There’s an AP article by Rodrique Ngowi about competitive lock picking in the Houston Chronicle that caught my eye, one of those less than front page items off to the side intended to make you look at another advertisement. Go read the linked article; it’s enlightening and fun.
Imagine for a moment what kind of hobbies these folks have; midnight safe cracking for jewelry, discount untitled auto sales or slightly used electronics and office equipment at significantly reduced prices; almost forgot, cash only please. As a locksmith I pick locks; but mostly I fit replacement keys for when they get lost, that’s what my customers want.
The State of Texas regulates my industry ; but I may have mentioned that previously. The skills I’ve developed could easily be misused. I’ve chosen to stay within the boundaries established by the commandment, Thou Shalt Not Steal ; at least so far, a wicked sneer forming in the corner of my mouth as I pull the whiskers of a mustache I’d shaved off years ago while looking stage right.
Okay, now that I have your attention I should add how these folks are, for the most part, honest hard working folks who happen to have learned some interesting skills. There’s nothing illegal about picking locks as long as you own the lock or have permission from the rightful owner. Ah, “therein lies the rub”; how do we know these folks stop picking locks when they aren’t competing with one another?
“…the sport worries some law enforcement authorities, like James Pasco of the National Fraternal Order of Police.
‘“I’m sure that they are having a good time and I’m sure that the vast majority of people engaged in it are just puzzle solvers of a sort, (but) you run the absolute risk of educating criminals who might be inclined to pick locks for illegal purposes, you know,” Pasco said.”
Did you catch that, “absolute risk of educating criminals”? Well, duh; life has its share of risks. This is the same mindset of folks who don’t want law abiding citizens possessing firearms because you never know when one of them will use that weapon illegally to rob, harm or murder one of his/her fellow citizens.
Statists would have everyone sign on to the idea that through some magic wand, which only they have control of, all the little bumps in the road can be smoothed away, you and your family will be guaranteed safety. You have to forfeit God given rights; that’s all you have to do, really. They know better how to provide a world free of danger and if you believe that line I have some ocean front property in West Texas you might also be interested in purchasing.
The statist’s goals started out to license lock picks or guns or…, fill in the blank to cover the danger of choice; crime will disappear and everyone will be safe. That didn’t work so the next step was to have everyone turn in their lock picks or guns. Oh my, that didn’t work either; there are still criminals with lock picks or guns. The next natural step is to go door to door and confiscate the remaining lock picks and guns; then the community will be totally safe. History has shown these steps never protect honest citizens from criminals; it does however strip honest citizens of tools which they had every right to possess in the first place.
I used to visit the Abracadabra Magic Shop on Saturday mornings when I was a police officer working the downtown business district of Houston. Saturday mornings were slow to the point of boredom so my partner and I found ways to amuse ourselves; what better way than having amateur magicians practice their slight of hand in preparation for their next show.
One autumn day after a dry ‘Blue Norther’ had pushed through we happened to stop by for a visit with our young magicians. They were eagerly anticipating a visit from a prospective out of town magician, one who could make their cash register sing if they could show him enough stage props to make it worth his while. There were all manner of incendiary devices placed strategically on their display case’s glass top which were used as distractions while other slight of hand tricks were going on; nothing like show business.
Unfortunately the lack of humidity had not been taken into consideration. An accidental static discharge from our friend’s fingertip set off a chain reaction of flash paper which happened to be next to an aerosol can of spray paint. The heat generated was sufficient to explode the can, breaking the glass display case top and so on down the line until all the incendiary items had ignited and filled the shop with smoke.
Our friend lost an eyebrow and small patch of hair as the momentary blast of flames shot past his forehead. All his hard work went up in smoke, literally. Adding insult to injury some busy body called the fire department to report an explosion.
The arson team came out looking for violations of the city code; samples of residue were collected and marked for future criminal prosecution. My friend was eager to assist while trying to explain what each item had been prior to being set off; but the investigator was a hard nosed veteran and wanted to be left alone.
There was some sort of residue, a grayish-white blast pattern on the wall directly behind where the display case had blown up. The investigator scrapped off a small portion and placed it into a clear plastic envelope; my friend desperately tried to explain what it was, only to be told to be quiet. The fellow then placed the tip of his finger on the residue, took a sniff while lifting his brow to the unknown substance he’d been unable to identify. He placed the finger tip on his tongue hoping for a telltale trace of illegal evidence that could be used against the Abracadabra magicians.
It was at this moment I noticed my friend breaking out in uncontrollable laughter, holding his stomach as he bent over in a horse laugh. The arson investigator didn’t see what was so funny; this was a serious criminal investigation.
“That’s where the show doves were caged. When the stuff went off it scared them; I mean they were really scared.” The blast pattern was the natural elimination caused by scared doves sprayed on a wall.
I’m sure this has something to do with statists trying to make the world safe, to get rid of any and all items which might be dangerous or could be misused for criminal intent or just plain stupidity. I can see a picture in my mind of an arson investigator tasting bird excrement; priceless. At what point do we say to the nanny state, “Enough!”? Life happens along the way; it’s what we signed up for and nobody gets out alive.
The Moral Liberal associate editor, T.F. Stern, is a retired City of Houston police officer, self-employed locksmith, and gifted political and social commentator. His popular and insightful blog, T.F. Sterns Rantings, has been up and at it since January of 2005.