Information Control

The problem with gun control is that in the end, it turns out to be information control – and that isn’t easy.  Japan has some downright strict controls on firearms – but this thing got next to the former prime minister:

No lathe.  No Mill.  A couple of pipes, home-made black powder, batteries to ignite the powder.  Looks to me that the most high-tech component of the gun build was a large roll of electrician’s tape.

People have been making black powder for most of a millennium.  Charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur.  Charcoal is easy to obtain.  Saltpeter (potassium nitrate) might take a while – but you could use the Confederate Jno. Harrison’s method and get it from your own urine.  Push come to shove, I could extract sulfur from sheetrock – from drywall.  The Japanese assassin opted for electrical ignition – so I could do that with 9 volt transistor radio batteries. 

The problem with keeping guns banned is that they are fairly simple tools – not so simple as an inclined plane or a lever, but still simple.  A tube that is open at one end and closed at the end that includes an explosive or propellant charge.  Basically a piece of pipe with an end cap.


A Well-regulated militia

As I listen to the comments about the need to do something to keep another Uvalde from happening, I’m hearing the usual comments that the second amendment is more to authorize a militia than the individual right to bear arms. 

That I disagree is not an adequate reason to ignore the argument – scientific method pretty much demands listening respectfully to folks who disagree.  Fortunately, the internet gives me access to historical research that was confined to university campuses a quarter-century ago.  There is the problem of avoiding confirmation bias, but I can cope with that.

Hartnation goes through the importance of the militias during the American revolution.  Remembering my long ago American History classes, I think George Washington expected a militia unit to be able to stand and fire 3 rounds, but not stand when the Brits closed with bayonets.  Hart described how dependent the Continental Army was on the local militias:

At the beginning of American independence an immense task faced the colonial revolutionary. The English army, the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world, had served in the Americas, enforcing the will of the crown for many decades. American victory rested in the ability of the colonists to put together a viable fighting army. We know from history that the American Continental Army, commanded by George Washington, defeated the superior British army and expelled the rule of the crown from the colonies by 1783.

. . . How much did the colonial militia contribute to enable the Continental army to defeat the British? I would posit that the militia movement was the driving force behind the Continental Army’s victory over the British because they were the main source of manpower, because they were already trained and armed with a 150 year harden tradition of defense to protect their own communities, and because the militia was made up of mostly  farmers and landowners, they stood to gain the most from independence giving them something tangible to fight for other than “liberty”.”

Militias also provided the Continental armies in the field much-needed manpower, albeit on a temporary basis. When British commanders planned for their campaigns against the Continental armies in the field, they had to take in account the size of the militia forces operating in those same geographic areas. The British knew the militia were unpredictable, but they could not totally neglect their presence either. In some instances, militia units were the deciding factors in important battles. The war’s first battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts were fought mostly by militia with some minutemen units. At the Battle of Bunker Hill, outside Boston, militia dealt a deadly blow to the British. Later in the war at battles such as Bennington, Vermont, King’s Mountain, Cowpens, both in South Carolina and Guilford Courthouse, in North Carolina, the militia was crucial to American victories.”

Reviewing those historical comments, I get the feeling that the militia at the time of the American Revolution could have been described (as in the quote misattributed to Admiral Yamamoto) as a rifle (or at least a musket) behind every blade of grass.  The better regulated, the better drilled and prepared, the more essential to the security of a free state.

The Supreme Court  (Miller case) ruled that the Second Amendment did not protect weapon types not having a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia”.  This kind of invalidates the arguments against “weapons of war.”  That 1939 decision protects them.


Did I Prevent a School Shooting?

It’s been years.  I really don’t know if I prevented a school shooting or not.  A guy walked into the school and I could see the print of his snubby – so I walked up close, smiled an engaging smile, and asked, “What are you packing there?”  His answer was “I didn’t come here to see you.”  When someone is wandering into your college with a sneaky little gun, that’s probably the most reassuring answer you can get.

My answer was to bring him into my office, pour a cup of coffee, and reply with, “Now, tell me what’s up.”  I think he really did come in to see me – the tale was a bit unusual.  His wife, a student, had been into an amateur attempt at sex conversion therapy with another student, “a cute young gay man.”  It had worked to the extent that she was pregnant – and the guy with the sneaky little gun had gone through a vasectomy on his first marriage.  I think he mostly wanted to be able to talk to someone – so I listened, unloaded his Brazilian made revolver, stashed the cartridges, listened some more, and, after a half-hour or so, returned his revolver and sent him home with an empty cylinder.  I may have prevented a school shooting – but probably not.  I think it was just a case of an overpowering problem and a need to find an audience who took him seriously.  To this day, I don’t remember where I stashed the cartridges – but I’m willing to bet someone was really surprised to find them when I moved on.  I know I didn’t send the shells back home with his wife.

My experience was with one man, emotionally charged, who wanted to be talked out of it, who really timed things so he could be defused.  We had no school shooting.  We had no police called.  I suspect that, even so, I’ve been closer to school violence with this one incident than most of the folks who are willing to tell us exactly what needs to be done.

I don’t have the answers.  I developed a personal answer in 1989, when I read of the Montreal Polytechnique Massacre

“On 6 December 1989, a man entered a mechanical engineering classroom at Montreal’s École Polytechnique armed with a semi-automatic weapon. After separating the women from the men, he opened fire on the women while screaming, “You are all feminists.” Fourteen young women were murdered, and 13 other people were wounded. The shooter then turned the gun on himself. In his suicide note, he blamed feminists for ruining his life. The note contained a list of 19 “radical feminists” who he said would have been killed had he not run out of time.” 

My personal answer was simple enough: I will not leave my students. 

There was always a secure feeling in a class where I had a Marine enrolled – probably a bit more than sailors or army.  That was a security that elementary and secondary teachers never will have – that if worse came to worst in the classroom, I had reliable backup.  I don’t believe that a teacher exists who hasn’t looked at the world, and already determined what he or she will do if Hell comes through the classroom door. 

I’ve read of Sandy Hook – I have no doubt that Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach knew what they moved toward, and that their decisions were made long before Hell entered their school.  The wonderful thing is that such women lived – and that their actions and warnings protected others.  The sadness is that the only items they possessed to protect their students were their bodies.

Perhaps I do have a small suggestion – I believe that most teachers have thought about what they will have to do if their classroom is invaded.  Perhaps if every police officer spends a bit of time thinking about how to respond, when Hell enters the classroom they might be a bit more effective.


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.


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:





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


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.


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 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 ( ) 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.


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

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   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.


Michael McCurry

Trego, MT