Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Personal Journey with Open Carry

[Note: This article was first published in "VA-ALERT: VCDL Update 9/30/09".  VCDL used to have an archive of their Alerts but now it seems to go back only to 2012.  Other sites, such as, republished it.  I am publishing it here on my own blog also for archival purposes.]

In 1971, at the age of 9, I was stuffing envelopes for a Democratic candidate I didn't even know, while on a family visit to Pittsfield, MA.  My mother had taken me and my sister to see relatives in the area, and one of the relatives was supporting a local campaign for office.  Two things I remember about the mailing party we stumbled upon during our visit were 1) one of the relatives making an impromptu speech about guns and how they should all be outlawed, and 2) I was a super mean envelope-stuffer.  People around the table were amazed at how fast I was assembling the mailing.  I distinctly remember the sound of those custom-imprinted nail files with the candidate's name and office on them, hitting the envelopes I was stuffing.

In retrospect, I probably wasn't so fast so much as everyone else was yakking a lot about the campaign.

Throughout the seventies as I became a young adult, I remember many conversations with my parents about gun laws in the United States.  The often bemoaned their still-(somewhat)-legal status.  At that time, I swallowed their line without question.

Then, in 1980, a friend handed me a copy of 'The Fountainhead', by Ayn Rand, and from there I became affiliated with the Libertarian Party.  I changed my mind about guns, but consciously declined to buy one for myself for several years.  I remember thinking about it, but I was too nervous about guns -- a relic of my upbringing -- to own a "real" one.  I had shot BB guns and even a small .22 during my youth, and it didn't seem a big deal -- but bigger guns seemed like magical objects to me.

That changed in 1993.  By chance one day, I saw a friend on the Henrico County police force, Officer Pace, looking through some collectible comics at a comic shop.  Pace had helped me on a couple of previous occassions (accidents or crimes I had witnessed, I think).

For whatever reason, we got on the subject of guns.  He told me that citizens can wear a gun openly, on their hip, or three points visible in a car, without a permit.  I'd been thinking more and more about guns in the years leading up to this, and I was looking for a way to increase public awareness of the law-abiding ownership and carrying of weapons.  Officer Pace's words on open carry inspired me to do more research on the law.

Eventually I decided that open carry fulfilled my goal perfectly, so I went to a local gun dealer and bought my first gun, a Davis P-380 semi-auto.  In retrospect, it was a laughable carry piece.  It was too small for my hand -- two of my fingers were all that could securely grip the handle.  But for the moment, it would do.  Besides, Davis Industries was a pretty cool little company.  It was a California shop, and it warranted all of its guns for life -- which came in handy when a couple of parts eventually broke on the gun.  Too bad they, like many others, were sued out of existence.

But in any case, I knew if I owned a gun, I needed to know how it worked, so about a week after I bought it, I stopped in at a then-brand-new shooting range, U.S. Training & Development (now called Top Gun Shooting Range), in Harrisonburg, VA.  I nervously bought my first box of ammo, a couple of targets, borrowed eyes and ears, and went to the lane.  On the first round I shot, my hands were so shaky I there was this nagging thought I should just forget it and leave.  But I squeezed it off, and except for a few jams that the attendant showed me how to handle, 50 shots went flying away just fine.

A couple of thousand rounds later, that gun is pretty much toast, and I have a better carry piece that actually fits my hand now.

But in between my first outing in the spring of 1993 and now, I have been in places all over Virginia with a gun on my hip, and have fired thousands of rounds through every conceivable type of gun at numerous indoor and outdoor ranges.

Most places I have been, there were no issues.  However, I was thrown out of the Valley Mall once in Harrisonburg (1995), I was asked to leave The Grey Wolf Grill (1998) at Willow Lawn Shopping Center in Henrico (ironically the Grey Wolf was two doors down from where that conversation with Officer Pace had taken place almost five years earlier), an old man in the buffet line at a Western Sizzlin in Henrico angrily asked me and my friend Chris why we were carrying, and verbally berated us for doing so, and a few other minor incidents of a similar nature.

I have been stopped once or twice for traffic violations, and it's never been much of an issue with the officer involved.

In all, I'd say my experience was positive, and advanced gun rights.

* My mother, who had been anti-gun all her life, started talking to me about them.  Eventually, she agreed to go target shooting with me -- the first time she'd *ever* held a gun, much less fired one.

* My best friend, Chris, began a gun collection and open-carrying odyssey of his own -- he now has more guns in more varieties than I do (a fact which I agree shames me).

* The barber I used to go to regularly began talking to me about guns and carrying, over the course of six months' worth of periodic hair cuts.  By the end of that six months, I accompanied her to a gun store to shop.  While she didn't buy that day, she did buy shortly thereafter -- and I treated her to her first 50 rounds of ammo and an hour at the range.

* When I bought my first house, one of my longest-term roommates was a good friend -- a fellow I'd sold a car to in 1982, and we'd remained friends ever since (must have been a good car to him).  After seeing me carry for a while, he bought his own gun, too.

* Another roommate was a student from mainland China.  I took her shooting with all of my guns also.  We had several interesting conversations about guns -- she told me that all Chinese citizens are trained to arms from a young age.  That meant shooting was nothing new to this bantamweight 18-year-old young lady, which surprised me no end. 

* Countless other friends have gone shooting for the first time in their lives -- with my guns.

I eventually created a flyer to carry in my back pocket about open carry / any kind of carry, just to answer the most common questions (unfortunately, as open carry has become more accepted and I've had to explain it less, I managed to lose my digital file of that flyer).  The gist of it was I'd been telling questioners verbally: that I believed a right not used is a right you will lose; and that I wanted to confront the image most people had of guns.  TV news had long promoted a very one-sided view of guns - they would show the aftermath of violence in DC readily, but they would put stories of people defending themselves in the dustbin.  The only other times citizens saw guns were when they were on the hips of government cops.

In short, I became a missionary for gun rights as much as I had become a missionary for the Libertarian Party.  It was a happy coupling, though.  The Libertarian Party has by far the strongest position of any U.S. political party on the private ownership of weapons.  Libertarians are probably more consistent on weapons than even some of the most radical gun groups.

My own version of libertarianism says that if a weapon is too dangerous for citizens to own, then it's too dangerous for governments to own as well.  Readers may then surmise that I believe as as the Founders believed - that individuals should be allowed to own & bear military-class weapons, primarily as the best defense against tyranny.

I continue to carry to this day, and it warms my heart to see so many others have joined the movement.  Thank you, Internet.

And thank you, Officer Pace.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Who is funding Virginia's Left?

Exposing the Schills

Who funds the left?

You do.

Really, it's true.

Let's take a look at just one example. A Multi-million dollar example that covers only a few months of the left's rent-seeking.

Take a look at the recent contributor reports filed by The Democratic Governors' Association (DGA), which is meddling in Virginia elections by funneling millions of dollars through "Common Sense VA", against the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bob McDonnell:

This report covers only the loot that ONE leftist organization has taken from your wallet.

Perhaps you should ask the businesses and entitites you do business with why they are funding the left. Did you receive full disclosure from those entities that by doing business with them, you would be helping to fund a massive wealth-transfer enterprise that would get your assets seized in a RICO proceeding in other circumstances?

Let's pick out a few examples from the report. Keep in mind that about $3 million dollars has been funneled through the Democratic Governor's Association into Common Sense VA; and the main purpose of Common Sense VA is to run anti-McDonnell ads. This is money that does not show up on the Deeds campaign's finance reports; although it can easily be seen as a rather direct contribution:

1. You fund the left when you buy a plane ticket. A portion of your fee goes to pay the pilot, who is a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. His union funnels a portion of his dues into the DGA, thence into Common Sense VA.

2. You fund the left when you pay the countless taxes, fees, and fines your federal, state, and local governments force upon you daily. A portion of your money is deducted from the bureaucrat's wages, and funneled to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which in turn gives those government worker union "dues" to DGA, which again sends the cash to Common Sense VA. AFSCME is one of DGA's fat cats - just from January 1 through June 31, this amounted to almost half a million dollars.

3. You fund the left when you pay the toll on that fancy new bridge, you're throwing money at AECOM Enterprises, which routed $5,000 of your money into DGA, and from there, DGA sent some along to Common Sense VA.

4. You fund the left when you pay your Aetna premium. Aetna paid DGA $30,000 over six months -- and DGA gave some of that money to Common Sense VA.

5. Remember the AFLAC duck? Cute, ain't he? He should be, because when you pay your life insurance premiums to American Family Life Insurance Company (AFLAC), remember that they paid $ 88,690 to the DGA.

6. Big Pharma supports socialism, too. Allergan, a seller of Botox products and other things, sent $ 100,000 of your payments to DGA.

7. Big Rail got in on the act too. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) gave DGA $ 150,000.

There are so many other companies on the list! Take a look at the report for yourself.

If you ever shop at Wal-Mart, in six months the company gave the leftists at the DGA $80,000 of your money. Be sure to tell your local Wal-Mart manager how much you appreciate the company throwing money at Democrats through front organizations like the Democratic Governors' Association and Common Sense VA. Maybe it's time to shop K-Mart for a while, instead.

Oh, and if Waste Management, Inc., picks up your trash, call them and ask why they're sending your money to the Left. Then find another refuse collection service.

You know, it wouldn't hurt if you showed up at the corporate offices of these behemoth companies to ask them to stop funding the growth of government.

Next Month: Exposing Republican Schills


Marc Montoni is a network technician and a frequent columnist on the issue of individual liberty, Drug Prohibition, gun laws, and land-use regulation. He currently serves as the Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia and publishes a commentary blog at

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Content available for commercial distribution. Contact author for permission.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Breathless Media Treatment For One; Yawn for Another

OK, let's see.

Scenario 1:

A guy (with two full carloads of very large friends, as well as a BB gun that looks like a pistol and a bunch of baseball bats loaded in the cars) chases down two very small guys and one girl. One of the small guys shoots at one of the following cars, killing one of the occupants. Despite the chase, the deceased becomes an "innocent victim", and outrage and protest follow. The jurors remain awake and alert during the trial and deliver a guilty verdict for the shooter and his cousin. They are sentenced to long prison terms -- terms which don't satisfy the family and friends of the deceased.

No charges are ever leveled against any of the other individuals in the two following cars for their role in the situation. Every one of the reporters covering the trial itself mention the racial composition of the jury, as well as the race of those involved -- repeatedly.

Scenario 2:

A business man steps out of his truck one morning, is immediately accosted, shot to death, and robbed by three crackheads. The initial shooting was reduced to a footnote and hidden on inside pages of the local daily, and not reported at all by most other papers and radio/tv stations in the area.

Two years later, the police at last arrest three suspects, with what would be considered pretty solid evidence in other cases. At the trial of the first one of the three, several jury members -- all but one of whom is the same race as the defendant -- fall asleep during the trial. Eventually they return a "not guilty" verdict, and set the defendant free. Outrage and protest follow, but again not on the front page. None of the reporters covering the trial itself mention the racial composition (or the sleep habits) of the jury; that's left to the victim's wife to say.

What's the main difference between the cases?

The first story was reported almost as thoroughly and endlessly as Michael Jackson's death; with almost daily updates on the progress of the case. Every reporter managed to play the race card in every story.

The second story was almost completely ignored; with only two major articles in the regional daily during and after the first trial. The reporters leave out the race of the victims and perps; except when the reporter on the second story mentioned that the march by family and friends of the victim was "all white" -- even though a black man is clearly seen in the accompanying photo of the march.

So why the breathless coverage of one case, while the other, where there was a clear criminal (actually three) and an entirely innocent victim, elicits a media yawn? And speaking of yawns, what judge in his right mind fails to declare a mistrial when the jury falls asleep?


Marc Montoni is a network technician and a frequent columnist on the issue of individual liberty, Drug Prohibition, gun laws, and land-use regulation. He currently serves as the Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia and publishes a commentary blog at

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Content available for commercial distribution. Contact author for permission.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Common-Sense Solutions to Sprawl: OUTLAWED!

Soaring gas prices last summer caused many people to seek out ways to drive less and work closer to home. Unfortunately, seeking was about all they could do. Over the past century of land-use planning, governments have criminalized the construction of compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. The direct result of government wisdom was to make walking, biking, or even using public transport to work, school, and recreation simply impractical, if not un-economic (time has value too).

A recent Commentary columnist in the Richmond Times-Dispatch called for more restrictive zoning to "preserve" green space that she doesn't own. I think she has it backwards.

Sprawl can't be blamed on developers. Developers build because people need places to live and work. It was government that prevented the construction of any more compact, efficient grid-layout cityscapes such as people had built for generations (look at the housing in Richmond's Fan area, for instance). In 1900, a plot of a few acres could house hundreds of people. With the advent of zoning, however, city and county governments have steadily ratcheted density down. This doesn't mean that fewer people will move to a locality -- it just means that to house the same number of people, developers must seek out more and more spread-out virgin land to house them.

With zoning, the following is the normal progression: Zoning starts out by forcibly reducing the number of people allowed to occupy a given parcel of land by introducing minimum lot sizes and adding setback requirements. Then, some shrill minority [often newcomers who wish to slam the door behind them] whine about the precious farmland that is being chewed up as a result of the minimum lot sizes, and scream for passage of even larger lot size requirements. Eventually they get their wish and lot sizes increase to 25, 50, or 100 acres -- the point where only millionaires and government bureaucrats can afford them. This, of course, chews up MORE farmland, so the only 'logical' next step is to simply prohibit any growth of any kind. This progression is in play everywhere in the United States.

There were many reasons zoning codes became a popular import from the European national socialists of the 1890's. Rent-seeking politicians quickly realized that restricting land use could easily be used to exclude poor whites and racial minorities from middle and upper-class white areas; and indeed, some of the earliest zoning codes in the north included provisions for segregated neighborhoods. After the Supreme Court declared such laws un-enforceable in 1948, politicians simply replaced the objectionable provisions with new ones that accomplished essentially the same end using different language.

Other land-use restrictions have further eroded the human-to-land-surface ratio; chewing up build-able surface on every parcel. Setback requirements, for example, and minimum house sizes, such as the ones in Henrico, further restrict the housing stock and force developers to seek out virgin land in less-developed areas.

A look at Henrico County is instructive. Henrico was an early adopter of zoning law (1933) and an early adopter of exclusionary zoning: Henrico ordinances of 1960 outlawed building the small-lot, compact (600 square feet), and efficient entry-level housing such as that which was grandfathered-in around the Fairgrounds and Lakeside areas. This successfully kept blacks from buying into the county because housing prices quickly became inflated beyond the reach of many.

These days, sure, the county supposedly allows starter homes to be built -- but only where they're already standing. With blacks increasingly integrated into the social fabric of society, more and more black families can be found in Henrico neighborhoods. However, the exclusionary intent of zoning law is still there, with a changed focus. Now, it is simply classist rather than racist. The door has been slammed in the face of people with lesser means. You're simply out of luck if you want to split up a parcel into 1/8 acre lots with four or five $80,000, 600-square foot bungalows in one of the trendy West End neighborhoods. Try it and see how long it takes for zoning officials to laugh you out of the building.

Of course, a lot of small houses on compact lots makes bus service somewhat tenable. The 4,000 square foot McMansions with huge setbacks and large lots are auto-centric, and they are what politicians want because they generate more tax revenue.

It is clear that sprawl can be laid at the feet of rent-seeking politicians and the "NIMBY" activists who elect them and pressure them to slam the door on newcomers.

Anyone with common sense would understand that if you artificially restrict the supply of housing in one area, people will go elsewhere to buy their home. Leapfrog development happens when people who want homes can't find any, or find that the ones in the area that they really want have been artificially driven out of their price range. These people continue looking -- further and further away from their desired location.

Besides the severe cost to the environment in the form of sprawl, land-use regulation has relentlessly driven the cost of owning a home upwards. The covetous and loud interest groups that campaign so mightily at "evil developers" and who decry the lack of open or green space from the porch swing on their McMansion, are the people to thank for sprawl. Politicians reflect their constituents.

Zoning, once enacted, is always ratcheted ever tighter, like a noose.

In every community afflicted by the cancer of zoning, residents eventually discover they will have to go to the planning commission to do the most trifling things with their own property -- and the zoning board will see to it that a bunch of meaningless and useless conditions are placed upon them even then. "Oh, you want to put up a new mailbox? Go ahead -- but it has to be one of these approved $1,000 brands, and you have to paint it this color, and you can only put it in this spot here."

In a few decades, zoning will have created a sterile, stuffy, controlled, and boring environment. Our own children will have to leave, because they won't be allowed to build homes or work nearby.

Maybe it's time for change. Not a change in the form of moving control from rightward-tilting socialism to leftward-tilting socialism as in the recent presidential election. Rather, socialism should be dismantled altogether.

Zoning laws should be repealed as the abhorrent affronts to human liberty they are. Those who wish to control property belonging to others should do so the the honest way: buy it, or pay owners to insert restrictive covenants into their deeds. At the same time, the state should cease the practice of building free roads in virgin areas (think I-295 when it was built), and instead leave it to developers and new residents and businesses to pay for their own infrastucture in such areas. These two actions combined will help curtail the explosive sprawl we have today.


Marc Montoni is a network technician and a frequent columnist on the issue of individual liberty, Drug Prohibition, gun laws, and land-use regulation. He currently serves as the Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia and publishes a commentary blog at

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Content available for commercial distribution. Contact author for permission.