I knew I was gonna say something. I told myself, “No…don’t…you won’t win…you can’t win.”
It was outside of a Starbucks of all things. I stopped on this beautiful day to sit outside, catch up on my book and wind down after a tough day. The three guys sitting at the table next to me, leathery old men with jeans and oil-stained shirts and caps. Hard-working, good men. They were lamenting a news story about a discussion that was taking place uptown tonight on the subject of the second amendment. As they carried on about the world going to Hell with all the liberals who want to take away their rights, their voices got louder.
One of them turned to me and apologized for getting so loud while I read. “Sorry, friend. It’s just fuckin’ crazy. Don’t you think so?”
Okay…the moment of truth was at hand. I smiled and said, “No worries. You’ve gotta have a voice on this stuff. Mine isn’t one you really want to hear on that one though.”
Jim (the name on his shirt) gripped the arms of his chair and turned it a few degrees my way. “Awe, tell me your not one of those freaks who thinks our guns should be taken away.” I laughed and said I don’t know about the “freak” part, and I support the second amendment; but that I think it has been misinterpreted, abused, and used for evil and not good.
“Oh shit, we got us one here, boys” he said. I replied, “You asked.” “So, what is your excuse for taking my gun away?” he asked. I asked if he really wanted to talk about it. “Sure, why not?” I’ll give him credit for not writing me off at that moment. Hope for Democracy and the First Amendment as well. I explained that my worry was over the abuse of the amendment in this era; assault weapons, background checks, all the usual suspects for those of us “freaks” on the more left of the double-barrel of the draft from 1791.
I asked, “How many guns do you have?” My table mate replied, “Oh, I would say fifteen or twenty.” I asked if he had any automatic weapons or any that might be considered assault. “Hell yeah. I want to line up the liberals like you and mow ya down.” We all laughed. “Just kiddin’” he said. (I’m not so sure) I asked what he thought the purpose of the amendment really is. Glazed, he said, “To allow me to protect myself.” I let him know that that was only one of a host of reasons the amendment was created, and hardly ever a factor in today’s society.” “Hell yeah, it is,” he argued. My recollection of the entire set of variables was weak, but I spit out what I knew of the general intent. “No, it had a lot to do with the possibility of the need for a militia in the event of an invasion; protecting against a government gone undemocratic; and helping in law enforcement. I acknowledged that there were others, but that my constitutional recollection was hazy at the moment.
I then asked the most rhetorical question in the world: “How many times have you used your guns for any of those purposes? More importantly, how many deaths in our country have been attributed to the use of arms for THOSE purposes?” He looked at me like I was Sasquatch. “It don’t matter; it’s my right.” I said, “You’re right, it’s your right. And it’s mine to think we should make it a little harder for those who abuse that right to get a gun.” I thought we would have an amicable and appreciative parting.
“Well, I hope ya never come to Lancaster County. You might just get shot.” He didn’t smile. I ended with this parting, and ill-advised shot of my own: “What were you doing in 1964?”
He replied, I was just a young pup, you know that, boy. But I would have fought just as hard then.” I asked, “Would you have fought just as hard for the rights of humans and their civil rights as you do for your gun today?”
Sasquatch, again. “Oh shit. You’re one of those too,” he replied. “I rest my case,” is all I could say.
I closed my book, looked up at the sky in tribute to my father who fought for the rights of humans around the planet, including the small-minded and ignorant who sat outside of this little coffee house.