Two Wheeled Vehicles and Firearms

I’ve recently been looking at purchasing a two-wheeled vehicle, like a scooter or motorcycle. I’ve been looking at scooters in particular, as they tend to be smaller, less expensive, and more fuel efficient. The fact that I could tinker with a small engine and save on maintenance costs is also a plus, as is the cost for insurance (about $100/year rather than $1,200/year for my car).
Obviously, I wouldn’t give up my car (an ’06 Toyota Camry), as there are many situations where having a car is useful. But there are many situations where it’s not terribly efficient to lug around a few extra thousand pounds of metal. As a physicist, I need to do my part to minimize my contribution to increasing universal entropy, and thus help stave off the heat death of the universe.
This brings me to the following two questions:

  • Are there any readers in the Tucson or Phoenix (Chandler/Scottsdale, specifically) metro areas who are looking to sell a scooter like the Honda “Elite 80” or something similar? I’d prefer widely-known brands like Honda, rather than essentially no-name Chinese scooters. I also like the styling of the Elite 80 over the more curvy Vespa-style scooters.
  • Any recommendations on transporting firearms, particularly long guns, on such a vehicle? I know that rifle cases exist for ATVs, but I have no idea if any solutions exist for scooters/motorcycles. Obviously one could carry a slung rifle or shotgun on one’s back, but I’d imagine that’d be potentially hazardous if one were involved in an accident.

NRA and Politics

The NRA is often accused of being “a wing of the Republican party”.
What utter bollocks. The NRA’s political wing cares about one thing: the right to keep and bear arms.
The NRA has supported reasonably-electable candidates from any party, so long as they support the RKBA. The NRA frequently endorses Republicans and Democrats. I believe they’ve also endorsed several third-party candidates over the years.
The fact that the NRA often endorses more Republicans than Democrats reflects more on the anti-gun position of many Democrats rather than the purported right-wing leanings of the NRA.

Guns and the Internet

One of the comments on this article stood out at me, and necessitated a reply.
The comment was:

Nut in Green Bay
He sold the guns used in two recent massares, over the net. He wants to make up for it by selling guns at cost so everyone can protect themselves.
Believe it or not, they featured him on the local news here with no comment, stating his case. As if he were a hero.
Mind boggling. There is no limit to the insanity of humans or the gullibility of mass media.
Did the bushies make it legal to sell guns over the net? How is this possible?

With very few exceptions (e.g. antique firearms), a non-FFL-holding individual cannot directly buy guns from the internet and have them shipped directly to them. This has been the case since 1968, and has not changed since then. Bush and his supporters have changed nothing.
One may purchase a gun from an online vendor like TGSCOM or a private seller on an auction site like GunBroker and have it shipped to their local Federal Firearms License holder (i.e. a gun shop). Next, the purchaser must go through the normal procedure of buying the gun from the dealer: filling out an ATF Form 4473 and undergoing a NICS background check. All state and local laws must also be obeyed.
There are several advantages to buying guns online:

  • Oftentimes online vendors have better pricing than a local shop.
  • Online vendors can often stock a larger variety of guns, often including unusual or uncommon guns, than a local shop.
  • Interstate purchases do not incur the cost of state sales tax.

Even taking into account the cost of shipping and the local dealer’s transfer fees, the lack of sales tax and better online pricing often results in a net savings of money for the purchaser.
In practice, this is absolutely no different than having the local gun shop special order a gun from a distributor, except that the buyer (rather than the dealer) initiates the transaction and has a greater choice of vendors than does the local gun shop.
Eric Thompson (proprietor of TGSCOM, who runs and other online gun shops) did not sell the guns used in two recent massacres. Rather, he sold a single gun to one of the shooters, and some non-regulated parts (magazines) to another. He complied with all applicable laws: once paid, he shipped the gun to the buyer’s local FFL. The dealer complied with the law, ensured the appropriate forms and background check were completed, and sold the gun to the buyer. Everything was conducted in accordance with the law. The fact that the buyer later used the gun to commit a heinous crime is not the fault of Mr. Thompson or the local dealer. The fault lies solely with the murderer.
Mr. Thompson’s offer to sell guns at cost so that law-abiding citizens can afford to protect themselves is an honorable act, and I applaud him for doing so.

Valuing All Rights and Liberties

When I peruse (and occasionally take part in) discussion board threads relating to various firearm-related issues, one of the things that often gets mentioned by a non-gunny person is some version of the following:

Gun owners only care about the Second Amendment, but don’t give a damn about any other rights.

While my own observations may be only anecdotal, all of the gun owners I know are deeply concerned about rights and liberties. I’m not aware of any gun owners who are not concerned about other rights.
Most gun owners I know are not noisy, boisterous people. They tend not to bother other people, mind their own business, and expect the same courtesy in return. They express their political opinions by means of letters written to politicians and by voting at the polls rather than staging noisy protests in the streets. Thus, they sort of “fall off the radar” of non-gunny folks.
Not being visibly active on other fronts does not mean that gunny folks aren’t active at all.
I myself am actively involved in issues relating to the First and Fourth Amendments, particularly those related to communications (free speech, net neutrality, etc.) and privacy. I write letters, I vote, and I politely encourage others to do the same.
To non-gunny folks, gun owners can often been seen as single-issue voters, and for good reason: a politician’s stand on gun ownership is generally an excellent litmus test for how they think of their citizens.
To quote Dr. Suzanna Gratia Hupp,

How a politician stands on the Second Amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual? as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of.

I’m not aware of any other issue that can so instantly and accurately show the true position of a politician. That’s why even the most anti-gun (and by extension, anti-rights) politicians fall over themselves to appear to be pro-gun: look at Kerry, Clinton (both Bill and Hillary), Obama, and others. Their claims to “support the Second Amendment” can be shown to be demonstrably false by looking at their voting records, yet they keep repeating the same thing over and over in order to distract and fool voters as to where their true position lies.

Mars Update

Not only did the University of Arizona’s Phoenix lander land safely on the surface of Mars yesterday and get some neat photographs, but the HiRISE camera (also owned and run by the University of Arizona) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter managed to snap a picture, from orbit, of the Phoenix lander parachuting to the surface.
Talk about a long shot: the Phoenix lander was all bundled up for the descent, and was less than two meters in diameter. To get the picture, the MRO had to rotate 62 degrees off-down-axis and take the picture from a highly inclined angle. My back-of-the-envelope calculations show that the MRO was about 602km (~375 miles) away from Phoenix when it took the photograph. That’s some impressive photography.
This is the first time in history that a spacecraft has photographed another spacecraft landing on Mars.
I seem to have recovered somewhat from the excess champagne consumed yesterday. All of us here at the UofA are still quite giddy about it. Regular posting will resume shortly.

Slow Blogging Day

Today will be a slow blogging day: the University of Arizona’s Phoenix lander will be landing on Mars in a little more than three hours, so I’ll be on campus for most of the day.
If anyone in the Tucson area wants to stop by, say hello, and (hopefully!) celebrate the landing, feel free to drop me an email and we can meet up.

Range First Aid

Statistically speaking, shooting is one of the safer recreational activities that one can participate in.
However, guns do have the potential to cause a great deal of harm, be it accidental or intentional harm. Additionally, many ranges are in out-of-the-way locations (I shoot a lot on National Forest land) where any number of natural hazards exist and emergency services may not be readily available.
While I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid any serious injuries at the range, I still have pack a first aid kit and other emergency supplies whenever I go shooting. The most serious injuries I’ve had to treat at the range have been minor (<1″ long and not very deep) cuts and some sprained ankles from slipping on rocks. A basic first aid kit can be assembled for not very much money (do-it-yourself kits are almost always cheaper and more effective than store-bought ones), and can treat most minor-to-moderate wounds and injuries.
The addition of QuikClot and some occlusive dressings can help treat a gunshot wound in the unlikely event that one occurs. If one uses these items, be sure to get enough to treat both an entrance and exit wound.
Remember, the first rule is “do no harm”. Don’t pack stuff you’re not qualified to use (Doc Russia is capable of performing field surgery with his truck kit, but I’m not…so I don’t bother with most of the stuff he has.), lest you end up harming someone more than helping.
In addition to “stuff”, be sure that you have knowledge. Take a basic first aid class from the Red Cross. If you’ll be out in remote areas, take a wilderness first aid class. One can never have too much knowledge. I’d bet my life on a trained, knowledgeable first responder with basic equipment, rather than a well-equipped but untrained person. Keep your training up-to-date.
Some other useful tips:

  • Write down the emergency and non-emergency telephone numbers for the local emergency services. Calling 911 from a remote area may result in your call being routed to a more distant call center. For example, 911 calls from cellphones in California are often routed to the Highway Patrol, who may have to transfer you to the local emergency services. When on National Forest land, I also have the number for the local Ranger Station.
  • Be prepared to give your exact location when calling emergency services. Know the name (if any) and location of the range where you’re shooting. If in a remote area, get a GPS and write down the coordinates ahead of time (like when you park). If there is no address where you are, know the local cross street (even if it’s just numbered National Forest roads), if any.
  • Evaluate communications options before you start shooting. If you’re out of cellphone range, find out how far and in what direction you need to go in order to get sufficient signal to call for help. If possible, locate the closest landline telephone (say at a Ranger Station) ahead of time. If in the deep wilderness or at sea, consider getting an emergency locator beacon.
  • Before you head out, be sure that someone knows where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  • If shooting in remote areas, consider going in groups of at least three: if one person gets seriously injured, the second can provide first aid while the third finds help (such as traveling to where cellular signal is available).

Anyone else have any hints, tips, tricks, recommendations, or resources?

Dumb Politicians

A week or two ago, I wrote to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the federal representative for my district, to politely express displeasure at his support of HR 1022.
I mentioned that the 1994-2004 ban had essentially no effect on crime or protecting police officers, yet seriously infringed upon the rights of the law-abiding.
I received his response today:

You will be pleased to know that I am already a cosponsor of H.R. 1022, Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007. Rest assured that as it moves forward in Congress, my staff and I will be monitoring it closely.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over? He thinks I’m pleased?
Is he (or his staff) so seriously deluded that they think that someone writing in to complain about his co-sponsoring a bill actually supports that action? Is this how he justifies his actions, by magically converting complaints into praise?
Yes, I know it’s just a form letter, but they could still have prepared a suitable response for people opposing his actions rather than assuming that everyone supports his actions.
Also, every legislator I’ve written to replies with a different subject than the one I submitted. For example, I wrote in with “Oppose HR 1022” as the subject. His response was “In Response to Your Message”. I’m sorry…which message? There’s a reason they invented subject lines.