Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cold, dead fingers and gun control

Good gracious --- all this talk about gun control in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School has my second-amendment friends in a lather. I get e-mails, photoshopped concoctions in the Facebook feed and the occasional face-to-face sermon. Plus rebuttal concoctions from godless liberal lefties like me.

This is my favorite --- thanks Katherine! I'm not that much of an extremist, however. Ask nicely and you've got my book lickety-split. I'll want it back when you're done, though. Just finished Josh Kilmer-Purcell's "Bucholic Plague," the biographical story of a retired drag performer once known as Aqua (because of the gold fish that swam in his plastic breasts) who transitioned with his partner, soon-to-be-husband, into an upstate New York goat farmer. Interested?

Nor do I think it's a good idea to take guns away from anyone who is relatively sane, acquired them legally and keeps them secured when not in use. I don't even particularly care if hobbyists have assault-style rifles and clips containing a gazillion rounds of ammunition. We all have our toys.

On the other hand, restoration of the assault weapons ban and imposition of high-capacity magazine bans and universal background checks wouldn't break my heart either.

So good luck on defending those second-amendment "rights." In the long run, you're going to need it. And in the short term, you really should stop doing stupid things.

Take the winners of dumb-ass of the week competition: 22-year-olds Warren Drouin and Steven Boyce who decided to strap assault-style weapons to their backs and walk through a Portland, Oregon, neighborhood to "educate the public about gun rights." When police asked, they said they just wanted to be approached and chatted up.

Sesible Oregonians did what anyone --- including fervent defenders of second-amendment rights ---would do when confronted with gun-toting yahoos: Called 911. Strapping an assault-style weapon to your back and strolling through a neighborhood also is a darned good way to get shot --- by another supporter of second-amendment rights. So don't do it.

The dumb ass runner-up prize goes to Tennessee's James Yeager, CEO of an outfit called Tactical Response, who said he would "start killing people" if President Obama took executive action on gun control. The state of Tennessee, hardly a bastion of liberality, promptly yanked his handgun carry permit. Lesson: Don't threaten to kill people.

And for heaven's sake stop announcing that there's going to be a revolution if gun control measures are adopted. There isn't. Many gun owners favor some degree of restriction, too. And most of those who don't are really just harmless pussycats --- if separated from their computer keyboards.

Here are a few other things to consider not doing:

1. Don't send out missives proclaiming that more Americans die of overeating in a year than as a result of gun violence. In the broadest sense, that's true. On the other, obese Americans rarely force their way into public schools and knife-and-fork children to death.

2. Don't send out missives proclaiming that so long as abortion is legal, gun law revisions shouldn't be considered. You really don't want to go there. We may disagree about abortion and about gun control --- but everyone wants to find ways to stop crazy people from using guns to kill innocent people.

3. Don't send out missives attributed to the Tea Party. Those people are loons. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to learn how to play with the grown-ups.

Here's the deal. The second amendment was not handed by God to Moses in the form of an eleventh commandment. There's nothing God-given about the privilege of keeping and bearing arms. And the National Rifle Association is for the most part now a huge well-financed bag of hot air, easily pricked and deflated if conditions are right. Suggesting that every school in America needs an armed police force didn't help.

Here's something to remember. Second amendment "rights" actually are conditional privileges because of that pesky introductory line, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state ...." It was written at a time before standing national military forces --- when well regulated local and state militias really were necessary.

Supreme court precedent currently holds that keeping and bearing arms need not be linked to service in a militia. That interpretation could change, however, as the makeup of the court changes, as it often has in other areas.

So be sensible, be logical, stop blustering, stop exaggerating, stop crying "wolf" and try preaching to someone other than the second-amendment choir and make your case. It's not about tyranny. It's about trying to prevent senseless killing. And it's complicated. Yelling doesn't help.

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