The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Q&A with a gun owner

Earlier this year I asked a friend if he would answer a couple of questions about his experience with firearms. Rich P. is a competitive pistol shooter living in Connecticut. He and I have agreed about some things and disagreed about others since we were first-years at university. I thought he'd have a reasonable presentation of firearms regulation that differs from mine, and he did not disappoint.

I have edited his responses only for Daily Parker site style and by adding links for context. Otherwise I have copied his responses in full.

How long have you been in competitive shooting? How did you get into it? How much safety training did you get? Do the ranges or competitions where you shoot have specific training or safety requirements?

I have been shooting competitively for 16 years. I compete in both Bullseye and USPSA-style matches. Bullseye is very much what you see at the Olympics: slow fire at targets generally 50 feet away. USPSA matches are more like simulated combat where you are shooting and reloading all on the move, while navigating through a structure and around barricades all the while engaging numerous targets.

I got into competitive shooting with the intent to use it as a training aid. Putting yourself on the clock adds just that little bit of extra stress which aids in helping you learn how to function under pressure.

Safety is paramount on any range I’ve ever been. To become a member of my club you first have to attend a mandatory four-hour safety meeting where all applicants are taught our club safety rules. We then take the applicants to the range and have them shoot a bullseye match with a senior club member standing behind them to help and instruct. After that applicants are required to attend three business meetings and three activity nights. At the business meetings applicants are constantly evaluated by senior members. Basically we’re looking to see if the applicant can work within club rules and they don’t have a screw loose, so to speak.

My club offers different styles of gun matches. Once the applicant chooses his style of match he is then taught all the ins and outs of that style. Monday nights are the most difficult and demanding. This is the USPSA match I mentioned earlier. The applicant will be taught how to properly load and unload his weapon, muzzle discipline, drawing from the holster and most importantly how to do all of the above without putting holes in his feet.

Every match I have ever shot has had some kind of safety briefing.

We’ve had our differences over gun control in the past. For example, you expressed frustration once that taking your guns from Connecticut into New York was a problem because the two states have different rules on magazine sizes. Do you encounter regulation differences between states today, after Heller?

Other then securing my individual right to own a weapon, Heller has had very little effect in a pro-gun sense. In Heller, Scalia wrote that weapons in common use are protected under the Second Amendment. There are over 7 million AR-15s in private hands. I would say that is the very definition of in common use but numerous states still maintain an Assault Weapons ban in defiance of Heller.

Does your state require firearms or owners to be licensed? If so, how difficult is it to get one? Should it be harder or easier? How would you change the licensing requirements?

Connecticut has two levels of gun licensing. To just own a gun and go plinking on weekends a Connecticut resident has to have a gun license and a second license to purchase ammo. To get the gun license there is a written test and a fee. To get the ammo license requires a fee and a current license. I went to the next level, which is a concealed carry license. To obtain that requires close to $300 in fees and mandatory 8 hour class. The upside is Concealed Carry License (CCL) holders do not have to obtain the ammo permit. The license is good for 5 years and can be renewed for a fee of $75. The whole process to obtain a CCL is about 4 months. During that time I had to photographed, fingerprinted, and take the course I explained earlier. I found the process thorough but not to much of a burden. That said with the amount of info I had to turn over if I ever broke bad it would take the cops about 5 minutes to pick me up because the state knows everything about me. There would be nowhere to hide. I don’t think there is anything I would change to the existing licensing schemes.

It’s hard to define “assault weapon” but let’s call it a large-capacity, lightweight, semi-automatic rifle designed primarily as an antipersonnel weapon. For example, the AR-15’s designer intended it to replace the M-14 for American infantry units, and said he couldn’t imagine any civilian needing one. Should we regulate or even prohibit these kinds of weapons?

I don’t believe AR-15s should be banned. Semi-automatic rifles we’re available to the civilian market close to 40 years before being adopted by the military. A lot of people think it was the other way around. I’ve spoken with many anti-gun people and they all operate on this simplistic thinking that if you get rid of the weapons there will be a reduction in crime. What they don’t realize is if they change the law only the law abiding will follow. The criminals will keep theirs and the result will be a disarmed populous in even more danger from a now even more aggressive criminal class.

On top of that anti-gunners are not going to stop with just banning the AR. I have had anti-gunners say straight up banning the AR is a good start but in the end they want everything gone. For seventy years, from the 1934 Taylor Law [I think he meant the National Firearms Act of 1934—TDP], to the 1968 Gun Control Act, to the 1986 [Firearm Owners Protection Act], to finally the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, government has been trying to solve the problem through infringement on rights and property and obviously that is not working. Time for something else.

What infuriates me the most is the lying of the current administration. Saying the 2nd isn’t an absolute is pure bullshit. The 2nd is there as a check on overreaching Federal power. It has absolutely nothing to do with hunting. If I hear one more stupid joke about a deer wearing Kevlar I’m going to lose my mind. At the time of The Revolution private citizens could own warships, get themselves a contract with the colonial Congress and then go privateering hitting British ships at sea. Also spreading fear and telling people that a 9mm round will blow a lung out of the body is offensive to people who know what they’re talking about. Now would I want to be hit with a 9mm round, oh hell no. That said putting that level of disinformation into the world is helping no one.

Anti-gunners also talk about the success of Australia and their gun buy back program. First off how can the government buy back something that wasn’t theirs in the first place? Also they call it a buy back but what it really was a voluntary gun confiscation. If an Australian citizen choose not to sell his guns to the gov’t then he was thrown in jail. Twenty years on we find the Australian gov’t moving people into camps against their will because of a disease that is 99% survivable. Politicians get all kinds of strange ideas once gov’t has a monopoly on force.

Do you identify with a political party? Did you support one of the candidates in the 2020 election?

To your last question I am currently a registered Republican. I was a Democrat until my mid thirties. I voted for Clinton twice and Al Gore in 2000. Having to go through the recession in the early 90’s caused by Bush 41 there was no way in hell I was going to vote for his idiot son Bush 43. Hell I even voted for Hillary Clinton when see ran for the Senate. What I found later was I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.

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I'll follow up with Rich soon, and I'll have some things to say about a few of his specific points. I'm grateful for his participation.

The last post of the summer

Meteorological summer ends in just a few hours here in Chicago. Pity; it's been a decent one (for us; not so much for the Western US). I have a couple of things to read this afternoon while waiting for endless test sessions to complete on my work laptop:

And via Bruce Schneier, a group of local Chicago high schoolers will never give you up and never let you down.

Wait, Monday is August?

Somehow we got to the end of July, though I could swear March happened 30 seconds ago. If only I were right, these things would be four months in my future:

I will now go out into this gorgeous weather and come back to my office...in August.

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

Slow-ish afternoon

I've sent some test results off to a partner in Sydney, so I have to wait until Monday morning before I officially mark that feature as "done." I'm also writing a presentation I'll give on March 16th. So while the larger part of my brain noodles on Microsoft Azure CosmosDB NoSQL databases (the subject of my presentation), the lesser part has this to read:

Finally, software developer Ben Tupper has created a Myst-like game surrounding the mysterious door at 58 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights. I walked past that door every day for almost two years, and even got a peek inside once. It's not really a townhouse, after all.

Three notable recent deaths

In no particular order:

  • Dale Clevenger played French horn for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1966 to 2013. He was 81.
  • Sheldon Silver went to jail for taking bribes while New York Assembly Speaker. He was 77.
  • Lisa Goddard made climate predictions that came true, to the horror of everyone who denies anthropogenic climate change. She was 55.

In a tangential story, the New Yorker profiles author Kim Stanley Robinson, who has written several novels about climate change. (Robinson hasn't died, though; don't worry.)

Fast and furious?

Josh Marshall lays out the evidence that the Omicron Covid variant hit hard and fast, but as in South Africa, appears to have a short life-span:

New York City was one of the first parts of the United States hit by the Omicron variant. The trajectory of the city’s surge now appears remarkably similar to the pattern we saw earlier in South Africa and other countries.

Data out of South Africa showed a roughly four week interval between the start of the Omicron surge and its peak. “Peak in four weeks and precipitous decline in another two,” said Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council. “It was a flash flood more than a wave.”

New York City numbers appear to match this pattern almost exactly.

It looks like we may have much lower Covid numbers by the end of January here in Chicago. That said, not that it surprised anyone, but the way the city and State of Illinois have managed testing here seems a bit...hinky:

As Omicron cases surged, Chicagoans were told repeatedly by city, state and federal officials to get tested for COVID-19 — but few testing options were available.

The city previously shut down many of the free testing sites it ran, and the few government-run sites and health clinics still open were booked up. At-home tests sold out. Thousands of people turned to pop-ups that promised quick results, especially as they tried to keep family and friends safe during the holidays.

Now, many who tested at pop-ups are questioning if they got accurate results — and wondering where they can go to for trusted testing. Some have said they’re frustrated the government hasn’t done more to provide legitimate testing options, stockpile testing supplies and shut down bad actors.

Last week, Block Club highlighted how one locally based chain — the Center for COVID Control, with 300 locations across the United States — is now the subject of federal and state investigations after numerous people filed complaints about not getting results or getting delayed results. Authorities said the chain wasted more than 40,000 PCR tests and didn’t properly process rapid tests in multiple instances, among other concerns.

Officials are also beginning to crack down on the pop-ups. The Illinois Attorney General’s office and other agencies are investigating the Center for COVID Control, and the Attorney General’s Office has warned people to be cautious around pop-ups in general.

So, some opportunists predicted a Covid surge in December, bought up all the rapid tests, then opened pop-up stores to bilk the government and the people out of hundreds for "free" tests they could have gotten without "help" from the pop-ups.

The only people who could have predicted this turn of events were millions of us who grew up in Chicago.

The Empire State Trail

The kids today don't know how good they have it. When I lived in New York more than 20 years ago, I would have gotten on a bike and ridden this trail:

Last December, the Empire State Trail — a sprawling, 750-mile cyclist and pedestrian route that connects Buffalo to Albany and New York City to the Canadian border, forming what looks like a sideways T — opened to the public. Considering the pandemic bike boom, the timing was perfect.

About 400 miles of greenways, repurposed rail lines and bike paths already existed in New York. So, when the $200 million project was announced in 2017, the state rushed to fill in the gaps between them.

Where new bike trails were not possible, blue-and-yellow signs were installed on roads signaling the way, and some guardrails were added to protect cyclists from vehicular traffic.

The result — a combination of protected paths, city streets, highway shoulders and country roads that pass by small towns and cities — offers views of wetlands, waterways, grasslands and mountain ranges. It is a showcase for New York State’s history and natural beauty.

Of course, before my knees told me I had to stop biking, I also planned to ride RAGBRAI, so maybe this wouldn't have happened. Still: the kids today have opportunities my generation never had.

And they should get off my lawn.

Catastrophe?

I said before lunch I wouldn't post barring catastrophe. This may qualify:

Over the weekend in California, a storm system dropped to a barometric pressure of 945.2 mB, making it the strongest storm to affect the Pacific Northwest on record. For perspective, this is equivalent to the central pressure you would see with a strong hurricane.

For Sacramento, the stats are even more startling. Sacramento picked up 5.44 inches of rain Sunday, making it their wettest day in history (or any calendar month). Making this even more remarkable is that this came on the heels of a record dry streak of 212 days in a row with no measurable rain. That just ended on Oct. 18.

This example of drought to deluge, also known as precipitation volatility, is exactly what's expected to occur more frequently in California with climate change, where a moisture-loaded Pacific storm system brings a brief period of record rainfall in the middle of an extreme drought exacerbated by record high temperatures.

I mean, wow. And right now, the storm that battered Chicago this morning will head east on a trajectory to give the East Coast a hell of a Nor'easter tomorrow and Wednesday.

But by all means, let's forget about climate legislation to save the last 36 coal jobs in West Virginia, shall we?

End-of-summer reading

Only about 7 more hours of meteorological summer remain in Chicago. I opened my windows this afternoon for the first time in more than two weeks, which made debugging a pile of questionable code* more enjoyable.

Said debugging required me to put these aside for future reading:

Finally, one tiny bit of good news: more Americans believe in evolution than ever before, perhaps due to the success of the SARS-COV-2 virus at evolving.

Goodbye, Summer 2021. It's been a hoot.

* Three guesses who wrote the questionable code. Ahem.