January 2005

Short Shots: 01/05

November Election Outcome: 2nd Amendment Wins Big
The November 2004 elections were good news for the Second Amendment. On nearly every front, legislators and representatives who support gun civil rights triumphed over gun-confiscation advocates. Notably:

• President Bush’s reelection means that any pro-gun rights legislation that passes Congress will be signed. Also, he will block or slow-play any efforts by the 2006 United Nations conference on small arms to weaken or destroy the Second Amendment. And citizens of the District of Columbia may see their Second Amendment rights restored.

• The U.S. Senate showed a net +3 votes for the Second Amendment, which means legislation aimed at controlling frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers might pass without antigun amendments. In more detail, gun rights lost ground with the election of anti-gun senators in Colorado and Illinois, but made up the difference pro-gun outcomes in Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

• The news was more mixed in the House, where pro-gun incumbents were defeated in Georgia and Illinois, and one anti-gun representative, Martin Frost, was defeated in Texas. Upside: Nonetheless, the House retains a solid pro-gun majority and leadership.

• Elsewhere, the U.S. Senate races saw Alaska’s appointed incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski won a tough race, keeping the seat in the pro-rights column. In Colorado, Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar (rated D by the NRA) replaced retiring Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who was usually pro-gun. In Florida, retiring antigun Senator Bob Graham will be replaced by pro-gun Republican Mel Martinez. Nearby in Georgia, pro-gun Republican Johnny Isakson replaced retiring pro-gun Democrat Zell Miller. Anti-gun Illinois Democrat Barack Obama replaces modestly pro-gun retiring Republican Peter Fitzgerald. In Louisiana, pro-gun Republican David Vitter replaces the usually antigun retiring Democrat John Breaux. In North Carolina, retiring antigun Democrat senator and vice-presidential nominee John Edwards will be replaced by pro-gun Republican Richard Burr, while in Oklahoma, Republican pro-gun leader Tom Coburn won an open seat vacated by retiring pro-gun Senator Don Nickles. In South Carolina, retiring antigun Democrat Fritz Hollings was replaced by solidly pro-gun Republican Jim DeMint.

• On a state-by-state basis among governors, New Hampshire shifted to a more anti-gun leader, while Missouri got a stronger pro-gun executive. In Indiana, pro-gun Republican Mitch Daniels won an open governor’s seat. In Missouri anti-gun Democrat Claire McCaskill was defeated by pro-gun Republican Matt Blunt. Also, Missouri’s lieutenant governor is elected on a separate line. Very strongly pro-gun Republican Peter Kinder beat antigun Democrat Bekki McDowell Cook. In Montana, pro-gun Democrat Brian Schweitzer was elected governor. The only incumbent governor to lose was New-Hampshire’s pro-gun Republican Craig R. Benson, who was defeated by John Lynch. In Utah, pro-gun Republican Jon Huntsman won an open governor’s seat, while in Washington, pro-gun Republican Dino Rossi lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire, who refused to answer the NRA questionnaire. In West Virginia, pro-gun Democrat Joe Manchin won his first term as governor.

• In other pro-gun results, Louisiana’s state constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to hunt, trap, and fish was approved with 81 percent. “This election was crucial for the Second Amendment,” said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. “The NRA stands for freedom, our members are defenders of freedom and we are proud to see that gun owners across the country came out and voted for freedom.”

The NRA’s Political Victory Fund spent nearly $2 million in October in support of six Senate candidates, five of whom were elected. “It cost Tom Daschle his job, absolutely,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shootings Sports Foundation in Newtown, Conn.

The NRA and NSSF targeted Daschle because he encouraged Senate Democrats to support the assault weapons ban although he knew it would undermine passage of the underlying bill to prohibit civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers, distributors, dealers or importers for damages resulting from the misuse of their products by others.

“We were very disappointed with his double dealing,” Keane said.

The NRA Victory Fund spent more than $334,000 in October on television advertising to defeat Daschle, according to the Federal Election Commission. Keane said his group also launched a mailing against him.

Our Take: We will likely have four very favorable years of gun legislation votes on the national scene. Downside: This could make gun owners complacent in the mid-term elections in 2006, and a Hillary Clinton run for the presidency is only four tense years ahead.

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The Rebirth of an Old Favorite
Smith & Wesson, under licensing agreement from Carl Walther GmbH, is now manufacturing the original Walther PPK in .380 ACP. The model is smaller and almost 3 ounces lighter that the PPK/S. The traditional double-action PPK measures 6.1 inches overall, weighs 20.8 ounces and has a 3.3-inch barrel. The slide has a fixed red dot front sight and a drift windage-adjustable dovetail red line rear sight. The pistol is manufactured with a durable and corrosion-resistant stainless-steel frame, barrel and slide with an 8+1 capacity.

New PPK features include an edge break package on the frame designed to reduce all sharp edges; a redesigned and extended beaver tail, smooth trigger and improved trigger pull. A durability package has been added by improving the material and heat-treat process used during production. Also, an enhancement of the recoil system along with a beefing up of the bolt face have been included to increase the life of the pistol during use.

Our Take: We’re happy to see changes made to this famous but flawed pistol, which we’ve not rated all that highly in the past. To be charitable, the trigger pull was too heavy on the PPK/S guns we’ve tested, and the beavertail allowed the hand to ride up into the slide, making the PPK/S a hand-biting little gun. Also, the edges of the guns in the past have been sharp. So we welcome these proposed upgrades.

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NJIT’s Smart Gun
Scientists at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) were awarded $1.1 million by the U.S. Department of Justice to continue testing a safer personalized weapon. “We’re still on target with a delivery date of January 2006 for a commercial-ready prototype of a smart gun,” said Donald H. Sebastian, PhD, vice president for research and development at NJIT and professor of mechanical engineering. “This new money allows us to keep field tests and evaluations running smoothly with researchers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), in Picatinny.” The gun has been in testing at Picatinny for almost a year now.

Since 2000, NJIT has spearheaded efforts to develop a personalized handgun that can recognize, instantly and reliably, one or more pre-programmed authorized users. To date, the New Jersey legislature has awarded NJIT $1.5 million for the project.

In December of 2002, New Jersey became the first state to pass legislation specifying that three years after it is determined that personalized handguns are available for retail sale, dealers and manufacturers will not be able to sell, assign or transfer any handgun legally unless it is personalized.

The attention capped a year of developments. Six months earlier (May 2003) Michael Recce, PhD, associate professor of information systems at NJIT, received a patent for inventing Dynamic Grip Recognition. This behavioral biometric has enabled Timothy Chang, PhD, professor of electrical engineering at NJIT, assisted by a team of engineers, to embed multiple small electronic sensors in both sides of the gun’s grip. The sensors identify the user. The finished gun will eventually feature both electronic features and computerized parts. Recce sees his invention someday also being used in other applications--perhaps the yoke of a plane or the steering wheel of a car.

Our Take: Good luck with making this work in production guns, boys.