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Frank Carroll


“Against my better judgment” is in the same category as “hold my beer and watch this.” The outcome is usually messy and intended for immature audiences.

So with some trepidation, I’m going to talk about the National Rifle Association (NRA). My Dad belonged to the NRA and my grandfathers before him. I have been a member for most of the past many years (current status is sketchy), but I was at the 2017 banquet in Custer where I bought a table for six and spent a lot of money to try to win guns. Many of my best friends are NRA members and contributors.

I like guns. I was raised with guns of all kinds. All of them were loaded, mostly, and all of them were kept in plain sight — except the ones in glove compartments or side table drawers. What’s the use of having a gun that’s not loaded?

My children grew up in the same way: Rifles and pistols everywhere, historically important, culturally relevant, repositories of family and personal memories for generations.

I remember being heartbroken when an old Remington .22 caliber iron sight rifle I owned was stolen when I was a teenager. It belonged to a sheep herder. My dad bought it from the guy for peanuts. I could hit anything with it, even shooting from the hip. I went through a lot of .22 ammunition learning to shoot from the hip, but I was good at it. Still am.

I still use a .22 caliber Henry lever action for messing around and carrying in the field, just because. I won it at a Ducks Unlimited banquet. Best prize ever.

A few years ago, I bought my wife an AR-15. The bullet for the AR-15 is about the same diameter (exactly) as a .22 but the differences are more important than the similarities.

The 40-grain .22 has a velocity of around 900-1,400 feet per second and is not very effective over 50 yards, although it can hurt you at much greater distances. Most gunfights happen at about 21 feet so the .22 pistol or rifle can be like a punch in the nose, a fight-ender that’s not necessarily fatal.

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The 55+ grain .223 AR-15 round travels around 3,000 feet per second from a much larger shell casing and causes far more damage, especially up close. The bullet is designed to tumble when it hits the target and causes immense and often fatal damage. In fact, the wound from the .223 round can disappear a major organ like the liver or heart. Turns it into mush. People and animals bleed out or die from the shock or loss of the organ function. The round was designed for military use in the M-16 used in Vietnam.

The AR-15 is fun to shoot. With good optics, you can cut barbed wire fence at more than 600 yards. My grandchildren like to shoot it. You put the cross hairs on the target, you squeeze the trigger, and the target is history if it’s a clay pigeon or barbed wire (the barbed wire was not on an active fence for those ranchers out there, wincing at the very thought).

I can imagine what damage a shooter could do, shooting from the hip with an AR-15 in a crowded school using multiple magazines. Or, maybe I don’t want to know.

What I do know is the NRA needs to take a deep breath and start coming up with solutions. Asking people to be more responsible is like Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” to drugs campaign — it never worked.

Frank Carroll is a freelance writer and columnist. He can be reached by emailing or visiting

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