Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gun Rights News Roundup

Articles, news stories, and op-eds of interest to gun owners:

U.S., Mexico aim to crack down on gunrunners:
CUERNAVACA, Mexico - As Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder visited Mexico on Thursday to discuss disarming Mexico's drug cartels, experts from both sides of the gun-control debate said the measures are missing the mark.

"It's hard for me to take all this stuff seriously, considering how incredibly sporadic Mexico is about its own enforcement of its own border," said David Kopel, research director for the Independence Institute, a Colorado think tank that advocates for gun rights.

The United States should pressure Mexico to stop complaining about border fences; crack down on corrupt Mexican cops who sell their weapons; and stop tolerating migrant smugglers, Kopel and other gun-rights advocates say. ...

CNS News: U.S. gov't doesn't know how many guns confiscated from Mexican cartels:
While it is frequently reported that 90 percent of the guns used in drug-cartel violence in Mexico come from the United States, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told that the number is defined in a very strict way, referring only to gun information relayed by Mexican authorities to the ATF.

An ATF spokesperson explained to that the bureau does not actually count, acquire, inspect, or warehouse the weapons confiscated in Mexico; and it does not know for sure how many guns in total have been confiscated by Mexican authorities, or how many confiscated guns may not have serial numbers. [emphasis added]

Also, the ATF spokesperson said there are warehouses in Mexico full of confiscated guns, the serial numbers for which may or may not have been sent to the bureau.

“There are guns sitting in warehouses down there,” the ATF spokesperson told “We would not know that [overall number] because we are only limited to the weapons that they send to be traced.”

Hence, the estimate about the number of guns from the United States that end up being used in drug cartel violence is based solely on the weapons’ information sent by Mexican authorities to the ATF, said the spokesperson. These data include the serial number, manufacturer, and the make and model. [emphasis added]

Despite numerous queries by, the ATF was unable to provide data on the total number of guns confiscated in drug-related violence and how many of those weapons are untraceable, because it bases its calculations on what the Mexican authorities communicate.
In other words, about 7,500 guns in 2008 and 3,300 guns in 2007, which totals 10,080 for that two-year period. That total, the number of guns traced back to the United States, does not equal 90 percent of 35,021 firearms – it equals 35 percent.

But even that number is suspect because the ATF does not necessarily know how many guns have been confiscated by Mexican authorities or how many do not have serial numbers. The ATF also told that out of the 90 percent figure, it did not know how many of those weapons were fully or semi-automatic. [emphasis added]

“No, I don’t know that,” the spokesperson told ...

Comment: And the reason we should trust anything the corrupt Mexican government tells is what, exactly? Yet another reason to question the numbers.

[Texas] Campus carry bill still being debated:
Holders of concealed handgun licenses could bring their weapons to college campuses if Rio Grande Valley lawmakers have their way.

A proposal working its way through the state Legislature would lift a ban on handguns on campuses of both private and public institutions.

Proponents of the bill view it as a way to preserve gun owners' rights while promoting safety on campus, arguing that if students or staff on campus had weapons, they would have a better chance defending themselves against a Virginia Tech-style shooting. ...

Courtesy of Obama, gun dealers' business booming:
... At Jay's Sporting Goods in Clare, salesman Tim McCall said the store had been largely cleaned out of 9mm pistol ammunition and was experiencing massive sales of .40 and .45 caliber ammo.

"Anything for personal protection is selling like crazy," he said. "They're also buying a lot of .223 and 7.6x39 Russian."

The latter are common calibers among the so-called "black guns," semiautomatic versions of U.S. and Russian military guns that have a Rambo look but in truth are no more deadly than traditional semiautomatic hunting rifles.

At Cabela's in Dundee, operations manager John Woniewski said ammunition "is selling like wildfire. Anything that's a center fire round is selling."

And while some stores have raised prices on ammunition, Woniewski said, "Our prices haven't really changed much this year. The only question is whether this demand will keep up."

I first saw the ammunition sales phenomenon in Florida about a month ago when I stopped at an outdoors store to price a handgun. The display case had only a few .22 caliber revolvers left, and the store had a backorder of at least two months on new shipments.

Standing at the cash register was a man with enough ammunition in his arms to overthrow the government of a small country. It was for 9mm and .45 caliber handguns and a .223 rifle.

When I asked why he developed a sudden urge to buy a few thousand rounds, he looked at me like I came from Mars. ...

[New Hampshire] Ammo sales booming:
MANCHESTER – Panic buying of ammunition has created shortages for bullets and is slowly pushing up wholesale prices for ammo, according to New Hampshire gun dealers.

Some of the shortages have been so severe that it's been tough for dealers to secure certain types of ammunition. The dealers report that ammunition makers are producing as many bullets as they can -- but that hasn't yet translated to having plenty of stock in stores.

It's also caused wholesale prices to go up a bit, even though the cost of the raw materials going into the bullets has dropped sharply over the past few months.

The root cause of the problem is based on the same panic buying that has sent firearms sales skyrocketing over the past few months. When it comes to ammunition sales, the gun dealers describe a situation that could come straight out an economics textbook.
How much demand has there been for ammunition? Consider what happened at Al Reedy's store recently.

Reedy, the owner of Sportsman's Trading Co. in Amherst, recalled that on one recent day, his store got in a shipment of seven pallets of ammunition. In total, the shipment was for several hundred cases of ammunition, at 1,000 rounds per case.

"We opened up the store at ten o'clock, and by 1:30 it was done," Reedy recalled. "We had people from all over."

"It's creating a lot of confusion," Reedy said of the supply situation. "Distributors are going nuts. You'll call your big distributors who have huge warehouses, and they have nothing."

"Right now, the big run is on four particular items: 9mm handgun ammunition, .380-caliber handgun ammunition, .45-caliber handgun ammunition and .223-caliber ammunuition," said Yule, of Wildlife Taxidermy. ...

Attorney Don Kates opines that Obama and Congress will avoid CCW ban:
... Now we are told, on what basis I know not, that Obama is planning a federal ban on concealed carry. It is certainly true that Obama is deeply anti-gun despite his mendacious pretenses to the contrary. And it is true that he is from one of the few states that has no exception allowing issuance of concealed-carry permits.

But it is hard to overstate how preposterously paranoid it sounds to suggest that Obama is planning to try to cancel out the NRA's CCW revolution.

Let's begin by understanding the legal basis for concealed-carry laws. Every state except Vermont and possibly Alaska bans concealed carry as a matter of state law. Provisions for a permit (shall-issue or discretionary-issue) are exceptions to that law. The federal government has no constitutional power to alter or abolish state laws.

There are only two ways the federal government could reverse the concealed-carry tide. Congress--not Obama--could enact a federal law conditioning receipt of some kind of federal funds on every state having a concealed-carry ban with no permit exception.
The other way to reverse gains in concealed carry would be for Congress--not Obama--to enact a federal ban.

Obama cannot do either except by an act of Congress. And Congress is very unlikely to do either. Congress has more than 190 Republicans, most of whom would vote against either, plus well over 100 Democrats who are at least nominally pro-gun.

And every member of Congress remembers how Congress went Republican in 1994 for the first time in almost 50 years--by passing an "assault weapon" ban.
My predictions are that Obama would never propose such legislation, and, if he did, it would never even get a committee hearing, much less pass out of committee.

In addition, both instances in which the federal government could overturn state concealed-carry laws raise grave constitutional questions.

Yes, Congress could enact a federal law conditioning receipt of federal funds on every state having a concealed-carry ban with no permit provision. Again, this is how Congress enacted the national 55 mph limit, which it later aborted.

But there is no constitutional right to drive whereas there is a constitutional right to arms. And there is the 10th Amendment, which guarantees states' rights, including the right to legislate their own laws.

Now I am not saying the Supreme Court definitely would overturn such a law. What I am saying is that it raises grave constitutional questions, and I can't see Congress passing it.
But I don't think Congress would ever pass such a ban. Having come back into power finally--courtesy of a president who, however mendaciously, avows support for the right to arms--Democrats are liable to avoid the gun issue like the plague.

They learned in 1994 that attacking guns was unendurably costly. Finally back in power, they have a vast agenda of items they believe are really important.

That agenda does not include guns and they will probably not imperil it by attacking guns.

Comment: I do not share Mr. Kates' sanguine view that the Dems and Obama won't try to get more gun control passed. My view is that they are simply waiting for the right crisis to do so. And obviously, lots of Americans are voting with their wallets at gun stores throughout the country that they think more infringements are on the way.

[Illinois] Two more counties add concealed carry referendums to ballots:
Two more Southern Illinois counties have included concealed carry advisory referendums on their ballots this Tuesday that proponents say will help convince state lawmakers that laws need to be passed to allow for it.

The effectiveness of those referendums being included on Illinois voting ballots has yet to be seen, says an anti-handgun lobbyist.

Tom Menard, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said this particular election day that focuses mostly on municipal, township and school board races traditionally shows a low turnout, about 20 percent, and is not an accurate snapshot of populace attitudes and thinking.

Two Southern Illinois counties - Johnson and Pope - have included the yes-no question on their ballots which asks voters if the state Legislature should enact legislation enabling trained and licensed citizens to carry firearms for self-defense and other lawful uses.

Four Southern Illinois counties - Crawford, Franklin, Saline and Union - included the question on their ballots in November and joined six other counties in seeing the referendum approved. Six jurisdictions said no.

"There's no doubt they (Johnson and Pope counties) will pass this. We're trying to get as many counties on board as possible. This is not a Democrat-Republican issue. This should have been done much earlier," said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, who represents those counties. ...

[Wisconsin] State Supreme Court candidates clash on gun rights:
Waukesha - The state Supreme Court campaign is ending with a fight over a new issue: Who is the better friend of Wisconsin gun owners?

Challenger Randy Koschnick, a Jefferson County circuit judge, told Carroll University Republicans last week that a 2003 dissenting opinion written by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson showed a "hostility to gun owners" and their constitutional rights.

Responding later, Abrahamson said: "Nothing in my record is hostile to gun owners. Nothing in my record is hostile to any group, any individual, any entity.

"Judge Koschnick is doing anything at all to mislead the voters and distort the record."

Abrahamson and Koschnick compete in Tuesday's nonpartisan election for a 10-year term. She was appointed in 1976 and has been chief justice since 1996. He has been a circuit judge for 10 years.

The latest dispute centers on a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon that the Supreme Court overturned.

The charge was filed after Milwaukee police found Munir A. Hamdan, the owner of a grocery and liquor store who had been robbed several times, carrying a handgun in the store in 1999.

Koschnick said he was glad that a Supreme Court majority ignored Abrahamson and overturned Hamdan's conviction. He said voters approved a constitutional amendment that "enshrines" the rights of Wisconsin residents to have guns to protect themselves, to hunt and to use for any other legal purpose.

For gun owners such as Hamdan, the constitutional guarantee "supersedes" Wisconsin's law against carrying concealed weapons, Koschnick said.

The case involved "a guy with a gun, in his own store, who is protecting himself and his own family," he said. ...

[Montana] Bill on governor's desk would buck federal gun laws:
HELENA - Montana-made guns could spark a court showdown over states' rights if the governor signs a bill to release some firearms from federal regulation.

House Bill 246, sponsored by Republican Rep. Joel Boniek of Livingston, seeks to exempt guns made and kept in Montana from federal background checks and dealership licensing. It also applies to ammunition and weapons components. [emphasis added]

The measure passed the Legislature easily, and now awaits action by Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer. The governor has not taken a position on the bill, which its supporters hope will trigger a legal battle to affirm states' rights. They say it is less about firearms, than testing the Constitutional basis for federal control over the states.

Comment: If the governor signs the bill into law, this might make an interesting test case, assuming the feds bite and challenge the law in court.

[Montana] Consensus on gun rights bill reached, passage expected:
HELENA - By agreeing that concealed weapons can still be allowed in hospitals, lawmakers were able to find consensus on a sweeping gun-reform bill Tuesday morning.

House Bill 228, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, began the session amidst vociferous debate between gun-rights advocates who said the bill brought needed freedoms to Montana and a law enforcement community that said the bill would make their jobs more dangerous and more difficult.

However, representatives for law enforcement, county attorneys and the attorney general dropped their opposition to the bill after the Senate passed a slate of amendments that took out the most controversial aspects of the bill. That included removing language that would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons inside Montana cities and towns without a permit.

The House agreed to most of the amendments, but rejected language inserted by the Senate to make it illegal to carry concealed weapons in health care facilities.

Kerns said banning concealed weapons inside hospitals would be a step backward for gun rights.
As it is now written, the bill:

• Allows anyone who feels physically threatened to use deadly force, rather than flee or call the police, providing that the person is where he is legally.

• Allows most people to openly carry a firearm and brandish it if they are threatened with bodily harm. This section of the bill states specifically that it does not affect the ability of the Board of Regents to regulate weapons on Montana campuses.

• Allows people to shoot home intruders if they “reasonably” believe it is necessary to prevent being harmed, or to prevent a felony from being committed.

• Prohibits law enforcement from destroying firearms.

• Prohibits landlords and hotels from preventing their tenants or guests from having a gun.

• Stipulates that if a person claims self defense in a criminal trial, the state has the burden to prove otherwise. ...

Comment: Overall, looks like a win for gun rights. Seems like the only major provision dropped was the "Alaska style" carry provision (no permit for concealed carry necessary, but permits available for those who want them for reciprocity / recognition purposes for travel in other states). Maybe next year.

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