I bought my first handgun…Why?

Last week I purchased my first handgun. It is a .45 caliber Heckler & Koch USP. This is a full-sized, semi-automatic pistol which means that every time you pull the trigger it fires a shot (if the chamber has a round in it.) A .45 caliber is a large and powerful load frequently propelling a bullet that weighs 230 grains or 15 grams. The specific cartridge for my gun is a .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol.) This cartridge was designed by the legendary John Browning in 1904. He designed it for use in his automatic handgun design, the M1911, so called because of its adoption by the United States army as its official sidearm in 1911. The cartridge is known to have superior “stopping power,” or the ability to do maximum damage to a human target. The gun’s magazine (legal in Connecticut) holds ten of these rounds and can also have one in its chamber for a maximum capacity of 11 cartridges. In other states it is possible to buy a twelve round magazine.

HK-USP1

The gun is German designed and manufactured. Heckler & Koch is a high-end armorer, know for innovative, reliable and durable weapons. It was expensive, costing just about a $1,000. I purchased it after shooting several different handguns, all .45 ACPs. I test-shot a Beretta PX4-Storm, a Ruger 1911, a Glock 21, a Smith & Wesson M&P (Military & Police) and the HK USP. Each of these guns felt very different in terms of grip, recoil, weight, and sight-configuration. I felt most comfortable (and shot most accurately) with the USP so that is what I bought.

Owning this gun comes with a responsibility. It is a weapon designed to deliver deadly force – to kill another human being. Learning its proper operation and safe handling is something that I take very seriously. Storing it properly is very important. When it is in my house, I store it in a biometric gun safe which can only be opened by my fingerprint. I keep its ammunition locked up in a separate place. I try to follow basic safety rules – I always point the gun in a safe direction, never at something I do not want to harm or destroy; I always keep the gun unloaded but assume that it is loaded until I have confirmed it is not;  I do not put my finger on the trigger until I intend to fire and; I know my target and what is beyond it.

I have shot and enjoyed long-guns (rifles and shotguns) since I was twelve years old but until now I did not have an interest in handguns. When I took the Connecticut-required gun safety course at a local shooting range, I found that handguns are fun to shoot and much more challenging and exhilarating than I had ever imagined. Pistols are powerful, skillfully engineered tools and I look forward to becoming proficient in using them.

But why did I decide to buy this gun now? There are many parts to the answer. I first became interested in learning more about handguns when the national debate about gun control was re-kindled by the tragedy at Sandy Hook, CT, a mere 18 miles away from my home. As I observed the emotional and non-rational response to the tragedy and saw shameless politicians move swiftly to exploit it, I became concerned that the right to obtain a handgun was at risk of being taken away. And I believe that owning one may be a more important right than ever before.

For a number of reasons, I feel far less confident and secure about my family’s safety and my ability to protect them. We live in an affluent community that is only miles away from severe urban poverty. The national dialogue about income inequality, the vilification of capitalism, media caricatures of greed-driven, soulless corporations, our country’s confiscatory tax regime and the redistributionist rhetoric of the current administration are all of a piece. In today’s America, I have come to believe that protecting my home and family, and securing my personal property from conventional criminals or from the ones in our government are ultimately my own responsibilities.

Will I need a handgun to do this? If confronted by a home invader, would I be able and willing to use deadly force? I am not sure. I need to continue to practicing with my pistol and become expert in its use. When it comes down to protecting my family, I want to have every available tool and advantage. Though it may present me with hard choices to make, as a legally licensed handgun owner, I at least have the freedom to make those choices.

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My Month With Some Antifreeze…

My palms were sweating. But not because of the latte I had just chugged. I found myself in Starbucks with an NAPA shopping bag that had a bottle of antifreeze in it. All around me were cups of coffee, tea, mocha chinos and the antifreeze bottle’s deadly contents only a few feet away from contaminating any one of them and creating a potentially fatal cocktail…

Getting it had been easy. No one in the store asked me any questions or even for an i.d. I just picked out the bottle and went to the cash register. I paid for it and left the building. It must have been clear to the salesperson that I know nothing about cars or chemicals but he took my money just the same.

Driving to Starbucks I had a panic attack – what if the bottle opened up from jostling in the car, its deadly contents leaking out and poisoning any hapless pedestrians that I passed or drivers next to me with their windows open? I needed some advice so I pulled into the next gas station I saw. I asked a mechanic working on a transmission if the antifreeze was safe to transport just in its bottle. Would its cap stay on? Could the fumes harm innocent bystanders? He thought I was an idiot…He was right.

A journalist for Ms. Magazine is writing a piece about carrying a handgun for a month. She has decided to do this without, apparently, taking any course to train herself in the use of firearms. She hasn’t asked anyone for any advice other than a policeman involved in a traffic stop to show her that her gun wasn’t loaded. The above parody is a pretty accurate copy of her breathless prose.

The only point that her first article actually makes, is that it is relatively easy for a person with remarkably bad judgement to do something dangerous. WOW, polish up the Pulitzer!

Maybe she could report on the dangers of poisonous chemicals in the home – number of accidental injuries due to poisonous substances in homes, 33,000,000  annually. Number of firearms related accidents, assaults or self inflicted wounds totaled, about 63,000 in the most recent yearly statistics.

People with bad judgement do stupid things constantly – including apparently lame journalistic stunts. There are no laws or regulations that will prevent this.

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NSA vs Stop, Question and Frisk…

Why does the liberal establishment want to make excuses for the indiscriminate mass-collection of the personal phone and internet data of millions of undifferentiated US citizens by the NSA? It has failed to make us safer from terrorist acts such as Fort Hood, Benghazi, or the Boston Marathon bombings. Thank you ACLU for stepping up to stop this trampling of the fourth amendment.

At the same time, liberal activists attack New York City’s Stop, Question and Frisk policy (built on principles sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 1968) as racist. Who does the policy help and who does it hurt? Law abiding minorities in what used to be the most dangerous urban neighborhoods in the country have experienced plunging crime rates and their neighborhoods’ return to relative safety. Criminals have been stopped before committing more crimes. These policies work:

Murders have gone down by nearly 80%, and combined major felonies by nearly 75%. No other American metropolis comes close to New York’s achievement. Bostonians are twice as likely to be murdered as New Yorkers, and residents of Washington, D.C., three times as likely.

In today’s Wall Street Journal Heather MacDonald points out just how bad it would be for New York and the country, were these policies to be defeated by race-baiting activists more interested in political ghettoizing than in making our black communities safer. Read the whole thing here.

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The IRS Scandal Isn’t About Partisan Politics…

I know that my many liberal friends will think that The IRS Scandal is a partisan issue because conservatives were attacked. But this is about something far more troubling than partisan politics. It is about a government bureaucracy that is unaccountable. With a change in political fortunes, the IRS could just as easily target liberal organizations. The entire machine needs to be profoundly reformed and its duty to be fair and impartial needs to paramount and unquestionable. Are any of my liberal friends equally concerned?

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The Difference Between Newtown and Boston

“One crime was committed by a person motivated by no cause or political interest and driven only by personal demons. Another crime was committed by two people whose actions were clearly driven by their religious and political beliefs. Under these circumstances, which of these terrible tragedies do you think would be considered an incident that could only be properly understood as something that ought to spur the nation to specific political actions?”

via The Difference Between Newtown and Boston.

Jonathan Tobin outlines the problem with the differences in our national response.

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Response to a Cynical political hack from Connecticut

Connecticut’s Senator Blumenthal published a letter in the Hartford Courant professing his shame at his colleagues and his disappointment at the failure of the Senate to pass “common sense” (talking point language from a careful ‘positioning’ document just like a ‘balanced’ approach to deficit reductions means higher taxes and no meaningful cuts in entitlement spending) gun control legislation. He vowed to fight on. He sent his letter to his constituents who have written him about gun violence. He sent it to me and here is my reply:

 

 

Senator Blumenthal,

What common sense is there in enacting cynical, opportunistic legislation that does absolutely nothing to solve the problem it purports to address? SHAME ON YOU for trying to exploit tragedy to advance a disproven agenda that curtails constitutionally enumerated rights and does nothing to advance public safety. You know that all rifles, much less the cosmetically defined “assault weapons” are used in a single digit percentage of all gun crimes. You know that magazine size limitations will have no impact on criminals who have ready access to whatever size magazine they want but will ensure that law abiding citizens are overmatched or limited in their ability to protect themselves. You know that these same criminals will easily circumvent background checks and that of the “2 million people prevented by background checks from buying firearms” virtually none have been prosecuted – what do you think they did next? You know that, as your esteemed colleague Diane Feinstein admitted, background checks would not have succeeded in preventing the tragedies that you so shamelessly seek to exploit.
Why don’t you try to do something real about gun violence? The violence that disproportionally affects poor black males in our cities? Why don’t you stand up for mandatory sentencing to prevent recidivists from committing multiple gun crimes? We know these criminals can get guns. We know they use them in crimes. We know that they will do it again but we still let them go free.
Why don’t you help our country follow New York city’s successful implementation of ‘stop and frisk’ policies in our cities? Wouldn’t Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven benefit from a reduction in gun violence? How about Chicago and its “tough gun laws?”
And when it comes to mass murderers, why don’t you advance better systems for mental health professionals to raise the alarm when they see patients who are likely to commit violent acts? Can you come up with a respectful, fair and thoughtful way to connect them to law enforcement officials and the NICs system?
I guess that would take uncommon courage, brains and effort – things utterly absent throughout your political career. “Common sense” as you define it is so much easier. Exploit a distraught mother – ask her to attend congressional hearings while she is still grieving and vulnerable and by all means have her talk to the press. Those are “common sense” ways to help her heal.
Told anybody about your distinguished military service in Vietnam lately?
Sincerely indignant and ashamed that you are my senator,
Critical Thinking
Weston, CT
PS – To the staffer who may have actually read this before chalking up one “anti” and throwing it in the bin, I hope you are proud to be working for such an upstanding public figure…Go do something honorable with your life (isn’t that why you got into politics?) and dump this sorry hack Blumenthal.

 

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Coffee, Beer and Civilization

I have long had a theory that civilization was greatly advanced by the introduction of caffeine into society. Great civilizations – China, India and the British Empire – were certainly fueled by regular and ritualized consumption of tea and coffee. Caffeine drives productivity and the work ethic. Other stimulants have played a strong role in other civilizations – coca in Peru fueled the Incas and quat has a long history in Arab based civilizations. Nicotine has also contributed to stimulating social interaction and tracking the spread of its use might be intriguing to discover correlations with civilization’s march.

 

But an article in the New York Times has made me consider the role played by depressants in  man’s ascent. I have always believed that everything is possible with beer. So I was very glad to get this more scientific take on the role of beer and wine in ancient social formation. Slainte!

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