Guns & Ammo Throws Editor Under the Bus

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Those of us who are both long time gun owners and supporters of regulations that make this society safer from gun violence breathed an ever so slight sigh of relief when Dick Metcalf wrote an editorial in the December 2013 Guns & Ammo which said what so many of us fully understand…that there are sensible firearm regulations which do not infringe on the Second Amendment, that there are common sense solutions to the “all too many examples of unsafe behavior”.

Was it a change in philosophy as this gun magazine, the largest and one of the oldest in the industry stepped a toe away from intransigence and toward sensible solutions? Apparently not.

November 6th, just a few days after the original article was published the Editor of Gun & Ammo wrote an “apology”…an apology for stifling conversation on one of the most important discussions in the national arena,  an apology for throwing one of its own under the bus…well, not exactly. Jim Bequette, the editor apologized for pissing off his “hopping mad” readers [and his “hopping mad” advertisers]. He also doubled down on Guns & Ammo’s hard core, unfettered backing of the Second Amendment and, as seems to be the rule in the gun debate, if someone comes to the table with opinions that are not lockstep with the NRA, with the enthusiast community, and more important with the gun industry…under the bus with them.

Mexican Standoff

“Dick Metcalf has had a long and distinguished career as a gunwriter, but his association with “Guns & Ammo” has officially ended.” Editor, Guns & Ammo, 11.6.13

Yep…fire him because he opened up the conversation. Fire him because he had the audacity to stand up and say “maybe we need to give this some thought”. But thought is the last thing on the mind of the gun fanboy community, the last thing on the mind of the 85 advertisers to Guns & Ammo…well, 86 if you count the monthly Viagra advertisement.

But are we back to square one, back to that point where the gun enthusiasts come to the table in lockstep, an air of absolute intransigence?  NO, we are not. Because now we know that there are folks in the gun enthusiast camp who know that the NRA’s blind support of the gun industry is wrong, who know that the best solution for gun owners is to come to the table, not throw rocks at it. That toothpaste can’t go back in the tube…it is out and now both sides of this important subject know that there is a viable third side…that of gun owners who support regulations.  And that is good.

It is somewhat ironic…or possibly just a cosmic coincidence that Dick Metcalf’s article came out just about the same time as the SLATE gun death ticker turned over 10,000. Maybe it is just a coincidence that it came out just as Virginia elected a governor who actively came out against the gun lobby in a very gun friendly state. Maybe it was just a coincidence that it came out as news of families of five, in four different states died from gunfire. Maybe it was just its time.

I was asked if Dick Metcalf would continue to work in the gun magazine industry…I strongly doubt it. That group has a very sad history of banishing anyone who dares to not stay in lockstep with their fringe opinion. And that is a very sad commentary on those in the gun enthusiast community…that they so very much fear dissent, fear that at some point the realization will gel that just maybe it is their opinion that is wrong, that their intransigence and stubborn support for the gun industry was not defined with reason, with facts, but forged from fear, uncertainty and dread…along with a request for a donation to the NRA.

If it was about the Second Amendment you would not be reading this. It is not. It is about hobbyists who like to shoot, it is about gun lobbyists defending the billion dollar gun industry, it is about a generation who does not like to hear the word “no”.

Put simply, Dick Metcalf did the right thing and he is being pilloried by gun enthusiasts, by the gun lobby and by the gun industry. Guns & Ammo did the wrong thing…throwing one of their own under the bus based on his opinions. This simple litmus test will help define you as you draw your conclusions.

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

 

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And The Verdict Is…

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Over the past sixty or so hours since the Zimmerman verdict there have been volumes of observations, discussions, debates, pissing contests and virtual barroom brawls as folks come to terms with both the verdict and their own perceptions of it.

Those that know me know I engage in many of these debates, not because I love to wallow in the mud but because I have found that debating with those of opposing or differing opinion helps me learn…I learn to clarify my thoughts and opinions and I learn to be a better person. And becoming a better person should be our main goal in life. Most else falls from that.

The Zimmerman case has become somewhat of a Rorschach test…our own opinions and views helping to define the inkblot.  Sometimes the inkblot is easy to interpret and sometimes it is a reflection of our deep subconscious  and either way we see what our perceptions tell us.

What I have learned is that seldom does a jury like this one have a simple set of evidence that matches a simply defined crime. More likely they have a janitor’s key ring full of evidence that needs to match a series of generic, worn locks and just as likely the pins and tumblers don’t quite match up…and that has to do with perception.

What we end up with is an interpretation of the body of evidence, interpretation of the law, the subjective nuances of the oratory of the opposing attorneys and value judgments of those who have witnessed the crime or interpreted the evidence – all viewed through a lifetime of experience. Pretty simple, huh?

To the element of “interpreting the law” we can learn much. The “confrontation” is where the crime begins. As pointed out by a good lawyer type guy… the confrontation begins when the first punch was thrown.  In the Zimmerman case, we don’t know who threw the first punch, we only know who pulled the last trigger. As far as I can read in the transcripts we only know that, at some point Martin may have confronted Zimmerman and started the last minutes of his life.

If my interpretation [there is that damned word again] is like that of many folks, I tend to look at the totality of the incident, not a parsed single event in the middle of a running confrontation. We are offended because we see the “incident” beginning when Zimmerman made a subjective interpretation of the everyday milieux of life that was happening in front of him. His initial interpretation of an unfolding scene tipped the first domino.

Intertwined in this case were another couple of significant issues. On one side it became a litmus test for the right to protect ones’ self and “stand your ground” and on the other side it became yet another example of racial inequality in the justice system.

People are asking very hard questions of our society…would the Sanford Police have treated Zimmerman differently had he been black? Would the media have treated the case differently had it been “just another black on black crime”? Would a black man have gotten the same $1,000,000 defense? Would a jury of six black women and black judge have rendered the same verdict? Would the media have taken sides on the issues of race and stand your ground if the races have been different? Do we have a right to protect ourselves, no matter the surrounding circumstances?

If any good has come from this case, it will hopefully be that ALL people will look hard at these questions and do something besides rationalize preconceived notions about them.

What I believe…

If George Zimmerman had stayed in his truck and called 911 as the guidelines for the Neighborhood Watch program suggest, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.

If George Zimmerman had gone back to his truck and waited for the police as he was instructed by the 911 dispatcher, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.

If the roles were reversed, and every element of evidence was the same but George Zimmerman was black and Trayvon Martin was white, Asian, or Latino, the legal system, from the time the cops arrived; from the time the public defender presented his defense; until the time the verdict was rendered, he would have been treated differently by our legal system.

The prosecution overreached in asking for 2nd Degree Murder and that a verdict of not guilty was correct.  As correctly pointed out, we don’t know who started the confrontation, we don’t know the details that led from following to pulling the trigger, we only have evidence that a confrontation did in fact take place. And to that, there was an obligation to give the benefit of the doubt. George Zimmerman was on trial, not the system, not stand your ground, not racial inequalities.

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Yesterday I posted up a photograph of Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson [Gregory Peck and Brock Peters] . The intent was to observe that, 53 years after Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird about race and prejudice it sadly still exists.

It may have been interpreted differently.

We like to think of the law and justice as clean, unbiased, and honest. And sometimes it is. But, like life itself it is more likely somewhere in the 254 shades of gray in between black and white.
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And yet again we go to interpretation…And more often than not we wear tinted glasses.

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.


The Sandy Hook Shooting Legacy – Six Months Later

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There have been 182 days since America woke up to the mind-numbing violence that erupted on Newtown, Connecticut. Six months have passed since politicians fell all over themselves trying to find the nearest camera, the nearest microphone to extend their deepest, heartfelt sympathies to the families of the 26 victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and to promise that they would do whatever possible to make sure that the senseless tragedy never occurred again. In that six months many things have happened, most showing the worst side of Americans, our unwillingness to work together to actually do something to reduce the senseless deaths, our willingness to write-off the lives of 10,000 Americans each and every year.

In that six months – just 182 days – we have over 5,000 more dead to add to the Butcher’s Bill, over 5,000 people whose future stopped cold because of gun violence. And this past six months were not exceptionally violent, not a spike in the “normal” course of murder, manslaughter, accidents and suicides. And it is that “normal” that is so appalling. We have, as a society allowed, each year over 10,000 people to die from gun violence and another 20,000 suicides with firearms to become an acceptable reality. And more important, it is the WHY we have allowed it that is so reprehensible.

Flash

When any discussion of deaths, and ways to slow it down bubble to the top of the national zeitgeist Americans tend to step up with great support to do everything in our power to stop, or at least slow down the number of deaths. You cannot begin to count the number of organizations and grassroots groups who fight cancer, to stop its relentless killing. When a disease like Muscular Dystrophy cuts down children, society does everything it can to just make it stop. Since 1952 Jerry Lewis helped raise over $2,000,000,000 [that’s TWO BILLION] for research in MD cures.

When deaths from automobile accidents exceeded 50,000 per year in 1966, the public, government, and industry began to work on solving that deadly problem. They enacted legislation to require seat belts, to install collapsible steering columns, remove steel dashboards, make interiors of cars safer, redesign frames and bodies of cars to burn off the energy from a crash, rather than push all that energy to the occupants. As a result, with a population that has added 120 million, we have reduced deaths to under 33,000 per year and dropping. That success occurs as Americans now drive over 3,000,000,000,000 [THREE TRILLION] miles per year…three times what was driven in 1966. Further, because of the actions of MADD, deaths from drunk driving have fallen from over 60% to just over 35% in a 30 year period, due to a determined legislative and public perception campaign to stop drunks from killing on the highways.

MADD Drunk Driving Deaths crop

But the attitude about deaths from gun violence is strikingly different. Many Americans don’t react the same way to these thousands of deaths per year. They quickly respond “it happens” or “it is the price for freedom” or “guns don’t kill people, people do” or “gun owners are responsible”…all an attempt to rationalize that they care more about their hobby than they do about 30,000 lives a year being lost to gun violence. Now, they will scream Second Amendment to the top of their lungs but it boils down, by the end of each debate that they just don’t want changes to the status quo, don’t want to be inconvenienced by that additional 10 minutes required to do a background check on ALL weapon sales. They argue that gun owners are responsible, never mind that responsible gun owners have over 240,000 guns stolen from their homes and cars each year which end up in the black market; that hundreds of children a year are killed or wounded by guns that they fail to properly stow. And more irrationally they argue that their guns are to defend against a tyrannical government, and that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, though they would be really happy if you would kindly ignore that whole “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” part of the Second because it really, REALLY throws a curve ball into their argument.

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It has been a hard six month as we look at gun violence. Included in the over 5,000 killed by gun violence are attacks at 10 schools including Lone Star State and the University of Central Florida, and we have had spree killings throughout the country including Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Nevada.

Besides the two headline grabbing types of gun violence, 2013 has seen multiple deaths from multiple instances of domestic violence and family shootings. But the ones that seemed to hit the public hardest, those that were easily the most preventable involved kids picking up guns that their parents failed to stow. In April a six year old was shot and killed by a four year old in New Jersey – just two days after a four year old in Tennessee finds a deputy sheriff’s “unloaded” gun and kills the deputy’s wife. On May first, in Kentucky a two year old died from his brother’s “first gun”. One month later, tragedy was in Rusk, Texas. And in between a 15 year old is killed in Oklahoma when her little sister dropped her mother’s pistol on the kitchen counter top.

Those are seven instances of children dying from gun violence in the past six months. If I wanted to be thorough I would provide links to the 268 teens who have been killed or the 94 children under 12 who have died since Sandy Hook.

The response from those who support the intractable National Rifle Association’s position on guns are always the same…”It happens”, “Guns don’t kill people…” and the most appalling…”It is the price of freedom”. It is embarrassing that, in a 21st Century society we still have people who have such a disregard for life, that prefer a selfish, narcissistic approach that THEIR hobby is more important than the lives of 10,000 cut down by gun violence each year.

We as a society are better than this. We are better than the callous folks who just blow off unnecessary deaths because of their inconvenience and in reality an endless propaganda machine that is the NRA. The NRA has so brainwashed many of these folks with their constant “they are coming to get our guns” that the supporters simply kneejerk and parrot their responses rather than realize that the NRA is winding them up to get more and more money from them, to support their lobbying efforts for the gun industry.

NRA-Grip-on-Congress

In six months, Congress has done nothing. That’s not exactly true. Congresspersons have taken in millions of dollars from the NRA and its PAC the NRA/ILA for their re-election campaigns, monies supplied by the gun industry and members.

What they have not done, however is provide comprehensive, bipartisan solutions to begin to reduce the number of deaths from gun violence. As supporters of the NRA will tell you, gun deaths are down, and they are. What they won’t tell you is the drop began as the Brady Bill and later NICS were implemented. But, much like that annoying “well regulated Militia…” clause in the Second Amendment, facts get in the way of a good dose of fear and paranoia.

The Rise of Grassroots Action

And one last thing that seems to be very important in this past six months. While our Congresspersons have failed America, failed to build consensus solutions to save lives from gun violence, the public has shown that they have had enough. Grassroots campaigns and social media groups have banded together to push for solutions. When folks who support sensible gun laws lost one battle in April, where Congress could not even pass a simple bill to strengthen background checks so felons and the mentally ill can’t buy guns a funny thing happened.  They didn’t fold…in fact they strengthened and grew. From groups like Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns to Jim Brady’s Brady Campaign to Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions to the very grassroots Occupy the NRA and It Can Happen Here and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the voices are getting louder, more organized, more united.

The voice is clear…We as a society are better than this. We will not stop until solutions are in place.

Previously Published 6/14 on LiberalAmerica.Org and ItCanHappenHere on Facebook.

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip


Who Arms America’s Gangs? – “Responsible” Gun Owners

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When we talk about death by gun violence, it is very easy to fall into one of two traps, either cover all gun violence deaths under the same blanket or to only look at the results of gun violence from those types that are media friendly. Gun violence comes from a myriad of sources, from kids finding daddy’s gun to spree killing to mass murder to domestic violence to gang violence. Solutions cannot be found under one blanket, where one size fits all…the solutions, and the causes of the problems are disparate, and from that we look at the different types of gun violence that results in death.

Gang violence has been a part of this country’s history since the early 1800s, from the early Irish gangs of New York, where it was estimated that 55,000 immigrants held allegiance to gangs in 1855 [out of a total population of 550,000] to the Italian gangs that began in the early 20th Century and the rise of small gangs during Prohibition. American history, both academic and popular is riddled with the famous and their Hollywood counterparts, intertwined…Capone, Gambino, Bonny and Clyde, Lucky Luciano, Godfather, Goodfellas, Sopranos.

And they have splintered further, Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, Devil’s Disciples, Vice Lords, Triads and they cross every ethnic line, from Irish to Italian to Mexican to Russian; white, black, Latino, Asian.

And that brings us to the 21st Century, gangs represented by nearly all ethnic groups, by drug cartels, by the disenfranchised, the mean. It is reported that gang violence accounts for over 50% of ALL violent crime in this country. The FBI reports that 800 murders are committed by gangs, both “gangland” and juvenile gangs each year and that another 800 murders are committed by drug interactions.  All in all, gang murders account for about 15% of the 10,000 murders committed with guns in this country. [FBI Uniform Crime Report]

So, where do gang members get their guns? With many having some criminal record and their names flagged on NICS background check systems, how do the estimated 1.400,000 gang members in this country get armed up?

Turns out, the legal, responsible gun owner is mainly responsible for arming up the gangs of America. How? Several ways, including, but not limited to leaving guns unlocked that get stolen [about 240,000 each year] to selling them at gun shows and on the internet to those who have cash in hand and where no questions are asked.

Earlier this month WTVF, Nashville completed an investigative report of gang members in jail and how they got their weapons. Jonathan Gutierrez, serving a life sentence for murder in Tennessee when asked where he got his guns told reporters “Most of the weapons that were used were coming from the gun show.” Further he said that, at age 15, he and other gang members went to local gun shows with cash and were easily able to buy four to six guns each visit.

“Anybody will sell you a gun,” Gutierrez said. “I mean no matter what, if you want a gun and you show them the money, and tell them you want to buy it, he’s going to definitely sell it to you.”

Now, does this mean we blame the gun owners for the violence that those guns in the hands of criminals do? Not directly…but gun owners do hand a lot of weapons to gang members.

Put another way, if, every year you handed 240,000 guns to five-year olds and left them unsupervised, THEY would be responsible for pulling the trigger but it would be that person that made the gun available who would hold ultimate responsibility. The same goes for those who sell guns without background checks; who sell them to straw purchasers; who don’t lock up their weapons and have them stolen. With every right comes responsibility. And, like it or not, it is our responsibility as gun owners to make sure OUR weapons do not end up in the hands of criminals.

We have to face the facts that criminals don’t buy retail. They steal guns, they buy stolen guns, they buy perfectly legal guns from “responsible” gun owners at gun shows, they use straw purchasers to buy guns, and they buy from federally licensed dealers who know that the chance of the ATF inspecting them is near zero because of ATF budgets. They know the weaknesses in the system and they exploit them. And we as a nation pay dearly for that in loss of life, in costs for Emergency Rooms, in law enforcement costs associated with the thousands of deaths and injuries each and every year because of illegal guns.

But the saddest part of this, gun owners blow it off, ignore the responsibility that they hold refuse to tighten the filters, making it harder for criminals to get guns. Gun owners have said they don’t want to be bothered with the 10 minute background check that would be helpful and they don’t feel it is their responsibility to lock up their weapons away from criminals, away from kids. So the deaths will continue as long as “responsible” gun owners prove yet again that they really are not.

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip


The NRA, Kids, Paranoia and Maginot Line Home Defense

National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in St. Louis
The juxtaposition of the killing of a two year old in Kentucky this week with the NRA Convention in Houston provided the NRA the opportunity to strongly get behind the concept of child safety when it comes to firearms. It gave them the opportunity to show that they had a mature, reasoned, thoughtful idea of what to do to protect children from gun violence.

I know it will come as a surprise to many of you but apparently the NRA chose the “Hold my beer and watch this” approach, with marketing to kids in the forefront and seminars that continue to foster the paranoia of marauding hordes of home invaders.

Think Progress managed to snag a video of one of the vendors at the NRA Convention as he gave a home defense seminar. Again, I know it is a surprise but he has a shaved head, goatee and dressed in black…official uniform of the gun enthusiast.

From Think Progress we have a transcript of much of his position that it is just an awesome idea to keep a weapon in a safe in your children’s room.

Rob Pincus lg

PINCUS: How about putting a quick-access safe in your kids’ room? […] Good idea or bad idea? We have an emotional pushback to that. Here’s my position on this. If you’re worried that your kid is going to try to break into the safe that is in their bedroom with a gun in it, you have bigger problems than home defense. [Laughter] If you think that the kid who’s going to try to break into the safe because it’s in their room isn’t sneaking into your room to try to break into stuff, you’re naive and you have bigger problems than this. So let’s settle that issue and think about it. In the middle of the night, if I’m in the bathroom or getting a glass of water or in the bedroom or watching TV in the living room, if that alarm goes off and the glass breaks and the dog starts barking, what’s the instinct that most people are going to have, in regards to, “am I going to run across the house to get the gun, or am I going to run over here to help the screaming kid?” And if I’m going to go to the kid anyway, and I have an extra gun and an extra safe, why not put it in their closet?

You can hear all the words in this video. [link]

Now, about those quick action safes and kids – you know where the speaker says “If you’re worried that your kid is going to try to break into the safe that is in their bedroom with a gun in it, you have bigger problems than home defense.” Yeah…about that.

If you want to see a three year old kid pop the most popular “quick-access safes”…here you go [link]. What do you think a curious eight year old will do? Or a 12 year old?

But this brings up questions, philosophically, practically and tactically.

Philosophically and practically, the question revolves around just how prepared a person needs to be to protect his home and family from the extremely rare home invasion. There are no official statistics that define what a home invasion is or how many occur, but it is common for robbery and domestic violence to be included in home invasion discussions, more likely if the writer is trying to show just how many there are, usually for his profit.

I have spoken with police commanders and other government folks about this and the overriding opinion is that “if you really think you are going to get your home invaded, you are likely doing something else to make that happen, selling drugs, receiving stolen property, and stuff like that”. In other words, your likelihood of being a victim of home invasion is based on the likelihood that you do things that draw bad people to your home.

Now, that is a generalization based on the observations of some cops in urban and rural areas and having read news stories about reported events. There are genuine home invasions, unprompted by environmental conditions and they deserve attention, the victims deserve the right to protect themselves and their family.

That brings us to responsibility…how do you SAFELY and RESPONSIBLY protect your family and home without stepping over that edge into paranoia? How do you keep your family safe without also endangering them with guns strewn all over the house – “just in case”?

Now, tactically, and this is the one that bothers me – stowing a gun in the children’s room to be quicker at getting to a weapon. The question becomes – does the gun owner risk bringing the potential gun battle into the children’s room where they are in Harm’s way?

Or does John McClane believe he will be able to get to the kid’s room, make safe the kid, extract the weapon from its safe and then move to his more battle hardened Maginot Line?
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What we have in this seminar, and in many gun discussions around the country is the concept that the homeowner should never be over a few seconds from his gun. Many gun owners acknowledge carrying a weapon in their home during normal family time. Many acknowledge stuffing guns in out of the way places like between couch cushions to have one ready. At what point does this level of fear, rationalized as “being prepared”, that chaos is only moments away override reason and make a home less safe rather than more safe?

I want to be clear; I have ZERO problems with folks protecting their home and family, whether with alarm systems which light up the place and blare until turned off, a family dog or a firearm [or a combination]. Most cops say that if you have an alarm system that cranks up bad guys will find a different place to be stupid.

But I have big problems with the current gun culture that says that you should keep guns everywhere, carry them all the time, be hyper-vigilant for the extremely rare instance when chaos comes calling. The problem is shown in incidences just this past six months. Cop showing guns to neighbors at parties…kid grabs it and shoots, kid finding gun in granny’s backpacksix year old kid “playing” with his own rifle…kids playing in the yard, one goes in, gets a gun and shoots his friend. In the gun culture mind it is not necessary to properly stow your weapons because that might be the five seconds you need to stop that marauding horde.

If only as much thought was put into safety as is into the planning for that horde, that coming apocalypse. But it is not, because that doesn’t sell more guns, doesn’t drive the addictive urges that the gun culture fosters.

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.


Just Another Child Killed…Move On, Nothing To See Here

boy with rifle

Another child shot and killed another child yesterday. She was at least the 220th child or teen killed by gunfire this year. 60 of them under 12. Her name was Caroline Starks and she was TWO and lived in the sleepy little rural community of Burkesville, Kentucky. Her five year old brother took his new gift, a $100 youth model Crickett 22 caliber rifle and shot her. Her mother, who was home at the time said that the gun was “kept in the corner”.

Crickett my first rifle

There is obvious sadness in that home right now, the death of a child is horrific. The Cumberland County Sheriff says it was “Just one of those crazy accidents.” No, no it wasn’t. It was negligence and stupidity.

One law that is on the books now, and has been since 2005 regards locking mechanisms for guns, sometimes trigger locks, sometimes cable locks which are shipped from the manufacturer with each new gun. The folks at Crickett built in a mechanical lock for the gun [see video].

I have written about this before…six times just this year, just 10% of the deaths from gun violence. If you need reminded, there was the boy in New Jersey who killed his friend [link], the boy who grabbed a deputy sheriff’s gun and killed the deputy’s wife [link], the Tennessee kid who killed himself in March [link], and the list goes on [link].

The constant is that this shooting will be thrown aside just like the rest. The 60 kids under 12, from 29 states will be ignored because they are not multi-day media circuses. There is not a convenient way for the national media to bump up their ratings by focusing on these little deaths. Anderson Cooper will not jet to Burkesville Kentucky, Fox will not have it the subject of their talking heads, NBC will give it 30 seconds. Even the local newspapers and television stations will not speak of it within a week.

So they will continue to just die. Gun enthusiasts, who believe their right to own firearms is more important than the right for someone to continue to live will say “It happens” or “It is the price of freedom” or that “we have enough common sense regulations right now”. Sure they will say they are sorry it happened. But what they won’t say is that they will step up and actively work on a solution to make sure it happens less and less and less. And so the kids will just continue to be killed.

Gun enthusiasts will continue to blame everyone but the gun, politicians will continue to bury their head in the sand, hoping they don’t have to answer yet another question about gun violence and society will just turn their head away, hold their breath and say a prayer, glad that it was not their child killed…this time.

We used to be better than this.

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.


To Friends in a Virtural World

Dearest Facebook friends,

It never fails that, after I post up something controversial or opinionated [as seldom as that happens] folks will respond with comments. Some benign, some…well, a bit more caustic. And somebody will send me a little note asking how I could possibly be friends with someone “like that”.

So for those who are new to my sandbox, here is an expanded version of my set response.

You will find all flavors of folks here, from the far left to the far right [and apparently the Far Side].

When the discussion turns to religion you will see the mix includes believers and non-believers, Christian ministers and evangelists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, Agnostics and Atheists. And many of their positions will surprise you. And all of their beliefs are respected – though when they might want to foist their beliefs on others…that’s a different story.

When talk turns to guns and gun control, there are gun control folks, gun rights folks, gun hobbyists, collectors and some that until very recently didn’t care one way or another. There are a couple of folks who work in the gun industry, there are folks who work in law enforcement, there are folks who work full time on gun control issues, there are folks who stitch up those who are victims of gun violence, and there are victims of gun violence.

When it comes to the environment…there are lawyers on every side of the debate, there are folks who actively protest actions against our environment and there are folks who truly believe that global climate change is a hoax [and they have the youtube videos to prove it]. There are folks who focus on protecting animals, those who fight to protect our natural infrastructure, those who make their living in coal and oil industries. So when you chime in, and please do you might find that you are talking with an attorney – either for the industry or the government or one of the environmental interest groups. You might be talking to a geologist or a real climatologist [not weather guy]. So be prepared.

And every once in a while we will talk politics…There are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarian, libertarian, Tea Party and I believe Anarchists. They cover the political spectrum from “just voters” to political analysts and consultants. And they cover the newly exuberant young folks who see problems and demand change and they cover more seasoned folks who see problems and demand change…with a boatload more experience demanding it.

Friends here cover five continents [and Harlan] and professions that range from students to doctors, lawyers, systems folks, IT folks, engineers of several flavors, economists, professors, teachers, managers, small business owners, big business owners, disc jockeys, librarians, photographers, writers, government workers, politicians, career military, retired military, and some folks who work now or used to work for three letter government agencies. There are folks who stay home and raise their kids; there are folks who have been retired longer than some others have been alive.

And those friends include folks I have known since I was three years old to those who I have never once met except on the pages of Facebook or one of a couple dozen fora.

So, come and play, you will learn something if you keep your mind open and every opinion [no matter how bone-headed it will seem to some] is welcome…even encouraged.

And as I always remind those that are new…enjoy the sandbox and please, wear a cup.

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.


Week From Hell Ends On High Note

Here is what I know about the last seven days. They sucked. Let’s run it down.

Last Saturday Night the big controversy was that the NRA had taken sponsorship of the Texas 500 NASCAR race down in Texas. The controversy was multi-faceted in that there was controversy that NRA did it, that people complained of insensitivity that they did it and that Fox Sports did everything they could to avoid saying the name NRA500, showing the race logo – or empty seats – or discussing the controversy. All in all a normal race with the cars going in circles to the left and buzz going in circles to the right.

Sunday…Masters and it looks like Tiger is in the news again. ’nuff said.
Tiger

Monday…we as a country looked forward to a bumpy week of “anniversaries”, from students shooting up Columbine High School to a conflagration at Waco’s Branch Davidian Compound to domestic terrorism in Oklahoma City to a crazed lone gunman at Virginia Tech, all anniversaries that coincided with a vote on background checks for gun purchases.

On the other hand, the week was starting good as the DOW began the week at 14,850, just a couple of points down from its all time high the week before and over 8,200 points higher than its bottom due to the Bush Recession.

Then there was Boston…At 2:50PM two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was an event that showed the worst of humanity and the best of humanity, juxtaposed and interwoven as terror is supplanted by acts of selflessness in helping those maimed and injured.

boston-marathon-explosions42

Tuesday seemed like a hangover of Monday…a news overload as updates of the Boston Bombings continued non-stop. Then came breaking news to break into breaking news. Ricin is found in letters addressed to both Republican Senator Mississippi Roger Wicker and President Obama at the White House. Field tests proved inconclusive so they went to another lab in the area…I somehow envision Abby Sciuto and Major Mass Spec on the job. Turns out – yep Ricin. Time for a Caf-Pow reward.

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On Wednesday, in West, Texas an explosion rocked the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility. A facility that had 540,000 pounds of Ammonium Nitrate shook central Texas, felt 50 miles away. The death toll, now at 14 is expected to continue to rise. Had the company followed rules it would have either had no more than 400 pounds of the highly explosive material or would have been scrutiny by the Department of Homeland Security. Turns out DHS had no idea they existed…no idea that they had explosives less than a mile from an elementary school.

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One official described the damage as like a tornado which makes us believe that it must have sounded like a freight train OR, the new metaphor for describing tornados [or tarnaders as they are often known] will be “It sounded like a big assed ammonium nitrate bomb.” I’ve heard it both ways.

Anderson Cooper and his tight sweaters hopped a plane from Boston and headed to West, Texas. This week’s Breaking News now has frequent flier points and Anderson needed to do something to clean up after John King’s error in announcing a suspect had been caught based on “three credible sources.” Maybe not so much.

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In other news on Wednesday, the Senate failed to pass even the most watered down background check amendment to address gun violence. Republicans can take comfort in the fact that the story was buried deep behind Boston, Texas, and Ricin Boy.

Thursday was not particularly better…everyone feeling like they had been on a cross country road trip in the back of a VW microbus for what seemed like days [not that there is anything wrong with that]. It was honestly difficult to remember what day what tragedy happened.  But a bit of good news surfaced as Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis was arrested in Corinth, Mississippi for the Ricin attacks. This was good in that the poison terrorist was now arrested and there is one less Elvis impersonator on the loose. Thank you very much.

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And at 5:00 on Thursday, just 74 hours and change after the first bomb rocked Boston the FBI released photos of the two bomber suspects. While both looked like just about anyone, the younger one bore a resemblance to a young Christopher Moltisanti. Tony would be pissed. After combing through what had to be terabytes of digital content, from videos of security cameras to media to the thousands of photos that folks emailed in at the FBI’s request, they narrowed the subjects down…had pictures of them, their backpacks and them placing them at the bomb sites. Elliot Ness would be proud. It was a day of successes. Ricin Boy in cuffs and two terrorist suspects IDed…

As Thursday ended everyone was just begging for the week to end. But neither the week nor even Thursday were over yet. At 11:08 the social media and internet lit up with news that a campus cop had been shot on the campus of MIT. By itself, not a big national story but, with the car jacking of a Mercedes SUV a few minutes later, along with a description by the driver and video of the 7/11 where the crime occurred the two common events [a shooting and a car-jacking] took on extra importance. These were the bombers. And it seemed that every cop in Boston dropped onto the streets of Cambridge within minutes. The police scanner was non-stop for three hours as the car chase included gunfire while driving and grenades lobbed out of the stolen Mercedes at the cops.

By 12:30AM, Friday Boston police had stopped the fleeing Mercedes and a vicious gun battle erupted in a sleepy neighborhood in Watertown, three miles west of Cambridge and about five miles from the Boston Marathon finish line. Hundreds of shots were fired and bombs lobbed by the two Marathon bombing suspects. As Suspect One, now know at “older brother” stood up and charged cops with guns blazing and suicide vest on he was taken down as he ran out of ammo. Suspect Two, now known as “little brother” hopped into the Mercedes and plowed through the police line, including those who were handcuffing his brother. He all-terrain’ed his brother as he fled the scene.

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By 1:00AM the world knew that one of the two Boston Marathon suspects was down and the other in the wind. Oh, yeah, the three cable news channels and the networks decided to join in the party, nearly two hours after social media, tweeterworld and on-line scanners had informed the nation. Anderson Cooper was on another plane, back from Texas, heading to Boston, likely with a mission to refocus CNN. Time for bed.

Friday was still in full swing as the Boston police, Mass State Police, FBI, ATF, DHS, DoD and likely many more federal alphabet agencies were in full dragnet to the point of closing down the city of Boston on Friday including cancelling baseball and hockey in the city. At 6:00PM the lockdown for Boston is lifted as it is thought that the suspect may have slipped through the net and was in the wind.

Not an hour later a citizen spotted a boat with a torn tarp. As any guy would do in a city where an armed terrorist was on the loose with an assault rifle, pistols and likely bombs – he went over and took a peek in the boat. Suspect Two was there. He called 911. Police swarmed the area. It got noisy.

At 8:43, 101 HOURS after the first bomb went off Suspect Two was in custody and on his way to the hospital.

We saw the absolute best of America as our often maligned police, FBI and other federal agencies did an awesome job of solving a major terrorist event in less than five days. Those who bitch and whine about taxes or the oppressive government or public sector unions need to go sit in the back of the room for a while and just STFU.

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So, we end the week with Saturday…a day to rest, for Bostonians to get back to baseball, for calm to be restored after the week from Hell. It is 4/20…and that means a national focus on pot but today at 5:00PM in Denver, Colorado at a pro-pot rally shots rang out…two were shot and thankfully no one died.

This week…Just. This. Week. we end up with three killed in terrorist bombings in Boston, another dozen or so still critical, 14 [so far] killed and 200 injured in a chemical plant explosion in Texas, Ricin sent to politicians, two cops shot, one of them killed in Boston in the manhunt for the two terrorist bombers, one boat riddled with bullets, one terrorist dead, another in the hospital under arrest and a large harshed buzz in Denver.

Kids, it’s time to chill. We can’t take too many weeks like this.

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip

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NRA Goes Racin’ And Forgets To Check Rear View Mirror

Kyle Busch

NASCAR racing is a pretty closed sport…you either love it or hate it, follow it or not. This weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway it was different. In early March, the NRA, following two months of being pummeled by the press and public for a tone-deaf response to the massacre at Sandy Hook decided to sponsor itself a race. So, this weekend we had the NRA 500.

But it was different in two ways. First, an argument broke out in the infield of the race and a man decided to kill himself with a handgun. Second, and more significant [except to the family and friends of the dead man] was that Fox Sports seemed to bend over backwards to NOT use the name of the race. In every instance of the pre-race show and the race they referred to it as the Texas 500 or the Texas Motor Speedway 500.

First, to the death in the infield. At this time there are not many details but the basics are that Kirk Franklin, 42, of Saginaw, Texas got in to an altercation at the speedway during the race. He ended the altercation by shooting himself to death. Alcohol may have been involved.

Normally, and by that I mean over the past 30 years or so a hallmark of NASCAR races is the way that announcers and drivers do everything they can to repeat the names of the sponsors as many times as possible. It is not “fill up with gas”, rather “fill up with Sunoco Racing Fuel”. It is not “I want to thank my team”, rather “I want to thank the crew for setting up the awesome Dupont, Pepsi MAX, Quaker State, AARP Drive to End Hunger, Rick Hendricks Motorsport Chevrolet SS today for the Subway 500.”

The announcers have been particularly guilty as they work in any and all references to race sponsors, from the Sharpie 500 to the Kobalt 400 to the Budweiser Shootout. But it didn’t happen that way this weekend. This weekend the title – NRA 500 was not mentioned a single time. That extended to the pre-race, showing of logos and photo-ops.

At least two of the drivers were told not to mention the sponsor and to not be shown by the logos.

NRA 500 - Practice

To be fair, they also did not mention, or show up close video of the [takes a deep breath] Michael Waltrip Racing Number Fifteen Clint Bowyer Gander Mountain With Rights Comes Responsibility Secure Your Firearms Camry; and Michael Waltrip and his NASCAR champion brother Daryl were both part of the Fox Sports announcing team. This change in sponsor name dropping seems to have started with the broadcasters last week, when they didn’t readily promote the STP Gas Booster 500 by name, though they did promote the STP 500 next week in Kansas by name.

NASCAR itself has spent a month distancing itself from the NRA500 and the controversy that it created. Facing backlash in the sponsorship agreement NASCAR spokesman David Higdon spoke to ESPN where he said “in light of this weeks race, NASCAR will be examining its rules moving forward as to who can be allowed to sponsor races.”

The controversy took a national turn when Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy asking that Fox network not broadcast Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race sponsored by the National Rifle Association. If the broadcast was any indication, it seems that Fox Sports did make a conscious decision to minimize NRA promotion.

In early December, 2012 Bob Costas jumped into the politics of gun violence with an extended comment during halftime of Sunday night football in the wake of the murder/suicide of Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend and other shootings that had occurred. Conservatives jumped all over Costas and NBC for his introduction of the politics of gun violence into the world of sports…Four months later those same conservatives are jumping all over Fox Sports because they did not introduce politics into the world of sports.

That insular world of NASCAR opened up a bit this week, the outside world spilled into their lives as the bigger middle of America, that large group that is neither pro-gun nor anti-gun violence found their actions…well, tacky. The outside world questioned that they should have known better, that they should have been more sensitive to the zeitgeist of the nation rather than bring partisanship into the NASCAR world. But most of the outside world would be even more appalled to know that it was as late as 2004 when the Southern 500 finally caved to end its Rebel Flag waving showcase race.

Darlington-Southern-500-Confederate-Program

In the end, the controversy is on what was not said, what was not shown rather than what was. Oh, and Kyle Busch in the Number 18 Interstate Battery, M&Ms, Joe Gibbs Racing Camry took a bow with the Sunoco Checkered Flag™ for the first, umm NRA 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.


Taped Meeting Reveals McConnell Sleaze and Use Of Senate Staff [and Mystery Presenter]

Mitch 1

It is 20 months before the 2014 Kentucky Senate race. Now is the time of the year where folks on either side should be getting their ducks in a row, determining if they have support and begin their fundraising. We shouldn’t be hearing a peep out of Mitch McConnell or any opponents regarding the election…it is just too early. But this is Kentucky, home of Henry Clay. And since Clay entered the national stage in 1806 as a US Senator at the tender age of 29, Kentucky has been just a bit different. Just one year later, while serving as Speaker of the House, he and another Congressman got into a “misunderstanding” which resulted in a duel being fought in January 1806 between Henry Clay and Humphrey Marshall. It was over requiring members to wear homespun suits rather than those made of imported British broadcloth.

On April 9th Mother Jones broke a story that followed the quickly developing news that someone had secretly recorded a campaign strategy session at Mitch McConnell’s Louisville headquarters back in February. At the time the Internet and media were abuzz about the possible candidacy of Ashley Judd to go after McConnell’s seat…one he has held since 1985.

The transcript of the meeting is here. It opens with the “presenter” laying out their opposition research on Ashley Judd.

“I refer to [Judd] as sort of the oppo research situation where there’s a haystack of needles, just because truly, there’s such a wealth of material.” [presenter of the meeting]

The main things to come out of this secret campaign meeting was that they fully intended to use past health issues of Judd in a smear campaign that also includes her personal views on children, mountaintop removal, supporter of gay marriage, her religion, and of course her “liberal Hollywood” image. But the focus was on crushing her, not comparing her to McConnell’s positions…so the target is her mental health…

“Ah, and again. She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it’s been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.” [presenter of the meeting]

Two questions arose regarding the meeting – did McConnell used Legislative Assistants, who are paid for by taxpayers during the campaign planning session and just who was the [Presenter] at the meeting presenting opposition research? Was it a member of McConnell’s Senate staff or, as some suggest that it was someone from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads superPAC, the group that put out the hit-piece on Ashley Judd – just FIVE DAYS LATER. Neither would be legal under Federal Law.

Following the release of the transcripts the story took on a life of its own, being reported throughout the blogosphere and through national media. It became a tale of “your dirty tricks caught our dirty tricks”, though by the time McConnell held his second or third press conference on the subject, he was heralding that his headquarters was professionally bugged, never once thinking that it might have been one of his staff that thought that the actions of the campaign crossed an ethical line.

And, like Kentucky weather, going from the mid 80s back to the 40s over the next few days, politics in Kentucky do not stand still. This afternoon the good folks at WFPL FM reported the source of the leak of information that was given to Mother Jones. Jacob Conway, on the executive committee of the Jefferson County [Louisville] Democratic Party told WFPL that Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison of Progress Kentucky bragged to him about recording the meeting, which was held Feb. 2 at a newly opened McConnell campaign office in Louisville, Ky.

“They [Reilly and Morrison of Progress Kentucky] were in the hallway after the, I guess after the celebration and hoopla ended, apparently these people broke for lunch and had a strategy meeting, which is, in every campaign I’ve been affiliated with, makes perfect sense,” says Conway. “One of them held the elevator, the other one did the recording and they left. That was what they told to me from them directly.” – Jacob Conway

Conway later told FoxNews that he outed the leak because he “didn’t want the actions by Reilly and Morrison to inflict damage on Democrats in Kentucky.”

In speaking with Jacob Conway this evening he reiterated to me “I meant no malice toward Progress Kentucky nor Reilly/Morrison that my intent was to speak to what the reporter already knew and to insure no damage was inflicted to the Kentucky Democratic Party by Progess Kentucky’s actions.

This is not the first instance of the democratic SuperPAC stepping to the edge [or over] the line. On February 14th, Progress Kentucky tweeted “This woman has the ear of (Sen. McConnell)—she’s his wife. May explain why your job moved to China!” The tweets and their implications were resoundingly rejected by Kentucky politicos and bloggers as over the line, a fuzzy oft times invisible line.

But not to leave well enough alone, today McConnell approached the FBI to complain that his office had been bugged and his campaign spokesman compared the recording to Nazi Germany “This is Gestapo kind of scare tactics and we’re not going to stand for it,” Jesse Benton told radio host Mike Huckabee on Wednesday.

Was it wrong? Sure. But to compare it to the actions of Nazi Germany is indicative of McConnell’s inability to understand equivalence or history…I would have gone with Nixonian rather than Gestapo. But that would have brought up Nixon, and McConnell, at the time of Watergate was well into National Republican politics. It might have been a touch too close.

Today the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether McConnell violated federal law and Senate rules by misusing Senate staff or resources to conduct opposition research on potential campaign opponents.

So, let’s summarize the last 48 or so hours.

  • Recording of McConnell campaign strategy meeting released by Mother Jones.
  • Recording indicates McConnell campaign [TeamMitch] plan on using old mental health issues and religion against Ashley Judd [who had not even declared that she would run for McConnell’s seat].
  • McConnell complains to the FBI that his office had been “bugged.”
  • McConnell aide compares bugging of conference room to actions of Gestapo in Nazi Germany.
  • Jefferson Democratic Party leader outs Progress Kentucky for the recording.
  • Recording was an iPhone drive-by from the hall, not a “bugging of the office”.
  • CREW files ethics violation complaint against McConnell

And it is still April…20 months before the General Election. Stay tuned.

Mountains tower proudest, thunder peals the loudest, The landscape is the grandest,

And Politics – the damnedest. In Kentucky — Judge James Mulligan, 1902

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McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.