So in all my years living in the hustle-and-bustle city, I never had anyone get nutty on the roads — at least not in my presence. Though I was present for the guy that shut down the DC area with his “I’m going to jump, I’m not kidding!” act on the Wilson Bridge. The police eventually shot him off the bridge, because you can only take so much bad traffic before someone snaps!
Well since moving to the tranquil ‘burbs last winter, I’ve had not one but two incidents of traffic-related craziness personally involving me:
1.) About three weeks ago, I’m at the head of the line in a left turn lane. The moment the light turns, the lady behind me leans on her horn (yep, one of those). It had been a crappy day and I was in a bad mood so I flipped her off as I drove away. You guessed it — the little old lady from Pasadena (well, more like the middle-aged DINK from Burke) chased me to the carside-to-go window, blocked me in and got out of her car to come over and yell at me. Apparently not in too much of a hurry to take time out for all that — and with the carside waitress as a witness, no less.
2.) This afternoon I was practicing one of the perks of motorcycling — using the shoulder to “extend” the turning lane so I don’t have to wait two extra cycles of the light to get into my neighborhood. I hear someone tapping their horn at me as I go by, think nothing of it. As I pause at the foot of my driveway to trigger the garage door, I hear …the same horn again. It’s a gold Chevy Cavalier with a blond guy behind the wheel. He slows down as he passes by, then makes a U-turn and comes by again, still honking.
Two observations. First, where the f–k did I move to?? Second, what kind of idiot chases down a random vehicle that, for all they know, is piloted by a heavily-armed psycho? Or a perfectly normal human who will react accordingly to such a threatening gesture… just something to keep in mind.
It’s my fault. I’m watching the cable news shows and it’s their business to yammer on about the politics of current events, appropriateness be damned. Hell, they probably even think it’s time now. I almost think that myself — only because I’ve been thinking and talking about it near-constantly since it happened.
I know I don’t need to tell you what ‘it’ is.
Anyway let me try, if I can, to talk about something more concrete and without getting into politics per se. A commenter over at the Bitch Girls asks why nobody bum-rushed the gunman while he was reloading. That’s a fair question, and one some of us on a VT message board talked about this afternoon. My theory: guns have been so demonized in our society that the mere sight of one probably strikes mindless terror into a lot of people. I’ll stop here and say that while I’m not frightened by a gun, having someone shot dead right next to me would undoubtedly bring on that mindless terror.
But if it didn’t — let’s think about the unthinkable, that this could happen to you — then you have an opportunity. Reloading is like this:
1.) discard old clip : you’ve seen movies, this is a one-handed operation
2.) fetch new clip : takes a little longer, maybe a lot if the spares are in a pocket or backpack.
3.) insert new clip : fast but needs two hands.
Critically, through all three steps the gun is unloaded and the gunman is busy and distracted. My hail-mary play would be to throw some object — a book, backpack, shoe, anything with a bit of weight to it — at the shooter and rush him. What do you have to lose? Of course none of us truly know how we’ll react until we’re in the hotseat ourselves.
Take this for what it’s worth to you. I’m the type to try to draw any lesson I reasonably can, no matter how seemingly trivial, from an experience. And tragedy only makes it more necessary to do this, to do any small thing (and this is a small thing) you can to give meaning to senseless death.
There’s an interesting story on Time.com today — New Orleans’ 2007 murder rate is already out of control, and some unlikely residents are giving up on the police and gearing up to defend themselves.
Stephanie Pedro, 27, is no Paul Kersey, the New York architect-turned-vigilante Charles Bronson played in the the Death Wish movies. But the unrelenting crime wave that has gripped New Orleans in recent months has prompted the young urban planner to consider measures that she once considered extreme.
“When I walk my dog, I have a 20-dollar bill in one pocket and mace in the other,” says Pedro, referring to “mugger money” she carries to hand over in hopes that an assailant will beat a quick retreat, and spray in case things turn uglier. “I’ve taken that initiative, but I think I need to go further,” she says, citing a string of assaults in her quiet neighborhood near the French Quarter. “I would like to have a visible gun on my hip.”
It goes on to say that carrying arms for self defense is becoming popular and socially acceptable in that city, which might be related to the following attitude among law enforcement.
Predictably, such chatter has law enforcement officials concerned. “Not just for our safety or theirs,” says New Orleans Police Department sergeant Donovan Livaccari. “But people should know where their rights begin and where they end. I think a lot of people are unaware that, in Louisiana, you can have a weapon in your car, but once you leave your car, you’re subject to a whole different set of circumstances. Also, where you’re allowed to use deadly force; by law, you’re not allowed to use deadly force to protect property.”
As stretched as the NOPD clearly is, you’d think they might concentrate on stopping crime and criminals, rather than worrying about whether they can prevent citizens from defending themselves. But much like Rosie O’Donnell’s bodyguards, police officers are allowed to carry weapons and don’t need to think about what life is like for those who aren’t. Here’s a hint, sometimes it’s like this:
Meanwhile, the storm of violence plaguing New Orleans has residents like Pedro wrestling with potentially life-altering decisions about safety. “I never had to think about getting a gun before,” she says. “But if people are coming into your house, what do you do?”
There’s an interesting thread over at the Volokh Conspiracy today on the subject of what kinds of things your employer can fire you for. The case at issue involves a UPS employee who was fired after notifying his supervisor that his personal handgun was stored in his car, which was parked in the company parking lot.
The Good: US companies aren’t constrained by byzantine laws about hiring and firing employees, and are thus more willing to hire people, knowing they aren’t stuck with them forever in case of problems.
The Bad: That means they can fire you if they don’t like your blog, even though you don’t blog or discuss your views at work
The Ugly: Joe Huffman was apparently let go from his job at a government-funded research facility based on his online support for gun rights. This is in spite of consistently positive performance reviews and seemingly no particular workplace conduct issues.
The Examiner editorializes on a surprising development in Washington, DC:
District residents have been the guinea pigs in a failed 30-year-old experiment in social engineering. Three decades of strict gun control laws have not made the capital city’s streets safer.
None other than former Mayor Marion Barry, now representing Ward 8 on the D.C. Council, is waving the white flag of surrender by introducing legislation to provide potential victims a limited window of opportunity to arm themselves in self defense.
Barry’s bill is a first step and it is co-sponsored by Council members Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, Kwame Brown, D-at large, and Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6 — none of whom are gun-toting NRAers. However, all four councilmen face the same intractable problem in their own neighborhoods: The city’s gun control laws don’t work as advocates promised they would. Armed criminals still terrorize peaceful residents who remain essentially defenseless, particularly those in the poorest neighborhoods.
Interesting bedfellows indeed. From the rest of the piece, I get the impression that the bill would allow a legally owned gun to be kept in the home fully assembled and loaded; in other words ready to use against an intruder. Washington has been a leading light of the gun control movement for decades, and even though this is a tiny change in the letter of the law, it strikes me as a 180 in the spirit of it. To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, that’s one small step for a city, one giant leap for individual rights.
I have a lot to complain about tonight, but in the interest of not going off half-cocked, we’ll save that for another time. In the meantime, I finally got around to reading The Second Amendment and States Rights: A Thought Experiment (link via Instapundit) and I’m fascinated by the idea of returning to something like the pre-Civil War militia system. As the title says, the paper is a thought experiment and the authors aren’t necessarily recommending such a system, but it’s still an interesting idea.
I’ll add a few details to flesh it out. Imagine every able-bodied man and woman being required to turn out at least once a year for military training, and to own and maintain at least the standard infantry weapon, with interested persons being able to participate in more intensive training (and acquire the weapons and other gear to go with it) or attend Officer Candidate School (if they’re qualified) alongside regular military members. A system like that would kill the dreams of gun-banners once and for all, promote greater personal responsibility, and maybe even restore some of the lost sense of community with your neighbors. Most importantly in my mind, it would eliminate the mystique that allows guns and gun owners to be demonized in the minds of people who have never seen a firearm up close. If an “assault rifle” is something everyone’s mom and dad have and use, then it can no longer be the anthropomorphized secular demon of gun-control lore.
Here it is, folks! Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller has a funny screed on gun control in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. Unintentionally funny that is, because it appears to have been written by a turing machine set to “moonbat”:
Any fool can kill a deer. I know, because I’ve almost done it several times. All that’s required is a car driven at a relatively good speed, 30 miles an hour should do it, near a wooded area around dusk or later.
Voila, venison a la Camry.
Congratulations, you can drive a car. I wouldn’t quit your job and head for the comedy circuit just yet though.
The less “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State” rings true in contemporary America, the more the gun culture revs up its high-caliber lobbying and propaganda machine.
I guess this makes a certain sense if you consider militias in the Tim McVeigh sense, but I wonder–what does guarantee security in today’s world? Karma? PC politics? Group hugs? We’ll have to guess, because she leaves that sentence hanging and charges on to the next disjointed thought:
We’ve made smokers pariah, forcing them out to the street. Alcoholism and drug abuse, once private demons, have become public crusades. Abolishing trans fats is a civic battle legislated by urban councils.
She says that like it’s a good thing. No really, she does. No further comment needed–what kind of person thinks that way?
Any politician running for higher office has to kiss the long barrel of the NRA and gun fetishists, preferably by praising gun ownership and going hunting – a dwindling passion – to show how authentically American he is.
Nevermind the lame oral sex innuendo (this anti-gay comment deeply offends me!) What blows me away here is the complete lack of self-awareness. She’s doesn’t like guns, so anyone who does must have a “fetish”. There’s no such thing as having different interests than you, those other people are just savages who need a good ‘Christian’ education! Ms. Heller would feel right at home in Victorian times–well, long as you kept her from hearing the word “Victorian”.
“This is trying to perpetuate the myth of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, the legacy of Buffalo Bill,” says Joan Burbick, author of “Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy.” “Tying gun rights to civil rights, transforming Americans into an armed citizenry, coincided with the civil rights riots.”
Race, she argues, has plenty to do with it.
Again, Heller doesn’t follow up on these assertions, maybe assuming that her readers already “know” that everything she doesn’t like is “racist”. But this bit about gun ownership suddenly appearing with the civil rights movement? In a sense, it did–among blacks who exercised their right to defend themselves from marauding white racists. Of course that’s not the point being made here, but I thought Micheal Bellesiles was debunked a long time ago. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks though, and the hard left will probably never give up its clumsy efforts to throw inconvenient history down the memory hole. The game of mental whack-a-mole goes on…
 people were murdered in Philadelphia last year. And here’s where generalizations hold up. Most of the victims were young. Most of them were poor. Most of them were black. Most of them were killed with guns.
Our problems are bigger than guns. But guns are our problem.
Oh the irony–“here’s where generalizations hold up” followed immediately by a pure example of irrelevant generalizations leading to a wrong conclusion. I’m sure a psychologist could write an entire book on the conviction that murderers somehow wouldn’t kill anyone if they couldn’t use a gun, but I’ll just substitute Archie Bunker, speaking to his daughter when she said something like the above: “Would it make you feel better, little girl, if they was pushed outta windows?”
And now for the truly weird:
The myth of the fighter permeates throughout consumerism, Gap Kids fatigues in blue and pink.
Well as long as we’re dealing in strawmen, I wonder how Ms. Heller feels about, say, Palestinian children who regularly turn up in news photos dressed up as terrorists? Somehow I doubt perpetuating “the myth of the fighter” would be first out of her mouth. But flyover-country Americans and their hunting gear? Now that’s scary!
Where is the PETA for people being senselessly killed?
Where indeed, since PETA itself is well known to think the world would be just dandy with fewer (or no) humans in it. Do they really care if that’s accomplished by gunfire or defenestration? Furthermore, isn’t PETA on Ms. Heller’s side of the aisle? I used to think it was a trait of the left that anyone not directly supporting their causes was automatically “the establishment”, even a definitely un-mainstream hard left group like PETA. Now I wonder if it’s just a trait of the kind of personality that decides an entire area of human endeavor represents their vision of evil and needs to be driven out of existence:
We need to attack guns and the all-too-powerful lobbyists and manufacturers the way cigarettes came under siege.
I started off writing that what we actually need is to undo the “siege” of the tobacco industry, but let’s think outside the box for a moment–what if instead, we encourage these huge lawsuits against this and that industry. It will be a lean few decades, but eventually the only rich and powerful interests left will be …trial lawyers. And the lefties always go after the rich, right?
Eugene Volokh links to this Cincinnati Enquirer story about former Democratic Congressional candidate and Iraq veteran Paul Hackett. Early in the morning of Nov. 19, three teenagers in a car “missed a curve” in the road and plowed through Hackett’s fence, then returned to the road and continued on their way. Awakened by the racket, Hackett grabbed his AR-15 and investigated, then followed a trail of (presumably) leaking coolant and found both car and boys at a nearby house. Apparantly without actually brandishing his weapon, he ordered them out of the car and into a prone position, then called the police to report a citizen’s arrest.
The comment thread spends a lot of time on whether the article is correct in referring to the AR-15 as an “assault rifle” (it’s a semi-automatic carbine version of the M-16) and secondarily on whether Hackett exercised good judgement in pursuing the fence-breakers. I’m surprised, though, that none of the discussion addressed this paragraph in the Enquirer piece (emphasis added):
“He told the boys to ‘Get the —- out of the car and get on the ground.’ … He said he did not touch the vehicle with the rifle and maintained his distance. ‘I knew they saw I was armed,’ he said. He said he had done this about 200 times in Iraq, but this time there was not a translation problem,” the Indian Hill police report said.
I wondered if there might be a PTSD angle, and this makes it sound as if there is. In my opinion, Hackett exercised poor judgement–if your family is threatened, the right course of action is to guard them, not abandon them and run off into the night–but it makes much more sense if you imagine him reacting the way he would have in Iraq.
There, his base would be well guarded and he would have both legal status and tactical freedom to run the bad guys down. Here his actions were reckless at best. As one commenter pointed out, he had no idea whether the occupants of the car were armed, high, etc. Faced with an angry armed man ordering them out of their car, the young men had more than enough justification to resist by force. Luckily for them and Mr. Hackett, they chose not to.
Which brings me to the title of the post. It reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer joins a gun club and proceeds to do all sorts of reckless things, including shooting his beer can open. Dumb hick Cletus then asks him “are you some kind of moron?” and Moe tears up Homer’s membership card. I won’t punch Paul Hackett’s ticket, since he may well have woken up and reacted automatically as if he were back in Anbar. But if that is what happened, hopefully he’ll get whatever help he needs.
I just made up the title of this post, but now I wonder if JK Rowling deliberately gave her killing curse the same initials as the most important automatic rifle in history. Bitter ponders the role of firearms in fantasy stories and concludes that the literary downside might outweigh the practical benefit for the gun-toting character.
It seems to be a common plot device in film fantasy to pretend things like guns don’t exist, usually combined with treating them like something morally akin to WMD if they do turn up. Think of the episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where after failing to defeat Buffy with androids or dark arts, Warren finally just shows up at the back gate and shoots her. This is the final rung in his slide down the ladder, IIRC coming after he murders his girlfriend (i.e. we’re to see using a gun–even if it fails to kill the victim–as worse than some sort of ‘garden-variety’ murder)
Alternatively, firearms exist but are magically useless against magical people or creatures. In the Harry Potter books, this is carried out further to have the good guys suffer drastic casualties while still limiting themselves to nonlethal magical weapons. I think this all mostly comes under the heading of suspending disbelief in support of the plot, but of course there’s a well known current of anti-militarism in western art and literature dating at least to the First World War.
The explanation could be simpler though: It just wouldn’t be the same if, say, Lucy and Edmund stood around discussing kill zones and the relative range and effectiveness of catapults, trebuchets or the weight of stone projectiles an eagle could carry, as opposed to finding the key to bring Aslan back at the critical moment to defeat the White Queen. Not that you can’t write a techno-thriller about ancient weapons (Micheal Crichton does this spectacularly in his novels Timeline and Eaters of The Dead/The 13th Warrior) but as the commenter on The BitchGirls says, good old-fashioned firepower would have a boring tendency to dominate fantastical confrontations.
…with a moving target! That’s what one moronic fratboy did in Corvallis, OR over the weekend. Now, of course shootings are no laughing matter, especially when a well-off fratboy shoots a homeless man for fun–with all the sociopolitical baggage that implies. But really this is just comedy gold, like the Simpsons come to life:
Sanderson had just climbed out of a dumpster between AGR and Phi Gamma Delta, otherwise known as Figi, when he felt something hit his left thigh. He took a step and it hurt. When he looked at his leg he saw blood and realized he’d been shot.
“It was a unprovoked attack,” Sanderson said. “Didn’t say anything to anyone.”
How do you know it wasn’t attempted murder? The shooter used a .22 <rimshot>