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Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 1999


  Wash. Post


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Dazed and confused

Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / August 18, 1999

So..here we go again. In December of last year I wrote a column about the NRA. That’s theNational Rifle Association. In it, I said that the NRA, by refusing tocompromise and assist in getting certain types of guns off the market, would become their own worst enemy. At the time, only Chicago and NewOrleans and maybe one or two other cities had sued the gun manufacturers.

I predicted that other cities would soon be standing in line to sue, and that the NRA and the gun manufacturers would be spending more than the gross national income of Guatemala to defend themselves. At this time Iwould like to take a moment and reflect in a mature fashion about my prediction.

TOLD YOU! City after city have now lined up to sue gun companies. I don’t know justwhat the count is right now but I recently read an article putting the number at 23. That’s lot of lawsuits. And its going to cost a bundle todefend against them. In last year’s column, I said that the NRA and theirlobbyists were fighting a losing battle by defending all guns, everywhere, all the time, and I questioned the reason to have assault style weapons on the street.

Boy, did that hack some people off. I was accused of being everything froma flaming liberal to a fascist who was advocating that the Feds come and kick in people’s doors and take their guns, neither of which do I endorse. Iendorse reason and common sense. It seems that writing anything thatproposes some reasonable measure of – here’s that phrase that causes heart palpitations – sweaty palms, wild eyed fanaticism, and Constitution waving GUN CONTROL is a lightning rod for criticism. I never said anyoneshould come and get the guns, what I said was the manufacturers should stop selling certain types. The market will dry up on its own after a while.I think that the NRA is wrong for defending all guns all the time. They’llfight to the last, though, like the Black Knight in “Monty Python And The Holy Grail”. He fought until he had lost all his arms and legs, then said,”All right. We’ll call it a draw.” He still wouldn’t give it up, even whendefeated. That’s gonna happen to the NRA, too. The lawsuits and activistswill take chunk after chunk until the NRA is forced to call it a draw. But,there’s a flip side to that.

I think those lawsuits miss the mark, too. The cities are suing because ofa variety of reasons, some of them nonsense, some not. Unsafe products,lack of marketing controls and, most recently, because one ethnic group seems to suffer more casualties than anyone else, are just some of the suits. My question for both sides is this: Why don’t we have laws on the books that make the penalties for using a gun to commit a crime so severe that even the stupidest pinhead thug would think twice before doing so? To use a firearm in a robbery should be a flat 20-year term. No good time, no parole. If the thug shoots someonewith it, it should be life, also without parole. And if they shoot someoneand the victim dies, well, do the math. But, does anyone endorse that? No,they don’t. They’ll endorse ridiculous, pointless laws like just selling onegun a month to a buyer. Excuse me, Sparky, it only takes one gun to killyou. And before any group out there starts hollering that those sentencesare cruel and unusual punishment, well, so is being shot through the spine for $20 in a cash register.

I have a message for the NRA. Stop defending assault style weapons andhelp get them off the street by endorsing a “no sale” policy. They’re notsporting guns, they’re people-killers, and your defense of them is only hurting your cause. You’re right. We have the right to have guns, but yourdefense of those types of guns is going to put all that in jeopardy. Becausethere are people out there who really DO want to take the guns away, all the guns, and they will point and say, see, there is no compromise here.

And with each highly publicized incident they get a little closer to winning. As I write this, the powerful state of New York has announced itsintention to join in the lawsuit parade, and Colt and another gun maker have broken ranks with the NRA and are negotiating. Another chunk gonefrom the NRA’s Black Knight.

And I have a message for all those lawsuit-happy municipalities and organizations. If you want to sue somebody, sue your local legislature forfailing to consider and enact laws with crippling penalties for misuse of a firearm. Americans have the right to have guns, but nobody has the right tomisuse one. You lawmakers out there need to do something about it. Butinstead, you bicker among each other and pass ineffectual politically correct laws that help nothing. Except to get you re-elected, that is.Effective laws of that nature won’t happen, though. After all, we live in acountry where you can literally do more time in jail for shooting an eagle than for shooting a convenience store clerk.

Lee Dresselhaus is a regular columnist for L’Observateur

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