I MISS THE SNIPER.
Or rather, I miss the time of the sniper, those days of the jackal when all of us would nervously glance up from our work to the news crawls on television or computer screens to learn if he (or they) had struck again. It was like following a historic baseball record in the making -- Barry Bonds' home-run quest or Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak. The sniper didn't exactly unite us as members of a law-abiding democracy, but at least he brought us together as a TV audience and gathered, as crises always do, a cast of obscure and sometimes improbable authorities and experts -- doleful Montgomery County Sheriff Charles Moose lecturing the press in his Smokey the Bear hat, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta grossing out morning anchor Daryn Kagan by describing the effects of a bullet entering the stomach of a restaurant-patron victim.
Oddly enough, the nation's self-proclaimed sniper experts hated the publicity they suddenly got. Sniperworld, which calls itself "the number-one starting point for the tactical marksman," operates a Web site (www.sniperworld.com)that acts as a kind of clearinghouse for chat rooms and other sites dedicated to the craft and sullen art of long-distance assassination and target shooting. One link connects you to the American Sniper Association, which claims to provide "the collective voice of the sniper community." It's immensely gratifying to know such professional organizations exist, although the ASA apparently didn't revel in the attention it received from the media after Messrs. Muhammad and Malvo allegedly began their bizarre Huck-and-Jim murder odyssey. It finally issued an exasperated statement on its Web site, www.american sniper.org, that concluded by sniping at the media: "Professional snipers have been working in the police tactical community for over 30 years. Our actions on operations have saved thousands of lives. Why has it taken three decades and a series of tragedies for the media to suddenly decide we merit attention?"
Incidentally, another of Sniperworld's links takes you to Innovative Weaponry, Inc., a subsidiary of Fort Worth, Texas' 21st Century Technologies. The firm made news last week when it announced the LAPD is purchasing the company's PT Nite Sight for departmental Berettas. These are no ordinary gun sights, but three-dot, tritium-treated devices that glow in the dark in two colors. (In 1996 Innovative Weapons made different kinds of news when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cited the company for obtaining the radioactive isotope from a source it was not authorized to, as well as selling a gun sight that it was not specifically allowed to.)
Just how the sights, which cost $70 per unit on the civilian retail market, may or may not help define the new William Bratton LAPD is hard to figure. There are now plans to obtain more such sights for the department shotguns, and 21st's CEO, Arland D. Dunn, a press release noted, has disclosed that the LAPD "was displaying interest" in sights that can be manufactured with night-sight capability. If nothing else, taking back the night may assume a whole new meaning under the new chief.
SOME ARE BORN GRITTY, OTHERS have grittiness thrust upon them. So one would gather from reading the L.A. Times, which has enjoyed a years-long love affair with the word gritty, an adjective that has been used to describe everything from streets to acting styles. Recently the paper went bananas, using the word 11 times in seven days, including:
As gritty as [Keith] Richards is, Cher appears equally unscathed.
. . . the Clippers played a gritty style that had been notably absent during their first five games.
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It sprang up again last weekend like a giant hologram in the storefronts and gritty back-alley basements of Chinatown.
Football heaven, smack in the middle of gritty, crime-ridden but still-hopeful Boyle Heights.