Friday, March 2, 2018

Reasons Why Banning AR15 Is Entirely Useless Idea

To begin, let us establish what an AR-15 is. The AR does not mean "assault rifle" or "automatic rifle" as many have come to believe. An AR-15 is a .223-caliber rifle originally manufactured by a company called Armalite. AR-15 simply means Armalite Rifle, model number 15. The basic design features have become ubiquitous to the point that many, many other rifles are incorrectly referred to as an AR-15. Companies such as Ruger, Bushmaster, and Daniels Defense produce weapons similar in appearance which are not in fact AR-15's. Also similar in appearance, and most often confused with, is the standard U.S. Army infantry rifle designated as the M-16, which was first introduced to combat during the Vietnam war. The M-16 is in fact an assault rifle, but is not available for general civilian use or purchase. The M-16 is a select-fire rifle. Meaning it can fire in semi-automatic mode, or one shot per trigger pull, like the the similar looking civilian rifle. The following two modes are not available on civilian rifles. Burst-mode will fire 3 rounds of ammunition for each trigger pull. This gives the ability to put several rounds on-target nearly instantaneously while also conserving ammo. And finally, we have the fully automatic mode, which makes for great scenes in action movies, but is not very practical in actual use. Simply holding the trigger down will allow rounds to be fired continuously until the magazine is empty. Simply "spraying lead" is not accurate for engaging multiple targets and rapidly depletes available ammo stores. But again, this is only available in rifles issued to military personnel and law-enforcement for the extremely rare occasion is might be useful. (Typically machineguns are used as suppression, so that other elements on your side can maneuver while enemies are forced to take cover. Full-auto may also be useful in "drilling" a hardened target or maybe engaging a larger target such as a car for example.) The ability to select-fire is the primary factor which differentiates an assault rifle from other combat and civilian rifles. Armalite sold their original model 15 design to Colt's Manufacturing Company in 1959. Subsequently, Colt went on to introduce the military grade rifle designated as the M-16 in 1964, and it was adopted as the official standard-issue rifle for the U.S. military in 1969. They also went on to refine and produce a semi-automatic civilian model called the Colt Armalite AR-15. Colt still retains the trademark to the AR-15 today, so other companies who manufacture similar rifles have to use their own model numbers for commercial sale. The AR-15 has been billed as "America's rifle" being the most popular and most adaptable rifle in American history. (Colt also manufactures what is arguably America's most popular handgun, the Model 1911 .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, which entered service for the U.S. military in the year 1911, but was largely phased out as the standard issue sidearm by the early 1990's in favor of the Beretta M9. Still, many elite special operations units continue to favor the 1911 to this day and it is still very popular in the civilian market as well.) Alternately to being viewed as America's rifle, many have come to revile the weapon due to inaccurate belief that it is an assault rifle, and due to its' perceived use in several high profile mass-shootings. The truth is that the AR-15 performs exactly the same way as so many other small caliber .223 civilian rifles which have a less menacing appearance, as so eloquently explained by Danny Farnsworth in the video appearing here, and on his Facebook page directly linked at his name.

So if it isn't the rifle that is actually so deadly, is must be the bullets it fires, right? Wrong. The .223-caliber round is actually one of the smallest available for a rifle. It was selected by the military specifically because it is less likely to kill an enemy outright, instead, only wounding him. (There are other reasons as well such as accuracy, rate of gravity decay, weight of carried ammo, etc.) Although it is true that the .223 rifle bullet has a very high velocity, which gives it power to penetrate light body armor, it leaves a very small hole and doesn't have very much "stopping power." For civilian use, .223-caliber rifles are typically used for hunting small game and are not generally considered to be practical even for deer hunting. While it may not make much sense to a lot of people that the military would use a "less deadly" bullet, it is actually a good battlefield tactic to wound your enemy rather than kill them outright. For example. Imagine you are a two-person patrol element that engages a 9-man enemy squad. If you score a kill shot, you will still have eight enemies firing at you. But if you only wound one of those opponents, suddenly it will take another 3 or 4 men out of the firefight as they tend to their wounded comrade and at least two to take him off the battlefield, leaving you now with only 4 to 6 enemies to deal with. Rinse and repeat. It is better to bleed out enemy resources than go in for the immediate direct kill when possible.

.223 vs .50 Beowulf
So what about so-called "assault" rifles with bigger bullets, like the AK-47? Well, again, even weapons similar in appearance to the Kalishnakov model 47, are not true military grade assault rifles. Civilian purchase and use is still limited to being semi-automatic only. The AK-47 fires a 7.62mm bullet, which is the same as a .30-caliber round. This bullet is still a lot smaller than let's say, the bullet fired by the Colt model 1911 semi-automatic pistol, which fires a .45-caliber bullet, that is to say it is nearly a half inch in diameter. That bullet has an enormous amount of stopping power, especially when combined with a semi-jacketed hollow point design. The jacket gives penetration power, while the hollow point flares as it penetrates the target, leaving an enormous hole. There are even bigger handguns such as the .50 caliber Desert Eagle, the Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum, and even rarities in .55 or even .60 caliber. The picture shows the side by side comparison between the .223-caliber fired by the AR-15, and a .50-caliber Beowulf cartridge.

Let us consider now too, long guns that are not typically mislabeled as assault rifles, but rather seen for what they are, as weapons used for sport and home defense by your average American. As shown above, an AR-15 is the same as a more average looking rifle which fires the same exact bullet. We have mentioned that there are also more powerful rifles, such as the 7.62mm with the appearance of a Kalishnakov or other genuine assault rifle. There are other civilian rifles too though, that are less menacing in appearance but which are actually more deadly. One example is the Model 8 manufactured by Remington, and first introduced in the year 1900. The Model 8 is a semi-automatic rifle which come in a variety of calibers. The smallest round it fires is a .25-caliber, which is larger then the .223 fired by the AR-15. It fires other rounds on up to a .35-caliber including the .300 Savage rimless cartridge.

Model 8 by Remington

During this latest round of anti-gun hysteria, it has been brought up regularly that no one under 18 years of age should be allowed to buy a rifle. First, this seems absurd when you consider that at that age you are legally an adult, can operate far more deadly machinery such as motor vehicles, and can be sent off to war after being issued a select-fire/full-auto rifle. Would this age discrimination extend to the trusty old homestead shotgun as well? If so, then such a law would be entirely un-Constitutional as it would deny a tax-paying voting citizen of the right to keep and bear arms as well as the right to self-defense. It could also be easily circumvented by straw purchases.

But let's talk a little more about the shotgun for a moment. It is a long-gun, like a rifle, but they tend to operate a bit differently. When it comes to talk of banning rifles, or semi-automatic rifles, consider that a shotgun is neither of those and usually left out of the conversation. As American as apple pie, the trusty 12-gauge shotgun is an icon of home defense, hunting, sport shooting, law-enforcement and military, even rescue use. There is a very wide variety of ammo and can be loaded with specialty shot like less-than-lethal loads. In the past, farmers and ranchers would regularly load shotgun shells with rock salt, to run off trespassers with a painful but typically non-lethal burst. When it comes to tactical use though, the shotgun is well-suited to use inside of a building where the extended range that a rifle can achieve accurately is not necessary. Within a hundred yards, a shotgun is far more deadly. Effective range can be extended depending on your ammo. Most shotguns are pump-action, rather than semi-automatic. Which means that each time you discharge a shot, you have to pull the pump-lever to load another shell into the firing chamber. This is sometimes called "racking a load." It only takes a split second to do, and this loss of time is more than made up for by the stopping power of a shotgun. A slug shell is a single piece of lead or other metal that is fired from a shotgun. In comparison to the tiny .223 caliber of an AR-15, a slug shot is more than three times as large. When converted to imperial units, the 12-gauge slug is a stunning .72-caliber! A single shotgun shell can be loaded with a wide selection of pellet shot as well. This means for every shell discharged, a number of metal balls will be projected at one time. A 12-gauge can fire a triple-shot load. Three, beastly .60-caliber shots will be sent downrange for each shell fired. The most typical load of "buckshot" will send anywhere from 9 to 18 balls of metal, such as lead or tungsten, .330-inch in diameter each, hurtling downrange with a single pull of the trigger at one time. It is also sufficient to go through a car door. On the cusp between birdshot and buckshot rests an "F" load for a shotgun shell. Each pellet is slightly larger in diameter than the rounds fired by an AR-15. The AR-15 fires a 5.56mm (.223-caliber) bullet. A shotgun with an F load will fire at least 27 5.59mm pellets in a single burst. Comparatively, this is like emptying a 30-round magazine of an AR-15 all at once. Even a fully automatic M-16 can't achieve that. The "F" load is ideal for home defense as you can put a lot of lead on target at one time, but it doesn't have much penetrating power, so you are less likely to hit a family member in the next room with a shot through a wall. Shotgun loads are more accurate at shorter range than wildly firing with a fully-automatic machinegun. Both the choke and the load can be changed in order to achieve the desired spread and pattern of each burst fired from a single pull of a shotgun trigger. There are magnesium incendiary loads capable of burning right through heavy armor, heavy steel structural beams, and bullet-resistant windows. Standard incendiary loads such as Dragon's Breath, flashbang shells that must be the offspring of Thor himself, breaching loads that will blow armored and reinforced doors right off the hinges, and many many more specialty loads. And if you happen to be in the military or have a special Federal license, any of those loads can be used in the Earth shaking AA-12 full-auto machine-shotgun.

Now, let's have a look at school shootings, which is the topic that has set off the most recent anti-gun hysteria. The first recorded school shooting in what would soon become the United States was in Pennsylvania, when four Delaware American Indians entered a schoolhouse during Pontiac's War, shot the the schoolmaster dead, then killed 9 children with melee weapons. The first instance of an actual mass-murder shooting spree on school grounds happened in 1966 when Charles Whitman opened fire from a tower on the grounds at the Austin campus of Texas University. He was armed with a variety of pistols, rifles, knives and a sawed-off shotgun. It is important to note here that many civilians returned fire on Whitman from the ground, and a police officer even drove a student to his house in order to get his own rifle so that he could assist the the police and other civilians engaging Whitman. A number of civilians also stormed the tower with several being killed or permanently injured in the process. The death toll is counted at 17, including an unborn child, and another victim who did not die until 2001 as a result of injuries suffered in 1966. Although there were a number of school shootings after that, there wasn't another spree that killed more than ten people until the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. The two shooters claimed 13 lives and exchanged fire with police before they both committed suicide. They used a variety of legal and illegal weapons, including d 99 explosive devices. The deadliest school shooting in the U.S. happened at Virginia Tech in 2007. The shooter used two standard unmodified pistols, one of which was a small .22-caliber typically used for varmint control or perhaps shooting squirrels and rabbits at short range. To date it is also the third deadliest spree shooting in the U.S. with 33 dead including the shooter. While any death is certainly tragic, it is important to frame this in some perspective here, when talking about how dangerous schools are, or the AR-15 rifle is and so forth. We must attempt to remove knee-jerk emotions here and apply sound reasoning instead.

Including the Texas massacre in 1966, 471 people have been killed as the result of criminal shootings in schools. It's a lot of people, without a doubt, and certainly tragic, but consider the fact that 3,477 people were killed in 2015 alone due to distracted driving. It is estimated that over 660,000 people are using their phones each day while driving, just during daylight hours alone. This means that cellphones are more deadly by far than any weapon that has ever been brought into a school, or for that matter, used in any mass murder at all in the U.S. We know that cars are dangerous though, and are one of the leading causes of accidental death with roughly 33,000 people being killed each year on our roadways. So let's compare the number of school-shooting fatalities to the very safest mode of travel, which is air-travel. Since the day Whitman opened fire on the Texas University campus, and excluding 9/11, there have been 2,583 fatalities involving airliners in the United States. Even without including private aircraft accidents, you are roughly five times more likely to be killed in a plane crash than in a school shooting. And we already know that your chances of being killed in a plane wreck are extremely low.

Accidents are accidents though, even when negligence is the root cause. So how do school shootings stack up against murder in general? In 2016 there were 15,070 murders in the U.S. Out of that, 374 were carried out with a rifle. Not AR-15's alone, but all rifles combined including single-action, bolt action or any other sort of rifle as well. You have a better chance of being beat to death by someone using their bare hands than by being shot dead with a rifle. You are also more than 4 times as likely to be stabbed to death, than be murdered with a rifle. Total number of murders with a rifle were 2.8% of all murders in 2016. That is about three-fourths the number or murders in one year with just a rifle, compared to total school shootings with any gun over an entire half century. So looking at these figures we see that school shootings, nor rifles of any kind, are anywhere close to being the social crisis that is being portrayed in the media. Again, as tragic as these events are, they are statistically insignificant.

As if all those numbers, facts, and reasoning weren't enough, here are some more amazing facts that make proposed gun-control measures utterly pointless other than simply being an imposition on our Constitutionally guaranteed liberty.

Take "garage guns" for instance. Home made improvised firearms constructed from scrap material and debris, or parts purchased at a hardware store, are perfectly legal. Even if they weren't, what is America going to do about it? Ban the Home Depot? China is the gun-control capital of the world, but has been unable to stop their dissident populations from building their own guns. In America, you can build your own guns legally. With the right tax stamps, it is even legal to make your own silencers and sawed-off shotguns.

You don't have the skill to build your own gun? No problem. While there is a major push right now to raise the minimum age to buy a rifle to 21, and even to ban the ubiquitous, small-caliber, semi-automatic AR-15, try not to get caught up in the media-induced hysteria. Machine guns, like the one pictured here, which were manufactured before 1986, may be purchased by anyone over 18 with a Federal class 2 license. To get a class 2 license you will have to pay a few hundred dollars in taxes and fees. You can also be exempt from providing your photograph and fingerprints, if you establish a living trust. Your local pawnbroker is likely to have one of these permits. With enough money you might be able to get your hands on one of these, legally. But the fun doesn't stop there.

Flamethrowers are also legal. There are no Federal laws regarding flamethrowers, and 40 out of 50 states have no laws whatsoever regarding them either. You can build one at home or you can buy one online for as little as $300.

Did he say thermite in that video? Why yes, he did. Thermite can be made at home with rust, and aluminum filings. Specific recipes are readily available online as well as the simple ingredients. Thermite burns at temperatures nearly as hot as the Sun. Aside from melting cars right through their engine blocks and gas tanks, this makes it useful for demolitions applications as it can easily burn through heavy load-bearing steel in a building. So, while most thermite varieties are not explosive, with a little engineering/architectural knowledge, anyone can really bring down the house without any bombs, planes, or boxcutters.

Speaking of bombs though, let's go out with a bang here. If you don't want to pay the few hundred bucks in government taxes for a class 2 permit to buy a fully automatic machinegun, and you are not enough of an engineer to bring down a building with thermite, there is the good old-fashioned big kaboom to get your message across. From the comfort of your couch you can order about $50 worth of tannerite which will get you this result.

Considering all of this, do you honestly believe that banning the AR-15 will have any practical, positive effect on public safety?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How To Fix Gun Laws In America

This is how we fix the gun laws in America:

First, we wipe out every gun law on the books in every town, city, county, state and territory in the United States. This will make the rest of the plan uniform, and without confusion. It will eliminate the need for reciprocity laws, permits for different states, worry over mistakenly carrying legally in one place then illegally in another, etc. It will also make a uniform interpretation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Second. Anyone who wants to carry a gun in public, assembled, will be required to pass a one-time knowledge and safety course along with a simple background check. To pass the course you must show basic knowledge of firearms, gun safety, and the safe storage of firearms. To pass the background check, you will have to show that you have not been convicted of a violent felony, and that you are not permanently mentally disabled. That's it. Non-violent felons should be able to own a gun once their time is served, and someone simply under mental health treatment is not automatically disqualified. This basic permit should be entered into an electronic database that is regularly updated, and can be flagged by law enforcement or a court, any time someone is convicted of a violent felony, or declared permanently mentally handicapped by a doctor. Let's call this basic permit a "Red Card" just to give it a name.

Third. Use your Red Card to purchase any man-portable firearm you like. A professional gun dealer will be able to run your Red Card as fast as swiping a credit card. No need for more waiting periods or background checks once you have your Red Card.

Fourth. Implement an "endorsement" system for the Red Card, based on weapon type and your displayed proficiency. Sort of like a hazmat or tanker endorsement on a commercial driver license. If you want to carry a shotgun around, fine, pass a brief proficiency exam with a licensed instructor/range/club/agency, demonstrating that you know how to safely and competently operate a shotgun. Pistol? Same thing. Rifle? Same. Belt-fed heavy machine gun? Great. Show that you know how to use it. Once you have that endorsement, it is good for all weapons of that class. You will not be required to register every weapon, unless you choose to, perhaps for insurance purposes for example. There should also be endorsements for open carry and concealed carry.

Fifth. Implement legislation that allows law-enforcement to verify your legal carrying of a firearm. A Red Card shall be presented on demand of any sworn law-enforcement officer in the course of any investigation that meets the standard of probable cause, if you are found to be in possession of a firearm. Once you have your Red Card, you may carry any firearm unloaded and partially disassembled/inoperable for purposes of transport only. This will allow you to take your weapon from home to a shooting range to practice for your proficiency endorsement, if you choose to. Once you have your endorsement, you may carry any weapon in that class loaded and operable in public. The "on-demand Red Card" will also close the loop for private sales. A private seller will not be required to verify your Red Card status, but it will be your own responsibility to be compliant.

Sixth. Implement strict and harsh penalties for violations of the Red Card licensing. No issued Red Card or endorsement may ever be revoked however, except in instances where you would no longer qualify upon application. Such as a conviction for a violent felony. Carrying loaded and assembled out of class outside of your own residence or property, can and should result in the permanent barring of endorsement for the class of weapon being carried in violation, with a heavy fine and possible incarceration.

There are a few other little details that popped in and out as I was writing this, like what to do about minors, but that is the meat of my idea of what proper, modern, Constitutional gun laws should look like. Thanks for having a read. And as always, feel free to comment below. -JMV

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What's For Dinner On Christmas Eve?

Many folks have their feast on Christmas Day. Often centered by a ham, or turkey, maybe a goose, with all the fixin's and plenty of desserts. In my family we usually have a turkey feast on Thanksgiving, and a nice glazed ham feast for Christmas Day. Many of the side dishes are the same, but with more cookies, chocolates, and desserts after Santa comes than we have at the harvest celebration.

Then there are a lot of folks, especially here in New York where there are so many families with Italian roots, who enjoy a grand meal on Christmas Eve. Being a day of fasting for Catholics, the meal is centered on seafood, while meat dishes are avoided altogether. Traditionally known as The Feast of Seven Fishes, these days you might find many more than just seven dishes being served through the evening, leading up to the celebration of Midnight Mass.

As many times as I may forget I am not Italian, I have to be content to just have a lot of Italian-American friends and extended family. I am not particularly religious either, in an organized fashion anyway. So usually I spend a quiet evening at home with my closest family, relaxing. Though we are not Catholic, we usually try to catch Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. (That link there should be available tonight for livestrameing straight from their website. You can also catch it on television as well, or livestreaming too, from PIX11 who have also rekindled the tradition of the Yule Log afterward just in time for hot cocoa.)

Here is the dilemma now. What do I make for dinner on Christmas Eve? I suppose any old thing would do, but I want something a little more special to mark the night. Something not too fancy or difficult since I will be cooking all day tomorrow, but something filling that makes it feel like Christmas. So why not go with the Catholic seafood theme? I've got it! Pasta with clam sauce! So tasty, yet simple, easy and quick. Here's how I like to make it:

Pasta With White Clam Sauce

Pick your pasta. Traditionally you always hear of linguine with clam sauce, which is a fine choice, or maybe even some spaghetti or fettuccine but long cuts are not your only option. After being stuck with only a box of medium shells one night, I found it to actually be just as good, if not preferable, being easier to eat with a just a spoon and getting more clam in every bite. I find thicker sauces to be best for long cuts of pasta, a thinner sauce like this is great with those sea-shell shapes.

Now let's get this sauce going here. Pour in plenty of olive oil to a saute pan and melt in an equal portion of butter. About a stick of butter usually for a box or so of pasta. Not too hot now, olive oil burns at a lower temp than other oils.

Have a good sized onion chopped and ready to go into the butter and oil. Let them sweat out a little then add in two big mounds of chopped garlic. Fresh garlic is obviously going to be more flavorful, but I find it a lot easier to keep a big jar of chopped garlic in the fridge. At least two big, giant heaping tablespoons of garlic here. It's okay to let these brown a bit, but be sure not to scorch and burn the garlic or you will get a bitter taste. In a pinch, you could substitute with onion and garlic powder, which some people actually prefer.

Now this is really one of my own little tricks here. As that onion and garlic is going, I add in one of those little cans of anchovy fillets, and break them up nicely as I stir. I am sure you could use anchovy paste too, but I like adding the olive oil from the fillet can which adds a bit more anchovy flavor. Don't worry if someone hates anchovies either. You won't really taste it in the final product. It just adds a nice, rich depth of flavor overall and all the salt you will need.

Add some crushed red pepper flakes, to taste. I like my sauce to have a little kick to it. Just a dash will, again, add some more depth of flavor, where a little more will add some zip too. Don't go too crazy though, it gets spicier as it cooks, than just some dry flakes on a slice of pizza.

Now let's talk about clams. Some people prefer to be real authentic gourmet, but I find fighting with clam shells while trying to eat pasta is just a pain in the littleneck, so I use canned, rather than fresh clams. I also find keeping some canned clams in the pantry a great idea for a night when I need to make a quick easy meal, or just get bored of the same old stuff.  Chopped clams are fine, but lately I found some canned clams that are not chopped, just shucked and canned whole without the shells. (Make sure you don't try to use those smoked clams in oil.) Now another advantage to the canned clams is you don't have to go buy an extra bottle of clam juice, because the clams are canned in their own juice. The whole ones I get come in one big can, but if you are using the chopped you will want at least 3 maybe 4 of those tuna-sized-cans. Have those tins open and ready to go. Pour all the juice right in the hot pan, but reserve the actual clams. Just drain all the juices in there, and leave the actual clams aside for the moment.

Add some white wine if you have some on hand, but I usually don't have any and the sauce still comes out very tasty. The same goes for a bit of lemon juice as well at this point. It's a sort of and/or/both/neither option here. 

Let all of that simmer and reduce for a bit. The sauce will never really get "thick" but you do want it to concentrate the flavors and cook down some. I just sort of go by sight, the line where it has reduced from, the richer color. You'll have to sort of guess I suppose until you have made it a few times.

In the last few minutes, add your herbs. Fresh or dried according to what you have on hand. I like plenty of parsley, some basil, and a bit of oregano, in that order.

Finally, right in the last minute or so, toss in all your canned clams. If you did use fresh ones, you'll want to add them earlier to steam open. You just wanted the clams heated through, because overcooking will rubberize their texture pretty quick.

You should have your pasta ready to go at this point too. The timing can be a little tricky, and again, practice makes perfect as to when you should actually put the pasta on the boil. You can serve the sauce straight over the pasta, but I prefer to have my pasta just a tad underdone, then finish in another saute pan right in with some of the sauce so that it cooks right into the pasta a bit. You might also prefer to do this "per order" so to speak or per serving you intend to plate right then, and reserve some of the sauce for later. I tend do do about a half box of pasta at at time, and reserve half of the sauce for later. You don't want to try to cook too much all at once. If you are serving a few more people consider using more than one saute pan to finish off your pasta. 

Toss with your favorite sort of hard, grated, Italian cheese a few seconds before plating.

Once plated top it all off with some fresh cracked black pepper, maybe some fresh grated lemon zest, and maybe a little more parsley if you have it on hand fresh.

Serve after a nice garden salad, and alongside some golden brown butter garlic bread to sop up the leftover sauce and juices at the bottom of the dish.

All of that may sound a little long-winded and complicated, but really, this is a super-easy and quick dish to make, even for a beginner in the kitchen. So here's the real simple version:

Olive oil and butter as the base for your sauce. Chopped onion first, then chopped garlic next. Anchovy and crushed red pepper flake if you like. Plenty of clam juice. Some white wine and/or a squirt of lemon juice if you like. Simmer. Add herbs, pause, add clams. Use sauce for pasta along with some grated cheese, black pepper, and perhaps a bit of lemon zest.

Buon Appetito!

Merry Christmas!!!