I’ve been known to use guns recreationally (although I can quit anytime I want. Honest.) And I absolutely hate filling out forms, following simple bureaucratic procedures, or anything else that might delay the immediate fulfillment of my every desire. Death Before Dishonor, they used to say. Today 41 Senators chose both.
April 18, 2013

I’ve been known to use guns recreationally (although I can quit anytime I want. Honest.) And I absolutely hate filling out forms, following simple bureaucratic procedures, or anything else that might delay the immediate fulfillment of my every desire.

Death Before Dishonor, they used to say. To which I would add, Pain Before Paperwork.

I suppose I should thank the 41 Senators who voted against effective background checks today, since they placed my potential desire for immediate gun gratification above the lives and well-being of our nation’s children. 41 Senators - that's one for each shot that killed Amadou Diallo, but that's just a coincidence. 54 Senators voted for better background checks, but that’s not enough to pass a bill in today’s hopelessly-corrupted Senate.

I mean, they don’t even have to actually stand up and filibuster anymore. Where's the spectacle in just voting to filibuster? I've heard they can even put a hold on a Presidential nomination from the comfort of their own homes. That's not just interference with the operation of our government. It's drone interference. They can do it from their easy chairs.

Hey, could you pass the remote?

I say, if you’re going to fight for somebody’s right to partyshoot people, Senator, at least you can show us that “these colors don’t run"! We want to see you rock that lectern like Jimmy Stewart!

Jimmy Stewart … Great movie, wasn’t it? They can call the remake “Mr. Smith and Wesson Go to Washington.”

Let’s get one thing straight right now: Requiring a background check for gun purchases would infringe upon my rights. I admit it. It would infringe upon my right to purchase a deadly weapon on a whim, or in a fit of deadly rage, or while in the grips of some as-yet-undiagnosed delusional psychosis, without being forced to experience a mild and transient sense of annoyance.

But is that an inalienable right, like the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? And, if so, what happens when those rights are in conflict?

Consider the following: In their magnum opus “I’m Bad I’m Nationwide,” ZZ Top sketched an idyllic scenario in which the protagonist was “driving down the road in (his) cold blue steel” with “a bluesman in the back and a beautician at the wheel.” If that also happened to be my vision of happiness, and were I fortunate enough to locate both a bluesman and a beautician with corresponding visions, we would clearly have the right to pursue those visions both singularly and collectively. Not organ or agency of state might rightfully impede us in that pursuit.

But if that common vision also included copious drinking, drug taking, and speeding with our eyes closed, we would then encounter the matter of competing rights. It would be one thing if the only possible negative outcome were our own immediate deaths. (“Police reported three fatalities from a one-car incident last night on Thunder Road: One bluesman, one beautician, and an unidentified male of indeterminable occupation.”) But the latter scenario involves the very likely possibility of innocent deaths, possibly including the classic safe-driving-movie scene in which a young child emerges from between two parked cars chasing a runaway ball.

In that case, our right to pursue happiness must give way to that child’s right to life.

(“Right to life” … where have I heard that phrase before? Could it have been from some of the very same politicians who voted against background checks today?)

For the greater good, therefore, our journey would therefore – hopefully - be brought to an untimely end with our arrest and incarceration. Our other passengers - identified in the ZZ Top song as “sportin’ short dresses, wearing high-heeled shoes, smoking Lucky Strikes and wearing nylons too” – would be forced to find some other means of transportation.

Here’s an exercise in competing rights we can all do together. Please rank the following (alphabetically-listed) rights in order of importance: Liberty. Life. Purchasing guns without filling out forms or bureaucratic delay. Pursuit of Happiness.

Here's the answer I got:

1. Life
2. Liberty
3. Pursuit of Happiness
4. Purchasing guns without filling out forms etc.

What did you get?

As noted earlier, I hate filling out forms. Know what I hate even more? Hearing that a child has been shot to death. In fact, I hate hearing that any innocent person’s been shot more than I hate fillling out forms.

And I really hate filling out forms.

I usually don’t mind arguing with my gun-wielding friends on the other side of this issue, though. "Second Amendment," they'll say. "Where's your militia?" I'll answer. "Supreme Court sorta said something about something in Washington DC," they'll say. "Nice job 'well-regulating' the Lanza kid," I'll answer.

Somehow we always get through it. I know they’re essentially good-hearted human beings, and they know I’m no longer a pacifist, so we usually shake hands and part amicably.

But they're my friends. I do dislike it when people try to put me in a box by saying I’m “anti-gun.” Someone pulled that on me in a debate after Newtown, and I’ll repeat now what I said then: I’m not anti-gun, I’m pro-kindergartner.

It’s a simple matter of competing rights.

When I had a country/western and rock and roll band we used to play a lot of biker gigs and some very right-wing gatherings. Some of those folks were my friends, too. I’d tell them it was insulting to call me a socialist. Communist is okay, but nothing halfway … They’d laugh, everybody would have another beer, and that was that.

That’s where I first the phrase “Death Before Dishonor.”

Today 41 Senators chose both.

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