Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Concealed Carry on Campus--No More Victim Disarmament Zones

The Honorable Clif Richardson
Louisiana House of Representatives
State Capitol
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Dear Clif,

Thanks for your phone call today asking for my opinion and background on concealed carry of handguns on college campuses. Representative Ernest Wooton’s bill to allow such recently passed out of committee, and is due to be considered soon by the full Louisiana House.

I appreciate your trying to find out more about the subject, and I appreciate your calling me. As the senior instructor of state-certified concealed handgun courses in Louisiana, the author of numerous articles and one book (“The Great New Orleans Gun Grab”) on firearms ownership, I have some definite opinions on allowing concealed carry on college campuses.

You will likely hear from dozens of administrators and some law enforcement that it would be a mistake to allow concealed carry on college campuses. I disagree with them for a number of reasons, but first, let me tell you a couple of stories and quote some statistics.

The media trumpets to the heavens every time a youth uses a gun to kill another person in one of our schools. Unfortunately, the opposite is not true.

Have you ever heard what happened on Wednesday, January 16, 2002 at the Appalachian School of Law at Grundy, Virginia?

It’s a small, private, and highly respected school of law that has gained quite a bit of notoriety because of the actions of a foreign student.

His name was Peter Odighizuwa, a Nigerian and naturalized U.S. Citizen who had flunked out of the school in 2001, but had been allowed to come back in and change his academic course. On the day in question, the 42-year-old Odighizuwa was due to speak with L. Anthony Sutin, Dean of the school about his grades—Odighizuwa had just been dismissed a second time for poor grades.

Odighizuwa had a history of mental instability that was disclosed in a report by the Newport News (VA.) Daily Press.

Odighizuwa spoke first with Professor Dale Rubin when he arrived at campus that morning. Upon leaving Rubin's office, he asked him to pray for him. He then went to the offices of Dean Sutin, and Professor Thomas Blackwell.

Upon arriving at their offices, Odighizuwa drew a .380 caliber pistol and shot both these respected college educators to death.

He then went downstairs and opened fire in a common area, hitting a student, Angela Denice Dales, killing her.

He fired three more shots, wounding students Stacy Beans, 22, of Berea, Kentucky; Rebecca Brown, 38, of Roanoke, and Martha Madeline Short, 37, of Grundy.

He then stopped shooting and went outside as students were diving out of windows and running for cover.

Two students, Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross, ran to their parked cars and retrieved handguns from them. They then ran back and pointed their guns at Odighizuwa, who quickly dropped his pistol. Another student, Ted Besen, ran up to Odighizuwa who hit him in the face, and then there was a pile of the students with a gun was an off-duty police officer, and Odighizuwa was quickly in handcuffs.

You may not have heard of the incident at the Appalachian School of Law—it was not heavily reported, and there was practically NO mention in the media that students with guns stopped what would have surely been more bloodshed. Most media reports stated that Odighizuwa was “tackled” by a group of students. According to researcher (and college economics professor) Dr. John R. Lott, there were 280 separate news stories (from a computerized Nexis-Lexis search) in the week after the event—and just four stories mentioned the fact that the students that stopped the attack used guns to end it.

Of course. Certainly the national media is not going to publicize a positive intercession by citizens with guns.

But I’ll bet you remember the incident on Wednesday, October 1, 1997 in Pearl, Mississippi. That’s where 16-year-old Luke Woodham murdered his mother the night before by cutting her throat, then showed up at Pearl High School with a .30-30 caliber rifle.

He opened fire on his former girlfriend, Christina Menefee and her friend Lydia Dew, killing them instantly. He then swung the rifle around and fired it into a group of students. He ran to the parking lot and climbed into his dead mother’s car—he later stated he intended to drive to a nearby junior high school and kill more students.

Assistant Principal Joel Myrick, a shooter, and a member of the National Guard, ran to his car and retrieved his .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, loaded it, and rushed to intercept Woodham who was by that time behind the wheel of his car. When Myrick pointed his handgun at Woodham, the student tried to drive around another vehicle and crashed into a tree. Myrick ran up and pointed his gun at Woodham, ordered him out of the car, and held him on the ground at gunpoint until the police arrived.

There was little media reporting of the fact that Myrick stopped what was sure to be further carnage with the use of his own handgun—I guess we are to assume he ran up to Woodham, pointed his finger at him, ordered him to stop, and Woodham meekly complied.

Finally, I know you remember the horrible incident which occurred on Monday, April 16, 2007 at Virginian Tech University at Blacksburg, Virginia.

Korean-born Seung-Hui Cho took a 9mm Glock pistol and a .22 caliber Walther pistol and went on a murderous rampage —the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, murdering 32 students and instructors before taking his own life.

There was legislation introduced into the Virginia legislature in 2006 which would have allowed concealed carry on campus, but it was derailed, and no such freedom existed on the campus—it was a “Gun-Free Zone.” These have now become more accurately described as “Victim Disarmament Zones.”

The first thing Cho did was shoot two students to death in a dormitory. He then showed up at Norris Hall, a classroom building, where he chained the doors shut, walked up to the second floor, and began rushing from room to room, shooting at will. In all, he wounded 60 people, killing 30 of them. Police believe he fired more than 170 rounds in this attack. He had two 32-round replacement magazines for the Glock, and a large number of spare magazines.

Among the victims were five college professors, including Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who blocked the door of his classroom to give his students time to escape through the windows. Cho shot him five times, killing him.

There were 11 dead students in Room 211—this is where Cho eventually took his own life. There were nine dead in Room 206. There were four killed in Room 2007, and another died in Room 204. More died later.

Enough. You get the picture. Possible mass slayings are averted or lessened because someone produced a handgun and stopped the killing. Where none are present in these “Victim Disarmament Zones,” dozens die needlessly.

No amount of law, statutes, or regulations are going to keep a madman from going where guns are least likely to be used against them and killing people. Yet, administrators seem to feel that allowing a small number of well-trained adults who have undergone extensive criminal and mental background checks to carry concealed on campus will result in some sort of Armageddon, where students will go crazy and start shooting everyone.

Need I point out that if such a person is going to submit to such violent tendencies, the fact he is breaking the law by having a gun on campus is going to do little to deter him.

But I ask if only ONE student had been able to produce a handgun and engage Cho on Monday, April 16, 2007 inside Norris Hall, how many innocent lives might have been saved?

“According to an estimate by the National Shooting Sports Foundation—a Connecticut-based firearms industry group—there are more than 290 million privately-owned firearms in the United States today. The number of American households with at least one firearm has risen to an estimated 47.8 million.”

That quote comes from “America Fights Back—Armed Self-Defense in a Violent Age,” an excellent book by Alan Gottlieb, Director of the Second Amendment Foundation, and Dave Workman, Editor of “The New Gun Week,” a weekly newsmagazine on firearms, sport shooting, and politics. I count both of these gentlemen as personal friends, and much of the information stated here has been gleaned from their book, writings by Professor Lott, and by Dr. Gary Kleck, a criminology professor at Florida State University.

Now that I have thrown all the facts and figures at you, let’s look at some of the histrionics you will be likely to face when listening to opposition to this bill to allow concealed carry on campus:

1. Allowing students to carry guns will only result in shootings and bloodshed on campuses.
This is the same argument that has been produced in every state (now about 40) where shall-issue concealed carry laws have been proposed. This is a fallacy that has been proven wrong over and over again—Professor Lott has found that mass public shootings declined by 85%, and injuries fell 82 per cent in the 14 states that adopted shall-issue carry laws between 1977 and 1995.

Professor Gary Kleck, in his book “Point Blank—Guns and Violence In America,” found that guns are used over 2.5 MILLION times a year to stop crimes from occurring—and only in a miniscule number of those cases is the gun actually discharged. Incidentally, Dr. Kleck’s methodology has never been disproved in this study—it is generally accepted as a watershed study in the use of guns and violence in the United States.

2. The students will more likely shoot each other, than a gunman.
As I have told you before, my daughter is currently a college student. If a crazed shooter opened up in her dorm, classroom, or a campus building she was in, I would take that chance, and prefer someone in the building had taken a Louisiana Concealed Handgun Permit Course, was licensed by the state to carry, and had a gun which which to stop the killings. I’ll take the chance he/she might accidentally shoot my beloved daughter. Rather that chance, than her more certain death by an assassin in a gun-free zone.

Incidentally, she is over 21 years of age, has her own permit, knows how to shoot, and when to shoot. And if you were ever someplace where someone opened up with a gun, killing people indiscriminately, you would be most glad she had her revolver...she won’t shoot anyone else accidentally, and she won’t be afraid to stop someone from shooting others. She is trained, competent, and cool-headed.

3. The police, upon arriving, won’t know the difference between the shooters and the students—and might shoot a student.
Give me a break. I worked for 25 years as a reserve law enforcement officer. I came on scenes where citizens had guns and were holding other people—lawbreakers—at bay. It happened to me once—dressed in plain clothes, I stopped a crime from occurring in another jurisdiction. Holding a lawbreaker on the ground, pointing a .38 Special revolver at his back, I had the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office roll up on the scene, and they leveled their guns at me until I put mine down, and convinced them which of us was the bad guy. I never shot anyone in such a case, and never knew another law enforcement officer that did, either. It might be unnerving at first, we might have pointed guns at them until they put them down, but we worked it out quickly. I think this is a red herring here.

Finally (here, we hear the breathy sound of a sigh of relief), I would like to point out a couple of things:

From 1987 to 1995, the state of Florida issued almost 315,000 concealed carry permits. In that eight-year time frame, the state of Florida rescinded a sum total of 54 permits from permit holders for illegal activities with a gun.

Louisiana now has almost 40,000 concealed carry permit holders—a far cry from the approximately half-million over in Texas—mainly because we have always considered the vehicle an extension of the home, and allowed citizens to carry their guns in their cars.

I think you can call the Louisiana State Police Concealed Permit Section and they can give you the same statistics for our state. You will find the numbers of permits rescinded to be correspondingly low. Statistically across the nation, concealed carry permit holders are the most law-abiding subsection of our citizenry you can find—folks that undergo the training and get the permits don’t commit the crimes.

Should we allow concealed carry on campus?

Absolutely. I don’t understand the reasoning against it. By denying it, you are saying that reasoned, thinking adults, which the state has determined can legally carry, cannot do so on campus—but they can practically everywhere else, where nothing has occurred. The people arguing against this are saying adult college students are likely to go berserk and start shooting one another.

I would point out here that the Louisiana State Police conduct an extensive and thorough background check on every applicant—mental, criminal, every aspect of a person’s background is evaluated before the permit is issued. And the training is equally thorough and extensive, requiring hours of shooting time, lectures on safe use of handguns, use of deadly force, and child-access prevention.

Allow concealed carry on campuses? Why has it ever been denied in the first place?

Thanks for taking the time to inquire about this upcoming legislation. I hope I haven’t dragged it out too long for you—but you said you wanted to gain some facts and figures on the subject, to be able to make up your mind on the subject. I appreciate your keeping your promise to call me for background when the legislation came up. You are a man of your word, and I appreciate that.

Best wishes,

Gordon Hutchinson
Author, “The Great New Orleans Gun Grab”

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Friday, May 15, 2009

A Memorial Weekend

Across the green hills, cobbled with white gravestones, a rolling thunder reaches into our souls.

Nineteen times the cannon speaks, a hollow boom hidden in the solemn recesses of Arlington.

The sign posted at the entrance as you enter the nation's cemetary for its war dead says it eloquently, its message poignant, stating there must be no bike riding, no children playing, no picknicking. "Please respect the sanctity of any funeral you see occurring...This is Hallowed Ground."

We are on a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C. We have toured all the memorials: Jefferson, Lincoln, Vietnam, Korea, Iwo Jima. We have ended up, Memorial Day morning, on the steps of the amphitheater, overlooking the Tomb of the Unknowns. My wife Ti Lou, Greg and Peggy Vidrine, and most importantly my 15-year-old daughter, Jessica, have come to the nation's Capitol on this most sacred of weekends to see all the tourist things. But more than that, I want Jessica to understand the meaning of being American, and what hundreds of thousands of men and women have given up that she might live the life she lives--blonde, carefree, imbued with Britney and Backstreet fever, gabbing on the phone with girlfriends, talking always about boys.

She must understand what it means to be American, that people die across this world envying one simple thing about her--that she lives in and is a citizen of this country.

Every person that has "done" Washington has told us "If you do nothing else, you must see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns..."

Unwittingly, we are here at the most solemn of the Nation's rites--the Laying of the Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A full military contingent, representing every branch of the services, and the U.S. Army Band conduct the ceremony. I see tears in my daughter's eyes--it is strange that I can see them through the wetness of my own.

Back in Baton Rouge, I am describing the trip to a friend, Lynn Burgett, who spent some time as a young woman working for the Navy in Washington, D.C.

Lynn was very excited about our trip, even going to her congressman's office and picking up maps and tour guides for us before we left, drawing us an itinerary.

Our conversation wanders across the history of the Capitol, Arlington, what people have done to be buried there...

You know, she says, Daddy got the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II.

C'mon Lynn, I say, ever the cynic. Are you sure of this? The DSC is the second-highest award for valor given by the armed services. The only thing higher is the Medal of Honor. Lots of folks get all that confused...the ranking of awards is Bronze Star, Silver Star, DSC, Medal of Honor...

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Remington 700 VTR—The Tacti-Coolest Yet!

Many riflemen will tell you if there is one company that knows how to get it right, it is Remington. The frequent comment heard is “Remington shoots straight, right out of the box.”

And that has been my experience, both with personal guns, and the numerous rifles I end up tuning for friends each year.

Sometimes, it might take a little experimenting to find the right bullet, but Remington almost always performs better than adequate, right out of the carton.

When the unusually-configured barrel of the new Remington Model 700 VTR caught my eye, I decided my usual practice of signing for a test gun from the manufacturer wasn’t necessary. Experience proved the gun would shoot. And the features Remington built into this bolt gun intrigued me.

First off was that barrel. Talk about stand out on a gun rack--who ever saw a triangular-shaped barrel before? And it was the right length, too—just 22 inches.

The VTR stands for “Varmint Tactical Rifle” which falls into the ever-growing category of “tacti-cool” rifles with standard applications made to look like tactical guns with law enforcement or military uses. Of course, tactical rifles are no-nonsense, utilitarian rifles, spare to the point of Spartan with no unnecessary parts, everything designed for a purpose with no frilly cosmetics.

The new VTR is the long-proven Model 700 action with a patented triangular barrel, a design that offers more rigidity and less weight than a round barrel of equal diameter. With the larger surface area, greater heat dissipation is also claimed. An integral muzzle brake also acts as a protective crown for the rifling, extending past the crown for two inches.

The camo green composite stock has black grips overmolded into the forearm and pistol-grip—and it has two sling swivels on the front end—one for the sling, the other to attach a bipod for the varmint fields.

The gray, almost rough finish on the barrel and receiver is reminiscent of the old military “Parkerized” finish—a handsome, no-nonsense finish that seems to soak up oil, and sheds moisture with equal aplomb.

Since I’ve been planning a varmint hunt for prairie dogs this summer, I intended to build a rifle to take with me—in either .223 Remington, or .22-250 Remington. Once I spotted the VTR, knowing from experience it would shoot, the decision was made, and I ordered one.

After a lot of discussion with friends, some of whom have actually made prairie dog hunts, I settled on one of the icons in the long-range varmint fraternity, the classic .22-250, standardized by Remington in 1965.

Long considered one of the most accurate, easily adapted cartridges around, the .22-250 is known by old-time shooters by the nickname “.22 Varminter”—which gives you an idea of the status the cartridge holds in those ranks. I had never owned one, but the history of the cartridge, that it was developed by necking down the old .250 Savage centerfire deer cartridge, and its proven ability as a super long-range, accurate round all intrigued me, and I started buying different weight bullets in anticipation of its arrival.

Remington has installed a new trigger mechanism on the 700 which they call the X-Mark Pro Adjustable--which means they want it adjusted by a factory-trained gunsmith. I couldn’t stand the approximately 4.5 lb pull that came from the factory, so I took it to Reynerson’s Gunsmith Services ( for a trigger job. When I asked them to bring the trigger down to my preferred two pounds or so, I was informed the factory would allow them to set the triggers no lower than three pounds—

Lord, save me from lawyers, litigious societies, and heavy rifle triggers. I took what was offered.

I have to say, the gunsmith did an excellent job—we put a trigger-pull gauge on it after it came back, and found little creep and a crisp break right at the specified weight—I’ll live with it.

At the same time, I had them mount a nice 4-16X50 Alpen scope ( with an adjustable objective on high mounts, and I was in business. I could hardly wait to start testing loads and seasoning the barrel.

My normal practice with a new rifle is to buy an array of factory rounds and shoot them, scrubbing the barrel with Butch’s Bore Shine, or other copper solvent after each two or three shots for about 20 rounds. Then I go to cleaning after 5-6 rounds for another 20 or so, then after every 10 rounds for another 20.

Besides gaining brass to work up loads, I am breaking in the barrel and at the same time determining if the rifle has an inherent accuracy that can be enhanced by reloading and finding the perfect combination.

At first, the rifle frustrated me. It would shoot slightly above minute-of-angle (one inch) in a three or five-shot group, then climb out to almost two inches—which was rapidly determined to be cleaning-related. If I let it go past five or six shots without a good scrubbing, the groups widened considerably. This didn’t make sense as friends familiar with the caliber assured me their guns didn’t require excessive cleaning to maintain accuracy.

I also suspected I wasn’t reaching the full potential of the barrel because of bullet weight. Most of the rounds I could find were in the 55 grain or larger sizes—these would require a faster rifling twist for optimum accuracy. So I called the factory, and asked to speak to an engineer or someone in the sales department.

I was given the number of John Fink, who turned out to be the project manager on the VTR. I couldn’t have done better if I tried.

John told me the twist rate was 1-in-14. This is the recommended rate for the .22-250 as specified by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers, Inc. (SAAMI). Thus, he told me, the early weights originally designed for the cartridge were probably going to give me better performance. I should begin experimenting with weights in the 45 and 50 grain range, he said.

Talking to John Fink reminded me of the time we took a fisheries biologist down in the brackish Louisiana marsh, fishing for bass, redfish (red drum), and specks (speckled sea trout). We nearly wore the poor guy out asking him questions about the terrain, marsh loss, damage from nutria (a large South American rodent that adapted to our marsh, and is eating it away), and everything else we had been questioning for years. An expert is a great thing to have along when you are practising your favorite hobbies.

I had the project manager for the Model 700 VTR Bolt on the phone--I wasn't going to let him off without asking the question that has been gnawing at me for years: Just why does Remington insist on putting those two small protusions insided every forearm, supporting the barrel, and ruining what would be a perfectly free-floated barrel?

"We've tried it both ways," he said. "Free-floating the barrel, and using pressure points. We've found in the test results the pressure points actually have an effect on the harmonics of the barrels, and stabilize them. When we remove the pressure points the accuracy actually deteriorates--so we build them into most forearms."

"I've tried it both ways," I said. "I have a Model 7 in 7MM-O8 that I couldn't get past minute-of-angle with any ammo I bought, so I ground the pressure points out, and polished them down. I completely free-floated the barrel."

"Did it do any good," he asked?

"Not much," I admitted. "But the rifle shoots a little under 1 inch at 100 yards with 140 grain Remington Core-Lokt, and I've never bothered to work a load up for it."

My daughter uses it every season, and she doesn't need any better than that anyway. Until I get the Buck Fever out of her, it won't matter if she can drill one-hole groups, or shoot one inch. If it's a doe, she slays them, even out to 200 yards.

But a buck can walk out at 75 yards broadside, and Jessica will shake herself until her fillings fall out.

After talking to John Fink, I decided maybe the factory guys actually do apply some science to manufacturing these rifles, and decided to leave the pressure points in the injection-molded stock. I had found the same features in the laminated stock on my Remington Guide Rifle in .300 SAUM, and it shoots 150 grain factory loads in under an inch. I guess I need to quit second-guessing the experts.

I don’t know if the 80 rounds or so of factory ammo had finally done its job, polishing the bore and filling the microscopic imperfections with copper shavings, thus making a perfectly smooth tube, but suddenly, the rifle came alive for me.

Hornady V-Max ammo in 50 grains with a ballistic tip claimed 3800 fps, and gave up a five-shot group that measured 1 1/8” at 100 yards. But that was one flyer. Four of the five were touching, and printed inside of 5/8”!

I’ve always found you can go buy the most expensive ammunition on the market, and a Remington rifle seems to have a natural affinity for Remington ammo—don’t ask me why. This rifle proved no exception, and bulk-purchase 40 round boxes of 50-grain Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP) consistently fired 5-shot groups that grouped inside 7/8”.

An early 3-shot group of Winchester 45 grain JHP gave an exciting 5/8” group, but a later group fired around the time of the Hornady and Remington light-weights was very disappointing. I suspect either wind, or barrel fouling.

After over 120 rounds fired through the barrel, I’ve reached the point my friends told me about. Now, a quick swab with a dry patch is all the barrel seems to need when the groups seem to be growing. They tighten right back up, if I do my job.

I’m most pleased with my new “tacti-cool” rifle and caliber—it should prove to be an affordable and really accurate sniper rifle on prairie dogs out past 300 yards.

Now I’m hitting the reloading bench to tighten those groups into the proverbial “one-hole” for which this caliber is famous.

Then, on to the varmint fields for the ultimate test—I’m sure I’ll be telling you about that hunt before the summer’s over.

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