Friday, August 30, 2013

Sanity Reigns Supreme In Mississippi

By Dave Dargo

I previously wrote about Judge Kidd of Hinds County, Mississippi and his activist role as a jurist in declaring as unconstitutional a Mississippi law clarifying that open-carry is constitutionally protected in that state.

In that article I came down pretty hard on Judge Kidd as well as the Attorney General of the state for not understanding the structure of constitutions in general and laws in particular.

Judge Kidd declared that Mississippi's law clarifying the definition of concealed-carry unconstitutional. The law was an attempt by the state legislature to declare that carrying a firearm in a holster was, by definition, open-carry. Some judges and the Attorney General had attempted to declare that such carry was concealed because part of the pistol was hidden from view.

This was, as I stated at the time, another attempt by the anti-gun statists to foist their desires onto a populace that had already spoken time and again that they wished to allow the open-carry of firearms within their state.

The state appealed Judge Kidd's ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court and they issued their ruling yesterday. In a 9-0 decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that Judge Kidd erred as a matter of law when he found the statute unconstitutional and also erred when he stated that "a reasonable person reading the bill could not discern what the law allows and what it prohibits."

The Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously held that Judge Kidd was dead wrong in his reading, understanding and interpretation of the law.

That's not stopping the gun grabbers, though. State Representative John Horhn wants to introduce legislation requiring that open-carry of a firearm require a permit. Fortunately, that very same Mississippi Constitution doesn't grant power to the legislature to regulate open-carry of firearms. Representative Hohrn also wants Jackson and Hinds County to ban open carry and he says it's possible because of the Attorney General's opinion - the very opinion the upheld statute was designed to overturn. You can read more about it at MS News Now.

Thanks to No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money for breaking this story for me.

I had been following the story and eagerly awaiting the ruling from the Mississippi Supreme Court and was concerned that it could drag on. However, the court, in its ruling, stated that it was not necessary to hear further arguments on the case and issued its ruling fairly quickly. Kudos to the court for quickly resolving this issue of law.

Open-carry has now been clarified by the legislature to be permitted as most in the gun-rights community had already understood it to be.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My (Diminished) Hopes For Civilization

By Dave Dargo

I was in the IT (Information Technology) business for a very long time starting back in 1978. I saw a lot of neat, new things created and was part of some teams that created some really cool technology. It was a time filled with a lot of fun holding a lot of promise for the future.

I remember when I first started using email and I actually told someone, "email is great, I think it will bring back the lost art of writing."

I remember when hyperlinked text came into being on the internet and I actually said, "This is fantastic. Now we will have the opportunity to solve bigger problems through the collaboration of people who've never met."

While some have used these tools to help restore the language arts and others have collaborated to solve big problems, the reality is that blatherskites are daily inundating us with an increasing mound of evidence that thoughtful debate as a concept is dangerously close to meeting its demise.

I became rather dejected today as I looked for ideas on a gun story. I read a lot of articles and can often end up spending an inordinate amount of time looking at what passes for debate in the comment sections of those articles.

An article today in The Guardian describes a woman's angst as she hears about the active shooter drills her children practiced in school and the common-sense gun laws passed by Colorado being challenged by the NRA. The general gist of the article is that she believes that the gun-industry empowers the NRA to run roughshod upon the good, commonsense laws desired by the people of Colorado.

As one can imagine, such an article generates a lot of comments pretending to be debate. Some comments that caught my attention:
"Maybe you don't live in this ugly country, where domestic terrorism is the scourge of our society, where criminal organizations like the NRA dominate our completely corrupt political system. Where an outdated, increasingly irrelevant document, the constitution, dominates our lives. Where freedom of the individual to do anything is more important that the interests of society as a whole."
"All the white people are "terrified" brown skinned "illegals" will come and rape their woman and butcher their children. ( no, I am not a person of color). In other words, they are batshit crazy, and often dangerous."
I believe that people have a right to free speech and that anonymity is an important factor in protecting people who espouse unpopular ideas. However, I also believe the anonymity afforded to those providing comments on most news sites emboldens those commenters to say things they would never say in public.

Worse than what people are willing to say on these message boards is what people are willing to absorb into their own dialogue as valid debate techniques, techniques that spill into public "discourse". We see pro-rights people portrayed as racist, paranoid knuckle heads incapable of thinking for themselves. We see a poisonous narrative adopted by politicians who are masquerading as leaders. The debate points are barely a step removed from rhetoric designed to rally an illiterate and uneducated electorate into continuing to support the incumbent's desire for increased political power.

The only reasonable thing we can do is elevate the debate and try to maintain a civil, articulate position that is easily understood. We can't allow ourselves to be dragged down to a level that has to debate the relevance of the U.S. Constitution.

Maintain civility, logic, passion and compassion. Stay true to your beliefs and raise the level of debate to one you would proudly claim as your own.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Keeping Quiet Under Pressure - Don't Answer Police Questions

By Dave Dargo

Can you shut up?

It's actually a lot more difficult than you might think. Yesterday, my wife and I completed a drive from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Scottsdale, Arizona. Along the way we had to go through an internal immigration checkpoint. These checkpoints are a little more common than you might think and we face one each way on our drive on Interstate 10. One is just west of Las Cruces, New Mexico and the other is at about the 100 mile mark on I-10 near Sierra Blanca, Texas.

Imagine for a moment that you're driving down the road at 80 miles per hour, the speed limit in that part of Texas. You see flashing lights up ahead. You drive through a well-lit section of the highway where they have cameras and wonder if they're taking photos of your license plates, your faces or if they're a little more sophisticated than that and are using facial recognition systems. You then come up to a well-staffed station filled with U.S. Border Patrol agents, some with dogs.

As you stop you're ordered to roll down your window and someone starts walking around your car with a dog and the agent asks, "Everyone here a U.S. citizen?" You answer affirmatively and, if the dog doesn't sit down indicating a hit on drugs, you are thanked and sent on your way, most of the time. Other times they may ask you to "go to secondary" where you can consent to a search of your vehicle if you so choose.

My wife and I do this drive a lot and have gone through these checkpoints dozens of times.

Personally, I'm quite offended that I'm subjected to a drug check and immigration check for doing nothing more than driving down the interstate. Others argue with me that if I've nothing to hide then I shouldn't be complaining. That "nothing to hide" phrase is sure used a lot these days.

As we drove through that checkpoint I started to think about one of the first questions one is usually asked when pulled over for a traffic violation, "Where are you coming from?" Most people think this is a casual, throw-away question akin to, "Nice day, isn't it?"

There's no such thing as a casual question when you've been stopped by a law enforcement officer. If your answer to that question is the name of your favorite local restaurant you may be asked how much you've had to drink. If you answer one or two beers you may find yourself performing a sobriety test. Each question asked was designed to elicit a little more information from you that allows the officer to build a chain of answers that can be used to justify performing that sobriety check.

Societal norms and a general respect for authority figures compels us to answer those questions. We answered that first "throw away" question without thinking about it and the next thing we know we're answering questions we had no intention of answering. We've gone right down that rabbit hole carefully guided by a professional.

Again, if you have nothing to hide why won't you answer the questions? The answer to that query is, George Zimmerman.

Mr. Zimmerman answered a lot of questions. He felt he had done nothing wrong and a jury later agreed. It appears that the police officers who questioned Mr. Zimmerman may have been sympathetic to his situation and even agreed that he had done nothing wrong. No charges were brought against Mr. Zimmerman until the state got involved.

At that point, everything Mr. Zimmerman told the sympathetic police officers was brought up in the most damaging way possible in an effort to paint Mr. Zimmerman as a crazed killer.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police published guidelines in 2009 regarding how to deal with an officer-involved shooting. It's an interesting read.

The police chiefs recommend that officers, if their gun is taken for evidence, immediately be provided with a replacement firearm so they don't feel vulnerable. The guidelines recommend that officers be given three days off in order to cool down and collect their thoughts before being questioned.

If you are involved in a shooting you won't be given a replacement firearm by the police and you won't be told to go home and cool down for three days. Even if the police completely agree that your shooting was justified and are sincerely trying to help you there's nothing to say that political pressure won't force a prosecutor to file charges.

When dealing with the police don't be an ass. That advice isn't given because it's a bad idea to be an ass to a police officer. That advice is given as general, life advice - you shouldn't be an ass to anyone.

On the other hand, don't start answering questions. Invoke your right to remain silent. An experienced law enforcement officer is very much like a social engineer; they've seen people like you before, they know what to say and do to balance your feelings of guilt and your eagerness to please and your compulsion to explain yourself.

A good police officer can not only get you to consent to that search of your vehicle but might even get you to show them where you've hidden your stash. Police officers and prosecutors are professionals in what they do and you need a professional representing you. Get a good attorney and let the attorney do what they're paid to do.

It will be difficult to keep quiet until everything has cooled down. The societal conditioning you've received regarding etiquette and authority figures are pressuring you to do something that may not be in your best interest. When you're pulled over for speeding weigh the chances of getting off with a warning vs. ending up with bigger issues because you decided to spill your guts about your day's activities. The worse the situation the worse the consequences for opening your mouth.

Just. Shut. Up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How many times do you check the status of your gun?"

By Dave Dargo

"Instructor shoots student in gun-safety class"

From the story:

"A firearms instructor accidentally shot a student while teaching a gun-safety class on Saturday in Fairfield County to people seeking permits to carry concealed weapons.
Terry J. Dunlap Sr., who runs a shooting range and training center at 6995 Coonpath Rd. near Lancaster, was demonstrating a handgun when he fired a .38-caliber bullet that richocheted off a desk and into student Michael Piemonte's right arm."
Wow!

When we teach we prohibit ammunition in the classroom. Not all schools do and it's a practice that reasonable people have debated.

However, even with that prohibition in place we still adhere to the first rule of gun-safety:
All guns are always loaded.
In the classroom, much of what we demonstrate is done with "blue guns" which are pieces of plastic designed to resemble guns.

However, there are occasions when a real gun is required in order to demonstrate something, e.g. trigger reset. We have a staging platform in the instructor's area where we keep guns that the instructor may use for such demonstrations. These guns are laid out on a mat and two instructors confirm they are unloaded. Just before class starts and after each break the guns are examined again by two instructors. Even with that checking, each time a gun is picked up from the mat for demonstration purposes the lead instructor confirms it's unloaded and has another person, either another instructor or a student, come to the front of the room and confirm the gun is unloaded. At that point we consider the gun safe for a demonstration but will still absolutely refrain from covering anyone with the pistol.

Our rule in the classroom is that every time a pistol is picked up it is checked. Some students are surprised but generally appreciative of our practices. I can be demonstrating with a cleared pistol, set the pistol down for two seconds and when I pick it up again it gets rechecked.

These practices are important whenever anyone is handling a handgun, not just instructors. At home you need to have the same attention to detail whenever you are handling a firearm. Always pick it up the same way. Always perform a condition check and make sure the gun is in the state you want it to be in; either loaded or unloaded.

Do not deviate from these practices lest you end up committing a negligent discharge of your firearm.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Will The Government Stop Me From "Alarming" You?

By Dave Dargo

I read an interesting article on The Volokh Conspiracy today.  This particular article regarded a case heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

Mr. Simkin, a New Hampshire resident, held a non-resident permit to carry firearms in the state of Massachusetts. For reasons detailed in the linked article, Mr. Simkin found himself in a situation where he needed to inform someone else he was armed and asked for patience as he secured his firearms. Massachusetts revoked his concealed carry permit, in part, because he caused "fear and alarm" when he informed others he was armed and would need to disarm and secure his firearms.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned the revocation for a number of reasons but the reason related to Mr. Simkin causing "fear and alarm" resulted in the following opinion:

"Next, we suspect that the average Massachusetts resident may become "alarmed" on learning that someone other than a law enforcement officer is carrying concealed weapons in his or her presence. However, Simkin is not responsible for alarm caused to others by his mere carrying of concealed weapons pursuant to a license permitting him to do exactly that."
This is an import ruling and one that should be noticed by many anti-gun propagandists as well as gun-rights enthusiasts, especially given that Massachusetts is not known for its pro-liberty and pro-choice stance as it relates to firearms.

The ruling basically states that someone legally carrying a gun is not responsible for alarm caused to others.

There are a number of gun-grabbing groups who posit that they are uncomfortable with the thought of people around them having guns.

As far as the Massachusetts Supreme Court is concerned, that's just tough.

It's time we all start to understand that the second amendment is no different than the others. The bill of rights is designed to limit the power of the government as it relates to our fundamental rights, the right to keep and bear arms among them.

The fact that someone is offended by our speech, our bearing of arms, our desire to be free from unreasonable searches is of no concern to those of us who are peaceable law-abiding citizens.

Our fundamental rights aren't limited by someone else's feelings. They are limited when they start to infringe on the rights of others but there is no right to not be offended or, as in this case, alarmed.

There's no reason to go out of your way offending others. We should all strive to be polite and respectful in our daily interactions. On the other hand, the fact that someone may be offended or alarmed by what we say or do is no justification for the government to attempt to revoke our fundamental rights.

We have to fight for these rights each and every day lest they whither and die.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Independence or Patience - How Important is 911 Response Time To You?

By Dave Dargo

I was really curious about police response times after reading articles about Detroit's bankruptcy and the claims that the average response time in that city to a 911 call was 58 minutes. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal indicates mixed feelings about the meaning of 911 call response times.

The article argues, generally, that police response times aren't that important because the police are responding, usually, after something bad has happened and the perpetrator(s) have left. The important issue is the response time for high-priority calls that are made when something is happening or about to happen.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has a survey that examines police response times based on the type of crime.  In table 107 of this particular study, they show that for crimes of violence the police respond within 5 minutes about 25% of the time, between 6-10 minutes about 29% of the time and between 11 minutes and 1 hour about 38% of the time.

The Wall Street Journal article correctly points out that there is no standard way of recording 911 response time. Some cities measure response time from when a police officer is dispatched. Most of us would think that response time would be measured from when we dialed 911.

I've called 911 a lot of times; perhaps close to 50 times to report various things: fires, burglaries and automobile accidents as examples. I've been fortunate in that I've never had to call 911 for myself. Even so, I've found myself on hold many, many times when calling 911. Once in Portland, Oregon I saw a woman being beaten and I had 5 calls get a busy signal on 911 before getting through and even then I was put on hold for 2 or 3 minutes. I was chasing the perpetrator down the streets of Portland speaking with the dispatcher waiting for the police to arrive. I would consider the response time for 911 to start from when I hit "call" on that first 911 call and not from when they finally dispatched the police officer.

The article in the Journal points out that all calls are lumped in the statistics and that high-priority calls are handled differently. I would assume that my call in Portland was a high-priority call but I'll never know.

Even if we gave the very best slant to the data and assume that 100% of the high-priority calls were in the "Within 5 minutes" response time of the study we would still be in trouble if we were counting on the police to "save" us.

The anti-gun propagandists insist you and I don't need a gun for self-defense. They tell us to call 911 if we're in trouble.

Five minutes seems like an eternity when we're in trouble. Try it now. See if you can stop reading and stare at your computer clock for five minutes. Don't talk, don't read something else, just stare at a clock for five minutes. You won't do it. It probably won't take you more than 10 seconds to give up and get back to reading and moving on with your life.

Do you want to just lie there and "take it" while you wait for the police to come and take a report about what happened to you? Or, do you want to fight and stop an attack before it costs you those things you hold so dear?

How dare the anti-gunners claim it's immoral for you to defend yourself with a gun? How dare they force you to submit to a predator so they can feel better about themselves at one of their cocktail-party philosophical debates? How dare they force their unrealistic and Utopian world-views on any victim in favor of allowing that predator to not only perpetrate but to, ultimately, get away with their crime?

We have a right to self-defense. We have a right to independence. And, most importantly, we have a right to make our own choices about whether we will independently defend ourselves or patiently wait as the police attempt to improve their response time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Get A Grip

By Dave Dargo

I see a lot of styles when students grip their semi-automatic pistols. Some are stable, most are safe but so many are so interesting.  It seems relatively easy to get students to take a proper grip with their strong-side hand but that weak-side hand often appears to be an inconvenient appendage.

Critical to successfully delivering quick and accurate shots is a grip that allows the shooter to get the most meat of their hands on the pistol. Such a grip allows for a stable shooting platform, helps manage recoil and allows the shooter to maintain proper trigger control.

The web of the strong side hand should be firmly placed onto the pistol's backstrap. The thumb of that hand should be high enough to rest on top of a thumb-safety if the pistol has one, otherwise it should be just below the slide of the pistol. The index finger should rest straight down the frame of the pistol just above the trigger area and outside the trigger guard. The remaining three fingers should wrap around the grip of the pistol with the middle finger high enough that it is touching the trigger guard.

This will leave a significant amount of the pistol grip exposed on the weak-side. The weak-side hand should be rotated forward so the exposed pistol grip aligns with the wrist-joint and the area of the palm is in full contact with the pistol grip.

This should place the weak-side thumb in a position to rest against the frame of the pistol just above the trigger.

Such a grip will place the most meat of the hands on the pistol grips assuring a strong, firm grip with most of the grip surface of the pistol covered.

Students newly exposed to this grip often have difficulty getting that weak side hand to rest against the grip. The palm of the weak-side hand often ends up "cupped" away from the grip leaving significant space between the palm of the hand and the grip itself. We want the base of the palm to be firmly planted on the weak-side grip; the more meat of the hand on the grip the more stable the platform becomes. The same issue exists when students want to cross their thumbs. Crossing the thumbs with the strong-side thumb under the weak-side, as with a revolver grip, causes a gap to be created between the hand and the pistol grip.  We don't want gaps.

If your body mechanics allow it remove as many gaps as you can from your grip. Get rid of the gap between the palm of your weak-side hand and the pistol grip. Get rid of the gap between the base of your weak-side and strong-side hands, allow them to meet strongly at the rear of the pistol. Allow your strong-side thumb to rest atop your weak-side thumb. The fewer gaps you have the stronger your grip will be.

Finally, don't strangle the gun. A firm, strong grip is desired but some students take this to mean using all their strength and will grip so firmly as to cause a tremor. That's a bit strong an unnecessary.

Getting a solid grip on the pistol will go a long way towards helping you deliver accurate shots quickly.