Monday, March 2, 2015

Congress Pushing Back on Obama Ammo Ban

The Hill has the story here.  Rep. Tom Rooney introduced the Protecting Second Amendment Amendment Rights act on Friday which "would prohibit the ATF or any other federal agency from issuing or enforcing any new restriction or prohibition on the manufacture, importation or sale of ammunition in the United States."

Knowing how slowly legislation can move through Congress and the fact the it would have to secure 60 votes in the Senate to advance, the more prudent action would be to attach it to "must pass" legislation as and amendment and then dare Obama to veto it.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Former Columbine High School Student Promoting Concealed Carry for Educators

NPR has the story here.  Patrick Neville is a Republican in the Colorado State Legislature but, in 1999, he was a 15 year-old student at Columbine High School on his way to lunch when two fellow students armed with firearms and pipe bombs started the carnage that resulted in the killing of one teacher and 12 students. He believes that if someone in the school had been armed, more of his friends might be alive today.
"They're just easy targets ... for a criminal, a terrorist or anyone intent on doing harm," Neville says. "I wake up every day and send my kid to school on blind faith that she's going to return home safe when there's really no safeguards for our schools."

A poll done last year by Quinnipiac University found that 50 percent of Coloradans supported the idea of arming teachers in schools, while 45 percent opposed.
There is a similar effort in the Wyoming legislature this year.  There, not only is there an effort to allow carry in schools, but also to provide funding so that school staff who carry are prepared should they have to act.

In Colorado, the effort faces long odds of becoming law with the House and Governor's office controlled by Democrats.  But, as the photo in the article illustrates, it has support among educators.  The photo was of educators taking part in concealed carry courses in Englewood, CO.  It hopefully won't be long before legislators start listening to those educators and school staff who wish to be armed to protect the children in their charge.  And, hopefully, Virginia will stop ignoring the bills introduced on the subject and actually allow debate on the topic.

Wayne LaPierre at CPAC (Live Stream 1:20 PM EST)

VSSA will be live-streaming Wayne LaPierre's speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) today at 1:20 PM EST.

This will play the speech live when it happens and then play as a recording after the event.  Click on the graphic to play video.
UPDATE: From the CPAC Facebook page: **IMPORTANT SCHEDULING NOTE** The CPAC schedule is running 30 minutes late. Stay tuned for more updates.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

NFA Uniform Standards Passes Senate With Amendment

Yesterday the State Senate passed House Bill 2009.  HB2009 sets up a uniform standard across Virginia for approving the transfer of a firearm as defined in the National Firearms Act.  HB2009 requires that certification must be provided within 60 days if the applicant is not prohibited by law from receiving the firearm.  It defines "firearm" as limited to machine guns, rifles and shotguns of a certain length, weapons made from certain rifles or shotguns, and suppressors (or silencers).  If the chief law-enforcement officer fails to provide certification within 60 days, the applicant has a right to an ore tenus hearing in circuit court and, unless the evidence shows that the applicant is prohibited by law from receiving the firearm, the court shall order the chief law-enforcement officer to issue the certification within five business days and may award the applicant court costs and reasonable attorney fees.

The Senate removed the part that provided for the awarding of court costs and reasonable attorney fees.  The bill now moves back to the House for approval of the amendment.  While it would be good to provide consequences for violating the approval requirements, get a standard and the ability to enforce it through the court is a positive step.

The gun ban lobby strongly opposed HB2009, referring to it as the "Weapons of War" bill.  Yesterday's vote has to be particularly stinging as Senator Norment, who opposed the bill in Senate Courts of Justice voted for the bill.  Unfortunately, Senator John Edwards, who is usually as strong supporter of our right to keep and bear arms voted against passage as he did in committee.

Legislative Update

With just a couple days left until the end of the 2015 Session of the Virginia General Assembly, six bills have made their way to the desk of Governor Terry McAuliffe.  A few bills have gotten stalled and are likely dead for the session.  I spoke with Cam Edwards of Sportsman Channel's NRANews Cam and Company earlier this week about the bills that passed and what bogged down other legislation in the final days.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Obama's Squeeze Play on Ammunition

Kevin Williamson of National Review has a great article titled A Pincer Movement on Ammunition that discusses how gun owners are now dealing with the ATF on one side and the EPA on the other trying to limit our access to ammunition.
The upshot of all this maneuvering is that the ATF intends to revoke the sporting exemption for certain popular kinds of .223 ammunition, allowing it to be reclassified as armor-piercing and therefore banned, even though it is not designed as armor-piecing ammunition and has no special armor-piercing characteristics. The reason for this is that the feared and hated AR-style rifle has been enjoying a new career as a handgun. This is yet another consumer response to federal regulation: Some people prefer short-barreled rifles, particularly for home-defense situations when they will most likely be used indoors, but federal law makes short-barreled rifles a special category of weapon that requires additional permits and taxes, and some jurisdictions ban them outright. But if you remove the shoulder stock from an AR-style rifle, it’s not a rifle — it’s a handgun, albeit one of the clumsiest and goofiest handguns on the market. But the fact that there is a multi-shot handgun commercially available for those non-lead .223 rounds means that such ammunition can be banned as armor-piercing, even though it is not armor-piercing ammunition, by use or by design. So, everybody goes back to lead, right? Wrong

Environmental groups have been pressuring the EPA to begin regulating — or to ban outright — lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act. They lost their most recent round when the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA lacks statutory authority to regulate lead ammunition, but when has statutory authority stopped the Obama administration? The FCC has no statutory authority to enact net-neutrality rules — that’s why it has reached back to a 1930s, New Deal–era law for justification. You can be sure that the campaign to use the EPA or other federal agencies to ban lead ammunition is far from over. The U.S. Humane Society already is petitioning the Interior Department to ban lead ammunition on public lands.
Obama can't get what he wants legislatively so he is relying on his agencies to do his bidding.  Gun owners have a habit of reacting when there is a direct challenge as they did after Obama's big gun ban push after the Sandy Hook school shootings but unfortunately, when there is no perceived direct threat, we tend to be less attentive.  We need to understand, this is a direct threat.  If we can't buy ammo, what good are our firearms?  Kevin Williamson spoke with Cam Edwards of NRANews in an extensive interview yesterday about what this threat means.

Retired School Teacher Faces Jail for Possessing Antique Flintlock Pistol

Have you heard about New Jersey retired teacher Gordon Van Gilder?  He's the latest to fall victim to New Jersey's draconian gun laws.  Van Gilder is facing up to 10 years in prison for having an antique flintlock pistol in his car. In the below video, Van Gilder tells NRANews' Ginny Simone about facing the same felony charge for his unloaded mid-1700s firearm as he would for a loaded .44 Magnum.
I've said it before that I'm glad I live in Virginia.  I don't have a lot of hope that this type of thing is going to change anytime in the near future.

Update: The Cumberland County, NJ DA has dropped the charges without comment.  Hat tip to Shall Not Be Questioned.

Mark Warner May Hold Deciding Vote on National Reciprocity

The Hill has an article this morning on the renewed push for National Concealed Carry Reciprocity.  Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn recently introduced the bill for the current session and has been making the rounds talking it up.

The last time the National Reciprocity bill fell just short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate.  Now that Republicans are in the majority of the U.S. Senate, there is hope that there will be enough votes to push the bill over the top:
Supporters of the legislation believe they can secure enough Democratic votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and get the legislation to President Obama’s desk.

While Obama is unlikely to sign the bill, given his support for stricter gun controls, getting the legislation through Congress would give Second Amendment advocates a significant victory.

Gun-control groups are planning to fight back hard, setting the stage for what promises to be a contentious battle over Second Amendment rights ahead of the 2016 elections.
Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk voted against the bill the last time it came up.  That means it would need the support of all of the remaining 53 Republicans and seven Democrats to pass.  The list of Democrats being targeted includes Virginia Senator Mark Warner.
Advocates plan to focus much of their lobbying on the Senate Democrats who have voted for the concealed carry bill in the past: Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Mark Warner (Va.).
Warner has a mixed record on issues related to our Second Amendment rights.  As Governor of Virginia, he signed a number of pro-rights bills, including a preemption bill that put all matters related to firearms in the hands of the General Assembly. He did not veto any pro-rights legislation.  For his record as Governor, Warner earned an "A" rating from the NRA Political Victory Fund when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2008.  But after the Sandy Hook school shooting, he made some comments that maybe it was time to consider new gun control and he voted for the Schumer/Manchin/Toomey background check amendment which would have criminalized private sales of firearms between friends and gun club members, among others.  That earned him a "C" rating when he ran for re-election in 1014.

Yes, Warner voted for National Reciprocity in the past.  But the only way to make sure he votes for it this time is if he hears from gun owners.  The gun ban lobby is going to go all out to try and stop the bill from reaching that all important 60th vote.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

PolitiFact Rates Lori Haas/Everytown Statement on Background Checks Half True

About a month ago when the General Assembly was considering McAuliffe backed gun control legislation, the gun ban lobby held a press conference in the hope of swaying legislators ahead of committee votes.  During that event, gun ban activist Lori Haas sited an Everytown for Gun Safety statistic that in states where there are background checks on private firearm sales, "49% fewer women are shot and killed." PolitiFact decided to put the statement to the test and found, once again, Everytown plays fast and loose with their numbers:
We should note, however, that Haas’ statement focused on a broader definition of victims.  She cited "women" without any reference to whether they were domestic violence victims.

So to examine her exact statement, we needed to find figures on gun murders deaths of all women, which are not in Everytown’s report.
After researching the numbers, PolitiFact found, the number while still significant, was 11% lower than Everytown's number that Haas used.  They also found there were states that did not require background checks on all purchases and had lower deaths of women than states that require them on all purchases:
Minnesota, which has no requirement for background checks on private handgun sales, had a rate of 0.6 firearms homicides for every 100,000 women. That was one-third the rate of North Carolina, which requires a background check of anyone seeking to buy a handgun.
Then there is the issue of cause and effect.  PolitiFact spoke with experts such as Gary Kleck who noted states may be taking other steps beyond gun control to reduce domestic violence (though Everytown did not specifically say they were comparing domestic violence deaths).

In the end, Haas got a half true rating for Everytown's claim, which is about what we have come to expect from the group.

Oppose ATF 5.56 M855 Ball Ammunition Ban

I guess we now know that President Obama's "Executive Actions" are not limited to granting amnesty to illegal aliens. ATF is seeking to ban commonplace 5.556 M855 ball ammunition because it says the ammunition is "armor piercing."  The agency is seeking pubic comment on this action so now is the time for gun owners to vigorously oppose this ban.  NSSF notes:
Commonly available steel-core, "green tip" M855 and SS109 rifle ammunition that is primarily intended and regularly used for "sporting purposes," like target shooting, has been exempt from federal law banning armor piercing ammunition for decades. There is no question that the 5.56 ball ammo has been in wide use by law abiding American citizens for sporting purposes.
It is with the increasing prevalence of handgun versions of rifle platforms, that ATF now apparently sees an opening to now ban the widely used M855 and SS109 ammunition.
It would be legally permissible to continue to possess and use so-defined "armor piercing" ammunition currently possessed. However, rescinding the decades-old exemption will have a major impact. It will become illegal to manufacture, import, distribute or sell at retail this very popular rifle target ammunition.
ATF's proposed "framework" for applying the "sporting purpose" exemption test rewrites the law passed by Congress to disregard the manufacturer's intention that a projectile or cartridge is "primarily intended for a supporting purpose." ATF inappropriately places the focus on how criminals might misuse sporting ammunition in a handgun.
Just as disturbing, language used by ATF in its long white paper refers to criminals as a "consumer group." The implication that the industry purposely sells firearms and ammunition to criminals is misleading and echoes the shopworn charges of the gun control lobby.  
Manufacturers will face serious limitations in their ability to develop and market alternative ammunition in other popular hunting rounds, such as .308 rifle hunting ammunition, if ATF's so-called "framework" is adopted. This will have a detrimental effect on hunting nationwide, especially in California where a total ban on traditional ammunition for hunting is being phased in now.  
ATF is soliciting comments on how it can best implement withdrawal of this exemption while "minimizing disruption to the ammunition and firearm industry and maximizing officer safety". Under the proposed framework, 30-06 M2AP cartridges would continue to be exempt because there are no multi-shot handguns generally available that accept such ammunition.
The proposal is useless since standard lead-only 5.56 ammunition is "armor piercing" simply due to the round's velocity. Rifles in this caliber, or any caliber for that matter, are rarely used in crimes.
ATF will accept comments on this proposal until March 16, 2015.   They aren't making it easy.  Instead of a web site devoted to comments as most agencies use, you have to email, fax, or write ATF and tell them you oppose the proposal to ban commonly used ammunition for America's most popular sporting rifles.  When you contact ATF, be sure to reference "AP Ammo Comments."  You can contact ATF at:

Fax: (202) 648-9741. 
Mail: Denise Brown, Mailstop 6N-602, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 99 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20226: ATTN: AP Ammo Comments.

Bill Exempting CHP Holders from Background Checks Advances in Senate Courts

Yesterday the Senate Courts of Justice Committee advanced all of the pro-rights bill on the docket, including HB2029, a bill that would exempt Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) holders from a background check when they purchase a firearm.  Federal law allows those who hold a CHP to be exempted from background checks if they have had a check performed in the last five years through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  HB2029 would add that check to the processing of a CHP application or renewal.  Currently 23 states have this exemption as allowed by federal law.

The State Police, which has become a mouthpiece for the anti-rights McAuliffe administration this year strongly opposed the bill according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Tom Bradshaw of the Virginia State Police cited statistics showing that during the past five years, police sent 1,100 letters to circuit courts indicating a disqualified permit holder.

He said there were 227 permit holders who were subject to disqualification because of involuntary commitment to a mental health institution and 2,500 restraining orders were issued on holders of concealed handgun permits.

“During that five-year period a lot of things can actually occur,” Bradshaw said.
The bill now goes to Finance where it should be reported out as there is not fiscal impact due to an increase in the fee charged applicants to conduct the additional background check at the time of processing.

Also reporting yesterday were HB1329 which would recognize out of state CHPs as long as the out of state resident also has a government issued photo id on his or her person.  HB1329 was also referred to the Finance Committee.

Both bills may face vetoes from Governor McAuliffe.  Keep watching the blog for action alerts should the bills pass the Senate.  Gun owners will need to flood McAuliffe's office with phone calls and emails.

Finally, HB1666 advanced and moved to the Senate Finance.  HB1666 is Delegate Fowler's bill that permits a nonresident of the Commonwealth prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition because of a felony conviction or a juvenile adjudication of delinquency of certain offenses to petition the circuit court where his last felony conviction or adjudication of delinquency occurred for restoration of his right to possess, transport, or carry a firearm.  Current law does not provide for venue for a nonresident's restoration petition.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gun Show Floor Amendment to Budget Defeated in House

Earlier today, Delegate David Toscano proposed an amendment to the House Budget that would have provided money for private sellers to use the State Police to conduct voluntary background checks on firearms they sell at gun shows.  The amendment is below:
Chief Patron: Toscano
Item 413 #7h
Public Safety
Department Of State Police

Page 360, after line 35, insert:
"H.1. Notwithstanding any provisions of the Code of Virginia, the Department of State Police shall be available at every firearms show held in the Commonwealth to make determinations in accordance with the procedures set out in § 18.2-309.2:2 of whether a prospective purchaser or transferee is prohibited under state or federal law from possessing a firearm. The Department of State Police shall establish policies and procedures in accordance with 28 C.F.R § 25.6 to permit such determination to be made by the Department of State Police. Unless otherwise required by state or federal law, any party involved in the transaction may decide whether or not to have such a determination made. The Department of State Police may charge a reasonable fee for the determination.
2. The promoter, as defined in § 54.1-4201, shall give the Department of State Police notice of the time and location of a firearms show at least 30 days prior to the show. The promoter shall provide the Department of State Police with adequate space, at no charge, to conduct such prohibition determinations. The promoter shall ensure that a notice that such determinations are available is prominently displayed at the show.
3. No person who sells or transfers a firearm at a firearms show after receiving a determination from the Department of State Police that the purchaser or transferee is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm shall be liable for selling or transferring a firearm to such person.
4. The provisions of § 18.2-308.2:2 including definitions, procedures, and prohibitions shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to the above provisions."
The amendment failed on a vote of 35-63.

Violence Policy Center's Misleading Concealed Carry Study

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) comes out with a study each year that purports to show concealed carry permit holders are dangerous.  Yesterday the New York Times editorialized about the latest study in the usual fawning manner they do with anything having to do with gun control.  Even if VPC's number of 722 "non self-defense" deaths caused by 544 concealed carry permit holders were correct, you would still be talking an infinitesimal percentage of the estimated 11 million permit holders in the country.  But, as Bob Owens over at points out, there are a lot of caveats that go with the particular incidents VPC includes in their study:
In order to demonize the practice of concealed carry, the Violence Police Center ran into the insurmountable hurdle of not being able to find a significant number of concealed carriers using their legally concealed weapons to commit violent crimes.
In order to pad their report, VPC was forced to:
  1. include incidents where concealed carry was in no way part of the alleged crime.
  2. include incidents where there wasn’t even a conviction, but just allegations of a crime.
  3. include unsubstantiated, apparently mythical “crimes” without a named victim or perpetrator.
Owens also noted that and some of the people that VPC called murderers were either exonerated in court or had charges against them dismissed.

There is no getting around the fact that concealed carry permit holders are some of the most law abiding people in the country.  That's why groups like VPC have to use "slight of hand" tactics to try and make their case.  People like the editors at the New York Times won't check VPC's numbers.  Thankfully there is the new media to get the truth out.

Senate Bills in House Subcommittee Thursday

Bills are going to move even more quickly with only two weeks left in the session.  Senate Bills that made it to the House will be in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee Subcommittee #1 this afternoon at 4:00.  The bills on the docket are:

S.B. 936 - would give law enforcement (including police, sheriffs, Capitol Police, and Virginia State Police) the option of donating an unclaimed firearm to the Department of Forensics in lieu of destroying the firearm. 

S.B. 948 - would prohibit the Virginia State Police from providing concealed handgun permit (CHP) holder information to law enforcement in states that do not have a reciprocal licensing agreement with Virginia.  This would prevent states like Maryland and New Jersey from going on “fishing expeditions” to find an excuse to arrest or harass Virginia CHP holders if they are stopped for nothing more than a routine traffic violation.

S.B. 1137 - would exempt concealed handgun permit holders from any local ordinances that ban having loaded rifles or shotguns in a vehicle on any public street, road, or highway.  Currently law enforcement, military and any person who reasonably believes that a loaded rifle or shotgun is necessary for his personal safety in the course of his employment or business are exempted.

S.B. 1155 - would require law-enforcement agencies to return stolen firearms to the rightful owner unless the person is prohibited from possessing the firearm or it is needed in a criminal prosecution.

S.B. 1191- would amend the statute that makes it a crime to possess a firearm, stun weapon, knife, and certain  other weapons on school property to require that the person must have knowingly possessed the firearm or other weapon.

VSSA's lobbying team does not expect any problems getting these bills out of committee or through the House of Delegates.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Virginia Legislative Update

Tuesday was the last day that the General Assembly could take up bills from the house of origin.  All surviving bills have now crossed over and VSSA is happy to report that not a single gun control measure made it out of the House of Delegates or the State Senate.  That is a massive smack down to Governor Terry McAuliffe who made gun control a major part of his 2015 legislative agenda. 

In reality, McAuliffe likely knew none of it would survive and calculated he could use the defeat as a campaign point in this year's legislative elections.  That too may be a miss calculation as he has very few pick-up opportunities in the House of Delegates and just as few in the State Senate.  He only needs one however to regain control of the State Senate so it is critical that gun owners be very active this election year to protect the pro-rights majority in the State Senate.  Below is a list of pro-rights bills that still remain alive for the remaining two and a half weeks of the Session.
  • HB 1287  Forfeiture of property used in connection with the commission of crimes; conviction required.
  • HB 1309 Local school boards; arming of school security officers
  • HB 1329 Out-of-state concealed handgun permits; photo identification.
  • HB 1666 Firearms; restoration of rights, petition to any circuit court. 
  • HB 2009 Firearms, certain; law-enforcement certification.
  • HB 2015 Exemption from creditor process; bankruptcy proceedings (Makes several changes to articles that may be exempted from creditor process including removing the one gun limit)
  • HB 2029 Concealed handgun permits; fees; background check; exemption for permit holders.
  • HB 2286  Provides that the prohibition on the possession and transportation of firearms, ammunition, stun weapons, and explosive materials by convicted felons does not apply to a felon whose right to possess firearms or ammunition has been restored under the law of another state or political subdivision
  • SB 848 Governor's Twenty marksmanship award. Establishes the "Governor's Twenty" marksmanship award to recognize the top 20 competitors in each of the rifle and pistol Excellence-in-Competition matches conducted at the annual Virginia State Championships conducted by the Virginia Shooting Sports Association. 
  • SB 936 Unclaimed firearms; donation to Department of Forensic Science.
  • SB 1137 Loaded rifle or shotgun; regulation of transportation.
  • SB 1155 Firearms; confiscation, reporting, and return by law enforcement.
  • SB 1191 Firearms; possession on school property.
It is likely that none of the Senate bills will encounter problems in the House of Delegates.  The only House Bill that could have tough going in the Senate is HB2029, that exempts concealed handgun permit (CHP) holders from background checks when they purchase a firearm.  Those checks would have to also undergo a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check to qualify for the federal exemption from background checks for those with CHPs.  When the bill is scheduled for a hearing in Senate Courts of Justice, the meeting notice will be posted here and an alert will be sent to VSSA members to contact committee members.

Finally, as was reported here on Saturday, the budget amendment that would have had a severe impact on the Northern Virginia Gun Club was pulled by the patron before the final Senate budget was announced.  While the VSSA and NRA lobbyists worked members of the committee, this result would not have been possible if VSSA members and members of the NVGC had not contacted members of the Senate Finance Committee. Thank you again for answering our call and standing up for fellow gun owners.

This is shaping up to be a very successful session.