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A well-deserved Thank You to some stalwarts in the shooting sports

Since early childhood and Wyeth paintings of Captain Kidd and pirates bearing cutlasses and flintlock pistols, old timey guns and edged weapons have gripped my imagination.

No, there is no oddity here in that. There is no eccentric or weirdo behavior resulting from this affliction.  In a sporting world increasingly enamored of stainless steel and plastic firearms, bearing Hubble Telescope-like magnifying scopes capable of coldly assassinating animals at half a mile or longer, being a nut for simple guns of old steel, open sights, and darkened walnut sets one apart more on the side of sanity.

When these old guns last hurt someone, the War of 1812 was a recent memory; maybe some time in the 1890s a kid playing with one hanging above the mantle managed to unintentionally bag his grandma in the living room.

In 1994, a pile of them were dumped into the trash by one of my neighbors in suburban Maryland, because they were “guns,” and therefore bad, apparently, despite each one being representative of one artistic school or another, each a canvas of steel and wood, not fabric. Together worth a new luxury car at that time, and today each worth a single car.

Dumping them in the trash was that recent widow’s own self-inflicted wound.

In general, these quality antique firearms and their “modern” descendants, including the black powder express rifles, double barrel shotguns, nitro double barreled rifles, and single-shot stalking rifles, pose no risk to humans and are a threat to four-legged animals only when used with hard-won, developed skill and hard-earned, focused woodcraft. After all, these weapons require their user to approach wary wild game within at least 150 yards, and well within 100 yards is preferred, where noses, ears and eyes easily tell the quarry “RUN! NOW! FAST!”

No assassinations here.  Hunting skill is the key.

Many of these guns were made at a pivotal time in human and technological history when steels were dramatically improving in hardness and durability, explosives were well on their way to matching our best fireworks today, electricity-powered machinery was becoming more available and more precise, human labor was still abundant and relatively cheap, and standards of craftsmanship were still exceptionally high so that each item a worker produced carried his or her pride of best abilities applied.

Finally, remote stands of ancient walnut trees and other tree species, long neglected for their timber and enjoyed by the natives for their fruits and nuts, became known and available by steam locomotive, pack mule, and steam ship. Wood from these trees captured a time when few factors reared their hands against the relatively soft material, and so they grew slowly in peace and quiet in far-off lands and places, each decade adding a narrow band of dense and highly figured curl and figure to what would eventually become a stunning, valuable gunstock in London, Suhl, Ferlach, and Belgium.

Today, such firearms, and even reproductions of them, are highly sought after by harmless romantics seeking to hunt but not necessarily to kill, to capture the essence of bringing an aesthetically pleasing hand-craft to the necessary bloodletting in harvesting wild game; basically, to class-up and improve the joint a bit with style and understated elegance.

Certainly there are representations of this time period among our most favorite buildings around the planet, so if “guns” elude you, your emotions, or your tastes, think of beautiful, carefully constructed, famous buildings that inspire people (or furniture, or cars, or or or…). Then you should understand that those nerdy, harmless romantics actually carry such high art around in the woods, and that being a nut for such specimens of humankind’s best mechanical and artistic abilities is not such a strange preoccupation, after all.

It is an aesthetic pursuit, with a bang.

As this right here is not a book, and as it is merely my own small, off-hand, and brief attempt to say Thank You to people who have distantly but materially added to my quality and enjoyment of life, just three institutions are receiving mention today, though many many many more deserve kudos, too (Steve Bodio comes to mind, or Ironmen Antiques, and and and…).

First, a big thank you to the Cote Family, the hard working founding publishers of the Double Gun & Single Shot Journal (DGJ), 1989 to present. Without the DGJ, aficionados of old but not the oldest or most popular firearms would have but occasional and fleeting mentions in Grey’s Sporting Journal, American Rifleman, and hard-to-find tomes filled with errata and alchemy.  DGJ captures both the spirit of old hunting tools and methods, and the details required to make the whole endeavor successfully fall into place now.

Without the DGJ, Capstick and Pondoro and similar oldies-but-goodies would be most of the reading available to us.  Yes, yes, Roosevelt’s African Game Trails and his other hunting books are phenomenal, but how many times over can a person read them?

So a huge Thank You to the Cote family for keeping the DGJ going.

Second, DGJ hosts such gifted analysts as Sherman Bell, whose decades-long “Finding Out for Myself” series of articles has put to rest silly notions about using black powder and nitro-for-black substitutes (yes, you can kill a beautiful buck with style, elegance, and woodcraft, you do not have to be an assassin to be successful), the safety of Damascus barrels (yes, they are safe with modern shells), and other interesting myths and facts surrounding Grandpa’s old gun on the mantle.  Thank You to Sherman Bell, for enriching my life in small but directly meaningful ways with these beloved and useful artifacts.

Finally, a huge Thank You to noted gun writer Ross Seyfried, whose introspective writings and wanderings in DGJ and elsewhere have inspired many others to pick up the double rifle or single shot, and shelve the plastic contraption, once again capturing the spirit, at least, of fair chase. And Thank You, Ross, for your own steady, incredibly patient guidance and knowledge as I walk my own path.

Yes, I know, you too had your mentors, and they too held your hand and guided you along your path. We have walked those paths with you in the Matabeleland of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and the hills of Elk Song in Oregon. But in a culture of increasingly shallow or fragile relationships, expectations of immediate gratification, point-and-click ‘knowledge’, plastic contraption guns, brief patience, half-mile assassinations of unstalked animals, and so on, being a junior apprentice to someone like you is a pleasurable rarity, and an honor.

Ross, I pledge I will do my best to follow in your footsteps and do as you have done with me: Passing along all of my knowledge of the old things, the old ways, the class and the grace — what little I possess!, to those who want them. I will withhold nothing from that next generation.

 

Downton Abbey’s “field sports” Part II

Guess I shot from the hip, shot first and asked questions later, didn’t identify my target too well, or another euphemism you may enjoy applying to the lack of foresight I brought to yesterday’s analysis of Downton Abbey’s field sports.

Yes, I could have sneaked a peak ahead of the coming scenes, like many other avid watchers of PBS’s hit show do, but because I lack the time and the inclination to sneak anything, I just sat down in my easy chair and watched the show unfold last night without advance knowledge of its content.

My Sunday afternoon essay about the mediocre depiction of the field sports of Downton Abbey was written beforehand.

So, yes, there was a shooting scene last night, or more accurately, some scenes of wing shooting at driven partridge from bona fide shooting butts, using authentic guns and nice clothes, woven in and out of the story about the Scottish castle party.

But once again, there was more focus on the clothes on the people holding the guns than on the Purdeys, Rigbys, and other Best-quality side-by-side shotguns being used to down the birds.

In 1924, $150,000-then-equivalent Purdey shotguns do not get left with the menial help in the kitchen. They are fussed and obsessed over by their owners, kept locked in their rooms, cased with abundant hand-made accoutrements, labeled beautifully by their makers, and often proudly handed down from generation to generation and worn with traditional hunting clothes.

Scottish castles are loaded with arms and armor, and we barely got a peak at the edged weapons welcoming guests through the front door.

The wagons taking the hunters to the field were right, and a nice touch.  I have ridden in such wagons on traditional hunts, and they are today an unnecessary throwback.  But back then, they were a necessity through muck and muddy moors.

Shooting driven partridge from the butts was mostly done right, with gun loaders ducking to avoid being seen by the birds, and we did see some people bunched up waving white flags, but a real drive could have been filmed for full authenticity.  Actual dead birds could have fallen.  Smoke could have emitted from the barrels.  Etc etc.

Depicting the shooting sports in so briefly and so shallow a manner is the equivalent of dressing Lady Mary in a perfect 1920s top with modern hip-hugger blue jeans below. It is just wrong.  Don’t do that!

A lot of non sequiturs occurred last night that really deprive the Downton Abbey audience of a full appreciation of the English field sport lifestyle, which actually reached its pinnacle in the 1920s (when cheap skilled labor was matched with newly superior steel and modern technology to create firearms that even today still command huge sums of money, not to mention the introduction and propagation of Asian pheasants to the English countryside), the time we are watching in the show.

I am sorry to criticize you, Julian Fellowes, because Downton Abbey is otherwise a great show, everything we want it to be. 

Last night was disappointing, because the rich details of noble Scottish and English hunting rites should have been indulged.  As a student of English history, you are missing a great, even important opportunity here to dig into a meaty subject which your audience will surely enjoy, even if it involves G-U-N-S. 

Maybe in January 2016 we will get a more thorough treatment of a subject that may be missing from Mr. Fellowes’ life today, but which was a nearly daily ritual for the actual residents of Downton Abbey and their peers in the 1920s.

Bad guys are on the run around Harrisburg

Toldja so.

Last year, several critical essays I wrote about PA AG Kathleen Kane were widely published, long before other people felt safe enough, I guess, to jump on the band wagon.

Kane’s incompetence and corrupt behavior were evident within a few months of her arrival in the PA Attorney General seat.  She only got worse and worse, and was on a downhill slide to the point where she has now been indicted by a grand jury.  Imagine that.

I feel vindicated.  Sadly.

Harrisburg’s top cop may go to jail, or be fined, disbarred, and barred from holding public office.  It says a lot about politics, that her Breck Girl smile and slow-motion hair tosses were enough for  her to get elected.

For the record, I believe that if Pennsylvania absolutely must have a Democrat AG, then Katie McGinty would be the right person.  McGinty is every bit as liberal and political as Kane, but Katie is also way too smart to let it show or implement it so egregiously.  So, we’d end up with a partisan professional and not the corrupt political hack we have now.  That’d be an improvement.

An even better improvement would be Ed Marsico as AG.  Ed Marsico is the stellar DA for Dauphin County, and he is so a-political that the Republican establishment has passed him over in the past.  Can you imagine, an AG who simply does the job of prosecuting bad guys?  How refreshing that would be.

On to Harrisburg City, my home town and my family’s home since at least 1745.  It’s a place I care about a lot.  We moved here from Washington, DC, to enjoy the high quality of life, easy commute, and low cost of living.  I love living in Harrisburg.

Yes, the city has problems.  OK, that is true and I think people are genuinely working to solve them, even as many of the same people have worked to exacerbate them because they stood to make money from them (think: Public Parking).  But that is another story.

Here’s a story that is just now unfolding: Harrisburg has decided to hold on to its illegal anti-gun laws.  Harrisburg City remains happily and blatantly in violation of two state laws barring any PA municipality from passing gun laws.  The city has been served notice that they may get sued over this, a costly loss because the city will have to pay money damages and legal fees to the winner.

And of course, the gun laws they have do zero to punish criminals or limit crime.  They are designed to punish law-abiding citizens and turn them into criminals, because the zealot prohibitionist crusaders pushing these laws are against guns per se.

Late last Friday night a deranged man attempted to forcefully enter my home through the front door.  He was banging away at it, working over the handle hard, and shouting at us.

My wife and kids cowered on the kitchen floor, with Viv talking with a surly 911 dispatcher (who actually yelled at me over the phone); our guests were in the basement.

I stood with a pistol pointed at the door, waiting for the guy to come barging through.  Every warning I shouted to him through the door elicited a curse-filled response and harder efforts to get through.

Even I was scared.  Someone trying that hard to break into your home is going to do damage once he gets inside.

Ten minutes later the Harrisburg police arrived and caught him, two doors up the street.  They were professional and friendly to us taxpayers, and they used force to capture the crazy man because he was violent.  I watched him fight with them and try to kick their police dog, Bo.  He had some white powder drugs on him and acted like he was insane.  Case in point here: Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Without my gun, immediately accessible, our family was a sitting duck for this guy.

We were lucky that he did not come through a ground floor window.  Sure, I would have shot and killed him had he entered our home, but who needs that?  And what about the other citizens who are neither armed nor prepared or able to defend themselves effectively against intruders?

Let’s ask the obvious question: What about “when seconds count the police are only minutes away” do you not understand, Mayor Eric Papenfuse?

Why are your illegal, ineffective gun laws more important than the safety of my family?

What makes people on the Left so cocksure about their illegal behavior? It must have something to do with the tradition of Leftist protests always being “right,” a mentality that undergirds everything they do.

We will see you in court, Mayor Papenfuse, because you may not inflict your illegal laws on the safety of my body.

I brought my guns to school

Back in the 1970s, I brought my deer rifle to school on the bus.

It was locked in my school locker when I arrived at school on the bus. In its case.

No one made a big deal about it.

No one was hurt by my gun.

My biology teacher reloaded my 7mm Mauser shells for me.

I hunted after school with friends, and no one was hurt. We were all safe handlers of our firearms. We all took it seriously.

It now might be a time for Americans to recall a different time, a safer time, a time when Americans could not imagine using basic firearms to hurt one another. A time when deer rifles were as normal as new sneakers, as significant as new clothes. A high powered deer rifle meant that much, and that little.

So many Americans today wonder what happened to our nation. Well, quit treating traditional American values as inferior to the chaos, anarchy, and violence that have replaced them. Let us traditionalists come back. Let your kids demonstrate how responsible they are. Take comfort in the inherent strength of our nation and its traditions. Relax.

We gun owners are safe, responsible, and experienced. We have our own children who we cherish. We will do nothing to hurt our own children.

Guns, used safely, are safe.

 

Scottish vote is instructive of changing identities around the world; is PA ready? Is USA ready?

A majority of Scots voted yesterday to not rock their world, not screw up their currency, not throw 300 years of cultural, financial, and military entanglement with Britain into a complete mess.

So although there was a sizable groundswell of independent-minded identity, about 45%, more Scots (55%) believed that the change was not worth the inevitable costs.  That 55% may indeed share the same cultural identity and passion for change as the 45%, but they believe that the price was too high.

Fair enough.  It is understandable.  Reasonable people can disagree about these things. After all, Scotland will still be Scotland, with a common language, culture, and identity.  And British lawmakers made clear concessions in recent days that will only strengthen and enhance Scotland’s sense of separate identity and self-determination, so the mere threat of separation gained new, valuable rights.

But Scotland goes to show that there is a sweeping change around the world, including in America, where changing identities are tugging at frayed social fabrics.  Eventually, these frays will become tears, whether we like it or not.

A good indication of this cultural change happened right here in America this past Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Constitution Day in America, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that American students could be denied their First Amendment right to wear shirts with the American flag on “Cinco de Mayo Day” in California.

Citing fears that Hispanic gangs in certain California government-run schools would see the American flag as intolerant of their Hispanic identities, an instigation to violence, a school principal, and subsequently one of the highest courts in the land (ain’t that the truth) decided that American citizens must be barred from wearing the flag of our nation, America, on their clothes.

On just that one day.

Needless to say, that an American court would conclude such a violent attack on our free speech rights is OK in the first place is incredible, especially when it involves wearing our national flag.

That a court would cite potential violence by criminals, many of whom are not American citizens, as a reason to deny American citizens their free speech rights is a whole other thumb in the eye.  It is not legal reasoning but rather giving in to mob rule.

That the court decision was given on Constitution Day really highlights the symbolic meaning and significance of this event.  The court is either tone deaf or purposefully showing its disdain for our guiding light.

It really marks a widening cultural identity gap increasingly growing in America, as it is growing in parts of Spain (Basques), France (half the planet is still French-occupied), Syria (Kurds, Sunni vs Shia Muslims), Iraq (Kurds, Sunni vs Shia Muslims), Turkey (Kurds), Argentina (Falklands, occupied by Britain), and so on.

In each of these locations, there are large groups of people who believe that the present government is actually working against their interests, not for their interests.  They want a government that they believe is representative of them, their needs, identities.

Come what may of these various separation movements, many of which have turned into open civil war, what concerns me is what this portends for Americans.

One poll this week shows that one in four Americans support some sort of secession or breakup of America.

Some states, like Alaska, Montana, and Texas, already have large secessionist movements or large population segments who want Republic status either restored, or instituted.

At some point these different intellectual disagreements will result in actual, physical disagreements, usually known as civil strife or civil war.  As much as this terrifies me and anyone else who enjoys the relative tranquility and opportunity America now enjoys, it is a fact that such events are part of human history.  They are probably inevitable.

When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hands down a patently ridiculous ruling like this one, to satisfy some small group of people who threaten violence against otherwise Constitutional behavior, you can be damned sure that a much larger group of actual Americans take notice, and they begin to see their nation a lot differently than they did, say, on Tuesday of this week.

If threats of violence by alien invaders can suppress our Constitutional rights, then what the hell does our Constitution really mean? Has it now become meaningless? Will threats of violence by other groups, alien or native, gain sufficient legal traction to suppress other Constitutional rights, too?  Will or could threats of regional insurrection or violence against alien invaders result in similar court holdings that the Second Amendment no longer has standing there?

Can anyone imagine what that would then mean to tens of millions of law-abiding American citizens, whose otherwise legal ownership of plain vanilla firearms had suddenly overnight become criminalized.  Like people using the Internet to promote their ideas, those Americans would use their guns before they would lose them.  Surely here in Pennsylvania that is true.

America’s Constitution is what binds us all together.  It is the great equalizer, the super glue that keeps America’s different, pulsing forces together.

Behind this week’s 9th Circuit decision is a morally relativist, multiculturalist mindset that places first priority on vague feelings of separate ethnic pride above and beyond the limits on government and expansive freedoms for citizens granted in the Constitution.  To this court, government is an enforcer for grievances and hurt feelings; the Constitution is irrelevant in how that enforcement is carried out.

Pennsylvania is undergoing quiet but dramatic demographic change, similar to many other states, including California and New York.  These same sorts of issues and questions are about to descend upon us.  Do we Pennsylvanians have the quality leaders necessary to keep us bound all together in one identity?

Or do we have elected leaders and courts who are willing to inject anarchy and civil strife in the name of a perverted sense of justice, what Hell may come as a result?

Perry County gets an eyeful of cr@p from anti-gun schemers

In what must be a warm-up for the 2016 state senate race in Perry County (in which I hope to be the Republican nominee), gun control schemers have drummed up a ridiculous problem. The Perry County Auditors are now suing Sheriff Nace for personal gun owner records, to which they have no legal access nor any expectation of access.

It is a political stunt.  It is an effort to undermine gun owner rights and put gun owners on the defensive, in order to make easier the state senator’s re-election there.

Given that the newly incumbent and very liberal state senator there is far in the minority in Perry County, where even the Democrats are fiercely pro-Second Amendment, this is undoubtedly a politically fostered, carefully coordinated effort between the senator’s political party and anti-gun activists.

Simple things

America’s Second Amendment is not about hunting.

It is not about target shooting.

It is not about shotguns, single-shot twenty-twos, and bolt-action deer rifles.

Incredibly, it is about an armed citizenry being able to stand up to its own government.  It is a crazy idea, right? So crazy that only America, the world’s bastion of liberty, has it.

How frustrating is it to get into one Facebook debate after another with adults who not only have not bothered to research the Second Amendment, but who deliberately refuse to be educated once they are well into the debate.

Feelings are not a substitute for facts.  Debates about Constitutional law require facts, historical quotes, Founders’ intentions, etc.  Sure, I understand that lots of people are afraid of guns.  Why not?  They are dangerous.  But your fear cannot dictate my rights.

BLM giving open land a black eye

The Bureau of Land Management was established as a temporary holding entity, dealing more with water management than common natural resources and the plants and animals living on the land under its care.

Now, BLM has become the poster child of Big Government Gone Wild, using armed force and the threat of lethal force, let alone more prosaic forms of terrifying government coercion, to achieve dubious policy goals.  Many of these policy goals grate on the public, who perceive them as being at best ancillary to BLM’s mission, if not at odds with the multiple-use land management models the agency is supposed to implement.

Citizens, who own their American government, chafe at official signs that say “No Trespassing – BLM Property,” as though the very taxpayers underwriting BLM are alien invaders upon that government-managed ground.

Job #1 would be to actually communicate with the citizenry about the agency’s policy goals, the underpinnings and purpose of its policies, the reasons for protecting some landscapes from vehicles.  Certainly, BLM can achieve better ways to manage environmentally sensitive land, and perhaps asking the citizenry for ideas would take the agency into new, good places.  Many users of federally-managed lands are actually savvy about Leave No Trace, and most others at least care, even if they do not yet know how to minimally impact an area.

BLM’s heavy hand in the supposed name of environmental quality is giving all open land a black eye.  As a result of BLM’s foolish behavior, all kinds of questions are being asked about public land, not just about how it is managed, but why it even exists.  Perhaps it is a good discussion to have, and I certainly stand on the side of having those public spaces, but so far the BLM is just pouring gasoline on the fire, which threatens to overtake all public lands.

Part of any discussion should include What Next about BLM.  The agency has clearly outlived its established purpose.  My instinctive thinking is to divide up its lands among the agencies best suited to manage each piece – National Park Service for this heavily used area, National Forest for this timbered area, and so on.  And no, conveying some of these lands to states is not a bad thing, so long as the deeds carry perpetual stipulations that the lands cannot be sold to private owners or converted to some other use.  Mining, timbering, preservation of historic artifacts, water management, passive and active recreation, scenic beauty, ecological purposes…states can do many of these as well as a federal agency, and all without having snipers in fatigues pointing guns at citizens.

If nothing else, getting rid of BLM to get rid of its ridiculous snipers and armed thug culture is a worthy step.  Not only is that insane behavior unworthy of a representative government, it is unrelated to the purpose of protecting open land in the first place.

Guns – Your individual right

Gun ownership is an individual right, not a “collective” right.

There is no such thing as a “collective” right in the American liberties enumerated in our Constitution.

If you think otherwise, you really must study the Constitution more.  Local to the Harrisburg area is an organization that provides classes on Constitutional issues: http://reclaimliberty.com/

The “collective right” idea was ginned up out of thin air in the 1970s by anti-freedom activists.  The US Supreme Court has rejected it twice, and there is not an honest scholar anywhere who believes in it.

The Bill of Rights is exactly that – a list of individual rights and liberties that belong to American citizens.  No one can take them away.  Whether you choose to exercise those rights, or not, is your choice.

US Supreme Court decides straight forward case with weird outcomes

Fernandez v. California was decided yesterday by the US Supreme Court.  Everything about it is just…weird.

In a holding that is enraging advocates of private property rights, limited government, and citizen privacy, the Court’s conservatives were joined by two liberals to allow the police to enter a private home without a warrant, even if one resident says they cannot enter, because another resident said they could enter.

In other words, if the police get a resident of a home to grant permission to enter that home for the purpose of searching for something illegal, which the police now do not have to specify in writing, the police may enter.  What they are looking for could be unknown, or undocumented.  Maybe they are on a fishing expedition, just looking for anything they could use against the person who said they did not want the police to enter.  It seems like planting evidence would be a lot easier, now.  In any event, your home is no longer your castle, if a pissed off teenager inside decides to take out their misplaced teenage aggression against their loving parents.

Seems like a recipe for disaster.

Justice Ginsburg wrote a dissent, noting the obvious erosion in Fourth Amendment rights against illegal searches and seizures that result from holdings like this.  Ginsburg is the court’s most liberal member, an extremist who has spoken out against the US Constitution she is sworn to uphold, and an authoritarian statist who otherwise just loves, loves, loves state power over citizens.

And here’s the really weird stuff: The facts involve “illegal guns,” which in California is anything down to and including a Daisy BB gun, and documented domestic violence.

The person blocking the police from entering the home to search it was the Mr. Wife-Beating Fernandez, a scumbag who held his cringing wife prisoner under brutal circumstances.  After he was momentarily out of the picture and not a direct threat, she allowed the police to search the house, where they found the illegal guns (let’s be clear – California is on the path to making all gun ownership illegal, except by the police, which is otherwise known as a police state, a separate topic).

Thus did Mr. Macho Wife Beater get into even more and more serious trouble with the legal system, and thus did he subsequently attempt to suppress the evidence the police found, which really put him away behind bars for a while.

Ginsburg and other liberals typically trumpet the rights of domestic abuse victims, but here they are clearly ranking them beneath the rights of the gun-owning wife beater.  Weird.

Conservatives like Alito typically champion the rights of gun owners and are split 50/50 on privacy rights.  But here they are so obviously opening up the flood gates of potential abuse by police.  No warrant?  No documentation for probable cause? Husbands and wives typically cannot testify against each other, but here they are now allowed to defy one another in the family ‘castle’ so the state apparatus may enter at will.

Seems like a pretty huge detonation of American citizens’ privacy rights.  Weird.