Do Guns Give Us Liberty Or Death?

I think all sane people will agree that the Sandy Hook tragedy was one of the saddest days in the history of our country. The idea that 20 little children were all killed in cold blood mortified our nation. However, their bodies had not yet been removed from the school grounds when the fierce cries of 2nd Amendment advocates pierced the nation’s airways, as they all feared that their beloved guns would be taken away.

Anybody that dares argue a gun control position with gun advocates is often subjected to rabid condescending retorts. How many pro-gun posts have you seen on Facebook in the last month that deride people who choose not to own guns as morons that are just begging to get it from the bad guys? Here’s one I saw recently:

My next door neighbor wants to BAN ALL GUNS! Their house is NOT ARMED! Out of respect for their opinions, I promise NOT to use MY GUNS to protect THEM.

Well, it turns out the neighbor with no guns is much more likely to attend a gun-related funeral of the gun owner than the other way around. A 2004 national case study in the “Annals of Emergency Medicine” concluded that people who own guns in the home are almost twice as likely to be killed by a gun as those who do not own guns. This can primarily be explained by guns used in domestic violence crimes and, secondarily, by accidental deaths.

Even though you can go through reams of statistics, such as the fact that 31,672 people were killed in the U.S. by guns in 2011, gun ownership is such a staple of American life that a vast majority of citizens (myself included) are not in favor of outlawing handguns for home protection or rifles for hunting. However, this doesn’t stop the paranoia. For example, here’s an excerpt from an article written by country singer Charlie Daniels on

America, no matter what Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the far left in America say, they want your guns.

This is just one example of many shrill claims by the far right that President Obama is conspiring to take away their guns. However, here’s an excerpt from Obama’s position on guns:

Barack Obama respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms. He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns. Obama and Biden also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.

President Obama is not alone among presidents when it comes to the issue of supporting a ban on assault weapons. When the law was first enacted in 1994, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton supported it.

I would challenge any pro-gun advocate to cite even one life saved by a private citizen using an assault weapon when a handgun would not have been sufficient. I don’t think it’s ever happened, but you can point to countless shootings in places like Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, and Virginia Tech where dozens of people were slaughtered because the gunmen had the capacity to rapidly empty bullets into scores of victims.

So what’s the rationale for allowing assault weapons? It’s our freedom! For example, here’s a beauty that radio host Alex Jones shouted/frothed during an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN:

We have all these foreigners including megabanks that control the planet. When they take our guns, they can have their world tyranny… The establishment knows that no matter how much propaganda, the Republic will rise again when you try to take our guns!

Can somebody please point out to these nut-jobs that we have a military to protect our nation from world tyranny and that the chubby middle-aged wannabe cowboy “patriots” can put down their guns? The lunatics are truly running the asylum in this debate.

These 2nd Amendment fanatics love to spout patriotic slogans such as, “Give me liberty or give me death!” But it must be asked, who will give us liberty from their sure path to more deaths? spt

Jack Baric can be reached at

Dressing To Impress Without The Stress

Chris and Alena Castillo with their two children, Tyler (right) and Krista (photo by John Mattera)

There’s a new spot in town where fashionistas can pick up designer threads and accessories for a steal: Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique.

Mannequins dressed to the nines line the shop windows on Western Avenue before Summerland, where owner Alena Castillo opened for business this July. In three months, she’s built an enthusiastic base of customers and consigners, followings on social media and has earned glowing reviews.

“I opened the store July 1 with 600 items, and now we have over 4,000,” says Castillo, a San Pedro native and casual longshoreman. After working her way up through management at Nordstrom and the Gap, the wife and mother of two realized her dream of opening a consignment shop in her hometown.

“I always knew I wanted to open up a store, and one day I was at a consignment store in Redondo Beach and I thought, ‘Gosh, San Pedro and Rancho Palos Verdes really needs something like this,” she says. “I really think this is something our town has needed for so long. I always had to drive out to the Galleria or Del Amo and now with gas prices, hopefully people can come here, and they’ll get a great deal too.”

With the business guidance from her uncle and help from her husband and high school sweetheart Chris, Castillo started planning, found a location, put out a call for items on Facebook, and made Finders Keepers a reality.

“It’s been so far, so good, every month it’s gotten better. It’s been all word of mouth,” Castillo says. “I already have regulars.”

Staying on top of trends gets expensive, and consigning offers a return on purchases that were investments, or nice items worn only once or twice. At Finders Keepers, consigners get 50 percent of the profit from their items, or 60 percent in store credit. Castillo says about half opt for store credit.

“We have over 150 consigners and every single item in the store is from somebody that lives in San Pedro or Rancho Palos Verdes,” she says. “So many people that used to consign at places in Redondo now come here because it’s more convenient and it’s closer.”

Castillo looks for quality, name brand and designer clothes, shoes and accessories that are new or gently used. The store carries mostly women and kids’ items, but does have a rolling rack of men’s clothes. She also has a plus size section.

“I would say we specialize in our denim and our dresses, the selection is killer,” Castillo says. If customers have specific requests, she’ll call them when one comes in.

For an idea of prices, designer jeans usually go for $50 or less. Recently, someone snagged a pair of brand-new Christian Louboutin shoes for $140. But if Alexander McQueens, Marc Jacobs handbags and True Religions aren’t your style, there’s an entire back room of items for $10 or less.

“I think people come here to find items that are somewhat trendy, but are a good basic,” Castillo says. Her selection offers versatility that works for all ages. When the store first opened, a 20-year-old came in and bought a jacket consigned by a 55-year-old woman.

“If you want something trendy you’ll go to Forever 21 and spend $10 on a top, but the items here are different because they’re name brand, so they’re better quality,” Castillo says. “Maybe they’re a brand or style someone wouldn’t usually buy, but because of the price, they’re more likely to try it on here.”

Once a month, Finders Keepers hosts an after-hours wine and cheese social usually coinciding with a sale. The store also carries handmade jewelry crafted by Lynn Links, a nearby resident battling cancer, for whom jewelry-making is cathartic. Her pieces, specializing in stone and shells, are very popular.

A first-time business owner herself, Castillo comes from a family of San Pedro retailers. Her grandparents owned the Kitchen Shop at Ports O’ Call Village in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“If I was to say thank you to anybody, it would definitely be my husband. He’s made this happen and he’s been my biggest fan. My mom has been very supportive and I have some friends that helped me open,” Castillo says. “For being open for three months, a lot of positive things have happened so far and it can only get better, I’m very optimistic.” spt

Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique is located at 29619 S. Western Ave in Rancho Palos Verdes. For more information, call (310)521-1969.