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Natalie's letter

By DrVino

This past weekend, I took a newbie shooting. He’s a nice, young member of the tribe and had expressed an interest in shooting so I took him along to one of the public ranges in the mountains near L.A. Everybody who shoots with some frequency comes to the public range with their guns in cases, supplies in boxes and target frames (rented or home-built). People who own a gun and want to “shoot it once or so”, stand out a mile away. So, immediately, when two guys (one short, shaved head, tattoos, baggy clothing and the other taller, more muscular with more tasteful arm tattoos and one of those buzzed-on-the-sides-long-and-heavily-gelled-on-top hairdos that I associate with guys who race their tricked out Acuras for pink slips) walked up in between lane breaks, they stuck out like sore thumbs . . .

These guys walked up with an uncased AR with an Eotech and no sling. The guy whose gun it appeared to be held it by the pistol grip the way you hold a bucket: dangling from his hand at his side, the muzzle pointing at the ground (sometimes sweeping his own foot). In his other hand, he had two polymer 30-round magazines with windows.

There was something in the demeanor and body language that tickled my Spidey senses which said: “This guy is not a frequent shooter who diligently practices the Four Cardinal Rules.”

They walked up to the Range Safety Officer and I could catch the bigger guy asking if he could shoot his select/full auto fire weapon at this public range. A couple of times, he made an almost affected point to say he was “law enforcement.”

Just after I finished processing all my red flags (raised by the guy’s overall demeanor, the fact that several PDs and SWAT teams have their gear in trailers at one of the private lanes where they routinely practice and the fact that the range has a PoPo-Only kill house) I overheard Mr. “Law Enforcement” say he’s with ICE.

Aaaaahhhhhh…..One of those… Like the Border Patrol guy I met there a few months back whose standard capacity magazines seemed to be causing feeding problems with his AR.

They finally got in at a station and started shooting, drawing attention, annoyed grumbling and the appearance of smart phone cameras. They were not careless and dangerous, per se, but you’re not supposed to have ground strikes under 100 yards on this range and they were coming short of the 50 yard line.

They were fairly cordial, but increasingly self-conscious. Aware of the attention they drew, they even let the newbie I brought with me shoot a couple of bursts.  From a double drum. “Aurora Special” I believe it was…

70 or 80+ rounds gone in just a few minutes, the RSO’s radio broke the relative silence with the Range Manager’s cursing about “why the hell is there full auto fire down there” and “can’t those guys just get a private lane”, etc…  Knowing they were pushing it and likely having expended most of what likely was their entire ammo supply, our two visitors sauntered off. AR held by the grip. Still pointing down.  Still dangling.

. . .

Shortly after the Newtown tragedy, Natalie Barden – a sister of one of the child victims of the shooting wrote a letter to President Obama telling him “that only police officers and the military should get guns.” I empathize with the Barden family as I also have lost a small child to unexpected (and, arguably, preventable) circumstances. So blame it on my cynical, brooding sense of irony that I want to ask: “Dear Natalie; is this what you meant?”

I recall Natalie’s letter when I see SWAT teams going door to door in Boston or guys of specious “law enforcement” credentials getting select fire weapons and standard and extended capacity feeding devices when all three are denied me for no legitimate reason.

But I don’t really resent these guys. Even if they were mere Immigration & Naturalization bus drivers or TSA supervisors who on a technicality qualified for the law enforcement carve out.

The newbie I took with me had a chance to shoot a representative selection of calibers from my collection and he got a very nice unexpected bonus in the form of shooting a few bursts out of the other rifle. On our way home we discussed the differences of the AR I own and the AR the ICE guys brought.

The newbie got the arbitrary nature of the law and found that to be ridiculous. So, I guess you don’t have to be an absolutist (chauvinistic, sexist, misogynistic, racist, and anti-Semitic) “gun nut” to feel that way…

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  1. This so much. Police are almost always great people who mostly don’t even want a select fire AR with all the toys. And a lot that do are very well trained and knowledgeable with their weapons. But in the end police are just people, like the rest of us. They can be idiots, and when given stuff like surplus M16s and MRAPS because “they’re police” they can be even bigger idiots.

  2. I don’t really have anything to offer except to say I enjoyed reading this. I’m sure there will be plenty of cop-bashing below to make up for what I didn’t say.

    • I don’t need to bash cops, they do a fine job of discrediting themselves. They are domestic para-military forces of Nuremberg defense excuses (enforcing victimless “crimes”).

  3. So,,, If I had been the RSO I would have intoned “Ya know, if you show your LEO ID ya get free Ice cream and a free lane change, don’ cha?”

  4. I don’t understand how people will trust cops with any weapon imaginable when the police are not obligated to protect anyone except each other. If Americans want soldiers on their streets armed up and doing battle with bad guys then call the NG in and make it official. Or change the law to bring the Army in. But what we have now are Military Wanna Bes who are less accountable then military people (No UCMJ and a Union on their side as well) who are probably less qualified to operate the toys then we are.

    And in the end these officers will take orders from politicians. We know how that worked out in other countries.

  5. Oh, come on, how can we trust the policy positions of someone who uses ‘than’ when she should use ‘then’?

  6. “And in the end these officers will take orders from politicians.”


    Just remember this the next time you hear about a cop doing something stupid or violating someone’s constitutional rights. Lack of good supervision/training results in idiotic and sometimes criminal behavior. It’s takes good lead officers (sergeants, lieutenants, corporals) to identify officers needing more training or officers that lack good judgment or integrity but those folks can only do so much. Unfortunately, the Good Ol’ boy system is usually par for the course in most departments and nobody wants to go against leadership for fear of becoming an outcast. It starts with the politicians we elect so if you have a problem with the police in your area you need to make sure you are casting your vote for the right people.

    • Regardless of politicians’ decisions, a cop is a person, not a robot.

      As much as most cops desire to serve, “just following orders” is not a valid excuse. Manslaughter, assault and battery, armed robbery are not permissible, even if spread out among various corporate branches.

  7. What continually bothers me is the belief that cops have some kind of magical “cop powers” that makes them more capable with a firearm.

    What kind of training do people think goes on in the Police Academies?

    Look, I’m not going to beat up the police. I have to many LEO friends and I know how tough the job is. At the same time, they are just regular folk who put on a gun and a badge and go out to do a job. They were not blessed with special crime fighting abilities and the anti-gunners who always talk about limiting to “the police” don’t realize that the police aren’t really that much different than their next door neighbors.

    In fact, if I lined up the LEO’s I know with non-LEO gun owners I know the non-LEO’s can easily outshoot the LEO’s. It’s not even a contest.

    • As I was telling a student at the range yesterday, the percentage of LEOs who are People Of The Gun is only slightly higher than that found in the general population. It skews a *bit* higher in non-permissive environments like mine (SF Bay Area) but not much.

      When such large numbers of rank-and-file LEO/LEA types shoot the exact minimum to meet training & qual requirements, I find it laughable that LE (or military, for that matter) folks are held up as a separate class more qualified to own and use firearms than private citizens.

    • My local range sadly closed at the beginning of the year. But before it closed, it was the closest range to Chicago city limits. It literally sat 100 feet outside Chicago city limits and immediately adjacent to some NW Chicago neighborhoods famous for being police heavy. I spent a lot of time shooting alongside CPD. Some of the older detectives were amazing shots. Seemed like most the cops under the age of 40 could barely keep a 10-shot group on paper, while the 20-something Polish kids from the neighborhood – who appeared to REALLY love their guns – could regularly keep those same 10 shots inside 3 inches at 25 to 35 feet.

      • NW side Chicago here. Been in town about 5 years. I miss the crap out of IGW – the staff and the patrons. Was sad to see it go. Took my CFP course and purchased my first firearm there. Shot the crap out of it there too.

      • I miss it too. Cheapest shooting in Chicagoland and allways lots of spent brass in the corner for cheap reloader. But we have brand new McDonald’s instead. I go to Article 2 in Lombard now. They even let me shoot my Mosin with surplus ammo there.

    • “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen”

      -Sir Robert Peel, founder of Britain’s first modern police force.

  8. I’d be willing to bet Natalie’s little letter was prompted by an adult. “Here sweetie, write this to the president just like this”…

  9. Natalie has figured out what’s causing crime . . . it’s those guns that are leaving the shooting range! I’ve read about gangs of guns roaming the countryside robbing & killing people, and thankfully, Natalie has pieced it together for us. Thanks, Natalie!

  10. My name is Aharon and I want to tell POTUS that HIS national health insurance program is a national disaster and costing lives.

  11. Everyone assumes cops are well-trained, disciplined shooters – until they shoot with a few cops. Sure, you have some who are great with their guns, but on the whole they’re just regular people who’ve been given a gun and a societal stamp of approval to use it.

    In my two experiences with LE at the range, one cop let his son rapid-fire from behind the firing line and jammed his gun by putting the wrong caliber round through it, and another group of sheriffs was so hopelessly inaccurate that the range officer asked them to stick with .22 as not to damage the wall behind the bullet traps. (Fortunately, they were there to improve under the direction of the sheriff, who was pissed when he learned how poor the shooting in his department was.)

  12. Just a little fact checking, there is no such thing as Immigration and Naturalization. What was once the Immigration and Naturalization Service was abolished in 2003, and became three different agencies; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, of which there are two law enforcement parts, Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO); Customs and Border Protection, of which consists of three law enforcement organizations, Office of Field Operations, Air and Marine Operations, and Office of Border Patrol; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. For the record, ICE ERO no longer has the position of Detention Enforcement Officer, the position that formerly drove detention buses. Those are all contract positions and the employees of the contractors are not authorized any weapon that is illegal in the State in which they operate. Their employer supplies their firearms and in California they are regulated by the State of California, Department of Consumer Affairs.

    As for TSA, there are no “supervisors,” and by which I presume you mean supervisors of the employees who screen passengers and luggage, who are law enforcement officers or are authorized to carry weapons.

    The TSA does have an Office of Investigations and the Federal Air Marshal Service. OI conducts investigations of misconduct by TSA employees and certain security related Federal laws relating to airport security. The FAMS conduct air marshal duties and serve as Assistant Federal Security Directors for Law Enforcement at airports, but only one per airport. They have no supervisory authority.

    • So…. the short of it is?….
      Guy claims to be “law enforcement” and “I.C.E.”.
      Was he lying?

      As for what I meant and did not mean with “INS bus driver and TSA supervisor” (since you’re the second to get pedantically fixated on those terms), was that I don’t resent a person in a government position, no matter how marginal or specious their ‘law enforcement’ credentials are, the possession of a select fire weapon.

      • Also, I thought creative license (even if it is to emulate RF’s meter and cadence) as well as literary devices (even if they are Gonzo Journalism-inspired Hunter S. Thompsonianisms) would be appreciated in a writing contest….

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