Senior Staff Writer
CHAPEL HILL - Two military contractors face Marshall County's Board of Zoning Appeals this month for limits on their proposed firing range and, recently, the men joined America's gun debate arising from school shooting deaths.
Tony Shankle, 45, Chapel Hill, and Chris White, 48, Shelbyville, are partners in Strategic Edge Inc. Among other things, they train soldiers in close quarters combat martial arts with firearms. They've instructed some of the most professional special-forces officers.
Shankle has a question for advocates of limiting the number of bullets permitted in a magazine. He was asked to comment in light of 28 shooting deaths on Dec. 14 by Adam Lanza, 20, Newtown, Conn., who used a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, a variation on the AR-15. Shankle prefaced his question by showing how quickly a Glock handgun can be reloaded.
"Are you really going to tell me," Shankle asked, "that he would be less deadly" if he used a Glock? Lanza carried other guns, including a Glock that holds far fewer bullets than a Bushmaster magazine.
"It comes down to muscle memory in pistol shooting," Shankle explained. "There's speed and accuracy with repetition. It's like having a new car. After a month you can put the key in the ignition lock without really thinking."
Shankle is a record holder in marksmanship, having shot a cluster of bullets through a target one mile and 20 yards away. He and his partner, White, know guns.
"What we provide is unique training," White said. Strategic Edge offers security teams for executive protection anywhere, perhaps an attorney working for a petroleum or soft drink company where kidnapping is a risk.
Misconceptions about weaponry abound. AR in AR-15 doesn't stand for assault rifle, the businessmen said. The A is for the Armalite Co.
"One of the most versatile firearms in the world is the AR platforms," Shankle said of the modular firearm system. Its lower receiver holds the magazine and trigger. The upper holds the bolt and barrel. Different parts are for different purposes.
Such weaponry might be compared to a home entertainment system with a tuner, speakers, receiver, video display, a screen and a hand-held remote control.
White and Shankle contend car drivers get tickets when going too fast.
"We can't blame the inanimate object," Shankle said.
White said, "The Kentucky long rifle was an assault weapon. The bolt-action rifle started as a military weapon. They transitioned to civilian rifles."
White has a relative with emotional issues from harsh military experiences.
"Police can't do anything with him until he breaks the law," said White, a former law enforcement officer. "There ought to be mental health registers" not unlike Tennessee's sex offender registry.
"Spend money on mental heath," he said. "It is a difficult thing to police."
Well-designed schools are as important as good first aid, Shankle said.
Still, "If the shooter is willing to die, there's nothing that can be done," he said. "There are regulations that are needed. We're not extremists."