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Ex-ATF Agent: Let’s Stop Pretending Lawmakers Are Regulating Lethal Firearms

gunsBy Former ATF Jay Wachtel
for Washington Post

When it comes to regulating firearms, we only pretend to legislate. And even when we do legislate, we only pretend to make them safer. Think that I’m exaggerating? Read on.

In 1994, the federal assault weapons ban outlawed a host of firearms by make and model, including the popular Colt AR-15 and several “AK” style rifles. More broadly, the law also prohibited the manufacture and sale of any semi-automatic rifle that could accept a detachable ammunition magazine (for quicker reloading), and had two or more external features such as a folding stock (to make a gun more compact), pistol grips and barrel shrouds (to help steady one’s aim) and a flash suppressor (to hide a shooter’s position). Caliber wasn’t affected but magazine capacities were limited to ten rounds. Existing weapons and magazines could continue to be possessed and transferred.

How did the gun industry respond? With cosmetic fixes. Colt renamed the AR-15 the “Sporter,” stripped off its flash suppressor and bayonet lug and modified the magazine. Other manufacturers and importers took similar measures, renaming guns and making minor tweaks.

Everyone was pleased. For liberals, the law’s passage was a victory. What got lost in the orgy of self-congratulation, though, was the purpose of the ban.

One assumes that assault rifles were picked on because they are particularly lethal. Key attributes that make them so include accuracy at range, rapid-fire capability and, most importantly, fearsome ballistics. In their most common calibers – 7.62 and .223 – these weapons discharge bullets whose extreme energy and velocity readily pierce protective garments commonly worn by police, opening cavities in flesh many times the diameter of the projectile and causing devastating wounds.

None of these real threats were addressed by the ban. Yet when the statute expired ten years later, Democrats in Congress voiced outrage and promised to secure its renewal.

Last week, a young Southern California couple armed with two pistols and two .223 caliber assault rifles viciously murdered 14 people and wounded 21, some critically. All four guns were purchased from licensed gun retailers in California, the state whose assault weapons law has been touted as the nation’s most restrictive. But as the officers who responded to the massacre in patrol cars and armored vehicles can attest, their state’s vaunted measures (its supposedly stiff provisions require, for example, that magazines be fixed in place, yet provide an easy workaround) proved hopelessly ineffective.

California, the state which gun enthusiasts love to hate, seems no more anxious to take real action against highly lethal firearms than the reticent Feds.

What makes this so? For a clue we can turn to District of Columbia v. Heller,the landmark 2008 Supreme Court case that slapped down a law prohibiting the possession of handguns. In its ruling, the Court held that the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to have firearms for “traditionally lawful purposes” such as self-protection. Going beyond handguns, the majority also endorsed the concept that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess firearms “in common use.”

What’s missing from Heller is a comparison of guns at the time the Second Amendment was written and now. Had the Framers time-traveled to a contemporary gun store, they probably would have been astonished at just how lethal firearms would become. They might have even graced the Second Amendment with an additional clause that placed limits on the madness.

But they didn’t. Neither did the Heller justices, who completely ignored the stark contrast between then and now. One wishes that a law clerk looked up Section 921(a)(16) of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which exempts weapons with antique ignition systems or that do not use fixed ammunition – in other words, the guns of the Framer’s era – from the definition of “firearm.”

To read more click here. 

Feds Investigate How San Bernardino Couple Received $28,500 Loan

The San Bernardino couple who opened fire at a holiday party.

The San Bernardino couple who opened fire at a holiday party.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal investigators are trying to determine how the California couple that opened fire at a holiday party obtained a $28,500 that may have financed their massacre, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Syed Rizwan Farook earned about $50,000 a year as a health inspector for San Bernardino County, and his wife was a stay-at-h0me home.

Just weeks before the massacre, they received a $28,500 loan from an online lender, Prosper Marketplace, which acts “as a middleman matching borrowers and investors who fund their loans,” the Los Angeles Times wrote.

A terror group would “be competing with all these funds to get that loan, and they’d have no certainty of who the borrower was,” said Bryce Mason, who has invested in Prosper loans and is chief investment officer of Direct Lending Investments, a La Cañada Flintridge hedge fund.

Former Deputy U.S. Marshal Gets 15 Months for Lying to Cops After Fatally Shooting a Man

u.s. marshal patch

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former deputy U.S. marshal was sentenced Monday in Los Angeles to 15 months in prison for obstruction of justice – a charge stemming from lies he told to police after he fatally shot a man while off duty, the Justice Department said.

Matthew Itkowitz, 47, who lives in Suffern, N.Y., was  found guilty in July  of obstruction of justice by a federal jury in July. Authorities charged that Itkowitz shot the man who intervened in a fight between him and his wife. He claimed it was self defense.

A Justice Department press release said the conviction was based on false statements Itkowitz made to Los Angeles police homicide detectives following his fatal shooting of a man in West Hollywood in March of 2008. Itkowitz falsely characterized an altercation that led to the shooting, and his version of events was contradicted by a video made by a security camera in the alley where the shooting took place.

Additionally,  Itkowitz was charged with violating the victim’s constitutional rights to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.

ABC News: San Bernardino Attack: Gun-Buyer Could See Criminal Charges

Enrique Marquez

Enrique Marquez

By ABC News

Authorities investigating the terror attack in San Bernardino told ABC News today that they may bring gun charges against Enrique Marquez, the 24-year-old neighbor and longtime friend of one of the shooters, who officials said originally bought two of the weapons used in the deadly attack.

Officials said they believe one of the San Bernardino gunmen, Syed Rizwan Farook, asked Marquez to buy the two “assault-style” rifles back in late 2011 or early 2012 so that Farook’s name would not be on file in connection with the high-powered rifles.

In a Facebook posting from Marquez’s profile just hours after the attack, he said, “I’m. Very sorry sguys. It was a pleasure.”

To read the full story click here.

Border Patrol Agents Won’t Be Charged in Tasing Incident Caught on Video

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Two Border Patrol agents who were accused of excessive force when one of them tased a college student during a traffic stop last year won’t face criminal charges, North Country Public Radio reports.

After reviewing the case, the CBP has decided against filing charges, a spokesperson for the agency said.

The incident was captured on video taken by the alleged victim, Jessica Cooke, who wouldn’t allow agents to search her trunk.

The woman was tackled by one of the agents after she began shouting.

Agents found nothing in the car of Cooke, who said she was held and released after several hours that left her bruised.

The agents, who have not been identified, remain on active duty.

Other Stories of Interest

FBI: California Couple That Opened Fire at Holiday Party Were Radicalized ‘for Quite Some Time’

San bernardino couple

San Bernardino couple at at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in 2014.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The California couple that opened fire at a holiday lunch party in San Bernardino “were radicalized and have been for quite some time,” an FBI official said.

CNN reports that Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were ISIS supporters who practiced their shooting at a gun range, according to David Bowdich, a top official in the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

“The question for us,” he told reporters Monday, “is how, and by whom and where.”

Although the couple supported ISIS, it’s still unclear whether they took orders, met with terrorist leaders or executed the attack on their own.

“Remember, oftentimes, it’s on the Internet. We just don’t know,” Bowdich said. “I don’t want to speculate.”

North Carolina Official Proposes Ban on Gun Purchases for Suspected Terrorists

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Congressional Republicans blocked an effort to prevent suspected terrorists on the federal government’s database from buying guns.

But that isn’t stopping North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper from urging state lawmakers to support a similar ban in his state, the Citizen-Times reports. 

“Stopping terror suspects from getting weapons that could harm our state and its people makes common sense,” Cooper said in a news release. “Even if Washington won’t act, we can.”

But whether Cooper has enough support is another question. Some GOP leaders accused Cooper of gun control.

State GOP Chairman Hasan Harnett accused Cooper of “stripping our citizens of their constitutional rights and denying them due process” to score points with his like-minded supporters.

DHS Chief Plans to Launch Refined Terror Advisory System

Jeh Johnson

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The terrorism advisory system is being modified to reflect a “new phase” in the global fight against extremism, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday, the Washington Post reports.

The current National Terrorism Advisory System, which was launched in 2011, has two levels – elevated throated and imminent threat.

But Johnson, citing new unknown risks from people who are radicalized at home, plans to add a new level – intermediate, which means officials don’t necessarily know the source of a threat.

The secretary said the United States is entering “a new phase in the global terrorist threat that involves not just terrorist directed attacks from overseas but also terrorist inspired attacks here on the homeland and in other countries.” In this environment, he said, “having not had a specific credible piece of intelligence reflecting a specific plot is not the end of the story because we’re dealing with the prospect of terrorist inspired attacks by someone who may be below our radar and who could act on a moment’s notice.”