13 February 2015

Washington State, Guns and Peculiar People; Or, Lord Save Me from my Friends

Item: Last week at the State of Washington Capitol Building, citizens held a protest.  The apparent cause is that the Washington Legislature decided to exclude firearms from its visitors’ gallery. The protesters thought that infringed on their Second Amendment rights.

They were brave to take on the State.

Or, maybe they are just a bunch of morons.

Po-ta-to, Po-tah-to.

Let’s have a show of hands: Who thinks that the protesters did anything at all positive for the promotion of Second Amendment rights? 

Come on, don’t be bashful, raise your hands!

Didn't think so.

Oh, I almost forgot to mentioned the very best part:  Most of the protesters were armed. And most were carrying weapons openly - revolvers, semi-autos, and the odd AK-47 or  two.

I don’t mean to imply that guns in civilian hands is wrong.  Quite the contrary.  There are good, solid reasons why weapons belong in responsible citizens’ hand.  But weapons are just hunks of steel and plastic.  They just sit there.  They can be put to an evil use, but it takes human interaction to cause problems.  Some people are evil, and they are the ones most likely to cause problems.  But be it guns, bows, or nuclear weapons, they all need some human activity before they go “Bang,” “Twang,” or “BOOM.”

I'm disinterested in the fact that the Washington Legislature doesn’t want armed people in the visitors” gallery. It’s dull.  It’s not even unreasonable.  There is a time and a place for everything. Even rights.  If you decide to come into No. 3 Equity Court to exercise your sacred First Amendment rights, you will be asked to leave. Or ejected. Po-ta-to, Po-tah-to.

In West Virginia, one cannot take a weapon onto the state capitol grounds.  A bill is currently pending which would allow people at the Capitol to leave a weapon locked in their cars. That is thoroughly reasonable. Among other things, I bet some armed people do that anyway.

Nobody can possess a weapon in a courthouse – nor should they. It's a place of conflict. Prisoners are often being moved. 

Schools are generally a really stupid place to be armed. Some parents do not teach their children anything about guns.  Most kids are just so inquisitive, they have to be kept from guns.

If a business owner bans weapons on his/her premises – which they are allowed to do – then each potential customer can decide whether to patronize that business. That's the American way. Mind you, there are a certain number of people who carry weapons anyway, but those are the sort likely to disrespect a whole lot of other laws.  Those are the ones we need to worry about.

The Washington protesters were carrying openly.   Carrying a weapon openly is unusual behavior.   It tends to cause talk. So do hair colors not a shade that humans have naturally, short-shorts on guys, preaching on a public streets, clowns and lots of other activities.  If you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, don’t do strange things.

Many people are uneasy when they know that they are around guns. (I’m not, but if you show me a chainsaw, you’ll see uneasy.) When you meet a uniformed police officer, what do you look at first?

I thought so.

Whether the explanation for carrying a weapon openly is that it’s a power trip, or the feeling that a weapon makes us feel 10 feet tall, or an in-your-face declaration that you’re mad as hell and won’t take it anymore, or even a substitute penis, carrying openly remains truly stupid.  And carrying in certain locations is just plain stupid.

Here in West Virginia, lots of folks carry weapons in the woods.  But they know enough to put the weapons away or stick them under a shirt when they leave the woods.

The Washington protesters have actually hurt the overall expression of support for Second Amendment rights.  By their bizarre behavior, they invite the other citizens to assume that everyone who has any interest in weapons is a nut.  This is important.  For the present, self-protection using a gun is a personal right.  The Supreme Court says that government cannot abridge that right.   The decision was a by a vote of 5–4. A Justice leaves, then there is a fine chance that the next decision is also a 5 - 4 -- the other way. 

Former Supreme Court Justice Stevens has recently publishes a book which argues for what he sees as six necessary amendments to the Constitution.  Some of them has a good bit of merit. (Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, by John Paul Stevens)   But he proposes to alter a Second Amendment in a manner that leaves me cold:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms while serving in the militia shall not be infringed.

Right now, a whole lot of people really don’t have a strong view on the subject.  When so-called “friends” of the Second Amendment act eccentric, they are driving citizens to conclude against personal self-determination. 

I don't have all the answers.   Hell, I don't even know all of the questions.  But I know that firearms rights are facing plenty of noise is it as is, without misguided “friends” creating more.

Lord, protect me from my friends.

10 February 2015

Another Olio of Miscellany

When I sweep up my hard drive, I put a few unconnected things in these Dispatches.  And I’m the first to admit that recently, I’ve slowed down on blogging.  Who knows?  The old reputed Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” may be true.

911 - Dull, Dull, Dull

About 35 years ago, a big group of representatives of emergency service agencies in Marion County designed the first 911 system.  It was a pain.  Nobody who does that business is a normal person.  The first 30 minutes of every meaning was spent warming up by cursing the antecedents and questionable progeny of the people there.  But we got a 911 system.

Several months ago, I had the unwelcome experience of having that 911 system accessed for me.  The only thing I can say is that 911 worked precisely as it was planned.  The call was answered immediately; while one dispatcher complete the call, another was alerting Co. 20 (my old company) and Station 3.  I was - extremely? That doesn’t seem to cover it - glad to hear the first engine pulling up.  And to the people who responded, it was a yawn.  After all, you don’t want people to come in a personal emergency who think that it’s an emergency.  Like all professions, this is another day at the office.  That's the way it ought to be.

I remembered those meetings long ago.  What developed was something that wasn’t flashy, not dramatic, but worked.

A little story - Before 911, different departments used different radio procedures and language, including “10-codes.”  The feeling was to go to clear voice.  At the time, the “Emergency” (remember Johnny & Roy?) was on the tube.  And so, one young fellow suggested that the new radio procedures use what the show featured - “Responding,” “In service,” “Out of service,’ and so forth.  

Geez, it’s been a long time since I’ve thought of that.  To my brothers & sisters, now you know.

War Powers

A big deal is being made over the fact that Congress is interfering with the President’s power to use military force.  This has happened for the last two administrations.  In the Bush 43 administration, one of the spoil sports was the last Senator Robert C. Byrd.  (Hey!  When I mention Senator Byrd’s name, y’all need to stand up and bow yer heads.)

He has a peculiar problem with the President acting with no interference.


Fifth Decade:

When I started law school, I became a notary public.  In West Virginia, pretty much every lawyer does that, but there were few or none at the law school.

Recently, this child just signed up for his fifth 10-year commission as a notary.  Where did the time go?  No, really - Where did it go?

Pro Bono:

Pro bono (legal help for free) services are back on the front burner in WV.  As I prepare to weigh in (not in these Dispatches), I just ran across a couple of passages in a John Grisham novel that seem apt:

“I am a human being first.  Then I’m a lawyer.  It’s possible to be both.”

“My firm preached pro bono to all its associates. [That is, younger lawyers.] But the free work had damn well better not interfere with billings.”

Pippa passes.