US Diplomat in Pakistan shoots two, claims self-defense

From the BBC:

An American diplomat in the Pakistani city of Lahore has shot and killed a Pakistani motorcycle rider and his pillion passenger, police say.

They say that the consular official fired his pistol in self-defence. US embassy officials confirmed that an American was involved.

The men were pursuing the American in his car when the incident happened.

[…]

Weapons were recovered from the bodies of the dead men.

I’m sure that this is going to do wonders for US-Pakistan relations.

Even if the shooting turns out to be perfectly justifiable and legal, there’s going to be a lot of drama.

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

There has been much talk in the anti-gun-rights camp about how, in the wake of the shooting in Tucson, there needs to be more gun control.

I respectfully disagree. If anything, it shows the need for people to communicate better with others, particularly when it comes to mental health.

Arizona has laws in place that make it relatively easy for people to petition a court to order mandatory mental health evaluations and, in some cases, involuntary commitment. Had family, friends, coworkers, or faculty gone through this process, the alleged shooter could have received the care he evidently needed. As a side effect, he would also have been added to the NICS prohibited persons list and wouldn’t have been able to buy the gun.

The NICS system works as designed, but they can’t block people with mental health issues if they don’t know about the issues. That’s where the courts and due process come into play.

If we can provide mental health services to those who need it, adding people to the NICS list (both with legal oversight and due process, naturally) where needed, that’d likely make a bigger dent in violent crime committed by the mentally ill than more restrictive gun control that overwhelmingly affects ordinary people and doesn’t have much of a success record.

Stolen

Sometime last night, my car was broken into (note: window tinting is not too effective at stopping criminals from breaking through glass).

The thieves stole my Dell Inspiron 1521 laptop (old, crappy, and heavily encrypted). Dell service tag/serial number HQN87F1 with a StuffBak asset tag of 000KHNC. Not a big deal; it’s just hardware. The data is encrypted and backed up.

However, they also stole my Glock 19 pistol (9mm, serial MLV023). It had a full magazine of Federal HST JHPs.

I normally take both the computer and gun inside at night, but I was going to have a drink or two with friends last night so I left it in the car to be responsible. That seems to have been not a good idea in this particular case.

The police and insurance have been notified, but I’d appreciate it if folks online and in Tucson are aware.

Fortunately, I keep detailed records of all my guns, and so was able to give them all the useful information. Google Docs is a good thing.

Update: I may not have been clear in the original post: I wasn’t at a bar, I was staying at a friend’s house for the week (I work in Tucson and live near Phoenix, so rather than commute ~2 hours every week, I stay down here during the week with friends) and the drinking was taking place in the house.

Since they were kind enough to let me stay for the week, I try to keep things clean by keeping my things in the car. Normally I also bring the laptop bag and gun inside, but it seemed more sensible to keep them locked in the car to keep the computer and gun away from potentially drunk people for that night. I was evidently wrong.

UK Police Searching for Smuggled Guns

Police in Britain are searching for guns smuggled from the US, according to the BBC.

The alleged smuggler, who is in custody in the US, is accused of smuggling 62 guns into the UK.

The last paragraph, however, stood out to me:

Former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief Andy Hayman said details of the case were “genuinely shocking”.

Writing in The Times, he said: “This makes a mockery of the stringent checks we all endure at US airports, such as removing our shoes and belts, having our toothpaste confiscated and all the other irritants.

“Steven Greenoe’s guns could just have easily been bombs.”

Mr. Hayman clearly is not familiar with how things are done in the US when it comes to firearms and air travel. There are clear rules and procedures for traveling with checked firearms. In general, the firearms must be unloaded, kept in a locked case, be in checked baggage (there are certain exceptions for police officers that allow them, in certain situations, to fly with weapons on their person), and be screened by the TSA.

Since Mr. Greenoe’s firearms were in his checked luggage, they were inaccessible to himself or others during the flight. This is in accordance with US travel laws, as well as my understanding of UK laws relating to traveling with firearms. Thus, Mr. Hayman’s comments about this incident making a “mockery” of the searches of passengers and their effects is not relevant. Don’t get me wrong, I think the current passenger screening policies are absurd and well deserving of mockery, they have nothing to do with the carriage of firearms in checked luggage. While his luggage may have contained bombs, one can hope that current screening methods for checked luggage would have detected them. In addition, bombs are inherently dangerous (for example, they could explode by themselves if mishandled or if constructed incorrectly), while disassembled firearms are simply inert pieces of metal. There’s quite a difference.

Free Time

Or, rather, the lack thereof.

I don’t know how you other bloggers do it, but between a full-time job (which often turns into more-than-full-time due to the quirks of IT work) and applying for graduate schools, I have essentially no free time.

Sorry for the light content. More when I get it.

Congresswoman shot in Tucson

According to NPR:

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and six others died after a gunman opened fire at a public event on Saturday, the Pima County, Ariz., sheriff’s office confirms.

The 40-year-old Democrat, who was re-elected to her third term in November, was hosting a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Safeway in northwest Tucson when a gunman ran up and started shooting, according to Peter Michaels, news director of Arizona Public Media.

At least three other people, including members of her staff, were injured. Giffords was transported to University Medical Center in Tucson.

This just happened, and things are still developing. Hopefully the reports of the deaths were in error, and the victims survived. One can only hope.

This hits a bit close to home.

I really, really hope this is just some random nutjob, rather than something political.

Update (1:01pm): Reuters says she’s still alive:

“She is currently in surgery. She’s alive,” University Medical Center spokeswoman Darci Slaten told Reuters. Slaten added that nine other shooting victims were being treated at the hospital.

Let’s hope she, and others, stay alive.

Update (2:37pm): The Arizona Republic says that the Congresswoman made it through surgery, but that several people, including a 9-year-old kid, were killed. Evidently the attacker was a 22-year old male, and opened fire using a pistol with an extended magazine.

Condos Suck

Or, rather, the associations suck.

My wife owns a condo outside of Phoenix. In addition to the standard monthly condo association dues, there’s dues to the “community association” that are paid twice a year. There’s an artificial lake next to the complex, and the dues go to maintaining that. I think it’s silly, but whatever.

For about four years, the community association send us the semi-annual invoice, and she paid it promptly. However, in 2010, we never got any bills from them. Since it’s semi-annual, it’s not something we routinely think about, and we never thought to ask. In December, we get a letter from a collections agency saying that we owe {dues+$300}, as we haven’t paid our bills for that year.

We call the association to inquire why this happened, and they say we didn’t pay any of our bills. When asked what address they were sending the bills to, they quoted an address of a private home several miles away from the condo, with which we had no connection. They checked their records and there was no record of anyone ever requesting an address change — it just magically changed without anyone noticing. Evidently the “addressee not found – return to sender” markings on all the returned mail wasn’t obvious enough, and they kept sending more “you’re late, pay your bills” letters and never thought to call us. Since the account had gone to collections, they said there wasn’t anything they could do; we had to go through the collections agency if we wanted to dispute things.

Thinking this would be open-and-shut, as the association was clearly at fault due to screwing up the addresses, we disputed things with the collection agency. They contacted the association, investigated a bit, then reported back to us that the association has reviewed our dispute and denied it, claiming that even though we had no idea what the amount of the bill (as the amount often increases) or its due date were (as they screwed up their records and were sending our bills to the wrong place), we were still responsible for paying it on time and in full. Since we didn’t, the association claims we need to pay all the late fees, re-billing fees, and collection agency fees. If we want to dispute it in person (and you bet we do), we can go to the monthly association meeting.

The collection agency is really professional, and I have no hard feelings for them, but we’ve had nothing but trouble from the association and their property management company. First it was a leaky roof which damaged our ceiling (and they say that their responsibility lies only in fixing the roof, not paying for any damage that their leaky roof did to our ceiling), and now this? I’m seriously considering inventing a way to mail dog poop to them such that, when the box is opened, the poop bursts into flame.

If this doesn’t get resolved at the association meeting, we’re thinking of suing the association. Sure, we could pay the fees and whatnot easily, but it’s the principle of the thing. Any lawyers in the Phoenix area interested? Even if we don’t need representation (e.g. we go to small claims court), we could definitely use some advice or pointers, even if not official legal advice.

Email Woes

I have two email addresses from the university. One is a departmental account, and the other is a general university email account.

The former is in the form of firstname.lastname@department_name.example.edu, while the latter is [email protected]

The department address is a bit more professional, but they have annoying spam filters that delay mail for arbitrary and varying amounts of time, so I tend to use the general one for most day-to-day things, and the departmental one for important things like applications.

However, my brain occasionally mixes things up, whereby I type [email protected], which is invalid. This does not look good on applications, because then I need to write to the admissions committee, admit my foolishness, and beg that they change the address on record so they can actually email me back.

I need a better brain.

Private