This is not a Defensive Gun Use, either

It wasn't his foot this time.

It wasn’t his foot this time.

See if you can follow the whole who-shot-John in all this:

One man from Tuesday night’s downtown Portland shooting remains hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his leg, while the 40-year-old suspect is being treated for an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound to his testicles, police said Wednesday.

An apparent robbery attempt between the two men who were neighbors led to the shooting just before 8 p.m. in the parking lot of an apartment building in the 1400 block of Southwest Park Ave, police said.

During the dispute, the 40-year-old man pulled out a gun and shot the other man in the leg, police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said. The wounded 32-year-old man ran over to the Safeway on Southwest 10th Avenue and Columbia Street for help. He was later taken to the hospital with a leg injury.

As the suspect fled the scene, he accidentally shot himself in the groin, police said.

via Suspect in downtown shooting being treated for self-inflicted wound to testicles, Portland police say | OregonLive.com.

Yep, John shot John (or whatever the perp’s undisclosed name is), right in the reproductive tackle, right after nailing some other Sumdood for not coughing up his cash. Because “groin” in this case and story is a euphemism for “testicles.”

So now you know the answer to the trivia question, “How can you win the Darwin Award, and live to collect it?” It’s simple: stick your firearm in your waistband gangsta-carry style, and kinetically geld yourself.

Like John (or whatever his name is).

This happened in Portland, OR. We’ve tried to follow up in the Case of the Bullet-battered Ballsack, but the suspect in question appears to be keeping his punctured private parts private.

If a head rolls in the Pentagon on a Friday…

…does anyone hear the sound? Beltway PR specialists think not. But the ears of WeaponsMan.com are ever open.

Mike Vickers official shotMike Vickers is out as Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD-I) in the DOD and Director of Defense Intelligence (DDI) in the DNI. We have our differences with Vickers, a fellow Green Beret, but DOD and DNI could do worse in these two critical positions… and almost certainly will. We shudder to think who Ash Carter will pick for the role. A players hire A players. B players hire C players. Carter? Hires first-day culls who condemn the game as cisgendered heteronormative cryptofascism.

Vickers was one of three Bush-era appointees that then-SECDEF Robert M. Gates asked to stay when Gates was retained by President Obama in view of the very weak defense bench in the President’s own party. Vickers was then Assistant Secretary of Defense of Low-Intensity Combat (etc). Obama appointed him to the USD-I position when he promoted Vickers’s predecessor Jim Clapper to Director of National Intelligence. That makes Vickers a rare character, Presidentially appointed to political-appointee jobs by Presidents of two different parties, and vastly different national security viewpoints. (A cynic might say that this shows the unprincipled flexibility of the Beltway insider).

Vickers presided over an unbroken chain of intelligence failures that caught the DOD and the National Command Authority flatfooted, in the finest traditions of American military intelligence. His most publicized failure was probably his meeting with and leaking to the producers and director of the Hollywood campaign film Zero Dark Thirty, in a Presidentially-directed leak of classified information to the filmmakers. But his biggest failure was certainly his insistence on victim disarmament in US military facilities, an insistence that contributed directly to the murder tally of jihadist doctor Major Nidal Hasan (as the link recounts, Vickers doubled down on victim disarmament after Fort Hood. Way not to learn a lesson). If you’re more curious about him, here’s the DOD release. And his Official Bio. Funny, these official hagiographies don’t mention the details we do here at WeaponsMan.com.

(Because someone will ask, no, Mike is not closely related to Larry A. Vickers, former Delta assaulter and current first-class firearms trainer, as far as we know).

 

What’s After Tracking Point?

We’ve been pretty high on precision guided weapons technology since the first time we saw a TOW do its thing. (And Javelin and other current weapons have answered most of the complaints about TOW since then). But in recent years, the promise of PGWs has migrated down into the small arms world, thanks to the same combination of Moore’s Law, free-flying science and nitty-gritty engineering that gives us everything from rapid genome sequencing to haptics and 3D printing.

We’ve been pretty impressed with the precision-guided rifles and Tag / Track / XACT technology of Tracking Point. So what comes after that? DARPA says: precision-guided, steerable bullets. They call the program, in a felicitous acronym, EXACTO, Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance. Like the Javelin and the Tracking Point PGW, it seems to tag a target and then pursue it relentlessly.

DARPA recently released the above video, along with this blurb:

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, which developed a self-steering bullet to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots, completed in February its most successful round of live-fire tests to date. An experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target.

This is not too different from what TrackingPoint does now, in terms of results. What is different is how the EXACTO round functions.

This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits.

You can see from the video that they’re getting hits on their e-type silhouette, but they don’t appear to be getting center of mass hits. Still, it’s an admirable case of the dog walking on his hind legs, and this suggests that the science is licked, and what remains from here on out is simply engineering. (Not trivial, engineering, but once the science has shown that something is possible, it’s up to the engineers to find elegant and practical ways of doing it).

One significant difference between this and Tracking Point’s technology (so far) is that TP uses a bespoke or customized weapon; according to DARPA, EXACTO works with an ordinary rifle, only the optoelectronics and ammunition are changed.

It’s not rifle-caliber, as usually designated, yet; this demo is with a .50 caliber smart projectile.

“True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target,” said Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. “This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds. Fitting EXACTO’s guidance capabilities into a small .50-caliber size is a major breakthrough and opens the door to what could be possible in future guided projectiles across all calibers.”

The EXACTO program developed new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art. The program sought to improve sniper effectiveness and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines. For more information, please visit the program page.

via 2015/04/27 EXACTO Guided Bullet Demonstrates Repeatable Performance against Moving Targets.

OK, so let’s visit the program page, shall we?

Turns out, there’s not all that much there. We do get an uninformative 3D rendering of an EXACTO projectile, but that’s about it. There is a suggestion that the steering of the bullet is aerodynamic in principle.

exacto projectile_fullThere is this brief update on where the project stands:

The EXACTO 50- caliber round and optical sighting technology was developed to greatly extend the day and nighttime range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems. The system combined a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course.

Technology development in Phase II included the design, integration and demonstration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, optical guidance systems, and sensors. The program concluded with a system-level live-fire test.

In 2009, the project was described as follows [.pdf]:

Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO)* *Formerly Laser Guided Bullet.

(U) The Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program is developing a system that provides sniper teams with the ability to identify and engage targets with heretofore unobtainable range and accuracy against stationary and moving targets under difficult environmental conditions, either day or night. The system uses a combination of a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track the target and deliver the projectile to target. Technology development includes the design and integration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, and sensors. The components must fit into the limited volume (2cm to the third power) of a 50-caliber projectile and be designed to withstand a high acceleration environment. When integrated and tested, this system will greatly increase the effectiveness of two-man sniper teams, regardless of the environmental conditions and the time of day. The EXACTO technology is planned for transition to the Army by FY 2012.

FY 2009 Plans:

– Design guidance system.
– Design maneuverable projectile.
– Construct all novel 1x scale components.
– Measure component and subsystem performance in appropriate environments.

An Air University paper said this of EXACTO, comparing it to aviation precision guided munitions programs:

Foot soldiers are often left out of consideration when money is spent on precision weapons. The DARPA Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) is a command-guided .50 Cal sniper round designed to put long range, pinpoint precision in the hands of a common soldier. The system works by tracking a target with an infrared spotter’s scope that doubles as a command- guidance tracker. The .50 Cal bullet is fired and responds to trajectory commands sent by the scope (which tracks the target and bullet). The system accounts for wind, moving targets, and provides accuracy at range that normally requires years of sniper training to achieve. The EXACTO program not only gives sniper capabilities to common foot soldiers, it ensures a kill on the first shot, and enables moving target capabilities that have until now only been available to tactical aircraft and UAVs. In this case, the range is far shorter than HTV-21 or T32, but the strategic implications of super-sniper-battalions may prove even more deterring to an enemy force. For years, the real practical advantage US soldiers held over adversary soldiers came in the form of the air power watching over. EXACTO aims to enable America’s soldiers to enjoy technological advantages its airmen have enjoyed for decades.3

Although EXACTO was indeed scheduled to conclude in 2012 [.pdf], and some DARPA pages refer to it in the past tense, but the live fire test video shown here was shot in 2015 and only released in April (in-house, 10 Apr 15, to the public, 27 Apr 15).

Notes

  1. HTV-2: Hypersonic Test Vehicle-2.
  2. T3: Triple Target Terminator-3, an experimental missile that combined a ramjet sustainer with a rocket booster in the form factor of a pre-existing missile.
  3. Nielsen, Michael B. (Maj., USAF). Addressing Future Technology Challenges through Innovation and Investment . March, 2012: Air University, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

Some Rangerette Myths

There is a barrage of propaganda coming out of the Ranger School. There could be nothing but, with every one of the surviving female students — eight at the end of the first week — shadowed by a Corps of Commissars who broadly (no pun intended) outnumber the female Ranger candidates1, and a media scrum that nearly outnumbers all the Ranger candidates.

Rangerette 5

There have been some myths spread about this class. In the interests of further factual information, here’s some debunkistry.

Myth: women are doing better than men, percentage-wise, in this class.

Fact: They’re not, even when you don’t account for the fact that some of the 8 survivors are being propped up. Remember that these women are the distillation of a pipeline of over 130 candidates, who got extra training no active-duty men can even apply for.

Myth: the Army has made no concessions to the women.

Fact: the concessions are many, ranging from the trivial (women’s hair is cut short, but not shaved like the men) to the serious (women are given extra chances and talked out of quitting; minor negative spot reports aren’t allowed to build up against them).

Rangerette 4

Myth: the women are a cross-section of Army women.

Fact: the women are a small, self-selected cadre of ambitious careerists. It is our understanding that all are officers.

Rangerette 1

Myth: As women increase their presence in combat units, they’ll be more likely to be raped. Because men in combat arms are “predators.” This is what Defense Secretary Ash Carter told an audience of ROTC cadets recently:

Obviously, as we get women into more unaccustomed positions, maybe dangerous isolated positions, maybe positions where they are fewer in relation to the number of men, it opens up opportunities for predators

Fact: You’re joking, right? Ash Carter makes Joe Biden look like the Great Gravitas Himself. He has no military experience whatsoever, and if he ever came out of the ivory tower, when he saw his own shadow we’d have six more weeks of winter. It’s not surprising he says stupid [stuff]. He didn’t stop there, either. He also hinted to the cadets that he intends to open all positions to women when the review is complete in 2016.

Meanwhile, Carter has quietly withdrawn 1,900 soldiers, 38 Black Hawk slicks, 12 medevac Black Hawks, as 12 heavy-lift Chinooks and 28 Apache attack helicopters from Europe to the United States as part of his unilateral drawdown of US forces worldwide. Instead, smaller elements will deploy for a few months at a time. A DOD spokesman insisted that less was more:

The net result of this restructuring is that Army aviation assets in Europe will be more ready, present, and operationally flexible. This is particularly important in the current strategic environment.

Our forces in Europe will be more ready, present, and flexible, hooah! They just won’t be in Europe!

In other news from the DOD, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and We Have Always Been at War with Eastasia.

If Ash Carter diminishes American air capability in Europe any further, he can expect Hermann Göring’s ghostly shade to manifest itself, and bestow on him the German Cross in Gold, the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, or some other high decoration.

These guys seem like harmless, amusing buffoons, until you realize that some one has plucked them out of their cozy libraries and put them in charge of complex systems they don’t understand.

Notes

  1. There are 31 female Commissars, or as they are officially called, Observer/Advisors. The course began with 19 women. Currently, there are roughly 4 OAs watching out for each woman. The number will rise as the women attrit further.

Brady Lawsuit Lotto Promised Millions, Delivered Ruin

Law-ScaleAndHammerGuns.com has the story of how the gun-ban Brady Campaign’s plan to use the parents of a victim of the Aurora, CO shooting as the hook to hang an anti-gun lawsuit on backfired. Badly.

The parents may have expected to win big and collect a large sum; instead, the ill-prepared lawsuit went down in flames, as had several similar lawsuits before it. The suit was booted on a Motion to Dismiss, although not before it cost the defendants hundreds of thousands in legal fees.

Now those costs are on the plaintiffs’ heads. Like a firearm, a lawsuit is something you should only pull the trigger on when you know you’re in the right.

A federal judge ordered the parents of a Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting victim to pay court costs and attorney fees as a result of a lawsuit filed last year, and the defendants in the case say the family owes around a quarter of a million dollars.

According to court documents filed April 10, in a combined sum, Lucky Gunner and Sportsman Guide paid roughly $224,600 to fight allegations that they failed to properly vet the gunman who used their products to kill 12 people and injure 70 others during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in July 2012.

BulkAmmo.com, more commonly known as Lucky Gunner, requested $151,574.70 in attorney and travel fees. And Sportsman Guide requested $73,037.87 on similar expenses.

Brian Platt, owner of BTP Arms, an online retailer that sold the gunman tear gas, has also requested $23,714.99 for attorney fees and $33,569.89 in relief.

Not to question a reporter’s numeracy — we’re assuming guns.com lifted these numbers from the mainstream media — but the numbers don’t add up to 224k. We’re getting $281,897.45. (Guns.com caught this, using a rounded version of the higher number in their headline). And that’s not a comprehensive amount.

The other defendant named in the suit, Gold Strike E Commerce LLC, an online retailer that sells body armor, has yet to file a motion.

via Aurora theater victim’s family may pay $280,000 in Lucky Gunner lawsuit.

If you read the legal documents, Gold Strike appears to have taken an ostrich’s approach to the whole suit, disappearing and failing to respond to the court. (This is a very unwise, but surprisingly common, legal strategy).

Of course, the judge is not bound to give the defendants all the fees and expenses they file for, but his order when he dismissed the suit in March indicates a complete fail on the part of plaintiff’s attorneys. Guns.com also had the judge’s order and an article then.

[T]he alleged chain of causation between Defendants [the online ammo sellers –Ed.]  and Holmes’s acts is too attenuated to impose liability. There can be no question that Holmes’s deliberate, premeditated criminal acts were the predominant cause of plaintiffs’ daughter’s death. Holmes meticulously prepared for his crime, arriving at the theater equipped with multiple firearms, ammunition, and other gear allegedly purchased from several distinct business entities operating both online and through brick and mortar locations. Neither the web nor the face-to-face sales of ammunition and other products to Holmes can plausibly constitute a substantial factor causing the deaths and injuries in this theater shooting.

We are not lawyers here, but we are conscious of an old aphorism of the profession, that says, “When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When neither is on your side, pound on the table.” The Bradys’ legal strategy seems to have been to pound on the table, but that is more likely to work with a jury than a judge, and to get to the jury the would-be table-pounder has to get by the motions stage in front of the judge. This crew didn’t.

As the judge pointed out in his order, the plaintiffs were looking to get him to legislate from the bench, reversing the plain meaning of both US and Colorado black-letter law. He declined to do so:

The stated purpose of this civil action is to obtain a court order enjoining the defendants from conducting their online sales … until and unless they accept changes prescribed by this court. To grant such relief this court must conduct hearings and make policy decisions that are within the authority of the political branches of government responsive to the people under our constitutional structure of representative government. The defendants’ motions to dismiss must be granted because this court does not have the authority to grant the relief requested.

The Brady attorneys were in it for anti-gun activism, and probably, a piece of the action. But they, personally, are not out a dime; no doubt, they’re on the hunt for another plausible plaintiff, to be used until used up and left a hollow, indebted shell.

To the bereaved parents in this case: here at WeaponsMan.com, we’re sorry that an insane monster cruelly murdered your daughter, and we sympathize with your grief. We further regret that the experience has turned you towards totalitarian solutions. But we don’t regret for a minute that becoming a totalitarian has been costly to you.

As the Vietnam generation says, sorry ’bout that.

“Stolen Valor” VA Head is Failing. Surprised?

VA-veterans-affairsBob McDonald, a Special Forces impersonator who has no measurable respect for actual veterans, was a bad choice for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. That was reinforced in a recent meeting with fellow Democrats in the journalism racket, where he made excuses for the agency’s dismal performance, and planned to “solve” it with the two magic elixirs of Beltway hackdom: more money, and fewer facilities.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald says his department is so cash-strapped that it’s struggling to accommodate the massive number of veterans seeking treatment from the health system.

At the same time, the agency continues spending nearly $25 million a year on hundreds of vacant or underused facilities across the country. Closing or consolidating those facilities could free up millions of dollars that could otherwise be used to pay more doctors and nurses to treat the backlog of patients at medical facilities across the country, according to McDonald.

McDonald is all-in on the institutional VA vision of a few, large, industrial-age facilities concentrated in major urban areas, to which veterans for hundreds of miles around would have to travel. It’s one more example of the way that the DVA’s Veterans Health Administration is run for the comfort and convenience of the employees, not the supposed beneficiaries.

Speaking to reporters at the Association of Health Care Journalists’ annual conference in Santa Clara, California, the VA secretary suggested that doing so could allow the VA to hire at least 200 more registered nurses and pay for 144,000 primary care visits for veterans.

“We need to move forward with closing locations that are not economically sustainable and old, outdated buildings that are challenging to maintain and provide little or no value to our customers,” McDonald said.

The VA has 336 buildings across the country, covering about 10.5 million square feet, that are either sitting vacant or less than 50 percent occupied, according to McDonald’s early Congressional testimony. The secretary, who took over the troubled department last July, has urged lawmakers to close or consolidate the facilities — but his suggestion hasn’t gained much traction on Capitol Hill.

On his watch, as on that of his failed predecessor former general Rick Shinseki, VA’s headquarters has grown like Topsy while medical facilities in the peripheries are starved for attention, staff, and funds.

He hasn’t even contained the increase in the costs of the VA Taj Mahal in Denver, which is now at $1.7 Billion in construction costs and rising.

via VA Wastes Millions, But Still Wants More as Vets Wait for Care | The Fiscal Times.

Winchester SXP Shotgun Recall

We don’t have one of these things, but if we did would be concerned:

Fortunately, Winchester has a recall program for the affected shotguns. They are the SXP or “Super-X Pump” shotgun. If you do have an SXP, check to see if it’s one of the problem guns. If so, check it. First, is it a 12 Gauge with a 3½” chamber? If not, you’re OK (well, your shotgun is, anyway. Only you can vouch for your general okay-ness). If you have a 12 Ga. 3½” SXP, and it’s one of these submodels, you need to get your serial number out and call Winchester.

  1. SXP Waterfowl Hunter, 26″ or 28″ barrel;
  2. SXP Black Shadow, 26″ or 28″ barrel;
  3. SXP Turkey Hunter, 24″ barrel;
  4. SXP Long Beard, 24″ barrel.

If you have one of the affected guns, call Winchester at 800-945-5372 and they’ll take it from there. (Alternately, you can email to SXP@winchesterguns.com). First, they’ll check the serial number against a list they have (they know when they began fixing this on the production line… if you gun is really new, it might not have any problems, or if it dates from before the manufacturing problem began). Assuming Murphy is still your co-pilot and you have an affected firearm, they’ll walk you through how to return your shotgun for inspection and, if necessary, repair. We suggest that you retain the paperwork involved for the convenience of the next owner. (Although he should always be able to call Winchester and confirm that their records show that the fix has been applied to this particular serial number).

Details of the Winchester recall in a .pdf on the official site:

http://www.winchesterguns.com/support/files/images/wfa/2015-All/2015-Recall-Info/SXP_Recall-Notice_2.pdf

The guy in the video (whose name we don’t know) makes an excellent point: this is why we observe gun safety rules and control muzzle direction at all, repeat all times. If this fellow had shot his kid or hunting partner, our first instinct might have been to say, “Yeah, right, sure he had the safety on, and yeah, he didn’t have his booger hook on the bang switch. Riiiight.” But as you can see from the video, this particular firearm could and did discharge with the shotgun on Safe and no finger anywhere near the trigger. Even six sigma quality control lets a non-zero number of defective products through, and even Remington and Winchester, who make millions and millions of safe guns, have shipped a few lemons. Like this one.

The difference is, a lemon Chevy is a problem for its owner (usually a low-budget car-rental firm). A lemon firearm is a matter of

We doubt our readers are big upland and waterfowl hunters, that’s its own thing, but even if you don’t have one of these firearms, the safety message is universal.

Hat tip, Lee Williams. Spread the word to anybody who’s bought a shotgun lately, and make sure the owner of your local gun store knows about it. These shotguns were intended to kill ducks and turkeys for the table, not unwitting hunters.

Full Circle: The Telegraph Spitfire

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the desperate hours of 1940, the local paper began collecting money from loyal Ulstermen to buy the Royal Air Force a plane. And another… and another. In the end, the Belfast Telegraph and its readers’ Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund would finance no fewer than 17 Supermarine Spitfires for the RAF.

Of those war machines, only one served at home, in Northern Ireland, with 502 Auxiliary Squadron1. Like the other 16, it’s gone now…

The clock is being turned back at Long Kesh today as a full-scale replica Spitfire bearing the name Down (after Co Down) is unveiled in a poignant ceremony by the Ulster Aviation Society.

down belfast telegraph spitfire

The model will also carry the letter code TM-F and serial number P7823 on its side but, more significantly, the slogan Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund will be there, too. And thereby hangs a tale dating back to wartime 1941 at RAF Ballyhalbert in Co Down where the real Spitfires carrying those markings served until January 1942 with No 504 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force.

That plane was indeed called Down and was one of 17 Spitfires built for the RAF by donations from the people of Northern Ireland under the auspices of this newspaper.

The Telegraph tells the story with understandable pride; there’s a lot more information there if you’re inclined to  Read The Whole Thing™.

The Spitfire is a non-flying replica. Convincing-looking, it’s now on display in the Ulster Aviation Society hangar/museum.  The original P7823 crashed in 1942 with fatal consequences for its pilot.

Down spitfire dedication

The Ulster Aviation Society has an interesting website, with a page about this and other Spitfires in Northern Ireland (including US Spitfires, and Royal Navy Seafires), and a separate Facebook page with photos from the rededication this week of the Spitfire in its new, NI-related markings.

Why a replica? The demand for Spitfires exceeds the supply. Over 20,000 of them were built from the prewar to early post-war years, but according to Wikipedia2 only 54 survive in airworthy condition worldwide and another 68 on static display, plus 100-odd undergoing or awaiting restoration or stored as parts or wreckage. Of those 200-odd surviving airframes, about 1% of production, only 4 are confirmed Battle of Britain vets — most are later marks.

Notes

  1. The NI Spitfire unit, according to the Ulster Aviation Society, was 504 Squadron, Aux AF (the party-tine Auxiliary Air Force was not “Royal” until after the war). 502 Squadron was called the “Ulster” squadron, but had bombing types like the Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley, and a Coastal Command mission.
  2. Usual Wikipedia disclaimers apply… don’t spend money or take risks based on what’s written there.

Baltimore Burns for its Gun Control Policies

The Village Voice, of all outlets, calls its attention to an unusual aspect of the present riots in Baltimore: the degree to which they were triggered by an arrest under Maryland’s weapons bans, bans proceeding from the gun control philosophy espoused enthusiastically by figures from Baltimore ‘s pathetically ineffectual Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and incompetent police chief, Anthony Batts, to Maryland’s late Governor, Martin O’Malley, to such figures as Jesse Jackson, last seen in the rubble of a burned-out CVS egging rioters on. Maryland’s current Governor, Larry Hogan, is a Republican and only a half-hearted supporter of the gun control regime.

So, how do we get from gun control, to this:

The root of gun control is in the desire to blame the weapon for crime, and so it is closely related to the desire to hold the criminal unaccountable for his actions. Gun control had its roots in vaguely written gun bans in former slave states (Maryland, you may recall from your readings in history, remained in the Union but was a slave state; passage of Union forces through Baltimore was sometimes impeded by the rioters of an earlier age). With youth, especially black youth, enjoined from acquiring firearms by “may issue” permit laws enforced then as now with a racial bias, newsmen in the 1950s imagined they were seeing an outbreak of knife violence. These West Side Story-era bogus reports led to a series of knife control laws.

That’s how the Voice comes into it. They noted long ago that New York enforces a vaguely worded “switchblade ban” in a way that (1) encompasses most modern folding knives, and (2) lets them single out minorities for disparate harassment and prosecution. Do they do that? Here’s the graphic the Voice uses to say that, yes, they do:

arrests-vs-release-black-hispanic-white-2

That’s for people stopped in New York, with knives covered by the ban; the Voice wonders, as do we, whether Baltimore’s numbers would be an iota better (Baltimore has a majority black police force, a black Chief and black Mayor, but like New York it has a disproportionately black criminal class, so these cross-racial comparisons are always fraught with risk).

And as you’ve probably surmised by know, Freddie Grey, the black suspect whose mysterious but violent death in police custody was the trigger for the rioters, was arrested on one of these bogus knife charges.

But Gray’s initial arrest may not have happened if not for an antiquated provision of Baltimore’s municipal code, which prohibits the possession of a “switchblade” knife. Gray had allegedly been running from the police, for reasons that still aren’t clear, and after a brief chase, officers found the knife clipped to his pocket in a closed position — he was not alleged to have brandished the knife or threatened anyone with it.

The arrest charge recalls an issue we’ve been covering in New York City for months — the NYPD’s enforcement of a half-century old law against so-called “gravity knives.” The law was the subject of a lengthy investigation we published last year which found as many as 60,000 questionable arrests in ten years, making the statute one of the top-ten most-prosecuted crimes in New York City.

Here’s a snap of Grey’s charging instrument, showing what he’d have been charged with if something hadn’t snapped his neck and severed his spinal cord while the cops had him locked up. The Voice is right: it’s a bogus malum prohibitum knife charge.

freddie_grey_complaint

 

Many legal experts — from defense attorneys to labor unions to an official body of the New York State Judiciary — say New York’s law is often being applied, incorrectly, to common pocket knives that the legislature never intended to ban. We documented the arrests of construction workers, building supers — even a bible camp counselor — for simply possessing a knife that most people would regard as benign, if somewhat utilitarian. In fact, under the NYPD’s interpretation of the gravity knife statute, virtually every pocket knife on the market can be considered an illegal weapon, regardless of size or criminal intent.

The municipal code under which Gray was arrested resembles New York’s law in several ways, and its peculiar wording is equally ill-suited to modern technology; as we discovered when we looked at gravity knife laws in New York, knife statutes often have not kept up with current knife designs.

We’ll get to the knife in a minute — once again, the Voice is absolutely right about the technicalities here, and so we’ll let them do the explaining — but we’re going to take this where they didn’t, and note that Maryland has a pathological police culture of ignoring violent crime and pursuing malum prohibitum gun and knife violations with Javertian tenacity.

That’s how we get from Freddie Grey being slammed into the back of a Baltimore cruiser for his last ride, to hanging the whole thing on Maryland’s totalitarian gun control regime. The Maryland Port Authority Police (the Harbor Tunnel cops) and Maryland State Police have both taken to running license plate scanners and stopping and hassling out-of-state motorists whose pistol permits come up in the automated license-plate dragnet, in hopes of catching someone transiting Maryland with firearms. (Interstate 95, the direct route between gun-friendly destinations like New Hampshire, Maine, Virginia North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, runs right through Baltimore).

Maryland’s oathbreaking State Troopers do not recognize the pre-emption of Federal law, 18 U.S. Code § 926A, that explicitly allows owners free transit with a secured firearm from any place where they may lawfully possess it to any other such place, regardless of the laws in between. (Maryland is not the only state to reject the law, but it is the only state to use systematic, automated searches to identify persons exercising their rights under § 926A. Likewise, it is one of very few states using a law designed to combat the Sharks and Jets menace to harass and imprison its own citizens).

Some news reports have suggested that Grey was a drug dealer. Perhaps he was; but that is not why the Baltimore PD says that they chased, arrested, beat and killed him. They say they did it over knife technicalities, as the arrest document above shows.

Here is the Village Voice, again, on those technicalities:

While news reports have described the knife Gray was carrying as a “switchblade,” the actual police report (see charging documents …) describes it as a “spring assisted, one hand opening knife,” … the most common on the market in recent years.

Popular models typically feature a “thumb stud” on the blade, designed for one-handed opening. The user starts opening the knife manually, and then a spring takes over, “assisting” in deploying the blade the rest of the way. Switchblades, by comparison, open with a button or switch contained in the handle of the knife.

The Village Voice report is thorough and accurate, albeit infused with the alt-weekly’s viewpoint. (One gets the impression they’ll like Freddie better if he was a dope dealer). Still, we suggest you   Read The Whole Thing™, and don’t neglect any sidebars or links to their back stories on the New York knife ban.

Knife bans are common where gun bans are law. The same impulse leads liberty-loathing legislators to proscribe tasers, mace, BB guns, airsoft toys, and in Massachusetts, even, model rockets. (The state became a national laughingstock when it required a gun license — one the state makes difficult for its subjects to acquire — for model rocket engines). These are always the same few coastal states, whose lawmakers often complain that the seething crime wave that is their urban underclass is somehow caused by your rural duck hunters or suburban MG collectors. Places like, naturally, Maryland, where the two largest sources of family income are working for government or collecting from government.

You might say, “When guns are outlawed… knives are next.”

It seems to us that the Voice is comfortable with the switchblade aspect of the ban; their objection is to extending it to ordinary pocket knives. They shouldn’t be; there are practical reasons to have an automatic, one-hand-opening knife, to wit, a switchblade. (We drew them in jumpmaster school, courtesy of the same taxpayers who bought the inept Baltimore PD all those cop cars that flickered their souls to the city’s overweening carbon footprint over the last few nights). Every jurisdiction from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe already criminalizes anything you can do with a knife that is harmful to others or to society, from assault to homicide to brandishing and threatening. All of those things are all crimes, they are malum in se and they ought to be crimes.

One definition of a crime is, or ought to be, some wrong act that society sufficiently disapproves to authorize the police to use deadly force to stop you doing. Certainly threatening, assault, and homicide are crimes under that definition.

But having a “wrong” knife in your pocket is a crime under Maryland’s definition. Just ask Freddie Carlos Grey.

You might have an eternal wait for his answer, though.

Just maybe, a knife sitting in a pocket or on a belt ought not to be something any Patrolman Palooka can impose the Nickel Ride Death Penalty for.

Upcoming Course at USIP: Civil Resistance / Nonviolent Movements

hippie peace symbolThe first course we ever did at the US Institute for Peace (USIP) was done for a somewhat off-label reason: we thought it would be a wild hoot to have a USIP certificate to hang, say, between SFQC and Ranger School diplomas on the Wall Of Excessive Self-Adoration.

To our shock, the course, in Conflict Analysis, was more than what we’d expected (which was a graduate seminar in concealing our identity and politics from Birkenstock-shod peacenik instructors), and we actually did indeed learn useful conflict-analysis tools from the course’s case-study based analyses of nasty (and generally misreported) man-made disasters like the Rwandan genocide and the Kosovo War. Yes, there’s never going to be a meeting of the minds between USIP instructors and unconventional warfare practitioners, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to teach us — quite to the contrary.

Since then, USIP and its offerings have expanded quite a bit. They’re not free any more, but it seems like this upcoming course, for example, gives value for the money ($395).

Course participants will learn about the theoretical foundations of civil resistance through historical examples and first-hand accounts of nonviolent struggle. They will also be introduced to a variety of strategies and tools for waging nonviolent action, from time-tested methods to leveraging new media. The course culminates in a computer-based strategy game, People Power: The Game of Nonviolent Resistance, in which students are invited to apply their new knowledge and skills.

July dates listed for this course are approximate and will be finalized soon.

Via Civil Resistance and the Dynamics of Nonviolent Movements | United States Institute of Peace, where they have also posted the whole course’s four-week agenda.

We think this course is of interest to practitioners of UW foreign and domestic. On the page linked above, there is a video with the lead instructor explaining the pros of non-violent movements and the benefits of understanding them. After you go see the video, come back here and we’ll have some comments and criticisms.

The first comment is that the course may suffer from a common USIP bias, the whole Baby Duck World thing: only what’s recent is visible to the youthful instructors. Nonviolent resistance has a pedigree that is not merely 50 or 100 years long, the attention span of the GWU / American University / Ivy League types that usually populate these courses; it goes back millennia.

The instructor in this case, Daryn Cambridge, is a lefty’s lefty with a bio heavy on the ivory tower and feather-light on engagement with the real world. He does not appear ever to have held a job in the productive economy, just a string of parasitical Beltway non-profits.

He has worked or consulted in this capacity with organizations such as Common Cause, The Close Up Foundation, The Democracy Matters Institute, The Student Conservation Association, Learn-Serve International, One World Education, and the Institute for Technology and Social Change.

He serves on the boards of the Democracy Matters Institute and the Peace and Justice Studies Association. He has a M.A. in International Training and Education and a professional certificate in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, both from American University. He received his B.A. from Middlebury College.

AR_IronSight_PeaceSignNonetheless, I expect that there are things we can learn from him. We’re thinking it’ll be worth the $395. Unlike the Conflict Analysis course, we don’t see it as useful down range. Instead, it’s best employed here. 

Non-violent resistance is something that Americans are already practicing — if they are gun owners behind enemy lines in California, DC, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, etc. Our Canadian cousins recently overturned the long-gun registry that Canuck gun-controllers hoped would lead, as registration always does and is always intended to do, to confiscation, some day. They did this through a nonviolent, decentralized and leaderless campaign of passive resistance.

So maybe you, too, might benefit from a little nonviolent resistance theory. Go get it.