OSD 98: The state of Open Source Defense in 2021
OSD’s Vision → Mission → Strategy → Tactics stack.
Welcome to 2021. First, a quick look back on what we did in 2020. Here’s a recap of our top tweets from each quarter of the year, and below are all our blog posts from the year, in order of reader count:
And of course there’s this newsletter, which we switched onto Substack back in March. Since then, it has grown by just over 2% per week. That doesn’t sound like much, but compound growth is cooler than it seems — the newsletter is on pace to triple in size within a year. Good work, gang, keep spreading the word.
We’ve got plans for 2021, but if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that plans can change. So instead of sharing our plans, let’s dive into where the plans come from; the framework that we use to guide what we do.
We use a Vision → Mission → Strategy → Tactics stack. People often use “vision” and “mission” interchangeably, but vision is what you want to do, and mission is how you’re going to do it. Strategy is the set of organizing principles for how you’re going to execute on the mission. And tactics is, well, what you’re actually going to do day-to-day; the individual projects.
This has been internal-only so far, but for 2021, here ya go. OSD’s stack:
Defense rights for everybody.
Create the infrastructure for gun rights: build the TCP/IP layer of the gun rights stack.
Everybody is operating at the application layer — building a company or org to solve a specific problem, address a specific customer segment, etc. So everyone’s trying to add innovation, which is good. But few are effectively working on the infrastructure layer, to accelerate the underlying rate at which others can innovate.
Build a high-competence community.
Be a credible source of expertise for people from any side.
These, well … these you’ll have to wait and see. 😉
This week’s links
This is a normie sub and the discussion is … impressively factual, and actively debunks the misconceptions about silencers. A decade or two ago, the thread would have been dominated by myths. That’s a testament to the normalization of suppressors we’ve seen this decade — the first time in history that suppressors have been normalized. (Yes, there was the pre-NFA era but the userbase back then was comparatively tiny.) And that’s a testament to lots of deliberate work from the American Suppressor Association, manufacturers like Dead Air and SilencerCo investing heavily in modern marketing to reach new users, and the 2A advocacy community. Keep it going.
Two new YouTube channels we just came across
Armed and Styled. There’s surprisingly little info out there by-and-for women about how to make concealed carry work really well. This channel is making a dent in that problem. It’s got female-focused advice on topics that mainstream carry advice often completely ignores: beltless carry, considerations for female clothing and body types, etc.
Weapon Snatcher. A new channel by John Carughi, a Marine-turned-security guard. You probably remember John from this past spring; he disarmed a protester in Seattle who’d grabbed an AR from an abandoned police car and was wielding it unsafely. The new channel is a high-production-value look at how various types of gear would apply in real-world scenarios.
There’s a dramatic increase (by double-digit percentages) basically everywhere. Lots of theories about what the causes are, but it’s too early to have much confidence in any particular one.
He makes some interesting and counterintuitive points here.
This law review article from the Yale Law Journal isn’t directly gun-related, but it’s a comprehensive look at the pro-carceral mindset that — with casual cruelties like stop-and-frisk, or assault weapons bans, or magazine capacity limits, or the lifetime ban on gun possession by former felons — assigns a value of precisely zero to people’s human freedoms:
A personal anecdote: my young client once wondered aloud, “How can I tell you what it’s like to leave the house every morning knowing that my body could be searched at any moment? That no one thinks it’s wrong? That they call themselves ‘law enforcement.’”
The following passage is quite long, but it goes to the heart of the issue. It uses drug laws as an example, but the same philosophical flaw applies to most gun laws too. Italics below are added by the author, not us:
The value of bodily liberty has been a central theme of law for centuries. For example, American courts have long required a high constitutional burden of proof in criminal cases: no person can be imprisoned unless the government proves beyond a reasonable doubt that she is guilty. This reflects a paramount libertarian concern with agents of the state doing violence to a person’s body by confining a person to a cage against her will. But while the legal system thinks of itself as applying extreme rigor to decisions about when a person can be caged, it does not apply any rigor to an antecedent question: Is this conduct something for which we should cage a human being?
Consider an example: your friend is stopped by police on the street and searched. The search reveals a small capsule of cocaine powder in her pocket. Your friend is charged with possession of cocaine, which is subject in her state to a penalty of five years in prison. Your other friend, who was also searched, had only a pack of cigarettes in her bag—she was not arrested. A third friend had a bottle of whiskey in his backpack that the three had just purchased from the nearby alcohol distribution trafficking enterprise—he too was allowed to leave. The cocaine possessor was eventually taken to trial. Because of the foundational importance of human liberty to the constitutional Framers, she was cloaked in innocence and would be caged for five years only if the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she knowingly possessed the cocaine powder. But the “reasonable doubt” rule did little for her. It was easy for the government to prove that she knowingly possessed the cocaine found in her own pocket.
However, it would be very difficult for the government to prove that putting your friend in a cage for that cocaine possession served a compelling interest, let alone that it served that compelling interest in a better way than other alternative responses to cocaine possession—the standard we would apply if the government attempted to forbid the publication of this essay or seize my guns. Indeed, at least with respect to drug laws, it may be an insurmountable burden, given the existing empirical and scientific evidence. One of the remarkable features of the contemporary criminal system is that most punishment bureaucrats are aware of how ineffective caging people who use certain drugs is at addressing any social ill whatsoever, but they continue to enforce that punishment.
To accomplish this result, an entire strand of constitutional law—due process jurisprudence requiring the government to demonstrate a good reason to deprive a person of her bodily liberty—is ignored to enforce drug laws. I have struggled to find a single judicial opinion acknowledging, let alone confronting, this legal problem. The reason for this silence is that the principle of the “rule of law” cannot be applied at the same time to the law requiring a mandatory ten-year prison sentence for a crack cocaine offense and to the law that the government must prove that depriving a person of a fundamental liberty interest such as physical freedom is necessary to serve an identifiable public good.
In contrast, look at how our society has chosen to deal with a variety of other evils. One can be sued for racial discrimination or sexual harassment at work, for instance, but one cannot typically be prosecuted for that conduct, even though it might cause a lot of harm. The political system has chosen to pursue these other important goals without resort to the criminal system. Even assuming that preventing private individuals from choosing to ingest certain non-alcohol and non-tobacco drugs can create a compelling state interest—a proposition that would take its own justification—a variety of other alternatives to human caging exist to reduce drug use: education, employment, companionship, after-school art and theater programs, medical and mental health care, addiction treatment, and stable housing, to name a few. No government in any jurisdiction in the United States has proven that human caging is a way to reduce drug use at all, let alone the least intrusive way. Instead, a mountain of evidence suggests that the punishment approach to drugs has actually increased drug use and the harms associated with it, including by diverting funds from evidence-based alternatives.
The pathology through which people who call themselves “law enforcement” officials have come to acquiesce in this punishment is revealing. It would be intolerable to our legal system for a person to spend a moment in a cage for cocaine possession if the person did not possess cocaine. But many “rule of law” proponents care nothing for the question: why is it tolerable for a person to spend a moment in a cage when they have possessed cocaine? To answer that question, we would need to ask a further question: is human caging the best way, or even a reasonable way, to minimize the harms that cocaine possession causes?
Thus we have a central paradox of American criminal law: in order to put a person in prison, we have to prove by overwhelming evidence that she merits punishment in a narrow factual sense; but in order to put millions of people in prison, we do not need show that doing so would do any good. Under the unspoken consensus of the “rule of law,” a law authorizing millions of people to be caged for certain conduct will be enforced so long as there is a “rational basis” for it—and the courts define “rational basis” to mean any potential reason, no matter how unpersuasive, and even if it was not the actual reason for the law. This is almost the exact opposite of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” approach that we are told the Constitution requires for taking away bodily liberty. In the latter, a person must not be caged so long as there could be a single reason to doubt her factual eligibility for incarceration.
In this way, courts have chosen to enforce certain rules of criminal law over rules of constitutional law that constrain government violence to individual liberty, even though this order of priority defies the most basic “rule of law” in the legal system: that the Constitution trumps other laws. Thus, if a legislature created mandatory 10-year prison punishments for buying products derived from animals or for drinking red wine, it might be difficult for the government to prove that the prison terms were the least restrictive way of promoting a compelling interest in environmental or public health. This scenario is unlikely to happen, but not because the courts would scrutinize whether the law violates a higher rule of constitutional law. It would not happen because such policies would be politically unpopular among groups with power.
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