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

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From: Antoun Nabhan (
Date: Thu Dec 21 2000 - 09:39:42 PST

At 05:03 PM 12/20/00 -0500, you wrote:
>In a message dated 12/20/2000 12:04:15 AM, Ken.Coar@Golux.Com writes:
>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. :-)

The trick is to construct a law that allows you to apply the standard in
your first sentence without a de facto banning of guns. Generally the gun
lobby wants to throw gun legislation in under the heading of "police
power," which doctrinally doesn't have a whole lot of limit. "Time, place,
and manner" restrictions on free speech come under this heading, but as
anyone who has tried to get a park permit to hold a demonstration knows,
this supposedly-circumscribed power can be used as a back door to eat up
liberties that we usually defend in the abstract.

Even if you don't call gun laws "an exercise of police power," with all the
legal baggage contained therein, you've still got a problem writing an
actual law that codifies the principle above without eating into the rights
of "not-bad" people to own a gun for "not-bad" purposes. There's always an
alpha error or a beta error, and how do you keep the smart limitations from
overwheming the basic liberty?

Especially when the people making the laws don't believe in or care about
the basic liberty in the first place.

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

That sounds vaguely dirty. :-)

>You know, earlier in this thread someone (I forget who) wrote patronizingly

That was me. I'm a city mouse currently exiled to the country, and I've not
just read Derrida in the original but actually written legal theory papers
based on him. How's that for boozhie cred? :-) Seriously, I'm not being
patronizing when I describe "the literary classes." I'm a Volvo-driving,
NPR-donating, turtleneck-wearing guy, and I'm just describing the people I
went to school with and hang out with.

>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.

No, this is not about "the noble redneck"! At best, I'm arguing for moral
parity, and I'm not even sure that matters to the argument. The fact is
that "city mice" have the POWER, and they wield it over all the "country
mice" with insufficient knowledge of lives outside their sphere. If the
"country mice" held all the power, the problem would still be the same,
only its effect would point in the other direction.

Besides, I don't think it's really about country and city - it's more about
country culture and city culture, to describe in short form something
that's rather more nuanced. There are city situations in which it may in
fact make sense to a plausibly sensible person to have a firearm, but to
someone with a different "sensibility" it wouldn't make sense. Sir
Mix-A-Lot captures a situation I remember pretty well when I was growing
up: "She had the .38 sittin in her purse/because my mom was the King County
Jail nurse."

As for that "defensive fear" about "sniggering," I've lived the city mouse
lifestyle for years, and the fear is fully justified. People do snigger.

>No offense meant, and I hope none taken.

Likewise - your missive was well-thought.


     The Pen is mightier than the Sword.
   The Court is mightier than the Pen.
The Sword is mightier than the Court.
            - Rey Barry -

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