A Guy Walks Into a Bar…Are New Proposed Gun Laws a Joke?

The death of Trayvon Martin has started a renewed conversation about gun laws in America.  At the heart of the debate is the controversial self-defense law in Florida called Stand Your Ground, and others like it either already in use, or pending in other states.  Florida Senator Chris Smith, who initially opposed the law when it was first proposed, is now leading the official review of Stand Your Ground.  In the time it will take for the law to be either abolished or revised, the prospect of new gun legislation and self-defense laws favored by groups like the National Riffle Association, could make guns even more prevalent in our society.

When I visit a bar, the most pressing concern on my mind is usually whether I’m going to order a Newcastle or Guinness draught.  I may pick my pub based on what athletic contest or franchise they cater to with respect to what’s going to be aired on their tube.  Maybe even the waitresses have something to do with my decision.  After all, what guy doesn’t like the company of beautiful women when he drinks.  But the last thing I want to have to factor in my decision on which waterhole to settle on, is the possibility of some half-assed cowboy accidentally shooting himself in my presence because he couldn’t hold his liquor.  God forbid he accidentally shoots someone else.  So when there’s talk of legislation that could make carrying a concealed weapon in places like bars, churches, and colleges (any one remember the Virginia Tech shootings?), I have to wonder how this can be good for our country.

That being said, I get the second amendment to the Constitution.  We have the right to “bear arms.”  I get self defense laws.  If you’re in danger of bodily harm or death, you have the right to defend yourself.  (And I’m not yet convinced that someone pursuing someone else can reasonably be assumed to be in danger of bodily harm and/or death).  But where we bear arms can have a significant impact on the safety of our citizens.  Outside of security officers at colleges and churches, I cannot really think of a logical reason why students or parishioners would need to carry a firearm.

And while bars can attract the occasional low-life, creepy perp, justifying the need to be on guard; most of the time they are filled with happy drunks, peanut chomping sports fanatics, and ever-optimistic Dicks and Janes looking to get lucky.  If we don’t want  intoxicated people operating motor vehicles, I think it’s safe to assume the same could be said for automatic weapons.  What do you think?

© 2012

Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  I grew up with these words, spoken by President John F. Kennedy, which were finely printed on a trivet in my family’s kitchen.  The souvenir belonged to my maternal grandmother and was used mostly for holding serving spoons instead of shielding the dinner table from heat, due to its having been damaged.  When washing dishes I would scrub spaghetti sauce, pancake batter, and what ever other ingredients and mixes my mother used for cooking, from off this plate and read over the words, time and time again.  And now thinking back, it seems odd that I never learned much about the man who spoke them.  That is until now.  Chris Matthews’ book Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero provides its reader a clear, concise introduction to the life and times of JFK.

Although categorized as a biography, Matthews’ Jack Kennedy reads more like an Action/Adventure.  A page turner, I felt like I was along for the ride as a young JFK plots practical jokes in rebellious spirit railing against authority, answers the call of duty to serve his country while encountering enemy ships in the South Pacific, and then goes door to door after WWII as a military hero, introducing himself as the new political candidate in town.  The book also took me on the campaign trail, sharing intimate details of the tenacity, nerve, stomach and guts it takes to run for a seat in Congress, the Senate, and ultimately, the White House.

And this isn’t an outdated Action/Adventure story retired on a dusty bookshelf.  On the contrary, it is timely.  And if the old adage that history repeats itself is true, Chris Matthews’ book goes a long way in demonstrating how events that happened nearly fifty years ago still have relevance today.  Like the story he tells of the Buddhist monk who lit himself on fire in protest of South Vietnam’s president Ngo Dinh Diem’s persecution of the country’s Buddhists, as a precursor to the Vietnam War.  I instantly thought of the vegetable cart owner in Tunisia who similarly lit himself on fire which sparked the Arab Spring.  And there is also the narrative of how the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union came to sign a treaty vowing to not test nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, space, and water.  Just last week, the news was filled with stories about  North Korea’s missile launch and possible attempts to test nuclear weapons by their leaders in Pyongyang.

If the lure of the Kennedy dynasty has ever grabbed your attention, as it has successfully in my case over the years; this story, as told by Chris Matthews, will be an immensely enjoyable one to read.  The notion that countries on the brink of war can somehow, in the nick of time, resort to diplomacy instead of catastrophic engagement, is reassuring in the current context of global affairs.  The idea that presidents showing restraint instead of the use of force, despite being pressured to be the aggressor, opens the door for the possibility of peace, offers sobering advice for a world that finds itself in a climate of potential new wars, based on old vendettas, on the horizon.  Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero helps draw the line between nearsighted thinking and foresight, emotion and reason.

© 2012