So here I am, in five-below-zero Cleveland on a Monday morning, watching CNN’s sandbag interview of George Zimmerman, and listening to Nancy Grace and assorted other talking heads conflate his case with Saturday’s verdict on Michael Dunn in the Jacksonville “loud music” homicide.
It makes me want to wander outside into the snow. There’s less bullshit out there in the cold, clean air.
The Dunn verdict gives me no heartburn. He sent bullets toward three young men who were fleeing from him and had themselves shown him no overt threat; that suffices to sustain the jury’s guilty verdicts on three counts of attempted murder, and for firing at the vehicle. There is much rage that the jury could not agree on a verdict on the charge of murdering the fourth young man, Jordan Davis. The defendant came across well with his testimony, unsupported by any other testimony, that he perceived Jordan to be bringing a gun to bear on him when he fired the fatal shots.
Did that suffice to give at least one juror reasonable doubt as to guilt? To believe that Dunn might well be telling the truth? That seems to be the primary assumption of commentators so far. It’s certainly a possibility, but it might also have been that the jury simply couldn’t agree on premeditated murder vis-à-vis lesser included offenses. In his closing statement, prosecutor John Guy told the jury that the state didn’t want anything less than a Murder One conviction. It may turn out to be a case of “be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.”
Just hypothetically, if Michael Dunn was telling the truth and there was a shotgun in the other vehicle when he opened fire upon it, the defense claim that the young men in that vehicle dumped the evidence is rendered largely moot by Dunn’s own actions. When he fled the scene, he didn’t just trigger the whole “flight equals guilt” thing; he removed from the scene the one person who could have told police that there might be a shotgun they should be looking for. It puts him somewhat in the position of the guy who kills his parents and then pleads the court’s mercy as an orphan. The cops can’t find something they don’t know to look for.
There was much fail in Michael Dunn’s actions. The innocence he claimed was nowhere near as clear as Zimmerman’s, based on his statements at the scene, and the totality of the evidence. The cases don’t really belong in the same discussion, and neither has a damn thing to do with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Dunn emerges as, at best, a bad example of stupid behavior whose only positive legacy will be learning points for more responsible armed citizens. Zimmeman remains a whipping boy for the willful ignorance of those who prefer superficial sensationalism to research into the actual principles of law and justice.
After a shooting, witness’ recollections may vary widely. Add to that what we would now consider sloppy investigation – the way it was done on the Frontier in Old West times – and 19th Century history starts to get a little fuzzy by the time it filters down to 21st Century readers.
While doing some research recently on the Northfield Bank Raid in Minnesota in 1876, that became apparent. No two historical accounts place the exchanges of gunfire at that hectic scene in the exact same order. “Jesse James was inside the First National Bank and killed the cashier!” “No, Jesse was outside, and it was his brother Frank who murdered the cashier inside!” “No, Jesse wasn’t even there, and he was turning his life around anyway…”
“The gunman killed by an armed citizen with a skillful 80-yard rifle shot was Bill Chadwell.” “No, it was another bad guy, named Stiles.” “You’re all nuts, Stiles was just one of Chadwell’s aliases!” And so it goes.
Hell, historians agree that Jesse James was killed by the “dirty little coward,” Robert Ford, but no one seems to agree on what he killed him with. Some historians can’t even agree with “they’s own selfs.” In “Jesse James: Legendary Outlaw” by Roger Bruns, we find on page 83, “…Bob Ford drew his Smith & Wesson .45 and shot the infamous outlaw through the back of the head.” However, turn the page and on P.85 we find this photo caption: “Bob Ford, the assassin of Jesse James, posed for this photograph with the weapon he used to kill the infamous outlaw.” The revolver in that photo is clearly a 7 ½” barrel Cavalry Model Colt Single Action Army.
In “The Escapades of Frank and Jesse James” historian Carl Breihan wrote, “Without hesitation Bob drew his Smith & Wesson and sent a slug crashing through Jesse’s head. This nickel-plated revolver, Serial No. 3766, Model No. 3, was the same weapon Jesse had given Bob as a present some days before.” (P.277) He adds, “Inquest records show that the gun used by Bob Ford was a Smith & Wesson and not a Colt as generally believed. Charley Ford said, ’Bob had a Smith & Wesson, and it was easier for him to get it out of his pocket.’ Bob Ford admitted, in part, “I could see that it was all over with Jesse when that Smith .44 slug tore through his head.” (P.280)
And some would have it that Ford killed James with one of James’ own guns, snatched from a two-holster gun belt James had just unbuckled and set on a table. Colt or Smith & Wesson? .44 or .45? Bob’s gun, or Jesse’s? A gun snatched from Jesse’s holster, or given to Bob by Jesse, or …?
In the last entry, I promised to discuss some historical matters here, unless something more newsworthy came up. Something certainly did.
I recently received the following from the office of Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. A career prosecutor with a stellar record, and always fair to armed citizens and cops alike, this former state Attorney General probably has a better handle on real world crime and punishment and justice issues than anyone else in the United States Senate. She is sponsoring Senator Cornyn’s Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2014. Here’s what she has to say:
“We ask that you join us in cosponsoring The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2014 (S. 1908)—critical legislation that will protect the Second Amendment rights of our constituents while they are travelling or living away from home. The United States Constitution guarantees every American the right to travel freely from state-to-state, and our fundamental right to self-defense should be fully protected when we do so.
“The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of2014 would allow individuals with the right to carry a concealed firearm in their home state to exercise that right in any other state that also allows that practice. Under this legislation, persons concealed carrying outside of their home state would still be required to abide by the rules and regulations of the state in which they are physically present. In other words, this legislation would treat concealed carry permits just like drivers’ licenses. For instance, if you are licensed to drive in State A, but are driving through State B, you are required to follow the posted speed limits and other rules for operating a motor vehicle in State B. This legislation works the same way with respect to concealed carry rights.
“The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of2014 fully protects state sovereignty, because it does not establish national standards for the practice of concealed carry, does not allow for a national concealed carry permit, and does not allow individuals to circumvent their home state’s permitting laws. Additionally, this legislation would not allow individuals to carry firearms who are prohibited from doing so under current federal law.
“The practice of concealed carry increases public safety, protects fundamental constitutional rights, encourages responsible gun ownership, and is now allowed in all fifty states. We ask that you join us in strengthening the Second Amendment by cosponsoring the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2014.”
Folks, your blogger here thinks national concealed carry reciprocity is long overdue. Please reach out to those who represent you on Capitol Hill and strongly urge them to join Senator Ayotte in getting this important, life-saving legislation passed into law.
My generation grew up in the golden age of TV Westerns. One we regularly watched in our home was “The Rifleman” starring Chuck Connors. A fellow nostalgia buff took the time to splice together all of lead character Lucas McCain’s shootouts. The body count he came up with was … 120.
Budget ten minutes to see it here:
My generation grew up with TV role models who racked up three-figure body counts, sometimes four at a time, and managed not to go out and perform mass homicides for real.
The Western gunfighters of mid-20th Century television apparently had bad-guy-seeking bullets. Notice how often the lead character shoots from the hip, with his muzzle angled starkly upward, and the camera then cuts to bad guys some distance away clutching their chests and falling. Simple geometry tells us that if Chuck Connors had been firing live ammo, a huge number of his bullets would have gone harmlessly over the heads of his targets.
Those gunfighters also had time machines. Presumably, “The Rifleman” was set in the 1870s-1880s. The stylized large-loop-lever signature gun of the star is a Model 1892 Winchester. The gun nerds tell us that the props Connors used consisted of a rotating battery of three of them, two ’92 Winchesters and one South American copy, the El Tigre. A stud inside the trigger guard of the lever hit the trigger as the action closed, allowing his rapid spray of shooting. Of course, with this device in place, every time you jacked a round into the chamber, your gun would fire.
Those gunfighters could also defy the law of gravity. The Winchesters had open-top actions. When Connors did his trademark one-handed flip to chamber a round, in real life the cartridge would have fallen out of the top of the rifle before it came back level, and the chamber would be empty when he pulled the trigger. Hollywood lore has it that Connors’ prop rifles were fitted with studs to keep the “five-in-one” blanks (so called because they were shaped to fit five different calibers) from falling out when he did that stunt. Why didn’t the rifle go off when he merely chambered a round? It wasn’t telekinesis: the stud inside the lever was adjustable. Only thing was, you had to be in league with the scriptwriters and the propmaster, who would make sure that device was adjusted properly before that particular scene was shot.
Those gunfighters faced zombies before George Romero thought of them. Watch carefully – in different episodes, the same character actors playing bad guys get blown away again and again.
Yes, it’s true…we gun people love to make fun of gun stuff that appears on the entertainment screens. The hell of it is, though, those “Hey, wait a minute, I smell contradictory BS” moments come in the study of ACTUAL past gunfights, too…and unless something newsworthy comes up in the meantime, we’ll discuss THAT next in this space.
Every now and then, even those of us who make our living with words are rendered speechless. I offer you the press release:
January 29, 2014
Pennsylvania based Cabot Guns transforms the 1911 into a work of fine art depicting the great American debate of gun control on a mirror image set of left and right hand pistols featuring President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, Piers Morgan and Ted Nugent.
A mirror image set of 1911 style pistols featuring artistic renderings of President Barrack Obama and Piers Morgan was displayed earlier this month at SHOT, the world’s largest consumer firearms tradeshow in Las Vegas, NV. The pistol set is named “The Left and the Right.”
Cabot Guns crafted this rare left and right-handed set of iconic 1911s over the last year. The pair are true mirror images of one another with the exception of the images on the handles. The grips of the right-hand gun depict President George W. Bush on one panel and Ted Nugent on the other while the left-hand pistol grips feature President Barack Obama and Piers Morgan. The pistol set illustrates elements of a great American debate on firearms. Fine art Scrimshander, Darrel Morris, was commissioned to carefully handcraft the art on each grip.
Cabot Guns President and Gun Designer Rob Bianchin had been contemplating the project for some time and wanted to use scrimshaw to detail the work. “As the guns are positioned in opposite directions, the grips show President Barack Obama facing to the left while President George W. Bush faces right,” said Bianchin. “While oriented towards one another, the right-hand pistol depicts Ted Nugent and the left-hand gun depicts Piers Morgan, representing the great ongoing debate in 2013.”
Nugent viewed the pistols during their exhibition at SHOT and described the work of Cabot Guns as ballistic art. “Cabot Guns treads the line between firearms and art. The medium of our art is our guns,” added Bianchin.
“The art of scrimshaw – engraving on bone or ivory – dates back to the 1700s,” noted Bianchin. “And the detail in Darrel Morris’ scrimshaw work is just fantastic.” Morris explained the process of scrimshaw; “Scrimshaw works are created by punching tens of thousands of tiny holes in the surface of the ivory and filling them with black oil paint. This technique takes hours and hours of meticulous labor, but it makes it possible to achieve very delicate gradations of tone resulting in incredibly lifelike images.”
It should be noted that the Cabot left and right pistol sets are true mirror image pistols. The left-handed pistol is built from the ground up from a block of billet steel; it is not a converted right-handed pistol. Not only is the ejection port engineered to the left, but all small controls have been inverted. Even the rifling in the barrel has been reversed.
A three-year-old start-up, Cabot Gun Company is based in the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania. Cabot utilizes Penn United Technologies Inc. to produce its 1911s. Penn United Technologies is a world-renowned manufacturer of precision components for aerospace, nuclear, and other industries requiring precision manufacturing. “Each Cabot represents the work of over 70 of America’s finest engineers, tool makers and master craftsmen,” added Bianchin. “Our objective is to build an important and enduring American brand,demonstrating how the finest products in the world are built right here in America.”
Cabot Guns was launched in 2011. In a short time, the company has won two consecutive NRA National Pistol Championships. The Cabot 1911 has been described as “the Rolls Royce of 1911′s” by S.P. Fjestad, Author and Editor of the “Blue Book of Gun Values.
While I’ve never shot a Cabot 1911, they have earned high praise among those who are experienced with them.
I worry that my left-handed friends in the gun owners’ civil rights movement might take the Obama/Morgan version as an insult. Perhaps they can come to terms with it by picturing each of their grip panels shedding a tear every time they press the trigger.
Personally, I’ve only met two of the four men depicted, and I respect them both: I’d be proud to own a pistol bearing President Bush’s image or Ted Nugent’s.
But there’s a reason why I should have the one with the pictures of the two of those men I haven’t met. Being right-handed, it occurs to me that I should buy the left-handed one with the pictures of President Obama and Piers Morgan…install an ambidextrous safety since I’m right-handed…and enter a quick draw contest.
In theory, I should have an advantage, since any self-respecting holster would want that pistol to be gone from it sooner.