February 2006

Short Shots: 02/06

New Wisconsin Bill Might Override Governor’s Vote

Republican leaders in the Wisconsin state assembly may have fashioned a carry-concealed weapons measure strong enough to override of the expected veto from Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. The bill, SB 403, passed on a 64 to 32 vote. The amendment to the concealed weapons bill included provisions that would:

• Lower the allowable blood-alcohol concentration for those carrying a concealed weapon to 0.02, from 0.08.

• Create a 100-foot safety zone around school property into which guns couldn’t be carried.

• Require a refresher training course for permit holders every five years.

• Make the filing of a false application a felony, not a misdemeanor as it was written.

Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford) said the bill will reduce crime and make Wisconsin safer. “It’s important for people to be able to protect themselves,” Gunderson said.

The Senate must take another vote on the amended bill before it can go to Doyle. The concealed carry bill passed the Senate 23 to 10, and Sen. David Zien (R-Eau Claire), the bill’s Senate author, said he’s confident the two-thirds majority would hold up in his house.

Our Take: Supporters could have the two-thirds Assembly majority, 66 votes, necessary to uphold the veto. Two more republican votes weren’t present, and if they were added to the 64-32 bill vote, that would be enough to override Doyle’s almost-certain veto. Doyle has indicated he will veto the bill as he did a similar one in 2003; at that time, the Senate voted to override it, but the Assembly came up one vote short after having enough on the first vote.

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Grandmother Asks, “When Can I Have My Gun Back?”

Susan Gaylord Buxton became widely known as “the gun-toting granny” after she shot an intruder November 9, 2005. The 66-year-old Buxton shot Christopher Lessner, 22, in the leg after he had broken into Buxton’s house after fleeing from police at a traffic stop.

Susan Gaylord Buxton

At the scene, Arlington, Texas, police seized her Smith & Wesson .38-caliber airweight after the shooting. Buxton dropped her gun to the ground when directed to do so by an officer who was pointing his sidearm at her.

Why police confiscated the gun is what has her baffled. Mark Thielman, an assistant district attorney in the county’s criminal division, confirmed that the handgun is in the Arlington police property room at the direction of his office.

“It is undisputed that it was seized by police as part of a criminal investigation,” Thielman said. “The defendant has a constitutional interest in receiving a full and fair defense. If his lawyer thinks those things are relevant, then the gun remains as evidence in the case.” As a result, Buxton can’t have her gun back.

A local attorney is contemplating filing a motion that would force Lessner’s court-appointed attorney to declare in court why the gun is relevant.

Our Take: Buxton, who has completed the training and testing to receive a state-issued concealed carry permit, rightly feels victimized by the Arlington police department because the agency won’t return her property. But the police are only following the law, so it’s up to the legal system to do the right thing and get her gun back to her.

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More Can Carry in New Mexico

New Mexico’s state statute for concealed-carry licenses has expanded, widening the age range of those eligible to carry a concealed handgun in the state.

The new law lowers the age limit for permit holders from 25 to 21 years old and extends the licensing period from two to four years. The Concealed Carry Act passed the state Legislature in 2003 and went into effect in January 2004. Since the law passed in 2004, more than 3,700 licenses have been issued statewide. Changes to the law include New Mexico licenses being recognized in 20 other states.

Our Take: A person who is 21 has just as much right to carry a gun as a person who is 25.

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How Will the M&P40 Measure Up?

Smith & Wesson has begun shipping the new M&P40 polymer pistol, the first Military & Police (M&P) polymer pistols in the series.

The M&P40 is currently available in a full-size model, with a compact model scheduled to follow. The full-size pistol is chambered in .40 S&W, with a capacity of 15 rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber. It has a 4.25-inch-long barrel, and measures 7.5 inches in OAL. It weighs 24.25 ounces empty.

Said Tom Taylor, Smith & Wesson’s vice president of marketing, “We have specifically engineered the M&P to become the pistol of choice for global law enforcement and military personnel.

Taylor said the M&Ps offer a Zytel-polymer reinforced frame, stainless-steel barrel and slide, a passive trigger safety designed to prevent the pistol from firing if dropped, a loaded chamber indicator, internal locking system, three interchangeable grip sizes, ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release, as well as an enlarged trigger guard designed to accommodate gloves. A universal Picatinny style equipment rail allows the addition of tactical lights and lasers.

Our Take: We’ll be skeptical about the M&Ps until we’ve tested them against established military/LE guns from Sigarms, Glock, and H&K.

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Teenage Girls Taking Up Shotgun Sports in Record Numbers

The number of teenage girls participating in shotgun sports is up dramatically over the past five years, surveys show. Across the sports of trap, skeet and sporting clays, the number of female participants age 12-17 rose 56 percent—from 133,000 to 208,000—between 1999 and 2004, according to a National Sporting Goods Association report.

“Nationwide, over a third of all female participants in shotgun sports today are under 24,” said Cyndi Dalena, NSSF director of shooting sports. Overall, there were 1,309,000 total female participants of all ages in shotgun sports in 2004, up 11 percent from 1,177,000 in 1997.

Our Take: Part of the attraction of trap, skeet and sporting clays is that girls can compete with boys on without regard for strength or speed. Coordination and concentration are great equalizers in that game.

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Officer Resigns to Protest Unarmed British Constables

Ben Johnson was celebrated three years ago as the first foreigner to become a British police constable — and now he’s provoked an uproar after saying he would resign to protest a ban on British officers carrying guns.

His viewpoints are taken particularly seriously across the pond because he has the unique perspective of having served as an officer under Britain’s tight gun-control laws as well as in the Dallas area, where, he said, the notion of police officers patrolling unarmed would be unthinkable.

Johnson, 34, said the increasing risk of encountering a gunman who could render his 18-month-old daughter fatherless has caused the former Texas officer to reconsider his work. Only in rare instances are British civilians permitted to own firearms, and 90 percent of British police carry out their duties unarmed.

Johnson and his British wife, Louise, 37, met in Garland, Texas, but moved to Reading, England, at her request to be closer to her family.

Britain’s overall crime rate has dropped sharply over the past decade, although official statistics show that violent crime — in which weapons are most likely to have been used — is the only category on the rise.

Our Take: Johnson has said he knew he was going into an unarmed police force, and he cites statistics that show the chances of a British policeman encountering someone armed on the streets are less than in the States.

But the risk still exists. He’s right when he says that police need to be equipped to deal with any threat level that may come their way. Ditto that for citizens.

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What’s the Next Level For the Ben Avery Shooting Facility?

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is soliciting proposals from business groups to either manage and operate the entire Ben Avery Shooting Facility, or to manage only the clay target center. Prospective vendors will have until 3 p.m. MST on March 3, 2006, to submit their bids.

The Game and Fish Department is seeking a partner to help run one of the nation’s top shooting facilities in one of the country’s fastest-growing markets.

“This is a unique business opportunity for an individual or for a business group,” says Marty Macurak, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s assistant director for information and education. “We’re looking for a partner who wants to be involved in taking the Ben Avery Shooting Facility to the next level in recreational opportunities and in service.”

Prospective bidders can choose to write a proposal to manage the entire facility--the main range combined with the clay target center--or manage only the clay target center. The Request for Proposals can be downloaded from the department Web site at www.azgfd.gov/basf_rfp or can be obtained in hard copy by calling (602) 789-3457.

Located on 1,650 acres in north Phoenix, the Ben Avery Shooting Facility is the largest government-operated recreational shooting complex in the world. It averages more than 120,000 shooters per year.

Our Take: We think there are likely to be a number of business groups that would be interested in managing a facility in one of the nation’s top tourist destinations. The Ben Avery facility has an outstanding national reputation, and there is a lot of potential for enhancing the range. Any takers out there?

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USA Shooting Names Dunn, Hancock Athletes of the Year

Based on their outstanding performances in major national and international competitions during 2005, USA Shooting has officially announced today that Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Ga.) and Haley Dunn (Eddyville, Iowa) are USA Shooting’s Athletes of the Year.

Haley Dunn of Eddyville, Iowa, left, and Vincent Hancock of Eatonton, Georgia, have been named USA Shooting’s Athletes of the Year.

Hancock, 16, has won seven medals in seven major International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) competitions, a feat that no other shooter-athlete on record has ever accomplished. In his first World Cup ever, in Changwon, Korea, he set every World Record available in men’s skeet and started his year off with a gold medal. He also won the World Clay Target Championships a month later. He also secured a country participation quota spot for the 2008 Olympic Games in men’s skeet.

Dunn, 20, first appeared at the 2005 World Cup in Korea, setting a World Record and Junior World Record but finishing fifth. She then won gold at the Championships of the America’s, securing a country participation quota in women’s skeet. At the World Cup Finals in Dubai, she won a gold medal. She’s currently a student-athlete at the University of Missouri.

USA Shooting also named male and female Athletes of the Year in specific shooting disciplines.

In rifle, U.S. Naval reservist Lt. Eric Uptagrafft (Longmont, Colo.) won the male honor. A 50m prone specialist, Uptagrafft tied the World Record, shooting a perfect 600 qualifying score at the World Cup USA, in early May. Olympic Training Center resident athlete, Emily Caruso earned the distinguished female title in rifle. Caruso won the gold medal at the Championships of the America’s, while securing a country quota spot in women’s air.

In pistol, another Olympic Training Center resident athlete, Beki Snyder, won female Athlete of the Year. Snyder won the gold medal at the Championships of the America’s in air pistol, while securing a country quota spot for the U.S. at the Olympic Games in 2008.

Our Take: Shotgun continues to produce good American athletes, but pistol is much weaker. There was no male Athlete of the Year named in pistol because no one qualified in the selection criteria laid out for the award.

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125-Year-Old Company Sold Off At Auction

It was a sad day for many gun enthusiasts as the venerable Ithaca Gun Co. sold off equipment in its going-out-of-business liquidation auction November 29, 2005. The company, which was founded in 1880 in Ithaca, moved to King Ferry in the 1980s. In April, it moved to Allen Street in Auburn, New York, in anticipation of a sale to a Rhode Island investor. When that sale fell through around Memorial Day, Ithaca Gun closed its doors.

At the time, the company owed several hundred thousand dollars to various creditors. Ithaca Gun moved to King Ferry under new ownership in the 1980s, after encountering fiscal trouble and an expensive environmental cleanup in Ithaca. It went bankrupt and was bought by a group of investors in 1995.

Our Take: Ithaca Gun is a respected name in the gun business. The company has experienced some bad luck twice in the past and seemed to weather it. We hope it gets resurrected a third time.