Thursday, June 7, 2012

Obama's Gonna Git Yer Guns!

So now that I live in the Socialist State of Amerika and no longer have any freedoms, let alone firearms, I must begin to question why anyone voted for Obama. When guns were banned from private ownership and all ammo was seized, I should have known it was coming. 

When Obama's healthcare act passed, the quality of care I received went abysmally downhill. When the mortgage giants went under, I could no longer entertain the hope of owning a house. When American auto makers went under, foreigners laughed at us and car prices skyrocketed to the point where I couldn't hope to own a car either. 

After private oil and gas companies were regulated into oblivion, I don't think I could even get gas to put in the car, come to think of it. And now that Obama has instituted his secret tax scheme, I don't even have 5% of my income left over after taxes.

Every right wing source warned of these horrors! Why did we not believe them?

You might have gathered that I'm being sarcastic. Presidents may say they're Republicans or Democrats, but honestly, they do what they do without much regard to party lines. Reagan raised taxes. Obama kept wars going and didn't go after gun owners. Yet from all people scream about hysterically on either side of American politics, you'd think the antichrist had been elected if their chosen party doesn't land their candidate in the White House.

Your rights matter. Your vote matters, believe it or not. Your representatives, most of them, try to stay elected, and special interests and rich donors aside, do the best to represent what they think you want. So be an educated voter. Read up on politicians past voting history. You'll see there who they truly are, behind the talk. And look carefully at why they voted like they did. A vote against a bill that you like may be because the bill was poisoned with a rider that would harm more than the bill would help, etc. Be smart. Don't become mindless single issue voters, or take what the press on either side tells you at face value. Be the human being you have the potential to be.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A SWAT-resistant house

The topic of "What do you do if you get swated?"came up recently on TTAG. It's a good question. What if someone decided to play a potentially fatal prank on you and get a SWAT team to bust down your door, guns at the ready, shooting you and your dogs to death?

Well, the first issue is, we all live in the modern equivalent of this:
So the issue is, a SWAT team, an armed mob, or a halfway-determined armed robber or two could huff, puff and blow down your front door without breaking a sweat. Or your windows.

"But Mr. Smith!" you say, "I don't want to live in something that looks like a jail with burglar bars on the windows!" 

You don't have to. Luckily, with a bit of planning and not too much money, you too can make your home resistant to things from a small battering ram all the way up to an APC. Something like an M1 Abrams tank shelling your house is a bit more problematic if you want to live in something that looks like a house, but the odds of the ATF or the like shelling a civilian house are hopefully low enough to avoid going to the lengths it take to make your house resistant to such things.

The other important point is an exit strategy. You don't want your house to become your tomb.

Let's take a basic review of the threats you'd probably face from anyone determined to get in.
  1. People with heavy boots but no battering rams or pry bars.
  2. People with man-portable battering rams.
  3. People with vehicle-powered battering rams.
  4. People with an APC.
  5. People with small arms (handguns, rifles up to .50 cal.)
  6. People with a flamethrower or other fire source.
  7. People with heavy arms / destructive devices.
  8. People with an Abrams tank. 
So this list is ordered from smallest cost and difficulty to defend against to largest cost and highest difficulty to defend against. If the scenario is just someone with heavy boots trying to kick down your door, it's not too hard to build a better door. If the scenario is someone with a tank, a flamethrower or a mortar, it's both difficult and expensive to build anything that looks remotely like a house that will defend against such things.

Not impossible though. Take a look at the EDS datacenters and you'll notice the ivy-covered anti-vehicle bunkers and retractable tank barriers. To the casual eye, they looks pretty much like any other corporate building around them. However, it'd take more than a SWAT team to get inside one. Most of us don't have the sort of budget EDS has, or enough land to build such defensive features, so we'll start with what the average American has and work our way up.

This is an extensive and lengthy topic, so I'll just go over the rough outlines for the first two points from the list above.

So the average American lives in something that's roughly the equivalent of a cardboard box. A few minutes with an axe will get any intruder through any wall. Doors and windows go even quicker. Ditto to anything heavier, or someone with a fire source.

So first things first. Build a door that won't fall down to anything human-powered. It's not too difficult to have something that could be mistaken for a normal door that has a high-security frame and an impact rating high enough to withstand a man-portable battering ram.

Windows in modern dwellings are a defensive sore-spot. They're big and offer absolutely no defense. Cleverly disguised steel shutters are about the only thing you can do without seriously altering the existing building:

It's not something that will stop people forever, but it will stop them long enough (hopefully) for you to make your exit.And that's what it comes down to. Assessing the risk, strengthening your dwelling to the point it will resist what you'll likely encounter, and making sure it will last long enough for you to be alerted, gather your senses, and get yourself (and your family if applicable) to an exit that isn't obvious to your attackers.

On a philosophical note, this isn't aimed at resisting any legitimate authority. If someone comes to your door with a signed and legitimate warrant and asks nicely, you should obey. But they don't always ask nicely. Sometimes they bust doors down without warning and shoot you and your dog before anyone can do anything. Sometimes they falsify evidence to get a warrant, shoot your dog, your kids and yourself and set the place on fire. Sometimes it's not anyone who has anything legal on their mind trying to get into your house and rob, steal, plunder, rape, murder, etc. 

The thing is, you never know what it will be, so it makes sense to hope for the best while still being prepared for the wost. And statistically speaking, the odds of such a thing happening are pretty low. But for some people, just because the odds are low, they realize that they're still higher than zero, and while taking precautions is pointless if nothing ever happens, it's got a great point if anything ever does. 

For Americans, the fourth amendment is a bit of a joke these days. Few, if any, are safe from unreasonable search and seizure. It's on our own shoulders to make sure that we are, not to leave that up to those that should protect us but with depressing frequency, end up killing enough 'good guys' to make it obvious that they can't be depended on to do the right thing enough of the time.

You have but one life. It is up to you to safeguard it from all threats.

To be continued...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Silencers Make Sense - Cars Without Mufflers Are Illegal, Why Aren't Guns Without Silencers Legal?

Silencers for guns are completely legal, but heavily regulated and highly expensive in the United States. It doesn't make much sense - driving a car without a muffler is illegal. So why would any government make it hard to use a safety device that protects one of your most useful senses - hearing?

Much of the blame goes to the hysteria about gangsters in the 1930's. A piece of legislation, the National Firearms Act of 1934 made owning any sort of firearm or firearm accessory associated with gangsters almost impossible by putting the current equivalent of a $3,200 dollar tax on it. The right to keep and bear firearms is protected by the second amendment, so outright bans were considered legally problematic, so a tax that would put such things out of the reach of ordinary citizens was used instead. The 1934 NFA eventually did fail a legal challenge and was voided and replaced by the 1968 NFA.

In short, short barreled rifles and shotguns, machine guns and silencers are still considered, in this day and age, to be 'gangster paraphernalia'. Everything but silencers is an argument for another day.

Much of the old gun control laws are falling by the wayside - look at the fact that concealed carry is legal in almost every state now, instead of just a handful as it was but a few decades ago. The laws on silencers should be re-examined as well.

Their use as a safety device far outweighs any negative stigma. To be honest, a silencer doesn't make a gun silent, despite what you may see in the movies. Much like a muffler on your car doesn't make it impossible to hear the car, the same is true for any gun. Other parts of the world have much more common sense approaches to silencers - they don't have any laws against them.

Would you ban this or require its use?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In Defense of Common Sense in the Martin / Zimmerman Shooting

As every gun blogger under the sun has commented on this, so must I. If only to say something more in line with common sense than rooting for the guy who looks like you, which both sides are doing with an astonishing fervor. Some say 'wait until the verdict is in', but most everyone else is on the 'lynch him now!' or 'he was just a good 'ol boy defending him self from a young thug'. Had no one raised their voice though, it's entirely possible Zimmerman would have shot and killed an unarmed teen and gotten no more attention than a catch and release fish. In many places, even if you shoot someone breaking into your home in the middle of the night, you can still expect to visit the jail and have your weapon taken from you and put into evidence for years.

Zimmerman followed an unarmed teen who had not made any move towards him, threatened him, brandished a weapon, or made anything that can reasonably be interpreted as a threat to Zimmerman's continued good health.

George Zimmerman had elected himself as the lone neighborhood watchman, something that tends to be indicative of an annoying sort of person I would have little to say to at a party. In general, not necessarily in particular, as I don't know him personally, everything there is that's public knowledge about the guy seems to indicate he's the sort that likes to stick his nose everywhere, even when it's not been invited. If you live in a crime-ridden neighborhood, forming a neighborhood watch for mutual self-defense is understandable. If you're the only volunteer in a nice middle-upper class Florida neighborhood, you're probably the over-zealous type that has so few threats in life you have to search to find them. That's the stereotype. It's not a baseless one, but it is a broad brush to paint with.

Martin's father lived in the neighborhood he was in. While he may have looked 'out of place' to Zimmerman, it made perfect sense for him to be there. Martin, by all accounts, had no prior arrests, and as far as the law was concerned, lived a fairly reasonable and civil existence for any teenager. He certainly got into no more trouble than the average teenager, and considering my own youth, far less than some.

Zimmerman thought Martin looked suspicious. Zimmerman had caught a thief once, perhaps he thought this would be another feather in his cap. He calls 911 and at one point, sees Martin run (who wouldn't if they were being stalked by a creepy guy in a vehicle?) and tells the 911 operator he's giving chase. The 911 operator, probably rolling their eyes at this, says 'No, we don't need you to do that'. AKA, 'you're not a real cop, please don't confuse yourself with one'. The difference between vigilante and cop is an important one - cops, to some degree, have a structure that limits, controls and enforces their actions and conduct. That doesn't stop them from being bullies with a badge if they wish to indulge in that behavior, but it is far better than vigilantes who are accountable to no one. 

What happened after Zimmerman chased Martin down is not a matter of public record, and speculation runs rampant. How it ended is not though. Zimmerman shot Martin once in the chest and Martin died.

Much has been made of Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which has the provision that renders any defense under it null if you're the one that started the conflict. You can't simply chase someone down and shoot them in the chest if they choose to defend themselves.

Had the positions been reversed, and Martin had chased an unarmed Zimmerman down and shot and killed him, Martin would be looking at a long jail sentence and manslaughter at the bare minimum. 

That's what's telling. The law may say many things, but how it's applied in the end is what makes the law what it is in the end. If you can chase down an unarmed teen and shoot him in the chest, killing him and not be arrested or have your gun taken away? There is no effective law. Your group, within loose confines, is free to shoot and kill unarmed people if they're viewed as 'not being in the right place'. In other words, you probably couldn't get away with breaking down the door to Martin's home and shooting him in his bed, but if he's in a neighborhood that's mostly populated by your group and he looks out of place? In Florida, you can kill him and face no jail time.

That's a heck of a legal system.

If you chase someone down and shoot them, it can't be self-defense, not in the legal sense. You may be surprised that someone doesn't do exactly as you want them to if you have a gun and they don't, but killing them doesn't make that self-defense by any stretch. Martin *could* have beaten Zimmerman to the point where his life was in danger, but as Zimmerman chased Martin down, it would have been manslaughter at the least. Video of Zimmerman after the shooting, his appearance, demeanor and behavior do not indicate that he was beaten. Even if he was, he chased someone down and shot them.

Zimmerman was not charged and was not held. Had Martin done the shooting, no reasonable person who lived there would say that the situation would have been the same. Racism is a vile weed that should grow in no civilized heart unchecked. It can be easily said that racially-based interpretations of the law were applied by the officers that took Zimmerman in and those who let him go.

Zimmerman may have had a right to defend his life, but chasing down and killing an unarmed teen diminishes that right severely. You are responsible for your actions and their outcomes. The law is not an invincible shield that allows you to do as you please and face no repercussions. There are many who play the 'ah, X happened by the letter of the law, even though X, by the spirit of the law is entirely wrong' game and it is a disappointment and a sorrow to behold. Justice in this life is imperfect at best, and often it is only  as good as circumstances allow for. In this case though, it has not been thoroughly or reasonably applied to all parties equally.

Zimmerman killing an unarmed Martin is horrible. The law being selectively applied is despicable.

Update (4/22/12):

ABC News got a copy of a photograph of Zimmerman's head taken minutes after the shooting. It's cut up and bloody. Not horribly so, but enough to support Zimmerman's story that he was hit by Martin.

While better than Zimmerman shooting Martin with no provocation, this still places Zimmerman in a bad place legally. If you follow someone that hasn't done anything to you, leave your car, follow them onto someone else's property and confront them, then shoot them when they hit you, it's not a very happy place in the eyes of the law.

Unless you've got a hell of a lawyer, you fail the 'no charges brought' scenario and end up somewhere between 'manslaughter' and 'second degree murder'.

As a gun owner, this is the sort of thing YOU NEVER WANT TO DO. There's a good saying about 'don't do stupid things with stupid people in stupid places', and this manages to hit two out of three of those.

You're not the police. You have no mandate to enforce the law, or to protect others (unless their life is currently and clearly in direct danger, eg, someone has a gun pointed at a bystander). You should never 'see what someone is up to', unless it's on your own property. Nor should you chase after people and confront them.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

Imagine it from Martin's view. Some older man is following him in a vehicle as he's walking down the street. It's already in 'creepy molester in a panel van truck' territory as far as he can tell. Then the dude gets out and starts chasing him. Creepy dude doesn't mean him any good clearly. Creepy dude confronts him. He punches the creepy dude, then the creepy dude shoots him.

A lot different than Zimmerman's view, no doubt. In Zimmerman's eyes, he sees a kid where he doesn't belong, up to no good, and probably casing the neighborhood. As the neighborhood watchman, he has to do something. He follows the kid. The kid takes off where he can't see him from his vehicle. He gets out of his truck and confronts the suspect burglar. The suspect burglar throws a punch and knocks him on his back. So he pulls out his gun and shoots the suspect burglar. 

How does the law view it though? That's the million dollar question.

The other question is how do I view it?

Dude did what he should never have done, killed someone after provoking them (as far as can be determined) in a yard that wasn't his own.

I don't have a lot of pity for the man with the gun in this case. He was an idiot. I have a fair amount of sympathy for Martin, in his place, I might have punched a guy following me like that as well. In Zimmerman's place, I wouldn't have followed the kid. I would have called the cops, stayed in my truck, come home and eaten dinner a free man with a clean record.

Guns don't make people heroes. Guns don't make people cops.Guns give you an advantage you wouldn't have otherwise, a chance to even the odds against you.

If you shoot an unarmed person, there'd better be a hell of a good reason for doing so.

"Because I chased him and he punched me." might not cut it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's a funny thing living in America. Land of the free, home of the lazy. Things are good here, it's hard to say otherwise. Rule of law is sound, politicians are only slightly corrupt, the new sheriff doesn't end up dead on a routine basis and armed gangs don't roam the land. Compared to some other places, it's a paradise.

That's part of the problem really. It's too nice. Everything our forefathers fought and died for has come to be next to meaningless because we've never had to go without those things. So when our rights are eroded bit by bit in return for some imaginary thing that's better - freedom for perceived security, etc - we have no idea what we're building, part by part. We're all building an America that's extravagant, money-wasting, smothering, over-cautious and all too often, playing the job of Team America - World Police.

I love the military, don't get me wrong. The Department of Defense gave me my first real job. There is no more American institution, and with the vast power it has, the military has never tried to rule America. Take a look an any number of other countries where the military is the de facto government, simply because they are the strongest. Civilian direction of the military is one of the cornerstones of the America that we know.

That's part of the problem really. Civilians have little clue as to the horrors of war. That's not a bad thing, mind you. War never really made anything better, it just made bad things stop, and only sometimes. Often at the cost of the mental well-being of those that participated in it. But if you never see that side of it, and there's a problem, and you've got a giant military hammer, everything looks like a nail. Every conflict that gets good press, every 'strategic resource' or 'area of vital concern', no matter where it lies, who's country it's in, whether we should or shouldn't - we do.

It's expensive. It's hard to have a large military with expensive toys and not justify their existence somehow. Humans like wars, they really do. When problems come up, there's always someone willing to die to solve them. And that's the heart of the problem. If someone has to die, so be it. But we should never use military force as first resort. Nor should we impinge on inherent inalienable rights of others unless our continued survival is at risk. If you're going to kill a man, you'd better have a damn good reason. If you're going to occupy a country, it'd have to be an even better reason.

Well... As history goes, we've been shadowboxing 'perceived' threats since WWII. Very few of them, from a historian's viewpoint, could be considered legitimate. The eye of history is a cold one. We look at the Romans now and shudder at their bloody history of conquest and genocide. The glory of Rome was their excuse. What's ours?