Matthew Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy at Firearms Policy Coalition. You can connect with him on Twitter @MattLaAtLaw.
VA Assault Weapon Ban Sneaks out of Committee, New Ghost Gat, Bloomberg Lies About Child Deaths in Super Bowl Gun Grab Ad, Everytown for Gun Safety Announces Plan to Influence Minnesota Senate Election, Hawaii Legislature Pushing “Do Something” Bills in Wake of Police Shootings, Florida Supreme Court Justices Question Assault Weapons Ban, Florida Carry, Inc. Promises Police They Will Sue if Gun Owners Rights are Violated, Changes to ATF Form 4473 Include Addition of Non-Binary as an Option Under Sex, Illinois State Police Pass the Buck on $29.5M Gun Licensing Fund Diversion, Illinois Supreme Court Recognizes Gun Ownership as a Civil Right, Minnesota Supreme Court Refuses to Recognize Expungement of Gun Owner’s Record, Federal Agents Shoot Unarmed Man in Face Following Brawl, Police Use Tank to Respond to Domestic Violence Incident in Retirement Community, Delay in California Assault Weapon Suit
VA Assault Weapon Ban Sneaks out of Committee
We previously thought the Virginia legislature had stalled on the assault weapons ban, possibly spurred by the display of 20,000 protestors in the capital. This week we saw that wasn’t quite the case, as Virginia House Public Safety Subcommittee passed HB 961, an aggressive assault weapon ban, along with a host of other bills. This spurred a crowd full of activists to erupt in anger, and be ordered out by police.
The bill, which focuses on firearms with a fixed magazine of twelve or more, or a “points test,” is presented as a “compromise.” The sweeping ban applies to handguns and rifles alike, and would render illegal the most common firearms in America.
To be clear, all bills reported out of House Public Safety Subcommittee still must pass the full House (HBs 1499, 264, 600, 1288, and 961), and are all likely to do so late next week. Thus the fight now moves to Senate, where some Dems have announced they will oppose the bill. If the Senate intends to take HB 961 to floor, it will likely have to go through Senate Judiciary, the full Senate, and conference committee, whereas other pending gun legislation has corresponding ("companion") legislation in each chamber and may need fewer steps. The assault weapon ban still faces substantial, but far from insurmountable, procedural hurdles.
New Ghost Gat
CTRL+Pew, our friend and a humble master of memes, this week released an art project that has been in the works for some time. The debate on 3D printable guns and files has been focused on the status of design as a form of speech, something it unquestionably is. This week, CTRL+Pew released a special upgraded version of the Tec-9 printable receiver, to celebrate political expression as an art.
So what’s special about this new blaster? Well, it's a love letter to a state politician who wants to destroy our First and Second Amendment rights. The receiver has a rendition of Pennsylvania AG Josh Shaprio’s face, with anime eyes, adorned with hearts all over, and “We love you Josh Shapiro” emblazoning the side, along with a link to “JoshShapiroIsATyrant.com,” and “Cereal Number 1,” a dig at anti-gun politicians’ senseless obsession with enumeration. Oh, and it also a spot to hold a spare mag, which is super neat.
The release is accompanied by a video, music track, and T-shirt made to celebrate the occasion. It’s an intentionally and unquestionably upbeat affair, showing that our side is something more than what gun controllers want people to believe. The whole affair is undeniably vibrant, and I can’t recommend checking it out enough.
Bloomberg Lies About Child Deaths in Super Bowl Gun Grab Ad
In his race for the DNC nomination, Mike Bloomberg is pulling out all the stops, poaching staffers, flooding the primary race with his own cash, and in his latest stunt, lying to about 100 million viewers during this year’s Super Bowl. So, what was his claim? Citing to Everytown, the anti-2A organization that he bankrolls, Bloomberg claimed that “2,900 children die from gun violence every year." Seem high? That’s because it’s bullshit. Per the CDC, to whom Everytown attributes their own stats, deaths of individuals under the age of 18 totaled only 1499, about 40% of which were suicides. So how did Bloomberg come to this number? By including people over the age of 18 in an attempt to deceive viewers. This isn’t the first time gun grabbers have inflated numbers; it routinely occurs with situations like mass shootings.
Everytown for Gun Safety Announces Plan to Influence Minnesota Senate Election
This Wednesday, Everytown announced its intention to spend $250,000 on Minnesota’s state senate elections in an attempt to flip Republican-held seats. While some may find this alarming, this isn’t Everytown’s only attempt at buying elections; they plan to spend $60 million on elections this year, double the amount the Bloomberg-backed group spent in 2018. The election ads will push for extensive background checks and red flag laws, and they will target “suburban and African American women.”
Hawaii Legislature Pushing “Do Something” Bills in Wake of Police Shootings
Never to let a tragedy go to waste, Hawaii lawmakers are using the murder of two police officers last month to justify pushing new legislation. So what kind of “common sense gun laws” are they trying to pass? There are three on the table, none of which have any logical relation to the incident. Proposals include banning 50 caliber machine guns, requiring permits for ammunition purchases, and making it a felony to buy spooky “ghost guns.”
The cops weren’t mowed down with a ma deuce, nor were there any spooky apparitions involved. It’s clear this is nothing more than a pathetic attempt by ghoulish gun grabbers to tighten the noose by exploiting a tragic situation involving an unstable individual. Passing these laws won’t make Hawaii a safer place, but it will contribute to the deprivation of Hawaiians’ rights.
Florida Supreme Court Justices Question Assault Weapons Ban
Initiative #19-01, Florida’s assault weapons ban ballot initiative, after failing to meet signature requirements for the 2018 and 2020 cycles, with zombie-like dedication, is positioning itself for 2022. The state Supreme Court recently reviewed Its proposed ballot summary, which reads as follows:
“Prohibits possession of assault weapons, defined as semiautomatic rifles and shotguns
capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device. Possession of handguns is not prohibited. Exempts military and law enforcement personnel in their official duties. Exempts and requires registration of assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to this provision’s effective date. Creates criminal penalties for violations of this amendment.”
So what’s wrong with it? Everything. Mass shootings, the impetus for the initiative, are incredibly rare. On top of that, the odds that someone will be killed with a rifle or shotgun of any kind are remarkably low - of the 14,123 homicides reported to the FBI for 2018, they were only used in 532, or 3.77%. Compare this to the 1,515 homicides committed with a knife or sharp object (that’s 10.72%), or the 672 murders committed with hands and feet (4.76%). You read that right, you’re more likely to get kicked or punched to death than shot with an AR-15 according to the FBI’s 2018 stats.
Aside from not being supported by the numbers, the bill and proposed language is unconstitutionally vague; the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court described the ballot summary as “prohibitively misleading.” Supporters of the proposed amendment believe that, like the medical marijuana initiative in 2016, this firearm ban will be revised and passed by Floridians. We’ll see about that.
Florida Carry, Inc. Promises Police They Will Sue if Gun Owners Rights are Violated
After all of the hooplah from anti-gun legislators this session, Florida Carry issued an open letter to all of Florida’s police chiefs. The organization lists a dozen examples of the myriad civil rights violations conducted by the police against Floridians, ranging from the ambush and disarmament of innocent fishermen to the heinous slaying of a homeowner who was armed when he answered unexpected knocking in the middle of the night.
Florida Carry asserts they will bring “lawsuit after lawsuit” until Florida police understand that gun owners are not second class people and that they are not to commit further violations of their constitutional rights. Not only does the organization promise to bring suit, but it also intends to demand criminal prosecution of the officers and deputies who commit the violations. It will be interesting to see how Florida law enforcement chiefs respond.
Changes to ATF Form 4473 Include Addition of Non-Binary as an Option Under Sex
The ATF is accepting public comments on its proposed changes to Form 4473, its standard form for making purchases or exchanges via an FFL dealer. Most of these changes are for practical purposes. For example, the list of serial numbers and descriptions of firearms to be purchased or exchanged is now on the first page of the form. The form also includes a change pertaining to individuals who are serving in the military at the time of their purchase or exchange, asking whether they are currently facing court martial for UCMJ violations.
Most striking is the addition of a box to the form - an option for non-binary individuals to check pertaining to their sex. The form’s simple structure was inherently discriminatory because it precluded transgender, intersex, and other individuals who identify as non-binary from purchasing a firearm, and ATF was of the position that not “picking a box” was grounds for denying the transaction. Thankfully the ATF is trying to mend this transgression. Still, one wonders why one has to “check a box” at all.
Illinois State Police Pass the Buck on $29.5M Gun Licensing Fund Diversion
According to documents obtained from the state government toward the end of 2019, nearly $30 million of firearm owner fees that were intended for funding Illinois’ Firearms Owner Identification program were diverted for other purposes over the preceding five years. The fund diversion is allegedly a temporary scenario, but FOID and concealed carry applications are backlogged several months, and there is no indication that the Illinois State Police will be reimbursed.
Instead of owning their deficiency, the police have insisted that they have no authority to “sweep” the funds in question, while also claiming that this fiscal year the department has been filling positions for the Firearms Services Bureau, that they have been procuring equipment to aid in processing, and that they are building a new bureau for appeals, all because funds have not been swept this time around. Kind of makes a fellow wonder what they could do if funds from the last five years hadn’t been swept in the first place.
Illinois Supreme Court Recognizes Gun Ownership as a Civil Right
Despite deficiencies with Illinois’ executive branch (see above), its highest court has come out swinging in favor of the Second Amendment. In an opinion issued at the end of January, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the right to keep and bear arms is a civil right. You may be saying to yourself, “of course it’s a civil right,” but here’s the thing: until now, only the right to vote, right to hold office, and the right to serve as a jury member were considered by the court to be civil rights. This is a major victory for individuals who had been previously convicted and had their convictions expunged because it allows them the right to challenge to have their right to gun ownership restored. It’s not all good news, though. The court partially reversed a decision finding the state and federal statutes unconstitutional as applied to petitioner. While this may be a victory, it’s not as wide or sweeping as it deserved to be.
Minnesota Supreme Court Refuses to Recognize Expungement of Gun Owner’s Record
When one state giveth, another taketh away. In a decision rendered Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court declared that a man with an expunged criminal record was not entitled under federal law to purchase firearms. So what happened? The man was convicted nearly a quarter century ago, but the expungement of his records didn’t remove them from state and federal databases. Using what can only be described as galaxy-brained logic, the court concluded that although the records were otherwise sealed, the appellant wasn’t entitled to restoration of his rights because the records weren’t destroyed or eliminated by the executive branch. Nice. In other words, the court reasoned that expungement as granted didn’t meet the federal definition of expungement. What kind of backwards pony pageantry is that?
Federal Agents Shoot Unarmed Man in Face Following Brawl
ICE Agents in Brooklyn decided to take a break from murdering dogs on Wednesday, shooting an unarmed man instead. The shooting occured after the feds tazed the man following a brawl. The reason? The agents had shown up to the home to take an undocumented construction worker into custody. While the conditions leading up to the physical confrontation are unclear, what is clear is that the feds felt the need to taser one of the young men before shooting him point-blank in the face, all while he was unarmed. Regardless of your position on the immigration debate, this is a senseless loss of human life. It makes me wonder how those who support gun control would hold so much faith in a government so quick to bust out the blasters in a fist fight.
Police Use Tank to Respond to Domestic Violence Incident in Retirement Community
Continuing our discussion of why the government can’t be trusted with firearms, deputies from Spalding County, GA decided that it would be appropriate to end a 2 hour standoff by driving a tank through the front of a home in the middle of a retirement community. How did the standoff arise, you ask? Shots were (allegedly) fired by the county commissioner at officers who were there to serve a warrant. In summary, a lone gunman was all it took for the local police to roll out a tank and wreak havoc in an old folks’ neighborhood.
Militarization of the police is nothing new. It’s been happening since the early days of the Global War on Terror, with law enforcement departments acquiring surplus vehicles such as armored personnel carriers and MRAPS as they were retired from military units. These acquisitions aren’t just limited to rural or Republican-dominated jurisdictions, and nobody is safe. Just last month, the Alameda Sheriff's Office used tanks to evict a small group of homeless mothers who were squatting in an empty house in Oakland, California.
Were these people violating the law? Maybe, sure. But it should concern all of us that the police are so willing to use this level of force for something so minor.
Delay in California Assault Weapon Suit
Miller v. Becerra, a challenge for California’s assault weapon ban, was scheduled for a hearing on Thursday, but this was re-set to mid-March. No reason was given by the Court, and no party asked for it. If I were to guess, it’s probably just the court needing some extra time to get through its extensive record