“Attorney General William P. Barr announces launch of Project Guardian – A nationwide strategic plan to reduce gun violence,” a Nov. 13 Department of Justice press release declared. “Initiative emphasizes enforcing gun prohibitions based on domestic violence convictions and mental health denials.”
Project Guardian, we are told, “is based on five principles”:
- Coordinated Prosecution.
- Enforcing the Background Check System.
- Improved Information Sharing.
- Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials.
- Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination.
“NSSF applauds DOJ’s priorities: Enforce and prosecute gun laws,” Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) gushed in response. “We take action every day through our programs to promote safe, healthy use of firearms by law-abiding citizens. But we know more can be done to enforce existing laws and to prosecute those who break them.”
They’re so enamored of their position, they’ve service marked the term “Real Solutions.”
Allow me to take a contrarian approach: I warned you about Barr in a previous Firearms News article, and spelled out the reasons why I believe the Donald Trump choosing him to head DOJ was no favor to the gun owners who elected the president based on his campaign pledges. In the interests of full disclosure, I should also state I’m one of the plaintiffs suing Barr over the “bump stock” ban, a usurpation of executive power and reversal of the rules that you can bet Democrats will expand on and use against gun owners whenever they retake the White House. Forgive me if I can’t help taking it personally knowing that a “bump stock” is not just a firearm according to Barr’s Berserkers, they’ve declared the damn thing a machinegun.
So, what’s the big deal with enforcing laws?
While some informed gun owner rights advocates are appalled, there’s no shortage of “law and order” types sharing their “About damn time!” approval, NSSF being but the most prominent example. We still haven’t heard from NRA at this writing, but that’s hardly atypical: It seems every time something requiring the leadership attributed to them arises, Fairfax goes dark while its flacks wrestle with the best way to minimize negative exposure and risk.
Let’s start with asking where in the Constitution the feds are delegated the authority to involve themselves in any of this.
Oh sure, there will be no shortage of apologist pundits quick to point out how precedent has allowed for expansion of powers to where you can’t wash a fish in the wrong faucet without incurring the wrath of federal enforcers. I kid you not. Freedom Works came up with a list of 19 ridiculous federal crimes, citing “4,500 to 5,000 federal criminal statutes and as many as 400,000 regulations carrying criminal penalties,” and highlighting some of the more egregious absurdities, such as everything from calling turkey ham “ham turkey” and “tak[ing] home milk from a quarantined giraffe.” But I’m talking about looking at this from a Founding Fathers point of view, where, per the Crimes Act of 1790, 23 federal crimes were pretty much dominated by treason, counterfeiting and piracy. As for everything else, the Bill of Rights, ratified the following year, specifically mandates “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Then again, it also says “shall not be infringed,” and we see how well Barr, et al., listen to that.
In all this talk about reducing violence, nobody in power seems overly concerned with violence to the Constitution -- and whether letting power-hungry government further slip its bonds may prove the greater danger.
Speaking of danger...
The first “principle” of “Project Guardian” says much in one small word. :
“Federal prosecutors and law enforcement will ... consider potential federal prosecution for new cases involving a defendant who: a) was arrested in possession of a firearm; b) is believed to have used a firearm in committing a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime prosecutable in federal court; or c) is suspected of actively committing violent crime(s) in the community on behalf of a criminal organization.”
The use of “or” instead of “and” between “b” and “c” tells us you don‘t need to have a hit on all of the criteria. Any of the cited conditions can be enough to trigger the feds.
That was the case with a friend and patriot, the late Hollis Wayne Fincher, who attempted to demonstrate how the “supreme Law of the Land” invalidated federal citizen disarmament edicts and had his life destroyed for his efforts.
“The investigation was conducted under Project Safe Neighborhoods, the U.S. Department of Justice initiative that combines federal state and local resources to combat violent gun crime,” the DOJ crowed. That the only risk of violent crime introduced into the equation was initiated by the enforcement axis was left unsaid.
But what about proven results?
“Project Guardian draws on the Department’s earlier achievements, such as the ‘Triggerlock’ program, and it serves as a complementary effort to the success of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN),” the DOJ presser claims. It continues to sing PSN praises in its propaganda overview video, where one of its enthusiastic backers actually uses Hillary’s title phrase “It takes a village.”
As for lauded results, where the most recent “report” claims a four to 20% reduction in violent crime and a 42% reduction in targeted crimes between 2000 and 2006, the adage about “lies, damned lies and statistics” comes to mind, as well as the caution that correlation does not equate with causation.
“The United States Attorney's Office (USAO) administers and promotes the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative sponsored by the Department of Justice,” the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland claims. “Building on the Maryland EXILE Program and working with the Maryland Safe Streets Initiative, these efforts are having a state-wide impact.”
Stop what you’re doing right now and do a Google search for the terms “Baltimore” and “homicides.”
“Baltimore hits 300 homicides for fifth year in a row,” The Washington Post headline reads.
“Baltimore Reports 12% Rise in Homicides,” The Wall Street Journal corroborates.
You have to wonder how many of Baltimore’s young worthies stand a chance of getting popped for violating “Principle 2,” as if they go to FFLs and through NICS when they decide it’s time for a new piece. But congratulations, AG Barr: You just gave the antis further ammunition for imposing so-called “universal background checks,” that is, for ending private sales of lawfully owned property everywhere, in Everytown.
And you’ll note it all goes back to Project Exile, or as some friends of mine liked to call it, Project Gulag.
NRA-endorsed ‘gun control’
“Let's agree on this: Every American city, let's put Project Exile, every time a violent felon, drug dealer, gang member touches a gun, let's prosecute," NRA’s Wayne LaPierre demanded in a CBS Face the Nation “debate” against then-Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Disregard that the other Wayne, Fincher, the one I talked about earlier, was also caught in that net. The Association is all in on prosecuting “gun crimes” (talk about an invented, manipulative term) and theirs is the loudest voice.
“On the right, the National Rifle Association now stands with Handgun Control Inc. in vowing to put people like me behind bars,” writer Vin Suprynowicz quoted a Massachusetts gun owner who had written to him lamenting perceived abandonment by NRA. “I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard and seen the video recordings on the NRA website.
"‘You touch a gun in Colorado, and you're gonna have five years in a state or federal penitentiary,’ says Wayne LaPierre, standing on the stage with HCI representatives,” his correspondent noted. “Under their Project Exile, anyone caught with an ‘illegal’ gun gets tried in federal court. What the NRA doesn't seem to understand, or perhaps just doesn't care about, is that here in Massachusetts, my guns were made ‘illegal. by the stroke of a pen.”
Some of us tried our best to raise that flag.
“We Condemn ‘Project Exile,’ A Coalition of American Leaders in the Firearms Movement” was a declaration signed by RKBA advocates including Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt, the founder of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, the late Aaron Zelman, and many others (including me).
“The current NRA management’s ‘Project Exile’ program demands ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement of all existing federal gun laws. But most—if not all—of these laws are unconstitutional violations of the Second Amendment,” the condemnation statement argued. “The NRA’s current management says that ‘Project Exile’ is aimed at convicting violent felons. But of course these laws can be—and will be—used against any citizen who breaks them.”
That includes every citizen who decides not to comply with an edict outlawing whatever it is the totalitarians decide to declare verboten. Forget “I will not comply,” and forget Thoreau’s grand testament to freedom, “Civil Disobedience.” As someone who has been chastised by self-styled “pragmatists” for being a “principles freak,” I can tell you from experience to expect no help from NRA and NSSF – their apologists will instead claim you’re “making us all look bad.”
Unfortunately, since his primary inputs for appealing to gun owners comes from NRA, Donald Trump has drunk deep of the Fairfax Kool-Aid while simultaneously failing to deliver on his promised Second Amendment Coalition. What’s clear from his campaign website is that he always intended to deliver on Project Exile (as did his first DOJ pick, Jeff Sessions).
“Enforce the laws on the books,” Trump argued. “‘We need to get serious about prosecuting violent criminals.
“The Obama administration’s record on that is abysmal,” he continued. “Violent crime in cities like Baltimore, Chicago and many others is out of control. Drug dealers and gang members are given a slap on the wrist and turned loose on the street. This needs to stop.”
So how does Trump and NRA define “getting serious”?
“Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile, he related. “It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release.“ It’s just common sense,” Trump asserted, using the same term the antis do when they get ready to grab guns. “To make America great again, we’re going to go after criminals and put the law back on the side of the law-abiding.”
In other words, we need “gun control.” And you only remain “law-abiding” if you obey the order to “Turn ‘em all in, Mr. and Mrs. America.”
As for Exile’s vaunted success story?
In 2005, six years after Charlton Heston and assorted “dignitaries” launched the program in Philadelphia, daring criminals to “make my day,” the mayor declared the city’s violence “a crisis.”
And a few short years after Exile launched in Richmond, earning enthusiastic praise...?
"Richmond had the country's fourth highest murder rate in 2003 and was ranked the nation's ninth most dangerous city overall in 2004 _ beating out Miami and Compton, Calif. Richmond is the sixth most dangerous when compared to other cities with populations of 100,000 to 499,999."
I’m not the only one who noticed the numbers weren’t all they were cracked up to be. And it’s pretty bad when you have to turn to anti-gun MSNBC for a dose of reality on “gun laws”:
“Crime went down nationally in the late ’90s [and] Richmond’s crime rates would have come down ‘even in the absence of the program.’ ‘Exile’ also gets the benefit of starting during a one-year spike in the violent crime rate... One of the primary concerns raised is the issue of Project Exile being heralded a success in the absence of evaluation.”
Whenever I see someone blathering about what a great crimefighting tool Project Exile proved to be, I can’t help remembering a line from The Outlaw Josey Wales: “Don’t p*** down my back and tell me it’s rainin’.”
So, you still don’t think that a nationwide Project Exile, inside of Project Guardian, will affect you?
That question was posed by my editor here at Firearms News, Vincent DeNiro. His decades long experience, in the firearms and defense industries, has given him some insights on specifics that could arise and cause us a world of hurt, stuff no one else is talking about and that you certainly won’t hear discussed by “gun groups” more interested in law enforcement than rights enforcement.
“Let’s say that you went out to a strip mine to shoot your SKS, a place which was never marked ‘No Trespassing,’ and you and your friends have shot there for decades with permission from the owner,” DeNiro supposed. “One day, while you are there shooting, a police officer arrives and asks if you have permission to shoot from the new owner of the property, and if you saw the new ‘No Trespassing’ sign.
“Not being aware of the recent sale of the property, and the fact that you did not see the sign, you say ‘No’ to both,” he continued. “You are then arrested for misdemeanor trespass with a firearm.
“The police department’s record department then sends the BATFE a copy of the arrest report in compliance with Project Exile and/or Project Guardian,” DeNiro elaborated. “The BATFE agents read that an SKS was used, so they stop by the department to look at it. They see that the semi-auto rifle has a plastic folding stock on it as well as a detachable magazine - the way you bought it from a gun shop. BATFE runs the serial number and discovers that the SKS was imported well after the ‘assault weapon’ import ban of 1989, and that this violates 18 USC 922 (r) by possessing a legally imported rifle which was illegally converted into an ‘assault weapon.’
“Now you are charged with felony for violating an unconstitutional law that the NRA and gun owners opposed in the first place – and it was Project Exile/Project Guardian which will ruin your life,” he explained. “That takes ‘enforce the laws we have’ to a new level that gun owners seem to be blind to.”
“This same situation can apply to countless unconstitutional technicalities which may be legal at the state level but illegal at the federal level,” he concluded. “These could include regulations dealing with AOWs (any other weapons) and concealed carry, ‘constructive possession’ whereby you could be charged for possession of an unregistered short-barreled rifle for having an extra rifle stock and an unassembled AR-15 pistol parts set, or in dozens of ways related to the infamous ‘922 (r).’”
Those sure are a lot of ways to trap us into a world of hurt our “friends” are setting us up for.
But...but...but what about wife beaters? And CRAZY PEOPLE??
“A wife tears her husband’s pocket during an argument. A daughter throws keys at her mom – and misses. Both `assailants’ are arrested, fingerprinted and booked,” Gun Owners of America documented over 20 years ago. “Welcome to Virginia’s new zero tolerance of domestic violence. And welcome to some of the most recent victims of the Lautenberg gun ban.”
If you weren’t around and fighting it back when this abomination was passed, it was another gun-grab designed to turn a misdemeanor domestic violence charge into a permanent prohibited person designation, that is, a lifetime gun ban.
“This marks the first time in history that a misdemeanor offense denies a constitutional right,” Alan Korwin of Bloomfield Press/GunLaws.com explained. “The law is retroactive [“ex post facto”], affecting an unknown number of people, and no provision is made for the firearms such women and men might already possess. Firearms possession by a prohibited possessor is a five-year federal felony.”
Expanding citizen disarmament edicts to include misdemeanor “crimes,” some of which may have been pled to in order to avoid the financially crippling legal expenses of trying to defend against a state with virtually unlimited resources, demonstrably allows for no shortage of abuses. True to form, not satisfied with disgruntled spouses scoring divorce proceeding points, the grabbers now want to add a “boyfriend loophole,” so that jilted, bipolar one-night stands can also lay claim to your rights.
Add to that so-called “red flag laws,” and “we” have allowed Alice in Wonderland absurdity (“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.”) to replace a system of law intended to advance the goals of Liberty.
And speaking of lunatics, it would help if we knew what due protections equivalent to those provided in a jury trial are provided. Will decisions be made by boards or commissions that may harbor biases of their own?
What protections will exist to offset politically-connected anti-gun judges, politically-appointed boards, and “expert” adherents of the American Psychiatric Association’s “Position Statement on Firearm Access, Acts of Violence and the Relationship to Mental Illness and Mental Health Services.” It’s fair to ask because APA includes in its advocacy platform registration-enabling, background checks, “smart” guns, storage requirements, “gun-free” zones, doctor-patient boundary violations, tax-funded anti-gun “studies,” all outside the scope of the training and credentialing of those making these proposals. (Significantly though, even APA admits “Only a small proportion of individuals with a mental disorder pose a risk of harm to themselves or others.”)
Also of interest – or it should be – how will rights be restored when there is no longer a compelling mental health prescription to deny them? What universal appeal mechanism – affordable to all, not just to elites for whom money is no object – will exist to declare a person is once more “eligible” to keep and bear arms? What guarantees are there that the same biases that colored the disability ruling in the first place won’t reassert themselves in the “parole” process? And have we identified psychiatric evaluators, risk management administrators and insurers who will be willing to subject themselves to malpractice liabilities should a person deemed “fit” be misdiagnosed? Or will the pressure be to “err on the side of caution”?
Those are all irrelevant arguments anyway. Truth be known, anyone who can’t be trusted with a gun can’t be trusted without a custodian. For those proven disposed to violence, the only solution is to block their access to the potential victim pool until such time as they have demonstrated they no longer pose a danger. To do any less is equivalent to sentencing a man-eating tiger to a cage for a set period, and then releasing it when the time is up. Who would expect results to be any less than catastrophic?
What about the rest of DOJ’s disarmament initiative?
We’ve already noted how gangbangers just bypass the whole “background check” kabuki theater anyway. Perhaps that’s why NSSF is so gung-ho on incarcerating those who don’t even regard their vaunted “Fix NICS” as a minor inconvenience. Maybe, after seeing the remarkably predictable failures of “Prohibition” and “The War on Drugs,” those oblivious to the definition of insanity misattributed to Einstein really do believe third time’s a charm.
Then again, perhaps those behind prior restraints understand full well what the National Institute of Justice admitted, in its Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies, that “Effectiveness depends on the ability to reduce straw purchasing, requiring gun registration...”
As for coordinated prosecutions, improved information sharing and crime gun intelligence coordination, we’ve gone over some of the dangers to federalism, the old data processing acronym GIGO (Garbage In/Garbage Out) comes to mind, and really – how many guns recovered from “crime scenes” end up snaring the original law-abiding buyer? More likely, this is just another hurdle to remove on the way to repealing the Tiahrt Amendment so gun-grabbers can use trace data for lawsuits and more bogus “studies.”
So why the rush to ‘compromise’?
NSSF, NRA and supposedly “pro-gun” Republicans are actually undermining one of the key tenets for refuting disarmament laws by advancing the wrongheaded premise that “good gun control,” works, and is a legitimate and effective response. So, the kind they approve of is fine, but if Gabby Giffords and Shannon Watts want it, it’s time for another “sky is falling” fundraising email?
It’s also a dangerous premise, because they’re encouraging everybody to not only think that “gun control” works, but to think this is about “crime control,” not citizen control.
It’s a trend we’ve seen repeated for years, typically after a mass killing in a “gun-free zone,” when the appeasement faction of the “gun lobby” decides “we” have to give up something or the grabbers will push something really bad through. So rather than use their bully pulpits to advance “shall not be infringed,” they decide what can be thrown under the bus to cause the least amount of damage, often to bottom lines.
It doesn’t work, of course, any more than throwing a scrap of flesh to a pack of circling jackals will sate them and convince them to retreat from prey they sense is desperate and vulnerable. That doesn’t happen in real life, does it? Their goal is to have it all, and anyone who thinks that’s not what the disarmers are after is whistling past the graveyard of history. They’ll take each incremental gain concession offered, then use it to launch their next incursion.
You can see that for yourself this time around: Take a look at the U.S. Attorneys Office “tweet” announcing Project Guardian. You’ll see no appreciation and praise from the antis – you’ll see cartoons of Barr being Trump’s leashed dog. You’ll see the AG attacked for other grievances. You’ll see insults.
Meanwhile, “businessman” Trump’s hard-core activist base will have yet another ember in their bellies doused by those whose primary concerns are profits and stock values. The communist adage about capitalists selling the rope by which they will be hanged comes to mind.
Many in the industry have yet to learn they can’t protect their businesses by throwing customers under the bus. And many in the rice bowl gun groups have yet to learn their first duty is to their members, not to their advertisers and sponsors.
When the emphasis is on law enforcement rather than rights enforcement, it’s a one-way street leading to tyranny. Without going too far afield, a project I worked on years ago to petition DOJ to enforce the Second Amendment in the states the same way it would were civil rights laws being violated went nowhere – despite a supposedly “pro-gun” administration. And don’t get me started on NRA’s deliberate indifference and outright hostility by some prominent apologists.
As for embracing this latest scheme by our “Guardians” to somehow protect us through infringements, there’s really only one principled response: “Enforce existing gun laws?” The hell with that. Repeal the damn things.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms Newsand AmmoLand Shooting Sports News, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts onTwitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.