Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Big-city big-brother precautions filter to small villages

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

“The land of the free.”

We are fortunate to live in a country carrying that motto.

Each passing year seems to find more and more of the freedoms we cherish encroached upon by our government. Some, by necessity, some by paranoia, some by greed.

The latest council meeting in the Village of Covington saw a directive that will require village employees to wear identification badges as proof they work for the village.

It is really not much of an issue, on the surface. When combined with a never-ending string of other “small issues,” it takes on a different look entirely.

Many residents of Covington can probably remember a time, not long ago, when they felt like they knew most every other resident in the village. No one needed an ID tag because everyone knew everyone.

Safety precautions that were necessary in “the big city” have now filtered down to hamlets such as Covington.

I am not disputing the Covington council’s decision to require that ID badges. Rather, I am saddened at the necessity.

You may wonder how the wearing of an ID badge in Covington may be related to the loss of our freedom. It is one more thing that is necessitated because of lawlessness and fear in our country.

Covington employees must wear an ID badge. School employees in many systems wear identification. In some schools, students wear an ID tag. School doors are locked in order to prevent incidents. You must present yourself for video verification in order to gain admittance to many schools.

I wear my media identification almost everywhere that I go in order that people may know that the person taking their photograph is doing so for the purpose of a newspaper. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it has not been that many years ago that folks would beg to have their kids photo in the local newspaper. Now, if you point a camera in the direction of a child, parents and bystanders reach for their cell phones to call 9-1-1.

Are they just being paranoid? To a certain extent, maybe, but in today’s society, can anyone really afford to take chances?

All of this is a loss of our freedom. Shouldn’t we have the right to be comfortable taking our children to a public park or event?

“Spy” camera are everywhere today. If you think differently, just try running a red light in Dayton. When I was young, the most repeated law enforcement phrase on television was “Book ‘em Dano,” from the original “Hawaii Five O.” Today, that has been replaced with a phrase common to all police dramas — “Pull the surveillance video.”

We can localize that, as well. A recent bicycle vs. car crash in Bradford was caught on video. A store that happened to be nearby had video cameras outside that caught the entire incident.

Granted, from a law enforcement standpoint, video coverage of many areas is a great tool for catching bad guys. The more disturbing issue is that, in many cases, the video is a necessity, not a luxury.

No matter how you paint it, or sugar-coat it, all of this video surveillance, is still “big brother” keeping an eye on us. Our movements can be tracked by these, or by many of our cell phones.

It is difficult for me to believe that I, or anyone, is “free,” in the purist of forms, when our movements must be watched and we must wear photo identification to prove who we are.

This smacks too much of a communist or a socialist existence.

I do, however, realize that compared to many other people around the world, we are very fortunate.

I can only hope that our leaders recognize that every time they pass another law, or just decide to grab another one of our freedoms, they are eroding the foundation of our country.

America’s leaders need to remember that the reason we are “the land of the free” is because we are “the home of the brave.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Right to Keep and Bear Arms = awesome responsibility

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

Ohio’s concealed carry law was in the news again this week. Legislators passed a bill that will allow those with a concealed weapon permit to carry their firearm into bars.

The new law will allow weapons to be carried into establishments that serve alcohol, as long as the person carrying the firearm does not drink.

Let me start by saying that I could probably be the poster boy for the Second Amendment. I firmly believe that Americans should have the right to bear arms.

I do, however, have doubts about this new twist on Ohio’s concealed carry law. One of the many things that I learned as a young boy who grew up around guns was that guns and alcohol do not mix. The best intentions of someone who is sober can be lost when mixed with liquor.

I know that the law reads that you can enter the establishment with your firearm if you are not drinking. Let’s be realistic. Most people who go into a bar, do so to get a drink. I have no problem with that. I love a cold beer, myself, from time to time. The bottom line is that if you are going into the local corner bar for a drink, common sense should tell you to leave the gun at home, or at least in your car.

My biggest fear from all of this is that every time some moron shoots someone, the anti-gun establishment immediately begins crying that all guns are bad and all gun-owners are looking for a shoot-out.

I would be far more happy if our learned legislators would start passing laws that come down like the hammers of hell on criminals who use guns in the commission of a crime.

There are common sense answers to the issues but, for some reason, our lawmakers have a habit of ignoring common sense. Heaven forbid that a criminal’s rights might be tread upon.

True, there are criminal acts where there is truly a question as to the guilt of the accused. These situations should be sorted out, taking whatever amount of time is necessary to get to the truth.

More often, there is little, or no, doubt as to the guilt of the accused. When the situation is cut-and-dried, and someone has used a weapon to inflict injury to someone, they should be thrown in a cold, dark cell. No phone. No television. No computer. And no appeals. From my perspective, the minute they pulled the trigger, they forfeited their Civil Rights.

Only when we pass, and begin enforcing … repeat, enforcing, laws that hurt offenders, will criminals think twice before committing a crime.

It can also be argued that those who prey on others should begin thinking twice before committing a crime against another individual, for the intended victim could be lawfully carrying a weapon and just might ruin the day of the predator.

I know that there are requirements that must be met before one can be issued a permit to carry a concealed firearm. I urge those who have such a permit, or are contemplating acquiring one, to please, become proficient with your sidearm. Learning just enough to pass the course is not enough. Continued familiarization and practice is a necessity.

Arming one’s self carries with it an extraordinary responsibility. While a gun, by itself, is a tool, an inanimate object, it affords the person wielding it the power to end someone’s life. We owe it, not only to ourselves, but to those around us, to learn to be safe and accurate with the weapon.

The early leaders of our country, in writing our Constitution and Bill of Rights, made decisions that, I am sure, weighed heavily on their shoulders. As we execute these rights on a daily basis, it is our responsibility as Americans to perform in a manner that is in keeping with the principals set by our Nation’s Founders.

Principals and responsibility … two things which are sadly lacking these days.