“After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”William S. Burroughs
Airlines and airports say they are stepping up security before next week’s presidential inauguration, with Delta and other major airlines saying they will prohibit passengers flying to the Washington area from putting guns in checked bags.
The moves follow the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and politically tinged confrontations on some flights.
Delta Air Lines was the first to announce Thursday that it will prohibit checking guns to Washington-area airports and was soon followed by United, Alaska and American. All said their bans will start Saturday and run through Inauguration Day until Jan. 23.
“We are all on high alert based on the events over the last couple weeks up in Washington,″ CEO Ed Bastian said Thursday on CNBC.
The airlines also announced other measures. American Airlines is bringing back a ban on serving alcohol on flights to and from the Washington area — flights go dry starting Saturday through next Thursday. Several airlines are moving crews out of downtown Washington hotels for their safety.
Why did a Montgomery County, Maryland SWAT team kill 21-year-old Duncan Lemp, in a no-knock predawn raid on March 12? The county released an official report yesterday stating that a violent no-knock raid was justified “due to Lemp being ‘anti-government,’ ‘anti-police,’ currently in possession of body armor, and an active member of the Three Percenters.” The report also noted that “police had viewed several videos showing Lemp handling and shooting firearms.”
Distrusting the government and police and appearing in photos or videos with firearms is a catch-all that could apply to millions of Americans. But that was enough to justify a deadly assault in one of America’s most liberal jurisdictions. (I wrote about this case for TAC previously here, here, here and here).
Montgomery County released the report on New Year’s Eve, probably hoping that it would receive scant attention. But the county’s own admissions should propel new demands for disclosures on the most under-reported police killing of 2020.
The report details how police attacked the Lemp home from two sides. Two members of the raid team did a “‘break and rake’ on Duncan Lemp’s first-floor bedroom window while the rest of the team entered the house by using a battering ram on the main front door … Another officer used a fireman’s pike tool to break the bedroom window closest to the bed where Lemp and [his pregnant girlfriend Kasey] Robinson were sleeping. The tool also has a hook that is used to grab a hold of and pull away the blinds so that officers would have an unobstructed view inside the bedroom. Once the window was broken and the shades pulled out of the way, one officer ducked below the window line as he was unarmed. A second officer (the shooting officer) who was armed with a rifle, then stepped up to the window and looked inside to locate Lemp as soon as possible and prevent him from having time to access any weapons that could be used against the SWAT officers.” Another team of SWAT cops used a battering ram to smash in the front door of the Lemp home.
The official report serves a completely different version of Lemp’s killing than the county police department provided on March 17. In its initial explanation of the Lemp killing in March, the Montgomery County Police Department stated:
The officers entering the residence announced themselves as police and that they were serving a search warrant. Officers gave commands for individuals inside the residence to show their hands and to get on the ground. Upon making contact with Lemp, officers identified themselves as the police and gave him multiple orders to show his hands and comply with the officer’s commands to get on the ground. Lemp refused to comply with the officer’s commands and proceeded towards the interior bedroom door where other officers were located. Upon entrance by officers into Lemp’s bedroom, Lemp was found to be in possession of a rifle and was located directly in front of the interior bedroom entrance door.
In the new version of the report, Lemp was shot five times by a policeman standing outside his smashed-in bedroom window. Montgomery County still refuses to name the policeman who killed him. That policeman says that he shouted a warning to Lemp before opening fire, asserting that Lemp stood up holding a rifle and turned the muzzle toward the policeman. (The family always maintained that the shots that killed Duncan came in from that window.) Were the police lying in March, or are they lying now, or are they still lying?
“Let’s go to the videotape”—except that there isn’t any. And there were no other police witnesses to the killing of Duncan Lemp. Police body cams have been one of the most significant reforms in curbing police misconduct in this century. But, as Lemp family lawyer Rene Sandler disclosed, Montgomery County signed a labor agreement with the police union which allowed the SWAT team to “opt out of the truth and transparency by not being required to wear body camera or videotaping a no knock raid.” This is par for the course for police unions across the nation utterly sabotaging police accountability.
Police targeted and eventually killed in part Lemp because they believed he possessed an illegal Israeli assault weapon. Late in the report, as if reciting a minor technicality, the county prosecutor states, “It should be noted that upon further review and investigation into the IWI Tavor X95 rifle, it was determined that it was not an assault rifle … It appears that Lemp’s rifle was a legal ‘copycat’ made to look exactly like the illegal version of the IWI Tavor X95.” But the non-banned weapon was close enough for government work to justify violently attacking Lemp’s home. The false predicate for the violent raid barely rates a footnote in the 17-page report.
Police stated that Lemp was prohibited from possessing any firearms due to a previous criminal conviction—a point that the family vigorously contests. According to Sandler, the affidavit used to secure the no-knock raid contained information that was “demonstrably false.” (Shades of Waco and Ruby Ridge!) A police raid occurred at the Lemp family home when Lemp was a juvenile in 2016 but no details were disclosed in the report on that raid or by anyone else.
Montgomery County announced that the killing would be investigated by neighboring Howard County, to assure an independent credible review. But that was a sham from the start. The Howard County prosecutor requested that a Montgomery County detective “conduct interviews” with key police personnel, including the officer who signed the search warrant and the SWAT supervisor “to find out more details regarding why the decision was made to do a no-knock warrant.” Howard County made no effort to determine some of the most potentially controversial aspects of the case.
A grand jury examined the shooting earlier this year but all of the testimony and evidence presented remains confidential—except for selections that the county attorney’s office received permission from a judge to disclose in the report. Sandler and Cary Hansel, a lawyer for Kasey Robinson, Lemp’s girlfriend, are outraged at what they consider “cherry picking” by the prosecutor. They are calling for full disclosure of all materials and evidence from the grand jury proceedings. Was the grand jury investigation into the killing of Duncan Lemp as big a charade as the Louisville grand jury that examined the police killing of Breonna Taylor earlier this year? Sandler notes, “The family is particularly upset at the lack of any consideration of the other eye witnesses in the home at the time [of the raid]. The report simply makes it clear that none of that was seriously considered.” Instead, the new storyline on the killing was sacrosanct.
Nothing in the report indicates that Lemp posed a threat of imminent threat of violence to anyone, not even to stray dogs in the neighborhood. The report indicates that police were surveilling Duncan Lemp and the Lemp residence well before they launched the SWAT raid. Sandler said police “would have seen him taking Kasey to a doctor’s appointment or going to a store. They could have detained him during a traffic stop while [other police] secured the home. That would be a much safer tactic than to accost an entire family and to raid blindly at 4:30 in the morning in the dark.”
Why did the SWAT team rely on massive violence instead of the type of routine police work that prevailed in most of the nation in the last century? The “break and rake” routine seems custom-made to spur residents to grab any firearm or broomstick handy. And then there were the bombs the police detonated that morning. Flash-bang grenades epitomize the current relation between police and private citizens. A 2019 federal appeals court decision noted that the grenades are “four times louder than a 12-gauge shotgun blast” with “a powerful enough concussive effect to break windows and put holes in walls.” As TechDirt noted in 2019, “As anyone other than cops seems to comprehend, startling people in their own homes with explosives and kicked-in doors tends to make everything more dangerous for everyone.”
The official report makes clear that Lemp was targeted in part because of his political beliefs. Lemp is identified as a supporter of the “the Three Percenters … a far-right militia movement and paramilitary group” which advocates “gun ownership rights and resistance to the federal government’s involvement in local affairs.” ( Three-percenter refers to “the belief that only 3% of colonists fought against the British in the Revolutionary War,” as the report notes.) This is close enough to heresy in antigun Maryland, though it is considered on par with motherhood and apple pie in most of America. Lemp was outspoken politically, and his last tweet, a couple months before he was killed, declared, “The constitution is dead.” The report also gravely notes, “Lemp has a number of postings on his Instagram page showing him in possession of and shooting different types of guns.” The police targeting of Duncan Lemp was spurred by a “confidential source” whose name has not yet been disclosed. The report states that that source directed police to Lemp’s “mymilitia.com” and “Instagram” profile pages. Was the “confidential source” trying to bring down gun activists, or was he working off a plea bargain (bringing in scalps for a reduced sentence), or was it simply someone who Lemp had told about his firearms?
In order to save the Republic, President-Elect Joe Biden wants to stop people from having general access to computer files related to the 3D printing of firearms. According to Biden’s website, he “will stop the proliferation of these so-called ‘ghost-guns’ by passing legislation requiring that purchasers of gun kits or 3D printing code pass a federal background check.” Biden also plans to reverse President Trump’s move to prevent the U.S. State Department from blocking gun file code from being available on the internet.
FPC opposes restraints on Free Speech, and Code is Free Speech. Like words on a page, code is an encapsulation of ideas, and the restriction of the possession and sharing of code is a violation of the First Amendment. The files that Biden wants to restrict may be held, exchanged, or published for a multitude of reasons such as political protest, to encourage technological development, or yes, for the purpose of homebuilding firearms, an activity which has never been federally illegal. By requiring background checks or licensing before acquisition of these files, Biden would be instituting a prior restraint on the exercise of a Constitutional right.
Not only does Joe Biden want to restrict the exercise of Free Speech, but he also wants to ban the home-building of firearms, an activity that traces back to the founding of the nation. He wants to do this two ways: first, by restricting access to the files required for fused deposition modeling (aka 3D printing), and by preventing the purchase of firearms components online. American history is rich with stories of individuals building their own firearms, from colonists and woodsmen building the Kentucky Rifle, to a young John Moses Browning toiling in his father’s shop.
Tragically, in America, mass shootings — in which murdering psychopaths go on rampages in public spaces — have claimed the lives of 392 people since 2015. While this number is certainly shocking and far too high, during this same time frame, police in America have claimed the lives of 6,571 citizens, according to Mapping Police Violence.
That is over 16 times more citizens killed by those sworn to protect and serve than the ones they claim to protect us from.
While some of these citizens were armed and dangerous, others were innocent, unarmed, and include small children. Daniel Shaver was one of these people whose life was brought to a screeching halt as he begged on his knees for police not to shoot him. Despite being innocent and unarmed, this father of three was murdered in cold blood by Philip Brailsford who was never held accountable and allowed to retire from the police force with his pension.
Joe Biden released a statement Monday remembering the December 14, 2012, attack on Sandy Hook Elementary and declared gun violence a “national health crisis.”
He wrote, “To the grandparents, parents, siblings, children, spouses, and fellow broken and healing hearts of Sandy Hook, I know. No matter how long it’s been, every time you talk about it, you relive it as though you just heard the news. Eight years later, I know the pain never fully heals.”
Biden described December 14, 2012, as “the saddest day we had in the White House,” and praised Sandy Hook parents for “working to change our laws and our culture around gun violence and how we protect and nurture our children.”
If we have a Joe Biden administration in the White House on Jan. 20, we will have the most overtly anti-gun president in American history.
Biden’s plan lists effectively every gun control measure ever proposed: banning “assault weapons,” banning “high-capacity” magazines, limiting the number of guns an American can purchase, holding manufacturers liable for the criminal misuse of their products, and many, many more.
Out of the myriad options a Biden administration will have to infringe on our constitutional protections, which will they choose first? Based on my experience with clients and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (AFT) as a firearms attorney, some recent news events, and a bit of firearm-industry intuition, I think the first things a Biden administration will do regarding guns if given the chance are:
- Banning pistol braces
- Banning homemade firearms/80 percent receivers
- Banning online firearm and ammunition sales
Shortly after the first bans, and if he has the help of the Senate, the next gun control measures will likely be:
- Banning “assault weapons”
- Banning “high capacity” magazines
- Requiring universal background checks
Let’s examine each of these in turn.
Former national security adviser Susan Rice, President-elect Joe Biden’s reported pick to lead the White House Domestic Policy Council, called for a “permanent” ban on so-called assault weapons in a June appearance with two anti-gun groups.
Rice, who served in former president Barack Obama’s administration, appeared in a video with Moms Demand Action and Everytown For Gun Safety and concurred with Biden’s firearm plan that seeks to ban certain semi-automatic rifles, prohibit “high-capacity magazines,” and do away with liability protections for weapons manufacturers and sellers. Rice has reportedly been chosen for the domestic policy role, Politico reported Thursday.
“[Biden has] taken on the NRA twice and won,” Rice said in the interview with Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts. “When he served with President Obama in the Obama-Biden administration, we implemented over two dozen reforms that put curbs on access to guns, but we need legislation, we need leadership in Joe Biden that understands and is passionate about these issues.”
Rice advocated for laws including “universal background checks, the enactment of a new violence against women act, with a permanent and comprehensive ‘assault weapons’ ban, and a ban on ‘high capacity magazines’ that will work to buy back those assault weapons that are out there and ensure that those that remain are fully registered,” she said.
The former security adviser also went on to say it’s “unthinkable” and “outrageous” that such reforms have not been passed to date.
“It’s unthinkable to me that even though the vast majority of Americans favor common sense gun restrictions, universal background checks, bans on ‘assault weapons’, and we have a very powerful lobby that has effectively prevented so much of that from being enacted,” she said. “It’s absolutely outrageous. It makes me as angry as anything.”
Biden’s gun plan includes a full-scale prohibition on “assault weapons” in addition to re-classifying the guns and “high-capacity magazines” under the National Firearms Act, which would impose registration and a $200 tax for those already in circulation. The total cost to U.S. firearm owners nationwide was estimated to be roughly $34 billion if the law went into effect, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
Rice said it’s “vital” to enact the sweeping gun control.