Gatling guns, balloon corps, and other weapons introduced during the American Civil War

Conservative magazine The National Interest recently published an article celebrating the technological innovations of the Civil War. While I, for one, am not so keen on this narrative framing…

If there is anything that drives innovation in science and technology, it’s a good old-fashioned war. When you need to kill your enemies faster and deader than they kill you, governments are willing to try nearly anything, no matter how insane it sounds.

That isn’t to say we haven’t gotten amazing technology from war. Rockets, microwaves and radar were all game-changing innovations during battle, but also have turned into essential pieces of our everyday lives, helping humanity even when we aren’t smashing and destroying someone else for looking at us funny.

…I cannot deny that there is something interesting about remembering just what kinds of what weapons we forged to fuck ourselves over, including gatling guns, coal torpedoes, shotgun pistol revolvers, and reconnaissance balloons. Sure, half a million American died over a glorified temper tantrum about whether or not Black people deserve to be treated with the most basic human indignity, rather than as pieces of property — but dammit, the CSS Hunley was the first submarine to successfully sink a boat, and that's an important hallmark of American innovation!

Anyway I clicked on this link by accident but it's weirdly kind of fascinating to realize just how many horrible things we created — things which continue to benefit the mission of American Imperialism — just so that we could further dehumanize Black people. Read the rest

The Navajo Nation is trying to buy up a major US gun manufacturer

The Remington Outdoor Company is a US-based firearm manufacturer that grew out of the original Remington company, founded in 1816. The modern version of Remington owns a number of other recognizable gun brands, including Bushmaster, who manufactures a popular AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle that has been favored in mass killings. But the company filed for bankruptcy in 2018, blaming their failures on an unfair backlash from people who suffered from those mass shootings, particularly families from Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

At the time of that bankruptcy filing, the New York Times reported that the Navajo Nation had sent in a bid to buy the business:

The Navajo Nation — which controls a $3.3 billion investment trust — sent a letter to Remington in May offering to buy the company for $475 million to $525 million, according to a draft of the letter reviewed by The New York Times. The tribe planned to pay for the purchase in cash.

The Navajo Nation’s plan for Remington was novel: It intended to shift the company away from its consumer business, including curtailing the sale of the AR-15-style weapons frequently used in mass shootings, to focus on police and defense contracts.

The tribe planned to use profits from those businesses to invest in research and development of advanced “smart guns” — those with fingerprint or other technology intended to prevent anyone but the gun’s owner from using the weapon.

Remington rejected the offer then, and emerged from bankruptcy shortly thereafter. But the company never actually fully recovered, and two years later, they've found themselves struggling once again. Read the rest

Not first rodeo for gun-toting St. Louis couple

An instantly infamous gun-toting St. Louis couple, filmed menacing protestors passing by their mansion, are already well-known for bizarre and threatening shenanigans by locals. Jeremy Koher reports that they likewise threatened one of their neighbors with guns, are relentless litigators, and were accused of trying to use HOA rules to get a gay couple kicked out of the neighborhood. The man reportedly sued his own dying father.

In an ongoing suit against Portland Place trustees in 2017, the McCloskeys say they are entitled to a 1,143-square-foot triangle of lawn in front of property that is set aside as common ground in the neighborhood’s indenture. It was that patch of green protesters saw when they filed through the gate. Mark McCloskey said in an affidavit that he has defended the patch before by pointing a gun at a neighbor who had tried to cut through it. ...

One of the rules prohibited unmarried people from living together. Several neighbors said it was because the McCloskeys didn’t want gay couples living on the block. The trustees voted to impeach Patricia McCloskey as a trustee in 1992 when she fought an effort to change the trust indenture, accusing her of being anti-gay.

Their own lawyer, Albert Watkins, became part of the story when reporters noticed his website bio boasted that a client's accuser committed suicide after Watkins was done with her.

Read the rest

Karen's Got a Gun, the song

Jonathan "Song A Day" Mann (Previously) wrote and performed this lovely song about the St. Louis woman filmed waving a gun, finger on the trigger, at protestors getting too close to her mansion. Fast work! Read the rest

Elmer Fudd's gun gone in new Looney Tunes Cartoons

In the new Looney Tunes Cartoons series on HBO Max, Elmer Fudd no longer carries his signature rifle.

“We’re not doing guns,” [series executive producer and showrunner Peter] Browngardt said in the New York Times. “But we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in.”

From CBS News:

Yosemite Sam will also lose his iconic double pistols in the series. Neither Browngardt nor WarnerMedia, HBO Max's parent company, have explicitly stated the reason for the decision to drop guns from the series.

Last summer, Warner Bros. TV released a short on its YouTube channel titled, "Dynamite Dance," which appeared to be from the new series. (Video above.) The cartoon shows Fudd chasing his nemesis Bugs Bunny with a scythe before the rabbit puts a stick of lit dynamite in the hunter's mouth. The 90-second clip features many sticks of dynamite and a plethora of massive explosions as Bugs Bunny blows up Fudd in multiple creative ways, all set to Amilcare Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours."

Read the rest

Walmart takes guns off shop floor

Walmart is removing guns from shop floors, according to Fox News and CNN. The move was prompted by nationwide protests over the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by cops in Minneapolis.

The company has faced criticism over its decision to continue selling guns after 22 people were killed in a mass shooting at Texas Walmart and two store managers were fatally shot at a Mississippi Walmart in August.

The retailer amended its policy in September, asking customers to not openly carry firearms in its stores. It stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015 and in 2018 stopped selling firearms to anyone younger than 21.

If you've been wondering all these years what it would take for big box stores to stop selling guns, the answer is "lots of black people suddenly interested in guns." Read the rest

A fascinating computer analysis of the linguistic context around the 2nd Amendment

The Second Amendment is perhaps the most controversial part of the U.S. Bill of Rights. But that's not just because of our grander cultural debate around gun rights and gun violence — it's 'cause the damn thing is such a grammatical clusterfuck.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

27 words in 4 dependent clauses with no clear anything to link them. It's not clear if the thing that shall not be infringed is the well-regulated militia, or the right of the people to keep and bear arms, or if it's all dependent upon what is or is not necessary to the security of a free State. And anyone can make any one of those arguments, and have evidence to back it up that can't be definitively refuted, either.

Over at The Atlantic, James C. Phillips, a Fellow with the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University, and Josh Blackman, a Constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, discuss a novel approach to figuring out what, exactly, the Founding Fathers were actually trying to say: by creating and scanning through a massive database full of more than a billion words culled from formal American and British texts from 1475 to 1800. They specifically searched for instances where phrases such as "bear arms" and "keep arms" were used, and noted the context, the context, and adjacent language that accompanied the phrases to better understand how these terms were actually being used in their historical context. Read the rest

White nationalists planned to murder cops and pro-gun protesters in Virginia

From the bail hearings of three men arrested on gun charges, whom police claim were members of the white nationalist group The Base: the men planned on using the gun rally in Virginia to start a civil war by gunning down their fellow pro-gun demonstrators, and they discussed murdering police officers in order to obtain arms and tactical equipment. Read the rest

A Pittsburgh church held a gun buyback in honor of MLK Day and ran out of money in 40 minutes

Cities across the US have been holding gun buyback programs since at least 1974. Most of these events have been organized by local police departments, who typically offer between $50 and $250 in cash or gift cards in exchange for a turned-in firearm with no questions asked.

The Episcopal congregation at the Church of the Holy Cross in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania tried their hands at a similar program on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, largely inspired by a double homicide that occurred in front of the church in November 2019. Church leaders had planned to remain available all throughout the afternoon, offering $100 per gun.

In the first 40 minutes, more than 50 people showed up, and the church ran out of the $5,000 they had budgeted for the event.

Many gun advocate argue that events like these are nothing more than symbolic acts of virtue-signalling that ultimately make no real impact on curbing gun violence. And statistically speaking, they're probably right. But that shouldn't diminish the hope, inspiration, and community building that can be derived from such events.

That's why the Church of the Holy Cross is planning to hold another similar event soon. If you do want to donate to the cause to help buy back more guns, you can send money directly to the church at 7507 Kelly Street in Pittsburgh; unfortunately, they don't take donations online.

With so many guns turned in, Pittsburgh buyback program runs out of money in 40 minutes [WPXI]

Image via Frankie Leon/Flickr Read the rest

Gun Violence Isn't a Problem — it's actually 5 Problems, with Different Solutions

I’ve written extensively on gun violence, spoken on international TV and radio on the subject, and even pursued a gun license in the strictest city of one of the strictest states in the country. Despite my first-hand experience, the most ardent defenders of the Second Amendment — like those who marched on Richmond, Virginia this weekend to protest "Jim Crow" gun laws — will still tell me things like, “We don’t need more laws! We need to enforce the laws on the books!” or “We can’t stop every shooting because that’s just the price of freedom.” Those same #2A Avengers will of course acknowledge that yeah, okay, maybe NICS has some problems, or maybe those Parkland cops should have done something earlier, and then swiftly retreat back into the same tribalistic mindsets that always prevent human progress.

So I wrote this essay, hoping to have a rational conversation. It was originally published on Medium in 2018, but it remains frustratingly relevant, so I'm posting it here.

Naming something gives you power over it.

That’s the basic idea behind all the magic in every folktale dating back for centuries, from “Rumpelstiltskin” to the Rolling Stones’ “Hope you guessed my name.” Ancient shamans didn’t practice “magic”; they just had knowledge, and names for things like “eye of newt” that no one else could understand. To name something is to know it, and knowledge is power.Think about the relationship between “spelling” and “spells” and you won’t be so surprised that Harry Potter has been all over the gun violence conversations lately, on both the Left and the Right—which makes sense, considering that they have a word you memorize and practice reciting in order to kill people. Read the rest

The Alpha Gun Angels are Israeli gun influencers

Earlier this year, Vox looked at the popularity of female influencers showing off firearms on Instagram. Facebook/Instagram forbids advertisements promoting the sale or use firearms. So, marketers pay influencers to dodge the rule:

There are dozens of women (it is mostly women who are gun influencers) making partial or complete livings off Instagram grids full of guns and perfect smiles. Some of them are hunters, some of them are veterans, some participate in professional shooting sports, some also swing-dance, some play soccer. Some look really good in a pair of camouflage overalls or a red, white, and blue onesie or wearing almost nothing, and all of them have come up with their own rules about how best to monetize these physical realities.

They’ve done something that the companies in the firearm industry cannot do on their own: make the gun lifestyle as attractive and aspirational as all the others on Instagram.

One such group is the Alpha Gun Angels.

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Such a Badass! 🤩 - happy thanksgiving everyone! With love, AGA family 💞 . . Beautiful @sapir_elgrabli w/ @iwi_intl 📸 @omershapira_ 👑 #alphagunangels #sapirelgrabli #iwi #tavor #meprolight #bullpup #bullpuprifle #rifles #gungirls

A post shared by Alpha Gun Angels | AGA (@alpha.gun.angels_aga) on Nov 29, 2019 at 8:22am PST

Writing for Jewish Currents, Sophia Goodfriend looks at the business:

The Alpha Gun Angels, who bill themselves as Israel’s premier gun-modeling and social media–marketing agency, are a team of nine active and veteran IDF combat soldiers turned Instagram celebrities.

Read the rest

These are the bullets that killed JFK

The above GIF was created from new 3D scans of the bullets that killed president John F. Kennedy. The GIF shows two bits of the bullets that killed the president along with another mostly complete bullet plucked from Texas Governor John Connally's hospital stretcher. The National Archives temporarily removed the historic projectiles from the vault so that the National Institute of Standards and Technology could create digital replicas of them at microscopic resolution. Next year, the digital replicas will become part of the National Archive's JFK Assassination Records publicly available online. From Smithsonian:

These bullets now enter the National Archives’ digital collection alongside three others thought to hail from the same firearm: two discharged as test shots, and another from an earlier failed assassination attempt on Army Major General Edwin Walker. All were imaged with a specialized microscope that scanned their surfaces, charting their features much like a satellite recording the topography of a mountain range. The pictures were then stitched together by NIST ballistics specialists to generate a vivid 3-D rendering detailed enough to show grooves left by the barrel of the gun.

Read the rest

Six-year-old brought a loaded gun to school for show-and-tell

In Roswell, New Mexico, a six-year-old elementary school student carried a loaded revolver to class. According to police, the student had "no malicious intent" but rather brought in the gun for show-and-tell. According to KOB4, the police confiscated the weapon, notified the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, and "escorted the parent and student to their home for further follow up and investigation."

You'd think it goes without saying, but apparently not: If you have children in your house and insist on keeping firearms around, lock them the fuck up. The guns, that is. Read the rest

AK-3DP: 3D printed AK receiver

I've been semi-seriously joking about "AK-3DPs" (3D printed assault rifles) for years, and while the attempts to limit the spread of 3D printed guns have been sloppy and poorly formulated (as have the Trump admin's attempt to roll them back) the state of the art is still progressing. Read the rest

Most "black market" guns in America are purchased legally across state lines

States' rights are one of the greatest impediments to reducing gun violence in the United States.

This was something I noticed when I chronicled the journey of getting my gun license in Boston. It's also all-but-confirmed by the recent release of the ATF's gun tracking data. From The Trace:

According to the most recent ATF statistics, released in August, the bureau traced 332,101 guns in 2018. The average time-to-crime of those weapons was 8.8 years. That’s why a particularly short time-to-crime raises red flags for law enforcement, since it often suggests the weapon was acquired for criminal purposes.

[…]

In California, for example, 12 percent of the guns recovered in the state had a time-to-crime of less than one year. When you isolate only those guns that originated in Nevada and were recovered in California, the figure jumps to 23 percent — almost one in four. (Nationally, 10 percent of all guns had a time-to-crime of less than one year.)

For the pro-gun NRA crowd, this essentially proves that gun regulation doesn't work; that's a reason they love to talk about Chicago so much, even though most of the illegal guns there come from Indiana. But I don't actually buy that at all. The issue is and always been about ease of access. Most people aren't going to go out of their way to navigate the black market, trading Bitcoin over Silk Road just to get a gun. If you live in California, and have a cousin in Nevada (or even just know a guy who knows a guy), it becomes less of a "black market" trade, and more of a favor. Read the rest

Hunter was likely killed by a deer he shot

In Yelville, Arkansas, a 66-year-old experienced hunter died after he was gored by a buck he shot. From CNN:

When his nephew found him, the hunter was alert and talking, and was even able to call his wife. But he stopped breathing by the time paramedics could get him to the hospital, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said. Officials are not certain that the antler wounds are the official cause of his death, the commission said in a statement. He may have died from other medical issues such as a heart attack, the statement said, but there will be no autopsy.

Injuries resulting from wounded deer are not uncommon, said Joe Dale Purdom from the Game and Fish Commission.

Read the rest

Seattle authorities used "Red Flag" gun laws to disarm a Neo-Nazi

Kaleb J. Cole (aka "Khimaere") is the 24-year-old leader of the Washington State cell of the Atomwaffen Division, an international network of violent Neo-Nazis. Aside from generally spewing hateful rhetoric, Cole had also been seen participating in Atomwaffen's "Hate Camps," sharpening his rifle skills for more extremist violence.

Fortunately, he no longer has access to any guns. From The Daily Beast:

[Cole] had his guns seized on Oct. 1st, according to King County Court records. The move came after the Seattle Police Department filed a 62-page “Extreme Risk Protection Order” petition against Cole on Sept. 26, according to electronic court records. Among the weapons that had been in Cole's possession were a pistol and an AK-47 variant with a high-capacity drum magazine.

To be clear, Cole has not been charged on any specific crimes. As far as anyone's aware, he hasn't killed anyone—at least not yet, although there is arguably reason to believe that he plans to. In addition to the target-practice videos where he can be seen chanting "Race war now" with the rest of his buddies, Cole has openly admitted to his fascist beliefs, and support for armed insurrection.

Again: not technically crimes. But valids cause for concern. That's where the "Red Flag" or "Extreme Risk" laws come in. They're basically restraining orders, but for guns.

One of the biggest struggles with reducing gun violence in America is that a lot of the proposed legislation also infringes on civil liberties. For example: the various "No-Fly Lists" that the government maintains have no clear criteria or due process, which ends up punishing people innocent Muslims, government employees, and literal fucking babies. Read the rest

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