Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gun Control and Garden Beds

I try to be a good American.  I believe in our Constitution, and God, and charity.  I vote consciously, and not on party lines.  I believe that the government generally passes laws in good faith that are intended  to lift us up, or even protect us as a nation.  I don't think that profits are bad.  I don't think that big government can solve the world's problems, but I've seen many cases where no one but the government is willing to clean up the mess.

 On that note - the role of government - two indirectly related current events are converging to change me.  Don't jump ahead - I am not signing up to get my (R) card to acknowledge that a de-regulated Wal-Mart somehow equals "free market," and thus "free society."  No.  These two specific things are changing how I live.

The first of these is Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's assault on legal gun ownership in Maryland.   SB 281, as it's currently called, seeks to ban assault weapons, and for other gun owners, mandate a thousands-of-dollars cocktail of mandatory training, licensing, and fingerprinting that O'Malley must hope will limit legal gun ownership to the extremely wealthy, and by some impossible hope, also have an impact on illegal gun ownership and use.  As a legal gun owner, obviously, this causes me great concern.  I believe in certain limits to the 2nd Amendment, for instance, that I shouldn't own a Predator Drone armed with Hellfires.   But I don't believe that somehow expensing me out of legal gun ownership will make one tiny impact in the state's epidemic of drug-related gun violence, or the growing epidemic of mass murders by sick individuals.  At home, we're discussing whether to stay ahead of the proposed changes, because having access to a reasonable suite of defense equipment is a reasonable thing.  Some of you will know what this is.

Sales of this item are up 600% from 2012 (and 2000% over the long term average) 
since Maryland's gun control legislation was proposed in January. 
 I don't think that was the Governor's intention. 

Why does it matter to me?  Well, I could write about it for days, but here's the meat and potatoes of the issue:  in a city where 250-350 murders per year are committed, I've called 911 for help on four occasions, over the course of 15 years.  The shortest response time I've ever received is 35 minutes. 35 minutes is a long time to wait for the good guys to show up.

I don't want assault weaponry.   But the state seeks to take it away from all of us except for career criminals.  Amendments to the bill which would strengthen criminal penalties for using a firearm in a crime were stricken down.  The state's firearm bill isn't about criminals, or crime.  It's about gun elimination, and guess what - the bad guys aren't giving up theirs.  Nor are corrupt cops.  Just you and me.

Photo from MarylandShallIssue.org . Independent polling shows that  while 85% of Marylanders support
some form of gun control (January 2013),  97% of Marylanders specifically oppose SB 281 (February 2013).  
Over 1,300 citizens testified against the bill.  32 testified in support of it. 

Which brings me to the second issue:  my community garden is the epicenter of an ongoing gang war between the Black Guerrilla Family and the Bloods.  For those who don't know, the BGF started as a prison gang, then became a prison GUARD gang, and then became a street gang!  How crazy is that? I mean, literally, it's f*cking insanely ridiculous and stupid that this type of thing is allowed to occur in our society.  So.......a gang war at my community garden.  With actual murders!

And so, the Community Garden Experiment has wrapped up, if not failed.  Not because of poor soil, or rats, or laziness.  But because Maryland's current gun laws - some of the most strict in the country - cannot prevent hardened convicts from conducting gang business, buying and selling fully automatic weapons, and committing murder in City parks.  And those same laws make it nearly impossible for me to legally carry a weapon to defend myself where I should not need to - on City property.  

Rather than use this space to indulge my usual complaints, like, "Why does government cost so much if it doesn't work?", we're turning inward a bit, inside the marginal protection of our six foot fence.  Realizing quite clearly that no one is out there to help us, to protect us, to help deliver food to us in time of crisis.   So let's store water and build a garden! 

Two years ago, we stored no rainwater.  Now, we store 350 gallons.   Should be 500 gallons by the end of the summer.   Due to the natural grade of our lot, we are able to send water away from the house, to be stored and used for later. Sustainability and self reliance are more simple than words.  See:

165 gallons will rest on this platform, umm....requisitioned... from a 6.5' countertop pallet.  The elevation will allow head pressure to build, driving gravity-fed drip irrigation.

And unlike the war zone two miles down the road at the Community Garden, I can actually teach my son how to take care of himself here, too.  Safely.  Hey, bring your kids over, too.  Black, white, whatever.  Bring them over.  They can learn.  They can play in peace.  Until someone falls on a saw or hits their thumb with a hammer, anyway.

I started wearing safety goggles after a scare with a grinder last year.  Hank wears his, too.

And while I need to rescue my raised beds from Gangland for a retrofit into the new home garden , I also need to start my early spring crops.  How about a few rabbit proof raised beds?

Look, I don't know what's going to happen.  But it's good to be focusing on home.  And it's great, once again, to have my helper with me in the garden.  If he can learn how to take care of himself here, I believe he can take those skills and that mentality anywhere.

Post-script:  For reasons uknown to me, this post is being heavily spammed.  Any comment left below that is concise, related to this topic, and more or less respectful will be posted.  I respect your first amendment rights, even more than normal if I disagree with you.   However, I delete all spam comments on all posts (all 600+ of them), and this post is no different.  Those are the "deleted comment" references you may see. 


Passinthru Outdoors said...

Great post and comments. We here in CT are facing gun opposition and new laws like never seen before. I wish the government would put this much effort into balanced budgets and reducing the deficit and help people help themselves. Hang in there.

Dave Taylor said...

This is one of the reasons I will never vote for a democrat again in Maryland. SB281 could have been stopped in the Senate and the companion bill stopped in House. But the few moderate Democrats left in the General Assembly don't have the guts to stand up to MOM, Busch or Miller, even though they know this entire gun control debacle is just that (Brochin and Middleton are two examples; they could have supported the filibuster but did not, allowing the vote to proceed). The Republicans are far from perfect, but at least they don't engage in this type of nonsense. By the way, why do you live in that cesspool of a city and expose your child to that?

Jay said...

can someone point me towards a list of what SB 281 will actually do? chatting at the counter of my local gunshop, i was told there would be a $500 ANNUAL license to legally register a handgun ...i'm pretty sure that is false ... its good for business to whip up this kind of hysteria, though.

i would like to know the facts of the situation.



Kirk River Mud said...

Dave, I know, it was hard to watch. On the "cesspool" part, well, we are in Maryland at all because we come from relatively rural areas of the south, where there are no good jobs, and even in good times, there were few good jobs. Baltimore and Annapolis is where all of our jobs have been for 15 years, and we started out over $100K in student loan debt due to our own families' backgrounds and inability to pay for our education. That meant we could not afford a $350K house in AA County or Baltimore County. We live a block from the city/county line, just outside Towson. Great, safe neighborhood. We walk across the county line to over a dozen restaurants, GREAT liquor store (Wells), several nice bars, etc. The problem is the larger city. It's a disaster in just about every way you can imagine. If someone were to hand us $300K, we'd move to one of the adjacent counties, for sure. But for now, we're stuck in a house worth $170K that won't sell (luckily we paid $129K for it). And sending our kid to private school, which given the foolishness in county public schools, we might be inclined to do anyway. What a mess.

Kirk River Mud said...

Jay - the "registration/licensing/training" issue is the most ridiculous portion of the bill, and IMHO should be what ultimately kills it. The original (O'Malley/Gansler) bill was $500/year. The version passed in the senate was $500 every 3 years. What will the House pass, if anything? Who knows. My representative (Curt Anderson) is on the Judiciary Committee and his staff won't even respond to my respectful, inquisitive emails on the bill.

In my budget, $166/year for unconstitutional gun licensing is prohibitively expensive.

Jay said...

Thanks for the info, Kirk.

We are neighbors - I am in Rodgers Forge 50ft north of the city/county line ... the county elementary schools in the central area (Rodger Forge, West Towson, Hampton, etc) are EXCELLENT. I have kids in the schools - feel free to call/email if you want to pick my brain re: schools.

Tight lines!

Kirk River Mud said...

Hopefully tight lines soon - got my license and my schedule lightens up in about 2 weeks.

We bought near peak market - our house is probably identical to yours and was $129K vs $275K. Of course, you got cheaper water, lower taxes, lower insurance, and the state's best public schools with your purchase. I got a cheap mortgage, ridiculous taxes, unsafe schools, and horrible government services with mine. And one mile closer to Gang Land than you...where every mile of separation counts.

Jay said...

yea Kirk - i was born and raised in the city and educated in the city public schools ... so i am familiar with all the considerations re: city/county living ...

according to this:


it looks like it is $50/10 years ... but this may not be the final version of the bill.

Kirk River Mud said...

Okay, I think your info is more recent than mine. Clearly, they are trying to whittle down the registration requirement to a level where it's palatable. Problem is that constitutionally, it's absolutely not palatable. I would consider anyone having to get on a "permanent government list" to express their constitutional rights to be a huge, huge problem, even if that was for a right I personally disagreed with.

Looks like the assault weapons ban may go away in the final version, not sure about magazine limits, and I sure hope the registration/permanent data issue goes away. They know it won't solve a single crime, and they don't intend it to. They intend it to be a deterrent to legal gun ownership of any kind.

Map Monkey said...

It seems to me that 2nd amendment advocates are investing the US Constitution with the aura of infallibility, similar to the approach used by uber-religious people who read and interpret the bible literally. It’s in the document, so you can’t question it. You can’t question it because it’s in the document. The Framers got many things right in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but let’s face it, it was written nearly quarter of a millennium ago, and perhaps it’s time for a re-thinking of certain aspects. I doubt the Framers could possibly have had any notion of how different our world would be some 230+ years down the road. Most of the gun owners in this county are not part of a well-regulated militia, and very few are ready to start a rebellion against the tyranny of government, no matter what you might think or even say amongst like-minded people.
There isn’t any other industrialized or post-industrialized country on earth that allows gun ownership to the degree that the US does. I know, I know, the US has a special history and a special relationship with guns. But the countries closest to the US in terms of their original patterns of settlement/colonization by the same cast of characters and stemming from a similar frontier culture where guns were seen as a necessary accoutrement for protection, hunting, etc. (Canada and Australia) now both have severe limitations on gun ownership and a considerably lower murder/gun violence rate than the US. Well, just about every country on Earth can boast of that statistic!
I have read a few well-researched articles that state that a significant proportion of gun owners who try to protect their homes from intruders end up getting hurt themselves with their own guns, and this does not even begin to address the issue of youngsters getting access to weapons in the home and injuring themselves and others in the process. There are also “natural rights” in the Constitution, which provide for the right not to be killed or injured. IMHO, gun ownership is a public health issue.
In any event, I would say that if you want to own guns in order to hunt, then don’t wrap yourself up in the flag and brandish the outdated 2nd amendment. Hunting in most of the world’s countries IS a rich man’s sport, and not a right. Why should the US be privileged in that respect? And if you think that keeping guns in the house will improve your security, I say that the facts are against you. Get a good alarm system from ADT and a few cans of mace. That will be quicker than scrambling for your (hopefully, unloaded) guns in an emergency.
I appreciate your detailed knowledge on the legal issues of gun control laws, and have enjoyed reading your various posts about why you think they are wrong-headed. I’ve learned a lot from them. I’m sure that there are many problems with the laws as they are being formulated, and the nuances need to be tweaked to take into account your seemingly valid objections. But I just can not credit why reasonable people would object to curtailing gun ownership and making it less easy for any old body to get guns, especially guns that have no place in the hands of ordinary citizens.

Kirk River Mud said...

Those are a lot of good points, and real facts. And absolutely, there are legitimate limitations to the Second Amendment (which, if it's not needed, should be repealed, not beaten to death with restrictions). But none of those problems would improve by implementing what our particular governor has proposed. In my opinion (others will differ), the federal level gun control discussion right now is far more reasonable and measured because there is some interest in evaluating root causes, both of these socioeconomic situations that lead to such gun carnage, and also (as you mention) our collective poor track record at keeping guns away from bad or very sick people.

I heard last week that my representative (a strong Dem) is taking issue with the state plan because it only deals with parameters for legal gun ownership, not the realities of the gun battles going on in his district (with illegal guns). In Baltimore, 45% of those arrest for gun crimes have previously been arrested for gun crimes. And nearly 70% of those arrested for gun crimes are currently on parole for gun felonies. In Washington DC, the murder arrest rate is less than 40%, and the "murder solve rate" (conviction rate) is less than 30%. Gun licensing and banning legal owners from owning certain guns won't impact that issue one iota.

Banning guns from legal owners won't make the police respond quicker when we need them. Chicago, Detroit, and DC gun laws show us that criminals don't observe such gun laws.

It doesn't mean we shouldn't try to pass gun laws that focus on actual criminals, but the state of Maryland hasn't shown an interest in doing so.

Map Monkey said...

Thanks, Kirk, for the clarifications of your viewpoint. I agree that these new laws such as the ones proposed in Maryland are unlikely to totally solve the problem, and may in fact muddy the waters somewhat in the short run. In fact, what we really have is two problems, and depending upon your perspective, they are either two separate problems to be dealt with independently, or two problems that will have a common solution.
The two problems are: We have unprecedented gun violence in all levels of American society. In order to address this, 1.) What should be the laws (restrictions, if you like) on LEGAL gun ownership? and 2.) How do we handle the proliferation of ILLEGAL weapons? New York State has relatively strict gun laws, for instance, yet any day of the week in NYC there are illegal weapons being circulated and used for nefarious deeds. Where do they come from? Generally speaking, they are purchased in other states that have more lenient gun laws. So making it harder for people to get weapons legally in ALL states WILL have an impact on the ability to get weapons illegally as well. Of course, no set of regulations will solve the problem completely. People (criminals) will still manage to get their hands on weapons through theft or other illegal means. But it will be more difficult if there are uniform mechanisms in place throughout the country in terms of background checks, bans on certain types of assault weaponry, etc. It just seems reasonable that we might have to limit to a small degree some of the privileges of legal gun ownership in order to limit illegal gun ownership. If other countries can do it (again, I cite Australia and Canada as being in the most similar situation, culturally and historically, to the US) then we can do it as well.
I do lose a little patience with die-hard gun advocates who have a knee-jerk reaction to ANY additional limitations on their “rights” to own guns. Obviously you and most of your blog readers are not in that category. In my opinion, putting more guns in the hands of ordinary citizens will not prevent anything to do with illegal guns being used. And some of the suggestions that have come out of the Newtown tragedy are hare-brained, to put the best possible spin on them. The idea of encouraging guns to be put in the hands of teachers in the Kindergarden classroom does not inspire confidence. Shame on you, South Dakota.
In any event, I am pretty sure we will have the pleasure of debating all of this for some time to come, since it is unlikely that passions will cool long enough to allow workable compromises to emerge.