On Piracy

While piracy on the high seas has been an issue for years, the recent hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, a US-flagged ship, and its subsequent retaking by the crew and US Navy brought the issue a bit closer to home for Americans.
My understanding, such as it is, is that due to the variety of laws regarding weapons at all the various ports that these cargo ships stop at, it’s cheaper and easier for the company to simply not include any weapons in the ship’s equipment, and thus avoid any hassles with customs.
Personally, I don’t foresee (nor do I desire) merchant ships mounting fixed naval weapons to fend off pirates. That blurs the line between a “merchant ship” and a “warship,” and I can see that causing some issues in regards to international commerce. That said, I see no reason why some additional measures can’t be taken:

  • Have sealed, for-emergency-use-only arms lockers on the merchant ships. Shotguns seem to be pretty well-accepted the world over, even in countries like the UK. Have them setup in much the same way one has the “in case of emergency break glass” locker for firefighting equipment on land. The seals would make it much easier for customs officials to inspect and verify that the arms are not being used for nefarious purposes, and the size of the shotguns means that it would be more difficult to smuggle such arms into a country (is that really a concern?). Put such lockers in key areas, like the bridge, crew quarters, and the engine room. There’s really no excuse for crew needing to defend themselves with firehoses because they are unarmed.
  • Train the crews in self-defense. I don’t expect them to be Navy SEALs, I just expect them to know how to handle themselves in an emergency.
  • Have passive defense around the ship. Many homes have fences topped with broken glass, for example. Could a similar means of defense be implemented on a ship? Obviously, there are numerous legitimate reasons for needing to interact with the edge of the ship (throwing lines and whatnot), so a permanent installation might be unreasonable. Surely there could be various things done that would make boarding a ship much more difficult.
  • When traveling through pirate-infested waters, ensure that all exterior doors and hatches are locked. Even with RPGs, it’d be slow and time-consuming for pirates to blast their way through the heavy doors found on a ship.
  • Arrange for convoys to escort ships through heavily-pirated waters. Unlike WWII, large convoys wouldn’t be needed — one or two small warships could escort a fairly large number of cargo ships with only a few minute response time, rather than being hundreds of miles away. A helicopter or two might help as well.
  • Show the pirates we mean business. So far, the default course of action has been to pay the bounty. Such actions have only made the pirates bolder, as they think they can get big money from a relatively simple job. Whether it’s from crews being able to effectively defend themselves to warships escorting merchant vessels, showing the pirates that everyone opposes pirates and won’t let them easily take ships will (hopefully) go a long way to deterring pirate attacks.

That said, I offer a hearty “well done” to the US Navy and the captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama. Well done, indeed.

Thanks!

I checked my email the other day and noted a donation to the New Shooter Ammo Fund from Carl (last name omitted for privacy).
Thanks Carl, I really appreciate it. While my schedule is hellishly busy right now, I’ll see about taking some new shooters to the range in the next month or two.

Patents on the AR-15/M16, AK, and other common guns?

I’m curious if the AR-15/M16 in its basic form (say with a normal rail-with-detachable-carry-handle-upper) is covered by any active US patents, copyrights, license agreements, royalties, or other restrictions that would prevent an entity from freely copying, modifying, manufacturing, or distributing clones?
Obviously there’s a lot of AR manufacturers out there, but I’m curious if they have to license the design and pay some sort of royalty to a company that owns the rights to the design or if it’s freely available without any such restrictions.
If not available freely, what about the use of AR/M16-compatible components? For example, the Kel-Tec SU-16 series of rifles takes M16-type STANAG magazines. Does one need to license the design for the magazines?
Actual citable references would be much appreciated.
How about the AK and other common rifles? What about common handguns?
I recently had an interesting idea involving something along these lines and would like to get more information.

Internal Conflict

It must be that time of year: three police have been shot in Pittsburgh by a gunman. I offer my sincerest condolences to the friends and family of the fallen officers.
As expected, the Brady Campaign is dancing in the blood of the slain police officers with yet another press release.
According to the Bradys, the police were murdered by a…

“…man shooting ?hundreds of shots? who apparently believed the gun lobby propaganda that an ?Obama gun ban? would lead to his ?rights being infringed upon.'”

They go on to say,

“It is time for the gun lobby to stop stoking fear among gun owners with false claims about the government [proposing some sort of gun ban].”

Further down on the page, they close with,

At the very least, require Brady background checks for all gun sales; restrict military-style assault weapons to the military and law enforcement and help law enforcement crack down on corrupt gun sellers.

I’m sorry, I don’t see how they can say that the “gun lobby” is making “false claims” about proposed gun bans when they then go on to advocate such bans in the form of “restrict[ing] military-style assault weapons.” Wouldn’t such a restriction be, by definition, a ban? I’m not sure how the Bradys can hold such conflicting viewpoints.
Thanks to Sebastian, it looks like the alleged (( Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, of course.)) killer, Richard Poplawski, was a prohibited person due to having been dishonorably discharged from the marines:

Perkovic [a friend of the alleged killer-AZR] also said that Richard Poplawski had received a dishonorable discharge from the Marines and that he has a history of domestic disputes.

If this is the case, Poplawski would have been legally prohibited from possessing firearms. The “history of domestic disputes” might also have been sufficient to make him a prohibited person. Since the killer seems to have had no problems with violating existing laws (( Such as those against murder, in addition to less serious crimes like possession of firearms by a prohibited person, discharge of firearms within city limits, etc. )), I’m not sure what the Bradys hope to accomplish with the addition of more laws.
Update: Turns out it wasn’t a dishonorable discharge. My mistake.

More Brady Stupid

About 30,000 people a year in this country die from gun violence, about 80 a day, 32 by homicide – the same number who died at Virginia Tech two years ago this month.? In the space of four months, up to nine Americans died as a result of bacteria-laden peanut butter crackers, and the government quickly took action. Some of the top government officials in our country say we don’t need to do anything different – that we should just ‘enforce the laws on the books.’? The laws on the books aren’t getting the job done. Now is the time to take effective steps to prevent gun violence.

– Paul Helmke, Brady Campaign Press Release (Emphasis in original.)
Leaving out the absurdity of the gun-cracker comparison, I fail to see how more laws would have made any difference.
First off, it’s already illegal to murder people, regardless of the methods used. It’s an additional penalty to murder someone with a gun. There’s plenty of laws already against violent crime, and violent criminals are some of the most zealously pursued and prosecuted criminals in US society.
New York also has some rather strict gun laws (( http://www.bradycampaign.org/legislation/state/viewstate.php?st=ny )) (( http://www.nraila.org/GunLaws/ )). What more does the Brady Campaign want?
More bans or restrictions won’t prevent pe0ple bent on a murderous rampage from committing such heinous crimes — they already need to violate numerous laws and societal norms to do so. The mere presence of such laws, however, cannot prevent one from doing something illegal — it simply provides a means of punishment afterwards. With sufficient motivation, one can acquire weapons (or drugs, or other restricted items) regardless of laws prohibiting them from doing so. Clearly, the murderer had little qualms about acquiring weapons and then going on to commit mass murder.
Honestly, I’m not sure what more “effective steps” can be taken against such behavior. If anyone has any reasonable suggestions, I (and the rest of the world, I suspect) am willing to listen with an open mind. As this incident in New York and the recent mass shooting in Germany have shown, however, is that strict gun control does not prevent murderers from committing their terrible crimes.

Low-Key Shooting Invite

I’ve had a long, busy week and would like to do some low-key shooting at the range on Saturday. No huge groups, just some relaxing, low-pressure shooting at targets.
I need to practice a bit more, and figured tomorrow would be a good day to do it.
Anyone else want to go?
Update: It’s rather windy tonight, and I’m really pooped. I don’t think I’m going to make it tomorrow. Maybe Sunday, if the winds die down.

April Fools!

I had a 50% surge in visitors yesterday, mostly coming from search engines looking for stuff related to “tgscom lawsuit” and whatnot.
I did a bit of digging, and it seems that TGScom sent out an email to subscribers claiming that a lawsuit they filed resulted in the NFA ’34 being overturned due to violating the Second Amendment. Evidently a bunch of people were gleeful and started searching for more information, finding two posts I made about TGScom a while back.
Folks, be sure to check your calendar before celebrating: it was an April Fools joke. A bunch of the excerpts of the email message I saw posted to forums did not include the date, which may cause confusion in the future when people read such posts.
I know, I wish they repealed the NFA as well.

Impossible?

The Arizona Wildcat, the university’s newspaper, ran an AP story yesterday about a measure in Texas that would legalize concealed carry on college campuses by permit holders.
Evidently due to space limitiations, the Wildcat cut off the article after the 8th paragraph, which ended in “Texas campuses are gun-free zones.” Of course, the part of the article that was snipped had nearly all the quotes and text explaining why one would want to carry on campus, or that people with permits can carry just about everywhere else and that the campus border is just an imaginary line. (( Bias? What bias? ))
One quote from Woods, a student whose girlfriend was killed in the Virginia Tech shooting, stood out to me:

“Then I learned pretty fast that wouldn’t solve anything,” said Woods, who is now a graduate student at UT. “The idea that somebody could stop a school shooting with a gun is impossible. It’s reactive, not preventative.”

Impossible? Impossible? To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Last time I checked, cops carry guns, and they’re able to put an end to murderous violence pretty effectively with those guns. There’s a lot of private citizens who carry guns, and numerous stories about how those people use their guns to stop violent crime.
One might not be able to prevent a school shooting, but one certainly would have the potential to stop it.
I know that if a person bent on murder came barging into my classroom, I’d prefer a means of resisting them that’s more effective than a thrown textbook.

I Don’t Care

Marko’s excellent post about the female side of the shooting sports is enlightening and should give people something to think about when it comes to interacting with others((In short, don’t be a jerk.)).
In my case, I don’t care if someone’s male or female, tall or short, red, white, black, brown, yellow, or any other descriptive term. I was raised by good parents to treat others with respect. The army reinforced that with the lesson that “in the army, everyone is green.”
While there are certainly differences between the sexes (being male I cannot, for example, bear children), there is absolutely nothing about one’s wibbly bits that has any bearing on shooting. To think otherwise is stupid to the extreme. For an example of such stupidity, see this quote by Tam in the comments to Marko’s post:

For the doubters out there, who believe there aren?t any mouth-breathing dumbasses in the gun world, I offer the eleventeen jillion times I?ve been at a gun show and some cretin asks the guy I?m with how much he?s asking for the gun I?m carrying.
[…]
At one of my first Indy 1500?s, one guy asked the total stranger standing next to me how much he wanted for my 6.8 AR.

While I haven’t seen anything so blatant as what Tam describes, I’ve certainly seen some of my female friends get some condescension from people at the range. They let it roll off their respective backs and laughed about it in the pub afterwards, but it’s still disrespectful and has no business happening.
That said, there are certainly important differences between individuals which are relevant to shooting and need to be considered when purchasing or handling guns.
For example, I’m left-handed, and so have some difficulty effectively operating bolt-action rifles meant for righties. Some pistols, specifically Sigs, have their controls placed in positions (like the very left-rear of the grip) that are quite difficult for me to manipulate. Some people lack the upper body strength to effectively hold larger, heavier guns like the M1 Garand or to operate the slide on a particular pistol. Some people’s bodies are smaller or larger than others, so “one size fits most” stocks don’t fit them well (which is why I am a huge fan of adjustable/collapsible stocks). Some people’s hands are larger or smaller than others, so a gun’s grips may or may not feel comfortable in their hands.
Nearly all of these issues can be resolved with either training (e.g. building up strength or endurance, practice with the mechanisms of the gun, etc.), accessories (adjustable stocks, different grips, etc.), or choice of guns. None of them have anything to do with the sex of the shooter (I’ve yet to see a gun that requires a penis to operate.), but rather individual characteristics.
Be polite and friendly to everyone, regardless of what they’ve got between their legs, and you’ll do fine.