Maintaining a Big Grassrootsy Garden

Kevin responded to Sebastian’s recent post addressing NRA’s lack of focus on utilizing their grassroots strength with an argument that the first step in building up your grassroots is to get people to the range.

I don’t disagree with his post, but I think we’re talking two different stages of the game. Sebastian’s post focuses on engaging those who are already in the fight, largely with something to lose – gun owners or gun rights supporters who want to keep their rights. Kevin’s is on pulling more people into the game to begin with. Both parts are desperately needed, and current gun owners need to find their comfortable place doing something to advance the cause in at least some area of the issue – recruitment or something else.

I think it gets back to the analogy is that this whole issue – the legislative votes, the shooting sports, the legal arguments, etc. – are all part of a very, very big garden. You can’t get every weed everywhere, but by making the best use of material and gardening assistants, you can strategically target the biggest weedy threats and maintain a healthy landscape.

I’ll be honest, there could be another Dear NRA letter written about their lack of engagement over the last few years with some of the important resources that can help with Kevin’s concerns and the political efforts. I think it’s too easy for workers to fall into their division without looking at how the resources at their disposal can be utilized by another division to promote the cause across the board. It’s hard for someone outside of the organization to even imagine how different divisions can help them. There is much room for improvement in connecting the many resources of the larger gun rights organization to really help the ground level volunteers and sport shooters.

Delco Op-Ed Encouraging Education on Guns

Congratulations on gun owners who managed to get published supporting gun rights in their local outlets in these tough times! Gotta love this line from a guest column in the Delaware County Daily Times on the differences between semi-automatic AR-15s and fully automatic firearms:

I explain it simply, an AR is a Chevy Malibu with a racing stripe; it is not an Indy Car.

Passing Gun Rights on to New Generations

Divemedic recently left a comment that certainly resonated with me because I think all serious activists feel this way at some point:

I hate to say it, but I am getting to the age where I am not really fighting for my rights any longer, nor even my children’s rights. My children are all over 30 years old. They are old enough to fight for themselves.

To tell the truth, I am tired. I have been fighting this battle and arguing with misinformed nitwits for over 30 years, and they still use the same old, tired talking points.

At this point, I am fighting for the rights of my grandchildren.

I don’t disparage anyone who puts in years of working for a cause at all. It does get tiring. Even with blogging, there are very few issues we haven’t covered before. This isn’t an issue or hobby that sees exciting new changes every few months. There aren’t really any radical new discoveries to pull us back in when things get old.

But the notion of fighting for grandchildren got me thinking, especially where kids of gun owners haven’t really picked up the fight for gun rights in the same way. How will our descendants know about what was so dear to us? I don’t just mean the ones we know, but the ones we won’t ever know – 3rd, 5th, 7th great grandchildren.

And it’s not just a matter of us passing it on to our descendants, but what of our ancestors? In my family tree, there could easily be upwards of 7 generations of NRA members in theory. (In theory for my family because those early years were focused in Yankeeland, and my ancestors were all broke Southern farmers – including the Georgia & Tennessee boys who fought for the Union.) In reality, it’s more likely on recent generations for many people. But were my deceased grandfathers and great grandfathers ever members? I don’t know. Because I know there’s no real chance of ever getting NRA member records from the past opened up for research, I’m quite confident that I will never know.

But that’s where gun clubs & shooting match organizers can make a difference.

One way to make sure that news of the traditions are passed down would be submit news of shooting competitions and other events to the local media. That helps us now and documents our passions for the future.

The other thing that I believe gun clubs should seriously consider is some sort of historian officer who is charged with documenting, preserving, and thinking about all things history of the gun club and shooting sports. There’s the internal value of someone ready to share the history of the club with new members and make them see they are part of something bigger. And the fact that someone would be in charge of sorting & maintaining records, photos, and memorabilia that most people aren’t quite sure what to do with.

If you’re a member of a really, really old gun club, are there newsletters from the early days with people who are all deceased that could be digitized, bound, and donated to a local historical society? If they won’t take them, then consider starting a club blog that will share the history with the community in an interesting way. Most clubs have websites these days, so put them to use in sharing history and our present.

What about member applications from decades ago of long deceased members? Records that document people between censuses are genealogical gold in general, but if they also reflect the interests of the applicants at the time, that helps tell the story of those individuals. I realize there are privacy and safety implications in gun-related records, and I’m more than sensitive to those as someone whose information was published as a concealed carry license holder in Virginia who lived next to a threatening neighbor. That’s why I’m specifically saying to look for records for people who are long deceased.

For me, it starts small. In my genealogy software, I’ll mark the family members who I know are/were proud NRA members. Eventually, as time and people pass, that information will make it out into the family histories. For those who were really involved in the issue, it will make their obituaries. Hopefully we can do more to create a better documented history of our own contributions to protecting the Second Amendment so that the Second Amendment supporters in 50, 100, and hopefully 200 years will know they are part of something much bigger. They won’t be relying on wills and estate inventories to see if we owned guns or left some to the NRA. They will know because we spoke out.

Reminders About Action to Push Back on Gun Control

So many gun control advocates really do believe that the only reason guns aren’t banned yet is because of the NRA. They really do not understand that we’re bigger than the NRA. NRA membership is held by only a few of the millions of gun owners and pro-gun people. It’s not a top-down organization that tells us to jump. We tell the organization to jump.

A few years ago, I wrote a series of posts of very specific ideas that people with different backgrounds and connections in the pro-gun community could take to protect their rights. There’s a good chance that some of those ideas need to be dusted off.

Here’s the list for:

If any readers tried some of these suggestions, feel free to share how they went over. Not every idea will work for every situation, but this should cover a great number of ways to engage people who are otherwise intimidated by the process of fighting gun control.

Friday Night Funny

Presented without further comment for your Friday evening:

Maybe just one comment: enjoy it with a tropical frozen adult beverage with little a tiny umbrella.

Context for the BAR WWI Field Reports

Like commenter waltons and some others, I also wondered what modifications, if any, were actually made to the BAR in response to the not terribly favorable reports from the field prior to the expansion of its use in later conflicts. Sigivald notes that most of the complaints in these weren’t every really addressed beyond maintenance and “not doing week-long trench assaults.”

That reminded me of a picture we scanned that gives context for the kind of terrain where you would find these rifles. This picture is dated September 11, 1918, so it is about a month before the memo was issued requesting feedback on the guns, but about two weeks before the 79th Division (which included the 316th) would be arrive here.

The caption gives no estimate of altitude of the plane taking the photo. Regardless, you can see how small the trees appear in comparison to the shell craters. Oh, did you even notice the trees and trenches among all of the craters? Look closely at the full size by clicking on the image. Now think about all of that being mud, given that some of those reports mention days and days of rain.

While there were pretty universal complaints in these reports, this photo gives very important context that we weren’t exactly using them in any kind of conditions regularly experienced during the design process. Honestly, I don’t see how most guns would stand up to such extreme conditions and work particularly well without people focused on their maintenance nearly 100% of the time.

This is certainly not the first battlefield photo I’ve ever seen from WWI, but still, just wow. How does France even exist today after all of this destruction in WWI and so much again in WWII? I guess it’s a handy reminder that both mother nature and people are pretty damn resilient.

In related news, if NARA would allow me to bring my sleeping bag past security, I could move into the Still Pictures Research Room for at least a week and never get tired of exploring. They have giant card catalog files that are divided by topic, and excellent finding aids for an amazing variety of topics. Want to find photographs of WWI anti-aircraft guns? Oh, just flip through the card catalog and you’ll find all sorts of photos to pull and peruse. (These are on the list for a next visit since one of Sebastian’s great grand uncles served in an anti-aircraft unit during The Great War.) The Matthew Brady collection? They’ve got that, too. I just wanted to pull open each drawer and go through every topic imaginable. I didn’t even make it to the Motion Picture floor to see what exciting things can be discovered there.

WWI BAR Field Reports

I’ve spent a few days cleaning up photos and document scans from our recent trip to the National Archives at College Park. We only had about a day and a half there, but enough time to do several pulls of both pictures and documents related to Sebastian’s great grandfather’s service in World War I, as well as that of his two brothers.

Now I was well aware before we went that the records in College Park are unit records, not individual records. I’ve heard from genealogists who recommend not researching there because they are bigger, broad records rather than individual records. But I don’t agree with that view of researching. Because you know what I found there? Hand-drawn maps from the fields of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive showing his great grandfather’s company location shortly before the time he suffered his “severe leg wound.” One of those maps had a large splatter, and it wasn’t mud or coffee. It was a humbling moment where you say a quick prayer that the person next to the map’s custodian didn’t suffer or, miraculously, survived and came home to a happier life.

I found promotion documents for his great grand uncle that explained why he was promoted (the previous Sgt was killed in the last battle), and the documents that showed he likely would have been promoted again if not for being gassed and landed in the hospital for a while. These records include the list of every place companies were transported or marched from their arrival in France to the day they left. No, these aren’t records that promise to have a relative’s name on every page, in every folder, or even in every box. But they are the bigger picture documents that put the experiences of our relatives in context. Without that context, we don’t really have much of a story.

But, such research can also lead to unexpected finds. Because when I find out that the 316th Infantry put out a memo asking for feedback from the field on the BAR, you know I’m going to snap photos of every document in that folder (with approval from an archivist, of course). (Links below go to the original documents.)

Let’s start with the Machine Gun Company’s take since they appear to have tested them first based on the dates of the memos and action reported:

1. During the period September 26th to September 30th while this Company was attacking about 25,000 were fired. All the active guns of the Company were in action at one time or the other. No stopages were reported due to malfunctions of the mechanism or to breakage of parts.

2. Attention is directed to the inadequatcy of the supply of spare parts furnished with the guns and of the lack of suitable containers for small spare parts such as springs, etc.

There was nothing from Company A, so it was either lost or never filed.

Company B did pipe up:

1. In compliance with memorandum Hq 316th Infantry, A.E.F. October 11th 1918. Would advise that the Browning automatic rifle is a very good weapon for defensive warfare, but when used on the offensive it will not stand up. In the recent operation where the men were compelled to lie in shell holes and go through the brushes and barb wire the rifles would get clogged up and become useless.

2. One night the Company was on observation in continuous showers and the rifles got wet and rusty during the night which prevented them from working in the morning.

Company C filed a similar report as the previous company:

1. The Browning Automatic Rifle for clear weather are considered very satisfactory.

2. During the recent drive, we found them to be very unsatisfactory, owing to the enormous amount of rain and much which we had to content with. The Automatic Riflemen complain of their jamming and lack of feeding properly. They require the greatest amount of care to be kept in a working condition.

Company D was also silent, or their records were lost.

But for the next few companies, they didn’t find their reports were even worth full sheets of paper. Company E had the following report:

1. In compliance with Memo: No. 48 Hdq. 316th Inf. dated 11 Oct. report that the functioning of the Browning Automatic Rifle in the recent battle was good in-so-far as we have had occasion to use them, which was very little.

Company F, well, I have questions.

1. Complying with Par. 3 Memo 48. Hdqs. 316th. Inf, AEF, October 11th. 1918, have nothing to report.

First, there are so many questions about the structure of this memo. The strange and inconsistent use of punctuation and abbreviations. Is this passive aggressiveness for not wanting to file reports when you could be fighting? Is paperwork a pain? Are you pissed or happy you may have missed out on some fighting? Questions, I have them. Unfortunately, I was scanning for Company M, not F, but now I want to know more about the abruptness of 1st Lt. Large. Nothing to report? I get no details, but absolutely nothing?

Company G, while slightly more cooperative than Company F, still files an interesting report, but not for the report content. Rather for the document on the back of the report. It seems they just grabbed a random Private’s file and typed it up. At first I worried that it was because the file was no longer of use, but it turns out that Pvt. Americo DiPaolo did survive the war and came back to his new homeland in the US to continue his work as a stone mason. He passed away in 1963 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The gunners, using the Browning automatic rifles in the recent engagement, report that these rifles functioned correctly.

Company H, well, they were less than pleased with the gun and couldn’t be bothered to find a typewriter. Or maybe their typewriter was shot while they were trying to fix their BAR.

In compliance with par 3 Memo 48. report 1 Browning Automatic to have been defective due to loose mechanism. Suggest that breech covers be furnished these rifles

Perhaps the detail behind 1st Lt. George Bliss’s response on behalf of Company I may be why he was continually promoted and ended up retiring from the New York National Guard after serving in WWII and even into the Vietnam era.

1. In compliance with Memo. 48, the following report is submitted on the function of the Browning Auto-Rifle in the recent action.

2. This action, lasting for five days, gave every opportunity that could be desired for trying out this Rifle. In fact the severe weather conditions made it a very severe test.

3. In general, it was noticed that after the first two days most of the Rifles had jams caused by rust, due to exposure, or by mud clogging the working parts. In several cases this was alleviated by industry on the part of the individual soldier in utilizing his spare moments to clean his Rifle. However as the actioncontinued and the fatigue and excitement became more intense it was increasingly difficult to make the soldier look after his Rifle when he had the opportunity.

4. It is believed that the shooting qualities, when the rifle is in condition to shoot, are sufficiently good. Emphasis should be laid upon the fact that to shoot it on “Automatic” is wasting ammunition unless the rifleman has had very special training. Very effective fire can be had if used as a single shot rifle.

5. It is recommended that a Breech cover be devised and issued to keep dirt and mud out of the working parts.

6. A great disadvantage was found in the amount of ammunition which was loaded on the carriers. It is believed that the majority of the carriers threw away their extra bandoleers before they ever got into action.

Company L gets back to short and sweet reports.

1. Several of the Browning Rifles jammed, probably due to lack of oil and mud getting into the breech.

Again, more company reports are missing or were never filed, so we jump to Sebastian’s great grandfather’s group, Company M. This is where more documentation would be awesome. Did his great grandfather get one to test? If only we had a time machine and could go back and ask. His great grandfather was still in the fight at this date. He would only obtain his severe leg wound a few days before the armistice.

1. It is the experience of the gunners using the light Browning Automatic Rifle that they become useless as soon as they become dirty or get particles of dirt in the mechanism from the gunner being in a prone position.

2. It is suggested that some sort of cover be devised to protect the rifle when not in use.

I hope you readers enjoyed a least a little insight into 99-year old records with firsthand accounts of newly issued firearms. I know I enjoyed going through every one of these documents, even when I was having moments of repeating “please don’t tear, please don’t rip!” while separating folded up pieces of onion skin paper.

After Action Report in a Philly Ring County

Someone who knows I’m a registered Republican even though I’m more libertarian than they really like and not enough party cheerleader. But a local woman posted something about Bucks County GOP losses this morning that made me think there was room for some serious observations about things both large and small local and county candidates could have done to improve their odds in an opposition party wave year – a factor that was completely predictable.

Of course, I should have known better than to assume anyone was interested in talking about things they saw that worked well for candidates and missed opportunities for others. People would rather scream “SHAME!” than actually think about things they could help do for their candidates of choice in next year’s elections.

I guess I’m sharing an edited version here since I hope that someone might be willing to be inspired by some of these thoughts and ultimately make a positive impact for gun rights.

Locally, I don’t think most of the GOP candidates prepared to run in what is, historically, going to be a year that favors the opposite party. There were some small things I noticed that probably made a difference, and then some big concepts, too.

For most of the county-level offices, other than glossy mailers that immediately go into the recycling bin, all I ever saw were the generic blue signs that had lots of last names with no visible office listed. The offices were listed on the signs, but nearly impossible to read in much smaller print squeezed between 3-5 last names of various GOP candidates on plain blue backgrounds. Even the glossy mailers I got a look at as they fell into the trash all had many candidates for different offices so that they all blended together.

In a specific an example, for sheriff, I knew a guy named Milt Warrell was on the ticket because his signs were big, bold, clear, and not typical campaign colors. They were bright yellow and black. If it weren’t for the fact that I knew the GOP incumbent had a different name, then I would not have know Milt was a Democrat or anything else. But, unlike the GOP candidate, I knew he was running for sheriff. Milt’s visible campaigning just showed him being something different and that he was clearly running for that office.

I get that local campaigns don’t have major resources to spend, and that’s why they try to campaign together. However, it’s not acceptable to have literally no individual efforts. First of all, and this is pretty important in a purple-blue state for Republicans, you need to accommodate the ticket splitters. There have been times when I’ll take a sign for one candidate, but leave the others behind because I’m not on board with them. So why should the guy or gal I like miss out?

On the state level, Sallie Munday, a candidate for our state Supreme Court, clearly benefitted from split ticket voting given the spread she put up statewide. As much as I hate to admit it, I do think part of it was because she is a woman. (There were several races where GOP women beat Dem men by percentages that aren’t likely explained by much more than they won the women’s vote because they are women.) But I think the significant vote spread was also because she was willing to run very targeted social media ads that don’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. Even before I had my NRA orange mailer on her endorsed candidacy, I was getting ads for her on the issues I clearly follow on Facebook. I knew her name well before Election Day, before the NRA ever sent anything about her, and on issues I care about.

On a side note, what was up with NRA PVF having multiple statewide-endorsed candidates in Pennsylvania and then leaving them off of their website? We had to go through the effort to scan in the mailer to share with Sebastian’s gun club. It would have been easier to point to a public webpage like we could with New Jersey.

Back to the Pennsylvania state races… Christine Fizzano Cannon was also doing some ads, though not as targeted as Munday’s, but enough that I knew she was a ballot for something. However, her good move was to do several “alert” style ads starting around 11:00am on Election Day over the fact that Philadelphia purposefully printed her name incorrectly on about half of their voting machines. I don’t know if she ran those sponsored posts statewide, but every time I opened Facebook yesterday, I saw one here in a ring county. That plays very well into the narrative most suburbanites and “T” people have that Philly is corrupt. That’s hours of sending a message out there that will motivate many who may have been uninspired to make sure and hit the voting booth on the way home. Not to mention, the specific reason her name was chopped in Philly could have caused some split voting tickets because it’s something unique to women who don’t give up their maiden names, but also use their husband’s names. Philly decided not to recognize her “2nd” last name on half of their machines. That’s not something most men would face, and women know it. She beat out a Democratic woman, and I suspect that if we could get the timing of those votes cast for her, there was an uptick after she got the word out about Philly screwing her over.

There is one exception to the social media spending that didn’t win in a race I was watching closely, and that’s a local supervisor candidate. He started spending on Facebook ads right before the election, but they weren’t targeted (beyond location) and they were reproductions of those glossy mailers that go straight into trash. They didn’t tell me anything about him. It’s like someone told him to spend something online, but he didn’t know about any of the power to really target it. And since guns have come up as a local issue, he could have done something. I’m sure that’s true for a variety of other local issues that he didn’t really hit on.

I don’t think that online ad spending is the ticket to success, but I do think that individual campaigns that at least tried to talk about issues voters care about won out here over generic 3-5 candidate signs that barely fit the office names on there. It was expected to be an opposition party wave year, and they didn’t run like it at all here in Bucks County.

I also won’t ignore that Trump was a factor, even though federal races weren’t on the ticket here. But that isn’t a surprise since this is typically the result when one party takes the White House the previous year. One way to both run against what many find off-putting about Trump without actually running against him and his policies is to make yourself really likable. I see a huge missed opportunity with one relatively small office in Pennsylvania that could really spawn a lot of fun online ad themes, and that’s Prothonotary. I still can’t say it. I still don’t fully understand what they do (even though I believe some of it is genealogically-related), and I can assure you that other regular and irregular voters are in the same boat. Surely someone in a candidate’s circle of friends or family could help draft a series of funny videos around that theme. Run them online for not much money, and that could have been one more county office to hold onto just by running on a platform of being a likable person with a sense of humor.

There’s also the mobilization issue. How many GOP-leaning voters were put off by a lack of enthusiasm, a dislike of driving in dark and rain, and heavy rain? In an aging state like Pennsylvania, probably quite a few. Was there an effort to reach out to older voters who otherwise would have gone to vote? I don’t know. I know that some races were close enough that everything should be on the table as proposals to GOTV for the county GOP. I also know enough to know that they won’t do it here. Sad.

Not Hysterical Piece on Rifles

Leave it to the local news to have someone write a not completely hysterical piece explaining the type of rifle used in Sunday’s shooting. Of course, then other articles they are running from other reporters specifically contradict the facts reported in this story – many using the “AR means assault rifle” crap. I thought the MSM told us that one benefit they offered was layers of editorial oversight. So why run a factual piece that explains the AR myth isn’t at all true, but then turn around and work that uses the AR references in a way to directly contradict yourselves?

Like any high profile incident, we’re not really going to comment until more facts are released. It seems there’s a great deal of information not released yet, and that may or may not raise questions about enforcement of laws. I will admit that based on bits that appear to have been confirmed, it is troubling that Texas seemingly approved this guy as a “certified” security guard when he had a conviction for assaulting other people. It seems to me that even unarmed security have some level of “authority” over others in their place of employment, and those with a history of assaulting others may not be the best fit for those jobs. (Or maybe they are a perfect fit in some jobs like at sketchy bars, but probably not for the family water park where he was apparently approved to work since the shooter’s conviction was for assaulting his own family.) But again, I also acknowledge that the timeline or other details may change rapidly.

What does appear to be shaping up is that this shooter was caught because of the efforts of an armed citizen and another regular guy with a truck willing to risk their lives to put an end to this shooter’s ability to do harm. They couldn’t save those inside the church, but they did what they could to make sure he didn’t hurt anyone else.

Victims at the Four Seasons

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer has an attention-grabbing headline: “For Bucks couple in Vegas, a horrifying view of the carnage.” With a headline like that, you click on it thinking that maybe they were in the midst of the crowd and saw things you can never forget.

And, let me tell you, I don’t think they will ever forget the horrifying view of an empty littered lot 35 stories below their posh Four Seasons room the morning after the shooting. The art deco-inspired wall papers and giant shiny silver mirrors to reflect the lights coming in from their floor-to-ceiling windows looking down on the Strip will remain forever in their minds against the backdrop of the litter below them.

The article says they heard some shots which the couple assumed to be fireworks with the concert they could just hear below them. But the article deliberately uses phrases that just acknowledge they saw the curtains blowing out of the neighboring hotel room the following morning and litter the next morning after there had been bodies previously. It doesn’t actually say they saw “carnage.”

The Inquirer does want us to know that the couple resting in their super comfortable Four Seasons bed has no intention of letting the gunman get in the way of their high end bridal conference business and that they will, in fact, be strong enough to stay the entire 4 additional nights they were planning to stay! #LasVegasStrong

When this couple reached out to the largest newspaper in their home region to tell their harrowing story, they made sure to pose for a photo in their posh hotel dressed in their most stylish clothes looking appropriately concerned for the little people below. Without it, I’m not sure we could have believed that they had survived such a tragic crime that happened to a group of completely unrelated people 1,600 feet down the Vegas Strip.

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