Politics: Reflections of a non-gun person

I do not own a gun. I have never even fired a gun. If I saw a gun on the table, I would leave it alone because I would not know how to check to see if it is loaded or not. If an emergency were in progress and I would need to use a handgun and there was one because a security guard with one was down, I wouldn't know how to remove a trigger lock or anything about how to hold, aim and fire it accurately.

I do think, maybe, I should know these very basic things. But of course, why should I gain those skills if I don't actually purchase a gun. Emotionally, I don't know if I am ready to go there.

The Newtown shooting was horrible and it has made me think about what should we do about guns in America?

According to this article in Huffington Post:
First 911 call was at 9:35 AM
SWAT team arrived at 9:45AM
Shooter confirmed dead at 10:30AM

This item from Middletown Press:
9:35 AM Dispatch, “Sandy Hook School, Caller’s indicated she thinks someone is shooting in the building.”
9:40 AM Dispatch, “Shooter’s apparently still shooting in office area. Dickerson Drive.”
9:53 AM Dispatch, “Newtown’s reporting one suspect down. The building has now been cleared.”

These reports would indicate at some point between 9:45 and 9:53, the shooter shot and killed himself.

Sadly, in 10 to 18 minutes, the shooter killed 26 people at the school.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a Georgia mother shot and wounded a crowbar wielding intruder while talking with 911 while barricaded in her attic with her two small children waiting for the police to arrive.

The sad reality in these two situations is that the police could not get there fast enough. In the second case, the woman did have a handgun and knew how to use it.

How does one design gun laws to diminish the chance someone mentally unstable or individual with criminal intent will get firearms?

Will any of the laws being proposed accomplish this?

I suppose background checks should help.

Setting up an electronic background check database in a country with over 300 million people is easy to say in a political speech but probably not a trivial IT exercise. However, with enough computer software programers working on the database and networking specialists to get different government agency computers talking to each other, it could probably be done in a handful of years.

An effective database would make it more difficult for the mentally ill or criminals to obtain weapons through legal sales. Of course, they could go ahead and buy them from illegal sources but let's not make it easy for them by allowing them to just walk up to the gun shop and get the weapons of their choice. These rules do impose some burden on law abiding citizens but in my mind, what is a few extra forms and maybe even a waiting period?

What about restrictions on types of weapons and ammunition limits?

I wondered, what is the typical handgun the police use?

Google search ...

The Glock.

Excerpts:
in the United States, American police officers were feeling that they were outgunned by criminals. A series of incidents—including an FBI shootout with a couple of psychotic bank robbers in Miami in 1986—persuaded the American cops that the gun they had been using for 75 years, the classic Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver, was no longer potent enough. They needed something new. And here came Gaston Glock saying, "I have the pistol of the future, and it addresses exactly what you feel you are lacking." .......... Rather than six rounds, the Glock has 17 rounds in the magazine. Instead of a 12-pound trigger pull, like the traditional revolver, it has a trigger pull of slightly more than 5 pounds. That means that someone who is a mediocre shooter or a bad shooter—as many police officers who don’t practice often enough are—will suddenly become more accurate and be more effective. The gun is much lighter, so that if you’re wearing it on your hip for 8 or 10 hours, it will be more comfortable. The Glock is literally made in a plastic mold as opposed to being assembled from steel. It’s what makes it so light; and what allows the gun to have the large capacity [is that] the plastic is very thin. The Glock is also more durable and will function if it’s not cleaned properly or regularly.

As far as long guns are concerned, the AR-15 has received the most news. And indeed, this item indicated that the Washington DC police department decided to issue them to street officers. I would guess many other police departments have taken similar steps.

Excerpt:
Although the overwhelming majority of D.C. homicides are committed with handguns, criminals have used powerful guns in recent years in some high-profile cases in the Washington area. A team of commando-style robbers carried out a string of bank heists in the District and Maryland in 2004, armed with assault rifles and handguns. At the time, police feared the crimes could be fatal, but the robbers were caught before anyone was seriously hurt. Lanier referenced a 1997 bank robbery in Los Angeles, in which two men armed with AK-47 assault rifles engaged in a shootout with police. Seventeen officers and civilians were injured in the incident, which was captured on videotape. The case set off a debate about the need to better arm police. "They crushed the police," Burke said. "If you were to look at one incident in America that got every single police department to look at their weapons, that's it." Assistant Chief Joshua Ederheimer, who is in charge of the police academy, said officers have been "very well trained." "We want to be prepared to respond to a threat," Ederheimer said. "Hopefully, we'll never have to use them."

I don't know how the gun laws are organized in terms of what types of weapons are allowed to be purchased by regular citizens. As a non-gun person, I would think the broad parameters should be as follows:
(1) Civilians should not be able to buy weapons with police/military specifications unless they go through proper training.
(2) Long guns for hunting purposes would continue but perhaps with limited ammunition magazines. I see no reason why a hunter needs 30 bullet magazines; what the cut-off should be, I don't know.
(3) Long guns for personal protection purposes again with some limits on ammunition magazines; what is an appropriate number?
(4) Hand guns for personal protection purposes with some limits on ammunition magazines; what is an appropriate number?
(5) Some kind of rigorous background checking system.

Will it be effective?

I don't know. The gun-rights side would say that criminals will still be able to get these weapons and even more powerful ones through illegal sources. Sad but true.

How do we combat illegal gun purchases perhaps an even more important issue to address?

Technology: Motorola Atrix Phone Shut-Down Problem

I have a Motorola Atrix phone through ATT. A handful of months later, it was replaced by the Atrix II.

The phone has worked reasonably well. With any first generation device, it has some occasional buggy-ness. For instance, the phone would crash periodically much like the early days of the Windows operating system. But, overall, the Atrix has worked pretty well.

But, recently, my Atrix phone would power down by itself and attempt to restart but eventually powering down again during the restart cycle. If unattended to, it would keep doing this multiple times.

I was able to stop this behavior by interrupting the restart cycle by pushing the power button and doing a forced POWER OFF. The other thing I did was pop off the battery during the restart cycle which also stopped the repeated cycle. But eventually, the phone would have the same problem in a handful of hours and sometimes sooner.

A Google search of the problem seemed to indicate that many users think this problem is due to an APP on the phone and suggested removing apps to see if the problem went away. Another user thought it was the fingerprint reader.

The fingerprint reader idea seemed plausible since the power key is also the fingerprint identity detector. And if you compare the feature details of the Atrix II to the Atrix, the Atrix II dropped the fingerprint identity reader. One wonders if Motorola knew the fingerprint identity reader was buggy?

Anyway, I disabled the fingerprint reader feature and rely exclusively on the pin code unlock security system now. The phone hasn't gone into the power down restart power down cycle since I made the change a week ago.

So if you are having this problem on your Atrix phone, give the solution I attempted a try and see if that helps.

UPDATE: I still get the occasion power down power up recycle problem. I'm now deleting APPS that I downloaded within the last 6 months in the hopes that maybe its an errant app that is causing the problem. Of course, perhaps, there is some hardware bug in the phone. Anyway, we shall see.

UPDATE: The phone just ran a Android System update 2/13/2013 and the problem has gotten more pronounced. From this discussion forum, they suspect the WiFi could be a problem. I'm now only turning on the WiFi when I know I will actively use it. But it is striking how the Android System update has made the problem worse making me think it is some kind of software bug either with the system or its relationship to some of the apps I have onboard. We shall see if the WiFi shut off helps. Will also look at deleting more apps. This is "bleeding edge" technology I guess?

Politics: The "Fiscal Cliff" Deal and the Road Ahead

Part I of the drama has concluded: much of the Bush era tax rates were retained with the exception for those $400,000 and up.

Part II of the drama, the spending sequester, was pushed back 2 months.

Part III of the drama, the debt limit will be coming up around the same time as the sequester deadline.

At one time, there was the thought that tax cuts would "starve" spending because the debt would become unbearable.

But, today, going forward, it is equally likely that the massive spending of recent years would "feed" the need for taxes because the debt would become unbearable.

It will be interesting which of the two "narratives" will ultimately win out.

Part II/Part III of the "Fiscal Cliff" drama could result in more taxes or cutting spending or more likely more budgetary shell games kicking the can down the road.

On the spending side, there are essentially three almost untouchable pillars being advocated by Washington:
the elderly in the form of Social Security and Medicare
the poor in welfare programs (Food Stamps, Medicaid and other programs)
the "investments" (college educational loans/grants, Green energy and various other groups with lobbying power in in DC).

As the finances in DC continue to get worse and since there appears to be no willingness to cut much less slow down the growth of the above three areas, there will be no choice but to raise taxes to meet the debts.

With the fight over income taxes just concluded, there are probably two types of taxes soon to arrive: (1) energy tax and (2) consumption tax.

The energy taxes could be based on the energy output of the source to be taxed or on the carbon footprint of the source.

A consumption tax could be in the form of a national sales tax or a European style value-added tax.

At current spending levels, the budget is going to bust and it is time for the politicians and the people to get serious about either cutting back on the programs or honestly paying for them with more taxes.

Who is going to have the profile in courage to tell that truth?

One can hope for a "balanced" approach of spending cuts and tax increases but so far the tax increase side has won all the battles to this point. But of course, taxes haven't increased enough to compensate for the even bigger increases in spending that have occurred in the last decade.

UPDATE:  This author thinks the "starve" the beast side is winning.

We shall see how the Part II/Part III "fiscal cliff" drama plays out. I think the author is rather optimistic about the GOP ability to keep fending off the pressure on tax increases and capability to get spending restraint. In part II/part III, don't be surprised if there are calls for eliminating and reducing some deductions within the income tax to raise more revenue in addition to introducing the two new taxes mentioned above. One can also raise the payroll tax components of either or both Social Security and Medicare. There are no shortage of ways to raise taxes! The question is whether there will be any movement at restraining the growth of spending?

Feed the tax machine or starve the spending beast?

As it stand the debt burden falls to future generations.

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