The late, great Mike Royko, beloved Chicago newspaper columnist, wrote many columns on guns and gun control, all of them hilarious, pointed and smart.
Sadly, Royko's columns, many dating from as far back as the early 1980's, reflect the very same arguments we are having today about guns and the Second Amendment. Perhaps the NRA is more on its heels today than it was in those days, but that's not a sure bet, either.
Regardless, Royko's numerous columns on gun control speak for me in 2013.
Assembled here are links to four of his columns on the subject, three of which are in the form of pdfs or Google docs. They are well worth reading. In each case, I will highlight the portions I found especially sharp.
This first column is from December 23, 1980, written after John Lennon was killed:
Naturally, being a good American and a macho guy, I am against gun controls. My position on this has been clear for many years, since I am the founder of the National Association for the Legalization of Machineguns, Bazookas, Hand Grenades, Cannons, Land Mines and Anything Else That Goes Boom.And that's just a snippet. It's a great read that covers all of the classic gun lover and NRA arguments, including the claim that the Second Amendment is the final defense against government tyranny. (Landmines and bazookas should be legalized!)
But if somebody can claim it is his constitutional right to keep a .38 in his dresser drawer, I don’t see why we can’t buy machineguns. For example, the gun lovers say that they need to defend themselves from robbers, fiends and murderers who might come through their window at night.
Now, if it were possible for me to set up a machinegun on a tripod on my bed, I would be well prepared. I could simply sit up and begin spraying my bedroom windows with hundreds of rounds. Any criminal crawling through would be quickly dispatched, as would be my neighbors.
Or let us say that I hear someone in my basement. Sure, I could go down there with a pistol and confront him. But what if he also had a pistol? He might get off the first shot. But if hand grenades were legal, I could just lob one or two down the basement stairs and the world would have one less criminal. My home repair bills would probably go up, though.
This next article is from August 26, 1986, titled, "Guns make us safer, don't they?" It was penned after postal worker Patrick Sherrill shot 20 coworkers, killing 14 of them, at a post office in Oklahoma:
Oklahoma is one of the enlightened states that has virtually no gun laws. Anyone over 21 can walk into one of the many weapons stores, or a pawn shop, or even a hardware store, plunk down the money and walk out with a gun and ammunition. Or a whole arsenal.Royko gave out an annual award, "Gun Owner of the Year," in which he highlighted some of the winning actions of gun owners during the previous 12 months. This was his column from May 18, 1984. I won't give away the winner, but here's the tale of the first runner-up:
And that’s a good thing, I say, because it’s obvious that this availability of guns could easily help avert a terrible tragedy.
Let’s consider for a moment what could happen in a community where there are strict gun laws that discourage people from buying and owning the handgun of their choice.
A deranged postal worker might one day decide to go down to that community’s post office and shoot everybody in sight.
And why are they defenseless? Obviously, because of gun controls that keep guns out of the hands of the law-abiding citizen, or at least make it difficult for him to buy them.
But the point is that it could have been happened the other way. Thanks to Oklahoma’s enlightened and freedom-loving position on guns, everybody in that post office could have owned a gun.
And that’s why the doomed people in that Oklahoma post office were a lot safer than they probably thought at the time, although I’m not sure they’d agree today.
And we had a couple of excellent entries in the Sometimes There Is Justice category.As he aged and his eyesight worsened, Royko became even more emphatic about the need for citizens like himself with poor vision to have access to more powerful weapons, as he notes in this column from July 24, 1990, titled "Big Bang Theory Of Self-Defense:
The next candidate should probably be grand champion Gun Owner of the Year. But he lives in South Africa, and this contest is open only to Americans.
However, he deserves a special mention for his unusual achievement.
He ran a farm on which many blacks worked. White South Africans are not known for their liberal qualities, so one day he was disciplining a black worker. He did this by gripping his shotgun by the barrel and hitting the worker on the head.
The third time he swatted the man’s head, the gun discharged and blew half the farmer’s head off.
And those ingrate farmhands didn’t even sing “Massa’s in the cold, cold ground.”
Those of us who are not crack shots have long been discriminated against by federal regulators. There`s nothing new about it and I've complained in the past.And the rest of the piece is even more fun.
As an elderly spinster told me: "Plinking away with a pistol, what chance would I have? But if I could plant some land mines among my roses and petunias, as well as my front lawn, and let loose with a fully automatic Uzi, I could get some of the buggers before they get me."
Well put. And her sentiment is one of the reasons I have always supported the right of all law-abiding Americans to buy the weapons of their choice. And to carry them wherever they go.
That`s why I have never joined the National Rifle Association. It is too namby-pamby. I once proposed that it not only be legal to carry a weapon in public, but also mandatory that all citizens be armed at all times.
Reading the gun control diaries here reminds me that not much has changed since Royko wrote the first column I cited back in 1980. Maybe this time will be different. Maybe.