When a Compromise Isn’t a Compromise

We typically try to keep the blog here focused on hardware and not politics, but today we will make another exception (if you’d prefer hardware, you can click over to The Firearms Blog and read my guest post there today on the development of the H&K family of rifles). It appears that this Thursday will see Feinstein introduce her new gun ban legislation to the Senate. It isn’t about protecting anyone or making any place safer; she does this every year and has simply taken advantage of the shooting at Sandy Hook to make a Hail-Mary pass at it (which is in itself rather despicable – she should be looking at what can actually make a difference rather than just using the tragedy to boost her career-long crusade against the idea of an armed populace).

Feinstein’s bill will go completely off the deep end, as you can see form the summary currently posted on her web site. It will ban the manufacture, possession, and sale of virtually all self-loading rifles, and subject those already in existence to registration under the NFA (which will have the interesting side effect of hitting NFA Branch like Hurricane Katrina, but that’s another discussion). It will require confiscation of guns upon the owners’ death, and ban tens of millions of magazines.

As such, the bill has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing. As Dolf Goldsmith pointed out to us, just the monetary cost of compensating estates for the confiscated guns will run into the billions of dollars, and it’s far too radical for even many Democratic legislators to vote for. What we fully expect to see is for it to be used as a starting point for negotiations to a “compromise” solution. Such a “compromise” typically means than gun banners ask for a bunch of new restrictions, and then settle on getting half of them passed. And that’s no compromise at all.

A true compromise means that both sides have to give ground and accept something that runs counter to their principles. So let’s talk about a REAL compromise. Let us propose that if gun laws are being overhauled, there should be changes made that will benefit the shooting and collecting community without any risk of helping criminals.

— For example, reopening the machine gun registry. How many registered machine guns have ever been used in crimes? Something like one, and that was in the hands of an off-duty cop. If they are so bent on registering guns, fine – let us register machine guns again.

— And hey, drop the transfer tax to a dollar while they’re at it. The tax was never intended to raise money, but instead to be a de facto ban by pricing machine guns out of the hands of ordinary folks.

— How about national CCW reciprocity and preemption? Criminals don’t bother with carry permits, so help give the good guys a fighting chance by upholding the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution.

— Remove the Clinton-era restrictions on FFLs requiring them to have commercial businesses. Clear away the red tape and let hobbyists get licenses to deal and manufacture. All their guns will be on the bound books, so how could that make people less safe? Unless, of course, this isn’t actually about safety.

Ultimately, I am not interested in surrendering any of my rights (or yours) to that core of gun-grabbing legislators that are making political hay out of this recent and terrible event. But if they start demanding “compromise”, we should at least fight on even footing and not just accept that only their proposals are on the table.


  1. As in most political issues – follow the money !
    When cartridge-firing handguns were raised into the
    “prohibited” category (originally a rather restricted one introduced in 1936 to outlaw machineguns) in the UK following the Dunblane tragedy, the then Home Secretary was infuriated to discover that full compensation would have to be paid to legal owners of pistols snd revolvers. This was one result of the UK joining the EU – where memories of German ocupation and the confiscation of virtually all firearms were still vivid.
    The cost to the taxpayer was in the region of $200m –
    arguably to no social benefit whatsoever.

    • The sting in the tail in the UK, was to claim that it was “safety” legislation, and therefore there was no compensation to businesses.

      I was still occasionally using the indoor range at Via Gellia Mills in Derbyshire. The owner had a lot of money borrowed for his business. Poor guy ended up taking his own life as a result of the position he found himself in.

    • The “sporting purpose” test was a lift from German (Weimar- and Nazi-era) gun laws. It was lifted by CT Senator Thomas Dodd, who had been a staffer at the Nuremburg Prosecutions, and unlike everybody else who came away horrified, he came away with ideas of stuff to borrow from the monsters in the dock.

      Dodd was extremely anti-gun and might have gone on to do even more damage, except he was also a crook, and was so blatant about it that the Senate censured him. (That’s like being thrown out of the Mafia for moral turpitude). His son, also anti-gun and also a crook, inherited his seat but gave it up a couple years back. The incumbent, though, is also anti-gun, and the worst kind of crook, a Vietnam phony hero.

      The principal reasons that Dodd’s GCA ’68 had so many restrictions on imports were two: The many gunmakers then in Dodd’s state agreed to back the bill if it punished their imported competition, so it did; and there are no constitutional questions about the Federal ability to regulate imports.

      • Dodd’s associate became NJ Attorney general.In 1966 the NJ law was a mirror of the German law. Even the forms are similar.

  2. In politics – as in much else – follow the money !
    In the UK, cartridge-firing handguns were raised into the “prohibited” category in 1997 following the Dunblane tragedy. The then Home Secretary assumed, wrongly, that this would be achieved cost-free by (legal) owners trooping into their local police stations and meekly surrendering their guns. However, one result of the UK joining the EU has been that compensation must be paid in such cases – memories of German occupation and the seizure of virtually all firearms are still extant. Jack Straw (the Home Secretary) was furious when he discovered this but by then the die was cast and the government could not be seen to fall flat on its face ! Ultimately the cost of the legislation exceeded $200m
    – arguably to no social benefit whatsoever.

  3. Yet another case of a unilateral attempt at legislation that makes little sense in the light of reality. I believe Ian is right when he calls for a consistent, balanced, level-headed and practical approach to resolving the issue based on logic and sensibility. I have noticed all too often that both sides of the argument tend to allow purely personal perspectives and emotions get in the way, with no room to listen to their counterparts or even their allies. That leads nowhere and is not the way to come up with a solution to an issue of this magnitude.

    Keith and David Thomas have brought up some very good points about the consequences of short-sighted legislation muddied by the undercurrents of politics.

  4. While we’re at it, how about the elimination of the short barreled rifle/shotgun classifications in federal law. In what imaginary way to these laws reduce crime?

    • The weird/stupid part is that the original idea in the NFA was to ban pistols completely and entirely (at least for civilian ownership), IIRC.

      But that got thrown out because the NRA threw a fit … so we’re left with the thing that was meant to be banned entirely being entirely unregulated by the NFA, but the things that were meant to be relegated to the rich (because of the price of the tax stamp), but available if you could manage it, annoyingly regulated.

      I’ve heard it claimed, plausibly, that the point of the suppressor regulations in the NFA was “to prevent poaching”, with quite reasonably no belief they had anything to do with any other crimes.

      Repealing the machine-gun provisions is a political dead-end today, but I’d love to see the suppressor and SBR stuff go away; my “compromise” would be to let the suppressors be sold with a mere NICS check, as if they were a firearm.

      See how giving I am?

    • Indeed. I’m currently working through on a stack of paperwork and a $200 check for a question of 1.5″ of barrel length. The paperwork is not really that bad, it’s the months of waiting that’s the pain in the posterior.

      In re something a previous commenter said, in Australia they actually paid for the confiscated weapons (the initial “amnesty”) by adding 2% more to their social insurance, I’ve read. Since then there have been subsequent “amnesties” but they have strictly been, “turn it in and we won’t put you in the pokey.”

      I’ve been talking to a lot of cops and feds over the holidays. Their enthusiasm over enforcing any new bill with a ban component is decidedly lacking. The unenthusiastic may resign, refuse, or resist. and the most likely outcome is passive resistance by foot-dragging and active resistance by acting as in-department agents for whatever external active resistance there is. It’s hard to overstate what a hazardous development that would be, in all directions.

    • Mike D.
      “While we’re at it, how about the elimination of the short barreled rifle/shotgun classifications in federal law. In what imaginary way to these laws reduce crime?”

      Simply because, if you have to hide a weapon, it has to be a small size one.
      If you do a robbery, a small and powerful firearm is the best you can get.

      If a citizen can buy legally a type of firearms (ex: semi-auto rifle), this type and its ammo can be robbed and used in the bad way.

      In France, this type of laws are applied today. And what can we see?: smuggling, creation of criminal network; near the last who have “military type rifle” are organized criminals. Nowaday, we live in a globalized world. Increase of contacts with others countries, others legal systems, make that it’s impossible to control everything that comes and goes in a country.

      If a country collapses, all the system that comes with it collapses too; there are no more rules, military bases and police stations are looted and firearms are scattered everywhere, up to others countries. (ex: Yugoslavia, Libya…)

      The only way to regulated this shit in our countries is not to make guns illicit, but take away ammo.
      A gun without ammo is just a piece of metal and powder can be detected at customs.

      You can still have a gun to defend your family but it has to be a in an obsolescent ammo to prevent any serious criminal employment.

      In this situation, any type of firearms can be legally own and be at home, ammo can be purchase and used only in firing ranges.

      Criminals are not well known to be match shooters, they just use guns to consolidate their power.
      If they don’t have access to firearms, they will use knives mostly.
      If a psychopath or mentally ill person wants to make a massacre, he can use explosive, fire, …
      Guns are just an easy way to kill.

      Therefore the real problem is not firearms.
      The real problem, and it has to be fought, is the increase number of mentally sick people (probably due to the lack of moral in our society).

      Those people who make laws don’t know their subject, they take decisions without any logical reasoning.

      I don”t know why we let this things happen, but we can’t be governed by incompetents.

      • Prohibition and a multi billion (? trillion) dollar a year “war on”, fails to keep recreational drugs out of the US, or out of any other country where the public has the funds to be able to afford them.

        Even if the US did copy the now rescinded European legislative bans on “military calibres”

        just like we see now with drugs, demand would create its own supply, they’d be smuggled in by the ton and available, on the street, to anyone willing to pay the black market price.

        and, just like with drugs, if kids can cook their own meth and lsd,

        then the lead styphnate, tetracene and nitrocellulose needed for primers and propellant are not going to present any more of a problem to US kids than they present to the tribesmen in north west Pakistan.

  5. Great response, Ian. I’ve been trying to sum this up recently as well. What we should expect them to do, and what our real response needs to be instead of “Not gonna take mah guns!!1” and acting like fools. A large part of me simply wants to say “No further” and hold my ground in response to the immediate use of this tragedy by anti-gunners for their own gains. However, I know we need a reasoned response. A reasoned response and strategy will gain us far more ground than we might lose by sitting on a rock and crossing our arms like sullen children.

    To quote Captain Jean-Luc Picard “I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”

  6. Can anyone explain to me (without a political rant) the reasoning behind the “military characteristics” clauses in the previous and proposed legislation? In Canada you can buy a Chinese military surplus SKS with bayonet attached with no problem (and very cheaply too), as long as the magazine has been modified to accept no more than 5 rounds. In the US, from what I understand, that bayonet would be prohibited. There also seems to be an obsession with the shape of the stock (“military” style versus “thumbhole” versus “traditional sporting”).

    My suspicion is that the intent is to give the authorized regulators legal grounds to add weapons to the “prohibited” list later as required. However, it would be nice to hear some confirmation of this theory.

    As far as cost is concerned, I notice that the legislative summary linked to in the story mentions a “grandfather” clause. That is, existing owners of existing weapons would be allowed to keep them (subject to registration). It’s new sales that would be banned. So, there would be no cost incurred there (although there’s no mention of what happens when the owner eventually dies). However I would assume the registry itself could cost a substantial amount of money (assuming there isn’t already some sort of registry system in place). Canada’s gun registry cost $1 billion, which was at least 10 times more than the estimated cost. So, that means the US would probably need to come up with at least $10 billion for it’s own equivalent. That cost was the albatross around the neck of the Canadian gun registry, and was what ultimately led to it being binned.

    I will note that I thought you guys had some sort of “fiscal cliff” budget problem currently. Implementing this legislation will cost money (even if just to run the registry), and it’s money that will have to be found within the available budget limits. If you want to propose compromises, I would suggest proposing ones which save money.

    • My view is that future Cdn gun registry will make rules even more fuzzy and ultimately create feeding ground for more legal involvement (and cost to owner&taxpayer); that of course makes sense since the gov’t is made up primarily from career lawyers.

    • Easy. They’re scary looking, and politicians want “to be seen to be doing something”.

      No sane person, I think, ever claimed that such things were actually dangerous in practice in and of themselves; it seems to be some sort of magical thinking along the lines of “X Y Z are properties of Scary Military Guns, thus they can be proxies for determining dangerousness”.

      (Now, insane or so-ignorant-as-to-be-equivalent-since-they’re-trying-to-make-laws people have, perhaps, really thought such things were dangerous in themselves, if only from sheer ignorance – see “shoulder thing that goes up”.)

  7. Regarding H&K history: great writeup – respect! As non-American I watch re-emerging gun ownership dispute with worries and know that outcome will affect also Canada. Battle lines are drawn and you guys will have to work it out; wish you good luck!

    Just a short look at statistics on gun related crime says it clearly – most of bad stuff is made up by non-registered users of specific etnicity and it is commited predominantly by pistols. Will lawmakers care?

  8. If you (all who read this, as individuals) are going to negotiate, then you need a consistent and defensible position from which to negotiate.

    any contradictions in that position will be exploited to the full by the un-principalled individuals who do not want You (individual) to be allowed guns.

    Why do I call them un-principalled? – get the Brady campaign ratings for states, for any year and plot them against any confrontational crime from the uniform crime figures for that year, do harsh gun laws correlate with low levels of confrontational crime? OK I know I’m preaching to the choir, but it is important that we understand our opponents in this.

    On what basis do you claim to have a “right” to own and use guns?

    Clearly it predates any piece of paper, 2A recognizes a pre existing right and says that it shall not be infringed.

    A claim that it comes from G-d… It may well do, but try arguing that with an atheist marxist leninist, or worse still, a neo pagan watermellon who considers humans to be evil man-bear-pigs who are hurting fat arsed mammy gaia.

    I think the only consistent position we can build from is self ownership – we are the individual self owners of our own individual minds and physical bodies.

    How do we know this, and how can we demonstrate it to others?

    I’m going to draw on Hans Herman Hoppe’s “Argumentation Ethic”

    Only I can use my mind, through the agency of my physical body to advance an argument.

    no one else has that direct use of my mind or my physical body, to be able to do that, I am the exclusive user,

    no one else can pick up my mind and claim it as theirs.

    to argue against it, another individual actually acknowledges it, as they must use their individual mind and act through their individual body in order to argue against it.

    To the collectivist argument that we don’t own ourselves, but we each own a part of everyone else, I would use the flippant reply that some therapist or other will make a lot of money sorting out your interpersonal relationship and family problems…

    There is also the harsher reply that the principal of one human having ownership of another human has a name, a very disreputable name: slavery.

    For ownership to be in any way meaningful, it must be respected by others.

    This brings in the reciprocal principal of None Aggression.

    I do not aggress against the person or property of anyone else. In the words of Jefferson, I neither “pick his pocket, nor break his leg”

    conversely, if someone attempts to “pick my pocket or break my leg” then, I have recourse to self defense, or to call on another to help defend me.

    I’ll try to flesh out some of where that starting point leads to over the next couple of days.

    if anyone wants to follow up some of the ideas, I’d strongly recommend some of Hoppe’s essays, which are available as free .pdf and e-books on the mises.org site

    I particularly recommend “Private production of defense”

  9. machinegun collectors and dealers would be against the re-opening of the machinegun registry.

    if machineguns were importable and registerable again..what would happen to the prices of those currently in inventory? what is a good sten going for now? about $4,000? how about we make that $500 (or less) overnight? not many people would sit still for that kind of loss in investment.

    • Most machine gun owners (including myself, incidentally) would happily accept a drop in value of our guns in exchange for an open registry. I’m sure there are some dealers who would object, but I would see them in the same light as the companies like CTD that jumped at the opportunity to jack magazine prices way up this past week.

    • Sadly I must agree. There was a rumble among military collectors in 86; when imports were allowed.They compelled ATF to require very disfiguring import stamps to be placed in obvious places. Our so “allies” listened to the investors and the new collectors have “import marked” lesser value weapons. There are NFA collectors that have an I have mine attitude which is unfortunate. There is also a need to raise cash by ATF after all they are a tax collecting agency.There is a demand to be able to legally register NFA weapons that people may have inherited and the ATF no more wants the owners to break the law but they have no options. The fee may be higher but I think they see the opportunity to both raise money and help citizens comply with law.

    • Allen,

      someone may own an object, but it’s “value” is in the minds of other people.

      how can anyone claim to “own” a subjective assessment that is in the minds of others?

      Clearly for an individual collector to have bought, let’s say a STEN at such a price. they must have considered that the subjective benefit to them of owning that STEN, was worth more to them than the money they paid.

      If it had not been, then they would have kept the money to use for something which they subjectively valued higher.

      If they bought it as an “investment”, then they chose badly.

      in a much wider sense than just guns, why should other’s (thee and me) be coerced, to protect the unwise from the long run consequences of their poor decisions?

      • Sir; this is both very well reasoned and very clearly said. Collections are for amusement with the side benefits of both the enjoyment of learning about the use,history and lore of an object( be it a firearm;coin;antique book;or musical recordings) and the possible financial benefits of holding the object over time. Collections are made to keep knowledge of the past alive; and to see the way things change over time.This is reward in its self. Financial gain is a nice benefit if it happens.Unfortunately;many valuable collections are dispersed by heirs who have no idea of the value of the holdings.(One family friend had a small collection of Japanese Military handguns “turned in” for $100 each! It was done by his daughter who through lack knowledge of the value of the items and the laws related to how heirs may assume possession of firearms) I agree that new collectors should not be forced to keep the prices of older collections inflated. An item bought for a hobby is not an ‘investment”

  10. Glad that you usually stick to hardware, that is what we all like.

    But if we completely ignore the anti-gunners we won’t have any hardware.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  11. Being from Sweden (where the situation is very different) I have a little trouble relating to US gun laws. Without getting into to the nitty-gritty of things like what guns should and shouldn’t be allowed, wouldn’t a reasonable measure be to treat guns roughly the same way you treat cars? Keeping them registered, registering changes in ownership and license proving that you can safely operate one before you’re allowed to?

    • Means testing is not allowed of constitutional rights, including speech, religion, bearing arms, or voting. It is inevitably used to restrict those rights, and the Supreme Court has disallowed the practice. As for registration, the whole point of having an armed populace is so that we may overthrow our government if need be. Having guns registered with the government is in direct opposition to that purpose. Besides, having guns registered does nothing to prevent crimes committed with guns, it just makes the investigation afterwards a bit simpler.

      FWIW, most states in the US instituted driving licenses as a way to make money before adding any sort of competency test to them.

    • Owning Guns here is a Constitutionally designated right – driving a car is not! It would have meant an amendment granting the People a right to ride a horse! Unless one wishes to delete the 2nd amendment – thus basically making our entire Constitution Null and Void and guaranteeing armed rebellion – there is little that can, or should, be done to prevent firearms ownership by HONEST citizens! Sheep need a shepherd (benevolent government) to protect them from evil! True Americans, honest gun owning Americans, do not!

  12. For the non-US visitors to this site. The reason you may not be able to understand this is because of the difference on history. The result of the American War of Independence was that the founder made feudalism illegal and restore historic right of the Teutonic and Celtic peoples. Some of them are jury trials, not being a subject of a state and the equal right to arms. While Europe did remove the monarchy’s as rules, they never went back to restoring the historic rights.

    Also, that US SC in 1944 said that rights can not be licensed or taxed. In 2008 the US SC said that the only the commercial sale/manufacture of firearms can be regulated, but not the private transfer or manufacture.

    To Paul J,

    In the US much of the target shooting isn’t done at formal/controlled ranges. So the control of ammo wouldn’t work here. In at least one state a place that people target shoot or have in the past, is considered to be a legal target range. My land in Wisconsin is considered that, because for years several people have found it a convenient place to sight in their deer rifles. I’ve never fire one round there.

    • Yes, but if you want a “real change”, you have to make compromise.
      Firearms are dangerous, and a lot of guys are unconscious.
      If you shoot a rifle without the proper safety distances, you can KILL someone. It might sound stupid but bullet can ricochet, shooter can fire in the air and it happen a lot of times when you do non-conventional target shooting.

      • Check our history – check out the last hunting season with millions of hunters afield – and see just how many “accidents” there have been with guns – related to the number of Americans owning them! I believe you will find that our gun owners are remarkably careful with their charges! Not saying what you describe can’t, or hasn’t happen; but, accidents do happen! People have accidentally backed over animals and humans with our vehicles, should we ban vehicles – or punish those who are proven CRIMINALLY negligent when it happens?

  13. Rifle found in Adam Lanza’s trunk not an assault rifle nor an AR-15 Bushmaster – Watch NBC videos: http://bit.ly/UvJ4ik I am a legal gun owner who submitted to background checks, completed the appropriate training, and take gun ownership seriously. As law-abiding citizens we are expected to navigate the labyrinth of conflicting state laws regarding firearms and we do successfully everyday. Although many of these laws are conflicting between neighboring states, we still respect them and abide by them everyday.

    With 300 million firearms in private hands (one-third of them pistols), the overwhelming majority of gun owners ARE responsible, law-abiding citizens, which is why horrific massacres are not commonplace, but rather terrible outliers that can never be legislated away (e.g. DC, Chicago, and “Gun Free Zones”).

    For several examples for the recent use of firearms for defensive purposes not typically reported by the national media please visit: http://www.equalforce.net and forward this site to others to whom this information may be useful. @forceequalizer

  14. How do you compromise on a Right without turning it into a bought and paid for by license fee privilege? The “Shall NOT be infringed!” portion of the 2nd amendment has become meaningless! The only power it had has been, and is still being, compromised away from Honest Gun owners under the false guise of public safety! When there is nothing left to compromise over, our “right” to own ANY kind of firearm, saving perhaps a muzzleloader, will be so thoroughly “infringed” that only the super elites will be entitled to, or be able to afford to, own one!

  15. Sorry for being so slow in spotting this

    The idea of compromise in such situations

    (I make unreasonable demand, like “give me all of your money”, you say “no”, I appeal for you to be “Reasonable” and meet me half way “give me half of all of your money” (which is still totally unreasonable))

    Is a named logical fallacy http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/middle-ground.html

    The site that came from isn’t at all gunny, so pointing to it won’t get you a fallacy of “poisoning the well” (that’s a gun site so it can’t possibly be true) as a response

    and the author (if I can appeal to authority) is one of THE best respected philosophers (so there is a chance that what it says might be true) http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/

  16. Me packing a toy Pittbull stuffed animal full of Tannerite and putting it near my front door with a fake dog barking audio tape that plays when a globalist deep state gun grabbing red coat yiddish Federal Agent confiscation stack kicks in my front door and the glowies get blown into chunks.


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