Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We're Back

This is just a quick post to let you all know that we're back from our travels. We couldn't get an Internet hook up that didn't cost an arm and a leg and didn't post all weekend. Besides, we were too busy having fun. We arrived home about 1:00 this morning and are still pretty tired.

It seems like the NRA Convention was a month ago. We enjoyed the convention, our travels in southern Utah, and our stay in Las Vegas. I'd like to say it was profitable, but alas I hit a blackjack dealer who couldn't lose and my winnings tanked. Fortunately, I didn't lose much and in several cases I enjoyed playing (winning would have been more enjoyable yet).

We saw Penn & Teller's show at the Rio and, as advertised, it included guns. The performers did a double bullet-catching routine. They used Colt Pythons with supposedly a .357 magnum load. The two gun shots didn't sound loud enough to be .357s and I know those two men are too smart to stand in front of loaded guns and actually catch bullets in their teeth. Still, it was a good act.

As many of you know, Penn & Teller slammed gun control in an episode of their Showtime series Bullshit. They believe very much in the First and Second Amendments. In the live show, they showed our Bill of Rights--a parchment-like poster with all ten amendments on it and then the Chinese Bill of Rights--a clear acetate poster with no writing.

I was impressed with their love of country and of speech and gun freedoms. Also, Penn (the talking one) listed the four rules of gun safety as well as the don't try this at home warning.

Well, as I said, a quick post. We still have unpacking to do and new books and souvenirs to put away. We'll start posting again tomorrow.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Vegas and Zion

My last post got a bit truncated. One of those Blogger mysteries I guess. I'd actually written a lot more on Vegas, but a middle part of it disappeared into the bit bucket.

I'm not going to try and reconstruct the last post, but I will reflect for a moment. I grew up in the desert west. When I visit here, I feel homesick although I haven't lived here since graduate school. I like the dry desert air and how the nights cool down so dramatically.

I need to make my way back west to live. If looks like retirement may be the best possibility unless I want to make a major career change. Hey, I can count to 21, maybe I'll be a blackjack dealer!

In my last post, I also included more photos like this one:
Binions Horseshoe

If you follow the World Series of Poker you'll recognize Binions. Benny Binion got an ideain the 1970s, invited several friends for a tournament, and then it took off getting bigger each year. It's too big now to hold at Binions and Rio hosts all but the last few tables which are still played at Binions.

I like to play a little penny-ante Texas Hold'em. I'm actually quite good in a limit game. However, I don't have the killer instinct, and I'm too cheap, for big-money no-limit hold'em. Still, I may enter a tournament one day just to try it out and only risk the entry fee.

As far as gambling, I am cheap and avoid big losses. I like Four Queens five dollar a hand blackjack tables and poker slots. I'm slightly ahead right now thanks to a good run of luck at poker slots. Bill is still ahead.

Enough Vegas, right now I'm near Zion National Park and Bill is still there hiking a trail. We'll have more photos soon of Zion, but here's one for right now:
Zion National Park

Thanks for sticking with us and gunnie goodness will soon resume. See you all later.
(Posted at 4:26 pm Mountain Time)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Vegas Vagaries

Bill and I are waking up in Las Vegas. It’s almost noon in New England and we’re feeling almost decadent. I think that’s part of Vegas’s charm—giving you a relatively safe place to experience a little decadence. Like pretending to wake up at noon when it’s actually 8:00.

We’re going to Utah this afternoon to explore canyons of twisted rock and spires so eerie even geologists call them hoodoos. After a couple days in the real desert, we’re back in Vegas’s more tamed desert.

As I mentioned yesterday, we plan to see Penn & Teller’s show on Friday. Most of you have probably seen them bashing gun control on their Showtime series, Bullshit. They used the best weapon of all, ridicule. When we got to the airport the other day, here is what we saw over the luggage carousel:

Not a bad omen. (Posted at 9:20 am)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Viva Las Vegas

Bill and I are in the second leg of our vacation. Our first was the NRA convention and now we're in Las Vegas.

We're staying at Four Queens on Fremont Street. We always wanted to spend a little time on Fremont Street (not that there's a lot to see here compared to the EuroResorts on the Strip) and now we did. As I write this I can see Binion's and part of the street. Compared to New England, it's warm here--though a cold front is supposed to have moved through. You couldn't prove it by me.

Tomorrow we'll be in Utah exploring Zion National Park and the next day other places of interest in Utah (Bill has the list of things to do and he's off somewhere). After Utah, we come back to Vegas. We'll be staying at the Luxor and we have tickets for the Penn & Teller show. It'll be our one-year anniversary that weekend, so we plan to have fun (blush).

When we come back from our nature hikes in Utah, we plan to go to one of Las Vegas's gun clubs and shoot up a little ammo (mabe a lot).

As we find free or cheap internet connections, we'll keep posting our travels and anything gun related that comes to mind. Thanks for reading. (By the way, I'm down about $30.00 in gambling, but Bill's up about $200.00, sigh.)

Posted: 5:20 PM Pacific Time

Sunday, May 21, 2006

NRA Convention-Wrap Up

It’s all over now—the 135th Annual Meeting of the NRA. Having one hundred and thirty-five "anniversaries" is an accomplishment.

Bill and I roamed around the convention floor for awhile. I was able to shake Ronnie Barrett’s hand, now that was a real privilege. We had a chance to chat with Michael Bane about blogging.

We also got a little shooting time in. Well, with a pellet rifle in the Convention’s pellet gun range. As one who travels a lot for work, I’d like to see such a range in every conference I attend. Granted, it was a little pricey (a dollar for five pellets), but it is in a convention center.

About One-Third of the Pellet Gun Range

We had fun even while we became footsore and tired. We enjoyed our time there and will try to go again next year. I’ve said before that NRA is not perfect and has made some missteps over the years. Who hasn’t? It is the only pro-gun organization that anti-gunnies fear and NRA knows how to use that power.

You ever wonder why they have that fancy building in Virginia? Or why they plan such fancy conventions? It’s a projection of political power. It demonstrates to anti-gunnies that NRA has money and clout. It convinces a fence-sitting Congress critter that its outreach and influence could end his career. It helps protect our gun rights even while asking us for our money.

I’d prefer that all infringements on my gun rights would end tomorrow, but it’s not going to happen. There are too many people in this country who want to ban guns. Or limit our access to guns. Or tell us what type of guns we can own. Whatever.

Most of these people are not evil or even misguided. Most are simply ignorant, too urban, or too "sophisticated" to know any better. They are our neighbors and they vote no matter how silly they might be.

So, I’ll keep going to NRA Conventions, keep writing about guns, keep shooting them, and keep supporting gun stores and gun companies (particularly ammo companies). These actions may be small, but when yoked to similar actions by millions of other gunnies, we might stop the banners in their tracks.

And if that doesn’t work and those poor misguided anti-gunnies decide to take any one of my guns away, well Molon Labe.

NRA Convention Banquet

And a good time was had by all. Oh, you want more details. Okay, the things I do for Ten Ring readers. (Note: I took several pictures, but only one came out. Sorry.)

NRA’s Banquet is a highlight of any convention. There is no business to conduct, only speechifying and entertainment. Last night was no exception. The banquet was held in the Midwest Airlines Center where a cash bar was available if you had the fortitude to wade through a sea of people.

In the banquet room were 242 round tables with places for twelve people each. Almost all the tables were full. I’ll let you do the math. We got an aisle seat near the middle of the room, not bad, but not good. I guess that’s what being in the middle is all about.

Everyone put on the feedbag and consumed salad and something called Herb Crusted Tenderloin of Beef nestled next to a Breast of Chicken Pesto Parmesan Beurre Blanc. Believe me, the names are bigger than the portions. Yet with dessert, I didn’t go away hungry.

We watched NRA present Senator Larry Craig of Idaho with an award for getting the lawsuit liability law passed. We listened to a speech from retired General Tommy Franks.

That man can talk and is a natural at getting people to laugh while still giving a serious message. I actually enjoyed his speech. He used a lapel mike rather than the podium which leaves him free to move around the stage and engage the audience better. I guess talking to troops is good practice for talking to a bunch of NRA folks. He was presented with a hand-made flintlock rifle.

During the speech crowd shots showed Tom Selleck, several current and former Congress critters, and others not of the hoi polloi.

Finally, entertainment. Comedian T. Bubba Bechtol preached the bubba lifestyle while a deaf interpreter gamely became part of his routine when he asked her if she could sign "widgeedidgee" and bubbette." NRA life member and country-rock star Miranda Lambert closed out the night with a concert.

We had fun and enjoyed a night out with gunnies.

Miranda Lambert and Band

Saturday, May 20, 2006

NRA Convention-Saturday

It’s our second day at the NRA Convention in Milwaukee. My feet are giving me fits and I’m tired, but getting more rested. We’re back in the hotel now—we couldn’t get a downtown hotel, but we’re only a ten-minute drive away. We’re going to tonight’s banquet after we change and start feeling less like we’ve made a long hike.

I know you don’t come to Ten Ring to read about my feet, so here’s what we did and saw. First, we went to the annual members meeting where they found the youngest and oldest life members in attendance. For your edification, the youngest was six-weeks old and the oldest was 101 year old Claude Willoughby.

Slightly Blurred Picture of Annual Meeting

The meeting included speeches from NRA officers and a very good short film on gun confiscations in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Too many media outlets have tried to deny it happened, but the NRA caught then Police Chief Eddie Compass on TV saying that no one would be allowed to have guns. The NRA interviewed Patricia Konie, a woman who was assaulted by burly police officers all because she owned a gun. So this is why I give NRA support.

A few more speeches, a few resolutions that were tabled or sent to rules committees, and the meeting adjourned. Bill and I headed out to lunch. On the recommendations of Bitter and Hell in A Handbasket we ate at Mader’s and enjoyed German cooking and beer. Thanks for the tip guys.

We then hiked the convention floor:A very Small Segment of the Floor

Ginnie Simone and Cam Edwards were broadcasting an interview with new members of the USA Shooting Team:
NRA Media

and we toured the store.
Self Explanatory

Tonight, we’re off to the banquet. We’ll let you know how that goes.

Friday, May 19, 2006

NRA Convention Blogging-Friday

Once again, I am blogging while half asleep. Travel is not fun anymore. The airports, crowded airplanes (our flight to Chicago was completely full), security hassles, and on and on. Still, we got the rental car and made the quick drive to Wisconsin—our first time there.

We went directly to the convention knowing we had plenty of time to check into the hotel. We cruised the floor, surfed the NRA Store, looked for gunnies we know, and didn’t find any.

We made the trek over to the separate arena in which the opening ceremony was held. I’m not sure why they couldn’t fit all the activities into one huge building (Midwest Airline Convention Center). But ’m glad I’m not a convention planner. I’d go out of my mind with all the scheduling conflicts, catering glitches, and everything else. Oh well, it was a nice walk in the sun, which I haven’t seen for too long while in New England.

Before the Ceremony

The opening ceremony went well. Wayne La Pierre worked the crowd before the actual ceremony. He, Chris Cox, and Sandra Froman welcomed attendees from the podium.

Wayne La Pierre

Ted Nugent played the Star Spangled Banner in a way guaranteed to anger at least some traditionalists and later fired up the crowd with challenges to sign up more NRA members.

Finally, country singer Royal Wade Kimes entertained us. As a nice touch he and several members of the band were strapped with cowboy belts and single action revolvers. He had a message for gun banners, "If you want my guns, come and get ‘em" as he cocked a lever action carbine. It is an NRA convention after all.
Royal Wade Kimes

We’ll have another report tomorrow and more pictures. Most of the stage photos we took are a bit blurred--too dark for an inexpensive digital camera with a too slow shuttle. Glad I'm not a photo blogger.

Goodbye for now.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

NRA Convention Bound

First off, sorry about the lack of posting recently. Work has been incredibly busy partly because Bill and I are about to start our vacation. I had to finish two major projects that involved more work than my aching carpal tunnels can stand. I also ended up with a new task that took me out of town all day Wednesday. Don't you just love it when the bosses give you two number one priorities and then decide to add a third one? But, I got 'er all done.

Bill and I are heading to the NRA convention in Milwaukee. We plan to blog the convention while we're there if our technical plans hold up. Keep your fingers crossed. We attended last year, but didn't have a way to load pictures from the camera to Blogger and had little access to a computer. We've tried to rectify that situation. Here's a taste of last years convention:
NRA Convention Floor 2005

After the convention, we're heading to Las Vegas for fun, sun, shooting, and even a little gambling (very little--neither of us are big spenders when it comes to games of chance).

Monday, May 15, 2006

Floods Got a Little Too Close

It's getting late now after a really tiring day. It's not that I did that much physical labor--filled a sandbag or two. You see, the area where I live is flooding. So far the water hasn't breached our walls or even dampened our basement, but it's out there. Out there waiting to come in and soak my books, rust my guns, and warp my floorboards.

Other people in our condo complex have been less fortunate. I took the afternoon off of work and helped where I could, but there's not much to do when water rises. Nothing except to pile a few belongings on tables, pray the rains will stop, and fill a few sandbags.

Bill and I live on the higher side of the complex and that saved our belongings. Part of our complex is built too near a very picturesque New England pond. Here are a couple of photos and now I'm off to read a weather report (last I heard, rain is abating) and then to sleep.

One Set of Condos

Another Set of Condos

Friday, May 12, 2006

Hoplophobic Dad in New Jersey

Well isn’t this just precious. A father is worried about his 23 year old son who still lives with him and two younger brothers. He’s not worried because his grown son is still living in the same house. Nope, he’s worried about his son’s taste in possessions.

His son owned a “sniper rifle” with a telescopic and laser sight, three Glocks, 1200 rounds of ammunition, knives, “claws, and a spear. The article describes the knives as “savage looking.” Daddy calls the cops to get the weapons confiscated and to get a restraining order against his son. The cops come and find hollow point bullets among some of the ammunition.

Now this outrage happened in New Jersey where hollow point ammunition is illegal (with certain hunting exceptions). There is no indication that the son was arrested for owing such ammunition or any of the weapons. In fact, there is no indication he did anything illegal. His only problem was having the money to buy his guns and knives and still living with a hoplophobic daddy.

As the father requested, the police came and stole confiscated his son’s weapons. The son was licensed to own them, but can no longer do so under court order. If my father did this to me (granted, I’m a lot older than 23 and I don’t live in my childhood home), I’d break all contact with my family and move out of state. I’d then make every effort to get the court orders overturned and start buying guns.

What's wrong with this story is that Dad even called the police. If all was right with the world, he'd have gone to a shooting range with his son. I don't particularly like "savage looking" knives. Not my cup of tea, but so long as there is no evil intent to use them, or us a gun, a spear, or anything else--and there's no indication that such is the case--then more power to whoever wants to collect them.

I doubt the son will ever see his property again although certain cops ot their department may have gained a “sniper rifle.” If you're living in New Jersey, my heart bleeds for you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

One From the Vault

Steyr-Hahn Model 1912
Once upon a time, there was a land named the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And that empire extended over much of Central Europe and most of the Balkans. Her ruler was noted for his fear of change. So much so, that he refused to read documents that were typed on new-fangled typewriters. His name was Emperor Franz-Josef II. His heir, Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand, managed to get himself killed by an anarchist in a little town called Sarajevo.

Because of various strange and entangling alliances, this murder led to the beginning of World War I. The Austro-Hungarian Empire found itself allied with the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire against France, Great Britain, Russia, and eventually the United States. The war swept away old empires including that of Franz Josef’s. The rest is history.

Steyr built most of Franz-Josef’s arms, but its real name was Oesterreichische Waffenfabricks Gesellschaft and was located in Steyr, Austria. Army officers needed a reliable and modern semi-auto pistol at their side when they marched off to war. They got reliable, but they didn’t get modern.

A Steyer-Hahn’s least modern feature is how you load it. It doesn’t have an external magazine. Instead, you pull back the slide until it locks and then use a stripper clip to push rounds into an internal magazine. Such a feature is a surprising throwback for a semi-auto pistol designed around 1910. After all, Lugers, Colts, and other pistols all had external magazines that helped make reloading faster.
Steyr-Hahn Complete with Stripper Clip

Steyr came up with the Steyr-Hahn pistol based on a couple of their earlier models. Externally, it bears a strong resemblance to a Colt Model 1905 military pistol (you’ll need use the link’s “Quick Search” feature). There was a lot of cross pollination among gun makers of the time, so it’s not impossible that a few ideas went back and forth, but I can’t prove that one way or the other.

Still, the Steyr-Hahn has several features that aren’t found on any Colt. The internal action works through a cammed barrel as you can see. After firing, the recoil drives the slide and barrel back. Cams rotate the barrel about a half turn lining up magazine and feeding lip. It works well and is both an interesting mechanism and an example of precision machining.
Steyr-Hahn Design

The Steyr is slab-sided, heavy, and well engineered. In fact, Steyr-Hahns earned their reputation for reliability because it’s almost over engineered. It has a few curious features like a rear sight that sits on a pedestal that’s also a cocking handle and then there’s the bridge for the stripper clip.

The gun takes a now hard-to-find cartridge—9mm Steyr. It was a hot load for the time with a muzzle velocity of 1115 feet per second. Its 115-grain bullet was usually jacketed in steel. Make no mistake, it packed a punch, at least for a Euro-pellet.

Other armies used Steyr-Hahns as well. Chile and Romania adopted it as their service weapon. In fact, most Steyr-Hahn’s I’ve seen are marked “Ejercito de Chile,” Army of Chile. After World War I, many Austrian Steyrs ended up being converted to 9mm Luger and then hung on gun belts of Austrian and Bavarian police officers.

My gun was made in 1917 and was accepted into Austrian service the same year. My Steyr-Hahn is in great condition although someone got a little too enthusiastic with the cold blue for my taste. It’s a Model 1912—there was an experimental 1910 model and a Model 1911.

I had no trepidation when I fired it, because it’s so well built. There is very little felt recoil thanks to its rather noticeable weight. The trigger is heavy, but it's accurate partly because its sights are easy to pick up. Field stripping is a piece of cake. You pull out the front wedge, manipulate the slide just so and suddenly you’re holding a slide, a barrel and a frame.

So that’s a Steyr-Hahn. It’s a stand-in for an empire that is no more and, just like that empire’s leader, it refused to change with the times when its designers stood by their stripper clips.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Turkeys, Coyotes, and Foxes Oh My

Seth from Massachusetts sent me an article about a suburban/urban neighborhood that’s inundated with turkeys, coyotes, and now foxes. Brookline, Massachusetts is nestled right into Boston’s bosom and is not bordered by any real wilderness. Yet it has wildlife and predators in abundance.

Brookline’s a leftie paradise and more than one person is surprised that government can’t help them despite the fact that it was lefties who passed the various animal regulations in the first place. The powers that be can’t trap and relocate wild animals and certainly can’t shoot them. The best advice “concerned citizens” got was to get rid of bird feeders, make sure their trash is secure, and don’t feed the critters.

When I’ve wildlife blogged before, I’ve always said we need predators and people need to live with them. That means that people need to understand them and be able to defend themselves just in case an aggressive predator decides you, your kid, or your pet looks like lunch (not even going to talk about rabies even though the article mentions it).

Instead, Brookline is one of the hardest cities in Massachusetts to get a license to own a gun. The police chief doesn't like giving them out and most of his subjects citizens wouldn't dream of asking for one anyway. Of course there's always pepper spray. Oh wait, you must have a firearms license to even own pepper spray. Foolishness among the sheeple of Brookline.

A Belated Gunnie Weekend

Bill and I managed to have a gunnie weekend. We visited a local gun store to replenish some shotgun powder for reloading and a little ammo. We did recreational plinking on Sunday. Nothing taxing. Nothing too fancy, just sent handgun lead down range to destroy plastic bottles, empty ammo boxes, and even a Starbucks coffee cup. In other words, no trash was safe.

That’s not to say we didn’t shoot as a few paper targets as well and with a little more purpose. I shot my Colt .380 and did a fair amount of one handed shooting in my strong and weak hands. I also took the opportunity to shoot my Nazi-marked Walther P-38, and the Nambu Type 14 pistol I bought not too long ago.

Guess which gun gave me problems? Yep, the Nambu. I had one mild failure to feed with the Colt and no stoppages whatsoever with the P-38. The Nambu, however, has a problem. Its firing-pin spring is just a little too weak to crush a primer each time I pulled the trigger. I managed to get off three rounds before I decided that shooting it was too much hassle and that a gun spring purchase is in my future. Fortunately, springs aren’t a numbered part.

Still, the Nambu was surprisingly accurate. Even with problems, I hit a shoot-n-see with each shot (at 12 yards one handed). It has a very light and crisp trigger despite its rather crude appearance. I’m looking forward to getting new springs for it and giving it a real test. Keep watching this spot for an update.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Firearm Production Data

I found a link to firearm production figures in an article in Slate Magazine. About three weeks ago, Ten Ring and a few of our readers debated if firearm sales were going up or going down. These figures go a long way to answering that important question.

ATF collected the data and publishes it on their web site. The tables now exclude some data (military production, maybe), so the data is not perfect, but it's the best we have. Before I begin, I’m not a statistician and if anyone else wants to crunch these numbers, please give it a whirl.

Let’s compare the last year for which ATF has figures, 2004, and the first year that’s available, 1998. Data for 2004 is incomplete because a number of gun makers didn’t report. The data includes any company or licensed manufacturer who makes guns. A few made only one gun in 2004, so it’s probably a good assumption that most of these non-reporting makers are small fry.
With that caveat here are a couple of comparisons:
1998 Total Guns Made: 3,691,680 (excluding machine guns and “Any Other Weapon” that no longer appear in the statistics).

2004 Total Guns Made: 3,099,025.
Just to make sure the figures aren’t a fluke, here’s another comparison:
1999 Total Guns Made: 4,047,747.

2003 Total Guns Made: 3,308,404 (no mention of non-reportees).
In both comparisons, the numbers differ by more than 600,000 firearms. In both cases, gun makers are making fewer guns. Looking deeper into the data, handguns and shotguns were down while rifles were more or less the same over the comparison years.

Looking still deeper, the earlier years posted decent production numbers for companies that gun banners have run out of business; Lorcin, and Davis for instance. However, even manufacturing by “quality” makers trended down.

Here’s a chart:
Here’s a table that shows totals for all years and how ATF breaks down the numbers:
(Click for larger)

*First year in which machine guns and other NFA weapons were not counted.

To me, there are two explanations for this data: Gun makers are not making as many guns or military guns are not included in firearm counts after 2002. It’s probably a little of both.

So what did I come away with from my little exercise in arithmetic? Makers are making fewer guns although “quality” makers are barely holding their own. We’ve often read about people buying guns after 9/11 or Katrina. The figure for 2002 (first year in which a 9/11 sales increase would register) shows a surge that has now abated. Sales of used guns would, of course, not appear in these figures.

The gun industry has problems. Sales of new guns are tending downward and the market is probably saturated because guns are durable objects. Makers are trying to find new ways to compete: bigger, smaller, more powerful, etc. I think the trend will continue. Maybe gunnies ought to think about adding a new feature to Buy A Gun Day—Buy A NEW Gun Day.

For Your Reading Enjoyment

I ran across an article in Slate Magazine on Smith & Wesson that reminded me of an article in the New York Times about Smith & Wesson’s comeback (I blogged about it here). For being published in more or less liberal news outlets, both articles have a lack of snarkiness about guns.

Slate’s article descends slightly into snark when it says that Smith & Wesson’s .500 Magnum appeals to well-to-do urban collectors who buy it to increase their macho creds. Still, not bad in the snark department. There’s also a mistake when it claims, … “Ruger sold boatloads of its .22-caliber revolvers to protective homeowners and security guards.” I know of no security guard who’d feel armed with a .22 revolver or many homeowners for that matter.

I guess I better give a very brief summary. Slate looks at Smith & Wesson’s takeover of the big bore handgun market starting with the .500 Magnum. It mentions Smith & Wesson’s troubles with the gunnie community, its new marketing strategies, and its new leadership in the big bore handgun market. There is one mention of a police chief who doesn’t like the gun, but the article quickly gives the other side—what criminal would want to try to conceal one of these things. Try is the operative word.

So, all in all a favorable article that you might want to give a read. It did give me fodder for another post because it linked firearm production figures. I crunched a few numbers and got a few answers to the state of gun sales in my next post.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Spring is Here

I’ve never disguised my disdain for New England winters, but I have to admit there’s something to be said for New England springs. Winter has finally eased its grip after descending into a rainy, blustery April and hanging on during a cold few days of May. Still, the trees are in bloom and it’s warm. The only drawback is I have to work while the woods and shooting ranges call me.

In New England, plants seem to know they only have a limited time to grow, so in late spring everything suddenly leafs out. It makes you forget how cold last month really was and how you doubted spring and its promise of summer would ever come. It makes me feel as if I'd been in a deep hibernation and am finally waking up.

The warm weather, the greening trees, the flowers all make me want to get out doors and resume my trap shooting, rifle shooting, and outdoor pistol shooting. One of these days, I may even take up skeet. I’ve received an open invitation to come out to Cowboy Action Shooting matches here in New England. Bill and I may do just that once we acquire a holster or two, loops to hold shotgun shells in, and a few other items. Being from Texas, we do have boots.

I have plans for this weekend, although I haven’t yet nailed down what Yosemite Sam wants to do. I’ll tell you what I'm planning. I want to shoot my Nambu pistol; UPS delivered a box of cartridges for it the other day so I'm good to go. I want to go trap shooting and I want to enjoy a predicted decent weekend.

One other thing I want to do, but it’s not really a spring day thing. I want to see United 93—the movie about the plane that didn’t crash into the Capitol Building because average Americans stopped terrorists on 9/11. I meant to go last weekend, but Bill doesn’t want to go. He agrees that we should remember what happened on that day. But, he’s afraid that he’ll become too angry and too unable to vent that anger. He has a point, but I really hate to go to a movie alone. We’ll see what happens.

Sorry this is such a rambling, personal post, but I’m on my break after a busy Friday of writing too many e-mails, editing too many documents, and dealing with too much work-related bullshit on the so-far nicest day of the year. I’ll let you know how my possibly wonderful weekend shapes up.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Careless Fact Checking

I’ve been busy making a living the past few days and have had little time to read blog posts let alone write them. Work has a habit of intruding into fun things in life. Things like shooting, hunting, reading, shooting, sleeping, reloading, writing. And, did I mention shooting?

I went from a period with not quite enough on my work plate to several major projects clamoring for my attention and all have due dates crowded into a tiny few squares on my calendar. Enough complaining already, I’m sure you’re bored.

While surfing the Internets for gun-related articles I stumbled on this little jewel. Because I haven’t had time to keep up with my favorite blogs, this article may have been discussed to death by now. If so, I apologize in advance.

In a commentary The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) doesn’t think gun control should be local. I guess they wouldn’t be happy if we modeled a nation-wide law on New Hampshire’s laws instead of the laws in their home state, Massachusetts. Having lived in both states, New Hampshire’s laws are so much better, but CSM thinks it knows how we should lead our lives.

Right of the bat, the commentary condemns the National Rifle Association for cowing Congress with its might and it keeps harping on NRA. I’ve mentioned my NRA life membership several times in Ten Ring. I’ve agreed that they sometimes compromise with gun banners more than I would like, but that they are the only pro-gun rights organization that gun banners fear and loathe. Once more, proof positive that my NRA dues are good for something.

The rest of the article talks about a New York City lawsuit that is under way despite Congressional mandates. NYC wants to bash gun makers with information gleaned from ATF crime trace records. Their lawyers hope the data shows a pattern that would lead to holding at least a few gun dealers culpable for a criminal’s misuse of a gun.

There seems to be a contradiction here when it says that five out of six guns used in crime are obtained illegally. Think about that—we already have laws and criminals still get guns illegally. Once again they prove that they won’t obey any law we care to write. Okay, fine there may be a matter of interpretation as to what makes a gun “illegal.” However, the writers make a serious factual error showing their naiveté when they state, “Despite tough laws against guns in many cities and states, lax federal rules do not prevent the sale of handguns across state lines.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Except for certain narrow exceptions it’s illegal to transfer a handgun to someone who doesn’t live in your state. Also you can’t just cross the border and buy a gun at the local gun store (Code of Federal Regulations Title 27, 478.29). You can transfer a handgun over state lines if you involve a Federal Firearms Licensee on both sides of the transfer and if the transfer is in accordance with the laws of both states. Who edits these commentaries anyway?

At the very bottom of the commentary is an offer to subscribe and it only costs 43 cents per issue. Guess who didn’t subscribe.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Crunching the NYT's Numbers

Too many people believe that guns cause crime and that if we got rid of guns then American life would be a peaceable kingdom. It’s a naïve yet attractive vision. Naïve because it just ain’t going to happen. Violent criminals will always possess weapons including guns no matter what the laws say. Attractive because it’s so simple. You just remove this one itty-bitty thing and suddenly you'll have peace on earth. It’s what drives gun banners.

Not only is it attractive to them, but these usually urbanite gun banners see no earthly use for guns beyond, perhaps, military and police applications. Therefore banning guns is getting rid of useless objects that they believe cause a lot of harm and are “icky” (a technical term among gun banners). They believe they’re right. So, no matter how many examples of positive uses of guns we cite, how many statistics we accumulate, or show that many rational people do not find guns “icky,” they’ll never believe us.

Given this disjuncture between gunnies and banners, it’s surprising when publications usually associated with gun banners publish information that confirms gunnie viewpoints. So it happened with the New York Times. Their reporter, Jo Craven McGinty, collected three years of basic homicide records, 1662 murders, in New York City and looked for trends.

She found that New York’s homicide numbers are going down. Gunnie and non-gunnie alike can celebrate that fact, although certain non-gunnies might see part of their favorite argument disappear—you know which one, it begins with “Guns kill thousands of people each year.”

Other trends are significant. Men or boys committed 93% of the murders and use guns about 66% of the time. The killer knew his victim more often than not and even more often were of the same race. More than 90% of the killers had criminal records and more than half of their victims also had records.

The latter point is significant because it supports our contention that gun murders are based primarily in criminal activity. Now, a little less than 10% of killers had no criminal records, but we’re not getting the complete picture either. To connect the dots, we would need to know how many murderers were juveniles, how many were “known to police,” and other information.

Because most murderers knew their victims, random crime is lower than we might expect although it is trending up. Still, if you don’t engage in criminal activity and avoid disputes (a primary cause of stranger on stranger murder), you’re fairly safe. That doesn’t mean though that you should go through life in “condition white” with an iPod’s buds stuck in your ears.

Now here’s something that got Charlton Heston in trouble when he said something similar to Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine. McGinty reports, “Whites and Asians, who seldom murdered, were also infrequently killed: Together, they represented 75 or fewer victims each year.” Blacks and Hispanics commit most of the murders. It’s not a function of race, let’s be perfectly clear on that. It stems from lack of opportunity, history, you name it. Also, certain neighborhoods are more affected regardless of their racial makeup.

Gun banners’ arguments really fail on this point. To solve gun violence you must figure out why blacks and Hispanic commit and die in murders more often that whites and Asians. It’s hard to even talk about because it’s not politically correct and someone will shout racism. Solutions will be even more difficult and certainly will take time.

Instead, gun banners want to take guns away from everyone—after all, it’s politically correct to treat everyone equally. They would punish all peaceful people who happen to like shooting for the actions of a few. They want to find an easy fix.

Their fix won’t work and it still doesn’t take into account the 22% of murders committed with knifes and the 12% that’s committed with other means. Thus, about 554 of the 1662 murders would go unanswered in their scheme. No, the answer to violence can’t focus on the guns. It must focus on why some people kill while others don’t.