Saturday, December 20, 2008

Using Television to Spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (About Guns)

It seems to me that since the election, many in the assuredly liberal biased media sector have become suddenly bolder in their efforts to spread their anti-gun agendas. They know that now that their “messiah” will be taking office shortly, that they can now feel free to spread their propaganda to the masses without fear of any repercussions in the way of backlash from the citizens who watch these shows. They think that “We the People” are really “We The Sheeple” and that we will lap up all their words with unfettered ignorance. The liberals want the “Fairness Doctrine” to help protect them from the conservative voice, but what will protect the conservatives from the obviously liberal tactics of spreading their inaccurate ramblings?

What this amounts to, in my opinion, is an increased effort to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over an issue that, if people took time to research the true data, would not be an issue at all. This type of tactic does nothing more than to inflame the fears of the uninformed people who are already frightened of inanimate objects, and make them more irrationally afraid of law abiding citizens.

Below, is a sample of such efforts. Since this was posted on the Gun Owner’s of America (GOA) website, and I don’t think I can illustrate this any better, I will repost their article in its entirety. This captures a perfect example of a so called “educational” show overstepping its bounds and pushing an agenda. What happened to unbiased reporting of an issue? What happened to including the arguments from both sides in such an argument? I’ll let you be the judge. If in fact you agree with the outrageousness of this horrible example of reporting, please take the time to take action as suggested at the end of this article, and write a letter to the National Geographic Channel to let them know how you feel.

Reposted from GOA website (


National Geographic Channel ran a show yesterday entitled, "Guns In America." According to the program, there are millions of misguided gun owners across the nation. Why? Because your guns are supposedly more likely to harm you than to help you in an emergency.

"As a society, we're totally out of control with weapons," said one Philadelphia cop who was interviewed during the show. "You need to limit access that people have to these type of firearms."

That was the basic thrust of the program. National Geographic recited the usual worn-out factoids that are peddled by the Brady Campaign. It only cited anti-gun cops. And for every person who was filmed stating he or she believed in a right to own firearms for self-defense, the program would cite "facts" to prove that such a hope was misplaced.

Gun owners should let the President and CEO of National Geographic know that the channel should stick to showing pictures of kangaroos and foliage -- images that we normally attribute to National Geographic's magazine -- and keep his personal, anti-gun views to his private conversations around the Christmas dinner table.

The National Geographic Channel presents itself as an educational, unbiased alternative. But "Guns in America" was hardly unbiased, as can be seen by the following agenda items that were pushed during the program:

1. "Guns in America" would have you believe that the guns in your home are 22 times more likely to kill a family member than to protect you. This statistic can (surprise, surprise!) be found on the Brady Campaign website, but its source has been highly discredited. The factoid originates with Arthur Kellerman, who has generated multiple studies claiming that guns are a net liability.1 But Kellerman has been found guilty of fudging his data, and even the National Academy of Sciences has stated that his "conclusions do not seem to follow" from his data.2

The truth of the matter is actually quite encouraging for gun owners. Anti-gun researchers for the Clinton Justice Department found that guns are used 1.5 million times annually for self-defense, which means that each year, firearms are used more than 50 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.3

Isn't that strange? You would think anti-gunners wouldn't mind citing a study that was commissioned by the Clinton Justice Department! Apparently, the results of the study didn't fit their agenda.

2. "Guns in America" overstates the number of children who die by unintentional gunfire. The program would have viewers believe that a child dies by accidental gunfire, once every two days. But you can only reach that figure if you count violent-prone teens as "children."

In fact, when you look at the statistics involving younger children (ages 0-14), you see that kids have a greater chance of dying from choking on things like the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that you feed them.4 Hmm, why doesn't National Geographic want to report on those killer peanuts?

3. "Guns in America" portrays twelve times as many negative uses of guns as positive uses -- even though in the real world, the truth is quite the opposite (as guns are used at least 50 times more often to save life than take life). The program does start with a dramatization of a legitimate self-defense story with an actual 911 call playing in the background. But after that, every dramatization is about drive-by-shootings or cops being shot or gang-related warfare.

The lesson for the viewer is: Guns are bad.

4. "Guns in America" only quotes anti-gun "authorities," thus leaving the impression that all law-enforcement support gun control. Never mind the fact that when one looks at polls of the police community, they overwhelmingly hold pro-gun attitudes:

* Should any law-abiding citizen be able to purchase a firearm for sport or self defense? -- 93% of law-enforcement said yes.5

* Do you believe law-abiding citizens should be limited to the purchase of no more than one firearm per month? -- 70.1% of law-enforcement said no.6

* Do you agree that a national concealed handgun permit would reduce rates of violent crime as recent studies in some states have already reflected? -- 68.2% of law-enforcement said yes.7

It's bad enough that a liberal teacher's union controls the education of our kids in the public schools, and that many of them are being brainwashed with politically correct thinking. We don't need supposedly neutral programs like National Geographic peddling the Brady Campaign's favorite factoids to an unsuspecting public.

ACTION: Please contact Tim T. Kelly, the President and CEO of National Geographic Ventures (which includes their television division), and urge him to steer the NatGeo channel away from politics. If the National Geographic Channel can't run a balanced program -- where they use real statistics -- then they just need to stick to filming those cute little animals that helped make their magazine so famous.

You can go to this link to cut-and-paste the sample letter below into their webform. Since you will need to select a Topic, please choose "I have a complaint." And for "Department," we would suggest selecting "Factual Questions" or "General."

---- Pre-written letter ----

Dear Mr. Kelly:

I will think twice before ordering the National Geographic magazine, because I don't want to help you fund any more anti-gun propaganda. Your Explorer show entitled "Guns In America" -- which has run several times this month -- was heavily slanted to the gun control position. The show used fallacious statistics without rebutting them, all in an effort to demonize firearms.

For example, "Guns in America" falsely claimed that guns in the home are 22 times more likely to kill a family member than to serve as protection. That is simply not true. The author of this study, Arthur Kellerman, has been discredited many times (by groups such as the National Academy of Sciences), so it's shameful that your channel would even cite his work.

Second, "Guns in America" overstates the number of children who die by unintentional gunfire. In fact, when you look at the statistics involving younger children (ages 0-14), you see that kids have a greater chance of dying from choking on things like the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that you feed them. Can I expect to see a show in the near future highlighting the danger of feeding children?

Third, "Guns in America" portrays twelve times as many negative uses of guns as positive uses -- even though in the real world, the truth is quite the opposite. According to statistics from the Clinton Justice Department in 1997, guns are used at least 50 times more often to save life than take life.

Finally, "Guns in America" only quotes anti-gun "authorities," thus leaving the impression that all law-enforcement support gun control. Never mind the fact that when one looks at polls of the police community, they overwhelmingly hold pro-gun attitudes. (Please see the poll results on the website for the National Association of Chiefs of Police.) Why were none of these authorities ever cited?

The National Geographic Society's purpose is "to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world's cultural, historical, and natural resources." I would submit to you that pushing gun control is far afield from your stated purpose.



1 Arthur Kellerman has generated multiple studies that claim gun owners are more likely to be injured by their guns than to use those guns in self-defense. His results range from 3 to 22 to 43 times more likely to be injured by a gun in the home. His methodology has been debunked, however, many times over. (See endnote 2.)

2 See . Also, see Charles F. Wellford, John Pepper, Carol Petrie, Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review (National Research Council of the National Academies, 2004), p. 118.

3 See

4 See "Children Accidental Death Rates (Ages 0-14)," Gun Control Fact Sheet (2004) at

5 National Association of Chiefs of Police, 20th Annual Survey Results (Survey questions sent to Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs in the United States: 2008).

6 National Association of Chiefs of Police, 15th Annual Survey Results (Survey questions sent to Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs in the United States).

7 Ibid.


Guns do not hurt and kill. People hurt and kill. What I advocate is that rather than punishing the majority of gun owners, who are responsible and law abiding people, that they focus on criminal control and stop letting criminals back onto our streets. Hold careless people responsible for their accidents. In other words, instead of trying to take the easy road, which is simply to punish everyone, to take the more difficult, but more meaningful road, and do the work to hold the true culprits in these incidents responsible.

Stop trying to take away the tools I use to defend myself and my family from predatory and vicious criminals, and instead go after those criminals and keep them off the streets. Tell the liberal judges to quit slapping wrists and start banging heads, and tell the biased media to report the facts instead of spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to Lose Your Rights - Catching Wild Pigs

Taking away the rights of the people in a society isn’t new. It has been done before, and done successfully. But understanding how it’s done is the key to understanding the need to be constantly vigilant of our surroundings, and involved in who we are choosing to be our leaders. The process can happen so slowly that people aren’t even aware it is happening until it’s too late. In this article, I would like to use a couple of fables I found on the Internet to describe just how this horrible chain of events happening before our very eyes, and how electing someone like Obama as President, can lead to an enslaved America.

In one of the online discussion forums where I frequently participate, one of the people in the group posted this story. After “Googling” it, I found it out there on many sites, but no reference as to who wrote it. I really and truly wish I could cite the source and give them credit because it is as clearly stated as can be.

A Chemistry professor in a large college had exchange students in the class.

One day in class, the Professor noticed one young man (exchange student) who kept rubbing his back, and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country's government and install a new communist government.

In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked, 'Do you know how to catch wild pigs?' The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said this was no joke:

'You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. The pigs, who are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat, you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd.

Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.'

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening to people in the United States.

The government keeps pushing us toward socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops , welfare, medicine, drugs, etc. while we continually lose our freedoms - just a little at a time.

One should always remember: There is no such thing as a free Lunch! Also, a politician will never provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

Then there is this one which tells a story along the same lines. It is a story about how Stalin, on his death bead, was choosing a successor. He illustrates how to take away people’s freedoms, while making them grateful for the “warmth” that the government lets them have in return for being captive in their own country:

When Josef Stalin was on his deathbed he called in two likely successors, to test which one of the two had a better knack for ruling the country.

He ordered two birds to be brought in and presented one bird to each of the two candidates.

The first one grabbed the bird, but was so afraid that the bird could free himself from his grip and fly away that he squeezed his hand very hard, and when he opened his palm, the bird was dead.

Seeing the disapproving look on Stalin's face and being afraid to repeat his rival's mistake, the second candidate loosened his grip so much that the bird freed himself and flew away.

Stalin looked at both of them scornfully. "Bring me a bird!" he ordered. They did.

Stalin took the bird by its legs and slowly, one by one, he plucked all the feathers from the bird's little body.

Then he opened his palm. The bird was laying there naked, shivering, helpless.

Stalin looked at him, smiled gently and said, "You see... and he is even thankful for the human warmth coming out of my palm."

Our rights don’t get taken from us all in one fell swoop. Those who would take them know that if they tried to take away all of our rights at once, the people would surely see it, and would revolt instantly. So instead, our rights get taken away slowly and steadily. So slowly, that those who aren’t aware of their surroundings (the “sheeple” as I refer to them) don’t even notice it, and in fact welcome it because it is disguised as something done for their own good.

Those who aren’t aware, don’t want to be aware, or just feel that they need nannies to watch over them are the ones who are letting this happen. Those of us who are constantly vigilant and constantly fighting to spread the word are labeled as “radicals” and “extremists” by those who are too timid or afraid to act for themselves.

I just don’t know how some people don’t get this…

'A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.'

.... Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Security Tips To Keep You (and Your Data) Safe While Traveling

I mainly write about self defense in this blog, and most people may think of self defense as having to do with firearms, physical fighting to fend off a predator, or some other physical means of defending one’s self. But to me, self defense is an all-encompassing state of mind. I often speak of a term known as “defense-in-depth” which is all about having a wide variety of tools available for protection. Self defense is as much about protecting those intangible aspects of your life, such as your identity, and sensitive data. So in this article, I am going to bring out my computer geek, computer security personality and discuss some ways to keep your data safe while travelling.

As we approach summer, more and more people are once again thinking of traveling, both for business and for pleasure. TechEd is in June, and a variety of other techie conferences are not far behind. School is out, making way for family vacations – although with the ridiculous price of fuel, I’m not sure how many people will be traveling. Even when only traveling for pleasure, many business professionals, as do I, take their laptops and PDA devices with them to be able to do work during a few “down” moments on their trip, or at the very least to have a way to keep tabs on their email and events at work. We geeks are such workaholics, aren’t we?

On a recent business trip to the east coast, I had the opportunity to once again enjoy my hobby of just sitting back and observing people. I was again reminded of just how complacent folks are about their security when it comes to using computers and other information technology enabled devices when on travel. This seemed to be especially true when using computers in public places – either their own laptops, or computers in hotel business centers. I am not sure if people are just in a hurry, or if they just really are not aware of the potentials for exposing themselves (in a “data” sort of sense, that is) while out and about.

There are a number of things I will talk about in this article having to do with ways to keep yourself (and your data) more secure when away on travels. Some of these things are as simple as using fundamental physical measures to shield your computer screen from curious eyes. Others involve the act of just taking the time to clean up after yourself when using a public computer, and yet other measures I will discuss simply involve the use of technology that is already built in to the devices that you are using. There really is very little to no cost involved in protecting yourself with these measures, but the cost of giving away your data can be huge and devastating. So let’s take a look at a few of the vulnerabilities we face everyday when on travel and some solutions for protection.

Shoulder Surfing:

If you are flying, your potential for vulnerability begins the very minute you get to the airport. Many people find that they have to arrive at the airport a few hours early just to make it through check-in and security, in order to make their flight on time. There is often a lot of “down time” here, so many people, as do I, pull out the laptop and the Blackberry, and do some work. In this setting, we are often in very close proximity to other people. Once we board the airplane, it is even worse. Unless you are lucky enough to be in First Class, you are sitting with your elbows right up against someone else’s, and their wandering eyes are just a foot or two north. Even if you aren’t flying, or have arrived at your destination, the local restaurant and the corner coffee shop are no different. When you sit down in that comfortable chair to enjoy your latte and do some work, there are countless wandering eyes trying to figure out what you are doing.

There are two main problems here. First of all, your neighbor (who is usually NOT minding their own business) is looking at your computer as you type in your username and password. If they can see your log-in box, they can see your username, and if your computer is joined to a corporate domain, they can see the domain name. As you type in your password, unless you are lightning fast, they can see you type the characters. I’m one of those “two-finger wonders” (I don’t touch type) so this is a particularly big problem for me. A devious person with intent on harvesting such information (and they are everywhere, trust me) will be very good at following your keystrokes and will be able to obtain all the credentials needed to log in to your corporate network. They now have your username, the name of your corporate domain, and your password. All they have to do is get access into that domain, and they are in. Your username and password exist on the domain, and are only cached on your computer, which means that they can access your account from any computer that can get access to your corporate domain, such as a VPN or other remote connection. Another danger is that if they are able to steal your laptop (more on this later), they will have access to the data on it. Remember – these people are everywhere. And if they are shoulder surfing to get your log-in credentials, they are also following closely to look for an opportunity to grab your laptop as well.

The second (and more common) problem with being in close proximity to others is that they are often able to view what is on your screen. Are you working on a document with sensitive personal or company information? Composing an offline email that you really don’t want others (especially strangers) to know about? How about that PowerPoint presentation chock full of corporate proprietary sales or engineering data? Whatever it is, you have to either make sure you are only working on things that are completely dull and unworthy of your nosey neighbor’s interest, or make the screen un-viewable. In other words, either pick non-sensitive stuff to work on during these times, or find a way to hide the screen. For example, I usually pick some low-level instructional or procedure guide to work on while I’m flying, or just do some professional reading. For example, I keep a lot of pdf white papers and “eBooks” from various online sources on my computer for reading while on the plane. My job is such that professional reading and just keeping are large parts of my work anyway – so it’s not like I’m goofing off.

Solutions: For the password problem, if you are on a computer that is joined to a corporate domain, use a local account on the computer (that does not have administrative privileges), and set a temporary password that will only be good for the duration of your trip. Of course, if you do this, you will have to make sure you know where to browse to on the computer to get to your documents in your “real” account, because the profile you log in with will have a “My Documents” folder in a different location. I get around this by accessing only documents that I have placed on a flash drive. If you are not joined to a domain, then just set a temporary password, and set it back to your actual password when you get home. One of the best solutions for this is to simply get a small finger print scanner to use to log into the machine. Many are small, portable, and just plug into the USB port. The newer laptops and tablet PCs even come with these built in. See my article on biometric devices for more information.

For the “prying eyes on the screen” problem, there are a variety of filters you can buy that will obscure the screen when someone tries to view it from other than looking at it straight on. This particular solution will also help to obscure your username and other login credential information as you log in. If they can’t see your username, the password will do no good. But again, don’t give them any pieces of the puzzle if at all possible. As I always tell people: “If they have even just your username, they then have 50% of the information they need to access your computer.”
Of course, being the wisenheimer that I am, if I notice someone trying to “catch a wave” on “shoulder beach”, I simply open a document, set the font to a larger size (to make sure they can easily read it), and then start typing in some juicy “official looking” verbiage. After a paragraph or two, I start a brand new paragraph, and type in “I think the nosey person sitting next to me is looking at what I am writing. I hope they enjoyed my previous two paragraphs. Now GO AWAY!” I have seen a red face or two resulting from that prank.

Using Flash Drives:

Flash drives are portable and can store a lot of data. Many people have resorted to using them because if they know they will have access to a computer at their destination, all they have to do is put their documents on the flash drive and leave the computer at home. Many cell phones and even iPods can be used for this purpose as well. The problem with these small flash drives is that they are easily lost or forgotten. It isn’t uncommon for someone to use them in a public or borrowed computer and then forget to take them when they are finished. A lost flash drive means lost data. Lost data can mean something as frustrating as losing work and having to do it all over again (if you didn’t have a backup copy somewhere else), or as devastating as putting sensitive information into a stranger’s hands.

Flash drives are cheap these days. If you lose the flash drive, you can just go get another one. But what about the data on the flash drive? Is it replaceable? Will it cost you if someone else has it? Another issue surrounding the ubiquitous nature of these things is that some people seem to have a whole lanyard full of them around their necks. Do you have a good inventory of how many you have? If one came up missing, how long would it take for you to notice? Kind of like the movie “Home Alone” where the family had so many kids that they didn’t notice little Kevin missing until they were in France!

Solution: The manufacturers of many of these drives have solved part of this problem for you. Flash drives have the ability to be encrypted, and the software to do that is often included with the flash drive itself. Typically, this encryption works by having you set up a password in order to access the data. You can encrypt all or only part of the flash drive’s contents. If someone gets a hold of your flash drive, they can access anything that is not encrypted, but will need to know your password to access the encrypted data. In some cases (depends on the drive and the encryption software), you can set your encryption such that if a number of unsuccessful password attempts occur the data on the drive will be erased. Know how many you have and keep track of them. If traveling, take only what you need – leave the other ones at home and in a safe place. I promise – they won’t miss you.

Using Common Area (Business Center) Computers:

Many hotels have business centers with computers to allow their guests to access the Internet and their web based email. In fact on my recent trip, I had full Internet access at the office I was visiting, but had to pay for Internet access if I wanted to use my laptop at the hotel. The only thing I needed after hours Internet access for was to check my personal email, and I wasn’t about to pay $10 just for 5 minutes of use. My remaining option then was to use the business center, since using those computers was free of charge.

A few problems present themselves in this scenario, however. One is that people use these public computers and often leave their surfing tracks for all to see. The other is that some people forget to just close out of their applications, and yet another is leaving those little flash drives plugged in for someone to come along and retrieve later. In fact, while in the hotel elevator on my most recent trip, I heard a woman telling her colleague that when he finished using the computer in the business center, he had left his email open, and she could have gone through all his email. Worse, she could have launched a few questionable emails in his name. This is truly a dangerous situation. What if it had been a stranger, and not a trusted colleague? That person could have read email, sent a few of their own (under the email account owner’s name), looked at the address book to get a list of names of people at the company, and just in general could do some serious damage. All this done under the name of the person who owns the account. How do you prove that it wasn’t you who did those things?

When I used one of the business center computers, I got curious and opened the browser history. I saw a plethora of email sites and surfing history. Wouldn’t be too hard to put together a few patterns and find out where some of these email servers existed. Depending on the cookies still on the machine, going to one of those sites may not even require me to log back in to access the account. The cookie would remember that I (or more accurately the email account owner) was just there and just let me right back in. This is especially true if the previous user had left the web browser open.

On a really malicious (and hopefully rare) side of things, a devious person could sneak into the hotel business center and put a keystroke logging dongle on the back of the computer between the keyboard and the computer, or in a USB port. Such a device is used to capture everything typed into the keyboard. Which means that they can get the URL to your banking site, the username and password for your banking site, and the contents of an email or anything else that you type into the computer. These key loggers have legitimate investigative purposes, but are inexpensive and can be obtained by anyone – including thieves. I say that this is (hopefully) rare, because most hotel business centers require a room key card to access – a person would (theoretically) have to be a paying guest in order to do this. But many public computers often do not offer such access protection as that provided by hotel business centers.

Solutions: For the reasons mentioned above, it is very important to pre-inspect the computer before and clean up after yourself after using a public computer. It takes a few extra minutes to do this, but you can’t put a price on the time it would take to straighten out the mess after you have been exposed because you didn’t have time to prevent these vulnerabilities. Here are some important steps to take when using public computers:
  • Do a quick inspection of the back of the computer and any USB ports to look for key logging devices. If you find something, and are not sure, contact the management immediately and have them investigate.
  • Never select the option to have “Windows remember me on this computer.” Do not allow the computer to store your username and password on the machine. Some web based email applications such as MSN will give you an option to tell it that you are on a public computer and not remember anything about your session.
  • Delete browser history, all temporary Internet files, and all cookies when you are finished using the computer.
  • Make sure you are logged out of any sites that you visited. Just closing the browser is not good enough. You must click the “Log out” link on the web site before closing the browser.
  • Close all instances of the web browser and all applications.
  • Make sure you take your flash drive when you leave.

Being the cheapskate that I am, however, my solution is that I try my best to only patronize hotels and coffee shops that provide complimentary Internet access to their guests. That way, I can avoid public computers altogether. But sometimes that just doesn’t work out, and I end up staying somewhere that makes me pay additional fees for access. In which case, the above solutions are a must.

PDAs/Blackberrys/Cell Phones:

Many of the same problems that exist with flash drives exist with these devices as well. They are small, easily lost, and can really store a lot of information. A Blackberry, for example is a phone, email client, and PDA all rolled into one. Emails, contact lists, to-do lists, documents, and personal journals are just a few of the things that can be kept on these devices. A lost phone device can not only give away sensitive data, but can give someone access to a free phone. And watch what you are discussing. What you say can be as revealing as anything else – especially if you are one of those people who puts everything on speaker phone, even when in public.

Solutions: Just as you can do with your flash drives, you can password protect and encrypt the data on your PDA as well. On my Blackberry, for example, I can password protect access and encrypt the contents. Not only that, but my Blackberry is set so that if someone types in an incorrect password ten times, the Blackberry erases all of the contents. Then, for added security, the data is encrypted, so that even if someone takes apart the Blackberry, and somehow gets the data off of the chip, the data is encrypted and unusable. Don’t discuss anything on your phone that you don’t want others in close proximity to hear. If you are sitting next to me on the plane, just don’t use your phone – period! I have no interest in what you have to say ;)


Saving the best and biggest for last: Laptops (and the data on them) need a lot of protection. They can carry a lot of data, and are very attractive to thieves. Keeping the laptop from being stolen is a job in and of itself, but if it does get stolen, there is more to worry about than just losing an expensive piece of hardware. Keeping the data on it from being compromised is the really important issue at hand, and if someone can access the data, they can potentially do a great deal of damage.

A big part of this problem is that even if they can’t log into the computer itself, and if they have the computer (physically), then they can remove the hard drive and put it into a computer that they can access. In fact, many data recovery techniques rely on taking the hard drive out of the failed (or in this case inaccessible) computer and “slave” it into a working computer. The working computer’s primary hard drive allows it to be booted up, and the slaved in hard drive contains data that can then be accessed. More clever people have freely available tools such as Knoppix (Linux on a CD) that they can use to boot up the computer, bypass the security on that computer, and access the data on the hard drive. In fact Knoppix can even be used to change the administrative password on a computer so that access can be gained through the more conventional method of booting up and logging in.

Solutions: There are some basic measures that will protect against access to a computer, but only if the computer is not stolen. In other words, these measures will work if you can keep the computer from being stolen. But once the computer is in unauthorized hands, these measures can be quickly bypassed. You can set a BIOS password that will prevent the computer from being booted into the operating system. But this is bypassed by simply taking the hard drive out of the computer and putting it into a different computer. Strong passwords for the operating system itself should also be used. As mentioned above, consider using temporary or “disposable” passwords. Small biometric devices, such as fingerprint readers, are fairly inexpensive, and many laptop and tablet computers have a fingerprint reader built in. Unfortunately, this can still be bypassed by putting the hard drive in another computer, or using a tool such as Knoppix to access the hard drive’s contents.

Encrypting the hard drive contents will help a great deal, even if the computer is stolen. Windows XP has the ability to do this using a built in feature. Windows Vista has a built in tool called BitLocker. Technologies such as that which is built into the BitLocker feature, for example, have the ability to protect data even if the hard drive is transferred to another computer. The downside of that is that you need to make sure you remember your password for logging into the computer, or set up what is known as a “recovery agent,” or you will lose your encrypted data.

Wrapping It All Up:

There are many other dangers that I haven’t mentioned here, such as accessing wireless networks while on the road, but that is a topic in and of itself. Wireless encryption, making sure you are not accessing an “evil twin” wireless access point, and a few other issues will be discussed in an upcoming article.

But for the purposes of this article, I wanted to focus mainly on the more ”physical” aspects of being secure on the road, as well as using built-in technologies to protect your data. Shielding your laptop screen from roaming eyes and preventing laptop theft are important ideas. If your laptop is stolen, knowing that you took measures to prevent the data from being usable by unauthorized people is also a very important idea. Other technologies, such as flash drives, cell phones, and PDAs represent things that are small, easily forgotten, or easily stolen. Those items contain sensitive data as well, and must have data security measures proactively applied. Once the data is in unauthorized hands, it must be assumed that it will be used for malicious or illegal purposes. Even if you retrieve your items, it must also be assumed that the information was copied and will be used – unless you took measures to make it useless in the event that a loss occurs.

It is easy to be complacent when traveling. And, unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there willing to take advantage of this fact. By taking a few extra moments to think about what needs to be protected, take inventory of your technology rich possessions, and take the extra time to protect your data, you will ensure a more worry-free travel experience. If I ever go into a hotel business center and see that you left your email open – man – I will hunt you down! (After I email a few jokes to your whole company, that is)

Additional Resources:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sneaky Gun Control Tactics

If you knew you couldn’t outright take something away from people, then how do you go about using other measures to effectively “ban” that thing by making it useless? Well… you would simply pretend to support people’s rights by telling them that you wouldn’t ban something, and instead use sneaky tactics behind the scenes to effectively do the same thing that your intended ban would do by so heavily regulating it that it is a useless right. Those who seek to take control of the White House aren't stupid. They know exactly how to sneak their agendas through because they know that the sheeple are gullible and will be willing recipients of their tactics. So – let’s take a look at how this is done...

The article “We're All Gun Nuts Now: The Democrats sidle up to the Second Amendment.” By John McCormack, which appears in the May 19, 2008 edition of The Weekly Standard, discusses how the presidential candidates answered (or more to the point sidestepped) questions about their support for gun control. They pleaded ignorance to briefs presented in the Washington D.C. versus Heller case, which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, and even outright denied participation in previous gun control polls and discussions. Then later they began to emerge with statements about how they:

“will not take away a law abiding citizen’s right to hunt target shoot (and later adding) defend their families…”

Basically, what this article points out is the obvious and well known notion that politicians will sidestep the issues while they are campaigning, then turn the tables and do whatever they darn well please once they are elected. They make statements about their support for the 2nd Amendment by saying things like:

“I support the 2nd Amendment, BUT…” or “I believe in ‘common sense’ and ‘reasonable’ gun laws…”

What they really mean is that they have a gun control agenda that they want to push through. They know that they can’t do it overtly, so they disguise it so as to be palatable or even a different thing altogether to try to fool even the reasonable gun owner. The rest of the brainwashed sheeple won’t care what it is that the politicians are trying to do – they are too lazy or stupid to do research, or they just plain don’t care about their rights being taken away one by one. Many of the people who fall into that category anyway (sheeple, I mean) prefer to live in a “nanny state” where the government takes care of all their needs. These types of laws, to them, are just additional assurance that the government is “looking out for them and doing what’s best for them.”This whole situation is nothing more than what is commonly referred to as the FUD tactic: Spreading Fear Uncertainty, and Doubt in order to sway people’s decisions through misinformation or deliberately omitting important information. If people are made to be oblivious or even fearful of things, even though the fears are completely unfounded, then they can be duped into being swept along in the tide of other unreasonable and fearful people to institute something that makes no sense whatsoever. But since they didn’t take the time to get all the facts, they have just ignorantly been convinced to make an unsound decision. And if some politician can promise to solve these fears and uncertainties, then the masses will blindly vote them into power.

As an aside: Yes – I just said “vote them into power” not “…office.” Politicians crave power – they have no intention of being voted into “office.” To be voted into “office” would mean that they are acknowledging that they are the servants to the people, as they were meant to be. They seem to forget the principles on which this country was founded. I seem to remember something about the “…consent of the governed…” being mentioned in our country’s founding documents, but I don’t see too many of these politicians caring about that anymore.But I think the FUD tactics of the ambitious politician are even more devious than that. Now that they know that an outright ban on firearms will not be supported, even by some of their own people (other politicians), they will resort instead to pushing forward with their version of "reasonable" controls and "common sense" gun laws. If they can’t ban something outright, they can surely regulate it to the extent that having it is useless. As an example, they will push forward with mandates for such things as requirements for expensive training, licensing, registration, ammunition stamping, ballistic fingerprinting and the like. Their outward message is:

"These are 'common sense' and 'reasonable' controls that will protect you and keep you safe."

The underlying, and actual theme of these controls are that they want to make firearm ownership and use so exorbitantly expensive that people will either lose interest altogether, or simply not be able to afford to maintain what they have (“I have a gun but now can't afford bullets”).

And what good is that right to bear firearms without bullets? That is like telling us that we can enjoy our 1st amendment rights, as long as we don’t use keyboards or Internet blogs to do so. What good is a right to bear firearms if I have to jump through so many hoops to register one that it takes a long time and a lot of money before I can have one? Last I checked, basic human rights were not supposed to have these types of conditions. And that is exactly what the liberal politicians are counting on to slip their horrid agendas through. They can then honestly make the claim:

“We did NOT infringe on your right to keep and bear arms.”

They just made it impossible for us to use them.In my opinion, what this does is effectively takes away firearm ownership from the lower income populations - the folks who probably need self defense measures the most, and makes it more difficult for even middle-class Americans to keep up with the costs of firearm ownership and use. The majority of people in these classes are easy to target because these same politicians come off with high emotions and promises of government benefits and programs to help them live better lives. The folks in lower or even moderate income families then have little to no other choice but to vote for these people because these are the politicians who give them the greatest chance of economic survival.

These promises greatly overshadow the politician’s lack of support and even downright hatred of even basic human rights. It is, after all, easier to control your citizens when they are unarmed. Basic human rights are supposed to be enjoyed by everyone, not just those who can afford them. Basic human rights are supposed to know no discrimination. But the elitist liberals want to be able to control who can do what, and they rely on a large population of dependant subjects in order to be able to exert power.

Sneaky tactics, FUD, and lying to the public are the tools of the politician to make people afraid of guns and to fool them into believing that more gun laws will keep them safe. Instead of focusing on ways to get the criminals off the streets, they are seeking to take away a basic human right from the law abiding of this country by taking away their tools of defense. What’s next – heavily regulate or ban pepper spray? Well, they’re trying to regulate that too, but that is the topic of another article.
It is obvious who is going to probably end up with the Democratic nomination. In my opinion, Barack Obama is one such politician who favors and employs these types of sneaky tactics and FUD to put gun ownership out of the reach of most Americans, while making the statement:

“I support your 2nd amendment right to bear arms."

and crossing his fingers behind his back. He can say that all day long, while pushing and backing laws that will make our rights essentially worthless.

The 2nd Amendment of our Bill of Rights guarantees that our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Even the clause in the 2nd Amendment that talks about the “…well regulated militia…” infers that this is an individual right. Who makes up the militia, anyway? We the people make up any potential militia! We the people are the last line of defense in the event of another attack on American soil. We the people also have the right (and responsibility) to defend our families, but these liberal power-mongers don’t feel that we have that right.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Decision to Be an Armed Citizen – Part 3

The Mental Side of Being an Armed Citizen:

And NO – I am not referring to anything even hinting of those of us who carry having mental illness, being a mental defective, or any such nonsense. In fact, all of the gun owners and CCW permit holders I know are at the top of the list of the most mentally and emotionally stable people I know. Having acute awareness and mental abilities is a key factor in the persona who carries a concealed weapon. Mindset is an important ingredient in self defense, and being mentally prepared for the worst is a part of my strategy. Thinking about the various scenarios and knowing what actions I will take is one of my most valuable weapons.

In this segment, I would like to focus one of the most valuable self defense weapons available – the human mind. And while I am by no means a psychologist or expert of emotional well being in any way (I am a computer geek, after all), I do know that being aware, mentally prepared, and decisive in action is a key ingredient to survival.

Situational and Environmental Awareness:

In all honesty, I feel that a significant part of our society is made up of unaware, self consumed individuals. For example, I ride a motorcycle – and I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have been cutoff and almost hit by people on their cell phones or engaging in other activities while driving which distracts them to the point that they can’t even pay attention to what is going on around them. These people can’t stop for simple stop-signs, and even by one woman I observed was eating a bowl of cereal (I’m not kidding) while driving her minivan. Some people seem to always be on their phones, and the funny thing is, they don’t really seem to be talking about anything earth shattering.

Then there are just those who seem to be looking at their shoes all the time, or are obviously in another place while they are out and about. I have a name for these people: they are simply the “unaware” of our society. Unfortunately, the criminal element is aware of these people as well, and they have their own name for them: “Victim!”

In my refusal to be a victim or to allow myself to be caught unaware by some piece of street scum who is looking for his next victim, I am chosen instead to be aware of what’s going on around me. I wish I could offer some advice on how to train yourself to do this, because for me it just comes naturally. I was in the Navy, and spent a great deal of my time on the flight deck, and working around aircraft. Our saying was: “Keep your head on a swivel.” To this day, I find myself being aware of everything around me. I was fortunate; this is part of the incidental training that I received due to my profession. For those of you who need some training in this arena, I suggest you read “How to Win a Gunfight: Gaining the Half-Second Advantage” by Tony Walker (ISBN 0-7414-4341-4. This wonderful book is full of insights on how to become more aware, and how to practice some of the other elements of self defense.

Stress Relief and Physical Fitness:

I read somewhere that anger has no place in the life of someone who carries a concealed weapon. That really struck me as profound. One of the wildest stereotypes that the anti-gun people have of us is that we will get angry and go on a wild shooting rampage. Well for one thing, multitudes of studies have shown that the “wild west” and “road rage” aspects of regular citizens carrying concealed weapons has never come to pass. In fact, the more articles I read, the more I am convinced of something I already believed; law abiding citizens who carry weapons tend to be more polite and avoiding of situations that would illicit an armed response. If someone is unhappy with me, I simply nod and walk away. They may call me names, and they may insult me. But that is just something that I have learned to live with over the years. Getting into any type of altercation, armed or not, has just never been worth the outcomes.

So what does one do to get rid of the stress and anger? We all get angry, we all get stressed. And in the case of having to walk away from a situation, it is likely that pride and dignity will suffer to some extent. For me, physical fitness plays an important part of that stress relief. I’m not a spring chicken any more, so going to the gym regularly helps to relieve stress, but it also helps to add longevity and quality to life. In fact, one of the other aspects of self defense is agility, stamina, and the ability to gain (as Tony Walker puts it) that “half-second advantage.” An hour in the gym and I feel totally different and recharged.

But since I’m mentioning stress relief, there is another technique that my wife and I use for stress relief: going to the range! And no, I’m not talking about taking along effigies of our most hated co-worker or anything like that. We participate in a weekly shooting league at our favorite indoor pistol range. Each week, the targets are varied, the distances of the targets are varied, and the scoring is varied. For about an hour a week, we go to the range, the shooting scenario unknown to us until we arrive, and we spend that time concentrating on those targets and getting the best score that we can. During that time, we are thinking of nothing else! All thoughts of our hectic work day have literally vanished, and we are all consumed in having fun at the range. We share ideas on shooting techniques, we meet new people, and we enjoy talking with the proprietors on the gun shop. This relates to physical fitness also because we are practicing new and varied ways to shoot, different types of targets, and shooting at different ranges. In other words, we are getting a frequently changing look at the dynamic of shooting and practicing with our weapons. We go home and talk about the evening at the range and just enjoy the fact that we have yet another activity that we enjoy doing together. Having that aspect of my life in solidly good shape allows me personally to put everything else into place as well.

Thoughts While Out and About:

So what am I thinking about while out there running my daily errands? Mostly on my minds is how to be as completely invisible as possible. I want to be the person that no one notices. So to that end, I don’t go out of my way to attract attention, and I certainly don’t go out of my way to give any clue that I am carrying a weapon. What this means is that I am careful about how I get out of my car, lest my firearm be exposed, and I am aware of what other types of people are in the area. For example, if a mother and her young children are in the area, I especially don’t want the youngsters seeing my gun. I know that some people are afraid of guns, no matter how much we have proven that there is nothing to be afraid of, and I don’t want anyone needlessly feeling afraid or uneasy around me. So for those reasons alone, I am very cognizant of making sure that my concealed weapon is just that: concealed!

A very important part of my thought process is in knowing where I can or cannot go if I am carrying a firearm. I know that some establishments don’t care either way, while still others adamantly refuse entrance to holders of valid CCW permits if they have weapons. So essentially, I do the best I can to know who has what policy, and to respect their wishes. But I will say this about the establishments who refuse to allow law abiding citizens to carry their concealed weapons into their businesses: I won’t give them my business period. But it’s not because I think they possess some liberal, anti-gun mind-set. It is specifically because they have made the statement that I am not welcome to use my chosen method of self defense while on their premises. If I or my family were to be in one of these types of places, and an armed gunman appears, they are disallowing me the means to defend myself. They have no intention of providing for my protection while I am there, however, as seen by the lack of armed guards in any of these places. Additionally, my state law makers have made it clear to me that I cannot hold them legally liable for damages, death, or injury if I or my family is harmed in their “gun free” zone.

Constantly on my mind when I am out and about is an awareness of other people, particularly who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys.” I try not to be judgmental, but let’s face it: you can just tell sometimes, who are the average citizens walking around, and who the lower forms of human existence are. Going to the mall, for example, it is painfully obvious who the vultures are because you can see them sizing up everyone, following people around, and in general looking like they have no purpose in life other than to find their next victim. This is the same behavior seen on nature channels when the jackals are sizing up their next meal. The baggy pants, the hat cocked sideways, the less than understandable grammar. It is obvious they aren’t there to do their shopping and leave – they just seem to be there perpetually as if that is their place of employment. Well, perhaps it is. I’m suspicious of everyone, and I spend a lot of time observing people. Unless you are completely unaware of your surroundings, you kind of have an idea who you can (mostly) ignore, and who you need to keep your eye on. Being aware is to be prepared, and being prepared means you are watching them more closely than the rest. The best thing I try to do is just avoid the places where these maggots seem to congregate the most, but sometimes what you need is at the place where the vultures hang out: The shopping mall and Wal-Mart seem to be the two most likely places where the dregs of society can be found here in my small town.

Wrapping it all up:

As you can see throughout this article series, I have tried to illustrate that I do indeed consider being an armed citizen to be a serious and awesome responsibility. These aren’t the ravings of some “gun nut” who just wants to be able to carry his “toys” everywhere. This is the mindset of a free man who values his and his family’s safety above all else. Self defense is a basic human right. I owe it to my family to live a long life and provide for their well being and safety. This is my responsibility, not that of the government. I don’t want to rely on anyone else to carry out those responsibilities which are mine alone, but at the same time I don’t want anyone thinking that they have the right to take my abilities to perform my responsibilities away from me. The founders of our country made it clear that we were endowed these rights by our Creator, and that idea is still valid today. Technologies have changed, and the population of criminals has increased from their day, but what was spoken then is still valid now. My right to defend myself and my family is absolutely and unequivocally non-negotiable!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Decision to Be an Armed Citizen – Part 2

In Part 1 of this article series, I discussed the “why” with regards to the decision to become an armed citizen. It’s really very straight forward: I want to protect my family because the government and law enforcement are under no obligation to do so. I have accepted this, and will gladly take on this responsibility. My family means that much to me. It’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. Self defense is a basic human right, and a responsibility that I have fully accepted.

I would like to continue this article series by using this segment to explain some of the things with which I equip myself when I carry. I will discuss such things as what I wear, what I carry, how I carry, and a term that I refer to as “defense in depth.” This isn’t by any means meant to be a recipe for others to follow. My strategies won’t work for everyone. And there are far greater numbers of experts out there who can tell you more about tactics, training, and self defense than I could ever hope to. Rather, I hope to give some examples of some things that have helped me, and to help you decide for yourself what will work best for you.

So now that I have made this decision, how does it affect my daily life? Surely, one doesn’t just strap on a gun and go walking around. There are certain places an armed citizen can and cannot go, and certain things an armed citizen has to do a bit differently than before. As I mentioned before, the decision to be an armed citizen affects not only the person who is armed, but practically everyone around them. There is still a lot of fear and apprehension about guns out in the community. Some people believe in the right to be armed, but simply choose not to be. Then there are others who don’t believe that citizens should have guns at all, as well as those who are morbidly afraid of firearms. The latter is a result of lack of education (about firearms) and misinformation from a biased media in my opinion, and I will speak more to that in a later segment in this series.

Oh, What to Wear:

A recent cartoon I saw on the Internet depicted a person who was carrying a concealed weapon making the statement: “Having a concealed weapon is like wearing Power Rangers underwear; both are very cool, but you don’t dare show anybody.” There is a lot of truth to that. Having a concealed weapon, in my opinion, means that it stays concealed – period! There are a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we keep our handguns concealed primarily because it keeps the bad guys guessing and gives us the element of surprise. Secondly, quite a few states have “shall issue laws for concealed carry permits, but not all of those states have “open carry” laws. This means that if you have a concealed firearm, it must stay concealed, lest you be arrested for public menacing. And finally, firearms just make some people frightened. I submit that those fears are irrational, but those fears are very real to those people; why put them through needless worry and stress? They have every right to feel as comfortable in their surroundings as we do. And their worry and stress tends to lead to unwanted attention drawn to yourself, and perhaps the requirement to explain yourself to law enforcement when those more frightened people freak out and call the police.

Wardrobe decisions are just something that has never plagued me before. I was in the Navy for twenty years – my daily attire was chosen for me. After leaving the service, I have been mostly a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. Even when I am at work, jeans and a decent sport shirt or polo shirt are considered appropriate for my office. But carrying a concealed weapon means that your attire has to support concealment. Flaunting a weapon for the reasons that I have already discussed is just not something that I want to do. Colorado is an open carry state, and I have a permit, so either way I am covered. But the fewer people who know I am carrying the better. In fact, when I took my daughter to the mall recently, she had no clue I was carrying my handgun. Concealed means concealed – it’s as simple as that for me.

The particular handgun that I carry at the moment seems to be most conducive to being holstered. It is fairly small (compact, but not sub-compact), but I feel I can retrieve it from a paddle holster on my hip better than some of the other types of holsters I have tried. And I tried several holsters before making this decision. I have a few other holsters that I try from time to time. As moods change and clothing changes, so too can the holster if needed.

My carry gun is large enough, however, that an in-waist-band holster scheme doesn’t seem to feel very comfortable at all. The paddle holster keeps it fairly high on my hip, but I still need to wear a long shirt or sweat-shirt to keep it concealed. I just bought some long shirts and leave them un-tucked – voila! Seems to work well now (early spring – and it even snowed this morning), but in the summer I may have to change that strategy a bit. Concealment vests are a good idea, but the looks of some of them on a person seems to scream out “Hey! I’m carrying a gun!” Same with fanny packs. Around here, I can spot a person carrying a gun in a fanny pack from a mile away – they all have the same haircut, and they always have the big bulging fanny pack in front. You can just tell.

What About Other Gear:

The type of holster and how to conceal were really the biggest decisions I had to make. Once I chose the best way to conceal my firearm so I could comfortably carry it around, the big issues were over. Beyond that, however, there are other things that I feel are necessary. Being in the information security biz, the term “defense in depth” is a large part of my daily vocabulary. Securing information takes a variety of tools to keep networks, computers and data safe. Self defense is really no different. A firearm is not always going to be the best or only method for defense from an attack.

There are many types of attacks, and there are many types of defenses. Criminal attacks are not the only attacks. And certainly there are people who feel bold enough to get in your personal space because they are angry for whatever reason, but they aren’t really intent on committing a violent crime. I live in an area with lots of wildlife. We have foxes in the neighborhood regularly. Bears and mountain lions have been known to come down out of the mountains, as have coyotes. There are stray dogs as well. For example, at least twice in recent weeks while walking my dog, some stray dogs have attacked me and one other person near me while I was out. My dog is small, so I picked him up, and kicking the attacking dogs was enough to send them off. On a walk the other day, a gentleman and his dog were attacked by a large dog, and the dog drew blood. If I had not turned around to retrieve a forgotten item from the house before the walk that would have been my dog and me getting attacked. But had that happened to us, would drawing my weapon and shooting the dog been a viable solution? Certainly not! It was simply a case of a large, strong dog getting away from its owner. A good shot of pepper spray would have likely turned the dog away, and the dog would have lived. The owner would have been upset, but that would have been their problem. When animal control showed up, I think they had enough to worry about explaining how their big dog got away and attacked someone.

The point is that a firearm is not always the best or even most responsible defense. Shooting a dog or their owner, or even just shooting an obnoxious jerk that is getting in your face, for example, will probably land you in jail. But using the amount of defensive force commensurate with the attack is usually considered reasonable and prudent. If someone refuses to get out of your face and is getting close enough to be a threat, a shot in the face with pepper spray may do the trick. A potential attacker approaching in a dark parking lot may be scared away when a tactical grade flashlight is shined in their eyes, temporarily blinding them. I don’t care how “bad” you think you are – someone flashing a tactical grade flashlight in your eyes gives you pause to think about what else that person might also be carrying. So carrying other defensive tools might also serve as a deterrent in that it says that you are prepared and willing to act – and escalate your actions if warranted.

Having multiple tools at your disposal is a wise decision. So for that reason, besides the firearm, I carry other items such as a cell phone, pepper spray, a knife, and a flashlight. I consider these items the absolute minimum. And the beauty is that these additional items are relatively small, and I don’t have to feel like I am carrying a hardware store around in my pockets. Even if I am in a place where I cannot carry a gun for legal or other reasons, the other items are usually acceptable and legal.

By choosing the right types of self defense items, you will also have useful tools to deploy in multiple ways. For example, a good defensive flashlight and certain types of pepper spray come in the same shape and size of a kubotan stick. These can then be easily used to jab into bony or fleshy parts and inflict a great deal of pain in a close-in encounter. Surefire, for example makes a flashlight known as the E2D Executive Defender, which has a crenellated strike bezel which can also be used as a close-in striking tool to inflict injury and pain. A good tactical flashlight will help you look inside and underneath your car in a poorly lit parking lot, and will also temporarily blind someone who is approaching you.

Having defense in depth provides a greater deal of security than simply replying on one single tool – just as you have many tools to do all your household chores, so should you have many tools to provide for your safety.

Wrapping It All Up:

To me, carrying concealed means just what it implies. I don’t want anyone to know I am carrying a firearm, or any other weapons for that matter. It is important to me that the bad guys don’t know who is carrying – it keeps them guessing. And I know that there are a lot of frightened people out there who freak out at even the mention of firearms. Why put them through undue stress? In fact, as I am sitting here typing this from a public coffee shop, none of the people here have a clue that there is an armed citizen in their midst – and I intend to keep it that way. I’m not going to change their minds about the benefit of being armed in the time of our brief encounter – so why try? Why go through having to explain to them that their fears are irrational and that they are safe as kittens around me? It just isn’t worth it, but it is worth avoiding the situation altogether.

Beyond the act of concealment, I consider self defense to be a matter of employing the right tools for the job. That is why I carry a variety of self defense items such as cell phones, a knife, tactical flashlight, and pepper spray, and of course - my wits.

In Part 3 of this series, I will sum up this series by discussing what mental preparations and decisions I make when I am out and about, and by trying to impart a few thoughts about why I feel that carrying a firearm is right for me. Some of this preparation may seem burdensome or inconvenient – but to me it is not. As I stated last time: I look at this as a necessary part of life as an armed citizen.

Back to Part 1

On to Part 3

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Decision to Be an Armed Citizen – Part 1

What is it that makes a normal, every day computer geek who lives in a small town decide to carry a concealed weapon? After all, the town I live in is not an extraordinarily high crime area. I live in a good neighborhood and work in a fairly secure building. I have a family, two dogs, a bunch of mundane hobbies, and I don’t purposely hang out in dangerous areas. I have never personally witnessed a crime, and have never been the victim of an armed criminal. Although I have noticed that the local mall, even in this small town, seems to attract the dregs of society that hang out there with nothing to do except size up other people and decide who to harass – but that’s another part of the story.

A decision to carry a concealed weapon, after all, carries with it an awesome responsibility – why would I decide to be responsible for the myriad of issues that comes with it? By deciding to carry a concealed weapon I have decided that I am willing to take a human life if necessary. I have decided that I am willing to be put in the position to quickly decide in an emergency situation whether or not to run, shoot, or even if my decision will be the correct (and legally defensible) one. Finally, this decision carries with it a notable change in lifestyle.

But despite all that, I made a conscious decision to carry a concealed weapon. In the next few articles (not sure how many parts yet), I would like to document and share my decision making process with you to help you understand what makes a normal citizen make such a potentially life changing decision. This series of articles will chronicle the decision making process, the social responsibilities of carrying a concealed weapon (as I understand them to be), and the significant lifestyle changes that one goes through once getting the permit and carrying a firearm.

Making the Initial Leap:

First, I’ll tell you a little bit about the “how” of my decision making processes. This is not, or certainly SHOULD not be an easy decision. In my case, it took a great deal of thought, prayer, research, and certainly training. Thought and prayer in this decision were the easy part. I felt that if I placed my trust in the Lord’s hands, that He would guide me toward the answers – and I believe He did. Faith that God designed us to be responsible for certain aspects of our lives, self defense being one of them, led me to what I believe is the right conclusion about carrying a weapon during my daily life.

For the research, I consulted many sources, among which being the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, and various other Internet discussion forums. Then, there are numerous blogs, discussion forums, and news sources documenting the many instances where an armed citizen was able to save themselves and others around them by carrying and calling upon their weapon.

For the training, I relied partly on my prior experiences handling firearms, which told me that constant training is always needed. It started out as a venture to take my spouse to a basic pistol course, to get her familiar with firearms, and to pick up new insights on concealed carry for myself. From there, training evolved into regular visits to the range, getting involved in competitive shooting events, and constantly reading articles and books from noted authors on concealed carry and self defense. Training and gaining new knowledge about firearms and self defense is a daily part of my routine these days.

Now for the seemingly more philosophical yet most important part - the “why” part - of this whole decision process: It has become painfully clear to me that even in a small town like the one in which my family and I live, there are still bad people who wish to do others harm. We still hear about home invasions, store robberies, people getting robbed in their own driveways, and various other violent crimes, right here in our part of the state! A major city with noted gang activity is not far away – it is only a matter of time before the criminals get bored and decide to take their show on the road. And because I have a spouse, children, and two dogs, all of whom I love very much, I am willing to protect them. My willingness to protect them includes using deadly force if necessary.

The Philosophy and the Reasoning:

My willingness to protect my family goes beyond a mere philosophical need to prove that I am a good person and provider, however. I believe that I have a personal responsibility to protect them and provide for their safety. This responsibility is found in Biblical teaching, and further rooted in my own beliefs. The Supreme Court has made it perfectly clear that the government and police have no obligation to protect us as individuals (a noteworthy example being the 2005 case of Castle Rock versus Gonzales). I accept this. I am perfectly willing and able to take on this obligation and do my part.

But I feel this obligation even transcends my obligation to just my family. Research has shown that areas that have more armed citizens experience fewer violent crimes. The more armed citizens there are the more uncertainty the criminals have. Who is carrying a weapon and who is not? This dramatically increases the criminal’s risks of being stopped, injured, or even killed during the commission of their crime. Studies by people such as Dr. John Lott have shown that an entire community is safer because of the population of people who carries concealed weapons. In fact, even noted anti-gun advocate and University of Pennsylvania professor David Mustard has had to admit that citizens who carry do not add to gun violence and do in fact make their communities safer:

"When I started my research on guns in 1995, I disliked firearms... My views on this subject were formed primarily by media accounts of firearms, which unknowingly to me systematically emphasized the cost of firearms while virtually ignoring their benefits. I thought it obvious that passing laws that permitted law abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms would create many problems. But research has convinced me that laws that require right-to-carry permits to be granted unless the applicant has a criminal record or a history of significant mental illness reduce violent crime and have no impact on accidental deaths."

Source: "Culture Affects Our Beliefs About Firearms, But Data Are Also Important," 151 U. Penn. Law Review, 1387, 2003

I want my family to be safe, but beyond that, I want my entire community to be a good and safe place to live.

Wrapping It All Up:

So for these reasons, and more, I have decided to become an armed citizen. As you can see, such a decision requires a lot of thought, and for many people like me, is not an easy decision. But now that I have made the leap and obtained my permit, I have now stepped into a new life. In the next article, I will talk about how some of my daily wardrobe habits have changed to accommodate my carrying a concealed weapon, and the types of other things that I have to think about carrying. But as you will see, I don’t look on any of this as a burden or an inconvenience. I look at this as a necessary part of life as an armed citizen.

On to Part 2

On to Part 3