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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Massad Ayoob


Sunday, April 13th, 2014
John Farnam

John Farnam

I’ve waited this long to comment on the latest atrocity at Fort Hood, to allow the investigation to play out. A few days prior to the incident, my friend and colleague John Farnam had pointed out that military intelligence indicated there would be a “replay of Fort Hood” very soon somewhere in America.  At this point, there is no indication that he latest mad dog was a jihadist, only a man with a broken mind who had apparently put a good deal of thought into such mass murder before he carried it out…closer to the monster of Sandy Hook Elementary School than the fanatic who previously wrought havoc at Fort Hood.

In the end, the motive matters less than the act…and the failure to interdict it in a timely fashion. The same John Farnam, a combat Marine in the Vietnam era and a lawman later, noted after the last rampage that on the rare occasions when gunmen do the same in a domestic law enforcement environment – that is, open fire in a police station – they at most get off a few shots and inflict a few wounds before the intended victims react, draw their own ever-present service pistols from their holsters, and shoot the gunman down like the mad dog he has obviously become.

Large institutions steeped in tradition are slow to change their paradigms, and the American military fits that description  in this respect.

Andy Brown

Andy Brown

But it has now been 20 years since the mass murder at Fairchild AFB, five since the jihadist rampage at Fort Hood (“workplace violence,” my ass), and days since the latest horror on the same killing ground.  Each time, it ended as soon as the mass murderer came under fire. A bullet in the brain from my friend Andy Brown’s Beretta put down the rabid dog of Fairchild. A security officer’s bullet paralyzed the first Fort Hood coward into a limbo that stopped this side of his hoped-for martyrdom. When the latest killer came under fire, he shot himself dead, as so many mass-murderers have in other settings as soon as they met return fire, or knew they were about to.

Unilaterally disarming our own armed services in the face of clear and present threat is simply ludicrous. Arming the potential victims on our domestic bases will be a complicated thing. Simply recognize civilian carry permits for qualified personnel on base? Easier at Fort Hood in Texas or Fort Benning in Georgia than at the Pentagon in the District of Columbia.  If nothing else, select officers and non-coms wearing service pistols on base would be a good start.  There are many fine minds at the Judge Advocate General’s Office which could work that out.

Otherwise, history tells us, the second Fort Hood massacre will not be the last replay of this American Tragedy.


FORT HOOD: Go ahead, blame the weapon, not the killer…


Massad Ayoob


Thursday, March 13th, 2014


This past Monday I was at a state bar association headquarters, leading a panel discussion they were filming on gun modifications and gun-and-ammo choices as they relate to shooting cases.  On the same day, half a world away, South African athlete Oscar Pistorius was on trial for murder in the death of his girlfriend. It turned out that the ammunition in the death weapon in South Africa was jacketed hollow point, and the prosecution was making a huge deal about its deadly effects, implying that using it was indicia of malice in and of itself.  Oddly enough, at the bar association CLE (continuing legal education) film we discussed the same thing.

The ammo was reportedly Ranger, a Winchester brand which in this country is generally sold as “law enforcement only,” though outside of San Francisco I don’t know of any laws actually banning its use by private citizens.  (Interestingly, the images they showed on CNN looked more like Federal HST.  I watched the talking heads babble on about how the bullet spread itself out into petals that spun like a fan.  Slice and dice…it could have been a Cuisinart commercial.

The panel they were filming on our end was made up entirely of people carrying Glock pistols with Winchester Ranger ammunition.  The police chief who used to command LAPD Metro and SWAT had 124 grain Ranger +P in his 9mm Glock 17. The Sergeant/Rangemaster who had shot a guy with such a bullet was wearing the same Glock 21 he had used that night, with 230 grain Ranger .45 ACP.  And I had the same ammo he did, in my RoBar custom Glock 30S.

The BS arguments about “malicious dum-dum bullets” have been going on for more than 40 years in this country.  Yet such expanding bullets are issued to virtually all of American law enforcement, and are the smart thing to put in personal defense and home defense handguns. The reasons are reduced likelihood of overpenetration, reduced likelihood of ricochet, and faster neutralization of threats to the innocent so deadly that they warrant lethal force in the first place. I think those are incontrovertible arguments.  But there’s also a fourth argument, and we’ll get to that before long.

This will kick off a five-part series, so our readers can have the tools to defend their use of appropriate ammunition when that choice is falsely questioned in a court of law.

Massad Ayoob


Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

A little while ago in this blog, I wrote about an anti-gun lady who did a strange and incredibly stupid thing for the MS magazine blog. You can find it here:

Someone walking around carrying a gun she admitted she didn’t know how to use was so scary a concept that I still consider it both a false premise and a false flag. The lady in question did so because she is an avowed anti-gunner, and wanted to show the world how dangerous guns are.

Well, in hands like hers, they are.

Go to the links to her MS magazine blog, found in the link above, and also to the comments on both that site, and the above-linked entry in this Backwoods Home blog.  You’ll see that in each, many people warned her of the danger she was presenting to herself and others.

Apparently, MS Magazine agreed: they have stopped her insane experiment, at least under their aegis, but it appears that the madness will continue in the Huffington Post.

Kudos to MS magazine for dumping it. I’d be very much interested in hearing the real story from those folks why they wisely aborted this obviously dangerous and doomed mission.  I would particularly like to hear from Gloria Steinem on that.

There aren’t a whole lot of anti-gun people I can say I admire, but Gloria Steinem is one. Hers is the name most associated with MS magazine, and I well remember when she burst on the American scene. Her writing was one of the reasons I became an early and unlikely feminist. (Yes, I was in my early twenties then, and yes, she was “hawt” as they say today. She’s 79 now, but hell, I’m going on 65, so she’s still in my dating range.)  But that’s not important: the important thing to me is that Gloria Steinem embodied an ethos that has served me well for my entire life: the realization that strong, capable, confident women are the most interesting and valuable women. (Funny thing: that works across both genders, doesn’t it?)

And, I strongly suspect, Gloria Steinem and her true heirs understand how embarrassing it is to everything they stand for when “a clueless woman with a gun” becomes a grotesque stereotype of hysterical incompetence. That is nothing less than anathema to everything they have spent their lives fighting for.

Ms. Steinem was a pioneer in what was called then the Women’s Liberation Movement. She was and is an avatar of female empowerment. At about the time she co-founded MS magazine in 1972, women were already past baby steps and taking long strides to penetrate previously male-oriented job markets.  In the construction industry, they didn’t do it as manual laborers and hod carriers, they did it at the hydraulically-operated controls of Caterpillar tractors; in law-enforcement, they didn’t do it with fists but instead with guns and expertly-wielded batons. As one of the first police PR-24 baton instructors, I was able to point other cops to female officers like Missy O’Linn, who later became a great police defense lawyer, and petite Florida cop Pamela Miller because they could make that baton absolutely sing: pound for pound, a woman with more limber upper limbs and 30 degrees more flexibility in the pelvic axis could get more power into a properly-executed PR-24 strike than her brother the same height and weight.

FORCE MULTIPLIER was the operative term.

And it still is.  Check out this video of a young mom being savagely beaten by a home invader – in front of her three year old child – recently caught on a “nanny-cam.” .

Excuse me all to hell, but I would like to believe that any woman I loved would have been better off with a gun in that situation, explaining to her child how the big man’s white tee-shirt suddenly turned all red and he fell down and stopped trying to hurt decent people, and honey, it’s going to be all right now.  It’s easier to explain than the horror the mom in the video will have to explain to her little one.

And, you know, I would like to believe that Gloria Steinem and the other pioneers of women’s empowerment can recognize that

Massad Ayoob


Monday, May 20th, 2013

Back in the grim days following the Columbine High School atrocity, I pushed hard for the “Israeli model” of armed school personnel. After the Maalot massacre, an all-volunteer program was put together for school personnel and family members of students who were trained by Israel’s civil guard and reported to school with concealed handguns. It was fabulously successful in both stopping and deterring armed terrorist attacks on schools. The concept has much in common with the hugely successful FFDO (Federal Flight Deck Officer) program for armed airline pilots. (It matters not whether the “terrorist” in question is motivated by religious zealotry, politics, or madness. What matters is that a protector with a gun be in place to stop the evildoer with a gun.)

After the recent Sandy Hook atrocity, not only did the NRA come up with a plan for something similar here (while also pushing for more armed police assigned to educational institutions as SROs, or School Resource Officers), but we’ve seen similar plans actually implemented in places like Texas, Utah, and Arkansas.  It is a solid, realistic approach to a genuine problem.

I call your attention to an excellent little book published in December of 2012, “School Administrators Guide To Practical Handgun Training.” The author is Richard Rosenthal, a retired lawman with an impressive 40-year career behind him. The first half of that was twenty years with the NYPD. There, he worked Homicide and Narcotics, served as a helicopter pilot, and spent many years teaching at the Firearms and Tactics Unit, which is where I first met him long ago. Retiring after putting in those twenty, he spent a like period as Chief of Police in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Having dealt with school administrators as a chief of police, Rich understands their thinking. His credentials make it clear to them that he’s not some sort of right-wing lunatic, and give him credibility in certain circles where gun enthusiasts simply will not be listened to by decision-makers. Rich is not only a master firearms instructor, but a shooting incident survivor himself. His advice on vetting and training armed volunteers and managing such a program is absolutely spot-on.

I highly recommend “School Administrators Guide to Practical Handgun Training.”  It’s available for $19.33 plus shipping here.

Massad Ayoob


Sunday, January 27th, 2013

…Be afraid of when the aircraft suddenly STOPS flying.

Yesterday, my friend John Strayer and I went aloft to try our hand shooting feral hogs from a helicopter with .44 Magnum revolvers. Our mutual friend Norm Ambrozy, who had arranged the hunt, was on the ground awaiting his turn in the little Hiller, a UH12B I believe.  This increasingly popular – and by all accounts, exhilarating – method of pest eradication has come about from overpopulations of the wild hogs absolutely destroying farmland in several parts of the country.  We thought it would be even more challenging with six-shooters.  It’s normally done with AR15 sporting rifles and, yes, those evil “large capacity magazines” which so upset the White House.

A few minutes into the flight, as we were zoning in on an oinker that had run under the canopy of some tall pines, the engine lost power.  We won’t know exactly what happened until the FAA completes its investigation, but when the main rotor hit the first treetop, the die was cast. Autorotation doesn’t work without rotors, and you all know the old joke about a helicopter’s glide path.

We ended up nose down and kinda upside down.  And grateful to be alive.  I’d like to also personally publish my gratitude to those who expressed concern when they heard about it on the Internet, and to the pilot, Graham Harward, who “brought us back alive.” Cuts, bruises, pulled muscles and stiffness, but since none of the stiffness involves rigor mortis, ain’t none of us complaining.

The flight provider describes their service as “helicopter adventures,” and that was certainly truth in advertising. I had told my sweetie, the Evil Princess, that I was going on a 4-H program: Handgun Helicopter Hog Hunt.  When we were sopping up blood en route to the hospital, she texted me from home, “Change the title to Handgun Helicopter Hog Hunt Hurtles to Harrowing Halt.” That pretty well described it…


 The helicopter warms up and pilot performs pre-flight checklist.



One of the ground crew snapped this shot just before liftoff, showing dimensions of cabin. From left: Mas, pilot Graham Harward, and John Strayer.



Heading out for hogs, at about a thousand feet, from inside the Hiller.



The last photo from inside the cabin before power was lost, showing approximate elevation when engine failed. John has his eye out for the hog he just spotted, and camera does not show the S&W .44 Magnum in his right hand. He never lost it throughout the crash, holstering only after he extricated himself from the downed bird. His index finger stayed outside the trigger guard, and his muzzle in a safe direction, the entire time.



Final resting place. That’s broken tail boom and what’s left of tail rotor at upper left, landing skids on upper right.



Crushed nose and cabin on port side, where John crawled out after crash.



Mas and pilot exited from here, on starboard side of crushed cockpit, now pretty much upside down in palmetto.



Minutes after the crash. John Strayer, left, and pilot Graham Harward are bloody but unbroken.



A few hours later at the crash site.  John, Graham, and Mas with pieces of main rotor.



Folks tell you that when you have a lucky day, you should buy a lottery ticket.  This time, it didn’t work. No complaints, though.  As John Strayer said, “We’ve used up enough luck for one day.” Note the tabs on the computer…




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