Letter Re: Media Misrepresentation of Guns and Gun Laws

Mr. Rawles,
 I read with interest the bit you wrote on the television show “Longmire.”  I, too, have found the show somewhat entertaining so have been following it the past few weeks.  Doing so recently I watched a bit that I thought you might find interesting.
During a recent episode Longmire is inspecting the body of a murder victim while talking about the victim with the owner of the property upon which the corpse was found.  Longmire notes that the property owner is wearing a holstered firearm, probably a 1911 or other semi-auto pistol, with some “angst.”  I use that word for a reason.  The look Longmire gives the property owner is one of “why do you think you should be wearing a firearm?”  The look, of course, sets up the response by the property owner that explains why she thinks that she needs a firearm.  But she also explains to the sheriff that “it’s all registered and all.”
Something didn’t sound right about that statement. First, that a Wyoming rancher and a Wyoming sheriff would give the idea of a holstered firearm even a one little bit of thought.  In my experience in the west, a firearm is a tool like a shovel or a pick.  Nothing at all to be concerned about.  Unless it comes out of the holster and ends up being pointed at you.  At which point you do likewise and point your own gun at the other guy.
Then there is the question of registration.  Again, in my experience it didn’t sound right,  Now, I’ve been to Wyoming a few times but, as a Wisconsin boy, I don’t get there that often.  So, to get the definitive answer on gun law in Wyoming I did what any other red-blooded American would do.  I turned to Wikipedia.
Wikipedia has lots of information about gun laws.  Some of it is even accurate,  This I’m pretty sure of: Nowhere in Wyoming is it necessary to “register” a gun.  It is no more necessary to register a gun in Wyoming than it is in Wisconsin.  Maybe New York.  Maybe California.  But not Wyoming.  In 2011 Wyoming became another state that has shown that it respects the Constitution of the United States by now not requiring any kind of permit at all for concealed carry.  But the state will gladly give you a permit for a modest fee if you want it. (So that you can carry it when you visit other states [with reciprocity agreements.)
I’m sure you will agree with me that there is an enormous amount of bad information about firearms in the popular media.  That includes both news and entertainment media.  The most egregious example, of course, is the magical handgun that never needs reloading.  In this case I think that the script writers brought their own ideas and/or prejudices to the table.  It’s likely that the screen writer is a resident of California or New York or some other state where citizen’s God given rights are abridged so they bring that bit of “knowledge” to their script.  They’re certainly not residents of Wyoming.  Maybe they’re Australians.

As Will Rogers once said: “The problem ain’t what people know. It’s what people know that ain’t so that’s the problem.”  Regards, – E.B.

JWR Replies: The root of the problem is that most script writers come out of leftist universities and are ignorant about both guns and gun laws. A few of their flubs get corrected on the set by the weapons wranglers just before filming, but many don’t. And the actors aren’t much help, because most of them aren’t genuine shooters, either. (There are a few exceptions but unfortunately the Tom Sellecks and Gerald McRaneys of the acting world are vastly outnumbered by actors who know very little about guns. Many horrible gaffes get filmed.)

In Longmire, the gun-handling is overall pretty decent. However, there is one thing makes me absolutely cringe: The leading man (“Walt Longmire”) carries a Colt M1911, which is designed to be carried “cocked and locked.” (Condition 1.) But he carries his hammer down, and at least twice we see him thumb cock the hammer while his pistol is holstered. This is an unsafe practice, because it implies that he carries the pistol hammer down on a live round. Unless you are at a shooting range with a safe backstop or you are standing before a specially-built clearing tube backstop, there is NO REALLY SAFE WAY to lower the hammer on a live round to put a M1911 in that condition. (Condition 2.) And if you do slip while lowering the hammer and the pistol fires and cycles, then the back of the slide might tear off your thumbnail and/or rip all of the skin off of the top of your thumb. (Ouch!)

Now I understand that seeing a cocked M1911 in Condition 1 makes some people nervous. (Although it shouldn’t.) But Condition 1 is the preferred carry mode. The only truly safe way to carry a M1911 or other single action semi-auto hammer down is with a full magazine but with an empty chamber. This is properly called Condition 3. But it is commonly called “Israeli Carry” , because it was popularized in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s. This carry mode is fairly fast but cumbersome, since you have to rack the slide to ready the piece for firing. Unless you do something fancy and rack the slide on your belt, web gear, or holster (which violates a muzzle safety rule, for most of us) this requires two hands, which isn’t always possible. (Such as as when one if your hands is holding another object, when you are grappling, or when you are injured.) So I DO NOT recommend Israeli Carry unless you live in some strange jurisdiction where you can carry a pistol but not one with a loaded chamber.

I also agree that the whole concept of a “registered gun” is absolutely foreign to folks in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. If you were to ask them if their guns were “registered”, they’d look at you like you were from Mars, unless you were talking about the small numbers of Federally-registered machineguns, short-barreled rifles (SBRs) or short-barreled shotguns (SBSes) in those states.

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