Gun control? How about gun elimination?

October 19, 2003|By G. Jefferson Price III | G. Jefferson Price III,PERSPECTIVE EDITOR

THANKS to New York Times columnist Bob Herbert for revealing to us that the National Rifle Association has an enemies list, though that's not what they call it.

A spokesman for the NRA told Herbert the list is compiled just so members will "know which organizations support the rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, and which organizations didn't."

Herbert is on the list, but, darn it, I'm not. The Baltimore Sun is on the list, thank heavens. So is Sun cartoonist Mike Lane.

Gotta get on that list. Look at the company: Maya Angelou, the poet. Alec and William Baldwin, the actors. Tony Bennett, the singer. Beau Bridges, Christie Brinkley (Christie Brinkley! If I get on the list, can I party with these people?), Dr. Joyce Brothers. (OK, forget the party.) Mel Brooks, Julia Child, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Walter Cronkite. Billy Crystal, Doug Flutie, Ricki Lake, John McEnroe, Mary Tyler Moore (have they no shame?), Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Jerry Seinfeld, the Temptations.

Former President Jimmy Carter is on the list. Bless him.

Grave matters

The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune are on the enemies list. So are most of the rest of the media moguls of America. Even Geraldo is on the list. I counted more than 40 journalists on the list, including at least one who is deceased: Herb Block, late of The Washington Post. These NRA people follow you to the grave. Even Ann Landers is on the list.

If people boycotted everyone on the list, they wouldn't read any respectable newspapers or see any good movies, and they'd miss most television programming.

The Kansas City Royals, the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams are on the list.

What do they eat? Sarah Lee and 7-Eleven are on the list. So is Hallmark.

There are more enemies listed, many more. But you get the point. A vast cross-section of talented, thoughtful Americans, many beautiful people and just plain all-American companies and organizations are on the NRA bad list. They should be proud, because the NRA is about a lot more than making sure "law-abiding Americans" get to "keep and bear arms."

The Second Amendment is the dubious source of the NRA's claim to protect American rights: "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."

I am not a constitutional expert. But the Second Amendment seems to me to be about as relevant to modern reality as the Book of Leviticus. It does not seem to me to anticipate that Americans shall have access to any kind of weapon they want, from a Saturday night special to automatic assault weapons designed to kill a lot of people quickly.

Unsafe keeping

I have friends who are hunters. They tend to be to the right of my politics, and some of them probably support the NRA because they can't stand the government interfering in anything, even collecting taxes, for that matter. But those men who go off around this time of year and huddle in a freezing blind waiting for some pathetic goose to fly into their sites are not the ones I'm worried about. I'm worried about people who have guns and don't keep them safely. Or the ones who don't plan to shoot animals with their guns, but other people.

The Second Amendment's reference to militias brings to mind an experience of about 20 years ago. I was in South Lebanon interviewing some Christian militiamen who were firing away at some Muslims down the road. They carried M-16s with likenesses of the Virgin Mary on the butts of their weapons. I asked one of the militiamen about his rifle.

He thrust the gun at me and said, "It's a good gun. Shoot it."

Twice, I demurred. But he insisted. So I took the rifle and fired into the air.

"No. No. No," he said. "Shoot at the people down there. The gun is for killing them."

I refused. But a lot of people were killed "down there" that day, and I never forgot the encounter with this militiaman who must have felt some perverse right to carry a gun and to kill people with it.

Now, in Iraq, America's appointed governors are supposed to come up with a good American-style constitution. Let's make sure they have a Second Amendment giving every Iraqi the right to bear arms. That's just what Iraq needs.

Nation dithers

Actually, I'm not for gun control. I'm for gun elimination. Guns don't kill people, the NRA tells us, people kill people. Take away their guns and killing would be a lot harder. I'm for taking away guns from anyone who can't prove a real need. That's more radical than most gun control advocates seem willing to state. But while this country has dithered on the issue - unlike most other civilized places - and politicians have been intimidated by the NRA, tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed, and for what? For the sake of preserving "the right to bear arms"? That's not good enough.

Now, can I get on that list? Please?

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