Re: guns (Re: Cell phones of death!)

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Date: Wed Dec 20 2000 - 14:03:38 PST

In a message dated 12/20/2000 12:04:15 AM, Ken.Coar@Golux.Com writes:

>I believe that Damien, Tony, and yourself have emitted statements
>that are difficult to construe any other way. I'll accept
>that there may be an error in communication.

Gee, as best I can recall, what I said was that it should be hard for guns to
get into the hands of bad people, and that people who want to own guns should
be required to take classes in their safe use. If you were able to construe
this as stating that guns should be banned, then some gun owners are more
paranoid than I thought, and I should perhaps give careful consideration to
the idea that guns should be banned entirely. :-)

I'll try to be more careful with my emissions if you'll be more thoughtful in
your construings.

>If it worked so well,why was it repealed?

I didn't say that Prohibition worked well. I said that since the repeal of
Prohibition, efforts to control the illegal (untaxed, unsafe) production of
hootch and to monitor sales have worked fairly well. Yup, there's lots of
teenaged drunks out there, driving cars and, for all I know, carrying loaded
sidearms, both the booze and the bullets taken from Mom's and Dad's cabinets.
That's kinda beside the point, which is that sensible people ought to agree
on and enforce sensible (I did not say nanny-like nitpicking) laws, rules,
and customs so that dangerous things (guns, knives, cars, liquor, airplanes,
bulldozers, cherry bombs) aren't likely to be handled recklessly or fall
easily into the hands of those who can be expected not to know how to handle
them carefully.

You know, earlier in this thread someone (I forget who) wrote patronizingly
about people in the country's "literary classes" not seeming to know that
thare are vast scantily populated parts of this great land. Actually, some of
us lit'ry folk have visited, lived in, moved to, moved from, or otherwise
been familiar (from a distance less than 30,000 feet) with the dwelling
places of those I guess I'm supposed to call the illiterary classes. Some of
us find it a little annoying to read statements that imply there's a kind of
moral superiority involved in not having near neighbors, though empathy (what
we literary types call "negative capability," after Keats) suggests that the
posture of superiority comes from a defensive fear that city slickers
secretly snigger at country mice. Both English and American literature are
filled with the conflict between city and country.

And you know, life IS different in town. I haven't been to Austin in many a
moon, so I've no idea if what I saw there on my first visit can still be seen
today. But then there were signs in bars that said that in Harris [is it
Harris? can't recall] County it was illegal to possess a loaded firearm in a
place where liquor was served. Friend of mine pointed out that this sign was
necessary because in rural counties in Texas it wasn't illegal. That sign's
revealing, pointing out, as it does, thatsome behavior that is just fine in
the country can become dangerous and antisocial in town. For example, my
friend told me that his ambition, like that of every good Texan in his
unhumble Texan opinion, was to own a house on enough land that he could piss
off of his front porch. Now, you just don't do that in Houston, Austin, San
Antonia, or Dallas, any more than you walk into the bar at the Adolphus
twirling a loaded Colt .45 around your index finger and shooting the top off
the quart of Jack Daniels. Larry McMurtry, a lit'ry man, points out in his
introduction to In a Narrrow Grave that Texas went from a state where 90% of
the population was living in rural areas to one where 90% lives in
cities--and did it in a generation. Dan Jenkins, in Baja Oklahoma--Dan's more
a drinking man than a lit'ry one, but he wrote good when he chose to--caught
that change when he wrote that Texas was "a detour off the freeway to see
where you were raised."
    Now, I'm entirely prepared to cede to you or anyone the virtues of clean
air, copious stars, tumbling tumbleweeds, voracious jackrabbits, caribou,
weasels, unfenced land for sheep and fenced land for cattle, circuit-riding
Methodist preachers, heavy pesticide use, friendly waves from strangers,
quilting bees, and everything else that coutnry life contains in fact or in
legend. I'm even prepared to agree that life is more natural in places
unfrequented by the literary classes, except Hemingway buffs.
    More natural, but less human. Most of us human beings have chosen to live
in cities--more and more of us every year. Even though telephones and faxes
and the web allow us to telecommute, we don't, and won't. Social capital is
vital to us. There are eight million stories in the naked city, 4 million in
the silicone city, and three million in the windy one, and I'm not counting
the burbs, where the deer and the Cherokees play. Those vast illiterary
spaces are losing population; you can't keep 'em down on the farm once
they've seen Paree, and fewer human structures interrupt the wind as it
crosses the Dakotas than did in my father's time. Most human beings prefer to
live in town.
    Where it's not a good idea to have a loaded firearm, drunk or sober.
Where, following the advice of Adam Smith, we employ the division of labor to
hire police to keep public safety rather than undertake the job ourselves.
    I'm not saying that that's morally superior, either. I'm just saying, as
Walter Cronkite used to say, that's the way it is. My mother used to say, no
doubt quoting her mother, "Your rights stop where my nose begins."
    So, following in the tradition of Jonathan Swift, yet another of those
damn lit'ry fellers, maybe we should set things up this way: No gun laws at
all where people need them to blow the heads off rattlers or make holes in
coffee cans; and let's set up checkpoints and storage lockers on the edge of
every Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area, inside which out snakes wear
suits and we have electric can openers. On the way into town, leave the
weapon in a locker, take a receipt, and pick it up on the way back. For an
extra $10, we could probably get someone to clean it while you're shopping at

No offense meant, and I hope none taken.


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