7th Grader ‘Likes’ Toy Gun Photo on Instragram, Gets Suspended from School

If you follow gun control politics even casually, you know three things.

One, gun control advocates are positively and unshakable fixated – not just on taking your guns – but on making the very idea of a gun a thoughtcrime.

Two, there is nothing “reasonable” about their methods or their goals.

Three, their activities have nothing to do with public safety (or reality, in most cases) and instead spring from a pathological impulse to assert their will and ideology over others.

Occasionally, though, their zealousness and absurdity are so extreme that you have to wonder how much steeper the slippery slope can get.

Ground Zero for all that epitomizes the antigun worldview is any place that purports to “educate” young minds. And young people just love to communicate with each other on social media about their shared pastimes.

When you put the two together, you get what happens to Zachary Bowlin, a hapless kid just trying to get through Edgewood Middle School in Trenton, Ohio on his way to growing into adulthood. Zachary is hapless because he is surrounded by unreasonable people acting as educators.

Last week, according to a report by the local Fox affiliate WBRC (Fox19 News), Zachary was innocently minding his own business, doing what millions of other American kids do at night after school. He was checking his social media account, in this case, the video and image-sharing app, Instagram.

Coming across a friend’s picture of a realistic-looking Airsoft gun, Airsoft enthusiast Zachary pushed “Like,” an absent-minded gesture many people engage in dozens of times a day on images depicting such things as pets, deserts, and objects involved in hobbies they share with their friends.

The next morning, Zachary told a WBRC reporter, school officials “called me down … patted me down and checked me for weapons, then they told me I was getting expelled or suspended or whatever.”

According to a note from the school the Bowlins provided to the reporter, Zachary was to be suspended effective May 4, with his return date to be determined later. The reason: “Liking a post on social media that indicated potential school violence.”

AOL.com posted a picture of the offending post, which merely depicted the plastic gun on the table, with the caption, “Ready.”

To say that the post, to a casual observer, would indicate potential school violence would be akin to claiming that a picture of the sun would indicate the potential of a cataclysmic gravitational collapse that would extinguish all life on earth.

Except that the sun really is dangerous and Airsoft guns really are not.

To be fair, you could imagine a scenario where a facially innocent picture of a toy gun on social media was merely one in a series of circumstances known to school officials that would justify them taking strong action.

But that wasn’t this case. Indeed, Superintendent Russ Fussnecker essentially admitted that the school’s reaction was based only on the picture, coupled with his own vivid imagination about its worst possible significance.

“When you’re dealing with school districts nowadays and there are pictures of guns, regardless of the kind of gun it is, it’s a gun,” Fussnecker told WLWT News in Cincinnati. “And there are certain images or words, I can’t determine if that’s playful or real. And until I can get to an investigation, I have to look into it, those students have to be removed.”

Fortunately, Zachary’s parents knew enough to go to the media, whose intervention apparently allowed cooler heads to prevail. The school eventually rescinded the suspension (at least of Zachary, the student who posted the photo remains barred from school), but Superintendent Fussnecker appeared ready to stick to his … well … delusions in a statement to Fox19 News.

“The Board has a ‘zero tolerance’ of violent, disruptive, harassing, intimidating, bullying, or any other inappropriate behavior by its students,” it read. Fussnecker continued: “As the Superintendent of the Edgewood City Schools, I assure you that any social media threat will be taken serious [sic] including those who ‘like’ the post when it potentially endangers the health and safety of students or adversely affects the educational process.”

Superintendent Fussnecker – obviously no English major – apparently doesn’t understand the meaning of the words “threat” or “endangers” or the irony of his own proposition. Taken at face value, the image was neither inherently threatening nor aimed in any overt way at the school or “educational process.” Zachery himself understood exactly what it meant. “I figured he’d cleaned his gun and was ready, wanting to play and stuff,” he explained to WLWT News. His father added, “The young man that posted it and my son, and probably four or five other kids, play airsoft in our field. … So I really wasn’t concerned.”

And if adverse effects on the “educational process” are the true concern, what is more likely to accomplish that than summarily suspending an innocent student for harmless behavior – not to mention exposing the entire school and its staff to national ridicule – before “investigating” the situation?

The real problem with this and other “zero tolerance” abuse isn’t just that it’s stupid or overbearing but that it means even decent, well-meaning kids have no path through school that isn’t mined with hysteria that could suddenly and unpredictably explode in their face and derail their future.

Fortunately, Zachary’s parents stood up for their son, and the school (to its credit) eventually did the right thing in his case.

But for every Zachary, who knows how many other students are harshly punished and stigmatized without recourse, simply because the educational establishment has officially adopted an antigun, anti-Second Amendment posture?

However many it is, it’s too many. And there’s certainly nothing to “Like” about that.

Research Shows Murders are Heavily Concentrated in Small Fraction of Counties

This week, a new report from the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) revealed just how concentrated murders are in the U.S. Citing county level data from 2014, researchers determined that a small fraction of all counties are responsible for a majority of the murders in the U.S.

According to the report, just 2 percent of all of the counties in the country account for 51 percent of the nation’s murders. The top 5 percent of counties account for 68 percent of all murders. Further, 69 percent of all counties experienced one murder or less in 2014.

Map-US-Murder-Fixed

It is correct to expect that counties with large population centers are going to necessarily account for more murders. However, as the report details, the most dangerous counties account for an outsized proportion of murders given their population. The report noted,

“The worst 1% of counties have 19% of the population and 37% of the murders. The worst 5% of counties contain 47% of the population and account for 68% of murders.”

CPRC also pointed out that murders are often highly concentrated within a given county. Citing Los Angeles County, which experienced 526 murder in 2014, CPRC showed that there were wide swaths of the county with virtually no murders.

CPRC’s data dovetails with other research on the concentration of criminal violence. In recent years, researchers from Yale University have studied the concentration of violence in certain social networks. In a 2015 piece for the Hartford Courant that succinctly outlines some of this research, Yale Ph.D. candidate Michael Sierra-Arévalo explained that Yale University sociologists determined “70 percent of all shootings in Chicago can be located in a social network composed of less than 6 percent of the city’s population.”

Sierra-Arévalo also cited a study from researchers at Harvard and Yale, that examined violence perpetrated with guns in Boston. This research showed that violence is heavily concentrated even within a given city, determining that “between 1980 and 2009, 89 percent of Boston streets never experienced an episode of gun violence,” and that “more than half of all the gun violence during the almost 30-year period occurred in only 5 percent of the city’s streets.”

Given that criminal violence is highly concentrated, efforts to tackle this discrete problem with ham-handed restrictions on the conduct of the public at large are inappropriate. Rather than further burden the law-abiding, federal, state, and local officials should target known areas of violence with vigorous enforcement of existing state and federal law.

University of Missouri Professor: NRA more dangerous than ISIS

How asinine is American academia today? It just keeps getting worse. What expanse of territory does the NRA control? How many people has the NRA beheaded and brutalized there? What calls has the NRA issued to its followers and other sympathetic people to murder civilians in the U.S. and other countries? Where are the sex slaves that the NRA has captured from among feminist gun control advocates?

A blinkered Leftist propagandist such as George Kennedy should not be allowed anywhere near a university classroom. Instead, however, the Missouri School of Journalism will probably bring him back and make him head of the department.

George-Kennedy

George Kennedy

“MO School of Journalism Prof: NRA More Dangerous Than Islamic State,” by AWR Hawkins, Breitbart, April 20, 2017:

Missouri School of Journalism professor emeritus George Kennedy suggests the National Rifle Association (NRA) is more dangerous than Islamic State.

Writing in the Missourian, Kennedy observed:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a terrorist organization founded in 1999, headquartered in Syria and feared around the world. The NRA was founded in 1891, headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, and is feared by politicians across America.

To be fair, the NRA was actually founded in 1871, but Kennedy continued:

What makes the Islamic State so feared it its willingness to kill in pursuit of its goal of creating a fundamentalist caliphate.

What makes the NRA so feared is its willingness to spend heavily and campaign aggressively in pursuit of its goal of removing all restrictions on the possession and use of firearms just about anywhere by just about anyone.

Notice how Kennedy went from incorrect information–the wrong founding date for the NRA–to unsubstantiated claims that the NRA wants to allow “possession and use of firearms just about anywhere by just about anyone.” In reality, the NRA fights for the enforcement of the law and the prosecution of firearm-wielding criminals with a fervor equaled only by its defense of law-abiding citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. Kennedy’s language muddies the water and misses the point.

Kennedy then claims the number of Americans killed by ISIS jihadists since 9/11 is nine. That is not a typo, he actually links to a Euronews source and claims only nine Americans have been killed by ISIS jihadists since the terror attacks on NYC in 2001.

Where were Kennedy and the Euronews when an attacker claiming allegiance to ISIS attacked Orlando Pulse and killed 49 people on June 12, 2016? That gunman literally used a 911 call to announce his allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And the Orlando Pulse attack is not the only one that could be mentioned to disprove Kennedy and his Euronews source.

Kennedy’s purpose is claiming “only nine” Americans killed by terrorists was really to set up his second point, that “11,737 Americans” are murdered each year with guns. This figure is actually close to the truth. The average number of firearm-related homicides hovers around 10,500 to 11,500 annually. Many of these homicides occur in gang-riddled cities like Chicago and Baltimore. For example, there were nearly 800 homicides in Chicago in 2016 and over 300 in Baltimore. So a tenth of our nation’s homicides occurred in two Democrat-controlled cities, both of which look to gun control as the solution for the failure of gun control….

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Faith Goldy reports:

When I applied for my Canadian firearms licence after passing my federally mandated PAL and RPAL courses, the RCMP got all of my information. They asked for everything from medical history, relationship history, familial structures, and a photograph.

However, when I recently logged online to renew my license, I noticed something peculiar:

An exception to the usual regulation requiring a photograph, citing religious exemption!

So, I contacted the RCMP, and you won’t believe what happens next.

While I’m no fan of tighter gun control measures, shouldn’t all law-abiding gun-owners be treated equally in Canada?

Why are special rights being granted to members of certain religious sects while other Canadians are held to a different standard?

VIDEO: 5 reasons to support National Reciprocity

1. Exercising a right shouldn’t be contingent upon what state you’re in.

This seems like it would be obvious. Sadly, it’s not. The Supreme Court affirmed in 2008 that Americans have a constitutionally-protected individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms for self-defense. What’s more, no state can deny a Constitutional right. All national reciprocity means is that state governments must respect non-residents’ right to carry a firearm for self-defense to the same degree as residents of the state. And despite rumors to the contrary, national reciprocity legislation would not dictate to states how and where residents could carry concealed. Non-residents would also have to abide by state regulations governing behavior and places of carry.

2. You don’t want to be an accidental criminal.

Ever of heard of Brian Fletcher? How about Raymond Hughes and Meredith Graves? Each one of them has something in common: They are concealed carriers-turned-accidental criminals because they carried their legally-owned firearms into a state without reciprocity.

Brian Fletcher was a utility repairman who traveled from North Carolina to New Jersey with his legally-owned firearm to do disaster relief work. After volunteering the information about his gun to a police officer in New Jersey, he was arrested and subsequently faced five years in prison.

Raymond Hughes, a corrections officer, was simply traveling through New Jersey when a drunk driver sent him to the emergency room. He had his legally-owned firearm in the car, but because New Jersey doesn’t recognize non-resident carry permits, Hughes was charged with a Class 2 felony.

A similar story happened to Meredith Graves. A registered nurse and concealed carrier, Graves left her handgun in her purse while visiting the 9/11 memorial. When she left New York, she left with a misdemeanor weapons charge added to her record.

These are only a few stores, but they represent many, many instances of law-abiding gun owners getting caught up in the confusing patchwork of reciprocity laws we currently have in the United States.

3. Concealed carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding citizens in the country.

Yes, it’s true. A 2014 study from the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) showed that roughly 11 million Americans have concealed carry permits, up from an estimated 8 million in 2011. Today, the number is closer to 15 million. The CPRC also examined permit holders in Florida and Texas. Between 2008 and 2014, Florida had an average of 875,000 active permit holders. Its permit revocation rate during those years (i.e., the rate of concealed carriers who had their permits revoked due to firearm-related offenses) was a staggering…wait for it…0.00007%.

The rate of concealed carriers convicted of crimes was similarly low in Texas, a state that had 584,850 active permit holders in 2012. Of those, only 0.021% were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.

The bottom line? Concealed carry permit holders have overwhelmingly proven to be responsible and law-abiding. And they’re certainly not out there turning American communities into the Wild, Wild West.

4. Reciprocity laws can change frequently with little notice…

Which leads us back to the part about otherwise law-abiding gun owners becoming accidental criminals. When laws change with little public notice, it’s difficult to know when or how you’d run afoul of them.

It does happen: In 2012 for example, the state of Delaware, under the direction of then-attorney general Beau Biden, dropped reciprocity with concealed carriers from Virginia. In 2015, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced his state would stop recognizing permits from 25(!) other states.

And while it is up to each individual gun owner to stay on top of state gun laws, if you’ve been legally carrying your concealed handgun from Virginia to Delaware for 10 years and didn’t know about changes in reciprocity coming down the pipeline, it’s understandable that you’d make that additional trip without checking.

Again: it’s easy for well-intentioned people to get caught up in legal troubles when we’re talking about a patchwork of state laws that can change with little notice.

5. Law-abiding concealed carriers can protect YOU in all 50 states.

As much as gun control advocates like to argue that there’s no such thing as a “good guy with a gun,” mountains of evidence say otherwise.

Just last June, headlines swept the nation of a concealed carrier who stopped a mass shooter outside a nightclub in South Carolina, potentially saving dozens of lives. And who could forget the Minnesota mall stabbing spree last September? He too, was stopped by a law-abiding concealed carrier. Then in January, when two armed men tried to rob a jewelry store in a mall in San Antonio, Texas, they were stopped by concealed carrier. The armed men had already shot and killed an innocent bystander. Who knows what would have happened if the gun owner hadn’t stepped in?

These are just a few stories, but there are many more out there. The truth is responsible, law-abiding concealed carriers are an added layer of protection for ALL of us. Unfortunately, too many states make it difficult or impossible for gun owners to carry concealed — let alone across state lines. In this uncertain world, the last thing states should do is disarm law-abiding gun owners. That doesn’t make anyone safer. But you know what will? Empowering gun owners with the freedom to exercise their right to defend their life and the lives of those around them — no matter what state they’re in.

Freedom Wins! Pro-Second Amendment Judge Will Join U.S. Supreme Court

On Friday, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch’s nomination was heavily backed by the NRA, both because of the pro-Second Amendment views expressed in his judicial writings and his originalist approach to jurisprudence. Justice Antonin Scalia exemplified originalism in his landmark Heller opinion in 2008 that recognized the Second Amendment protects an individual right grounded in the principle of self-defense.

Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation capped a dramatic series of events that began with Scalia’s sudden, unexpected death on Feb. 13, 2016. Not only was Scalia the Supreme Court’s leading Second Amendment champion, his was one of only five votes cast in the five- to-four Heller decision, and its five-to-four follow-up, McDonald v. Chicago. Although two justices voting against the Second Amendment in Heller had since left the court, they were replaced in the interim by two equally anti-gun Obama picks, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Thus, with Scalia’s untimely passing, the court was at best split four to four on its continued support for the Second Amendment’s individual right.

History will record that the balance of power on the Supreme Court was in fact a key issue in the 2016 presidential election and that Obama’s hand-picked successor, Hillary Clinton, suffered a crushing defeat after emphasizing her own view that the Heller Court had been “wrong on the Second Amendment.”

Candidate Donald Trump, meanwhile, made no secret of his determination to nominate a pro-Second Amendment judge to the fill Scalia’s vacant seat.  After his victory in November, President Trump kept his promise by nominating Judge Gorsuch.

In the intense media and political scrutiny that followed Trump’s selection, there was never any serious argument against Judge Gorsuch’s credentials, integrity, impartiality, and ability. He has been praised by legal professionals across the political spectrum.

Yet anti-gun loyalists in the Democratic Party, blinded by ideology and unable to recover from their stinging rebuke in the election, launched the first partisan filibuster in U.S. history to block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

In practical terms, their strategy gained them nothing.

Senate Republicans on Thursday responded by applying the Senate rules instituted by Harry Reid (NV-D) in 2013.  At that time, Reid pushed through the elimination of the Senate filibuster on executive appointments and lower-court nominees. The “Reid Rule” now applies to Supreme Court nominations as well.

Judge Gorsuch was then confirmed on Friday by a bipartisan 54-45 vote.

While there may be no end to the hypocrisy, rancor, and obstruction that liberal loyalists are willing to inflict on the American political process, all citizens of goodwill can rest assured that in Judge Gorsuch, they have a decent, unbiased, and highly-qualified Supreme Court justice who will uphold the law.

And Second Amendment advocates in particular should sleep more soundly knowing that when the Supreme Court again hears a case on the right to keep and bear arms, Justice Scalia’s seat will be occupied by a man dedicated to ensuring that the Framers’ vision of constitutional freedom is upheld.

‘Zero Tolerance’ Policies and the Making of a Preschool Pariah

The “Three Rs” used to stand for reading, writing, and arithmetic. Now, with zero-tolerance policies that ignore facts and logic, it’s reading, writing, and ridiculous. 

Caitlin Miller, aged five, of Hoke County, North Carolina was suspended from kindergarten after making shooting motions with a stick during a recess game of “Kings and Queens” (Caitlin was the royal security detail). Citing the need to provide “a safe and orderly environment for learning,” the school uses a zero-tolerance policy for “assaults, threats or harassment from any student.” The suspension letter from the assistant principal advises that Caitlin was being punished for “turning a stick into a gun and threatening to shoot and kill other students.”

This episode follows a report of disciplinary action earlier in March against four-year-old preschooler Hunter Crowe.  Hunter was suspended for seven days because – according to Jackson’s mom – staff alleged he brought a “shotgun bullet” into the preschool. Closer examination indicated the offending item was, in fact, an empty .22 shell casing, which Hunter picked up after a weekend with his grandfather, a police officer, learning gun safety. Hunter didn’t threaten or hurt anyone, but simply brought the spent casing along as something to share with his friends. The preschool, however, apparently views this (and Hunter’s use of other toys as “pretend” guns) as a sign of a troubled or degenerate personality.

The preschool director’s letter explains that Hunter had already been told that “guns, hunting, etc., are not subjects that are to be discussed at school,” and that the punishment is intended as a “learning experience” that will lead to a “new outlook and understanding about these issues and the safety of his fellow classmates.” Hunter’s mother says she was warned that if Hunter’s “enthusiasm for guns continued, he’d be permanently expelled.” (What next? A demand that Hunter change his name because it is associated with the “oppression of the environment”?) 

Both Caitlin and Hunter are hurt and confused about why they are being banished from school. For adults, the reason is fairly obvious. As we’ve noted previously, these incidents represent a larger trend in schools from kindergarten to high school and beyond to marginalize lawful firearms and firearm use as abnormal by prohibiting speech about guns, drawing pictures of guns, wearing clothing depicting guns (even entirely fictional guns), pointing a “finger gun,” chewing food into maybe-gun shapes, and other benign behavior. In an ad released last year, one group suggested that ordinary activities like reading a gun magazine or looking at a firearm-related video were among the sinister giveaways of an incipient mass murderer.

The ostensible reasons given for these blanket prohibitions are safety and the need for a secure learning environment, yet rules like these can’t legitimately be justified on safety grounds.

Unfortunately, enforcing such ridiculous restrictions has real and disproportionate consequences for good kids. Besides the immediate impact of a “corrective action” like suspension, these students face being stigmatized as “disruptive” or problem students with “behavioral issues” once these infractions are noted in their school records. In one case, a five-year-old kindergartner who pointed a crayon while making “pew pew” sounds was required to sign a “school safety contract” promising that she would not commit suicide or kill others, and had to respond to a “suicide/homicide assessment” questionnaire, with school officials recommending that the child see a psychiatrist. Such actions also have the potential to bring parents within the ambit of government oversight and investigation – Hunter Crowe’s mother was apparently told that in addition to the suspension, preschool officials would be notifying the state Department of Children and Family Services. 

Educators pride themselves on valuing diversity, promoting inclusivity, and fostering the freedom of students to think imaginatively and creatively. Incidents like these, though, suggest that this tolerance extends only to students with views that conform to political and social ideals about firearms that educators endorse as desirable and “correct.” And we grade that as “Fail.”

You May be Surprised to Know This About Hunting

NEWTOWN, Conn. — The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) has launched a new campaign called “You may be Surprised to know this about hunting” to connect and even surprise the non-hunting public with stories about improved wildlife populations and the conservation efforts of hunters.

NSSF presents this campaign in a five-part infographic series that will re-introduce hunters and hunting to the public. With most people these days living in cities, suburbs and non-hunting households, many misperceptions of what hunting is and what hunting does, have developed. In response, this campaign works to explain hunting’s connection to the values of today’s socially and environmentally conscious culture. With Earth Day approaching and with people thinking more about the health of our planet, it seems appropriate to kick off with the infographic titled “You may be Surprised to know… hunters aid the environment” In order to explain that hunters and environmentalists alike fight habitat encroachment and help to conserve the health of our ecosystems, NSSF points out that hunters have contributed billions of dollars to wildlife conservation through a sustainable system of wildlife management.

More than a century ago, when wildlife populations were depleted, hunters supported laws that placed excise taxes on purchases of firearms and ammunition and later on fishing, boating and archery equipment. Through these taxes, and also license fees, wildlife agencies received the necessary funds to acquire and maintain land. This land is set aside for the conservation of game and non-game species. Wildlife biologists survey and measure wildlife populations, habitat and food sources to determine how many animals can thrive in certain areas, and then help establish hunting regulations that combat overpopulation and allow time for species growth. This land is also made available for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, kayaking, camping and more.

The campaign recognizes the locavore movement and the fact long known to hunters that game meat is nutritious and healthful. NSSF highlights venison with double the iron, fewer calories, more protein and better fats than typical meats like lamb, beef, turkey and chicken, making it a truly healthy alternative.

This campaign seeks to demonstrate that if you support the environment, preservation of land, animal conservation and personal nutrition, then you can support hunting.

To view the full selection of infographics and to learn more about this campaign, go to nssf.org/infographics/.

The campaign was created by the NSSF communications team working with intern Daphane Cassidy, an avid hunter and conservationist. Daphane has hunted and volunteered in South Africa, and has represented the U.S. as one of the few American Young Opinion members of The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation at the most recent “Hunting is Conservation” general assembly in Belgium. Participating in worldwide conservation efforts and seeing the benefits of hunting first-hand, Daphane wants to foster positive understanding and relationships between the hunting and non-hunting public.

About NSSF

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 13,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, visit www.nssf.org.

More Firearms, More Firearms Owners, Fewer Fatal Accidents

The National Safety Council released the 2017 edition of its annual Injury Facts report this week, and it contains welcome news about firearm safety. 

The number of fatal firearms accidents dropped to the lowest point ever (since 1903, when the data was first tracked).  There were 489 total fatal firearm accidents nationwide – a 17% decrease from 2014. As a percent of the total number of fatal accidents, firearms accident rank very low: just 0.3% of all fatal accidents involved a firearm. 

Comparing the odds between the types of fatal accidents can help put these numbers into context, and the National Safety Council puts fatal injury data in this format to make comparisons easier. The odds of a fatal firearms accident are 1 in 6,905. You are more likely to be killed by:

  • Poisoning (1 in 96)
  • A motor vehicle crash (1 in 114)
  • A fall (1 in 127)
  • Drowning (1 in 1,188)
  • A bicycle crash (1 in 4,486)

What makes the record low number of fatal firearms accidents even more noteworthy is that it came at a time when the number of firearms in the country was skyrocketing. The year 2015 saw the most background checks ever conducted in a single year until that point (the number was surpassed in 2016).  More than 23 million NICS checks were conducted in 2015. Background checks don’t have a one-to-one correlation with firearms purchases, so we don’t know for sure how many more guns were bought in 2015 than previous years…. but we do know that the number of American gun owners was on the rise. 

PEW Research Center reported a five-point increase in the percentage of American households with a firearm between mid-2015 and mid-2016. Fox News reported on a host of other surveys with similar findings

So, in 2015 we had more background checks conducted AND more Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights AND a record low number of fatal firearms accidents. The safety efforts of the NRA, our partners and allies supporting the Second Amendment, and, most of all, responsible, law-abiding American firearm owners made the record-setting safety of 2015 possible.

RELATED ARTICLE: What’s Happened to Gun Sales After Trump’s Election

Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Embraces Heller and Originalism During Senate Hearings

Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme court, asserted during his confirmation hearings this week that Scalia’s landmark Second Amendment opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller “guarantees the individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.”

Gorsuch made the comment during an exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who was trying to goad him into agreeing with the anti-gun opinion recently issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (see story at this link).

He refused to take the bait, however, telling her,

“Well, it’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, Senator, respectfully it’s a matter of it being the law. And — and my job is to apply and enforce the law.”

Throughout his hearings, Gorsuch deftly answered questions about his judicial philosophy and parried on inquiries that would have required him to prejudge legal issues that he could face as a Supreme Court justice.

His answers made clear, however, that he would staunchly defend Americans’ constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment.

They also reinforced his belief in Justice Scalia’s signature technique of constitutional interpretation known as originalism. This methodology focuses on the actual words of constitutional provisions as they would have been publicly understood at the time of their enactment.

This approaches ensures that the inalienable rights recognized at the founding cannot later be declared null and void by judges who might consider them outdated or counterproductive in the modern world.

As Justice Scalia put it in Heller:

A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad.

Gorsuch paid homage to Justice Scalia in his opening statement at the hearings. Calling Scalia a “mentor,” Gorsuch stated, “He reminded us that words matter. That the judge’s job is to follow the words that are in the law, not replace them with those that aren’t.”

He also invoked the words of Alexander Hamilton:

“Liberty can have … nothing to fear from judges who apply the law. But liberty has everything to fear if judges try to legislate, too.”

President Trump promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who would respect constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment, and who would faithfully apply the law.

Judge Gorsuch embodies those ideals, and his performance this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee gives every indication he will soon get to exercise them as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

And when he does, all Americans – including gun owners – will be better off as a result.

A Promise Kept: Trump Signs Repeal of Obama-Era Social Security Gun Prohibition Rule

On Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump signed the repeal of an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that would have resulted in some 75,000 law-abiding beneficiaries losing their Second Amendment rights each year. 

The SSA rulemaking was issued in the waning weeks of Obama’s presidency and targeted those receiving disability insurance or Supplementary Security Income based on SSA’s listed mental disorders and who were appointed a “representative payee” to help them manage their benefits. The agency –for the first time in its history– sought to portray these individuals as “mental defectives” who were prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms under federal law. It had planned to notify them of their prohibited status and to report them to NICS.

Making matters worse, the beneficiaries would have had no ability to argue about their suitability to possess firearms before their rights were lost. Instead, they would have been reduced to filing a petition for “restoration” of their rights, an expensive and bureaucratic process that would have required them to pay for a mental health evaluation and to prove they were not dangerous, a premise the government never established in the first place.

The plan drew fire not just from the NRA, but also from the ACLU and a wide range of mental health advocacy and treatment groups from across the political spectrum. Also opposing the plan was the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities. The NCD issued a statement explaining:

Since the action was first proposed in 2013, NCD has consistently taken the position that equating the need for assistance in managing one’s finances with a false presumption of incapacity in other areas of life, including possession of a firearm, unnecessarily and unreasonably deprives individuals with disabilities of a constitutional right and increases the stigma that [affects] those who may need a representative payee. The overly broad classification of “mental disorder,” includes a wide range of limitations and a shifting set of criteria relevant to whether or not one can engage in substantial gainful activity. NCD remains steadfast in our position that this classification remains irrelevant to the question of whether one can be a responsible gun owner.

The SSA received tens of thousands of comments in opposition to the rule. The NRA-ILA’s submission explained in detail how the rule was contrary to the underlying statute, to the U.S. Constitution and would function mainly to stigmatize the SSA beneficiaries and discourage others from seeking treatment and benefits to which they were entitled. It also argued that there was no empirical support for the notion that the rule would promote public safety.

The SSA, however, ignored the comments and issued the rule essentially as proposed. 

It also brazenly brushed aside proffered evidence that the targeted beneficiaries were not at any increased risk for committing violence with firearms. “We are not attempting to imply a connection between mental illness and a propensity for violence, particularly gun violence,” the SSA wrote. “Rather, we are complying with our obligations under the NIAA, which require us to provide information from our records when an individual falls within one of the categories identified in 18 U.S.C. 922(g).”

Fortunately, pro-gun majorities in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate acted quickly to disapprove the rule under the Congressional Review Act, a federal statute that allows Congress to use an expedited legislative process to overrule administrative actions passed in the waning days of an outgoing administration.

The efforts to roll back this unjustified and legally unauthorized rule were predictably met with a withering barrage of negative and fake reporting from the anti-gun media, with supposed “news” outlets issuing such ludicrous headlines as “Senate, House hand guns to seriously mentally ill.” All these reports completely ignored the fact that existing restrictions on persons who had been involuntarily committed or adjudicated mentally incompetent remained fully intact. By acting to block the rule, Congress simply disapproved the Obama administration’s attempt to create a new class of prohibited persons by “reinterpreting” a federal gun control statute passed in 1968.

President Trump’s signing of the measure not only served to help repair the damage to the Second Amendment wrought by the Obama administration, it ushered in what many hope will be a new era of respect for the right to keep and bear arms. Just over a month into his presidency, Trump signed a free-standing pro-gun bill into law. 

The NRA, of course, was among the earliest and staunchest supporters of Trump’s presidential bid. We thank him for his quick action on this measure and look forward to working with him and the pro-gun majorities in Congress to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

VIDEO: Wayne LaPierre at CPAC 2017

NRA Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre addressed the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. “Have we ever seen such anger in this country,” asked the NRA chief, referring to the enraged leftist movement. He said many of these people hate everything that America stands for and they’re willing to engage in criminal violence to get what they want.

These are dangerous times, warned LaPierre, who declared that we’re also under siege from the national media machine. Everything they do, he pointed out, is intended to purposely and maliciously destroy the Trump presidency.

But when Americans voted last November, the NRA vowed to stand by Donald Trump’s side and LaPierre promised that gun owners across the country will fight the violent left and will not be defeated. “Terror knows no more ferocious foe than freedom in the hands of ‘We the people.’

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Ignores Heller: No Protection for Guns It Deems “Dangerous”

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinions in Heller and McDonald, many of the lower U.S. courts have been making up their own rules when it comes to the Second Amendment. Tuesday’s outrageous opinion by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Kolbe v. Hogan is yet another example of this. In that case, nine of out fourteen judges ruled that America’s most popular types of rifles, banned in the state of Maryland, have no Second Amendment protection.

The Court called the banned firearms – which include AR-15s and most magazine-fed semi-automatic rifles – “exceptionally lethal weapons of war.” It compared them to the M16, which the court claimed made them categorically unprotected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Heller. The Court called the difference between a machine gun and a semi-automatic “slight”, despite the substantial differences in function and form, so much so that the federal law regulates each in highly dissimilar ways.

And in doing so, the judges joining the majority opinion actually said that they do not consider themselves bound by the Supreme Court’s majority decision in Heller (to say nothing of their sworn oath to uphold the Constitution).

Heller, of course, concerned the most demonstrably lethal and crime-associated of all firearms: the handgun. Handguns are implicated in more deaths, and more firearm-related crimes, than all other types of firearms combined … by a very large margin. This was extensively briefed for the Supreme Court during the Heller proceedings, and no one contested that argument. The NRA, on behalf of a free people, will continue to vindicate the rights of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear the best firearms available to protect themselves and their loved ones.  As we’ve been there every step of the way in the Kolbe fight, we will continue to press forward, including appealing the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Moreover, the majority opinion in Heller did not shrink from these facts. The opinion’s author, Justice Scalia, put it very plainly: “We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution.” He continued: “But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.”

In other words, the fact that criminals exploit handguns for their own evil purposes could not overcome the fact that responsible, law-abiding Americans also choose them to defend themselves, their families, and their homes.

Heller also counsels against policy-makers picking and choosing among firearm types when enacting prohibitions.  “It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible to ban the possession of handguns so long as the possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed,” Scalia wrote. “It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon.”

In the post-Heller era, the same could be said of the detachable magazine-fed semi-automatic rifles of the type banned in Maryland. They’re not just popular guns, they’re the most popular types of rifles on the market today. And the fact that many, many millions reside in the hands of Americans, with such a miniscule percentage used in violent crime, show that they are overwhelmingly kept and used for lawful purposes.

But the Fourth Circuit disregarded all this, and instead chose to follow Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion in Heller. Breyer insisted that even if the majority was right that Second Amendment protects an individual right grounded in self-defense, “the District’s regulation … represents a permissible legislative response to a serious, indeed life-threatening, problem.”

Of course, virtually every author of every gun control law that has ever been passed or proposed has claimed the measure is a matter of life and death. Never mind that few can show any actual evidence their proposed restrictions will save lives. And even if they could, Heller could not be clearer that this claim does not end the matter when it comes to banning the sorts of arms commonly kept by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes. The majority very specifically rejected Breyer’s attempts to use inapt analogies and “interest-balancing” to preserve D.C.’s handgun ban.

Inapt analogies and interest-balancing, however, are exactly the techniques employed by the Kolbe majority. They counterfactually try to analogize AR-15s to M16s and other “weapons of war,” and then they insist such firearms can be subject to a ban because they’re dangerous.  It’s likely that any ban of any type of firearm – and under any circumstances – would survive this shallow and self-serving rationale.

If, as the Fourth Circuit suggests, a firearm loses Second Amendment protection because it is specifically designed for “killing or disabling the enemy,” then the whole idea of the Second Amendment protecting a defensive purpose (or applying to any well-designed firearm, for that matter) collapses. Handguns, rifles, and shotguns of any type can be equally “dangerous.”   

It’s bad enough that the Fourth Circuit considers the choices actually made by law-abiding people irrelevant when it comes to the Second Amendment, contrary to the clear admonition of Heller.

Yet the court’s reasoning is worse than that. It challenges the very notion of freedom itself and the ability of a free people to govern themselves and make their own choices from available alternatives. It puts the people who vote and pay taxes and follow the law below the government that is supposed to serve them and below the criminals who will use every available means to prey upon them. It empowers the courts to decide, on a case-by-case basis, what firearms are “safe” enough for a free people to be trusted to own.

The NRA, on behalf of a free people, will continue to vindicate the rights of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear the best firearms available to protect themselves and their loved ones.  As we’ve been there every step of the way in the Kolbe fight, we will continue to press forward, including appealing the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Senate Votes to Block Obama Social Security Administration Gun Ban; Legislation Heads to President Trump

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate voted 57-43 in favor of H.J.Res.40, which would block the implementation of an Obama-era rule under which the Social Security Administration (SSA) would report the names of tens of thousands of beneficiaries annually to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in order to prohibit them from purchasing firearms. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress is permitted to overrule a federal regulation, within a 60 day window, using an expedited legislative procedure that is not subject to the Senate’s filibuster rule. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed this measure by a vote of 235-180. This important legislation now heads to President Donald Trump.

At issue is a December 19, 2016 SSA rule, set to be implemented by December 19, 2017, that broadly prohibits many with what SSA considers to be a mental disorder from purchasing firearms. Under the rule, those with a mental health impairment, who meet SSA’s criteria to receive benefits and also have a representative payee designated to receive these benefits, would be reported to the NICS database as “adjudicated as a mental defective,” and thus prohibited from possessing firearms.

Mental health professionals recognize that there is no connection between mental illness and dangerousness, and that those who suffer from mental health disorders are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violent crime. The SSA rule does not require that an individual’s underlying mental health records indicate dangerousness. In fact, an individual who is receiving benefits via a representative payee could be swept into NICS for mental conditions that span the gamut of diagnoses; including intellectual disabilities and eating disorders. The Obama administration estimated that this rule could strip the rights of 75,000 individuals per year.

The fact that this rule has no basis in evidence, would serve to further stigmatize an already vulnerable group, and has inadequate due process protections, has led a wide-ranging coalition of organizations to support its cancelation. In addition to the NRA, the legislation to block the SSA rule is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and many others.

In order for the federal government to strip an individual of a constitutionally protected right, the procedure for removing that right must comport with due process of law. Further, the burden of justifying the removal of a right rests on the government. Here, the designation of a representative payee does not involve adequate process for the removal of a person’s Second Amendment rights.

Proponents of the SSA rule have all but acknowledged this fact, often pointing to the procedure under which an individual can appeal their firearms prohibition once it has been imposed. During floor debate, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) contended that those affected by this rule, “have due process to contest the determination,” and that there is the “full ability for the individual or for the family to contest this limitation, which makes it completely constitutional.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) took to the Senate floor to register a similar contention.

Senators Murphy and Wyden could use a civics lesson. The SSA rule would impermissibly shift government’s burden of proving an individual should not be allowed to exercise their Second Amendment right, to the individual, requiring that they prove that they are capable of safely exercising their constitutional right. Moreover, aside from the fact that this perverts our constitutional structure, one might rightly question how legitimately SSA would administer any appeal of a prior agency determination regarding a representative payee designation, or a relief from disability petition. As a matter of policy, one might also question whether a typical Social Security beneficiary has access to the resources necessary to launch and navigate such an appeal process, particularly if appeals to SSA are unfruitful and a judicial remedy is required.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who introduced a Senate version of H.J.Res.40, challenged proponents of the SSA rule on this point just prior to the vote. During debate, Grassley stated, “If the supporters of this regulation want to take away people’s gun rights then they need to acknowledge the government must carry the burden to actually prove a person is dangerously mentally ill and the government must provide due process in that process.”

Akin to a bully choosing their victim, gun control supporters have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not above attacking the constitutional rights of the most vulnerable among us if it serves their over-arching anti-gun agenda. In fact, at this point it is safe to say that targeting the rights of those who are subject to unwarranted prejudice is part of the anti-gun movement’s comprehensive strategy.

It is important for gun owners to understand that efforts to curtail the due process rights of some in relation to the Second Amendment right, have grave implications for all gun owners. While much of the gun control movement’s recent energy has been used to target groups that portions of the public have shown little sympathy towards, gun owners can be assured that, if successful, gun control advocates will seek to similarly diminish the due process rights of ever wider segments of the population.

H.J.Res.40 protects the due process and Second Amendment rights of Social Security beneficiaries. However, given the amount of misinformation that anti-gun politicians, gun control organizations, and the media have peddled about H.J.Res.40 and the SSA rule, it is also important to understand what this legislation and rule would not do.

H.J.Res.40 Does Not Weaken the National Instant Criminal Background Check System

In materials on his website, Murphy has repeatedly contended that H.J.Res.40 will “weaken” the background check system. This is not true. H.J.Res.40 does not remove the names of any individuals from the NICS database. The notice of the SSA rule in the Federal Register makes clear that “compliance is not required until December 19, 2017.” H.J.Res.40 merely prevents SSA from using an incorrect interpretation of the law to place new individuals into the NICS database going forward.

Further, some media outlets have run misleading headlines that give the impression that Congress has voted to broadly curtail background checks. An Associated Press item carried the headline, “House votes to roll back Obama rule on background checks for gun ownership.” The BBC ran an article that claimed, “The US House of Representatives has voted to scrap regulations that require background checks for gun buyers with mental health issues.”

H.J.Res.40 does not alter the circumstances under which a background check must be conducted pursuant to a firearms transfer. Just as now, a background check would still be required for firearm transfers between federally licensed gun dealers and non-licensees.

The SSA Rule is Not Required to Comply with the NICS Improvement Amendments Act

Contrary to media reports and the contention of the Obama administration, the SSA rule is not required in order for the SSA to properly comply with the NICS Improvement Amendments Act (NIAA). The NIAA requires federal agencies to submit prohibiting records for inclusion in the NICS. The NIAA did not change the underlying categories of persons prohibited from possessing firearms, outlined 18 U.S.C. §922(g).

Under the guise of facilitating compliance with NIAA, the SSA rule is an expansion of a prohibited persons category, those “adjudicated as a mental defective,” to encompass individuals never covered by federal statute. The NIAA requires federal agencies to report relevant records to the NICS, not to invent new categories of relevant records in order to prohibit new segments of the population.

Further, if at any point since the advent of the NICS in 1998 SSA had believed it was in possession of relevant prohibiting information on an individual, it was authorized to forward such information to the FBI for inclusion in the NICS. Up until the Obama administration made the political decision to pervert existing federal law to further scrutinize gun owners, SSA had correctly determined that the records covered by the new rule were not prohibiting.

The SSA Rule Would Not Have Prevented the Tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Some media outlets have reported that the SSA rule was “inspired” by the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn. The language these outlets use gives the impression that this rule could have helped to prevent that tragedy.

The perpetrator of that attack did suffer from mental illness, however, background checks were irrelevant to the crime. The shooter did not go through a background check to procure the rifle used in the attack, he stole the firearm from his mother after he murdered her.

The Obama administration’s SSA rule is a callous attempt to restrict Second Amendment rights by targeting a vulnerable and misunderstood population, and we look forward to President Trump signing H.J.Res.40.

ATF Associate Deputy Director Pens ‘White Paper’ on Reducing Needless Firearms Regulations

On Monday, the Washington Post reported on a “white paper” written by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Associate Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Ronald Turk that outlines several changes that ATF could make to decrease the burdens placed on gun owners and the firearms industry while maintaining public safety. Titled “Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations” and dated January 20, 2017, the document covers a raft of issues that NRA has previously worked to address, and vindicates NRA’s long-held contentions about the dubious efficacy of many firearms regulations. While the white paper does fail to address some of the legitimate concerns of gun owners in certain areas, the majority of document should serve to inform ATF regulatory reform efforts moving forward.

The document correctly concludes that “There are many regulatory changes or modifications that can be made by or through ATF that would have an immediate, positive impact on commerce and industry without significantly hindering ATFs mission or adversely affecting public safety.” And to this end, the paper individually addresses a handful of areas where regulation could be curtailed.

[Click here to read “Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations” by ATF Associate Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Ronald Turk.]

Sporting Purposes Test

Under 18 U.S.C. § 925(d), “The Attorney General shall authorize a firearm or ammunition to be imported or brought into the United States or any possession thereof if the firearm or ammunition… is generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

Infamously known as the “sporting purposes test,” this portion of federal law has been used as justification to prohibit the importation of certain types of firearms to the U.S. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush used the sporting purposes test to bar the importation of 43 types of semi-automatic rifles. Unsatisfied with the breadth of the Bush ban, President Bill Clinton used this provision to ban the importation of 58 additional types of semi-automatic rifles. The abuse of the law was so evident that Clinton White House staffer Jose Cerda remarked, “We are taking the law and bending it as far as we can to capture a whole new class of guns.”

In challenging the legitimacy of the current configuration of the sporting purposes test, the paper notes the increasing use of semi-automatic firearms in the modern shooting sports. Turk explains,

Since the sunset of the Assault Weapons ban in 2004, the use of AR-15s, AK-style, and similar rifles now commonly referred to as “modern sporting rifles” has increased exponentially in sport shooting. These firearm types are now standard for hunting activities. ATF could re-examine its almost 20-year-old study to bring it up to date with the sport shooting landscape of today, which is vastly different than what it was years ago. Action shooting sports and organizations such as 3 Gun and the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) have also drastically expanded in recent years. 

This would be a departure from ATF policy, which has historically dismissed the modern shooting sports when making sporting purposes determinations. As recently as July 2012, when ATF released an update to their “Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns,” the agency rejected arguments by public commenters that practical shooting competitions should come within the definition of sporting purposes. Straining to deny the legitimate sporting uses of many semi-automatic shotguns, ATF compared the number of members of the United States Practical Shooting Association to the obviously much larger total number of licensed hunters in the U.S. The difference, ATF contended, showed that the modern shooting sports should have no bearing on determining whether a firearm is “suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” Turk’s recognition of this folly is a welcome development.

The paper goes on to explain that the import bans do not advance a public policy goal. Turk notes, “Restriction on imports serves questionable public safety interests, as these rifles are already generally legally available for manufacture and ownership in the United States.”

Suppressors

In recent years, NRA has worked to roll back state laws that restrict the possession or use of suppressors. This, and advances in the industry, have led to something of a renaissance in the production and use of firearm suppressors. The increasing popularity of these devices, and their health benefits for shooters, has led NRA, pro-gun lawmakers, and even Donald Trump Jr., to lead an effort to remove suppressors from the registration and tax burdens imposed by the National Firearms Act.

It appears at least some in ATF acknowledge the benefits of suppressors and support their removal from the NFA. The white paper notes, “In the past several years, opinions about silencers have changed across the United States. Their use to reduce noise at shooting ranges and applications within the sporting and hunting industry are now well recognized.”

The paper goes on to explain the outmoded nature of the current regulation of suppressors and that  removing the devices from the NFA poses little public safety risk, as they are rarely used in crime. Turk notes, 

While DOJ and ATF have historically not supported removal of items from the NFA, the change in public acceptance of silencers arguably indicates that the reason for their inclusion in the NFA is archaic and historical reluctance to removing them from the NFA should be reevaluated. ATF’s experience with the criminal use of silencers also supports reassessing their inclusion in the NFA. On average in the past 10 years, ATF has only recommended 44 defendants a year for prosecution on silencer-related violations; of those, only approximately 6 of the defendants had prior felony convictions. Moreover, consistent with this low number of prosecution referrals, silencers are very rarely used in criminal shootings. Given the lack of criminality associated with silencers, it is reasonable to conclude that they should not be viewed as a threat to public safety necessitating NFA classification, and should be considered for reclassification under the [Gun Control Act]. 

FFL Reform

In 1993, President Bill Clinton directed the Treasury Department to further scrutinize Federal Firearms Licensees and applicants in order to reduce the overall number of firearms dealers. These efforts had the effect of significantly reducing the number of FFLs in the country, eliminating many small dealers who operated out of their homes.

The white paper contemplates efforts to loosen some of the business-related requirements for obtaining an FFL. The paper notes,

The marketplace has changed significantly in recent years, and ATF’s guidance to FFLs on these issues has not kept pace with developments in commerce. Classic “brick and mortar” storefronts with an on-hand inventory and set “front-door” business hours often no longer apply in today’s modern marketplace.

This, Turk explains, “would have no negative impact to public safety” and – in his view – might have salutary effects, as it “would encourage more sales and business through a licensee.”

Further, Turk discusses permitting FFLs to conduct sales at gun shows outside of the state in which they are licensed. Permitting such sales, Turk argues, “would have no detrimental effect on public safety.”

Pistol Stabilizing Braces

In recent years firearm owners have increasingly made use of products like Sig Sauer’s SBX or SB15 pistol stabilizing brace. A boon to disabled shooters, the ATF has approved such items for use on pistols. However, in January 2015, ATF issued an open letter explaining that,

[a]ny person who intends to use a handgun stabilizing brace as a shoulder stock on a pistol (having a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length or a smooth bore firearm with a barrel under 18 inches in length) must first file an ATF Form 1 and pay the applicable tax because the resulting firearm will be subject to all provisions of the NFA.

According to ATF’s convoluted logic,

“[b]ecause the NFA defines both rifle and shotgun to include any “weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder,” any person who redesigns a stabilizing brace for use as a shoulder stock makes a NFA firearm when attached to a pistol with a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length or a handgun with a smooth bore under 18 inches in length.”

In challenging this interpretation of the law, the white paper points out, “ATF has not made another NFA determination where a shooter’s use alone was deemed be a ‘redesign’ of the product/firearm resulting in an NFA classification.” Turk also suggests that,

To mitigate this confusion and concern, ATF could amend the determination letter to remove the language indicating that simple use of a product for a purpose other than intended by the manufacturer – without additional proof or redesign – may result in re-classification as an NFA weapon.

Re-importation of Defense Surplus Firearms

Longtime NRA supporters will be familiar with the long-running effort to repatriate tens of thousands of M1 Garand rifles and hundreds of thousands of M1 carbines from South Korea. NRA has repeatedly worked with our friends in Congress to promote a legislative remedy that would allow for these firearms to be brought home for the benefit of American collectors.

In 2010, Hillary Clinton’s State Department blocked the importation of these rifles, citing public safety concerns. At the time, a State Department spokesperson commented that “The transfer of such a large number of weapons — 87,310 M1 Garands and 770,160 M1 Carbines — could potentially be exploited by individuals seeking firearms for illicit purposes.”

Rejecting this rationale, the paper notes,

There is no clear public safety reason why taxpayer-funded US-origin C&R defense articles should be denied re-importation to the American public, while many non-U.S.- origin C&R items are approved. Additionally, these items do not represent any discernable public safety concern, as demand lies with collectors of vintage military firearms.

Turk also points out,

Many M1 Garand rifles have been approved for importation in the past, setting precedence for this to occur. The more recent denials were in part due to perceived potential that they may be used in crimes, for which there is little, if any, evidence for such a concern.

Firearms Registration

As with most government products, the ATF white paper is not perfect. The document is a bit too dismissive of the concerns of gun owners and dealers regarding some firearm transfer recordkeeping requirements.

In 2011, President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice announced a firearm transfer reporting scheme, the purported purpose of which was to combat Mexican drug cartels. The measure requires gun dealers in the Southwest border states to report to ATF information pertaining to the multiple sale of rifles that are larger than .22-caliber and able to accept a detachable magazine that are made to a single individual within a five-day period. Turk appears to approve of this effort, claiming that it has some beneficial use.

First, regardless of any perceived value the reporting requirement may have, the scheme is a blatant perversion of federal law. Permitting ATF to operate this demand letter scheme allows the agency to circumvent important safeguards in 18 U.S.C. § 923(g) that are meant to protect FFLs from agency harassment. Further, 18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(3)(A) requires FFLs to report multiple sales of handguns to a single buyer within five consecutive days. That Congress did not impose this same requirement for multiple rifle sales makes clear that they did not intend to burden rifle transactions in this manner.

Second, for those who have made lawful purchases of this type, the reporting requirement amounts to gun registration. This scheme not only creates significant privacy concerns for gun owners in the Southwest border states, but also circumvents 18 U.S.C. § 926(a), which prohibits the federal government from creating a firearms registry.

Overall, Turk’s ATF white paper is an important contribution to the development of a more intelligent firearms regulation regime, informed by actual experience in administering ATF regulations. Unsurprisingly, gun control groups, who have little knowledge of how firearms regulations work in practice and are unconcerned with the efficacy of a given rule aside from its ability to burden gun owners and the firearms industry, have been vocal in their condemnation of the paper. ATF should ignore such reflexive comments to this well-considered document and move forward with efforts to free gun owners, the firearms industry, and the agency from regulations that serve no public interest.