Loudoun Firearms Restrictions

One of the reasons I live in Virginia is the state’s common sense approach to firearms and the 2d Amendment.  Unfortunately, the supervisors in the County where my daughters have lived most of their lives (Loudoun County) have recently taken to 2d Amendment infringement and gun range engineering.

Loudoun County Supervisors BR: LeTourneau, Higgins, Saines, Meyer, Buffington. FR: Volpe, Buona, Randall, Umstattd

This past Tuesday I delivered five copies of “A Citizen’s Guide to Marksmanship” and pictures of Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley and Audie Murphy to the Loudoun County supervisors meeting.  Unfortunately I had to leave early (before my slot to speak arrived).  Evidently the meeting went until well after 1am… reportedly the longest Supervisors’ deliberation in the County’s history.

You can find existing regulation here.

Evidently one of four men fired a machine gun recently, resulting in bullet strikes on several homes.  Certainly cause for concern… and no one was charged in the incident.  I am passionate about responsible gun ownership and handling.  I expect a lot of an  American citizen in general.  

Two Supervisor responses are an issue:  1) “training” to insure gun owners are familiar with the law; and 2) restrictions which specify gun handling and ranges on private property.  

Ignorance of the law is never an excuse in court.  Ignorance of the ballistics of your  firearm is no excuse either…  Without more information regarding the incidents cited above, we can’t comment on whether Loudoun County law enforcement couldn’t confiscate said “machine gun” or otherwise charge one or all persons associated with said firearm with some federal, state or local infraction.

Perhaps I will be able to attend the entire meeting next time.  My first comment, regarding Sitting Bull:  in the event a Loudoun County supervisor wants to place him or herself on the Reservation, so be it, but don’t bring the rest of the county with you.  Regarding little Annie and little Audie:  shooting practice on private lands and, indeed, learning to shoot at an early age, are fundamental to attaining expertise.  Be safe, be responsible.  But let’s not micromanage that process.

What do we know?

At this writing, there have been several shootings resulting in over ten fatalities in the United States since September.  In the lastest, the alleged shooter was former Marine Ian David Long.  Long was 28, not a youngster as some described, but  a divorcee who lived with his Mom in his  childhood home.  We don’t know why he left the Marine Corps (although there are claims he had PTSD), we don’t know where he was employed (in the event he was working, or in the event he wasn’t, why not) and we don’t know his connection to the Borderline Bar, the establishment in Thousand Oaks, California, where the shootings occurred.

Some pundits claim Long had an extended magazine in his Glock 45 caliber pistol.  He rapidly dispatched the bouncer at the bar and the first policeman who arrived on the scene.  Given this evidence of weapons dexterity, it’s unlikely Long needed an extended magazine to do the damage done.  He evidently shot himself, suggesting he might have been attempting to find a person, or persons, in the bar, and once he had done so, took his own life.

Robert Bowers, alleged white supremacist, shouted he wanted to kill all Jews (in the hospital where a number of Jewish medical staff treated him after the event), allegedly killed 11 at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  He was shot by police at the synagogue, transported to a hospital and then to jail, pleading innocent in court recently.  Bowers was an avowed anti-Semite who may have been motivated by perceptions relating to immigration of criminals.  He had a license to carry firearms and is reported to have purchased six since 1996. Reports state  a rifle and three handguns were found at the scene.  The synagogue shootings have sparked a new movement to squash antisemitism in America.

While there hasn’t been a resounding call to more weapon control legislation in the USA, resulting from these shootings, the recent Democratic majority in Congress will probably pursue such legislation.  The synagogue shooting may have driven voters toward the Democratic party although no surveys have suggested this.  The Republican party gained seats in the US senate but lost its majority in  Congress, although some suggest there were fewer Congressional seats lost in this election than “mid-term” elections under other recent US Presidents.

Teachers

Policy recommendation:  The Secretary of Education implement an Executive Order whereby  qualified teachers with Gulf War Veteran status are hired above tenured teachers with maximum five veterans hired per school (ie. they may replace tenured teachers in school systems to which they apply).  Such teachers are permitted to secure a personally (or National Guard) owned pistol in a desk safe for use during attack.

Discussion:  A friend posted an article stating that firing a pistol in a real situation “is not like TV.”  I’ve deployed to combat zone twice:  first as an unarmed contractor; second as a battalion commander with M4 “assault rifle” and 9mm pistol.  I opted to  leave my “unarmed” contract  after six months, in part due to a preference to face an armed terrorist with some sort of firearm, rather than without.

I didn’t receive a Combat Action Badge (pictured above), although I was probably close enough to exploding ordinance to receive one, and never discharged a firearm in the direction of an armed assailant.  That said, I participated in (and ran) innumerable training ranges (including “live fire” tactical exercises) where  fire control and avoiding engaging “friendly participants” was integral to success.

Gulf War veterans are trained to handle firearms as a matter of course.  While different units provide different levels of weapons training (unsure Airmen or Sailors receive the same level of firearms training as Marines and Army Soldiers), a teacher who was honorably discharged after serving in Afghanistan or Iraq might prefer to have access to a firearm in the classroom, vice without.

Random firing into a crowd of students (aka Callahan in Dirty  Harry movies) is a bad idea minus incredible marksmanship skills.  I credit a Gulf War vet with the judgment not to do this, and simply suggest an armed teacher pointing a firearm at a kid (all shooters I can think of were untrained and mentally unstable) and commanding him (usually a “him”) to put the gun down, will stop or slow additional shootings.

I will leave  the  conversation about replacing tenured teachers with qualified Gulf War vets to the education professionals, going so far as to say there are tenured teachers in the system that school leadership might be delighted to have retire or leave, and acknowledging the our population of 7 million Gulf War era vets are frequently un- or under-employed… and not because they aren’t qualified.  Let’s get a few  of those vets in the classroom!

 

Nikolas Cruz

What we hear about:  this child had an assault rifle…

19 years old.  Adopted parents, both of whom have died (most recently his adoptive mother, of flu complications, in late 2017).  Before she passed away, his mom contacted police about his behavior (!!).  He might have been “taking medications” (some of which can contribute to this kind of behavior).  Nik was expelled from school for fighting with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend (did he pick the fight or did the other kid?)…

“Shelby Speno, a neighbor, told the Sun-Sentinel that Nikolas had thrown eggs at their car once, stole neighbors’ mail, and had bitten a child.”  Stealing mail is a federal offense.  Bit a child?   Who does that?

Why were both he and his brother adopted?  What happened to the original parents?

After he was expelled, he is working on high school via GED.  Doesn’t have a job.  Legally owned an AR-15.. are we certain it was his, or was it the family’s where he was staying?  Cruz also had a pellet gun, which he used to shoot animals in his back yard.  Wasn’t his mom concerned about this?  See above regarding her contact with police.

The family he is living with secured his firearm in a gun safe, but let him have ready access to the key (his own firearm and perhaps others).  So.. socially ostracized kid with no parents, on meds, with ready access to a firearm… this just in… 17 counts, premeditated murder.  Pre-meditated?  Head scratch…

Worst shootings

Two nights ago (October 1, 2017), Stephen Paddock, a retired accountant, son of armed robber and companion of Marilon Danley, opened fire on a crowd of over 200,000, who were in Las Vegas for (or attending) a country western music festival.  Fifty-nine have died thus far, with over 500 wounded, making this the worst mass shooting in US history.  Evidently at least one of the  23 weapons Paddock brought to his room had been modified to fire on automatic.  The Islamic State has taken credit for the incident, but there is no indication that Paddock had any ties to that organization or was a practitioner of Islam.

The text between the below banner and map images is from a CNN article published on June 17, 2017.  49 killed – June 12, 2016 – Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, opens fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando. At least 49 people are killed and more than 50 are injured. Police shoot and kill Mateen during an operation to free hostages officials say he was holding at the club.

32 killed – April 16, 2007 – Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. A gunman, 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho, goes on a shooting spree killing 32 people in two locations and wounding an undetermined number of others on campus. The shooter then commits suicide.
27 killed – December 14, 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary School – Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children, ages six and seven, and six adults, school staff and faculty, before turning the gun on himself. Investigating police later find Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, dead from a gunshot wound.
23 killed – October 16, 1991 – In Killeen, Texas, 35-year-old George Hennard crashes his pickup truck through the wall of a Luby’s Cafeteria. After exiting the truck, Hennard shoots and kills 23 people. He then commits suicide.
21 killed – July 18, 1984 – In San Ysidro, California, 41-year-old James Huberty, armed with a long-barreled Uzi, a pump-action shotgun and a handgun, shoots and kills 21 adults and children at a local McDonald’s. A police sharpshooter kills Huberty one hour after the rampage begins.
18 killed – August 1, 1966 – In Austin, Texas, Charles Joseph Whitman, a former US Marine, kills 16 and wounds at least 30 while shooting from a University of Texas tower. Police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy shoot and kill Whitman in the tower. Whitman had also killed his mother and wife earlier in the day.
14 killed – December 2, 2015 – Married couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik open fire on an employee gathering taking place at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, killing 14 people.
14 killed – August 20, 1986 – In Edmond, Oklahoma, part-time mail carrier Patrick Henry Sherrill, armed with three handguns kills 14 postal workers in 10 minutes and then takes his own life with a bullet to the head.
13 killed – November 5, 2009 – Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan kills 13 people and injures 32 at Fort Hood, Texas, during a shooting rampage. He is convicted and sentenced to death.
13 killed – April 3, 2009 – In Binghamton, New York, Jiverly Wong kills 13 people and injures four during a shooting at an immigrant community center. He then kills himself.
13 killed – April 20, 1999 – Columbine High School – Littleton, Colorado. Eighteen-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold kill 12 fellow students and one teacher before committing suicide in the school library.
13 killed – February 18, 1983 – Three men enter the Wah Mee gambling and social club in Seattle, rob the 14 occupants and then shoot each in the head, killing 13. Two of the men, Kwan Fai Mak and Benjamin Ng, are convicted of murder in August 1983. Both are serving life in prison. The third, Wai-Chiu “Tony” Ng, after years on the run in Canada, is eventually convicted of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault. He is deported to Hong Kong in 2014.
13 killed – September 25, 1982 – In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 40-year-old George Banks, a prison guard, kills 13 people including five of his own children. In September 2011, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns his death sentence stating that Banks is mentally incompetent.
13 killed – September 5, 1949 – In Camden, New Jersey, 28-year-old Howard Unruh, a veteran of World War II, shoots and kills 13 people as he walks down Camden’s 32nd Street. His weapon of choice is a German-crafted Luger pistol. He is found insane and is committed to a state mental institution. He dies at the age of 88.
12 killed – September 16, 2013 – Shots are fired inside the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12. The shooter, identified as Aaron Alexis, 34, is also killed.
12 killed – July 20, 2012 – Twelve people are killed, and 58 are wounded in a shooting at a screening of the new Batman film in Aurora, Colorado. James E. Holmes, 24, dressed head-to-toe in protective tactical gear, sets off two devices of some kind before spraying the theater with bullets from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one of two .40-caliber handguns police recovered at the scene. On July 16, 2015, Holmes is found guilty on all 165 counts against him, 24 first-degree murder, 140 attempted murder and one count of possession or control of an explosive or incendiary device. He is sentenced to life in prison without parole.
12 killed – July 29, 1999 – In Atlanta, 44-year-old Mark Barton kills his wife and two children at his home. He then opens fire in two different brokerage houses killing nine people and wounding 12. He later kills himself.
10 killed – March 10, 2009 – In Alabama, Michael McLendon of Kinston, kills 10 and himself. The dead include his mother, grandparents, aunt and uncle.
9 killed – October 1, 2015 – Gunman Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer shoots and kills nine people, injuring another nine, at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The shooter dies after a gun battle with police at the college. Six weapons were recovered at the school; another seven were recovered at Harper-Mercer’s home.
9 killed – June 17, 2015 – Dylann Roof, 21, shoots and kills nine people inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina. Eight die at the scene; a ninth dies at a hospital. Roof is arrested the following day; according to police, he confesses and tells investigators he wanted to start a race war. Roof is convicted of murder and hate crimes in federal court and a jury recommends the death penalty. He would be the first person executed for committing federal hate crimes.
9 killed – March 21, 2005 – Red Lake High School, Red Lake, Minnesota. Sixteen-year-old Jeff Weise kills his grandfather and another adult, five students, a teacher and a security officer. He then kills himself.
9 killed – August 10, 1991 – Six monks, a nun, a monk in training and a temple worker are found shot to death at Wat Promkunaram, a Buddhist temple in Waddell, Arizona. Johnathan Doody, 17, and Alessandro Garcia, 16, are later convicted of the crime and receive multiple life sentences.
9 killed – June 18, 1990 – In Jacksonville, Florida, 42-year-old James Pough, angry about his car being repossessed, opens fire at a General Motors Acceptance Corp. office, killing nine people. Pough takes his own life.
8 killed – October 12, 2011 – Eight people are killed during a shooting at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, California. The suspect, Scott Evans Dekraai, 41, of Huntington Beach, is arrested without incident as he is trying to leave the scene. The eight victims nclude Dekraai’s ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, 48. He was armed with three guns — a 9 mm Springfield, a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, and a Heckler & Koch .45 — and was wearing body armor during the shooting rampage. He pleaded guilty and was formally convicted in 2014, but has not been sentenced because the trial court judge ordered the district attorney’s office recuse itself from the penalty phase amidst allegations of misconduct
8 killed – August 3, 2010 – Manchester, Connecticut – Omar Thornton kills eight co-workers at Hartford Distributors before turning the gun on himself. Thornton had been asked to resign for stealing and selling alcoholic beverages.
8 killed – January 19, 2010 – Christopher Speight, 39, kills eight people at a house in Appomattox, Virginia. He surrenders to police at the scene the next morning. February 2013, he is sentenced to five life terms plus 18 years.
8 killed – March 29, 2009 – In Carthage, North Carolina, 45-year-old Robert Stewart kills a nurse and seven elderly patients at a nursing home. In May, the Moore County district attorney announces she will seek the death penalty. On September 3, 2011, a jury finds Stewart guilty of second-degree murder. Stewart is sentenced to 141 to 179 years in prison.
8 killed – December 5, 2007 – In Omaha, Nebraska, 19-year-old Robert Hawkins goes to an area mall and kills eight shoppers before killing himself.
8 killed – July 1, 1993 – In San Francisco, 55-year-old Gian Luigi Ferri kills eight people in a law office and then kills himself.
8 killed – September 14, 1989 – In Louisville, Kentucky, 47-year-old Joseph Wesbecker armed with a AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle, two MAC-11 semiautomatic pistols, a .38 caliber handgun, a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol and a bayonet kills eight co-workers at Standard Gravure Corporation and then kills himself. He had been placed on disability leave from his job due to mental problems.
8 killed – August 20, 1982 – In Miami, Carl Robert Brown, 51, kills eight people with a shotgun at a machine shop. Brown, a teacher, was reportedly angry about a repair bill from the shop. After fleeing the scene on a bicycle, he is fatally shot by a witness who pursues him.

 

Mid-course 2017

We are almost half way through 2017 and shootings are up, most prominently one targeting a Congressional Republican baseball practice.  Many of these, like the baseball practice, were visible suicides.  Shooters didn’t  study tactical options, select weapons in an attempt to maximize casualties or even determine in advance who was targeted.

Guns were the  tools, but something else appears to be going on here.  Cries for  help, without the option of life after the event.  The vitriol  of the 2016 Presidential election, or a culture of violence in this country might take the blame, but a general economic malaise along with a new nastiness for the person you are passing in the street…

Smile at someone today.  Bring some cookies to a neighbor.  Provide some employment advice.  Let’s turn this around.  In any event, the game goes on!

San Bernadino

San Bernadino is a county in California, and also a city located in that county.  The city has a population over 200K, making it the 17th largest city in California and 100th largest city in the United States.  Two shootings happened there in the past two years in spite of the fact that California has some of the most restrictive firearms laws in the US (including some new onerous regulations regarding purchase and sale of ammunition).

According to Wikipedia, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple living in the city of Redlands, targeted a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event and Christmas party of about 80 employees in a rented banquet room. Farook was a U.S.-born citizen of Pakistani descent, who worked as a health department employee. Malik was a Pakistani-born lawful permanent resident of the United States.

According to public information, the couple had no legitimate ties to any known terrorist organization outside or inside the United States.  They had amassed a large quantity of weapons and bomb making supplies.  The couple left three pipe bombs at the scene which failed to explode, so the 14 fatalities and 22 wounded were the result of rifle and handgun fire.  Both  Farook and Malik were killed in shootouts with police.

Cedric Anderson, 53 year old estranged husband of Karen Elizabeth Smith, also 53, signed in as a visitor at North Park Elementary School on Monday, April 10th, 2017, proceeding to his wife’s classroom, where he shot her with a 357 revolver concealed on his person.  He inadvertently killed one student and wounded another during the shooting, before turning the gun on himself.

California laws include a DOJ administered test for firearm owners granting a safety certificate, which expires after 5 years,  and a registration process for manufacturers.  The firearm registration process ostensibly insures implementation of safety features for each model sold in California, but also adds cost and time-to-market challenges compared to other states or markets.

Gun advocates observe that these “attention” or “revenge” shootings rarely happen where concealed carry is permitted or guards are posted: such shooters prefer unprotected locations.   California’s state constitution does not include a “right to bear arms” provision, but many of the state’s laws are being challenged in federal court under the auspices of the 2d Amendment to the US Constitution.

Common Sense for Veterans

Congress has been working on a law to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from adding a veteran to the National Instant Criminal  Background Check system without involving a judge or other “due process” step.  A group of senior officers from all services (united in an organization called “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense”) oppose the bill.

Officers like the ones testifying thought it was too risky for many contractors to carry a firearm in Iraq in the mid-2000’s.  DOD hadn’t done a good job of establishing a status of forces agreement, so there was no legal response for a contractor misusing a firearm.  Rather than fix the status of forces agreement, many contracts  simply denied employees access to a weapon.  Problem solved, except for the contractors who were seized and beheaded due to this policy.  I worked under such a contract and  chose to return to the US after spending six months “at risk.”

The generals and admirals are asserting that a concerned mental health professional or VA bureaucrat should have the authority to revoke a veteran’s 2d Amendment rights, in the event the bureaucrat thinks the veteran can’t manage his own finances or is otherwise mentally unstable.   The argument:  such issue reveals a veteran is “mentally defective” and shouldn’t be allowed a firearm.

I have been witness to senior officers talk about “priviledges,” not “rights,” in many cases addressing activities that private citizens cannot  be denied without due process.  While I agree a health professional who believes a patient is at risk to  him/herself  or others, should be able to initiate an efficient process to remove such risk, revocation of a right isn’t a trivial step.  A magistrate MUST be involved, whether the patient is a veteran or not, whether care is received from VA or not.

I’d argue the reason for our high suicide rates among service and former service members isn’t ready access to firearms.  What is the reason, you ask?  The existing law (called Uniform Code of Military Justice) gives too much authority to the military bureaucracy, much as these officers are suggesting for the Veterans Affairs here.  Due process means people are treated with an objective of  fairness under the law, not bureaucratic convenience or “needs of the unit.”   Common sense does not cavalierly disregard hard earned freedoms for the very men and women who gave up many of those freedoms to defend us.

Airport Shooter

We were again shocked when “random” shootings happened at the FT Lauderdale International Airport on January 6, 2017.

Esteban Santiago-Ruiz joined the Puerto Rican National Guard with parental consent (or perhaps underage), where he served with people he considered his brothers, from 2007 until at least his return from Iraq in February 2011 (he served with the 1013 Engineers, locating and disarming roadside bombs, losing two comrades there).

It isn’t clear why Esteban left his unit in Puerto Rico, although reports confirm he transferred to the Army Reserves before moving to Anchorage, Alaska.  In Alaska, Santiago had a girlfriend and a baby boy, worked as a security guard for “Signal 88” and joined the Alaska National Guard as a specialist (E-4), later being demoted to private first class (E-3) and receiving a general discharge for unsatisfactory performance.  Why he was only an E-4 in Alaska is a question we might ask, although it appears he hadn’t finished high school before enlisting, and perhaps still doesn’t have that degree.

Reporters suggest Esteban traveled to Florida to conduct the shooting, although no one seems to know why he had a Florida driver’s license and an active duty identification card on his person when he was detained there.

Although he had several run-ins with the law in Alaska, including a visit to the FBI, where he claimed the military was controlling his mind and making him watch ISIS videos, he didn’t commit any weapons violations and evidently was cleared to have his weapons returned to him after some treatment.

On January 5, he boarded a redeye from Anchorage, destined for Minneapolis, checking his firearm and several magazines of ammunition in a locked container (as permitted by law and Delta luggage rules).  He caught Delta flight 2182 to Ft Lauderdale, arriving on January 6 before noon and gathered his case at terminal 2, baggage carousel 3.  From there, Esteban proceeded to a men’s room, where reports suggest he removed the Walther 9mm and loaded a magazine, leaving the case in the bathroom and securing ammunition for a reload somewhere on his body.

He walked back toward the baggage carousels, removing his weapon and firing as he went.  He loaded the second magazine en route, with most casualties from his shooting arriving on Delta flight 1465 from Atlanta at 12:30.  Esteban allegedly killed 5, wounding six.  There were reports of shooters after Esteban was captured, in Terminals 1 and 4, but investigators have been unable to confirm a second shooter.  There have been no suggestions Esteban was targeting anyone on the Atlanta flight, with many reports emphasizing his mind control and ISIS comments.  In a strange coincidence, Republican “big wig” and gun advocate, Ari Fleischer, was in the airport and heard the shooting, although he wasn’t a witness or in danger at any time.

Texas

Texans will be quick to tell you that their state is one of the most armed in the country.  Tales of rifles on gun racks in trucks abound.  This might be because civilians helped overwhelm a murderous sniper when the local police weren’t quite equipped to deal with the tactical problem.

Some fifty years ago (August 1, 1966) an engineering student named Charles Whitman climbed the 307 foot tall limestone landmark on the University of Texas grounds and began shooting innocent wanderers.  Firearms that local police carried at the time weren’t able to respond at that distance… local civilians were enlisted to bring the man down.  Before the incident was concluded, 17 people were killed and over 30 were wounded.

According to the Washington Post , 25 mass public killings happened in the fifty years before UT… 149 have happened since.  Of course, on 9-10 November 1938 ninety one people were killed in Germany (Kristalnacht).  Although accounts differ, Hitler went on to kill 20 million.  Stalin also killed between 2 and 3 million of his own.  In Ukraine on June 23, 1919 alone, 45 people were killed, countless raped, though estimates of fatalities due to pogroms in Ukraine in the few years after 1919 range in the multiple tens of thousands.  Ten years later, more than 3 million died in Ukraine due to forced starvation (Holodimir) thanks to Soviet Russia.  Would an armed populace helped prevent these mass killings?

Mao Tse Tung managed to kill between 20 and 45 million of his citizens due to agricultural reforms initiated during the 1958-1961 Cultural Revolution.  Would Chinese citizens have prevented these policies under a Chinese “2d Amendment?”

In any event, you can find a pretty detailed overview of Texas and 2d Amendment dynamics here:  https://www.tribtalk.org/2016/01/08/how-obamas-executive-actions-affect-texas-gun-politics/

Protecting Democracy and your Family