I recently passed through Waco, Texas and had a chance to kick one more item off the bucket list: a visit to the Texas Ranger Museum there.
As a little boy in the 1950s one of my favorite TV shows was “Tales of the Texas Rangers.” I can’t remember a single plot-line now, but I do recall the strong emphasis on old-fashioned ideals of justice…and I thought it was pretty cool that each Ranger carried a pair of fancy Smith & Wessons.
Live and learn: I hadn’t known until the visit that some two dozen Texas Rangers died at the Alamo in 1836.
I expect the many horsemen and horsewomen among the Backwoods Home readership would have spent more time than I did on the fabulous display of saddles. In my case, the only bronco I ever owned was a Ford product. As you might imagine, I spent more time among the impressive gun collection.
These brave men started out with single-shot muzzle-loaders for both their rifles and handguns, which shows how far back the organization goes. They were the first to use revolvers, the Patterson Colt of 1836. Its rapid fire capability proved to be a force multiplier, and Ranger Samuel Walker convinced Samuel Colt to make a larger and more powerful one, the legendary Walker Colt .44. In the latter 1800s, they all but standardized on the Colt Single Action Army revolver and the lever-action Winchester rifle, and when the more powerful box magazine 1895 model came out, they flocked to them so fast that they are prevalent in pictures of Rangers during that period.
The Texas Rangers may also have been the first law enforcement agency to (unofficially) adopt the Colt 1911 semiautomatic pistol as soon as it came out, and it remains hugely popular among the Rangers even today.
Even before that, they were buying semiautomatic rifles as soon as they were introduced, the Winchester 1907 and the Remington Model 8 which dates back to 1906. While today’s Rangers are issued .357 SIGs and 5.56mm autoloading rifles, they still follow the tradition of carrying privately-owned, department approved handguns, and the 1911 remains a trademark of the Rangers.
More than perhaps any other agency, the culture of the Rangers encouraged fancy, personalized weapons. Perhaps it was an extension of their historical emphasis on individuality as a means of encouraging superior performance.
I was in a conversation recently which turned in the direction of serpents, and not the two-legged kind. I’ve never had to shoot a human being, but have found it necessary on occasion to dispatch poisonous snakes. Each time that happened, I was VERY glad to have a pistol on my person.
What’s the collective experience out there? I’m no herpetologist, but I keep hearing from folks who live in rattlesnake country that today’s rattlers have learned to keep silent and not give warning before they strike. True?
I promised all y’all an update on the situation with Jews for Preservation of Firearms Ownership, now under the umbrella of the Second Amendment Foundation. The transfer required a three-person board of directors to be named. As of now, that board consists of Alan Gottlieb, Miko Tempski, and Ohad Lowy. Gottlieb is the founder of SAF, Tempski is general counsel for the same group, and Lowy is a practicing lawyer in the US who was born in Israel.
Two of the three are Jewish, and I for one think that’s important. The “J” had been missing from JPFO for a while. Until the takeover, there hadn’t been a Jewish hand at the tiller of JPFO since Charles Heller left his position as executive director a couple of years ago. The board that continued the mission in the interim was made up entirely of righteous Gentiles. (The capital R term Righteous Gentiles is reserved for those who worked to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. These three good men were born too late to do that. But they went to considerable personal expense and effort to keep the late JPFO founder Aaron Zelman’s brainchild alive and on course, and that sounds pretty damn righteous to me.)
I think the strongest moral imperative of JPFO grew from the lesson of the Holocaust, that gun registration led to gun confiscation and the creation of helpless victims of government-instituted genocide. A Second Amendment Sisters run by men, or a Pink Pistols run by straights, would simply lack credibility in its core message. It was important to re-solidify JPFO’s Jewish identity.
Non-Jews, of course, remain welcome. They have long constituted a majority of JPFO membership. Hell, I remember when Aaron Zelman and I used to joke about me being the token Arab member.
I’m happy to report that Rabbi Dovid Bendory remains with JPFO, and that the dynamic Charles Heller is back, as director of media relations for JPFO. Search is underway for a new executive director.
The announcement of JPFO coming under the SAF umbrella was met with enthusiastic applause from the hundreds of gun owners’ civil rights activists attending the Gun Rights Policy Conference in Chicago this past weekend. Ditto SAF’s tribute to Aaron Zelman. Some folks had called for mass resignation from JPFO, and SAF received a flurry of nasty-grams, but as of last week only ONE actual dues-paying member had resigned and requested a refund. (I’m told the dues refund was sent.) In fact, there has been a small spike in membership renewals and new member sign-ups.
Right now, the entire gun rights community is focused on the critical mid-term elections. SAF’s sister organization, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, headquartered in Washington State, is also working overtime to fight the egregious I-594 initiative there. There are also transferred records to be sorted out, and other such mundane administrative matters. For those reasons, I don’t expect the “new” JPFO ball to really get rolling until after the first of next year.
I’ve personally told the two new JPFO directors who were in attendance in Chicago that I’d like to see Zelman’s ground-breaking books on the desks of every Senator, Congressman, and legislative aide on Capitol Hill. The JPFO message needs to be more widely broadcast, and I have every reason to believe we’ll see exactly that in the coming year. SAF is well positioned to make it happen.
From 9 AM to well after 1 PM, we got useful information from the front lines. Discussing media relations, Tom Gresham and Malia Zimmerman noted among other things that ranting against liberals is counterproductive, because in their collective experience they’ve found that as many as 30% of liberals are pro-gun, and it’s never wise to insult potential allies. There was a three-man panel on dealing with anti-gun media bias. Herb Stupp advised appealing to reporters’ and editors’ sense of fairness: “I appreciate your interest in this issue. Have you considered how many lives are saved by guns?” Herb noted that big city papers often have an ombudsman who handles complaints about press bias. “Speak to the editor if you can’t get through to the reporter,” he advised, “and look for columnists who are friendly or open-minded to the issue.”
Don Irvine from Accuracy In Media (AIM) noted that of 216 stories on gun policy analyzed in the first thirty days after Sandy Hook, eight out of nine favored “gun control.” CBS was the worst with a 22:1 ratio. “Make judicious use of Twitter and Facebook” was his advice. “This is how today’s journalists get their news,” he said.
Charles Heller of Liberty Watch Radio, who does three talk shows in Arizona, advises gun rights advocates to make themselves information resources to journalists. Tell them, “We will get you information,” and follow through with solidly researched material.
Tim Schmidt of the US Concealed Carry Association came out strongly for permitless carry. He spoke of having to kiss the ring of the king for an inalienable right, and saw permits as “goofy little concealed carry cards.”
John Fund of National Review celebrated the recently announced resignation of Eric Holder. His take: Democrats are taking the popularity polls and voting predictions, and wanted a new AG in place before a Republican-controlled Senate would have to approve his replacement. Fund noted that one out of ten House Democrats voted to find Holder in contempt of Congress. With document production now having been compelled by the Court in the Fast and Furious matter, he sees the Holder departure as “getting out of town ahead of the sheriff.” Fund contends that Eric Holder is/was the worst Attorney General in US history. When it is pointed out that Nixon’s AG, John Mitchell, went to prison, Fund counters that Mitchell was sentenced there for things he did as Nixon’s campaign manager, not anything he did as Attorney General.
After the conference, on his Gun Talk radio show, Tom Gresham gave the best answer as to why this conference was held in anti-gun Chicago. Alan Gottlieb’s Second Amendment Foundation funded the lawsuits that won concealed carry for Illinois, and handgun ownership rights for Chicagoans. Gresham explained simply, “It was a victory lap.”
Next year’s Gun Rights Policy Conference, the thirtieth, will take place the last full weekend of September 2015 in super-gun-friendly Phoenix. Attendance is no charge and you can pack your pistol without need for a permit. Hope to see you there.
A contractor at the air traffic control center serving Chicago started a fire there and then attempted suicide, shutting down air traffic at both O’Hare and Midway. Thousands of incoming/outgoing flights were disrupted, with the effects rippling outward from this key airline hub.
Thus, as you might imagine, actual turnout at the Gun Rights Policy Conference was well down from the 731 who were pre-registered, but the “show did go on.” Today, Sunday, Tom Gresham will be broadcasting his GunTalk radio show live from the conference and continuing thereafter with interviews with participants. The regular GRPC speech schedule will run 9 AM to 1:00 PM, after which they’ll hold an ad hoc grassroots workshop through the rest of the afternoon.
This was a big focus of Saturday’s presentation, with several of the state-level gun owners’ civil rights organization leaders sharing the advances and setbacks “on the ground.” Any such effort can be “two steps forward, one step back,” but we are winning here: it seems to this observer that the state-level activists are getting way more than two steps forward for every one step back, with significant victories being scored even in battleground states such as California, Connecticut, New York, and Maryland.
Julianne Versnel and others involved at the International level briefed us on the dangers of certain treaties currently ongoing. On the national front, we were briefed by superstar Second Amendment lawyer Alan Gura on several cases both won and ongoing which can ultimately impact all law-abiding gun owners. Professor John Lott detailed the misinformation coming out of the Bloomberg organization, fifty million dollars worth of twisted propaganda disguised as fact, which goes far beyond their notoriously listing a dead terrorist shot by police as “a victim of gun violence.” Microstamping, smart guns, universal background checks that would lead to de facto registration, and other Trojan Horses were dissected. The dangers of “gun-free zones” were delineated.
Stephen Halbrook ran out of copies of his new book (though I ordered a copy). His talk focused on the research for that book, “Gun Control in the Third Reich.” This authoritative resource will make a great companion text to the work of the late Aaron Zelman at Jews for Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO).
Speaking of which, the taking over of JPFO by Second Amendment Foundation, which along with Citizens’ Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms hosts the GRPC, was announced to strong applause. A new board for JPFO has been constituted, and plans are in place to make that organization stronger than ever. More on this shortly in a future blog entry.