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September 19, 2004 - "Don't make any sudden moves!"

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"Don't make any sudden moves!"

World’s Laziest Journalist

September 19, 2004

By Bob Patterson


Can a sleepy four-year-old cutie in pajamas frighten and intimidate several healthy grown men?


Did we mention that, in her hands, she holds a .357 magnum revolver that’s loaded?


When a group of newspaper employees planned a Saturday evening of cards, one of the obstacles to be surmounted was the fact that one couple couldn’t find a baby sitter.  The suggestion that they bring along the child and tuck her into one of the bachelor’s beds so that she could snooze while the adults smoked and gambled (penny ante poker) seemed like the perfect solution to the problem.


That seemed to be a stroke of genius for the first half hour, until a little voice called out from the doorway of the bedroom: “Mommy!”  The adults turned to look and there she was awake and holding a revolver.  That’ll make you forget you’re holding a pair jacks and two tens.


Gay folks have gaydar.  Are kids are born with “gundar?”  The parents had watched her fall asleep and then the cards were dealt.  The one bachelor owned several guns and kept one in his nightstand fully loaded.  It was a .357 magnum revolver.  It had no “safety.”  How can a kid in an unfamiliar bedroom, find the gun that fast? 


The parents and host managed to defuse the explosive situation without a tragedy. 


Household hint:  If your roommate uses a fully loaded .357 magnum pistol to practice his fast draw skill (an empty gun handles differently so there is no use practicing with them); then using a poster of John Wayne in a gunslinger pose (complete with dual Colt Peacemakers) to cover unsightly bullet holes in the wall, might subtly make the point that you don’t want to verbalize.


Household hint #2:  If you have a small bullet hole in the wall and buying a gallon of paint to use to cover an area as big as a silver dollar might seem extravagant.  Try mixing food coloring with the spackling compound.  (Do they still sell food-coloring kits?).


Some gun enthusiasts who own more than one weapon will keep a loaded gun close by when they are cleaning one of the others ones.  The uninitiated (would that be a “gun geek?”) might ask: “Why?”  The answer is that the thought of the million to one chance that a burglar might break in and shoot you while you have a disassembled weapon on the table in front of you, is totally unacceptable.  Keeping a loaded gun handy while cleaning another is the only logical way to disarm that fear.


Recently NPR did a report on the recent lapse of the ban on assault weapons.


The reporter interviewed an expert.  The expert pointed out that a semi-automatic weapon fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled.  An automatic weapon, which can also be called “a machine-gun,” will fire continuously while the trigger (and the shooter?) is depressed.  What some listeners might have wanted to know is that some semi-automatic weapons can be modified to become automatic with a bit of home tinkering such as filing down one of the metal parts.  (Hearsay is inadmissible as evidence, your honor!  But, if you look closely, this is a column and not a courtroom.  If (according to the film “Outfoxed”) a news network uses the old “some people say” ploy, then why can’t a columnist?


The expert said that some folks like the feel of target shooting in the semi-automatic mode. 


Obviously if you want to empty a clip of 18 bullets at a target you can do it very quickly in semi-automatic or automatic mode.  Mathematically, the odds are that there will be more than one bulls-eye in the process.


Thing of it is, that if you want to display your marksmanship abilities, it’s more impressive if you use a slow methodical process where each shot is precise.  If, at 200 yards, you have a tight pattern where there is very little variation in the placement of the shot, it’s obvious, even to someone who has never fired a round, that you are good and perhaps showing off. 


[If I recall correctly, one of Steven Hunter’s books about a sniper says that 200 yards is the standard distance (two football fields) for adjusting a new scope sight.  Three shots that are within a circle with a three-inch radius is what a shooter would want if he were performing that particular chore.  Steven Hunter is a Pulitzer Prize winning film critic, who has written a series of novels about a former Marine sniper.  It’s best to start with Point of Impact.  If you read them all you’ll wind up knowing quite a bit about rifles, long distance target shooting, and the art of being a sniper.]


For folks in LA, jokes that the Olympic games will sanction “drive by shootings” as a future event are a bit crass and tasteless because often in a drive-by shooting it is the bystanders who get hit.  Horror stories about such innocent victims are a staple of Southern California journalism.  It brings to mind, the old TV news axiom: If it bleeds; it leads.  How far is it from a car to the sidewalk?


If the reader isn’t very familiar with guns, then a target that’s two football fields away must be impressive.  So how do the guys who are really good at it compete?


How about putting the targets 2,000 yards away?  That’s more than a mile away.  That’s twenty consecutive football fields away.  Just getting the bullet to the target would be an accomplishment.  The Barrett .50 caliber rifle would be a good selection to use in such a competition.  They cost in the $8,000 range.


In the movie “Traffic” the sniper uses a standing “off hand” position.  The shooter doesn’t do very well.  Wouldn’t a real sniper use a table with some support for the rifle (such as sand-filled bags) and be able to ask if the client wanted the victim to be hit in the right or the left eye?  “Search the nearby buildings!”  How long is it going to take them to get around to the windows that are 1,000 yards away?  Fifteen or twenty minutes would give the shooter time to call a taxi (Moi, sarcastic?) and depart the area, wouldn’t it?


Finding a place to hold such a long distance competition might be a bit of challenge in a populated area such as Los Angeles County.  Where’s the nearest desert?  Hello, Mojave Jack, mind if the boys come over next Saturday and use your back yard for some target shooting?  (Google “sniper competition.”  When a member of the Just Above Sunset (JAS) Factchecker Team did that, there were 2,320 URL’s suggested.)


Can you imagine if one of these rifles fell into the hands of some unscrupulous types?


“Heck, officer, I’ve got a great alibi; I was more than a mile away, at the time.”


In the fall of 2001, the New York Times did a story about how powerful a .50 caliber bullet is.  After reading that story, the image of folks hiding behind a car as a safety barrier was all shot to pieces.  The story gave the impression that you might as well use a sheet of typing paper to protect yourself from a pistol shot.  The story also reported that previously, a certain percentage of the year’s total production from one particular gun manufacturer had been purchased by a group of enthusiasts in Afghanistan.  What was the name?  Al Kater or something like that.


At this point, the official JAS fact checker for this column says the columnist has to cite the story specifically.  Provide the date of publication, the page number, and the name of the writer.  Dang!  It may take more time than usual to write this week’s column, if we have to look up all that information.


The story, written by James Dao, ran in the New York Times Sunday October 7, 2001, on page B-3.  The story was contained in the “A Nation Challenged” section.  The “A Nation Challenged” was a special section that ran in the New York Times daily in the fall of 2001.


(Ya never know maybe the folks at Campaign Desk or FactCheck.org might just happen to be reading this week’s column.  OK, we’ll try to play by official factchecker rules this week.)


Usually, at the end of each column, we try to include a relevant quote.  We’ve got our copy of Harry Haun’s The Movie Quote Book.  Gimme your best Clint Eastwood impression as we read it:  "I know what your thinking.  Did he fire six shots or only five?  Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I’ve kinda lost track myself.  But being this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off – you’ve got to ask yourself one question:  ‘do I feel lucky?’  Well, do ya, punk?"


Now, if the disk jockey will play the Beatles song Happiness is a Warm Gun, we’ll shoot out of here.  Come back again next week if, as Mae West would say, you’re going to be glad to see us arrive with a new column.  Until then, have an armed and dangerous week.






Copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson


We asked veteran journalist Bob Patterson for a bio and he sent this along: 


Bob was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania.


Graduated from the University of Scranton in . . . make that "way back when."


He has worked as a reporter and photographer for daily newspapers in California, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.  During the "way back when" phase of his life.


Did photo stringing for the AP’s Los Angeles bureau in the seventies.


Has done some freelance work.


Held other jobs to pay the rent and provide meals money.


Has written book and movie reviews, and columns for Delusions of Adequacy online magazine for the last four years.


Recently the DOA management reportedly traded him to the Just Above Sunset online magazine team for an undisclosed sum and two future draft choices.


He is known to be in the LA area and is considered dangerous.  If you see him, call for backup before attempting to get his autograph or some such fanboy nonsense. 


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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