1/6/2003

 

Guns versus votes

 

So many things to write about, so little time and space. But I think public dialog is a good thing, and a couple of writers responded to my recent column on how the Bill of Rights is getting wholes ripped in it, so Iíll respond to those.

 

One was a letter to the editor from Stephen Davis, who served a term as a state senator in the Ď70s, who agreed with my column, but then went on to rationalize about why he doesnít vote. Iíll return to this if I have room.

 

But the big response was a guest editorial from a Mr. Aldridge. It was hard to follow some of his points but I took it that he basically agreed that the Bill of Rights is being jeopardized. Unfortunately he confused my column with some other writer and claimed I was unhappy the government wasnít collecting more information on gun ownership. That wasnít me. It seems I do remember reading some letter or column that expressed irony that the government wants to collect every little detail about citizens in the name of finding terrorists, but still doesnít want to know who buys guns. I think Mr. Aldridge mixed my column together with some other such source.

 

He also quotes me as being moderate. Iíve never made such a claim one way or the other. I am moderate on some things. Then again, on some, Iíll stand with Barry Goldwater when he said, ďExtremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.Ē

 

Iím happy that my frequent point is borne out, that liberals and conservatives have more in common than they often think. Both responders and I are concerned about whatís happening to the Bill of Rights. But Mr. Aldridgeís column points out the flip side of the coin, how different people can be in their approach to solving a problem.

 

We simply have an administration that doesnít really ďgetĒ the Bill of Rights. That might be solved as easily as waiting for the 2004 elections. But Mr. Aldridge already has visions of storming the gates and having a violent ďregime changeĒ of our own. He sees the problem as unsolvable unless citizens are armed.

 

Letís knock down one straw dog right off the bat. Iím not a total pacifist. Yes, if I had to use a gun against an armed intruder I would. (Though apparently Iím not too worried about it since I havenít bothered to buy one. Donít worry Mr. Aldridge. There are very few random, violent, home invaders in the area, and I doubt they read columns.) But thatís a far cry from how we deal with social and political issues. This is a mind set not much different than the school-yard bully or the fellow who regularly gets in fights in bars but claims that he doesnít go looking for them.

 

The idea that all our freedoms rest on the ability of the citizens to storm the White House if it were occupied by a would-be tyrant is absurd. It is reasonable to believe we have evolved beyond that. And if not? Do you think a bunch of citizens with rifles can overcome a government with helicopter warships? (That is, if you have so little faith in your fellow citizens as to believe that the army (who are citizens too, remember) would fight against their own homes.) The whole scenario is absurd and not what our freedoms rest on.

 

Mr. Aldridge, Iím glad to have your company among those concerned about infringements on the Bill of Rights. And as far as Iím concerned youíre welcome to collect all the pistols and rifles you want for hunting and protection against burglars. But when it comes to political change, please leave your guns at home.

 

I guess Iíll have to get to Mr. Davis next time.