Thursday, October 29, 2015

Umpqua Community College Mass Murder (Part 6) / 'Assault Weapons'

Relevant to some recent school shootings, my topic for this posting is ‘Assault Weapons.’

This is a subject that drives gun owners right up the wall.  Why? Because ‘assault weapons’ have become such an over-worked cliché generally bandied-about by those, including politicians proposing laws, who cannot define what they are actually talking about.

To describe 'assault weapons' simply as ‘military type’ guns only exposes the lack of knowledge of the speaker.  All guns have a military genesis – all guns.  Guns were initially invented and developed to kill people in war; and it was only later that they were used for hunting and sport.  And, one could say the same about any number of common devices in use today, as well as some domestic animals; all of which were first and principally developed and promoted for the purpose of human conflict.

Generally speaking, I hope we all understand that many guns are already banned or not available to the American public.  Some of these can be obtained or displayed under very restrictive conditions and licensing standards.  All automatic weapons are banned.  What does that mean?  Well, an automatic weapon is generally a rifle type weapon (could be a pistol) that fires more than one round (a burst) ‘automatically’ when you pull the trigger.  In other words a ‘machine gun.’

Some in the public are familiar with the Thompson Sub-Machine Gun from movies of the ‘gangster era,’ (Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger, and Baby Face Nelson.)*    In this context, it is sufficient to know that ‘machine guns’ (automatic weapons), of all varieties, have been banned for many decades – as they should be.  In more recent times, for reference purposes, the military version M-16 is an ‘automatic.’  That, too, is generally banned – not sold, and not legal to possess.

What is legal?  Well, ‘semi-automatic’ rifles, pistols and shotguns are legal to possess.  What does that mean?  ‘Semi-automatic’ is one trigger pull, one round fires (self-loading).  Some might immediately respond, ‘So what, it will fire as fast as you can pull the trigger.’  Yes, you are right in that regard.  However, the point is that semi-automatic weapons have been around for approximately 150 years and have been commonly used for hunting and sport most of that time.

The military’s M-16 (fully automatic) has a civilian counterpart called the AR-15 (semi-automatic rifle).  They look the same, but they are not.  Many hunters like the AR-15 for various reasons – principally for its durability.  On the other hand, most hunters would prefer other semi-automatic rifles and/or shotguns for their craftsmanship, quality, and performance.

So, what is the difference between the present-day, civilian-owned, so-called ‘assault weapon’ and other semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols?  Functionally, there is no difference.  It is all about cosmetics.  All have the same ‘killing’ potential in the hands of a mentally deranged shooter.

What then is the argument against civilian owned ‘assault weapons?’  Well, basically, there is no valid argument.  Unless, you are talking about an illegal bootleg, modified, or stolen military weapon.

If you are a gun control advocate, and a gun owner should ask you why you hold a position against guns, in an attempt to engage you in civil discourse, be prepared to answer coherently.  Please don’t automatically use the vague, meaningless statement, ‘We should ban all 'assault weapons’ or, even worse, in my opinion, ‘We should ban all guns.’  If this is the sum of your incoherent comment, you will only have accomplished exposing your lack of understanding of the issues, or dare I say your ignorance.

Magazine capacity for semi-automatics is another issue.  And here, in my opinion, gun control advocates have a valid argument.  We’ll talk more about this.

Addendum:  Above Photo:  Top is a common semi-auto hunting rifle.  Bottom is the semi-auto AR-15.

True Nelson

* Baby Face Nelson is no relation, I’m happy to say, – his actual name was Lester Joseph Gillis; and he was responsible for the murder of three FBI Agents.  Gillis was later killed by FBI Agents in a shootout.  If you had lived in that period, and happened to meet Gillis, you would have required a ‘death wish’ to address him as Baby Face.  He did not like that nickname.  It was given him, reportedly, because of his small stature and child-like face.  The Nelson part was due to an alias he once used.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Umpqua Community College Mass Murder (Part 5) / 'The Second Amendment to the Constitution'

Regarding the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, this is basically what you should have learned in High School Civics’ class ‘if you had been paying attention.’

The first ten amendments, known as the ‘Bill of Rights,’ were designed to protect a citizen’s individual rights.  They are rights or protections guaranteed to us as individuals.  Read them and you will understand why they are individual rights and how each of ten is important to you and me.  If you’ve never read the ‘Bill of Rights,’ please do.

The Second Amendment is pretty straightforward – or is it?  Personally, I think it is.
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Many in the public (principally those who support stricter regulatory gun control measures) point to the first part of the Second Amendment, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”  They say that our Founding Fathers’ intention, in modern terms, was referring to what we now call the National Guard, and not giving any special rights to citizen gun owners.  However, that is not the case; and, thus far anyway, the U.S. Supreme Court concurs.  The Second Amendment is an individual right, as are the other nine amendments within the Bill of Rights.  The important defining clause is the subsequent wording within the Second Amendment: “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The Founding Fathers could not have stated it more clearly.  Remember, the Bill of Rights were meant as protection for the individual citizen, not to create an additional branch of the Army, which is exactly what our National Guard has become.

But, one might argue, they are basically citizens and part-time warriors – under the control of the Governor of each state; therefore defining a ‘well-regulated Militia.’  OK, I’d say to that, rhetorically speaking, what if a Governor said, ‘I’m not going to send my state’s young men and women into combat.’  The Federal Government’s response:  ‘I’m not asking you if you wouldn’t mind sending your National Guard unit, I’m telling you to send them without delay – or else!’

And, if you follow these issues and the many combat deployments required of the National Guard these days, you would realize that the U.S. Government is depending more and more on the Reserve and Guard units to fight wars.

Some in the public, I suppose, might read the Second Amendment as an opportunity for the Federal Government to bolster their military might in all respects, including overseas deployment and combat.  OK, but can you honestly say that interpretation has anything to do with the individual rights of a citizen?  On the contrary, you would have to say that the Second Amendment, of the First Ten Amendments, is the outlier and the only one that does not apply to the individual; and is in fact a right given to the government over its’ citizens.  But, if you were to say that, you would be wrong.

True Nelson

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Umpqua Community College Mass Murder (Part 4) / 'Security Improvements'

I have spent much of my professional career conducting security reviews at numerous facilities, including addressing some security issues at schools.  Admittedly, most of my experience was at manufacturing, distribution, and office complex locations.  And, I must admit that I have never visited Umpqua Community College, but I do have some suggestions for their administration based on my experiences.

Contrary to their current status, unarmed security personnel at the college is a mistake.  Although the school may feel that the concept of unarmed security protects them, in some way, from potential liability situations, it does not provide any actual ‘security.’

For consideration:  The Clackamas Community College, south of Portland, has ‘armed security.’  The Clackamas County Sheriff has had the good sense to ‘deputize’ security personnel at said community college, and allow them to participate in appropriate training.  Why doesn’t the Sheriff in Douglas County do the same?

It is my opinion all colleges (and I would include elementary through high schools), throughout the State, should be gun-free zones (no ‘open carry,’ no ‘concealed carry’) unless special authorization is given to a particular individual.  I professionally carried a gun on my person for several years and know that it can be a considerable hassle to maintain and protect.  In my opinion, ‘open carry,’ where allowed, is just an accident waiting to happen.  In addition, someone openly carrying a gun could be quickly and easily disarmed – the gun then used on its owner and others.  ‘Concealed carry’ has many of the same issues as ‘open carry.’  Those with ‘concealed carry permits’ should probably be allowed to keep guns in their cars, but not allowed to carry on campus.  Guns appearing on campus should set-off an immediate lock-down, security notified, local law enforcement summoned.

Many things can be done to improve security on campus – and there are improvements that are relatively easy and inexpensive.  Locks on classroom and office doors, plus ‘panic alarms’ are some examples - video surveillance another.  A full analysis by a qualified security consultant would be helpful.  (This is not a solicitation for business.  I am now retired.)  Schools often depend upon local law enforcement to conduct a security review.  Local law enforcement is a cheaper alternative.  Unfortunately, they are generally not qualified to do this sort of analysis, and are usually not current on potentially useful technology.

One procedure that proved beneficial in the business realm was a ‘hotline.’  This would be a dedicated number that faculty or students could call (24 hours a day), remain anonymous, and report concerns about security issues.  These reports need to be thoroughly investigated and evaluated.

In the long run, certainly not a quick fix, colleges should consider how security might be improved in their newer facilities and campus renovations.  Card access to certain areas might be one suggestion; focused ingress and egress another.

The Umpqua Community College murders, as tragic as they were, will probably never be repeated there in our lifetimes; at least I hope not.  We have to be realistic about these incidents and recognize that they are exceedingly rare, that there are no easy answers, and no guarantees.  Life is sometimes dangerous and unforgiving.  Every security measure conceivable would probably not have prevented the deaths at the college.

However, there is one aspect that haunts me.  Chris Harper Mercer didn’t crawl out from under a rock.  People knew him, socialized with him, and lived with him.  Chances are that he was receiving some form of psychiatric assistance.  Someone knew or suspected he was potentially dangerous.  That someone failed to report those suspicions.  Even more likely, if there was such a person, they would say, ‘OK, report it to whom?’  Asked that question, my answer would be, ‘I don’t know.’  Some might suggest reporting it to local law enforcement.  That person is unfamiliar with law enforcement and how it works, how it prioritizes their responsibilities.

For example, take a walk down Portland streets.  You will see countless mentally handicapped, drug-addled people hanging-out on corners, begging, or sleeping under bridges.  Are most of them dangerous?  Probably not.  Are some of them dangerous – if triggered by an inexplicable, perhaps an innocuous situation or slight?  Yes, without doubt.  What are we doing about it?  Nothing!

True Nelson

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gun Violence (Part 3) Umpqua Community College Mass Murder / 'Gun Lovers' vs. 'Gun Haters'

Regarding the renewed efforts / public demands for additional gun legislation (gun control) as a result of the murders at the Umpqua Community College, I would like to address some of the comments that are used to attack gun advocates and owners; often put forth in, what I consider to be, an uninformed and often a most condescending way.

I am a gun owner.  I like to shoot guns.  I like the craftsmanship that goes into a quality gun; and understand why some people collect them.  Moreover, I think guns still play a positive role in our society in hunting, sport and family protection.  Are they misused?  Yes, of course.

I was once a hunter, but I guess it has been a few decades since I last hunted.  There was a pivotal moment.  I remember it well.  I came home with a couple of pheasants that I had shot earlier in the day, laid them out on some newspapers and prepared to ‘clean’ them.  My young daughter came to see what I was doing.  Her comment was, “Daddy, did you have to kill them?”  I still remember that moment and the look on her sad face.  I didn’t answer.  I couldn’t.  If I had answered, I would have had to say, ‘No honey, I didn’t.  I’m sorry.’  But, that was it.  I was a hunter no longer.  And, I must say that I haven’t missed it much.  Oh, there is something to be said about the comradeship and excitement of hunting.  But now, I’m thrilled when a pheasant walks through my back yard.  I grab my binoculars.  Pheasants are after all beautiful birds.  I’m not against hunting you understand.  It’s just a personal thing with me.

There are considerable (perhaps unbridgeable) differences between ‘gun advocates’ and the ‘gun control crowd.’  Personally, I’ve fielded more than a few disparaging comments in the guise of good-natured kidding.  It’s uncomfortable when you are surrounded by like-minded ‘gun control’ people – particularly those who know little or nothing about guns.  Have you noticed that in a group everyone resorts to ‘bumper-sticker’ logic (or lack thereof)?  Statement:  “We should ban assault weapons!”  Counter Statement:  “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.”  OK, I realize the last comment would be a rather long ‘bumper-sticker,’ but you get the idea.

Regarding the Umpqua Community College shooting, were you surprised at how quickly the politicians jumped in to politicize the actions of a psychopathic killer, and then blame it largely on guns?  I wasn’t.  My immediate thought, ‘shameful.’  But, as we well know, most politicians were born unable to feel shame.  That’s why they became politicians.

The following are some of my favorite discussion points regarding ‘gun control.’  Stick with me, you might find that I am somewhat of a moderate and could / would be receptive to some compromising, and additional legislation.  Oh, and why did I resign from the NRA?  I’ll explain.

Here are some topics that I will be discussing from a gun owner’s, gun advocate’s perspective:
  • How might security at a school like the Umpqua Community College be improved?
  • The Second Amendment and the inceptive clause “A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state,…”
  • Assault Weapons
  • Universal Background Checks
  • X-Felons in Possession of Guns
  • The United Kingdom and Australia does it, why not us?
  • Why I left the NRA

True Nelson

Friday, October 9, 2015

Gun Violence (Part 2) Umpqua Community College Mass Murder / Dr. Ben Carson

Dr. Ben Carson

Dr. Ben Carson stepped out on the thin ice when he publically discussed a couple of his views on gun violence and legislation.  With some qualification, and as something of an authority on gun violence and protection practices, I would be happy to walk out on that ice with Dr. Carson.

In the context of the Umpqua College mass murder, he mentioned that individuals in that situation should immediately resist, even attack the shooter; and not allow the shooter to take control of the situation.  I tend to agree.  That is the best option.

However, it is very ‘human,’ when faced with immediate danger and possible death, to acquiesce and cooperate with the assailant.  Even among mature adults, it would be very unusual for someone to spring into action and theoretically rush an armed individual – facing, what would be perceived to be at the time, almost certain death.  Some would do it; and reportedly some did demonstrate exceptional courage at the college.  Most would not.  Unless, they have received training to overcome those natural tendencies to submit.  Such training is what the military and law enforcement attempts to instill in their personnel; but with far less than 100% success.

I have given presentations at various seminars on personal protection measures.  An example might be:  A woman is walking to her car at night in a mall parking lot.  She is confronted by a man with a gun who orders her into his car.  My recommendation to the ladies in attendance was to fight back, run and scream as loud as they can.  Do not, under any circumstances, get into the car.  Women sometimes have responded that they would be afraid that the assailant would shoot them as they ran.  My answer:  Yes, he might shoot, but odds are he won’t.  But, if he does shoot and hits you, your chance of survival is very good – emergency services would be there quickly.  If, however, you get into the car, you will have given your assailant the opportunity to kill you at his leisure.  This is an example where training might instill in a woman a proper, and statistically preferential, reaction to a threat.

Secondly, Dr. Carson referred to the ‘Holocaust,’ and the confiscation of weapons that took place prior to rounding-up the Jews and other minorities – stating that an armed Jewish population could have launched a significant resistance.  He has been criticized by the uninformed and the liberal media (of course) that he had stated or implied that personal weapons could have prevented the ‘Holocaust.’  I don’t think he said that or even remotely implied it.  In my opinion, Dr. Carson is exactly right.  What was the Jewish option at the time?  Walk to the train station and be loaded on box cars, or be forced to your knees and shot on the spot; because the Jews at that juncture had no real way to resist the Nazi maniacal machine.

This is at the heart of the gun rights issue.  Some believe that the government, under all circumstances, will protect them.  I don’t happen to agree.  You’d have to be a little dense, in my humble opinion, to not understand that civilization, as we know it, could be swept away in an instant.  Will it happen tomorrow, next year, fifty or a hundred years from now?  No one knows for sure.  It could be a natural disaster, or even man caused.  Some will say if that should happen that they are willing ‘to go gentle into that dark night.’  Some will say that they will resist with their last breath.  I prefer to associate with the latter group.

To be continued...

True Nelson

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Perspective on Guns and Gun Violence (Re: Umpqua Community College ‘Mass Murder’)

The murders at Umpqua Community College, to one degree or another, have impacted all of Oregon’s residents.  It hits so close to home.  And, why Roseburg, Oregon, of all places?

I had an appointment with a doctor a couple of days back and she, knowing a little about my background, asked me what I thought about the incident in Roseburg.  We didn’t have a lot of time to chat you understand, so I think she expected me to sum-up my opinion in as few words as possible.  I wasn’t sure what to say.  I answered something like, “It was tragic, awful; but, nonetheless, difficult to prevent.”  It was clear that she wanted to tell me what she thought.  I think this woman is a wonderful doctor, compassionate and very smart, but she stated:  “Well, I don’t think that anyone other than police and the military should even have guns.”  I was disappointed.  My response to her was weak and pathetic, “I don’t think that’s very practical.”

And, so goes the conversation between those of us who own and appreciate guns and those who abhor them.  Where guns are concerned, the bridge between she and I, as well as others like her, has long since crumbled.  It seems that there can be no handshake, no compromise, and no middle ground.

So, I’ve decided to write about guns and my thoughts, as well as my experience with guns.  I won’t attempt to dazzle you with obscure statistics – most of which are construed to project someone's personal bias.  The public, gets plenty of that in the Op Ed articles in the newspaper, authored by writers who generally reside in upscale, gated communities and often have little in the way of actual experience when it comes to guns, crime and the prevention of gun violence.  They largely write about their feelings and support those feelings with what information they can dredge-up from multiple, questionable sources that vaguely support their preconceived opinion.

‘It’s about gun control,’ they might say – ‘the time is now and we must do something.’  ‘And what is gun control?  What does that mean,’ I ask.  ‘You know what it means,’ they respond.  ‘Everyone knows,’ they continue.  ‘I don’t know, tell me.’ ‘Well, for one thing they should ban assault weapons.’  ‘And what do you mean by an assault weapon?’  ‘You know!’  ‘Yes, I have a pretty good idea about what you call an assault weapon, but you tell me what you think they are.’  Becoming frustrated, they terminate the discussion.  They have decided that I am not only a gun nut, but I am also a smart ass.

Before proceeding, I feel I must make some effort to establish my bona fides.  I don’t consider myself a gun expert or a ‘gun nut’ for that matter.  However…

I have served in law enforcement at the local and federal level.  I’ve been in the military.  I was in corporate security with a Fortune 500 company for almost twenty years, traveled extensively, and dealt with security issues and investigations at international manufacturing, distribution and corporate locations.  Workplace violence issues and prevention were considered a high priority aspect of my responsibilities.  Remember the days when ‘Going Postal’ was a popular catch phrase.  In more recent years, I had my own security consulting firm in Portland.

As an Agent in the FBI, I taught firearms proficiency and safe practices to police officers.  I’ve done civilian competitive shooting and have won some competitions.  I’ve owned and handled guns since I was fifteen years old.  I know and respect guns, and consider myself a moderate and responsible gun owner.  I have in the past belonged to the NRA.  I no longer belong.  And, in good time, I will explain why I discontinued my membership.

I would like to give you my thoughts.  I think there is some middle ground to be established – if all of us are just a little open-minded.

To be continued…

True Nelson

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Connection between Zachariah Peterson and Chris Harper Mercer. Coincidence? Doubtful.

When it comes to criminal investigations, I've never been one to believe a whole lot in coincidence.

What's the connection, and I don't necessarily mean a physical connection, between Zachariah Peterson and Chris Harper Mercer (the Roseburg killer)?

Peterson apparently intended to attack and murder teachers and staff at a Christian school.  Chris Mercer lined-up his victims, asked if they were Christians and, when they acknowledged that they were, he shot them in the head.

Coincidence?  Doubtful.  Power of the press to create deadly 'copycats?  Likely.

True Nelson