Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gun Control

If you know me or read this blog, you already know that we keep guns and other weapons in our home for self defense.

I remember thinking after the shootings in Connecticut last week that the horror of the thing was so great that it might be the tipping point and drive public opinion toward stricter gun laws. It's looking like that's happening now.

Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Semi Automatic Rifle .223 Remington 18.5 Barrel 5 Rounds Hardwood Stock

I'm having problems with a lot of what I'm hearing on both sides of the debate, left and right. As per usual, the left wing are demonstrating ignorance about what constitutes an "assault weapon". Which of these two rifles is an assault weapon? Most would pick the Bushmaster on the left. But the Ruger Mini 14 on the right fires the same round, is a semi automatic, takes a 30 round magazine, and has a short barrel, all just like the Bushmaster. It would not be banned under a renewed federal assault weapon ban. But it certainly would wreak the same havoc as the "assault weapon".

This is the stupidity of the ban. These rifles are effectively the same.

So if we're to ban assault rifles, I think it would have to include all semi-automatic sporting rifles to have any chance of producing any outcome at all. The assault weapons ban doesn't do that. I think the ban is completely ineffective.

There are calls to ban high capacity magazines, directed primarily against the Glock 9mm 33 round magazine that can be used in a Glock 26, 17, or 19 pistol. As I've written elsewhere, this is completely misguided. A pistol with a foot long magazine hanging off it is an unbalanced mess, difficult to shoot accurately. This is why you don't see people who's job it is to fight with pistols using these magazines. It's much easier to get more rounds on target, and faster, using normal sized magazines. It just doesn't take very long to eject an empty magazine and insert a full one, a couple of seconds.

That said, a big magazine is probably good on a carbine, but not so much if you have to shoot and move. It is a pretty good rig for standing in one place and shooting unarmed people from what we've seen.

But there is plenty of wrongheadedness to go around. The notion that we should arm teachers that I've heard from right wing people on TV is absurd. Do we really want to limit the pool of people who teach our kids to ones who are willing to participate in a firefight with a well-armed, suicidal maniac? Please.

So, I look at this as a set of likely outcomes we can choose from. The majority of Americans favor stricter gun control laws. I don't think most of them understand what they want to control, but we live in a democracy and every once in a while the majority's will becomes the law instead of ALEC's will. Who knows, this might be one of those times. The achievable outcomes I see are these:

1. Ban so-called assault weapons and high capacity magazines. No change, these horrible massacres continue. The death toll might be marginally lower, or not. This is what most people seem to want.

2. Ban all firearm ownership, with the few exceptions that would have to exist. Confiscate all firearms, compensate people for their seized weapons. These awful killings decrease, and by a whole lot. Criminals continue to have guns, and home invasions increase exponentially. Gird your loins for that terrible shit. This is what I think a lot of Americans want, whether they know it or not.

3. Do nothing, change no laws. Most likely outcome, I still think.

An option I propose as a start to trying to decrease gun violence: You want to buy any firearm? Fine. Go see your doctor, get a referral to a mental health professional. Have a long interview with that doctor, and he declares you fit to own deadly weapons, or not fit. Repeat this every six months, by law, as long as you own guns, because sane people do go crazy. All att your own expense, or better yet have it covered under Obama Care. The federal government decides what that mental health evaluation is comprised of.

Me? Prepare for having no guns. Because barging into my home to do me harm is always going to be as bad a choice someone can make as I can make it be for them,  I think I'm going to get that O Katana I've been pining for, get serious about using it, and try to develop the physical courage to confront a home invader with it, even one with an illegal gun. I know I have an 80% or so chance of surviving being shot if I'm not killed outright, and can get to a hospital. The home invader has a 0% chance of surviving me cutting his head off with a Samurai sword.


Friday, December 07, 2012

Travel Guitar

Today Phoebe and I went to the dog park. Did the long hike, and then came back to the flat bit where the dogs all like to play while their owners stand around and yak about their dogs. While Phoebe played with the other dogs, I sat on a bench and played my big Yamaha F335 TBS acoustic guitar I brought along. Worked on chords. It's slow work, learning guitar.

I really like this guitar, and I've played a bunch of "better" ones in recent days, thinking I might get an acoustic/electric, but I'm sticking with this. My playing doesn't justify even a $300 guitar at this point. Even with a laminate top, this Yamaha has a big sound, and the right neck and action for me. Sure, a $2000 Martin has a bigger sound, but I play for myself and certainly don't need that. There are probably plenty of people who would say that the smaller my sound, the better.

I've been thinking about a 3/4 sized travel guitar that's easier to transport, even to the dog park, fits in the overhead bin on a plane, but still plays like a full size guitar, that is has a neck that's right. The sound varies with these little guitars, but that's not a big problem for me. The few I've played at our local music store I've liked.

The Baby Taylor, I've played. It sounds great. Same with the Taylor GS Mini, although it's too big. The GS Mini sounds just like an expensive full sized guitar. All mahogany bodies on these guys pull the overly bright sound of spruce tops down into murkier territory. Playability was great for me on both

I also got to play the Little Martin, the LX1 I think it was. It's definitely a Martin; I thought the action was a little high, but the sound was big, and WAY bright - solid spruce top. Nothing wrong with the sound, I just prefer the darker sound of the mahogany Taylors.

Lots have been written about all three of these guitars by people who actually know stuff about guitars if you want to read it.

Of more interest to me are the alternatives to the Taylors/Martins.

You all know I'm all about the equipment, and if I practiced guitar as much as I surf guitars at guitarcenter.com I'd be a playing fool by now. But here's what I'm looking at checking out at Guitar Center in Albuquerque this weekend. These are cheap guitars compared to the Martin and Taylor.


A Spanish company makes the SX TG1. Solid spruce top, but looks like only stores in Europe sell it. It's the right size, and I don't mind the exaggerated parlor-style body. From videos, the price and the solid top I'd almost get one without handling it. Almost.


Luna makes this all mahogany Luna Safari Tattoo. Who knows how it plays? If it's decent it could work.

Yamaha JR1
Yamaha JR1. I know from my big Yamaha that their sub $200 guitars are great, they hold tune and sound good. I'm going to keep the 335 forever.

Mitchell. Who are they?

Mitchell makes a small Dread, their MD10. Who knows? 

Again, not brilliant sound I don't guess from any of these little guitars, but that's not the point. Decent sound, good neck, and more practice time are the goals.

There are others, Breedlove, Washburn Rover, a Takamine, more.

Crosby Striper, a Good Boat
These acoustic guitars, the expensive ones and the cheap ones, all of them, seem very much to me like wooden boats, if they had ever found a way to mass produce wooden boats instead of going to fiberglass hulls. This is a good thing. I like that a wooden guitar requires that some attention be paid to it's well-being, especially in a dry place like New Mexico. I remember my dad filling his wooden 30-odd year old Crosby Striper's hull with water every spring prior to launch, so the planks could swell enough to keep her from sinking in her slip the first night in the water.

A complex tool like a wooden boat or a wooden guitar is a fine thing, and worthy of our attention.