Reciprocity…

The House of Representatives has on deck this week, a bill known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. This bill says, in part, that a concealed carry permit issued by a citizen’s state of residence must be honored by the rest of the several states. It imposes limitations on this reciprocity in the case of people who are not eligible to possess a firearm under federal law (felons), those who are dangerously mentally ill, domestic abusers, and those who have several other disqualifying factors.

Suddenly the Democrats find themselves standing up as the party of state’s rights and the Republicans are the party pushing for federal law to supersede the will of states like New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, so called “may issue” states, where concealed permits are virtually impossible to get for the average citizen. Given the way the law is written, as an American citizen residing in the State of Maryland, this bill, if passed, does precisely nothing to allow me to carry concealed either within Maryland or in any other state. It does mean that residents of Pennsylvania, Delaware, or the District could carry their firearm concealed into the state based on permits issued by those jurisdictions.

I don’t buy that this should be a state’s rights issue any more than I buy that argument when it’s used in opposition any other Constitutionally protected right – same sex marriage, for example. The Constitution should apply equally to all people regardless of the state in which they reside – and that’s why I have a hard time supporting the CCRA.

From my vantage point here in Maryland, it creates a condition under federal law where a resident three miles away in Delaware is allowed to exercise a Constitutional right that I, living in Maryland, cannot. The solution in this case isn’t to overlay the current patchwork of state permits with another layer of federal law. The solution is for federal law to recognize that all citizens, with limitations spelled out clearly for felons, the mentally ill, etc, have the same rights and standing under the Constitution. The solution is for the Congress to recognize the inherent right to self-defense found in the 2nd Amendment and clarified by the Supreme Court’s Heller decision and legislate accordingly.

My reading is the CCRA is a half measure that adds complexity rather than clarity.

We stand…

It appears that we are once again entering a period in America where being an old fashioned patriot has fallen out of favor. Celebrities and “opinion makers” are lining up to tell us how awful things are and why we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t tend to base my opinions on whatever the cool kids tell me I should be thinking. I didn’t when I was a kid myself and I sure as hell don’t intend to start now that I’m a thinking adult. I’ll form my opinions based on my own experiences, observations and ability to reason. The opinion makers can say what they want.

I grew up as the son of a teacher and a cop during the long slide of King Coal into a faltering business model. It wasn’t a bad childhood. We waded in the neighboring creeks, swung from hillside grape vines, and pedaled bikes from one end of town to the other and back again. There was even a store where you could buy candy for a penny a piece while trains hauling the last of the Big Vein coal out of the valley rattled past just 20 feet away.

That’s the place where I learned that we stand up when the national anthem plays or the American flag goes past. We stand because of the ideals that flag and that song represent. We stand because it’s the respectful thing to do. We stand because that’s what our parents taught us.

In this house, I will always stand. I will stand because it’s the respectful thing to do. I will stand because this country has allowed me to go further and see more than any kid from down the Crick could reasonably expect. I’ll stand because I am a patriot and my love for this country goes far deeper than any passing celebrity cause or presidential posturing.

I can’t make anyone else stand up. You’re well within your rights to sit there like a lump. You can sit there all day and all night and I’ll respect your right to do so… but there isn’t a power in heaven or on earth that can make me respect, support, or in any way agree with the position you’re taking.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Mostly they’ve annoyed me in their misguided majority opinion that the most popular style of rifle currently purchased in the United States for sport shooting and home defense is, in their opinion, “most useful in military service.” That would be a fine point of contention, I suppose, if anyone, anywhere actually employed the AR-15 in actual military service… which in my mind is a pretty good indication that military service is, in fact, not where it is most useful.

2. Sympathy for heroin users. My ancestral homeland in far western Maryland and my current home at the norther edge of the Eastern Shore have a lot in common. Both have a small urban center largely surrounded by very small towns and lots of rural land. The other thing they have in common is heroin. Where there’s heroin, from our big cities to our small towns there are apologists for people who use it. They’re sick. They have disease. It’s society’s fault.It’s no different than you and your high blood pressure from the red meat and carbs. Except it’s completely different, of course. Even allowing that addiction is a disease, there are pretty substantial differences. Newspapers aren’t filled with reports of violent crime and property theft because folks with high blood pressure because they couldn’t scrape up the funds for a dose of their medication. I might take a stroke and die, but I’m not apt to sell off the neighbor’s family silver or hold up the nearest liquor store in the process. Our friends the heroin users, though, they’re up to all manner of debauchery to “get their medicine.” You want to kill yourself, have at it. You want to whore yourself out to get a quick score, help yourself. When the bodies that start falling belong to other people or you start thieving, well, my level of sympathy for your plight falls to damned near zero.

3. Mexico. Apparently the Mexican government is upset that we’re going to return to them the unlawful immigrants who they allowed to cross through their country. “But they’re not Mexican nationals,” the foreign minister cries. I suppose that’s one of those things they might should have thought of before letting them cross the entire length of Mexico with a wink and a promise that they were just passing through. Actions, like elections, have consequences.

Water rights…

Most days I watch the local morning news out of Baltimore. During the week, mostly I’m keeping an ear open for the traffic reports and weather forecast. On the weekends, I imagine it’s just force of habit more than anything else. In any case, I should probably change that habit, because as often as not, Baltimore news just agitates the hell out of me.

Take this morning, for instance – when one report was covering the continuing deterioration of the city’s water system and proposal that rates be increased 9% a year over each of the next 3 years. Municipal water systems are almost the working definition of the kind of services one might expect a city to provide, but of course much of the utility network undergirding Baltimore has been buried for more than a century. That’s long past the time even the most ambitious of engineers would have imagined their work staying in service. If you defer maintenance on such a system long enough all manner of bad things will tend to happen to it. That’s the situation Baltimore is facing.

Maintenance, of course, takes money and that’s one of those things that Baltimore never seems to have. It’s one of those pesky consequences of making policy decisions that chase your tax base out of the city and into the county. But this morning, the story focused on a “local activist” who opposed this “vicious rate increase” even while admitting that he knew the system needed upgrades almost city-wide.

I suppose my real question is, if the those who use the water – the people and businesses served by the municipal water system – aren’t responsible for paying to keep the system running, who is he proposing foot the bill? For some reason I’m catching the scent of another Baltimore City boondoggle the cost of which the city is going to try to pass along to the more than 5 million Marylanders who don’t use the city’s water. I’m also more than a little curious as to how I can tap into that alternate payment source if they day ever comes when I need to replace my well.

I mean if water is a right and should be provided for “free,” someone else should pay for it… or maybe that’s only true as long as the cash flows one way: from everywhere else in the state towards the Inner Harbor.

Conflicted…

A year ago, hell, six weeks ago I would have called Edward Snowden a traitor. Handing information to the press, especially classified information, goes against the grain and against a decade worth of training and experience. I can’t fathom a circumstance under which I’d do it… I’m philosophically opposed to finding myself in a Video-Surveillance-Usefederal prison or being “disappeared” by some of the more clandestine elements of our government, you see.

Maybe the country would be a happier place if we were all left fat and ignorant of what happens behind the fence line. With reality TV and the celebrity of the moment to entertain us, I wonder how long our collective national focus will remain fixed on what I think we can agree is at best an egregious violation of our collective rights as citizens of the republic. I’m sure it won’t be for as long as it should.

Look, our data is out there. We’re giving it freely to companies like Apple and Google every second of every day. It’s not that I have a problem with Uncle having a peek now and then, it’s that he’s blatantly said for so long that he’s not doing it. If the president or the Director of National Intelligence stood up and said “yep, we’re keeping an eye on phone calls and email and we’ve stopped X, Y, and Z as a result,” I’d probably be on the government’s side of this one without a second thought.

It’s the lie that chafes. It’s always the lie. That’s why I’m conflicted. And that’s why I can’t quite bring myself to condemn Mr. Snowden.

But not the others…

One of the worst arguments I’ve seen repeatedly in the gun control debate over the last six months almost always goes along the lines of: Well, you have to have a license to drive a car, so why not a license to own a gun? The thing is, the Constitution does not specifically address your right to transportation – by car, horse and buggy, train, air, slow boat, or on foot. Ownership of a car does not require licensure or permission from the state or federal government. If a 15 year old has the coin in his pocket (and his parent’s permission as a minor), he can buy and possess any car on the lot. Licensing drivers conveys the privilege to operate the car on the roads, not the “right” to own it in the first place.

Since gun ownership is a right defined by the Constitution, the more analogous argument would be in requiring a state and or federal license to speak publically. Since words are so often used to bully people and that bullying directly results in emotional and physical harm up to and including suicide, before someone is allowed to exercise their “right to free speech,” they should be required to take a four hour word safety course and obtain a license from their state indicating that they understand how harmful words can be. Perhaps we should also extend the licensing requirement to the right to vote, since elections, too, have real world consequences. In order to exercise your vote as a citizen, you should be required to show identification and pass an exam showing a minimum proficiency and understanding of the issues of the day. Since we’re free to abridge one constitutionally protected right, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be equally free to abridge the others in order to make the world a safer, more harmonious place.

As much as I hate to say it, for me it’s not a pro-gun/anti-gun position that’s the real issue here. I would be every bit as apoplectic if the state and federal government were trying to restrict the other right that I enjoy as a free citizen of the United States of America. The right to keep and bear arms is just the one that the powers that be have decided to come after first. I’m a good enough student of history to know that once one right falls, the others are all the more endangered. I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with how people can love some freedoms, but not the others.

Be counted… Be a patriot…

I’m the son of a cop. That means I was raised in a house where a gun was a daily fact of life. It was as much a part of my old man’s job description as his badge and did far more than that metal shield ever did to make sure he got to come home at the end of his shift. Growing up, I’d have thought something was wrong if they had been locked in fancy safes, or hidden on high shelves, if the triggers were locked, or the ammunition was stored on the other side of the house. I was taught proper safety, use, and maintenance of a firearm long before one was ever put into my hand. At my father’s knee I learned that a gun was a tool, nothing more, nothing less.

In my 34 years, I’ve shot paper targets and bottles, clay pigeons and real ones, groundhogs, squirrels, and an assortment of other (tasty) animals. In that time, I’ve never, not once, nra_logodrawn another human being into my sights. Every responsible gun owner knows that you never point a weapon at anything you’re not fully prepared to annihilate. People who do are criminals, but it’s going to be the responsible firearms owners who are called to account for the deranged actions of a handfull in this nation of 300+ million.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution tells me that I have the right (read that again… the Right) to keep and bear arms. It doesn’t say I have the right to keep a single barrel shotgun for duck season and a bolt action rifle for deer season. It doesn’t say I have only the right to hang a relic over the mantle for some ambiance. I have the right to keep and bear arms. I’ve read the Constitution and Bill of Rights just to make sure and still my president and my vice president and the governors of my beloved home state of Maryland and his counterpart in New York tell me that it’s a right that can be taken away by an act of Congress or the signing of a single name on an Executive Order. I dare say it’s not going to be that simple. A free people aren’t likely to be so easily disarmed.

For the first time in a decade, a few minutes ago I renewed by membership in the National Rifle Association. I know they’re not everyone’s favorite organization, even among gun owners. But friends, I urge you, if you value your Second Amendment freedoms, join the NRA, join Ducks Unlimited, join your local sportsmen’s club, visit your local shooting range to meet like minded individuals, and for God’s sake get involved and let your elected leaders (such as they are) know that you know your rights and demand that they be preserved. Whatever you do, don’t simply lay down. Don’t roll over. Don’t let your guard falter for even one moment, because that’s all it’s going to take before honest, responsible, law abiding gun owners will wake up wondering what happened and where their country has gone… and on that day all is lost.

Stand up. Be counted. Be a patriot.