The 2nd Amendment Ain’t About Muskets!

I occasionally hear a comment made, or read something to the effect, that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, dealing with the “Right” of the people to maintain personally owned weapons is not relevant today. The gist of most of these expressions, is that either the framers were speaking and writing about weapons of the time, now obsolete when compared to current weapons capabilities, or that we no longer have the same level of threat facing our citizens today, than at the time when our fledgling country was beset by brigands and hostiles.

These comments are both ignorant, short sighted. One need only to read the actual words of the framers, to realize that they were a pretty brilliant group of guys (not to be gender specific…but recall the time). Unlike yours truly, they used an economy of words, which normally excluded unnecessary ones, since they were writing from a position of common sense. Why say something you don’t have to since it’s “understood.”

The purpose of this essay isn’t to re-hash the argument of what the wording of the 2nd Amendment means with regards to personally owned weapons. It’s actually to address the mistaken belief that it only really pertains to weapons available at the time, since obviously our framers couldn’t have been forward thinking gents who imagined machine guns, tanks, laser guided bullets and atom bombs.

The truth is, even at the time of the framing of our Constitution, inventors were working on vastly improved weapons technologies that would render the military “Musket” obsolete. It is plain to see, that they weren’t limited to imagination, but current technology. Only a fool (yes, I know that’s inflammatory, but there comes a point when courtesy simply does not make a strong enough statement) would believe our founders had no imagination, and only a complete moron would suggest that given the technological advancements from stones, to sticks, to stone-tipped sticks, to gun powder, bombs, cannon, muskets and pistols, that there didn’t exist in the fertile minds of men the thought that greater technologies awaited. These men were not stupid – though those who incorrectly judge them certainly seem to be.

But, let’s look for a moment at the musket, as it was available at the time of the founding, just so those who may have some misconceptions about lethality can be brought up to speed. The musket is obsolete when compared to military weapons of the day, but a few things should be considered when determining if an obsolete weapon doesn’t still pose a significant threat to the populace.

At the risk of becoming too basic, one needs to understand how projectiles (the part that draws blood) are flung from these devices. Powder that combusts, must be ignited in a contained space, to produce the gases that create the pressures which propel the projectile down the tube which aligns the projectile with the hoped-for impact point, some distance away. In the case of the musket of the time, this was accomplished by striking a flint (pre-shaped stone) against a metal plate called a frizzen, which produced sparks that hopefully ignited the powder in a pan, which as it combusted, would cause a lick of flame to dart into a channel on the side of the barrel chamber and reach the main powder charge, starting the projectile down the bore.

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? It is. Which seems to support the contention that man is capable of “complicated” designs and working on improving them…all the time. If one knew what preceded this “Flint-Lock” action, one would understand that it was a huge improvement – archaic, as it may seem today. Yet, men were working on fixing that problem, as well as making those weapons even more effective in terms of down range accuracy, and speed of loading, and yes, even firing multiple times in between loading.

Why should all of this matter? Well, I suppose it must be summed up with my belief that the 2nd Amendment didn’t consider technology as stagnant, and that the style of weapons covered under its umbrella would not remain so either. The founders didn’t consider that which common sense would already explain. The reason for the 2nd Amendment wasn’t so that people could wield 18th Century technology for as long as the Union remained, but that Americans would not have to face whatever future difficulties they would encounter, armed “ONLY” with muskets!

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An Abduction Affair

 

 

 

AbductionAffair3

In my latest book, my protagonist is a man who follows a couple simple rules. First, homicide is sometimes the perfect solution to an otherwise irresolvable dilemma. Second, there are no rules in homicide.

 

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Writing “Killer” Action/Violence.

I read a lot of books, mostly action/adventure and historical. One of the biggest interest killers with a novel is in finding a protagonist who does things in a manner that suggests an intimate affiliation with the “Hollywood” way of doing things, vs. the way a professional would do them. Let’s face it; Hollywood knows how to use the film medium to get the heart pounding, while a writer has to be able to ignite the scene with captivating prose. Writing is not easy, but it is made infinitely easier if one doesn’t have to imagine that which they have no personal experience with, and can simply exchange actual experience for the endless exposure they’ve had to Hollywood’s version of professionalism. It may take a little extra work, but adding authenticity to one’s action sequences doesn’t detract from the dramatic effect. I like to say: “The best writers of violent fiction actually know what a shallow grave smells like.”

There are some writers out there who’ve “been there and done that.” For a reader who’s been there and done that, it’s refreshing to find an author who makes them feel right at home. It’s understood, that true action heroes are seldom writers and I for one can’t demand that all my favorite authors have a history as man-hunters, but authors can learn from the professionals, if they care enough to seek out the information and incorporate it into their own writing. I may not write a great sex scene, but my action/violence is second to none!

Let’s explore a few “Hollywoodisms” while only scratching the surface of glaring errors often used in film and print.

#1. Real professional killers do not have a favorite gun: They may have a favorite weapon system, or style of weapon, but they do not – as a general rule – use the same weapon twice. Professional killers know that a dead body is evidence. If it’s been shot, the police expect that someone with a gun did the shooting. Carrying a gun away from the scene can be incriminating if one is unexpectedly challenged by the police. A professional killer leaves the gun next to the body. They aren’t trying to hide evidence. They are leaving the evidence with the victim and walking away clean.

While we’re on this topic, let’s look at what a weapon can tell the police. Even the basic crime enthusiast knows that the grooves and lands in the barrel of a firearm impart scratches and engravings onto the bullet as it travels down the bore. These marks can tie the bullet to a particular gun, and in some case, to a particular manufacturer or manufacturers. They also know that not only can the barrel marks point to a particular weapon, they know that extractor marks, ejector marks and even the unique pattern of the face of the breech on a particular weapon can be imparted to the brass cartridge case at the moment of firing.

Ammunition can tell an investigator a bunch. If the ammunition has been handled, DNA can survive in many instances. Fingerprints and body oils can transfer to the cartridge cases and with semi-automatic firearms, these cases are often tossed several feet to several yards from the weapon at the moment of its being fired. Finding these cases while in a hurry can be difficult and greatly increases the risk of being caught. Professionals don’t worry about this. They don’t handle the ammunition carelessly. Spectrographic study of the bullet can detect traces of particular powders used in the manufacture of particular brands of ammunition, and of the chemical make up of the priming compounds used to ignite the powders and in some cases, lubricants used when the weapon was cleaned. Therefore, a professional doesn’t have extra ammunition of that type lying around his house or apartment after the crime has been committed. Even without the gun, having the police discover statistically unusual evidence could result in a conviction. So, the professional keeps nothing that can tie them to a corpse. Don’t ignore this. A good detective won’t, but a lazy writer will.

#2. Real professional killers don’t use holsters: Even the most cavalier professional killer does not want to get caught. Homicide is fraught with risk. The unexpected will undoubtedly rear its ugly head and in a pinch, one must lose any incriminating piece of evidence immediately. Holsters, even the fancy clip on kind, will bear traces of DNA if the wearer has handled it, or had it clipped to articles of clothing they wear. To take one off, one must remove it if being challenged by police or security officers, and the discovery of a holster – with or without a weapon present, is a real curiosity that’s not easily explained.

#3. Real professional killers are aware of security cameras: The plethora of security cameras has really made the homicide business dangerous to the perpetrator. The good news for the professional is that the average system uses cameras with focal lengths and clarity that make good identification an iffy thing. Also, lighting is important for good video clarity, and in many cases, adequate lighting is not a consideration to the companies placing the cameras or to the entity requiring the surveillance system. This is not a hard and fast rule. So a writer can play with this a bit. Suffice it to say, few surveillance systems are invisible. At the same time, one can hardly walk a block on the average city street without coming under surveillance at least once, if not several times. Most professionals can pick out the cameras and know the locations they will most likely encounter them. They make it a point to turn their heads at the proper moment, or do something to obscure their face, that doesn’t involve wearing a hoodie pulled tightly around the eyes and nose.

While we’re on the topic of surveillance cameras, hearken back – if you will – to the photographs released of the suspects nearly immediately following the Boston Marathon bombings. Note the clarity and framing and nearly perfect posing of the suspects. I can state with near certainty, if not with authority, that some of those photographs were not from fixed surveillance cameras attached to businesses. Some of those photos came from video in the hands of people who were actively performing surveillance of the bombers! Think for a moment what I’ve just said. These two guys were under surveillance at the time! Which means, someone really wet his or her pants following the bombing. It would be interesting to know how this happened, but given the lawlessness and secrecy of the current administration, I’m sure this will never come out.

#4. Professional killers aren’t typically cruel: Cruelty is not professional. That’s not to say a good story line can’t include a really sick killer, but a great story line can also include a killer who does his or her chore with mechanical precision. The secret rests in how well the author can handle the introspective aspects of the killer’s psyche and their interpersonal relationships away from their “profession.” What I’m trying to suggest here is to shy away from stereotypes and give the reader a nice bone to chew on while they devour your work.

#5. Professional killers typically do not use knives: Knives are great for sinister killers who don’t mind intimate bloodletting, and they can be employed fairly well, by well-trained killers. They can be silent and they can certainly be deadly, but the intimacy of a knife attack is uncertain and it’s very difficult to do without transferring a little of the killer’s DNA to the victim and the victim’s DNA to the killer. A Special Forces soldier doesn’t worry about this. A killer, who is going to walk or drive away from the scene into uncertain situations that might occur following the killing, does worry about it. While we’re on this subject, no one throws a knife or one of those little ninja stars.

I could go on for hours, but you get the point. “Think” about what you are writing and if you aren’t sure, seek out and contact someone who knows a little about the trade craft pertaining to your story line. Pardon the pun, but don’t ignore this if you want your book to be a killer novel.  If you’d like to discuss your work before going final, feel free to contact me here.  

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Notes From a Former Spy Chaser

I’ll admit to having a bit of a fascination for spies. This fascination stems from having chased a few, thwarted a few and handled a couple during the course of my tenure as a Special Agent with AFOSI. Oh, and … Continue reading

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Frederick The Frog’s Wish – A children’s story by Daniel C. Chamberlain

Frederick the Frog was so sad and forlorn, and had been almost from the day he was born. All day long he’d sit looking lost and alone while his family paddled and played in their home. Frederick would watch and … Continue reading

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You Shot Him and He Flew Across the Room?

Lately, I’ve been reading a major popular author of thrillers whose protagonist is an “Ex-Military Policeman” – recently discharged from the service after thirteen years.  Finding himself foot-loose and wandering the country, he gets into trouble everywhere he goes.  The … Continue reading

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The Golden Age of Terror IV

The following is not endorsed by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. I’m just posting a likeness of the badge I carried for many years with that organization. Terror is something we in the military faced every day overseas … Continue reading

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