The Common Good
November-December 2003

Safety First

by Ed Spivey Jr. | November-December 2003

Without guns, one cannot shoot things, where would that leave us?

Over the summer, an important initiative was launched to make our nation's capital an even safer place to live, depending on how quickly you can purchase a bullet-proof vest.

But, you may well ask in italics, doesn't Washington, D.C., already have nine separate police forces, as well as daily over-flights by F-15 Eagles and armed helicopter gunships? Absolutely, I would reply from inside my home, since I seldom venture out and attract the attentions of armed helicopter gunships. (CO-pilot: Hey, the guy in that backyard is either igniting a barbecue grill or a thermo-nuclear device! Should we call this in? pilot: Nah. We'll handle it. Eat lead, possible terrorist!)

Given these considerable protections, it may seem surprising that Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch wants to ensure an even greater level of security by repealing Washington, D.C.'s 27-year-old ban on handguns, thus enabling citizens to "better protect themselves."

It's about time.

D.C.'s archaic gun law—barely enacted by an overwhelming majority of city voters—prevents a law-abiding D.C. resident from defending himself from an intruder who, in broad daylight and disguised as a possible mail carrier, might attempt to open his front door unannounced. The point is, citizens have a right to protect themselves from strangers who attempt to invade the sanctity of their homes or, in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses, their front porches.

(Facetiousness aside—but just for a moment—one day last summer I was quietly walking through the sanctity of my own home when I discovered Jehovah's Witnesses standing in my living room! It was a hot day, and a member of my family had foolishly assumed the New Testament imperative to welcome the stranger applies to EVERYBODY, even though Jesus clearly intended for there to be exceptions, Jehovah's Witnesses chief among them. After all, they are the pit bulls of unwanted conversation, never letting go of their unsolicited theological opinions until, exhausted, you finally relent and promise to read a Watchtower. Anyway, they had kindly been offered cool drinks to relieve the heat of the day and they wouldn't leave until, in desperation, I told them that the neighbor across the street had once asked me about the Godhead. They scrambled out the door like bloodhounds on the scent. Fortunately, after I sandbagged our front steps, they haven't returned.)

But back to this gun controversy. Who better to understand the unique challenges of urban life than Orrin Hatch, senator from Utah, a sparsely populated rural state comprised mainly of Mormons, who are kind of like Jehovah's Witnesses, only with a bigger choir. Also, the senator resides in a D.C. suburb and travels by limousine, thus further informing him of what life is like on the dangerous, Starbucks-laden streets of our city.

In fairness, Hatch has little else to do these days since his main job in Congress—obstructing Clinton judicial nominees—doesn't really apply anymore. Maybe the real reason the senator is thwarting the will of the electorate is because it offers a nice balance to his other pursuit: singing patriotic religious songs and selling them on his Web site. With songs like "Sweet Gentleness" and "Where the Marble Gardens Grow," he might need a gun or two to stop people from going "Ewww! Ewwwww!" whenever he walks by.

On second thought, maybe we should re-think the fact that most D.C. residents foolishly walk around without guns in their hands. After all, American soldiers allow each Iraqi family to have one assault rifle, so why can't I have one? Or a couple, for that matter. Although, I admit I haven't carried a weapon since my rubber band gun—a surprise birthday present—was summarily taken away from me. I had been using it as an instructive tool, patiently teaching squirrels to not climb on the bird feeder, when a meddling offspring noticed the hideous grin on my face and shouted, "DAD! You can't use a gun to SHOOT THINGS! It's not right!"

But I LIKE to shoot things, I should have replied, bringing logic to bear, and thus stating the strongest moral argument for gun ownership. After all, without guns one cannot shoot things, and where would that leave us? With squirrels and terrorists climbing on our bird feeders, that's where! So, I say, "Wake up, Washingtonians!" (also "FREEZE!" and "Come on, make my day!") and get the confidence and swagger that comes—free of charge—with every sidearm. After all, we can't expect the hard-working crews of helicopter gunships to solve all of our city's problems, can we?

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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