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January 24, 2007

Who's Afraid of The 11 Year-Old Girl?!

Are things really this bad at the National Rifle Association? We knew that they were frustrated after watching their legislative priorities go down in flames in the 109th Congress. We witnessed their paroxysms of fury over the results of the November elections. And we knew that their paranoia had reached all-new heights after reading a draft copy of their disturbing "Freedom in Peril" pamphlet.

But Wayne LaPierre, the Chief Executive Officer of the NRA, publicly attacking an 11 year-old girl?!

Yes, even we were left scratching our heads after reading the January 22 entry in his "What They Didn't Tell You Today" blog.

The object of Wayne's anger? That would be one Kailey Leinz, an elementary school student in Burke, Virginia, who spoke at a press conference at the State Capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Kailey was there to express her support for SB 827, a bill introduced by Senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax) to close the state's gun show loophole, which allows criminals to buy guns without undergoing background checks.

In his blog, LaPierre mocks Kailey's concern over the issue, inferring that surely her opinion about criminals' free access to guns at 50+ Virginia gun shows a year must be the result of parental brainwashing. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with public safety and security at her school. LaPierre even misquotes a Department of Justice study in claiming that only 2% of crime guns come from gun shows. Actually, the ATF has stated point blank that gun shows are the second leading source of crime guns in the country, behind only corrupt federally licensed dealers. Furthermore, in the study LaPierre mentions, 80% of the felons interviewed indicated they got their gun from "family, friends, a street buy or an illegal source." No effort was made to trace these guns and find out where they were originally bought and how they were subsequently trafficked. It is likely that gun shows were the source of many of these crime guns, but the NRA won't tell you that.

The NRA is never shy about pointing out its enemies, but LaPierre was so unnerved he wouldn't even put Kailey's name in his blog, referring to her simply as "this 11 year-old girl." He should take a lesson in courage from Kailey herself. At the press conference, members of the pistol-packing Virginia Citizens Defense League crowded into the room to intimidate those calling for sensible gun laws. Kailey stood up, looked them in the eye, and never flinched while delivering her eloquent speech.

Way to go, young lady. Oh, and Wayne - if your idea of protecting children is putting more guns in America's grade schools, well, you probably shouldn't be doling out parental advice to anyone.

January 8, 2007

"We Have No Freedom"

The Washington Post ran an interesting article on Friday about the absence of law and order in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital. "Men draped with AK-47s" now walk the avenues of the capital, doing the bidding of local militias and warlords. These militias are a constant threat to the local populace, freely stealing and plundering from their countrymen. They also tightly restrict movement, manning an extensive series of roadblocks in the city that few are brave enough to navigate. The fledgling secular government of Somalia has been unable to establish control and guarantee the safety of their citizens.

In the meantime, frightened Somalis have taken to arming themselves for protection. It has, however, bought them little sense of security. "We are hostages right now," said Somali Mohamed Dere. "We have no freedom."

As we thought about this situation, we realized that in many ways it is the logical extension of the NRA dream for America. A gun in every home, citizens freely carrying these weapons on the streets for self defense, and a central government that is unable to regulate these firearms in any way, shape or form.

The problem, however, is that because everyone is armed and there is no system of justice or law enforcement in place, there is freedom only for those with the biggest (or most) guns at any given moment. And that sounds a lot like anarchy (or mobocracy, perhaps) to us.

We feel this story brings to light "America's First Freedom," the real one without which no others can exist: Public Safety. For a society lacking a functional government that can guarantee the safety and security of its people can guarantee no other individual rights, and is destined only for chaos and violence.