Guns and the 2nd Amendment

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MUGGER: I totally agreewith you that Eric Alterman is a despicable human being (5/19). He is the mostignorant and cowardly person I have ever corresponded with. He was on Canadiantv a couple of months ago as a guest along with a very nice conservative lady.He was as ignorant a person as I have ever seen. He said that Reagan was a worseliar than Clinton. The lady responded by saying that Reagan never lied underoath. I remember Alterman responded, "He would have, but was out of hismind before he could." I'm visiting Tarrytown for a couple of weeks beginning this Saturday, staying with friends, one of whomknows where I can visit Alterman. I'm going to give him the chance to be ignorantto me in person. I told him to bring a friend along, if he has one. I enjoy your columns, andagree with you 99.9 percent of the time. But I don't agree with your view ofhomosexuals. I think they are perverts and the dregs of society.

Al Josey,

Barrie, Ontario

Miscalculated Bill I enjoyed John Strausbaugh'sreally quite thoughtful analysis of the gun debate ("Publishing,"6/2). Although I share his hesitancy about altering the Bill of Rights, I thinkit's time we all took a deep breath and did it anyway.Screwing with the Bill ofRights is not something to be taken lightly. Clearly, if we're not careful,this could get to be a very, very bad habit. I, who frankly respect almost nothingin this world, respect the Constitution. And yet, it is also true that futzingwith the Constitution is nothing new. Mistakes have been made see Prohibition.But mistakes have also been corrected see also Prohibition. Considering itshorrendous cost, I see little reason to keep the Second Amendment. First off, what exactlyis it that is so all-fired wonderful that we're supposed to be getting for puttingup with the Second Amendment? The benefits of the First Amendment, as exemplifiedbyNYPress (even in its more insane moments) are clear: A free and openexpression of ideas helps us, the victims of democracy, to grapple with complexissues and to even occasionally solve them on the principle that good ideasgenerally drive out bad ideas, sometimes even when bad ideas have the upperhand in smothering the competition. Separation of Church and State preventsthe sort of nonsensical theocratic bickering that has so lavishly tied up Israelas it tries to solve its real problems. But free and open access to firearmsfor the purpose of maintaining a militia, which was once a tremendous conveniencein protecting a Federalist government with no standing army from getting caughtwith its pants down in the event of rebellion or invasion, is clearly obsolete, no?Instead we're in the midst of a humongous disaster that the Framers, quite reasonably,never expected: that we would become the most violent industrial nation on Earthwith a murder rate to make any sensible person's eyes bug out. If the Chineseuse their ill-gotten nuclear secrets to put on The Last Fireworks Show, squeezingoff a couple of rounds at an incoming warhead with a Saturday-night specialisn't going to be the least bit satisfying, even as a symbolic gesture. Andsince the workability of our democracy has been pretty much settled, exactlywhat do we get out of making things easy for the likes of the Republic of Texas? I'd like to make two morepoints before going to bed and sleeping this off. The first is regarding theridiculous argument made by the NRA that guns aren't really the problem becauseAmericans tend to be violent anyway. Therefore, according to them, the realsolution is to make sure that ever more people have guns as a way of discouragingthe instigators. Oh, swell. In other words, we're a bunch of psychos with theimpulse control of Charles Manson and the best way to make sure we don't killourselves is to see to it that everybody has a gun. (Aren't these guys great?Let's give them a great big hand!) It never seems to occur to these flatheadsthat people who are generally peaceable might not even want to carry guns ormight be significantly less willing to use them even during an attack the pussies. As for the argument thatAmericans tend to generally be more violent themselves (a full one-third ofall murders in this country are committed without firearms), remember Giuliani'sonce-ridiculed idea that by punishing small-time annoyance crimes you couldalter the atmosphere of a city so that more serious crimes would go down aswell? Conservatives lapped that one up when it involved unrequested windshieldwashing, but can't quite grasp the same concept when applied to outright homicide. People will inure themselvesto a seemingly unsolvable problem provided it sneaks up on them incrementally.Remember the boiling frog analogy? The moment there is a perceived chance of solving it, however, everybody goes crazy in their desire to fix it. Normally,that sort of thing puts me in a sweat because new solutions frequently havea way of becoming newer and more oppressive problems. But when we're talkingabout an annual national murder rate that's still in the tens of thousands andsuch an obvious solution is at hand (strict gun control with huge penaltiesfor its violation), and it's one that's worked pretty well in other places, wejust might want to keep our fingers crossed this time and let this madness runthe next phase of its course. At the risk of indulgingin cheap sanctimony, isn't the first liberty a reasonable expectation to lifeitself? And doesn't the present chaos and slaughter have a chilling effect onthat expectation?

Michael Fonda, Astoria
Playing Risk I appreciated John Strausbaugh'smostly measured gun discussion in NYPress, though my own views standfirmly on one side.As a Middle American teenager,I enjoyed putting together a tight shot group and being recognized for my goodeye and steady hand. As an adult, I'm convinced that guns are overrated andjust not worth the downside. Tuli Kupferberg's dead-on cartoon could be pairedwith one captioned "Guns don't kill people, bullets do." Besides thestats Strausbaugh gave for the lethalness of shooting over stabbing or beating,accidents are all too common. A bullet in the head, and you can't kiss and makeup. Parents who think small kids are disinterested in guns, can't find hiddenones (or ammo) and are mature enough to understand consequences and follow strictprocedures are deluding themselves. It's true that most existing guns haven'ttaken a life yet (if you don't count animals), but that's partly luck.Unlike, say, cars, the supposed"necessity" of guns doesn't justify the risk. Strong regulations arewarranted, and NRA dinosaurs should get a life and save lives by phasing outthis dangerous toy. I sincerely hope that letter-writer R.S. McCain's fearsof further advances by "the gun control crowd" are on target.
Gary Williams, Manhattan

The Beat Can't BeBuffaloed MUGGER: I'm happy to seeNYPress online now, and I'd like to thank you for your support last weekfor our upstate, upstart paper, Buffalo Beat. Miserable as I was to havemy professional peers read as strange an assessment of our efforts as the Associationof Alternative Newsweeklies recommendation committee gave us, I now have tocontend with the fact that a significant number of well-read New Yorkers, mostof whom already have horrible impressions of Buffalo, have now also read howpuzzling a paper we put out. Ouch. I can only hope that your readers put moreweight in your analysis than in what I'm certain Clif Garboden meant to be anobjective blurb. In all seriousness, however,I can't tell you how happy I am to have you bring up the question of how therecommendation committee, immersed in their own communities as I trust theyare, would have any idea whatsoever whether or not we had lost touch with ours.The funny thing is, we could have run any bullshit City Hall column that slammedcouncilpeople inappropriately and brought up questionable issues that seem likethe right stuff and we would have had boffo praise. After all, it's not difficultor expensive to send interns out with questions and a camera to rip off theVillage Voice's survey feature. I know this because it happened to anotherpaper this year, which aside from the three consecutive issues needed for submission,depended almost entirely on predictably liberal, Alternet store-bought coverand feature stories for the last year, rather than on developing writers andbeing in touch with its own community. But how would the recommendation committeehave known what local reporting made sense or didn't? I brought this up withGarboden the night before the vote and he conceded the point, very graciously.Three consecutive submittable issues are really easy to stack with the "right"kind of editorial for AAN judging, if that's the main thing a paper is tryingto accomplish. Six consecutive issues would be fairer. Developing staff andsources, and doing real local reporting that means something, as well as tryingto stay above water financially, are priorities. Getting into AAN, bless itslittle heart, should be a secondary concern. I look to your column weeklyto hear things put in ways that surprise me, a rarity indeed. And the secondpoint I want to thank you for enlightening me about, seeing as Buffalo Beatwas let in after I gave a speech on its behalf, is that I could ever have thepower to scare some of those bigwigs at the Peabody bar that weekend in Memphis.This will make conventions much more fun to come to, since I've been relativelyshy, freshman-like even, at the last three. I'll need cowboy boots and a lotof red wine, evidently, but then I'll be all set. Thanks again, and I'll seeyou next year. Next time bring the boysand Mrs. M. I half expected to see them this year.
Natalie Green, editor, Buffalo Beat

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