Guns on Campus

As of the beginning of the month, it’s legal to store firearms inside locked vehicles in the parking lots of universities in Arizona.
Naturally, there’s been a small, but relatively minor, amount of PSH about this whole issue. One of the comments submitted to the Daily Wildcat — the University of Arizona’s daily newspaper — was from Brett Wolgemuth, a systems engineering graduate student who was an undergrad at Virginia Tech on that fateful day in April in 2007.
I’ve commented on a few of his sentences below:

Allowing firearms on campus under any condition is a recipe for disaster.

Oh? Care to cite historical data that would back this claim up? Police carry guns on campus all the time without any problems, and citizens in several other states (such as Utah, among others) have carried concealed firearms on campuses for some time without issues.

It only takes one incident in a parking lot, or near a car for someone to go off.

I don’t disagree. However, this is exceedingly unlikely — there’s a vast number of firearms owners in this country, and only the tiniest number of them just “go off” every year. I’d be far more concerned with someone getting mugged, assaulted, or raped in a campus parking lot.

Yes, I do have faith in my fellow man, but I?m not willing to bet my life on it.

Same here. That’s why I carry nearly everywhere I’m not legally forbidden to do so, but I digress.

The law not only allows people to conceal guns in their cars, but they do not have to have a concealed weapons permit to do it. Correct me if I?m wrong, but that would mean that anyone with a gun could come onto campus and have it concealed in his car.

That is, as best as I understand the law, correct. Considering that one can openly carry firearms just about anywhere in Arizona without any permits or background checks at all and there’s essentially no incidents of misbehavior by such people, I hardly see what the problem is. While concealed weapons permits are available to those wishing to carry discreetly, the law does not require such a permit to transport or store a firearm, even a loaded one, in a vehicle’s storage compartments so long as it’s in a holster or other similar case (so as to prevent accidential discharge).
What’s the problem?

Some of you may say that this would act as a deterrent. You make one critical assumption, you assume that a majority of people have a firearm, have brought it on campus, and are willing to use it in case they need to defend themselves.

I think that Mr. Wolgemuth is somewhat confused: the purpose of allowing the storage of arms in cars is not for self-defense on campus. Nobody is thinking that, in the event of a violent crime, they’ll be able to flee the building, run to the parking lot (almost always located around the perimeter of campus), retrieve their personal firearm, then return to be a Big Damn Hero(tm).
Rather, it’s for people who legally carry their firearms while not on campus — if the university prohibits the storage of arms in private vehicles on campus, that infringes on the rights of people who commute to school and wish to carry while traveling to and from the university.

Also, if you believe that you need to bring a gun on campus to feel safe, why would you go to a school where you don?t feel safe?

Feeling safe has nothing to do with actually being safe, as has been tragically demonstrated in various places in the last few years: Luby’s Cafeteria, Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc. The University of Arizona has even had a similar violent incident in its past. Clearly it’s been demonstrated that violent acts can occur anywhere, regardless of how safe one feels.

There is a reason we have a dedicated police department.

So did Virginia Tech. Fat lot of good it did them.
So does Tucson, but there’s still a substantial number of victims of violent crimes. I bet they “felt safe” prior to being victimized.
The police can’t be everywhere at once, nor can they respond instantly. Indeed, the courts have ruled that the police have no duty to protect someone from harm.

Although this is not a response to gun control, it inevitably comes back to it.

He’s right — gun control doesn’t work. It didn’t work at Columbine, it didn’t work at Virginia Tech, and it didn’t work at the University of Arizona’s nursing school. What makes one think that repealing a useless prohibition on storing firearms in a locked vehicle on campus will have any bearing on increased rates of violent crime?

As much as I believe that people have a right to defend themselves, I hope that people realize what this law means and take steps to rectify this in the future.

Indeed, it means that people who can legally defend themselves off-campus while in transit to and from the university can now legally store their firearms in their locked vehicles while parked on campus. No more, no less.
I’m curious what Mr. Wolgemuth has against such people, and why he wants to “rectify” this legal change when it would strip rights from law-abiding people?
Indeed, Mr. Wolgemuth’s comments make a pretty solid case for allowing people to legally carry concealed on campus — no place, even a “weapon-free zone” like a university campus, can be completely safe from crime. I, like Mr. Wolgemuth, think that the average person is decent and honest, but not everyone is, and I’m not willing to bet my life on it. There’s plenty of violent crime on college campuses, why not allow law-abiding people to have the ability to protect themselves?

Observations of a Gunfight


(Video courtesy of CBS News)
Evidently there was a gunfight in Toledo, Ohio on October 8th.
According to the police (as reported by CBS), there were five gunmen involved in a fight. The fight was evidently sparked when the barman asked a patron selling marijuana to leave.
I’ve made a few observations:

  • Security cameras always seem to produce video inadequate to identify people depicted in the image.
  • The barman rapidly produces his cellphone, presumably to call the police, after the first fight starts.
  • Many people fled immediately. This is smart.
  • Some people remained to engage in a gun battle. This is stupid, particularly if the police are on the way.
  • Running back into the building to engage in further gun battle is really stupid.
  • There were no observable weapon malfunctions. Whether this is due to regular maintenance by the gunmen, luck, or some other condition is unknown.
  • It is illegal for people to carry firearms in establishments that serve alcohol in Ohio. They did so anyway. Clearly, criminals are not deterred by nor do they obey such laws.
  • If you wish to hit your target, aiming is important. These individuals did not aim well.
  • Very few objects in a bar offer cover, rather than concealment.
  • All participants in the gunfight used semi-auto pistols, rather than revolvers. According to the police, 17 casings were found at the scene. This is a substantial amount of evidence for police.

Based on these observations, I’ll be bold enough to make? a few recommendations:

  • Avoid gunfights wherever possible.
  • This can usually be accomplished by staying out of seedy places and staying away from seedy people.
  • You should be aware of the mood in a bar. If things start getting tense, seriously consider leaving.
  • Once things go tits-up (e.g. a fight starts), it’s time to leave. Now.
  • If, for some reason, you decide to stick around after the barfight, be aware of patrons drawing guns. Once this happens, there is no possible way that the situation will improve. Get out. Now.
  • Gunfights are like fires: you should flee in the most expedient manner possible and remain out of harms way. I can’t think of a single reason why an everyday person should ever consider returning to a gunfight. You should absolutely not, under any circumstances, return to the gunfight to continue fighting.
  • If you are deploying security cameras, get good ones. High-quality video and sound recording is very useful.
  • If it is necessary to call 911, it’s preferably to do so from a landline phone. This has the advantage of immediately displaying the exact address of the phone that placed the call, which can speed police response considerably.
  • Violent criminals do not obey the law, and violent crime can occur anywhere.
  • If you are willing and able to carry in a safe and responsible manner, do so. While fleeing to safety is almost always the best thing to do (and fortunately seemed to be possible for every innocent bystander in this incident), it’s not always possible — a gun can give one a fighting chance of surviving and escaping if left with no other option.

Of course, the best advice of all is to simply avoid fights and, by extension, gunfights.

Voiding Warranties

Ever since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve been curious about everything — it might explain why I got into science.
As an adult, this curiosity has persisted. One of the more practical aspect of this curiosity is taking stuff apart to see how it works. This has been particularly handy when dealing with firearms.
Take, for example, my Marlin 336 rifle — it was made sometime in the 1960s and I bought it on consignment about 5 years ago. Fine rifle, and looks to have been very gently used. I’ve kept the barrel and the parts accessible after a basic field-strip well-oiled with Break-Free CLP, but never really got into the guts of the action, nor took off the wood and magazine tube.
After yesterday’s Great Re-Zeroing and Caleb’s admonition to inspect the bolts of one’s AR-15s, I figured I’d go through all the firearms I own, detail strip them, clean every part, lightly oil all the internal parts to prevent corrosion, and then lubricate them according to their respective manuals. Glocks and ARs are easy, as I do this about once or twice a year for them, but I have never taken apart the Marlin.
Although the Marlin is constructed very simply out of large, durable parts, there’s a lot of screws and two barrel bands. There’s a very specific order — which I found by trial and error — to removing everything. Since the barrel bands hadn’t ever been removed, I gently tapped them off (( My small tools for working on guns are on loan to a friend, so I gently used a claw hammer to tap a brass .50 BMG case to carefully remove them without marring the finish. )). Unfortunately, I added a few very minor scratches to the quite-shiny, blued receiver and around the screw holes on the barrel band. Hardly noticeable, but it irks me a bit.
After thoroughly cleaning, oiling, and greasing the appropriate parts of the gun, I managed to get it all back together. A few hours spent this afternoon concluded with a more thorough understanding of how the mechanism works and will serve me well if I ever need to work on it in the future.
While some might not find much value in understanding all the little mechanisms that make up their gun, I do, and I strongly recommend that others explore the working parts of their own guns, for cleaning, at the very least.

Trigger Time

After a long dry spell with no time behind the trigger, I visited the Southeast Regional Park Shooting Range, a range run by the Pima County Parks & Recreation Department, with my friend Ian.
I had several objectives:

  • Try out a new range.
  • The Great Rezeroing — I’ve switched my primary ammo in my ARs from Federal XM193 to Prvi Partizan M193 and so wanted to rezero.
  • Try out Prvi Partizan 69gr and 75gr match ammo.
  • Actually get some shooting time in, rather than just taking new shooters to the range.

All of these objectives were accomplished
The Range
The range consisted of 30 firing positions. Each position had an ambidextrous concrete table from which one can shoot. One could also shoot prone, if one wished.
The entire line is protected from the elements by a corrugated steel roof. Range staff frequently walk the line to ensure that everything is safe (and the ones from today were very nice, not grumpy). Firing periods consist of 15 minutes of shooting and about 5 minutes of target-checking. The change in periods are announced over a loudspeaker.
During the cease-fire periods, shooters needed to unload their firearms. No unloaded-chamber-indicator flags were necessary. No handling of any items on the shooting tables is permitted during the cease-fire period.
The fee to shoot there is $7/all day per person. Additional fees are charged for rental items like earmuffs and eye protection ($1/each), spotting scopes ($3), rifle and pistol sight-in rests ($5/$3 respectively), boresighters ($3), and a chronograph ($10, with the caveat that if you shoot it, you buy it). Additional targets are provided for $0.25.
The range provides wood target frames, which seemed to be kept in good repair. Taller frames, marked with bright orange paint on the top, are required when shooting in such a way that bullets passing through the ordinary-height targets could bounce over the berms (e.g. shooting a handgun at close range). The taller targets allowed the bullets to pass through and continue on to the berm, rather than bouncing off the ground.
Small carpets are available to place on the concrete table, so as to avoid scratching the finish on one’s gun. Additionally, carpet-covered wood blocks and sandbags are available for free.
The range is divided with two berms separated by a long, tall concrete wall running perpendicular to the firing line. The closer berm peaks around 75 yards, and allows shooting at distances up to 50 yards. The longer range berm is located at ~225 yards and allows shooting at distances up to 200 yards. There are sockets in the ground placed at convenient intervals (e.g. 5, 10, 25, 50, etc. yards) for one to place target frames. Sockets are numbered to avoid placing one’s target frame in someone else’s lane. If one wishes to bring one’s own target frame for shooting at arbitrary distances, this is permitted so long as the frame is made entirely from wood.
No full-auto fire is permitted. Range staff will inquire about NFA items, like suppressors, but it is not necessary to declare these items ahead of time.
The range staff keeps the range quite clean, and will often pick up brass during cease-fire periods when one is downrange. Reloaders should ensure that they collect their brass often, or ask that the range staff not pick up brass in their immediate area. Obviously, one should pick up after oneself simply to be polite. Buckets are available to deposit brass.
All in all, SERP was an excellent range. The Three Points Shooting Range (also known as the Tucson Rifle Club) is larger, has longer ranges, often has fewer people, and does not have a hot/cold period on the range. SERP is a bit smaller, has a few more shooters, and has active supervision from range staff. SERP is also $1 more per person, if this matters. Both ranges are excellent and well-maintained, though SERP has better tables and stools.
One more note: there is a drinking fountain available at SERP, but no sinks for hand-washing. I didn’t notice any restrooms either.
The Great Rezeroing
I printed out a few of the M16 zero targets from here and setup a target frame at 25 yards. After a few three-shot groups of Prvi M193, I was able to dial in both my 20″ and 16″ ARs.
I then moved the target back to 100 yards, put on some Shoot-N-C-type targets and took slow, aimed shots. Shots were striking 8″ high and 8″ to the right of the point of aim. Shots were consistently grouped in a ~2″ circle. To ensure this wasn’t an ammo issue, I switched ammo brands and had the same deflection.
The target was then moved to 50 yards. Again, rounds were striking high and right. I moved the target to 25 yards and re-zeroed (just using Shoot-N-C, rather than the zero target, which I had used up). After re-zeroing, all shots were striking within a reasonable radius ((Nothing is perfect, especially not my shooting.))of where I was aiming, both at 25 and 50 yards. I have no idea what caused the rounds to strike so high and right after the first zero, but it was somewhat frustrating. Hopefully things are where they should be.
Prvi Partizan Match Ammo
Most of the day consisted of firing three-shot groups to get the zero dialed in. Unfortunately, with the brief exception of the 100 yard attempt, most of this shooting took place at 25 or 50 yards — hardly an adequate distance to judge the quality of? match ammo.
Even so, I fired 60 rounds of 69gr and 20 rounds of 75gr Prvi Match ammo.
The 69gr stuff is quite good, and had small, consistent groupings at all distances. Even when the point-of-impact was distant from the point-of-aim (totally the fault of my sights being off, not due to any ammo problems), the groups were pretty tight. The ammo’s certainly more accurate than I am. For reference, the lot for the 69gr stuff is 0901.
The 75 grain ammo was also quite good. My 1:9″ barrels stabilized the bullet at the distances I fired it. There were no keyholes or sideways strikes. I will test this at longer ranges and see how it performs, as a 1:9″ twist is supposed to be marginal at best for >72gr bullets.
One downside, though: one of the primers in the 75gr ammo popped out and could not be located. It wasn’t in the action of the rifle, so it must have ejected somehow with the casing. The casing was found a minute or so later with the head all covered in soot and the primer missing. This has never happened to me before. The lot of the 75gr ammo is unknown, as Prvi puts the lot number on a little slip of paper and evidently someone at the store had opened the box and the paper probably fell out.
Even if the Open Tip Match bullet was suitable for self-defense (the jacket is the same thickness, and not designed to peel back and open), the fact that a primer could pop out and gum up the works troubles me. I’ll stick with crimped primers for Serious Business ammo.
Getting Trigger Time
It’s been a while since I’ve been to the range. Most of my previous visits involve taking new people to the range, so even then I don’t get to shoot much. Today, I went with Ian, another avid shooter, and actually spent some time behind the trigger.
In addition to the Fun Happy Times chasing my zero around, I also wanted to function-test the 9mm Federal HST jacketed hollowpoints I recently purchased. I really like HSTs in .45 ACP, but have been carrying my 9mm Glock 19 recently due to its more compact size. The fact that I also have a SERPA retention holster for the Glock also comes into play. I’ve been carrying Federal Hydra-Shoks in the Glock for years, and they’re certainly excellent rounds, but the HSTs seem a bit better to me (( Any difference is likely academic. Both cartridges are excellent. )). I wanted to ensure that the rounds would feed and fire reliably in my pistol, so I bit the bullet (ha!) and burned through $22.95 worth of HSTs (( A 50-round box. Yes, I have started counting ammo based on cost, rather than round-count as I’m a poor student.)) today. Granted, 50 rounds is not sufficient to make a proper statistical analysis, but it served my purposes: there were no failures and the rounds hit where I was aiming (the Hydra-Shoks had a tendency to shoot a bit to the right).
Conclusion
All in all, a great day at a new range. I got a bit of sun, got some trigger time, zeroed my rifles, and tested out my defensive pistol ammo.
Now, if only I could afford to do this more often…

Paper or Plastic?

.22 Long Rifle cartridges seem to come in several types of common packaging: Remington Golden Bullets come in paper boxes with a little paper tray that slides out, Federal ammo comes in paper boxes with a plastic tray, and some CCI and Remington rounds come in plastic boxes with plastic trays.
Which one do you prefer the most?
[poll id=”1″]
Personally, I like the paper boxes with plastic trays — they’re much less fragile than the all-plastic boxes (which seem to crack and shatter on me), and the rounds aren’t resting on their noses like in the all-paper ones. It’s also easy to just slide the tray out to expose 10 rounds, making it very simple to get exactly the right amount of ammo to load a magazine.

.380 For Sale

I was rummaging through my collection of ammo and stumbled across a box of Speer Gold Dot ammo in .380 Auto. The box contains 20 rounds.
I used to own a small Bersa Thunder .380 but sold it probably 2-3 years ago. Somehow, I managed to hang onto a box of Gold Dots for it.
As I don’t have a .380 pistol now, I’m looking to sell it. I’m willing to let it part for the original, still-affixed purchase price of $13.95.
If what I think is the lot number is correct, it’s lot number 23606.
The ammo looks to be in good shape. I’ve fired gobs of Gold Dots in the past, and they’re good stuff.
With quantities this small, a local buyer would be the best choice. Anyone in Tucson interested? If so, send me an email.

Compare & Contrast

California (according to a notice from Cabelas)

On Friday, Sept. 11, the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 962, by a 44-31 vote.
Among other regulations, AB 962 would:

  • Ban all mail-order and Internet sales of handgun ammunition.
  • Prohibit the retail sale, the offer for sale or the display of handgun ammunition in a manner that allows ammunition to be accessible to a purchaser without assistance of a vendor or employee.
  • Require that the delivery or transfer of ownership of handgun ammunition occur in a face-to-face transaction, with the deliverer or transferor being provided bona fide evidence of identity of the purchaser or other transferee.

That evidence of identity, which must be legibly recorded at the time of delivery, includes:

  • The right thumbprint of the purchaser or transferee.
  • The date of the sale or other transaction.
  • The purchaser’s or transferee’s driver’s license or other identification number and the
  • state in which it was issued.
  • The brand, type and amount of ammunition sold or otherwise transferred.
  • The purchaser’s or transferee’s signature.
  • The name of the salesperson who processed the sale or other transaction.
  • The purchaser’s or transferee’s full residential address and telephone number.
  • The purchaser’s or transferee’s date of birth.

The bill is on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, where it awaits his consideration. He will have until Oct. 11 to sign or veto the bill. If he does not veto the bill, it will become law.

Arizona

  • Don’t be a criminal.
  • Pick out the ammo you want, be it local or online.
  • Pay for ammo.
  • Receive ammo.

The other day, I was at the local gun shop perusing their wares. I overheard a conversation between a customer and the employee. Evidently the customer was a visitor from California, was spending a week or two here visiting friends, and wanted to pick up some ammo for the range. He inquired as to what restrictions exist for purchasing ammo, and whether or not he had to be an Arizona resident or show ID to buy ammo here. The employee considered this for a moment and said “Well, so long as you’re not a criminal and can pay for it, you can buy whatever you want.”
He looked rather amazed. After browsing for a bit, he picked up a few boxes of .380 and something else I didn’t see.
Who in their right mind actually thinks that the bills waiting for the governor would have any effect on crime? Prohibiting customers from handling boxes of ammo in the store will accomplish…what, exactly? Makes no sense at all.
For all the flaws that Arizona has (and no state is perfect), it’s still a rather free state, unlike our neighbor to the west.