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Background Checks for Guns

I have never found a need to own or use a high powered automatic weapon, but I’ve never been a hunter confronting herds of aggressive deer in armored vehicles.  The debate over the need for these weapons is ongoing and although this battle seems to have no short-term resolution, I really think there is a consensus supporting background checks to prevent dangerous people from owning guns. Cartoon of turkey being shot with automatic weapon

There are existing gun laws that require background checks, which if were a little stronger, could prevent the bad guys from purchasing weapons.  I’ve always been for background checks but I, like most of you, am an uninformed advocate who really doesn’t know WTF our gun laws say about background checks, so I did a little research and finally am a kind-of informed citizen (dangerous).

The 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is our governments attempt to address the issue of starting to control the wild west method of gun ownership by creating a database and mandating background checks to help deny criminals and unstable people from owning or possessing guns.  The impetus for this law was the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the wounding of White House Press Secretary Jim Brady by a mentally unstable shooter.

From Wikipedia:

The Brady Bill requires that background checks be conducted on individuals, by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) maintained by the FBI, before a firearm may be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer.  Section 922(g) of the Brady Bill prohibits certain persons from shipping or transporting any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce, or receiving any firearm which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, or possessing any firearm in or affecting commerce.

These prohibitions apply to any person who:

  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

The Brady Act was a great start at trying to control irresponsible gun ownership but was/is opposed by many gun rights groups and failed to address key issues that weakened the law like: the exclusion of private and collector gun sales and the failure to set up a reliable data base to track the bad guys.  The data base housed at the FBI relies on agencies and states to supply info on the those who shouldn’t possess guns but with no consequences for not reporting or updating the data base, a lot of guns are in the hands of some really sketchy people.

After several recent tragic shootings by people who should have been added to the FBI bad guy or irresponsible list, the Senate has rightfully reacted with proposed legislation that would financially reward states who help to keep the data base updated, and penalize federal agencies that fail to report to the system.  I’m sure we could do more, but anything is a positive.  Hopefully, this will keep a few more guns out of the hands of killers and let responsible people keep their second amendment rights.

Like any other complex issue zealots on both sides of the gun control debate have kind of hijacked the conversation which tends to lessen the chance for compromise.  I just hope that despite big money lobbyists, pro and anti-gun, that our lawmakers realize that we have a problem and need to start using the “grandparent” standard for legislation, which is to ignore special interests and look into their grand-kid’s eyes and think about the laws needed to keep them safe.

50th High School Reunion

I remember seeing the play Brigadoon when I was in Junior High School.  It was a story of a magical village that reappeared every 100 years.  It wasn’t a hundred years but my High School class of 1967 reappeared after 50 years in a weekend class reunion and it was magical.  I, like most of you, have mixed feelings about reunions since some of our High School experiences sucked, but believe me when I tell you that after 50 years nobody cares if you were: smart or stupid (a little harsh), rich or poor, popular or loser, athletic or challenged, beautiful or plain, bullied or bullier, since 50 is different–everyone is just happy to see other survivors and either can’t remember or choose to ignore past drama.

From the time we checked into the hotel the Reunion Committee made sure that all were greeted like long lost best friends whether you were the prom King/Queen or a dark loner.  The traditional name-tags with your High School photo was issued so all could recognize who that old person really is and greet them with the obligatory: “You look great”.  Whether you’re young or old name-tags rock since I am name retention challenged.  Wisely the class organizers offered discounted rooms so the already disoriented didn’t drive after adding to that “where am I” state with some drinks.  The well thought out welcoming plan included a hospitality room to pass the down time by reacquainting attendees, offering free beers and snacks to help dull the shock of seeing and re-configuring aged classmates.  There was also a display table showing off the amazing creative talent in the class.

The formal festivities started with a get together at our hometown American Legion.  Going to an American Legion is like taking a time machine back to the 60’s complete with all the beer we drank at 16—what’s an IPA?  It’s always an initial shock when all of us self-perceived youthful, fit looking people see all the old people but the joy of reconnecting with the people who you did all your firsts with morphs all into those 60s kids.  And since we are all old you can be confident that even the people who look like they haven’t changed a bit on the outside have some sort of crap going on inside.  But the Legion is the perfect environment for 150 old people to gather, listen to live 60’s music (performed by classmates), and pretend they can have conversations over the amped music—”Great to see you!-What? What? What? What?”…In spite of only being able to hear every other word the night really belonged to our great High school Band musicians and singers (some professionals today) reunited to rock the house.Reunion cartoon loud music

Saturday night was the big party at the Marriott with dinner and a DJ playing our 60s music all coordinated by our, as good as Jimmy Kimmel, master of Ceremonies John P.  It started with a Happy Hour reconnecting long lost friends and connecting new friends who wouldn’t have even considered talking to each other in our school days.  Seniors, use to discounts, were a little shocked at the premium hotel prices for drinks but this wasn’t a group that needed many wines or beers to put them to sleep.  Dinner and dinner companions were great: aggrandizing our teenage adventures, making up old people crap, listening to the deserved compliments to those who worked so hard on the reunion, and watching presentations on our glory days and tributes to military service people and our lost classmates.  And after dinner the hunger for those senior freebies was finally satisfied by the serving of hundreds of pastries met by a shark-like feeding frenzy.  Dancing showed glimpses of past “American Bandstand” moves blended with Seinfeld’s Elaine moves.  But mostly it was conversations with a group of people just looking to have fun and share their life experiences, love, and respect with those who belonged to an exclusive club—the class of 67.Qote from five rivers "...to find myself"

And then as quick as it had started the reunion weekend was over and the magical village would fade into fond memories of spending time with great people who you wished you had spent more time with way back when.

If you are thinking of skipping a 40th or 50th reunion—reconsider.  The truth is that a lot of our High School experiences were painful, but the mind seems to filter out the bad stuff as we get older and so the 50th is a total redo with an opportunity to party with a whole new group of people.  I really took advantage of the redo since I was pretty unfocused in High School and a pain to teachers, so my redo was being able to buy a beer for one of those teachers and receiving a thank you!  And thank you to all who attended and made this a definite bucket list experience.

Limit Night Games

In the 1950s and 60s baseball was “America’s game”.  I was a rabid baseball fan and worshiped the New York Yankees.  Everyone had their team and favorite players and I regularly argued that Mickey Mantle was better than Willie Mays or Stan Musial (I was right but I’ll stay humble).  It seemed like the whole world stopped to watch and cheer for their team in the World Series.  I remember TV being rolled into my grade school auditorium and all huddled around the 24” black and white.  That’s right! Games were played and televised during the day and the share of viewers watching the World Series in the 1960s was above 50% as compared to about 20% today and I believe a big part of that decline is due to the current TV mandated night games.  All the games of the 1960 world series were during the day with start times about 2pm and the modern era World Series games usually start at 8 or later?Cartoon of senior fan sleeping

In 2017 television dictates all major sports start times, so some TV executive who probably doesn’t know which end of the bat to hold decides that games should be played at night.  I realize that the world has changed since the 50s and soccer or video games have probably displaced baseball as America’s choice among the millennials and younger, but there are still a ton of baby boomers who love baseball and to them the World Series is still the ultimate sporting event.  Since the average age of Baseball fans is 53 and as we get older we go to bed earlier, probably around 10, night games are FUBAR.  If a game is scheduled for 8:05 it usually doesn’t start until after 8:30 and an average game is about 3 hours which means it usually ends after 11pm so the the core of your dedicated baseball audience is asleep!

I’m just waiting for the TV networks to look at the viewer numbers for baseball and all sports and figure out that if most of your targeted viewing demographic goes to bed before a game ends you might want to go back to day or early evening games and gain back your prime viewers which would attract more advertisers which would make the networks and advertisers more money, conserve and reduce the cost of energy by not having all those lights on, and make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep.  Not all that complicated!