Bob Shell: Gun Control

Angry woman carrying large pistol with black leather boots
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

Text by Bob Shell,  Copyright 2022

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Gun Control: My Personal Experience

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Now that everyone is talking about guns and gun control, I figured ‘What the hell, I’ll throw out my thoughts and see what happens.’
I’ve lost my gun rights once, got them back, then lost them again. I lost them the first time in 1969 when I was convicted of possession of marijuana, a felony at that time carrying a possible thirty year sentence. I got ‘lucky’ and only got three years, suspended. I later petitioned the Governor of Virginia and had all of my rights restored.

Segue to 2007, when I was convicted of the charges that put me where I am now, when I lost my gun rights all over again.  My first question in 1969 and again now is this, how can a state take away a constitutionally guaranteed right? I did not believe the State of Virginia had that right then, and I continue to believe that today. States simply have no right to infringe on any federal constitutional right. Why the US Supreme Court has never categorically stated that is a mystery to me.

That being said, I have owned only three guns in my life, a single-shot bolt-action .22 Remington rifle, a single-shot breach loaded .410 shotgun (I don’t remember the maker), and a semiautomatic 9 mm Beretta pistol. The rifle was a gift from my father at around age 16. We used to go squirrel hunting together, but mostly we did target shooting. He was a deadeye shot with no scope, and could knock a squirrel I could barely see out of a tree, something he said he learned in the army.

My grandfather gave me the shotgun, that he used to use for dove hunting, until he decided a Methodist minister shouldn’t hunt. All I ever shot with it were tossed tin cans, which I hit most of the time.  I only fired the pistol, another gift from my father, a few times at targets. I did pretty well with it, but short barreled pistols tend to not be very accurate.

The first guns I’m aware of that could be fired relatively quickly without reloading were the ‘pepperbox’ pistols, that had multiple barrels on a manually rotated turret. I am not a firearm historian, so bear with me if my history is pretty general. The Bob Shell who writes the gun books you see on Amazon, etc., is someone else.  I believe the first real fully automatic rifle was the Gatling Gun, which had multiple rotating barrels automatically reloaded from a magazine. Gatlings were used in the American ‘Civil War,’ but were very big and heavy and mounted on a carriage that could not be repositioned quickly.  Modern Gatling Guns are like the one you see Jesse Ventura using in the movie ‘Predator’. Having multiple barrels keeps them from overheating and damaging themselves. Do I believe anyone with the money should be able to buy a modern Gatling? No, I do not.

I’m more conflicted about modern ‘assault rifles,’ which are descended from the automatic military rifles for which Adolf Hitler coined the term ‘Sturmgewehr’ — ‘storm weapon.’  The first other iteration was the Russian AK-47, named for Antonin Kalashnikov, its designer. Americans countered with the AR-15, used by American troops in Vietnam.
I believe there are rational reasons for keeping some military weapons out of the hands of those who might misuse them.

But, wait a minute. Isn’t the purpose of the Second Amendment to arm the populace and prevent an overreaching government from holding power over us? Yes, it is, and I’m conflicted.

Look at Ukraine, where poorly armed civilians have gone up against Russian soldiers equipped with modern weapons of war to defend their freedom. What if Russia, or some other autocracy tried to overrun and subdue the USA, or our own government ran amok? If the citizenry had only guns like I had, they’d stand no chance.

So what is the solution to gun violence, or is there one? Gun massacres have occurred in countries with strict gun control. Make guns illegal, and only the criminals will have them.  I offer no solution to the problem, just hope to stimulate some thought about a difficult, polarizing problem to which neither side seems to have any answers.
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 About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/virginia-enters-the-dark-ages/

 

Berrisford Boothe: Selected Works

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Berrisford Boothe: Selected Works

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An Artist on Top of His Game

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Berrisford Boothe is a former professor of art at Lehigh University, and a visual artist with a 30-year practicing and exhibiting presence in the Northeast regional, national and international art scene. Painting is his passion. Boothe has amassed fifteen career solo exhibitions and participated in more than 70 group exhibitions. As a printmaker he has had residencies at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, The Brandywine Print Workshop, Pondside Press, St. Barnabas Press, The Print Studio, Cambridge, U.K., and The London Print Studio, U.K. He continues his active practice and exhibits his work nationwide and internationally. 

His works are part of several collections private and public in the U.S., South America and the U.K.  Most recently works have been added to The Pennsylvania Convention Centers permanent collection, and the David C.  Driskell Center in Maryland. Boothe’s works have been featured in seminal exhibitions such as ‘In Search of the Missing Masters: The Lewis Tanner Moore Collection of African American Art’ at The Woodmere Art Museum, ‘Afrocosmologies: American Reflections’ at The Wadsworth Atheneum and the African American Museum in Philadelphia, PA

Beginning in 2012 through 2020, he was the founding and Principal Curator for The Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, collecting over 430 works of African American art. Among other exhibitions during that time, he curated the Portland Art Museum’s  2017 exhibition, ‘Constructing Identity’ and was an essential presence in producing the seminal 2019-20 Wadsworth Atheneum exhibition, ‘Afrocosmologies: American Visions.’ 

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Portrait of the artist Berrisford Booth at an installation of his paintings
Berrisford Boothe

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Editors Note: This is Berrisford Boothe’s first contribution to Tony Ward Studio. To purchase or inquire about work exhibited here contact:bwb0@lehigh.edu

Mikel Elam: Trauma


Text and Art by Mikel Elam, Copyright 2022

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Trauma

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Imagine how much trauma there must be in the world . All of the acts of disrespect on the planet and to the planet. In some ways we might be kinder to our pets . Not that there is anything wrong with giving our pets love . It just that we don’t give ourselves enough of the same energy .

Then we wake up and fake it . Fake life . Fake ego. Fake values and Fake intentions. Multiply that by billions of incidences throughout the world . I would say we are all in need of therapy. How can we think we are a good person if everyday we look the other way when something doesn’t suit us . Keeping silent when you hear a slur about someone else is the same as being a contributor. We are powerful beings if we try . We can make a difference in someone’s life .

Use technology with all of its faults . If someone is in distress call for help . Document it. The first time this was done was with Rodney King . Without the unnamed citizen who caught the beating , the incident would have just been erased. Reach out to someone you don’t know . Keep an open mind . Leave our judgements at home . Be present.

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About The Artist: Mikel Elam was born in Philadelphia. He attended the University of the Arts receiving his BFA in painting. He also attended the School of the Visual Arts in New York. He has been showing his paintings in numerous gallery spaces nationally and internationally for the last 25 years. Mikel is currently an artist in residence at the Fitler Club in Philadelphia.

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To see more of Mikel Elam’s artwork, link here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/mikel-elam-our-collective-consciousness/

Bob Shell: Virginia Enters the Dark Ages

Old Antique shop and old pick up truck radford virginia
Antiques. Radford, Virginia. Photo: Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2022

Last November, Virginia elected a new conservative Republican administration. The new Attorney General is Jason Miyares.

Last year, the AG at that time, Mark Herring, set up a new unit in the AG’s office called the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), because the administration finally realized that Virginia had far too many innocent people in prison.

The new unit went to work immediately on questionable convictions.
According to a study by the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper, about 15 – 18% of Virginia convictions are false. The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) admits to 5%. With approximately 30,000 people in Virginia prisons, that’s from 1,500 to 5,400 innocent people locked up in Virginia prisons, their lives destroyed.

The creation of the CIU gave us falsely convicted people a hope that the state wanted to redress its wrongs and set us free. I spent considerable time and money getting copies made of important documents in my case, and submitted it all to the CIU last year.

One of Miyares first acts upon taking office was to fire the whole staff of the CIU! This left cases in progress there hanging.  I wrote a letter complaining about this that was published on March 6 in The Roanoke Times newspaper. A communications officer from the AG’s office contacted the paper to demand a correction and say that the new AG had, in fact, expanded the CIU, renaming it the Investigations, Cold Cases, and Actual Innocence Project with all new staff under the direction of Theo Stamos, a prosecutor from Arlington, VA. Isn’t putting a prosecutor in charge of this new unit, which will now handle cold cases and investigations, like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse?

Why didn’t The Roanoke Times already know about this? Wouldn’t the AG normally send out a press release about such important news?
I recently got a letter from the Coalition for Justice in Blacksburg, Virginia. The situation is worse than I could have thought.
The Conviction Integrity Unit filed a petition for a Writ of Actual Innocence last year with the Virginia Court of Appeals for Terrance Richardson, a man serving a life sentence for the murder of a policeman, championed byAG Mark Herring.

After taking office new AG Miyares notified the court that the state had changed its position and asked the court to dismiss Richardson’s petition! Shouldn’t judging the merits of the 57 page petition prepared by the CIU and endorsed by the former AG be up to the court to decide?

Seth Shelley, one of the fired CIU attorneys, said, “My unit alone had 20 cases that were pending before the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of Virginia. All of us are now gone.”

What will happen to those cases? Will Miyares ask the courts to dismiss them all, or just leave these people hanging with no attorneys anymore?
Should the AG, whose staff’s job is to oppose these cases, be able to fire the lawyers representing the petitioners?

Another fired attorney, Emilee Hasbrouck said, over the past year the CIU has helped two people get absolute pardons, as well as filing Richardson’s petition. She said these cases are thousands of pages long, with evidence spanning decades. She emphasized just how difficult it would be for new people to take over these cases.

Theo Stamos, appointed to take over the new unit, is a prosecutor from Arlington, and a woman. She has been criticized for her stances on bail and voting rights restoration. Miyares appointed her, so they must share common views. No one knows what she will do with cases already being worked on by the fired CIU lawyers. There have been no comments from Ms Stamos at all, and no further word from the AG’s office.

Somebody needs to do something about this! I knew we’d gotten a dictatorial didact in the AG’s office, but this is worse than we could have possibly imagined. The fired lawyers should sue to get their jobs back and continue to represent those people. Maybe they will lose some of those cases in court, but that is how the system is supposed to work. Our adversarial system of justice fails when attorneys on both sides of cases represent the same interests.

It is long past time that those of us who have been falsely convicted are given the opportunity to go before the high courts and be set free.

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 About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/hypnosis-good-or-evil/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com. Here’s the link:  

Mikel Elam: Our Collective Consciousness

 

Text and Art by Mikel Elam, Copyright 2022

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Our Collective Consciousness

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Life seems to be a mixed bag of joy and sorrow . Triumph and failure . Life and Death . Many of us have asked the question; Why are we here? Well I think we are here just for the experience. I know many of you might say I would prefer not to have some of these moments . Think about it almost everything pleasurable has another side to it . Everything in excess becomes a burden . I think life was meant to be simple . Everything now has been over complicated. Technology has brought us to this place of both information and too much information. Do we really need to know what The Khardasians are having for breakfast?😊Let ‘s begin to reconnect to ourselves? Get out in nature . Read a book . Take a long walk without your phone . Can anyone remember once the only way to make a call while out was at a phone booth? Most of us fared well with that . Business was conducted . People were happy .We went to the library or the book store for knowledge. The noise in our lives is deafening.Drama has escalated. Some of us imitate the very shows we watch . Remember everything we will ever need is within us . We are the masters of our domain . Unfortunately injustice will probably always exist in some form . Our collective consciousness is the only way to stay on top of it . Reach out to someone you care about . Sit with them and just have a long chat .

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About The Artist: Mikel Elam was born in Philadelphia. He attended the University of the Arts receiving his BFA in painting. He also attended the School of the Visual Arts in New York. He has been showing his paintings in numerous gallery spaces nationally and internationally for the last 25 years.

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To see more of Mikel Elam’s artwork, link here: https://tonywardstudio.com/gallery/mikel-elam-painter/