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“Gun Nuts Target One Of Their Own”: No Space For People Of Good Will To Seek Common Ground

Here is what he said: “…all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.”

It would seem to be a self-evident truth. After all, your First Amendment right to freedom of speech is regulated. If you don’t believe it, write something libelous about a guy with deep pockets and man-eating lawyers. Your Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is regulated and then some. If you don’t believe that, pick up your phone and ask the NSA agent tapping your line.

Unfortunately for him, Dick Metcalf, who made the aforementioned observation, was not referring to the First Amendment or the Fourth. No, he was talking about the Second. He’s been out of work ever since.

We are indebted to New York Times reporter Ravi Somaiya for bringing this story to light on Sunday. Metcalf, who lives in Barry, Illinois, is not a gun hater. To the contrary we are told that he is — or was, at any rate — one of the most prominent gun journalists in the country, a self-described “Second Amendment fundamentalist” who, at 67, has devoted most of his adult life to gun rights. He hosted a TV program about guns. Gun makers flew him around the world and sent him their products for review. And he had a regular column in Guns & Ammo magazine.

In his December column, Metcalf offered a nuanced argument that gun enthusiasts should accept some minor regulation of their Second Amendment rights. Specifically, he said, a requirement that people who wanted to carry concealed weapons undergo 16 hours of training was not “excessive.” The way his fellow gun lovers responded to this, you’d have thought he’d argued for U.N. confiscation of every gun, arrow and slingshot in America.

There were death threats. He lost his show. Subscription cancelations poured in. Advertisers demanded he be fired. And he was.

The community he had supported so faithfully had made him a non-person. See, that community has a simple credo: guns — no restrictions. And even the slightest deviation from that absolutist mantra is grounds for expulsion. If you are only with them 99 percent, you are not with them at all. George Orwell had a word for it: groupthink.

Metcalf’s experience is eye-opening, disheartening and worth remembering next time there is a mass shooting — they come with the regularity of buses — and you find yourself wondering why we can’t all agree on some simple, common-sense ideas to take weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of those who should not have them.

Why not expanded background checks? Why not mandatory gun-safety classes? Why not some system of mental-health reporting?

Think of Metcalf when you hear yourself asking those questions. Then ask yourself how many other Metcalfs must be out there, how many other gun-rights advocates who know in their hearts something has gone haywire when mass shootings are so frequent they barely count as news. And maybe these people would speak up as Metcalf did — except they know they’d be treated as Metcalf was. So they say nothing. And silence enforces silence.

This is the tragedy of the American gun debate. It offers no space for people of good will to seek common ground. Gun-rights advocates have embraced a “with us or agin us” ethos under which even someone as unimpeachably pro-gun as Dick Metcalf becomes an enemy just because he has a (slightly) different idea.

For their sake and the country’s, thoughtful gun owners must find the moral courage to face and fix that sad state of affairs. Until they do, the debate over guns is likely to ricochet from one mass tragedy to the next without ever finding consensus. It takes two sides to reach consensus.

And in America, one side’s not even trying.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, January 8, 2014

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Terry Jones Koran Burning Abuses The Constitution

Efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning flag-burning have, thankfully, not been successful. Approve an amendment banning burning of the flag, and you might as well burn the U.S. Constitution while you’re at it. That’s the point of the First Amendment; even stupid “speech” is protected.

But it’s still stupid, and stupider, still, when a previously-obscure pastor at a tiny Florida church burns a Koran.

Terry Jones, who heads the small, Gainesville, Fla., Dove World Outreach Center, warrants skepticism and suspicion aside from the Koran matter; as Kevin Sieff writes in a very thoroughly-reported piece tucked inside Monday’s Washington Post, Jones treated the church like his own “personal fiefdom,” using parishioners for unpaid work and dividing families when some members displayed less-than-full allegiance to him.

Last year, Jones threatened to burn a Koran on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. He wisely backed off, and one would think he wouldn’t bother to rethink the idea, since he got a great deal of media attention just for talking about it. But perhaps the attention had waned too much for Jones; members of the church apparently did conduct a symbolic burning of a Koran, putting the evidence on the Internet in case news didn’t spread quickly or far enough to get a reaction.

It got a reaction, all right: More than 20 people have been killed and many more injured in three days of violent protests against the burning, which Muslims (along with sensible non-Muslims as well) rightly found offensive. Is it right to kill out of protest over a symbolic burning of a holy book? No. Was it worth it for Jones to make his little First Amendment stand by doing something that was, by definition, intended to incite anger? Ask the families of the victims of the violence that ensued from the protests.

General David Petraeus condemned the burnings, and the U.S. Senate may follow. Perhaps that is what Jones and his ilk are looking for—a chance to portray President Obama, wrongly and ridiculously, as secretly Muslim, and the saner members of Congress as sympathizers to followers of a faith many Americans don’t understand. This country was founded on a great democratic tradition, one we should be proud of showcasing to those who don’t fully understand us. Abusing the rights guaranteed in the Constitution isn’t the way to do it.

By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, April 4, 2011

April 5, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Constitution, Democracy, Human Rights, Ideology, Liberty, Media, Muslims, President Obama, Religion, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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