Finding America At the Gun Range

I  spend a couple of days a week at the gun range and I have found it to be one of the saner and more pleasant places I’ve ever visited. I have also found that the gun range embodies America and traditional American values more completely than any other place I frequent.

an indoor firing rangePhoto courtesy of Tactical Firearms

Every week I find an American microcosm at my gun range. I see young men and women, alone and as couples, practicing their marksmanship. I see black, white, Asian, and Hispanic men and women there making preparations for responsibly dealing with uninvited violence. I see mature individuals and couples there training. I see elderly men, women, and couples, some of whom are in wheelchairs or using walkers, honing their marksmanship and maintaining individual responsibility. Not a single one of these sorts of people are exceptional at my gun range; I see every one of these things every single week because responsibility is not defined by marital status, race, creed, age, or skin color.

While some who have never been might imagine a gun range to be a scary or dangerous place, a gun range is the safest, most polite place I’ve ever been in my life. It’s more polite than church or any other supposedly civilized setting. As for safety, gun ranges get some of the best insurance rates of any commercial enterprise, due to the long track record of inherent safety there. The people at a gun range are better behaved than just about any other people you’re likely to meet in any social setting. In a world where “yeah” or “nah” are conventional replies in settings of any level of formality, everyone at the gun range answers yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am as a matter of course. And no one there ever raises an eyebrow or remarks that such speech is odd or out of the ordinary. Not that anyone ever should.

Even though I often find children at my gun range shooting with their parents, there is never any misbehaving. There are no loud, emotional outbursts or otherwise-inappropriate behavior—by children or adults—neither in the shop nor certainly in the range itself. On the contrary, there is decorum and proper respect by all and at all times; and expected by all at all times.

an indoor gun rangePhoto from Stone Hart’s Gun Club

What I find at my gun range is America as it long was and ever should be, but seldom is anymore. Patriotic, responsible Americans know and love liberty. Liberty is preserved by those who are fit, responsible, and prepared to preserve it (and not by government, by politicians, by new laws, or by compromising our Constitution). Those who exercise and are willing to defend the Second Amendment to The Constitution of The United States—both civilian and military personnel—are the only ones who will keep liberty alive. It may pain you to read it, but everyone else are either sheep or tyrants. Neither sheep nor tyrants will be found at your gun range.

If you love liberty I suggest that you should purchase a firearm and make a regular practice of using your local gun range. Just as I do each week, you will likely find the best America has to offer there. Indeed you will be among the best America has to offer.

There are no criminals at a gun range. Criminals, by definition, are cowards and a criminal coward doesn’t willingly present his or her driver’s license to an official at a place where everyone there is armed, vigilant, and responsible. Criminals want the world to be unarmed, and therefore support or are in favor of tyrannical political efforts to disarm law-abiding, responsible citizens. Indeed, the responsible people found at a gun range are not on a criminal’s list of targets. No, the worst America has to offer will never be found at a gun range. There you will find only the best of America.

The best America has to offer, other than our military men and women patriots, train regularly at a gun range. They exercise their Second Amendment rights with open carry or concealed carry, according to their state’s laws. Their homes, families, and property are protected by their deliberate choice and preparation. They vote and they remain informed on what their elected representatives are doing with and to our declining culture on their behalf. For the most part, from what I can see, they are not happy with the path our culture has taken. They are, however, trained, prepared, and responsible.

Go to your local gun range and practice responsibility. I’ll be that you will, as I have, find America as it long was and ever should be. Go, and you will find the best America has to offer.

Tyranny By Different Means

Americans are dangerously distracted by the ideology of political parties. In what has become an almost complete descent into irresponsibility, Americans now widely believe their civic duty done when they concern themselves only with arguing over whether it is best to destroy individual liberty more quickly or more slowly. The choice to be governed by Democrats or Republicans is one that today obviates and ignores any constraint on government.

As evidence, note that you will often hear politicians described as decent or compassionate or perhaps vile or disgusting. You hear these descriptions of individual qualities because too many Americans irresponsibly believe they matter in the realm of governance. They do not…unless the Constitution is ignored. Americans shouldn’t have to be concerned with how nice or how compassionate or how mean the members of their government are because such qualities have nothing to do with the Constitutional latitudes afforded statesmen. We are a nation of laws, not of men. At least, that’s what we’re supposed to be and how our nation was founded.

When men—whether in the name of tyranny or compassion—pass laws that outstrip the bounds afforded legislators by our Constitution, it is not the intentions or the qualities of men that matter. Nor does such an event mean we must elect nicer, better-intentioned men in the future. What matters is that the Constitution has been violated because of the immoral and unconstrained actions of tyrants, and that our government is imposing tyranny upon us. Those responsible should be punished under the law. But they never are. Instead of insisting on Constitutional governance and the dismantling of the destructive law, we repeatedly, exclusively insist on better-intentioned men who more eloquently describe their more-palatable ideology. By almost every measure we have long ceased to elect statesmen who understand and abide by their moral constraints. Instead we elect politicians who believe in and extol the virtues of their means for violating the Constitution and destroying individual liberty. They understand and preach only ideology.

So instead of Constitutional governance we now have political parties. The mere existence of political parties is all the evidence any thoughtful and intelligent person needs in order to know that they are governed by tyrants. The limitations on government created by the Constitution allow for no ideological embellishment in legal and moral governance. Therefore, both Democrat and Republican ideology can only equate to tyranny by different means. Neither means has any place in a free nation.

But this is not a free nation.

The United States of American was founded as a free nation; as a nation of constrained government subordinated to free individuals. Our nation was founded and logically rose to greatness and exceptionalism as one where the citizens were protected from the whims of government. Today we have the nation Ayn Rand warned we would get; where government declares itself entitled to unlimited whims—free to do anything—while it is the citizens that are increasingly relegated to action by permission. We now live under the continual and systematic destruction of individual liberty in the face of an advancing, all-powerful government, and that is the very definition of tyranny.

We do not need and must not allow for political ideology. Instead, we need simple morality; the objective morality and source of all rights that says every individual has a right to his own life, genius, potential, and to the profits of his efforts. Protecting that right and its descendent individual rights is the only moral purpose of government, and the purpose described by Constitutional constraint on government.

Our nation will never again be free from the tyranny of ideologues until political ideology is widely recognized for the tyranny it describes—and is dispensed with—and our nation restored under the Constitutional governance our founders so wisely gave us. Even then, monumental efforts will be required to undo the already-inflicted damage to individual liberty. No band-aid efforts or short-term fixes will have any impact on the path of descent we are traveling. It is a descent of our own manufacture as we argue over the relative merits of tyranny by different means.

Some Facts and Questions for the Gun Control Debate

The problem with so-called gun-control laws is that they do not in fact control guns. They simply disarm law-abiding citizens, while people bent on violence find firearms readily available.

The highest gun-related crime rates are in countries with gun-control laws far more restrictive than in the US.

The US is a bit player in the gun-homicide game; occupying a far-distant 21st place with a comparatively puny gun homicide rate. More importantly, every country but one on this list (Albania) with a higher gun homicide rates than the US has more restrictive gun laws than in the US. (source: GunPolicy.org)

gun homicides per 100k people

Gun homicides per 100,000 people

In the gun-control Utopia of Chicago, so far, 440+ school-age children were shot and around 60 killed by firearms in 2012. Far more than in any school massacre in the US. So while legal firearm ownership is all but outlawed there, doesn’t seem to help the children (so where is the phony outrage from politicians and journalists on this far-more pressing matter?).

Children are not the only ones in danger in the city where guns are all but outlawed: there were 525 homicides and 2,640 people shot in Chicago (as of Dec. 26) in 2012. Seems that having some of the strictest gun laws in the country works…for the criminals.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel voiced outrage at the NRA’s idea of placing armed guards in schools, yet he sends his children to a school that has them. Safety for me, but not for thee.

NBC journalist and gun-law breaker David Gregory publicly derided the idea of having armed security in schools, saying it wouldn’t work, but sends his children to a school with an 11-person, armed security force. Safety for me, but not for thee.

The President of the United States sends his children to a school that has an 11-person armed security force (in addition to the Secret Service detail), but has yet to argue that armed security personnel are a viable answer to school shootings. Safety for me, but not for thee.

The NY man who set a trap and shot fireman was legally prevented from owning firearms. Didn’t stop him from owning them, then shooting and killing folks. How did laws prevent his crime? They didn’t. They can’t.

Around Washington, DC—the location of the highest gun homicide rate in the US—other areas where conceal-and-carry is permitted (Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria counties) have significantly lower murder rates.

Washington, DC area gun deaths

Washington, DC area gun deaths

The #1 weapon used in violent crimes is the baseball bat. Are the bats responsible or are the people?

Top-10 killers in the US

Top-10 killers in the US

The crime rate, including the rate of crimes committed with guns, is far higher in Britain now than it was back in the days when there were few restrictions on Britons buying firearms.

And John Xenakis has a few salient observations on similar matters (on Breitbart.com):

  • Do you remember Prohibition? How did that work out? (By the way, we recently celebrated the 79th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Cheers!)
  • There are plenty of illegal drugs, but (I’m told) anyone who wants illegal drugs will have no trouble obtaining them. Some people say that keeping drugs illegal is a good policy anyway, to prevent sending a message that they’re OK. Others point out that keeping drugs illegal creates a huge industry of drug trafficking, giving rise to drug cartels in Mexico and elsewhere. Prohibition created a huge industry in bootlegging, which mostly went out of business when Prohibition was repealed.
  • Abortion. I did a little research on this in the 1990s. There are countries, especially Catholic countries, where abortion is illegal, and other countries where it isn’t, but the figures I saw indicate that illegality made no discernible difference in the rate of abortions.
  • Prostitution is illegal almost everywhere in the United States, but prostitutes are easily available. Anti-prostitution laws promote prostitution rings as big business, joining with drug cartels.
  • Porn and child porn became explosively available on the internet in the 1990s, and during that period, incidence of child sexual abuse plummeted by 35%. Making porn and child porn unavailable increases child sexual abuse and makes children more vulnerable, while today’s computer software can produce products without exploiting women and children.

And a couple of pressing questions:

Why are journalists, who are ethically constrained from injecting their opinions into their work, the most vociferous and prejudiced advocates of disarming law-abiding citizens?

More importantly, why is it that the members of the now corrupted body of what used to be the free press—those charged with the grave responsibility of protecting the public from tyranny, power, and corruption—acting as the most dedicated force in the protection and projection of government tyranny, power, and corruption?

And finally, this…

An important moment in the journalist-to-citizen gun control debate touched on a telling issue, as referenced in Byron York’s excellent article:

“…when a Republican congressman, Georgia’s Jack Kingston, argued on MSNBC recently that tough gun control laws haven’t prevented mass shootings in some European countries, the network’s anchor, Thomas Roberts, responded, “So, we need to just be complacent in the fact that we can send our children to school to be assassinated?”

Let the following sink into your understanding: He is a fool who does not understand that such a matter is one that can only be settled between assassins and any armed personnel on hand to stop them. Remove the armed defenders and the answer is rather academic.

The US Constitution has the most relevant observation on this whole issue: “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The only counterweight to this God-given right and fundamental law is tyranny upon law-abiding citizens.

Cabin Porn

One of my fave photo blogs is Cabin Porn. I don’t know why it’s one of my favorites and I don’t fret over that fact. Today I caught a detail that made me smile. This is not the most inspiring cabin, but clearly, these are sensible beer-loving folks with proper priorities.

Cabin with refreshments

Contagious Liberation

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

— Marianne Williamson
from “A Return to Love

 
Don’t you dare shrink. Shine!

Creative

In a recent discussion, someone told me,

“You see, I’m very creative. But I’m just good with the ideas and getting things started. I’m good with the big picture, but not good with the details. That’s where I need others to contribute.”

No.

 

Creative people have a robust capacity for creation. They create. They finish. To finish you’ve got to be good with the details. In fact, creativity is the ability to clearly perceive details that are invisible to others. It’s the details that confirm the creativity.

Creativity is not embodied by your enthusiasm and it is measured and defined not by what you imagine or express, but by what you ship.

 

The Emperor Has No Content

One inescapable fact—yet somehow beyond the ken of almost all digital publishers—is that an enterprise based on a volume ad strategy by definition destroys and denies content and user-experience value, while excellent content and UX strategy is an effective ad strategy. Digital publishers, however, tend to be fully invested in the idea that their product has no value whatsoever beyond lending some inarticulate gravity to the actually important stuff on the page: the ads. Failure is the new black.

Tell me, where are the automobile dealerships where the cars and trucks are free for the taking, but in order to get one you must navigate a carnival midway maze of booths where hawkers from partnering jewelry companies, tax services, and sportswear brands ply you with offers along the way? There are none. Auto makers and their dealerships aren’t that stupid. Their profit model is based on selling their product. Oh, and what about the grocery stores where everything on the shelves is free for the taking, but the aisles are filled with shoe salesmen, credit consolidation service agents, and pharmaceutical reps who follow along with you, working to get you to purchase what they’re offering? There are none of these either. Grocery companies are smarter than that. They’re invested in their products.

Well, digital news and magazine content publishers are that stupid. They pay armies of skilled reporters, writers, editors, designers, programmers, artists, and researchers to produce their distinctive product…and then work to sell it according to an ethos that proclaims the product has no value.

As you might expect, there are consequences to this destructive approach. You see, when an industry profit model does not include the product, the industry and its market get rather turned inside out and upside down. It becomes a race to the bottom.

Dystopian Publishing

Online publishing is largely broken because media outlets are built to seek profit not from their product, but rather from the distractions and obstacles they conspire to place between the customer and the product. It’s a strategy that destroys quality, destroys confidence, and destroys the product consumption experience. It’s irrationality on parade: publications set up to destroy the very things they are supposed to deliver. It should come as no surprise that such a product tends to sell poorly.

This model is the ideal for digital publication success today. Expend enormous energy and capital in producing a product, and then devote nearly all of your strategic energies toward the advertising value model that will deface and obscure it.

Digital publishers don’t need a cleverer and more elaborate ad strategy. Digital publishers need a value and UX strategy for their product. But they’re oblivious and disinterested. This fact becomes clear when you ask a couple of very simple questions:


Q: Why not romance highly valuable content and create an excellent reading experience, and then put the ads at the end of articles where they’ll be seen with satisfaction?


A: If ads are at the bottom of the page, they’ll seldom be seen! (I’m not interested in content or experience quality)


Q: I see. Why must the end be “at the bottom of the page”?


A: Duh! That’s just where the end has to be! (I’m not interested in how clever and delightful experiences can be designed for digital environments and devices)


Q: Oh. And why won’t many people ever get there?


A: People don’t read whole articles very often. (I don’t know and don’t care how to improve my product)


Q: I see. Then why do you publish whole articles? And why don’t you work to improve the content and reading/user experience so that readers will read whole articles very often?


A: *crickets*


The real answer to the last is that content publishers do not, in the end, believe in the power of their product to command productive commercial activity. Yet to answer honestly would expose publishers for what they are. They’re professional demagogues; claiming to produce an important and viable product, but actively denying its value and investing no confidence where the metal meets the meat. Left to the results of the quality of their product, they know damn well they’d perish.

Here are a few questions I think are fairly interesting: Why do writers write whole articles? Why do publishers publish whole articles? Why would a publisher publish something that they don’t believe will be consumed fully? The answer is that digital publishers are merely going through the motions while their actual business is to throw lots of ads onto web pages. Avoidance of the substance and consequences of this activity compounds an irrational and destructive situation.

Publishers: There’s nothing wrong with fitting ad strategy and revenues into a publication profit model. But why rely solely on strategies that work to destroy and deny content quality? Why concentrate on strategies that, despite whatever success they generate, are 50% destructive? Why not work on strategies that are inherently 100% productive? Why so willingly concede your industry to advertisers at the expense of your own quality?

Publishers: Advertisers do not currently have your interests at heart, for they can currently succeed as you fail. As with everything else in the world, a strategy based on healthy self interest is the only one that can allow for mutual success. Why not build an enterprise founded in and dependent upon the quality of your own product and let the success of your partners flow from that?

The Answer: The Emperor Has No Content

If the content is valuable people should pay to read it. Modern publishers don’t care about content. They nearly all acknowledge they’re headed for a cliff, and they’re relying on a destructive and hypocritical strategy, which they do not control, to save them. That race to the bottom is gaining momentum and everyone but the publishers and their readers are profiting from it. And rightly so.