A Dog In The Fight
Not long before he retired, Jimmy Breslin went on a dog crusade in New York. He was offended by people walking dogs on busy streets, scooping up their offerings, and then getting on a crowded subway with their fingers wrapped around a pole an inch from his nose. He proposed throwing dogs in front of subways, justifying it on the grounds that dogs have no souls.
He followed up with a column saying that when he attacked the Catholic church for sheltering pedophile priests, nobody cared. When he accused the president of the United States of being a liar and killer of young soldiers, nobody cared. But when he suggested dogs be thrown in front of subways, all hell broke loose. New York went crazy.
A recent blog reminded me of Breslin’s complaint. Normally my blogs get no response. We assumed nobody read them because in a year of almost weekly blogs we might get half a dozen comments. But this particular blog got 11 responses – published last week – all of them negative. Rush Limbaugh never had it so good. The subject of the blog was gun control, relating of course to the shooting of a teenager in Sanford by a neighborhood watch volunteer. The blog was a combination of silly and serious, opening with an absurd few grafs about a traffic confrontation in which I would have hung a guy with piano wire for cutting me off. That’s the reason I keep a piano in the trunk of my 20-year-old sports car. But then I figured a nutty driver might be carrying a loaded pistol, and I went home to bed. People accustomed to my stuff found it amusing. But none of the comments saw it that way. One writer used the word “irony” – that’s a close as anybody came to the spirit of the nonsense I wrote.
I also ridiculed Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for jumping on the civil rights bandwagon, because they had to protect their speaker fees by keeping the publicity going. None of the writers cared about that. What they cared about – their dog in front of subways – was the suggestion that Florida gun laws are insane, with the NRA constantly pushing for anything that sells guns, and against anything that might cut into profits from firearms, resulting in 900,000 people in Florida having permits to carry concealed weapons. Well, that provoked the reaction.
Feeling rejected, I went to a pub where I encountered a stranger, who turned out to be a lawyer. When the subject came up, he told me he had been a member of the NRA, had actually carried a concealed weapon on trips to certain neighborhoods, but never came close to needing it and eventually decided to leave the weapon at home. He now favored gun control, at least handgun control, and even quoted the Second Amendment, which begins: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Not too many people can quote the Constitution with such accuracy.
He said it was clear to him that the Founding Fathers were thinking of the right of a government to have a militia. He pointed out that when the Constitution was written, oppression by England was fresh in mind, and states were much more independent, and were sometimes dominated by religious groups. He felt it was obvious the framers felt a state had a right to protect itself from another state, or another country, which might try to dominate it. He did not think the Second Amendment had anything to do with assault rifles in the hands of anybody who wanted one. He said a good deal more, criticizing legislators who say they favor gun control, then justify voting against it by nitpicking the wording of legislation.
Later, at the same place, I asked a native Irishman if his homeland still had strict gun laws. Yes, he said, even the cops don’t carry guns, except in special situations.
“It’s a good thing, too,” he said. “Otherwise there would be a lot of dead people. This is how we settle things.”
He held up a fist.