Saturday, January 31, 2004

B-Fest

So, I just got back from B-Fest, 24 hours of horrible, horrible b-movies from around the world.

Yea verily, it did rock. My friend Gretchen and I missed the first feature "The Brain from Planet Arous," but her husband Isaac had dutifully saved us a couple of seats, and we settled in for the opening of "Robot Jox." "Robot Jox" is a horrible post-apocalyptic movie that is based on the premise of countries going to war using giant mecha (think giant robots in anime or the old game Battletech) and fighting one-on-one to determine who should own various pieces of land around the world. It was as bad as I remembered it. As an old Battletech player, I was hoping for all kinds of crazy stuff like machines just beating the hell out of each other for 90 minutes. Instead, they had to throw in all of that extraneous plot crap like love interests and spies.

Of course, "Plan 9 From Outer Space" played, and unlike the usual calls and MiSTings done to the other, there was a certain ritual to the callouts. Any time the amount of ambient light shifted from day to night in a scene, the audience would shout out "DAY!" or "NIGHT!" as appropriate. Any time we'd see Tor Johnson, everyone would shout out "TOR!" Bela Lugosi and his replacement were greeted with "BELA!" and "NOT BELA!" respectively. Other than that, we were free to riff on the movie as we pleased.

Then there was movie I showed up to rip: Airport '77. This is one of the worst movies out there. My personal favorite line was "I'm vert syncing my ADI, HSI, and BDHI to ILS. Why am I getting ads from IBM and TSR?" The main problem was that the show was on at 7am, and most folks were so out of it by then, it didn't have a chance to get really trashed by the audience.

Am I going to go next year if I have the opportunity? Yes. If you're in Chicago for the weekend of B-Fest, GO!!! It's a chance to have a wonderful audience participation rendition of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Daily Egyptian : Bill protecting Illinois gun owners against intruders introduced

This is from my university's newspaper, no less. A univeristy that is filled with the creme de la creme of Chicago society-types' misfit children. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has often been a stopping point for the kids who just "have to rebel against mommy and daddy as long as they keep sending money." Thankfully, it's tempered by having a whole truckload of veterans and black students who manage to keep the party-school image down to a dull roar. It's a good school, though sometimes you really want to wonder why they're not competing more in the History market.

Anyway, enough yammering about my beloved alma mater. It seems that some Illinois lawmakers in both major parties have decided to create a law that removes city-based gun laws like Wilmette's poorly-thought out handgun ban. It's being done by Mike Bost, a Republican from Murphysboro and John Bradley, a Democrat from Marion. Based off of the Hale DeMar incident, Mr. Bradley drafted this law to assist people in using handguns to defend their home. In order to do that, Bradley will need 71 votes in the General Assembly to get it to pass. This is due to state laws governing home-rule laws like the Wilmette handgun ban.

Here's the problem, though, as Mr. Bradley sees it:
"We can sometimes get over 60 on some votes, but very seldom do we ever get over 70," Bost said. "The sad thing is we won't get enough northern votes on it. There are so many people from Chicago who actually believe that it's the guns themselves that are the culprit."

That, and it's much easier to blame everyone but the shooters these days. And can you imagine the fit that Hizzoner Junior, Richard Daley, would throw if this got passed? I hope this bill becomes law if only to piss Daley and his toadies off.

Many thanks to Messrs. Bost and Bradley for their desire to allow us to defend our homes in the best way possible. (And tweaking the Chicago Dems is a nice bonus, too!)

Monday, January 26, 2004

Alphecca

And "Awww Yeah!" again! I'm quoted in the nation's best gunblog! Thanks, Jeff! Read through the latest "Weekly Check on the Bias" and see how the pro-Second Amendment crowd reacts to the week's latest anti-gun culture rants. Jeff's look at the end of the 1994 "Assault Weapons" ban shows that yes, the ban was more for restricting cosmetic features than actual automatic-fire capabilities. Unlike me, Jeff scours for gun news from around the world, whereas I stick with my home state's current gun-ownership discourse. ("Debates" made it too much of a rhyme, and I wasn't looking for poetry in my prose.) Anyway: READ THE BLOG. Read for the guns, stay for the cats! Or vice-versa.
Mel-O-Cream International Inc.

Awww yeah!
SJ-R.COM - Toby McDaniel Column

He complains, he kvetches, and occasionally tries too hard to be funny, but Toby McDaniel's columns in the State Journal-Register make the City/State section worth reading. For example, he lets Springfielders know about Governor Blagojevich's instense fiscal sense and and lack of humor, as seen in a lovely form-letter (or form-postcard, as the case may be) to someone who complained that The Gov (or as I call him, Ol' Blaggie) was spending too much state money by trying to run the state out of Chicago:

Dear Santa,

I want a governor who can get things done without fighting, without rancor and finger pointing. I want a governor who knows full well that the geographical limits of Illinois are NOT coterminus with the limits of Cook County. I want a governor who does NOT think of the residents of Springfield as a pack of rancid, subnormal, cretin geeks with whom he does not wish to neighbor under any and all circumstances.

I want a governor who does not think that the capital city of Illinois contains more trailer trash than he has seen together since the last national convention of his party. I want a governor who does NOT like to fly to and from home at state expense every day or so.

Santa, when a man refuses to live in a multimillion-dollar mansion staffed by professional caregivers, it seems to indicate delusions of grandeur which are ... ah, how do I put this nicely? ... groundless. I want a governor who acknowledges that we have not had even ONE Indian attack here in Springfield since the beginning of the term of our present governor. I want a governor who knows, firsthand, that Springfield DOES have indoor toilets, electric light bulbs, traffic lights and other accouterments of ordinary civilization. We even have Wal-Mart.

I hope I have not asked for too much, Santa.

Even though Claus failed to deliver, Westhoff did hear from the governor's office via a form letter ... well, actually, via postcard.

Westhoff has been sharing the guv's "highly personalized message," which read:

"I recently received your letter, and I appreciate you expressing your concerns. Please know that your views are important to me and the state of Illinois.

"I have asked my administration to review your letter and determine the appropriate actions. Thank you for your letter. I look forward to serving you and the people of Illinois."

Westhoff replied to the postcard:

I am humbled to the point of near inability to express my deep and lasting appreciation for your communique, conveyed to me on material that indicates your administration is deeply committed to avoiding even the mere semblance of less than moderate expense. It was a lovely postcard.

It was a modest acknowledgement that in some way you are indeed aware there is intelligent life south of I-80.

These are deeply touching sentiments and (I) suggest that perhaps you will spend a tad more time in Springfield, which officially remains the capital of Illinois.


Yep, it's the Chicago-"downstate" argument writ small, just like it was in the last years of Jim Thompson's administration. But having been born and raised in Springfield, I understand the resentment. If someone around here asks where I'm from, and I say "Springfield," I might as well have put on some kind of alien space helmet and said "I am Throklor of Planet Threlg Nine! Give me your women and beer!"

I do get my revenge, though. I've noticed that I have to speak more slowly here than I do back home. Apparently the locals are afraid to admit that they can speak Central Illinois Hick. Then I say something about how nice it'd be to have a concealed-carry law in the state, and boom! They're doing their best impression of Edward Munch's "The Scream."

I do love the Chicago area, for it's part of my home state (for better or for worse, just like in marriage... or so I've been told) but there's one major delicacy that you can't get anywhere but Springfield: Mel-O-Cream doughnuts. Mel-O-Creams are so good, Krispy Kreme can't compete. Dunkin' Donuts tried to establish a shop in Springfield in 1978. They located the shop on MacArthur Boulevard, the main dividing line between West and Central Springfield neighborhoods. The location was absolutely perfect for that time in Springfield. After all, if you wanted to get to White Oaks Mall in 1978 and you lived in the center of the city or the East Side, you took MacArthur. After a few months, Dunkin' Donuts closed up shop. Why? Springfielders aren't interested in coffee at a doughnut shop. We want the damn doughnuts! You can get doughnuts at a coffee shop, but the doughnuts and the coffee is going to suck. Or you can get coffee at a doughnuts shop, and the coffee is going to suck but the doughnuts are going to jump up and kick you in the face with their goodness.

Mel-O-Cream uber alles, baby.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Korean War Vet Gets Medals for action at Pork Chop Hill

No, I normally don't read news from this site, but it popped up when I wanted to find the online version of this article.

My mother works for US Representative Ray LaHood in the 18th Congressional District. A few weeks ago, she started working on Richard Baughman's case. He'd waited 51 years to get the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals he'd been awarded in the Korean War. Thanks to my mom and her calls to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mr. Baughman finally received the credit that he was due. When I called her today to talk about this article (she mailed it to me with some other things she needed to send to me) I asked a bit more about the case. Mr. Baughman has his recognition and his medals, and Mom says that it's thanks to Ray's confidence in her abilities that she gets to do work like this.

Mom, I'm really proud of you and the work you do in Congressman LaHood's office. This is one of the reasons why.
Truck scandal 'absolutely offensive' - Chicago Sun-Times

And now, I eat some crow about my stance on the Sun-Times' news reporting and have a slice of humble pie for dessert. (I won't take back my comments about the website though. It's still not pleasant to look at.)

The reporters of the Sun-Times have hit it big with this report about the City of Chicago's Hired Truck Program. Bribes to get on the list, hiring groups with ties to organized crime, and a sizeable portion of the money spent is on firms out of Mayor Daley's home ward are just some of the things being talked about in the summary article.

Bill Abolt, the city's Budget Director, seemed rather incensed that this was still going on after earlier scandals and a current audit of the system. (Note to Mr. Abolt: Chicago politics is corrupt like water is wet.)

Still, though, the Sun-Times is reporting on something that could cost taxpayers lots of money through fraud, waste and abuse. Kudos to the Sun-Times. They shall now have a place of honor in my bookmarks file. Just find a better site designer, ok? Lose the giant blue bars on each side of the article.

The entire series is named "Clout On Wheels" and is currently at the top of the front page at theChicago Sun-Times website.

Read the first article in the series Paid to do nothing and see how Chicagoans' money is being spent on these firms. It definitely makes me look askance at living in Chicago. Forty million dollars per year to hire trucks that don't haul anything? Not with my taxes, thanks. Combine that with a handgun ban, and there's two strikes against living there.

After seeing how well the Sun-Times reports, maybe I should start talking smack about the Daily Herald and see if their reporting improves any.
Alphecca

Very awesome. I'm on the blogroll at Alphecca. Who is Alphecca, you might ask? Jeff Soyer would be that self-described "gay gun nut" who runs the site. His weekly gun-bias report is a fixture at InstaPundit (what, you've never gone to InstaPundit? Go there after reading through Alphecca!) and he's got some great thoughts on the Second Amendment. Jeff's latest report has some great responses to the usual dogma coming out of the anti-gun community. I also agree with his stance on improving the NICS database by adding involuntary commitments to mental treatment facilities to its list of red flags. Likewise, there should also be an way to note when the former patient has been able to return to society in a manner functional enough to be responsible around firearms. There shouldn't be too many doctors out there who are so anti-gun that they'd constantly question and re-question someone's mental state in order to keep said person from having guns when he's functional enough to be responsible around them, right?

To top it all off, Jeff is a cat lover, so he can't be that bad.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

SJ-R.COM - Fugitive kicked off city panel

And now, here's a little something from back home in Springfield.

One of the members of an unpaid city advisory board was about to be kicked off of the board for repeatedly not showing up. He had a good reason not to show up: he was in the Cook County Jail. He can also be taken off of Sangamon County's Ten Most Wanted list, too. He's wanted in Sangamon County for skipping a court date on an aggravated unlawful use of a weapon charge.

The way the story is written, Antonio Davis was questioned in regards to a armed robbery that occured over on the southeast side of town near Laketown and an old neighborhood of bungalows known as the Cabbage Patch. While being questioned, Mr. Davis was found to have a loaded gun on his person. This is not allowed under state law, though I'm wondering how it's "aggravated unlawful use." I also wonder if he had a FOID card, expired FOID, or no FOID at all. I can see charging him with having no FOID (if indeed he didn't have the proper ID card to own the gun) and improper transport. But unlawful use? Here's the Illinois Compiled Statutes section on deadly weapons and unlawful use: 720 ILCS 720 5/24. It's legalese, but that statute does have the definition for unlawful use of a weapon in it. It looks like he might be charged based on the way he was carrying the gun. If so, the law states pretty clearly (for a legal definition, at least) on how guns are to be transported. Carrying one in your clothing is not how it's done here in Illinois. Well, at least not until the Legislature passes a concealed-carry law.

I also asked my dad, a former Springfield police officer, about this, and he said that based on the reports, there might be a case for aggravated use. Since he's retired, he doesn't have access to the reports, so he won't say whether adding aggravated charges to it is going to stick. It may, it may not. You never know.

In all, I think it's just kind of funny how the lack of communication landed this guy on a most-wanted list while he was already serving a sentence elsewhere. Talk about bad timing all around.

(Fun fact: John Wayne Gacy lived in the Laketown section prior to his career as a serial killer. He also squicked out Ray Davies of the Kinks during his attempt to promote the band at the Illinois State Fair. It's true!)
Some of you might ask why I don't use articles from the Chicago Sun-Times for my posts. My main reason is because I don't like their website. It seems rushed. Yeah, they've got conservative writers like Mark Steyn and John O'Sullivan there, but the visuals of the website make it seem cramped and uninviting. Both of them also write for National Review, so just get NR and save yourself the trouble of reading what was better explained in the Tribune. Honestly, the only tabloid-style newspaper that I would buy on a regular basis was The Rocky Mountain News out in Denver, and that was when I was training at Lowry AFB. They had a much better sports section, though the Denver Post had Ken Hamblin.

So anyway, combine the cramped-looking website with stories that can be found just as easily on the Tribune's website, and the Sun-Times is a loser of my page views.
Chicago Tribune | Why I used a gun to defend my family and my home You know the drill: register (if necessary) for the story.

Here we are, guys, straight from Hale DeMar's word processor to us. Notice that he's got the times from when his burglar alarm went off to when the alarm company notified the police. 3 minutes. A lot of violent things can happen in three minutes. How long did it take for the Wilmette Police to respond to the alarm call? 10 minutes. A lot more violent things can happen in 10 minutes.

And yet the Wilmette Village Board is still telling this guy that he can't have a handgun in the house. 13 minutes for an emergency police call? You want your citizens to just sit and wait for 13 minutes while someone ransacks their home and possibly gets ideas of doing violence to leave no witnesses? Wow. The Wilmette Village Board must be impervious to all damage if they think that harsh words and hiding will keep their homes and families safe.

I'm glad that Mr. DeMar's letter got printed. We know his own words and actions better than when the first stories came over the Tribune website. I still say that he violated the state's law for firearm ownership, and he should be punished for that. I still also say that the Wilmette handgun ban violated his Second Amendment rights and should be struck down because of this case.

Another thing I'd like to see is a letter from Morio Billings explaining his side of the story, and seeing how he would justify breaking into someone else's house and stealing their property. I'd also like him to explain why he thought it was necessary to steal things over and over again. I'd also like him to know that no matter what his justifications, stealing is stealing is stealing. And taking that which is not yours is against laws older than all of us. The Commandment says "You shall not steal" for a reason. It does not say "You shall not steal unless you can get away with it." And yes, the other Commandment most folks remember is "You shall not kill." Even God can justify killing to fight for one's home. The Old Testament covers lots and lots of wars for that very reason. There are differences between murdering someone and killing someone in defense of your property and family. Being passive against such crimes only entices others to do the same.

So, Mr. DeMar, you have the respect of this Illinoisan for defending your home. Just ensure that your FOID card is up to date. That is also a law that needs to be obeyed, you know.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Chicago Tribune | Mayors of Chicago, Gary criticize gun suit ban

Boy, do I love calling "bullshit" on this one.

Once again, mayors are trying to eke out some quick revenue from the gun industry for gun-related deaths. Bullshit is definitely what it is. There's a bill before Congress that could prevent cities from suing gun manufacturers for gun-related deaths.

Call me crazy, but shouldn't the people who are using the guns improperly be the ones getting sued by mayors? Nope, it's those corrupt gun manufacturers giving out handguns like candy that are causing all this trouble. They're just being so irresponsible and unaccountable. Imagine! Selling guns to gun shops! Next, you'll be telling me that selling comics to comics shops is a bad thing, too!

No, wait, it's the "accountability" thing according to Mayor Richard Daley:
"We should be able to sue to get some accountability," Daley said. "We're not looking for a lot of money. What we're asking them is to clean up their own industry. This will prevent a lot of lawsuits in the future."

So, by going after the gun makers, this is going to make gun deaths go away, right? No.

The article also goes on to discuss that local gun shops have been selling to criminals, and lots of "straw purchases" where someone goes to buy a gun on behalf of someone who can't own a firearm due to criminal background. And of course, undercover police have gone in posing as gang members and been able to purchase guns.

Now, once someone is busted for selling guns illegally or selling to someone who isn't supposed to have guns at all, shouldn't the manufacturers be notified of that so they don't sell directly to those shopowners? Is that happening? Is anyone making sure that the companies are notified of this? Once a gun is sold from a manufacturer to a dealer, that gun is no longer the property of the manufacturer, and no longer the responsibility of that manufacturer to ensure that it is used properly.

But no, ol' Mayor Daley is trying to get $433 million out of the industry for Illinois. He's such a swell guy, right? Accountability, indeed. They can't sue the people using the guns for compensatory damages, and they don't sue the owners. After all, there's no money in it. Hopefully, Congress will see through Daley's histrionics and will pass that bill. Courts are already ruling against suing gun manufacturers.

Chicago's already off of my list of places to move to in the area once my lease is up, and this is a reason why it's off that list.
Chicago Tribune | WGN personality Ray Rayner dead at 84

Man, this is one of those obituaries that makes me feel like I'm losing a serious part of my childhood. I used to watch his show every morning when my family moved back to Springfield in 1978. I also remember this because the show that came right before Ray Rayner's was Star Blazers. So, I can probably attribute some of my anime fandom to Mr. Rayner.

Another thing I remember was his sports reporting and weather forecasts for kids. During baseball season he had a baseball cap that had the Cubs logo on one side, the White Sox logo on the other. It looked like some weird Deerstalker cap. When he was done talking about one team, he'd turn it around to the to show the other. And of course, when giving out the weather report to kids, he'd wear one of those weird umbrella hats if it was going to rain. And of course, there were all the cartoons that made the show so much fun. I also remember hearing the word "Saskatchewan" for the first time on his show. Apparently a kid from Saskatoon was able to pick up WGN and would watch the show as well before school.

There's another Chicago fixture gone to entertain the Heavenly Host, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Telegraph | News | Cannabis is blamed as cause of man's death

Yes, registration is required. Even the Brits like to know who's reading their papers.

Some gent, Lee Maisey by name, decided to blaze away with six joints a day for 11 years and it looks like it caught up to him. According to the article, his cause of death was registered as high levels of cannabis toxicity. The coroner's inquest showed no signs of disease nor had there been any significant alcohol in his bloodstream (no booze within the 48 hours prior to his death), just high levels of vcannabinoids in his blood. The original verdict was "death by misadventure," the paper goes on to say. Mr. Maisey complained of a headache on August 22, and was found dead the next morning, with no other signs of possible death besides the high level of cannabinoids in his system.

Dr. Phillip Guy from the University of Hull in England states that it's most likely that he ingested a fatal amount of marijuana as opposed to smoking it, though the article doesn't say what amounts of marijuana if any were found in his stomach.

Well, looks like weed isn't the safe recreational drug everyone had hoped it was. The British government is reclassifying the drug to a Class C drug, which means that you cannot be arrested for possession. This article, also from the Telegraph, explains the new procedures for police officers in regards to the reclassification of the drug.

This does show, at least, that marijuana can be dangerous to certain people. In addition, it also shows the rarity of the marijuana-relatred overdoses. Because it's that rare, I can still say that I'd like to see marijuana legalized. I figure if people want to get stoned so they can forget their troubles, let them do it. That's not to say that it should be easier to get than tobacco, nor should DUI laws be rewritten to let stoners off the hook, but a stupid and complacent populace is much easier to control. (Oops, did I say that out loud?)

It'd be a hell of a cash crop, and there's an old John Scalzi article explaining his reasons for legalizing marijuana. Namely, it'll get rid of the Stoner Culture. I like this man's thinking on the subject. Getting rid of the stoner culture sounds like a great plan; it's rather tough to be the counterculture when the mainstream has just co-opted your reason for being countercultural. So, yes, legalize it. Just make sure you know that there's a tiny chance it'll kill you if you smoke too much of it, and blaze away in the privacy of your own home.
Got a weird phone message when I came home from work today. The Wheeling Police Department left a message detailing an attempted abduction of two girls by two unknown men in a white van in a neighborhood close to mine. Apparently, the guys also took pictures of the girls, too. If anybody in the Wheeling/Buffalo Grove area around Elmhurst Road and Dundee Road sees an unfamiliar white van hovering around the schools, give the Wheeling PD a call at (847) 459-2362.

Normally I tend to wonder about community policing because it was done in such a half-assed manner back home in Springfield, but this calling system is a good option to have to keep the community informed and alert.

I hope they catch these guys and ask them what the fuck they were thinking, pulling stupid shit like this.

Monday, January 19, 2004

The George W. Bush Conspiracy Generator

Can't find any original issues to use when smacking Dubya around? Make your own!

Wait... somebody better check the Dean and Clark campaigns to see how often they've used this site.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Skeptic Gives Guns a Shot Registration is required, but if you have a Chicago Tribune password, you might be able to get into the paper. They're both owned by the Tribune Company.

Finally, somebody gets it.

Diana Wagman, a "typical Californian," details in California's typical breathy and superficial way how she learned to stop worrying and love the gun culture. Okay, so it's not so brainless as that. However, the depths of anti-gun culture shows itself in her opening paragraph:
Guns are bad. All my life, it's been that simple. At my son's preschool, if a child pointed a banana and said "bang," he was admonished to "use the banana in a happier way." As far as I was concerned, the 2nd Amendment gave us the right to protect ourselves against invading armies, not the right to buy a gun and keep it under our beds.

"Use the banana in a happier way" sounds like something you shouldn't be telling a preschooler, much less saying it as any form of sexual innuendo. But this shows that she grew up in a culture where guns were to be avoided, forgotten, and kept out of the reach of everyone but those who are part of the established government.

She then goes on to detail how she was expected something out of Hollywood's depiction of gun owners, how every single gun owner is not part of the mainstream of correct-thinking people. Then she realizes that physical stereotyping is definitely not the way to spot gun-owners:
I expected a dungeon full of men missing teeth and wearing T-shirts decorated with Confederate flags. Instead, I found a sunny, wood-paneled lobby and guys who looked like lawyers on their lunch break.

Yes, Ms. Wagman, not all gun owners look like Hollywood's caricatures. Someone who owns a gun does not always look like he stepped out of Bowling for Columbine.

Ms. Wagman goes on to detail the legal steps she has to take in order to purchase a gun, the steps taken to ensure safety and personal responsibility. This includes a gun safety class and purchasing child safety locks. I'm skeptical of child safety locks if only from my experiences growing up in a police household. I'll write about this further down in this article.

Now here are two paragraphs from the article which show that Ms. Wagman is beginning to understand the gun culture a bit more, but right now she is still looking at it from the viewpoint of the anti-gun culture. In this, she's learning to fire a .357 revolver:
First lesson, respect your firearm. I got a little talk about how powerful it was. I learned how to hold it. To load it. And finally to fire it. It was terrifying. The gun was so heavy, I couldn't keep it steady. It took both index fingers to pull the trigger, and then there was a flash of flame, a loud crack, a substantial kick. It was much harder than it looked in the movies. I occasionally hit the target, but I also managed to obliterate the metal hanger that held it.

I have to admit: I loved it. I had a fantastic time. The power of that gun for me, a 5-foot, 3-inch woman, was immediately, shockingly seductive. The thrill when I hit the bull's-eye (once) was as great as making a perfect tennis shot. I felt like I was playing a careful game of darts in a small, alcohol-free bar.

First, she talks about it being terrifying. Loud noises and sudden flashes of light can definitely startle you, but terrifying is perhaps a bit too strong. To me, a feeling of terror also involves a feeling that the terrifying stimulus should be avoided somehow. She goes right back to firing, as we can see, and learns the second secret of the gun: movies lie about how easy it is for an untrained person to use them. I also have an issue with her description of the power of her gun as being seductive. She seems to sexualize the gun, making it look like anti-gun culture is very much a "forbidden fruit" culture. The anti-gun culture tries to hide the sporting aspect of the gun culture, which given human tendencies for doing what we're not supposed to do, adds a certain thrill to the sport that really doesn't need to be there. It's really creepy to see someone from an anti-gun culture walk in and immediately try to understand this facet of gun culture by looking at it in terms of seduction or sex.

Ms. Wagman finishes out her article with a revelation that some of her friends are gun owners, something previously unknown to her. She also goes through the same quandary that the gun culture goes through. How does one reconcile a dangerous weapon with the interest of the safety of others around you? Her idea is echoed in every single gun class and hunter's safety course sponsored by the NRA, local police, or other enforcement body: EDUCATION. I do like her concept of a "Gun 101" class as well:
The answer has to be education: teaching people to deal with anger, to solve problems, offering them brighter futures, but also Gun 101. Maybe if teenagers were given computer-generated pictures of their own bodies, post-gunshot wounds, it would help them understand the enormity of firing a weapon. Maybe if everyone spent an afternoon at the shooting range, forced to follow the rules, they would respect the power of a gun.

The computer-generated picture part seems a bit silly and fanciful for me, but I understand what she means. She wants future gun users to understand the responsibility they have by carrying and using a gun. It's certainly a new idea, and a good use of brainstorming, but right now it seems to me just a bit too much of "enlightenment through shock and fear" than "education leading to increased understanding of responsibility."

Ms. Wagman, thank you for getting the idea.

As I said earlier, there are some parts of gun safety that don't strike me as particularly smart, such as child safety locks. I grew up in a police household, and when my dad wasn't carrying his service pistol, it was secured in a locked case. A trigger lock gives me the impression that someone will leave this gun out in the open when it's unattended by the people who know how to use it. A trigger lock thus could lead to irresponsible behavior on the gun owner's part. Dad was the only one with the key. Mom didn't particularly care for guns, so she usually changed the subject, but never said that I shouldn't talk to Dad about his guns. In fact, when my dad became a policeman, he sat me down after he was issued his first service pistol, a .38 revolver. He told me that it's true that guns aren't toys, and that if you find a gun lying around where it shouldn't be, you don't pick it up and play with it. The first step to gun safety is treating every gun like it's loaded. He also said that if I ever had a question about the guns he had, if I wanted to see them or hold them or even fire them all I had to do was ask him and he'd take me to the firing range or a gun club so I could learn more.

My dad taught me two things there: it is necessary to educate people about how guns work and what they do, but also to normalize the idea of a gun in the house. Yes, it's there. Yes, it can conceivably kill you if used incorrectly. The gun is in the house anyway, so it's best to bring the subject out into the open and talk about it when an issue arises. I never asked to see his service pistols after that, though when he bought some handguns of his own I did ask about those, and he took me shooting at a privately-owned gun club. I was taught about loading, aiming, sighting, and proper firing stances. Like Ms. Wagman, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I first pulled the trigger. I knew there would be a loud noise, flash of light and recoil, but that was about it. It was definitely a startling experience, but not terrifying. After the second or third shot, I'd learned about compensating for recoil, to relax a bit when firing to roll with the shock of the gun's movement. I was learning the responsibility that goes with gun ownership that only comes through using a gun.

I do not think I would have learned these things in a house that was part of an anti-gun culture. I instead would have learned that guns are evil in metal form, that those who use them should be avoided because they're different, and are all unstable and irresponsible. I also would have learned nothing about the respect that needs to be given to a dangerous tool such as a gun, nor would I have learned what to do in a situation that involved a gun out in the open. The only knowledge I could have gained about guns would have been through the warped eyes of entertainment media. Learning about guns that way strikes me as a serious lack of responsibility on the part of parents. It also shows that they are unwilling to personally argue to their children why guns are so dangerous and should be avoided. It also shows that they are unwilling to confront their gun culture counterparts and learn about their reasons for why they wish to be part of such a culture. Unlike Ms. Wagman, such a member of an anti-gun culture is comfortable in his prejudices.

Ms. Wagman also understands something else about gun culture. Guns are not the first line of problem resolution. Education and normalization is that first line of resolution. Guns should not be an object of worship, but they should also certainly not be an object of fear. With education and normalization as the keys to understanding, people can learn the responsibility and accountability that goes with owning and carrying a gun. Guns should not be treated as a forbidden fruit, as secret knowledge that can only be given to a select few. That method of reasoning gives over to improper assumptions, skewed perceptions, and dangerous misconceptions. If you want safety around guns, you must take responsibility and learn how to be safe around them. If I haven't drummed that enough into readers' heads by now, I don't know what it would take for them to understand my point of view.

The NRA Safety and Training page. While I'd like to avoid a lot of the lobbyists who work for the NRA (and lobbyists in general; they remind me too much of salesmen who rely too much on a hard-sell technique) the organization does have one of the best and most comprehensive set of safety courses for all ages and skill levels of shooters. I offer this link as an information source for those who are interested in gun safety and the gun culture of sport shooting and hunting. The NRA takes this stuff very seriously, despite their often devil-may-care verbiage.

I also must of course refer to InstaPundit, who offered a link to the original article on his site. Thanks for the tip, Mr. Reynolds.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Timothy Wheeler on Handgun Ban on National Review Online

Hmph. This guy gets an article in National Review? I write much more gooder than him!
Chicago Tribune | Wilmette stands by handgun ban Registration may be required to read it.

It looks like the Wilmette Village Board got an earful last night from folks who wanted an end to the handgun ban. And once again, Police Chief Carpenter was the voice of muddled reasoning:

Carpenter suggested that if residents think an intruder is in their house, they should keep the family together, call 911 and not confront the intruder.

"The parent is the last line of defense for the family until the police arrive," Carpenter said.


An armed parent might offend his tender sensibilities, though.

I can understand where the impetus for the gun ban came from, after Laurie Dann tried shooting anyone in her line of sight at a Winnetka school. But right here, we can see that the handgun ban is punishing someone who repelled a burglar in his own house. This ban is punishing someone defending their home.

Earlier in the article, the writers describe how Morio Billings entered the house, stole some keys and the family's SUV, then came back to burgle the house again. In all possibility, Billings could have kept coming back, and eventually found the gun used to shoot him.

I think it's fitting that Mr. Billings found the gun. He found it pointing at him, held by one Hale DeMar.

Again, Mr. Demar has broken a law in letting his FOID card lapse. For that, he should be punished. If you own a gun in the state of Illinois, you need to have your FOID card up to date. However, he has broken an unjust law in defying the Wilmette handgun ban. The law is unjust and should be overturned. How many criminals will be willing to ransack someone's house in Wilmette knowing that the village board is willing to disarm its residents? That may be a sad and spurious argument wrapped with a bit of paranoia to some readers, but it seems to me that it's the closest argument to deal with the reality of the situation.

The Cook County State's Attorney isn't filing charges against Mr. DeMar, which is only right.

Here are a few other rather telling quotations from the article, which may show a bit of disconnect between city government and city residents. The first is from Village Trustee Bernard Michna, who wants the gun ban kept in place:

"There could have been an outcome much more bleak for that family if more shots had been fired," said Trustee Bernard Michna. "I think it's close to unanimous there will be no change in the handgun ordinance."


Yes, the DeMar family may have seen Mr. DeMar kill someone, which is pretty bleak. Wait, no, I think Michna meant that there would have been a "fatal tragedy" caused by Mr. DeMar flipping out and shooting everyone in sight. After all, you shoot one person and it's just logical to keep shooting everyone around you, right, Mr. Michna?

Here's a quotation from someone who disagrees with Mr. Michna's gun-free village idea, Jim Scezepanik:

"My Plan A is to call 911 and keep the family upstairs," said Wilmette resident Jim Szczepanik, 51. "But my Plan B is to have a loaded firearm and put a bullet in the intruder."


Finally, we have someone looking at this in purely liberatarian terms, Ralf Seiffe.

Noting that the North Shore community is a relatively safe one, another resident, Ralf Seiffe, said: "It is not a matter of crime control or safety. It is a matter of freedom."


Hey, wow. A relatively safe community, made a bit safer by one resident's action. After all, there's one less burglar to prowl around the town. Mr. Seiffe is correct. It is a matter of freedom. To have that freedom also means being willing to defend that freedom when necessary.

Hale DeMar is no saint, that's for sure. He does seem willing to take responsibility for preventing his family from becoming future victims of crime, though. Using a handgun to defend your family is still legal in most of this country, but it sure looks like Wilmette is trying to end that tradition.
No Chemial Agents in Mortar Shells - The Associated Press

Well, no agents were found. I wasn't expecting anything amazing to come out of the report about the Danish find, but it does surprise me that the shells don't seem to come from any mortars used by the old Iraqi army. Maybe the shells were an Iranian stockpile?

Still, two out of three isn't bad.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Possible Iraqi Blister gas weapons found (Reuters)

Yep, I heard about this yesterday through my friend Chris. I went and checked for news of it on CN.com and the Washington Post. Then I found this gem today while searching through andrewsullivan.com. I'm not pinning my hopes on this, since they could find remnants of mustard gas in the shells. However, if they find that the weapons are still able to be used, this would put Iraq's former government in possession of weapons it was supposed to dispose of after the first Gulf War. Now, under proper conditions, mustard gas will keep for a long time. We found a live mustard gas mortar shell from World War I in our high school's chemical locker. Apparently, during the days of a more threat-conscious civil defense (that is, the end of the Second World War and prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis) schoolkids learned about potential chemical and nuclear attacks. Apparently someone was supposed to send an unfilled mortar shell from World War I to show what a chemical weapons container might look like. Someone from one of the arsenals reeeeally screwed up. My high school was sent a live mortar round. Filled with mustard gas. It was made in 1917, and was removed by the State EPA in 1989 or 1990. Tests came back that the mustard gas was still volatile, and could potentially have blinded or killed over half of the school population (about 1300 at the time) if it detonated.

72 years and that gas was still good. So if Hussein & Sons were keeping those weapons in relatively good shape with only minor repairs needed, then the old Iraqi government is in deep doo-doo. It will be proof positive that Iraq never meant to follow any UN restrictions placed on it. If the shells are pre-1991, they're screwed. If they're post-1991, someone should do some more digging and find out who would sell chemical weapons to the Iraqis after US and UN demands to stop selling weapons of mass destruction to Iraq. If that's the case, I have four theories:

1. The US sold them to the Iraqis in case of another war with Iran. This is the most far-fetched of the four after the first war, but stupider things have been known to happen. If that was the case, we'd have to look at George H.W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's terms in office.

2. France sold the weapons to Iraq. Again, pretty far-fetched. However, with Chirac's government giving Iraq a pass on brutality in favor of cheap oil, French resentment of Israel, and a desire to provide a balance against the United States, it can't be completely ruled out. With the scandalous coverups of the Elf/Aquitane oil company and its connections with the French government, who is to say that a few mortar rounds just didn't happen to get their way onto a cargo pallet bound for Basra? And that those mortar rounds didn't just happen to carry a banned weapon of mass destruction?

3. China sold the weapons to Iraq. Iraq used a lot of Soviet-manufactured weapons against Iranian and US forces. When the Soviet Union split, the Iraqis went to the next best supplier of after-market parts. China had no problem selling such weapons to Iraq as an attempt at a proxy war.

4. The holdouts of the Soviet Union sold them to Iraq. Disillusioned by the prospects of a failing Russian economy, it seemed that just about everything was for sale in Russia in the early 1990s if the payment was hard currency. A few extra mortar rounds might not be missed if the appropriate bribes would get paid, so this seems the likely choice.

Mind you, that's if the rounds are shown to have been manufactured after 1991. If they were made prior to that, the easiest two to look at would be the old Soviet Union and China. The Iraqis used Soviet-made mortars, why not use Soviet-made ammunition, too?

Some folks might even say that if the ammunition was pre-1991, then going to war under the banner of WMD removal was wrong. After all, Saddam wasn't making chemical weapons after that time. Too bad for those people that he still had them, was looking to get more, and while he may not have had the manufacturing facilities, plans appear to be on file to start or resume production once UN sanctions had ended. So, right there the WMD argument gets shored up if these mortar rounds turn up live and filled with blister agent.

Hmm. Going to war to stop someone from using, buying or building weapons of mass destruction. Going to war to break any possible links with terrorist organizations. Going to war to remove a dictator from continuing a humanitarian nightmare of horrific proportions. If those mortar rounds are the real deal, Dubya will have gotten a trifecta of well-founded reasons to go to war in Iraq. He's two for three so far.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Wilmette enforces gun ban - Resident who shot intruder charged Registration required for the Tribune.

Hale DeMar defends his home in Wilmette with a gun. The town that he's in has a ban on handguns. Add that in with the fact that Mr. DeMar doesn't have a current FOID card. The result? Hale DeMar looks at a potential year in jail. Never mind that he shot someone who has broken into his house!

Instead of defending himself and his family, here's what George Carpenter, Wilmette Police Chief has to say to the Trib:

"The outcome of the matter in this case was very fortunate for the homeowner," [Carpenter] said. "We much prefer, for the safety of the home, that a resident who finds himself in this situation immediately lock the door of the room he's in and dial 911."

Dial 911? Even in Wilmette, the police department isn't going to arrive that quickly. And what if his room didn't have a lock on it?

I'm not going to say that Mr. DeMar is totally in the right here. He didn't renew his FOID card, which is very important if you're buying ammunition in this state. Failure to renew is an offense that should be punishable. However, he's looking at up to a year in jail for it, which is ludicrous. This man just defended his family and property, and the state is looking at depriving his liberty on a technicality.

I also look quite askance at Wilmette's yay-for-us handgun ban. As we can see, it certainly didn't prevent Mr. DeMar from transporting a gun to his house, did it? Another question for Second Amendment lawyers out there: does such a law restricting handguns violate the spirit or letter of the Second Amendment? Seeing that the people of Wilmette attempted to deprive someone from purchasing or carrying a firearm to defend his home, I think there could be an argument that such a law violates a constitutional right.

And here in the article we also see other cities in the suburbs that have laws against handguns:

Other Illinois municipalities that ban possession of handguns include Chicago, Evanston, Morton Grove and Oak Park. Communities that ban the sale of handguns include Deerfield, Elk Grove Village, Forest Park, Highland Park, Niles, Northbrook, River Grove and Westmont.

Sad. I was looking at possibly moving to Evanston this year. Not now.

I suppose the next someone breaks in, people should use shotguns and hunting rifles to shoot the offenders. Or will those who wanted the handgun ban just complain all the more about a poor dead multiple offender?

So, what I see is this for my favored solution: prosecute the guy who broke into the house. Prevent him from suing the DeMar family for any physical or mental distress brought on by the shooting. Had he not broken in to the house, he wouldn't have been shot, now, would he? Then, prosecute Mr. DeMar for failing to renew his FOID card. Fine him. Unless he's got a history of violent crimes, Mr. Demar should be allowed to possess firearms in his home and be allowed to renew his FOID card. And finally, get rid of the Wilmette handgun ban. We have a test case that shows that not only is the ban unenforceable, it also adds an extra layer of trouble on people who defend their property.
Hmm... anybody out there?
So, I'm reading through the latest articles on National Review Online about the writers' views on gay marriage. Oddly enough, you have some amount of disagreement between the writers. Jonah Goldberg and John Derbyshire definitely come down on the side of not extending the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to homosexual couples. Mr. Goldberg does this from (as far as I can tell) a more libertarian standpoint that says "Government shouldn't even be involved in the marriage process, leave it to social groups like church congregations to determine such rules."

Mr. Derbyshire takes a slightly different tack to reach the same conclusion. He believes that extending marriage rights to homosexuals will do nothing to preserve the traditions of marriage, and may further undermine it. He does concede that in light of Britney Spears' marital escapade, gay-marriage proponents have a point. How is gay marriage between two "sober and responsible" (as Mr. Derbyshire puts it) same-sex partners going to undermine something that is cheapened by 55-hour marriages decided by human impulse? Mr. Derbyshire sees this as a reason to further restrict marriage laws, not expand them. I can see his point in restricting marriage laws to make that institution rely on more serious decision-making on the parts of both parties. Quickie marriages do nothing for upholding the sacred trust found in marriage.

Finally, we have another voice in the mainstream conservative magazine that doesn't come out for gay marriage, but shows that conservatives who approach the issue of gay marriage from an "undermine and weaken the tradition" standpoint should look at what's happening to marriage from the heterosexual side of the issue. Deroy Murdock lists three media personalities (Britney Spears, David Letterman, and Jerry Seinfeld) and their own contributions to damaging the tradition of marriage. Mr. Murdock makes this point well, that debating against gay marriage on the grounds that it threatens heterosexual marriage should look at what how heterosexual marriage is being threatened from within. He is also correct when stating that such things should be debated nationally.

Now, I've brought out a few columns that can be used in defense of heterosexual marriage and going further, the denial of marriage rights to homosexual couples. While I could post to Andrew Sullivan's website and ask you to look at his arguments for gay marriage, I'm going to try tackling this issue myself. I come down on the side of gay marriage. I do this for a few reasons. I do this because I think those who want the responsibility of marriage should be allowed to enter into such a contract. I also don't see the issue of undermining straight marriages by gay marriages. If sexuality is genetic as it's been said, then you're not going to have to worry about either set of folks hopping the fence to try ther other form of marriage. If it isn't, then you're going to have to get out of a previous marriage and all the trouble that entails. While this could raise the divorce rate even higher, I'm betting that it won't as more and more couples take the plunge for a lifelong committed relationship.

I have another reason for doing this; I see it as a way of strengthening heterosexual marriages. If more and more committed gay couples marry and have longer marriages than straight couples, that could serve as a societal way of shaming straight folks who decided to marry on a lark. It's crass, yes, but also very pragmatic. Why not use gay couples as way to show other folks that they should have thought their marriage through and now have to live with those responsibilities? I admit that this is putting gay couples on the spot to perform, which is something I'm not fond of doing. But, perhaps such a circumstance would help to reinforce to gay couples that marriage is as serious of an undertaking as they thought it would be?

Here's another reason to expand marriage rights to gays: it expands the franchise of liberty. There have been similar movements for women and blacks to expand their influence to its rightful place in the United States, and both of those movements have created some great benefits for Americans in general. (My opinions on the successors of these movements is quite different from the opinions I hold on the originators of those movements.) But in each case, we allowed more ideas to come to the fold, expanding the pool of opinion and making the nation a better place. Blacks were given the rights to vote, so were women. While homosexuality has nothing to do with voting status, the similarity comes in the expansion of general rights to people who have served to make the nation a better place to live. Liberty should be expanded to everyone to determine how much of it that they can handle. This is something that has been lost on a few people, especially among those who want marriage rights restricted under the assumption that traditional marriages would be undermined. Expanding liberty can cause trouble in letting fringe groups run rampant, but even those can be settled down after a time. Homosexuals are no longer a fringe group, and should be welcomed as part of the mainstream. Does this mean we should always look to homosexuals as some kind of font of wisdom? No. Even minorities have their share of loudmouthed idiots. Adding homosexuals to the mainstream will help to tame many of those loudmouthed idiots because now everyone will have a chance to speak for themselves.

Allowing more homosexuals to speak for themselves will also allow for more of them to be exposed to what we consider to be the best values of heterosexual life. While there may always be a crowd of homosexuals who wish to do nothing but live life from one club or gay bar to the next, maybe more of them will see that middle-class lives aren't as bad as their activist friends say. Exposure to our way of life may help in assimilating them, making homosexuals no longer a "them" but part of "us." I still believe in ideals of the Melting Pot, and assimilation is key to that. Some won't assimilate, and they'll be left on the ash heap of history. Others will assimilate and carry on our values as well as theirs.

Finally, I have personal reasons for seeing the gay marriage to be instituted. A few of my friends are gay. While I don't have a lot of deep philosophical interaction with any of them, I don't see anything about them that makes them unable to commit to a lifelong relationship were they given a chance to do so. I want my friends to know that their basic dignity is respected in the United States. I want them to know that they are equal under the law of this country, and have equality of opportunity.

So, here's my proposal: If the Federal Marriage Act is re-written, change the definition from a man and a woman to "two persons of legal age within their state's jurisdiction." Change the Act to make it work with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, to allow federalism to work by letting each State determine the provisions of implementation. Allow each state to hash it out in their legislatures and determine the best course of action. At the same time, we should look at divorce laws in this country, and determine what should be done to strengthen marriage through restricting no-fault divorces. Yes, I do believe that there is give-and-take in determining laws. You're getting something that you want, but you're going to have to do something to earn it, and that is to work within a tighter boundary for making those marriages last. If you want to commit, you have to commit fully and take the good with the bad.

Do you have questions, comments, or ways to make my writing clearer? Please let me know. Use my comments feature.

Here is my bibliography to let you know what sources I used for this post. It's also so you know what points I'm arguing for or against.

Jonah Goldberg's columns on gay marriage and the Federal Marriage Act: Townhall.com
Townhall.com
John Derbyshire's latest article about Britney and gay marriage: National Review Online
Deroy Murdock's article on the threat from within to heterosexual marriage: National Review Online

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Good afternoon!

I hope this blog will help to refine my writing skills on a variety of topics that are close to me. One of those topics is politics, and that will make for a lively conversation with everyone. Also, I'm looking at writing about history, with my areas of interest being East Asia and the United States. I'll also throw in a lot of current events, too. Finally, my blog will also concern religion, specifically Catholicism. All of this is coming from the lovely northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.