Publicola has a good ATFE roundup...

Go read about the friend or foe question, excerpts from Congressional testimony, and a partial video from Of Arms and the Law.

Fri Feb 24 17:00:01 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

test from new wireless device

seems to work. I can now report "from the scene", as if anything newsworthy ever happens where I am...

Fri Feb 24 16:58:22 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Light posting alert...

Work is getting busy again, and a change in my internet connectivity (basically, I traded much improved reliably for significantly greater latency) has slowed down the blogging activity.  I should be back to regular posting in a week or three, after work settles dow and I get a chance to finish some software changes to reduce the latency problem.

UPDATE: There is a law of software development: it takes longer and costs more.  Relative to what?  To anything.  When one is a contractor, anything that takes longer automatically costs more.  When one is a manager, anything that doesn't match up with a fixed schedule is a failure.  The result: projects meet their schedule by the programmers working longer hours within the fixed dates they have been given, and giving up any pretence towards having a life outside of the code in their head.   That's been me lately. 

I have some interesting stuff to talk about sitting in my inbox, and I promise to get to it soon.  For right now I am just trying to clear up the easy stuff that doesn't require me to think.  Thinking would hurt.

UPDATE: Delivery, I hope.  Unless things blow up I should be able to catch up a bit.

Fri Feb 24 00:08:25 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

That's a lot of terrorists...

According to the Privacy Digest, the National Counterterrorism Center (which maintains the terrorist watch list) has about 325,000 names on the list.  That's a lot of terrorists.  How many of them are really Ted Kennedy?

UPDATE: The Privacy Digest is so private that their permalinks don't work.  Nothing I can do to fix them.  I've fixed the link above to go to their main page, but eventually the entry I'm referring to will scroll off.  Oh well.

Wed Feb 22 01:07:26 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Cheney shooting report available from The Smoking Gun...

I haven't read through it, because I just don't care that much.  But if you do, here it is.

Fri Feb 17 23:16:24 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

A turning point in Canada?

There were Canadian elections recently.  The party that has ruled for years lost to a Conservative coalition, and some representatives are talking about closing the Canadian firearms registry

Money quotes:
The Conservatives have called the registry a waste of taxpayers money that targets duck hunters rather than criminals.  There are no cost estimates on campaign promises such as defending victims' rights and improving gun safety.
The sooner, the better, I say.

Thu Feb 16 20:17:58 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The Right Way to do National Concealed Carry

By way of SaysUncle comes information on H.R. 4547, a bill creating national concealed-carry reciprocity.   This is the right way to do national concealed carry.  Just like the states are required to recognize a driver's license issued in another state, they should be required to recognize a concealed-carry license issued by another state.  Unlike a federal licensing system, this is Constitutional, and it allows each state to set its own criteria.  My only gripe would be the fact that it would probably require an official act to kick in -- that is, Alaska and Vermont residents would need to get a permit in order to get the benefits of reciprocity.  Neither state currently requires a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

Mon Feb 13 16:00:06 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]


I am not being censored by the Chinese government.

I must try harder.

Maybe this will help:

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms shall not be infringed... because its hard to stop a tank with your bare hands.

Sun Feb 12 20:18:06 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

An untrustworthy executive...

One of the problems I've had with the warrantless surveillance scandal is that the public is being asked to render some sort of judgement on the program based upon too little information.  The ACLU has filed suit using people who may, or may not, have been evesdropped upon under the program; the Bush administration has maintained that the warrantless evesdropping has never applied to Americans directly, except in that Americans who have (international) conversations with Al Qaeda members under surveillance would also be surveilled -- but not targetted further.  At least, the Bush administration has maintained that if you don't read their statements closely. 

If you do read closely, it becomes clear that the spies are following the usual counterintelligence tactics: identify one agent through his or her contact to a known foreign agent, then identify the other domestic agents that have contact with the first, and so on.  There's no way to ensure that this ever-expanding network includes only members of Al Qaeda or even to ensure that it never contains an American.  And the net gets very broad, very fast -- if you've ever tried to figure out how many "degrees" (or levels of personal contact) you are from a major public figure, you can understand how almost anyone could be within just one or two levels of a terrorist or terrorist supporter. 

The Washington Times magazine, Insight, has an article out contradicting the administration's claim that only foreign conversations have been surveilled:

The sources provided guidelines to how the administration has employed the surveillance program. They said the National Security Agency in cooperation with the FBI was allowed to monitor the telephone calls and e-mails of any American believed to be in contact with a person abroad suspected of being linked to al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

At that point, the sources said, all of the communications of that American would be monitored, including calls made to others in the United States. The regulations under the administration's surveillance program do not require any court order.

So, as you can see, they are sweeping up contacts even within the United States, even involving Americans.   Tha's what they have to do in order to roll up the networks that Al Qaeda allegedly has within the US.  (And to be fair, I have no doubt that Al Qaeda is trying hard to establish or maintain such networks).  Yet, the law sets forth specific requirements for surveillance of American citizens in matters involving national security and foreign intelligence.  Those requirements specify that a warrant must be obtained and allow for extremely relaxed rules on doing so.  If those rules are too restrictive, the President needs to make his case to Congress and the American people for relaxing them.  He is not above the law.

That we are "at war" with Al Qaeda, inasmuch as a nation can be said to be at war with a loosely-affiliated organization of individual actors who hold no territory of their own, does not mitigate this requirement.  Were this a traditional war, with a traditional opponent, I would be more sympathetic to this argument.  Yet, the odds are that the war against terror will continue for years, even decades.  That means that whatever policies we set now are likely to become the normal state of affairs for following generations.  In fact, this has already begun:
But despite the huge amount of raw material gathered under the legislation, the FBI has not captured one major al Qaeda operative in the United States. Instead, federal authorities have been allowed to use non-terrorist material obtained through the surveillance program for investigation and prosecution.

In more than one case, the sources said, a surveillance target was prosecuted on non-terrorist charges from information obtained through wiretaps conducted without a court order. They said the FBI supported this policy in an attempt to pressure surveillance targets to cooperate.

We should not leave our children a legacy of lost liberty.

Sun Feb 12 19:57:51 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Rocketry Hobbyists versus the BATFE

Way back in the late 90's, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives woke up grumpy one morning and decided to classify the engines used in model rocketry as "explosives", thus bringing those materials under their regulatory purview.  As anyone familiar with government knows, the more an agency regulates, the larger that agency's budget.  There's a built-in incentive to regulate more... and more... and more.  Normally, to increase an agency's regulatory authority, the agency has to convince Congress to pass a law doing so.  But if they are feeling especially grumpy they can try to reclassify something themselves, simply by issuing a new regulation under their present grants of authority.

That's how rocket engines became classified as explosives, after decades of safe, sane very-very-low-orbit insertions.  The BATFE woke up one day and said they were now explosives, subject to BATFE regulations, and you can just quit shooting those things into the air right away now. 

Makes you just squirm for the chance to issue regulations, doesn't it?  Mmmm, power.  Nothing like making little kids cry and science teachers swear to make a bureaucrat smile.

Well, the National Association of Rocketry wasn't about to take that sitting down.  They filed suit.  And on Friday, Febuary 10th, 2006, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision.  And what a decision!
"The problem in this case is that ATFE's explanation for its determination that APCP deflagrates lacks any coherence. We therefore owe no deference to ATFE's purported expertise because we cannot discern it. ATFE has neither laid out a concrete standard for classifying materials along the burn-deflagrate-detonate continuum, nor offered data specific to the burn speed of APCP when used for its 'common or primary purpose.' On this record, the agency's decision cannot withstand judicial review."
Yep, that's the agency we all know and love to hate.

Sun Feb 12 17:55:33 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Wishing for a gun-free world

In "Going postal in gun-free zones", Donald May makes a point I've made before and doubtless will again: the world is a better place because of firearms.  We called them the Dark Ages for a reason.

Sun Feb 12 17:39:39 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

This looks like murder to me.

But you can judge for yourself.

Sun Feb 12 17:38:08 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Vice President Cheney involved in accidental shooting

According to CNN, Cheney has managed to accidentally shoot one of his hunting companions (birdshot).  The victim survived, and is in stable condition.  While accidents do happen, and no one is immune, this is not going to help our cause.  The anti-gun media will undoubtedly make as much hay out of this incident as they can manage, and the gun control lobby will argue that if the Vice President can't handle a gun safely, how can the people be trusted to do so?

The truth -- that accidents happen, and no activity is perfectly safe no matter the precautions -- isn't likely to go over well. 

UPDATE: Jerry the Geek suggests that we shouldn't minimize the safety issue by calling it an accidental shooting.  I would argue that Cheney almost certainly didn't shoot his hunting partner intentionally, which makes it accidental by the usual definition.  It may be an accidental shooting caused by negligence or unsafe gun handling -- in fact, it almost certainly was, since the rules of safe gun handling include knowing what is behind what you are shooting at in order to prevent precisely this sort of thing.

But the question of negligence is not one that can be easily answered without claiming to know exactly what happened.  The article I read suggested, whether rightly or wrongly, that the victim put himself into the line of fire without letting anyone know.  That's not a good idea, either.

It's safe to call it an accidental shooting.  Whether or not the shooting was negligent would depend on details the public doesn't have (other than the prima-facie "all accidental shootings are negligent").  Either way, calling it an accidental shooting is not intended to minimize the incident.  That's just what it happens to be.  The rules of gun safety are intended to prevent accidents, and this shooting being accidental doesn't mean those rules weren't violated or that Cheney is free from fault. 

But accidents do happen, and from a policymaking perspective that needs to be understood.  As shooters, we should put our efforts into reducing the number of accidental shootings to zero.  As policy advocates, we need to understand that we won't, and can't, ever succeed in that goal.

Sun Feb 12 17:32:55 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

On the value of precedent...

Some of you may be wondering why the judicial system has such a strong respect for precedent, being often reluctant to overturn rulings that, in hindsight, seem clearly wrong.  It's a little easier to understand when you see the other side of the coin: what happens when those precedents are changed.  When a precedent is overturned, what the case law on a particular topic once said now says something different.  Previously legal actions may become illegal.  People who have made decisions based on the prior rulings may find that their actions are now illegal, forcing them to reevaluate their decision -- and in the case of physical objects or past behavior, they may find themselves in legal jeopardy that they had no way to effectively predict. 

Gun control laws, being intended to regulate physical objects, are particularly vulnerable to this effect.  What was legal yesterday may not be legal today.  Or it may be legal, but under a grandfather clause requiring the owner to prove he owned the firearm before the law was passed.  Or the law may come with registration requirements, so that the firearm remains legal only if registered -- and registered firearms may become illegal and subject to confiscation later.  Worse, most gun control laws come with significant penalties.  Who wants to become a felon because their legislature banned something they purchased years ago, or some bureaucrat decided to change their regulations to forbid something previously allowed?

UPDATE: Here's another example.

Sat Feb 11 21:56:38 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Think the police will protect you?

I hope this collection of quotes from a recent article will encourage you to protect yourself, instead:
Statistics compiled by San Francisco police for the committee show that in 74 of the 94 homicides recorded through Monday afternoon in 2005, no arrest has been made and the cases remain open and under investigation.  Part of the explanation, police said, for the low rate of arrests and prosecutions is the reluctance of witnesses to provide testimony given their exposure to retribution.About 20 percent of the 94 homicides recorded through Monday afternoon for 2005 took place at public housing properties. That last number prompted supervisors to ask why a program begun last year that tasks 16 officers with patrolling four housing developments in the southeast part of the city hasn't been expanded to other locations. Mirkarimi said he wants to see a regular flow of reliable statistics on how San Francisco's Police Department is performing. Suggesting police officials are reluctant to submit to closer oversight, he characterized getting good information out of the department as a "cat-and-mouse game."
Sure sounds safe over there in San Francisco, where they recently voted to ban handguns.

Mon Feb 06 00:31:03 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Parker v DC: A minor event...

In my last update, I mentioned that the Potowmack Institute was behaving oddly. First, they wanted to participate in the case as an amicus curiae separately from the other parties, presumably because those other parties (ie, the rest of the gun control advocates) didn't want to waste time on absurd legal theories whatever the Powtowmack Institute wanted to talk about.  The court responded by demanding that the Institute either hire proper legal counsel according to the rules of the court, or explain why it should get special treatment.   The Institute has now responded, sort of, by asking to convert from a corporate party (required to appear by way of legal counsel) to an individual party.  I don't know much more than that since Pacer doesn't have the document itself.  But here's the deal:
MOTION filed (5 copies) by Amicus Curiae for Appellee Potowmack Insti Inc (certificate of mail service dated 1/30/06 ) to convert from corporate to individual [946482-1] (lej)
This can probably be safely interperted as meaning that the Potowmack Institute can't afford to hire a DC lawyer to participate in the case, or at least doesn't want to spend the money that way.  Lawyers are expensive.  Odds are good that they have access to at least some legal talent, or they wouldn't be bothering with this process, but that doesn't mean their lawyers are admitted to the DC circuit, and internal talent is a lot cheaper than a hired gun.  Filing as an individual, while still having legal minds preparing the filings, might do a good job of getting the most legal bang for the least legal buck.

Of course, between this and the apparant difficulty in getting along with their supposed allies, they aren't making the best impression on the court.

I propose a toast: "To the confusion of our enemies!"

Sun Feb 05 10:49:10 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

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