13 January 2010

Second Amendment Awareness

Irony of ironies, yesterday, Jan. 12, the day of the Kennesaw amoklauf, was "Second Amendment Awareness Day," at least in New York State. To give it its formal name, it was "Sportsmen and Outdoor Recreation Legislative Awareness Day." The occasion was celebrated in Albany by Wayne LaPierre, the present heston of the National Rifle Association, who spoke inside what he described as "the heart of the beast," the state capitol. While he could not know what was going to go down in Georgia, it was still something of a stretch, given last week's news from St. Louis, for LaPierre to label Democratic politicians as the "fringe" on the issue of gun regulation.

In LaPierre's opinion, domestic gun violence, the shooting of Americans by Americans, is no problem that stricter sentencing can't solve. Ignoring the strong possibility that your average amoklaufer is a first-time offender, he suggests that the source of our trouble is lenient judges letting proven violent perps back on the streets too soon. Interestingly, and perhaps in contradiction to one's assumption that the NRA is in league with small-government types, LaPierre supports expanding the federal role in prosecuting gun crimes. There's merit to his overall argument if you think that the most important gun-violence issue is conventional crime. The NRA tends to see things that way because they see guns as necessary instruments of self-defense against muggers, burglars, etc. But his demand for maximum sentencing has little relevance to the amoklauf problem that everyone seemingly wants to sweep under the rug.

LaPierre was backed by Tom King, the heston of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. King believes that New York needs a state equivalent of the Second Amendment embedded in its own constitution, something "ensuring a right to bear arms and universal pistol licenses." This may seem superfluous given the federal Supreme Court's recent affirmation, presumably nation in scope, of an individual right to bear arms. But I have no problem with activists advocating an amendment, as long as they make their real desires clear for once. Let's have a real debate on an amendment that says what its advocates really mean: "The right of persons to kill in defense of property or their own persons shall not be infringed."

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