shell shock

An incident in which a 10 year old boy was suspended from school for having an empty shell casing given to him by a veteran at a Memorial Day celebration has rightfully stirred the wrath of the pro-Second Amendment community.

According to a May 29, article, a uniformed veteran gave the 10-year-old two empty rifle shell casings from blanks used during the town's Memorial Day celebration Monday morning. Bradley gave one of the empty casings to his grandfather and kept the other as a souvenir. The trouble began when he took his souvenir to school the next day.

"He was just playing with it at lunch," explained Crystal Geslak, Bradley's mother. "He wasn't showing it to anyone; he had it in his hand and was playing with it."

A teacher saw him with the harmless piece of brass and confiscated it. Ms. Geslak was then called at work and told to come and pick up her son, who had been suspended for five days!

Yes, and they're talking about assigning the tyke a probation officer.

My initial reaction was that this was another typical example of insane anti-gunners in the school bureaucracy running amok. Which I'm sure it is. But behind every bureaucrat there's usually a law or a statute or a regulation, and when Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell looked into the story he learned that because of the law, the situation is worse than people realize.

the problem is, if you don't have a license to have a firearm in Massachuetts, you can't even possess ammunition or ammunition components. The truth is, this kid and everyone involved in this situation is lucky that it's only resulting in a five day suspension. Under Massachusetts law, both the kid, the veteran who gave the kid the empty shell casing, and the teacher to took if from the kid could be looking at two years in prison for having ammunition components without a license.

These are the "reasonable restrictions" that the Brady Campaign wants to impose on the rest of the country. And they call us "nuts" and "paranoid" for arguing that these regulations are anything but reasonable. Yet in this case, the following people could be looking at two years in jail:

1. A 10 year old kid.
2. One of our nation's veterans
3. An elementary school teacher

Sound reasonable to you? Me neither.

An empty shell casing is now a crime. This in a country with the right to keep and bear arms.

While this is an outrage, it's the type of outrage that, if reported widely enough, can provoke precisely the type of backlash I've described in several posts.

As a Second Amendment supporter, of course, I welcome the backlash, and I'd say "Bring it on!"

People do not like being messed with, and they sympathize with people who are messed with. Incidents like the one above can cause laws to be changed. (Or at least, not enforced out of bureaucratic fear.)

While the shell casing story involved official state action, a story in this morning's Inquirer illustrates how even private activism can produce a backlash. When a struggling adult boutique found itself under attack by a local church, the opposition created a backlash of sympathy that was like manna from heaven:

A week after opposing the permit for a downtown West Chester adult boutique, a nearby Catholic church has withdrawn its appeal and the store owner has learned that while sex sells, opposition makes it sell even better.

Jill McDevitt, 22, owner of Feminique Boutique, said business had doubled since St. Agnes Church filed an appeal on May 29 to revoke her permit, issued March 31.

Even a politician who had campaigned against the store was forced to utter some kind words, and admit the campaign had backfired:
Shannon Royer, a GOP candidate for the state House's 156th District who has opposed the store, said he heard McDevitt on Michael Smerconish's radio show.

"She seems like a great person; hats off to anyone who's opening a small business in this economy," Royer said. "I just have a problem with the location so close to a school."

The school is located on the 200 block of West Gay Street and the store is on the 100 block of North Church Street, perpendicular to Gay Street.

Royer, who said he has heard dozens of complaints about the shop's location while campaigning, labeled the subsequent publicity "unintended consequences."

"She is possibly the luckiest small-business owner in West Chester," he said.

A woman who answered the church phone yesterday said the pastor was not available and not commenting.

I suspect it occurred to Royer that there's an election in the fall, and that fueling a backlash is a risky strategy.

So, I would submit, is the war on sex. As with the war on guns, anti-sex activists tend to forget that ordinary people get pissed when activists mess with them. In fact, they even get tired of being yelled at, or even scolded.

Somewhat related to the war on sex is the war between the sexes. I in a post yesterday, I mentioned a fantastic post by Cassandra which Glenn Reynolds had linked. Because I'm intrigued by the phenomenon of backlash, I think it's worth a closer look. Cassandra observes how the two sides find each other repulsive:

....the discourse on gender is heavily influenced by political orientation. The Left, taken as a whole, seems repulsed by traditional masculinity. A series of posts by Ezra Klein brought this into particularly stark relief. His analysis of Obama's candidacy is revealing


what the battle of the sexes comes down to, in the end: the maintenance of power. The Left hates the very idea of it and is seen as weak and femininized. The Right wants to preserve it and is seen as controlling and masculine. The fight, like many domestic battles, gets pretty nasty at times. And just as the Left can't seem to get past bashing men every chance they get, the Right seems to be on a never ending tear against women. Everything, it seems, is the fault of feminists. Even the most paradoxical and nonsensical arguments are laid at our door, even when men engage in (ostensibly) laudable activities for the distaff side, it is all our fault, our fault, our most grievous fault. Mea, mea culpa...

Whativer you call this phenomenon, it's clear that Cassandra is sick of both sides, just as both sides are sick of each other. And unless I'm reading her wrong, the fact that each side is sick of the other only fuels the ongoing mutual reaction. Cassandra rejects the process:
In short, I don't believe in the whole "real man/real woman" paradigm.
I'd call the paradigm mutual backlash.

Interestingly, many activists are sick and tired of each other, and if you read their screeds, they almost seem to make each other ill. A driving force, perhaps? (Instead of the 70s shlocko slogan "I'm OK, You're OK," it's now "I Make You Sick, You Make Me Sick!")

Furthermore, while it is true that most ordinary people are sick and tired of the activists, if they get irritated enough or provoked enough by a perceived slight coming from one side or another, this can incline even an ordinary person to join a cause, even if that cause is against that person's (or society's) interest.

It's another illustration of Why Activists Win.

But I say all of these things as a life member in the NRA. Isn't that activism, so doesn't that make me guilty of hypocrisy? Well, it's certainly one of my numerous contradictions (of the sort I grapple with regularly in this blog). I would say that sometimes in life, you have to bite the bullet and be an activist. Even if you hate activists. Even when activists and activism have reduced you to a state of shell shock. (In this case, empty shell shock.)

Perhaps the activist-induced shell shock ought to serve as a reminder that the smart activists are the ones who don't mess with people, and let the opposition do the messin'.

posted by Eric on 06.07.08 at 09:11 AM


Hmmmm, do they sell those 'bullet' keychains in Mass?
If so, 7-11 is committing a mass felony with intent to distribute!!!! Call the Stasi Police!!!!

Veeshir   ·  June 7, 2008 10:12 AM

Pretend there's a strike-through in "Stasi", I guess /strike doesn't work.

Veeshir   ·  June 7, 2008 10:15 AM

Eric, I'm a life member of the NRA also, a reluctant activist like you. However, I think we can distinguish between special-interest groups and public-interest groups. I won't join the AARP because they try to get a bigger slice of the pie for their demographic (50 years old and up, as if that's really "retired people"!). But I do support the NRA because they work for the common good, not just shooters and hunters. One could say the same thing even about public-interest groups whose goals I abhor. At least they work toward their vision of what's good for everyone.

notaclue   ·  June 7, 2008 11:46 AM

What, precisely, is an "ammunition component?" Manufactured products are comprised of a hierarchy of materials, parts, and subassemblies. If someone has a sheet of brass, does that qualify as an "ammunition component" since it could be fabricated into a cartridge casing?

david foster   ·  June 7, 2008 4:46 PM

David, "component" is a technical term in cartridge reloading. A cartridge includes case, primer, powder, and bullet. (For shotgun ammunition change "bullet" to "shot" and add wadding.) Only the powder and primer can go bang. For a school to get excited about a brass case is an expression of ideology (guns are bad) rather than safety.

notaclue   ·  June 7, 2008 5:53 PM

notaclue...but is it a legally defined term in the sense you use?

david foster   ·  June 7, 2008 6:10 PM

notaclue...but is it a legally defined term in the sense you use? And for shotgun ammunition, would the school be able to consider the wadding a "component."

The only defense I can imagine the school making for their behavior is that they are constrained by the explicit wording of the statute.

david foster   ·  June 7, 2008 6:11 PM

David, I don't know if "component" is a legally defined term, but yes, even a plastic wad is called a component. Said wad by itself is about as dangerous as a picture of a gun on a t-shirt.

notaclue   ·  June 7, 2008 9:20 PM

Gee, I had a whole box of casings collected from hikes in the Adirondacks as a kid, that I carried around without foot protection too.

Ron Hardin   ·  June 7, 2008 9:46 PM

I wouldda thought that, after the gun had been fired, the casing would no longer be a component of ammo. It was, but it ain't anymore.


ras   ·  June 7, 2008 10:22 PM


No, it can be reloaded.

Veeshir   ·  June 8, 2008 1:06 PM

The story stated that it was a spent blank casing. Aren't the blank casing crimped on the front, thus making them unusable for reuse as live ammo?

Regardless, we must remember this is Massachusetts. It's also an interesting side note that Massachusetts has a law, implemented when they needed to "get tough on gun crime" (yeah, right), called the Fox-Hartley law that mandates a 1 year sentence for anyone comitting a crime with a gun. No one has ever been convicted under this statute, it's always pleaded down.

Like most liberals, the elites of MA don't want to actually do anything about crime, they just want to be perceived as doing something. It makes them feel good.

Lovernios   ·  June 9, 2008 9:58 AM

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