Driving fast with guns

I don’t get a lot of satisfaction in seeing people fall, even people who I think deserve to fall. For some reason, I’d rather see people redeem themselves in some small way, but almost always I am let down. One person who I was certain was NOT going to redeem himself in any way was George Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman seems to have taken his place as Florida celebrity du-jour when it comes to extending his middle finger to the world after beating a murder rap in an Orlando courtroom last July. Believe me, I use the word celebrity loosely here. A man whose only claim to fame is shooting an unarmed teenager to death is hardly a celebrity, but as our own adopted O.J. Simpson cools his heels in a Nevada pen, and Casey Anthony seems to have faded into deserved obscurity, all eyes are on faux-celebrity Mr. Zimmerman, and apparently there is much to watch.

Since being found innocent back on July 17th, Mr. Zimmerman has assisted at a traffic accident (a good thing, if we believe it really went down the way it was reported, although it seemed as if he went from ‘assisting’ as first reported, to  ‘rescuing’ people as later reported), and he has been stopped for speeding twice – once in Texas while on a cross-country trip, and once in his home state of Florida (doing 60 in a 45 – okay, not death penalty stuff, but you’d think he’d show more respect for the law) .  More recently, he has been accused of attacking his father in law (although evidence seems to say otherwise), and threatening his estranged wife, ostensibly with a gun.  So, does the man brandish a pistol at the slightest provocation? Is he as trigger happy as he seems to be? Is he a lose cannon waiting to go off when it’s least expected? The answers to such questions appear murky at best. Even the police seem to be at odds with initial reports from his wife.

I’m certainly not an expert on marital discord. Within any marriage, my own included, there are only two people who know exactly what is going on. But when a person seems to have repeated contact with the law, one has to look toward a common denominator. I see guns.

I am thinking of the days immediately after Mr. Zimmerman’s acquittal when an absurd call went out for money to help Mr. Zimmerman purchase replacement weapons. Insanity once again trumping prudence.

This is all I can say today on this important topic. I will close here by saying that I am certain that we have not heard the last of Mr. Zimmerman. I only hope that I am not describing the fate of an innocent victim the next time I mention his name.

Mahalo,

–Ed

Thoughts on the Camel’s nose…gun control…and a proposed dog ban in Broward County

Awhile back, I came across an old Arab proverb. I didn’t know what to do with it at the time, but I liked it, so I wrote it down in my blog-notebook for future reference. I filed it under the heading “Camel’s nose proverb”. It goes like this:

“If the camel gets his nose in your tent, his body will soon follow.”

The gist of this quote, of course, being the old saying,”give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile.” Gun control opponents are quite familiar with this chain of thought. It goes like this: “If they outlaw my AR-15 with its 55 round clip, then next they’ll come for my AK-47 with its 30 round clip, then they’ll want my Remington 12 gauge goose gun, and then they’ll want the .22 single shot, and after that Granddad’s antique muzzle loader…soon we’ll be left with a slingshot and a sharpened spoon to defend ourselves against the marauding gangs that will be roaming the streets in the wake of the inevitable upcoming  economic collapse…, and since marauding gangs will be armed to the teeth with illegally hoarded guns, the shit will have truly hit the proverbial fan…”

This is the oh-so-familiar ‘slippery slope’ argument. Once you begin to slide, there is no turning back. You have to tumble all the way to the bottom.

Personally, I have never (until recently) bought into the slippery slope line, at least when it comes to gun control. I have always thought that certain types of firearms, especially those that can be fired very rapidly and without reloading are too dangerous for the general public. Maybe we don’t really need armor piercing ammunition either – at least not in the hands of anyone with a wad of cash or a few bucks of credit left on their MasterCard. I have always held that the law and the legitimate ownership of guns could coexist. I mean…can’t we all just get along?

Obama’s proposed ban on ammunition clips in excess of 10 rounds sounds sensible to me, but who the  hell am I? I’m not a really big gun guy. But should this become law, and somewhere down the line you could ask the eleventh potential victim in a crazed maniac’s line of fire what they think of such a law, he or she will probably say that it was a very good law indeed. But now we are going down the road of why a crazed maniac has access to any weapon, and that is not where I want to go here.

What I want to say is this. I was perfectly comfortable with my opposition to slippery slope arguments, then that camel pushed its nose into my home turf, Broward County, Florida.

We have a big problem down here with dogs. Not just any dogs, but specifically the pit-bull breed. In the past 2 years, there have been 225 pit-bull attacks in Broward County. That is a lot of dog attacks. Couple that with the 269 calls to the county authorities (over the same 2 year period), to report pit-bulls roaming ‘at large’, then you can see why some people around here are upset. That’s why today, February 26, a hearing is being conducted at County Hall in Ft. Lauderdale to consider a ban on the pit-bull breed in Broward County. Don’t think folks are taking this lying down. Nothing gets the public more politically engaged that issues related to animals. Emotions are running high on both sides of this proposed pit-bull ban. A Facebook page has been set up to help save the breed, and a crowd of people on both sides of the pit-bull issue are expected to descend upon County Hall to make themselves heard in the democratic process — as they should.

So I was discussing this pit-bull issue yesterday, with my friend Patrick who works at the same place I do, the place where I go to write stuff and get paid for it. Patrick knows that I am a huge dog lover, and dog owner. He also knows that I am not the biggest fan of the pit-bull breed. He cornered me at the water cooler yesterday.

“Where do you come down on this pit-bull ban,” he asked. Then before I could answer, he went on to say, “it’s high time if you’d ask me.”

“Well,” I said after thinking a bit. “I’m opposed to it. It makes absolutely no sense to ban a breed of dog, just because some owners are irresponsible. I mean, people who are going to abuse animals and teach them to fight aren’t going to be deterred by the law. What we need are laws to hit irresponsible dog owners where it hurts – in the wallet. If we ban pit-bulls, then next it’s going to be Rottweilers, then German Shepards, and maybe Labrador Retrievers – who knows where it could end. Wait until they ban your Yorkie, Patrick.”

“I see,” said Patrick. “It’s kind of like the slippery slope argument. Once you ban one breed, then it becomes easier to ban another breed.”

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s sort of like that.”

“It sounds a bit hypocritical,” he said, “especially after you said that the slippery-slope argument made no sense when it came to gun control, remember?”

I did remember saying that…I confess to some hypocrisy. But nobody is perfect. I still believe that guns can be effectively regulated with well thought out legislation, and I still believe that pit-bulls should not be banned in Broward County, Florida.

If you believe that the President’s gun control proposal is sound policy, then contact your Congressional representative and make your voice heard. If you believe pit-bulls should not be banned in Broward County, then make your way down to County Hall at 11:30 AM today and join the fray

We flee the scene…I receive an offer to buy my pistol

PART 3

Note to my readers: Into the seemingly endless stream of blather regarding gun control in the United States, I have contributed even more blather, in the form of excerpts from a short story that I wrote. Since it runs long, I have broken it down into 4 parts. It is best read in order, starting with Part 1. It is (for the most part) factual, however, names and some inconsequential details have been changed to protect the innocent.

The narrative continues:

We panicked…

I don’t remember which one of us was in the car first – I don’t even remember taking any special precautions with the revolver, but later I found it tossed under the front seat, still loaded with seven live cartridges and two spent ones. There wasn’t time to do anything but run. Earl Hackleman’s big Dodge 4 by 4 was bearing down hard on us. By the time I put the car in gear, and hit the gas, he wasn’t more than a hundred yards distant. I slammed the Plymouth into first gear and we lurched away down the rutted cow pasture path toward the gravel road. I hit second gear and we nose dived into a washout that almost twisted the steering wheel from my grip.

“Ya want me to drive?” yelled Lenny, “Jeez, what’s the matter with you, get a move on.”

“We won’t be going anywhere if I bust an axle out here,” I shouted back.

I drove as fast as I could, over the rough terrain, but I knew that the low slung car was no match for a souped-up off the road vehicle like Hackelman’s. My only hope was that I could beat him to the gravel road. There I knew I could out distance him. I glanced into the rearview mirror, and for a second I couldn’t believe our luck. It looked as if the headlights behind me had stopped closing in.

Hackleman had apparently stopped at his firing range to make sure everything was okay – like we might have messed with his sandbag or maybe he thought we’d dropped off a platoon of commie commandos, I don’t know, but I saw a flashlight beam shoot from the window of the stopped truck and sweep across the firing range. That lasted for only a few seconds, before the truck was on the move again, chasing us down on the rutted path. Stopping had been his mistake, if he had any hope of running us down. It was all the time I needed to make it to the gravel road ahead of him.

We rolled over the cattle crossing with Hackleman’s headlights close behind, but not close enough. Safely on the gravel road, I dropped the Plymouth into fourth gear, dumped the clutch and punched the gas pedal to the floor. We roared forward with tires spinning, leaving a hailstorm of gravel and dust in our wake. Behind us I could see Hackleman’s headlights turning onto the gravel road from the cow path, and for a moment it looked like he might be following us, but a few seconds later he dropped back, and then the lights were gone. I kept the pedal down until we reached the highway, half expecting Hackleman’s truck to appear out of nowhere, right on my bumper with headlights blazing, but it didn’t happen. We were on the blacktop headed back toward town before either Lenny or I spoke. It was Lenny:

“I think Harry ripped you off on that pistol.”

I didn’t answer him.

 *

The next morning I took the revolver from the car and emptied the shells from the chamber and threw away the two spend casings. Then I wrapped the gun carefully in cheese cloth and put it, and the box of Remington cartridges, in the bottom of an old tackle box that I kept under the workbench in my garage. Then, I once again forgot about the gun, until…

…one morning, two or three weeks after the incident out at Heckleman’s farm, Lenny came into the café where I was eating breakfast. He sat down across from me and we made small talk for a bit, even laughing about that night we’d outrun Heckelman.  Then he told me that he was leaving town. It seems Lenny had grown dissatisfied working in the family business with his father and two brothers and had decided to move to California. He had an uncle in Fresno who had offered to put him up for awhile, until he could find a job, and he’d decided to leave the next day.

“Say,” he said to me finally. “You wouldn’t want to sell that pistol, would you?”

“Why would you want it,” I said, “you told me Harry ripped me off.”

Lenny shrugged. “Maybe he did. But I need a gun for the road, and I don’t have a lot of time to shop around.” Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of bills. Lenny was suddenly flush with cash, having sold his share of the business to his father and brothers. He pushed a fifty dollar bill across the table toward me.

I looked at the fifty – it wasn’t a denomination that I saw every day. At the time it was nearly half a weeks pay. It was also more cash than I was likely to ever get for the pistol, so I gave the transaction serious thought.

I had known Lenny for years, and he was a good and honest friend. But I hesitated to sell him the gun – not that I feared Lenny would use the pistol for any criminal purpose, but he was reckless and careless. If I have ever heard an inner voice (and listened to it) it was that day in the café sitting across from Lenny with that fifty dollar bill on the table.

“Naw,” I said,  “I better keep it around.” I pushed the bill back across the table. “A guy never knows when he’s going to need a gun.”

The next day I sold the pistol.

To be continued.