Monday, February 07, 2005

"Preventing gun violence" in Indiana

Journal Gazette | 02/04/2005 | Preventing gun violence

This from The Unofficial IPSC List member John H, who voices a certain ... reluctance ... to accept the presumed expertise of LEOs to accurately identify citizens who suffer from "Mental Illness".

Legislation allowing law enforcement officers to temporarily seize guns from individuals when there is a reasonable suspicion of mental illness is not a gun-rights issue. It’s a safety issue.

You can tell right away that the publication has no opinion in this unattributed article which is NOT part of the Editorial or Features sections of the website.

Here's one way you can tell it's not an opinion article: if the item makes some attempt to provide more than one side of the story, OR if it resists the temptation to judge the subject, it may be a News item.

So just how does the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Journal Gazette handle this sensitive subject?

Indiana’s lawmakers need to support this legislation, which would protect people from firearm violence.

Well, that sounds fair and neutral to me, don't you think?
But wait ... there's more:

Legislation in the House would permit law enforcement officers to confiscate firearms from individuals for 45 days when an officer thinks the person is mentally ill and dangerous. It allows prosecutors to petition the court to extend the hold on the weapons and gives the court the authority to issue search warrants for weapons possessed by someone who is dangerously mentally ill. It also allows individuals whose guns were seized to petition the court for a review of the weapon retention order.
Where do we start?
How about qustioning the practice leaving the evaluation of mental illness to the judgement ... or opinion, or bias ... of the arresting officer?

Maybe, to go right to the point, we should wonder when a Psychologist or other person who is qualified to evaluate mental competence becomes involved?
As nearly as we can tell from this article, the answer is ... NEVER!

Don't get me wrong here. I don't like the idea of a NutCase With A Gun any more than the average Joe does. But the whole situation is a set-up for abuse. What's to stop a cop with a grudge from arbitrarily deciding that, for example, his girlfriend's husband (to use an extreme example) should be unilaterally disarmed?

Where's the review process?

Well, I don't know. I don't see it in the article. Maybe it's in the text of the bill, which is conveniently missing.

So what does the NRA have to say about this?
Rep. Larry Buell, R-Indianapolis, who authored the bill, says that he consulted with the National Rifle Association when he drafted the bill and that it supports the legislation. “We think it’s a balance to a person’s right to bear arms and the safety of individuals who might be harmed,” Buell said.
I subscribe to the NRA-ILA newsletter, and they didn't send me an ALERT about this today. Nor is it mentioned on the NRA website. Nor is it featured on the NRA "Reckless Lawsuits" website.

Hmmmm... this is three days AFTER the Indiana Journal Gazette article, and the NRA still hasn't acknowledged their support of the bill. I know it's risky to judge from negative input, but I can't help thinking that if the NRA signed off on this one, they should have said something by now. You don't suppose that Rep. Buell lied, do you? After all, I can't find it in the NRA's Legislative Alerts and Updates, nor in their NRA-ILA Grassroots Alerts feature.

There's more, much more, in the article. Go read it yourself. I have no expectation that the supposed concern for mentally ill people is the primary concern of the sponsors of the bill. Sorry, maybe I'm paranoid, but I'll leave it up to you to decide.

And while you're at it, you can decide for yourself how much you trust the ability of the average Cop On The Corner to determine the difference between a mentally ill person, and somebody who just pisses him off.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Practical Shotgun

Last week I received an invitation from my old fried, Randomly Hittin', to join him at the Tri-County Gun Club monthly 3-gun match ... which (this month) is a "Shotgun Only" match.

He provided the appropriate incentives. "I've got plenty of cheap shot shells, and we can share my (semi-auto!) shotgun. The club will have slugs for sale at $1.80 per box of five, and you only need 13 slug rounds to shoot the match."

The last time (also the first time) I shot a Shotgun Only match was about 3 years ago, at Dundee, where I also borrowed a shotgun. I enjoyed that match, but didn't really know what it was all about. This week I couldn't refuse such a generous offer, so I readily accepted.

The match was scheduled for 9am on Saturday, and I got there about 8:30am. It was a foggy, foggy morning in The Great Northwet, so it took longer than I had expected to drive from Salem to Portland.

SWMBO had looked out the window that morning, calculated "foggy + cold + possibly_rainy + early_Saturday = no way!" She decided that she would spend the morning doing laundry, and in the afternoon she would rebuild her PC (add a 2nd hard-drive, another 256k of memory, and load Win98 over Win95.)

What a GOOD list of incentives for a Geek to be out of town!
I knew I would miss her, but I'm an Applications Programmer: I do software; I don't do hardware.

When I got to the Range, Randomly was busily hauling steel targets out to the various bays and helping to set up stages. He took a few minutes to hand me his shotgun and suggest that I go find a safety table where I could get use to the gun.

I mounted the gun to my shoulder a few times, and discovered that the stock was too long to shoot while I was wearing my heavy winter coat. No problem, I can take off the coat. I had three layers of shirt under the coat, including a heavy fleece sweatshirt. Found the safety, right where it belonged at the rear of the trigger-guard. The bolt release was on the right side of the receiver, there was an 8-round extended tube which gave me 9 rounds when one round was loaded into the tube. He had used velcro to attach an 8-round shellholder along the receiver, plus another 2-round shellholder just in front of the bolt port "so you can load easily to the chamber in case you shoot to slide lock."

Okay, I'm just a little intimidated.

After he finished his part in setting up the match, Randomly joined me again to explain the finer points of Practical Shotgun.

"It's all about reloads. It's just as if you were shooting a pistol with an 8-round magazine, but you don't have magazines. Every round is loaded individually, from either the shellholders attached to the gun or from the 16-round bandolier that I'll let you borrow if you're a very good boy. That means you load the bandolier and the shellholders before you shoot, and after you shoot so I don't have to do that stuff."

(Well, he actually didn't say that last part, but that's the way I paid him back for the free ammo!)

We started out with 17-round stage shooting at Pepper Poppers from shooting-boxes. Having been warned, I was not surprised to learn that the biggest time-waster was reloading ... which everyone had to do. A feature which was new to me (as an IPSC Handgun competitor) was three Pepper Poppers with Rebar 'wires' attached, two per popper, each holding a bright orange-collered Clay Pigeon. As soon as you hit the Popper, the pigeons were presented at targets. The first array had an 8" plate, a US Popper, and the Pepper Popper with the clay pigeons ... 5 rounds minimum. Then you moved to another box (reloading frantically!) where you could engage three more US Poppers. Then (reloading frantically, because you needed nine shots to finish) you moved to the 3rd box where you shot two poppers with double clay-pigeons attached, plus three 10" plates. If you got to the shooting position with a full (9 rounds) load, and didn't miss anything, you got a good time. If you missed anything, you lost time while you fumbled more rounds into the shotgun.

I lucked out; because I was so conservative, and dubious about my shotgunning abilities, I took my time aiming and actually didn't use any extra shots.

Funny thing: this would have been about a 15 second stage if it was an IPSC handgun match, but I felt fortunate in completing it in under a minute. But of course, it got worse.

The next stage (17-rounds), you started with aslug- shot at a gallon jug of water, which was dangling from a wire approximately two counties away. It was really only 50-yards (!) away, but I needed someone to point it out to me because I hadn't noticed it W-A-A-A-Y down at the far end of one of the two big bays. Then you marched down to the end, shooting square plates and pepper poppers ... one of which started a Texas Star revolving.

In my 9-man squad, ONE shooter hit the water jug. Many of the shooters found a kneeling position with a rest, where they could get the best possible shooting position. They didn't hit it. When it came my turn, I took a snap-shot at the water jug and just moved on ... I know I couldn't hit it because I had no idea where the gun was hitting at that range with a slug.
Randomly swore I missed the supporting wire by THAT much (indicating fingers held 3/4" apart.) I paid him $5 to say that, so I know my reputation is safe. Realistically, I'm pretty sure I hit the twelve-foot berm behind the target, but I wouldn't swear to it.

When I got to the Texas Star, I started off pretty good. But some of my shot hit the supporting arm instead of the plate, so I had to reload a few rounds. A couple of times. I finally knocked all the plates off the Star, but my time was noting to brag about.

We had three other short ranges where I acquited myself somewhat less than admirably, then we got to the "All Slugs, All the Time" stage. The targets were IPSC cardboard. Two of them were long-range (which I consider anything over 10 yards, but I think these were about 20 yards)

The rest were from 7 to 10 yards, and two of them were moving targets. I mention this only to make the stage sound more difficult than it really was, in excuse for my mediocre performance.

Before I got up to shoot this stage, Gary The Toolman said:
"Hey, Jerry! Shoot Fast!"

"Shoot Fast?"

"Yeah, shoot fast. Don't worry about hits, just ... go really, really fast!"
You may not know it, but I LOVE to shoot fast. This was as close to a "hoser" stage as I could find, so I got up there and shot really, really fast. Including 4 rounds reloaded, I finished in 21 seconds! Wow! I was really impressed with myself, and I had no trouble at all ignoring the 3 misses out of the 12 possible hits on the stage.

I had Shot Fast!

Sometimes, it doesn't take a lot for me to impress myself.

Others in the squad were not as impressed, but they all agreed that I had, indeed, "Shot Fast."

Style Points, that's the ticket. When you can't shoot for shit, shoot fast.
That's my motto.

The final stage was something of a divergence from the rest of the match. You could call it a "deal breaker" stage.
It was set up in a HUGE bay, probably 50' from side to side and 100' long. There was a lot of steel, although only 18 rounds were required to complete it. There were three 'traps' involved, each of which held one clay pigeon which threw a bird from one side of the bay to the opposite corner. The rule of thumb on fast, low quartering shots on birds is, as I understand, "you can't lead them by too far". I shot the static targets on each of the 3 arrays, then turned to where I could see the birds start. Followed the birds with the gun, waited until I got at least eight feet ahead of the bird, and shot while the muzzle was still moving.

I got one of the three birds.

Wow! I thought. I've got this licked.

The last two shots were from the end of the shooting area (a 10' wide by 30' long roped-off area), stand in a shooting box, and knock down two 10" plates close to the ground.

I managed to knock down the first plate ... and then realized that my front foot was touching the shooting box ... but I wasn't in it.

Taking another step forward, so I was entirely in the box, I knocked down the last plate.

I got points for hitting one of the three birds, but a procedural penalty for not being in the box for one of the static plates at the end.

RJ the RO said "okay, we got one in 3 birds, plus all the static targets, so two misses. Plus one procedural for not being in the box while engaging that plate down at the end."

Tough, tough RO.

My time? I don't know. Not enough to be Somebody, surely not enough to Be A Contender.

At least I didn't embarass myself.

I even got some photos.

Maybe I don't have any pride in myself, maybe I'm not motivated, and maybe I had low expectations at the start of the match.

But I went to the Practical Shotgun match with the intention of having a good time, spending the day in fresh air and occasional sunshine with my friends. All of these expectations were met. I don't care that I didn't win the match. I didn't care that I looked like a Bozo out there, trying to figure out the rules as I went along.

I've been shooting IPSC handgun matches since 1983. I have vague memories about how intimidated I was back then, being the NuGuy and not understanding the rules. I didn't remember the FEEL of being a NuGuy, or how nervous I was at my first IPSC matches.

Perhaps I've got a little of that back now.

I knew most of the people I was shooting against. I have some confidence in my basic gun-handling abilities, my understanding of the rules of gun safety, and the etiquette of shooting a "Practical" match.

Still, I found myself somewhat intimidated by the knowledge that I was, after all, a New Guy.

You should know that when a New Guy shows up at a match, he isn't sure how to act or how he will be accepted. The best thing you can do, as an experienced competitor, is to be friendly. Include him in the cameraderie of People Who Shoot Guns Because It's Fun. Applaud his successeses, no matter how small they may be. Don't focus on his errors, and don't give him 'tips' unless they're essential to being safe. Just let him make his mistakes ... he'll figure out what he can do to 'do better' the next time, or the time after that. If you have a lesson to share, do so in the context of mistakes YOU made ... don't dwell on the mistakes HE made.

The most important thing is not to be critical of the new shooter.

I guarantee it will increase his confidence, his determination to come back and try it again and again.

Let the new guy find a home, and friends, in competitive shooting. He'll come back time and again, to eventually evolve in his own time and at his own pace, into someone who wants to encourage the next New Guy as much as he was encouraged in his first few matches, and into someone who you will be happy to be part of your squad.

He won't ever say anything; but if he did, he'd thank you for it.

PS: I don't know that I'll ever take up "Practical Shotgun" as a regular activity, but I have to say that I was impressed by it and wouldn't mind trying it again, sometime, if the conditions are right. My thanks to Randomly Hitten' for his contribution to my enjoyment of what would otherwise have been a no-shooting-matches weekend, and for introducing me to another aspect of competitive shooting.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

About Rules

One of the main reasons I started this blog last December is because ... well, because I Have Opinions.

I'm not too good at keeping opinions to myself, and sometimes I've been accused of being less than tactful about expressing my opinion. For the last 7+ years, I've had said what I thought on The Unofficial IPSC list when my thoughts turned to IPSC competition.

During the 2004 competitive season, I composed a large (and largely rambling) post to that list every Sunday night. I called the series of letters "Geek Musings", and while I didn't actually manage to post every week, I racked up a lot of 'bandwidth' , whatever that is. While this series managed to generate some interesting controversy, some people couldn't resist commenting that I was putting a LOT of fire downrange. I finally decided that I could speak my piece in another venue, so that if I wanted to refer to the subject on a mailing list I could just provide the link and anybody who didn't want to read a "Geek Length" opinion, they wouldn't have to follow the link.

This has worked fairly well for two months, and I've found that some of the subjects I wrote about in this blog have helped me formulate my thoughts so that I can use the IPSC list when I want a knowledgeable answer to a question. Conversely, some of the thoughts of people on the IPSC list have generated 'blog eat' which I can explore on posts to this blog.

As it happens, some very interesting things have been happening on the IPSC list lately, and I've been so focused on new 'rules' questions that I haven't been doing any blogging lately.

(There has also been a lot of Columbia Cascade Section [CCS] business which has taken much of my free time to address. I foolishly allowed myself to be talked into running for the office of Competition Director ... I ran unopposed, because nobody else was sufficiently naive and/or gullible to actually ASK for the job, so I was eventually elected ... and it turns out that there is a lot more administrative work involved than I had been led to expect. Perhaps I'll write more later about the things I've learned about the duties of Competition Director.)

Paul, a friend of mine, who is a CCS Board of Directors representative for the Dundee Club, has from time to time asked me questions about rules interpretation. He asks questions that would never occur to anyone else, and I have finally decided to refer to him as "The Unibomber" because I have learned to fear opening mail from him, lest it blow up in my face.

During the past couple of weeks, The Unibomber has asked two questions which I couldn't answer. They were so provocative that I took them to the IPSC list, to see if I could find someone who could provide an answer.

Wow! Was I surprised at the responses.

But let me walk through the questions, so you have some grasp of what I'm talking about.

The first question was in response to rule 1.2.1, which I had already mentioned here ... and again here.

9 shots from one location. Is that location a shooting box. What is it if it's the fault lined area at the end of a wall or prop. You have 2 or 3 feet of movement for shooting so is that more than one location. Or are we more going on the fact of can the targets be accessed from more than one location.
As I pondered the question, I realized that there were hidden implications in the 'general' rules for both Medium and Long courses of fire. Accordingly, I asked the IPSC List members questions bout the NEW clause which is included in both sub-rules:

"Course design must not ... allow a competitor to eliminate a location or a view in the course of fire by shooting at all available targets at an earlier location or view."
What is the definition of a location, or a view? The Glossary in the new 2004 rule book defines location as:

"A geographical place within a course of fire."
Okay, that's a start. So what constitutes a 'different' location. Do you have to shuffle your feet to another part of a shooting box? Do you have to move out of or into a shooting box? How big a step does a competitor have to take before he will be considered to have moved to a 'new' location, which is different from the 'earlier' location'?

And what is a "view"?

I couldn't find a definition in the rule book, so I arbitrarily decided that this would be a port, or around one side of a Bianci Barricade. There's no justification for this, this was just the most logical working definition I could envision. I had hoped that someone on The IPSC List would expand on this, or propose an alternative, but that didn't happen.

Then, The Unibomber struck again.

One stage that I was talking about was one we called Board Room. 6 targets around a table with 2 others off in the distance. One shot per target of the 6 around the table, reload, one shot again on the 6 around the table, reload and double tap the 2 distant targets. The mandatory reloads violate this stage more than anything but other than that you are standing in one spot in a shooting box with 8 targets. I take it this type of stage is now illegal because you are firing more than 9 rds from one location. This nice rule is going to make some of the short stages hard to do. Or am I getting confused and all mixed up.

This isn't a bad stage design, actually. The only problem is, it appears to not be a legal IPSC stage.

First, it requires 16 rounds to complete (6 + 6 + 4) so if it's a General Course (rule 1.2.1) it would be defined as a Medium Course (' ... no more than 16 rounds to complete ...") per rule

However, John Amidon (NROI Chairman and VP of USPSA) has provided an interpretation of rule 1.2.1 which essentially says that ... well, I'll just include his entire statement:

JA-What this means, and has been the case for several years, you cannot shoot all the shots from one location or view[:] prior to the change in the wording, IPSC only allowed 9 shots from one location or view[.] [T]this kind of contridicted free style, all it accomplished was to take the boxes off the ground and place them onto walls as ports. With the added language, they are allowing you to have more shots from one location or view, you just cannot shoot them all from one.
(Emphasis added.)

Okay, so we can't " shoot" all of the targets from one location ... is this necessarily A Good Thing?

Some folk on The Unofficial IPSC List suggested that this stage would be a Standard Exercise (rule, and therefore the "General Courses" clause wouldn't apply. Unfortunately, this stage doesn't feature 'strings' and therefore wouldn't be a Standard Exercise under rule 6.1.2.


What's the point?
While I had been voicing my confusion and my dissatisfaction with this NEW RULE during this discussion, I began to receive some unexpected negative responses to my temerity in raising the question at all.

Specifically, one European IPSC member suggested that I was being unreasonable in questioning the rules, and I'll address specific comments here (although I resisted the temptation to do so in the original forum):

I personally do think that you really should stop whining
about the new rules, but other than that, I recommend you
to read the rules 1.5.1 and its sub-paragraphs, which might
answer to your supposed question: "Level I and II matches
are not required to comply strictly with the ... round count
Okay, so according to this person I'm not legitimately asking for clarification; I'm whining. Well, that's an opinion, I can live with that.

However, it's not helpful.

Nor are the suggestions about rule 1.5.1, because
  1. it doesn't address the question about any stage which might be proposed for a Level III [national] match,
  2. the USPSA rule book only allows this 'not required to comply" clause in Level I matches, but does not exempt Level II [sectional] matches,
  3. this rule offers no guidelines on which "round count limitations" may be ignored, and
  4. the original question had very little to do with round count anyway.

Other than that, it was a lot of help.

Our Eurofriend continues:
Therefore, while the rule you so vehemently oppose
actually does not prohibit the application of the
stage you've described, but other rules do. However,
with a small modification the stage might be legal:
Actually, the rule which I "... so vehemently oppose ..." may invalidate the the stage which I described, but I'm not sure why this should be so. This was the reason I asked the question in the first place, yet this yahoo person chose to ignore that. Instead, he began to propose changes in the stage which "... might be legal ...". Amazing. He can't find a rule which might make a perfectly delightful stage (which was legal last year) legal this year, but he can imagine ways in which to change the stage to fit the rules.

Apparently, it will never occur to this mindset that there might possibly be something wrong with the change in the rules.

His final comment is perfectly typical:

When it comes to rules and their application on the stages, IMHO it's more productive to be inventive than crabby. But of course it might depend on thepersonal preferences, plus the definition of the words "crabby" and "inventive".
"IMHO", he says.
Well, there's nothing either humble or inventive about THAT opinion. What he's saying is that the rules are the rules, there's nothing you can do about them, so just take another big ol' bite out of the crow and STFU.

And that's the core of this entire discussion.

There are a lot of people in this world who allow themselves to be presented with "new rules", and accept them whole-heartedly and without reservation. As a consequence, the rules don't have to make sense; it's enough that they are the rules, they are official, and no discussion is either encouraged nor allowed.

On the other hand, there are people who are presented with "new rules" and ask: "WTF? What's this all about? What does it mean, why were they implemented, and how the heck are we suppose to try to make this work when it doesn't make any sense?

Neither group of people will EVER understand the other, because their backgrounds are not mutually compatible.

The EuroPeople don't understand why "We The People" object to the arbitrary imposition of nonsensical rules, rules which don't address any clearly defined problem but seem to have been enacted for no obvious purpose.

The other group can't understand how the EuroPeople can swallow this stuff and still maintain a "it's all right, everything is fine, just follow the rules and nobody will get hurt" attitude.

I think it's because the EuroPeople don't have "The Wizard Of Oz" as part of their cultural background. They don't react to a "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" situation.

This is exactly why the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) will never accept the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) rules without modification. In fact, it's the reason why USPSA should never accept IPSC rules unquestionably.

Those people just don't realize that they are "We the People".
They don't understand that saying "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" is an acceptable reaction.

You can't talk to the EuroPeople when the subject is The Rules.

I'm not going to even try.

I'll just feel sorry for them, when they try to expand the E.U. into a quasi-national body and then can't imagine why it isn't working.