Political Passion Shouldn’t Be Hatred and Vitriol

Whelp, here we are.  It reminds me of that joke: an entitled criminal and an inflammatory bully slam the door in the face of an amiable grandfatherly socialist as they walk into a bar … Oh wait?  That’s not how it goes?  Is it because I forgot to add that there’s a New Mexican sitting in the bar claiming he’s all about fiscal rectitude and legalized marijuana?

What an awful state of affairs, right?  You’re absolved for thinking that, but before you panic, let’s consider a few things.

Does it matter who the U.S. President is in your daily life?

How many of you have ever met a U.S. President?  I have, and I’m sure some of you have, but I’m equally sure that most of you haven’t.  How is my life different from having met a few?  Well, I have some posed, signed pictures to hang on the wall, but other than that, it’d be hard for me to come up with much to say about it in terms of life-changing effects.

That you likely haven’t says a lot about how important a U.S. President is in your daily life—as in not very.  Further, unless you work for the federal government (thank you Mr. President for announcing on December 5 that we are getting December 26th off too!) or you’re in the military subject to participating in military actions, it’s even less than that.

It’s now President Obama’s last year in office; regardless of your opinion about him or his performance, what are the things that he has done that have directly affected you?  Not tangentially, but directly—where your life changed in some tangible way?

I’ve only got two things: getting that day after Christmas in 2014 as a bonus holiday and Obamacare.  The first is positive and the second is incredibly negative.  True story: if you don’t qualify for a subsidized policy on the exchange, it’s akin to paying something for nothing, and don’t we all love doing that!

Now I’m not saying that who will be the next leader of the free world is unimportant—nor am I saying that you shouldn’t care—but I am saying that to you, whoever is president likely matters a whole lot less than whomever your community leaders, your state representatives, your governor, and your congressional representatives all are.  These are the office holders who have more influence to help or hurt you directly.

And yet, the way our electoral cycle works, presidential election years are motivating.  Voters who ordinarily express no political preferences come out of the woodwork with very definitive and inflexible points of view.  Federal office holders fret over coattails since these are the years more vote.  The media scrutinize or talk amongst themselves as if their opinions were news—yes, I’m looking at you Fox & Friends.

And we all fall into line thinking that if our candidate doesn’t win, then the world will end and we’ll have to move to Canada.

Other reasons we get whipped into a frenzy over presidential elections is our desire to be able to identify with the candidate, as if we are saying something intrinsic about our own character by whom we support.  Isn’t the President the face of the nation? How can we be a likeable person if our candidate isn’t?

Or if you won’t have a beer with that candidate, what happens to that after work drink with your co-worker who supports her?

Political scientists acknowledge that there is this thing of “hate Congress, but like your Congressman” or at least hate him less because if you needed something, they are actually accessible

While it does feel like a strange presidential election year, I’m not terribly verklempt because I’m not confident that who wins will affect me enough that it matters.  And here’s why: in my humble, or perhaps not so, opinion, if you’re a Republican, it’d behoove you to be grateful for the Democrats—and vice-versa.

You perhaps already know I’m touchy about those who can’t explain why they are a “D” or an “R;” or choose “I” to avoid being tainted by whiffs of socialism or ridiculous bathroom laws instead of taking a principled stand in a way that might cause a party platform to change.  This is because I’m a creature of ideology and decision rules.  I believe things for a reason, and I understand events in terms of rational choices and re-running my decision calculus when I happen across new data.

Sparing you didactic political theory lectures and multiple citations, roughly, conservatism is things like: Plato had a point that is still relevant today; government really is a Leviathan who does not generally have our best interests at heart and thus needs checks on its power; limited government does not mean no government, it means a government who provides public goods, deals with other countries, stays out of personal matters, and resolves market failures; and, if the Leviathan ventures into the land of regulation, the goal is to create equality of opportunity and allow citizens to rise and fall as the result of their own efforts.

In contrast, liberalism (aka progressivism, not classical liberalism because that’s actually conservatism, confused yet?) assumes that prior cultural and philosophical thinking cannot be trusted given that every day we are shown the fruits of our folly (e.g. slavery, prejudice, sexism); government is a force for good that resolves conflicts and raises all boats regardless of the tide; and government having a say-so (i.e. regulation) about every activity is to protect us, not to control or to harm us; and, where all legislative efforts hew to a desire to protect citizens from themselves and each other in a bid for equality of outcome.

Or maybe you don’t quite agree with my nutshell descriptions.  After all, Republicans were recently embroiled in bathroom law tomfoolery.  Seriously Republican Partiers, don’t we think that our government should NOT be legislating personal behavior?

Evidently to my chagrin, it appears that we Republicans will go for invasive social laws whenever we can cast women or kids as victims.  That seems to be the decision rule—and while I may be a victim on occasion, I’m confident it’s not purely because of my gender.

And it’s why I’m grateful for Democrats.  Truly, I see our political system as a tug of war game.  Republicans lined up along the rope across the mud pit from a line of Democrats holding the other side.  Each side is straining back and forth to keep the other side honest.  Democrats are preventing Republicans from being too hard on folks in their desire to focus on opportunity, and Republicans are preventing Democrats from saying equality only exists if everyone has exactly the same (or enough as deemed by … the Leviathan?)  Regardless of how you characterize it, what happens if one side abandons its cause?  EVERYONE falls down and into the mud.  In other words, each side needs the other to keep both from going off the deep end.

That’s all well and good, but who really votes ideologically anyway?  Isn’t it really all about cake?

When I was in 6th grade, my class held a mock election for that year’s gubernatorial race.  The candidates were a Republican (who won, then became the state university president, and is now a U.S. Senator who won’t respond to my emails) and a Democrat (who lost and was subsequently convicted for bank fraud foreshadowing the Lincoln savings and loan scandal) (i.e. clues to figure out what state and when). But we were just 12; we didn’t know any of that, and we were just supporting who our parents were.  In fact, I recall our debate issue was about that very important government service of filling roadway potholes in a timely manner.  Given an even number of students, none of whom were shy about declaring their support publicly, it meant the election should have ended in a tie.

Until the day itself, where one party’s candidate squeaked by with just one vote.  But how?  It didn’t take long to find the turncoat.  And when I asked why she had changed her vote, she—looking at me as if I were an idiot—said, “Because they had cake.”  Evidently, the victor’s side had indeed handed out slices of chocolate cake in return for a verified vote for their candidate.

However, whichever side you’re on—whether it’s ideology or cake you care about—I beg you to consider three things.

Firstly, question what you hear—especially when it’s saying one side is the devil.  Everyone in Hollywood is a liberal?  Maybe not.

President Obama gets accolades for saying, “That’s how democracy works.  So you’ve got to be committed to participating not just if you get immediate gratification, but you got to be a citizen full-time, all the time” at a university commencement speech. But Justice Clarence Thomas at a different commencement speech given the same week said, “At the risk of understating what is necessary to preserve liberty in our form of government, I think more and more that it depends on good citizens, discharging their daily duties in their daily obligations.”

Switch the quotes, and I don’t think anyone would notice.

Secondly, cake. We all like it. We all want and get some. There is no moral high ground here.

And last but not least, and in fact this may be the most important.  A presidential win is not a mandate to run roughshod over the other side.  That’s really what democracy means; the losers still exist, still have rights, still have representation, and you cannot grind them into the dust to cease to exist forevermore.  Hate guns and your gun-hating candidate wins?  The Second Amendment still stands.  Think welfare programs encourage people to give up looking for work and stay “on the dole”?  If so, the solution still isn’t to be inhumane and offer no safety net to the poor.

As for cake?  Whoever wins, you’ll get about the same amount regardless of who is in the White House and who the majority parties in Congress are.

Go ahead and passionately support a candidate for president.  I would never gainsay political passion.  But being passionate for a candidate doesn’t need to mean vitriol and a desire to wipe the floor with the other side.

 

Your Behavior Tells People Who You Are

This presidential election year is comparable to 1828 – the “dirtiest ever” – and for much the same reasons: internal party conflict and a bombastic fisticuffs-inclined candidate (the incumbent Andrew Jackson); one candidate appealing to the “common folk” and another to the elitist, white New England establishment; and, the hurling of accusations of adultery, use of prostitutes, and improper use of government funds. Sound familiar? I’ve almost abandoned looking at Facebook; it’s full of purple-prose political memes (e.g. Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Cruz) and ad hominem attacks betraying the sad fact that apparently many people take the easy rhetorical route rather than thinking about the issues at hand and just why they consider themselves a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian, or a liberal, progressive or conservative; truly, if you cannot articulate what the label you give yourself means, then why are you so meme-proud of it?

Political cartoons, on the other hand, mock in a funny or Schadenfreude way that draws attention to an hypocrisy or some detail left unsaid.  This too is a rich American tradition. In some ways, political cartoons work like ugly memes.  If you agree, they make you laugh.  If you don’t, you just think its unfunny and perhaps partisan.  But in other ways, political cartoons are an important way to keep things honest.  They serve a critical function in reminding us all of those things that are ignored in service of framing an issue positively for political gain.

Today, I saw this political cartoon that sent me back to 2012:

Benghazi-4-Forgotten

It’s true, Hillary Clinton said that statement verbatim. And she said it when referring to the 2011 U.S.-backed overthrow of the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.  In other words, it is a true statement.  But simultaneously disingenuous, because, on September 11, 2012, four Americans – three US Foreign Service Officers from our Department of State and the Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens – were killed in Benghazi by terrorists (rebel forces perhaps if you’re Libyan) in a country destabilized by our military intervention in 2011.

I, too, was a Foreign Service Officer at that time and had the privilege of attending 7th floor events at Main State (aka HST) in Washington, DC where then-Secretary Clinton often spoke. One event that resonated with me was in support of Amelia Earhart.  There Clinton repeated an oft-told story about receiving a letter from NASA written in response to her adolescent desire to become an astronaut. The response she received? A polite letter telling her that women just could not do that. Whether true or merely allegorical, if you want to consider what may have influenced Clinton’s brand of feminism, it may just be that. We forget today what it was like then; even the State Department as late as 1970 expected their own female Foreign Service Officers to resign if they married (and men’s annual reviews still rated them on how well their wives planned a party). And I have to say, whenever I witnessed Clinton speaking with/to State employees, she was unfailingly warm, open, smiling, and encouraging.  I suspect that’s the Clinton who inspires such dogged loyalty among her close circle of friends and advisors. Like pundits say, it “humanized” her to me.  At the time, I – a conservative – actually mused, “hmm, maybe I could vote for Clinton one day.”

And then Benghazi happened. I never had the privilege to meet Ambassador Stevens, although I knew who he was because much was made of re-opening the US Embassy in Tripoli and his return at the helm.  I was also aware about the security aspect of the return because at the time, I was friendly with many of the State Department Diplomatic Security Special Agents sent to assist with the reestablishment of the Embassy and to provide on-going protection for staff and the Ambassador. They all enjoyed working with Ambassador Stevens and told me stories about what a stand-up guy he was.

It’s a big stretch to blame Clinton for the Benghazi attack.  While yes, she was leading the State Department, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is a big bureau and when it is in-country, it generally has to work with the Department of Defense or the CIA if they are too.  And in the tussle of who is top dog, Diplomatic Security usually loses out to the other two.  But then, out of the congressional inquiry we learn about Clinton’s use of both personal email and personal server.  Without a doubt, she wilfully ignored State Department policy, and she endangered staff in the field by sharing both classified and “sensitive but unclassified” (SBU) information. It seems that Clinton, her State circle, and those outside of State were freely discussing classified and SBU information routed through an off-site server without any security controls as set by State, making it even more vulnerable to hacking.

Here’s the deal: when using the State Department’s email system, it is possible to mark the classification of all emails personal, unclassified or SBU. The latter is still considered close-hold because while each fact may not be classified, if combined they can ladder up to a classified fact. This system is known as Open Net and works like your own Gmail account (including keyword scanning by State to maintain SBU compliance). Classified emails are sent on a self-contained system. Thus, if someone was emailing actual classified information on the Open Net, it was deliberate. If an email was marked classified retroactively, it’s because it was SBU information that now that other facts are known, becomes part of a classified whole – and State employees are supposed to be aware of this possibility and take it into account with their emails.

To me it’s irrelevant what former Secretaries did since State’s email system didn’t exist in the same format during their tenure. Clinton was the first who had this full option and she ignored it.  Instead, with intent, she shielded herself from regular oversight and record-keeping. Had I done either of those things, my clearance would’ve been yanked, I would have been terminated, and I would’ve been prosecuted and served at a minimum probation.

My personal opinion is that she did so in service of her political ambitions, thinking that if she could keep her emails away from FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, NARA (National Archives Records Administration) compliance, and internal controls scanning, she could tamp down on leaks and manage her image better for her presidential campaign.  It is my understanding that per NARA, the expectation is if personal email is used, then it should be forwarded to an official government account. Clinton waited until she departed the State Department to do this, but then did not turn over what we’re all looking at now until the Congress forced her hand and demanded it.

It’s a bit of irony that what she did instead meant that more of her emails have been publicly shared than would have been done otherwise. And I think that Clinton should be dealt with in the same manner as Former Gen. Petraeus. Though I doubt that will happen prior to the election.  I suspect that if there is any indictment before November, the immunity granted to Bryan Pagliano will result in a charge against either Huma Abedin (Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff and senior advisor) or Cheryl Mills (Clinton’s Chief of Staff) because most had to email either of them to get to Clinton (another key learning from the public email release).

Your behavior, not your words, tell people who you are; and past history is future character. The media to date have done a poor job explaining the serious nature of what Clinton did. It’s disheartening to me that there are voters who support a potential Commander-in-Chief who with intent broke the law, selfishly ignored the policies of her own agency that others would have been fired for doing, and displayed a habit of being careless with critical information.  Democrat or Republican, we Americans all deserve better.

 

In New Mexico, We Don’t Bowl Alone

The night of the November 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris, I was suddenly grateful for the miracles of Facebook as my friends all checked in safely. The few days earlier ISIS attacks in Lebanon had me worrying about an aid-worker friend who I last knew to be living there; luckily, I found a few days later that she’s now living “safely” in Libya. Here in America, the overwhelming reaction? Just say no to Syrian refugees. This, after months of tittering at how quickly European nations went from “welcome all” to “uh oh.” This, given that most Americans were ignorant that we, via the Department of State, have a Refugee Admissions Program that works in concert with the United Nations to resettle refugees here. Which is how we wound up with the latest election-year political football narrative of states refusing to take Syrian refugees.

That violent extremists seek to enter the United States and harm us is a credible fear. That there might be violent extremists amongst a pool of vetted refugees just waiting for their chance (like the Russia-loyal Communist sleeper cells of the Cold War era) is a credible fear. That young men, whose desire to belong make them susceptible to messages of righteousness, salvation, violence and hatred by groups like ISIS, want to harm us is – given how we symbolizes all that they hate – a credible fear. If you think that U.S. state governors who’ve made no-Syrian-refugees-welcome-here statements are hard-hearted or misguided, that’s certainly a viewpoint to take. Accepting refugees is a benevolent thing to do, and that compassion for suffering is an American value we should cherish. But at least take a moment to recognize that your elected officials represent everyone in your state, and many people are afraid and do look to those whose job it is to protect them to do so. Political football or not.

And now yet another reminder that we have own homegrown actors. For me, the most frustrating thing about a Facebook feed of dueling liberal- and conservative-bashing memes, is that while concern over how our country conducts itself in the world, or passionately promoting one candidate over another for no good reason whatsoever is the flavor of the day (although c’mon, I’m a political scientist, so yes, in reality I’m secretly enthralled by any display of political passion), what about here? New Mexico. Where you actually live.

French economist Thomas Piketty believes that economic inequality caused by the West drives these “radical losers,” while American scholars point instead to a host of social factors. U.S. scholars rarely like to confront their “orientalist” tendencies when talking about the Middle East. God help me, but Piketty has a point (see here or here). When you can’t join in. If one missteps results in a detour or setback so severe that you can’t recoup your losses. If you are raised amidst disaster and mayhem. Then you will find yourself making some very interesting life choices that while perfectly rational given your milieu, others will judge you harshly for.

New Mexico’s own statistics tell a tale that should make us realize that we run the risk of failing ourselves long before ISIS gets to us. The NM 2015 State of the Workforce Report shows incomes lower than U.S. average and high poverty levels; one out of every five N.M. residents lives below the poverty level; almost two-thirds of those below the poverty level have a high school education or less; our labor force participation rate is declining more than neighboring states. And over one-third are saddled with unskilled jobs – those jobs with no career development or advancement.

Why does this bother me and why does arguing about Syrian refugees make me think about it? Just over 50 miles away, my prior home Ciudad Juarez has a booming local market for cheap heroin. Like the United States and unlike the rest of Mexico, heroin is becoming the thing. And it’s that way in part because of the “lost boys,” the large underclass of users and addicts who were raised by and within the violence of the city over the last decade. You may have heard them called “ni-ni’s” (for no education, no job), but it’s worse than that. It’s no education, no job, and they see violence as the norm. So when the cartels come a callin’, they are the warm bodies that fill the low-level slots because, for the short time they have the job, selling drugs is quite lucrative. Rehab won’t necessarily offer an escape given cartels often use those facilities as both places of recruitment and places of retribution. There’s even drug tourism in Juarez; hotels set up so visiting users from El Paso can walk across the bridge, buy a hit for about the same cost as a cup or two of Starbuck’s coffee, and then hang out at the hotel until the high wears off enough so that they can return home.

We’ve got the recipe for a perfect storm here. Poverty. Unskilled labor. Per a recent DEA report, we’ve got the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juarez Cartel right here, plying their trade. Heroin is popular here too. Our New Mexico Department of Health tells us that between 2010 and 2014, 36% of drug overdoses in New Mexico were due to heroin. And our perfect storm gets worse when you include what happens when those that did start out advantaged find themselves behind the eight ball. Two young men, with college degrees, both of whom were injured serving in the military. They had every advantage, but became disillusioned when their passion betrayed them. And now? They are under indictment for drug trafficking in Miami, the ringleaders of one of the largest synthetic drug rings in Miami history. Crockett and Tubbs would be amazed at how things have changed.

I won’t chastise you for not wanting refugees because you think there is a risk. Nor will I chastise you for snap judgments made in the wake of the horrific attack in San Bernardino, CA. Human evolution spent hundreds and thousands of years teaching us all to in-group and out-group our way to safety. And being aware of world events is a good thing.  But there are things right here that need your attention too.  Because if crime were to target you, the probability that it’s someone from far away is unlikely. As to the how? Robert Putnam is right, we cannot bowl alone.  One of the very best things about living in an open society under the rule of law with a tradition of individual civic involvement is that we have a veritable smorgasbord of choices to suit every budget, every willingness to act, every political persuasion. But of course, I still must say: why not try donating your own money or even better volunteering your time before just saying “we need more laws to solve this.”  For ideas, page A24 of the latest Las Cruces Bulletin or its November 2014 & 2015 Community Wish List are great places to start – it’s what I did.

Be Careful What You Wish For, Because You Just Might Get It.

I prefer policymaking based on principals and ideals rather than expediency. The reason is that any public policy creates ripple effects. Sure, you solve the problem the policy was designed to solve, but like a rock thrown into a pond, the effects ripple outwards. New laws redefine who the winners and losers are, throwing the losers into turmoil that begets new policy problems. New laws redefine incentives and alter behaviors in unpredictable and often unwanted ways, that you got it, begets new policy problems. It’s one of the many reasons I’m a fan of limited government. Government policymaking is always a huge hammer where everything looks like a nail. And all of that smashing around often does more harm than good.

U.S. immigration policy falls victim to these ripple effects. The INA (Immigration and Nationality Act – the governing law of immigration) prioritizes reuniting families over enhancing the workforce. Did you know that it was written that way to keep non-whites out of the country? It was assumed that if you limited immigration to the families of the people already here, the ethnic makeup of the country would remain static. Well now, just how did that misguided hammer-like policy work out? And the dichotomy continues because what do most without lawful status come to the United States for? To find work.

You may have heard that your New Mexico driver’s license is not in compliance with the federal government’s 2005 REAL ID Act. As of now, we’re one of 9 states that aren’t. And time is running out to comply to ensure we can use our licenses to do things like enter federal facilities or board commercial planes (scroll down on that above link for an explanation).  In November, the Dona Ana County Commission passed a resolution that calls on the Governor and the state legislature to create a two-tier driver’s license identification program. It’s a common idea, used by other states like Maryland. As well as an idea that’s been brought up in the state legislature for the past few years.

The concept is that citizens and lawful residents get licenses to drive that indicate they are lawfully present as well as residents of a particular state, and everyone else gets I.D. cards that marked in some way as not valid for federal purposes; some versions offer driving privileges too.

It’s been a political issue for quite some time. Since 2003, New Mexico doesn’t require that one verify their status to obtain a driver’s license. The justification has been that those without lawful status will drive anyway. Or it’s a way to keep track of non-residents (except how exactly does that work if you don’t know who they are?). Or it enhances safety because more drivers are trained and insured (if that’s what you think driver’s licenses are for – to ensure competency as a driver – you are sadly deluded).

You may know, my family sells guns for a living. We do it via an ATF license that requires us to verify residency. We rely on state driver’s licenses to be proof of identity, proof of state residency, and proof of lawful status in the U.S. Think about it; we sell firearms within 55 miles of the border. Proving lawful status is exceptionally important in the firearms business and it frightens me to think that our efforts could be superfluous because if a customer has a New Mexico license, lies about their status on their Form 4473, and passes the background check … well then, they get to buy. Background checks won’t always catch it; that system will call out if someone has been arrested/convicted, has an outstanding warrant, or has a documented interaction with la migra. But if someone enters sans inspection and doesn’t run afoul of the police here, then they’ll pass a background check too. True, lying on a Form 4473 is a felony. But if criminal punishment deterred crime, this country would be a very different place.

Even worse, we all know when there is unevenness in state laws, where one state creates a low barrier to entry for some privilege, it creates things like “driver’s license tourism” where those without lawful status living in other states will come to New Mexico to get a driver’s license. Which can then – due to reciprocity between states – be used to obtain one in another state. Awesome. Even more awesome if they purchased their own personal arsenal before they go back to New York or wherever.

What percentage of folks who use our state’s driver’s licenses to be faux-Americans are actually criminals, engaged in human trafficking or hanging about in terrorist sleeper cells versus the percentage who are just trying to Horatio Alger themselves into a better place? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. (Please note: I’m deliberately using the term “without lawful status” and not Mexican or any other identifier. I’m a big fan of lawful Mexican immigration to the U.S. I’m a big fan of all work visa programs to allow Mexicans to work in the U.S. It hurts my heart to see Mexicans who are here without lawful status, struggling. My views aren’t borne out of ethnic or cultural prejudice, they are borne out of a respect for the law).

I understand the political expediency of wanting a two-tier system. It solves the REAL ID problem ASAP. It would also actually create an easily track-able database of who is here lawfully and who isn’t; a database that would be very handy indeed for enforcing deportations and other law enforcement agendas by the by. (Something to think about if you are pro-help those without lawful status stay. Remember, all policy solutions create new problems!).

I don’t want to offer identification to people here without lawful status. It offends my sensibilities to support people breaking the law. I say it all of the time; we, as Americans, all we are and have is the rule of law. Our Constitution. No king. No feudal lord. Just laws. That’s it. And if we don’t uphold them. Honor them, abide by them, then what do we have? Nothing. We would have nothing. Except a country ripe for takeover by a potentate.

But I’m a realist too. Now that time has run out, go ahead I guess and back the two-tier system. Because if I’m forced to support people breaking the law by giving them state identification, and thereby encourage more comers enticed by the privilege, then simultaneously I’m pleased to both have a list of people for our law enforcement agencies to monitor (and yes, deport) if necessary and possible, and a way to trust that if a customer shows me a New Mexico license, they are here lawfully.

Shooting Fish In A Barrel

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I am always, how do you say, exercised about media bias. And the presidential campaign season and the issue of immigration make it like shooting fish in a barrel to spot it. Let’s take last summer’s kerfuffle over “anchor babies” for example. The media tells us that all children born here with non-citizen parents are anchor babies, and further that it’s a pejorative expression used solely by conservative Americans (because don’t you know all conservatives are prejudiced and ignorant). Sigh. It’s a term used by American consular officers—the people who issue visas to immigrants and visitors—from the U.S. Department of State. And it’s used whenever an officer suspects that a mother entered the United States with the express intent of giving birth, does so, and then immediately returns home with the child and his U.S. birth certificate all for the express purpose of immigrating the whole family two decades later. Still not unlawful (really), but it’s a term describing a subset of children born to foreign nationals in the United States, not a blanket term for any child born to someone visiting or residing without lawful status within the country.

It is true though, that consular officers are frustrated by citizenship earned in this manner. It does seem wrong doesn’t it? Maybe ethically it’s a shady practice, but it’s perfectly lawful per the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA – the law that governs immigration). There is no law barring a woman from obtaining a tourist visa or asking for permission to enter the U.S. (two different things involving two different agencies—who says we don’t suffer from too much government?) with the intent of giving birth since giving birth in the U.S. isn’t unlawful. Birth tourism?  The INA says nothing about it.  Using Medicaid or other forms of prenatal care at the state’s cost equally does not trigger the public charge section of the INA.

When this hit the news, was your Facebook feed full of people calling for the 14th Amendment to be revoked to end the practice of jus soli (right of soil – citizenship obtained via birth within the United States)? Please tell understand that if they persist in that nonsense, they are actually also advocating damaging the citizenship rights of blacks and women. Or that there is case law that uses the 14th Amendment to support the privacy interpretations of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 9th Amendments. So really? You just want to toss that out the window? See the above paragraph. If you have issues with immigration, it’s the INA you want to attack, not our Constitution—the very thing that doesn’t just govern us through our consent, but also is what defines America and makes us the envy of the world.

As for transmitting citizenship, take a look at Germany or most Persian Gulf countries before attacking jus soli. The jus sanguinis (right of blood – citizenship is obtained via the parents’ citizenship status) model that sounds so reasonable leads to the very problem the 14th Amendment is meant to address. The Gulf countries are full of “guest workers” who’ve lived their entire life in, say Dubai, and had children there, but none are citizens and if the parents lose their job, they must return to their own country complete with their children who don’t speak the language of a country they’ve never seen. Sound familiar?

Jus sanguinis in Germany created an entire population of Turks who are German in name and language, but not in terms of belonging, and until recently, not in terms of citizenship either. What happens when you make an entire group second class members of society? Please tell me you know the answer to that.

Interestingly, jus sanguinis in Germany has also fostered birth tourism via a falsified birth certificate. Turkish-German women will return to Turkey to bring young children with fake birth certificates saying it’s their child and thus obtaining German citizenship for that child. But isn’t revoking the practice of jus soli supposed to solve America’s immigration problem? You mean all forms of citizenship transmission create issues for the host country? Who would have thought?!

It turns out we have a falsified birth certificate problem too. Along the United States – Mexican border, there are birthing clinics and obstetricians who will provide real state birth certificates with fake information to parents who can pay. I suspect that’s what’s behind reports of the Texas Vital Statistics Unit refusing to issue birth certificates to children whose parents do not have the required forms of identification. Texas knows it has a high fraud rate problem . The news reports imply racism, prejudice, and so on (hey thanks media bias!) since this is affecting mostly those in the U.S. without lawful status who are from Mexico. While I don’t mean to imply that making a child stateless is a good thing, the falsified Texas birth certificate is a real problem. And it’s an extremely sad problem when a child who believed his entire life that he was born in El Paso, but instead finds at age 25 that his parents lied to him, as his petition to bring in his wife into the U.S. is denied, and the State Department revokes his U.S. passport.

Whatever your view of immigration, those present without lawful status and citizenship transmission, when it comes to those issues being debated vociferously and righteously, it bears considering all that you aren’t being told if the basis of your opinion is drawn solely from the media. Otherwise, we risk being incentivized to damage our Constitution and make ridiculous laws that could have consequences as punitive as the problems we’re trying to avoid now.

Media Alarmists Make My Head Hurt

The gun press—my term for media that is relentless in proffering the belief that foaming at the mouth “gun haters” are minutes away from excising the Second Amendment from the U.S. Constitution—gives me a headache. Of course, if you are a consumer of the liberal media—the news outlets who favor extensive interventionist government protections and pretend only those who support that idea are good moral people condeming everyone else to be racist gun nuts—the scare tactics skew 180 degrees opposite. I’d rant about the conservative media too, but why bother, because when it comes to the subject of firearms, I’m not so sure I can tell the difference between them and the gun press. If you’re not aware of these differences, or savvy enough to recognize that media outlets have worldviews they are trying to sell you, then it’s possible that you do what most do, only get your news from sources that support how you see the world.

As we kick off the 2016 presidential election year, the gun press is campaigning hard against universal background checks (UBCs) where all firearm sales (including gun shows and individual private party) are subject to a buyer background check via the FBI database NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System). Scare tactic arguments (e.g. you’ll need to pay someone to run a check to give your son your childhood .22 LR single-shot hunting rifle) and slippery slope arguments (e.g. UBCs will create a national gun registry, compliance inspections, and gun seizures) abound.

As a general rule, UBCs are seen as liberal, Democratic Party policy preference. And in some ways that makes sense. After all, it is usually the American left that argues for top-down policies that can imply a lack of trust in individuals’ abilities to make good choices for themselves. The idea that only liberals approve of UBCs is further enhanced by Republican presidential candidates’ and others’ remarks about the failure of background checks to stop criminals from getting guns while simultaneously making it difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights and buy them.

People, for the record, NICS checks take minutes and if you aren’t a felon or otherwise entangled in breaking the law, it doesn’t stop you from making a purchase. Even if you have to wait a day or two, it doesn’t stop you from making a purchase. And if your local retailer charges you for a background check? Then you’re being had. Retailers pay no fee for access to NICS, so nor should you.

If I was unable to think for myself and took what the gun press said at face value, I’d be in complete agreement. After all, NICS is problematic because FIFTEEN YEARS AFTER 9/11 WE STILL HAVE TO ASK LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES TO SHARE DATA WITH ONE ANOTHER AND STATES TO REPORT DATA TO NICS (yes, I’m shouting from frustration). It’s also problematic because it brings up privacy concerns regarding mental health (cue rant over the deplorable state of mental health care in the U.S. and the fear that accessing it can get one fired from their job). Anyone who has been the victim of identity theft can certainly understand not wanting yet another red-tape barrier due to faulty databases.

But left out of the gun press’ alarmism is my family’s business, the federally licensed firearm retailer (FFL). Not the manufacturer, nor the wholesaler. Nope, just the licensed store that sells guns to consumers like you. Private party sellers have ways to vouch for the buyer (if they are so inclined, I’m certainly not purporting to believe that this isn’t a route for criminals to obtain firearms, along with theft and straw purchases). But we don’t. Every single day, strangers—people we’ve never seen before in our lives and possibly never will again—walk in the door with the intent of purchasing a firearm. My husband and his staff are pretty good profilers, but they’re not infallible. A NICS check gives us all peace of mind that we’re not arming drug traffickers and other baddies.

In the gun press’ eyes, it’s important to protect the U.S. Constitution (I agree) and individual rights (yes, I agree with that too); but somehow the only defense they’ve come up with is to throw retailers under the bus. To the gun press, it’s more important that you can sell a rifle to your neighbor than it is to protect licensed retailers (where most buy their new firearms). To the gun press, it’s more important that you can set up a table at a gun show and sell your dirty, overpriced used firearms to whomever, than it is to protect licensed retailers (where most buy their new firearms). To the gun press, it’s more important that you believe UBCs will only impede you from buying a gun, than it is to protect licensed retailers (where most buy their new firearms).

Maybe there are FFLs out there that would like to be free of the background check obligation. If they only read the gun press, perhaps they are caught up in the scare tactic and slippery slope arguments. But I have a hard time believing that retailers don’t see the protections for themselves, their businesses, and their families offered by background checks. I certainly do. How I wish the gun press and those that use it to scare gun owners into thinking all gun laws will hurt them did.

 

Don’t Be A Jerk

I don’t like jerks, sociopathic con-artists, criminals (whether convicted or not), sexist men, racist people, and homophobes. I’m sure there are more given how opinionated I am, but that list is good enough for a start. Over the past few years, it seems there’s been a spate of bakers and pizza joints refusing to serve gays. It has something to do with religious beliefs, but I tend to think that if your religion tells you that being gay is a sin and you accept that at face value, and worse act on it, that makes you a homophobe. And someone I’m inclined to avoid. (So if that’s you, better stop reading now and commence writing your hateful message to me).

Some states have laws that specifically ban discrimination of this type on the basis of sexual orientation. That’s the law Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Portland tripped over when three years ago they refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. And it’s the same law that Masterpiece Cakes in Lakewood Colorado broke in 2012 when the baker refused to bake a cake for a gay patron.

There’s the perception that once someone decides to do business with the public, they have to “serve all comers,” regardless of their own personal beliefs. Yet another bakery, this one in Fredericksburg Virginia, recently made a cake with a Confederate flag on it and announced they did so “without question” on Twitter to illustrate the point that what they do is bake cakes, not question who their customers are.

But whatever happened to “no shirt, no shoes, no service”? That thing of a business owner being able to set the terms of who is welcome and who isn’t? I don’t mean to be obtuse. Discrimination is wrong. Any business who willfully refuses to serve customers because they can’t abide the existence of someone not just like them are prejudiced fools who apparently care more about being jerks to people than their bottom line. Hasn’t it even at least occurred to them that just because someone is gay, it doesn’t mean they don’t have straight friends and family who’ll equally avoid a business for dissing their loved ones? As for cakes, I don’t understand why a baker would care what or who the cake is for, nor do I think a cake is a First Amendment protected demonstration of artistic expression because they aren’t baking the cake for themselves or for display, but for the person who is paying for it. There’s a part of me that would rather they be left to their own devices to turn away customers for whatever reason because eventually, they’ll go out of business and not have a GoFundMe campaign to put in the till. But we all know that that is unrealistic and without such anti-discrimination laws, it might just be you turned away because of that sweet tattoo on your forearm, the color of your skin, or your sexual orientation.

Last summer, Florida Gun Supply in Inverness Florida declared via a video on Facebook that his business was a “Muslim-free zone.” He’s reacting to the July 16 attack against two military installations in Chattanooga Tennessee. Seriously? This guy, and the bakers … to me they are no different than pre-civil rights era “whites only” signs. It’s ugly. It’s wrong. And it flies in the face of everything American democracy and our rule of law stands for.  Which is why it astounds me that New Mexico is falling victim to this; we’ve two state legislators who have pre-filed HB 55, a bill that would remove the words “sexual orientation and gender identity” from New Mexico’s current Human Rights Act, our state’s law that protects against denial of service due to characteristics like sexual orientation and gender identity.

Why else am I so exercised about this topic? Because my husband’s store will happily refuse to sell a gun to someone that he has reasonable cause to believe is a criminal, a drug addict, not mentally copacetic, or who might be purchasing a weapon on behalf of someone who can’t. And the ATF – the federal agency that supervises licensed firearm retailers – supports him in that. Yet, I’m watching the media spin up in favor of the idea that if you own a business, you have to serve everyone. Not once has it occurred to any of them that there are occasions when no, the owner’s judgment is best. That won’t stop those to whom my husband refuses service from obtaining a gun elsewhere, but at least our consciouses are clear. But simultaneously, I fret over the day when someone attacks us with a specious charge of discrimination because when, for example, our staff spied that Houstone or Tango Blast gang tattoo on their knuckles, they refused to sell them a firearm.

It’s worth remembering this outlier example when reading media coverage that speaks in absolutes about how a business has to sell to all or your buddy tells you that the owner of that store was mean to him and asked him to leave. Discrimination is heinous. But refusing service isn’t always that.

Guns Don’t Kill People, Flags Do?

Can you believe it? That idiot child murders nine innocent people in Charleston and today we’re talking about how Walmart won’t be selling t-shirts and coffee mugs with the Confederate battle flag. From a “do something” perspective, the smoke and mirror segue is obvious. But is it not apparent too, that all massacres in recent memory in the U.S. have been about mental illness—those people who are anti-government kooks, religious fanatics and white supremacist racists. The Oklahoma City Bombing. The Boston Marathon Bombing. The Newton Massachusetts School Shooting. And our Charleston buddy, Dylann Roof.

Truly, how can anyone miss that the true commonality is mental illness? Setting aside John Noveske, founder of Noveske Rifleworks, who published a list of shooters and the medication they took for mental problems making the link clear, think about who does this and at what age. Because when a young man’s (and it’s always young men) brains twist up into thoughts that support mass killings to make a political, religious or racist point (that is never heard in the aftermath of the horror witnessed) to me seems to be the real issue. Anyone who knows anything about neurological development knows that the early 20s is when brains stop changing and growing vigorously, and—if they weren’t already into animal torture and violent bullying (a sure sign of probable mental illness and a budding criminal personality)—that’s when things like schizophrenia start to present themselves and cause a brain to decide that killing as many people as possible is the thing to do.

As for the flag … I’m Southern. My family has been living in the South since the mid-1700s. My family home is on the National Register of Historic Places. In the town square there is a monument to the Civil War dead, and my family name appears on the side for Union-affiliated names and on the side for Confederate-affiliated names. I was raised to be proud of being Southern—the culture of friendliness and warmth, visiting, and food—but not to venerate symbols (e.g. the Confederate Battle Flag) or stupidity (e.g. the Civil War was over states’ rights). From a design perspective, the “stars and bars” is a memorable image. From an honor those who did what they thought was right perspective, like in 1985 when former President Reagan acknowledged honor when he laid a wreath at Bitburg Cemetery in then West Germany, it’s understandable too. What? You think we shouldn’t be proud of those Americans who served in Vietnam—one of the most indefensible military actions the U.S. ever engaged in—because it was a “bad” war? If so, then you must have been one of the crappy people spitting on GIs when they returned home.

While I’m sympathetic to Southerners who only see that flag as a sign of honor and southern pride, in truth it’s an image co-opted by white supremacists. Co-opted by ugly racists who band together to preach hate and to intentionally refuse to cooperate (and lack of cooperation is the death knell of a democracy). And when you teach that you are one thing and someone else is a hated “other,” guess who buys into that? Isolated folks. Mentally broken folks. Uncooperative folks who don’t understand how the world works and just what a grim place the world would be if they had their way. We have enough stuff to deal with, why oh why do we humor these losers?

Sadly and reasonably, one reason we humor them is privacy. If you’re old enough to remember when we actually had “insane asylums” then I don’t need to tell you about the dangers of declaring someone mentally incompetent, jailing them in perpetuity, and assuming you got it right. It’s a form of cruel and unusual punishment. If we were all required to have mental health assessments, what’s the bar for it becoming something that denies you health insurance? That makes you unemployable? I’m not being irrational. I had a mental health evaluator I visited as part of a job interview tell me that this particular agency would only hire people who were popular in high school because that was a key sign of success. So clearly, mental health professionals can be off their rocker too!

I’m as disdainful as you at our current “PC” culture (hence my fondness for words like “whack jobs”). That said, I’m all for acknowledging a beloved symbol was simultaneously adopted as a symbol to propagate virulent, violent racism. Even as I know that not selling products with battle flag insignia on them won’t stop white supremacists, the less chance they have to have their viewpoint validated by the Walmarts of the world, the better.

But I wish we could talk about mental health, instead of beating up on Southerners or calling for gun control. When 27 year-old Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 into the French Alps killing 150 people. When a few days after Roof murdered nine worshipers at Emanuel AME Church, a 26 year-old man purposely drove his car into a pedestrian area in Graz, Austria deliberately running over people and then jumped out to start attacking them with a knife, successfully killing three (including a 7 year-old boy), and injuring at least 30. When attackers use bombs like in Oklahoma City (Timothy McVeigh 27 years-old) and Boston (Tamerlan Anzorovich 26 years-old and Dzhokhar Anzorovich 20 years-old). Can we not see that mass murder events are about whack jobs acting out and not about how there would be no violence if guns didn’t exist? These mass murderers? They are mentally damaged people who will find whatever tool is at hand to kill. Let’s do something about this. Because while I’m not afraid of guns, I am afraid of whack jobs with cars who know where the local feed and hardware store is.

When Half Of The World Hates You

I must be a glutton for punishment. I started my career in the motorcycle industry working on motorcycle safety issues. Then I was a communications analyst for the intelligence community. Next up was as a U.S. diplomat representing America’s interests overseas. And now guns. It’s like I want people to hate me or something. Either it’s “the nicest people ride a Honda” or motorcycles are death machines. Intelligence gathering and data analysis are either critical for national security or unlawful spying on U.S. citizens (and proof that the government is out to get you). Diplomacy is an exercise in seeing people love everything American or protesting in the streets chanting “death to America.” And guns. Oh dear. So let’s just say, this thing of being on the side of the devil, I know it well. And it also means that not so humbly, I know a thing or two about how to handle yourself, your business, and your industry when half of the world hates you.

The way people express their disapproval and hatred of guns can be sneaky. Facebook, Google, Bing and Yahoo among others all have terms of service agreements that explicitly ban any form of firearm or associated product advertising. You can be logged into your Gmail account, merrily searching away in Google for the Glock 43 you want, and all that searching will not prompt your sidebar to be full of gun ads. So as a consumer you might not even notice it, might not even be aware of all the subtle prejudices and barriers to commerce out there, but those in the business do.

The way people express their disapproval and hatred of guns can blindside you. It’s hard to be in business if you only take cash. Too many people rely on credit cards to stretch their budget or to get points for extra savings to maximize the power of their dollars spent. You can’t operate a retail store without accepting credit card payments, nor can you be an online vendor. But guess what? Some of the most popular online credit card payment gateways have terms of service that don’t allow firearms sales. PayPal (with one of the cheapest transaction rates), Square Inc. (the mobile credit card processor), Intuit Go Payment among others … all refuse to serve firearms dealers. Of all the business challenges you think you might face, being refused service with no recourse because of the type of legal business you own is not one of them. Wait, aren’t there lawsuits of outrage against cake bakers and pizza joints who arbitrarily refuse to serve people?

The way people express their disapproval and hatred of guns can become public policy without Congress even noticing. The Justice Department’s Operation Choke Point that started in 2013 lumped gun sellers into the same bucket as payday loans, pornography, and escort services among others as being at risk for fraud. The goal of the program was to shut down fraudulent businesses by denying them access to banking services. But imagine the surprise of gun dealers across the country who had their accounts shut down because they ran a legitimate, legal business, selling a known product for an advertised price, put their daily take into the bank, and suddenly were deemed money launderers. I can see how a payday loan company could easily defraud me with hidden fees, but how is a gun store defrauding me when I purchase a firearm I want, at an advertised price that I agree to? Further, the ATF already has measures in place that get at things like money laundering, arms trafficking, and straw purchases, thank you very much.

And most obviously, the way people express their disapproval and hatred of guns is to be very vocal about it and try to shout louder via the media who invariably miss all the nuance and take up the side of “I never met a law I didn’t like” champions.

As you can see, when half of the world hates you, the avenues are many to trip you up. But when it comes to responding? Shouting louder, self-righteousness, and digging in your heels on what seems common sense to you doesn’t cut it. A democratic republic that protects both majority and minority alliances de facto means you can’t win via a scorched earth policy where your opponents go away forever.

The first thing to consider is that the media is not set up for nuance; it’s set up to push someone’s viewpoint (show me a writer that doesn’t have one, myself included), to break the issue down into two sides (left and right), and then to tell the reader what to think about it. Think of a polarizing issue. The media will tell you a person is either pro-life or pro-choice because those are the only options, but really query someone and you might find they are sometimes one and sometimes the other. Or take immigration; we’re supposed to either be moral and allow everyone in no matter what, or we’re supposed to defend the Constitution and exclude unlawful entrants and refugees regardless of why they want in; pick one, but not both.

Once you’ve become embroiled in a long-term shouting match with your opponent over “dire” public policy consequences, the way you get people on your side is to frame the issue around goals, beliefs and values they will support. In it’s most basic format that’s just the advertising we’re all used to, but in Washington, it’s known as issue framing where you talk about the policy outcome you want and how it meets the listeners values in order to garner support for it. The problem with issues framed as polar opposites is that the two sides are set up to be about two different things, so that you cannot support one without totally running over the other.

So here I sit, arguing that gun ownership and laws are about individual rights, defending the original intent of the Constitution, about my own personal protection and that of my family and property, about defending the American way of life to hunt and fish and make my own decisions about how I live my life. All very granular, individual things. And those shouting at me from across the fence? They are exercised about public health and safety. They are worried that the level of violence in the U.S. is impacting our overall public health, overrunning trauma centers, making cities inhabitable for families, tragically cutting short young lives. That there’s no way to keep our schools and public places free of devastating criminal attacks by madmen. That the majority of violence and crime they see around them would not happen if it weren’t for firearms. So either it’s about individual rights or public health. What sort of trade off is that? Either I get to live my life with rights given to me at our founding OR I get to care about public health and safety. But why not both?

So back to nuance. There are plenty of gun owners who would be completely comfortable with things like universal background check laws or other purchase restrictions. It’s ludicrous to think that gun owners don’t understand that without public health concerns, it’d be the year 1854 in London again and we’d all be dying of cholera because the water system was contaminated by sewage dumped directly into the Thames. We get it. But you know what those who hate us don’t get? That target shooting is fun and thus firearms aren’t just for protection, they are also an accessible, affordable and interesting hobby. That shooting is a sport for families. That there’s “nothing more relaxing than range day”.

Or there’s hunting. Oh so violent. Or redneck. Or something. And yet, when was the last time you looked at how animals were treated in our industrialized food production processes? Now there is something gross. And cruel. And unacceptable. It happens right here in your backyard too. Just ask Leprino Foods about what happened at Winchester Dairy in Roswell, New Mexico. Given that, why is hunting and eating what you kill the cruel thing?

Geography matters too. Do the same gun laws make sense for a lightly populated state where most live in rural areas far from their neighbors versus a densely packed urban neighborhood where people literally live on top of each other? Likely not.

In truth, people have the right to hate guns. It’s hard to blame them sometimes when all they know is the nightly crime report and some NRA-guy pontificating about the Constitution. It’s all well and good to say that gun owners shouldn’t have to defend ownership, but it’s not realistic when you are up against a public health and safety argument. Instead of arguing about constitutional-interpretation and organized militias, we need to be talking about target shooting as a hobby and why it’s fun and for the whole family; about hunting as a viable way to rid oneself of partaking in the animal cruelty that dogs industrialized food production; that we too care about public health and safety and want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. And then we need to proffer solutions to do just that. Because there is nothing that calms a shouting enemy more quickly than solving their problem for them.

Pink Guns Are A Thing – Sigh … Eye Roll … Shrug

I hate pink guns. I hate what they represent because to me using pink as the go-to marketing tactic to make a product “for women” assumes we’re simple-minded (we think it won’t work for us/is scary unless it’s super-girly-blinged-out and pink) and are obsessed with accessorizing “our look” because appearance is everything! To me, when pink is used in this context it infantilizes women and keeps them as weak girls who are less threatening and befuddling. Or maybe it’s because women are so threatening and befuddling that you can almost see the bespectacled men sitting around a table, smoke pouring out of their ears as they ponder how to get women to buy guns, so discombobulated with the terror of it … that the eureka moment is “make it in pink”?

But why oh why can’t they just market good guns to us? Why do they have to be pink? I do recognize that it’s great how manufacturers have recognized that because enough women have become interested in firearms, it’s a market segment worth paying attention to. And I get that pink is a thing because the intent is to be unintimidating and inclusive, not sexist or dismissive. But when chatty industry marketing folk tell me that having pink guns in your store makes it more “female-friendly,” all I can think is “really?” Because while our store does have a few pink guns in stock, I had thought our store was customer-friendly because it’s well-lit, with a lot of cool, unique stuff in stock, the staff knows it’s products, and our prices are good.

One thing I know for sure, however, is if manufacturers are making pink guns, it’s because they sell and make money. So crud. Pink guns are a thing. But why? I’ve heard women buy pink guns to keep their husbands and boyfriends from appropriating them for themselves. I’ve seen men buy pink guns for their wives, girlfriends and daughters in an attempt to interest them in shooting. There are likely women who buy pink guns because they really do like pink and they find no shame in seeing a gun both as a weapon and an accessory. And then there are women like me, who only buy things like pink guns and blinged-out Hello Kitty iPhone cases to be ironic and unexpected. I plead guilty to the iPhone case, but I can’t grasp the irony of pink guns since at it’s heart it’s such an overt, lazy marketing ploy that my sensibilities are offended.

It’s also quite neat that manufacturers want to attract more women to shooting, even if cynically so in search of profit. And women are a robust, profitable market segment. In 2014, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) released a marketing survey “Women Gun Owners: Purchasing, Perceptions and Participation.” Among the data two things stood out to me: contrary to expectations, pistols and shotguns are purchased by women more often than revolvers; and, women say their firearm purchase decisions are mainly influenced by fit (hand and body), value for money, and intended use.

Fit, quality and practicality? Evidentially, less than 10% of the women surveyed chose a gun due to its feminine color; while in contrast, 25% specifically were attracted to a firearm’s “military tactical look and feel.” Well, well, well. Just where is pink in that equation? One place pink is, is in the info-graphic NSSF designed to highlight survey results. Entitled “Girl Power” it uses a pink and gray color scheme. Sigh (complete with an obligatory eye-roll for using “girl” and “woman” interchangeably). Did NSSF staffers not read their results??????

The thing is, no matter who you are, when shopping for a gun, you have to think about why you need it. Protection, conceal carry, target shooting, or hunting? That will determine what models/calibers are best to consider. And then there’s this very subjective thing of shoot-ability/ease-of-use, i.e. how comfortable is it for you to hold, carry and shoot? I’ll concede that women who are smaller in stature might prefer smaller grips or smaller pistols overall (witness the success of RYOBI Tools in the DIY-market where they are popular among women because they are lightweight for a power tool), but it doesn’t follow that making it pink will make the sale. Or interest her in firearms in the first place.

I think it comes down to this: if you need a gun for protection and select a pistol appropriate for that usage, that fits your hand, that’s comfortable to actually shoot then … fine, I guess if you want the pink version, then buy pink. But since it seems that women buy firearms for mostly the same reasons as men do, and select based upon the same criteria as men, then I wish manufacturers would get it. Guns aren’t deodorant where you can put less of the same formula in girly packaging and charge us more (hey ladies, if you’re still buying “women’s” deodorant, you’re paying too much!). Pink guns don’t need to be the marketing thing manufacturers (or retailers) hang their hat on to get women to buy or be interested in shooting. Because for every woman you lure in with pink, the rest are standing on the sidelines rolling their eyes at you and selecting a firearm from another manufacturer on principle.

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