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Let’s pack heat at the U.S. Capitol

By
July 31, 2009

It isn’t often that those of us struggling to be coherent in our chosen profession praise the work of our competitors, but the other day E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post made a suggestion that deserves passing — on despite the fact it has little or no chance of ever being carried out.

With his tongue only half cheek, Dionne, one of the Post’s longtime columnists and all-around good reporters, proposed that if Congress truly wanted to make certain the Second Amendment rights of Americans are protected at any cost, as seems the case, it would put its gun powder where its votes are and designate its own premises as a model in firearms accessibility.

"Isn’t it time to dismantle the metal detectors, send the guards at the doors away and allow Americans to exercise their (constitutional) rights . . . to carry their firearms into the nation’s Capitol?" Dionne asked. He added that after studying the deep thoughts of those U.S. senators who "regularly express their undying loyalty" to the National Rifle Association, "I have decided they should practice what they preach."

Now, how could the NRA, which owns the House and Senate lock, stock and barrel, object to that proposition which opens all sorts of opportunities for those who have trouble traveling anywhere without the reassurance of at least a handgun? Under those circumstances, they would now be assured that they could visit the seat of government for and by the people without the fear of being assaulted in the hallways. But what about terrorists, you ask? No jihadist would dare start anything with 535 lawmakers packing heat.

As Dionne notes, these lawmakers are always spouting the NRA mantra that the best defense against crime is an armed citizenry and "that laws restricting guns do nothing to stop violence.”

"If they believe that why don’t they live by it?" the columnist asked, expressing the theory that unrestricted gun access in Congress would help promote family values, safety for kids on an excursion and might even reduce the number of extramarital affairs. What philanderer would risk the prospect of an armed response?

Before you consider this outlandish, just consider that Congress agreed only a short time ago to permit guns in national parks and its pro-gun members have sought to allow Americans to be armed in taverns, churches and even colleges. The NRA’s adherents argued that if the student body at Virginia Tech had been armed the crazy that shot and killed 32 fellow students would have been cut down at least before the carnage got too overwhelming.

Then just recently, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Wild West caucus, proposed an amendment that would have allowed those with concealed weapon permits to carry their guns across state lines even into those states that don’t allow it. The amendment failed by only two votes, leading to speculation that it would be back sooner than later, especially since the NRA backs it wholeheartedly. Dionne suggests that under the circumstances, why shouldn’t Thune be allowed to carry his own concealed weapon to the Senate floor.

The omnipresence of firepower on the Senate floor might even help decide the fate of Supreme Court nominations. The NRA has taken a stand against confirmation of Sonia Sototmayor, warning senators about the consequences of voting for someone with suspect pro-gun credentials. They see a potential balance shift in upholding unfettered firearm owning and trading. One more appointment to the high court like Sotomayor might offset the one-vote majority that said recently the founders surely meant that individual Americans had an inalienable right to posses firearms, presumably muskets and cap and ball pistols since that is all they had at the time.

So nothing could be more reassuring for national rights than a great debate punctuated by gunfire or at least the prospect of a shootout over any number of issues. As Dionne said it is time for Congress to put up or shut up and I, for one, second that stance.

(E-mail Dan K. Thomasson at thomassondan(at)aol.com.)