Friday, June 24, 2016

Delegate Michael Webert on How Arbitrary Restrictions on Rights Won't Prevent the Next Attack

At The Daily Caller, Delegate Michael Webert writes about efforts by President Obama, Hillary Clinton and congressional Democrats to use the terrorist attack in Orlando as a justification for a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and prohibiting persons on secret watch lists from buying firearms.
If the government is so intent on suspending the right of law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights on the basis of suspicion, then what is there to stop the government from moving to curtail other rights based off the assumption you might be a threat—not much. Today, it’s firearms, tomorrow it could include anything from being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, limiting the right to a fair and speedy trial, to limiting the right to freely express oneself. Literally the possibilities are endless, and it’s not as far-fetched as it may sound.
Delegate Webert, who was deeply involved in the effort to roll back Attorney General Mark Herring's order on concealed carry reciprocity/recognition, appeared on NRANews on Wednesday to discuss the article in more detail:


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Longtime VSSA Lobbyst and Member Tom Evans has Died

News was just received that VSSA's longtime lobbyist, Tom Evans, has died.  Tom served as VSSA's lobbyist until 2009 when health problems caused him to retire.  Tom's relationship with both pro-gun and anti-gun legislators allowed him to work with both sides of our issue and accomplish many positive results.  He was intimately involved in the passage of "Shall Issue" concealed carry legislation in 1995, partial repeal of handgun rationing in 2004, VSSA's range protection legislation in 2004, and Virginia's pre-emption statute.

VSSA currently does not have information related to final arrangements but will post them when it is received.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

McConnell to Allow Collins "Terrorist Watch List" Bill for Senate Vote

The Hill reports that Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is expected to bring a bill by Susan Collins to a vote possibly this week.  The Collins bill would block people on two so-called "terrorist watch lists" from buying firearms.  The NRA opposes the bill but McConnell responded through a spokesman that “He will not be dictated to,” regarding lobbying efforts to prevent it from coming to a vote.

No one on our side of the issue wants terrorists to be able to buy guns but as this blog detailed yesterday, there are lot more people than just terrorists on the lists involved.  The position of the NRA and VSSA is that no one should lose civil rights simply because their names are on secret government lists.  In 2014 a federal judge ruled that the government's method for allowing the public to challenge placement on the no-fly list was "wholly ineffective" and unconstitutional.

But that hasn't stopped the gun ban crowd from using the Orlando terrorist attack to push a gun ban scheme they have been pushing since 2007.  They are likely more interested in using the issue as a campaign issue and that has led McConnell to cave according to The Hill article:
Both sides are trying to figure out how the vote might shape this fall’s elections, when Democrats could win back the Senate majority by netting just four Senate seats if they retain the White House.

Some Republicans suggested Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) aren’t interested in a deal because they want to use gun control as a wedge issue in the fall against GOP Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), all of whom face challenging reelections in states won by President Obama in 2012.
“Sen. Schumer and Sen. Reid are discouraging Democrats from voting for it, trying to peel off those who have co-sponsored it because they, I don’t believe, really want to come up with a bipartisan solution. They’d just like to keep the issue alive,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) grumbled to reporters at one point on Tuesday.
That doesn't mean however that Reid and Schumer won't in the end see this as an opportunity to say they beat the NRA:
“I think you’re seeing in real time the vice grip of the NRA loosening in this place,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “This is a watershed moment whether this gets to the finish line or not. You have Republicans scrambling to try to find a way to remedy their no votes [Monday] night.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

No Dana Milbank, Senate Protected Due Process Rights of Law Abiding Americans

Dana Milbank wrote this opinion piece posted on the Washington Post web site Monday night after the Senate voted down all four gun control amendments to the Commerce Justice and Science appropriations bill.  The article is titled "A week after Orlando, Republicans protect terrorists' right to bear arms" and is full of misleading information.  Here is a sample:
Nineteen days later, a man whom the FBI had investigated as a possible terrorist went into an Orlando nightclub and, claiming solidarity with the Islamic State, shot 49 people to death with weapons he bought legally.

The legislation couldn’t have prevented the massacre; it wouldn’t have taken effect for months. But it highlights an absurd situation: Lawmakers have known for a long time that those suspected of terrorist activities can legally buy guns, but the Republican majority, putting Second Amendment absolutism above modest national-security considerations, is refusing to fix the problem.
Nowhere in Milbank's rant does he tell his readers that the Orlando shooter was not on the "Terrorist Watch List." The shooter had been investigated and removed for lack of evidence.  Milbank, like the gun ban lobby, and Democratic legislators pushing this proposal, uses talking point phrases like "terrorist watch list" knowing that few if any of his readers understand exactly what that list entails.  Here is what Milbank and the gun ban crowd don't want you to know, courtesy of David Inserra at the Daily Signal:
What Is the Terrorist Watch List?
The Terrorist Screening Database is the official name for the main terrorist watch list; it is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. The terrorist watch list is the central U.S. repository of known and suspected terrorists, both foreign and domestic.

The list receives names of suspected international terrorists from the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment,  maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center in connection with the U.S. intelligence community and security agencies that have information on terrorists. It also receives data on domestic terrorists from the FBI.

The  terrorist watch list includes only information used to identify terrorists. The database itself does not include classified information on terrorists regarding what they have done and how we have been tracking them. This classified information is maintained in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment for foreign terrorists, and at the FBI for domestic terrorists.

How Is the Terrorist Watch List Used?
From the Terrorism Screening Database, or terrorist watch list, more specific lists are created for different purposes.

For example, the no-fly list and the selectee list are used to prevent individuals from traveling or to subject them to greater scrutiny. For an individual to be included on the no-fly list or selectee list, additional evidence of his threat to aviation security and clear identifying information is needed above and beyond the standard of reasonable suspicion.

Another list extracted from the terrorist watch list is the Known and Suspected Terrorist File, or KST file.  For someone to be included in the KST file, clear identifying information is needed.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used to check firearm purchases, draws on the KST file. Inclusion in the file does not itself prevent a gun purchase, but flags the purchase for further review.

The individual is allowed to purchase a firearm so long as he is not a felon, adjudicated to be mentally ill, a fugitive from justice, an illegal immigrant, or prohibited from making gun purchases for another statutory reason.

What Is the Standard of Proof to Be Put on the Terrorist Watch List?
To get on the terrorist watch list,  U.S. officials nominate an individual whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is engaged in or aiding terrorist activities.
There must also be a sufficient level of identifying information to include an individual on the list. There have been, and continue to be, legal battles over whether proper avenues for redress exist to get off the no-fly list.

So How Did Omar Mateen Get His Guns?
Omar Mateen, identified as the killer in the Orlando massacre, was subject to two FBI investigations in 2013 and 2014. He was added to the terrorist watch list.

Following the conclusion of the investigations, Mateen was removed from the watch list.  As a result, when he went to purchase the firearms used in the attack, he was not in the KST file and was not flagged by the FBI.

Even if Mateen had been on the list, he likely would not have been prevented from purchasing a weapon. The FBI would have been alerted, however, and could have responded and investigated further.
That last paragraph is an inconvenient truth that the gun ban lobby doesn't want the public to know.  If someone on the list purchases a firearm, federal law enforcement is already alerted and can respond and investigate.

Remember that "no-fly list?"  The gun ban lobby uses it to push for their gun ban because it is "poll-tested."  Unfortunately, the list includes the name of a lot of people who are not terrorists.  People like the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, Representative John Lewis, singer Cat Stevens, children under the age of 10 and two journalists have erroneously ended up on the list.  Additionally, Representative Tom McClintock was on the list because he had the same name as an Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorist.  That means they were all on the Terrorism Screening Database first before being put on the "No-fly" list since Inserra said the "no-fly list" is one of several created from the Terrorism Screening Database. It took Kennedy, Lewis, and McClintock months to get their names off the list.  Can you imagine how long it takes regular American citizen to get the matter cleared up?

American citizens should not lose basic civil rights without due process.  That is the reason all but two GOP Senators and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp (ND), voted against the Feinstein amendment.  It has nothing to do with letting terrorists have access to firearms as Milbank and the Washington Post assert.

You're going to see a lot more about this issue over the next five months.  I'm sure Dana Milbank will be more than happy to help our opponents distract the public from the real issue by continuing with poll tested talking points rather than laying out the facts.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Senate Set for Showdown on Gun Control

The U.S. Senate is poised to take up four gun related proposals today as amendments to the Commerce Justice Science Appropriations bill today.  Added over the weekend is a "compromise" measure related to the so-called "Terrorist Watch List" offered by Maine's Susan Collins.  From the Wall Street Journal:
Any gun-control measure would need to overcome significant hurdles, including winning support in the Republican-controlled House.

Much of the latest attention has centered on a provision by the Senate’s No. 2 GOP official, John Cornyn of Texas, that would notify the Justice Department if someone on one of the terror watch lists, or someone who has been the subject of a terrorism investigation within the last five years, tried to purchase a gun.

That would trigger a court process in which the Justice Department would have 72 hours to demonstrate to a judge probable cause the weapon would be used in connection with terrorism. Democrats say that would be a high burden of proof in a short period of time. 
The NRA announced its support for the Cornyn amendment last week after Mr. Trump said he would like to meet with the organization. 
NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre, speaking Sunday on CBS, said the three-day delay “gives law enforcement the opportunity to go before a judge and prove their case.”

The NRA has suggested only people who could be arrested for terrorism should be blocked from purchasing a weapon. The group last year supported a provision similar to the latest Cornyn measure. NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker on Sunday said the group wants to ensure due process for people erroneously placed on the lists.

Ms. Collins’s proposal, which could be released Monday, is expected to call for a ban on sales of guns to terrorism suspects who appear on either the government’s “no-fly list” or on a separate “selectee list” that requires additional screening at airports. Individuals could appeal the decision blocking the purchase of a firearm, and be awarded attorneys’ fees if successful. Federal authorities would also be notified of any gun purchases by an individual who had been on the “no-fly list” or “selectee list” over the prior five years, allowing the FBI to put the person under surveillance. 
“I am optimistic that I can put together a coalition,” Ms. Collins said Sunday on NPR.
The WSJ noted that the Collins amendment does not include a provision that actually allows law enforcement to stop a terrorist and take them off the street as the Cornyn measures purportedly allows.

The Hill details other proposals on the calendar:
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who faces a difficult reelection bid, has also introduced his own proposal, though it's been disavowed by Democrats. 
The Senate will also debate two background check proposals. 
A measure from GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) would reauthorize and provide funding for the National Instant Background Check System (NICS), provide incentives to share mental health records and bolster federal record sharing. 
The Senate will also take a procedural vote on a proposal from Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) to expand background checks. 
Their proposal would require — with a handful of narrow exceptions — a background check for the sale and transfer of any gun.
All of the amendments will require a super majority of 60 votes to advance.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Warnings Signs of Orlando Shooter's Radicalism Takes Shape

From Friday morning's edition of Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt:
Meet young Omar Mateen:
Things took a dark turn on Sept. 11, 2001. As classmates looked on in shock, Mateen celebrated the terrorist attacks that day, claiming that Osama bin Laden was his uncle, said one person who was present. His antics prompted the school to call his father, and the classmate remembers watching through a school window as Mateen’s father approached his son and then slapped his face . . .
Robert Zirkle, who knew him through school in 2001, said: “We joked that he’d become a terrorist. And then he did.”
As he grew older, the threats continued:
At a barbecue in the spring of 2007, Mateen erupted when his hamburger touched a piece of pork, something he considered a religious affront. He told the class he ought to kill all of them, recalled Susanne Coburn Laforest, 61, who attended the barbecue as a trainee. Mateen told his classmates not to laugh at him because this was serious and “was going to come back and shoot us,” she said.
Not long after, Mateen was sitting in his car in the parking lot as classes were about to resume, when authorities swarmed the auto and escorted him off the property. An official told cadets Mateen had threatened to bring a gun on campus, according to Clinton Custar, who was attending the academy at the time and saw the incident from a classroom window.
This was the same month Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and Mateen threatened to carry out a similar massacre at the police academy because he felt like he was being taunted for being Muslim, said a fellow cadet.
A few years later, after he started talking about how he hoped police would kill his wife and child so he could become a “martyr”, his coworkers called the FBI.
Mateen first came to the FBI’s attention in May 2013, after making a series of “boasts” to co-workers about his various ties to terrorist groups, a U.S. official told The Daily Beast, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the particulars of the case. “That triggered FBI to investigate.”
The FBI investigated more in 2014 when one of the members of his mosque became a suicide bomber.
The Islamic Center was also attended on occasion by Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who is believed to be the first American suicide bomber in Syria. Abusalha, who joined Islamist militants fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, was in his early 20s when he died in 2014 after driving a truck loaded with explosives into a restaurant in Aleppo where Syrian government troops were stationed.
This mosque has just 130 members. Two of them committed terror attacks.  During this probe, “an informant told the FBI that Mateen had mentioned watching videos by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born terrorist and al Qaeda recruiter who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.” This was the same radical cleric who exchanged messages with the Fort Hood shooter.
Earlier this year, Disney World security called the FBI.
Disney security officials told the FBI they believe Mateen visited Disney World on April 26 to conduct surveillance, a law enforcement official told CNN. The FBI is investigating that possibility.
Then a few weeks ago, the gun store called the FBI.
Mateen then called someone on the phone and began speaking in Arabic. Robert Abell says that’s when the salesman became suspicious.
“He just made the mistake of asking for an armor that wasn’t normal,” he said. “And then on the phone conversation was another key that you might need to step back and look at this. Our guy made the right decision at the time. I’m not selling him anything.
“As soon as we said we didn’t have the bulk ammo he walked out the door.”
Abell says they denied the sale, which they have the right to do. But before they could get his name and information, Mateen left the store.
The gun shop owner says they immediately alerted the FBI about the suspicious man who wanted to purchase body armor. But the feds never followed up and visited the store.
“I don’t see anything in reviewing our work that our agents should have done differently,” FBI Director James Comey said earlier this week.
And government officials wonder why people think they should to own a gun to protect themselves!
And more from The Hill on a gun shop that refused to make a sale to the shooter after some suspicious activity during the encounter:
Robert Abell, who owns Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach, said that the store turned Mateen away when he tried to purchase 1,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as two types of body armor that the store did not carry.
The store owner’s suspicions were heightened when Mateen spoke on the phone to someone in a foreign language.
The store contacted the FBI, who were also investigating a group of Middle Eastern men who were buying police gear at the store. The men turned out to be security guards. The FBI asked about Mateen’s visit, but the store couldn’t provide any indentifying details or security camera footage.
Clearly, there were some serious red flags about this guy.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Senate Schedule's Vote on Gun Control Amendments for Monday

The Hill reports in a story about President Obama's visit to Orlando that the U.S. Senate has scheduled votes on several gun control amendments for this Monday.  That gives you time to contact Senator's Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and tell them to vote no on new gun control.  Just because both are predisposed to support new restrictions doesn't mean we should not call them.  They need to hear from every gun owner so they know there are more people opposed to their actions than support them.

You can reach them at the numbers below:
Tim Kaine at 202-224-4024 and Mark Warner at 202-224-2023

These measures are wide-ranging and include an attempt to reinstate the failed federal ban on semi-automatic firearms, commonly referred to as the “assault weapons ban.”  There will also be an attempt to take away the rights of individuals to purchase firearms if their name appears on the so-called "Terror Watchlist." This "list" has become political fodder for the gun ban lobby because less informed individuals won't take the time to learn that it is a list no one knows how their name ends up being added and unless you are famous like the late U.S. Senator Teddy Kennedy or Representative John Lewis, both of which landed on the list, likely will take years to get your name off.

Be sure to call today and tell all of your gun owning friends to do the same.
Update: Politico reports that (in the House of Representatives at least) Democrats are only pushing the so-called "Terror Watchlist" and "expanded" background checks because it is easier to explain and supposedly have wide support.