This has been a terrible week for the Rob Ford administration. On Tuesday afternoon, Ford admitted that he has smoked crack cocaine, which inspired a nearly unanimous string of mockery from every late-night TV host and Twitter account owner in the world. More importantly, that admission, after months of question-dodging and denial, sounded more like a proverbial fuck you to the City of Toronto and its many hard working councilors and employees who are not currently embroiled in a crack related crime scandal. Then, about an hour after the crack admission, VICE reported that Amin Massoudi, Rob Ford’s spokesman, allegedly hired a hacker to destroy the crack tape on a private server—an allegation that Amin denied hours after we published our investigation, despite not answering several of our very specific requests for comment days before.
The Toronto media has been blue-balling the public all week with hints that there are more bombshells to come, and that’s not surprising. The 474-page surveillance document released last week is so heavily redacted with swaths of thick black ink that clearly there are more, presumably ridiculous, revelations to come. As a journalist, it’s somewhat thrilling. As a Torontonian, it’s exhausting and sad.
Are Anti-Gun Murder Squads Killing Pro-Gun Campaigners? Of Course Not, but That Hasn’t Stopped These Conspiracy Theorists
On January 3, the producer of popular gun-loving YouTube channel “FPS Russia" was found dead in Georgia at his business. Keith Ratliff, 32, was discovered with a single bullet in the back of his head. Scattered around him were various weapons, some of which he’d modified himself. Some early articles also suggested Ratliff had been tied to a chair at some point before he was murdered and then found on a rural road, but those reports now seem to be false.
So far, the motive behind this execution is unclear. The police recently ruled out a burglary gone wrong, due to the fact that nothing was stolen from the scene, but—of course—with Ratliff’s line of work, there are now a few far-flung theories sending gun forums into a frenzy, and whispers that this was an arms deal that turned sour.
An example of the insane weapons and dodgy Russian accents on FPS Russia.
As the producer and business partner at FPS Russia, Ratliff reportedly provided the channel’s host (the guy with the corny fake Russian accent) with most of the rare, powerful weapons and explosives they demonstrate to their 500 million viewers. Getting hold of weapons like the Golden Desert Eagle, an AA-12 automatic shotgun, and a 40mm machine gun is something Ratliff prided himself on. Kitty Wandel, a manager at FPS Russia, commented on this a few days ago, saying: “Keith Ratliff has been with the FPS Russia channel for quite some time now, helping us […] to find almost impossible weapons to use in videos.” Ratliff managed to get most of these “almost impossible weapons” using his Federal Firearms License (FFL).
Now, if we look at various videos on the FPS Russia channel—the firing of an explosive crossbow; theassembly of a DRD Paratus-18, which is an assassin-type “suitcase machine gun;” and even the unloading of a rocket launcher—it’s fair to presume that Ratliff obtained these weapons with his “type 10” FFL connections. This type 10 license allows the owner to “manufacture firearms, ammunition, ammunition components, destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, and armor piercing ammunition.” It also permits the owner to deal in all the aforementioned items. The money to be made with one of these licenses is incredible if you have the right kind of connections—someone with a type 11 license, for example.
David W Dyson.
I spoke to David W Dyson, firearms consultant and barrister, about the type 11 FFL and FPS Russia’s extensive arsenal of weapons. He told me:
“Regarding the way in which FPS Russia got hold of the weapons, we know that someone with a type 11 FFL could import them.”
The type 11 allows the import of almost any weapon in the US. With these two connections combined, you can effectively set yourself up as an arms dealer who can import a weapon once and then reproduce or modify it to sell on a large scale. Modifying and designing guns was one of Ratliff’s specialities.
“If someone with a type 11 FFL imported the items [FPS Russia’s guns], and if Ratliff had a type 10 FFL, he could simply buy them from the importer,” says Dyson. “Any supplier trading with the US could be a potential source of the weapons. There seems to be quite a few guns that could have originated in the former Soviet Union, but I think a lot could be US produced.”
There is no specific evidence that Keith Ratliff or FPS Russia are involved in any kind of arms dealing—something I did try to contact them about—but considering the way Keith was killed and his very public connection to guns, it’s a clear possibility that can’t be ignored.
Ratliff was also unhappy about the amount of paperwork you have to get through to own a military assault weapon in America. Speaking on a YouTube video titled “Obama Vows to Ban All Magazine Fed Weapons,” he rants on about how it should be illegal for some people to have guns and not others.
The USA loves three things: violent sports, adding more patties to burgers, and executing prisoners. Forty-three prisoners were put down last year, putting us behind only China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Lethal injection—an odd way of killing someone that is not cruel or unusual at all, according to the courts—was the most popular form of capital punishment. But it’s becoming more and more expensive. Lethel injection is normally a three-step process: The prisoner must be sedated and then paralyzed, before being shot up with potassium chloride, which stops the heart. In 2009, it cost prisons as little as $168.03 to knock off a wrongdoer thanks to the inexpensive, and now unavailable (thanks to some soft-hearted judges), sedative thiopental sodium. The replacement chemical became pentobarbital, which is $861.60 a pop, and raises the price of execution to $1,286.86 per person. Some frugal-minded death penalty states like Texas are wondering if they should eliminate the capital punishment altogether. But why not consider some other, cheaper execution methods first?
Electric Chair Cost: The start-up fee is $265,000 for the chair, but executions are only around $217.25 per prisoner. This includes $150.00 for the executioner and the cost of the necessary but non-resuable materials like shaving cream and a razor to shave the inmate’s head, the brine-soaked sponge for improving contact between the chair’s helmet and the inmate’s skull, Electro-Cream to reduce burns (?), and a leather face mask and diaper to catch/conceal exploding bodily fluids.
States Where It’s an Option: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, , South Carolina, Tennesse, and Virginia