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Three key questions fill our minds today…
ONE. What happens if the PATRIOT Act expires?
TWO. How is it possible to legally build a “ghost gun” in your garage?
The third question is one we have for you. We’ll ask you at the end of today’s episode.
First, we pivot the camera to ghost guns and the PATRIOT Act: They might not seem like it, but the two subjects are inextricably linked. I’ll show you why in a moment.
OK, first question…
What’s to come if the PATRIOT Act expires?
Some circles, of course, seem to think madness will immediately ensue. Monday morning, without the PATRIOT Act, Americans will wake up to a million jihadists in every major city celebrating by burning buildings and blowing themselves up.
As if the PATRIOT Act has been, somehow, holding back all those terrorists we have never caught with all that spying we, for some unexplained reason, need.
Other, more levelheaded groups are saying, “Well, actually, we can live without the Patriot Act, like we did throughout… uh…. the entirety of human history.”
Because of this rising sentiment of the latter, the three key spying provisions within the PATRIOT Act could… could… could… expire. We admit. We’re holding our breath a little bit.
Just a little.
“With the Senate’s failure to secure a deal to reform or extend the PATRIOT Act before leaving for the Memorial Day recess,” Politico reports, “the possibility has become more real that parts of key surveillance provisions could simply die.”
As they should. A swift and deflating death. Like what happens when you stick a cigarette against a balloon. Boom.
If you’re not sure why, let’s recap: the PATRIOT Act is a 317-page law passed in 2001 that no Congressmen even read through before passing.
It was introduced into Congress and voted on with no debate or time to deliberate its contents. Instead, Congress was made panic-stricken and were bullied. Following 9/11, no one wanted to be responsible for a post-9/11 9/11… so Congress pushed it through. And it’s been renewed over and over without debate.
Because everyone knows… it’s there to protect us… and it’s been doing a fine job at it too.
Well, that’s what most people thought. (If they thought about it at all.) That is, until this guy stepped on the scene…
He exposed how federal agents had become incredibly abusive with the power given to them — and, oh yeah, brought to light the fact that none of those powers have even come close to thwarting a terrorist attack. Ever.
Now, due to the rising opposition, the Senate, as we mentioned yesterday, will have to snip the tail end of their vacations and reconvene early at 4 p.m. this coming Sunday in an effort to ram it through.
Only eight hours before key provisions within the PATRIOT Act are set to expire.
The PATRIOT Act, we’re sure you noticed, changed many aspects of our day-to-day lives.
But there’s another, lesser-discussed side to this story.
Over the years, beneath the surface, the free market has helped to solve many of the problems that the unconstitutional laws have created. And has allowed any citizen who disagrees with them to engage in civil disobedience from the privacy (yes, privacy) of their own homes.
I’ll get into a couple of these things in a moment.
First, let’s zoom out. Big picture, what does all this hoopla mean?
“It represents a sea of change from a few years ago,” Edward Snowden wrote last week in his recent Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA), “when intrusive new surveillance laws were passed without any kind of meaningful opposition or debate.
“Whatever you think about Rand Paul or his politics,” Snowden says, “it’s important to remember that when he took the floor to say “No” to any length of reauthorization of the Patriot Act, he was speaking for the majority of Americans — more than 60% of whom want to see this kind of mass surveillance reformed or ended.
“Some might say ‘I don’t care if they violate my privacy; I’ve got nothing to hide.’”
“Help them understand that they are misunderstanding the fundamental nature of human rights. Nobody needs to justify why they “need” a right: the burden of justification falls on the one seeking to infringe upon the right.
“But even if they did, you can’t give away the rights of others because they’re not useful to you. More simply, the majority cannot vote away the natural rights of the minority.
“But even if they could, help them think for a moment about what they’re saying. Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
“A free press benefits more than just those who read the paper.”
But, as you can probably imagine, some federal agencies are devastated by the potential cut in power.
Like, for one, the FBI.
“Speaking at an American Law Institute event this week,” one article in Politico reads, “FBI Director James Comey warned that a PATRIOT Act sunset would “severely” affect his agency.
“The FBI relies heavily on the soon-to-expire provisions of the law to obtain specific business records — from library records to gun ownership data — and wiretaps for multiple devices, he said.”
With the help of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the FBI has been able to consort with the secret FISA courts and receive the following information:
“Library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearm sales records, tax return records, educational records, or medical records.” — 50 U.S. Code 1861 (a) 93)
Oh, poor FBI. They won’t be able to dig through our library records. And our gun ownership data! Why… what, then, will they do all day?
And here’s the connective tissue between guns and the PATRIOT Act…
Gun owners, as you may know, have been an unspoken target of the PATRIOT Act.
“While there’s nothing in the Patriot Act that specifically targets the Second Amendment,” Thomas Eddlem points out in The New American, “the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security did release a report in April 2009 claiming that “[DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis] assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists — including lone wolves or small terrorist cells — to carry out violence.”
In 2011, on the lookout for the rightwing gun wielders, the NRA reported that the ATF and FBI had begun circulating flyers demanding that gun shops report suspicious characters to their local “Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Here are a few things they were informed to watch out for…
- People who care about their privacy and prefer to pay in cash instead of credit cards…
- Those who have an unnatural interest in concealed weapons…
- Anyone who decides to purchase lots of ammunition…
- Someone who happens to be travelling from afar to use shooting ranges…
- And anyone who knows little about guns…
The effort was part of what the Washington Post called Obama’s “broad gun control agenda.” And he even… surprise!… enlisted the help of his cronies.
Bank of America, for example, a bailout recipient, only months after doling out $15 mill for Obama’s reelection campaign, froze the website of one online gun manufacturer — American Spirit Arms.
The reason? According to the owner, Joe Sirochman, a bank manager told him, flat out: “We believe you should not be selling guns and parts on the Internet.”
Weird thing for a bank manager to be dictating.
Sirochman’s story is only one example, says the Gun Owners Association (GOA), of the Obama administration’s efforts “to choke off gun manufacturing and sales in the United States by drying up credit to gun dealers and manufacturers.
“The effort starts with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation,” the GOA wrote, “which has lumped gun dealers in the same “high risk” category as pornographers. Coupled with Eric Holder’s Justice Department Operation Chokepoint, the FDIC’s action has encouraged banks to destroy the gun industry by dropping dealers, freezing their assets, and refusing to process their online sales.
“Already, thousands of gun dealers report being victimized by this administration’s effort to destroy the Second Amendment by regulatory fiat.”
You may’ve heard this story. But, what you might not have heard is that the free market came running to the rescue from the beginning of the PATRIOT Act…
First, when privacy concerns arose, it made sure to provide simple and free ways to protect your information from the NSA. There are hundreds of ways today to do so.
To name one free option, check out the browser extension called Disconnect Search — which allows you to search 100% privately using any search engine you choose.
(Also, for your smartphone, Snowden recommends Signal for iPhone and Redphone for Android.)
And sticking to the subject of gun ownership, there are two notable innovations that have popped up you should know about.
“While we must work hard to defund Obama’s backdoor efforts to impose gun control,” the GOA wrote this time last year, “there is also a free market solution that has sprung up. One company that was hit hard by this FDIC policy has created an answer: McMillan Merchant Solutions.
“The McMillan family is no newcomer to the Second Amendment community, as they have been manufacturing guns and accessories since 1973.
“A victim of the Obama Administration’s policies, the McMillans recently invented and implemented Pistol Pay — a product specifically designed to handle legal firearms transactions between two individuals in a safe and secure method.
Also, something else happened in the midst of the heated gun control debate that no one expected…
3D printing became an incredible tool for Second Amendment-protecting civil disobedience.
Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, successfully 3D printed a fully functioning gun. And flipped the whole gun control argument on its head.
With 3D printing, it’s absolutely impossible to regulate the creation of “ghost guns” — an unregistered, unserialized gun. The feds realized this and came after him, but by then, it was far too late.
By the time the feds shut down his website, the file to print the gun had already been shared, copied and stored over 100,000 times.
And Wilson, emboldened, didn’t stop there…
“Wilson’s latest radically libertarian project,”Wired magazine reported late last year, “is a PC-connected milling machine he calls the Ghost Gunner.
“Like any computer-numerically-controlled (or CNC) mill, the one-foot-cubed black box uses a drill bit mounted on a head that moves in three dimensions to automatically carve digitally-modeled shapes into polymer, wood or aluminum.
“But this CNC mill, sold by Wilson’s organization known as Defense Distributed for $1,200, is designed to create one object in particular: the component of an AR-15 rifle known as its lower receiver.”
Why the receiver? It’s simple: “That simple chunk of metal,” says Wired, “has become the epicenter of a gun control firestorm.”
The receiver, if you’re not gun savvy, is the “core” of the gun. It connects the stock, barrel, magazine and other parts together. Because of its ubiquity, it’s the most heavily regulated piece.
Pretty much everything else can be bought and sold freely — everything but a finished receiver. What most people don’t know, though, is that it’s 100% legal (depending on your state, of course) for hobbyists to make guns in their homes. The catch is, you can’t buy unregistered finished receivers. So you have to buy them 80% finished (without the holes) and finish it yourself — not exactly a simple task.
But now, says The Verge, “Users can buy a semi-finished lower receiver for an AR-15 (the civilian version of the military’s M-16 assault rifle), mill it to completion with the Ghost Gunner in a matter of hours, and then order the rest of the parts online and assemble the gun at home.”
“Semi-automatic firearms, including the AR-15 lower receivers,” says Wilson, “are generally legal to manufacture for private individuals per U.S. federal law Title 18 do not require serialization or other maker’s marks.
“However, some states/municipalities restrict either the manufacture of certain firearms, or, more recently, the personal manufacture of a firearm with a 3D printer and/or CNC machine.
“Under federal law, manufacturing a firearm for contemplation of future sale without an FFL is prohibited. Without a manufacturing FFL, you should manufacture firearms for personal use only. There are methods to legally transfer ownership of personally manufactured firearms, but they do not apply when the original manufacturing intent is to build a firearm for commercial or non-personal use.”
Unfortunately, due to the scattered state laws, Defense Distributed just ran into a speed bump…
FedEx has flat out declined to ship the machine. In a statement to Wired, the company said: “This device is capable of manufacturing firearms, and potentially by private individuals. We are uncertain at this time whether this device is a regulated commodity by local, state, or federal governments. As such, to ensure we comply with the applicable law and regulations, FedEx declined to ship this device until we know more about how it will be regulated.”
And a similar response from the UPS: “UPS is continuing to evaluate such concerns with regard to the transportation of milling machines used to produce operable firearms.”
For now, Defense Distributed is looking into alternative ways to ship Ghost Gunners. But the free market, we’re sure, with a bit of creative thinking, will take care of this obstacle. And will continue to produce solutions to expand your rights as the government clamps down, whether the PATRIOT Act expires or not.
“I will find another way to ship the machine,” Wilson wrote in an email to his supporters. “I emailed today because I feel you should know that FedEx is uncomfortable with the constitutionally protected right to make a rifle free from government surveillance.”
[What do you think? Interested in building a gun in your garage? Why? Why not? Email it: Chris@lfb.org.]
Cover Image attributed to U-nine-eight Last