Saturday, August 20, 2016

Be The First One On Your Block To Have Your Kid Come Home With a Glock

With apologies to Country Joe and the Fish. And, thanks to my wife Meena for making the connection. And, not to single out Glock. Its just that it rhymes.

A bit of a dustup over the United Way of Otero County raffling off guns to raise money. New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence protested, saying this violated the United Way rules that exclude fundraising involving alcohol, firearms, tobacco, adult entertainment and gaming products. But then UW backed off and the raffle is on. The NRA rejoiced. More guns, better world. America's Maslow's Gun wins again.

As usual, I come down somewhere in between everyone else and suggest a graded approach. Looking at the list of guns to raffle off by the UW affiliate, here was my comment, slightly edited for clarity, lack of profanity, and because I keep editing everything, to United Way and NMPGV.

To: Miranda Viscoli, Co-president, NM To Prevent Gun Violence
Brian Gallagher, President, United Way
MacKenzie Allen, NMPGV
From: Khal Spencer, Firearms owner and NMPGV

 I looked at the  list of firearms being raffled by the Otero County UW.

Most of the guns are everyday guns. But of course an everyday gun is only as safe as whoever owns it. I would hope that if someone wins an everyday gun, there is an attempt to make sure the person has basic knowledge of safe firearms handling. Of course, the gun shop is responsible for NICS background checks.

The Bushmasters (and civilian versions of military assault rifles in general) are always a point of contention. I think they are interesting guns but refuse to buy one on general principles.  Personally, I wish they were never marketed to the civilian market or if they were, under restrictions analogous to those that cover machine guns, i.e., a National Firearms Act item. With millions out there, we need to make sure law abiding owners respect them and prohibited persons don't get them. I would actually prefer that if someone is going to get an AR, they pay full freight.

The Barrett (it is an M-95) is the one that would worry me. That fires a 50 cal round that is lethal at extreme ranges of several miles and if used carelessly (I know of a couple people who own similar arms and are quite respectful and careful of them), can be a problem. If I were United Way, I would not want to raffle off a military grade gun that could kill at several miles and then read about it in the paper when someone has no idea what is downrange, like another town. Or, if someone flips it to a unknown third party to turn a fifty dollar raffle ticket into 10k in the bank. Plus, I strongly suspect a 50 BMG firearm is not protected under Heller's “in common use at the time” clause in section (2).

I have a particular bone to pick with raffling off a Barrett and not knowing if the winner would know the muzzle from the breech. When we lived in Hawaii, we were about a mile and a half from a civilian rifle range at Koko Head. One day we came home from the University, where Meena and I both were faculty members, and there was drywall dust on the floor and a hole in the roof. I put a stick through the hole and it pointed to the range.  Range officer said there was no way a civilian from his range could do that, so we called the police and the cops called a forensic firearms investigator, who used a fiber optics probe to get the bullet out of an interior wall where it had come to rest. Turns out the bullet was the tungsten core of a military, armor piercing 50 cal BMG round. The range officer confessed and said he let some Air Force guys practice with a Barrett on the civilian range (which was illegal) and obviously someone missed the backstop. The bullet flew all the way across a densely populated residential valley to our house and penetrated the roof and an interior wall. Air Force eventually paid for the damages but that damn bullet lodged in a wall two feet from where Meena used to sit and grade papers.

So. As a gun guy myself, my admonition to United Way is this: Is UW confident that selling military grade hardware to raffle winners is safe, even if it is legal?

Added much later. Rather than getting into a dustup over gun rights vs. gun control, two things are relevant here. One, this appears to have violated United Way's own rules and an officer at another UW affiliate (Santa Fe) working on gun violence prevention is justified in calling them on it. Two, if you are going to raffle off guns up to and including semiautomatic assault style rifles and a Barrett 50BMG rifle, someone worried about those guns in civilian hands is going to challenge it. If I were the President of UW, I would, at minimum, ditch the Barrett. Maybe even the ARs. If someone wants a 50 BMG, let them pay full freight. Generally, that means that the only folks who own them really do appreciate their capabilities.  As well as the cost of ammo.

And of course, since I love the song.

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