Wednesday, May 2, 2018

SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD DAY


Well it happened again: I missed the deadline last month but that's what happens when you write two books at once.  However, I deem it's still close enough to the end of the month for this April entry:

The club email was an attention grabber: “243 Years Ago.”  Sent on April 12, the message announced Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club’s (RSSC) second annual tribute to “The Shot Heard Round the World” when American minutemen formed on the green at Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775.  The email invited members and guests to participate on the 243rd anniversary of the confrontation leading to the War of Independence.

Early Thursday morning on April 19, 2018, about two dozen American patriots formed “line of battle” on Rio’s public range to fire a volley in tribute to the militias who opposed the tyranny of an occupying power.

Event organizer Dan Furbee, ably assisted by his wife Sarah, described the origin of the tribute.  Some years ago at a three-gun match Frank DeSomma of Patriot Ordnance Factory asked about 375 shooters the significance of April 19.  The first to speak up received a $100 bill.

Since then, things have accelerated.  “Fish and game departments around the country are on board,” Dan explained.  He insists, “It’s an event that we should commemorate every year not just because it was the start of the Revolution but because Lexington and Concord were the beginnings of our nation.  Americans stood up and said No to oppressive taxes, to quartering foreign troops, to cutting off foreign trade.”

Last year’s inaugural event at Rio drew seven members but at least 23 participated this year, including some range staff.  Their equipment covered the gamut, historically and technically.  Guns on the firing line included flintlocks, sidearms, single-barrel shotguns, and semi-automatic rifles to resist imaginary redcoats among the chaparral.

RSSC President Sue Little received some good-natured kidding because she was the only one wearing red—a club polo shirt.  But she took two places on the line, firing a flintlock and an M1 Garand, which one wag called “The Normandy Assault Rifle.”

I have a personal connection to the date: my mother’s family tree included the militia commanders at both Lexington and Concord:  Captain John Parker and Colonel James Barrett.  One of her distant cousins was named Parker Barrett.

On Dad’s side, Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman was George Washington’s aide de camp.  In 1781 Washington selected him to take news of Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown to Congress in Philadelphia.  (For objectivity, Tench’s father remained a loyalist and a brother was an ensign in the Royal Navy.)

At Lexington the militia deployed 80 men under 45-year-old Captain Parker.  A British officer rode toward the company, demanding, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!”  Seeing the disparity of odds, Parker ordered his men to disperse but apparently many did not hear or misunderstood him in the confusion.  Reportedly his voice was weakened by the tuberculosis that killed him five months later.

In any case, somebody loosed a shot, inevitably leading to what modernists call “firing contagion.”  Eight Americans were killed; one Brit wounded.

From there, things got out of hand.  Like totally.  The “lobster backs” continued to Concord expecting to confiscate weapons including Colonel Barrett’s cannon. 

A total of 477 militia men at both sites led to nearly 4,000 responding throughout the day.  The British columns totaled about 500 of the 700 who marched out of Boston, increasing to 1,500 at the end.

The patriots sustained 54 dead or missing and 39 wounded.  Crown casualties totaled 126 killed or missing and 174 wounded.  So the defenders won “on points” by about three to one.

It helps to recall that the American republic arose from a government gun-confiscation scheme…

There was a slight delay getting one of the Garands loaded.  But then the shooters were free to expend as much ammo as they wished: “One round or one magazine,” Dan said.

Arizona’s other TSHRTW event was held at the Ben Avery Shooting Range Facility north of Phoenix on Saturday, April 21.   Organizers and participants look forward to expanding next year’s commemoration at other ranges here in “The Territory.”

The organization’s website lists states with participating clubs: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia, though independent sites also show events in New Hampshire.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: THE FACTS


School shootings are nothing new.

The first U.S. incident recorded online occurred in Virginia in 1840 when a law professor was mortally wounded by a student.  However, 76 years earlier, in 1764, four Delaware Indians shot, slashed, and clubbed ten white students to death in Pennsylvania. That remained the American record for a school mass killing almost 200 years, until the University of Texas massacre in 1966.

Some definitions may be necessary.  For instance, the same year as the sniper attack in Austin, five people were murdered in an Arizona beauty college.  But the huge majority of school attacks occur in academic institutions—high schools and colleges.

Here’s a breakdown by decades, based on Wikipedia entries.

19th century (1840 to 1900): 31 dead in 37 attacks (Average 0.83 deaths per incident.)

1900s: 14 dead in 15 incidents     Avg: 0.93
1910s: 12 dead in 19 incidents     Avg: 0.63
1920s:   5 dead in 10 incidents     Avg: 0.50
1930s: 10 dead in  9 incidents      Avg: 1.11
1940s: 11 dead in  8 incidents      Avg: 1.37          
1950s: 13 dead in 17 incidents     Avg: 0.76
1960s: 44 dead in 18 incidents     Avg: 2.44
1970s: 37 dead in 30 incidents     Avg: 1.23
1980s: 49 dead in 39 incidents     Avg: 1.25
1990s: 88 dead in 62 incidents     Avg: 1.41
2000s: 107 dead in 62 incidents   Avg: 1.72
2010s: 156 dead in 145 incidents Avg: 1.07

The foregoing list appears to include the deaths of perpetrators although some internal contradictions were noted.

The database includes accidental shootings, as in a 1961 incident in high-school play with a .22 used “as a sound effect.”  In 2016 a Texas policeman shot another while intervening in a school dispute.  In an extreme example, in 1952 a New York student shot a school dean rather than part with photos of girls in swim suits.  Other examples note gang violence on campus. 

School attacks usually involve additional casualties, including 64 wounded in the 1960s, mainly at Austin.  However, as at the Las Vegas massacre last October, often it is difficult or impossible to know how many injuries resulted from gunfire and how many from other causes in the panic and confusion.  A partial example: of the 23 injured at Virginia Tech in 2007, apparently 17 suffered gunshot wounds.

In any case, a quick glance at the chronological listing shows a clear pattern: Typically school attacks resulted in less than one death through the 1920s, with a high of 2.4 per incident in the 1960s, falling to well under 2.0 thereafter. 

The six deadliest incidents since 1966 accounted for 115 deaths among 454 in that period, or one-quarter of the total.

In the 1990s there was a 59% increase in attacks over the previous decade with an 80% increase in deaths.
What accounts for the huge rise since the 1990s? 

Apparently the increase was not related to availability of semi-automatic rifles, most notably the Armalite-designed AR-15.  Colt marketed the Sporter model in 1964 but evidently the type did not appear in school shootings for decades.  In fact, an examination of the guns used in the deadliest school shootings shows a remarkable variety, including 19th-century technology with shotguns and bolt-action rifles.

In one instance the murderer stole a family member’s police-issued firearms.

Weapons in the six worst incidents:
Texas 1966 (17): bolt-action rifle
Colorado 1999 (13): carbines, handguns, shotguns
Minnesota 2005 (10): “Grandfather’s police weapons” (pistol and shotgun)
Virginia 2007 (32): Glock and Walther pistols
Connecticut 2012 (26): AR-15 clone and Glock pistol
Florida 2018 (17): AR-15

Deaths of the murderers are not included in the above six tolls.

Several factors bear upon school killers other than weapons.  They include a reduced rate of committing potential killers to mental institutions—and then-Senator “Slow Joe” Biden’s 1990 “gun-free school zone” legislation, signed by GHW Bush.  The law was overturned by the Supreme Court five years later (United States v. Lopez) because it was irrelevant to interstate commerce.  But it was re-enacted in 1996 addressing the commerce issue. 

Meanwhile, nearly 230 school shooting incidents have been reported since 1997.

Questions and Answers

After the Columbine massacre in 1999, the Secret Service report on school shootings noted several common factors:

Most were planned, with other people having knowledge but remaining silent.

No useful personality profile applied but many or most killers felt bullied or had low self esteem, and frequently suffered mental issues.  (A more recent survey indicated an extremely high proportion were drug users).

Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement.  (Suicide or “civilian” intervention.)

Some commentators ask about metal detectors in schools.  Opinion seems divided.  Aside from cost, the technology  requires trained operators, and should be positioned at every entrance with one or more enforcers to deal with contraband.  But while detectors may reveal attempts to sneak knives and guns into school, a dedicated assailant will blow past the device or possibly shoot or stab the operator on the way inside.

(Knives in schools are seldom addressed but in Kunming, China, in 2014 eight Islamists killed 31 people using only blades.  Nearly 150 victims survived injuries.)

An increasingly common discussion involves a school lockdown with students kept behind locked doors.  But a clever assailant would wait until the interval between classes or, perhaps “better” yet, when school lets out.  Even if most students make it to a safe area, others inevitably will be caught in hallways or in the open with nowhere to go.

The NRA has always held “The answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  That seems self-evident: while the victims huddle and die, they await men with guns to come solve the problem.  But with police response times typically matching the duration of most mass shootings, it seems a zero-sum game.  Clearly, the fastest response is school staff possessing the skill, knowledge, and willingness to use weapons close at hand.

Technically, 18 states allow teachers or staff to be armed on-campus (with official permission) but few of those are implemented: they include liberal bastions California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Oregon. 

The NEA “educators” are solidly opposed to armed staff in schools by an overwhelming 68 percent.  Ironically, that’s one point less than a recent online poll showing Real Americans favor the concept.

So what should the policy involve?

It’s not up to the police to divert scarce resources to guarding schools.  In fact, at two of the worst school attacks, on-scene deputies failed to purse the killers: at Columbine High in Colorado (1999) and most recently in Florida.  A badge does not ensure there’s a fighting heart behind it or a moral brain above it.

To quote one law-enforcement friend: “If people want to have children, the parents and schools need to protect their kids.  The cops have too much to do as it is.”

Retired army officer Dave Grossman is well known for his advocacy of “sheepdogs.”  Trained, capable guardians of the flock who can defend the defenseless.  He notes that there have been very few deaths in school fires in more than 50 years but we continue holding fire drills. 

Arson and explosives remain the deadliest agents of school killings.  In 1927 the Bath School bombing in Michigan killed 38 children and six adults—a greater toll than any school shooting.

(In a worse example of arson murder, in 1990 a jilted lover killed 87 people at a New York social club.  His weapons were a plastic bucket with $1 worth of gasoline, and a match.)

Apparently the last significant school fire occurred in Chicago in 1958.

Training and Preparation

So why not hold active-shooter drills?  Rather than meekly hunkering under a desk, awaiting a bullet in the cranium, teachers and students should be trained to respond quickly and violently: swarm the gunman, take him down, and stomp him to rags and tatters.  If he has an accomplice, repeat as necessary.

The training equipment and time requirements are minimal.  A football tackling dummy would suffice, but a trainer in a protective suit (the kind used to train police dogs) would be even better.

The obvious Solution:

Allow teachers and school staff to carry pistols, all day every day—and night.  Establish meaningful qualifications and training with at least four recertifications annually.

Require the sheepdogs to keep their weapon on them full time: no stashing in a desk or locker.  (Police chiefs, patrol officers, SWAT, FBI and BATF all have left guns in restrooms or unlocked vehicles.)  For maximum safety and security, perhaps wear the pistol unloaded with one or two magazines on the belt.  If the shooter prefers a revolver, he/she can carry speed loaders, which require greater training and dexterity.  In either case, the gun should be worn in a retention holster to prevent an easy snatch-and-grab.  If the gun’s unloaded, it’s no use with the ammunition carried separately. 

The five seconds or less to load a pistol and chamber a round beats the best police response times (typically five to six minutes at best) all to hell.

Oh, one more thing.

President Trump has suggested paying bonuses to teachers or staff who qualify to carry guns in schools.  Maybe we shouId go a step farther: establish a charitable fund that pays $1 million to anyone who kills a school murderer.  No bounty for wounding or capturing the SOB—just kill him dead.


My check will be in the mail.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

EDUCATING THE AMBASSADOR

Americans have a stereotypical impression of the French: snooty, aloof, and condescending.

Well, it certainly applies to Parisian diplomats.

Earlier this month—on December 7th of all dates—the French ambassador to the United States reminded millions of Americans why the French are often so thoroughly unpopular Over Here.  Excepting the fabled Foreign Legion, you’ve probably seen the unkind sentiment: “French Army rifle for sale.  Only dropped once.”

However: Monseur Gerard Araud was rude/stupid enough to tweet, “In this Pearl Harbor day, we should remember that the US refused to side with France and UK to confront the fascist powers in the 30s.”

We shall examine the gross hypocrisy of that sentiment, but first, some background:

The fact is that both nations owe a tremendous debt to one another.  France’s aid during our revolution was essential to achieving independence from Britain.  Of course, that largess was not provided entirely from generosity.  France and England had clashed bitterly two decades before, contesting mastery of North America in the French and Indian War.  (I recommend your CD/VCR to rerun the superb 1992 remake Last of the Mohicans.)    

Paris extended diplomatic recognition to the nascent United States in February, 1778.  The alliance thus formed was massively unpopular in London, where King George III’s acolytes declared war on France six weeks later.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Admiral De Grasse pulled one out of the tricorn hat with a rare (nearly unique) French victory over the British Royal Navy off the Virginia coast in October 1781.  That in turn led to Lord Cornwallis’ surrender to General George Washington’s forces surrounding the limeys at Yorktown.  Washington’s staff included the youthfully competent Marquis de Lafayette, who became an icon on both sides of the Atlantic.

Then the alliance jumped the rails for two years, 1798-1800, during the French Revolutionary Wars.  America, perennially destitute at the time, exempted itself from repaying Paris’ loans and support because the royalist government had been cut short (by guillotine) and no longer existed.  The naval Quasi-War was resolved by another treaty in 1800.

Time passed.  In fact, 117 years.  Then in April 1917 Uncle Sam stuck his goatee where it had little justification by joining the Allies against Germany during World War I.  The plain fact is that the much-vilified “merchants of death” were not so much armament producers as bankers and financiers who were heavily invested in loans to Britain and France.  After all, when President Woodrow Wilson (“He kept us out of the war!”) sought a declaration of war, he cited sinking of the British liner Lusitania with 128 Yanks—two years before.  That the ship knowingly entered U-boat water amid a German quarantine was conveniently ignored.

It took time to muster two million doughboys and ship them to Europe, but the job was done with enthusiasm amid the spirit of “Lafayette, we are here!”  (Beyond that, a squadron of Americans was recruited to fight the Germans in the air in gross violation of U.S. neutrality.  But the over-hyped Lafayette Escadrille gained enormous publicity and generated more support for France when the French Army was riddled with mutiny.)

Well, the Yanks were a-coming, with drums tum-tumming, and they made a huge difference.  At Belleau Wood in June 1918 two Marine Corps regiments blunted a hunnish drive some 50 miles from Paris.

In the next war, the Yanks took longer to save France, but the sons of doughboys had to undo four years of Nazi victories and occupation.  The Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 were followed by “D-Day South” along the Riviera in August, with the City of Lights being liberated later that month. 

Nine cemeteries in France contain the graves of 43,404 Americans who lost their lives liberating the ambassador’s homeland in both world wars.  Additional cemeteries are the final resting place of 26,685 more in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.  Those figures do not include thousands of soldiers and airmen still missing in action.

Now, addressing the odious ambassador’s absurd lecture to his nation’s liberators on Pearl Harbor Day:

Before the war America was isolationist with good reason. A main factor in U.S. reluctance to re-engage in Europe during the 30s was France’s (and the Allies’) bungling of the Versailles Treaty that imposed immense burdens on Germany.  That toxic environment spawned the rise of ultra nationalism that produced Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.  In 1939 a clear majority of Americans wanted no part of another European war, since “the war to end all wars” (!) only produced a bigger, worse calamity.

Furthermore, France and Britain appeased Hitler when he could have been stopped, first in the Rhineland in 1936 and then in Czechoslovakia in '38. In fact, Hitler had ordered his forces to withdraw if confronted by the Anglo-French.

Meanwhile, the ambassador pointedly omitted U.S. loans and lend lease.  In fact, the American-built Curtis Hawk was France’s most important fighter, scoring one-third of credited aerial victories in 1939-40.  And America’s role in the Battle of the Atlantic, which cost thousands of U.S. merchant sailors, began in September 1939. 

In 1939 the U.S. military counted 335,000 men—less than 3 percent of the total needed to win the war—and the 1940 draft act passed Congress by one vote.  Yet because of our non-neutral aid to the Allies, Hitler was eager to declare war on us after Pearl Harbor. 

From 1936 to 1938 the French government was a Popular Front, led by the Communists who following the Soviet line.  And in 1939-40 the French and Russian Communist parties were still allied with Germany, preferring the Americans to mind their own damn business.  That only changed when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

Following Paris’ capitulation in 1940, half the country was “unoccupied” because the Vichy regime was formally allied with Berlin.  France’s compliance with the Axis extended to the Pacific where French Indochina was jointly occupied by Vichy and Japan.

That odor you detect wafting off the Seine is the stench of hypocrisy.

Yet Aurad, ambassador since 2014, retains his post as of this writing.  Obviously surprised by the outrage his…outrageous…message encountered, he deleted the tweet and tried to backtrack by saying “We are immensely grateful for what the US did for France in 1944…”

Not enough, you puke.  Not nearly enough, and way too late.


“Remember Pearl Harbor.  Oh, and Paris Liberation Day.”