Monthly Archives: November 2017

Let’s Talk About Spree Shootings

Violent crime rates per capita in the US have been dropping steadily for many years, and continue to drop annually. This includes homicides using firearms, despite the fact that numbers of firearms in private hands and numbers of firearms owners has increased dramatically in the same period. Despite the AR15 being the most common rifle in the US only a tiny percentage of crimes involving firearms use this or similar weapons.
I am not suggesting that there is a causative relationship between firearms ownership and reductions in crime, and I honestly don’t believe that there is. But the statistics do tend to prove that there is no correlation between increasing firearms ownership or sheer numbers of firearms in private hands and increases in violent crime.
The problem is that while high-capacity semi-auto rifles are used in only a tiny percentage of violent crimes these crimes tend to be unusually horrific, even though they barely constitute a blip on the radar of numbers of violent deaths. The ones that most often come to the public’s attention are spree shooters- people who set out to create the maximum number of casualties in the minimum amount of time in a single area.
Note that I call these people ‘Spree-Killers’ and not ‘Mass Shooters.’  The way people count ‘mass shootings’ badly distorts the actual numbers. For example if a criminal shoots a police officer and in response two criminals are shot this is counted as a ‘mass shooting.’  Typically any incident where bullets hit three or more people, whether lethally or not, is counted as a ‘Mass Shooting.’ This does not address Spree Shooters like the Las Vegas concert shooter or the Texas church shooting, which are the major problem we are facing.
It’s easy to blame the availability of military-style rifles, but let’s get real here- if they were really the problem we would have vastly more spree shooters.  No one knows the actual numbers of these weapons out there, but it’s somewhere between 3.5-10 million. They are very, very common.  Yes, this makes them easier for killers to get their hands on. In fact it makes them the weapon-of-choice for spree-shooters. But horrific as they are spree-shootings are a tiny, microscopic percentage of the use of these firearms. We need to stop spree-shooters and spree-killers in general, but is it morally supportable to penalize millions of law-abiding gun owners to do so when it isn’t likely to be effective in stopping the killers? I’m not making an argument here, I am asking a question.
OK, let’s address this right now- if military-style semi-automatic rifles are the weapon-of-choice for spree-killers why wouldn’t banning them be effective? Because they are the weapon-of-choice, not the only option. Recently a fellow drove a truck into a crowd and killed 83 people. The Oklahoma City bombing killed hundreds. Terrorist bombings in the Middle-east kill countless numbers of people each year. Might Joe Psycho skip the whole spree-killing thing if it was hard to get a military-style semi-auto? Maybe, but the evidence seems to suggest not.
Suppose for a minute that banning, confiscating and outlawing these weapons would not deter spree-killers. This is a real problem and real people are dying. The fact that they  represent a very small number of deaths per capita is not a comfort to the wives, husbands and parents of the victims. So what can we do about it?
People are fond of pointing out that when high-capacity military-style rifles were banned in Scotland and Australia there were no more spree-shootings, and they are correct. If the United States were either of these nations it might work here, too.  Despite our (theoretically) shared language we are very, very different cultures from these two countries. Hell, we Americans are very different cultures from each other.  There likely is no single solution that will work nationwide- and there is absolutely no simple solution.
We need to address the fact that we have become a society and a culture that produces spree-killers. We need to identify the reasons that this is so, and take active steps to fix these conditions. We can glibly blame this on the poor availability of mental-health care, but while that may contribute to the problem there is a lot more to it. Poverty, lack of economic opportunity, lack of education,  hopelessness and despair, extremism- not coincidentally the same factors that cause people to join terrorist groups.
You will never stop all the bad apples- but we can stop a lot of them if we address the reasons why they are happening. Until or unless we do the weapon-of-choice may change- but the end result won’t.

Mucking About in the Shop

A while back Pinto’s had some cast .361″/150gr SWCs for sale. Perfect for my old S&W top-breaks, and at $3 per hundred? Shut up and take my money!

So far I mainly load .357″ HBWCs in .38 S&W, but I gave the SWCs a go. I use .38 Special dies to load this caliber, and with the HBWCs it works a treat. Not so much with the new bullets; most of them wouldn’t fit the chambers of my gun! Very annoying. I needed a dedicated seating/crimping die. I kept meaning to buy a set but it kept slipping my mind until I was in Pinto’s the other day and found a used .357 crimping die for just a few dollars and snagged it.

Today I was at loose ends and decided to muck about in the shop. I shortened the .357 die, then heavily chamfered the opening with a conical stone in my flex-shaft too. Getting it set deep enough in my press required removing the locking ring but this hasn’t proven to be a problem. I just bring the shell-holder all the way up and screw the die in until it touches. I ran all of the old ammo through it and presto! It fits the cylinder properly now. The die also produces a nice roll-crimp, so I am happy with it. I also loaded another fifty rounds; there’s a range-trip in my near future.

The other project of the day was for a friend. She recently purchased a nice used Taurus Model 85 and wanted a concealed-carry grip for it. I fitted it up with a set of custom Olivewood grips today. Much flatter than most grips made for these guns, but still comfortable and secure in the hand. Came out quite nice; I think she’ll be very pleased.

Nothing too exciting today, just some pleasant and productive shop time getting a few things done that I had been putting off.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 25 November 2017

Universal Background Checks

OK, let’s talk about Universal Background Checks for firearms purchases. I see people on both sides of the argument that seem to be ‘stuck on stupid’ about this.Can we have a rational discussion?
There are people that object to this. Some feel that it will inevitably lead to gun registration and in the end confiscation. Others say it won’t help because there are too many alternative avenues for criminals to obtain illegal firearms. But most gun owners that I know object primarily because it’s a pain in the butt and costs money. In Washington State most firearms transfers (transactions which give a person unsupervised control of a firearm that they do not own) must be done through a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL.)
Let’s say I want to buy a gun from a buddy. Instead of simply meeting at a time and place convenient to both of us we have to arrange to meet at a gun store and fill out a bunch of paperwork, then pay them a fee (often around $40.) We’re busy people and live in a city with some of the worst traffic in the country. It’s a pain in the butt, and since we are both law-abiding citizens it isn’t keeping guns out of the hands of a criminal. It feels like a penalty that we haven’t earned and don’t deserve, with the net effect that the gun store makes some money off a transaction that they have no investment in. This isn’t an argument against the practice as such, just an explanation of why a lot of people don’t like it and feel it is unfair.
It’s not hard to understand people objecting to something they feel is unnecessary and unfair, is it? Yet at the same time people who do not have a legal right to own a firearm still transfer guns with no regard for the law, so it’s arguable as to whether or not it’s really helping.
On the other hand I have never been comfortable selling a firearm to a random person with no idea if they are legally allowed to possess it. Generally I sell them to a gun store or on consignment in a gun store, or to people or family members that I know well.
So, what to do…
There is a system in place to do an instant background check- NICS. This allows an FFL dealer to instantly check if an individual is legally entitled to own a firearm. Nothing is perfect but generally speaking it works well. In this state if you have a carry permit- meaning that you’ve already been checked out and can legally possess a firearm- the dealer simply makes a phone call and gets a yes/no answer on the spot. It’s quick, easy and pretty painless, and gun purchasers actually like it. Of course they still have to fill out the forms, because that’s how FFLs work and have for decades.
How about this- while you are advocating universal background checks why not encourage your representatives to fund the expansion of NICs into a resource for individuals as well as FFL dealers? A lot fewer gun owners would object if you make it easy to do an instant, free check to transfer a gun. Instead of meeting at an FFL dealer, filling out time-consuming forms and spending money you simply make a phone call and are provided with an instant answer and perhaps a code to record on the receipt. You get the ‘background check’ without the hassle or expense. A lot of gun owners would welcome this, at least as an alternative to the current system.
All it would take is some money to expand the system and rules that allow it. People that demand universal background checks get them, and gun owners are at least less unhappy and resistant.
Sorry, I know this is a sensible solution that doesn’t cater to knee-jerk positions on either side of the debate, but it’s relatively easy and painless and who knows? It might actually help.
Michael Tinker Pearce,  18 November 2017