Frank Miniter

Delta Airlines Will No Longer Ship Some Taxidermy From Africa—But There is More to the Story

Every day Marina Lamprecht of Hunters Namibia Safaris makes sure the children in Otjivero, Namibia, a shantytown of little self-made buildings with corrugated metal roofs, get meat to eat. All the meat is wild and killed by travelling hunters.

Every day Marina Lamprecht of Hunters Namibia Safaris makes sure the children in Otjivero, Namibia, a shantytown of little self-made buildings with corrugated metal roofs, get meat to eat. All the meat is wild and killed by travelling hunters.

In the emotional aftermath of the killing (possibly poaching) of the lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe by a dentist from Minnesota, Delta Airlines, America’s largest carrier, has made a decision: “Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight. Prior to this ban, Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species. Delta will also review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies with appropriate government agencies and other organizations supporting legal shipments.”

This reverses a Delta Airlines policy decided last June in which Delta said it would accept trophies “in accordance with all U.S. domestic and international regulations, which prohibits the possession of trophies or other items associated with protected species.”

This new decision isn’t the complete ban on hunter-killed trophies Delta opted for after an anti-hunting petition from collected nearly 395,000 signatures earlier this year, but a new petition is circulating and traveling hunters are now watching South African Airlines to see if it will reverse its recent termination of a ban on transporting hunting trophies.

If both Delta and South African Airlines ban the export of taxidermy some hunters might decide not to travel to South Africa or Namibia. Some would cheer this outcome, but perhaps not if they knew all the consequences.

If it becomes too difficult or expensive for traveling hunters to get legally killed taxidermy home they might decide not to go in the first place. This would impact many game species. For example, South Africa and Namibia have both done a good job of using hunting dollars as an incentive to get cattle ranchers and other landowners to reintroduce native wildlife and to let big-game animals repopulate their regions—without hunting many ranchers see kudu, zebra, gemsbuck and more as nothing more than competition for their cattle or goats; without trophy fees from hunters they also see leopards, cheetahs, lions, and other predators only as problem species, as those meat-eaters will kill and eat their livestock.

I witnessed what hunting tourism can do firsthand when I travelled to South Africa and Namibia with Dallas Safari Club in 2013. On one stop on our journey we saw how hunting had transformed parts of Namibia back into how it once was.

While taking photos the author looked over the tops of hundreds of students eating meat at Ben Carter, the executive director of Dallas Safari Club, and Marina Lamprecht of Hunters Namibia Safaris talking to the school’s principal and wondered how feeding these children could be politically incorrect.

While taking photos the author looked over the tops of hundreds of students eating meat at Ben Carter, the executive director of Dallas Safari Club, and Marina Lamprecht of Hunters Namibia Safaris talking to the school’s principal and wondered how feeding these children could be politically incorrect.

Marina Lamprecht of Hunters Namibia Safaris met us at the airport in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Her smile was infectious. She clearly enjoys the part she and her husband, Joof, created in the safari business. We followed her out into the sun and were soon driving out of the city. The city is clean and modern. Namibia is known for being a safe and officious country. It was a German colony. The country around Windhoek looks like West Texas’ dry, brushy expanses and escarpments. We saw baboons and warthogs along the roadside and herds of springbucks and wildebeests.

We arrived at a group of thatched-roofed buildings that seem to have naturally grown from a rock outcropping in the camel thorn forest. Inside are posh rooms filled with African art and taxidermy in such an overwhelming collage we have to pause and look closely to see everything. Our private rooms faced waterholes. We sat on patios watching warthogs, springbucks and impalas drink.

“When we started building this outfitting company many of the cattle ranchers told us we’d be out of business in a season,” said Marina. “But in the years since, thanks to travelling hunters, we’ve bought many of those ranchers out and let our now 80 square miles return to its natural state—there are no cattle or men worrying about their cattle on our wild lands. We now tell hunters they’ll see a minimum of 500 animals per day.”

She wasn’t exaggerating; in fact, I’d like to tell you about the four gemsbucks we stalked and killed the next day with Johnnie, a black PH whose charm is only surpassed by his ability to hunt, but instead I have to tell you about Otjivero, a village I’ll never forget.

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A CNN Founder on Why There is Media Bias with Guns

Jim Shepherd (shown here) is a former CNN founder. He now runs The Shooting Wire. He has thoughts on guns and the media that are worth hearing.

Jim Shepherd (shown here) is a former CNN founder. He now runs The Shooting Wire. He has thoughts on guns and the media that are worth hearing.

The reporting on why U.S. Army personnel stationed at recruiting centers aren’t allowed to carry pistols has to make anyone who knows a little about guns, and the gun issues, wonder if those news outlets are aware of what they’re not reporting? Do they understand why some Americans feel compelled to stand outside Army recruiting centers with guns? Any curious person might then wonder if ignorance or bias is the central reason why the mainstream media so often ignores studies and facts that are inconvenient to the anti-gun-rights point of view? There are, after all, over 100 million gun owners in the U.S., so how can mainstream journalists not be aware of basic facts about guns or of the reasons behind other points of view?

To understand how CNN, in particular, became a media outlet only interested in one point of view on guns I called one of its original seven founding members, Jim Shepherd, now the editor and publisher of The Shooting Wire. Shepherd has held a number of senior news executive positions during his career, including with CNN, the Financial News Network, the Golf Channel, and other television networks. He left CNN in 1985 after he became “disgusted with what they wouldn’t report.”

Jim says, “Part of what happened to CNN is what happened to Hollywood. The news, like Hollywood, became trapped in creating and fawning over celebrities. Getting Anderson Cooper publicized became more important than breaking the big story. When you have celebrity reporters telling you how they feel about being in Iraq instead of reporting on how our troops are doing you begin to lose perspective. With guns, instead of going to gun ranges, gun-owner’s homes, instead of interviewing women who’d stopped an attacker, and instead of really trying to understand the world such women live in and what they’re going through, they just tell us how they feel. Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, and the rest are stars, not reporters. They’re not hunting for the truth. They’re telling you what they think and what they think all comes from the cocktail parties on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and from conversations with other reporters.”

When I ask about his experience at CNN, he says, “When I was at CNN the lead stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post drove what we covered. They still do that for CNN and network news to a large extent. The cable news’ reporters and producers are intellectually lazy. They’re so busy chasing each other they don’t stop to find the truth.”

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There were Monsters and Some were Sharks

shark42Something monstrous was about to happen. You could feel it coming. Boats were out trying to drag the biggest monster shark from the deep. A crowd was waiting, eager to see the apex predators that still swim in the deep of the Atlantic hung up for them to see. The scene was so retro it was like a black-and-white documentary on shark fishing was playing right there in 3D color on this pier in the now swanky, yacht-infested town of Newport, Rhode Island.

If you don’t know Newport, picture a Hollywood set of an idealized New England town running along the edge of the Atlantic. The main drag is all seafood restaurants with gaudy ship’s anchors and wheels as trimmings, and boutiques with glamor in their storefronts and pubs with dark wood bars and brass taps. Each cross street ends in a pier. A few have real fish markets on them. Most have yachts bobbing off them.

People were saying Celine Dion was on one of the big white yachts with those one-way windows and spacious sun decks—one of the boats without outriggers. Everyone nodded when they heard this, as if it must be true. How can you have a real American scene without a celebrity endorsement?

All around the extras were strictly upper class. You could tell from the brands of their vacation clothes. The men were wearing docksiders without socks, Sketchers or Lanvin sneakers and bright Abercrombie shirts and Patagonia shorts. The women were in Lands’ End skirts, Indigo designer jeans, Ann Taylor blouses and Laura Jean shoes and had Prada and Gouche bags. A few of the older men wore blue sport jackets and vintage white oxford shirts. Some of the men actually had sweaters tied around their necks. They were all coming off the chic street along the blue bay in hopes of seeing monsters.

shark32Of course, hundreds of shark fishermen were in town, too. But few would make you think of the character Quint in “Jaws.” They were mostly men from New York and Boston who have the spare change to run a boat that can motor 50 miles off the coast for sharks or tuna for a day’s fishing with pals or family. Some fancy themselves as throwback, iconic playboys in an age when such men were cultural manifestations of class and manly appeal, to an era when Errol Flynn, Jack London and Humphrey Bogart took their big boats out to the blue water for giant fish.

Still, this is a kill tournament. Its captains might be mostly well heeled, but they’re not afraid of getting shark blood on their office-smooth hands. Well, I found that a few hired first mates with shark-fishing skills to make up for their lack of shark-fishing prowess. These types might pick up a rod after a shark is hooked, but then they might just as likely watch with a martini in their gold-ringed fingers. But, that said, most of these guys fish.

To add spice to the already flavorful scene there had been threats from PETA to show up and do who knows what. The year before—when the tournament was still in Martha’s Vineyard—20 “animal-rights” protestors picked a fight. It seems that some of the spectators started yelling things back. There was no fence separating them. Parents where putting their hands over their children’s ears.

I walked down the pier and passed cops waiting like bouncers for those jokers. But, oh hum, there weren’t any of those let’s-ban-reality types around. This pier had been rented for the “Monster Shark Tournament” so this was private property. Any protestors would be escorted off like Code Pink activists at a Republican convention.

shark22An announcer on this little boom-box loudspeaker was telling everyone the monster sharks were coming. Fishing boats would soon pull up, one by one, with big dead sharks on them. These sharks would be hoisted up, blood dripping, by this crane with a long steel cable and hook. The sharks would be weighed on a scale that that was officially calibrated to satisfy International Game and Fish Association (IGFA) standards—records, after all, might be broken. The biggest mako, thresher or porbeagle would win the day, but not necessarily the event. There was still another day of monster shark fishing to be done in the waters that inspired “Jaws” and the weights would be added together.

Meanwhile, there was this deep, heartfelt undercurrent. A family from upstate New York was running the tournament. None of them are shark fishermen. None of them planned on doing this just six months before. They had this relative, Steve James, who was as famous as Frank Mundus (the guy “Quint” in “Jaws” was based on) in shark-tournament circles. James had been president of the Boston Big Game Fishing Club and ran this monster shark tournament for the past 27 years, but James died in a duck-hunting accident the previous January. He’d gone out into the mouth of the Westport River in a 16-foot aluminum skiff with two others. The boat tipped over on the back of a wave. Steve and Robert Becher drowned in the white-capped water on that 8-degree morning. Gregg Angell, a doctor, survived by miraculously swimming to an island. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued him. At the time of the rescue the water temperature was 35 degrees and the wind was blowing at 30 knots, creating a 3-foot chop.

Now Steve’s family—his mother, uncle, aunt, niece and nephew and cousins—had come to put on this tournament as a dedication to a man who’d always been larger than life. You could feel their love for him emanating from the scene. All the shark fishermen were telling stories about Steve’s safaris and shark tournaments and the times he went to state capital buildings to tell lawmakers why they should vote this way or that for the sake of the sharks and the world we are a part of.

“He was man’s man,” said one.

“There aren’t supposed to be men like Steve anymore. A total Hemingway type,” said another.

“Steve was an adventurer,” said his mother, Doreen James, as we looked out at a boat coming in with a shark. Her eyes were proud and moist with a mother’s loss as she said, “He’d hunted all over the world. He loved catching huge sharks on rod and reel. He was a gentleman. He was all that a man should be. He was my son.”

Steve had his moment of fame. In 2004 ESPN started televising this tournament. That year it attracted 245 entrants. The next year a boat in the tournament landed a 1,191-pound tiger shark. That got the attention of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They began a national campaign to pressure Martha’s Vineyard to end the contest. Through all this Steve pointed out that the tournament was good for Martha’s Vineyard, that they operated within state and federal fishery laws and that they maintained limits that resulted in few sharks being brought dead to the dock.

Still, all the trouble convinced James to move the tournament to Newport and that’s just what his relatives did.

The shark in the first boat in was a disappointment—just a 100-pound mako. “I had to kill it,” said the captain in an apologetic tone. “It couldn’t be revived.”

Several biologists there waiting weighed and measured the shark and took samples. “I go to shark tournaments up and down the East Coast,” said Lisa Natanson, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as she pulled on arm-length rubber gloves, slit open the shark’s stomach and reached in to see what it had been devouring. “Without these tournaments we couldn’t learn all we do about sharks. And the anglers don’t kill many sharks. These tournaments are good for sharks.” She pulled out a fish head. “Well, this one was hungry.”
More boats showed with threshers and makos. None were huge. Little kids pushed through the legs of the ogling adults. So many climbed onto the base of a nearby crane to see over the crowd that the dock’s owner begged people to get back, but then gave up as the tide of people washed over him.

This next boat in wasn’t like all the pretty white yachts in the harbor. It is had an open deck and a cabin without the plush bars and couches in many of the other boats. There were suntanned men in rubber fisherman boots on the boat’s deck. You could tell these men fish for a living. They came in slowly as the announcer threw suspense into a microphone and people pushed forward to see.

This boat was the Magellan captained by Frank Greiner Jr. They tied up and the crane hummed and dropped its hook. Up came a 429-pound porbeagle, a big-headed shark that likes the cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic.

Mouths were agape.

Click here to read the rest of my article at Outdoor Life.

Why I Chose To Run With The Bulls, Again

Bull ay113788345pamplona-spain-e1373278494309Ernest Hemingway wrote in an introduction to Men at War (1942): “Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.”

Many of the people who step into the street in Pamplona, Spain, to run with bulls fail to suspend their imaginations. They think about being gored. They think about being gutted by a horn. They fall apart.

I’m just back from my third trip to run with the bulls—the San Fermin festival in Pamplona finishes this week. My first run in 2007 went like this. (I wrote about this and much more in my book The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide.)

Each of us stood alone in an anxious crowd. There were so many of us filling the narrow street in Pamplona I had to turn my shoulders and push against the other runners to move. We were all wearing white clothes with red sashes and bandanas bought from street vendors in the small city. The veteran runners sashes and bandanas were washed-out red and they had patches sewn on them and shiny pins of bulls and runners clustered over them like Boy Scout bandanas. Most of the people in the street had new and clean red bandanas and sashes.

Morning sunlight was touching the tops of five- and six-story buildings that rise up like walls along the narrow streets in this ancient city built on a plateau in the Pyrenees. At each floor above the first are balconies. These were overloaded with people also dressed in white and red, though the people on them had blood and wine, not fear, in their eyes.

Outside the packed street music was building and falling as marching bands moved down the canyon streets closer, then away twisting with the curving byways back into the city founded by Romans.

The bulls run every morning at 8 a.m. for eight days in a row. You have to get in the street before 7:30 a.m., as that’s when the police close the entrances through the wooden barricades to the narrow streets where the bulls run. You think about when you’ll begin to run. Mostly you stand and wait. Thirty minutes is a long time to ponder riding the horns. It had almost been thirty minutes already.

Each minute loudspeakers hung up and down the street were doing a countdown to the planned stampede. They were giving advice in Spanish, English, and French: “If you are knocked down. Stay down. Don’t stand up in front of a bull….”

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The Underground Market-Driven Truth About Africa’s Rhino War

Rhino hornless“Maybe Asia would take notice if Africans advertised panda hunts. See how they like that,” said Brian Gaisford, president of Hemingway Gallery and Safaris.

He doesn’t mean that, of course. Brian is a globetrotting conservationist, even a bit of an activist. He said this just after coming back from the front lines of the “rhino wars.” His tone was sardonic. He was clearly in the later stages of grief. Over the past few years he has gone from anger to desperation to hopeless dread as the rhino population in South Africa’s Kruger National Park has continued to plummet from poaching. He isn’t alone.

When I was in South Africa two years ago I spent a day with a game ranger working in South Africa’s Kruger National Park—the place where most of the rhinos are being poached. This South African game ranger said half-jokingly that he’d like to start slipping across the border into Mozambique at night to grab the poachers. He said he would leave little rubber rhinos on their pillows. I got the feeling he would really like to do this.

The problem comes down to demand in Asia. Brian explains that rhino horn now sells for about $95,000 a kilogram on the Asian black market. This is up from $65,000 in November of 2014. Rhino average about two kilograms per horn. This means Rhino horn is now worth about twice its weight in gold. There are an estimated 22,000 white rhinos, and 5,000 black rhinos left in Africa—about 80 percent of those are in South Africa. Those numbers are declining at a rapid rate. One is poached about every eight hours.

Brian says, “If we don’t stop the Asian demand for rhino horn, elephant ivory, and lion bone, the big game in Africa is doomed. Everyone involved in the fight to save the rhino agrees on one thing: the situation is not looking good for rhinos.”

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Is This the Gun Case the U.S. Supreme Court Will Take?

supreme courtSince the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Heller v. D.C. (2008) that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms and then ruled in McDonald v. Chicago (2010) that this right also restricts state and local governments, the high court has opted not to hear cases that might further define gun rights. This has been a little surprising, as some lower courts have actually produced majority opinions that are critical of decisions reached by other courts. Such conflicts at the circuit level typically force the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.

A California case—Peruta v. San Diego County—might soon force the U.S. Supreme Court to settle some of the constitutional disputes.

The California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation brought Peruta on behalf of five individuals who were denied the right to carry a handgun by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Last February a three-judge panel in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the government can’t require residents who want a concealed-carry permit to first prove they really need their rights by showing official documentation, such as restraining orders or letters from law-enforcement agencies.

After a three-judge panel found such requirements to be unconstitutional, the 9th Circuit opted to rehear the case before its full 11-member panel. That hearing occurred last week. You can see a video of the hearing here. Whatever they decide (a decision could come anytime) this case is a very ripe candidate for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s how this decision, if it makes it that far, could reshape the gun debate in America.

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Colt Defense LLC Files For Bankruptcy—Now What?

fm_shooting_arGun maker Colt Defense LLC announced it has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection. They filed today in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Colt says this “will allow for an accelerated sale of Colt’s business operations in the U.S. and Canada.”

According to Colt, its current sponsor, Sciens Capital Management LLC (“Sciens”), has agreed to act as a “stalking horse bidder” and proposed to purchase almost all of Colt’s assets and to assume secured liabilities related to existing agreements with the employees’ union, its vendors, creditors and more.

Colt says, “As part of the Sciens led bid, Colt will be able to reassure its employees and local community of its commitment to continued operations in West Hartford through a long term extension on the lease for its manufacturing facilities and campus in West Hartford.”

Many are reporting that this might actually be a good thing for this storied company that once helped begin America’s industrial revolution.

Now, under section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code, “notice of the pending sale to Sciens will be given to third parties and competing bids will be solicited, with an independent committee of Colt’s board of managers established to manage the bidding process and evaluate bids.”

Colt says it will continue normal business operations. Union-related agreements will also be unaffected and employees will be paid.

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Why Mandates For Gun Technology Are Stupid

smartgun_2010_internet_0013Some anti-gun legislators think you’re stupid. Or maybe they’re just so ideologically walled off they don’t realize how stupid their ideas are.

The Handgun Trigger Safety Act introduced on June 2 by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is designed to be a smart political tactic—it even tries to mandate we use “smart guns”—but it is anything but smart.

According to this bill gun dealers would be required to install “smart gun” technology that only enables a gun to fire if the gun recognizes the shooter as being a swell guy, someone who has been designated as an authorized user.

Smart guns are an emerging technology. Some use biometric scanners, others require the user to wear a Bluetooth bracelet, and some ideas on the drawing board even require someone to receive a microchip implant that, if the system doesn’t fail, unlocks the gun.

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Happy Birthday Clint Eastwood

1. afistfulofdollarsHe was born on May 31, 1930, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a steelworker and migrant worker who settled in Piedmont, California. Clinton Eastwood Jr. was hardly an instant star, but when he found his stoic style after years of stiff acting in the television hit “Rawhide” (1959-1966), he would give us “the Man with No Name” and Dirty Harry; antiheros who used dialogue more sparingly than they did their revolvers.

In 1951 Eastwood planned to go to Seattle University, but the Army had other plans. They drafted him, as the Korean War was then in full swing. But he never did have to carry an M1 Garand into battle like his character Walt Kowalski did in “Gran Torino” (2008). The Army appointed Eastwood lifeguard and swimming instructor. In the biography Clint: The Life and Legend, Patrick McGilligan wrote that Eastwood avoided being sent to combat by “romancing one of the daughters of a Fort Ord officer….”

After many un-credited parts, “Rawhide” gave Eastwood the time to develop as an actor. By 1963 Eastwood was ready for a bigger opportunity. It came when his co-star on Rawhide, Eric Fleming, turned down a part for a western called “A Fistful of Dollars” that would be directed in a remote region of Spain by the then little unknown Sergio Leone. When asked about the transition from TV western drama to playing the lead in a “A Fistful of Dollars” Eastwood said, “In ‘Rawhide’ I did get awfully tired of playing the conventional white hat. The hero who kisses old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody. I decided it was time to be an antihero.”

The film started the “spaghetti Western” phenomena with Eastwood’s antihero changing the American image of the Western hero from one with a white hat and altruistic intentions to one with a morally ambiguous foundation and selfish goals.

Eastwood, when asked about playing the Man with No Name character, said “I wanted to play it with an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement. It was just the kind of character I had envisioned for a long time, keep to the mystery and allude to what happened in the past. It came about after the frustration of doing ‘Rawhide’ for so long. I felt the less he said, the stronger he became and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience.”

The Man with No Name had a gun, and he was snake fast and deadly with his revolver, but he wasn’t good or bad. He was a new kind of hero for the Western genre. He didn’t have John Wayne’s moral code, he was out for himself, not some greater good. The post-antihero, old-school hero would patriotically go to war and believe, despite the messiness and gross immorality of war, that somehow he was fighting for something good and so he was good. This Man with No Name antihero was apart and above those old values; he was going to get his.

In fact, John Wayne declined a role in “High Plains Drifter” (1973), a film directed by Eastwood, and after the film was released Wayne sent a letter to Eastwood in which he said, “The townspeople did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that made America great.”

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A Gun Tech Company is in Trouble, but the Future is Clear

Tracking Point BoltAcross the top of TrackingPoint’s website is the statement: “Due to financial difficulty TrackingPoint will no longer be accepting orders.” This is the company that made news in 2013 when it used “fighter jet technology” to make rifles even an amateur could hit targets with at 1,000 yards. Worries that this shooting system—sold to civilians—might fall into a terrorist’s or mass murderer’s hands have been aired on cable news shows and printed in major publications ever since.

None of that has yet happened, and there are a lot of reasons why those scenarios are a little far-fetched. For example, the TrackingPoint system had to be manually adjusted to compensate for estimated wind drift. At long range, even a light wind can push a bullet far off target. Adjusting for the wind and other variables still requires that a shooter have a lot of experience.

Nevertheless, just because TrackingPoint seems to be going under doesn’t mean guns aren’t still in the process of making a massive leap into the digital age. Here’s what everyone should know.

Despite its controversial nature and a genuine interest in this technology, it wasn’t hard to predict this end for TrackingPoint. Last August I’d reported that TrackingPoint would likely go belly up in my book The Future of the Gun. Still, what the media won’t be savvy enough to see is how TrackingPoint’s advances—and those from other competing companies—are still changing guns and will, inevitably, alter the world we live in.

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