Firearm Ownership: Right or Privilege?

fotolia_4846112_XSSince my sixteenth birthday (boy was that a long time ago) I have had an on again off again relationship with the National Rifle Association. I can’t bring myself to totally 100% agree with their positions on firearm ownership but I find myself wanting to support an organization that is out to prevent the outlawing of private firearm ownership for a whole host of reasons.

First off our founding fathers felt the private ownership of firearms was such an important right that it was second after the much more important right to free speech.  I find that placement rather significant.

Apparently the Supreme Court agrees with the importance of this amendment having recently validated the right of US citizens to keep and bear arms.  In my opinion there is another side to this coin that gets lost in the discussion of private firearm ownership.

A right comes with it responsibility.  In my opinion a right is not the same thing as an entitlement.

I was very disturbed this morning as I was opening an envelope from the NRA looking for me to renew my membership.  It lapsed a while ago and it hasn’t been the highest priority in my mind in terms of spending money.  I may or may not renew my membership on my own terms.

The thing that disturbed me was the quote “they want to firearm ownership a privilege instead of a right.”  Not sure who “they” specifically are but I can guess.

Stepping back from that quote for a minute the thought that occurs to me there is something just as lethal as a firearm that can be found outside o good percentage of US homes, the automobile.  There is no constitutional amendment that gives you the right to own an automobile, but nobody will stop you from buying one.  You might have trouble registering that automobile (depending on state laws) if you don’t have a valid driver’s license.   As soon as you get behind the wheel of the automobile a whole host of laws kick in regulating your behavior with that automobile.  If you get caught driving without a valid driver’s license (or insurance) you may find yourself wearing a shiny pair of bracelets that hold your arms behind your back and an all expenses paid trip to the local jail.

As it should be.

Another less common example is nothing stops you from buying an airplane. If you have the pocketbook to support that then you can buy one and leave it parked at the airport.  Get behind the controls without proper qualifications and you may find yourself having an uncomfortable conversation with (federal?) law enforcement.  The level of consequence for something going wrong with you at the controls of an airplane are much higher than an automobile and therefore the qualification process is much more stringent.

Back to the driving license analogy, if you have a driver’s license that is valid in your state that normally allows you to drive that ’57 Chevy or other passenger vehicle.  Likewise you can operate a pickup truck, some cargo vehicles in other words vehicles of a certain class. If you want to operate any of those vehicles and get paid for it by ferrying passengers around the stakes get higher and you need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).  If you want to drive an eighteen wheeler there are endorsements that get added to that license depending on the types of cargo involved.  Same thing applies to bus drivers.

The point I’m making here is you are not being restricted from doing any of that but you have to demonstrate your qualification to have the permits for the level of driving (or piloting) you want to achieve. Consequences for demonstrating your lack of qualification later on after you get the permit may result in your permit being rescinded or cancelled altogether.

As it should be.

How does this apply to firearm ownership?  Very simple, I totally believe that firearm ownership should be contingent on being able to demonstrate you have the head knowledge (written test) and the practical knowledge (demonstrate fire arm safety understanding, marksmanship skills) to hold a firearms permit.

I’m not talking a one size fits all solution here though.

If you want to be considered for firearm ownership there should be a process analogous to the way driver’s licensing is done.

Level 1 Permit (learner’s permit)

This permit would include an application, fingerprinting, and background check and would be the equivalent to the “learner’s permit” issued in most states to wannabe drivers. After being issued the Level 1 Permit as I call it you’d have the opportunity to gain the knowledge necessary for the Level 2 Permit. Just as a person learning to drive is allowed to drive with supervision you’d be allowed to practice marksmanship under supervision.   Once you’re ready for the test then comes the next step.

Level 2 Permit (Basic)

At this stage you take a test showing you have the knowledge of firearm safety, laws pertaining to firearm use and other topics related to safe and responsible firearm ownership and once the test is passed you can apply for one or both of two endorsements.  A shotgun endorsement would allow you to purchase and own shotguns.  The rifle endorsement would allow you to purchase and own rifles with low capacity magazines.

Level 3a (Handgun)

Handguns in my opinion as well as personal experience and observation requires the owner to be a bit more on the ball. The short barrel of a handgun means paying close attention to where the muzzle is pointed is even more important.  I’ve personally witnessed someone shooting themselves with their own handgun due to what I call a violation of common sense.  This permit would require more stringent demonstration testing.

Level 3b (High Power Rifles)

High power rifles such as 30-06 and other calibers have much more potential for raising havoc if improperly used.  With extra kinetic energy such as that needed to stop a charging wild pig or bear comes more responsibility.

Level 4a (Assault Weapons — semiautomatic)

I use the term assault weapon here because I couldn’t think of another way to get my point across in a way most people would understand.  I’m talking about what common sense would tell you is a military style weapon. An example  that comes to mind is the AR-15.  I wouldn’t mind owning one myself but I think the obvious extra levels of havoc these have the potential for requires more responsibility.

Level 4b (Automatic Weapons)

Do I really have to go into detail here?

I may have overlooked something so forgive me.  I want to unequivocally state that I am all for personal firearm ownership, but I hope the reader catches one of the threads in this post responsibility.   I am not saying we should do away with firearms.  I’m not even proposing stopping certain firearms from being owned I’m saying if you want one you need to be ready to demonstrate that you are responsible enough to own one.  That responsibility includes using a firearm responsibly, storing it responsibly (so Junior doesn’t take it with them to school) and maintaining the weapon so you don’t end up hurting yourself with a misfire.

To counterbalance all of this legislation needs to reaffirm the right of honest law abiding citizens to own firearms.  States and municipalities should not have the ability or right to take away responsible firearm ownership from those law abiding citizens.  Laws regarding illegal use of firearms (a topic altogether different) need to be beefed up making the consequences of such actions more draconian.  A good place to start there is mandatory sentencing for anyone using a firearm in the commission of a crime.  The penalties need to be even stiffer if the person in question would have not qualified for a firearms permit in the first place.

Who does the testing and administration of permits?

Just as here in New Jersey the motor vehicles commission has been privatized education, testing and permit issuance I would envision being privatized. Yes someone can make money on this, but if it reduces some of the negative issues surrounding firearm ownership then it might not be a bad thing.  It also removes politics from the equation making the permit process more neutral.

I have in the past enjoyed my time down at the firearms range punching holes in paper or at a skeet range blowing away clay disks thrown up into the air.  I’ve also in the past been an avid hunter.  I spent six years in the US Navy and for watch standing purposes carried a M1911 .45 ACP on my hip.  (Love to own one for nostalgia reasons)  The combination of those experiences make me understand both sides of this very thorny issue.  To use a bad pun here there are no silver bullets to eliminate the carnage caused by the unbalanced or sociopaths.  There is no way to one hundred percent eliminate illegal firearms from our streets given how many AK-47s (for example) get into this country  every year.  (Gee. hasn’t it been illegal to own an automatic weapon without a federal permit since the roaring twenties?)

Leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear what people think of all this…

So.. where’d you hear that from?

Blah..blah...blah...blah...

Blah..blah…blah…blah…

Ah.. the power of the internet… now anybody can have a pulpit to preach from and a megaphone to do it with.  Obviously if that were not the case this blog would not exist.  Anybody who can afford to have a hosted site or have the ability to get space on any one of the free web sites can say anything and everything they want to say.  I love it.  I’m not being sarcastic, I really love it.  Used properly it is a great way to facilitate the free exchange of ideas.

There is a dark side however and this curmudgeon is great for spotting the downside. Whether by email or via a blog or on Twitter people have been known to publish unsubstantiated fact, innuendo, rumor or whatever without checking their facts first.  Worse yet there are sites and blogs out there that publish articles to the internet that take fact and embellish on it to the point of drowning out the fact to support an agenda or worse.

Careers have been ruined by this bad behavior and it gets worse. Start photo-shopping images and you can ruin lives.  Here is a classic example (offsite link) of what I’m talking about and this is far from the only time it has happened.

Tales told on Facebook about people ruin lives as well. There are a number of articles that have been written by Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal and others that spell out just how easily you can ruin your own reputation saying nothing about how much damage you can cause to others.

Another facet of this downside is the reporting of so called fact about news stories.  I hate to beat this dead horse any more. In the wake of the Ferguson shootings there were all sorts of people on Twitter claiming to “know for a fact <insert statement>” on both sides of the issue.  In my opinion there should not have been any sides but there were lots of folks with agendas stirring up sentiment in one direction or the other.

Just because you see something on Twitter doesn’t make it so. There have been lots of wild claims made on Twitter that later turned out to be false.

What to do:  Number one, think critically.  If something sounds a little to pat or extreme or fantastic it probably is.  Number two:  check facts for yourself.  Critical thinking and doing your own homework will keep you from being led down the rosey path of someone else’s agenda.

In every story there are multiple views of what happened that are shaped by the lenses people’s instinctive prejudices based on their upbringing, life’s experiences and other factors.  Someone who had a friend or a relative that went to jail may not like the police very much. Something happens involving a police officer and automatically the police officer is guilty of a crime.

I will not go on record saying there aren’t bad police officers.  Police officers represent a cross section of society and they bring their own baggage to the table. I tend to be pro law enforcement but I have certainly met a few police officers over the years that made me think “what a jerk!” Case in point was a police officer sitting in a diner having his lunch and I overheard him say “there’s three kinds of people in this world, suspects, victims and law enforcement.”   Not exactly a sterling moment in public relations for that police department.

Those aren’t the police officers I think about.  I think of all the very dedicated to public service police officers I’ve known personally over the years that would do whatever they could for you if needed.  I’m talking about the one police officer I interacted that got down on his belly in uniform because his long arms could reach the puppy that had fallen into a storm drain.  He could have waited for animal control, but the young girl who’s puppy it was tugged on his heart strings.

There have been other news events where social media has caused disinformation to circulate frighteningly quick. Interesting excersize is to Google for “superstorm Sandy disinformation.”  There was loads of disinformation about Sandy released ranging from the downright silly to tales of conspiracies linking Sandy to any number of supposedly powerful organizations with world domination in mind.  Embarrassing for me as a practicing Christian was the Christian group that put out on a website an article blaming gays for the wrath of Superstorm Sandy.

The internet makes a great way to have your own bullhorn and pulpit.  It also makes for an excellent bullying tool and a source for deceit.

Be careful what you believe.

Should You Spank Your Child?

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This was the question posed by “Good Morning America” this morning on Twitter. Before I get into my opinion on this let me define what I consider to be “spanking.”
First what it is not.  A spanking should not use a switch, belt, paddle, wooden spoon or other implement in its application.  A spanking in  my book is the firm application of one’s hand to the gluteous maximus of the child in question.

I grew up getting spanked for transgressions, not just by my parents but the town I grew up in if you messed up royally enough it could be a case where you got a spanking on the spot by the closest adult and then another one when you got home.

A spanking should never be applied in a blind rage.  It should be applied calmly and when the child understands what they are being spanked for.  The spanking should not be excessive.  Ten slaps on the butt should suffice for just about any offense I can think of.

I can just hear someone out there whining “oh… but you’ll just hurt the child’s psyche.”   Bull****.

Raising children should be a balancing act between just enough permissiveness to allow a child to grow into their own and limits on just what avenues they are allowed to explore.  Some of those limits should be pretty obvious, such as not stealing from the local convenience store, what time to be home, do your chores and homework and so on.

So, do I believe in spanking?  Yes.  Can it be excessive? Yes.   The object to a spanking is to demonstrate to children there are consequences to their actions if they misbehave.  Not to injure the child.  This is just common sense which I realize is not so common any more.

Press Grandstanding

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Let me start by reiterating that in my honest opinion the loss of life no matter the circumstances of a human being is a huge loss for all of us. That human being was a son or daughter to someone and there is no greater pain than the loss of a child for a parent.  

That said, let me examine something for a moment.

It would seem to me that the mainstream media went on a witch hunt right after the Ferguson shooting. Any news item that could smear the officer involved in the shooting was aired or in print.  The Twitter-sphere went nuts with every assumption the officer was guilty.

The forensic evidence was reviewed recently and the resuts are interesting to say the least. 

The first item that caught my attention was the fact the autopsy report revealed that Michael Brown did not have his hands raised in surrender at all.  The bullet entered the back of his arm and came out the underside indicating his hands could NOT have been raised in surrender.  The second piece of evidence showed Michael’s hand was in contact with the firearm when it was discharged.

Those two pieces of evidence change the entire scenario as depicted in the press and as well told by word of mouth by race baiters involved on the periphery.

What saddens me is the escalating violence that followed.  Businesses were ransacked in the looting and rioting that followed.  Now you have more victims in the violence in the form of small business owners going out of business and losing their livelyhoods not to mention that was done to the communities themselves.

I write this article not to condemn Michael Brown himself.  As I said in the beginning of this post any loss of life is tragic. I offer my condolences to the family of Michael Brown for his loss.

If anything good can come out of his loss there are lessons to be learned here.   Our press reporting has become flawed.  Instead of just reporting the news there are editorial adgendas that get in the way.   The justice  system does work, maybe not the way we’d like it to but it works.  Don’t buy into the race baiting, those that participate have their own personal adgendas and they are not always in line with what is best for our society.

Voter ID

registerA lot controversy has swirled around the concept of requiring proof of identity at the polling places.and I’m a bit confused as to why.

When I first became a voter way back when I just turned 18 I ended up going back home (only a mile) and getting my voter registration card out of the middle drawer of my desk.   I had failed to put it in my wallet as I had been instructed when I registered in the first place. My bad.

Returning to the poll I presented my Voter Registration Card to the clerk in the A-H line and she checked a physical representation of the voter registeration rolls for my name as printed on the card.  Finding my name she turned the register around and asked me to sign next to my name.   One Voter.  One Vote.    I was then presented with a card that I gave over to the gentleman supervising the voting machines, curtains were drawn and I cast my first ever votes.

What was wrong with that process?

There are some that allege that this is somehow racist.  That it unfairly targets minorities and the poor.   How is that?  There is nothing intrinsic that disallows anyone from casting their ballot if they have the legal right to do so.  Voter ID cards are a part of that process.

In this day and age of identity theft having a government issued ID card presented along with the Voter Registration ID strengthens that system.   Since every voter ID card I’ve ever seen looks like something from a Cracker Jack box having a picture ID pin down who you are is a good thing.

So what’s the issue, really?    I would propose that the only folks that should be opposing voter ID requirements are those who stand to gain from having undocumented and/or unregistered voters casting votes.

Let’s have a fair trial here, get the guilty SOB in here, we’ll have the hanging later.

Hangmans-nooseWhatever happened in Ferguson MO is a crying shame. A young man died in a hail of bullets and a loss of life is a loss of life no matter who it is. That was someone’s son and being the father of a son myself I can certainly commiserate with the family over this loss. The majority of whoever reads this blog will have to admit they weren’t there, they don’t know what really happened.  The only folks that know what happened were the victim, the police that were on-scene and any onlookers that happened to be there.

Thanks to our wonderful press the real story has become lost in a myriad of grandstanding, hand wringing and sensationalism. All we really know is a police officer fired his service weapon at Michael Brown and he died of his wounds.  Immediately the press makes hay over the fact that the officer was white and Michael Brown was black.

During the subsequent violence a black police officer shot a white young man.  Where’s the press on that one?

Seems race baiting sells magazines and drives ratings up. I hope none of the reporters or editors involved in this reporting never get into a scrape that makes the headlines.

In my own personal experience I’ve been there. My mother was involved in an automobile accident that killed two people. Overnight my mother became the “poster child” for why seniors shouldn’t drive.  Overnight she was front page news and the way the reporting was worded my mother came across as a crazy old lady who should have lost her license years before.  She went to her grave with that stigma attached to her name.   I remember the reporters beating a path to her door trying to get “exclusive interviews” because I know those drive ratings up.

And don’t get me started with the professional race baiters who run off to every event where a mix of black and white is involved (as long as the black person can be perceived as a victim) and fan the flames even more.

What I’m trying to say here is don’t take at face value everything that is put in print or read on the six o’clock news.  Rarely does the reporting report all sides of a story.  There is an agenda and “facts” that support the agenda are brought to light.  Anything that doesn’t fit the agenda is discarded on the cutting room floor.

Please note I didn’t point a finger at “the liberal press” or “the right wing” with my frustration here.  Both ends of the spectrum are just as bad.  It is doubtful that if the police officer in question has to go to trial that he’ll be able to even get a fair trial.  Lately there’s been reporting in what I see as a blatant attempt to tar and feather him in the press.

Sad state of affairs if you ask me.

If we are ever to improve race relations in this country we need to stop harping on the differences and look at what is in common.  As long as the press and other media get all hysterical about white vs. black, white vs. hispanic, black vs. hispanic, white vs. martian or whatever the Fergusons will continue to happen.