Tom Diaz

Posts Tagged ‘gun trafficking’

Cultural Change, Human Rights, and Gun Control in America

In Bushmaster assault rifle, Concealed Carry, Cultural assassination, Ethics in Washington, Expendable Youth, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, politics, Running Fire Fight, self-defense, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, The So-called "News Media", Tired Old Republicans on December 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm
Melting Pot or Oil on Water?

The Future—Get Used to It

 

Cultural change may be solution to US gun crimes

 

http://www.shanghaidaily.com/Opinion/shanghai-daily-columnists/Cultural-change-may-be-solution-to-US-gun-crimes/shdaily.shtml

By Wang Yong | December 14, 2013, Saturday |  Print Edition

Editor’s note: The following is an exclusive interview of Shanghai Daily opinion writer Wang Yong with Tom Diaz, author of The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It.

Q: The September 16 shooting carnage at the Washington Navy Yard is the latest proof of what you call “a reign of terror” by gun activists who raise the false flag of constitutional rights. Will it push the US to better regulate guns?

A: It’s wishful thinking to suppose that any single incident – no matter how horrific – will inspire significant change in gun regulation in the US. No one in their right mind likes these incidents or accepts them as normal.  But, as in so many other areas, Americans are dramatically divided on what to do about it, and so we do nothing.

There are two strongly held and opposite points of view.

One side understands that the proliferation and types of guns available is the crux of the problem, not only of mass shootings but of daily “routine” shootings all over the country. Even “good” people with access to guns commit terrible crimes with them.

The other side is committed to the ideological and emotional view that the problem is “bad” people, not guns.

It so happens that these sides are in rough national political balance right now, which favors the pro-gun side because inertia makes change virtually impossible at the national level.

The hope is that, over a longer term, there will be real and widespread cultural change that will favor stricter gun control. In other words, we will reach a “tipping point” that will break the deadlock.

There is good evidence that this may be happening, as younger and more culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse communities within the US “grow into” political power. Guns do not have the same emotional and ideological appeal to these groups as they do to the old line white male population, whose grip on American politics is clearly fading.

Q: What are Obama’s chances and challenges if he really wants to make the US a safer place?

A: I have not seen and do not expect to see substantial change under President Obama. He certainly has made powerful speeches. He would clearly like to go in the correct direction.

That said, however, two factors work against administration-driven change.

One is the reluctance of the political “experts” in the Democratic party to take on tough gun control legislation.

The influence of this view reaches to the highest levels in Congress and the White House, and includes those who might otherwise be thought to be “progressive” or “liberal.”

It’s safer to keep one’s head down. Mere politics prevents bold action, and ultimately empowers the National Rifle Association and the gun industry it represents.

The other is the stark national political division that I referred to earlier.

The president has only so much “political capital” to spend, as the recent budget and debt limit confrontation showed.

It took an enormously disciplined and steel-nerved will to face down those who had locked down the government.

Yes, the president (and for that matter, the Democratic leaders in Congress) could in theory decide to make gun control an all-or-nothing fight.

But given everything that needs to be done just to keep the US functioning, I doubt that this fight will be engaged.

Q: Do you campaign for an outright ban on individual gun rights, or for better regulated individual gun rights?

A: The facts of gun violence dictate certain answers. If we really want to reduce gun violence of all types, we must limit access to guns. So, yes, I favor strong restrictions on access to and possession of certain types of guns: high-capacity semiautomatic pistols, semiautomatic assault weapons, and very high caliber (armor-piercing) sniper rifles.

Unfortunately, the “gun control movement” in the US has bought into the idea of pursuing much more limited goals.

This is because, to a large extent, the Democratic political establishment does not want an abrasive fight. The phrase “gun safety” has come into political favor and “gun control” has lost favor.

There is nothing “wrong” with most of the incremental change being pursued.  Better background checks, trigger locks, and other hardware changes all would have some small effect on gun death and injury. The facts, however, are quite clear.

The preponderance of the hurricane of gun violence in the United States comes from so-called “legal” guns and is committed by people who won’t be deterred by gadgets like trigger locks.

In my view, the diversion of energy to these palliatives is a serious mistake.

The proliferation of assault weapons in the US could have been cut short as late as 1994 if the Congress and then-President Bill Clinton had acted forcefully and intelligently. Instead, they compromised on a weak law that has since expired. Now we see the results at elementary schools, movie theaters and other public places.

Q: You write: “Every year, more Americans are killed by guns in the United States than people of all nationalities are killed worldwide by terrorist attacks.” As terrorist attacks are threats to human rights, would you also call gun crimes an abuse of human rights, especially in the case of racial hatred toward non-white immigrants?

 A: I have no doubt that some of our domestic gun violence is driven by fear, anger and hatred that has its roots in some of the racial and ethnic theories that have stained our history. It certainly fuels the desire to own military-style guns.

However, one must be cautious and specific in how one articulates the case for calling gun violence a case of human rights abuse. To me, the key is the extent to which the government per se is complicit in the abuse, and I see little of that in our domestic problem.

The three greatest examples of human rights abuse within the United States that I would cite all involved overt government complicity: the genocide of the Native Americans, the institution of slavery and so-called “Jim Crow” laws that followed its formal end, and explicitly racist national laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent “quota” restrictions on immigration.

So far as domestic gun violence goes, governments in the United States can be faulted for passivity politically, but I can’t think of a case in which the government has overt responsibility for or encourages the violence. There is, however, a different case to be made for the gun violence that occurs in other countries because of our government’s lax controls on the export and smuggling of guns.

The citizens of Mexico, Canada and other countries all over the world have suffered because of these weak export and law enforcement policies and practices.

There are many things that the federal government in particular could have done and can do today to effectively prevent much of this traffic, but chooses not to do for pragmatic reasons. That is complicity.

Guns from the United States not only take lives and injure innocent people, they have provided infrastructures through which criminal and other non-government organizations can confront legitimate governments and deprive ordinary people of the free exercise of their human rights.

Frankly, it amazes me that none of these affected governments has made an aggressive case in international courts or elsewhere based on the theory that the United States is directly complicit in these abuses. Every now and then someone talks about it, but no one really does anything.

Q: You call for the creation of a comprehensive reporting system regarding gun crimes. Has there been progress to that effect since the publication of your book?

]A: I favor not only a comprehensive data system about gun “crimes,” but also about gun violence of all sorts, which would include suicides and incidents of “road rage” and “domestic violence,” which many people think is somehow different from cases in which someone sets out to use a gun to commit another crime and kills or injures a victim.

Only a little progress has been made, largely at the direction of the president. The NRA and the gun industry have a vested interest in preventing such information from being gathered, much less made public.

Ignorance, for them, is power.

 

 

Gun Colonialism and the Scramble for America

In bad manners, Concealed Carry, Ethics in Washington, Glock, Gun Colonialism, Guns, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans, Washington Bureaucracy on July 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm
US Flag map

The Last Great Colony…of the World’s Gun Manufacturers

Africa1898

The “Great Powers” Scrambled to Carve Up Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the so-called “Great Powers” of the world–Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and a few other wannabes–competed to stake out their colonies in Africa.  The elbow-throwing, often violent competition became known as “The Scramble for Africa.”

The same powers had also competed for other colonies, including India and China.

The purpose of these colonies was simple–exploitation.  The Great Powers ripped off natural resources and valuable commodities from the colonies.  In return they forced their colonial subjects to buy goods from the imperial homeland or other colonies.

Opium Poppy Seedhead

The British Forced the Chinese to Become a Vast Market for Opium

The British, for example, saw great potential in selling opium to the huge population of China.  When the Chinese attempted to ban the flow of this drug, the British simply went to war (twice) and forced the defeated Chinese to take their opium.

The British and some other imperial powers (including the United States) preferred to rule “indirectly.”  This means they set up systems of “native” stooges and front men to “administer” their own country on behalf of their conquerors.

A great Scramble for America has been going on in the world’s gun markets for some time.  Foreign gun-makers have succeeded in carving out markets in the United States that they could never enjoy in their own countries, almost all of which have sensibly strict gun laws.  America has become the last great colony in the world of guns.

Just like the Great Powers, the gun imperialists have their local boot-lickers: the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and of course, Congress and the hive of lobbyists that buzz around it.

Just as the British succeeded in mass addiction of the Chinese to opium, the gun industry has pretty much succeeded in addicting a sizable number of Americans to guns.  And like drug addicts, gun buyers need a stronger “kick” after a while.  The gun industry has obliged by designing and selling increasingly lethal firearms.  These include assault weapons and high-capacity semiautomatic pistols.

Just as in other colonies, our indirect rule administrators are only rarely touched by the pestilence they fawningly help spread.  It’s good for you, they say.

Here’s a short video on point.

Reply To A Coward’s Threat

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Crime, Cultural assassination, Guns, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Semiautomatic Rifles, Terrorism, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans on July 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm
klansmen

Cowards Who Are Ashamed Or Afraid (Or Both) To Show Their Faces

Wayne LaPierre, the Grand National Orifice of the National Rifle Association, infamously said in one of his emissions of verbal flatulence that “the guys with the guns make the rules.”

Wayne LaPierre

The NRA’s Grand National Orifice Vents about “The Rules” of Freedom

Anyone who dares to speak out on the American gun crisis has learned recently that the rules of the guys with the guns are cowardly threats.  LaPierre and others of his ilk have sought to mobilize fear and anger in the United States.  They want to get their pathetic troops out of their masturbatory fantasies in their grandmothers’ basements and onto the street, armed and ready to kill like so many jack-booted thugs.  They want to murder the First Amendment and anyone who exercises their rights under that Amendment to express an opinion with which they disagree.

This post is about an example.  It’s only one example out of many one could cite.

Last April I happened to appear for a few minutes in an excellent hour-long  CNBC documentary titled

“America’s Gun: the Rise of the AR-15.”  Here is a relevant clip from the documentary, which I highly recommend as having fully and fairly represented all of the many facets of this complex and troubling phenomenon.

I recently got a reply to the question I raised.  It was posted as a comment on this blog.

Here is that reply:

tomdiaz.wordpress.com 2013-7-22 18 11 6

A Cowardly Threat

In a nutshell, one “G. Wright” answers that it is I that he (or she) — or in his (or her) squishily evasive convention “they” — would like to kill.

Who knew?

Tom Diaz

The Education Face

It turns out that I, Tom Diaz, am the very face of oppressive government.  I haven’t been elected to any office.  I don’t run a powerful lobby for the gun industry, like the NRA.  I am nothing more than a citizen expressing my educated point of view, as is my right to do under the Constitution of the United States.

Okay, if I am truly that powerful, I decree that the United States government take the cost of one (just one) nuclear submarine out of the Pentagon’s budget and spend it instead on building a decent education infrastructure in every town, city, hamlet, and school district on America.  Call me the “Education Face.”

Waiting…waiting…waiting.

As a rule, I do not allow trash like G. Wright’s emission into the comments section of my blog. I used to let all comments in.  But I realized that I was often just underwriting ignorance, the bleating know-nothingness of the Great Pestilential Stupidity that has infected America.

However, given the obvious passion of “G. Wright,” I decided to make an exception.  I emailed G. Wright and invited him to provide his name and a brief biography.  I figured that if  he felt so passionately about his “rights” and the commandments of his “God,” he would be proud to attach his name to his opinion.

I’ll be honest.

I was not the least bit surprised when it turned out that “G. Wright” is a coward, a snake in the grass, a weak and no doubt mentally unbalanced person who emerges from the night, spray-paints the world with his simplistic and ill-informed hatred, and leaves a fake email address as his calling card.

Here is the email I sent to him and the “bounced back” response I got:

live.com 2013-7-22 18 7 20

The Cowardly Mask of a Fake Email Address

Yep, “failed delivery” to gw100001@aol.com.

As it happens, I know exactly who G. Wright is.  The following video describes him in some detail, and includes my response to his cowardly threat.

Let’s be clear about one thing.  G. Wright’s threat is not about me.  It’s about you, and you, and you.  It’s about whoever has an opinion that people like Wayne LaPierre, G. Wright, and other “guys with the guns” don’t like and don’t want this country to hear.

Shame on them. They are no different from and no better than the masked terrorists of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or the Ku Klux Klan.

Shame on us if we let them get away with their terrorist campaign.

1933-may-10-berlin-book-burning

They Didn’t Like Free Speech Either…

No Country for Old Men: Why They Are Killing Our Cops and Prosecutors

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Corruption, Crime, Cultural assassination, Drugs, Ethics in Washington, Gangs, Guns, Mexico, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Police, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans, Transnational crime on April 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm
"Call it!"

“Call it!”

Sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., about two dozen LAPD officers faced an angry crowd at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. The cops were outnumbered to begin with, the crowd was growing into a mob, and the mob was howling mad at the police. An LAPD lieutenant, Michael Maulin, made a tactical decision that would cost him his career in the orgy of retrospective finger-pointing that followed the riots. He ordered the police officers to withdraw. The hard-charging, in-your-face, proactive thin blue line faded like a gaggle of Las Vega showgirls at curtain time. “It was widely believed in South Central that the LAPD did not want to protect the city’s poor, minority neighborhoods,” journalist Lou Cannon observed. “The shocking reality was that the LAPD was unable to provide that protection.”

Tom Diaz, No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement, p. 96.

Thus was the iron-fisted, mirrored-sun glasses, take-no-prisoners, paramilitary  creation of legendary chief Darryl Gates—the proud Los Angeles Police Department—humbled by the infamous “Rodney King riots” of April 1992.

The LAPD would never be the same.

Just the Expert Facts, Please

The lesson for today is quite simply this: uniforms, badges, tough-guy swagger, ballistic vests, and most of all guns do not protect law enforcement. Respect and the healthy fear of consequence do. When a society surrenders those two foundations of “law and order,” there are not enough guns in the world—not enough good guys with guns—to protect police, prosecutors, and judges from men who are willing to kill them.

Now we are seeing the truth of this implacable maxim, revealed in a prophetic spate of ruthless murders of law enforcement officers.  In Colorado, the state’s prison chief is shot to death on his doorstep. In Texas, two county prosecutors are shot to death in separate incidents. In West Virginia, a sheriff is shot dead in his car.These incidents are but the latest and most recent examples of a growing trend of blatant attacks on law enforcement.

Please note that it is not the quantum, the total of law enforcement officers murdered, so much as it is the growing demonstration of willingness to confront law enforcement with armed violence. And that willingness–that willful disregard of fear and respect–is the inevitable consequence of two long-term currents in the United States.

One is the suppurating wound inflicted on America’s public discourse by the reckless gospel of insurrection that has been promoted by the National Rifle Association and the gun industry that it represents since at least the 1980s. This rotting lesion has consequences that go far beyond the kabuki theater of rhetorical exchange in Washington, a place where both sides need each other for the show, and ritual has displaced action.

Emitted Little Thoughts Compiled in . . . ummmm... WTF?

“The guys with the guns make the rules.” Wayne LaPierre, Orifice-in-Chief of the NRA.

The stinking, hateful matter emitted by the NRA has dangerously infected the minds of many of the dullest and worst of our society. Ideas have consequences, and when the idea that “government is our enemy” is combined in the minds of the unbalanced and the psychopath with easy access to increasingly deadly guns…well, to all but the ideologically intoxicated, the inevitable is clear.

The other factor is the utter collapse of not only moral will, but moral discernment itself, in Washington. This infection at the heart of our political discourse has paralyzed a body politic that might with capable discernment and strong will have cured itself of the hateful wound inflicted by the NRA and its ilk.

What we see today—elaborated at length in my latest book, The Last Gun—is the triumph of Third Way politics, micro-politics that seeks only political success for career politicians and their waddling retinue of mere technicians—pollsters, advisers, spin-masters, lobbyists.

These are people—Democratic party leaders and their fawning servants—who describe in great detail the polling, focus with frightening precision on the tiniest “swing” group, and then define a message that will appeal to that micro-fraction of America.

These “leaders” have, in the end, defined themselves as soulless people, willing to accept only “what we can get” and “what is politically feasible” in place of real change. They are either incapable of—or unwilling to—make grand moral judgments, define causes to lead, and stand up for principle. Reelection for its own sake is enough.

Thus has the powerful chorus of national moral outrage that followed the Moloch’s slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School been pared down to a whimper, to “negotiations” about inconsequential legalisms between the likes of the artfully consummate Third Way deal-maker Sen. Charles (“Chuck”) Schumer and the implacably thick-witted Senator Tom Coburn.

Schumer's Bird

Career politicians bond over a dead bird…

While these career politicians—many of whom have never done anything of substance in their lives other than curry elective favor—nitter and natter around the margins of America’s gun problem, the country is sinking to its gunwales in military-style firearms. Disrespect for law enforcement burgeons among radicals and career criminals alike, fueled by an irrational hatred of compromise and fact-based discourse.

Industry Puppet NRA Calls These Romanian Assault Rifles Just Plain Old Sporting Guns--Are They That Stupid Or Are They Just Liars?

…while the mentally ill, criminals, and extremists bond with the gun industry and its handmaiden, the NRA, over military-style guns.

If this sounds like Mexico, it is.

Conventional wisdom has always been—and still is among conventional “expert” thinkers like those of the hapless private spy agency Stratfor which, not incidentally, failed to protect its vast files from hacking some months ago—that organized gangs and transnational criminals will never attack law enforcement in the United States because the consequences would be too great.

Really?

This is the argument of the smug, the proud, and, oh, yes, by the way,  the grand consultants retired from law enforcement selling their “expertise.”  It can’t happen here because we are so good.

Well it is happening.

09122009_229540It is just as reasonable, and I would argue more reasonable, to conclude that the war for control has begun. We already see one federal prosecutor withdrawn from a major gang and drug prosecution. The drug “cartels” are not stupid. The examples recited above—no matter by whom they are ultimately found to have been perpetrated—make it clear that determined, ruthless men can indeed assassinate law enforcement officers pretty much at will in America today. So much for fear. It doesn’t matter, in the overall sense, who was behind the last four murders.  What matters is the brazen impudence with which they were carried out. That’s straight outta No Country for Old Men.

Do not for one minute think that the chill of necrosis is not creeping into hamlets, counties, towns, cities, states, and  even Washington. A member of Congress who received multiple death threats for simply suggesting that gun owners be required to insure themselves decided, for example, to skip a public ceremony, mindful of the recent near-fatal wounding of another member.

Hysteria?

Vamos a ver.  We’ll see.

devil tray 02

Evil this way comes.

BLOODY REEL–HOW THE NRA AND THE GUN INDUSTRY EXPLOIT VIOLENT MOVIES TO SELL GUNS …AND MORE GUNS

In Bushmaster assault rifle, Cultural assassination, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Guns, Movies, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Video games on January 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

Cinema Seat

“Movies have more influence on which guns sell than politicians.”

AmmoLand.com, July 18, 2012.

This report is about the hypocrisy of the National Rifle Association and the gun industry it represents. Even as they pretend to condemn violence in movies, both exploit images of guns in extremely violent movies to sell the increasingly lethal military-style guns that define today’s civilian gun market.

For a PDF file of this report, which contains end notes documenting sources, click here:Blood Reel Poster PDF

 Introduction

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT and killed 20 first graders and 6 school employees with a .223 caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle. He then used a handgun to kill himself. Lanza had earlier killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, with a .22 caliber rifle.

The National Rifle Association (NRA)–the public face of the American gun industry–scurried into silence. The organization took down its Facebook page and suspended its Twitter feed. Some imagined that the executives of the nation’s premier gun lobby and industry front were engaged in agonized soul-searching. The following Tuesday, the NRA’s social accounts were again active. The organization announced it would hold a press conference that Friday, one week after the slaughter of the innocents.

On Friday, December 21, the NRA’s leadership emerged in Washington, DC.  The executives did not offer the olive branch that some expected.  Instead, in a defiant broadside, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive officer and executive vice president, blamed the news media, the film industry, and video games for causing America’s gun violence problem:

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal.  There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows [sic] violence against its own people through vicious, violent video games … Add another hurricane, add another natural disaster, I mean, we have blood-soaked films out there like “American Psycho,” “Natural Born Killers.”  They’re aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every single day…And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is?  Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?

It would be hard to find a more hypocritical statement even in the annals of the NRA, which is distinguished by its frequent assertion of unfounded “facts” about guns and gun violence.  The truth is that the NRA and the gun industry it represents ruthlessly peddle what LaPierre called “the filthiest form of pornography” in his statement.

This report documents

  • How the NRA promotes the use of guns in violent movies through its widely-publicized–and ongoing–“Hollywood Guns” special exhibit in its National Firearms Museum, in its official publications, and on its Internet website. Wayne LaPierre himself is credited as “executive producer” of the current “Hollywood Guns” exhibit at the NRA’s national headquarters.
  • Statements directly contradicting LaPierre’s thesis, written by a prominent author and movie critic whose article for the American Rifleman, an official NRA magazine, appears as the Introduction to Hollywood Guns, the NRA’s official exhibit brochure. Former journalist Stephen Hunter opined in his book about the movie industry and film criticism that violent movies do not cause violent behavior and may in fact prevent it.
  • Austrian handgun manufacturer Glock’s calculated marketing strategy to exploit the placement of its guns in violent movies to help it capture a premier place in the American civilian gun market.
  • Boasting by American 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle manufacturer Barrett Firearms about the use of its guns in violent movies. Barrett is also reported to charge video game manufacturers fees for the use of representations of its guns in games.
Front Cover

Cover of the NRA National Firearms Museum “Hollywood Guns” exhibit brochure.

Violent Screen—The NRA’s National Firearms Museum Exhibits

“If you love guns or you love movies or, still luckier, you love guns AND movies, this is a trip you cannot miss.”

 Stephen Hunter

 For over a decade the NRA has glamorized the use of guns in violent movies. One prime vehicle for the NRA’s promotion of guns and violence has been a series of two exhibits in the National Firearms Museum at the NRA’s national headquarters, located in Fairfax, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC. Both exhibits featured guns used in movies that were described by critics as among the must brutally violent ever made, featuring the sort of grisly mayhem that NRA executive Wayne LaPierre piously denounced as “the filthiest form of pornography” in his December 21, 2012 attack on the movie industry.

As of December 29, 2012—more than a week after LaPierre’s accusatory rant—a personal visit to the museum by the author confirmed that the latter of the two exhibits (“Hollywood Guns”) was still going strong. The NRA was peddling the exhibit brochure in its museum shop.

 2002—“Real Guns of Reel Heroes”

 In March 2002 the NRA opened at the National Firearms Museum its first special exhibit of guns in the movies. The display, “Real Guns of Reel Heroes,” was said to have been the NRA’s most successful exhibit as of April 2010.

“Think ‘Lights! Camera! Guns!’ and you conjure up probably 70 percent of American movie history, maybe the best of it,” opined Stephen Hunter, then the Washington Post’s film critic, an ardent gun enthusiast, and later a writer for the NRA. “That’s the history the NRA celebrates: masculine, aggressive, violent, adventurous, unapologetic and unbowed, which is pretty much a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”

Many of the guns celebrated in this NRA museum exhibit were from westerns and historical dramas which might plausibly be argued to be not so terribly violent as to merit LaPierre’s “pornography” rating, notwithstanding the display of a knife that actor John Wayne used to “scalp an Indian” in the film The Searchers. But at least two others were clearly problematic under the LaPierre film porno standard.

Dirty Harry. One was the 1971 film Dirty Harry, first of a series starring Clint Eastwood as renegade San Francisco police Inspector Harry Callahan. “Violence is a given in the world of ‘Dirty Harry’ Callahan,” one critic noted. Another described “the unrepentant violence of Dirty Harry.” New York Times critic Vincent Canby wondered, “Will we ever see the day when it will be possible to give an ‘X’ [most restrictive film rating] on principle to all of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty Harry’ movies, including the new ‘Sudden Impact’?”  Of the latter film in the Dirty Harry series, Canby wrote, “Though the movie’s allure is exactly the same as a porn film’s, the rating is ‘R.’”

clinteastwood gun at NRA

The S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver featured in the violent “Dirty Harry” movies is also featured by the NRA in its temple of worship to guns.

One might think the NRA would eschew a film with such criticism. But for enthusiasts like Stephen Hunter the gun violence is not only acceptable, but positively exciting. Here is what Hunter wrote of the appearance of Dirty Harry’s Model 29 Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver in the NRA’s “Real Guns” exhibit:

So what’s the most famous gun in movie history? Wouldn’t it be: “. . . but being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question…Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” The punk felt lucky, and it was a permanently bad career move, as Clint Eastwood nailed him with the giant Smith & Wesson. Ka-boom! He did a black flip into a scummy SoCal pond, as his eyeballs eight-balled and he dropped his own piddly 9mm pistol on the way down, maybe the most famous gun moment in movie history. How could that gun not be there? After all, it — that is, one of three such N-frame Smith revolvers purchased for the films “Dirty Harry” and “Magnum Force” — was presented to screenwriter John Milius, who is now on the NRA board of directors. So there it is in an Eastwood panel, where many of Clint’s guns reside.

Pulp Fiction. The other film in the 2002 NRA exhibit that one might think problematic under LaPierre’s standard was director Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction, starring among others John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis.  One critic wrote of this film, “Tarantino caresses violence like a lover on speed. And there is plenty of it in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Brains are splattered over a car and bits stick to Jackson’s hair; faces are rearranged from beatings.”

All the splattered brains, summary executions by drug gangsters, and violent male rape of Pulp Fiction, however, did not deter the NRA from displaying a Colt Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol used in the movie by actor John Travolta—one of eight of the make and model in the exhibit.

2010-Present—“Hollywood Guns”

 In 2010, the NRA announced a new museum exhibit, the currently ongoing “Hollywood Guns” exhibit.  Writer Stephen Hunter wrote an article for American Rifleman magazine, one of the NRA’s mainline publications. Hunter described the new exhibit as “a follow-up to NRA’s most successful exhibit, ‘Real Guns of Reel Heroes,’ of a few years back and possibly even better. If you love guns or you love movies or, still luckier, you love guns and movies, this is a trip you cannot miss.”

The NRA used Hunter’s article as the “Introduction” to its official guide to the museum exhibit. The writing offers insights into an almost sexual passion for guns, and documents the NRA’s hypocrisy about violent films:

I was fortunate enough to get an advance prowl through the museum’s vault where, pre-exhibition, the guns were being accumulated and stored. It was like going to Valhalla without the inconvenience of having to die first. So many guns, so little time. As karma decreed, my eyes first lit on the cut-down, suppressed Remington Model 11-87 Javier Bardem committed such mayhem with in “No Country For Old Men.” Who could not notice this twisted sister of a piece…

Pulp Fiction Cropped

Brain spatter, ruthless murders by drug gangster hit-men, and unrelieved violence might seem to qualify a movie for Wayne LaPierre’s porno test. But LaPierre is okay with displaying this revolver from “Pulp Fiction” in the NRA museum.

Dirty Harry and Pulp Fiction continue to be featured in the new and improved NRA guns in the movies exhibit. But even more problematic films have been added. The following presents a representative but by no means exhaustive sample of movies that escaped Wayne LaPierre’s fickle porno meter in the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit.

No Country for Old Men. Hunter’s adulatory reference to “suppressed Remington Model 11-87” quoted above alluded to a silenced shotgun used by an assassin in the gory 2007 film No Country for Old Men, written and directed by brothers Ethan and Joel Coen, and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin.

No Country Shotgun Cropped

“No Country for Old Men” passed Wayne LaPierre’s porno-meter test. The NRA museum brochure describes professional assassin Anton Chigurh as “one of the screen’s most prolific and emotionless killers.”

“No one should go into ‘No Country for Old Men’ underestimating the unnerving intensity of its moments of on-screen violence, its parade of corpses and geysers of spurting blood,” the Los Angeles Times warned in 2007.

The character that Hunter’s “karma” brought him to was Javier Bardem’s “Anton Chigurh, a hired assassin and psychopath, whose latest idea of fun is killing unsuspecting strangers with a device used to slaughter steers. It’s an oxygen tank attached to a hand-held pile driver that shoots a rod a few inches with great power. The effect is like a gunshot without a bullet.”

Reservoir Dogs. When director Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs opened in 1992, it was reported that “the movie is so graphic that dozens of repulsed viewers fled early screenings.” No wonder. “In one of the most disturbing sequences, a dancing criminal tortures a hysterical police officer at knife point, maiming his face and drenching his battered body in gasoline.”

Reservoir Dogs Cropped

Criticism of “Reservoir Dogs” for its excessive violence did not deter Wayne LaPierre, executive producer of the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit, from including these two handguns in the show.

“Strong violence is Tarantino’s passion, and he embraces it with gleeful, almost religious, fervor,” wrote the Los Angeles Times. “An energetic macho stunt, ‘Reservoir Dogs’…glories in its excesses of blood and profanity, delighting…in going as far over the top as the man’s imagination will take it.”

Curiously, the excessive violence in Reservoir Dogs has not deterred the NRA from displaying in its “Hollywood Guns” exhibit two Smith & Wesson 9mm semiautomatic pistols used by actors Steve Buscemi and Harvey Keitel in the film.

Other violent films in the current NRA exhibit include The Departed, given an R rating in 2006 “for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material,” and 1998’s Die Hard.

The NRA Marketing Angle

The NRA’s motive in mounting such exhibits—putting aside the bizarre obsession with guns evident in the National Firearms Museum—is simply to exploit the popularity of movies to draw people into the museum and the NRA. “The NRA is hoping the pop-culture exhibit will attract people who would not usually visit the firearms museum, which features a permanent collection of 2,000 guns,” Cox News reported in 2002.

“It offers people that otherwise might not cross the street to come into this building…an opportunity to see something that’s very, very interesting and, hopefully, they might see other things along the way,” [museum curator Philip] Schreier told the news service. “I mean, who doesn’t like films?”

Schreier stated that in the first weekend of the exhibit, the museum attracted three times the number of visitors as on the same weekend in the preceding year.

 Wayne LaPierre Channels William B. (Bill) Ruger

 Both of the NRA museum’s movie guns exhibits were mounted in its William B. Ruger Gallery.  Ruger was an icon of the gun industry, idolized for building Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., into a major force in the world of guns and gun marketing in America.

Ruger also designed the P-89 type of semiautomatic pistol that Colin Ferguson used in December 1992 to kill six people and wound 17 on a Long Island commuter train in New York. Asked about his responsibility for the massacre, Ruger blamed movies and television, and scoffed at school shootings.

Ruger blames Hollywood violence for twisting America’s conception of firearms. “Movies and TV these days have sold the idea of the shootout as though that were the purpose of firearms,” he said. “TV is an enemy of civilization. You take the program violence away and all these immature, slightly crazy mentalities watching that would no longer be stimulated by what they see on television.” He believes the problem of guns in school has been “greatly exaggerated.” “I just have to wonder how many schoolchildren go to school and worry about getting shot. If there are some rotten kids who are carrying a gun, that can’t happen very often. But it gets a lot of play with the press,” he said. The real danger to American society, he says, is not firearms makers but gun control advocates.

Thus, 20 years before the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary, Bill Ruger offered essentially the same excuse that Wayne LaPierre used to divert attention from the gun industry and its responsibility after a mass shooting.

Internet Promotions by the NRA

The NRA also promotes its love idyll with Hollywood guns and the gun industry through an extensive, sophisticated structure on the internet. It has more than a dozen separate sites, each designed to hone in on the specific interest of different groups of gun owners and potential gun owners, all the while serving the marketing interests of the gun industry.

The scope of this presence may be seen in one glance at http://membership.nrahq.org/othersites.asp. One of the sites is that of the National Firearms Museum. http://www.nramuseum.org/. A blurb and link there drives traffic to an NRA blog, which in turn promotes “NRA’s Guns & Gold – the sizzle reel from Sportsman Channel,”  a teaser video for a television series that serves as another marketing channel for the NRA and the gun industry. “See super slow-mo shots of watermelons going kablewie, closeups of rare and exotic firearms along with a couple of cutup segments from NRA Museum Director Jim Supica and Senior Curator Phil Schreier.” http://www.nrablog.com/post/2012/12/06/NRAs-Guns-Gold-the-sizzle-reel-from-Sportsman-Channel.aspx. The “cutups” of Supica and Schreier may also be seen on the NRA museum curator’s channel on You Tube, http://www.youtube.com/user/NFMCurator?feature=watch.

Doubting Stephen—the NRA Refuted Within Its Own Ranks

 “I’m not sure this [movie violence] is necessarily the bad thing that so many assume it to be.”

Stephen Hunter

Hunter and Schreier

Phil Schreier (left) of the National Firearms Museum and Stephen Hunter playing with guns from violent movies in the William B. Ruger Gallery of the museum.

Before Stephen Hunter was a scrivener for NRA publications, he was a movie critic at The Baltimore Sun newspaper, and later at the Washington Post. In 1995 he published Violent Screen, a book of recollections about his work and the movies.  Hunter addressed the issue of movie violence in an introductory essay, in which he apparently concluded that—contrary to the self-serving assertions of Wayne LaPierre and Bill Ruger before him—violent movies not only do not cause violence, but may indeed prevent it.

Here is Stephen Hunter’s case for movie violence:

I have always felt it a point of honor as a movie critic not to pretend that, as an advanced thinker, I am somehow above the lure of violence in a film. Indeed, my best pieces here seem to be about movies where I’ve made some emotional contact with violence and have let it sweep me away, fire off all my synapses, liberate my imagination. In fact, I think one of the reasons that we go to movies is FOR the violence: it enables us to project ourselves and our hostilities into some form of righteous rage and take charge and triumph in a world of the imagination where a world of reality obdurately refuses to be taken charge of or allow triumph. I’m not sure this is necessarily the bad thing that so many assume it to be. Critics of American movies love to zero in on the relatively few copycat killings that the odd picture will inspire, but nobody’s able to chronicle the times that angry men have seethed toward violence but been released from its mandates when a story so gripped their imagination that they lost hold of themselves and their anger in witnessing it.

 Gold on Silver — The Gun Industry Connection

 “These three industries—the gun manufacturers, the magazines and the movies—clearly interrelate in their willingness to serve and profit from this audience.”

Stephen Hunter

 In spite of the self-righteous blustering of the likes of NRA paladins Bill Ruger and Wayne LaPierre, the movies are a major marketing tool for the gun industry. Everyone who is anyone in both industries knows that.

Guns and realistic gun models are supplied to filmmakers by prop houses, and gun makers lobby the prop houses to use their makes and models.  The illustration in the NRA’s “Hollywood Movies” catalog credits a number of these prop houses as the source of guns in the display. Among such houses credited in the catalog’s acknowledgements page are The Prop Store of London, Hollywood Guns & Props, Cinema Weaponry, and Stembridge Gun Rentals.

world war z

The gun industry is already salivating over the upcoming Brad Pitts movie.

Gun industry insiders openly discuss the value of gun placement in movies. “With shotguns, heavily recommended for anti-zombie defense, sales could really pick up after World War Z comes out next year starring Brad Pitt and written by Mel Brooks son,” enthused one industry public relations outlet. “Movies have more influence on which guns sell than politicians.”

“I really like the lever actions that have been around for a long time,” a California gun dealer told Shooting Industry, the premier gun business magazine, in 2012. “People love them from Western movies.”

The NRA’s own catalog and magazine writer, Stephen Hunter, wrote an incisive essay in 1989 in which he described quite well the rise of assault weapons (which he calls exotic guns, but describes accurately) and the mutual exploitation of the gun industry, the movie industry, and the gun fan press.  Appropriately enough, the June 8, 1986 article was titled “Guns are Gold on Today’s Silver Screen.”

Here is a salient excerpt from the article, as reproduced in Hunter’s book, Violent Screen:

 Neither the western heritage nor the [James] Bondian cult of expertise could quite explain the exponential growth of weapons-fixated films of the 1980s. What does explain “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” for example, which zeroes in on the M-60 machine gun with a gynecologist’s clinicalness [sic]; or “The Terminator,” which boasts a wardrobe of exotic weapons not seen in normal life this side of a SWAT-team’s vault? First of all, the development must be seen in terms of larger social trends.  One of them reflects a curious and largely unreported-upon tendency: the growth of an exotics-weapons cult, which manifests itself in a variety of ways, of which the movies are but one. Another is the fact that gun manufacturers, who for years turned out hunting, target-shooting and self-defense weapons, have found in the past decade a new market for exotic weapons. Thus, many of them manufacture semi-automatic versions of the hard-core automatic weapons previously limited to military and police usage. It is now possible to buy a semi-automatic Uzi or MAC-10 or AK-47 or M-16 in virtually any gun store in America, and there clearly are buyers for such weapons. Another manifestation of this tendency is what might be called the exotic weaponry press: Whereas 10 years ago there were but three or four magazines that covered sporting and target shooting, now there are dozens of magazines that concentrate on exotic weapons, such as Exotic Firepower, S.W.A.T., Soldier of Fortune, Magnum Handguns, Combat Shooting, Gung-Ho, American Eagle and the like. These three industries–the gun manufacturers, the magazines and the movies–clearly interrelate in their willingness to serve and profit from this audience. Gun buffs may not form a significant part of the American film audience numerically, but they are passionate about their loves; they go to the movies, they buy the magazines and they buy the firearms to see the guns shoot. Film companies realize this, and frequently use the specialized-firearms press as a way to target this specialized audience by permitting special access to the gun magazines, which in turn will run admiring and non-critical articles.

 Hunter may—and apparently has—changed his personal perspective on guns. But the facts as he wrote them in his 1989 essay have not changed.  The trends in the industry’s marketing of military-derived semiautomatic assault weapons and other “exotic” killing machines have only gotten worse.

The slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School by Adam Lanza wielding an “exotic” Bushmaster assault rifle is evidence enough of Hunter’s prescience in 1989.

Gaston Glock’s Golden Movie Marketing Strategy

 “The [Glock] handgun’s adoption as the unofficial firearm of Hollywood brought it to the attention of people far beyond law enforcement and serious gun-owning circles.”

Paul M. Barrett

Virginia Tech Mass Shooter Cho Used Glock Handgun

Virginia Tech Mass Shooter Seung Hui Cho was among those “far beyond law enforcement and serious gun-owning circles” who bought what writer Paul Barrett calls “America’s handgun” — the Glock semiautomatic pistol.

Paul M. Barrett, an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, wrote the book GLOCK: The Rise of America’s Gun. The book relates how the former Austrian toolmaker Gaston Glock created and cannily marketed a highly-successful line of semiautomatic pistols in the United States.

On NPR’s Fresh Air interview show with host Terry Gross, Barrett explained that an important part of Glock’s marketing strategy was to get screen time in Hollywood. “In 1990, the Glock began to appear in the hands of police officers in Law and Order and other police procedural shows,” relates the summary of Barrett’s appearance on Fresh Air. “It was also used by Bruce Willis in the movie Die Hard 2. Willis’ character gave a long soliloquy touting the advantages of using a Glock.”

“[He] introduced the gun as a character to people who don’t know anything about guns,” Barrett said.

The internet website MarketingProfs enthused in detail about the Glock marketing strategy in an article titled “Five Things You Can Learn From Glock.” The article described in things “4” and “5” that one can learn exactly how Glock played Hollywood prop houses to brand its pistols in the public’s mind:

4. Put your product in the right hands

Getting the Glock in movies was another strategy. Movie studios rely on prop masters who specialize in weapons to help them procure the guns they need to make movies and teach movie stars how to look like they know what they are doing when they have a gun in their hand. Glock went after these prop masters specifically, making it easy for them to get Glocks when they needed them (other gun manufacturers were seldom so accommodating), and not being too prescriptive about how the guns were used (some manufacturer insisted, for example, that their guns were only for the good guys). Thanks to their efforts, the Glock finally hit the big screen with Bruce Willis in Die Hard II.

5. It doesn’t matter what they say, so long as they’re talking

When Bruce Willis talked about the Glock in Die Hard II, he referred to it as a German gun that was made of porcelain and therefore could evade detection by airport security. None of these things were true (the Glock is Austrian, made primarily of plastic, and can be detected by metal detectors), but that didn’t matter. Gun fans were more than happy to jump on the inaccuracies and lampoon typical Hollywood idiocy, showing that even (or especially) bad information can feed the buzz machine.

NRA Ex Glock

The Glock 19 has starred not only in mass shootings in the United States, but also in executive producer Wayne LaPierre’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit at the National Firearms Museum.

Sure enough, a Glock 19 9mm semiautomatic pistol used by actor Mel Gibson in the 2010 gore-fest Edge of Darkness is among the guns featured in the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit. This movie apparently slipped through NRA boss Wayne LaPierre’s porno meter in spite of its R rating for “strong bloody violence and language.”

In an enthusiastic article promoting his book, Paul Barrett wrote, “The [Glock] handgun’s adoption as the unofficial firearm of Hollywood brought it to the attention of people far beyond law enforcement and serious gun-owning circles.”

Among the people “far beyond law enforcement and serious gun-owning circles” whose attention Glock caught are: Adam Lanza, the Newtown murderer who apparently shot himself to death with a Glock pistol; James Holmes, who was carrying a Glock when he unleashed death in an Aurora, CO movie theater; Jared Lee Loughner, who used his Glock in Tucson, AZ to kill six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; and Seung Hui Cho, who used a Glock 19 along with another semiautomatic pistol to kill 32 people and wound 17 at Virginia Tech University.

Size Matters—The Barrett 50 Caliber Anti-Armor Sniper Rifle in the Movies and Games

 “While companies often pay to have their products appear in popular games, Barrett required payment to appear in Call of Duty and received it.”

The Murfreesboro Post

 The 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle is a case in which precisely the same weapon is sold on the civilian market as that sold to the world’s armed services. Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc. is the leading supplier of 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles to U.S. military forces and many other armies of the world.

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the lethality of the Barrett .50BMG anti-armor sniper rifles.  Capable of blasting through an inch of steel from a thousand yards away, the Barrett is one of the guns most sought after by Mexican drug lords, who have used its range and power to assassinate Mexican law enforcement and other government officials.

A Barrett sniper rifle used in the 2009 movie The Hurt Locker is among those in the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit. According to Barrett’s home town newspaper, The Murfreesboro Post, that appearance is just the tip of the iceberg of the gun maker’s clever marketing strategy:

Many people who have never been in much more than hearing of a rifle shot are familiar with the iconic Barrett .50 caliber M107 rifle. The groundbreaking weapon that gave huge firepower capability, and thus survival ability and lethality, to small military groups has been featured in countless movies, television and even computer games. In fact the Barrett .50 is notably evident in America culture right now. The weapon is featured prominently in the nine-Oscar-nominated “The Hurt Locker,” meaning Barrett Firearms Manufacturing officials will be keeping a close eye on this year’s Academy Awards. And, the Barrett .50 is a valued resource in the amazingly popular video games, Call of Duty I and II, the best-selling first-person action game of all time with more than $1 billion in sales. While companies often pay to have their products appear in popular games, Barrett required payment to appear in Call of Duty and received it.

Barrett Hurt Cropped

The Barrett 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle can penetrate an inch of steel from 1,000 yards. It’s a favorite not only of Mexican drug lords, but also of video game makers who pay Barrett Firearms for the privilege. These violent video games apparently pass Wayne LaPierre’s porno test, as evidenced by the rifle’s inclusion in the NRA “Hollywood Guns” exhibit.

Conclusion

 “The National Rifle Association — 4 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters — join the nation in horror, outrage, grief and earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Connecticut, who have suffered such an incomprehensible loss as a result of this unspeakable crime.”

Wayne LaPierre

The hypocrisy, one dares say duplicity, of the leadership of the National Rifle Association is beyond stunning.

The NRA is an integral element in the ruthless machinery of the gun industry that is butchering Americans in their homes, churches, workplaces, movie theaters, schools, and even military bases. Joined at the hip to the gun industry, the NRA has been an active cheerleader in the gun industry’s cynical promotion of the exotic guns that Stephen Hunter described in an earlier persona.

These killing machines are no longer exotic. Thanks in large part to the NRA, semiautomatic assault rifles, high-capacity semiautomatic pistols, and armor-piercing 50 caliber sniper rifles are common today in America. The consequences have shown up in the terror of small children about to die and the grief of mothers and fathers who must bury them.

Wayne LaPierre’s facile words of sympathy fall hollow in this charnel house.  His pitiful and transparently foolish attempt to blame movies, video games, society at large, the news media, and any politician who dares suggest even the most insipid form of gun control is obtuse and shameful.  As this report shows, the NRA itself has recklessly promoted the infatuation of a few with violent movies and guns simply to sell guns…and more guns…all to the certain harm of the many.

This must end. The fact is that neither movies nor video games, nor any other of the wondrous excuses the NRA can dream up are the cause of America’s gun violence epidemic.

Guns are.

Boy on Bike2

50 CALIBER ANTI-ARMOR SNIPER RIFLE A FAVORITE OF MEXICAN DRUG GANGS

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Latino gangs, Mexico, Running Fire Fight, Washington Bureaucracy on March 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm

We Feel You ... But Not THAT Much!

The murders of several U.S. citizens connected to the American consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has elicited the usual transparently fake concern by the usual suspects in Washington.

President Obama sent out to a flack to say that the Chief Executive was “deeply saddened and outraged.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  declared that the murders:

… underscore the imperative of our continued commitment to work closely with the Government of President Calderon to cripple the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico.

"Gun Dealers? I Don't See No Stinking Gun Dealers!"

The unspoken overalls in the chowder of Secretary Clinton’s declarations about working closely with Mexico and crippling drug lords is the fact — political, historical, and inconvenient — that the Administration of President Obama has no intention whatever of taking on the U.S. civilian gun industry (and import houses) that are major suppliers of firearms smuggled to Mexico for use by the drug gangs and other criminals.

One of the most popular is the Barrett 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle.  Although its inventor calls his gun “an adult toy,” Mexican criminals understand its real capabiliities, which are basically its ability to punch holes in armor from a thousand or two yards away.

Although there is nothing amusing about the war in Mexico, here’s a charming little video about the Barrett rifle.

LESSON FROM MAJOR NIDAL MALIK HASAN, CHO SEUNG-HUI, AND JOHN ALLEN MUHAMMAD TO MS-13 HIT MEN AND BOSTON TERROR CELL: IT’S A POOR WORKMAN THAT BLAMES HIS TOOLS

In Afghanistan, bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, politics, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, Transnational crime on November 10, 2009 at 12:14 am
Cho-GunDM_468x396

Virginia Tech Shooter Cho Seung-Hui, Like Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Ft. Hood, Used a Killing Tool Widely and Easily Available on the U.S. Civilian Market to Decimate Virginia Tech Campus -- The High-Capacity Semi-Automatic Pistol

Fairly Civil‘s last post on the alleged plot by Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) leaders in El Salvador to assassinate an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent (“John Doe”) in Queens, New York, brought a skeptical response from some law enforcement quarters.  Here is the core of the post, which includes excerpts from an affidivait accompanying a request for an arrest warrant:

According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, an MS-13 member specifically tasked to kill the ICE agent described the plot to federal agents. The gangsters were looking for an AK-47 or M-16 assault rifle to do the job.

The post also referred to a similar alleged MS-13 plot to kill LAPD gang detective Frank Flores, described in “The Plot to Whack a Cop,” which can be found here.

But retired Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department gang Sergeant Richard Valdemar questions in a private communication to the author whether these two incidents show a pattern, much less a shift, in MS-13’s abilities and intent regarding attacks on law enforcement officers:

Funny how in the many years (1993-2004) working with the FBI Task Force with numerous agents and agencies on the MS they would now fix on one LAPD Officer Flores in Los Angeles and one “John Doe” the ICE man in New York, and they can’t seem to find a AR-15 or AK-47 to do the dastardly deed. I think there have been a lot more effective cases and cops doing serious damage to the gang over the years than these two.

More likely …an informant, or couple of informants, got twisted in Los Angeles and New York, and gave up their own clique homeboys with information that they knew the cops would value (“they plan to kill a cop”). This kind of talk goes on a lot in the gang world, but the gang members don’t always go beyond the talking stage. And you, who has studied the trafficking in weapons associated with gangs (transnational gangs especially), can’t seriously buy the …”we can’t find an assault rifle to use” excuse.

At least one mid-level ICE official active in anti-gang operations in the Southwest agrees that one case does not make a pattern shift for MS-13 (the depredations and history of which are detailed in my book No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement.)

Be that as it may, the cases raise an interesting question.  What kind of gangster or would-be terrorist can’t find the tools to do the job in the United States?

The gangsters in the ICE case allegedly were having problems finding their weapons of choice, i.e. a “fully automatic” M-16 or AK clone.  This echoed the case of would-be terrorists in Boston, posted here, who gave up a plot to shoot up shopping centers because they also could not obtain machine guns:

Fortunately, however, these jihadists thought they need machine guns, i.e., fully automatic weapons — hold the trigger down and the gun will fire until ammo is exhausted – to do the job. They gave up when they found out they could not obtain machine guns. However, knowledgeable experts understand that controlled fire from semiautomatic weapons — pull the trigger for each round — is at least as lethal and often more lethal than machine gun fire.

Thank g-d these extremist would-be terrorists were “weaponry pea brains.”

One might conclude that both of these cases simply reflect fortuitous ignorance on the part of would-be plotters.  Knowledge of firearms is not — as too many voices active in public fora apparently assume — easily received wisdom.  There is a stunning array of gun and ammunition types, with diverse capabilities, pros and cons, easily and widely available on the U.S. civilian gun market — not to mention the widespread criminal traffic in guns.  Any terrorist or gangster who complains about not being able to find the right tool for the job at hand is either a pea-brain or a poseur.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  But how long can we count on stupidity?

On the other hand, three successful mass shooters demonstrated that with firearms easily obtainable on the U.S. civilian market, a little bit of knowledge, premeditation, criminal intent, mental imbalance, and/or jihadist inspiration can be easily transformed into mass blood and carnage on … one wants to say “soft targets,” but how does one classify a U.S. Army fort?

Cho Seung-Hui committed suicide after killing 32 and wounding 25 in his infamous “Virginia Tech Massacre.” Washington Beltway sniper John Muhammad is scheduled to meet his maker after execution by lethal injection Tuesday, November 10. 1009, the U.S. Supreme Court having rejected his last-ditch appeal. Major Nidal Malik Hasan is alive at this writing, while government agencies try to figure out whether he was “merely” a jihadist gone nuts or a globally linked-in jihadist.

Major Hasan’s Choice for Killing Soldiers — The FN FiveseveN High Capacity Semiautomatic Pistol

FNfivesevn

Major Hasan's Pick for Soldier-Killing Machine -- FN's FiveseveN -- is Known in Mexico as the Matapolicia, or "Cop-Killer."

FN Herstal’s FiveseveN (cute name, eh?) semiautomatic pistol fires a small caliber round at very high velocity.  It is plain and simply a “vest-buster.”  The proprietary round-handgun combination is one of the most popular firearms smuggled by firearms traffickers into Mexico, where it is known as the matapolicia, or “cop killer.”

FN originally created the 5.7X28mm cartridge as the ammunition for the P-90 submachine gun.  The P-90 SMG was designed at the invitation of NATO and in response to military needs for a weapon to be used by “troops who needed both hands for other tasks, such as officers, NCOs and technical troops,” and that would be effective against the body armor that has become standard on the battlefield.

In the mid-1990s FNH set out to design a handgun to accompany the P90 SMG. This would not have been an issue if FN had stuck to its original profession that it would restrict the sale of its new armor-piercing ammunition and pistol.

The company clearly recognized the dangerous genie it was releasing. For example, a spokesman for the company told the Sunday Times in 1996 that the pistol was “too potent” for normal police duties and was designed for anti-terrorist and hostage rescue operations. The NRA’s American Rifleman claimed in 1999 that: “Law enforcement and military markets are the target groups of FN’s new FiveseveN pistol,” and told its readers, “Don’t expect to see this cartridge sold over the counter in the United States. In this incarnation, it is strictly a law enforcement or military round.” In 2000, American Handgunner magazine assured the public, “For reasons that will become obvious, neither the gun nor the ammunition will ever be sold to civilians or even to individual officers.”

FNfivesevnwithammo

High Capacity of the Fiveseven Adds to Its Mass Killing Power

In fact, however, the gun is being freely sold to civilians today, along with clearly problematic ammunition, through a variety of channels. What changed was precisely nothing.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan most likely gave some serious thought to his choice of weapons. With its high capacity magazine, extremely high velocity round, and cop-killing notoriety in Mexico, the FN FiveseveN was quite demonstrably an effective choice.

The reasons that American Handgunner referred to in 2000 became “obvious” last Thursday as Hasan efficiently murdered soldiers at Fort Hood in cold blood.

Beltway Snipers Chose Bushmaster AR -15 Clone

John Allen Muhammad was the senior member of the infamous Beltway sniper duo. His minor sidekick, Lee Boyd Malvo, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shootings, which took place over three weeks in October 2002 in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Ten people were killed and three others critically injured, as well as three other crime-related deaths attributed to the pair in Louisiana and Alabama.

bushmaster_ar15_carbine

2002 Washington Beltway Snipers Used a Bushmaster AR-15 Clone Like This Rifle

Muhammad, a veteran of the Persian Gulf war, picked a type of firearm with which he was undoubtedly familiar — a Bushmaster AR-15 type clone of the military’s M-16 assault rifle.  Bushmaster made its mark and fortune by cranking out AR-15 clones that beat the impossibly porous 1994 Semiautomatic Assault Weapons “Ban.”

AR-15 rifles of this type are as common in America as weed-whackers in spring at a suburban hardware store.  Here’s the point for slow-readers in this context:  Any gangster or would-be terrorist who can’t get his hands on one of these guns — whether you call it a “semiautomatic assault rifle” or a “thunder-stick” — or one of the the AK clones that have been dumped in the country latterly by Eastern European manufacturers and U.S. import-whores is simply in the wrong game.

Cho’s Choice — Ex-Lockmaker Gaston Glock’s High Capacity Model 19

Virginia Tech shooter Cho chose as his lead weapon the Glock Model 19, perhaps the archetype of the modern high-capacity semiautomatic pistol.  Easy to shoot, quick to reload, and demanding neither skill nor experience when shooting down unsuspecting innocents, the Glock Model 19 is also a favorite of gangsters and assorted thugs from Vancouver to the Yucatan.

800px-GLOCK_19

Cho's Choice for Mass Murder -- Glock Model 19

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

THE UNITED NATIONS (GANG) — DRUG-TRAFFICKING ACROSS CANADA-UNITED STATES BORDER

In Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Marijuana Debate, Mexico, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 2, 2009 at 11:27 am
SUN0611 Gangstas

Members and Associates of the United Nations (UN) Gang. Clayton Roueche is in First Row Center. (Vancouver Sun Photo)

Around 11:30 p.m. on April 2 [2008] in suburban Vancouver, B.C., Clayton Roueche’s cell phone rang. It was his friend Pam Lee, who was looking for a ride down to Bellingham [Washington] International Airport, where she hoped to catch a flight to a concert in California.

“I know I can’t ask you,” Lee said.

“Yeah,” replied Roueche, as Canadian federal authorities quietly listened in with recording equipment. “I’ll never come back.”

“Do you know anybody that could?” Lee asked.

“Drive you to the States?” asked Roueche.

“Yeah,” Lee replied.

Well, said Roueche, “I wouldn’t even get down [to Bellingham]; they’d throw me in jail.”

Seattle Weekly, “The Last King of Potland,” September 09, 2008

Think of drug lords, drug trafficking organizations, and cross-border drug-trafficking and one naturally thinks of the U.S.-Mexican border, the Mexican Mafia, and Latino street gangs.  But the United Nations Gang in Vancouver, British Columbia has become a major criminal force in the U.S.-Canadian criminal traffic.  In a sentence, the gang has smuggled marijuana and people south across the border, and cocaine and guns north.

This Thursday (November 5, 2009), Clayton (Clay) Roueche, said to be the gang’s founder, will face sentencing in the federal district court in Seattle, Washington.  Federal prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Roueche to 30 years in prison.

bc_rcmp_gang2

One Doubts UN Gang Leader Clay Roueche Will Be Laughing at His Sentencing

In spite of his well-founded suspicion and caution, Rouche was arrested last year.  The collar is described in the government’s sentencing memorandum. (United States v. Roueche, “Government’s Sentencing Memorandum,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Docket No. CR-07-0344 RSL.):

On May 19, 2008, Clay Roueche flew from Canada to Mexico, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a UN Gang member.  Mexican law enforcement learned that Roueche was wanted in connection with drug trafficking crimes and rejected his application for entry into their country.  When Roueche’s return flight to Canada landed in Houston, Texas on a layover, he was arrested on the outstanding warrant [from a sealed indictment] and brought to this district.

Court records demonstrate that, although marijuana enthusiasts may perceive toking a bit of “BC Bud” to be a “harmless” indulgence, akin to drinking a glass of fine champagne, the proceeds of trafficking in the Canadian weed finance cocaine trafficking by the same criminal organizations.  Of course, this marijuana is also pouring into the ersatz “medical marijuana” compassionate use market.

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

Background

The Seattle Weekly described Roueche and the UN Gang in its September 2008 article, “The Last King of Potland,” as follows:

[The] British Columbia’s “United Nations” drug gang, [was] founded by Roueche and some of his high-school buddies in the 1990s. Now comprising as many as 300 white, Asian, and Persian members fond of dragon tattoos and designer hoodies, the gang has its own monogrammed tombstones, jewelry, and kilos of cocaine, as well as its own motto-“Honor, Loyalty, Respect”-and trail of alleged murders.

Canadian court documents describe United Nations members as “involved in marijuana grows and cross-border trafficking, extortion, threatening, and kidnappings and…linked to numerous homicides.” Based in the Fraser River Valley south of Vancouver, the organization is connected to the international Chinese crime syndicate Triad, according to investigators.

With help from local associates, the UN’s money and drugs move through Puget Sound or eastern Washington, then along the West Coast, according to U.S. and Canadian court documents. Cocaine flows north from Mexico, marijuana heads south to California, and cash goes both ways as payment and profit. The gang also deals in Ecstasy-but bud is #1.

The Economist recently estimated that historically low-crime Canada now has 950 major gangs, with Vancouver as ground zero. This decade, the B.C. drug trade has spiked to a now-estimated $7 billion annually. All that money creates a glitzy gang culture in which, a Vancouver policeman observes, “handguns are as ubiquitous as cell phones.”

The Federal Case

Pot Farmers

BC Bud Confiscated in Washington State in 2008. Smuggling of Similar High Grade BC Weed Financed the UN Gang's Cocaine Operations.

Last April Roueche pleaded guilty, and according to the government’s sentencing memorandum,  “[admitted] to conspiring with others to export more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.  He also admitted to arranging for the collection and transportation of marijuana proceeds in an attempt to conceal or disguise the sources of those funds.” The sentencing memorandum calls this a merely “legalistic description,” and fills in the details, buttressed by an affidavit and other exhibits from the investigation.

Here is how the federal prosecutors summed up Roueche and the UN Gang’s criminal operations:

In this era, where federal law enforcement agents have focused intensely on stopping the international drug trade, the phrases “drug lord” and “international drug-trafficking organization” can be misused and overstated.  But not in this case.  Defendant Clay Roueche oversaw the movement of tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana, thousands of kilograms of cocaine, and millions of U.S. dollars through several states and at least three North American countries.  He used private airplanes, float planes, helicopters, cars, semi-trucks and coded Blackberry telephones to create a secret and successful organization that he planned to extend into the Far East and South America. He employed pilots, drug couriers and money transporters to carry out the objectives of his organization.  His organization was equal parts corporate and violent.  Clay Roueche worked hard, with laudable organizational skills coupled with an attention to detail, to achieve the moniker “drug lord.”  Similarly, his organization deserves the descriptor of “international drug trafficking organization.”

Three separate drug and money laundering investigations dovetailed in 2005 and 2006, and each led to Roueche’s Canadian-based, multi-national, multi-ethnic drug trafficking organization known as the United Nations Gang (hereinafter “UN Gang”). Defendant Clay Roueche was the public face of this violent, quasi-corporate group, and led its drug trafficking endeavors.  The group used guns, threats and violence to keep its contracted workers and gang members in line and to ensure that no one informed on the group’s activities.  The UN Gang is the type of organized, sophisticated drug trading group that presents a significant danger to the safety, peace and security of the United States.

Gang Guns in Vancouver -- Guns Imported from US Civilian Market Empower Criminals Throughout Western Hemisphere

Vancouver Gang Guns -- Firerams from US Civilian Gun Market Empower DTO Throughout Western Hemisphere

In one of the attached exhibits, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Peter Ostrovsky described one of the “dovetailed” investigations that led to Roueche’s indictment, arrest, and ultimately guilty plea (United States v. Roueche, “Government’s Sentencing Memorandum, Exhibit 3, Affidavit of Peter Ostrovsky,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Docket No. CR-07-0344 RSL.):

3. …most prolific Canadian DTO are involved in the smuggling of Canadian marijuana into the United States in order to generate illicit proceeds which are subsequently used to purchase multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine in the United States for subsequent export and trafficking into Canada. This sort of criminality dramatically increases the United States’ illicit drug supply by causing Mexican and Colombian DTO to smuggle more cocaine, which is subsequently trafficked in the United States and sold to Canadian DTO.

4.  In the fall of 2004, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Border Integrity Program relayed information to ICE that they heard helicopters were being used for the smuggling of drug contraband across the United States–Canada border. The RCMP had no specific information about where the smuggling activity was occurring along the border….”

5.  Based on the information that ICE collected, I conceived Operation Frozen Timber as an ICE-led investigative operation with criminal investigative and homeland security purposes…By conducting such an investigative operation, ICE would also be able to ultimately prevent others from using smuggling via helicopter as a means to conduct National Security-related offenses.

6.  During January 2005, ICE agents began extensive follow-up investigation to positively identify the persons, aircraft and locations that were being used during suspected smuggling via helicopter activities.  Ultimately, ICE investigation determined that the majority of the persons that were involved in smuggling via helicopter activities were working under the direction of Roueche and his subordinates in the UN GANG.

2003095061

Canadian Helicopters Brought Weed Into US

[ICE deployed motion-triggered video monitors in remote locations, and working with informants and other sophisticated investigative techniques, observed and filmed a number of occasions when helicopters from Canada brought in large loads of marijuana, dumping them off in duffle bags to gang members on the ground.  Working through an informant, ICE agents in May 2005 sold “suspected Canadian drug smugglers” Trevor Schoueten and Brian Fews a pickup truck which had been covertly fitted out with a GPS monitor and a “kill switch.”  In June, the kill switch was activated during a run and the investigators gathered further intelligence when “Roueche subsequently contacted the informant and requested that the informant assist Schoueten in recovering the vehicle and marijuana load from the Washington State Patrol.”  Several subjects of the investigation admitted that they had been smuggled across the border in the helicopters.]

16…. Unfortunately on that same date, a RCMP member who was requested to identify the pilot of the helicopter, inadvertently advised the pilot Henry Rosenau that the U.S. Government was aware of his smuggling activities along with the locations from where Rosenau was operating the helicopters in British Columbia, Canada.…

21.  During December, 2005, during telephone conversations with the informant, Roueche solicited the informant to transport the illicit proceeds from narcotics sales in Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California in a vehicle with a hidden compartment.  During the conversations, Roueche stated that the transportation of the proceeds to California would enable him “to get what I need.”  Roueche’s statement was a reference to cocaine for the purpose of exporting it to Canada.

23.  Between January and March 2006, on multiple occasions, Roueche and his subordinate [defendant] Daniel Russell, directed the informant to have undercover ICE agents pick up, transport and deliver a total of $748,460 to persons in the Los Angeles area.

26.  During 2006, follow up investigation by ICE agents and local police investigators and the conduct of multiple search warrants resulted in the seizure of over $2,000,000 in U.S. currency and approximately 200 kilograms of cocaine in the Los Angeles area.

30.  As a result of Operation Frozen Timber, ICE agents identified at least 15 helicopter landing sites on federal and state lands in Washington State that were being used by the UN GANG for drug and human smuggling activities.  ICE agents further determined that the smuggling via helicopters was as follows:  there were multiple Canadian-registered helicopters operating from Canada away from traditional airports in rural locations, the helicopters were being loaded with drug contraband in uninhabited, forested mountainous terrain near the border, the helicopters were evading civil aviation radar detection and authorities by flying through cross border mountainous terrain where there is no radar coverage, the helicopters were flying eight to 40 miles south of the border and exploiting uninhabited federal and state lands where they could offload their drug contraband in 43 seconds to 3 minutes and then return to Canada.  Based upon the aforementioned technical data alone, this sort of smuggling activity poses a significant threat to U.S. border and homeland security.

31.  Also as a result of Operation Frozen Timber and its focus on Roueche and the activities of the UN GANG in multiple judicial districts in the Western United States, ICE agents and their law enforcement partners were able to seize approximately 2,169 pounds of Canadian marijuana, 335 kilograms of cocaine, $2,033,388 in U.S. currency, two pounds of crack cocaine, four pounds of methamphetamine, five firearms and conduct the undercover delivery of $748,460 in U.S. currency at the direction of Roueche and Russell.  ICE agents also documented through motion-activated video surveillance systems, that approximately 3,500 pounds of Canadian marijuana was smuggled into the United States by Roueche and the UN GANG which was not seized by the U.S. Government.  Based on the aforementioned seizures, information and proffers by convicted UN GANG members and criminal associates…it is estimated that Roueche and the UN GANG were responsible for importing at least 2,000 pounds of Canadian marijuana into Washington State from British Columbia, Canada and exporting at least 200 pounds of cocaine from California into British Columbia, Canada, per month.

Unrepentant Gang Boss

Roueche may be brilliant as a gang boss and drug lord.  But he did himself no favors as a convicted felon awaiting sentencing.  According to the sentencing memorandum, he painted himself as unrepentant and down with the hoods he met in several lockups:

None of Roueche’s post-arrest actions or writings evinces any desire to change his lifestyle or move in a different direction.  He simply wishes to continue supporting his organization until he can get out and pick up where he left off.  In a letter addressed to “Mrs. Roueche” but which begins, “To my Bro’s [sic],” Roueche spends two handwritten pages re-dedicating himself to his gang.  He muses about the  “hella cool” cellmates he had in the Federal Detention Center, commenting that he closely listened to their stories because he has, “a big thirst for knowledge.”  The first person he described had, “crazy tatts and bullet wounds everywhere as well as stacks of charges LOL.”

Roueche spoke reverentially of this inmate, as well as two others with criminal pasts, and describes that they all “seemed solid.”  He put himself on equal footing with these criminals, explaining, “it seems real men can usually tell what others are real.” Roueche also appears to hold those who refuse to talk to the authorities as more upstanding than those who do not.  He described that the inmates in state prisons are more “solid” than those in the federal system because those in the state system must “show paperwork.”  He described his stay in a Texas jail as “interesting” and noted that he “met a cool crew there too.”

Roueche simply shows no desire to walk away from the very people with whom he surrounded himself during his crimes.  His behavior and his letters evince a continuing need to lead his “crew” and return to the drug trafficking he has lived for the past several years.  He does not show a need or an inclination to change.  When released, Roueche will undoubtedly go back to trafficking in narcotics, or whatever illegal goods make the most money for him.

This, of course, will do him no good when he stands before the bar of justice and gets what’s coming to him.  Meanwhile, local media in Vancouver reports that the UN Gang has recovered from its loss and is still up to its elbows in criminality.

p007_1_1

Here's a Good Idea: Smoke BC Bud and Finance Another Crack Cocaine Addict's Supply!

SHOPPING MALL TERROR PLAN — SAVED FROM CARNAGE BY PLOTTERS’ IGNORANCE OF FIREARMS

In bad manners, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism on October 21, 2009 at 8:38 pm
Would-Be Shopping Mall Terrorist Apparently a Pea Brain When It Comes to Firearms

Would-Be Shopping Mall Terrorist Apparently a Pea Brain When It Comes to Firearms

“Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”

Note left for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by Terrorist Group IRA After She Narrowly Avoided Injury in Brighton Hotel Bombing on October 12, 1984.

An affidavit filed by an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force agent in support of an application for search warrants in the Boston jihad terror case demonstrates once again how luck, incompetence, and poor training sometimes frustrate terrorists’ ideas.

Without taking an iota away from the investigative success in the case (read the full affidavit and other filings in the case to see how investigators were onto these characters like ink on print fairly early on), it is clear that the plotters could have wreaked horrific damage had they had a bit more knowledge about the potential lethality of firearms that are widely and easily available on the U.S. civilian market — even in Massachusetts.

An excerpt from the affidavit follows, setting out the would-be terrorists’ idea of attacking a shopping mall in the United States.  They even gave thought to how to deal with first responders.

Washington Beltway Snipers Used Semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 Rifle Like This One

Washington Beltway Snipers Used Semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 Rifle Like This One

Fortunately, however, these jihadists thought they need machine guns, i.e., fully automatic weapons — hold the trigger down and the gun will fire until ammo is exhausted —  to do the job.  They gave up when they found out they could not obtain machine guns.  However, knowledgeable experts understand that controlled fire from semiautomatic weapons — pull the trigger for each round — is at least as lethal and often more lethal than machine gun fire.

Thank g-d these extremist would-be terrorists were “weaponry pea brains.”

BACKGROUND ON THE THREAT OF SMALL ARMS TERROR ATTACKS

The private intelligence and analytical service Stratfor has written about the potential for small arms terror attacks in several postings.  These follow with links as background:

Observation on threat of armed attacks generally [note: this link may not work for non-subscribers.  Sorry!:

STRATFOR has long held that the United States and Europe are vulnerable to armed attacks against soft targets. In an open society, it is impossible to protect everything. Moreover, conducting attacks against soft targets such as hotels or malls can be done with ease, and can prove quite effective at creating carnage.

In fact, as we’ve previously pointed out,Cho Seung Hui killed more people with handguns in his attack at Virginia Tech than Jemaah Islamiyah was able to kill in Jakarta, Indonesia, in the August 2003 bombing of the Marriott Hotel and the September 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy combined. Clearly, armed assaults pose a threat.

Observation on automatic versus semiautomatic weapons specifically from a Stratfor discussion of “lone wolf attacks”:

Immaturity and lack of common sense also are significant hurdles for some would-be lone-wolf attackers. For instance, a person who attempts to buy an illicit fully automatic weapon when he could easily — and legally — obtain a less expensive semiautomatic version of the same weapon clearly is influenced by Hollywood and does not understand the effectiveness of controlled, sustained fire versus the spray-and-pray shooting he sees in the movies or on TV. As [Joseph Paul] Franklin and several mentally disturbed shooters have demonstrated, automatic weapons are not needed to inflict carnage.

EXCERPTS FROM AFFIDAVIT

Given the above context, the following excerpts from the affidavit pretty much speak for themselves and demonstrate how we got lucky this time.

Excerpts from Exhibit A, Affidavit of Heidi L. Williams in Support of Application for Search and Seizure Warrant, United District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Case No. 09-120-LTS

46. Because they believed, based on ABOUSAMRA’s experiences there, that Pakistan was not feasible, ABOUSAMRA, MEHANNA, and CW2 began exploring other options, including committing terrorist attacks in the United States.  For example, in 2003, ABOUSAMRA, MEHANNA and CW2 discussed the feasibility of shooting and killing a specific member of the executive branch of the United States government.  In another conversation around the same time, ABOUSAMRA and CW2 discussed targeting a second member of the executive branch of the U.S. government.

47.  While some of these plans involved no more than one or two conversations, at least one involved multiple conversations, discussions, and preparations.  For example, in the latter half of 2003, ABAOUSAMRA, MEHANNA and CW2 discussed a plan to obtain automatic weapons, go to a shopping mall, and randomly shoot people.  They were inspired by the success of the Washington, D.C. area snipers who were successful in terrorizing the public. [Footnote 15: In the fall of 2002, there were a series of sniper shootings in the area of Washington, D.C. (Maryland and Northern Virginia), that received a great deal of media attention and "terrorized" residents of those areas because of the apparent randomness of the attacks.  Ultimately, two men, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, were arrested and convicted of some of the shootings.]  ABOUSAMRA justified attacks on civilians, such as the September 11, 2001 attacks; ABOUSAMRA stated that civilians were not innocent because they paid taxes to support the government, and because they were Kufar (non-believers).

48.  The three men discussed the logistics of a mall attack, including the types of weapons needed, the number of people who would be involved, and how to coordinate the attack from different entrances.  They considered the emergency responses and the attack of those responders.

49.  In furtherance of the plan, CW2 traveled to new Hampshire to meet with Daniel Maldonado, in an attempt to acquire the necessary weapons.  According to CW2, Maldonado was a convert to Islam who, prior to his conversion, had contacts with gang members.  Therefore, CW2 believed that Maldonado would have access to the weapons they needed.  According to CW2, Maldonado told CW2 that he would be able to obtain handguns, but would be unable to obtain automatic weapons.  CW2 told Maldonado not to ask the reason he needed the weapons.  CW2 described Maldonado as someone with extreme beliefs, like ABOUSAMRA and MEHANNA.

50.  After returning to Massachusetts, CW2 told ABOUSAMRA and MEHANNA that Maldonado would only  be able to provide handguns.  Because of the logistical problems of executing the operations with just handguns, the plan was abandoned.

Virginia Tech Mass Shooter Cho Used Handguns

Virginia Tech Mass Shooter Cho Used Handguns

SUNSET BOULEVARD FOR AVENUES GANG — FEDS AND LA CITY ATTORNEY KEEP HAMMERING

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, undercover investigations on September 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Gloria Swanson as Faded Silent Movie Queen Norma Desmond (1950)

Joe Gillis (William Holden): You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson): I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

The notorious Avenues gang in Los Angeles is finding itself caught in a giant gang compactor.  The screen is not getting smaller.  The gang is.

A federal RICO (racketeering) indictment — handed up Thursday, September 17th and sealed until a massive raid was carried out Tuesday, September 22nd — named 88 members of the gang, which has an estimated 400 members in total.  That’s 22 percent of the gang in this round alone.

Among the crimes alleged in the current indictment is the August 2008 murder of 27-year old Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy Juan Abel Escalante.  Wholly aside from the moral degradation apparent in that tragic and ruthless murder of a father of three, it was a serious mistake by the gang’s genius bar.

The latest in a series of coordinated attacks on this violent criminal entity by federal law enforcement agencies and the City of Los Angeles have demonstrably affected the gang and its overlords, the “big homies” of the Mexican Mafia (EME) prison gang.  Although some of the faces have changed on the side of civil society, the new players are sticking to a well-honed game plan and putting unrelenting pressure of the worst of the gangs.  [The history of how that game plan developed is laid out in my latest book, No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press, 2009).]

“THE TORCH HAS BEEN PASSED”

Unlike Many Contemporary Idealists, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy Clearly Understood the Threat of Organized Crimes and Was A Relentless Gang-Buster

Unlike Many Contemporary Idealists, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy Clearly Understood the Threat of Organized Crimes and Was A Relentless Gang-Buster

In concert with the federal indictment, the new Los Angeles City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich, has also filed 3 new civil abatement actions against the Avenues, under his office’s Project T.O.U.G.H. (Taking Out Urban Gang Headquarters).  These civil lawsuits ask for injunctions against owners of property in notorious use by gangsters, and demand that the properties undergo physical and managerial improvements.  The court is also asked for “stay-away” orders against known gang members named in the lawsuits.  These filings bring to 15 the total of such actions against the gang since an injunction was won in 2002 by former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.

On the federal side, Acting United States Attorney George S. Cardona is continuing to use the gang-busting RICO hammer that former USA Thomas O’Brien used to great effect.

Earlier posts of Fairly Civil laid out some of this civil action history in the context of the Drew Street clique (of which more below).  You can read those posts here and here.

Another excellent source on the history of the Avenues gang and its relationship to the Mexican Mafia can be found in Tony Rafael’s book, The Mexican Mafia.  Rafael (a non de plume) is reported to have a “green light” on him because of his research.  Here is what the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report wrote about him in 2006:

Whenever Tony Rafael leaves home, he carries a .45-caliber handgun nestled in a holster just below his armpit. A Cold Steel Recon-1 knife is stashed elsewhere on his person. Concealed weapons permits are hard to come by in Los Angeles County, but Rafael is a special case.

Okay, to each his own.  Other good sources are Chris Blatchford’s engaging profile of former (“flipped”) EME member Rene Enriquez, The Black Hand, and Mundo Mendoza’s Mexican Mafia: From Altar Boy to Hitman, available only in Word format on a CD-ROM.

But several things distinguish Rafael’s book in the context of this case.

First, as the SPLC Intelligence Report describes, Rafael was all over the EME-policy driven anti-Black murders by the Avenues gang and some other Latino gangs — at a time when the Los Angeles Times and other “main stream media” simply refused to admit that such things as local “ethnic cleansing” were happening and simply would not report on them (until federal indictments put the elephant on the news conference table).

Second, Rafael puts a well-informed finger right on the astoundingly obtuse Los Angeles media coverage in general about the Mexican Mafia and its suzerainty over Southern California Latino gangs, a dominance that is being consolidated and extended elsewhere in the United States (see this Fairly Civil post for an example).

In Yogi Berra’s inimitable words, “This is like deja vu all over again.”  In two lead stories in the Los Angeles Times on the law enforcement action, here and here, the Mexican Mafia was mentioned in one sentence! Moreover, the paper appears oblivious to the significance of the RICO law as a gang-fighting tool, instead focusing its coverage on “style section” type gangster and cop profiles, like a film noir script.  The federal investigative effort was key in this case — primarily from agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration working on the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, using Title III wiretaps among other sophisticated tools.

Given the media grey-out in Los Angeles, of all places, about the nature of gangsters and organized crime, it is no wonder that many probably well-intentioned activists still insist on seeing the gang problem only as the “disorganized crime” of marginalized youth.  (Of course, some less-than-well-intentioned are in the mix, and Fairly Civil will not need smelling salts if and when the public corruption indictments start coming down).

Of course, intervention, prevention, and spiritual redemption all have their place.

But nothing stops a violent criminal conspiracy like a RICO indictment.

Speaking of which, here are relevant and extremely informative excerpts from United States v. Aguirre, the case at hand.

The first section not only describes the history of the Avenues, but articulates the relationship between the Avenues and the Mexican Mafia, and the impact of the hammering the Drew Street clique took:

BACKGROUND OF THE AVENUES STREET GANG

2. The Avenues gang is a multi-generational street gang that was formed in the 1940s and claims the area roughly between Colorado Boulevard to the north, the 3200 Block of Griffin Street to the east, San Fernando Road to the south, and Drew Street to the west as its “territory” in Northeast Los Angeles. The Avenues gang has been divided into a number of smaller groups, or “cliques,” based on geography and associations in the neighborhood controlled by the gang. The original Avenues cliques were the Cypress Avenues, the Avenues Assassins, Avenues 43rds, and most recently the Drew Street clique. After its formation was formally authorized by the Mexican Mafia in August 2007, the Drew Street clique became the most active and violent clique within the Avenues gang and produced the most significant revenues for the Mexican Mafia from narcotics trafficking, robbery, the extortion of local business owners, “staged” car accidents, identity theft, and other crimes. Revenues in the form of “taxed” proceeds from the crimes of the organization were collected by Avenues leaders and paid to Mexican Mafia leaders who directed, and continue to direct, the activities of the Avenues gang from within the California State Prison system, in particular the California State Prison at Pelican Bay, California. In June 2008, the federal investigation and prosecution of the Drew Street clique of the Avenues gang dismantled the Drew Street clique and removed its leadership, in particular Francisco “Pancho” Real, Maria “Chata” Leon, and the Real/Leon family. After the federal indictment, Mexican Mafia leaders have attempted to re-organize and re-establish the  Avenues presence in Northeast Los Angeles by ending the “clique” divisions within the gang and naming new leaders of the Avenues gang, specifically defendants VELASQUEZ, RODRIGUEZ, and, later, SOLIS. Mexican Mafia leaders meet with Avenues gang leaders at California State Prison facilities and speak by telephone in order to instruct and direct the crimes of the Avenues gang, and to coordinate the collection of illegal proceeds from gang activity.

Following sections illuminate gang “culture,” including the key role of “tagging,” which some probably well-intentioned people prefer to see as the creative expressions of frustrated youngsters:

3. Avenues gang members generally identify one another through the use of hand gestures, or gang “signs.” They typically display the letter “A” for Avenues or the interlocking “L-A” for “Los Avenidas.” Members refer to one another as “skulls” and frequently wear the “Skull Camp” or “Skull Wear” brand clothing to identify themselves as members and associates of the Avenues gang. The clothing depicts images of human skulls in various forms, such as a human skull depicted as part of the logo for the Oakland Raiders football team and, oftentimes, the depiction of a human skull wearing a fedora hat, with a bullet hole in the side of the skull. Gang members also frequently wear baseball caps for teams such as the Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers, whose team insignia includes an “A” or “L-A,” for Avenues and Los Avenidas. Gang tattoos, gang names, and slogans are also used to identify members and territory controlled by the gang.

4. The Avenues gang also uses spray-painted “tagging” to demonstrate its control of its neighborhoods to rival gang members and the local community. Gang “tagging” frequently appears on street signs, walls, buildings, and portions of the 110 Freeway, Interstate 5, and Highway 2 in the areas controlled by the gang. Members will also often use the number 13 in various forms (i.e., 13, X3, or XIII) to demonstrate loyalty to the Mexican Mafia (“m” being the 13th letter in the alphabet) and to signal that the gang has “sureno” (Southern California) loyalty. The letters “NELA” are used to identify Northeast Los Angeles gang members, and the number 187 is frequently used by the gang to take “credit” for a murder that has been committed by the gang. “Tagging” is used in this way to issue challenges to rival gang members and to communicate among Avenues gang members. More importantly, it is a public demonstration of the authority of the gang, because it not only identifies territory claimed by the Avenues gang to rival gang members, but also serves as a warning or means to terrorize members of the public and law-abiding residents of the neighborhoods with threats that the neighborhood is under the control of the Avenues gang.

Of course, the most innocent victims are the ordinary people who live in gang-infested neighborhoods.  It’s odd that “activists” often seem less concerned about these boringly “straight” people than the thugs who terrorize them:

5. Persons living in the neighborhoods controlled and “tagged” by the Avenues gang have had to live with the knowledge that they may be subject to violent retaliation, even death, if they try to remove or clean the gang’s marks from their buildings and homes or try to remove pairs of sneakers that are frequently thrown across telephone and power lines as a display of gang control of the neighborhood. Those actions would be seen as defying the gang’s authority and its control over the neighborhoods it has claimed. The gang’s tactics, which include wearing “Skull Camp” clothing, shaved heads, display of weapons, tattoos, “tagging,” and even posting items on websites, are designed to intimidate and terrorize the residents of the neighborhoods controlled by the Avenues gang. In addition, residents in the neighborhood have been attacked by Avenues gang members for maintaining security systems and cameras in the neighborhoods.

Confronting and murdering law enforcement personnel is not just an expression of “la vida loca.”  It is a violent manifestation of the gangs’ imperative to control territory, gauzily recalled by gangster advocates as barrio-love.

6. As part of the gang’s control over neighborhoods, Avenues gang members direct violent attacks against law enforcement officers and brag about those attacks in Internet communications. In particular, Avenues gang members and leaders post antagonistic attacks directed at law enforcement on Internet websites, such as “Fuck the police,” and mottos, including “Avenidas don’t get chased by the cops. We chase them.” As to the general public, Avenues gang members warn, “Avenidas don’t just hurt people. We kill them.” Threats of violence against law enforcement have been repeatedly demonstrated in armed attacks by Avenues gang members on law enforcement officers, including a February 21, 2008 attack in which Avenues gang members opened fire on Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) officers with handguns and an assault rifle, and an August 2, 2008 attack in which Avenues gang members murdered Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Juan Escalante in front of his home in Cypress Park.

Here follows reference to the gang’s campaign against Africa-Americans, the subject Tony Rafael convincingly demonstrates in his book was … um … whited-out by the news media in Los Angeles:

7. The organization is also hostile to the presence ofAfrican-Americans in Avenues gang territory. Neighborhoods controlled by the Avenues gang are frequently “tagged” with racist threats directed against African-Americans that are intended to intimidate African-Americans and prevent African-Americans from living in the neighborhood. Avenues gang members also confront African Americans with threats of violence and murder in order to intimidate and prevent African-Americans from residing in or entering neighborhoods controlled by the Avenues gang.

Oh, yeah, did we mention drug-trafficking?  This is the core of the organized criminal enterprises that gangs have morphed into since the sepia-toned days gang “advocates” are stuck in. Most gangsters today are workers inthe drug sweat shops, while the “big homies,” “shot callers,” and drug lords” live lives of filthy wealth.

8. The Avenues gang is continually engaged in the distribution of cocaine base in the form of cocaine, crack cocaine (“crack cocaine”), methamphetamine, heroin and other narcotic drugs. In particular, Avenues gang leaders obtain narcotic drugs and control the distribution of narcotic drugs by providing “street-level” distribution amounts (typically a few grams of crack cocaine at a time) to numerous gang members and associates in the area controlled by the gang. Avenues gang leaders, in turn, collect extortion payments, referred to as “taxes” or “rent,” from drug traffickers in the neighborhood. Avenues gang members also extort payment from persons who live and maintain businesses in the area controlled by the gang under threat of physical violence, including the threat that individuals who do not adhere to the gang’s demands will be “green-lighted” by the Mexican Mafia, that is, they will be targeted for murder. The authority to collect “taxes” represents an elevated position within the gang, one that is authorized by the Mexican Mafia leaders as a “shot-caller.” The “shot-caller” who has authority to collect “taxes” may then delegate the responsibility for collections to other gang members under his authority.

What makes this all work?  Guns.  The militarization of the U.S. civilian firearms market in the 1980s (assault weapons) and the rise of high-capacity semi-automatic pistols was the wind under the wings of the criminally consolidating gangster empires.

9. Avenues gang members maintain a ready supply of firearms, including handguns, shotguns, automatic assault rifles, and machineguns, in order to enforce the authority of the gang. Such weapons typically are stolen or unregistered, so that their use cannot be readily connected to the gang member who either used the weapon or maintained it. Weapons often are discarded or destroyed after having been used to commit acts of violence on behalf of the organization. Therefore, gang leaders frequently need to maintain a source of supply for additional unregistered or non-traceable firearms. The Avenues gang also controls the activities of its members and enforces its authority and internal discipline by killing, attempting to kill, conspiring to kill, assaulting, and threatening its own members or others who would present a threat to the enterprise. Avenues gang members and associates typically continue to plan and execute crimes even after arrests and during periods of incarceration, by telephone calls from inside detention facilities, prison notes (known as “kites”) and meetings among inmates within an institution, where they coordinate offenses to be carried out within the institutions and upon their release from custody.

More on gang “culture” — youth programs, activities for women, and neighborhood “work”:

10. Leaders of the Avenues gang recruit and initiate juveniles to join the gang and direct them to commit acts of violence and drug-trafficking crimes on behalf of the gang. New members frequently are recruited through their participation in a younger “tagging” unit or from a different sect of the larger organization. New members ordinarily are then “jumped in” to the gang. This initiation process ordinarily requires that the new member is physically beaten by senior, established members of the gang and must demonstrate his resilience during the beating. The new member is then expected to put in “work” for the gang, which includes the distribution of narcotics, “hunting” rival gang members,  posting up” in the neighborhood (acting as a “look-out”to alert members to the presence of law enforcement), and “tagging” in the neighborhood.

11. Females are commonly disparaged and addressed derisively in the gang. However, female members and associates play a vital role in the operation of the Avenues gang and its relationship with the Mexican Mafia. Female associates are frequently active in narcotics trafficking, weapons distribution, the maintenance of cellular telephones, and the collection and transfer of “tax” payments and narcotics proceeds. Female associates are frequently relied on to smuggle narcotics into the state penitentiaries and provide cellular telephones to gang members in and out of custody. Female associates also play an integral role in directing and maintaining communications within the organization, in particular, communications with incarcerated gang members and leaders of the organization, as well as the distribution of collected drug proceeds and “taxed” payments from the neighborhood.

12. Avenues gang members enforce the authority of the gang to commit its crimes by directing acts of violence and retaliation against non-compliant drug-traffickers and rival gang members, as well as non-compliant members. Gang members frequently destroy surveillance cameras installed in the neighborhood pursuant to court orders and to protect the neighborhood from the crimes of the Avenues gang. Avenues gang members also commonly threaten witnesses whom they suspect might testify or provide information to law enforcement about the crimes committed by the gang, or other public officers, such as school teachers or fire department officers who might come into conflict with the goal of the Avenues gang to control and terrorize the neighborhoods in Northeast Los Angeles.

Here is a tutorial on the relationships between EME and the Avenues:

MEXICAN MAFIA AUTHORITY FOR THE AVENUES

13. The Avenues gang is loyal and committed to the “Mexican Mafia,” also known as “La Eme.” The Mexican Mafia is a prison gang that was organized within the California State Prison system in order to control and direct the activities of Southern California street gangs. “Made” members of the Mexican Mafia have assumed authority for different regions in Southern California. Typically, a “made” member is an inmate within the California State Prison system and exercises his control and direction over the region from within the state prison facility where he is housed. The Mexican Mafia leaders issue directions and orders, including orders to kill rival gang members, members of law enforcement, and members of the public, which are referred to as “green-lights.” Those orders are to be executed by Avenues gang members and are understood by Avenues gang members as opportunities to gain elevated status within the organization or potentially become a “made” member of the organization.

14. The Mexican Mafia has established rules to govern acts of violence committed by local street gang members, including Avenues gang members. The Mexican Mafia thus requires Avenues gang members to adhere to protocols for the conduct of violent attacks, narcotics trafficking, and murders, including the issuance of “green light” authorizations for murder. Failure to adhere to Mexican Mafia rules can lead to the issuance of a “green light,” directing an attack on the offending member, or the requirement that money be paid. “Green lights” are also frequently issued in retaliation for a perceived “disrespect” to a Mexican Mafia leader, to punish the unauthorized collection of “tax” payments in a neighborhood controlled by the Avenues gang, or to sanction individuals who traffic in narcotics without the gang’s authorization or without paying the required tax to the Avenues and Mexican Mafia.

15. Mexican Mafia and Avenues gang members and associates regularly exploit prison visits, telephone calls, policies concerning letter-communications with attorneys, and prison monetary accounts in order to generate income from narcotics trafficking and other crimes of the enterprise, so as to promote the criminal enterprise and direct the operation of the Avenues gang from within the California State Prison system. Mexican Mafia leaders also require weekly payments from prisoners incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail system.

16. Avenues gang leaders extort money from local drug traffickers, members of other gangs, prostitutes, residents, and persons who maintain businesses in the area controlled by the gang. A portion of the “taxes” collected by the Avenues gang leaders is then paid to the Mexican Mafia leadership incarcerated within the California State Prison system. Avenues gang members also raise funds for the organization by conducting armed home invasion robberies, in which they target individuals believed to maintain large sums of cash or valuables in their homes.

LEADERSHIP OF THE MEXICAN MAFIA

17. Currently three Avenues gang members are also validated Mexican Mafia members. They are Mexican Mafia Member #1, Mexican Mafia Member #3, and Alex “Pee Wee” Aguirre, and they have authority over Northeast Los Angeles, which is the territory controlled by the Avenues gang. The Mexican Mafia members use Mexican Mafia leaders and associates, including defendants RUDY AGUIRRE, JR., RICHIE AGUIRRE, RUDY AGUIRRE, SR., and P. CORDERO, to communicate orders and authorizations to Avenues gang leaders and members, and to receive information about the activities of the Avenues gang.

LASD Deputy Juan Abel Escalante, Father of Three, Allegedly Murderd by Avenues Gangsters

LASD Deputy Juan Abel Escalante, Father of Three, Allegedly Murderd by Avenues Gangsters

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