The worst of us…

Where do you start on a day like this? We’ll debate on what to call events in Las Vegas. I’ve settled on calling it an act of domestic terrorism but the media is still working out the language. The left will use it to scream for “gun control” legislation and in fundraising ads for the next six months. The right will use it as evidence that the average citizen needs to be increasingly armed against an increasingly dangerous world and in fundraising activities for the next six months. That’s the simple politics of the thing. As much as everyone will say they don’t want to make a terrorist event like this an issue of politics, it’s what it will ultimately boil down to even as the Las Vegas Police and FBI continue to collect evidence at the scene.

The issues surrounding firearms and public safety are so charged and entrenched that we seem to be incapable of having even a conversation about them. Both sides live in dread that giving so much of an inch will cost them mightily during the next election. It’s one of those issues that’s so fraught that objectivity simply doesn’t exist – and that’s why I haven’t spent much time considering either side today.

What I have been considering is the other issue that we so rarely talk about it – that is, what’s going on in the head of someone who decides one day to drive to Las Vegas, rent a hotel room, and build a sniper nest? I’ve spent a lifetime around firearms, using them for both food and recreation and learning how to apply them in self defense. The idea of using one to lay siege to a public event simply would never occur to me. I don’t think it would occur to all but the smallest percentage of people. I find myself now particularly focused on those people – and what switch flips in their head that drives them to become the very worst of us.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

The One Network that Rules Them All. When I got back to the office on Monday my computer didn’t work. Well, it worked, but the network didn’t. After 30 hours we stretched a Ethernet cable halfway to Baltimore so I could at least check email, but so far the official response has been “we have a help ticket in.” If you want an employee to be productive it feels like the minimum they should do is make sure you have basic office equipment that works. But alas, that seems to be a bridge too far.

National security. Apparently the cell phone storage area at the office presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. The solution to this was to move the unlocked cabinet that contains 20-30 personally owned cell phones at any given time out into an open hallway. Perhaps we have served national security, but it feels like all we’ve really done is encourage property theft in the process. Call me crazy, but leaving an $800 phone unsecured in a building where people steal pie from the fridge feels just a little bit stupid. Net result, instead of being able to check my phone periodically during the day when I’m on my way to to meetings or go take a whiz, I’ll now be adopting a smoker’s schedule and schlepping out to my car once an hour. If only there were an easier way to be compliant and not try to pretend your employees live in 1983. Sigh.

Blaming others for bad personal decisions. Two douchebags were cornered in a cheap motel room by the police earlier this week in my adopted home town. Then they decided that being on the run from felony charges in another state wasn’t the only bad decision they wanted to make. One after another they raised their very realistic looking BB guns and very quickly paid the price for that level of stupidity. There are a couple of lessons here: 1) If you’re planning on making a last stand, try to have something with a bit more kick than a kid’s toy and 2) If you’re wanted on a felony warrant and the tactical unit shows up, all of your options from that point forward are bad for you… but some are worse than others. Now to the people who say it should have been ended peacefully, that they should have starved them out, all I can say that the only people to blame for these deaths are the ones that ended up getting killed. They committed a violent crime, they fled the jurisdiction, and when the police caught up with them they threatened the officers. I’m sure they were someone’s son and daughter, after all someone loves even the most useless of human beings, but as for me, well, sometimes I think it’s nice when the gene pool cleans itself a bit.

With no apologies…

One of my younger sisters was working at The Mall in Columbia yesterday morning when an as yet unidentified douchebag walked into a shop on the second floor and started shooting. That’s my way of saying that this one is something close to home and not simply an academic exercise in which I take my beliefs out for a walk. Yesterday, she did what she was supposed to do – sought cover and concealment, made sure her people were safe, and waited. Knowing our shared family traits, I would never go so far as to say “waited patiently.”

On any average day the vast majority of law abiding citizens of Maryland go through their day with nothing standing between them and the violent acts of a few than the tacit social compact that says the state should have a monopoly on violence. By extension, when you find yourself in harm’s way, the only course of action is waiting for the machinery of the state to come to your defense. While someone is committing the most violent of crimes even a few yards away, the state wants you to sit quietly and wait for them to take action on your behalf. That’s not a criticism of the Howard County Police Department, Maryland State Police, FBI, or any of the others who, by all accounts, were on scene incredibly quickly and did yeomen’s work to secure the area. It is a criticism, however, of a system that expects and encourages people look to the organs of the state to clothe, house, and protect them.

Despite the quick response of law enforcement, there were a few minutes – even if it were only one or two – where the first, last, and only line of defense was a locked door, patience, and hoping for the best. That’s not acceptable level of self defense to me – and shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone, really. I wish Maryland recognized the right of its citizens to defend themselves in equal and opposite measure to the force being brought to bear against them. In a world where only criminals have access to firearms, only criminals will use them – leaving the average person in the street beholden to the state entirely to provide for their personal defense. Some people – perhaps the majority in Maryland – are perfectly happy deferring their self defense requirements to the state. I’m not one of them.

Yesterday’s events hit close to home. I’m convinced now more than ever and with no apologies that free men and women must be allowed (and prepared) to defend themselves with all possible force at a moment’s notice. Sadly, I’m sure the leadership here in the great state of Maryland will politicize Columbia and use this as another excuse to lay even more onerous restrictions on those of us who try to live inside the bounds of the law.

First line of defense…

There’s no good or diplomatic way to talk about what happened in Washington this morning. Good men and women, faithful servants of the republic, and their families are hurting tonight because of the brazen acts of cowardly few. The discussion will be made political soon enough, but that part of the discussion won’t start here. Not tonight.

Tonight’s post is my simple reminder that no matter how secure we think we are, there’s no substitute for vigilance when it comes to keeping yourself and those around you safe.

– Be aware of your surroundings and remember if something doesn’t look right, it’s not right. Trust your self-preservation instincts.

– Whether you’re in a restaurant, your office, or a driving down a street in your neighborhood, know more than one way out of wherever you are. You never know when Plan B will need to become Plan A.

– Find concealment or cover when it’s called for; Run when it’s called for; Stand and fight when it’s called for. You should know which situation you’re facing and act accordingly.

The world is the world and bad things happen to good people every day. That means it’s up to each one if us to be aware of our surroundings, learn to recognize and react to what looks or feels out of place, and acknowledge that we’re all our own first line of defense when it comes to our health, welfare, and safety.

Where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain…

I’ve never been to Oklahoma, but if it’s anything like my perception of it, things have been boring there for a long time. If I had to put a date on it, I’d certainly say it’s been boring at least since we closed the frontier in the 1880s or at the latest during the oil booms of the early 20th century. The Old West and boom towns are full of stories about people being gunned down – for cheating at cards, rustling cattle, robbing banks, running liquor, and sleeping with the wrong man’s wife. What the old timey stories aren’t full of are examples of ass clowns who decided to shoot the place up because they were bored.

Seriously? They. Were. Bored. When I was a teenager back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth I’m not sure any of us would have even had the passing thought of running outside and shooting whoever happened to jog past the house. We had plenty of guns between us – and even used them to entertain ourselves by plinking bottles and aluminum cans – but gunning down someone for just wandering past never figured into the plan. Mostly, we entertained ourselves riding four wheelers, shooting pool, swimming, listening to music, exploring the just-born internet, playing the original game consoles, or what we generally called “hanging out.”

I’m already reading about how the shooting of Christopher Lane is a failure of society, about how these three turd burglars had difficult childhoods, and the hundred and one other excuses people have when their kids turn out to be assholes. Sorry mom. Sorry dad. You failed your kids, not me, not the government, not society, but you. Maybe if you had put a book in your kids’ hands at some point or sent them to music lessons or gotten them involved in sports they’d have turned out differently. Now you get to live with the consequences of your kids gunning an innocent in cold blood. Their actions are the result of your collective failure as parents.

It’s going to be up to the good people of Oklahoma to hand down the appropriate justice. I seem to recall them being the last bastion of the old fashioned firing squad in these United States. Let’s hope they put that tried and true method of sweeping the scum from the earth to good use.

This post is the third installment of “You Ask, I write.” Want an opinion on the news of the day? Feel free to leave a comment and I will opine.

Politics as usual…

First, let me say up front and for the record that the actions of this small excuse for a man are absolutely abhorrent to every right thinking person. I had hoped that we could collectively take at least 24 hours before turning tragedy into something political. Looking around Facebook, Twitter, and the major news sites that clearly was overly optimistic. Instead of focusing on the demented actions of a single coward, many in the amateur and professional electronic media this afternoon rushed to the “guns are bad” banner.

Plenty of smart people, many of my friends included, believe that to be the case. I think they’re wrong, but today still isn’t the moment for that debate. I’ll only leave you today with a single thought: No gun law in existence here or anywhere else on the planet can prevent bad men from performing evil deeds. I’m sure to be roundly criticized for saying it, but the root of our problems isn’t an inanimate object, whether that object is a gun, or a knife, or lead pipe. Deal with the underlying causes, and the profoundly unfortunate effects will largely go away.

Though he was writing specifically about the history and use of rifles, a quote from Jeff Cooper‘s The Art of the Rifle seems particularly relevant to the inevitable discussion of what happens when people and firearms intersect. On days like today, I’m reminded that “The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.”

Capacity…

I’m not much of a philosopher, but I know this isn’t the time for politics or posturing. It’s the time to come together, however briefly, and recognize that our country has been made the victim of a violent and bloody act of domestic terrorism. It’s made all the more tragic because the mass violence was delivered up at the hands of a fellow citizen. A West Wing episode titled “20 Hours in America” aired almost a decade ago, but it’s one of those hours of television that kind of sticks with you once you’ve seen it. Responding to a domestic terror attack on the campus of fictitious Kennison State University, President Bartlet offered what, for my money, is one of the best monologs in ever put on film. Given the events of the day, I found it more appropriate than any and words I could come up with on my own.

So without further introduction, I give you President Bartlet:

More than any time in recent history, America’s destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek, nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive… Every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

A clip of the entire scene is available on YouTube. If you’ve got two minutes, I highly suggest you give it a look. The image/sound quality isn’t great, but I think it serves the purpose.