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. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/prosecutor-in-pistorius-trial-says-autopsy-testimony-is-graphic-should-not-be-broadcast/article17391312/. 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.
Todd Louis Green, one of the brightest stars in the handgun training world today in my opinion, made this excellent point recently on his blog.
I totally agree with Todd. I learned early that if you don’t read you can’t write, and if you don’t learn you can’t teach. The person who thinks he has it nailed and will teach without continuing education has doomed himself – and his curriculum – to fossilization. That’s why lawyers have CLE (continuing legal education) requirements annually, and docs have CME, and cops have mandatory in-service training.
Sometimes, though, the schedule gets in the way. For me, February was a case in point. Pistol champ Mike Seeklander ran a course tantalizingly close to me, but by the time it was announced I was committed to teach elsewhere. By all accounts, the course was excellent – half of the people I shoot with regularly went, and loved it – but I was trapped in the front of a classroom in the frozen North. I’m hoping to catch Seeklander’s program later this year.
February also saw one of the best training smorgasbords ever served to law-abiding armed citizens, Tom Givens’ Polite Society conference in Memphis. I had been scheduled to teach for half a day and soak up learning from top people in the field for the rest of the Friday-Saturday-Sunday event. Alas, I had to cancel because I was scheduled to appear at a trial which would encompass that Friday, and it would take me all day Saturday to drive to Memphis. My teaching slot (and classroom slot) were quickly filled by others. The trial postponed at the last minute, too late to get into the seminar. Significant Other and I went to a pistol match as a consolation prize.
I’ll be taking a solid week of training in March, long since locked into the schedule, and plan to make that one come Hell or high water. I hope to wallow in new ideas like a shark in a feeding frenzy.
Just ‘cause I’m old enough to look like a fossil don’t mean I gotta be one.
Mike Seeklander coaches Terri Strayer on a weak hand shooting technique.
Minutes ago as I write this, justice has triumphed in a courtroom in Sanford, Florida. I wish to congratulate six brave, honest, intelligent jurors. And two fine defense lawyers. And the honest cops and witnesses who testified, and the many who contributed to the defense fund for a wrongfully accused armed citizen.
Several blog followers have asked me why I haven’t written here (or spoken anywhere) on this, the most important armed citizen case of our time. The answer is this:
I did write on it once, on Friday, March 23, 2012. The following day, I received a phone call from Craig Sonner, George Zimmerman’s original legal counsel, to retain me on the case as an expert witness for the defense.
The weeks wore on. Attorney and client parted ways. I was subsequently contacted by Mark O’Mara, the new defense lawyer. Late in May of 2012, I met with him in his office, along with his co-counsel Don West. I also attended the bail hearing in which Zimmerman’s bond was revoked. During the hearing, TV cameras swept the courtroom. Some folks saw that, recognized me, and apparently assumed I was involved with the case.
In fact, I don’t take expert witness cases until I’ve seen all the evidence, and the prosecution was extremely slow in providing that. I wound up not being involved. However, having been retained by one of the defendant’s lawyers and consulted with another, I felt bound by confidentiality and did not think it would be professional to comment directly on the matter from then on.
I’ve been biting my tongue ever since, because there was much that I wanted to say.
The verdict is now in, and I’m gonna smooth those teethmarks off my tongue, and in the next few entries here will discuss some elements of the Zimmerman case which have been widely and profoundly misunderstood.
In the meantime, to get the commentary and analysis of the case that most of the mainstream media denied you, go to the excellent day by day writing of Andrew Branca, an attorney who specializes in this sort of case, at www.legalinsurrection.com.
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.
Recently got home from the 2013 Polite Society event, a/k/a National Tactical Conference, in Memphis. A symposium like this allows you to recharge your batteries and remember what you fight for. There were roughly 150 attendees – 25 of them teaching – and damn near all of them were carrying loaded guns the whole time. The name of the conference comes from a Robert Heinlein quote popularized by armsmaster Jeff Cooper: “An armed society is a polite society.” One quick translation of that is, creatures with fangs and claws do not see other creatures with fangs and claws as prey…and unless it’s a mating issue or a turf issue, they generally leave them the hell alone.
There were too many fine presentations to relate here, though each is discussed on an upcoming ProArms podcast that four of our crew who attended were able to record in the car on the way home. Yes, the drive of eleven hours each way was more than worth it for what we got out of the conference. It is not “up” yet, but should be soon; patience appreciated.
Many of the presenters and attendees alike were cops or retired cops. Across the board, there was unanimous agreement that the current trend toward private citizen disarmament was deplorable and wrong-headed. Host Tom Givens, the founder of the program, made a telling point: real-world analysis of violent crime indicates about a one-in-thirty chance that any individual American will face it at some time in his or her life. (Virtually ALL of the presenters had come face to face with it already, one reason they were selected to teach.) Tom pointed out that over the years, sixty or more of his civilian graduates have been involved in lethal force encounters. All but two prevailed and survived. The two who didn’t prevail, died. Not coincidentally, those were the two who were unarmed when it happened. Tom reminded us all of the advice of Jeff Cooper’s acolyte Mark Moritz, a gun-wise attorney: “The first rule of gunfighting is, Have A Gun!”
The eclectic program encompassed emergency first responder trauma care for gunshot wounds, stabs and lacerations, and blunt trauma injury, taught by MDs. It included a veteran psychologist on one side and a homicide investigator on the other delineating how human predators think and act. There was hand-to-hand work, and knife awareness, and recognition of assaultive behavior cues. There was aftermath management: the blocs I taught revolved around lessons learned in some of the more recent homicide trials I’ve been involved in, including one a month ago, all of which were killings done in defense of self and/or others. (And yes, in each case the jury agreed.) The veteran cop who talked about “active shooter” scenarios deplored the fact that this has become the terminology, since human monsters such as those should be considered “active killers” or indeed, “active mass-murderers.” He had been involved in two such incidents himself, both of which ended in the quick death of the monsters as soon as they were confronted with lethal force resistance, and he quite pointedly noted that some of the cases under discussion were ended by armed citizens who saved countless lives.
Time with people who understand the ugly reality of having to stop murderers, is time well spent for those who may have to one day face such murderers.
And “those who may have to one day face such murderers” includes everyone reading this, and indeed, everyone, period.
Thanks to Tom Givens and his team for making this top-tier level of training available to law-abiding private citizens, as well as the many cops who were in attendance. Next year’s program will be held on February 21-23, 2014 in Memphis, and you can get more information from the Rangemaster Website.
The RangeMaster complex in Memphis had room to train 150 good people.
Jon Hodoway gave an excellent lecture on the survival capabilities that can be found in an ordinary smart phone.
Ever heard of SouthNarc? He’s retired from police work now, so I can finally publish his picture…and I’ve long recommended his street-wise training.
Here, I’m briefing the audience on lessons learned from recent homicide trials. On screen is the Ruger .45 used in a self-defense shooting.