Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Carrying firearms in a way too liberal state - how things change.

After seeing the CNN poll (about halfway down on the right side - I'm not sure how long it'll last, as it's on an often updated page) asking if the shooting spree in a German school highlighted the need for further gun control (results, as of 10:25pm EST, 3/11/2009, stated 63% yes, and 37% no), I got to thinking. Things have seriously changed for the worst.

I've been living in Maryland since I was four years old (my family moved here in 1979). I'm 33 years old now. Maryland has always been a liberal state, and recently been one of the most gun controlled states in the union. Back in 1983 (or within a year of that), I had my first experience with a firearm - at school - a public elementary school.

It had long been a tradition at the school for staff and faculty to dress up in costumes for Halloween. This particular year, the gym teacher dressed up as a cowboy, complete with two real six-shooters on his hips. He even, during lunch that day, fired blanks into the air. Over the course of the day, he let interested students handle the revolvers, but was always meticulous about ensuring that the cylinders were empty, and that the weapons were safe before allowing any student to handle them. He also made sure to teach and enforce the rules of gun safety to each and every student that wanted to handle the revolvers. As a result, many students learned something they otherwise wouldn't have, and nobody was injured. Being a young child myself, I remember the revolvers seeming HUGE. I still learned a lot about firearms from that gym teacher that day, and as a result have never injured myself or anyone else with any weapon (firearm or otherwise - I'm an avid sword collector, and do not yet own any firearms) since (at least, not without intending injury).

Today, that gym teacher would be in jail for doing the same thing.

The teacher also had an open carry permit, which was far easier to get in Maryland at the time. Tonight, I read the Maryland gun laws again. Here is what Maryland law says about the requirements for an open carry permit (simplified for the layman) Source:

Permit To Carry

Application for a permit to carry a handgun is made to the Secretary of State Police. In addition to the printed application form, the applicant should submit a notarized letter stating the reasons why he is applying for a permit.

The permit may be issued if the Secretary finds that the applicant:

* Is 18 years of age or older.

* Has not been convicted of a felony, or of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.

* Has not been convicted of a crime involving the possession, use, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance.

* Is not an alcoholic, addict, or habitual user of a controlled substance.

* Based on the results of an investigation, has not exhibited a propensity for violence or instability.

* Based on the results of an investigation, has demonstrated a "good and substantial reason" to carry a handgun, including a finding that the permit is "necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger."

It's the last bullet point that is the deal breaker in Maryland. "Good and substantial reason" could be defined as anything, and likely not anything that would allow an average, law-abiding citizen to carry.

Even excluding firearms, it's already illegal to carry any bladed weapon with more than one sharpened edge, more than five inches in blade length. Technically, I'm breaking the law when I carry my 12" Crusader's dagger at historical reenactment events, as it has a 12 inch long, double edged blade (and has never been pulled in anger or aggression, and has never tasted blood). The state of Maryland won't allow me to carry that, which only has an effective danger range of my arm length plus 12 inches. Think of the moronic legislation that disallows the average citizen from carrying a handgun with an effective range of 100 yards (and an accurate range of only 25-50 feet). Open carrying of a rifle or shotgun is completely illegal (with the exception of antique firearms - defined as being built before 1899, which are exempt from all state firearm laws - I suppose they think a Wild West era Colt Peacemaker is less dangerous than a Smith and Wesson 1917 .45 Revolver made in 2008).

Honestly, I oppose all gun legislation because almost all of it makes no sense. Sure, I can understand the government not wanting me to have a live nuclear warhead attached to an ICBM siloed in my back yard, but for fuck's sake, at least define the conventional firearms you want to ban before trying to do so.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Excommunication

Recently, I've been asked several times for "story time" regarding my excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church. At the time I was being asked, I didn't feel much like story time (rough day at work, kind of drunk, wanting to relax). Tonight, I feel like story time.

The time was late 1991. I was sixteen years old. It was sometime around early to mid December. The regional Cardinal was in town greeting the congregation and speaking a few sermons at the various local masses. After a late morning Sunday mass (which my parents always attended, having gotten into the habit when I was still in Sunday School), I had the pleasure of speaking personally to the Cardinal. Now, mind you, at the time, I still identified as a Catholic, but had had my doubts about the faith for years, and was leaning towards the ancient Celtic/Norse traditions.

The Cardinal (I can't remember his name for the life of me) and I started talking about the Catholic faith. As a confused teenager (and confused about my faith as well as the other typical things teenagers are confused about), I started questioning the reliability of the teachings of the Bible, particularly when there were so many contradictions.

As the conversation progressed, we talked about the contradictions in Genesis, Matthew, Deuteronomy, and many other books. As I pointed them out, and then offered more realistic suggestions based on the ancient Celtic/Norse faiths (mostly those that pertained to individual divinity, a matriarchal society, and ultimately, the concept of "to each their own"), he became more and more defensive in his side of the conversation, and I found myself more on the offensive. Also, having been raised in a mostly scientific household that promoted education over religion, I argued many points of basic scientific fact, evolutionary theory, and some minor quantum physics (which I had just enough knowledge about to be dangerous at the time).

Ultimately, the Cardinal started to see the logic in my arguments. He actually started to agree with me, regardless that many of my arguments disproved countless parts of the Catholic faith. He ultimately broke off the conversation, saying he needed to prepare for his next mass. As the next mass was only ten minutes away, I accepted his excuse. After ending the conversation, I went home.

Early in the following week, I overheard several classmates talking about how "off" the Cardinal seemed in his later masses that day. Being still largely naive at the time, I didn't think much of it until I received a letter from the Cardinal a few days later. The general gist of the letter was that the Cardinal had seen too much truth in my arguments and was doubting his faith. As he had devoted nearly five decades to his faith, he couldn't accept doubt in it. What the hell? He was in his sixties, and was shown up in a religious debate by a snot-nosed sixteen year old brat? I thought it had to be a joke. I continued to think it was a joke until a received a second letter two days later from the Cardinal, requesting that I meet with him again at the Church the following Sunday. Amused, I decided to make the meeting.

At the meeting was the Cardinal and the local pastor. I was told that I was facing excommunication from the Church, and would be excommunicated if I did not reaffirm my beliefs. I refused. How the hell can a simple conversation of logic be a mortal sin in the eyes of a major organization? I expressed this thought. I was asked again to repent and agree to submit to a reaffirmation of my beliefs. Once again, I refused. I mentioned that I couldn't bring myself to associate with an organization that would refuse free thought among its members. I was excommunicated shortly thereafter. It really wasn't the big smoke and mirrors Hollywood ritual that one might think it is. It basically ended up being that I was informed of my ineligibility to ever receive the Eucharist again, and was encouraged to continue to attend Mass. I found it odd that I was kicked out of the Church, but still encouraged to attend.

Except for a few holiday Masses that I attended out of respect for family members, I never again attended a Catholic Mass. I never again participated in Communion. This really disturbed my grandmother, but out of love for her, instead of telling her the truth, I kept making up lies about injuries that prevented me from walking. I only did this to spare her from the ultimate shock of learning that her grandson had been excommunicated from her beloved faith. She was always the gullible sort, and always trusted me with the lies I fed her. I truly feel she would not have lived as long as she did had she known the truth.

After excommunication, I devoted my spiritual life to the ancient Celtic/Norse spirituality, and ultimately found myself as the top "priest" in my own faith, based more on personal experience, but with elements from the Celtic/Norse faiths filling in the blanks. Over time, I lost that faith as well, as science took far more importance in my life. Finally, around 2004, I officially identified as an atheist, having identified as an agnostic since about 2001, and arguably, off and on since 1992 or earlier.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Energy Efficiency is not a myth!

I got my bill from BG&E (the local gas and electric company) yesterday. I had signed up for budget billing immediately upon starting the service. To date, the budget billing was $77/month (including both natural gas and electric). Apparently, my somewhat green lifestyle has paid off. I only use compact fluorescent lights, I don't leave lights on in rooms I'm not in (except for the kitchen, and only when I'm cooking and waiting for a timer to expire). The TV is often on when I'm home, but it's an older tube TV, and uses less energy than the newer LCD or Plasma TVs. Also, my thermostat is set at 68 degrees (and was set at 50 degrees the whole time I was on vacation).

Anyway, yes, I do try and conserve power. My BG&E bill reflects that.

Next month, after BG&E re-assessed my gas/electric consumption, it'll only be $63.00. This makes me happy.

Monday, February 9, 2009

February 9, 2009. Obama has spoken. My Questions.


Obama, you spoke about the economic stimulus package. This package is nearly as costly as the bailout package was. Where is the money coming from? You never answered that. Frankly, most Americans, including myself, are taxed to the limits. The money just doesn't exist in the general American public.


Afghanitan - you waffled about pulling troops out of Afghanistan. Frankly, I want to see all of our boys home. The longer we dwell in the middle east, the longer we beg for terrorist activity here at home. It's been made quite clear that the middle eastern nations want to be left alone.

The A-Rod question - Who gives a fuck? I don't give slight fuck if an athlete used steroids. This is not a presidential question.

The Pakistan question - all I heard was more military action. "We want to ensure that the government of Pakistan are stalwart allies" means to me more bombings and ground attacks until we can ensure that.

Bush Administration trials/convictions - only lip service about prosecuting the war criminals - mostly just promoting the "values" of his administration.

Schools - While I support the idea of better school funding, once again, where is the money coming from?

Obama, you have failed to answer one simple question: Where do you plan on getting funding? Taxpayers are broke. Pork programs can be cut back, and the war fund can also be cut back. You still haven't said where you're getting funding. China isn't lending anymore. Where is the funding coming from?