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Massad Ayoob on Guns

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Archive for March, 2009

Massad Ayoob

A Triumph for Justice in Alaska

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I liked Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska and our most recent Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, before. I love her now. She has just appointed Wayne Anthony Ross as Attorney General of the state of Alaska.

Anyone who knows Wayne realizes that it’s probably more than coincidence that his initials spell WAR. He is a ferocious (but always noble) combatant in trial, and is much the same in politics. Longtime readers of Backwoods Home may recall that back when Wayne was running for the Gubernatorial nomination in Alaska in the early part of this century, I went up there to campaign for him. He didn’t win the nomination, but the tremendous support he garnered with his advocacy of armed citizens’ civil rights made such an impression on the eventual winner that Vermont-style carry was thereafter enacted. This means that citizens of Alaska, and any visitors there, are now legal to carry loaded, concealed handguns for the protection of themselves and their loved ones without a permit required. They are merely forbidden to do so if they are convicted felons or have been adjudicated mentally incompetent.

Wayne was for many years a director of the National Rifle Association. Like Governor Palin herself, Wayne’s life has a lot in common with that of Theodore Roosevelt. Wayne Ross is not just a knee-jerk “law and order” guy. He began his career as an assistant Alaska state attorney general, and has prosecuted his share of cases. But, for the last 32 years, he has also been a defense lawyer and senior partner in the law firm of Ross and Minor in Anchorage. I got to know him several years ago, when he brought me up to speak for an armed citizen who was being charged after shooting an intruder in his home. Wayne got justice done for that good military vet, and I got to see first-hand the enormous respect that the prosecutors had for him…and I got to see why they held him in such high regard.

Ross has worked both sides of the street, and he knows that justice is a two-way street. If you only go in one direction on two-way streets, I discovered early in my life, you only know half of what is going on around you…and, ultimately, you will end up going in circles.

Congratulations to Wayne Ross on becoming the new Attorney General of the State of Alaska…and ditto to Governor Palin for her wisdom in appointing him.

Massad Ayoob

The Oakland Police Murders

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

The atrocity last Saturday in Oakland, California has sickened a nation.  Lovelle Mixon, 26, had first gone to prison at age 20 for assault with a firearm, but had amassed numerous serious felony convictions in his short life. He was free on parole, and it has since been confirmed that he knew he had violated his parole and was likely to be arrested and sent back to prison for five to nine months.

It was announced yesterday that DNA evidence tentatively links Mixon to a violent sexual assault some weeks ago. The rape victim is a 12-year-old girl. If he believed he was going down for that, he would have known he’d be looking at a much longer prison term. When two Oakland motorcycle cops pulled him over for a routine traffic stop Saturday, he approached them at their bikes, sneaked out a semiautomatic pistol, and shot them both down.  As the gravely wounded men lay helpless, Mixon stood over them and fired execution shots into both.

Mixon fled to his sister’s apartment, arming himself with a 7.62X39mm semiautomatic rifle. When an OPD SWAT team made entry a few hours later, Mixon opened fire, killing two of the officers and wounding one more. Return fire, reportedly from the wounded team member, finally dispatched the murderer to the entry portals of Hell.

Five good cops had been shot. At this writing, three are deceased and the fourth has been declared brain-dead as surgeons wait to harvest his body organs for transplant. The fifth survived.

What sickens me even more than this tragic loss is that at the scene of the first double cop-killing, some twenty people – some of whom witnessed the execution-murders – taunted police and shouted “Payback for Oscar!”  They were speaking of Oscar Grant, killed on New Years when a young officer of the Bay Area Transit Police shot him during an arrest. Facing murder charges, the BART officer has stated through his lawyer that he was trying to deploy his TASER and drew and fired his pistol by mistake instead.

Once Mixon was ensconced in his sister’s apartment, it turns out, many people in the building knew he was there but none would “snitch” on the cowardly murderer. When someone finally did call in a tip, rather than leave the suspect unmolested to shoot more people from the apartment windows, police made the entry that cost two of them their lives.

Words fail me.  Printable words, anyway.

Deepest condolences to the families and colleagues of the lost guardians: Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Officer John Hege, Sgt. Erv Romans, and Sgt. Dan Sakai. Donations to the memorial fund can be sent here.

May the families of those martyred cops – and a certain 12-year-old girl – one day be able to spit in the faces of those who mocked the dead policemen.

Massad Ayoob


Saturday, March 21st, 2009

In preparing an article for a gun magazine on the classic Colt Detective Special revolver, I took a picture I’d like to share with you.
img_6209wBoth machines were manufactured in the year 1930. The automobile left the Ford plant in Detroit, Michigan and became one of the very, very few of its kind to survive the next almost eighty years. It has been restored and even performance enhanced by its current owner, Curtis Rhodes, proprietor of American Auto Body, Inc. at 13508 Highway 90 West in Live Oak, Florida 32060.

It isn’t transportation, of course, and hasn’t been for decades. It’s an iconic showpiece. You might drive it to the auto show, but few would consider using it for a routine commute.

The revolver was shipped from the Colt factory in Hartford, Connecticut directly to the New Jersey State Police the same year. The Detective Special lived up to its name, and was issued to an investigator for that agency. It has never been rebuilt, but is still in perfect working order. Presented to the detective by his agency when he retired, the revolver stayed in the family for many years, and eventually found its way to a gun shop. It has been in my collection for a decade now. It still functions perfectly, and will shoot a perfect score on a police qualification course. Though not built for the power of modern +P .38 Special ammunition, it will fire it safely. The Colt Detective Special and its related models were produced from 1926 to approximately 1999, and countless thousands of them still serve to protect American homes and, yes, American police. The current Commissioner of the New York City Police Department carries one in an ankle holster.

We don’t drive our great-grandparents’ cars, or keep our food in their handed-down iceboxes. Yet countless Americans hunt, and protect their families, with the heirloom guns of their forebears. Firearms are simpler devices, evolve more slowly, and take much longer to become obsolete. Finely made examples like this Colt endure. They are the ultimate in “durable goods.”

You can buy the 1930 Ford from Curtis Rhodes at He’s asking $18,000. You can find a classic old “first issue” .38 Colt Detective Special on sites such as for well under a thousand dollars. Both will be cherished possessions for those inclined to own and appreciate them.

And one is still eminently practical for its intended purpose.

Massad Ayoob

A Giant Passes

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Apologies to all for being away from the blog for the last week and a half. Work took me to the trial of a police officer in Washington state, arising from an off-duty shooting (he was justly acquitted this past Friday), and thence to a class I taught in Iowa. There was just no writing time.  Let me try to make up for that this week.  Unfortunately, the first dispatch is sad news indeed.

Hal Swiggett

Hal Swiggett

Hal Swiggett died recently at the age of 87.  A popular writer in the firearms and outdoor sports field since 1947, Hal was one of the giants in the game, and one of its finest gentlemen.

It was Hal who had the pleasure and privilege of presenting the late, great Elmer Keith with the very first Outstanding American Handgunner of the Year Award.  A decade later, Hal was presented the same award himself.  It was an honor he never asked for, but one he had most certainly earned.  Hal Swiggett was a man who devoted himself to others.

An ordained Baptist minister, Hal always had two things with him in the front seat of his pickup truck: a Bible, and a .45 caliber Colt semiautomatic pistol.  He was among the pioneers of the sport of hunting with a handgun, and was universally respected in that world.  The first time I hunted in Texas, Hal was my guide, at the famous Y-O game ranch.  It was there that he introduced me to one of my favorite firearms of my whole career, the Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver as splendidly tuned by Jerry Moran.  I got home from that trip and ordered a new Python from Colt, and shipped it directly to Moran for the action work.  It won state championships for me.  Such was the quality of Hal Swiggett’s advice.

Brother Swiggett’s work ethic was as solid as his belief system.  Most writers work from home. Hal maintained an office for the purpose in downtown San Antonio.  It kept him disciplined, he said, and also kept work from interfering with family…and his family was his first concern.

Hal Swiggett has left us a rich legacy of wise and well-written work on his favorite topics: guns and hunting.  You’ll find many of them archived at  If you haven’t read his stuff, take the opportunity to do so.  I hope you learn as much from that good man as I did. Heck, I grew up reading it his work.

It’s not a cliché to say that Hal Swiggett’s passing diminishes us all.  There are too few men with his values and his kind of honor left in this world.

Photo courtesy of Harris Publications

Massad Ayoob


Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Easy enough for a man with great inherited wealth to say when he’s commander in chief of a world power. We lesser folks are afraid of more than just the fear. And we Americans are not alone in this.

In Europe, things are looking pretty grim, too. And bad European news on a broader scale can be found here.

A Russian expert in American intelligence studies predicts the economic collapse of the USA by next year. If I recall correctly, it was back during the Kitchen Debate in the 1950s that Nikita Kruschev supposedly told Richard Nixon that by the year 2000, the United States and what was then the Soviet Union would pass each other going in opposite directions. So, was he just off by a decade or so…?

Meanwhile, back in the states, a noted investment counselor advises that the only three things that seem to be worth investing in are Spam (food hoarding, don’t you know), gold …and the stocks of firearms manufacturers such as Ruger and Smith & Wesson.

At least when the rest of the world goes up in riots, protests, and flames, we Americans will have guns to protect ourselves individually.

I can’t help but observe that when FDR said “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” he had Secret Service protection.

And more. The second Roosevelt is said to have slept in the White House master bedroom with a .32 caliber handgun in his nightstand, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was well known for keeping her loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver within reach. Secret Service agents said she was pretty damn good with it, too.

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