Sunday, January 23, 2011

Assassination and the 2nd Amendment

In March, 1968, I turned 18 barely a month after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Within 3 days I reported to my draft board and registered, otherwise a deputy Sheriff would have come to my high school to escort me to the bus station and a free trip to Ft. Benning, Georgia, but I digress. At my recently desegregated high school, I enjoyed my deferment. The only times I remember thinking about such violence was after watching the nightly news.

By 1968, with no Internet, laptops or cell phones, television had become the dominant news medium, following from the live televised assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald five years earlier. Night after night at supper time, anchors Bob Young (ABC), Walter Cronkite (CBS) and the team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (NBC) reported the carnage of the Vietnam War and the outrage surrounding the Civil Rights movement. Sound on film replayed the gunfire and the violence.

I had seen Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on television. Of him I heard mostly vile things, since I lived in the rural South where the idea of “separate but equal” still held and the term “African-American” was unknown. I recall thinking at the time that he and other leaders of the civil rights movement were sure putting themselves in harm’s way by their exposure like targets, especially Dr. King who was all over television leading marches and being interviewed.

April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray shouldered a Remington.30-06-caliber rifle with a Redfield 2x7 scope and pulled the trigger.

My hero and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy broke the news of Dr. King’s assassination to a crowd in Indianapolis. Kennedy spoke of King's dedication to "love and to justice between fellow human beings," adding that "he died in the cause of that effort." Rioting broke out in Memphis and 4,000 guardsmen were called out. Other cities burned, but Indianapolis did not. "I had a member of my family killed,” Kennedy said, “but he was killed by a white man."

June 5th, 1968, Sirhan Sirhan pulled out a .22 caliber revolver and fired eight shots.

I do not remember hearing calls for any kind of gun control, though, until after the failed Reagan assassination attempt, March 1981, when John Hinckley fired a .22 caliber Röhm RG-14 revolver six times and wounded both the President and his Press Secretary James Brady. It made the nightly news after it appeared within minutes on CNN. Subsequently, after a seven-year battle, President Clinton signed into law the Brady Bill, which requires a five-day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchases.

If you love data, and who doesn’t, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has a graphic on its home page that updates how many people are shot in America so far this year and so far today. As I originally posted this article with Blogcritics, the numbers reported 5000 people shot to date, 175 today.

In the aftermath of the Giffords’ shooting, you may or may not know that Arizona has virtually no restrictions on guns and recently became the third state to allow people to carry concealed weapons in public places without a permit. The state also recently allowed concealed weapon carriers to take their guns into bars and just last year became the third state to make it legal for adults to carry a concealed weapon without getting training and a background check.

Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams is one of 61 Republicans making up two-thirds of the 90-member Legislature. According to AP, Adams said last year's bill to legalize carrying concealed weapons without a permit wasn't a mistake. "Arizona remains a place that is respectful and adamant about our Second Amendment rights, and I think the people of Arizona support that," Adams said. The state ranks 5th in the nation in gun deaths, behind Wyoming, Louisiana, Alaska and the District of Columbia.

What a contrast exists between 5th ranked Arizona and 1st ranked Washington, D.C. on so many levels. But I want to stick with gun possession and get to the 2nd Amendment. The District of Columbia banned the possession of handguns, making it a crime to carry an unregistered firearm and the registration of handguns illegal. Ultimately, the D.C. handgun ban went to the Supreme Court in District Of Columbia v. Heller, which overturned the ban.

Justice Antonin Scalia is the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court and wrote the Court’s opinion in Heller. “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” He continued, “Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

Judge Scalia further wrote, “Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”

Let me point out that the founders wrote the 2nd Amendment to protect citizens from Congress, not from home invaders. The whole idea dates back to the 17th century when the Catholic Stuart Kings, Charles II and James II, sought to protect themselves from overthrow by disarming insurgent Protestant militias. By the time of the founding, an English subjects’ right to have arms was understood to be an individual right protecting against both public and private violence.

By the way, how many shootings happen in home defense? I cannot find the data. But, again, I digress. As Justice Scalia wrote in Heller, “…we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.”

Assassins shot and killed both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F.Kennedy in 1968. An assassination attempt on Representative Gabriel Giffords killed Judge John Roll and 5 other people in 2011. Laws and public policy cannot prevent assassinations. Public figures, such as John Lennon, will always be vulnerable. The only things that have changed in this regard, since I was in high school, are how quickly we find out about such tragedies, how many more shooting deaths occur each year, and how public opinion on the 2nd Amendment has become politicized.

Article originally published as Assassination and the 2nd Amendment on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Tragic Update

After Sarah Palin posted the rifle scope cross hair target map on her Facebook page, she entered the frontier of sedition using Twitter. “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” The recent Tucson, AZ, shooting atrocity confirms Palin’s seditious speech. Palin deserves derision for such speech and for not pulling down her “Target map” until one of her targets was publically shot in the head.

Palin’s speech is protected under the 1st Amendment. The murderer’s right to bear arms is protected under 2nd Amendment. The terrorist himself did not reload and in retreat was apprehended. However he can count on the 5th Amendment’s guarantee of “due process of law” – ironic since he killed a judge.

After Palin’s followers are instructed on what to say (on Facebook and Twitter), they will assert that no connection to her seditious speech can be made other than for its tragic coincidence. They will say that she is in no way responsible for such a terrorist act as the Tucson public murders, especially since the gunman does not appear to be one of her “peace-seeking Muslims.”

In fact, the SarahPac went to work immediately to crank out its public relations mop job. It insisted, among other things, that the cross hairs on the target map came from the US Geological Survey.

Soon enough Ms. Palin herself will be fed lines to repeat to incriminate the liberal lame stream media, you watch. The public relations kids working for the media millionaires have been busy little people keeping the public eye sore. You can bet that the Arizona PR people are plenty busy, too.

Misery loves company and, unfortunately, tragedies build audience share.

Ratings will go up as those rich bloviators of hate -- Palin and her contemporaries Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh -- become beneficiaries of the Tucson tragedy. Thoughtful people who find them distasteful will just dial them out. Their followers, however, will wrap themselves in the flag and the 1st Amendment and try to blame the liberals for the Tucson murders, since such is the way of that trio’s audience.

Elected officials such as President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and others have shown considerable statesmanship for the circumstances. Senator Robert Kennedy showed remarkable statesmanship in the aftermath of Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968. Back then, hatred and hateful speech were quite common, but their mediums of expression were more up-close and personal. RFK was later murdered.

The Speaker has a job to do, part of which is the waste of time the new Republican majority is involved in with passing a bill to repeal a law along strict party lines. The bill, when passed, will go to the Senate and, should it pass the Democratic majority there, will go to the President who signed the law in the first place. It will take a two-thirds majority in the House and in the Senate to override his veto.

Statesmanship is admirable. It just doesn't last long. As to the continual AP assertions that Ms. Palin is a presidential contender, let us hope that idea is put to rest in respect for those who lost their rights to life, liberty, and happiness.

Friday, January 7, 2011

140 Characters, Huh

The point of this exercise is to see just what a 140 character limit looks like. That sentence has only 80 characters. This makes it to 140. [27 words]

It confirms my observation that Twitter is ideal for teaching people how to write good cut lines. Present active voice helps to pull it off. [25 words]

It is almost like saying that one has 29 words or less, so long as the words are short, to make a point. Using bigger words buggers it up. [29 words]

Just like everything else in journalism, the re-write is where it is at. There is nothing that cannot be improved, especially the new Tweet. [25 words]

Personally, I have trouble thinking that Tweeting is important to anyone without a broadband gadget and an extra $30 bucks a month to spend. [24 words]

Then again I probably said the same sort of thing when I was forced to use a word processor instead of an electronic typewriter by my boss. [27 words]

“Damn it Jim, I’m a writer, not some digital space scribbler!” Bones McCoy barked. “Besides that, the character count includes quote marks.” [22 words]

And the good doctor would have been correct, even if he used the word quote instead of quotation; but I am digressing from my original point. [26 words]

At some point the discussion about danger has already been discussed by others. Things like texting while hiking or driving get people killed. [23 words]

Perhaps a discussion about just plain flat being rude is in order; although to date I have not read anything about Tweeting while copulating. [24 words]

For those waiting for me to bring up Sarah Palin in the Tweeting context, wait no more. I just did, by shrinking political discourse process. [25 words]

Can you imagine how much money it would cost to get the Klondike Twitterer to endorse a broadband texting gadget? Think of an i-Palin device. [25 words]

It would doubtless have an American language debasing app and another one that makes up words. But I hope that’s all in some distant future. [25 words]

In the long run, writing a letter by hand, using a pen and ink, and developing personal handwriting may actually become in vogue and return. [25 words]

Hopefully I have made my point. The average word count in this exercise was 25 words. And my point, in case you missed it, was get over fads. [28 words]

It’s not like I wrote about the Hoola-Hoop. Think of a fountain pen as a hand held, fluid medium, friction driven, analogue texting devise. [forget the count]

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originally published on Blogcritics as "140 Characters, Huh", December 30, 2010