Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Open letter to Rep. Rodriguez

Rep. Rodriquez,

First, thank you for signing onto the St. Patrick's Day letter to the AG's office with 64 of your colleagues, advising him not to pursue the ineffective legislation he mentioned his office was considering. Your inclusion in that number made me a happy constituent.

However, your most recent email to your constituents contains a bit of obfuscation that I hope you can clear up for me. In part, you wrote: "that includes smuggling an iron river of over 10,000 American guns in to the hands of the drug cartels in only 2007 and 2008."

First of all, thank you for not blindly repeating the ridiculously fallacious "90%" number that the Executive Branch and some of your colleagues seem to love throwing around. The 10,347 number which reflects the number of guns, seized by Mexico & turned in to BATFE for tracing, that turned out to indeed come from a US source, makes up only 36% of the total number of arms seized by Mexican authorities over 2007 & 2008. So thank you for that.

However, there is absolutely no evidence (none deemed suitable for public consumption that I can locate, at any rate) that all 10,347 were smuggled across the border illegally. It may not have been tactful to suggest this in your recent visit with President Calderon, but it certainly seems relevant to wonder how many of these 10,347 originated as a fully-legal shipment of arms, supplied directly by US manufacturers to the Mexican military (or that of other Latin American countries) via US Dept. of Defense contracts, only to find their way - God only knows how - into the hands of the cartels? How many of these 10,347 are of a type that aren't even legal for civilian purchase in the US (that is, fully-automatic, etc.)? Additional gun control measures aimed at restricting the civilian market in the US will do absolutely nothing about that portion - whatever it turns out to be - of the 10,347 that fits those descriptions.

One would certainly expect BATFE to maintain some kind of records of what kind of arms these are that it's tracing, and where they came from - otherwise, how would it be able to determine anything else about them? Is there a way you - or a citizen, through a FOIA request - might gain access to that kind of breakdown of these 10,347 arms that were traced and originated here? That kind of information should certainly inform any policy decisions that are being discussed along those lines, and which shouldn't be carried out with only gross, aggregated statistics like, "over 10,000 of these guns originated in the US".

Thank you,
Jason Trippet

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two bits of good news today

That are worthy of coming off hiatus:

First, the DoD rescinded the new policy that would have severely impacted price & availability of ammunition - expended brass can continue to be sold to ammunition remanufacturers. Thanks to the steadfast Senators from Montana for personally bringing this wrong-headed policy to the right people's attention.

And then, wonder of wonders, 65 Democratic Congressmen signed a delivered a letter to Attorney General Holder (PDF) as a response to his recent comments that he & the Obama administration will seek to impose a new (so-called) "Assault Weapons" ban. Their response? "Don't even think about it." The letter even specifically points out the two main reasons why it was a pointless bill: that it was ineffective in changing anything crime-related, and that (so-called) "assault weapons" are not special in any way vis-a-vis other perfectly legal firearms that are available today, and have been for over 70 years. And guess whose Congressman is on that list? I may not have voted for Rep. Rodriguez in November, but he just got a big pat-on-the-back email from yours truly.

Hat tips to Of Arms and the Law

Sunday, November 30, 2008

On Hiatus

Well, there's been plenty to write about, what with a presidential election and all that entails (which mostly would have been me wondering aloud why in the world everyone thinks the President should be so important and/or hold so much power), but with my two wonderful boys at home to play with I just haven't felt the impetus grab me strongly enough to tear me away from them to blog. So I imagine I should just put a little notice up here that I may be back sometime, but for right now, let's just say my priorities are in order.

Thanks to the two of you who've been back every once a while,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When candy is outlawed...

...only outlaws will have candy. Showing now in Scotland, the logical end-result conclusion of nanny-state policies like, "sorry, you're allowed to neither fight back at all, nor own, possess, or carry an implement likely to aid you in fighting back."

A man caught carrying a large gobstopper ["jawbreaker" for those unfamiliar with Willy Wonka - JT] in a sock has been fined £400 after it was found to be an offensive weapon.

Sheriff Kenneth McIver told him that, even though it was not in the same category as a knife or axe, it was capable of inflicting a nasty injury.

"You will be aware of the ongoing national debate on offensive weapons including knives," he told Harvey.

"But all too often this court has to consider other improvised weapons like this."

And people wonder why we rail against the folks who would make law-abiding citizens in the US just as vulnerable to violent criminals as those in the UK.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heller - "the people" WIN

If there was ever a circumstance that would lift me to the grandiose heights of actually posting something more frequently than every two months, this is it.

Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Gun Ban, Upholds Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Woohoo! Still reading the opinion and the two dissents, but the salient points are these:
1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.
(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative
clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.
(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved.

Anyhoo, back to reading the 157-page release!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Open letter to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

1 May 2008

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4304
202-224-0776 (FAX)

Senator Hutchison -

First, thank you for your service to our state and the many sensible positions you hold (and for which you continue to be re-elected) in representing us to the federal government. Thank you especially for joining the other Senators & Congressmen in signing the amicus brief for D.C. v. Heller, argued in the Supreme Court last month.

However, in your comments at a Heritage Foundation event on February 7 covering that amicus brief, you made some comments that should be addressed and corrected.

In the Q&A session [just before the 35-minute mark - JT], when asked by a Dallas reporter your position on the "Assault Weapons Ban", you stated that you supported it, for the reason that a regulation of its kind was analogous to those regulating shouting "fire!" in a theater. You reasoned that both regulations clarify that there's a category of action under a Constitutional right that's deemed to be separate and distinct from the basic right (of speech or keeping & bearing arms), that we restrict in order to protect the public from harm by those who would "abuse" that right.

There are two important facets to that approach to regulation: whether the concept makes sense in general, and whether its specific applications are successful. Conceptually, the idea is to very specifically restrict certain actions that would normally be protected by a guaranteed Constitutional right, but in certain and specific cases where that action would cause harm through malicious abuse. Sounds reasonable. So we restrict the shouting of "fire" in a theater, and as a result we don't have people being trampled trying to get out of a theater that's not on fire. But notice that we don't restrict the shouting of "fire" in an open-air park, nor the act of shouting, nor the ownership of a loud voice.

For the same reasonableness & effectiveness to apply to a ban on a particular class of firearm, the regulation should have to jump through the same hoops. Where the free speech regulation restricted the joining of several elements which are normally, taken separately, unrestricted - being in a theater, shouting, speaking "fire" - what confluence of elements did the "Assault Weapons Ban" restrict, that when taken separately are unrestricted but when joined create a situation that puts the public in greater jeopardy than it would be without?

Did it restrict firing rates? No, the 1934 National Firearms Act and 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act were already in place, restricting fully-automatic machineguns. Similarly, semi-automatic (one bullet per one trigger pull) weapons were as available during the life of the 1994 federal law as they were before and after, so the law didn't even mandate a backwards step to bolt-action or otherwise "single-action" (manually cycle between each shot to load a new round) firearms. Firing rates remained unchanged by the "Assault Weapons Ban".

Did it restrict the use of more powerful ammunition that can cause relatively "more" damage to a target than one might use for home defense? No, the 1994 federal law didn't affect the availability of any particular type of ammunition, from common hunting calibers like .223 and .308 to the less frequently-used .50 caliber. Any regulations on special "armor piercing" ammunition and the like, reserved for law enforcement, were already on the books and were not mentioned by the 1994 federal law.

Did it restrict smaller, more concealable pistols that could conceivably be snuck into crowded places by those with nefarious intent? No, and in fact, during the 20-year period from 1986 to 2006, states in a sweeping trend were passing liberalized concealed handgun laws that allowed law-abiding citizens to carry their small, concealable pistols in public for self-defense - the number of states with such "shall-issue" laws grew from 9 to 39 in that span, which included the period of the 1994 federal law.

Did it restrict silencers that could conceivably be used by shooters to hide their location and evade capture? No, restrictions on silencers were included in the aforementioned 1934 NFA, and the 1994 federal law didn't mention them at all.

So what did the "Assault Weapons Ban" really restrict in order to protect the public from harm by those who would abuse the right to arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment? It banned the manufacture and sale of certain models that had two or more of the following features, considered by most to be merely cosmetic:
- pistol grip
- folding/collapsible stock
- flash suppressor/muzzle brake
- "large-capacity" detachable magazine
- bayonet mounting point
- grenade launcher mounting point

In short, the 1994 federal law restricted a very specific class of weapons that 1) were not appreciably more effective in killing people than those firearms that were left unrestricted are, and 2) were used in a very small percentage of crime to begin with, even pre-1994 (estimates ranged from 2% to 8%). Those two facts contribute directly to the fact that the ban didn't appreciably affect the crime rate during its 10-year period, as concluded by separate DOJ and CDC studies.

So hopefully you can see, Senator Hutchison, that the 1994 "Assault Weapons Ban" did absolutely nothing to "protect the public from harm by those who would abuse" an otherwise Constitutionally-protected right. The terms of the ban didn't make any sense conceptually, and so it's no surprise that the application of the ban wasn't successful either. If, in your remarks at the Heritage Foundation, you were specifically speaking about those restrictions placed on fully-automatic machineguns, armor-piercing ammunition, and silencers and the like, well, that's a completely different conversation, and has nothing to do with the now-defunct 1994 "Assault Weapons Ban".

Again, I applaud your decision to support the defendant, Dick Heller, with the amicus brief signed by your colleagues, and thank you for your efforts in that regard. I do however encourage you to correct the impression you have about the merits and effectiveness of the "Assault Weapons Ban" that, at the end of the day, was decried by both sides of the gun control debate as being a useless piece of poorly-thought-out and ineffective legislation.

Jason Trippet
Helotes, TX

Hat tip: JR

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Virginia Tech remembered

Yesterday was an emotional day for those involved in last year's shooting, and it was remembered by folks nationwide. One of the activities that took place on campus was the reading aloud of the accomplishments of the victims, among them Professor Liviu Librescu, who used his body to barricade the door to his classroom, delaying the shooter while his class escaped through a window.

An internationally renowned aeronautical engineering educator and researcher, with a host of honors from many countries, he embodied profound courage throughout his life, even in its final moments.

Among the honors he received is the Grand Cross of Romania, for his heroism, awarded to his wife at his funeral in Israel.

It's hard to imagine anyone arguing against the selfless sacrifice offered up by Prof. Librescu, or its efficacy in saving the lives of some of his students. It's unconscionable to disagree with his courageous actions.

Unfortunately, for many, that's where the thought stops. But let's put our thinking caps on and go for a ride on the logic train, shall we?

1) Prof. Librescu embodied profound courage
2) That courage demonstrably saved lives by delaying the shooter
3) The actions of courageous people on the scene of a shooting can save lives
4) Deploying self-sacrificial courage to save lives is an action to be praised & encouraged, not condemned
5) More effective actions by those courageous people can be more effective in saving lives
6) If Prof. Librescu could have delayed him longer, more lives would have been saved
7) Stopping the shooter is the most effective form of delaying him - effectively "delaying" him infinitely
8) The most effective means to stop the shooter is to render him unable or unwilling to shoot
9) The most efficient and reliable way to render him unable to shoot is to shoot him
10) Ergo, logic forces one to wonder, how many more lives could have been saved had Prof. Librescu, who we all agree is to be counted among humanity's bravest souls, been armed?

Folks that don't (or refuse to) take this path from "Prof. Librescu was a great man" through "what he did that was great" to "how could he have been even greater" seem to me to be just willfully short-sighted. Why would we deny the Prof. Librescus of the world the ability to save more lives than they would if they're empty-handed?

Change the name in that logic train to "Jeanne Assam" and the location to "New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO" and the situation moves from hypothesis to empirical evidence. Through Prof. Librescu's heroic effort at Virginia Tech, some number of lives were demonstrably saved, but 32 people still fell victim to the shooter, over a time span covering over two hours. Through Jeanne Assam's heroic effort at New Life Church, some number of lives were likewise saved, but the shooter only had a matter of minutes to do his damage and as a result only 2 victims were killed. The difference is stark and undeniable.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

LttE - Pollution of language

Submitted to the San Antonio Express-News on 27 March 2008:

The story about Chief McManus' recommendations for toughening the DWI laws was fine for what it was, a straightforward presentation of the Chief's recommendations, with some statistics and such. Obviously input from law enforcement is invaluable, but the people's representatives will still decide what to press for and what to leave on the back burner (thank God for separation of powers).

Cary Clack's accompanying opinion column about drunk drivers was a little bit "Boo!" and a little bit "let's take some personal responsibility", and was, for the most part, not too bad. Labeling people who make bad (possibly dangerous) decisions as "terrorists" toed the line of poor taste, but based on the very malleable definition of "terrorist" these days, it was just barely enough to start getting my hackles up.

Then letter-writers Jacque Petterson and Judy Halfant wrote in over the weekend and took it a step further. A like-minded Jerry Neely added his two cents in the following week. Each one of them leaped enthusiastically over the line and specifically called drunk drivers "murderers", something so callous and uncalled-for that neither Chief McManus nor Mr. Clack had the audacity to do likewise. Mr. Clack even specifically stated that killing is not a drunk driver's intent: "I was still at the mercy of countless other unintentional yet possible killers."

Causing someone's death does not make one a murderer. The dictionary definition of murder requires the element of intent - the taking of a life has to be purposefully done. State laws agree - and there are different degrees to account for premeditation - but provide for other charges like negligent homicide and manslaughter to punish those who've taken lives without intending to. To my knowledge (and I'm no lawyer), no one ever convicted of taking a life while driving drunk has been convicted of (or even charged with) murder.

Words are important. They're how we communicate and interact in the free marketplace of ideas that makes this country great. Words are like the currency, the medium of exchange, of that marketplace. Imagine what would happen if, in a grocery store, a customer tried to pay for an item with a $5 bill, only to find that the checker would only admit that the bill was worth $4. That's why it's so important that we temper our emotions when we contribute to the marketplace of ideas and make sure we use the words we choose with accuracy and precision. As the saying goes, we all need to call The Same Thing The Same Thing in order to make sense to each other and ensure that fellow citizens are treated fairly and equitably. Nowhere is the need for this more pronounced than in the casual tossing about of criminal charges by noninvolved parties.

I know "murderer" is easier to write and much more "zing!"-worthy than "negligent homicidal driver" or "manslaughterer", but please, let's at least try to keep the pollution of the language to a minimum.

Monday, March 03, 2008

LttE - Tony Kosub's positions

Submitted to the San Antonio Express-News on 3 March 2008:

Tony Kosub, the Republican challenger for State Rep. district 122, sure sounds good on paper. He talks about limited (and efficient) government, lower taxes, Second Amendment rights, ending eminent domain abuse, etc. Where he's curiously silent is on education, his website only touching on this important issue in two glib-sounding bullets that are void of substance, addressing the affordability of college tuition and improving the never-defined "quality" of education. He's a middle-school teacher, so one might be forgiven for thinking any candidate might have very detailed points on an issue specific to how he or she makes their living, informed by the very expertise that allows them to make their living in that field.

In fact, that's what worries me about Kosub. He's been endorsed by three local chapters of the American Federation of Teachers - not surprising given that he's a public school teacher and one would assume a member of their union (affiliated with the AFL-CIO). With the website posting strong positions opposing any form or degree of school choice, vouchers and privatization (three subjects that should be near and dear to any conservative Republican's heart), one is left to just read the sparse bullets on Kosub's website and wonder how much sway the AFT's positions hold for him. If he were to win office and a vote on vouchers were to come up in the next session, how would he see it? Would he vote for his political constituents or his professional colleagues? Especially worrying is the recent California court decision regarding homeschooling - if a vote came up to protect Texas' vibrant homeschooling community from a similar threat, how would our new state Rep. vote?

Frankly, the answer to those questions, with such long-term implications for the education of my own not-yet-school-age kids, is not something I'm comfortable guessing on.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Molon Labe - whys and wherefores

Well, that "I've got stuff to write about!" didn't work out too well, eh? 3 months later and I finally make the time to post something. In this case, it's a very compelling re-telling of an event that should get most reasonable folks' hackles up, and in this case prompted the writer to re-evaluate and eventually confirm & escalate her philosophy of resistance to thuggery. Simultaneously, you wish no one (especially loved ones) would have to go through something like that in order to come to the realization she has, and you wish your loved ones would come to that same realization somehow.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Open letter to Times Online's Kate Muir

Ms. Muir -

"The dark ages" was an interesting choice of title for your piece, and I hope you'll permit me to explain why, amid what I'm certain are copious amounts of email in your inbox full of all kind of angry hate-mail from other gamers. "Other gamers" - yes, I also play PC & video games, but I like to think of myself as being of the more level-headed variety. I'm also 33, married (since I was 27), and have two adorable little boys (4 months & 3 years) with whom I can't wait to start playing games of all stripes: board, card, sports (gasp! outside even), and video.

I find it interesting that you lay a large piece of the blame for families getting started later than they used to right at the feet of the desire of men to play video games for a couple hours a day, on average. The fact that families are starting later is well-documented, but I think the reasons for those are as diverse as there are people in the world. It would be as irresponsible of me to assert that it's happening because more women these days are putting college educations & professional careers of their own ahead of their desire to start families as I believe it is for you to make your assertion.

In the interests of keeping this short, I'll cut to the chase. The reason I believe your assertion is baseless is the reason I find the choice of title interesting (you were wondering if I was going to tie back to that first sentence, weren't you?). "The dark ages" connotes a regression to some period in the past where conditions were less than ideal - but to me it was just another evocation of what videogames really are, in the grand scheme of things: a medium of storytelling.

Think about it: the earliest form of entertainment was storytelling, and indeed, one might argue that all entertainment is storytelling of one form or another. It started, pre-written history, with verbal traditions and legends, passed down through generations' memories. Until we discovered that we can write these legends down and therefore not lose them to the winds of history. Then someone decided that they'd have more impact if the action in those legends were acted out on-stage. Theater was predominant (though books, God bless 'em, have withered the tides and remain popular still) until the Industrial Revolution gave us electricity & radio waves, at which point the drama troupes started broadcasting their acted-out stories over the air. This was followed by television (theater productions broadcast with visuals, then by larger-scale productions on the big screen. It's all just storytelling, through media that evolved as time and technology advanced.

An interactive movie is just the next logical step in the evolution of storytelling, and if there's a better two-word descriptor for video games than "interactive movie", I honestly don't know what it is. If you had perhaps looked into the demographics & usage data more deeply, you might have found that during the time period where game-playing time has increased among the ever-important "males 18-34" set (only one year left in my membership therein), their time spent watching TV & movies have decreased by almost the same proportion. We men aren't eschewing family & careers in favor of video games; we're eschewing other forms of entertainment - nee storytelling - in favor of video games.

There are many factors that are leading people of both genders to postpone marriage and families later than in generations past, but despite what you and Ms. Hymowitz have asserted, the form of entertainment we choose to partake in is hardly a credible option for inclusion into that list.

Jason Trippet
San Antonio, TX USA

Friday, November 16, 2007

Missing in Action

Well, I've been out of writing mode for a while, and I have two reasons why. One is the huge project at work that was in crunch time and finally got done (as much as one can actually say they are done) a couple weeks ago.

Here's the other one - 16 September 2007

Things are getting back to relative normalcy and there have been some writings about that have made me want to write a bit again. So stay tuned (all 2 of ya).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Why we fight

Curious as to why we fight against any incursion against, or any abridgement of our natural, human right of armed self-defense? Here's a thoughtful and pointed answer.

In September, 2005, somebody gave law enforcement officers orders to confiscate legally owned firearms from New Orleans homeowners. Homeowners who had broken no laws, threatened no person, and who desperately needed those guns for self defense were the target of this confiscation edict. The big question that gun owners had pondered for years was finally answered.When given the order to seize weapons and trample on the US Constitution, many officers did not question the legality of the order.Instead, they willingly carried it out. Armed peace officers entered private homes like storm troopers, forced citizens to the floor, seized their only means of protection, and then loaded those defenseless citizens in military trucks for processing and shipment elsewhere. The unknown answer to the most fearful question was supplied to gun owners by the very actions of the officials involved. Undeniable actions yielded an undeniable answer. Yes, armed law enforcement officials will act on illegal orders from God knows where if the order is given a cloak of authority. Gun owners can no longer trust law enforcement to abide by the US Constitution over an illegal edict declared by rats who will later run and hide any trace of having given the order. Innocence was lost in New Orleans. Reality was seen.
The next time anyone says to you: 'Are you just afraid or paranoid?' Look them straight in the eye and say: Remember New Orleans.

If they ask you, 'Why does anyone need to own a gun?' Remember New Orleans.

If they say to you, "Why does anyone need a high-capacity magazine?" Look them straight in the eye and say: Remember New Orleans.

What's wrong with a 15-day waiting period? Remember New Orleans.

What makes you think the government would ever confiscate your gun? Remember New Orleans.

Is the second amendment relevant in the 21st Century? Remember New Orleans.

That's our battle cry and let's never, ever let them forget it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A retraction of my opinion on HR 2640

I'm a little late to the party here, but it looks like I and a ton of others jumped the gun on excoriating HR 2640. Clayton Cramer, friend to gun owners across the nation, had this to say in correcting those of us who did jump the gun:
1. Current law and regulation (as I have previously discussed) required a person to be adjudicated by a court or other due process situation. The D.A. calling the police and telling them, "lock this guy up" doesn't qualify. At a minimum, this guy may have some trouble getting his carry permit back, but if the D.A. thinks this makes him permanently ineligible to own a gun, he better go check the federal statutes and regulations on this.

2. HR 2640 hasn't been passed--and yet this guy has already been disarmed for life, according to Gun Owners of America. HR 2640 doesn't change the existing law at all about what categories of commitment disable you from gun ownership. It only expands the reporting. Let's say that somehow the D.A. managed to persuade a court (not the police) to involuntarily commit this guy. Anywhere in America, under the current federal law, he can't own a gun. Since many states are failing to report this, he might pass the federal background check, and be able to buy a gun. But if he comes to the attention of authorities, he's now in the same pile of trouble as a convicted felon in possession. HR 2640 doesn't change anything in terms of legality.

3. However: HR 2640 provides a procedure by which someone involuntarily committed might be able to get his rights back again (assuming that Congress funds the program, which they might or might not do). Right now, once you have been adjudicated mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed with appropriate due process, you are unable to ever own a gun. There is no procedure for getting this straightened out--ever. HR 2640 makes it at least possible.
I still don't like HOW the bill was passed (unrecorded voice votes = Reps unaccountable to their constituents), but I feel much better about the bill BEING passed.