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Kirby: Both sides play the bad guy in gun debate

Published March 12, 2013 8:16 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Last week, I received "Final Notice" from the National Rifle Association of America. Executive vice president Wayne LaPierre wrote to tell me my firearms freedoms were in "grave danger."

At a time when people are willing to hurt each other over what amounts to a difference of opinion over words and phrases in the Constitution, it takes a special kind of passionate cluelessness to use "grave" and "firearms" in the same paragraph.

But then I'm guessing the letter was intended for Wayne's peers: the well-armed and easily excitable.

The rest of the letter reads like the sort of overwrought missive you'd expect from an end-of-the-world gospel loon. Important words (seemingly every other one) are underlined and written in caps. Exclamation points abound.

"Powerful gun ban politicians ... stand ready to fight for a far-reaching agenda that will BAN hundreds of popular rifles ... LIMIT the number of guns you can own ... IMPOSE crippling taxes on gun sales ... CLOSE our gun shops," the letter reads.

"We are dedicated and determined voters who will work to elect the Second Amendments allies and defeat her enemies!!!"

Then there's style. Of the last 50 or so words in the letter, eight contain violent confrontational imagery: battle, victory, front lines, call to arms, etc.

As a media guy, it's possible I'm guilty of that anti-gun media violence Wayne refers to, but I don't think so. Neither would my neighbors or my wife. Out in the garage are three black powder cannons of various calibers.

These cannons are probably all against the law. OK, they definitely are. I hope the cops don't come and take them away. But if they show up, I won't shoot at them.

Would I want the NRA's help in protecting my right to own artillery? Hmm, no. I'm not interested in my freedoms being protected by a guy who writes in all seriousness like he's just itching to shoot somebody.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I'd want the ACLU's help protecting my safety, either. Certainly not if I was the one getting shot at.

Last week, the ACLU released a statement (mercifully devoid of underlining and exclamation points) saying that it was looking into the possibility that law enforcement is starting to look like the military.

The ACLU is against equipping state and local law enforcement with military weapons and vehicles, and military tactical training because it "erodes civil liberties."

So we've got one bunch of Constitution-loving people saying they'll defend their guns with "whatever it takes," and another Constitution-loving bunch who think cops shouldn't be using whatever it takes to do their jobs.

Among the things specifically mentioned by the ACLU were GPS tracking devices, unmanned drones, military vehicles (armored cars), military weapons (assault rifles) and mustard gas.

Note: I made up the mustard gas thing. I meant to say "bomb-wearing monkeys."

Thanks to increasingly well-armed citizens volubly eager to defy the police (drug cartels, gangbangers, religious fundamentalists and now Second Amendment types), I wouldn't want to be a cop without that stuff. I'd want grenades and probably a flamethrower, too.

Would I feel threatened if the police showed up at my house in an armored car with an unmanned drone circling overhead? Keep in mind that I just confessed to possessing cannons.

Well, as long as they didn't drive the armored car through my garage door and make my wife mad, no.

It's possible that I think that way because I was a cop. Despite the possibility of anti-gun media bias, I still figure if anyone absolutely, positively has to get shot, it should always be the bad guy.

It's a question of deciding who that is. And in America that's getting tougher to tell.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.