Recently, I had to rush my elderly mother to emergency at William Beaumont Hospital early one Sunday morning. I dropped her off and scuttled off to park. When I returned, I was promptly stopped by a beefy security guard.
He wanted to know if I was packing a weapon.
I gave him a look. I was wearing my usual baggy gray suit and was obviously about as paramilitary as an eggplant. He apologized, but said he had to ask, thanks to Michigan’s spiffy new concealed weapon law. Naturally, I blew him away.
Just kidding, comrades, but I didn’t blame him for asking. Eventually, some hothead ticked off about his hernia may damn well do just that, now that we all can legally dress up like Chicago gangsters all the time.
Now, as devoted readers of this column know, I always try hard to see all sides to every issue, and there is, indeed, something good about the new concealed weapons law Michigan’s Supreme Court forced on us in January. It will certainly work toward keeping down the surplus population by contributing to the death rate.
And to be sure, somewhere along the line, somebody will use his or her concealed weapon to stop a bad guy about to commit an awful crime. Why, across the nation, there were 193 of these so-called “justifiable handgun homicides” in 1997 alone.
That’s more than reason enough to OK a concealed piece for everybody except John Hinckley, isn’t it? Unfortunately, there were also 8,503 nonjustifiable handgun homicides … and something like 11,000 handgun suicides, but hey. As Timmy McVeigh used to say after he blew up the day care center, if you want freedom, you gotta expect a little collateral damage, like a lot of dead children.
Naturally, we’ve been down this road before. Despite the lies from the enormously well-funded Nazi — oops — National Rifle Association, polls always show huge majorities for gun control. Almost always, however, the will of the people is thwarted, mainly because the NRA has bought so many congressmen.
But what happened in Michigan this summer takes things to a new level of obscenity. The Michigan Supreme Court, long mostly a holding tank for hack politicians, intervened to prevent the people from even voting on the outrageous concealed weapons law a lame-duck Legislature crammed down our throats late last year.
Michigan’s new CCW law is so outrageous that conservative Republicans such as Oakland County Prosecutor Dave Gorcyca resigned from their county gun boards in protest, since they now have virtually no discretion in deciding who gets to carry a hand cannon under their clothes. This time, however, the public fought back.
A group called People Who Care About Kids speedily collected 230,000 signatures to delay the new law taking effect unless and until approved by voters. But the four right-wing hacks John Engler appointed to the court knew who owned them.
Clifford Taylor, the biggest joke among them, Robert Young, Stevie Markman and Maura Corrigan overturned an appeals court decision and ruled the people had no right to vote on the law. Their justification? The Michigan Constitution says that budget bills cannot be put to a referendum. Huh? Well, the concealed weapons bill included an appropriation of $1 million for the Michigan State Police to help put it into effect.
Hence, they called it a “budget bill.” Even the one principled Republican on the court, Elizabeth Weaver, found that outrageous — as did police officers all over the state, who know this law makes it substantially more likely that more of them will die.
“I believe the majority fails to recognize … this court’s responsibility to protect the people’s power of the referendum,” Weaver wrote. The truth, of course, is that they couldn’t care less about what the common herd might want.
There is hope, however; People Who Care is mounting another effort to get another kind of vote on the November 2002 ballot. They need 242,169 valid signatures before February, and you can bet the merchants of death will do all they can to challenge every last one, so they need even more signatures, just in case. To his credit, Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan is on the side of the angels this time. For years, Marj Levin, a classy former Free Press reporter, has waged a fairly lonely battle as president of Michigan Citizens for Handgun Control (MCHC).
“Of all the children killed by firearms in the world, 86 percent take place in the United States,” Levin told me, presenting an impressive battery of statistics to back up her claim.
What is clear is that anyone who allows a gun, especially a handgun, in their home is an unfit parent. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. A person living in a home with a gun is three times as likely to be shot to death (142 of them being children under 14 in one recent year) and five times more likely to commit suicide with that gun.
Most of those kid victims met their death at the muzzle of a handgun. Indeed, handguns cause the vast majority of firearm deaths in the United States — and that doesn’t even consider the billions of dollars spent on medical care for those only maimed.
For the full story, go to the Violence Policy Center’s Web site (www.vpc.org) and read their highly researched “Unsafe In Any Hands: Why America Needs to Ban Handguns.” That’s not likely to happen for a while. But I can’t imagine a goal more worth fighting for in George Bush’s half-asleep, illegitimate era.
First things first, however. If you think we should have the right to decide whether everyone needs a killing machine secretly tucked into their underwear, contact MCHC at 801 S. Adams, Birmingham 48009 (248-540-6868). Ol’ Charlatan Heston won’t like that, but hey. As Ben Hur knew, Rome didn’t fall in a day.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org