Copyright

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Guns and Anti-Gun Rhetoric

I am a gun owner. I was raised in a household with firearms and taught to respect, understand, and properly use firearms. So I am coming from a "pro-gun" standpoint, but I am also a reasonable person who will listen to reasonable arguments from either side. However, I'm not hearing any reasonable arguments at all, from either camp.

Gun violence is often horrific, especially in a mass attack or serial situation. Firearms are a tool that are incredibly efficient and accurate at what they are meant to do. They are often loud and they often do what seems like a disproportionate amount of damage to what they are fired at.

But, here's the thing: There are anywhere from 45 million to 120 million firearm owners in America, depending on what data you use from the Internet. Most that I view seem to come down somewhere around 75-85 million, or somewhere south of 30% of the population owning one or more firearms (which, by the way, is down from previous highs of over 50% a few decades ago).

On average, there are about 500,000 firearm-related crimes committed per year in America. While I wholeheartedly agree that this figure is way too high, when you look at the math of it, that means that less than .01% of the gun owner population is involved. There are about 50,000 gun deaths each year (including suicides) in America. Again, a number that is way too high. But we're now into less than .001% of the firearm-owning population causing the death of another person using a firearm.

Statistics do not assuage the hurt, loss, or fear caused by someone dying from gun violence. Statistics do not help someone who is robbed or threatened at gun-point from feeling powerless and violated. But the country recently had rallies and battle-cries over the "1%" and how things being unfairly distributed was a problem. These conversations continue. When you look at the statistics of firearms in America, you soon see that approximately 99.9% of the gun owners in America are quiet, law-abiding citizens from whom no gun violence is expected or will occur. These calls for banning firearms hurts 99.9% of the people who legally obtained, own, use, and safely handle firearms. Also, ironically, the request for either a ban on firearms or further laws restricting guns rarely targets those who are committing the gun violence, as a majority of reports show that these people obtain their firearms through gray areas or outright illegal means. Or, to put it more simply, more laws are just more laws those who want to commit gun violence will, and can, ignore. It only harms the vast, silent majority of law-abiding citizens.

So, here's my question: What can we do to limit or contain the gun violence in America without taking away the right to own them from the overwhelming majority that use them responsibly?

There are an estimated 30,000 gun laws on the books in America. They cover federal and local concerns, obtaining, storing, using, selling, who can own and who cannot own a firearm. When taken as a whole, they are pretty comprehensive. There is almost no situation that you can think of that there isn't already a law in place to cover. What we are lacking is the man-power to enforce these laws.

My first suggestion is to increase the ATFE and local law enforcement so that they can have more people dedicated to going to gun shows, gun stores, and re-sellers and checking licenses, registration, and ensuring that each is doing everything by the book. This has the side benefit of putting more people to work, once trained.

Secondly, I recommend that every person who wants to own a firearm must be licensed. The licensing process should include an overview on types of weapons, types of ammunition, general safety concerns, firearm-specific safety issues, hands-on training with representative firearms in the classroom (without ammunition, of course), and a written and practical test. An added benefit to this process is that every license will bring in revenue to local and federal agencies and jobs will be created for those who proctor the tests.

Thirdly, wherever a firearm is being used, at least one person must be licensed. If any unlicensed person is found to be using a firearm in an unsafe manner, those who have the license are fined or imprisoned for the infraction (depending on severity). This makes it important for licensed gun owners to convey the proper techniques for handling firearms as well as maintaining vigilance that safety is the first consideration with any non-licensed individuals in their presence.

Lastly, let's go after those who are actually breaking the law. Rather than making it harder on those who (want to) legally obtain and use their firearms, we need to crack down on those illegally selling, purchasing, and using firearms. Let's make all firearms crimes federal and with minimum standard jail times and fines. Let's make it so that anyone who sells a gun illegally is afraid to do so, and make the penalties severe enough that those who use them illegally are made an example. This will deter some of the population from attempting to get a firearm.

If violence in other nations, ones with very strict firearms laws (Canada, et al), and those which prohibit firearms altogether (China, Japan, England, et al), tells us anything, it is that people will still commit heinous acts of violence. If someone wants to do it, they will find a way. But if we simply make it harder, and make the punishments harsher, we may bring America's gun violence issues down.

Windows 10

I like the idea behind Windows 10 a lot. It is designed to be faster (always good). It is designed to use DirectX 12 (great for gamers). They want it to become ubiquitous, so are providing the download "free" ... for the first year. And, right there, is my problem. What does "free for the first year" mean?

I'm pretty tech savvy. I've built my own machines since the mid-1980s. But there are a few foundational things about your device that you need and Windows 10's approach completely ignores: your OS (operating system) is absolutely required to run 24/7 to make your PC (personal computer; in this article, anything on which you can perform computing) work. It is not a "service." Rather, the OS is like the memory, CPU, or monitor-- without it, your PC doesn't function. At all.

When Windows 7 came out, I purchased the little-known 'family pack' for it, so I could install the OS on my desktop, work laptop, and on my wife's desktop. It was a great edition and it was forward-thinking of Microsoft to make a family pack edition where one installation license could be installed on up to three machines, saving a family money. Yet, they barely advertised it (they wanted everyone to get confused and pay full price for each install) and barely made any of these packs (it is my understanding that less than 1% of all boxes were for a family pack, and once they sold those out, they were not making more).

XP, Vista (yes, really), and 7 have been rock-solid OSs for Microsoft. Yes, Vista got a bad rap early on, but it was mostly caused by third-party vendors claiming that their hardware was Vista compatible when it really wasn't. Unfortunately, many people thought it was the OS that was the problem, and blamed Microsoft instead, causing a lot of negativity. Everyone who did what I did, check the compatibility and upgrade any hardware not compatible with Vista, had a smooth upgrade and user experience. I had Vista run for years without any incidents or issues. Same with XP and 7. I would argue that XP and 7 are the best, most reliable OSs that Microsoft has released outside of 3.2 (preferably with the Norton overlay).

Most of what I read about 10 seems to indicate a great update and good choices by Microsoft. They have mitigated the issues with the OS 8 iterations, sped up the interface, increased its hardware and software compatibility, lowered boot times, and increased productivity in the OS. But then they make weird decisions like no longer including Windows Media Player/Center. They think that most people stream their music, movies, and similar, so no one needs to have a driver for watching/listening to media on a CD/DVD player any more. Really? So, all those CDs and DVDs that everyone inevitably owns are now useless? Oh, no, says Microsoft, you can buy an app for the OS that does that for you! How convenient, you can now purchase something that, I think, most people believe an operating system should do for you naturally -- allow you to properly access your media. Sounds great! *sarcasm Oh, and let's not forget that there are plenty of completely free applications that will do that for me if Microsoft doesn't want to, so why would I pay them for the privilege of doing something my OS should figure out for me as a default process?

The big push, it seems, is that Microsoft wants you to see your OS as a service. While nothing firm has come out about what happens after that first, free year of the OS, most pundits in the tech world agree that they believe Microsoft is shooting for a monthly or yearly fee to keep the OS working, plus apps charges as people complain about all the missing stuff in the OS and ask for it. No mention, so far, of what happens if you don't pay them.

Microsoft hasn't looked around at various business models that tried to move from a one-time pay model to a monthly model, or from free to charged accounts, and seen what that did to those businesses. Just take online newspapers -- many provided their information for free for a long time after instituting an online presence. Then, they switched to a gateway charge for the same information and... their customer base dropped to between 1/3 and 1/4 of their original numbers, as people drifted away to other, free sites for the same information and refused to pay the charge, no matter how small, for their information. Microsoft should look at the huge upheavals in the gaming business world as to what people will pay for and what they won't. The gaming world used to charge you for the game ($50-$75) and then charge you a monthly fee (usually around $15/mo) to play. Now, however, many/most are going with either a one time charge only (example: The Secret World) for content and playing is free, or they are going free for the main content and with micro transactions for any add-ons. This seems to indicate that Microsoft has a shot at the micro transaction model working for them, but, I doubt, people will want to pay both a monthly/yearly fee just to make the OS function AND micro transactions to get apps that make the OS usable.

I was fairly excited about Windows 10 when it was first introduced. As I read more about it, I was really looking forward to updating my system to the new OS. Now that it is (nearly) here, however, I am strongly thinking of just sticking with my rock-solid Windows 7 build and then transitioning to Linux. My OS is NOT a service; it is one of the core, foundational aspects of my PC and too important to open up to all the possibilities of fraud, hacking, and suspicious use that something like Apps on a smartphone or tablet entail. I need my work laptop to function in a safe, relatively secure environment or I won't get more jobs. I need my desktop to be sound and safe so that I can play my games, watch my movies, and listen to my tunes in safety.

UPDATE:
I upgraded my main gaming machine to Windows 10. It was problematic, and I had to search many sites online to figure out all of the errors and issues I had with the upgrade process. I now have a steady, stable system again. It works great. I see little improvement to my boot times (but my system was fairly optimized beforehand). So far, all of my older applications and programs work just fine with the new OS. I have disabled the Windows Shop button that installs itself on the task bar, as I have no intention of giving Microsoft one extra dime for anything an OS should do for free. I have also installed a Linux Distro on a machine and I am learning that. If Microsoft chooses to try to make me pay, I have options.

I am also curious what happens if, as a gamer, I upgrade a hardware part on my system. Since Microsoft 10 uses the hardware of your PC and the login you provide in tandem to identify your machine, do I lose access to Windows 10 when I upgrade my RAM, my CPU, or my graphics card? My guess is yes, and I have to call and "verify" everything in order for them to allow me to use their "service."

UPDATE 2:
I helped my father-in-law update his laptop to Windows 10. Again, issues ensued (although not as bad as those I experienced with my gaming PC). Took a few hours, but I got his laptop running on 10 and he's happy. Now, for him to re-learn how to use Windows and get all the settings the way he likes them.

Stupidity, Fear, and Illness

There actually is an axis of evil. The axis comprises three things that keep those in power in power. Those three things are health, education, and fear.

Ill health results in poor decisions. If for example, you have no insurance, you will keep working and ignore those weird pains in your chest until you drop over, dead. If you cannot afford to go to the hospital, you cannot get over that cold you have had for two months as it slowly becomes pneumonia. If your insurance is poor, you cannot afford the best tests and the best doctors, so you do not find out about that lump in your breast until it is too far advanced. Poor health keeps you working long, stressful hours that can make you sicker after your loved one dies from something you couldn't afford... but are stuck with the insurmountable bills.

Poor education results in bad decisions. When you are uneducated, you cannot get better jobs. You are stuck, most often living paycheck to paycheck. And then something unforeseen happens, and you have to take a loan out. Maybe that loan is from a payday loan service, at 150% interest, and you can never get out from under it. Maybe that loan is from a criminal element, that breaks your legs when you cannot pay. Low education means you can get a taste of a decent job, but cannot go higher. So you are stuck living on the edge, never falling behind all the way, but never getting a head. The low-level work means you are always taking order and never giving them. The long hours means you are slowly working yourself to death, as the lack of sleep and constant stress build and build until you have a heart attack. No or poor education often means a person can be preyed upon by those with more education. An online college can promise them everything they need, and the person isn't smart enough to read the contract and see what little they get for all that money and time. Even a good education can sometimes have unintended negative consequences. A good education often means you are saddle with thousands, often hundreds of thousands, of dollars of debt when you need that debt the least... when you are just starting out and need every cent you can earn to start your life.

Fear results in horrible decisions. When people are afraid, they are willing to trade their most valuable assets for protection and security. They will trade their Constitutional rights for the illusion of safety. People will say things and do things things they would never normally do or say when they are afraid. They will listen to anybody who proposes a solution to their fear. Mob mentally often rules when people are afraid.

Does any of this sound familiar?

America has been waging a war on its people for the past 30 years. Those in power, either in the government or in commerce, have been doing everything in their power to stay in power. They have attacked teachers unions, driving educators out of the business and weakening the educational system everywhere but in private schools. They have driven up the costs of education every year. They have made it harder for people to get scholastic loans. They have cut corners in business and government so that more toxins are in the air, water, and foods, making people sick -- often with unintended side effects. They have slowly turned the news into a biased barrage of negativity and depressing stories that keep people afraid. They talk loudly about the "good of America" while voting against anything that actually improves the infrastructure, economy, or wages. They keep us so afraid that we allow them to make laws that subjugate our Constitutional rights and gather unprecedented data about us, all in the name of security -- which we don't actually have, as not one piece of data, not one airport body scan/screening, not one collected phone call has yet to stop a terrorist attack. They pass laws that enact absurd educational systems that keep people ignorant and uneducated. They give the power over the people's health to those least able to keep us healthy and who are most driven by profit -- and our health cuts into those profits.

And we allow them, because we are too sick, too stupid, and too afraid to stop them.

In this coming election, we each need to vote OUT any person who has been in office for longer than two terms. ANY PERSON. Find your representatives' voting record online and review what they say versus how they actually voted -- you might be surprised. After every Presidential debate, not matter which side you are on, go to sites like Politifact.com, FactCheck.org, major newspaper fact checking sites, and others, and review what your favorite candidates said and how much of it was actually true. Again, you'd be surprised.

In other words, do everything in your power to educate yourself. Because education will lower your fear levels and help you get healthy. And once you are no longer sick, no longer afraid, and no longer ignorant, your politicians will fear you.

John Basil Barnhill, "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty."