By Les Francis
Special to Calbuzz
Not long after Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, I was in Sacramento advocating for legislation of interest to the California Teachers Association, for whom I was working at the time. My boss and I happened to be in the Capitol when a hearing was taking place on a measure banning so-called “Saturday night specials” — the type of cheap and easily concealed handgun used to kill RFK.
The committee room was packed with opponents of the bill, including members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). My boss and mentor, Dr. Charles Hamilton, looked around the room and said, “This room is filled with two kinds of people — the hunters and the hunted.”
In the years since, on the occasion of assassinations and attempted assassinations, drive-by shootings and mass killings, I have recalled Charles’s observation and I have been outraged by the gun lobby’s unapologetic arrogance and intransigence. On December 14, in Newtown, CT, a heavily armed madman murdered his mother at their home and then gunned down twenty little kids and six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. One week later the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre argued that the way to prevent such tragedies is to add even more guns to the mix.
My initial reaction to the NRA’s statement was more outrage and disgust. I thought their defense of the Second Amendment rests in part on the bizarre premise that citizens need guns so that they might be able to overthrow what the gun lobby considers a tyrannical federal government — a government that I and millions of other Americans probably elected. And, I would thereby become one of the “hunted” that Charles Hamilton identified that day in Sacramento.
A good friend countered my argument by suggesting that both its content and tone would serve only to aggravate the already polarized debate over gun control; he went on to point out that, “One of the problems with political polarization — and with trying to stoke polarization — is that it inhibits people from thinking that an idea pushed by an adversary might be worth considering.”
A fair point, I thought. It is time to go beyond where I typically come down on gun control (among other issues). I need to be more flexible, more open to new thinking, to be more imaginative. And that led me to conclude that I should pay more attention to some of the intellectual heavyweights on the political right, people like Rep. Louis Gohmert (TX), Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), former Governors Mike Huckabee (AR) and Sarah Palin (AK), the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, and so many others who seek to enlighten us every day, almost always on Fox News.
LaPierre and his cohorts say that the answer to gun violence in America (where more than 200 million firearms are already in private hands), is more guns. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant.
But we shouldn’t stop there. Too much hunger in the world? Let’s reduce the supply of food. Too much disease? Easy — decrease immunizations and treatment. Too much poverty? Reduce the number of jobs. Bothered by the number of babies born to unwed mothers? Cut off family planning. You think global warming is a joke? Increase the emission of greenhouse gases. And if you think our students aren’t learning enough, the answer is obvious: fire teachers, close schools and get rid of textbooks and school supplies.
According to LaPierre, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Let’s just assume, for the sake of discussion, that he’s right about that. And let’s also assume that he would agree that somewhere around 99.9% of all kids, at least those in elementary school, are good.
Another obvious answer: Give every child a gun — not just guards, principals and teachers, but the students, too. Now, some assault weapons would be too big and too hard for little tykes to handle, but not so with small caliber pistols, like the infamous Derringer used to kill Abraham Lincoln. Of course morning recess could get a little messy and teachers would have to think twice about disciplining or even correcting an armed first-grader, but that’s just the price we’ll have to pay to ensure that the NRA’s version of the Second Amendment isn’t abridged.
These proposals are truly modest. And simple. How could I have been so wrong for so long? Shame on me
Les Francis is a former Democratic operative (Executive Director of both the DNC and DCCC), as well as Congressional aide (to former Rep. Norman Y. Mineta of San Jose) and deputy White House Chief of Staff during the Carter Administration.