Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Thee Liberal Lawman"

The State of Arizona is about to, or is talking about at least, designating the Colt the “Official State Gun.” This is the same state where, only months ago, nineteen people were tragically gunned down. The argument can be made, of course, that they were not gunned down with a Colt. It was a Glock. So it’s not the same thing. It’s like comparing apples and apples manufactured in Germany.

Gun rights advocates famously proclaim, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” My observation on this matter adds only two words to that pronouncement:

“People with guns kill people.”

It’s true that a gun has never fired itself. It doesn’t have any fingers. Or carry a grudge. It is also true, however, that, among thousands of other victims, all of our assassinated presidents were gunned down with guns. Hence the term, “gunned down.”

No president was ever “gunned down” with a knife. No president was ever “gunned down” with a blow dart. No president was ever “gunned down” with a sharp pin, with maybe a little poison on the end of it. All of our slain presidents – Lincoln, Garfied, McKinley and Kennedy – were gunned down – one hundred percent of them – with guns.

“So what?” you say. So there were guns involved. That doesn’t prove anything. Well… maybe not. Though it does seem a little suspicious. If thousands of people were dying, and there were mushrooms in the vicinity, a thoughtful observer might conclude: “Call me crazy, but I have a feeling mushrooms had something to do with this.” But with guns, there is no connection.

Okay. I have no credibility here. I know that. I was born in Canada, where people don’t own guns, by which I mean handguns. In Canada, the most serious threat to life and limb is a guy saying, “You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’.” After which, they would generally walk away, but you’d still feel shaken by the disruption in civility.

I know nobody’ll listen to me on this matter. (Or possibly any others.) But there was a man who lived a hundred and thirty years ago whose beliefs matched those of this humble Canadian gun atheist; maybe you’ll listen to him. The man, coincidentally, did some of his most noteworthy work in the state of Arizona.

He was the marshal of Tombstone. His name was Wyatt Earp.

Wyatt Earp – the Liberal Lawman.

Sounds crazy, no? – as Tevye might say. But it’s true. Why do I call Wyatt Earp a liberal? Listen to what he did, and then you decide how to classify his behavior.

As marshal of Tombstone, Wyatt Earp enforced an ordinance, requiring any cowboy, or cowgirl, riding in to town to check his or her gun, or guns, as the case may be, at the City Limits, the gun, or guns, to be returned to them on their way out of town.

Wyatt Earp took away the guns. What else could you call that but liberal?

Why did Wyatt Earp, who was not known to be a liberal in any other aspect of his life – he was not known to recycle, champion gay marriage, or demand that the rich shoulder their fair share of the tax burden – confiscate people’s guns when they came into town? Let’s listen to him explain his actions, in his own (made up) words:

“Why did I confiscate the guns? Well, let’s see, now. Besides, bein’ marshal, I also ran the town’s gambling operation. Now before we had the ordinance, these cowboys’d come in, they’d want to show off their shootin’ skills, to impress some dancehall girl, or to just to see who was the best shot. ‘Course, that would be me, but I chose not to participate.

“They’d say, ‘Hold up that Ace of Spades.’ Then they’d pull their guns, and try and shoot ‘er dead center. Well, sir, this led to a lot of shot-up Aces of Spades. After that, there was no way you could use ‘em anymore. A player’s sittin’ at the table, his hand fanned out in front of him, and one of the cards he’s holdin’ has a hole through it. It don’t take no genius to figure out what it is.

“Those shot-up Aces of Spades were plumb useless.

“Well, of course, you can’t send away for one card. You’d have to order a whole new deck. Now this may sound like nuthin’, but you’re orderin’ ten, twenty new decks a week – because all the Aces of Spades had been shot to pieces – it can really eat into your profits.

“And, consarn it – pardon my language – but as soon as them fresh decks’d come in, I mean, you’d just slip off the wrapper, and there’d be some no-‘count desperado blastin’ away at the new Aces of Spades.

“Some nights, we’d have to close down the entire operation. ‘Sorry, boys, they’re all fifty-one carders.’

“Well, sir, I said, ‘Enough is enough.’ And I got this ordinance passed – ‘No guns within the City Limits.’ Since then, we’re all playin’ with full decks.

“Is that the real reason I took away the guns? Nah, I was just funnin’ ya. I can’t help it. A comedy writer’s writin’ my dialogue.

“The question seems plumb stupid to me, like ‘Why’d you step off the tracks when the train was comin’?’ I mean, think of the reality here. Cowboy walks into a bar, gets all likkered up, and before you know it, he’s in a fight. If he’s totin’ a gun, somebody gets themselves killed. If he ain’t totin’ a gun, they don’t.

“Why do I take away the guns? Because

“People with guns kill people. And people without guns don’t.”

“Is it constitutional to take away people’s guns? Well, you know, it’s embarrassin’ to tell it, but I was fordin’ this river, one time, and my pocket copy of the Constitution fell out of my pocket, and got carried away. That wasn’t the comedy writer pullin’ your leg there, that was me. Look, I don’t know diddly about the Constitution. But what I do know is this:

“After the ordinance, the town of Tombstone was lot safer for people and playin’ cards.”

Don’t listen to me, folks. Listen to Wyatt Earp..


Anonymous said...

I love this post, on so many levels:

I learned something about writing appropriate to the gravity of the topic without sounding heavy.

"... you’d still feel shaken by the disruption in civility." LOL! Funny because it's true.

Simple logic is so difficult to dance around. No matter how people dress it up, there are simple laws of physics: You can't kill as many people as quickly with one knife as you can with six bullets. What is so hard about that?

Keith said...

All day and no controversy has been sparked? Okay, I'll take a stab at it. Restrictive laws aren't liberal - they're the opposite of liberal.

This is the point where everyone covers their childrens' ears.

Gun control is a socially conservative position. Gun rights is a socially liberal position.

That's the best I got.

mike said...

The Second Amendment reads, 'A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.'
Got that? A well regulated militia. Not every yahoo who's been whipped into a paranoid frenzy by the right-wing propaganda that passes for media in this country, not every fellow who is compensating for having a teeny wiener, not every psychopath who can't control his blood lust, but a well regulated militia.

Anonymous said...

Well sir the right to own a firearm is the law. And that kansas lawman didn't have vicious swarms of people in his city limits drooling at the mouth to molest, rape, rob, torture, pillage, and kill. Also if you don't like our constitution or civil rights then you are not an american. You know where the border is, get to walking.