Impossible?

The Arizona Wildcat, the university’s newspaper, ran an AP story yesterday about a measure in Texas that would legalize concealed carry on college campuses by permit holders.

Evidently due to space limitiations, the Wildcat cut off the article after the 8th paragraph, which ended in “Texas campuses are gun-free zones.” Of course, the part of the article that was snipped had nearly all the quotes and text explaining why one would want to carry on campus, or that people with permits can carry just about everywhere else and that the campus border is just an imaginary line.1

One quote from Woods, a student whose girlfriend was killed in the Virginia Tech shooting, stood out to me:

“Then I learned pretty fast that wouldn’t solve anything,” said Woods, who is now a graduate student at UT. “The idea that somebody could stop a school shooting with a gun is impossible. It’s reactive, not preventative.”

Impossible? Impossible? To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Last time I checked, cops carry guns, and they’re able to put an end to murderous violence pretty effectively with those guns. There’s a lot of private citizens who carry guns, and numerous stories about how those people use their guns to stop violent crime.

One might not be able to prevent a school shooting, but one certainly would have the potential to stop it.

I know that if a person bent on murder came barging into my classroom, I’d prefer a means of resisting them that’s more effective than a thrown textbook.

  1. Bias? What bias? []

Changed Worldview

I always thought that the “fire and brimstone” style of preaching was a metaphor for a general “doom and gloom” style of preaching, rather than mention of actual fire and brimstone.

Similarly, I always thought the term “bible-thumper” was a metaphor for particularly devout, evangelical Christians, rather than an behavior.

I was wrong on both counts. My worldview is irevocably changed.

A preacher, Brother Jed1 , occasionally comes to campus with his wife and aggressively preach2 to students. He was giving a no-shit fire-and-brimstone speech to a bunch of students outside the university’s administration building. On occasion, he’d thump his bible. I must admit I was somewhat stunned by his behavior; I had never thought that anyone would ever actually preach like that.

Unfortunately for him, his methods didn’t seem to be garnering any followers. Indeed, people seemed to be more amused by his behavior than they were interested in his message. I wonder if this guy has actually run a cost/benefit analysis to see how effective his methods are.

  1. Search for the guy on YouTube for some examples of his behavior. []
  2. Calling sorority girls “whores”, frat boys “fornicators”, making blatantly racist comments towards blacks and hispanics,  etc. []

Testing Gear

Like many of my readers, I have a safe full of guns that I use for all sorts of ordinary, everyday purposes (mostly recreational shooting). I consider such ordinary uses to be effective tests of these guns for emergency purposes. What better (or more fun!) way to make sure your emergency gear is in a constant state of readiness than to test it regularly? Better to have a part break at the range when you have the time and resources to replace it than in the middle of an emergency when one cannot order replacements. (You do have spare parts for your guns, right?)

But how often do you test the rest of your gear?

I keep a Grundig FR-200 emergency radio in my emergency kit. It’s a handy little thing that runs on 3 AA batteries, but also has a DC input and a hand-crank that charges a small internal battery back. Every month or two, I take it out of its pouch, inspect the various parts (antenna and battery contacts, in particular) to make sure they’re in good working order, clean it as necessary, test the batteries, crank it for a few minutes and make sure that it’ll run off the battery pack for a while.

I do something similar with my Garmin eTrex GPS unit to make sure it’s ready to go.

Canned food, as great as it is, won’t keep forever. I’ll go through my closet now and again to ensure that stuff is getting rotated out and replaced as need be.

Being prepared for an emergency is a good thing, but be sure that your gear hasn’t given out on you when you’ve not been paying attention. Regular testing and maintenance can keep your stuff in good working order when you need it most.

How long has it been since you last checked your radio, flashlight, or canned food?

Useful Math Site

It’s been a while since I’ve written about science here.

Recently, I’ve had need to exchange rather complicated math formulas with someone via email.

Sending formulas like
[hat{x}hat{p},frac{hat{p}^2}{2m}]=[hat{x},hat{p}]frac{hat{p}^2}{2m}+ frac{hat{p}^2}{2m}[hat{x},hat{p}]
is difficult to do clearly via email, as there’s no real means of formatting one’s text with math markup.

Fortunately, there’s LaTeX, an excellent typesetting system that is the de facto standard for marking up documents containing math. I hear it’s also common in the publishing industry, but have no personal knowledge of that industry.

For a long message, it’s probably easier to create a LaTeX document and attach it to the email, but my messages are often less than a page, and that is a bit of a hassle. Sending the raw LaTeX markup via email would also be unsuitable. That assumes the other person (a) has the software installed to read it, and (b) the time to copy-paste the code into their program and render it.

Similar problems exist for computer programmers, and the pastebin service exists as a highly effective way of exchanging programming code with other users. Surely there’s a similar thing for math and science folks, right?

Turns out there is: the Mathbin site allows one to enter text marked up with LaTeX and display it to others without any installed software. Very handy.

I Don’t Care

Marko’s excellent post about the female side of the shooting sports is enlightening and should give people something to think about when it comes to interacting with others((In short, don’t be a jerk.)).

In my case, I don’t care if someone’s male or female, tall or short, red, white, black, brown, yellow, or any other descriptive term. I was raised by good parents to treat others with respect. The army reinforced that with the lesson that “in the army, everyone is green.”

While there are certainly differences between the sexes (being male I cannot, for example, bear children), there is absolutely nothing about one’s wibbly bits that has any bearing on shooting. To think otherwise is stupid to the extreme. For an example of such stupidity, see this quote by Tam in the comments to Marko’s post:

For the doubters out there, who believe there aren’t any mouth-breathing dumbasses in the gun world, I offer the eleventeen jillion times I’ve been at a gun show and some cretin asks the guy I’m with how much he’s asking for the gun I’m carrying.

[...]

At one of my first Indy 1500’s, one guy asked the total stranger standing next to me how much he wanted for my 6.8 AR.

While I haven’t seen anything so blatant as what Tam describes, I’ve certainly seen some of my female friends get some condescension from people at the range. They let it roll off their respective backs and laughed about it in the pub afterwards, but it’s still disrespectful and has no business happening.

That said, there are certainly important differences between individuals which are relevant to shooting and need to be considered when purchasing or handling guns.

For example, I’m left-handed, and so have some difficulty effectively operating bolt-action rifles meant for righties. Some pistols, specifically Sigs, have their controls placed in positions (like the very left-rear of the grip) that are quite difficult for me to manipulate. Some people lack the upper body strength to effectively hold larger, heavier guns like the M1 Garand or to operate the slide on a particular pistol. Some people’s bodies are smaller or larger than others, so “one size fits most” stocks don’t fit them well (which is why I am a huge fan of adjustable/collapsible stocks). Some people’s hands are larger or smaller than others, so a gun’s grips may or may not feel comfortable in their hands.

Nearly all of these issues can be resolved with either training (e.g. building up strength or endurance, practice with the mechanisms of the gun, etc.), accessories (adjustable stocks, different grips, etc.), or choice of guns. None of them have anything to do with the sex of the shooter (I’ve yet to see a gun that requires a penis to operate.), but rather individual characteristics.

Be polite and friendly to everyone, regardless of what they’ve got between their legs, and you’ll do fine.

Conflicted

I recently received an update from the AzCDL about a proposed piece of legislation. Here’s a quick summary, as quoted from the email notice:

HB 2439 provides for an alternative 4 hour CCW course, dealing only in legal issues, mental conditioning, and judgmental shooting decisions, for qualified individuals who can show proof of prior firearms training, such as:

  • Completion of an NRA pistol course.
  • Completion of pistol related courses at the college level, or at places like Front Sight, Gunsite, etc.
  • Completion of certain law enforcement training.
  • Current military service or an honorable discharge.
  • A competitive rating or ranking in an organized shooting competition.
  • A CCW permit from another jurisdiction that required training or testing to obtain.

I’m a bit conflicted about such a measure. While I’m a huge advocate of CCW and advocate for Vermont/Alaska-style carry (where no permit or state approval is necessary, so long as one is a law-abiding person), measures like this trouble me by setting different standards for people.

I’m a firm believer in training, and encourage everyone who owns a gun to seek training in the safe handling and use of their arms. That said, I believe that such training should be encouraged, but not mandatory. I think that most reasonable people will agree that the use of force, including lethal force, in self-defense is justified if and only if a bad guy poses a clear and present danger of serious bodily injury or death.

However, if the state wishes to require reasonable training prior to issuing CCW permits, so be it. However, such training must meet a clearly-articulated standard. NRA pistol courses are great, but they don’t cover “legal issues, mental conditioning, and judgmental shooting decisions” specific to armed self-defense. Neither does having served in the military — I’ve served in the military as a tank crewman and was routinely armed with a pistol. The pistol training offered by the army was basic at best, mostly covering the mechanical aspects of the gun and how to shoot a basic course of fire. No shoot/no-shoot training, and certainly no other training that would be relevant to a civilian self-defense scenario. Honestly, I was surprised at how little weapons training the army did.

Being a competitive shooter also doesn’t meet those standards. While some aspects of competitive shooting may exceed the state training requirements, competitions rarely cover the legal aspects that the state presently requires. Sure, action shooting can prove useful, but it’s not a self-defense training course.

Again, I’d prefer if training were optional (but strongly encouraged), but so long as the state requires training I think such training should be as uniform as possible. Making exceptions for specific groups of people who, while perhaps trained and skilled in firearm use, haven’t had the same training as other CCW permit holders seems like a bad idea. The only exceptions for the training requirement that I could see would be (a) those with permits from states with substantially similar training requirements and (b) those facing a dire, immediate danger where the time needed to complete a training course would put them in mortal peril. In the latter case, the person should complete the necessary training as soon as practical.

My conflict is between my desire for permitless, Vermont-style carry and the desire that if training is required (as it currently is in Arizona, at least for concealed carry — open carry has no training requirements), that such training be uniform across the entire population of those with permits to carry.