The Hess Report

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Guns and Beer; or, What Does It Take To Be A Redneck?

Nah. Silly title. Redneck isn't what you do, it's a state of mind, and one that I don't share. I grew up around it and work with it five days a week, so I'm pretty familiar with it. They love their pickup trucks, their guns and their beer. But my dad has a pickup, and he's not a redneck. I too, appreciate weaponry and brewed beverages, and I'm not, as far as I can tell, a redneck. Maybe redneckedness is defined more by the negatives than the positives. They don't go for city folks, or the Jews, or fancy stuff. They're anti-intellectual. But I'm about to talk about guns, beer, and how the gub'ment is crawling into all kinds of places it shouldn't be. So if that makes me a redneck, well, sue me. Or at least get me drunk and shoot me.


For a long time, probably ten years at least, I've been of the opinion that every household in this country should have a gun. Every household. I think it's our Constitutional duty. The framers didn't put the second amendment in there so people would have the right to eat squirrels if they couldn't afford to go the grocery store. It's in there so that a) the US can never be taken in a land invasion, and b) to keep the governments, from township to federal, honest. Or at least looking over their shoulder. If you don't buy that, and you think guns are evil, have no place in society, contribute to the cycle of violence in American life, etc., I'm not going to preach to you. Ample evidence is available that gun ownership by John and Jane citizen is a good thing, and if you choose to ignore it, I can't help you. Check out this essay on gun ownership. If you're hard headed against it, you can skip the section on why the guy likes to have guns, and head right to Self Defense and Civic Responsibility parts, which are both well-put and gratuitously quote the founding Fathers of our nation. Go argue with them. Also, as far as numbers, well, holy crap. If you really need a pointer, take a look at the statistics section I found here. Obviously, they're an anti gun control site, but they give a good balance to a lot of the "1 million deaths!" garbage you're likely to hear from hoplophobes. Still not with me? Then you might as well skip the rest of this and head here, where you will no doubt be much more comfortable.

Okay, so the gun-fearing wiener-heads are gone. Take a look at this:

Saiga 20 gauge semi-automatic shotgun

It's a semi-automatic 20 gauge shotgun, manufactured by Izhmash in Russia. For the uninitiated, here's some definitions.

Shotgun: weapon that shoots a quantity of small pellets, otherwise known as shot (think BB's), as opposed to a bullet.

20 gauge: mid-sized designation for a shotgun. The three most popular are 12 gauge, which has a bore diameter (referring to the diameter of the inside of the gun's barrel) of about 3/4", the 20 gauge, at about 5/8", and the .410, which is .41" across. Benefits of the 20 gauge for home protection: lighter kick; the right shot won't go through two layers of drywall, minimizing the danger to others if you miss your pissing-its-pants home-intruding target; finally, unless you're blind and deaf, you almost can't miss your target at indoor ranges.

Semi-automatic: the gun reloads itself. After a shot, another shell is automatically put into place, ready for the next trigger pull. Differentiated from fully automatic in that you get one shot per trigger pull, whereas an automatic will continue to cycle rounds as long as the trigger is held shut.

Saiga: simply the "hunting" style designation that Izhmash gave to this particular line of guns. In reality, it's based on the tried and true AK-47 action that is so popular and reliable around the world. There's not a whole lot of difference. So, we have a shotgun that looks and acts a lot like the machine guns that you see being toted around the Middle East on the news.

Just this past weekend, we finally got ours working correctly. It hadn't been doing the semi-auto thing properly, often Failing To Eject the old shell and load a new one, referred to as an FTE. I had recently found some info from the US importer about particular kinds of shells to use to "break in" the gun (1 oz. loads instead of 7/8 oz.), as well as someone explaining an erroneous part of the Saiga manual (backwards setting on gas return chamber). On Saturday, I tried the gun again, taking the advice of both sources, and it worked beautifully. It popped off shells as fast as I could pull the trigger. Very fun to shoot. Only five shells per magazine, so I spent a lot of time reloading, but what are you going to do? Also, it would be nice to shoot it from the hip, but there's not really a good way to hold it.

So now is the part where I bitch. You see, the US government has declared that my gun is one step away from being an "Assault Weapon". A semi-automatic shotgun is an assault weapon if it has more than one of the following: a pistol grip, a fixed magazine of more than five shells, a folding stock, or (bingo!) a detachable magazine. See that thing hanging from the bottom of the gun in the picture above? That's a detachable magazine. That comes off, and I can pop in another one, fully loaded and ready to go, in about three seconds. So, according to the federal government, I'm a criminal if I put either a pistol grip or a folding stock on my gun. By the way, I lied about the shooting from the hip thing. It's easy to do, but would be more comfortable with a pistol grip.

Okay, so why would I want to add any of these evil banned features to my gun? I don't. But neither of those things make the gun more dangerous. This law holds no benefit for anyone. It should be gone, and hopefully in September, it will be. The so-called "assault weapons" ban enacted under President Clinton will expire. You might see people on TV whining about people now being able to buy "military-style assault guns." They're just trying to make you think that the AWB applies to truly automatic weapons, which it has nothing at all to do with. They're really referring to my gun. The above-pictured weapon that I own. I can currently unload 6 20 gauge shotgun shells in about three seconds or so. That's pretty deadly. Would having a pistol grip or folding stock make that shot even more deadly? Give me a break. And the whole thing presupposes the argument that guns should be only for hunting or rain-gutter cleaning or something. In fact, the real reason we have guns, and the reason that the Congress shall not infringe upon that right, is that if we need them to, guns can kill a lot of people, quickly and efficiently. Those who don't like that nasty fact are once again invited to journey to the magical land of fairies where the State will protect from all ills and intrusions, and promises to never never abuse it's power.

My other gripe is this: I'm stuck with a 5-round magazine for my gun. I'd like a 10. Why? Because it's exactly 1/2 the reloading hassle when I'm shooting. And that's reason enough. If the government has a compelling argument as to why allowing a 10-round magazine on a semi-automatic shotgun is a clear detriment to the public good, they are free to make it. But they haven't. And due to federal regulation, no one is allowed to import them. And due to the labyrinthine system of laws, regulations and differing policies at the ATFE, no one in this country is willing to manufacture them. You can buy them on eBay, "degraded" to a capacity of 5, but it's tempting fate, as this is a legal grey area.

I want my 10-round magazine. Stay off my back, guys. Your boot's hurting my neck, or at least annoying me.

Incidentally, I have to give a thank you to Kim DuToit, immigrant, American citizen and rifleman, whose website and resources finally gave me the push to put my $ where my mouth was. His website isn't for everyone, featuring lots of gun talk, lots of killing liberals talk, and occasionally pictures chicks that he finds hot. He also has a series of great essays on second amendment issues and other things, linked on the left side of his blog.

Don't have a gun in your house? You should. But they're dangerous, you say? Yes, but the danger is meager in comparison to the danger of the ills of tyranny. It's part of your duty to shoulder a tiny fraction of that danger, to protect the freedom that others have died for and to ensure that it is there for all who come after us.


Last night, I bottled a batch (40 pints) of lager. I made it with about a gallon less water than last time, so it should be a little heavier. It'll be ready in two weeks. Yummy.

Clearly, I'm a do-it-yourself kind of person. When I was in high-school, I wrote my own word processor on our home computer, just because I needed one, and it seemed like a challenge. I try to fix as many things around the house and car as I can, partially because it's less expensive, but also because there's a part of me that wants to be able to do absolutely everything without assistance. And so it is with the beer. As we don't drink a lot of beer at our house (a case can last for a couple of months), it's not a cost issue. It's the do-it-yourself thing, which is really just an expression of a desire for personal freedom and material independence. For instance, I was free last week to go dip a glass in the beer vat, even though it was not yet carbonated, and not quite fully clear, and drink it while I made dinner. Have I had better beer? Of course. But that wasn't the point.

Recently, we've been having the urban living v. rural living discussion at our house. I've been giving it a lot of thought, and come down to the fact that I prefer urban to rural due almost entirely to a proliferation of retail choice. At first this seemed odd to me, because I am not a shopper. I dislike the gratuitous spending of funds. But the restriction of retail choice inherent in rural living (Now we see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!) means that I would be constrained to, and therefore dependent upon, a single vendor for a certain good or service. Apparently, something about me dislikes that. So I've arrived at an unexpected position. I would think that people who choose (note that I'm saying "choose" here - many people are simply born and stay where they are due to social inertia, but I'm not talking about them) to live in rural areas would be more independent than those who choose to live in a more urban environment, when in fact they are more dependent on specific individuals and single providers of goods and services. Of course, this only indicates that I was thinking about rural individualism incorrectly in the first place, mistaking a desire for isolation for a desire for independence, when they are in fact two different things.

So even though there are costs to living in an urban environment (negative non-isolation, i.e. crime; temptation to gluttony, i.e. overindulgence in retail choice), the lack of single-source reliance offered by broad retail choice appeals too strongly to my inner independent to ignore.

So how does this relate to beer? Well, through the do-it-yourself aspect as previously mentioned and how that makes you even less dependent on the already broad range of choices available in an urban environment. But it also relates in the guise of Pennsylvania's ludicrous beer laws. In the state of Pennsylvania, restaurants and bars may not sell more than twelve bottles or cans of beer to someone at a time. Likewise, beer distributors may not sell less than one case of beer (usually 24 bottles) at a time. No one else can sell beer. You're either a bar, a restaurant or a beer distributor. If you've never been anywhere else, you may not see the problem. Take one trip to any neighboring state, though, and you can buy your beer (or wine) in the grocery store, the gas station, or neighborhood convenience store. Less regulation and more competition means that it's cheaper. More access means that it's more convenient to obtain, which means one less stop on the way home from work. Put simply, there's more choice.

In light of this, there's a word for what Pennsylvania is doing to me: extortion. In the end, the law is maintained by force of arms, and the state of Pennsylvania has the legal right to do so. In light of that, it has a responsibility to minimize the burden of that law, so that the threat of arms against the citizenry (you and me) is as small as possible. But in this case, they've written the law so that prices are artificially high, and they know it. Pennsylvania has decided, under threat of force, to make me pay more money for a legal product than it ought to cost, and to give that money to certain other citizens (distributor and, to a lesser degree, bar/restaurant owners). What do you call it when someone takes your money from you under threat of force? I call it extortion. Theft. Larceny.

Of course, it is legal. It's right there in the law, and no court has found it to be unconstitutional. So technically, it's not theft. But morally? You bet it is. Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing would love it if Pennsylvania allowed grocery store beer sales. They are not without resources. The fact that they have had zero success in campaigning for change says a lot about the strength of the entrenched interests in this case. In doing a bit of research for this, I ran across a statement from an owner of a local distributorship. He was concerned that if the beer laws changed, it would bring hardship on the distributors. Indeed it would. They've been getting a free ride on all of our backs for decades, courtesy of the state of Pennsylvania. And as I said before, get off of my back, guys.

It should be no business of the federal government if I want a 10 round magazine for my shotgun. It should likewise be no business of the state if I want to buy wine and beer at Giant Eagle, or the Exxon, or even at the family-owned furniture store just down the road, if it should be economical for them to sell it.

Get off my back - which is just another way to say "Don't tread on me."