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So the hatchet has almost been buried into the head of 2017.
2018 is around the corner, and with it new challenges, new opportunities, and courtesy of our masters in Sacramento, new laws and regulations that are surely to make us all safer.
Chief among them, and first to affect you, is our new ammunition law. Proposition 63 proposed an alteration to the California Penal Code via SB-1235.
Essentially it states that all ammunition transfers must be conducted between a customer and a licensed vendor…. and the transaction must take place “face to face”. This means that you can no longer buy ammunition from an online vendor and have it shipped directly to you. You can still buy from that favorite online source, but it now must be shipped directly to an ammunition vendor, where they will charge you, whatever they feel is reasonable, to intake the ammo, catalog it, and store it until you arrive. Once you do arrive, they can only statutorily charge $10 for the physical transfer to you.
Now, candidly, I’m not sure that it will be commercially reasonable to buy from an online source anymore. The reality is that there is not a store on the planet that would buy a product, tie up their capital in inventory and shelf space, then allow you to bypass them and buy a product online, ship to them and have that product end up competing with their existing inventory. If a Winchester White Box costs $25 at your local gun store, but you find it online for $10 with free shipping…. expect that by the time you walk out of the store it will have ultimately cost you $30.
If you still covet that wildcat specialty blend ammo from Uncle Charlie’s Powder and Lead in Wichita, Kansas… you can still get it… but that is going to be a unique purchase, and limited to specific specialty shooters.
What is really interesting about the implementation of the law is what actually ends up taking place on January 1, 2018.
We get to look at you.
Yep… that is essentially it. Somehow making eye contact with the purchaser… (and costing him more money and inconvenience)… will usher in the social utopia we have all been waiting for.
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Perhaps the most interesting aspect of SB-1235 is the operational aspect for us as ammunition vendors. Come January 1, it seems we have been legislatively instructed to ensure two objectives: 1) that the individuals walking out of the building with their ammo are human beings… (this is to ensure that anthropomorphic robots from the future, or genetically modified hominids do not gain access to ammunition), and 2) that individuals have a driver’s license or California ID card? Maybe?
There is no law that says that the purchaser must have any form of ID, nor is there anything that states that the individual be a resident of California. We can infer from future requirements that there must be some sort of identification requirement. We know that on July 1, 2019 we are going to have to input information about the purchasers into a database search prior to releasing ammo to determine if they are a prohibited person, but on January 1, 2018 that requirement is not in effect.
What concerns me the most is not so much the January 1 requirement. That is stupid, inconvenient, and does nothing more than make ammunition more expensive and difficult to acquire.
The July 1, 2019 is the one that truly gives me pause.
The issue that concerns me has to do with probable cause.
We have a legal case right now that involves a law enforcement officer using the fact that a pedestrian approached a vehicle as effective probable cause for a drug transaction taking place. The sad part of this case is that there were legitimate motor vehicle code violations that could have been used to establish probable cause for a stop… but the officer, instead, chose to use what arguably is a Constitutionally protected activity as a justification for a car stop.
The question is, if a court would be willing to accept legitimate probable cause for a citizen walking up to a vehicle… would the court also be willing to accept an ammunition sale, where the purchaser does not have a registered weapon of the same caliber, as sufficient probable cause for a search warrant to be issued? I think the answer is yes. Consider the following hypothetical scenario:
D has an unregistered firearm. It was legally acquired, but not registered with the State. He decides he wants to take said firearm out to the desert to go shoot pumpkins and propane cans. He goes to the gun store after July 1, 2019 to buy a thousand rounds of ammo for said gun.
The State does a cross reference during the background check and sees that D does not own a firearm with that caliber. They deny the sale, and then take that information to a judge. They argue in front of the judge that the attempt to purchase ammunition could very well have been an attempt to buy ammo for the sale to an individual who is prohibited from buying ammo (a straw purchase, if you will).
The judge agrees and issues a search warrant, which now subjects D to the indignity and potential harassment of a search of his premises by police, all because he was attempting to legally purchase ammunition pursuant to California’s ammunition control procedures.
This type of society has a name… it is called despotic.
To quote the more eloquent C.S. Lewis:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
This last weekend we were treated to the annual Christmas Party for the Special Forces, Chapter 78. In attendance were members of our active Green Beret A-Team who had recently returned from Afghanistan. The Sergeant Major of A Company, who regaled us of their exploits, gave us a report and the truly extraordinary news that all members of the company returned home safely to their families.
These young gentlemen, all in their Class A uniforms, are an extraordinary sight to behold. They truly embody the persona of the Green Berets: “Quiet Professionals”.
So now I have to juxtapose that with an email that we received today on our blog from last week.
You may recall that last week’s blog referenced the concept of evidentiary exclusion when the evidence being presented would be deemed more prejudicial than probative. The case at bar involved a dust cover on an AR-15 that had been personalized with an “off color” saying.
Apparently, the “off color” saying that I used was spelled incorrectly; I improperly used “Your” as opposed to “You’re”. This might have been a factor of auto correct, or frankly, just plain laziness on my part. Regardless, the many eyes that proof these blogs also missed the mistake.
Not so with our critic who emailed us.
He was deeply offended at our grammatical error, and evidentially missed the larger point of the article. That is unfortunate, since the article was actually quite important.
Worse… this individual felt the need to offer his own prejudicial mindset by referring to the defendant as a “pig”. (I am assuming this is in reference to the defendant’s role as a police officer, but I cannot be certain that the writer is not under the mistaken belief that the defendant is, in fact, a farm animal.)
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His prejudicial verbiage got me thinking though.
We have had clients, CCW clients nonetheless, who have referenced their need to keep their passion for firearms and firearms training from their coworkers, friends and in some cases family members. Many of them lament that this integral part of their lives cannot be shared with those that are closest to them.
“So many of the people I know, and work with, are anti-gun. If I let them know that I own a gun, let alone carry one, it could jeopardize my career!”
I have heard that refrain far too frequently. Imagine if that were another enumerated civil right?
“I cannot let anyone know that I vote. If I do it could hurt my career!”
Worse… “I cannot tell anyone that I am Jewish; if they knew, I might lose business.”
We would not stand for that type of discrimination. But when it comes to our gun rights, we do.
But, I digress…
The issue here with this emailer was how he perceived us as trainers, as well as police officers in general. I have no idea about his political persuasions, but from his vitriol one could probably safely assume that he is antagonistic to gun rights, and deeply resentful of law enforcement. (He also has a phobia about misspelled words.)
His attack, and that is probably the most charitable way of defining his email, was not directed at a singular individual; rather, it was against a perceived stereotype.
(As an aside… I remember a law professor I once had who had what could only be described as a phobia when it came to poor grammar. His writing was technical and literally perfect when it came to punctuation and spelling. His legal reasoning and teaching skills were pathetic. Sometimes grammar and spelling do not exactly translate to cogent arguments.)
Crap… I’m digressing again.
Back to those Green Berets… They, as I mentioned, are the embodiment of quiet professionals. They did not need to wear their martial accomplishments on their sleeves; they are more than happy to work with lethal proficiency in the background. That said, when asked, they are more than willing to “talk shop” and discuss how they train and the weapons they use.
Last week we had a young man, Chris, in our CCW class. Chris came into my office to have his guns checked. He had the bearing and demeanor of someone that had the same quiet confidence as the Green Berets I deal with.
I checked the serial number on his gun, and sent him into the classroom. Before he put the gun away he did a quick chamber check, then placed it in his bag.
I approached him while he was in the classroom.
“You military, Chris?”
“Yes… I work with Ivan, and he told me to take this class.” (Ivan, as many of you know, is one of our instructors, and an active Force Recon Member and Instructor down at Camp Pendleton.)
“You with Force Recon?”
“Yes, sir. I understand from Ivan that you are a JAG officer… I won’t hold that against you.”
“Thank you, son. I appreciate it.”
Chris, and the other members of the Special Forces community, have a quiet dignity and bearing that screams who they are without shoving their status down the throats of those around them. They don’t need to. But when asked, they will not shy away.
We can learn from their behavior and their demeanor. So can our emailer… though I highly doubt he surrounds himself with individuals of such strong character.
Philip Brailsford (officer acquitted)
Daniel Shaver (suspect)
Last week we discussed Kate Steinly. One area that got specific attention from the blog was the decision by the judge to not allow the jury to hear about Zarate’s immigration status. This was based on a belief that the evidence was more prejudicial than probative. (Remember, the prosecution is presenting a theory. That theory, if accepted as true, must show that the defendant is guilty of a criminal offense. IF a jury is in a state of equipoise on any specific fact, they MUST err to the benefit of the defendant. Evidence that does little or nothing to prove a fact, but rather simply shows the defendant to be a piece of crap will not… nor should not… be allowed into trail.)
Not all of you agreed with that assessment, or were willing to forego the legal prohibition to achieve the greater good of letting the jury know that the defendant should not have been here in the first place. (However, as I said last week… I’m not sure the defendant’s immigration status, were it known to the jury, would have been prejudicial at all… quite the contrary I’m afraid.)
Well, the universe gave us another go at it this last week… and true to the Divine Comedy, the god’s have seen fit to let us analyze essentially the same evidentiary rule, this time resulting in the acquittal of a police officer.
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On January 18, 2016 Daniel Shaver was on a business trip. He was an exterminator that used a high powered air rifle to mitigate bird infestations in warehouses. By the end of the evening he would be shot and killed by Police Officer Philip Brailsford.
The shooting caused instant outrage among those that make their livings engaging in instant outrage. Daniel was unarmed at the time of the shooting. Worse… he was unarmed on his hands and knees and clearly intoxicated. He had no prior criminal record. Officer Brailsford, on the other hand, had… pause for dramatic effect… a personalized dust cover on the AR-15 he used to shoot Daniel. Worse… his dust cover had an expletive on it, the quote “Your F—ked”.
Armchair lawyers ran to their cabinets, grabbed their port and their smoking jackets and quickly fired up their lap tops to launch into full-scale diatribes against the police. Those that sit squarely on our side of the political aisle began their, “I told you so,” lecturing.
“Put that crap on your gun, and it will be used against you in court!”
“You would never see me putting anything like that on my weapon… that is a recipe for disaster!”
“Like I have said a thousand times before… personalized stuff on your gun is like begging a jury to find you guilty!”
It was never admitted into evidence.
The jury saw the evidence. The body cam video was presented, where the officer is heard repeatedly warning the suspect to keep his hands up or he will be shot. He drops his hands, and is then warned, in no uncertain terms, to raise them again. He inexplicably reaches back towards his right side waist, and is instantly shot multiple times. The jury found the officer’s actions reasonable, taken in the totality of the evidence that was provided to them.
But what about the dust cover?!?
Surely the dust cover shows that the cop was a jerk!
Yes, it does show that the cop had done a poor job of community relations. His employment history would further suggest he was not the “finest” of Tucson’s finest. (Prior to his acquittal he was terminated for unrelated misconduct).
But here is the thing… the cops personality was not on trial, his actions were. The question at bar was quite simple: Were the officer’s actions reasonable under the circumstances? Understand, the deep subconscious motivations were never a part of the jury's instructions. As such, the inscription of the dust cover, if provided to the jury, would have proved to be more prejudicial than probative as to the reasonableness of his actions.
Many CCW holders have been remarkably hesitant to “personalize” their guns, or for that matter to proudly wear their leather holsters inscribed with the patriotic quotes or images of the 2A community (Concealed holsters of course!).
“I would, like to put this Punisher skull on the back of my Glock… but I am afraid it will be used against me.”
“If I put a Molon Labe image on my dust cover, or my magazine, well it might go against me at trial.”
Sigh… Has it ever occurred to those of us that cary guns that the mere fact that we carry guns could be used against us at trial?!
You will not be judged on your accouterment, nor your image de guerre. You will be judged on your actions… and whether those actions at the moment were, in a single word, “reasonable”.
Last week we were all forced to watch a tragic miscarriage of justice.
Worse… we saw what might be the future of the politics of victimization yielding judicial results that are rooted in the grievances of groups, rather than the actions of individuals.
On July 1, 2015 Kathryn Steinle was walking with her father on Pier 14 in the Embarcadero in San Francisco. At that time a criminal, with multiple felony convictions for possession and manufacturer of narcotics, was “playing with a gun” he claims he found in a towel under a park bench near where Kate Steinle and her father were walking. Regardless of how he came into possession of the Sig Sauer P239 chambered in .40 S&W, we do know that it had been stolen from the vehicle of a park ranger two weeks earlier.
The suspect, in addition to being a felon, was also an illegal alien that had been deported multiple times back to Mexico. His most recent arrest should have resulted in an automatic deportation… but, instead, he was released into San Francisco to take advantage of their “Sanctuary City policy”. Essentially the City by the Bay had, and continues, to take the position that they will not aid nor assist federal law enforcement when it comes to the deportation of illegal aliens (Excuse me… undocumented economic refugees).
The suspect initially claimed that he had decided to point the gun at a sea lion (Seems like a reasonable course of action in the middle of the day in downtown San Francisco). He never admitted to stealing the firearm, and there were no facts to suggest that he did not in fact simply “find” it beneath his bench. (While this fact pattern strains credulity the defendant is given the benefit of reasonable doubt when it comes to the initial crime of vehicular theft. Since no facts were presented by the prosecution to suggest that he did in fact steal the gun… we must assume that he was innocent of that crime.)
The prosecution did claim that the defendant brought the gun with him to the pier… but whether he brought it or found it does not seem particularly dispositive as to criminal culpability regarding the events to follow.
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Regardless of the events leading up to the fateful moment, at some point the defendant was holding the firearm and possibly aiming it at a sea lion. The gun then went off. According to the prosecution this was a deliberate act by the defendant. According to the defendant it just… you know… sort of happened. Regardless, the round that left the muzzle ricocheted off the pavement and struck Kate Steinle in the torso. Two hours later she was pronounced dead.
The defendant threw the weapon into the bay (where it was subsequently recovered). About an hour later he was arrested.
Judge James Feng prohibited the jurors from hearing evidence as to the defendants immigration status. In this, I think, he was correct. The California rules of evidence prohibit the inclusion of evidence that is highly prejudicial that has no direct bearing of the case at bar. (Evidence code § 352 “The court in its discretion may exclude evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the probability that its admission will (a) necessitate undue consumption of time or (b) create substantial danger of undue prejudice of confusing issues, or of misleading the jury).
A jury is assembled to adjudicate the case at bar, not to punish for prior bad acts nor to set public policy through the vehicle of a criminal trial. They have the very limited authority to act as a trier of fact to determine exactly what actions actually occurred. The defendant’s status as an illegal alien is disgusting, especially in light of the actions of San Francisco… but in no way does his alien status make it greater or less likely that the actions occurred in the manner described by the prosecution.
The judge also allowed the jury to hear the rules relating to the law of involuntary manslaughter. California Penal Code §192 (a) describes manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. § (b) further clarifies involuntary manslaughter by stating: In the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, or in the commission of a lawful act act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection. § (e) further states: ”Gross negligence,” as used in this section, does not prohibit or preclude a charge of murder under Section 188 upon facts exhibiting wantonness and a conscious disregard for life to support a finding of implied malice, or upon facts showing malice, consistent with the holding of the California Supreme Court in People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290.
Yeah, I know… even in the light most favorable to the defendant, it looks like an involuntary manslaughter charge should have been applied by the jury. Instead the jury acquitted him of all charges of unlawful killing, and only charged the defendant with being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.
Some have argued that the judge erred in not allowing the jury to see and feel the Sig 239. The defense had argued that the weapon does not have safeties and somehow the trigger pull is so light.. well… it is just bound to go off. When the jury asked to see the gun during their deliberations the defense begged the judge not to allow it.
He agreed with the defense.
That, in my opinion, was an egregious error… but frankly, I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference.
The jury seems to have engaged in a form of “juror nullification”. We don’t like to talk about this much at bar, but jurors cannot be compelled to find an issue of fact. When the application of law to the facts will create what they consider to be an unjust result, they are free to find the defendant “not guilty”. This essentially points the proverbial finger to the State, and says “Yeah, its pretty obvious what happened, but we think the law is unjust, and we are not going to allow this poor aggrieved victim of the State to be victimized further.”
It is abundantly clear that the “social justice warriors” of San Francisco found their way onto this jury. They may or may not have known that the defendant was an illegal alien. They clearly knew he was an immigrant of some sort… he had translators during the trial. They were not about to let this poor victim of systemic racism and economic exploitation be further victimized by the white male power structure. (Forget the fact that the prosecutor was a female, the victim was a female, and the judge was Asian.)
We are left to ponder… If the defendant had actually been successful in killing the sea lion, would the jury have been so lenient with him?
I spent my college years at the University of San Francisco… I am saddened, yet utterly unsurprised as to what has become of the ultimate experiment in collectivism and so called social justice.
Back in the early part of this century, there was a brief attempt to establish national reciprocity for CCW holders. Something akin to the current HR-38 that languishes in the House of Representatives. Senator Diane Feinstein was dead set against this. She articulated her views by stating that an individual residing in a “Shall Issue” state (like Nevada) could choose to travel with his firearm across state lines into California for the purposes of harming his estranged wife.
So an individual that has rationalized the act of murder will be stopped because of a prohibition on a method of carry?
On its face, the argument seems idiotic… but when we look deeper, we see a paradigm that governs all of the rhetoric of the Anti-Gun side. On even a deeper level, this same thought process animates many of the policy makers that have a vested interest in the perpetuation of collectivism.
A fundamental belief that rage can be tamed by words. Stoicism, can be legislatively mandated on the most impassioned. That murder… can be forestalled with a restraining order.
There are two types of laws in criminal justice theory. Malum in se, and malum prohibitum… each, must be clearly understood by not only the citizen, but by the legislator.
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Malum in se refers to a law that theoretically the citizen should have a priori knowledge of. We will not delve into the philosophical pedantry associated with epistemology. Suffice to say, there are certain “things” that are so taboo, that anyone with an assertive conscience will simply know it is “bad” without the necessity of a legislator telling them so.
This is not to be confused with moral relativism. In any society, regardless of their development, there are certain constants. Even to include the prohibition on murder. Ritualistic sacrifice and battle might exist, but these acts are not considered “murder”. One does not need the enlightenment of the decalogue to know that “thou shall not murder.”
As such, laws that focus on the codifying of criminal conduct of Malum in se typically have little opposition. They are relatively few and far between, and essentially outlaw those acts that have already been outlawed by our own conscience. Jimminey Cricket may have a legislator in his pocket… but he really does not need him. The fact that the citizen has a conscience at all, serves as the protector of society for these ultra heinous crimes.
Malum prohibitum is a different animal altogether. Essentially, the power of prohibition derived from the law uses the argument: “It is bad, because we say it is bad.” Without knowledge of the prohibition, the citizen could not rationally deduct its existence. In essence, the law exists to help regulate the affairs of people and is subject revision as time and society warrant.
Some laws that have been argued are malum in se, in reality have been malum prohibitum. When society becomes more enlightened (or lazy depending on your perspective), the laws are edited or abolished to fit new circumstances. Laws prohibiting drug possession have been argued to be malum in se since their development following prohibition. Today, arguably many states have changed their views to suggest they are in fact malum prohibitum.
What does remain constant throughout history is the utter folly that comes with the use of malum prohibitum laws as buttress to those that are malum in se.
This is the standard fare for the anti-gun lobby. The tool of destruction becomes more symbolic then the destroyer. It is not the actor, it is the act. The desire to cause death is less relevant then the means at which the criminal choose to deliver death to his victim.
The scoffing at a restraining order comes from this intellectual disconnect. The estranged wife lies in a pool of blood, still clutching the restraining order she received that morning from the court. Clearly, we must rule out the husband in this murder because… well… she had a restraining order against him! It must have therefore been someone else!
A child can see the idiocy of this line of thinking.
The breaking of a restraining order is a malum prohibitum offense. It is meant to protect the individual that possesses the restraining order from a potential malum in se attack that might come about in the future.
Yet, someone that is prepared to commit a malum in se crime, will have complete indifference to a malum prohibitum offense.
No one ever paused before committing a murder to ensure that the weapon he was using complied with state laws.
There is an old adage amongst those of us in the Second Amendment community, that the only people that torture themselves into compliance with gun laws are those that do not need to be regulated in the first place.
This is profoundly true.
Those that commit malum in se offenses have little need nor regard for the malum prohibitum regulations that cause consternation and contortions among the law abiding. Those that do strive to follow the law, are the least likely to ever commit a malum in se offense.
Thus, we have the bizarre result that weapons that were designed to allow us to protect ourselves from the tyrants that would commit a malum in se violation are so difficult to procure or are otherwise neutered to an extent that the tyrant has both the advantage of choosing the field of battle, and in many instances being better armed then his victim.
The Framers codified the Second Amendment to ensure that the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Tyranny is the ultimate malum in se offense, and when the defense against tyranny is befuddled by such as convoluted labyrinth, as is the state of our current gun laws, the only beneficiaries are in fact: the tyrants themselves.
“Freedom is nevermore than one generation away from extinction….”
-Ronald Reagan (Ronaldus Magnus)
Regan was absolutely correct.
Each successive generation has two separate windmills that they must battle. Encroachment of bureaucracy and jingoism. (The left loves to rally against our patriotic notions, our flags, and our homage to our Founders… To them jingoism is evidence of our bourgeoisie nature. Unfortunately the left is typically more inclined to focus more of the fashion then the frame. Their assault on the tapestry of patriotism simply misses the point altogether. The real perniciousness assault is from a forgetting of why we exist in the first place: Individual growth, the maximization of happiness, and the establishment of a free society where both can take place.)
As a society develops and moves in successive generations away from philosophical underpinnings of the Founders of that society, a spiderweb of laws and regulations begin to take hold. Alexis de Tocqueville was quite the predictor that America would not succumb to a foreign invader… she would rot from over regulation.
He was prescient in his observations…
Ronald Regan articulated the obvious solution and dire warning. Freedom is truly nevermore than one generation away from extinction. Each generation must know what is at stake…. and how to fight for freedom. Sometimes… sadly… the fight for freedom must come from the edge of a blade or the impact of a bullet. Other times, it comes from the banging of a gavel or simply the education of our youth. There are many “soldiers” each generation must enlist in the fight for freedom. For as a long as human nature exists, the war between freedom and those who would enslave will continue to rage on.
So last weekend a “soldier” from the newest generation went to battle on behalf of freedom. She is our daughter: Chaney.
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Chaney is a member of an organization called JSA (Junior Statesman of American) think of this as a cross between Model UN and the Debate Club. Throughout the country, high schools have JSA chapters that meet regularly and discuss and debate various political topics. A few times a year, multiple chapters come together for “State” conferences where more formalized debates and resolutions are argued. The political intrigue in this organization rivals “House of Cards” with calculated alliances and gambits taking place in vape filled hallways and backrooms.
The political culture of these groups is both diverse and extreme. Cartoon Conservatives crowd for space amongst long haired Libertarians and Confused Communists. The dynamic atmosphere is electric… with hundreds of high school kids developing their own political philosophy and becoming politically engaged. Some of their ideas may be dangerous… some silly… and others… well others, can give us hope.
This last weekend Chaney went to a conference here in Irvine with about four hundred JSA students. The theme for one of the debates was gun control. Dr. John Lott, the economist and author of “More Guns Less Crime” was in attendance to debate members of the Brady Campaign.
Chaney debated the idea of allowing teachers with CCW’s to carry their guns in the classroom.
As you can imagine, her position was to allow teachers with valid concealed carry permits to carry in the classroom. Her opposition appealed to a myriad of emotional pleas why weapons in the classroom… even concealed… would effect the harmonic balance of the universe.
Chaney focused instead on logic…
Logic and philosophy.
Asking a fundamental question: who is empowered to decide if a student should continue to exist? Clearly the “school shooter” should not be granted that power… yet they wield it none the less until someone or something of greater force is brought down upon the tyrant. Clearly the teacher should not be allowed to decide who in their class lives or dies. The teacher was never given authority over the student in matters of their continual existence. Should the Principal be given that power? The school Superintendent? The Governor? Congress? The answer is none of the above. The matter is; existence is an inalienable right that cannot be usurped by the the government or anyone else for that matter.
Apparently, her compatriots and comrades liked her argument. She was awarded the “gavel” for her debate performance and the powers of persuasion.
Freedom IS a mere generation away from extinction… We constantly see families coming into Artemis to train. Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Daughters… whole families learning about gun safety, security… and for some… developing an appreciation for the culture of self reliance and rugged individualism that made us who we are: fundamentally Americans. I am humbled to know that a new generation of paladins are in training and taking up arms to defend her.
Von Clausivitz, in his seminal work “On War” articulated a basic precept of combat, “War is the continuation of diplomacy through other means”. While Von Clausivitz has been criticized for the cavalier attitude towards conflict, I think that his insight into conflict was brilliant. Specifically… it shows an understanding that conflict, and by extension violence, exists on an extreme end of a continuum of human interactions. To deny its existence would be to deny one of the basic aspects of our humanity.
We are creatures of peace… when peace is appropriate.
We are practitioners of violence, when violence is righteous.
Many feel uncomfortable with that statement. They prefer to inoculate themselves in a convenient religious doctrine that demands peace as a spiritual contract. Yet, they expect the government to provide services of violence in order to provide them safety. Like the anti-hunter that bemoans the sportsman taking a deer, yet is completely comfortable going to the grocery store to buy their ground beef.
Violence is part of the human condition. It has been since we emerged from the ooze and will continue to be as long as there are creatures that require protein for survival. Denying that reality will not mitigate its effects.
Throughout this last week, there have been calls for the banning of semi-automatic firearms, again.
There have been calls for the study of mental illness… again.
There has been angry rhetoric against the NRA as well as gun owners, as somehow the mere presence of a weapon is the instigator of violence. Perhaps in a limited sense that is true. After all, if the world did not exist… there would have been a need for a flood. If it were not for the need of human interaction, the feelings of isolation or loneliness would not exist. The proximate cause for violence and suffering does not come from the weapon… it comes from the actions of the individual, spurned on by their own misguided motivations.
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I mentioned mental illness earlier as one of the demons often blamed for incidents of mass violence.
This is an understandable reaction and one that is often looked to by both sides of the “gun debate”. For a rational individual that has accepted the basic paradigm of society, it makes little sense that anyone would allow their frustrations to rise to the level of violent conduct. We take comfort in the fact that the monster that inflicts violence on innocents are somehow “broken” or victims themselves of abuse or chemical manipulations. For when the accused is defined by all as the “other” it elevates our own moral standing. It also creates a clearly defined wall of acceptable behavior and that which is uncivilized. When we see the perpetrator of violence as a broken creature, we reaffirm our own place in the universe… we might have our own issues… but we’re not that guy!
We also distinguish between acts of violence that are done against the tribe, and acts of violence that done in protection of the tribe. The monster that shoots a factory full of workers is lacking any sense of moral redemption. The warrior that stands as a paladin defending society against a mob full of violent agitators is someone to be looked up to. This is, as it should be, for not all acts of violence are equal.
Yet, what if mental illness is as much of a continuum as violence itself? We always say a shooter is “sick” and of course that must be true. What type of rational individual would kill and maim innocent people? Yet, how is a “sick” person able to function in society up until the point that they engage in their egregious conduct? The Virginia Shooter, the Las Vegas Shooter, the San Bernardino Shooters, the New York Home Depot Truck Driver, the team that attacked the Paris Night Club, the stabber that murdered children at a school in China… they all share one thing in common. A desire.
Their desire might have been motivated by politics, religion, or demons… but they all had a desire. That desire was so encompassing that they were able to transcend the social norms that hold that life is precious and to be protected not taken. More to the point, the legal restrictions on acquisition and possession of weapons, would by extension specifically not apply to these individuals. For if someone is empowered to such a degree that they would take the lives of others, why would a lesser offense prevent their actions?
If I am completely motivated to engage in murder and mayhem, why would a restraining order act as a barrier to carrying out my carnage? Why would limiting access to firearms prevent me from killing? Quite the contrary… limiting access to firearms may in fact enable my killing spree to go on longer then it would have were my victims in possession of arms themselves.
To believe that evil is something that can be regulated is the ultimate height of folly. Evil is often seen as evil specifically because it cannot be regulated. Those that would examine the laws of the tribe and specifically reject them scare us. They scare us, because they have exempted themselves from the social norms of the tribe. Without those norms, without those regulations on human conduct, their actions are unpredictable.
They are also not going to go away.
Their motivations might change from generation to generation, but they will have those same insatiable desires none the less. We must focus less on them, and instead focus more on us. War is the continuation of diplomacy by other means. We may try and provide them social service, we may try diplomacy to modify their behavior… but when they choose to raise the hand of violence towards us, we must be decisive in our response.
I don’t want to talk about monsters.
I want to talk about heroes.
Unfortunately, heroes are usually only identified after the monsters show up.
On Sunday, when we were at the range qualifying CCW class 71… I got the alert on my IPhone. Scores dead in Texas church shooting.
My first thought, (a sad commentary to the world we live in) was that this must be a black church, and someone has again chosen to victimize African Americans at a house of worship.
Little did I know that the assailant was simply a misguided piece of human excrement that apparently also considered himself an atheist. Ironically, this is after he had taught bible study at that church? We also know he had domestic disputes with his wife, and her family. The family was entrenched in the church, so his rage apparently transmuted to the congregation as a whole.
Whatever… they guy was a piece of shit.
I am far more interested in talking about heroes; Stephen Willeford and Johnnie Langendorff.
These two individuals…civilians… both, had no prior military experience.
What they did have, was a blessed combination of knowledge, skill, and balls.
The criminal came to the party with a load out for war.
At the time of the writing… the story goes:
He was clad in a plate carrier vest and had an AR style variant in his possession. When the carnage began, the two heroes sprang into action. One ran towards the sound of gun fire and engaged the suspect with his bare hands, disarming him.
When the suspect began to flee… Stephen Willeford, using the same rifle that he had requisitioned from the slob used it to nail the suspect in his support side.
(The UK Daily Mail was quick to point out in surprised language that Stephen Willeford has no prior military training! Ummmm… To the editors of the UK Daily Mail: I get your surprise from your vantage point in Europe… but let me explain something. Mr. Willeford is a Texan. He has lived around guns. He has hunted game his entire life. He represents the foundation of what the Second Amendment is about. When Tyranny raised its hand, (and make no mistake tyranny does not necessarily come from the hand of the government. Tyranny come from anyone or anything that would use force to deprive a citizen of their rights without due process.
In this case the suspect used force to deprive these innocent people of their right to exist.) Mr. Willeford used his knowledge of weapons, ballistics, and marksmanship to fight back against tyranny. The ultimate exercise of his Second Amendment rights.
With the suspect now fleeing and wounded, a second hero emerged. Johnnie Langendorff a local cowboy appeared on his modern day horse… a pick up truck. With Mr. Willeford in the passenger seat with the rifle trained on the fleeing suspect in his car… the two gave chase.
That chase ultimately ended with the suspect crashed, and dead off the side of the road.
We can debate the value of gun control, we can bemoan the lack of adequate reporting when it comes to mental health and all the corollaries to that.
But at the end of the day, we should focus our attention not on the shooter… but on the heroes that remain.
Mr. Willeford and Mr. Langendorff are examples of what makes America… well… America.
Citizens that rise to the call of duty and even in extreme indifference to their own safety do what is necessary to save others.
Gentleman. In our days of sorrow that lay ahead, we look to you as shining examples of what it means to be a true American Hero.
As we pause in silence for the fallen, we will shed a tear than raise a shot of whiskey in your honor.
Well done boys.
Some of my favorite emails go something like this:
“A client needs to talk with you ASAP! SWAT team showed up at his house and took his rifle after he tried to register it! Call him now!!!”
Before we get into the weeds on this one, let me re-iterate my feeling about “Assault Weapon” registration:
The other day, I received a lovely poster in the mail, courtesy of the California Dept. of Justice. It was an encouragement to register “assault rifles” and they were asking us to hang it prominently and proudly in our lobby for all to see.
I promptly folded it back up and put it in the DOJ file. If I were ever to post that, I would be guilty of legal malpractice. Self registration is… in my opinion, a recipe for disaster and… a Fifth amendment violation to boot. That being said, there are still those that will want to register…. and they will do so without the advise of legal counsel. To those that fall into this category, the following is a cautionary tale.
I contacted the individual on the email. He had attempted to register his weapon with the Dept. of Justice, and for his trouble, he had a contingent of State Agents from DOJ visit him at his home. They asked to see said rifle, and when he produced it, they promptly confiscated it and left him with little more than a receipt. Unaware of the law, the client had built his AR-15 with a standard magazine release and had photographed it and sent it up to DOJ. He was informed by the agents that the magazine release was illegal.
He was confused.
This was his first AR that he had built, and he had bought the parts from a local dealer. The standard magazine release was the item that came with the kit. In his mind, since he was buying all of the “stuff” here in California, it must be… per se… legal.
He had already lawyered up, so there was little for me to do assist him. I was curious though to hear DOJ’s reasoning for their “raid” and fortunately, the individual was more than happy to give me the phone number for the lead DOJ agent.
After talking to DOJ, I learned there was a little more to the story.
Evidentially, the individual in question had purchased the stripped lower and the build kit this year. (Not prior to January 1, 2017). He manufactured the rifle and then attempted to register it via the DOJ website.
When it would not take his information, he simply altered the date of acquisition to prior to January 1. With the amended date, the website now processed his application. In his mind, he simply thought the website was broken. He had no idea that what he was doing was prohibited as an application of law.
When DOJ got a hold of the application, they compared the acquisition date to the DROS date and saw the discrepancy. They had no idea that it had a standard magazine release on the rifle (as per the agents comments, being able to identify the magazine release via a photograph is virtually impossible).
DOJ had really no idea that the weapon possessed a traditional magazine release until the individual went to his safe and handed it over to the DOJ agents.
They explained what was wrong with the rifle, and told him they would need to confiscate it, but they did not arrest him.
The lead DOJ agent wanted to see if he could allow the individual to simply remove the upper from the lower thereby taking it out of the assault weapon category. His handler in Sacramento told him no… that would be tantamount to a destruction of evidence.
Again, the agent stated that he could tell the individual was not a criminal. He was not someone that had a nefarious intent. He was an older man that was as confused by the registration process as many law enforcement officers are.
The moral of the story?
If you feel you absolutely must register your AR, do so only with the advise of counsel. The ramifications are simply too great. This may seem self serving coming from a lawyer, but it is well worth the time and cost. The individual in question is now out a couple of thousand dollars worth of rifle, and it is doubtful he will ever get it back. (It is not inconceivable that we might be able to get the non regulated portions returned, but that might literally take a few years.)
Want to save the legal fees?
Follow my original advise, and keep the rifle featureless or make it a fixed magazine.
It sucks comrade… but such is life here in the Collective.
More Guns Liberated
A few months back, the Law Offices of Lieberman and Taormina got an interesting call. A gentleman, by the name of Tony called me with a problem.
Back in January, he had needed the services of the police to deal with a domestic issue. As often times is the case, the police “assisted” by simply arresting everyone in the home.
This is obviously problematic for a legally abiding citizen. No one ever wants to go through the indignity of an arrest, even when there is virtually no chance that a prosecution will ever result from it.
When a gun is in the home, this creates an entirely different wrinkle in the equation. Make the gun an “assault rifle” and be a “large capacity firearm” and baby… thats when things get really interesting!
I understand the basic public policy in separating volatile family members. I even kinda, sort of understand the argument for taking the guns. That being said, the argument is fundamentally flawed.
What if those guns are ultimately used to protect the owner from subsequent violent assault from the problem family member?
What if the owner needs to protect himself from the subsequent violent assault from the problem family member’s new beau?
Why stop just at firearms? More people are violently attacked with knifes each year…. why shouldn’t the police raid the kitchen and take all the steak knives? The Second Amendment recognizes an individuals right to keep and bear arms…. aren’t knives “arms”?
If the goal is to protect “everyone” of the parties from the sudden outburst of emotionally driven violence, why stop at guns and knives? People run down other people with their cars all the time! Let’s also confiscate the parties’ cars!… and their screwdrivers, their garden tools, sporting equipment,… you see the problem?
Well… that all not with standing, in this instance, Tony was “arrested” and all of his weapons were seized. He does have a substantial collection of firearms. All legally acquired, and most of them rarely shot.
After five days, the police began the process of returning the firearms. Two were immediately at issue. One was a IWI Tavor… the other a DP-12
The Tavor is a bull pup style rifle that… up until last year… made use of a bullet button to avoid the “assault weapons classification. The DP-12 is a shotgun with two attached seven round magazines… giving it a grand total of fourteen rounds on board.
The police contacted the California DOJ, and essentially said, “Hey… can we return these guns to Tony?”
DOJ replied with “No”.
Tony then called the National Rifle Association back in Fairfax Virginia, and they in turn referred them to the good offices of Lieberman & Taormina.
When Tony came to our office, I explained to him that it would probably end up costing him more to get the guns back, then the guns were actually worth.
His response was to pull out a checkbook and say “How much?”
He was pissed!
As he should be.
The State had taken his firearms not as a consequence of breaking the law… but as a prophylactic measure. Now that they had seized his property, they had no intention of returning it. If you or I did this… it would be called burglary and possession of stolen property!
So… the race was now officially on.
We contacted the police and interestingly found out that they were basically on our side. The property officer began the conversation by stating that before he is a cop, he is a patriot… and what was happening to Tony was a travesty of justice. He provided me with some basic discovery and a copy of the official statement from DOJ. This was not a DOJ attorney, this was a DOJ field rep that was essentially engaged in the unlicensed practice of law.
We ultimately had to file a motion for return of property and serve the police department. With a court date set, the city attorney’s office was the winner of the “you must object to this!” award. The City Attorney was himself not particularly thrilled to be on his side of the legal equation. To make matters worse, DOJ rejected all requests to be brought into litigation.
Basically, they caused this problem… and now were refusing to participate in it’s clean up.
We went to court and argued our motion in chambers. Our case turned on two theories for each of the guns.
On the Tavor we argued that Tony had been given a statutory opportunity to register his weapon as an assault rifle, or alternatively make it featureless or put a fixed magazine on it. With the police refusing to return his property he was essentially estopped from performing the remedial actions necessary to make it California compliant. The State cannot set the ground rules, forcibly prevent you from satisfying the ground rules, then claim you are not in compliance.
The second theory rested on the DP-12. We argued that the weapon was per se legal. After July 1, it potentially could have become illegal, but for the ruling in Duncan v. Becerra. (This was the ruling where Judge Benitez granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction against the large capacity magazine ban. With this injunction in place the State was literally claiming a violation of law that under court order they were prevented from enforcing.)
Our judge evidentially agreed with us.
After returning to the courtroom, he called our case and granted our motion. Armed with this, we contacted the police.
They were.. (frankly, as they had been from the beginning)… completely helpful. They congratulated us and we set up a time to pick up the weapons.
With them now in our possession we began the process of returning them to Tony. Another victory for Lieberman and Taormina… and two more guns liberated from the political prisons of California!
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