For Their Country

This year I’ve been within a handshake reach of more politicians than I ever met in my life. John Kerry was at Obama headquarters downtown before the primary, with Linc Chafee and other dignitaries. On election day I was holding an Obama sign next to Myrth York and Sheldon Whitehouse, whom I regret to say were not holding Obama signs.

We want our politicians to meet us face to face. We put so much expectation and hope, and give so much power to the people we elect. But they are only human. Running through an exhausting schedule of speeches and meetings and interviews, with every word liable to be pulled out of context and used as a sound-bite has got to be an ordeal.

In the Tuesday, May 20th issue of the New York Times (pp 20 and 21) are photos of the three major candidates on the campaign trail. Barack Obama and John McCain are shaking hands with some voters and Hillary Clinton is giving a speech from a low stage to a crowd gathered outdoors. Whether we agree with their politics or not, they are brave, they are vulnerable, and they are out there speaking directly to the voters. This is an American tradition.

Those of us who remember the sixties know what it’s like to watch political debate silenced with a bullet. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy all taken from us. George Wallace paralyzed for life. The next two decades brought more shootings of politicians and famous people. This past December Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan.

Anyone who chooses to run for office knows that they could be a target.

It was not a minor slip, or a misunderstanding, when Mike Huckabee said this at an National Rifle Association meeting…

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Republican Mike Huckabee responded to an offstage noise during his speech Friday to the National Rifle Association by suggesting it was Barack Obama diving to the floor because someone had aimed a gun at him.

Hearing a loud noise and interrupting his speech, Huckabee said: “That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He’s getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he — he dove for the floor.”

A weak apology couldn’t undo what he said and what he meant. When words fail, there’s the gun. Memories are still strong. This month Bobby Kennedy is on the cover of Vanity Fair. We have too much history where powerful debate was cut short by violence. I never want to see that happen again.

If Mike Huckabee thinks that the possibility of one of his NRA constituency taking a shot at any of our candidates gives his campaign some extra power, he’s exactly what we don’t need. And if he’s so clueless about recent American history that he didn’t know what he was saying, then he’s got no business in politics.

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16 thoughts on “For Their Country

  1. Don’t smear the NRA for a stupid comment by Mike Huckster,er sorry….Huckabee.Myself and other NRA members oppose Obama at least in part because of his moronic gun control policy.Gun control has never impacted violent crime.You may not like that fact,but there it is.I am always bemused by “progressives”who want to infringe the 2nd Amendment rights of people and then cry and whine about people in prison.I think crimes with firearms should be punished very severely,do you?The argument that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply to individuals holds about as much water as abduction by spaceship stories do.Obama comes from Chicago where very strict gun control has resulted in what?A shooting gallery.It’s people’s behavior that causes violence,not firearms.This is the main reason I would never vote for Obama,followed by immigration policy,taxes,naive foreign policy,and support of partial birth abortion.
    All that being said,Huckabee must sit on his brains,because there are lots of extremist nut jobs out there who want to solve every problem by violence.I hope Obama doesn’t get so much as a hangnail on his campaign.But I sure hope he loses.

  2. how would you define responsible gun ownership? i am curious, because although i think guns are underegulated, i have never thought that they could be outlawed. too many people want to own guns, and some people have a legitimate need for self-defense and choose to own a gun. i don’t think it’s the best method of self-defense for most, but in some circumstances i can see it. what regulations would you support?

  3. For Their Country…

    It’s an American tradition that presidential candidates have to shake hands and kiss babies. It’s an American sorrow that so many of our leaders were shot down in the sixties. Mike Huckabee poured salt in a wound when he joked about Barack Obama duck…

  4. I have had to carry firearms all my life.I started when I joined the military at 18 and now I’m 62–I was a law enforcement officer(state&federal) for 26 years,so firearms are second nature to me.Everyone in my family can shoot competently and are gun owners.Yhe gun laws we have now are more than adequate-convicted felons,persons committed to mental institutions by a court,illegal aliens,persons convicted of domestic assault,and a few other categories are prohibited from owning firearms.Rhode Island requires a safety test before purchasing a handgun.That is what I call a common sense gun law.responsible gun ownership is like responsible car ownership-don’t drive drunk,don’t use your car to settle an argument,don’t let a child have access to it.
    the first time I fires a gun I was 10 years old,but I was being closely supervised by an adult.Due to my former employment,I have to carry a weapon because of potential threats from individuals I dealt with.I have never been irresponsible with a firearm because I know the consequences.It’s a constitutional right,and like any other right,has its limits.Carrying a firearm with a permit requires periodic qualification-I agree with that 100%.When Iw s a federal agent I had to qualify 4 times a year.For a civilian with a permit I think the period could be a year or even the current 4 years,but at the very least when the permit is renewed.The assault weapons ban was a joke-those weapons seldom are responsible for most handgun crimes.This recent murder in Cranston was with a .38 revolver,a very ordinary firearm.Rhode Island law which allows unrestricted possession of firearms in a home or business location is sensible.Everyone has an absolute right to defend their home or to resist a robbery.Some states prohibit carrying a weapon in a licensed establishment.I wouldn’t go that far.I may go to a restaurant that serves liquor,but I normally don’t drink,so why would I be prohicbited?A better law would ban carrying a gun while consuming alcohol.
    I don’t like to sound like an alarmist,but a completely disarmed society is at the mercy of the government.How much do you trust government?I think a responsibly armed society is a free society.The states with the least firearms restrictions in our area(NH,Vermont,Maine)have the least violent crime.Even the most liberal Vermont politicians are not gun control advocates.My father was the most liberal guy you’d ever want to meet,but he thought gun control was idiotic because he would say-“if someone wants to commit a serious crime,what does he care for gun laws”and he was right.He always owned a gun for home defense.I know the NRA gets stereotyped ,but the last president was Sandy Froman,a Jewish woman with a law degree from Harvard.Anyhow,just some thoughts here.

  5. Nancy-One more thing-my niece drove off a home invader some years back with a handgun-she didn’t fire,but he ran though a glass slider to get away and was caught later on-it turned out he had committed a number of rapes during daylight home invasions-I saw a funny bumper sticker very applicable to women living alone-“911 20 minutes-Glock 3 seconds”

  6. I’m very glad for your niece. I have a friend who deals with people who are seeking parole, and he lives in an isolated area. I understand why he wants to own a gun.
    But some years ago Rhode Island tried to pass a law that would make adults criminally liable if they leave a gun where a child can get it and there is harm. The NRA people showed up at a demonstration in support of the law, they heckled Sarah Brady, whose husband was brain-damaged by a shot from the attack on President Reagan. I don’t know why they opposed a law that mandated what any reasonable person would do anyway, but I saw my child’s pediatrician there. He was there in support of a boy who was accidentally shot by a gun that his friend’s parents left unlocked and out where children could get it.
    I also think we have to regulate gun manufacturers and sellers. It’s not a good thing that any terrorist who wants weapons can just buy them when they get here.

  7. I won’t disagree-I think I made the point above using cars as an example.I had to have weapons in the house when my children were young,so I took precauttions,just as I did with drain cleaner,insecticide,etc.Mandating a trigger lock is not the answer.Personal responsibility is.I think someone who exhibits gross negligence resulting in a child getting their hands on a firearm and discharging it should face a felony charge.
    Sarah Brady doesn’t impress me.She purchased a firearm as a gift for a relative,which is a violation of Federal statutes.She wasn’t prosecuted-you or I would’ve been.I have no children at home(my youngest is 30),but my grandaughter who is a toddler visits and there are no loaded weapons in the house when she’s there.Nor are empty weapons anyplace she could access them.
    I think your last point about terrorists is valid-it also applies to criminals-most of that traffic is illegal unauthorized sales and not covered by the 2nd Amendment.In the early 90’s I arrested a man out on bail for murder who tried to run me and another officer over with a jeep.We managed to arrest him without firing shots.He received a 10 year sentence for the murder bargained down to manslaughter and ADW on myself and another officer as a “package deal”.he was out in 7 years.i was retired at the time.I had no idea he was out and living in my neighborhood-within a few weeks of his parole,he got his hands on a gun and murdered his ex wife before committing suicide.I am glad I had a carry permit because he had threatened me,and unlike most offenders,I took him very seriously due to his long history of violent crimes.If I had run into him unarmed,it would have been a problem for me I think.The point here is that gun laws didn’t keep him from obtaining a gun “on the street”.That is precisely where strict enforcement needs to take place.Crimes committed with legally owned weapons are rare.Suicide and murder-suicide are the main exceptions,but I am of the opinion they are generally not very preventable.
    Manufacturers and sellers are very closely regulated by ATF.If a dealer knowingly sells to a “straw purchaser” he is looking at a prison sentence.

  8. I do believe that you and many other gun owners are responsible and I do not support outlawing gun ownership. However, I don’t think that guns are sufficiently regulated. When a product presents a measurable danger to the public, that product needs to be better regulated. Drugs,cars,fireworks,and even dogs are regulated.
    Every day I drive past a telephone pole that is a dedicated shrine to Joseph Hector, a teenage boy who was shot dead from a passing car while walking to a market in my neighborhood. Putting the murderer in jail will not bring him back. No one should be able to buy or keep a gun unless they can show accountablility, and no corporation should be allowed to manufacture and market handguns without accountability to the rest of society.

  9. I recall that murder-a totally innocent young man.the people who do these things will never play by anyone’s rules.I think if you knew how much regulation there is now,you’d be a little more comfortable.Recently in New Bedford a 15 year old was shot and killed by an ex-con who had previously used a firearm to shoot someone.He should’ve been in for 30 years,no parole-that is accountability.I like discussing this with you because I don’t hear a mantra or a doctrinaire attitude-I don’t have one either-it shuts down any normal discourse.It seems you are more interested in asking serious questions than jumping to conclusions-I have tried to answer as best I could,but subjects like immigration and gun control are not amenable to simple answers.I am sure nursing isn’t either-I have had some very serious medical problems in my life and nurses rock as far as I’m concerned.Recently I had oral cancer surgery in the VA hospital and I had an acute attack of trigeminal neuralgia upon waking up.The resident was at wit’s end because the morphine wasn’t effective and I can’t take Toridol.The nurse suggested Dilaudud and voila!-I was ok within a few minutes.The condition cleared up in a few days.A close friend of mine got her RN at CCRI a few years ago.She moved back to Cape Verde where I am sure she is in demand with her degree.

  10. I’m also glad we can discuss this instead of throwing slogans. I believe we have not just a right, but a duty to defend ourselves. I studied martial arts and self defense on and off for twenty years. While that is something that helped greatly and enriched my life it did not give me all the tools I need to feel safe in the world. I gained some essential techniques when I worked in an inner-city high rise. I found that the first self-defense move when approaching a stranger is attitude. Just to say ‘hi’ is a kind of checkout, and also acknowledgement of the other person. I was fortunate, but also worked hard to develop good relationships with the people I was working for.
    A gun is a far better offensive weapon than defensive. It’s much easier to hide behind a bush and shoot someone than to undergo the training, carry the gun at all times, be able to conceal it, be able to pull it out at the moment danger is apparent but not before and not too late.
    My father in law told a story about growing up in Alabama in the 20’s, when a group of white thugs approached his house, but left when they saw a rifle barrel pointing through the window. He laughed, because behind the window was a twelve year old boy.
    So I am grateful they had a gun.
    But we are so gun-crazy that we look to guns as a first resort. We let people assemble private arsenals. We let gun manufacturers flood our nation, and foreign markets with weapons that are cheap and easily concealed, the perfect criminal tool. It makes our life here more mean and dangerous.
    Our jails are already full, it’s no consolation to me to lock someone up.
    I can’t turn on the TV without seeing some violent fiction. We write the script and give out the props. It doesn’t take an original mind to shoot up a school.

  11. I agree that the best weapon you often have is between your ears.Experience also helps.I never fired a shot at anyone in almost 21 years on the street and I have looked down a hostile gun barrel,and faced other serious and deadly assaults.Most of the job was done with attitude,although there were lots of fights-they became very routine and it was not necessary to overreact-you got to react instinctively,almost without thinking,but that was not the case.You just thought fast.My last nine years was in narcotics enforcement,during which time I was assigned with Providence PD for 4 years,and the rest of the time with DEA and the State Police.
    I left when I was eligible because health problems were making me overlook things I shouldn’t have,and I didn’t want to be responsible for getting someone else hurt.That is hard to admit to yourself in a job that has a ‘macho” ethic,regardless whether men or women were doing it.
    It’s easier to respond to questions about why you’re leaving than those about why you haven’t already done so.
    In Vietnam I was not in the infantry-I was a mechanic,so I was only shot at with mortars and rockets,but it came to be expected.Being there at a young age made me think that the wole deal was insane,but what could you do?It left me with the impression that the world is a psychopathic place and if you can make a decent life for yourself you’re ahead of the game.I don’t think life is any cheaper now than it has ever been,only it comes to us in a more immediate time frame because of technology,so we see more of what’s there faster.
    Nowadays 90% of the reason I own firearms is target shooting-it’s really good for concentration and you meet nice people who like to swap info.Like with cars,only to me a car is just a way to get somewhere reliably.I don’t hunt and I fish catch and release(kind of like being an INS agent):)
    Have you noticed there’re very few workplace shootings by disgruntled employees in police stations.I guess the reason is obvious-there are no sitting duck victims.
    Was Hillary’s comment disgusting or what?There are enough people out there operating on 20 or less chromosomes wihout giving them encouragement.I always thought she would be revealed as a Mr.Potter clone(From “It’s a Wonderful Life”)and so she has been.

  12. I forgot something-if you still have a VHS player go to Acme Video on Brook Street-rent two films-“Close to Eden” and “A Mongolian Tale”-both set in present day Mongolia-if you are tired of violent, sleazy entertainment you will really like these.Especially the pacing of the stories and the subtlety of the message.for some reason they are not available on DVD.

  13. I recently had to make visits in a high-crime area. It caused me to consider what I wear (number of pockets so I could have every thing I needed on my person), remove all paper records I wasn’t currently using (so I wouldn’t have to worry about losing someone’s confidential information) and make immediate contact with the patient before going to the apartment.
    Actually I’m going to make the effort to do this all the time–universal precautions. The burbs make me nervous with all those random mass shootings and houses blowing up and all.
    I’m old and out of shape, but I learned proactive thinking in martial arts, and that never goes away.
    And illness often causes poverty, that’s why the high-crime areas are home to many people whose only crime is gettng sick or suffering an accident.

  14. My daughter worked her way through RIC by doing security at the Housing Authority high rises for elderly and disabled in Providence-many of the disabled were drug/alcohol/mental health related and all she had was a flashlight,but I gave her my pepper spray canister on the sly because I didn’t want her to be totally unprepared.She never had any problems directed at herself because she has a way of getting along with difficult people.That’s why she was a good special ed teacher in schools such as Perry and Roger Williams.
    I agree about the correlation of poverty and illness,particularly undertreated chronic conditions.

  15. That’s my old job, I worked there for three years doing a health program. Yes, the security guards and the office staff had their work cut out for them.
    One of my fondest memories is two very frail elderly sisters who lived in one of the tougher buildings and were friends with everyone. In the end, it was age that got them, not crime.

  16. I agree with many of the top points, but I would like to add that the scruitiny of mentally ill, parole, illegals etc., is not as foolproof as I think it should be.

    Joe brought up the fact cars appear more dangerous and like you Nancy, every day on my way to work, way to the market or a friend’s house – I pass a cross with some person’s name in rememberence and they far exceed anyone with gun’s. The news tends to climax more on the gun deaths than by motor vehicles which is becoming part of life.

    I must say, as a mother now…but a former victim of violent crimes as a child, I would protect my house dwelling persons with a gun. I was never a violent person, but a person of utmost ethics and kinda liked the Bible’s preaching eye for an eye. Although society thinks this to be cruel.

    I’ve met people on farms that have shotguns laying around, I’ve met folks from Texas that all own and say crime is low (that associated with guns) BUT, I agree that that law should be a no brainer to not leave loaded guns around. Massachusetts had many of those tradegedy’s and shame on parents (a few were cops kids/relative kids) to think the curious child won’t go there.

    I remember saying I was getting a gun, because I felt it would give me the relief I would need in a certain situation. My father-in-law said, do you really want to do that and he motioned to his hot tempered son. I hadn’t thought of that, and upon rethinking I thought until I had this 40 year old under control with his rage, it didn’t make sense. I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong.

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