restricted the importation of foreign guns, particularly the 6 . 5 m m Mannlicher-Carcano carbine. His bill failed. Five years later Lee Harvey Oswald clipped a coupon from The American Rifleman, ordered a Carcano and went out to murder Kennedy. Yet it was not the murder of John Kennedy but the murder of Robert Kennedy that solicited enough votes to pass the feeble, useless Gun Control Act of 1968. In a fit of black humor one WaShington gun control crusader observed recently: “What we need to get this [gun bill] off the ground is a few more assassinations.” This .is no doubt an accurate reading of conditions. The Nixon administration takes the position that “the results of the 1968 act are still inconclusive.” They are likely to remain that way. Besides, a spokesman told a Congressional hearing a few days before the Violence Commission report, “Federal registration and licensing proposals . . . constitute an unwarranted invasion into the province of state and local government.” The Justice Department’s Na. 1 crime crusader, assistant attorney general Will Wilson, disqualified himself from an interview on the grounds that he owns part interest in a Dallas gun store, so I was referred to a much younger Nixon man, an associate deputy attorney general, Don Santarelli. Candid, highly intelligent, in perfect harmony with his ideology \(his hero, I speculated, was more apt to be Andrew Santarelli discussed firearms so dispassionately that the subject might have been bananas. It turned out that he had been one of Nixon’s spokesmen at the gun hearings. I asked him if the administration was embarrased by the unfortunate timing of the Violence Commission’s recommendation, coming as it did on the heels of his testimony that additional gun control measures were unnecessary. “No,” he said at once. “We had a good idea where the commission was headed. Frankly, the commission is loaded on the liberal side.” 4 Santarelli made this point: “When you consider policy \(or proposed it creates. Maybe people are not in danger, but they believe themselves to be. One area quiet hysteria, to persuade people to be of an opinion. Maybe the public doesn’t need guns, but at the moment it feels that it does.” In the same context Santarelli admitted that there was one gun control measure under consideration, a proposal to outlaw known as the Saturday Night Special. Since the secretary of the treasury put tight import controls on the SNS, American industry has more than picked up the scent: last year 60,000 SNSs were manufactured in this country, and it is estimated that 700,000 will come out of the molds this year. Since these pistols are made of the cheapest possible metal, the administration is toying with the idea of pushing an arbitrary “melting point” on legal handguns. In other words, keep guns out of the hands of people who can’t afford them. BACK IN AUSTIN, I drove to the eastside, past Mrs. Loper’s apartment where a man in a tan service uniform was mopping up, making the unit ready for its first new occupant in 14 years. I talked for a while to a woman who runs the housing Merry Christmas Austin Among items featured in a newspaper ad addressed to Christmas shoppers by a Dallas sporting goods store: “Your personal bodyguard G-G 31 tear gas gun! Perfect for women! Fits palm or purse. Not a toy! A potent defensive weapon. Four-cartridge capacity. Highly effective, but non-lethal. Special, $19.95.” project and she pointed out where the killer lived. You could see it from Mrs. Loper’s place. The killer was a.62-year-old blind black pensioner named Tom. Tom had lived down the ‘ street longer than neighbors could remember, longer than Mrs. Loper had been , a neighbor. If you can call someone you’ve never met a neighbor. But there were:kids playing in the street, white kids and black kids, just as there had been that night Mrs. Loper was killed. Tom told police he was sitting on his front porch behind a field of bedsprings, old tires; and dry waist-high Johnson grass, just rocking and enjoying the view when he heard sorr1ething rustling in the weeds. Some kids had been making fun of him, throwing rpcks and threatening his wife, so he had bought a gun. It was in his lap on the night in question, he heard menacing noises, he raised the gun, and he fired. Two hundred and ninety-three feet away Mrs. Loper bent over a garbage bin, emptying her last pail of garbage. According to local custom Taylor was bound over to the grand jury, which immediately indicted him for second degree negligent homicide. In Texas, first degree negligent homicide is the taking of a human life while committing a legal act years or $2,000. Second degree NH is the taking of a human life while committing an illegal act \(in Taylor’s case discharging a is three years or $3,000. Since Taylor and his invalid wife existed on less than $3,000 a year, what followed was more local custom: Taylor was held without bond in county jail. I asked Austin Sgt.-Inv. James Freeman about Taylor and the pistol and the whole freaky mess. “Man’s got a right to defend his home,” said Freeman. “I guess so.” “You can’t no more outlaw guns and keep people from getting one than you can dope.” “Even if he’s blind?” “It’s against the first amendment!,” another detective said bluntly, as though it really were. “You mean the second amendment?” “Whatever the hell it is!,” the detective said, anger swelling in his strawberry pudding face. “All that nigger did wrong was pull the trigger. He shouldn’t of ever pulled that trigger.” FOOTNOTES 1.The figures, except for the estimate of 240 murders annually in Houston, are taken from Carl Bakal’s book The Right To Bear Arms \(McGraw, Houston is roughly , the number of murders in that city in recent years, as reported in the press. All figures cited in this sentence are murders by firearms only. 2.Bakal’s book. 3.The so-called “unwritten law” is written in Texas. There are no statistics on how many men shoot their wives’ lovers and frequently their wives, too because, as an Austin lawyer explains: “The custom is that they are never indicted.” The law, incidently, does not extend the same privilege to women. There is no end to local custom in Texas. See the Observer of March 19, 1965, pages 10-12, and Feb. 3, 1967, page 14, for a discussion on the quest in the Legislature for equal shooting rights for women in Texas. 4.Nine of the 13 commission members adopted the report “enthusiastically.” Four registered “mild” dissent. Those adopting the policy statement were chairman Milton Eisenhower; Judge A. Leon Higginbotham; Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York; Mrs. Patricia Roberts Harris, the educator; Sen. Philip A. Hart, Democrat of Michigan; Eric Hoffer, writer-philosopher;’Albert E. Jenner Jr., Chicago lawyer; Cong. William M. McCulloch, Republican of Ohio; and Dr. W. Walter Menninger, the psychiatrist. The mildly dissenting members were Sen. Roman L. Hruska, Republican of Nebraska; Cong. Hale Boggs, Democrat of Louisiana; Judge Ernest W. McFarland, presiding member of the Arizona Supreme Court; and Leon Jaworski, Houston lawyer. rat ekteama4 74ite As older folk indulge remembering, All children celebrate Decembering. The grown ups go about the village shopping While children look in windows, hopping, hopping And messages of love go winging, winging And all the children come home singing, singing. VIRGINIA McMILLION La Grange December 19, 1969
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