The Common Good
June 2008

One Man, One Clip

by Ed Spivey Jr. | June 2008

The Supreme Court is about to rule on guns. Be afraid.

As you read this, the U.S. Su­preme Court is in its final stages of pretending to carefully consider the constitutionality of Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns. The oral arguments in March hinted at the final decision, given that, while questioning counsel, Justice An­tonin Scalia was also cleaning his Glock 9mm automatic and at one point sent his clerk out to get more bore oil. (Without frequent oiling—and I don’t have to tell you this—burned powder can build up and foul the muzzle.)

Any day now the high court could hand down its decision, which most legal experts predict will overturn the gun ban, thus validating the National Rifle Association’s long-held belief that, when crafting the Second Amendment, the founders made a clerical error by using the word “militias” instead of “any bunch of fun-loving guys with a few beers and a machine gun.”

On the other hand, there is a chance that D.C.’s 32-year-old gun ban will stand, a ruling the court would announce by releasing dozens of flying monkeys—each wearing a decorative fez hat—into the skies above our city. Although this seems far-fetched (the ruling, not the monkey part).

For what it’s worth, most Supreme Court justices do not live in the District of Columbia, preferring the suburban security of nearby pro-gun states Maryland and Virginia (motto: “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”)

Having no vote in Congress and thus unaccustomed to the full benefits of that whachacallit “democracy” thingie, D.C. residents had nonetheless hoped the majority will of our citizens would prevail. Although the court is mainly concerned about an individual’s right to have a gun for self-protection, logic—not to mention facts, statistics, and ambulances that have to be hosed out every night—refutes this. Handguns are, in fact, used primarily in crimes of passion against family members, in deadly force against individuals and police officers, and in acts of suicide. Apprised of these truths by counsel for the District—which, by the way, has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country—the majority of justices replied by quoting a favorite axiom of Vice President Dick Cheney: “So?”

(Cheney made this statement when reminded that the majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq. He also added, off the record, “... bunch of morons.”)

In telegraphing their views, the conservative members of the court appeared to cling to the argument that guns are particularly necessary against criminal home invasion, a fearful event on anyone’s list of things they don’t want to happen, such as more air time for Ryan Seacrest. Granted, a handgun is a powerful negotiating tool with unexpected intruders, and it quickly compensates for the Disney-themed pajamas in which a homeowner would confront them. But home invasion almost never happens—it is statistically far less likely than a lottery win—compared to the proven societal negatives of a citizenry bristling with handguns.

Our only hope is the “reasonable regulation” that the court agreed could be applied to gun ownership, which means the District government can make people jump through hoops to qualify. And I’m hoping they’ll be actual hoops, maybe flaming ones, with crocodiles on one side and a poison ivy patch on the other. And, when jumping through, you’d have to be barefoot and wear a funny hat, and one of those red clown noses. While singing your ABCs, backwards. At the DMV.

BUT PERHAPS WE should face the inevitable, set aside our prejudices, and start enjoying the many benefits of handgun ownership, such as streamlining consensus decision-making and expediting slow-moving service providers. For example, fast food gets a lot faster when you walk up to the drive-through window and say, with quiet dignity, “I don’t have a car, but I’ve got a gun, and I don’t want to see one pickle—not a single one—on my Cheesy Bacon Wrap. Under­stand?” Customer service is bound to improve.

The hardest part will be choosing which particular handgun to keep loaded and cocked at your bedside and, when venturing out, what type of holster will best convey your self-protection spirit. There’s the low-slung design, which combines Western styling with fast-draw utility, but can cause chafing. Or you might prefer the more comfortable waist-high position, which tends to bind when sitting in those overstuffed chairs at Starbucks. And which style is best for running and firing wildly during a citizen’s arrest? Important questions, since with all those new firearms out there, the city will definitely need more gun nuts to take the law into their own hands and help protect us. It’s what the founders would have wanted.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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