Raid first, warrant later

It seems that Texas is breaking new ground in the drug war by conducting drug raids on the basis of a confidential informant's tip that suspects were "fixing to" make a batch of illegal drugs... and only bothering to get a search warrant after the raid:
There was more than enough time to secure a search warrant before the officers' intrusion into the premises, but they deliberately chose not to attempt to obtain it until after they had conducted the unlawful entry. Further, had the officers entered the home and found the occupants only baking cupcakes, the officers would not have bothered to then obtain the warrant at all. It was only after unlawfully entering and finding suspicious activity that they felt the need to then secure the warrant in order to cover their tracks and collect the evidence without the taint of their entry.

I'm not especially bothered by the distinction between a "will be" and "are now" informant's tip. It is a little creepy, to be sure, but we're talking about a case where the people involved had already gone out and acquired ingredients. My concern is the fact that the police conducted the raid without bothering to get a search warrant first. They applied for a warrant retroactively and concealed in their application the fact that they had already conducted the raid.

Sun Dec 29 10:25:19 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Legislation to prohibit asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction

It's state reform legislation introduced in Michigan. Michigan's current law is this:
In Michigan, if cash or property is valued at more than $50,000 a court proceeding is required for it to be seized. But if the amount is less than that, the seizing can be "streamlined" and taken administratively. Eighty-nine percent of assets were taken this way in 2012.

So under current law in Michigan, anything less than a year's wages for the average worker can be taken without a conviction or even being charged with a crime, and that covers about 90% of seizures. That seems to suggest a very limited ability to get actual convictions in most of those cases.

We need more reform in this area. No seizures are legitimate without a criminal conviction, and frankly, current seizure law in most states amounts to allowing the police to take anything they see and want for themselves.

Wed Dec 25 13:14:53 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

How to write an effective letter to the editor

More like this please:

The editorial titled "Remembering Newtown" in Sunday's Post-Dispatch is a reminder that there are monsters in our society. This is, has been and always will be the case. What we need to do is provide ways to protect ourselves from those monsters or "bad guys."

This editorial pointed out the horror of encountering these monsters in our schools and elsewhere. However the article does nothing to suggest how to prevent these dangers in the future.

Read the whole thing. They printed it, which surprised me.

Sat Dec 21 10:07:48 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Healthcare site has major security flaws; officials refused to certify it; Sebelius perjury?

CBS News is reporting that an official in charge of evaluating the security of the health care site recommended denying permission to launch due to security concerns:
"My recommendation was a denial of ATO [Authority to Operate -- allowing the website to go live]," Fryer told Democrats and Republicans who sat in on the day-long interview. According to Fryer, she first recommended denying the ATO to CMS chief information officer Tony Trenkle based on the many outstanding security concerns after pre-launch testing. "I had discussions with him on this and told him that my evaluation of this was a high risk," Fryer told the committee. Trenkle retired from his CMS job on Nov. 13. He has not responded to CBS News interview requests.

But Sebelius testified that no one advised her to delay:
As Attkisson recounts, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress on October 30th that "no senior official reporting to me ever advised me that we should delay." While Sebelius may be able to claim that Fryer didn't report to her and that her statement was technically accurate, Congress may want to know why Sebelius went forward with the launch without Fryer's signature on the letter recommending the ATO. Fryer also told Congress that she personally briefed Sebelius' advisers on her recommendation to withhold the ATO on September 20th, six weeks before her testimony to Congress.

It seems like at least two people may have resigned rather than sign off on the launch.

Folks, I do that sort of website development for a living. A clusterfuck this bad takes more than just difficult technical problems. You're looking at evidence of incompetence at the political appointee level.

Fri Dec 20 12:33:16 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Massachusetts plans major gun law overhaul this spring

It looks like so-called "smart guns" that require fingerprint recognition to fire will be a major issue, but gun locks, magazine limits, additional background check requirements, and limits on the number of guns a person are also on the table.

The fingerprint recognition law is just a smokescreen to make civilian ownership of firearms more expensive -- no reliable firearms are available using the technology, and the experimental models that occasionally get displayed to naive journalists run double or triple the price of a normal firearm.

I also found this ironic:
Mr. Naughton expressed frustration earlier this year over a lack of action in Washington, D.C., to require mental health background checks in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre one year ago.

What Mr. Naughton doesn't tell you is that federal background checks for all gun sales by federally licensed firearms dealers already include a mental health background check, but Massachusetts -- among many other liberal states -- refuses to submit any records to the federal background check system. This has been the law for decades, and yes, MA has a system in place to do the submissions. They submitted exactly one record, apparently as a test, when they first implemented it, and none since then.

Hat tip to Alphecca

Fri Dec 20 09:44:33 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

DC Continues to persecute gun owners

Thanks to the Heller case reaching the Supreme Court, many people have become aware of the sad state of gun laws in our capital city. Those who have paid attention after the case was decided, however, are aware that a Supreme Court decision doesn't necessarily change much. DC still has gun laws that offend the 2nd Amendment and infringe the rights of a free people. There are some recent developments that deserve mention, however.

First, one of the plaintiffs in Heller has filed another case challenging the DC gun laws. This one is styled informally "Heller II", and a motion for summary judgment was filed recently.

Second, the district has been struggling to come up with a set of gun laws that will pass court muster and still remain as oppressive and tyrannical as possible. That effort has gone through many iterations, the latest of which is a demand that existing gun owners re-register all of their firearms. (Hat tip to Sebastian) Failing to jump through the proper legal hoops as a gun owner in DC will result in a felony conviction and lengthy jail time simply for not filling in the proper forms before exercising an enumerated Constitutional right.

It's obscene and unjust. Hopefully the courts will address that. Mere possession of a firearm by an otherwise law-abiding citizen should not ever be a crime.

Thu Dec 19 09:21:55 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Educational indoctrination

When even the New York Times agrees you've gone too far:
For my daughter's high-school biology class, the students are required to take a public action addressing climate change. They have a wide range of options of what they can do: write a letter to a public official, design a website, develop a public-service announcement or organize a flash mob. They are required to submit proof that they presented their work publicly -- that is, that they mailed the letter, launched the website, etc. Is it ethical for the school to require students to speak publicly on a specific issue? Or even to give extra credit for doing so? Does the students' right to free speech also give them the right not to speak publicly on this topic?

Requiring students to engage in political advocacy as a factor in their grade is abhorrent, blatantly unethical, and should be a firing offense for any instructor caught engaging in it.

I don't have a problem with teachers assigning work that touches on political topics, but it must be done carefully and with the understanding that the teacher's authority must not be used to dictate the position taken by the student. Grading for such assignments must be based on the quality of reasoning, evidence, and presentation rather than a blanket requirement to take a specific position.

To require that a student not only take a specified position, but take it publicly and in a manner designed to influence the political process (such as a letter to a representative) goes so far beyond acceptable that I'm not sure merely firing the teacher responsible is sufficient deterrent. Surely there's a civil penalty or fine that could be assessed for this abuse of the educational system.

Wed Dec 18 10:25:23 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

No one wants to ban guns...

... except gun control advocates who deny that they want to ban guns:
One of the very tough burdens that we have on our side is to figure out how to break through this mental state that says, "Yes, you are out there seeking to ban all guns." So what does the movement want, and why does this barrier exist? We do think that there should be a ban on assault weapons, we do think there should be a ban on large magazines, magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds.

It's amazing that they can maintain a straight face while contradicting themselves within a few sentences.

Wed Dec 18 08:45:42 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Judge rules NSA surveillance program likely unconstitutional

A federal judge ruled that the NSA surveillance program is likely unconstitutional. The case is a bit of a legal mess at the moment; the judge issued a preliminary injunction (which means that he thinks success on the merits of the case is likely). The injunction blocks the NSA from collecting data on the specific named individuals (thus, it doesn't block the NSA from collecting data on everyone else). And finally, the injunction itself is stayed pending appeal.

So the immediate effect on the NSA is precisely zero. And Orin Kerr doesn't find the opinion very convincing.

Sometimes, though, a single pebble can start an landslide. That's what we need to see here.

UPDATE: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has more details. I'm going to add that I'm not very impressed by Orin's arguments (linked above); they are based on a Supreme Court precedent from 1980 that covered obtaining telephone metadata without a warrant for a single person over a few days. It seems to me to be completely obvious that obtaining telephone metadata for everyone forever is readily distinguishable from one person for a few days, even if you agree with the earlier decision (which I do not).

Tue Dec 17 07:31:55 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Two favorable court decisions on concealed carry

Another victory for Alan Gura and the Second Amendment Foundation in Woollard v Maryland. The decision by

There is some backstory worth recounting here. The plaintiff in the case, Woollard, was originally granted a concealed carry license in Maryland due to threats by his ex-son-in-law. He filed suit when his application to renew the permit was denied, based on the claim that he lacked a "good and substantial reason" to fear criminal attack outside his home. The person responsible for the original "good and substantial reason" for Woollard's permit committed suicide recently after assaulting his ex-wife and beating his parents with a pipe.

The case is a perfect illustration of why citizens should not have to beg police or government officials for permission to defend themselves.

And in Illinois, in People v Aguilar:
Few laws in the history of our Nation have come close to the severe restriction of the District’s handgun ban. And some of those few have been struck down. In Nunn v. State, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a prohibition on carrying pistols openly (even though it upheld a prohibition on carrying concealed weapons). In Andrews v. State, the Tennessee Supreme Court likewise held that a statute that forbade openly carrying a pistol “publicly or privately, without regard to time or place, or circumstances,” violated the state constitutional provision (which the court equated with the Second Amendment). That was so even though the statute did not restrict the carrying of long guns. See also State v. Reid, 1 Ala. 612, 616-617 (1840) (“A statute which, under the pretence of regulating, amounts to a destruction of the right, or which requires arms to be so borne as to render them wholly useless for the purpose of defence, would be clearly unconstitutional”).

Consider that in light of what happens to people who open carry.

Mon Dec 16 11:36:54 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Appeals court rules Florida colleges can't ban guns in cars

The linked article calls it a "major 2nd Amendment victory", but the decision doesn't seem to have anything to do with the 2nd Amendment. Instead, it's a victory for Florida's preemption statute and the distinction between schools (where students are mostly not adults) and colleges (which are intended to serve adults, some of whom may legally own and carry concealed firearms).

Which is not to say it isn't a victory, because defending preemption statutes is important; otherwise the urban areas controlled by Democrats would create a patchwork of gun laws that would turn carrying a concealed firearm into a nightmare of legal risk.

Fri Dec 13 07:38:08 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Codrea raises important questions about the ATF's rules change

If his article in the Examiner can be believed, the ATF used a private party proxy to originate the petition that resulted in this rules change. In other words, they petitioned themselves to start the process.

Fri Dec 13 07:35:40 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The consequences of firearms registration laws

It seems that Connecticut residents aren't bothering to register their firearms in the expected numbers. This is a classic problem with victimless crimes -- that is, things that are illegal because the law says so, not because a victim is harmed. Without someone actually harmed to report a crime (or, worse, a dead body to explain) there's no triggering event to open an investigation. That makes gun registration laws in particular difficult to enforce, and it seems several hundred thousand gun owners in Connecticut are betting that the state won't be able to enforce this one.

But what if they were? The consequences for having an unregistered so-called "assault weapon" range from a class-A misdemeanor (if you "forgot" to register it) to a felony (if you "forgot" more than once or the DA got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning). Connecticut's population in 2012 was roughly 3.6 million people; if they convicted all of their "assault weapon" owners, that amounts to 10% of the population.

(Read More...)

Thu Dec 12 10:30:13 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

I'm a Navy SEAL sniper, but...

It was bad enough when it was just "I'm a gun owner, but...", now the credentialed traitors are claiming to be Navy SEAL snipers. As far as I am concerned, even if he is a Navy SEAL sniper, that's a mark against him. The British redcoats were all in favor of confiscating guns from American patriots.

And if you're suddenly worried about how that frames the government and the military as the enemy of true American patriots, I'll remind you that this particular Navy SEAL sniper put himself on that side of the debate voluntarily.

Also, it seems this Navy SEAL sniper fantasies that he can get elected to the NRA board and transform it into a gun control organization if he repeats the words "Navy SEAL sniper" often enough.

Wed Dec 11 08:39:59 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The New Bigotry

See if you can spot the bigot in the below statement:
"Can we not say that the Tea Party is heavily involved in politics?", he wrote. "Further, can we not also say that many Tea Partiers are not educated and accomplished? Finally, can we not also say that the Tea Party has an intolerant element? The answer to all three is yes. So, to answer your question, I recognize why some on the right are alarmed at the comparison, but they need to bear in mind that the comparison is VERY specific to the Klan of the 1920s: another national right-wing political movement, one with an educated, accomplished element that also has its share of intolerant people. In sum, the Tea Party need not be a similarly violent or bigoted movement in order for it to be compared to the KKK, especially given the different historical context."

That's right, it's the person making the statement who is the bigot. He's linking his political opponents to violent racists on the basis of 1) being involved in politics, 2) being educated and accomplished, and 3) the false claim that they are "intolerant".

After all, we all know that the tea party is filled with educated, accomplished, politically aware middle-aged white males.

Wed Dec 11 08:39:50 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Senate passes Undetectable Firearms Act without amendments

This is a disappointment for Schumer and a continuation of the status quo for us. Obama will sign the law via his autopen.

Wed Dec 11 08:39:21 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Freedom is never more than a single generation away from extinction

... and for Russians, it appears to be this generation:
Vladimir Putin has dissolved Russia's biggest news agency RIA Novosti, ordering the creation of a new media conglomerate headed by an anchorman notorious for his anti-opposition and anti-gay views. The new company Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) will focus on "coverage abroad of Russian state policy and public life," the document published on the Kremlin website said. [Snip] The move appears as a push by the Kremlin to consolidate state media resources at a time of increasing online criticism of Mr Putin's 13 years of rule and to take a proactive approach in shaping Russia´s image abroad.

When we laud Reagan for the defeat of communism, we will need to excoriate Barack Obama for resurrecting it.

Tue Dec 10 11:35:00 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

California waiting period challenge case survives summary judgement

Here's the quote from CalGuns:

In a rejection of California Attorney General Kamala Harris' stance on the rights of law-abiding gun owners, Senior Federal District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii denied Harris' motion for summary judgement today in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by The Calguns Foundation, indicating that California's 10-day "waiting period" gun laws are likely unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, a lot of people -- including CalGuns -- seem to be reading more into this ruling than is appropriate. It is a ruling on a motion for summary judgement. Summary judgement is basically a short-circuit of the legal process; it's basically asking the judge to decide the case, right then and there, on the basis of evidence already presented. You only win such a motion if every issue on which you request summary judgement can be decided as a matter of law based on facts not in dispute. Denying a motion for summary judgement is not a final decision in the case; it's merely a decision to continue the normal course of the trial.

(Read More...)

Tue Dec 10 06:15:49 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Comment period on NFA trust changes ending

I haven't been harping on this because, like Sebastian, I think the fix is pretty much in. There's no requirement that the agency pay attention to comments, after all. But if you do want to comment, there's a good sample letter. No lawyers, only guns and money has a roundup of other samples if you don't like that one.

The deadline is midnight EST.

UPDATE: Comments with legal teeth may eventually produce results, but the results come from the teeth and not the comment.

Mon Dec 09 11:05:53 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

California health exchange shares private information

If you created an account on the California health care exchange but didn't sign up for anything, you may be contacted by an insurance agent seeking to complete your registration process -- and he will already have access to your name, address, and phone number.

Raising concerns about consumer privacy, California's health exchange has given insurance agents the names and contact information for tens of thousands of people who went online to check out coverage but didn't ask to be contacted.

Because government respects your privacy, and giving your government access to personal information about you is safe, and you can trust them not to share it with anyone. Except spammers and telemarketers.

Mon Dec 09 10:39:57 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

NSSF lawsuit challenging Connecticut gun control law dismissed

The suit challenged the emergency procedure used to pass the law, since the required certification of emergency was filed without stating any reasons why it was an emergency. (Obviously, it wasn't an emergency; the procedure was used to ram the law through with a minimum of time for public input).

More details at No Lawyers, only Guns and Money.

The suit was dismissed on standing grounds, which doesn't mean the case has no merit; it just means the people bringing the suit aren't the right ones. Sometimes that's a paper-thin excuse. In a case like this, if a national organization of firearms manufacturers doesn't have standing, who does? Maybe a sitting member of the state government, but it's hard to think of anyone else.

Mon Dec 09 08:57:03 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

NFL rejects Daniel Defense ad

See the ad they rejected below:

Of course, it's within the rights of the NFL to reject advertising if they want to. They aren't a government agent. But it is silly, and stupid, of them.

Hat tip to Sebastian (and everyone else, it seems).

Mon Dec 09 08:54:05 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

A difficult concept

It seems the police are more interested in pushing the bounds of the Constitution than they are in respecting the privacy rights of the people. The latest example of this is a case wherein police mounted a covert video surveillance camera to a pole outside a man's home and watched all of his activities for a month without any warrant whatsoever. When the man, an alleged illegal immigrant, used a firearm to peacefully shoot at targets in his back yard, he was arrested for possessing the firearm based on the video surveillance.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed an amicus brief in the case.

(Read More...)

Wed Dec 04 10:15:50 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Undetectable Firearms Act passes House

This is a renewal of a longstanding ban on all-plastic firearms. It was originally passed as a hysterical reaction to the introduction of plastic-grip firearms (GLOCK being the prime example, with many others following in their footsteps). In that context it was completely meaningless, as all firearms manufactured at the time contained enough metal in their magazines, barrels, and other working parts to easily set off a metal detector.

It has gained additional relevance lately due to the development of functional 3D-printed plastic firearms. Though these firearms are barely a notch above a toy -- being marginally safe to fire once, depending on material, and definitely unsafe to fire multiple times -- they do add an element of reality to the previously completely fantastical idea of an "undetectable" plastic firearm. Of course, that must also be tempered by the fact that these "plastic" firearms still require a metal firing pin and a significant financial and intellectual investment (in acquiring a 3D printer and learning to print the designs). Not to mention, firing ammunition made of metal.

In other words, the actual threat posed by "undetectable" 3D-printed plastic firearms is negligible. When the law originally passed, it could fairly be said that it banned a gun that didn't exist. Today, it bans a gun that for all practical purposes doesn't exist.

Simply put, this is not the legislation to get worked up about. It's silly, but it does little harm. If the Senate amends the bill rather than passing an identical version, that's the version we need to stop.

Tue Dec 03 23:43:54 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Trayvon's Amendment...

... because no one wants to take your guns, they just want to do stuff like this:
The second amendment of the Constitution of the United States, being no longer necessary to a secure state is hereby nullified.
The production and sale of new firearms, being defined as a rifle, pistol, or other gun, will be disallowed until a time in which the number of firearms in circulation is equal to 50% of the population as determined by the Census.
No gun may reside in the same building as anyone who has failed a mental health evaluation, as performed by a medical professional, as approved by the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
A mental health examination, as performed by a medical professional approved by the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) must be passed in order to receive a firearms license.
An income tax equal to 4% of an individual's income will be assessed upon all gun owners. In states which were at any point in time a part of the Confederate States of America, this tax shall be equal to 10% of an individual's income. Taxes levied under this amendment shall be appropriated in equal portions to programs to expand Affirmative Action programs and begin to pay reparations to the descendants of African slaves.
Any person making the choice to own a firearm must carry $250,000 worth of liability insurance for each weapon owned. This insurance must be provided by a publicly owned insurance company to be established.
All firearms must be retrofitted with both a global positioning transmitter as well as a fingerprint activated locking mechanism. Failure to comply with this provision will result in a fine, prison time, and forfeiture of the privilege of firearm ownership.
The National Rifle Association, Michigan Militia, and other "œgun rights" groups shall be considered terrorist operations.
United States Marshals will be randomly placed at various "sporting venues", where a firearm could be otherwise legally discharged. This could include publicly or privately owned venues where the following (but not limited to) take place: hunting areas, shooting ranges.
In a calendar year, no person may buy more than 100 rounds of ammunition.
Assault rifles, semi-automatic, and automatic weapons, as well as those not fitted with GPS and trigger locking devices will be immediately seized by the government. The owner will be compensated fair market value of the weapon, minus the cost of the seizure operation.
President Obama will establish a Secretary of Firearm management. This office will have final say over future gun regulation to prevent against rampant innovation that was not forseen by the second amendment.

There's absolutely no chance of this being passed, of course. But it's another data point against "no one wants to take your guns".

Tue Dec 03 04:53:01 CST 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

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