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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.


Thursday, February 5th, 2015 by Mas | 35 Comments »

With a new, Obama-appointed Surgeon General with a long history of anti-gun advocacy, we now see a resurgence of the Prohibitionists’ efforts to have firearms ownership be excoriated as a health and safety risk to Americans.


When I opened my first shooting school to teach armed citizens the use of deadly force in 1981, I very quickly noticed something my predecessors in the private firearms academy business, Jeff Cooper and Ray Chapman and John Farnam, had already seen:  in more classes than not, health care professionals were the single most highly represented occupational category among the students.  That trend has continued to this day.

It seems counterintuitive to those who don’t understand the real-world dynamics of not only guns, but self-defense.  All that’s required to understand it is common sense. Doctors and nurses and paramedics and rehabilitation therapists aren’t like ordinary citizens, who see violence mentioned in their morning paper or on TV, mutter “Tsk, tsk,” and turn the page or the channel. These medical professionals see the results of violent criminal assault upon the innocent, and some of them see it daily!

Because they deal with life and death (or life-threatening illness and trauma) on such a regular basis, doctors and other health-care providers become realists and pragmatists.  And when you analyze survival of violent crime realistically and pragmatically, seeing its victims so often, it is logical to very soon come to a realistic and pragmatic conclusion: Not me! Not mine!

I hate it when newspapers get hold of concealed carry permit lists and publish them, but one good thing has come from that: every single time it happens, you see a disproportionate number of the gun carriers are medical people (and lawyers, and judges). The people who deal with reality day in, and day out.  There is something to be learned from that.

A great resource is Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, at  Read the recent article by Dr. John Edeen, a Texas MD who compares two homicides which occurred in medical environments, both perpetrators having opened fire with the intent of murdering medical professionals.  One was ended by a doc who had his own gun…the other was not. Dr. Edeen’s article speaks for itself.  I know Dr. Edeen, and have spoken on a panel with him speaking against the fallacious “gun-free zone” concept, along with gunfight researcher Chris Bird, at the Gun Rights Policy Conference in 2014, available here.

The founder and head of DRGO is my old friend Dr. Tim Wheeler.  He, like the large membership for whom he speaks, is a voice of reality.

Dr. Edeen’s voice of reason is found most recently here.

I’m not a doctor. But I’ve heard the beginning of the Hyppocratic Oath translated variously as “First, do no harm,” and also as “First, do no further harm.”

It seems to me that “First, do not ALLOW any further harm to be done to your patients or your fellow caregivers” might be an appropriate modern translation.

Comments are, as always, welcome.


Monday, February 2nd, 2015 by Mas | 17 Comments »

It’s no secret that Michael Bloomberg’s “Everytown” crusade against gun ownership has been known to bend the truth. Remember when they listed the slain Boston Marathon Bomber as a “victim of gun violence”?

Now comes more mendacity.  Apparently, in a blurb railing against transfer of firearms by other than licensed dealers, they pirated watermarked pictures from a legitimate dealer in Vermont, who makes sure that all his sales go through FFL licensees with NICS checks. Kudos to for breaking the story.

A press release issued on behalf of the defamed gun shop is here.

Rachel Baird appears to be the gun shop’s lawyer of record on this matter, and it looks as if Attorney Mitchell Lake, one of her associates, is also on the case on behalf of Crossfire Arms.  Though I’ve only spoken with Ms. Baird on the phone, she seems passionately interested in getting justice for the gun shop owner. I’ve met Mr. Lake in person. Like any good lawyer, he knows the rules of the Court inside and out…but, more important, he knows the issues in this case inside and out, and as a staunch advocate of Second Amendment Rights, he will demonstrate the very definition of “zealous advocacy.” Mr. Bloomberg, of course, can afford to field whole covens of lawyers…but none of them will be able to change the truth.

Go get ‘em, Mitch and Rachel.  This is gonna be good.


Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by Mas | 42 Comments »

In the blog entry below this, you’ll see a retrospective on a helicopter crash a couple of years ago, with links to discussions on it at the time.  You’ll also find what we didn’t have then: the Go-Pro camera’s recording of the crash, and how quickly and unexpectedly it happened.

A profound lesson from it relates to the third of the now-standard Four Rules of Firearms Safety created long ago by the late Col. Jeff Cooper – so long ago, apparently, that some today neglect to give Cooper credit for creating them.

Rule Three was to keep the finger off the trigger until one’s gunsights were on target.  Today we go a little more depth into that; I for one teach it as “Keep the finger outside the trigger guard until you are in the very act of intentionally discharging the weapon.” In any sort of moving vehicle, that’s all the more critical…and in a small helicopter aloft in the wind, it’s even more so.

When the aircraft went down, there were three fully loaded hunting handguns on board, two of them holstered; only John Strayer’s was drawn. He was the one who had spotted the first quarry of what none of us could have known was going to be a shorter day of hunting than we expected, and his gun was appropriately drawn and ready.  It was a Smith & Wesson Model 29 Mountain Gun, a relatively lightweight .44 Magnum loaded with powerful, deep-penetrating hunting ammo. Powerful enough that if it had unintentionally discharged in the wrong direction, it was totally capable of killing both the man on his immediate right (the pilot) and the man to his right, which would have been me.

It was John who was wearing the Go-Pro camera, and if you look closely, as the Hiller was coming over the copse of trees looking for the hog he had spotted, there’s an instant where he glances down and the camera catches his .44.

John Strayer holding revolver.

You can see that the double-action revolver is in his right hand.  The hammer has not been cocked. His gloved left hand (it was cold in that open-side-cockpit helicopter on a January morning, even in Florida, with the wind coming through) is securing the gun in place, grasping it around frame and cylinder.

Then, the rotors hit the trees and the aircraft went down. (Helicopters, it turns out, don’t have much of a glide path.) At about the instant of final impact or just before, what may have been a reflexive reaction to the rotors hitting the treetops caused John to reflexively duck his head, where the Go-Pro was mounted, and the camera catches a very brief glimpse his revolver in hand.

John Strayer holding revolver during helicopter crash.

John Strayer’s hand, still holding the .44 Magnum, was driven through the front of the cabin’s Plexiglas bubble by the impact, the jagged shards cutting his hand to the bone, including both the middle finger (primary grasping digit) and the trigger finger.


This photo, taken shortly after the crash, shows the severe damage Strayer’s hand sustained. John is grasping that very gun, with his index finger along the frame, as it was through the crash, and after, until he was able to exit the wreckage and re-holster.

John Strayer holding revolver post helicopter crash.

Let’s review Col. Cooper’s rules, not exactly word for word but close enough:

Rule 1: Every gun is loaded. (Even if you’re sure it isn’t, treat it as if it was. Strayer’s most certainly WAS.)

Rule 2: Do not point it at anything you are not prepared to destroy. (Strayer never let his gun come inside 90 degrees toward his partners.  The muzzle of his S&W did punch through the “bubble” of the cockpit, but that part, along with the rest of the bird, was destroyed by other forces in about the same fraction of a second by forces beyond his control, so…)

Rule 3: Do not let your finger inside the trigger guard until your sights are on target. Or, ideally, until you are in the very act of intentionally firing.  Here, I think, is the most telling lesson of this particular incident: Strayer’s self-discipline in this regard was simply extraordinary.

Rule 4: Be certain of your target and that which is beyond it. (John Strayer had that under control, too.)

John Strayer is not, by any means, just “a guy with a gun.” He owns a gun shop. He has won more shooting matches and championships than he can remember. In the International Defensive Pistol Association, he is one of about only a couple of dozen people who’ve earned “Five Gun Master” status, out of more than 20,000 registered competitors.

And he is a “poster boy” for firearms safety, as at least one reader of this blog has already pretty much said before now.

Somewhere, I like to think, Col. Jeff Cooper is reflecting on this, and smiling…


Sunday, January 25th, 2015 by Mas | 26 Comments »

It is January 26, 2015, and I am now two years helicopter-crash-free.  I told the story here shortly after it happened:

I would like to thank the many people who added poignant and sometimes funny comments at the end of that blog entry. It’s worth reading. I love you people.

Two years later, all three of us who were on board are doing fine. Graham Harward, the pilot who “brought us home alive,” is still flying as far as I know. John Strayer still has some range of movement issues with his gun hand, seriously injured when it went through the shattered Plexiglas when we hit, but is nonetheless still winning pistol matches. I’ve only got one visible scar from it. We were indeed lucky.

Share in our “celebration of survival.” The song written and sung by our friend Steve Denney, “Porkchopper Blues,” overlays the first three and a half minutes of the video, some of the flight film having been edited for brevity.  If you hear hysterical laughter in the background, it’s us survivors and the women in our lives and some good friends: we’re hearing it for the first time on the recording, as you are now.

When the overlaid music stops, it’s your warning that things are about to get serious.

John Strayer, on the port side of the bird, was wearing a Go-Pro camera which recorded the short, fun flight, and the no-fun-at-all crash.  Sorry for the engine sound. You won’t hear us talking on board the aircraft; we had radio mics and headphones for that which didn’t pick up our conversation over the engine noise. In the seconds before the crash, you won’t hear me say to Graham, “Those trees are getting’ kinda tall, bro,” nor will you hear him say “I don’t like this—I don’t like this at all.”

Since I have a mechanical IQ of about 50, I didn’t hear the engine sputtering with the muffs on…but John and Graham did, and thanks to the Go-Pro, so will you.  Some folks asked why we didn’t just auto-rotate into a hard but safe landing when the engine failed and we lost altitude. It’s kinda hard to auto-rotate when you don’t have rotors, and as you’ll see in the video, the rotors were gone in the first fraction of a second when they hit the treetops.  Notice how quickly things proceed from there.  “Gravity sucks”…fast.

Click here for video if you can’t see it on your screen.

Among other things, we learned a firearms safety lesson on that short, ill-fated flight in which several guns were on board, one drawn and in hand during the incident, but no shots were fired. If you’ve taken one of my classes between then and now, you’ve heard me discuss it in the opening firearms safety lecture. If you haven’t, it will be the topic of the next blog entry here.


Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by Mas | 12 Comments »

This is the week of the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade) Show, where the lion’s share of new guns for the given year are introduced.  I was scheduled to be there and had to cancel at the last minute, darn it, but fortunately lots of news is emerging from there daily on the blogosphere.

Monday was “Media Day” when the writers and bloggers get to test-fire new products at the range.  One excellent report is here:

The new .17 caliber Savage rifle is the first semiautomatic I’ve seen so chambered. For the shooter who has lots of small, fast varmints and therefore needs rapid delivery of small, fast bullets, this sounds most promising. For hunting deer and such, I’m intrigued to learn that “the Christiansen Arms .308 with its carbon fiber barrel has almost no recoil, yet it weighs just six pounds, and its titanium muzzle brake does an outstanding job of keeping muzzle rise to almost nothing.”

The SHOT Show is in Las Vegas, and if I was there and they were taking bets on such things, I’d put my money down that the single best-selling new introduction mentioned in the dispatch from the front linked above will be Ruger’s drop-in trigger assembly for the incredibly popular 10/22 rifle.  Said to be light and sweet, affordable and easy to drop in, it’s going to be a huge hit with target shooters of all types. I expect a lot of them to show up at the great Appleseed events, which we at Backwoods Home enthusiastically support.



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