A Police Official speaks

Commissioner of the New York Police, that is.

While attempting to make a point about various firearms laws and the use of firearms in crime, Commissioner Raymond Kelly noted that handguns are used in crimes many more times than rifles are used for criminal purposes.

If that is the case, then why the focus on AR-15 rifles, and other military-style weapons?

Somehow, Commissioner Kelly also considers that the legal sale of firearms outside of the State of New York is a large part of the supply of guns used by criminals inside the State.

The ATF and FBI try to collate data about guns recovered from criminals. They warn that the data isn't representative of guns used in crime. However, I do notice one thing: those firearms tend to have long histories between the original purchase and their discovery by Police. It's not often clear how the firearm ended up making that trip. Also, a large majority of those recovered had been originally purchased inside the State of New York.

I would think that if the Commissioner of the New York City Police wants to blame purchases in other jurisdictions for the prevalence of firearms inside the city, he should be able to bring better data to the table.


A consensual, private activity

Instapundit notices that modern secularism seems to take the attitude that religious behavior is a private thing, done with consenting fellows.

Does this mean that religious pride marches are in order?

Or is it the reverse kind of private activity, the kind of activity...er, love...that dare not mention its name in public?



So, I take a week or two off of blogging. Is that a hiatus, or a slow start?

Anyway, I noticed today that I use a tool that is likely not widely known. That tool is PasswordSafe, originally produced by Bruce Schneier. (Downloads available here.)

Once upon a time, I had picked a password that was relatively easy to type. It was also (in my opinion) hard to guess. Then I started to get multiple accounts for online email, Bulletin Boards, school email, email at work, access codes at work, login for the work computer, etc.

And I realized that some of these password lived on databases that are well-protected, and others on databases that are poorly-protected. But if an attacker/hacker/internet-bad-guy was able to get into one of the badly-protected databases, he might be able to see the password, and my email account. If both were the same, then the attacker might have access to my email.

And anyone with access to my email can discover most of my online accounts, and likely change the password to something I don't know.

This realization led me to a different pattern. It was now a cluster of passwords. Different types for different situations. But I also had to keep a list somewhere of passwords that I didn't use very often. And things got cumbersome when the cluster had hard-to-remember variations. (Site A will let me mix upper-case, lower-case, and numbers. Site B requires at least one non-alphanumeric symbol. Site C wants three of those four categories...)

PasswordSafe provides a better way to handle multiple passwords. It can use databases that are easily transferred between my home computer (running Linux) and my work computer (running Windows). It can live on a USB drive, so that I can take the program and the database to any computer.

It can also generate a unique password for each site. The passwords are all random gibberish. More importantly, the password database requires a single password/key to open. Thus, I only have to remember one password.

Currently, the only place where I do not use the PaswordSafe program is my Smart Phone. Which doesn't mean that it's impossible. It just means that it's not convenient enough for me, yet.


Religion and Faith

I had originally thought I would spend more time thinking and writing about religion than about guns. (There are many people out on the internet writing about guns. A few even know what they are talking about.)

Anyway, I have a lot of thoughts about religion and faith. These thoughts start with some thought about the meaning of the words.

A man who does something religiously may be doing it because he thinks it is necessary to placate the Universe, or the Creator. Or he may do so because he has noted that his life will be much easier in some way if he does that certain thing carefully and regularly.

If he religiously tracks of his expenditures by credit-card is not likely to have problems with his credit-line being maxed out. Nor is he likely to have problems with interest-payments becoming larger than his salary.

Such usage is rarer now than it once was; but it does point to a core meaning. A practice done religiously is something more than a habit, it is often a conscious choice that affects all of a person's life in some way.

Working backwards from the adverb to the noun: a religion is a set of practices that have been chosen. It is the framework for a lifestyle. It reflects a set of values chosen. Often, there is a story that supports or clarifies these values.

This blends over into another usage of the word religion. It is often used to describe a group of people who remember (and re-tell) a specific group of stories. These stories aid in describing the meaning of life, and support actions which seem nonsensical (or counter-productive) to non-members. After all, many Americans tell stories about the King, his life, death, and many devoted followers. But Elvis doesn't have much in the way of moral teaching to follow. Is that a religion, or is it an obsessive fan-base? (Considering the etymology of fan from fanatic, that distinction may not have much value...)

Religion is sometimes used to describe any such group of believers, often with the overt assertion that religion is irrational, meaningless, or actively antagonistic to the good life. A person giving this description will tell a story about good people, evil influence, rescuing the gullible (or the Fallen) from bad influence, and bringing about a better world. If these people weren't so antagonistic to traditional religion, I'd call them religious. (For example, I will mention a biologist named Dawkins.)

Then there's the word faith. In the pejorative, it is often joined with the word blind. In the affirmative, faith is often described in terms of wondrous joy and miraculous power.

And in the descriptive, faith is part of phrases like "full faith and credit." In that sense, it describes a level of trust that is very high, joined with an extension of credit. (Does this make the use of a plastic card issued by Visa as a form of payment an act of blind faith? What about the use of custom-printed cloth notes, endorsed as legal tender by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury?)

I find that religion is common even among the irreligious, and faith is important for a society to function.

Religions remember stories that attempt to explain what the good life is, and the why/how of attaining it. Faith is a kind of trust; it points towards a thing/object/person/idea which is considered helpful, powerful, or useful.


Purchasing a gun

So, I purchased a gun right after Christmas.

It wasn't a snap decision. I had intended to purchase in December. Sometime last fall, I thought that I wanted a Ruger 10/22 with a scope. (Got one with iron sights already.)

Anyway, after I found a store (which I'll call Mountain of Goose) that allowed me to pre-order online, I did the order. And I waited for the phone call.

After the rifle showed up at the store, I got the call. When I arrived at the firearms-counter in the rear of the store, I had to take a number. Then I had to wait 10 minutes.

Once I began the pick-up process, I had to hand ID and my credit card to the store employee. Then I had to fill out a form. Name, address/city/county/state of residence, SSN, place of birth, ID number from State-issued ID, race, Hispanic-ethnicity status, height/weight, gender, birth-date.

Then I had to answer questions about myself. Yes, I am purchasing this for myself. No, I'm not under indictment for a crime on the Bad Boy list, never been convicted of such a crime, not a fugitive from the law, don't do drugs, never been adjudicated mentally defective, never had a dishonorable discharge from the US Military, not under a Court restraining order, never been convicted of a crime of domestic violence, never renounced citizenship, not an illegal alien, not an alien on a visa. And no, I didn't lie to any of the above questions.

The employee that handed me the form took it back, and spent 5 minutes checking every line on the form.

Then the guy behind the counter offered me a 1-year extended warranty. That's not really a surprise; I suspect the gun-counter earns more money on warranties than on gun sales. Mountain of Goose wants repeat customers, so they offer things like warranties to bring people back.

Shortly after the warranty offer, the employee handed the form (plus my ID) to another store employee. That person did the same 5-minute check. He compared all the data on my ID to the things I'd written out, then certified that I'd answered the "Yes" question properly, and answered "No" to all the others.

Finally, they submitted my name to the Federally-mandated background check process. (Another customer at the store that day got a "delay" response on their background check. Something about them being honorably-discharged from the military, but not keeping their Security Clearance after discharge. Any person who has ever had that status down-graded, for any reason, gets yellow-flagged for gun purchases.)

Lastly, I got to put my signature on the credit-card receipt, picked up the gun in the box, and walked out of the store.

Who says gun purchases aren't regulated?

At least I didn't have to go through a waiting period. Certain States of the Union require a wait before every firearms purchase. (Among them, the state of CT, as cited in these Wiki articles.)