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.

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.

AZCDL Update

HB 2629, an AzCDL requested bill that clarifies when a defensive display of a firearm is justified, passed in the Senate Third Read on Monday, May 12, 2008 by a vote of 19-7 with 4 Senators not voting. From here, HB 2629 will go back to the House for concurrence before being sent to the Governor.

Having clarification on such an issue is important. My compliments to the AZCDL for their hard work.

NRA and Brady Finances

Sebastian analyzes the difference in donations and spending between the NRA Political Victory Fund and Brady Campaign “Voter Education Fund”.
Here’s a brief summary:
Total Receipts
Brady: $73
NRA: $8.4 million
Total Spent
Brady: $3,000
NRA: $3.7 million
Total Contributed to Federal Candidates
Brady: $500
NRA: $413,000
Total Received From Individual Donors >$200
Brady: $0
NRA: $205,000
It sure looks like the pro-rights side is actually composed of real people.
And people why the NRA (and by extension the pro-rights side) has so much clout with legislators…

PA Gov. Rendell Stays Classy

From KYW Radio:

Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell made another pitch for gun control legislation outside the state capitol on Monday, during the annual ceremony honoring falling police officers.
Rendell says the gun that cut down Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski (see related story) was a Chinese assault weapon, and he says that there used to be a ban on importing assault weapons:
?And yet in 2004, the Congress of the United States — often some of the very same congressmen who would come and attend ceremonies like this — let the assault weapons ban lapse.?

The governor acknowledged that the gun that killed Liczbinski was brought into the country ?well before that action,? but says it?s symptomatic of the refusal of lawmakers to provide ?maximum protection? to law enforcement:

Emphasis mine. Basically, he’s saying that the 1994-2004 “assault weapons ban” would have had no effect whatsoever on this particular incident.

?If we really want to pay honor and tribute to the memory of those 703 police officers who have given their lives, we will suck it in, do the right thing, and pass laws that would give our police officers out on the street, protecting us every day, the maximum amount of protection we can.?

I know several police officers, and have nothing but the highest respect for officers who risk their lives each day to keep the peace and maintain public order.
I want them to to have the resources they need to stay safe and be able to do their job, and for the most part, the public has agreed: modern police have high-quality firearms and ammunition, body armor, tasers, batons, pepper spray, radios, in-car wireless data terminals, and a whole host of other equipment, training, and resources to help them be safer and more effective.
Even so, police work is not risk-free. When your job requires that you interact with the scum of the earth on a daily basis, there’s a not-insignificant probability that you will be involved in a violent confrontation. It’s just part of the job — no amount of laws or equipment can remove that risk entirely.
So-called “assault weapons” are common firearms that have simple cosmetic differences from more “traditional” looking, non-banned firearms. They are identical in nearly all functional aspects, and differ only in appearance. Many features on such guns exist for ergonomics and safety, but have no effect on lethality. Restricting guns with such features from ownership by lawful citizenry from 1994-2004 had essentially no effect on crime or their use in police shootings. Their use in crime is statistically insignificant.
Renewing an ineffective law is foolish. Doing so when it significantly restricts the rights of law-abiding, honest folks is malicious. Dancing in the blood of a murdered cop to push for such a renewal is abhorrent.
Hat tip to Sebastian for the link to the news article.

AZ Gov. Vetoes “Petty Offense” bill

From the AZCDL:

HB 2630, an AzCDL requested bill that reduces the penalty for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit to a petty offense, was vetoed by the Governor on April 29, 2008. You can read her veto letter here: .
HB 2630 would have reclassified carrying a concealed weapon without a permit as a petty offense, unless the violation occurred in the commission of, or attempted commission of, a “serious offense or violent crime”, in which case the CCW offense would have been a class 6 felony, or any other felony offense, in which case it would have remained a class 1 misdemeanor. In a nutshell, if you’re a bad guy carrying a concealed weapon, penalties would have been stiffened. If you’re a law-abiding citizen, it would have become a petty offense.

For those who don’t know, Arizona is an “open carry” state and no permit is required for openly carrying. However, if one’s shirt accidentally covers the gun, one is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. Similarly, if the openly-carried gun is concealed from view in a car (I’m left-handed — if I’m stopped by a police officer, the gun is not readily visible from either side of the vehicle as it’s blocked by the door on the left and my body on the right), that’s a crime.
Heaven forbid that good guys who make an honest mistake be differentiated from criminals committing violent crime.
Oh well. Maybe it’ll pass the next time around.
Frankly, I don’t even see why permits should be necessary to carry. Vermont and Alaska don’t have permits (AK issues them for reciprocity with other states) and they don’t have any trouble. If people can open carry in AZ without any issues, why should carrying concealed be any different? The mere carriage of a firearm harms nobody.

UA-SCCC Empty Holster Protest Mentioned In Newspaper

The University of Arizona chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus has been participating in nationwide empty holster protest.
Today, we got mentioned in the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the university newspaper. They interviewed the campus leader for SCCC:
UA-SCCC chapter head
Photo credit: Andrew Russell, UA Daily Wildcat

This week, the organization is holding an “empty holster” protest nationwide, where students wear empty holsters to campus to raise awareness of gun laws, and for students and faculty to be able to protest the defenselessness they may feel by not being able to carry on campus, [the UA campus leader for SCCC] said.
“The empty holster is symbolic for current policies tying our hands behind our backs,” [the UA campus leader for SCCC] said. “With students that carry everywhere else, why should the campus be any different?”
About 20 students are participating in the empty holster protest, which hasn’t garnered much attention from students, [the UA campus leader for SCCC] said.
“Surprisingly, no students have asked me about it,” he said. “Most people look at it and don’t even do a double take.”

I’ve noticed that very thing — when wearing my holster on campus, nobody seems to notice.
When open carrying a firearm off-campus, nobody seems not notice either. No double takes, no panic, no nothing. I’ve had one or two people glance at the gun and go about their business, but most people simply don’t even notice it…and I’m not even trying to conceal it.
Somehow, I think that if SB 1214 were to have passed and people could carry concealed on campus, nobody would notice.
Other good news:

Even though [University President] Shelton may disagree with [the UA campus leader for SCCC], [he] said Shelton was the only campus administrator that took the time to thoroughly listen to his concerns.

President Shelton has publicly spoken against allowing permit holders to carry on campus, so it’s good that he’s listened thoroughly and has the potential to change his mind.

And students don’t want to carry weapons on campus just to protect themselves from school shootings, but other crimes like a mugging or a personal assault, [the UA campus leader for SCCC] said.
“There are many situations where you can’t just submit to the criminal and just be OK,” he said. “You have to fight and to fight effectively in self-defense.”

Ah, that’s a key issue that I keep bringing up in conversations with friends. Virginia Tech-like school shootings are exceedingly rare (but extremely hyped up by the media), and very few people I know carry (or want to carry) to protect against this rare event (though they’d be prepared to do so, if needed).
Rather, they want to protect themselves against more common crime like assault, rape, and so on — just like they’re able to do off-campus. “Ordinary” crime is not uncommon on campus (or off campus, for that matter).

[T]he empty holster protest, which will go through the end of this week, is a powerful image to convey to the campus community, [NRA Board Member and Tucson resident Todd] Rathner said.
“It’s a really good way to convey the student sense of defenselessness.”

And that’s the point we’re trying to make: the law and university policy doesn’t protect anyone; how could it, when it disarms law-abiding “good guys” who simply want to protect themselves?
Permit holders have been carrying for years in just about every public place in Arizona (and most other states) without incident. Why would a college campus be any different?
Kudos to Dustin for reporting this before I did, even though I knew about the upcoming publication before he did. That’s what I get for sleeping in. 🙂
Update (9/7/2010): The UA campus leader for SCCC contacted me today to ask that I redact his name from this post. I’m happy to do so.

the UA campus leader for SCCCl

Where are the anti-gun folks?

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune asks that very question:

[E]ach timeit has struck me how tiny, uninspired and vague the response has been from those who favor new laws to try to keep guns out of the hand of evildoers.
While the gun-rights folks weigh in quickly and forcefully with links to studies and detailed arguments, the gun-ban folks are mostly quiet.

Zorn’s comments illustrate the amazing effects of the internet on such issues.
In the past, it took some time for responses to be published; waiting for the next edition of a magazine or newspaper often took weeks, and then only a limited number (if any) of replies were published. There was no way to direct feedback to the author, only to the editor’s desk, who may or may not forward the comments to the author. Many people received news from local newspapers, a few national/international papers, and the radio/TV news programs by major networks (CNN, ABC, CBS, etc.).
It was difficult and expensive for large networks of people to organize and communicate, so there wasn’t much large-scale organization for pro-gun viewpoints other than the NRA, which was only moderately responsive. Organizations with impressive-sounding names could posture and appear to be more influential than they actually were.
These days, the internet makes it incredibly easy to publish information, link to other sources, and spread news around (for example, Zorn’s column was made known to me by means of Rustmeister’s Alehouse, who published his posting about 8 hours ago — hat tip to Sebastian who made me aware of Rustmeister’s posting). Message boards like The High Road make it easy to communicate with other like-minded individuals around the world instantly.
These days, it’s quite clear that the “pro-gun” viewpoint is really a grassroots one…there are hundreds (thousands?) of independent bloggers, large message boards, communities, and online vendors dedicated entirely to talking about guns, selling gun parts and accessories, and so on. Word gets around the gun community incredibly fast (see the Zumbo Affair, where a deluge of phone calls, emails, and other communications resulted in Zumbo losing his column and sponsors before the NRA knew about it, let alone published a press release), with often influential results.
Let’s keep up the good work and use this influential communications medium to better effect.