Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Important Lessons in Survival Gear and Other Outdoor Oxymorons

By Bob Ferris

I was once insulted by someone younger on an on-line hunting forum because he thought that the camouflage pattern I wore in a picture I shared was too dated.  He argued that I was somehow less of a hunter and diminished in my ability to speak about wildlife issues because I started my outdoor pursuits in a time before Gore-Tex existed (1969) or camouflage was a fashion statement.  He doubled down arguing that I lacked true knowledge about natural systems and the "devastation" wrought by predators because my degrees in biology and wildlife conservation meant that I spent all my time in laboratories and never in the field where I would actually learn something as he had.   In his analysis my experience meant I could not speak from experience and my education meant that I knew nothing about what I studied.  But that is where we are...swimming in a stinky soup well-seasoned with oxymorons, illogic, and worse.

Need other examples?  Take survival gear (please).  The word "survival" since its first use in the 15th century has been used to describe being able to live through some significant hardship or where others cannot.  Often the term implies chugging along thriving off nearly nothing.  That is the skillset described.  How exactly is this idea then the basis for an industry issuing catalogs filled with products?  How does the associated idea of minimalism give birth to a billion dollar industry?  But it has (1,2,3).

It is interesting to note and illustrative of my point that Bio-lite stoves are sometimes included on lists for survival supplies.  The rationale frequently provided is that they can cook your food while recharging your cellphones and other electronic devices.  I have a Bio-lite stove (mine above).  I like it a lot and have used it to charge my cellphone while making my morning coffee and oatmeal.  But coffee, oatmeal, and cellphones are all elements that require intact governments, functioning infrastructure, and robust agricultural systems.  But none of these are part of an apocalyptic survival situation.  Catastrophic or apocalyptic events, which is what the doomsday preppers are making ready for, are the lands of rubbing sticks together and rock rings fires which kicks survival gear into the realm of the silly.

The above said, I do not hate gear.  I have enjoyed heated sox, neoprene wadders, and space-aged fabrics.  I survived a week or so in Fort Saint John, BC in late January because of gore-tex and thinsulate (above).  These are great improvements and certainly make life in the field during sketchy weather more comfortable.  Although I do not miss all the wool and sweaty PVC coverings, I wear the "new stuff" with some measure of guilt.  The guilt springs from knowing that a cart has gotten before the horse in that I fear that industry is driving the way we interact with nature rather than the more visceral and deeply engrained ethos that should guide or at the very least influence our actions.

What do I mean? I have a neighbor who is a bicycle racer.  He is constantly tuning his bikes to reduce friction and increase speed.  On some level this seems contrary to the idea of exercise embodied in the enterprise.  I feel similarly about those accoutrements that make hunting, fishing, and camping a little easier, more comfortable, or increasingly successful.  These improvements are nice but might not be functionally compatible with our valued experience as this collectively translates to more pressure on wildlife and wildlands.  This is particularly true as the population increases and the resources do not.  Our current Secretary of Interior's campaign against public lands (1,2,3) and the continued congressional failure to support and expand on the successes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund enabled by those wanting to destroy this heritage are examples of the problem (1,2,3).

Thomas Robert Malthus would likely chuckle sadly at the sorrow expressed by those using something longer, harder, and more broadly bemoaning its diminishment with surprise in their expressions.  How in anyone's logical construct could accelerated exploitation lead to a positive conservation outcome?  It is like a bowl of ice cream when you use a larger spoon.  Yet here we are with snowmobiles (or machines) thought compatible with the idea of wilderness, faster skiffs with healthy fishing flats, and better optics with stable ungulate populations.  It is hard in this swirl to sort irony from oxymoron and short-sightedness from cognitive dissonance.

I often ache to get out in the field.   It comes and goes changing with the seasons and mirroring my past patterns.  My field coat stinks of damp duck feathers and wet dogs.  I oddly love the smell.  The silence of the wind calls for fly casts.  But maybe I should not breathe deep nor listen too closely these siren calls.  Perhaps it is more important that I (and others) start the process of remembering what some of us once knew and teaching others what they need to know.

My father took me on many hunting trips before I actually hunted.  We visited many rivers and shores before I caught my first trout on the Eel with my sister's telescoping metal pole while the family was heading north for the opening of the World's Fair in Seattle.  Perhaps in this he was teaching me that hunting was not shooting and fishing was not catching.  Maybe when the fish were not biting quickly easily and the deer or ducks missing it was not a sign that I needed a better rod or trickier lure; a longer shell with heavier shot; or a nifty scope rather than patience and iron sights.  After all fish-tailing on an icy road is not an invitation to drive faster but we have done this in regards to wildlife populations and our stewardship of land, air, and water.

Those who want to sell us all manner of gear work hard to create an expectation.  This is reenforced by video distillations that collapse days into seconds.  Unfortunately, this often cuts out the watermelon sweetness of the experience of it leaving only the rind of killing and numbers.    It is like watching a movie and skipping to the closing scene.  Where in this can ethics and deep appreciation grow?  Where is the needed understanding of these complex systems and the modeling of critical thought?  I started my career as a deer biologist and understand the tapestry of this critter's habitat use through the day and year but that is a different understanding than the minute temporal pinpoints of where a big buck will be at dawn or dusk in the fall.   In our current state we have to come to the understanding that the former is much more important than the latter (see above). 

Few of us who hunt and fish would stand on a forested mountain, stubbled field, or sandy shore proudly proclaiming that we are the instruments of our own demise.  Where would be the fun in that?  But we are.  Our unbridled consumption not just in gear but all about us leads us faster to a time when wild waters and lands fail us more frequently which seems ultimately fair as we have surely done the same to them.   Conservation and stewardship require diligence and awareness.

But the mountain we must climb to turn this situation around is steep.  Many in this country have listened regularly to seductive and authoritative voices not qualified to teach the lowest grades in most of our nation's elementary schools (1,2,3).  These forces and others have labored relentlessly to paint fiction as fact and throw crumbs of doubt on sound science and drive wedges between natural allies.  Because of this those who entered the fray fighting for an outdoor legacy now find themselves recalibrating goals in monumentally unfortunate directions (1,2,3).

From here.

I, for one (and I know there are others), hope that the frogs among us collectively start to feel the pot water warm and understand what that means.  Similarly, I want those in duck blinds expecting frost, but surrounded by skeeters to scratch their heads as well as their bites along with those waiting for delayed hatches standing in snow or dry creek beds.  I am all for quality gear and like to look at the catalogs and cruise the outdoor stores, but we have to listen to what nature is telling us rather than corporate voices anxious for another sell or those elected officials who do not listen to the lands we love or simply do not care.

This could start with baby steps. How about when you teach your child (or parent) about roll casts or the effective range of a shotgun or shot size you talk about how to spot fake news or nicely packaged miss-information like the above video (1,2,3).  Or what a monumentally bad idea it is to take seriously any information gained from places calling themselves institutes (1,2,3) or universities (1,2,3) run by those who are not even qualified to teach in their areas of "expertise" at community colleges which the president recently maligned (1,2,3).  This seems to make more sense than accepting hook, line, and sinker half-truths and fibs fed to you by oil companies and related industries that have been lying to you for two generations (1,2,3) or those once trusted who gladly and gratefully accept their money (1,2,3,4). 

Those who hunt and fish need to pick a side.  We, and I understand we are not monolithic, can cling to where we are and lose more...quicker.  Or we can step out of our comfort zone and help shape the debate and solutions.  And yes I understand that adopting this approach might mean standing next to the unwashed and nose-ringed or being subjected to some second-hand pot smoke, but look at what you were promised in the tax cut, the heath care overhaul, and the protection of public lands.  Then look at what you got (1,2,3).  At some point the light bulb must click on.  Now would be an excellent time to remember that critical thinking is critical, experience comes with time, knowledge springs from education, and credibility comes from credentials not a creamy radio voice or a comforting message that serves you as well as that Twinkie does in your weight loss. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Of Cladograms and Gun Control

By Bob Ferris

Life is complicated.  As a biologist I am fascinated by this complexity.  In my life and professional career I have seen the evolutionary trees change and become increasingly detailed as more fossils and other evidence have been found and our tools for looking at all materials have advanced.  Although there have been many changes and the analyses more fine-grained, the principles still come down to lineages and shared characteristics.   I think about phylogenies and cladograms because I believe they are relevant in this gun control debate, particularly as it applies to AR-15 type weapons.

From New York Times Op-ed.

Now that people are becoming focused on the nature of the gun control debate in terms of trying to define what is reasonable those who want to resist reason entirely are throwing shovelfuls of confusion into the debate.  The pro-guns forces, for example, are trying to equate home defense needs with those required for aggressively offensive actions.  They are not the same.  There are also efforts to link dangerous, military-style weapons with those that are more benign such as semi-automatic shotguns or deer rifles.   This false equivalency was addressed in a recent New York Times Magazine editorial by David Joy that was illustrated with a deer rifle and an AR-15-style weapon (what the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the NRA want to portray as a modern sporting rifle).  This is where my cladogram-inspired sensitivities come into play.
Example of a list of characters included in a typical clade analysis (from here).  

Modern cladistic analyses look at a multitude of characteristics (see above) to determine where a particular organism fits within the grander scheme or family tree.  This is a valid approach because it helps erase confusion that might come from a group of organisms sharing certain characteristics which could mean that they evolved from a shared ancestor or that they evolved the characteristic independently (see parallel versus convergent evolution).  Wombats and ground hogs look kind of similar but their lines diverged long ago similar effects can be observed in firearms.

The gun lobby via National Shooting Sports Foundation mixes parallel and convergent evolution. 
Biological evolution appears almost easy-peasy when compared to the evolution of firearms which seems to take a shotgun approach (sorry) characterized by military-inspired, punctuated equilibrium followed by sporting-inspired divergence all happening in human generational time rather than using an evolutionary clock.   This was particularly true in the 19th and 20th centuries where we started with slow or cumbersome flintlocks and cannon only to spring (dare I say rocket?) into the 21st with a plethora of weapons tending towards spewing and portability.

When Theodore Roosevelt and others founded the Boone and Crocket Club in 1887 they chose these long-hunters as exemplars.  It is important to note than both Boone and Crockett used long-barreled, single-shot rifles which because of their barrel-length (32"-48") and rifling were slow to load.  They were rifles with lands and not smooth-bore muskets like the Brown Bess made for quick loading and war.  Mr. Roosevelt was a sportsman who knew history and certainly was familiar with modern hunters and weapons of the day, yet he looked to the past for a reason.

Ten Denali wolves were recently killed using an AR-15 style rifle.  My sense is that Boone and Crockett member Aldo Leopold would not see this as fair-chase nor would he have thought the AR-15 was a "hunting rifle."

The Boone and Crockett Club also started the process of defining the idea of fair-chase which likely acted in its own way as a selective force in diverging sporting arms from military weapons.  In my estimation, Boone and Crockett has slipped some in their duty to stand firm on fair-chase principles in regards to predator derbies and prairie dog shooting, but they are sticking a toe back in hunting ethos on long-range shooting differentiating the practice from hunting.  And this latter phenomenon takes nothing away from their catalytic impact.

If I were to subject weaponry to some sort of cladistic analysis what would I use as defining characteristics?  I would probably start with trigger quickness.  As I have both a Remington 11-87 semi-automatic shotgun and a Marlin 30/30 similar to the one pictured in the New York Times Magazine opinion piece, I will use them as comparisons with the AR-platform.  All three can be fast.  While caught in the full heat of "duck fever" I have shot off three shells that sounded as one.  Likewise, the Las Vegas shooter was able to fire an estimated nine rounds per second and there is a fellow named Deuce Stevens who can fire 5.6 rounds a second with a lever-action rifle (see above).  In this I give the speed edge to the AR-platform, but not by much. 

Magazine capacity would be another characteristic.  If I pull the plug on my Remington it will hold five shells and the Marlin seven rounds which differs drastically from the 30-round magazine standard on the AR-15.  Yes, many AR-15 owners are restricted to five or ten round magazines while hunting but there are also after-market magazines holding up to 100 rounds (pictured above).  The AR-15 is clearly different or divergent in this measure.

“People that know guns – you can change magazine clips in a second,” LaPierre told Fox News. “There’s no evidence that anything would have changed.” in here 
NRA leader Wayne LaPierre made the above statement to Fox News regarding removable box magazines which relates to the characteristic of "ease of reloading."  He was defending magazine size when in reality he exposed the inherent danger of these easy-change magazines in and of themselves.  Loading a single round in my shotgun or deer rifle takes seconds to complete which makes it at least ten to one hundred times slower than what Mr. LaPierre has described above.  Here the AR-platform is clearly in a class by itself in relation to these other two hunting firearms.

Taken collectively these three characteristics combine to establish a weapon's sustained rate of fire.  The Las Vegas shooter rained something like 900 rounds in less than 10 minutes on the crowd and another 200 in the hotel corridor.  This makes me think about misty mornings when I have shot a box of shells (25) and felt myself a wasteful and profligate shooter.  I have shot similar numbers siting in my Marlin, but even plinking with a Chinese-made Browning mimic I once owned it was rare to shoot more than 50.22LRs dropped one-at-a-time in the tubular magazine.  Additionally, I did visit a friend's sporting clay course once where I shot four boxes of shells at 100 hundred flying targets in two hours, but to be honest I was not anxious to complete a second tour of the course.  While each of the three above characters distance the AR-platform by nudges and leaps, this one characteristic puts it on another planet entirely.   The race to shooting five or ten rounds might be close, but the one to 200 or 300 rounds between the hunting guns and the AR-platform weapons probably resembles my nearly 97-year-old mother running against Usian Bolt...and my mother is wicked fast.   

For points of reference, the original .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle has a 29-inch barrel and the .22-caliber biathlon rifles used in the Olympics have 21.65-inch (550mm) barrels.  Yes, Barrett makes a model with a 20-inch barrel but that firearm is modified to remove weight and is for shorter distances.  The positive co-relationship between caliber (bullet weight) and optimal barrel length remains.     

Another characteristic on my list beyond these others would be barrel length.  Hunting rifles traditionally have longer barrels.  Two classic deer rifles that seem to make everyone's top 10 list are the Winchester Model 70 which comes with 22 to 26-inch barrels depending upon caliber and the Marlin 336 which comes with 20 or 24-inch barrels.  The Marlin lever-action is designed for hunting in brush where the shot distances are shorter, come quicker, and are less suited for swinging a longer gun.  AR-15 style rifles are equipped with 16 to 20-inch barrels.  Traditional thinking has been that longer barrels lead to increased accuracy.  I was taught that when I was young.  It may not be completely true, but the fact that there are many articles in hunting magazines diminishing or discounting the advantage of barrel length during a time when gun makers are pushing modern sporting rifles with shorter barrels seems an odd coincidence in publications where gun companies advertise (1,2,3). 

Caliber and cartridge design might be worth examining as well.  But this gets pretty tricky quickly when one looks at bullet weights, powder charges, foot-pounds, muzzle velocity, and game characteristics.  There is also cartridge history and those jumping out to talk about their fathers or uncles who hunted deer all their lives with a .22.  Therefore, I will steer around this swamp.

The last characteristic that I would throw in here is squishy.  It revolves around the idea of "look."  Hunters take pride in their weapons.  Native American and others in the West would often decorate their weapons with brass nails or feathers.  Hunting and target weapons like the Jaeger rifles in Europe often had intricate inlays, engraving, and checkering that would never do on solely military arms.  This was about status and pride of ownership.  The roots of this are deep and are an expression of self.  Who knows how this ultimately affected the owner while hunting, but the notion of being a poor shot of a fine weapon was probably not desirable.  How is this unmeasurable factor expressed with the muted sameness of an AR-platform weapon?  Certainly covering it with camouflage and slapping a scope on it changes it some, but the saying about facial adornment in those of a porcine nature comes quickly to mind. (And I have seen the pink and painted ones which are just plain silly.)

I know too the "Yellow Boy" (Model 1866) arguments as well as those made for a host of lever-action Winchesters found both in forests and battlefields.  My Great-great-great-grandfather General George Douglas Ramsay was Lincoln's Chief of Ordinance for a time when weapons like these were being considered for Union troops.  I hear all of you, but these weapons are transitional doing a missing-link straddle whereas the AR-platform rifles are solidly in the military arms clade showing up deep on the martial end of all the above listed characters not just one or two.

As well as a cladistic element there is also something sociological or psychological that contributes to the popularity of these guns.  When I was in high school some of my classmates volunteered to help those less mobile to do exercises that their muscles or brains would not enable.  My recollection is that it was called "patterning" or some such and meant to make those muscles ready to work again or find alternative pathways to function.  A similar process is being employed with guns particularly those most should not own. 

Ben Lilly.

Boone and Crockett along with other groups tried to draw an ethical line in the sand that defined a hunting ethos.  It started the process of stopping market hunting and put many hunters on a more thoughtful and less Ben Lilly-like path.  The effect of those actions wanes as those wanting to sell more weapons and ammunition mingle with those concerned with the soul of hunting.   With the number of hunters declining, slack needs to be taken up to sell more gun and ammunition.   The definition of hunting becomes expanded reviving Ben Lilly's dated and unsupported varmint hatred and removing concern about killing for no reason or useful purpose other than hearing the crack of a rifle and killing something.

The problem in creating killers rather than hunters is apparent.  Once forces grease the skids to enable for these ethical Mulligans, the slips become more pronounced and increasingly serious.  Laughing about the red mists created when shooting prairie dogs drifts into shooting wolves and coyotes.  In this, it is not hard to imagine the little steps become larger and eventually moving from faux pas to the unthinkable.  In fact, it already has. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Lesson of Dry Flies and the Scott Pruitt Split Shot

By Bob Ferris

I stumbled upon the above mess as I walked past a middle school and through a public park on my walk to get a new watch battery yesterday.  Certainly this discarded yellow paint is near a trash can which could mean intent, but it was a monumental fail as this water drains to the street and from there makes it way towards the Willamette River.

This yellow insult follows on the heels of me having a bizarre discussion the day before with a person near the Eugene Public Library.  He tried to quiz me on the number of constitutional amendments and when I answered correctly (27), he then argued that the US Constitution was written in 1776 and therefore needed to be scrapped or completely changed.  Wow. And then this paint sighting was followed by me sucking in fumes from a poorly-idling, black Firebird with a rear window festooned with pirate flag imagery encircled by the motto: Only God can judge me.

I tend to see odd collections of events like this as a whole.   Then I try to assemble them is some sort of logical configuration.  In this group I see a sequence of ignorance and lack of culpability resulting in a happenstance that resembles what is needed, but misses it so terribly that a tragedy of great proportion ensues.  Somewhere in the puddle of this I see the face of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (above).  Perhaps it even crystalizes a Pruitt Principle: Harm does not matter when its existence is questioned and no one is held responsible.  That fits in this construct too.

The problem is that harm exists and does matter regardless of whether or not Scott Pruitt thinks they do.   I could craft a clever and snarky comment here about first-class seats, but I am thinking about water and fishing so I will go there.  If you can think about America as a dry fly perfectly presented and dropping on the water like a whispered breeze.  Then you understand that America floats or sinks, because of that delicate balance between artfully-configured material and surface tension.  This understanding probably allows you to grasp our current peril: Split-shot. 

Any fly angler knows that adding even the tiniest split-shot to a leader upsets this balance and sinks the fly.  The intellectual split-shots in this equation are those who think dumping that yellow paint on the landscape is a reasonable or harmless option.  They also believe that what Scott Pruitt does during his tenure at the US EPA will do America no great harm.  Neither notion is robust nor supported by past experience. 

Now back to the first-class seats.  Mr. Pruitt's defense of his high-spending, high-flying is one about security and herein is an important idea.  People seem to object to his actions which is weird because he runs an agency whose mission is to protect our health and environment.  Who could not love that?  In contrast, I recently flew on the same plane as Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley on a trip back from DC.  It was a full flight and the senator's carry-on bags had to migrate from his seat near the economy section bulkhead to the rear of the plane which meant that he had to swim upstream with the help of his fellow passengers like an anadromous fish to retrieve them.  He did so without the aid of a security detail and while having friendly conversations with his constituents along the way.  Perhaps looking out after and listening to the needs of the people you serve lessens the need for expensive seats and fear?  Just a thought. 

Americans in my generation and since fought long and hard for clean water, breathable air, and listening to what science tells us.   We remember burning rivers and know that our inventory of legacy pollution from extractive and consumptive activities is impossibly high and cannot bear addition.   This accumulation cannot suffer someone with a quick broom with their hand on the carpet edge.  Not realizing this is willful ignorance that will not serve us or future generations. 

At the risk of confusing this more with another analogy.  We, nationally and globally, are like an overloaded school bus traveling down a steep hill with badly worn brakes.  Mr. Pruitt hears the metal-on-metal squeaking and reaches for the oil can thinking he has the solution.  If your immediate reaction is that makes about as much sense as lead helping a fishing fly float then you need to channel that awareness and take action now and in the coming election.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Second Amendment Misdirect and Weaponized Lying

By Bob Ferris

I have a lot of respect and great empathy for the young woman who spoke up this weekend about the Parkland tragedy and rational gun control.  You know the one.  She threw up and then continued on speaking.  I have spoken in front of large crowds and it is scary at times.  My respect comes from the courage she exhibited.  My empathy springs from shared nausea, as I have spent the last few days digging through the badly photoshopped photos and outright lies spread as counter arguments to the clarity, common-sense, and democratic spirit demonstrated by those who spoke and marched.

See here for how Michael Graham posted this on Facebook post.  Bad photoshop on left and actual photograph on the right.
Self-described as "conservative, but not crazy" Michael Graham (a podcaster) posted the above on his Facebook page along with a number of other posts relating to the Parkland tragedy and the character of the protest and protesters.  Mr. Graham labelled the photoshopped photograph with the following comment "This young man is participating on Boston's non-partisan, let's-all-get-along March for our Lives today. Because nothing says "mutual respect" like sending your 9 year old to tell 6 million Americans to go F themselves."  Nearly 50,000 bots and bozos shared his doctored post and picture.  It aims to delegitimize the march hoping that the language offends more than the death of children.  Though I am sure that many carried signs that expressed many negative sentiments towards the NRA, this one did not and this is the one he posted.  What does it say about his parenting?  But it gets worse.

Then we have Leigh Stuart a Canadian whose Twitter account is the landing and launching spot for piles of bad photoshopped, right-wing propaganda.  In answer to her question: This US citizen is offended that a Canadian would post a badly photoshopped picture of a US citizen who was tearing up a target not the US Constitution.  Moreover, the hat you wear is based on a false narrative.    So, in general,  I am not keen about those from other countries telling lies about Americans or perpetuating false narratives through deceptive practices.   I probably will not be contributing to your PayPal account, but thanks for asking.   It gets worse.

The above triptych of Parkland-related ignorance and hatred comes from Sal the Agorist on Twitter (see Agorism).   Here we have the same player calling Parkland survivor David Hogg both a Communist and Fascist via photoshopped images.  I am with Mr. Hogg in calling BS.  If anything Hogg's pose and outfit is more reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever, but claiming that would be silly and disrespectful, right? Moreover, Emma Gonzalez wears a Cuban flag to honor her father and her heritage, not as a nod to Communism.  I have Scottish, Irish, and French roots which I sometimes celebrate but I do not speak the native languages of any of those lands that is not a requirement of honoring your heritage.  Moreover, the flag that she displays was adopted by Cuba in 1902 but had its roots in the 1850's when Cuba was fighting for its independence from Spain so it is not a Communist flag per se but a Cuban one.

Brad Thor.

Ex-Sheriff David Clarke.

NRA Board Member Ted Nugent.

But not all the attacks are via photoshopped images on the young and vulnerable, some want to argue "facts."   Those posting or re-posting these images often get called on that action and unapologetically jump right over that happenstance to quoting piles of statistics.  These flow like Bible verses.  Many of them coming from the Crime Prevention Research Center founded by economist John Lott.  Dr. Lott has frequently had to defend his work both because of its quality and because of claims of arms industry and NRA influence.  Dr. Lott's denials might carry some weight if his funding history was different and if three-fifths of CPRC's board (Thor, Clarke and Nugent) and many of his advisors did not have such strong links to the NRA.  It is hard to imagine Ted Nugent judging the validity of research or adding a level credibility to anyone's academic endeavors.

The above is from the Jews for the Preservation of Gun Ownership which merged with the Second Amendment Foundation.
And then the conversation drifts to the Second Amendment.  Those still holding this line in the face of these other problematic actions shift to their defense of gun ownership and the US Constitution.  Invariably a visit to their Facebook profiles will yield something like the above or a picture of their beloved assault rifle.  The disconnect being that ownership of assault rifles is not covered or protected by the Second Amendment.  Even the late Justice Scalia believed that the amendment had limits and that certain weapons, including the M-16, are not covered under that element of the US Constitution.  Scalia did not mention AR-15s but subsequents rulings have and the Supreme Court has elected not to challenge those rulings.

So where are we left?  We have a group of people circulating specious images and information asking the rest of us to let them keep dangerous rifles and other weapons.  They are attacking legitimate victims and decrying insults to a document that they are essentially lying about and do not understand.  They are like children asking for car keys with liquor on their breath, expired licenses, and a pocketful of citations.   If you are absolutely convinced that you should have these weapons then you need to demonstrate that you are worthy of such societal trust.  This seems a bad and sadly pathetic pathway for doing that.