1. Flights are cheaper when you order them in advance.
This is one of the first lessons I learned during my recent excursion to Washington DC. Fortunately, I secured a flight to and from DC at a reasonable price, and one night's stay was already taken care of courtesy of the Second Amendment Foundation.
2. It's hard to sleep the night before an exciting trip.
That was the second lesson learned, as I lay in bed, awake, tired and unable to sleep. I think I finally eked out about three hours of sleep before awakening at about 4:30am to get to the airport on time.
3. Airports don't need nearly as much time at 5am as they do at 5pm
. Despite warnings that you arrive at your airport an hour or two before take-off, I quickly processed through security and my luggage check and was waiting near the boarding tunnel for a good 45 minutes, as they sky slowly brightened behind me.
4. Airports charge you for luggage
. Having not been on many flights, I didn't realize this. But once you're there, what're you going to do?
5. Yes, luggage handlers really DO just sling luggage around carelessly.
I watched several times as husky bag-loaders tossed, stuffed and threw bags around without any semblance of care or caution at all. I wonder if they were trying to break something?
6. Airplanes are a lot smaller than they look in the movies.
I had to squeeze my bulky frame into a window seat above the wing, and had the good fortune of having someone else join my row who was at least as bulky as I was. Oh yay.
7. You can't listen to fitting music on an MP3 player during take-off, to make the surge in speed and lift seem that much cooler.
And I had prepared three tracks for the occasion, too.
8. There's nothing like flying.
Forget about cool music...watching the ground drop away is a fantastic thing to see. It's a gradual process that happens very quickly, if that makes sense. Everything rapidly shrinks away, until those little ribbons are rivers, those little squares are fields and tiny moving dots are semi-trucks. Pardon me for waxing philosophical for a moment, but somehow, being that high does trivialize the problems down below. It puts things in perspective, and causes one to go "wow, we really are
The rest of the flight was relatively short, and soon I was in Charlotte NC's humongous airport. (Five Starbucks seemed a bit much to me.) More waiting, and then I boarded the next flight to DC. It's also a fun experience to look at different concourses, flight numbers and boarding tunnels and see the different destinations - like Miami, Honolulu and Chicago.
I arrived at Reagan airport at about 11am, plenty of good time, with a view of the city on the starboard side as we landed. Having typically only taken car trips, the fact that I was in DC just hours after being in Kentucky was still a bit surreal. Unfortunately, I learned the hotel I was staying at did not send a shuttle. So, I had to take a cab. Which reminds me...
9. DC cab drivers get away with way more than normal drivers would.
I quickly dumped my luggage in the tiny little box that somehow had room for a TV, a bed and a desk (the bathroom was probably the nicest place in the room) and change into my dress clothes. Carrying a printed-out map from the hotel to the National Press Club, I set out on foot. However, 14th street turned and weaved a little, and I wound up taking a false turn down another street. I finally broke down and asked a couple of gentlemen, expecting they would tell me it's right in front of me. But no, I was a bit further than I thought. I finally caught up with SCCC President Mike Guzman and some others hanging around just outside the National Press Club, and was escorted to the lucky 13th floor of the club.
It was a pretty good crowd, we counted over a hundred.
(Video of the event is available on C-SPAN's website here
. Make sure you allow the pop-up window.)
I still don't know why they had water in expensive glass bottles that looked like they could potentially contain alcoholic beverages. And they were being consumed in wine glasses. A fine spectacle some of us figured this was making for the C-SPAN cameras!
It was a little strange to meet so many of the people I'd kept in touch with via Facebook and instant messenger, for more than a year, some of them. It wasn't even putting a face with the name, it was putting a human presence with a face and a name already known.
The tentative agenda was as follows:
1:00-1:05 Opening Speech by SCCC Pres Michael Guzman
1:05-2:05 Debate between John Lott and Brady Campaign Pres Paul Helmke
2:05-2:50 Academic Panel David Mustard, Bob Cottrol, Joyce Lee Malcolm
2:50-3:35 State Legislators Who Have Sponsored Legislation
3:35-4:15 Student Panel Discussing Their Experiences
4:15-4:40 Awards Presentation
4:40-4:55 G. Gordon Liddy
4:55-5:00 Closing Statement by SCCC Pres Michael Guzman
John Lott presented his side first, as only John Lott can do. Alas, Paul Helmke seemed to have greater poise at the microphone, and was more dynamic and animated in his communication with the audience. He was also dead-wrong, but, that's what a debate is for.
Lott and Helmke traded arguments about specific incidents of firearms usage, both good and bad, bandying details about the college shooting of 1966, as well as the New Life church shooting in Colorado and the Appalachian Law School shooting which was brought to a halt by students with guns.
When the floor was opened for questions, yours truly was first in line (at about 56:40 if you tune in to the video) to ask if, given that the issue of firearms was one of public policy, whether or not we should dispense with the countless anecdotal evidences available and look at the aggregate numbers to determine which is more common, criminal use of firearms or civilian use.
C-SPAN cameras catching every minute of the conference
By the way, I would like to extend a special thank-you to Nancy Pelosi for shutting down the cameras on the Senate floor, because although she was making an underhanded attempt to censor Republicans on the floor, she created an opportunity for additional exposure via the primary C-SPAN cameras, rather than on C-SPAN 3 as originally scheduled.
Shortly after these two wrapped up, I stepped out of the conference room and engaged in some discussion with Paul Helmke and John Lott, both of whom were locked in an interesting discussion at the time:
When speaking with Paul Helmke, he admitted that he wouldn't have a problem with responsible students like myself carrying a weapon on campus, especially if I had the state-issued credentials
Speeches by David Mustard, Robert Cottroll and Joyce Lee Malcolm were all enjoyable, although I missed Mr. Mustard's speech due to conversations with Lott & Helmke. Mustard was more academic in addressing his research, Cottroll was more laid-back and intimate in communicating with his audience about the legal background of the right to keep and bear arms and "militia", and Ms. Malcolm traced the evolution of the right to "defence" (as citizens of Great Britain would spell it) to its current, dismal state. (I meant to ask her about the UK's recent upgrade
of self-defense laws but did not.)
State legislators Jason Murphey (OK) and Ernest Wooten (LA) briefly addressed the audience, and took questions. I was particularly impressed and pleased with Rep. Wooten's speech. Among the different styles of public speaking (mine tends to be to say a lot in a short amount of time), the other style I admire is that where you say something and wait two or three beats to let it sink in before saying something else and waiting several beats, etc. Rep. Wooten noted that the first people who need educating are the educators, which was very true.
Following these two, renowned attorney Alan Gura, who argued the landmark DC vs. Heller case before the Supreme Court, spoke about the legal right to self-defense, and some of the details surrounding the case. (Photos were scarce because I tried to video most of it.)
I was able to catch up with Mr. Gura outside the room and have an enjoyable chat with him and Rep. Wooten. (I wound up missing most of the student panel and
the speeches by Ted Gest and Joe Tartaro.) I also spoke with Professor Cottroll about speaking at my university. I noted John Lott leaving with two boxes of books in his hands, and inquired if he needed any help. Lott accepted, and I was soon to learn that his car was parked in a parking garage a little more than a block away. No good deed...
Upon returning (after some difficulty locating the original entrance to the Press Club!) I crossed paths with radio host G. Gordon Liddy, who was just coming in the door I'd
been looking for. I hadn't been sent for him, but it seems I was just in time to intercept him and take him to our floor. (It is fortunate I was there and recognized him!)
Mr. Liddy addressed the audience in closing about his experience with the FBI (none of which necessarily pertained to guns on campus, but was interesting to listen to nonetheless).
C-SPAN lists the conference as lasting 4 hours and 22 minutes. Because of my different activities, it's funny that I wound up missing not a small amount of it, but the experiences there were priceless, and I'm certainly glad for them.
I built two extra days in to my trip for sight-seeing, and I shall discuss those in a future post.