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A jury recommended Monday that charges be brought against seven Milwaukee County jail staffers in the dehydration death of an inmate who was allegedly denied water for seven days.
The Associated Press reported the jury heard jail staff testimony and considered evidence from county prosecutors during a six day inquest. Jury members ultimately decided there was probable cause that 38-year-old Terrill Thomas was abused before his death on April 24, 2016.
Charges were recommended for two jail supervisors, Nancy Evans and Kashka Meadors, and five officers: James Ramsey-Guy, JorDon Johnson, Thomas Laine, Dominique Smith and John Weber.
The jury reportedly came to a decision a few hours after hearing testimony that staffers continued to deprive inmates of water as a form of punishment even after Thomas’ death. Jail logs reportedly showed two others cases, both within a month of Thomas’ death, in which water was shut off to inmates’ cells.
The jail is overseen by controversial conservative figure Sheriff David Clarke, but he was not targeted or charged as a result of the inquest. Clarke issued a statement regarding the matter in March, highlighting Thomas’ criminal background.
“I have nearly 1000 inmates. I don’t know all their names but is this the guy who was in custody for shooting up the Potawatomi Casino causing one man to be hit by gunfire while in possession of a firearm by a career convicted felon?” Clarke said. “The media never reports that in stories about him. If that is him, then at least I know who you are talking about.”
Clarke also noted on Facebook that he would not comment further on the matter and would let the legal process move forward.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm will ultimately decide whether or not to file the recommended charges, but said there is no timeline and that fewer or more people could end up being charged.
Chisholm noted he thought jurors were convinced from the evidence that jail policies had not been followed and called the incident a “major system failure.”
“I think it’s just the clear lack of oversight over this entire process that really troubled them more than anything else,” he said.
Thomas was arrested in April 2016 for allegedly shooting a man in front of his parents’ house. Charges also allege Thomas, whose family said was suffering a mental breakdown, later fired the gun inside a casino.
According to evidence presented at the inquest, jail staffers failed to log the shutting off of Thomas’ water supply, an action that was taken after Thomas allegedly flooded his cell by stuffing a mattress in the toilet.
During his closing arguments to the jury, Chisholm said Thomas’ family had one question for the jail staffers.
“Had Mr. Thomas been your son, had he been your brother, had he been a close friend, would this have happened?” Chisholm said. “I think we all know the answer to that.”
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The Department of Justice said last week the audit of a federal detention center in Kansas raises concerns about a widespread lack of oversight at more than a dozen other facilities nationwide.
The Office of Inspector General released its report on the Leavenworth Detention Center in northeastern Kansas last month in which it documented routine understaffing, over-bunking and a general disregard for prison conditions during a five-year period between October 2010 and May 2015.
“As we state in today’s report, we are concerned that the lack of effective monitoring at Leavenworth may also be a problem at other facilities that hold Marshals Service detainees,” said Deputy Inspector General Rob Storch in a video last week. “The findings … underscore the challenges of ensuring that facilities holding federal inmates and detainees — including those operated by contractors — are well run, and safe and secure for all staff, inmates, and detainees. We will continue to do our part in helping the Justice Department identify and address those challenges.”
Leavenworth Detention Center houses more than 1,100 federal detainees of the U.S. Marshals Service and is one of 15 privately-operated centers across the country. CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based contractor, began managing Leavenworth in 1990 and is 10 years into a potential $697 million contract with the Marshal’s Service, slated to last through 2026.
As of January 2017, only $252 million of the contract had been paid to CoreCivic — though auditors stated the agency may have gotten a better deal, had it shopped around to “ensure the best overall value to the government.”
Instead, auditors contend, the agency limited contractors to the Leavenworth area, but could not provide sufficient evidence to justify such a narrow pool of candidates.
Auditors also discovered routine understaffing at Leavenworth forced the closure of posts identified as critical to ensure the safety of the facility. In just one year examined by auditors, overall staff vacancy reached 11 percent. That rate more than doubled among correctional officers.
Despite the ongoing staffing challenges, CoreCivic didn’t attempt to pull employees from other sites to fill in the necessary posts, but rather implemented mandatory overtime — a decision auditors said “led to lower morale, security concerns, and fewer correctional officers available to escort medical staff and detainees to and from the health services unit.”
“In our judgment, the USMS was inherently reactive,” the audit reads. “Instead of actively monitoring LDC operations to identify discrepancies and thwart potential incidents, the USMS often became aware of incidents after they occurred.”
In another instance, auditors discovered CoreCivic concealed its practice of triple bunking detainees in cells designed for two from the American Correctional Association during its 2011 inspection by uninstalling the extra beds. Auditors suspect the company practiced the same deception before inspections performed in 2005 and 2008.
The association declined taking action against the company because the senior officials involved in the scheme were no longer employed at CoreCivic, according to the report.
“Our audit further determined that the USMS has issued conflicting guidance on the allowability of triple bunking by its contractors, and that it should clearly specify in its new and existing contracts the rules and procedures governing this practice,” the audit reads.
The OIG concluded its report with two dozen recommendations to improve oversight and management at Leavenworth, including attempts to expand its geographical search for future contractors and pay closer attention to staffing shortages and potential solutions.
The Marshals Service concurred with all 24 of the recommendations, while CoreCivic only provided commentary on some of the issues raised in the report.
“We recognize that attracting and retaining qualified staff is a challenge with the corrections industry as a whole,” said Natasha Metcalf, vice president of partnership development for CivicCore, in the company’s official response to the audit dated April 5. “We continue to explore ways to tackle this industry-wide issue. We, along with the USMS, have initiated several efforts to provide greater visibility into staffing and staff vacancies. We are also pursuing measures to recruit additional staff.”
Metcalf continued, “For more than three decades, the company has been an innovative, dependable partner for the government and we appreciate the audit’s efforts to identify areas for improvement in the execution and administration of the Leavenworth contract in the future.”
The U.S. Marshals Service is the latest federal agency to come under scrutiny for oversight issues uncovered in the auditing process. In March, the OIG released a scathing report on the Department of Justice’s mismanagement of confidential informants. Last month during a congressional hearing, lawmakers scolded the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives for creating “a horror show” of theft an abuse.
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A former Boston Police Officer was arrested Monday on charges of illegally purchasing two firearms for other individuals.
According to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office of Massachusetts, 37-year-old Adarbaad Karani has been charged with two counts of making a false statement while purchasing firearms and two counts of making a false statement in a record.
The indictment, unsealed Monday, alleges Karani acted as a firearms “straw purchaser” in November 2014 and September 2015. The defendant purchased two guns during those transactions — a Glock, model 27, .40 caliber pistol and a Glock, model 30S, .45 caliber pistol — and falsely stated that the weapons were for his official police duties while actually buying them on behalf of others.
Karani, who retired from the force in November 2016, also allegedly used his police credentials to buy the guns, which could not have been purchased by civilians, and confirmed on federal forms that the firearms were for official police use.
One of the firearms ended up in the hands of alleged gang member Desmond Crawford, found on his person at the time of his November 2015 arrest.
If found guilty, the former cop faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the charges. He was released on conditions after appearing before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein.
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An Army soldier was killed Saturday in Iraq when an improvised explosive device blew up during a patrol outside Mosul as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
First Lt. Weston C. Lee, 25, of Bluffton, Georgia died while conducting security as part of “advise and assist” support, according to the Department of Defense.
Lee was a platoon leader of the Red Falcons of the 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C.
“Lee was an extraordinary young man and officer. He was exactly the type of leader that our Paratroopers deserve,” said Col. Pat Work, Falcon 6, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, according to a post on the 82nd Airborne’s Facebook page. “Our sincere condolences and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Lee joined the Army in March 2015. He was deployed to Iraq in December 2016, according to the Army Times. It was his first deployment.
Lee’s awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, and the Army Service Ribbon. He has been posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal.
“He will never be forgotten,” reads the Facebook post. “We now turn our full attention to his Family in their mourning.”
The DOD says the incident that led to his death is being investigated.
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A 17-year-old boy is facing charges following an attempted robbery that went awry inside a Little Rock high-rise apartment last week and left his 17-year-old comrade dead.
Ronterio Claybrook was charged with manslaughter, aggravated robbery and first-degree battery, according to the Little Rock Police Department. He was charged as an adult.
Authorities were called to the apartment building around 5:20 p.m. on reports of gunfire and an attempted robbery. When officers arrived on the scene, they found a 17-year-old boy in the stairwell of the high-rise, dead from an apparent gunshot wound. Claybrook was also found with a non-life threatening injury. He was transported to the hospital for medical treatment and moved to jail Friday following his release.
An investigation revealed the teens engaged in an exchange of gunfire with the tenant who they were attempting to rob.
The deceased teen’s name was not released, and there were no reports of the tenant being injured.
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Local media captured images of what was left of the house where the man suspected of killing a Delaware State Trooper last week engaged in a nearly 24-hour standoff with authorities.
Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard was shot and killed by Burgon Sealy Jr. during an encounter outside of a convenience store Wednesday.
Sealy fled the scene – calling his family on the way to tell them what he had done – then holed up in the house. Authorities made multiple attempts to breach the home, while trying to persuade Sealy to surrender, but all attempts were unsuccessful.
Sealy eventually came out of the house, but opened fire on the officers outside. Authorities, in response, returned fire, killing Sealy.
Thus far, authorities have not revealed a possible motive for the trooper’s slaying.
[ ABC News ]
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Arizona’s Republican governor on Monday slammed the lid on future universal background check laws proposed by any local ordinance.
The measure signed by Gov. Doug Ducey this week, SB 1122, short circuits potential local requirements mandating a background check for the transfer of property between two private individuals. The proposal passed the Senate 16-14 in March and the House 32-23 last month.
Backers argued that the legislation would safeguard the sale or gifting of personal items, be it furniture or firearms, without government involvement.
“If I want to sell … any of my personal property, including weapons, I should be able to do that,” Rep. Anthony Kern said during floor debate. “It is up to me as a responsible seller to make sure I know who the buyer is. It’s called America and it’s called the Second Amendment.”
The legislation, now law, prevents any Arizona county, city or town government from passing a local ordinance or law requiring those selling, gifting or donating personal property from having to use a third-party database before transferring the items. While it applies to all general household goods, it would also preempt universal background checks on private gun sales.
Although no current person-to-person background check law exists in the state, during the bill’s legislative process former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords founded the Arizona Coalition for Common Sense with the goal of implementing such checks to include most private gun transfers and increasing mandatory gun surrenders in cases of domestic abuse. The group contends the number of gun deaths in Arizona is much higher than the national average and, citing figures from Everytown, that 62 percent of women who were killed by intimate partners in Arizona were shot to death.
“Unfortunately, our elected leaders responded to the gun violence we see all too often in Arizona by passing a gun lobby-backed bill that will put our communities in danger,” said Annie Lamoureaux with Moms Demand Action in a statement. “Senate Bill 1122 does nothing but ensure that localities cannot require background checks for all gun sales to keep guns out of the hands of felons and other people with dangerous histories.”
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Melbourne, Florida-based FightLite, through its SCR series rifles, has long been giving those whose local laws hinder traditional AR platform ownership a seat at the table
Geoffrey A. Herring originally started the company as ARES Defense Systems in 1997 and last year changed the name to FightLite to better reflect their products. Guns.com met with Herring over the weekend at the 146th National Rifle Association Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta and spoke with him about the SCR line of “featureless” rifles that use a standard AR upper and modded lower with a sporting (no pistol grip/collapsible butt) Monte Carlo-profile stock.
The guns, originally designed to be compliant with the now-sunsetted federal assault weapon ban, coincidentally are still compliant with New York’s 2013 SAFE Act and have become a big hit (as have other featureless designs) in post-Gunmageddon California.
With five-round magazines standard — they also accept any regular AR mag — the receivers are made from 7075-T6 forgings and use mil-spec Carpenter 158 bolts and 4140 chro-moly 1:9 twist barrels. Stock and forearms come in Magpul MOE with M-LOK systems as well as KeyMod with MSRP running from $1132 upward.
They also sell lower receiver assemblies through a variety of dealers that, if you shop around, can be found for under $500.
Coincidentally, on the other end of the spectrum, FightLite also makes the MCR belt-fed AR.
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Four people were shot in a Dallas neighborhood Monday morning in an incident which officials described as a dispute between two neighbors that escalated to deadly proportions.
A paramedic and a civilian were injured by gunfire and, though initially listed in critical condition, both are expected to survive. Two men were also found deceased — one of them was believed to be the shooter, who died from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. As of late Monday night, authorities had not released any of their names.
The incident unfolded when police received a 911 call about a shooting around 11:31 a.m. Dallas Fire-Rescue were the first to arrive on the scene in an ambulance and immediately upon arrival, found a resident suffering from a gunshot wound. As the EMT went to provide first aid to the injured individual, the EMT was struck by gunfire, the City of Dallas said in a press release.
A short time later, officers arrived on the scene to find the paramedic and the resident both lying in the street suffering from gunshot wounds. The responding officers were also met with gunfire from the suspect, and SWAT was called in.
However, Dallas Interim Police Chief David Pughes said as other officers took cover for safety, Dallas Police Sgt. Robert Watson went in alone and “subjected himself to extreme risk and danger” to help the injured paramedic. Watson pulled the paramedic from the street, placed him in his squad car and rushed him to the hospital, an action that was praised by city officials.
“That act likely saved that paramedic’s life,” Dallas Fire Chief David Coatney said in a press conference.
It’s unclear how or when the injured civilian was transported to the hospital, but both the civilian and the paramedic remain in ICU. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings confirmed that the paramedic, who suffered severe blood loss, had undergone multiple surgeries and more will be required, along with “extensive medical treatment.”
Some time after arriving on the scene, the suspect barricaded himself inside a home and authorities later used a robot to enter the residence. Inside, they discovered two deceased males, one of whom was believed to be the suspect and appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Although not yet confirmed by the authorities, the Dallas Morning News identified the suspect as Derick Lamont Brown, a man with a lengthy criminal history and prior involvement with the Dallas-area New Black Panther Party.
Chief Pughes said the incident is still under investigation and although scarce at this time, additional details will be released as soon as possible.
“The long and the short of this is we had a paramedic that worked diligently and with great vigor to take care of somebody, and we had a great police officer that did the same,” Mayor Rawlings concluded. “Every day, these fire-rescue officers and the police put their lives on the line. We saw it today, and I’m so proud of these guys for taking the action they did.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced Friday that Minnesotans with a valid concealed handgun license no longer have to get an additional background check when buying a firearm.
ATF Assistant Director Marvin Richardson penned an open letter to all Minnesota federal firearms licensees that those with the state’s Permit to Carry with an expiration date of Aug. 1, 2019, or later, may now be able to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer sans the required background check.
“This decision reduces the administrative burden on Minnesota’s firearms dealers and eliminates a duplicative step in ensuring firearms are only in the hands of those who are qualified to purchase them,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Minnesota joins the growing list of states that accept a permit as an as alternatives to the background check requirements of the 1994 Brady law and allows the transfer of a firearm over the counter by an FFL without first performing a National Instant Criminal Background Check System check.
Some 25 other states accept personal concealed carry permits as Brady exemptions while California also allows the exemption for Entertainment Firearms Permits. A similar move is pending in South Dakota.
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A pool party at a San Diego condominium over the weekend became the scene of a senseless act of violence at the hands of a man distraught over a recent break-up.
Altogether, seven people were shot. One victim died as a result of the injuries she sustained, two more remain hospitalized in critical but stable condition, one man suffered a broken bone while trying to escape from the gunfire, and the suspect was killed by law enforcement, who were fired upon as they arrived on the scene, according to statement by the San Diego Police Department.
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said they received a call about a shooting in progress just after 6 p.m. on Sunday and multiple calls continued to come in as police were en route. Twenty officers as well as a helicopter were on the scene within about seven minutes of the first call.
When officers arrived on the scene, they were met with gunfire from the suspect, who continued to aim his weapon at the officers and appeared to be looking to reload. Two officers returned fire, striking the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
First responders and security personnel worked quickly to render first aid to the victims and get them transported to the hospital. During a press conference with city officials, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer praised police and first responders for their efforts and suggested responding officers “precluded further bloodshed.”
Authoriteis identified the shooter as Peter Selis, 49. Selis’ family said his girlfriend had recently broken up and he had been “distraught and depressed” over it, but there was no indication he was capable of carrying out such an act of violence.
Investigators determined that Selis, who lived at the complex, entered the pool area and shot two people, then sat on a poolside lounge chair and called his ex-girlfriend from his cell phone. According to Zimmerman, Selis told the woman he just shot two people and the police were on their way. Then, with his ex-girlfriend still on the phone, Selis continued to shoot at the victims.
“It is apparent that he wanted his ex-girlfriend to listen in as he carried out his rampage,” Zimmerman said, adding they do not think the shooting was planned, but rather a “spontaneous act of violence,” nor is there any indication the victims were targeted rather than chosen at random.
“The victims were targeted for no reason other than their mere presence in the vicinity of the suspect,” Zimmerman said.
The deceased victim was identified by friends and family as Monique Clark. The names of the other victims, who are all expected to recover, have not been released.
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A 28-year-old man was arrested Saturday evening after Border Patrol agents in Arizona discovered more than 67 pounds of pot hidden inside a coffin in the hearse the man was driving.
Wilcox Agents at the State Route 80 Immigration Checkpoint near Tombstone stopped the vehicle after the driver appeared to avoid the border checkpoint.
Authorities first observed the white hearse traveling southbound towards Tombstone, then a bit later, noticed the same hearse traveling northbound. However, the vehicle turned west just before reaching the checkpoint.
Border Patrol agents then initiated a traffic stop, during which time the driver reportedly revealed a number of inconsistencies. A canine unit was then called in and a questionable odor detected. A search of the hearse led to some $33,000 worth of marijuana within the coffin.
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Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com
The United States Marines Corps are working on a way to save soldiers’ lives and tapping into technology to help them reach their goals.
The Corps are in the process of testing a gun-wielding remote controlled robot, more appropriately the “multi-utility tactical transport” or MUTT. Currently, the MUTT is controlled via tablet and joystick, but the future may hold an autonomous version.
Other techie tricks on the horizon include speedboats that transform into submarines and drones that drop MREs – and presumably other supplies – to soldiers below.
[ Fox News ]
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Angstadt Arms showcased their UDP-9i at NRA AM 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Teaming up KG Made Suppressors, Angstadt Arms created an integrally suppressed 9mm rifle and carbine based on their UDP-9 platform.
The UDP-9i features an adjustable port system with 15 threaded holes that allow the user to adjust the velocity and sound signature based on their specific ammunition loads. A grade 9 titanium sleeve makes a lightweight and balanced rifle.
The model on display at NRA AM 2017 had fired upwards of 6000 rounds in both semi-auto and full-auto and wasn’t the worse for the wear. This is possible thanks to a 17-4 heat treated baffle stack.
As usual, the UDP-9 platforms run on Glock magazines and feature standard AR-15 trigger control groups, hand-guard sand accessories.
The integrally suppressed UDP-9i rifle and carbines are selling for $1995.
Learn more at Angstadt Arms.
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The Oregon Senate approved a bill Monday that would allow people to ask a court to revoke gun rights for family and household members.
Senate Bill 719A creates a process for obtaining a so-called “extreme risk protection order” that would prohibit someone from possessing a deadly weapon when a court determines the person could present imminent risk to themselves or others.
The bill defines a deadly weapon as “any instrument, article or substance specifically designed for and presently capable of causing death or serious physical injury; or a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded.”
Under the proposal, a law enforcement officer, or family or household member can initiate the protection order process. The person would have to surrender their weapons and concealed handgun license within 24 hours of being served with the protection order. When an officer serves the order, he or she can request immediate surrender of the weapons, but the person can also surrender to a gun dealer or a third party.
Spouses, intimate partners, parents, children, siblings, “or any person living within the same household” are eligible to initiate the process, according to the bill.
When family members or law enforcement officers go before the court, the burden of proof lies with them. Before signing off on the order, a judge will consider the person’s history of suicide threats, and attempted, threatened or actual use of force against others. They’ll also look at any convictions for violence, stalking, cruelty to animals, weapons charges, or illegal substance use, among other things.
The person ordered to surrender their deadly weapons has 30 days to contest the protection order. They’ll then be granted a hearing within 21 days of that request.
The measure passed the Senate 17-11. The only Republican to vote for the measure was Sen. Brian Boquist, who sponsored the bill.
“We’re only trying to target those individuals who unfortunately want to commit suicide and unfortunately may murder their spouse that’s in the house, their children that’s in the house, or their roommate,” Boquist said, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The Oregon Firearms Federation called the bill “one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation the anti-gunners have ever dreamed up.”
“It allows a family member to have a person’s property and rights taken by force by the police and then assumes that even though that person is very dangerous, the people who made these accusations can live safely with the person who had his right taken,” said a post on the OFF website. “It’s complete madness.”
Still, Boquist, who served as a Special Forces Officer in the U.S. Army, pointed to the lives of veterans as a motive for the legislation. “I do care about veterans blowing their brains out even if OFF and NRA does not,” he said.
His co-sponsor, Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Democrat, echoed that sentiment. “The suicide rate among veterans is alarming, with an average of 20 veterans each day dying from suicide, often by gunshot,” Burdick said. “By identifying signs that a person may be suffering trauma and temporarily separating them from their firearms, we can effectively protect veterans and others in crisis so that they can get the help they need.”
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Mom’s Demand Action and Everytown are buying up ad space in the Lone Star state in an effort to derail permitless carry legislation sponsored by “extremist lawmakers.”
The organizations are opposing HB 1911 and HB 375, now tracking in the state legislature, which would allow those legally able to possess a handgun to carry one in public under Texas law without a permit. Currently, over a million Texans have such permits, which allow both concealed and open carry.
“These bills are entirely unnecessary and fly in the face of the serious concerns raised by our trusted law enforcement officials,” said Lisa Epstein, with Moms Demand Action, in a statement. “If passed and signed into law, these measures would only make it easier for violent criminals to carry hidden, loaded handguns into public spaces we frequent daily with our families. Responsible gun owners in Texas know that the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with public safety.”
To be clear, the language of neither bill authorizes those currently barred from possessing a handgun the ability to have one if adopted into law.
The groups, both in the video above and in a full-page print ad published in the Austin American-Statesman, contend 91 percent of Texans support the current License to Carry system.
The statement comes from a poll of 1,200 adults in the state conducted in March by Survey USA paid for by Everytown. Some 91 percent of respondents when asked, “Under current Texas law, people are required to get a permit to carry handguns in public places. In order to get a permit, a person needs to have a clean criminal record and complete handgun safety training. Do you strongly support? Support? Oppose? Or strongly oppose requiring a permit to carry a handgun in public in Texas?” said they support or strongly support.
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Larry A Parker, of Belmont, Ohio, has had a career in the firearms industry that has taken a lifetime but has produced treasures that will endure through the ages.
Guns.com bumped into Parker at the 146th National Rifle Association Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta and asked him about his work, that of a master engraver. The career path, with ties to the old world gunsmithing artisans of yesteryear, is not your typical one.
“I started building rifles in 1958. I actually started working on guns in shop class when I was in high school — I don’t think you can do that today,” he said.
Parker, the son of a carpenter, built 16 muzzle loading rifles, both flintlock, and percussion in his youth, all from scratch using curly maple stocks.
“Back then there wasn’t any kits available. You got you a plank of wood and you carved one out.”
Moving on from his black powder days, Parker developed an interest in hunting “out west” and learned how to checker and, moving into making stocks for high-powered rifles as well as Browning and Model 12 shotguns. This triggered an expansion into engraving, a skill he first learned at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Fine Arts in New York under famed Master Engraver Neil Hartliep for three years, then later Ray Virmontez and Lynton McKenzie.
“Engraving is not something you learn with video tapes and a book. You got to have a master engraver to show you the techniques, how to sharpen the tools, the angles, and stuff like that,” he says.
But that is just the beginning. Engraving is a perishable skill, notes Parker, one that, like the tools he uses, must be kept sharp.
“Then you have to stay with it. You can’t work an hour this month then come back and hour next month, you have to sit on your butt from eight to five and get with the program,” he says, explaining it can take weeks for one job. He shows off a Krieghoff Model 32 O/U shotgun at the table with 17 raised gold inlays and 166 inches of gold line work, as well as extensive checkering of the stock and furniture.
“I spent probably five to six months on that gun, working every day.”
A custom rifle builder, he has produced 36 rifles from the ground up in his lifetime, starting with serial no. 1. His table at the show was filled with an assortment of extensively detailed firearms, many of which Parker could point to magazine covers they had been featured on through the years. Some of his art is on display at the Cody Museum.
And increasingly, his artform is a dying one, especially the way he practices it.
“There are only about 330 master engravers in the United States and probably 70 percent of those use machines,” he explained. “But I am old school hammer and chisel — hand engraving.”
Parker explains that he draws all the design work on the metal first and then traces it delicately with a carbide chisel, working millimeters at a time.
“You get the depth with a chisel,” he says with the nod of a man confident he has found the way.
As show attendees stop and admire his work, Parker shows other items to which he has applied his special touch. Spurs, knives, tomahawks, powder horns. He will engrave your initials on your pocket knife for you while you wait and watch, spending the same level of care and attention that he did with the Krieghoff.
Parker is, however, selective about who he works for, noting that he turns down enough jobs in the average NRA Show to keep him in business for the rest of his life.
“I’ve never done anything for anybody famous,” he says. “I’d rather do something for somebody that has had to work hard all their life. They appreciate it more.”
Odds are, even if you don’t get to Belmont, Ohio, you can find Mr. Parker at the next NRA show with a smile. Just listen for the sound of the hammer and chisel.
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Every year, the National Rifle Association centers its annual conference on a theme that embodies a particular message. It’s easy to figure out. Show organizers advertise it all over the conference and the group’s spokesmen promote it through slogans in professionally produced videos and live speaking events.
During the past few shows, themes have included “Stand and Fight” to approach the growing debate over gun control, another year it was “we’re millions with 25 bucks” to encourage more people to buy a membership at a reduced rate, and another year it was “NRA: Freedom’s safest place” to suggest “freedom” would be less safe under an opposing candidate. But this year instead of a political message, the NRA unveiled a new iteration of its self-defense insurance called NRA Carry Guard.
The gun lobby described the program as “America’s most comprehensive insurance and legal coverage” for those who carry a gun. To introduce the program, the NRA shared details through select media, then in videos, and then made the official launch at the show. Like year’s past, attendants were inundated with promotional materials.
Outside Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center a giant sign draped over the side of the building with an NRA commentator with pursed lips wearing a Carry Guard shirt and holding her policy card. Just beyond the entranceway hung another sign with the words “Never carry a gun without carrying this” next to a policy card. Small stands with signage promoting Carry Guard peppered the arena. And then a banner in plain view above the escalator leading to the exhibit showroom was another Carry Guard sign that informed “Visit NRA booth 1912 and get a free hat.”
At the showroom entrance sat the NRA’s booth where representatives guided guests toward kiosks designed to streamline policy sales. Charismatic NRA spokesman Colion Noir sat at a table placed between the kiosks to sign autographs, pose for pictures and give out hats. And then behind them were monitors so guests could sample the program. Attendants swarmed to the booth. Some to pursue a curious notion or get a free hat while others were genuinely interested in the product.
Karl Thomason, an NRA life member from the Atlanta area, used the virtual simulator after watching his son and nephew try it. Standing in front of a giant monitor showing a rotating NRA logo, he gazed across the virtual world through a pair of goggles and eventually pointed a controller, which looked like a handheld garment steamer, and depressed the trigger. Moments later, he dropped the controller. As it dangled by a cord from his wrist, he raised his hands in the air. The entire virtual experience lasted only a few minutes.
“It was really pretty interesting,” Thomason said, adding “You’re standing in line at a convenience store and all of a sudden somebody comes in to rob it. You know, if I had been standing there truly with my handgun I don’t know how I would’ve reacted. I know I was in a virtual simulator there. But hopefully I would’ve reacted the same way and been able to protect somebody in the event something was to happen.”
But the simulator allowing users to respond to a realistic self-defense scenario and police interaction was just a crash course into the program. Those who signed up for policies would receive training and instruction at a later date to understand possible legal ramifications of using a gun in a self-defense scenario.
Although he had fun, Thomason didn’t sign up for a policy that day. Not because he didn’t want it, but because he already had coverage from another provider. When that policy expires, though, he said he would consider Carry Guard. “I know anything the NRA does is fantastic and first class. I know that it would be a great resource to take advantage of,” he said.
The NRA began offering self-defense insurance long before unveiling NRA Carry Guard, but has not made such a concerted effort in promoting it, at least not in the past six years. Plus, the new policy offers a broader and more inclusive package than before.
Jason Brown, an NRA media relations manager, told Guns.com the NRA introduced Carry Guard in response to member feedback. “They told us there was a vacuum in the training market. That there wasn’t a one-stop solution to get the training and the peace-of-mind they needed to be able to defend themselves in a defensive firearm scenario,” Brown said.
According to the program’s website, the NRA offers three policies that range in price from $155 per year to $360 for civil and criminal defense. Basic benefits include the training, legal and other assistance and a quarterly magazine subscription.
Brown said thousands of NRA members at the conference visited the NRA booth and tested the simulator, but he did not say how many bought policies or how many policies the NRA expected to sell.
“There is no goal for us of what we want to raise,” he said, adding “There’s no amount of money that this organization can put on ensuring that anyone that wants to learn, train and be able to defend themselves, their homes and their families can do so without having to worry about finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. That’s priceless. And that what’s the NRA committed to do.”
Without actual figures, it’s difficult to estimate revenue the insurance program will generate, but as a nonprofit the goal isn’t net income.
According to the NRA’s 2016 financial report, the organization earned a total of $433.9 million, up $45.3 million from the year before likely due to the election cycle. That figure is comprised of 37.7 percent membership fees, 39.5 percent contributions, 15.9 percent program fees and 6.8 percent investment and licensing income. However, 80 cents of every dollar earned was used for program services and the other 20 cents went towards administration and fundraising.
“This will never change anything about the status of the organization,” Brown said. “The NRA is a nonprofit, member driven organization. It always has been and always will be.”
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Chicago Guns Matter founder and gun rights activist Rhonda Ezell is still fighting for gun ranges to open in the city, after a federal appeals court ruled Chicago’s restrictions to be unconstitutional.
In a recent Chicago Sun-Times profile, Ezell talked about her relationship with firearms and how her fight for Chicago gun ranges was born.
Back in 2010, Ezell was suffering from kidney failure and other ailments but still had to travel all the way to Dundee, 50 miles outside of Chicago city limits, to complete training for a firearms permit, as Chicago had no shooting ranges within the city.
There at the Dundee range, Ezell encountered other members of the Illinois State Rifle Association, including executive director Richard Pearson, who encouraged her to file a lawsuit due to the lack of gun ranges in Chicago.
“We talked about me having to go all the way to Dundee, and we concluded my rights were violated,” she says. “And Ezell v. Chicago was born.”
After a series of setbacks, that lawsuit ultimately led to Chicago officials allowing gun ranges, but only in certain manufacturing areas, which still left 98 percent of the city out of bounds.
A federal appeals court then ruled those zoning restrictions to be unconstitutional. While the Chicago City Council is now working to loosen those restrictions, no gun ranges have yet to be opened in the city.
Ezell, who received a kidney transplant and is now feeling better, says the city’s lawmakers and Mayor Rahm Emanuel need to do more for law abiding gun owners in Chicago.
“The mayor walks around every day with armed security paid for by the taxpayers of Chicago, yet he doesn’t want you to go to a gun range and be efficient with the firearm you choose to have in your home for the safety of you or your loved ones,” she says.
Ezell was not the first African American to challenge Chicago’s gun laws, as Otis McDonald was the plaintiff in the lawsuit that ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the city’s handgun ban.
The gun rights activist has since gone onto start the organization Chicago Guns Matter and believes black Chicagoans need to know they have a right to legally carry handguns in the city. Working to teach firearms safety to the next generation, Ezell says she even takes her 6-year-old granddaughter to the shooting range.
“I feel like I’ve taught her just about everything else, from cooking to writing to reading and things of that nature,” she says. “Why not take her to the gun range?
“I want her to be able to protect herself if she needs to. But I want her to understand that a firearm is not a bad tool.”
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Estimated gun sales during the month of April eclipsed the record-breaking level hit in 2016.
Federally licensed gun dealers processed just over 2 million applications through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month, completing an estimated 1,051,322 gun sales overall — 4,400 more than April 2016, the busiest in NICS’s 19-year history.
Background checks declined 5 percent over last year, though adjusted totals — calculated by removing applications processed for concealed carry permits — came in at just 391 checks above last year.
Dealers ran background checks on more than 623,000 handguns and 376,000 long guns throughout the month, according to federal data.
Despite its strong showing, April ended the industry’s three-month upswing with a 21 percent dip in estimated sales compared to March. Adjusted background checks fell by similar percentage points, according to federal data.