Friday, February 15, 2008
Five days a week I position myself in an office environment open to anybody who cares to walk through the door. We're not allowed to lock it. That would inconvenience our users, and students who stop by to ask directions to the bathroom.
With all of the school shootings (the latest at N.I.U., but high schools receive the same loving attention from disenfranchised a-holes), it's difficult to concentrate on the job. You don't want to lose your 'situational awareness', y'know? Even though I have a carry license, can I carry a gun there? NOOoooooooo! At the mall? NOOooooooo. I can't even go to church without feeling as if I'm more a target than a worshiper.
On the weekends, I spend at much time as possible as possible at gun shops, gun shows, and gun ranges. Can I carry a gun there? Heck yes. I don't even need a license. It is considered "The Thing To Do" there, and there are no disapproving frowns to be seen when I walk by with a range bag full of ammunition and a pistol. I can even carry a gun 'fully exposed", and nobody considers me a risk to public order and safety.
So tell me, when is the last time you heard about a shooting in a Gun Free Zone? What ... today? Sorry, that was a cheap shot.
And when was the last time you heard about a massacre at a gun store, a gun show ("the gun-show loophole"), or a shooting range.
I rest my case.
Thanks to David at War on Guns, we now have a link to a very professional looking website by someone self-called "AmmunitionAccountability.Org"
Ammunition Accountability is a newly forming group of ammunition coding technology supporters. Our group includes gun crime victims, industry representatives, law enforcement, public officials, public policy experts, and more. We are working together to pass legislation to make ammunition coding technology a reality.
Ammunition coding technology works by laser etching the back of each bullet with an alpha-numeric serial number. Then when a potential criminal purchases a box of 9mm cartridges, the box of ammunition and the bullets’ coding numbers would be connected to the purchaser in a statewide database. When a bullet is found at a crime scene, the code on the bullet can be read with a simple magnifying glass and then be run through a statewide database to determine who purchased the ammunition and where, providing a valuable investigative lead.
There are many ways that you can help us solve gun crime around the nation. For more information about our organization or information about the technology contact us: ACT(at)ammunitionaccountability.com.
Their "Legislation" page provides a map of America, with all states having introduced 'encoded ammunition' bills highlighted in red. The states are listed separately, and at the bottom of that page are links to ALL of the bills.
Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.
This is a much more extensive list than I have compiled so far, and likely more current. (Note that Maryland is listed; I had discussed the 2007 bill, but now I find that Maryland has introduced a similar bill on January 30, 2008.) I knew about Arizona, but haven't yet examined the proposed legislation. States NOT on my list include New York and Pennsylvania.
Without yet having followed all of the links, I'm willing to stipulate that TWELVE states have introduced similar bills requiring ammunition serialization, in various forms.
Twelve. Out of fifty. That is very near to a quarter of the country. This moves the issue beyond a trend and (given the organization required to track the information) definitely supports the assumption that there is a central locus which is driving this state-by-state campaign.
This is NOT a 'grass-roots' campaign.
I don't know much about this organization yet, but you can do the follow-up research as well as I can if you care. My cursory view of the website statistics reveals nothing particularly revealing, such as server or geographic location.
However, I note in passing that several of the listed bills refer to firearms rather than ammunition, and further that several of them are identified as 'carried over from 2007' rather than representing 'new' legislation introduced in 2008.
UPDATE: January 25, 2008
Someone ("tangent4ronpaul) on a Ron Paul website posted an excellent analysis of the "Ammunition Accountability" chain of responsibility. I have no idea who 'tangent' is, but one thing is sure ... he's an excellent researcher.
I've only skimmed this post, but the links and the wealth of detail make this one of the premier starting points for anyone who really wants to follow the
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Also, I'm tired of being almost the only voice in the wilderness which is the Internet. I'm beginning to wonder if this can possibly be as important as I think it is, if nobody else is paying any attention to it. Some days I feel like 'the little boy who cried wolf', other days I feel like Chicken Little running around crying 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling'. What kind of animal am I here?
Still, there are a few niggling little questions that I would like answered.
First, it's obvious that there is an organized effort working in the background to get these bills presented in so many states in such a short time span. Who can it be? Obviously it's one of the more influential gun-grabber groups. If it was, wouldn't they be talking about it on their website(s)?
The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence is a strong possibility. They have two related articles on their webpage today. One announces the efforts of Senator Kennedy and Congressman Becerra in introducing the 2008 microstamping bill in the senate and house of representatives. The other announces a study showing that 'states lack common sense gun restrictions'; this article specificially mentions "microstamping", while holding up the California law as a shining example. These certainly suggest a strong interest in such bills as an attack on private firearms ownership, but they don't openly acknowledge any activities to prompt state legislators to introduce them.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence also displays an article touting "microstamping", and offer an article which purports to prove it is viable technology. But the approach they discuss is for the hammer to stamp a code on the primer, not to require bullets and cases to be serialized or encoded. And they, too, don't mention any active campaigns at the state level.
The Violence Policy Center has nothing on their main webpage about the subject. They do have links to a lot of interesting articles in their VPC IN THE NEWS page, but nothing about activism.
And there's nobody home at Americans for Gun Safety -- I can't get their website to load, which may be a problem with their server or maybe they just don't like me.
I went to the National Center for Policy Analysis website for "Crime Issues: Self-Defense & Gun Control" in case they had any thoughts on the matter. They didn't. I'm not surprised, I didn't really expect to find anything, but I like to stop by there from time to time to read some of their excellent articles, such as "Gun Control Advocates Spread Deadly Myths".
Jurist's Gun Laws is hopelessly out of date, and Alan Korwin's Gunlaws.com website, while a great central resource to find the gun laws of any state, doesn't refer directly to any current legislation. Again, these turn out to be reference sources and not "the court of what's happening now" as Flip Wilson use to put it.
So, my "I'm Feeling Lucky" search of the gun control websites linked to on my sidebar came up a gigantic whiff-ball. Maybe someone else can perform a more diligent search, but I don't check out the gun control websites often enough to keep current on their mischief.
The second question is, as a reader commented today: are there any organized efforts at a national level to counter these bills?
Well, the Numero Uno of pro-firearms organizations is the NRA. Their gateway didn't mention ammunition encoding legislature at the state level. The NRA/ILA is all about the D.C. Gun Ban case; they don't seem interested in much below the national level, either. The "state legislation" page does include the 2/12 announcement of another "Bullet Serialization" bill having been introduced in Arizona, which (sigh!) I know I'm gonna have to go look at ... maybe tomorrow. But they don't have anything I can find on the bills introduced in Illinois or Indiana. In Mississippi, they have a short blurb that State Senator Gray Tollison, will not bring S2286 up for consideration in his Senate Judiciary B Committee, of which he is the chairman, effectively killing the bill. That's good news right there ... but we don't know how much of that decision has been influenced by the NRA.
And as far as Tennessee, they have announced (February 1) the "bullet serialization" bills introduced January 17 and provide links where readers can contact their state representatives. Well, that's handy, but it looks like a very low-key effort to stir up grass-roots opposition. It might work, although I can only hope that the Tennessee state chapter of the NRA is working a bit more industriously.
I note in passing that the NRA/IRA hasn't issued any alerts during 2008 for Oregon.
What other national organization might be involved in fighting these bills?
Alan Gottleib's Citizens' Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) has no mention of these bills, does his Second Amendment Foundation, nor does Dave Kopel's Second Amendment Project.
Gun Owners of America - Nothing.
Keep and Bear Arms cites an article on serialization in Arizona, but you have to dig for it, and I can't find the actual link to the article.
Locally, the Oregon Firearms Federation talks about D.C. and Heller, but noting about serialization. I guess if it's not Federal, and it's not yet in Oregon, they don't know about it.
Okay, so much for organized groups and lobbying. How about Bloggers?
Besides me and Phil and Rivrdog, that is.
John Lott - Nothing.
The Gun Zone - Nada.
Kirk of Fun Turns to Tragedy (in Maryland) has an article today!
Kim duToit - zilch.
Michael Bane - huh-uh.
David Codrea at The War on Guns - this isn't the issue he's the only one concerned enough about.
Kevin Baker isn't The Smallest Minority on this issue, I am.
Sam and Denise at The Ten Ring aren't talking about gun issues this month.
Here I am at 1am (looks like an anagram, doesn't it?) with unanswered questions and another geek-length article, full of sound and furry, signifying nothing.
I should be in bed. I have to be at the office early in the morning.
The only question I seem to have answered is: What kind of animal am I?
I'm a dumb bunny.
(Summary Spreadsheet has been updated.)
Pennsylvania has jumped on the Ammunition Encoding Bandwagon:
House Bill 2228:
No. 2228 Session of 2008
FEBRUARY 5, 2008
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY, FEBRUARY 5, 2008
Providing for encoded ammunition; imposing duties on manufacturers, sellers and owners of ammunition; providing for the powers and duties of the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police and the Secretary of Revenue; establishing the encoded ammunition database and the Encoded Ammunition Database Fund; imposing a tax; and imposing penalties.CHAPTER 3
Section 301. Duty of manufacturers to encode ammunition.
(a) General rule.--A manufacturer shall encode ammunition provided for retail sale for egulated firearms in a manner that the commissioner establishes, so that:
(b) Labeling per box.--Ammunition contained in one ammunition box may not be labeled with the same serial number as the ammunition contained in any other ammunition box from the same manufacturer.
- The base of the bullet and the inside of the cartridge casings of each round in a box of ammunition are encoded with the same serial number.
- Each serial number is encoded in such a manner that it is highly likely to permit identification after ammunition discharge and bullet impact.
- The outside of each box of ammunition is labeled with the name of the manufacturer and the same serial number used on the cartridge casings and bases of bullets contained in the box.
Section 302. Duty of owner to dispose of ammunition.
On or before January 1, 2010, an owner of ammunition for use in a regulated firearm that is not encoded by the manufacturer in accordance with section 301 shall dispose of the ammunition.
Information gathered by the vendor includes;
- Name of buyer
- DOB of buyer
- DL# of buyer
- "... Any other information that the commissioner considers necessary"
Penalty for Vendor Violation: Misdemeanor 3rd Degree
Penalty for Manufacturer Violation:
1st occurrence - $1,000;
2nd occurrence - $5,000;
3rd occurrence $10,000.
TAX: Five Cents Per Round
Exceptions: LEO, "...any other agency of the United States ..."
Vendor Reporting: Monthly
Effective Date: "60 days"
It would be difficult to parse a more confusing bill. Since Illinois and California have already submitted the text of their bills, my best guess would be:
Watch This Space. The count of states which have proposed similar bills ... the'Gotcha' States ... has moved up from
It is the text of an email I sent to The Unofficial IPSC List today.
The NRA announced today that Congress (read: Ted Kennedy and such fellow travelers as McCarthy and Rangel, et al) have introduced a bill in both the Senate and the House requiring that firearms sold in the United States be so designed that they will stamp an identifying serial number on all ammunition (read: headstamp brass) fired within semi-automatic handguns.
This is entirely reminiscent of SB357, which passed in the California Senate in 2007.
There is no technology which can reliably effect this encoding effort, although there are a number of ways by which the knowledgeable firearms owner can easily obfuscate such efforts. (A bastard file on the breach-face, for example, would suffice.)
This is just another legislative attempt to impose ruinous regulations on firearms manufacturers and drive up the price of firearms (and ammunition, see below) for the unstated but obvious purpose of imposing bureaucratic controls on the purchase of shooting supplies, including the firearms themselves. It's an end-run on the Second Amendment, a blatant attempt to circumnavigate the Constitutional protections which are an integral part of the American Culture.
This bill is a lock-step part of a recent concerted and coordinated assault on the 2nd Amendment, as evidenced by bills introduced into the legislatures of (so far) Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Washington.
These states have introduced bills which attack not firearms, but the ammunition which are available to shoot in 'handguns' and 'assault weapons'. Since the definition of these categories is fluid, they may be readily be interpreted to apply to almost any caliber of ammunition (note that the Thompson Center handguns may be chambered in such calibers as .30-30, .30-Krag, .30-06, 7mm Magnum, etc This may be interpreted to designate these and similar calibers as 'handgun ammunition' or 'pistol ammunition', since there are no protections against these calibers.)
These ammunition categories are subject to bills, perhaps to be accepted as law, referring to "Encoded Ammunition".
The bills have several characteristics in common.
By a certain date (between 4 months and one year), only 'encoded ammunition' may be sold in these states. "Encoded Ammunition" is defined as bullets with a erial number micro-engraved on the base of the bullet, which must remain legible after being fired. The serial number must be unique to the BOX of bullets (nominally, each 50 bullets or cartridges must have the same unique number.)
Ammunition vendors (retailers!) must register, must identify the retail customer who buys this ammunition (name, DOB, Drivers License number and 'such other information as the regulating authority may deem advisable'), and the vendor has an obligation to register with the state, pay an annual fee, and report on a 'regular basis (monthly, quarterly).
There is typically a 'per-round tax' on the ammunition, which ranges from 0.05 cents to five cents per round, to be remitted to the State to support a database. Penalties (usually 'misdemeanor' may be imposed on the vendor for ignoring the law. Penalties may be imposed on the purchaser for simple possession of 'noncoded' ammunition within one year after 'encoded' ammunition is mandated, and manufacturers who 'attempt to avoid this law are subject to $1,000, $5,000 or $10,00 fines ... for each occurrence.
These bills have been introduced to state legislatures between January 15 and February 8 ... so far.
Given that an equally burdensome bill has been introduced into both Federal houses, we have no reason to expect that these six states are the last to introduce such bills.will be limited to the cited states.
I have been tracking and reporting on these bills. Go to Cogito Egro Geek, and look at the article titled 'Microstamping Ammunition: It Isn't Just For States Any More!'
From there, you can follow the links on the sidebar to articles which describe 'encoded ammunition' laws in the various states.
One of the articles ("the 2008 Geek Guide to Encoded Ammunition" ) ... provides a link to an Excel spreadsheet which summarized the common characteristics of the state bills.
I'm not saying that these bills are likely to pass into law in the various states, I'm just saying that if the majority of legislators in these states are so inclined, there's no reason why they would NOT carry the bills forward unless the voters in these states are willing to become active and lobby against the bills.
Since there is currently no reliable technology upon which the bills may rely on effect such encoding, there's no reason why passage of these bills wouldn't effectively make ammunition so expensive that it is no longer possible to afford to buy ammunition. Ammunition components for reloading are not specifically protected against these measures.
Think you're safe because you live in a 'red state'? Think again. Even many ''Blue states" have a distinctive 'red' tinge.
After all, Mississippi, Tennessee and Indiana may be considered 'Red States' according to the 2004 electoral returns.
I'm being very serious here. Watch your six.
Jerry the (Red State Prisoner in a Blue State) Geek
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Various references are available to this new House Bill (similarly proposed in the Senate), but I'll give the NRA full credit. Well, bills introduced into the Senate aren't nominatively valid because only the House can propose a bill which requires funding ... and when have we EVER seen a new bill introduced which doesn't require funding, unless it's intended to pay lip-service to a person or activity, such as "... Declare April 1 to be 'National Drown-A-Wench Day', for example?
Let's talk about H.R. 5266, titled the "National Crime Gun Identification Act".
Sponsored by Becerra, Conyers, Emanuel, McCarthy (of course!) and Rangel (also of course!) on February 7, 2008, this bill is is proposed " ... To require certain semiautomatic pistols manufactured, imported, or sold by Federal firearms licensees to be capable of microstamping ammunition."
Note that this bill does not require 'encoding' of ammunition by the manufacturer. Instead, it reverts to the 2004 proposition (rejected in 2005 by California, as SB257) of requiring that all firearms be capable of requiring " ... THAT CERTAIN SEMIAUTOMATIC PISTOLS MANUFACTURED, IMPORTED, OR SOLD BY FEDERAL FIREARMS LICENSEES BE CAPABLE OF MICROSTAMPING AMMUNITION."
Just remember, I told you:
If these bills pass the sniff-test in Indiana, Illinois and Mississippi, there's no reason to expect that similar laws won't be enacted by the Federal Government.Not the 'same laws', but 'similar laws'; a law which, as far as we know, is not supported by technology which makes it economically feasible to meet the requirements imposed by this bill.
A closer analysis of this bill reveals the following:
(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 923 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:"Microstamping" is defined as:
‘‘(m)(1)(A) A person licensed under this chapter shall not manufacture, import, or transfer a semiautomatic pistol to which this subparagraph applies that is not capable of m
... when ammunition is fired from the pistol, the characters are copied from the breech face and firing pin onto the cartridge case of the ammunition.
This bill only applies to Semi-automatic pistols which:
... are manufactured, or imported into the United States, on or after the effective date of this subsection;
ENFORCEMENT: Fines for violation are:
- $1,000 for the first offence;
- $2,000 for the second offense;
- $3,000 for the third and subsequent offences;
"..."licens(ing)" is not defined.
... Semiautomatic pistols seem to be the extent to which this bill is limited.
This is a half-hearted attempt to mirror bills which have lately been introduced by individual states ... but it isn't. Instead of attacking the ammunition, it attacks the manufacture of specific firearms. The goal of the Federal bill is similar, to impose unrealistic restrictions (which are not supported by current technology and which are both practicably and economically unfeasible), and thus to end-run the Second Amendment by bureaucracy, technology and economics rather than directly by fiat.
Ammunition manufacturing is a high-volume, low-profit process. Any bureaucratic requirement will tip the scales so that it is impossible to financially support the manufacturing process.
Even more telling is the technological requirements, which as of this date are neither proven nor economically feasible.
This promulgation of ipso facto firearms restrictions is consciously designed not to provide any societal benefit, but to impose such impossible burdens upon the firearms and ammunition manufacturers that they are unable to comply.
It is telling that none of these laws recognize that the technology needed to support them currently exists in a manufacturing environment. The bureaucrats and legislators who impose these restrictions are not unaware of this; in fact, they are counting on it.
They typically do not base the generation of these bills upon any societal advantage, and when they do the proposition is bizarre, unrealistic and patently without foundation. The intent of this bill, and any bill so constructed is obviously designed with the intent to make it unfeasible to own firearms for any but the most extreme use.
That is to say, competitive shooters (who expend thousands of rounds each year) must necessarily discontinue their usual regimen of practice and competition. Hunters must expect that each round fired will cost not cents, not dollars, but tens of dollars. Other firearms enthusiasts (such as Bench-Rest Shooters, and they who otherwise expect to reload their own ammunition even though their expenditure of ammunition is less than"Practical Shooter") will likely find that their ability to load custom ammunition is so beset by arbitrary regulation that their sport becomes financially unsupportable if only because they cannot be certain that they are operating within the imposition of current law.
As for USPSA members, those who shoot upwards of 10,000 rounds per year in peaceful engagement of steel and cardboard targets ... the cost of non-regulated ammunition and firearms has already relegated the practice to those individuals who are able to spend as much on their hobby as is common among advocates of race horses, speed boats and wild women.
These laws would have the not-unforeseen (by these legislators) consequences of making their non-aggressive sport to become a sport which is economically unfeasible. These laws would also have the entirely expected (by these legislators) effect of stopping ALL competitive, ALL hunting-related, MOST self-defensive uses of firearms impossible.
The result, as with all regulation which is considered unreasonable by the general populace, will be that these laws will make felons of those individuals who are generally law-abiding.
Like the smokers who buy Ukrainian cigarettes because they are less expensive than domestic cigarettes, there will arise a counter-culture of ammunition buyers who find, and patronize, 'illicit' purveyors of ammunition of their components.
The United States Government will find itself at war with these individuals, giving rise to a black market not seen since Prohibition.
Cigarette boats will run the Coast Guard gauntlet carrying cigarettes, ammunition and jihadists, and the United States Government will expend so much capital funds guarding its coasts ... not its borders ... that the Whiskey Wars of the 1930's will seem insignificant by comparison.
And the Government will embark upon a War On Whatever which causes the War On Drugs to pale into insignificance, by comparison.
I do hope that Hillary is elected President.
I wouldn't hope that this problem be imposed on anyone I voted for.
And I missed it.
It's not a matter of unconcern as much as a personal attempt to 'have a life'. See, I went to a USPSA match this weekend, and I'm spending all my spare after-work time editing videos taken there. It's as if I went on vacation.
Fortunately, our pal Phil of Random Nuclear Strikes (aka "Soft Green Glow") is picking up the slack. Monday night he wrote about Washington House Bill HB3359, which is generally similar to bills discussed here last week.
The bill title is cleverly non-specific: "Concerning Pistol Ammunition" is not a title which is easily found during the usual GOOGLE search, or even searching the list of bills proposed in that particular legislative branch of that particular state. Phil's diligence is due to the fact that he is a Washington State Resident, is a blogger, and is very much on the look-out for surreptitious attempts to insert spurious bills gun control bills in his state's legislature.
This bill was introduced on February 7, 2008, and was sponsored by:
|Representatives O'Brien, Williams, Flannigan, Pedersen|
(pay attention to these names; they are not your friends.)
The text of the bill is available here as a pdf.
I have added the specifics in the ongoing "Geek's List" project, but here's the short list of provisions:
- Effective date: 1-1-2010
- Information reported: Buyer Name, DOB, DL#, "anything else we can think of"
- Ammunition Vendors must REGISTER with the state
- Vendor reporting penalty: misdemeanor
- Buyer penalties: misdemeanor
- Database information NOT available to public
- The bill requires an 'unique' serial number to be etched on each bullet, but does not define 'unique'. Each bullet must be different? I don't know. The term 'box' is used, but not defined.
- The bill also requires that the 'unique' serial number be etched onto the "inside of the cartridge casing" !!!
- The bill applies to 'pistol ammunition', which is not defined.
- Terms which ARE defined include "pistol" (essentially, barrel length less than 16 inches), "Shotgun", "Crime of Violence" (including Vehicular Homicide and a bunch of other crimes which are probably defined elsewhere);
- Also defined here: "The unique alphanumeric identifier is engraved in such a manner that it is highly likely to permit identification after ammunition discharge and bullet impact";
- No per-round or per-bullet 'tax' is defined.
- There is, curiously, no specified date upon which it is illegal to possess 'noncoded' ammunition.
This is not cause for rejoicing. This is still a bill which represents an end-run on the 2nd Amendment, in that it serves no legitimate practical purpose such as ... hell, I don't know. What legitimate purpose could be served here, except to make ammunition so expensive to manufacture that it effectively prices ammunition beyond the resources of the average law-abiding citizen?
No ammunition manufacturer would be willing to meet the onerous requirements cited here. It is especially telling that this bill would not only require the (impractical) serialization of bullets, but also the (ultimately impractical) serialization of the cartridge case ... on the inside of the case! I cannot imagine any bulk-quantity manufacturing process which would meet the former requirement, but the latter requirement is impossible.
Of course, there are as usual no provisions for delay of enaction of this bill if the requirements are not possible by current technology, let alone reliable and economical mass-production processes.
In short, this is the most impossible-to-comply-with bill which has ever been introduced to any state legislature, to date.
UPDATE: Friday, February 15, 2008
In a comment posted to this article this morning, denib said:
This bill is dead!!
My representative sent me the following on Thursday:
"I want you to know I am opposed to this measure. I am glad to report that the bill has failed to pass out of its committee before a critical deadline. Consequently, the measure is ineligible for further consideration this session."
Woohoo! (for now)
Sunday, February 10, 2008
A word of explanation: Between illness, vacation, family obligations, equipment malfunctions, bad weather, ammunition shortage and ennui, SWMBO shot her last match in September, 2007, and I shot my last match in October.
While I've managed to fill the blog-hours over the last 5 months with related subjects, we have both missed actual shooting at matches. Not only have we missed the matches, we've missed the fresh air, the joy of spending the day in an activity, and the cameraderie of our friends.
For those of you who keep track of such things (nobody but me), I didn't participate in the 2007 Croc Match, but SWMBO and I attended for a few hours to watch. I had managed to dump a bottle of water in my camera bag, rendering my HP R807 digicam hors de combat. I replaced it with an HP 967 digicam which has many new features, including the ability to automatically refocus AND zoom while filming in video mode. I haven't had much time to play with it, and have under 700 shots with it. This doesn't matter to you, I think it's a Geek Thing.
We were determined to attend the match whatever the weather, but were pleasantly surprised to discover a warm, sunny day with lots of blue skies as we loaded the D.O.F. (Damned Old Ford) at 44 degrees. It warmed up to 54 degrees by the time we came back home at 3pm, having experienced 5 hours of standing on gravel while remaining dry; meeting new friends; equipment malfunctions; and our first match under the brand new 2008 USPSA rule book.
When we signed up for the match, we ignored our common practice of signing onto a squad with the most people we knew and enjoyed shooting with. Instead we just found the 'shortest' squad (8 people signed up) and ignored the other names. We had come to play, and enjoy the unseasonably lovely Oregon weather, and if we found new shooting friends, so much the better.
There were 68 people signed up to shoot the match, which is almost unheard of in February in Oregon. I think we were all getting cabin fever, and welcomed any excuse to get out of the house. Also, ARPC is one of the most weather-proof clubs in the country, so even though February matches are typically soggy we didn't much care. At least it wasn't snowing, and the wind wasn't blowing.
We were also surprised to discover that there were four new shooters at this match. These fine folks had been so determined to start the sport of Practical Pistol shooting, they had started during what was ordinarily one of the most climatically foreboding months of the year. (In February of 1995, the Mid-Willamette valley area experienced severe flooding blocking all but one entrance to the town of Corvallis.) The very good news was that two of these new shooters were assigned to our squad, bringing the total squad size up to a healthy 11 shooters.
Before the match actually started, Match Director Mike McCarter took me aside to emphasize that, according to the new 2008 Rule Book, the Range Officer was allowed to 'coach' new shooters. I'm glad he mentioned that, because I was so focused on the new "Make Ready" command (replacing "Load and Make Ready" that I had completely forgotten the improvement.
As it turned out, our squad had only 3 certified Range Officers ... me, SWMBO and Mark K. That meant that not only were we three going to do our fair share of taping cardboard targets, setting and painting steel targets and brassing, we were going to have to do all of the RO chores. (Fortunately, most of the other squad members were happy to help out with the scoring, and only a few of them required instructions on how to fill out the score sheets. That meant that the RO's needed to pay more attention to foot-faults and checking that all targets were taped or reset, but we had only a few false starts due to lapses in this area.)
Our two new shooters were Bill and Steve. Both were state employees ... actually, Geeks! ... from the state capital in Salem. Bill was under 6' tall, had a belly which rivaled my own. He was wearing a fire-engine red shirt with suspenders of the exact same hue. Steve towered over my own six feet height and wore a desert camo headscarf and a chambray shirt. Both were shooting in Production Division.
Before we started them shooting, I talked to both of them about their experience. Neither had done any Practical Pistol shooting other than during their Certification Classes, but were experienced hand gunners as they proved during the match. Their priority was to get through the match safely to complete their Certification process, and to have fun.
I explained to each of them, individually as they came up to shoot the first stage, that the USPSA rules explicitly allowed coaching of new shooters. That meant that if I saw that they were experiencing confusion or other problems while shooting a stage, I would be free to offer suggestions which not only related to safety issues, but would help them to make tactical decisions. For example, if they were having trouble hitting a steel target and were making reloads, I could assume they were in a 'white-line fever' mode and could suggest that they shoot at other targets and come back to this one after they experienced success on those targets. This, and other coaching, were helpful hints which SWMBO and I had been offered by Range Officers which I first started shooting ... and in fact had been so helped even though the rules at that time did not specifically allow.
As the match went on, everybody started to loosen up. Our squad was a bit shorter than the squad preceding us, so we were often waiting for the squad ahead of us to finish a stage so we could move on to it. As a result, we often finished a stage with the squad behind us watching our own performance.
It is the general practice in the Columbia Cascade Section (CCS) to pull the score sheets of new shooters out of the line-up, shuffle the rest of the score sheets, draw the First Shooter, and then put the rest of the score sheets back into the line-up with the new shooters at the end. This allows the new shooters to watch everyone else in the squad and determine which tactical approach best meets their personal strengths. It also allows them to become familiar with the requirements of the stage. Unfortunately, it also makes them the shooters most likely to have a large audience while they are shooting. If you have been competing for a while, you may have forgotten how intimidating this can be on your first 'real match'. (I remember it; I was extremely self-conscious for my first two years of competition, and it is only due to the friendly encouragement of the 'old hands' that I ever got past it. Referring to my abysmal performance while trying to play Golf, it's comparable to being the first in your foursome to tee off on the first tee, while the groups 'behind you' stood around and discussed the impressive flare you demonstrated in topping the ball.)
Half way trough the match, we quit saying "Bill is On Deck, Steve is In The Hole". Instead, we just said "Followed by the 'Bill and Steve' Show."
To be honest, it was the 'Bill and Steve' Show.
New shooters are sometimes completely new to the art of handgun shooting. There are not only safety issues due to unformed gun handling habits, but the new shooters find it difficult to hit the targets. Their skills sets are not yet established, which makes their first experience at an Actual Match personally embarrassing for them.
Not so Bill and Steve.
They may have felt uncomfortable and unsure, but once the buzzer initiated the action, both competitors settled into a credible approach to every stage. They didn't forget targets, they didn'' forget to see the sights, and most importantly they didn't forget safety.
There was a moment on the final stage of the match where Steve overbalanced his foot position on the left side of a shooting 'box' while attempting a difficult shot around an intrusive barrier. As he fell forward his leading foot, his following foot left him facing to the rear. He managed to bring the pistol behind him, keeping the muzzle safely downrange while he turned the pistol upside down so it was easy to point it in a safe direction.
Then, since he wasn't sure what to do, he transferred the gun to his weak hand as he ended up facing completely up-range, while the pistol was still pointing safely downrange. Then he calmly discussed his options with the RO (SWMBO), who explained that as long as he kept the handgun pointing in a safe direction.
Given these instructions he turned back downrange while continuing to keep his pistol pointed in a safe direction, calmly reloaded, and continued the stage.
For a guy who was completely disoriented, I thought he demonstrated a masterful understanding of the safe gun-handling practices necessary for this kind of bizarre situation. This was the last stage of the match, and we were pleased to offer a standing ovation to him, and to Bill (who completed the stage with far fewer dramatic gestures) for successfully completing the final 'test' of his Certification process.
As I said to both Bill and Steve; "you can shoot on my squad anytime!"
Bill and Steve, I hope you are reading this. Every USPSA member (and IPSC members around the world) are typically more concerned with the safe completion of the First Match for new shooters than with our won competitive performance. I won't even go into the way you managed the difficult Texas Star target tonight. Although you both shot the Star well, it is not as impressive as the way you completed a difficult series of stages with grace, stage presence and safety.
Welcome to the League of Disenfranchised USPSA Bums, and I hope you enjoy many more years of it!
(Still photos of this squad are now available at the Geek Video Shooting Gallery.)
(This picture available here; all still photos from this match available here.)