Everything You Need to Know About the AR-15…

… but will never hear from the media. The level of ignorance surrounding this particular firearm is proudly broadcast on a daily basis. The claims of it’s power, lethality, and evil intent know no bounds. Listening to descriptions of the AR-15, one would think there are thousands of them wandering around on their own, shooting people at random with an endless stream of giant, hyper-velocity, super bullets. Never mind the fact more people are killed by fists, feet, and other blunt objects than by every kind of rifle combined. In response to the continuous ignorant stories and posts, I’ve decided to provide a simple, factual, description of the AR-15. Think of it as sort of a public service.

The Development of the AR-15

The Armalite Corporation was incorporated as part of Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Corporation in 1954 with George Sullivan as Manager. Fairchild manufactured aircraft and parts for the US military, so the intent of Armalite was to design firearms for military purposes. Shortly after opening his small shop, Sullivan hired a young engineer named Eugene Stoner as his Chief Design Engineer. Armalite’s first successful design was the AR-5, a unique take-down rifle designed to be used by aircrews in survival situations. The rifle was chambered in .22 Hornet and was equipped with a floating stock in which the barreled action could be stowed. The AR-5 was adopted by the military in 1954. A civilian version chambered in .22 Long Rifle, the AR-7, was released shortly thereafter. This design is still manufactured by Henry. Note that the AR in the names of these firearms clearly stands for Armalite Rifle, not “Assault Rifle” as so many ignorant journalists seem to believe.

The search began for the replacement for the venerable M-1 Garand in 1955. In its day, the Garand was an unequaled infantry weapon. But it was heavy and limited to 8 rounds of ammunition, so military commanders felt a replacement was needed. In response to the call, Stoner designed a light-weight gas-operated firearm chambered in 7.62 NATO. Dubbed the AR-10, it was futuristic with its pistol grip, straight composite stock, and carry handle. Armalite was late getting their entry ready, and were forced to use their hand-built prototype for the military trials. Although reviews were generally favorable, the rifle failed during endurance testing. Springfield Armory’s T-44 was selected, becoming the M-14 in 1957. Armalite sold the rights to manufacture the AR-10 to a few foreign customers, but only a few were manufactured.

Shortly after the M-14 was adopted, the US Air Force began looking for a lighter rifle in a smaller caliber. Stoner reduced the size of the AR-10 to accommodate the newly developed .223 Remington cartridge and the AR-15 was born. Without the capability to manufacture firearms in sufficient numbers, Armalite sold the manufacturing rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 to Colt in 1959. The first military order for the AR-15 was placed by the USAF in 1961, the same year Stoner was hired by Colt. The initial order of 8,500 units was followed by one for 80,000 in 1963. The official military designation of the AR-15 was M-16. As the US involvement in Southeast Asia grew, it became apparent American troops were outgunned by Communist forces equipped with AK-47s. Difficulties with the M-14 in the field and in manufacturing lead to the adoption of the M-16 by all four branches of the military by 1965.

Approximately 300,000 M-16s were sent to Southeast Asia with no cleaning kits as Colt claimed the rifle was self-cleaning. This claim was quickly proven to be false by Vietnamese humidity and severe powder fouling caused by poor ammunition. In the field, the rifles were found to be prone to failures to extract a fired case once they became dirty. Reports of soldiers found dead with their M-16 partially disassembled became common. Improvements to the rifle were made, resulting in the M-16A1, along with improvements to the ammunition. Cleaning kits with clear instructions for maintaining the rifles were also issued.

Colt manufactured a semi-automatic version of the AR-15 for the civilian market, but it was used primarily for competitive shooting. They hold the trademark for the name “AR-15”, but this style of rifle has come to be known as an AR-15, much like a copying machine is often referred to as a Xeorox machine.  The first AR-15s manufactured specifically for the civilian market were made by Lewis Machine and Tool in 1989. Production of civilian AR-15s was curtailed by the infamous Clinton-era Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. The ban was allowed to expire in 2004 after having no effect on crime. Since then, the AR-15 has become one of the most commercially successful firearms in history. They are produced in a myriad of configurations by every major firearms manufacturer except Glock. It is estimated there are as many as 10 million AR-15s owned by American citizens today.


Although the M-16 was born out of the AR-15 and the two are cosmetically very similar, they are not the same firearm. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle operated by the direct impingement of gases from the fired cartridge. In other words, gases are bled from the burning powder in the barrel of the gun to cycle the action. They are fed from a detachable box magazine, most of which contain either 20 or 30 rounds. They are typically equipped with a composite stock, some sort of hand guard over the barrel, and a pistol grip. The pistol grip is necessary due to the geometry of the stock. It does not make the gun fire faster. They can be had with the carry handle on top of the receiver like the M-16, where the sites are mounted on the handle and on a triangular post on top of the gas block. Most now come equipped with detachable sites mounted on a section of rail directly on the receiver. The variability of stocks, hand guards, grips, and sighting apparatus is nearly limitless. AR-15s generally come with either a flash-hider or compensator on the end of the barrel. These items divert the gases exiting the barrel to either reduce the flash caused by escaping gas or to prevent the barrel from rising during recoil. They do not make the gun more powerful or enable it to be fired more quickly.

An important thing to understand here is the semi-automatic part of this. This means it fires one round every time the trigger is pulled. Just one. There is no such thing as “fully semi-automatic”. It will not fire thousands of rounds a minute. None of that is true. It will only fire as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger. It is not possible for anyone without a machine shop to convert a modern AR-15 into an automatic weapon. They are manufactured in such a way as to prevent that particular modification. Some older models could be converted fairly simply, but this is no longer the case. Even if you could convert it, the moving parts are not meant for the automatic rate of fire and will fail.

Let’s talk about magazines. If you state the AR-15 uses a “XX-round clip”, you are showing your ignorance. The AR-15 does not use a clip. The M-1 Garand used an en bloc clip, a sheet metal contrivance which held the cartridges and was inserted into the rifle’s action and ejected after firing. Some military ammunition is placed on a long sheet metal stripper clip, which aids in loading some rifles or their magazines. If you expect any knowledgeable gun person to pay any attention to you at all, do not use the word clip when referring to a magazine.  The standard magazine for the AR-15 holds either 20 or 30 rounds depending on the caliber, although those holding anywhere from 5 to 100 rounds are available. The larger magazines are heavy, unwieldy, and less reliable than the standard 30 round magazines, and are less common. Five round magazines must be used in most states when hunting.

The AR-15 was originally chambered for the .223 Remington cartridge. The military uses the same cartridge in the guise of the 5.56 NATO round. The military round operates at a higher pressure, so .223 ammunition is safe to use in all AR-15s chambered in 5.56, but the opposite is not true. The .223 is a moderate power rifle round. It is not anywhere near the upper part of the power spectrum. It fires a small, light, projectile at relatively high velocity, which makes it effective at close ranges. It is not a death ray. It does not cause worse injuries than any other cartridge known to man. In fact, there is still debate whether or not it is suitable for military use. The .223 is available commercially using bullets weighing from 40 to 80 grains typically, although there are others beyond that range.

For comparative purposes, let’s have a look at the .223 Remington compared to the 30-06 Springfield, one of the most popular hunting calibers in the US. The M-1 Garand was chambered for the 30-06. The table below provides the velocity and energy of both cartridges. The .223 data is based on a 55-grain bullet, while the 30-06 is based on a 165 grain bullet. The velocity is measured in feet per second, while energy is measured in foot-pounds. While the .223 is faster than the 30-06 at the muzzle, it quickly looses this advantage as the range increases. At 200 yards, the 30-06 is faster. The key statistic, however, is energy. This is the force with which the projectile impacts the target at the specified range. At the muzzle, the 30-06 has over twice the energy of the .223. In fact, the energy of the 30-06 doesn’t dip below the energy of the .223 at the muzzle until 500 yards. The point of this being, any discussion of the awesome power of the .223 is ignorant. It is an effective cartridge within its intended parameters, but it is far from being exceptionally high-powered.


Why the AR-15 is Popular

The AR-15 is unquestionably the most popular rifle being produced at the moment. There are many reasons for its popularity. No other rifle matches the AR-15 for versatility and modularity. The construction of the rifle in separate assemblies lends itself to being customized by its owners. Almost every part of an AR can be swapped for another by anyone with even a slight amount of mechanical ability. There is a huge market in receivers, bolt carrier groups, frames, and barrels. The owner can buy a stock AR and change it up however he/she wants, or they can buy all the parts separately and build their own. If the market for the major parts is huge, it is nothing compared to the market for accessories and furniture. The choices of stocks, pistol grips, and hand guards are nearly limitless. Other accessories, including sights, lasers, lights, scopes, flash hiders, and compensators, are too numerous to even attempt listing. The ability of the shooter to tailor the rifle to his or her purpose is likely the most popular characteristic of the AR.

The AR is a highly versatile rifle, largely due to its modularity. Few rifles can fill as many roles as adequately. With the correct combination of parts, it can work well as a hunting rifle, as a target rifle, as a competition rifle, as a defensive weapon, and just as a fun gun to shoot. The AR is easy to operate with a small amount of instruction. The recoil is very mild, which makes the AR an excellent choice for those with a smaller physical frame. They are inherently accurate, which, combined with the mild recoil, makes the AR a good choice for introducing new shooters to center fire rifles.  There is much to like about the AR-15, but it isn’t for everyone. Without a suppressor, they are extremely loud. They are relatively complex mechanically and must be cleaned and maintained properly to function reliably. Most people are more than capable of handling either issue.

So, there you have it. A brief, factual account of the AR-15. If all you know about the AR is what you’ve been told by the news media, most of this will be new to you. If you have any questions about any of this or if there are things I didn’t touch on, please feel free to ask. If you know someone who owns one, ask to go try it. It will not hurt you to pull the trigger and you just might learn something. It is much harder to fear something you understand. I promise you won’t be traumatized. If you are, that’s on you! If you still hate the AR after reading this and believe it to be an instrument of evil, at least now you can sound a little less ignorant.

You’re Not Clever, Just Ignorant

I am tired of seeing posts/memes/cartoons portraying gun owners as ignorant racist rednecks who support the killing of children. This installment is aimed directly at those who post such garbage. I am sick of the condescension of people who call for “responsible gun ownership” but don’t even own guns. You think if gun ownership isn’t done by your idea of what the rules ought to be, it’s irresponsible. You could at least be honest about what you want, but few of you have the guts. I’ve pretty much adopted a policy of just scrolling by after taking into account the source, and I’ll probably continue to do the same. But I’m going to lay some facts on you anti-gun folks so you won’t have any excuse the next time you decide to post some leftist crap about us.

I was thinking about this recently during a pistol match. The folks in my squad included me (an archaeologist with 3 degrees), a civil engineer, a data architect, a chemical worker, a federal law enforcement officer, and other professionals. In the larger qroup of shooters at these matches you will find blue collar workers, construction contractors, environmental scientists, engineers, lawyers, and a wide variety of other professionals. In my shooting career, I have competed with men and women of various ancestry and background. I’ve never seen anyone treated any different based on the color of their skin or any other factor, for that matter. Some of us are members of the NRA and others are not. We’re all equal at the line.

When we get together, sure, we talk a lot about guns and shooting. Sometimes we talk about politics. But we also talk about our families, our jobs, how life is going, and lots of other topics. I have never once heard anyone talk about how anxious they are to shoot anyone else. In fact, we often discuss the weight of the responsibility of protecting our loved ones. We know our choices may not be the same as yours, which is fine. But we are sick of you telling us how evil we are for making the considered decision to take our safety and that of our family and friends as a personal responsibility.  If you are willing to stand by and watch something horrible happen to an innocent person, possibly someone you love, while you wait for the police or wish you could do something, that’s on you. I’m not wired in such a way. The next-to-last thing I ever want to do is point a firearm at another human being, much less shoot anyone. But the absolute last thing I want to do is have to live with someone in my life suffering serious injury or death because I didn’t have a firearm.

I know there are exceptions. I’m sure there are a few shooters who match all your stereotypes exactly. There are people out there who don’t behave in a responsible manner in any aspect of their lives, much less with a firearm. There are idiots, criminals, racists, and generally horrible people who own firearms. But they are clearly, statistically, demonstrably the exception. And I know you have every right to post whatever you want on your page. But here’s what you need to know: when you post these clever lines about how evil and stupid gun owners are, you are wrong and showing your ignorance. It is frustrating because I know many of you are highly intelligent. Why do you continue to be willfully ignorant when it comes to gun-related issues? Why do you continue to parrot the bald-faced lies fed to you by the media?  I don’t get it.

Please continue to post your ignorant, narrow-minded, mainstream media-provided nonsense if you like. Or, if you would really like to know about gun owners, why not talk to one? I’m always willing to discuss why I have made the choices I have and why I believe the way I do about the issue. But if all you’ve got is tired old fertilizer you learned on the news or Huffington Post, don’t bother. I don’t have time to talk to bleating sheep.

Feel free to comment if you like, but I’m not looking to start a debate. This is my opinion, which is based on research and experience, not my feelings or anything I’ve been told to think. I don’t care if you don’t like it. You are not going to change it.

The Broken Moral Compass

I’ve been thinking lately about what drives a person to walk into a church (or a theater, office building, school, etc.) and start indiscriminately killing people. Fortunately, I think few people can really grasp that level of depravity. After students committed murders on two school campuses recently, I keep coming back to the story about a thwarted plot here in Tennessee. Two 6th grade boys were planning to sneak weapons into their lockers and hide them until the last day of school, when they planned to kill as many students and teachers as possible before killing themselves. Luckily, the resource officer at their school heard rumors about their plan, followed up, and prevented a tragedy. No weapons were found on the boys or in their homes, and it is possible they would never have actually tried it. I’m grateful we’ll never know.

What were you doing in the 6th grade? I was trying to figure out how to be less awkward and how to avoid the biggest bully in my school. I was looking forward to running around outside after lunch and whatever was happening in PE that day (as long as it wasn’t the Presidential Physical Fitness Test or climbing that darn rope!). I was looking forward to getting home, having a good supper, and maybe watching a little television or working on whatever model aircraft I had going at the time. These boys were planning how to kill their classmates and teachers, as well as themselves. They’re 11 or 12 years old. How is it possible for a kid in the United States of America in 2019 to reach such a dark place at so young an age?  I wish I knew.

I know it is an incredibly complex issue, as are all things involved with human behavior. There are many factors which influence people in different ways. The news media, loathe to let a good tragedy go unexploited, tells us it’s because of poverty, guns, global warming, Trump, Bush, the NRA, and whatever else they’ve decided is a crisis on that particular day. Maybe there are aspects of some of those things at play. I think all this overlooks a bigger issue and one which may actually hold the key to preventing a lot of these problems: family.

The family unit, once the very foundation of American society, has been devalued for many years. Not so long ago when I was in high school, it was rare for a kid to not have both parents at home. Today, my wife (a high school teacher), has more students living with one parent, a grandparent, or other guardian, than those from a two-parent home. The divorce rate in this country is around 50 percent, at a time when the rate of marriages is decreasing. I understand there are many definitions of family. I know there are situations where it is healthier for all involved if one or both parents are out of the picture. Even in two parent households, too many kids are being raised by a device with a screen and not the parents. In addition, the media has been telling us for years how the father is a bumbler and isn’t necessary for a healthy household. I think they’re wrong.

Please understand I have nothing but respect for single parents who raise happy, well-adjusted kids. I know many who have done it and I honestly don’t know how you manage. Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I don’t know how I would do it without my wife. So please don’t take anything I say in this piece personally. I’m not condemning you in any way.

A child’s moral compass is set very early by those around them. Ideally, it is set by the parents. There are so many lessons to be taught before the kid ever sees a classroom. By the time they get to school, they should have a good basis for how to treat other people. As they get older and are exposed to more people and more situations, the parents build on the early foundation with the help of teachers, clergy, and extended family members. Today, I wonder if the compass is being set in some cases. I’m sure there are some products of two parent homes who are monsters, just like there are lots of people who go on to do great things who grew up with only one parent at home. We were taught important lessons by both parents, one backing up the other if there was ever a question. My grandparents reinforced those lessons, as did a long list of teachers. Even the parents of our friends kept us straight! I think it was a better way to do things.

I’m not saying the family structure of a person is solely responsible for whether or not they commit a heinous crime, although I think it would be interesting to see if there is a statistical correlation. As I said before, it is a complicated issue and one not simply solved. But I have no doubt it matters. In the case of the sixth graders who wanted to murder their classmates, I don’t know what their home lives were like. I do know someone, or several people, failed to set a moral compass for those kids. Their failure could have been tragic.

The Hole in My Yard

I mowed my lawn for the first time this season a couple of weeks ago. As I got to the back yard, I once again had to mow around my daughter’s old swing set. I’ve had to deal with this thing since The Kid was 6 or so. It was hard to maneuver around and required the push mower and weed-eater to keep grass from overtaking it. The Kid is now 15 and hasn’t so much as sat on a swing in a couple of years. The wood was starting to rot in places, the chains were rusty, and the slide was cracked. I determined it was time for it to go. I talked with her about it, and she agreed she was done with it. She’s more concerned with her car and her phone these days, so it made sense to get the swing out of the way.

Last weekend I set about taking it apart. It was a good set, made of wood held together by heavy bolts and screws. But it had been sitting out there for nearly 10 years and time had taken its toll. I had all the necessary tools and expected little trouble taking the rickety thing apart. What I didn’t expect was the flood of memories and the emotional thunderstorm I would experience while dismantling a piece of my daughter’s childhood. I was completely caught off guard and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it. I’m not an overly emotional or sentimental person by nature. At least I wasn’t until The Kid came along. I kept thinking, “It’s just a rotting old swing set! Get a hold of yourself, man!”.

Yes, it was a rotting old swing set. But it was more than that, too. It was built by the three men who will love her more than any other man ever will; my Dad, my father-in-law, and me. It took us part of two days to get it together, but we had a ball doing it. I remembered all the fun she had on it, carefree as only a young kid can be. I remembered all the time she spent on it with her friends, all of whom are growing up just like her. We had to rebuild part of it a few years ago, and I remembered her going with me to get the lumber and picking out some “interesting” paint colors to give it some protection. I remembered the fun of her helping me paint it and how proud she had been of the job she had done. Turns out that pile of weathered wood and cracked plastic was a lot more than a rotten old swing set. I got it apart, loaded up the parts and hauled it away. I can’t tell you how hard it was to do so.

Yeah, I guess I’m getting sappy in middle age. Honestly, I think it has more to do with The Kid’s age than mine. Those of you with teenagers will probably understand all this. The rest may not. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her and the young woman she is becoming. It thrills me to think of what her future holds. But it is hard to let your little girl grow up. I can’t solve all her problems with a hug and some time on the swing anymore. That is hard.

I mowed the lawn again this weekend and it was much easier. I sailed right across the spot where the swing set used to be. Having that space opened up the yard quite a bit. It probably looks better now, but all I see is big hole.

Grow Up!

A story broke this week which has really gotten to me. It has no direct affect on my life, but it is really aggravating and indicative of a societal problem.

Here’s the story. Leyla Pirnie is a graduate student at Harvard. She is from Alabama and completed undergraduate studies in International Relations and Political Science. She was born to American parents in Turkey and is 24 years old. She is also a legal gun owner.

After a recent weekend away, Ms. Pirnie returned to her apartment to be confronted by her roommates. While she was away, her roommates took it upon themselves to search her room, including her closet, her dresser, and under her bed. When she asked the other women why they had done this, they told her they, “saw that you had a MAGA hat and come on, you’re from Alabama… so we just kind of assumed that you had something“. By something, they meant a firearm, which they found. When she asked why they felt it necessary to go prowling through her personal possessions rather than just ask her, one of them told her, “fear took over her body and she felt compelled to search my room until she found proof”.

As if this weren’t bad enough, and surely, it is, the roommates reported their find to David Lewis, their landlord. Mr. Lewis proceeded to contact the Somerville (Massachusetts) Police Department and request they come to the apartment to inspect the firearms to make sure they were legal. All was found to be in order. Regardless, Mr. Lewis informed Ms. Pirnie that she would have to remove the firearms from the premises, or her roommates would leave.  If they left, she would have been responsible for the entire $6,000 per month rent (That must be one hell of an apartment!). She refused to dispose of her legally owned personal property and had to move.

At this point, let me summarize. Six women with no personal relationship with Ms. Pirnie other than sharing an apartment with her, entered her private room without permission, rummaged through her personal property, reported what they found to their landlord, who summoned the police to inspect said property. All without the owner’s knowledge. If you are OK with this scenario, please stop reading here and click over to Huffington Post or Mother Jones and go in peace. If your blood pressure just spiked, proceed.

There is no evidence Ms. Pirnie caused any sort of discomfort for her roommates. She stated she did not discuss her political views with them at all. She never had her firearms out around her roommates and owned them legally. The other women had no reason to fear Ms. Pirnie or her firearms, as they obviously didn’t even know she had them until they searched her room. For now, let’s ignore the obvious violations of Ms. Pirnie’s rights. Let’s ignore the profiling and discrimination to which she has been subjected. A discussion of those topics would require a separate post.

I keep coming back to the fact these supposedly adult, educated, women didn’t have the maturity to simply talk to her about their concerns, whether those concerns were well founded or not. Once they found her guns, they ran to the landlord, who then didn’t have the maturity to question how the roommates came by their knowledge of the presence of the firearms, but got law enforcement involved instead. If anyone had bothered to ask, they would have learned Ms. Pirnie survived a physically abusive relationship and kept firearms for protection. I guess #metoo doesn’t apply to  women who have elected to protect themselves.

Come on, people! Grow up! A grown man called in the police because a tenant owned a gun? The responding officer should have at least given Lewis a stern lecture for wasting his time. It would almost be understandable if Ms. Pirnie had threatened her roommates or behaved in some irresponsible manner. There is no evidence this happened. No, this whole thing is the result of the media’s constant attempts to instill fear of gun owners into their audience. The people involved in this story lack the emotional and intellectual maturity to see the foolishness of their reaction. They are the result of leftist efforts to criminalize thoughts and beliefs which differ from theirs. This is what happens when universities don’t allow speakers of differing opinions to appear on campus. This is what happens when there are safe spaces. If we truly want people to get along, this has to stop. People have to be allowed to grow up.


Flawed Red Flag Laws

Someone is pounding on your door.

It’s dark and you glance at your clock as you are startled awake. It’s 5 am. No one whom you want to see knocks on your door at 5 am, so you pull your gun from the nightstand drawer before going to the door. You look outside and see police officers standing there. With no idea why they’re knocking on your door at 5 am, you lay your gun aside and open the door. They tell you they have an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) against you and are there to take your guns away, guns which you own legally.

This exact exact scenario played out recently in Glen Burnie, Maryland, when Anne Arundel County police officers attempted to serve an ERPO against 61 year-old Gary J. Willis. It appears Mr. Willis was placed in this position by a family member following a disagreement, although no details were available. He answered his door at 5:17 am to find two officers there to confiscate his firearms. Although he initially put his gun down, he picked it up again as he became irate at the officers and was killed during a struggle for the gun. He made a tragic, emotional decision and it cost him his life.

Mr. Willis should have never been in this position. Neither should have the LEOs. Mr. Willis is a victim of a new gun control tactic being put in place across the nation. So called “red flag laws” are now in place in 13 states, including the usual places where the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply and crime rates are highest. While they vary somewhat in their mechanics, they follow a general model. A concerned family member or law enforcement officer can request a court order, an ERPO in the case of Maryland, which allows for the temporary removal of firearms from the subject of the order. Supposedly, these laws are intended to prevent a person who has exhibited behavior or made statements indicating they are a threat to themselves or others. The subject of the order can petition the court to have their firearms returned to them after the fact.

What is the biggest problem with red flag laws? There is no due process for the subject of the order until after the order has been executed. In other words, the subject has no recourse until after the police have entered his home and confiscated his property. This idea should send a chill down every American’s spine. Imagine if you have an argument with a family member. Whether you make any sort of threat or not, or behave in a violent manner or not, said family member could approach the court and have your property confiscated. How long will it be before any “concerned citizen” can have an ERPO issued? How long will it be, then, before your neighbor who hates guns/gun owners sees you loading a rifle case in your vehicle and has an ERPO issued? If you don’t think that’s possible, you’re fooling yourself.

No one wants people who are truly unstable or pose a danger to themselves and others to armed. But red flag laws are not the answer. The word of one person against another should not be sufficient to allow the state to so clearly violate the constitutional rights of a citizen. This lack of due process is simply not acceptable. Red flag laws put citizens and LEOs in danger as we have just seen in Maryland. I don’t blame the officers in Mr. Willis’s death. As I said, he made a bad decision and the officers apparently responded appropriately. But it was all unnecessary. The police never should have been there in the first place, at least not with the intent of taking his property. Once again, leftist laws touted as protecting us from “gun violence” (as apposed to any other sort of violence) do nothing but violate our rights and in fact, make us less safe.


Little Help for a Big Problem

I like to spend part of my lunch hour every day walking. It gets me out of the office, allows my head to clear, and gets me a little exercise. My walk takes me through the Old City in downtown Knoxville, which is a place of interesting architecture and even more interesting people. The area is frequented by suit-clad professionals, families, and more hipsters than you can shake an ironic t-shirt at! Sadly, it is also an area where many of Knoxville’s homeless can be found. I’ve had many encounters with them over the years. Most are friendly enough, ask for some money, and go about their business when you turn them down. I never give them money, but will offer to buy food for them occasionally. Most turn me down, but every so often, someone will take me up on the offer. I figure these folks truly are in trouble and I don’t mind buying them lunch.

A few days ago, an older gentleman stopped me on my walk and asked if I could help him out. He said he was a veteran and was broke. I have an especially soft spot for veterans in this condition, so I told him I would buy him something to eat if he was hungry. I didn’t really expect him to accept, but he did, so we headed off to a nearby Subway. It was a few blocks to the restaurant and he walked with a cane, so the trip took a few minutes. We had time to chat while we walked. I don’t instantly believe people when they claim to be a veteran. I usually ask what branch they were in, when they served, and where they served. A faker will have a hard time answering those questions. This gentleman convinced me pretty quickly as he rattled off his unit number without hesitation. He was a Marine, who did his basic training at Parris Island in the 1980s. I thought he was older than that, but he’s had a tough life. I’m pretty sure he was the genuine article.

He had moments of clarity and moments of confusion. I could tell he had some mental troubles, but he was mostly coherent. He said he came from Long Island, New York, but couldn’t really articulate how he came to be in Knoxville. He talked of an ex-wife who he caught cheating on him with his best friend, and how he could have killed the man but didn’t. He spoke about it like it had just happened, but then told me he had been in Knoxville for 6 weeks. In his mind, I think it did just happen. He had been a medic in the Marines, then came home to work construction. I asked if he was staying at the nearby mission, and he said he had been told to leave for some reason. He said he was on the streets and someone had stolen his jacket yesterday. He said he had no blanket or extra clothes. As I stood there and listened to his story and his lapses into confusion, I thought about how big this man’s problems were. Yeah, I fed him a meal. One meal. Where will his next one come from? When will he have another one? Where is he spending this cold, rainy night? How long can he survive on the street with winter coming? Questions to which I’ll never know the answers, but questions which trouble me.

Here’s a bigger question: how on earth is it possible for a person to serve this country and end up alone on the streets of Knoxville, Tennessee? How can this nation turn its back on these men? There is just no excuse for it. There are an estimated 40,000 homeless veterans in the US at any given time. Unacceptable. Our government has failed those who have risked everything to protect us! Many veterans are dependent on the Veterans Administration (VA) for medical and mental health services they desperately need. In many cases, they spend years waiting on treatment which they need immediately. This is just wrong and it needs to stop.

I’m not an expert on this issue, but I have a couple of ideas on how to make it better. Every person who is honorably discharged from the military should receive a card entitling them to free medical and mental health care at the doctor of their choice for life. Period. There needs to be a nationwide network of short-term housing options funded by the military for them and longer term where necessary. How can we afford this? How can we not? How can we justify sending billions of dollars to countries who openly hate us when American veterans are dying while waiting for care? How can we provide endless benefits to people who snuck into this country while those who have served it are homeless and starving? The money is there. It just needs to be put where it will do the most good, where it will allow us, as a nation, to do the right thing.

Until there is a leader in a place of sufficient power to make some hard decisions and get things done, I doubt much will happen. As is often the case, it’s up to us to do what we can to help these folks out. If you know a veteran who is at risk, be there for them. Talk to them. Find out what they need and help them figure out how to get it. Remember it is reported 22 veterans commit suicide every day. If you can afford to donate to a veteran’s organization, please consider it. If nothing else, buy a meal for homeless vet. It’s a small gesture in the face of a big problem, but the person you feed will appreciate it.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: Fake News and Junk Science on Guns

As my wife and daughter started preparing to return to school, we had several conversations about school safety and what to do in the case of a shooter. My wife sat through training sessions on the school’s plan in the case of a shooter and how to stop the bleeding in case of a gunshot wound. My daughter expressed concern about what she should do if it happened. In the meantime, I’m thinking, “How on earth have we come to a place where one of their leading concerns for the year is staying safe?”. It is incredible to me that our schools have lost their status as a safe place for students and teachers. I never worried about being harmed at school, other than if I shot off my mouth to a teacher or one of our offensive lineman. It seems our students and teachers are now in danger.

But are they really? After some thought, I reminded them they are as safe at school as they are anywhere else, and probably more so. At times, it seems like the news is filled with nothing but stories about school shootings. But this is likely the exception and not the rule. This seemed intuitive to me. I’ve actually heard it said there are fewer school shootings now than at any time in modern history, but had never seen any actual statistics. In fact, recently released statistics indicated I was wrong.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released its 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection, School Climate and Safety report (CRDC), which includes data gathered via survey from every public school district in the U.S. According to the report, the CRDC:

…is a survey of all public schools and school districts in the United States. The CRDC measures student access to courses, programs, staff, and resources that impact education equity and opportunity for students. The CRDC has long provided critical information used by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in its enforcement and monitoring activities.

In addition, the CRDC is a valuable resource for other federal agencies, policy makers, researchers, educators, school officials, parents, students, and other members of the public who seek data on student equity and opportunity.

The CRDC gathered data from 17,337 school districts, represented by 96,360 schools and 50.6 million students. The data is gathered via surveys which all public schools are required to complete. This also means the quality of the data is dependent on the individual school and the staff member tasked with completing it. Keep that in mind. The 2015-2016 survey for the first time included a question concerning the number of shootings which had taken place within the school district. Surprisingly, 235 schools reported at least one school-related shooting. That’s a big number. It’s only 0.2% of the total number of schools, but its still a big number. The problem is, it’s wrong.

What? A government study, wrong? Yes, friends, it is wrong. And not just a little wrong. It is WAY wrong. On August 27, 2018, National Public Radio (NPR) published an article by Anya Kamentez entitled The School Shootings that Weren’twhich examined the results of the CRDC. What Kamentez found were serious errors with the data. To their credit, (and my ever-lasting amazement) NPR attempted to verify the results by contacting the schools which responded as having experienced a school shooting. Of the 235 schools which indicated they had a shooting, 161 of them told Kamentez there had been no shooting. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District reported 37 shootings for the survey period, when in fact, there had been none. There had been 37 incidents of “possession of a knife or a firearm”, data which should have been on the line above the line concerning shootings. They put the number on the wrong line. Likewise, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District reported four school shootings. When contacted by NPR, no one could remember there ever having been a shooting at one of their schools.

There are many more examples given in the article and I encourage you to read it. It seems the errors were the result of poorly worded questions, a poorly structured survey, and simple mistakes. In the end, NPR was able to verify 11 school shootings. As a comparison, Everytown for Gun Safety listed 29 school shootings for the same period. However, only eight of those were the same schools verified by NPR. Eight or 11, either one is far less than the 235 reported by the government. The only large market media outlet to report on this discrepancy, other than NPR, was the Washington Post. Nothing on any of the network news outlets or cable channels. I suppose reporting a number over 21 times higher than what it should be on something so important doesn’t rate a place in the news cycle. It makes better television to saturate the airwaves with fear every time one does happen. I’m just glad I was correct in telling my girls they’re safe at school.

A similar story on mass shootings broke to zero media coverage on August 30. No politician with a ‘D’ after their name worth their salt has missed the opportunity to let us know how “mass shootings happen in the US more often than anywhere else” and “the majority of mass shootings happen here”.  Much of this is an outright lie told to further the anti-gun agenda, but some is the result of a study conducted by Dr. Adam Lankford, professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Alabama (insert jokes here). Lankford’s study, entitled Public Mass Shooters and Firearms: A Cross-National Study of 171 Countries was published in the journal Violence and Victims in 2016. The results of the study showed 31 percent of the mass shooters who killed four or more victims between 1966 and 2012 were located in the US. Lankford claimed a direct correlation between the rate of civilian gun ownership and that of mass shooters.

A quick perusal of Lankford’s article reveals three obvious problems or biases very quickly. At the end of the introduction, he claims the study is based on “quantitative analysis of all known public mass shooters who attacked anywhere on the globe from 1966 to 2012 and killed a minimum of four victims (N=292).”. In 56 years, there have only been 292 mass shooters world-wide? Really? This seems extremely low with only a small amount of thought. We’ll return to this issue later. Lankford’s bias on this topic becomes clear as the article continues. In providing context for the study, he discusses “American Exceptionalism” and “American Gun Culture”.  Under “American Exceptionalism”, Lankford states, ” Americans have historically enjoyed high levels of political freedom, but they have also struggled with high rates of violence, crime, and incarceration”, and “American individualism may be a great quality for entrepreneurship and innovation, but it may contribute to criminally deviant behaviors as well.”.

Lankford’s true colors are truly revealed in his discussion of “American Gun Culture”. After acknowledging American gun ownership allowed our victory over the British in the Revolutionary War, he wrote, “Less positive may be the fact that, according to a comparative study of 178 countries, the United States ranks first in gun ownership, with approximately 270 million firearms owned by civilians and a rate of 88.8 firearms per 100 people”. I fail to see how this is “less positive”. It all becomes crystal clear when he quotes noted authority on guns, Barak Obama.

In addition, the widespread availability of firearms in America may be contributing to the nation’s public mass shooting problem. As the president of the United States recently suggested,

We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights. But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in . . . so you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon—it makes no sense . . . We kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else. Well, what’s the difference? The difference is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses. 

And there you have it. The problem here is not the quote itself, which should surprise no one. The problem is Lankford presents it as fact.

The problems with Lankford’s study go deeper than just bias, but I believe they result from them. On August 20, 2018, Dr. John R. Lott, III, of the Crime Prevention Research Center released his response. In an article entitled How a Botched Study Fooled the World About the US Share of Mass ShootingsLott attempted to replicate Lankford’s study and identified numerous methodological problems and failures in the interpretation of the data. One major concern was with Lankford’s unwillingness to share his data. He shared it with the New York Times, who published an article on the study (along with numerous other papers and news outlets), complete with graphics of their own creation. Lankford refused to provide Lott with his data. When he approached the New York Times for the data, they told him Lankford asked them not to share it. This is very suspicious and goes against scientific scholarship.

The only source of statistics on mass shootings Lankford cited was the New York City Police Department’s 2012 Active Shooter report. This report relied on news stories from English language sources on mass shootings, introducing an instant bias against international cases. Lankford claimed to follow the same procedures in attempting to gather data as NYPD. In addition, Lankford reported on the number of shooters, rather than the number of cases. Lott found some cases of mass shooting were committed by up to 10 shooters. Reporting the number of shooters rather than cases served to inflate the numbers. Lankford also reported on the raw number of shooters rather than the rate of occurrence per the population of a given country, which is a major error in methodology. I doubt it was an error – it is enough of an elementary-level flaw to suggest it was done on purpose in support of his obvious bias.

Lott’s study relied on the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, supplemented by controlled internet searches using a variety of search terms. Looking at the period from 1998 to 2012, about 1/3 of the period examined by Lankford, Lott was able to identify 1,448cases of mass shootings world-wide committed by 3,081 shooters. This number is likely too low, given the lack of reporting from third world countries and those where the media is closely controlled by the government. As it is, this is 15 times more shooters in a 15 year period than reported by Lankford for his entire study period. The 43 cases which occurred in the US accounted for 2.88 percent of the attacks and 1.43 percent of the shooters world-wide. The population of the US accounts for 4.6 percent of the global population.

Aren’t both of the studies I’ve discussed here good news? Isn’t it a good thing school shootings and mass shootings aren’t as frequent in this country as we’ve been told? I think so. The question, then, is why hasn’t the media had anything to say about either study? I believe people would like to know it’s safe to take their children to school or to attend a concert. The sad truth is it doesn’t fit the agenda. It doesn’t strengthen the case being made for gun control by leftists and their puppets in the infotainment industry. They rely on the fear they peddle to convince people it is “common sense” to give up their freedom in the name of safety. When these things do happen, they make sure to run stories on it continuously for several days to make it seem as if they are a common occurrence. Every study which seems to reinforce this idea is widely reported, whether it’s based on junk science or out-right lies. The true danger in this is the continued focus on guns and guns owners and not on the cultural and social issues which cause mass murder to occur. I agree even one such incident is too many. I believe the one positive in all of this is a renewed focus on security, situational awareness, and personal responsibility. But we shouldn’t live in a state of fear fueled by fake news and junk science. Until the press remembers they have a duty to report factual information, whether it furthers their editorial agenda or not, it will be up to us to question everything these people tell us.

Out of Balance

A man carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. Job stress, financial stress, family concerns, trying to stay healthy, and his own sense of personal responsibility all contribute to a heavy load. In order to successfully manage the load and be the father, husband, son, employee, and man he needs to be requires balance. If you’ve ever lifted weights, you know what I mean. The heavier the weight you’re trying to lift, the more important is your balance.

Balance is achieved through a solid base. Think of a house. The more piers the house rests upon, the more stable the house. So it is for a man. But his piers are not made of stone or brick. No, a man’s balance, his ability to bear his load, is provided by his parents, his wife, his children, his teachers, his friends, his colleagues, and his own sense of self worth. Some piers are bigger than others, providing more balance and stability, while others are smaller but still important. Some of us are blessed with more piers than others from the start. I certainly fall into that category. When a pier is lost from the foundation, stability is lost; the loss of balance makes the load harder to carry. The other piers absorb more of the load, and with time, balance is restored. The more piers, the quicker this takes place.

A few weeks ago, I lost one of my central piers when my dad passed away. He had always been there, and now he’s not. I admit I have come close to collapse a couple of times. There have been some very hard days since he’s been gone. Sometimes the grief still comes out of nowhere like a rogue wave out of the darkness, but thankfully it’s happening less and less as time goes by. I’m lucky I have great family and friends who are helping me regain my balance. I’m lucky I’ve always had such stability in my life. I feel bad for those who have never known how it feels to have such a solid foundation. I know I’ll eventually be okay. My family and I are leaning on each other, so we’ll all regain our balance. There are still lots of piers in my foundation, including the tools given to me by my dad. I still miss him. Every single day. I always will.


Yes, You ARE Coming for Our Guns

We don’t want to take away your guns. We just want common sense gun control laws. We support the Second Amendment, but no one needs military style weapons and no one needs more than 10 rounds in a magazine.

We hear these things all the time from the gun control crowd.  It’s a constant, never-changing refrain. I think most of them actually believe they don’t want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.  More and more are openly supporting bans and confiscation, but many still deny it.  They claim to be moderate in their views and only interested in public safety.  Logic dictates otherwise, however.

Join me, if you will, on a logical journey down the path of “common sense gun control”.  We’ll start with the assumptions which dictate the course our journey will take.  Statistics clearly indicate there is no correlation between levels of gun ownership and an increase in violent crime.  In fact, the opposite is true, a fact which has been proven over and over.  Therefore, we will assume no reduction in crime will occur based on any of the actions proposed by the gun control advocates. Based on this assumption, we will further assume they will never pay attention to this fact and will continue to advocate for more and more restrictions.  If you don’t believe they’re capable of blindly following their agenda in the face of direct contradictory evidence, look at what’s happening in London right now. Keep those tenets in mind.

Let’s pretend they get a win and manage to reinstate the magazine ban, which accomplished nothing during the Clinton administration.  Since no drop in crime will occur, they’ll keep pushing for more. Now it’s illegal to buy an AR-15 or any other scary looking rifle.  No drop in crime occurs, so on we go.  Next it’s semiautomatic handguns. Then it’s all semiautomatic guns.  Then it’s all handguns.  Still no drop in crime.  In fact, it increases.  Finally, with nothing left to regulate the sale thereof, their only option is to start banning ownership of ARs, handguns, etc.  A few sheep will actually turn theirs in, but most of us will not.  Suddenly, there will be newly minted felons in this country numbering in the scores of millions. This means law enforcement officers will have to come into the homes of private citizens, search their residence, and confiscate their personal property. And since guns are not registered, they won’t know who has them and who doesn’t, which means they’ll have to go into every single home.  Every single home in this nation. This, of course, assumes there are any law enforcement officers willing to put on their jack boots and go through with it.  As violent crime rages across this country at a rate never seen in modern times, they’ll look at each other and wonder what else the government can do to solve the problem.

If the image of police knocking on your door and searching your house even though you’ve done nothing wrong doesn’t give you chills, you’re the problem.  I don’t mean to be overly negative or to present a sky-is-falling argument. But what I’ve presented is the logical progression based on what we have seen and what we know. We’re seeing this play out now, as more and more people are openly calling for the Second Amendment to be repealed. At least they’re finally being honest about it. I know many people truly believe it is possible to regulate specific types of guns without violating the Second Amendment. They honestly think an increased level of safety can be achieved by simply regulating magazines or types of firearms.  When this proves to be false, they’ll honestly believe a little more regulation will make us safer.  Then a little more.  In the end, they will be coming for our guns.  Logic dictates it.