I’m an open-minded observer of our great political process, and have voted both Republican and Democrat in the past. I feel strongly about a variety of issues, but I am also willing to listen to reasoned debate on them. As long as I feel my opponent has understood the issues at hand, and has taken the time to research them, I have no problem with my opinions being questioned.

What I can’t stand are arguments based on myths that are easily dis-proven: that is, people arguing from an entrenched ideological position without having taken the time to logically assess the issue. We are all, of course, guilty of this from time to time, because no-one can be an expert on everything.

However, there is one debate which is particularly prone to being warped by politically-motivated myths: that on gun control. In addition, any fair observer would have to conclude that these myths are particularly prevalent on one side of the debate. Gun control activists don’t seem to know a lot about the way that guns actually work, and are worryingly susceptible to their own propaganda.

You could argue that this is not their fault: many people who are vehemently anti-gun have never had the opportunity or need to fire one, and so it’s natural they don’t know much about them. Their only contact with the gun control debate comes in those moments immediately after a school massacre. They forget that, every day, hundreds of thousands of gun owners use their weapons responsibly, and lock them up safely at the end of the day.

When seen from this narrow perspective, and without daily contact with actual weapons, the liberal left is still misled by a number of myths about guns. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current debate on the The Hearing Protection Act 2017.

An Example: Why A Suppressor Is Not A “Silencer”

The Hearing Protection Act 2017 is currently awaiting a hearing in Congress. It seeks to reduce the restrictions on buying suppressors, which date back to 1934. Like any debate on gun control measures, the Act has polarized opinion, and has led to impassioned speeches, warped statistics, and divisive rhetoric from both sides.

What is strikingly apparent in these debates, though, has been the level of ignorance on the side of those who wish to limit access to suppressors. It seems that many liberal politicians, having never used a suppressor, are under the impression that they allow criminals to kill people silently.

If you’ve never used a gun fitted with a suppressor, let me reassure you that they are still incredibly loud. As loud, in fact, as a pneumatic hammer hitting concrete, a level of noise that even liberals seem to have no trouble hearing. Still, the myth remains, and many opposing the bill naively – or cynically – refer to suppressors as “silencers”.

The funny thing about this is that suppressors, when they were invented back in 1909, were originally called “silencers”. This, however, was blatant hyperbole – calling these devices “silencers” is equivalent to marketing a flannel shirt as an arctic coat. The irony here is that those who oppose the bill have taken the over-blown claims of weapon manufacturers as literal truth.

My point is that, if you are ideologically opposed to guns, have never actually used one, and have been raised on a diet of Dick Tracy and James Bond movies, the myth that a suppressor is a “silencer” is a useful fiction.

The Reality

This mistaken belief leads to a number of hilarious arguments against the bill. Take this one, put forward by Kristen Rand of VPC back in June: “Silencers are military-bred accessories that make it easier for criminals to take innocent lives and threaten law enforcement. Existing federal law has kept crimes committed with silencer-equipped firearms rare”.

Where to begin? She is correct in one respect, of course: crimes committed with “silencers” are very rare. Knox Williams, president and executive director for the American Suppressor Association, told Guns.com in August that of the 1.3 million suppressors in circulation, his group can only fund 16 instances of criminal use since 2011. As he pointed out, “that translates to the misuse of a glaringly low percentage of suppressors in circulation – roughly 0.000012308 percent.”

Now. If you think that a suppressor makes your gun silent, I can imagine how you would think that limiting their use would be a good thing. However, as anyone who uses a gun knows, the reason why suppressors are not used to commit crimes is not because of the Federal limitations on their use, but simply because they are totally useless if you want to commit a crime. I repeat: law enforcement are still going to hear the shots, and adding a suppressor to your weapon makes it much harder to handle.

In reality, suppressors are used primarily by hunters, who risk significant damage to their hearing if they use un-suppressed weapons. At present, hunters are faced with a very difficult choice. They can either go through the lengthy (and, I would say, unconstitutional) process of obtaining a suppressor, or they can wear any OSHA-certified hearing protection, which function as protective ear muffs for your ears.

Doing the latter is, at the moment, the preferred choice, but has the unfortunate consequence of deadening all sound, which makes hunting more dangerous than it should be. It is this absurd situation that the Hearing Protection Act seeks to change.

Dangerous Myths

I’ve picked one example to make my point, but I could have picked many others. The unfortunate reality is that, in the gun debate and several others, the people making laws are the least qualified to do so, because they lack first-hand experience of the issues they are talking about. And this lack of first-hand experience means that they are susceptible to myths that any experienced gun owner could dispel within a few seconds.

This situation reminds me, if you’ll permit me the aside, of the debate regarding the ban on fox hunting going on right now in England. The situation is somewhat analogous, because a vanishingly small percentage of the population have actual experience of fox-hunting.

The majority of the urban population oppose fox-hunting, but have never actually seen a fox. This lack of first-hand experience (or ignorance, if I were to put it more strongly) allows a well-developed series of myths to circulate on the left – that fox-hunting is inherently cruel, for instance – that are laughable to anyone with actual experience of the issue.

I’m not sure, in truth, what the solution to this state of affairs is. It cuts against my belief in small government to recommend some kind of “expert panel” to help liberals get a grip on the reality of guns. Perhaps there should be a mandatory “away day” where members of Congress can fire a weapon with a suppressor, and listen carefully to see if they can hear the shot.

I’m not sure, however, that this would actually help, because I’m also pretty sure that those who continue to promote these myths know they are baloney. And if they didn’t before, they do now.

About the author

Sam Bocetta is a retired defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems. He now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engineering professor and is the ASEAN affairs correspondent for Gun News Daily.

After White Nationalists and their counterparts caused violence to erupt in Charlottesville, Virginia back in August, Americans witnessed a very odd occurrence. Suddenly, Virginia bureaucrats sought to impinge on our constitutional right to bear arms.

First, Va governor Terry McAuliffe very publicly and very falsely alleged that “eighty percent of the people here had semiautomatic weapons,” and even went so far as to say that the white supremacists in attendance “had better equipment than our state police.”

As if all of that wasn’t exaggeration enough, Governor McAuliffe claimed that these supremacists had weapons “stashed around the city.”

Not only was his allegation of citywide conspiracy the stuff of comic books but his entire speech missed the mark completely in terms of bedrock reality. As a matter of cold, hard fact, the white supremacists in the Charlottesville incident utilized nearly every form of weapon imaginable…save for guns.

As anyone who’s followed the news can tell you, the chief offender at the Unite the Right rally implemented a motor vehicle as his assault weapon. One witness at the rally was Hunter Wallace, a Right wing blogger at Occidental Dissent who reported being attacked with “mace, pepper spray, bricks, sticks and foul liquids.” But nowhere does he mention firearms.

Much of the anti-gun rhetoric surrounding the incident has to do with a paramilitary group that was photographed at the scene, each of them outfitted with camouflage gear and brandishing assault rifles. But the problem here is one of false identification.

At the height of the tension in Charlottesville, the governor announced a State of Emergency and members of the National Guard were deployed. As such, there is no reason to believe that those who were armed at the protest weren’t actually members of the National Guard or a private security firm.

In fact, state police have even renounced the governor’s claims, insisting that they searched for stashed weapons and came up short. “No weapons were located.”

Despite this, the Internet blew up with rumors that a gun-toting militia had silenced free speech when, on the contrary, those in attendance were more than capable of speaking their minds. And they did. Quite loudly and violently.

Nevertheless, the public outcry over the event triggered a domino effect and, in no time at all, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) was deferring to the Left, announcing that they would no longer “defend hate groups seeking to march with firearms.”

In other words, they are threatening to strip Americans of their First Amendment right to march if we exercise our Second Amendment freedoms. It’s a dangerous precedent that they are setting in the name of placating the gun-hating PC police.

What the ACLU’s decision tells us is that even those legal watchdogs who we trust to defend our civil liberties are, in the end, out to save face rather than protect our inalienable right to civil disobedience or organized demonstration.

Their announcement is also an arbitrary one since there are already numerous legal restrictions that limit the places and situations in which bearing arms is acceptable. This is true in multiple jurisdictions. Any responsible gun owner is already fully aware of the consequences he or she faces if they violate extant firearms laws.

The ACLU’s proclamation is one that runs counter to those laws, one that says they refuse to represent organizations that are compliant with those laws. In the case of Charlottesville, the gun laws are less restrictive than in other states. Any person 21 years of age or older can apply for a five-year concealed carry permit.

Granted, the ACLU is a private organization and they have every right to select the clients they represent at their own discretion, but their decision in the wake of Charlottesville is one that perpetuates the current rash of myopic, partisan arguments dividing our great nation.

People want to point fingers at the alt-right, they want to point fingers at the “snowflakes,” they want to shame everyone other than themselves. But what many people are failing to notice is the real danger at play here.

The Republic of the United States and its free speech has sustained itself through awful, unspeakable attacks, many of them far more catastrophic than even the disgusting display in Charlottesville. And through it all, we’ve been able to give voice to all opinions, maintaining unity despite our differences.

All of that is compromised when retreat and surrender become the status quo. What the ACLU has done is take a step in that egregious direction, a step toward compromising the core values and liberties of all for the sake of appeasing the few.

It’s almost laughable that the alt-right or the Democrats would get behind such a move since losing our First and Second Amendment rights would rob us of the privilege of calling America a so-called “democracy.” After all, without a voice, you have no say and without a say, you are no longer living in a free country.

Loud-mouthed political wingnuts, whether ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative, will never be a threat to the fabric of our constitution. On the other hand, a culture that places more value on suppression and censorship than constructive debate will. Once we begin undermining our freedoms, we forfeit what it means to be an American.

As President Trump said after the Charlottesville incident, the violence that was wrought could be blamed on “both sides.” And whether you agree with him or not, one thing that we can take away from that is that violence can come at us from any direction, regardless of our political leanings.

Thus, it is imperative that every American retain their right to own and carry a gun. Law-abiding citizens, even those exercising their freedom to sit in and protest, should be able to protect themselves against the berserkers from both sides of the aisle.

Sam Bocetta is a retired defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems. He now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engineering professor and is the ASEAN affairs correspondent for GunNewsDaily.com

It’s an old story, but it just doesn’t seem to go away: the federal government seems determined to interfere in almost every aspect of life and business in our country, whether it be new rules on autonomous cars or who needs to be paid for overtime.

In this last respect, though, there is some good news. Earlier this month, a judge in Texas struck down an Obama-era rule that would hugely increase the number of people who would need to be paid for overtime. The rule was opposed from it’s conception by the US Chamber of Commerce, but was pushed through by an administration seemingly determined to put many small companies out of business.

Taking a look at the proposed rule, and the reasons why it was struck down, is a good lesson in the limits of federal power. It also suggests that the over-reach of the Obama administration is reducing, which gives us reason for hope: it seems that, under Trump, the power and size of the government will once again come under scrutiny.

The Proposed Rule

The overtime rule began in the closing period of the Obama administration. In summer 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) finalized the proposal. The idea was simple enough: from December 1, 2016, more people would have to be paid overtime. Specifically, the rule revised the Executive, Administrative, and Professional exemptions (EAP) on overtime payments.

Those employees covered under the EAP exemptions are currently not eligible for overtime if their base salary is above a certain level. Until 2016, this amount was $455 per week, or $23,660 per year. The new rule proposed a huge change to this threshold, raising it to $913 per week, or $47,476 per year.

This, as you will notice, is a huge increase. Yet the rule went even further, calling for automatic, inflation-linked updates to salary levels every three years. As even NPR has pointed out, these proposals would have made an estimated 4.2 million people eligible for overtime payments.

Now, I’m all for people being paid a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, but this rule simply went too far. For many businesses still recovering from the 2008 crash, and only now starting to take on more employees, paying more of their staff more for their overtime is simply not an option. The alternative, which would be to limit employee’s hours to 40 per week, is also unworkable for many small companies.

In many small companies, employees willingly work overtime, because they are invested in the future of “their” company and want to see it flourish. If they feel they are owed overtime, they are free to negotiate this with their employer. Putting a federal rule in place to govern these relationships is not only heavy-handed, it also stifles the kind of creativity that we desperately need at the moment.

A Temporary Reprieve

Though all of these points were raised by opponents of the rule before it was passed, the Department of Labor (DOL) went ahead and passed it anyway. Looking at the briefing documents from that time, the rule seems to have been included in a widespread “pushing-through” of legislation in the closing year of the last administration. Some in the DOL, and other government departments, felt that 2016 was there last chance to pass “liberal” amendments to certain key pieces of legislation, and in the rush many of these were very poorly drafted.

Though the change in administration was the reason why the rule was pushed through so quickly, it was also to be its downfall. In practice, everybody knew that it would not come into effect without a legal challenge, and therefore not until after a new president was elected.

It was in this context that a temporary halt was put on the rule. Business groups won a temporary injunction from a US District Court in Texas, and this essentially put its implementation on hold until it had wound its way through litigation in the Eastern District of Texas and the Fifth Circuit of Appeals. As a result, for more than a year groups representing both businesses and employees have been awaiting a decision on whether the rule would ever come into effect. With the recent judgement, that wait is finally over.

The New Ruling

On Thursday 31 August, Judge Amos Mazzant gave his judgement, and issued an order invalidating the proposed rule. This is certainly a victory for those opposing the rule, but it is also worth looking at the fine detail of the ruling, because this gives renewed hope that the interference of the Obama administration is slowly coming to an end.

Please bear with me here, because the ruling is quite complex, but I will try to explain in terms that everyone can understand!

The injunction first clarified some of the confusion created by the court’s earlier injunction. Some had felt that the granting of the original injunction was on the basis that the DOL had overstepped its power in trying to implement any minimum salary requirement. This issue is still live, being part of the appeal against the original injunction.

The new ruling grants that Fifth Circuit precedent provides the DOL with the power to “define and delimit” such requirements “from time to time”. However, it also stated that in this particular case, the salary level proposed was simply too high. It was felt that the original spirit of the EAP exemptions was to exclude employees who are not eligible for overtime because of their duties, and not merely their salary. The court held that, in the original legislation, the salary cap had merely been a proxy to screen out some employees, making an exhaustive analysis of their duties unnecessary.

Therefore, in trying to raise the salary cap to make more people eligible for overtime, the court felt that the DOL were actually exploiting loopholes in the original legislation. I am inclined to agree, and think that the application of common sense in this matter is as welcome as it is unusual.

The second part of the ruling went further. One of the issues up for debate was whether the rule was entitled to “Chevron Deference”. Though a phenomenally complex ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court in Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), essentially ruled that any federal rule that “fails to carry out Congress’s unambiguous intent” is invalid.

In this particular case, the law was found to not uphold Congress’s intent. This was because, as I’ve already mentioned, the salary limits in the original legislation were designed to exclude those employees who are performing “professional” roles already, are therefore paid enough already, and should therefore not receive overtime. In this sense, the salary limits were intended just as a way of excluding those already holding decent jobs that involved particular duties.

The ruling held that, therefore, Congress’s intent in imposing the original salary cap had been to exclude those employees who did certain jobs, and not those who earned a particular salary. The salary threshold, in short, was just a convenient way of measuring how “professional” a job was. The Texas court, rightfully in my view, held that increasing the salary threshold went against Congress’s intent.

A Victory, For Now

Phew. If you’ve kept up with me so far, you can hopefully see what I’m driving at. The fact that the Trump-era DOL has signalled it will not appeal this ruling is very welcome. Though a few appeals are still crawling through appeal courts, it seems likely that the salary cap will stay where it is for now.

This is a victory for business, who were deeply worried about the effect of a raised cap on their profits. It is a victory for common sense, in that the Court has recognized that what the DOL were trying to do was essentially against the wishes of Congress. And in this last regard, it also a victory for our constitution.

The salary cap for the EAP exemption was only ever meant as a proxy measure of how “professional” a job was, and not as an absolute measure of who deserved overtime. This was clearly Congress’s intent in imposing it in the first place, and what the DOL tried to do amounts to “hacking” the law to achieve their own ends. We should all be glad that this has finally been recognized.

That said, the story is not over. NPR reported that officials in the DOL are already drafting a new rule that will have a similar effect. Any new rule will have to be an almost complete re-writing of the original, given the wide-ranging nature of the court’s injunction against it. Nevertheless, we should continue to be on our guard against the DOL and other departments seeking to use supposedly legitimate means to unlawfully extend their power.

About the author

Sam Bocetta is a retired defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems. He now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engineering professor and is the ASEAN affairs correspondent for Gun News Daily.