Tag Archives: firearms

Eternal optimism gets test

Yes, it is time to acknowledge the obvious about today’s political climate: These times test even the most optimistic among us … and you count me as one of those folks.

My eternal optimism over the strength of democracy is suffering from serious stress.

The U.S. Supreme Court has punched the hot buttons that create my anxiety. The ruling on concealed carry permits for handguns in New York got me started. Then came the decision that tossed aside Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion.

Political figures are being hectored, harangued and harassed because they insist on following the rule of law. They and their families are being threatened with bodily injury … and worse!

A president who lost re-election in Novembe 2020 threatens to overturn the results of that election in an unprecedented attack on our governmental process. His cult followers insist he is right, and the rest of the country is wrong.

I am not alone in wanting our U.S. Constitution to hold together. I believe it will. I also believe it will hold the nation together.

My family and friends are likely to tell you — if you ask them directly — that I tend to see the good in people. The recent former POTUS, though, makes me think only the worst in him. Thus, my eternal optimism is being put to a test I did not foresee occurring … even when the former POTUS was elected to the presidency in 2016.

It’s a struggle. The news I watch for much of most days depresses me, pushing my emotions to a level with which I am mostly unfamiliar. Look, I dislike feeling this way. It’s against my nature. I am not an ebullient fellow normally, but I long have maintained an innate faith that our system of government — cobbled together by our nation’s founders — is built to absorb punishment.

My inherent faith in our system of government — as imperfect and occasionally rickety as it is — will keep me going even as I fight off the depression that threatens to put me asunder.


Is this the tipping point?

U.S. senators from both parties are actually saying something few of us thought possible, which is that there might be some legislation coming forward that could impose some limits on gun purchases.

A gunman killed 10 shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. Then just a few days later another gunman slaughtered 19 fourth-graders and two teachers.

Americans have taken to the streets in protest. They are demanding something be done. President Biden has joined the chorus for gun reform.

Republicans in the Senate aren’t budging on a couple of key points: raising the age limit to purchase a firearm and extended universal background checks.

But … there appears to be some movement. Something might come forth. There could be a “red flag law” enacted allowing states to withhold possession of a firearm if a buyer comes up suspicious.

I guess I am heartened only a little by the apparent change of heart among some lawmakers. Get a load of this: Some Republican senators, such as Mitt Romney of Utah, said he now supports raising the age limit from 18 to 21 years of age to buy a firearm.

I won’t call this a tipping point. Indeed, many of us thought that the Sandy Hook Elementary School (Conn.) tragedy a decade ago — when 20 second-graders and six teachers were massacred — would have spurred some action. It didn’t.

Some in the Senate, naturally, are blaming reformers of “politicizing” events such as Buffalo and Uvalde. What an utter crock! Their refusal to act in the wake of this senseless violence in itself is a highly political demonstration. Therefore, they can cease the “politicization” argument … OK?

A little bit of movement, though, toward a legislative remedy — no matter how timid — is far better than what we’ve had so far. It gives me a glimmer of hope.


Don’t let NRA bully you, Lt. Gov. Patrick

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is baiting the National Rifle Association with a proposal that makes perfect sense.

The Republican politician is standing behind an idea that would require background checks any purchase of a firearm in what is being called a “stranger-to-stranger transaction.”

The NRA doesn’t like it. One gun lobby official called it a “political gambit.”

My hunch is that the NRA is going to apply maximum pressure on Patrick if he continues to push on this baby-step notion that seeks to make it just a bit more difficult for individuals to buy a firearm from someone they do not know. Indeed, Patrick is likely fueled by the carnage that erupted in El Paso and Odessa, where 29 people died in slaughters in those two West Texas cities.

I appreciate some of the concerns about this matter, such as … how do you enforce it? Still, it seems to make sense to me.

The question for me at this moment, though, is whether Lt. Gov. Patrick — who presides over the Texas Senate — has the courage to stand up against the kind of political pressure the NRA is capable of applying.

I don’t generally support Dan Patrick. I don’t know him personally. I only know of him through his occasional strong-arming of Texas senators.

On this matter, I stand with him. I hope, therefore, he stands firm against the National Rifle Association.

Bump stocks banned: it’s a start

The U.S. Justice Department has acted — finally! — on a measure that well could start us down a more rational, sane world regarding firearm regulation.

DOJ announced it is going to implement a ban on bump stocks, those devices that turn semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic killing machines.

While the nation has been fixated since Valentine’s Day on the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre, let us remember an earlier slaughter.

A lunatic opened fire in Las Vegas with a semi-auto rifle he had converted into a machine gun, killing 59 people attending a music festival at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. He eventually killed himself.

The debate over bump stocks was joined immediately.

Is this measure going to strip legitimate firearm owners of their right to “keep and bear arms”? Not in the least. It is going to potentially deter future madmen from doing what the Las Vegas shooter did, which is turn a semi-automatic rifle into a virtual weapon of war.

In announcing the Justice Department directive, though, we had to leave it to Donald Trump to lay blame on his made-up nemesis, Barack Obama, for “approving” bump stocks.

Trump’s tweet is sort of correct, at a certain level. The decision to allow bump stocks was done at an administrative mid-level at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The president or the attorney general, Eric Holder, had no direct input on the deliberations being undertaken.

Leave it to Obama’s successor, though, to forgo a forward-looking statement and to assess blame on someone else on a problem that needed to be fixed.

So, the Justice Department has acted. It will ban bump stocks. It will seek to prevent gun owners from creating machine guns.

This is by no stretch of anyone’s imagination a decision that launches us down any sort of slippery slope. It makes sense.

As long as we’re talking about guns …

I understand people’s fascination with firearms. I get that many Americans get a form of “enjoyment” out of shooting them.

What I do not get — nor will I ever understand, more than likely — is the fascination with assault rifles, killing machines that shoot large amounts of ordnance in very little time.

I now will explain why I get the fascination part.

I’ll begin by boasting — just a little — that I have a certain proficiency with firearms. I discovered my rifle proficiency while serving in the U.S. Army. I completed my basic training at Fort Lewis, Wash., in 1968 while toting an M-14 semi-automatic rifle. It used a 20-round magazine full of 7.62-mm rounds and I earned a “sharpshooter” rating with the rifle.

I flew from Fort Lewis to Fort Eustis, Va., for my AIT (advanced individual training). Even though I trained as an OV-1 Mohawk aircraft mechanic, we were issued M-16 rifles, on which we had to qualify. The M-16 was much lighter than the M-14, but it, too, used a 20-round magazine, firing a much smaller caliber round: a .223, barely bigger than the .22-caliber bullet my rifle at home shot. The M-16 is a deadly weapon of war, however. I qualified well on that weapon, too.

I was issued an M-16 when I reported for duty in Vietnam in the spring of 1969 and, thank goodness, I never had to fire it in combat.

But my exposure to those weapons never brought discomfort to me. I felt quite comfortable firing them during training exercises.

Fast-forward to 2003. I was working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas. I received an invitation to take part in the Amarillo Police Department Citizens Academy. Its aim is to acquaint civilians to myriad aspects of police work. It’s an educational tool that APD uses to give citizens — such as yours truly — a better understanding of the complexities associated with law enforcement.

One aspect of the academy was to spend some time at the firing range. We got to shoot a .38-caliber revolver — a six-shooter; a 9-mm Glock pistol; and an AR-15 rifle (yes, the weapon used in the Parkland, Fla., school massacre on Valentine’s Day).

I am not as familiar with handguns as I am with rifles. But I made a rather startling discovery about myself that day: I’m a pretty good shot with a handgun. I was able to shoot the six-gun well; I was able to handle the more powerful Glock with proficiency; and the AR-15 felt much like the M-16 I was issued in Vietnam.

I came away from the APD Citizens Academy shooting range understanding fully the fascination with shooting weapons at targets.

However, and this interesting, as well, as much “fun” as I had shooting those weapons at the APD range, I didn’t get bitten by the shooting “bug.” I haven’t fired a handgun since that day 15 years ago.

As we continue this national discussion about guns, though, I remain opposed to the idea of allowing the relatively easy purchase of weapons such as the AR-15 that can be used to kill lots of people in no time at all.

They, in effect, are weapons of war, where they and other such weaponry do what they are designed to do. On the streets — or in school classrooms, for crying out loud! — they have no place.

Time to discuss merits of trophy hunting?

Theunis Botha likely wouldn’t want to be considered a poster person for any cause.

He was a South African outfitter and big-game hunter who died in the act of killing a dangerous animal. A lot of folks know the story already.

Botha was leading a group of hunters in Zimbabwe when they encountered a group of elephants. Three of the beasts charged the hunters, one of whom shot one of them. The mortally wounded elephant then grabbed Botha with her trunk and then collapsed, crushing Botha to death.

The man’s death leaves me with terribly mixed feelings. Part of me feels badly for the family he leaves behind. Another part of me questions the whole notion of trophy hunting.


I’ll stipulate that I am not a hunter. Yes, I’ve packed a rifle into the woods in search of game. I have done so a couple of times in my life. To be candid, I do not grasp the thrill of shooting a creature just so I can have it stuffed and displayed.

That’s the kind of activity that Botha engaged in.

This man’s death has reopened some discussion about the merits of this type of hunting. Indeed, tracking and hunting the biggest of game animals — such as elephants — is dangerous in the extreme.

Wildlife experts have had this discussion already in recent months. You’ll recall the Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer, who shot Cecil the Lion to death in a notorious incident that called attention to hunting methods; outfitters lured Cecil away from his protected refuge and then Palmer shot the big cat repeatedly before the beast died.

I suspect this story about Theunis Botha will rattle around the planet for a time before receding as the world’s attention gets yanked away to other matters.

At least his demise — caused by one of his victims — might spur some more constructive discussion about this notion of hunting trophy animals that already are facing increasing pressure from humans encroaching on their habitat.

What harm do background checks bring?


I am a law-abiding, taxpaying, loyal American patriot, who once wore my country’s uniform and went to war to protect it.

I also own a couple of rifles. They’re hidden away. I don’t take them out very often.

But as the nation today ponders the impact of the latest mass shooting by a maniac, this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., I am compelled to ponder: What would happen if I went to a gun store to purchase a firearm and was forced to wait a few days while the government performed a background check?

President Obama has called yet again for more stringent laws that might help prevent future maniacs from getting their hands on a gun.

Gun-rights groups — chiefly the National Rifle Association — will argue against any such action, contending it would violate the Second Amendment guarantee that Americans have the right to “keep and bear arms.”

Suppose we had mandatory background checks.

I’d go into the gun store. I’d select my weapon of choice. I would pay for the firearm. But I couldn’t take it home. Why? The business owner would submit my name to, say, the FBI or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for that mandatory federal background check.

I would wait a number of days. Let’s say it’s a week.

The check comes back. I’m clean. I can then pick up my firearm, take it home … and perhaps store it along with the two rifles I already own.

Have my Second Amendment rights been “infringed”? Have I been denied the right to “keep and bear arms”? Is the government going to disarm me?

No to all three things.

Why on God’s Earth can’t we enact a law that might prevent someone else from committing the kind of dastardly act that took place today in Roseburg?


Burger chain takes a stand against open carry

open carry

You’re hungry. You decide you want a burger smothered in some sort of gooey sauce.

Then you decide you want to go to Whataburger, a well-known Texas-based chain of burger joints. We’ve got ’em here in Amarillo.

But you’re carrying a pistol on your hip. Then you know that Whataburger has decided it won’t serve customers carrying their weapons openly. What do you do? You love those burgers. Hey, it’s simple. You take your gun out of your holster, store it in your car, go in and get your goopy burger.

Will that be the end of it? Hardly.

Any discussion at all involving guns is bound to get goofy.

Frankly, I’m all in favor of what Whataburger has decided to do.

No shirt? No shoes? Packing heat in the open? No service, man.

It’s a fascinating development in the open-carry era in Texas, which begins in January when the law takes effect.

The Texas Legislature approved the bill; Gov. Greg Abbott signed it immediately into law. The National Rifle Association and other gun-owner rights groups applauded lawmakers and the governor.

Open Carry Texas founder C.J. Grisham called Whataburger’s decision “premature and irresponsible.” He said the restaurant chain is pandering to fear.

Give me a break. This shouldn’t be a problem at all for those who are licensed to carry their guns in the open. If they want to do business with someone that doesn’t allow guns in their establishment, don’t carry the gun into the place.

While the nation has been arguing about the merits of flying the rebel flag, we need to understand that privately owned businesses are able to set certain rules for those seeking to enter their establishment. They must not refuse service to people because of their skin color or their religion.

Prohibiting the open carry of loaded weapons onto their property? That’s a reasonable restriction.

George Zimmerman should have gone away quietly

I’ve been thinking for the past little while about George Zimmerman, the guy who was acquitted of murdering Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in that terrible case, which drew international attention.

My thoughts have been this: If I had been found not guilty of a crime that had drawn such intense scrutiny, I just might find a way to go quietly into the night, never to be heard from again.

Zimmerman has chosen quite a different path since his acquittal.


He and his wife have separated and are headed for divorce.

And now we have this case involving his alleged threatening of his girlfriend with some kind of firearm, a shotgun, a high-powered rifle, a pistol … something.

The latest involving Zimmerman reveals that he possesses a number of weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle. If you’ve never seen an AR-15, they look and operate very much like an M-16 — the kind of rifle soldiers were issued when they went to Vietnam way back when.

AR-15s, as well as M-16s, are extremely deadly weapons. They fire a bullet that is barely bigger than a .22-caliber round, but they inflict maximum damage with these high-velocity projectiles.

I guess it’s not illegal to own these kinds of weapons in Florida. A judge ordered him to surrender them after Zimmerman pleaded not guilty to the charges of endangerment leveled against him.

This matters to me only because of Zimmerman’s standing as someone who was in the news — a lot — because he was accused of killing that teenager in a confrontation that occurred on a dark street one night in Sanford, Fla. He became the poster boy for — depending on your point of view — for vigilante justice or for citizens’ rights to self-protection.

I would have thought Zimmerman had gone through enough public scrutiny. He avoided punishment for a high-profile crime. He should have left town, sneaking away without being detected.

Oh, but no. He’s back in the news once again.

And he’s still packing heat.

Hasn’t this guy had enough of the limelight? Apparently not.