Monday, April 29, 2013

More Governmental Overreach

By Dave Dargo

I mentioned in a previous post, Respect For The Law?, how some in positions of power in government use that power to corrupt public policy in a way that drives a growing disrespect for the law.

The Executive Branch Review highlights another example of power corruption in this article.

Imagine for a moment that you want the government to take certain actions.  Though the current administration is sympathetic and even supportive of your cause both you and the administration know that there exists no authority for the government to take your desired actions.  In fact, it may be that the legislative branch has voted many times against such action and you feel quite frustrated that you can't get your desired actions through the legislative branch.

But, you have a smart person in your organization and you decide to sue the executive branch to force them to take the actions you desire.  You know you can't win the lawsuit because the government hasn't done anything wrong, nor has it failed to do anything it's required or even allowed to do.  You know, however, that the executive branch is supportive of your cause and the powers-that-be wish that the legislative branch would just get out of the way and pass the necessary legislation.

So, you file your lawsuit and everyone knows you won't win.  Are you worried?  Of course not because you know what's coming next: rather than proceeding to trial the sympathetic executive branch settles the lawsuit and agrees to perform your requested action.  Voila, problem solved.

The only problem with this solution is that the executive branch never had the authority to negotiate and agree to take the action.  Worse, many others who are opposed to the action had no seat at the negotiating table because they had no standing in the lawsuit.  And, worst of all, there may be property owners who are affected by the action and won't know about any of it until your sympathizers in the government show up to take the action.

The U.S. Senator from Louisiana, David Vitter, is attempting to uncover such shenanigans.  The Science Based Policy For A Better World Blog has a post that highlights the letter that Senator Vitter sent to the Louisiana Attorney General asking his assistance in uncovering the practice of the executive branch bypassing the legislative branch by using a pseudo-suit in the judicial branch to achieve what it can't achieve through the normal deliberative process established by the U.S. Constitution.

They are starting with a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to uncover which organizations may have colluded with the executive branch to establish regulations outside the normal channel.

These Machiavellian machinations would make even Niccolo himself blush and should make all of us angry.  The question is, will it make us angry enough to have the intellectual courage to do something about it?

The issues Senator Vitter is uncovering may not affect you today but you can rest assured that the manipulation methods employed here, if allowed to continue and grow, will some day be used to demonstrate to you who serves whom.  I don't think you'll like that demonstration.


By Dave Dargo

I mentioned in a previous post that I carry a gun everyday.  When I carry that gun concealed most people will be completely unaware that I have it.  Occasionally, I'll move a certain way and the gun will "print" and an observant passerby may see that there's something under my shirt and, if knowledgeable, know that it's a gun.  Printing is when the physical outline of the gun can be observed in the garment that covers the gun.

My wife and I drive across this beautiful country a lot.  It seems that at least once a month we're driving between Arizona and Louisiana with the dogs and much too much stuff to carry in the car.  I've mentioned previously that when carrying a gun across state lines one must be cognizant of the variety of laws in effect when crossing from one jurisdiction to another.

What does one do, for example, if pulled over by the police for a traffic violation?

I mentioned in the Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry post the police officer I had an interaction with merely asked me to assure him that I wasn't going to "blast" him.

Every jurisdiction has its own rules.  For example, the state I live in, Arizona, only requires one to inform a police officer of the presence of a gun if asked and, if asked, one isn't allowed to lie.

Other jurisdictions, such as Louisiana, require someone to inform the officer of the presence of a gun during an official interaction with the officer whether asked or not.

The more conservative action to take is to inform the police officer of a concealed firearm whenever you have an official interaction with that officer and to not wait for the police officer to ask if you have a gun.

In the video below a person in Ohio is pulled over and attempts multiple times to inform the officer that he is carrying a concealed handgun.  The video is quite long but it shows what none of us want to have happen, at least not to us.

Charges of failing to promptly inform the officer were dismissed.  The officer in this case was fired but won the right to get his job back.

There's a U.S. Supreme Court Case, Haynes v. United States, that shines a light on the complex legal issues facing both law enforcement officers and felons.  It would appear that someone who is prohibited from possessing a gun can't be convicted of failing to inform an officer because that would violate the felon's Fifth Amendment rights.  The rest of us, though, better be prepared to inform as soon as possible.

The one time I had to inform an officer I did so and it simply generated conversation.  I've often wondered what the best way to inform an officer would be and have settled on presenting my license to carry a concealed weapon along with my driver's license.

I know that I will not start the conversation by yelling, "I HAVE A GUN!"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

You Carry A Gun?

By Dave Dargo

I carry a gun everyday.  The gun I carry is usually a 1911 .45 ACP, either a Wilson Combat or a Gunsite Service Pistol made by Colt.

Carrying a pistol requires commitment.  A commitment to training, safety, awareness and preparation are all required if one is going to carry a pistol.  Although we all have the right to "keep and bear arms" I strongly believe that anyone who keeps or bears a gun has a personal responsibility to know themselves and be properly educated and trained before exercising the right.

What does it mean to know yourself?

If you are ever faced with bodily harm you are going to respond in one of a number of ways:
  • Freeze - you may be so surprised that you will simply freeze and be incapable of action.  Everyone can expect to freeze momentarily through that split-second of situational evaluation, but freezing becomes a problem when it continues beyond that moment.
  • Submit - submission is often taught as an appropriate response to an attacker.  Just give the attacker what they want and hope they don't hurt you.  Studies, however, show that you are less likely to be hurt when using a firearm for self-defense than if you submit.
  • Posture - Puff up and use words, sounds and gestures to attempt to dominate and intimidate your attacker.
  • Flight - Running away can be a very effective strategy when dealing with an attacker - if employed tactically.
  • Fight - A person may initially have any of the four responses above before deciding to fight.  Fighting is not always a weighed and considered decision, many times it is just a natural reaction.
Do you know your natural reaction?  You can actually train and learn what you are likely to do or, perhaps, you've found yourself in situations where you've already learned your natural reaction to a critical situation.

What about education?

Are you aware of the laws in your locality?  Where are you permitted to carry a concealed firearm?  Are you allowed to have a beer when carrying a gun?  Do you have to keep the gun concealed or can you wear it openly?  What happens if you start an argument with someone that escalates while you're carrying a gun?

All of these questions, and many more, are important to have answered before you ever start to carry a gun.

Finally, what about training?

Can you reliably, effectively and with purpose and confidence draw your gun from its carry position and, if necessary, deliver a shot to where its needed?  Shooting for self-defense is very different from shooting for target practice or marksmanship competitions.  You have to decide before you pick up that gun if you're capable of using deadly-force to save yourself or your family members, or perhaps, even a perfect stranger.

There's a lot more to cover about carrying a gun which will be covered in later posts.  I take the responsibility very seriously and train and practice every day.  You will need a similar commitment if you decide to carry a gun.

Mr. Vice President, Can We See Your Credentials? Please?

By Dave Dargo

In the last post I asked what would your family do if, while watching T.V., you heard a window breaking.  Perhaps this is the channel you should be watching.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Condition: Ready: Families

By Dave Dargo

You're watching T.V. with your family and the smoke detector sounds its alarm.  What do you do?

If you're like most families you all look at each other, dad and mom get disgusted looks on their faces and, if you're lucky, the search begins for which smoke detector is causing the issue.

Is that the right response?

When we send our children to school we like to feel safe that we've sent them someplace safe.  When it comes to fire we've done a great job in making sure that's the case; but it's not always been that way.

In the last century we had major disasters in schools in this country related to fire:
  • 1908 - 175 killed in Lakeview Grammar School fire in Collinwood, OH
  • 1915 - 22 killled in St. John's Parochial School fire in Peabody, MA
  • 1923 - 77 killed in Cleveland School fire in Beulah, SC
  • 1937 - 294 killed in Consolidated school gas explosion in New London, TX
  • 1954 - 15 killed in Cleveland Hill School fire in Cheektowaga, NY
  • 1958 - 95 killed in Our Lady of the Angels school fire in Chicago, IL
  • 1978 - 15 killed in State School for mentally retarded in Ellisville, MS
Thankfully, we haven't had any lately and except for the anomaly in 1978 we haven't had any major disasters in over fifty years.  Why is that?

It's because we started to take seriously the responsibility of safeguarding our schools from fire.  We started building schools with materials designed to inhibit fire.  We outfitted our schools with sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers and we taught our children what to do in case of fire starting at a very early age.  Today it must seem strange to young parents that we still practice fire drills in school given how long ago that it was an issue in this country.  There's nothing strange about it at all.  Our schools hold regular fire drills so that everyone in the building knows exactly what to do if that fire alarm ever sounds because of a real fire.  A proper fire drill is followed up with briefings on what went right, want went wrong and how to improve performance for the next drill or real alarm.

We were told growing up that we should practice those same types of drills at home.  We should always teach our children what to do in case of fire.  I remember my father drilling into our heads where we were to go if the house caught fire and we were severely admonished to not go back into the house no matter what.  Though highly recommended, the home fire drill is rarely practiced but you may have still had the discussion with your children and spouse on the expected behavior of everyone in case of a fire in the home.  One of the most important aspects of the plan is that everyone meet in an agreed upon place for a nose count so that the safety of all can be assured.

When that smoke detector alarm sounds it's probably better to have a plan on what is expected from each person rather than practicing the quizzical looks you are more likely to generate.

Now, let's change the scenario just a bit.  You're watching T.V. with your family and you hear someone break a window or kick a door in.  What do you do?

That particular moment is not the proper time to make a plan.  Just as with a fire you should have a plan for your family on what you will collectively do if you were faced with such a scenario.

In our Personal Protection In The Home course we teach that you should get to a pre-designated safe room, lock and, if possible, barricade the door, call 911, get behind good cover, get your gun if you have one and wait for help to arrive.

Just as our children calmly execute the fire drill exercises in their schools we are better prepared to handle a crisis if we have a thought-out and practiced plan before a crisis strikes.

What Really Scares Me

By Dave Dargo

I hold to a very strict concept of the powers the national government is granted.  I recognize that the powers of the national government have become greatly expanded and most of that expansion has taken place since the 1930s.  I also recognize that many of my fellow citizens are not only comfortable with but also embrace much of that expansion of power.  I'm not convinced that many of them understand that there was an expansion of power.  I believe that many of my friends actually believe that the national government was always the way it is today.

I've heard all through my life that the U.S. Constitution needs to be interpreted to comport with modern times and today's mores.

I hold the opposite view.  I believe the U.S. Constitution has always meant to say exactly what it says and nothing more.  The U.S. Constitution was not created in order to grant rights and privileges to the people.  It was developed in order to create a limited national government so the people could have the liberty to do those things that bring them the greatest happiness and joy.

Once we started turning to the national government to help us individually, though, we started giving more power to that same national government to control our lives.  There's an interesting book written in 1954, titled, The Income Tax: Root Of All Evil; in this book, author Frank Chodorov makes an interesting observation:
A people who are intent on getting something-for-nothing from government cannot cavil over the infringement of their rights by that government; in fact, if the price demanded for the gratuities is the relinquishment of rights, they are not averse to paying it.
He asks, "What is this thing called government, which can grant and take away rights?"

His overall argument against the income tax, a direct tax, vs. indirect taxes based on consumption choices was that once the national government started taking money directly from the production of its citizens there would be no choice but for that government to grow and restrict not only the rights of the citizens but also the powers and independence of the states.

Now, one can posit legitimate arguments on both sides about the efficacy, fairness and righteousness of the national income tax.  However, it is difficult to argue that what Mr. Chodorov posited in 1954 is not an accurate reflection of the direction the national government has taken.

Bloomberg - Enemy of Liberty?
As we move from 1954 to yesterday, the 22nd of April, 2013, we see the attitude that is founded on a national government unrestricted in its powers and a citizenry beholden to that national government as a source of their rights.

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, "...we live in a complex world where you're going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will.  And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change."

Just to remind everyone what Benjamin Franklin wrote in Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

What does such a quote from Benjamin Franklin mean in today's world?

It means exactly what it meant "back in the olden days."  The more liberty we give up the less we become of ourselves.  The less we become of ourselves the more beholden we become to the collective for the definition of who we are and what makes us happy.

Anytime a politician of national prominence starts telling me that we need to re-interpret our Constitution I become very frightened because they've figured out:
  • They are prohibited from doing what they want to do
  • They know they can't politically get the people to grant them new powers in an appropriate manner
  • They believe the only way they can achieve their power grab is to simply change the definitions of the very documents that granted them any power to begin with, hence, Bloomberg's desire to re-interpret the Constitution
This is what scares me and, frankly, should frighten any supporter of liberty.  We need the intellectual courage to chase such oppressors from the offices they hold and strip them of the power they attempt to wield.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How Many Times Have You Saved Yourself?

By Dave Dargo

There's something amazing about being prepared and empowered to protect yourself.  You will have a completely different approach to your surroundings when you're aware of what's happening around you.  You feel more confident in your motions and actions when you are able to prepare for the things that are coming your way.

Sometimes we hear about others things like, "They're so clumsy," or, "They're always running into things."  We all have friends and acquaintances who always seem to be the ones who have the bad luck with car accidents or always seem to be surprised when things happen.

I think, with most of these, we're witnessing one of the effects of being unaware.

We know that predators often look for those who seem unaware and unprepared.  It's their own form of profiling and, with practice, they become quite good at it.

So, the question becomes, how many times has a predator sized you up and decided to go elsewhere simply because you appeared to be aware and prepared?

You'll never know.  It's like trying to prove a negative; there's no way to have a control group for this type of question.

Commit to being prepared and aware of what's going on around you.  Be happy knowing that by simply appearing aware and ready you are going a long way towards preventing yourself from being a victim of a predator.

You'll never really know how many times you've saved yourself.

Condition: Ready - Couples

By Dave Dargo

We've spoken a lot about preparation, awareness and readiness for individuals but what do you do when you're with another person, your significant other, for example.

When the two of you are walking across a parking lot and a stranger approaches you, what do you do?  Do you just assume that because you're in a public space that no threat exists?  Such an assumption could be a serious mistake.  You may not have noticed a predator's accomplice approaching from behind.  While being distracted by someone asking for directions you are actually in a more precarious position when standing so closely together.

As with all preparation and planning, the time to come up with a plan is not when something goes wrong.  If you wait until something happens before coming up with your plan you will not only be flummoxed individually but you will also be gravely concerned about your partner.  You will likely stare at one another and be flooded with thoughts not only about what to do but what your partner is going to do and what your partner expects from you.

Predators have fairly specific patterns that are repeated:
  • They look for people who are not aware
  • They don't have a plan "B"
  • They will repeat their demands if you don't comply
  • They expect people to abide by societal norms and not want to make a scene
So, how does a couple deal with this simple situation: approached by a stranger asking for directions while still wanting to maintain some level of civility?  Simple, split up.

If someone approaches my wife and me wanting to engage, the person initially engaged says to the other, "I'll catch up with you in a second."  This is a signal and confirmation to the other that they should continue on.  The person not-engaged, the one who continues on their way goes just a little further past and turns around and watches the interaction.

With this simple move, the couple are now able to see one another, one person can see the back of the person who approached and both can see beyond their partner for any potential accomplices approaching.  This also puts the person who approached at a disadvantage because they can only see the person engaged.

If you don't think about this in advance then you won't be able to do it when it happens.  The odds are very much in your favor that the person approaching really is an innocent person who needs directions.  On the other hand, having read this, how will you feel if you're approached by a predator and didn't take this simple precaution.

Preparation, visualization and planning go a long way towards maintaining your personal safety.  Simple plans like the one outlined above are easy to think about, very simple to implement and quite effective.

Next up, how many times have you prevented yourself from being a victim?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry

By Dave Dargo

I have what is often referred to as a CCW; I have a license to carry a concealed weapon.  This means that I have passed a criminal background check that involved fingerprinting, have taken a class and have passed a proficiency test.  Even though my home state of Arizona allows the concealed carry of a weapon without a permit, having the permit allows me to carry a concealed weapon into restaurants that server alcohol and a large number of states recognize my Arizona permit allowing me to carry concealed in their state.


The map shown above shows the states that allow me to carry a concealed weapon using my Arizona permit.  I can carry a concealed weapon in all the states that are in blue.

The map below, though, shows the states where I can openly carry a loaded handgun.

Those states in yellow and orange generally allow me to carry a loaded handgun in the open.  Some have licensing or other restrictions but, generally, I can openly carry.

When I drive from Arizona to Louisiana I can openly carry in Arizona, New Mexico and Louisiana.  However, in Texas I'm required to carry concealed and I must have a permit that Texas recognizes in order to do that.  Fortunately, Texas recognizes my Arizona CCW permit and I'm good to go.

Now, the question becomes why would I want to carry openly rather than concealed or vice-versa?

The first thing to recognize is that there are very strong opinions regarding both forms of carry.

Many people believe that carrying concealed gives them an advantage.  They have the advantage that no one else knows they have a gun so they won't be targeted by someone intent on stealing their gun and they will have the benefit of surprise if they ever need to draw their firearm.  The other advantage of carrying concealed is that it won't offend people who dislike firearms; if that kind of thing is important to you.

Others believe that carrying openly gives them an advantage.  They have the advantage that people see they have a gun and are more likely to choose a weaker target who is unlikely to have a gun.  They also believe that they can draw the gun quicker if they ever need to.

The arguments for both will go back and forth with the same satisfactory conclusion one would find over arguing between vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

I, personally, carry in both ways depending on the circumstances.  I carry concealed when:
  • The law requires it, such as a state like Texas or I'm in a restaurant that serves alcohol by the drink
  • I'm in a place of very low risk where there's likely to be people who will make a stink about carrying the gun
  • I'm in a place where it's likely to be crowded and my personal space is likely to be invaded a lot because I don't want anyone, however remote the possibility, to be able to get quick access to my gun
I carry openly when:
  • I'm physically restricted from accessing a concealed handgun, such as driving down the road
  • I'm in a fairly open area
  • I'm carrying packages
  • It's hot outside and I don't want a cover garment
For me, it comes down to personal preference and the specific circumstances.  For others it's an almost religious argument over whether to carry openly or concealed.

For those of you in California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and a few other locales; yes, we really do consider fashion when we carry a handgun.  And, yes, we really do carry handguns.  And, oh yeah, we don't consider carrying a handgun weird, insulting, dangerous or a bad habit.  When we see someone openly carrying a handgun we don't get nervous or upset or throw a fit.

Carrying a handgun is, actually, a perfectly normal practice in most of the country.

One final note that highlights the attitudinal differences across the country.  I was in Louisiana giving information to a police officer regarding a burglary.  Louisiana requires a person who is carrying a concealed handgun to inform a police officer when that person has an official interaction with that officer.  We had the following conversation:

Officer: "Good morning, how are you?"
Me: "Great, and you?"
Officer: "Fine, thanks.  Tell me what's going on."
Me: "Well, first, I have a permit for a concealed handgun and I have that handgun with me.  Is that O.K.?"
Officer: "Are you gonna blast me with it?"
Me: "Nope."
Officer: "No problem, then."

We then went on to discuss the burglary and when we were finished we spent about 15 minutes talking about preferred handguns, calibers, concealed vs. open-carry and a bunch of other stuff.  These are normal interactions throughout the country.  Many of you, though, are in parts of the country where the police are extremely uncomfortable with the thought that a mere civilian would be carrying a handgun.  Y'all might want to consider moving.

Evil Secrets - Concealed Carry Of A Handgun

By Dave Dargo

The carrying of loaded handguns in public is an area fraught with legal issues.  Before you decide to carry a gun in public you need to be very familiar with the laws in the area in which you plan to carry.  This blog is not the place for you to get such legal advice.

Why does one need a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public?

That question may seem strange to many of you.  You may wonder why one is permitted to carry a handgun in public at all.  You may think, well, of course someone should have the government's permission in order to carry a gun in public.  Others, like myself, wonder why any kind of permit is needed in order to exercise a fundamental right.  However, both permitting and the concealed carrying of guns are fairly modern concepts.

I'm going to ignore my birthplace, Washington, D.C. for the moment as they prohibit all forms of carry of firearms and I'm going to talk about the 50 states.

Seven states prohibit the open-carry of loaded firearms.  This means that 43 states allow people to walk down the public fair while carrying a loaded handgun exposed on their hip.  Though some require a license there are 29 states that allow anyone who is legally permitted to own a handgun to openly carry that handgun, loaded, in public.  Local cultural influences may make it unusual and some people may frown upon it but it is permitted.  I often openly carry a handgun in many of the states I visit.

There are 49 states that allow the concealed carry of a handgun with a permit and the remaining state, Illinois, is under Federal Court order to change their laws to allow some form of carrying a handgun.

It's not easy following all the state laws but some web sites attempt to make it easier.

The reason a permit has traditionally been needed in order to carry a handgun in a concealed manner is because it was thought that concealing a gun was an evil practice that only a dishonest man or an assassin would do.  It was accepted that an honest and honorable person would carry their handgun openly.  For this reason, though no permission was required to openly carry a handgun a permit was required in order to carry a handgun concealed.  A permit was a demonstration that showed the person carrying the concealed gun was actually an honest person who had undergone some level of government vetting.

Over time, however, some people in society became uncomfortable seeing handguns.  Many of these people felt that society had evolved and that bearing arms was no longer necessary.  Many jurisdictions then banned the open display of a handgun leaving concealed as the only manner in which to bear a handgun.  State's still required a permit in order to carry concealed and many people didn't bother to go through the difficult government process of obtaining a permit.  Carrying a handgun in a concealed manner was still considered an act that required governmental permission.

Then, "shall-issue" became the norm.  Shall-issue states are those states that will issue a permit to carry a concealed handgun to anyone who applies as long as that person is not prohibited from owning a handgun.  Most states are shall-issue today, meaning that an adult in good legal stead is permitted to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Some states, recognizing that concealed carry of a handgun is no longer a questionable practice have eliminated the need for permits altogether.  There are 4 states that allow the carrying of a handgun in any manner, openly or concealed, by anyone who is legally permitted to own a handgun with no permit required.

An interesting legal case that discusses the "evil" nature of concealed carry of a handgun took place in 1840 in Alabama.  The case is The State v. Reid and makes an interesting read for those wanting to understand the thought process that enveloped the early jurisprudence regarding the carrying of a handgun.

Coming up next I'll discuss the pros and cons of open vs. concealed carry.  Though I will warn you that it's just as useful to discuss vanilla vs. chocolate ice cream.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Real Background Checks

By Dave Dargo

How can responsible gun owners like myself possibly be opposed to common-sense legislation that helps keep guns out of the wrong hands?

I'm not.  I'm all in favor of common-sense legislation.  I'm all in favor of keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  Unfortunately, we haven't seen any such common-sense legislative proposals yet.

Those opposed to liberty always fall back to people-control legislation while attempting to maintain cover behind helping those same people they're attempting to control.

There's been much written about the problems with the background check bill that failed in the U.S. Senate yesterday.  Rather than continue down that path, I'll propose legislation I, and many of my friends, can support.

We will support legislation that contains the following provisions:
  • The background check can be done by individuals and doesn't require a licensed firearms dealer or local government intervention.  This is actually quite easy - the National Instant Check System (NICS) would be expanded to allow access from anyone.  I could go to the system and put in the identifying information of the person who wants to buy my gun and I would get a unique identifier with an answer that simply says, Yes that person may buy a gun or No, that person may not buy a gun.  There's no record of sale, no record of transfer - simply a check.  Gee, wouldn't it have been easier if we had just defined background check to mean just that, a background check?
  • Because of the availability of an instant, universal background check we would no longer be restricted to purchasing firearms in our home state.  (Some, but not all, states allow long-guns to be purchased out of state today.)
  • Because of the availability of an instant, universal background check there would no longer be a waiting period preventing people from acquiring firearms when they desire.
  • Just like driver's licenses, concealed weapons permits would be nationally recognized.  National reciprocity of concealed weapons permits is a big deal to law-abiding gun owners and very little gun-control legislation will be possible without it.
I guarantee that gun owners would support, in droves, legislation  that contained the above components.

I also guarantee that President Obama and his Democratic party would be adamantly opposed to such legislation.

Why do I think this?  Because President Obama isn't concerned about solving the problem of background checks, he's concerned about creating more legislation that gives more power to the national government.

Once gun-control legislation stops becoming about people-control and starts to focus on the real issues then we may make some progress.  In the mean time, " cold dead hands."

My Pants Are On Fire!!!

By Dave Dargo

At least according to President Obama, my pants are on fire because, according to him, I am a liar.

The proposed "background check" that failed to pass in the U.S. Senate yesterday is a perfect example of what is wrong with politics and what is wrong with vesting so much power in the national government.

President Obama claims that 90% of Americans support background checks.  I think that's true and I and the NRA fully support the background check system.  The NRA even helped create the current law regarding background checks.

Unfortunately, the bill that failed to muster enough votes had nothing to do with "common sense" expansion of background checks in order to prevent mentally ill people from obtaining firearms.

I've linked to other stories that gave an analysis of flaws in the proposed legislation, but let's look at one thing in particular: a supposed compromise that gave gun-owners expanded rights and a critical reason why those of us who are pro-gun were so vehemently opposed to this bill.

Under current law, the Firearms Owner's Protection Act (FOPA) passed in 1986, allows gun owners "safe passage" from one jurisdiction to another with their firearms.  Specifically, if a gun owner has a gun in one jurisdiction where the gun is legal and travels to another jurisdiction where that gun is legal the gun owner is permitted passage through jurisdictions where that gun may be illegal as long as certain protocols are followed.

Unfortunately, this important safeguard is often abused by local police and prosecutors in the less gun-friendly jurisdictions.  A court case was heard where a traveler operating under the "safe passage" portion of FOPA was arrested and found not guilty.  The traveler sued claiming that he should never have been arrested.  The appeals court found that FOPA did not protect against arrest but could be used as a positive defense against charges of violating local law.

So even though there is a law protecting gun owners when traveling the fact is that it is of little protection given that gun owners are still subject to arrest and very expensive legal bills when they have committed no crimes.

So, what does this have to do with background checks you ask?

Thanks for asking, in an attempt to "fix" the issues with the "safe passage" provision of FOPA part of the background check legislation added a provision that gun owners could not be subject to arrest when traveling under the "safe passage" provision.  Well, you say, gun owners should have been delighted with that provision.

Unfortunately, the provision went on to provide an exemption to the "safe passage" provision:
(2) does not include transportation -
(A) with the intent to commit a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year that involves a firearm; or
(B) with knowledge, or reasonable cause to believe, that a crime described in subparagraph (A) is to be committed in the course of, or arising from, the transportation.
Well, guess what.  Possessing some of these firearms warrants imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year.  Therefore, the very protection FOPA was designed to deliver to gun owners is gutted in states like New York and New Jersey.  Not only does it not prevent arrest in these jurisdictions it now removes the positive defense against the local laws.  Basically, any jurisdiction that wants to prevent your safe passage merely has to pass a law imposing a prison sentence exceeding 1 year on possession of the firearms they want to ban.

This isn't the only problem with the proposed legislation.  There's been a lot written about it that is easily uncovered.  For example, while the proposed legislation prevents the U.S. Attorney General from compiling a firearms registration database it specifically allows the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create such a registry.

President Obama may want to call me and my friends liars but I'll happily go around with my pants on fire to publicize the outrageous claims those opposed to liberty continue to make.

Next up I'll highlight some reasonable and common sense gun control legislation that would be effective at delivering universal background checks but would never get past any Democratically controlled legislature.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Respect For The Law?

By Dave Dargo

I previously wrote about political expediency and a growing disrespect for the law engendered by over-reach by the government generally and by the national government specifically.

Recently there has been much written regarding the "creation" of a huge stockpile of ammunition by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Much of what was written contains conspiracy theories that are a bit removed from reality and richly fueled by any number of internet postings.

The reality is that the Department of Homeland Security put together a very large purchasing vehicle in order to get as large a discount as possible that will be available to all levels of law-enforcement including your local sheriff's office.

What these articles did help publicize, though, is the existence of a number of national government agency SWAT teams where one would not expect the need for a military-style police force.  The question I posed while discussing this issue was, "Why does the Social Security Administration need a swat team?"

It's not that I don't expect the Social Security Administration to never run up against a militant grandmother requiring advanced tactics during a take-down but I wanted to know why they couldn't use a SWAT team from the FBI or any other national law-enforcement agency.

Today I became aware of a blog called Executive Branch Project that has an interesting entry regarding antics by the national government that further erode respect for the law or, as the author puts it, our criminal justice system.

The author, John Malcolm, points to an article in National Review Online that highlights some of these cases including the Food and Drug Administration using a swat team to raid an Amish-run dairy in Pennsylvania because the farmer had shipped unpasteurized milk across state lines.  There are many other examples listed in that article and it's worth a read.

The CATO Institute has an interesting white paper, "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America" that claims up to 40,000 such SWAT raids occur per year.

This blog entry isn't meant as an indictment of the police officers who put their lives on the line keeping us safe and demonstrating heroic professionalism during critical events.  It is, however, meant as a warning to we the people when we decide to vest so much power in a national government that we take as routine the use of paramilitary SWAT teams to enforce milk and copyright laws.  We need to be careful that we don't desensitize ourselves to the massive power we have vested to the national government and take as routine our neighbor's houses being invaded by paramilitary forces because a suburban housewife is suspected of student financial-aid fraud.

I remember when the disgraced former governor of New York, Eliott Spitzer was forced out of office.  Before becoming New York State's chief executive he was a federal prosecutor known for aggressively going after Wall Street ne'er-do-wells.  Many on Wall Street felt that he was overreaching with his indictments in order to look good.  Some have claimed that in the year before he won election as governor he indicted a large number of people in order to build credibility knowing that the cases would get tossed out after the election.  Others simply claimed that Spitzer brought false charges, again to build his reputation as a tough, no-nonsense prosecutor who would go after those evil "white collar" criminals.

After Sptizer was ousted from office he became host of a show on CNN.  I was watching one evening and he stated that to stop an action he didn't approve he would indict the people for some crime.  He said that the people wouldn't have to be guilty of the crime, the mere action of being indicted would force the people to the bargaining table and the prosecutors could negotiate away the legal behavior they didn't like in exchange for dropping the false indictment.

Have we really lost our intellectual courage as a people that we're unwilling to rein in an overreaching government that is starting to encroach ever more into our daily lives?  At the moment, in the name of "doing something" poorly written gun-control legislation is wending its way through the U.S. Senate.  This legislation will simply give more power to the Spitzer's of the world to go after law-abiding citizens who can't keep up with the arcane regulations propagated on a daily basis by a national government that has swelled well beyond it's design limitations.  Worse, because the legislation is like Swiss cheese it will be impossible for people who want to follow the law to do so.  It will, in essence, make criminals out of the very people who wake up each day attempting to "color inside the lines" of the law.

Making it more difficult for the law-abiding to abide by the very law they respect simply builds more disrespect for the law.  Ultimately, we will create a population that simply doesn't care if they violate the law and that does no one any good.

Preparation and Visualization

By Dave Dargo

In our classes we talk about the importance of preparation and visualization.  The importance of visualizing and planning out how you would react to a critical situation can help make you more successful when dealing with that situation.

One of the points we make is that this visualization can occur while you are performing mundane, ordinary and routine tasks.  For example, while pumping gas into your car, waiting at a traffic light or just sitting in a restaurant waiting for your order to arrive.

Here's a video of the kind of thing that can happen that anyone would find terrifying:

The person driving that car didn't have enough room to escape quickly and had to improvise an action plan.  When you pull up behind someone at the light do you leave enough room to escape?  It's easier to do if you can see their rear tires touching the ground.  Now that you've seen that video, will you think about it the next time you're stopped at a light?  If you do think about it then you will be much more likely to stop in a place where you can readily escape such an incident.

The more scenarios you think about then the more prepared you'll be in case you're ever faced with such a situation.

I thought about this video when I was driving through Mississippi last week and listened to an interview with Steven Maida on Fox News.  Steven is one of the individuals who helped subdue Dylan Quick, the Lone Star College student who stabbed a number of his fellow students.

You can listen to the interview here:

The most interesting part of the interview, to me, occurs at about six minutes.  Here, Steven describes how he had been thinking lately about how something bad could happen at his school and if it did he wondered what he would do.  Steven essentially began visualizing what he would do and, therefore, he had a plan that may have never been necessary to implement.  But because he had already visualized a plan he was able to execute it on the fly and help subdue and stop an attacker from harming others.

You don't have to be a hero.  You don't have to intervene.  But, if you have already visualized and prepared a plan for that critical moment then you are much more likely to be able to execute that plan.  You will have already created an emergency preparedness plan with no more effort than it takes to daydream.  You will be prepared.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What? Governmental Overreach? Say It Ain't So!

By Dave Dargo

Jonathan Swift once said,
Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
From KFI AM 640 comes this story of a father who has had his pistol license suspended because of something his 10-year old son said.

The first issue I have with this is the concept that one should need a permit in order to own a handgun, but that's New York.  The general concept of requiring a permit in order to exercise a fundamental right is, on the surface, a ridiculous notion.  There have been cases settled by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding permits for parades and protests.  The balance struck by the courts is that permits can be required when public spaces are to be occupied by the parade or protest but the issuance of the permit to any particular group can not be based on the discretion of the government official.  There needs to be clear, objective criterion for the issuance of the permit.  Additionally, the only real reason for the acceptance of the permit requirement is because there are competing interests for the use of the public space.

Nassau County, New York web site showing a 6-month wait for a permit to exercise a fundamental right
In the case of owning a handgun, there is no good governmental interest in requiring a permit.  What you own in your own home, especially when what you own is a fundamental right for which the government is prohibited from infringing, should never have a need for a permit.

Yet, here we are where the state of New York requires a permit to own a handgun in one's home.

In this particular case, John Mayer, of Commack, N.Y. had a permit for handgun ownership and had handguns.  His son got into "trouble" in school because he and two of his friends talked about going to a another boy's house with a water gun, "paint gun" and a BB gun.  No real threats were made, but the 10-year old boy was suspended from school and the police were summoned.  The police, in their infinite government wisdom, decided to suspend the father's permit - in effect, suspending the father's fundamental rights.

At what point do we stop this governmental overreach?  For how long will we permit the government to exercise police powers which are not theirs to exercise?

We've had children suspended for eating a pop-tart into a shape a teacher "thought" looked like a gun.

At what point will we become so fed up with ignorant government officials that we will actually turn them out of office and allow ourselves get back to a bit of sanity?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Intellectual Courage

By Dave Dargo

Recently, Democratic Representative Diana DeGette was on the receiving end of a lot of well-deserved scorn as she continued her push to expand the power of the national government in direct contravention of the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It became clear on a number of occasions that Representative DeGette has no clue what she's talking about and, unfortunately, that ceaseless cluelessness has not slowed down her call for more ineffectual and unconstitutional firearms related bans.

Here is one video of her attempting to explain why a ban on standard capacity magazines will work.

Anyone who understands firearm magazines understands that they are designed to be reloaded. Her office attempted to clarify her statement and say that she was simply mistaken and meant to say clips. Well, unfortunately for her, clips can be reloaded as well. Did the clarification merely amplify her ignorance or was it already up to 11?

Unfortunately for the rest of us, such ignorance is not slowing the efforts of those who wish to expand the list of unconstitutional laws on our books.  It is also unfortunate for us that there has been too little objective analysis of new gun-control legislation wending its way through state houses across the nation that has made it into the minds of the average voter.  In full support of the "do something now" movement the entire gun-control movement has descended into a do anything that can be claimed as a victory over the evil NRA even if it makes no sense and solves no problems.  We've moved from a nation of problem solvers to one that can only focus on the emotional self-satisfaction that comes with beating an opponent.

Have we really become so enraptured with tribal politics that "our side" winning carries more value to us as individuals than in actually preserving liberty and solving the problem of violence and threats to personal safety?

It reminds me of something that Ludwig von Mises said in Planned Chaos,
The truth is that most people lack the intellectual ability and courage to resist a popular movement, however pernicious and ill-considered.
Have those tribal political allegiances become so strong that one side is really going to accept the ignorance of an elected representative such as Diana DeGette and continue to push ineffectual legislation because it satisfies some primal urge to have their "side" win.

We need people to have intellectual curiosity so they can have "the intellectual ability and courage" to not only resist such ill-considered measures but to actually turn back the tide of ignorance found within our elected representatives and run them out of office.

Market Efficiency

By Dave Dargo

I spent my career in the software industry.  The software industry is one that is obsessed with efficiency and standardization.  In fact, most successful industries have standards designed to drive efficiency that we don't even notice.

Think about standards the next time you drive a friend's car that isn't the same make or model as the one you own.  You're thankful the steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals are in the same place as on your car.  You're frustrated that the side-view mirror adjustments aren't.  If you need to get gas you have to wonder which side you should present to the gas pump.  The big items are standardized, not through legislation but through industry and market acceptance.  Though you may have been frustrated at having to wonder about the location of the side-view mirror controls, once you found them you knew how to operate them because the same general standards have been adopted across the industry.  You were also comfortable in adjusting the seat position even if the mechanism for doing so was different from the way you do it in your own car.

We have an expectation that those items we commonly use will all operate in the same general way no matter the manufacturer.

Evil assault rifle or efficient rifle platform?
Why, then, are the proponents of gun-control not only opposed to the same market efficiencies when adopted by the gun manufacturers they also seem genuinely surprised when it happens?

I'm referring to the seemingly irrational opposition to so-called assault weapons.

The AR-15 rifle, arguably the most popular rifle in the United States, is a marvel of market efficiency and delivering customer satisfaction.

A typical feature of the AR-15 is an adjustable butt-stock so that shooters of different sizes can adjust the butt-stock to fit their build.  The same way you've come to expect to be able to change the seat position in your car the owners of AR-15s have come to expect to be able to change the butt-stock position.

Another typical feature is the inclusion of a picatinny rail that allows the attachment of adjustable add-on features to the rifle.  The same way you've come to expect to be able to change the rear- and side-view mirrors in a car the owners of AR-15s have come to expect to be able to adjust the type of optics they mount on their rifles.

Manufacturers are successful when they meet the market demands of their customers.  There are people who are truly frightened by the rifle shown in the photograph above.  Those of us who own and use these rifles look at them as platforms that allow us to adjust the rifle to our individual bodies and preferences.  The same way that you adjust the car to your own individual bodies and preferences.

The rifle pictured here functions the same exact way as one that has a fixed, wooden butt-stock.  It functions the exact same way without the picatinny rail and without the foregrip.  Without those features it just isn't as comfortable.

It's truly shocking to some that gun manufacturers would actually listen to their customers and deliver a market-efficient device that their customers are demanding.  How evil is that?