OSD 193: Carrying the fire
There’s a subreddit called /r/JSOCarchive. It alternates between posting JSOC gear porn and teasing itself for posting JSOC gear porn.
Last week someone posted the below picture of Delta Force and French special operations soldiers responding to the 2016 terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The picture helpfully itemizes the gear on each soldier’s person:
On one level, sure, this is pretty silly. "Lol nerd, listing out all the gear so you can go buy it.”
But on another level: you can go out and buy all the gear.
That’s a big deal. These are among the best-equipped direct-action soldiers in the world, and minus the full-auto capability, you can open a new tab and buy all their gear right now — if, that is, you’re an American living in the 43-or-so less restrictive states.
Two observations here:
The ability to purchase this loadout isn’t quite uniquely American, but it almost is. There’s certainly nowhere in the world where it would be easier.
What is uniquely American is the ability to buy all this gear without being (a) a weirdo or (b) a combatant in an armed conflict.
In other words: the U.S. is the only place in the world where defense rights are (a) robustly practicable and (b) normal.
The Cormac McCarthy novel The Road has a lovely motif about “carrying the fire”. It’s the idea that in a world where something precious has slipped away, the people carrying the fire are preserving that thing until it can take root again. If the fire goes out, though, it will be gone forever.
The story of gun culture in the U.S., especially in the past 30 years that have started undoing the restrictionist paroxysm of 1934–1994, is the story of carrying a fire for the rest of the world. Culture is organic, and can only spread voluntarily. So this isn’t an expansionist vision of spreading the fire. It just means that if other countries one day start recognizing defense rights, it’s all of you reading this newsletter who are keeping those rights warm and waiting. Keep it up, and keep it welcoming.
This week’s links
San Diego jeweler sentenced for buying off-roster guns from a former county sheriff’s captain
This case incorporates a bunch of themes that will be familiar to gun law nerds: the vagueness of straw purchase laws; the contradictions of California’s handgun roster; the second layer of contradictions around exempting law enforcement officers from roster restrictions; and coercive plea bargaining for federal gun crimes.
“Leaked documents outline DHS’s plans to police disinformation”
And a June 2020 memo bearing the subject line “Actions to Address the Threat Posed by Domestic Terrorists and Other Domestic Extremists” prepared by DHS headquarters for Wolf, Trump’s acting DHS secretary, delineates plans to “expand information sharing with the tech sector” in order to “identify disinformation campaigns used by DT [domestic terrorism] actors to incite violence against infrastructure, ethnic, racial or religious groups, or individuals.” The memo outlines plans to work with private tech sector partners to share unclassified DHS intelligence on “DT actors and their tactics” so that platforms can “move effectively use their own tools to enforce user agreements/terms of service and remove DT content.”
Press coverage of thought police tends to focus on the potential for intentional abuse of power. That’s understandable, since that is the proximate risk. But by far the more insidious — and long-term dangerous — risk is unintentional abuse. Note the “voluntary” nature of the interactions described above. On its face it sounds innocuous. But in practice it functions as a ratchet with all the incentives in favor of over-reporting and, no incentives going in the other direction. So the abuse ends up being an emergent phenomenon, not traceable to any one person or decision. (For proponents, that’s a feature, not a bug.)
It’s not jackboots and black helicopters. It’s just a friendly federal agent with a first name, sending a helpful periodic email about what they’re working on. “Nice content platform you’ve got there, it sure would be great if you could pay attention to these factors when you’re monitoring your users. It would be a shame if you didn’t do that and then something happened to your company.”
Adventures in permitting
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