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.

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.

How “common sense” regulations are applied in Maryland, or A proposal for common sense voting regulation…

On July 12th, the President of the United States remarked that “it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” It’s a nice bit of hyperbole, but the fact is that federal law prohibits a firearms dealer from selling a handgun to anyone younger than 21. It also prohibits everyone who’s not a licensed firearms dealer from transferring a handgun to anyone younger than 18. Since the very thing he’s telling us is bad and easy to do is already illegal, it strikes me that he could have an enforcement problem rather than an insufficient legislation problem… but let me explain why I would say such a thing.

I only bring this up because if our elected leaders think it’s “too easy” to buy a lawful handgun, I’d happily invite them to try walking through the process here in my native Maryland. The first stop is a 4-hour training course which will run you about $100. This portion is waiverable for those who meet certain conditions – law enforcement officers, current and former military members, and current owners of one of Maryland’s “controlled” species of firearms. The next step is applying for the Maryland Handgun Qualification License. This requires a potential buyer to submit a set of fingerprints ($52.75) and an application to the State Police (an additional $50), then wait for up to 30 days while the application is reviewed. Before you’ve even set foot in a gun shop, the state has already dinged you for at least $102.75 in fees – and that’s just if you don’t need to take the class as well.

If your application for a Maryland HQL is approved, all that means is that you have been given permission by the state to go to a gun shop, select your handgun, and then send the state another application for their permission to actually purchase the firearm you desire. Then you wait and on the 8th day you may be allowed to actually pick up your firearm from the shop… or not. That depends entirely on the store you’ve purchased from. If the state has a longer-than-seven-day backlog (I’ve seen the backlog run as long as two months) in conducting their mandatory checks, some shops will wait for final release to the customer while others strictly observe only the seven day wait mandated by law. Oh, and don’t you dare think about trying to go through this process any more often than once per month.

So there you have it, from start to finish you could be looking upwards of a 60-day process filled with regulatory hoops in order to legally purchase a handgun. I can see how that might be far easier than walking into a bookstore and picking up the latest best seller or heading over to Best Buy to pick up a new laptop… or in a pinch, even walking into a library and checking out a book or using one of their computers. Very difficult tasks, indeed. Unless, of course, the president was talking about people who sell a firearm illegally. In that case, I don’t suppose any number of new laws or additional fees will be much of a bother to them since they’re not bothering to comply with the existing laws anyway.

I’m often curious how many of my fellow citizens might be convinced to support similar “common sense” regulations that impinged on their Constitutional right to vote by requiring state issued identification, a 4-hour voter’s training class, a $100 voting license, and only being allowed to vote one ballot per election cycle – so if you want to vote for president, forget about also voting in the down-ballot race for Senate, governor, or county commissioner. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that if one freedom can be thus abridged, there shouldn’t be a problem placing similar checks on the others as well. It’s for our own good after all.

What’s changed?

The great debate over the virtue of the Second Amendment rages today as loudly as ever. Both sides scream past each other, fearing that giving an inch of ground will inexorably lead to the tide running hard against them.

There have been firearms in the United States since before we were the United States. The first colonists to wade ashore in Jamestown brought ball and powder in equal parts to hunt on and defend the new world they intended to carve out of the American wilderness.

What you don’t hear about them doing is walking into a tavern or church and taking a pot shot at their neighbors. I’ve not done an exhaustive study on the topic, but I can’t think of a large number of historical example of what we’d commonly call random acts of “mass violence” in schools, businesses, and public places until the latter half of the last century. I have no doubt they happened, what with humans being a particularly violence prone species and all, but a quick look doesn’t point to seeing it happen with particularly great frequency.

So my question, then, is what’s changed? What makes the average American in 2015 more likely to walk into a church to unload both proverbial barrels than his counterpart in 1815 or 1915? Access to firearms isn’t a satisfactory answer. If anything, a gun was easier to get throughout most of American history than they are today. They hung on the mantle, were propped in the corner, or lived in bedside tables without benefit of trigger locks or gun safes. I’m old enough to remember a time when a rifle behind a truck’s bench seat in the school parking lot meant that hunting season was open, not that one of the students (or the teachers) was plotting mayhem and chaos.

What’s changed? Are we intrinsically worse human beings than our predecessors? Are we less able to judge the relationship between action and consequence? Or do we just tend more towards being batshit crazy than our saintly ancestors?

No surer way…

There’s no surer way to convince me to do something than to tell me I can’t. That’s why I take Maryland’s new gun laws set to go into effect on October 1st a personal affront and challenge. The modern sporting rifle (a.k.a. Assault Rifle; a.k.a. Evil Black Gun; a.k.a. Military Style Rifle), isn’t something I would have picked up for my own collection. I’m not a rifle guy for the most part. I’ve probably put more rounds through an old beat up tube-fed .22 than I have any combination of the other rifles I’ve ever had my hands on. Then the governor and state legislature of MD_CompliantMaryland did something stupid. They told me and every other law abiding gun owner in the state that we shouldn’t be allowed to have these “scary” looking rifles because someone, somewhere might use them for devious purposes. The same thing could be said of kitchen knives, of course. I mean does anyone really “need” that big, scary looking butcher knife or meat cleaver? Just think of all the needless kitchen related injuries we could prevent if we were only allowed to buy paring knives. Sigh. I’m exhausted from making hundreds of variations of that argument every time someone asks why I insist on exercising my Second Amendment rights.

The fact is, I would have lived out my life and been perfectly happy with an old bolt action rifle if my state’s governor wasn’t dead set on telling me what I should or shouldn’t want or be able to own. We arm NATO countries. We arm the Iraqis. We arm the Egyptians. We arm the Afghanis. We arm the Syrians. Hell, within my own lifetime we even armed the Iranians. We send guns to Mexico that are turned on our own. But when it comes to allowing Americans to arm themselves against threats to our life, liberty, and property, well, that’s a bridge too far.

I don’t understand a world where that makes sense. And that’s why as soon as some official in Washington or Annapolis says I shouldn’t want something, I feel the compulsion to run out and start hoarding it. I’m not sure I can put a finger on the last law passed in either place that didn’t result in more taxes out of my pocket or being allowed to enjoy fewer personal liberties. Until that trend reverses course, exercising all your rights at every possible opportunity just makes good sense.

Maybe that day will never come. If it doesn’t, at least I’ll be able to say I’ve done my small part.

Molon labe.

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.