Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ain't nobody gonna take my guns!

In the mid-1990s, while going through divorce litigation, I read Gail Sheehy's book Pathfinders. Besides the inspiration Sheehy provided during a difficult time for me, I found her writing style particularly engaging. So, recently when she announced that her memoir, Daring: My Passages would be released on June 23rd, I pre-ordered and began reading it last night.

This evening, I came across an intriguing passage. Sheehy had been tapped to cover the 1968 presidential campaign of Bobby Kennedy for New York Magazine. About a campaign stop in Oregon, Sheehy writes (from pages 62-63 of the paperback edition of Daring),
John Birchers were out in force, waving professionally printed signs: PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO KEEP AND BARE ARMS.
A woman holding a McCarthy sign stopped him; "I hear your dog bites."
"He only bites children." Kennedy's quick wit usually melted hecklers, but in this place it was not working. The woman grew surlier. "They say you're ruthless." He flashed his big, blunt, uncontainable eighty-eight keyboard smile. "Now, can anybody with a smile like this be ruthless?"
A young man tapped him on the shoulder. "I've been waitin' two hours to tell you, I'll shoot somebody before I see a Nazi like you in the White House." Kennedy pretended not to hear. Now the senator climbed halfway up the steps of the Douglas County Courthouse. He turned, and in full unprotected view, looked down the barrels of this mostly hostile crowd and tried to engage them in a friendly debate. This was courage. 
"I hear the local radio station said, 'Vote against Robert Kennedy because he's going to take your guns away," he said. "I'd like one of you to come here and explain that issue to me."
A young man approached him. Kennedy looped his arm over the man's shoulder. "I know some of you are volunteers with the sheriff's posse. Did you know that 90 percent of the policemen who've been shot and killed in the United States in last two years have been shot by people who shouldn't have guns -- people with criminal records or who have been judged insane?"
On June 4th, just a week after losing the Oregon primary, Kennedy won the California contest. Just after midnight, that evening, RFK was shot. He died in the hospital a day later.

That was 1968. Forty-seven years ago. Today, thanks to financial (charitable) contributions from longtime Birchers, the Koch brothers have reinvigorated the movement in the form of the Tea Party. The schtick about a Democratic president planning to "take away your guns" rages more fervently than ever. Yet now, it gets amplified by Wayne LaPierre and (ALEC member) National Rifle Association, especially and immediately after mass shootings like Sandy Hook and the latest, in Charleston.

Sheehy has to some extent influenced me. I hope to continue writing for many years to come.

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