Apr 29, 2010

In the news

I skim the headlines for the NYTimes most days. I read a few stories, but mostly a quick skim is enough for me.

This headline caught my eye today:
"In New Jersey, a Civics Lesson in the Internet Age"

A college freshman made a facebook page encouraging high school students statewide to make their voices heard about budget cuts in the public school system. New Jersey, like many states, is facing tremendous budget shortfalls and struggling to balance the books. Like so many other places, the first cuts that are threatened are teachers, cops, and firemen. The sheepdogs and the shepherds.

Students are upset - understandably so. Of course, most of them aren't paying taxes yet, so the idea of a hike in the property taxes is a bit of a theoretical proposition.

What got me, though, were these two bits:

Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary, released a statement on Tuesday saying that students belonged in the classroom. "It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever," Mr. Drewniak said, "and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey."


But in many other places, students came to school ready to make a political statement. Emma Wolin, a junior at Columbia High, walked out of second-period Spanish with several classmates, even though the school had warned that they would face detention.

Mr. Drewniak is trying to spin this as "kids being kids". It isn't. Not at all. Senior Skip Day is a child's prank. Walking out of class to make your views known is exercising your rights - doubly so because the schools made it clear that these actions would have consequences.

These young protesters may not have a complete picture of what they are protesting - but they are willing to take consequences in order to make their voices heard, and for that, I applaud them.

Apr 24, 2010

Range Report

Took the new pistols to the range this afternoon with MrsZ. Not a long trip, but enough to play.

I had a box of cowboy loads (240gr, 750fps) for the Dragoon, so I loaded that up and let fly at ten yards or so. Three inches left and perfect elevation. Checked my .44Spl Keith loads - also left, also perfect elevation, with a much sharper bark. A half-turn of the windage screw and it seems to be dead-on.

I gave MrsZ the first crack with the 5946. She is a very deliberate shooter, takes her time with every shot, and makes them count. It took nearly 90 seconds for her to empty the 15-round magazine (including the interruption after ten rounds for her to ask why it hadn't locked back yet)... but when we went to look at the target, it's obviously working for her. A ten-yard group on poor Zombie Steve that was about 6" diameter and mostly head shots:


I popped in a magazine and did a rapid-fire group at my target ... and I'm ashamed to say, hit in the black ONE of fifteen rounds. I switched to a clean target and found that, for me, I'm hitting way low and a hair left. (Conversation with the Conspirators today leads me to believe this is likely a shooter issue, not a gun issue. Further testing is indicated. How terrible!)

For the record, I did try the plates with the 5946, and made 4 out 15 hits on the 150-yard 12" plate. Go figure.

I'd brought along the AR and reached for the 200- and 250-yd steel, but decided to try off-hand instead of from a rest. 7/10 on the 200 and 4/10 on 250, off-hand irons. I'm content with that kind of result.

Played with the 795 a bit; that continues to be a fun little plinker.

DaddyBear: per earlier conversation, magazines for the 795. I have not ordered so can't comment on service/shipping, but that's the best price going.

Apr 23, 2010

Brain Dump

A few things rattling around in my head.

At our fire department banquet this winter, a lifesaver certificate was presented to several members on behalf of an AED manufacturer. They had a save last year - a legitimate save, not a clinical save, in that the patient has resumed a normal life. Bystander CPR and an AED on the squad saved this guy.

The certificate they received is framed and hung on the station wall. It's a piece of paper and has a manufacturer's logo prominently emblazoned on it. What's worth more to those firefighters is the handshake of the guy they saved.

The AHA and ARC keep trying to decide what the "best" CPR is. 5:1, 10:2, 5:2, 15:2, 30:2, compressions only, etc etc etc. I think I've seen all those ratios go by in the nearly twenty years I've known CPR. (Dad was an instructor and taught it to me when I was about ten. I couldn't be certified but I knew how to do it.)

"Certified" is nonsense. The exact ratios are nonsense. Knowing how to do effective chest compressions (and rescue breathing if you are so inclined), plus early defibrillation is what saves lives. Take a class once. Even if your card expires, the knowledge doesn't, and could save a life.

I've had to do real-live (real-dead?) compressions once, and have played go-fer on more than a few others. It's not fun. It's not exciting. There is no dramatic music playing in the background as William Shatner narrates. You will feel ribs cracking under your palms. Your patient may well vomit on you. That's reality - but reality isn't often pretty.

Find a class nearby and sign up. It's usually free, many fire departments and sometimes churches will host the class. If you can't find something nearby online, call your local American Red Cross chapter and ask. Plan on giving up a couple weeknights or a Saturday. I think the current CPR class is 4-6 hours. Add in First Aid for good measure and go to 10 hours.

Isn't it worth it to save a life?


I re-organized my reloading cabinet today. I need to set aside some money and make an order from somewhere. Brass and bullets mostly. Need to stop by the local reloading shop and get a few more pounds of powder. Another pound each of 2400, H4831, TrueBlue (keg?), a jar of TrailBoss, and need to look into good powders for full-house .44Mag and .30-30Win loads.

I've got more primers than I thought, nearly 10,000 total. Small and large pistol, small and large rifle, and a thousand of small pistol magnum match that I snagged during the worst of the shortage and have yet to develop a load for.


While doing the reloading cabinet, I worked my way down the row and checked the ammo cabinets... and smiled to myself. I continue to be amused when the media breathlessly announces an "arsenal" of three guns and "thousands" of rounds of ammo. It is inevitably a 10/22, a pump-action shotgun, and a low-end centerfire rifle in .30-06, plus a half-dozen bricks of .22, a flat of trap/pheasant/duck loads, and a few boxes of Remington CoreLokt 180gr hunting ammo. I smile because I see that, and the only thing that comes to mind is, "Pikers."

Also, if you Google the definition of "arsenal", you will find that it is generally a whole building, usually government-owned, and three Fudd guns with a few boxes of ammo probably doesn't count. (If you search only on the word "arsenal" you are greeted with LOTS of information about an English football club.)


Working night shifts has SEVERELY cut into my range time. I've got TWO new-to-me guns that have yet to go bang, and I'm itching to ping steel with the rifles (and pistols?) again.


Need to find a new doctor. My primary care doc retired last year, and I haven't been troubled to find a new one yet. The fire department requires and provides an annual physical that covers the basics, and refers you to your own doctor if anything unusual comes up. Nothing has. However, I'm starting to show minor symptoms (fatigue, cold, unable to lose weight, etc) of a hypothyroid condition (Hashimoto's Thyroiditis) that was diagnosed and asymptomatic when I was twelve or thirteen, and it should be checked up on and treated if necessary.


I think that covers it for the day...

Apr 21, 2010

BAG Day, Round 2

Actually, this was a trade, not a purchase, but it's still a new-to-me acquisition!

UPS tracking info got all FUBARed - it had actually been delivered to my FFL on 4/14, but he didn't open packages until late that night and I was out of town for the weekend. I picked it up Monday. Traded away my S&W 647, which is a sweet little rimfire for small game hunting, but I decided it wasn't quite my cup of tea.

So, without further ado, BAG Day #2!

dragoon 001

dragoon 005

dragoon 009

dragoon 011

It's an Interarms Virginian Dragoon, 7.5" barrel, in .44Mag. Beautiful single-action with one of the nicest triggers I've ever felt on a wheelgun. No kidding, this has a cleaner break than any S&W I've shot in SA, and perhaps two or two and a half pounds.

It's a three-digit serial, so dates to the mid-70s. On the butt it's engraved "Sic Semper Tyrannis" - the Virginia state motto, which translates to, "Thus always to tyrants". Words to live by...

Range report later this week, I expect. Any pet .44Mag loads out there?

Apr 20, 2010

Gun laws

Over at Stuck In MA, JayG writes a post about gun laws on his adventure south.

He is promptly corrected (in comments) on aspects of gun law in every state mentioned.

I've met JayG. He's not a dumb man. Seems to be relatively well-spoken, articulate and reasonable. Using him, a pro-gun person if I ever saw one, as an example:

If a reasonable man cannot correctly determine the legalities of transporting his firearm(s) from one state to another, there is something inherently wrong with the legal arrangement.

Jay was smart enough to check the laws before driving and still missed a few. If Bob the Electrician (related to Joe the Plumber, but votes conservative) is heading out for vacation and tosses (or forgets that) his heater in the truck, he's well on his way to some expensive lawyer bills.

This patchwork of laws needs to get smoothed out and corrected, and states need to understand and adhere to the Firearm Owners Protection Act.

(BTW, Jay, I hope you made sure there wasn't a single solitary round of hollowpoint ammo in the G-mobile... that'll get you some extra attention in NJ.)

Look for a new post this evening with BAG Day Item 2!

Apr 19, 2010

Safely home

MrsZ and I spent the weekend in Burlington (Vermont) with her hockey team. Drove up Friday, came home yesterday. Good trip.

I briefly considered what gun(s) to take on this trip. Vermont has some of the gun-friendliest laws in the nation. No permits or registration, state preemption, CCW/OC are both legal. Only places that seem to be off-limits are schools and the usual assortment of government buildings.

I *strongly* considered OC'ing the 1911. After doing some reading on various forums, it looked like Burlington is, overall, relatively OC-friendly. I'd have had to disarm for at least one of the game locations, on a college campus. Then I started reading more details. Burlington has a pedestrian mall, "Church Street", full of shops and restaurants... apparently while the mall itself is public space and OC is fine, most of the shops are anti-gun and will have a trespass warning issued for someone OC'ing.

I don't know the leanings of MrsZ's fellow hockey players, and I didn't want to scare the white people, or cause a scene if we went to dinner on Church Street (which we did).

In the end, discretion was the better part of valor, and I stuck with my usual carry piece, the 642, in its usual IWB holster. It was nice, however, to feel like I didn't have to worry about accidentally flashing it and having a nice talk with The Man.

For the record: I am OC-neutral. I have to CCW in NY, but would like to be able to OC when weather or formalities recommend it. E.g., I'd like to be able to wear a BBQ gun and actually be able to show off the rig. Or wear an OWB over shorts in the summer. Little things like that. That said, I don't agree with rubbing peoples' noses in my carry choice either. Do what works for you, and know that you won't make everyone happy. As long as you're safe, you should be happy, and that's what matters, isn't it?

Other item of note, and in a roundabout way:
WaPo writes about a rally in VA today. It's an open-carry/anti-tax/anti-gummint rally. Headliners include Mike VanD... etc. The Brady bunch has their knickers in a knot about it, as expected, and the WaPo is going right along with them.

Money quotes:
"A member of several heretofore little-known groups, including Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership and Oath Keepers" - JPFO may not be as mainstream as the NRA, but but I certainly wouldn't call them little-known. Same thing for Oathkeepers.

"Almond plans to have his pistol loaded and openly carried, his rifle unloaded and slung to the rear, a bandoleer of magazines containing ammunition draped over his polo-shirted shoulder. [...] The brandishing of weapons is 'not just an important symbol' but 'a reminder of who we are,' said Almond." - You'll note that Almond (the organizizer) isn't using the term brandishing, which is defined as, "To wave or flourish (a weapon, for example) menacingly." (Emphasis mine.) CARRYING A SLUNG RIFLE OR HOLSTERED PISTOL IS NOT BRANDISHING.

There's the expected association with the OKC mass-murder that occurred on this date. The organizer reminds the paper that this is also the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, but that idea is quickly poo-pooed.

They couldn't ignore us. They couldn't shut us up. The next step is to make us the Lunatic Fringe.

Apr 15, 2010

BAG Day Arrives!

Well, this is actually half the post I'd been planning on, thanks to UPS not delivering my other acquisition to the pusher last night. That'll have to wait for next week.

I put up a teaser post last week, with a chance to win shiny prizes. Only six of you, my faithful readers, decided to enter. That made me feel sad. I expect compensation from each and every one of you that chose not to guess.

I reckon the box was a bit of a giveaway, but not as much as I'd feared. Some folks don't know their S&W boxen so well!

I shot the twin to this gun last year at the range, when an NYPD buddy came to visit. They have three choices for their duty gun: a Glock, a Smith&Wesson, and a SigSauer, if memory serves. All in 9mm.

He chose the S&W. I fell in love with it. I'd been keeping my eyes open for a full-size 9mm bottom-feeder for a while. Glocks don't feel "right" to me - they're fine guns, but I don't care for them personally. I've nicked my thumb and web on the slide on them due to no beavertail. I still would like either an M&P9L or a XD9, but like Weerd I have a poor reaction to stuffing ten rounds in a 15-17-round magazine well.

This model was introduced in 1990 or '91, and other variations of it were in existence earlier, so pre-ban magazines are out there, not hard to find, and not horribly expensive because the gun itself is less popular. It came with two pre-ban magazines and I found a deal on a few more that should be here next week.

So with all that leadup, and no further ado, the 2010 ZerCool BAGDay purchase:

A Smith & Wesson 5946; DAO 9mm with fixed Novak 3-dot sights, some duty wear, and two beautiful pre-ban magazines. (All photos from my Palm, so please forgive quality issues.)



And one of the BEST things about this particular piece of machinery:

Not ALL of my guns are "Made in America" ... but the VAST majority are. In fact, a quick count shows that all but TWO are homegrown. (My Springer 1911 and the Bersa Thunder .380 are both imports.)

Are there well-made import guns? Absolutely. Glock and the Springfield XD series come immediately to mind, as well as RIA 1911s, some of the Taurus line... There are good deals to be found in imports... but dammit, GUNS are AMERICAN. "God made Man. Sam Colt made Men equal." "The finest battle implement ever devised." ".45ACP, God's own round, JMB PBUH." "Ma Deuce." We just do them right.

So, yes, another "Springfield, MA" piece has found its way into the safe, and I am pleased. Range report forthcoming; this may be my new IDPA gun as well.

Apr 13, 2010

We know what's best for you

It seems the more I catch of political nonsense in this state, the higher my blood pressure goes.

Thanks to MassBackwards I saw this bill in the NY Assembly ... banning high fructose corn syrup.

I'm sick and tired of this shit, and sent the following to my Assemblyman:

Mr. O'Mara:

I just read a brief news article on Assembly bill A10574, introduced by Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (Queens), that intends to ban High Fructose Corn Syrup, of all things.

While I realize this bill was not introduced by you, I find it to be representative of the circus my tax dollars are paying for in Albany. Last month it was Mr. Ortiz and salt, this month Ms. Clark and corn syrup. You are ALL employed by our state's citizens to work FOR US. We didn't hire you as our babysitters or caretakers. We are one of the most highly-taxed populations in the country, with some of the largest issues with infrastructure and social problems. Businesses and productive employees are fleeing the state in record numbers. The state is now operating on an emergency spending plan due to political infighting and chicanery.

We, the people, are SICK of this. We hired you to provide us with infrastructure and the basics of society. Not innumerable social welfare programs, not inane make-work "stimulus" packages, and not feel-good legislations for the media. You cannot stimulate our economy by taxing us more, and you can not legislate health!

My wife and I bought our first home here in New York, after growing up in the Fingerlakes region. I'm beginning to strongly regret that decision, as I see more and more of my freedoms eroded and legislated away. Ask yourself and your colleagues this: when all the motivated and productive members of society have moved to greener pastures, who is going to pay for these social juggernauts you've created?

Aside from this mess, I'd love to see you - personally - sponsor a bill that repeals the "Assault Weapons" ban and the CoBIS program.

I look forward to your reply.

sick of this state

Buy stock in Reynolds

The tin-foil company, that is.

Tam notes that more states are joining on to the Montana Firearms Freedom Act. If the commerce in question is intrastate and not interstate, the ICC (and the federal authority residing therein) isn't relevant - or at least that's the understanding I have of it.

While reading news earlier, I came across this bit:
Oklahoma tea parties and lawmakers envision militia

Hie thee hence and read, carefully. It's a relatively well-balanced article, and could be a tipping point. The idea of a state militia that is NOT subordinate to the national chain of command is certainly not new, but has passed by the wayside in recent decades. Here in NY it's the New York Guard. Most places, though (and that includes here in NY), the state guard is an unarmed "auxiliary" of sorts. They assist with logistics, planning, disaster relief, and so forth.

Oklahoma is talking about a state-level, state-sponsored, *armed* guard.

I don't find myself objecting in the least. Keep a close eye on it.

Then, since I wasn't really conscious of current events while it was happening, I went and skimmed the Wiki article on the collapse of the USSR.

Here's the three-paragraph summary. Tell me if you see any parallels...

The Soviet Union's dissolution into independent nations began early in 1985. After years of Soviet military buildup at the expense of domestic development, economic growth was at a standstill. Failed attempts at reform, a stagnant economy, and war in Afghanistan led to a general feeling of discontent, especially[citation needed] in the Baltic republics and Eastern Europe.

Greater political and social freedoms, instituted by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, created an atmosphere of open criticism of the Moscow regime. The dramatic drop of the price of oil in 1985 and 1986, and consequent lack of foreign exchange reserves in following years to purchase grain profoundly influenced actions of the Soviet leadership.[1]

Several Soviet Socialist Republics began resisting central control, and increasing democratization led to a weakening of the central government. The USSR's trade gap progressively emptied the coffers of the union, leading to eventual bankruptcy. The Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991 when Boris Yeltsin seized power in the aftermath of a failed coup that had attempted to topple reform-minded Gorbachev.

One week...

... Using the palm for internet at home and mobile. The mobile hotspot is VERY slick. Signal is somewhat weather-dependent but I've no real complaints about it. Tiny keyboard takes some adjusting to but works well. Flash player should be out soon. Not bad. Not bad at all. Battery life is definitely low, and using the mobile hotspot with weak signal really chews it up. As in the charger can't keep it at 100%.

One last pimp: Get your guess in for my BAG Day purchase. The correct guess gets a copy of "Armed America" by Kyle Cassidy. Cut off is whenever I post pics on the 15th.

(Entire post written on the Palm Pre!)

Apr 8, 2010


I'm a hair early on this one, but there's another that should arrive next week. Maybe even right on time for Buy A Gun Day!

For now, though, it's time for a guessing game!

What's in the box??

A correct* answer will win a special prize from me.


* - Correct make and model. Because "a gun!" is, while technically correct, unspecific. :) If there are multiple correct answers by the 15th, I'll have the Mrs pick one at random. One entry per person, void where yadda yadda yadda.

Apr 7, 2010

Gadget Love

Saturday evening we had a few folks out for dinner, and the topic of internet access in the boonies came up. Much like Marko, we live a bit off the beaten path. Limited neighbors means less noise, but it also means fewer amenities... like high-speed internet. No cable. No DSL. Satellite is an option but seems to be VERY troublesome for a lot of people and is expensive for what it is. Cell coverage is spotty but not zero.

After talking with folks at dinner and comparing signal on a few phones (my RAZR-style non-smart phone, an iPhone, and a Verizon smart-something-or-other), the clear winner was the Verizon smart phone. Voice signal remained iffy, but data was pretty steady.

Then someone else piped up with two interesting tidbits: Verizon had dropped the price on the Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus phones ($49.99 and $29.99, respectively) AND now allows free HotSpotting from those two models. HotSpotting is using the phones 3G connection to provide a local wireless (802.11) hot spot... normally it's $40/mo and has a 5GB limit. The 5GB/mo limit remains, but the service is now free on these phones. Interesting. (Additional data is $0.05/MB, so I'll be VERY careful to stay under 5GB!)

I did some more research over the remainder of the weekend, and the phones have gotten generally good reviews, especially the Pre Plus. MrsZ and I discussed it a fair bit, and while it means an additional $30/mo on the phone bill (all smart phones require an "unlimited" data plan), if the 3G coverage is adequate it means we can nix the $20/mo for slow-as-hell dialup. I'd been toying with the idea of mobile data anyways, so we decided to try it out.

I was due for my "new every two" phone as of a week ago, so we went down to Verizon today and talked to them. Fortunately, a guy who grew up down the street from me works down there, so it's never a high-pressure sales schtick with him. Went in, looked at the Pixi and the Pre, decided the Pre was the right one for me. He grabbed one from the back and programmed it, swapped my contacts, and asked if I needed anything else with it. I almost said no...

... But then I asked how much they wanted for the Touchstone base. This is Palm's fancy inductive charging technology, and it is Slick. As. Hell. The battery cover gets replaced (already included with the Pre), and the wall-wart charger gets plugged into a base that's about the size of a hockey puck. To charge the phone, just drop it on the base. No wires to fumble, no micro-USB to try to line up. There's a magnet in the base to line up the induction coils, and off you go. Even better, the phone is "smart" about it. If you answer a call while it's on the base, it automatically switches to speaker phone. Brilliant. The base is about $40-50 depending on where you get it, and worth every penny.

I charged the phone while I napped before work, and it also downloaded the WebOS 1.4 update, then installed it while I showered. I've got unlimited data so I've been playing with downloads and web tonight. Already downloaded a few games (checkers, Reversi, an asteroids-esque game, Paratrooper, SpeedBrain), Accuweather, NYTimes, a recipe program (looks interesting, haven't played yet), the "Elizabethan Insult Generator"*, and Pandora Radio. All of these are free apps.

So far, my impressions are overwhelmingly favorable. Texting while driving is now impossible - too many little buttons instead of 12 bigger buttons. So be it, that's dangerous anyways. The camera (3MP) is amazingly responsive but not anything particularly special. 3G browsing is VERY fast. It multi-tasks. For real. I can browse the web while listening to MP3s or Pandora. I can run email, news, web, etc - all at once. Switching back and forth is a simple flick of the finger. The whole OS is very intuitive after you've got the basics. Pinch to zoom, touch-scroll, etc. Palm and Adobe are in beta right now with FlashPlayer 10.x for WebOS. SMS (text) messages are displayed in an iChat-esque format so conversations are easy to follow. If contacts are synced (merged?) (I haven't yet) a contact that also has AIM or Yahoo info will switch seamlessly between the different engines. VERY slick.

I tested the mobile HotSpot here at work, and my XP laptop linked right up with it (WPA2 security is the default, but an open network can be created). Speeds seemed to be a hair slower than the cable/802.11 connection we have available here, but definitely faster than dialup. I'll be testing again with MacOS X 10.4 when I get home.

The only gripe I have so far is (and this was expected, and therefore minor) battery life. I left for work with the battery around 95% full. By 5:30am it was down to 25% and I plugged it in (standard MicroUSB chargers work fine). Admittedly, this is with fairly heavy use of a new toy, but general consensus in the world is, "Plan to charge it at least once a day, and get a second battery if you're going to be a real heavy user."

If Palm had beat the iPhone to market, WebOS would be the market leader now, I think. It's that nice.

Edited to add: At home, Mobile Hotsport works like a champ. 2-3 bars (of 5) of 3G service results in a very acceptable 250-275k connection. Not cable-fast by any means, but just fine for our intended home use... and about 15 times faster than the usual dialup connection. I am pleased!

* - "Ye saucy milk-livered barnacle!" Translation: "You lustful, timid moocher!" (It's random and entertaining. Expect to see more of these!)

Apr 6, 2010

Road Ragin'

About two weeks ago, an article from InsideNoVA.com quoted a AAA spokesman who apparently has a bit of a hoplophobic streak.

"More than 1,500 people are killed or injured in road rage incidents each year in this country and when you add a gun to the mix the situation is more likely to spiral out of control," said AAA John B. Townsend II. "Gun-toting drivers are more likely to become involved in road rage incidents, study after study has confirmed."

I (and several other bloggers) emailed AAA pretty quickly, inquiring if this was the corporate line or an employee using a press interview as a personal grandstand. My email was this:

I just finished reading an article regarding a road rage incident that occurred in Virginia (http://www2.insidenova.com/isn/news/crime/article/95_incident_states_second_involving_guns_this_month/54515/). The article includes some rather disturbing statements from a AAA spokesman regarding the alleged irresponsibility of gun owners and involvement in "road rage" incidents. I would like to know what "study after study" Mr. Townsend is referring to, and how many of those 1,500 fatal incidents actually involved the use of a firearm.

As I'm sure you've guessed, I'm a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and the carriage of firearms for self defense. What I'm seeing is a broad-brush painting of firearm owners as reckless and irresponsible drivers, when countless studies have shown that licensed firearm owners are LESS likely to be involved in any type of violent confrontation or charged with any type of crime. Does AAA have a company stand on gun ownership, or was this a spokesman using AAA as a personal soapbox?

I've been a AAA member for nearly ten years, but I am strongly reconsidering whether I will continue to support your company. Your response is eagerly awaited.

The regional AAA office kicked my email up to a higher authority, who replied to me yesterday.

Thank you for your email and for bringing this article to our attention. To answer your question directly, AAA has no formal stance on gun ownership or control.

As an association with a deep history routed in traffic safety, AAA has extensively studied topics such as distracted driving, impaired and drunk driving, and aggressive driving, including road rage. The statistics cited in the article you’ve provided were taken from previous studies sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and not intended to portray those who own guns as reckless drivers. One study revealed that At least1,500 men, women, and children are seriously injured or killed each year in the United States as a result of senseless traffic disputes and altercations. The incidents reported in the study are only those caught by a reporting network. AAA’s most recent study on aggressive driving found as many as 56 percent of deadly vehicle crashes involve one or more unsafe driving behaviors typically associated with aggressive driving.

The AAA spokesperson, providing unbiased comment on one specific incident, also cited a 2006 study by HarvardUniversitythat suggested a correlation between aggressive driver behavior and firearms being present in avehicle. I’ve included a link to the information for your convenience (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2006-releases/press02072006.html).

These studies provide some information on aggressive driving behavior. AAA, or any of its affiliates, does not discriminate against motorists who choose to carry a licensed firearm. I hope this information is helpful to you. Again, thank you for bringing this article to our attention. We look forward to the next opportunity to serve you.

I read the link they provided. It's a slug for an article in a magazine, four years ago. Like many surveys, it looks like the questions were a bit ... guided. Perhaps more telling is this sentence: The research was supported in part by the non-profit Joyce Foundation. I won't link to them; suffice to say they are friendly with the Brady Bunch. A simple reminder: "not for profit" does NOT mean "apolitical" or "unbiased".

Aside from the link to the single study they used (which is, strikingly, not "study after study"), I'm seeing a re-hash of the original idea presented: that guns are somehow a totemic object that warp the morals of the people around them and make them prone to fits of rage and sudden violence.

Folks, let's be crystal-fucking-clear on this. A gun - any gun - is an inanimate object. It has no morals, no conscience, no ideals, and is not bound by the rule of law. It is only as good or bad as the person wielding it. I own several guns. In fact, more than several. Not one of them has killed anything I have not intended to kill with it. I have not beaten my wife, robbed a liquor store, mugged an old lady, or participated in a driveby shooting.

The idiots who are pulling out their "glock" (and I use it in the lower-case non-brand-specific way, much like kleenex or xerox) while driving are the idiots who would break a window (or jaw, or nose) with a tire iron or golf club or baseball bat, or slash into a tire or convertible top (or chest, or arm) with a knife.

I've driven I95 during rush hour. It sucks. I don't know what led to the initial road rage, but the easy option ("just drive away") probably wasn't available... especially since one party was in a Jag and the other in a tow truck or dump truck of some type - not a vehicle known for acceleration in the straights. When a vehicle that is an order of magnitude heavier plays bumper cars and then pins you into the K-rail, "I was in fear for my life and that of my daughter," is a pretty reasonable answer.

However. Getting out of your car, gat in hand, and dumping a mag at the other idiot is not the right way to defend yourself. Roll up your windows, lock the doors, and call 911. Tell the dispatcher your name and where you are, what's going on, and the best description you can. "Hi, this is Joe Smith, I'm on I95 north near exit 3. I'm in a green Jaguar sedan that's been pinned into the wall by a red dump truck that already hit me three times. The driver is approaching my vehicle. I can't drive away and I have locked my doors. I am armed." ... then just leave the damn line open so there is a recording of whatever happens. Answer any questions you can for the dispatcher, and don't be afraid to ask them to stay on the line with you if they make noises like they're going to hang up.

If the other guy starts swinging a baseball bat at your car ... let him swing. It's a car. It can be fixed. The instant that bat comes through a window, though, you have clearly reached "reasonable fear of grave bodily injury or death". Drawing down is now OK. Maybe you'll be lucky like Caleb and the guy will learn some fast manners at the business end of a .40. Maybe not. If he doesn't, you need to know - well before this happens - whether or not you can squeeze that trigger.

(And it should go without saying: know a lawyer.)

I'm still trying to decide whether or not AAA will continue to receive my support, and I think some additional contact with this customer rep will be in order. If I learn more, I'll share it.

Apr 4, 2010

And on the third day...

Happy Easter, y'all.

I am not, by nature, a deeply religious person. I was raised going to a Methodist church, and stopped going somewhere around my senior year of high school - I had a job that needed Sunday morning hours. I wasn't real upset about this - the church my parents took me too was a pretty generic church, and really, the only way to tell it apart from the $DENOMINATION down the street was the sign out front. Services were formulaic: greeting, hymn, offering, Lord's Prayer, children's lesson, prayer requests, prayer, hymn, scripture, sermon, hymn, benediction... or at least that's about as close as I can remember. I never enjoyed it.

I've been to church a handful of times since then. I still don't enjoy it. This isn't to be confused with thinking it's wrong, or bad. I just find the idea of, "We're going to church Sundays because It's What You Do," to be distasteful. If you profess to be Christian (or any other faith), you are and will be judged on the other 167 hours of the week as well - not just that one hour on Sunday mornings. Live your life as a fair and honest person and get similar treatment in return - what more can anyone really ask for?

Regardless. Faith will always be a quiet part of my life, and there's a few thoughts I felt like sharing on this quiet morning. (I hesitate to call it religion, because I'm not even close to be organized about it. I believe there is something bigger than me or you out there. I don't think any one church has it right. FSM protect us!)

Ps. 37:1-6
I stumbled across this my freshman year of college. I can't claim to have it memorized aside from the first verse. "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong[.]" The rest continues in that same vein - basically, be a good person and don't sweat how others choose to live their lives. It's good advice. I try to keep it in mind, but hey, I'm not perfect either.

The Easter Story. We all know the Easter Story. Last supper, betrayal, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension. Even if you find this all highly improbable (and you aren't alone), it makes for a great reminder that we do not live in a vacuum. Our actions touch others on a daily basis, and some of our actions will continue to affect others long after we are gone on our way. It's also hard not to hear the Easter story and not associate it with the greening of the world outside. Easter - spring - is a time of new life, birth, resurrection... new leaves, new flowers, new animals. It's hard to be unhappy during this time of year. Just look around and smile!

I know I said not all religions have it "right" - and I will continue to believe that unless someone manages to prove otherwise to me. But really, when you get down to the heart of it, most of them have roughly the same precepts and principles, and many of the prayers say the same thing.

For comparison:
Psalm 23:
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Bene Gesserit "Litany Against Fear":
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
(Dune, Frank Herbert)

So, what's the difference? One writer is relying on the company of a Supreme Being to walk through the valley. The other relies upon himself... but at the root, both writers are using a memorized writing as a touchstone to reinforce their belief in themself. When you get down to it... is that so wrong?

The sun has come up since I started writing this. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to find a mug of something warm and sit on the deck and listen to the birds.

Happy Easter, y'all.

Apr 1, 2010

Internet Idiocy

First, a disclaimer: I think the 1934 National Firearms Act was a bad idea, the 1968 Gun Control Act was a bad idea, and closing the registry in 1986 was a horrible idea. It may strike some of you as odd, but I *don't* think the NICS check is a bad idea. I'm well aware that it doesn't do MUCH to keep guns out of the hands of Bad Men, but I do catch the occasional anecdote (not to be confused with data) of idiots with warrants and/or priors trying to buy guns. It's not particularly onerous for those of us who ARE legit, although the use of 4473 clerical errors as a bludgeon by the ATF makes me cranky. (My favorite shop got audited this winter; he's spending several days in and out of federal offices and courts explaining why someone forgot to check "no" on a 4473. THIS is stupidity.)

In any case. I spend a LOT of time on the Smith & Wesson Forum. It's a good group of folks and about as tightly knit as one can expect from nearly 50,000 members. Great mods and owner, and the depth of information available is second to none - as long as you want to talk S&W. For as long as I've been hanging out there (since I got my 28-2 a couple years ago), it's been (bluntly) a bit of a Fudd forum. This isn't a bad thing: they certainly don't frown on black rifles (just combat tupperware), but the focus is Smiths. Since Smith is known for wheelies there wasn't a lot of crossover with, say, ArfCom.

Until this past year, when they released the M&P15-22. It's an AR in that it accepts pretty much all AR accesories, but has a polymer receiver and is blowback instead of gas operated. However, for $500, it's less costly than most dedicated .22 uppers, and certainly more reliable (and accurate) than the various .223-.22LR conversions out there. Suddenly, the masses of black-rifle kids (and I don't mean that as a pejorative term!) were appearing in the S&W Forum. The conversations stayed on-topic thanks to pretty much constant effort from the mods, and a few trolls and others saw the banhammer for repeatedly breaking rules. In other words, no major changes, particularly when the 15-22s were moved to their own group.

I poke in there occasionally, and chime in on a few conversations - generally not about the 15-22 specifically, since I don't own one. Yet. (I've been considering it and if they'd make an A4 setup instead of the railfarm I'd be all over it.) Regardless, I skim through the group at least once a day and chime in where I think I can be of help.

Last night, a user posted a new topic with a title to the effect of, "15-22 full auto". Inside was a link to a YouTube video. I was curious, so clicked over, fully expecting to see a CoD-kid bump-firing his 15-22. ... Nope. Video description said something about a trigger mod, and the video was clearly full-auto, not a bump-fire or crankfire. (!!!!!!)

I clicked back to the forum, "reported" the post, and replied with something along the lines of, "you just posted a video online of an unregistered/untaxed machine gun... that'll be good for 5-10 years in club fed. Probably should undo what you did and delete the videos ASAP." There were several more posts of roughly the same content, both before and after me - and a couple of "damn that's cool man".

... and you know what? I agree. IT IS COOL, MAN! A reliable .22LR full-auto (and the cyclic rate was VERY high - 25 rounds in about 2 seconds) would be a GREAT way to enjoy full-auto in a slightly more affordable way. Particularly since it's possible to actually control a zero-recoil .22 much more effectively than a centerfire. I've shot a (registered, legal, and in another state) full-auto M16. It was FUN. But. Even if they were legal to have in NY, I couldn't afford to feed one enough to make it worth having. .22LR? That I could afford.

All that said: If you're going to be an idiot and make your 15-22 into a machine gun (and this is just fodder for the anti's, by the by - "he turned it into a machine gun with only a few tools!") ... don't post about it online. Don't take videos of it. Don't tell anyone. In fact, don't do it to begin with. And if you have done it, take apart your fire control group. Take out any pieces you've modified, beat them out of shape with a hammer, then cut them into small pieces. Then order new ones from S&W or whomever and call the $50 in parts a learning experience - that will save you from 5-10 years of "experience" while Bubba enjoys that sweet young thing in his cell.

Part of owning a firearm - ANY firearm - is knowing the laws in your area. Municipal, state, and federal. And following them, unless you want to go to federal-pound-me-in-the-ass prison.

I understand, when you're 18, 19, 20 - hell, even 40, 50 - that it's easy to think you're immortal, or above the law, or "they won't care about one kid doing this". Here's a hint, folks: THEY CARE. If my small-town part-time dealer is spending days and dollars in court over a checkmark on a sheet of paper, THEY CARE. And you are NOT above the law. You want to play with FA? Get your 01FFL, ClassIII stuff, or the manufacturing FFL (07?). Then see just how much they care and how much paperwork is involved. Mind-blowing.

Because they care, they will prosecute you, and you will likely lose. Fines up to $100,000 (Mom? Dad? How would guys feel about getting a second mortgage over Junior's $500 rifle?), 5-10 years in pokey ... and you come out a convicted felon, unable to ever own a firearm again, probably unable to vote, and having to explain that ten-year-gap on your work history when you try to apply for another job. None of these are pleasant options.

While I was poking around the "related" videos, a few other things in the same vein caught my eye:
- a Marlin 60 running FA
- a Ruger 10/22 running FA (I have seen these done legally by FFLs. A 14-year-old is not an FFL.)
- a 10/22 SBR ("Don't worry, it's legal*," says the teenager filming the video.)
- pop-bottle or PVC "silencers"
- etc, etc, etc

* - It IS possible to make a legal 10/22 SBR. It'll cost you a $200 tax stamp and a Form 1, along with signatures and so forth. This one, however, looks like someone took the barreled action out of a Ruger Charger and slapped it into a 10/22 rifle stock. Ruger, if you're paying attention, it would behoove you to make this un-possible without removing metal somewhere. Thompson-Center went to court over this with their Contenders, and that judgment only eliminated constructive possession, NOT actual possession!