May 13, 2005

Mockingbirds And Canaries

Atticus. Interesting sounding name. More interesting that his children called him that instead of father or papa. But what was most interesting was not his name or how he was called but a very simple idea that he conveyed. This idea was of course where the movie got its title. To paraphrase, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird because the mockingbird doesn't cause any harm; it only tries to do good.

If you've never seen the movie then stop reading this right now & go rent it. Or buy it. To Kill A Mockingbird is a great film from the end of an age of great films. But aside from being great from a cinematic viewpoint it holds a lesson for us gun nuts. One that we're badly in need of.

It's wrong to cause harm to something (or someone) that never caused you any harm. It's worse when they only tried to cause you good. There are perhaps more eloquent & quainter ways of phrasing it but that's the gist. But why is it wrong? Because it repays a neutrality or a kindness with harm. If your mother brought you a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day you wouldn't slap her for it would you? If your significant other brought you a cold glass of lemonade when you'd been outside in the heat you wouldn't view a kick to the shins as just retribution would you?

Yet that's exactly what we tend to do. We turn on each other very quickly, almost as quick as the pro-gun control lobby does. When a person carries openly instead of getting a concealed carry permit there is a loud condemnation of him from both sides. When someone is arrested & his firearm stolen by the police for some technical violation of the law the pro-gun community is at best content to let him be, but at worst they holler the loudest for his continued persecution.

Don't believe me? Then call your NRA rep & tell him that since the NFA is unconstitutional you plan on buying a shotgun with a 12" barrel. There's a fair chance he/she will be dialing the ATFU before you have a chance to hang up the phone completely.

We have people sitting in jail right now, this very instant who have never caused or attempted to cause any other person harm. They're incarcerated not because they are a danger to society, but they are a danger to authority. They defy it. Not by assassinating politicians or assaulting cops, but by simply ignoring unjust, immoral & often times unconstitutional rules. & in more than a few instances those people in jail are there because a gun owner turned them in.

There'll be many rationalizations about the snitching gun owners’ motives for turning in another gun owner. He may even believe some of them himself. But there's one reason that belies all his pretenses to the contrary: jealousy. He saw someone doing something that he doesn't have the courage to do himself, so he thinks no one should do it.

Tell me, what harm do I cause you if my shotgun's barrel is 12" or 28"? What damage do you suffer if my pistol is concealed under my coat or worn proudly over it? If I pull the trigger once & the bullseye has three holes appear in it instead of one how does that hurt you?

Yet for those things gun owners rat out other gun owners. Sometimes it is coerced: the ATFU offers to let someone go if they can drop a dime on someone else. But often it's not instigated by any external influence.

By wearing a gun openly it helps, albeit at a frustratingly slow pace, to remind people that wearing a gun does not make you evil. It gets folks accustomed to seeing firearms without being actually threatened by them & thus they slowly but surely will forsake the idea that owning a gun means you're looking to kill someone.

Having a short barreled shotgun or machinegun despite unconstitutional laws helps society in two ways: it's a form of much needed but much underutilized civil disobedience & it helps the person wielding such instruments be better capable of handling certain situations that relate to our national defense.

Now the first part you may not agree with but you probably see how someone could think that (I'll touch on that more in a bit). The second part may leave you cold. How does having a 12" barreled shotgun or a machinegun aid the national defense? Simple: it provides certain tools (& the experience to use them effectively) to the militia. The militia, lest you forget, is you, me & everyone in between when called upon to act for the common defense.

Let's say there's some need for the militia in an area. A military force (foreign or domestic - you pick) has invaded a town. I think you can see the appeal of having a machine gun in that situation, but a 12" shotgun? Well if you're going house to house there's nothing better than a shotgun, & a short barrel makes it handy to have in tight spaces. Plus its shorter length makes it easier to carry on a sling while you're doing something else with your hands. Our military & police use them now & it'd be folly to think that a militia would have no need of such weapons. The truth is the militia will use any sort of weapon you can imagine. Not that every member needs them at all times, but it's damned nicer to have an option than to not have it now isn't it?

For those of you who think civil disobedience is reserved to publicly breaking laws I beg to differ. Openly defying laws & letting yourself be arrested & prosecuted is a part of it to be certain, but not the sole part. There was civil disobedience before the Civil Rights Movement & there'll be civil disobedience long after. During the 1920's people drank. Not too much more or too much les than ten years before or after. They just drank. Prohibition made availability a little scarcer & the prices a little steeper to be certain. But when a person got thirsty he drank. He didn't do it on the courthouse steps & dared the cops to arrest him; he did it wherever he felt he could get away with it. & because a lot of people drank a lot of jurors couldn't see fit to convict people accused of drinking. That's the moral basis for jury nullification; a jury not convicting someone who broke a law that they'd break themselves.

Here's usually where the rule of law folks will chime in their $0.02 & to a degree they'd have a point. But let us not forget why laws are instituted amongst men; to protect the equal Rights of everyone from each other. If a man drinks or has a shorter shotgun than mine or worships 20 gods or has 5 wives & two husbands it doesn't do me a bit of harm. Laws against those things are mainly laws for the sake of having laws. Breaking them causes no harm except to the ego of the law makers & the law enforcers. As such though it is dangerous as wounded egos will make people do evil things to each other & feel good about it.

Again I'll also say that the rule of law is often a term that's misapplied. The purpose of the rule of law is not to encourage citizens to obey the laws. Governments have been doing that quite swimmingly for centuries. The rule of law is rather a reminder to the rulers that they themselves are not above the law. They cannot prohibit something to me yet partake of it themselves. Or rather they shouldn’t as often times they do exactly that.

But jealousy, whether cloaked in a rule of law argument or hidden in the bowels of a damaging PR rationalization is the motive for betraying many a gun owner that chose to ignore silly laws.

It's been wondering before how many gun owners would tie a bright pink bow around their barrel if a law so prescribed it. The other side to that is how many gun owners with bright pink bows around their barrels would turn in other gun owners who didn't bother with such foolishness.

My ex-girlfriend talked to me a while back about moving with her. She's going off to yet another school in another state. All other issues aside I had to turn her down. Even if we resolved the things that made us "ex's" I'd still have to decline. Why? Because the state she's moving to is Illinois. They require gun owner registration there. Shotgun, rifle, pistol, cap & ball, flintlock, matchlock or percussion cap firearms are illegal to possess, own or purchase without a Firearms Owner Identification card. Carrying a loaded weapon for protection is strictly illegal. Some cities even ban handguns. If I recall even ammo possession without a FOID card is an offense.

Now ya'll know me. I never spent much time worrying over laws that I broke if those laws conflicted with the constitution or a Right. So why wouldn't I move to Illinois? Cause I'd be killed inside a year. I'd be damned if a got a FOID & I'd be double damned if I stopped carrying or shooting, so someone would turn me in & some cop would kill me trying to steal my guns. So I avoid places like that. Every time I've driven through Illinois I filled up just before I crossed the border & I didn't stop until I cleared the other side. If a state wants to make me an endangered species they can damn well get their tourist cash from someone else.

& shame on any gun owner who vacations there. Or California. Or New Jersey. Or New York. Or Massachusetts. Or D.C. Those places have declared contempt for you. I don't care how nice the Met's collection is or how cool the Golden Gate looks - you're supporting an economy whose government wants to discourage you from exercising a Right.

But FOID's. $5 for however long they last (3 or 4 years I believe) & a background check that I could most probably pass (I assume since I always clear the NICS checks I'd pass an FOID check, but then again if they want to get bitchy about the things I write on this blog, maybe not). I'm also pretty sure I could get a Curio & Collectors license from the ATFU & I shouldn't have any troubles getting cleared for NFA transfers (sound suppressors, machine guns, short barreled rifles & shotguns, etc...). I could even get a concealed carry permit after I take a class (I know the pertinent laws but the class is required). So why don't I do any or all of those things? Because I should not have to. I don't care how easy or cheap it is to comply with such bullshit, it doesn't make it any less bullshit nor any safer to me personally or to society as a whole. It makes it easier to compromise; to forfeit my principles but not any safer. Even if gun registration & gun owner registration were not issues I'd still run into a very tall brick wall. Why the hell does any government think I need permission to exercise a Right? What moral basis does a government have for demanding I do so? What legal authority is granted to it to require me to license myself for possessing mechanical devices? & what part of the 2nd amendment & its state counterparts includes an exception for prior restraint based gun control in the form of licensing & registration?

So Illinois is out for me. Hell, next trip back home I might just drive around the damned state. It's a few hours more but the air will be a little more free that way. & a big part of the reason I avoid places such as that is that I run the risk of being caught. A slight one from being randomly stopped & searched but perhaps the greatest one is from some jealous gun owner turning me in because I do things that he won't. Even though it does them no harm they'd turn me over to the gun police.

In Denver they're rounding up pit bulls. Seems another court determined that the home rule provision of the Colorado constitution made Denver exempt from yet another state law. This time they've reasoned they can ban breeds of animals. Domestic animals. They're currently rounding up all they can & killing them. A fair number are found through pet licenses. But others are found because people turn pit bull owners in to the cops.

Now as an aside I have to say that it's a pretty damn low person who'd kill someone else's dog. There are worse things to be sure, but I ain't got a lick of respect for anyone who'd do such a thing unjustifiably. If the dog is threatening you that's one thing, but to kill it just because you were told to or because it's on a non-approved species list? Disgusting. Worse are the pit bull owners who hand them over. Well perhaps worse is the wrong word. Sad is probably more apt. I'm not a dog owner (& I never played one on TV.) but there'd have to be a few ass whoopin's with mine being the final one before that happened.

But between licensing & snitches pit bulls in Denver have a grim future. Grimmer because no one questioned animal licensing like we usually do with gun licensing. & grimmer still because the pathetic sheep of that town are chomping at the bit to turn in owners of those evil dogs, even when the dogs have done nothing to them.

Mockingbirds are gun owners who ignore unjust laws. Canaries in mineshafts are pit bull owners in Denver. We can look to a movie & an old expression to see what our state is: we're killing mockingbirds while the canaries are starting to drop.

I'd planned to touch on the felon thing (i.e. the disqualifications for legally owning a firearm) but my time is limited I'm afraid. In fact my slackness of posting hasn't been due to an absence of things to say, but time in which to pick one & elaborate on it. The national ID, a Denver cop that was killed, Difi's latest idiotry - all those & many other things I've wanted to comment on but time hasn't been on my side as of late.

There are many things to argue about; many things to debate. Many questions & possibly even a few answers. But right now I can't get passed mockingbirds & canaries. How we can not notice, let alone condone the deaths of either escapes me.

So next tie you hear a gun owner talk about turning someone in who didn't do anyone any harm point out exactly what he's doing. & the next time someone argues that gun owner registration or gun registration isn't a big deal remind them of Denver's pit bulls.

Posted by Publicola at May 13, 2005 05:54 AM

I vividly recall waking up around 2:00am one hot June night in College Station, Texas. I had been sleeping with the windows open in my cinderblock duplex a few blocks off the A&M campus (I was in Chemistry grad school, and lived 2 blocks out the back door of the Dixie Chicken, for you 1980's Aggies). As a nearly-full moon rose, a male mockinbird got confused and started his morning territorial singing from atop the juniper between two of the duplex apartments. It was hellishly loud in the quiet of the night, and the darn bird would not stop.... until about 20 minutes later, when my neighbor Mike, an Ag grad student living across the way, opened his door, stated loudly that the damn bird had to go, and then racked a shell into a pump shotgun. The subsequent blast silenced the bird. Mike loudly apologized for the noise, and we all went back to sleep. He later swore that he did not actually kill the mockingbird, just scared it away, but as nobody else was actually looking out their windows it remains to this day his word against the absence of the midnight song of the bird the next night at moonrise. To kill a mockingbird is indeed wrong, at least before midnight.

Posted by: me at May 14, 2005 03:39 PM

LOLLLL! It's sick - but it's damn funny.

Posted by: Monica-Philadelphia at May 14, 2005 06:52 PM

Excellent post!

Posted by: Matt at May 14, 2005 10:49 PM
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