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from Breakingviews:

Bursting U.S. gun bubble begins to take victims

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Fear of gun legislation following the Sandy Hook School shooting drove U.S. demand for guns to absurd heights. It’s increasingly clear that laws won’t be tightened. Gunsmith Sturm Ruger is the first to admit the emotion that fired up the bottom line has run its course. The reckoning will be painful.

The Connecticut-based maker of rifles, semi-automatics and pistols had fine results for the fourth quarter, with sales rising 28 percent from the same period last year. But the company said demand last year had been driven by “fear and uncertainty.” The Newtown massacre in December 2012 created the perception that stricter limits on ownership were coming, sparking prospective buyers to stockpile. The week following the shootings set a record for background checks – the best indicator of future sales.

That barometer is now pointing in the opposite direction. There were 1.7 million background checks performed in January – a third fewer than in the same month a year ago.

from Photographers' Blog:

All aboard North Korea’s ship of weapons

Colon City, Panama

By Carlos Jasso

I received a call from a colleague late at night saying there were rumors that a shipment of missiles from Cuba had been found on a North Korean-flagged ship at the entrance of the Canal in Colon.
At that point I stopped what I was doing and started calling my contacts in the security services, colleagues and scanning Twitter to confirm the time and place where the ship had been intercepted.

I got word that the captain of the ship had tried to commit suicide when police boarded the vessel and that there were indeed arms on the ship. I left the house in less than 15 minutes and caught a ride to the port with a colleague from a local newspaper. The port is an hour and a half away from the city and it was pitch black. There was little chance to see anything, so we decided to sit it out until dawn; maybe we would get a chance to see the ship. We got ready for a long night, three photographers perched in the car with lots of gear and a family of annoying mosquitoes that kept us company throughout the night.

from Photographers' Blog:

Embedded with the Light Foot Militia

Priest River, Idaho

By Matt Mills McKnight

On a piece of public land near Priest River, Idaho, designated in 1911 as the Priest River Experimental Forest and used over the years by the Conservation Corps., a growing group of like-minded individuals gather to prepare for the worst and express their right to bear arms.

This wasn't the first time I met members of the Light Foot Militia, but it was the largest gathering of them I had seen in the few years I have been documenting their story. We have kept in touch, and when they contacted me about attending their third annual gathering, I jumped at the opportunity. In years past they were less enthusiastic about having me around for this event, so I was thankful for the access. We first met when I was living in Sandpoint, Idaho, a beautiful mountain lake community about 45 minutes north of Couer d’Alene, Idaho. Jeff Stankiewicz, a welding manager, started assembling a local unit shortly after President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, and it has been growing since.

from Photographers' Blog:

A country armed to the teeth

Jihana, Yemen

By Khaled Abdullah

If you are looking for an AK-47, a sniper rifle or even an anti-aircraft gun, it takes only half-an-hour of shopping around in this arms market, one of Yemen's biggest weapons markets, to find one.
The market is located in Jihana, a village some 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Yemen is one of the countries most heavily armed with deadly weapons.

Although this is mainly a tribal society where tribes are armed to the teeth, there are still too many guns for sale in the country's robust arms markets, as if the entire population must be armed. "Here, you can get fully armed as you can be," Jihana arms dealer Mohammad Sharaf said. An AK-47 can cost between $700 and $1,700 depending on age, make and quality. The only man shop owners do not welcome is a photojournalist. Many of them believe that the more publicity their market gets the more government crackdown they receive.

from Photographers' Blog:

China’s last armed village

Basha village, China

By Jason Lee

It took more than 12 hours by plane and long-distance bus to travel from Beijing to what is believed to be the last community authorized by the Chinese government to keep guns – the village of Basha. It is in Congjiang county, a grand mountainous area of Southwestern China. The village is a relatively mysterious place to most people, even in China, mainly because of its remoteness and poor economy.

Upon my arrival I noticed instantly one of its unique privileges – the marvelous natural scenery. I didn't hear any gun shots at that moment, but I spontaneously set my cameras to silent mode, for fear of bothering the farmers working on the fields.

from Photographers' Blog:

Swiss code of arms

Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland

By Denis Balibouse

I have quite a simple relationship with firearms. I don’t like them: their power scares me.

Unlike most Swiss men of my age I did not take part in compulsory military service in the Swiss Army (thanks to a torn knee ligament that saved me from a possibly awkward session with the Army psychologist during the recruitment process).

from Full Focus:

Swiss guns

Swiss voters, backed by the government, rejected a proposal in 2011 to tighten the country's liberal fire arms laws. Citizens outside the military can apply for a permit to purchase up to three weapons from the age of 18 in a country where sharp shooting and hunting are popular sports. There is no national gun register but some estimates indicate that at least one in every three of Switzerland's 8 million inhabitants keeps a gun. Read an account from Switzerland-based photographers Denis Balibouse and Ruben Sprich here.

from Photographers' Blog:

The turkey shoot

Vancouver, Canada

By Andy Clark

It was a cold, damp autumn day, as I remember it, sitting in a cinder block bunker terrified I was going to loose my hand as I loaded black clay disks into the machine in front of me. Seconds later I would hear a muffled voice shout, and the machine’s springs and mechanism would suddenly and violently let go, flinging the disk out of the bunker followed by another muffled boom, boom. I would then quickly lean down, take another disk from the box and gingerly place it in the machine. It was at this point my fear would take over, worried one of the distant voices would shout too soon and thus catch and propel my severed hand out of the bunker instead of the disk. Of course this never happened and once I got the rhythm, my fear slowly subsided, well sort of.

FULL FOCUS GALLERY: SHOOTING CANADA

I think I was about 12 years old at the time and I was helping out at the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot at the local Trap Shooting Club just outside Ancaster, Ontario. Each year the contest was held on the weekend before the holiday as a dozen or so members, including my dad, all vied to hit the most clay pigeons and go home with a freshly cleaned turkey donated by a local farmer. Though my dad and grandfather had versed me well in the handling of guns by that age I was still too young to take part so was therefore drafted to load the machine.

from Full Focus:

Shooting Canada

Photographer Andy Clark spent time at a public indoor gun range in British Columbia and the 79-year-old Vancouver Gun Club where members shoot skeet and trap. The shotgun only club has a regular membership of about 400 and sells an estimated 1100 day passes each year. Canada has very strict laws controlling the use of handguns and violent crime is relatively rare. Read Andy's personal account here.

from Photographers' Blog:

My weekend at the Big Sandy Shoot

Near Wikieup, northern Arizona

By Joshua Lott

Sandwiched between the black jack tables of Las Vegas and the knuckle balls of spring training baseball in the Phoenix metropolitan area, machine guns were fired day and night during the Big Sandy Shoot in the desert of northern Arizona near the town of Wikieup.

GALLERY: THE BIG SANDY SHOOT

The three day event attracted hundreds of spectators and shooters from around the country. Some traveled as far as Washington and Mississippi to fire their weapons along a mountain range set up with zombie targets, trash cans and buckets and barrels filled with aluminum oxide mixed with ammonium nitrate to create explosions upon impact.

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