willing to discipline itself: we’ve been too lax for too long.” Speir, a large man who looks like a Texas Ranger miscast as Judge Stone in an Andy Hardy movie, went on to point out that the courts have become “too technical,” this greased by the fact that “here in Texas we haven’t executed anyone in five years.” “I would be all for some kind of waiting period,” Speir said as an afterthought. “It would give us time to check on who’s buying the guns.” FOR REASONS that I do not pretend to understand the proponents of gun control seem to be concerned with human lives while the opponents are preoccupied with property and pride and paranoia: It’s like they’re saying “Everyone who doesn’t have a gun get in that other line over there.” For example, the NRA secretary denied that his organization automatically opposes gun licensing. “On the contrary,” Daniel said, “we believe that certain categories of people should be licensed to carry concealed weapons \(i.e., owner of a jewelry store, for example, who carries home valuable samples. Doctors who operate in bad neighborhoods with a satchel full of drugs. But the law should be specific on who could and who could not. . . .” “What about people who live in a bad neighborhood,” I interrupted. “If a jewelry store owner has the right to protect his jewelry, does it follow that a man walking the streets has the same right to protect his life?” Daniel considered this. “Yes,” he concluded. “I would have to say yes.” “Isn’t this leading us to that nasty word I keep reading about anarchy? Men taking the law into their own hands.” “Those reports,” Daniel told me, “are greatly exaggerated.” When Representative Graves introduced his gun bill in the Texas House, outdoor columnists for various state newspapers took pot shots at him, including this from Henry Stowers in the Dallas Morning News: “. . . I’m not sure [the bill] is not meant that I and a million other handgun owners would be inconvenienced [my italics] by getting a license application to the sheriff and chief of police who will decide whether or not we are worthy of such trust. If such inconvenience would save a single life then those of us who oppose more gun legislation would be all for it. But would it?” The evidence that it would is staggering. Chicago Police Comdr. Francis Flanagan said a mouthful when in a TV interview following that city’s 600th homicide of 1968 he reported curtly: “There was a -domestic fight. A gun was there. And then somebody was dead. If you have described one you have described them all.” 4 The Texas Observer Former Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark once said: “We think we know that about 85% of all murders are within families or between neighbors and friends. This means that if you’re really frightened . . . about murder, the thing to do is get away from your family and have no friends or neighbors.” THE VIOLENCE Commission has stumbled onto a puzzle in the pattern of our paranoia. Why the handgun? Why not the shotgun, which is more menacing and versatile, easier to aim and less likely to kill? The answer is pop psychology: the pistol is to the shotgun as John Wayne is to Walter Brennan. A pistol is sexy. In his thoroughly documented book, A Right to Bear Arms, gun opponent Carl Baker records this conversation with a psychiatrist friend, Dr. Alfred J. Siegman: “Is such symbolism attached to the [hand] gun because of its size and shape?” “Well, not only for that reason,” he said. “It pierces, it penetrates, it discharges, much like the penis.” Cowboys strapped it Ralph White around their waists: it occupied their thoughts. In modern times it is concealed. Instead of being attracted by the light its sexual renaissance is moving toward the shadows. At a party one night I drew another psychiatrist, Dr. Bud A. Edwin, into a discussion on the mystique of the gun. “It’s the Dick-and-Perry Syndrome,” he said, referring to the killers made infamous by the best seller, “In Cold Blood.” “It’s the primeval anxiety of the nest being open to attack attack by the primeval intruder. This is one reason that men of goodwill keep and bear arms in a society where the original concept of the language is an anachronism. It is truly an American phenomenon. The other reason that men of goodwill keep and bear arms is the if/when of a coming revolution. The mature American, instead of counting his blessings, is categorizing his enemies. I don’t include two groups. I don’t include hunters . . . and I don’t include punks, criminals, and homicidal maniacs who need a gun for sex or status. I’m talking about men of goodwill.” Reporting at the request of the Violence Commission, Dr. Donald E. Newman, director of psychiatric services at the Peninsula Hospital and Medical Center, Burlingame, Calif., discovered that “some of the most violent men [interviewed in a California prison] would clearly welcome a return to the good old days” when fists, or even cars, satisfied primitive psychological needs. Five of those interviewed independently picked 1967 as the turning point in the escalation from tire chains and knives to guns. They don’t like it, but that is the new game. “As with atomic weapons and small nations,” Dr. Newman reported, “the gun on the street allows the weakest to join the superman club.” Concluded Dr. Newman: “Whatever else a gun may be, it is clearly not simply another weapon, an inanimate object playing a passive role. To these young men it is very much alive.” It is easy enough to dismiss the mystique of the firearm in America when you are talking about the nut or the thug, the paramilitary right or the militant left. But explain this editorial . . . better yet, try and guess which extremist magazine printed it in April, 1964: WE BELIEVE that no law which lacks either enforceability or public respect, or which is devised merely as a further extension of police authority or which would turn law-abiding citizens into either deliberate or unknowing violators, can be legally or morally justified…” The subject here is not marijuana or draft evasion, it’s guns. The right to keep and bear arms. And the magazine is not The Black Panther, it’s Field & Stream, one of the leading establishmentarian voices of the American sportsman. N0 LESS ironic is the politics of gun control. Idaho’s Frank Church, one of the more enlightened members of the Senate, is an outspoken critic of gun control. In 1958 Sen. John F. Kennedy introduced a gun bill for the purpose of protecting not human life but the firearms industry. His proposal would have
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