Shooting with Sons

Shooting, including hunting, tactical training, and target practice, is both enjoyable and educational. It is a good way to enjoy friends and family, and to provide for and protect yourself and those you love in times of need. Safe shooting should be a core skill for all interested Americans.

Last week I went to the gun range to shoot with one of my sons. Over the years, members of our family have spent many hours on ranges and hunting grounds from Alaska to Germany. Shooting is a useful skill and a pleasant pastime, and we were glad to find the range open again after COVID-19. As we use our weapons, we try to keep several factors in mind:

  1. Firearms are dangerous and learning to handle them requires a seriousness uncommon in many parts of American life.
  2. Firearms require training and scrupulous adherence to what you have learned. Unlike tests in school, it is not adequate to “cram,” pass the test, and forget what you have learned. The penalties for mistakes are high.
  3. Firearms require self-control. Getting the right stance, hold, and sight picture, squeezing the trigger, and learning not to flinch when flames leave the barrel, the roar sounds, and the gun recoils, takes time and practice. Yet each step is required to hit one’s target and avoid injuring others (“collateral damage”).
  4. Firearms require discipline. The most important lesson in gun handling is knowing when not to shoot. These decisions are impacted by laws, the state of the weapon, and the state of the individual firing. Alcohol and/or drugs on board are contraindications to firing.
  5. Firearms require humility. Brandishing a weapon in a store, just because you own a weapon and want to look cool, is ridiculous. Having the ability to harm someone else is not a power to flaunt, or even enjoy, but a burden to be borne. Firearms instantly escalate any situation for everyone involved, and calm communication becomes that much more important.
  6. Firearms require time. Safe storage, regular practice, and adequate cleaning are part of firearm ownership and use. Everyone in my family who has used guns have trained on them and cleaned them.
  7. Firearms require money. Guns are expensive, and ammunition is more expensive. Depending upon the round, shooters can burn thirty cents to a dollar or more every time they pull the trigger. However, the penalties for not practicing can be much higher.

Perhaps our current aversion to guns in Western civilization is related in part to our failure to understand these realities about guns. Perhaps it is due to our decreased need for firearms during this period of peace and unprecedented economic prosperity. Perhaps it is related to a power grab by certain segments of our society. Perhaps it is a combination of these.

An example is telling. About eighteen months ago, a group of mostly male engineering majors from a university in the United Kingdom visited a local school to collaborate with mostly male American engineering students on a project. The British students asked to “do an American thing” and go shooting during some free time. Their British instructors replied, “under no circumstances….” One wonders why shooting is “an American thing” as opposed to a British, German, or even worldwide thing. One also wonders why their request was flatly denied, with so many professional ranges and highly skilled instructors in the area. By contrast, two hundred years ago, learning to use firearms was basically a rite of passage for boys in Europe and North America.

Gun Control in the Western World

The English Bill of Rights (1689) promises citizens “the right to have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.”[1] Though written to address religious inequities and provide rules for succession to the throne, this document affirms the peoples’ right to defend themselves. The British Firearms Act of 1920 began to restrict firearms possession and use, a process which has continued through today.[2]

Possession of weapons such as guns was generally unrestricted in the Holy Roman Empire (modern Germany). The Treaty of Versailles after World War I imposed the first major restrictions on civilian possession and use of firearms. Article 177 stipulated:

“Educational establishments, the universities, societies of discharged soldiers, shooting or touring clubs and, generally speaking, associations of every description, whatever be the age of their members, must not occupy themselves with any military matters. In particular they will be forbidden to instruct or exercise their members, or to allow them to be instructed or exercised, in the profession or use of arms. These societies, associations, educational establishments and universities must have no connection with the Ministries of War or any other military authority.”[3]

To comply with the Versailles Treaty, the Weimar Government in Germany passed the Regulation on Weapons Ownership which required that all firearms and ammunition in the country were to be surrendered immediately at the pain of five years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 marks. Laws have loosened a bit since then, but Germany still has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world.

Gun rights and gun control are major political issues in the United States. Hunting and military service have traditionally been the venues in which young men received formal weapons training, but both are declining. In 2016, only 11.5 million Americans hunted, down sharply from 17 million in 1982.[4] Military experience is also declining. In 1955, 2.1 million Americans were on active duty in the US military, out of a population of 172 million (1.2%). In 2016. 1.3 million Americans were on active duty in the US military, out of a population of 323 million (0.4%).[5] Simultaneously, the number of handgun owners and concealed carry permit holders has increased, presumably for defensive use of handguns. In juxtaposition, these facts beg the question, “how are all of these people getting trained and retrained in the use of their guns?”

Conclusion

The US Bill of Rights, in this case, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, is a cornerstone of the freedom of Americans. My goal in this article is to maximize the safe use of firearms and minimize the tragic consequences of gun homicides, suicides, accidental deaths, and injuries. Law abiding citizens should have guns and criminals should not have them. Smart legislation, effective and repeated training, improved engineering of weapons, and a host of other factors will help us achieve our goals as a nation.

[1] BILL OF RIGHTS [1689]. An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown, Constitution Society, accessed 26 May 2020, https://constitution.org/eng/eng_bor.txt.

[2] Firearms Act, 1920. Accessed 26 May 2020. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1920/43/pdfs/ukpga_19200043_en.pdf.

[3] TREATY OF PEACE WITH GERMANY (TREATY OF VERSAILLES), accessed 26 May 2020, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/us-treaties/bevans/m-ust000002-0043.pdf.

[4] Natalie Krebs, Why We Suck at Recruiting New Hunters, Why It Matters, and How You Can Fix It, Outdoor Life, https://www.outdoorlife.com/why-we-are-losing-hunters-and-how-to-fix-it/.

[5] Is the US military getting smaller and older, and how much should we care? Center for a New American Security, https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/is-the-u-s-military-getting-smaller-and-older.

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Social Distancing, Public Health, and the Bible

Social distancing is an important public health measure to slow or stop the spread of many diseases. God’s instructions to the Hebrews in the Bible were primarily for holiness, but also had important health benefits.

I was at the auto parts store last week buying brake pads to replace the old ones in my daughter’s Prius. An elderly woman walked in, donning a mask and gloves, and carefully staying at least six feet away from others. When a clerk approached her and when other customers walked by, she retreated. I walked the long way down a separate aisle to get around her, trying to provide the space that she needed. Given her increased level of risk, and the fact that she didn’t seem grumpy, I appreciated her caution.

Social distancing, putting space between people who may infect each other with a disease, is the major way that individuals and governments throughout the world are trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has worked many times in history, such as in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, a far deadlier disaster than the current plague. The nation, and indeed much of the world, has been staying at home, or at least away from others, for over six weeks. Public health experts have used many other interventions for infection control as well. This article will discuss social distancing and other public health actions against infectious disease.

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Exercises for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Look better, feel better, function better, be healthier, and improve your sleep with these simple exercises to improve obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when a person develops partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, when this obstruction results in apnea (no breathing for at least ten seconds) or hypopnea (decreased breathing). The person with OSA will then partially or fully wake up and their blood oxygen will decrease. About 25% of Americans have OSA, with men, older adults, and the obese at greater risk. OSA increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, coronary heart disease, stroke, trauma from falling asleep (while driving, for example), and death. It is a big health problem in the United States, and increasingly, the world. OSA is usually treated with medications, positive airway pressure (like CPAP), and surgery.[1] OSA is worse with supine sleeping (sleeping on your back). Some patients control their symptoms with side sleeping (sometimes with a full-length body pillow). However, there are many exercises that can help decrease symptoms of OSA, improve function, and make you look and feel better.[2]

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Historical Sites Destroyed

Regardless of religion, nationality, culture, or theme, historical sites are a precious and irreplaceable legacy of man. They must be preserved.

History is the story of man, who we are and where we came from. More importantly it is the story of God’s work with and for man. As such every part of it is important, even parts that don’t please us or fit our world view. Not every historical location can be saved because man today needs space just as man yesterday did. However, we need to save as much as we can. Sometimes we ruin irreplaceable artefacts through ignorance. Worst of all is the intentional destruction of historical sites by those who disagree with what they represent.

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Childbirth and Children in the Bible

A summary on the bearing and raising of children, and children’s lives, in the Bible and ancient Middle East. 

A reader who was preparing a Bible study asked me for some information on children in the Bible. Life in Bible times was centered around the family, and children were a vital part. Our 21st century debates in the West about whether to marry and whether to have children were unthinkable for most people in antiquity. For the vast majority of people, marriage was expected and even required. There were good reasons for this:

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Learning the Wrong Lessons from War

How to draw the right lessons from war, and history, to make the right decisions now. 

Leaders generally know and follow more recent examples than distant ones. This makes sense since the technology and social mores of the near past resemble the present more than those of the distant past. However, taking the wrong lessons from the past can lead current decision makers astray. Further, the recent past is not always the best guide to present action.

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Good Friday

God transforms our hardest days, our “Good Fridays,” into the glorious victories of Easter. But He does so in His time and way, and we must trust Him.

“How was your day?” Nancy asked as I trudged in the door from work.

“Good,” I replied, with drawn face, slumped shoulders, and a shuffling gait.

Nancy frowned, “You look like it was awful.”

“No,” I said, “Every day above ground is a good day.”

“Mark, I am your wife. You need to tell me the truth – not just lies that you think that I want to hear.”

“Today was good, in the same way that Good Friday was good. Jesus died a horrific death, but God worked wondrous acts and eternal salvation from it,” I answered.

Nancy gave up the questions and followed me to the bedroom. I changed my clothes and laid on the bed where she gave me a back rub. Finally in a safe place with people who cared, the tension rolled out of my muscles. The gates to my heart, shut tight at work since I had to be, or at least appear to be, the perfect doctor and leader, cracked open. Soon Nancy brought love into my dark castle, and we began to heal.

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Coronavirus (COVID 19) in the environment

COVID-19 may persist longer in the environment than we realized. If so, the risk of infection is greater than we think

COVID-19, also known as the Wuhan virus or the coronavirus, fills the news of the world today. Universities all across America are canceling in-person instruction and chasing students out of their dorms. Municipalities and other organizations are canceling school trips and limiting large gatherings. The National Basketball Association has halted its season, cruise lines are stopping services, and stock markets are swooning around the world.

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