Monday, December 17, 2012

Gun Free Zones

The echoes from the gunshots had barely died out before the hysterical bleatings from the gun-haters for ever-tougher gun control laws reached a crescendo.  Lamentable, but predictable.  It happens every time somebody goes off the deep end and commits mass murder using a gun.  But while they're banging the "take the guns" drum, let's take a look at the real problem, and one proposed solution.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was a "gun free zone."  The Cinemark movie theater in Aurora, Colorado was a "gun free zone."  The Virginia Technical Institute was a "gun free zone."  And surprisingly, Fort Hood, Texas was a "gun free zone."  In fact, every single mass killing over the past decade where 3 or more people died occurred in a "gun free zone." 

Doesn't it seem that mass murderers tend to select "gun free zones" when they're in the mood  to kill a bunch of people?  Had there been an armed citizen, trained in the use of his or her weapon, at that school, or in that theater, or at that college, or even in the largest military installation in the United States (thanks to Billy Jeff Clinton, all military installations are now gun free zones!), doesn't it seem likely, as statistics indicate, that the number of people killed would have been severely minimized?  And, had that been a possibility, doesn't it seem likely that the killer might have thought twice before selecting those targets of opportunity?  Or any such targets before deciding to kill fellow citizens and then himself? 

Nobody knows what possessed the 20 year old in CT to go on a rampage and start killing little children.  Or to first take his mother's guns and shoot her in the face.  He couldn't pass a background check earlier in the week (that gun control law worked), so stealing his mother's guns was his only option (a felony).  Wouldn't it have been nice if she'd secured those guns under lock and key (her not doing so was a felony)?  He couldn't get into the school that day.  It was on lockdown, just like so many other schools are these days.  So he used Mom's .40 caliber Glock pistol to shoot his way in (a felony).  Should we encase every school in bullet-proof glass?  And then he loaded his weapons (a felony) and gunned down 20 kids and 6 teachers and administrators (26 felonies, plus sentencing enhancements, like that would have mattered).  Should we, like the NRA's CEO suggests, position an armed guard in every school in America (no, I say)?  Or do we being to repurpose our society away from trying desperately to pry guns out of the hands of lawful Americans who use them for self-defense, hunting and target shooting, and instead try to identify those mentally unbalanced citizens who are likely to become mass murderers before they can act?

By the way, England's Parliament is now debating whether to ban ki8tchen knives...thought you'd like to know how far liberal lunacy can go if left unchecked.

One hundred million Americans who own 270,000,000 guns didn't shoot anybody yesterday.  But have one insane kid shot a bunch of little children and the gun-hating loons are in a frenzy to once again try to deny citizens their Constitutional rights. 

According to a study performed by Florida State University, 2,500,000 times a year citizens using lawfully-owned weapons prevent a crime, or at least minimize the negative impact of crimes in progress.  Why isn't that reported in the alphabet media (that was a rhetorical question)?  

Points to ponder:  There are no "assault weapons."  There are only weapons which may be used in assaults, including your grandfather's shotgun.  The term "assault weapons" was coined by Sen Dianne Feinstein and fellow gun-hating liberals in the early '90s in an effort to color the publics' opinion against those scary-looking, "black" rifles that America loves and liberal politicians hate.  The AR-style rifle possibly used in the Connecticut shooting is the most popular hunting weapon in use in America today.  It is being used to hunt everything from squirrels to Kodiak Brown Bears.   

Second, there are no automatic weapons in use in America today; they have been outlawed since the 1930's.  There are semi-automatic weapons, which require the trigger to be pulled once for every shot fired.  There are dozens and dozens of semi-automatic hunting rifles and shotguns and pistols for sale in America today, and have been for more than 100 years, and none are "assault weapons." 

Third, has anyone looked at the extremely violent, desensitizing video games for sale today?  Maybe shooting up cops and soldiers on the TV with a joy stick has had a tendency to make such mass murders more likely.  And there's new evidence to indicate that the CT shooter was addicted to one such video game.  And who's looking to identify mentally unstable citizens?  It seems when you turn 18 you drop off the grid.  Getting a kid in this category institutionalized is nearly impossible.  That' got to change.

Fourth, deaths from illegal guns has gone down every single year for the past twenty years, most likely due to the increasing number of legally-owned weapons in the hands of law-abiding citizens.  As an example, concealed-carry gun permits just surpassed one million in Florida, and Florida gun crime is way, way down.  As they say, an armed society is a polite society. 

Chicago has had an outright ban on guns for more than 40 years.  Yet, Chicago is the murder capitol of America, with gun deaths totalling 535 for 2012, and 19,000 since 1990.  Perhaps that famous sometime-Chicago resident, B. Hussein Obama, would care to explain to us why outright gun bans do nothing to ban guns.

Perhaps instead of "gun free zones," we should have "guns welcome here" zones.  Then, prospective mass murderes would have to factor in the very real probability of being dropped like a bad habit by a good guy with a gun before getting off the first shot.

So what's my plan, you ask?  Simple.  Offer teachers and administrators free gun safety and proper handling courses for those who wish to participate, on a purely voluntary - and confidential - basis.  Then provide appropriate weapons for each, and all licensing, permits and certification necessary for legal concealed carry, on their persons only (no guns in desk drawers or in bookcases or in their cars).  We should offer monetary stipends to each participant as Adjunct Safety Officers as an inducement to participate.  Then, somewhere between none and maybe as many as a couple of dozen trained, armed volunteers, plus the occasional cop, would be active in each of our schools, at a negligible overall one-time cost, perhaps not more than $1,000 per participant, and the bad guys wouldn't know who or how many or where.

If we can trust them to teach our kids, can't we trust teachers to also protect our kids, especially volunteers with proper training? 

The result?  A less attractive target of opportunity.  Bad guys will pick "soft targets" if they can, like shopping malls and bowling alleys and grocery stores.  But like they're now doing in TX and OK and CO and NV and UT and WY (Ohio gun ranges just trained their four thousandth teacher, for free), and many others, let's make our schools "hard targets" as soon as possible and put an end to school shootings, once and for all.

Also ask yourself this:  if only 5% of the ducks were armed, do you think anybody would go duck hunting?

And, once again with apologies, for those who think that guns kill people, I guess they also believe that pencils cause misspelled words.

Too extreme, you say?  Don't think it would work?  President Obama sends his kids to Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., along with many of the more-equal-than-you, Inside-the-Beltway "swells."  Sidwell Friends School employs 11 full-time armed guards and is currently planning to add a 12th.  It it's okay for him and his kids, why not you and yours?   

Friday, December 14, 2012

Update on Michigan

The almost unthinkable occurred this week.  Michigan elected to make the freedom to choose a new state law. 

Both houses of its legislature and its governor signed into law legislation enabling MI workers who choose not to join unions decide whether or not to pay union dues.  Heretofore, all workers had to cough up union dues even if they did not wish to become a union member.  And as we know, not everyone who belongs to a union agrees with the default position unions take: supporting the Democrat Party almost exclusively.  And so, Michigan has become the 24th "Right to Work" state in the Union.  And I would predict that many more will soon follow.

Right to work states have considerably lower unemployment rates than do those with forced unionization.  Yes, they often have slightly lower pay rates, for when forced unionization is kicked to the curb, also trashed is so-called "prevailing wages."  But most would agree a job at slightly lower wages is better than no job at all.  And no job at all is what's happening in states not choosing to see the light.  California is a prime example. 

So, even as Detroit is going bankrupt, almost certainly to be taken over by the state, the state itself has taken a step toward fiscal sanity.  Those doubting my assertion are invited to take a look at Indiana and Ohio and Wisconsin.  All have Republican governors.  All have adopted new legislation limiting restrictive organized labor policies, or eliminating them altogether.  And all have eliminated budget shortfalls, attracted new businesses and lowered unemployment rates.  Michigan will very likely now do the same.

I end this posting with one simple question:  Why, pray tell, are those who so loudly demand the right to choose whether or not to abort a fetus, also so strident in their demand that we relinquish all such choice in where to send our kids to school or whether to pay union dues? 

I guess the "right to choose" depends upon who's doing the choosing...

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

Detroit was one of my favorite destinations when I first began to travel on business. It was truly a bold, brash, bright, optimistic chrome and glass miracle of capitalism. And this essay is about how such success as Detroit once enjoyed can be wiped away in a flash of greed.

Detroit started to grow right after World War Two. Our economic engine of progress started to hum there when our focus as a country began to turn away from winning a war and toward winning the peace. Before long blue collar workers were earning enough in Detroit to buy the quintessential 3-bedroom, 2-bath home, have an average of 2.3 children and a boat at the lake house. GM, Ford and Chrysler enjoyed a virtual monopoly on auto production. GM had a more than 51% market share alone. Volkswagen and Datsun (Nissan) and M-B and Toyota weren't even on the radar. And through this growth the United Auto Workers began to clamor for ever-higher wages and benefits, which the car companies' management begrudgingly gave them. Over and over. Avoiding labor strife was management's primary objective. Just ahead of quality, as the future would unfortunately prove.

It wasn't long before the cost of producing autos grew ever more expensive in order to pay for rapidly-escalating wages and retiree benefits. Hourly wages for line production workers averaged more than $75.00 just a few years ago. GM reported that every new car it produced back then carried with it a burden of more than $1,500 to cover retiree health care costs alone. These increased costs resulted in higher sticker prices and decreased quality of manufacture. And this "perfect storm" left the door open for foreign manufacturers to gain an ever-expanding foothold. This, coupled with the fact that off-shore manufacturers had chosen to position their U.S. plants in right-to-work states, so they weren't burdened by having to pay union prevailing wages, gave them an almost insurmountable advantage.

The bloom was coming off Detroit's bush. What had been a modern, bustling city was dying. The Big Three were running out of money. And of time. Ford chose to hire a new CEO and to borrow everything it possibly could, $25 Billion as it turned out, to weather the impending nightmare. It even borrowed $100 Milliion on the value of its iconic "Blue Oval" symbol. GM and Chrysler took a different tack. They came to D.C. with their hats in their hands and begged the Government to bail them out. 
Mitt Romney, who had run for President in 2008, counseled against it, preferring rather to permit the companies to go through an orderly, managed bankruptcy. He believed that this process would enable the car companies to abrogate their overly generous labor contracts, thus leaving the taxpayers on the hook for less. President Obama chose a different tack. He appointed Steve Rattner as Car Czar. Interestingly, Rattner's previous job was as a sports reporter for the New York Times (!). Oh, and as a fund raiser for the Democrat National Committee. But I repeat myself. Obama started by firing GM's Chairman (can presidents do that?). He then seized the two companies from their bond and stockholders and redistributed their primary ownership to the UAW.

Let me say that again. Since stock trading first began under a spreading Oak tree in the front yard of Independence Hall back in the mid-1700's, corporate bondholders have been sacrosanct. They get paid first in the event of a bankruptcy. And then stockholders. And then unsecured lenders. And then vendors. And lastly, employees. Obama unconstitutionally turned all of that on its ear with the auto bailout. And we as taxpayers are still paying for that illegal folly today.

Despite our having been told by the newly-minted GM and Chrysler that they have paid back all of their obligations to American taxpayers, which forked over more than $85 Billion in bailouts, we are still owed more than $25 Billion we'll likely never see again. The U.S. of A. still owns more than 500 million GM shares, which are trading at 70% less than their original offering price. We're still owed billions by then-GMAC, now-Ally Bank, which we'll never see again. Chrysler is controlled not by Ford, or one of the many off-shore car companies that have invested years and billions in our American economy, but by Fiat! Fiat? Obama gave Chrysler to Fiat. What part of this makes any sense at all? And GM's profits are now down from a year ago. And they've been given a ten-year, no-taxes reprieve. President Obama has told us GM is "roaring back." I don't know about you, but I could a little less of that "roaring" thing.

And what has become of Detroit? From a high of 1.7 million residents in 1950, arguably the high point in Detroit's lustrous history, only 708,000 live there today. 85,000 are now employed there making cars. That's down from more than 380,000 at its peak a decade ago. Vast areas of Detroit look more like a war zone. Gangs roam free and unimpeded by their much diminished police force. Thousands of homes and buildings are empty and crumbling, windows broken and doors kicked in, infested by legions of druggies. Detroit tried to sell many of them for $1 apiece, but there were no takers. More than 5,500 acres inside the city limits, an area the size of Costa Mesa, CA has just been leased to a Michigan farming corporation. This area will be razed and replaced with crops of corn and beans and alfalfa. Imagine. From unimproved, to improved, to unimproved in just a single lifetime. What a sad commentary.

And to give you an idea of just how much the unions are to blame for this situation, allow me to report on a news release just provided by the Michigan Capitol Confidential. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) employs a full-time farrier, or "horseshoer," at a salary of $29,245, plus more than $27,000 in annual benefits. There's only one problem. The DWSD has no horses, and hasn't since Lyndon Johnson was president. The position, you see, cannot be eliminated due to union rules.

Yes, the unions controlling Detroit are private. And their numbers are dwindling from a high just prior to WWII of 35% to fewer than 7% today. But while private unions have tanked, public-sector unions have flourished. Approximately one-third of public employees are unionized, and that includes not a single Federal worker (it's illegal for them to unionize!). But their impact on the health of the cities they work for is equally as corrosive as their private-sector brethren. Take a look at Stockton and Vallejo and San Bernardino and San Diego and San Jose if you need proof. And that's just in California.

This is a cautionary tale. When you put the inmates in charge of the asylum, things can get out of control, and fast. We owe it to ourselves and our heirs to take great care of our town and its finances. We need to elect the most competent leaders and hire only the very best managers. And we need to find a way to keep the unions in check. If we don't, we can wind up as a small Detroit. And nobody, including union members or their leadership, should want that to happen.