Saturday, June 14, 2014

In Which I Just Give Up Hope

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

You know what? I give up.
It’s been a terrible week for gun violence in this country, and I don’t see any way it’s ever going to get better. So, unable to beat the firearms aficionados (so much nicer a term that “gun nuts”), I’ve decided to join them.
Check out the butcher’s bill just in the past few days:
June 5: A mentally ill gunman enters a university building at Seattle Pacific University, kills one man and wounds two others before being pepper-sprayed and subdued.
June 6: A 48-year-old man in Forsyth County, Ga., attempts to attack the county courthouse with an assault rifle and grenades, shooting a deputy in the leg before being brought down by police officers.
June 8: A husband-and-wife team of right-wing activists, shouting, “This is the start of a revolution,” shoots and kills a pair of Las Vegas police officers before entering a Walmart and killing a civilian before the female shooter kills her husband, then herself.
June 10: A man with a rifle enters a high school in Troutdale, Ore., kills one person, and wounds a teacher before apparently taking his own life.
If we’d been attacked by brown-skinned Muslims this many times in a week, the whole country would be in lockdown. A few idiots failed to blow up planes with shoes and liquid bombs a few years ago, and now you can’t carry more than three ounces of toothpaste onto a plane, and you have to take off your shoes to get through screening.
But if the killing is being committed by white people with guns, it’s all, “Well, geez, nothing we can do about it,” unless the killers were shouting “Allah akbar” as they opened fire. If the massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook isn’t enough to get even expanded background checks past the U.S. Congress, there’s no hope for any kind of reasonable gun regulation.
We could always deal with the issues of mental illness that drives shooters over the edge. But I don’t see any political will to address any of those issues either, because it’s going to cost money. And we all know who counts every penny of the cost of everything but war.
So I’ve given in to despair. I accept it. You’re right. The only way to stop bad guys with guns is for all the good guys to have guns. I say “all,” because the lone “good guy with a gun” who tried to stop one of the Las Vegas cop shooters got shot in the head by the female member of the duo. Clearly, that would have been prevented if more people in the area had guns.
The only thing left to do is for everyone, and I mean everyone, to arm themselves. The good news is that given the radical expansion of Stand Your Ground laws, it’ll soon be legal to waste people who even look like they’re about to snap.
In a world where there are more and more crazy people with access to guns, a world where there are more and more mass shootings, the standard of a “reasonable belief” that your life is in danger becomes a lower and lower bar to get over. Anyone, anywhere, could be the next mass shooter, so all of us, everywhere, need to watch our butts.
Remember, though, there are also more and more people who could be a threat. The Las Vegas shooters, for example, were far-right anti-government activists. It’s now clear that those people are at least as dangerous and ready to kill Americans as radical Muslims. So people waving those “Don’t Tread On Me” flags (like the one the Las Vegas shooters draped over their victims) need to be careful they don’t make any sudden moves that could be construed as threatening.
Not all conservatives are radical killers, of course, but some of them apparently are. If we’re going to demonize all Muslims because of the action of a few crazies, it’s only fair we keep a close eye on tea partiers, Rand Paul supporters and the like.
There’ll also probably be some unfortunate incidents when open carry advocates get mistaken for mass shooters, but you know how it is. Omelets, eggs, etc.
Oh, and you lonely nerds who complain all the time about how hot girls don’t go for you nice guys? We remember what happened in Santa Barbara. So don’t even look at me narrow-eyed, young man. I mean it.
You win, gun nuts — sorry, Second Amendment Patriots. You’re strapped, I’m strapped, and here we go, over the edge. This is the Wild West world you wanted, this is the world we’ll all have to live in.
But probably not for long.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

A Modest Proposal To Combat the Drone Menace at the U.S. Open

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

I confess, I was amused at first when I read in this paper that the Village of Pinehurst had banned the use of drones during the U.S. Opens.
“Really?” I thought. “Is some paranoid conspiracy theorist worried that President Obama is going to begin the final assault on our freedoms, start the imposition of Sharia law, and of course, distract everyone’s attention from Benghazi, by blowing up Phil Mickelson with a Hellfire missile?”
Hey, I’ve heard weirder theories propounded around here with a presumably straight face. You should read my email sometime. In any case, I thought, are drones such a problem that it requires the hand of the mighty Pinehurst Village Council be raised to stop them?
Well, maybe. A quick Google search using the terms “drones” and “golf course” reveals a lot of excitement about the idea of using commercially available drones to cruise over golf courses with high definition cameras, enjoying the scenery and watching the golf. Apparently, radio-controlled aircraft technology has advanced far beyond the balsa wood model Spitfire a buddy of mine spent months building, only to crash into a tree on its first flight.
“You can buy a consumer drone outfitted with four battery-powered motors and a gyro-stabilized video camera for about $1,000,” an article in Golf Digest notes, “and control it on your smartphone or tablet with a GPS-based system that was once available only to the military.”
You can imagine the problems that a swarm of the little buggers might cause as they hover and swoop over the course, buzzing like giant bees, controlled by some dude who figures he can catch the action of the Opens without leaving the house.
So, OK, the villagers have a legitimate concern. But it seems to me that while we can legislate against the newest scourge from the skies, we’re woefully unprepared to enforce such a ban, unless the Pinehurst PD has developed a previously unheard-of anti-aircraft capability.
And that’s when it hit me. We need to turn to the Open Carry movement.
In case you’re not familiar, the Open Carry movement is a group of particularly adamant firearms aficionados who believe that the defense of our Second Amendment freedoms requires them to aggressively assert their right to carry any gun, anywhere, at any time. To that end, one such group in San Antonio tends to show up in public places such as restaurants, in groups, carrying as many shootin’ irons as a platoon of Taliban insurgents.
For some inexplicable reason, the average citizen reacts with something less than joy at seeing a troop of bearded guys in camo walking into the local Chipotle armed to the teeth. Therefore, that restaurant recently joined other such chains, such as Chili’s and Sonic, in asking patrons to leave the guns at home.
“We are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel,” they said in a public statement.
Amazingly, the NRA joined in, in a public statement asking the Open Carry folks to cool it. The statement on the NRA’s Facebook page described the behavior of the Open Carry folks in San Antonio as not only “counterproductive” but “downright weird.”
Let me tell you, folks. The NRA telling you you’re getting a little too weird with your guns is sort of like Keith Richards coming to you and going, “’Ey, mate, y’might want to take it easier on the whiskey an’ drugs.” In response, some Open Carry advocates threatened to burn their NRA membership cards, since the organization had become soft on the Second Amendment.
It’s clear that the OC folks need some love. They need to get some of their mojo back. And we here in the Sandhills need something to counter the Drone Menace. We’ve got a need, they have more than enough guns to fill it. So I propose that the U.S. Open Committee invite the members of the San Antonio Open Carry group and other like-minded firearms advocates to the Opens.
Let them walk up and down, among the crowds, openly showing off their heaviest assault weapons, and letting the world know that the only way to stop a bad guy with a drone is a good guy with a gun.
You just know visitors who come here from all over the world will all feel that much safer knowing that the Second Amendment is being safeguarded, and any pesky drone that buzzes our way will be quickly and efficiently blasted out of the sky by a volley of high-powered ammo.
U.S. Open Carry. We need to make this happen, people. Freedom demands it.
[UPDATE: The NRA has recently backed down from its criticism of "Open Carry" and disowned its previous statement, saying "Wow, we almost made sense for a moment there. What the hell were we thinking?" Actually, what they said was that "an alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as 'weird' or somehow not normal, and that was a mistake. It shouldn't have happened." So everything's back to normal at the NRA, and by "normal" we mean "batshit crazy as usual." ]