By REG HENRY
Sometimes a story comes along that presents a unique chance to educate the American people. I refer, of course, to Vice President Dick Cheney shooting an attorney.
Several knee-jerk reactions to this news must be countered immediately. First of all, Cheney should not be hailed as a popular hero for bagging a lawyer. People, even attorneys, are always out of season, even in Texas. Besides, they often shoot back with writs, and nothing spoils a hunt more than the quarry turning on the hunter with a hail of lawsuits, known to be more deadly than birdshot.
The other thing is that attorneys do not make good eating. The one that Cheney shot was a tough old bird and is already sitting up and taking nourishment. Even cannibals won't touch attorneys because they are so hardboiled.
Knees will also jerk in the opposite direction. In effete circles where guns are not appreciated, this incident will make an easy target for criticism. Let me just remind these anti-gun critics that guns don't wound people, vice presidents wound people.
Nor should this be an occasion for piling on. He is an avid hunter who blasts away at birds at every opportunity, protecting the nation from avian flu, something for which he gets no credit.
Given the number of shots he takes, he is bound to hit an attorney from time to time because they are very thick on the ground here in America, and it's simply a matter of mathematical probability. Anybody could have made the same mistake.
One of my regular readers e-mailed me to make an important point: When John Kerry went hunting during the presidential campaign, conservatives maligned him as a poseur _ and he didn't even shoot anybody! It does seem unfair, but that was part of Sen. Kerry's problem. Rightly or wrongly, the American public thought he was the sort of guy you couldn't trust to wing anybody at a law-firm picnic.
The real lesson to be drawn here is about firearm safety. The war on terror is going to last a very long time _ it has to, because more Republicans have to be elected. This means that we are all going to have to familiarize ourselves with firearms to protect the homeland.
As it happens, I can help. I was trained on many weapons for my military service in Vietnam _ the rifle, the machine gun, the hand grenade, the typewriter and the can opener.
Cheney did not go to Vietnam. If the Viet Cong had worn duck suits instead of black pajamas, he would have been the first to enlist. But he decided to leave the job to people like myself, which may explain why his firearm handling leaves something to be desired.
The cardinal rule of firearms is that you don't shoot until you have properly identified the target. Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes! Of course, if the person you are shooting has had a night on the town and has bloodshot eyes, you are in for trouble. That is why in Vietnam we were told: "Don't shoot until you see the red of their politics!" In this incident, Cheney _ perhaps due to faulty intelligence _ did not stop and distinguish between quail and attorney before he started shooting. Quail are said to congregate in a covey whereas attorneys flock together in what is called a bar. Any decent field guide has identifying pictures to assist the hunter.
Thank goodness no serious harm was done! It's not like Cheney shot up a whole country looking for weapons of mass destruction.
My faithful reader suggests we start a fund to buy body armor for Cheney's hunting buddies, considering the danger they are in. Yes, I know what Donald Rumsfeld would say: You go hunting with the hunting equipment you've got. But I think the vice president's pals need extra help, too, and I would suggest that we also print up bumper stickers for our cars: "Support Our Well-Connected Attorneys Before They Become Dead Ducks."
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)
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