Some People Shouldn’t Own Guns, March 2017 Edition

So there I was at Williams-Sonoma, looking at copper serving trays marked with warnings not to actually use them for serving while my girlfriend shopped for magic sponges and $15/lb candy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a fat man in a bright chartreuse shirt barged in between us to look at something on a shelf – not very politely, I might add. I immediately noticed that 1) the back of his shirt read “!WARNING! I SHOT THE LAST TAILGATER!” and 2) he was open carrying a Glock 19/23 in a Safariland duty holster. I took a photo, but he was moving, so the image didn’t capture his shirt and his gun at the same time.

I followed him over to the customer service island where he asked an employee for another employee that he had spoken to previously, describing her in oddly specific detail (as this was happening, I was moving behind a very impressive kitchen knife display to a point about three yards behind him, and not once did he notice that I was following him so closely). When informed that she wasn’t there and that any employee could assist him, he said in an agitated tone, “oh, I know. I have a message for her.”

As he said this rather mysterious phrase, his hand dropped to his Glock with his thumb ready to disengage the holster’s retention, right as I took a photo.

He might have shot the last tailgater, but he didn’t notice me.

If he said anything else, I didn’t notice, because I was focused on his right thumb. But then his hand came off the gun, and I stopped thinking, “I’ll need to aim at his lower back so there’s less chance of hitting any of the Williams-Sonoma employees on the other side of the counter.” I did not draw or move to draw my pistol.

Thankfully, his bizarre behavior ended as soon as it started. He poured himself a cup of water from the complimentary Williams Sonoma water pitcher – sadly, they didn’t have any complimentary Williams-Sonoma candy out that day – and walked out of the store, having a conversation on what I hope was a wired headset, otherwise he was just talking to himself.

Was there a perfectly innocent meaning to all of this? Maybe. But he didn’t know the employee’s name, so it’s not like he was her adorably awkward uncle and just wanted to show her his new gun while he was at work. The other employees were left talking about how that guy was crazy, but they knew there were sane gun owners out there.  Frankly, I was impressed with how nonchalant they were – but I don’t think they saw him put his hand on the pistol. They weren’t interested in calling mall security, but I later contacted local law enforcement.

This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why CCW reciprocity is a hard sell. This is why gun people get a bad reputation. And some people shouldn’t own guns.

I Don’t Care If Navy SEALs Use Your Product

Note: While some might question the timing of this article given the recent combat death of a SEAL in Yemen, I think this is exactly the time to publish such a piece. While members of the military, including SEALs, are fighting and dying, people in no danger whatsoever are capitalizing on their efforts – and their deaths – for financial gain.

A while back I was having a discussion with the owner of Faxon about why I didn’t like his ARAK upper. It took four minutes and thirty-two seconds for him to tell me that a Navy SEAL had shot it and really liked it, in a tone that said “If a SEAL likes it, your opinion is irrelevant.” That hasn’t been my only such experience in this industry. SEALs killed Bin Laden! How dare you question them on anything ever.

It’s important to draw a distinction between a former Navy SEAL using a product once and saying something inoffensive and ambiguous about it to the manufacturer and the United States Navy buying a product for Navy SEALs to use across all the teams and guys and stuff. I want to talk about both sides of that coin here. Still, even if something is used by every Navy SEAL or will make my rifle identical to the one that killed Bin Laden, I don’t really care.

I should also mention that I’m not just picking on frogmen here. Special Forces, Delta/CAG/however they’ve chosen to identify this year, Force Recon, SOCOM, Rangers, Raiders, Air Force Security Forces – all of these names (well, almost all) have been invoked to silence dissent and prompt the swiping of credit cards. Let’s face it, though, the marketing types know that to reach the most buyers, namedropping SEALs is a Tier 1 marketing plan. So while I focus on them here, the general theme applies across all such uses of “Appeal to SOF Authority.”

Why, you ask, do I not care if these total badasses use your product?

It’s not a jaded hipster reaction – what a Navy SEAL uses just has little relevance to my life and my needs. In keeping with that whole “relevance” theme, there are indeed some things used by Navy SEALs which I end up using. But in the Venn diagram of what Navy SEALs are doing and what I am doing, there is not a whole lot of crossover. Thus, there aren’t many products they use which I also spend money on.

SEALs have precision rifles that are really awesome and durable and weigh more than my ego. If you had to build one, you’d spend many thousands of dollars duplicating it. I’d rather put together a rifle that was lighter and didn’t kick as much or cost as much to shoot as .300 WinMag or .338 Lapua – and maybe something with longer barrel life, too, because I actually have to pay for all this stuff. The only time I’ve ever really *needed* a precision rifle was years ago when my friend Paul and I were competing in the Competition Dynamics 24 Hour “Sniper” Adventure Challenge. In that case, having a rifle was more of a check in the box than anything else. The Army Marksmanship Unit was there in 2012 and on the stages they made it to, they outshot everyone – but their gear weighed so much that they couldn’t make it over all the hills to complete the course. My rifle and gear was much lighter than anything you’d find issued to a military unit at any level, with corresponding reductions in accuracy and durability, but we placed higher because we actually managed to finish the course.

Paul did all the work. I basically just limped along behind him to the finish line.

Is there stuff Navy SEALs use that I might have use for? Sure. Navy SEALs use the Arc’teryx Drypack 70. I have an Arc’teryx Drypack 70. They use it to haul gear while swimming a hundred feet underwater off the coast of Gabon or something. I use it to terrify Boy Scouts by putting their sleeping bags and notebooks in it before tossing the pack into a stream, lake, or ocean while we’re on a campout. Their gear comes back dry and their heart rate eventually returns to normal. The pack costs $1200 and if I’d actually had to pay for it, I would not have acquired it – it was given to me for free. It’s fantastic at what it does, but it is entirely impractical as a backpack for the majority of things I do. There are other, cheaper packs (most packs are cheaper than $1200, I’d wager) which would keep my stuff dry while I’m hiking up a stream. And there are other, significantly cheaper packs for day to day hiking and camping use.

It does do a great job of keeping my stuff dry while I’m riding my bike in the rain. Then again, it costs almost as much as I paid for the bike.

I also have two examples of the Kelty MAP 3500, a pack reported to have been designed in conjunction with the SEALs. Thanks, SEALs! It’s a great pack, even if the zippers on my newer version totally suck. They don’t make ’em like they used to, I guess.

Are there things Navy SEALs need in a product that I also need? Yes. When the SEALs buy a handgun, they need something reliable. I, too, need a reliable handgun. But maybe they need something of a specific size and with the ability to attach a silencer, while I just need something that won’t print in my gym shorts. Our needs rapidly diverge.

So while there are things the SEALs as a whole use which I might conceivably use, the fact that they use it is not a driving factor in the purchase – in fact it’s the opposite. If the SEALs are using something, I stop myself and ask, “Do I really need something that they would use?” Because we really do have vastly different needs.

On most of the occasions which I have heard this particular appeal to authority, though, it hasn’t been what we just discussed. It hasn’t been that I’m hearing from HK about the new wunderpistolen they’ve sold to the SEALs. It’s been that I heard “Navy SEALs use this!” from a guy whose company definitely doesn’t have a CAGE code.

In other words, they met a guy who may or may not have been a SEAL and they took him to the range or gave him some free stuff at a trade show. Voila, a SEAL has your product! And since the definition of “use” is somewhat broad, the frogman in question might simply have worn the shoes or shot the gun once and then stuffed them in a closet or given them to a friend. Sure, he might also be carrying or wearing it at all times. But one man’s preference, no matter how tough a man, doesn’t sway me, and it shouldn’t sway you. Entirely leaving aside the question of whether or not he was compensated for his opinion or whether he even voiced it as strongly as is being presented, the number one qualification for becoming a SEAL is not “gun nerd” and many former special forces guys are hardly firearm aficionados or experts. They may have specialized in another field such as communications or medicine, and while they were certainly very proficient with firearms and may still be very proficient, their firearm expertise may not rise to the level required to properly beat down an opposing and reasoned opinion.

In closing, I don’t care if Navy SEALs use your product. I care about the details of your product and what makes it better than the other products on the market. I care why it’s relevant to my needs, not to the needs of other people. If you do manage to sell it to the SEALs, great. You deserve recognition for that – but you might not deserve my money.

MantisX Handgun Training Doohickey Initial Impressions

When I received an email offering a product called MantisX for review, I said to myself, “what the heck is a MantisX?” Now I know, and I’m excited for what MantisX portends.

This video is not a full review of all features and details regarding the MantisX handgun training system, but it does cover the basic operation of the unit and my initial impressions.

Help Needed to Quash Fireclean Subpoena

More support is needed.

Fireclean has subpoenaed me in their lawsuit against George Fennell. They are seeking every last sliver of information regarding this topic that I might have, including but certainly not limited to “all communications between you and anyone else that pertain or refer to Fireclean.”

I am represented in this matter by Dan Barr (the author of a book on reporter’s privilege) and Katherine May of PerkinsCoie.

I don’t know that I could possibly have better representation for this challenge, a statement I would also make about Jay Brown and Jeremy Kutner of LSKS, who successfully represented me in the lawsuit Fireclean filed in Virginia earlier this year.

The costs of my legal defense in that case exceeded $120,000. While they were largely borne by LSKS, this situation has been no small matter for me. Needless to say, all proceeds have been and will be applied to the direct costs of legal defense in the various legal maneuverings attempted by Fireclean.

More Vuurwapen Blog T Shirts

After a long wait, Vuurwapen Blog t shirts are again ready to envelop you in their coolness.

Blue XL are gone.

shirts

In addition to the original colors, Union Blue and Rebel Grey:

Do you lament Sherman’s March to the Sea? If so, you’ll want a Rebel Gray shirt, even though there’s a terrible irony in the motto on the back of the shirt, “Burning Bridges Since 2009.” Actually, this color is more of a charcoal than simple gray, which makes sense since we are talking about burning bridges, after all. Or cotton fields. If you’re not a Southerner but are scared of colors, like my friend Brett, you’ll want this charcoal shirt.

Are you a proud Yankee/American, even though all those icky Northern states seem to not like guns any more? Well, Union Blue is definitely more your style. Even if you’re from the South and want a non-tactically colored shirt to tell your friends you like an obscure gun blog, you’ll probably want to break from tradition and go with blue.

…the shirts are now available in Don’t Shoot Me Red and Olympic Diving Pool Green.

As before, the shirts are Next Level Apparel poly/cotton (65/35). I have received lots of positive feedback about how comfortable they are. I wanted quality shirts that felt nice to wear and looked good, and that’s what I ended up with.

I have them in men’s sizes small through XXL in Union Blue and Rebel Grey and limited numbers of men’s medium through XL in Don’t Shoot Me Red and Prophet Muhammad’s Favorite Shade of Green. I also have a few remaining women’s sizes small and medium from the first run – these are most appropriately sized for toddlers, I think. I can’t actually imagine an adult fitting in one of them, but if that’s what you wear, let me know.

Blue XL are gone.

Cost is again $17 per shirt.

A recent advancement in technology known as the steam engine has allowed me to reduce shipping costs for the envelopes by eighty cents(!) and pass these savings on to you. Shipping options are Priority Mail small flat rate box for $6.80 or USPS First Class in a Tyvek envelope for $3.50 (the Tyvek envelopes apparently worked very well in terms of protecting the garments last time, as no one told me otherwise). I would prefer payment by PayPal to 545ar15@gmail.com, and please don’t use the gift option.

Donald Trump’s Second Amendment Comments Are Bad

“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day, if Hillary gets to put her judges in, right now we’re tied.” – Donald Trump, August 9, 2016

This is bad.

Yes, it was a joke.

That’s why it’s bad. Not just because it was a bad joke (it was), but because Donald Trump sees nothing as sacred. This was a calculated comment made like so many others he has made since announcing his campaign – something to manufacture controversy and keep himself in the headlines.

At what cost, though? It’s not like gun owners really need more heat from the left or implications that we’re crazy people who will react with violence at the slightest provocation.

In making this comment, Donald Trump chose to advance his personal brand at the expense of “Second Amendment people.” Does he really care about the individual rights of gun owners? I’m not convinced he does. He doesn’t care about individual property rights and he doesn’t care about free speech. In the recent past he hasn’t cared about gun ownership, going so far as to oppose hunting safety classes in schools (Marines: He also thinks the tattoo ban was a good idea).

Now that he’s running for President as a Republican, he’s all about “saving the Second Amendment.” Call me a cynic, but I could easily see a President Trump “making a deal” that would involve restrictions on gun ownership.

And if he doesn’t win (I am certain he won’t, and we all know the only other person who has a chance of winning this year will be a terrible president)?

Look at his own words from this morning – 

“If at the end of 90 days I fall in short because I’m somewhat politically correct even though I’m supposed to be the smart one and even though I’m supposed to have a lot of good ideas, it’s okay.  I go back to a very good way of life. It’s not what I’m looking to do. I think we’re going to have a victory, but we’ll see.”

He gets to go back to his comfortable life, but we have to deal with the consequences of his disastrous campaign. And those consequences, which will also most likely involve the Democrats picking up Senate seats, will be impactful for America in many ways, not the least of which will be overturning recent Supreme Court decisions by amending the Constitution.

Trump supporters: Do you really think it’s going to be “okay” if Hillary Clinton becomes President?

Fireclean v. Tuohy Dismissed

This morning, United States District Court Judge James C. Cacheris issued an order dismissing Fireclean v. Tuohy on jurisdictional grounds. This means that Fireclean could appeal this ruling or attempt to refile the case in Arizona (and, presumably, a separate filing against Everett Baker in New Hampshire) before the statute of limitations expires.

However, this is the third loss in a row for Fireclean relating to this case – denial of their motion for jurisdictional discovery, denial of their appeal of that denial, and the dismissal of the case – with no victories to show on their side over the last four months.

Continuing to tilt at windmills would seem ill-advised in light of this statement on page 25 of Judge Cacheris’ ruling:

“Plaintiff’s theory is that Baker and Tuohy conspired to publish a test that would show FIREClean is the same as Crisco or canola oil, even though they knew the test was inadequate to reach that conclusion, so as to attract more viewers to their blogs. Although such a conspiracy is logically possible, it is not plausible based on the facts in this record. The foundation of Plaintiff’s theory is that a critical review of FIREClean would attract more readers to the blogs. Criticisms of FIREClean being Crisco, however, were already commonplace online due to earlier published statements in the Vuurwapen blog, the Firearm blog, and George Fennell’s publications, among others. The Court finds no reason to conclude that an article affirming the prior tests would attract more readers than results disputing the prior test results. 

Furthermore, the record is replete with facts providing non-conspiratorial explanations for why Baker chose the Infrared Spectroscopy and NMR Spectroscopy to analyze FIREClean, including the advice of his professors, his personal research on the best testing methods, his available equipment, and the methods that two individuals with doctorates in chemistry used to test FIREClean. In sum, it does not plausibly or fairly follow from the facts alleged that Baker and Tuohy had a preconceived plan to conduct a fraudulent test so as attract more readers to their blogs by declaring FIREclean to be Crisco.”

Without the support of those who donated to the legal fund – large and small – and the truly excellent work of the legal team at LSKS, this victory would not have been possible. Thank you.

Final Arguments Regarding Motion To Dismiss Fireclean v. Tuohy

As reported a few weeks back, Magistrate Judge Nachmanoff of the Eastern District of Virginia denied all of Fireclean’s jurisdictional discovery requests on June 14, 2016.

Fireclean is appealing the Magistrate Judge’s opinion under what’s called a Rule 72 objection, and you should read what they have to say. 

Our objection to their objection is here.

The next major event in the case is scheduled for July 14, 2016, when a hearing will be held on our motion to dismiss the case. Here is our brief in support of said motion. This link, and the one immediately prior, are the two most recent filings on our side of the case. You also might wish to brush up on our initial motion to dismiss.

Fireclean’s brief opposing our motion to dismiss the case may be found here. 

It’s my understanding that in the lawsuit filed by Fireclean against their competitor, George Fennell of Steel Shield, Mr. Fennell’s motions to dismiss or transfer venue were denied by the judge in that case. These cases are completely separate and the denial of Mr. Fennell’s motion to dismiss does not concern me, legally or emotionally.

Why I Own AR15s

In the last week, a lot of people have been asking “Why do you need an assault rifle?” or “Why does anyone need an AR15?” or more plainly saying “No one needs a semi auto rifle that is just designed to kill people.”

The firearm industry responds with “they’re not assault rifles, they’re modern sporting rifles!” I have previously stated that I don’t really care what they’re called but also that the whole “modern sporting rifle” thing is stupid.

Perhaps I’m biased on the whole sporting thing. I don’t hunt. I used to hunt when I was little. I would shoot birds and varmints with a .22, although I later killed bigger things. I prided myself on hitting what I shot at the first time and not causing unnecessary suffering.

On a hunting trip not too long after I left the military, though, I had an easy shot lined up at a distance (30 yards) that would have been a guaranteed hit with a rifle that would have guaranteed an instant and humane kill (.270 WSM).  But sometime in between bringing the rifle up to my shoulder and putting almost enough pressure on the trigger to fire, I realized I couldn’t pull the trigger. I didn’t need to kill that animal and thus I didn’t want to kill it and thus I couldn’t kill it. So ended my hunting days – nearly ten years ago now. Since then I’ve gone out of my way to save as many animals as I can.

Maybe this is why I’m against the “modern sporting rifle” line, but even the NSSF’s own data shows that hunting is a very small part of why people buy ARs – in fact it’s the last reason they listed.

I'm using a photo of me with an MPi-74-whatever in an article called "Why I Own AR15s" just so someone will say "That's not an AR15!!"
I’m using a photo of me with a full auto MPi-74-whatever in an article called “Why I Own AR15s” just so someone will say “That’s not an AR15!!”

No, I own ARs because they’re the most effective weapon I can carry into a fight by myself. I don’t want to get into a fight, but I do want to get out of a fight. That means bringing a weapon that keeps bad guys away from me and lets me shoot back at as many bad guys as are choosing to shoot at me. As was constantly drilled into my head in Field Medical Service School, fire superiority is the best medicine on the battlefield.

The idea of “not needing anything more than” X, Y, or Z firearm is stupid. A gunfight is not a jousting match – there is no chivalry involved, no obligation to carry a lance of equal size and weight as my opponent. While I can certainly defend myself with a pistol or a shotgun, I cannot really project power with either of those. With a semi auto rifle, I have the ability to put bullets in very specific places at any distance – from the end of the muzzle to almost any yardage at which I could conceivably justify the use of lethal force.

Moreover, these bullets have less chance of doing damage to things I don’t want to shoot (such as innocent people) for a variety of reasons, most notably from the inherent precision afforded to the shooter by a rifle.

In a fight between a guy with a pistol and a guy with a rifle, the guy with the rifle has massive advantages. Just ask the off-duty police officer who engaged the Orlando terrorist with, I am told by a law enforcement officer in the Orlando area, over fifty rounds from his service pistol before retreating because he was out of ammo (The “only good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns” mantra only works for some of the garden variety mass shooters, mostly the ones who aren’t motivated by religious ideology, and is another cutesy saying we need to do away with quickly).

Put simply, the same things that make semi auto rifles desirable to terrorists make them desirable for use as defensive weapons. Take semi auto rifles away and bad guys will search for different and even more effective ways to kill. We can never assume that the doctrine of individual irrational actors will remain constant, nor should we believe that this all started after the (toothless) 1994 AWB went away in 2004. Take away the bad guys’ dynamite and they will use hunting rifles. When they meet in groups and we take away their rental trucks and fertilizer, they’ll use airliners.

I would rather people ask how the terrorist who murdered nine people in a church managed to pass a background check he clearly shouldn’t have than ask why we need semi auto rifles – a category of weapon that is involved in less than three percent of firearm homicides each year and isn’t the weapon of choice for even a plurality of mass shooters since 1982, despite the fact that the AR15 has been available to civilians for about fifty years.

I would rather people ask how we can prevent bad guys from isolating a group of innocent people from protection long enough to cause them great harm. That’s the real problem here – terrorists are like radiation in that the duration and proximity of your exposure to each determines your chances of survival.

Of course I don’t think that owning a scary semi auto rifle is the only reason why I wasn’t murdered today. I’m under no illusion of having to use an AR (or any other firearm) to defend myself at any point in the future. Were I to think that I was actually going to need an AR at any specific time or place, I would most likely make immediate lifestyle changes, such as moving to a remote island or maybe buying a Hind.

Then again, I don’t think I’ll need two first aid kits with everything from motrin to tweezers to a dozen tourniquets tomorrow, but they’re still going to be in the trunk of my car.

guns and stuff