes. On October 1 we published a new set of files for handguns. Our mill can do AR-15 receivers and .308 receivers, but proceeding into this new chapter of handgun finishing, the 1911 and the Glock are our inaugural files. This is another dimension of doing Second Amendment work for yourself, because the handgun is concealable, right? It's a different conversation than just making rifles. Besides its concealability, what makes the handgun fundamentally different from the AR? A lot of people are unfamiliar with rifle culture, the old American rifleman idea. A lot of people living in an urban setting like D.C. wouldn't consider slinging an AR-15 on their back. But they would at least think about whether they wanted to have a handgun concealed and made without anyone else's knowledge. This is a question that you ask yourself. And so it's kind of a temptation, an invitation to [...]

Are We Experiencing Peak Gun Rights?

Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:15:00 -0500

We may have reached peak gun rights. History could very well record that in the modern era, the Second Amendment received its most generous reading in 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided its last major case, and that gun rights have been declining ever since. This prospect is as worrisome for anyone who takes an expansive view of the Second Amendment as it must be exhilarating for anti-gun advocates. Since 2010, residents of California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, Colorado, Oregon—and states with similarly minded legislatures—have found themselves slapped with new restrictions that did not exist eight years ago. The U.S. Supreme Court has done precisely nothing to stop this extra-constitutional adventurism. Meanwhile, attempts to liberalize gun laws in the U.S. Congress have run aground. The U.S. House of Representatives approved concealed carry reciprocity last year, but both it and a related bill remain stuck in the Senate. A hearing protection bill, modeled after similar laws in Norway and Denmark that deregulated suppressors for firearms, has been waiting for a House vote since last September. So has another House bill that would curb overly broad state and local restrictions on rifles and shotguns. After President Trump's brainstorming session with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) this week about new firearm restrictions, the political outlook has darkened. Instead of working to advance pro-gun rights legislation, however fitfully, Second Amendment supporters are now trying to imagine what form a restrictionist proposal—possibly written by Feinstein, author of its 1994 ancestor—might take, and precisely how confiscatory it will be. (Trump's remarks also invite speculation about what kind of Supreme Court justice he might appoint, should another vacancy happen.) Trump seemed to backpedal on Twitter yesterday morning, and later announced that he had a "great" meeting with the National Rifle Association that evening. Perhaps he was reminded that, if gun owners choose to sit out the 2020 election, this particular chief executive should not expect a second term. But without clear direction from the White House, and without a president willing to devote the energy required to advance good legislation, the Second Amendment's legal protections are likely to continue to shrink. Most of the blame should land on the shoulders of a supermajority of the current Supreme Court justices. In the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller and 2010 McDonald v. City of Chicago cases, the court declared the Second Amendment to be a fundamental constitutional right that states and municipalities must respect. After that pair of decisions, courts were supposed to review laws restricting gun rights with the same reflexive skepticism as they would laws that restrict free speech or abortion. That did not happen. A series of lower courts, in particular the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, creatively interpreted those important rulings into near-nullities—effectively overruling the Supreme Court. Bizarrely, at least six justices have decided to let them: it takes four votes to accept an appeal to overrule a lower court, and those four votes have not been forthcoming. "If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt that this Court would intervene," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in last week's dissent from his colleagues' decision not to hear the Silvester v. Harris case from the 9th Circuit. "But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court… The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court's constitutional orphan." (Justice Neil Gorsuch joined Thomas in another dissent last year that made a similar point.) To be sure, some states have veered in the other direction. Texas, Kansas, and New Ha[...]

Broward County Cop Ignored Training, Told Deputies to Form Perimeter Instead of Confronting Nikolas Cruz

Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:50:00 -0500

(image) On the day of the Parkland massacre, Capt. Janice Jordan of the Broward County Sheriff's Office commanded deputies on the scene to secure a perimeter—which they did, instead of entering the building where Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people.

That's contrary to police training, which emphasizes that officers should engage a suspected mass shooter immediately.

According to the dispatch log records obtained by The Miami Herald and Fox News, Jordan issued the command "need perimeter." A few minutes later, she mentioned the importance of setting up a staging area. None of the Broward deputies on scene entered the building, and School Resource Officer Scot Peterson remained outside as well. (Peterson has since lost his job.) The first cop to go inside worked for the Coral Springs Police Department.

Jordan's unwise orders might not have made a difference: According to The Herald, Cruz's six-minute rampage was already over by the time the she issued the perimeter command. It's possible that Cruz ended the mass shooting early because his gun jammed. If that hadn't happened, the decision to set up a perimeter could have been very consequential.

Jordan is currently a finalist for a police chief job in Tequesta, Florida. She told The Palm Beach Post that "Parkland should not affect my chances for this position."

More amazing leadership from a law enforcement agency that failed to take appropriate action before, during, and after the shooting.

Media Reports Australians 'Handed In' 57,000 Guns Last Year; 37,000 of Them Essentially Handed Right Back

Thu, 01 Mar 2018 15:45:00 -0500

The Washington Post tells us today that "As U.S. gun debate rages on, Australians hand in 57,000 firearms." The story says that Australians "handed over 57,000 illegal firearms between July and September last year during a gun amnesty. In total, more than 35,000 rifles and more than 12,000 shotguns were turned in, among other firearms." Given the context the Post itself provides—that the U.S. gun debate is now largely about semi-automatic rifles—it's worth noting that, according to the actual "National Firearms Amnesty 2017" report, only 2,417 were semi-automatic weapons, a far smaller number in this "amnesty" than air rifles, accounting for 4,816. (The report says 162 of the "guns" handed in were "imitation.") That language of the Post headline implies, and nothing in the remainder of either story clarifies further, that citizens in Australia no longer have those 57,000 guns. That is the normal meaning of the phrase "turned in." But as the National Firearms Amnesty report explains, over 37,000 of those guns were merely being officially registered or even sold; only 20,000 of them, around a third of the headline-grabbing number, are actually being taken out of circulation. In 1996, Australia famously reacted to a mass shooting in Port Arthur by initiating a ban and buyback on many kinds of semi-automatic and other (but by no means all) guns. That ban, like all gun bans, has been widely flouted. It's understandable that Australia should interest those wondering if legal measures can curb gun violence and deaths. As a 2008 study from the Melbourne Institute (part of the University of Melbourne) on the effects of Australia's gun control measures after Port Arthur started by noting that Australia's 1996-97 National Firearms Agreement (NFA), which involved the buyback and destruction of over 600,000 guns within a few months, is one of the most massive government adjustments to gun control regulations in the developed world in recent history. The extent of the buyback and accompanying swift nationwide change in the firearm regulatory environment following the enactment of the NFA (prohibition on certain types of firearms, registration requirements etc.) makes this policy a natural experiment in which the results of a methodical evaluation would be extremely interesting... And their rough conclusion? Despite the fact that several researchers using the same data have examined the impact of the NFA on firearm deaths, a consensus does not appear to have been reached. In this paper, we re-analyze the same data on firearm deaths used in previous research, using tests for unknown structural breaks as a means to identifying impacts of the NFA. The results of these tests suggest that the NFA did not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates. The authors came to this conclusion after examining, using a variety of statistical techniques, nearly a century of homicide and suicide data, gun and non-gun, looking for "structural break points" that would indicate some policy or other change was clearly affecting the rates. They did not find any for any period around or after the NFA. They concluded, "Although gun buybacks appear to be a logical and sensible policy that helps to placate the public's fears, the evidence so far suggests that in the Australian context, the high expenditure incurred to fund the 1996 gun buyback has not translated into any tangible reductions in terms of firearm deaths." Those who imagine Australia just manned up and removed any means for Australians to harm each other with guns should also note that Small Arms Survey data from 2007 (the last year the organization seems to have attempted a full world survey of civilian arms ownership) had Australia ranked number 26 among the nations of the world in terms of tota[...]

Can Gun Stores Refuse to Sell Rifles and Shotguns to Under-21-Year-Olds?

Wed, 28 Feb 2018 19:13:00 -0500

A student asked me over lunch: Some stores have announced that they won't sell rifles and shotguns to under-21-year-olds. Is that legal, given that federal law only limits sales of handguns to under-21-year-olds, and doesn't ban sales of long guns to 18-to-20-year-olds?

[1.] Stores' own age limits don't violate the Second Amendment, because the Second Amendment limits only the government, not private companies. Likewise for the Equal Protection Clause (plus the Equal Protection Clause generally doesn't forbid even governmental age classifications).

[2.] The federal Civil Rights Act doesn't cover retail stores, and doesn't cover age, so it doesn't bar such policies, either.

[3.] But about a third of all states ban discrimination based on age in places of public accommodation, and some of those statutes may well ban refusal to sell guns to 18-to-20-year-olds. These laws vary from state to state, so I can't speak to all of them; but the one I checked -- Connecticut (the alphabetically first on the list) -- does indeed seem to ban discrimination against 18-to-20-year-olds in retail sales, with no exception for guns.

[4.] Likewise, some cities and counties have similar ordinances (even if their states don't); two I found, for instance, are Madison, Wisconsin and Broward County, Florida. (I looked them up just because I remembered from other research that they have broad antidiscrimination ordinances.) Seattle, on the other hand, bans age discrimination, but apparently only against people 21 and above, again without regard to whether the store sells guns or anything else.

[5.] Of course, the state and local laws will only affect the stores' policies in those jurisdictions; a store could have a general nationwide policy of not selling some products to under-21-year-olds, but a different policy in those states that require equal treatment of 18-to-20-year-olds.

A High School Student Faces Expulsion for Noticing the Square Root Symbol Looks Like a Gun

Fri, 23 Feb 2018 12:10:00 -0500

A Louisiana high school student was banned from school and had his home searched by deputies entirely because he made a joke out loud in a math class that the square root symbol looks like a gun. That's it, folks. A kid at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Louisiana, observed that if you kind of squinted, the square root symbol looks like a weapon. Then the social media rumor mill went to work and eventually this whole silly thing morphed into allegations that he was going to shoot up the school. Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert has acknowledged in an interview with KATC that the student "did not commit a crime. He did not commit anything remotely criminal, nothing to remotely suggest any intent to do actual harm." That should have been where the entire embarrassing incident ended, with a sheepish observation that the current climate of fear caused an overreaction that was understandable but still nevertheless an overreaction. And of course, the teen deserves an apology for being subjected to such an overwhelming response that assumes the worst of him with absolutely no evidence at all. But that's not what is happening. Instead, KATC reports that the kid faces an expulsion hearing. Furthermore, not a single authority figure in their reporting, nor KATC's reporter, wants to even acknowledge that this was an overreaction. In fact, the school district is putting into place policies that are going to guarantee future overreactions. Imagine not realizing (or not caring) how this system is going to result in manipulation and abuse: Any student accused of talking about guns or school shootings will be investigated by three entities: the school board, the sheriff's department, and the district attorney's office. If an incident like this occurs again, [Superintendent Michael] Doucet explained the protocol. "The first thing we're going to do is remove that student from the premises with proper authority. Then, we're going to have a home visit done by detectives of the sheriff's department, and if no charges are filed, we're going to conduct a threat assessment on the student," Doucet said. Gee, I hope those kids in Allen Parish don't have any enemies. At the end of the piece, Doucet admits what's really happening here. It's administrative ass-covering. If something bad happened because they didn't treat this incident seriously, he says, then parents would get angry with him. It's reminiscent of how the Transportation Security Administration will freak out at any jokes about bombs or guns, yet has a terrible record for assessing risk at airports. Any suggestion that schools should adopt airport-like security absurd and self-defeating. Security theater isn't just bad because it treats everybody like criminals or threats. It's also bad because when you spread resources thin attempting to investigate inconsequential things, sometimes you miss the big things. The young man accused of the school shooting in Florida did more than just make a quip. He had a lengthy, documented history of troubling behavior. Chasing down every single kid muttering the word "gun" is a terrible response designed for school administrators to declare that they're "doing something," even if what they're doing is screwing over their own students, censoring speech, and not actually making schools safer in any way. Watch KATC's report below: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

Brickbat: Quick on the Trigger

Fri, 23 Feb 2018 04:00:00 -0500

(image) When an armed man entered the Faith City Mission in Amarillo, Texas, security guards took the man down and a student wrestled his gun away from him. Then police officers responding to a call of a hostage-taking entered the mission. At least one of them shot and wounded the student who'd taken the gun from the man.

17-Year-Old Says 'I Could Buy an AR-15,' Gets Arrested

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:15:00 -0500

(image) A high school in Ledyard, Connecticut, called the cops on a 17-year-old student who made a non-threatening comment about a gun in class. Police then arrested him, and he now faces charges of breaching the peace.

According to Ledyard High School Principal Amanda Fagan, the student said "I could buy an AR-15" or something very similar. That's it.

"In an abundance of caution, despite the fact that this student is a minor who cannot, in fact, legally purchase such a weapon, we made the decision to consult with the Ledyard Police, who made the decision to take the student into custody," Fagan said in a statement, according to FOX61.

The student made the comment during his first-period class. The principal was quickly notified, and she made the decision to call the cops—even though it was clear to her that he was neither making a threat nor in possession of any actual guns. In a message to parents, Fagan stressed that the student presented absolutely no danger.

"The student in question does not have access to firearms at home," she said. "There was never any threat to the safety of your children or the adults who teach and tend to them each day."

It's not clear what the tone of the remark was—perhaps the young man was complaining that it's too easy to buy a gun. I called and emailed Fagan for additional clarification, but she did not immediately respond.

The Associated Press reports that the student will be appear before a juvenile court to face charges of breaching the peace.

"The offense is akin to joking about a bomb in the airport," Fagan said in her message. "One simply doesn't do it."

And one shouldn't. But the question is whether someone should face life-altering consequences for doing it. There was no harm committed. There was no real danger. The authorities involved understood that there was no real danger. The kid is being punished anyway.

In her statement, Fagan referred to the recent Parkland, Florida, school shooting:

In the wake of any school violence, nerves are often frayed. Today is no exception. Many of us—parents, students, educators—faced today with feelings of sadness, anger, even fear as we began to process the news of the eighth fatal school shooting in America in seven weeks. This time, it was 17 high school students and staff members who lost their lives yesterday at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Like every school staff in America today, the staff of Ledyard High School had heightened senses all day, working to be sure our smiles were particularly welcoming, our ears were particularly open, our interactions particularly genuine.

Incidents like this—the arrest of a teenager for daring to even mention a gun—are precisely why I've warned that putting more cops in schools and encouraging a see-something-say-something mentality are not reasonable responses to school shootings. These policies make us feel like we did something, but they wouldn't necessarily make school any safer. They're more likely to curtail teens' civil liberties and needlessly draw students into the criminal justice system.