Notes of American History

Grunk

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A long post again. And this one is pretty dry, but, given the times we're in right now, I think this is a critical reminder of how screwed up our lives can get.

September 13, 1994
A date which should live on in gun rights infamy. That was the date that President Clinton put pen to paper & signed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (aka the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), a subsection of the Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act into law.

In 1989, the George H. W. Bush administration had banned the importation of foreign-made, semiautomatic rifles deemed not to have "a legitimate sporting use." It did not affect similar but domestically-manufactured rifles. (The Gun Control Act of 1968 gives discretion to the Attorney General of the US to choose whether to "authorize a firearm or ammunition to be imported or brought into the US," under what is known as "the sporting purposes test.") Following the enactment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the ATF determined that "certain semiautomatic assault rifles could no longer be imported even though they were permitted to be imported under the 1989 'sporting purposes test' because they had been modified to remove all of their military features other than the ability to accept a detachable magazine" & so in April 1998, it "prohibited the importation of 56 such rifles, determining that they did not meet the 'sporting purposes test.'"

Under the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, the definition of "assault weapon" included specific semi-automatic firearm models by name, and other semi-automatic firearms that possessed 2 or more from a set certain features:

Folding or telescoping stock
Pistol grip
Bayonet mount
Flash hider or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
Grenade launcher

Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines & 2 or more of the following:
Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor
Barrel shroud safety feature that prevents burns to the operator
Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more
A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.

Semi-automatic shotguns with 2 or more of the following:
Folding or telescoping stock
Pistol grip
Detachable magazine.

The law also categorically banned the following makes and models of semi-automatic firearms and any copies or duplicates of them, in any caliber:

Name of firearmPreban federal legal status
Norinco, Mitchell, & Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (AKs) (all models)Imports banned in 1989*
Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI & GalilImports banned in 1989*
Beretta AR-70 (SC-70)Imports banned in 1989*
Colt AR-15Legal
Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN-LAR, FNCImports banned in 1989*
SWD (MAC type) M-10, M-11, M11/9, M12Legal
Steyr AUGImports banned in 1989*
INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9, TEC-22Legal
Revolving cylinder shotguns such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper & Striker 12Legal

The Act included a number of exemptions and exclusions from its prohibitions:
  • The Act included a "grandfather clause" to allow for possession and transfer of weapons & ammunition that "were otherwise lawfully possessed on the date of enactment."
  • The Act exempted some 650 firearm types or models (including their copies & duplicates) which would be considered manufactured in Oct. 1993. The list included the Ruger Mini-14 Auto Loading Rifle without side folding stock, Ruger Mini Thirty Rifle, Iver Johnson M-1 Carbine, Marlin Model 9 Camp Carbine, Marlin Model 45 Carbine, and others. The complete list is in section 110106, Appendix A to section 922 of Title 18. This list was non-exhaustive.
  • The Act "also exempted any firearm that (1) is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action; (2) has been rendered permanently inoperable; or (3) is an antique firearm."[12]
  • The Act "also did not apply to any semiautomatic rifle that cannot accept a detachable magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition or semiautomatic shotguns that cannot hold more than 5 rounds of ammunition in a fixed or detachable magazine." Tubular magazine fed rimfire guns were exempted regardless of tubular magazine capacity.
  • The Act provided an exemption for the use of "semiautomatic assault weapons & LCAFDs to be manufactured for, transferred to, & possessed by law enforcement and for authorized testing or experimentation purposes" as well as transfers for federal-security purposes under the Atomic Energy Act & "possession by retired law enforcement officers who are not otherwise a prohibited possessor under law."
The Act also prohibited the manufacture of "large capacity ammunition feeding devices" (LCAFDs) except for sale to government, law enforcement or military, though magazines made before the effective date ("pre-ban" magazines) were legal to possess & transfer. An LCAFD was defined as "any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device manufactured after the date [of the act] that has the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition".

In Nov. 1993, the proposed legislation passed the US Senate. The bill's author, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) & other advocates said that it was a weakened version of the original proposal. In May 1994, former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, & Ronald Reagan, wrote to the US House of Representatives in support of banning "semi-automatic assault guns". They cited a 1993 CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll that found 77% of Americans supported a ban on the manufacture, sale, & possession of such weapons. US Representative Jack Brooks (D-TX), then chair of the House Judiciary Committee, tried unsuccessfully to remove the assault weapons ban section from the crime bill. The NRA opposed the ban. In Nov. 1993, NRA spokesman Bill McIntyre said that assault weapons "are used in only 1% of all crimes". The low usage statistic was supported in a 1999 Department of Justice brief. The legislation passed in Sept. 1994 with the assault weapon ban section expiring in 2004 due to its sunset provision.

Studies have shown the ban has had little effect in overall criminal activity & firearm homicides. A 2014 study found no impacts on homicide rates with an assault weapon ban. A 2014 book published by Oxford University Press noted that "There is no compelling evidence that [the ban] saved lives". Another 2017 review found that the ban did not have a significant effect on firearm homicides. The assault weapons ban expired on Sept. 13, 2004. Legislation to renew or replace the ban was proposed numerous times unsuccessfully.

Between May 2003 & June 2008, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, & Reps. Michael Castle, R-DE, Alcee Hastings, D-FL, & Mark Kirk, R-IL, introduced bills to reauthorize the ban. At the same time, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, & Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, introduced similar bills to create a new ban with a revised definition for assault weapons. None of the bills left committee. After the Nov. 2008 election, the website of President-elect Barack Obama listed a detailed agenda for the forthcoming administration. The stated positions included "making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent." 3 months later, newly sworn-in Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated the Obama administration's desire to reinstate the ban. The mention came in response to a question during a joint press conference with DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, discussing efforts to crack down on Mexican drug cartels. AG Holder said that "there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons." Efforts to pass a new federal assault weapons ban were made in Dec. 2012 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in Newtown, CT. On Jan. 24, 2013, Sen. Feinstein introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. The bill was similar to the 1994 ban, but differed in that it would not expire after 10 years, & it used a 1-feature test for a firearm to qualify as an assault weapon rather than the 2-feature test of the defunct ban. On March 14, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a version of the bill along party lines. On April 17, 2013, AWB 2013 failed on a Senate vote of 40 to 60.
 

Hayata

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How lucky were we that the original AWB had a sunset clause! How did it get in there in the first place?
 
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Grunk

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How lucky were we that the original AWB had a sunset clause! How did it get in there in the first place?
What follows is my opinion. I have never found any hard and fast statement on which lawmakers pushed or fought the sunset provision.

Largely as a "compromise" to get it passed. Members of Congress from districts with large numbers of gun owners could say something like, "We're going to give this a try and see if it works. If it doesn't, we'll let it expire." It was also at a time when the Democratic party had held the House for 40 years. (Republicans took the House in the election that November. Pundits gave credit to Gingrich & The Contract for America, but I personally think the AWB had a lot to do with it.) In addition to having held the house for so long, after Clinton won in 1992 academics and the media were writing all kinds of crap about 'the permanent Democratic majority' as the minority groups made up more & more of the population and young voters got more energized. Operating off those assumptions, a lot of Dems thought the sunset provision was no big deal because they would be in an even stronger political position by 2004. In reality, all those assumptions blew up in less than 2 months.
 

Grunk

Hard to be an Outlaw that ain't Wanted anymore
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September 14, 1814
Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music & in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone US flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

Francis Scott Key was born on Aug. 1, 1779, at Terra Rubra, his family’s estate in Frederick County (now Carroll County), MD. He became a successful lawyer in Maryland & Washington, DC, & was later appointed US attorney for the District of Columbia. On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of trade disagreements. In Aug. 1814, British troops invaded Washington, DC, & burned the White House, Capitol Building & Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore. After one of Key’s friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held & negotiated his release. However, Key & Beanes weren’t allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about 8 miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort & gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry & quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.

The poem was printed in newspapers & eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven” by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as “The Star-Spangled Banner” & in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931. Francis Scott Key died of pleurisy on January 11, 1843.
5427454275



September 14, 1847
During the Mexican-American War, US forces under Gen. Winfield Scott enter Mexico City & raise the American flag over the Hall of Montezuma, concluding a devastating advance that began with an amphibious landing at Vera Cruz 6 months earlier. The Mexican-American War began with a dispute over the US government’s 1845 annexation of Texas. In Jan. 1846, President James K. Polk, a strong advocate of westward expansion, ordered Gen. Zachary Taylor to occupy disputed territory between the Nueces & Rio Grande Rivers. Mexican troops attacked Taylor’s forces, & on May 13, 1846, Congress approved a declaration of war against Mexico.

On March 9, 1847, US forces under Gen. Winfield Scott invaded Mexico 3 miles south of Vera Cruz. They encountered little resistance from the Mexicans massed in the fortified city of Vera Cruz, & by nightfall the last of Scott’s 10,000 men came ashore without the loss of a single life. It was the largest amphibious landing in US history & not surpassed until World War II. By March 29, with very few casualties, Scott’s forces had taken Vera Cruz & its massive fortress, San Juan de Ulua. On Sept. 14, Scott’s forces reached the Mexican capital.

Along with future presidents Zachary Taylor & Franklin Pierce, the US force in Mexico included many officers who later made their name on the battlefields of the Civil War. Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant, George Meade & George McClellan all served, as did many of their Confederate adversaries such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson & George Pickett. Lee, then a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers, emerged from the war a hero after he scouted passes that allowed the Americans to outmaneuver the Mexicans at the Battles of Cerro Gordo & Contreras.

In Feb. 1848, representatives from the US & Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, formally ending the Mexican War, recognizing Texas as part of the US, & extending the boundaries of the United States west to the Pacific Ocean.
54276Gen. Winfield Scott, painted just before the war.
54278
 
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Grunk

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September 15, 1858
The new Overland Mail Company sends out its 1st two stages, inaugurating government mail service between the eastern & western regions of the nation. With California booming, thanks to the 1849 Gold Rush, Americans east & west had been clamoring for faster & surer transcontinental mail service for years. Finally, in March 1857, the US Congress passed an act authorizing an overland mail delivery service & a $600,000 yearly subsidy for whatever company could succeed in reliably transporting the mail twice a week from St. Louis to San Francisco in less than 25 days. The postmaster general awarded the 1st government contract & subsidy to the Overland Mail Company. Under the guidance of a board of directors that included John Butterfield & William Fargo, the Overland Mail Company spent $1 million improving its winding 2,800-mile route & building way stations at 10-15 mile intervals. Teams of thundering horses soon raced across the wide open spaces of the West, pulling custom-built Concord coaches with seats for 9 passengers & a rear boot for the mail.

For passengers, the overland route was anything but a pleasure trip. Packed into the narrow confines of the coaches, they alternately baked or froze as they bumped across the countryside, & dust was an inescapable companion. Since the coaches traveled night & day, travelers were reluctant to stop & sleep at one of the “home stations” along the route because they risked being stranded if later stages were full. Many opted to try & make it through the 3-week trip by sleeping on the stage, but the constant bumping & noise made real sleep almost impossible. Travelers also found that toilets & baths were few & far between, the food was poor & pricey, & the stage drivers were often drunk, rude, profane, or all 3. Robberies & Indian attacks were a genuine threat, though they occurred far less commonly than popularly believed. The company posted guards at stations in dangerous areas, & armed men occasionally rode with the coach driver to protect passengers.

Though other faster mail delivery services soon came to compete with the Overland Mail Company—most famously the Pony Express—the nation’s 1st regular trans-western mail service continued to operate as a part of the larger Wells, Fargo & Company operation until May 10, 1869, the day the 1st transcontinental railroad was completed. On that day the US government cancelled its last overland mail contract.
54297



September 15, 1950
During the Korean War, US Marines land at Inchon on the west coast of Korea, 100 miles south of the 38th parallel & just 25 miles from Seoul. The location had been criticized as too risky, but UN Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur insisted on carrying out the landing. By the early evening, the Marines had overcome moderate resistance & secured Inchon. The brilliant landing cut the North Korean forces in 2, & the US-led UN force pushed inland to recapture Seoul, the South Korean capital that had fallen to the communists in June. Allied forces then converged from the north & the south, devastating the North Korean army & taking 125,000 enemy troops prisoner.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when 90,000 North Korean troops stormed across the 38th parallel, catching the Republic of Korea’s forces completely off guard & throwing them into a hasty southern retreat. 2 days later, US President Harry Truman announced that the US would intervene in the conflict, & on June 28 the UN approved the use of force against communist North Korea. On June 30, Truman agreed to send US ground forces to Korea, & on July 7 the Security Council recommended that all UN forces sent to Korea be put under U. command. The next day, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was named commander of all UN forces in Korea.

In the opening months of the war, the US-led UN forces rapidly advanced against the North Koreans, but Chinese communist troops entered the fray in October, throwing the Allies into a hasty retreat. In April 1951, Truman relieved MacArthur of his command after he publicly threatened to bomb China in defiance of Truman’s stated war policy. Truman feared that an escalation of fighting with China would draw the Soviet Union into the Korean War. By May 1951, the communists were pushed back to the 38th parallel, & the battle line remained in that vicinity for the remainder of the war. On July 27, 1953, after 2 years of negotiation, an armistice was signed, ending the war & reestablishing the 1945 division of Korea that still exists today. Approximately 150,000 troops from South Korea, the US, and participating UN nations were killed in the Korean War, & as many as one million South Korean civilians perished. An estimated 800,000 communist soldiers were killed, & more than 200,000 North Korean civilians died.
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54299
 
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Grunk

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September 16, 1620
The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters & half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather & navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, & on Nov. 21 the “Pilgrims” reached Massachusetts, where they founded the 1st permanent European settlement in New England in late December.

35 of the Pilgrims were members of the radical English Separatist Church, who traveled to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, which they found corrupt. 10 years earlier, English persecution had led a group of Separatists to flee to Holland in search of religious freedom. However, many were dissatisfied with economic opportunities in the Netherlands, & under the direction of William Bradford they decided to immigrate to Virginia, where an English colony had been founded at Jamestown in 1607. The Separatists won financial backing from a group of investors called the London Adventurers, who were promised a sizable share of the colony’s profits. 35 church members made their way back to England, where they were joined by about 70 entrepreneurs–enlisted by the London stock company to ensure the success of the enterprise. In Aug. 1620, the Mayflower left Southampton with a smaller vessel–the Speedwell–but the latter proved unseaworthy & twice was forced to return to port. On Sept. 16, the Mayflower left for America alone from Plymouth.

In a difficult Atlantic crossing, the 90-foot Mayflower encountered rough seas & storms and was blown more than 500 miles off course. Along the way, the settlers formulated & signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that bound the signatories into a “civil body politic.” Because it established constitutional law & the rule of the majority, the compact is regarded as an important precursor to American democracy. After a 66-day voyage, the ship landed on Nov. 21 on the tip of Cape Cod at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts. After coming to anchor in Provincetown harbor, a party of armed men under the command of Captain Myles Standish was sent out to explore the area & find a location suitable for settlement. While they were gone, Susanna White gave birth to a son, Peregrine, aboard the Mayflower. He was the 1st English child born in New England. In mid-December, the explorers went ashore at a location across Cape Cod Bay where they found cleared fields & plentiful running water & named the site Plymouth. The expedition returned to Provincetown, & on Dec. 21 the Mayflower came to anchor in Plymouth harbor. Just after Christmas, the pilgrims began work on dwellings that would shelter them through their difficult 1st winter in America.

In the 1st year of settlement, half the colonists died of disease. In 1621, the health & economic condition of the colonists improved, & that autumn Gov. William Bradford invited neighboring Indians to Plymouth to celebrate the bounty of that year’s harvest season. Plymouth soon secured treaties with most local Indian tribes, & the economy steadily grew, & more colonists were attracted to the settlement. By the mid 1640s, Plymouth’s population numbered 3,000 people, but by then the settlement had been overshadowed by the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north, settled by Puritans in 1629.

The term “Pilgrim” was not used to describe the Plymouth colonists until the early 19th century & was derived from a manuscript in which Gov. Bradford spoke of the “saints” who left Holland as “pilgrimes.” The orator Daniel Webster spoke of “Pilgrim Fathers” at a bicentennial celebration of Plymouth’s founding in 1820, & thereafter the term entered common usage.
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The Departure Of The Pilgrim Fathers In The Mayflower by Bernard Finnigan Gribble



September 16, 1908
Buick Motor Company head William Crapo Durant spends $2,000 to incorporate General Motors in New Jersey. Durant, a high-school dropout, had made his fortune building horse-drawn carriages, & in fact he hated cars–he thought they were noisy, smelly, & dangerous. Nevertheless, the giant company he built would dominate the American auto industry for decades.

In the 1st years of the 20th century the auto industry was chaotic. There were about 45 different car companies in the US, most of which sold only a handful of cars each year (& many of which had an unpleasant tendency to take customers’ down payments & then go out of business before delivering a completed automobile). Industrialist Benjamin Briscoe called this way of doing business “manufacturing gambling,” & he proposed a better idea. To build consumer confidence & drive the weakest car companies out of business, he wanted to consolidate the largest & most reliable manufacturers (Ford, REO, his own Maxwell-Briscoe, & Durant’s Buick) into 1 big company. This idea appealed to Durant (though not to Henry Ford or REO’s Ransom E. Olds), who had made his millions in the carriage business just that way: Instead of selling 1 kind of vehicle to 1 kind of customer, Durant’s company had sold carriages & carts of all kinds, from the utilitarian to the luxurious.

But Briscoe wanted to merge all the companies completely into 1, while Durant wanted to build a holding company that would leave its individual parts more or less alone. (“Durant is for states’ rights,” Briscoe said. “I am for a union.”) Durant got his way, & the new GM was the opposite of Ford: Instead of just making 1 car, like the Model T, it produced a wide variety of cars for a wide variety of buyers. In its 1st 2 years, GM cobbled together 30 companies, including 11 automakers like Oldsmobile, Cadillac, & Oakland (which later became Pontiac), some supplier firms, & even an electric company.

Buying all these companies was too expensive for the fledgling GM, & in 1911 the corporation’s board forced the spendthrift Durant to quit. He started a new car company with the Chevrolet brothers & was able to buy enough GM stock to regain control of the corporation in 1916, but his profligate ways got the better of him & he was forced out again in 1920. During the Depression, Durant went bankrupt, & he spent his last years managing a bowling alley in Flint.
54340 54341 A young & older William Crapo Durant
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