Thursday, May 30, 2013

For Us But Not For You

By Dave Dargo

This article highlights another outrageous moment in the gun-control movement.

Essentially, a Texas lawmaker wanted to pass a law that would allow prosecuting attorneys and Texas lawmakers to carry firearms where firearms are currently prohibited.  Regular folk would not be permitted to carry in those areas.

For those of you against guns it may be difficult to see the arrogance and dangerous precedent such a move would create.

Republican Representative Drew Springer said, "We face a higher degree of risk because we're known and people might not like our opinions," in defending the right of legislators to be given extra areas in which to carry a firearm.

It's not a matter of the degree of risk you may or may not face as an individual.  It's a matter of everyone having the same fundamental right to self-defense.  If the expanded areas are areas where you feel protection is needed then everyone deserves to be protected in those areas and not just lawmakers and prosecuting attorneys.

Democratic Representative Ryan Guillen said, "In light of Gabrielle Giffords and others, those in the public eye need to protect themselves."

What chutzpah!

O.K., Representative Guillen, you've identified a reason why you feel you need protection and, because you're a lawmaker, have decided to introduce legislation that would exempt you from the gun-control laws of your state so you can defend yourself.

Now you've placed yourself in a position of recognizing that people should be allowed to protect themselves but only if those people are special, i.e., elected to public office.  What about the public. Perhaps I have a reason to protect myself in those areas as well.  Perhaps the victim of domestic violence and stalking feels unprotected.  Shouldn't that person have the same right to protection as you?

Rather than start down the "some animals are more equal than others" path, perhaps you should just remove the barriers in your state that prevent people from protecting themselves.

But then again, why hold public office if you can't give yourself special privileges?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

CHP Classes And Readiness

By Dave Dargo

We teach a Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) class.  Some jurisdictions call this a CCW (permit to Carry a Concealed Weapon).

The CHP/CCW class is an important start to that big decision to start carrying a gun for self-defense.  It is a big decision and it is just a start.

In Louisiana, for example, the CHP class is a nine hour class that follows a fairly specific format.  Some states require more time and some states require no class at all.  In, fact some states don't even require a permit in order to carry a concealed firearm.

Personally, I don't think a permit should be required to exercise a fundamental right.  I do, however, feel that every responsible gun owner should have adequate training before making that big decision to carry a firearm for self-defense.  While the nine hours Louisiana requires for a CHP is a start, it's not an adequate amount of time, in my opinion, to prepare an individual for the awesome responsibility of using a firearm for self-defense.

Many anti-gun people use the argument that the average individual doesn't have the same training as a police officer and, therefore, isn't qualified to carry a gun for self-defense.  I don't agree with this sentiment for two reasons: one, it's quite possible for a completely untrained individual to effectively use a firearm for self-defense and, two, I don't think an average police officer is adequately trained.

The state of Arizona requires zero hours of training.
The state of Louisiana requires nine hours of training.
A California Highway Patrol officer has 40 hours of handgun training before going on patrol.
I've had somewhere over 240 hours of defensive handgun training.

What's the right amount?  What amount would satisfy the anti-gun people?  What amount of training would make an individual adequately prepared to use a firearm for self-defense?

Like most things in life, it all depends.  It depends on the person and the situation in which they find themselves to determine if their training is adequate to handle the crisis.  Ultimately, though, it's not just about training.  It's also about mindset and the willingness to use force in self-defense combined with the ability to do so.

Gunsite Academy teaches the Combat Triad.  Others call it the Combat Mindset.  The NRA refers to it as the Defensive Mindset.  All of these phrases, generally, refer to the same thing; the ability to use your mind, your training and your will to deal with a crisis in an effective way.

In the Combat Triad, Gunsite teaches the balance of Mindset, Gun Handling and Practical Marksmanship.  The NRA teaches about the willingness to use force, the determination to never give up, developing a plan and visualization.

Pistol training is designed to give you the skill-set to know how to dependably use your pistol in an effective manner.  It teaches you the mechanics of proper presentation, how to reload, how to move and react to a threat.  Advanced training will utilize methods designed to place pressure on the student so the student is performing the physical tasks in a mechanical way freeing the mind to deal with the crisis at hand rather than trying to figure out how to manipulate their firearm.

With all the training in the world, though, one is not truly prepared to use a firearm for self-defense without the mindset.  The zero hours of training required by Arizona is perfectly adequate to someone with the appropriate mindset who wants to survive a lethal encounter.  The 240 hours of training I've had would be worthless without the appropriate defensive mindset and a willingness to do whatever it takes to survive a dangerous crisis.

What's the right amount of training for you?  The only way to find out is to start training.  You will start to recognize in yourself your ability and your willingness to save yourself in a lethal encounter.  You will be able to determine if carrying a firearm is right for you.

Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite Academy, said, "Man fights with his mind.  His hands and his weapons are simply extensions of his will."

You may want to train with firearms for the fun of it and we fully support that endeavor.  However, if you truly want to carry a firearm for defensive purposes then we strongly encourage you to go beyond the minimal requirements for a concealed handgun permit and develop the skills and mindset necessary to be able to adequately and properly use your body and tools as an extension of your will.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Paranoid?

By Dave Dargo

There's an old joke among people who carry guns:
A man is in line at the grocery store openly carrying a gun.  The woman behind him is shocked and says, "You're carrying a gun?  Are you expecting some kind of trouble?"  The man carrying the gun replies, "No, ma'am, if I was expecting trouble I'd have brought my shotgun."
One common refrain in the not-so-informed press is that people who carry guns must be a special kind of paranoid.

I carry a gun and often wonder if maybe I'm a little obsessive-compulsive about safety and preparedness.  In my car I have multiple flashlights, a roadside emergency kit with flares, an air compressor and other "necessities".  We keep fire extinguishers and flashlights in our home along with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  When we lived in California we had an earthquake rescue kit with emergency food rations stored in a 40-gallon trash can in the back yard.  When I hike in the desert I carry a satellite phone.  Not everyone takes preparedness this far; I recognize that.

But you most likely do have auto insurance, fire insurance and maybe flood and umbrella insurance.  Why do you have insurance?  Probably in case something happens.

It's the same way with carrying a gun; in case something happens.

A common refrain amongst those I know, "I'd rather have my gun and not need it than need it and not have it."

There is a certain utopian theme among people who are anti-gun.  Generally they want to live in a world where guns aren't necessary.  I'd like to live in a world where guns aren't necessary.  The difference between me and those utopians is that they think that by forcefully removing guns from the law-abiding citizen, by removing guns from their view that they believe they can then pretend to live in that utopian world.

Unfortunately, the world doesn't work that way.  I consider myself a realist.  Next to my optimistic wife I appear to be a pessimist.  Next to a true pessimist I am one sunny son-of-a-gun.  As a realist, I recognize that there are bad people in this world who would prefer to prey on their fellow citizens rather than earn an honest living.  As a realist I want to be ready if I run into one of those predators.  If I do I won't think, "I can't believe this is happening to me."  Instead, I'll think, "I knew this might happen some day and I know what to do."

That thought, "I knew this might happen some day and I know what to do," is the thought we should all have whether it relates to a fire in the home, a flood, an earthquake or any other emergency situation.  We should be prepared and ready to handle what's thrown our way.

Am I paranoid?  Not a bit.  Am I prepared?  You bet.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gun Safety Rules

By Dave Dargo

There are many sets of rules related to gun safety but there are two that are best known: those promoted by the NRA and those originated with Colonel Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite Academy.

Colonel Cooper's rules:
  1. All guns are always loaded
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it
The NRA's rules:
  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use
The rules are similar and must be followed religiously in order to be effective.

Sometimes we hear about accidental discharges.  I share an opinion with many others that there's no such thing as an accidental discharge; an accident implies that no one is at fault.  There are, however, negligent discharges.  If you hear of someone experiencing an accidental discharge with their firearm you can pretty much bet that they violated at least one of the gun safety rules.

I particularly like Colonel Cooper's first rule.  By living by this rule one develops habits that are critical to gun safety.  I never pick up a gun without checking if it's loaded and confirming it is in the state I desire; either loaded or unloaded.  The pistol may have been out of my hands for only a few seconds but when I pick it back up I go through the exact same routine of checking the current load status of the gun.  Before handing my gun to another person I always make sure it's unloaded and even if the recipient witnessed me unloading the gun I fully expect their first move to be to confirm the gun is unloaded.  Someone can assemble a gun in front of me and hand it to me and I will still check to make sure it is unloaded before I do anything with it.

By having the exact same routine each and every time one either picks up or sets down a gun one is more assured of avoiding a negligent discharge.

It's very easy for me to tell when I'm around an experienced gun handler.  While they have more confidence handling a gun than a novice they are also safer because they have solid safety routines they always practice.  I think that many people are intimidated by guns because they know they need to be safe but aren't sure how to proceed.  In all of our classes at Condition Ready we assiduously follow, train and demand adherence to gun safety protocols.  Safety is the responsibility of everyone on the range and we teach our students how to recognize safety protocol violations in others and empower them to return everyone to a safe condition.

Safety is no accident.  By the way, neither is negligence.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Modern Debate

By Dave Dargo

O.K., what happened to debate in this country?

Here are two videos, the first is of a witness, James Kaleda,  testifying before the New Jersey Senate in opposition to a new gun control bill.

 

The second is what happened in the room after Mr. Kaleda's ejection:


I didn't really notice what Mr. Kaleda did other than express disapproval of the bill being debated.  However, we should all be concerned when elected officials stifle organized dialog.  It appears that Mr. Kaleda was invited to speak to the committee.

I guess he overstayed his welcome.  It's a far cry from Norman Rockwell's world portrayed here in "Freedom of Speech":


Treaties And Powers

By Dave Dargo

There's a lot of noise about the United States signing the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty.  This treaty passed the United Nations General Assembly 153-4, with the United States voting in favor and several countries abstaining.

Some are arguing that President Obama will not sign the treaty and others are claiming that it's a done deal that the President will sign it.  If President Obama signs the treaty then it will require approval of two-thirds of the Senate in order for it to become binding on the United States.  In the latter article, Amnesty International argues that the concerns raised by those opposed to further infringements of their gun rights are "rooted in baseless assertions about the treaty's reach into domestic gun control regulations."

After all, those supporting the treaty say, we still have the U.S. Constitution that will protect the rights of the American citizen in her endeavor to keep and bear arms.  Never mind that there are a slew of laws being introduced nationally and locally that are designed to infringe on those rights; we should be comforted by those who would sign such a treaty when they tell us not to worry.

We could debate on-and-on about the efficacy of the treaty.  It's perfectly reasonable to argue that enforcement of such a treaty is likely to embolden and strengthen the efforts of tin-hat dictators as the people within their countries will have little chance of obtaining the necessary tools in order to fight for their freedom.

However, this blog entry isn't about the treaty itself.  Rather it is about a much larger issue that is highlighted in a case before the United States Supreme Court, Bond v. United States.  I've argued, on a sound foundational basis I might add, that the national government does not have any powers not specifically granted to it in the U.S. Constitution.

Carol Ann Bond is a 42 year old woman who lived with her husband and adopted child.  She was happy when her close friend, Myrlinda Haynes, became pregnant until she found out the father of Myrlinda's child was her, Carol's, own husband.  Carol decided to get even and purchased some chemicals in order to poison Myrlinda, although the undisputed evidence shows that Carol had no intent to kill Myrlinda.  Carol was unable to deliver the poison as she intended.  Carol likely violated one or more Pennsylvania statutes and accepted full responsibility for her actions.  However, instead of allowing local law enforcement to handle this domestic dispute federal prosecutors decided to charge Carol with violation of a federal law designed to implement the United States' treaty obligations under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

Carol was charged with a federal law for her locally confined actions.  No one has argued that the national government has the power to intervene in this local issue except for the fact that a federal law was passed in order to implement a treaty obligation and a federal prosecutor decided to charge Carol with violation of that federal law.

The case before the Supreme Court isn't about Carol's conviction or whether or not she deserves to be punished for her actions.

The case before the Supreme Court is whether a treaty can give powers to the federal government that they didn't already have, in this case the power to go after someone for attempting to poison one of their, presumably former, friends.

This is where the mundane becomes exciting.  Can a treaty increase the powers of the national government?  I and many others would argue, no, it can not.  A treaty can not expand the power of the national government.

Imagine if the opposite were true, that a treaty could expand the power of the national government.  If such a scenario were true then it would only take 2/3 of the U.S. Senate and a signature from the President of the United States to do what would normally take those same signatures PLUS the approval of 3/4 of the states, 38 of the 50 - the process to amend the U.S. Constitution.  The absurdity of such a power would eviscerate the process we have implemented in order to only grant powers to the national government via the approval of the people.  A national government wanting increased powers would merely need to find a willing international partner with whom it could create a treaty and then get the treaty through the Senate.

Now, let's tie these two stories together.  The thought that the United States will become a signatory to the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty combined with the belief by some that a treaty gives the national government expanded powers and you have a volatile combination as seen by those of us who tire of governmental overreach.

Is it any wonder that gun owners are skeptical of the "just trust us" crowd in Washington, D.C. who claim that this treaty would pose no danger to our gun rights while simultaneously arguing before the Supreme Court that the national government can do whatever it wants in order to meet the obligations of an international treaty?  Remember, this is happening at the same time that the "just trust us" crowd is failing to get their gun control measures through both houses of Congress.

I'm not inclined to just trust anyone, especially those who've shown a penchant for continued power grabs and overreach into our daily lives.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gang-Bangers And Politics

By Dave Dargo

I'm having a difficult time reconciling two different stories I saw in the news today.

The first story is in regards to a Mr. Akein Scott of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Mr. Scott appears to have issues with authority, drugs, guns and his fellow human being.  Mr. Scott is the person arrested in connection with the shooting of 19 people in New Orleans during a Mother's Day parade.

You can read about Mr. Scott here.  Mr. Scott was out on a $15,000 surety bond after being released from jail on April 29.  He is currently awaiting trial for illegally carrying a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance.  He was arrested March 5 and initially charged with possession of stolen firearms, possession of heroin and resisting police.

In the article linked above, it is reported that Mr. Scott is involved in gang activity.  If true, this would likely make Mr. Scott what some would call a "gang-banger".

So far, we know that a gang-banger was involved in shooting 19 people during a Mother Day's parade.  Such a thug, in my opinion, should never see the light of day and anyone who helped him should also spend a very long time in prison; it's currently reported that family members were helping him elude police.

There's something seriously wrong with someone who's willing to open fire on a parade and shoot 19 innocent people.  There's something just as wrong with a family willing to harbor such a thug.

This would be just another tragic story but for the statements of U.S. House of Representatives member Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and her recent comments:
"Don't condemn the gang-bangers, they've got guns that are trafficked -- that are not enforced, that are straw purchased and they come into places even that have strong gun laws.  Why?  Because we don't have sensible gun legislation."
Those 19 people who were shot along with their family members are probably quite willing to condemn the gang-bangers and I certainly won't blame them.  Ms. Lee seems to believe that it's not the fault of Mr. Scott that he shot 19 people but, rather, the lack of strong gun legislation.

I'm willing to condemn a gang-banger who would commit such a horrendous act.  I'm willing to condemn the family of such a person who would harbor such an individual.  I'm also willing to condemn Ms. Lee who is, apparently, incapable of placing the blame squarely where it belongs: upon the shoulders of Mr. Scott and upon the offices of politicians such as Ms. Lee who would re-direct the blame from the true culprit.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Man With A Gun"

By Dave Dargo

It's an interesting radio-call to police officers on patrol, "Man With A Gun."  What does it mean and what should a police officer do?

In most areas of the country it is perfectly legal to openly carry a gun.  In fact, only five states and the District of Columbia actually have blanket prohibitions on the open carrying of firearms.

This is not to say that it's normal to see someone with a holstered pistol walking down the street or pumping gas at the gas station.  In many states it's so unusual, even if perfectly legal, that when some people see another with a holster on their hip they call the police and complain about a person with a gun.

What should the police do when they receive such a call?  Should they roll out in force and make sure the person is not a felon?  Should they remind the caller that it's perfectly legal to carry a firearm and to call back if the person does something nefarious?

Different states have different policies depending on their political leanings towards guns.  However, some of those anti-gun states may have to start re-thinking their policies of investigating every person who's sauntering down the street while carrying a firearm.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit handed down a decision on February 25 of this year giving more "advice" to the police on what constitutes an unreasonable seizure.  The concept of being seized by the police is an interesting one.  Essentially, if you are not free to go you have been seized.  You may not be under arrest, yet, but you aren't going anywhere of your own free will.  Until you are seized, either detained or arrested, any interaction you have with a law enforcement officer is entirely voluntary and you are free to end the interaction at any point.  Once you are seized, however, you ain't going anywhere.

So, what does it take for the police to be able to seize you?  In 1968, in a U.S. Supreme Court case known by virtually every police officer, Terry v. Ohio, Chief Justice Earl Warren recognized that police officers need discretion to perform their investigative duties but the latitude afforded by that discretion is limited in a way that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  So what makes a seizure reasonable?  It's when the police officer has reasonable articulable suspicion that the individual is engaged in criminal activity.

So what happens when someone free of a criminal record is innocently walking down the street with a firearm on their hip in a state where it is legal to do so?  Can the police stop and question that person?  Of course they can.  But, just as importantly as being able to question that person is that person's right to end the voluntary interaction at any time they so choose.

Here's where things got sticky for the police in North Carolina.  The police noticed a man carrying a gun on his hip.  In a chain of inferences and justifications the court said "border[ed] on absurd" and "defie[d] reason", the police officers chose to seize a certain Mr. Black and a number of other people.  The court noted that Mr. Black attempted to terminate an illegal seizure and was arrested at that point, was found to be a prohibited person in possession of a gun and was subsequently convicted of that crime.  The Fourth Circuit vacated that conviction.

One passage from the decision states, "More importantly, where a state permits individuals to openly carry firearms, the exercise of this right, without more, cannot justify an investigatory detention.  Permitting such a justification would eviscerate Fourth Amendment protections for lawfully armed individuals in those states."

There are huge issues with this case.  I have no sympathy for Mr. Black, a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.  However, as the court said, "The pertinent facts remaining in the reasonable suspicion analysis are that the men were in a high crime area at night.  These facts, even when coupled with the officers' irrational assumptions based on innocent facts, fail to support the conclusion that Officer Zastrow had reasonable suspicion that Black was engaging in criminal activity....In our present society, the demographics of those who reside in high crime neighborhoods often consist of racial minorities and individuals disadvantaged by their social and economic circumstances.  To conclude that mere presence in a high crime area at night is sufficient justification for detention by law enforcement is to accept carte blanche the implicit assertion that Fourth Amendment protections are reserved only for a certain race or class of people.  We denounce such an assertion."

So, how can I, a law-and-order conservative possibly be in favor of allowing a felon in possession of a gun to go unpunished?  That's an easy question.  I think it would be a larger injustice to allow government agents to freely break the restrictions on their activities that are designed to allow all of us to enjoy that most precious commodity of liberty.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

1st Amendment On The 2nd Amendment

By Dave Dargo

Based on legal advice, we don't offer our classes to non-U.S. citizens.  The legal advice stems from the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

ITAR is in the news today because of Defcad and their published files that enable a 3D-printer to "print" a gun, specifically their "Liberator" handgun.  A law student by the name of Cody Wilson has been promoting the ability to manufacture gun components by "printing" them with 3D printers.  These components include magazines, AR-15 lowers and a completely, well almost completely, plastic pistol.

The U.S. Department of State issued a letter to Defcad and Mr. Wilson ordering him to take down the files while everyone determines if Mr. Wilson is in violation of ITAR.

Now, I need to, in a short space, explain how this complex set of regulations has come into being and how it affects Mr. Wilson, our company and you.

The Arms Export Control Act was passed in 1976 and gives the President of the United States the authority to control the import and export of defense articles and services.  The U.S. Constitution grants a power to the national government to regulate international trade.  Therefore, it's perfectly acceptable to have a law that regulates what types of things can be imported and exported.  If the national government wants to prohibit the export of nuclear weapons, lasers, machine guns or even water guns it is permitted to do so through explicit language in the U.S. Constitution.

The executive branch of the U.S. government, which falls under the President, creates the regulations that put into place the restrictions on the import and export of defense articles and services.  In the letter to Mr. Wilson, the U.S. Department of State goes on to explain that items that are regulated include "...information in the form of blueprints, drawings, photographs, plans, instructions or documentation."

Thus, by publishing a file that a 3D printer can use to produce a gun component, Mr. Wilson, allegedly, is in violation of ITAR.  Mr. Wilson will need the government's permission in order to publish the files.

You'll notice that the letter also includes the word "instructions".  Now these instructions aren't just how to build a gun but also how to use a gun.  Therefore, according to legal advice we've received it is a potential violation of ITAR to teach a foreign national how to fire a gun and we would need the U.S. government's permission to teach a non-U.S. citizen how to use a gun.

Getting permission from the government before being allowed to tell someone something is called prior-restraint.  A U.S. Supreme Court case, Near v. Minnesota, held in 1931 that prior restraint is unconstitutional.  In that case the court did carve out an exception related to national security:
"The objection has also been made that the principle as to immunity from previous restraint is stated too broadly, if every such restraint is deemed to be prohibited. That is undoubtedly true; the protection even as to previous restraint is not absolutely unlimited. But the limitation has been recognized only in exceptional cases. 'When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.' (Schenck v. United States). No one would question but that a government might prevent actual obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops. On similar grounds, the primary requirements of decency may be enforced against obscene publications. The security of the community life may be protected against incitements to acts of violence and the overthrow by force of orderly government."
The government is trying to argue that such an exception to the 1st amendment applies in this case.  Our legal counsel is concerned that teaching someone how to safely use a gun falls under the national security exception to the prior restraint doctrine.

Let's think about this.  I mean, let's really think about this concept.

Are we really prepared to permit the national government to carve out such a large exception to the 1st amendment that we can't teach a foreign national how to safely handle a gun?  It is perfectly legal to manufacture one's own gun.  Are we really prepared to permit the national government to prevent us from telling each other how to do so?

If I were to publish how to fire an automatic weapon on the internet should I be worried about the national government coming after me?  Really think about that.  Even if you hate guns, even if you hate me are you willing to say it's O.K. for the national government to come after me for something I said or published?

I find it hard to imagine that the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of a regulation that promoted the prior-restraint of speech unrelated to direct national security issues such as publishing the dates of troop movements (part of the exception in Near v. Minnesota).

The problem with prior restraint and why it's so evil is that it has a tremendous chilling effect on the sharing of ideas - the very bedrock of freedom itself.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Self-Defense With A Firearm - How Many Times?

By Dave Dargo

We often hear in the news about the evil nature of guns and how they should be banned because of the vicious crimes predators commit with those guns.  It is true that felons will use firearms to further their evil plots but it's also true that good citizens use firearms quite often to protect themselves and their families.

There are some new surveys out from the U.S. Department of Justice that show trends in violent crimes committed with guns as well as documenting the number of times firearms are used for self-defense.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics just released their study, "Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008".  Not only are homicide victimization rates going down but so are fatal and non-fatal firearm-related incidents.

While there's good news in the reports there are also some disturbing news related to certain demographics.  Blacks were disproportionately represented as both homicide victims and offenders.  The victimization rate for blacks (27.8 per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for whites (4.5 per 100,000).  The offending rate for blacks (34.4 per 100,000) was almost 8 times higher than the rate for whites (4.5 per 100,000).  Males represented 77% of homicide victims and nearly 90% of offenders.  Approximately a third of murder victims and almost half of the offenders were under the age of 25.

The good news, though, is that homicide victimization rates are down for all demographics.  What has become clear from the data is the dangerous situations we've created, or allowed to be created, in our larger cities.  The larger cities are where crime rates, including homicide, are increasing.  Just have a look at Chicago where 2012 murders were up to 25% higher than for 2011.

There are a lot of people arguing over the reasons for the overall decline in crime, both violent and non-violent.  Some want to point to the fact that it's now much easier to legally carry a gun in those jurisdictions where the crime has dropped and it is much more difficult to legally carry a gun in those jurisdictions where homicide rates are increasing.  I don't think it's as clear cut as that but a statistic that virtually no news organization provides is the number of times a victim uses a firearm to defend themselves.

According to a May, 2013 study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Firearm Violence, 1993-2011", between 2007 and 2011 people used firearms over 335,000 times to defend against crime.  There were 235,700 times a firearm was used to defend against violent crime and just over 100,000 times a firearm was used to defend against property crime.

This survey shows numbers smaller than those found in other studies.  Nevertheless, this study from the U.S. Department of Justice shows firearms being used over 225 times per day to defend against crime.

The issue that jumps out from these studies is that a firearm is a tool used for both good and bad.  There appear to be cultural and demographic differences that contribute to higher victimization and offender rates amongst specific races, ages and genders.

Those who believe that they will solve either the problem of violence or crime by banning an object need to have a deeper look at the underlying causes.  Until you figure out why some in our society are willing to prey on other members and you figure out a way to stop it don't take away a tool that's used 60,000 times a year to defend against violent crime.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bullets Are Flying - Which Way Are You Running?

By Dave Dargo

A slight pause to remember and recognize just one of the thousands of American heroes who served our nation.  I came across Sergeant Joel's story while randomly wandering the internet and his citation for the Medal of Honor, as are countless others, is worth highlighting:

President Johnson presenting Lawrence Joel with Medal of Honor
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. SP6. Joel demonstrated indomitable courage, determination, and professional skill when a numerically superior and well-concealed Viet Cong element launched a vicious attack which wounded or killed nearly every man in the lead squad of the company. After treating the men wounded by the initial burst of gunfire, he bravely moved forward to assist others who were wounded while proceeding to their objective. While moving from man to man, he was struck in the right leg by machine gun fire. Although painfully wounded his desire to aid his fellow soldiers transcended all personal feeling. He bandaged his own wound and self-administered morphine to deaden the pain enabling him to continue his dangerous undertaking. Through this period of time, he constantly shouted words of encouragement to all around him. Then, completely ignoring the warnings of others, and his pain, he continued his search for wounded, exposing himself to hostile fire; and, as bullets dug up the dirt around him, he held plasma bottles high while kneeling completely engrossed in his life saving mission. Then, after being struck a second time and with a bullet lodged in his thigh, he dragged himself over the battlefield and succeeded in treating 13 more men before his medical supplies ran out. Displaying resourcefulness, he saved the life of one man by placing a plastic bag over a severe chest wound to congeal the blood. As 1 of the platoons pursued the Viet Cong, an insurgent force in concealed positions opened fire on the platoon and wounded many more soldiers. With a new stock of medical supplies, Sp6c. Joel again shouted words of encouragement as he crawled through an intense hail of gunfire to the wounded men. After the 24 hour battle subsided and the Viet Cong dead numbered 410, snipers continued to harass the company. Throughout the long battle, Sp6c. Joel never lost sight of his mission as a medical aidman and continued to comfort and treat the wounded until his own evacuation was ordered. His meticulous attention to duty saved a large number of lives and his unselfish, daring example under most adverse conditions was an inspiration to all. Sp6c. Joel's profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
There are those who will run into bullets to do what they know in their own hearts is the right thing to do.  They are not as concerned about their own safety as they are about their chosen mission and their duty.  Sergeant Joel personifies the sacrifices those who volunteer to serve in our armed forces make every day.

The next time you're faced with a difficult day at your job remember that you probably didn't have to run towards the bullets in order to perform your duty.