Thursday, October 1, 2009

Not the Change We had in Mind, Pass the Ammo

Disclosure: I'm an Air Force Veteran, gun owner, and amateur radio operator.

I've overheard conversations on the local 2 meter repeater the past few days that disturb me a bit. Several folks were complaining about the lack of ammunition available at such places as Walmart, and rack it up to the government undermining the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. That is, own all the guns you want, but good luck getting ammo for them.

Gun owners usually hold a disdain for the Democratic party, accusing them of being anti-gun and anti- Second Amendment. It seems to me that the skin color, political affiliation, and liberal agenda of our current President is a little more than the majority of the NRA crowd can handle rationally. Oh, New York State is known for its less-than-kind view toward firearm ownership, but I'd rack that up to the influence NYC has on State politics.

I'll bet the ammunition shortage is mostly due to the gun owners themselves. The paranoid right-wingers stocking up for the Revelation festivities are partially to blame themselves. Okay, I'll be nice and say the true patriots are tired of the recent government intrusion in and controls on the lives of law-abiding citizens. Their own greed and paranoia is helping to create the runs on ammo. The OTHER gun owners are probably the biggest issue, for several reasons.

Who are these mysterious gun owners? Paramilitary police forces are becoming quite the thing, with increases in federal funding for the past decade or so for police forces in the name of Homeland Security. These police groups need to keep their proficiency with rifles using ammo popular with both the military and patriotic firearm owners, the AR-15 using 5.56 ammo. Imagine the ammo usage by both the police and their paramilitary brethren, having to maintain their proficiency on a regular basis.

So the patriotic gun owners believe that the Second Amendment is civil society's protection from an overzealous government. With paramilitary police forces having tools once reserved for the military, the common ammo usage can be nothing less than staggering. I feel for the folks wanting to buy 5.56 for their rifles and 9mm for their handguns. Why shotgun and .22 long rifle ammunition prices have gone up is probably part inflation, part hunting season, part redirected popularity, and part hoarding.

All of that leads me to bigger issues. This “pick-your-poison” attitude that results in a need for personal firearms is very shortsighted and results in a kind of tragic social destabilization. Those depending on using their firearms for hunting after a collapse of food distribution and the general economy may make it the first month before wildlife is decimated due to over-hunting and hoarding. Those depending on the use of their firearms to protest and potentially take over radical governments will face disproportionate lethal force. Those looking to have some protection while looting their suburban neighbors will be met with equal force -- or no force at all. All result in Americans killing Americans and "terrorists" taking pride in a job well done.

Many folks believe that their only option in dealing with an objectionable government that objectionable voters elected using objectionable polling methods is physical force. That is the power they have seen used on TV, have experienced as a veteran of a foreign war, or as a victim of urban violence. Most Americans have never experienced the terror of living in a society so dysfunctional that personal firearms are the only real, if tenuous , insurance policy. It is the power that our forefathers historically used when it was "necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another". It's in our blood, even if said forefathers looked at standing armies with disdain.

President Obama advertised "Change", and has even stated that everyone needs to do their part, but really hasn't offered any tangible suggestions on what sort of things would be useful for us to do. He really can't, not because he's not intelligent enough to know, but because he is intelligent enough to know that advising such options would infuriate, to put it lightly, those REALLY in control. At least George W. Bush advised people to "go buy stuff" on September 12th.

As we wait for the future to be decided for us by legislative decree, we forget the true power we hold. That power is inconvenient to living "The American Way of Life", incompatible with "The American Dream". Why would we want to live like Europeans, or Africans, or Latin Americans, for God's sake? It's our God given right to live like we do. And our God given responsibility to deal with the consequences.

Pardon me while I digress for a moment. Many Americans feel that a public-option in health care reform is a must. Others are afraid of "socialized medicine". Those that play the socialism card barely mention Social Security and Medicaid, but would they send their aging parents off to or invest in "Sam's House", "Enron (or AIG) Acres", retirement villages? They never seem to mention other "socialized" bits of American life, such as the Interstate Highway System, or the number one taxpayer supported institution, after Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare, The Department of Defense.

While in basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, one of the first things we were told by our Drill Instructors was that "The military is not a democracy." In fact, military personnel sign away many of their Constitutional rights for the duration (if not more) of their service to the democracy they are serving to defend. Of course, young impressionable recruits usually need the direction of their superiors to successfully comply with their duties as assigned, and it would be unwise to promote debate.

Those who want to cut social programs should be careful what they wish for.

But back to the matter at hand.

What is this mysterious, forgotten power that we still possess? How can Americans put themselves back to work? How can they end their dependence on foreign energy? Well, it won't be easy, but using deadly force will only make the situation worse. If you profess to being a Christian, start living like it.

Americans need to stop looking for top-down solutions and use, if you will excuse the term for Americans living north of the Mason-Dixon Line, Yankee Ingenuity. Home-grown, grass-roots, community-based solutions are needed.

  1. Purchase Power
    • Break the Chain - buy local products from local merchants
    • Eat Local - in-season produce, farmer's markets, local restaurateurs, be aware of "food miles"
    • Keep DOWN with the Jones' - share what you have, respect your neighbors and their stuff, create a (non-storage) business out of your garage
    • Renew/Reuse/Recycle - there is no "away" to throw things, give unwanted items to charity, find local "fixers", create new business finding new uses for old stuff, maintain durable goods
    • Barter - learn how to fix things, provide useful services, and meet people in your community
    • Burn your credit report - get out of the debt mentality, cut your credit (cards) in half
    • Refrain from buying plastic - built to break, made from and shipped by foreign oil
    • Quality, not quantity - buy good quality the first time and avoid the need to replace things due to shoddy materials and manufacturing processes, insist on durable & repairable goods, have broken items repaired by local businesses
    • Live (and spend) within your means - are you defined by your "stuff"?
  2. Invest in Communities
    • micro-finance - help local entrepreneurs provide the goods and services you need
    • support local businesses - put local people to work for local people
    • support local craftspeople - you can afford custom-made everything!
    • support local services - doctors used to make house calls, shoes were repaired
    • create transportation options - carpool, deliveries, bicycle-friendly roads
    • community currencies - recession-proof your community, bail-out your community
Remember the Golden Rule - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Quit trying to take advantage of and screwing each other over. What goes around comes around. Common sense isn't so common these days. Make lemonade. Fear breeds insecurity. Grow a pair, for America.

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