Frank Miniter

As Many as One Million Armed New Yorkers are About to Break the Law

f.miniter shooting Remington sniper rifleThis year April 15 is more than the tax deadline for an estimated one million New York State residents. It’s also the deadline to register “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines. If they don’t, they’ll begin living outside the law. A lot of them have decided to do just that. They’ve decided to practice civil disobedience even though failure to register an “assault weapon” by the deadline is punishable as a “class A misdemeanor,” which means a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

I put “assault weapon” and “high-capacity” in quotes because their definitions vary by state—they’re political terms. In New York State, the SAFE Act passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in January 2013, uses an expansive and elaborate definition of “assault weapon” that includes a lot more than AR-15s. Now even a semiautomatic Remington Model 1100 shotgun—a popular shotgun first made in 1963 that is used by millions of hunters and skeet shooters—is an “assault weapon” in New York State if the shotgun has a pistol grip. Many other commonly owned pistols, shotguns and rifles are also now labeled “assault weapons” in New York State.

When I asked the New York State Police how many New York gun owners had registered the guns they own that now fit somewhere into the state’s expansive “assault weapons” category the state responded: “New York State Police cannot release information related to the registration of assault weapons including the number of assault weapons registered. Those records you seek are derived from information collected for the State Police database and are, therefore, exempt from disclosure.”

This is the same dilemma Connecticut gun owners found themselves in at the end of 2013. As of December 31, 2013, according to Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police (CSP), the state had received 41,347 applications to register “assault weapons” and 36,932 applications to register “high-capacity” magazines. That means that more than 300,000 Connecticut residents decided not to register their “assault weapons,” moved them out of state, or sold them.

The numbers of gun owners who might still have “assault weapons” in New York and Connecticut are not guesses. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for firearms manufacturers, estimates there are likely 350,000 residents of Connecticut who had now banned “assault weapons” as of late 2013. The NSSF says, “The 350,000 number is a conservative estimate based on numerous surveys, consumer purchases, NICS background check data and also private-party transactions.” The NSSF used the same criteria to estimate that at least one million New York residents had “assault weapons” the state banned the sale of and demanded that owners register with the police.

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On Manly Chores

I just finished another book. It’s titled “The Future of the Gun” and it’ll be in bookstores this August. That felt very satisfying. But then this morning my truck battery died. I had to find my electric charger, start the truck, and then buy and replace the battery. That took just a few minutes, but in a way was also very satisfying. After a long winter inside writing there’s just nothing like a simple, manly chore you can see the results in when you’re done. Being manly can really be that simple. Maybe it’s the proof you have the skills, the know-how to be a man. As that old Canadian television comedy “The Red and Green Show” used to advise men: “If the ladies don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

A Man Lives in the Throes of the Arena

roosOn April 23, 1910 Theodore Roosevelt gave his “Man in the Arena” speech in Paris, France. Here is a section of that speech that is especially relevant for today’s leaders.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who “but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.

Defining Away the First Amendment

Remington Typewriter2The Obama administration wants pass a media shield law that would protect only “covered journalists.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he has the votes to advance it in the Senate. The legislation defines an “approved journalist” as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The government would then presumably have to define a new organization that disseminates news or information—would a blog count?

What’s scary about this is the “press” hasn’t historically been granted rights that are not held by every American for a number of fundamental reasons. No court has established a definition of “press” that defines it as specially protected class. Of course, any differentiation between the press and the people that was once even vaguely definable has since been further blurred by blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social-media sites. As far back as Lovell v. City of Griffin (1938), Chief Justice Charles E. Hughes defined the press as “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.” This includes everything from newspapers to blogs to WikiLeaks. As journalist A.J. Liebling (1904-1963) famously quipped, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Today, we all own one.

This is because the only way to decide who qualifies as “press” would be for the government to license the media just like it give press badges for access to the White House. If such an unconstitutional thing were to occur, then the media could go around and haughtily flash their official media badges like a bunch of Junior G-men while the rest of us would be second-class citizens. Though amusing, this is a frightening concept, as government media licenses (or a list of government “approved journalists”) would allow politicians to decide who gets to interview them, who gets to write about them, and who is permitted to opine about them and their policies. Such government control of the press could never be compatible with First Amendment protections. This is why the people are the press.

[1] A.J. Liebling, “Do you belong in journalism?,” The New Yorker, May 14, 1960.

To be a Leader a Man Must Understand Action

As Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to baffle and embarrass U.S. President Barack Obama on the world stage, it’s worth looking a little at what forms real heroic characteristics. Obama, after all, clearly doesn’t understand that sometimes a leader must show strength to bring about peace. Weakness can embolden an aggressor. A lot of boys find this out on the playground. Some figure this out in the workplace. The strength that comes from letting a bully know you will act if forced often prevents the fight in the first place. It also creates a manly understanding. This is why Mahatma Ghandi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

A leader must be reluctant but still willing to fight. A man fights, but only when his back is against a wall, to defend the weak, or to selflessly fight for justice. A hero can never be a bully. Even Sun Tzu, credited with authoring of The Art of War, a Chinese text on the craft of war that scholars date between the second and fourth centuries B.C., wrote that the greatest victory is won without fighting. But Sun Tzu didn’t think showing weakness (declaring you won’t fight) is a wise tactic. Along this theme, Theodore Roosevelt used the slogan, “Walk softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

Along the way, a man (or woman for that matter) earns their stripes and so knows how to behave in the face of aggression. This is why Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Ah, Madame, you will find no man who is a man who will not bear some marks of past misfortune. Either he has been hit here, broken this, or contracted that, but a man throws off many things and I know a champion at golf who never putted so well as with the gonorrhea.”

America’s Oldest Gun Maker Avoids a Political Fire Sale

Christmas has come early in Ilion, New York, site of America’s oldest factory still making its original product—guns. George Kollitides, chairman and CEO of Remington Outdoor Company, Inc., (ROC), a group formerly known as Freedom Group, Inc., sent his employees a memo to let them know they’re buying out unhappy stockholders instead of selling ROC under political duress. No more making guns under the threat of an imminent sale, no more wondering what might happen any moment to this little town living around the beating brick heart of a gun factory since 1816.

Cerberus Capital Management, L.P., ROC’s owner, has been looking for a buyer for the firearm group since December 2012, after a sociopath used a semiautomatic rifle made by Bushmaster, one of ROC’s subsidiaries, to murder students and others at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which then held 2.4 percent of Freedom Group, threatened Cerberus to sell its gun makers or they’d pull their funds.

ROC, whose many products have been in high demand, hasn’t found a buyer. To end the uncertainty, a group of investors, including Kollitides, decided to buy out the discontented investors. The memo from Kollitides said, “The $175 million loan proceeds will be used to repurchase $150 million of shares from exiting investors, with the remaining $25 million in cash being placed on ROC’s balance sheet, which will be used to grow our business with capital equipment, facility and acquisition investments.”

Of course, this move does not mean ROC still can’t still be sold; it just makes the sale seem less likely.

Teddy Novin, ROC’s public affairs director, confirmed that the memo sent from Kollitides to employees is legit. Kollitides memo also explained that his investment group intends to follow the initial equity move with more transactions to grow and solidify the ROC.

ROC is a diverse company with facilities spread across the U.S., including an ammunition manufacturer in Arkansas—a facility ROC is currently investing $32 million in—and many other facilities. The plant in Ilion, however, has been a focal point for speculation and rumors because of its iconic history and meaning to America’s 100 million gun owners. In the past two years, as gun sales have continued to surge, the Remington Arms factory in Ilion has doubled its workforce from 700 employees to about 1,400 and ROC has invested $20 million in the factory.

The men and women making guns in America’s oldest gun factory in Ilion are members of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local Union 717. They’re mostly blue collar. They wear jeans and work boots to the factory. Many of their fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers and generations more before them worked in this factory.

I visited this facility again in October 2013. Located near Utica in Upstate New York, the old brick factory is the beating heart of Ilion and nearby Mohawk.

For the rest of the article click here for my column in Forbes.

Of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday

Were Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really friends? I wondered and did some research. Original sources show that in the Wild West the line between outlaw and town marshal were sometimes blurry. Such was the case with John Henry “Doc” Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Holliday was born 1851 in Georgia. His mother died of tuberculosis shortly after his 15th birthday. The disease would take other family members and finally Holliday as well. He was educated at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery and practiced for a short time as a dentist. When Holliday was diagnosed with tuberculosis he headed west. He found he had a talent for cards. Perhaps his tuberculosis made him a fatalist, but whatever the reason Doc Holliday wasn’t afraid to fight with guns or knives. He drifted about the West earning a bloody reputation until, in Shanssey’s saloon in Fort Griffin, Texas, he met the only woman who mattered to him: Big Nose Kate, a doctor’s daughter who had become a frontier dance hall woman and prostitute. In the same saloon he soon met Earp.

Earp rode in from Dodge City, Kansas, on the trail of a train robber. They hit it off. Doc even helped Wyatt hunt for the bandit. Doc later rode to Dodge City to play cards with Earp; however, he discovered that Wyatt had gone to a new silver strike in a place called Tombstone, Arizona. Doc followed Earp there. All of the Earp brothers were bound for Tombstone, too. Morgan was coming in from Montana, Wyatt and James from Dodge City, and Virgil from Prescott, Arizona.

When they arrived they found that a gang in Tombstone had things their way. This gang resented the arrival of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. Old Man Clanton, his sons, Ike, Phin, and Billy, the McLaury brothers (Frank and Tom), Curly Bill Brocius, John Ringo, and more were soon to famously butt heads with the Earp family and Doc Holliday.

Events exploded in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The gunfight took place at about 3 p.m. on Wednesday October 26, 1881, in Tombstone. On one side was the law—Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday. On the other side was gang the Cowboys—Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury. The shooting lasted about 30 seconds. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight unharmed. Billy Clanton and both McLaury brothers were killed.

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday would later ride together against the Cowboys in what is known as the “Earp Vendetta Ride.” The best movie that follows the complex series of gun battles and personalities is Tombstone (1993) with Kurt Russell as Wyatt and Val Kilmer as Doc; however, no movie has been completely honest about the historical events. But then, a lot of the history is in dispute. What we do know is that for better or worse, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday had such a profound friendship it passed into legend.

Why Celebrities Really Need the First Amendment

The Council of Croats in France filed charges against Bob Dylan. The Croats site French anti-racism laws. They point to an interview Dylan did with Rolling Stone magazine. Dylan said, “If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”

Lingers from what? Genes? These thoughts about generational guilt are certainly perplexing, but in America people can laugh or shrug them away, whereas in France they can take you to court.

The group that filed the suit said they’d be happy with an apology. Meanwhile, Dylan did three concerts in Paris and was given the Legion d’Honneur decoration by the French government.

Mr. President, Don’t Pardon Another Turkey

Mr. President, withhold your pardon. It’s time you dined on your Thanksgiving turkey. After all, would the starving pilgrims have pardoned a tom on the first Thanksgiving? Don’t millions of Americans settle around tables each autumn, thank the Lord for providing, and feast on turkey in celebration of the nation’s sacrifices to earn its bounty? Don’t millions of American hunters still kill their own gobblers each year, and thereby celebrate our connection with nature and our heritage? Why are you shirking all this?

It’s time, Mr. President, you broke the precedent, sharpened your axe, took that tom out to the figurative woodshed behind the White House and secured a fresh turkey dinner. Maybe even have a few foreign dignitaries over for the feast. In fact, invite anyone who needs to learn America still means business, such as Mr. Putin perhaps. Have them come along as you sharpen your axe, kill and pluck the night’s main course, and they’ll certainly learn America is still a country of men.

Besides, the precedent of padoning a turkey on Thanksgiving hardly goes back to George Washington—no old George would have carved a new set of teeth for the feast. Though live Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented intermittently to presidents since Abraham Lincoln’s administration, some say the current ceremony dates back to President Harry Truman in 1947; however, according to the Harry S. Truman Library, no records are known to exist that indicate he ever “pardoned” a turkey. President John F. Kennedy, however, is said to have spontaneously spared a turkey on Nov. 19, 1963. The tom was wearing a sign that read, “Good Eatin’ Mr. President.” And Kennedy, the old softy, reportedly said, “Let’s just keep him.”

President Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t so effeminate. Documents in the Eisenhower Presidential Library say he ate the birds presented to him. So there’s your precedent Mr. President. After all, the tom is a commercial turkey and so can’t live on its own. And, come on, do we really need another turkey on the public dole? Instead, let’s put this one to good use.

Eating the turkey would even be an act of mercy. The pardoned birds used to be sent to Virginia’s Frying Pan Park—talk about a hint. However, they’re now thrust, unbeknowest to them, into showbiz. Starting in 2005, the pardoned turkeys have been drafted to serve as public officials at either Disneyland or Disney World where they’ve been honory Grand Marshals of Disney’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Don’t we already have enough turkeys employed as politicians? And don’t we already have enough people living under Disney-inspired fantasies?

Just think what a statement chowing down on the tom would be. With every bite Mr. President, you’d be making all your adversaries swallow their tongues.

Why There is an Ammo Shortage

The reason for the ammunition shortage should be obvious. After all, with gun sales continuing to break records all those people buying semiautomatic rifles and handguns need a lot of ammunition. Anyone who has used a semiautomatic rifle or handgun to shoot self-resetting steel targets knows that ammo always seems to be in short supply.

Nevertheless, finding bare shelves that have always been stacked with boxes of ammo has made some wonder if the government has been up to something. It’s easy to understand this worry. As gun sales break records—partly because of fear of coming gun control from the Obama administration—supplies of ammo ran so low that gun stores and ranges have to ration ammunition. Meanwhile, rumors of mass purchases of ammunition made by government entities began to fly around the Internet. Making all this even worse is that fact that it hasn’t been a short-term supply problem. Now well over a year since the shortages of popular types of ammo began there are still empty shelves and rationing here and there around the United States.

Mix this series of events with a media that doesn’t understand the issue enough to explain it (even if they could drop their biases long enough to try), add a pinch of understandable paranoia from some gun owners and ka-boom!

Such an explosion, in fact, that many ammo makers have felt compelled to publish explanations. Also, the National Rifle Association (NRA) felt compelled by its membership to investigate and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for gun, ammo and related businesses, decided to look into the problem. There was even a congressional hearing.

At the hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs one of the House oversight subcommittees, noted that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is using roughly 1,000 rounds of ammunition more per person than the U.S. Army. “It is entirely … inexplicable why the Department of Homeland Security needs so much ammunition,” said Chaffetz.

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