A Surprising Member of Academe

In yesterday’s post, More Misinformed Ignorance and Hyperbole, the Observer op-ed I excerpted had a quote from University of Toledo Professor Brian Anse Patrick which was part of my excerpt. Professor Patrick left a comment to that post, and a valid email address, so I sent him a reply email and did a little research on him.

He’s a good guy.

Check out this web page about his honors seminar on American Gun Policy. It’s not what you’d expect from today’s university campuses.

He sent me a reply to my initial email, and I have responded further. He’s given permission to post our exchanges, so here they are to date, beginning with his initial comment:

I’m quoted, more or less accurately but in no sensible context, in the Observer article by Paul Harris. He and I talked on the phone for 30 minutes or so, and as is usual with elite media reporters, he did not let the facts get in the way of his story.

Professor Brian Anse Patrick
Department of Communication
University of Toledo

ps –and I am only a “liberal critic” in the 18th Century sense of that phrase.

Professor Patrick:

Thank you for commenting at my blog, The Smallest Minority. You wrote “…as is usual with elite media reporters, he did not let the facts get in the way of the story.” Would you care to elaborate on this? Also on your postscript, “I am only a ‘liberal critic’ in the 18th Century sense of the phrase”?

Hi Kevin:

You are welcome!

Re “he did not let the facts get in the way of the story.” Journalists like to represent themselves as “objective,” as unbiased lenses for examining reality, and some of the old time journalists approached this ideal fairly well, but modern journalists tend to be market driven story tellers. They tell the easiest, most dramatic story that caters to the debased tastes of a mass audience with an average attention spans measured in seconds, probably not minutes, and certainly never hours. When journalist say they are “working on a story” they really are, quite literally. Usually, as you know, they call the story theme “the angle” and of course angles are selected to cater to the cartoon-like tastes and crude emotions of the mass market. Walter Lippmann called these crude stock characters and ideas “stereotypes.” Actually explaining American gun culture, the success of the concealed carry movement, and the complicated sociology of guns and gun violence in America would overtax both reporter and audience. So the story must prevail. And of course in this article it was, more or less, “look at those crazy gun-wielding Americans.” Anything the reporter could collect was weighed on this scale and fit into the story accordingly, all else ignored. This is the nice thing about ‘angles, from a reportorial pint of view, they help quickly sort through mounds of problematic information a produce a coherent. albeit idiotically simplified “story.”

I talked with the reporter for maybe 30 minutes by telephone, he was in New York at the time, and I explained a number of facts, trends historical patterns, and effects re guns and concealed carry in America. These included things like the success of the CCW movement and modern American gun culture–e.g.., reduced crime, no crime from CCW holders, and the amazing mobilization of gun culture since the about 1970 or so as a broad-based social movement that has not only resisted top down elite-administrative power, but successfully spread its own message. I explained how widespread legal concealed carry by trained responsible citizens was unthinkable 20 years ago, but how the idea diffused and caught on–because of its success–and how a successful social movement made ideas that were unthinkable 20 years ago, thinkable today, e.g., the civil right movement. Similarly new American gun culture has expanded personal freedom. He of course translates this, via his angle, into how unthinkable it is for a teacher to carry a gun. He ignored the legally armed, trained responsible adult portions of my comments; and also my comments about how the CCW movement shows that the mere fact of gun carrying by this woman is not going to disrupt the orderly course of her life–or any other good person’s life: she is a valuable and useful person and will likely remain so. Armed criminals are a different order of creatures, impulsive, violent and dangerous with or without guns.

He also ignored comments I made about The American Gun Policy honors class I taught last semester, how my students had no problem with the idea of fellow students who were legally licensed and trained carrying concealed in class. Nor that I personally did not care to carry a gun while professoring, unless circumstances changed much for the worse in this country, but that I had no objection to any professor with a carry license doing so. I also gave him so estimates on the size of American gun culture much higher than the ones he used.

The reporter preferred his crazy Americans angle, and so probably does his audience–because any other angle might disturb their torpor. There is more, but you get the idea.

Re “classic liberal.” I am very tolerant in the John Locke sense. Formally I am a pluralist and a pragmatist, thus I believe well intended and informed people can be trusted with power, they are capable of rational thought –even if the habit seems to be dying out in our media, educational, and mass media systems. I think people must form their own interpretative communities and alternative media –like this blog–to make sense of the world and to organize and “in-form” themselves meaningfully to create, modify and socially construct a world in such a way that pleases their virtuous dispositions. This means no mass society run top-down by elites who claim to speak the truth on behalf of bovine masses, or a group of consumers rather than citizens, but rather a society of vigorous, active publics and interest groups pursuing their own ends and in-forming themselves e.g., like the Concealed Carry Movement as it has diffused from state to state.

Incidentally, I have a book on NRA and the Media: how NRA benefits by negative media coverage, gaining more members with more bad coverage. I will also be done soon writing a new book on the concealed carry movement.

A last comment re the article. One can no more expect a British journalist who writes for a mass audience to write a thoughtful and sensible article on American Gun Culture than one could expect gourmet food from the golden arches–it would just confuse their respective markets; who would consume it? Real informational substance is found in other places, such as blogs and alternative media. I could add a corollary to “known thyself” –it is “inform thyself” especially if you wish to pursue excellence.

Professor Patrick:

What a refreshing (nay, stunning) response from a member of academe! I know people like you are out there, but I suspect the camouflage is carefully worn to inhibit a “hostile work environment” in the majority of cases. May I assume you are grudgingly tolerated by most of the other tenured staff on your campus?

I am in complete agreement with you on the topic of professional journalism. One of my favorite anecdotes – you may have heard it – comes from Diane Sawyer:

“You know, I wanted to sit on a jury once and I was taken off the jury. And the judge said to me, ‘Can, you know, can you tell the truth and be fair?’ And I said, ‘That’s what journalists do.’ And everybody in the courtroom laughed. It was the most hurtful moment I think I’ve ever had.” – Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, 7/12/07

The public at large is obviously aware, as well. Journalists, not so much.

One point in your reply struck a special chord with me. You wrote:

“He ignored the legally armed, trained responsible adult portions of my comments; and also my comments about how the CCW movement shows that the mere fact of gun carrying by this woman is not going to disrupt the orderly course of her life–or any other good person’s life: she is a valuable and useful person and will likely remain so. Armed criminals are a different order of creatures, impulsive, violent and dangerous with or without guns.”

I refer to this as an inability to differentiate between the two “gun cultures” – the “violent and predatory” and the “violent, but protective.” His type (exemplified by the British press, and it would seem, the majority of the British populace) sees only violent, and all violence is, by their definition, bad – unless that violence is carried out by an authorized member of the government, where it is instead referred to as force. And there is still some ambivalence even about those acts. I’m heartened to see what appears to be a growing public support for what they term “have-a-go heroes” – those who fight back against attackers – but they’ve got a long way to go after almost ninety years of a disarmament culture.

I did a little research on you and found this page concerning you and your American Gun Policy seminar. Needless to say, it was not what I was expecting. I’ve been studying the topic since about 1995 on my own, and I honestly believe if there was a PhD program available, I could fairly easily earn one. You state on that page, “Some of the research is very, very good; some of it is laughably bad.” I completely agree. I’m curious, however, on whether we agree on just which research is which. I pretty much discount anything coming from John Lott. He, like Michael Bellisiles, has proven himself untrustworthy, and I don’t have the time (or frankly, the statistician’s background) to check him. I am also leery of data coming from Gary Kleck. His data may be valid, but it doesn’t pass my smell test – and again, I’m not a statistician. Anything funded by the Joyce Foundation is, as far as I’m concerned, highly suspect. Garen Wintemute’s work may be quite good, but I cannot help but believe that it is distorted by his obvious bias. Anything that comes from Arthur Kellermann I treat like it came from John Lott.

I am particularly enamored of one particular work, Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime, and Violence in America by Wright, Rossi and Daly, a meta-study of all gun control research available at the time, commissioned by the Carter administration. It seemed to be very, very good work. And I was honestly surprised by the recent National Academies of Science meta-study report commissioned by the Clinton administration. I was expecting a hatchet-job, and instead they delivered pretty much the same report Wright, Rossi and Daly provided twenty years earlier.

Can you recommend or refer me to other “very, very good” sources?

Thank you for your time. As you can see, the topic is my particular hobby horse, and it is not every day that I run into someone who has, at least partially, made an academic career out of it. We’ll be here all night. I have to earn my living as an engineer, and do this in my off-time.

I would like your permission to post this, and any future exchanges we may have at my blog. And once again, thank you for commenting there.

Sincerely, a fellow Lockean

Please do post it.

I like John Lott’s stuff, ambitious, but his inferences often outrun the strength of his research designs. I like your Diane Sawyer anecdote, too. I agree re Wright and Rossi. Kleck is a very typical sociologist and speaks that language. His analysis of public opinion data on guns is pretty good, though, but I also wonder.

I just reviewed , and beat up, a gun book by Kristen Goss–see the new Journal of Popular Culture (Vol 40, no 5. ) –the October issue. I will follow up with a longer email with some opinions, comments re the literature.


PS tenure is a wondrous thing, got it back in May, and my colleagues are just beginning to realize, I think.

Regarding tenure, I’ll bet. This could get very interesting. A distinct divergence from my exchanges with Saul Cornell.

More Misinformed Ignorance and Hyperbole

Checking Sitemeter’s referral log the other day, I came across a link to a piece at CommonDreams about guns in America. What a fascinating look into what passes for the minds of the really, really far Left. The piece itself has the normal talking-points and clichés:

Guns, and the violence their possessors inflict, have never been more prevalent in America. Gun crime has risen steeply over the past three years.

After declining precipitously for the previous ten. Note that no actual numbers are cited, and there are no links to any supporting data.

Since the killing of John F Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century.

Stipulating that this is accurate, I would note that it’s far, far less than the number of people killed by their own governments during the latter half of the 20th century.

The piece goes on, quoting Kellermann “statistics” and referencing Michael Bellisiles’ discredited “truthiness” from his book Arming America: Origins of a National Gun Culture – without, of course, actually citing them. At the end, however, the piece does make a bit of a concession:

In the meantime, the gun culture is so firmly entrenched and society so full of guns that there is little prospect of it retreating. Even those who advocate much tighter laws have long accepted defeat of the ideal of creating a society where guns are rare in public life, or even completely absent. ‘That notion is absurd. There is no way to de-gun America,’ said (University of Toledo Professor Brian Anse) Patrick.

Not that the fact that it’s absurd will actually stop people from trying.

But what I found was most interesting was the comments to the piece, some of which I’ll excerpt for your reading… enjoyment. (Yeah, that’s it. Enjoyment.)

The US gun culture is a terrible tragedy. Yet it seems to me that gun-toting Americans are more passionate over this issue than EVERY other issue we as a society must face. I have tried to speak peacefully with them, but have had to hold my tongue because they get very angry when their ownership is questioned, lest I become another of these frightening statistics. I give up. I do not know how to stem this tide. Like everything else, most gun-toting Americans have been brainwashed into thinking it provides them security (from criminals and the Government), when the reverse is true.
I should point out, however, that I own a gun, as I live and hike in a remote area with mountain lions and feral dogs. I pray that I never need to use it for I wish to never harm any creature. – “WTF”

So… guns don’t provide security, but this clown carries one… for security? Just not against criminals or the government. Right.

A country that was founded on and credited with violence will never give it up. This is a country where people LOVE to watch and experience violence from children watching violent cartoons and playing violent video games to adults watching violent shows and even the wars for oil. And what about all those toy weapons that happily get advertised in those sleazy commercials? And what about all those “get tough or get lost” attitudes teenagers end up growing with? We cannot blame just the guns but instead must learn to take control of our urge to be violent if we’re really going to be safer ever again. – “maxpayne”

Here’s an example of cranial-rectal inversion if I’ve ever seen one. It’s not our urge to be violent that makes us unsafe. As Trefor Thomas put it on Usenet so long ago, “To be civilized is to restrain the ability to commit mayhem. To be incapable of committing mayhem is not the mark of the civilized, merely the domesticated.” Here’s another case of someone unable to distinguish between “violent and predatory” and “violent, but protective.” They see only violence.

The president of NRA sums up the American societal values. He said that America takes pride in “god, gun and guts”. Most of the Republican presidential candidates were present in the function when he made this statement.

Guns takes pride of place in the American family values;
Weapons of mass destruction takes the pride of place in American foreign policy (Again America has stood first in the sales of weapons in 2006);
That means VIOLENCE takes the pride of place in the American value system;
Violence takes the pride of place in American Religion;

But don’t question his patriotism!

People always thought I was such a twit because I would not allow my daughter’s to play with water pistols or those imitation cowboy-type pistols you load with caps. I did not want them thinking that a pretend toy, in reality, if real murders people.
I would ask parents, if my kids were going to be in their home, if they had guns in the home. Some would get very irate at this question I posed, pissed off neighbor or dead daughter, Hmmmmm, I really could not have cared less if they thought of it as an insult.
I live in a burb of Philly, my brother lives in town, and I am in town 3-4 days a week. You have to know which parts of Philadelphia has that high incidence of murder. N. Philly, certain parts of W. Philly and S. Philly past a certain block, K & A, Germantown and more. It is not the entire city of Philadelphia. I am not saying that it is okay for the increase in murders to be happening here, just have to know where to avoid. Like any other city.
Americans are gun crazy, I have never understood this phenomenon. I do not understand hunting, murdering these animals. It sickens me that the NRA weilds so much power in this country. – “Turce”

That’s because you’re a twit, Turce. You can identify the “dangerous” sections of Philly, but believe that if your daughter visits a home in which there is a gun, she’ll end up dead?

I never felt the need to own a gun or to protect myself from my neighbors. Never until until the Fascists coup. Are we safer yet? – “whatfools”

No comment!

I don’t want to have to use my .22. And I don’t see why people need assault-type rifles that would stop a rhinoceros, or punch holes through armor plate. – “Moonshadow”

More misinformed ignorance and hyperbole.

You can read the whole thing yourselves, but here’s the best comment in the whole thing:

Some unpleasant facts need to be considered:
• The natural state of mankind is tribal war. The strong will always dominate the weak if they can get away with it. This is historically true, and remains true to this day unless I have missed some subtle evolutionary sea change.
• Civilization is an artifice. The society of gentle souls who people this blog live in a happy, orderly, sheltered society carefully crafted over centuries of European jurisprudence, maintained by standing armies and policemen with glocks. But the peaceable kingdom is not the default reality among our fellow hominids. In most parts of the world you’d be insane to give up your guns. Lethal power both protects and oppresses us. I don’t like this, I just think it is true in the sublunary world.
• American society, inasmuch as both cops and robbers are living out their cowboy fantasies, is a potentially very dangerous place. The fabric of our society is a card house of non-existent money which could collapse at any time, leaving us unprepared to repel the innumerable people who today have blood issues with us.
When everybody in the world throws their guns into a big pile, I’ll be there. Until then, distasteful as it may be, I’m reluctant to give up my corporate share of lethal power.

WTF: I also live in a remote place. I decided some time ago not to be afraid of animals. The last animal I killed was in 1957 and it still makes me sick to remember it. I think the official advice about mountain lions is to chat them up. I can vouch for the effectiveness and educational value of this from personal experience. – voxclamantis

It would appear that vox is, in fact, a resident of Oracle, AZ – a town about 45 minutes North of Tucson. His real name is, ironically enough, Michael Moore. He may be a “progressive,” but at least he actually looks at the real world. At least on this topic.

No, wait! HERE’s the best comment in the thread:

Absolutely no guns at home. Only military and police can carry guns. Period. – “Bolondvero”

Because we can trust the military and the police, right? Bolondvero? Meet “whatfools.” I think you two ought to get to know one another.

I thought CommonDreams.org was a progressive web site?

GBR-II – The Range Trip.

Saturday was the busy day for attendees of the Rendezvous. The plan was to meet at the hospitality room about 7:30 AM and go as a group for breakfast, then reassemble at the room to pick up any stragglers about 8:30. Unfortunately the breakfast buffet didn’t open until 8:00 AM (and a little late at that) so we didn’t get out of the hotel until after 9:00. DirtCrashr rode with me, and at about 10:00AM I think we were the first of our convoy to get to the range; the Washoe County Shooting Facility, home of the Palomino Valley Gun Club. It’s a very nice facility, with many covered shooting positions and target stand holders out to about 250 yards, then steel gongs at 300, 400, 500, 600, and 950 yards.

Let me tell you, 950 yards is WAY out there. But more on that later.

The sky was cloudless, the temperature cool but not uncomfortably so, and the breeze was light to medium – not like the gusts we had last year. DirtCrashr and I waited for some of the other vehicles to show up, and then we started checking in with the rangemasters. Being the asocial cuss I am, I picked a bench to the left of the RO office, and DirtCrashr set up beside me. Everyone else went right. (I wonder if that indicates anything?) Some time was spent unpacking and setting up. The range was already well attended by the locals, so we had to wait for a cease-fire before heading out and setting up our targets. SayUncle had the Ko-tonics 6.8SPC upper out and ready, so I volunteered to be the first to put some rounds through it. I put it on my A2 lower, and settled in to see what it would do. Uncle said he’d lined up the EOTech with the irons, but apparently they were both way off. My first 10-shot string didn’t strike paper at 100 yards as far as I could tell, so I ended up taking aim at a small brown bush near the top of the 250 yard berm.

It was hitting WAY low, so I adjusted the sight until I was kicking up a lot of dust around the bush, and then went back to paper. My initial impression of the 6.8 was that I was definitely pulling the trigger on something more substantial than a .223, but it was by no means a hard kicker – considerably gentler than a 7.62×39 out of an AK IMO. I probably put 40 rounds through it in that first session, but really didn’t note any exceptional accuracy. It just functioned flawlessly. I figured I’d let some others have their fun, so after Uncle shot it a bit, I took my lower back and Uncle installed his, which remained on the gun the rest of the day as far as I know.

I returned to my bench and did a little pistol shooting with my three Kimbers, my .45LC Mountain Gun, and my Winchester ’94 nineteenth century high-capacity assault rifle. Several people wandered by and tried a gun or two, and I shot DirtCrashr’s 1903 Colt. Double-action it was surprisingly comfortable and amazingly accurate with me behind the bang-switch, shooting Black Hills Cowboy loads. Usually I’m useless shooting a revolver double-action. After putting a few pistol magazines downrange, and a couple of cease-fires, I wandered back down to where everyone else was shooting. Chris Byrne let me shoot his super-custom 10mm 1911. Let me say, that’s the single heaviest 1911 I have ever held, and it absorbs the recoil of the 10mm cartridge very nicely.

Quote of the day, however, hast to go to Fodder, of Ride Fast, Shoot Straight. During one of the cease-fires he was sitting on a bench loading a 30-round stick magazine for his 1927 Thompson. He looked at me and said “I believe you need to empty this magazine.” So I did. This was my first chance to actually handle a Thompson. My impression: that thing is built like a bank vault – and weighs every bit as much as one. The receiver appears to be milled out of a steel 2×4, and the material removal is minimal. If you ran out of ammo it would be unbeatable as a bludgeon, and still be perfectly functional afterward. The thing that surprised me the most was that the buttstock was so long. I normally like about a 14″ length of pull on a rifle. This thing felt at least 2″ too long. I put 28 rounds through it, and was nearly shaking when I finally had a failure-to-fire. I used to wonder why GIs would willingly give up the Thompson for the punched-tin and gum-wrapper M3 Grease Gun – now I know. The Grease Gun doesn’t weigh 11 pounds unloaded. The Thompson is a nice piece, but I can see a need for high-strength unobtanium alloys there.

I decided I needed to shoot something that held itself up, so I got my target AR out and started whacking the steel targets, starting with the 400 yard gongs. After that got monotonous, I switched to the 500 and then 600 yard targets. Unfortunately, the 600 yard target didn’t give much of a “thump” for feedback, but I’m sure I was hitting it regularly. Then I thought to wander down and try the Ko-tonics again, but in the mean time, USCitizen had set up his big .50 cal tank-buster, so I watched as various people touched off one of the six rounds he’d brought with him. I wimped out declined.

It was interesting watching stuff blow off the benches to either side. Since no one else was shooting it, I went back to the Ko-tonics upper, now on Uncle’s lower, and decided to see if I could hit steel using a 1x optical sight. Previously the various shooters had been punching paper at 200, so I dialed up the elevation and started shooting what I thought was the 300 yard gong, but turned out to be the 400 yard one, or so my spotters told me. At that range a 12″ square subtends only three minutes of angle. The red center dot on the EOTech subtends 1 MOA. Amazingly, my by-guess sight adjustment put me dead on the target. If I could keep the dot on the steel, I hit it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is damned good accuracy. At a guess, I’d say the Ko-tonics upper shooting any of the Silver State factory loads (hollowpoint, softpoint, or FMJ) is at most a 2MOA rifle at 400 yards, rapid-fire, and that’s out of a lightweight 16″ barrel. I’m impressed.

Ah, but the most impressive rifle was yet to come! Joe Huffman’s Remington 700 in .300 Winchester Magnum, with a H-S Precision stock, Krieger 1:11″ twist barrel and a scope with ALL the bells and whistles is BADASS! Plus Joe has an HP calculator to do his ballistic number-crunching on. Gotta have the geek factor! I hadn’t shot a .300 Mag before, so when Joe invited me to try it out, I started on the 600 yard gong. Joe consulted his calculator, cranked down the elevation, and I sat down behind nirvana. After three rounds on the target, I told Joe I wanted to go for the 950 yard plate.

Once again, Joe consulted his calculator and dialed up the range. I sat down behind the rifle…

And couldn’t find the damned target! It was so far away, I couldn’t see it with my eyeballs! Finally Joe had to locate it in his spotting scope so I knew where to look. After dialing the rifle scope back to 4X I finally found it, then I dialed it back up to 14X so I could SEE it. My first round was low, so Joe dialed in a bit more elevation, but after that I don’t think I missed more than once.

This thing is a God-switch. Put the crosshairs on the target, touch the trigger, and HIT! Soda cans at 500 yards? Child’s play!

I gotta build one of these!

Floating back to my bench after that ego-boost, I did a little shooting with DirtCrashr’s 1911, and then tried his 1898 Krag. For a little return to reality, it took me two full magazines before I was able to hit the 300 yard gong with that rifle. Once.

Finally, about 3:00 all of us were pretty worn out. Even the locals had mostly gone home. The banquet was at 6:00, so we packed it in, and headed back for the hotel. It was a great day at the range.

I Take a Few Days Vacation…

And Algore is given the Nobel Peace Prize and Aaaahnold signs a microstamping bill?

What, do I have to do everything???


If you missed this year’s Gunblogger’s Rendezvous (and most of you did), you missed a great time with a bunch of great people. Once again, Mr. Completely went out of his way to set up the meet, and his work was greatly appreciated. Overall, turnout was lower than last year. We had a few people pull out near the last minute, but a few new faces showed up, too. Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell, DirtCrashr from Anthroblogogy and Rob of The Kitchen came, and industry supporter Brownells not only sent door prizes, they sent us a representative who was with us for the entire meet! Larry Weeks is a cool guy, and I’m not saying that just because he’s shipping me a deluxe range bag for free, either! The pièce de résistance of this year’s Rendezvous was an official visit from the apex of the Triangle of Death NRA. Specifically, Glen Caroline (Director, Grassroots Division) and Ashley Varner (Media Liaison). Granted, they were in town for not one but two other functions, but they knew about us and took considerable time out of their schedule to visit us, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

I arrived in Reno in the early afternoon Thursday and got checked in. Last year hardly anyone showed up early Thursday, but this year the first day turnout was better than half. That evening was, for most of us, spent sitting in the hospitality room eating pizza and swapping stories. Some of our group did a little gambling, and SayUncle and Sebastian managed to weasel dinner out of the NRA (not exactly a wheelbarrow full of cash, but better than nothing.) Most of the group met Friday morning for breakfast, but I slept in, anticipating a late night. At 2:00 PM we all met back at the hospitality room for our meeting with the NRA, followed by “show-n-tell.”

The NRA meeting was… interesting. Glen Caroline’s job is to motivate the grassroots (that’s us, and you, too) to be more active, to write our elected representatives, letters to the editor, to recruit, to basically be part of the voice of the defenders of the right to arms – not just $35 annual contributors. Ashley Varner’s job is to be a public face for the NRA and gun owners. As she described, showing up at a gun control debate, watching her opponent’s reaction to the sudden realization that he has to defend the position that taking a gun away from a petite, attractive, blond young woman who otherwise could not defend herself against a rapist is somehow “protecting” her – and that he has to do it on television – is very rewarding!

Glen asked most of the questions and received most of the abuse commentary. What I took from the meeting was that the NRA has a large problem with perception – both in how the outside world views it (those of us who support the NRA and those who don’t, or actively oppose it) and how the NRA views the outside world (many of us who are members, and the 20x more gun owners who are not). While the NRA is the 800lb gorilla in the gun rights world, many people see their actions as too compromising. A lot of this can be explained (but the NRA doesn’t seem to bother) as the demands of pragmatism. Unfortunately, some of it appears to be stupidity, or even worse, elitism. I brought up Parker v. D.C. and the NRA’s response, Seegars v. Ashcroft, plus the NRA’s misguided effort to combine the cases. I don’t know how Glen took it, but there seemed to be a general agreement around the room that this gave the NRA a very big black eye in amongst the People of the Gun. It certainly did with me. Others mentioned the word “Zumbo” as a verb. The topic of, if not outreach to at least a reduction of blatant hostility toward the more liberal-leaning gun owners was also raised and discussed. Believe it or not, there really are a lot of liberal gun owners who avoid the NRA like the plague because it is (I think rightly) perceived as a bastion of conservatism. Perhaps it shouldn’t be; at least not as much. What we’re trying to defend is the right to arms. Regardless of your position on any other topic, we should all share that one.

On the positive side, we recommended that the NRA be more visible at local ranges, especially in their efforts and contributions towards range improvement and legal defense, and we recommended that someone with an official NRA voice take a more active part at message boards like The High Road and AR15.com. We asked them to see if the ILA could do anything about restoring funding to the Civilian Marksmanship Program and overturn the ban on military surplus ammunition sales – and if so, to toot their horn about it. We asked them to once again emphasize the abuses of the BATFE, and possibly get some congressional hearings on the topic. We’re losing too many FFLs for arbitrary paperwork “violations” and people need to know about it. We also asked about restoration of rights, though we did acknowledge that this would be a very difficult task.

Then it was show-n-tell time! Larry Weeks brought out some AR-15 magazines and informed us that Brownells was now in the business of manufacturing them for the U.S. military, under contract, in both 20- and 30-round versions. He went through the difficulties they had in finding an injection molding contractor who could make the magazine follower that met the very strict dimensional tolerances required, and the difficulty in securing approval and acceptance from the military, but the product is available and is absolutely mil-spec. Of course, we AR owners glommed on to this immediately. Will Brownell’s be making 5- and 10-round versions? What about magazines for other calibers? Finish options? Followers alone? Springs? Rebuild kits? Etc., etc., etc. Let’s just say that Larry will be taking a lot of notes back to the office with him. He shut us up with a stack of swag; t-shirts, gun oil, and other stuff. Very cool.

Edited to add: Larry informed us that a new, much-improved Brownells website will be hitting the intra-tubes first quarter of 2008, after the first complaint about the site was voiced 0.0137 milliseconds after he finished speaking about the AR magazines. They’re aware, and they’re on top of it.

I did a little demo of my Kimber Classic with a Cylinder & Slide Safety Fast Shooting System hammer kit installed, and I brought my copy of the coffee table photo book Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes for everyone to peruse.

Next up, Uncle showed us the Ko-tonics 6.8SPC upper he’d brought, provided by the manufacturer for us to test. As Uncle put it, “This thing is a piece of sex!” Well, a little too angular and too many sharp edges for me, but I understood what he was saying. It was damned nice looking, and well put together. It had flip-up iron sights fore and aft, but Uncle had put one of his EOTech holographic sights on it. It looked right at home. And it fit nicely on my A2 lower, too! In order for us to be able to shoot it, Ko-tonics had 400 rounds of premium Silver State Armory ammunition – a mix of hollowpoint, softpoint, and FMJ rounds – shipped to the hotel, free of charge. Everybody was going to get a chance to shoot it!

USCitizen from Traction Control pulled out his goodies, a .50BMG single-shot upper for an AR that looked like the barrel from a Panzer, and another AR upper with a 37mm underbarrel “flare launcher.” Also very cool. He’d brought only six rounds of .50BMG to shoot, since the restriction on ammunition weight for his airline was so low, but he’d gotten around the “in the original packaging” restriction by printing out his own label for the box he put the six rounds in. When was the last time you saw a box marked “Original Packaging”?

DirtCrashr is a Californian, a self-confessed ex-liberal who had inherited an M1898 Krag from his grandfather. That, and his exposure to the people who oppose off-road enthusiasts was enough to “convert” him. His Krag was built in 1900, I believe, and he has restored it to original configuration by finding and fitting an original military stock, and locating a period-accurate bayonet for it. His interest in firearms tends toward the antique, as he also has a 1909 Colt New Service revolver in .45LC, a National Postal Meter M1 Carbine (complete with bayonet), an original 1943-vintage 1911A1, and one of the oddest pistols I’ve ever seen; a Hi-Standard 1913 S&W “Third Model Perfected” single-shot break-open .22 Olympic target pistol with a Pope barrel. (Error fixed!) I didn’t get a chance to shoot it Saturday, but I did shoot his Krag and both of his Colts! Chris Byrne couldn’t take it any longer, so he went down and retrieved his guns from hotel security and brought them up for us all to drool over.

We spent the rest of the afternoon “Oooh”-ing and “Ahhh”-ing, and then broke for dinner, trotting as a group down to the seafood buffet at one of the restaurants at the Silver Legacy casino which is attached to Circus Circus. After dinner, back to the hospitality room for more beverages and bullshit. The last attendees strolled in about that time, and the party went on into the evening. I called it quits about 11:30, retrieved the rest of my guns from security, and headed for my room. All of my stuff was in two hard-side cases, a double rifle case and a smaller shotgun case.

I decided to hop the monorail shuttle from the main hotel to the “Sky Tower” rather than walk the extra three or four minutes, mostly because it was there and I was tired. I sat down with my cases in front of me and waited for the doors to shut. Instead, a veritable flood of people boarded the shuttle, so I stood the cases up on end to let people sit next to me. Some sweet young thing plopped down beside me, looked at the cases and asked, “Keyboards?” I said, “No. Percussion.” Apparently she wasn’t enamored with drummers. Oh, well!

That’s enough about Thursday and Friday. The next entry: range trip!

Home from the Rendezvous!.

According to Google Maps, the route I took from my door to Circus Circus, Reno should take 14 hours and 27 minutes. (I swear, last year it said 16 hours!) I decided to test it. I left Circus Circus about 7:50 this morning. I pulled in to my driveway at 10:08PM. And this included a 10 minute navigational boo-boo, and about 50 minutes of bumper-to-bumper crawling to get 4 miles across the Hoover Dam, three stops for refueling, and one stop for food.

That’s scary.

I’m tired. Full update tomorrow. (I took Monday off, too.)

Prepped for the Rendezvous.

I’m not bringing too much this year. All three of my Kimbers, the M25 Mountain Gun, the AR-15 “police-style rifle” with both uppers, and my “nineteenth-century assault weapon” – my ’94 Winchester chambered for .45LC – with a bit of ammo for each. I plan to hit the road tomorrow morning about 7:30 or so, fill up the truck and drive for about eight hours with one short stop in Phoenix and a stop in Kingman for fuel. Then on to Reno on Thursday.

See you there!

More of That “Conservative Language Manipulation” by the “Right-Wing Media”

Via Say Uncle (why do I bother to read anyone else?)

It would seem that AK-47 style rifles are “assault weapons,” but AR-15 rifles are now “police-style rifles.” Yeah, that’s it. My AR-15 can’t be banned, it’s a police-style rifle!

Because, after all, if “assault weapons” are “spray firing bullet hoses” only good for firing from the hip and mowing down large groups of people, well then our police wouldn’t need those, right?

And does anybody have a problem with the fact that a town of 2,000 has a SWAT team?

“Journalistic Integrity”

I suppose I could have blown up a few trucks, put bad food back on the deli counter or accused the military of nerve-gassing deserters and kept my journalistic integrity throughout. But I realized early on, it is easier to sleep at night if you can say at every step that you reported the truth as you knew it.
– Matt Drudge

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
– Michael Crichton

The opinion of the press corps tends toward consensus because of an astonishing uniformity of viewpoint. Certain types of people want to become journalists, and they carry certain political and cultural opinions. This self-selection is hardened by peer group pressure. No conspiracy is necessary; journalists quite spontaneously think alike. The problem comes because this group-think is by now divorced from the thoughts and attitudes of readers.
– Robert L. Bartley, Editor Emeritus of the
Wall Street Journal

Based on my experience at J-school, I can generalize a couple things about journalists around my age that could explain some of the problems. First, nearly all of us were in J-school not because we wanted to be reporters, but because we wanted to write. . . . Thus reporters are ripe for the temptation of press-releases: and most press-release-writing flacks are people with journalism degrees who know exactly how to write a release so that the reporter can edit out obvious promotion but still buy the overall spin.

Second, almost all of the J-school program at Stanford was spent trying to get us to think about the implications of journalism, the politics of reporting, the influence of journalists, etc.

I think this is a long-term big problem for Journalism, the profession. It has been eating its seed corn for a decade or more, and so much of its cultural authority is used up. This can be good, in that it reduces the influence of unaccountable institutions, like the big daily papers. But it’s also bad, because once everyone stops believing the newspapers, you have a huge problem of vetting and evaluating information.
Michael Drout

There have been three stories of interest that have made very little splash in the “legacy media” recently. The first one dates back over seven years, and it is the story of media manipulation in the Middle East. Media manipulation in the Middle East is hardly shocking. We’ve seen photoshopped smoke clouds from Beirut, and a green-helmeted man using a dead child for repeated photo-ops there as well. We’ve had an Iraqi woman used to claim that (unfired) ammunition struck her home in Iraq. We’ve seen the AP (and others) mischaracterize government reports in big headlines, only to recant in fine print – but that’s nothing compared to breathless stories of headless bodies that apparently exist only in the fevered imaginations of their sources.

And that’s just a few examples.

Boy, it’s a good thing professional journalists have all those layers of fact-checkers and editors above them, like Scott Thomas Beauchamp’s girlfriend at The New Republic, huh?

But this particular story is most interesting in that it gives unmistakable evidence that not all of the media manipulation is being done against the will of those editors and fact-checkers, and that it has taken fire and tongs to pull that evidence into the light.

Seven years ago, September 30, 2000, twelve year-old Mohammed Al-Dura and his father Jamal were filmed by a Palestinian freelance journalist for France 2 television as they were apparently caught in a crossfire between Palestinians and Israeli Defense Forces. The film showed what appeared to be the deliberate killing of the boy and wounding of his father by Israeli soldiers. The film of the killing was a propaganda nightmare for the Israelis, and a gold mine for the Palestinians, as best exemplified by this column defending the “truthiness” of the story in 2003. Journalist James Fallows has been pursuing the facts of this story ever since, almost single-handedly.

Well, the story has finally broken, but you won’t hear about it in our major media. Instead, bloggers are spreading the story that the incident was staged. Not only that it was staged, but that such incidents are not uncommon, and the media is often fully complicit. Why? “Fake but accurate” serves the purpose of “truthiness.” Dan Rather knows all about that.

The other two stories? Well, the first is that the New York Times is upset about missing on its “defining atrocity” in Iraq like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, or Mohammed Al-Dura’s “murder” in Palestine, and the second is an interview of Robin Wright of the Washington Post and Barbara Starr of CNN who tell CNN’s Howard Kurtz why it isn’t a good idea to report on good news coming out of Iraq.

It doesn’t fit the template, you see; it doesn’t tell the “higher truth” that the majority of the media has decided on and will not be swayed from.

There are still some good journalists out there, James Fallows is evidence of this. But Robert Bartley illustrates the source of the problem, and Michael Drout points out its glaring result: lack of trust. The Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is going away, as more and more we instinctively distrust everything coming out of the major media.

“You know, I wanted to sit on a jury once and I was taken off the jury. And the judge said to me, ‘Can, you know, can you tell the truth and be fair?’ And I said, ‘That’s what journalists do.’ And everybody in the courtroom laughed. It was the most hurtful moment I think I’ve ever had.” – Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, 7/12/07

For those of us connected to the web (and we’re still a minority – even most of the people with web connections barely know how to use Google), we’re able to fact-check, view alternate sources, and find ones we can trust.

Regardless, however, we’re stuck depending on the legacy media to do the leg work, and most of them don’t. As Drout points out, journalists don’t report much anymore, they edit press releases – and their peers tell them it’s OK to do so, just so long as the result of that editing fits the template. That template is that everything is going to hell, and the U.S. is at fault for it all.

Antonio Gramsci is laughing his ass off in his grave.

UPDATE: Were you aware that there was a list of the 101 top incidents of media dishonesty? The Mohammed Al-Dura story isn’t on the list, but lots of plagiarism is. I think that list needs reworking, but the links in it are fascinating in a sickening sort of way.