Friday, December 18, 2020

Never Tell Me the Odds

The other day I thought it would be fun to look up some numbers. After all, I kind of like math, so why not? I also like thunderstorms and firearms, and there was a severe thunderstorm warning at the time, so I decided I wanted to know how likely any one person is to be killed by a lightning strike versus being shot with an AR-15, the scary-looking boogie-man rifle that Americans either love or hate. As it appears to turn out, you're a LOT more likely to be killed by that thunderstorm brewing than by an AR-15. Here come the facts and math.

Fact: between roughly 2007 and 2017, about 17 people per year were shot and killed with AR-15 type rifles in the USA. 

Source: which quotes a New York Times article for that piece of data.

Fact: in roughly the same time period, lightning strikes killed, on average, about 27 people per year in the USA.

So, on the surface, it looks like you're about twice as likely to be struck by lightning and killed than you are to be shot and killed by an AR-15. But, as someone pointed out to me, don't you also have to take into account the total number of lightning strikes and the total number of AR-15s in the USA?  Well, yes, I suppose you do. So back to Google, I went.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm doing some rounding with these numbers to make them nice to work with. You can check the source articles if you want to be more precise.

Fact: the annual average number of lightning strikes that reach American soil is around 19 million.

Fact: the NSSF estimates that there are between 5 and 10 million AR-15s (not counting other semi-automatic rifles) owned by American civilians.

So, 27 deaths per year from lightning divided by 19 million strikes per year gives a death rate per strike of 0.00000142. That's about 1.42 deaths per million strikes.

17 deaths per year from being shot with an AR-15 divided by 10 million AR-15s in the USA gives 0.00000170, or about 1.70 deaths per million AR-15s. If you go with the lower estimate of 5 million, you get about twice that or 3.4 deaths per million AR-15s. Still not a lot, but perhaps more deadly than lightning?  No, not really.

If you're going to compare how likely you are to get shot with an AR-15, you need to know how often those 5-10 million AR-15s are actually fired. After all, it's the firing of them that kills, not their mere existence, right?  Come on, you know that's right.

Unfortunately for our little exercise here, that number is nigh unto impossible to know. On one hand, you have guys like me who are raising 4 kids and holding down a full-time job and into other hobbies, and .. well, you get the idea. I maybe make it to the range every couple of years with my AR-15. However, on those trips to the range, I easily expend a few hundred rounds of ammunition. There are guys who burn a few thousand rounds every weekend on the range like it's no big deal. So can we guestimate a good average? Maybe. If we assume that most guys make it to the range once a year and fire 100 rounds out of each of their AR-15s, that seems reasonable. Maybe on the low end. Now, if you multiply that by the number of AR-15s, you get a low estimate of 500 million rounds fired per year, up to 1 billion (with a B) if there are 10 million AR-15s in America.  Now, I understand that this is only guesswork at this point, but I hope you're still with me in accepting that it's a fairly reasonable guess.

So, let's look again at how deadly gunfire from AR-15s is versus lightning:

17 deaths per year divided by 500 million rounds fired gives a shockingly low number of 0.000000034 deaths per round fired. That's orders of magnitude lower than the number of deaths per lightning strike. Look at the numbers on top of each other to see what I mean:

0.000001420 lightning deaths per strike
0.000000034 AR-15 deaths per round fired

So let's figure this out in percentages, shall we? We can forget about the decimal points for this and just do 100 - (34 / (1420+34)) to get a rough percentage of how much more likely you are to be killed by lightning than by someone shooting you with an AR-15. That number comes out to 99.97 percent, meaning you are 99.97% more likely to be killed by lightning than by an AR-15.

So maybe the time you spend worrying about people having AR-15s would be better spent worrying about the weather. Just sayin' ...

REBLOG: An Open Letter from an American Coward

The following is copied verbatim from


Please save, screenshot, etc., then boost.
I don’t usually ask for my content to be shared. What I am about to say though is perhaps the most important thing I will ever say in public, and in the present landscape of the internet, there is a very high probability that it is being silenced or erased even now as you read it. So, I am asking you to please, save an offline and/or archived copy of this letter RIGHT NOW.

If, once you’ve read this letter, you feel that it has any value or interest whatsoever, please, as a personal favor, send it on through whichever channels, to whichever people you feel safe doing so.

If you think what I say is absurd, please share my letter with your friends so you can all laugh at me.

If you think that what I say is evil, please share it with your friends so you can all rage at me.

If you think I deserve to be punished for what I say, please send my letter on to the “authorities” or to any person you think might hurt me for writing it. At least then, those people will have a chance to read it.

I am
an American, a New Hampshirewoman, a lover of liberty, and a happily married mother of four beautiful children. I have a wonderful life, a bright future, and could not ask for any greater blessing than those I have already received.

My enemies are
in a word, communists. Modern communists do not usually call themselves such. They do not talk about workers rising up and seizing the Means of Production.

Instead, modern communists adopt a rhetorical stance where they assume that all people and all property are ALREADY COLLECTIVIZED, then calmly discuss what WE should do:
- What WE should ALLOW people to own.
- What WE should ALLOW people to do.
- What WE should ALLOW people to say.
- How WE should ALLOW people to use their property.
- How WE should ALLOW people to conduct their businesses,
- … and WHO should be ALLOWED,
- … and WHERE.
- How WE should ALLOW people to raise their children.
- Who should be GIVEN which roles within society.
- etc.

The issue under discussion is always something sympathetic, something most decent people would like to see fixed: Intergenerational poverty, police brutality, environmental degradation, bigotry, violence.

But the solutions modern communists put forward are rarely passive, and they are never liberating. If a problem can be solved by individual action, voluntary charity, by the free market, or by the passage of time, that is never seen as good enough. In fact, nothing that fails to increase the power and control of governments or certain institutions (or to grow the people’s dependence on them) is ever regarded as a solution at all.

The people who do the work of modern communism, debating and voting on these “issues of the day” are mostly not aware of what they are doing. A majority of them are decent people who want real problems addressed. But their thinking is confined to a multiple choice question presented by prestige media and schools where only oppressive proposals are listed as options.

Even those higher up the food chain, the ones who create the policy proposals or set the bounds of debate around them are not usually conscious of the way they are manipulating the public. They are hobbled by a theory of history (care of the school system) where the past is merely a series of dragons slain by government policy, where everything is “systemic”, and where the free choices and conscientious actions of individuals have no meaningful effect.

This is how the enemy operates.
In order for modern communists to have the latitude to execute their plans, they need every citizen to be as weak and dependent as possible. They especially need the middle tiers of management, professions, and bureaucracy to be filled with minimally competent placeholders who owe their position to political and institutional favor. These sorts of people, since they are only able to achieve their present position through the system, are more pliable to coercion and less likely to see freedom in any aspect of life as promising or beneficial.

As a consequence, modern communists wage eternal war against every wholesome and sustainable aspect of life, society, and culture which gives people or communities strength and independence. They see it as desirable to destroy the natural optimum which people discover through freedom and competition and replace it with fragile, orchid-like solutions which could not thrive without government and/or institutional intervention:
- Those with demonstrable skills must be replaced by those with credentials.
- The self-employed must be reduced to the status of employees.
- Property must become regulated or burdened with tax and debt, and wherever possible, wealth must be rendered intangible as abstracted financial fictions constructed of laws.
- People must come to rely on government programs for security where they previously relied on themselves and each other.
- The traditional family and organic communities it forms, such as churches, must be invaded, defanged, and delegitimized to leave people at the mercy of authorities.

To a modern communist, “freedom” means the opportunity for individuals to choose some fundamentally maladaptive way of life and be protected from consequences, encouraged and subsidized by power.

The weaker you are, the more useful you are to those in power. Those who choose to be weak and dependent where they could be healthy and independent are collaborators.

This is what I see happening.
The American public has come to accept all the components of totalitarian states.
- We have come to accept a militarized police.
- We have come to accept ideological indoctrination in schools.
- We have come to accept mass surveillance.
- We have come to accept speech codes.
- We have come to accept the rewriting of history to serve the interests of the ruling party.
- We have come to accept the tarring of political dissidents as “terrorists”, “extremists”, and “White Supremacists.”
- We have come to accept the State telling us when and where we can meet.
- We have come to accept the State shutting down our places of worship.
- We have come to accept the idea that parents should have no special authority over their children.
- We have come to accept the manipulation of thought through the manipulation of language.
- We have come to accept the radical reordering of society by government in the name of crisis.

In the 2016 election, the full-throated manipulation by the mainstream press, academia, and the political establishment was so intense, and so obvious, that many people (myself included) who did not consider themselves “conservative” voted for Donald Trump just to poke a finger in the eye of Leviathan. So many people did so that his margin of victory exceeded the margin of cheat, and he was actually able to become president.

In the intervening years, the modern communists of both parties (though more so the Democrats) and those same media and academia mandarins have only doubled down on their commitment to subjugating the public and clamping down on our personal freedom and political prerogatives. Somehow, in losing electorally, we are to believe that their mandate for runaway collectivism and authoritarianism was strengthened.

Now, in the 2020 election, the fraud and manipulation became so glaringly obvious that, at the time of writing, at least 47% of all Americans, regardless of party loyalty, understand that the election was stolen and Joe Biden is illegitimate. Somehow though, it is still a long shot that Donald Trump, the person who has done more to expose the mendacity and incompetence of the ruling party and institutions than anyone else, will be seated as President.

Every one of those Americans who understands this must realize that this is it. This is the last moment for the American Republic, the last time we will even have a glimmer of a chance of an honest election result, and the last time any opposition to modern communism will be afforded space in the public square. And yet, neither I nor most of you are going to do anything about this situation that might risk our present status or comfort.

This is why I won’t yet act.
Unfortunately for me, the crisis has come either too late or too early. Our family has four young children, a single income, and a base of assets which could be easily lost but probably never replaced. We are maximally vulnerable to the sorts of attacks which collectivists bring against those who fight back.

Even so, if the fight were on, if the majority of Americans who this past election shows are opposed to creeping collectivism were on the march, I would risk it all to join them. No comfort, no wealth, not even life itself is as important as preserving the possibility of human freedom. The hive-society prison which is being built around us must be demolished at any cost.

But when I look around me, I see many people who are paralyzed as I am. We know that the fight for our republic is unavoidable, and that the time is now, but do not see a nucleus of resistance to which we can pledge our lives, fortunes, and sacred honors without it being tantamount to suicide. We are watching and waiting for someone else to be that nucleus.

Most people who have not committed to the cause of freedom are not conscious supporters of modern communism. Some hold out the futile hope that things will all go back to normal, others have convinced themselves that what is happening is inevitable and cannot be opposed. Both are dead wrong. As open struggle against collectivism, communism, authoritarianism, and globalism rises, both of these positions will weaken, and support for freedom will grow.

If you have the courage to act where I do not,
here is what I WILL do:
- If you speak out against them, I will listen.
- If you act against them, I will not stand in your way.
- If they portray you as uncool, cringey, old-fashioned, unintelligent, or low-class, I will not laugh at you or think less of you.
- If they call you a racist, sexist, xenophobe, homophobe, Nazi, granny killer, etc., I will not believe them, nor will I care.
- If they call you a terrorist or an extremist, I will not assume that you are in the wrong.
- When they ask me questions, I will lie, forget, or evade as I am able.
- When they tell me their version of history, I will smile and nod and know they are liars.
- If they dispossess you, I will share what I can.
- If they martyr you, my children will learn your name as that of a hero.
- If you have the courage to be shameless in opposing them, you will be honored in my house.

This is what I will remember.
The universities and the class of “experts” and “professionals” to whom they grant legitimacy have no constitutional role in the American Republic. No amount of schooling grants one authority over others, and no consensus among the educated should have the force of law.

2. The guarantee in the Constitution of “Freedom of the Press” is not a grant of authority to the legacy media or to professional journalists. It is, in fact, a right belonging to the people: WE have the right to publish and disseminate views and information the same as those who work for newspapers or television networks.

3. The Intelligence and Defense establishments of the US exist to secure the rights and liberties of the American people. The US has constructed a vast apparatus to deploy force, subvert or overthrow governments, and disseminate propaganda, but these activities are only legitimate when they are directed OUTWARD. When the geopolitical capabilities of the US government do not act to empower the American people and sustain our Constitution, they are just as criminal as the same actions taken by private citizens.

4. Law enforcement and defense against violence is the responsibility of each and every person. Even though we have become accustomed to having these services provided by professionals, they remain our right and our personal responsibility.

5. Education of the young is the responsibility of parents and natural communities. Even though we have become accustomed to having this service provided by professionals, it remains our right and our personal responsibility.

6. Provision of necessities such as food and shelter is the responsibility of each and every person. Even though we have become accustomed to these goods being delivered by a vast and interconnected economic machinery over which we have little control, it remains our right and our duty to provide for ourselves and those we care about.

7. Though peace, prosperity, happiness, and a long life are all wonderful conditions to experience, they are not what makes a human life worthwhile. Humans have dignity and value insofar as they are free agents struggling and striving to obtain these ends. “Treating someone as a human being” does not mean coddling them and providing for them like you would a child or a pet. It means getting out of their way and leaving them the freedom and latitude to provide for themselves.

8. Whoever relinquishes their freedom to obtain comfort or security is not acting as a human, but as an animal. Because our fates are all intertwined, such a person is betraying all of us, and does not deserve our concern or regard.

— Sarah Chamberlain

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


It's been a while, hasn't it?

After it was all said and done, 2018 turned out to be a little more interesting than I would have liked. Some key events from last year are:

  • I served on a jury for the first time.
  • My son was diagnosed with autism. His twin brother will likely be diagnosed this month.
  • My grandmother passed away at age 94. She was my last remaining grandparent.
  • I re-started martial arts training again, briefly.
  • I had a brain haemorrhage that could have easily killed me or left me permanently disabled.
  • I stopped martial arts training, most likely permanently.
  • I've been completely caffeine free since the brain event.
  • I've been making significant changes to my lifestyle and eating habits, and have lost about 30 pounds since the summer of 2018.
Yeah ... 2018 was pretty crazy.

Of course, the event that holds the most attention in my thoughts at present is the brain haemorrhage, and so I want to give some more details on that in this post. It also precipitated the events in the list that followed, so that plan kind of makes sense, I guess.

Sometime around noon on December 4th, 2018, I experienced what I later discovered was called a "thunderclap headache." It came on very suddenly and was the worst headache I have ever had. I have never had a true migraine headache before, so I thought that was what was happening. I took some ibuprofen and lay down for about an hour to let it kick in. That didn't help, and it kept getting worse. At one point, it was so bad I started to feel a little nauseated, and so I panicked due to my latent emetophobia.

At that point, I suggested maybe I should go to the emergency room and get checked out, just to make sure it was really a migraine and not something worse. I figured they'd laugh at me for going to the ER for a headache, maybe give me some medicine, and send me home. Well ... that's not exactly what happened.

I was immediately taken back for a CAT scan of my head, which is standard procedure when someone presents with "the worst headache ever." Much to my surprise and fright, the scan showed evidence of a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage near my left vertebral artery. A Sub-Arachnoid Haemorrhage (SAH from now on) is a life-threatening condition and a form of stroke that can put massive amounts of pressure on the brain and cause severe damage to it. From what I read later, most people who have them don't survive, and most who do survive are permanently disabled.

The small hospital where I had gone was not equipped to handle my condition, so I was taken via ambulance to a bigger, better-equipped facility in Dearborn. So far, I hadn't had any other symptoms besides the headache, but by now I was pretty worried. At the Dearborn hospital, I had another CAT scan, this time with an IV delivering an iodine-based contrast solution to help light up the blood vessels on the scan. This one confirmed there was, indeed, blood leaking into my brain.

All Wired Up
Now, I had seen people who had brain bleeds before. In hospitals and rehab facilities, they lay paralyzed, unable to speak, some unable to see or possibly even think. I was now pretty terrified to think that I might end up in a similar situation, and I can't even imagine what was going through the mind of my poor wife who had followed me to the Dearborn facility.

By this time, several hours had passed since the start of the event, and the doctors at Dearborn told me they, too, were not equipped to handle my condition. I was taken to another ambulance and transferred to Henry Ford Hospital in downtown Detroit, and that's where I'd stay for the next 10 days.

The next few days were kind of a blur, partly because they started giving me morphine and Dilaudid for pain management. For those that don't know, that's the "good stuff" that makes you pretty loopy. Since I am opiate naive, meaning I don't have opiates in my system on a regular basis, they had a pretty strong effect on me.

After several procedures, including more CAT scans, an MRI, and an angiogram, they confirmed that there was bleeding in the brain, but it appeared to have stopped on its own. They couldn't tell whether I had an aneurysm that burst, or a small cut on the artery in question. In any case, whatever had caused the bleed was too small for any kind of surgical intervention, so the plan became "wait and see what happens."  Since I was still not showing any neurological symptoms, that was the path of least risk.

The Human Pin Cushion
Well, basically, nothing happened. After a few days, the headaches went away. I later realized that these headaches, unlike the one that precipitated this whole thing, were the result of my body detoxing from caffeine. I hadn't had a cup of coffee since the morning of the event! In light of that, I decided to stick with it and stay off of caffeine permanently. "After all," I told one of my nurses, "if the zombie apocalypse ever happens, I won't have time to feel like crap for a week. Besides, most of the zombies will probably be hanging out at Starbucks, anyway."

When I wasn't being wheeled off for the next procedure, or poked with a toothpick in various places to make sure my central nervous system was still operational, or being quizzed about the current year, where I was, who was president, and what color his hair is, I had a lot of time to think about things. Truthfully, I was terrified (I kind of still am). I kept thinking that, in spite of being okay now, I could suddenly slip away. One wrong move of my head or neck could re-open the artery that had bled, and this time it could kill me before I even realized what was happening. Then, I'd imagine my wife and kids having to attend my funeral with Christmas just around the corner. Since I'm the sole income provider to our household, I wondered if I had enough life insurance for them to get by for a while.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what would happen to me, and what I'd experience if I died, or if I became paralyzed or lost my cognitive abilities. I'd love to say that, as a Christian, I wasn't too worried about where I'd go if I died, but to be honest, that's not entirely true. I've had my doubts before, and now, when it looked like the rubber was about to meet the road, they were popping up again. For many years, I have not been as devoted a follower of the Messiah as I should have been. Sometimes I've wondered if God is even real at all, or if I've just deluded myself as my atheist friends would suggest. Well, let me tell you, dear readers (yes, all ten of you): laying in a hospital bed in the ICU and hearing "code blues" being announced several times a day for some of your fellow patients is not a comfortable place to be having a crisis of faith, but it's probably one of the more effective ones.

One of the things I wrestled with the most was my apparent abject terror at the thought of dying versus the faith I claim that is supposed to give me peace and conquer the fear of death. I still don't think I have fully come to terms with it, but I did work out a few things in my mind. Mainly, the difference between being prepared and being ready. If I were 95, like my grandma who had passed away in August, I reasoned, I'd be a lot more accepting of all this. I'd be saying "ok, Jesus, let's do this thing." I'd be ready.  I have my faith - a precious gift from God in its own right. I have placed my complete trust in Christ alone, and believe that when my time comes, He will have mercy on me, forgive whatever sins I've committed, and allow me into His kingdom.  In that sense, I am prepared for death.

Me and My Girls
However, I'm "only" 43 years old. I have a young family that depends on me. I still want to have as many years as I can with my wife and kids because I love them all so much. They depend on me for their livelihood, and I don't want to leave them in that state. There are still a lot of things I want to do and experience in my life. I want to see my grandchildren. I want to have many years together with my wonderful wife after all the kids have established their independence and moved out. I don't want to miss any of that ... I may be prepared, but I am not ready to die, and you know what?  That's okay. What I do need to work on is to trust that, if my time does come prematurely, God will look after my family and they will be okay eventually, too. That's pretty hard for me right now, if I'm being honest, but I feel like it's the next step in my spiritual growth that I need to take.

Two weeks ago, I had my 30-day followup appointment with the neurologist who oversaw my care in the hospital, and everything was still looking great. We came to the conclusion that I had come through the incident unharmed, with the exception that I seem to have lost that irrational sense of immortality that had carried over from my youth. The SAH had done nothing to me except scare the crap out of me, jolting me into making some much-needed changes in my life, both physically and spiritually. Among them, I'm monitoring my blood pressure closely, making smarter food choices, studying my Bible on a regular basis again, and looking to drop another 50 or so pounds in a healthy, gradual manner.  Unfortunately, my doctor has suggested that martial arts training may be too risky for the time being so I will have to find something else to do for exercise. I'm still working on that, and trying to come to terms with the idea that I may have to settle for a green belt instead of a black one.

Booga Booga!
A week ago today, I had a follow-up CAT scan, again with the contrast fluid, to make sure everything is still okay. I got the final results yesterday and was very surprised. It turns out, they can't even find evidence that anything happened. There are no signs of aneurysms, no signs of any blockages, no evidence of dissections. There isn't even any evidence that any of those conditions existed and then healed. It's literally as if nothing ever happened at all. All the blood vessels in my brain are as normal as can be, and all my functionality is 100 per cent intact. Neither I, nor my doctor, can explain this, but the results are clear and have been triple checked .. and I'm not about to argue with them!

If you're still with me, dear readers, I thank you. Even if you're not, that's okay, too. I needed to get this down on "paper" somewhere, so thank you for sharing in my mini-catharsis. Now, get off my lawn.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jury Duty and the Duty of Jurors

Yesterday, I received the "dreaded letter" in the mail - a summons to report for Jury Duty. This is the second time I've been summoned this year. The first time resulted in me being seated as a juror and delivering a verdict in a civil trial.

My first service as a juror was in federal court and dealt with corporate negligence vs a family who had lost their child, ostensibly because of said negligence. It was a very difficult case on an emotional level. Besides having a great deal of empathy for the family, and feeling their loss deeply, I think the worst part of it was not being able to talk about it at all with anyone - not even my wife - while the evidence was being presented. It took a lot to keep it all inside, and at the end of the two-ish week trial, I was emotionally exhausted. While I'm glad to have had the experience, I'm not exactly chomping at the bit to do it again.

This time, I've been summoned for a Michigan state court. Of course, I have no idea if I'll get picked again or what the case will be about, and even if I did, I couldn't discuss it at all. However, at this point, all this jury duty stuff has driven me to blog about an aspect of it that I think is very important, but not very well-known: the right of jury nullification.

Judges and prosecuting attorneys really don't like jury nullification. They rarely, if ever, inform jurors of the right. In fact, most of the time they will tell jurors that they do not have the right and must find solely based on the facts of the case.  This, however, is not entirely true.

Juries also have the right to judge not only the facts of the case against the defendant but also the justness of the law itself, and whether that law is being applied justly in the case. In other words, a jury may refuse to convict an obviously guilty defendant who's only crime is breaking a law they believe shouldn't exist in the first place, if they believe the law is being applied unjustly against the defendant, or if they believe the defendant was justified in breaking the law under the circumstances.

For example, a sympathetic jury could acquit a person accused and obviously guilty of stealing food to keep his family from starving to death - this would be an instance of a just law being applied un-justly to the defendant. For another example, a jury who disagreed with marijuana prohibition laws could acquit the guy caught "green handed" with a bag of weed. In this way, juries - composed notably of randomly selected, ordinary people - stand in judgment over the laws and activities of the state and the exercise of its power.

In my mind, this makes the right to trial by jury, the right and duty to serve on a jury, and the right of jury nullification some of the most important safeguards of liberty we, the people possess. It's also probably the same reason our government doesn't want us to know we have them. I'm not even joking about this - people have actually been arrested and thrown in jail for nothing more than distributing copies of the US constitution and pamphlets on jury nullification to potential jurors on their way into the courthouse. These actions by the state are in flagrant violation of the right to free speech, among other things, but far too few seem to care. It's getting pretty scary out there, folks.

So, my dear readers (yes, all 12 of you, ha ha), you may now consider yourselves informed. If nothing else, it may provide you with an easy way to get out of jury duty if the case is a criminal one and involves a controversial law.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

An Open Letter from an NRA Member to those Marching Today and their Supporters

Dear March For Our Lives participants and supporters:

We have a common goal. We want to see an end to gun violence just as much, if not more, than our detractors. I firmly believe that every time a firearm is used for evil, it is an affront not only to civilized society but also to the rights and freedoms we have in this country. We want it to stop, too. We do not want to see one more drop of innocent blood spilled. Every time one of these horrible tragedies occurs, we hug our own children a little tighter and long for a day when we, and of course you, can not only feel safe but actually BE safe.

With that in mind, I ask you to consider a few things.

First, we stand ready, capable, and equipped to protect you. There are hundreds of thousands of us out there who would gladly stand between you and those who would do you harm, risking our lives to save yours. We are parents, teachers, first responders, engineers, etc. While being willing to take a bullet on your behalf is a noble sentiment, we feel our efforts to protect you would be far more effective if it was the criminals who were taking the bullets, and that is the beginning of our ire over these things.

Yes, we stand ready, willing, and equipped to protect you. But, by law, we are not able to do so. You see, federal law prohibits us from being where we would need to be while we're equipped to protect you. Think for a moment about that. The reason you don't see stories in the news of people like me stopping these school massacres is that, by and large, we aren't allowed to.

Think about that for a while as you wave your "NRA blood on your hands" signs today.  The fact is that the NRA has done more than anyone else to actually try to halt gun violence in this country, and we desperately want to do more.

You can argue that our ideas may not work. The fact is, though, that gun control hasn't worked - in fact, it has arguably made things worse.  We did not see school shootings with nearly the frequency and high body counts that we see recently until the "gun free schools" act was passed in 1994. Once people like me were no longer allowed to have their self-defense tools in schools, the killers knew they wouldn't face resistance. The fact is, gun control has made you sitting ducks, and our ideas have largely been dismissed.

Now, there are some places, some schools, where teachers and staff are allowed to carry their guns. Two things should be considered in those cases. First, you may not have known that those places exist - why?  Because the dire predictions of what would happen there have not come to pass, and so it is not news that fits the agenda. Second, consider that you have not heard of mass shootings at those places since those policies went into effect.

Third, consider what did actually happen recently in one such place. An armed school resource officer was able to stop a school shooting in Maryland, and the only person who died was the perpetrator. What stopped him?  Did Maryland's strict gun laws stop him?  Did their ban on weapons like the AR-15 stop him? Did their waiting periods and age restrictions and countless other restrictions stop him?  No. An armed and NRA-trained person with his own gun stopped him.

Further, consider why we always hear calls for MORE gun control after a school shooting. I suggest it's not because it works, but it's because gun control itself is the agenda. It's not about saving your lives, it's about keeping people like me from being able to do so in the future. It's about stripping you of your freedoms now so that you won't be able to resist while this country moves closer and closer to fascism.

Think about which side actually has more of an interest in ending gun violence. I suggest that it's not the side who's political agenda gains more strength and traction for every one of you who dies in this manner. I submit to you that the gun control crowd - at least those at the "top" - don't actually want to stop these things from happening. Why would they?  The more of you die in mass shootings, the more their political agenda benefits. Think about that for a while.

Conversely, people like me who support the right to keep and bear arms most definitely have a strong interest in stopping gun violence, and for much the same reason. We grow weary of being blamed for things we haven't done - for things we abhor and would never consider doing. We grow weary of being blamed for things we could and would prevent if we were only allowed to do so.

Now, I do want to acknowledge that there are many March supporters who are on board purely out of concern for their kids' safety, and I do not want to vilify you. What I do want to do, though, is educate you about what will actually make your kids safer and what won't. What I want you to ask yourself is, "who is volunteering to actually stand in harm's way to protect your kids effectively? What is preventing them from doing so?"

Instead of vilifying the NRA and the second amendment, you should be demanding that your parents and teachers' right to protect you be restored.  Instead of demanding that your own freedoms be taken away, you should be demanding that your rights to protect yourselves and your own children be sacrosanct.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Net Neutrality: What it is, What it Isn't, and Why You Should Care

I've seen a lot of .. stuff .. from both sides of the political aisle lately regarding Net Neutrality, so I figured I should chime in. Why?  Because I've been tightly coupled with the internet for just about as long as it existed, developing software that uses it, and using it myself.  I remember when the internet was nothing more than a way look at other universities' libraries using a tiny, text-based terminal. I remember when the World Wide Web didn't exist. I remember how exciting it was when people figured out a way to actually look at pictures using a new graphics-based browser, and I remember how cool it was when a Pizza Hut in New York City or somewhere set up a home page where you could actually order a pizza over the internet! From that time to the present, the internet has been an integral part of my career as a software engineer - indeed, my job today wouldn't exist without it!

Further, I have written code that implements the communications protocols upon which the internet is entirely based. To say that I have a good understanding of how the internet works at its deepest technical levels would not be an understatement.

So now you have my "credentials," and hopefully enough information to establish that I know what I'm talking about, and that, regardless of your current opinion on Net Neutrality, you should pay attention to what I'm going to say.

Net Neutrality Is Not New

Contrary to what a lot of conservatives are saying, Net Neutrality is not new. I do understand why they say that, though, so I will explain what they are actually talking about, and how that came about.

In 2015, the FCC adopted Title 2 rules for the internet. This did, in fact, codify some of NN's principles into law, and this is what was recently repealed by the FCC. However, Net Neutrality itself existed for a long time before that as a founding principle of how the internet operated.  To understand this, we must first understand what the internet actually is. I will try to avoid boring my readers with anything terribly technical, but some nerd-speak will be necessary.

At its core, the internet is a network of interconnected computers that allows those computers to send chunks of data (called "packets") to each other. The Internet Protocol (IP for short - this is where we get the term IP Address) is a well-defined communications protocol that every computer on the internet must speak. It provides, at a minimum, a source IP address and service (or port) number, a destination IP address and service/port number, the payload of data being transferred, and some overhead to ensure that the data doesn't get corrupted along the way.

Notice how the IP protocol doesn't care what is in that data payload?  That is the essence of Net Neutrality - the protocol that enables the connection is content neutral. Only the source and destination computers need to care about what's actually in the payload. This is the level at which your ISP is supposed to operate. They provide your computer with its IP Address, and they move the data packets between your computer and the rest of the internet - that's all.

Everything else, from your email to your shopping on Amazon, to the dirty pictures your creepy uncle likes to download, to your favorite YouTube videos, to your video conference at work, to the text you're reading right now, is all built on top of that very simple method of moving packets of data from one computer to another.

When the internet began, it was inherently neutral. The computers that handled the data transfers were not fast enough to bother with inspecting the actual data, and so internet service providers left it up to their customers to decide what they would send back and forth. This is what allowed for all of the innovation and growth we saw in the 1990s and 2000s and today as people imagined and implemented new and exciting things that could be sent back and forth. That simplicity is what allowed the internet to become the free and open marketplace of ideas it has been and continues to be to this day.

So what happened in 2015, then?

Prior to the FCCs 2015 rulemaking, there was trouble in paradise. Computers were getting faster, the internet was getting bigger, and more people wanted in on the action. Netflix and streaming video became popular, as did things like Facetime and online video conferencing. Big internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc, realized that people would pay good money for some of these services, and they wanted people to pay that good money to them. So, they started manipulating the internet traffic that went through their networks in order to artificially give preference to their own services.

As an example, AT&T blocked its users from using Apple's FaceTime software, forcing them instead to use AT&T's proprietary (not to mention inferior, which some of its users pronounced the same as "shitty") video streaming service, for which they charged a premium. Their customers, however, who were accustomed to being able to use their internet connections for whatever they wanted (which is what Net Neutrality is) complained, and rightfully so, that AT&T was unfairly interfering with their choices as consumers.

Around the same time, Comcast was caught red-handed disabling certain file sharing protocols that many of their customers were using for legitimate purposes, like providing software downloads, etc.. Again, customers complained, and rightfully so.

In another example, Comcast (again) began artificially lowering the speed at which Netflix videos reached their customers, demanding that Netflix pay what amounted to a ransom in order to reach customers on Comcast's network. Netflix and customers both complained, but eventually, Netflix had to give in and pay the ransom in order to stay in business.

Eventually, these and many other well-documented cases of abuse reached the ears of the federal government, and action was taken in 2015 to protect Net Neutrality in the form of new FCC rules that made those abusive practices illegal.  Those protections were the ones recently repealed by the FCC.

Net Neutrality is not "Obamacare for the Internet"

So, contrary to what the opponents say, Net Neutrality didn't just show up in 2015 as a result of government overreach. Rather, it is a founding principle and the way things have always worked and operated. The concept is much the same as that of free speech, which pre-existed the first amendment but was codified into law because people in power tried to violate it, to the detriment of everyone.  Now, imagine if, 2 years after the adoption of the bill of rights, someone said they ought to repeal the first amendment because, after all, we were all just fine without it. I imagine anyone, regardless of their political affiliations, would be highly suspect of such a move.

Well, so it is with Net Neutrality. In reality, we've had it all along, and it's what made the internet work as well as it does. It needed to become law because unscrupulous people decided they wanted to exert more control over what you and I do on the internet and turn it to their financial advantage.  But, there's something even more nefarious than that at work, and I'll show you what that is eventually.

Net Neutrality IS Freedom

Contrary to what opponents will tell you, it is not at all difficult to provide a Net Neutral connection to consumers. In fact, it's a lot easier than providing one that isn't neutral.

Read again the examples of neutrality abuse that I pointed out before. What needs to be understood is that, in order to do those things, your ISP has to implement something called Deep Packet Inspection, or DPI. That means they need to have their computers take apart and examine the payload of each IP data packet that goes through their network, determine what it is, and then apply a bunch of checks and filtering to it before deciding whether to send it along, block it, re-route it, or whatever. Not only does this take up a lot more computing power, but it also introduces unnecessary complexity into the network - complexity that can produce failures, introduce security holes, and, in general, make the network less reliable and less secure. Therefore, it's easy to see that a Neutral Net is less expensive to provide, more secure, and more reliable than a non-neutral net. So why do big ISPs want to have this non-neutral overhead if it makes their job more difficult?

The answer is two-fold. The first part is plain and simple - money. They have the money to invest in computers powerful enough to do DPI now, and they know they can use that technology to artificially limit their customers' internet access, and then sell them the same stuff at a premium. But that's not even the worst of it. Suppose you start your own video streaming company. Today, with Net Neutrality in place, you would only have to get a good enough connection to the internet, put your servers online, and let customers and search engines find you. If your product is good, you will get customers and make piles of money, maybe even one day becoming big enough to compete with YouTube. However, without Net Neutrality, big ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, etc, will be allowed to force you to pay them a pile of money in order for your servers to be reachable at all by their customers. Now, in order to compete with YouTube, your streaming service will have to pay a premium to be included in the same list of available content, and your customers would have to pay the same ISPs extra money in order to get to your content. I cannot understand for the life of me why people who normally support a free market would be ok with this, yet many conservatives and libertarians seem to be. Since I usually run in those same circles politically, I can only assume that they just don't get it.

The second answer is not as simple, but far more nefarious - control. DPI will allow ISPs, and, by extension, governments, hackers, etc, to inspect and control what you do on the internet. Sending a saucy text to your wife or husband? Your ISP and Uncle Sam are watching. Reading blogs that are hostile to the current political climate? Not only will they know what you're reading, but without Net Neutrality, your ISP can legally prevent you from accessing it, or even knowing its there to begin with. The fact that you're even reading my blog now is actually brought to you by Net Neutrality .. without it, my ISP could say "hey, we don't like what you're publishing in your blog, so we're not going to let you do that on our network."  So now you see how Net Neutrality isn't only about consumer protection, but it's also about fundamental liberties like freedom of speech.  At least, I hope you do.

Net Neutrality is Not Government Overreach

Now, normally, I'm all for limited government and as few regulations as possible, both economic and social. I don't like taxes. I REALLY don't like gun control. I don't like laws that create victimless crimes. I believe people should be allowed to pursue whatever interpersonal relationships they want between consenting adults without the government interfering with or favoring any of them. I don't think the government should force me to buy health insurance if I don't want to. I think that gay married couples should be allowed to defend their marijuana fields with machine guns that have silencers on them. I believe that businesses, for the most part, have the right to set their own business practices as they see fit, and to succeed or fail on their own merit. I also believe that neither my government nor my ISP has the right to dictate or observe what I do or see on the internet if I don't want them to.

However, one must concede that certain regulations are necessary in order to maintain both individual freedoms and a functioning free market economy. This is why we have the bill of rights, and this is why we have laws against harmful business practices like false advertising, medical malpractice, etc.. After all, if a right is infringed, does it matter whether it's a government or a company that's doing the infringing?  It shouldn't...

In the US Declaration of Independence is found the familiar phrase, "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness..."

What people don't usually remember is what comes right after that: "And that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed .." [emphasis added by me, obviously]

Did you catch that?  The purpose of government is to secure the rights of the people by law. So that must mean that some laws are good and necessary and not contrary to freedom. I say this because I get the feeling that my more libertarian friends seem to think that every regulation is a bad regulation. Well, I disagree - regulations that harm consumers or make it harder to start a business are bad. Regulations that encourage innovation, prevent consumers from getting screwed over with no recourse, or keep us from destroying our planet are good and necessary regulations to have - they secure our rights, our freedoms, and even in some cases our lives.

Net Neutrality is one of those necessary regulations. It secures and enhances our rights to free association, free speech, our online freedom. It encourages small businesses and creates room for innovation. It promotes fair free-market competition. It enhances consumer choice and the availability of information to everyone. This is one of the few things I feel the political left has gotten right ... if you'll pardon the expression. Net Neutrality should be one thing both sides can agree on, even if we're still going to fight over gun control, taxes, marriage, etc..

Why You Should Care

We should care, because to some extent, Net Neutrality is what allows us to use the internet as a way to engage in those other debates freely. It ensures that my voice, and yours, too, are able to be heard just as loudly as those of Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Donald Trump, Netflix, Everytown, the NRA, etc.. To lose Net Neutrality is to risk losing your own voice on the internet. It's equivalent to losing your freedom of speech, losing your ability to make informed choices, losing your ability to access the information you want to consume. Losing Net Neutrality would be catastrophic. I only hope it's not too late already.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sensible Gun Control

It's happened again. Some whack-job has slipped through the cracks in the system and killed a bunch of people. The "no guns allowed" sign in front of the crime scene was either blatantly ignored, or taken as a favorable indicator by the killer when selecting his target (after all, with no one able to return fire, he was basically free to do what he wanted). Then, before the bodies were even cold, the call came out once again for "sensible gun control" from our nation's leaders, the media, etc..  Safe, responsible gun owners, the NRA, and other groups who represent them once again find themselves the subjects of misplaced blame, even though we grieve for the victims and celebrate the heroes as much, or even more, than anyone else. Time and time again, we're called to "compromise" and acquiesce to "sensible" gun control measures. Time and time again, the only things that are ever proposed make no sense, infringe on our rights, and usually only serve to make it easier for the whack-jobs to kill more people the next time around.

Frankly, I'm sick of the whole damned thing - every aspect of it.  I'm sick of these nut-jobs killing people, first and foremost. I'm sick of being blamed (as part of the responsible gun-owning collective) for their abominable actions. I'm sick of the calls to restrict my ability to defend myself and my family because of them. So, rather than just rant and rave about how sick and tired I am in a blog post, I'm going to propose an actual solution.  This is going to be fairly radical, and I expect no one will be happy with it, but isn't that what "compromise" is all about? Are you listening, politicians and candidates?  Yes?  No?  Who am I kidding?

The calls for "sensible" gun control usually come in a several different forms, some of which I'll capture here:

  • calls to ban certain types of firearms and accessories (like semi-auto rifles and magazines)
  • calls to further restrict where anyone, including licensed individuals may carry a weapon
  • calls for "universal" or "expanded" background checks prior to any gun sale
  • calls for mandatory licensing of gun owners / buyers
  • calls for mandatory training of gun owners / buyers
  • calls to register all guns and the people who own them
  • calls for some way to keep the whack-jobs in check

Side note: we almost never hear calls to try and fix the root cause of these issues, which, I believe is our completely failed mental health system. I think that if we were better at finding and treating the crazies BEFORE they picked up a gun, we'd see better results - regardless of what we try to control on the AFTER side. We also need to stop making these idiots famous. Their names and likenesses should be erased from public discourse and consigned to the dung-heap of forgotten history rather than broadcast 24/7 on the "news."  This is not really something that can be legislated, though, since there's that other amendment that guarantees free speech and a free press. Rather, it's something we should just do as a society. I also think most sensible people agree on that, so I'll simply gloss over it here. 

Meanwhile, most law abiding gun owners feel there are enough, or even too many restrictions in place already, and that our second amendment rights should instead be expanded (or restored, if you're into splitting hairs). We'd like to see:
  • an end to restrictions on what kinds of guns and accessories we can own (i/e: "assault weapons," suppressors, big magazines, etc.)
  • the right to legally carry, for self-defense purposes, wherever we have a right to go, including across state lines
  • minimal to no hassle when buying a new or used gun or accessory
  • not having to ask permission from government officials or pay exorbitant licensing fees before exercising our rights
  • some way to keep the whack-jobs in check that doesn't negatively impact us

From (emphasis added by me):

Compromise (n): 1. a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands.

Note that "compromise" does not mean "I give up more of my rights and get nothing in return. Again." Nor does it mean "'shall not be infringed,' motherf***er, deal with it."

So, let's take an honest look at both lists and see what we can each live with and without, OK? I can select a few things from the first list that I would be willing to support in order to gain a few things from the second list, and there are a few things on the second list that I wouldn't be terribly upset to lose in order to keep some of the first-list things from happening.

My proposal, therefore, consists of a couple key components, each of which I will present with a brief(?) rationale. Through this, the gun control crowd will get the following:

  • Get: "expanded" background checks prior to any gun sale
  • Get: mandatory licensing of gun owners / buyers
  • Get: mandatory training of gun owners / buyers
  • Get: registration of gun owners / buyers
  • Give: restrictions on types of guns and accessories that can be owned
  • Give: restrictions on where licensed people can carry
  • Give: registration of guns themselves
The gun rights crowd will get the following:
  • Get: an end to restrictions on what kinds of guns and accessories we can own (i/e: "assault weapons," suppressors, big magazines, etc.)
  • Get: the right to legally carry, for self-defense purposes, wherever we have a right to go, including across state lines
  • Give: now have to be licensed and registered
  • Give: have to submit to mandatory training requirements
  • Give: more hassle when buying a gun in the form of background checks 
We would all get, hopefully, an improved way to keep the whack-jobs in check that doesn't place too heavy a burden on the rest of us. In some cases, both sides should be able to get close to what they want - i/e: instead of outright bans on guns, there are some reasonable hurdles to clear prior to ownership that are designed to ensure everyone's safety - including the owner.

The big problem I've had with the calls for tighter gun control laws and "compromise" is that they aren't really proposing a compromise - they're just proposing more restrictions and requirements, with no concessions in return.  Anyway .. here's how I think this could play out to everyone's benefit:

1. Federal preemption for firearms laws - meaning state and local governments do not get to make their own gun laws. Rationale: The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the federal constitution, therefore its regulation should be a federal matter. This will eliminate the confusing and loop-hole-ridden patchwork of laws on the books now, which is part of the reason there are so many cracks in the current system. I am ordinarily a fan of States' rights, but I don't for a second think that constitutional rights are the domain of the states.
"If the words 'congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion .. ' can be interpreted such that 99.9% of the population of some tiny little village in the middle of nowhere can't decide they want a manger scene on the town hall lawn, then ' .. the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed' should prevent the NYPD from being able to throw me in prison for simply bringing my handgun into the city."
2. Open up the NICS system so that private individuals could run a quick, anonymous background check prior to selling a firearm without having to seek out a dealer.  Someone could even write an app for it.  If item 4 is implemented, they could just enter the buyer's gun license number and get a quick go/no-go decision.  Do away with the NICS backdoor registration scheme, though.

3. It should be blatantly obvious that a background check system is only as good as the data behind it, right? How many times has a mass-shooter passed a background check before the event? It happens more often than it should. So, we need to figure out a way to fix that system and ensure timely, accurate data is available. The federal preemption idea will help with this by doing away with the current hodge-podge of state laws and state level systems, some of which feed their data into NICS, and some that don't. This will need to be balanced with a way to quickly correct erroneous data in the system, and to prevent abuses.  We also need to start prosecuting felons who try to buy guns and who are caught by a NICS background check - something the government has only done a dozen or so times.

4. Establish a federal licensing scheme for gun owners such that:
  • No one without this license would be allowed to purchase or possess any firearm.
  • No one with a violent criminal history, nor anyone judged (in a court of law) to be mentally defective in such a way as to pose a danger to themselves or others would be allowed to obtain a license.
  • Anyone with a license who is convicted of a violent crime, or who is likewise judged to be mentally defective would forfeit their license and their firearms immediately. There should also be a process whereby they could petition a court to have their rights re-instated (and their guns returned) after meeting rigorous requirements to prove the restriction is no longer warranted.
  • If a person is merely suspected of a crime, or suspected to be an immediate danger to self or others, then the license may be suspended and the person's firearms temporarily held in a sort of escrow status by an order of a court. This would be done in a similar manner to obtaining a search warrant. If the suspicion turns out to be false after due process, then the license is reinstated immediately, and all firearms returned.
  • No exemptions for law enforcement or government officials, etc., either. Not even secret service. Everyone and anyone who wants a gun has to follow the same process.
5. Establish better accountability and responsibility across the board. Parents who own firearms are legally responsible for what their kids do with them should they obtain access to them, legally or otherwise. Junior gets daddy's gun and shoots up his school?  Mom and dad are looking at some criminally negligent homicide charges, at least. Some court clerk forgot to do their job and didn't submit a felony conviction to NICS and the felon is able to obtain a gun later on and do some mayhem?  Guess who's getting fired and brought up on criminally negligent homicide charges. You sold a gun to a shady dude in the Wal-Mart parking lot who turned out to be a drug dealer getting supplies for his next drive-by? Well, you better be ready to explain why you didn't use the new open NICS to background check the guy or prove that you were duped in some way, or you're in some hot water, too.  Now, there would need to be some moderation in place here. If the gun owner has done his due diligence, but his gun is still stolen from him and used in a crime, then he should not be held any more liable than he would if his car was stolen and driven drunk through a farmer's market or something. A judge and jury should be able to figure this out in a reasonable way.

I'll now expand on the licensing scheme, since it's really the core of this proposal.

There could be different "levels" or "classes" of license. I propose a tiered approach, something like this:

1. Learner's Permit for Minors: the first stage. This allows the holder to handle firearms under the supervision of a licensed parent or guardian, or a licensed and qualified firearms instructor, provided the parent or guardian has given consent. The firearms allowed would be equal to the ones allowed by the accompanying Full License plus endorsements. No age restrictions, but the parent or guardian assumes full legal responsibility for the licensee's actions. Available for people under 18 years of age after a basic written exam and background check. Parent or guardian must have a valid Full License. Firearms instructors would need to be certified / qualified by the NRA or some other accredited organization, much like they are today.

2. Learner's Permit for Adults:  the first stage for people over 18. Allows you to handle firearms under the instruction of a licensed and qualified firearms instructor and/or holder of a Full License after a basic written exam and background check. This is basically the same thing as item 1, but since the holder would be a legal adult, the requirement for parental consent and responsibility is not present.

3. Full License - this would be available to any holder of a Learner's Permit for Adults (kids have to wait until they're 18) after they have demonstrated proficiency and safety with, at minimum, single-shot rifles. Without endorsements, this would allow the licensee to purchase and possess any single-shot rifle anywhere in the country. Holders of full licenses may only handle firearms for which they do not have an endorsement while under the direct supervision of another full licensee who does hold an appropriate endorsement - this is so they can legally participate in practice and instruction activities in order to obtain their own endorsements.

4. Endorsements - the full license would have a number of endorsements that could be gained by training and/or passing an exam relevant to the endorsement. An exam should also include some reasonable amount of instructor observed "trigger time" with a firearm appropriate to the endorsement being sought. These would include endorsements for:
  • handguns
  • semi-automatics (rifles/shotguns)
  • fully automatics
  • public carry (concealed and open)
  • etc.
So, basically, if you want a handgun, you have to take the training (or test out of it) and show that you're competent and safe with a handgun. If you want a semi-auto, you have to do the same for that. If you want to carry in public, you have to be trained for that. Let's go ahead and say that any time you apply for an endorsement, you have to pass another background check, too. There could be dependencies between endorsements as well. For example, it wouldn't make much sense to give a Public Carry endorsement to someone without a Handgun endorsement, right? And you'd have to get a Semi-Auto endorsement before going for a Full-Auto because .. well, do I really have to explain that to anyone?

Any conviction for a violent crime, mental illness that warrants it, etc., would result in the suspension or revocation of the license and seizure of the guns.

What do you think, liberals?  Sounds good so far?

Well, here come the parts you might not like as much. Compromise, remember?

1. Licenses and endorsements (all of them, including PC) are on a shall-issue basis, meaning that no one who meets the qualifications will be denied a license or endorsement. If an applicant can prove they already know the material and possess the skills, they may "test out" and not have to sit through training they obviously don't need. I do think that requiring a license for a constitutional right is an infringement on that right, but having the license on a shall-issue basis will mitigate that somewhat.

2. License fees will be either non-existent, very minimal, or even tax-payer funded (especially for the more advanced endorsements). The PC endorsement, for example, should not be a "rich old men only" domain. Again, this mitigates the infringement aspect of it. License fees should be considered the equivalent of a poll tax.

3. Licenses and all endorsements are valid in all US jurisdictions without exception, including all states, DC, remote territories (like Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands), etc.. No one who has jumped through all these hoops should face prison time for nothing more than carrying their otherwise legal firearm across the wrong state line.  I'm looking at you, NY, NJ, CA, HI, DC, etc..

4. Public schools will be required to teach gun safety courses at all levels. This is KEY to removing both the fear and "forbidden fruit" issues surrounding kids and guns. We could put an opt-in here for students who want to get their Learner's Permit (with parental consent) and study for their Full License and endorsements, too. As part of this, marksmanship courses and competitions would once again be welcome in public schools. Some parents may squirm about this, so an individual opt-out option could be placed here. However, they should consider that we do have a "gun culture" here in America, and ask themselves, would they rather have their children learn about guns in a safe environment from a certified instructor, or take the chance it'll  happen somewhere else beyond their control?

5. Once you've got your full license and your endorsements, there are no more restrictions. You can buy (or make / 3D print for yourself) any firearm for which your endorsements qualify you. No magazine capacity restrictions, no bans on accessories (like suppressors), etc., no closed machine gun registry, etc.. Of course, you assume full legal responsibility for your firearms and their safe operation and storage at all times. This is fine, though, because you've already shown you've had the training and skills required for that, or you wouldn't have the license.

6. With a Public Carry endorsement, you can carry your firearm wherever you want, period. That includes schools, bars (but there should still be strict laws against carrying while intoxicated), hospitals, on airplanes, etc.. No more "no guns" places for licensed people. No more helpless victim zones. No more registrations, back-door or otherwise. I would be willing to allow state and local governments to specify what kind of carry (concealed / open) would be allowed in certain areas, but "no carry" would be off the table. For example, in a school, concealed carry only is probably a better idea, as well as in certain urban areas (like NYC). Privately owned businesses that open their doors to the public would be able to adopt something like a "don't ask / don't tell" policy where they could ask someone to leave if they see them carrying, but concealing and carrying into such a place would not be a crime in and of itself. Businesses and employers could still enact policies that forbid the carry of weapons while "on the clock," but they would also be held fully responsible for the safety and security of their employees and visitors. Employees, if your workplace is "gun free" and some whack-job decides to shoot up the place anyway, the company and/or the guy in charge of the building who enacted that policy is civilly and maybe even criminally liable for whatever mayhem happens. Employers, you can still disarm your employees at the door, but if you do, you will probably want to hire armed security to stop the nut-job who got the memo but didn't care. You can't fire a person for keeping their legal firearm safely in their car in your parking lot, though.

Of course, all of these rights must come with great responsibility. This does not give anyone the right to "shoot first, ask questions later." Applicable laws regarding the threat and/or use of deadly force would still apply, and the gun owner / carrier would be responsible for following them at all times. Screw up, and your license gets suspended for a time or revoked, as appropriate, as determined by the judge.

This, to me, sounds like a compromise. Each side gets something they want. The gun control crowd gets licensing, vetting, and training for anyone who wants to own and/or carry a gun, and the training will benefit the gun owners as well. More background checks would be conducted on gun buyers and on licensees, and the checks themselves would be less error-prone both ways. The gun-nuts like myself, once they get the license, get their full second amendment rights nation-wide. The only ones who would be denied the license are the ones who everyone agrees shouldn't have a gun in the first place.  To prevent abuses, there would be a system in place where someone denied a license could appeal to an impartial court, present evidence, and petition for relief.

The bad news is, this scheme will not completely stop bad people from acquiring or using guns illegally. It would, however, ensure that everyone who legally acquired one was properly trained and screened first, and I do think that's important. It would also allow licensed carriers to act as a first line of defense in more places. There's a reason you don't see massacres at NRA conventions, folks. It would also strengthen the idea of individual responsibility, which is something that I think is lacking across the board currently. I like the idea because it emphasizes education and training over prohibition, but still has some strong checks and balances in place to weed out as many idiots as possible. Under this scheme, everyone who wanted to legally own a gun would have to prove they're competent enough to do so first. Plus, when all else fails, the whack-jobs have a better chance of earning themselves a Darwin Award without hurting so many people first.

One other caveat is what to do about current gun owners who are "off the books?"  Perhaps an appropriate window of amnesty would be appropriate, providing it would be of sufficient length to allow anyone ample time to complete or test out of all of the training. Then, once the window expires, how do we go about enforcing the law on those who refuse to comply, but sit quietly with their now-unlicensed guns and don't bother anyone?  Well .. my answer to that is basically leave them alone unless they commit a crime - but then, throw the book at them. What we really don't want to see is SWAT teams going door-to-door looking for unlicensed guns. That's how you get innocent civilians and good officers killed, not to mention the very real possibility of igniting a second civil war in which the rebels wouldn't have the same moral baggage as last time that demanded they lose.
Compromise (n): 2. a solution no one is happy with.
Now that you've read through this, I'd like to make it clear that I understand that the likelihood is that something like this will never happen. It would require starting over from scratch, for one thing - wiping out all of the existing laws at federal, state, and local levels, and replacing them with one uniform, national set. I understand it'll never happen. I intend it as more of a thought experiment - an attempt to find some sort of common ground that both ensures that anyone who chooses to exercise their second amendment rights also receives the training necessary to do so responsibly and safely.

Perhaps the toughest obstacle, though, is that both sides of this debate will need to change their attitudes about guns and their use in crimes. The gun control crowd would need to acknowledge that guns themselves aren't evil, and focus on the "people problem." The gun nuts should recognize that gun violence, as much or more-so than unconstitutional laws, is an affront to the second amendment of the worst kind and work more earnestly to end it.

I think the two sides of the debate are very polarized now, but at the end of the day we both want the same thing - to end, or at least dramatically reduce the problem of "gun violence" in America. If we're ever going to reach a consensus, though, both sides are going to have to be willing to give a little, or maybe even a lot. Most importantly, we have got to find common ground and work together. I think this concept does that in a manner that is at least somewhat fair to both sides, and stands a good chance of improving things. A guy can dream, can't he?