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  • Op-Ed: Hollywood Actors Who Support California Gun Laws
    by Chuck Michel

    California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. This pleases many Hollywood gun control activists, who continue to promote efforts for legislation around the country to regulate firearms and the purchase of guns.

    California received the top rating for the strongest gun reform measures in a 2013 state analysis by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

    Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore encouraged fans around the country to donate to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control organization set up by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg soon after the tragic 2012 elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

    California already had the gun laws recommended by the organization, but Moore and other gun control advocates want all states to adopt similar laws to prevent gun violence. Moore also took the campaign to Twitter where she received a lot of criticism from gun control opponents as well as support.

    Click here to read the entire article at CalGunLaws.com.

  • Ohio Deputy's case is latest to highlight bad laws, unreasonable prosecutions, unequal justice
    by Jeff Knox

    In recent years I’ve often written about people entangled in our nation’s complex, confusing, and irrational gun laws.  People like David Olofson, who was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for illegal transfer of a “machine gun” after his standard, semi-auto, AR – with no altered or modified parts – malfunctioned and produced hammer-follow doubles and triples.  Or FBI Special Agent John Shipley, who was sentenced to two years for “engaging in the business” of buying and selling firearms, even though all of his sales were legal, and he maintained better records than most private sellers – something that was actually used as evidence against him during his trial.  And the recent case of Shaneen Allen, the single mom who got a gun and carry permit after being robbed twice, and who, when stopped for an unsafe lane change, informed the officer about the gun in her purse.  Unfortunately, the incident occurred in New Jersey, across the river from Allen’s Pennsylvania home.  Shaneen spent 40 days in jail before finally getting out on bail, and was facing a minimum, mandatory 3-year sentence.  But thanks to the efforts of attorney Evan Nappen, and the outraged cries of gun owners from around the country – not to mention the governor’s presidential aspirations – she was eventually given a suspended sentence deal that will be expunged upon completion (and just recently pardoned by Governor Christie).  Then there was the Reese family, denied bail and kept in custody for 18 months because they sold guns and ammunition to customers in their gun shop whom they “should have known” were lying on federal forms.  You can find those stories at www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

    In another recent case in Ohio, a Sheriff’s Deputy named Eric Spicer used his office to procure a select-fire, HK416 carbine with his own money, then maintained possession of the gun after he was fired from the agency.

    According to Spicer, he informed his boss of his desire to acquire the full-auto capable carbine and got permission to submit the appropriate paperwork under the Sheriff’s signature.  The Sheriff said he recalled giving Spicer permission to buy an AR-type rifle, but that he didn’t know the gun was full-auto capable, and said he never gave permission for Spicer to sign his name to the paperwork.  After Spicer was fired over an unrelated matter – which still has a Wrongful Dismissal suit pending – he maintained possession of the $1700 firearm he had paid for. 

    When another area police agency, where Spicer was seeking employment, inquired about having the paperwork for the firearm transferred from the Sheriff’s Office to their department, the question was passed on to the BATF.  This led BATF to the knowledge that the gun, which was legally registered to the Sheriff’s Office, was actually in Spicer’s possession, even though he was no longer employed there.  That resulted in ATF raiding Spicer’s residence and arresting him for illegal possession of a machine gun.

    Spicer was charged with a variety of criminal counts, but was eventually found guilty of only two:  Knowingly possessing a machine gun, and possessing a machine gun that was not registered to him.  For those convictions, Spicer was sentenced to 5 years of probation.  Since the convictions were felonies, Spicer loses his right to possess any firearms for the rest of his life, thus ending his career in law enforcement.

    The case is a frustrating to everyone.  Prosecutors are protesting the “light” sentence handed down by the judge.  Spicer maintains that he was trying to abide by the country’s convoluted gun laws and that his prosecution was malicious.  Law enforcement critics point to the light sentence as another example of special consideration for police, and rights advocates continue to question why laws, agencies, and the courts waste resources focusing on people who are not violent criminals, but who have just gotten tangled in the red tape of the system.

    The disparity in sentences between Spicer and David Olofson does seem a bit out of line, but I would contend that it’s a matter of Olofson’s sentence being too harsh, not Spicer’s being too light.  More important though is the question of why either of them was prosecuted in the first place.  Neither Olofson nor Spicer was any sort of threat to anyone.  Nor were Shaneen Allen, John Shipley, Albert Kwan, and numerous others.  These are people who, if their crimes had been pointed out to them, would have apologized and asked what to do to comply with the law.  They had no intention of committing a crime and certainly no intention of using their firearms for criminal purposes.  The laws were written and passed specifically for the stated purpose of reducing violent crime, but prosecuting these people does nothing to further that objective.

    The whole concept of gun control laws – trying to change the behavior of criminals by restricting the activities of the law-abiding – is ridiculous and will unavoidably have a much greater impact on non-criminals than on criminals.  That’s wasteful and counterproductive, and it results in serious harm to many harmless and blameless people. 

    ©2015 The Firearms Coalition, all rights reserved. Reprinting, posting, and distributing permitted with inclusion of this copyright statement. www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

  • ATF & DOJ: Corruption in Action
    by Jeff Knox

    As I was graduating from high school in Prescott, Arizona, My father, Neal Knox, was in Washington, D.C. making war plans as the head of NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. By the following year, Dad had publicly declared war on the BATF and the Gun Control of 1968. From Dad’s perspective, BATF had been actively waging war on gun owners for years, and he had left his dream job as editor and publisher of Rifle and Handloader magazines, with the specific objective of destroying the BATF and reforming GCA’68.

    By the mid-1970s, the BATF had earned a reputation for being excessively aggressive, nit-picky, vindictive, and often unscrupulous. Dozens of stories emerged of ATF abuses, and analysis of their arrest and prosecution records showed that a majority of their cases didn’t involve malevolent criminal activity, but instead targeted ordinary gun owners who were tripped up by confusing regulations and federal red tape.

    When Dad began waging the war on BATF, he exposed the horror stories, published the records, and showed the ruined lives of regular citizens that littered BATF’s wake. In 1979, Dad convinced Senators Jim McClure (R-ID) and Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) to hold hearings on the BATF’s enforcement practices and abuses. In the hearings, Dad made it clear that, while the BATF’s actions were atrocious, the real culprit in the sad saga was the GCA. As Dad said in his Senate testimony, any agency tasked with enforcing such poorly written laws would be hard pressed not to fall into a similar pattern of abuse.

    As a direct result of this process of sanitation through sunlight, the ATF received harsh rebukes from Congress, and had millions of dollars pulled from their annual budget. President Reagan was actually on the verge of dissolving the agency entirely, and turning their enforcement responsibilities over to the FBI. Dad opposed that move on the grounds that a crippled and closely scrutinized BATF would be easier to keep in check than the more powerful and respected FBI enforcing the same bad laws.

    There has been a lot of second-guessing and criticism over that call, but by keeping the focus on BATF as a symptom resulting from bad laws, rather than allowing the agency to be used as a scapegoat, Dad was able to more effectively treat the symptoms, while still going after the underlying disease – the GCA.

    Dad’s primary objective in accepting the leadership position at NRA-ILA was to reform the GCA, removing from the law as many booby-traps and nonsensical restrictions as he could. With this in mind, he and the ILA staff worked closely with the staffs of Senator McClure and Representative Harold Volkmer (D-MO) on a sweeping “gun de-control” bill. The bill became known as the Firearm Owner Protection Act, and a somewhat watered-down version of it was finally passed in 1986.

    Almost 30 years after passage of the McClure-Volkmer Bill, the BATF remains plagued with scandals and accusations of abuse of authority. In 2002, as part of the 9-11 restructuring, BATF’s enforcement branch was placed under the Department of Justice alongside the FBI and DEA. The move, which was supposed to help restore the BATF’s sullied reputation, did nothing to slow the chronic mismanagement and abuse. What it has done however, is highlight the role of DOJ prosecutors in BATF’s misdeeds.

    Like any law enforcement agency, BATF relies on fear and results to justify its budget requests. While it’s easy to paint pictures of all sorts of potential threats with which to scare Congress into throwing more money at them, BATF must rely on DOJ prosecutors to garner actual results. Elaborate operations and large arrest numbers fall flat when accompanied by very low conviction rates, and that’s exactly what BATF has been producing for decades. But it’s often the prosecutors who drive these cases, telling enforcers what types of cases they want pursued, and what types of evidence they need for convictions.

    In a number of cases, it’s clear that prosecutors encouraged ATF to “bend” evidence, intentionally misrepresented laws and regulations, and conspired with BATF to suppress evidence that could be harmful to the prosecution. They did it to Albert Kwan, David Olofson, the Reese family, and others we’ve reported on over the years. They were active coconspirators in Operation Fast & Furious. And recently, in a lawsuit from former agent, Jay Dobyns, accusing BATF of defamation of character and breach of contract, the judge was so incensed by the actions of government lawyers that he barred 17 DOJ lawyers from his court and suggested that, along with BATF acting in a vindictive and “Kafkaesque” manner toward their own agent, prosecutors and BATF might have engaged in perjury and fraud upon the court.

    The pattern is symptomatic of government spiraling out of control with bad laws being enforced and prosecuted by rogue agencies operating without adequate supervision or accountability. If we don’t fix the laws and hold the enforcers and prosecutors accountable, this problem is just going to keep getting worse.

    ©2015 The Firearms Coalition, all rights reserved. Reprinting, posting, and distributing permitted with inclusion of this copyright statement. www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

  • BATFE "Air Force" Grounded Again

    Everyone likes the song that begins “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder.” Maybe the BATFE likes it a little too much.

    Days after the BATFE had its ears trimmed by Congress after trying to ban M855 ammunition, a D.O.J. Inspector General audit has revealed that over the last few years, the agency spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to achieve one of its long held ambitions, a private air force, of sorts.

    Long held, indeed. In 1995, a mere two years after the then-BATF’s deadly debacle in Waco, Texas, the agency acquired 22 OV-10 “Bronco” warplanes from the military. Though designed to carry machine guns, missiles, rockets, and bombs, nine of the planes in the BATF’s squadron were “being used for surveillance and photography,” while the rest were for spare parts, the agency said.

    The following year, NRA learned that the military had transferred the warplanes to the BATF through a dummy salvage corporation and a fictitious outfit called American Warbirds, Inc., which had offices in an unmarked building occupied by the BATF near Washington, D.C.

    Why the BATF needed the sneakily-acquired aircraft, equipped with Forward-Looking Infrared television and ground-mapping radar, was never made clear. In any case, the OV-10s, reportedly, were eventually transferred to the Department of State, ending the agency’s airborne dreams.

    Or so we thought at the time. 

    The recent audit found that “between September 2011 and September 2012, ATF’s UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) program spent approximately $600,000 to purchase three different types of rotary-wing UAS with a total of six UAS vehicles.”

    Supposedly, the BATFE never used the drones in law enforcement investigations, because they suffered “mechanical and technical problems significant enough to render them unsuitable for deployment on ATF operations.” In 2014, the BATFE’s Special Operations Division, which is responsible for undercover operations security and specialized deployments, suspended the drone program. The agency’s expensive toys were thereafter given to the Navy.

    However, the audit determined, “less than a week after ATF suspended its original UAS program, an ATF unit, the National Response Team (NRT), purchased five small commercial UAS for about $15,000” to “help document fire and explosion scenes.” Those drones, too, have been grounded until the NRT receives “further guidance regarding their use.” 

    Additional details about the audit’s findings were reported by the Washington Examiner. On the heels of having its funding called into question over the M855 episode, the revelation of BATFE’s waste of Americans’ money on drones that--perhaps thankfully--didn’t work, cannot bode well for the nation’s most chronically problematic law enforcement agency.

    © 2015 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. This may be reproduced. This may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.

  • New Lawmakers Inform President of their Opposition to the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

    Recently, a group of 12 freshman Senators expressed their opposition to ratification of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty in a letter to President Barack Obama.  Secretary of State John Kerry signed the UN ATT on behalf of the U.S. on September 25, 2013. In their letter, the new Senators cited an October 15, 2013 letter to the president signed by 50 Senators from the 113th Congress that outlined their concerns regarding the treaty in detail. Further the group wrote, “we pledge to oppose the ratification of this treaty, and we give notice that we do not regard the U.S. as bound to uphold its object and purpose.” Altogether, 55 Senators in the 114th Congress have made clear that they oppose the UN ATT.

    The freshman Senators were led in their effort by two veteran opponents of the treaty, Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kans.). In joint press releases, the pair further explained why staunch Senate opposition to the ATT is vital to American gun owners.

    Senator Moran noted, “Throughout this process, it has been disturbing to watch the Administration reverse U.S. policies, abandon its own ‘red line’ negotiation principles, admit publicly the treaty’s dangerous ambiguity, and hastily review the final treaty text.” Senator Inhofe made clear that “the president continues to mislead the U.N. by keeping the United States as a signatory nation of a treaty the Senate will not ratify. As threats to our security and that of our allies continue to grow, serious questions surround the treaty regarding its implementation and its effect on our ability to aid and arm our allies, and raises serious concerns regarding our Second Amendment rights.”

    In a portion of the release summarizing the six broad reasons for opposing the ATT given in the 2013 letter, the Senators Inhofe and Moran listed as one of their concerns: “The treaty includes only a weak non-binding reference to the lawful ownership, use of, and trade in firearms, and recognizes none of these activities, much less individual self-defense, as fundamental individual rights. This poses a threat to the Second Amendment.” This embodies much of the reason NRA’s opposes the treaty and has worked to limit its potential effect on American gun owners since the push for the ATT began in 2003.

    In an analogous move, 34 new members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the president adding their names to the list of House lawmakers that oppose the treaty. The effort was led by longtime ATT opponent Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pa.). The House letter makes clear that language in the treaty “implies that treaty supporters seek to use it to impinge on the lawful ownership, use of, and trade in firearms.” Further, the letter explains, “we oppose the passage of implementing legislation that is necessary for [the treaty] to have any domestic effect. Lastly, as members of the House of Representatives, which is particularly invested with the power of the purse, we oppose the use of any funds to implement the Arms Trade Treaty.”

    Considering the president’s recent abuse of executive authority in other gun control efforts, the staunch Congressional opposition to the ATT exhibited in Monday’s letters is more important than ever. In recent months the president has shown a willingness to act unilaterally on a number of policy fronts, most notably for gun owners, a proposed ban on popular rifle ammunition. Such strong opposition in the Senate helps to ensure that the treaty will never be formally ratified. However, Congressional opposition is also needed to combat any attempts by the president to unilaterally enact policies that he believes would help the U.S. better conform to the treaty.

    © 2015 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. This may be reproduced. This may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.

  • Your Tactical Training Scenario- Defeating Pepper Spray
    by Greg Ellifritz

    Have you ever thought about what you might do if a criminal sprays you in the face with pepper spray? That scenario happened recently in New Jersey when a shoplifter sprayed two store security guards who confronted her after she stole some merchandise. The spray incapacitated the security guards and the woman escaped to a nearby hotel. When confronted by hotel security, she sprayed them as well. A criminal who will spray security guards will have no compunction about spraying you (his victim) as well. Read more about the incident at the link below:

    Alleged Victoria’s Secret robber tries to escape by pepper-spraying guards twice, authorities say

    It’s not common, but it still happens on occasion. You should have a plan in place in the event you are confronted by a criminal weilding a can of chemical spray.

    Some of you will say “I’d just shoot him.” Not so fast. In general, using deadly force requires that a reasonable person be in fear of serious injury or death. It’s going to be tough to show that pepper spray was a lethal weapon used against you when almost every police department in the country places the use of pepper spray at the LOWEST level on the use of force continuum. In most police agencies, you are required to pepper spray a resisting subject (if feasible) before you even consider using strikes against him. Pepper spray sucks. I know. I’ve been exposed to it over 50 times in training and on the street. It causes a lot of pain and some temporary blindness, but it doesn’t cause serious injury.

    The standard argument I get from the “I’d just shoot him” crowd is that if the victim is disabled by the pepper spray, the criminal could disarm the victim and shoot him with his own gun. It’s a roundabout argument for justifying a deadly force response, but it doesn’t always work. In my opinion, if a criminal was using pepper spray and attempting to disarm his victim, it likely WOULD justify a lethal response. The problem is that the criminal actually has to be trying to take the gun for the victim to fear for his life. We need reasonable, articulable facts that would lead a person in a similar situation to believe that a disarming attempt was immanent. Mere possibility of an event happening isn’t enough evidence to keep you out of jail.

    If you can’t shoot the bad guy, what can you do?

    I think the first step to consider is retreating. Most small cans of chemical irritant have a very limited range. The small keychain type sprays only shoot about five feet. The larger canisters that cops carry shoot a stream that is 10-15 feet. Excepting the large fire extinguisher-style cans, you would be out of range of any commonly carried chemical spray if you could get at least 20 feet away.

    If escape isn’t an option, shielding can work. If the spray doesn’t get in your eyes, you will likely still be able to function at almost full capacity. You might cough a bit, but you won’t be disabled. Cover your eyes with a hand. Alternately you can go into a “horizontal elbow shield” position and tuck your face inside the crook of your elbow for protection. Even holding something like a briefcase or notepad over your face will stop the majority of the spray from getting into your eyes.

    If you can’t escape or shield, recognize that you are going to be sprayed. Know in advance how you will react. You can usually continue fighting, but some people panic when they are hit with the spray for the first time. Their panic leads to a freezing response that makes them unlikely to be able to defend themselves. The spray painful. It makes you cough and your eyes burn. But most of you can fight through the pain as long as you know what to expect.

    You don’t want your first exposure to be on the street while you are fighting a criminal. It would be a great idea if you had someone spray you in a controlled situation first so that you aren’t shocked by the effects when you have to fight it on the street. If you don’t want to take a full spray to the face, spray some OC onto a gauze pad and wipe the corner of your eye with it. You’ll get a good taste of what the spray feels like and still be able to decontaminate relatively quickly.

    One caution...

    A very small percentage of people are allergic to red peppers and will have a serious allergic reaction if exposed to OC spray. If you feel your face and throat swelling, get hives, or have serious difficulty breathing after exposure, seek medical help! That’s another reason I advocate an advance exposure to OC. You don’t want to find out that you have a potentially fatal allergy while you are fighting the bad guy!

    If you do get exposed, the best antidote is cold running water and fresh air. I’ve tried almost all the commercial decontamination products on the market. None are as good as a garden hose. If you can’t gain access to running water, flushing your eyes with bottled water or saline solution will work well. Using some type of soap to remove the capsicum oils on the skin will also help with decontamination.

    If none of these are available, you’ll have to flush your eyes the natural way, by blinking rapidly. Close your eyes as hard as possible, open them quickly and repeat until the tears start flowing. It will be painful to open your eyes at first and you won’t want to do this, but I promise you’ll decontaminate more quickly.

    If the criminal presses the attack after he sprays you, you will have to keep fighting no matter how badly you are exposed. Continue to blink and strobe your eyes as rapidly as possible. You may have to physically pry your eyelid open with your non dominant hand if you get a full exposure. Prying your eye open with the off hand will provide enough vision that you will be able to target your opponent or line up the sights on your weapon.

    Most of you will think I’m crazy to advise spraying yourself, but I think it is a smart strategy, escpecially if you carry the spray yourself. Every time I’ve sprayed someone with pepper spray on the street, I’ve been exposed to it myself on some level. Every. Single. Time. If you plan to use it on a criminal, you’ll get a taste yourself. I promise. Knowing how to handle that will give you the confidence you need to win the fight against an attacker armed with a chemical irritant spray.

    Greg Ellifritz is the full time firearms and defensive tactics training officer for a central Ohio police department. He holds instructor or master instructor certifications in more than 75 different weapon systems, defensive tactics programs and police specialty areas. Greg has a master's degree in Public Policy and Management and is an instructor for both the Ohio Peace Officer's Training Academy and the Tactical Defense Institute.

    For more information or to contact Greg, visit his training site at Active Response Training.

  • "Choke Point" Hearings Yield Predictable Responses From FDIC Chairman

    Last year, we began reporting on the Obama administration’s "Operation Choke Point" and the use of federal financial services regulators to harass and intimidate banks and financial service providers who maintain relationships with legal but so-called "high risk" merchants or businesses. By leaning on the banks, the regulators hope to cause them to sever relationships with these businesses, thereby choking off their cash flow and forcing them out of the market. 

    These businesses include retailers of firearms and ammunition, a number of which have found their banking relationships abruptly severed with little or no explanation and without reference to anything the individual businesses did or did not do.  Earlier this year, a congressional report based on examination of nearly 900 internal DOJ documents found that the operation's adverse effect on legitimate businesses was not merely an unintended side-effect but the outcome of a deliberate attempt to target entire business sectors that, while legal, were deemed objectionable by regulators.

    One of the main federal entities being used to "choke" firearm businesses is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).  The FDIC was created during the New Deal in 1933 to guarantee the security of bank deposits, and has extensive supervisory and examination authority over banks and the many federal laws that banks must follow.

    As we reported last October, a coalition of congressional representatives led by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer  (R-Mo.) had requested internal investigators at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to conduct formal inquiries into Operation Choke Point, as well as any officials and staff involved in the program.

    On March 24, 2015, the Committee on Financial Services’ Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing entitled “The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Role in Operation Choke Point” where the sole witness was the Honorable Martin J. Gruenberg, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  

    U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, asked a series of probing questions and referenced multiple supporting FDIC documents revealing that ammunition and firearm sales and dealers had, in fact, been targeted.  

    “The bottom line is, you’re putting innocent people out of business and all of the people at the FDIC who are implementing this program still work there. They haven’t been fired and they haven’t been reprimanded,” Rep. Duffy said.  “These folks have no place in government – and if you allow them to stay - you have no place in government,” Duffy concluded. 

    Several other members, including Rep. Luetkemeyer, asked questions pertaining to Operation Choke Point as a whole.  

    Unfortunately, though predictably, Gruenberg's responses were vague and non-committal, and displayed a disregard for the law-abiding businesses that are being forced out of existence due to their loss of financial support from banking institutions.  The FDIC has clearly exerted pressure on financial institutions to cease relationships with what the FDIC deems as “prohibitive businesses.” 

    This is another clear example of overreach, by another Obama appointee, intended to curtail the Second Amendment. 

    In order to fight such abuse, Rep. Luetkemeyer has re-introduced NRA-supported H.R. 766--the “Financial Institution Customer Protection Act”. This legislation would institute numerous reforms to bring more transparency and accountability to federal oversight of banks; all aimed at preventing the sort of unchecked abuse of discretion at the heart of Operation Choke Point.

    Please contact your U.S. Representative and ask him or her to SUPPORT H.R. 766 

    You can contact your U.S. Representative by using our "Write Your Lawmakers" tool, or by phone at (202) 224-3121.

    © 2015 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. This may be reproduced. This may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.

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