Friday, March 30, 2007

Of Cars and Guns and Parking Lots*

(*Apologies to Lewis Carroll)

There’s a gun issue that I haven’t discussed yet. Some businesses are banning guns on their premises even if the guns are locked up in the cars of their employees. In cases such as Weyerhauser in Oklahoma, people have lost their jobs when their employers discovered guns in their cars.

I’ve been of two minds about the issue, but when the New York Times editorializes about it, I guess it’s time to make up my mind.

My earlier ambivalence stems from multiple issues of property rights, gun rights, employee vs. employer rights, and my little-l libertarian distaste for government regulations. On one hand, an employer has a right to impose certain rules on their property and on their employees. If an employee doesn’t like it, find a new job. On the other hand, there are certain rights that should never be infringed and in some communities getting a new job isn’t that easy.

Then I read the New York Times editorial and the scales fell from my eyes. Here are samples: “…common-sense right to workplace safety…” and a quote from one of the ubiquitous scary studies “Workplaces that tolerate guns are five to seven times more likely to suffer homicides than job sites that ban firearms….”

Then there’s hyperbole designed to put gun-owners in the worst possible light, “The notion that self-defense mandates keeping guns in office drawers or out in parking-lot glove compartments is a dangerous fantasy.” Besides, what is a “parking-lot glove compartment?”

Here’s what I believe after a good think. An employer can tell you that you cannot bring a gun inside their buildings that are under their control. A parking lot is another issue entirely.

The employer allows the employee to park their private property (a car) in a lot. My car is mine to do with as I please. An employer can tell me I can’t put a statue of the Virgin Mary or the Horned God in my cubicle, but they can’t order it out of my car (yet). They shouldn’t be able to tell you what else you may have in your private property particularly if it is hidden from public view.

The corporate world can infringe on our rights as surely as government. They can’t jail us, but they can fire us for breaking any of a myriad of rules. An employer shouldn’t be able to prevent me from exercising my right keep and bear arms and defend myself away from home.

Obviously gun banners aren’t winning in legislatures and even courts. They could win by making concealed carry and gun ownership almost impossible. What if businesses posted their public parking lots with no gun signs, just like it’s illegal to have a gun in a Post Office’s parking lot? If that happens, your right to carry a self-defense tool just became impossible to exercise legally.

They could make it so that you carrying a gun on your person or in a car would be so inconvenient to do legally that most of us will either ignore the law or stop bearing arms. If gun banners convince businesses that they are only protecting their employees and customers with “common sense” controls as well as limiting liability you’ll see more of this. What’s the difference it government or corporations are our nannies?

In an ideal world, government shouldn’t have to regulate businesses, but this is a case when they need to step in before we lose our gun rights because of the actions of private business. What a world.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gun Laws and Life Choices

Yosemite Sam and I are not big fans of gun laws, as you might have gathered. But there are times when they’re more onerous than others. Yosemite and I left Texas for me to accept a dream job in Massachusetts. It paid almost double what I was getting before and I’ve had raises every year since then.

In other words, career-wise it was a great move, but we lost a lot of freedom when we lived in Massachusetts. We changed that by moving to New Hampshire. I have a 40-mile one-way commute and Yosemite’s drive’s even longer. Our rights to enjoy shooting, collecting, and owning guns without fear outweighs the inconvenience of the commute.

Now I’m facing another decision complicated by gun laws. I know anti-gunnies would say, "Don’t own guns and you won’t have these problems." Owning guns is a human right and I won’t give it up. That’s all there is to it.

My decision revolves around my career again. There’s a job opening that’s right up my alley and it pays slightly better. More importantly, its main duties are the things I enjoy most about my career. I’d love to apply for the job, but there're quality of life issues revolving around hostile gun laws. The job’s in Maryland and I know that their gun laws are draconian and likely to get worse. They’re not as bad as laws in Massachusetts, but I no longer live there.

Yosemite Sam and I could live in Virginia and commute. But it’s a butt-breaking commute. I know the Capitol Beltway is congested and miserable. The Metro is a possibility, but I would need to look into that further. Also, housing in Virginia within commuting distance of D.C. and Maryland isn’t exactly cheap.

We’ve played around with the idea of me telecommuting part time and flying down for three days of the week (if the employer would allow it). Given the cost of flying and then staying overnight for three nights (or renting a studio apartment), I doubt that would be possible on anything but a short-term basis.

I’d love to be able to take that job, if offered, but I don’t want to live in Maryland and face the same problems with gun ownership that we faced in Massachusetts. Why can’t these damn states just let up live in peace?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Parker Foe's Hypocrisy

You know, I used to call myself a liberal. I believed in certain things that fit more into that camp. I stayed the same, but liberalism kept getting stranger and more, well, leftist. They left me behind and thank God they did.

Partially for that reason, I've been following the rants on the Parker decision with interest. You know the decision that, if not reversed, will strike down Washington, D.C.'s draconian gun laws.

There's no one particular rant I can point to; it's more of a cumulative thing. The rants that interest me most tend to fall into two groups:
  • Complaints about activist judges who strike down laws;
  • Complaints that the majority of D.C. voters support the laws and are being ignored.

First, many leftist victories were won with legal decisions passed by "activist judges." Abortion isn't mentioned in the Constitution, but it has become settled law (and I don't want to argue about this issue one way or the other). The same with gay marriage in my neighboring state of Massachusetts. I could give more examples, but you're with me on this one I do believe.

Second, the majority of D.C. voters might support the District's gun laws, but similarily in many states voters might support bans on abortion, gay marriage, and vote prayer back into public schools. The left would be aghast at what might happen if they truly supported government by plebiscite.

That's what has stuck me most about the left recently: their hypocrisy. No wonder they left me behind.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Does a Smoking Habit Ever Really End?

This is not related to guns in any way that I can think of right now. It is a life issue shall we say. I stumbled on an article in Salon while following a link. Rebecca Traister quit smoking a few months ago. She doesn’t regret her decision, but she’s had all sorts of minor health problems since then; flu, pinkeye, weight gain, clumsiness, head lice, etc.

I used to smoke and I enjoyed it. I decided to quit because I feared it would affect my health eventually. Let’s face it, putting a tube of burning plant matter in your mouth and lighting it on fire is not something that God and/or evolution designed us to do.

It’s been years now and I still miss it. I forget how many years since I quit smoking, but it’s been more than twenty. Quitting was the right thing to do, but every now and again I still want a good smoke.

I’ve backslid over the years. Right now, I could find two maybe three packs of cigarettes at home. Each has one or two cigarettes missing. The remaining cigs are so old now that touching a match to them might be like igniting flash powder. Poof, and the cigarette is gone. Magic!

Yosemite Sam smoked cigars, but he never developed a habit. It was just something he tried out. Don’t tell him, but he’s missing a couple of cigars from his old stash.

I find that if I’m at a casino, in a bar, or if I have to really think about something I’m writing for work, I want to smoke again. The writing thing is left over from college and graduate school. Smoking got me through both.

As far as casinos or bars, part of it is all the other smokers around me, but there’s the feeling that they’re the perfect places to smoke. I can imagine Rick's Cafe' Americain in fictional Casablanca. Humphrey Bogart is squinting his eyes against his cigarette’s smoke as he leans over to light Lauren Bacall’s cigarette. It just seems right.

I do recommend that people quit smoking or never take it up. I’m sure it’s bad for you, but I think I’ll always miss it. I wonder if the urge to light up ever really ends.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What I'm Watching Now

If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now. I like to watch TV. I’m not indiscriminate in my TV viewing mind you. I have to enjoy a show at least once before I’ll spend anymore time with it. And, if it gets silly, boring, or too politically correct--there’s always a good book.

Unfortunately, being able to buy entire series on DVDs has complicated my life. For instance, I really like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, but didn’t get into it until I bought the series. I have a guilty girly pleasure as well, Buffy the Vampire Slayer also by Whedon. Then there are the shows that I liked years ago, but couldn’t see all the episodes or that I want to see again.

I recently bought The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., which started in 1993 and ended 27 episodes later. I’d seen about two episodes of it when it was on broadcast TV and wanted to watch more, but it was on at a bad time for me then.

If you’re not familiar with it, Brisco County, Jr. is a Harvard trained lawyer turned Old West bounty hunter. His father, played in a couple of cameos by fellow gun owner R. Lee Ermey, is killed by an outlaw gang. Brisco vows revenge and seeks to lock up or kill the bad guys. Meanwhile, a mysterious golden orb in various episodes gives people supernatural powers. The outlaw gang’s chief wants it for himself.

While a Western, it’s a strange mix of horse opera and science fiction. Also, the episodes are somewhat uneven. Some are gripping, some are boring, and others are simply okay. But, it does have guns in it. Brisco and his reluctant sidekick. Lord Bowler, are armed with single-action six shooters. Bowler also carries a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun. Perhaps I should call it a Boomstick.

You see, Brisco is played by Bruce Campbell who gave life to the line, “This…is my Boomstick!” from Army of Darkness. Campbell does a good job here, but then it’s to be expected because he’s one of the best B-movie actors out there.

While I can't recommend each episode, it’s been a fun way to kill time while dinner’s cooking. And it's a fun show. It never took itself too seriously—for instance the writers threw in lots of anachronisms like a sheriff who talks like Elvis. Some of the shooting is silly. For instance, Brisco’s in a shooting contest where he must ricochet his bullets several times before hitting a small target. Not exactly possible. It’s not meant to be serious, so keep that in mind if you watch it.

Also, if you’re a fan of Lost (I’m not although I watched most of the first season), you’ll see that Carlton Cuse produced Lost and co-produced Brisco.

So, if you’re tolerant of a little un-seriousness, Brisco County might entertain you for awhile. Besides, did I say that it has guns and Bruce Campbell in it?

Friday, March 09, 2007

D.C. Is Free at Last (Maybe)

It’s already old news on these Internets, but the US Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. District struck down D.C.’s restrictive gun law. Of course, there’ll be numerous appeals, foot dragging, new laws, and everything else that will delay any celebrations. But, it’s a major victory for gun rights.

This is not to say that it restores an absolutist view of the Second Amendment to the District or the nation at large. The court notes that there may be exceptions to the practice of carrying concealed weapons or banning felons from owning guns.

According to the decision, “These regulations promote the government’s interest in public safety consistent with our common law tradition. Just as importantly, however, they do not impair the core conduct upon which the right was premised.” It also finds that registration could be reasonable as part of maintaining a well-regulated militia as well as proficiency tests, etc. (see p 54 pdf).

These are possible regulations that should be resisted, but I don’t find the mention of them surprising.

Even though the decision would allow some infringements, it provides so much more than what District citizens already have. It recognizes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right, it uses the Miller decision appropriately, and does indeed take the District to task for infringing on gun rights.

It is an important step in rolling back other state and city guns laws that are almost as onerous as those in the District. Let’s hope stare decisis work for us.

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Day at the Range (Sort of)

As mentioned earlier, I went out shooting this weekend. But, it didn’t go quite as planned.

First, Yosemite Sam couldn’t make it. That means we couldn’t compare targets or just feel that warm glow of companionship. Sigh. I prepared the range bag and went through my careful mental checklist: at least one box of ammo for every gun; zip my guns into gun rugs, place them in my range bag, make sure my ear protector is in the bag, get an appropriate number of targets. You know the drill.

I’d decided to shoot a self-defense pistol I’ve been known to carry, a carbine, and my bullseye pistol. The gun is equipped with a red-dot sight and I brought a little box of tools and a spare battery just in case I needed to fiddle with anything. Like I said, I was ready.

I packed three boxes of ammo for my bullseye gun, because I need the practice. I’m a little rusty. The bullseye league isn’t meeting this winter (the club’s indoor range is being upgraded).

I got to the commercial range, checked in, and set up. I shot a box of ammo out of the carbine, then practiced drills with the self-defense pistol. I was ready to do some intense bullseye shooting now. I placed the appropriate target on the carrier and operated a switch to move it out to 25 yards.

I placed a box of cartridges on the shelf in front of me out and started to load my pistol. No magazine in the grip. No magazine in the range bag. They were both home in my gun box. And, can you believe it; the range didn’t have a loaner.

I bought another box of ammo and practiced more with my other pistol. Next time I’ll remember the $(%*$ magazines. It was still good to get some range time in.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Support Our Sport

I saw this article on Bitch Girls. My first impression is that there's surprisingly little anti-gun yapping. Sure, the VPC (Violence Policy Center) gets a quote in, but it’s pro forma almost like quotes most other articles get from NRA spokespeople.

The article discusses gun industry attempts to get more young people into the shooting sports including hunting. In mentions high school programs that teach skeet shooting and hunting and many others programs. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) coordinates much of this activity.

The NSSF is making headway with young people, enough so that the VPC spokesman described skeet as “a gateway sport” designed to entice more youths into shooting. I hope the VPC is right and many more kids get into shooting. It’s the future of our sport.

I also found an interesting statistic in the article: “The average hunter, according to NSSF data, spends $17,726.59 on hunting equipment in his or her lifetime.” I don’t know how they calculated that number, but it’s not that large of a number.

Average shooters might spend more on their sport than a hunter who may not shoot much. Still, I bet that amount isn’t all that large either. I’ve never sat down and added up how much Yosemite Sam and I spend on shooting and how much we spend on hunting. We’ve bought hunting gear and also spent a lot on ammunition for our target (rifle, pistol, and shotgun) activities and our guns.

I also collect older firearms and I know I’ve spent more than $17,726.59. However, a gun company doesn’t make a profit when I buy a 75 year old gun. On the other hand, ammo companies make a profit when I but cartridges for an old gun, particularly those like Old West Scrounger that sells obsolete ammo. I’ve also made several gun store owners very happy.

I guess my point is, if I have a point, is that we hunters and shooters are all part of one family. We end up supporting pretty much the same companies no matter what discipline we shoot. Those companies in turn support our sport through NSSF and other organizations. They need our money in return for their products in order to increase the number of shooters and hunters out there.

I think Yosemite Sam and I will be spending more money this weekend in support of our favorite ammo company.