Lane has written more than 2,000 articles for Inside Bainbridge, which for 4.5 years was the news website for the Seattle bedroom community of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Before that, she wrote for the blogs On a Ledge and ProgressiveKid Reader. Here are a few samples:
Bainbridge Author Fred Moody Takes on the Catholic Church in His New Memoir
Posted on August 25, 2013, at 11:10 am on Inside Bainbridge
Bainbridge Islander and former Seattle Weekly journalist Fred Moody has published a number of books—including Seattle and the Demons of Ambition: A Love Story and I Sing the Body Electronic: A Year with Microsoft on the Multimedia Frontier—with Random House, Sasquatch, and St. Martin’s Press, among others. But despite his success and reputation, he couldn’t get anyone to publish his newest work. Publishers told him it was because “It was too dark.” So he used Amazon to self publish.
The publishers’ response is surprising since Moody’s subject matter is well-traveled material, in part the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. I tried to figure out what specifically made the book so taboo. It stands out from some of the rest of the genre in that it is a memoir, and the visceral rawness of Moody’s telling certainly has something to do with publisher reticence. But I concluded that it was three other things that gave his book the hot potato status: (a) his inclusion as if it were real of an imagined but believable violent response to the abuse, (b) his chiseling away at the entire Catholic institution, a systematic takedown barely contained within his freestyle narrative, and (c) a third thing that I’ll get to later.
Unspeakable Joy gropes its way through the telling of something that is clearly so painful that approaching it more directly was impossible and would have felt false and forced. His narrator stops and starts and struggles to put himself back into a dark past and to find meaning in it, ostensibly to discover the reason behind his adult-man rage, which Moody had begun to fail to control in his everyday family life. The halting narration parallels his own boyhood gradual peeling away of lies and silences to expose a lurid truth.
He hides nothing, divulging his own painful innocence and gullibility as fully as he discloses the failings of the two seminaries where he grew up, each marking an opposite end of the social and cultural revolution of the 1960s. He doesn’t take a sword to his subject and hack away at it but instead offers a complex and multilayered exposure as varied as the two different seminary experiences he had. He detests the one, rigid and violent, where freedom of thought was discouraged and from which he was ultimately expelled. But he is confused about the other—his stupefaction mixed with startling fondness—where boundaries were so lax that priests encouraged attendance at Bob Dylan concerts, ignored problematic behavior and emotional abuse among the students and at their own hands, and laughed off crises of faith, sometimes offering booze as a palliative.
His narrator, bewildered by his experiences and how they are at odds with everything he was originally taught to believe about the priesthood, struggles to make sense of what is happening to him and what seems to be happening to a lot of the boys around him. He puzzles over odd sounds, mysterious departures, uncomfortable and pleasurable feelings, locked doors, sex jokes, and messages so mixed that even now as an adult he continues to decipher them. He is unsure how to feel about his own sexual awakening and physical attraction to a fellow student’s sister as well as to a fellow seminarian.
And this brings me to the third reason I think publishers rejected his book. Moody ‘s narrative doesn’t package the matter up neatly for us so we can read and be done with it, satisfied that the wrongdoings have been exposed and ended, at peace in black and white. Instead, he leaves us fraught and disturbed, solidly gray, unsure how to feel about some of what he reveals, worried about our complicity in our own institutional coverups, and distressed that the story is not over.
His buried rage is unleashed, but it’s not gone. The bitter irony of the title is evidence enough. Part of that rage is self-directed. Moody ends his book three times, and one of those endings is an exomologesis, or public confession of crimes, specifically of his failure to comprehend how widespread and cruel the abuse was and his understandable (at least for me if not for him) failure to do nothing about it other than survive it.
Moody will be reading from his memoir at Elliott Bay Books on September 11 at 7 p.m. His book is available at Eagle Harbor Book Company.
Photo of Moody by Lynette Johnson.
Priciest House Ever on Bainbridge Just Listed at $12.8M
Posted on March 30, 2012 at 12:29 am on Inside Bainbridge
Even in a so-so economy, Windermere is confidently listing this Bainbridge Island house for almost $13 million. That’s because it’s not the kind of home you run across every day or maybe even ever. The design alone, by award-winning Miller Hull Architects, required more than 10,000 hours, and the construction, completed in 2002, spanned four years.
The result of all that work is dramatic, unique, a little outrageous, and far beyond what most of us would ever need or imagine. The home sits on a magnificent 13-acre waterfront property on the northwest of the Island near Agate Pass with exactly the kind of views you might be able to imagine for the price. It includes a landscaped lawn, fairly old-growth forest land, water features, a putting green, an outdoor hot tub suspended in the tree canopy off the master bathroom, and a staircase from the high bluff to the beach. The property is gated and secure, including completely automated security systems, ten motion-sensing cameras, fingerprint access, glass break sensors, and infrared, automated fire/heat/smoke systems.
Depending on how you configure it, the house has between four and five bedrooms plus playrooms, a rec room, a safe room, and a library (in walnut). It covers 10,500 square feet. An art studio to accommodate your hobby or perhaps your own personal artist adds 500 more feet, and there is a storage building just in case you couldn’t fit everything you own into the 11,000 other feet.
The house is built with FSC-certified woods, 1,000-year-old recycled cedar, and Douglas fir beams from a 1921 shipwreck. The walls and ceiling are done in cherry and the floors in machiche, an exotic hardwood from southern Mexico or Brazil.
It is heated with no-sound forced air heat and redundant in-floor heating. Apparently built for an optimist, it also includes twenty tons of air conditioning capacity. The result is fifteen separate temperature zones throughout the residence.
The kitchen features Double Wolf ovens and seven Subzeros. A full catering/service kitchen includes a dishwasher, a bar, and a large Wolf oven. The wine and liquor cellar built with stone imported from China will be able to handle all 4,000 bottles in your collection.
Additional quarters for staff are provided separate from the main house and over the garage, which can accommodate three cars.
And then there’s the technology: A complete office setup includes an advanced phone system with five lines, fax, polycom, and video conference capabilities. The house is wired for ultra high-speed internet and with fiber-optic cable and cat 5. Cable access is provided in every room. High-end audio and video servers are also built into every room, with subwoofers placed in the walls. A battery system backs up the main computers.
Because you wouldn’t want to go to all this trouble only to have it ruined by a natural disaster, the home was built to withstand a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and 130 mph winds. A 65 KW generator and a 2,000-gallon underground propane system can sustain two weeks of continuous operation of all systems. The property includes a 5,000-gallon water tower. And the home is completely sound and vibration proof, even in 40 mph winds.
A brochure describes the house as Feng Shui compliant, which can only mean that if you live in it you feel really good about yourself.
Interested? Unless you buy it outright, your monthly payments will run about $53,000. That does not include cable.
Photos provided by Miller Hull Architects.
Disaster Preparedness Part 1: The Fire Department Takes Over
Posted by Sarah Lane on September 18, 2011, at 10:40 am on Inside Bainbridge
This is the first part of our series on Disaster Preparedness on the Island. Inside Bainbridge has been meeting and working with The Bainbridge Island Fire Department and with Prepared Neighborhoods, a new citizen group, to prepare citizens through education and information dissemination for potential disasters. We’re setting up systems so that, in the event of an actual disaster, Inside Bainbridge can help keep you alerted to the latest information from the Fire Department, Kitsap Department of Emergency Management, and Prepared Neighborhoods.
This summer I was thinking about Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Japan earlier this year and the earlier tsunamis in Indonesia. I decided to pay a visit to local officials to find out how prepared our community is and what I might expect in the event of a large-scale disaster. During the space of about one week, the week I just happened to choose to begin my investigation, the news was, well, not good.
City websites, which were filled with dead links, said the Police Department was in charge, the Police Department said the Fire Department was in charge, and the Fire Department front desk didn’t know who was in charge. The idea of moving flashed through my mind, but just at that moment, and this is true, I swear, I saw the police chief walking by. I grabbed him and he filled me in on what was happening.
- The contract of Ed Call, a consultant hired by the City to manage our community’s disaster response, ended two years ago.
- The Police Department was asked to fill in.
- After a year and a half, they concluded that their department doesn’t have the resources to manage large-scale disaster response efforts.
- That very week when I was doing my snooping, Police Chief Fehlman was scheduled to meet with Fire Chief Hank Teran to transfer Disaster Response responsibilities to the Fire Department.
So a few days later I met with Teran and Assistant Chief Luke Carpenter, and that’s when my blood pressure began to normalize again. Teran told me that the Fire Protection Services contract had been up for renewal and it seemed a good time to enter into a 5-year contract with the City of Bainbridge Island to revitalize emergency preparedness on the Island. Specifically, the Fire Department was contracted to create an emergency operation center, train staff, and generate outreach to the community.
The City will still hold responsibility for the overall disaster plan, and Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management (a local branch of FEMA) will be involved in the event of an emergency here, but Carpenter has taken charge of emergency preparedness on the Island. As he told me, this was a common-sense move, since the Fire Department’s “business is to respond to emergencies.” He added, “We do just that 2,700 times a year, and we recognize the need that comes out of that.”
Teran showed me a list from FEMA of 12 types of disasters. He had checked off seven of them. He told me, “This is why we think this is a priority. Because our Island can be subjected to seven types.” I looked and read the types: chemical emergencies, earthquake, fire or wildfire, flood, hazardous material, landslide, and winter storm. And, even though nuclear emergency wasn’t checked off, the Bangor nuclear submarine base is just to the west of us.
Carpenter described the situation he has inherited: “In our preparation and planning we act as an island. The bridge is out, the ferry is out. The need to be self-sufficient—that’s one lesson we take from Katrina.” He added that a minimum of three days used to be the standard expectation for self-sufficiency. Now, in the wake of Katrina and other disasters, people recognize that the reality is more like a week.
He went on to explain that, at times, there are only six staff members at the Fire Department. Only one-third of career staff and 50 percent of volunteers even live on the Island. This means that community involvement is essential to any effective disaster preparedness effort. In fact, he added, “It’s more effective if it’s from the community. There’s more buy in.”
That’s why Carpenter is working closely with a new citizen initiative, Prepared Neighborhoods. Together, the Fire Department and this new group are devising strategies for helping people prepare at the household and neighborhood levels. Read Part 2, coming soon, to find out about this new community project.
Photos courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, Chris Metcalf, and Kordian.
Home Turf Disadvantage
Posted on March 15, 2007 on On a Ledge
(Full disclosure: I am not a housewife, not that there would be anything wrong with that in my opinion, but some folks level the term irresponsibly as a way to discredit my opinions on turf, so let’s be clear about that; what I am is simply a professional writer who has written on a wide range of topics and who knows how to read the research of professional scientists and summarize it in an article for the rest of us to read.)
As a former soccer player well acquainted with the hazards of sand-based soccer fields in the rainy Northwest, I can appreciate a soccer club’s frustration and desire to do something to improve playing conditions for its members. I know only too well the taste of a mouthful of muddy water and the sinking feeling of seeing a perfectly timed pass floating in a small pond halfway to its intended destination.
All across the nation, more and more high schools, colleges, and park districts are installing artificial turf fields with the hope that they will be spared skid marks, puddles, and mudbaths. While improving upon some aspects of the situation, their choice creates other far more serious negative consequences, including potentially adverse health effects. Specifically, artificial turf exposes players, park users, and neighborhood residents to known inhaled carcinogens and dangerous bacteria and introduces the threat of aquifer and water supply contamination to the area.
The Problem with the Pellets
Synthetic Turf, often referred to by brand name FieldTurf, is made up in part of recycled rubber pellets. According to FieldTurf’s product information, “FieldTurf’s grass fibers are surrounded and stabilized by a special blend of ‘synthetic earth’—FieldTurf’s patented mixture of smooth, rounded silica sand, rubber granules, and NIKE GRIND made of re-ground athletic shoe material.”
The little pellets get around. They turn up in players’ shoes and are visible on the field surfaces. The manufacturer of FieldTurf readily acknowledges that the pellets might be transported on shoes especially after rainfall. The pellets have also been observed in stormwater drains by Marcos Island city officials in Florida.
So what’s the problem with the pellets? A study conducted last year by Dr. William Crane of the City College of New York and Dr. Junfeng Zhang of Rutgers University determined that a FieldTurf surface in Manhattan’s Riverside Park contained polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and toxic metals. PAH’s are chemicals created during the partial burning of, among other things, oil and gas.
In the study, the levels of 6 PAHs found in the rubber pellets were above concentrations allowed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). DEC requires removal of these substances at these levels from contaminated soils because the DEC considers them hazardous to public health.
The Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) summarizes the danger: “Some people who have breathed or touched mixtures of PAHs and other chemicals for long periods of time have developed cancer. Some PAHs have caused cancer in laboratory animals when they breathed air containing them (lung cancer), ingested them in food (stomach cancer), or had them applied to their skin (skin cancer).”
The PAH of greatest concern is benzopyrene, which was found on the artificial turf in levels 8 times greater than the DEC limit. Two researchers at the Department of Biochemistry of the University of Western Ontario have found that exposure to benzopyrene increases the incidence of breast cancer. Benzopyrene is known to be mutagenic and highly carcinogenic and has been tracked crossing the placenta and attacking DNA. It also suppresses the gene that controls cell growth and, according to Dr. William M. Bennett, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University, has been linked to half of all human cancers and up to 70 percent of lung cancers. Dr. Patrick Kinney, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, succinctly acknowledges the potential health risk: “PAHs, if you breathe them, have been associated with lung cancer.”
Crane and Zhang also discovered levels of zinc in excess of DEC cap guidelines and the presence of lead and cadmium. Because of the pellets’ zinc content, Rufus Cheney, an environmental chemist for the Federal Department of Agriculture, has warned people not to use ground rubber “casually dispersed on agricultural or garden soils.”
But What Happens If I Don’t Inhale?
It’s clear that the presence of lead or zinc in artificial turf “soil” is unwelcome and a potential health threat. But why should the presence of PAHs in artificial turf be of concern if the hazards associated with PAHs result from inhalation?
The FieldTurf website describes its product as having “Guaranteed resistance to sunlight (Ultra Violet radiation degradation). Resistant to rot, mold, mildew, foot traffic, hydrolysis, airborne contaminants and microbial attack.” But in her report The Myth of Rubberized Landscapes, Linda Chalker-Scott, Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor at Washington State University, cautions against optimistic assessment of the permanence of rubber pellets: “Far from being permanent, rubber is broken down by microbes like any other organic product.”
Chalker-Scott adds that “Many bacterial species have been isolated and identified that are capable of utilizing rubber as their sole energy source.” Such bacteria, she explains, have been found in the cavity water of discarded tires, and some white-rot and brown-rot fungal species can detoxify the additives used in tire manufacture to kill rubber-degrading bacteria.
If the rubber can be degraded, it can enter the water supply. According to the ATSDR, it also can readily evaporate into the air from soil or surface waters. And that means it can be inhaled.
It’s in the Air, It’s in the Water
Although Nike contributes rubber soles to artificial turf fill, most of the rubber comes from recycled tires. The process of preparing the tires for use in artificial turf fill involves treating them with solvents to soften them or freezing them so they can more easily be broken up. Tires contain, in addition to rubber, lead, arsenic, benzene, tuolene, cadmium, copper, oil, and carbon and, as a result, so does artificial turf fill.
Alison J. Draper, an assistant professor of chemistry at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, studied the effects of tire decomposition. In her study, Draper left finely ground tire particles in water samples for ten days. All the aquatic organisms in her water samples died, including algae, suggesting strongly that aquatic communities could be gravely affected by tire runoff. The ATSDR agrees that certain PAHs can leach from the soil to contaminate underground water.
Draper believes there is also the potential for asthmatic and/or allergic reactions to rubber pellets. She explains, “We’re only at the very beginning of that investigation. But, given the chemicals in tire rubber and given how readily they leach out, we can expect a respiratory response [in human beings].”
Chalker-Scott brings up still another concern: “Compared to a dozen other mulch types, ground rubber is more likely to ignite and more difficult to extinguish. In areas where the possibility of natural or man-made fires is significant, rubber mulches should not be used.” When a tire burns, it generates a runoff of two gallons of oil and produces 32 toxic gases. It is hard to say exactly what would be generated by a fire on two fields full of rubber fill.
The Ick Factor
If the threats of cancer and more toxic runoff into waterways are not enough reason to get people to reject artificial turf, perhaps a flesh-eating bacteria known as MRSA will do the trick. MRSA is a drug-resistant bacteria that can infect healthy people as well as hospital patients. It infects the skin and even the heart and central nervous system. MRSA begins as a lesion on the skin and can quickly lead to serious illness and death. Unfortunately, MRSA is becoming more prevalent among college and high school athletes and can be harbored on athletic equipment.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that athletes who had suffered artificial turf burns were seven times more likely to develop MRSA infection. The reason is partly that the burns open the skin to the opportunity for infection. But many studies, most notably the study conducted by the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in 2000, have found that MRSA survives better on artificial turf than on other surfaces. Specifically, the staphylococcus survives longest, up to 90 days, on polyethylene plastic, which is a plastic used in synthetic turf fibers.
One solution to this problem is, of course, to spray disinfectant. But that introduces yet another toxin to play areas and to open wounds. With natural grass, which has inherent antibacterial properties, no spraying and no MRSA concern would even be necessary.
The Danger of Topsy Turfy Thinking
So you don’t want to breathe it and you don’t want to drink it. You certainly don’t want it on your skin. And you don’t want to be anywhere near it on a hot day because of the elevated surface temperature of artificial turf (a significant concern for a playfield used by children who are far more susceptible than adults to the dangers of heatstroke). But, despite these drawbacks and hazards, a lot of you still want to play on it.
This may be in part due to the support from a few vocal and powerful organizations. One of these is FIFA (the International Fútbol Federation), which recently endorsed the use of artificial turf for soccer. Some may take FIFA’s approval as a sign that artificial turf is not hazardous.
Another powerful support for artificial turf comes from the makers and distributors of the product and their lobbyists. Their websites ignore the many scientific studies that expose the concerns about artificial turf fields and tout the use by and tacit endorsement of professional sports leagues as evidence that their products are great for children, animals, and the planet. One site, EasyTurf.com calls its product “environmentally friendly” and says, “FieldTurf is the same product being used by numerous National Football League, Professional Baseball and college sports teams for their playing surfaces. These organizations have done the research on the best turf for their stringent requirements and they have selected FieldTurf. If it is good enough for them, don’t you think that it would be good enough for YOUR landscape needs?”
But the answer should, with any logic applied, be a resounding No. Why would professional athletic organization endorsement mean anything other than the fact that these organizations believed that the product would be good for their sports—specifically that the fields would be durable, be easy to maintain, not lead to an excessive amount of during-game injury, and be cost effective? A professional sports organization is not created to pursue the goal of safeguarding the environment and protecting human health. FIFA’s primary concern is the health of soccer, and, although artificial turf may indeed be good for the health of soccer, it is clearly not good for the health of my children.
In our country, we continually fall prey to the pitfalls of our own muddied thinking about the proclamations made by figures of authority. We fail to consider what authority they actually have, in what arena and for what purpose. Time and again we apply the judicial model of innocent until proven guilty in non-legal contexts, such as those involving human and environmental health. We hold that a product is not hazardous to our health until scientific evidence definitively shows that it is. The pitfalls of this way of thinking are obvious. When it comes to certain substances, such as those that contain known carcinogens, I prefer to follow a different model: that of assuming something involving chemicals is hazardous until scientific evidence proves that it is not.
In the case of artificial turf, plenty of scientific evidence has, to the contrary, shown that it is hazardous in at least three significant ways: it harbors bacterial infection, it exposes humans and animals to carcinogens, and it contaminates aquifers and drinking water. Any one of those three reasons should be more than enough to convince everyday lobbyless citizens to oppose the installation of artificial turf fields in their communities.
As far as alternatives go, the last time I checked, a field of natural grass made for a great game of soccer.
©2007 ProgressiveKid. May not be reprinted or redisplayed without permission.
A Conversation About Gun Control with Bainbridge Island Sportsmen’s Club President
Posted on January 31, 2013, at 9:00 pm on Inside Bainbridge
At the City Council meeting last week when the resolution to ban semiautomatic weapons was passed, Alan Kasper, President of the Bainbridge Island Sportsmen’s Club, spoke to councilmembers at length and with some passion about his opposition. After that, I asked to meet with him to discuss his opposition to the resolution—what is in essence a non-binding decision since Washington State law supersedes the weapons legislation passed by any of its municipalities.
We met in the clubhouse at a large table, under the gaze of wall-mounted deer and fish.
Kasper started our conversation by clarifying for me what an assault weapon is. He said that it is what the military has—a fully automatic weapon. He explained that such weapons have three settings: safe (when it can’t be fired), fire (when it can be fired again and again with each pull of the trigger, and auto (in which it continues firing as long as your finger is on the trigger). He said it is illegal for civilians to possess fully automatic weapons unless specifically licensed by the government. His point is that the debate over assault weapons is really a debate about semiautomatic weapons, since fully automatic weapons were banned in 1934.
So with that caveat, Kasper proceeded to answer my questions.
What (If Anything) Is Worthwhile About Semiautomatic Weapons?
I shared with Kasper that, on Inside Bainbridge, a commenter compared the semiautomatic weapons ban to banning SUVs, saying that SUVs are more likely than other vehicles to cause serious damage in a crash. But one problem with this comparison that I could see is that, as a society, we generally perceive some value to SUVs: They survive a crash better, they can carry lots of kids, they can haul things and tow things, and they can handle extreme weather conditions. As a society, we have apparently decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. I told Kasper that I don’t see how that criterion applies to semiautomatic weapons. I asked him, “What benefit is there to semiautomatic weapons that outweighs the risks?”
Kasper replied that when people returned from fighting in World Wars I and II, they returned with bolt action Mauser 98s as war trophies. Kasper explained that the Mauser 98 is what Hitler’s armies used. Returning vets “sportorized them” and used them for recreational purposes, such as target shooting and hunting, he said, because it’s what they had grown used to.
Kasper made it clear that, for him, a gun has to have an aesthetic value. He finds the current “military style rifles” to be ugly. But, he added, “It’s a matter of personal taste,” and he asked rhetorically who is he to determine what kinds of weapons are acceptable and what kinds are not?
I said, “So you’ve identified one benefit: They’re fun. Some people like to shoot semiautomatic weapons.” He agreed. Kasper, who enjoys telling stories, told me about his ten-year-old granddaughter who thought shooting was evil. Kasper asked her where she had heard that, and she said at school. He took her to the shooting range and told her to try firing just one shot. He said, “She did, and then she did another, and then 100.” He said, with obvious pride, that the last time they went shooting she fired 300 rounds, evidently enjoying the activity that she had once believed was evil.
Kasper identified a second benefit to such weapons: He said they are useful in cases of self-defense. As an example, he said that, after Hurricane Katrina, as New Orleans descended into chaos, people armed themselves with semiautomatic weapons and stood on the roofs of their businesses to keep looters at bay. To further emphasize his point, he said he had just spoken with a federal agent who told him that, in Seattle, armed gangs are now breaking down people’s doors and entering their homes to rob them.
I asked how on earth anyone sitting in their living room when a gang broke down their front door was going to have time to fetch their semiautomatic weapon from its storage locker and load it. I said, in the case of a home invasion, “You’re going to reach for your handgun if anything and barely have time to do that.”
Kasper agreed that was the most likely scenario, but he added, “If I was living in the inner city and in a neighborhood where gangs would come bursting through my front door, I’d want to have a semiautomatic rifle.” He said he had lived in a rough part of Chicago and would have been killed twice on the streets if he hadn’t had his gun with him. I also like to share stories. I told him I too had lived in a rough part of Chicago. One night, when a roommate was coming home late, she got caught in the middle of a gang war. Just before attacking her, one of the gangbangers stopped and said, “Are you a girl?” When she said yes, he escorted her home to safety and told her to stay off the street. I said to Kasper, “If she’d pulled a gun that night, she would have been killed.”
He shrugged, and I realized that for every story one of us might have that proves our point there is another story that contradicts it.
Why Is the Second Amendment So Important?
We discussed the Second Amendment (which guarantees the Right to Bear Arms). Kasper said, “The Second Amendment is not to protect hunters. It’s to give citizens the ability to stand up to our government.”
I said, “How are we going to stand up with semiautomatic rifles to a government that is armed with drones, missiles, and nuclear weapons?”
He said it would be through guerrilla warfare just the way it was happening in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. He added, “It’s highly unlikely, but still do we want to sacrifice that right?”
What’s Wrong with Current and Proposed Gun Legislation?
Kasper has little patience for what he perceives to be nonsense. And he applied his impatience specifically to current gun legislation, including the semiautomatic weapons ban resolution.
He showed me a full-page ad from a glossy magazine called Rifle. The ad shows a black military-style rifle. Kasper said he thought it was an ugly weapon but his point was that, if a national magazine was carrying a full-page ad for that type of weapon, then it must be popular. He said, “Not that there are any left in the stores right now, but this is what a lot of people want to buy.”
He then showed me three characteristics of that particular gun that he said would be banned under Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposed gun legislation: a pistol grip, a barrel shroud (flash suppressor), and a telescoping stock. He thought it was ludicrous that a popular gun being marketed to a wide audience would be illegal under Feinstein’s legislation. I wondered why anyone would need a flash suppressor which, Kasper explained, conceals the shooter’s location at night when a fired gun makes a visible flash. Kasper didn’t know but he said that some people think it can help reduce recoil. I wondered why someone didn’t just invent something to reduce recoil that didn’t also suppress flash.
A pistol grip, however, seems like an odd thing to ban. I asked Kasper, “Wouldn’t that make all handguns illegal?”
He said that Feinstein has said publicly that she wants to eliminate all weapons.
I checked out the proposed legislation, which is very complicated and detailed about the specific combinations of characteristics that would make a weapon illegal. It turns out that it is a detachable magazine in combination with one of those other characteristics, such as the flash suppressor, that would make the gun illegal. So, for example, a Magnum .357 revolver would not be banned under that legislation.
Where Is the Common Ground?
Throughout our conversation, Kasper kept returning to the argument that the Bainbridge Island resolution and other types of gun control don’t work and therefore are a waste of time. He then asked me how well Prohibition had worked to limit the sale of alcohol. He asked how well prohibition of heroin was working in our society. “To quote Ron Paul,” he said, “we can’t even keep drugs out of our prisons. How are we going to manage criminals and people who are psychotic? It will drive the markets underground.”
He said, “We’re having this conversation about silliness and we’re still not doing anything about psychotic people. We have to focus on what will make our children safer.” To this end, last week Kasper presented to the City Council a list of the steps he recommends for protecting society against the kind of violence that happened in Sandy Hook. His list starts out with civil dialog. He then lists background checks for all transfers at gun shows, a national database of people disqualified from gun ownership (such as convicted felons and the mentally ill), fixing and enforcing the current legislation, adjusting the messages given out via Hollywood, putting armed guards in schools, education, and treating and managing the mentally ill.
I questioned him about how our financially overburdened education system is going to be able to afford putting armed guards in schools. Plus, I asked, how is a guard armed with a pistol going to deal with two or more people who come in shooting? I said, “The guard will be killed first.” He said, “That is a scenario that could happen.” Then he talked about installing steel doors with locks in schools. But, again, that is a cost challenge in today’s economy.
As an example of the need to fix current legislation, he told me that, under current law, he is allowed to take a sidearm along on a hunting trip. But, he said, if he decides to spend the night sleeping in the back of the truck, it is illegal for him to have the sidearm in the truck with him unless he also had a concealed pistol permit. He called this one of many “goofy gun laws.”
I asked Kasper what gun control measure could be added to his list. I said that there must be some type of weapon that it would be beneficial to ban. But Kasper stood his ground. He would not concede anything on this point. I said that it feels to me as if the gun community operates as if it is of a single mind, as a monolithic block that will not budge on any point that involves restricting gun ownership. He said, “To a certain extent, yes,” and he emphasized again that he wouldn’t know how to decide what kinds of guns should be restricted over others.
Kasper said, “Let’s have a respectful dialog and then, once we have that, do something together that has a chance of stopping the carnage of our babies.” I said, “We’re having a respectful dialog. What concessions will you bring to the table?” I pressed him to go to a middle ground where each side would make a concession. We went back and forth, with him refusing to give on any gun-banning point. He kept saying he couldn’t imagine a scenario where there would be one type of gun or one characteristic that universally needed to be banned.
Finally, Kasper said, “I would feel comfortable saying this. If there were a mechanism—if we as a community could make this happen—I would support it: Anyone who buys a semiautomatic weapon would have to go through a training to be certified in its use and safety and the like and end up with a license.”
Kasper said that he has been fingerprinted multiple times and would be happy to support fingerprinting for people with a semiautomatic weapon, or even any firearm, as part of background checks.
Kasper and I headed up to the pistol range to try out some handguns and rifles since I had no experience shooting them and I felt I couldn’t write this if I didn’t. First Kasper gave me the rundown on the rules. I had to wear protective eyewear and earwear. I was never to put my finger on the trigger until I was aiming the gun and ready to shoot it. I was never to point it anywhere but exactly downrange.
Kasper reviewed the parts of the gun and showed me how each gun required a different type of cartridge. He told me we were using slower bullets to minimize recoil since it was my first time shooting.
He talked me through the firing of three handguns, two semiautomatic and one not. I shot a Ruger Model 1 .22 LR, a Smith & Wesson Model 60 .357 Magnum, and a Colt Gold Cup .45 ACP.
I felt wildly out of control shooting the handgun, as if I had absolutely no assurance of where the bullet was going, despite the fact that the target was only about four feet in front of me. I felt like I was holding a weapon designed specifically and only for the killing of another person. The .357 Magnum was the least comfortable for me. I preferred the Ruger.
Then he showed me his bolt action .22 rim fire rifle. I took aim with it and shot and hit the target easily, although it was much farther away, at the far end of the range. Hitting the target made a satisfying ping sound. Then I used a semiautomatic rifle with a scope and again, even as I pulled the trigger in rapid-style fashion, no lock and load necessary, I couldn’t miss.
The problem I saw with the rifles was that it was way too easy and, because of the distance, impersonal to shoot them. I felt detached and far away from the target and, yet, I was more accurate.
Overall, if I had to choose, I would pick the lock and load .22. For me, it was the easiest to shoot. And I’m sure there’s a psychology to mine there.
When it came down to it, I realized that there may be no room for budging on any of the two sides of the issue of gun ownership: One side wants no restrictions on a person’s right to own a firearm, on any type not already banned by the National Firearms Act of 1934. And the other side wants to get rid of guns altogether. The middle ground may not be big enough. The place for common effort lies only on the periphery of the guns themselves: the steps required to own a gun, the rules that would forbid a particular person from owning a gun, changes to the way our country deals with the mentally ill, and even changes to our cultural values and popular entertainment.
However, I felt like I had finally penetrated the wall of resistance that often seems to come from the NRA—in the sense that I had seen over the wall, not in the sense that I had busted a hole in it. I had seen that a good portion of the people in our country feel that any kind of restriction of gun type feels unfair and arbitrary. Whereas one person might happily dispense with “ugly” military-style guns, another might be willing to dump historical relics that still fire. Whereas one person (Kasper) might feel that using a military-style semiautomatic weapon to shoot an animal is ridiculous and irresponsible, another might completely disagree. Each person wants to make sure that his or her hobby, fascination, aesthetic preference, right of citizenship, or chosen self-defense methodology goes unrestricted. There is likely no way to get agreement on what types of guns to ban and what types to keep. The fact is that all guns, regardless of whether they have a pistol handle or not, a seven-bullet magazine or a ten-bullet magazine, can be used just as well for recreational target practice or for the slaughter of children.
As a person who, until just very recently, wasn’t even allowed the same rights as my neighbors, I can both understand and not understand this reality at all. On the one hand I feel that if I could put up with restrictions on my personal liberties for so long, why can’t gun owners? On the other hand, I don’t want to put up with any rights restrictions even a moment longer.
Kasper brought a cartridge to show me. It was the casing of a bullet of the same type that had been used to kill the two dozen teachers and students at Sandy Hook Elementary. It was small, like the victims, and seemingly inconsequential, especially compared to the other much larger hunting shells he showed me. But that small bullet had had a huge impact on so many lives. I just don’t know if it was enough impact to get people to agree on a lasting change.
Photos by Sarah Lane, Patrick Peccatte & Michel Le Querrec, Chris Metcalf, Jenn Durfey, Edward Kimmell, firearms4less.com, pawpaw67, Joe Loong, Bradley Gordon, LaDawna Howard, and Chris Young.
©2011-2015 Inside Bainbridge. All rights reserved. This material, including original photographs, may not be rewritten, republished, redistributed, or broadcast without permission.