Saturday, April 20, 2013

Into the belly of the beast


What would you bet these guys are not members of the well-ordered militia the 2nd Amendment calls for?

For lack of something better to do today, I went to the local annual gun show.  Walking past the Jeep I noticed the Obama/Biden sticker still affixed to the bumper where I had put it last fall and wondered how that would go over given the volatility of gun politics these days. It didn't stop me even with the knowledge this would not be the most popular vehicle in the parking lot at a gun show, despite its big fat tires and liberal coating of spring mud.

I don't go to gun shows because I am any kind of a gun nut.  Mostly a gun is a tool for me.  I go because I continually hope one of those people will be trying to sell the two guns that were stolen from me in a burglary a few years back.  I always carry the serial numbers and check out every one of the guns of the same type as the ones that were stolen.  Other than that I find the historic gun collections interesting and there are often some cool outdoors gear vendors.

Neither one showed up but something new did.  Amid the tables of collectors' guns and assault rifles, knives and magazines and other accessories for sale there were at least five booths dedicated only to the gun rights, second amendment defenders, all of them stern-faced and looking determined, despite the fact they were preaching to the choir.  For the most part I noted and then ignored them as did most of the people at the show.  Among the booths, at least in the moments I was passing, I didn't see any of them engaged in any kind of discourse with people passing by.  They just sat there with cold, blank stares that seemed to be coming from and going into a void.

One claimed to be Defenders of the Second Amendment while two others called for "Trash Begich," who is one of our U.S. senators and who voted this week in the gun nuts' favor against the bill to extend background checks to purchase guns, one of the few Democrats to do so.  I overheard a couple of jokes about background checks as well.
I looked, but still not sure exactly what this means.

It didn't take long to work my way through the show.  I only found two guns matching my criteria and neither had the serial number of the stolen one.  I made one purchase, took a few pictures and left after about an hour. 

As I walked out and drove home thinking about those pompous jerks raising the constitution to defend their right to own weapons designed only to kill people, my thoughts eventually slipped to the events of the week.

I began wondering if those 18th century Boston tea merchants had had a stronger lobby would their product have ended up steeping in Boston Harbor?  Or if slave owners had a lobby would that have even been an issue.  Fortunately in those eras, the United States and the colonies had leadership with backbone. Perhaps it is an eventual result of evolution that the backbone becomes squishy and malleable and subject to acquiescence to anyone with money.

Another question that arises in this week's milieu is what exactly is representative government in a 21st century world?  Who do those senators represent voting against an issue that was supported by 80 to 90 percent of the population depending on which poll you believe.  What kind of representative can look into the eyes of parents mourning the deaths of their children at the hands of a maniac killer toting a weapon one step short of a military machine gun and then vote to let maniacs continue to wield those weapons.

Of course these are the same representatives many of whom voted against the Defense of Women Act and many of whom also would allow rapists to sue for custody rights if their victims happened to bear children.

Take it to its basic tenet.  These people are enabling and even rewarding violence.
And then when other issues come up they haul out the Bible to justify their stands on things like abortion and family values, while in the process denying family status to a portion of the population which now also enjoys the support of more than half the people in the country.  How Christian of them.

I remember as a youngster in school first encountering the lessons of American history and learning how this country was founded and the ideals it was founded upon.  I remember admiring those who fought for and then founded this new nation in the frontiers of the New World. I think I can still recite the preamble to the Constitution. George Washington was easy, but my admiration went as much to Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin. James Madison, people whose intellect, understanding and foresight laid out a blueprint for the world's most successful democracy.  Along with them I most admired people like Lewis and Clarke and Daniel Boone and those mountain men like Jim Bridger and Liver-eatin' Johnosn (more famously known as Jeremiah).  In time though, I also came to admire the Native Americans whom those others pushed off their land. Our history isn't always a proud one. but that's an issue for another time.  It was that period in American History from about the time of the French and Indian War into the 1870s with the spread westward that I always found most romantic.

Over the years it often came as something of a shock that the founders didn't always agree, that there were arguments and compromises and in some cases hard feelings.  I didn't want to know that.  But, out of that process they did establish this nation on principles that mostly are still valid today.  Valid maybe, but employed? Eh, not so much.

Today apparently the will of the people is not nearly as important as the will of a small group of zealots whose organization doesn't even represent its own membership but instead works only for the benefit of the people who manufacture those weapons that maniacs use to mow down elementary school children, an audience in a theater just out for some evening entertainment, and on and on.  Yes I am talking about the National Rifle Association, an organization whose solution to gun violence is to put guns in more people's hands -- teachers for crying out loud.  Do we value what teachers do so little that we think they should also pack firepower and be responsible for shootouts with deranged people blasting away with assault rifles?

It's doubtful those well-intentioned founders envisioned individuals with military weaponry mowing down children when they wrote about the right to bear arms in order to maintain a well-ordered militia.  At the time that well-ordered militia would have been armed with single-shot muskets, not the sophisticated 10, 30, 100-round rifles of today.

The idea of some form of gun control has always been a debate in my own mind.  I own guns.  I don't brandish them around, I seldom even see them as they are kept in a well-secured safe.  My defense has always been that owning a gun in Alaska is not the same thing as owning a gun on the streets of Chicago.  Originally I bought one for hunting but I seldom go  Now about the only time I haul one out is for my trips into the Bush.  There is always a very real possibility of an encounter with a bear and though some might argue, it is my preference to hold the upper hand in that power struggle.  So far, the only encounter I've had where I felt the gun was necessary was resolved without firing a shot.  That doesn't mean the next one will end the same way.  A large percentage of Alaskans hunt, I would guess the highest per capita rate in the country. Also major ethnic groups in the state depend on subsistence hunting for food. So, Alaska stands in a different position than most of the states and perhaps our senators can be given some leeway.  How many of those hunters need assault rifles is another matter.  Answer? Zero.

Yellow machinery, not a joke, this is a functioning AR-15 complete with DeWalt colors and logo.

But, with the Alaska angle involved, it is easy to see why Alaska's senators voted against strengthening ownership requirements.  Probably 75 to 90 percent of their constituents, including me, own guns.  However one of those senators is a mother and the other a liberal Democrat.  And their votes, in a national tribunal were selfish, imposing their need to pander to their constituents for votes on issues that desperately need some action.  We have had a school shooting in Alaska and several other threats so we are not immune and gun violence, particularly the domestic kind, occurs all too frequently here.  Those two particular senators still would have had a tough time explaining themselves to voters here.  But, in doing so they selfishly voted against those children killed in Newton,  the kids killed on the streets of Chicago, former colleague in Congress Gabrielle Giffords, and all the other victims of gun crimes. their families and friends.

Like I said, I own guns, but I do not in any way defend the use of military-grade assault rifles, high capacity magazines or anything else that enables the child killers of today.  They could be taken away tomorrow and I wouldn't blink an eye.  That goes for background checks as well.  While they won't catch everyone, they will catch a few, and anything that slows down the process of purchasing a weapon adds a measure of protection.  At least you wouldn't be able to get angry, walk into a gun store and buy one, then get back and shoot the source of your anger before there was time to cool down.

To see the effects of stringent gun controls one only has to look at crime statistics in countries that have them.  The difference is startling.  And one thing really jumped out at me.  If you look at a graphic of crime statistics in countries with gun controls and another of the ones with the most and fewest people in prison, they almost match each other.  Kind of bites into the old saw that "if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns," doesn't it?

Still it is complicated.  As I said even I am conflicted.  There was that purchase at the gun show today.  What was it?  A high capacity magazine....

.. but, this was not for an assault rifle or even what could be qualified as a high-power hunting rifle.  It was a 25-round magazine for a .22.  I have only used this rifle for target practice, instructing a couple of youngsters in the use of firearms, and an exercise we used to call plinking.  That is essentially a walk in the woods, occasionally taking a shot at some random target, a discarded can, the last leaf on a tree in the fall and once in a while, maybe a squirrel.  I have never taken that last shot.  The magazine is merely for the convenience of not having to stop and slowly force 10 rounds at a time into the normal clip made for this rifle.  That's all.  And, if it were made illegal I could surely do without it, and gladly in the knowledge some goofball could not own one either, one that would hold much more deadly ammunition, as he planned his assault on a kindergarten full of children.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Tim!
    I just wanted to let you know I added a link to your blog on the Alaska Blog Network webpage. The Alaska Blog Network is an online community I created to connect bloggers from all across Alaska.
    Happy Monday!
    Whitney
    Alaska Blog Network 

    ReplyDelete

Interesting quotations

"In the final analysis your life is only as good as the background music you dance to." – that was me

"Whether you think that you can or you think you can't, you are right." – Henry Ford

"You want to feel alive until the day you croak" – Frank Gallagher Shameless

"Smooth is good but sailing takes a brisk wind" – me

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"Religious Freedom is not about stopping persecution; it’s about being the one who gets to do it. Glory!" – Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's best Christian

It doesn't matter what you write, it only matters that you write.

"Give someone a book and they'll read all day. Teach someone to write a book and they'll spend a lifetime mired in paralyzing self doubt." – internet meme

"It's been a long time since I heard my backbone crack – Chuck Berry

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"I was the only person up on the hill with both racing numbers and a handicapped placard." – Kitty Delorey Fleischman, a grandmother who occasionally still races her Porsche in hill climbs.

Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. – anon

"Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool." – Mark Twain

Shit happens; you just come up with a different plan. – Kitty

Your body is not a temple. It's an amusement park. – Anthony Bourdain

Never too late for a happy childhood – Berkley Breathed

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The non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

We never comprehend how heavy the things are we insist on carrying until we set them down. jd

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

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So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

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I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

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It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio talk show host

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

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How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve