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So… I have received a ton of questions over the last few weeks regarding ammunition sales, and if we are going to even have ammunition available to us in California in 2019. I guess it is high time to address this:
A couple of years ago, the people of the Collective of California passed Proposition 63. There was also companion legislation called SB 1235… So, no worries, even if you had been successful in striking down Prop 63, our benevolent overlords would have put you in your place with 1235. Regardless, we have now decided that, in addition to weapons being regulated, our ammunition needs to be regulated as well.
The first concern was the fact that people could buy ammunition from an online vendor and have the ammunition shipped directly to their doors.
Well, we smacked that down right away! Starting in 2018, if you wanted to buy ammo online you would first have to ship it to an ammo vendor licensee. Then, he would hand it over to you. The irony is that the California Department of Justice gave us very few guidelines on how we were to actually do that.
Do we make purchasers sign forms? Do we take copies of their IDs? With literally no statutory language, and DOJ seeming to have better things to do than inform us, we came up with our own system.
The language of Prop 63 and SB 1235 does require something new and exciting which will take place this coming July, and that has many people concerned: electronic background checks at the time of transfer.
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There are times in our lives when we can see a train wreck in the making. Typically, when the government gets involved in something, the chances of this happening go up exponentially. What appears to be happening right now is a cosmic aligning of forces that will result in a disastrous purchasing process. This, of course, presupposes that the DOJ will be able to cobble together the necessary website interface before July. Based on its history with SB 880, there is no guarantee it will be successful. We will leave that for another blog though.
Two weeks ago, DOJ announced its proposed regulations, essentially, “This is how we think it should be done.” It envision three types of purchasers: regular purchasers, one-time purchasers, and exempt purchasers.
Let’s see how this plays out for all three:
If you are a regular aficionado of ammunition, you will want to get an ammunition purchaser’s card. At least I think it will be a card… but, basically, it will be the functional equivalent to a TSA pre-screening pass. Once you have this document… Oh, and by the way, we have no clue how long it will take to get one. Is this a one-day process? A one-month process? A one-year process? Hell… we still have clients who are waiting to get their assault weapons registration from DOJ!!! Anyhow, each time you purchase ammunition you will present your credentials. The guy behind the counter (sorry… the gender-neutral customer service agent behind the counter)… will input your information into a website. We think… and we stress “think”… that since you have gone through the hassle of getting the background check done first, you should get an instant “approved ammunition purchase” through the, as yet non-existent, website and off you go with your state-approved ammunition.
On the other hand…
Let’s say that you are not a regular connoisseur of ammunition. You are completely unaware of this new upcoming procedure, and yet you want to buy some ammunition for the big pumpkin shooting event in the desert next weekend. Off you go to the store, where you are promptly told by the clerk that you have been designated by the State as a one-time purchaser of ammunition. Without a clearance check you are only allowed to buy ammunition once every 30 days? Or can you buy multiple times in 30 days on the same background check done for the initial purchase? The proposed regulations are a little ambiguous. Worse, it is entirely possible that the meaning of the regulations could suggest that a check on an individual is good for only 30 days… but there is no time requirement for approval of the sale! Meaning, they could get back to you in 35 days that you are approved, but by then the time has expired on the initial check, and you have to start all over again… potentially ad infinitum.
How cute… Kafka wants some ammo.
As an ammo vendor, there is an additional problem. The way that the regulations state, it would appear that we are going to have a website very similar to our DROS system (we call it a DES platform). See, the thing is with the DROS / DES is when you buy a gun, you have a statutorily-mandated, ten-day waiting period. At the end of ten days, the “pending” button on the website literally changes to “approved,” “delayed,” or “denied”. The thing is, there is a predictability to it. You can DROS a gun on January 1st at 1200, and plan on coming in on January 10th at 1200 to pick up your gun.
With this ammo check system, there is no statutorily-mandated, ten-day period. The gender-neutral customer service agent puts in the information, and now must inform customers they should come back at some vague future time when the Collective has decided to bless (or not bless) the transaction.
The last group is the exempt individuals.
This one is frankly weird. There are a number of individuals who are exempt from this recording requirement, and the list of exemptions is not duplicative of the other exemptions of other areas of the ammo law. For instance, as an FFL holder… any type of FFL holder…. you are exempt from having to go through this. However, the same FFL holder is not exempt from the restrictions on transporting ammunition into the State of California. Why it went from restrictive on one side to expansive on the other is beyond me. Additionally, there are others who enjoy exemptions, but they have to prove their exemption. This is my favorite… being a LEO (law enforcement officer) is not enough anymore. You have to show your badge, but then you have to have a written letter from your mother, sorry… supervisor… stating that you should be exempt. We, as ammo vendors, need to make copies of said documents, and do something with them. I’m not joking when I say “something.” Since the officer, or FFL holder, is exempt, there is no need to go on the (as yet to be built) website. That means there is literally no record of the transaction with anyone. If we keep copies of the documents, who will know to look for them? If we destroy them, who will know that we did?
Federal officers… This one takes absurdity to the next level. It is a federal offense to photocopy a federal law enforcement officer’s ID. Why this is the case is beyond me… but it is. That means if we exempt a federal law enforcement officer out of this scheme, DOJ wants us to photocopy… wait for it… his business card!
Yep, so a business card generated by some guy on his computer might defeat this whole scheme.
There is actually a kind of elegance in that.
Last week we talked about faith. This intersession between Christmas and New Year's we are going to talk about stupidity… specifically, the arrogance of ignorance within our own community and how we must deal with that, not only for our own protection but, frankly, for our own reputation.
Two stories to help illuminate:
“The Stupid is Legion”
Last week I received an email from a client who, a year ago, moved to Texas. He still reads this blog, and comments frequently to me (Hi Dave… hope things are going well in America!). Anyhow, he has joined a local shooting club outside of Austin and regularly goes there to train. He typically goes in the morning right after the outdoor range opens. Usually the range has limited shooters at this time, and those who are there are mostly retired vets. It is a self-policed range, and shooters share the shooting line with each other. This particular day he went later than usual and brought his son with him. When he arrived, the number of people on the range was heavier than he normally sees. After a brief stay at the fumble table, he and his son approached the three-yard line to begin shooting drills out of the holster.
As I mentioned, this is a self-policed range and the shooting line moves informally up and down the range as the shooters collectively agree to move up or back from the targets. This particular range does not have an RSO on staff… an unfortunate reality of many ranges throughout the country… but one that we have to deal with. Regardless, our community is made up of safety-conscious, decent people, and informal systems of order manifest at all of these unsupervised ranges. Polite people figure out how to make things work.
This particular day an interloper was at the range.
As Dave and his son were shooting, his son experienced a malfunction. Dave helped him clear it, and as he did so he saw a young soldier standing on the seven-yard line, waiting for Dave and his son to finish. Once Dave saw this young man waiting, he made the decision to move his son back to the seven-yard line so that this solider could start shooting.
Evidently, another shooter did not possess the same level of patience.
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As he was clearing his son’s malfunction, he heard a shot ring out from behind him. He looked back and, standing on the seven-yard line on the opposite side of the range, stood a “unique” looking individual. As Dave described:
….when from behind us, all of a sudden this jackass country bumpkin with unlaced shin-high boots with the tongues sticking and out laces dragging, unkempt beard and hair, and a goofy stance with a ridiculous grip starts unloading from behind us. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM, about five rounds in 2.5 seconds…
Both Dave and the solider “counseled” this individual on the problems associated with shooting while someone was down range.
Now, I say “counseled” in quotes, but that is essentially what they did. They did not raise their voices or become combative. They just wanted this moron to realize it was not a good idea to be shooting when people were between him and his target. Apparently he was less than accepting of the criticism and stormed off the range muttering something about “hating people” as he marched past the fumble table where a handful of shooters stood in aghast watching what had just transpired.
The owner of the facility came to Dave and informed him that the individual would not be allowed back on the range. That is good I guess… though I am a little concerned about the mental state of this gentleman.
Regardless, both Dave and the solider handled this perfectly. First, they moved quickly to safety, and then addressed the situation in a cool and professional manner. The fact is that the bonehead was so insecure that he could not accept the fact he was putting others in danger and also could not tolerate a simple talking to. Essentially, Dave did all he could do.
Now onto story #2…
“If You are an Ass, People Will Listen”
Some of you may remember this story from a couple of years ago, but it still burns me up when I think about it.
I was at the range with two students. One was an elderly gentleman who was just getting into shooting. The other was a federal agent who wanted to get in a little range time prior to a qualification shoot. The older shooter was a truly nice man who happened to be suffering from a debilitating disease that affects his speech. It also tires him out pretty quickly. After a couple of shooting evolutions, he returned to the benches at the back of the range while I worked with the agent.
While he was sitting down, he pulled out his gun to put it away. This is a major safety violation since we were still down range, and one that he should have known better than to do.
I never got a chance to correct his behavior.
From across the bays an RSO from a security company began screaming at him. He quickly put the gun away and looked sheepishly at the RSO and attempted to apologize. The RSO was having nothing of it. He continued to berate the student as I approached to intervene.
The agent also approached behind me. I apologized to the RSO and counseled the shooter on the breach of safety he just engaged in. As I did so, the RSO turned and walked back toward his partner. As he did so, the agent came up to the student and said, “What you did was dangerous, but that reaction was uncalled for.” Now, he said this in a conversational tone, that was meant only for the student. Unfortunately, the RSO’s partner was wearing electronic ears and heard this exchange. Now it was his turn for righteous indignation.
The second RSO screamed at the agent. “What the F@#K?!? You don’t like the way we talk?! You want to take this up with me?!?”
The second RSO, who was significantly taller than the first, started marching towards the agent, his face red, and the veins in his temples pulsating.
The agent stood there as this RSO crossed the distance to him.
“You want to question us?! You want to go out into the parking lot and take care of this?!”
The agent just stood there with a slight smile on his face as this ass screamed at him and gesticulated wildly.
I looked at these two, astonished. Both were carrying guns in their holsters as the RSO’s temper continued to elevate.
“Ummm… can I talk to you a minute?” I said to the RSO trying to be as calm as possible.
“Did you hear what he said!?”
“I did… can I talk to you a moment?”
“What the F@#K??”
“You are about to engage in an altercation with a federal officer who is on duty. You have no clue what a cataclysmic, life-changing event is about to occur to you. I highly advise you to apologize quickly, and go back to your shooting bay.”
“He’s an agent?”
He quickly apologized and walked away.
Here is the thing… federal agent or not… this dude was armed. Who challenges an armed man to a fight in the parking lot? Over what, a comment that he made to an embarrassed elderly man?
The initial infraction was handled poorly by the first RSO… the second interaction was… well… just weird.
We need to be aware of what goes on around us, especially at the range. We need to know that while we are a tight-knit community, the people who gather at a shooting range come to the range with different abilities, mindsets and, in some instances, diminished impulse control.
As both stories above illustrate, we must be firm in enforcing our rules of conduct… but we must be judicious in how we communicate that enforcement.
As I was preparing to write this blog, I looked at the calendar and had a bit of, shall we say, a revelation. This will be my last opportunity to write to you before Christmas! As such, it behooves me to share a Christmas blog… a little early to be sure, but close enough for government work.
The gravamen of this particular blog is a little out of our normal subject matter, faith… and not in a traditional religious sense.
Faith is an extremely important, if not an all-important, component of our spiritual dimension. Whether you are a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, an Atheist, an Agnostic (or, like me, somewhat of a Deistic Existentialist), faith underlies the basic foundation for all spiritual thought. For without a belief that something exists beyond our mortal realm, or for the Atheist faith that nothing beyond exists, our spiritual development stops at the water's edge.
Faith also exists in our interpersonal lives and has a transmutative nature. When we have faith in those around us, real faith… not patronizing support… our own lives are enriched by the contributions of others.
Years ago, 1999 to be exact, I watched a truly beautiful movie. Ed Harris, one of my favorite actors, played the role of a Roman Catholic priest. He was based at the Vatican and his job was to discredit miracles putatively attributed to deceased individuals who had been nominated to sainthood. (In the Roman Catholic tradition, someone cannot be beatified until there have been three confirmed miracles attributed to them… hence the name of the movie: The Third Miracle.)
Harris’ job was to keep the “Saint Rolodex” as exclusive as possible. Basically, he needed to investigate the “miracles” and discredit them. In the movie, a deceased individual who undeniably led an exemplary life is “up for sainthood.” Globally, there were three miracles that had reportedly taken place after people prayed in the name of this individual. So, off Harris goes to investigate… and ostensibly discredit… these events.
The one wrinkle in the move is that Ed Harris is a priest who has lost his faith. He is, at this point in his life, agnostic at best and heavily leaning toward atheism. He still goes through the motions of a priest, because… well… it is all that he knows. Two of the miracles he cannot discredit. The third one, however, is clearly the result of medical treatment and has nothing to do with divine intervention. During his journey, though, he regains his faith. This event, his acceptance of the divine, he considers to be the “third miracle” and reports his findings which result in beatification.
It is a beautiful movie that showed me something that my religious studies professors in college left out of the curriculum: Divine inspiration often comes from the interactions with those around us.
Angelica, some of you know her by her call sign as Seraphim, is without question the most “religious” of us here at the Artemis Defense Institute. She is a deeply devoted Christian and her faith is both inspiring and intellectually stimulating. She has a faith in the core of her religious convictions, yet is passionately aggressive in challenging some of the assumptions that many consider to be orthodoxy of the church. She is an intellectually demanding adherent to Christ; her faith is not challenged by those she meets, it is strengthened.
A couple of weeks ago I met her opposite, an Israeli who served in the IDF and lost many of his platoon to an assault by Hezbollah.
He retains his “Jewishness,” as I am “Jewish,” but he is now a devout atheist. He argues that the existence of God is supplanted by the reality that he allowed his so called “chosen people” to be murdered in front of him. His belief in the mythology of the Abrahamic tradition is tempered by the cold reality of the carnage that he saw, driven to a large part by adherents to that mythology. He has faith too… faith that the world has been duped by the need to believe in something beyond people’s desire to control other people.
While the description of the IDF SGT above might sound dismal, it is not intended to be. His faith dictates his decisions. He sees what he wants to see, and constructs his life based around the precepts he has created. These precepts were forged in aggression, and destruction, and to a large extent shaped him into who he is today. But we are not static creatures, are we? Faith sometimes changes with circumstances.
Just ask Angelica… like the Apostle Paul, she came to her faith… she was not always the same person she is today.
For me faith, and the struggle I have had with faith, has taken on an almost Muslim philosophical approach. The Koran talks of individual “submission.” That submission to faith has been one of the hardest things that I have had to struggle with throughout my life.
This struggle is especially true when faith becomes the faith in others.
The word Israel literally means “one who struggles”… it actually means “one who struggles with God”… but that struggle can take on a broad context.
I have struggled a great deal with the submission to faith in the good and the wisdom of others.
My wife and partner, Sandy, is the strongest and the wisest person I know. I married her for a reason. She challenges me, she stimulates me, and she guides me. Yet, my faith in her love for me, her respect for me, and her wisdom in life has always been challenged by my own insecurities. I might have claimed to have faith in her wisdom… but that faith had an intellectual safety net girded underneath.
When Sandy first proposed the Artemis Defense Institute, I was skeptical. I looked for the reasons it would not work, and had little trust in her wisdom that it would. When she would develop programing for Artemis or organizational structures, I would resist… not because I disagreed with the concepts, but, rather, I questioned my faith in her wisdom.
This made little sense. I knew, empirically and instinctively knew, her abilities far exceeded my own, and yet, I still resisted her ideas, all the while claiming to all who would listen that she was the smartest, most talented person I had ever known.
Like Ed Harris, I wore the vestments, but in reality, had abandoned my faith.
Something happened… and honestly I cannot point to one thing… not one transmutable event… instead it is more likely the result of self-introspection… and yes… the intellectual struggle of self-assessment… but I have learned to accept and rely on my faith. My faith in my wife has given me strength and comfort… just like Angelica’s faith in Christ gives her strength and comfort.
Is Sandy perfect? Not by a long shot… nor would she ever claim to be. Do I have faith in her wisdom and her support of me, of my family, and our extended family at Artemis? Yes… with absolute conviction.
So… there you have it:
Perhaps, that is the ultimate meaning of Christmas, not the arbitrary date we choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and not the pagan adoption of an elf who delivers gifts, not even the altruistic platitudes of “Peace on Earth” and “Good Will to Men.”
Perhaps the ultimate meaning of faith is a reflection on faith, and the beauty that comes from reciprocal love, both spiritual and personal, a love forged from a rigorous exploration of our own individual faiths.
As we head into the Christmas holidays, may the burdens of your world be lightened, may your families gather together to give you strength. May your times of reflection make you stronger, and may you sleep secure under the blanket of safety and freedom that others stand watch to provide. May you love each other deeply, and may you love yourself with the same passion. Have faith that the angels of heaven martial in your presence and guide you with the radiance of God himself.
God bless you all, and Merry Christmas!
As we roll steadily towards Christmas we must pause to acknowledge the universal desire of this season. From the time we were children we were instructed that this is the time when we yearn for peace on earth, and good will towards men. (I am sure we can expand that to include everyone). We are regaled with stories of soldiers in distant lands in past wars laying down their arms and engaging in acts of brotherhood with enemy soldiers. Strangers, anonymously making monetary donations to others for the sheer reason that they can. Families, some of whom are going through tremendous interfamilial trauma turning rejecting the mindset of victimization and handing olive branches to wayward members.
Then there is the s@#t that I’ve seen this year.
Last week, as many of you know I was on a flight back from Florida with Kavon. We were separated by a couple of rows and we both had middle seats on the leg from Dallas to Orange County.
Next to me against the window sat a typical middle age businessman. When the flight reached the appropriate altitude the familiar two chimes range out and we both reached for our lap tops. The person in the seat in front of him decided to recline his seat…not by much, but enough that my neighbor decided to recline as well.
Well… the person in the seat behind him was going to have none of that.
What followed was an altercation that involved the malcontent behind us banging on my neighbors seat when his demands that he raise his seat up were not acquiesced too. (Evidentially the gentleman behind us was not used to people refusing his demands). I debated on getting involved… after all this was between my neighbor and the person directly behind him. After the first bang on the seat, my neighbor hit the call attendant button and let the flight attendant deal with the malcontent.
She counseled the individual behind us that his behavior would result in the Captain getting involved if he continued. He evidentially thought that would be a poor conclusion to this encounter and apologized. We did not hear from he again during the flight.
I remember thinking to myself: “Who does this?” The level of arrogance required to demand that someone… a stranger… forego what they are entitled to for the singular benefit of the requester when there is no extenuating circumstances is beyond my comprehension. That, and the fact that this guy had no idea who he was engaging with. For all he knew my neighbor was suffering from a mental condition and was just as prepared to acquiesce as he was to stab him in the throat with his pen.
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Then we had the McDonalds event from last Wednesday.
I had gone to the drive thru to pick up lunch for Sandy and myself. It was about 11:30 and the line had already started to form. This particular McDonalds has the potential to enter the drive thru either from the back of the building, or straight in from another part of the parking lot. Kinda hard to explain… but basically the “line” of cars can enter from two places forming a 90 degree angle.
Anyhow… there was a woman at the order box and then me directly behind her. Behind me was a white cadillac entering from the back of McDonalds, and another car coming in from the other direction. I could sort of instinctively tell that both were jockeying for the space behind me. For some reason that escapes me, since I could not see the driver in the other car (not the cadillac) I felt that it was being driven by a woman.
In any event, as I moved forward I saw in my mirrors both cars lurch forward. Then the driver of the cadillac got out of his car and started screaming at the driver of the second car. This guy looked to be about 5’9”, bald and about 220lbs.
He was lit.
“Move your f@#ing car! I was hear first!”
He then walked up to the other cars driver side window.
Again… for some reason I am thinking that this other driver is a woman.
Now, I consider myself to be somewhat of a feminist. No… scratch that…I am a humanist. I have been blessed to have been surrounded by extremely strong woman throughout my life. Starting with my Grandmother and working down two generations to my own daughters, each woman in my life has been anything but a lilting flower.
That said… I still have vestiges of chivalry in my DNA… and when I see a woman being victimized it tends to take me over the edge.
I opened the door to my truck and got out. Turns out I was wrong. The second driver was not a woman. He was a smaller thin man, sitting in his vehicle not looking at his assailant and clearly terrified of the large man standing next to his vehicle screaming at him.
Then the first driver pounded on the second drivers window and door.
“Hey! Bud… just so you know… there are a ton of cops in this parking lot right now. You are in the process of making a life changing mistake.”
“He cut in front of me!!!”
“Yeah… I get it… but is it worth it?”
The first driver looked down and walked back to his cadilac.
As I went through the McDonalds I started thinking about both of these events. What causes these people to do these things? I totally get that people can get pissed off at other people. That is kind of part and parcel of the human condition. But people have no idea about the background and the condition of the people that pissed them off. What if the guy on the plane had just found out that he had lost his wife to cancer? What if the driver of the other car had just murdered his entire family and had a weapon with him in the center consul?
Discretion is 99% of the time is the better part of valor.
For those of you who have been through our CCW class, reflect on the story I talk about with Charles and grandfather driving the gold Oldsmobile. I am sure you remember it. Charles has the skill sets and ability to destroy the abusive grandfather. Instead Charles simply moved to the side of the road and let him pass.
When I tell you “if you go to guns, you’ve lost”, it is typically stated in the context of you being the victim of an aggressor. I should not have to say this… but NEVER be the aggressor yourself!
There has been a historic progression of training in weapons, literally, since the dawn of time.
People have relied on others to educate them on the usage of tools and tactics to protect themselves and their tribes against the aggression of others.
Through constant training, the pupil strives to become a Master of Skill at Arms.
Our methods of training and teaching have evolved throughout the millennia. This evolution has been a factor of both technology and social trends.
Mastery of Skill at Arms was once a talent relegated to the wealthy. To acquire training required money, and monetary resources were limited. Basic soldiering could be acquired through military service, but this usually fostered very basic skills necessary to ensure a general understanding of the soldier’s weapon.
As our societies changed, and as weapon systems progressed, the need for training also expanded. The greatest change, though, is a fundamental paradigm shift in our understanding of the “weapons system”. We now realize that the weapons platform is simply a component part of a fully integrated weapons system. That system is “us,” the individual warrior, cop, CCW holder or soccer mom. Some systems have access to greater, more efficient weapons. Others only have access to limited force multiplying devices. Still others, depending on the permissiveness of their environment, must rely on improvised weapons of opportunity.
This more expansive view of Mastery of Skill at Arms comes with a more dynamic training requirement. We now must not only understand the physical manipulations of our weapons, but we must also understand the physical limitations of our own bodies. We gather this data from realistic, simulation-based training.
Kavon and I spent the last week in Orlando, Florida at the ITSEC conference. This primarily military convention highlights the usage of simulation-based training in teaching methodologies and developing a more lethal military. It also serves as a meeting ground of technology producers and training end-users.
The take-aways from the trip are important.
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First and foremost, the demand from our military (and allied militaries from around the world) to develop warfighters, without exposing our soldiers to war, in and of itself as a training environment, is at an all time high. This makes sense. From an economics perspective, every soldier, sailor, airman and marine costs money. They are resources that must be kept in working order. If the only way to train these resources is to expose them to lethal force, the survivability of the defense force itself will be called into question. (That, and recruiting new members of the unit might be a tad too difficult.)
In order to provide the training required to make cognitive decisions with limited information under the high-stress environment of combat, and more importantly… working as a team of warriors to provide intel and secure a military objective, the training environment itself must be as realistic as possible.
The use of technology is bringing the battlefield, the operating room, the city street to the training ground.
As with all simulations, a 100% accurate representation of a combat environment will be elusive. Mission failure in a simulation does not equate to mission failure in the real world. Establishing specific learning objectives might be a completely reasonable goal. The student may never fully appreciate the stress of combat in a simulator, but students will, ultimately, be competent, if not masterful in their manipulations of their weapons.
One area where this is especially true is combat aviation.
At the show, Kavon and I both flew multiple airframe simulators. The realism ranged from excellent to… “OMG… how the hell did I wind up here flying an F-18?”
The ability to engage enemy targets existed… but that was really not the point per se. Understanding the platform in a safe environment is a far more important learning objective. Preventing the death or injury of a pilot, and the destruction of a multi-million dollar airframe, become far more likely if we have the pilot make mistakes in a simulator first.
Technology is expanding, and doing so exponentially. What is of concern to me, though, and we saw it to a degree at the convention, is technology for the sake of technology. We must have a training goal in mind first. We must understand the needs of our students always. We must have a rigid mission objective of developing Masters of Skill at Arms. We then incorporate the technology to help achieve the mission. We do not create a mission to justify the purchase of the technology.
All in all, it was an interesting convention… one that we will plan to attend each year.
(It was also kind of fun to watch Kavon get as excited as a kid to live his dream of flying an Apache Helicopter… then bounce it during his landing.)
“I’m buying a new gun.”
“Don’t you want to know which one?”
“When Sandy finds out you bought a new gun she is going to kill you before you have a chance to DROS it into your name.”
“Well, do you want to see what I want to get.”
“Take a look at this beauty!”
“Good Lord! What the hell is that?!?”
“It’s a Mossberg 464 SPX Lever Action 30.30!”
“It looks like a AR-15 cowboy gun.”
“Yeah! I know! A lever action black, scary rifle! I’m going to put Vortex Optics on it and offset iron sights! Cause, you know… why not?!?”
“Sandy really is going to kill you.”
“Heh heh, I know right?!”
So, the above conversation took place between Kavon and myself a couple of weeks ago. The rifle in question is, in fact, the Mossberg 464 SPX. For those of you old enough to have watched the western TV show, The Rifleman, you may remember that the main character wielded a lever action 30.30. This was the quintessential “cowboy” rifle.
As the government of California has done its best to make the acquisition of “black, scary rifles” as difficult (and in many instances as distasteful) as possible, Mossberg has thrown a grenade of sorts over the enemy’s wall.
The 464 SPX is both elegant and arrogant at the same time. Anti-gunners are fond of using the missive, “No one needs that type of gun.” Mossberg has actually made one that even some pro 2A people may end up thinking that exact thing.
Kavon, ADI’s general manager, was the other part of that conversation above. He is infinitely more rational than I am. He also completely understands the spiritual value that comes with showing the State a big, black, tactical middle finger.
“How are you going to carry that, Steven?”
“On a single-point sling, just like my AR.”
“Yes… of course… why would you carry it any other way.”
There is here, of course, a greater point. The State has endeavored to ban weapons that cosmetically offend certain individuals. This rifle appears to be specifically designed to offend those same people, and their patrons in Sacramento.
George Orwell opined that the greatest fear a despot has is being laughed at. Thus, the State cannot tolerate being mocked.
Which is exactly the reason I will be buying this gun.
(Please, don’t tell Sandy!)
“I don’t vote for the party… I vote for the person.”
“What does that mean?”
“Honestly, what does that mean? Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that there are good, decent people who exist at all points along the political spectrum. There are also some truly disdainful people along that continuum as well. What does their charismatic charm have to do with their political philosophy?”
“I will only vote for honest, moral leaders.”
“Of course, but does that mean your vote could sway between a follower of Mahatma Gandhi one election to a devotee of Stalin the next?”
“You say your vote centers on the individual… what are the political and philosophical principles that guide that individual? What makes his ideology appealing to you or, conversely, turns you away from his opponent?”
“Well, all I know is that I liked the message that my new representative put out there.”
“Really, what was that message?”
“Umm, well, he is against President Trump. President Trump is a racist.”
“Ok… perhaps he is, perhaps he is not. Before he became president, he was a darling of the Rainbow Coalition so the Reverend Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson obviously did not feel that way about him. But let us, just for the sake of argument, say he is… so what?”
“Seriously… so what.”
“I’ll go one step further… let us assume that he is completely evil, yet only operates within the constructs of Constitutional government. While he may be disdainful, and even evil, the power he holds over you is unbelievably limited.”
“On the other hand, what if you have a benign dictator, one who has an agenda that directly controls the direction of your life?… What if you have a dictator who has the power to determine winners and losers and ignores the restraints of the Constitution… but is generally a ‘nice guy’? Would you vote for him?”
“Well, no! I would never vote for a dictator! Besides, I don’t think that Trump follows the Constitution!”
“Yeah… there is that. I blew a gasket myself when he stated that due process should be an afterthought after the Parkland massacre.”
“Yeah… besides, he is a Nationalist! He said so! Hell, he even boasted about it!”
“Ummm, okay. What is the opposite of being a Nationalist?”
“That is code for racism!”
“Really, well in my mind being against nationalism is code for being a Globalist.”
“I am a globalist!”
“So, you voted for your candidates because they, too, are Globalists?”
“Well… I assume they are.”
“What if I told you they, too, are Nationalists. Worse, they are Statists. Their philosophy is to empower the State at the direct expense of the People. They are not interested in their constituents… they are only interested in the advancement of the State. They are the party of big business, because more people can be controlled if they are economically dependent on an employer. It is far easier to control a handful of employers than millions of business owners across the country. They seek to control the levers of government because they feel they are infallible. They also feel they are substantively smarter than you. If you question them, question their motives, question their policies then you are the enemy. Your job is to be compliant. If you fail to do that job, they will bring the power of the State down upon you.”
“Oh come on… that is not how it goes!”
“Really… look at the riots that happen in cities spurned on by anti-capitalists. Look at the demonstrations on college campuses. Look at how young students seek, no demand, that their civil rights be taken away by a government that will protect them. Their faith in the government borders on the religious. Questioning that faith makes you a heretic and someone who must be silenced. They even said that unless they are returned to power… unless the Statist-controlling regime becomes ingrained in daily life, they will continue to make violence… since their powers of dialectic persuasion are not enough.”
“I think you are taking this too far.”
“No, my friend… I am taking them at their word. The left has never been without charismatic leaders. The mass graves across the world are testament to that. Next time… before you vote for a candidate, stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself… What does this candidate really stand for? It is not enough that he is ‘not the other guy’. There must be a robust political philosophy that animates this candidate… what is it? Once you have been able to articulate that, then ask yourself… will that philosophy enhance our freedom, or limit it? Sadly, in this last election, too few asked themselves that question… we will see what comes of that.”
This is an unusual subject matter for me, and one in which I am directly asking you for your assistance.
There were essentially two seeds to this blog. One seed was planted from a phone conversation I had with a young man in Washington, D.C. He reads this blog and has followed the Artemis Defense Institute on Facebook for a number of years. He was unsure how he could participate in Artemis training from 3,000 miles away. The other seed came from Sandy; she has been looking for a method to allow ADI followers from outside Southern California the opportunity to benefit from a training program at Artemis.
With the help of our instructors, we developed a five-day comprehensive training program. Those of you who train at Artemis are already familiar with the curriculum. This five-day program essentially takes the core modules from CCW, 4M, Club 2A, Shoot with Steven and Sandy, Private Training, TAC-Med, and Self-Defense, and schedules them into a one-week program.
During our last edged-weapons training with Steve Tarani, we settled on a date for this program: March 4th through 8th of 2019. This coincides with Tarani’s Karambit class return the weekend before, March 2nd through 3rd.
This program would allow students who follow us from not only across the country, but around the world, the opportunity to train the way we train, on our systems and with our instructors.
There is an issue, though, and that is where Sandy and I need your help.
Since our founding, we have received multiple requests to open an Artemis in different parts of the country. First, we had to make sure that our program worked, and provided the best training available. It is very expensive to open an Artemis, and we need to make sure that the survivability of the program is not put into jeopardy if we grow too fast. Yet, that still begs the question: How do we bring this valuable training to people who do not necessarily live in our area? While there are literally thousands of weapons-training schools across the country, there is nothing out there quite like us.
This program is important to us. Our message of training and, frankly, our passion for individual self-reliance, mastery of skill at arms, and making sure that legally armed civilians and law enforcement officers have the best training possible is a calling. When we first opened our doors, Sandy and I watched as money flowed from our bank account.
That first summer was an economic disaster for us. (Note to self: Don’t open a training facility right before the summer months!) We wondered if we would even make it, but we were also resolute in our mission. We knew that what we were offering people could, and would, save lives.
Soon we had our first “testimonial.”
It came from a cop. He had been involved in a use-of-force event, and told me that the training he received from us and the confidence he had were, in his mind, the reasons he was still alive. A week later another cop pulled me aside during training to tell me how important this was to him. Because of his training in deescalation, a mentally-troubled, homeless man was still alive. But for his training with Artemis, that scenario may not have gone so well for the subject, and weighed forever on the conscience of the cop.
Then there was the family from Arizona. Sandy worked with them directly (back then Sandy and I were really the only “full-time” instructors, and I was out of town). A week later the family was subjected to a home invasion that ultimately resulted in the death of the intruder. The husband and wife contacted us and, literally, were in tears on the phone. The wife, who ironically did not want to come to Artemis on her vacation, was convinced that the training they received during their brief stay led directly to their ability to survive that deadly encounter.
We decided, then and there, that regardless of how much (or little) Artemis made financially, we were doing missionary work. Training and teaching are subjects both of us love, and each of us, as instructors, is passionate about. But, what we teach… and stories of survival that have come from that teaching… well… that is the most humbling and rewarding part.
We want others who can’t “come in for a session” to have the same opportunity to learn from Artemis that the Southern California community has. We are hoping that people who live outside of our area will come in for this comprehensive March program.
If you know people who live a plane flight away from Orange County… (and I know you do)… tell them to call us, or shoot us an email to inquire about the program. We are arranging hotel accommodations near Artemis… so not having a place to stay is no excuse!
Thank you for your support of ADI, and the passion that you have all shown for training.
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa entered the chariot. The crowds in Rome had already swelled to thousands; the general could hear the cadence of his name being chanted outside the stable doors. With pride, he held the railing of the chariot and looked down at his lieutenant and nodded. The soldier pushed forward the stable doors letting the light from the Roman sun enter. The horses began pawing at the ground as the sound of the crowds grew to a fevered pitch as they realized the general was about to emerge on his triumphant ride to the Temple of Jupiter. Agrippa felt the floor of the chariot tilt as the appointed slave entered the chariot behind him. The slave, standing behind Agrippa, lifted a laurel wreath above his head as the chariot lurched forward towards the open door. The sunlight beamed down upon them as they emerged onto the street and the embrace of thousands of citizens. Suddenly, the general felt the breath of the slave against his ear. He looked forward stoically knowing the phrase that was about to be uttered, and would be continuously uttered, by the slave along this short journey to the temple.
Remember, you are simply a man.
Last week, days before the election, Undersheriff Don Barnes came into Artemis. We talked about last night’s election and the implications, not just for our local races, but nationally as well. Clearly, his mind was focused on the home stretch. He felt confident, but also was keenly aware that there was still work to do. As he was leaving and standing in the lobby, our discussion turned to leadership, but from a more philosophical standpoint.
He related the story of the slave and the general above, and said that that principle has been the guiding principle of his career in public service. Regardless of power achieved, regardless of authority at his disposal, at the end of the day, he is simply a person.
I had never heard of this Roman tradition and quickly did a little research. The value of this choreographed act was not lost on me, especially from a people that had such reverence and, frankly, a healthy distrust of their standing army. The army of Rome was not allowed to cross the Rubicon River en masse for fear that it had the ability to overthrow its civilian leaders in the Roman Senate. Still, the people of Rome loved their army… and especially the exalted generals who led the army into their numerous victories over the enemies of Rome. This adulation of soldiers could have very easily led to the arrogance of the individual, the rise of the cult of personality, and the ultimate fall of the Republic.
How appropriate, then, was it to remind the general at the height of his triumph: Momento Homo, a statement uttered not by a cautious Roman senator, not even by a paranoid emperor, but a reminder given by a simple slave.
It is widely noted that President Ronald Reagan (Ronaldus Magnus), was fond of saying, “Anything is possible, anything can be achieved… as long as you don’t care who gets credit for it.”
Many of us are put into positions where our actions and decisions have the capacity to greatly affect our fellow citizens. Some of us chose those paths… for others, the paths were chosen for us. Regardless, humility is as critical as decisiveness and, at times, ruthlessness for those who help secure the blessings of liberty and freedom.
I love to quote the political historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. “Unilateralism [read the arrogance of the leader that has forgotten that he is “just a man”] breeds the arrogance of ignorance, and ignorance breeds bad policy.”
Evil arose again…
This time it came in the form of a middle-aged monster who came to realize that his persuasive powers were inadequate… and, instead, chose to impose his tyrannical views on others through violence.
A devout anti-Semite, he collectivized a group of people into a singular homogenous unit. “Jews” are the problem, and the only rational response to the inherent threat of a Jewish population in his relative vicinity was to engage in an act of violent extermination.
The horrific nature of his crimes notwithstanding, I am honestly curious as to what he thought the end game here would be. Was this to be his John Brown “Harper’s Ferry” moment? Was he expecting thousands of like-minded anti-Semites to rally around his twisted flag and begin a mass extermination of their Jewish neighbors? Was he expecting to be executed by law enforcement and go out in a blaze of glory becoming a martyr to the white power cause? Or did his reasoning stop at, “Yeah… this will be a good idea, let’s do this!”
As many of you know, I am Jewish. Religiously, well, not so much… even culturally Jewishness falls on a spectrum. There are people in my family who are far more Jew”ish” than I am. Other than the occasional matzo ball, and lighting the menorah at Hanukkah, my Jewishness is marginal at best. (My law partner, though, did give me those cool Star of David grips for my 1911, so I guess that is something). Still, when a group of innocents is targeted for despotic destruction I tend to identify with it, this instance probably more so… for those who would seek to destroy a person because of their antisemitic views couldn’t care less about how their targets see themselves on the spectrum of Semitism. The monster in Pennsylvania would have been more than happy to include me or my daughters in his list of victims as the other congregants.
The nature of his animus is steeped in mythology and tribalism. Antisemitism always has been. Ironically, the very nature of antisemitism led to the intellectual development of the Jewish people as a whole. During the Renaissance, Jewish membership in trade guilds was prohibited. Jews in Europe did not have the ability to become skilled labor. They were left with few alternatives to earn money. Some avenues that were available to them were mercantilism, law, and medicine. Thus, our forefathers became pivotal members of growing societies. Still, they oftentimes remained cloistered in their communities, thus making less successful individuals suspicious of them.
Nation-states have used antisemitism as a means of controlling and inspiring their populations, and individuals have adopted antisemitism as a means of rationalizing their own failures, and perceived failures of their own communities.
Eradication of this way of thought is impossible. If not the Jews, then it will be the Sheiks, if not the Sheiks, it will be the Catholics, and if not the Catholics it will be the Muslims. There will always be another tribe that receives the animus of the disaffected. To make sense of their inadequate world they will not see the tribe as a collection of individuals, but rather a singular evil unit… something that must be marginalized and destroyed.
The funny thing is that that animus runs both ways. The disaffected monster does not need by any means to be a member of the “white patriarchal ruling class”. Antifa shares the identical views as the murderer in Pittsburgh. The goblins who attacked us on 9/11 were kindred spirits with the tyrant in Pennsylvania. The thug who drives a vehicle into a crowded marketplace is no different than the subhuman who shoots up a church, or a synagogue, or a mosque. They collectivize their enemies, and seek to impose their will through violence.
So if defeating them is not an option, how do we protect ourselves from them?
Speed, surprise, and explosive violence of action are the answers.
A flock of sheep, as it grazes, is protected by sheep dogs. They are charged with protecting the sheep from wolves, and they do so mercilessly.
During the last few years many congregations have taken it upon themselves to develop security teams, made of congregants themselves to bear arms and be prepared to defend the defenseless in their sanctuaries.
Not all have agreed with this approach.
“God will protect us! Having guns in our house of worship is an abomination!”
God gave us the inalienable right to exist. With that predicate right, came the right to use violence to preserve our very existence. That right is not abrogated because people choose to worship in their house of God. Quite the contrary, you can never surrender that right to anyone, even if you misguidedly choose to do so.
Someone who is prepared to bring violence to a community of people must understand that his or her actions will be short-lived and be met with extreme and overwhelming violence. The decision to victimize a group of worshipers will never end with escape or arrest. It will be nothing more than a failed suicide mission.
Hardened targets are rarely attacked by singular individuals for just that reason. While we must protect those who cannot protect themselves, we must also stand for the principle that those who can protect themselves must.
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