Things other people have said, and my reactions to them:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr.: I don’t often agree with Sheriff Clarke. However, when he says “"With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. ... Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there," he is correct. In an interview with The Associated Press, Clarke said he just wants people to know what their options are. While self-defense isn't for everyone, some people see personal safety as their own responsibility, he said, and they should be trained properly.

"I'm not telling you to 'Hey, pick up a gun and blast away.' ... People need to know what they are doing if they chose that method — to defend themselves," he said.

"People are responsible to play a role in their own safety, with the help of law enforcement," Clarke said. "I'm here to do my part, but we have fewer and fewer resources. We're not omnipresent, and we have to stop giving people that impression."

Setting aside the political agenda—Sheriff Clarke is engaged in a battle with the County Board over funding which has resulted in his laying off some staff—he pretty much agrees with things I have said. The police can deter crime. The police can catch criminals. However, the police cannot be everywhere and cannot prevent a determined criminal from making an attempt. The instances in which police arrive on scene while a robbery, assault, or burglary is in progress are very rare. Thus, it is up to us to see to our own security, and how you do that is up to you. Whether that means keeping alert and staying out of “bad” parts of town, having good locks or a security system, learning martial arts, or carrying a personal alarm/panic button, pepper spray, Taser, knife, or gun, or none of the above, what you do is up to you.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn: High on Flynn’s list of priorities is making the illegal possession of a concealed firearm a felony. Currently, in Wisconsin, it’s a misdemeanor. He’d like to see straw purchases of a firearm—purchases made for someone who cannot pass a background check—made a felony as well.

Flynn supports President Obama’s call for universal background checks, but he said he’d also like to see more red-flag disqualifiers for gun ownership. For example, habitual offenders—those with three serious misdemeanor convictions who Flynn calls “career criminals”— as well as felons should be barred from possessing a gun. Those with serious mental health issues or drunken driving convictions should also be (at least temporarily) disqualified, Flynn said.

“If you can’t control your drinking, you shouldn’t have a gun,” Flynn said. “Because when you look at deadly violence in Milwaukee, alcohol is involved an enormous amount of the time.

These are hard to argue with, although might be hard to implement. I would prefer to see any sort of “three strikes” rule qualified so that the three convictions must include crimes of violence, unless the chief can provide some statistical proof of a relationship between shoplifting or writing bad checks and gun crime.

Playwright David Mamet: “The individual is not only best qualified to provide his own personal defense, he is the only one qualified to do so: and his right to do so is guaranteed by the Constitution.” He argues that “It is not the constitutional prerogative of the Government to determine needs. One person may need (or want) more leisure, another more work; one more adventure, another more security, and so on. It is this diversity that makes a country, indeed a state, a city, a church, or a family, healthy. “One-size-fits-all,” and that size determined by the State has a name, and that name is “slavery.”’

Mamet also is taking the position that self-defense is both an individual right, and an individual responsibility.

NRA: The NRA has been stung by recently reported polls, which it describes as “bogus surveys by pollsters on the payroll of antigun groups,” which purport to show that 85% of NRA members support universal background checks and “assault weapon” restrictions.

The NRA notes that: “none of those surveys had access to the NRA's membership list,” which is certainly true. There is a bit of disingenuousness in the way the polls are reported, which should state that “respondents who identify themselves as NRA members support”—which is a rather different matter. If six respondents out of a thousand polled identify as NRA members, and five of the six support the measures, that’s 85%, but it’s not really statistically significant.

Unfortunately, the NRA responds with its own bogus poll, of 1000 randomly selected NRA members. The results, as reported on their website, are:

Key Findings:

91% of NRA members support laws keeping firearms away from the mentally ill.
92% of NRA members oppose gun confiscation via mandatory buy-back laws.
89% oppose banning semi-automatic firearms, often mistakenly called "assault rifles."
93% oppose a law requiring gun owners to register with the federal government.
92% oppose a federal law banning the sale of firearms between private citizens.

Of these, two, four and five are obvious “straw men.” I haven’t seen any of these proposals on the table anywhere, and are part of the NRA’s fear-mongering among its membership and fellow travelers. Number one is a “no-brainer,” you should pardon the expression, that everyone supports—providing we can figure out a workable way to do it.

Giving credit to the NRA, they do publish the actual poll questions and instructions and full results, which most poll proponents do not.

The Atlantic Magazine has published a lot of good articles and opinion pieces (including the Mamet one). Among the best is “The Case for More Guns (and More Gun Control),” which I think is very well balanced, and can be found here:

There's also a very good article in the New York Times, "Bipartisan Guidelines for Gun Control," on line at:
As one might expect, since the horrendous massacre at Newtown, the national debate on gun control, and specifically, access to assault-style firearms, has come back with a vengeance. As a “gun rights” advocate myself, I’ve heard the renewed debate with great disappointment as both sides trot out the same tired old discredited arguments and dance around unpalatable truths.

“Assault-style” weapons are for defense, not hunting. One of the tired shibboleths being constantly pronounced is that “no one needs a semi-automatic rifle with a 30-round clip to hunt deer.” Well, that’s true. It’s also really unlikely that most people would ever need such a rifle to fend off muggers or burglars, either. A military-style weapon is most useful for defense against military-style opponents.

Movies like “Red Dawn,” notwithstanding, the chance of a foreign invader ever making it to US shores is vanishingly small. Wars with Mexico and Canada (as part of the British Empire) are part of our history, but I can’t see such in our future. The fact is that the ultimate check on the power of the United States government is the power of the people to resist it. As the Declaration of Independence says, “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends (securing the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new governments.” As not only history, but current events (cf.: Syria) , show us, such destructive governments do not tend to go gently into the good night.

Our Founding Fathers of course knew this well. They stockpiled military-style weapons of their day and had to resort to their use in order to throw off British tyranny. Indeed, did not one of the most famous episodes in the early days of the struggle for independence, “the midnight ride of Paul Revere”, center around a British attempt to seize a Colonial weapons stockpile?
The Brown Bess musket was the assault weapon of its day, and the comparison is not a specious one. The British Army infantry, the best trained in the world, could put out five aimed shots per minute per man. In the tactic known as ‘company fire’ a regiment of foot issued a continuous rolling barrage of musketry that had the most devastating effect on enemy formations of any direct-fire weaponry until the introduction of machine-gun batteries in World War I. The Founders knew this. However, instead of putting a blanket right of the people to keep and bear arms into the Bill of Rights, they did not limit the right to possession of pistols and fowling pieces. Even when there was an actual insurrection against the Federal government, the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, there was no talk of disarming the populace or of restricting the people’s access to weaponry.

I am not one of those who say that the time to take up arms against the government is now. Neither am I one who says the prospect is unthinkable. I vividly recall the 1964 movie “Seven Days In May,” based on the novel by Fletcher Kneble (also author of "Fail Safe"), which postulated a military-based conspiracy to overthrow the United States government. President Kennedy read the novel and believed that the scenario as described could occur in the United States, and gave government cooperation to the making of the film, over Pentagon objection.

I recall the days surrounding the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and taking part in serious discussions of what would happen if Nixon, whom by that time nobody trusted, “sent troops up Capitol Hill.” Things we have heard since, about Nixon wandering the halls of the White House talking to the portraits of his predecessors, make that scenario more, rather than less, unlikely in my opinion.

It wasn’t until much later that I read Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here. That story hasn’t gotten any less chilling with time. The more I see our politics descend into demagoguery, slander, and “big lies,” the more plausible it becomes.

As things stand right now, the United States could be destroyed, as by a foreign nuclear attack, but not be conquered or occupied. Any would-be dictator must consider the sobering fact that he would face an insurgency unlike anything in history. If we lose the potential to resist the government, we are no better off than the citizens of Syria or North Korea. If the government has a monopoly on coercive force, then our rights become unenforceable and we exercise them only at sufferance.

The other tired argument being trotted out is the “militia” argument: the proposition that the right to keep and bear arms is a collective right pertaining to the (non-existent) well-ordered militia, and not to individuals. Besides this position having been shot down (so to speak) in the Supreme Court’s rulings in “District of Columbia vs. Heller,” and “McDonald vs. Chicago,” this argument has always been based on a misreading of the 1938 case “United States vs. Miller.”

A bit of history: The Miller case grew out of government response to Prohibition-era gang warfare, wherein mobsters were engaging in what we’d now call “close quarters combat” using, among other weapons, sub-machine guns, hand grenades, and sawed-off shotguns. The US government did not attempt to ban those weapons, probably rightly viewing the 2nd Amendment challenge that would arise, but instead enacted a tax law, requiring a license be acquired and fee paid for possession of such weapons. This gave them an additional prosecutorial weapon to use against criminals.

Miller was convicted of possession of an unlicensed short-barreled shotgun. He appealed, and the Supreme Court upheld the conviction on the basis that the 2nd Amendment protected the possession of such weapons as were appropriate for a militia, and, that since sawed-off shotguns were prohibited as a weapon of war by the Geneva Convention, the possession of the shotgun was not protected by the 2nd Amendment. “In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. “ The text of the decision, which can be found here: goes into considerable detail relating the provisions of Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution(power of the Congress to call out the militia) to the 2nd Amendment, but does not explicitly state whether the right to keep and bear arms is collective or individual, despite many interpretations claiming so since.

The interesting thing is that, had the defendant been charged with the possession of a “tommy gun” or hand grenade, both of which were in the inventories of the US Army and every state militia, by this reasoning the conviction should have been reversed. By the same reasoning, possession of actual full-auto assault rifles, not just semi-automatic replicas, would be protected under the 2nd Amendment.

The “well-ordered militia” doesn’t really have any great potential for resisting government tyranny. The organized militia consists of the National Guard. Although under the US Constitution, the several states retain the power to appoint officers, etc., as a practical matter the various Guard and Reserve units are administered as parts of the national military structures they support—Army, Navy, etc. Also, besides being integrated into the national command structure and military culture, the President has the power to call Guard units into national service at any time. In 1957, following the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to preserve order, a euphemism for keeping African American students out of formerly all-white Little Rock schools. However, on September 25, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and deployed paratroopers to carry out the desegregation orders of the federal courts. The Arkansas National Guard obeyed presidential orders. One supposes that if there were a sufficiently serious breach between the states and the federal government—on the level of a new civil war—National Guardsmen might make the decision to oppose the federals, setting aside oaths of obedience and the fear of military punishments, but, failing that, I don’t think the Militia is going to be anyone’s protector of individual rights.

The other unspoken concept in this controversy is that rights have costs. As I’ve said before, ours is an adolescent society. People want, and have the physical ability to grasp, all the powerful and dangerous “adult” instrumentalities: free speech, consensual casual sex, fast cars, liquor, other recreational drugs, guns. However, people all-too-often lack the emotional or intellectual maturity to use these things responsibly. The result is an unavoidable cost in human misery until we finish ‘growing up’. I don’t see that a return to a perpetual state of social kindergarten in which all the potentially hurtful things are locked away forever, is a viable or sensible option.

I cannot say that the lives of twenty children are an acceptable price to pay for our freedom. However, I can’t either say that any restriction of freedom is acceptable “if it saves one life,” as is currently being argued. What we really need to do is to grow up. We need to get over this idea that America in general and Americans in particular, have to be the biggest bad-asses on the block. We need to teach firmly that violence is the last resort rather than the first approach to problem solving. I note with some dismay that we will soon have yet another “Die Hard” movie opening, in which, doubtless, the final resolution will involve the hero “belting up” with as many weapons as he can get and emerging victorious from a prolonged gun battle with the dastardly bad guys. Well and good, one supposes, for the increasingly unlikely scenarios in which John McClane finds himself, but it would be well if these were generally understood to be fantasies, and not primers on how to deal with your property-line dispute with your neighbor, or your frustrations with your mother.

Until then, what is to be done? I’ve never objected to the idea of universal background checks for gun buyers, including gun shows, not that I think it will help all that much. I’ve been to many gun shows, and you don’t see any inner-city “gang bangers” there. Disgruntled white survivalist types, yes—but most of them are otherwise law-abiding, and have no record to stop them buying what they want.

For that matter, I’ve not opposed licensing for firearms owners as long as it would be reasonable, fairly administered and not arbitrarily revocable. The problem with states that have concealed carry permits which are issued at the discretion of the sheriff or police chief is that is usually ends up being the sheriff’s cronies who get them, and anyone he dislikes is out of luck.

I do oppose registration. Registration has historically always lead to confiscation, even in democracies. After World War II, perhaps mindful of the miserable unreadiness of its “Home Guard,” Great Britain allowed veterans to claim and keep as mementos the rifles that they had used in the war. Decades later that decision was reversed, and the ex-soldiers were required to turn in their bolt-action Enfields for destruction, or prove that they had been rendered inoperable. Some elected to do the deed themselves: I recall reading a story at the time, of a daughter watching the tears running down the face of her father as the old soldier took a hacksaw to the faithful rifle that he had carried through five years of war, and that had saved his life in battle.

What passes in our country for a “mental health system” is miserably inadequate. “Deinstitutionalization” was supposed to be replaced by a comprehensive community-based support system, which like the “well-ordered militia,” has never been legislated for, organized, or funded. Most people don’t have any reasonable access to mental health care, and no way to pay for it. We have zero in the way of general screening. One letter writer I saw in the local paper proposed that any would-be gun buyer should be required to complete the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Index, a screening tool for various antisocial personality disorders. Why shouldn’t something like that be administered to all high school freshmen, and appropriate referrals be made? (I know—much too “Brave New World” for most peoples’ taste, even setting aside the likelihood that a majority of teenage boys would end up on anti-psychotic medications--.)

On the specific issue, school security could certainly be improved. We have so aggressively disarmed our school districts to the point that there is not so much of a squirt gun available to deter any attacker. There’s nothing to stop any pervert or madman from entering a school armed with so much as a knife and wreaking havoc, as happened recently in China. The worst school killing in American history took place in the 1920’s, and was done with what we’d now call a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Its disingenuous to suggest that a determined killer couldn’t do as bad or worse tomorrow, having provide himself with simple pipe bombs, or a couple of strategically placed buckets of gasoline. (´See, I'm a man of simple tastes. I enjoy dynamite, and gunpowder, and... gasoline!” Joker, “The Dark Knight”) On the other hand, there have been a number of cases in schools that DO have armed security, or, in one case, an armed vice-principal, where gunmen were denied entry and apprehended or killed. These don’t make big news because only the “bad guys” died, if anyone at all.

I don’t think proposals for arming teachers with firearms are reasonable. I don’t think the idea of having police on scene is intrinsically bad, although expensive. As an alternative proposal, why not provide teachers with pepper spray? Many commercially available sprays are effective out to twenty-five feet, the confines of many school rooms, and a hit in the chest is just as likely to be disabling as a hit in the eyes. (The idea of “Bear Guard,” one of the first commercially available sprays, is to keep the bear away before it gets to you--.) Even if the criminal wears a gas mask, as the Colorado movie killer did, there are vision-blocking sprays that effervesce on impact into a dye-bearing foam. Training is much more simple than firearm training would be. The technology exists to make a spray gun with a magnetic trigger lock or biometric grip to prevent accidental discharges. Far from foolproof, obviously. Certainly, there will be accidents, but, as they are saying, if it saves one life?


Dec. 30th, 2010 01:55 pm
Dec. 26th, we caught up with “RED” (stands for “retired, extremely dangerous”). The movie stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich as overage CIA agents who find themselves on a “hit list” for unknown reasons. The initial assassination attempt on Frank Moses (Willis) gives “shooting your way in,” a whole new meaning. Frank’s younger civilian love interest (Mary-Louise Parker) gets roped in on the general principal she may have learned too much. The plot follows any number of similar films from “The 39 Steps” onward, as they run, escape, and eventually fight back as they unravel who is doing what to whom. Along the way, they acquire the help of old allies and opponents, former MI6 assassin Helen Mirren, and KGB rezidentura Brian Cox, and CIA records keeper Earnest Borgnine.

What enlivens the movie is the witty dialog, rife with juicy black humor, and intriguing action, which is very heavy on gunfire, but relatively light on bloodshed. (Much of the time, the protagonists are shooting it out with Federal agents who don’t know they are being used, and thus not to be lightly killed. Hired assassins, on the other hand, are another matter--.) The other thing that makes the film a standout is the relationships between the characters, which made Georgie describe it as the “holiday feel-good movie of the year.”

While Freeman’s character is described as having cancer, and Malkovich’s character was obviously retired on disability due to mental issues, it’s hard to understand why “Frank Moses” isn’t still working, since his reflexes, weapon skills, and situational awareness exceed those of younger men, and even several younger men, other than some bumf about mandatory retirement age, but it makes a good plot. It’s obvious that Moses hasn’t been off the payroll long, since we see him living in a new and barren house when the film opens.

The elder spies are well supported by their opponents, Karl Urban as agent Cooper who is assigned to “retire” Moses, and Rebecca Pidgeon as the ambitious ice queen who is his control. In interesting casting against type, Richard Dreyfuss, who started his movie career playing nice guys in Neil Simon comedies (and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) plays arms dealer Alexander Dunning, who is as nasty a character as anyone could wish for.
Highly recommended for fans of action, adventure, intrigue, shoot-em-ups, or of Willis, Freeman, Malkovich, or Mirren, all of whom have juicy roles. On the other hand, if you don’t like guns, don’t see it.


Jun. 26th, 2008 09:31 am
Per New York Times web: "Supreme Court Rules That Individuals Have Gun Rights".

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court says Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history."

"The court's 5-4 ruling strikes down the District of Columbia's 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment. The decision goes further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms laws intact."

Now, the question will be how to interpret the latter part, and we will have to wait for the detailed ruling for guidance there.

Frankly, this is a better decision than I had hoped for. The argument for individual rights was very strong, and the "collective right" argument very weak. What I had mostly expected, however, was a "judgment of Solomon," in which the Court would have declared an individual right, but managed to interpret the District of Columbia law to preserve it. This did not happen. Justice Scalia writing for four colleagues, said the Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home." Proponents of the law, which requires that even licensed guns be kept locked up and/or disassembled even in the owner's home, argued that it was not technically a 'complete' ban, since you could possess a firearm (just not in a condition that made it usable in case of emergency). Opponents of the law argued that this was in effect a complete abrogation of the right to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense, and evidently the five justices in the majority agreed with that proposition.

I don't expect that this will make a lot of difference in local gun laws except in those areas like Washington D.C., New York City, and Chicago, that have extremely restrictive laws on the books. I predict a lot of litigation forthcoming in those areas.
This is my response to an editorial column that ran in our local weekly paper, the "Shepherd Express," on September 13, 2007. The full text of the column can be found here:

A bit of background: Joel McNally, the writer of the column, is very anti-gun, with reason. Some years ago, he and his family endured a terrifying incident wherein they were held up at gunpoint in their own driveway. Fortunately,they survived without physical harm. Unfortunately, McNally has extrapolated his own traumatic feelings of helplessness and fear into a belief that citizens are essentially helpless at the hands of criminals and it's foolish to think of anything in the line of self-defense other than surrender. He has also permitted himself to parrot the myths that permitting concealed carry in Wisconsin would somehow result in increased street violence, despite manifold evidence to the contrary.

I hold no brief for Sheriff Clarke. I think he is a loose cannon who had done considerable harm to the Milwaukee County Sherrif's Department with his rash, intemperate and grandiose policies. His change of mind on the concealed carry issue may be coming to the right side, but isn't a great deal of help to the cause.

The "Shepherd Express" runs a very small letters to the editor column and have not run this or any of the other letters I have written in response to McNally's past columns. However, I was pleased with the way this letter turned out, so I am posting it here in my own forum. Comments are welcome.

"As a responsible gun owner and recreational shooter, I take exception to Joel McNally’s column in the September 13th issue (“Guns A-Blazing”). While I have every sympathy for the gun-related trauma suffered by Mr. McNally and his family in the past, his vehement opposition to firearms has overwhelmed rational argument.

These are facts: Forty-three states have some variety of concealed carry law. The carnivals of carnage or OK Corral style shootouts envisioned by Mr. McNally and other critics involving licensed firearm owners have never, ever, happened anywhere in the US. It is very rare for a licensed firearm carrier to be involved in any type of crime. Remember, we are talking about people who are sufficiently law-abiding that, even though they may feel a need to go armed, will not do so as long as it is against the law. Are the citizens of Wisconsin any less sensible, careful, or conscientious than the citizens of Florida or Texas?

Historically, where licensure is available, less than one-half of one percent of the potentially eligible persons take out permits: hardly a “flood,” and probably far fewer people than are now going armed illegally.

Statistically, there is no increase in criminal gun violence in those states that have concealed carry. It is debatable whether or not there is any measurable decrease in crime, however, there are some interesting facts to be gleaned from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports for 2005. In that year, there were 143 justifiable homicides by firearm reported. These are cases in which a citizen lawfully killed a felon who presented an immediate danger to life and limb. Unfortunately, that’s a small figure compared to the unlawful homicides by firearm reported, but there are still 143 people alive and whole today who otherwise would not be, because they were able to defend themselves. Statistics do not collect the number of incidents in which criminals were deterred, subdued, or driven off by the presence of a firearm, but we know such incidents happen everyday. It is a myth that even an armed citizen is helpless in the face of a criminal assault.

I am not a fan of Sheriff Clarke, but he is right in one thing: the police cannot prevent crime. Police presence can deter crime, police work can apprehend criminals, but the police cannot be everywhere. If you are attacked and the police fail to rescue you, you cannot sue them for that failure. The citizen is responsible for his or her own safety and security. Those who are able and choose to go legally armed may not, in fact, do much to improve their own or the community’s security, but everything we know shows that it DOES NO HARM, and, if it increases that individual’s feeling of security, isn’t that a positive? “Freedom from fear” used to be considered one of our great goals before government and the press found fear-mongering to be a more profitable pursuit. Permitting concealed carry regrettably will not reduce Mr. McNally’s fears, but if it will reduce those of his neighbors, who is he to say them nay?"

Gregory G.H. Rihn
September 10 was Henry Osier’s occasionally annual birthday gathering and shooting party out at the “Lytherian Shooting Range.” Henry had requested we costume for shooting, and we did, me as one of my “Gaslight” characters in top hat and tail coat, and Georgie in period sporting garb as well. Henry and others were garbed as “cowboys”, so we had some fun trading “city slicker” vs. “rube” barbs. We spend most of the time shooting our period and replica guns at the usual array of targets, and refreshed ourselves with a handsomely decorated and delicious cake provided by Georgie, and tasty “Polish Delight” sausages brought by Henry, and had a good time although the light mist eventually thickened in to genuine rain.
I didn't get a chance to write up my views on the OTHER major convention I dropped in on in the last month--the National Rifle Association annual meeting held in Milwaukee May 19-21. I have been a member on and off, and I particularly wanted to walk around their "dealers' room" and see what was new--for game research if nothing else.

Sunday morning was THE time to go. Another friend had let me know that it was very crowded on Friday, but not so on Sunday. The passages in the display hall were nicely open so I could amble along and gawk at my own pace and see everything. For those of you who have been to a GenCon in Milwaukee, they use the same third-floor hall that takes up the full floor of the Midwest Express Center. In some ways, the ambiance was rather GenCon like, although booths for the large gun makers tended to be larger and more "businesslike" than a typical GenCon large dealer (however, there was nothing quite like the TSR Castle).

One was rather struck by just how many major gun manufactures there ARE. My collection of brochures includes: SG, Colt, Savage, Winchester, Bushmaster, Thompson Center, Charter Arms, Hi Point, Marlin, Benelli, Glock, Ruger, Remington, Springfield Armory, Beretta, Heckler & Koch, Weatherby, EAA, North American Arms, Para Ordinance, and Smith & Wesson. I restricted myself mostly to picking up brochures from major companies and still staggered away with a pile of literature six inches thick and seeming to weigh twenty
pounds. If there is a secret anti-gun conspiracy out there, it manifests in making plastic brochure bags with finger-strangling handles, aimed at crippling the gun hands of the entire membership--.

Observations: everyone I encountered was very polite and courteous, and there was a dearth of rude slogan bumper stickers or t-shirts such as we often see at local gun shows, either for sale or on the attendees. There were very few women. No attendees that I noticed, and a comparative few among the vendor's staffs. At least these all seemed to be definite employees and not "spokesmodels" or "booth babes" hired for the occasion.* Gray hair is very prevalent among the members, such that anti-gun forces may have hopes of outliving the NRA as a formidable lobby in a generation or so. For all that the NRA promotes itself as a hunter's organization, it seemed that the major emphasis of guns on display ran toward assault-rifle look-alikes and high-capacity/caliber handguns, which implies that "personal protection" is expected to be a major marketing issue to the members, at least in the vendors' view (although in fairness, a lot of the big companies like Remington, Winchester, Savage, Marlin and Weatherby are best known for "sporting" arms--hunting rifles and shotguns--assault-type rifles seem more common because there are lots of accessories you can buy, and those dealers of course have the rifles or mock-ups on hand in order to display their night-sights or whatever).

Of course there were booths for safaris and hunting lodges and excursions, but these seemed to be ghettoized to the edges of the hall while guns and gun accessories (ammunition, optics, custom stocks and grips, knives) held pride of place.

*One of the more ludicous lawsuits of recent times was brought by an anti-gun group attempting to allege that gun makers lured young people into buying guns by "glamorising" gun use, much as cigarette makers did with cigarettes. It was apparent these people had never picked up a gun magazine or catalog. The typical gun ad has a picture of the gun--period--surmounting three columns of specifications in small type. No beach or cocktail parties in sight. If a human being appears in the ad at all, it is usually a craggy old curmugeon in a cowboy hat like Elmer Keith or Jeff Cooper, who, frankly, make Joe Camel seem reasonably suave and debonaire.
The ground finally having dried up following the spring flooding, Lee Schneider opened up his property in rural Ashippun for target shooting at the Lytherian target range, A.K.A. “Shooting World.” (Since Ashippun consists of two unincorporated wide spots in the road, “rural Ashippun” means you are way out in the sticks--.) We loaded up some of our guns and ammunition and drove out Sunday afternoon, meeting an assortment of usual suspects, plus some young people who were being instructed in shooting and safety. From my shooting box, I produced some inflatable toys to use as targets—a “Barney,” a “Gumby”, and a green space alien. These were greeted with cries of savage glee, and Barney was the first one up against the wall, with one of Lee’s exploding targets attached to his chest. (These are small pyrotechnic devices that go off with a flash and a bang when hit by a bullet.) Barney soon deflated under a hail of bullets, but held up long enough to be blown to plastic shreds when a shrewd shot detonated the target. Gumby and the alien suffered the same fate. In addition, numerous plastic soda bottles, paper targets, and other odd ends bit the dust. Fun was had by all.
Sue Blom's Salon convened a week late due to Windycon: Topic of discussion was "concealed (weapon)carry." We had a lively discussion that enlightened people as to differing views, although no minds were changed. We did agree that permitting the carrying of concealed weapons was NOT a substitute for dealing with the social ills that give rise to crime and the fear of crime.



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