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Armed Churchgoer stops rampage shooting- Aurora, Colorado

Armed Churchgoer stops rampage shooting- Aurora, Colorado

Two Aurora Shootings: One Widely Known; the Other Ignored
Written by Bob Adelmann

On April 22 of this year a convicted felon, just out of jail, went to an Aurora, Colorado, church and shot and killed a member of the congregation before being killed himself by a congregant carrying a gun.

On July 20, following the horrific shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, President Obama offered his condolences to the victims of the more recent tragedy. “Our time here [on Earth] is limited and it is precious,” the president said. “And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things which so often consume us and our daily lives. It’s about how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.”

Obama then led his supporters at a rally in Fort Myers, Florida, in a moment of silent prayer “for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.”

No doubt the president was unaware of the other, less-publicized lethal shooting that took place earlier in the year in Aurora, when there was only one victim, thanks to the quick thinking and action of a responsibly armed individual. Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania asked rhetorically: “Who knows what would’ve happened if the [church member, an off-duty police officer] had not been there? It certainly could have been a lot worse.”

How much worse? Could the killing spree have been as bad as the shooting at the movie theater, where a dozen victims lost their lives? Thankfully, we’ll never know.

The killer in the April shooting was 29-year-old Kiarron Parker, who had just been released from prison. He had been convicted for assaulting two police officers, drug abuse, and breaking and entering. The details are here and here. But the point is clear: Because the perpetrator was able to claim only one life before being killed himself by someone carrying a gun and acting in self-defense, it garnered relatively little publicity.

In contrast, by now there may hardly be a single sentient soul in the country who doesn’t yet know what happened on Friday, July 20 at about 12:38 a.m., when James Egan Holmes opened fire on a theater full of people attending the premier of the latest Batman movie, killing 12 individuals and wounding at least another 50.

If we’ve paid attention to the mega publicity the horrific July 20 tragedy has garnered, we know that Holmes entered the theater, bought a ticket, and sat in the front row. We know that about 10 minutes into the movie, he left the theater through the emergency door at the front of the theater, returning a few minutes later. We know that he was dressed up in SWAT gear, including chest protector, leg protectors, a black helmet, and black tactical gloves. We also know that he was wearing a gas mask and carrying two handguns, a shotgun — and what the media inaccurately, and relentlessly, referred to as an “assault rifle.” (The latter weapon was a semi-automatic rifle.)

We know that upon re-entering the theater through the same emergency door, Holmes threw two canisters of tear gas, striking one patron in the head. When both exploded, many patrons sat still, thinking that it was part of the Batman movie, with special effects.

We know that when he first fired his shotgun into the air, only then did the moviegoers realize that something was terribly wrong and start running for the exits. We know that the perp then turned his weapons on the hapless patrons and fired, round after round, pausing to reload when he ran out of ammunition, until 12 of moviegoers were dead or dying, and another 50 were wounded, some severely.

We know that Holmes’ car was parked outside the emergency exit. We know that he was arrested next to his vehicle without incident. We know that Holmes has no criminal record, save for a single speeding ticket.

But how many Americans know about the earlier shooting at an Aurora church? How many people in Colorado — or in Aurora for that matter — even know? I live in eastern Colorado, only about 70 miles from Aurora, yet I did not find out about the church shooting until I started doing research on the movie-theater shooting.

The little-known Aurora-church shooting illustrates how a tragedy (in this instance, the loss of one innocent life) can be prevented from becoming a much worse tragedy because one of the would-be victims was armed. The widely known movie-theater shooting illustrates the horrendous loss of life that can occur when the intended victims are not only defenseless but known by the perpetrator to be defenseless. Because movie theater was a “gun free” zone, it was an easy target for any madman wanting to prey on victims lacking the ability to fight back.

Anti-gun zealots, however, ignore how the absence of guns in the hands of the law-abiding encourages more crime, and in the Aurora movie-theater shooting they’ve found an opportunity to promote their agenda and have already seized it. For example, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, was quick to opine:

This tragedy is another grim reminder that guns are the enablers of mass killers and that our nation pays an unacceptable price for our failure to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people….

We are outraged….

We don’t want sympathy. We want action!

And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, virtually parroting Gross, claimed, “This is yet another horrific reminder that guns enable mass killings.” He went on to say:

Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.

This was just too much for Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, who countered:

The blatant attempt by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to use the blood of these innocents to advance his radical political agenda is disgusting. Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign succeeded in disarming not just these movie-goers [in Aurora], but has created millions of gun-free “criminal-safe zones” across the country.

The victims of this heinous act will not be comforted by being exploited for political gain by elected officials, especially [by] the mayor of one of the most violent cities in the country.

In an interview with The New American, Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, called such claims by the anti-gun zealots “not just hypocrisy but duplicity.” The victims in the movie theater were like “fish in a barrel” to the perpetrator because they were disarmed, thanks to the anti-gun agenda.

The contrast between the two Aurora shootings couldn’t be more striking. In the first, a potential holocaust was prevented by an armed citizen taking action. In the second, the perpetrator was free to act out his evil intent on unarmed innocents, knowing that none could return fire. The world knows about the Aurora movie-theater shooting; the world also need to know about the Aurora church shooting.

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Mystery company buying up U.S. gun manufacturers

Mystery company buying up U.S. gun manufacturers

Natasha Singer

Lined up in a gun rack beneath mounted deer heads is a Bushmaster Carbon 15, a matte-black semiautomatic rifle that looks as if it belongs to a SWAT team. On another rack rests a Teflon-coated Prairie Panther from DPMS Firearms, a supplier to the U.S. Border Patrol and security agencies in Iraq. On a third is a Remington 750 Woodsmaster, a popular hunting rifle.

The variety of rifles and shotguns on sale here at Cabela’s, the national sporting goods chain, is a testament to America’s enduring gun culture. But, to a surprising degree, it is also a testament to something else: Wall Street deal-making.

In recent years, many top-selling brands – including the 195-year-old Remington Arms, as well as Bushmaster Firearms and DPMS, leading makers of military-style semiautomatics – have quietly passed into the hands of a single private company. It is called the Freedom Group – and it is the most powerful and mysterious force in the U.S. commercial gun industry today.

Never heard of it?

You’re not alone. Even within gun circles, the Freedom Group is something of an enigma. Its rise has been so swift that it has become the subject of wild speculation and grassy-knoll conspiracy theories. In the realm of consumer rifles and shotguns – long guns, in the trade – it is unrivaled in its size and reach. By its own count, the Freedom Group sold 1.2 million long guns and 2.6 billion rounds of ammunition in the 12 months ended March 2010, the most recent year for which figures are publicly available.

Behind this giant is Cerberus Capital Management, the private investment company that first came to widespread attention when it acquired Chrysler in 2007. (Chrysler later had to be rescued by taxpayers). With far less fanfare, Cerberus, through the Freedom Group, has been buying big names in guns and ammo.

From its headquarters in Manhattan, Cerberus has assembled a remarkable arsenal. It began with Bushmaster, which until recently was based here in Maine. Unlike military counterparts like automatic M-16s, rifles like those from Bushmaster don’t spray bullets with one trigger pull. But, with gas-powered mechanisms, semiautomatics can fire rapid follow-up shots as fast as the trigger can be squeezed. They are often called “black guns” because of their color. The police tied a Bushmaster XM15 rifle to shootings in the Washington sniper case in 2002.

After Bushmaster, the Freedom Group moved in on Remington, which traces its history to the days of flintlocks and today is supplying M24 sniper rifles to the government of Afghanistan and making handguns for the first time in decades. The group has also acquired Marlin Firearms, which turned out a special model for Annie Oakley, as well as Dakota Arms, a maker of high-end big-game rifles. It has bought DPMS Firearms, another maker of semiautomatic, military-style rifles, as well as manufacturers of ammunition and tactical clothing.

“We believe our scale and product breadth are unmatched within the industry,” the Freedom Group said in a filing last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Some gun enthusiasts have claimed that the power behind the company is actually George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire and liberal activist. Soros, these people have warned, is buying U.S. gun companies so he can dismantle the industry, Second Amendment be damned.

The chatter grew so loud that the National Rifle Association issued a statement in October denying the rumors.

“NRA has had contact with officials from Cerberus and Freedom Group for some time,” the NRA assured its members. “The owners and investors involved are strong supporters of the Second Amendment and are avid hunters and shooters.”

Soros isn’t behind the Freedom Group, but, ultimately, another financier is: Stephen Feinberg, the chief executive of Cerberus.

Cerberus is part of one of the signature Wall Street businesses of the past decade: private equity. Buyout kings like Feinberg, 51, try to acquire undervalued companies, often with borrowed money, fix them up and either take them public or sell at a profit to someone else.

Before the financial crisis of 2008, scores of well-known U.S. companies, from Chrysler down, passed into the hands of private-equity firms. For the financiers, the rewards were often enormous. But some companies that they acquired later ran into trouble, in part because they were burdened with debt from the takeovers.

Feinberg, a Princeton graduate who began his Wall Street career at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the junk bond powerhouse of Michael Milken fame, got into private equity in 1992. That year, he and William Richter founded Cerberus, which takes its name from the three-headed dog in Greek mythology that guards the gates of Hades.

Today, Feinberg presides over a private empire that rivals some of the mightiest public companies in the land. Cerberus manages more than $20 billion in capital. Together, the companies it owns generate annual revenue of about $40 billion – more than either Amazon or Coca-Cola last year.

Why Cerberus went after gun companies isn’t clear. Many private investment firms shy away from such industries to avoid scaring off big investors like pension funds.

Yet, in many ways, the move is classic Cerberus. Feinberg has a history of investing in companies that other people may not want, but that Cerberus believes it can turn around. When Cerberus embarked on its acquisition spree in guns, it essentially had the field to itself.

“There’s much less competition for buying these companies,”
says Steven N. Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a private equity expert. “They must have decided there is an opportunity to make money by investing in the firearms industry and trying to build a big company.”

Whatever the reason, Cerberus, through the Freedom Group, is now a major player.

It has sold weapons to the governments of Afghanistan, Thailand, Mexico and Malaysia, among others, and obtained new business from the U.S. Army, including a contract worth up to $28.2 million to upgrade the M24 sniper weapon system.

Cerberus brings connections to the table. The longtime chairman of its global investments group is Dan Quayle, the former vice president. The Freedom Group, meantime, has added two retired generals to its board. One is George Joulwan, who retired from the Army after serving as Supreme Allied Commander of Europe. The other is Michael Hagee, formerly commandant of the Marine Corps.

Jessica Kallam, a spokeswoman at the Freedom Group, said executives there declined to comment for this article. Timothy Price, a managing director of Cerberus, also declined to comment.

The old Bushmaster factory in Windham, Maine, doesn’t look like much. With a facade of brick and gray aluminum siding, it squats in an unassuming office park on the Roosevelt Trail.

But Cerberus representatives who arrived here in 2005 clearly saw potential. Inside, several dozen gunsmiths, working by hand, were fitting together 6,000 to 7,000 weapons a month. At the time, Bushmaster was thriving, although it had been stung by bad publicity stemming from the Beltway sniper shootings. (In a 2004 settlement with victims of the shootings and their families, Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply, the store where the gun was acquired, agreed to pay $2 million, and Bushmaster agreed to pay $568,000, but they did not admit liability.)

Richard Dyke, then the principal owner and chairman of Bushmaster, welcomed the visitors from New York. A blunt-spoken Korean War veteran and Republican fundraiser, he had made a fortune himself by buying companies in trouble, including one that made poker chips. In 1976, he bought a bankrupt gun-maker in Bangor, Maine, for $241,000, moved it to Windham and later changed its name to Bushmaster. The company that Dyke bought had patents on semiautomatic weapons designed for the military and police. But he was drawn to the nascent market in military-style firearms for civilians. He saw as his customers precision target shooters, including current and former military personnel, police officers and, well, military wannabes, he says.

A Bushmaster Carbon 15 .223 semiautomatic is about 3 feet long. But, weighing in at just under 6 pounds, it is surprisingly easy to maneuver, even for a novice. It doesn’t have to be recocked after it’s fired: You just squeeze the trigger over and over.

“At 25 meters, if you are a decent shot,”
Dyke says, “you can put it into a bull’s-eye that is the size of a quarter.

The Bushmaster brand began to grow in the 1980s after the company started supplying its semiautomatics to police departments. It won a much larger consumer following in the 1990s, after it landed several small military contracts.

Bushmaster was among the first to sell ordinary people on weapons that look and feel like the ones carried by soldiers. Today many gunmakers have embraced military-style weapons, a major but controversial source of growth for the commercial gun market, says Tom Diaz, a senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, a research group that backs gun control.

“It’s clear that the militarized stuff is the stuff that sells and is defining the industry,”
Diaz says.

Dyke says he’s not sure why Bushmaster caught the eye of Cerberus. Whatever the case, when Cerberus came calling, Dyke, then past 70, was ready to sell. At the time, Bushmaster had $85 million in annual sales and several million dollars in debt, he says. In April 2006, he sold the company to Cerberus for about $76 million, he says, and Cerberus rented the Bushmaster plant here for five years.

The next year, Cerberus formed the Freedom Group.

Now Bushmaster is gone from Maine. Earlier this year, Dyke says, the Freedom Group notified him it was closing Bushmaster’s operation in the state and moving it to a bigger plant owned by Remington, a typical consolidation play for a private investment firm looking to cut costs and increase efficiency. Remington, for its part, announced earlier this year that it was expanding its manufacturing capacity and hiring new employees to make Bushmasters.

Several months ago, Dyke started a new company, Windham Weaponry, at the old Bushmaster site and has rehired most of his former employees. But he’s not planning to go head-to-head with the Freedom Group.

“It’s the big gorilla in the room,
” he says, adding: “We don’t have to do $100 million. We’d have hopes of doing $20 million.”

Remington has been producing guns since 1816, when, according to lore, a young man named Eliphalet Remington made a flintlock rifle in his father’s forge in Ilion Gulch, in upstate New York. By the 1870s, the brand was so popular that the company diversified into typewriters. In 2007, the Freedom Group swooped in and bought Remington for $370 million, including $252 million in assumed debt. In one stroke, the Freedom Group gained one of the most famous names in U.S. firearms, the largest domestic maker of shotguns and rifles and a major manufacturer of ammunition.

“That caused a lot of stir in the industry,” says Dean J. Lockwood, a weapons systems analyst at Forecast International, a market research firm.

Next, the Freedom Group in rapid succession went after other firearms companies: DPMS; Marlin Firearms, a classic maker that came with two niche shotgun brands, Harrington & Richardson and L.C. Smith; and Dakota Arms. The Freedom Group also bought S&K industries, which supplies wood and laminate for gun stocks, as well as the Advanced Armament Corp., which makes silencers. It acquired Barnes Bullets, which makes copper-jacketed bullets popular with precision shooters and police departments.

The more the company diversifies its portfolio, analysts say, the more it has to offer to firearms distributors and leading retailers like Wal-Mart and Cabela’s.

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Dog shoots man

Dog shoots man

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By Pat Reavy

It wasn’t his dog’s bark or bite that had a Brigham City man concerned, it was his aim.

A man was recovering Wednesday after being shot over the weekend by his dog.

A 46-year-old Brigham City man and a friend were duck hunting Sunday about 8:30 a.m. on the north end of the Great Salt Lake near the bird refuge, about 10 miles west of Brigham City.

The two had their canoe-like boat in a shallow marsh area when the man got out of the boat to either set up or collect decoys. He laid his 12-gauge shotgun across the bow of the boat, said Box Elder County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Kevin Potter.

“(The dog) did something to make the gun discharge. I don’t know if the safety device was on. It’s not impossible the dog could have taken it off safety.

–Deputy Kevin Potter

After the man got out of the boat, a dog inside the vessel jumped up on the bow and stepped on the gun. The gun fired and shot the man in the buttocks.

Medical crews later removed 27 pellets of birdshot.

“(The dog) did something to make the gun discharge,” Potter said. “I don’t know if the safety device was on. It’s not impossible the dog could have taken it off safety.”

The men called 911 and walked to the main road to wait for emergency crews. The fact the man was wearing waders likely helped prevent a more serious injury, Potter said. The gun was fired from approximately 10 feet away, he said.

Potter did not have information on the type of dog that stepped on the shotgun.

Even though the two were duck hunting near a bird refuge, Potter said it was legal.

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Florida Stands on the side of the Second Amendment

Florida Forces Towns to Pull Local Laws Limiting Guns
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ

MIAMI — The signs — “No Guns Allowed” — are being stripped from many Florida government buildings, libraries and airports. And local ordinances that bar people from shooting weapons in their yards, firing up into the air (think New Year’s Eve) or taking guns into parks are coming off the books.

The state has spoken, again, on the matter of guns, and this time it does not want to be ignored: since 1987, local governments in Florida have been banned from creating and enforcing their own gun ordinances. Few cities and counties paid attention, though, believing that places like Miami might need to be more restrictive than others, like rural Apalachicola, for example.

But this year the Legislature passed a new law that imposes fines on counties and municipalities that do not do away with and stop enforcing their own firearms and ammunition ordinances by Oct. 1. Mayors and council and commission members will risk a $5,000 fine and removal from office if they “knowingly and willfully violate” the law. Towns that enforce their ordinances risk a $100,000 fine.

To comply with the law, cities and counties are poring over their gun ordinances, repealing laws and removing gun-related signs. In Palm Beach County, that means removing ordinances that bar people from taking guns into county government buildings and local parks and from firing guns in some of its most urban areas. In Groveland, that means they can now fire their guns into the air to celebrate. And in Lake County, firearms will soon be allowed in libraries.

“Now you can have a shooting gallery in your backyard,
” said Shelley Vana, a Palm Beach County commissioner. “We are really urban areas here. I come from a rural area in Pennsylvania. I understand that guns are appropriate in a lot of places with no problems. But in an urban area, it’s different.”

State lawmakers who supported the bill, which was backed by the National Rifle Association, said local governments were overreacting, particularly since the original law that pre-empted local gun ordinances was passed in 1987.

“The notion that a city ordinance stops violence is patently absurd,
” said State Representative Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who sponsored the bill. “People lawfully carrying weapons with permits are rarely part of the problem.”

The law seeks to protect licensed gun owners who travel from county to county and may not be familiar with the patchwork of rules that dictate where they can carry and shoot a gun.

Florida gun laws are broader than local ordinances. They restrict guns, for example, at legislative and city council meetings but not inside the buildings themselves. They permit target shooting under “safe” conditions and in “safe” places, and they make it illegal to display a firearm in a rude or threatening manner, unless it is in self-defense. Floridians also cannot knowingly fire a gun in a public place, in an occupied building or on a paved street. But those who support stronger laws said words like “knowingly” and “safe” often make enforcement difficult.

Local gun ordinances first galvanized gun rights advocates in 2000 when South Miami passed an ordinance that required trigger locks for guns while stored. The National Rifle Association took the town to court, and the town lost. But counties and cities across Florida continued to vote on or enforce their own gun ordinances.

“The bill provides a remedy, if somebody chooses to be irrationally stubborn,”
Mr. Gaetz said.

Some cities and counties, though, say they will lobby for a change so they can have more flexibility. Officials say that none of their ordinances violate the Second Amendment; they just give them added power to tamp down crime.

“It’s a disregard for public safety,”
said Shirley Gibson, the mayor of Miami Gardens, where signs prohibiting guns in parks were taken down. “It’s not a good message to send.”

Kraig Conn, the legislative counsel for the Florida League of Cities, said fining individual mayors and council members for their legislative actions sets a “horrible precedent.” Lawmakers hold immunity that protects them from liability in civil lawsuits for duties they perform. “It pierces legislative immunity,” he said. “This is part of our common law system.”

It also runs counter to the Republican principle that local control is best.

In a state of 18 million people, with rural and urban areas adjacent to one another, “the State Legislature doesn’t know where it makes sense to restrict guns,” Mr. Conn said.

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