Sonoran Desert Institute

All the Latest News, Reviews and Developments happening with the Sonoran Desert Institute!

SDI is A Veteran Supportive Campus

There are over 400 educational entities in the state of Arizona. Of those, only 35 are Veteran Supportive Campuses. On October 22nd, SDI joined those ranks.

With our high military and veteran population, it goes without saying this recognition is especially meaningful. According to the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, the purpose of becoming a certified Veteran Supportive Campus (VSC) is to better understand the needs of military students and become continually responsive to those needs. The impact and importance of being a VSC can best be said by Rob Howard, the Director of Military and Veteran Services here at SDI.

“It is a stamp of approval that shows that our organization is committed to taking care of our student-veterans.  As an organization, we know how much work we put into ensuring our student-veterans are successful, it is nice to receive a prestigious recognition from the highest level in our State.”

You may be asking yourself, “What does SDI do to support veterans?” Rob’s got us covered on that too.

“There are many things we do to support veterans: we have an office that our student-veterans can visit if they are in the Tempe area SGT Michael J. Beckerman Military and Veteran Services Office; Student Veteran Steering Committee that serves as advocates for our student-veteran population; we have the Military and Veteran Services department whose mission is to support our student-veterans.  Lastly, we have some awesome leaders in our organization that hire individuals that are technically proficient in their jobs and truly care about taking care of veterans.  At the end of the day, our job at SDI is to help others succeed and take care of people, we have a proven track record that says we are darn good at our job.”

Howard’s sentiments were echoed by SDI President Traci Lee.

“Having served the Veteran community for many years, it was important to SDI to ensure we became a Veteran Supportive Campus through the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services (ADVS). We are committed to ongoing training to ensure understanding and ability to respond to the needs of our military students. We are proud of this recognition and look forward to SDI’s ongoing involvement in the Veteran community!”

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Veterans Day Thank You

This Is How We Can Celebrate Our Veterans Today

If you count all of its various iterations, Veterans Day has been a portion of the American pantheon of holidays for 101 years.

How is it, then, that so few of us, veterans included, know how to mark the holiday?

We’ll talk about what veterans can do in a second. For civilians, this is a serious issue.

First and foremost, we need to acknowledge a reality — a massive segment of civilians on Veterans Day, not unlike Memorial Day, really don’t know what to do during these holidays. Many have a portion or the whole of a day off of work. Many don’t really plan to do anything on that day. While breaks are nice, that’s not really what Veterans Day is about.

So, what do we do?

First, we can thank a veteran. Second, we can thank the legion of waitstaff and customer service personnel who make all the discounts and free meals available to veterans on their day possible. Those are pretty easy, and even if you thank 10 veterans, the combined efforts have taken us about 15 minutes.

Veterans Day wouldn’t be a holiday is the appreciation of our men and women in  uniform was meant to take 15 minutes.

I recently spoke with the Dean of the School of Firearms Technology at SDI, Wes Lemay, who served in the Army for some time, and he answered that very question.

His answer was simple: be better today.

To be better today, Wes outlined a few action points:

  1. If there’s a veteran-recognizing event today, be a part of it.
  2. Donate. As you are able, donate resources to veterans in need. There are a number of charities that would love your help. A few of my personal favorites are the Wounded Warrior Project, Freedom Service Dogs of America, the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and the Semper Fi Fund. SDI has donated to the Fisher House Foundation.
  3. Fly the American flag, and do it respectfully and correctly. You can research proper flag display procedure here.
  4. Ask a veteran about their service, and don’t press into topics that appear sensitive.
  5. Write a letter to a service member.
  6. If you’ve got a VA hospital near you and there are people that can and will accept visitors, go and visit. Make someone’s day.
  7. Take advantage of the opportunities veterans sacrificed for.

Americans have fought and died for your freedom. They’ve sacrificed time. They’ve sacrificed sweat. They’ve sacrificed whole portions of their lives in the pursuit of your life and liberty.

If you can complete that list, you’ve lived Veterans Day to the fullest.

Now, for our veterans on Veterans Day: relax. this day is for you.

What do you think about this to-do list? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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SDI Thanks Our Veteran Employees

What is a veteran?

On the surface, a veteran is someone who has served in the military, but they are much more than that. Veterans are heroes, modern-day warriors, and ultimately, those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Today, we want to recognize the many veteran employees for their continued efforts in bringing positive change to the world.

Thank you all for your service and for all you do for the betterment of everyone at SDI.


Bob Lee USMC
Bradley Sauls USMC
Chet McCoy USMC
Danny Guckenburg US Army and US Army National Guard
George Ackerman USCG Auxillary
Jacob Burden US Army
Jae Haney US Army and US Air Force
Jeff Lodholtz US Army
Jesse Orellana US Army and US Army National Guard
John Nightraven US Army
John Posner US Army
John Schlosser US Army National Guard
Kristen Shaw US Army and US Air Force
Martin Edge British Army
Reginald Finley US Army and US Army National Guard
Scott Griffin US Army and US Army National Guard
Scott Montgomery US Army
Tom Myers USAF
Travis Johnson USMC
Bryan Dolch USMC
Christopher Seaton US Navy
Wes LeMay US Army
Dustin Ford US Coast Guard
Gary Zito USMC
Lukas Pool US Army
Jonathon Speece US Navy
Marc Prochello US Air Force
Mark Gibbons US Navy
Mike Olson USMC
Pat Harphant USMC
Samuel Field US Army
Sam Schultz US Army
Simona Nichols US Army National Guard
Steve Bozich US Army
Richard Johnson US Army
Tabitha Reynolds US Army
Troy Hardwick US Army
Walter Howard US Army
Will Click US Army
We’d like to give an additional shout out to Martin Edge, who served in the British Army.
We love our SDI family veterans! Share this on Facebook and Twitter and help us give them some recognition for their service!

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Massive Gun Manufacturer Quits Long Guns for Civilians

In a move that has proven shocking to many, Colt, one of the best-renowned firearms manufacturers the world over, has decided to make the drastic move to stop selling long guns to the civilian market.

Colt’s news sent shock waves throughout the industry early this month as one of the titans on the firearms community bowed out of one of the key sectors of the firearms marketplace. Many speculated, not unreasonably, that the move was made in light of the current political climate.

However, that appears to be completely untrue. The real reason is far more telling of the state of the firearms industry in the United States civilian market.

There are so many manufacturers selling so many sporting rifles that the market is flooded. Colt has made the call to step aside and focus on what markets serve their company best.

According to a statement by Dennis Veilleux, President and Chief Executive Officer of Colt:

There have been numerous articles recently published about Colt’s participation in the commercial rifle market. Some of these articles have incorrectly stated or implied that Colt is not committed to the consumer market. We want to assure you that Colt is committed to the Second Amendment, highly values its customers and continues to manufacture the world’s finest quality firearms for the consumer market.

The fact of the matter is that over the last few years, the market for modern sporting rifles has experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity. Given this level of manufacturing capacity, we believe there is adequate supply for modern sporting rifles for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, our warfighters and law enforcement personnel continue to demand Colt rifles and we are fortunate enough to have been awarded significant military and law enforcement contracts. Currently, these high-volume contracts are absorbing all of Colt’s manufacturing capacity for rifles. Colt’s commitment to the consumer markets, however, is unwavering. We continue to expand our network of dealers across the country and to supply them with expanding lines of the finest quality 1911s and revolvers.

At the end of the day, we believe it is good sense to follow consumer demand and to adjust as market dynamics change. Colt has been a stout supporter of the Second Amendment for over 180 years, remains so, and will continue to provide its customers with the finest quality firearms in the world.

While it’s hard to love Colt taking its leave (for the moment, anyway) of the civilian market after such a long and storied run, there are certainly much, much worse reasons for a firearms industry company to make a major pivot such as this.

What do you think? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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Constitution Day FBook Banner

Here’s Why Constitution Day is the Biggest Holiday You’re Not Celebrating

The Fourth of July, or more properly Independence Day, is one of the biggest holidays on the American calendar. We mark it with parades, fanfare, fireworks, and of course, almost uniformly eating like starting on the fifth none of us will be permitted to ever eat food again.

That’s not a complaint — I like brats.

However you choose to note the day, there’s perfectly good reason for raucous celebration. It’s the day we declared independence from England, for crying out loud! We abandoned the rule of a monarch in one of the greatest blows struck for freedom in history.

So why is it then, that the day of the creation of our form of government — the very thing that we ultimately left monarchy for —  is far less visible to the public eye?

In fairness, the Untied States Constitution isn’t what many believed it would turn out to be — initially, we had the Articles of Confederation. These articles were ratified in 1781, and they didn’t last all that long. The intentional weakening of the national congress made their jobs just about impossible.

That didn’t go well, and you’ll remember from your high school history class how Shay’s Rebellion served as a stark warning that the federal government might need to do fun things like collect the funds they desperately needed to maintain a country’s functionality. What’s often not mentioned, additionally, is the Newburgh conspiracy.

The Newburgh conspiracy is one of the largest threats to the United States we’ve ever had, and it’s relatively unknown. In short, officers in the Continental Army and members of Congress attempted to instigate something akin to a coup, wherein states would be forced to grant more powers to Congress, who would in turn raise the cash that soldiers, extremely nervous about actually getting paid, would receive.

You can thank George Washington for shutting that down, but that’s an entirely different story.

So here we are, in 1787, with a weak amalgamation of states, a broke national government, a near-coup, and a failed rebellion. Obviously, something’s gotta give.

In May 1787, Philadelphia hosted a meeting of some of the greatest minds of the time to create the historic Constitutional Convention, and of course, the first thing they decided to do was ignore their mandate to amend the Articles of Confederation and create something new from scratch.

The rest is, well, history.

I won’t quote to you the entirety of the Constitution, or even paraphrase it — it’s lengthy, and dollars to donuts you know all about it already. What? You don’t? In that case, take some time and read it using the link here.

What you’ll want to take away, here, is this:

Today — September 17th, is Constitution Day, to mark the signing of the United States Constitution back in 1787.  Without what happened in Philadelphia on that day, we very likely not only would not have grown to the nation we have today, we probably would be either a territory or oblast of another power.

In other words, Constitution Day is every bit as important as Independence Day — we might even consider it an extension of the same.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rustle up some brats.

What do you think? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions and Their Answers, According to the ATF, Part 2

When it comes to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, folk in the firearms community tend to have very strong opinions — their actions can drastically effect the shooter’s day-to-day life, take for example the ATF’s decisions concerning pistol braces.

They are frequently disparaged, but as Sonoran Desert Institute’s Master Gunsmith Kip Carpenter notes in the webinar “Starting a Gunsmithing Business”, he’s had a tremendous experience with the organization.

No matter how hot or cold your emotions run, there is no question that the men and women at the ATF field a boatload of questions about guns on a regular basis. Previously, we took the opportunity to share and dig into five of the ten most frequently-asked questions posed to the ATF.

Now we’re going to clean up the remainder!

Let’s see what they got:

6. May I lawfully ship a firearm to myself in a different State?

Funnily enough, this isn’t really ever a question that occurred to me. In all fairness, I’m not much for travelling, and when I do it’s through areas that have nice little conveniences like concealed carry reciprocity. That being said, as the ATF notes you actually can ship a firearm to yourself!

Any person may ship a firearm to himself or herself in the care of another person in the State where he or she intends to hunt or engage in any other lawful activity. The package should be addressed to the owner “in the care of” the out-of-State resident. Upon reaching its destination, persons other than the owner must not open the package or take possession of the firearm.

The more you know!

7. May I lawfully ship a firearm directly to an out-of-State licensee, or must I have a licensee in my State ship it to him? May the licensee return the firearm to me, even if the shipment is across State lines?

Yes, you can ship a firearm directly to an FFL. Be you warned — from personal experience, I can tell you that the cost of shipping can be quite a bit! If you’ve never shipped a firearm before, be prepared for that cost.

Any person may ship firearms directly to a licensee in any State, with no requirement for another licensee to ship the firearm. However, handguns are not mailable through the United States Postal Service and must be shipped via common or contract carrier.

In response to the second part of the question, licensees can ship back to you without an additional in-state licensee if the firearm was yours to begin with. If you’ve sent it off for a repair or the like it can come straight back to you.

Firearms shipped to FFLs for repair or any other lawful purpose may be returned to the person from whom receive without transferring the firearm through an FFL in the recipient’s State of residence.

Just don’t try that with a new purchase!

8. I have been convicted of a felony. How do I reinstate my rights to possess a firearm?

This is a tricky one. A lot of people believe that their gun rights should never be restored, while others believe the opposite just as strongly — as long as the felony committed wasn’t violent. Last year, an Arizona state trooper was famously saved by a former felon whose gun rights was restored to him.

Regardless of how we may feel about it, a felon’s rights can be restored.

Persons who have been convicted of a “crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year,” as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20), are prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under Federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Felons whose convictions have been set-aside or expunged, or for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored are not considered convicted under section 922(g)(1), unless that person was expressly prohibited by the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held from possessing firearms… If your conviction is for a Federal offense, you would regain the ability to lawfully receive, possess, or transport firearms if you receive a Presidential pardon.

In essence, there are no guarantees that you can your gun rights back — but governmental agencies can restore those rights. If you’ve committed a federal offense and are looking for more information, the ATF recommends taking a look at h

9. May I lawfully make a firearm for my own personal use, provided it is not being made for resale?

Surprisingly — and awesomely — yes! You can not make a firearm for sale without a manufacturer’s license, of course. You can’t make one for distribution, either.

But for yourself? You’re in good shape.

Firearms may be lawfully made by persons who do not hold a manufacturer’s license under the GCA provided they are not for sale or distribution and the maker is not prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms. However, a person is prohibited from assembling a non-sporting semiautomatic rifle or shotgun from 10 or more imported parts.

10. I was the subject of a NICS check when I attempted to purchase a firearm from an FFL, and I received a delayed response or a denial. Please tell me why I did not receive a “proceed” response.

Well, good news and bad news, there. The bad news is that you are going to have to go the NICS customer service center for that one, which is actually administered by the FBI.

The good news is that the ATF isn’t responsible for your ruined afternoon.

ATF does not operate the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It is administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Please contact the NICS Customer Service Center at (877) 444-6427 for further assistance.

What questions do you have that was left off the ATF’s list? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions and Their Answers, According to the ATF, Part 1

When it comes to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, folk in the firearms community tend to have very strong opinions.

There’s good reasons for that — their actions can drastically effect the shooter’s day-to-day life, take for example the ATF’s decisions concerning pistol braces.

They are frequently disparaged, but as Sonoran Desert Institute’s Master Gunsmith Kip Carpenter notes in the webinar “Starting a Gunsmithing Business”, he’s had a tremendous experience with the organization.

No matter how hot or cold your emotions run, however, there is no question that the men and women at the ATF field a boatload of questions about guns on a regular basis.

So, what are the most common questions?

This article is the first of a two-part series on the ten most-asked questions to the ATF. We’re breaking it down because if folks all across the country are asking these questions, odds are good you’ll catch one you were wondering, too.

Let’s dig in!

1. Can a person prohibited by law from possessing a firearm acquire and use a black powder muzzle loading firearm?

Now, I’m not a felon — and I don’t really plan on being one in the future, but I will admit that this is a question I have wondered more than once.

Surprisingly, the answer is yes!

Federal law does not prohibit these persons from possessing or receiving an antique firearm. The term “antique firearm” means any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898.

I will admit, that’s not how I expected the ATF to respond on that. However, it does make sense. You can get muzzleloaders shipped right to your door (at least you can here in North Carolina), and trying to track them would be a logistical nightmare.

Keep in mind, however, that we’re talking on the federal level — state government can come into play.

Finally, even though a prohibited person may lawfully possess an antique firearm under Federal law, State or local law may classify such weapons as “firearms” subject to regulation. Any person considering acquiring a black powder weapon should contact his or her State Attorney General’s Office to inquire about the laws and possible State or local restrictions.

Always check your local laws!

2. May I lawfully transfer a firearm to a friend who resides in a different State?

Short answer — no, you can’t — at least you can’t without the involvement of an FFL. As much as you may want to, you have to pay that transfer fee — it’s a small price to pay to stick to the right side of the law. As the ATF notes:

Under Federal law, an unlicensed individual is prohibited from transferring a firearm to an individual who does not reside in the State where the transferee resides. Generally, for a person to lawfully transfer a firearm to an unlicensed person who resides out of State, the firearm must be shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) within the recipient’s State of residence.

As tempting as it may be to send a firearm to John Doe a few hundred miles away, take the time to ship it right, with an FFL.

3. May I lawfully transfer a firearm to a resident of the same State in which I reside?

Yes — yes you can! However, you can’t transfer a firearm to someone who can’t legally possess one — take the felon from Question 1, for example. You can’t sell him your .380 because you are all about .45 ACP now, now matter how much he wants to strike a deal!

Any person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of the State where he resides as long as he does not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under Federal law. There may be State laws that regulate interstate firearm transactions.

As always, check your local laws for interstate firearm transactions, or any other question you have in terms of firearms legality.

4. How do I register my firearm or remove my name from a firearms registration?

Good news for you — and most of you firearms community veterans already know this — there’s no Federal registration requirement unless we’re talking SBR’s, machine guns, and the like.

There is no Federal registration requirement for most conventional sporting firearms. Only those firearms subject to the National Firearms Act (NFA) (e.g., machineguns, short-barrel firearms, silencers, destructive devices, any other weapons) must be registered with ATF.

That’s one less thing on your plate!

5. Does ATF issue a Concealed Carry Permit (CCP) that authorizes a person to carry a firearm throughout the United States?

As much as some of us (me included!) may want a national concealed carry permit of some form or other to be an institution of this great nation, it’s not.

At least not yet. A guy can dream, can’t he?

Neither ATF nor any other Federal agency issues such a permit or license. CCPs may be issued by a State or local government.

What do you think about these questions? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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Congressional Medal of Honor Given to Living Iraq War Veteran for Very First Time

The only Medal of Honor yet given to a living veteran of the Iraq War has now been awarded.

Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, now age 43, had already received a Silver Star for the actions he took in Fallujah nearly fifteen years ago, but a recent review of valor awards determined him deserving of our nation’s highest honor, according to the Army Times. He was honored June 25.

The battle in which he fought was ferocious, and the citation’s recounting of the events makes that more than evident, but it’s important to understand what sacrifices were made to keep our nation safe and earn this award. Below, we have attached an abridged version of his citation recounting his actions. You can read it in full here. Please read the citation at your own discretion — it does get violent.

The President of the United States of America… takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Staff Sergeant David S. Bellavia, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 2d Battalion, 2d Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM during the battle for Al Fallujah, Iraq, on 10 November 2004. Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s personal bravery and selfless actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, 1st Infantry Division and the United States Army…

Staff Sergeant David S. Bellavia distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM during the battle for Al Fallujah, Iraq, on 10 November 2004. On that date Sergeant Bellavia’s platoon was ordered to clear a block of 12 buildings from which Jihadists were firing on American forces.

The first nine buildings were unoccupied, but were found to be filled with enemy rockets, grenade launchers and other kinds of weapons. When Bellavia and four others entered the tenth building, they came under fire from insurgents in the house. Other soldiers came to reinforce the squad and a fierce battle at close quarters ensued. Many American soldiers were injured from the gunfire and flying debris. At this point, Sergeant Bellavia, armed with a M249 SAW gun, entered the room where the insurgents were located and sprayed the room with gunfire, forcing the Jihadists to take cover and allowing the squad to move out into the street.

Here, it’s important to note that Bellavia actually switched out his M16 for the SAW he carried into this phase of the combat, according to the Army Times, assumedly because he knew he’d need that firepower.

Jihadists on the roof began firing at the squad, forcing them to take cover in a nearby building. Sergeant Bellavia then went back to the street and called in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to shell the houses. After this was done, he decided to re-enter the building to determine whether the enemy fighters were still active. Seeing a Jihadist loading an RPG launcher, Sergeant Bellavia gunned him down. A second Jihadist began firing as the soldier ran toward the kitchen and Bellavia fired back, wounding him in the shoulder. A third Jihadist began yelling from the second floor. Sergeant Bellavia then entered the uncleared master bedroom and emptied gunfire into all the corners, at which point the wounded insurgent entered the room, yelling and firing his weapon. Sergeant Bellavia fired back, killing the man.

Sergeant Bellavia then came under fire from the insurgent upstairs and the staff sergeant returned the fire, killing the man. At that point, a Jihadist hiding in a wardrobe in a bedroom jumped out, firing wildly around the room and knocking over the wardrobe. As the man leaped over the bed he tripped and Sergeant Bellavia shot him several times, wounding but not killing him. Another insurgent was yelling from upstairs, and the wounded Jihadist escaped the bedroom and ran upstairs. Sergeant Bellavia pursued, but slipped on the blood-soaked stairs.

The wounded insurgent fired at him but missed. He followed the bloody tracks up the stairs to a room to the left. Hearing the wounded insurgent inside, he threw a fragmentary grenade into the room, sending the wounded Jihadist onto the roof. The insurgent fired his weapon in all directions until he ran out of ammunition. He then started back into the bedroom, which was rapidly filling with smoke.

Hearing two other insurgents screaming from the third story of the building, Sergeant Bellavia put a choke hold on the wounded insurgent to keep him from giving away their position. The wounded Jihadist then bit Sergeant Bellavia on the arm and smacked him in the face with the butt of his AK-47. In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the Jihadist’s throat. Two other insurgents who were trying to come to their comrade’s rescue, fired at Bellavia, but he had slipped out of the room, which was now full of smoke and fire. Without warning, another insurgent dropped from the third story to the second-story roof. Sergeant Bellavia fired at him, hitting him in the back and the legs and causing him to fall off the roof, dead. At this point, five members of 3d Platoon entered the house and took control of the first floor. Before they would finish off the remaining Jihadists, however, they were ordered to move out of the area because close air support had been called in by a nearby unit.

In summation- the man was an unapologetic one-man army.

What do you think about this man’s actions? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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