Is It Legal To Modify Your Own Personal Firearm?

By Chris Wagoner:

20151124_070208A lot of back and forth has occurred in various gun groups regarding the modifying or customizing of a firearm intended for use in self-defense. There are those that swear up and down that if you modify your firearm in any way including custom grips, quotations etched, or the good old “Punisher” skull on the slide, that these alterations will result in a conviction at trial if you are involved in a self-defense shooting.

Well, I have to say I was interested in this outlook and asked several people why they believe this to be the case. Several said it was because of what was recommended by experts in various articles while others said it was because of what they were taught by their instructors and others they respected. Those may all be valid reasons to do or not do something, but why did those respected people push the notion that firearms cannot be modified or customized?

Read the Rest here: the rest of the story…

Stand Your Ground Florida: Why JAMA Study is Misleading

By Chris Wagoner:

4189169360_1842ffe274_bIt isn’t often I get to take on such a prestigious (I use the term very loosely here) source as The Journal of the American Medical Association, but I feel obligation when they publish purposefully misleading statements, attempting to further their obvious agenda against a law that makes Florida safer and has reduced crime overall.

On November 14th, the journal published a study by several doctors titled, “Evaluating the Impact of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Self-Defense Law on Homicide and Suicide by Firearm – An Interrupted Time Series Study”. This so-called study was picked up immediately by the anti-gun press and others as a landmark study that proved Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law (by the way, there is no such law) caused an increase in homicides in just one day! This of course is completely and utterly false and misleading information.

First, there is no such law as “stand your ground” despite Americans hearing the catch phrase over and over. It’s like anything else the media tries to push, if they repeat it often enough it will magically become true. Sorry media, the law you keep mislabeling is Florida law (F.S.S. 776.012 (1)) referring to “Use of Force in Defense of a Person”. Sounds a lot different, doesn’t it? Yes, the words “stand his or her ground” appear in the law, but like anything else, it must be used appropriately in all context. Here is what it actually says,  Read the rest here: the rest of the story…

Gun Rights Under President-Elect Trump

This article was originally posted on OpsLens.com on Nov 21st, 2016.

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By Chris Wagoner:

As the country begins to breathe again after the election night sweats, from a very close, yet definite win by now President Elect Donald Trump, what does it mean for all of us that voted based on the loss of our rights over the last several presidencies and our fear of sanctions and laws banning our Second Amendment rights in some form or fashion?

During his campaign, President Elect Trump, at various times, voiced differing opinions on what he thought about our Second Amendment rights. He did, however, always stick by the fact that he was in support of the Second Amendment and the right of the people to defend themselves. Well he should, since he is a concealed firearms license holder. I wonder if he will be carrying during the next 4 years at all. I highly doubt it, why bother when you have some of the best personal protection professionals in the world (the Secret Service) protecting you and your family. But will that make him change his views on the 2nd Amendment? I doubt that as well it.

What I do know is during the weeks and months leading up to the inauguration President Elect Trump said that he was interested in pushing for a National Concealed Carry Reciprocity in all states. It’s easy to do. See cops around the nation enjoy the privilege of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) which allows police officers or retired police officers to carry concealed firearms in any state anywhere that the law allows officers in that same state. Which is pretty much everywhere not prohibited by federal law. You have to requalify yearly, and have an ID or letter from your retired agency stating you are in good standing. But nothing else is required and the qualification course is not standard throughout the US. It depends on the state you are in.

In Florida, it’s a very easy course of fire (meaning qualification test) and you get issued a card that is maintained by the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) Instructor that qualified you, and it’s good for one year from the date issued. But it’s not the same as a Concealed Carry License in Florida which requires minimal training, and is good for seven years from issue. So the Florida Concealed Carry License is actually better than a LEOSA carry card for cops in Florida.

So, what about this national reciprocity and how easy would it be to do? Just fashion it after the LEOSA as far as rules and details go, and you could institute it in your first 100 days as President Mr. Trump! Require that the person have a state-issued valid concealed firearms license and that by doing so they are entitled to carry in all 50 states where not prohibited by federal law. Simple.

If President Elect Trump wanted to make things even simpler, he could ask Congress to pass a pre-emption law that bans states from regulating firearms at all based on the Constitution guarantee of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” meaning that States may pass no laws regulating the possession of firearms and that Federal Laws must be within that simple framing of the Second Amendment. This could then guarantee that any adult has the right to own and possess a firearm and carry either openly or concealed if they so choose.

But wait! Oh the horror that would ensue if he did that! Think of all the shootouts and the blood in the streets that would follow “constitutional carry”! Well in reality that is not what would happen. No shoot outs, no blood in the streets, none of the other dire predictions would come true. How do I know? Simple, look at history and the states that already have it. Ten of our fifty states already have “constitutional carry” including: Vermont (since 1791!), Montana, Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kansas, West Virginia, Idaho, and Mississippi all have it. With another twenty-two states planning on introducing the bills in the coming year according to gunlaws.com. So, why not just make it the law of the land?

It’s very hard to understand how we got so far off track. What other right do we have to buy back from the government to exercise? None.

So, as President Elect Trump meets with President Obama he should begin to formulate his plan for the first 100 days of his presidency. And in doing so he could make a huge leap in the right direction by giving the American people back something that they lost some time ago in many states, the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms” as promised and made into the supreme law of the land by our founding fathers! Let’s make America great again and give us our freedoms back!!

Is There a Gun Violence Problem in America?

The following article was originally published on OpsLens.com on Nov 13th, 2016.

By Chris Wagoner:

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After being a cop for over 35 years now teaching police recruits full time at a police academy and having been involved in several OIS (officer involved shootings) you would think that if anyone had seen all the violence that guns have caused in America and how bad the gun violence problem is, it would be me. You would think as a cop I should be against citizens having firearms, especially on their person, because it will make me more unsafe as a cop, right? If you thought along the lines of what the media keeps on shoving at us, I should be the number one advocate for more gun laws and stricter “gun control” to stop the rampant “gun violence sweeping America” as one paper put it. But there seems to be a problem, and it’s not “gun violence”.

The problem remains, if you start to look at the research, the numbers and the incidents of firearms being used in murders and crimes over the years are just not the numbers to support the claim by most media outlets that gun violence is a huge problem. In fact, it’s on a steep decline! The numbers and the claims just don’t add up. In addition to that, my experience on the streets of Broward County Florida beg to say different than the media. When you look at the numbers and really look at what is happening over the last say 20 years or so, you will come to realize that the gun violence problem in America is actually a made-up problem that does not exist and has been created by the anti-gun crowds to try and remove guns from America. It has actually been declining year after year for decades! So what are they talking about and why do they push the news on gun violence so much? What could possibly be the reason?

Well let’s look at the FACTS first and make sure to get them from a reputable, unbiased source like the Department of Justice (DOJ), where crime and gun violence is intensely studied. I read over several reports and what I found did not surprise me.  Yet, if you tell this to someone who is in the “gun violence is a problem” group, they will try and tell you that you are crazy and a liar. I know, that’s what I was told, along with other things they called me. But you can’t argue with cold hard facts. So here are a few that you can use to talk to your uninformed anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment friends (if you have any).

First and foremost, firearm homicides make up a very small, even tiny part of firearms related crimes. According to the DOJ report titled, “Firearm Violence, 1993-2011”, firearm homicides make up about 2% of all-firearm related crimes. You got that right, about 2%. In fact they say in the report “There were 11,101 firearm homicides in 2011, down by 39% from a high of 18,253 in 1993.” Now, the first thing an anti-gun person may say is “Ah ha! But that’s just the murders, what about all those who were shot but didn’t die? They are still victims!” Of course you simply continue on with your facts, “Nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69%, from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 victimizations in 2011.” Those declined even more than the murders have.

But what about those big black scary “assault weapons” we keep hearing they want to ban. Surly you can’t argue that they are not a huge problem in America with all the mass shootings. Well again, we should read and look at the numbers. The use of rifles are a very small part of crimes committed with a firearm and according to DOJ, “About 70% to 80% of firearm homicides and 90% of nonfatal firearm victimizations were committed with a handgun from 1993 to 2011.” What? You mean that those assault weapons are not the ones that are killing everyone? Well of the ever declining number of murders committed by firearm, they are the smallest section, yet seem to garner the largest cry for banning. Kind of makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?

The next point to make is that not all firearm related crimes resulted in someone being injured. Even when a firearm is used in a crime only 23% of the victims were injured. But remember that the big bad assault rifles are the real problem in America. Isn’t that what you have been told over and over? Really? According to the DOJ report, “A handgun was used in about 83% of all firearm homicides in 1994, compared to 73% in 2011. Other types of firearms, such as shotguns and rifles, accounted for the remainder of firearm homicides. For nonfatal firearm violence, about 9 in 10 were committed with a handgun, and this remained stable from 1994 to 2011.”

What about the argument that guns are just too easy to get and that anyone can buy a gun in from a gun shop, flea market, and of course, the dreaded “Gun Show”. Well we know that is not the case either, the same report debunks that myth, “In 2004, among state prison inmates who possessed a gun at the time of offense, fewer than 2% bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show, about 10% purchased it from a retail store or pawnshop, 37% obtained it from family or friends, and another 40% obtained it from an illegal source”.

What about citizens with firearms? We know they NEVER really stop crime with their own guns so why does the average citizen need to carry or even have a firearm for that matter? First and foremost because it’s a Constitutional right. What other rights do you have that were hated as much as this one and then taken from you and sold back in the form of a license for a fee? Do we have to buy a “Freedom to Speak” card to talk in public? Purchase a license to write or publish something freely? No of course not. It’s a Constitutional right, just as it is to bear arms. Yet that right has been overly litigated, legislated, and licensed to the point that it is no longer a right as it should be and has become more of a privilege. If our founders could only see us now, they would probably wonder why we have not had a second revolution. The Supreme Court of the United States is not supposed to decide if the Constitution itself is Constitutional rather, laws that are made that conflict with it are. The first law to regulate firearms in America should have been struck down as it violated that right. All we have to do is go back to the same report and guess what we find, the fact that Americans DO AND HAVE used firearms to defend themselves, and not just a few hundred but hundreds of thousands! According to the report, “In 2007-11, there were 235,700 victimizations where the victim used a firearm to threaten or attack an offender.” That’s right, almost a quarter of a million people defended themselves from criminals with a firearm! Look at the states in the US that have Constitutional carry of firearms and see what problems with gun violence they have. I think you may be surprised.

So where is all that “gun violence” we hear about in the media? They make it seem like it’s the number one cause of death for Americans. They make it seem like crime with guns is on the rise and at all-time highs. Firearm violence in America is an “epidemic” that must be stopped! The only problem I see is that not one of those statements is true or even close to being true. Murder by firearm (or any other way for that matter) is at an all-time low and still declining. Gun violence has been declining for years and continues to do so. Victims continue to defend themselves from attackers with lawfully obtained firearms.

So the next time someone tells you that “gun violence” is a problem in America, you can politely tell them they are uninformed, unread, uneducated, brainwashed by the media and do not know what the hell they are talking about. Introduce them to the facts and then drop the microphone and walk away. In my next piece, I will be talking about what has caused this drop in violent firearm related murders and the likely reason for all the good news. Until then, carry your lawfully concealed or open-carried firearm wherever permitted by law and be safe.

Is it Too Easy to Buy a Firearm in the U.S.?

This article was originally published on OpsLens.com on Nov 10th, 2016.

By Chris Wagoner:

Well, I have to tell you what inspired me to write this Op-ed was how blatant the misinformation and fear of an inanimate object can drastically alter perception versus reality.  In many cases, out of such fear, people do, say, and write extremely uneducated things about topics they know very little about.

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I read a story written by Helen Ubinas, a journalist (@Notesfromhel), who, the day after the Pulse Night Club shooting, wanted to see how easy it was to buy an AR-15 rifle. What she failed to realize, if that she should have educated herself about firearms and how to purchase them before trying to write a story, is that law abiding citizens can purchase them in an efficient manner. The title of her article kind of gives you an idea of the slant that it takes, “I bought an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in Philly in 7 minutes.”

My first response to that title was that is pretty good customer service for most gun stores! My problem I have is I know all the guys and girls in my local stores and I always spend an hour or two or three just shooting the breeze and talking about guns and training. So, to be able to buy an AR-15 in 7 minutes speaks highly of the shop and the system as a whole. First let’s be clear; she is not a prohibited person. She is not a wanted or convicted felon. She is not addicted to drugs or alcohol (at least she swore to that on the ATF form) and she has not been diagnosed as mentally incompetent. So why should she not be able to buy an AR-15? Did she have evil intentions? No, she thought she was proving a point. And she did, but maybe not the one she meant to. More on that later.

So, she walks into a Philly gun store and tells the sales person she wants to buy an AR-15, but is on a budget. She goes onto say how “insanely easy” it was to buy the gun, fill out some paperwork, undergo a background check, and once passed pay for the rifle and out the door she went. Now, at this point is where she went terribly wrong with her whole premise. She says that the easy access to guns is why we have all the problems, murders and various other ailments in the US (even though Murder is at an all-time low over the last 25 years or so, according to the FBI UCR Reports on Violent Crime). She states in here article “If it wasn’t so appallingly easy to get a gun in this country, it wouldn’t be easy for the next gunman to deliver the kind of carnage that’s as much a part of this country as the American flag.” She goes onto mention the Newtown, Conn shooting and says “If it wasn’t so easy to get a gun in this country, another gunman who came before him wouldn’t have been able to use the same kind of firearm to kill elementary-school children in Newtown, Conn.” REALLY!?! Did she not research her story at all? The Newtown, Conn mass murderer shot his own mother to death to gain access to guns. He didn’t go buy them at a store.

Many people do not understand firearms because they fear them and don’t think rationally or try to understand something they are afraid of. I was always taught that if you face your fear and try to understand it, you will no longer fear it. I had a simple experiment that she could have done that would have helped her understand how it’s the person not the firearm that is the problem. Load that new rifle, place it in an obvious place in your home and watch it very carefully! It will not shoot and kill anyone, it will not go out and commit a mass murder, and in fact it will not even go off, not once! You see it’s the person behind the trigger that is the issue, not the firearm itself.

Ms. Ubinas took her firearm to a local police department and turned it over to them. Well at least law enforcement got a new firearm to use. And now in the hands of one of the officers, that same firearm she was so afraid of could be used to cause death and mayhem, could actually save a life. She proved her own premise was nothing more than just plain lack of education on firearms and fear, unreasonable, unwarranted fear of firearms.

Over the years, I have told more people than I can count that firearms are not evil. They are not mass murderers, and they do not kill people. It’s the person behind the trigger that is the issue. I carried a firearm for more than 36 years now, and had to use mine three times to defend my life or the lives of others. The firearm I used had nothing to do with the shootings, other than being the tool I had to use at the time to protect myself and others. Firearms are NOT ALIVE and DO NOT DECIDE TO KILL. I get so tired of trying to explain to people who have this irrational fear of firearms for some reason that they are not bad, evil things. They are tools that are used by many people for good and righteous things. Protecting lives, hunting for food (I only hunt what I eat), and for sport.

I invite Ms. Ubinas to join me for an afternoon at the gun range for some instruction and shooting time. I think that after actually seeing how safe firearms can be, when handled correctly and by people that are not intent on mass murder, she might have more information to base her writing on. You see firearms availability is not the issue. Firearms with 30 round magazines are not the issue, and the looks or design of the firearm is not the problem. Evil in the hearts of some people is the problem. After all of my years as a cop, I have seen the evil that one person can do to another. Pure unadulterated evil, and it has nothing to do with the tool used. I have seen humans use knives, bats, ice picks, pipes, boards, swords, and all manner of other weapon used to kill and mutilate other humans. It would not have mattered what was used, the person that committed those acts would have done so regardless of the availability of firearms. Education is the key to understanding the issues as they exist in reality.

Ask yourself these questions and if you can answer them, then you are way more informed than the supposedly professional journalist. What percentage of firearms deaths is done with a rifle vs. handgun? What percentage of all murders is done with a firearm? What weapons are used more than firearms? You can find the answer to these and other questions you may have in the FBI’s Report on Violent Crime in America. What you may find, may (or may not) surprise you. Firearms are not the issue that they are made out to be. Millions of firearms are in the hands of law abiding citizens and never have caused, and never will cause, any injuries or deaths. It’s not the firearm that is the issue, it’s the person behind the trigger. Make guns illegal and only criminals will have guns, since they don’t follow the laws anyway. Don’t let fear run your life and blind your intellect.

As I said before Ms. Ubinas was trying to prove a point, that it is easy to buy a firearm in the US. She is partially correct. For a person who is not a felon, not addicted to drugs or alcohol, not deemed mentally incompetent and is otherwise known as a law-abiding citizen in most circles, it should not be difficult to buy a firearm. Again, she simply proved the store she chose for her “experiment” followed the rules, did the background check, and had impeccable customer service!