I'll be home for Christmas, part II

Our C-130 landed at Seeb North, Oman, in the middle of the night.

A bus with the rear half of its rows of seats removed to take baggage carried us from the flight line to the SF shop, where we checked our weapons into the host-nation safe.

The bus then brought us to the pax terminal, where Rick and Vic were waiting for us. Vic refused to speak to me, for reasons that will have to wait for another story and another day. They took us to midnight chow, where we ate the first real eggs we had known in about two months. The TCNs, though clearly Muslim, even cooked and served bacon to us.

"All the transient racks are taken, so you'll have to catnap in the pax terminal," Rick said. "You think you'll make it home for Christmas?"

Advon felt it a sure thing, but for him, home was a straight shot down I-25 from Cheyenne. For me, home and Christmas would be a harried backtrack from Cheyenne to Denver to Buffalo. Nor could I stop in Buffalo on the way home: until we inprocessed back at our home unit, we were "on the books" of CENTAF and traveling on their nickel. Our orders were report to, proceed to, return to. Variations authorized, but only on the "proceed to" segment.

We asked what would be the best way to get anywhere. "Germany. From here, everything that might have empty seats will go through Germany. Once you're there, you should be able to find something to the East Coast and then you're on the government travel card."

Vic continued to say nothing, to me at least. An occasional glare though.

We took the bus back from the chow hall in tent city, to the pax terminal near the flight line, where Rick wished us luck and Vic remained silent. "We'll be here until we find the pallet," Rick said, "but we'll be checking on you. Hope to work with you again, but under better circumstances."

"Same for us, Rick. We'll stay in touch." We shook and parted. They rode the bus back, leaving us at the pax terminal.

It was another general purpose shelter, with rows of folding chairs, a giant-screen TV in one corner and a counter at the other. The rows of chairs were packed with DCU-clad GIs, their bags, and more bags. The TV was playing one DVD after another, with the volume cranked up full. One such GI was right inside the door and right beside the TV, sleeping peacefully atop a pile of kit bags.

Behind the counter there were whiteboards, just like those back in Undisclosed Forward Location but more of them. They listed flights that crisscrossed the theater, all by their three-letter base acronyms, like MCT for Muscat (where we were) or TTH for Thumrait, IUD for Al Udeid (GI humor there) or others whose identities should not be gleaned.

We figured out soon that we were looking for RMS or FRF: Ramstein or Rhein-Main in Frankfurt. Enough of them were listed, but just in a few minutes of watching the man behind the counter, we saw them being put up, and stricken down.

"We need to get to the United States," we told the man.

"Lemmeseeyourmilitaryeyedee," he replied to us. No request for orders, or authority to leave the theater, none of that. Just proof of being a GI. He flipped them into an index box holding about twenty others.

"So now what do we do?" we asked.

"Watch this board. You'll go to Germany, on your own from there. Nothing going on for a couple of hours, no place to rack out in tent city, so have a seat." We pulled civilian clothes out of our bags, got the combination to a locked latrine nearby, and showered and changed.

This is how I watched Enemy at the Gates: alternating between watching the movie itself, forty feet away on a bigscreen TV, and stepping up to the boards to watch for flights to get us out of here. Scores of other GIs arrived, took seats, waited, napped, then stood up and trooped out to their planes, while we waited.

This is also how I watched a very dull Sylvester Stallone movie about formula racing.

At the time the next DVD was starting, a medevac flight to Ramstein was forming up. It had cancelled once already that morning, but was back on. A C-141 with space to spare. We interfered with the counter guy's view of the TV until he assured us we were on it. "Three of you on it. You, and you," he said, then pointed to the guy racked out on his stack of mobags, "and him."

Showtime would be another hour or so, and go-time well after daylight. We went outside, and shook the cramps from our legs. I cadged a John Player Special from Advon---the only cigarette I'd had since March of '92---and smoked with him.

"Nobody cares that we're leaving the theater," Advon said.

"Nope. They have enough to worry about getting people in."

"It's gonna be cold there. It'll be cold on the plane too."

So we stubbed the cigarettes and went back inside to pull out our coats.

* * * *

The only cold-weather gear I had, other than a desert field jacket, was the brown pile liner from my GoreTex parka. Advon had a civilian leather jacket.

In the smoking area, we chatted with a Chief who was moving from one base to another, discussing the hardships to be suffered at various bases, and who was running the Readiness shops at them. Once again, an airman with a disco belt and an LMR found us and told us to get our stuff ready. We got our IDs back, piled our bags up out front, and identified ourselves to the bus driver.

As we loaded our stuff into the rear of the bus, I said we needed to get our weapons. This came as a surprise to this airman. "Weapons?"

"Yeah. Guns, you know?" as I mimed a finger pulling a trigger. "We came from downrange?"

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"We told the guy at the counter."

"Oh. We have to hurry." He and I ran over to the host-nation vault, instead of driving the bus there, to sign our weapons back out. And the ammo can.

"Ammo? You have ammo too?"

"Well, the guns don't work too well without it." Remember: Air Force. Air Force members who have even passing familiarity with firearms and how they function are a minority.

We ran back to the bus, slid the cases and the ammo can aboard, and rode out to the flight line, where a 141 was receiving litter patients through the ramp. The airman dismounted the bus, and ran to the crew hatch to hand the manifest to the flight crew.

Then he ran back. "They don't want any ammo aboard."


"That's what I was trying to tell you. There's oxygen on board." For the patients. "They don't want the ammo." As if ammunition explodes in the presence of bottled oxygen?

Hmmm. We're talking about ten bucks worth of five-five-six and nine. We could sign the ammo over to the SF here on a 1297 and leave it behind. That would be Advon's call, he's the ammo custodian. But the process would take enough time that they could kick us off the flight. This would be unacceptable.

Just then, the airman's LMR squawked. He stepped back off the bus, talked to someone through it for a minute, then came back. "You can go, the ammo can go. We have to wait for the patients to get loaded."

It was full daylight now. The smell of developed city was mixing with those of nearby surf and jet exhaust.

It was then that we discovered that the third guy had no fewer than 9 bags of gear. He was a pararescueman from Moody and had to travel with the whole kit: SCUBA, parachute, field gear, night vision, chem gear, and then some. He was well over his allotted 70 pounds per bag too. If he had ammo in his gear, he wasn't saying. Note to self . . .

We loaded it all, let the loadmasters ratchet it to the floor of the ramp, and found seats on what was going to be a long, freezing flight to Ramstein.


A brief message to my anarcho-libertarian friends

This wouldn't work as a bumpersticker:
If governments are outlawed, only outlaws will have governments.

I'll be home for Christmas, part I

On this day, two years ago, I was in Undisclosed Forward Location in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. My partner Advon and I had been there for weeks, after standing by at Prince Sultan for weeks before that (Advon had been here several weeks longer than I, hence the nickname "Advon", that's a story for another day). Our orders had just been amended to one year at PSAB, and we were resigned to spending Christmas here in Unnamed Deployment Location---even the entire bloody year.

We were settling in for a long haul.

Christmas trees were being improvised with mosquito netting, and adorned with the red tabasco sauce bottles from MREs.

Somehow a few strings of Christmas tree lights had appeared and were strung around the porches in tent city.

Rather than bum myself out about it, I was content to keep myself busy. A WeatherPak shipped in from a stateside base had been stored improperly, with batteries left in the battery compartment until they corroded the snot out of the unit, so I was improvising a way to power the device with 12 volts from a supply for an M8A1.

It was 0900, and I was spreading Goodwill and Cheer with the Comm Squadron, explaining my project for the nth time, this time to a skeptical Captain codenamed Mama Leia, building the case to ask if they had any benchstock of connectors I could tap into for this project. Advon stepped into the tent with a letter in his hand. He waited until a lull in my attempted conversation with Mama Leia, then broke in.

"I've been looking for you all over base," he said. "Need to sign this."

"What is it?"

"Our release."


"They're cutting us loose. Too many of us in theater to support the next rotation. Sign this, we outprocess and airlift out of here."

Rumors to this effect had been floating for a few days, but the consensus held that another team from our shop would be the first to leave. "What about Mike and Edgar?"

"CENTAF says release one complete UTC only. Mike can't go without Vic and Vic's 2nd in charge. Edgar wants to stay. We're next in line."

"How much time do we have?"

"We can't get airlift until after 1800."

"So you'll pardon me if I don't drop everything to hurry."

"I'll walk it to PERSCO. See you in the shop."

The letter was very plain, lots of doublespace and wide margins, clearly improvised on site. It said as pithily as possible that THE PERSONNEL IDENTIFIED ARE HEREBY RELEASED FROM THIS STATION as of EFFECTIVE DATE, under the authority of RESPONSIBLE OFFICER. No fanfare, no foofaraw.

And no instructions. "So where we supposed to report?"

"Back to home station." That was the default from our mob orders. Report to, proceed to, return to. This was definitely a return to.

I looked at the date once again on my watch. "No way we'll inprocess at home station in time to cut loose for Christmas."

"We'll take the chance."

* * * *

The WeatherPak was going to stay Not Mission Capable. We had to pack.

Advon and I deployed with three kit bags each---personal gear, A and B bags jammed together, C bag. On top of that, we were issued even more gear at PSAB. I was courier for our weapons (two more cases for me), and Advon was courier for the ammunition (a heavy GI ammo can added to his load). I took my time, stripping cartridges back out of the magazines and sliding them back on the stripper clips, folding socks, washing the dirty laundry before packing it. I had two jugs of laundry detergent and a huge tub of Gatorade powder, which I chose to leave for whoever would claim it.

Other members of the shop came by the tent, looking in just to watch me pack, saying nothing, or more heart-rending, "Don't forget about us, y'hear?"

"How could I forget you?"

"Gonna make it home for Christmas?"

"Doubt it. But we'll try."

* * * *
I waited in line for a morale computer about 45 minutes, between some 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain guys, carrying their SAWs and M4s with them 24/7, who get to email their folks maybe once a week if they're lucky.

I had to contact Barbaloot, who was only a few hours away from boarding a plane from DIA to BUF with Mother-in-law and 3 kids, and she was putting some stuff in the mail to me. I figured my super in Wyoming had already called her about our release. I'd confirm it and make sure she still took the flight instead of waiting for more details. I'd send an email copy to her mobile phone to make sure she got it.

Subject: stop shipments!!
From: Fûz {fusilierpundit@earthlink.net}
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2001 18:18:33 +xxxx
To: barbaloot
CC: 303nnnnnnn@mobile.att.net

am moving in theater again
please stop any pkgs until further notice
stuff enroute will be fwded but SEND NO MORE
love you
fly safely
Hi Grandma

* * * *

Our superintendent and NCOIC were both at a supply point farther back, looking for a few pallets of our gear that hadn't turned up. That was the first leg of our route back, so we'd see them there. They'd know more.

Fast Eddy and John borrowed our Mobile Command Post (a beat-up tan Hummer) to drive us and our bags up to the pax terminal.

"Lucky bastards," Eddy said as he dropped the last bag at the hangar door. "Merry Christmas." He shook our hands and backed the Hummer away far enough that he could light a cigarette. Its smell mixed with the smoke from incinerating garbage to give the air a third-world taste. John stayed with us, quiet, as the sky began to turn dark, offering to watch our bags for us.

Nobody was going to disturb our bags.

I took our release letters to traffic control. The airmen working there were oblivious, having more concern for the materials arriving or transiting, than for anything man or machine that was leaving. I told them I have release letters for two passengers to get to MCT. They looked at the letters without even touching them, made a note on a Post-it and stuck it to a board. "OK."

"You want copies of this, or orders, or something?"


"Alright, so can you give us a show time or flight number?"

"Stay around the hangar. We'll come get you." They then turned back to each other as if I weren't there.

John was still standing with Advon when I got back. "You want me to get you some chow?"

"Thanks, John, I just ate." Barbecued spare ribs at UGR Friday's. There was too much sloshing around in my mind, surely in Advon's too, for there to be any kind of conversation. We turned to look at the flight line, as the stream of airlift began to surge, the way it did every night. One of those planes was going to get us out of here. John stayed a few more minutes as night finished falling, then shook hands and left.

It was finally about 2230 when a string of three C-130s had lined up on the ramp. I had visited ATOC four or five times, checking on our flight, and they were tired of seeing me, when an airman with a green reflective belt and an LMR grabbed my sleeve, turned me around and looked at my name tape. "Where's your buddy?" I pointed out a hangar door, to the smoking area. "It's time."

The flight line was blacked out. By the light of blue-filtered flashlights and a few Cyalumes, we loaded our bags on a pallet resting on the tines of a forklift, then followed the forklift out through the dark to the taxiway. Then we stopped, and watched one, then another, C-130 spin up and take off.

"This one," the airman shouted over the prop noise, and the last Hercules taxied up with its ramp open and its cabin lights red. The cargo was loaded first, one damaged Herc propeller on a pallet, then our bags, then us. The loadmaster gave us earplugs.

I popped out my contacts without a mirror in the dim red light, then settled in for n hours in the air on the way to Seeb North Air Base.

The story continues here.


Underground voice over the air

Firstborn and I were assigned the gruesome task last weekend of making a papier-mâché manger to decorate our house for Christmas. This project demands newspaper, though not much of it. As I was tearing strips of it from the local freebie shopper (DenPost is going to expire in this here shanty soon), I spied an ad for Colorado's Underground Voice. The ad spelled out the musicians on their playlist. Buck Owens, Hank Williams . . . Lyle Lovett . . . others I hadn't heard of.

I cannot tolerate what passes for Country and/or Western music today. But my father played its vinyl precursors in my infancy and childhood, and the most compelling way I can remember him now (he passed away in 1996) is through that music. It revives the smell of diesel, coal dust, and tobacco smoke that always followed him.

This music is now "underground." I tried it and if this is underground I'm reaching for the shovel. Bluegrass all Sunday, including---get this---a bluegrass cover of Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing. The Fat Guy might wonder, "what took you so long?" and all I can say is that I didn't know it would have this effect on me. I would have gotten here much sooner.

Needless to say I'm hooked, and it has kicked KOA out of the presets in the sedan. Check out the button above the blogroll.


Chronology and Opinion: The Cabinet Man's Maryland CCW Denial

OK, it’s The Cabinet Man (formerly 'Emergent Behavior'...). Fuze has asked me to post on his blog concerning my trials and tribulations of (not) getting a CCW in the State of Maryland. Here it is. It’s long. It’s direct. It’s painful. Get some caffeine and dive in.

So, where to start? Let’s try about 1995. It was about this time when I first tested the CCW waters in Maryland (MD). I dutifully went to the Maryland State Police (MSP) barracks and picked up an application. Whoa!! Fingerprint cards! References! Proof of assaults! Befuddled, I called the NRA for help contacting a gun-friendly attorney in MD. I got a name/number and called [name withheld]. My conversation with him was disappointing since I had never been robbed, mugged, or raped. I gave up.

The year 2000 found me back in MD after a two-year respite back home in Colorado. I decided again to get the permit. I completed two courses at Gunsite: 250 Pistol and Arizona CCW. I applied for and received (non-resident) permits from AZ and FL. I rounded-up some sympathetic character references and submitted the hefty – and incredibly intrusive – MD CCW application. That was 14 July 2003. The cover letter for that application follows. (NB: I hadn’t received my FL CCW yet.)

I am enclosing my application for a concealed handgun permit for the State of Maryland. I have included all of the required items as listed in the “Maryland State Police Handgun Permit Qualifications” page of the Maryland State Police Internet web site.

I am a strong believer in the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States that protects an individual’s right to bear arms. As a human being, I have the right to defend myself against illegal deadly force once all non-violent means of avoiding the confrontation have been exhausted. As a law-abiding citizen of the State of Maryland, of sound mind and solid character, I am well within my rights to request of the State a concealed handgun permit. I am a knowledgeable, safe, and responsible gun owner. I have spent countless hours at the firing range becoming proficient with the use of my handguns.

To further refine those skills, I recently attended the intensive five-day “250 Defensive Pistol” course offered by The Gunsite Academy in Paulden, AZ. (Please refer to the attached photocopy of my graduation certificate and course syllabus.) This is a nationally recognized training program routinely attended by police officers and members of the U.S. Armed Forces in addition to civilians like me who desire training in defensive handgun use prior to seeking concealed handgun permits. On my own volition, I have studied numerous cases of self-defense in the State of Maryland so I would be cognizant of the legal limits and ramifications of the employment of deadly force. I am well versed in the concepts of “avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation” and I am fully aware that the use of firearms is a defensive measure of last resort.

As part of this application, I have included a photocopy of my recently issued Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) from the State of Arizona. (Arizona issues CWPs to non-residents.) A minimum of 16 hours of instruction from a state-approved training facility is required to qualify for an Arizona CWP. I received this training at The Gunsite Academy as well. (Again, I have included a photocopy of my graduation certificate and course syllabus.) This non-resident permit is honored in nine other states including Virginia. It is my hope that the State of Maryland would extend to me the same courtesy as these states – of which I am not even a resident – and issue a concealed handgun permit to this Maryland resident.

In the first week of August 2003, I received a call from the local MSP barracks. They wanted an interview with me, which I scheduled for and attended on 11 August 2003, the results of which are included below. This is an e-mail I sent to my Support Staff (all of my character references and other people involved/interested in the process.)

Fellow Character References -- and Devil's Advocates, too:

OK, just an update on my Maryland CCW efforts.

Last week I got a call from the Maryland State Police (MSP) barracks in [town name withheld]. They wanted me to come in for an interview with Sergeant X [name withheld]. This was a bit unexpected since there was no mention of this anywhere in the application. Not knowing exactly what was to be discussed, I prepared a set of "interview style" questions for myself and answered them as I saw fit. I then sent out copies to a few of my best devil's advocates asking for review, revision, and addition. After scrutinizing/discussing the questions, I felt I was ready for anything.

It was totally unnecessary. Sorry guys. (However, the advocate that tossed-in the ex-wife question gets ten bonus points!! You know who you are...)

The interview was merely a fill-in-the-blanks type of thing. No questions about "Why..." or "What if..." Just stuff like "How long did you live in Colorado?" and "Are you still employed at [company name withheld]?" Sgt X was acting as the "coarse filter" before the application got bubbled up the state-level rubber-stampers. He asked about Gunsite and my AZ CCW. He asked about my drug and alcohol use. He asked about ex-wives. He asked about past assaults and current threats. It was actually kinda' boring.

Then he said, "Let me shut the door so I can vent." That gave me a scare but it turned out pretty cool. Seems the guy's one of us. NRA member. Believes that the 2nd Amendment is an individual right, not a collective one. Thinks that Kimber makes a damned fine 1911. (I have to agree!!...) But here's the clincher -- and I quote: "Maryland has the fifth highest violent crime rate in the US. If we could get some more concealed carry permits out there, maybe we could make a dent in that." BOO-YAH!! Run for something Sgt X, I'll vote for ya'!! He said that of all the people he's interviewed over the years, I have better quals and training than 99.9% of the applicants. If it was up to him, I would walk out of his office permit in hand. Works for me!!...

Unfortunately, that was the end of the good news. He said that without proof of previous threats and assaults, it's unlikely I'll get past the review board in Jessup. (Same thing I heard from the NRA-referred attorney a few years back.) He said he'll hold the permit until Friday in case I "think of something" -- and to call if I did. I replied that unless I get robbed, mugged, raped, or shot between now and then, there'd be nothing else. (I don't know if that was bait but I'm not biting if it was...) He said that he'd embellish his report as much as he could. He also said he'd contact [ex-wife] for info on past domestic violence. I called [ex-wife] and gave her the heads up. She was cool about it.

So it looks like I'm back to "low- to mid- probability". One thing that was unsettling about the whole thing -- and obviously unsettling to Sgt X -- was that rate at which permits ARE issued. If you're a cash business operator, a security guard, or a body guard, issuance is almost guaranteed. There are no training requirements. (Apparently the applicants have to qual at the MSP range and 70% of the rounds have to hit paper -- not just center of mass!! -- at close range. No duress, no holster draw, no time limit. Unlimited re-tries...) What's worse, he said, is that he's almost forced to approve foreign nationals hired as guards for embassy officials and other foreign "dignitaries". He said last week he had to approve a permit for someone from Cameroon. He couldn't even do a background check. He said, and I quote again: "That guy could be a mass murdered for all I know and I have no way to prove otherwise."

Sgt X was VERY cool and I don't think he was trying to blow sunshine up my skirt. He was a straight shooter (no pun intended) and I appreciated that. But I don't know how that leaves you guys in the picture at this point. You'll probably want stand ready in case the state does decide to contact you, The Appointed Few. (And you know who you are...)

So, until something else happens,


In late September 2003, I received my FL CCW. It was too late at this point to add that to the application so I figured I’d hold onto that tidbit of info until the inevitable appeals process, which started when I received my Maryland rejection letter on 9 October 2003, almost three months after submitting the application. I notified the Support Staff accordingly:


Yup, I got my rejection letter from the MSP today. I'm not surprised but I am disappointed. The letter claims that I do "not have a good and substantial reason to wear, carry or transport a handgun". I know what they've done, too. The application states that I'm required to submit copies of documented threats and/or assaults. Well, thankfully, I don't have any of those. Seems the State is more interested in putting the cart before the horse!!...

I have the option to request an appeal to the Handgun Permit Review Board within ten days. In the interest of "due diligence" -- or at least exhausting all reasonable options -- I'll probably appeal. Hell, I've come this far I might as well go as far as I can without ending up in court -- which is the only recourse I'll have left if I'm turned down by the Handgun Permit Rejection Review Board...

So, I guess you character reference folks are off the hook. It appears that the only person they attempted to contact was [ex-wife]. (It makes one wonder what effort they really expended before rubber stamping "DISAPPROVED" on my application!!) I thank you all for your efforts and your patience. I guess I'll take it from here.

Cross your fingers and wish me luck!!

I sent in my request for appeal/review, which resulted in a face-to-face meeting in Jessup on 5 November 2003. Two days later I received another rejection letter. I sent the Support Staff the following e-mail:

OK Guys,

More info -- and little of it is good...

As you all know, my CCW application was rejected due to "insufficient reason". In other words, I haven't been threatened, mugged, robbed, raped, etc... In Maryland's twisted "cart before the horse" laws concerning CCW, the state -- not me -- is the one to determine "apprehended danger". In other, other words, if the state thinks I'm safe, then I don't get a permit. No matter that I could be assaulted ten minutes after leaving the state police barracks. After that, I could probably get a permit. Maybe...

Well, as is my right, I appealed my application denial to the state handgun permit section of the Maryland State Police (MSP). I was called in for a meeting in Jessup on Wednesday (5 Nov). The meeting went OK, I guess. The person with whom I was supposed to speak (the individual that reviewed my appeal) was not there that day so a stand-in took his place. This kinda' ticked me off but I was in no position to argue. Well, the meeting turned out to be nothing more than them telling me why my application was denied. A simple, 45-minute expounding upon "insufficient reason". Whatever. The trooper was nice and she was sympathetic to my plight, as was the previous MSP sergeant that first interviewed me.

Unfortunately, I got the same response as before: "If we were a 'shall-issue' state or even just had laxer rules, you'd be at the top of our list of people to get a permit. You're well trained, you're taking this seriously, and, by all appearances, you're the kind of responsible person we wish we had more of." (Yeah, OK, so give me my permit!!...) I thanked her and headed back to work.

Next step: appeal to the Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board (HPRB). I'm sending in my request for appeal tomorrow. I should have a meeting date within two weeks. The review board is, as has been described to me, an informal court hearing. The 5-member board acts as judge and jury and all the MSP people I've talked with so far are brought in to discuss my case. A court recorder is there to keep records in case I appeal to the 'real' courts. This will be the first time I actually get to state my case. I've typed a rough draft of what I'm going to say and I'm trying to keep it under seven minutes. I don't want them dozing off...

Unfortunately, an appeal (literal and otherwise) based on the 2nd Amendment will do me little good. In 1979, an individual sued the HPRB in "Onderdonk vs. Handgun Permit Review Board" claiming that his 2nd Amendment rights had been violated by the denial. Unfortunately, Onderdonk's application denial was sustained. The HPRB won that case because the court stated that the 2nd Amendment applied only to the Fed Gov and not the states. Nobody has challenged this decision under Article VI of the Constitution and/or the 14th Amendment. So my appeal will have to be based on something else. I'm shooting for (pardon the pun!!) a case based on the rights to self-defense. It's weaker than the 2ndA argument but no point in beating a dead horse.

If my appeal is denied by the HPRB then my only remaining course of action is to sue the HPRB myself. That's where it will end. I have neither the finances nor the time to go thru such a hassle. Given the precedence for losing such a case in the courts, I probably wouldn't even try anyway. So this is it folks. You'll only get one more e-mail from me on this subject. Either I'll let you know that I got it or I'll let you know that I'm moving. Wish me luck.

Ciao for now...

On the evening of 3 December 2003, I had a meeting in the Annapolis MSP barracks with the HPRB. The process is pretty simple. The MSP are the defendants and I’m the plaintiff. There were five HPRB members and a recording secretary. The MSP representative – who happened to be the MSP sergeant from Jessup that was unable to attend my review meeting – took the “whole truth…” oath and proceeded to review my application and the reasons for their denial. Afterwards, I took the oath and finally got to say my peace. You might recognize a few quotes and ideas I plagiarized from various pro-2nd Amendment and pro-freedom types including, but not limited to, the Honorable Judge Alex Kozinski, L. Neil Smith, Jeff Snyder, Vin Suprynowicz, Claire Wolfe, and Aaron Zelman:

Nature provides every one of its creatures a means of self-defense. It can appear in the form of stealth and camouflage. Or sharp teeth and claws. Or keen senses and fast legs. Or hard shells and bad odors. However, man has very few of these traits and the ones we do have are often inadequate to the task. Instead we have been given a more potent means of self-defense: our brains. Rather than wasting valuable energy by running away from every unknown object, we can discern what is a threat and what is not. Rather than standing naked in the cold, we clothe ourselves and devise tools with which we can build shelter. Rather than being defenseless, we fashion weapons best suited to the threats against our lives. After exhausting all attempts to minimize those threats, by way of avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation, a handgun – a readily accessible handgun – is by far the best defense against these immediate and sudden threats. If that were not true, our police forces would be armed otherwise.

When I first started this process several years ago, I contacted an attorney familiar with Maryland’s handgun laws and expressed to him my desire to obtain a concealed handgun permit. He asked me a number of questions and, after a few moments of silence, made the following statement: “Too bad you’ve never been mugged, robbed, or raped.” I am actually quite pleased that none of those things ever happened to me and it was at this point that the reality of obtaining such a permit within Maryland became painfully clear. Instead of walking away from the idea, I chose to pursue the matter as thoroughly as possible. I obtained a great deal of high-quality training with my weapons and continue to maintain that hard-earned proficiency to this day. I reviewed the law – both civil and criminal – as it applies to self-defense. I applied for and received permits that legally allow me to carry a concealed weapon in 25 states of which I am not even a resident. Yet, those efforts did little to secure for me such a permit in my own home state of Maryland.

As it was explained to me, Maryland requires an applicant for a concealed handgun permit to produce evidence of prior threats and/or assaults before a permit can be issued. On top of that, the burden of determining apprehended danger is not upon the citizen but upon the State. Yet, in this “cart before the horse” scenario, the State is rarely present when an unarmed, defenseless citizen is made aware of the apprehended danger standing before him in a darkened parking lot. To assume that this soon-to-be victim cannot determine whether or not his own life is in danger is fatally myopic and a serious breach of trust on the part of the State. I understand that the State wants a compelling reason before it issues a permit. But I ask you, when are the interests of the individual citizen ever compelling?

As this application process continued from one hurdle to the next, I admit that I was tempted to abandon it altogether and carry a concealed weapon based on my 2nd Amendment rights: without a permit and without anyone’s permission. But, you and I know the illegality of such an act inside the State of Maryland. Being fully aware of the legal implications had I been caught, I wisely chose not to do so, for I value my freedom greater than anything. But I also value my life. In this “lesser of two evils” scenario, the State has forced me to make a decision. Which is more important: my life or my freedom? I feel this is a decision that no citizen of the State of Maryland – nor any American – should have to make.

It is sometimes said that democracy needs to be more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for lunch. Similarly, why should the rights and privileges of the law-abiding be curtailed, restricted, or denied based on the actions of the criminal element? In a state of more than five million people, it is difficult for our legislators to avoid creating law that is “one size fits all”. The regulations concerning the handgun permit application process are an example of laws that, at times, can and do discriminate against qualified citizens. However, in their wisdom, these same legislators empowered this panel to decide which of those applicants have been unfairly disqualified by the law – as I feel I have been. It is not hyperbole when I say that you ladies and gentlemen hold over me the power of life and death. I urge you to consider my case solely on the merits of my case. The Maryland State Police personnel I have spoken with during this process have admitted that, by virtue of my extensive training and responsible mindset, I am well qualified for a handgun permit. Were Maryland a “shall issue” state, they would have absolutely no reservations about issuing my permit.

I presented you with some Internet articles describing a recent trend in home invasions: the home ambush. Emboldened criminals now break into a home, wait for the resident to return, and then have the resident at their disposal for further ransacking, robbery, or, even worse, murder. I also presented a notification I received from my apartment complex concerning break-ins during daylight hours. This is the third such notice I’ve received in a year. When will it be that thugs break in to my home, notice my impenetrable 800-pound fireproof gun safe, and lie in wait to ambush me? I am very discrete with my firearms whenever I leave or return home with them. But it’s not a stretch to assume that someone might follow me back from a gun shop or a shooting range only to mark my home for a future ambush. Sure, I can defend myself once I cross the threshold of my front door but how will I do so if I cannot make it to my gun safe first? Worse yet, what level of violence could I expect from these burglars in an effort to force me to open that safe and, likewise, force me to explain to them the operation of every firearm I own? If I’m fortunate enough to survive these encounters, am I to sit idly by, incapable of reaction, as I watch my firearms be stolen? In this scenario, if I am unarmed when I open the door to my home, I am helpless in the face of the ambush, the coercion, and, possibly, my own death.

As a self-sufficient and independent member of society, I make very few requests – and even fewer demands – upon my government and my fellow citizens. One might say that as I appear before you now, I am in no position to make demands. But I disagree. As a law-abiding citizen and a human being, I demand that I be allowed to defend myself against illegal deadly force, wherever I may be at the time, at home or elsewhere. Self-defense is a right bestowed on us by God and by nature and this right exists well beyond the walls our homes. For the State to deny me that right is at best careless and, at worst, complicit to gross negligence. I urge you to find in the law and in your hearts the mandate to do what is right. I urge you to exercise the authority given to you by the State to grant me a concealed handgun permit.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your time and for giving me the opportunity to state my case.

(Before you get too excited, I know that no gun safe is impenetrable. Give me a break. It’s rhetoric, OK?!?! The same rhetoric that gave my state legislators “wisdom”. Yeah, right…)

During my presentation, I noticed the expressions on the faces of the board (bored?) members. I got the impression of, “How many times do we have to hear this shit?…” It was a bit disheartening and I tried not to let it disturb my rhythm. After my statement, the MSP sergeant and I were allowed to make closing statements. His was simple. Mine was this:

The definition of civilization is not “a society devoid of crime”. Throughout history, all civilizations, great and small, have had to endure crime. A better definition of civilization is “a society that respects an individual’s life, liberty, and dignity.” However, a society that deprives individuals of their natural right to self-defense against crime violates all three tenets of the superior definition. If I cannot defend myself against violence outside my home, an act best accomplished by means of a concealed and readily accessible handgun, then society has marginalized my existence.

All of the words I have spoken this evening, with the exception of an occasional paraphrasing, have been mine. Now I offer you a quote from the author Lee Harris concerning his definition of “Societal Forgetfulness”:

"Societal Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe."

By issuing me a concealed handgun permit, you can help break the pattern of Societal Forgetfulness that has numbed individuals into abdicating their responsibility for self-defense. By issuing that permit, this application process can come to fruition, here, tonight. You have the power and authority to do this. On behalf of the State, use that power to honor my life, liberty, and dignity as an individual and as a citizen.

At that point they asked me a few questions. One of the board members was unaware that a non-resident could hold a CCW permit. (This was in reference to my remarks concerning my AZ and FL permits.) Then, the director of the board asked me, “Do you believe that anyone, excluding convicted felons, should be issued a CCW?” I said, “Yes, if they request one.” I chose not to go into my “nobody should need a damned permit!” libertarian tirade and stopped at that. He thanked the MSP sergeant and me and said I’d hear back concerning the board’s decision in about two weeks.

On the way out of the Annapolis barracks, the MSP sergeant and I were making small talk. He said, “Good speech. You almost had me convinced.” I chuckled and said something to the effect of, “Only ‘almost’, huh? I guess I didn’t word it correctly!” As we were parting ways in the parking lot, I closed out the small talk with, “Well, maybe the board was convinced and they’ll issue me that permit.” He said, “Won’t really matter. We’ll appeal it anyway. Good night.” WTF!! At no point in this entire process was I as pissed as I was then. You mean to say, after all the I’ve been through, he’s going to plan an end-around appeal in the case of issuance?! Oof-dah….

(This has now been sitting around for a week waiting for this last bit…)

So, it came in yesterday’s mail. “The decision of the Board is to affirm the action of the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.” In other words, my application denial was upheld by the HPRB. I know they received the message I had hoped to send in my “speech” because they summed it up as such:

The applicant concedes that he has not been subject to threats of violence or to assaults. However, he contends that the world has become a dangerous place, and that without “a readily accessible firearm,” he as well as other citizens in our society stand “defenseless” against general risks of violent confrontation. Mr. [name withheld] contends that unlike other states, Maryland has handgun laws which “discriminate against qualified citizens,” and he asserts that his “Second Amendment” rights should override the local laws.

The letter then goes on to explain how my “assertion” is unfounded by referencing “Onderdonk vs. Handgun Permit Review Board” and “Snowden vs. Handgun Permit Review Board”. I knew I had these two precedents hanging over my head when I went into this. I correctly assumed they would be the “blocking issues”. With this, my pursuit of a MD CCW is over. I cannot afford the time nor money to take it beyond this. They win.

I feel like I should be angered by the HPRB’s decision but, for some reason, I’m not. I guess they were just doing their job. (Nuremberg comes to mind…) However, I will admit to being horribly disappointed and just a bit disgusted. As a relative newcomer to the liberty/freedom/Libertarian band of the political spectrum, I’ve been learning a lot about How The System (Really) Works. Not in a “conspiracy theory” sense, mind you, but from a pragmatic – and, yes, cynical – perspective. I’ve read about rights encroachment; from the totally benign to the tragically fatal. But now the story I’m reading isn’t about some distant Other Person; it’s about me. I’m the one that’s been told ‘No’. I’m the one that’s been politically marginalized. Maryland has deemed that the needs of the collective override the needs of the individual. I didn’t just lose an appeal for a concealed handgun permit. I lost a bit of freedom, a good chunk of an inalienable right, and a prime opportunity to be a responsible citizen. I lost the recognition of being a valued individual in the eyes of The State. All issues of my military service aside, this is the first time I’ve honestly felt, in my guts and in my bones, that I’m not a free man.

Some have criticized me for that comment. “Come’on man, it’s just a permit! How can it be that important?” To explain the concept to you readers would be preaching to the converted. To explain it to the “unwashed” would be frustratingly wasted breath. Even my Support Staff have a range of opinions from “Hell yeah, I’ll vouch for you!” to “I’m not sure this is really what you want to do.” I try to take it all in stride, good and bad, and slog on towards what I’m convinced is right. Yet, it’s a surprisingly lonely march. I’ve been in conversations that have ground to a complete halt at the mere mention of the permit. I’ve been warned not to bring up the subject of firearms around various family members. I’ve been accused of having a one-track mind.

In fact, I do have a one-track mind. I think about freedom a lot. I ponder the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – and never for a second wonder what the authors really meant! I research the concepts of malum in se, malum prohibitum, and prior restraint and the implications they have on our liberties. I long for a place where a man can be himself without the leering and suspicion that are directed towards those of us that choose to be independent, open-minded, and – aghast! – armed. I fantasize about what would be said by Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry were they to suddenly appear before the core of our federal government during a State of the Union address. I question the need for background checks and waiting periods and fingerprints and government permission. And while I would certainly mourn the absence of Zantac, titanium bicycle frames, Sleater-Kinney CDs, and smokeless gunpowder, I dream about traveling back in time to a young America that was sending the British tyrants packing. Oh, how that must have felt! Yeah, I think about freedom a lot.

Maryland is not a free state. It’s that simple. I don’t hate the participants in the democratic process that made it this way. They’re sheep and they simply grasp for political expediency. But along the way, they’ve blindly shoved many of us aside and trampled our rights in order to (artificially) quell their fears and to abdicate their responsibilities. I’m deeply saddened by their moral depravity and lack of understanding. I respect those 2nd Amendment warriors that choose to stay in Maryland and keep up The Good Fight but I’m tired. There are people better suited to this form of battle than I am.

Maryland has been good to me professionally and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the company of friends and loves along the way. But it’s time for me to move on. I don’t know when and I don’t know where. Perhaps back home to Colorado or one of the other wide-open Rocky Mountain states. I considered joining-up with the Free State Project folks in their endeavor to make New Hampshire a welcome home to all liberty lovers but the call of the West is once again echoing loudly in my ears. I need some elbow room and some peace-and-quiet. Time to reflect upon and reenergize from my losses, to lick my wounds, and mend my battered notions of right and wrong. For those of you who are worried, I can assure you that there won’t be any one-room cabins and long-winded, anti-establishment manifestos (other than this one, that is…). I’ll find a way to keep this stubborn, “old school” engineer a productive member of the work force. I’ll find a way to keep in touch with my friends and family left stranded in Maryland. I’ll find a way to enjoy the freedoms I haven’t lost. Those who know me know that I always find a way!…