Category Archives: Don’t be THAT guy

The Case of the Purloined Pistols

ATF BadgeOne of the best polymer pistols is the Smith & Wesson M&P series, which show that old dogs really do learn new tricks. Smith was slow to respond to the threat of the Glock to its bread-and-butter police business; its first responses were halting screwups, followed immediately by the Sigma debacle1. But with the M&P they finally got it right. And it’s a common pistol among concealed carriers and in the holsters of cops nationwide.

Like most high-quality pistols, it doesn’t turn up in criminal hands all that often, and when it does, it’s usually a stolen example. ATF exhorts local cops to submit recovered guns for tracing (.pdf); even when the chain of possession is broken by a theft or lack or record, they can trace the gun from manufacturer or importer to point of initial sale and initial buyer’s ID, and even if that’s a dead trail, they can learn some facts and make some useful analytical inferences2.

File Photo showing a S&W 9mm serial number location

File Photo showing a S&W 9mm serial number location — not the recovered gun or any of the fraud guns.

So in February, 2012, when Plainfield, Connecticut, police seized a Smith & Wesson 9mm from an owner that could not produce a Connecticut “permit to purchase,”3 they entered the details into ATF’s eTrace system. The ATF’s National Tracing System contacted the manufacturer of the firearm, Smith & Wesson, to get a very surprising reply: “We never manufactured that pistol!”4

Sure enough, Smith’s records did not record the serial number at all. But the acquisition and dispositions records of a Smith supplier, Tri-Town Plastics, of Deep River, Connecticut, did.

They showed the serial number as manufactured, and scrapped, in March, 2011. Yet it was sitting in an evidence locker in Connecticut, mute testimony that the Tri-Town books were not right.

Tri-Town had had a fraught record with ATF’s Industry Operations. After a 2009 inspection, they had been given a punchlist of deficiencies to correct and improvements that the inspectors suggested. Whether the company took action or not is not clear. What is clear is that in preparation for the company’s next inspection, in 2011, Tri-Town employees found a dagger pointed at the heart of the company:

23 missing frames, or as the ATF would see it, 23 missing firearms. 

One or two missing frames is alarming, but it may be an inventory problem. A couple of dozen missing frames is another matter entirely. The employees realized that having the ATF find 23 firearms missing could be a company-killer; Tri-Town had become dependent on Smith & Wesson work for three-quarters of its revenue. For which work, it had to maintain a clean Manufacturer’s Federal Firearms License.

Whether the workers thought beyond the license implications is not clear. Whether one or both of them knew the disposition of the “scrapped” frames is unknown. Who is the criminal, still at large, that diverted at least one and possibly 23 modern handguns from lawful, regulated commerce into the black market is a mystery at this time. But even if the two workers had been entirely on the up-and-up to this point, what they (the two workers) did next was indubitably a crime: they falsified Tri-Town’s A&D records, recording the 23 missing frames as scrapped. (Crime 1). They did not report the lost inventory to the ATF (Crime 2). And they — as far as the legal case made clear — apparently did not report the case to their superior, Tri-Town General Manager Robert Brinkerhoff.

As a result, the ATF’s 2011 inspection observed the loss of parts to scrap, and didn’t note the inventory discrepancy — on the papers the ATF inspectors saw, it didn’t exist. They had no way of knowing the papers were fraudulent.

ATF didn’t come back to Tri-Town until the 2012 trace on the phantom 9mm. When they did, one of the two employees who falsified the records confessed to Brinkerhoff what he had done. What happened next was a fresh crime: Brinkerhoff did not report the lost frames and falsified records to the ATF, either.

What happened next is unclear, but in June, 2012, some four or five months after learning of the loss and deception, Brinkerhoff finally reported the loss of the 23 firearms. This five month delay was extremely costly for Brinkerhoff. In addition, the report he filed did not notify ATF that the firearms had been previously recorded as scrapped, a material omission.

Brinkerhoff must have been well-represented; in the end, he was initially charged with several felonies times 23 missing firearms, but ultimately was able to plead guilty to two misdemeanors: failing to file a theft/loss report and making false statements in a theft/loss report, one count each. He was sentenced to a year of probation, and as a condition of his probation the judge imposed 90 days’ nonparticipation in any firearms business.

To day, Brinkerhoff is the only individual charged in this interesting case, and the Plainfield pistol is believed to be the only one of the up-to-23 phantom Smiths that are “out there somewhere” to be recovered. The other serial numbers have been noted in the ATF Suspect Gun Database and NCIS, and the investigation continues.

We may speculate as to why the two Tri-Town workers who falsified the original records have not been prosecuted, but only the investigators know.

One wonders if the Brinkerhoff case and the fact that Tri-Town Plastics was then on the bubble (at best) for retaining its FFL was a factor in SWHC’s 2014 acquisition of Tri-Town, which is now “Deep River Plastics, a Smith & Wesson Company.” Not only was Tri-Town completely dependent on SWHC (75% of its business went to the Massachusetts firm), but SWHC was completely dependent on Tri-Town for M&P frames and other parts.

Notes

  1. Then-head of Smith & Wesson Steve Melvin famously directed his engineers to “Copy the mother******!“, and they dutifully did, producing the Sigma. Glock unsurprisingly sued, and unsurprisingly won. Melvin, who knew little about firearms, is also the guy who brought the company near death with a dope-deal with the Clinton Administration to enforce anti-gun “laws” Clinton couldn’t get through Congress.
  2. “Time-to-crime” is a useful one, although it should probably be called “time-to-recovery” as many traces are not associated with a particular crime. Average times to recovery are pretty long, five or seven years, as few guns break right out of the legit market into the black market early. Short times to recovery are indicative of diversion or trafficking.
  3. Connecticut, where police and politicians tend to oppose private gun ownership, does not register guns, except for so-called “assault weapons.” Instead, it achieves the same end another way: it registers owners.
  4. ATF did not tell Plainfield this, by the way. ATF does not share trace data as widely as it might, as a matter of policy; while some ATF agents and inspectors blame this on “the Republicans in Congress” or “the Tiahrt Amendment,” ATF’s Ross Arends has admitted this is not the case, and that the decision is driven by concern about exposing u/c investigations.

These are the ATF press releases related to this case:

 

 

Prison for Official’s Stolen Valor — and Stolen Money

Open wide!

Open wide!

Not a small amount of money, neither. One of the guys in charge of managing veterans’ claims in Maryland is now going to be doing whatever the rules of the jug have him doing for a year and a day in Club Fed. After that he has two hours of Federal beady-eye observation.

Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced U.S. Army veteran David Clark, age 68, of Hydes, Maryland, the former Deputy Chief of Veterans Claims in the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, today to a year and a day in prison followed by two years of supervised release for extortion in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain over $1.4 million in veterans benefits. Chief Judge Blake also entered an order that Clark forfeit $1,406,774 and pay restitution of $1,284,399.

So what did he do?

According to his plea agreement, while serving as deputy chief of claims, Clark fraudulently obtained VA compensation for himself and at least 17 others, by submitting false documents to the VA purporting to show that the claimants had been diagnosed with diabetes, and in some cases that the claimanst had served in Vietnam when they had not. The claimants paid Clark half of the retroactive lump sum payment they received in cash, or some other amount of cash. These payments to Clark were made in unmarked envelopes at MDVA offices in Bel Air, Maryland; the Fallon Federal Building in Baltimore; and other locations.

So, he was a legit war vet who leeched off some money? Well, not exactly. Here’s the exact mechanics of his scheme:

In support of these claims, Clark submitted fake letters from doctors purportedly treating the veterans, which falsely stated that the claimants suffered from Type II diabetes. Clark used the names and addresses of real doctors who were unaware of his conduct. Each letter stated that the diagnosis of Type II diabetes had been made a year or more prior to the date of the letter, which entitled each claimant to a retroactive lump-sum payment. The letters also stated that the claimants were currently taking insulin, which increased the amount of compensation the VA paid the claimant.

Clark created counterfeit versions of a Defense Department form for himself and five others, which falsely stated that each had served in Vietnam. These forms also falsely stated that these individuals had received various awards and decorations for the Vietnam service, including that Clark himself had been awarded the Purple Heart Medal. These documents were submitted to the VA to provide false evidence that they qualified for compensation benefits for diabetes.

via Former Maryland Veterans Affairs Official Sentenced To Prison For Fraudulently Obtaining Over $1.4 Million In Benefits.

Emphasis, obviously, ours.

Despicable.

The guy was a veteran, but not a Vietnam or combat vet. There’s nothing wrong with being a veteran — as long as that’s all you say.

When we wonder about VA red tape, one thing we have to take into account is the sheer volume of regulatory burden that’s imposed when reacting to cases like this. And yet, Clark got away with it for years. Well, until now.

Some thanks are owed to SAC Kim Lampkins of the Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, whose agents investigated Clark, and AUSA Leo Wise, who prosecuted the case. We’ve all seen Stolen Valor go unpunished when cops and prosecutors couldn’t be bothered; we suppose the difference was the sheer magnitude of Clark’s rip-off, but whatever the reason, thanks to the LE and legal staff who worked on this one.

Clark didn’t even make profits that justified his crime and his disgrace. The number sounds big, but because the racket ran so long it really only brought him a few thousand dollars a year. One’s integrity shouldn’t be for sale for any price, but that’s a cheaper than cheap betrayal of our vets.

She Put the Space in Aerospace

"Places we don't want stoners to sit," for $500, Alex!

“Places we don’t want stoners to sit,” for $500, Alex!

An Air Force missile launch officer is jammed up with the authorities in a long-running drug probe. She’ll be court-martialed starting 21 January 2015 on drug and obstruction charges.

2nd Lt. Nicole Dalmazzi of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, is the first missileer, as launch officers are called, known to have been charged since the drug investigation was made public in January on the same day Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the headquarters of the Air Force’s land-based nuclear missile force.

The twin disclosures of alleged exam cheating and illegal drug use accelerated a wave of embarrassing news about the nuclear missile corps, which has been beset with discipline problems, low morale, leadership lapses and resource shortages. Last month Hagel announced plans for top-to-bottom changes in how the force is managed and operated. Ten days later he resigned, although Air Force officials say they are confident the reforms will move ahead.

Dalmazzi was charged with illegal drug use and obstructing the Air Force Office of Special Investigations probe by dyeing her hair to “alter the results of potential hair-follicle drug tests,” according to Josh Aycock, a spokesman at Malmstrom. He would not elaborate on her alleged actions or the tests. He said her court-martial was scheduled for Jan. 21.

Efforts to reach Dalmazzi for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. As a missileer she is trained to operate the Minuteman 3 missile, which is armed with a nuclear warhead and stands ready for launch on short notice from an underground silo that is electronically linked to a launch control center, also underground, where two missileers are on duty around the clock.

Because of the sensitive nature of the job, with its many classified procedures and potential for costly mistakes, any allegation of drug use by missileers is concerning. A RAND Corp. report last year on workplace stresses for missileers and others in the nuclear missile corps found some suffering “burnout.” It also found an elevated rate of behavioral issues, including domestic violence.

via Air Force drug probe snares 1st nuke missileer – Yahoo News.

The Air Force takes a dim institutional view of drug and alcohol issues in the nuclear force. Indeed, all services maintain a rigid Personnel Reliability Program that pulls service members from nuclear duties any time their health, well-being, or emotional state is in question. Being on PRP is a huge pain in the neck, but the powers that be consider it a necessary one.

Young Lieutenant Dalmazzi appears to be the first of three accused drug-using missileers to stand trial. A number of other missileers were cleared of drug involvement, but charged with cheating on proficiency exams. The investigation began, as they so often do, with cell phone data on another base.

Of four missileers who were subjects of the drug investigation, three were at Malmstrom and one at F.E. Warren. The investigation began in August 2013 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. When investigators examined the cellphones of two airmen at Edwards they found text messages to or from 11 other Air Force officers at several other air bases.

The text messages detailed “specific illegal drug use that included synthetic drugs, ecstasy and amphetamines,” according to a report released in March that looked mainly at missileers’ exam cheating but also traced a connection between the drug and cheating issues.

Imagine that. “A connection between the drug and cheating issues.” It’s almost like integrity was a single standard, and any violation of that standard bespoke further violations. No doubt some Air Force officers find that an achingly old-fashioned idea.

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, with fire and brimstone return.

Just Another Day in South Florida

Open wide!

Open wide! Cha-chunk.

Down in SoFlo, looks like Leee-roy be goin’ to the Big House. Luck was not with him, and the cold bracelets of The Law closed on his wrists. He’ll be out sometime… but probably not very soon.

According to the police report, Leroy and two other men negotiated to buy about $200,000 worth of cocaine. The three were arrested Monday after the exchange was made. Police also found a loaded 9mm handgun under the seat of Leroy’s vehicle.
Police say Leroy admitted to his role in the drug deal. He is charged with cocaine trafficking, trafficking conspiracy and committing a felony with a weapon. The other men also face drug charges.

So, why is this even a thing? If there’s anything more routine that three mooks conspiring to traffic in coke, it’s the cops putting the habeas grabbus on the mooks. So what’s so special about this case that it made the TV news? What “The Rest of the Story!”?

A Sunrise Police Department report identified the NYPD officer as 28-year-old Phillip Leroy of Queens. Leroy remained jailed Wednesday on $250,000 bail, and court records did not indicate whether he had an attorney.

See, that’s the bit we left out so we could do the Paul Harvey shtick: Philip Leroy is a cop. (We haven’t seen it in writing yet, but by Monday if not already he will be a suspended cop). There are two kinds of bad cops: one is guys who just suck at being cops and are attracted to the business for whatever reason. They bumble along, annoying and irritating their peers, but usually make it to retirement without excessively shaming their departments or nuking anybody’s civil rights.

Fact of the matter is, not everybody who wants to do Job X is fit to do that job, and it seems like the more TV shows there are about the job, the more unsuitable recruits it attracts. Depending on the selectivity of your selection gates, a higher or lower quantity of these unsuitables will make it through to become your perennial personnel problems, but it’s never zero. (Even the Rangers, SF, SOF SMUs, and our other-service and Allied peers let the occasional high-functioning bum through. Our opinion is that the Rangers are the very best at getting rid of them afterward; they’re ruthless about it).

Then, there’s the other kind of bad cops, guys like Philip Leroy: guys that remind us that the police, too, are drawn from a society where people demonstrate a normal distribution of many traits, including law-abiding-ness. They’re bad cops because they’re bad people, to wit, criminals. We’d be shocked if we were to learn that this crime has been Leroy’s only departure from the straight and narrow. (Maybe John Delorean was an exception, maybe not, but dealers in recreational pharmaceuticals generally don’t start drug dealing in the home-mortgages-worth-of-product stratum).

It would be interesting to know where Patrolman-for-now Leroy made contact with his counterparties in this deal, and who the snitch was.

Now, a few paragraphs above, we mentioned that some duds always get through, in mentioning the problem of designing selection gates. We were talking about the guy who’s not morally bad, but who sucks at his job. (Maybe he’s a different kind of morally bad, a work-ethic problem or something). But what about the guys like Philip Leroy? How do you keep an actual or potential malefactor out? Thing is, you don’t. Criminals like many other problem subordinates tend to have very high levels of narcissism, but so do your high performers, who can be team players if only because it’s to their personal advantage. There’s no psychological or psychometric test that can tell you, “Oooh, better not hire this candidate, 644329 Leroy; he’s gonna turn on you.” Not without setting its sensitivity to reject vast quantities of good candidates who will never cause trouble.

Like Forrest Gump’s mama’s test for stupid, the only test for ethical behavior that counts is the one that comes when the guy is actually on the job. And what you need here is early detection and ruthless elimination — both of which are nearly impossible when a PD’s hands are tied by union contracts and/or Civil Service protections.

Add to that, like the Army, the people the typical cop shop puts in personnel or HR positions are not exactly nature’s noblemen: from the clerk-typist to the white shirt setting policy, they tend to be drawn from the left tail of the bell curve, and be far beneath their operational peers in any measure of ability.

And these are things that police chiefs either don’t know (because they’re promoted from one or the other kinds of dud) or dare not say.

via NYPD Officer Faces Drug, Gun Charges In Florida « CBS Miami.

The Continuing Adventures of Bubba the Gunsmith: Pistolsmithin’

Or maybe it’s pistol-smite-in’. This eye-wounding monstrosity was in an ARFCOM thread. Bubba the Gunsmith is alive in Pennsylvania:

Bubba's revolver

As Kid would say, “You can’t unsee that.” Needs brain bleach. But wait, it gets better.

S&W performance center needs to take notes.

This is a new to the market tri-port design. Customer did an excellent job and only slipped a few times! Massive recoil reduction and muzzle flip is now zero.

The new Magnum Research BFR, now in ported!

Yes, that’s sarcasm. Most of the people in the ARFCOM thread seemed to pick that up, too… which is a little surprising. Normally there’d be at least one who didn’t get it.

via why overpay for custom barrel porting when you can do it yourself? – Page 1 – AR15.COM.

Nothing says “pro job” like a cheap sight on a riser … that is itself on a riser. (it’s risers all the way down!) But what the hell, the revolver’s only in some ancient cartridge, not some modern round with high recoil. After all, it’s only .0064 caliber (you’re supposed to divide the .45 by the 70 to solve .45/70, right?)

And what’s the port job they’re talking about…? Let’s look closer:

bubbas precision machining one

That’s… unique. Let’s zoom in on his workmanship.

bubbas precision machining two

Dude, when the phone doesn’t ring, that’s Doug Turnbull not calling.

It’s amazing what you can make with a revolver and an air grinder.

Like… scrap. Apparenly the character is notorious for this kind of gunsmithing. Here’s another example:

hack job no 2

Didn’t we see that gun on The Man From K.N.U.C.K.L.E.?

Not sure is that is his hand in the last picture. Does this make him the “Hairy-handed gent / Who ran amuck in Kent?”

That would explain it, as much as anything could.

AwooooOOO Werewolves of Gunsmiting. AwoooOOO!

Impairment and Accidents

send boozeWe were reading an FAA safety bulletin that’s completely unrelated to the subjects of this blog — or is it? Because we saw an interesting factoid in a column by the Federal Air Surgeon, James Fraser, MD:

As the Federal Air Surgeon, one of my lesser known responsibilities is running the FAA’s drug testing program for FAA employees and industry aviation professionals. Since Congress mandated drug and alcohol testing of many aviation professionals in 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 121 and 135 operators, roughly 2,000 individuals per year have failed a DOT drug test. That number has been stubbornly stable through the years. While we don’t have the statutory authority to randomly test GA pilots, forensic toxicology tests after accidents show a similar use pattern.

That’s pretty amazing. Two thousand people who know they’re subject to drug testing have pissed hot anyway. Every. Damned. Year. It kind of puts hophead Hunter Biden and his two dope-waiver siblings in perspective.

But it made us wonder: everybody understands that drugs impair your ability to operate an airplane, and people do it anyway. How many of the dumb-ass gun mishaps we’ve heard about happen because someone got into the Judgment Juice or lit up a home-rolled sample of Mexican Mood Mellower before picking up the firearm? We don’t know what the number is, but if 2,000 pilots and/or FAA officials (like Air Traffic Controllers! Feel safe?) blow the whiz quiz, year in and year our, the number of doped-up negligent shooters has to be… nonzero, at least.

Patrick J. Donovan

Patrick J. Donovan

Drugs are a dirty little secret in police work, too. Sometimes it’s not so secret. Patrick J. Donovan was a former Marine and a Boston Police officer who had received a high honor, the Sergeant Richard F. Halloran Medal of Honor for heroism, for safely taking a gunman into custody in 2005. But that was before an on-the-job injury led to a narcotics addiction that prescriptions for Percocet couldn’t slake. His life fell further and further apart:

Donovan, whom Massachusetts authorities alleged had an addiction to Percocet, allegedly took a police cruiser without permission on July 4 and drove to Revere, apparently to the home of a former romantic interest.

He was charged with unauthorized use of a police vehicle and driving with a suspended license.

In an interview with police, Donovan allegedly admitted to taking the cruiser, according to published reports.

Donovan, who became a Boston police officer in 2002, agreed to check into a substance-abuse treatment program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., as a condition of his bail release in July, officials said.

He was placed on paid administrative leave in September 2013, following charges that alleged he placed a stolen license plate and stolen registration sticker on his own vehicle.

In the end, a shadow of his former self, Donovan checked out of the net. Donovan:

…was found dead in the woods off Meredith Neck on Oct. 25….  …found by a hunter that morning. Donovan apparently committed suicide by hanging.

“We believe that he killed himself,” [spokesman] Chance said. “It appears that he was having a lot of trouble in his life, and this was the way he dealt with it.”

A Boston police spokeswoman confirmed that Donovan was found dead in Meredith, saying Donovan had a large family, including a small son.

That’s one way to get out from under a drug addiction that’s destroying your life. Beat it to the punch. How very sad.

[Anecdote deleted, on careful consideration].

Returning to the FAA and its air-accident data, the Air Surgeon browsed fatal mishaps between 2000 and 2013, and found out….

Of the total 3,756 fatal accidents during the period, CAMI found that 976, or nearly 26 percent of the total, were positive for disqualifying medications, drugs of abuse, alcohol, or some combination of the above. While I discussed some of the disqualifying medications in a previous column, in this issue I’d like to focus on the other categories. Drug abuse was detected in 202 accidents and alcohol was present in 115 accidents. There is some overlap, as some people tested positive for multiple substances. CAMI also provided data to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for a longer term study that focused on over-the-counter (OTC), prescription, and illicit drugs for the period between 1990 and 2012. This study found that of the 6,677 pilots who died in aircraft accidents during the study period, the percentage of pilots testing positive for potentially impairing drugs more than doubled — from 11 percent to 23 percent.

ND-shot-in-footAgain, we’re looking at the FAA’s data about pilots and accidents. Obviously, a pilot can’t refuse a blood test when they pick up his dead body (or parts of it) out of a debris field. And it looks like roughly one quarter of them have some forbidden substance in them. Now, in the context of flying, some of these substances are the sort of over-the-counter cold medicines that make you drowsy, but others are your common everyday drugs of abuse. And also note that we’re talking ¼ of the pilots that failed to complete their flights safely, which doesn’t really prove that ¼ of all pilots are doing it.

Still, if people are doing this stuff and taking off in planes, some of them are doing it and hitting the range. Given the fact that any firearm, like any airplane, can kill a person stone cold graveyard dead, this is a really bad idea. Like New Coke bad. Pontiac Aztek bad. Wile E. Coyote bird-hunting-scheme bad. That bad.

If you’re wondering about what effects common drugs of abuse have on people, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (their aviation safety investigators, like our NTSB) did a literature review a few years ago and produced two excellent papers on what alcohol and cannabis do to the sort of motor and judgment skills needed to operate aircraft. As we’ve stated, we think there’s a lot of parallels between what’s happening cognitively when you fly, and what’s happening when you shoot.

First: Alcohol and Human Performance from an Aviation Perspective: A Review (.pdf)

Some key elements from the executive summary:

Alcohol has many widespread effects on the body, and impairs almost all forms of cognitive function, such as information processing, decision-making, attention and reasoning. Visual and vestibular functions are also adversely affected. The performance of any demanding task… is thus impaired by the effects of alcohol.

Many studies have consistently shown significant detrimental effects of alcohol on … performance, both in the acute stages and in the post-alcohol period for up to 48 hours. Even low doses of alcohol can lead to reduced performance.

Now, whoever taught you the safety rules probably also taught you, “Alcohol and gunpowder don’t mix.” But we’re inclined to think the percentage of gun accidents involving Judgment Juice is… well, we already copped out at “nonzero,” so we’ll stick to that.

Second: Cannabis and Human Performance from an Aviation Perspective: A Review (.pdf)

Some key elements from the executive summary:

The adverse effects of cannabis on behaviour, cognitive function and psychomotor performance are dose-dependent and related to task difficulty. Complex tasks such as driving or flying are particularly sensitive to the performance impairing effects of cannabis.

We’re guessing that putting holes in the 10-ring, defending your home (and you can expect a blood test after a DGU), and getting the cups and cones in the right order when reassembling a BAR would all count as “complex tasks.” Both are laden with cognitive and motor skills demands.

Chronic cannabis use is associated with a number of adverse health effects, and there is evidence suggesting the development of tolerance to chronic use as well as a well-defined w ithdrawal syndrome. There is also evidence that the residual effects of cannabis can last up to 24 hours. Significantly, the modern dose of cannabis is much more potent than in the past, when the majority of the research was conducted. As such, the reported adverse health effects may well be conservative. Although only a limited number of studies have examined the effects of cannabis on pilot performance, the results overall have been consistent. Flying skills deteriorate, and the number of minor and major errors committed by the pilot increase, while at the same time the pilot is often unaware of any performance problems.

We’ve also noted a decline in judgment among chronic cannabis users. And they’re unaware of it. “No man, I drive better when I’m stoned.”

This anti-gun broadside from the University of Washington (.pdf) notes that drug and alcohol intoxication are correlated with being a victim of a firearms assault of homicide. (Duh). But we’re unaware of any studies on alcohol or drugs in gun accidents. Anecdotally, the connection seems to be strong.

Of course, it’s Hognose’s Law that, for every scientific study there is an equal and opposite study. University of Illinois-Chicago epidemiologist Lee Friedman notes that alcohol increases your risk of being injured, but it increases your chances of surviving the injuries your drunkenness causes you. And a followup study shows that it reduces your chances of cardiac complications, too.

We’ll drink to that!

Just not before hitting the range.

This was not Hunting

Mountain-LionThis guy just ran afoul of Federal charges in Colorado. Thing is, it seems like he deserved to. He had an entire business guiding big-cat hunts without bothering with, in some cases, hunting licenses. But how he did the hunts was most upsetting. From Guns.com:

Christopher Loncarich, 55, was sentenced in a Denver federal court Thursday. He pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy charge stemming from his sale of outfitting services for illegal mountain lion and bobcat hunts in Colorado and Utah.

In August, Loncarich pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell in interstate commerce any wildlife that has been taken or possessed in violation of state laws or regulations.

It sounds like a minor, technical violation at this point. But actually it was utterly unsporting and about as far from hunting as the slaughterhouses of Chicago1. (We know, one of you guys will accuse us of using the No True Sportsman logical fallacy. But in this case, we don’t think we’re wrong. No true sportsman shoots baited or drugged game. It’s cheating, and it’s unnecessarily cruel.

According to the plea agreement, and an indictment returned by the grand jury for the District of Colorado on Jan. 7, Loncarich conspired with others to provide numerous illegal hunts of mountain lions and bobcats in Colorado and Utah from 2007 to 2010.  In particular, Loncarich and his confederates trapped, shot and caged mountain lions and bobcats prior to hunts in order to provide easier chases of the cats for clients.

Now, there is no indication that the clients knew they were hunting pre-hunted, and sometimes disabled, wildlife; they may have just thought their guide had incredible luck or skill. Or they didn’t want to know. Only they know the states of their consciences, but the Feds didn’t indict them – make of that what you will. But we can’t imagine something further from hunting as we learned it, not in the US or even in the much more formalized (and less chancy) German system.

We’ve always wondered about those hunting guides that offer a guarantee. How can you do that? The mountain lion, a notoriously reclusive and often nocturnal animal, ought to have a vote. Can anyone offer a guarantee, ethically, without cheating like this assclown?

Colorado and Utah are big states, but Loncarich’s operation was near the border, and he operated on both sides, but for reasons that the article doesn’t explain, he and his clients only had Colorado licenses. Both Utah and the Feds take a dim view of that. Why did he do it?

Loncarich sold mountain lion hunts for between $3,500 and $7,500 and bobcat hunts for between $700 and $1,500.

Oh. That’s why.

We’re not sure how many hunts he sold, but he has to amortize those earnings — if the feds don’t move for civil forfeiture of all his ill-gotten assets — over his prison sentence, which is 2 years and 3 months (he’ll probably do the 2 years, unless he’s hard-headed enough to lose his good time2).

So it looks like the cat is out of the bag, and the former hunter of cats is in the bag. Looks like justice from up here.

via Colorado man gets 27 months for illegal cougar hunting – Guns.com.

Notes

1. It’s an expression; are there still any slaughterhouses in Chicago?

2. A Federal sentence is usually pretty inflexible these days; Loncarich will have to do 85% of it at the barest minimum.

Amnesty Winner: Child Rapist

AreveloMeet Luis Arevelo, an 18-year-old who’s just doing the work Americans won’t do: in his case, raping a five-year-old girl, and bestowing upon her his case of chlamydia. For this, he has been elevated to a status above unemployed American workers, in the hopes he’ll hang around and vote.

Before the Burger and Warren courts, the public would at least have had some chance that he’d hang, period, but in our mixed-up, tossed-up, never-come-down world, he has rights. Something the kid he did does not.

So, he’s on the fast track not to be deported, because the latest HSI guidance from Jeh Johnson is that “sexual offenders,” along with aliens who commit, “gun crimes,” should generally not be deported — and senior executives are charged with micromanaging any case where an outraged field agent and an off-message Assistant US Attorney are still trying to incarcerate the poor dears.

Like this one.

If a few kids get raped in the process — for creeps like Luis, preschoolers are like potato chips, they can’t ever do just one — well, them’s the breaks.

The girl may have been a relative. It’s not certain, because Luis seems to have a problem telling the truth, or should we say, since we don’t yet know what the story is, he seems to have a problem sticking to one story, of which any or none might actually be the truth.

Some months ago he surfaced on the Mexican border, walking into a Border Patrol position with a story that he was from Central America, a child refugee, and displaying considerable knowledge of the DREAM Act and the enactment of its provisions by executive order after it failed in Congress. He wanted to be reunited with family members, he said, and showed a slip with a name and address in Upper Darby, PA. It was unknown whether he began his travels with this slip, or whether someone provided him along his route from wherever he came from. (He is now using the Luis Arevelo name, and claiming to be from Ecuador in South America). The family on the slip of paper, contacted by US Customs and Border Patrol, agreed to sponsor the young man under the provisions of the DREAM amnesty. It was unclear whether he actually was a relative. There is a rumor in law enforcement that the same family has sponsored other illegal aliens, and a debate about whether their interest is humanitarian, financial, or ideological that has not been resolved. We’d like to hear from them what their relationship to “Arevelo” is and why they sponsored him — and how they feel about him now.

It was their girl that the man who now calls himself Arevelo raped, and infected. (This was not any arcane or legalistic construction of the word “rape,” either. It was what people traditionally think of when they understand the crime of rape. We don’t need to get graphic, or report the victim’s actual words, we hopw). The girl complained about it to her mom, who shut the kid up. Can’t be looking non-multicultural, eh? But when she took the kid to the hospital for treatment, medical staff wondered how a five-year-old gets a sexually transmitted disease and other indicia of rape by an adult male, and the gaff was stridently blown, leading after a short investigation to a police interview with “Arevelo”.

He admitted to Upper Darby police that he’s also wanted in Ecuador, and other things being equal, he’d just as soon go to jail there, rather than do time in Pennsylvania as a child rapist. “I’m good with that,” Upper Darby Superintendent Michael Chitwood said, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement put a detainer on him, to deport him no later than when the PA legal system finishes with him, which could be after he does his time, or sooner, if there’s an agreement with Ecuador that he’ll do his Pennsylvania time there.

The Philadelphia Daily News blogger Stephanie Farr alternated between calling for his scalp (“there’s not a circle in Hell that he’s worthy of being banished to,” so she must be a recent graduate with Dante on the brain) and floating excuses for him (he’s “barely out of childhood himself”).

But hey, he’s not being banished anywhere now. ¡Graciás al Presidente! ¡Gracias a Jeh Johnson!

This is why there is an AOD in your rig

AOD is an automatic opening device, and these jumpers, who look like beginners at relative work, give theirs the acid test.

Only two of the three jumpers, a base guy and a camera guy, join up. The smiling base guy is by convention supposed to be the one watching altitude, but he doesn’t look at his altimeter as the two struggle to get together. As far as the camera guy goes, you can see his altimeter, first barely in the red arc of the altimeter (you can guess what that means) and then you get a glimpse of it buried in the middle of the red.

These guys come that close to making the sickening sound that no one ever forgets if they’ve heard it once. They are saved because their AODs fire. (Both divers had the Cypres AOD, we think the Cypres 2).

The AOD works by electronically monitoring the speed of the fall versus the altitude. Older models were mechanical and worked off barometric pressure. Early SF freefallers used the Czech made Mikrotechnika KAP-3, an exported version of one designed in Russia. You had to wind it like a watch!

Years ago, skydivers were macho about AODs and didn’t use them; the military made them mandatory decades before skydive businesses started doing it, except with beginners. (At least they did it for beginners, but on some level they know that killing beginners is bad for business).

This double save shows how easy it is to get task saturated with a mission task even when you’re doing something that needs a very large part of your full attention, like falling straight down at 120 miles per hour. The first AODs were brilliant solutions to that problem of task saturation.

It’s not just jumpers that do it… we’d guess that every air force in the world has lost a fighter bomber whose pilot was so target fixated he followed his rounds or bombs on to it. We always wonder about guys who are credited for ramming enemy ships or forts or airplanes with their own plane — was it intentional, kamikaze-style, or did they just get task saturated?

Programmable software creates the opportunity to make AOD-like advances in some other operational areas. Food for thought.

And in the meantime, the Cypres is there to save you, if your forget to save yourself like these two very, very lucky fellows.

What’s the Difference Between Moscow and Washington?

Hint: only one lets you carry a gun in self-defense. And it’s not the one you might think. Russian state-controlled media outlet Russia Today:

Until now Russian gun enthusiasts were only permitted to carry firearms for hunting or target shooting after obtaining a license through the Interior Ministry. Russian gun licenses are to be renewed every five years, and applicants face strict background checks and are required to take gun safety courses.

The addendum to the law now lists self-defense as a legally acceptable reason for carrying a weapon.

Now, they’re not relaxing laws totally in the Wild East. There are still some restrictions, ones that will sound familiar to many licensed carriers in the what Vladimir Vladimirovich learned to call the Glavni Vrag in his days as an intelligence officer:

The government’s press service underscored that carrying a weapon will remain prohibited at educational institutions, establishments which operate at night and serve alcohol, and mass public gatherings such as street demonstrations or protests. The legislation also forbids carrying a weapon while under the influence of alcohol.

For many years, pistols were forbidden to ordinary citizens in Russia. But that was then, and this is now:

The law broadly defines self-defense weapons, including smoothbore long barrelled guns, pistols, revolvers, and other firearms, as well as Tasers, and devices equipped with teargas. Long barrelled fire arms and edged weapons are, however, forbidden by the law.

(We suspect that the last sentence means that carrying a rifle or knife for defense is unlawful, but we’re not lawyers, and we’re definitely not Russian lawyers, and taking Russian legal advice from us is a good way to find out how much more pleasant Lefortovo Prison is now than it was in Solzhenitsyn’s day).

RT illustrated their piece with a picture of a display of, mostly, flare and gas guns, a unique Russian adaptation to an earlier, more restrictive law.  You can see them here and here for instance. (In English — Googlish anyway — here and here).

In addition, the amendment softened requirements for foreigners bringing arms into the Russian Federation or purchasing arms on Russian territory. The grace period for foreigners awaiting a license from the Interior Ministry for firearms has been increased from 5 to 10 days.

via ​Russians can now carry guns for ‘self-defense’ — RT News.

A Library of Congress analysis that’s about a year old notes the previous restrictions led to a low level of legal, and a much higher level of black-market, firearms use. There are less than a million rifles in civilian hands legally, then, and no pistols. Restrictions included a first issue of a permit for smooth-bore weapons only; after five years with no incidents, a permit holder could ask for rifle-bore privileges.

Self-defense was already legal under Russian law, what this modification does is liberalize the way in which people are licensed to be armed. As recently as 2012, then-PM Medvedev (generally considered a mouthpiece for Putin) opposed such liberalization.

Meanwhile, in the Land of the Free…

Then, there’s Washington, DC that is. And before we tell the story of Washington’s shiny new pistol permit law, we’re going to tell you the story of the Literacy Test in Beauregard County (with apologies to John Ross, from whom we’re pretty sure this example’s stolen).

Well, it was 1952, and there was an election, and  Joe came to the polling place, and got in line behind Ted. Now, Ted was white and Joe was black, which ought not to make a difference to the law, and it sort-of didn’t. But there was a Literacy Test that every voter had to take to ensure that only literate people voted. It was not racist, they pinky-swore, it was just good government.

Who could be against good government? Certainly not Sheriff Buford F. Cruelty, who was the law in Beauregard County personified. The Sheriff handed Ted a newspaper. “Literacy test, sir. Read the headline.”

Ted: “Why, it says, ‘Election Today,’ Sheriff.”

“That it does, sir. Now, you, boy” — he addressed Joe — “Read the headline.”

“But Sheriff, sir! This newspaper is Chinese.

“I didn’t ask you where it was from boy, I said read it. Now what do that headline say?”

“It says, there’s no colored folks voting in Beauregard County today.”

What the Washington Police Department under Chief Cathy Lanier has done is the gun-licensing equivalent of that clown sheriff’s literacy test. No-one not “connected” can succeed.

The way this is done is by requiring training by a Washington Police Department-licensed trainer, and then, by not licensing any trainers. There is only one catch, but it’s Catch-22. Emily Miller explains:

DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

(Hat tip, John Richardson).

Lanier, by the way, devotes much of her limited energy to fighting gun rights in her jurisdiction. She has no discernible interest in closing the city’s thousands of cold homicides (including most of this year’s, of course).

There are so many unsolved murders, and the police department is so incompetent, that they’re not at all sure they list them all, and they appeal to the public to remind them of the murderers their dozing detectives forgot:

The MPD is working to update the Unsolved Murders web page. If your loved one was murdered in DC and their picture does not appear on this web page, please either email us at  unsolved.murder@dc.gov…. Please provide the name of your loved one and the year they were murdered. If a photo is mailed in, please let us know if we need to return it and include a return address.

Lord love a duck. So she’s not really on top of the unsolved-murder thing, or of pursuing the teeming throngs of violent criminals in certain parts of the city,  but she’s always up for a press conference when the violence spills out of the ghettoes and claims a foreign tourist.

Speaking of which, one more difference between Moscow and Washington: until this law change, only Russian citizens could have guns in Russia… the RT report is unclear but there seem to be some provisions for foreigners to be armed for lawful purposes.

Meanwhile, in the US, this kind of intransigence by bad cops just brings the date of national reciprocity closer. And it might be a century off, but we could see international reciprocity coming in the very long term.