Hi! I'm Paul. I'm a husband, father, and professional archaeologist in Tennessee. I'm an avid shooter and advocate for responsible gun ownership and safety. I'm opinionated, but open to different ideas. Feel free to contribute to the discussion, but make it logical and think before you post!

Hi! I'm Paul. I'm a husband, father, and professional archaeologist in Tennessee. I'm an avid shooter and advocate for responsible gun ownership and safety. I'm opinionated, but open to different ideas. Feel free to contribute to the discussion, but make it logical and think before you post!

How Old is Old Enough?

When should a person be considered an adult? Is there a specific age where, like it or not, you are an adult? 18?  21?  35?  Or is it an accomplishment? Your first full time job? Graduating from college?  Marriage?  For me, its hard to pinpoint a time when I started to feel like an adult. I was a pretty responsible kid, but immature in a lot of ways, too. I do remember after I had been married for a year or so, realizing how smart my parents really were.  Maybe that was it.  I’m really not sure.

The notion of adulthood has come to the forefront again with the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  As usual, the focus of how to prevent these things from happening has been solely on passing new legislation to regulate gun ownership.  In a disturbing twist, the mainstream media decided to use the children who survived this horrific event to further their agenda.  After CNN staged a supposed town hall meeting, several of these young people were turned into spokespeople for the cause.  This has caused other teens across the country to adopt the cause, resulting in the minor civil disobedience which took place today.  Great. A whole new generation being trained to throw hissy fits and focus on the wrong end of the problem.

As a result of all this teen angst, the question of age and adulthood has come up as it pertains to gun ownership.  The State of Florida, under political pressure to “DO SOMETHING”, recently passed legislation requiring the purchaser of a long gun to be 21 years of age, raising the age limit from 18.  This was much celebrated on the left, as the most recent shooter happened to be 19.  Many of the same folks cheering this bill have advocated for the voting age to be reduced to 16. Hmm. In other words, they think a 16 year old is responsible enough (at least the 16 year olds who agree with their agenda) to make decisions on who will lead their community and country. To me, there is a major logical disconnect here.

Let’s talk through this. At the age of 16, we put our kids in a 3000 pound car and send them out on the road. I’m on the road a lot. I can tell you first hand, it is a dangerous place to be, where decisions have to be made quickly. But a 16 year old can legally get out there put the pedal down. Over 2,000 teens die every year in car crashes.  On top of that, we give them a phone, knowing full well they are not physically capable of putting the darn things down for a minute. When I see someone doing something stupid on the road, I assume it’s because they’re looking at their phone.  Some have decided 16 year olds should be able to vote, based solely on some of the reactions of students to the Parkland shooting. I remember being 16. I had opinions on everything and would happily share them. Some things never change.  Anyway, I realize now I had a pretty poor understanding of the world and how things work at that age. I’m very glad 16 year olds can’t vote.

At the age of 18, you are considered to be ‘of age’.  You more or less get treated like an adult.  At 18, you can legally sign a contract, be sued, and die for your country. Yes, at 18, you can join the military, where they will issue you an M-4 (an actual assault weapon), and teach you everything about it, including how to more effectively kill our enemies. If you are killed in combat, you can receive a military funeral.  At 18.  But you can’t buy alcohol, and in Florida, you cannot buy a rifle.  Right.  Makes sense only if you’re more interested in controlling things you don’t like than actually protecting anyone.  Apparently, some magic happens in those 3 years and you become more responsible at age 21.  Yes, most continue to mature and gain some life experience.  But how can we justify letting 18 year olds vote and die for our country, but not buy a rifle or a beer?  Just. Plain. Stupid.

We need to decide.  The decision needs to make sense and be consistent.  You’re an adult or you’re not.  Maybe this shouldn’t be determined by age.  Are 18 year olds today as mature as those 20 years ago? I don’t know and I don’t really have a strong opinion either way.  I do know its silly to ban an 18 year old from buying a rifle, while we’ll issue one to him and expect him to risk his life using it.

Placing the Blame

Any time something bad happens, human nature dictates we assess blame for the incident. Whether it’s a minor traffic accident or a major crime, someone is to blame.  Sometimes multiple people.  Placing of blame can be important as it allows for efforts to prevent similar crimes to be focused where a difference might be made. But as is always the case, the anti-gun crowd immediately jumped on their favorite inanimate object of blame, the AR-15, and their favorite group of blame, the NRA, following the recent shooting at the school in Florida. It’s a familiar pattern which never ceases to irritate.

There are many people who share the blame for the horrors which occurred at the Parkland school.  Sadly, none of them are being discussed by the media.  Instead, they’re obeying their leftist masters and continuing to push the “guns are bad, especially the AR-15” agenda which has possessed them.  In this article, I’d like to discuss where the blame should be placed.  Sadly, there is plenty to around.

The primary blame lies squarely with the shooter. I won’t use his name.  This seems pretty obvious to me, but is apparently lost on the left.  Even though the media continuously showed the shooter’s face on TV, I never heard a single reporter actually lay the blame on him.  In dozens of Facebook posts continuing to today, I’ve yet to see any discussion of his responsibility for his actions from the left. By all accounts, this guy was a ticking time bomb.  His family was scared of him. His classmates were scared of him. He threatened numerous people publicly and posted photos of cruelty to animals. Everyone seemed to know he was destined to shoot up a school. He knew damn well what he was doing every time he pulled the trigger. He’s sick, but he’s still responsible.

He is not alone in his culpability. Since 2008, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office visited his home somewhere between 23 and 45 times (depending on whom you believe), many concerning specific threats he made against others. They were called an additional 18 times.  These threats should have resulted in his arrest and involuntary evaluation by a psychiatrist.  Had this happened, he could have been included on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and his attempts to purchase the weapons he used to murder 17 people denied.  In addition, the FBI had been notified at least twice about him, including once where he literally said he planned to become “a professional school shooter”.  But nothing was done.  Two agencies whose primary reason for existence is to protect the public, utterly and completely failed.  They failed to do the simplest of duties, but a duty which could well have stopped this crime.  People lose their minds over a kid chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, but these people let this guy go after making direct threats.  Unacceptable.

Speaking of failed duties, plenty of blame lies with the Broward County deputy assigned to be the school resource officer.  When the shooting started, he did nothing.  He stayed outside the school, listening to kids be slaughtered, kids for which he was responsible for keeping safe, for at least four minutes.  Think about that for just a second.  Think about standing outside a school for four minutes hearing the shots. Hearing the screams. And just standing there. There are reports that four other deputies were on site, who also did nothing.  There are also reports they were told to not entire the building by headquarters unless they had their body cameras turned on.  None had a body camera. I can’t vouch for the truth of that report.  It doesn’t matter to me either way. There was at least one armed, trained, law enforcement officer on scene who did absolutely nothing to stop this crime. I’m not going to question his courage, but he failed to do his duty.  Period. There is no excuse.  This opinion is shared by the Coral Springs police officers who were the actual first law enforcement officers to enter the school.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Department apparently suffers from a lack of effective leadership. Sheriff Scott Israel has shown himself to be more politician than law enforcement professional.  He has consistently deflected any blame for the lack of action based on numerous interactions with the shooter and for the lack of action of at least one of his officers. He sat on stage during the ambush staged by CNN as a “town hall” meeting, knowing all of these deficiencies.  But when questioned by the NRA’s representative, he refused to answer, choosing instead to fall back on the anti-gun frenzy in the room. He has passed up no chance to be on camera and blame others, not once accepting any responsibility. He may be the sheriff, but he is no leader. The failures of his department are his.

It is clear where the blame should be placed.  It also lies with a society which places little value on two parent homes or respect for others. It lies with the media who put the killer’s face on a loop and care more about their editorial spin than actually solving the issue. It lies with a general lack of respect for human life.  But none of these people or factors are being discussed. No, it is the NRA’s fault.  It is gun owner’s fault.  It is the AR-15’s fault. The NRA, which is made up of about 5 million people, most just like you or me, exists to protect the inalienable rights protected by the 2nd amendment, and to promote the safe, and responsible ownership of firearms.  It does not sell guns and it does not represent the firearms industry.  The NRA provides more instruction on the safe use of firearms to children and adults than any other group in the nation.  If you take a class on how to handle a firearm or for a concealed carry permit, odds are your instructor was trained by the NRA, at least in part.  The NRA was a strong supporter of the NICS system and continues to support improvements to it.  Not one of these mass shootings was committed by an NRA member, and one, the Texas church shooting, was stopped by an NRA member with an AR-15. But we’re labeled as murderers and terrorists somehow responsible for these incidents.  We’re told we don’t care about the lives of children. This is a narrow-minded, foolish approach and does nothing to solve the problem. The media is largely to blame for this, but too many just accept what MSNBC tells them and goes with it.

The vitriol toward the AR-15 is also ridiculous and based in ignorance.  The AR is not some super high-powered cannon and is not available to the public with the ability to fire automatically.  Your granddad’s deer rifle in 30-06 is more powerful.  It is not an assault rifle, as it lacks the ability to fire in a fully automatic mode. Sorry, but that’s part of the legal definition.  The modern AR is manufactured in such as way so it is not possible to make it fire automatically.  There are somewhere around 8 million AR’s in private ownership right now and they are almost never used in the commission of crimes.  More people are killed every year with fists than with every type of rifle combined.  ARs are excellent home defense weapons with the right ammunition, they are easy to shoot, and have low recoil, making them an excellent option for shooters of smaller stature.  They make excellent hunting weapons, again with the proper ammunition.  But the left and their media wonks have told the same lies over and over and over and the sheep believe them.  I’ve had people lecture me about the evils of the AR who I am reasonably certain have never seen one in person much less fired one.  But they know all about it because of what HuffPo or CNN said about them.  It is amazing how stupid smart people can be when their emotions get in the way.

Friends, no one wants this to stop more than me.  My wife teaches high school and my daughter is a student at the same school. Their safety means more to me than anything, so I take this subject very seriously.  This is a massively complicated issue and I don’t know the answers.  I do know the one thing which could be done today is for the Feds to demand every state to provide 100 percent of their convictions to the NICS so the background check system will work as designed.  It is unimaginable to me this isnt’ done already, but 38 states provide less than 80 percent of their convictions to the system.  These are people who have had due process and have either been convicted of a crime or adjudicated as mentally unfit.  There is no excuse for a state to not provide this information.  It needs to change right now.

At the moment, there are few strong ideas being discussed.  Allowing teachers who volunteer to do so and undergo additional training to carry firearms at schools has merit, but also raises concerns. I think providing armed security in the form of off duty police, hired security guards, or vetted volunteers from the community is a no-brainer.  We have armed guards in our banks but not our schools? I don’t want my wife and daughter to feel like they’re prisoners, but they’d get used to the presence of these folks soon enough.

Other ideas currently being discussed are designed to further the agenda, not solve the problem. The left is talking about age limits, adding the no-fly list to the NICS, banning bump stocks, and even a full-fledged ban on all semi-automatic weapons.  These things will not help.  They’ll punish law-abiding citizens and have zero effect on crime, but that doesn’t matter to the anti-gun people. The part I find most disturbing is the waste of time and intellectual energy. Instead of fighting these battles over and over again, why can’t we get past it and talk about the real issues?  How do we deal with the litany of societal ills which have brought us to this point? I don’t know, but I know banning ARs and attacking the NRA isn’t going to get it done.

The Well is Bottomless

How often have you been watching the news or just out in the world and said to yourself, “well, now I’ve seen the most stupid thing possible. It is not possible for anything more stupid than that to occur.”? I’ve said it to myself many times, but I know it isn’t true. The human capacity for being stupid appears to be infinite. The well of stupidity is apparently bottomless. This was made abundantly clear by a recent event here in Tennessee.  Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean.

Last Friday evening (February 2), Andrew Ward, a Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officer, met his wife at the Outback Steakhouse in Cleveland, Tennessee, for his dinner break. They were seated and were enjoying a pleasant evening. A short time later, the manager of the restaurant approached Ward and asked him to return his weapon to his vehicle. He replied he could not do that, since he was in uniform and required to carry his service weapon. The manager walked away and made a phone call, before returning to the Ward’s table to let him know Outback was a gun-free establishment and they would have to leave, which they did.  The cause of all this was another patron, sitting at another table with her husband, who claimed she feared she would be shot.  She went so far as to demand the manager escort her to her car so she wasn’t shot in the parking lot.

Let’s look at this more closely;  peel back the layers of stupidity, if you will.  First of all, let’s examine the management of this particular establishment.  When confronted with an obviously baseless complaint, the manager wasn’t smart enough to solve this issue.  He/she chose to harass a uniformed officer rather than offer to seat the complainer elsewhere or apologize, explain Outback’s actual policy, hand her a gift card, and ask her to leave. No, this manager decided the uniformed officer was breaking the restaurant’s gun-free policy (we’ll leave this particular layer of stupid alone for now).  Then, our misguided manager had to call someone else, presumably his/her superior, who was apparently as stupid as their underling, since the result was the officer being asked to leave.  Two good, thick, layers of stupid, right there.

Now we come to the core of the stupidity in this story, the patron who felt the presence of an armed, uniformed, officer virtually guaranteed she would be shot. Really? Did she really think a sworn officer, in uniform having dinner with his wife, was going to shoot her? Maybe she thought the gun was going to hop out of its holster, drag itself over to her table, and open fire.  According to the MSM, it might be possible! If we assume she actually was that frightened, why didn’t she leave immediately?  Also, she apparently thought the manager was willing to take a bullet for her, since she asked him/her to escort her back to her car.  Her husband must be a real winner.

Being the cynical sort, I think her whole story is a load of crap. I think this woman is some sort of anti-gun or anti-police activist trying to make a point.  She was probably elated when Ward walked in the door because it presented her with the opportunity to make a point. I’d love to know this woman’s identity. I’d bet a paycheck her social media feed is full of nonsense from Mom’s Demand Action and MSNBC. She probably has a photo of Shannon Watts on her wall. No reasonable person would believe she was as scared as she claimed, especially of a uniformed officer. No, this was an opportunity to make a scene and try to make a point. It’s just sad she chose a place to do it managed by someone just as stupid as she, creating a perfect storm of stupidity.

I feel bad for Officer Ward and his wife.  They were just trying to enjoy an evening meal together. He did absolutely nothing to deserve this.  Thankfully, someone at Outback figured out how badly they had screwed up and issued an apology and a gift card. He has been gracious about the entire episode and hasn’t pursued it any further.  In fact, his original post about the incident has been removed. As for the patron, she just has to live with herself since there will be no recourse against her. She’d never step foot in my restaurant again, but that’s just me. I’m sure she feels really good about herself, but she can’t be a happy person. Not really. And I can only imagine the hell her husband must endure. People like her should remind us the well is truly bottomless.

Make This Stop!

For those of you who follow our posts, you know I try to advocate for gun safety as much as I can. It drives me crazy to read or hear about incidents where someone is injured by a negligent discharge.  There’s just no reason for it to ever happen. Even more maddening are occasions where children are able to gain access to an unsecured firearm and injure themselves or others. It happened again last week.

On Thursday (2/1/18), a 12-year old girl in California brought a gun to school in her backpack. According to news sources, she dropped the bag and the gun fired. One adult and four students were injured, including one 15-year old boy who was shot in the head.  Thankfully, he is expected to make a full recovery. While I am unclear on how one bullet struck five people, it is possible and not the point.  The point is, she was able to obtain a firearm and get it into her school. It does not appear she intended to do harm, but she did.

The question which keeps coming back to my mind is how in the world was a 12-year old girl able to lay her hands on a handgun?  Obviously, she didn’t go to a gun store and buy it, and I doubt most 12-year olds are well connected with the black market.  I can only assume it belonged to a parent or guardian who left it unsecured in a place where she had access to it.  They had a loaded gun where a child could get it, and didn’t miss it when she did.  Unacceptable.

Friends, as responsible gun owners and parents, we have to do better.  I understand having a firearm within easy reach. I have them in my home, too.  If you have kids in your home, you have think about these things and prevent them from happening. You have to consider how to prevent unauthorized access while allowing adult access in an emergency. It can be difficult, but you just have no choice.  In addition, you need to educate your kids. Teach them to never touch a gun without adult permission.  Take them to the range and let them shoot so there’s no mystery to it. But it’s still on you, the adult, to do your best to prevent anyone from having access to your firearm.

For those of us who carry a gun every day and are around them regularly, it is easy to become complacent. Just this week, I came home and laid my handgun down in a place where I don’t normally put it. Over the course of the evening, I forgot that I hadn’t put it in its usual place.  I didn’t realize my error until the next morning when I went to get it before leaving the house.  It is a bad feeling to look for your gun and not find it where its supposed to be! But it is a reminder we must always be vigilant and to never become complacent when it comes to safety. It’s up to us, responsible gun owners, to be responsible and prevent these incidents from ever happening. We have to make this stop!

I Hate Bullies

I hate bullies.  I always have. The pain inflicted by them was brought into sharp focus recently by the tearful video of young middle school student who had experienced a particularly bad bought of bullying at lunch and left school for the day.  His mother recorded his reaction and posted the video which has gone viral.  The reaction has been widespread and dramatic.  The young victim has been given support from everyone from movie actors to athletes, in spite of some negative comments about his family.  My first response was one of anger and sadness.  I think many of us have at least some idea of how this kid felt. It is a terrible, powerless feeling, one I unfortunately remember.

I was a tall, skinny kid.  When I say skinny, I mean I was 5′ 11″ tall and weighed 115 lbs when I started high school. Like I said, skinny. The problem was I had a 200 pound mouth. Not a good combination. I didn’t go out of my way to find conflict, but I didn’t really have enough sense to avoid it, either.  The end result was numerous negative interactions with larger boys.  Yes, I was bullied. One incident stands out in my memory. We were in the old gym at Line Street School for PE, I presume. I was sitting near the top of the old wooden bleachers for some reason, when a squad of them surrounded me.  Next thing I know, two of them had one of my legs each in hand and I was descending the bleachers involuntarily on my butt.  I’m sure it was hilarious, but I don’t recall thinking it funny. I remember most being so angry because there was just nothing I could do. To this day, nothing infuriates me like being powerless.

It was especially bad during the middle school years, but eased up during junior high and high school as everyone sorted themselves out into social cliques. I was lucky as I became a total band geek and surrounded myself with good friends inside and outside the band. Did what I went through suck?  Sure it did. Should it have happened?  Probably not, but it did.  No, I don’t think anyone should have been suspended or charged or anything else. It was just part of growing up and I have no doubt my thicker than normal hide is largely a result of those days. I don’t hold it against any of those guys. In fact, I can only remember one of them.  OK, I’d gladly punch that guy in the face, but I understand he’s still a flaming butthole and deserves it!

Back then, being bullied was sort of a right of passage, something you almost had to go through.  It toughened us up and prepared us for the bigger bullies who roam the real world.  We were taught to either turn the other cheek or fight back, depending on the situation.  If you did fight back and an actual scuffle ensued, both parties would visit the principal’s office, a note might be sent home, the combatants would be forced to shake hands, and that was it. No one was expelled.  No psychological counseling was necessary.  Law enforcement was not involved.  I’m not saying this was necessarily the proper solution, but that’s the way it was.

Given this experience, I think you can understand why it has been hard for me to understand the current reaction to bullying.  It has blown my mind to see parents filing lawsuits and charges being filed, never mind kids killing themselves or their classmates over it.  But things are different now.  Today, we have the miracle/curse of social media.  Where I could survive a day of middle school and make it home to safety, kids now simply cannot escape it even if they aren’t personally engaged on social media. For some, it just never stops. They’re under constant attack on Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and whatever other platforms the kids are using these days.  I can’t imagine what that must be like. The other advantage I had was having a stable home, with two parents who loved me. I didn’t have to worry about whose week it was or if one or both would be there when I got home.  I feel for kids today.  I think it’s much more difficult now in a lot of ways than it was then.

So, yeah, I hate bullies.  I can’t stand to see the strong pick on the weak because I’ve been there.  Parents, we have to be aware of these kinds of activities and make sure our kids know they’re safe at home.  We have to give them the tools they need to deal with bullies and the other predators prowling their world. I don’t think its practical to talk about putting an end to bullying. Kids are always going to pick on other kids. Some of the strong will always target some of the weak. I think we can mitigate it by ensuring our children are raised to be empathetic toward others and with an understanding that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. They need to understand there are consequences to their actions, but they shouldn’t fear those consequences if they stand up for themselves or another classmate. I’ve told my daughter repeatedly to avoid conflicts if she can, but if someone puts their hands on her, she is to use whatever means necessary to back the offender up, including knees, elbows, fists, feet, backpack, whatever. She understands she will be “in trouble” at school, but not at home as long as she didn’t start it. I want her to refuse to be a victim.  I hope that attitude will stay with her once she’s past the school-age bullies and dealing with the scarier ones waiting “out there”.

It Must Suck to Be You

Hello, friends! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and your new year is off to a great start! I apologize for the lack of new articles, but the past couple of months have been extremely busy.  In addition, I’ve had a hard time coming up with relevant ideas and good ways to present them.  One thing I’ve learned about blogging is sometimes, you have more ideas than you can write about.  But other times, the well is dry.  There are always things going on and good topics, but I don’t always care enough to write about them!  Anyway, I’m glad to be back at it and I hope you’ll continue to read. Please feel free to comment and share our site with your friends!

One of the things I’ve noticed since the 2016 election is a significant increase in the overall negativity of my left-leaning friends.  This is no surprise.  I’m sure we all expected it after the national hissy-fit thrown after they lost a fair and legal election.  Given that, I expect the occasional ‘woe-is-me’ or ‘sky-is-falling’ post.  I think some of these people are just going too far for their own good.

I have one friend in particular who must do nothing but look for articles slamming any aspect of the Trump administration. This person’s feed is a non-stop cascade of negativity.  If it isn’t about Trump directly, it’s about the racist/sexist/homophobic nature of…just about everything.  Just today (so far), this person has posted five articles from the New York Times, along with single articles from Washington Post, Politico, Slate, Mother Jones, NPR, and other left-leaning sources.  Not all of these are necessarily political, but you get the idea. Every day is like this.  I just scroll past them, so it isn’t a big deal to me personally, but how healthy can it be for a person to focus so intently on their hate? It would drive me crazy.

A related problem has politics or social issues being inserted into every story.  This is nothing new, but it seems to be on the increase.  Another friend posted an article this week about the redeeming social aspects of the latest Star Wars movie.  The words “military-industrial complex” and “cisheteronormativity” (which I’m pretty sure is a made-up word) appear in this piece. I thought the movie was about good versus evil and cool special effects. I sat through the whole thing and never once did the issue of cisheteronormativity enter my mind. Sometimes a movie is just a movie.  Sometimes bad things happen between people of different races/genders/backgrounds which have nothing to do with any of those factors.  Inserting all of this stuff we’re supposed to be constantly worried about into every single aspect of life serves only to minimize it and cause fatigue.  There’s a time and place for concerning one’s self with important issues.  Those 2 hours in the theater for which I paid a stupid amount of money are going to be spent enjoying the movie and being with my family.  That’s it.

Yeah, I know, none of this is new.  I am aware that some conservatives did much the same thing during the previous administration.  I posted my share of it, I’m sure.  But it wasn’t the focus of my day.  I didn’t go out of my way to find articles to post slamming the administration.  I don’t have that kind of time.  I really hope my friends on the left side of the aisle are able to get past this.  I understand they’re unhappy.  Heck, I am too in some ways.  But what good does it do to spew this constant stream of crap from sources which are questionable, at best?  I just scroll right past it, so it only serves to focus their misery. It must suck to be them.

Party Over Principle

I read in the newspaper (yes, the old-fashioned ink-on-paper kind) Phil Bredesen is running for the U.S. Senate seat from Tennessee made available by the retirement of Bob Corker.  For those of you not from Tennessee, Mr. Bredesen was a two-term governor of our state and did a fine job.  He is also a Democrat.  My first reaction was “Good!  A decent human is running for that seat”.  I was glad to see it.  But after some more thought, I realized I probably won’t be able to vote for him.  Why might that be?  I voted for him for governor, so why not senator?  It’s that darn (D) after his name.  As governor, his party affiliation didn’t make much difference, at least not as he practiced it.  But in the U.S. Senate, I don’t think he could overcome his party affiliation.  That’s a shame, and it’s a symptom of much larger problems.

Recent elections have pointed out, with startling clarity, a lack of quality among those who desire to lead us. A friend once opined anyone who wanted to be elected to office shouldn’t be. Sadly, he seems to have been correct. How did we get to a place where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were our choices for President of the United States?  How was Roy Moore the best Republican in Alabama to run for the U.S. Senate? I think most will agree all were poor choices. The problem is most people who possess the qualities we should require of our candidates are not willing to subject themselves to the endless poking and prodding which comes with holding office. More importantly, they aren’t willing to make the moral compromises necessitated by the way the game is currently played. A person with leadership skills, integrity, a strong moral compass, and an ability to compromise makes a great employee or employer.  Their value in the commercial market makes it hard, if not impossible, for them to become politicians.  This leaves us with people who are ruled primarily by personal ambition in the form of a thirst for power, and greed.

The larger issue, in my opinion, is even when a good person chooses to run for office, they will be beholden to whichever party they have chosen to associate.  Bredesen is a great example.  He appears to be a good man.  As I said, he was a fine governor.  But in DC, his association with the Democratic party would require him to support policies with which I strongly disagree.  Whether he personally supports them or not will not matter.  He’ll have to play ball with the party leadership or lose their support.

The opposite is also true.  Although no real evidence has been put forth, Roy Moore appears to be a reprehensible human being.  Republicans in Alabama were forced to make a hard decision.  Those who voted for his Democratic opponent claim to have voted for their principles.  In saying so, they mean they voted against him because of his alleged misdeeds.  I certainly respect and understand their choice.  But they also voted for Democratic policies. Doug Jones says he’s a fiscal conservative and a supporter of the Second Amendment, but even if he has the fortitude to vote his principles, he’ll be drowned out by the leftists in his party.  In the end, did they really vote for their principles?  If you know a person is going to support policies with which you disagree, even if they’re a decent person, is it proper to vote for them as opposed to someone who will support policies you favor?  I certainly faced this issue with Trump.  I think Trump is a spoiled rich kid and an actor who is concerned only with himself.  I do not think he’s a man to be looked up to.  I don’t think he’s really even conservative. The only thing he has going for him, in my opinion, is he isn’t Hillary Clinton and her thinly disguised Socialist agenda.

What is the American voter to do? Right now we’re forced to vote for the lesser of two evils, which means we’re still voting for evil.  Something has to change.  More people need to participate in the process.  Voter apathy virtually guarantees the current state of affairs will continue.  An ignorant, or at least gullible, electorate will not solve this problem.  A news media guided by allegiance to a party and not journalistic integrity won’t, either.  I think it is going to take the emergence of a strong third party to make things change.  That’s a tall order, given the power the media currently wields.  They decide who gets heard and who doesn’t.  They even decide who participates in debates. Until this changes, substantive change will be extremely difficult.

In closing, I’d like for us all to remember these issues when we think about those who voted differently than we would like.  I’m trying to point out here that a vote for a person doesn’t necessarily indicate full support of said person and their personal background.  We all want to vote for people whom we respect, both personally and as politician.  We want people who have the courage to vote their convictions, even when they go against the party line.  Sometimes those people just aren’t on the ballot.  Until those people come forward with a desire to serve, we’re going to have to make compromises.  Compromises which will unfortunately lead us to once again cast votes for evil.

Bump the Bump Fire Bill!

We knew it was coming. It was inevitable. The same old calls for additional gun control would be made. I get it. I hope to never turn on the news and see another story like Las Vegas. I understand the urge to “do something”. But that something needs to actually accomplish the goal, not serve as a means to another end. Doing “something” should include knowledge, thought, logic, and an understanding of how it will affect the citizens of this country. Once it became known the Las Vegas shooter had used “assault rifles” modified by something called a “bump fire stock”, the focus shifted and the knees began to jerk. Now, the usual suspects are yelling for them to be outlawed. Unfortunately, the usual suspects have allies on the other side of the aisle this time.

Before October 1, very few people had ever heard of a bump fire stock, much less knew what it does. This is probably because few people own them and one had never been used in commission of a crime until that day. I was aware of them, but I’m a gun guy. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with them, a bump fire stock is an accessory which replaces the regular stock and pistol grip on a semi-automatic rifle, such as an AR-15 or AK-47. The stock simply facilitates the bump fire technique, where the shooter pushes the rifle with the support hand while pulling with the shooting hand. After the first shot, the shooter leaves the finger lightly on the trigger, and uses the recoil impulse to “bump” the trigger, firing the gun again. This allows for a semi-automatic rifle to be fired more rapidly than normal. If used properly, a rate of fire similar to that of an automatic rifle can be achieved.

The NRA took the lead by calling for the BATFE to review the status of bump fire stocks and similar devices. This same agency approved the sale of them only a few years ago. It is the purview of the BATFE to classify items like bump fire stocks in terms of the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act. Their determination in 2010 was that bump fire stocks were accessories, not firearms as defined by either act. Therefore, they are legal for purchase without a background check or paying a tax. The wisdom of this decision is certainly debatable. In my opinion, they are good for little but burning through ammunition more quickly than usual. I have no problem with burning through ammunition quickly, but I’m not looking for a contrivance to make it easier!

Rather than allow the BATFE to review their decision, members of Congress have decided to introduce legislation to ban bump fire stocks and similar devices. In the House, Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R) of Florida and Seth Moulton (D) of Massachusetts introduced the so-called “Bump Fire Bill” (HR 3999), while (not surprisingly) Senator Diane I-don’t-know-a-damn-thing-about-guns-but-I-want-them-banned Feinstein introduced the companion “Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act” (S.1916) in the Senate. The important language in each bill is nearly identical, although the Senate bill does actually mention bump fire devices while the House version does not. Here is the meat of the House bill:

“…to manufacture, possess, or transfer any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun…”

Seems innocuous enough, until you start asking yourself, “what does it mean?”. How legislation effects us lowly worker bees is largely dependent on how the law is interpreted. I submit to you this bill is open to some very dangerous interpretations.  Let’s look at it more closely.

“…to manufacture, possess, or transfer…”  I’ll start here. The key word in this sentence is “possess”.  If these bills pass, it will be illegal for you to possess one of these items. The Senate version allows for the newly created criminals to turn them in within 180 days. What if someone decides not to hand theirs over? Are the police going to be allowed to go into the homes of people suspected of being in possession of such a device and search for it? I doubt it. So, exactly how will this be enforceable? What is the point of an unenforceable law? What will lawmakers do when no one gives up their legally-purchased property? Not much, would be my guess.

“…any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle…”  Now we come to one of the real problems with this bill. This is where it becomes obvious the authors know nothing about what they’re trying to legislate.  First of all, notice the term “bump fire” appears nowhere in this bill. The Senate version does actually use it, but not the House version. Bump Fire Bill.  Right. I understand the language is intentionally vague, and vague laws are dangerous.

Time for a quiz. What is the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle? Anybody? You don’t know because it varies depending on the rifle, its state of repair, the ammunition, the caliber, the shooter, the weather, etc.  There is no industry standard for semiautomatic rate of fire. It is a statistic which does not exist. How, then, do we define an increase in the rate of fire? If you put an aftermarket trigger in your rifle, you will probably be able to shoot it faster. I installed the excellent Apex trigger in my competition pistol, which is semiautomatic. I assure you, it increased the rate of fire of my pistol! Will it and similar aftermarket parts become illegal? To make my point crystal clear, take a few minutes and watch these videos of world-record shooter Jerry Miculek shooting an AR15 against a bump fire-equipped AR, a Tavor, and a .50 caliber Barrett. All are semiautomatic, even though you wouldn’t know it from these videos. Will Jerry’s trigger finger be illegal?

This bill was obviously written in haste (we have to do SOMETHING!) with very little thought. It was written by people with no technical knowledge and little understanding of the issues at hand, leaving far too much room for interpretation. I suspect, however, the Senate version is exactly what Feinstein wants. I have no doubt she sees this as an opening. If this were to pass, it would not be long before someone decided aftermarket triggers, which make it easier to shoot accurately by lightening the pull weight, “increased the rate of fire” and made them illegal. Then it would be compensators. They help manage recoil, which “increases the rate of fire”. Then someone would come up with an arbitrary rate of fire and any semiautomatic rifle capable of firing faster than that would be banned. It is indeed a slippery slope, the kind of thing for which the gun ban crowd has been waiting. Let’s not make it this easy for them. I doubt either of these will make it out of committee. Neither should. I urge you to contact your elected officials and tell them to bump the bump fire bills.

Arguing About Things You Do Not Understand

The horrific events in Las Vegas this past week have us, as a nation, wondering why and how we can stop evil this deep. What can be done to stop this madness? Are we safe? How can we ensure our safety at public events? The answers to these questions are incredibly complex as they deal with human behavior. We are complicated creatures, to be sure. This particular evil-doer does not fit the typical profile in any way. What causes a retired accountant with no apparent financial issues, no criminal history or history of mental illness to attack a concert full of innocent people? I doubt we’ll ever know. How can we predict who will commit this sort of crime? I don’t know if we can.

What is predictable, however, is the reaction from the gun control crowd. The blood wasn’t dry before social media and the airwaves were filled with shrill cries for more gun control. It continues to amaze me when people are calling for drastic action in reaction to an event when almost nothing is known about what actually happened. They don’t stop to ask the most basic questions: who? what? where? when? why? Of course, the answers to those questions don’t really matter. They know what they’re going to say before it even happens. Remember, this is the “never let a tragedy go to waste” crowd.

The interactions that I’ve seen and participated in this week show a remarkable level of ignorance among those most strident for new gun regulations. My intention when I started this post was to list the more common statements which are factually incorrect and clearly demonstrate, using facts and statistics, how they were incorrect. But what good would it do? The people who are most ignorant of how guns work, what the laws actually say, how guns are purchased, which guns are used in crimes most often, and who is using them, would not read this post. They believe there is an “epidemic of mass shootings” and “this type of thing doesn’t happen in the more civilized European countries. They have chosen to believe what they’re told by the media and the leftist leaders who champion their cause. They are willfully ignorant, the most dangerous kind of ignorance. Their arguments are based solely on emotional response, the need to DO SOMETHING which I’ve often mentioned.

I have yet to see any of these folks offer a realistic solution which would actually DO SOMETHING. I asked one person directly what new laws would stop an event like what happened in Las Vegas. Her response was to end sales of accessories which enable a semi-automatic weapon to fire at an automatic rate and to increase funding for mental health. I really don’t have an issue with either idea, but even she conceded neither was likely to prevent it. What they really want is for the government to determine what weapons who should be allowed to own. They want the government to know exactly who owns what weapon. There’s only one reason for that. Even though most of them lack the courage to admit it, they really don’t want anyone to own any firearms, period. They are perfectly willing to accept the loss of freedom for the illusion of security. When faced with this argument, I always point out the number of firearms owned by US citizens right now. Are they willing to have the police or military go into private homes to confiscate those weapons? So far, I haven’t had anyone admit they’re willing to let it go that far, but its just a matter of time.

I understand the emotional response to a tragedy like this. I know it upsets me, as a husband and father as much as a gun owner, and I’d hate to meet anyone who wasn’t upset by it. I understand having an opinion about things you don’t completely understand. We all do. But if you’re going to argue about something, you’d have a better response if you were knowledgeable about the subject. The voting public has clearly rejected their argument, mostly because it has no basis in fact. I, for one, am not willing to trade my freedom for a false sense of security, knowing it will do nothing to curb violent crime. They can deny the statistics all they want, it doesn’t change the fact armed citizens are less likely to be the victims of violent crime.

The problem lies with the human heart. How do we determine who has that level of hate in their heart? How do we control what goes on in the human brain? How can we look at a person and decide they’re dangerous? Maybe there are signs we don’t yet know. We should certainly work toward identifying what those signs might be. But how do you do it without violating civil liberties or the inalienable rights of millions who commit no crime? That’s the hard part, and so far no one has an answer.

Unanswered Questions

The stone is like the thousands of others around it. It is plain, white marble with a rounded top, the standard issue for the Veterans Administration in national cemeteries. It is flanked by the markers of soldiers that served in World War II and Vietnam in the old part of the Florence National Cemetery. While the others include the name, rank, branch of service, birth, and death dates, this one has only one word: “Unknown”. I can’t think of anything more sad to see on a headstone. No one knows who lies there. I find that very troubling. I’ve been to this cemetery dozens of times, and I’ve visited several other national cemeteries. They are melancholy places, but that one word bothers me. Unknown.


In 2006, I directed the archaeological excavations for the expansion of the Florence National Cemetery. The expansion area was north of the Florence Stockade, a Confederate prisoner of war camp in use from late 1864 until early 1865. Florence is the lesser known twin of Andersonville, the most notorious prison facility of the Civil War. As Sherman’s army swept through Georgia in 1864, Confederate leaders knew the prisoners held at Andersonville had to be moved to a more secure area. Florence was chosen as one place to send prisoners based on the junction of three railroads. The first group of prisoners arrived in September of 1864 before the stockade was even finished.

Once the stockade was completed, the prisoners entered a wasteland surrounded by vertical logs. No provisions for shelter had been made, which left the prisoners to create whatever shelter they could by digging into the ground and using scatter pine boughs and branches, along with blankets or shelter halves if they were lucky enough to still have such things. Pye Branch bisected the stockade, providing drinking water on one end and latrines on the other. Rations were extremely thin, consisting usually of uncooked corn meal and beans. Meat was almost never available and fresh vegetables were basically absent. All of this, combined with a lack of medical support, resulted in the deaths of about 2,300 prisoners by March of 1865 when the stockade was abandoned.

The stockade was guarded by a small group of regular Confederate soldiers supported by South Carolina reservists. The area where we worked in 2006 was the western end of the camp of part of the guard force, probably the 5th Georgia. For an archaeologist, this project was incredible, as we located numerous features and recovered thousands of artifacts. Between the material culture and the in-depth historical research, we made a significant contribution to the historical knowledge of the stockade and those who guarded it.

One of the features which drew our interest had been partially exposed during previous archaeological testing at the site. A backhoe trench revealed the lower portion of a single human burial. As we prepared to conduct the larger excavations, this caused some concern.  The historical record indicates that initially, the dead from the stockade were buried in a pit somewhere outside the walls. This pit was said to contain over 400 individuals when burials began in the trenches which spawned the national cemetery. We were concerned the single burial was a sign of a much larger problem.

Our excavations revealed this individual had been buried alone in the bottom of a hut. The Confederate guard had access to timber and other building materials, so some lived in small, semi-subterranean huts. Somehow, this individual had been buried in the floor of one of these huts. The excavation of the remains was conducted by a specialist from the University of Tennessee, who carefully documented the position of each skeletal element and any associated artifacts. Sadly, activities on the property prior to the archaeology destroyed the entire skull. We were able to find two fragments of the cranium many meters away in the backdirt pile.  Several buttons were recovered in association with the remains, which indicated that the person was wearing a jacket, possibly military issue. A few pieces of buckshot and a single larger caliber shot were found around the remains. There was no sign of trauma to the bones, so it appears that the shot was there either incidentally or as a complete buck and ball round.

Analysis of the remains provided a lot of information in spite of the loss of the skull. The individual was most likely a young male, aged between 20 and 35 years. He was likely white, although skeletal metrics fell within those of African ancestry as well. He was tall for the time at almost 5′ 11″, with no obvious skeletal abnormalities or disease. Isotopic analysis revealed that his diet consisted of corn products, corn-fed meats, sorghum, and possibly marine foods. This placed his place of residency as the Gulf or Atlantic coasts, which could include South Carolina.

All of this data was great, but what did it really tell us? A young, white male found in the camp strongly suggests that he was a soldier. But this is about all we know. Who was he? Why was he there? How did he come to be buried in that hut and forgotten? Was he sick near the end of the stockade’s occupancy and died, then buried quickly as the guards pulled out of camp? Was he a Confederate soldier trying to get home after the war who took shelter in that hut and never made it out? We don’t know the answer to any of these questions and likely never will. I’ve spent many hours thinking through all of this and I’m no closer to an explanation now than I was in 2006.

After our work was complete, the individual was reburied in the Florence National Cemetery with full military honors. He was interred in a coffin produced for the crew of the CSS Hunley under the careful watch of honor guards representing both Union and Confederate troops. A headstone and a plot were provided for him by the Veterans Administration. It is marked simply “Unknown”. I feel good that I and my colleagues did everything we could to identify him. But it bothers me that we can’t give him a name. He left his family at some point, probably to serve his country. They likely never knew what happened to him. His ancestors have no idea where he is or how he came to be there. That’s terrible and so very sad. Every time I’m in Florence, I stop and pay my respects. I may be the only person who does. It reminds me of the sacrifice made by everyone interred in that sacred space. And it reminds me of all the unanswered questions.

If you have any interest in reading about the work we conducted at Florence, the full technical report is available here. Since 2006, I’ve directed the first professional archaeological research inside the Florence Stockade and the complete mapping of the remains of the Florence Stockade, which are quite impressive! The Friends of the Florence Stockade have worked tirelessly to maintain and interpret the remaining earthworks. If you find yourself headed to Myrtle Beach or down I-95, take a few minutes and stop in Florence to see the stockade.  It’s worth it!