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Thank you to wildlife’s friends, my friends

When I started writing for Eric Epstein’s Rock the Capitol about eight years ago, one of the first stories I related to readers was an experience two of my children and I had with two pitbulls let off their leashes.

The readership statistics on this one essay were off the charts. Very high volume, and lots of comments. When I asked why, Eric and his website manager, whose name I now forget, told me that news items and stories involving animals claim the biggest share of attention on the Internet.

Fascinating, right?

And we all kind of see this fact in the strange way people routinely show concern for an injured goat in the news by donating a million dollars so the goat can get its broken hoof fixed, and then a truly sad situation involving some news story about a poor unfortunate child whose abusive parents tormented her for years raises just five bucks to get her into a better home.

It is true that people care about animals, and that is a good thing. But this care seems to extend mostly, really overwhelmingly, to domesticated animals; animals that depend upon humans for care and shelter. A natural and healthy empathy is aroused when some unfortunate critter is seen hemmed in by wire or caging, unable to provide for itself and yet not being provided for by the humans around it.

The type of animals people have the least identity with is wildlife. Most Americans, being urban or suburban, simply mythologize wildlife.

From this more urban view, all bears are universally perceived as aggressively dangerous (they are not, though grizzlies are definitely more aggressive than black bears). Deer run out in front of our cars, eat our crops, spread ticks with Lyme Disease, and nibble our yard shrubs, dammit. Squirrels are nasty tree rats with fuzzy tails chewing on our yard furniture, eating the produce of our gardens and fruit trees, and diving our trash bins. And skunks, possums and raccoons are a bunch of rabies-ridden trashcan raiders. And so on.

Wildlife by and large is not greatly appreciated by the general public, unless it is a close-up photo of some baby raccoon or fox kit. And no, I am not talking about wildlife photographers or the insane Humane Society as representative of the general public. These two categories of people are far distant outliers of one sort or another, and no generality can be drawn from their presence among or about wildlife.

So thank God there are sportsmen out there; that is, hunters and trappers. These are the Americans who really do truly care for and about wildlife, and they prove it every damned day with their financial donations and back-breaking work on wildlife habitat projects.

There is no better advocacy group or aggregation of active people who love wild animals and the wild places they need to thrive than hunters and trappers. Time has proven this fact, though the foolish flatlander will claim, with a mouthful of gross stockyard beef in her mouth, that hunting and trapping are “cruel.”

Most of our public lands were first acquired by and for hunting and trapping, at the urging of hunters and trappers. They knew in the 1890s and 1920s that human encroachment into formerly wild areas was leaving no room for the most interesting animals on earth. Many of these animals are more interesting than most of the humans we will encounter in any given day, week, month, or lifetime.

This weekend I really enjoyed my time among a special group of people, the state-wide leadership of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists (PFSC), what until yesterday was known as the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (PFSC). Most Americans no longer know that the word “sport” is about hunting, fishing, and trapping, nor do they know what a ‘sporting club’ is about. The lexicon has changed as the daily experience has changed. Meat is no longer acquired from a wild animal who knew it was hunted, but rather from a miserable creature tormented from its earliest days until its last moment alive and turned into a convenient styrofoam package.

The PFSC folks are the people who work every day for the benefit of wildlife, for wildlife habitat, for the defense and promotion of our state parks, state forests, and state game lands. These people do it humbly, quietly, generously, and usually all they get in return is some self-satisfaction from sitting back after a grouse hunt and, despite an empty game bag, intently watching a mysterious red Fall sunset streaked with white wispy trailing clouds sinking down behind shadowy trees shedding their colorful leaves. A deeply comforting stillness overtakes these people at these moments, alone or with companions, and when they go home that night, they know their decades of work fundraising for the latest land acquisition by the Wildlands Conservancy has paid off. It might be a relatively small nook in a big world, but it is a special nook nonetheless, where wildlife — wild animals unknown and unloved by most people — can call home until the next glacier comes through and re-orders the earth’s surface, as has already happened many times in the past.

Here is to you, a heartfelt thank you, my friends, my companions, my betters and my teachers among the outdoorsman fellowship. Thank you for your time and gift to me and to everyone and every living thing around me, whether they know or know not what you do for us.

Participated in 2nd Amendment Rally; where was NRA?

Just in from the field.

PA Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, Kim Stolfer of Firearm Owners Against Crime, and Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America organized and led a wonderful pro-freedom rally just now at the Pennsylvania Capitol steps in Harrisburg.  Dozens of state and local elected officials, from both parties, Democrat and Republican,  stood in the rain to show their appreciation and support.  State Senator Tim Solobay (D), an ass-kicking big guy and the senate’s official “Walking Refrigerator,” proudly wore his Western PA gun rights hat.  State Senator Scott Hutchinson (R), stood tall in the rain and cheered on the speakers.

Constitutional rights should not be a partisan issue.  Sadly, too many Democrats make gun ownership an issue, when it has zero to do with crime control.

Missing from action was the NRA.  No official presence, no speaking role, no unofficial presence.  What is going on here with my favorite organization?  Organizational snafu?  Too much pride?

Citizen, activist, and elected official speakers alike championed America’s unique freedoms, quoting often from their own life experiences and from America’s founding fathers.  Each speaker pointed out the hypocrisy of anti-freedom gun-grabbers, who are more comfortable in a feudal hierarchy than in the free Republic we have fought so hard to keep from tyranny.

Standing at the top of the steps, looking out over the sea of rain-soaked citizens, with their American flags, Don’t Tread on Me banners and similar hand-held signs, I was choked up with emotion.  As every past year, I feel honored and fired up to have participated in this year’s annual PA Second Amendment Rally.

April 29th 2nd Amendment rally at PA Capitol steps

April 29th Second Amendment rally at PA State capitol front steps, 10:00 AM, rain or shine. PA Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, Kim Stolfer of FOAC, Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, and many other speakers will be there. PRIZE is a Smith & Wesson Shield in 9mm or .40 S&W, courtesy of S&W and Ace Sporting Goods. All participants will be given a free ticket to win. See you there! — Josh

Harrisburg’s new parking scam

Today I parked in a Harrisburg municipal garage. Got my ticket when I entered, and tried to pay when I returned four hours later.

Several poorly written, hand-written notes on lined paper were taped to the payment kiosk. These notes said that the kiosk was now taking only exact payment, that no refunds were being given, that inserting your credit card to pay could result in the permanent loss of your card, and that receipts slips were not printing.

kiosk 2

In other words, you might mistakenly over-pay, because few people carry exact cash for anything, the machine would not give you a receipt for proof that you had overpaid, and you’d get no change back.  What happens if you are in a rush to exit the garage and get on your way to your next destination?  You might just leave a few extra bucks behind to save the time…no doubt that’s part of the purpose.

And we are not talking about nickels and dimes, but dollars only. It cost sixteen bucks to park in the garage for the four hours I was up at the Capitol. That is four dollars an hour, or four quarters for fifteen minutes of parking time (as opposed to one quarter for ten or fifteen minutes like it was until last year). It is a huge amount of money for parking.

And on top of the rip-off parking price, you get zero service, theft of your change due back, and no receipt to prove you did indeed pay.

Harrisburg has some serious challenges, and this parking scam is going to make recovery worse. One of the ways the city is supposed to re-coup its bad debt on the incinerator is lease out the parking garages. Well, here ya go; here is the natural result of that leasing arrangement: All rip-off, no service, outrageous prices, no due process. Really hope the “geniuses” who thought this up are held accountable for this failure.

Wait a minute! The guys who ripped us all off with the incinerator debt never got held accountable, and now we have a whole new set of rip-off guys milking us in new ways. I guess it just doesn’t end, until every taxpayer will have moved from the city and abandoned the place to the crows and the weasels.

Second Amendment Rally – Tuesday

Tuesday April 23rd at 10:00 am, the annual Second Amendment Rally will be held at the PA State Capitol, and hopefully you can be there. Sadly, it appears that Kim Stolfer may not be there. Kim is the driving force behind Firearms Owners Against Crime (which endorsed me in 2012) and the leader of the rally. His health condition may keep him away, and I know that the thousands of freedom-loving citizens there tomorrow will miss him greatly

Militia

Militia
By Josh First
January 3, 2013

[PHOTOS ARE COMING]

Along with other beautiful stained glass windows dedicated to free speech and religion, “Militia” is just another large, elaborate stained glass window in the Pennsylvania State Capitol building (photo above).

This window’s prominent place in the Capitol is no accident, as the free citizen militia were fundamental to being an American citizen, and formative in founding the nation. After all, it was a free citizen militia (photos below) that was so determined to hold on to their liberties (now yours) that they literally faced down the world’s greatest super power, shooting only when they saw the whites of their hardened enemy’s eyes.

Like the other rights in the Bill of Rights, belonging to the militia is an individual right. No central or national army can supplant it. It is the exact purpose of the citizen militia to act as a counterweight to a centralized army or National Guard. As the Second Amendment so clearly states, you can’t belong to a militia unless you are armed with a military-quality arm, that you own and keep in your possession, as the original militia did.

Militia is not the heavily regulated, structured, centralized Army or National Guard of today; well-regulated meant muster rolls were kept. Militia was always a grass roots, citizen-led counterbalance to national governments, whether of Britain or the new United States. Unless the National Guard reports only to the local citizens or state governors, then it is not the heir to or the modern representation of the founding militia. The militia were and must remain separate from the central (national) government and its standing army.

The Bill of Rights does not describe governmental rights. All ten of its amendments describe and reserve citizens’ individual rights and liberties, and set limits on government power. Who creates a “Bill of Rights” that grants the central government the “right” to make an army and disarm the citizens? The fact that Americans have owned firearms since the beginning demonstrates the clear intent of the Bill of Rights. Whether or not some of today’s Americans are aware of, or comfortable with some Constitutional rights and obligations, they exist nonetheless. This is who we are. It’ll take a Constitutional amendment to change the Second Amendment, if you don’t like it. And changing it could lead to a second civil war, because the Second Amendment guarantees all the other amendments, and, like the Revolutionary War militia, free citizens are still willing to fight for their liberties.

Let’s talk more about that supposed potential change to the Constitution.

Gun prohibitionists are now pursuing an orgy of unconstitutional laws that exponentially grow government intrusion and end citizenship as defined since the birth of America. Do gun prohibitionists and anti-gun politicians really believe that freedom-loving Americans will just roll over and “turn them all in,” as US Senator Dianne Feinstein so casually says? I guarantee you a massive, defiant, and probably violent dissenting reaction across the nation in response to such an effort, if not an outright armed rebellion. Political elites like Feinstein and their fellow urbanites have little contact with “fly-over country,” so they do not know, care, understand, or respect the views of their fellow citizens there.

Statists, like Feinstein, whose greatest goal is a big government involved in citizens’ lives from cradle to grave, are deaf and blind to the kind of vehement resistance now brewing among tens of millions of citizens. Many, many Americans feel and see the America they knew and loved being transformed into an unrecognizable juggernaut aimed at controlling citizens’ lives and erasing their liberties. Seething beneath the surface of daily life is an increasing, simmering frustration and mistrust. It’s one thing to beat them at the ballot box. It’s another thing altogether to aim to disarm them.

These citizens know that the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. The more the government does, the less the citizen can do. To them, government is a direct threat, not a solution.

Gun control already exists in overbearing quantity; new laws that would take away guns from law-abiding Americans are exactly the kinds of unconstitutional assaults on individual liberty that the Second Amendment was designed to repel and that the citizen militia was created to address. Using democracy to achieve undemocratic results has been the method of extremists from both Left and Right; with the latest wave of proposals, gun prohibitionists reveal their own extremism.

Draft resistors, anti-government dissenters, and assorted protests have been historic hallmarks of one part of the electorate. Will Second Amendment-rights activists have to carry their God-given guns on a Million Man March to Washington, DC, carrying today’s equivalent of the 1776-era military-grade musket, the AR-15, to get their point across?

Pro-abortion activists have long stated matter-of-factly that legally prohibiting abortion won’t end abortion, and that those who want one will seek it out, legal or not, safe or not. Well, folks, tens of millions of Americans are about to have that equivalent experience with their guns, taking them into the back alleys, yards, and woods, where they will have them, despite whatever the government may say. Such defiance is what created America. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up re-creating it.

Adam Lanza’s insane massacre of school children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, is so painful, so emotionally scarring that I will never be the same person I was the day before it occurred. My three children are as gentle, innocent, defenseless, and precious to me as those children were to their parents, and the thought of losing mine or theirs in such a cruelly violent way is too much to contemplate. My heart aches for the Sandy Hook parents. My fury rises at the incompetent parole board that unleashed murderer William Spengler to murder again, this time the brave firefighters who rushed to douse his arsonist blaze in Webster, NY. Blame enough to go around, but the actual problem-solving is hard.

Let me try: Does Hollywood really have an unfettered, unaccountable right to use its power of suggestion to continually encourage cruel, unchecked violence across America? During the recent Benghazi debacle, weren’t we told that the First Amendment doesn’t necessarily confer a right to make a movie that might incite violence? Thus, if Hollywood wants to continue marketing sadistically happy murder carnage from Django Unchained and the equally moronic Gangster Squad, why don’t all movies and video games with a modern gun in them have to pay a 50% ‘violence mitigation fee’ on each ticket sold? Use that money to put armed guards in schools, gratis Quentin Tarantino and Sean Penn.

In sum, disarming innocent citizens will not succeed, at least not without forcing millions into long-neglected, perhaps forgotten, well-regulated militias to defend their rights. Using emotional crises to immediately demand sweeping new laws is irresponsible. Can cooler heads prevail? Let us hope and pray so.

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The Militia:

You, the citizen, are still the militia. America is yours.