Mea culpa: Steve and Alex reply to your comments on our Machine Gun Lawsuit post (Update: With response from Stephen Stamboulieh)

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Dear Readers,

Last week I published an editorial written by Alex on the subject of the lawsuit. It attracted 200+ comments and caused many emails to be sent to Alex and myself. It is safe to say that the post was not well received by the TFB community or the internet community in general.

Being the Editor-in-Chief I take full responsibility for everything published. I get the final say and I can, and do, either delete articles or send them back to writers to improve if I don’t find them acceptable. In hindsight, I should have asked Alex to clarify his comments. I let him down, and more importantly I let you, our readers down, by not doing this.

I know Alex well, and I know where he stands on gun rights and gun ownership (he is a passionate gun owner and 2nd amendment advocate), so I read his post in a different light than many other folks who don’t know him perceived it. I read it as “a machine gun enthusiast is concerned that more harm than good will come of this lawsuit”. It turns out many people read the post as “I already have many machine guns and I don’t think its worth fighting for you to also own them”.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I know Alex, like myself, would like nothing more than for machine guns to be de-regulated and once again be manufactured for sale to consumers. I sincerely hope that one day when I have children, they will grow up being able to choose what guns and accessories to own based on technical merit and choice, not based on arbitrary and poorly thought out regulations and laws.

The editorial also came across as political, something neither Alex nor I intended it to be. It was supposed to be strictly about the legalities. We are still “guns, not politics”. Sometimes the lines can be blurred when discussing legal topics.

We all make mistakes. I apologize.

Some people were concerned that comments were closed. I closed them because we could not keep up with the volume on Saturday evening. This is standard practice when we get overwhelmed. It was my call and Alex was not consulted. Likewise, comments on this post will eventually be closed, so we can put the matter to rest.

Alex asked me if he could create a video explaining his reasoning behind the post, and his subsequent discussions with Mr. Stamboulieh. The video is embedded below …

-Steve Johnson, Editor-in-Chief

 

 

Dear readers,

I have taken it upon myself to record a response to your grievances with my editorial regarding the machinegun ban. I chose to do this in video format because to me it seemed like a more personal way of doing things. Please be wary of the fact that my rebuttal does contain a few political elements due to the nature of the accusations against me; they were quite simply necessary to illustrate my points and make things right. I do not know how a simple editorial led to me being accused of being anti-Second Amendment, but it did and I thought it might be good to try and set things right:

 

Full Text:

“On The 12th of December an editorial was published that I wrote regarding a series of lawsuits pertaining to the United States machine gun ban of 1986. I based my opinions upon patterns I have observed over the years pertaining to firearm legislation, the historical evolution of the inner workings of the Unites States legal system, and series of personal experiences with our judicial system.

When we say no politics here on TFB we mean that rather than be bombarded with political opinions or propaganda, you will see little but firearm related information and the best media coverage we can provide. However, what we will do is follow interesting developments in litigation and legal questions that are pertinent to our great pastime.

The editorial I wrote was entitled “Why The Machinegun Ban Will Not Go Away”. I argued that despite new and interesting developments regarding challenges to the Hughes Amendment (or what some may colloquially refer to as the machine gun ban), there is little chance of it going away. This ban is shrouded in controversy due to questionable legality and the way it was passed, but it is unfortunately the law of the land.

Many of you believe that I was taking an elitist approach towards this issue, implying that I believe there should be a financial requirement to practicing the second amendment, when in fact I have published that I would like to see this ban lifted on at least five separate occasions. Some said I was taking a defeatist attitude; This is valid. My lack of optimism for this ban being overturned and my lack of faith in the judicial system overturning it resulted directly in me explaining why in my article. I believe firmly that restrictions should be eased on these firearms, and those implying I am simply trying to maintain my investments and praying for the ban to stay are incorrect.

As for my statement regarding the lawyer handling and filing the lawsuits: I deal with litigation constantly and am generally suspicious of lawyers, especially when it involves a class action lawsuit or asking for public donations. I apologize to Mr. Stamboulieh if he is sincere in his efforts to repeal the ban, which I believe he is. Shortly after the article went live, he contacted me via email to assure me that his goal is in fact this simple – to repeal the ban.  Of course the courts will decide on this in the future and I do wish him and his camp luck in their endeavor. Having opened a dialogue with Mr. Stamboulieh, he has proven to be both passionate and sincere.

As for the closing of the comments of the article: That was not my call to make. This now is my most commented upon article I have ever written, and the task of moderation was simply too much for the staff to bear, so they made the call. With any luck, this video will have answered some of your questions or at least addressed some of your grievances.

Firearm ownership is a right in the United States, and I have always believed this. If my editorial offended you in a way that I did not intend then I do apologize, and I hope that we can maintain your readership. We do this because we love this, and I would like to thank those who have continued to follow our humble blog over the years. At the very least I can assure everyone watching this video that our intentions will always be noble and that our duty to the truth is unwavering.

 

Thank you for watching, and happy holidays.”

UPDATE: Mr Stephen Stamboulieh, a scholar and a gentleman, wrote in the comments (his identity is confirmed):

Apology accepted. Everybody needs to relax. The real work begins shortly.

My offer to answer your questions stands. Feel free to contact me when it is convenient.

Stephen

Thank you Sir. I will be in touch.

He also wrote in answer to your questions …

The progress of the lawsuit[s] are that they are filed, served, and we are waiting on the government to respond. When they respond, then we respond, then they respond… etc. Everything is on pacer and is publicly available on my website (which if TFB wanted to copy a file and post it here that is fine by me since all the filings are public anyways).

When we have something to report, we will report it. As of now, the first response is due January 5, 2015 in Hollis v. Holder and February 5, 2015 in Watson v. Holder. Most likely, the government will ask for an extension to answer, which we grant as a matter of course, and then they will file their pleadings after the court sets the new due date.

Alan Beck (California/Hawaii attorney), which I would suggest people look at, is joining our team to fight with us. He is a great asset to the gun community and you will be hearing much about him (and his 2A practice) soon.

The document can be downloaded here.

UPDATE: Its after midnight and we are all very tired. I am closing the comments now. I think everyone’s viewpoints have been thoroughly expressed, including those who don’t agree with us, so I think its time to put this behind us. Again I want to thanks Mr Stamboulieh for kindly and publicly accepting our apology. We wish him the best of luck. Good night y’all.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • Jon

    The Hughes Amendment to the NFA will still be part of the law with or without the lawsuit. This suit seeks to use a loophole created by the ATF by mistake when they tried to put an end to gun trusts and changed legal definitions.

    • Bingo. The lawsuits have zero chance of succeeding on 2A grounds. They do have a (so-so) chance of succeeding on “the law doesn’t actually say what you claim it says” grounds.

      • fdolon

        Not true. The crux of the argument is that trusts can make machine guns, and the trustees never possess them except through the trust. Except as any 1st year law student can tell you, trusts aren’t legal entities. So there is no separation between trust and trustee.

        See 1680 Property Trust v. Newman Trust:
        “Unlike a corporation, a trust is not a legal entity. Legal title to property owned by a trust is held by the trustee. A trust is simply a collection of assets and liabilities.”

    • Guy Slack

      Which you’d know if they actually published the details of the case and did actual journalism.

    • Mark Apsolon

      My understanding is that is the first part of the lawsuit under the “trust” and “person” argument. The others are a direct challange to the ban under 2A grounds, which according to the brief states that Machine guns are “common” firearms and not “dangerous and unusual” These were key terms used in the Heller case. I think it has a great shot at being successful using the passed cases. Remember the huge fire breathing dragon for the anti liberty crowd was the Miller case but they leave out the facts. Miller was dead and his attorney had no money to go to Washington to fight the case. So the state basically won the case by defacto.

  • T.

    Err.. this turned into a thing? I didn’t agree, but I didn’t see the big deal either.

  • Daily Reader

    It didn’t offend me, but I appreciate the fact that you’re taking time to clarify and rectify the miscommunication! Been coming here for years and have yet to be disappointed. Keep up the good work, TFB!

  • Jeff Smith

    I thought Alex’s opinion was well thought out and I don’t think he should have to apologize for some readers essentially putting words in his mouth. Opinions on hot topics aren’t always popular, but that doesn’t make them any less valid.

    • Guy Slack

      He’s “apologizing” because TFB couldn’t handle the negative publicity shit-storm it created. On top of that, Alex C. making conflicting statements about the worth of his MG collection and taking a “financial hit” were what got people angered. He still claims he has no bias here but he does. Make no mistake about it.

      • No, we apologized because we got it wrong, or how we communicated our views were wrong.

        I am not sure antique collectors machine guns would decrease in price. They might increase in price if they could easily be transferred. $4000 mac-10s would. But regardless, I know Alex would love to be able to buy and selling mgs freely.

      • Guy they are apologizing because it’s the right thing to do and nothing more. As far as the attorney Steve has posted the fact we have had contact with him and we’re all good so you need not be upset over something that never happened. Slander that is.

      • n0truscotsman

        weeping jesus on a peach tree.

        Where did he say to “roll over”?

        Once again, there’s always “That Guy” or “those guys in that circle over there” that always like to stick their tongue in other people’s mouth and make hasty generalizations.

        • Or improvise—-

        • Guy Slack

          Well, considering the lawyer has raised a net of ~50k in donations, I think referring to this particular cause as an “unfettered pipe dream of a few idealists” is pretty insulting. Call me traditional.

    • KestrelBike

      Agreed.

  • David

    This topic doesn’t lend itself well to a brief discussion. I share the belief that this lawsuit will not lead to a good result; the judiciary has not changed significantly since Heller and there are still some circuits who refuse to “accept” RKBA outside the home. These jurists aren’t going anywhere ! My opinion is this is something we should be absolutely beating NRA-ILA over the head with every day they let this ban stand without doing anything to overturn it. But that’s another rant.

    Apology accepted, thank you for following up, clarifying, explaining and doing so in such a public, stand up way.

  • Cute huh:-)

  • Morgan Collins

    Sheesh, Firearm owners as a community could eat their own. I was surprised by the standpoint Alex adopted, yes. But it’s like I didn’t even read the same piece because some readers were reacting like TFB had called for disarmament. TFB just stated that they phrased the piece badly. Fine. But thoughtful discussion of opposing views does not exist in the firearms community and really it’s a shame.

    • I agree Morgan. I very much wish we could have thoughtful discussion rather than anger and less than civil behaviour at times. We need to be better than that.

      • Paul Epstein

        It’s extremely hard to have a discussion about someone else’s actions, and whether they should do them, that doesn’t come off as personal criticism- and this was exacerbated by the fact that the ‘someone else’ in question contained a huge number of your readers.

        So I don’t know how you expected some thoughtful discussion given the way it was framed. You told a significant number of your readers that they’re wasting time and money and they’re going to lose the whole thing… based on one writer’s opinion? One who benefits from the status quo? Without a professional legal opinion to lean on? And especially with the criticism of Stamboulieh- the writer did not know him, had not contacted him, and still felt comfortable talking negatively about his motives?

        If you can’t grasp why the article was a bad idea, you’re in for a lot of disappointment in the future, because you could have very easily seen this coming and decided not to run it.

        • Paul I believe Steve said that. They made a mistake in how it was presented. Also if you read below I explained that while the readers don’t know it they had contact with the attorney and got things squared away and understand where each other stand. In fact Alex told me he believes the attorney is very much pro 2nd amendment. I didn’t ask what else was discussed since it really wasn’t my place to ask.

          • Paul Epstein

            Phil, now you’re just coming off as willfully ignorant of the actual problems.

            No, it wasn’t the presentation, and it bothers me you’d try to paint that as the culprit. It was the content that was the problem, the meat of the article. The core of which was based on nothing but one man’s opinion and is INHERENTLY critical of people who are contained within the intended audience. And which directly criticized an individual who was not contacted for clarification until AFTER this was posted publicly- you know very well that is not an appropriate time.

            That you felt it appropriate for Alex to publish what is only slightly more sophisticated and thoughtful than the average post seen in the comments, but protected and promoted by the magazine, is of serious concern to me.

          • Paul I didn’t address any real problems as you put it. I was pointing to Steve and Alex apology and why they apologized. I don’t believe I ever expressed an opinion on the post. Steve oks the articles and I proof them and edit any errors in presentation not the topic itself. As he said it’s his decision to post or not to post.

  • You didn’t read what Steve posted a short while ago. We have been in contact with him and we’re good. At this point it’s a non-issue. The persons involved have settled any perceived misunderstanding.
    Watch the video Alex made or just read the narrative it’s explained there.

  • John

    He basically said “I’m sorry that you didn’t like my article,” which isn’t actually an apology.

    • Watch he video: “I apologize to Mr. Stamboulieh…..”

    • I am sorry if you or anyone else were offended. This was not my intention.

      • Paul Epstein

        Look, Alex, don’t apologize that people were offended- it comes off as massively insincere. It’s what politicians do and celebrities do, and everyone knows THEY don’t mean it when they say it that way.

        If you want to make a genuine apology, it has to be for your own actions, NOT the other person’s response to them. Especially when you state that it wasn’t your intention to offend immediately afterwards- because usually that’s an intentional way of implying the other side is wrong to respond the way they did.

  • I am sorry you think that. I don’t think there is anything we could say or do that would change your mind. All we can do is say sorry.

    • Sammy

      Don’t say “we” and speak for Alex. Alex did not say sorry. Alex said he apologizes “if the article offended you in a way I did not intend.” Alex’s article offended people in the exact way he intended. He lied about an extremely noble lawyer and called him “anti-second amendment,” and refused to apologize for the lies he published about him. He says he apologizes to him “IF” he is trying to appeal the MG ban. He didn’t apologize about the lies he wrote about him.

      • Sammy they have both spoken to the lawyer and come to an understanding but you wouldn’t know that. There’s no need to continue along this line. The parties involved are fine with where things stand.

        • Sammy

          He didn’t speak to the lawyer and come to an understanding before he published an article saying the lawyer is “anti-second amendment.”

          He deserves an apology as public as the lies Alex wrote. Alex doesn’t seem to want to say sorry for calling a guy very committed to the second amendment “anti-second amendment.” It’s hard to believe you “came to an understanding” when Alex refused to publicly respond to the lawyer he wrote lies about, and when I see comments deleted on here too.

          • They apologized and we aren’t going backwards to the article and beat that dead horse. The perceived slight was between the attorney and Alex and they have conversed and understand each other. If they are ok with it that’s all that really counts. Alex doesn’t need to apologize any further than he already has.

          • Sammy

            I’m sorry, but publicly posting an article stating that someone is “anti-second amendment” for someone who has a track record like Mr. Stamboulieh is not a “perceived slight” between 2 people. It was posted to the world, and Alex is guilty of lying about the man publicly until he apologizes in the same public sphere he made the comments.

          • Sammy I publicly told you they have had contact and now understand each other and there is no problem between them. That settles it as far as I’m concerned. What they said is none of our business and that includes me.

          • n0truscotsman

            What part of “they are in contact with Mr Stephen Stamboulieh” do you not understand?

            /facepalm/. Phil and co. are way more patient and saintly than I am. I would have IP banned you jokers a long time ago and gave you the finger. But im not known for civility like some other people in the firearms world are.

            How somebody can fail at that level of reading comprehension, then venture way off into lala land like that I will never know.

          • After saying it 6 or 7 times and Mr. Stamboulieh posting maybe it got through this time.

          • Sammy I deleted those couple of comments not Alex and not Steve. If they are vulgar and insulting (without merit) I delete them. I certainly don’t enjoy it but sometimes enough is enough.

  • Guys, please drop the Alex abuse. He made a mistake. He apologized. I apologized. If you have to hate someone, hate on me instead.

  • anon

    ITT: Damage Control

  • nougabol

    You guys broke your one and only rule… 🙂

    • Which rule? “Never apologize” or “Gun not politics”?

      Joking.

      We do our best. In this case I made the call to cover the subject and I was the person who asked alex to write about it because he know more about machine guns (and the surrounding legislation) than I do. I don’t (yet) own any.

  • Pete Sheppard

    I read the whole editorial and definitely did NOT get the impression that he had a ‘I got mine, screw you’attitude. He plainly said the exact opposite!! He simply gave a realistic assessment about the chances of lifting the MG ban.
    Those who think otherwise were lacking in reading comprehension.

  • Jeff Suever

    Why, when I read some of the comments do I hear my father’s voice say “Quit yet crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” Good thing we have the internet or some of us wouldn’t know what to be offended about.

    Alec: I hope you are wrong, but I doubt it. Let’s at least acknowledge that it is a long shot if not a full on tilt at a windmill.

    Phil: Just keep doing what you are doing (and maybe some articles on the art of hand loading and boolit casting from time to time would be cool. Along with info on youth programs…maybe that’ll give us hope. 🙂 )

    • Will do Jeff. I’ll always try to do my very best. It will be after SHOT I’m sure but I can come up with some info on those topics. I’m especially open to talking about youth programs! Thanks!

  • ColaBox

    While I, too, am weary of lawyers, if he is sincere in his efforts, then I do wish Mr. Stamboulieh luck in his efforts to repeal anti-firearm legislation. While I personally see no need for full auto capabilities, I understand it is also the principal of the fact. We should not be restricted in what we can and cant do without big government stepping in. Im all for the right to have a full auto on a whim, I just wouldn’t be in line to get it. Im more concerned about the elimination of the law forcing paper work and a tax stamp before I can SBR my carbine. “But 5.56 is so weak already why would you make it weaker by cutting barrel length?!” True but the human body is fragile. If the intruder doesn’t go down after the first two shots hit him again!

    • I enjoy shooting full auto guns no doubt about it. It’s just fun but I could in no way afford the ammo or the rifle. Like you I would like to SBR one of my AR’s without all the paperwork, long wait and money.

  • TD

    I really don’t think an apology was necessary as his article was pretty spot on.

  • Steve Martinovich

    I personally didn’t take offence to the original essay, nor did I get an elitist “I got mine, screw you!” vibe from it. I didn’t agree with Alex but I dug where he was coming from. I wish he hadn’t apologized (well, publicly to the lawyer, yes). If that’s what he believed and you disagree then debate him, don’t dogpile in a thread. All the internet seems to be useful for is whipping up rage.

  • T.

    I saw this in my RSS feed and posted a comment earlier, then I went back to work. A moment ago I saw this crop up Facebook and decided to see what came of it. What an incredible disappointment.

    They say the gun community eats its own, but I’m not so sure. Because the people doing the apologizing and the people continuing to go off the rails about it are clearly not a part of the same community. And for my end, the latter is a community I want no part of.

    Your attitude makes you a part of a community. Not commonality of your possessions.

  • LOL that is sooo funny!

    • Blake

  • David Lowrey

    Did he give you a update on the progress of the lawsuit?

    • He did not but he is willing to do so. However he cannot share much due to legal reasons. Remember federal cases take years to reach the courts.

    • The progress of the lawsuit[s] are that they are filed, served, and we are waiting on the government to respond. When they respond, then we respond, then they respond… etc. Everything is on pacer and is publicly available on my website (which if TFB wanted to copy a file and post it here that is fine by me since all the filings are public anyways).

      When we have something to report, we will report it. As of now, the first response is due January 5, 2015 in Hollis v. Holder and February 5, 2015 in Watson v. Holder. Most likely, the government will ask for an extension to answer, which we grant as a matter of course, and then they will file their pleadings after the court sets the new due date.

      Alan Beck (California/Hawaii attorney), which I would suggest people look at, is joining our team to fight with us. He is a great asset to the gun community and you will be hearing much about him (and his 2A practice) soon.

      • Thanks for the update.

      • David Lowrey

        Thanks for the response. I hope to meet you on the range one day, both of us with post 86 civilian legal full autos! When you beat the full auto ban( which I have a good feeling you will) what would be the first full auto you buy, mine would be a M1 Thompson.

  • Apology accepted. Everybody needs to relax. The real work begins shortly.

    My offer to answer your questions stands. Feel free to contact me when it is convenient.

    Stephen

  • Yes, I freely admit that we should have contacted him first. It *was* posted as an editorial, but yes, I should have contacted him.

  • Havok

    So Alex had a misguided opinion about Stephen. And he definitely jumped the gun on the anti-2nd amendment statement. Quite honestly, were I in the same position as him with that Mayor, I would of done the same damn thing. Let’s compare carrying a Concealed Weapon in a school to illegal manufacture of a Machine Gun. Either way, the law was broken. While I may disagree with both laws as they are written, I’m not going to set out and intentionally break them.

  • Guest

    Test

  • ghost

    My apologies for your apologies, I accept your apologies, and sorry for whatever misunderstanding that is, was, or could have been. Whatever the alleged offense might, or, might not have been. That is not to say you admit to having offended anyone, or, I admit to having offended you. I thought rectifying had to do with a rubber glove. Other than that, section B from section A does not apply if nullified by section C. This may, or may not be, valid in all 50 states, federal regulations are subject to change on a daily basis. (can I haz the puppy?).

  • Mark Apsolon

    I don’t know what to say ~ here is a good one “I love machine guns and I’d love to have one” 🙂

  • mosinman

    the only thing that bothered me was the negative overall attitude in the previous article.
    i hope our efforts for the recovery of 2nd amendment rights succeeds.

  • Zachary marrs

    I came here to let loose my butt rage, but then i saw that beagle

    I can’t be mad at a beagle puppy 🙁

    Me and patton forgive you, TFB, keep up the good work

  • I regret how we handled it. If I had commissioned a more in-depth article, rather than asking Alex for an opinion piece then we could have had a much better discussion.

    In doing so I have compromised our ability to have that discussion in the future (maybe not, time will tell).

    The past is the past. And we are moving forward.

  • Grindstone50k

    I didn’t care for the defeatist attitude of the article, but it also wasn’t that big of a deal for me. It looked more like some rabble-rousers took it too far, but that’s what you get for having a public forum on the internet.

  • Thank you Peter!

  • joemamma

    Are you that trust hating attorney over on subguns? You sure sound like it. If so, why don’t you burn your rebel flag and come on over to our side and help this legal team since YOU have all the answers.

    • fdolon

      No, I’m not him – and I’d like nothing more than for the NFA to be repealed. As I’ve stated in this comment, and as you can read in the links I posted, the lawsuits are going to fail. Not only that, but they could fail spectacularly. Again, the reasons are just a few inches above. If these lawsuits fail spectacularly, gun control becomes a whole lot easier in every state and US territory, and fighting it gets a whole lot harder. Instead of the government needing to try every avenue before they infringe on a right (Strict Scrutiny), they could wind up infringing on it because it’s Tuesday or the judge’s shirt itches (Rational Basis). I’m exaggerating a little here, but not much. That’s what’s at stake.

      Coming over to “your side” wouldn’t fix the fatal flaws riddled throughout these lawsuits. As much as you don’t want to hear that, or want to ascribe my motivations to anything other than a genuine concern for the trainwreck that’s coming our way, them’s the breaks. “I told you so” isn’t going to cut it when we’re all @#$%’d unfortunately.

  • dan citizen

    Once again, TFB takes the high road, showing by their actions that consideration and respect for their readers is of more value to TFB than being “right.” Not that I disagreed with the original article.

    TFB, where integrity is not in short supply.

  • gje975

    I read the article yesterday and was not offended or surprised by the conclusion that most voters, even some serious gun owners, view machine guns as military-only appropriate weapons and many might be frightened by civilians owning a machine gun, such as a Browning M2 .50 caliber. I too would like the law changed, but doubt that it will happen soon. I think the writers or the article honestly presented their expectations that the law suits will fail. I like to hear different opinions on issues of this type, so TFB keep up the good work.

  • HKGuns

    No offense, but is Alex even 30? I have a real hard time taking anyone’s opinion under say 34 or so very seriously. They typically have a bunch of life lessons to learn. This wasn’t that big of a deal in my view.

  • MountainKelly

    I think you guys did fine. Many panties get bunched though, nature of the internet.

  • Joe

    Did people really get upset over this? Anyway, Keep up the good work TFB, I intend on reading may articles to come. On a side note (since everyone is throwing their opinion around) Why would anyone that owns machine guns want the machine gun NFA laws to change? I put my time, my money, my effort into purchasing a valuable commodity that has a limited availability. Sure people can get upset that it isolates other gun owners but my reply would be its its that important to you then save up your money and buy one then. Whats the big deal? Let the hate COMMENCE!

  • Its after midnight and we are all very tired. I am closing the comments now. I think everyone’s viewpoints have been thoroughly expressed, including those who don’t agree with us, so I think its time to put this behind us. Again I want to thanks Mr Stamboulieh for kindly and publicly accepting our apology. We wish him the best of luck. Good night y’all.