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Firearms and Marijuana

An illegal combination, under federal law. Regardless of the legality at the state level, marijuana is still classified at the federal level as a schedule 1 prohibited substance. This means that possessing both is a federal crime, punishable by up to $10,000 and as many as ten years in prision.

The Montana Free Press contacted the Bureau of Alcohol,Tobacco and Firearms to confirm, learning that the Federal Gun Control Act prohibits anyone who uses a controlled substance from purchasing firearms or ammunition.

Even if its medical? Yes. Even if it is medical, federal law still prohibits possession.

While the possession of marijuana alone is still a federal crime, it carries only a $1000 and up to a year of jail time for the first conviction. Add a firearm to the mix, and the potential consequence is multiplied by ten.

The state of Montana has an estimated 66% rate of gun ownership. Estimates suggest that about 20% of the adults in the state use marijuana, but those are probably low (given that using was illegal at the time of the survey, it seems very likely that people would under-report). Given these numbers, it is very probable that the two groups intersect. Federal law makes that risky.

Community

A Higher Standard for Kim Potter

Some folks write that the verdict in Kim Potter’s manslaughter case was too harsh.  I kind of understand the folks who figure two manslaughter convictions for the same killing could be a bit excessive.  I understand that she really did intend to tase (instead of shoot) the guy.  I understand the guy she shot contributed to the incident.  I understand that the woman Daunte Wright pulled a gun on and attempted to rob and choke would have had a great self-defense plea. I understand Daunte was not a nice man.

I also understand that people who are authorized to use violence on behalf of the state need to be held to a higher standard than actors, than citizens in general.  Potter had 26 years of experience, and her career ended with a negligent discharge and a dead guy.  It is correct to expect near perfect gun handling from our police – yet many are not particularly proficient with their pistols.

Just before Christmas, a 14-year-old girl was shot and killed in a clothing store’s dressing room.  The story reads like a guy who was mentally ill created a furor, attacked a woman with a bicycle lock and was shot and killed by the responding LA police.  At least one officer failed to realize that behind his target was an occupied dressing room.  Colonel Coopers 4th rule: 4.) Be sure of your target.   The long version is “Be sure of what is between you and the target along with what is behind the target”.  Responsibility accompanies the decision to carry a gun – for all of us.  Even more responsibility accompanies one who is authorized to use deadly force.

Carrying a pistol on the right and a taser on the left may be a systemic problem, a decision made by someone who had little or no experience with how folks react under stress.  I’ve never used a taser – but I have had folks tell me how I should pack bear spray instead of a pistol.  I’ve carried a handgun off and on for over half a century.  Habit tells me where it is.  The phrase is unconscious competence – and if I were to convert to bear spray, my skill level would be either conscious competence, or conscious incompetence.  If I carried bear spray on the left and a revolver on the right, I would probably do the habitual thing and pull the pistol.  An administrative decision may have contributed to the negligent shot that killed Daunte Wright and sent Kim Potter to jail.  Still, we should expect better gun handling from police.

Colonel Cooper had 4 rules:

RULE I: ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED

RULE II: NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY

RULE III: KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET

RULE IV: BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET

Kim Potter violated rule II.  It may have been an accident.  It was definitely negligence.

Community

The Man Sounded Knowledgeable and Confident

A pleasant man stopped by asking to hunt on the place.  He explained that he uses black powder, and his bullet can only travel 70 yards.  He sounded confident in his assertion. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to teach a computer course for gunsmithing students half a lifetime ago, I might have believed him.  I did make the comment that I had watched a movie about a guy named Quigley, and he seemed to have shot a bit farther than 70 yards.  His response was that he uses round balls.

It wasn’t like I was being paid to educate him.  So he left with a no hunting answer – and yet the incorrect statement, and the confidence bothers me.  He isn’t making an Alec Baldwin quality mistake – but the error remains.  A round ball leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to aerodynamics.  That’s why the minie ball (invented in 1849) replaced the round ball when the war between the states came along.  Still, it’s not like a round ball rifle has a 70 yard range – my math tells me that if I can put a 50 caliber roundball out of the barrel at 1800 feet per second, I have a projectile that, if I sight in 3 inches high at 50 yards, will be pretty much on target at 125 yards. 

There’s the Civil War story of General Sedgwick – Confederate sharpshooters were firing from around 1000 yards away when the general said “Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”  He was apparently unfamiliar with the Whitworth rifle and the fact that the Confederacy had at least 20 of them.  There is no record of the Confederates hitting an elephant that day, but one marksman did hit General Sedgwick. 

Tim Murphy is credited with a 350 yard shot from a flintlock at the battle of Saratoga, in the American Revolution, that ended the career of the Scots general Simon Frazer.  There are arguments as to who actually fired the shot that took the general out and what the range actually was – but it would take another 75 years before the minie ball was developed. 

Black powder has been effective for a long time.

Community

Heller- More Than a Single Court Decision

Much of the law on firearms accessibility is listed in dates and names.  Miller commemorates a bad man, whose poor marksmanship led to his need for a sawed off shotgun, and a court decision that short-barreled shotguns weren’t suitable for military use.  On the other hand, Heller’s name is immortalized in the court case that restored the second amendment after Miller took it away.  “The court ruled that the District of Columbia must give Heller a license to possess a handgun inside his home. In the process, the court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms and that the district’s handgun ban and trigger lock requirement violated the Second Amendment.” 

The National Review simplified the decision starting with “Here’s a quick (and, given its 64 pages, necessarily highly selective) summary of Justice Scalia’s opinion for a 5-member majority in District of Columbia v. Heller, invalidating D.C.’s handgun ban on Second Amendment grounds:

1.  The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense at home.  (2-54)

      (a) In the Second Amendment’s operative clause (“the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”), the phrase “the right of the people” creates “a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”  ( 5-7)

In the phrase “to keep and bear Arms”, the word “Arms” “extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”  (8)  The phrase “keep … Arms” means “have weapons.”  (Slip op. at 8-9).  The phrase “bear Arms” means to “carry weapons” and was understood as part of “the natural right of defense ‘of one’s person or house”.  (9-18)  It “in no way connotes participation in a structured military organization.”  Justice Stevens’s claim that “bear Arms” “connotes the actual carrying of arms … but only in the service of an organized militia” incoherently gives “Arms” two different meanings at once:  

It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.”  Grotesque.  [13]

      The operative clause thus guarantees “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.  This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment.”  (19-22)

 (b) The relevant question for the prefatory clause (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”) is whether it is consistent with our reading of the operative clause.  (4-5, 22.)  The phrase “well regulated Militia” means “all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”  (22-24)  The phrase “security of a free state” meant “security of a free polity,” not security of each of the several States.  (24) [This point would seem to defeat one of the strongest arguments against incorporating the Second Amendment against the States.]

            The prefatory clause “fits perfectly” with the operative clause, as the founding generation knew that “the way tyrants had eliminated a militia … was not by banning the militia but simply by taking away the people’s arms, enabling a select militia or standing army to suppress political opponents.”  (25)  But the prefatory clause “does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting.”  (26)

 (c) Our interpretation is confirmed by analogous provisions in state constitutions (27-30), is not undercut by the drafting history of the Second Amendment (30-32), is consistent with how virtually all interpreters of the Second Amendment interpreted it in the century after its enactment (32-47), and is not foreclosed by any of our precedents (47-54), including United States v. Miller (49-53).

The whole article is available at  https://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/district-columbia-v-heller-scalias-majority-opinion-ed-whelan/ and worth reading

 You can hear Scalia’s opinion here:

Still, Dick Heller has gone far past a single Supreme Court decision – his foundation goes on to list ( https://www.hellerfoundation.org/ ) 3 more completed court cases, and a fourth undescribed but upcoming.  His most recent – Heller 4 – dealt with keeping the ability to build your own gun in DC.

Community

No Second Amendment in China

Nail guns, modified to shoot 22 bullets, are an alternative in the people’s republic where the right to keep and bear arms doesn’t exist.  Human ingenuity in overcoming the gun-banners.  I think the picture is of guns seized by some sort of police (I can’t read the Chinese).  The whole story is here.

I do kind of admire the chunk of tree used for a stock on the center rifle. 

Community, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Why Did it Have to be …Guns?

Why Did it Have to be … Guns?

by L. Neil Smith

lneil@lneilsmith.org

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been paid to write almost two million words, every one of which, sooner or later, came back to the issue of guns and gun-ownership. Naturally, I’ve thought about the issue a lot, and it has always determined the way I vote.

People accuse me of being a single-issue writer, a single- issue thinker, and a single- issue voter, but it isn’t true. What I’ve chosen, in a world where there’s never enough time and energy, is to focus on the one political issue which most clearly and unmistakably demonstrates what any politician—or political philosophy—is made of, right down to the creamy liquid center.

Make no mistake: all politicians—even those ostensibly on the side of guns and gun ownership—hate the issue and anyone, like me, who insists on bringing it up. They hate it because it’s an X-ray machine. It’s a Vulcan mind-meld. It’s the ultimate test to which any politician—or political philosophy—can be put.

If a politician isn’t perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash—for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything—without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn’t your friend no matter what he tells you.

If he isn’t genuinely enthusiastic about his average constituent stuffing that weapon into a purse or pocket or tucking it under a coat and walking home without asking anybody’s permission, he’s a four-flusher, no matter what he claims.

What his attitude—toward your ownership and use of weapons—conveys is his real attitude about you. And if he doesn’t trust you, then why in the name of John Moses Browning should you trust him?

If he doesn’t want you to have the means of defending your life, do you want him in a position to control it?

If he makes excuses about obeying a law he’s sworn to uphold and defend—the highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights—do you want to entrust him with anything?

If he ignores you, sneers at you, complains about you, or defames you, if he calls you names only he thinks are evil—like “Constitutionalist”—when you insist that he account for himself, hasn’t he betrayed his oath, isn’t he unfit to hold office, and doesn’t he really belong in jail?

Sure, these are all leading questions. They’re the questions that led me to the issue of guns and gun ownership as the clearest and most unmistakable demonstration of what any given politician—or political philosophy—is really made of.

He may lecture you about the dangerous weirdos out there who shouldn’t have a gun—but what does that have to do with you? Why in the name of John Moses Browning should you be made to suffer for the misdeeds of others? Didn’t you lay aside the infantile notion of group punishment when you left public school—or the military? Isn’t it an essentially European notion, anyway—Prussian, maybe—and certainly not what America was supposed to be all about?

And if there are dangerous weirdos out there, does it make sense to deprive you of the means of protecting yourself from them? Forget about those other people, those dangerous weirdos, this is about you, and it has been, all along.

Try it yourself: if a politician won’t trust you, why should you trust him? If he’s a man—and you’re not—what does his lack of trust tell you about his real attitude toward women? If “he” happens to be a woman, what makes her so perverse that she’s eager to render her fellow women helpless on the mean and seedy streets her policies helped create? Should you believe her when she says she wants to help you by imposing some infantile group health care program on you at the point of the kind of gun she doesn’t want you to have?

On the other hand—or the other party—should you believe anything politicians say who claim they stand for freedom, but drag their feet and make excuses about repealing limits on your right to own and carry weapons? What does this tell you about their real motives for ignoring voters and ramming through one infantile group trade agreement after another with other countries?

Makes voting simpler, doesn’t it? You don’t have to study every issue—health care, international trade—all you have to do is use this X-ray machine, this Vulcan mind-meld, to get beyond their empty words and find out how politicians really feel. About you. And that, of course, is why they hate it.

And that’s why I’m accused of being a single-issue writer, thinker, and voter.

But it isn’t true, is it?

“Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the author—provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and appropriate credit given.”

L. Neil Smith passed away recently – for folks who are unfamiliar with his writings, many are available at https://lneilsmith.org/   It’s worth checking out.  I’ve learned that few of these blogs live longer than a year past the author, and Neil Smith was worth reading.

Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Dear Senator Tester

Dear Senator Tester:

I notice that the proposed director for ATF, David Chipman, has said he would like a ban on the AR-15 rifle, that it is not suited for use other than military.

Since you come from Big Sandy, I’d like to share a story about my daughter.  She was hit by a semi as she was stopped to make a left hand turn.  The concussion left her with prosopagnosia (face blindness and object recognition challenges),  and the impact pretty well trashed her right shoulder – she can’t even handle the recoil from an M1 carbine, but the lighter .223 bullet, with the direct gas impingement, is gentle enough that she can handle the recoil of an AR-15.

Here in Trego, we live in grizzly country.  She can hike the woods in my quarter section where I have the trails blazed to show which way leads to the house and which way leads away.  She has a small dog who does an amazing job at identifying people.  And the AR-15 rifle gives her a much more even chance if she encounters a grizzly (or two) than the other light recoil option of a 22 long rifle.  The injury has taken her ability to use a large caliber handgun – she is pretty well limited to a .32 ACP blowback to make recoil manageable.  The dog takes care of recognizing threats and she can still have a chance with an aggressive bear or cat if she has the light recoil of the AR-15 with the .223 (larger cartridges like the 30 blackout still are beyond her recoil tolerance, and she’s not fond of my .223 bolt gun.

So I’m hoping that, with Choteau close to your home, you can understand that she has a use for the AR-15.  Frankly, I wish she were still able to use a 45 – but I am happy for the recovery she made – she is a high school science teacher and she and her dog really enjoy having 160 acres of forest where she can hike without fear of getting lost.  But last year, we had two problem bears (with collars) that FWAP wound up euthanizing.  They were 5 yards from my front door.  A couple years ago, a griz trapped by FWAP on the place had his video go viral as he tried to use the rope on the gate to reel in the warden when he (the bear) was released.  We have had two adult grizzlies through this year, one a sow with cubs. 

I can understand how the President, coming from Delaware, doesn’t share my reality – but I figure that, while your place in Big Sandy may not see as many grizzlies as we do, you probably have neighbors that are more similar to us.  I have friends who are scarred from their grizzly encounters – for myself, I have had nothing worse than confrontations that ended with the bear leaving. 

I figure that with the Senate split as evenly as it is, I should ask you to vote with Montana instead of the President, and keep the AR-15 available.

Thanks,

Michael McCurry

Trego, MT

Community

Montana Gun Control

I note that the governor has signed a bill that “forbids state and local law enforcement from enforcing federal bans on guns, ammunition and magazines.“   Detractors – folks who want the gun control efforts to grow in Montana are quoted as saying that this “would make it difficult for local law enforcement to collaborate with federal authorities on issues beyond gun access when such collaboration is essential to protect public safety.”

There are times it is good to be old, and have a long memory.  Back when the first Assault Weapons Ban was law, Ravalli County Sheriff Jay Printz challenged it as unconstitutional.  Sheriff Printz thought it was wrong for congress to compel state employees and elected officials to enforce Federal law.

District court agreed with Printz, then the 9th Circuit reversed the decision, and it went to the Supreme Court.  On June 27, 1997, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, reversed the 9th Circuit, finding that the ban’s attempt to commandeer county sheriffs to perform background checks was in violation of the tenth amendment. 

Remember, I’m a scientist, not a lawyer – but it looks to me like a Hamilton Sheriff, nearly a quarter century ago, has already completed the legal defense for  “Montana Federal Firearm, Magazine, and Ammunition Ban Enforcement Prohibition Act”.   The complete bill is available.  It does reference the Printz case, and it looks like state and local employees will not be allowed to assist Federal officers in enforcing this law.

A Science for Everyone, Community

Meriwether Lewis and his Assault Weapon

There weren’t any AR-15’s on the Lewis and Clark expedition.  But Lewis’ Girandoni air rifle served the purpose of showing firepower at the time.  We’re looking at half the congresscritters wanting to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds – and the Girandoni was a 20 round repeater.  The whole story is here: https://www.beemans.net/lewis-assault-rifle.htm and it’s worth reading.  To convince you, I’ll bring in a few high points.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark that I read in my youth were incomplete – actual publication of the “whole story” didn’t come around until 2001 – so little was in print about Lewis’ air gun.  The Girandoni came from Austria.  About 1,500 of these air rifles made it into the Austrian army, beginning around 1770, and all were surveyed out of commission in 1815.  We know that Lewis bought it in Pennsylvania, and that he wasn’t fully proficient with it as he started the expedition:  “Thomas Rodney, who was a day visitor to Captain Meriwether Lewis while he was traveling down the Ohio River at Wheeling, Ohio in September of 1803, contains a tiny passage which has caused new thinking about the Lewis airgun. The passage reads:

Visited Captain Lewess barge. He shewed us his air gun which fired 22 times at one charge. He shewed us the mode of charging her and then loaded with 12 balls which he intended to fire one at a time; but she by some means lost the whole charge of air at the first fire. He charged her again and then she fired twice. He then found the cause and in some measure prevented the airs escaping, and then she fired seven times; but when in perfect order she fires 22 times in a minute. All the balls are put at once into a short side barrel and are then droped into the chamber of the gun one at a time by moving a spring; and when the triger is pulled just so much air escapes out of the air bag which forms the britch of the gun as serves for one ball. It is a curious peice of workmanship not easily discribed and therefore I omit attempting it.”

(Beeman’s excerpt of Thomas Rodney’s letter.)

Other articles describe how Lewis would show that his rifle could fire 20 shots without reloading when he met with natives – and that they really weren’t sure that his was the only repeater.  For years, I believed the expedition was armed with model 1803 rifles – until I got to TSJC, and the college library showed the first 1803 was completed in October.  It looks like Lewis highgraded the Harpers Ferry arsenal for fifteen 1792-94 contract rifles – and he may have had some cut down by arsenal smiths, as his journals refer to “short” rifles.  Authorized more than the 15 men he had rifles for, the record suggests that the rest brought their model 1795 muskets along.  With Clark bringing a 36 caliber rifle, the expedition definitely did not have standardized weaponry.

Again – the Beeman article is worth reading – click on it, and enjoy reading how the most unusual gun carried by the Lewis and Clark expedition was discovered and identified by its history of repairs.

Community

Remembering Hunter Safety

I was one of the lucky ones – we had a pair of instructors for Hunter Safety.  Danny On taught the sections on wildlife, and Ed Ruhl taught guns.  Danny On was a forester with a camera. For folks who lacked the privilege of knowing him, there is a page describing his life at Asian Pacific American Employees Association.  Books with his photographs are still in print and available. A trail on Big Mountain bears his name.  Ed Ruhl was a Marine. Chief Warrant Officer Edgar Ruhl, USMC (retired) – and he brought his own examples of every weapon he had used or encountered between Haiti and Korea.  Not “Gunny” you understand, but Mr. Ruhl, or “Gunner.”

“Dis is a spring-gun.” he explained as he showed a nice looking air rifle.  “I got it on Okinawa.  Da little bastid dat was using it didn’ have any more use for it after I ran my baynit troo him.”  I suspect the little bastid actually shared Ed’s rations after he swapped the spring-gun away from him. It was similar to this photo:

I learned that the world’s finest handgun was the Model 1911A1 – “Except you want the old 1911 mainspring for women, ‘cause dey have smaller hands.  It doesn’t kick – my wife uses dis one.”   My first 1911A1 didn’t shoot so well – but I learned what a match bushing and a slightly longer link could do.  By the time I was 35, I had learned that the old Colt 45 automatic could match all of Ed Ruhl’s praise.

The finest hunting rifle was, of course, the Springfield model 1903A3 – “Used to think the 1903 was the best, but the A3 is parkerized and has a peep sight.  Much better.”  In the sixties, there were a lot of them available – and I looked for Ed’s preferred Remington, and replaced the cut-down military stock with an inexpensive, drop-in stock from a magazine ad.   A lot of them made it back to the land of the big PX, and became hunting rifles for two generations of hunters.  It was there when I discovered high power competition.

And I learned that my single-shot 22 just didn’t make the grade: “Dis is a Reising model 65.  Used it on Guadalcanal to take dare snipers out of da trees.  Didn’t like the model 50, but Reising did a good job with the 22.” 

It took me almost half a century to find a Reising.  A previous owner (probably named Bubba) had removed the original front sight and replaced it with a pricey target sight that guaranteed the rifle couldn’t hit anything – it was a half-inch too tall.  It did bring the price down, and when I removed it, I found that most of the threads underneath were intact, and I could buy a brand new, 70-year old front sight for $4.95 plus shipping from West Hurley, New York.  It shared the front sight with the model 50 that Ed despised – and with the sights returned to normal, I managed to set it up the way those WWII Marines used it.  There are enough elevation clicks in the rear sight to make it a 200 yard 22.  I realized as I brought it back into condition that a light trigger pull was not required for the old breed.

As I look back, Hunter Safety from Ed Ruhl was formative.  It took me a while to learn that the FBI wasn’t connected to the justice department – it was an informal group of elderly female residents of Fortine who relentlessly found the basis and actual story behind any and every half told piece of gossip in their community.  He installed respect for the relentless women of the Fortine Bureau of Investigation.  I don’t know how many people are still around who learned weapon voodoo from pre-war Marines who had served in Haiti – hand signals designed to make the real voodoo practitioners wake up in a cold sweat.  I signaled a Haitian grad student with one, and over 40 years after Ed had taught the voo, I got confirmation the hand signals were recognized.  “You don’t want to mess with those powers!  Where did you learn that?”  Jean-Michel still knew of the Marines who brought their version of peace to Haiti.

Ed’s life exemplified responsibility.  As his wife’s health failed, he moved to Great Falls to be near a military hospital.  I recall his story describing how Alzheimer’s had taken her memory, as she explained, “You’re a nice old man.  My husband would like you.”  While Danny On has public memorials, Ed’s memorial has been, and remains, intensely private – shared now with my son-in-law as he learns to use the 1911a1, and next summer when we move onto the Reising.