DC Vacay Days 1-2

We headed out to the airport early on Christmas Eve. The kids plus all their stuff was about as much fun as I  expected, although, blessedly, the security line was nonexistant. We arrived in DC, one plane change later and only 15 minutes later than scheduled, on a rainy, dreary afternoon.

We were thankful to find a minivan cab right away--as we've already discovered these are not overly common in DC and we can't all fit in a sedan-style cab. There was a slight problem with our hotel reservation when we arrived, which added a bit of stress, but was easily resolved. We are staying in a suite hotel with a full kichen, so we were pleased to see a Trader Joe's directly across the street. Although I have heard much about the aweseomness of Trader Joe's, I found it to be a bit overrated. Still, we were glad to be able to stock our kitchen, knowing that everything would be closed on Christmas.

As soon as we got back, we headed out to the National Cathedral by way of bus. It was cold and wet, and we were happy that we didn't have to wait very long, although the bus ride seemed to take forever and we  arrived only a few mintues before the service started. The National Cathedral is simply stunning, although I wish we could have seen more of it and we were seated so far back we really could see anything that was happening except on the monitors. We'd like to go back and  do a tour, but I don't think we'll have time on this trip.

Christmas morning, the kids opened their stockings and we headed out to Mount Vernon. This will (hopefully) be our most expensive day. Tickets to Mount Vernon cost more than an other attraction we are planning to visit and it was no easy task to get there. We took the metro to the end of the line, and then started waiting on a but that apparently only ran every hour on normal days, and who knows how often on a holiday. After about a 15-minute wait, a mini-van cab showed up and we grabbed it. A $30 cab ride later, and we were there.

Mount Vernon was beautiful and interesting , but I'm not sure it was worth the hassle and expense of getting there.

Coming back, we stopped at Arlington National Cemetery. It is truly the most humbling place I have ever been, and seemed a particularly appropriate place to spend Christmas. Pictures simply don't convey the  hundreds of thousands of gravestones that go on as far as the eye can see. It was especially beautiful with Christmas wreaths laid at every headstone. We visited Vicksburg a couple of years ago, which was impressive on its own, but incomparable to Arlington.

We ended our day with dinner near Dupont Circle and a brisk walk back to our hotel, where we all collapsed in exhaustion. This is a beautiful city, and I love it already.  I feel like I live in a barren wasteland in comparison. Today we hit a couple of the Smithsonians. Maybe we'll see some of the monuments, if the weather cooperates, although it sounds like it is sleeting right now.

LC's Thoughts on Gun Control

First, the background:

I was raised in a gun family.  Pretty much everyone in my extended family owns an extensive collection of firearms of all shapes and sizes. I own several handguns and a shotgun (I have not purchased any--they were all gifted to me). I've been shooting since I was big enough to hold the barrel straight. I've fired everything from a tiny Derringer pistol to an AR-15 (yes, that would be an assault rifle). I do not hunt--I never had the desire or stomach for it.  I can't imagine ever shooting a living thing, but I enjoy target shooting.

Do I need these guns?  No, not really. Because of safety measures, they are useless for home defense. My guns are all locked up.  The ammo is kept separately from the guns.  The keys are hidden.  My children do not and will not have access to these weapons. Allowing kids (or mentally unstable adults) access to firearms is stupid, irresponsible, and potentially deadly.

Would I give them up? Yes.  I guess I keep them around because I don't know where they might end up if I got rid of them.

So why are people so attached to their guns? There are people who earnestly believe the NRA party-line that an armed citizenship is the reason that our country hasn't been invaded.  That if they give up their high-powered rifles, we will be invaded by China or North Korea. Frankly, I think this is total bullshit.  There is no legitimate non-military purpose for assault weapons (high-powered, semi-automatic rifles). These machines are made for killing people--there is no other purpose. They don't need to be owned by individuals.

What bothers me most is that we did have an assault weapon ban that was passed along with the Brady Bill.  But it was written with a sunset provision (WTF?) and was sunsetted with little fanfare a few years ago. It was sunsetted after Columbine, after we had seen similar tragedies. Why was this bill ever sunsetted? And why did nobody care when it happened?  Will anybody still care about this issue a year from now?

More importantly, did the assault-weapon ban do any good?  My preliminary research shows not much. But maybe the Lanzas would not have been able to purchose those guns if the prior bill hadn't been sunsetted. (I have not seen anything indicating when they were purchased.)

I absolutely think the assault weapon ban should be renewed--but I don't think it's nearly enough. I don't have an answer, but the NRA's stance disgusts me.  They are refusing to give an inch. I haven't heard anybody suggest that all guns should be banned, but the NRA refuses to consider any compromise. (And why does the NRA have so much power anyway? Can our legislators please grow some balls and refuse their money?). There should be limits.  There should be background checks AND registration (I have multiple guns and never had to have a background check because I didn't buy them and I don't have to register them). There shouldn't be assault rifles or high-capacity magazines (but you aren't going to get rid of the ones people already own).

In my gun-loving state they are talking about arming teachers.  This is the worst idea ever. Even though I have been trained, I'm a decent shot, and I have been using guns since I was very young, I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to take down a determined, armed intruder. I don't want guns in my kids' schools.  I don't want minimally trained teachers making judgment calls involving guns (yeah, the same people who sent my kids home in a tornado--I think not.) I can only see more death and destruction--either accidentally or intentionally--coming from such an idiotic proposition.

At the end of the day, I think the Newtown shooting is largely the fault of Lanza's mother. I'm not sure any legislation would have prevented those horrific murders. But she purchased those weapons (and would have been the one subject to any background checks or registration laws).  She did not keep them out of reach of her mentally ill child, and she was the person with the best knowledge of his mental state.  Her lack of judgment cost 26 lives.  If she weren't dead, she should be criminally prosecuted.