Sunday, August 28, 2011

A most thorough fisking, indeed.

It is so seldom, but when there is so much fallacy, before one can really begin one must pause to count the ways a single article can be wrong, and perhaps even duplicitous. The Boston Globe in an unsigned editorial offers an example of one such.

The history of "gun control" in New England is fraught with racism and oppression, and not precisely a thing of beauty worthy of pride. From the 17th century gun control laws (where we define gun control as barring one or more classes of person from firearms ownership/usage - as opposed to requiring possession of firearms and secondary firearms products, a far more common practice in early New England) sporadically barring firearms to Native Americans or specific tribes thereof (with the distinct goal of discouraging forcible eviction of the colonists by the native populace)1 to the 1906 imposition of the subjective (and thus inherently discriminatory) License to Carry law, and on to the yet more oppressive (and most likely unconstitutional) Firearms Owner Identification card requirement we see a history of a state ever more hostile to one of its' major industries.

With the implementation of the Approved Gun Rosters, the environment became yet more hostile - but did not impose involuntary expense upon in-state manufacturers if they simply chose to ship their entire production out of state. Annoying for individuals who might prefer to purchase those locally produced products, but not so much for the manufacturers.

As is any manufacturer or businesses right - should a business environment become so toxic (whether for legislative, labor, or other causes) - to move to another location more compatible with its line of business. When the cost of tolerating the toxic condition du jour (in this case, micro-stamping) exceeds the cost of relocation, or looks to be a precursor of such imbalance, the decision becomes much easier for the business.

A citizen votes at the polls. A business votes with its feet.

Any state legislature about the business of regulating any industry needs to take into account that, if they create a sufficiently hostile environment in comparison to other locales, that the regulated industry may simply up stakes and migrate to friendlier turf - whether it is Boeing re-locating its' headquarters and ever more of its' manufacturing outside the state of Washington, Bar-Sto's migration out of California, Olin Corporation's move of their ammunition facility from Illinois to Alabama, or Colt Firearms contemplating the cost/benefit ratio of a migration out of New England2.

In the face of being forced to implement the expensive microstamping boondoggle and with other states welcoming firearms industry and the accompanying high-paying jobs with open arms, it should be no surprise if Smith & Wesson, Savage, Marlin, and Mossberg all are discovered to be engaged in quiet boardroom contemplation of friendlier climates.

Substantial doubts have been cast upon the validity of the assertions regarding the real-world application of micro-stamping technology (aside from significantly increased cost) made by proponents of the notion, specifically by a study out of UC-Davis3 indicating a number of serious technical flaws in the expensive technology.

Further field criticisms will be offered below.

Again, as is the right of any business large or small. Regulation is by its very nature a balancing act between advancing the interests of the State - legitimate or not - vs. driving business (and thus jobs and tax revenue) out of a state.

In yet another example, a rising new holster maker - Dragon Leather Works - is leaving New York this month to relocate to Tennessee, at least in part because of New Yorks regulatory structure that prohibits, at a felony generating level, any person (even a holster maker) from receiving or possessing normal capacity magazines - a fairly fundamental barrier if your customer is demanding you make a belt carrier for such a magazine; when similar barriers affect the firearms themselves, re-location seems a wise choice.

The New England states are not somehow magically immune from these fundamental laws of politics and economics, and have worked long and hard to create an environment hostile to industry generally and the firearms industry specifically - but until now, by avoiding imposing a major business expense upon manufacturers, have avoided stimulating manufacturers to begin considering whether the cost of moving legacy operations to a friendlier locale might provide a better operating environment.

Given that such a move would almost certainly include tax credits from the new host jurisdiction, production cost savings after initial investment resulting from re-tooling with current generation (as opposed to legacy) tooling and automation, and the option of operating in a right to work state with fewer workplace strictures...and New England states may be faced with the choice of not just backing away from micro-stamping laws, but back-pedaling furiously if they want to retain the operations base of the now-awakened firearms manufacturers who could go almost any place else in the nation and find a friendlier operating environment.

It’s questionable how effective micro-stamping would be. The legislation would require firing pins on new makes of handguns to leave microscopic impressions of the gun’s serial number on each casing. Criminals could tamper with the firing pin to prevent impressions from being made or even leave used casings from other guns at crime scenes to cause confusion. Nonetheless, it might still provide useful clues in some cases. But this is a balancing decision that should be left to the legislatures, not gunmakers.

In comments on a public Pink Pistols (a pro-2A LGBT group) forum, one of the founders of that group, Gwen Patton, points out a number of the field impracticalities reducing the micro-stamping technology to expensive foolishness:

And the entire concept is idiotic.

Step 1: Use a revolver that doesn't eject brass.

Step 2: Scatter micro-stamped brass from someone else's gun that you picked up at the range while wearing gloves.

Step 3: Let's watch the fun, as the forensics morons try to match slugs to brass, and bring in sixteen different owners in for questioning, then find out the slugs weren't even from a semi-automatic weapon, and ALL of the brass is a red herring!
So not only is micro-stamping faced with technical flaws (imprint erosion, ease of defeating the device by criminals and civil rights activists, etc.), but it is easily defeated in the field as well - and that before we consider that not all small arms ammunition is loaded in relatively malleable brass cases - but that steel cased ammunition is also produced, and is not only less likely to accept the expensive micro-stamp, actively damage the micro-stamp mechanism, and is anything but rare...

While firearms manufacturers have a right to lobby against this legislation and explain their objections to it, it is inappropriate to wield the jobs of hundreds of workers as a weapon.

Actions have consequences, and legislatures are not immune from this basic truth. We return to the basic failure of the author to understand that lobbying is merely the equivalent of getting up on a soap box and advocating one clever idea or another.

The vote of an industry is expressed by whether its ethos or business realities are so negatively affected as to make doing further business in the affected region unacceptable. And short of proposing state seizure of industry, that remains a fundamental right of any move its operations to the locale the business owners and operators feel best suits their needs.

There exists no shortage of locales that would welcome Colt, Mossberg, and even Smith and Wesson with open arms and, more than likely, open pocketbooks. It is up to Massachusetts, Conneticut, and other New England states that have so studiously demonized the industry to find a way to make remaining in such hostile jurisdictions desirable.

Micro-stamping does not place any significant burden on the sale or manufacture of guns. It is not a ban or an arduous tax. It merely requires the engraving of a serial number in one more place on the weapon. If a state legislature decides micro-stamping is appropriate, it should not be forced to choose between citizens’ lives and citizens’ livelihood.

Whether a flat-out lie or based in mind-numbing ignorance, the above is simply untrue. The costs of implementing the patented and sole-source monopoly microstamping technology is simply boggling4,5, even before you face up to the fact that any monopoly can ramp up the cost of their product from mind-numbing to cost-prohibitive whenever the whim strikes once the product is required by law - from the projected increased cost at current pricing of $200 per firearm to vastly more.

Massachusetts has had gun-control laws for almost three centuries, and the Connecticut River Valley has been a center of gun-making since George Washington established an armory in Springfield. There is no reason that both gun control and gun manufacturing cannot co-exist for the next few centuries as well.

That Massachusetts has had gun control laws, often discriminatory and based in bigotry, corruption, and favoritism for a very long time is beyond dispute. Such is the case when any law is implemented based in unequal treatment of citizens, implemented to a random and subjective (and whimsically variable) standard by authority whether in the chill climate of New England or sunny California.

However, until recently, the demonization of firearms as an alternative to actually *doing something* about criminal bad actors in Massachusetts society has not significantly impacted the firearms industry that generates so many high-paying jobs in the New England region and so much could be overlooked.

Even if Smith & Wesson or Colt were unable to sell, due to regulatory stricture, a single firearm in Massachusetts, they could muddle along with the remaining 49 states and not go broke.

But imposing vast new costs on an industry in the midst of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, and then expecting them to just eat those costs - or pass them on to customers who are doing well to afford their products in the first place, before such pseudo-tariffs are imposed - when the problem can simply be resolved from that industries viewpoint by simple re-location? And then claiming that said manufacturers were in the wrong for refusing to cooperate in their destruction?

That, my anonymous editorialist is self-righteous and self-centered narcissism taken to an extreme rarely reached even by President Obama, a gentleman of vast skill in that field.

Further, it may just be that the microstamp kerfluffle is going to be enough to make those eager firearms-friendly states look a *lot* better to manufacturers.

You had a good industry that provided good jobs. You may just have, in your totemization of inanimate objects and deodands, managed to lose the jobs, the industry, and the tax revenue - at a time when you can least afford it.


Clayton Cramer, Gun Control in New England Available online at

Charles Francis Adams, Jr., ed.,
New English Canaan of Thomas Morton
(Boston: The Prince Society, 1883; reprinted New York: Burt Franklin, 1967), 21-28;

Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (Boston: William White, 1853), 1:196;

Joseph H. Smith, ed., Colonial Justice in Western Massachusetts (1639-1702):
The Pynchon Court Record, An Original Judges' Diary of the Administration of Justice in the Springfield Courts in the Massachusetts Bay Colony
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), 208.

James B. Whisker, Arms Makers of Colonial America(Selinsgrove, Penn.: Susquehanna University Press, 1992), 16.

Timothy Williams, New York Times: States Pitch a Lifestyle to Lure Gun Makers From Their Longtime Homes, 8/10/2011, available online at
Firearms Microstamping Feasible but Variable, Study Finds,
5/13/2008, available online at
Opposition To Firearms Microstamping Grows In New York
Amid Concerns Of Expense, Lost Jobs And Results Of Independent
, 6/15/10,, available online at

Dramatic Price Increases and Reduction in Supply ,
1/23/2009, National Shooting Sports Federation, available online

Ed. Note: It appears as of 8/29/11 "reasoned discourse" has broken out over at the Boston Globe and all comments on the article in question (where the editorial writer was being thrashed on factual and logical grounds rather thoroughly) have magically vanished.


Joat said...

"A citizen votes at the polls. A business votes with its feet."

One quibble, citizens also have the right to vote with their feet.

Lokidude said...

New England: Trying our damndest to be just like Old England.

And I'd love to see Colt and S&W move someplace free.