Glendening ads attacking Sauerbrey liable to misfire

October 17, 1998|By Gregory Kane

FOR A MAN WHO claims he's so adamantly against slots in Maryland, Gov. Parris Glendening seems to be taking a reckless gamble. The entire Glendening campaign has one theme: portray Ellen Sauerbrey as an extremist candidate supported by the gun nuts.

Glendening's television ads have charged that Sauerbrey was the National Rifle Association's point woman when she was in the state legislature. The NRA, according to Glendening spots, gave Sauerbrey money to legally challenge the results of the 1994 election. The latest propaganda spiels contain more of the same, with a final line warning voters that Sauerbrey is "a risk we can't afford."

The implication couldn't be more clear. Elect Sauerbrey, and Marylanders will find themselves up to their eyelids in illegal guns. Bullets will fly everywhere. Hide the womenfolk and the young'uns -- the gun nuts is a-coming.

We've been down this path before, haven't we? The liberal-Democratic candidate accuses the conservative-Republican candidate of being an "extremist" in hopes of scaring voters into voting Democratic. It worked during the presidential election of 1964. President Lyndon Johnson, the liberal Democrat, opposed the conservative Republican, Arizona's Sen. Barry Goldwater. Johnson's campaign ads depicted Goldwater as a loose cannon. The most notorious showed a little girl playing with a flower just before a nuclear bomb exploded. Elect Goldwater, the ad implied, and nuclear holocaust will surely follow.

Johnson won that election in a landslide. The "my-opponent-is-an-extremist" ruse worked then, but we're less sappy now. Will Marylanders fall for Glendening's wheelbarrow of reeking bat guano? Those of us who regard the NRA not as an extremist organization, but as our first line of defense against those who would eviscerate -- if not outright repeal -- the Second Amendment, won't.

What, exactly, does the Second Amendment say? Here it is, complete with all the unnecessary commas:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

That should be clear enough, but gun controllers and gun prohibitors have, for years, nitpicked about the word "militia." It means the National Guard, they claim. All other citizens should have their gun rights restricted.

But NRA supporters have not only memorized the Second Amendment, they've picked up their dictionaries a time or two. A militia in the United States is "all able-bodied male citizens between 18 and 45 years old who are not already members of the regular armed forces: members of the National Guard and of the Reserves (of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps) constitute the organized militia; all others, the unorganized militia."

That's from Webster's New World Dictionary. We gun nuts, it seems, know what we're talking about. Sauerbrey opponents sneer that she voted against every gun-control bill when she was in the legislature, "including restriction on semiautomatic assault rTC weapons," according to an Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance ad.

Well, horror of horrors. Isn't that a reason to vote for the woman? It shows she has at least read and knows the spirit of the Second Amendment. She knows that gun-control laws that would ban semiautomatic assault weapons are by definition an infringement the right to bear arms.

The IMA has several black ministers in its membership. You would think they wouldn't buy into this poppycock. Many years ago, a black man in Monroe, N.C., wanted blacks there to defend themselves against Ku Klux Klan attacks. He applied for a charter to form a gun and rifle club. It was the NRA, not some benevolent liberal Democrats, who gave him that charter. The next time Klan nightriders drove through Monroe's black community, Robert Williams and his NRA cohorts gave them a welcome they did not soon forget.

History and the Second Amendment are on the side of the NRA and its supporters. Glendening is taking a risk that he'll alienate on-the-fence voters in an already tight race and come up short on Election Day. He had best tell voters why they should vote for him rather than tell them why they shouldn't vote for Sauerbrey.

Pub Date: 10/17/98

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