In 2009, when Arizona allowed guns in places that served alcohol (read: bars), the owner of the gun was not allowed to drink alcohol.  This is “people will do the right thing” mentality, and if you believe people do that, you haven’t been on an aircraft lately, driven on an Interstate, picked up roadside litter, or heard of Curry Todd.

Mr. Todd is a Tennessee legislator who was arrested for DUI and carrying a firearm.  Todd claimed it was the prescription medicine that caused him to weave in and out of traffic, but the law reads “alcohol,” he had been drinking and taking medication, and was jailed for 48 hours.  Todd repeatedly argued during a debate about the law that gun owners were responsible and would not drink while carrying a firearm.  If gun owners are so responsible, why was Todd irresponsible?  Why do 600 people die each year (50 shot by a child less than 6) unintentionally?  Why are there more deaths due to firearms in states where there are more firearms?

Some gun owners are responsible; many are not.  Indeed, 22 million Americans are estimated to have anger issues and access to guns.  They don’t just get pissed off occasionally, like I do, but get skunk anger, red hot road rage sort of stuff.  One doesn’t have to drink in a bar to see people who have clearly imbibed too much.  Really, now.  Does anybody honestly believe we will have a “designated gun owner” who doesn’t drink?  Curry Todd didn’t.  He was an irresponsible gun owner that night.

Let’s look at the “people will do the right thing” mentality.

At Rowe Sanctuary in Nebraska, 600,000 Lesser Sandhill Cranes, 90% of the world’s population, migrate through every spring, the greatest migration in the contiguous states, and the largest crane migration in the world.  Cranes are extensively hunted, Nebraska’s being the only state/province where they are not, so they are wary of humans.  The only way to see these birds close up is to be in a viewing blind where one is hidden.  Stand outside, and the birds will not land near you.  Try to approach the birds on foot (illegal in Nebraska; it is harassment), and they will move away.  That doesn’t stop people’s trying to do it.  A couple did it once and ruined one of my blind tours in 2004 over in Grand Island.  The birds left.

The migration is viewed by 20,000 people at Rowe annually; I have been in the viewing blinds 110 times watching, wondering, learning, simply in awe of these birds, which may live to be 35 in the wild, are usually monogamous, and may migrate 14,000 miles roundtrip (24,000 km) each year, to nest.

A lot of people capture this migration using cameras.  In the old days, there was limited time people could shoot a picture using a roll of film.  Digital cameras were a game changer.  At Rowe, we do not allow flashes, we tape over the automatic focuser light, and we do not allow LCD screens to be illuminated after dark.  These regulations occurred because flashes may spook the birds into the air at night, where they may collide with power lines and die.  Flashes don’t work at photographic infinite distance.  Automatic focusers may be seen a mile away.  LCD screens reflect off the face and are visible out on the river.

Before these regulations, we had banned automatic firing of the shutter, because the migration is an auditory and visual experience.  Even a rapid use of a manual shutter detracts from the experience.  We don’t allow lenses or any object to be outside the plane of the outer wall, because the birds will likely perceive the object as a rifle.  Tripods are not allowed in the corner of a blind, because they take up space for three or four windows.  In a dark viewing blind, more than one person has tripped over a tripod, sometimes the owner, who has also been known to drop lenses.  As a guide, I have seen every camera violation there is.  Some people become irate when I ask them to move the lens inside the blind.  Glad one didn’t have a gun.

Photography has become an issue among the volunteer guides.  Some think we ought to ban it outright, the way some museums do.  I don’t have a problem with photography, so long as the birds’ safety is not compromised. I like to take pictures, but I don’t need the perfect picture:  I want to show pictures to people so that they may understand the beauty that is in this world, seek out this beauty, and work to keep these special places…..special.

What would happen if Rowe Sanctuary had no regulations?  Nobody would be viewing the cranes, because people would be walking up and down the river.  People would pitch tents, promise to be quiet, wouldn’t be, leaving human waste and a mess, because people do those things.  People can’t be trusted not to throw trash into a composting toilet at a trailhead on Oregon Route 58 by Mt. Hardesty, despite a sign in the restroom telling them not to do it.  Go see, if you don’t believe me.  How difficult would it have been to have taken the trash back home?

Without regulations, we would have blinds full of tripods, large equipment, flashes, automatic focusing lights, automatic shutter speed, 8000 pictures in one two hour session (yes, a man once bragged to me that he had done that) the birds would be spooked, and the blinds become worthless.  But hey, got to have that one good picture that one can sell, put on Facebook, put it on one’s Web page, be a famous person.

Fact is that photographers failed to regulate themselves, so we regulate them to protect the migration.  We have rules about noise, how many may go to a blind, how they must enter, leave, and conduct themselves.  Left alone, people don’t do the right thing.  Remember Curry Todd.

If people did the right thing, we wouldn’t need speed limits.  We wouldn’t have litter along roads, we wouldn’t have signs shot at, we wouldn’t have scams, NINJA mortgages, the SEC, insider trading, derivatives that nobody understood, worthless supplements declared off limits for FDA regulation, thanks to conservative Orrin Hatch of Utah, need to regulate lasers shot into the air which blind pilots, or drones over important air space.

I don’t want a nanny state, a government that takes over every stage of a person’s life.  When people effectively self-regulate, we won’t need laws.  If people just voted right, we wouldn’t elect people like Curry Todd, who is still serving.

Unopposed.  I’m speechless.

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