I want to relate a few things to you that I believe are central in helping to set the stage for what I feel is one of the real key issues in America today. I recently came across the famous painting done by the great American artist Norman Rockwell of a simple man standing up to speak his piece at a town meeting.
It is called FREEDOM OF SPEECH and was done to raise money for the war effort in World War II.
It could be anywhere in the land but the image of the New England town meeting comes to mind where citizens assembled and were able to give their opinion on a subject of local concern before a vote or action was taken by their representatives or the amassed crowd. The ability to speak out freely without fear of threat or violence or intimidation is central to our way of life.
Study the painting for a minute and then ask yourself if the message would change significantly if the man was in crowd where heavilly armed men, angry and scowling at him for saying something they did not like were allowed to be in that crowd because they have a "right" to openly carry the firearm of their choice?
Is that the political process we want to encourage? Is that the America we want for ourselves and for our posterity?
Last year I was working in Lansing, Michigan at the state capitol and saw something which disgusted me. As on almost every spring or fall day when the legislature is in session, scores of school busses from all over the state show up starting early in the morning and hundreds if not thousands of school children flood the capitol with their teachers and other adults to get a first hand view of their state government. Last year, a group in Michigan which wants to promote what they call "gun rights" including open carry, showed up in force and in mass on one of these days in their camo and fatigues with weapons on hips and backs and sometimes both.
With the memory of Sandy Hook still vivid, children became upset at seeing armed men in the capitol who were NOT cops nor soldiers and trips were aborted and the busses packed in haste and the capitol was virtually empty of kids in an hour or two. All because some grown men wanted to strut around with their macho toys. And spare me the contempt about my use of the langauge. These guys were yahoos pure and simple and I do not give two craps about what you think their rights are.
Their conduct negated the ability of hundreds if not thousands of school kids to further their education that day. And spare me the crap about educating kids to the wonders of what you think the Second Amendment is. Yeah - the could have visited a brothel also and been educated to that. But that was NOT the purpose of that day.
So regardless of what you think about my reaction to this - it brings up a central question about the competing future of America.
It is a fact that the gun lobby and many of their supporters push open carry and want to see it become commonplace across the land. It is a fact that they want to remove restrictions on the type of weapons one can carry and even obtain. They want to oppose any effort to limit magazine size or to prohibit automatic weapons and they proudly brag about taking their own security into their own hands and not depending on the police for their safety and appear to look with scorn and contempt at anyone who does not behave nor believe as they do.
Recently we saw in Nevada where large numbers of heavily armed men came out to show support for somebody they believed was being mistreated by the government. Their show of force was so convincing and so intimidating that the government backed down to them in a show of what some would call intelligent restraint while others might characterize it as outright cowardice and rewarding domestic terrorism.
Guns guns and more guns taking a place front and center in society and taking a place that is far more obvious and far more intrusive than anything we have seen in what we thought was the normal everyday America that most of us grew up with.
SO HERE IS THE QUESTION: if the gun lobby and their supporters get their way, do you want to live in an America where openly armed men are commonplace in our streets, in our buildings, in our halls, in our stores, and just about everywhere? Do you want to live in an America where when you yell at a ballplayer on the field somebody with that jersey on a few rows ahead of you stands up, yells back at you to shut up and is wearing a firearm in a clear sign of intimidation? Would it cause you concern and outright fright if you and your family to be eating at a restaurant when two fella's walk in wearing camo with guns on their back and hips and they are clearly not police nor soldiers?
In short - is that the America you want to live in? Is a gun centric America that apparently the far right fantasizes about a dream or is it a nightmare?
I was born in 49 and as I grew up in the Fifties and Sixties you never saw armed men in public who were not police or soldiers. It simply did not happen. People used personal restraint and exercised common sense and knew better than to scare the daylights out of their neighbors and community. In fact, imagine what would have happened if a man with a long fun had started walking down most streets in America during those years - let alone scores of them taking over the ground of the state capitol.
So how do you fell about living in a future America where the gun lobby continues to prevail and guns are worn by more people and worn more openly and become more and more a fixture in our daily lives and activities?
Is that the America you want you and your children to live in?