"This is my rifle, this is my gun..."

>> Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I recently started following Popehat.  I am what you would call a "late adopter" in this regard; I started following Popehat because everybody I know online seemed to be already following Popehat, and periodically linking to articles on Popehat.  So it seemed like I should be following Popehat, also.

I am not proud of this imitative behavior, though perhaps I shouldn't be ashamed: if all my friends jumped off a bridge, I've been convinced I should follow them.

I recently started following Popehat, and this came up in my feed today: a story out of Texas about a poor Master Sergeant who was harassed and abused by the local po-po for exercising his basic Constitutional right to traipse about the countryside with an assault rifle.  The Popehat story features a link to Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, which features a video, which I sat through and my only regret is that I had no popcorn--I had no popcorn, gahddammit--and couldn't properly appreciate the entertainment on hand.  I feel like I have to explain all of this in order to explain what I was doing visiting The Blaze.  Visiting The Blaze felt a lot like walking into a Christian bookstore ("They don't know I'm not one of them--shhhh!"), which feels a lot like walking into an adult bookstore ("Somehow everyone is going to know I'm looking at boobies-shhhh!"); this is completely irrational, mind you.  It isn't like anyone is going to know of my transgression unless I write a blog post about it (oops), and anyway it isn't actually transgressive (it isn't like I'm dressing in drag and videoing myself using a blackboard to explain how W. Cleon Skousen opened my eyes to the socialist Illuminati Mole Men conspiracy to fluoridate milk and thereby overthrow the Founders' attempt to establish a godly land where a man can marry as many horses as he wants to).

But yes, I visited The Blaze.  I'm not proud of it.  But hey--funny video of white guy being arrested for being a douchebag by cops who lose their patience and kind of turn into dicks.  I would not have seen this but for being led to The Blaze by the Popehat, it would not have even been on my radar or subspace scanners (obligatory Trek reference for the day, check).

I mention he's a white guy advisedly.  It's relevant to my enjoyment of the schadenfreude of the video, a fact that possibly should embarrass me more than visiting The Blaze.  But I might be getting ahead of myself.

On March 16, 2013, my son and I were hiking along country roads among pastures and fields with my 15-year old son to help him earn his hiking merit badge. I always enjoy these father/son hikes because it gives me time alone with my son. As I always do when we go on these hikes and walks, I took my trusty rifle with me as there are coyotes, wild hogs, and cougars in our area. In Texas, it is legal to openly carry a rifle or shotgun as long as you do so in a manner that isn't calculated to cause alarm. In other words, you can't walk around waving your rifle at people. I always carry my rifle slung across my chest dangling, not holding it in my hands.

At about the 5 mile mark of our hike, a voice behind us asked us to stop and the officer motioned for us to approach him. He got out of his car and met us a few feet later. He asked us what we were doing and I explained that we were hiking for my son's merit badge. He then asked me what I'm doing with the rifle, to which I responded in a calm manner, "Does it matter, officer? Am I breaking the law?"

At that point, the officer grabbed my rifle without warning or indication. He didn't ask for my rifle and he didn't suggest he would take it from me. He simply grabbed it. This startled me and I instantly pulled back - the rifle was attached to me - and I asked what he thought he was doing because he's not taking my rifle. He then pulled his service pistol on me and told me to take my hands off the weapon and move to his car, which I complied with. He then slammed me into the hood of his car and I remembered I had a camera on me (one of the requirements of the hiking merit badge is to document your hikes). This video is the rest of that encounter. Up to this point, I am not told why I am being stopped, why he tried to disarm me, or even that I'm under arrest.
There's a little more there if you want it: a claim that he wasn't trying to start a scene (which I find implausible based on another article in The Blaze (credit where credit's due: after a somewhat credulous early report of the incident, they did dig a little deeper into the suspect's history and motives)), the names of the officers involved (which is public record but seems kinda douchey under the circumstances), and a link to his legal fund (apparently this would be at least his second legal defense fund; wonder how I can get me some of that free money out there).

So, anyway, he's out on a hike with his son, and I guess he has his AR-15 assault rifle and concealed .45 (which he has a concealed carry permit for, so he's okay there) because, I guess, his son's answer to 1a was "coyotes, hogs and cougars; bring daddy with a firearm that's variously described as a civilian-market military weapon originally designed to disable enemy combatants, a varmint rifle, a target rifle, a weapon to kill intruders, or as whatever else it's convenient to describe it as when one of those gun control nuts my dad's always ranting about tries to take it away from him".  This is rural Texas and apparently wild hogs really are a problem, but it's nevertheless hard not to be a little snarky when assault rifles aficionados always seem to be moving the definition of what an AR-15 is actually good for, and one day it's this and another day it's that; but whatever, let's stipulate that this is a good rifle for killing highway pigs and highway pigs are mean and dangerous and can rend a Boy Scout from limb-to-limb if he's cursed with one of those pantywaist liberal daddies.

The real point is that this guy is walking along the roadside with a prominently displayed assault rifle--which, you know, I'm not saying he's waving it around or anything, but it's kinda hard to walk around with something like that without prominently displaying it, unless you're wearing a bigass trenchcoat and trying to do some kind of Neo-and-Trinity-rescuing-Morpheus thing, which would be a really dumb thing to try to do on a ten or twenty mile merit badge hike, right?  Anyway, prominently displayed assault rifle, and someone apparently got nervy about it and called the police, which is certainly their right.  And the police go out and investigate.

Now, I'm not a Texas lawyer.  Thank the gods--I'm sorry, but I just don't think I could handle that.  I'm sure things have progressed since the times of Judge Roy Bean (who, I'm surprised to learn from that link, apparently only sentenced two men to hang and one of them got away, and who unsurprisingly looked nothing the least bit like the late great Paul Newman).  But nevermind.  The point I was going to get around to eventually is that you don't have to be a Texas lawyer to figure out that Texas, matter of fact, does have a law against toting around a gun in public.  Mr. Hiker even obliquely refers to it in his explanation for his YouTube video and solicitation of funds: someone who "displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm" violates Texas Penal Code § 42.01 (8).  There are some other provisions related to firearms: you can't discharge a weapon on or across an open road (the fellow and his son were hiking along an open road, based on the video, but he doesn't seem to have fired the weapon) unless you have "a reasonable fear of bodily injury to the person or to another by a dangerous wild animal" as further defined by Texas statute (I'm going to be lazy and assume the relevant statute includes hogs, cougars and coyotes, because it probably does).  I also can't resist the urge to point out that the Texas Disorderly Conduct statute prohibits showing your ass in public, which seems apropos here.  But anyway.
Now, I can't find anything defining what, exactly, "calculated to alarm" means; I'm guessing, actually, that the legislature and courts have left that one as vague as they reasonably can, because while a criminal statute has to be constructed in a defendant's favor and an unreasonably vague statute can be voided outright, lawmakers are understandably reluctant to encourage all the adult citizens in the state with the mentality of three-year-olds to start pulling shit just to test boundaries and push buttons then petulantly insist they were never told they couldn't do something unreasonably stupid, so they must be able to, and "unreasonably stupid" was defined by the court in State v. Total Asshole explicitly and the explicit definition failed to include this version of stupidity, etc.  I mean, I think we trench lawyers would prefer at some level for lawmakers in the state houses and courthouses to say what they mean, because while vagueness does sometimes help us win cases, vagueness also makes it godawful hard to tell people how to avoid making jackasses of themselves.  Meanwhile, the lawmakers for their part try to come up with something encompassing and commonsensical  and hope they won't get called out for it by someone like me and one of my clients.  This just got more personal than I meant for it to, but I figured it might be helpful for you to see where I'm coming from on this corner of it.

So this guy is walking down the highway, swinging his dick (also prohibited by Texas Penal Code § 42.01), except in this case it's a metaphorical dick because the dick is actually just a weapon that may be a target-shooting rifle or a varmint gun depending on who's asking, and someone calls the cops and a cop comes out to ask the fellow about it.

Which the cop can do.  Understand, our Second Amendment-defending-hiker may in fact be breaking the law, seeing as how he's carrying a firearm or other deadly weapon in a way that might be calculated to alarm, depending on how you'd like to define "calculated to alarm", but a commonsense approach suggests that if a reasonable person would be alarmed by your walking down the highway with a firearm or other deadly weapon, you probably expected that unless you're just a total choad.  Ironically--well, not really ironically, that really just seemed to be the usual throat-clearing adverb for this sort of comment--the concealed weapon that he's carrying concealed and with his concealed carry permit, permitting him to carry the handgun in a non-public-alarming concealed fashion is perfectly alright up to this point.  But the cop has a perfect power under the circumstances so far to conduct what's called a Terry stop, which is a brief encounter in which a police officer who has a reasonable suspicion someone might be breaking a law stops that someone to ask what's up.  Actually, it bears mentioning that depending on how we define "calculated to alarm" (that cursed phrase), the officer might even have probable cause to arrest, or even the power to arrest someone who is committing a crime in his presence (which is often lumped in with probable cause, but I think it's fair to describe the commission of a crime in one's presence as a step up from merely thinking there's sufficient suspicion to convince a reasonably prudent person that a crime was probably committed by this person).

But we'll let that go: I think, I hope that reasonable minds ought to be able to agree the cop has grounds for a Terry stop; 2AD Hiker might not be alarming, or meaning to alarm, whatever; still, there's a chance he's being alarming, and it's not really an outrageous abuse of police power if the cop wants to suggest maybe walking by the road with your assault rifle swinging from the strap isn't the friendliest or most prudent way to take a walk, especially if you already have another gun you're legally carrying in a less alarming fashion.  Or, heck, at least make sure the guy's not up to no good and make sure he knows he can't shoot an animal across the road unless it's coming right for him.

Now, here (again) is what the suspect (yes, at this point he's a suspect--don't blame me, I didn't come up with the jargon or parlance of our times) says happened:

At about the 5 mile mark of our hike, a voice behind us asked us to stop and the officer motioned for us to approach him. He got out of his car and met us a few feet later. He asked us what we were doing and I explained that we were hiking for my son's merit badge. He then asked me what I'm doing with the rifle, to which I responded in a calm manner, "Does it matter, officer? Am I breaking the law?" 
Okay, okay, okay.  Hang on.  The officer is within his power to investigate a guy in a public place with a firearm or other deadly weapon who might be breaking the law.  In fact, what he's trying to determine is the answer to the very question our poor aggrieved hiker asked: "Am I breaking the law?"  Well, y'know, dude, you might be.  You might be violating Texas Penal Code § 42.01, which you apparently know about already.  You might be violating some other law.  At this point in the proceedings, you might be a crazy sumofabitch who's been listening to Bob Dylan's version of Isaac's binding too many times and soon as you find a highway with a "six" and a "one" in the sign you're going to shoot that boy you're with.  Cop doesn't know.  How hard is it, anyway, to say, "As I always do when we go on these hikes and walks, I took my trusty rifle with me as there are coyotes, wild hogs, and cougars in our area"?  (It was easy enough to type that into your YouTube posting, yes?)  And then I think it's pretty likely the cop would have had a nice little convo and, this being rural Texas, he probably would have admired your goddamn gun, wished you luck, told you to be safe, gone back to his car and radioed in it was all a bunch of nothing, some guy and his son on a nature walk and he didn't want a dingo to eat his babby or whatever.

But no.  This guy says, "Does it matter, officer?  Am I breaking the law?"  And if you watched his video, you probably don't think he said it all nice and polite, like.

At which point, you know, the cop probably wonders if he's about to become a highway memorial.

I'm not a big fan of cops.  Or police power.  Professionally, I spend much of my time in that weird and discomfiting Twilight Zone you end up in when you're trying to be friendish with people you're trying to undermine and subvert at the best opportunity: y'know, if you're nice to this guy, maybe he'll share his notes with you so you can publicly embarrass him later on the witness stand.  (To their credit, decent cops seem to understand this is how the game works, and will even be cool if you got them, at least if it's not that bad a charge to start out with.  At least that's been my experience.)  I'm not always sympathetic to police officers who get upset when they've been disrespected, and I don't even mean "got less respect than they think they deserved", I mean that if your feelings are hurt by some pathetic drunk calling you a fascist limp-dicked cocksucker and then spitting in your general direction, you probably shouldn't go into law enforcement.

But I also know it's a hard job.  And a dangerous job.  And cops get shot at by crazy people on the roadside, and sometimes crazy people will have a kid with them when they do something like that, and if you're one of those idjits who says something dumb like, "Why would someone shoot a cop with his son standing right there?", I don't know if you're a sunny-sided optimist who's never read a newspaper or just some clod who should keep your head down and mouth closed when it's raining.  Nasty shit just happens, and I wish it didn't, but it is what it is and I can see a cop getting a little tense when some guy with a big gun cops a 'tude.

Maybe it shouldn't be that way.  Didn't I already say it is what it is, though?

So things go downhill from there.  And this is being characterized in some quarters as a civil rights violation and police abuse, but this is where I go back to that long ago comment I made in this post that this is a white guy.  Because, y'know, I have to say that if this guy had been black I think a lot of cops (maybe not these cops--I'm not trying to cast gratuitous aspersions here) would have made a point of taking this guy to the ground and smearing him around the asphalt a bit.  Which would be appalling, obviously, and symptomatic of this country's ignoble history of racist violence.  It's just that I can't help thinking it's an example of white privilege that you stand there telling a cop you're going to sue him and thinking he's going to be scared of you, and then when he cuffs you and exercises a pretty minimal restraint until his backup arrives, you keep mouthing off about your impending lawsuit and asking the cop to take the cuffs off because, I dunno, you're going to be nice and you aren't going to take a swing at him or anything, now you've decided to obey his instructions, and did you neglect to mention he'll be hearing from your lawyer.  I just find it kind of amusing and absurd and schadenfreude-ey that because you're a white guy, you think you can act like a dick and this really modest exercise of force (leaving aside the question, for a moment, of whether any force at all was required) is an act of fascist brutality, when if your skin were darker, I'm sorry, but some cops (maybe not the one in the video) would have smashed your face into the hood of the car or maybe even have managed to drop you in the gravel and really scraped you up and dislocated your arm while jerking you back into a car-hood-face-smash position, reprise.  I find it fascinating that it doesn't even occur to this guy that maybe he ought to just shut his mouth already.

Which brings up another thing.  Don't do this: if you're ever arrested, don't tell the cop you're going to sue him.  Don't tell him you want his badge.  Don't tell him you're going to get him suspended, fired, that you're going to file a report with Internal Affairs and his Sergeant and his Chief and the Mayor and your friend Bribesy McBribesalot who owns the City Council.  Don't tell him your lawyer is Burns, Pillage and Robb and they just bankrupted the local Sheriff in a lawsuit for writing too many traffic tickets.  Don't tell him that body parts already or will shortly belong to you as a result of your impending crushing litigation.

Not because you're not going to do any or all of those things.  If you can, knock yourself out.  After you've posted bail.  Because here's the thing: assuming everything is far too gone for you to talk your way out of it (which, you know, is kinda likely when you've been handcuffed, let's admit), all you're going to do is piss him off and (more crucially) put the cop on the defensive.  He's just had his job threatened, what do you think he's going to do?  If you're lucky, he's going to laugh it off because he's heard this one before.  If you're not lucky, he's going to find something to charge you with, even if it's not what he started out with when he approached and asked you what you were doing, because he's going to cover his ass in any way possible, and CYA 101 in this situation is you make sure you can reasonably tell everyone on Earth and their mothers, "Dude's just pissed off he got arrested for _______."  And he's going to take copious notes so his conduct appears beyond reproach in any and all future hearings, and he's going to come to court, and he's not going to agree to drop or reduce any of the charges, and he's going to make sure in any testimony or statements to the court that he emphasizes what a total tool you were, and if he sees any moment to make sure the knife has been twisted in the wound a full three-sixty degrees, he is going to twist like Chubby Checker doin' it just like this.

Seriously.  Keep your goddamn mouth closed.  Even if you're right and he's wrong.  Until you're in a clear position where you're not going to shoot your own damn face off, pardon the metaphor.  You want to sue--just hire a lawyer to file the damn lawsuit, don't advertise it.  You want to file a complaint--just file it.  Telling the cops--threatening the cops--with civil action, complaints, whatever, you might as well be telling them to just stand in the street while you run over them with a car.  "Stand still while I do this."  I'm pretty sure they won't.

I don't want to be all gung-ho pro-police, because I have to confess I don't like being on their side a lot; it feels like visiting The Blaze, actually.  But supposing these Texas cops who arrested this guy could have handled it better--and there were certainly some things they said they shouldn't have, and maybe even done that they shouldn't have--I have to point out that they let this guy start up his video camera and then hand it off to his son and let his son record all fourteen, fifteen minutes of the arrest.  Which certainly suggests they weren't embarrassed by what was going on, they weren't telling anyone to shut that thing off or confiscating it.  What does that tell you about whether they think this guy has grounds to sue them?  Or about their quaking over the guy filing a complaint.

What I think it tells you is that they knew what this guy and his defenders are obliviously un-self-conscious of: they knew that this guy was acting like a dick, and if they sometimes lost their patience and snapped at him a little, in the all-powerful court of public opinion, anyone with any common sense was going to clearly see this guy's a dick.

I have to admit I agree.

I really think this guy wanted to start something.  And it seems, from reports, that the police didn't charge the guy with the firearms offense they were originally investigating.  Sounds like they went with a resisting arrest charge, which is the kind of thing cops tend to file when they've been threatened with a lawsuit and are practicing those Cover Your Ass 101: Introduction To Covering Your Ass protocols I mentioned earlier.  I think maybe, then, prosecutors might have actually mischarged the guy, because if you're walking down the roadside with a firearm or other deadly weapon hoping that some pansy will call the cops on you and you can lecture the fascist-state jackbooted thugs about the Second Amendment (or ask them stupid rhetorical questions like "Am I breaking the law?" that are designed to exasperate them into getting pissed off and losing their cool) and make a media scene about it, well maybe you could say that was you calculating to cause an alarm.  Sort of depends on how that phrase is defined, right?  But maybe the guy should have been charged with Disorderly Conduct.  Just because.

I want to say one more thing about this before I wrap up.  I don't think this guy is in the wrong because I don't like guns, I think he's in the wrong because he acted like a stupid whiny asshole in the video he and his son made themselves and posted and appears to be a media-whoring dick in general if the reports from a website that generally supports him are any evidence.  And I want to point out something I've only mentioned once or twice and haven't discussed much at all: I didn't talk a lot about his handgun.  Not because I like people toting handguns and have an especial and prejudiced thing about assault rifles; I kind of think carrying both is kinda stupid and dangerous, though I'm willing to make allowances for cougar country.  I didn't talk much about the handgun because regardless of whether I think it's a good idea, it appears (as far as I can tell) to have been toted legally, and if he'd somehow been harassed for having a legally concealed weapon that might be a whole 'nother thing.  I might roll my eyes over a legally carried firearm and being in public and kids being around and all those et ceteras, but if you're packing legally and aren't causing a fuss, I guess that's what "it's a free country" means in your neck of the woods.  What I have a problem with is someone other than myself being a dick (I jest--I hate it when I'm a dick, but at least I can say I'm rarely a dick on purpose, or so I hope).  I guess it figures that The Blaze might make a big stink about this, though I wonder if they'd make as big a stink about a black teenager indulging his Second Amendment rights at night in an urban setting in a state with more permissive gun laws than what Texas (even!) seems to have on the books.  Maybe they would.  I suspect they'd accuse him of mouthing off and getting something that was coming to him, kind of like this white dude in the country who wants us to pay for his legal defense did and is.




John Healy Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 3:07:00 PM EDT  

You'll let that go? You aint Judge Roy Bean, are you.
Yeah, don't piss off folks with guns. Even if you've got some of your own. People who annoy cops are morons. They have a crap job, for which they are underpaid. They don't need assholes getting in their faces. If you have a problem with the officer, deal with it after the traffic stop, or whatever.

Eric Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 4:38:00 PM EDT  

I agree, John. Even if the cop in a particular situation happens to be an asshole, he's (or she's) an asshole with a gun, Taser, handcuffs, and a great deal of discretion combined with courthouse credibility. And if he's a nice guy--and I want to be clear, there are some damn good cops out there--then this is a well-armed person who doesn't deserve your crap. Either way, the smart thing to do is to follow Wheaton's Law (which is actually a maxim one should try to follow even when not dealing with people with access to big guns and the keys to the courthouse).

Our gun-toting hiker could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he'd followed Wheaton, methinks, but I doubt that was on his daily planner page. ("1. Take hike with son. 2. Cause scene with anti-gun pansy and/or police. 3. Write angry blog post about my rights being trampled and the impending collapse of our fine nation because there aren't more people just like me. 4. Dinner." Guess he got part of his to-do list done, anyway.)

Warner Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 4:40:00 PM EDT  

The round used in an AR-15 type weapon was explicitly developed as a varmit round, i.e. coyote. Since it will take out a human, it will probably take out a cougar or a wild hog (and Texas does seem to have a feral hog problem, per the paper of record http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/23/opinion/bruni-malicious-but-delicious.html?src=rechp&_r=0 )

Warner Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 4:46:00 PM EDT  

And I'm going by Illinois law of the late 50s early 60s, but a public road outside municipal limits isn't a public place and you can carry a loaded weapon walking down one, openly.

A cop who doesn't know you will probably stop you, and in my case have the woman at the desk call my home to confirm I was supposed to be out with a weapon.

In town we were required to unload the weapon and remove the bolt to take to the hardware store/gun smith.

We had the permission of the family that owned the golf course to cross it with loaded weapons and shoot in
an old gravel pit, but their son was my age and had his own .22.

Eric Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 6:16:00 PM EDT  

Warner, I don't know if Texas says anything explicit about public places (as I'm not a Texas lawyer), but a roadside would be defined as such in NC. I don't think Texas' Disorderly Conduct law would make a lick of sense otherwise, since that would mean it was perfectly acceptable to stand next to the "Welcome To / Population This Many" sign at the city limits sans pants and wave your dong at everybody driving into town. Which could be bad for tourism, though it certainly would give the kiddies something to remember.

While I wasn't around in the '50s and '60s, it's my sense from talking to old hands that in earlier eras, laws were often observed in the breach (as Shakespeare put it). Maybe it was illegal to drive drunk, for instance (at the higher limit of .10), but that didn't mean an officer wouldn't drive you home and forget to charge you if you were polite (or attractive). Put another way, I can't say if Illinois state or municipal laws about firearms were more lax in the '50s or merely more laxly enforced, but neither would particularly surprise me (nor would it surprise me if state laws heavily enforced in Chicago, say, were all-but-ignored in the country: city mice and town mice always have different problems and concerns to cope with).

As for the AR-15's chambering: I'm not a firearms expert or even a firearms novice, but I'm given to understand that the AR-15 was designed for the 5.56 round when Armalite developed it for the Army but the civilian variants that are now marketed under the AR-15 designation by Colt, Bushmaster et al. are most commonly adapted to fire the .223 (but are sometimes adapted to and/or marketed for other calibers as well). The .223 Remington round is indeed mostly sold to civilians as a varmint round (the 5.56 round was specifically designed for combat situations). But the larger point here isn't that you can't use the AR-15 as a varmint rifle (though whether it's really ideal for that or superior to other rifles for that purpose is another question, and appears, from what I can glean, to be a very subjective question); the larger point is that AR-15 aficionados seem to have a tendency to adapt their statements about the rifle's functionality (or lack thereof) to whatever criticism they're facing today, in a manner I can only describe as "convenient". Perhaps the AR-15 isn't just a military automatic rifle that was converted to semiautomatic action and marketed to civilian markets when the original military contracts for the weapon began to tighten up or dry out as militaries met their materiel needs; perhaps it really is the rifle version of a Swiss Army Knife that can be used for any purpose whatsoever. It still strikes me kind of funny, is all.

I'm willing, though, to take the hiker at his word that he had the weapon because he was afeared of varmints (and not just because it's fun to shoot, which is the most consistently-cited reason I can find online for owning one). What's more, as far as the Second Amendment goes, the military heritage of the AR-15 gives it a much stronger Second Amendment claim than I think the hiker's handgun happens to have (if we still had Founder-era-style militias, they'd most likely be armed with the AR-15 or something much like it). But even so, (1) the officer had the right to make a Terry stop under the circumstances, (2) the hiker may in fact have been violating Texas law, (3) the hiker seems to have had an agenda involving provoking the officer, and (4) he likely could have saved himself an arrest merely by not being a dick.

Warner Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 6:57:00 PM EDT  

When my father gave me a .22 in 1961, he checked on what the rules were. Now if those were township, county or state outside Chicago, I couldn't tell you, but they were the rules as explained to us by the police.

Rules on firearms changed a lot that decade, but I kept a rifle at college. Up to the year I entered you could keep it in your room, after that you had to check it with the business office.

I think from about 68 to 76 (when I last left Illinois and last owned a weapon) you had to have a weapons permit, but that was simply going to a police station and requesting one.

Nathan Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 9:46:00 PM EDT  

In Texas, it is legal to openly carry a rifle or shotgun as long as you do so in a manner that isn't calculated to cause alarm. In other words, you can't walk around waving your rifle at people. I always carry my rifle slung across my chest dangling, not holding it in my hands.

I can't help but think none of this would have ever happened if he'd had his rifle slung over his shoulder on his back instead of like a guy walking point in Fallujah. Just sayin'.

Eric Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 10:09:00 PM EDT  

Yes, Nathan, but then how would he deal with a cougar setting up a roadside IED? Those things are fast, better to have your weapon ready.

Nathan Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 10:33:00 PM EDT  

And a story we've been watching in NY has a happy ending...in your backyard!



Eric Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 12:08:00 AM EDT  

To put that story in fuller perspective, Nathan: did you know that Fayetteville, NC is commonly referred to as "Fayettenam"? The biggest objection to that nickname is that it's awfully unkind to Vietnam, a tragic nation with a long and ancient history of colonial occupations and civil wars (long before the French there were the Chinese, though admittedly almost a thousand years between them; but even when Vietnam was independent it was often a puppet or pawn in the affairs of greater powers). There have probably been anticolonial uprisings with fewer shootings than Fayettenam records in any given year.

You possibly have seen or heard me refer to North Carolina as "pockets of civilization surrounded by Mississippi". In some regards, however, Fayettenam possibly bears greater resemblance to the part of Georgia depicted in the documentary film Deliverance. (Like the Vietnam comparison, this may be unfair: I cannot recall any artistic talents emerging from Fayettenam, while Deliverance had that creepy inbred kid with the banjo, which is probably more culture than Fayettenam ever offered the world.)

I cannot claim Fayettenam as being in my backyard, however. Physically, Fayettenam is nearly three hours and a hundred-thirty miles away. Spiritually, Fayettenam recalls Luke Skywalker's line in Star Wars, "If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from." Except that Luke was speaking from the middle of a desert, while Fayettenam is a bleak and lifeless place; Fayettenam, at any rate, manages to be even farther from the bright center of the universe than Tattooine. If there's a bright center to the universe, Fayettenam is where you end up if you travel as far as possible from the bright center of the universe, kill yourself, and wake up inside an anus.

Eric Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 12:11:00 AM EDT  

Let me add that I did not, in fact, tell you how I really feel about Fayettenam, preferring to restrain myself for the sake of a blog that might accidentally be read by a young child for whom Fayettenam is something his parents should decide whether or not to explain to him, probably sometime after he's grown up and experienced physical love.

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