Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mexican Crime Guns NOT From U.S.

Here's a video report at detailing the widely repeated myth that 90% of Mexican crime guns come from U.S. sources. (There is a short commercial before the report.) You can read the accompanying article here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On The Road To Des Moines

While of course Memorial Day is a somber occasion, its weekend is the traditional kickoff of summer. My family and I were able to already have a nice mini summer vacation without lining the pockets of the foreign potentates of Wisconsin or Minnesota. We spent two days in Des Moines, right here in good old Iowa. That was plenty far to drive with a three-year-old and a pregnant wife anyway.

On Thursday we left Northeast Iowa early and headed for Adventureland Amusement Park, in the Des Moines suburb of Altoona. Adventureland came into being in 1974 (the same year I did) and is Iowa's most complete amusement park and resort.

I've been going to Adventureland since I was a child. My parents would take us down at least once per summer. They were stockholders in the place, so they got tickets at a deep discount. (To put that into perspective for us kids who didn't understand stocks, when we asked about it, Dad would point at one of the painted lines in the parking lot and say, "We own that line.") Since I have so many summers worth of memories there, it felt good to see my little boy on some of the same toddler rides that I rode on, as well as quite a few that they didn't have back then.

Outside the park we ate a nice picnic lunch that my wife had packed, to save a little money on park food. We didn't get a chance to go on any "big kid" rides this time. That was fine with me because just going on the "Tea Cups" with my boy made me a little green around the gills.

Although Adventureland remains almost frozen in time from when I was a kid, nothing can shield it from Iowa's shifting demographics. When I was a kid, it was mostly teenagers running the rides, today it is mostly "seasoned citizens" running them. I guess I'm getting old enough that I kind of prefer them. In another cultural shift, the sound of Spanish language from park guests filled the air.

That night we stayed at Adventureland Inn, located right next door. My son loved its three large indoor pools, my wife enjoyed relaxing and I appreciated Iowa's only swim-up bar.

The next day we headed for Blank Park Zoo, which bills itself as "Iowa's WILDEST Adventure." While there are a few "animal displays" in Iowa (Osborne Park in Clayton County, Bever Park in Cedar Rapids and Fontana Park in Buchanan County being the best examples in my neck of the woods) there are none that truly qualify as a "zoo." Blank Park Zoo, however, certainly qualifies as a true zoo.

Blank Park Zoo boasts lions, tigers, giraffes, kangaroos, alligators, monkeys and many, many more. My boy especially enjoyed the camel ride as well as riding the zoo train which gives visitors a tour of the zoo. With the picnic food gone, we spent more at the zoo than we did at Adventureland, but it was well worth it.

On the way home we stopped at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Williamsburg. My wife bought some new baby clothes while my son and I tried to make ourselves scarce. Then it was one last meal at McDonald's and we were home.

It was a great two days in Iowa. The weather was perfect and we all had a great time.

I hope my kids will look back wistfully on memories like these someday, like I do with mine. Maybe someday they'll be taking their own children too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

They're Here. They're Queer. We're Dealing With It.

One of the hardest lessons to learn as free people is how to resist the urge of I don't like X, so X ought to be illegal. The conservatives haven't mastered it. The liberals haven't mastered it. The libertarians try, but it isn't always easy.

Gay marriage here in Iowa is a perfect example of this tendency at work. Many of us were raised to believe that homosexuality is wrong. As free people we certainly have every right to believe that if we choose. Things that are "wrong" should be illegal, right? Not necessarily.

Libertarians believe that as long as the action doesn't harm anyone else, it should remain legal. The government shouldn't be in the business of enforcing morality for its own sake. Do we really want the likes of Bill Clinton, Larry Craig, Rod Blagojevich, Richard Nixon or J. Edgar Hoover defining morality for us anyway?

When we use the force of government to impose our own morality on "those people" (whoever that may be), we have to realize that we are all "those people" to somebody else. I'm not gay, but there are certainly those in this country who would view me as one of "those people" who needs to have different values imposed upon.

Some would view me as "one of those" kooky gun owners in need of regulation and registration. Some would view me as "one of those" evil white males in need of some reverse discrimination to put things right. My support of a third party might even land me on the Dept. of Homeland Security's list of "those" darned domestic terror suspects. Sooner or later we all end up on the receiving end of these attempts at government "redistribution of values." It is better if the government just protects our rights and leaves the moralizing to we the people.

The so-called "values voters," who may be opposed to gay marriage, can console themselves that the seemingly wide support for it is not necessarily part of some headlong rush toward mindless hedonism and away from all "traditional values." As reason contributor Jonathan Rauch points out:

"Here's something in the [ABC-Washington Post] poll data which is revealing, if indirectly. Rising support for [same-sex marriage] is accompanied by increased support for legalizing illegal immigrants and decriminalizing marijuana—but also by a decline in support for gun control. A new poll from Pew confirms the turn against gun control, and adds that opposition to abortion is growing."

After Rauch wrote this article, a Gallup poll showed a majority of Americans identifying themselves as pro-life for the first time since the poll started. Rauch continues:

"What does all of that have to do with gay marriage? Just this: It suggests that [same-sex marriage] is part of a libertarian shift in values—not a libertine shift or a flight from values altogether. The public increasingly rejects the claim that gay marriage harms a third party (as abortion does) or violates anyone's rights (as gun control arguably does)." [My thanks to Advocates of Liberty for posting a link to that article.]

So gay marriage might not be the end of the world as we know it. That is probably why Iowans have mostly responded to the gay rights mantra of "We're here! We're queer! Deal with it!" with a collective shrug and an "Okay."

Really, we don't care. Now shut up, our favorite show is on!

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Mother's Day has taken on a bittersweet tone this year, after the passing of my wife's mother last spring and the realization that the number of Mother's Days with my own mother are rapidly dwindling. You see, several years ago, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are 5.3 million Americans living with the disease and it is our sixth leading cause of death. Since it primarily attacks senior citizens, that number is sure to grow as our population ages. The disease "destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life." It is always fatal and there is no cure. These are facts that I never realized until Mom was diagnosed.

Mom came from a poor family but, through hard work and the help of a Pell Grant, she was able to put herself through college. She worked first as a teacher, then later for the Iowa Department of Human Services. She kept the books for our family farm. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 62, rather than moping about, she wrote about the experience in an article that was published in a national magazine.

My mother is a smart lady. I would like to explain to Alzheimer's how unfair it is that she be slowly stripped of her greatest asset, but there is no rationalizing with Alzheimer's.

Besides working full time and keeping the books, Mom gladly accepted all the other duties of a farm wife. I can recall myself and my siblings working in the fields, picking up the numerous rocks that our farm always bore. In the late afternoon we would see Mom's car return from work. A few minutes later Mom would emerge from the house, out of her office attire and into her chore clothes, to help us, always without delay and without complaint. Whatever the task, be it picking up rocks, driving a tractor or hefting buckets of feed, Mom could do it.

My mother is a strong woman. I would advise Alzheimer's that there must surely be easier targets to attack, but there is no reasoning with Alzheimer's.

Long about junior-high age I decided that I didn't want to go to church anymore. I can recall arguing about this with Mom one Sunday morning. Although I thought I had presented a compelling case, Mom carried the day and forty minutes later my rebellious little butt was firmly planted in a church pew.

As I sat there in church, my arms folded, silently fuming, I felt a gentle rap on my shoulder. I turned to see Mom produce something from her purse and hold it out to me. It was a small plastic sandwich bag filled with Cheereos, much like the other mothers in the congregation might use to comfort a crying baby. Message received.

My mother is a smart alec! She has an acerbic wit that still, to this day, she will occasionally play like an ace card when no one expects it. I would warn Alzheimer's not to mess with her, that she could cut it down to size with a mere word (or less), but there is no threatening Alzheimer's.

So, what is this mother's son to do? I help my folks out with some errands now and then (what little I can with a job and a growing family of my own from two counties away). I donate what little I can afford to groups like Alzheimer's Association. Other than that, I can only remind Mom that I love her and wish her a happy Mother's Day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Getting A Carry Permit

The last Sunday in April I took my county's class to get a permit to carry concealed weapons. I'm new to all this, so I thought maybe others who were thinking about getting an Iowa weapons permit (which according to a recent Cedar Rapids Gazette article, is an increasing number of you) might want to see what it's all about, from the vantage point of a fellow newbie. You old pros, who have carried for years, will have to bear with me.

Firstly, In Iowa there are two types of civilian permits dealing with handguns: the "permit to acquire pistols and revolvers" and the "permit to carry weapons." The names are self-explanatory.

The permit to acquire only requires that you fill out a form at your county sheriff's office, pay a small fee and submit to a criminal background check. This will allow you to purchase handguns, but is not needed for long arms.

To carry a gun in public, you'll need a permit to carry weapons. Although the law doesn't say the weapon has to be concealed, it's generally understood to be a good idea, to avoid "scaring the horses." A permit to carry also functions as a permit to acquire.

Here's where things get confusing because Iowa leaves each county sheriff with wide discretion as to how or even if permits to carry are issued to the citizens in each county. Essentially, Iowa has 99 different policies on carry permits. Efforts by gun rights advocates to establish a uniform statewide standard for carry permits have met with surprising resistance in the Iowa legislature.

So getting a carry permit in your county may well be different than it was for me. Some sheriffs refuse to issue them even to legally qualified applicants. Luckily, my sheriff in Jones County does.

I visited the sheriff's office and filled out the requisite paperwork to allow a background check and paid $25 for the required class. In the short time I was there, there was an older married couple in line ahead of me, also signing up for the class, and one guy came in behind me to sign up. The 30 slots in the class filled up fast.

A few weeks later I arrived at the local shooting range where the class was held. I knew that there would be a written test as well as a live-fire proficiency test with my pistol. Besides that, I didn't know what to expect.

First Sheriff Mark Denniston addressed the class, which was composed of a fairly diverse mix of young and old, male and female. The sheriff told the applicants what was expected of them if they got their permits. Then he turned the class over to the two professional firearms instructors who the sheriff's department contracts with to teach the class: Mike and Ernie.

Mike Sieverding is CEO of Sieverding Engineering Enterprises and Chief Firearms Instructor for F.I.E.R.C.E. (Firearms Instruction for Every Responsible Citizen Everywhere). Ernie Traugh is an instructor and the owner of Cedar Valley Outfitters, a gun and shooting supply shop in Marion. Both men are also reserve police officers.

Most of the class dealt with the legal aspects of having the permit. Mike and Ernie did a good job on what could have been a rather dry subject. They also reminded the class what a truly grim situation a defensive shooting would be if, God-forbid, anyone did have to use their weapon. They really drove home the point that things don't play out as they do in the movies. They also encouraged everyone to continue to practice with their own weapons and take further firearms instruction classes to increase proficiency.

After about 5 or so hours in the classroom and after completing the written test on the subjects addressed by Mike and Ernie, it was time for the range test. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the shooting test. After pheasant and squirrel hunting growing up and 6 years in the infantry, I have spent much more trigger time with rifles and shotguns than with pistols.

It turned out I was sweating for nothing. I knew that the test was at 10 yards with FBI silhouette targets. I spent the month before the class practicing with my .45 (at the very shooting range where the class was held, coincidentally). Once I knew I could hit the target at 10 yards, I practiced at 15 and 20 yards as well, just for my own satisfaction.

I ended up getting 100% on the shooting test. Still, I would like to take some of Sieverding's other pistol courses to break myself of some of the bad shooting habits that I have no doubt picked up from pistol plinking with "the guys."

That was it. I waited a week then called the sheriff's office. I'll pay a $10 license fee when I pick it up tomorrow.

If the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is something you really believe in and being able to protect your family while away from home is truly important to you and if you're comfortable with the idea, I encourage you to investigate what it takes to get a carry permit in your own county. The folks at the local gun shop or shooting range and can point you in the right direction. The rest is up to you.

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