Monday, December 24, 2012

All Things Christmassy

Is that a word?

Even given the insanity that was the NRA's response to Newtown, I can't bring myself to comment on it at this time. Instead, I will focus on the season and a conversation at work this last week.

As with a lot of folks, we had a Christmas potluck at work. During it, we had a discussion of favorite Christmas music, movies, etc. A few of my choices were out there and a bit non-traditional. In order to enlighten, I'll offer the following lists for your listening and viewing pleasure.

Favorite Music: 

My favorite traditional Christmas song will always It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, the Nat King Cole version. This one has a special meaning to me as I will always think of my Grandpa Al walking around the house whistling the title phrase with his Characteristic emphasis on the last two syllables. Christmas to me has always, for some reason, brought back memories of my Grandpa Al's rather than memories of my own home. Odd, that.

Anyway, one person mentioned that it was a shame there were no "newer" Christmas songs. I told her that there were a bunch of them - they just had to compete with our collective memory of the old favorites.

Number 5 is at Daily Motion - the rest are on a YouTube Playlist...

5. Baby, It's Cold Outside, Buster Poindexter and Sigourney Weaver

"Baby It's Cold Outside" Sigourney Weaver&Buster... by alienfan

4. All I want for Christmas (is You), the Love, Actually version
3. Snoopy's Christmas, The Royal Guardsmen
2. I Believe in Father Christmas, Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer)
1. Christmas Must Be Tonight, The Band

Favorite Movies:

5. Die Hard - Yep. Die Hard. The reason they are at Nakatomi Plaza, the Santa on the Elevator, and "It's Christmas, Theo. It's the time for miracles."
4. The Ref - A cat urine-soaked burglar, an overbearing family matron, and a family in chaos... makes your holiday seem normal and somewhat boring.
3. Scrooged - Hilarious retelling of the old classic. Bob Goulet chased by a gator, Bob Goldthwait with a shotgun in his pocket, and Bob Mitchum kicking a cat are just a few of the highlights in this cameo-filled bit of holiday cheer.
2. Love Actually - Oh, you like cameos? You will love this one. Connections, Relationships, and Forgiveness abound in the inspiration for later holiday-based enseble productions.
1. It's a Wonderful Life - I know. This isn't a new one. In fact, given it's original failure, it is amazing it is still around. Not only is it still around, it has become a classic and has spawned numerous imitations in TV, in movies, and on the stage. My personal favorite was the Stick Figure Theater treatment on MTV's old Liquid Television show (remember Aeon Flux?).

And for all of them in a Playlist:

Now. Stop reading this and go back to your family and friends and give them all a hug and wish them whatever you choose to wish them.

Be good.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's a damn good thing the world is about to end...


Lots of conflict. So many kinds.

As with July, I really don't know what to say.

Actually, I know what I want to say. I am just not sure if I can say it in a way that won't come across as uncaring (because I'm not) or that I believe I know all the answers (because I don't). This is part of the reason I have held off as long as I have in commenting on the subject of the horror of last Friday.

Well, that and the fact that I wrote a rather longish blog post a couple nights back that was posted, published, and then passed on to Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+. The link on Facebook even showed an image from the posting. I woke up the next morning and it was gone. Poof. Lost in the Ether.

More Craziness

There was a period last Friday during which I seriously considered just going home, pulling out all of my guns, and selling them. It lasted all of about 5 seconds, sure, but it was there.

That's when I reminded myself that it would not resolve anything.

It would not keep those kids and adults from having their lives taken from them. It would not prevent such an event from happening in the future. It would not do anything except remove part of who I am. I am a gun guy. I am a Liberal Gun Guy, sure, but a gun guy nonetheless.

Since then, I settled. I shed a tear and felt some wishful thoughts about the situation in Connecticut. Then I went home and hugged my kids. I have a little Liberal Gun Guy who turns eight tomorrow. I also have a little Liberal Gun Gal who is five. I can't imagine. I just can't. Not enough band-aids to cover that cut.

Talking Heads

I currently have a sore neck. Nothing I did, really. I didn't sleep on it wrong. However, I did listen to too much commentary on the TV and radio. About every 5-10 minutes, someone said something that would cause a synapse in my brain to pop and my head to whip around, as if that would help get the factual errors out of my head.

I get that, though. I did nothing but guns for almost six years. I wrote a book on guns for Pete's sake. I can be expected to talk semi-intelligently about guns when needed. After the Aurora shooting, I even ended up on a legal-talk radio show talking about the ins-and-outs of obtaining guns.

99% of the folks I heard on the radio don't have that background. The reporters, news readers, guest commentators, and others made statements that represented levels of experience from watching an episode of CSI to growing up around (while not knowing a lot about) guns.

Clearing the Air

The other 1%, all three of them, impressed me. One was an antigun guy with an extensive background and some solid mechanical and legal knowledge. The two progun guys were similar except that their experience placed them on the other side of the discussion. Unfortunately, the rest of the week was misinformed or uninformed blather.

A lot of the last week's discussion has focused on a few subjects. Unfortunately, it has also been reflexive posturing for the most part. The usual suspects were there, saying the usual things, and repeating the usual memes. The big issues that registered with me during the last week (not all inclusive) are:
  • Reinstatement of the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban
  • Arming Teachers
  • Reworking our Mental Health System
  • Secure Storage of Firearms

How Congress Helped the Gun Industry

I'll let the Assault Weapon Ban (AWB) go simply by stating it was a bad law written by people who didn't understand what they were legislating. In effect, it made certain firearms less visually scary. The day it went into effect, it only aided the manufacturers of these arms by streamlining their product manufacture. "We can't put bayonet lugs or folding stocks on them? That's OK, we'll save money on a supply item and still charge the same." 

The only other effect of the AWB was the increase in the price of magazines that held more than 10 rounds or ammunition. The standard magazine size for an AR-15 prior to the ban was 30 rounds. The 10-round restricted magazines were priced at the same price point as the original standard magazines and the 30-round magazines shot from $10-20 each to $60-100 each. The last eight years has seen a HUGE uptick in the manufacture of these components though, so I don't think this will have much of an impact. And then there is Makerbot...

Reactivate the AWB and the industry will have the best quarter they have ever had. Want to keep those guns out of the hands of the wrong people? Establish a Gun Show background check.

Miss Janey's Got a Gun  

Arming teachers is problematic in that many (most?) teachers don't like guns in the first place. Those who do like guns may not necessarily want to carry. I have known Concealed Carry Permits holders who don't like carrying or, for a variety of reasons, choose not to carry. I think something like this would be similar to the Armed Pilot Program. Only 10% of pilots are trained to carry in-flight. And this is a population that has a very large prior-service military contingent. 

I have heard some of the folks proposing that teachers carry because Israel arms their teachers. Sorry, but it ain't the case

The Inmates are Running the Asylum

I'm looking at you, Congress. 

The majority of the mass shootings in the last 30 years involved shooters who showed signs of mental illness prior to the shooting. Yet these people were able to possess firearms. Even going through the right channels and processes. This tells me that the reporting mechanism has issues, or the process to adjudicate is flawed, or that doctors, friends, and families don't feel comfortable facing the fact that there is indeed a problem.

I fell into that last category once upon a time. A good friend of mine committed suicide after he went off his meds - one of them an anti-psychotic. A few of us knew what he was taking. We knew he was a gun owner. He was a retired Air Force security officer. He didn't drink or smoke. He was active in his church. He was a straight arrow. Health problems led to the meds. Going off the meds led him to threaten his family (scared them enough to drive 90 miles to stay in a hotel). The next morning, he shot himself.

I still feel guilty. I feel I could have talked to him or others prior to that in order to help make sure that he would have been safe. But I didn't. I didn't want to be the guy who said, "I don't trust you to be safe with your guns, even with the thirty years of training, instructor time, and being one of the most squared away folks I know."

I do believe that we need some sort of meaningful legislation to change how we look at gun ownership by those who have the potential to be unsafe

Put a Lid on It

If you leave guns where someone can get to them, and that person is not you, you are asking for any bad things that happen. Kids in the house? Roommates? Family members with mental illness? LOCK UP YOUR GUNS.

One of the major causes of accidental firearm deaths is this.

The next step - make sure that EVERY. PERSON. who will come into contact with the gun has training. Now, I am not talking about uncle Jimbo taking little Stevie out to the quarry to show him how to shoot. I am talking about taking an NRA Firearms Safety Course. These two steps will cut down on accidents like you do not believe. 

The Upshot

We are finally moving somewhere on a discussion. Unfortunately, I doubt much will come out of it that is meaningful. However, we are talking a bit more and looking into causes before we look at solutions - a nice change in and of itself.

I still feel that education is essential for everyone. Learn what a gun is. Learn what it isn't. Learn how to be safe, not sorry.

I will leave you with two last beliefs of mine:
  1. The only safe person with a gun is the person trained to be safe.
  2. The only safe gun is the gun that is unloaded and not in someones hands.
Cheers, and keep the community of Newtown in your thoughts.

PS - this includes the National Shooting Sports Foundation, headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut.