Category Archives: Gun Rights

Legal Action Fights WA AR-15 Owner Names Release

AR-15 owners in Washington State who participated in a “bump stock” buyback conducted by the Washington State Police (WSP)—whose names and addresses, as we reported, would have been released on April 26 in response to a pair of public information requests—can breathe a little easier this week, thanks to a motion for a temporary restraining order and show cause hearing filed April 22 by Steve Clark of the Crary, Clark, Domanico & Chuang, PS, law firm. John Doe is the listed plaintiff. The move stalls releasing the personal information, although the final decision is now in the hands of Superior Court in Spokane, WA.

State officials issued a letter on April 11 addressed to gun owners who turned in their “bump stock” devices—in exchange for a $150 voucher—explaining their personal information could be released on April 26 unless an injunction was filed. Copies of the two Freedom of Information Act requests were included and late yesterday we received them. One states, “I seek to obtain the names and addresses where checks will be mailed for the bump stock buy back program. My intent is to create a searchable database and map of Washington state to overlay the locations. The public has a right to know that these dangerous devices may have been in neighborhoods that the [sic] live in and who has previously owned such devices.” [Copy of the note above, with contact info redacted by our team]

The second was a request for copies of WSP policies and procedures in the handling and storage of the documents and the information provided. This person was also interested in volume of participants, makes/manufacturers of turned-in items, disposition of them after the event and documents created before, during or after.

Forms completed during the turn-in required participants to provide their name and address where the vouchers would be mailed.

Washington bump stock buyback, Guy J. Sagi, Fear and Loading, Raeford NC

The motion for a temporary restraining filed by Clark explains to the court, “The release of these records would open him up to potential political harassment, physical harassment, and theft. If these records are released, it has a strong potential to substantially and irreparably damage both Plaintiff Doe 1 and anyone else whose records are released.” It also cautions residents will be less likely to participate in any similar programs in the future if their personal information is at risk.

Stockholder-Mandated Gun Reports Issued

Ruger and American Outdoor Brands (AOB)—parent corporation of Smith & Wesson—have issued stockholder-mandated gun reports on safety. Resolutions passed at their respective annual meetings in 2018 required they be released early this year. (Here's our story on one of the groups spearheading the effort.)

Ruger’s document spans 34 pages, 11 of them filled with detailed references and footnotes, while the American Outdoor Brands version comes in at 26. Both tomes are single-spaced distillates of each manufacturer’s efforts for decades, as well as a look forward at industry developments, including the contentious subject of “smart guns.”

Limits to Technology

“When it comes to ‘smart guns,’ it is an area of great confusion outside of the firearm manufacturing industry,” the AOB report states. “It is subject to the same ‘CSI Effect’ that has been recognized in criminal justice —the idea that science and technology provide easy answers.”

Ruger explains, “Proponents of ‘smart guns’ often ask, ‘If my smart phone can lock for anyone other than me, why can’t a gun? This question reflects a misunderstanding of how a conventional firearm operates and oversimplifies a complex issue. In fact, the private sector and federal government have been struggling for over two decades to determine whether modern technology can be integrated into firearms without sacrificing the reliability and durability that owners demand from them. To that end, the federal government has provided private sector manufacturers over $12 million in funding for UAF [user-authenticated firearm] development] without production of a marketable solution.”

“Despite blanket assertions to the contrary,” Ruger states, “no proven UAF technology exists. Thus far, those devices advanced as ‘smart’ have proven unreliable, easily defeated, or both.”

Gloves and Dirt

The challenges, according to the stockholder-mandated gun reports issued by the manufacturers, start with the simple fact that law enforcement and military often wear gloves. So do civilians in cold weather caught in a self-defense situation—precluding the use of finger or palm prints.

Software lags, dirt, dust and grime are also factors. “No technology is even close to providing activation in less than ideal conditions, the very conditions when a defensive weapon often is most needed,” AOB wrote.” Beyond normal delay in recognition, sweat, dirt, blood, and other foreign matter will prevent even the best biometric technology from functioning.

RFID

The alternative isn’t much better. Ruger explains, “’Proximity devices’ are accessories the user must wear which, when in close proximity to the firearm, allow it to operate. Devices can include rings, wrist bands, watches, and other RFID-equipped items. Traditional proximity devices do not authenticate a particular user, as anyone with or near the device immediately becomes ‘authorized.’” And home defenders could lose precious seconds locating that sending device during a nighttime invasion.

The Unsolvable Dilemma

Electronics also have a habit of dying under the physical force a gun is subjected to under recoil. But, there’s a seemingly unsolvable “smart gun” question in the reports.

Ruger explains, “One of the great dichotomies involved with UAF development involves the selected failure mode. UAF developers must decide how the gun should ‘fail’ if the battery dies or the technology otherwise malfunctions. The developer is faced with a difficult decision: when the battery/technology fails, should the gun be operable or not? When outlining the baseline specifications for law enforcement’s use of ‘smart guns,’ the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense concluded that a ‘smart gun’ used for law enforcement purposes should fail in an operable condition. This specification recognizes that a firearm that fails ‘safe’ will leave its owner defenseless if the battery dies or the technology malfunctions, with potentially life-threatening results. In effect, this ‘safe’ failure mode could defeat the purpose of having a firearm at all.”

Both reports include each company’s efforts to improve safety, with details on transfer bars, striker and firing pin blocks, magazine disconnects, industry initiatives, safety brochures in packaging, retailer efforts and more. To download the Ruger report visit here [PDF] and the AOB version can be accessed on this website (select the “Shareholder Requested Report, Feb. 8, 2019”).

 

2018’s Ugliest News: Gun Businesses Banned from Shopify

Spikes Tactical—a family-owned Florida business established the day before 9/11 with 40 employees—was informed in August that the Canada-based service it uses for on-line sales, Shopify, was adopting a new acceptable use policy that effectively bans sales of guns, parts and accessories.

The change came as a shock to retailers I contacted at the time, partly because Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke stated emphatically in his February 2017 article on Medium that, “I’m against exclusion of any kind—whether that’s restricting people from Muslim-majority nations from entering the US, or kicking merchants off our platform if they’re operating within the law….Commerce is a powerful, underestimated form of expression. We use it to cast a vote with every product we buy. It’s a direct expression of democracy. This is why our mission at Shopify is to protect that form of expression and make it better for everyone, not just for those we agree with.”

An Aug. 13, 2018, he had a change of heart, writing on a personal blog (which quotes from his now-deleted Medium story) that, “…we have found ourselves in a position of having to make our own decisions on some of these issues. And along the way we had to accept that neutrality is not a possibility.” Shortly after, the company’s acceptable use policy was modified, and gun businesses banned from Shopify—a company established in 2004 that in 2017 helped generate nearly $1 billion in website sales for more than 600,000 retailers, big and small.

Expensive to Move

Changing services is no simple process, though. Cole Leleux, general manager of Spikes Tactical—which has millions of dollars of sales through the Shopify service—explained, “We can export product out, but the code used in Shopify is called Liquid, which is proprietary...It will have to be completely redone.”

Leleux has already received estimates from web developers to rebuild that run from $30,000 to $70,000. That doesn’t reflect the expense of training staff, loss due to inevitable glitches, or the original investment to populate the Shopify store—a figure he estimates to be roughly $100,000. “Our company will be fine and will be able to just make another website, but some smaller gun shops may not have the funds to start over after investing in the platform,” he said.

800GunsAndAmmo, Guy J. Sagi, Fear And Loading
Photo courtesy of 1800GunsandAmmo.com

Mikhail Orlov, CEO of 1800GunsAndAmmo.com said, “Words fail to describe the feelings we felt when told by Shopify that because of the types of products we sell they will no longer allow us to operate on their platform.” When asked about the financial setback he added, “It is hard to even put an estimate on cost of all the labor that went into creation of the original site. It’s tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. And now we have to start over.”

Four-year-old 1800GunsandAmmoalso, like Spikes Tactical, has an established brick-and-mortar store, which puts both in a better financial position to survive than many smaller companies with only Internet outlets.

Where Once There Were Exclusives

Rare Breed Firearms launched a new AR-15 lower for sale exclusively on Shopify only days before the August announcement. Company President Lawrence DeMonico estimates he’s spent $40,000 developing a Shopify presence over a three-year period. “Depending on how this policy is rolled out, this is a move that could put companies like ours out of business, and we will undoubtedly be looking to pursue legal options,” he said in a joint press release with Spikes Tactical.

Shopify notified vendors in violation of the new policy by e-mail and companies have until Dec. 31 to remove products or abandon the platform. I reached out to the company for comment and received a response from Beth M. explaining, “From time to time, Shopify reviews and amends the terms, conditions and policies governing the use of our platform. We have recently amended our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to restrict the sale of certain firearms and parts on our platform. A full list and revised version of our AUP can be found at https://www.shopify.com/legal/aup.”

“It definitely makes you think twice about the changing nature of the world we live in,” Orlov said. “But we will persevere,” he added, reflecting the attitude of every company I contacted. “We will keep pushing forward. Because we are ‘powered by Freedom.’”