Even In Monastery Fires There Are Priorities

The Trappist (Cistercian) monks at the 13th century monastery Notre-Dame de St-Remy Abbey in Belgium are best known for brewing their Trappistes Rochefort beer. On Wednesday, while the monks were at dinner, a fire broke out that destroyed a good part of the monastery. Fortunately, none of the monks were injured or killed in the fire.

The firemen who fought the blaze made it their priority to protect the monastery’s library with its collection of 700-year old rare books and the brewery. The BBC reports:

Francois Bellot, mayor of Rochefort, said he was confident that it would be possible to resume beer production within a few days.

This monastery is only one of five that brews Trappist beer and has been producing this strong beer (7.5- 12% ABV) since 1595.

So if you plan to celebrate tonight with a good strong Belgian beer like the Trappistes Rochefort, remember the firemen who preserved that part of the monastery. Also, say a prayer for the now-homeless monks as they go about doing God’s work by brewing one of the world’s best beers.

ATF, Chuck Schumer, and Andrew Traver

Mike Vanderboegh at Sipsey Street Irregulars has a very interesting post on the Traver nomination being sent back to the White House. Rumor has it that the Traver nomination was sent back with the full approval of notorious anti-gunner Senator Chuck Schumer.

The Chief Counsel’s Office at ATF has a reputation for being a nest of vipers. That comes from both ATF agents in the field and pro-gun advocates. They also have good relations with Schumer and have been at his beck and call for years.

The rumor is that Andrew Traver wanted the Chief Counsel’s Office cleaned out before he arrived so he wouldn’t have to do it. Because of that the CCO worked with Schumer to have the nomination killed or at least stalled.

Remember this is all rumor and conjecture on Mike’s part but he was the first one to call the Traver nomination. It was Mike’s first post on Traver that got me to doing Google searches on the guy. Read his whole post linked above in the first paragraph.

More From NSSF On Proposed ATF Long Gun Reporting

The NSSF posted this yesterday on their blog:

More on ATF Multiple Sales Reporting

December 29, 2010 By Larry Keane

An editorial in today’s Washington Post discussed the recent decision by ATF to require federally licensed firearms retailers along the Southwest border to report multiple sales, or other dispositions, of most semi-automatic rifles. Specifically this would impact .22 caliber or larger semi-automatic rifles that are capable of accepting a detachable magazine and are purchased by the same individual within five consecutive business days.

Though the Post supports this ill-advised proposal, it did acknowledge the legitimacy surrounding one of industry’s objections:

“When reports of its plan surfaced, the administration came under immediate attack from the gun rights lobby. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, argued that the administration lacked the legal authority to demand data on rifles and shotguns. It has a point: While Congress authorized the ATF to collect information on handgun sales, it declined to extend the requirement to long guns. A court is likely to be asked to decide whether demand letters may be used to shake loose this information …”

NSSF continues to oppose multiple sales reporting of semi-automatic rifles. Such reporting requirements will actually make it more difficult for licensed retailers to help law enforcement as traffickers modify their illegal schemes to circumvent the reporting requirement. Traffickers will go further underground, hiring more people to buy their firearms. This will make it much harder for retailers to identify and report suspicious behavior to law enforcement.

NSSF would also like to remind all members of industry, sportsmen and gun owners to voice their concerns by doing the following:

1. Call the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulation Affairs, Department of Justice, Desk Officer at (202) 395-6466.

2. E-mail Barbara A. Terrell, ATF, Firearms Industry Programs Branch at Barbara.Terrell@atf.gov

3. Call your Senators and Representative: United States Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

4. Send an already formatted cap-wiz letter.

Points to make:

1.Multiple sales reporting of long guns will actually make it more difficult for licensed retailers to help law enforcement as traffickers modify their illegal schemes to circumvent the reporting requirement. Traffickers will go further underground, hiring more people to buy their firearms. This will make it much harder for retailers to identify and report suspicious behavior to law enforcement.

2.Long guns are rarely used in crime (Bureau of Justice Statistics).

3.Imposing multiple sales-reporting requirements for long guns would further add to the already extensive paperwork and record-keeping requirements burdening America’s retailers – where a single mistake could cost them their license and even land them in jail.

4.Last year, ATF inspected 2,000 retailers in border states and only two licenses were revoked (0.1%). These revocations were for reasons unknown and could have had nothing to do with illicit trafficking of guns; furthermore, no dealers were charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

5.According to ATF, the average age of a firearm recovered in the United States is 11 years old. In Mexico it’s more than 14 years old. This demonstrates that criminals are not using new guns bought from retailers in the states.

6.Congress, when it enacted multiple sales reporting for handguns, could have required multiple sales of long guns – it specifically chose not to.

Woollard v. Sheridan – Mixed Ruling On Motion To Dismiss

Yesterday, the plaintiffs in the Maryland concealed carry case, Woollard et al v. Sheridan et al, got a win and a tie on Maryland’s motion to dismiss the case. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz denied the defense’s motion to dismiss on Count I – Second Amendment grounds – and approved it on Count II – 14th Amendment Equal Protection grounds. However, he gave Alan Gura leave or permission to file an amended complaint to make up the deficiencies in the claim in Count II. I’d call that a tie.

The Attorney General of Maryland had filed a motion to dismiss the case pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6) back in September. Rule 12(b)(1) argues that the District Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction while Rule 12(b)(6) maintains the plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In this case, the defense argued that the District Court should abstain from hearing the case as a state proceeding on the matter was still ongoing and that it implicated important state interests. This is what is known as a Younger abstention. They also challenged the standing of the Second Amendment Foundation to bring this case as an organizational plaintiff. Finally, they argued that with regard to the Equal Protection claims, the plaintiffs made an assertion that the state violated those rights without providing sufficient evidence to back up the claim.

Judge Motz takes up the standing of the Second Amendment Foundation in a footnote.

Defendants also assert SAF lacks standing to bring suit. I need not reach this issue, however, because it is undisputed that Woollard has standing to bring a facial challenge to the Maryland statute. In cases where, as here, plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief, “so long as at least one individual plaintiff . . . has demonstrated standing,” a court “need not consider whether the other individual and corporate plaintiffs have standing to maintain the suit.” Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp.

He goes on to add that he is denying the Motion to Dismiss on these grounds and will deny Maryland’s request for discovery on this issue. Judge Motz says that he will address SAF’s standing at a later date only if it is needed.

The meat of the opinion in this case deals with whether the Younger abstention claim is valid. To be valid, a Younger abstention requires three elements: an ongoing state judicial proceeding that implicates important state interests which provides an opportunity to raise constitutional issues. Judge Motz says:

Because I conclude that the state proceeding at issue here is not of a type that warrants abstention, I need not consider the gravity of the state‘s interest or whether the proceeding provides a sufficient opportunity to raise the constitutional claims.

Judge Motz then examines in detail the state proceedings and its characteristics. He notes that many courts, including the Fourth Circuit, have found that the key factor is whether the state administrative proceedings are coercive or merely remedial. In the Fourth Circuit, the rule is to abstain only if the proceedings could be deemed coercive. Thus, he says, “I will not abstain from deciding this case unless the Handgun Permit Review Board‘s hearing can be categorized as ‘coercive.’ “

He examines the Review Board hearing for the factors that would deem it coercive. They include mandatory participation, whether the state proceedings are the wrong that is sought to be corrected in Federal court, and are the proceedings meant to punish the plaintiff for a bad act. He concludes and rules:

In light of these factors, I conclude that the Board hearing was non-coercive. Woollard is challenging the state proceeding itself—that is, he alleges his constitutional rights were violated by the denial of his application for a handgun carry permit, not a distinct wrong. Nevertheless, Woollard, rather than the state, initiated the administrative proceeding. His participation in the proceeding was not mandatory, and he would have faced no liability if he opted not to participate. Furthermore, the state is not seeking to punish Woollard for any bad act. Indeed, it was Woollard‘s compliance with the law —specifically, his choice to apply for a handgun carry permit rather than carrying a handgun illegally — that prompted the initiation of the state proceeding. The present case therefore lacks the “common thread” linking cases in which Younger abstention is appropriate.

In sum, there is no ongoing state proceeding that warrants abstention under the Younger doctrine. Accordingly, I will deny the Defendants‘ Motion to Dismiss on this ground.

He finally examines whether Count II of the complaint can be dismissed under the 12(b)(6) rule and concludes that it can. He found that Count II which makes a general assertion that Maryland Public Safety Code Sec. 5-306(a)(5)(ii) violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause was “insufficient to make the defendant aware of the nature of the claim being brought.” He goes on to say that the plaintiffs have not alleged any facts to suggest that the state employed a suspect classification. However, because he cannot conclude that such “an allegation would be futile”, he will approve the Motion to Dismiss on Count II but give Alan Gura the opportunity to correct that defect with an amended complaint “stating their equal protection claim with more particularity.”

All in all, I would say that even though Count II was dismissed this was a win for Alan Gura. He survived the more critical challenge on standing and will have an opportunity to correct what the court saw as a defect in Count II.

The Maryland Shooters forum has a long string of posts on this case. The relevant comments regarding the Judge’s ruling starts near the bottom of of page 77 and goes from there. As usual, there are some very perceptive comments to be found there.

Obama Makes Six Recess Appointments But Not Traver

Yesterday, the White House announced six recess appointments. Four were ambassadors, one was to the position of Public Printer (head of the Government Printing Office), and one as Deputy Attorney General.

From my perspective this is important not for who was appointed but who wasn’t – Andrew Traver to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Of course, Obama still could make Traver a recess appointment as the new Congress doesn’t begin until January 5th. My guess is that if no more appointments are made by Friday, then these six are it.

John Elwood at the Volokh Conspiracy goes into detail on the mechanics of these appointments and recess appointments in general.

Ruger Should Have Introduced This Years Ago!

I received an email from Ruger a couple of hours ago announcing their new Gunsite Scout Rifle. This is the rifle that Ruger should have introduced when they first came out with their M77 Frontier a few years ago.

The Gunsite Scout Rifle is based upon Col. Jeff Cooper’s scout rifle concept. It is a bolt-action .308 rifle with a 10-round detachable box magazine. The rifle features the integral forward scope mount typical of all scout rifles along with a ghost ring rear sight and a Mini-14 style protected front sight. It also have a flash suppressor with standard 5/8-24 muzzle threads allowing the use of other .30 caliber accessories such as different flash suppressors, muzzle brakes, or a sound suppressor.

The only thing I see missing is the third sling stud for the requisite Ching sling from Andy Langlois. Ed Head at Gunsite had this to say about it according to the Ruger press release:

“Ruger has taken an in depth look at the intended purpose of a Scout Rifle and developed a full-featured rifle designed to meet the Scout Rifle criteria of hunt, fight, defend,” says Head. “This firearm offers outstanding features in an affordable, versatile and reliable rifle designed to deliver .308 Winchester performance in a variety of situations. It is compact, lightweight, offers 10-round box magazines, can be fit to the individual shooter, and accommodates a host of optics. It is a serious rifle for those serious about rifles.”

I may not buy this rifle as I have the Ruger M77 Frontier which I have been slowly building up over of the years. If I had to do it over again, I’d go with this. Heck, I still might do it!

UPDATE: Michael Bane has a long blog post about the rifle and his impressions on shooting it out at Gunsite. He is buying one.

UPDATE II: DownRange TV has put up two videos on the new Gunsite Scout Rifle. The first includes an interview with the Colonel himself and the second continues the discussion with Dave Spaulding on how this rifle came to be.

And In Massachusetts News…

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts approved $6 million in tax incentives to help Smith and Wesson expand their manufacturing plant in Springfield. According to the Boston Globe, this was the second-largest tax incentive award by the commonwealth in 2010.

The $6 million in tax breaks, which will be spread out over seven years, work out to nearly $27,000 per job and form the second-largest incentive package the state has awarded this year. The state recently reconfigured its tax incentive program to steer more money to manufacturers and other companies with significant out-of-state sales, and to give preference to businesses expanding in poorer cities such as Springfield.

Smith and Wesson is expanding their Springfield plant as they shift production from their Thompson/Center plant in New Hampshire. They plan to add 225 new jobs at the Springfield plant. Greg Bialecki, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development called it a very big expansion for western Massachusetts.

The company announced the award on December 21st in a press release on their investor website. They noted the company had been approached by other cities and states to expand outside of Massachusetts.

The award resulted after several months of discussion between the Commonwealth and Smith & Wesson, while the company considered location options for its rifle manufacturing. James Debney, President of Smith & Wesson Firearms, said, “Although several states and cities have approached us to entice expansion into their locations, Massachusetts and the Patrick-Murray Administration, Secretary Bialecki and his office, and Springfield Mayor Sarno and his staff, collaborated on the project to make our choice clear. These administrations are highly collaborative and worked closely with us on incentive programs to structure an agreement that demonstrates the commitment of both the Commonwealth and the City to not only Smith & Wesson, but to our employees, the local community, and to manufacturing in Massachusetts.”

Given that Governor Deval Patrick is very anti-gun, it goes to show that jobs trump liberal policies in a recession. I’m surprised we haven’t heard from the Brady Campaign moaning about this being a waste of taxpayer monies.

Update On NC’s State of Emergency

The Governor’s Office finally posted the Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency due to the heavy snow received. It was declared by Lt. Governor Walter Dalton on Christmas Day under the powers granted to him when the Governor is out of the state. It notes that he did this only after consulting Governor Bev Perdue.

Where this order declaring a State of Emergency gets interesting is that it is declared pursuant to the powers vested in the Governor under N.C. General Statutes Article 1 of Chapter 166A. This is the North Carolina Emergency Management Act of 1977. An emergency declared in this manner does not trigger the prohibition on the off-premises possession of firearms and ammunition unlike NCGS 14 § 288.15.

The Executive Order makes specific note that:

This order is adopted pursuant to my powers under Article 1 of Chapter 166A of the General Statutes and not under my authority under Article 36A of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes. It does not trigger the limitations on weapons in G.S. § 14-288.7 or impose any limitation on the consumption, transportation, sale or purchase of alcoholic beverages.

The previous six States of Emergency declared by Governor Perdue were pursuant to both Chapter 166A (Emergency Management Act) and Article 36A (NCGS 14 § 288.15). The latter is what triggers the ban on firearms off-premises.

When Governor Perdue declared a State of Emergency prior to Hurricane Earl in Executive Order 62 on September 1st, she insisted that it did not impact the possession of firearms off-premises as that would have interfered with the start of dove season. The wording of the current Executive Order with specific references to Article 36A gives lie to that assertion.

In Executive Order 62, Governor Perdue delegated all powers and authority to the Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety that had been granted to her by Chapter 166A and Article 36A of Chapter 14. It did not specifically mention NCGS 14 § 288.15 but that would have been included under Article 36A of Chapter 14.

It looks like someone in Raleigh must finally be getting the message about gun bans during a state of emergency. One can only hope that the newly elected Republican majority in the North Carolina General Assembly will amend the law to prohibit gun bans during emergencies.

Not Anti-Gun?

Of course Colin Goddard, the assistant director of legislative affairs for the Brady Campaign, is not anti-gun. He is anti-firearm (or rifle). As R. Lee Ermey graphically illustrated in Full Metal Jacket there is a difference. I’m sure that is what Robin meant.

Newsbusters has more on the whole interview between Robin Roberts and Colin Goddard on Good Morning America.

UPDATE:  David Codrea examines this interview in his National Gun Rights Examiner column.

Oh, no, Goddard assures her. He’s been hunting. He’s been to the range.

Hell, if shooting is the criteria, gun rights advocates could have no bigger supporter than Lon Horiuchi.

That should be the money quote of the year!

H/T Cam Edwards