Friday, May 23, 2014

Closing the barn door after....

Much as I'm tempted, I shan't open with an obscenity laden rant. Neither shall I book a flight to Texas, having successfully sought the Governors pardon in advance for acts involving the liberal use of a taser or tasers upon the hard of thinking.

That said, I must address the maroons who thought it a grand idea to open carry long arms into WA Legislative hearings, Chipotle, Starbucks, Jack-in-The-Box and some rinky-dink chain called "Smash-Burger."

What were you *thinking?*

You didn't de-sensitize, you frightened. You lost ground for the entire gun owning community with your melodramatic antics. You have yet to apologize for the new Gun Free Zones you have very nearly single-handedly served up to Watts and her cronies or even acknowledge responsibility for your reckless idiocy.

You failed to *think.*

Sean over at PAGunBlog notes that Shannon Watts of MAIG/MDA infamy is now pursuing Sonic and Chili's in an attempt to drive them into acts of anti-gun bigotry, barring all carry of all firearms from their properties. He takes a somewhat more generous view than I, holding that your recent weasel-worded and responsibility-evading "change of policy" is sufficient to shield you from further criticism.

That is, without any doubt, gracious of Sean. I believe such graciousness is at best somewhat premature in light of:

The Chipotle issue has nothing to do with us and Open Carry Texas members and everything to do with a national gun control organization harassing and bullying corporations into submission. We have been welcomed into every restaurant we enter by employees and customers. Yet, gun control bullies that don't even live in our state troll our Facebook pages looking for their next target. - Open Carry Texas, Facebook 5/20/14
How'd that Chipotle, Jack In The Box and those "victories" and "welcomes" secured by you and your fellow travelers work out?

You might gather from my comments that I am unamused. You would be correct - I tire of defending the practice of Open Carry to other experienced activists who would tar the entire concept of Open Carry with the actions of a few self-righteous and vastly counterproductive nimrods. I grow wear of losing neutral spaces to the anti's because of the purer-than-thou rantings of the shortsighted. 

Your "policy change" is but a weak-hearted start that I suspect only took place reluctantly - after days of being roasted by the *effective* portion of the pro-gun community, and still failed to apologize for what you've cost us.

Yes, I'm annoyed. But I'm keeping my eye on the main target - defeating Bloomberg and his minion Watts and their MAIG/MDA strategy of bigotry, fear and discrimination aimed at gun owners lawfully carrying in public spaces. 


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Help v. Sabotage: Open Carry, Chipotle's and more..

Quote of the day: 

Is it legal to open carry long arms into restaurants? Yes. Should it be socially acceptable? Yes. is it socially acceptable? NO. Are you helping? NO! Are you making things worse? YES! Should you stop being a dumb shit? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- Scribbler of Scribbler's Scrawls
 First, let us be clear - for an allegedly gun-friendly state, Texas gun laws are just plain weird. From restricting Open Carry to only long guns to making "printing" a criminal offense, stupid abounds.

Sadly, stupid is not limited to legislators in Texas. Or even to the anti-gun community.

Within the gun community there exists the Open Carry community (and many others). Within the Open Carry community there exists a yet smaller and as yet not officially named community (at least politely) that I'll call, in lieu of "blazing idiots", the Counterproductive Reason After Passion Crowd (or CRAP-crowd).

Now, Texas is a special case because of their eccentric laws around open carry so I try and cut both the state and its inhabitants an extra dose of slack.

However, when even C.J. Grisham distances himself from a group of nimrods, it merits taking notice. When the Facebook and Gun Blogger community unite (either uniting is unusual - both is well nigh as common as additional comings of Christ), it becomes a near-certain conclusion that someone has screwed up on a fairly stellar basis - say, like persuading a national restaurant chain to ban firearms and those who lawfully carry them.

While virtually every story on this topic that I've read has been lifted in part or in full from a Moms Demand Action (a wholly owned Bloomberg subsidiary not particularly know for accuracy or veracity) press release and I've yet to see a genuine Chipotle's policy document ABC offers enough of a hint (along with the photo evidence from Forbes of a post by one Alfonso Decampo that appears to have since vanished from FaceBook down the memory hole) that I tend to believe these folks *really are* that foolish, counterproductive and inconsiderate.

Others appear to agree. Marko Kloos, a well know firearms rights advocate comments "Look, all I'm saying is that if you just have to carry your Tapco-ed out SKS on a single-point sling at the salad bar in Chipotle, you're not a Second Amendment activist, you're a Gun Aspie. Put the SKS back under the bed in your room next to the ninja swords, get back on Xbox Live, and STAY THE FUCK OFF MY SIDE." 

Noted blogger Tamara of Books, Bikes & Boomsticks notes "There's a difference between just carrying a gun and carrying a gun AT people. It should be as nonchalant as an article of clothing. I have never said to myself "Woo-hoo! I'm wearing PANTS in Greasy Joe's Dixie Bar And Grill! Someone take my picture in these PANTS!"

I like open carry (though I'm not up for the "shoot me first" tactical considerations, nor the "be the good ambassador" schtick leading me to conceal most of the time). But there's a right way to do it (you either aren't noticed or you have mostly polite folks asking questions) and a wrong way to do it (usually indicated by the results you get). And the difference isn't *that* hard to figure out.

I could go on, but it's fair to say we've established that responsible gun-owning adults view the actions of the CRAP-crowd as counterproductive at best and more often not imbecilic in the bargain. 

Is this dippery a get out of jail free card for Chipotle? Is a response of "some gun owners behaved badly, so now we'll bar all carry - including concealed and responsible open carry - from our facilities" appropriate?  

Not so much. Let's look at responses Chipotle (and lest we forget, Starbucks) could have made:

Ideal response: "We recognize that just like any community that firearms owners have their share of inconsiderate morons. We have banned these two individuals from all our facilities and would encourage other businesses to join us in this action, just as we would any other individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel at risk of violence or stupidity-driven injury. We recognize that these persons are not representative of law-abiding gun-owners or any other responsible person."

Better Response: "We regret the necessity to post our facilities against imbecilic behaviour. The sign below will be appearing at all of our locations soon.We apologize to our law-abiding and adult customers for any offense."

Guns are welcome on premises
Good Response: "In light of recent events, we choose to ban the carry or possession of long arms (rifles/shotguns) on our premises. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of local law."

Fair Response: "Visible display of firearms is prohibited on all of our properties. Violations of this policy will result in law enforcement being called to remove the offender with fullest prosecution sought, to the extent of local law and a permanent ban from all our facilities."

Bad Response:  "We request our customers and visitors do not bring firearms into any of our facilities." (i.e., non-binding beyond perhaps trespass)

Worst Response: "Posession or carry of firearms by any person except an authorized law enforcement officer is forbidden on our properties and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." (Legally binding posting, etc)

Given that Chipotle's chose either "Bad" or "Worst" (details yet to be discovered), I don't think they get a pass under the "simply because one party is a jerk, this does not give all other parties carte blanche for their own innate jerk-hood" policy.

I don't find being punished, penalized or pushed around as a result of the twit-hood of others remotely amusing. I don't much care to visit places where I feel unwelcome (for whatever reason) and as a person that typically carries (concealed where legal) I feel Chipotle's has withdrawn the welcome mat - that neither I nor my dollars are welcome there.

Finally, I'm not a huge fan of bigotry - and, at the end of the day, that's what the "Bad" and "Worst" policies boil down to, bigotry pure and simple. To bar an entire class of individuals based on the bad behavior of a few speaks to an irrational fear or hatred of that group - I'm not amused at signs indicating "No Colored," nor "No Faggots," nor one whit more amused by signs of the "No Guns Allowed" variety...they all fit in the same drawer (labelled "irrational bigotry") in my file cabinet and merit the same range of response as circumstances allow.


Monday, May 19, 2014

A few thoughts on Open Carry

After a rousing few rounds of "Open Carry is scary and the same as brandishing" v. "Open Carry is tactically superior" v. "Open Carry is inherently a political statement, intentional or otherwise" v. "Open Carry is more comfortable" the urge to reach for and liberally apply the wisdom stick is a mighty force that thus far remains vanquished.
First off, if it's holstered - it ain't brandishing, you hoplophobic maroon. Neither I, nor any other law-abiding gun owner are responsible for the care and feeding of YOUR irrational phobia's - either to pay for your much-needed therapy nor to pander to your loud public and political maunderings on the topic.

Your insistence that gun owners conceal their existence is neither more nor less reprehensible than insisting that black folk stick to using "colored" water fountains, ride at the back of the bus, or avoid sharing a cafe with the "decent folk." It is no better than denying women the vote or the right to own property. It is not significantly different than laws barring LGBT businesses from cities, LGBT folk gathering in groups of three or more, or that old classic (are you listening, Atlanta) targeted bar raids on LGBT friendly establishments.

Reviving the tactics of bigotry and fear is to essentially revive bigotry and fear and point it in a bright shiny new direction...while emanating the same foul stench as the Klan and their fellow travellers.

Moving on to "Open Carry is tactically superior," specifically the "it's faster" argument - while the more rational of us that carry recognize that - like a house fire and fire extinguishers - that stumbling on a encounter requiring major violence (barring some really bad choices regarding "don't be where the trouble is") is a relatively low order probability.

Open carry may, indeed, be "faster" - but at a cost. With Open Carry one not only straps on a fairly obvious "shoot that one first" badge on an involuntary basis (c'mon, even the *dumb* criminals can do basic risk analysis), but one straps on an annoying title - "Ambassador."

The "Ambassador" title happens because you are "out" or "open" - i.e., folks see you are carrying and, with no further input from you, hold you forth as both the expert and example on all things gun and gun owner. You don't get a choice in the matter beyond choosing whether you are going to be a "good" example or "bad" and how much grace and diplomacy you exhibit in doing either.

Which, in turn, leads us to our next point on the analysis - Open Carry is an inherently political statement whether that is your intent or not, no less than being an out gay man is a political statement. Simply by *existing* in a way that the public notices, you make a statement.

To the extent you are "non-scary" you undermine the bigotry sown by the anti-gun or the anti-gay and their theme that we (hurry up and decide which demographic we're discussing) need to be regulated and harassed for "our own good" and that of all those around us. See the paragraph above - intent is not required... this simply comes as part of the package of being identifiable.

As a side note, if you open carry I'd encourage planning "ambassador time" into your daily schedule - from talking guns or law with the local cop, to explaining guns to the little old granny that expresses an interest, to dealing with the hoplophobes and so forth. Why? Because it is one of the best possible things you can do for the gun community if you Open Carry. You're a self-nominated ambassador - might as well do a halfway good job and being friendly, informative and non-scary is a big part of that.

Finally, I've carried concealed and carried open (more concealed than open, but I'm comfortable either way) as a private citizen. The comfort thing depends on your equipment and your body more than concealed v. open - if you have a good holster and a gun that fits you (no, yet again, one size fits all does not apply). There are good and seriously fouled up concealed holsters; similarly there are both good and seriously fouled up open carry holsters. Shop around, your mileage may vary, and you WILL end up with the "drawer of holsters" filled with the "didn't quite work out" candidates.

As a final aside, have a bit of class. Open or concealed, suit your holster to your task. If you're going out for a night on the town wearing a tux your choice should be significantly different than the holster and gun you'd haul along for a fine afternoon hunting hogs on foot in the Texas brush. This is *more* important if you Open Carry, what with being visible and all. Remember, you made the decision to be the "involuntary ambassador" when you decided Open Carry was the mode du jour.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

SAF & NAGR - Good v. WTF?

It is very rarely that I fire up a post where I'm actually on the war path. I usually prefer to walk quietly away from the keyboard until I recover my serenity. Today, I make an exception.

Every community has their heroes... and those who are described as "heroes, not so much."

In forty years of ceaseless pro-gun activism, Alan Gottlieb has never shied from doing what was necessary to protect Second Amendment rights. Whether in his role as Chair of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, as founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation, as a board member of the Washington Arms Collectors or in the many other roles he has taken over the years both in service to gun rights and to the broader community.

That someone would attack Gottlieb for not being sufficiently "pure" is, at a minimum, offensive to me and damaging to the cause of firearms rights generally. I have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Gottlieb both personally and professionally and can honestly say that while we may not always agree, he is both a genuinely decent person and one of the most avid (and talented) supporters of gun rights we have out there.

One would think that even the most doltish political neophyte could wrap their two functional neurons around the notion that attacking the leading lights of firearms rights was counterproductive to advancing the cause of firearms rights.

Yet, that is what Dudley Brown has done. SAF's initial response is on their  web page. My own take is that Brown and his pet organization NAGR have raised millions through a strategy of attacks on gun rights leaders and organizations for, as far as I can tell, little or no actual effect in advancing the cause of gun rights. Brown has, however, done an admirable job of serving as a loose cannon and at sowing division among members of the gun community.

If you've received tweets or Facebook posts on this, I apologize. Similarly, others may be furiously hitting "send" in an attempt to call those possessed of either ethics or sense to action.

I ask you to take action and use your influence to make it painfully clear that these sorts of attacks on the gun rights organizations doing actual and effective work to protect and restore firearms rights and the leaders of those organizations are simply not acceptable. I'm asking you to take those steps now.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A few thoughts as a young gay man approaches college...

I'm not going to to attempt to shower wisdom on the pitfalls of collegiate life or the post-high-school graduation blues from the viewpoint of a young straight guy or a young woman - I've never been either one of those people, so don't have first-hand data on those experiences.

That said, I have been to college once as a young and closeted gay man, and a couple of more times since - and each time, the culture has shifted at least as much as my viewpoint. The world is a better and more treacherous place these days.

With all that said, young padawan, let us contemplate what this college thing means for your future - for if you think you are just going off to party (and slut away merrily) away from the beady eye of parental units, or grind through 4 years of tedium to get an entry ticket to a profession, or to achieve independence from your parents rules (and/or prove you are an adult), or to find a meal ticket, or even to seek intellectual nirvana - you're wrong. College is all of those and more - and less.

As a bonus, the decisions you make between eighteen and twenty-five will both haunt and bless you for the rest of your days. You have stepped out of the kiddy leagues and directly into a barely buffered real world - and despite college administrators best efforts what you do, choose and act upon matter at many different levels. You have run out of folks to blame for your foul-ups.

Don't let fear of leaving the nest stop you - go, if you can pull it off, for a residential school that's far enough away that it's inconvenient for family to visit without warning... but close enough that family or friends can swoop in to rescue you if (heaven forfend) you need bail, fall majorly ill, have some kind of catastrophic meltdown or find yourself stuffed into a hospital for major care.

HINT: You cannot walk on water, you are not knife or bullet-proof, you are not immune from falls from tall buildings, you cannot take on the entire soccer team after the third pint of stout (the fun way or the one that puts you in the hospital - though those may be the same activity) and you are responsible for your own safety before anyone else begins to be responsible for your safety.

About that hint? It's true for me, too. And everyone else. It's just that not very many folks realize that much before they hit 25 or had a number of exciting or unpleasant learning experiences (or ones that are both at the same time). Most of my comments are going to be based on "don't do what I did, young padawan - learn, and go forth and make glorious NEW AND ORIGINAL mistakes!"

An awful lot of you are going to already be out when you hit the college yard. For those of you who aren't, I'll refer you to my last pondering on such a matter. Come on out of that closet as fast as you can, try and avoid the "shout it from the rooftop" and the "sleep with anything that moves" phases, and try and maintain some dignity - it'll be useful later.

Drinking. Our community revolves around it - bars, barbecues, art openings, etc. A lot of us have exciting tales to tell about waking up next to guys far older, uglier (physically, spiritually or both), or kinkier than we would have chosen when we were in our right mind. Don't let this happen to you.

Quickly learn your limits and *never* drink enough that you aren't in control of yourself. If you set a drink down and it's out of sight for even a moment? It's a dead drink - you never know what happy little additives that folks wanting to see you naked in a sling might have dropped in there. Dump the drink and start fresh.

Never go out drinking alone. It's a neat way to make bad choices. Find a trustworthy wing-critter and hang out together until the hottie newb proves to be safe'n'sane. Leaving a phone # and an expected time to be home (a deadline, if you will, to check in) with a friend before a first date is a really fine choice.

Crazy stuff happens. The trick is letting it happen for *someone else.*

About that slutting around? Play safe, and play selective lest exciting blood-borne friends follow you home and right into major medical care. Quality, not quantity (yes, quantity is tempting...but there's no prize for boinking or getting boinked by the greatest number).

Remember "play stupid games, win stupid prizes." Don't get stupid - confrontation is for *special* occasions, and should not involve "fighting fair." There is no shame in running from the ungentle giant you've just peeved by pointing out his fashion and practical faults to his girlfriend. There is no shame in failing to point such things out, either.

More than likely, nobody is coming to save your bacon until well after the pain begins. So don't set yourself up for misery. 

Above all, your mileage may vary. You have our best wishes - now be good to yourself and to those you encounter while keeping brain fully engaged.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Kindness or Confrontation...

Le sigh.

There are, without any doubt, situations where you can't win for losing.

Often, these involve situations with a bunch of considerations or variables steaming in from a wide variety of directions.

Recently an individual engaged in a behavior in my presence that left me significantly uncomfortable on a couple of different fronts. I am relatively certain they meant no offense (or at least certainly hope that it was not some Machiavellian plot to annoy). I was much too tired to even snarl (and diplomacy was not even in the cards at that point). At the same time, I was aware this person had a plethora of other issues through which to work. And finally, I was (or should have been conscious enough to realize) that awkward behaviors will stay awkward until some sort of subtle or dramatic lesson is presented.

In such situations, misplaced kindness (and in honesty, exhaustion) may dictate a "grin and bear it" approach followed by kvetching to trusted friends - with a greater or lesser degree of enthusiastic venting. While far more constructive than simply smiling and internalizing the irritation, this approach is likely less than ideal.

The problem with this approach is that it facilitates the misbehavior du jour, even if the motivation is that the individual has "troubles enough." In other words, by failing to mention the issue one might be considered to enable further such faux pas.

Depending on the individual du jour, it may be wiser to express objections privately (if the party is well enough known to be trusted) or publicly (in case witnesses are desired/handy). Obviously, that determination is pretty darned individual - but if in doubt, public but polite is probably the best opener. One can, after all, always become more painfully clear in expressing an objection.

On the other hand, while certainly a form of effective communication, a full-bore and detailed examination of the objective behavior in an acidic command voice is likely unkind, if memorable. And the shock of the delivery may well overwhelm the message, particularly when an individual is busy multi-tasking other life issues. It is far to easy to misinterpret a detailed "stop that" as "s/he is attacking me."

This is true even for folks with merely average issues to process, let alone those with a double-high stack - leaving this second approach as limited to special cases where one simply wishes to permanently drive off the offender through non-physical means. I.e., a fairly limited set of applications.

Finally, the whole notion of getting physical over minor to medium social errors is highly individual. I've a fairly high (it has been suggested unsafely so) standard for graduating to such means - but I recognize that others life experiences and training/education may well leave them with different, yet valid, set points. As a personal policy, I have come to the conclusion that I am deeply disinterested in discovering those set points in others (particularly and especially in those others that I have reason to believe could effortlessly break me in half sans tools).

So. Kindness v. Confrontation may, at times, mean that kindness involves some level of confrontation...and at others, that kindness dictates simply venting to friends and moving on.

Your mileage WILL vary.

The Etiquette of Hugging

I'd been holding off on this one, as I wanted to cogitate a bit on it. Specifically, I wanted to be darned sure I wasn't addressing it at any specific person or group thereof - so, cogitation.

Today, however, I'm sufficiently irritated with other matters that I'm fairly certain that any thing that slops over on a particular individual simply means that they have gotten lucky - not that any particular malice is directed in a particular direction.

That said, not everyone is comfortable being hugged - and the level of discomfort and the enthusiasm of the reaction is highly variable. Some of us were not raised in a "hugging culture," some are victims of rape or other abuse, others are simply shy (hugging only those that are well known), others of us that "carry heat" are deeply discomfitted by letting unknowns or barely-knowns within grabbing distance of the sidearm du jour, and yet others that carry concealed are not up for the potential sudden reveal of "what's that lumpy hard thing on your waist?"

All of the above are valid as is a simple preference that folks keep their paws to themselves barring an invitation to the contrary.

Yet there exist the socially awkward, the socially unskilled and the just plain oblivious who haven't figured out that not only is not everyone up for a hug from random friends (or strangers, or even *anyone*) and that the response may range from stiffening by the unwilling huggee to a hospital visit for the inappropriate hugger.

This little post is my noble effort to keep both the allegorical and the literal bloodshed down to a minimum by offering a few social rules that will serve all categories of the confused and oblivious well.

1) Don't assume other folks are comfortable being touched, let alone hugged.

2) Until you know other folks fairly well, ask before hugging. Wait for an outstretched hand (or extend your hand for a handshake w/o expectation that it'll be accepted).

3) Give folks their space. Pay attention...if somebody *looks* uncomfortable as you close distance with them, they probably are uncomfortable. The reason isn't really relevant - respect requires that if you can detect it, you should honor their comfort level to the extent practical.

These rules are important. In most jurisdictions simple unwanted touching is chargeable as simple assault. More, there are a lot of folks out there who through experience and training are programmed to respond to unwanted touching (see: "uninvited hugs") rather enthusiastically - ranging from full-out vicious high queen on a mission to inflict maximum verbal damage to repetitive bouncing off payment until threat reduction is assured.

Following the simple rules above is at least as much for the good of the person who wants to give the gift of physical social contact as it is for the comfort of the comfort of the potential recipient. A good side note is to develop the art of backing away in a slow and non-threatening fashion should you have misread a situation - apologizing profusely helps, but "backing away" is really the key skill.

That said, back to dealing with the Dragons Du Jour.