Only an Idiot would Carry with a Live Round Chambered

A rant.

I own two guns, one of which is a semi-automatic pistol. I blogged about it here.

Yes, I do keep my gun stored loaded. It has a magazine that holds seven shots and that magazine is full and inserted. The gun is in its holster, with a snap strap to prevent it from falling out (even though it fits snugly in there) or inadvertently fired.

I don’t carry it, even though I have a concealed carry permit here in Washington and had one when I lived in Arizona. I consider it a line of last defense in the event of a home invasion (which is highly unlikely where I live) and I can’t get away from an attacker. If a fight or flee situation, I’m not an idiot — I’ll flee.

Like most semi-automatic weapons, a round needs to be chambered before it can be fired. If you’ve watched any kind of movie with a good guy or bad guy getting ready to go into a dangerous situation, you’ve likely seen him (or her) chamber a round by pulling back on the gun’s slide. “Racking the slide” like this brings a round out of the magazine and into the firing chamber. The gun can now be fired with a relatively light squeeze of the trigger.

In other words, when a round is chambered, the gun becomes a very dangerous thing to hold or carry.

And this was proved (again) just yesterday. From a New York Daily News article:

Ruger Semi-Auto
I don’t know what kind of Ruger this idiot was carrying locked and loaded in his church, but it could have been this one: Ruger American Pistol, Semi-Automatic, 9mm, 4.2″ Barrel, 17+1 Rounds

A Tennessee man and his wife were hospitalized after he accidentally opened fire during a discussion about church shootings at a local church.

The unidentified man was at First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains on Thursday when he was showing a handgun to other attendees at a dinner, according to police in the town south of Knoxville.

His unloaded Ruger was passed around, though the man in his 80s allegedly put the magazine back in and chambered a bullet when it came back to him.

Police said that another person walked up and asked to see the weapon when the owner pulled the trigger.

“Evidently he just forgot that he re-chambered the weapon,” Tellico Plains Police Chief Russ Parks told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The bullet hit the man’s hand before striking his wife in the abdomen. Both were taken to the hospital and are not believed to have life-threatening injuries.

He forgot that he’d prepped the gun for firing and shot himself and his wife.

Why in the world would anyone chamber a round if he wasn’t ready to fire the gun?

Well, that’s something that the NRA encourages.

You see, the NRA stays strong and powerful and keeps its membership ranks full by convincing people who can’t think for themselves that danger is all around them and they need to be prepared to fight back.

I saw this firsthand when I took a concealed carry course in Arizona years ago, when my wasband bought the first gun for our household. (Back then, the course was required to get a concealed carry permit; I’m not sure if it still is. But we took the course because it was the only pistol training course we could find in our area; I had no desire to carry and still don’t.) The NRA-sponsored course had a very heavy emphasis on the importance of carrying a gun at all times to protect yourself. As the only woman in the class who made it clear she was not interested in carrying, I got special attention. The instructor and his wife came up with numerous unlikely scenarios where I might be called on to shoot an attacker. It was absurd. They assumed I was either an idiot or was looking for trouble. (No, I don’t spend my evenings hanging out on the fringes of Phoenix mall parking lots or take long solo walks in the bad parts of any town. Sheesh.)

You can see this mentality again and again. When Googling “Can you fire a semi auto without first chambering a round?” for some additional information for this blog post, the second search result was this:

Search Result
This is the kind of crap that keeps idiots brainwashed to carry guns with chambered rounds.

So yes, there are a bunch of Second Amendment yahoos running around carrying semi-automatic pistols with chambered rounds, all ready to fire at a touch of the trigger.

And they apparently do so in churches.

Keep in mind that it takes literally a single second to rack a gun’s slide. Does waiting until you’re ready to fire really save you that much time?

I don’t think so.

So yes, I’m a gun owner. But I believe the NRA is harmful to our nation and its people. And that we need sensible gun laws that include education so morons like this guy understand just how dangerous a chambered round can be.

Personal Aerial Photography

A few thoughts from someone who has been doing it for a long time.

I’ve been doing aerial photography since I began flying helicopters, way back in the late 1990s. At first, it was a few digital images shot awkwardly with my left hand while my right hand was busy on the cyclic. Later, I went through a variety of different cameras mounted in and on the helicopter, some set to automatically shoot whatever was in front of them and others with limited control from inside the cockpit. I had a POV.1 camera in 2008, which I replaced with a GoPro Hero in 2010. Since then, I’ve had a variety of GoPros, right up to a GoPro 3+. (Even I get tired of throwing money at new versions of hardware.) I’ve created numerous still and video images from my helicopter, some of which still amaze me.

Great Salt Lake
This is one of my very favorite aerial photos: the north end of the Great Salt Lake, shot with a GoPro 3 mounted on the nose of my helicopter as I flew it south to Arizona last autumn. The camera was set to time-lapse mode, shooting one photo every minute. We were probably about 700 feet up here.

But the point of this discussion is this: I’ve been looking at the world from a different point of view for about 20 years now. It’s not the same point of view as an airliner cruising at 29,000 feet and 500 mph. And it’s not the point of view of a private plane cruising at 1,500 feet and 140 mph. It’s the point of view of a helicopter, usually cruising at an average of only 500 feet at 90 miles per hour, with the ability to stop, make sudden turns, or descend for a closer look.

Pilots get used to seeing the world from this different perspective. After a while, it isn’t anything special. We can get a feel for how different things might look from the air: a canyon, a river, a farm, a junkyard. That doesn’t mean it gets boring — it doesn’t. But it does mean that we don’t see anything special about it anymore.

Kind of sad, isn’t it?

That’s one of the reasons I like flying with first time passengers. I get a reminder of what it’s like to see things from a new perspective.

But I was reminded again about the novelty of seeing everyday things from above when I watched a documentary on Lynda.com called “Flight Club: Drones and the Dawn of Personal Aerial Imaging.” Listening to the people explain how they felt when they saw these low-level aerial images really helped me understand just how amazing aerial photography is, especially to folks that don’t have a helicopter at their disposal — which, admittedly, is most people.

Folks who know me well know how anti-drone I was when they first started appearing on the scene a few years back. But what convinced me that they were serious photography tools is the quality of the images they produced and the ease at which an operator could get them. I dove into drone photography last winter with the purchase of a Mavic Pro and will be doing a lot more of it in the months to come.

If you are curious about drones for aerial photography, I highly recommend you spend 25 minutes or so watching the documentary I saw last night. I think you’ll enjoy it and learn a lot about why people are so excited about it.

If you do watch, let me know what you think.

Getting Facts, Analysis, and Opinion

Where do you get your “news” and what are you believing?

Profile
My Twitter profile is a simple list of the things that make me me.

In my Twitter profile, you’ll find the phrase truth seeker. I’m occasionally ribbed by far right Twitter users who don’t like my one-liners, often at the expense of people they support, including Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Sean Hanity, Bill O’Reilly, and Ted Cruz. These people, who cry “fake news” whenever they hear something they don’t like, wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them with a baseball bat.

But I take truth seriously. I want to know the truth about things. I want to be able to form my own opinions based on facts. I try to be yet another phrase in my profile: independent thinker.

And that’s why I’m so frustrated when people share inaccurate information, including links to false or seriously biased news stories on social media. It was enough to drive me off Facebook and it keeps me fine-tuning the list of people I follow on Twitter.

But what are good, reliable sources of information? Back in February, I blogged about an article in Forbes that attempted to identify some of them. For the most part, I agreed with the list. But it was limited and it failed to indicate any biases or whether the source presented facts, analysis, or opinion.

Some Definitions

Let me take a moment to define each of these, because it’s very important to understand.

  • Facts are truthful statements of what is or was. This is black and white stuff that can be proven and is not questioned (except maybe by people who cannot accept the truth).
  • Analysis puts facts into context in an attempt to explain why they matter. This can be extremely helpful for folks trying to understand the impact of past and current events and why they should care. Although knowledgable people can often make their own analysis, when there are too many facts that impact a situation for the average person to understand, fact-based analysis can be vital for the average person to make an informed decision. Bias can come into play in analysis, but the best analysis sticks to facts and avoids bias.
  • Bias, Defined
    The definition of bias.

    Opinion is what one person or organization thinks about a situation. Opinion can be well-reasoned, based on solid facts and good, informed analysis. It can also be based on false information and similarly flawed analysis. Most often, it’s falls somewhere in between with a mixture of good and bad information and analysis. But it always includes bias, which can seriously degrade the value of the opinion — especially for someone able to think for herself.

So what am I looking for in my news sources? Facts and unbiased analysis so I can make my own opinion.

The Chart

A while back, I came upon an infographic that listed news media sources on a chart. On the Y (vertical) axis was how factual the source was. Higher was more factual. On the X (horizontal) axis was how biased the source was. Middle was unbiased, left was liberally biased and right was conservative biased. The original version of this chart listed quite a few news sources. In answer to a question a Twitter friend asked the other day, I went looking for it online. I found version 3.0, which I’m reproducing in a reduced size here:

Media Chart 3.0
Version 3.0 of the chart by Vanessa Otero. (I highly recommend that you click the chart to view a larger size and the article that explains it.) This is an extremely handy tool for evaluating news sources — so handy that I’ve printed out a copy for future reference and will be looking for updates.

Understanding the Chart

No chart is perfect and if you read the comments on the post that explains this version of the chart, you’ll see that people have argued with its author. In most instances, they’re claiming that various sources should be shifted left or right from their current positions.

If you accept that it’s at least 95% representative of reality — which is where I stand — if you’re looking for facts, you should be most interested in the news sources inside the green box. That actually makes me feel pretty good because that’s where most of the news sources I listed the other day reside: the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, and NPR. In fact, my main source of news is NPR, which is minimally biased fact reporting. I listen to NPR on the radio all day most days when I’m working at home.

If you want analysis, look for sources inside the yellow box. Ideally, you’d want something in the middle of the yellow box, which is nearly empty. One of my favored news sources, the Guardian, falls slightly left in the top of that box; another, the New Yorker, is slightly down and slightly more left. This isn’t terribly surprising since I lean more liberal than conservative in most of my views. Still, neither source is either “hyper-partisan liberal” or “liberal utter garbage/conspiracy theories.” Whew.

The orange and red boxes contain sources that are light on facts, and high on biased opinion. Unsurprisingly most of the news sources listed are either far left or far right. The red box sources are especially troubling in that they include misleading information and/or inaccurate or fabricated information geared toward either far left or far right media consumers. This is where you’ll find Occupy Democrats and the Palmer Report on the left and Fox News and Breitbart on the right. The chart notes that they are damaging to public discourse. (Duh.)

Using the Chart

How do I use this chart? First of all, it’s made me want to spend more time with sources like Bloomberg, Time, and the Economist. These look like they might be good sources of fact and unbiased analysis.

Next, when faced with a “news” story from an unfamiliar source, I’ll look it up on this chart. If it’s in the red box, I’ll basically disregard it. Why should I waste my time trying to figure out what part, if any, in the story is factual? I certainly won’t share it — and I’ll downgrade my opinion of the reliability and judgement of anyone who does.

If it’s in the orange box, I may or may not disregard it, depending on the topic and the availability of corroborating stories. But again, why should I waste my time trying to figure out what to believe in a story?

Instead, I’ll focus on what’s in the green and yellow boxes, as close to the middle of the X axis as possible.

What about You?

What do you think? I’m not talking about the accuracy of the chart here — if you have comments about that, leave them for the chart’s author and she’ll address them. I’m just curious about where people get their news, what they’re looking for, and what they share. Let us know what you think.

And please — do your best to fight real fake news. Don’t share links to unreliable or heavily biased “news” sources.