I've received a surprising number of emails from people who don't understand, and are quite confused about, the concept of the "stand your ground" (SYG) law in Florida. (Note: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)
First things first: Zimmerman's attorneys did not invoke SYG in his case and it was in no way part of his defense. This is important to recognize, because the media (and Michael Bloomberg) are trying their best to convince everyone that his defense team did in fact use it to get him acquitted. Apparently they've succeeded, if my emails are any indication!
SYG was not applicable here, nor did anyone attempt to make it applicable. The jury instructions contained some language that was lifted from the SYG statute to help them determine if he was justified in using deadly force, but no one made the assertion that the law was actually a factor. The instruction given to the jury was if they determined that “he was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force.” Note that it didn’t say “meet verbal threats with force” or “defend his shopping cart with force”, but that he could meet deadly force with deadly force. That’s a specific limitation which is important in understanding this law.
Second: SYG laws do not alter the requirements for the use of deadly force, and do not allow people to shoot other people over minor disagreements. The generally accepted standard to justifiably use deadly force is that the defender be in immediate and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm (sometimes referred to as "crippling injury".) While this varies slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the standard is basically the same: you must be in reasonable and articulable fear for your very life before you may use lethal force. This is not blind fear, but the reasonable belief, based on the totality of the circumstances and the behavior of the aggressor, that your life is in danger.
SYG laws do not lessen or lower this standard. If you shoot someone out of blind fear or anger, regardless of any SYG law in place you will still be tried for (and most likely convicted of) a felony crime. The language of the statute quoted above makes it clear that you may still only meet force with force, not employ force proactively or out of proportion.
The only thing that SYG laws do is to remove the often misused requirement that you run away regardless of the danger to you or others. The purpose of SYG is to acknowledge that your personal safety outside of your home carries the same primacy as it would were you inside your home; in other words, you do not give up the right to your own life just because you're in a public place.
Be very clear: you cannot go out and shoot people (absent a justifiable reason) in a jurisdiction with SYG laws, any more than you can in any other jurisdiction -- regardless of what the television talking heads tell you.
Here are some resources for you to peruse:
The Truth About Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law
Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws
“Stand Your Ground” Laws: Self-Defense or License to Kill? (video with Massad Ayoob)
-=[ Grant ]=-
I’ve avoided discussing this until the trial was finished, as I knew that we’d not gotten all the facts in the matter. Today we at least know that the jury saw no reason to convict him of a crime, and at this point he is a free man. That may change, as the federal government is making noises about a civil rights indictment, but so far it’s just saber rattling.
There are three aspects of the case which interest me, because they have a direct impact on the legally armed citizen. The first concerns the myth of the “clean shoot”; second, the realities of political-motivated prosecutions; and finally, how our legitimate and legal activities might contribute to such an incident.
I’ve written many times about the idea of the “clean shoot”, and each time I’ve said that there is no such thing. This case is yet another example. Many internet forums promote the idea that if the shoot is “clean”, nothing else matters. According to this myth the gun you use, the ammunition in it, your demeanor, your previous actions and comments don’t matter. All that matters is if the shoot is a “good” one.
As I’ve also said, it’s not up to you, me or the keyboard commando hiding behind a pseudonym in the forum who gets to decide that. Ultimately someone else will, and that person is likely to be a judge or, collectively, a jury. How they decide whether it is justifiable may hinge on their perceptions of your personality - and they may be antagonistic to you or your exercise of your right of self defense.
Everything related to a shooting is fair game in the courtroom, whether you think it should be or not. Again, there is no such thing as a clean shoot until it’s judged that way by someone else, and everything related to it will impact that judgement. The prosecution did everything they could to implicate all of Zimmerman’s pre-incident activity, to try to prove that he was an inherently evil individual who was simply frothing at the mouth to kill someone. If you watched any of the trial, you saw those prosecutorial antics — and they should give you serious pause.
Carry extra-hot handloads with competition-light triggers and put Punisher emblems on your gun’s grips if you want, but I certainly wouldn’t want to try to explain those in the kind of courtroom Zimmerman faced! At best they’re unnecessary distractions, and at worst they might just push a juror over the edge to vote ‘guilty’.
I can hear the refrain already: “they can use anything against you, so why worry about it?” My position is the opposite: why give them additional ammunition that you don’t need to, especially when it might be the one little thing which cements your presumed guilt? A trial is never just about objective, unemotional facts; you’re dealing with the perceptions, preconceptions, prejudices, and personalities of other people. How they view things is likely to be very different than how you do.
This will be especially true if, like Zimmerman, you face a politically motivated prosecution. It doesn’t happen only with nationally reported cases, either! If your local DA is wrangling for a higher office, he or she might bring cases to trial in an effort to curry favor with the voters. (They may also bring certain cases in an attempt to silence certain segments of the public. It happens.)
This case should be a sobering lesson to all of us. Even if you do everything right, even if your response was as clean as the driven snow, you can still become a victim of political pressure. We’ve learned from the former police chief in Zimmerman’s town that when he refused to arrest Zimmerman (due to lack of evidence), he came under intense pressure from the powers-that-be. He was ultimately fired for refusing to subordinate justice to public opinion. The case was taken from the local DA and given to the state’s “special prosecutor” because of the political pressure to get a conviction. Lots of people in high places wanted a conviction at any cost, regardless of Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence, and they nearly got their wish.
When you have a prosecutor who wants to climb the political ladder combined with national political pressure and a frenzied public, an unmeritorious prosecution is bound to occur. Anyone can become a scapegoat if the sociopolitical stars are aligned in just the right way, and small imperfections in the case can become the fissures under which justice crumbles.
Should this keep you from carrying or owning a firearm for protection? Certainly not, but it should cause you to pause and consider your habits and training. Aside from knowing how to defend yourself (using tools or hands), you also need to know how to navigate the legal system should you find yourself having to use lethal force.
I strongly urge everyone to do two things: first, take MAG-20 from Massad Ayoob. That class is truly the gold standard for judicious use of lethal force, and had Zimmerman taken that class I’m confident he would have handled the incident very differently. It wouldn’t have forestalled the political prosecution, mind you, but it would have left them with even less evidence than they actually had. MAG-20 is one of the very few classes that I think you should consider as being mandatory.
The second thing is to back that education up with a membership in the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. This organization serves to both educate and protect the rights of the person who is forced to use a gun in self defense. Check out their benefits, and then hit the “join” button.
Finally, there has been a lot of discussion about Zimmerman’s culpability in the incident. This discussion invariably revolves around how he could have prevented the shooting, and usually concludes that had Zimmerman not gotten out of his car to keep tabs on Martin he wouldn’t have been attacked and forced to shoot.
I acknowledge that the statement is likely true, but it would also be true to say he could have avoided the entire incident — and all plausible variations — by not getting out of bed that morning. Silly? Yes, but I hope it makes something clear: sometimes even the most innocuous things lead to horrendous results.
Was it reasonable for Zimmerman to have gotten out of his car to get an address and continue his surveillance of a suspicious person? Given participation in his neighborhood watch program, his course of action was likely completely reasonable: watch and report, which is apparently what he was doing.
Did he expose himself to danger? In retrospect, yes. Was that foreseeable? I’m not as sure.
Let’s say I live in a two-story house (I don’t, but I did grow up in one.) If I hear a noise downstairs, I have two choices: investigate, or barricade, arm and call the police. If I chose the latter course of action it wouldn’t be long before the police refused to answer my calls. Why? Because suspicious things happen constantly, and the vast, overwhelming amount of the time they turn out to be nothing. It’s a very small numbers of incidents where something dangerous occurs.
Fact is, if I were in that position I’d more than likely do downstairs and find out what the noise is. The majority of time it’s going to be one of the kids in the refrigerator, or the cat knocking something over, or the wind blowing an open screen door shut, or something else just as common and just as harmless. In fact, I might go my whole life doing that and never finding anything sinister.
In the case of someone on a neighborhood watch committee, I suspect the same thing is true: the majority of the times they observe someone, it turns out to be nothing sinister. (I realize that this varies from place to place, and perhaps in that neighborhood violence was more common.) Getting out of a car, in an effort to keep an eye on someone, is likely (according to what I know about such watch programs) a completely reasonable course of action.
I acknowledge that staying in his car would have prevented the incident, but I’m not so presumptuous as to say that’s always the best course of action. It’s not just because of the waste of scarce police resources, either. In the macro sense, we see what happens when people hide behind their locked doors and wait for someone else to do something: dilapidated, crime infested neighborhoods (sometimes entire towns.) The people who live in such places need to be invested in their own security, need to take ownership of it, if they are to keep their neighborhoods fit places to live. Relying exclusively on a police presence that may never appear (ask anyone who lives in an unincorporated area, or in Detroit) means that the criminal element ultimately has free reign to commit its crimes.
If one lives in a community with good police response, it’s very easy to say that he should have simply waited in his car for the good guys to arrive. I don’t know what his community is like in that regard, and so I’m unwilling to make a blanket statement about what he should have done without knowing a lot more about what he and his fellow citizens were facing.
I have, admittedly, a slightly different perspective on this than many others in the training business. A county in my own state recently made news (on which I’ve commented) because their Sheriffs Office no longer has the money to do regular patrols. Those people don’t have the luxury of waiting in their cars until the boys (and girls) in blue arrive to take charge of the scene. If there’s a suspicious person, those residents are forced to deal with the situation themselves. The alternative is to let their county be overrun with crime. They need the tools (training and knowledge) to know how to deal with the situations they face and any potential aftermath.
That, I think, is really where Zimmerman failed. He didn’t have the skills or the knowledge to competently handle what he was doing, the incident itself, or what followed. To me, this is the most important lesson: if you’re going to carry a gun, get educated. Now would be a very good time!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I’ve received many inquiries about an incident which took place in my home state of Oregon. A woman called 911 to report that her estranged boyfriend was trying to break into her house, and the operator responded that they didn’t have any local law enforcement to send. The man eventually broke in and savagely raped the woman.
The incident happened last year, but the story broke just last week. Outrage went national, and even the UK Daily Mail (ever on the lookout for a story which shows America in a bad light) ran with it.
Everyone wants to know what happened, and perhaps I can shed a little light on that county’s problems. These same problems face many localities in this country, so they’re not isolated to a remote corner of Oregon. If you think that it couldn’t possibly happen in your part of the world, think again; there are many places where budgetary restraints are in place, and where law enforcement services have been reduced as a result. (Yes, some of it is political posturing - cutting the most visible services first to punish the voters - but in many cases the money just isn’t there.)
First things first: Oregon does not have Sheriff’s “departments”. We have Sheriff’s OFFICES. There is a difference, and if you’re not familiar with meaning of the terms I suggest a little Googling. It seems like a little thing, but if a reporter can’t get that right one wonders how much else they don’t understand!
The Sheriff’s Office (“SO”) in most Oregon counties is funded by a combination of a law enforcement levy and some monies from the county’s general fund. In addition, in those counties with extensive private timberlands it’s not unusual for a part-time forest patrol deputy to be funded largely by the timber companies concerned.
In addition to arresting people, an Oregon Sheriff is required by law to perform a number of duties unique to his office. They include running the county jail, process service, providing court security, and in virtually all counties providing search-and-rescue (SAR) services.
Of all the duties the Sheriff performs, the only one which overlaps with other agencies (local and state police) is responding to calls and arresting people. When Sheriff budgets tighten, patrol will usually be cut first because it’s the service that has some coverage from other agencies. In other words, the Sheriff will suffer cuts to patrol functions first because he/she can’t stop running the jail - there’s no other agency which can assume that function.
Josephine County, where this incident occurred, is a very rural county in the southwestern corner of the state. It shares a border with California, and most of it is wilderness. The majority of the land in the county is owned by the federal government - between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, they own just shy of 70% of the county’s acreage. That’s land which is covered by the Sheriff, but for which the county receives no designated income.
In past decades the county received income from the feds in the form of revenue sharing from timber harvests. However, those harvests have virtually disappeared; a combination of expanded wilderness designations plus nearly constant lawsuits from environmental organizations (some of them on the FBI’s domestic terrorist watch list) have reduced those revenues to near zero.
For a number of years Congress approved what amounted to emergency subsidies to counties who had formerly relied on those timber sale monies. Those have been cut over the years, both from partisan infighting and a desire to wean counties from their dependency. In my own county, for instance, those subsidies are only a small portion of what we used to get from timber revenues. They ended last year, though I believe there is a proposal to extend them another year or two; I do not know if that has happened.
The larger the percentage of federally owned land in a county, the more dependent it is on the subsidy money I mentioned; with the feds owning nearly 70% of Josephine county’s land mass, they are very dependent.
Josephine County has only one town of any size: Grants Pass (no relation!) That town is in the northeastern corner of the county, and virtually every other part of the county is unincorporated. (The only other incorporated town is Cave Junction, and the last time I was there the population hovered around 1,500. It is a very sparsely populated county!)
Of the 30% privately owned property in the county, most of that which is outside of the city of Grants Pass is on timber deferment. That means that it’s taxed at a much lower rate if the owner actively manages the land to grow harvestable timber. This is to encourage formation of private timberlands as an agricultural resource. This results in fewer highly-taxed residential properties and a misleadingly low overall tax rate.
The majority of residential properties are inside the Grants Pass city limits. The residents pay taxes to both the city and the county, but their law enforcement patrol coverage comes from the city police department. As a result, the residents don’t like to pay for Sheriffs levies and tend to vote them down. Since roughly half of the population of the county lives within the city limits (and another 25% or so within a couple of miles of the city borders), what Grants Pass residents want is usually what the county gets.
What they recently got was a defeat of the county law enforcement levy, largely because the folks in the city didn’t want to fund services that they never saw.
It’s not all the fault of Grants Pass, however. Josephine County is very poor, with higher than average unemployment and no real industry outside of logging (which is nearly extinct.) The people who live there are strapped too, and no doubt a lot of them voted against the levy as a signal to the Sheriff that he needed to tighten his budgetary belt.
The county’s general fund can’t come to the rescue. Between federal and state mandates for certain county services, plus the requirement that local governments pay exorbitant sums into the state public retirement system (along with the inevitable bureaucratic waste, fraud and abuse) there just isn’t a lot of general fund money left to go around.
The failure of the levy plus dwindling general funds meant that the Sheriff had to eliminate all but six of his deputies. Perspective: Josephine County is larger than the state of Rhode Island, and there are now only six (yes, 6) deputies to patrol that entire area. In addition, of course, to all their other statutory duties (and SAR and everything else they do.)
While one might question the precise logistics of the Sheriff’s duty plans, the fact remains that there aren’t enough deputies to cover the county. This became clear to the residents last year, when they formed armed citizen patrols to help bring some semblance of order to the areas that were no longer covered. (That also made news in the UK when it happened, complete with the obligatory “wild west” references.)
So, they have a Sheriff who has no money to run his Office, which means that there is very little law enforcement outside of the one town in the county. A woman calls 911 in the early morning hours, on a weekend...and now you know the rest of the story.
-=[ Grant ]=-
P.S.: If anyone is tempted to use the word ‘sequestration’, this incident happened last August. Sequestration has/had nothing to do with it.
There’s been a lot of angst amongst the gun prohibitionists this week, and the latest comes from the revelation that the first firearm made entirely with a 3D printer was successfully test fired just a few days ago.
The reaction from the gun-grabbers was hardly surprising: they’re moving to make 3D printed guns illegal. Of course we all understand how meaningless such a law would be, but they have to do something, by golly!
You may not be aware of this, but making guns easily in a garage has been the goal of many gun designers over the years. Ian at Forgotten Weapons recently featured one such rare and obscure arm: the Croatian Šokac submachine gun from the 1990s.
It is not an anomaly; building a gun using primitive machine tools is often the norm in places where armed resistance is a necessity, arms are scarce, and there is no factory to supply the need.
The Šokac can be made in a garage using not much more than a medium-sized lathe and milling machine; any reasonably skilled gunsmith could construct one with the normal tools of the trade, as could many automobile mechanics or one of the tens of thousands of metalworking hobbyists who have a machine shop in their home. A high school metal shop could turn them out en masse.
The only real difference between the Šokac and the Defense Distributed “Liberator” pistol is the skill level needed to build one. When you compare the cost of the minimal hardware necessary to make a steel gun and a plastic one, the numbers are very similar - it’s the skills necessary to do so which differentiate the two. The Liberator can be made by anyone with a decent computer and the funds to acquire a 3d printer. (Wait until the machinists and the 3D printer owners get together…)
In other words, this story isn’t really news. People have been surreptitiously building firearms since the dawn of the gun, and that hasn’t changed. It’s just gotten to the point where one doesn’t get grime under their fingernails doing so.
It also underscores the futility of trying to outlaw firearms altogether, which is the overt goal of many anti-Second Amendment zealots. People will find a way to make them, right under the noses of the people who say they can’t.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I watched something amazing last night: the running gunfight with the Marathon bombing suspects in Watertown, MA. The interesting thing is that I didn't watch it on CNN; I followed it on Twitter.
I'll leave it to you to look up the details; what I want to talk about this morning is how breaking news information was being shared in this age of New Media.
I got wind of something happening outside of Boston at about 10:45 (Pacific time) last night. Just before heading to bed I decided to check in on Twitter and saw a cryptic reference to a gun battle with grenades in the Boston area. I typed in the hashtag #Watertown (the burg where it was happening) and was greeted with an incredible stream of on-the-ground observations; some were from residents of the areas, others were from people listening to the police radio traffic, and others were curious folk who simply went out and started gathering information.
As this information (including still and video images) hit Twitter a picture of what was happening on the other side of the country began to grow. People reported what they saw, heard, and even smelled; one user wrote about the bullets that had lodged in his living room from the shootout on his street. Another user quickly put together a curated list of people who were on scene and reporting, so that you could follow everything they posted even if they hadn't used the #Watertown tag. Several more sprang up as the scope of the incident expanded, bringing new Twitter users into the coverage.
Yes, a lot of the information was incorrect but an extraordinary thing happened: almost as fast as erroneous information was posted, others jumped in to correct the falsities. One user heard over the police radio that a local hospital had declared "Code Black", checked the 'net, and found that was hospital-speak for a bomb threat. That was out for perhaps a minute, total, before a bunch of other users jumped in and pointed out that we didn't really know that for sure, since hospital codes were not standardized, and that everyone should calm down until they got confirmation.
Wild speculations were countered by more measured responses, and in the few instances where users tried to interject a political message (usually something about the failure of gun control), other users shouted them down. The information, the stream, was more important than political positions. An ad-hoc editorial ethos, along with a commitment to accuracy, was being crafted in the same real time as the information was coming in. I can't begin to communicate how fascinating this was to watch; it was like an inanimate object coming to life in front of my eyes. That was perhaps more exciting than the event itself.
While all of this was happening, CNN had yet to report that the incident had even occurred. Real time information was being disseminated to a worldwide audience while traditional media was still talking about the weather in Dubuque.
At the same time the supposed benefit of traditional news outlets - depth and accuracy - became more and more suspect. Having watched more than my share of breaking news on CNN, the most recent being the Marathon bombings, I'm intimately familiar with how the on-air talent behaves. On the networks a thing like the hospital code, for instance, would likely be reported erroneously for quite some time before someone finally figured out that they didn't really know what that meant (if they ever did.) Talking heads, the news readers, would fill valuable air time with idle and often wrong speculation; the folks on Twitter, having only 140 characters, focused on being succinct and factual, if incomplete. They admonished each other to report only facts and to check those facts as best they could before tweeting, which is more than CNN did on Tuesday.
Even more surprisingly, as the various traditional news outlets started their catch-up reporting their errors and speculations were quickly corrected by the Twitter users on the scene!
This is important to understand: the same errors, omissions, speculations, and poor reporting plague both the Twitter feeds and CNN (as well as Fox/ABC/NBC/etc.) The major difference is that people have direct access to Twitter, and can correct that which is incorrect. With the networks and the newspapers, if they ever do own up to their mistakes it might be days later. In this case, real time reporting resulted in real time error correction because the information stream wasn’t being manipulated by a centralized source.
This idea of the people who consume the information being the same ones who report and validate that information is a sea change. Like Craigslist, where the readers are in charge of what they read and can flag off those ads they don't deem appropriate in their community, Twitter reporting eliminates the biases of gatekeepers; the users are their own gatekeepers, and their biases can be immediately countered by others. The result may be a fuller, if sometimes less clear, picture of what's happening in our world.
Critics will point to another self-curated information source, Wikipedia, as an example of why crowdsourcing information can't be trusted (while conveniently ignoring the errors which have always plagued printed and "vetted" encyclopedias.) Yes, this kind of information flow is by nature confused, confusing and incomplete, but all information sources are! At least with this one, people aren't under the illusion that it's completely authoritative and objective. The result is a skepticism which has too long been missing in our consumption of the news.
Did Twitter, as some are claiming, displace traditional media last night? I won't go that far, but I do believe crowd-sourced journalism made a huge breakthrough. It can be messy and very difficult to follow, but its self-correcting nature and its incredible immediacy are attributes that the news networks can't match. Perhaps this will cause the networks to reevaluate how they handle the news, and maybe they'll put new emphasis on being deeper and more factual than they've been of late.
(Yeah, that last sentence sounded naively silly to me, too.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
I'm still mentally processing the information coming out of Boston about the attack at the Marathon. There's so much to say, and so much that could happen as a result of this horrendous act, that I can't possibly do it all justice. So, if you'll forgive me this rather informal bullet-point treatment of the subject:
- Once again, the news reports during and in the 24 hours after the attack were wildly inaccurate. The problem is that raw intelligence is by nature messy, and it takes someone incredibly skilled and patient to sift through it and come to rational conclusions. The news readers on radio and television are most assurredly not the people to be doing that, yet they always try to be. REASON magazine has a great article about lessons learned from the attack, and it's well worth your time to read.
- Expect attempts to link this to gun ownership. It's already been suggested - though with no evidence that I can find - that the bombs consisted of gunpowder. If that's the case, expect swift action in Congress to limit access to powder and primers. I've already seen calls to do something about the "growing threat of IEDs", and it's a sure thing that our "leaders" will jump on that with gusto.
- You can bet that any large event will now have omnipresent and quite likely overbearing security. The general public will demand action, and as one idiot in a news interview said: "They can give me a cavity search right now and I'd be perfectly happy". People will be very quick to give up their liberties for a little perceived security. Expect a push to increase funding for DHS, and an increase in TSA presence outside of airports - places like train terminals and even highways.
- You will hear calls for national programs to install British-style camera networks in major (and probably minor) cities, as well as justification and funding for more drones to "keep us safe".
- The conspiracy theories and urban legends started seconds after the blast. Don't get caught up; check information out yourself before passing it on. If in doubt, just hit the delete key.
- Greg Ellifritz had a pretty good article on his blog about dealing with bomb attacks. His thoughts about multiple devices are historically accurate; during the Lebanese "civil" war, the involved forces came up with the idea of launching a mortar shell into a populated area, then wait a minute or so for the first responders to show up. (Lebanon had a pretty well developed cadre of first aid people at that time.) They'd then launch another shell into the same place to take out the responders. This has since been applied by bombers all over the world. Greg's advice is sound: if you happen to be in an area when a bomb goes off, leave as fast as you can. Sounds callous, I know, but you need to decide for yourself if it's better than becoming another casualty.
- Rob Pincus put out an article about what to do if you're caught in a city which has been attacked. Rob travels more than anyone I know - in the range of 300 days a year - and so he's had to think about this on a regular basis. I'd add that his advice is generally pretty good for natural disasters as well; the effects of an earthquake will snarl things up even more than a terrorist attack, and it's something we on the left coast think about on a regular basis.
- Rob's only omission is how to get information and handle communications during these events; as we saw in Boston, the cell systems were so thoroughly clogged that it was assumed the police had ordered them shut down. That wasn't true (despite the fact that it was reported by at least one news reader), but it illustrates the problems inherent with getting information to or from an affected area. Assume that your cel phone will probably be useless; a smartphone with a VOIP app (such as Skype) will often work if you can find an open wifi connection, such as at a library. As we’ve seen in many hurricanes, hardline internet connections stay up when cell towers are damaged and inoperative. A small radio to receive the local stations can be a godsend in such situations, and a radio scanner to listen to both first responders and the local amateur radio traffic has proven to be very useful during natural disasters.Communication during emergencies is a huge topic, and I encourage you to make acquiring the proper knowledge and technology a priority in your planning.
That’s it for today. Be safe, be vigilant, and be prepared.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I was going to present Part Two of my SHOT Show adventures today, but I think this is more important. I'll post the SHOT Show stuff tomorrow, promise!
Since the election we've been bombarded with the notion that gun owners need to present a united front against the prohibitionists who wish to restrict the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. I agree with the sentiment, but I think the idea of solidarity can be taken to an illogical extreme, and in fact has been.
When someone in our camp - like the gun store owner in Arizona who publicly declares that he doesn't want Democrats in his establishment, or the trainer who states on video that he's ready to start killing people - does something stupid, it's our responsibility to make it clear that those views are not those of the majority of gun owners. If necessary, we need to cull them from our ranks so that they can't do any more harm to our cause. I've been calling this the "Shut The Hell Up" movement; regular readers will recall several instances of late where I've called for someone to just Shut The Hell Up.
Now I've been told (and had at least two volatile discussions at SHOT on the topic) that this lack of solidarity will "embolden our enemies." Folks, make no mistake: our enemies already hate us. The fact that gun owners exist at all is what drives them; they cannot be more emboldened than they already are. They do not derive their motivation from whatever discord exists in our ranks, because discord is always present in any group of more than three people. Their focus will always be on the stupid stuff which causes the discord, because it's the stupid stuff we do (or allow to be done in our name) which gives them a political advantage.
For instance: if someone were to go on YouTube and declare that he's ready to start shooting people if his rights are infringed another inch, and the rest of the community (properly) excommunicated him for being an idiot, which action do you think the prohibitionists would derive motivation from? Which do you think they'd focus on and issue press releases about - the crazy, radical statements of the nutcase or the sane, measured opinions of the people who no longer want anything to do with him? Right: they'll focus on the former, because that's where the real damage to our cause is done. The fact that others disagree with him gives them no advantage, and in fact weakens their contention that all gun owners are just a step away from becoming maniacal killers.
Discord is in fact an advantage to our side because it shows we are responsible. It's not something we should fear but rather something we should embrace because it makes our case stronger.
The idea that the need to present a united front requires we not criticize those in our corner who do stupid things is self-destructive. Continuing a relationship with people or ideas that have damaged our public image or our political positions does far more harm than the small amount of internal angst that is generated by their exorcism. The former lasts; the latter is quickly forgotten, if it's noticed at all.
Rob Pincus wrote a very good essay on this topic a few days ago, one which largely mirrors my opinion on the subject. I wholeheartedly encourage you to read it.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Happy New Year everyone! Well, it would be if the Second Amendment community weren’t facing a major fight at the dawn of 2013. This time they’re serious, and it’s going to take some work on our parts to win.
You see, Congress goes back to work tomorrow and one of the things they'll be working on is Dianne Feinstein's new gun control bill. I'll not waste the space here detailing the provisions - you can easily look them up with a five-second Google - but she's going for broke this time: the virtual elimination of all semi-automatic rifles and handguns, and the outlawing of any gun which carries more than ten rounds (including lever action rifles.) The exact content of the bill is as yet unknown, but she's pushing for mandatory registration and perhaps even confiscation.
Normally Congress would pretty much roll their collective eyes and say “there goes Dianne again”, but with the Sandy Hook murders still relatively fresh in the public's mind and with the complicity of both Hollywood and the media her bill is sure to gain traction it otherwise mightn’t. I don't believe her bill stands much of a chance of passage but that's not the point - it's a negotiating tactic, a way to steer the public perception toward "reasonable" gun control.
If we, the shooting community, don't act immediately her little scheme might just work. That means you and I - yes, you too - need to do something within the next week, maybe even sooner, if we're to counter this horrendous attack on our civil rights.
What to do? Lots of people are blithely exhorting you to write your Congressperson, but no one ever explains just how to go about doing so effectively - if they even know themselves. The problem with writing to Congress is that if you don't do it right your message will be completely ignored, and might even embolden an anti-gun legislator. I hope today I can shed a little light on the process and give you a few guidelines to help ensure that your voice is actually heard.
Here's what I've learned from talking with elected representatives (I even have one in the family though I don’t like to admit it), people who work or have worked for them, people in the media (I have one of those in the family too), as well as reading articles by people who have worked in Congressional offices:
- The first and most important thing you need to understand is that unless he/she knows you personally, your Senator or Representative will likely never see your letter. His/her office has aides or corespondents whose job it is to read the mail, categorize each response as for or against, and file it in the appropriate place. The Congressperson checks in with the aides (who are assigned to specific issues, like gun control) on a regular basis, asking how many times they've heard from constituents on the specific issue at hand. They'll be told how many letters they've received and what the for/against percentages are, but are unlikely to get anything more specific unless they ask. If the majority of the letters are on one side, that's what they'll be told.
- Remember that aides are usually fresh out of college, idealistic, and not very well paid. Don't be rude and never insult them or their boss or your letter will go missing - from what I've been told it's a sure bet. Don't say anything about your Congressperson being a scum-sucking gun grabber even if it is true; be polite, even if it kills you.
- Don't use paper. As a security precaution all snailmail goes to a central location where it's irradiated, examined, opened, scanned (probably with OCR) into an electronic file, and then that file is delivered to your Congressperson's office. They never see the paper unless they request it specifically. This process is said to take a week at best, and if there is a huge influx of correspondence it might take two or three or more. If there is a time-sensitive issue, as this is, a paper letter will almost certainly be too late. An email gets there faster and ends up in the same place anyhow, so there is no longer a reason to put pen to paper when writing Congress. Send an email.
- Don't write a book. The aides have a ton of letters to go through, don't have a lot of time, and are easily bored. Your letter should consist of a paragraph or two at the very most: tell them what you're writing about, how you want them to vote, and why it's important to you. That's it; resist the urge to write more. Ideally you should get that done in three well-crafted sentences, and as the volume of mail goes up the greater the importance of making your letter concise.
- If you're not a constituent - yes, they check - your letter will generally be ignored. In other words, unless you're actually in Feinstein's district don't waste your time writing her office; it won't do any of us any good even if you are polite.
- How do you make sure they know you’re a constituent? Put your name and address in the letter. I get emails constantly where the only identifier of the sender is "firstname.lastname@example.org". To me it's just annoying, but it causes Congressional aides to conclude one of two things: you're either out of district or sending robomails, either of which will cause your email to go right into the electronic trashcan. If you don't want that to happen put your FULL NAME and address in the body.
- Make sure your email has a subject; those without subjects might be filtered out by their office email system. I’m told the best thing to do is to put the title/number of the actual bill in the subject line so that the reason for your letter can be quickly determined.
- The NRA (and others) will probably send you an email with links to form letters that you can send to your Congressperson: don’t waste your time unless and until you’ve done everything above. Form letters are nearly useless; when the aides are queried, one of the questions they're asked is what percentage of letters are of the form variety and which were actually written. The form letters have FAR less impact than those you send from your own keyboard (some say they are simply ignored. After all, if it was really important to you, you'd have written your own damn letter.) Again: DON'T USE FORM LETTERS. If you feel you can't make a good impression on the aides then have someone draft it for you, but don't use the prewritten missives from any group.
- If you even get a response it will almost certainly be a form letter. Deal with it. Go back to the first item: your Congressperson is NOT going to read your letter, and therefore is very unlikely to draft a personal response to you. Expect a form letter and don't go bitching on Facebook if you get one; it's just how the system works.
Now go use what you've learned, and let's see if we can head Feinstein's bill off at the pass!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I hope everyone had a great Christmas with family and friends!
There is just a ton of stuff to talk about this week, and my "ideas for the blog" bookmark list runs into the hundreds. I want to take today, however, to point out the hypocrisy of the press - and how at least one of the members of the increasingly sanctimonious Fourth Estate has learned that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, courtesy of the emerging Fifth Estate.
The Journal-News of White Plains, NY recently published a list of gun permit holders in and around their area. After the Sandy Hook murders their staff decided (of course) that guns were the problem, but the trouble is that they can only advocate for more Second Amendment limitations. They want to do more - to make a difference, you understand.
How about intimidating gun owners? Yeah, that's something they can do! After all, intimidation works to keep people from voting - maybe it can work to keep them from buying guns!
Off to the local County Clerk's Office they go, Freedom Of Information Act request in hand, and they returned with a list of all the permitted gun owners in their area. It was a given that they'd publish the information, but dead trees don't have the social impact they once did. They moved into the 21st century and augmented the published list with an interactive map on their website. All one need do is point and click to find out which of their neighbors has guns to steal!
Now they admitted that the reporter who wrote the story, a Mr. Dwight R. Worley, owns a Smith & Wesson 686 revolver for which he has a permit. Somehow, though, his address didn't make it into the published database (surprise, surprise) nor the interactive map.
What the editor and staff at the Journal-News failed to understand, however, is that freedom of information works for regular people too. It wasn't long before someone made their own inquiry and Mr. Worley's information was made public. As near as I can tell it was the blog of Christopher Fountain, a retired lawyer, which broke the news. (If someone else actually got it out first, my apologies.) Mr. Fountain has Mr. Worley's address, telephone number, and even a picture for your viewing pleasure.
This was information the paper felt free to release about everyone else except one of their own, and when Mr. Worley's address was plastered all over the 'net the Journal-News tried to clean house. As I write this, Facebook posts that contain his information are quickly being sanitized by Facebook staff. It seems that the paper considers itself to be a step above the people they serve; kind of like politicians, no?
Have a look, share it with your friends (particularly those in New York), and do your part to let the Journal-News - and other media - know that their elitism is not appreciated by the unwashed masses.
-=[ Grant ]=-
…but this time, maybe there is something we can do about it.
Where I live the weather is a constant issue. Since we do so much outside, and we depend on the weather for crops (especially fruit), getting an accurate bead on tomorrow's weather is imperative. Since the rural area in which I live has its own little micro climate and no forecaster from the big cities bothers with those of us in the sticks, I've been forced into learning more about weather. I’ll admit that it is a fascinating, and at times frustrating, field of study.
I’ve learned one thing very well: predicting the weather is incredibly difficult, especially in our region, and running the models to make predictions taxes even a powerful computer.
It's that last fact which is the basis for today's story: I had no idea that the National Weather Service wasn't the best in the world. Seems they don't have enough computer power to make really good models, and they slip further behind each year. No wonder they're usually the least accurate forecast in the Pacific Northwest!
I found an interesting weather blog which has a great article on the subject. It's not often I find myself on the "spend more money!" side of things, but I'd be willing to take some of the funds we use to support hostile regimes around the globe to pay for the much-need upgrades to the NWS. That would be a very good investment for our country.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Since the horrific school murders last week it's become clear that our collective responses to these attacks is insufficient. The reports I've read indicated that it took police 20 minutes from the initial call to arrive; that's a lot of time for a madman to be loose in a victim-rich environment - no matter what he's armed with.
While the national debate rages about gun bans and mental health records, there are some logical, plausible, no-nonsense things that we can do right now to help keep our kids safe.
I'm going to ask you to watch these two videos by Rob Pincus about unarmed responses to a spree killer, and then to share them with everyone you know.
The first is from a Personal Defense Network video on the subject:
The second is from a seminar that he taught just yesterday to a group of kids. (You can't get more timely than that!):
This second video features excerpts from a 30 minute course presented to a group of children ages 7-17. The topic was practical responses to an attacker in their school. Rob, through his company I.C.E. Training, is offering this seminar program, free of charge, to schools wanting to present their faculty and staff with options to be used in the face of a worst case scenario school attack. If you represent a public or private elementary, middle or high school and are interested in hosting a course, please check the link to his site and then email him for details: email@example.com
Finally, Rob has offered to any elementary or high school teacher who legally carries, or will commit to legally carrying, the chance to attend a Combat Focus Shooting course for free - that's right, free. Rob says “more teachers need to fight for the right to carry at work. I am willing to provide the training, but they have to take the first steps. I am interested in changing/causing the conversations and policy changes at the administration level in as many schools as possible.”
As a Combat Focus Shooting certified instructor, I’ll match that offer! Contact me for more information.
There isn't any single thing that's going to make our schools safe. Instead, it's going to take a number of things working in concert to do that job. We need to consider an interlocking approach, including student's response and ultimately the presence of countervailing force, to do that. Let the politicians do the finger-pointing and hand-wringing while we - both gun owners and non-owners - get together and actually tackle the problem.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I can't begin to describe my sorrow after the events of last week. We dealt with our own Mall attack here in Oregon, only to turn around and witness the same event - only with more horrific results - in a Connecticut school. My heart grieves for the families, friends, and community of Hook Elementary School.
There is a lot of activity swirling around this event, and frankly it would take me weeks to write enough to cover it all completely, so I'll limit myself to some brief commentary about various aspects.
- There seem to be a lot of British busybodies filling the comments on news sites and Facebook with their sanctimonious hand-wringing. Myopia appears to be even more endemic to their country than poor dental hygiene, and it's ironic that those who chide us for being ignorant about the rest of the world are themselves incredibly ignorant about the gigantic failures of gun control in their own little island cesspool.
- It came out last week that our Mall killer here in Oregon broke off his attack because a licensed concealed carrier drew his own gun in response. The bad guy made eye contact, saw a good guy's gun pointed at him, and ran like the coward he was.(*) I think this stands in stark contrast to the killings in Connecticut, where the school staff could not avail themselves of efficient protection. The drastically different outcomes are of course due to many factors, but it's plausible - and even likely - that a legally armed teacher could have done what Mr. Meli did in Clackamas Town Center. This is a story you need to share, because the mainstream media is “conveniently” ignoring it.
- After any such attack there are always emotional appeals for more gun control. I'm seeing a lot of people on news sites and Facebook arguing the topic, and I'd like all of those who support the Second Amendment to tone it down. When you're dealing with someone whose opinion is based on emotion, arguing with them - either from an emotional or an intellectual basis - usually results in a strengthening of their resolve. However, I've also found over the years that most people become more rational after time has passed as long as they haven't cemented their initial emotional reactions into a decision. In other words, if you argue with them now, when their heads are hot, you won't be able to change their minds later. Let them vent now, and once tempers have cooled you can go back with the rational arguments and stand a better chance of making a change in their opinions.
- When the teleprompter readers in the media go off-script it's painful. I've heard too many comments from on-air bimbos of (both sexes) about mass murders becoming "more common these days" - comments which are repeated by their viewers and listeners across the country. As it happens they are most assuredly becoming neither more common, nor more deadly. A story in National Review debunks the idea.
- A true family story of mass murder from Robert Farago. It has a direct parallel to today.
- An analysis of the psychosis of the recent Arizona attacker; there are some parallels with the Clackamas Town Center killer, and it will be interesting to see if there are any with the Connecticut murderer.
- Some sort of draconian gun control measure will definitely be introduced in Congress, and will probably make it through the Senate (the House is another story.) Remember what I've been saying over the last few months about welcoming shooters who don't necessarily tow your party's line? Remember what I said about having Democratic friends of the Second Amendment in Congress, and how important they might be if we got into a serious fight for our rights? In light of what we're going to face come January, don't you think today might be a damn good time to tell divisive people like Cope Reynolds, the owner of Southwest Shooting Authority in Pinetop, Arizona to shut the hell up?
- There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, but ultimately we have to remember this: when people have free will, sometimes they will choose to do something bad. That's the other side of freedom of choice, and if you want to have a free society you can't eliminate all risk. This is a truth which seems to be lost on so many people (particularly our British friends.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
( * - I suspected this was the case when I listened to a Deputy Sheriff answer some questions in a news conference right after the incident. It wasn't what he said, it was how he said it that made me believe this had happened. I shared this information privately with a few people, and was gratified to find that I was right!)
I'm not going to say much here, mainly because we don't really know a lot yet. I can say that the coverage I'm seeing in the national media, especially CNN, is largely unsubstantiated and sensationalistic. Many of the "eyewitnesses" are giving wildly inconsistent reports, and I question the veracity of more than a few of them.
Many people have asked if Clackamas Town Center is "posted". Oregon does not have an exclusion law for licensed concealed carriers the way that most states do. Many malls post no weapons signs, but they carry no legal meaning.
This mall used to have little "please don't bring guns here" signs in the corners at the entrances, but I haven't been there in a few years and don't know if they're still present. In other words, it's not the legislated helpless victim zone that you'd find in many other states.
I'll post more when we have a complete picture of the event. That may be days or weeks from now.
-=[ Grant ]=-
(Note: I am omitting names in this article, not because the information is secret but because I want to focus on a concept. The incidents I talk about are public knowledge and can be found with about 15 seconds of Googling; if you really want the nitty-gritty details, feel free to do the searching - but please don't bring that information in to any comments here, as I want the discussion to center on the ideas not the players. Thank you.)
This last week two seemingly unrelated events came to the attention of the shooting public. First, a trainer whose background is supposedly Russian special forces (Spetsnaz) violated some cardinal safety rules and shot an assistant instructor three times; second, a well-known shooting retailer published an article on their blog that promoted what is universally considered to be an unsafe act when holstering a gun.
In the first incident, the trainer in question has produced some videos (one of which I've seen) that show techniques I find rather dubious from a safety aspect. They're presented under the guise of being "real world" special forces training and aggressively sold to people in the private sector.
In the second incident, the writer (whose pictures and videos show a certain laxity with regard to trigger finger discipline) presented a technique for "safely" reholstering guns like the Glock. This technique required the the shooter to put the trigger finger into the trigger guard behind the trigger to ostensibly keep if from moving backward if caught on something. It was supposedly developed by a Marine-turned-police officer, whose "secret" work necessitated anonymity.
Fans of the instructor who shot his assistant tried to downplay the negligent shooting by invoking nonsensical terms such as "big boy rules" and "real world" safety. Because the instructor was formerly a special forces soldier his methodology, we were told, would be different and we needed to apply different standards of safety to him and his methods.
At the same time, the author of the article in question defended the technique by invoking the inventor's status as both a Marine and an undercover cop. Because of his undercover work, we were told, his technique was "real-world" and needed to be judged under a different standard of safety.
The linkage between the two is obviously safety, but it goes well beyond that. Both incidents are infused with a liberal amount of the logical fallacy of 'appeal to authority' - that is, the material being presented is valuable (or not unsafe) because of the position of teacher/inventor. What concerns me is that so many people will actually fall for that.
Just because someone was a special forces soldier, Marine, or police officer doesn't automatically make a technique or an opinion correct in all cases. First, because of context: just because it's valuable in a war zone doesn't mean it's applicable to you in your home; second, because the authority (real or perceived) that someone receives from his job doesn't mean that his opinions are infallible. If you assume either (or worse, both) of those you can end up adopting wholly unsafe and inappropriate techniques, not to mention the loss of valuable time training and practicing them.
It's up to you to look at everything you read, see, or experience in a class with a critical eye. Just because someone is famous or holds a certain position doesn't mean he's right! You need to ask yourself whether what you're seeing is safe, applicable to your own life, and addresses a plausible need.
More importantly, the person who is promoting that technique or idea must be able to give you more justification and explanation than simply "I'm special forces/SWAT, and unless you are too you’re not in a position to question!"
Whenever you encounter a technique justified only (or at least primarily) by the status of the person who invented or is promoting it, you should immediately question its validity. Anything you learn with regard to defensive shooting has to make sense, it has to address a real need, and above all it needs to be safe. If there isn't a rational explanation forthcoming, if all you're given is appeal to authority, then you should be extremely wary of both the material and the person feeding it to you.
-=[ Grant ]=-
At the SHOT Show last January I was having dinner with a group of industry people. Talk turned to politics, as it usually does with gun folk, and the discussion revolved around the race we concluded (well, more or less) last night.
At that point in time the Republicans didn't have a clear front runner, yet I confidently predicted the President would handily win re-election. The assembled group said that I couldn't possibly predict the result this far out, that there were too many variables, and that I was assuming a defeatist attitude.
None of that was true.
There was only one variable in this election: the willingness of the candidates to pander to an America that wants to be like the rest of the world, with large intrusive governments and poor fiscal responsibility. The records of the reds and the blues are little different in that respect; only the details vary.
The incumbent always has the edge in this kind of situation, controlling the treasury as he does. The challenger can only hope to be more charismatic, and on this point my prediction was ridiculously easy: none of the Republican field had nearly the charisma that President Obama does. On that alone it was a sure bet. I didn't even buy the judicial appointment argument, because there was absolutely nothing in Mr. Romney's past performance (which is the only reliable indicator of future behavior for a politician) which indicated any actual philosophical difference from the President when it came to appointing judges to the bench.
My point is that, if Mr. Romney had been elected, our status as a nation wouldn't have changed in any fundamental way. The transfer of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street would continue unabated; the looming derivatives mess would still be looming; our interventionist foreign policy would still be the order of the day; judicial activists would still find their way to the Supreme Court; our young men and women would still be dying in third-world hellholes; and the determination of the prohibitionists to whittle away at the Second Amendment would not have been reduced.
It’s that last point this blog is concerned with. The threats we face today are the same ones we faced yesterday, and the ones we face tomorrow would not have been materially altered by electing the other side of the common coin. We still have to defend the Second Amendment, and it's high time that we get together with Second Amendment supporters from both sides of the aisle to make that happen.
Yes, there are "gun people" who don't have an 'R' after their names, and we desperately need their support. It's time to make sure that we stand united for gun rights regardless of party affiliation, and the only way we can do that is for every one to reach out and shake the hands of those gun owners who didn't vote the same way that you did yesterday - regardless of exactly what that was.
We have work to do. Let's get to it.
-=[ Grant ]=-
No matter who wins the election tomorrow there will be large numbers of people who will feel disenfranchised. Twitter has been abuzz with users claiming to be ready to riot if the President does not win re-election, and even if he does the "Lakers Effect" (so named because of the propensity of Los Angeles Lakers fans to riot when they win) may come into play with nearly the same results.
As I noted last week, the slowly improving mess in the northeast will not help matters, and in fact may prove to be the flashpoint for anything that does happen. I still believe that the potential for the spread of violence to other urban centers around the country remains very high.
Because of this I think it's prudent for those who live in urban areas, or who may find themselves in an urban area over the next few days, to think a bit about how to deal with mob violence. Given the increasing probabilities I feel it’s something that you should spend a little time getting to understand.
It must be said that I've never been in a riot. I've seen them on television, certainly, but they've not been something that this good ol' country boy has had to contemplate. Luckily for us, Greg Ellifritz has been in a riot. More than one, actually, and he has some great tips for staying safe.
Go read Greg's article right now - you might thank me come Wednesday!
-=[ Grant ]=-
As I'm sitting here looking over the list of Friday Surprise topics I've collected, none of them seem "right" for this week. This week has been dominated - fairly or unfairly - by the destruction wrought on the eastern seaboard.
News reports are full of stories about long gas lines, fights over food, people dumpster diving just to get sustenance, union thugs turning away non-union utility crews, and much more ugliness. The most astonishing thing, though, is the number of reporters and anchors who proclaim on camera their shock that "things are getting worse, not better."
To those of us who study this kind of thing (I actually pursued an emergency management degree a few years back simply because this stuff interests me) this comes as no surprise. The initial damage to a complex system like a metropolis invariably cascades and the result is a level of damage that might not have been predictable at the outset. Fukushima should come immediately to mind.
The trouble is that this stuff may not be completely predictable, but it's not a surprise either. A local weather blog (this is Oregon, remember) noted the unprecedented potential of the east coast storm many days before it hit land. People knew this was coming and it still caught them off guard.
Luckily this disaster has ignited an interest in 'prepping', which is a good thing!
But the country is still not out of the woods. Not only is a new storm now threatening the east coast, there is a very real risk of massive riots breaking out in that region in wake of next week's elections. Think about it: you have millions of people already pushed toward their breaking point, large gangs of organized looters reportedly descending on darkened neighborhoods all over the hard-hit areas, no gas, no food, no heat or water, and a very large entitlement mentality amongst all the players. It’s only going to get worse this weekend as a stricken New York City, under the control of people who don’t have to live in the dark or dumpster dive for their food, diverts precious recovery assets to putting on a gigantic marathon.
It's a powder keg, and when you throw in the results of a very contentious presidential race the possibilities are downright frightening.
We could see riots that make the 1992 Los Angeles event look like a birthday party. Given the disaffection I've seen all over this country, it's not a stretch to believe that they could spread across the nation. It's not predictable, but if it happens it should not come as a surprise.
As I told someone yesterday, next week will be very interesting - in the (purported) Chinese sense of the word. Don't let yourself be caught off guard.
-=[ Grant ]=-
The storm that hit the NE part of our country was more devastating than I expected - and I expected it to be severe. The original projected pressure of 939mb turned out to be very close to the actual 940mb recorded - the lowest ever for the eastern seaboard. When I saw that forecast pressure a week ago I knew it was going to be very bad, but even I was shocked at what eventually transpired. My thoughts are with our countrymen at this hour.
Watching the news from the area I was struck by a reporter's comment: she saw hordes of people wandering the streets looking for food. They didn't show any video, but I can imagine in an area where seven million homes and businesses are without power (and not expected to get power restored for many days yet) there would be a lot of scavengers. It becomes a survival tool. I can't, however, think of anything I'd want to do less than roam the streets looking for scraps and warmth.
That's why we prepare. Everyone reading this faces dangers simply by virtue of living, and while the ways in which we each prepare might be different the goal is the same: survive the event so that we can bring ourselves and our communities back to something resembling normal. Sometimes, though, in our preparations we forget the little things that turn out to be bigger than we expected.
After my Monday post about prepping I got an email from a reader who related the story of a friend of his. Seems this lady turned her hall closet into a canned goods pantry, which was probably a good idea given that she lives in hurricane country. The next hurricane wiped out her electrical service for a few days, but this time she was ready! Well, except for a little problem: seems she didn't have anything other than an electric can opener, which of course was inoperative. All her food was locked in those pesky metal cylinders!
Now you or I may have used a knife to gouge open the cans, but that didn't occur to her. Yes, adaptation and flexibility are important aspects of being prepared but there is a more important point in this tale: if you make decisions about your preparations, you need to think through all of the ramifications of those decisions. Simply investing a buck or two in a couple of hand-operated can openers was all she really needed, but didn't think of doing.
I was struck by this same problem watching the news footage from the East Coast prior to landfall. In one scene a gas station was being mobbed by people filling up their gas cans in advance of the power outages. Most of them had a couple of tiny 1-gallon plastic cans; how long would that stash run their generators? A couple of hours, if they're lucky. Then they're right back where they started simply because they didn't think their plans through. Generators need fuel, and you have to think in terms of hours of power. How many hours might you expect to be without power and how many gallons will the generator use per hour (or vice-versa) will tell you how many gallons of fuel you need. It's more than you might think.
So you've got a generator and plenty of fuel? Great! How do you plan to get that power where you need it? Most people have extension cords, but they're typically too short and almost always of too small a gauge to be safe. The generator by necessity sits outdoors, and the run of extension cord into the house is also by necessity long. The longer the run of wire, the greater the diameter of that wire must be. If you're going to use extension cords with a generator you need the heaviest gauge your can get for both safety and usability. (I'm partial to these, which are both tough and easy to handle, because they stay flexible in the cold.)
Better yet is to have your electrician wire in a cutover panel and a special outlet into which you plug your generator. He can also wire up the super-heavy-duty cable you'll need to feed the output from your generator into the panel.
You do know that your generator, unless it's quite large, is unable to power your electric oven and range, right? In fact, depending on the size of the generator it may not even be able to run your refrigerator, lights, and microwave at the same time. How are you going to cook your cache of canned food?
How about a good, old-fashioned suitcase-type Coleman stove! Cheap, easy to use, safe, and if you get the propane type the fuel is readily available and stores for years. (Do you have a way to light the Coleman stove? How about one of the long spark-type igniters that you can find for a few dollars in the camping department of any outdoor store? Get several.)
Think through all your preparations; look for the weak points. Remember that just because you have a piece of equipment that works under a specific set of circumstances doesn't mean that you can ignore the support equipment necessary to utilize it properly. Sometimes, like our lady with the can opener, it means analyzing every single step of the problem and actively questioning your assumptions. Looked at in the proper frame of mind it might even be entertaining!
OK, maybe not entertaining…but you get the point!
-=[ Grant ]=-
As I write this the storm formerly known as Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the East Coast. The remnants of Sandy are merging with a winter storm, sucking frigid air from Canada, and coalescing to form what's being called a "superstorm". The forecast is for extremely high winds, double-digit inches of rain, feet of wet and heavy snow in the mountains, and water level rises as much as 11 feet in some of the bays in the region. Current predictions say that many millions may be without power for an extended period of time - days, certainly, perhaps weeks in some areas.
This storm isn't just powerful, it's huge. Looking at the maps of predicted impact reveals possible tropical-storm force winds as far west as the Mississippi River, and from South Carolina up through Maine. A blocking high pressure region to the northeast means that the storm will stick around for at least a couple of days, perhaps through Wednesday. If you live east of the Big Muddy and north of Florida your weather for the next week is likely to be dominated by this event.
Given the incredible, almost unprecedented scope of the storm some people are very likely to die. It’s a sad thing to contemplate. For my friends, family, clients and readers in the impact zone I hope that you ride out this event as safely (and calmly) as possible. Please don't take risks, and make sure your families are as safe as you can make them.
I realize this is an emerging story but I think it's important to use it as a springboard to talk about the larger context of personal safety. I run into a lot of people who spend large sums of money on guns and ammo, but very little on other things that will keep them safe. I know folks who have very impressive gun collections but no generator and only a day or two of food. Yes, you might need those guns to keep yourself safe from the looters who scurry in after any major natural disaster - but you have to survive the disaster to even begin to be worried about the looters!
Personal safety isn't just about handling bad guys; it also means keeping yourself safe from auto accidents, burns, disease, diabetes, strokes, electrocution, and all the other things that can maim or kill you. I know it's hard to keep perspective because guns are shiny and shooting them is a whole lot of fun, but if you're serious about your safety and survival you need more.
The trouble is that no one has unlimited time, money, or energy to do everything. Even if you're in the top 1% of wage earners in this country your resources are finite. Preparing for an emergency, be it criminal or meteorological, requires managing those scarce resources to provide the best return for the most likely circumstances.
Instead of signing up for yet another Ultra-Advanced Warrior Operator Level 3 Ninja Team Houseclearing course (Walter Mitty, Instructor), how about using that money to buy a generator or take a class in trauma care or outfit a pantry with shelves and stock them with food? Needing one (or more) of those is probably just a tad more likely than having to clear an office tower of 'tangos'.
It's really easy to get caught up in the fun of Barbie-dressing yet another AR-15 while ignoring the fact that you have no trauma kit (and no training in how to use it.) In the final analysis a lever action rifle and a month’s worth of stored food beats the crap out of the latest red-dot equipped flattop AR and an empty refrigerator.
This week is going to be very bad for a very large number of people. If you're one of them, my thoughts are with you. For the rest of us this should serve as an object lesson in preparedness. Remember: preparing is all about managing scarcity. Do so wisely.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Last week Rob Pincus posted a photo on his Facebook page of him teaching Khloe Kardashian how to shoot. (I'll admit to the necessity of Googling the name to find out who she is. I am unabashedly unhip.) Though I'm not a fan of “reality” television (I studiously avoid “Top Shot”, for instance), I'm glad she took the time to find out about the shooting world from someone who knows it quite well.
There, I thought, it sat. Until this weekend, when Rob posted this:
"Gun People" chasing away potential new shooters with their Ignorant Behavior
I was kind of surprised at the number of negative comments that the picture of teaching a pop-celebrity how to shoot garnered earlier this week.
The fact is that, for all the TALK about expanding the ranks of gun owners and reaching younger people & more females, the kind of ignorant responses that some have offered aren't going to encourage a twenty-something year old girl who happens to follow the Kardashians or Justin Beeber or who will vote for Obama to come to a shooting range and give it a try. In fact, some of the comments might downright chase them away from even being open to trying shooting or wanting to be part of the 'gun community'.
The Biggest Offenders have actually suggested that I should have taught her to shoot herself and/or attacked her looks and/or suggested that it would've been better if she had been wearing a bikini in the picture.
Those types of retarded comments aren't going to anything to sway someone who is on the fence about going shooting to imagine that they will be welcomed with open arms at gun store or shooting club and, in fact, could push many people away.
Whose side are you guys on??
I went back and looked at the comments, and sure enough there was a lot of negativity. Instead of embracing another (potential) crusader for the cause, a certain segment of the shooting fraternity had already written her off. That's hardly a welcoming attitude!
During the RECOIL debacle I opined (either in print or on Doc Wesson's show) that the younger generation is not likely to embrace the NRA as it exists today. There are simply too many in that organization, and in some of our defensive training and hunter education organizations, who are intolerant of people who are different than they. Whether it's the guns these newcomers use or what their voting preferences are or the tattoos and piercings many of them sport, our community too often finds ways to make it clear to them that they're really not "one of us" and can't be, until they become just like us (“us”, of course, being a variable dependent upon the sociopolitical hangups of the individual doing the judging.) I think a lot of them are just going to say no, and may say no to shooting altogether. That would be a great loss.
I once asked someone who lived in a seedy area what it was going to take to clean his neighborhood up. He responded with “quite a few more funerals.” He didn’t mean that people needed to be killed; rather, he meant that attitudes tend to go with one to the grave and only the natural turnover in population with births and deaths would lead to the change he hoped for. Trouble is, we can’t wait for the dinosaurs to die off. If we do we’ll lose the people we claim to want to attract and possibly lose our political advantage over time. Yes, we need to encourage younger shooters - but we can’t do that if we’re sending out signals, both subtle and overt, that we don’t like them!
A single blog post by a single person isn’t going to change things, but if we can get more bloggers and people of influence aboard perhaps we can make some headway. If you agree with this, if you believe that we need to attract and hold onto the young guns, you can help: forward this to the blogs and forums you frequent, post it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and generally talk it up. Perhaps - if enough of us voice our support for the newcomers to the fold - we can bring the shooting world to understand that the next generation of shooters is ours to lose. Lose them we will, if we allow these inane and wholly inappropriate attitudes to exist.
-=[ Grant ]=-
RECOIL Magazine certainly took a heck of a beating last week. The editor, Jerry Tsai, resigned on Thursday after a long list of advertisers cancelled their support of the publication, and on Friday the publisher "suspended" Associate Publisher Joe Galloway - likely for his ridiculous spin attempts (and perhaps some alleged astroturfing that was tried on Facebook.)
Now what? They may survive, they may not; I don't think anyone can really predict their fate, at least not now. If they want to survive, however, the first thing they're going to need to do is to appoint a new editor who is both a young iconoclast AND a knowledgable defender of gun rights. It will need to be someone who the 20- and 30-something readers of RECOIL can accept as one of their own, someone who knows (and is known in) the industry, and someone who can retain the talent that actually put the magazine out. That's a tall order.
The publisher is going to need to come out with a strong commitment to the Second Amendment. Not a tepid, "we stand in full support" kind of statement that politicians everywhere spout, but a real, here-is-exactly-what-we-think-about-the-tough-issues statement. He's also going to need to come to grips with the internet and social media, which the whole affair (delayed statements, flip-flopping, alleged astroturfing, and leaked internal emails) showed not to be the case. They're a print entity and it seems they didn't quite understand how quickly things move in the electronic world, let alone how easy it is for people to find out if someone is lying.
Once those things are done the magazine is going to need to rebuild its advertising base. That's going to be a tough row to hoe, because the advertisers have been burned and are probably quite shy of any association. This is where the new editor is going to have to press the flesh and make the personal appeals necessary to woo those companies back into their pages. Any whiff of insincerity or suggestion of hesitation on their new mission, and those ad dollars will leave for good.
As a community we're going to need to support those advertisers if and when they return to RECOIL. A continued boycott won't do any of us any good, least of all the under-represented shooters for whom RECOIL was intended. It's time to put down the pitchforks, folks, and get busy putting RECOIL back on the newsstands - assuming, of course, they show that they're deserving of that support. The community will need to be both immediate and visible so that the advertisers understand they won't be penalized for going back to RECOIL.
Why? Because, as I’ve already pointed out in this blog and on The Gun Nation, the magazine is important to the shooting community’s future.
The industry is just now getting their heads wrapped around the very place of RECOIL in the panoply of firearms publications. I don't think many people in the business yet "get" the purpose of the magazine (the online criticisms of their content are painfully hilarious to read), and very few consumers outside of their target market understand the new gun enthusiasts themselves.
As the story unfolded I wondered aloud about their political connections and ownership. I had the facts correct, but my concerns, I think, proved to be misplaced. It became very clear as the ship started listing to starboard that the magazine existed not as a tool of subtle political manipulation, but simply as an example of how people’s interests are not always going to be in line with our preconceived notions.
This weekend, for instance, I was listening to a gun talk show and the host couldn't understand how someone could be both an enthusiastic gun owner and in favor of gay marriage. (Apparently he is not aware that there is a significant, yet quiet, subset of gay gun owners whose passion for gun rights easily equals his.) These young shooters very often are supportive of both concepts, and it's something those people in leadership positions who see the political spectrum in black-and-white must face up to.
Here's the key to understanding the RECOIL reader: they are not one-issue people or one-issue voters; they are not gun rights activists first and foremost, whose points of view are shaped by that. And, though it may cost me some readers, I'm going to say for the record: THAT'S OK!
They don't have to be rabid gun rights activists to support the Second Amendment. They simply need to be educated as to what the Amendment means, why it's important to them, and how it is perfectly compatible with their desires for "social justice". We are not going to turn them into "conservative" voters, we're not going to stop them from voting the way they want to vote, and it would be hypocritical of us to try to do so or to abandon them because they won't. We have to accept that they're not going to vote gun rights exclusively, that they’ll consider them as one part of their whole world view, and that they're often going to support candidates who sport a "D" after their name.
If we as a community are serious - really serious - about broadening the support for firearms ownership in this country and ensuring the continuation of all that we’ve fought for, we have to accept the RECOIL readers for who they are. Our job is to move the Second Amendment up on their scale of importance, but we can’t do that if we can’t reach them. RECOIL was one very good way of reaching them.
There is a whole generation out there whose members like guns and would likely become the Second Amendment leaders of tomorrow, as long as we don't leave them blaming the "fudds" for taking away their voice. By taking an active interest in what happens over at RECOIL, we can ensure that there is a real outlet for those gun owners who are not well served (if served at all) by the existing publications and organizations.
-=[ Grant ]=-
(If you haven't been following the erupting story about RECOIL magazine, read my recap from Monday.)
Up until now we've heard only from Jerry Tsai, the editor of RECOIL. FIrst he said that he stood behind what he wrote, but that he simply worded it unclearly. (Remember that one of the reasons he cited for the gun being unavailable to "civvies", and with which he agreed, was that it served “no sporting purpose” and was bad for cops and soldiers - both common refrains of the Sarah Brady crowd.)
When the industry started taking notice he wrote a second "apology" where he claimed that what he printed was just what HK told him. I sincerely doubt that any company the size of HK uses words like "civvies" and "scumbags"; even a first-grader can read the item and see that it wasn't written by the maker of the product. The words were Jerry's, through and through, only this time he claims they really weren't.
The exodus of advertisers was swift; I named some of them on Monday, and in the intervening days many more have jumped ship - including industry behemoth Magpul, who virtually defines the modern concept of "shooting style". If you're aiming at the twentysomething crowd, and you don't have Magpul on board, you're nothing.
Apparently that reality has yet to occur to Joe Galloway, who is the Associate Publisher of RECOIL. He sent this communique (in its entirety) to advertisers this morning:
RECOIL Magazine’s Position:
In light of some of the comments and complaints made about a paragraph in a recent article about the Heckler & Koch MP7A1, Recoil wishes to make the following points clear:
· It is simply not credible for anyone to question Recoil’s support for, and commitment to, the Second Amendment. Recoil is first and foremost a gun lifestyle magazine, aimed at the modern shooting enthusiast.
· The opinions in the paragraph in question accurately reflected those of the manufacturer, and should have been reported as direct quotes. Recoil acknowledges the way the paragraph was written has caused unnecessary confusion.
· Jerry Tsai, a passionate gun enthusiast and the visionary behind Recoil magazine, will remain as editor of Recoil.
We thank you for your support and understanding.
Quite honestly, if you read the article, it was one paragraph that was actually quoted from the manufacturer and we did not state it that way. Recoil has 26,000 likes on face book and the magazine has only been out for three issues and issue number 4 is just hitting the streets. I honestly believe that this will not hurt the magazine. I have not lost anyone as a result of this and do not expect to.
5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Assistant: Jennifer Conklin 813-675-3507
Several things stand out. FIrst, Tsai admitted writing and agreeing with what was published in his first "apology". Now his publisher says Jerry didn't write it, an assertion which directly contradicts what his editor said. Then he has the temerity to claim that the magazine "has not lost anyone", despite the number of companies who have publicly cancelled their involvement with them.
As I said on Monday, the new generation of shooters needs their own magazine. This one, bankrolled by someone whose political associations are highly suspect, may not be it. The shooting fraternity still needs a magazine like RECOIL, but it needs to be one which doesn't compromise on the Second Amendment. Could RECOIL become that magazine? I have my doubts, especially after their publisher dug in his heels to support the status quo, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if they truly repent.
In the meantime, please read this well-reasoned counterpoint from the Breach, Bang, Clear blog.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Over the weekend a major firestorm erupted over RECOIL magazine's review of the HK MP7A1. In the article, the editor of the magazine - one Jerry Tsai - penned this:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands.”
Sounds just like something from Sarah Brady herself, doesn't it? Of course it does, and it caused more than a few Second Amendment stalwarts to go nuclear, like in this open letter to RECOIL from Rob Pincus (who first alerted me to the debacle whan I was on the range teaching a Combat Focus Shooting course - ah, the power of the iPhone!):
“DEAR RECOIL MAGAZINE,In reference to: “Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of…”
To say I disagree with your thoughts on the MP7 would be a gross understatement.
In fact, the ignorance of that statement is amazing to me. In case you didn’t notice, the only reason Glocks, M&Ps, and probably most of the guns that are paying for advertising space in your rag are built is to put down bad guys.
People may find “sporting purposes” for them… but gun games aren’t why they exist. If Wired or Maxim had said what you did, I wouldn’t care. You should’ve known better.
The vast majority of firearms that have been designed and built in the history of the tool have been built for defensive or offensive use. Regardless of the intended role, military, law enforcement or civilian, the overwhelming majority of firearms on shelves in gun shops and shown in the pages of your now incredibly disappointing magazine are designed for use by people against people. While the “shooting sports” label may be a banner that has hung over our industry for political and (sometimes) marketing reasons, your young magazine hasn’t exactly catered to the waterfowl or skeet crowds.
Personally, the MP7 is one of the few guns on the planet that I would rush out and pay H&K Retail Price for, if it were ever offered for civilian sale. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting them many times and training teams that use them. It is a great tool, but didn’t possess any magical power that made it reckless, dangerous or inappropriate for any responsible firearms owner to possess…. for whatever reason they desire.
I had high hopes for your publication. Now I expect people to stop reading it, advertisers to fade away and your writers to submit their work to other publications that actually understand the industry they are covering.
-I.C.E. Training Company”
For his part, Jerry - sensing an imminent backlash from readers and advertisers alike - came back with what he perceived to be damage control on RECOIL's Facebook page:
Hey guys, this is Jerry Tsai, Editor of RECOIL. I think I need to jump in here and clarify what I wrote in the MP7A1 article. It looks like I may not have stated my point clearly enough in that line that is quoted up above. Let’s be clear, neither RECOIL nor I are taking the stance on what should or should not be made available on the commercial market although I can see how what was written can be confused as such.
Because we don’t want anything to be taken out of context, let’s complete that quote and read the entire paragraph:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands. It comes with semi-automatic and full-auto firing modes only. Its overall size places it between a handgun and submachine gun. Its assault rifle capabilities and small size make this a serious weapon that should not be taken lightly.”
Let’ also review why this gun should not be taken lightly. In the article it was stated that the MP7A1 is a slightly larger than handgun sized machine-gun that can be accurately fired and penetrate Soviet style body armor at more than 300 yards. In the wrong hands, that’s a bad day for the good guys.
As readers of RECOIL, we all agree that we love bad-ass hardware, there’s no question about that. I believe that in a perfect world, all of us should have access to every kind of gadget that we desire. Believe me, being a civvie myself, I’d love to be able to get my hands on an MP7A1 of my own regardless of its stated purpose, but unfortunately the reality is that it isn’t available to us. As a fellow enthusiast, I know how frustrating it is to want something only to be denied it.
Its manufacturer has not made the gun available to the general public and when we asked if it would ever come to the commercial market, they replied that it is strictly a military and law enforcement weapon, adding that there are no sporting applications for it. Is it wrong that HK decided against selling a full-auto pocket sized machine gun that can penetrate armor from hundreds of yards away? It’s their decision to make and their decision they have to live with not mine nor anybody else’s.
I accepted their answer for what it was out of respect for those serving in uniform. I believe that we as gun enthusiasts should respect our brothers in law enforcement, agency work and the military and also keep them out of harms way. Like HK, I wouldn’t want to see one of these slip into the wrong hands either. Whether or not you agree with this is fine. I am compelled to explain a point that I was trying to make that may have not been clear.
Thanks for reading,
– JT, Editor, RECOIL
Naturally, this looks-like-an-apology-but-really-isn't-when-you-actually-read-it-and-won't-someone-PLEASE-think-of-our-brave-boys-in-blue did nothing but stoke the fires, causing several prominent shooting industry partners, including Silencerco, ITS Tactical, and Panteo Productions, to publicly cancel all their ads in the magazine.
Tsai, now realizing that the survival of his emerging empire is in serious jeopardy (“Zumboed”, I believe, is the operative term) penned another apology on the RECOIL Facebook page that says he Really, Really Means It This Time:
I’d like to address the comments regarding what I wrote in the MP7A1 article in RECOIL issue 4. First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any offense that I have caused with the article. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand the outrage, and I am greatly saddened that it was initiated by my words. Especially since, I am an unwavering supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights. I’ve chosen to spend a significant part of both my personnel and professional life immersed in this enthusiasm, so to have my support of individuals’ rights called into doubt is extremely unfortunate. With that said, I retract what I wrote in the offending paragraph within this article. It should have had been presented with more clarity.
In the article, I stated some information that was passed on to me about why the gun is not available for civilian purchase. By no means did I intend to imply that civilians are not responsible, nor do we lack the judgment to own such weapons, if I believed anything approaching this, clearly I would lead a much different life. I also mentioned in the article that the gun had no sporting purpose. This again, was information passed on to me and reported in the article without the necessary additional context. I believe everything published in RECOIL up to this point (other than this story), demonstrates we clearly understand and completely agree that guns do not need to have a sporting purpose in order for them to be rightfully available to civilians. In retrospect, I should have presented this information in a clearer manner. Although I can understand the manufacturer’s stance on the subject, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.
Again, I acknowledge the mistakes I made and for them I am truly sorry.
Basically, it's an "I'm not a bad guy, just horribly incompetent and lack basic reading comprehension skills" sort of passing-the-buck
Many people, including yours truly, might have bought it - except for this a little bit of information a reader over at The Truth About Guns uncovered: RECOIL is owned by Source Interlink, an investment firm bankrolled by one Ron Burkle. Burkle is described in an article at Mondotimes.com as "...a prominent Democratic party activist and fundraiser. He is a close friend of former President Bill Clinton, and investments in Yucaipa made by Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton have generated millions of dollars in income for them. “
Now it must be pointed out that I'm not a supporter of either political party; I despise all politicians equally. And, as I've reminded some of my more myopically partisan acquaintances, the "R" in "NRA" does not stand for "Republican." Still, one has to wonder about those ties.
My only knowledge of RECOIL comes from poking around on their website; the editorial direction is much too young and "extreme" for my tastes. However, I think it's important for the shooting community to have fresh outlets like this magazine to which the under-40 generations can relate. What appeals to me, as well as those before me and those just after me, is very different than what appeals to the 25-to-35 demographic. We don't need to push them away with the fuddy-duddies in Guns & Ammo or Shooting Times; they need THEIR magazines, with writers who talk to them in terms they're used to hearing. RECOIL was very obviously aimed at doing just that, and I think it's great - even if I'd never choose to read it myself. (I've got to admire their graphic sense, however!)
But at only four issues into its life, and given the nature of its ownership, I have to wonder: does the magazine really exist to get a certain demographic to think of guns not as something to aspire to owning, but rather to admire from afar in movies and videogames? Has anyone read all of their issues with a keen eye, looking for that kind of subtle editorial manipulation?
Perhaps Tsai's mistake wasn't what the magazine wrote, but rather a lack of subtlety in writing it. Discussion in the comments is encouraged, particularly because I've admitted to having never paid attention to the magazine until now. If you've read RECOIL, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
-=[ Grant ]=-
As a Sheriff's Detective once told me, it's the idiots in this world who assure his continued employment - the really smart criminals are rarely captured. Luckily, there aren't a lot of them around.
Though not usually rising to the level of criminal, there are a lot of smart people who manipulate systems and institutions for personal gain. Not monetary gain, mind you, but for psychological or emotional gain. Take, for instance, the number of people who craft an identity based around meritorious military service. Why go to all that trouble just to massage an ego?
At The New Yorker this week is the story of a marathon runner who, apparently, has been faking his impressive finishes - to the point of inventing a non-existent marathon in which he was the first place finisher! When cornered by a reporter, his “explanations” sound an awful lot like Joliet Jake's attempt to keep from getting shot by his ex-wife:
It's a pretty interesting article that's got me wondering: just HOW is he doing it?
-=[ Grant ]=-
The Armed Citizen's Legal Defense Network (of which you should be a member) has published an interesting look at the Martin/Zimmerman case in their June newsletter. The Florida courts, as their law requires, released all of the evidence related to the case a couple of weeks ago. In his article, Marty Hayes looks at a portion of that released evidence and makes some observations which might be useful to those who carry a firearm for self protection. I recommend you read the article.
One of the more intriguing bits was the condition of the area around the entry wound on Martin's body, leading to some speculation about the exact distance from muzzle to contact. This will, as Marty clearly points out, require ballistic testing of the gun and identical ammo to determine at what distance the test matches the evidence.
Since the court will likely not let the remaining ammunition in the gun be shot (that would be destruction of evidence), they'll need to get exemplar rounds (rounds which match exactly the ammunition used) to make those tests.
I point this out because there is still a vocal subset of people who insist that carrying handloaded ammunition for self defense is a perfectly good thing to do. (I do not know if Zimmerman did or did not; that probably won't be known until the testing progresses.) If Zimmerman did the smart thing and carried factory ammunition, all the defense will need to do is contact the manufacturer and get a box or two of the same ammunition, preferably with the same lot number. The results from firing that ammo in his gun should then match the results from the shooting, which will allow the defense to precisely determine the distance from which Martin was shot.
The testing could help validate Zimmerman's claim of self defense. Given his recent tribulations over bail revocation, he may need all the objective help he can get.
If this were a case where the shooter handloaded his ammunition, regardless of how carefully he kept records, the results of the testing would likely not be allowed into evidence. I won't go into detail as there is copious reading material available on this subject, but the bottom line is that the courts generally don't allow the defendant to manufacture evidence for his/her defense. If someone in a similar situation used reloaded ammunition, he'd be at a double loss: not only would the courts not allow the ammo in the gun to be used to support his claim, they wouldn't allow any other self-manufactured ammo to be used either.
It's not about what's "legal", it's about the rules of evidence - and they work differently than you might expect.
The supporters of handloaded ammo constantly repeat the refrain "if it's a clean shoot, then the ammo won't matter." Is the Zimmerman case a "clean" shoot? At this point I don't think anyone would be stupid enough to say that it was. It may turn out that he was completely justified (or not - we won't know until a jury comes back), but the arbiter of a "clean" shoot ultimately isn't you, or me, or the cops, or the DA - it's the jury. A shoot isn't "clean" until a jury says it is, and the ammunition used is going to be one factor in their determination.
It's something of a Catch-22: in a clean shoot the ammo wouldn't matter, but we don't know if it's a clean shoot until the jury has decided it was, and part of their decision making may involve having the ammo tested, which means the ammo DOES matter. See the problem?
This is why I only carry factory ammunition in my guns. I use my considerable reloading skill and experience to craft practice rounds that duplicate my carry ammunition in bullet weight, velocity, recoil, and point of impact, which I use only for practice or training. When I load the gun for defensive use, I put in ammunition made by someone who can supply a certified duplicate of what I've used should I need to shoot someone. Their word about the composition of the ammo will be accepted by the court, where mine wouldn't. This way I can practice cheaply and still have the backing of a reliable third party in case I need it in court.
This is also why I only carry ammunition from a major manufacturer. I don't carry "boutique" ammunition, the kind made by small speciality manufacturers, because a) those companies tend to go in and out of business with disturbing frequency; b) I don't know if they have the resources or motivation to keep samples of every lot produced in case it's needed by a court; c) I don't know if they have a credible witness who can get on the stand and testify to both the composition and chain of custody of the evidence they've provided. I know Winchester, Federal, Remington, and CCI/Speer can and do, and so I load my guns with their products.
(I also never use ammunition made by a company which is not a member of SAAMI, but that's another article for another day!)
-=[ Grant ]=-
- Not sure where I got this, but it's pretty interesting: a three-barrel revolver. What will people think of next?!? (<--that’s humor, people.)
- Seems that Kim Rhode, ace Olympic shotgunner and ambassador for the shooting sports, has a blog. Hope she finds time to post more often. (Who knew she was a fan of bacon-wrapped meatloaf?)
- Speaking of Kim: I'm still a little miffed that they removed her original event - women's double trap - from the Olympics, but left the men's division. Why? No one knows for sure, but likely because some of them uppity females were beatin' the menfolk. There are lots of countries represented on the Olympic Committee, not all of them known for their enlightened attitudes regarding a woman’s place in society.
- An article in The Economist (a magazine which often displays a raw anti-American bias, yet is revered by Americans who somehow consider themselves unbiased for having read it) talks about gun ownership in the U.S. It states that while gun sales are way up, the number of households owning guns has declined steadily since 1973 - the implication that guns are being purchased only by those evil "gun nuts." Their position doesn't square with my observations, and I've yet to find any corroboration for it. Can anyone comment authoritatively on their claim?
-=[ Grant ]=-
As chronicled here on Monday, the McMillan companies were told by a VP of Bank of America that their business was no longer desired by the bank - specifically because they manufactured firearms. Several things have happened since then:
- The story went national on the Cam Edwards and Glenn Beck shows, as well as all over the internet. Everyone, it seems, is talking about this. McMillan has garnered a lot of support, much of it newfound. (I’ve never watched Glenn Beck, but he makes some very good points - particularly about the bank’s possible political motivations. Aside from his obvious partisan stance, some of the things he says about BofA makes one wonder.)
- BofA has posted a spin-doctored and unattributed statement on their Facebook page which suggests Kelly McMillan lied about the whole thing, that they really do support gun owners, and that they support our troops and hire veterans (not sure what that has to do with anything.) The feedback on their statement has been voluminous and critical, as McMillan is a company known for ethical and honest behavior, while BofA is - well, not so much.
- McMillan reports that they've had a number of banks call on them to get their business, and will be making a decision soon. Seems that there are banks which would love to do business with an upstanding manufacturer like McMillan, and they may in fact have a new problem: too many good banks to choose from!
It’s worth noting that this whole thing started on Facebook and is being played out there, which in my mind solidifies the value of social media as both a source of breaking information and a vehicle for grassroots action. I think that’s fascinating.
Oh, and don’t bank or do business with BofA.
-=[ Grant ]=-
In case you've missed the flap, last week Kelly McMillan (of the companies which bear the family name) posted to Facebook that he'd been visited by a senior VP of Bank of America, the company that's handled his company's banking needs for more than a decade. Seems that they no longer want his business because he makes evil guns. In Kelly's words (which I copied from his FB page, but I don't think he'll care):
McMillan Fiberglass Stocks, McMillan Firearms Manufacturing, McMillan Group International have been collectively banking with Bank of America for 12 years. Today Mr. Ray Fox, Senior Vice President, Market Manager, Business Banking, Global Commercial Banking came to my office. He scheduled the meeting as an “account analysis” meeting in order to evaluate the two lines of credit we have with them. He spent 5 minutes talking about how McMillan has changed in the last 5 years and have become more of a firearms manufacturer than a supplier of accessories.
At this point I interrupted him and asked “Can I possible save you some time so that you don’t waste your breath? What you are going to tell me is that because we are in the firearms manufacturing business you no longer want my business.”
“That is correct” he says.
I replied “That is okay, we will move our accounts as soon as possible. We can find a 2nd Amendment friendly bank that will be glad to have our business. You won’t mind if I tell the NRA, SCI and everyone one I know that BofA is not firearms industry friendly?”
“You have to do what you must” he said.
“So you are telling me this is a politically motivated decision, is that right?”
Mr Fox confirmed that it was. At which point I told him that the meeting was over and there was nothing let for him to say.
I think it is import for all Americans who believe in and support our 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms should know when a business does not support these rights. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. When I don’t agree with a business’ political position I can not in good conscience support them. We will soon no longer be accepting Bank of America credit cards as payment for our products.
Kelly D McMillan
Director of Operations
McMillan Group International, LLC
If you have accounts with BofA, may I suggest that you close them?
-=[ Grant ]=-
I've gotten a few emails and Facebook messages asking what I think of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman shooting. My answer is simple: I don't know the facts of the case.
The important thing to remember is that no one does. All we have is piecemeal information released by sources of varying veracity and - here's the important part - reported by the media, filtered through whatever biases they have at the time.
It's amazing to me that so many in the "gun culture" (regular readers know how I despise that term, and I use it here precisely because I do) are quick to believe anything the media tells them when it's in Zimmerman's favor, but not so when it's in Martin's. The opposite, of course, is true for those on the "other side".
Having dealt with media for many years and having relatives inside that industry, I know that they couldn't report the time correctly if you handed them a watch. Aside from the intentional misrepresentation or fabrication of fact (which happens so often it’s almost expected), there is also the unintentional skewing of information that comes from personal and corporate interests. In short, you can't believe anything you're told - and it doesn't matter if it's from NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, CNN, or anyone else.
Everything we “know” about this case has come through the media, and the media isn’t reliable. How can anyone have a fact-based opinion under those conditions?
I'll wait for the court case, thank you very much, where there are rules of evidence and people are held accountable for what they say. Zimmerman might be guilty as sin or Martin may have been evil incarnate, but right now I'm comfortable saying that I simply don't know.
One thing's for sure: I'm not going to decide this case based on what the media is telling me, because the one thing I do know is that they can't be trusted.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Tomorrow night we'll be celebrating the arrival of the New Year and looking back at what 2011 has wrought. I, for one, am glad that 2011 is almost behind us (and on Monday you'll discover one of the reasons why!)
I look forward to 2012 with both elation and trepidation. This next year will bring a presidential election that is already shaping up to be one of the most hideous of recent memory, in the midst of a fragile economy and growing discontent amongst the citizenry. The threat of violence on a large scale has never been as high as it is right now, and giving some attention to your own personal protection plans would be a prudent resolution to make this weekend.
On a more optimistic note, there are a lot of really neat things in the works for 2012! I hope to kick the new year off by breaking some big news in January, and if the rumors I'm hearing are true the upcoming SHOT Show may hold some great things for revolver enthusiasts.
In the next couple of months I’ll be adding a new lever action class to my course offerings, as well as a few other surprises - including videos!
Enjoy your weekend, celebrate safely and sanely, and check back in on Monday for a raucous and somewhat tongue-in-cheek blog entry - one sure to get some people's blood pressure up!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I trust everyone had a good weekend, and I hope your Christmas was a joyous and meaningful time with family and friends.
From news stories it was apparent that firearms were a major item this year. Various explanations have been suggested for this, from concern about new purchase restrictions to fear of economically-inspired criminal violence, but I prefer to think of it as a sign that the pendulum has inevitably swung: guns are once again becoming socially acceptable.
Those who remember the 1950s and 1960s will recall that shooting was a big thing amongst the Hollywood crowd, and thus with the general public as well. Actor Robert Stack, for instance, was a champion shotgunner, and many recognizable names participated in 'quick draw' competitions as a hobby. This stands in stark contrast to recent decades when Hollywood has been the source of virulent (and hypocritical) anti-gunners.
I’m not yet convinced that the era of guns-as-common-recreational-objects will be resurrected, but they at least seem to have shed the worst of their manufactured reputation as evil objects to be avoided. The gun seems instead to be assuming the role of the speciality tool: something you own or use to do a specific task. The days of the anthropomorphized, self-propelled mayhem machine appear to be waning, and none too soon. Many people - yours truly included - have been equating the gun with the fire extinguisher or first aid kit, and I'm hopeful that those analogies are helping to fuel this resurgence in gun ownership.
This last week before New Year's Day is a good time for reflection and contemplation. From the standpoint of you and your family's safety and security, I hope you'll give some thought to getting good training in the coming year.
What is "good" training? Training which is congruent with the kinds of situations in which you anticipate using your gun. If you carry a handgun for personal protection, a course that teaches the best response to a surprise criminal attack would be advisable; if you keep a gun for home defense, a class on how to handle the scenarios you're likely to face in your own house might be in order.
There are any number of quality classes and instructors available today, more so than probably any time in history. (Permit me to toot my own horn in this regard!) Resolve to make 2012 the year that you increase your knowledge and skill level with the guns you own.
(If you're an instructor yourself, there will be opportunities for you to advance your teaching skills and professional standing. Take advantage of them.)
And now, a little tease: the first Friday of the new year will feature a really neat Ed Harris article which I just received. All I'm going to say is wait until you see what he got for Christmas!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Sorry for not having a post on Monday. If you tried to check in, you probably found that the site was down. My hosting company, Dreamhost, experienced a system-wide outage on Monday which took down all of their client sites as well as their own. My site came back up, sporadically, sometime Monday afternoon. It wasn't until Tuesday night, however, that I could actually get access to upload anything. Everything seems to be back to normal (knock on wood.)
First things first: On Monday I taped an interview with Doc Wesson for the Gun Nation Podcast. He'll be playing it tonight on a LIVE streaming podcast episode he's calling "The Wheel Of Love". It starts at 9:pm EDT, and you can listen live at this link. He'll even be taking call-ins (which gives me an idea...)
Yesterday Breda over at The Breda Fallacy posted a little rant about lightweight snubnose revolvers for women. Tam picked it up this morning. I read both and agreed with pretty much everything they said, but I had this odd feeling I'd read it all before. Oh, now I remember! That's because I've written the same thing. More than once. More than twice. Great minds? Well, I don't know that I can claim to have one, but they certainly do. (If you listen to the Gun Nation podcast tonight, you'll probably hear me tell Doc that the snubnose revolver is an 'expert's weapon', not something for a beginner.)
In a previous life I dealt with police reports on a fairly regular basis, and I was always amused at the language and syntax in the writing. One Deputy, who was forever on 'the outs' with his supervisors for not playing the game, was once reprimanded for using the phrase "I watched him...” instead of the more official-sounding "I observed as the suspect..." This memory came back when I read a Miami Herald article about a Florida Highway Patrol firearms instructor who was shot in the derriere by her supervisor. The official report was that the supervisor was 'inspecting' the weapon, which is apparently FHP-speak for "screwing around with". Were I in charge I'd be sorely tempted to allow Trooper Mellow Scheetz ('Mellow'? Seriously?) a penalty kick at her supervisor's privates, just to bring home the lesson, then do some remedial safety training that doesn’t allow for the “but I thought it was unloaded!” defense.
That's it for today. Be sure to check out the podcast this evening!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I spent this weekend assisting at a defensive rifle class with Georges Rahbani, and sometime during the weekend thought of a great article for today.
Then I forgot what it was.
My usual habit is to carry, in the left pocket of my shirt, a small pad and a mechanical pencil. When I have an idea I jot it down, thus preserving it for a time when I can make use of it. That's assuming, of course, that I remember to look at the thing!
The weather was pretty warm this weekend (about 90 degrees) and we were in the sun for most of the two days. I'd shed my normal pocketed button-front shirt for a more comfortable short sleeved Henley. My pad and pencil, of course, was in the regular shirt and when the aforementioned great idea struck, I was without a means to record it. Thus this morning's rambling version of "my dog ate my homework!"
Luckily Chris over at The Anarchangel posted something worthy of commentary. Go read it, then come back for a little discussion.
I tuned in for the first episode of Top Shot, recognized it as yet another overblown social manipulation festival common to reality television, and promptly turned it off. My spare time is quite limited and I have to make hard decisions about what I do with it. Even with guns and shooting Top Shot didn't make my cut, so I didn't know what transpired until Chris filled me in.
Those who live in landlocked states probably have no concept of just what the United States Coast Guard does. Here in Oregon, where Coast Guard helicopters and rescue crews are a common sight, we have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices those men and women make. Despite being ridiculed (or even worse, ignored) they go out and do their job to the best of their ability every day of the week.
Those in the other services are only in danger when they've been activated and deployed, and their tours of deployment are limited in duration (a good thing, do not misunderstand.) The USCG is always on deployment, whether doing rescue work, interdicting smugglers, or protecting our Navy's operations in foreign ports. (That's right - when the U.S. Navy needs help, they call the Coast Guard!) When I was growing up it was widely said that you were more likely to be killed in the Coast Guard in peacetime than in the infantry during wartime. While that may not be literally true, it serves to illustrate the tough job USCG does.
Much of that is because the nature of their missions requires them to always be in harm's way. One of their primary duties is to protect lives in America's waters, and here in Oregon they do so constantly. The USCG's rescue swimmers and helicopter pilots are the best that can be found; until you've witnessed a Dolphin SAR helicopter hovering nearly motionless just feet away from a cliff face, in high winds and torrential rain, you have little appreciation for the skill of those crews. I don't know where one goes to recruit such people, but they must have ice water injected into their veins upon enlistment. They are amazing to watch, and when they appear on scene there is a very strong feeling of relief - even if you're not the subject of their attention.
So, to Caleb and all the other past and present members of the United States Coast Guard, and especially to those stationed here in Oregon, thank you. We appreciate your service, your sacrifice, and above all your professionalism.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I hope everyone enjoys their three-day weekend, but do take a least a moment to reflect on why this holiday exists. Nothing maudlin, no overblown sentimentality, just a request that you think about it for at least a few moments as you fire up the grill.
-=[ Grant ]=-
THAT TIME OF THE YEAR: I hope everyone had a great (as in safe and happy) Christmas weekend. I hope you'll accept my sincere wishes for a happy New Year - may 2010 be a darn sight better than 2009!
HERE WE GO AGAIN: Maryville, TN has had a couple of accidental shooting deaths in the past weeks. Both incidents involved guns that (brace yourselves) people thought "were unloaded." The Maryville Police Chief, one Tony Crisp, concludes that people just weren't pretending hard enough:
"Treat a gun as always being a loaded gun," he said. "Once you cleared it, check it again."
A more nonsensical statement I cannot imagine! I hope that you will save me the trouble of tearing it apart by seeing for yourself the logic failures therein. How much better it would have been had he taken the opportunity to do some real education by saying something like: "never point a gun - any gun, loaded or unloaded - at anything you're not willing to shoot. Don't let anyone around you do so, either."
SOMEONE ELSE FOR A CHANGE: A couple years back I made an offhand remark about Charter Arms guns. That one little sentence generated a ton of hate mail, including some from Charter's president/owner and their largest distributor. Well, M.D. Creekmore over at thesurvivalistblog.net made a more pointed statement regarding Charter's "quality", and he too heard from Charter's owner. It's in the comments; scroll to the bottom.
-=[ Grant ]=-
You see, the perp was injured because the homeowner fired an unaimed "warning shot" which fragmented and struck the intruder. As if that wasn't bad enough in these litigious times, the gentleman couldn't help running his mouth on television, which didn't do any good in terms of his legal defense.
I'll leave the analysis to Xavier, who does a much better job than your humble correspondent. I will, however, leave you with this thought: this is exactly why I strongly encourage anyone who even contemplates keeping a firearm for self-defense to take Judicious Use of Deadly Force from Massad Ayoob at the Lethal Force Institute. Had this fellow done so, he wouldn't have left himself open for what will probably be a whale of a civil lawsuit.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Listening to the news on the radio, I heard an interview with two students who said that they were in "the room where he was shooting." According to these people, students and faculty were hiding under and behind anything in the room that they felt would provide them some protection, or flat on the floor in the absence of same.
It's what they said next that prompted me to comment: as the gunman shot, he naturally ran out of ammunition, and had to stop to refill his magazines. After taking the time to refill then reload his weapon, he continued his unfettered spree.
He was out of ammunition, and had stopped to reload - why didn't someone, anyone, in the room take that golden opportunity to tackle the murderer? At that point the criminal couldn't shoot anyone, and the risk even to the person who would choose that course of action would have been relatively minor compared to letting him get his firearm back up and running.
The answer is as obvious as it is sad: our society has fully inculcated the victimhood and helplessness mentalities into the last several generations of people. They didn't do anything because they have been taught their entire lives to rely on someone - anyone - else for their safety and well being.
This is what the nanny state has given us. This is what our Founding Fathers, I think, understood when they listed the natural right to keep and bear arms in their Constitution: yes, it's about the ability to resist tyrannical governments. More importantly, though, is the choice inherent in the right.
You see, it's not the exercise of the right in and of itself that matters; it's the existence of the choice to exercise the right that is so very important. Even if one chooses not to exercise the right, in making the choice one has experienced the self-actualization that leads to great inner strength and a heightened sense of self-worth. The very personal decision - no matter what the decision itself is - is what makes for citizens who are self reliant, who can think for themselves, and cannot be corralled like sheep.
When the "transaction cost" of the individual choice is raised - when the ability to decide for oneself is restricted or controlled in any manner - the choice is made not by the individual, but by someone else. The benefits of making the decision are denied the individual, and he/she learns (bit by bit) how to be a subject rather than a sovereign individual. Given long enough, an entire people is conditioned to be subordinate themselves to authority figures; when the "badge" of "authority" is the firearm, the people will prostrate themselves to anyone who wields one. Even a crazed killer.
Milton Friedman was right.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I'm of the belief that women should always be proactive with regards to their own safety. Sadly, our current society has inculcated a fear of weapons into the collective conscious of the female half of the population. It takes real fortitude for a lady to swim against that tide and arm herself, and I salute those who choose to do so.
Drawing from my own wife's experience I've formed some very specific opinions on the topic of introducing women to shooting. Guys, if there is a woman in your life who has decided to travel down the road of self protection, I offer you Grant's Rules For Helping Ladies Who Want To Shoot.
1) Don't try to teach her yourself. Aside from passing on bad habits that you have (I don't care if you did qualify as "expert" when you were in the Army), it's difficult to impart what you do right no matter how sincere your desire to help.
Women learn differently than men; precious few men understand this, and even fewer understand how to teach to it. It's not uncommon for women to become extremely frustrated under these conditions, and give up entirely. It may not happen until the lessons are over - you may never know of the damage you've done. Let someone else - someone who is experienced teaching women - do this for you. It doesn't mean you're any less of a man, and it just might save you some grief.
2) Rule #1 is increased by a factor of 10 if she is your GF or wife! Ignore this at your peril! I am not kidding!
3) If possible, get her to a women's only class that is actually taught by a female instructor. (If you're on the west coast, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the women's only classes taught by Gila Hayes at the Firearms Academy of Seattle. She's tops. Seriously.)
4) Don't pick her gun for her. So many times a woman, bowing to the desires of the man who proffers her shooting advice (solicited or otherwise), ends up with a lightweight titanium or scandium revolver that is incredibly ill-suited for her physical makeup. The recoil is brutal (hey, even I don't like shooting them), and their stock triggers can be difficult for petite forefingers to actuate. Yes, you could send it to me and have that problem eased, but let her decide if it is right for her!
(Listen, if you've read my blog for any length of time you know that I'm a rabid proponent of the revolver for personal protection. As far as I'm concerned, there isn't a problem extant that a good revolver can't solve. Even so, I acknowledge an autoloader is often the better choice for a woman.) The very best thing you can do is curb your own opinions and take her to a gun range that rents guns, where she can pick her own way through the models. If she picks an autoloader, it won't hurt my feelings. (Not for long, anyhow.) The important thing is that it be her own choice.
Following these simple rules will result in an excited new shooter and harmony at home (where appropriate.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
Many people have been following the situation with the North Carolina Dep't of Corrections and their self-destructing S&W revolvers. If you haven't, here's a link to the story.
These pictures of one such occurrence have been floating around the net:
I've been exchanging emails with C.E. "Ed" Harris, who many will remember from his days as the head of Q.C. at Ruger - when they experienced a similar problem. Here's what he had to say:
"Old problem rearing its ugly head again, not really a new problem. A troublesome sporadic one when people forget about good shop practices and get sloppy.
Stress corrosion cracking is generally caused by contamination by solvents or cutting fluids too high in chlorides. Over-torquing barrels barrels creates a stress rise at the root of the thread which makes the problem worse. Microscopic examination of the failed barrels would be obvious to a competent
engineer, especially familiar to those with aerospace or nuclear power systems experience.
Ruger had a short run of this back in the 1980s when they first starting making stainless magnums. I saw a few dozen guns come back when I worked there. All were traced to one guy on night shift who was over-torquing barrels on Redhawks which didn't quite line up, instead of taking a pass off the front of the frame on a Blanchard grinder as he should have done. He also used a wrong, slippery high sulphur thread lubricant intended for chrome-moly instead of the anti-seize compound used with SS.
This condition is aggravated by tight fit of barrel threads, such as when using a class 3A, combined with high stress, high temperature, and high barrel torque. Ruger fixed their problem by changing to a looser 2A fit on the barrel threads and assembling barrels to the frames using a Loctite product to cement them solidly while reducing stress on the threads and positively preventing any seepage of cleaning solvents into the barrel threads after they left the factory."
If true, this wouldn't be the first time S&W has over-torqued a barrel: the Model 442 Airweight Centennials, particularly in nickel finish, are somewhat notorious for frame cracks under the barrel. A phone conversation with a S&W representative confirmed to me that the cracked frames were caused by barrels that had been screwed in "too tightly."
However, there's always the possibility of user error, such as the use of certain products that contain chlorine compounds (brand name removed for obvious reasons):
"Use of [lubricants containing chlorine compounds] "could" do it, as could any number of other cleaners, especially if used with an ultrasonic which enhances thread penetration."
There are certain "miracle" gun lubricant products out there that contain chlorine compounds, and have become popular amongst the more "martial" crowd. In addition, ultrasonic cleaners have been very popular at many police agencies over the last decade or so.
Well, I got an email from one of the employees at the agency, and he claims that they use Hoppes bore cleaner, and that they do not have an ultrasonic!
So we're back to the first possibility. Given Ed's expertise, I suspect that his analysis is the correct one.
-=[ Grant ]=-