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Massad Ayoob on Guns

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Archive for February, 2011

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Nearly a month ago, the sudden unrest in Egypt turned violent and criminal, prompting the law-abiding citizens to form ad hoc neighborhood groups to defend themselves. Those who could get their hands on a shotgun in a country where strict gun control limits firearms ownership to the rich and powerful, were the lucky ones. Read about it here:

It wasn’t long before one of the more moonbeams-and-butterflies anti-gun bloggers had waxed eloquent about how the Egyptian uprising had shown that with strict gun control, there could be peaceful revolution without anyone getting hurt. I guess she missed the three-figure death count in the first few days in Egypt, and the prisons emptying and the criminals looting guns from armories abandoned by the same police who abandoned the law-abiding citizens there.

And look what’s happening in Libya:

And in Tunisia:

And folks are getting nervous in Lebanon:

Over the last few weeks, on airplanes and in restaurants all over the country, I’ve overheard conversations in which people compare current events in the Middle East to the American Revolution. I just bite my tongue. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that a year from now Egypt is going to look less like the United States in the late 18th Century than like Iran right now.

But, if nothing else, these recent events show us the vision of the Founders and Framers who gave us the Second Amendment. Anyone who thinks 2A is obsolete in the 21st Century need only look to what is happening in the Middle East today.

What’s you folks’ take on it?

Massad Ayoob


Monday, February 21st, 2011

Just got back from a pleasant weekend with great people, doing good stuff for a good cause. Tough to beat!

The venue was the Central Florida Tactical Conference in Bartow, FL, coordinated by trainer Jim Clark. 65 or so attendees comprised physicians and other medical personnel, cops, military, and a bunch of law-abiding armed citizens who take responsibility for their own, and their families’, safety.  All proceeds from the tuition went to the Wounded Warriors Foundation, and all the instructors and staff donated their time to the cause.

Each eight-hour day of the weekend was divided into four two-hour sessions. On day one, the four squads of students rotated through a bloc on shooting tactics, taught by Andy Stanford, author of “Tactical Speed Shooting” and former winner of the National Tactical Invitational; emergency treatment of gunshot wounds, taught by Dr. Barry Garcia; and a hand-to-hand segment led by Hapkido instructor Phil Peplinski. The final rotation was a challenging pistol match that included the original, famously difficult Federal Air Marshal’s course, and a difficult segment that comprised multiple targets from standing, kneeling, and downed positions and culminated with offhand head shots at a pretty challenging distance.  The second day included the match; a revolver course taught by John Strayer, winner of the famous 2005 Snubby Summit and current Florida/Georgia regional champion of Enhanced Service Revolver shooting; a “hit fast and accurate” seminar taught by Shannon Smith, current Florida state champ in Enhanced Service Pistol; and a classroom segment on the physio-psychological aspects of violent encounters taught by yours truly.

The weather was gorgeous, things ran on schedule, and there were no injuries except the expected minor cuts and bruises from the hand-to-hand. Learning curve was excellent and a good time was had by all. It was a smooth blending of natural allies, in a pleasantly uplifting mutuality of purpose.

Best of all, the event raised several thousand dollars for one of the most worthy causes out there, the Wounded Warriors Foundation.  Big kudos to Jim Clark and his team for making it happen!  It’s definitely worth putting on your calendar for next year, and a Google search for Central Florida Tactical Conference will bring you to everything you need to know about it.

Host Jim Clark, right, runs an attendee through the demanding Original Federal Air Marshal course.

Jim Clark running a participant through the match

Part of the group on Sunday.

Central Florida Tactical Conference

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Last week I was up to my butt in lawyers with legal cases I’m working on across the country, and this week the same, so last weekend I needed a little respite. On Sunday I took the fox and a box o’ Glocks to the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) in Orlando, Florida for a little R&R. They have matches for service/home defense pistols, “baby Glocks,” and a separate category for the target model guns, which can be tricked out with recoil compensators, red dot optical sights, and all that. Most of the shooting, though, is done with ordinary pistols with regular sights.

At 591 entries over two days, the Central Florida Rifle & Pistol Club set a record for attendance in the several years they’ve been hosting these matches. Chris Edwards of GSSF told me that in the past year, attendance has been increasing greatly all over the country. I think one reason is the relaxed atmosphere of the matches, and the format: you shoot at your own speed, and Master shooters are separated into their own category so sharks don’t prey on minnows. You can download the rules and the course of fire at

Emphasis is on accuracy more than speed, which is more complicated than it sounds. Each stage of fire is electronically timed from start signal to last shot. Every point down adds one second to your time, and a missed target costs you a ten second penalty. (You can fire extra shots to make up for a miss on steel targets, but not on paper targets, and you have a finite number of shots allowed.) Basically, it’s a “make every shot count” game, but that said, it’s the fastest time that wins. Easiest explanation is: it’s won with speed, but it’s lost with poor accuracy. There are special awards for Guardians (military, cops, other public safety personnel); junior shooters; women; the physically challenged; and even us geezers, though Master shooters can’t compete for those special awards. They give away tons of guns as prizes, and just belonging to GSSF allows you to buy one Glock pistol a year at “police discount price,” which makes the membership fee a helluva good deal.

I got to meet old friends, make new ones, and just have a great time. Shooting gets your mind off things via the same mechanism as extreme sports: the focus on safety and performance has to be so total that everything else is pushed out of your mind. That’s what makes it so refreshing and relaxing, as well as fun…a point that lots of people who don’t understand the “gun culture” miss.

Preliminary scores indicate I came in second in MajorSub category (for large caliber subcompact pistols such as my favorite Glock, the G30 .45), though I tanked in the 9mm divisions. But I came home to fly out the next morning for a deposition in New York City feeling rested and copacetic, and that’s what recreation is about: getting you cleansed for a while of the hassles of daily life and work, so you can go back and perform your mission better, and keep the cycles of life and purpose going. Kudos to Mike Ross and his CFRP team, and the other GSSF hosts nationwide, and Chris Edwards and the rest of the GSSF staff for making this well-conceived shooting sport available to all of us.

The timer is running and the brass is flying as USAF pilot (ret.) Dave Blazek blazes a winning Guardian score with his Glock 17.

Dave Blazek

Shooting right to left, Gail Pepin strafes down the falling plates with a 9mm Glock.

Evil Princess

Mas runs MajorSub event with .45 caliber Glock 30SF.

Massad Ayoob shooting Glock30

Massad Ayoob


Friday, February 11th, 2011

We’ve been discussing the “high capacity magazine controversy” here of late, and it’s good to see someone getting the message across in mainstream media.  Here’s what novelist/critic Stephen Hunter, one of the best writers of our time in my opinion, had to say on the subject in the Washington Post:

In my last post here, I and several commentators discussed the recent tragedy in rural Alaska, where a good man went to the door unarmed to find himself facing the neighborhood “strange ranger.” The whacko WAS armed…and the homeowner died, and his wife was wounded and left for dead.

Now, sent to me first by my good friend Steve Harris, a gun-wise attorney in the metropolitan South, comes this case from Tennessee:

For me, the takeaway lesson from the Tennessee case is that if you’re going to have guns available for home defense, make sure every person in the household who is responsible enough to respond to a life-threatening home invasion KNOWS HOW TO OPERATE THEM. It is unclear from the article why the woman of the house was unable to fire the gun she tried to shoot the home invader with. No round in the chamber, and she didn’t know to rack the slide to get the gun up and running?  A manual safety device?  Those have saved good guys’ lives many times, though there’s no hundred per cent guarantee, when bad guys got good guys’ guns away from them and tried to shoot them, but “didn’t know how to turn on the gun.” See my article on the topic in the “Ayoob Files” series in the issue of American Handgunner magazine, currently on newsstands or available online cost-free at

However, the people we share our lives with – who might need that gun to protect our lives, or theirs, or our children’s or our grandchildren’s – can be just as stymied by a manual safety or a lock they don’t know how to release, as a criminal might be. Let’s make sure that those we trust to pick up a gun to defend our home, whether that home is in the backwoods or the inner city, knows not only when but how to use it.

These are lessons that have been written in blood.  To ignore those lessons is to spit on the graves of the good people who died that we might learn them.

Massad Ayoob


Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

This recent murder in rural Alaska highlights the fact that the namesake of our operation here, the backwoods home dweller, tends to be on his or her own when violent crime threatens in the far hinterlands:…t-husband.html

Might things have come out better if the homeowner had been armed when he stepped outside? If he’d had a solid piece of cover from which he could have issued a challenge?

Over the past month since the tragic atrocity in Tucson, we’ve discussed here the dangers presented by the violent mentally ill. Gun laws won’t solve it.  More stringent mental health protocols? Well, let’s see…in some totalitarian countries, anyone who disagrees with the government is deemed mentally ill, and sent to a “re-education camp” that’s more like a gulag.  What if the psychiatrist who examines a devoutly religious patient is a militant atheist who interprets prayer as talking to people who aren’t there, and diagnoses the believer as a paranoid schizophrenic who should lose the right to own guns, and perhaps other perks of good citizenship?  What if the psychiatrist who examines the patient is of the opposite bent, and believes that anyone of a belief system other than his is an infidel who must be killed?  Oh, wait, we’ve met him already: Dr.Nidal Malik Hasan, the fanatical Muslim and US Army psychiatrist who perpetrated the mass murder at Food Hood in late 2009.

No wonder society in general, and legislators in particular, won’t touch the idea of locking up dangerous mental patients. Complicated issues abound there.

There’s only one simple answer to stopping murders by the criminally insane, and that’s to be able to stop them one at a time by ourselves. When you’re in the Alaskan bush two hours away from Fire Department response, you damn sure need your own battery operated smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and firefighting knowledge. When you’re in the same place two hours from the nearest law enforcement officer, you need to possess – and have the ability to competently use – the primary rescue tool the officer would bring for an emergency such as this.

That tool, of course, is a defensive firearm.

But for some elements of society, I guess that’s just too simple…

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