Sucks

This is the first newsworthy accident involving NFA firearms that I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, it involves an 8-year-old kid accidentally shooting himself with an UZI and later dying from his wounds. Truly tragic. My sincerest condolences go out to the family and anyone else involved with this accident.

I hope that people realize that even with a single incident being rather high-profile, accidents in the shooting sports (particularly those involving NFA items) are rare, and that no change in public policy should be needed. Alas, the comments on the article don’t leave me much hope of that.

Looking for Glass

My friend is looking at purchasing a CZ 452 rifle. I wholeheartedly support this choice, as CZ makes fantastic guns.

The only problem now is picking a scope. I tend to be partial to Leupold optics, but he doesn’t really have any bias. I’d like to get him started with a decent adjustable-zoom scope. Something of pretty good quality, so he won’t have to spend money later to upgrade.

He’s a good shot, and would likely be shooting the rifle from 25-100 yards (it’s a .22LR, so you can’t ask it to do much more than that). No need for Olympic-quality stuff, but he’d like to avoid the cheap stuff.

He’s a fellow student, so his budget is not unlimited. Ideally, he’d like the rifle and scope combined to come out to be less than $1,000. Ideally, it’d be less than $800.

Any thoughts?

I Was Told There’d Be No Math

I bet you’d never hear this on a gunny blog, but it has to be said:

The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus is amazing.

It may seem incomprehensible to those who haven’t seen it, but those who have will appreciate the Theorem’s simplicity, its power, and its mind-blowing elegance. As much as a math formula can be, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus is sexy*.

Back when I took integral calculus, these properties were not evident to me. It was simply a formula to be memorized and employed to solve equations. Tonight, after about six hours of solving problem after problem with it, I had an epiphany and sat in stunned amazement for several minutes.

Probably 99% of the world’s population will never need to use calculus, and most of those who do use it won’t really appreciate its beauty. Those of us who do lead very interesting (and often very weird) lives.

* Thank goodness I’m dating a geeky math teacher who understands me and my quirks. Fortunately, she doesn’t get jealous when I think that formulas are sexy. She also thinks I look cute whilst wearing a lab coat. Go figure.

Why I Love Blogs

I’ve long been of the opinion that blogs have revolutionized publishing. No longer are monolithic media companies the sole source for widely-distributed media — even individuals can publish material and, if people think it’s good enough, readers can subscribe to it to be notified immediately when new material is posted.

Truly amazing.

Even more amazing is that not everyone writes about trivial things of interest to only a small group of people, but rather breaks the news on major political issues like the evidently-fake “astroturf” group “Rednecks for Obama”.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the mainstream media didn’t bother to do any digging to find out if this group was legit or not. Yet a few bloggers took some time, did some digging, and found out the truth. Now that truth is published for the world to see and it costs nothing to access their findings.

We live in amazing times.

Legalized = Taxed?

Whether people are talking about legalizing marijuana (which I support, even though I’ve never touched the stuff) or opening the NFA registry, it seems that everyone says, “Legalize it, then tax it.”

Personally, I’m in the “legalize it” camp, but not so much in the “tax it” camp, particularly when it comes to “sin” taxes…which I wish didn’t exist. Taxes should serve a specific purpose: I pay taxes on gasoline, and that revenue goes to maintaining roads, streetlights, and other infrastructure. I’m fine with that.

How does an NFA or marijuana tax serve anyone?

If the law requires that NFA items be registered with the ATF, I understand that it will cost a little bit of money to process each registration, and I could understand a processing fee that would cover that cost. At most, that should cost around $50. It’s essentially data entry. A re-opening of the NFA full-auto registry may prompt a spike in registrations, but even if they collect a $50 fee per item, the ATF would likely still be covering their costs (government isn’t supposed to make money).

Similarly, subject marijuana to the same sales tax, if any, that other purchases get subjected to. Same thing with alcohol and cigarettes. If the taxes are prohibitively high, then nobody will bother with paying them, and will instead buy things on the black market.

I understand the whole “legalize it” mindset, and I can understand the “regulate it” mindset (so as to ensure that products like marijuana are not adulterated with harmful chemicals, see China) to some extent, but the “tax it” mindset? I just don’t see how that benefits anyone except those who collect the tax.

Troubling News from the UK

From the Guardian:

Everyone who buys a mobile telephone [in the UK] will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance.

Phone buyers would have to present a passport or other official form of identification at the point of purchase. Privacy campaigners fear it marks the latest government move to create a surveillance society.

It’s one thing for the government to monitor telephone conversations with a warrant from a judge. It’s quite another thing entirely to monitor calls without a warrant. It’s something new and exceptionally repulsive for the government to force citizens to comply with the monitoring of themselves.

Even more troubling is one of the comments on the article:

Fantastic idea. Better still, fingerprints should also be taken. Criminals will use false ID to get round the new legislation so the more we can do to slowdown or halt their movements the better. Most of us have nothing to hide and plenty to fear in terms of terrorism and everyday criminal behaviour.

-Pam, YORK

You want to force people to provide their fingerprints in order to purchase a telephone? Are you serious? If so, I’m terribly frightened. What amounts to an effective prohibition on guns hasn’t had any real effect on violent crime, as criminals break the law. Same thing with drugs. Do you really think that criminals and terrorists will be the least bit inconvenienced by a requirement to provide ID (or even fingerprints) before purchasing a phone new? I sincerely hope not. What next, straw purchases of cell phones?

The United Kingdom is, in theory, a free country. Why, then, is the idea of a huge government database of mobile phone users being considered? Why aren’t the proposals to have the government keep records of all calls, emails, and other communications for years being met with riots in the streets? Why is the widespread surveillance of the citizenry by ubiquitous CCTV cameras not met with public outcry?

People in a free country have the right to free speech and privacy. Arbitrary invasions of privacy restrict, by extension, the right to free speech; they exert a chilling effect on any number of topics that might otherwise be spoken about in private: politics, sex and relationships, financial issues, etc. Completely innocent phrases could be easily taken out of context and portrayed in a negative way.

The rights to free speech and privacy imply a right to anonymous speech. If an individual wishes to speak privately by means of an anonymous cell phone, they should not be restricted from doing so. If they are suspected of committing or conspiring to commit crimes, then by all means seek a warrant on the telephone in question, monitor their location, etc. Warrants require judicial oversight so as to prevent abuse. Such oversight is a Good Thing.

The UK is filled with wonderful people with a long and storied history, and good beer. But their nation is teetering on the very edge of becoming a police state, and watching this happen to such good people is highly troubling to me. While the situation in the US is troubling (Patriot Act and whatnot), it’s not anywhere near as far along as it is in the UK and there are a number of groups and individuals (myself included) who are doing what we can to stop things here from getting to be like they are over there.

If there are any UK-based readers who are concerned about their privacy and are looking for secure means of browsing the web, sending and receiving email, telephone calls, etc., please feel free to contact me by email and I’d be glad to provide some suggestions.

UA Student Shoots Two Home Invaders

A little after midnight this morning, two men apparently chose to invade the home of a University of Arizona student.

They chose…poorly.

The 23-year-old student was not expecting anyone at that hour, and so armed himself in response to a knock at his door. The guy knocking asked for a person who didn’t live there. The student looked past the guy who was knocking and saw a masked man holding a gun. The student attempted to close the door and retreat into his house, but the men forced their way in, at which point both were shot.

[waits for thunderous applause to die down]

The student has been cooperating with the police, and did not appear to be involved in any sort of criminal activity. Pending any evidence to the contrary, I’m calling this one a “good shoot”. More details as I get them.

Some choice quotes from the article:

Ali Adelmann, a UA sophomore, just moved into the neighborhood this semester and was concerned about what happened.

“It really worries me,” the Phoenix resident said. “All we can do is keep our doors and windows locked.”

Ali, you are aware that windows are just thin sheets of glass, right? They’re trivial to break. And you need to open your doors and windows at some point. It’s better to have an effective means of protection, like a gun, than simply relying upon a lock.

Jenny Wise also moved into the neighborhood in August. The 19-year-old sophomore said she wasn’t home at the time.

She had gone to a party and upon arriving home around 2 a.m. found her street taped off and flooded with police.

“It’s really the scariest thing,” Wise said. “I’ve lived a sheltered life. This seems like a nice little neighborhood. I don’t know what I would’ve done if two guys tried to get into my house.”

Do you have the means to protect yourself? No? Then things would probably go badly for you.

Tucson is a nice town, but that doesn’t mean that crime doesn’t exist. Maybe you should realize that not all life is like your sheltered upbringing, and that there’s a nasty underbelly to the world. You don’t need to live in fear of it, but recognize that it exists. Being prepared can save your life.

Online comments on the article at the Tucson Citizen were even more naïve, some implying that because the student owned a gun, that he was somehow involved with criminal acts. Other comments suggested that society is going downhill because more people are choosing to arm themselves.

The moral of the story is this:

  • Having ready access to guns in your house can be a good thing.
  • Having a gun on your person when checking the door can also be a good thing — if you need it, you need it now.
  • Consider getting an intercom or speak through the door rather than opening the door at a late hour.
  • No matter how many police officers were on the beat at the time, they would be unable to help the resident. He had no time to call the police, let alone explain the situation and his location, let alone wait for the police to arrive. The responsibility for his defense was his alone.

A Milestone

Akismet counted my 1,000th spam comment this morning.

The dubious honor of being the 1,000th spammer belongs to 200.63.42.136. Evidently times are tough in Panama, as every single one of the nine domains that were posted (and blocked by Akismet) in the spam were non-functional.

You’d think that the spammer would check to make sure their websites were operating before they sent out gazillions of spam comments.

The consolation prize goes out to 200.63.42.141, also from Panama. This individual has repeatedly bombarded my blog with spam for several days now (at least as far as I can tell — normally Akismet silently discards spam on posts >1 month old, but I disabled that feature so I could find out what, exactly, was the 1,000th spam), with a new attempt every hour or so. The fact that none of the posts actually make it to any live page is not any deterrent.

Out of the 1,000 spams I’ve had posted here, exactly two have made it through the filters. These were reported to Akismet within an hour or two, and didn’t make it through the filter again. Many thanks to Akismet — without them, the blog community would be infested with spam.

Why?

I can understand why people in positions of power might want to disarm those who they lord over, lest the less powerful people revolt.

I can understand why victims of violent crime might think it a good thing to disarm everyone except the police and military, so they (and others) don’t get victimized again.

I can understand people who genuinely believe that “guns = violence”, and think that by lessening the number of guns, they can lessen violence.

I certainly disagree with such positions, but I can understand why someone might hold them.

What I don’t understand are people like the Brady Campaign and the VPC.

It’s not the money, as most of it seems to go toward various lobbying efforts. It’s not the fame, as they’re rarely mentioned in publications, and most people don’t seem to really care as much about them as they do about some bimbo from Hollywood. Even if they succeed, they’re not personally going to be in a position of power over others. It’s not the pursuit of truth and justice, as they intentionally make misleading claims. (When’s the last time a .50 BMG rifle shot down a commercial airliner? How often do criminals use AR-15s to commit crimes, rather than cheap, disposable, often stolen handguns? How often do criminals buy their guns over-the-counter at gun shops or gun shows?)

Why do they do it? What’s in it for them? What motivates them to wake up every morning, go into work, and try to ban guns? Assuming they succeeded and all guns were banned, what then? What would they do?

Coming from my side, I’m working to defend a right that’s rooted deep in history, a safe, fun recreational activity, a means to defend myself and my family, and, if the need is dire, to defend against tyranny. I have a day job (two, in fact, in addition to being a full-time student), and don’t work to protect my rights full-time. If the pro-gun side succeeded in their goals (not that anyone can succeed in defending a right, but let’s just assume one could for the sake of the exercise), my life would change very little. I might have a celebratory range day and maybe buy a new gun, but otherwise nothing major would change.

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I don’t consider myself to be an unintelligent man, but I honestly can’t see why they do it.

Private