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This Week in Gun Rights is TTAG’s weekly roundup of legal, legislative and other news affecting guns, the gun business and gun owners’ rights.

Instagram bans pro-gun, pure political speech 


Everyone is mad at social media companies these days, and they’re right to be angry. Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the 21st century equivalent of the town square, a place where opinions, both popular and unpopular, are shared with the rest of the public.

Since shortly after their founding, social platform executives have been subjected to intense scrutiny from the federal legislature, initially being haled in to provide testimony on what they were doing with regard to things like combatting terrorist recruiting and the sharing of illegal materials.

As a response, all of these companies increased content moderation and incorporated new reporting features enabling users to report content they believed to violate terms of service. Less terrorism and kiddie porn on the internet sounds like a good thing, right? Of course, censorship is never that simple.

Social media moguls have gone too far in their censorship of content, serving as the gatekeepers of speech. While I was on Instagram this week I discovered that #abolishtheATF was a “hidden” search term. Why? Because “the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines”.

There are three possible reasons for this act of censorship: 1) some content violated the platform’s entirely arbitrary guidelines; 2) anti-gun activists are reporting any pro-gun material they find in order to silence gun rights advocates; or 3) Instagram’s employees decided to ban the hashtag to chill speech of their own volition.

None of these possibilities should sit right with liberty-minded individuals.

Is the ATF moving to ban AR and AK pistols?

SB Tactical pistol brace arm
Courtesy SB Tactical

If you’ve been following gun news over the last month it’s reasonable to assume that you’ve heard about the ATF’s decision to play head games with Q, the company that manufactures the Honey Badger AR pistol, issuing and then temporarily suspending a cease and desist order claiming that the firearm is not a pistol, but a short barrel rifle. While we were waiting for the situation with Q to pan out, there were some new rumblings about the ATF contemplating a massive firearms reclassification which would affect the importation of certain arms. 

For some background, the Gun Control Act of 1968 dramatically restricted the ability of Americans to import arms from abroad. The purpose of this Act, among other things, was to eliminate the availability of popular, affordable handguns. These arbitrary import restrictions, which focus on size and materials of handguns, did, and continues to restrict the ability of underprivileged Americans to acquire arms.
The GCA required any imported arms to be “generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes,” thereby completely ignoring the most fundamental reason Americans have a right to arms: for self-defense.
Over the years, the firearms the ATF has considers to be suitable for “sporting purposes” has ebbed and flowed, with handguns being the only arms with fairly straightforward criteria. Handguns were given points for being above a certain size, having adjustable sights, and other factors.
In light of this, to satisfy the tremendous demand Americans have for fine foreign-made arms, many companies abroad would sell firearms such as the Mp5, PE90, and more, configured as handguns, without stocks. These arms, as imported, could only be operated as a handgun, and fell squarely within the parameters of importability.

Concerns about the ATF abusing its unchecked (and illegitimate) interpretation “authority” to reclassify AR and AK pistols first arose this summer. According to a client alert issued by Wiley Rein, LLP, the ATF may implement a new “objective design features” test to determine whether a firearm constitutes a pistol for importability’s sake under the GCA. Features to be considered include:

  • Incorporation of rifle sights;
  • Utilization of “rifle caliber ammunition” (both 5.56mm and 7.62mm have been considered as such);
  • Incorporation of “rifle-length barrel;”
  • The “weapon’s heavy weight;”
  • Ability to accept magazines that range in capacity from 20 rounds to 100 rounds, “which will contribute to the overall weight of the firearm”; and
  • Overall length of the weapon which “creates a front-heavy imbalance when held in one hand.”

Of course, there have been heavy handguns since handguns existed, and the ATF’s importability standards favor heavier, longer-barreled pistols, awarding “points” for every inch. This move is more than profoundly ironic.

The GCA was not always so restrictive. The “sporting purpose” requirement, for decades, did not prevent importation of a variety of fine French, German, Chinese, Polish, and other arms that were massively popular up to 1989, where Bush 41 administratively tortured the requirement into an “assault weapon ban” of sorts. This resulted in sports like practical shooting being considered “not sporting activity” by the ATF, creating the extant mire that makes importing semi-automatic rifles nigh-on impossible.
Remember, though, the NFA’s definition of AOW excludes “pistols,” a different word than the GCA “handgun” question.
In any event, the simple fact is that the “sporting purposes” requirement ignores, and ultimately infringes upon, the core of our Second Amendment protection: the right to keep and bear useful arms in defense of ourselves and our property.

It looks like Michiganders will be able to carry at the polls

Polling Place vote voting sign

Constitutional rights are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to choose between exercising your right to assemble and your right to due process of the law, and you don’t have to choose between being free from unlawful search and seizure and keeping and bearing arms (or at least you shouldn’t). The same holds true for voting and bearing arms; just because you’re going to the polls doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice your natural right to self-defense.

Unfortunately, Michigan didn’t get the memo, and state Attorney General Dana Nessel decided that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had the power to ban the open carry of firearms at or near polling places. This is the same Attorney General who referred to pro-gun activists as cowards and called the right to bear arms at the state capitol a “stain upon the state.” 

Unfortunately for the Attorney General (and fortunate for the rest of us), it seems Secretary Benson doesn’t have the power to enforce the ban; something that some sheriffs in the state had already recognized was impermissible under the state constitution.

Unsatisfied with the correct outcome, Benson and Nessel filed an emergency appeal to the state Court of Appeals. Of course their argument is totally nonsensical – they claim that the restriction “does not infringe any statutory right to open carry because it does not forbid the open carrying of firearms at any location where the Legislature has said that open carry is allowed.” I guess Benson and Nessel skipped their constitutional law class, because the right to keep and bear arms is a negative or intrinsic right – it exists without the crown’s grant.

That means that unless the Michigan legislature passes a law constraining the right to bear arms at polling stations, people can go about exercising their rights as they please. Maybe Nessel should have a chat with Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings who, after seeing the light, issued a clarifying statement affirming that under Delaware law voters are free to carry arms while casting their ballots.

Crenshaw mad about people bearing arms in protest

Rep. Dan Crenshaw
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Representative Dan Crenshaw, a fan of government surveillance and red flag laws, recently decried armed protesters during a NSSF townhall, saying that to bring new members into the gun community “[w]e need a lot less guys dressing up in their Call of Duty outfits, marching through the streets[.]” Apparently Crenshaw thinks that guys wearing plate carriers in public are bad news because they intimidate other people who might want to buy a gun. That’s just ridiculous.

America is about choice. People can choose to carry guns or not. People can vote for the candidate of their choice, drink, smoke, and gamble. People can wear a suit, Hawaiian shirts, or even a furry costume while they exercise their right to carry; it’s nobody else’s business what someone wears.

If Dan’s concern is marketing, he should work with an agency that helps gun companies and advocacy groups with their advertising and outreach instead of being critical of people exercising their right to protest. 

Government forces man to decide between First Amendment and prison

Pro Gun Rally Virginia
Demonstrators are seen during a pro-gun rally, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Sarah Rankin)

This month an Arizona man was arrested for “unlawful assembly” while attending a protest in Phoenix. He was jailed without bond because he had outstanding charges from previous demonstrations. The prosecutors eventually offered a $100,000 bond, and subsequently, a lower bond, on the condition that the defendant not participate in future public protests.

If this doesn’t bother you, it should.

The very idea that the government has the right to prevent an individual from criticizing the government offends the First Amendment, which specifically protects the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. In other words, by letting this stand, we’re saying that the government has the authority to silence us when it doesn’t like what we have to say about its actions.

That should especially concern gun owners in an age where campaign contributions are placing anti-gun candidates in legislative and executive positions. But what about the outstanding charges? Well, “unlawful assembly” is frankly horse shit. It can be applied in just about any instance (and often is) even if protesters aren’t engaging in violent or dangerous activity, and creating the conditions justifying arrest for these violations is remarkably simple, a great example of this is the kettling technique applied by the NYPD.

While this is substantially less likely to occur if protesters are armed (looking at you, Dan Crenshaw), the ability of the government to arbitrarily arrest peaceful protesters and then restrain them from speaking against the government is a decent indication of our shift from liberty toward tyranny.

Backlog in gun sale processing interferes with RKBA

gun store background check 4473
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Gun sales are booming these days, even in the anti-gun jurisdiction of Hawaii. Unfortunately for Aloha State residents, Hawaii’s gun permitting restrictions have led to a backlog in gun sale processing. One Honolulu resident, a first-time gun buyer, reports that he started his gun permitting process in February and won’t be able to take home a firearm until next year.

The standard process requires three months to get a permitting appointment, two weeks to conduct a background check, and another three months to register the firearm, but thanks to the backlog it’s taking even longer.

By requiring Hawaiian residents to wait nearly a year to take home the firearm that they’ve purchased, the state is depriving them of their right to keep and bear arms and their ability to use their private property. If these buyers were purchasing land, this would be like permitting the government physically occupying the land without compensating the new owner, an action that would be impermissible under the Fifth Amendment.

If Hawaii’s registration program were constitutional and “keeps guns out of the hands of criminals” (or some other trope, your pick), then the Hawaiian government needs to either hire more people to process permit applications or better yet, repeal its licensing regime so that law-abiding individuals can exercise their constitutionally protected rights.

Was Giffords behind COVID gun shop closures in Virginia?

Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who’s been following the anti-gun activities of the Virginia legislature and Governor Ralph Northam, but it seems that just ten days prior to issuing his executive order closing gun shops back in March, Northam was invited by Giffords to attend a dinner party and talk about anti-gun legislation.

That’s right, while everybody was sitting at home trying not to fall ill from COVID or infect their vulnerable family members, Northam went to a crowded dinner hosted by an anti-gun rights group, a dinner presumably attended by donors and other politically valuable guests, not even a fortnight before passing a draconian anti-business executive order that financially crippled the state’s residents and foreclosed their ability to purchase a firearm for self-defense.

There isn’t much else to say here but it bears repeating: anti-gun politicians don’t want to keep you safe, they want to stop you from ensuring your own safety and autonomy from the government. 

The government wants to track your money, and that’s bad

Big Brother technology eye

When the government can’t find hard evidence that you’ve done something it doesn’t like, it tries to sidestep the Fourth Amendment by doing things like tracking your expenses and movements, building a web of information and activity sufficient for them to convict you of whatever ridiculous crime you’ve been charged with. The federal government is particularly fond of this technique. After all, they were the ones who invented RICO.

In modern times the tracking of money is conducted by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — FinCEN for short — which is a bureau within the Treasury Department. The primary mission of FinCEN is to aggregate information on financial transactions to fight things like money laundering, terrorism financing, and other financial crimes, and the network shares this information with other law enforcement agencies. 

Currently, FinCEN flags any money transfers beginning or ending outside the United States that are $3,000 or greater, but now they want to reduce that threshold to a mere $250. Big deal, right? Actually, yeah, it’s a huge deal, because FinCEN shares information with other federal law enforcement agencies, and with a simple rule change FinCEN data could be used by other agencies like the ATF to track people who do things like purchasing gun parts from overseas or anyone using an offshore account to buy firearms domestically.

While it won’t affect the majority of gun owners, it is still a cause for concern because it provides the government with a mechanism to circumvent record-keeping limitations by allowing the use of forensic accounting data to determine firearms and accessories ownership. 


Matt Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy for the Firearms Policy Coalition. 


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  1. Everything on the Interweb is tracked not only by online service providers, but by the government as well. The use of algorithms allows them to pinpoint specific activities. The term Cyber Security is the biggest Oxymoron in the history of mankind. Anyone who believes otherwise is either naive or a Damn Fool. Keep Your Powder Dry.

    • Everyone is mad at social media companies these days, and they’re right to be angry. Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the 21st century equivalent of the town square, a place where opinions, both popular and unpopular, are shared with the rest of the public.

      More like the Spanish Inquisition. Say something not approved – get silenced.

  2. And people still think today that H. Ross Perot stole the 1992 election from Herr Bushler.

    He gleefully threw away any right he had to re-election the first Spring he was in office.

    I admit to voting for his son twice, because I didn’t want a McCain presidency and because I didn’t want Gore. 2000 was the last year I voted for somebody I didn’t support.

    But now, with the DNC going full Marxist/Terrorist, I’m about to vote a Republican straight ticket for the first, but not last, time in my life. I’ll spend the rest of my life voting for the strongest opponent the DNC has at every level.

    • I absolutely agree with voting for ANY Republican running against a Democrat, but I received a pleasant surprise in my general election ballot: several offices in my district are contested between (only) Republican and Independent American Party candidates!

      • Over the past few years, I’ve come to the same conclusion re: voting for whoever has the best chance to defeat the Democrat.

        I’d love to have a better alternative than the usual Republican squishes, and in primaries I vote for third-party candidates whenever a good one is running, but in the general election, keeping Democrats away from the levers of power is Job #1. (And I say this as someone who voted D more often than not in the past.)

        Also, although the state as a whole is blue because of a giant progtard majority on the coast, in my rural inland region we quite frequently have races featuring two Republicans or an R vs. an independent or Libertarian. It’s a nice little luxury; maybe one day we’ll get a national race that doesn’t require simply voting against the Lenin-Lite party.

        • Here’s hoping! I’ve seen a lot of complaints about absentee balloting, and I certainly understand the potential for fraud, but I’ve actually appreciated the opportunity to research the candidates at my own pace without then having to bring a research paper into a voting booth. As much as I love my district, they (actually probably at state level) have a very frustrating policy of labeling numerous offices, and all their candidates, as “Nonpartisan” even for those that clearly aren’t.

    • That’s why strong candidates and vetting them are important. “Not Democrat” is not a long-term viable strategy; just a matter of time until a D candidate appeals enough to those who aren’t single-issue voters.

      • Crenshaw is a politician, he is not a conservative, he is not progun. He wants to be John McCain 2.0 and frankly I would rather we lose his seat to a Democrat than see him build a career further. Crenshaw and politicians like him are worse than Democrats. Traitors are always worse than enemies. Watch the man try to defend his position on the subject.

        If you watch that and don’t come away with the realization that he’s a slimeball, your judgment is lacking. There is no part of red-flag laws that supports due process. That’s the entire point of those laws. Due process is in the way, we have to act NOW! FOR THE CHILDREN! Except the Democrats have already demonstrated that literally anything you hand them for the best of reasons will be turned and used against you, only a statist moron would think otherwise. The road to Democrat Dystopia is paved with good intentions.

        There are already laws in place to facilitate the disarming of obvious threats. There are already laws to keep the mentally ill from owning weapons. We don’t need red flag laws, we need existing law to be enforced. We don’t need Bipartisan Rino’s in D.C. We don’t need our rights to be negotiated away in the name of public safety.

        Crenshaw can get forked.

  3. love the ATF’s “objective facts”. If it’s heavy. If it feels front heavy. If a loaded magazine makes it feel more heavy. Lol

  4. If the ATF goes fascist, I’ll just register mine as SBRs for the time being.

    We have an ace up our sleeve, the ‘Americans with Disabilities Act’ (ADA).

    Braces allow Americans with disabilities to exercise civil rights, and that’s exactly what a brace allows to happen. We will sue and we will win and the SCOTUS will ‘seal the deal’… 🙂

  5. Re: open carry optics I often wonder if the LGBT peoples had similar conversations. You know, like to get people on board with us we need fewer twerking 8 year olds and hairy old men fisting clean shaven 20 somethings in the ass at our parades.
    I wonder.

    • ~snort~ lol

      They have not to date. The MO appears to be more of a ‘in your face, we dare you to say a damn thing’ kind of approach.

      It seems to have worked for them so far and why some POTG are keen to get on board with ‘open carry a Mk-19 in your face and double dare anyone to say anything’. There’s arguments for both I guess and besides I need a -19 for my neighbors cats….just kidding,,,shaking head no…really..a ma deuce will be fine.

      One of the trolls will probably report me to DHS. Really, I don’t shoot cats…it’s the fire missions I call in that gets them.

  6. I propose a one point zero wealth tax on the social media companies and their employees and have the money distributed to African and Native Americans to satisfy historical reparations…

    • A great many First Nation Americans and Blacks have been living on the taxpayers dime for decades through Welfare and Reservation expenditures. The idea of reparations is a moot point since not one of them living today was a slave or had their lands taken away. Having a strong connection to First Nation Americans through ancestry. My grandmother was full blood Papago. The idea of reparations is as insulting as calling them Native Americans since even Our People migrated to this continent 10,000+ years ago. Continually referring to them as victims has justified many within these cultures to live their lives as exactly that. Taking away the very empowerment they need(ed) to be successful in life.

        • Graciously accepted. This is a bit of a hot button issue with me. Sorry I didn’t pick up on the sarcasm. Peace Be With You.

        • Worth noting.
          The US and ALL of its citizens were penniless after the Civil War. Ledgers were ALL in the red.
          To make the claim that the U$ was make on the backs of slaves is a refusal to accept facts, reality, and emperical evidence.
          Anyone who makes such a statement can thank their sh!tty parents and/or kollege perfesserz for their lack of education .
          Trump/Pence 2020

  7. “None of these possibilities should sit right with liberty-minded individuals.” – The solution to this perceived lack of liberty is to impose government regulations that limit the liberty of these private corporations???

    • Actually, I think these are mostly public corporations but it is a difficult question to answer. Corporations have no rights but the shareholders are citizens with rights and therefore may have some claim to 1st amendment rights except that they serve the public. It gets very sticky but I would opine that as they provide a public service they are or could be regulated in such a way as to cause them to server the entire public not just those they see as worth serving. I believe the civil rights act set the precedent when it imposed such requirements on all businesses public & private and I see this is a civil rights issue.

      • You might want to take a look at Citizens United. That decision set the groundwork for giving corporations the same rights as private citizens. Bad decision.

    • They take tons of government money. So not really private.

      They have asserted protections as common carriers in both civil suits and criminal cases. That mean they claim they are like the phone company or the power company. Incase you unaware the American Nazi Party and the Nation of Islam have both electricity and telephones in their facilities because common carriers cannot deny service to an legal organization.

      If social media corporations are in fact common carriers as they have asserted, then they cannot censor any legal content. Pretty simply. On the other hand if they are private and editorial, like the New York Times, then they can do whatever they want and are subject to both civil suits and criminal charges if they libel or slander someone or publish bald faced lies.

      But they have t be one or other. They cannot be a common a carrier when it suits them and then act editorially when it suits them.

      • As much as I dislike the New York Times, I think they are a perfect analogy (illustrating the converse of your position):

        If NYT publishers and their paid writers incite crimes against an individual or group by concocting a story that they created COVID, NYT could be subject to criminal charges and civil suits.

        If they receive that same conspiracy theory in a letter to the editor, it is their absolute right either to dump it or print it without fear of criminal or civil consequences for “publish[ing someone else’s] bald faced lies”.

        If they discard thousands of perfectly truthful and reasonable letters the day they print the kooky one (because they think the latter will generate more readership as trolls do here – or for any reason they please) that’s OK too, because it’s their property.

        Utilities are a completely different, unique, almost quasi-governmental sector. I love the free market, but it’s perfectly reasonable to limit the number of entrepreneurs who can tear up the streets for their lines, and then also to regulate the heck out of the recipients of that gov’t-sanctioned monopoly / oligopoly.

    • Not sure what cosplay is, but Crenshaw is 100% out of line. Showing up with militia-suitable arms is simply exercising 2A and 1A.

      “Congress shall have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American.” – Tench Coxe

      • Showing up at a gun rights demonstration with openly carried guns is fine because that is the point of demonstration. Showing up openly armed at a demonstration that has nothing to do with guns not only distracts from your message but shows everyone you are a prime candidate to be enlisted by the FBI in a phony plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan.

        • “Showing up openly armed” EVERYWHERE it’s legal reinforces the message that that is the natural condition of a free man outside his home (or inside if one prefers, although I generally don’t) and not some fringe “extremist” thing. I love the old Swiss tradition of parading one’s weapon (sometimes a SIG, sometimes a halberd or zweihander) on election days. I don’t know that we’ll ever return to the good old days when the unarmed were asked whether they were criminals, slaves, or just cowards, but one can hope!

          I carry wherever the proprietors allow (and conceal where they don’t), and – with one silly, easily resolved exception – ALL of my interactions have been incredibly positive. It has started many good discussions, often with older ladies who have just retired from blue states. That used to worry me a bit, until I noticed that every conversation ended either with the others showing me their own, saying they wish they’d brought them, or (on numerous occasions) thanking me for being their protector or bodyguard for the evening! Having a haircut, collared shirt, manners, and a waist doesn’t hurt, of course.

  8. ATF already showed up a a guys house for buying diesel oil filters that were cheaper from overseas! They had specifically tracked his purchases. The guy Posted a good vid on it including minor views of the Agents. Guy had two diesel trucks in his garage being worked on. ATF eyeballed “CUT” filter but like most good mechanics will check them for metal flakes chunks and debris as signs of wear and predictors of failure.

    Viewed another two part vid from a Collector guy who ATF visited about a gun he sold that was recovered as a “crime gun”. He told them what he remembered. They noted his purchases of cheaper guns (guy liked cheap R&R) and knew of several specific guns/buys. He brough out storage cases with some of the collection. ATF didn’t give a shit, Pulled up a CEASE and Desist Order directing him not to “Sell” firearms. One sold gun gets into a bad guys hands (3rd, 4th, 5th hand or stolen along the line) and that merits a C&D Order! UNFREGGING-BELIEVABLE!!!!!

  9. You missed the biggest story of the week!!!

    This weekend, Shopify BANNED all merch with the III%er pro-2A logo.

    Go to Google and search “3 percenter shopify” and click on any link to a merch store that comes up. Every single one has been axed this weekend!!!

  10. “America is about choice. People can choose to carry guns or not. People can vote for the candidate of their choice, drink, smoke, and gamble. People can wear a suit, Hawaiian shirts, or even a furry costume while they exercise their right to carry; it’s nobody else’s business what someone wears…”

    Your blindness to effective marketing does you no favors. If you don’t think that chipotle ninjas reduces the public image of gun owners, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re living in a different reality. But that seems to be the way the last few years have been going.

  11. Many Social Media Accounts 5 or more yrs old dumped over the last 1-2 weeks..for progun content….no violent content just progun free speech stuff!

    Nevermind Iran is allowed to post death to a whole country & not get banned!

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