OSD 134: Nobody needs an assault modem
Speech, guns, and permissionless systems.
A guy had a job interview a little while ago, and then last week he heard he didn’t get the job. Here’s why:
The series of events was roughly as follows:
April 8: David Chipman (an employee of the Giffords org and before that a longtime ATF agent) gets nominated by the president to head the ATF. In a narrowly divided Senate, the Chipman’s chances for confirmation are uncertain.
No news for a while, and there’s behind-the-scenes political wrangling to win over fence-sitting senators.
July 28: Stephen Gutowski of The Reload publishes a damaging report about Chipman, quoting several of Chipman’s former ATF coworkers.
August 11: Gutowski publishes a second report about Chipman, with quotes from another ATF coworker.
September 9: The White House withdraws the Chipman nomination.
Gutowski is a journalist who left his job at the Washington Free Beacon to launch The Reload just five months ago, on April 19. So if you squint a bit, what happened here is that one guy in his house writing a freemium news site that didn’t even exist at the time Chipman was nominated took down a presidential nominee.
That’s not supposed to happen, but the internet has done similar things so many times that it almost seems boring to point it out. Of course a dedicated individual used the internet as a giant force multiplier. That’s basically the internet’s whole deal.
The nature of decentralization is that it gives individuals power that they can use without the permission of — and often explicitly against the will of — any central gatekeeper. Everyone agrees about that, but what they disagree about is whether it’s a feature or a bug. And that brings us to guns.
In the same way that the internet makes it possible for a five-month-old one-man publication to veto the president’s choice for ATF director, it makes it possible for people to turn gun rights (and access to information about guns) from something you ask for into something you … just have.
We wrote about this in OSD 117:
On the one hand, the nature of gun ownership — the point of it, really — is that it decentralizes decision-making about self-defense. Who’s allowed to defend themselves, and how they should do so, becomes a loose emergent consensus rather than a top-down decision. There’s a similar spirit to state-level decisions to stop helping the federal government enforce gun laws. (Although it bears mention here that “Second Amendment sanctuary” bills are generally more theatrical than actual, and do not change any state or local police activity.)
The concept of federal gun law is in natural tension with all that. It’s making a centralized, top-down decision about something that is the embodiment of decentralized, bottom-up power. Of course, the reason federal gun laws exist is that people disagree about whether decentralization is a feature or a bug. If you think it’s a bug, then trying to centralize things would seem like a sensible tactic.
But whether it’s sensible on paper is increasingly irrelevant. As we’ve discussed many times in past editions of this newsletter, it gets less enforceable every day. Which means the gap keeps growing between what the law tells people to do and what they actually do.
The theme here is permissionlessness. And it’s only getting stronger.
This week’s links
Grandpa fashion is undefeated.
Viewers: Do you wanna make this video?
James: I roll with you, whatever. Whatever.
Viewers: Not on this one, James. On this one you’re on your own.
James: You figure this is the best thing to do? This is the best thing to do?
Viewers: I’ve got plans, I’m going away after this, I’m maxing out my credit cards to finish this Colt 733 clone build. So for me the reward is maybe worth the stretch. But TFB takes good care of you, you’re a lawyer, you’ve got the short shorts. If I were you I’d be smart, I would cut loose of this.
James: Well you know, for me, the content is the juice.
A Navy appeals court dismissed a bump stock possession charge on the grounds that bump stocks aren’t machine guns
Holding that bump stocks do not come within the statutory definition of a machine gun because they do not allow firearms to fire multiple rounds “by a single function of the trigger,” it is unnecessary to address the meaning of “automatically.” However, assuming arguendo we have erred in our analysis of the meaning of “by a single function of the trigger,” we hold that a bump stock also does not make a weapon fire “automatically” under the statute.
Centralized data is dangerous, even when its custodian is well-intentioned.
Florida law prohibits localities from passing gun laws that are more restrictive than the statewide ones (this is known as a preemption law). The state passed an addition to that in 2011, stipulating that local officials who defy the preemption law can be fined up to $5000 and removed from office. A number of localities passed more restrictive gun laws anyway, and officials there are suing to have the penalties they’d incur under the 2011 law declared unconstitutional. That’s the case that the state Supreme Court is going to weigh in on.
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