Saturday, April 25, 2009

Got Ammo?

I took my trusty old M1911 to the shooting range a few times this month in preparation for my concealed carry class at the end of the month. I was advised to bring 50 rounds of ammunition to the class. I hadn't bought handgun ammo in over a year. As I burnt up my ammo supply in practice, I figured it would be no problem to stop by the local Thiesen's or Wal-Mart and pick up another box. Boy, was I wrong! A nation-wide shortage of all types of ammunition, handgun ammunition in particular, has emptied store shelves.

My friend (a first-time gun owner) spent the other day driving around Cedar Rapids (Iowa's second largest city) looking for his particular caliber and type. He went from store to store only to find the ammo shelves bare. At one store they said that the delivery truck arrived at 11:00 am on Thursdays and that the handgun ammo was usually gone by noon. Apparently you practically have to help unload the truck yourself if you want some ammo. My friend ended up at hardware store in a small town outside C.R. paying 50 bucks for 50 rounds.

There are several causes to the shortage. The long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have helped to dwindle ammunition supplies, as suppliers give priority to military orders over civilian sales. The largest cause of the shortage, however, is fear. Buyers are snapping up ammunition and hoarding it while they still can.

Many gun owners, including an increasing number of first-time gun buyers, are afraid that President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress will move to outlaw or excessively regulate guns and ammo. Some previously proposed legislation dealing with ammo has included placing a 1000% tax on handgun ammo, bans on lead (i.e. most) bullets, and "encoding" each bullet with a unique serial number (making it vastly more expensive).

If the specter of all of the Democrats previous gun control schemes weren't enough to drive ammo prices through the roof, recently President Obama announced his support for CIFTA, an international gun control treaty. Among other infringements upon the Second Amendment, the treaty could require people who reload ammo at home to get a federal license. (No one knows how much such a license would cost, or even if they would be issued.) The treaty should drive ammo prices up further and keep them there.

So in a time of ammunition scarcity, what can shooters do?

If you can't find the ammunition you need at your local merchant, you can try ordering ammunition online at Cheaper Than Dirt, The Sportsman's Guide, or They may be sold out of what you need, but keep checking.

If you can wait, try attending the next gun show near you. There are usually ammunition vendors at gun shows, giving you at least a chance to find what you need. Unlike what you've probably seen on the network news, gun shows are not lawless orgies of illegal gun sales with Satan himself laughing in the background, but you can pick up some good deals at one. maintains a list of Iowa gun shows here.

Good luck and good shooting!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Economic Wizardry

Growing up here in Iowa, my sister had a book that was a collection of the funny papers classic "The Wizard of Id." I remember one particular cartoon in that book. The wizard was standing knee-deep in the sea, his sleeves were rolled up and he had his arms pointed out to sea, furiously casting lightning bolts and cartoon magic at it. Behind him, on the beach, the king watched the wizard's hard work proudly with one of his underlings. The wizard could always get the tide to go out, the king explained to his subject, even if it took twelve hours to do so.

I recall looking down at that cartoon as blankly as if I'd just read the day's relative humidity in Scranton Pennsylvania. It was only after my older and wiser sister explained to me that, after twelve hours, the tide would have gone out by itself anyway, that I got the joke. The wizard was an absolute fraud, but he sure wasn't going to let his sugar daddy (the king) know it.

I'm reminded of that cartoon now as I watch our government's economic wizards work their best mojo to make the recession retreat. However, unlike the good wizard of Id, who merely cast his fake magic harmlessly out to sea, our federal wizards are casting their lightning bolts into a pre-existing economic tinderbox of their own making and mortgaging our children's future to fund the enterprise.

Market forces are remarkably resilient (but not indestructible). Some economists were predicting as early as January that the recession may have been bottoming out. If left alone, the recession would end eventually and would do so sooner without all the "help" from the government. A UCLA study of the Great Depression, for instance, concluded that New Deal programs to alleviate the depression actually added seven years to it. We can expect similar results from current "stimulus."

We already have $11 trillion in public debt and that is set to get much worse as the Social Security and Medicare promises that the federal government made to baby boomers (with no way to pay them) come due. By 2030 it will take half of all federal income tax dollars to fund just these two programs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, by mid-century Medicare and Medicaid will require the entire federal budget, leaving no money available for national defense, security or any other federal program. In order to keep Medicare and Medicaid and still fund the government's other functions, a middle-income family will have to pay two-thirds of its income in taxes. (Medicare/Medicaid figures are from John C. Goodman in the March 2009 "Imprimus.")

It's not hard to see that piling trillions of dollars in additional debt on top of these unfunded liabilities, to fund current stimulus of dubious usefulness, will not help our economy in the long term. But by the time the tide rolls back in, the wizards will be long gone with the kings gold.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

If They Only Had Integrity

I’ve come to not expect much from coverage of firearms issues by the mainstream media, particularly television network news. However, even I was shocked by what a one-sided hatchet job the ABC News show “20/20” did with their special episode titled, “If I Only Had a Gun.” The program made absolutely no attempt to even feign balance or objectivity.

As I saw it, the three main points of the show were: 1)Guns can’t help you in an emergency. 2)Kids are drawn to unsecured guns like moths to a flame. 3)Guns are too easy to acquire.

To prove the first point, “20/20” staged one of many “experiments” on the program with all the scientific purity of six-year-old kid frying sidewalk ants with a magnifying glass. Reminiscent of Columbine or Virginia Tech, they placed a student volunteer armed with a training weapon in a classroom situation. Suddenly a gunman burst through the door, shoots the professor and turns the weapon on the class. The reporters then critiqued the actions of the untrained “armed student” with police instructors to show how ineffective they were.

Firstly, “20/20” picked the most extreme crime situation a person can be put in. So-called “multiple victim public shootings” (MVPS’s) or “active shooter” situations are statistically rare. A person carrying a weapon for self defense is vastly more likely to confront a mugger, wild animal, rapist or burglar (or nobody) than a psychotic school shooter. Of defensive uses against these more mundane threats, the defender usually doesn’t even fire a shot. Once the gun is brandished, the attacker usually retreats to find an easier victim.

In the “20/20” experiment there were other variables stacking the deck. The “deranged gunman” was actually a professional police firearms instructor, who just happened to know who the one person in the classroom with a gun was (each time that person was seated front and center in the classroom). The student volunteers only received a brief “show and tell” training session with their pistol before the show. The students had to wear long, weird peasant shirts that hung well past the pistol stashed in their waistband, which is not what most students carrying pistols (nor any student this side of Abu Dhabi) would wear and they also had to wear protective, yet restrictive, “space helmets“ as well. I could go on, but suffice it to say that “20/20” got the results it wanted.

In each experiment, the armed student responder was criticized for not properly taking cover, for nearly shooting the “frightened classmates” who made a point of running in front of them, and for only hitting the killer in the arms and thighs while the professional firearms instructor landed his rounds center-mass on the student. To further stack the deck, "20/20" added a second shooter to the side of the classroom, then criticized the student volunteer for only engaging the shooter directly in front.

In such a situation, "20/20" advised viewers to run, hide or play dead, and grab their cell phone (which they called an important “weapon” against active shooters). This is probably often sound advice, especially if someone is unarmed. However, it should be conceivable that armed resistance can help, since at least three school shootings have been cut short by armed bystanders (Appalachian Law School in Virginia, Pearl Mississippi High School, and Edinboro Pennslvania).

On the second point about children and guns, “20/20” recycled another “experiment” that they did ten years ago. In this one, they planted real, but inert, pistols into toy boxes at a daycare. To the surprise of the reporters, but no one else on Earth, the children played with them! I think that’s why God created adult supervision. They also showed a segment about a kid in Florida whose neighborhood is overrun with armed gang-bangers who already disobey numerous gun laws.

To illustrate their point about guns being too easy to acquire, they visited one of those despicable gun shows that we hear so much about. “20/20” brought in a guy whose sister had been killed at Virginia Tech. (The VT killer did NOT buy his gun at a gun show, “20/20” had to admit.) They gave him $5,000 and one hour to buy as many guns as he could. Again, to no one’s surprise, he walked out with a load of them. (If ABC wants to conduct this type of research here in Iowa, I would like to officially offer my services! Unlike this guy though, I will not be turning the guns over for destruction.)

Although “20/20” said that gun shows were a major supplier of crime guns, a 1997 study by the National Institute of Justice put that number at about 2% of guns used in crime. In 2001, the Bureau of Justice Statistics put the number at less than 1%. I guess it depends on what your definition of “major” is.

At the end of the show Diane Sawyer stated that they were unable to find a single “reliable” study that pointed toward the effectiveness of guns for self-defense. I guess a study is only considered “reliable” if it reaffirms the show’s preconceived thesis. Let me suggest the following to Ms. Sawyer:

  • A 1997 study performed for Bill Clinton’s Justice Department, titled “Guns in America,” found that there are as many as 1.5 million defensive uses of firearms every year. The report was authored by two esteemed anti-gun criminologists, Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig.
  • Two years earlier, the study “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun,” written by Dr. Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, criminology professors at Florida State University, put that number at as many as 2.5 million defensive gun uses each year.
  • According to the study "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," (University of Chicago, 1996) by researchers John R. Lott, Jr. and David B. Mustard, states which implemented concealed carry laws (wherein private citizens are permitted to carry firearms) reduced their rate of murder by 8.5%, rape by 5%, aggravated assault by 7% and robbery by 3%.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, reported in its 1979 report “Rape Victimization in 26 American Cities” (page 31) that about 32% of rapes are completed by the attacker. If the woman is armed with a gun or a knife, however, only 3% of attempted rapes are successful.
  • According to “Multiple Victim Public Shootings” (2000) by professors John R. Lott, Jr. and William M. Landes, concealed carry laws reduced a states likelihood of having a MVPS by 60% and reduced deaths and injuries from MVPS’s by 78%. Their research also showed that the more restrictions that concealed carry states placed on where permit holders could carry their weapons (more “gun free zones”) the less of a reduction in MVPS’s the state experienced.
  • Although it's only anecdotal evidence, not scientific, publications such as Gun Week, the National Rifle Association's monthly publications and routinely publish stories of citizens using firearms in self-defense.

With all this evidence (and more), you would think that it might warrant at least a single solitary mention of a successful defensive use of a firearm on “If I Only Had a Gun.” The whole thing left me wishing, “If I only had the remote!”

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gay Marriage Comes To Iowa

The Iowa Supreme Court made its long-awaited ruling on the case of Varnum v. Brien on Friday, allowing gay marriage in Iowa. The lawsuit was filed in 2005 on behalf of six same-sex couples who argued that the state’s ban on gay marriage violated their rights to equal protection and due process. The ruling makes Iowa only the third state (after Massachusetts and Connecticut) to allow equal gay marriage. reports that State Senator Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, an openly gay legislator, had this to say about the ruling: "Today is a red-letter day for the state of Iowa. All of Iowa’s citizens now have equal protection under the law. Thousands of Iowans who have worked hard, raised families, and paid taxes will now be afforded the opportunity to marry. As a lifelong Iowan, I know that fair-minded people throughout our state support equality for all. I have never been more proud of all the Iowans who have worked continuously for the advancement of human rights for all."

Many Republicans were disappointed by the ruling. GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City summed up their thoughts: "The Defense of Marriage Act had strong bipartisan support when it was introduced and debated in our legislature. That bipartisan support for traditional marriage between one man and one woman reflected the will of the people then – and reflects the will of the people now. On an issue of this monumental importance to the very foundation of our society, I believe a vote of the people is necessary. I hope the General Assembly will take the required steps to give Iowans a voice is this process on the most basic of issues – and that Governor Culver will take a leadership role to let all Iowans express their opinion.”

There were calls from conservative leaders to amend Iowa’s constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. An amendment seems unlikely in the near term, as such a measure would have to be passed by two consecutive sessions of the Iowa General Assembly, then by a vote of the people. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Thursday that it was “exceedingly unlikely” that the current session would pass legislation regarding gay marriage. A “Hail Mary pass” possibly available to conservatives in 2010 is that the question of whether to hold a state constitutional convention will be placed before Iowa voters, as it is every 10 years.

While I support the Iowa court’s recent decision, I don’t think that it is the quantum leap forward in individual liberty that gay rights advocates make it out to be. It is an advancement in equality under the law (certainly a worthy goal), but not in individual liberty overall. The gay rights advocates are not challenging the authority of omnipotent government, they're merely seeking its blessing.

As I explained in “Gay Marriage In Iowa” (11-28-08) and Beth Cody pointed out more recently, the real debate should be whether the state should be in the marriage business at all. Even with the recent ruling, supposedly free people (gay and straight alike) must ask for the state’s permission to marry the person of their choosing. So long as that remains the case, a larger issue of freedom remains.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Taxpayers Ejected From Tax Hearing

During a public hearing on the Democrat plan to tax Iowans' taxes, House Speaker Pat Murphy ordered state troopers to remove the citizens sitting in the Capitol galleries when they refused to quit booing tax supporters and applauding tax opponents.'s Lynn Campbell reported Wednesday:

"More than 500 people packed the Iowa Capitol and the House galleries Tuesday night, largely in opposition to a plan that would eliminate the ability of Iowans to deduct their federal tax payments when calculating state tax liability. They wore red T-shirts from Iowans for Tax Relief that stated, 'no tax on a tax.'

"The crowd booed and hissed supporters of the legislation, and applauded opponents. They were reprimanded several times by House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Shomshor, but the boos and applause continued. Murphy initially came out, ordered that decorum be kept and threatened to clear the chamber, but the applause continued.

"The final straw came when Greg Baker, a University of Iowa student and state chairman of the College Republicans of Iowa, told lawmakers: 'Please quit messing up this state.'

"The crowd burst into applause. Shomshor pounded the gavel and ordered the galleries cleared at 8:27 p.m. Murphy came out to enforce the order, which was immediately followed by angry shouts by the audience.

"'This is our House!' one person shouted.

"'We pay you!' another shouted.

"'You're fired!' a third shouted."

The first two people are right. Let's hope the third person turns out to be prophetic.

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