Crimson Trace

July 11, 2018

Editorís Notebook: Facts and Opinions

This is a reprint from our companion service, The Tactical Wire, run earlier this year.

Shouldn't there be a law against minors buying ammunition? Well, there has been for the last 50 years.


I was just treated to a discussion about the need for civil discourse in this era of divisiveness in interpersonal contacts. Much of this divisiveness is generated by the “OJ Simpson Trial-Style” of so-called journalism in the 24 hour news cycle and the loss of single viewpoint advocacy “news.” Some of it is courtesy of (anti-)social media, at once a blessing and a bane. Keyboard warriors hiding behind their internet connections say things to people they’d never say face-to-face . . . assuming they ever get out of mom’s basement.

The first case was from a gent who, if you can believe it, is even older than I. He began a conversation with me as he waited to check out at the gun counter of a national chain store. He mentioned the current supply of ammunition – far better than it had been under the previous regime – and noted that “we need a law to keep youngsters from getting ammo to stop some of this nonsense with shootings and all.”

I wasn’t sure I’d heard him and asked him to say it again. He did.

Now, if you’re around sixty – let alone more – you should know about a little thing called GCA ’68. I asked him if he’d ever heard of it.

He didn’t know what I was referring to. Talk about being late to the game, he was passed it at around age 80.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 forbade the selling of ammunition to persons less than 18 years of age, unless it was ammo that could be used in a handgun. You had to be 21 to buy handgun ammo – even 22 Long Rifle.

I was recently asked by a big box store clerk if the 22 ammo I was buying was for use in a handgun or a rifle. I asked why he needed to know. He wasn’t sure, it was just something necessary to note on the cash register.

I know of all this because at age 18, stationed at Ft Benning, Georgia, I wanted to buy a box of 357 Magnum ammunition. I couldn’t. While I could be drafted or enlist in the Armed Forces of the United States and potentially use the power of the Armed Forces – air, naval, artillery assets – I couldn’t buy a box of revolver ammo. The government of the United States figured I was old enough to die for my country but not old enough to buy a box of Federal 158 grain jacketed soft-point ammo for a wheel gun.

Smart gun laws written by smart legislators and part of the reason the country got to the shape it was in.

So the law this worthy gentleman thought we should have we’ve had for nearly fifty years.

Has it made your life better? Has it prevented one single crime? Anywhere?

After the trip to SHOT Show, I got into a conversation where I was asked about the wisdom of retreating from your home in the event of a home invasion. I responded that retreat wasn’t necessary from your residence but that I was unaware of a law against retreat – the question is can the retreat be safely accomplished.

Well, he said, the most common advice being given to gun owners was that one should practice “avoidance and escape” as opposed to armed response.

Okay, in context.

I’m no lawyer, never have been. I don’t practice law and I don’t teach law. I have an understanding of law from the perspective of a gatekeeper to the criminal justice system. From that standpoint, I understand the castle doctrine concept.

Drawn from the English Common Law, the castle doctrine said that threatened in one’s residence, there is no duty to retreat.

No duty to retreat – imposed by law. Is retreat ever appropriate? Consider the case of a “violent and tumultuously entry into an occupied residence” perpetrated by a drunk who went to the wrong house. Or a large person who’s mentally challenged, still perhaps dangerous, but who lacks the ability to intend harm.

Still, the general rule is that retreat is not a legal duty when faced with deadly threat inside one’s home. The practical rule is that retreat shouldn’t be required when it can’t be safely accomplished.

As to the poorly named and misunderstood statutes regarding no legal duty to retreat from deadly threat in a public location where you have a legal right to be – so-called ‘stand your ground’ laws – if retreat is safely possible, what does it cost you to do so? If you can avoid the use of deadly force in self-defense, why not?

Going out looking for trouble just means you’re going to find it. If you hear the noise in the middle of the night, going to check it can be fraught with danger. In any event, firing a gunshot at a sound or an unidentified figure in the dark – the advice of a former Vice President of the U.S. notwithstanding – is a bad plan. Control light and use your voice. Listen for the response; it could be someone who belongs there.

And if you disagree with someone, be calm. There’s no need for anger and hate just because you’re on different sides of an issue. And if your antagonist can’t control his temper, simply disengage. When mouths are open, ears – and minds – are shut.

Don’t waste your time.

- - Rich Grassi