Matt Vespa - Anti-Gun Groups No Longer Fighting For Assault Weapons Bans
Posted: 9/14/2014 8:16:00 PM EST

Alas, gun control groups seem to have moved away from so-called assault weapons bans for reasons pro-Second Amendment groups have espoused for months; they’re ineffective and represent a very small fraction of firearm-related homicides. Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America now calls such policy initiatives “nonstarters.” Nonetheless, that does not mean that these people have abandoned their support for such bans on certain types of firearms (via ProPublica):

Nearly two years later, Watts works full-time as the head of the group, now named Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is a significant player in a coalition financed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But while polls suggest a majority of Americans still support an assault weapons ban, it is no longer one of Watts' top priorities.

"We've very much changed our strategy to focus on public safety measures that will save the most lives," she told ProPublica.

It's not just that the ban proved to be what Watts calls a "nonstarter" politically, gaining fewer votes in the Senate post-Sandy Hook than background check legislation. It was also that as Watts spoke to experts and learned more about gun violence in the United States, she realized that pushing for a ban isn't the best way to prevent gun deaths.

A 2004 Justice Department-funded evaluation found no clear evidence that the decade-long ban saved any lives. The guns categorized as "assault weapons" had only been used in about 2 percent of gun crimes before the ban. "Should it be renewed," the report concluded, "the ban's effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement."

With more information, Watts decided that focusing on access to guns, not types of guns, was a smarter approach. She came to the same conclusion that other gun control groups had reached even before the Sandy Hook shootings: "Ultimately," she said, "what's going to save the most lives are background checks."

While many gun control groups still officially support the assault weapons ban 2014 "we haven't abandoned the issue," as Watts said 2014 they're no longer actively fighting for it.

Last year, the assault weapons ban amendment to the Manchin-Toomey gun control bill went down in flames in a bipartisan vote. If they’re waiting for public opinion to turn, they should expect to be resting patiently for a long time. The 2013 Colorado recall elections, which booted two anti-gun State Senators was successful thanks to blue-collar workers, Hispanics, and women. As for background checks, they’re already virtually universal. Most gun owners buy from dealers with a federal firearms license who have to by law conduct a background check. Regardless, gun control advocates still perpetuate the myth that 40 percent of gun sales are conducted without a background check. John Lott tore into this narrative in January of 2013 (via NRO) [emphasis mine]:

More important, the number comes from a 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, early in the Clinton administration. More than three-quarters of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks on February 28, 1994. In addition, guns are not sold in the same way today that they were sold two decades ago.

The number of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) today is only a fraction of what it was. Today there are only 118,000; while back in 1993 there were over 283,000. Smaller dealers, many operating out of their homes, were forced out by various means, including much higher costs for licenses.

The survey asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all FFLs do background checks, those perceived as being FFLs were the only ones counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the very smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no inkling that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and thus reported not buying from an FFL when in fact they did.

But the high figure comes primarily from including such transactions as inheritances or gifts from family members. Putting aside these various biases, if you look at guns that were bought, traded, borrowed, rented, issued as a requirement of the job, or won through raffles, 85 percent went through FFLs; just 15 percent were transferred without a background check.

If you include these transfers either through FFLs or from family members, the remaining transfers falls to 11.5 percent.

We don’t know the precise number today, but it is hard to believe that it is above single digits.

That hardly warrants federal action, especially since gun-related violence is down 39 percent since 1993. Pew Research has the figure higher, with a 49 percent decrease in firearm-related homicides. Then again, the American public is largely unaware that gun violence is down.

Gun control has become a political graveyard for Democrats. It’s an issue that cost Al Gore West Virginia, Arkansas, and his home state of Tennessee in 2000. If he had won those states, Gore would have become the president-elect, even with Bush winning Florida.

Liberal attempts to eviscerate the Second Amendment aren’t going away, but that doesn’t mean we should not stop defending the right to bear arms. Watching anti-gun liberals fail is spectacularly entertaining, but conservatives should be vigilant in their attempts to curb gun rights.

Daniel Doherty - Poll: Huckabee Clear Favorite in Iowa
Posted: 9/14/2014 5:00:00 PM EST

Two things are worth noting in the CNN/ORC survey released Friday vis-à-vis the 2016 presidential sweepstakes: (1) Hillary Clinton, who is gearing up to head to the Hawkeye State as I write this, is leaps and bounds ahead of her fellow Democrats; and (2) former Gov. Mike Huckabee is leading all of his presumed GOP rivals by double digits:

According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 53% of all registered Democrats contacted in Iowa said they would support Hillary Clinton if the 2016 caucuses were held today. That number far outpaces the 15% that would opt for Vice President Joe Biden, 7% who would choose Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 5% who would pick Sen. Bernie Sanders. ...

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee nearly laps the field with 21% of all registered Republicans contacted in the poll saying they would support the former Arkansas governor if the 2016 Iowa caucuses were held today. Paul Ryan is second with 12%, and there is a cadre of politicians -- including Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- with support in the single digits.

The reason why Huckabee is soaring? Well, in part because more than one-quarter of all registered Republicans who are women prefer him over everyone else:

Huckabee and Ryan are getting similar support with men -- 15% and 16%, respectively -- but it is with women that the former Arkansas governor jumps ahead of the congressman. Twenty-seven percent of registered Republican women polled said they would pick Huckabee, compared with 8% who choose Ryan.

Perhaps one reason why Huckabee is ahead, and has been for a while now, is because his unique brand of social conservatism is popular among social cons in the state. Or, perhaps, because he’s already won the Iowa caucuses before and therefore has great name recognition among voters. Whatever the case may be, however, he hasn’t yet definitely ruled out forming an exploratory committee. But if Mitt Romney doesn't run, and the former governor continues to blow away the competition in Iowa, I honestly can't see why he wouldn't.

Christine Rousselle - Connecticut Triple Murderer on Death Row Suing State Over Kosher Food
Posted: 9/14/2014 4:00:00 PM EST

Steven Hayes, who was convicted of raping and murdering three people (including two children) in Cheshire, Connecticut, and sentenced to death, is now suing the Connecticut Department of Correction for failing to provide him Kosher meals while in prison. Hayes was not Jewish when he entered prison, but is now calling himself an Orthodox Jew after he "signed up for Judaism."

In his handwritten lawsuit, filed in federal court, Hayes complains that he has lost weight and is starving because the food he is served in prison is not kosher.

The defendants "have been denying a kosher diet I have been requesting since approximately May of 2013," he writes in his lawsuit. "As an orthodox practicing Jew I am entitled to a kosher diet that follows the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut." Kashrut specifies what food Jews can eat and how it must be prepared.

The career criminal further complains that the kitchen at Northern Correctional Institution does not have an "orthodox kosher certificate or a Jewish overseer to maintain strict kosher storage, prep and cooking standards."

All meals at Northern, Hayes claims, are prepared using the same pots, pans, utensils, prep surfaces, washing and storage areas and cooking appliances. He further complains that kitchen staff has told him that "common fare" served at Northern is "kosher like."

"Kosher-like is not kosher," Hayes declared in the lawsuit.

Hayes continues in his lawsuit that "in January 2013 I signed up for Judaism after I learned that Rabbi Schectman was in fact coming to [Northern Correctional Institution] to perform services. Prior to this I was following the philosophy of Taoism since I was told no rabbi came to Northern. I had last practiced Judaism with Rabbi Schectman at Somers Correctional Institution in the mid to late 90s."

Jewish Prisoner Services International dispute Hayes' claim that he is Jewish, as one cannot simply declare oneself to be an Orthodox Jew.

Conversion to Judaism requires a lengthy and serious period of study, according to the organization's website, as well as involvement in the Jewish community that culminates in approval by a rabbinic court and certain religious rituals. It is also rare for a rabbinic court to approve the conversion of somebody who is incarcerated, according to the organization's website.

Hayes' lawyer also claimed that his client is in an "oppressive situation" because he is in a jail cell 24 hours a day. This is also not the first time Hayes has attempted to sue the state over prison conditions.

Cry me a freaking river. I'm sorry, but I cannot come to grips with his lawyer's claim that Hayes is in an "oppressive situation" due to his imprisonment. The three people who he killed are also in what you could call an "oppressive situation" of being dead in a coffin 24 hours a day for the rest of eternity. He killed two young girls who had the rest of their lives in front of them. This attention-seeking, drama queen-esque behavior is absolutely despicable. He's wasting the state's time and money. This is absurd.

Sarah Jean Seman - The Future of the Gun
Posted: 9/14/2014 1:24:00 PM EST

Townhall: You open your book by telling a story about a real person, an inner city kid named Mike K. Can you tell us how his experience sets the tone for your book?

Miniter: He’s an interesting guy and there are a lot of people like him out there. I’ve known the guy who changed his life for a long time, John Annoni. He runs an inner city school program that uses hunting, and fi shing, and shooting, and firearms ranges in order to help inner city kids. He took me in and introduced me to kids who used to be in gangs and used to have severe issues with crime, in this case, Mike had a felony conviction.

We’re living in these two very different gun cultures in this country. Often one side or the other side doesn’t understand the point of view of the other one. I wanted someone who could just bridge that in order to start that process of helping people understand each other so we can actually come up with real solutions to gun violence. That’s what led me to Mike.

Townhall: You refer to the gun as “Freedom’s Tool.” What do you mean by that?

Miniter: It’s interesting if you trace the history of the gun right from the beginning of the United States. Start off in 1775, when in Lexington and Concord rifles were being used against British troops who had smoothbore Brown Besses. The British fi rearm, the Brown Bess, would lob a fairly large bullet but through a smoothbore, which is easier and faster to load, but not nearly as accurate. The American colonials were getting their rifles from small arms makers, mostly in New England, they had these rifles because they were hunters and that’s what they had to do. If they didn’t get that rabbit, or whatever they were after, they weren’t going to eat that night. They knew how to shoot and they got the best firearms for that sport. So when they faced the British troops they actually had more advanced firearms than the British did. That actually turned that battle and started our Revolution off to what it became.

Ever since then, if you trace the history of military firearms and civilian firearms, they’re really related. In fact they’re linked. Usually the technology comes out of the civilian market and goes into military and law enforcement markets. If you look at semi-automatic firearms, which are called “assault weapons” today, they were much more popular as sporting arms in the early 20th century than military. The military didn’t really get into them; they didn’t want to, they thought you didn’t need rapid fire. They didn’t want that semi-automatic rifle until really World War II, when the M1 came around and the push to get a firearm was there. Well that technology had already been grown and used in the civilian market.

Townhall: Your book is called “The Future of the Gun,” why did you choose that title?

Miniter: Because politics and technology are fused. What the legislators are always trying to ban is the new technology, and they see a new technology as semi-automatic fi rearms, and many pistols. Well, OK, but those technologies are fairly old technologies, which is interesting to look at that way. But then when you really get into the technology and realize what’s just now becoming available, you realize smart gun technology, for example, is being stopped by possible mandates from legislators saying “once this technology where fi rearms will only go off for a person who’s been programmed into that fi rearm, once that becomes available then all fi rearms should have that technology.”

Well, that’s not feasible for many technological and cost reasons. A lot of the major gun manufacturers have told me again and again that that stopped them. And the possibility of lawsuits stopped them. Because, once they did come up with the smart gun technology, let’s say that gun was stolen and used to murder somebody else, well then could a smart lawyer come in and sue that gun manufacturer for not putting that on all guns?

Townhall: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions that many Americans have about guns today?

Miniter: So many, I don’t know where to get started. I’ve always owned guns, I grew up with guns, and I had a certain view of them and I didn’t come to where I am on the issue all of a sudden or from my youth. It just kind of came through being a journalist and running around, and learning about these kinds of things.

But what surprised me when I dug into this book was, when I went into the inner city areas in New York, Chicago, and Maryland, I was surprised at the culture that is being traded in those antigun, inner city places where a good guy can’t carry a gun or isn’t supposed to carry a gun.

So, you end up only with a certain type of person illegally carrying a fi rearm, and when you only have that sort of person in a society, well who is the young guy or girl going to look up to?

Hopefully, they have some other type of role model, but a lot of them are just going to look up to that power figure that’s on their street. So they end up looking up to that bad guy with a gun instead of a good guy that they should be looking to. You end up with this break that’s tearing apart these two cultures in America on guns. •

Kevin Glass - How "College-For-All" Harms America's Students
Posted: 9/14/2014 12:59:00 PM EST
President Obama has long considered college enrollment as a worthwhile goal for public policy. But college in and of itself isn't a panacea - results matter. And the negative outcomes for the students who struggle in college is outsized to some of the benefits.

As Robert VerBruggen writes at RealClearPolicy:

By the end of their first year, more than a tenth of college students have shown they almost certainly don't have what it takes to graduate, earning a C average or less -- and fewer than half of students have at least a two-thirds chance of making it, which corresponds to an A to B average.

Remember, these kids are self-selected -- they're the ones who decide, based on their performance in high school and the incentives in front of them, that going to college is a good idea. If we change the incentives to push even more kids into college, those kids will be even worse off, on average.

VerBruggen was writing about new policy prescriptions from Inside Higher Ed that analyzes the at-risk students. Students who end their first year of college with a GPA in between 2.0 and 3.0 - between a B and a C - graduate at surprisingly low rates.

First-year G.P.A., the researchers contend, offers a powerful indication of a student’s chances of graduation. Students who end their first year with a G.P.A. of 2.0 or lower are unlikely to graduate despite the best efforts of their colleges, Venit said. Students with a G.P.A. of 3.0 or above, on the other hand, graduate in high numbers.

But there’s also a third group: the students who end their first year with a G.P.A. between 2.0 and 3.0, who make up nearly half of total dropouts. Their fates are more uncertain. These students belong to what Venit and his colleagues call the “murky middle.”

As I wrote for Townhall Magazine earlier this year, college isn't for everyone - and the downsides of incentivizing marginal students to take risks and loans to go can be devastating.

Leah Barkoukis - Victory: Nigerian Soldiers Turn Tide Against Boko Haram Fighters, Kill 200
Posted: 9/14/2014 10:53:00 AM EST

While the world has largely been focused on the developments with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, another militant Islamic group, Boko Haram, has made devastating gains in Nigeria as well.

Boko Haram in recent weeks has taken a string of towns stretching over 200 miles alongside Nigeria's northeast border with Cameroon in a new campaign to create an Islamic caliphate, mimicking the IS group in Syria and Iraq.

The extremists also have attacked a town and villages across the border in Cameroon, but that country's state radio said Cameroonian troops beat them off and forced them back across the border into Nigeria. […]

Thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes in the latest offensive, joining more than 1.5 million other Nigerians who are refugees within their country or across borders in Niger, Cameroon and Chad, according to U.N. figures.

Extremists who have taken other towns have told residents that their next target is Maiduguri, the headquarters of the military campaign in the northeast. Boko Haram has attacked the city several times, with suicide and car bombs that have killed scores. In December they launched a bold attack on an air force base on the outskirts in which they destroyed five aircraft and in February an assault on the main military barracks in the city in which they freed hundreds of detainees.

On Friday, however, in what has been described as a rare military victory, soldiers killed roughly 200 extremists as they were advancing on Maiduguri. According to one officer, a leading commander was among the militants who were killed. There were no military casualties.

Kevin Glass - Social Security: The Forgotten Crisis
Posted: 9/14/2014 8:52:00 AM EST

In President Obama's first term, Republicans made a lot of hay by pointing out that our entitlement programs are on an unsustainable path, and that argument was supported by the Simpson-Bowles bipartisan commission to fix the long-term deficit.

In Obama's second term, other, more immediate crises have arisen. But entitlements still loom large on our budget ledger as a threat to our economic security.

A new report out from Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center drives this point home visually:

As de Rugy writes in the report:

Since 2010, the Social Security program has been running a permanent cash-flow deficit, as the first chart shows. This means that the taxes collected during the year for the program fall short of what is needed to cover the benefits paid out to retirees. The program draws from the Social Security trust fund to fill the gap (first using the interest, then the principal) to maintain promised level of benefits to retirees. When this option is also insufficient, the US Treasury will have to start borrowing to pay out benefits.


The program was stable when there were more than three workers per beneficiary. However, future projections indicate that the ratio could continue to fall to less than one worker per beneficiary, at which point the program in its current structure becomes financially unsustainable.

Make no mistake: social security still looms as a fiscal crisis. It's a drag on our federal budget right now, and is projected to get much, much worse in merely the decade we're currently in. It's not a far-off problem: it's here now.

Katie Pavlich - ISIS Beheads British Humanitarian Aid Worker David Haines; Prime Minister Cameron Calls Emergency Meeting
Posted: 9/13/2014 7:50:00 PM EST

The terror army ISIS has released a video titled "A Message to Allies of America" showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines. Haines was 44-years-old, has two daughters and dedicated his life to helping refugees. He was taken captive in Syria last year and the terror army has been threatening to kill him since beheading American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. It appears the same ISIS terrorist who killed Foley and Sotloff also killed Haines. ISIS has threatened to continue their killing spree and have another British citizen in their custody as a hostage. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron has already issued a response and has called an emergency meeting with COBRA, a committee specifically convened in times of national crisis. 

This post has been updated.

Kevin Glass - More Than Half Of Parents In Favor Of School Choice
Posted: 9/13/2014 2:58:00 PM EST
School choice programs are a flashpoint in a few elections this year; Dan discussed a poll about Wisconsin's school choice program playing a major role in Scott Walker's re-election push. Another recent poll finds that most parents are in favor of some kind of school voucher program.

Paul E. Peterson writes:

Many parents would like even more choice of school than they currently have. No less than 56% favor a school voucher that would “give families with children in public schools a wider choice, by allowing them to enroll their children in private schools, instead, with government helping to pay the tuition.” Only 32% opposed the idea. In other words, two- thirds of all parents, including those who have never made use of a private school, are not opposed to the idea of giving families a choice of attending private school instead of public school.

It is true that a much higher percentage of parents (51%) express opposition to a proposal that would “use government funds to pay the tuition of low-income students who would choose to attend private schools.” It seems that many parents don’t like the idea of government support going to just low-income families; if vouchers are to be made available, they should be for everyone. Indeed 56% of parents favor a universal voucher option, while only 50% of the public is so inclined.

While a school choice program that targeted low-income families - similar to Washington, D.C.'s opportunity scholarship program that was dropped by the Obama Administration and only reauthorized with Republicans' advocacy - would be better than nothing, many families feel that programs like this should be open to all families.

Kevin Glass - Rand Paul on ISIL: "Victory Going to Require Allies That Are Part Of Civilized Islamic World"
Posted: 9/13/2014 2:25:00 PM EST
With everything that has happened this week on ISIL and the crisis in Iraq and Syria, President Obama has not emerged with a decisive leadership strategy. This has left critics of the Administration in a place to counter the Obama narrative and push strategies of their own.

Sen. Rand Paul has urged caution in this arena, and got in a heated discussion with Sean Hannity this week on the topic. Sen. Paul said:

"The long-term victory is going to require allies that are part of the civilized Islamic world - which is the majority of the Islamic world. But they have to step up."