Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Monday, February 28, 2005

Grieve for the Fallen: Mark Allen Wilson

The Geek with a .45 has two posts up concerning the actions of Texas CCW holder Mark Allen Wilson in Sunday's rampage shooting in Tyler Texas, and the memorial service for Mr. Wilson. (And also the excrable statement by Marsh McCartney, the Dallas Chapter President of the Million Mommies.)

The first post is written by Blackfork6, who was a friend of Mark Wilson, and who attended the memorial service and provides photos. The second post is by the Geek, and includes the letter written by Blackfork6 to the local paper in protest to Ms. McCartney's spewing.
"Greater love hath no man but to lay down his life for another."
Indeed. Give them a read.

Boy, it's a Good Thing They Have All Those Weapon Restrictions In England.

This is London reports that a gang of vandals (more than slightly resembling their Vandal namesakes) ran through a commuter train smashing windows.
Passengers fled in terror as a gang charged through London commuter trains smashing more than 100 windows.

The vandals, believed to have been armed with iron bars, wrecked so many carriages that morning peak services were disrupted due to a shortage of stock.

When they finished with one train they boarded another and continued their spree.

Northfleet station in Kent was also attacked. Damage to equipment was so severe that part of it remained shut today. A spokeswoman for South Eastern Trains (SET) said: "This was just wanton destruction for the sake of it."
Iron bars, eh?

And what stopped the vandals from deciding that smashing skulls would be more fun?

Oh, right - their "better natures."

It obviously wasn't fear of police intervention. Or an armed citizenry.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

On Mark Allen Wilson

I was asked about this, and responded in comments, but the Geek With a .45 has said it about as well as anyone could, and the comments to his post by people who knew Mr. Wilson are very much worth reading.

To this I can only add that to risk your own life for that of another is the greatest sacrifice anyone can make, and Mr. Wilson, by all accounts, saved the life of David Hernandez Arroyo Jr. by his actions.

If there's an afterlife, Mr. Wilson is receiving great honors there.

Oh, What the Hell.

Via Mostly Cajun, another blogmeme - your Senior Year of High School:

What year was it?
What was your schedule?
You expect me to remember that? I had (IIRC) parking-lot duty first period, Civics (or whatever they called it then) second period, AP English third period, somewhere in there I had Calculus and Physics, and that's all I'm really sure about.
What were your favorite bands?
Elton John, the Eagles, Eric Clapton (the three essential "E's" of rock-n-roll.)
What was your favorite outfit?
"Style" is not and never has been a strong point for me. Blue jeans, a pocket T-shirt, and a plaid flannel long-sleeved shirt if weather required it. And boots. Almost never tennis shoes. I was "grunge" before Seattle ever thought about it.
What was up with your hair?
What about it? I got it cut when it started bothering me. Still do.
Who were your best friends?
Charles (now Chuck) Mangum, Chuck Persinger, Joe Mueck. But Chuck Persinger went to a different high school, and Joe moved to Florida the year before.
Did you take the bus?
Nope. I had my own car - a 1969 Simca 1118. Not much, but it ran.
What did you do after school?
Worked in a movie theater.
Who did you have a crush on?
Martha Ann Wagner. That was a long-standing one, too. One of the reasons I got the job in the theater. Never panned out, though.
Did you fight with your parents?
No, my brother did all of that. My parents and I got along fine.
Who did you have a CELEBRITY crush on?
I'm sure I must have had one, but I couldn't tell you who, now. Probably Kate Jackson from the original Charlie's Angels.
Did you smoke cigarettes?
Nope. My parents did, and my brother did, but I never could understand why someone would want to do that.
Did you lug all of your books around in your backpack all day because you were too nervous to find your locker?
You know, I'm not sure if I started using a backpack in high school, or if it waited until I started college. Probably college. It wasn't a big high school.
Did you have a ‘clique’?
Hell no. I think I made a point of not fitting in anywhere.
Did you have Chili’s? Denny’s?
Not then.
Who did you want to be just like?
I can't name anybody in particular.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Well off.
Where did you think you’d be at the age you are now?
About where I am now. May be a little more well off.

Sgt. Plumondore & Comrades: RIP

Rivrdog has the details on the memorial service. Go read.

Joe Huffman has links to the MSM coverage of the service. Some of it is pretty good.

Read Michael Bane's Take on Lawsuit Preemption Legislation

I think he's spot-on, myself.
The firearms industry is queasy about supporting .50 calibers. That's because many of the Powers-That-Be come from hunting/shotgun sports backgrounds, and they're uncomfortable with us barbarians from the practical pistol/tactical/long-range rifle buzz gun side of playpen.


Gun industry protection has been re-introduced in both the House and Senate. The antigunners — crippled, unable to raise funds, desperate for an issue that gets them back in the game — are trying to generate enough heat around .50s and "armor-piercing ammunition" to allow them to cut a deal on pre-emption. The antigunners suck it up and accept firearms industry protection against lawsuits if we sell out the .50s and the 5.7 X 28.
Michael's recommendation?
• Keep up the heat on CNN.

• Let our industry representatives know where we stand.
To that I would add, let our elected representatives know where we stand, too.

OK, NOW I Feel Validated.

It's been nineteen months since I started The Smallest Minority, and while I've gotten one or two comments from people who disagree with me, and even a couple from the moonbat wing (JadeGold, you know who you are), I hadn't yet received one of those truly mindless, angry, hatred-spewing comments from the Perpetually Pissed-Off™.

Got my first one.
Kevin when I took you up on your 'go shooting for a day' offer, you swore I'd get to shoot me some Messicans. You never showed me any! You even lied about that manservant of yours, the one who kept the beer coming. I checked his license -- Rodriguez -- what's he do for you that keeps you form shootin' him, huh?

In fact, I don't think you really did any of that stuff you were talking about. You're just another loudmouth pencil-dicked nerd with pistol-envy.

Let's see, Hess - were you Aaron or his 18 year-old birthday-boy brother? Or Diane, that nice 66 year-old lady who really loved shooting my Kimber .45? (And was good with it!)

Didn't think so.

Keep projecting your irrational fears, Hess. (Any relation to Rudolph by any chance?) Don't bother reading anything that will challenge your prejudices. Thanks for visiting! And tell your friends, friend, co-workers, ward-mates.

This just makes my weekend!

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Second Installment of The Carnival of Cordite is Up.

Over at Resistance is Futile. (Gullyborg needs to work on his layout - those quotes are so tiny they're hard to read!)

The posts are all gun-oriented, and all good, but my pick of the week is Critical Mastiff's The Gun Thing. His essay charts his personal voyage to gun ownership and personal responsibility. This excerpt jumped out at me:
Possessing power means that first, you are capable in theory of confronting opposing power and defeating it. Second, it means that you now have the responsibility of deciding when to use force. This means grappling with the thorniest moral problems that we face, and making clear decisions on what is right and what is wrong. Third, because you have power, you have a reciprocal responsibility to use your power for the good of others. By carrying a weapon, you are accepting an obligation to protect those around you.

Not possessing power means that first, you are completely dependent on others for your own survival. Anything you do must be in concert with them, or else you become defenseless. Second, you need never seriously confront the problem of using force, because you personally will never need an answer. Crucial areas of your moral code will remain vague and theoretical, because nothing is making you draw clear lines in the sand. Finally, because you have no defense against force if used against you, you will do your best to banish force from your world entirely, except for those whose protection you rely upon.
This is something I think a lot of gun owners understand implicitly (though some do not), but never really think about or express. And it's something that the gun-phobic do not understand at all, or if they do, they subconsciously reject it. I am reminded, once again, of the letter written by "Refugee" that expressed much the same sentiment:
When I actually bought [a gun] (to the horror and confusion of my friends and family), having it around the house, carrying it in my car, talking about it, showing it off, and of course shooting and maintaining it, taught me what I could not learn from books, magazines, classes, or even Usenet:

It taught me that freedom takes practice.

I thought I'd practiced. I'm as full of opinions as the next guy, and not shy about passing 'em out to anyone who'll listen. I read banned books and underground comics. I've walked the picket lines and hung out with undesirables. A preacher's kid, I pointedly don't practice a religion. I've done stuff that Wasn't Allowed.

But when I got a gun, I discovered it had all been safe, padded, wading-pool-with-floaties dabbling. After near on to fifty years, I finally started to grow up. If my Grands are any clue, I've still got twenty or thirty years to work on it, and get to be something like mature by the time I go senile.

It's not just that rights are useless if they are not exercised, not even that rights must be used or be lost. It's that exercising your rights, constantly, is what instructs you in how to be worthy of them.

Being armed goes far beyond simple self-protection against thugs or even tyrants -- it's an unequivocal and unmatched lesson that you are politically and morally sovereign; that you, and not the state, are responsible for your life and your fate. This absolute personal sovereignty is the founding stone of the Republic. "A well-regulated militia" (where the militia is "the whole people") isn't just "necessary to the security of a free state" because it provides a backup to (and defense against) the police and the army. More importantly, keeping and bearing arms trains sovereign citizens in the art of freedom, and accustoms us to our authority and duty.
Here's to our efforts to expand the Nation of Riflemen so that more of our fellow citizens can learn the same lessons.

Because if we're going to survive as a free people, a lot more of us need to.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Have Tomorrow Off!

And I'm going to the range! (First time in WEEKS!)

The No-Nuance President

Instapundit relates an excerpt from a BBC reporter Justin Webb's "Tour Diary" concerning President Bush's visit to EUnuchistan, er, Europe.
The president is wonderfully un-European - refreshingly so in the view of those of us who have worked in Brussels.

He is unsmooth. He stumbles over his sentences. He uses short, plain, sometimes almost babyish words, while the sophisticated multilingual Euro crowd prefer obfuscatory long ones.

And he gets a clear message across, like it or not. He has no need of spin.

It was interesting that on the White House bus back into town, the journalists did not need to compare notes or discuss the president's words and what they meant.

On the other hand, for Chirac and Schroeder there was a discussion that would have made an old-style Kremlinologist blush. . . .

Some people think Schroeder said one thing about Nato and some think he actually meant another. Others claim that Chirac really believes Schroeder wanted to say... etc etc.

Welcome to Europe, Mr Bush.
He's wonderfully non-politician. Last February the Washington Post's Richard Cohen did a piece, Bush's War on Nuance where this characteristic was stated plainly:
To satisfy the hallowed journalistic tradition that there must be two sources for almost anything, I offer you Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Candy Crowley of CNN. They both are on record as having George Bush say that he doesn't do nuance. "Joe, I don't do nuance," the president supposedly told the senator. As for Crowley, she heard it this way: "In Texas, we don't do nuance." If these two sources don't suffice, I offer you the 7,932 words that make up the text of the president's interview with Tim Russert. There ain't a nuance anywhere in the whole mess.
And he hasn't changed. Cohen, however, wasn't as approving as the Brit.

What a difference a year - and three elections - makes.

Edited to add:

I was also reminded (again) of this old Sacramento Bee piece, French puzzle over why U.S. got so angry from May of 2003, and this quote that shall live in infamy:
"What is a little disconcerting for the French is an American president who seems to be principled," said Jean Duchesne, an English literature professor at Condorcet College in Paris. "The idea that politics should be based on principles is unimaginable because principles lead to ideology, and ideology is dangerous."
The thing that Justin Webb and his fellow-travellers seem to be reacting to is President Bush's principled behavior, something they're totally unfamiliar with when it comes to politicians.

Ideology seems to be working pretty good.

But then again, success is dependent on the ideology, isn't it?

UPDATE: Sperari has an associated post, Instinct vs. Understanding vs. Meandering.
Just Links this Morning.

Two of them, in fact. First, The Laughing Wolf has a damned good piece up on a question that seems central to our problems as a nation - are we citizens, or subjects? Read Pornography and TSA: The Common Link.

The second link comes from Denise at The Ten Ring. She has some comments on the state of firearms legislation in the U.S. and I'm in complete agreement with her. Read Rolling Back Gun Laws.

Busy today.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Well CRAP. Just as I Thought.

CNN obfuscated. The transcript (and I assume the original CNN piece) was kind of vague, giving the strong implication that CNN reporter Drew Griffin was the purchaser of the rifle, and is a non-resident of Texas. According to this post at The Firing Line forums, CNN is apparently off the hook:
I just saw a replay of the article on CNN. When the seller and buyer walked out of the house with the gun, it was not the reporter that bought the gun. The reporter wasn't in the picture. The reporter handled a rifle case on an airport luggage conveyer, but apparently didn't actually go anywhere with the 50 cal. The reporter at the end of the story made it clear that the gun was bought in Texas by a resident of Texas (which was not the reporter).

So, nothing illegal was done, but the story as presented was a lie, implying that the reporter flew home with the rifle. In fact, the rifle stayed in Texas, and the purchaser was not the reporter. From the Michael Moore school of journalism.
That's what it sounds like. Read the transcript excerpt.

CNN lie? I'm shocked. SHOCKED, I tell you.

I don't even expect a retraction, now. We can call off the hounds.

UPDATE 2/24: Matt at Stop the Bleating has done some research and concluded (rightly, IMHO) that there won't be any prosecution because the violation was not "willing," and gives legal precedent to back his conclusion up.
Under 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(1)(D), it appears that a violation of 922(a)(3) is not punishable unless it is "willful." In Bryan v. United States, the Supreme Court construed the term "willful" in section 924(a)(1)(D) to require that the defendant knew his conduct was unlawful at the time of the prohibited act, although not that he knew what specific law he was breaking.
There have been a number of BATF prosecutions that, it would appear to me, have been of people who were not "willfully" breaking the law, but they were probably not breaking 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(1)(D).

Matt apparently agrees with me, though, that reporter Drew Griffin is a "a deceitful sack of s***", but he gets to walk, either way.

In a related post, Denise of The Ten Ring has a post on the difficulties of navigating the minefield that is federal, state, county, and municipal firearms law. Give it a look.

Intent? We Don't Need No Steenking Intent!

Back to the CNN felony story:

The Countertop Chronicles
points out that INTENT has had very little influence on prior prosecutions by the BATF.
The simple fact is that CNN didn't commit a common law crime, where mens rea is an element of guilt. No, instead they violated a statute that provides for strict liability, ir-regardless of intent.
Quoting 2nd Amendment lawyer Dave Kopel's Trust the People: The Case Against Gun Control, Countertop points to several firearms cases where a lack of "intent" was explicitly acknowledged - but prosecution, conviction, and sentencing went ahead anyway. I'd like to point out, too, the case of New Jersey v. Pelleteri. The New Jersey Supreme Court went so far in that case as to state:
This is an area in which "regulations abound and inquiries are likely," and where the overarching purpose is to insure the public safety and protect against acts and threats of violence. State v. Hatch, 64 N.J. 179, 184, 313 A.2d 797 (1973); see also Burton v. Sills, 53 N.J. 86, 248 A.2d 521 (1968). "[T]he dangers are so high and the regulations so prevalent that, on balance, the legislative branch may as a matter of sound public policy and without impairing any constitutional guarantees, declare the act itself unlawful without any further requirement of mens rea or its equivalent." State v. Hatch, 64 N.J. at 184-85, 313 A.2d 797. When dealing with guns, the citizen acts at his peril.
Too bad this sale didn't occur in New Jersey. Mr. Griffin would find himself most probably under the jail.

For those of you who've been under a rock since Saturday, Triggerfinger has a pretty comprehensive list of links to the story so far.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Slouching Towards Despotism

SCOTUSblog reports on today's oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of Kelo vs. City of New London. For some background, the Kelo case is about the abuse of eminent domain law, where the government takes property from individual citizens. I've covered several cases of eminent domain abuse, but this one's a doozy. CNN's Money site has a good background story on the case.
Wilhelmina Dery, 87, was born in her century-old house near the Thames River.

Her son, Matt, and daughter-in-law, Suzanne, live next door with their teenage son, Andrew. Among their most precious possessions: the garden planted by Matt's grandmother, and the kitchen doorway where they've charted Andrew's height over the years.

The Derys' neighbors have their own, similar stories.

Bill Von Winkle bought his first building in the neighborhood 20 years ago, and went to work making sandwiches in the downstairs deli and renovating the upstairs apartments.

Susette Kelo meticulously restored her small pink Victorian house.

So when the New London Economic Development Corporation, a non-profit organization appointed by the city, approached about 70 property owners in Fort Trumbull about selling their homes to make space for a luxury hotel, condominiums and office space, these and a handful of other owners declined.

Their property, they said, is not for sale.

In November 2000, however, the city invoked eminent domain – a government right to seize property for public use – and sent out condemnation notices to owners refusing to sell. The city planned to pay the owners fair market value, take possession of the buildings and tear them down.

According to Daniel Krisch, one of the attorney's representing New London and its economic development arm, the city had several good reasons for razing the well-kept middle class neighborhood to replace it with a new, private development.

Krisch contends that the new development would create jobs, boost tax revenue, improve the city's infrastructure and provide public access to the river. It's for the benefit of the entire community, he said.
(Emphasis mine.) Read the whole thing.

At issue is the Fifth Amendment's takings clause:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
But in this case, it isn't being taken "for public use." It's being taken from one private party, and it's being given (or sold) to another private party on the grounds that "boosting tax revenue" constitutes "public use." No it doesn't. It constitutes enriching the government coffers.

As you can imagine, I consider this to be an extreme abuse of the Constitution. In the parlance of "slippery slopes," eminent domain was first abused back in the 50's when "urban renewal" was big. The case of Berman v. Parker was the first suit. It challenged the The District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1945. The Supreme Court found:
The District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1945 is constitutional, as applied to the taking of appellants' building and land (used solely for commercial purposes) under the power of eminent domain, pursuant to a comprehensive plan prepared by an administrative agency for the redevelopment of a large area of the District of Columbia so as to eliminate and prevent slum and substandard housing conditions - even though such property may later be sold or leased to other private interests subject to conditions designed to accomplish these purposes.
(a) The power of Congress over the District of Columbia includes all the legislative powers which a state may exercise over its affairs.

(b) Subject to specific constitutional limitations, the legislature, not the judiciary, is the main guardian of the public needs to be served by social legislation enacted in the exercise of the police power; and this principle admits of no exception merely because the power of eminent domain is involved.

(c) This Court does not sit to determine whether or not a particular housing project is desirable.

(d) If Congress decides that the Nation's Capital shall be beautiful as well as sanitary, there is nothing in the Fifth Amendment that stands in the way.

(e) Once the object is within the authority of Congress, the right to realize it through the exercise of eminent domain is clear.

(f) Once the public purpose has been established, the means of executing the project are for Congress and Congress alone to determine.

(g) This Court cannot say that public ownership is the sole method of promoting the public purposes of a community redevelopment project; and it is not beyond the power of Congress to utilize an agency of private enterprise for this purpose or to authorize the taking of private property and its resale or lease to the same or other private parties as part of such a project.

(h) It is not beyond the power of Congress or its authorized agencies to attack the problem of the blighted parts of the community on an area rather than on a structure-by-structure basis. Redevelopment of an entire area under a balanced integrated plan so as to include not only new homes but also schools, churches, parks, streets, and shopping centers is plainly relevant to the maintenance of the desired housing standards and therefore within congressional power.

(i) The standards contained in the Act are sufficiently definite to sustain the delegation of authority to administrative agencies to execute the plan to eliminate not only slums but also the blighted areas that tend to produce slums.

(j) Once the public purpose is established, the amount and character of the land to be taken for the project and the need for a particular tract to complete the integrated plan rests in the discretion of the legislature.

(k) If the Redevelopment Agency considers it necessary in carrying out a redevelopment project to take full title to the land, as distinguished from the objectionable buildings located thereon, it may do so.

(l) The rights of these property owners are satisfied when they receive the just compensation which the Fifth Amendment exacts as the price of the taking.
Note the repeated reference to "slums" and "blighted areas." The justification for the land-grab was "urban renewal" - the elimination of slums and "blighted areas" which was a public good, but not necessarily public use. And this decision justified selling property taken under eminent domain to other private parties.

Yet the Fifth Amendment is pretty explicit in its call for "public use."

This decision was followed by Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff in 1984, in which the State of Hawaii used eminent domain to take large lots of land from their private owners, then break up those lots and sell the pieces to the tenants living on them. But because the original owner got "just compensation," this theft was made legal.

First step down the slippery slope: "Urban renewal of blighted areas and slums" as justification.

Second step down the slippery slope: "Fair redistribution" as justification.

Third step down the slippery slope: "Boosting tax revenue" as justification.

SCOTUSblog reports:
Marty (Lederman) reports that, based on the impression left by the oral arguments, the government-side is going to win today's property rights cases overwhelmingly.

In Kelo, the plaintiffs may get as many as three votes: Scalia; Thomas (who did not ask any questions); and Rehnquist (who was not there). But it was clear to O'Connor and Kennedy that the Court would have to overrule Midkiff and Berman to rule for the plaintiffs, an approach for which there was no majority. The only possible silver lining for property-rights advocates was that Justices Kennedy, Souter, O'Connor and Breyer all expressed concern that the traditional measures of just compensation under the Fifth Amendment may be subject to reconsideration. Justice Kennedy acknowledged the question wasn't presented in Kelo, but the Court's opinion or a concurrence may raise the issue, opening a new avenue of property-rights litigation.

In Lingle, it appears that the government will win unanimously. As Justice Scalia put it at argument, the Court may have to "eat crow" and abandon the suggestion it has made in several cases that there is a "substantially advances" test for what constitutes a taking.
(Lingle refers to Lingle, Linda (Hawaii Gov.), et al. v. Chevron U.S.A. Inc., which is being heard simultaneously.)

Professor Bainbridge comments on the case, quoting The Economist:
Put simply, cities cannot take someone's house just because they think they can make better use of it. Otherwise, argues Scott Bullock, Mrs Kelo's lawyer, you end up destroying private property rights altogether. For if the sole yardstick is economic benefit, any house can be replaced at any time by a business or shop (because they usually produce more tax revenues). Moreover, if city governments can seize private property by claiming a public benefit which they themselves determine, where do they stop? If they decide it is in the public interest to encourage locally-owned shops, what would prevent them compulsorily closing megastores, or vice versa? This is central planning.
That's exactly right. You and I can see that, but through the miracle (snort!) of stare decisis, SCOTUS appears to have backed itself into a corner where it cannot admit that fact, even if it wanted to - and my guess is that at least four if not more justices wouldn't want to anyway. They like central planning.

Re-read that excerpt from the Berman decision; "If Congress decides that the Nation's Capital shall be beautiful as well as sanitary, there is nothing in the Fifth Amendment that stands in the way." If that's not an endorsement of central planning, I don't know what it is.

Francis Porretto wrote last year in his piece No Law Abridging that when the Supreme Court upheld the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Finance Reform Act:
(T)hen two days ago, the Supreme Court declared itself to be a lawless organ in service to a totalitarian State. The five Justices who voted to uphold the clearly unConstitutional McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act placed their notions of “compelling government interest” and “the good of society” above the Supreme Law Of The Land, which for two centuries it has been the Court’s sworn duty to safeguard.

Let that thought sink in for a moment. Five Justices of the Supreme Court have abrogated the very contract from which their authority and responsibilities derive. There’s no room for hedging here. They didn’t just interpret an ambiguity in the Constitution in a way that, though novel, could be squared with the public meanings of words and the traditions of Constitutional law. They dropped the document in the mud and pissed on it.
Well, they've gone about it more slowly with this select portion of the 5th Amendment, but they're about to unzip and let fly again, from all indications. I quoted Justice Scalia last year in This is NOT What I Wanted to Read:
It is literally true that the U.S. Supreme Court has entirely liberated itself from the text of the Constitution


We are free at last, free at last. There is no respect in which we are chained or bound by the text of the Constitution. All it takes is five hands.
He was not waxing enthusiastic about the idea.

Francis also said this:
A man is not free because he’s permitted to vote for his political masters. The subjects of the late, unlamented Soviet Union enjoyed that “right.” So did the subjects of Saddam Hussein.

A man is not free because some portion of his earnings is still his to spend on a variety of attractive goods. Not if the government can punish him for choosing goods it has not approved.

A man is not free because the long arm of the law has not yet descended on his neck. That’s more properly called a stay of execution.

A man is free if, and only if, he has the unchallenged right to do as he damned well pleases with his life, his property, and with any other responsible, consenting adult, provided only that he respects the equal freedom of all other men.
Yup. And it's pretty damned obvious that a man's right to do as he damned well pleases with his property no longer exists, either.

Back when I wrote The Courts Will Not Save Us series I quoted Rev. Donald Sensing from the same week as Francis Porretto's piece:
I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free.
I'm not blaming Bush. This is the result of literally decades of bad decisions, that because of stare decisis the Courts simply will not correct as we go slouching towards despotism.

That Alexander Tytler quote is sounding more and more prophetic every day.

UPDATE 2/23: Eric at Classical Values posts on the topic too. Apparently he missed SCOTUSblog's report.

ALSO: Say Uncle has a raft of links, and has been covering eminent domain abuse for quite some time.
Even More on the CNN .50 BMG Rifle Story

Triggerfinger reports that Michael Bane contacted the National Shooting Sports Foundation in regards to the CNN story on .50 caliber rifles and reports:
FLASH! CNN Violated Federal Firearms Law!

Based on my conversations with legal experts within the firearms industry, CNN did indeed violate at least one, and probably two, federal firearms laws in their reporting of the .50 caliber controversy last week.

Representatives of the industry are currently in touch with the ATF.
This is becoming more and more interesting as time goes on.

Triggerfinger has a pretty comprehensive page of links on the story, too.

UPDATE: Triggerfinger gets Instalanched!

Further update: Michael Bane expands on his previous post. Upshot:
By now, the upper echelons of the ATF have been made aware of the CNN violations. My contacts told me there was very little chance the agency would move against CNN because of "intent" — there was no intent to violate the law.

That might work with murder and manslaughter, but my reading of the gun law doesn't leave a lot of room for "intent" — of course, I'm not an attorney!
"Intent" doesn't seem to be of much importance when law enforcement is raiding people like William Bechard. But I can't say I'm surprised. The question now is whether the blogosphere can bring enough heat on CNN to get it to make another "non-retraction" retraction.

CNN Story Update

SayUncle reports that the BATFE is aware of CNN's violation of the law:
Thanks to a reader, I have copies of emails from an ATF agent who was forwarded the CNN transcript. The email from the ATF agent says:
I have forwarded this to the Houston office. There is no straw purchase since the transaction does not involve a licensed dealer. However the owner did sell a firearm to a non-resident of Texas which is a violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(5).
Keep up the cards & letters, folks! "Perfectly legal" my aching ass.

UPDATE: Posse Incitatus comments.

And Now for Something a Little Lighter

(I'm not a mysoginist. I'm a realist. And an engineer.)
(I'm glad my wife doesn't read my blog.)

UPDATE: Reader DocB informs me that the two middle pieces are part of Don McMillan's stand-up routine. I watched his promotional video. He's pretty damned funny! Especially for an engineer!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Here's Some Good News!

(Also via

I posted on the story back in November about Australian Chris Packer's arrest in Indonesia for "illegal possession of firearms" when Indonesian police, acting on a tip, stopped and searched his boat and found several firearms aboard - firearms that he'd previously used against pirates.

Yes, pirates. They still exist, and they prey on boats like Packer's.

Well, the good news is, he's been released (registration required - use BugMeNot):
Australian yachtsman released

Australian champion yachtsman Christopher Packer was released yesterday from prison in Bali after three months in custody for firearms offences.

A delighted Mr Packer said he would be celebrating on his boat.

Beaming and dressed in shorts and a white polo shirt, Mr Packer was accompanied by his girlfriend Gianna Maria Botto and two defence lawyers as he left Denpasar's notorious Kerobokan prison.

He got into a black four-wheel drive and headed for his converted freighter Lissa, which has been impounded at Bali's Benoa harbour since his arrest last November.

Arriving at the harbour, Mr Packer relaxed with a can of VB beer and a glass of Australian white wine with his lawyer Mohammad Rifan, but said nothing about his immediate plans.
Beer and wine?

He said he would have to stay on board his 55-metre vessel for the time being, as his Indonesian visa had run out and he was unable to celebrate his release on shore.

"It's almost free. It suits me fine," he said

Denpasar District Court on Friday handed the millionaire Sydney to Hobart and Admirals Cup sailor a three-month sentence for failing to declare a stash of firearms.

With time served, he was due for release later today.

Judges also ordered the return of Lissa and his weapons, which Mr Packer said he kept to fend off pirate attacks.

The court decided Mr Packer, 52, of Peppermint Grove in Perth, had not been a gun runner - an offence carrying the death penalty.

Mr Packer was on a round-the-world cruise when he was stopped by Indonesian marine police last November as he attempted to leave Indonesian waters.

Police impounded Lissa to inspect it for drugs and firearms after receiving a tip-off from an informer, believed to be a disgruntled former crewman employed by Mr Packer.

They found around 2700 rounds of ammunition and six New Zealand-registered firearms, including a Ruger semi-automatic rifle, two pump-action shotguns, a revolver and automatic pistol, and an antique rifle.

Mr Packer said he could not say when he would leave Bali.

"The boat is ready. As soon as the crew all arrive and the paperwork is all done and the guns are returned, any time," he said.

Asked if there was anything he would miss about his former prison home, he said only the regular tennis matches with the inmates.

He thanked his family for their support.
Tennis matches at the "notorious Kerobokan prison"? Hasn't lost his sense of humor, obviously. And I'm glad he's getting his guns back. That's a lucky man. Being rich didn't hurt either, I'm sure.

You Can't Do That! You're Not Qualified!


It seems that some Oklahomans understand the concept of Sir Robert Peel's Seventh Principle of Modern Policing:
Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
But some members of the police have forgotten the Third Principle:
Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
Here's the whole story as reported by (see the "fair use" declaration at the bottom of this webpage, if you're interested.)
911 Call Reveals Woman's Struggle With Purse Thief
Woman Held Suspect At Gunpoint Until Police Arrived

POSTED: 1:52 pm CST February 17, 2005
UPDATED: 5:22 pm CST February 17, 2005

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City police released a 911 recording Thursday that reveals a dramatic struggle following an attempted purse-snatching in south Oklahoma City.

Barbara Gesell, 83, had just pulled into her garage when a man ran inside her garage and grabbed her purse, which has hanging across her shoulder. A suspect, Robert Campbell, was arrested shortly afterward on suspicion of attempted robbery.

Police said the story might have ended differently if Gesell's daughter, Theresa Gesell, had not taken action.

According to police, Theresa Gesell ran behind Campbell and tried to catch him when he ran from the scene. While she was chasing the suspect, she called 911.

"A man has attacked us in our house, and we are fighting him in the yard," Theresa Gesell said to the 911 dispatcher.

As the struggle moved down the street, a neighbor -- whom Theresa Gesell identified as "Hershall" -- stopped to help. Theresa then grabbed her .45-caliber pistol and continued running after Campbell -- despite the dispatcher's plea for her to drop the handgun.

"I am going to go get my .45 ... you all are too slow," she said.
This is where the agent of the State tells the peon, "You can't do that, you're not qualified!" Ms. Gesell's response is a classic!
As the call continues, the dispatcher asks Theresa to get rid of the weapon. However, after the suspect tried to escape along a creek bed, Theresa and Hershall used the pistol to make sure he didn't leave.

"You can go put that gun up now," the dispatcher said.
"Please - you might injure yourself because you're not an authorized agent of the State! Besides, your actions illustrate that YOU are responsible for your own protection, and we can't have that!"
"No sir," Theresa replied. "We have the gun pointed at him ... he must have been a city fellow because he didn't know anything about the woods."

Seconds later, police arrived and arrested Campbell. With Hershall's help, the Gesells retrieved Barbara's purse.

Campbell is currently housed in the Oklahoma County Jail. He is expected to be charged with assault and attempted robbery.
And Ms. Gesell, who didn't have to shoot anybody, won't be charged either. A .45 eh? No wussy 9mm Europellet for THAT Oklahoman!

For Those Who Could Not See the CNN Video,

They have a transcript up. Here's the pertinent parts as I see it:
(CNN correspondent Drew) GRIFFIN: To buy a gun, even a .50-caliber gun, this huge gun, you just need to go to your computer and click on one of the biggest classified gun sites, which, in our case, is, AK-47s, shotguns, pistols, all kinds of rifles.

But we wanted to buy was the biggest caliber rifle you could possibly buy. And that's this category right here, big .50-caliber rifles. This is the gun that is now banned in California. And on this Web site, we have about three dozen of them for sale. But what we're looking for is one that is not being sold by a dealer.

See, where it says federal licensed firearm dealer? We are trying to find one that's being sold by just a private citizen. This is actually the gun we bought. When you finally find the gun you want on this Web site and you're dealing with a private party, you just give him your e-mail and you send him a note. "Let's set up a meeting. I'm paying cash." And the next thing you know, we're going to buy our gun.

(voice-over): But before I shelled out $2,500 to buy this gun, I wanted to make sure I could buy ammunition. That turned out to be as easy as ordering flowers. With just a couple of clicks on my computer, I ordered and paid by credit card for 50 .50-caliber armor- piercing rounds.

They were delivered in a week, shells as long as my hand delivered, no questions asked, by UPS. I could have even bought tracer rounds, if I had wanted. Now it was time to get the gun.

(on camera): What we're about to do is perfectly legal in dozens of states where cash-and-carry is the rule, a private seller, a private buyer. There will be no background check, no government waiting period, no government paperwork at all. In fact, the only paper that will change hands is the money we use to buy our .50- caliber rifle.

(voice-over): The transaction at a house in suburban Houston took about 20 minutes. We walked out with a case holding the gun critics say is the perfect terrorist weapon, a brand new .50-caliber with scope, bipod and directions. We flew home.

Guns are checked as baggage. And when the bags arrived for our flight, I simply picked it up and left.


(Paula) ZAHN: But it was remarkable to watch you do this transaction in about a 20-minute period. Now, we should make it clear you went to a private seller.

GRIFFIN: That's right.

ZAHN: To purchase this gun. Why?

GRIFFIN: On the Internet, you learn all the new nuances and all the loopholes of buying a gun. If I bought that through a licensed dealer, I'd have to clear a background check. I would have to show proof of age, proof of residency. By going through a private seller, private seller, private buyer, it's strictly a cash transaction. We made sure that the two, the buyer and the seller, were in the same state. And after that, cash and carry.

ZAHN: Isn't that astonishing to you?

GRIFFIN: It was to me. I'm not a gun person. I've never bought a gun before in my life. And to see how easy this was to do and how easy it was, even easier, to get these armor-piercing bullets, it was incredible.
It certainly sound to me like a straw-purchaser bought a .50 for Griffin, using CNN's money, and then Griffin took possession and transported that weapon by air back to Atlanta. That's two felonies, as I see it.

It would appear, then, that Griffin didn't "learn all the nuances" of buying a gun legally.

One more time, where's the BATF?

UPDATE: After reading around, it appears that I am mistaken. Only ONE felony. Having a local buy for you from a dealer constitutes a "straw purchase." Having a local buy for you from an individual does not, since there is no Form 4473 involved.

However, transporting the weapon interstate is a felony if it was not transferred through a licensed dealer using a Form 4473. So only ONE felony, apparently.

Isn't the law wonderful?

Another thought: Wouldn't it be interesting if someone more web-savvy than I am could figure out who the seller was and interview him about the details of the sale? (Though I wouldn't want the guy to incriminate himself, it sounds as though he was an innocent party doing a perfectly legal sale.)

More on CNN's Crusade Against the .50

CNN had a piece in October 1999 when House Democrats (who else?) tried to pass legislation restricting access to .50 BMG rifles. Entitled Is the .50-caliber rifle a gun for soldiers or civilians? (my answer is "yes,") it details the range and destructive power of the gun and its ammunition, with all the requisite buzzwords. Excerpts:
The .50-caliber rifle can be purchased at many American gun stores, with fewer restrictions than handguns.
Considering that they're huge and heavy, so what?
Also available -- armor-piercing incendiary .50-caliber ammunition -- millions of rounds that the Pentagon paid an ammunition manufacturer to take off its hands. More than 100,000 rounds have made their way to the civilian market where, according to a General Accounting Office investigation, they are incredibly easy to obtain.
None of which have been used in a crime.

Now, here's my favorite part. There's a link to click to for "Facts about the .50 Caliber Rifle." Here they are, in order:
Assuming the guy behind the trigger is extremely skilled. Shooting at something 1,000 yards away is a lot tougher than it sounds. The rifle and its ammunition are important, but the skill of the shooter is the essential part.
Disable. Not "destroy." Bombs "destroy." Missiles "destroy." A 1/2" hole in an engine block "disables."
Or less. Some of the single-shot versions aren't quite that heavy, but suffice it to say, you won't be toting it under a trench coat to rob the local Quickee-Mart.
Some less, used. Though if the effort to ban them continues, we're going to see those prices climb again.
You know, I wondered where Teddy Kennedy got his info when he stood before the Senate and said, "Another rifle caliber, the 30.30 caliber, was responsible for penetrating three officers' armor and killing them in 1993, 1996, and 2002. This ammunition is also capable of puncturing light-armored vehicles, ballistic or armored glass, armored limousines, even a 600-pound safe with 600 pounds of safe armor plating." It's obvious! He watches CNN! I find it fascinating that the people most fearful of the ability of the .50 to penetrate armored vehicles are our elected officials. Who ride around in armored vehicles.
See? Just 2,000 people. We can violate their rights. Nobody will care. They're just gun-nuts anyway.
And have $2,500 and can carry 28 lbs plus ammo.

But if you're going to do it, you should try to do it IN YOUR STATE OF RESIDENCE, else you're committing a felony.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Can We Blogswarm This?

Jed at Freedomsight found an interesting story. It seems that CNN, in an attempt at exposing the horrible dangers of .50 BMG rifles just committed at least one, and possibly more than one felony. Apparently they purchased a .50 in a private-party transaction from a person in another state. In fact, they might have done it by straw-purchase - that is, they had someone local buy it for them. Those are no-no's. FEDERAL no-no's, unless the purchaser has a Federal Firearms License.

Triggerfinger has done a bit of digging on the laws broken, and has four five posts up on it, here, here, here, here and here. The last one is a description of the video.

(Edited to add:) Matthew at Triggerfinger looked up the pertinent law in the second link above. This is what the reporter did that was illegal:
Here's the plain-language explanation, from the ATF's FAQ:
From whom may an unlicensed person acquire a firearm under the GCA?

A person may only buy a firearm within the person s own State, except that he or she may buy a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a licensee's premises in any State, provided the sale complies with State laws applicable in the State of sale and the State where the purchaser resides.
So the short answer is, you can buy a firearm out of your state of residence from a licensed dealer only. CNN's story involves a private sale; they make an explicit point of that in their voiceover.
Please do read all of the links. (End of edit.)

David Codrea has picked it up, too. The story origininated at The Claire Files message board with a post by "kbarrett" that goes:
It looks like CNN aired a spot this evening of one of its own reporters finding a .50 cal rifle on for sale by a private owner in Houston, and then flying to Houston, paying cash, and then flying with said rifle back to Atlanta.
Where's the kitten-stomping BATF when you really need them? I think a reporter needs to be busted.

UPDATE: WELCOME INSTAPUNDIT READERS. While you're here, please peruse the "Best Posts," would you? Most especially, read The Lying "News" Media, Part II, which is a transcript of a previous CNN hit piece on "assault weapons." Decide for yourself if CNN was hoodwinked by Broward County (FL) Sherrif Ken Jenne, or if reporter John Zarella and his producer were complicit in airing a misleading and deliberately mendacious piece of "journalism."

UPDATE 2/21: CNN has a transcript of the story up. Looks like two felonies to me.

UPDATE 2/22: The BATF is aware of the violation.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Nation of Riflemen Loses a Member

Kim du Toit reports that Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore, the "Adam" in Kim's "Walter-Adam Fund" was killed by a car-bomb explosion in Mosul on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Just... damn.

And, in memoriam, may I suggest that you read this Smoke on the Water post from last Memorial day?

And Read This

(Posted after the news about Adam, but it needs to come second in today's entries)

Via AlphaPatriot, read the story of a Marine returning to the States after being wounded in Iraq.

If I ever hear some leftist scumbag call a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine a "baby killer" I'm going to slap him or her silly.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I Almost Forgot to Mention, the Inaugural Carnival of Cordite is Up!

And there are some interesting entries, too. Go on over to Resistance is Futile and give it a read.

Another Example of Gun Bigotry Due to Paranoia

Matt at Stop the Bleating (added today to the blogroll, among others) gives his explanation of why he got his Virginia CCW permit. Read it, it's a good story. But most definitely read the comment by "Anonymous" (big surprise). Here's the money quote:
Would a gun, in that circumstance, make me feel safer? You know, it might. Only on an instinctual level though; rationality does not lead me to the conclusion that I should go out and get a concealed carry license. I feel much less safe knowing that there are nascent psychos out there who could whip out a gun at any time. I'd feel much safer knowing the only people with guns are the cops and the occasional hardened criminal downtown that I'll rarely, if ever, encounter anyway...not my next door neighbor and their uncle who happens to have a bad temper pun intended...a hair trigger.
There it is, in one nice, neat package. People who want to (legally!) get a CCW permit are "nascent psychos." Only authorized agents of the State are qualified to carry, and as long as Joe Average is prohibited from having a gun (which will apparently make him psychotic) she need only fear "the occasional hardened criminal."

"Rationality"? Complete reality disconnect.

The responses to "Anon" are worth the read, too. Especially Matt's.

Hat tip: Hell in a Handbasket.

Related post: Fear

Another Liberal Dares Speak 'Truth to Power'

(Via AnarchAngel)

From the current issue of the liberal rag The New Republic comes a wake-up call by one Martin Peretz, and it's a loud one. Some excerpts:
Ask yourself: Who is a truly influential liberal mind in our culture? Whose ideas challenge and whose ideals inspire? Whose books and articles are read and passed around? There's no one, really. What's left is the laundry list: the catalogue of programs (some dubious, some not) that Republicans aren't funding, and the blogs, with their daily panic dose about how the Bush administration is ruining the country.

Europe is also making the disenchanting journey from social democracy, but via a different route. Its elites had not foreseen that a virtually unchecked Muslim immigration might hijack the welfare state and poison the postwar culture of relative tolerance that supported its politics. To the contrary, Europe's leftist elites lulled the electorates into a false feeling of security that the new arrivals were simply doing the work that unprecedented low European birth rates were leaving undone. No social or cultural costs were to be incurred. Transaction closed. Well, it was not quite so simple. And, while the workforce still needs more workers, the economies of Europe have been dragged down by social guarantees to large families who do not always have a wage-earner in the house. So, even in the morally self-satisfied Scandinavian and Low Countries, the assuring left-wing bromides are no longer believed.


But, in the Democratic Party, among liberals, the usual hustlers are still cheered. Jesse Jackson is still paid off, mostly not to make trouble. The biggest insult to our black fellow citizens was the deference paid to Al Sharpton during the campaign. Early in the race, it was clear that he--like Carol Moseley Braun and Dennis Kucinich--was not a serious candidate. Yet he was treated as if he just might take the oath of office at the Capitol on January 20. In the end, he won only a handful of delegates. But he was there, speaking in near-prime time to the Democratic convention. Sharpton is an inciter of racial conflict. To him can be debited the fraudulent and dehumanizing scandal around Tawana Brawley (conflating scatology and sex), the Crown Heights violence between Jews and blacks, a fire in Harlem, the protests around a Korean grocery store in Brooklyn, and on and on. Yet the liberal press treats Sharpton as a genuine leader, even a moral one, the trickster as party statesman.

This patronizing attitude is proof positive that, as deep as the social and economic gains have been among African Americans, many liberals prefer to maintain their own time-honored patronizing position vis-à-vis "the other," the needy. This is, frankly, in sharp contrast to President Bush, who seems not to be impeded by race difference (and gender difference) in his appointments and among his friends. Maybe it is just a generational thing, and, if it is that, it is also a good thing. But he may be the first president who apparently does not see individual people in racial categories or sex categories. White or black, woman or man, just as long as you're a conservative. That is also an expression of liberation from bias.
READ THE WHOLE THING - Especially the last two paragraphs.

Printed in The New Republic! Who'dathunkit?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Absolutely Run of the Mill, Most Probably

Vodkapundit points to an NRO piece by Myrna Bythe on her recent attendance at a Columbia Journalism School First Amendment breakfast. The kicker comes later, but something I found interesting comes first.:
The moderator, as usual, was lawyer and Columbia journalism professor Floyd Abrams, and he started the proceedings with a couple of personal anecdotes. First of all, he recalled his most famous First Amendment triumph, the "Pentagon Papers" case. He described Chief Justice Warren Berger's dissenting opinion, which he quoted in part, as a "whine." Then he went on to tell a long anecdote about a Fred Friendly panel, sometime in the past, that included Peter Jennings, Mike Wallace, and a wounded Vietnam veteran.

Abrams recalled that Friendly, as he often did, presented the panel with a hypothetical scenario that there was a civil war between the northern and southern sections of an unnamed country, with America helping the southern forces. An American journalist, to his surprise, was invited to go on patrol with the northern forces. While on the mission, the journalist realized the northern forces intended to attack a group of Americans. What should the journalist do?

Peter Jennings, Abrams recalled, said he hoped he would have the courage to call out and warn the American troops. But Mike Wallace interrupted to admonish Jennings, asking, "Peter, why are you there?," implying that as a journalist he should not get involved. Abrams said Jennings then began to backtrack on his answer. The only comment of the wounded veteran who was on the panel was: "I always knew you guys were like that."
That was one in a series of round-table discussions called Ethics in America that ran on PBS. I've seen that particular one, and I have to say I don't think I've ever been more disgusted with journalists than I was that day.

But the part that Vodkapundit found apparently shocking was this excerpt:
The panel member who, one would have thought, would have the most to say about the subject of a "reporter as citizen" was Mary Beth Sheridan. But, she explained, she hadn't realized she would have to make a speech at the breakfast, and that her remarks about her experiences in Iraq would be just "free-flowing" — and, indeed, they were.

First of all, she said she was "overwhelmed by the military," but she did learn by being embedded that members of our armed forces were not "blood-thirsty maniacs." Yes, she really did say that.

In fact, she said, they were "really decent people." And even "sweet." Of course, after being shot at they were eager to shoot back — a military attitude that seemed to surprise her.

She also reported that when she asked soldiers why were they in Iraq, every single one told her, "to help the Iraqi people." Again she was surprised that the military could create such a unity of purpose even though, she said, she didn't see any "brainwashing" going on. She also noted that many soldiers had no opinion about the war. They had gone where they were ordered to go, like all good soldiers. Such an attitude seemed to dazzle her as well.

She didn't have anything much to say about "reporters as citizens," but clearly she appeared to be one citizen who had very little familiarity with, or understanding of, or even quite possibly respect for the military before her tour of duty. In a way, it is kind of sad that only after some first-hand experience did she learn what most American citizens believe: that American soldiers are "decent people." And that it is those soldiers, not our journalists, after all, who protect our freedom of the press.
Vodkapundit asks:
Just how typical an example of the MSM press corps is Sheridan, anyway?
Absolutely run-of-the-mill, as far as I can tell.

As I said in Fear, the only thing that can work to dispell the ignorance and erroneous beliefs of people is direct exposure to that which they irrationally hate and fear. Mary Beth Sheridan got that exposure, and it rocked her world, apparently. I wonder if she had a bit better understanding of Marine Lt. General Mattis's comment about it being "fun to shoot some people" now.

Read Vodkapundit's post, and all of the very funny comments. It's worth your time.
Another Realistic Democrat Gets It

Local columnist Jeff Smith of the Tucson Comrade Citizen has an interesting op-ed up on page 5B of yesterday's edition. It's also online. Entitled Dimwitted Dems migrate away from the middle, Jeff pulls no punches. Here are some tasty excerpts:
I don't want to become a Republican. The first time I disagreed with my father over anything more weighty than wanting to stay up and watch "The Mummy's Curse" and he said "no", was over Kennedy vs. Nixon. Up to that point, Dad hadn't really given me any excuse to cross him.


But Dick Nixon struck me as someone Abe Lincoln would despise, and John Kennedy hit all the right notes: I became a Democrat and never had any reason to regret it.

Until lately.


After Clinton II, the nation embarked on Bush II, and the Democratic Party rapidly changed from a vessel like Noah's Ark - sheltering all God's creatures who sought shelter from the storm - into something more akin to the "Christina," Aristotle Onassis' yacht and an apt metaphor.


It was after Bush beat Gore - yes, he beat him - that the Democratic Party left me. It wasn't the other way around.

It was no surprise that both parties said terrible things about each other as the ballots were counted and recounted, seemingly without end. It was no surprise that the Democrats said they were robbed after they lost. The Republicans would have done the same. It was a surprise when my party still sang the same sad song six months later. And six years.

"No Sniveling" is more than a bumper sticker; it's a law of human behavior. Persons and political parties violate it at their peril.


And as the Democratic Party hierarchy grew increasingly bicoastal intellectual elite, more and more of the low- and middle-class Joes joined the exodus, not out of bigotry but because they weren't stupid: They may not have had graduate degrees, but they knew when they were being condescended to.

When John Kerry went bird hunting in a Carhartt jacket that still had the folds from the box in it and held his shotgun like a yachtsman's telescope, he synthesized and symbolized the state of the Democratic Party today:

The elitist, stooping to offer a limp handshake to the Great Unwashed.
Read the whole thing.

Maybe the Democrats are going the way of the Whigs, and another party will rise, phoenixlike, from the ashes.

"Green" Ammunition, eh?

This is disturbing. Popular Mechanics has a very short blurb on their web page:

Soldiers who survive battlefield wounds may be doomed to develop an aggressive form of cancer, according to a study published today in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Rats embedded with weapons-grade tungsten alloy--recently incorporated into munitions as a non-toxic alternative to depleted uranium and lead--developed tumors, which then quickly metastasized to the lungs. The findings raise serious concerns over the alloy's potential health effects to humans, write the authors.--J. Bogo
I know the military has been switching to a tungsten core bullet, in part because of concerns about lead pollution and exposure.

The full report is available as a PDF here. It's entitled "Embedded Weapons-Grade Tungsten Alloy Shrapnel Rapidly Induces Metastatic High-Grade Rhabdomyosarcomas in F344 Rats."

(Edited to add:)

Here are some really disturbing excerpts from that paper, which was authored by government researchers for Walter Reed and other Army medical departments.
Previous work in this laboratory developed a rodent model system that mimicked shrapnel loads seen in wounded personnel from the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In this study, we used that system and male F344 rats, implanted intramuscularly with pellets (1 mm x 2 mm cylinders) of weapons-grade tungsten alloy, to simulate shrapnel wounds. Rats were implanted with 4 (low dose) or 20 pellets (high dose) of tungsten alloy. Tantalum (20 pellets) and nickel (20 pellets) served as negative and positive controls, respectively. The high-dose tungsten alloy-implanted rats (n=46) developed extremely aggressive tumors surrounding the pellets within 4-5 months after implantation. The low-dose tungsten alloy-implanted rats (n=46) and nickel-implanted rats (n=36) also developed tumors surrounding the pellets, but did so at a slower rate. Rats implanted with tantalum (n=46), an inert control metal, did not develop tumors. Tumor yield was 100% in both the low- and high-dose tungsten alloy groups. The tumors, characterized as high-grade pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcomas by histopathology and immunohistochemical examination, rapidly metastasized to the lung and necessitated euthanasia of the animal.


Advancements in metallurgy have led the military of many nations to replace DU in some armor penetrating munitions and lead in small-caliber ammunition with various alloys of tungsten. One motivation for such a replacement is widespread public concern about the health and environmental impact of continued use of these metals. However, to our knowledge, none of these militarily relevant tungsten alloys have been tested for potential health effects, especially as embedded shrapnel. There is a growing list of health concerns related to tungsten exposure. Although a definitive link has not been established, several cancer clusters in the United States are associated with elevated levels of tungsten in the environment. Those findings, along with the results presented in this manuscript, raise questions about the possible consequences of tungsten exposure. More importantly, it raises extremely serious concerns over the potential health effects of tungsten alloy-based munitions currently being used as non-toxic alternatives to lead and DU.


Tungsten-based alloys are currently being used as replacements for DU in kineticenergy penetrators and for lead in small-caliber ammunition. However, the health effects of these unique alloys have not been investigated, especially in the case of embedded fragments such as shrapnel wounds. In this study, using male F344 rats and a system designed to investigate the effects of embedded metal fragments (AFRRI 1996), we have shown the embedded weapons-grade WA [tungsten alloy] (91.1% W/6.0% Ni/2.9% Co) results in rapid tumor formation at the implantation site in 100% of the rats. The rate of tumor formation correlates with pellet number. Ni-implanted rats also develop tumors at the implantation site, although not as rapidly as seen with WA.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a form of cancer most often found in children, and it's aggressive and deadly. The survival rate after 5 years is about 50%. This ought to disturb the hell out of people.

Tungsten, by itself, appears to be mostly benign, but in alloy with nickel and/or cobalt it seems to be extremely carcinogenic. The alloy tested is that used in current military "green" ammunition. So I have to wonder if the workers at the ammunition plants where this stuff is being made are wearing environment suits, or else are suffering an epidemic of cancer.

(End edit.)

Here are a couple of articles on "Green ammo":

U.S. Military "Green Bullet" (6/2000) Excerpt:

America's military is about to lock and load with new ammunition that's tough on enemies but easy on mother earth. It's known as the "Green Bullet", which is a new lead-free projectile that defense officials say is just as lethal as the standard 5.56mm without harming the environment. The Army led effort is designed to one day end the use of environmentally hazardous materials in small-arms munitions for all services.

The new round will replace the copper-jacketed lead core with a copper-jacketed tungsten tin or nylon core Military officials hope the program will soothe growing environmental and health concerns that have led to the closing of hundreds of live-fire training sites around the country.
Greening Service Ammunition for Individual and Crew Served Weapons (From the U.S. Army Environmental Center webpage) Excerpt:

For hundreds of years, soldiers have used small arms weapons in training and combat — and virtually all the projectiles fired from these weapons contained lead alloy. Lead bullets typically shatter upon impact with soil.

The resulting debris and corrosion products infiltrate the soil and can accumulate in sediment, surface water and groundwater.

The U.S. Army Environmental Center (USAEC) is working with the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) and other agencies to replace the lead in small caliber projectiles. USAEC is funding efforts to make bullets with materials that perform as well as or better than lead, but without the potential environmental effects.
So we get "green" target ranges, but wounded soldiers get to die of cancer?

"Unintended consequences" indeed.

One other thing. According to this chart, the U.S. imports the majority of its tungsten from one country: China - 530 of the total 1,090 metric tons of powdered tungsten in 2003 (up from 260 out of 642 metric tons the previous year). Do we really want to be dependent on imported materials for our ammunition needs?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Registration: Only Good for Confiscation

I will not register. Ever.

Australia's state of New South Wales just ran a "compliance check" on its registered, licensed gun owners. And seized and destroyed some 43,000 weapons "most of which" were firearms. (Hat tip, No Quarters.) The reasons given for the seizures?
Mr Moroney said that, as part of the blitz, thousands of weapons were destroyed because police were not satisfied that the firearms were being kept securely, or that "possession of that firearm was necessarily further warranted".
Yes, the State, in its infinite wisdom, decided that either the weapons were (in their unassailable opinion) "not being kept securely" or it simply decided that the owners didn't need them anymore.

This is known among the gun confiscation, er, ban, um, control, that is, gun SAFETY crowd as "common sense gun control."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

ANOTHER Carnival.

Gullyborg at Resistance is Futile has decided that there aren't enough "Carnivals" out there, so he's trying to start another one. This one he calls the "Carnival of Cordite" - specifically a GUN Carnival. Go read the rules. I've got my entry in.

Monday, February 14, 2005

I Like Being Validated

On December 7, I wrote On Guillotines and Gibbets, a piece on the conflict between not the Left and the Right, but between the Left and the Religious Right. Pertinent quotes:
What, I think, the Left fears from the religious Right is a conclusion that the Left is actively, deliberately evil in its pursuit of its Utopia.


The Left, intolerant and unbending, agressively evangelical, historically in control of the education of youth and the flow of information to everyone, fears a Christian backlash and a
modern-day massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve. They don't much fear the non-religious among the Right - we're not organized enough. We're not true believers. But they understand that when men like Theodore Dalrymple start throwing the religiously-weighted word "EVIL" around, then the backlash might not be far away.
So I was quite pleased today when I read John Hinderaker's (of Power Line fame) Weekly Standard piece "Rapture" Rapture. From the opening of John's piece:
ONE OF LIBERALS' chief motivations these days is fear of the religious right. Ask people on the left to explain their loathing of President Bush or the Republican party, and the answer often comes around to Jerry Falwell, evangelicals, theocracy, and so on.
John doesn't attribute that fear, as I do, to a subconscious (or even conscious) expectation of an organized violent backlash, but at least I'm not the only one who sees the behavior of the left not as simple political maneuverings. They really do fear the religious right.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

More Socialism in the Classroom

(h/t Random Nuclear Strikes)

Kicking Broadswords reports:
My American Presidency class had just gotten out and a couple of us stood around discussing politics. The teacher (Democrat) asked if there was anything we agreed with about the Democratic Party and the president of the College Republicans brought up public education. I did my John Dewey socialist rant and when that didn't seem to work I brought up the Constitution. I asked him where in the Constitution the feds have the power to control education. He acknowledged that it didn't but remarked:

"I don't really believe in the Constitution"
President of the College Republicans. Decades of public education indoctrination. What a surprise.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


The Philosophy and Politics thereof:

Another interesting week has gone by, with various bits and pieces aggregating in my consciousness for analysis and synthesis. On Tuesday I found a Reason magazine review of cultural anthropologist Abigail Kohn's book Shooters, with reference to her earlier Reason piece Their Aim Is True. The pertinent quote from the book review was this:
Kohn’s own research for Shooters, some of which appeared in this magazine ("Their Aim Is True," May 2001), elicited predictable responses. One colleague said she was performing a "social service by researching 'such disgusting people.'" Another said that unless Kohn acknowledged the "inherent pathology" of gun enthusiasm, she was disrespecting victims of gun violence.
Kohn herself admitted in her earlier piece:
Our initial attempt to meet local militia members took us to a shooting range in the Bay Area, where we assumed local militia meetings would be held. We went on a Tuesday night, fully expecting the range to be seething with radical political activity. Why else would people congregate at a shooting range, if not to meet other like-minded, potentially dangerous right-wing gun nuts?
Also I found a Feb. 1 piece in the UConn Daily Campus entitled Gun nuts'[sic] have no real excuse by one Robert Schiering that proclaimed:
At first glance, the term "gun nut" would appear to be nothing more than an ad hominem against the more enthusiastic weapon owners of this country. However, as one reads the literature espoused by gun nut organizations, the reasoning behind this term becomes startlingly clear. Gun nuts are called as such because they are incontrovertibly insane.
In not much of a stretch, Rep. Patrick Kennedy on Tuesday cosponsored a bill to ban .50 BMG caliber rifles, stating, according to CNS:
"Any policy maker who, on the one hand, says that they are for combating terrorism but, on the other hand, will not back this legislation, backed by Representative Moran, to me has a lot of explaining to do," Kennedy said "In fact, I think it would be the definition of insanity to say that."
It's important to understand this: We call ourselves "gun nuts" - embracing the label thrust upon us by the ignorant, anti-gun bigots - but many of them really believe it. We're "potentially dangerous" because we like guns.

I think that's something most gun owners don't really grasp. I know it initially took me a while to get my mind around the idea. Last January there was a multi-blog discussion about concealed-carry that inspired my essay TRUST. Blogger Barry of Inn of the Last Home began the discussion, saying on the subject of concealed-carry:
If I were to take a live, armed weapon and carry it on my person, in public, it would eat away at my sanity just as if it were emitting lethal radiation. To know that I carried an instrument of sure and certain death on my person, available and ready to be pulled out and used at a moment's notice to possibly kill...a child. A homeless person. An innocent.
That stirred up quite a controversy, but he later tried to clarify:
I would feel uncomfortable carrying a loaded weapon. Very uncomfortable that I would possibly have the means to end a person's life within arm's reach. That doesn't mean I'm going to do it, or would ever be tempted. Just that fact makes me uncomfortable.

I also would feel uncomfortable knowing that anyone on the street, in the theatre, at a restaurant, at the supermarket could be carrying a loaded gun on their person. And here's why - despite training, despite temperament, despite the best of intentions: I don't trust you. That's simply it, I don't trust you. I don't trust a person who is not a licensed law enforcement officer of some kind - someone who, by virtue of their job, I would assume they have proper gun training - to carry a weapon. You may be a great person, love your kids, go to church, would never pull a gun in anger at another person - you may be supremely confident of that fact in your own mind, but I'm not. To me, you would be just as likely to be the one sticking up the fast-food clerk as the one defending him, or - in your possibly untrained and excited state - could be the one who with the best of intentions attempts to intervene but misses and hits someone else. Or you could be the one who gets pissed off at me in traffic and, instead of the flipping me the finger you pop off a few rounds at my back window.

I'm not concerned whether there are documented cases of this happening - I am afraid that they will, when more and more people are allowed to carry concealed weapons.
Last Thursday, Feb. 3, Marine Lt. Gen. James Mattis offended the sense and sensibilities of a good portion of the public when he proclaimed "it's fun to shoot some people." The reaction was predictable. Congressman Pete Stark, (D-CA) put out a press release stating:
Last week, United States Marine Corps Lieutenant General James Mattis made public comments that were unbecoming of a military officer. As quoted in numerous newspaper articles and media broadcasts, Lt. General Mattis told a San Diego, California audience of 200 civilians that “It’s fun to shoot some people.” Referencing combatants in Afghanistan he added, “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Lieutenant General Mattis has no doubt served his country with courage and distinction as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. It is, nonetheless, inexcusable that, as a high-ranking officer of the US military, he would make these callous and insensitive remarks that denigrate the value of human life.
That was relatively mild. Juan Cole said:
T.E. Lawrence, "Lawrence of Arabia," was tortured and almost driven mad when he realized he got a thrill from shooting a man dead. His sadistic pleasure in killing Ottoman troops in Syria seems to have been wrought up with his rape by an Ottoman officer who thought him a Circassian Jordanian rather than a British secret agent. At one point he writes in Seven Pillars of Wisdom about how beautiful the dead Ottoman soldiers looked in the moonlight, lined up straight, after a battle.


Just as few priests are pedophiles, few soldiers are sadists. Mattis has brought dishonor on the US Marine Corps with his words. Killing is never appropriately called "fun." I think he should resign.
You see, enjoying the practice of violence is "sadistic" and "racist." Insane, in other words.

There are a lot more examples, but I'm sure most of you have seen ones like this or worse. However, I've read some military history, and I've read the current military blogs by some of the guys on the front lines pulling triggers, like Armor Geddon and A Day in Iraq. They like what they do, or they wouldn't have chosen to do it.

Apparently, they're insane too.

Or are they?

A while back I wrote a three-piece essay on the difference between violent and predatory and violent but protective, and their antithesis, pacifism. The pacifist culture, I wrote,
...doesn't really distinguish between violent and predatory and violent but protective - it sees only violent. Their worldview is divided between violent and non-violent, or passive. There is an exception, a logical disconnect if you will, that allows for legitimate violence - but only if that violence is committed by sanctioned officials of the State. And even there, there is ambivalence. If violence is committed by an individual there is another dichotomy: If the violence is committed by a predator, it is the fault of society in not meeting that predator's needs. The predator is the creation of the society, and is not responsible for the violence. He merely needs to be "cured" of his ailment. If violence is committed by a defender, it is a failure of the defender to adhere to the tenets of the pacifist society. It is the defender who is at fault because he has lived by the rules and has chosen to break them, and who must therefore be punished for his transgression.
And God help you if you admit that you enjoy exercising violence, for any reason. It's a sign of mental illness, you know.

Finally this week, the D.C. Appellate Court upheld the District Court conclusion in Seegars v. Ashcroft. This was a suit to overturn Washington D.C.'s draconian gun ban. The courts, both the District and Appellate, essentially dodged the Second Amendment question by claiming that the appellants had no standing to bring suit. (Triggerfinger has a good collection of links to blog commentary on the decision.) This is just the latest in a long, long series of decisions and denials in which the courts have dodged and avoided addressing the true meaning and implications of the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court has done a yeoman's job of that since its 1875 Cruikshank decision, the 1886 Presser v. Illinois decision, and finally the 1939 Miller decision. Lower court misinterpretation of Miller, backed by the two previous cases has put us where we are today. Only the 5th Circuit in Emerson actually had the intestinal fortitude to buck decades of bad precedent, and then, with a clear dichotomy between the 5th and 9th Circuits, the Supreme Court denied certiorari to the appeals of both Emerson and Silveira, leaving the question in legal limbo - again.

Gun rights supporters often wonder why that is - why is it that almost no one in government is willing to do what's (to us) obviously right?

Because they're AFRAID.

Gun owners represent about one quarter of the adult population of the country, and if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say somewhat less than half of those are active shooters. A signifcant majority of gun owners, in fact, are in favor of many forms of gun control. Why? FEAR. Like Barry, they don't trust their fellow citizens. "I'm OK Mack, but I don't know about YOU." There's a very large portion of the population, both gun owning and not, that holds the belief Barry does:
I don't trust a person who is not a licensed law enforcement officer of some kind - someone who, by virtue of their job, I would assume they have proper gun training - to carry a weapon.
But this is fear born of two sources: ignorance, and sensationalism. The majority in this country are like Abigail Kohn was; ignorant, fearful, and naive when it comes to firearms as she describes herself. They are made fearful of them largely because of the media, where "if it bleeds, it leads." I and many others have documented the monumental ignorance and anti-gun bigotry in the media (such as Ravenwood's recent skewering of a news report informing readers that the Bristol CT police department just up-gunned from 9mm to 40mm handguns. That's a change in bore diameter from 0.355" to over 1.5". They would have apparently decided that grenade launchers are needed, if the report had been accurate.) We've noted the media's fervent willingness to report criminal acts nationwide, while burying defensive gun uses on page D-24 of the local fishwrap. This is apparently because everybody knows that guns are only useful for criminal homicide.

And there's the philosophical rub.

Our culture says that killing is wrong, and that being willing to kill is just as wrong. Yet we have that mental dichotomy that makes it OK if and only if the actor is a sanctioned official of the State. It has even lead to a linguistic dodge: States and their actors use force - individuals use violence. But either way, human beings end up dead or injured. Sure, it's OK to kill someone in self-defense, but to prepare for that possibility is evidence of mental instability or at least criminal tendencies, unless you're one of the anointed. That "logic" is the basis behind laws disarming citizens, brought to its (il)logical extreme in the UK where no one can legally carry anything considered an "offensive weapon," or risk arrest. Note: there are no "defensive" weapons. If it's a weapon, it's "offensive." The same illogic rests behind "proportional response" and "duty to retreat" laws.

Yet our system of government is one based on trust. I've quoted Bill Whittle before, I will do it here again, from Freedom:
This, to my mind, is the fundamental difference between the Europeans and the U.S.: We trust the people. We fought wars and lost untold husbands and brothers and sons because of this single most basic belief: Trust the people. Trust them with freedom. Trust them to spend their own money. Trust them to do the right thing. Trust them to defend themselves. To the degree that government can help, great - but TRUST THE PEOPLE.


Criminals, and criminal regimes ranging from The Brow-Ridged Hairy People That Live Among the Distant Mountains all the way through history to the Nazis and the Soviets, have and will conspire to take by force what they cannot produce on their own. These people must be stopped. The genius of the 2nd Amendment is that it realizes that these people could be anybody - including the U.S. Army. That is why this power, like the other powers, is vested in the people. Nowhere else in the world is this the case. You can make a solid argument that the United States is, by almost any measure, the most prosperous, successful nation in history. I'm not claiming this is because every American sleeps with a gun under the pillow - the vast majority do not. I do claim it is the result of a document that puts faith and trust in the people - trusts them with government, with freedom, and with the means of self-defense. You cannot remove that lynchpin of trust without collapsing the entire structure. Many observers of America never fully understand what we believe in our bones, namely, that the government doesn't tell us what we can do - WE tell THOSE bastards just how far they can go.
Obviously a lot has changed over the decades and centuries. Industrialization and the growing urbanization of America has reduced the average American's exposure to firearms, and high crime rates - especially in those urban areas - has caused much of the fear I illustrated at the beginning of this post. But since I'm quoting older bits with abandon in this essay, let me dredge up another one. I've referenced this letter to Kim du Toit several times on this blog, but that's because it is so pertinent to the philosophy that I espouse. In this case, the relevant portion is this:
Being armed goes far beyond simple self-protection against thugs or even tyrants -- it's an unequivocal and unmatched lesson that you are politically and morally sovereign; that you, and not the state, are responsible for your life and your fate. This absolute personal sovereignty is the founding stone of the Republic. "A well-regulated militia" (where the militia is "the whole people") isn't just "necessary to the security of a free state" because it provides a backup to (and defense against) the police and the army. More importantly, keeping and bearing arms trains sovereign citizens in the art of freedom, and accustoms us to our authority and duty.

As Eric S. Raymond wrote:
"To believe one is incompetent to bear arms is, therefore, to live in corroding and almost always needless fear of the self -- in fact, to affirm oneself a moral coward. A state further from 'the dignity of a free man' would be rather hard to imagine. It is as a way of exorcising this demon, of reclaiming for ourselves the dignity and courage and ethical self-confidence of free (wo)men that the bearing of personal arms, is, ultimately, most important."
We need to get our heads around the idea that, by being armed for the defense of ourselves and the State, we are feared by those around us who don't understand that they are responsible for their own protection, and those whose own philosophies are pacifistic.

It isn't the people willing to be violent-but-protective who are mentally unbalanced, but those who cannot and will not recognized that violence exists whether they want it to or not, and that being unprepared and unwilling to face it will not make it go away. (Read the piece by Rev. Sensing I referenced in Violence and the Social Contract for a more in-depth discussion on pacifism.)

There is one and only one way to overcome this fear, and that is familiarity. Abigail Kohn described her experience:
There was a time when I would not have wanted to touch a gun of any kind, much less spend part of an afternoon riding the back of a rocking mechanical pony and blazing away at a series of targets with revolvers, rifles, and shotguns. But that improbable picture is the culmination of a journey that took me from the ivory towers of academia to the shooting ranges of Northern California. Bluntly, I was surprised by what I found there. As a practicing anthropologist, I had set out in search of gun crazies, but what I found were regular folks -- enthusiasts who relate to their guns in generally socially positive ways. These people are usually ignored by most media accounts of America's "gun culture."
"Refugee," the author of that letter to Kim du Toit said:
To those of you who grew up with guns, I expect that what I'm about to say will seem painfully obvious. But I came to class late, and what I learned there is still fresh and vibrant.

I thought, all my life, that I couldn't own a gun safely, that no one could, really. Guns were dangerous and icky. Even after I realized that the Second Amendment was not quite the shriveled, antiquated appendix I'd been taught, for a couple of years or so I still wobbled around with the training-wheel comfort of believing that while not all gun owners were necessarily gap-toothed red-necked fascist militia whackos, I myself ought not to own firearms. I was too clumsy and careless, and guns were still dangerous and icky.

Just before 9/11 I woke up to how quickly my liberty was eroding, and in a fit of anger and defiance started saving for a handgun while training with rentals. (Thanks to Harry at Texas Shooters Range here in Houston.) When I actually bought one (to the horror and confusion of my friends and family), having it around the house, carrying it in my car, talking about it, showing it off, and of course shooting and maintaining it, taught me what I could not learn from books, magazines, classes, or even Usenet:

It taught me that freedom takes practice.
A while back I did two pieces on Emily Yoffe, a Slate columnist and contributor to NPR who, as part of her continuing series "Human Guinea Pig" had taken the challenge to learn to shoot. In her Slate piece she related the following:
So anathema are guns among my friends that when one learned I was doing this piece, he opened his wallet, silently pulled out an NRA membership card, then (after I recovered from the sight) asked me not to spread it around lest his son be kicked out of nursery school. My entire experience with guns consisted of a riflery class at summer camp back when Millard Fillmore was president, and an afternoon 20 years ago shooting at tin cans with a friend.

It was not easy finding an instructor willing to take on a reporter who lived in the District. Looking for help, I called Gary Mehalik, director of communications of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who offered to get me a setup in which a laser is inserted into a pistol, which I could then shoot into a specially equipped laptop computer that would track my accuracy. I worried that at the end of a day of typing on my computer, I would become addicted to shooting it—a journalist's version of Elvis blasting his television when he saw performers he didn't like. Then Mehalik realized he couldn't send me the laser-equipped pistol: "As a D.C. resident, you of course are not allowed to use a firearm."
She got her first exposure to anti-gun bigotry, and her first exposure to asinine gun laws - but she also exposed her own prejudice - being worried about becoming "addicted to shooting." But her first actual shooting experience was an eye-opener:
The ammo itself made me uneasy, as if it could explode on contact, and I fumbled as I tried to load the shotgun. The first few shots didn't go well. I could hear my blood pumping in my ears, and I realized that when you close both eyes as you pull the trigger, your clay target will fall to the ground intact. I slowed my breath, forced myself to keep one eye opened, and miraculously hit the thing. In the end I blasted 11 out of 25. Ricardo was thrilled and so was I. I felt even better about myself when, after I made Ricardo shoot a box of ammo, he hit only two more targets than I did.
I also transcribed her NPR interview with Alex Chadwick where Yoffe explained her reason for learning to shoot, which was similar to Abigale Kohn's:
Well, guns are a big issue right now and I'm... I thought, I've gotta understand the rest of the country a little better. And, so I went to see if an absolute gun novice can learn to be a decent shot.
By the end of her experience, she'd been changed:
So, how did you take to shooting, and are you any good? Could you hit the target?
I'm darned good. What can I say? Everything has been a disaster in Human Guinea Pig, but I was hitting that thing, at.. My instructor Ricardo Royal put a paper plate out there, and I took his Sig-Sauer P226 9mm with a Crimson Trace laser grip...
...and “Paper plate, make my day” I was hitting it.
You sound like you actually know what that thing was. Is that a handgun or a bazooka?
It’s a semiautomatic pistol.
It was the conclusion of the interview, though, that I found most pleasing:
Ok, Emily. You know, you gave up being Mrs. D.C., you passed on being a street musician, you're no longer a phone psychic. Are you actually going to be a shooter? Are you going to get a gun?
Well, I live in Washington, D.C., which kind of precludes this. Un, unless I'm a criminal, of course. But I am thinking of taking my family out and having us all have a great time blasting at targets. I’ve also become... I see movies now in a different way. I look at people shooting in movies and think “There’s no follow-through there, you're not gonna hit that person. You don’t know what you're doing!"
Emily Yoffe hasn't grasped the citizenship aspect of gun ownership, I think, though both Abigale Kohn and "Refugee" have. What she has done, as they have, is lost her fear.

While the total number of guns in America climbs by two to three million annually, the number of gun owners has been declining. If we wish to retain our right to arms, we're going to have to address that. I offer to take novices shooting on the left column of this blog. James Rummel of Hell in a Handbasket does it as a vocation. Kim du Toit's site, A Nation of Riflemen is dedicated to inspiring new shooters, and he gets letters from them. Publicola offers a list of us and other people willing to do the same.

We need more.

The only answer to fear is information and experience, and we need to be doing a better job, because the media is a difficult force to overcome. As I write this, my wife is watching MSNBC Investigates - Dark Heart, Iron Hand, and the topic is "Rampage Killers." According to host John Seigenthaler, a rampage killing occurs in the United States some thirty times a year. The subject right now is the 1991 Luby's cafeteria massacre in Killeen Texas. The subject before it was the 1984 San Ysidro, California McDonald's massacre. In both stories there is much description of people cowering defenseless as they wait to be cold-bloodedly shot to death before the police can arrive.

In the Luby's story, there is no mention of Suzanne Gratia-Hupp. There is no mention of defensive gun useage by anyone other than a law-enforcement officer.

But the blame for these rampage killings is placed on "the proliferation of firearms" and insane white men who enjoy violence and collect guns.

UPDATE 2/14: Jed at Freedomsight has an post on pretty much the same topic, Selling Fear and the Psychology of Gun Control, and Gunner at No Quarters has another sad example of gun phobia. Posse Incitatus points out a piece from June of last year on The Fear of Responsibility that dovetails nicely into the theme of this essay. He links in that to my also related piece Americans, Gun Controllers, and the "Aggressive Edge". Good catch. He also has a new post on the topic, advising that the "public face" of the gun-rights movement needs to be that of Gary Cooper's "Marshal Will Kane" in High Noon, rather than DeNiro's "Travis Bickel" in Taxi Driver. But there's that dichotomy again - authorized, responsible agent of the State vs. slavering untrustworthy civilian gun-nut. How many media images do we have of average, everyday people as responsible gun owners, anyway?

I think he missed the point. If we want to take the "nut" out of "gun nut," image is irrelevant. We can't overcome decades of propaganda. Only personal experience matters.

UPDATE 2/15: Denise of The Ten Ring is not so sanguine about the "take a novice shooting" suggestion as a cure, and with personal experience as evidence. She may have a very valid point. She notes, too, that my invitation has only garnered three takers to date. I've been passive about it. I'm going to have to become an active recruiter, I guess.

Additional update: Posse Incitatus objects to my "Will Kane / Travis Bickel" comparison.

UPDATE 2/16: James Rummel comments.