I picked up a WASR-10 a few weeks ago at the Oaks Gun Show in Pennsylvania and decided to refinish the Romanian wood furniture that came with the rifle. The goal was to get nice Russian Red finish with a glossy polyurethane coat. After I refinish it I am going to get started on widening the magazine well to accept double stack magazines…
But first things first… Here’s the new addition to the family.
The wood isn’t particularly beautiful. Like most imported AK furniture, the stock and hand guards are all laminate. Yea, its cheap, but the grain is pretty nice and there aren’t any large dings or gouges, so I decided to refinish instead of replacing the stock.
As you can see, the butt stock is pretty standard. Shows lots of finish wear and dirt, but nothing a little cleaning won’t fix. However the lower hand guard (shown below) shows significantly more wear.
The lower hand guard’s lingering red finish has me a little nervous, but the acetone, bleaching, and sanding should do the trick. Anything that will be left over will be hidden by the multiple layers of stain.
Anyone who has bought one of these “cheap” AKs knows that it can be really difficult to remove the rifle’s furniture. The lower hand guard was the easiest to remove. It slid right out. The upper hand guard was significantly harder. It’s hard to see in the picture above, but it is slightly misshaped. After removing the gas system, I needed a vice to finally remove the upper hand guard. I am going to take extra care not to add any stain to the edges of the hand guards because it is already a really snug fit.
I was woefully unprepared for just how hard removing the rifle’s butt stock would be. Once you field strip the rifle and remove the screws connecting the stock to the receiver, the next step (advocated by many on the internet) is to use a screwdriver as a wedge to loosen the stock. While I didn’t personally take a picture of this step, here’s a stock picture of what I am talking about.
So the recommended approach is to insert the screwdriver into the hole on the right, in between the front of the stock and the receiver. I started using the screwdriver, but it was marring the wood. While few people, if any, will ever see the front of the stock, it didn’t sit right with me to gouge the wood. That left me with the only alternative: repeatedly smack the stock until it loosens up.
After whacking the stock with a rubber mallet, it eventually wiggled out enough to be able to be pulled out manually. I found that it worked best to hold the rifle in my lap and strike it at a 45° angle. Be sure to strike the stock at the rear along it’s pivot points. Eventually the stock will move enough to be removed. I have the feeling that these stocks were inserted into the receivers when they were still wet from finishing, because it was an ungodly tight fit. Like the hand guards, I am going to add painters tape to the end of the stock when I begin adding the stain and polyurethane because I don’t think it would fit into the receiver if it was even a micrometer thicker. In fact, I might even try to shave off a tiny bit to make the fit a little more manageable.
Here is a picture of all of the furniture removed. On a side note, I was legitimately surprised to find a cleaning kit when I removed the metal butt plate from the stock. I had no idea there would be one in there, so it was a very pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, it was caked in Cosmoline (thanks Century International for the thorough cleaning!). Also it seems that the cleaning kit does not match the rifle, or at least the cleaning rod doesn’t match the brush. I will probably ditch the cleaning kit and replace it with a nicer one.
So while the furniture has significant finish wear, it is still a good idea to bathe the stock and hand guards in acetone. The acetone did a good job of removing most of the excess red finish and did an exceptional job removing the Cosmoline from inside the butt stock.
They say that this acetone bath is best done in an ammo can. I couldn’t bring myself to use either of my ammo cans because the finish was chipping and I didn’t want to strip the rest of the finish. So I used a little plastic container and tilted it in order to submerge each piece of wood. I seriously underestimated how much acetone I would need, which became apparent when it started evaporating. So I dipped steel wool in the acetone and rubbed the furniture to try and get the best bang for my buck before the acetone evaporated.
I pulled the furniture out after about 30 minutes. If I had an air tight container, I would have let it sit overnight, but after 30 minutes most of the acetone had already evaporated. I rinsed the wood off with the hose and brought it inside for a light sanding.
Above is a picture of the furniture after it dried from its acetone bath. I forgot to take a close-up picture after the acetone bath, but you can see that it removed a good amount of the finish. For whatever reason, the lower hand guard was stubborn, but the red stain went away after some light sanding. As you can see, I reassembled the rest of the rifle because I was worried that I would end up losing one of the pieces.
After sanding it down a little and letting the wood dry overnight, I got ready to bleach the wood the following morning. Since I have a backyard pool, I was lucky to have all of the ingredients on hand. Other tutorials suggest using regular household bleach to lighten the furniture. Obviously this approach will get the job done, but I strongly advise that you do not use laundry bleach if you can avoid it. Brands like Chlorox contain other chemicals that can adversely affect wood. Even though my AK’s furniture isn’t particularly expensive or collectable, I instead chose to use concentrated industrial liquid bleach. My father has always been looking for cheaper ways to chlorinate our pool, and he finally stumbled upon a store that sells concentrated bleach in blue 5 gallon jugs.
I rinsed out a bucket and added the water. Other tutorials suggest a 1:3 chlorine-to-water ratio. Since this chlorine was highly concentrated, I used a 1:4 ratio. I was lucky to find a bucket with a diameter just slightly smaller than the length of the butt stock. This allowed me to wedge the stock in and keep it submerged without having to hold it down. The upper hand guard (made from a different wood) was significantly more buoyant and floated at the top. The lower hand guard was a much denser wood and quickly sank to the bottom
Below is the picture of the bleaching process, with my dog casually posing alongside the bucket.
I left the wood soaking in the solution, with the plan to pull the furniture out after an hour or so and check on it. Since the chlorine is more concentrated than what others use, I would rather be safe than sorry.
——2 Hours Later——
Well, I took the wood furniture out of the chlorine solution. I left it in a little longer than I originally planned to (lost track of time), but I think that the extra time did it some good.
I think that the bleach did a good job at getting rid of the grime left behind by the acetone bath and lightening up the wood significantly. I am also happy that while the wood was lightened, the grain was left pretty prominent.
—-A Few Hours Later—-
I sat the wood furniture outside in a little bit of sun in order for the pieces to dry quicker. I am not a very patient person. I only arrived at the decision to sit them in the son after I became bored with holding the hair dryer… When I was confident that the wood had completely dried, I started the process of sanding the wood.
Now, I don’t have any pictures of this process because, quite frankly, it wasn’t very exciting. I went into this whole project with the understanding that while I would love to have an absolutely pristine AK-47, I am working with imperfect laminate wood furniture. It almost seems like it was requisite part of the manufacturing process to drag each WASR-10 stock down a Romanian gravel road before export. More often than not, if you are refinishing the wood on an AK you just bought, you’re doing so because the wood looks horrible. If you go into the project understanding that your piece of wood will be imperfect, you’ll save yourself a lot of angst.
So I only sanded enough to get the furniture smooth and make me confident that it would take a stain. If I wanted to be a perfectionist, I could have used wood putty to fill in some of the gouges. But that would mean more time and money. Not really feeling it. I also found that as I sanded it down, I found myself sanding below the metal rivets that reinforce the wood. I don’t think that these laminate stocks were really made with the intention of being sanded down and restored. So just be careful not to sand too much away, just enough to make it smooth and take the stain. Once you sand it, that wood can’t be put back.
With the wood sanded down to my liking, I decided to start the process of staining the furniture. But before I did anything, I went to my laptop to get some easy listening music. Even though this WASR-10 is Romanian, it was still made within the USSR. So it wouldn’t be the same without some music from the good-old Red Army Choir. I found an hour-long playlist of soviet songs and I am not going to lie, it made the project a lot more fun. But I digress…
These are the supplies that I used in the next step of staining and sealing the wood. A sponge brush (reserved for the stain), Minwax Semi-Gloss polyurethane, Minwax Red Oak stain, and Scarlet Rit dye.
After seeing other tutorials online, I decided to use scarlet Rit dye as the base stain. Others use the Wine colored dye, but that looked to be a little too purple for my liking… I’ve seen lots of ways to do this, including tutorials on using the the power/crystal Rit dyes. I decided to apply multiple layers of the liquid dye to the wood and letting it dry before I added the stain.
Dyeing the stock was by far the easiest process. Make sure you have some type of clamp to hold the wood off of the ground. The clamp becomes especially important later when adding the polyurethane, but at these early stages it helps keep the mess a little contained and keeps your hands relatively clean.
I knew that the hand grips were going to be more difficult since I didn’t have a clamp small enough to attach to either piece. I’ve seen this process in other tutorials and I decided to use it. Basically, I folded a manila envelope and taped it so that it would stand up. Obviously, the optimal positioning for drying would be for the pieces to be vertical, but this seemed to work for me.
I applied a very liberal helping of Rit dye that probably wasn’t necessary. I would apply the dye onto the wood with a paper towel (in order to save my $.88 sponge brush for later) and then immediately wipe away any excess dye to stop it from hardening and making the process more complicated.
I think I did this wipe-on, wipe-off step about 3-4 times over the course of an hour or so. The goal is just to get the wood to soak up the dye before applying the stain. When you finish the last coat of the Rit dye, be sure to wipe the wood clean of excess liquid and sit it out for a bit to dry. No set time for you to wait, it will depend on humidity, air flow, temperature, etc. I set the wood pieces under a fan and in about an hour, they seemed dry enough to move to the next step.
Here’s what the stock and hand guards look like after being dyed.
Also as a side-note: plan accordingly and recognize that no matter what you do, this will be a messy project. Exhibit A:
So the next step is to add the Minwax Red Oak stain. I chose Red Oak because it sounded like it would work. I’ve heard other people swear by different stains. Just be sure to look at the samples available at Home Depot or Loew’s and remember that those samples show what it looks like if the stain is applied to a normal piece of wood. The way I did it, the stain is being applied over an already red piece of wood. So I used my best judgement and picked the Red Oak.
Since most of the color is coming from the Rit dye, the main purposes of the stain are to slightly darken the color, to seal the wood a bit, and to make the grain “pop” more. How many coats you apply really will depend on whether you are satisfied with the color. Just remember that you might need to add a different amount of stain to the hand guards since they are rarely from the same piece of wood as the butt stock.
As I mentioned, be sure to use a clamp on the butt stock, it makes the process a lot easier.
This picture above is after just a couple applications of the Red Oak stain. Notice how even just one or two coats of stain can darken the wood significantly and make the grain pop a lot more. Once I got to this shade, I was happy with the color.
Now here is where I hit a bit of a road bump. I knew that I couldn’t even think about adding the polyurethane until the dye and stain completely had dried and set in.
For whatever reason, whether it was the hot temperature or the high humidity or just me rushing this entire process, after letting the wood sit overnight, I realized that it was actually sweating out the Scarlet dye I had applied first. To combat this, I would gently wipe down the furniture every half-hour or so to remove the excess dye/stain.
After repeating this all day and letting the furniture sit beneath a ceiling fan over night, I finally awoke to find the stain completely dried. After 3-4 coats of Rit dye and a few coats of Red Oak stain, this is what the wood furniture looked like…
Call it beginner’s luck, but this was exactly the color I was looking for. So suffice it to say, I was pretty happy with myself…
The next step required me to add the layers of Polyurethane. Now obviously, polyurethane wouldn’t have been found on an AK-47 leaving the factory. I’ve read that the Russians used Tung Oil to finish Mosin Nagant, SKS, and AK-47 stocks. Others suggest using Linseed Oil for a semi-authentic look. I chose to use polyurethane because I have worked with it before and the process sounded much quicker and easier. So for this process, you need another sponge brush, semi-gloss polyurethane, steel wool to buff out the polyurethane, and a tack cloth to remove any lint or dust.
I decided to start the polyurethane application on the hand guards since I anticipated that the butt stock (standing up vertically) would dry quicker. Below you can see what just one coat of polyurethane (to the lower hand guard) can do.
I was extremely nervous to add polyurethane to the under part of the hand guards (the surfaces touching the barrel and gas tube). Since no one will ever see it and the under part is subjected to such hot temperatures, I opted not to add polyurethane to the under belly of the hand guards (just the outside, visible portions). A quick Google search found unsubstantiated cases where the heat of the barrel actually caused the polyurethane under the hand guards to start smoking. Not really something I wanted to deal with…
After adding a thin, even coat of the poly to the hand guards, I moved on to the butt stock. Polyurethane tends to run a bit after it is applied. I decided to apply the coat with the stock standing up, that way the polyurethane would run with the grain of the laminate wood and possibly make it a little harder to spot imperfections…
Here’s the stock after the first coat had dried…
Once the first coat of polyurethane has dried, the number of subsequent coats you apply will depend on your taste and how perfect you want the wood to look. I decided only to apply 3 coats of polyurethane. After each coat dried, I rubbed the furniture down with a tack rag (not entirely sure if that was necessary) and on the second to last coat, I gently buffed the wood with #0000 steel wool. This will get rid of any significant runs or imperfections in the finish. Be sure to carefully and evenly apply the final coat of polyurethane to limit the number of runs.
With my 3 coats dried, this is what my stock looked like…
With the wood furniture refinished, the next step is to reattach the stock and hand guards to the rifle. But if your AK was anything like mine, removing the wood was an absolute pain. I took this opportunity to sand the end of the butt stock a tiny bit in order to make it a little easier to remove it in the future. Regardless, this is also a good idea in case you got a little polyurethane or an abundance of stain on this part of the stock.
After a few whacks with the rubber mallet, the wood furniture was reattached to the gun and I finally got to see the fruits of my labor.
To save you the time of scrolling up to compare it to what it originally looked like, here’s the side-by-side, before and after shots.
This process was a lot of fun. While I originally considered just buying new, already finished furniture for the gun, I am really glad that I put the time into doing it myself. It definitely adds a pride factor to the gun, and for that, it’s priceless to me.
Also, for fun I went back to the Gun Show that I bought it at and I received numerous offers to buy the WASR. One person even offered $250 over what I originally paid for it. If my M.A. degree doesn’t pan out, at least I’ll know I can make a few bucks by refinishing some AK beaters.
I also got a great deal on a holographic sight with an attached laser. I was going to put it on my AR-15, but I think it looks so much more bad-ass/ridiculous on the WASR.
If you liked this long-winded tutorial, be sure to follow me on Twitter @SanityPolitics
The weekend of October 11-13, 2013 I attended the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C.
As I prepared to leave my home in New Jersey early that Friday morning, I began the process of cleaning out the car and loading up my packed bags. With my suitcase, garment bag, and laptop case safely secured, I reversed out of my driveway and began my three and a half hour journey to the nation’s capital.
As I reached the end of my street, a thought suddenly popped into my head, causing me to pull into a nearby gas station. I turned off the ignition, and walked around to the trunk of the car. Lo and behold, my fear became a reality. Tucked under my suitcase and laptop bag sat my target-shooting range bag.
When I opened the duffel bag, I found a number of harmless items: a staple gun, safety glasses, hearing protection, paper targets, and binoculars (among other general supplies). While my cursory glances seemed to satisfy my fears, I decided to dump the bag out just to make sure. The worries were justified.
Sitting on the backseat, along with the previously mentioned harmless supplies, were two items: an empty 9mm brass case and a spent .223 cartridge.
Most rational people would see this as a non-issue. Despite my active imagination, I still haven’t come up with how these two corroded, brass cylinders could pose an immediate threat to anyone. Nevertheless, if I was caught bringing these cases into the District of Columbia, I would be charged with the equivalent of a Class D Felony — a one-year minimum prison sentence, hefty fine, the forfeiture of my 2nd Amendment rights, disenfranchisement of my voting rights, an automatic disqualification for serving on a jury and enjoying 7th, and 8th Amendment rights, and not to mention wearing scarlet in every future job interview. Those are the unfortunate consequences associated with this law that doesn’t differentiate between the possession of reloading supplies like primers and brass cases and the possession of armor piercing incendiary ammunition.
Washington DC law defines “ammunition” in terms of its components (projectile, case, propellant, etc) but also includes the blanket definition of any ” devices or materials designed, redesigned, or intended for use in a firearm or destructive device.”
This is obviously a huge problem not just when it comes to firearms, but many other political issues as well. Supposedly “common sense” bills are being drafted by people with minimal working experience with the issues they’re trying to address. Career academics can propose any number of economic reforms, but even the most celebrated Ph.Ds lack the experience and knowledge associated with running a small business. Lobbyists can certainly make moral arguments about current inequity towards people with preexisting conditions, but one can only imagine what Obamacare would look like if the medical professionals now threatened with bankruptcy had a say in drafting the legislation.
Others believe just the opposite, that oppressive legislation is drafted not by ignoramuses, but rather by savvy lobbyists in an attempt to fundamentally transform public policy. It could be argued, for example, that medical services bankruptcies are actually deliberate progress towards more socialized medicine, not just unforeseen side-effects.
The D.C. gun laws, as written, make potential felons out of law abiding citizens. I could walk out of Home Depot with a galvanized pipe and few would raise an eyebrow about my purchase. But a quick look at pictures of homemade pipe bombs and zip-guns, and all of a sudden my home plumbing purchase looks a lot more suspicious. An artist creating sculptures out of Pewter seems innocent enough, unless he or she creates a lead sphere, defined by the law as a “projectile.” The statute also takes lawful objects like rectangular boxes and a springs and shifts how the public perceives them. All of a sudden household items become components of ‘high capacity magazines.’
You can call me paranoid for stopping and double checking whether I had any spent brass in my bag. But realize this: possession of a cylindrical piece of brass or steel in the District of Columbia is a felony in the same class of crimes like incest, vehicular manslaughter, distribution of narcotics, aggravated assault, and even performing illegal medical procedures. While these crimes each describe committing an illegal act, D.C. gun laws preemptively punish people based on a capacity to commit crime.
I don’t mean any harm to anyone, and Washington’s gun laws didn’t make the city necessarily safer on my arrival. At the very least, it was an annoyance. At most, the law represents a violation of my liberty. As long as citizens look at these laws and believe the former over the latter, unconstitutional laws like this one will be much more common.
I’ll close with this. In 1804, former-Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton made fun of Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President, at a dinner party. When Hamilton refused to apologize, Burr shot him dead. In 1777, Lachlan McIntosh shot and killed Button Gwinnet, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, because he called him a “scoundrel and lying rascal.” Today, possession of a lead ball alone in the nation’s capital is a felony. Not that I promote the legalization of duels… I don’t. Just remember that while Washington D.C. outlaws ammunition components today, back in the day our country’s founders, politicians, and cabinet members regularly shot one another over common insults and disputes. Let that sink in.
Transformation of my WASR-10 after I refinished the stock. Also a picture of the Sight Mark holographic sight I’ve slapped on it…
I’m at the Values Voter Summit this weekend in Washington D.C.
Here’s my ranking of the Speakers (so far) and a brief sentence or two about what they said.
1. Rand Paul - He gave an excellent speech outlining how radical elements within Islam are actively trying to exterminate Christians around the world. He literally listed dozens of cases in dozens of countries this year. The beauty of his speech was that he created a hybrid foreign policy that paid homage to his father’s pursuit of non-intervention but also recognized the need to defend ourself when attacked.
2. Ted Cruz - Excellent speech. Touched on all the major issues related to the shut down and Obamacare. A number of Immigration protesters stood up at different parts of his speech to try and throw him off. He handled the hecklers like a Pro.
3. Mark Levin - The Great One was in excellent form. I also should mention that his eye glasses are awesome. His speech was basically a summary of his new book The Liberty Amendments, highlighting why his suggestions are especially important today.
4. Marco Rubio - His speech started out pretty reserved, but when he talked about the separation of church and state, he accepted that not everyone believes in God. But he clarified, “I believe Jesus is God.” That line got the most applause.
5. Tim Scott - Walked on stage to a standing ovation. It must be because the audience is full of racists </sarcasm>. Gave an excellent preacher-esque speech touching on his childhood and mentioning all of the fundamental tea party topics.
6. Ben Carson - He competes with Mark Levin and Ted Cruz for the title of ‘Smartest Man in the Room.’ Obviously he takes the cake with regards to medicine. Unfortunately, since I have watched a lot of his speeches on YouTube and his appearances on Fox News, I recognized that the majority of his speech was borrowed from other speeches of his. Nevertheless, he did well.
7. Michele Bachmann - Had to dock her points because she showed up late. But she gave an excellent speech about how she’s spent the last week defying the administration and opening up barricaded monuments to Veterans.
In a few hours I will be leaving for the Value Voter Summit in Washington D.C.
I originally was only interested in going because of the job fair on Saturday morning (which was free), but after applying for a student scholarship to attend the whole Summit, I figured I would make a weekend out of it.
Should be a good experience…
We all knew this was coming.
Before the victims the Navy Yard shooting had been identified, gun control proponents were already making their case. In a statement released early Monday evening, Dianne Feinstein — author of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban — urged Congress to “stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country.” Actor Henry Winkler — of Happy Days fame — was one of the many in Hollywood to politicize the tragedy. And most predictably, CNN’s Piers Morgan devoted almost all of his show on Monday night to the shooting and him repeatedly calling for a Federal ban on AR-15 rifles.
With only a day removed from the tragic events at the Washington Navy Yard, it is impossible to know all the details surrounding the shooting. But even in the first 24 hours, it is clear that the weapon itself is not the true problem.
First of all, Aaron Alexis should have been barred from owning firearms. In a perfect world, he would have been. In 2004, he was arrested in Seattle for shooting a man’s tires out in a drunken “blackout” rage. Alexis was arrested and charged with “malicious mischief,” a misdemeanor, but was never brought to trial or convicted. The Seattle City Attorney blames the lack of prosecution on the police who failed to forward them the report. Even so, a malicious mischief charge would not necessarily have prohibited Alexis from owning a firearm. If the prosecution was determined to keep weapons out of the hands of people who blackout and shoot up the neighborhood, they could have pressed for felony charges…
Then in 2010, Aaron Alexis was accused of negligently discharging his firearm within the city limits of Fort Worth, Texas. Alexis contends that his firearm accidentally discharged during cleaning, though his neighbor believes that the shot through her floor was intentional. The city attorney again failed to follow up on the police report, however that still would not have barred him from owning a firearm. Federal law defines a prohibited person as anyone who is “under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” Since Fort Worth’s firearm discharge ordinance is punishable by only a hefty fine, even a conviction wouldn’t have prohibited Aaron Alexis from owning a firearm. Another interesting charge making its rounds on Twitter is that Aaron Alexis was a concealed carry permit holder in the State of Texas. The idea that concealed weapons holders are a threat to society is nothing new. Organizations like the Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action routinely vilify concealed carry holders. The Violence Policy Center even went as far as compiling a list of all concealed carry permit holders implicated in a homicide or manslaughter case. The problem is, this information is only valuable if an individual commits a crime while carrying a concealed weapon. The chances of Aaron Alexis concealing his shotgun are slim.
Then there is the fact that Aaron Alexis was discharged from the Navy for what has only been referred to as a "pattern of misconduct." At this point in time, it remains unknown why Aaron Alexis was discharged from the Navy. Some pundits have hypothesized that Alexis was discharged in 2011 for the alleged negligent firearm discharge in Texas the previous year. Regardless of the reason for his discharge, the fact remains that a 'dishonorable discharge' from the Navy would have barred Alexis from owning a firearm, according to the Gun Control Act of 1968. According to Navy officials, Alexis received a 'general discharge' in January of 2011. While a general discharge is not as bad as a ‘dishonorable discharge,’ it remains less honorable than an 'honorable discharge.' Obviously the Navy had its reasons for discharging Alexis accordingly, but one can only wonder about the what-ifs…
There is also the issue of how a less-honorably discharged Navy Petty Officer, with a history of anger-fueled gun crimes, could possibly receive a secret-level security clearance necessary to work as a contractor at the Navy Yard. It is believed that Alexis’ security clearance was first authorized in 2007, long after his ‘blackout’ induced shooting in Seattle. However even with a publicly available arrest report, Alexis was still granted a security clearance. The 2011 discharge incident, while important in hindsight, would hardly have been enough to take away his clearance. Still, one would have hoped that a thorough examination into Alexis’ background would have disqualified him from holding or maintaining a security clearance.
The blame also rests with President Bill Clinton. In 1993, Clinton decreed that military personnel were prohibited from carrying firearms for personal protection unless a “specific threat against [Army] personnel [exists] in that region.” After the 2009 Fort Hood “Incident of Work-Place Violence,” the Washington Times famously quipped that the Clinton-era firearm restriction made it so that terrorists would “face more return fire if they attacked a Texas Wal-Mart than the gunman faced at Fort Hood.” While pundits like Piers Morgan are quick to point out that unlike Sandy Hook, the Washington Navy Yard had armed guards, Clinton’s firearm restrictions make the installation — for all intents and purposes — a gun-free zone. And given the US Military’s recent propensity to outsource bases’ watchtower security to African soldiers, base security under the Obama administration remains imperfect.
Given all of these potential factors to blame, at last we arrive at the firearm itself. Surely (we are told), this atrocity would not have happened if “military style” firearms were prohibited to civilians. We repeatedly hear this talking point as pundits like Rachel Maddow and Piers Morgan remind us that the AR-15 used by Aaron Alexis was also the weapon of choice in the Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT mass shootings. However if an NBC news report is correct, Aaron Alexis entered the Navy Yard with a Joe Biden-approved shotgun and only obtained an AR-15 and pistol as he killed armed victims. No amount of assault weapons bans or background checks can stop someone from ambushing a police officer and seizing his weapons. Then again, Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed a police officer with a stolen gun and he was eulogized as a 'victim of gun violence' by Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
This is only a short list of what/who to blame for the Washington Navy Yard Shooting. Obviously, it is not exhaustive. As more evidence emerges and the public gets a glimpse into Aaron Alexis’ motives and mental state, the understanding of the tragedy will inevitably change. Even so, the weapon itself seems to be a senary (sixth) causal variable, not even including Alexis’ individual decision making. The fact remains that despite a plethora of gun laws on the books, lax enforcement and nonexistent prosecution failed to place Aaron Alexis on the list of prohibited persons. A harsher discharge from the Navy would have had the same effect and potentially disqualified him from holding a security clearance and gaining access to the Navy Yard. The one gun control law that did have an effect — prohibiting carrying weapons in the Navy Yard — did nothing to deter the shooter but did serve to disarm trained military personnel, leaving them completely hamstrung.
Given all of these causal factors, not to mention the issues of mental health, discussing the gun itself should be the last topic on the agenda.
Before we talk about disarming the American people, lets figure out how a petty officer with a history of misconduct and anger-induced weapons crimes could gain employment in a secure military base and bring a loaded weapon not only onto the installation, but also into the District of Columbia where loaded weapons are explicitly outlawed. Let’s talk about how Aaron Alexis is just one of the many examples of how gun crimes are either not prosecuted or reduced through plea deals. Let’s talk about how a sailor can be discharged for less-than-honorable reasons, only to be hired as a contractor within a year. Let’s talk about how current law dictates that the people with some of the most advanced firearm training in the world are not even trusted enough to carry a holstered weapon on US soil. Let’s talk about mental health, societal decay, gang violence, and the other conditions that lead individuals to take a life regardless of the weapon.
If we only talk about guns whenever a tragedy occurs, we are never going to solve our society’s root problems. Focusing on guns may treat the symptoms, but it will do nothing to cure the disease that is ripping our inner-cities apart. If we stopped trying to blame an inanimate object for our country’s problems and focused on issues like economic inequality and education, we could actually get somewhere. But combating these socio-economic problems means shining the spotlight on decades of failed Democratic policies that stifle growth and foster dependency. For Democrats, it’s a lot easier to blame “military style assault weapons” and “high capacity clips.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry has launched a new ad campaign to try to convince East Coast residents, specifically in Maryland, to seek out greener pastures in the Lone Star State. Perry blames Democrat leaders, like Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, for limiting economic growth by burdening businesses with high taxes and government regulation. As a resident of New Jersey, I can attest to the problems of over-taxation.
In the lead up to the 2012 elections, Republicans always cited states like Texas and South Dakota as examples of how conservative leadership helped weather the recent economic storm. As blue states dealt with job losses, Texas and South Dakota experienced an economic boom in the last year. But that is not due to the magic of Republican governance. These states benefited from an increased investment in commodities.
If you watched any amount of television over the last few years (especially Fox News), you have been bombarded with commercials advertising investments in Gold and Silver. Celebrity spokesmen urged us to buy our gold before he bought his. We were told that Gold and Silver were safe investments to protect our hard earned money from a weak Dollar and inflation. Even to the economically illiterate among us, this made sense. Even if the economy completely collapsed, commodities like Gold and Silver would still hold some value when paper became devalued. The problem is, everyone recognized commodities as a safer investment. And this led to a brief economic boom in the oil and natural gas in Texas and South Dakota. But this economic prosperity, at least from commodities, will not last.
Whether you like it or not, the economy is improving. It is night and day compared to the crash that occurred exactly five years ago, this week. And the dollar is beginning to regain some of its strength. As investing in the Dollar becomes safer and more viable, we will inevitably see a reduction in commodities investments.
Above is a 4 year graph showing the Dollar index, the price of crude oil, and the price of gold. This graph clearly shows that as the Dollar dipped in the last 4 years, the price of oil and gold rose. Even temporary surges in the Dollar also correlate to sudden decreases in commodities prices.
It would be foolish to invest in commodities now. In the last 24 hours alone, gold has lost 1.58% of its value. Today, an ounce of gold is worth 20% less than what it sold for exactly a year ago. Of course, this could change at any moment. A military strike against Syria, for example, would certainly cause the price of gold to rise.
But if you want to see what is in store for Texas and South Dakota, it is important to examine what is happening in Australia.
Australia has managed to survive the economic downturn up until this point for two main reasons: 1) It’s economy is heavily based on commodities and raw materials; and 2) nearby China’s economic growth created a demand for Australian commodities.
While the Australian economy exceeded expectations with a 2.6% growth in GDP during the most recent quarter, this good news follows two consecutive quarters of 0.6% growth in GDP. This leaves many economists believing that it’s only a matter of time before an Australian decline. Australia’s credit bubble is propped up by the country’s commodity boom, which is itself dependent on an even larger credit bubble in China.
Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, with most being sold to countries in East Asia. It is also the largest producer of Aluminum (2011), the third largest supplier or Iron, the second largest producer of gold, and the world’s third largest producer of natural gas. Energy and minerals account for 66% of Australia’s total exports to China, where these raw materials are processed into a refined product.
The minerals and energy industries have boomed in Australia because of perceived Chinese economic growth and the inherent safety of commodities during economic downturn. But by leveraging the Australian economy on the success of the Chinese economy, Australia remains vulnerable. As the world wide economy strengthens, and if Chines growth stagnates, Australia’s bubble will burst.
Even with this recent economic prosperity, Australia racked up a deficit of 4% of GDP (which according to economists, is an outrageous amount for the country). It is not surprising that the Australian government passed a 30% tax on Iron and Coal mining, which in effect is biting the hand that’s feeding the Australian economy.
While the Aussies represent a worst-case scenario, states like Texas and South Dakota face similar threats. If you live by the commodities, you have to be prepared to die by the commodities. It is no wonder that Rick Perry is trying to court out-of-state businesses to move to Texas. The state needs more non-commodities based business. However while the prospect of low taxes may lure some businesses, these low tax rates would be unsustainable if the commodities bubble bursts.
So if you have a business that can thrive in Texas or South Dakota, potentially in the field of oil or natural gas, by all means take advantage of what these states have to offer. But don’t move there just for the sake of moving there, because usually when a deal sounds too good to be true, it is. They know their boom won’t last, and they need your business more than you need them…
It’s hard to believe that 9/11 happened 12 years ago. I was in the 6th grade and had the unfortunate luck to be home sick from school that day. I got to watch everything happen live, which is something few people in my generation were able to do. None of us were ever the same after that day. After more than a decade, I have 5 years of Arabic under my belt and am a few credits away from getting my Master’s Degree in Political Science, all in an attempt to figure out why anyone would murder 2,977 innocent men and women in cold blood, leaving over 3,000 children to grow up without a parent. Of all of the video footage I watched that day, nothing has impacted me more than seeing people celebrating in the streets in the Middle East at the news of the attacks.
To the victims’ families, you remain in my prayers to this day. To those first responders who today are suffering from lung cancer and respiratory problems, no words of mine will ever express my gratitude for your selflessness.
The social scientists say that the United States is more polarized now than during the civil war. I pray to God that it doesn’t take another terrorist attack to make us realize that despite all of our disagreements, we Americans are more similar than we are different. After over a decade of war, economic turmoil, and political bickering, part of me wishes we could go back to 9/12 and remember what it felt like to be not Republicans, not Democrats, but Americans. Those are my proudest memories…
As a prospective military strike against the Syrian regime dominates the headlines, we are reminded by administration officials that any military action will not include boots on the ground and will not be focused on regime change. In a turn of events mimicking an episode from the Twilight Zone, once-hawkish Republicans are advocating non-intervention and their peacenik colleagues across the aisle are actually supporting a military strike in the Middle East.
While Congress debates whether to physically attack the Assad Regime, many lawmakers are reevaluating whether to send military aid to the Syrian rebels. A limited military strike “also fits into a broader strategy that can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition,” Obama told congressional leaders at a White House Meeting on Sept. 3, 2013. This comes months after the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence voted to approve the President’s plan to arm the Syrian opposition.
As the world remains focused on potential airstrikes, few are paying attention to the administration’s plan to arm the rebels. The New York Times has reported that during this White House meeting, Obama told lawmakers that a covert operation to train Syrian rebels is beginning to yield results. The first US-trained unit has moved across the Jordanian border into war-torn Syria. In a Google+ Hangout, Secretary of State John Kerry reported that US military aid to moderate elements within the opposition had been slow to arrive. However Kerry asserts that the small arms and ammunition have begun to flow into the country in a coordinated effort “to get [the opposition] the assistance they need.”
The Obama administration’s plan to provide small arms to the Syrian Rebels was approved by Congress. Good luck finding the transcripts of these committee meetings though… they were classified. When asked about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vote to arm the rebels, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the committee chair, responded “It’s classified.” (Which is a polite way of saying ‘it’s none of your business’)
That’s right. Dianne Feinstein — the author of the “Assault Weapons” Ban – doesn’t believe that the American people have a right to know who the government is giving small arms to. That oversight requirement apparently only should apply to American citizens. Now, the gun grabbers-turned-hawks have decided to arm “vetted” elements of the Syrian opposition. Yet even the most ‘moderate’ elements of the opposition have shown fleeting moments of extremism. The irony is that while Sen. Feinstein fought so hard to disarm the American people and ban semi-automatic firearms, she is apparently more than willing to gift fully automatic weaponry to “vetted” rebel groups who are fighting alongside al-Qaeda. It is incredibly unsettling that twelve years after 9/11, the United States government is actively supporting and arming rebels fighting alongside Islamic extremists.
The United States has a long history of arming rebel movements around the globe, and an unfortunately equally long history of having these weapons later used against us. The most famous example of this “blowback” is Operation Cyclone, in which the CIA provided weapons to the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980’s to fight the Soviet Union. This operation was made famous by then-Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-TX) who teamed up with the CIA to deliver automatic and anti-aircraft weaponry to the Afghan freedom fighters (including a young Osama bin Laden). The hypocrisy is that while Rep. Wilson was arming America’s future enemies with automatic weapons, he also voted to take that right away from American citizens through the interestingly titled “Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA)”. While the American people couldn’t be trusted with automatic arms, we gave AK-47s and anti-aircraft Stinger Missiles to Afghan Islamists (with many unaccounted for to this day).
Obviously, this is a historical example, but the hypocrisy of disarming Americans and arming terrorists remains in congress today.
Since the transcripts of these Intelligence committee votes are classified (and will likely remain classified for years), the committee members are restricted from commenting on the covert operations. However, here is the membership roster the House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees. In these two tables, italics represent the legislator’s support of the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban. Those in bold have expressed support for a new Assault Weapon Ban and/or a ban on High Capacity Magazines. Lastly, an asterisk shows that the legislator voted for the 1986 FOPA to limit civilian ownership of automatic firearms.
While the votes remain classified regarding arming the Syrian rebels, there is not a single Democrat member of the House Intelligence committee who did not vote for the Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 or support and co-sponsor a 2013 version of the bill. It is widely believed that passing the President’s Syria agenda in the House would require unanimous or near unanimous support from House Democrats.
There is not a single Democrat, on either intelligence committee, that respects the constitutional rights of Americans over the rights of Islamist rebels. That might seem like a pretty dramatic statement to make, but it is true. There isn’t a single Democrat on the House or Senate Select Intelligence Committees that believe an American citizen has the right to possess a semi-automatic rifle and a “high capacity” magazine. These weapons are seen by them as too dangerous for civilian ownership. Yet they are more than willing to approve a covert mission to provide fully automatic weaponry to rebel fighters half a world away fighting alongside al-Qaeda and Islamic extremists.
On one hand, this was already common knowledge. It’s safe to say that those who propose restricting an entire class of weaponry based on cosmetic features don’t see constitutional rights as particularly important. Everyone knows that these Democrats believe that the best society is a disarmed society. But it should give you pause to learn that these same people are willing to give fully automatic assault rifles to loosely vetted insurgents whose chief ally is al-Qaeda.
It is also interesting that these lawmakers see the value in owning weapons to resist tyranny and oppression abroad as beneficial, yet don’t understand that logic domestically. I am not advocating the overthrow of the government in any way AT ALL. Anyone who suggests that the United States has reached a point warranting a revolution is an idiot. But that does not mean that the Federal government does not have the capacity for tyranny. In Federalist No. 51, James Madison writes that “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” The Second Amendment exists to allow the civilian ownership of infantry weaponry so that citizens might defend against enemies foreign and domestic. The Democrats reject this interpretation of the Second Amendment. They instead believe that the founders – four years removed from fighting a war for independence – enshrined the right to bear arms for sporting purposes.
The United States gave billions of dollars to the Afghan Mujahideen. Many of these freedom fighters would later form the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In the mid-1980s, the United States also trained Saddam Hussein’s army and “[made] sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required.” Without a doubt, US service personnel have been shot by weapons once supplied by the United States government. That is a statistical fact. While it is impossible to know for certain, it would be shocking if a US-supplied weapon was not used against an American soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan.
What it ultimately comes down to is who our elected officials trust with weaponry: American citizens or extremist rebels in the Middle East. Since 1934, there have only been two homicides committed with legally registered automatic weapons. Given how we gave billions of dollars’ worth of automatic weapons to the Afghans and Iraqis in the 1980s, one has to wonder just how many men and women in uniform were killed or wounded by a US-provided weapon. Logic would dictate that number would be higher than two.
If you are a law abiding gun owner, you don’t need anyone to convince you that the United States of America is safer with a gun in your hand than it is when al-Qaeda is armed. That should be common sense. But when you hear in the next months about the new gun control pushes that will inevitably come, remember that the elected officials trying to disarm you actually voted to arm Islamic extremists. And they didn’t even bat an eyelash.
On August 29, 2013, the Obama administration announced that the government would no longer authorize the re-importation of US weapons. Following WWII and the Korean War, the United States sold and gifted decommissioned rifles to its allies around the world fighting the spread of Communism. The majority of these rifles were M1 Garands. While these rifles remain legal to buy and sell domestically, countries like South Korea are no longer able to resell these rifles to American collectors. Even though these historic firearms are seldom, if ever, implicated in crimes, this new executive order promises a decrease in gun violence. Gun control groups such as Moms Demand Action applauded the measure as a common sense way to reduce gun violence that plagues our inner cities. Second Amendment groups, like the NRA, criticized the administration for “completely [missing] the mark when it comes to stopping violent crime” and putting the last nail in the coffin for the 110 year old Civilian Marksmanship Program.
Since the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama has sought to do everything within his power to limit civilian ownership of firearms. With the Senate unable to break the filibuster and the House of Representatives unlikely to bring gun control legislation out of committee, President Obama has been forced to turn to executive orders. While presidential power is limited without congressional approval, executive oversight over the ATF allows the President some flexibility in changing government policy. Restricting the re-importation of US WWII rifles fits within this authority.
Many of these antique rifles now prohibited from re-entering the country possess the same semi-automatic actions that gun control advocates have sought to limit through a new Assault Weapons Ban. For this reason, the President believes that their age and collectability is a non-issue. As long as they remain functional, they are perceived as a threat. With mass shootings still fresh in our memories, President Obama hopes that limiting the number of semi-automatic rifles available to the public will reduce the likelihood of another tragic school shooting.
I know what you’re thinking: Curio and Relic (C&R) firearms are rarely, if ever, implicated in crimes and certainly haven’t been used in a school shooting. While it is safe to say that it is unlikely to find a mass shooter with C&R firearm, Obama is right to worry about the M1 Garand specifically. This historic rifle was used in one of the most infamous, high-profile school shootings in the 20th century. However that is no reason to limit the civilian ownership of this weapon.
On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio Army National Guard arrived at Kent State University to respond to a growing anti-war protest movement on campus. For the last four days, college students had protested the Nixon Administration’s new Cambodian campaign on the university quad. As the protest grew, so did its media exposure. On the fourth day of the protests, the National Guard soldiers — equipped with M1 Garands — fixed their bayonets and drove the student protesters off of the university quad.
At 12:24PM — for reasons still being debated to this day — Sgt. Myron Pryor turned his 1911 service pistol on the students and began firing. The other National Guard soldiers followed suit. The result was a volley of approximately 67 shots into the crowd of unarmed student protesters. When the dust settled, fours students were dead and another nine were wounded.
While President Nixon’s investigative commission held both the students and the Guardsmen responsible, it concluded that the “the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”
When gun control advocates talk about the United States’ history of mass shootings, they seldom include the Kent State Massacre. While they oppose the civilian ownership of “military style” weapons, they are more than willing to support to the militarization of domestic police forces. But I must warn against allowing gun control advocates to frame the argument in a way to include antique rifles in the “military style” category. How far back can this logic be stretched? The common response is that a “military style” firearm is any weapon that was deliberately designed to kill people. Under that assumption, nearly every weapon stretching back to when the Chinese discovered gun powder could be labeled a prohibited weapon. The very muskets that won this country’s revolutionary war could get caught in the gun control dragnet.
The M1 Garands and Carbines now prohibited for re-importation are functional firearms that, if placed into capable hands, are certainly capable of inflicting damage. The M1 Garand’s use in the Kent State Massacre proves that. However it is illogical to take a school shooting, perpetrated by elements of our armed forces, and use it as a rationale to prevent the civilian ownership of these weapons. If anything, the Kent State Massacre legitimizes the civilian ownership of comparable military style firearms. The idea that a National Guard unit could open fire and mow down unarmed protesters is beyond disturbing.
According to Gen. George S. Patton, the M1 Garand was the “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” It helped win the Second World War and remained in active service through the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In peacetime, the M1 Garand provided countries like West Germany, Italy, Japan, Greece, Turkey, and South Korea with a means of defending against the spread of Communism and Marxism on the European and Asian continents. At home, the M1 Garand served as the backbone of the Civilian Marksmanship Program and taught countless Americans the skills required for membership in our nation’s unorganized militia. Yet today, we are told that reintroducing these service rifles into the market would lead to an increase in crime and gun violence. Gun control advocates neglect to mention examples of when this storied rifle contributed to a crime. If they did the research however, they would learn that the most deadly domestic shooting involving an M1 Garand was committed not by a deranged citizen, but by elements of our own National Guard. Let that sink in a bit…