I'm taking a slight detour from the normal newsletter format this week to address a recent article in The Huffington Post by Lila Hassan, which involves the En Bloc Press newsletter in a manner that I think is disingenuous.
The article is below; any pull quotes you see below are excerpts from it.
The portion in question is this:
“I think most of the ghost gun manufacturers and actors who are in these spaces have a good process in place to ensure they’re just on the right side of the law,” Jonathan Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told HuffPost.
HuffPost has reviewed newsletters and articles from fringe groups doing exactly that, and found that the ability to evade regulation is a matter of pride for the ghost gun community.
“ATF was nice enough to include some helpful visual examples,” reads one such newsletter, which goes on to map out exactly how to purchase and sell kits to avoid law enforcement oversight. “If you think this isn’t very clear, you aren’t alone. The new ATF rules made sense to no one because (as usual) the ATF did a poor job of making the regulations plainly understandable.”
The lower quote, from 'one such newsletter,' is an excerpt from an email I sent out October 3rd. You can view it below for reference.
There Is No Escape
Ms. Hassan's article suggests that somehow "fringe" elements of the "far right" are "escaping" Biden's new regulations about ghost guns.
But there are a lot of problems with this sentiment.
First, no one is "escaping" anything. To suggest that one must escape is to suggest that one is constrained. For this condition to exist, the following would need to be true: the federal government (a) grants the right to arms in the first place, (b) is earnestly attempting to seize guns from the public, and (c) could stop the proliferation of arms if they tried. None of these conditions is met, so the idea that anyone is escaping the Biden administration's latest anti-gun efforts is a faulty premise. There is no "escape" to be made.
The federal government at large has never been inclined to constrain the American public's ability to create privately made firearms (PMFs) nor has it taken steps to do so.
Despite the shrill background noise of a relatively recent and vocal political minority, home gunsmithing is an activity that has been lawful since the founding of the country and remains lawful to this day. Not only has there never been a federal prohibition on PMFs, but the Biden ATF's latest policies go so far as to expressly remind everyone that it's legal to make your own guns at home and that one need not bother putting a serial number on it. So what exactly is there to "escape" from?
Further, the federal government has never succeeded in constraining the proliferation of 3D gun files. It's legal. The Obama administration, the State Department, and a dozen state attorneys general tried for years to stop Cody Wilson's Defense Distributed from spreading digital 3D-printed gun design files, only to embarrass themselves and ultimately be outmaneuvered. And – while the government was chasing its tail in its full-court press against Cody Wilson – a broader and more decentralized network of 3D gun developers and file repositories blossomed in every gray corner of the internet.
Today, the most popular 3D guns rival their OEM counterparts in form and function, and gun design files flow freely across the open internet. Wilson correctly understood the fight against 3D gun design files gets harder for anti-gunners to win the higher up in the court system it goes. It's a fool's errand to try and stop the signal. The cat, as they say, is fully out of the bag.
It was always the destiny of the anti-gun progressives to lose in court, to lose on the street, or to lose in both arenas. Losing high-level cases in court is largely assured by 250 years of legal precedent, and winning against 'ghost guns' on the streets would mean the Biden administration would actually have to do something about crime. This is a catch-22 for Democrats, who rely on the urban vote to maintain institutional power. Ironically, the anti-gun Democrats stand to lose elections if they begin to enforce the very "gun safety" laws they claim are essential to their worldview. (This is why people arrested for second-degree murder in Chicago don't have to be held on bail.)
There are quite literally hundreds of millions of guns in America. There are more guns than people, in fact. And so I reject the claim that gun enthusiasts are part of a "fringe" group that's "escaping" some type of constraint. There are millions of cars too but no one gets called a 'car extremist' for changing their own oil.
I know this sounds childish in the year 2022, but let's not forget that the government – ostensibly – exists to safeguard rights rather than regulate them out of existence. The current American government itself is founded on the principles of protecting free speech, freedom of religion, freedom to bear arms, freedom from police overreach, and equality under the law. Remember – there's a whole section about "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" right there in the first paragraph of the Constitution.
Men with rifles won this country's independence, explored the frontier, and fell at The Alamo and Omaha Beach. It's hard to think of a chapter in American history where the rifleman has not played an important role.
My point with all this is that not only is it not fringe to own guns or to enjoy guns as a hobby, but it's entirely normal and is directly in keeping with the American tradition. American self-determination has broadly been obtained gun in hand.
We're free people living in a free country. Americans have always been allowed to build, buy, or possess firearms. SSRI moms in cheap novelty t-shirts with double chins and bad dye jobs do not actually determine where one's rights begin or end when it comes to gun ownership just because their periods have synced up from posting in the same Facebook group.
Anti-gun activists are losers. And because they're losers, they use mental gymnastics to contort their perception of reality into one where they are righteous warriors and tireless underdogs rather than over-credentialed mid-wits. If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the following.
Would you say a person who takes 9 items through the 10-items-or-less checkout lane is an "extremist" who is "skirting the regulations"? Of course not. And yet this is analogous to almost all anti-gun arguments about regulations. There are new rules about the sale of 80% kits. To adapt to these changes and remain viable, businesses are adjusting their practices to avoid running afoul of the new restrictions imposed on them. This is not extremism; it's simply human action as a result of a change in incentives.
People don't say that car manufacturers are "anti-government extremists" because they change how they build vehicles to pass the most recent emissions or safety regulations. So why are gun parts retailers extremists for changing what they sell or how they sell it in order to meet the latest ATF rules?
It's easy – they're not, and this is another example of a journalist making a bad faith argument against a perfectly legitimate hobby.
Hassan has incorrectly deduced that 'getting around the law' and 'complying with the law' are separate ideas. They aren't. If the gun building community is guilty of anything, it's complying too much and too often. But to argue that dangerous extremists are out there somewhere complying with the latest regulations is to argue that the person with 9 items in the express checkout is also skirting the law. And to make this argument, one would either need an IQ of 75 or an M.S. from Columbia Journalism School’s specialized Toni Stabile investigative program.
Hassan's position is that it's some type of underhanded trick to summarize the ATF's convoluted policies and share it with people.
Well, here's the thing. I have exactly zero ability to influence the ATF's rules or affect legislative outcomes from Congress or the Executive branch. I am a guy at home wearing board shorts and writing a newsletter. The federal government penned 2021R-05F, the ATF is tasked with enforcing it, and my role thus far was simply to summarize ATF's poorly worded rules.
Finally, and I've made the point before, but guns are normal and cool. Building your own guns is even cooler. More people should do it. And we are lucky enough to live in a country where building guns and then shooting them with your friends is still entirely legal at the federal level, no matter how many striver journalist girls and lumpy activists gnash their teeth about it. You call it extremism, I call it an afternoon with the fellas.
The Cop Thing
Hassan goes on in her article to call out RK (give him a follow if you aren't already) for his anti-cop posts. It's not usually my brand to be an anti-cop poster, and I'm not going to put words into RK's mouth, but hear me out for a moment.
Here is the current law: it's legal to buy an 80% lower receiver. And it's legal to build a gun from that 80% receiver in your garage. It's also legal to buy a build kit to complement that 80% lower receiver. BUT, it's illegal to buy the 80% receiver and the build kit at the same time from the same place. If you're not familiar with what all this means, allow me to offer an analogy.
Imagine a country named Tacoland, where the rules say that you're allowed to buy, make, and eat tacos. You can go to the store and legally buy ground beef. And you can go to the store and legally buy taco shells. But if you buy ground beef and taco shells together, then a guy drives a fucking tank through your house and sprays down everyone inside with a machine gun, because they've decided you're a taco extremist. Well, if you're a taco fan, you might not really like the guy with the tank. If you get why the guy with the tank isn't cool, then, well – welcome to the gun community.
And on a more serious note – you should understand that the real reason journalists demand chuds show respect for law enforcement is because journalists themselves are cops. Sure, journalists wear press badges rather than shields, but they're still tasked with enforcing a set of rules written by oligarchs and imposed on the lay person, and they still get very angry when the peasant classes don't show them the respect they feel they deserve.
For all her talk of being a human rights journalist, Ms. Hassan seems to have very little interest in supporting for the lay person the right to privacy, free speech, and self-defense.
I guess ultimately what I'm trying to say is that when the government makes dumb laws that are poorly written, it doesn't make me an extremist or someone on the fringe to criticize it.
Further, journalists are evil and bad, and guns are normal and good. These ridiculous laws about 'ghost guns' are a prime example of the type of faceless bureaucratic decision making that leads to arbitrary policies, inconsistent enforcement, ruined lives, avoidable violence, wasted tax dollars, and no actual increase to public safety.
It's unrealistic to expect folks to lick the boots of the people that enforce bad laws with unrelenting and indiscriminate violence, and it's not extreme or worthy of suspicion to have the same hobbies and interests as John Browning, Sam Colt, Eli Whitney, or Eugene Stoner.
It's dishonest to claim a hobby that is and always has been legal is reserved only for extremists on the fringe of society. The practice of calling everything they don't like "extremism" is a tactic employed by the left to un-person normal people who happen to live by a set of principles. Activists, journalists, irony leftists – these people are all deeply sad! You should ingore them and keep doing stuff you like.
In a serious country the Huffington Post would be classified as a terrorist organization and their building would be bulldozed to make room for a gun range and BBQ joint. Just my two cents.
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