Category Archives: Guns

Doug’s out shooting today. Stay indoors; hide behind something solid

Apparently, they survived. After the expedition, Bryan emailed this shot of Doug holding the 20 gauge over-and-under Beretta in a safe manner.

Apparently, they survived. Bryan emailed this shot of Doug holding the 20 gauge in a safe manner.

Bryan Caskey, who so kindly took me out shooting clays a couple of weekends ago (and I had a great time), has Doug Ross out there as I type this.

Doug professes to have never held a gun before. Or a rifle, either, I believe. Today he is armed, with several boxes of ammo.

Pray for their safety. And your own…

In case you haven’t had a good 2nd Amendment argument today…

This just in:

Washington, DC (WLTX) – U.S. Capitol Police have arrested a Camden buisnessman after they say he tried to take a gun into an office building on the Capitol grounds.

Ronald William Prestage, 59, is charged with carrying a pistol without a license. Officers say they recovered the 9 mm handgun from him as he tried to enter the Cannon House Building, which is one of the structures containing the offices of members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Police haven’t said yet if he gave an explanation for why he had the weapon…

Actually, my headline is kind of misleading. I doubt many of my regulars, even the most ardent gun-lovers among us, will want to assert the right to enter the U.S. Capitol offices while packing heat.

Am I right? If not, have at it…

By the way, if you read the rest of the piece (I quoted as much as I thought I could get away with under Fair Use), you’ll find that this Mr. Prestage is an upstanding member of the community, the manager of the Kershaw County Airport (which you would think would make him a little more sensitive about where it’s a good idea to carry a gun, and where it isn’t). No rootless drifter/gunslinger is he.

He’s also president of the National Pork Producers Council. Yeah, I thought that was an unusual combination, too, but that’s what the story said…

Whoa! Did this picture of our gov grab your attention? It did mine…

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Six men came to kill me one time. And the best of ‘em carried this. It’s a Callahan full-bore auto-lock. Customized trigger, double cartridge thorough gauge. It is my very favorite gun.

— Jayne Cobb, on “Firefly”

My first thought was that it must be photoshopped. There’s something unreal about it, from the glint in her eye to the… really unusual weapon she’s holding with such delight.

I found myself reminded of Jayne Cobb showing off Vera. I mean, certainly the governor will give this baby a name…

But The Sun News reports that it’s for real:

AYNOR — Welder Jamieson Woodard leaned against a table a good way beyond the semi-circle of television cameras Monday as S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley got her commemorative, semiautomatic rifle from PTR Industries.

Woodard is part of the contingent of employees who transferred to Horry County when PTR left Connecticut because of restrictive gun laws passed by the state legislature.

The law, written in reaction to the killing of elementary school children and teachers in Newton, Conn., bans the sale of the guns PTR makes.

“Not only did it put us out of work,” Woodard said of the law, “it was the little guys that really got hurt.”

During the ceremony Woodard watched, Haley said she promised PTR that South Carolina would never politicize gun ownership, and those are the kind of words that have helped the company and its employees feel they’ve been received with open arms.

“People here are a lot friendlier than they are up North,” Woodard said…

Jayne with Vera: "It is my very favorite gun."

Jayne with Vera: “It is my very favorite gun.”

The statement that the NRA had to walk back

The NRA's Chris Cox, walking it back.

The NRA’s Chris Cox, walking it back.

The NRA got in trouble with its fans for suggesting that perhaps some of its adherents were engaging in behavior that was a bit… off:

[A] small number have recently crossed the line from enthusiasm to downright foolishness… Recently, demonstrators have been showing up in various public places, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants, openly toting a variety of tactical long guns… Yet while unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms. Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weirdand certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary

After that drew a great deal of heat from the membership, the NRA’s Chris Cox walked it back, saying:

There was some confusion, we apologize, again, for any confusion that that post caused… Now, the truth is, an alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as weird, or somehow not normal. And that was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. I’ve had a discussion with the staffer who wrote that piece, and expressed his personal opinion. Our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.”

Lindsey Graham could have warned these guys: Saying stuff that makes sense can get you into a heap of trouble with your base.

Cox further reinforced his position by blaming the whole contretemps on “the media.” Nothing like the old standby tactics…

Florida sheriff wants to amend ‘Stand Your Ground’

Don’t know how I got on this sheriff’s mailing list, but I thought some of y’all would be interested in his perspective:

Sheriff Scott Israel is the most outspoken sheriff in Florida when it comes to changing the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Click to view a recent article about his stance in Huffington Post  

Now that Tallahassee legislatures are considering amendments to “Stand Your Ground,” Sheriff Israel is making sure his voice and his view is heard.

Below is an op-ed available for publication that clearly states the necessity for change in this law.

Contact me for interview opportunities or additional information.

Thanks!
Jen

Jen Hobbs
JenMHobbs@gmail.com
845-863-6448

Where I Stand On Stand Your Ground
Sheriff Scott Israel

I stand with the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis in their fight to amend Stand Your Ground – to grieving mothers who lost their children to senseless gun violence.  Last Monday, these two brave mothers-turned-activists led a peaceful march with hundreds of protesters on the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee.  The women were joined by families of other victims of this law.

A bipartisan proposal by Florida State Senators David Simmons (R) and Chris Smith (D) passed the State Senate Judiciary Committee on October 15 by a 7-2 vote, and now heads to other committees for consideration before coming to the Senate floor for a full vote.  The original 2005 law was written by none other than Sen. Simmons.

I applaud Sen. Simmons for recognizing that the law is not perfect, and for reaching above partisan politics on this tremendously important public safety issue.  The proposed Simmons-Smith amendment makes clear that the statute should prohibit people from later claiming self-defense if they started or unnecessarily escalated a conflict when safe withdrawal outside the home was an option.

Many people have made the case that the George Zimmerman trial, which spurred the interest in revising Stand Your Ground, had nothing to do with the self-defense law.

This opinion is misguided.

In February 2012, when Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, the police who were called to the scene, unable to refute Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.  By law, they were unable to file charges and follow through with normal procedures, thus compromising the investigation from the start.  Sanford city officials stated: “By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time.”

The Stand Your Ground law effectively tied the hands of law enforcement in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, and will continue to do so until this law is fixed.  In the case of Mr. Zimmerman, the threat was not immediate.  He should have been obligated to get in his vehicle, leave the area, and avoid that confrontation.  If the law had read differently, maybe he would have.

When Michael Dunn fired nine bullets into a Dodge Durango at four seemingly unarmed teenagers, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida, his actions were facilitated by this broken law.  Deadly force should never be a first choice; it should be a choice used only after all other reasonable options have been exhausted.

The law is not stagnant.  It is open to change, particularly when the change leads to less violent incidents and more accountability.

As one of only a small handful of sheriffs in Florida to support a change in the Stand Your Ground law, I feel the need to be active and vocal in this all-important discussion. Florida was the first of at least 22 other states that have enacted similar Stand Your Ground statutes, so it is also right that we lead in the effort to fix it.  More than 26 young people in Florida have already lost their lives in Stand Your Ground cases.  This law, here and elsewhere, must be fixed before more needlessly die.

For these reasons, I support these important first steps in amending this valuable law.

Bryan Caskey’s dispassionate analysis of CWP bill

Relax... Bryan says it won't be like this...

Relax… Bryan says it won’t be like this…

Today, I offer you two views of the new bill to allow patrons to carry firearms into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. There’s Cindi Scoppe’s “Armed, untrained and cruising the bars.” (And I’m not at all convinced she was unaware of the double entendre implication of “cruising,” just to take it to an unexpected level.) Excerpt:

YOU’RE IN A bar in the early morning hours, and there’s a guy across the room who’s drinking heavily, who keeps glaring at you. It’s more than a little unsettling, because you know South Carolina now allows concealed-weapons-permit holders to carry guns into bars. You also know that the Legislature watered down the training requirements when it passed the guns-in-bars provision. And you know that South Carolina has an extremely liberal stand-your-ground law, which allows you to use lethal force if you feel threatened.

So when the drunk across the room suddenly reaches inside his jacket, you pull your own pistol and shoot.

Only you’re not the best aim, so you hit his companion.

And it turns out that he was reaching for his ringing cell phone.

That scenario was described to me a year ago by a Republican senator who was troubled by the obsession of some of his colleagues with lifting the state’s restriction on carrying concealed weapons into establishments that sell alcohol. Clearly, his scenario won’t play out every day once the guns-in-bars legislation becomes law. (The bill still must be signed by the governor, and she can’t do that until a ratification session, which can’t happen until at least next week because the Legislature is taking the week off due to the possibility of snow.) It won’t happen every month, and probably not every year. But it’s not much of a stretch to imagine it could happen once or twice….

And then there’s our own Bryan Caskey, who seems to have hit his stride as a blogger with this topic, combining his knowledge of the law and his love and respect for guns (and rifles, too, I assume). He reports via email:

On Friday I got my post up about the CWP bill, and boy, did it take off, traffic-wise. I normally get a couple hundred hits on my whole blog during an active day, but my CWP bill post got over 300 hits alone…and counting. What’s more amazing to me is that the post has received 51 “likes” via the Facebook button. I think my record for “likes” on a post is maybe 2. For my blog to penetrate to Facebook, someone else has to pick it up, since I don’t use Facebook.

 

Pageviews is one thing, but having someone hit that “like” button on Facebook is different – it requires actual clicking interaction from the reader than simply doing nothing. Anyway, just thought I’d pass that along and toot my own horn a little.

As always, feel free to link or disregard.

And of course, I prefer to link. Good for Bryan. Basically, he was dissatisfied with reporting on the bill itself, and decided to provide a detailed, dispassionate analysis. He did so quite well. Just as he says he learned a good deal from the 8-hour CWP course that would no longer be required under this bill (which he thinks is a bad thing about the bill), I learned a good bit from his post.

He saw good and bad in the bill — but neither as much good as most gun lovers would like, nor as much bad as those of us who say, Yeah, that’s just what was missing in SC — a new law saying its OK to pack heat in bars (people like Cindi, and to some extent me) — think.

Here’s the weirdest aspect, to me. After explaining that the bill would still allow bar and restaurant owners to declare their establishments gun-free zones by posting signs, Bryan adds this:

Additionally, even if the bar or restaurant doesn’t post the sign, they can still request that any particular person carrying concealed leave on a case-by-case basis. If that person refuses to leave, same penalty as above. So if you’re a bar or restaurant, you can either chose to have an entirely gun free zone, or a selectively gun free zone….

Yeahhhh… I’m just trying to imagine a bar owner with the cojones to carry that off. Think about it — the only time a proprietor might intervene in such a manner is when there’s a tense situation, right? You know, the kind where he goes, “Well, normally I’d allow guns (hence no sign), but THIS guy’s worrying me right now…” The guy’s packing heat, he’s apparently losing it, and you’re going to change the rules on him now? If Gary Cooper, or better yet Wyatt Earp, came back to life and opened a bar in Five Points, maybe. But I don’t know who else would manage that.

Anyway, Bryan’s post is helpful and informative. I recommend it. And he now has 86 “likes” on Facebook.

7-year-old boy suspended for being 7-year-old boy

Passing on this bit of news from Maryland:

GLEN BURNIE, MD (CNN) – A 7-year-old Maryland boy was expected to return to school Tuesday after serving a suspension for forming his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun and allegedly saying the words “bang, bang.”

Children at Park Elementary School went home on Friday with a letter explaining there was a disruption in school.

Josh Welch and his father B.J. say the disruption lead to a two day suspension for the second grader in Brooklyn Park.

Academics are hard for Josh, who suffers from ADHD, but he excels in art class. It is Josh’s own creativity that may have gotten him into trouble.

Josh was enjoying his breakfast pastry when he decided to try and shape it into a mountain. “It was already a rectangle and I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but it wasn’t,” Josh said.

Josh takes full responsibly for trying to shape his breakfast pastry, but admits it was in innocent fun. “All I was trying to do was turn it into a mountain but, it didn’t look like a mountain really and it turned out to be a gun kinda,” Josh said.

When his teacher saw the strawberry tart he knew he was in trouble. “She was pretty mad? and I think I was in big trouble.”

Reminds me of when the elder of my sons was a toddler in his high chair eating toast. He ate it down to where he had two crusts left intact in an L shape. He then grasped it by one side, and aiming the other around the room said “Pow, pow!” Nearly broke my wife’s heart. She felt like she had done something wrong raising him — after all, his older sister had never exhibited such “violent tendencies.”

But boys will do things like that.

The fact that this one did it with a dessert-type item reminds me of a bit of silly dialogue from the original version of “The Office:” It was only a trifling matter. Nevertheless, they took him into custard-y.

SC Senate panel responds to national gun control debate in its own special way — allowing guns in bars

Here’s the report:

COLUMBIA — A S.C. bill that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry firearms into restaurants and bars advanced Wednesday.

Concealed permit holders would be allowed to carry firearms into places serving alcohol as long as the business owner allows it, if the bill becomes law. The bill would ban consuming alcohol while carrying…

    Some speakers at the hearing … said they would prefer the bill allow some alcohol consumption.

Ralph Baker, who spoke at the hearing, said he “would like to see the bill change so that a person could go in and have a glass of wine with their lasagna….The CWP people are responsible. They’ve proven themselves in that area.”…

I like that bit about how “CWP people (have) proven themselves,” responsible while drinking and packing. How did they prove that? You can’t prove someone won’t go postal in a bar. You can only prove that someone will — when they do.

But this makes me feel much better about myself. I’ve proven myself responsible, too. I have never shot up a bar after drinking. Ever. Yet.

Anyway, the panel didn’t go along with the suggestion that drinking be allowed, which I suppose is something.

The Obama skeet-shooting brouhaha

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Something I saw over the weekend and neglected to post was the above official White House photo of the POTUS allegedly shooting skeet.

And I’m inclined to believe that, even though the elevation of the weapon seems a little low, more like Dick Cheney’s style of shooting.

I post it now in case y’all are at all inclined to discuss the whole “does he or doesn’t he, and if he does, does he ‘all the time'” thing that was going on for several days last week. An excerpt of an NYT story, to get y’all started:

WASHINGTON — When President Obama mentioned last week that he had picked up a new hobby — skeet shooting at Camp David — it was a surprising disclosure by a president whose main identification with guns these days is his effort to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

To some, Mr. Obama’s newfound enthusiasm for shooting clay pigeons — he said in an interview that he did it “all the time” at the presidential retreat — also seemed a bit suspicious.

So on Saturday, the White House tried to silence the skeptics by releasing a photograph of Mr. Obama shooting on the range at Camp David in August. The president, wearing protective glasses and ear-muffs, is squinting down the barrel of a shotgun moments after pulling the trigger. Smoke is shooting from the front of the gun…

Actually, to me it looks like the picture was taken in the very same second that the president pulled the trigger, not “moments after.” But what do I know, compared to somebody who actually still gets paid to work at a newspaper, and The New York Times, no less?

Bottom line, I think we can still safely say that the president’s weapon of choice is the drone…

Graham wants to bring guns into the Capitol

OK, maybe that’s not the most felicitous way of putting it. I got this release last evening:

Graham, Cruz Request Judiciary Committee Work to Allow Firearms for Education, Display and Discussion Purposes at Gun Control Hearings

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today wrote Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy requesting the Judiciary Committee work with local and federal law enforcement to ensure that at future hearings Senators can request, and law enforcement will provide, various firearms for education, display, and discussion purposes.

“In anticipation of tomorrow’s hearing on gun control, we instructed our staff to work to ensure various unloaded firearms, under law enforcement supervision, could be brought into the hearing,” wrote Graham and Cruz, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “Our offices worked with various officials in local and federal law enforcement, as well as the Senate Sergeant at Arms, but it appears that the requirements to secure the weapons at the hearing are so impractical as to be unworkable.”

“Our goal is simple — to educate fellow Senators and members of the public how and why firearms are used by millions of law-abiding Americans for self-defense, hunting, and sporting purposes,” said Graham and Cruz.  “We also want to shatter the mistaken belief that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are a danger to society. It is every bit as important we make that distinction as it is to note that one gun in the hand of mentally-deranged individual is one too many.”

####

Makes sense to me. Of course, I’m sure it will freak out a few people. But now that I think about it, if “one gun in the hand of mentally-deranged individual is one too many,” are we sure we want to make them this accessible to members of Congress?

Graham plants himself squarely in pro-gun territory

Lindsey Graham, widely expected to face a challenge next year from right out of the 1830s, has responded to President Obama’s gun proposals today with words that place him safely in NRA territory:

Graham Expresses Opposition to President Obama’s Gun Control Proposal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement in opposition to President Obama’s gun control proposal.

“The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is heartbreaking and beyond words.  However, the gun control plans brought forward by President Obama fail to address the real issues and I’m confident there will be bipartisan opposition to his proposal.

Graham-080106-18270- 0005

“One bullet in the hands of a homicidal maniac is one too many.  But in the case of a young mother defending her children against a home invader — a real-life event which recently occurred near Atlanta — six bullets may not be enough.  Criminals aren’t going to follow legislation limiting magazine capacity.  However, a limit could put law-abiding citizens at a distinct disadvantage when confronting a criminal.

“As for reinstating the assault weapons ban, it has already been tried and failed.

“Finally, when it comes to protecting our schools, I believe the best way to confront a homicidal maniac who enters a school is for them to be met by armed resistance from a trained professional.”

#####

But take heart, gun control advocates: At least he doesn’t want to arm teachers, right? Not unless that’s what he means by “trained professional.” I initially took it to mean “cop,” but can we be sure?

Biden says Obama will issue executive order on guns

Wow. I don’t know whether Joe Biden is being — excuse the seeming pun — a loose cannon again, or whether the president is really considering this (or both), but I pass it on:

(Reuters) – Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday the White House is determined to act quickly to curb gun violence and will explore all avenues – including executive orders that would not require approval by Congress – to try to prevent incidents like last month’s massacre at a Connecticut school.

Kicking off a series of meetings on gun violence, Biden said the administration would work with gun-control advocates and gun-rights supporters to build a consensus on restrictions. But he made clear thatPresident Barack Obama is prepared to act on his own if necessary.

“We are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing. It’s critically important that we act,” said Biden, who will meet on Thursday with pro-gun groups including the National Rifle Association, which claims 4 million members and is the gun lobby’s most powerful organization…

“There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven’t decided what that is yet,” Biden said, adding that Obama is conferring with Attorney General Eric Holder on potential action…

It this is true, this would be a stunningly bold move by the president on an issue of great concern to the nation that our Congress has demonstrated for decades that it is unwilling or unable to address.

But, wow: The reaction he would likely engender from the really serious pro-gun people out there hardly bears thinking about. On the one hand, this shouldn’t be a shock to them, since they (and only they) have believed all along that “That Obama’s gonna come after our guns” — even though, before Newtown and his pledge to do something in response to it, the president has shown little or no interest in their guns. Which is why they went on a gun-and-ammo shopping spree after he was elected.

But that doesn’t mean their reaction won’t be visceral to any unilateral action by the president, however limited. It would be, to them, the realization of their darkest forebodings.

So is the president really willing to go down that road? Maybe. And maybe Joe doesn’t know what he’s talking about…

Wait a second. That was the Reuters story. In The Washington Post, Biden sounds a lot more definite about this:

Vice President Biden vowed Wednesday that President Obama will use executive action where he can to help stop gun violence as part of  the White House’s response to the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.

“The president is going to act,” Biden said during brief remarks to reporters before meeting with victims of gun violence and firearm safety groups…

First sex offenders, then gun permit holders…

Click on this image of the map to get to the original article.

Click on this image of the map to get to the original article.

Chip Oglesby (the guy who very kindly gave this blog a whole new theme this week, just because y’all complained about the comments format in the previous new one) brings this to my attention today.

The L.A. Times is reporting on a contretemps precipitated by another newspaper, on the East Coast:

It’s getting hard to find a public official in Putnam County, N.Y., who thinks putting the names of gun permit-holders on a map does anybody good.

On Thursday, a flock of officials gathered at a news conference to announce their support for County Clerk Dennis Sant’s decision to refuse a public-records request by the White Plains-based Journal News for a list of licensed handgun permit-holders, whose names and addresses are public record under law.

The state’s top open-records official previously told the Los Angeles Times that county officials would be breaking the law by refusing the newspaper’s request.

On Dec. 22, the newspaper published online an interactive map that included the names and address of people who had pistol permits  licensed by Westchester and Rockland counties. The map led to so much outrage that the newspaper has hired armed guards to protect its newsroom. Reporting on one recent incident, the newspaper said it received a suspicious envelope containing white powder on Wednesday evening, which was deemed to be nontoxic.

The Journal News also wants to publish a similar map for Putnam County, but officials have resisted. On Thursday, there was no indication of the battle easing after Putnam County officials said they’re prepared to take the fight all the way to its conclusion, according to statements released by the office of state Sen. Greg Ball, a Republican who represents the area…

This raises all sorts of questions, mainly about privacy in an age in which very little privacy exists. Also about the principle that so many newspaper editors like to go on about, which holds that “the people have a right to know” pretty much anything that an editor gets it into his head to publish.

Do the people have not only a right, but a need, to see this map? And does it outweigh any presumed privacy that a gun permit holder might feel entitled to? I mean, it’s one thing for permits to be public information, so that an individual holder could be looked up. It’s another to publish a map, holding these people up to… I don’t know what, really. Because I don’t really understand what practical purpose the map serves. Is it intended as a sort of sociological study of the county, to satisfy someone’s curiosity as to where permit holders are most likely to live?

I’m curious to know the editors’ thinking on that, because without knowing that, I don’t know what to think. Going by this story, the editors haven’t been forthcoming on that point. But the publisher said, “We believe the law is clear that this is public information and the residents of Putnam County are entitled to see it. We’re troubled that county officials have apparently switched their position since we first requested the information.”

In response, a critic of the newspaper’s position says, “The Journal News has really come up with the perfect map for the perpetrators and for the stalkers and for the criminals. They have yet to give us a cogent reason why, except for the reason that they can. I am sorry — that is not acceptable.”

Frankly, I’m not persuaded either that the editors had a clear, thought-out reason for using that portion of their newshole for this purpose. Nor am I convinced that anyone has been harmed by their doing so. But that’s the way it is with so many things that people get really, really stirred up about…

Questionable claims for the AR-15

AR15_A3_Tactical_Carbine_pic1

Just read an interesting piece over at Slate, by a guy who calls himself “a Second Amendment supporter” (although, living in NYC, he doesn’t own a gun — but I guess that’s as close to pro-gun as Slate gets), discussing the claims that the AR-15 is a great weapon for hunting and home defense.

Which seems doubtful to me on both counts. This writer, Justin Peters, cites most of the reasons I already thought that. If I were into hunting, I’d use a rifle (or for birds, a shotgun), rather than a weapon that, as Sean Connery’s Raizuli would say, “fires promiscuously.” A matter of sportsmanship. For home defense, a pistol seems far more practical than a long gun, even a carbine.

But then I’m not trying to sell “modern sporting rifle” to the public.

Here’s the core of the article’s argument:

But the AR-15 is not ideal for the hunting and home-defense uses that the NRA’s Keene cited today. Though it can be used for hunting, the AR-15 isn’t really a hunting rifle. Its standard .223 caliber ammunition doesn’t offer much stopping power for anything other than small game. Hunters themselves find the rifle controversial, with some arguing AR-15-style rifles empower sloppy, “spray and pray” hunters to waste ammunition. (The official Bushmaster XM15 manual lists the maximum effective rate of fire at 45 rounds per minute.) As one hunter put it in the comments section of an article on americanhunter.org, “I served in the military and the M16A2/M4 was the weapon I used for 20 years. It is first and foremost designed as an assault weapon platform, no matter what the spin. A hunter does not need a semi-automatic rifle to hunt, if he does he sucks, and should go play video games. I see more men running around the bush all cammo’d up with assault vests and face paint with tricked out AR’s. These are not hunters but wannabe weekend warriors.”

In terms of repelling a home invasion—which is what most people mean when they talk about home defense—an AR-15-style rifle is probably less useful than a handgun. The AR-15 is a long gun, and can be tough to maneuver in tight quarters. When you shoot it, it’ll overpenetrate—sending bullets through the walls of your house and possibly into the walls of your neighbor’s house—unless you purchase the sort of ammunition that fragments on impact. (This is true for other guns, as well, but, again, the thing with the AR-15 is that it lets you fire more rounds faster.)

AR-15-style rifles are very useful, however, if what you’re trying to do is sell guns. In a recent Forbes article, Abram Brown reported that “gun ownership is at a near 20-year high, generating $4 billion in commercial gun and ammunition sales.” But that money’s not coming from selling shotguns and bolt-action rifles to pheasant hunters. In its 2011 annual report, Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation announced that bolt-action hunting rifles accounted for 6.6 percent of its net sales in 2011 (down from 2010 and 2009), while modern sporting rifles (like AR-15-style weapons) accounted for 18.2 percent of its net sales. The Freedom Group’s 2011 annual report noted that the commercial modern sporting rifle market grew at a 27 percent compound annual rate from 2007 to 2011, whereas the entire domestic long gun market only grew at a 3 percent rate…

Just before that excerpt, Peters cited what I suspect is the biggest appeal of the AR-15: “because carrying it around makes you look like a badass.”

Indeed.

Lee Bright: Trying to secede every which way he can

What with the holidays and all, I didn’t get around to snorting in derision at the latest secessionist (or at least nullificationist) nonsense from state Sen. Lee Bright:

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Lee Bright

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A proposed piece of legislation intends to exempt pistols and rifles made in South Carolina from federal regulation as long as they stay in-state.

The Firearms Freedom Act, pre-filed earlier this month by state Sen. Lee Bright, would mean that firearms, ammunition and gun accessories made in South Carolina aren’t subject to federal rules and oversight. Weapons made in South Carolina, the bill notes, must be stamped with the words “Made in South Carolina.”

Bright, R-Roebuck, says his bill would allow South Carolina manufacturers to skirt federal regulations because the materials would not cross state lines. He introduced a similar proposal last session, but that measure died in committee…

Y’all remember Lee Bright. He previously wanted South Carolina to coin its own money. Before that, he was the sponsor of a Senate resolution demanding that Washington stop stepping on our unspecified “rights” down here in SC.

You know how atheists these days — well, some of them, anyway — have taken to calling themselves “Brights,” seeking a more upbeat image? Well, if the senator from Spartanburg becomes any more of a household name nationally, they might want to reconsider that move…

‘Demand a Plan’ actors part of problem?

My favorite celebrity Twitter follower, Adam Baldwin, brings my attention to the above video, which is an answer to the below video, in which various Hollywood types demand a plan for ending gun violence.

Ouch. As a demonstration of just how pervasive gun violence is in our popular culture, the answering video packs a lot of punch…

A better version of the Second Amendment

Well, I just learned something from Wikipedia I didn’t know before, but should have known — given all that time I spent studying that period in college.

I’ve always found the punctuation (and capitalization, but hey, it was the 18th century) of the Second Amendment problematic to the point that it was little better than gibberish. That’s because I was looking at the version that Congress passed:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That comma after “Militia” just destroyed any clear meaning that may have been intended.

But now I’ve seen the version that was ratified by the states and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson in his capacity as secretary of state:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Much better. It actually seems to have been composed by someone whose first language is English. And it certainly makes the role of the militia in the rationale of amendment much clearer.

Speaking of militias… I have another post I want to write on that subject. I’ll see if I can get to it before I need to leave this evening…

Surprise! The NRA concedes nothing

Stag2wi_

Earlier in the week, we saw this release from the NRA:

National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters—and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again. The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.

… which kind of made it sound like the gun lobby, sensing a change in mood in the country, even among some traditional allies, was willing to concede something, give some ground, agree to something it would never have agreed to before. I mean, that’s what “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions” sounds like to most people.

Fat chance.

Here’s what they came up with today:

WASHINGTON—The nation’s most powerful gun-rights lobby called Friday for armed security guards in schools, saying that children had been left vulnerable in their classrooms.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said that “the monsters and the predators of the world” have exploited the fact that schools are gun-free zones. Other important institutions—from banks to airports to sports stadiums—are protected with armed security, he said, but this country has left students defenseless.

So basically, their response to the nation’s concern over all those guns out there is… more guns. That, and gun-lover buzz phrases: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” It would never occur to the NRA that maybe, just maybe, an even better solution would be to keep the bad guy from getting a gun to begin with. There’s a whole lot less crossfire that way, for one thing.

Mind you, I’m not entirely against the idea of armed officers in schools. Mainly because, as I’ve said before, I think the likelihood of gun control measures that would really, truly keep guns out of the hands of bad guys is next to nil. It’s an economic problem. There are just too many guns out there chasing too many tragedies. Think chaos theory gone mad.

But I also think that’s not going to happen. For every extreme gun nut out there — the kind who sits up late oiling and stroking his weapons and whispering pet names to them, and thinks government exists to threaten his “freedoms” — there’s a corresponding gunophobe who goes weak in the knees at the very sight of anything that looks like a firearm, who gets chills down the spine at the idea of being within range of one, even in the hands of cops. And a lot of those folks in the latter groups have little kids in school, and would have an absolute stroke at the idea of any sort of firearms in the vicinity of their children. (And this week, it’s a little hard to argue with their emotional response.)

Beyond that, though, my real objection is this: The NRA’s utter unwillingness to say, “Here’s something we’re willing to give up.” This was a moment for doing that. Something, anything, however marginal or minimal in impact, that said “fewer guns” rather than “more guns.”

But the folks at the gun lobby seem to be genetically incapable of that. Or something.

A communitarian view on gun control

I thought y’all might be interested in this perspective on gun control from Amitai Etzioni, who is sort of the godfather of the rather modest communitarian movement in this country. An excerpt:

etzioni_mainWe should not wait for our elected officials, in President Obama’s good words, “to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” We should do our share. One way to proceed is to mark our homes, apartments and condos, with a “gun free” sign. Parents should notify their friends that they would be reluctant to send their child over for a play date unless the home was safe from guns. Residential communities should pass rules that ban bringing guns onto their premises, clearly marking them as gun free.

Anyone who puts up such signs will become an ambassador for gun control, because they are sure to be challenged by gun advocates to explain their anti-gun positions. Here are some pointers they may wish to use against the typical pro-gun talking points.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

• Tragically, it is the case that there will always be dangerous individuals, but they can kill a lot more with easy access to guns. On the same day as the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, a knife-wielding man targeted a primary school in a Chinese village. Twenty-two children and one adult were wounded, but none were killed.

“Guns deter crimes and save lives.”

• Of the 30,000 gun deaths in America every year, only 200 are caused by self-defense. Studies have shown that a higher rate of gun ownership is correlated with higher rates of homicide, suicide and unintentional shootings. The U.S. has a firearms homicide rate 19.5 times higher than the combined rate of 22 high income countries with similar non-lethal crime and violence rates…

Note the emphasis on community-based solutions — starting in one’s home and workplace, engaging one’s neighbors in debate. Very much based in faith in engaged communities.Very different from the “50 percent plus one” forced solutions that left and right tend to jockey for…

Not that a communitarian would object to more reasonable laws regarding guns. As Etzioni says, “No right is absolute. Even the right to free speech, considered the strongest of them all, is limited. You cannot shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater — precisely because it endangers life.”

First-person shooter: What games did Loughner play?

This is a post I wrote back in early 2011, and didn’t publish. Recent discussions of gun violence bring it back to the fore, so here it is…

In my Monday Wall Street Journal (the only edition I received after coming back from England until late Wednesday, which was really frustrating), I read the following about the Arizona shooter:

“All he did was play video games and play music,” said Tommy Marriotti, a high school friend.

And that got me to wondering: What sort of games did he play? Since initially reading that, I see he recently played Earth Empires, a strategy game. But I suspect he has at least at some time — maybe back in high school, maybe some other time — played another sort of game.

I find myself wondering whether he was into first-person shooter games…

I have two reasons for wondering that. First, there are the theories of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (ret.). Col. Grossman is the foremost expert in the field of “killology,” a term he coined. He wrote a fascinating book, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, which I recommend. It discusses the psychology of killing, mostly within the context of war. He explains that for most of military history, as long as we’ve had projectile weapons in the hands of the average soldier, the overwhelming majority of soldiers did not shoot to kill. Frequently, they didn’t fire their weapons at all, and when they did, they tended to fire over the heads of their enemies — to engage in a sort of threat display, rather than use deadly force.

They did this because for most humans, the reluctance to kill is deep and strong.

The U.S. military, realizing this (on the basis of extensive studies during and after WWII), started conditioning that reluctance out of soldiers starting with the Vietnam era (or perhaps a little earlier; it’s been awhile since I’ve read it). Soldiers started to be trained to quickly acquire the human target and fire accurately before thinking about it too much. The result is that the U.S. military is, soldier for soldier, the most deadly fighting force in the world, perhaps in history. (Probably the most dramatic demonstration of this was the battle of Mogadishu in 1993, in which elite soldiers faced mobs of Somali militias with a tendency to fire randomly and wildly with their AK-47s — the result was 18 dead Americans, but about 1,000 dead Somalis.) But soldiers who shoot now often pay a profound psychological cost later, and that was what Col. Grossman was motivated to study.

He has also ventured into related peacetime phenomena, such as the popularity and increasing sophistication of FPS games, which train the reflexes of the kids who play them to shoot quickly and accurately, without reluctance. He asserts that it’s not a bit surprising that we have Columbines given the ubiquity of such games. Kids have had conditioned out of them the hesitation that affected trained soldiers through most of history.

You may say Col. Grossman exaggerates. And indeed, some experts are far more phlegmatic about such games. I don’t think he does, but that’s because of the other reason I was interested: I’ve played these games myself. A decade or so ago, I had a copy of an early version of Wolfenstein. The violence was non-stop, but it was also cartoonish and unconvincing, only a step or two beyond Space Invaders. Now, it’s different…

Two years ago, I got myself a copy of Call of Duty: World at War. I was fascinated by the premise, which was to put the player in realistic scenarios from the Pacific and Eastern fronts in the Second World War. (Some of them weirdly realistic. When I saw some of the scenes from the Peleliu campaign in “The Pacific” recently, I thought, I’ve been there… It was weird.) But I was completely unprepared for two things: First, the realism. When I first booted up the game on my computer (and I had to get a more sophisticated video card to run it, even though my computer was almost new), I thought I was watching a video prologue — I didn’t realize the game had started. I couldn’t believe the graphics were that realistic, that high-res.

Second, the emotional manipulation, which was stunning. There are two story lines: In one, you are a U.S. Marine named Miller, fighting your way across the Pacific. In the other, you are a Red Army soldier. The designers of the game came up with their own way of overcoming any reluctance the player might have to shooting the enemy. The Marine scenario begins with Miller being a prisoner of the Japanese. As Miller, you watch the Japanese torture and kill your buddy, before one of them moves toward you with a knife, prepared to serve you in the same way — before he is stopped by the commandos who have come to rescue you. Your rescuers hand you a weapon, and by this point, you’re expected to know what to do with it.

In the start of the Russian scenario, you are lying still among dead and dying comrades in Stalingrad. As you lie there (the game won’t let you move at first), you watch German soldiers step around you, casually shooting the wounded as you watch helplessly. Somehow they overlook you. As the enemy moves away, a grizzled Red Army sergeant who was also playing dead whispers to you to follow him, and he will show you how to get your vengeance on the fascists, who, as he keeps reminding you, are raping your homeland. He hands you a sniper rifle…

Creepy, huh? At this point, you’d like me to tell you I didn’t go on and play the game, but I did. I’ve played it all the way through a number of times. It’s very seductive, because it’s challenging. But I wouldn’t argue if you were to say, “Yes, of course it is — like other forms of pornography.” I expect those of you who’ve never played such games will have all sorts of critical things to say about me for playing it, and I won’t argue with those assertions, either. I know how it looks. When my wife enters the room when I’m playing, I hastily shut it down. Because she is my conscience.

But that’s not the really creepy thing: Over time, I played the game less. I had mastered the easier levels, and the harder ones were just ridiculous. Also, well, I’ve tried to spend less of my life in nonproductive pursuits. But a number of months ago, I got curious about something: I had never played the “multiplayer” option, in which you fight against other players over the Internet. So I tried that.

And I discovered that either the world is full of unsuspected super-soldiers, with reflexes that are not to be believed, or there are a lot of geeks out there who spend WAY too much time getting ridiculously good at playing these games. The latter, of course, is most likely. And hardly surprising. But I discovered one thing that positively sent chills down my spine. I quickly accepted that I could not survive more than a few seconds against people whose reflexes were so finely honed to aggressive play of the game. Fine — I have trouble with basketball, too. And I figured that the guys who spend a lot of time on these games are 20-something, and an old guy like me can’t hope to keep up. But what got me was when I encountered a few players who had activated the feature that enabled them to speak with each other in real time as they shot and stabbed their way across the landscape.

The thing that got me was when I heard their voices.

They were little boys. They sounded like they were about 10. And they were very, very efficient, hyperaggressive and unhesitating virtual killers.

I quit playing at that point.

Anyway, that’s why I wonder — what sorts of games did Loughner play?