Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Paper Targets: Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2013 by blackshepherd

Problem #3: Paper targets train shooters to target the wrong places.

Problem #4: Paper targets are two-dimensional instead of three dimensional.

I am going to discuss both of these issues together because they are interrelated. There are only two reliable ways to incapacitate a human with a gunshot. Shut down the central nervous system directly, or shut off the supply of oxygen to the central nervous system, by causing a massive drop in blood pressure. To do either of these things we must put holes in the brain, spinal cord, or the major vascular structures (heart and major blood vessels) that supply oxygen to the brain. The three targets most likely to achieve this goal are located in the head, the upper chest, and the lateral pelvis.

I am going to discount the lateral pelvis right off the bat. Proponents of this target claim that properly placed shots to the pelvic region break down skeletal structure, making an attacker immobile, and have a high probability of striking large blood vessels and nerves. This MAY be the case for a rifleman facing an opponent wearing body armor. However, we are talking about using a handgun in self-defense scenario. As previously discussed, bullets do funny things and pistol bullets in particular may break bone. Even if they do, an immobile attacker can still be a threat, as discussed in Part 3.

Acquiring the necessary point of aim is also problematic. Attackers are (probably) wearing clothes and (most likely) moving. It is not that difficult to identify an attacker’s chest or head. It is difficult to identify the pelvis depending on what a target is wearing and how they are moving. There are simply too few external landmarks to quickly and accurately place a shot. Finally, limiting our prospective targets increases response time (Hick’s law) and makes the most of potentially limited training time. Stick to the head and upper chest.

The highest percentage target is the central portion of the upper chest. This area contains the heart and the major blood vessels above the heart (aorta, vena cava, pulmonary vessels, etc). If you place a bullet in this area, it is very likely to damage one of these vital parts of the anatomy, causing a drop in blood pressure to the brain. This target area is a rectangle roughly bounded by the collar bones at the top, the breastbone at the bottom, and the nipples on either side. On the average male this makes a rectangle of roughly 9-10 inches wide and 7-8 inches high. For training purposes a 5’x8′ card pasted just below the neck of a cardboard silhouette is a good expedient. An index card is easy to see and is quickly replaced when it is too shot up to be of any further use. Another approach to visualizing the target area is the “cardiac triangle.” This is an imaginary triangle formed by drawing a horizontal line across the nipples and from each nipple to the neck just below the Adam’s apple. Use whatever method is the easiest for you to visualize but ensure that you are shooting at the target’s vital area.

With a head shot the intent is to disrupt the central nervous system by putting a hole in the brain. This does not mean simply shooting someone in the head. People think of a head shot as being instantly fatal but this is not borne out by history. There are innumerable incidents of people being shot in the head and not being seriously injured. The skull and face are made up of multiple hard bones with complex curves. Sinus and nasal cavities, upper and lower jaw bones, and even teeth have been known to deflect bullets, especially pistol bullets. This does not mean that someone shot in the face may not be horribly disfigured, but our intent is to immediately stop a deadly threat. To do this with a pistol we have to place a shot inside of a rectangle that goes from the lower outside edge of each eye and extends to the outside of the forehead. This rectangle is approximately 3’x5′ which makes a 3’x5′ card stapled to a target backer a convenient training tool. This is not an easy shot to make on a static target. It becomes much harder on a moving target. In addition the head is not static on top of the body. Watch a boxing match or MMA fight to see how quickly someone can move, turn, and bob their head when under stress. Know your skill level before planning to take a head shot in a deadly force scenario. It is your life, if the time ever comes, you had better be as good as you think you are.

The problem becomes that many paper targets teach us to aim “center of mass,” and are scored accordingly. Take a look at the some of the most common law enforcement and military targets:

le 1military 1

 The highest scores result from shooting the targets in places that are not necessarily vital, or are not the most preferred areas for shot placement. The vital areas in the head are also not clearly delineated and often do not indicate proper shot placement.

Many shooters do not take this into account and simply shoot at the highest numbers that are printed on the target. This is training us to repeat poor shot placement. Frankly, these targets are dangerous and could get you killed.

We must learn to shoot quickly and accurately, but if we are aiming at the wrong portion of the body then even accurate shooting will not be as effective. We have to know what our actual target is before we can shoot it.

Targets such as these are a better answer:

better 1

However, one does not have to break the bank to get decent targets. I construct targets similar to the ones above with scrap cardboard and a template that I made from scrap plywood. The template, a utility knife, and a marker and we are good to go. We need effective targets but we also need money for training ammo.

Problem #4: paper targets are two dimensional, people are three dimensional. This seems fairly self-explanatory but many shooters have never thought it all the way through. We are not training to shoot at a point on the outside of the human body. We are shooting through that point, to place holes in the actual targets which are the vitals inside of the body. If the shooter is offset from their attacker, or the attacker is turning away from the shooter, then the point of aim must be adjusted to achieve the correct shot placement. This is extremely hard to visualize on two dimensional targets. However, if we use even a rudimentary 3D target, the correct shot placement becomes much easier to visualize. As below:

angle views

Imagine that our shirtless friend is a threat. Notice how his orientation to your line of fire will effect your point of aim to get the desired shot placement. Another very effective way to visualize this is to use a training partner. Have them stand at arms length from you and slowly turn in a circle. Stop them intermittently and then reach out and touch the exact point on their body where you would aim to get an effective pistol shot. This is kind of eerie when someone does it to you but it is a highly effective drill for visualizing shot placement.

Finally, shoot 3D targets. One can purchase relatively inexpensive mannequin type targets. Or we can make 3D targets out of anything that we can coax into a relatively humanoid shape of the right dimension. Cardboard, plastic, and duct tape are your friend.

Whether you are using 2D or 3D targets, ensure that you are delineating the actual vital areas of the body and not simply “center of mass.” Many shooters may initially find themselves drawing to a natural point of aim, that is indexed on the middle of the target, because of long habit. This is a training fallacy that must be addressed and remedied. Initially, delineate the vital areas on your target. Practice getting shots into the vital areas as fast as possible, with no regard for shot groupings. If all the rounds are in the box, shoot faster. Once rounds start to impact outside of the lines, slow it down and make your shots. Shooting outside of your comfort zone is what makes you better, push yourself.  Once you can reliably make fast and accurate shots to the vital areas, it is time to remove the reference lines and shoot at a target that looks more like an actual person. Draw in only the landmarks that exist on a clothed person. Eyes, nose, Adam’s apple, neck notch (it is actually called the suprasternal notch but it is simply that dip in your neck right above your collar), ears, whatever landmarks you can spot on everyday people. These become reference points for finding our target areas. Unfortunately criminals do not wander around with a dartboard painted on their chests. Learn where to shoot.

Paper Targets: Part Two

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2013 by blackshepherd

Problem #2: Paper targets do not drop when they are shot.

At first glance this seems to be a simple problem, but it is not. When you draw a pistol and fire it at a person, you can bet that they are going to react. One human reaction to danger is to move (both fight and flight require movement), whether you shoot them or not; as discussed in Problem #1. Another possible reaction, again whether you shoot them or not, is to fall down. Hollywood has taught us that gunshot wounds cause people to fly backwards in a theatric fashion. Not true, but the psychological conditioning will cause some people to fall down, even if they are not actually hit by a gunshot. That seems to make sense, but let’s think it through. We have to talk about some basic scenarios before we can make informed decisions about our training:

Scenario 1:  An armed threat approaches a seemingly unarmed victim and initiates an attack. Suddenly the “unarmed” victim produces a handgun and points it at the attacker. A natural reaction for many people, including prospective criminals, at having the muzzle of a gun unexpectedly pointed in their direction, is to back up. When people start to back up quickly, they have a tendency to fall over. Now we have an uninjured and still armed attacker who happens to be on the ground.

Scenario 2: The same as Scenario 1, except this time the “victim” shoots the attacker in a non-vital area and he goes to the ground. We have a slightly injured and still armed attacker on the ground

Scenario 3: The same as Scenarios 1 and 2, except this time the attacker is shot in a vital area and goes to the ground. We have a seriously injured but still armed attacker on the ground.

Scenario 4: The same scenario, but this time the attacker takes lead and is obviously DRT (dead right there). We have a seemingly dead but still armed attacker on the ground.

We have four separate scenarios. How do we properly address each one? We have no idea which scenario we are in so initially we act in exactly the same manner. We do not know which scenario we are in for two reasons. Firstly, it is very hard to detect bullet wounds in moving people that are wearing clothes, especially dark clothes or several layers. (I will talk more about this in later posts.) So, we are not entirely sure if, or where, we have shot someone. The fact that an attacker falls down when we fire a gun does not guarantee that they have been hit. It certainly does not guarantee that the fight is over.

Secondly, bullets do funny things, as do people with bullets in them. Some people can receive a non-life threatening gun-shot wound and immediately drop to the ground. Conversely, there are literally thousands of anecdotes concerning people being shot more than a dozen times, shot in the head multiple times, or hit with something truly nasty like a .50BMG round and still continuing to fight. Some of these people have survived truly horrific wounds and not stopped their attacks. As I have said before, a gun is not a magic wand that makes a bad guy disappear, and shooting someone does not necessarily end a threat. There are many credible resources that discuss the effects of firearms on people. I recommend starting with the seminal FBI report, Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness.

Our initial actions for all four of the above scenarios are the same: We identify a deadly threat and make dynamic movement, preferably towards cover, while drawing our gun. As we present the pistol we stop, set our feet, exhale hard as we extend our arms, and find the front sight post. Once we have the correct sight picture, we break the trigger and continue to fire: front sight-fire-front sight, until the target goes to the ground. The front sight follows the threat to the ground and then we assess the threat. Shoot him to the ground. Then look at the hands, they are where danger emanates.

In the above Scenarios 1-3 above, the threat could still be aiming a gun at you or trying to aim a gun at you, keep shooting and then re-assess. Repeat as necessary until there is no threat.

With the same Scenarios 1-3, and Scenario 4, the assailant may have decided that he does not want to fight anymore, or is physically unable to continue the fight. Again look at the hands. If he is actively getting rid of a weapon, raising his hands to surrender, or not moving at all, stop shooting.

For all of the above scenarios, if the attacker was armed with an impact or edged weapon it is up to you to determine the level of threat based on range and capability. With these weapons, as long as the attacker stays on the ground, he is not likely to remain a threat. Stop shooting! If he starts to get back up and renew his attack it is time to start shooting again.

Once the initial threat is reduced, breathe and examine your surroundings. Exhale and inhale purposefully, practice this on the range. If you stop breathing your body starts to die and the fight is not necessarily over. As you breathe, bring your weapon back to retention, high in your chest with both hands on the pistol. Start to scan your surroundings. Deliberately look over your left shoulder, come back to your initial threat, and then deliberately look over your right shoulder and come back to the threat. Also practice this on the range. There is no guarantee that there is only one attacker. You also need to be aware of the potential for intervention of police or another armed citizen. You do not want to survive a deadly threat, only to be killed or injured by the good guys.

Some dynamic movement is probably also in order at this point. There is no reason not to move to cover, or to a position of advantage, while breathing and scanning. A moving target is harder to attack.

At this point in time the deadly force portion of the attack is over, it is your call how to proceed. I do not give legal advice; I am a shooter not a lawyer. Just remember you are responsible for every round you have fired. I highly recommend calling the police. I also recommend getting your pistol back in the holster before they arrive.

How do the above scenarios inform our training? It tells us that paper targets behave like paper targets, and not like people. So, we may be training to fight paper targets. How do we correct that?

We shoot targets that can move and drop whenever possible. Even if they are unavailable, we train to follow a sequence. If we are on a range that does not allow movement, we can train certain factors of the correct sequence.

Identify a threat; make dynamic movement (if possible) while drawing your weapon. Once the gun is out plant your feet, exhale hard while presenting the pistol and make your shots. Imagine your attacker going to the ground and follow him down. Assess, breathe, scan, assess (while moving if you can).

Even on a static target do not get into the habit of only firing two rounds and assuming that the attacker is down; fire iterations of rapids, two, three, four or five at a time. This gets us out of the “two rounds and stop,” mindset and will help to identify problems with our draw stroke, grip, and sight picture. If you are making good shots for the first two or three rounds, but sliding out of the vital areas for subsequent shots, then your grip may not be strong enough. You may also be coming off of the front sight post, or shooting faster than you can reacquire it. Remember: front sight-fire-front sight-fire-front sight, as necessary. Do not get trapped into the bad habit of firing on a certain cadence, fire as soon as you reacquire the front sight but not before. This may not look or sound as cool, but you will shoot much better.

A good training tool is a partner shouting instructions as you shoot. You draw and fire until your partner shouts (down!) then you proceed with your scan. Your partner may then indicate the necessity to reengage the target during your scan. This trains us to act based on external stimuli which more closely simulates actual conditions. There are multiple variations of this idea. Your only limitations are your imagination and the resources at hand.

There are some great targets out there which will drop when shot in vital areas. Some steel targets can also be rigged to drop after a certain number of hits. Several of these targets are very expensive, but others are relatively cheap or easy DIY projects. Here are some ideas but there are many more out there:

Use your imagination and tailor your targets to fit your training objectives. Do not make your training fit your targets. To be continued…

Colorado is Pissed: Part Four- “A Farewell to Arms”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 30, 2013 by blackshepherd


Tomorrow, 1 July 2013, is going to be a sad day for Colorado. The rights of the citizens of this great state are about to be infringed by unconstitutional laws, passed by the State Legislature. This is a state where it is legal to smoke pot, or ride a motorcycle without a helmet. Colorado is the birthplace of the Libertarian Party. However, we are about to lose the freedom to own any more than a fifteen round magazine or transfer weapons without a government background check. I previously discussed how ridiculous and ineffective magazine restrictions are when it comes to keeping people safe. Limits on freedom must be offset by a proven and overwhelming benefit to society. Neither proof, nor benefit exist when it comes to magazine restrictions. I have also discussed the problems inherent with the background check system. These laws will not reduce crime, nor increase public safety. They will erode freedom in Colorado, a place that was remarkable for its personal liberties. After tomorrow, Colorado will be less than what it was. My hope is that Coloradans will not stand for it, but will take back Colorado.

Mrs. and Baby Blackshepherd were out of town for the week, leaving me in a temporary bachelor status. Sadly enough, for me that consists of reading until early in the morning while having one too many homebrews. I know, party animal. In addition to the raucous reading, I elected to make the drive up to Glendale to attend the Free Colorado and Magpul “Farewell to Arms,” event on Saturday evening. This was a unique event, despite cribbing the title of my least favorite Hemingway novel.

 To be frank, this was one last flip of the bird from Magpul to the politicians in Denver before the July 1st magazine ban goes into effect. Magpul donated over 20,000, 30-round magazines to the event, with the proceeds from sales going to Free Colorado’s efforts to fight the new gun laws. I went in order to support the company, check out the scene, and contribute my presence and money to the one-finger salute directed at the Denver state house.

There was a line of people about 800 meters long waiting to get into Infinity Park, which is incidentally the nicest rugby pitch I have seen in America. Local news sources estimate the crowd at around 5,000 people, which sounds about right. Ages seemed to range from eighteen to eighty and there were a lot of families with children. There was lots of pro-gun apparel, people open carrying pistols, and probably many more that were concealed carrying. Once the event started people queued up to buy magazines, Magpul swag, and to join Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The stands selling barbeque, burgers, and beer also did a booming business. The whole thing had the air of tailgating a sporting event before the game starts, except with guns.

A helicopter flew in to deliver several additional cases of magazines and the keynote speaker, Dana Loesch, a conservative radio host. I had not heard of her before this event but she has been banned from Piers Morgan’s show so she is doing something right. Other speakers were: Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon, State Senator Greg Brophy, radio personality Michael Brown, Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, and State Senator Ted Harvey. No one had anything particularly earth shaking to say, it was mostly preaching to the choir. I did particularly enjoy listening to Sheriff Cooke who was representing the other Colorado Sheriffs that have filed a lawsuit against the magazine restrictions.

I think I am quoting him verbatim when he said: “These laws are unconstitutional. These laws are unenforceable. These laws hinder our rights, they are knee-jerk reactions. Therefore, since they’re unenforceable, I will not enforce them.” I thought this was the most cogent and strongly worded statement of the evening. It certainly played well with the crowd.

It was an entertaining evening and well worth the drive. Surprisingly, for you gun control advocates not a single person was injured. Despite thousands of armed people milling about the same venue, not a single pistol leapt from its holster and started shooting bystanders. There were no shootouts over parking places. Despite its obvious suitability no duels were fought on the rugby pitch. In fact, people were respectful, polite, and seemed to be having a great time. Weird I know…

Here are a few websites for further perusal: – Again, worth visiting just for the photos and quotes

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners – Organization promoting firearms within the Rockies – Grassroots effort to put magazine capacity restrictions on a Colorado ballot

Gun Control Debate Part Six: Gun Insurance

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 8, 2013 by blackshepherd

Gun owners should be mandated to have liability insurance as a prerequisite for owning firearms or ammunition

Mandatory gun insurance is an idea that has recently come into favor with many gun control advocates. They claim that insurance will reduce gun violence by encouraging responsible gun ownership. They argue that insurance would provide a means to compensate victims of accidental or negligent shootings.

On 21 March 2013 Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, of New York, filed a bill in the House of Representatives. The Firearms Risk Protection Act of 2013 ( HR 1369) would require gun owners to purchase liability coverage and to show proof of that coverage when they purchase a firearm. Maloney says that her bill would introduce a market-based solution for holding gun owners liable for the weapons they own.

“In the wake of horrific tragedies like those at Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson, we as a society and we as lawmakers must provide answers. We must respect Americans’ rights to own guns but limit gun violence and gun death. We must continue to enable guns to be used in a lawful and safe manner by responsible citizens and we must keep guns out of the hands of others. We must make sure the atrocities we have witnessed never happen again. This federal requirement would serve as a market-based solution to holding gun owners liable for the weapons they own. As with car insurance premiums, higher risk gun owners will face higher premiums. Actuarial determinations will be made by insurance companies, as those experts are in the best position to make those determinations based on sound data analysis.”

Maloney emphasizes that her bill does not establish a federal insurance program. Instead, it imposes a fine of $10,000 if during the sale of a weapon the seller does not confirm coverage or the buyer does not have coverage.

This is important because multiple states including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania have considered, but not passed, mandatory gun insurance legislation similar to HB 1369. Members of the Washington DC city council have also been advocating for mandatory gun insurance laws within the District of Colombia.

As always, do your own research:

California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington DC

At first glance, the idea of mandatory gun insurance seems almost feasible. After all, many of the things in our daily lives are insured, either by choice or by fiat. However, there are several problems with the idea. The first and biggest problem is one of constitutionality. It is simply outside of the scope of any American government, local, state, or federal, to require people to pay for the right to exercise their Constitutional freedoms; any of them. Advocates of the gun insurance scheme are fond of comparing it to homeowner’s or auto insurance, things that most people are familiar with and believe to be reasonable. What they fail to acknowledge, is that neither home nor auto ownership are enumerated in the Bill of Rights. What would the public reaction be if a lawmaker proposed legislation requiring liability insurance for libel or slander lawsuits prior to the exercise of free speech? What about a tax at polling places to cover the public cost of holding elections? The comparison fails the test in several other ways. One does not have to maintain insurance to own a car or drive it on public property; only to drive it on public roads. One does not have to maintain homeowner’s insurance to own a home, but you must to get a mortgage. The proposed legislation demands insurance merely for owning an item that lawmakers deem dangerous or scary. To smack the comparison around a bit more, approximately one in seven Americans do not have car insurance. This is despite laws mandating compulsory insurance, despite harsh legal penalties for driving without insurance, despite legions of state patrolmen, police officers, and parking officials that spend the majority of their time enforcing traffic violations; one in seven Americans is moving around in public in a large, unconcealed, and dangerous, rolling contravention of existing insurance laws. The comparisons between mandatory gun insurance and other forms of insurance simply do not pass muster.

The insurance industry also has multiple problems with the idea of mandatory gun insurance. The majority of the proposed legislation has included clauses covering “willful acts.” This clause goes beyond the scope of any existing liability insurance. No insurance company will write a policy that would cover criminal or intentional misuse of a firearm. This fact alone makes laws that mandate gun insurance untenable. The industry has also noted that the insurance would be redundant, due to the fact that many accidental shootings occur in the home and would already be covered by homeowner’s insurance.

The insurance industry does not want to become a government proxy for the regulation of guns or gun owners. The industry is adept at quantifying and pricing risk. However, the level of intrusion necessary to do so for firearms is beyond what most companies, or most individuals, are willing to accept. The industry would have to send insurance adjustors into the homes of the insured in order to conduct inspections. Individual companies would have to maintain massive amounts of personal data on their customers in order to accurately assess their individual risk. Aside from the massive privacy issues associated with this amount of information, mandatory insurance would become a de facto national gun registry. In order to accurately insure firearms an insurance agency would absolutely have to collect serial numbers, make and type, and location of all firearms that it insures. In an age when the government justifies access to all of the cell phone records maintained by major telecommunications companies, what is to stop governmental access of insurance records?  We have already talked at length about the implications of a national gun registry. It is unacceptable. Aside from governmental access what provisions would be in place to prevent criminal access to these insurance records? A criminal with location information concerning firearms has a shopping list of homes to rob and information about how to do so.

Then there is the issue of money. The costs of maintaining firearms insurance would effectively remove the capability from many who need it most. The working poor, elderly, disabled, and those who most struggle with their finances, would be effectively disarmed. This is in contravention of the fact that these same groups of people are often targeted by crime due to the neighborhoods in which they live, their age, or their disability. How is it moral to deny Americans a Constitutional right due to their inability to pay for it? No legislator would consider such a thing with any other portion of the Bill of Rights.

Even if one is able to ignore all of the other issues, mandatory gun insurance would not achieve the stated goals of those proposing it, reducing gun crime. In the same way that those with criminal intent do not legally purchase firearms, they will not subsequently pay for insurance on illegal guns. The criminal personality is not the type to acquire liability insurance simply because someone passes a law saying that they must. The idea is ludicrous. Gun insurance laws would also not deter mass shooters. I only bring this up because Rep. Maloney cited the shootings in Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown, during the introduction of her bill. It is extremely difficult for law enforcement and mental health professionals to identify potential mass killers before they act. Why would it be magically easier for an insurance salesman? If someone is committed to mass murder, they will borrow, buy, or steal, whatever they need to go through with their insanity. The advocates of gun insurance claim that their only interest is in reducing gun crime. However, the people that will comply with firearms insurance statutes will be those that are law-abiding members of the community, people who have something to lose by breaking the law. In other words, people that don’t commit gun crimes. Any limitation upon freedoms must be offset by the overwhelming and demonstrated efficacy of that limitation to contribute to the public welfare. Mandatory gun insurance does not even come close to passing that test.

Requiring liability insurance for all gun owners is in effect making the law-abiding culpable for the actions of the criminal or irresponsible. Gun insurance advocates claim that the societal costs of gun crime must be borne by gun owners. Why is a responsible and legal gun owner guilty for the acts of someone who is willing to use firearms irresponsibly or in commission of a crime? To make this leap of logic, one must believe that all guns are evil and gun owners should be punished for their decision to keep and bear arms. The people proposing mandatory gun insurance really do believe this. Unable to abolish the right to firearms through legitimate legislation, they are seeking a semantic end run around the 2nd Amendment. As discussed in previous posts, gun control legislator’s public statements do not match their private desires; they are not to be trusted. They pay lip service to liberty but their goal is to make gun ownership a hardship for American citizens. They want to make the exercise of an enumerated Constitutional right, firearms ownership, as onerous and expensive as possible. The only real purpose of their legislation is to consign gun owners to the margins of society and thus control the direction of America’s future. Do not let them get away with it.


Colorado is Pissed: Update

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 3, 2013 by blackshepherd

The effort to recall Colorado State Senator John Morse has continued apace. Today the recall effort submitted more than 16,000 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State, who has 15 business days to certify them. 7,178 signatures must be certified as valid for the recall to continue. If the correct number of signatures is reached, Morse will appear on a ballot in the next few months. If this effort does go forward then it will be the first successful recall of a Colorado lawmaker in State history.

Apparently the recalls against State Representatives Mike McLachlan and Evie Hudak were not gaining any traction and have ended. The recall against State Senator Angela Giron is continuing and the signatures are due next week.

Huffington Post take on the story.

Colorado Springs Gazette version.

Story from the Pueblo Chieftain discussing, but not detailing, sources of outside money and influence in the Angela Giron recall. It seems that over 70,000 dollars have been donated to her by Washington D.C. and Denver gun-control groups.

El Paso Freedom Defense Committee link. Take a look at the “Morsism’s” from their home page.

Gun Control Debate Part Five: Background checks for everyone

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2013 by blackshepherd

Universal background checks or a national gun registry would infringe upon no one’s rights.

Mandatory background checks seem to be the in-vogue panacea to eliminate gun crimes. How can anyone be opposed to anything that is as attractively worded as a “universal background check?” However, to ensure that the conversation is on an equal footing, we need to talk about what background checks actually are and what they do. Through my (decidedly un-scientific) studies, it appears that an alarmingly large portion of the population believes that gun buyers undergo no kind of background check. An almost as alarmingly large portion of the population believes that everyone undergoes a background check before buying a firearm. As is usual when discussing almost anything, ignorance is our real enemy. We absolutely need to know what the background check system is, and what it is not, before we can discuss its merits and drawbacks. This portion is informational and is a little bit dry. However, if we do not know what it means when someone says “background check” how can have a reasonable debate about it? Tough your way through it.

What is a background check and what does it actually check for?

When a US citizen goes to a registered gun dealer or Federal Firearms License Holder (FFL) to buy a firearm, they must go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS. (Generally speaking, some states have slightly different procedures) NICS is a system to determine if a prospective gun buyer is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm under the Gun Control Act of 1968. NICS was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and initiated by the FBI on November 30, 1998. A prospective firearms purchaser must show identification indicating that they are residents of the state in which they are purchasing the gun. Identification is also used as proof of age; it is illegal for gun dealers to sell long-guns (shotguns and rifles) to anyone under 18, or handguns to anyone under 21. The prospective buyer is then required to fill out a form 4473. This form requires a copy of a government-issued photo ID, the name, address, date of birth, and the NICS transaction number of the prospective buyer, social security number is optional. Form 4473 also includes the make, model, and serial number of the firearm, or firearms, being purchased, and a federal affidavit stating that the purchaser is eligible to purchase firearms under federal law. Lying on this form is a felony and can be punished by up to five years in prison, in addition to fines, even if no firearms transaction takes place.

Following completion of the Form 4473 the FFL places a phone call to one of three NICS call centers around the country, in Fort Worth, Texas, Barbourville, Kentucky, or Wheeling, West Virginia. The FFL transmits the information from the form 4473 to contracted employees working in the respective call center. A name and descriptive information search is then conducted using three national databases. These databases are the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which contains information on wanted persons and active protection orders; the Interstate Identification Index (III), which contains records of criminal history records; and the NICS Index which contains records not available in the NCIC or the III pertaining to persons determined to be prohibited from receiving firearms under federal or state law.  These specific prohibitions apply to anyone who:

 18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (1)
Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year

18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (2)
Is a fugitive from justice

18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (3)
Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance

18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (4)
Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution

18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (5)
Is an alien illegally or unlaw-fully in the United States or who has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa.

18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (6)
Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions

18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (7)
Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship

18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (8)
Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner

18, U.S.C. §922 (g) (9)
Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

18, U.S.C. §922 (n)
Is under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year

If no prohibiting records are found pertaining to the prospective buyer then the firearms transfer proceeds. If the search matches prohibiting records to the buyer then the FFL does not complete the sell. Typically this manner of NICS check takes anywhere from five minutes to an hour to complete, depending on volume of sells at the time of the check. However, if a prospective buyer is flagged by a document in the system, the call is transferred to an FBI center in Clarksburg, West Virginia. An FBI legal examiner then searches the records system to determine if the sell can proceed. If the search takes more than three business days then the sale can go through. If it is later determined that the sale was fraudulent then the BATF has the responsibility to recover the firearm(s) from the sale.

Once Form 4473 is completed and the transaction approved, the FFL holder must retain records of the form in a “bound-book” or transaction log. An FFL must keep a copy of all completed form 4473’s in the “bound book” for at least 20 years in the case of completed sales, and for 5 years when the sale was denied by NICS.  The FFL is required to surrender the log to the BATF upon retirement from the firearms business. The BATF is allowed to inspect or request any copy of the Form 4473’s from any dealer during the course of a criminal investigation. Form 4473’s are given the same status as a tax return under the Privacy Act of 1974 and cannot be disclosed by the government to private parties, or other government officials, except in accordance with the Privacy Act. In addition, the sale of two or more handguns to one person within a five-day period must be reported to ATF on Form 3310.4. This form is worth a look if you have never seen it. Basically, buying two handguns within a five day period will get you reported to the BATF and your local chief of law enforcement. Draw your own conclusions.

If a person purchases a firearm from a private individual who is not a licensed dealer, the purchaser is not required to complete a Form 4473, though some states require individual sellers to sell through dealers, in which case the FFL procedures apply. In either case, it is illegal to sell a firearm if the seller knows, or has a reasonable belief, that the buyer is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm.

OK, so we know what the NICS system does, and how it operates. Does it work?

Yes and no. The NICS system works as it was designed. However, there are major flaws in the system and it is certainly not the answer to abolishing gun crime

One of the major issues with the NICS system is the massive lack of record keeping, especially when it comes to mental health and drug use. Over a decade and a half after it became operational, NICS is still a patchwork system that relies on woefully incomplete information. This is due to the fact that most states submit very few records to the system, and in some cases, none. Failure to submit these records facilitated the purchase of firearms by the shooters in Tucson, Virginia Tech, and Aurora. The “NICS Improvement Amendments Act” of 2008, provided federal grants in order to help states improve their ability to maintain records and provide them to NICS. Congress authorized $875 million to improve the system but since passage of the bill, only about $50 million has been appropriated. Published reports indicate that two dozen states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records to the system; multiple federal agencies have also failed to provide records.

Another issue is lack of enforcement for existing laws. The DOJ barely prosecutes background check fraud. In 2010, 74,142 people were denied transfer of a firearm through NICS. Only 44 of those people were prosecuted and just 13 convicted of lying on their form 4473. The DOJ has yet to explain this lack of enforcement of existing laws. No one knows if it is manpower or funding issue. One would think that for people who claim to want to reduce gun crime, prosecuting NICS fraud would be a good place to start.

So, the current background check system is not great. Does that mean that we should stop using it?

Absolutely not, in fact information that the state and federal governments already have, like records of who is a felon, should be added to NICS as quickly and efficiently as possible. Those that have been adjudicated as mentally ill should not have access to firearms. However, the government does not need, and should not have, access to the medical records of the average citizen. The NICS system should be repaired and streamlined but it is not a panacea for gun crime.

A better use of resources would involve relentless pursuit and harsh prosecution of violent felonies involving guns. We know that criminals attain and use firearms. Make them pay for it. The majority of people denied through the NICS are felons, people with active restraining orders, or fugitives from justice. When one of these people lies on a form 4473, have the police show up and arrest them. The police will know right where they are, go and pick them up!

So why not have “universal” background checks?

In the minds of those that support expanded background check laws, the government should be able to able to immediately ascertain if a prospective gun buyer has any legal or mental issues that would preclude them from purchasing or possessing a firearm. This is just not possible. To make this a reality, the government would have to maintain a data base covering legal and mental health records covering every citizen of the US. Should the government have the authority to access the medical records of everyone in the country? I think not, the implications of such a violation of personal privacy are mind numbing. That level of intrusion would certainly be a violation of everyone’s rights. When there is an idea that is so abysmal that the ACLU and NRA agree on how bad it is, that is a real achievement. Universal background checks have reached this pinnacle of success. ACLU and NRA

When the government fails to enforce current laws why are they in a hurry to pass new ones? The Vice President of the United States allegedly said:

“Regarding the lack of prosecutions on lying on Form 4473s, we simply don’t have the time or manpower to prosecute everybody who lies on a form, that checks a wrong box, that answers a question inaccurately.”

Then why do you want to pass new laws? The words “political grandstand,” come to mind. What does it say to citizens who do their best to comply with the law when the government cannot be bothered to prosecute those who violate it? Do you believe that your average criminal goes down to the local gun shop, fills out the form to complete a background check, pays MSRP for a gun, and then uses it in the commission of a crime? The idea is ludicrous.

If you believe, as many media outlets claim, that a firearm can be purchased on the internet, I recommend that you try it. Ditto for exploiting the gun-show “loophole.” What is referred to as a “loophole,” is a personal sale between two citizens, unregulated by the government. This sale does not have to occur at a gun-show, it can take place anywhere. As mentioned above, it is still illegal to sell a gun to anyone that you know is prohibited from possessing it. Most folks are pretty leery of the people whom they sell guns, because most citizens are law-abiding. That is obviously not a fool proof method for ensuring that a gun buyer is not a criminal but neither is a NICS check.  The best solution is to provide incentives for voluntary checks. Gun owners do not want to sell firearms to criminals and would not hesitate to use a system that did not require record keeping. The effects on crime would be very small but similar to the effects of a mandatory FFL transfer. This solution would also allay much of the expense inherent to an expansion of the NICS system and likely increase participation in the program. (It is an interesting aside that many of those most passionate about expanding the requirement for background checks on firearms, are also vehemently opposed to requiring a valid ID be presented prior to someone casting a ballot. I am not making a value judgement but someone please explain that one to me, I just can’t follow the logic.)

One of the huge problems with mandating the use of the NICS system for private sales is that the law would be unenforceable without a national firearms registry. There is simply no way to know if someone sold a gun “off of the books,” without a registration and registration is not something that any student of history can support.  A national gun registry is absolutely a precursor to gun confiscation. A national gun registry does not contribute to the security of the law-abiding and is a role call for citizens that will be targeted for prosecution once currently legal weapons are made illegal. I don’t need to cite any totalitarian historical examples like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Take a look at California and New York. As these states make registration mandatory they are changing the classes of firearm that are legal to own. California is in the process of making every semi-automatic rifle illegal, despite the fact that these weapons are clearly “in common usage,” making them protected by the Supreme Court’s Heller decision. Take a look at Great Britain and Australia. In both countries registration has clearly led to confiscation. Registration is not an acceptable course of action in America.

Who would gun registration target? In Haynes v. US, the Supreme Court ruled that a felon cannot be found guilty of a crime for not registering an unlawful firearm, because it would be a violation of Fifth Amendment rights. Consider the possibilities of a law that requires the registration of firearms. A convicted felon cannot be convicted for failing to register an illegal firearm but a citizen that legally owns a gun, and fails to register it, will become a convicted felon. Proponents of a national firearms registry; who are you trying to punish and who are you trying to restrain, criminals or citizens?

Take a look at the sordid history of Prohibition in America. From the 18th Amendment to the “War on Drugs,” criminals will find a way to get prohibited items to the people that are willing to pay for them. Hence, universality of background checks cannot be achieved. At this point in the argument, someone with a mouthful of snark typically demands, “Should we just get rid of laws against assault, rape, and murder, since they don’t keep people from committing crimes either???”

No dumbass. The background check requirement is intended as a prophylaxis, a preventative measure to keep guns out of the hands of those that are prohibited from possessing them. The laws covering murder, assault, rape, etc. are in place to enforce the apprehension, prosecution, and punishment of those who have already committed a crime. The only practical reasoning for the expansion of background checks is to keep firearms away from those who are most likely to use them in the commission of a crime. These are the people most likely to acquire guns outside of a legal background check system.

I am trying very hard to stay away from statistics on this site; I am a shooter, not a statistician. However, politicians keep claiming that “90%” of Americans support expanded background checks. Where are these people? Is the 10% of the population that does not want these laws only in Colorado Springs? Either that fact is a really interesting statistical anomaly, bearing further study, or people making this claim are full of pre-digested, organic, materials. I have yet to talk to anyone in person who is in favor of new background check laws. I work in a strange place with some strange people so I guess anything is possible though. Someone get on here and tell me I am wrong.

At this point in the conversation someone usually gasps, “But we have to do something!” Look, if someone is on fire, they can run in circles, flapping their arms and screaming until they immolate; or they can stop, drop and roll, thus extinguishing the flames. Both are “doing something.” One option is effective, immediate, and improves the situation; the other is just a panic-induced waste of time.  I have made some effective suggestions above, but I do not have all of the answers. There are some good ideas out there. Rehashing the same tired programs that have demonstrably failed (Virginia Tech, Tucson, and Aurora) just because they are the government control, party-line, is not the answer. Show Americans an idea that will reduce gun crime, without infringing upon their rights, and they will get behind it one-hundred percent.

So, universal background checks would either be an infringement upon freedoms, or expensive and ineffective at the intended purpose, keeping guns from the hands of criminals. The final opposition to universal background checks comes down to trust. Those that are advocating for expansion of background checks have proven, time and time again, that they are not to be trusted.  They have stated, over and over, that background check expansions are “just the beginning.” Advocates for “gun control” have repeatedly demonstrated a desire to totally disarm the American populace. They have displayed a need to infringe upon the rights of others to the utmost limits of political will; as I discussed in Part Four. Those that would disarm the populace, truly believe that they know better than the American people, history, and the founding fathers of the United States. They believe that the Constitution is outdated, elastic, and an impediment to “progress.” Those on the side of liberty would be wise to judge proposed legislation based upon its efficacy and not emotional reaction. They would be wise to judge those proposing legislation by their private speech and acts, not their public rhetoric.  Anyone who values any of the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights, would be wise to oppose those whose heart’s desire is to infringe upon those rights.

Black Sheep

Posted in Black Sheep, Colorado, Concealed Carry, Firearms, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2013 by blackshepherd

This is a wolf:


Except for the fact that he is not a wolf;


he is a sheepdog, a German Shepherd. If he were a wolf, that baby would probably be a Scooby-snack. Instead, he is definitely the safest infant in the park.

How is one to tell the difference between the wolf and the sheepdog? Both are big and strong, they have fur, pointy ears, and fangs. They look very similar, in fact they are as close as cousins can be. They are two sides of the same coin. However, looks are deceiving. The best way to tell the difference between a shepherd and a wolf is by their actions. The same is true of people.

The metaphor of wolves, sheepdogs, and sheep is not new, nor is it mine. It was used extensively by LTC (ret) Dave Grossman in his books On Killing, and On Combat. There are those that love these books and those that hate them. Either way, they are worth a read simply because of their proliferation throughout the military and police forces. The particular chapter from On Killing, which I intend to pilfer mercilessly, is here: On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs.

The basic idea is that there are three kinds of people in the world. There are the sheep, the majority of the population that is non-violent:

“We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.”

The wolves are human predators and prey on others:

“Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds.”

Then there are the sheepdogs, people that have committed themselves to the defense of others:

“But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.”

I love this metaphor but I think many people are put off by the absolutism of the comparisons. There is more of a sliding scale amongst personalities, degrees of ability and inclination. Obviously not every criminal is Hannibal Lector and not every member of the security forces is Captain America.

A sheepdog is a member of the “protectors.” People who have volunteered to put themselves between society and evil. Protectors with a particular talent for righteous violence often end up in the combat arms of the military or the more specialized portions of police forces. They can also be found working as highly paid personal protection (bodyguards) and “fixers” for people with the money to “fix” things. These people are highly trained professionals, with a finely-tuned set of skills. Those without the inclination to violence often work in the support arms of the military or the more standardized jobs within police forces. These people are still highly trained but usually with a much different skill set than the previous group. This is not to say that the sheepdog personality can only be found in the military or police, or that everyone in those professions is a sheepdog. However, the warrior mentality does tend to gravitate to warrior occupations. The “reduced violence” brand of sheepdogs can also be found working as firefighters, doctors, lawyers, teachers, almost any profession where protecting and nurturing others is necessary.

“Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.”

Not everyone has the time, inclination, or abilities to be a sheepdog, nor should they. Science, art, literature, music, any and all of the things that make life worth enjoying, would suffer in a purely warrior-based society. Pursuit of life and liberty is what the sheepdogs have signed-on to protect. Average people having a safe place to pursue these things is what makes the sheepdogs efforts valuable. However, no one wants to think of themselves as a sheep.

To torture the metaphor a little farther, I propose a fourth way. A place between the sheepdog and the sheep. One does not have to volunteer to protect society. Instead, learn to take care of yourself and your family. Go to a reputable trainer and learn how to do so in the most extreme of circumstances. The fact is, the sheepdog, to sheep, to wolf ratio is not in favor of the sheep. Getting eaten, even once, is kind of permanent. Ask yourself some hard questions about those that you love, and how far you are willing to go to keep them safe. You will learn some things about yourself that you were unaware of and come to terms with some hard truths. Some of the most adamant anti-violence activists I have ever met have admitted privately that they would violate their principles to protect their children, even if not themselves. Unfortunately for them, at that point in time it is too late to get ready.

Get prepared for worst case scenarios, then go on about your life. Pursue your chosen profession, care for your spouse, and raise your children. . My father, a teacher and one of the most amiable men I know (except when riled), read this before I posted it. He said, “I knew the day that you and your brother were born that I had two options protect to the utmost, or punish to the ends of the earth.” Always be ready to defend your family if the circumstances of life and the tyrannies of evil men make it necessary. Help will be coming but time will not be your friend. Please be prepared for that day if it ever comes. The world will be a better place for it. Be a black sheep.