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Battling His Conscience on Gun Control

Good Roger had come to Washington. He had assembled graphs and charts and expert testimony. He had come to testify before Congress on gun control.

Bad Roger had come with him. He was naked to the waist. His chest was crisscrossed by bandoleers of ammunition. His hair had been cut into a Mohawk stripe. He wore camouflage paint on his face. He carried an AK-47 in one hand and an Uzi in the other.

Above his heart were tattooed the words: “Have a Nice Day.”

Good Roger is the decent, caring, wonderful side of me. Bad Roger is the twisted, evil, despicable side of me.

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“But in this column, I am to be known by my nom de guerre ,” Bad Roger said. “I am to be called Rambo Roger.”

“And if I refuse?” Good Roger said.

“I will exercise my rights as a decent, law-abiding American,” Rambo Roger said. “I will shoot you.”

Good Roger eyed the AK-47 and the Uzi nervously. “Do you have a license for those things?” he asked.

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“Don’t need one,” Rambo Roger said. “I live just outside Washington in Maryland. If I wanted to buy a handgun, I would have to go and fill out an application and wait seven days so the state police could find out if I was a lunatic killer or an escaped convict. And, in fact, the state police reject hundreds of such handgun applications every year.”

“Thank goodness for that,” Good Roger said.

“But to get an assault rifle,” Rambo Roger said, “to get a high-powered, fast-firing attack rifle capable of shredding human flesh, no waiting period or background check is required.”

“That’s crazy!” Good Roger said.

“No, that’s America,” Rambo Roger said. “A subtle distinction, I admit.”

Good Roger had come to Congress to urge it to pass a bill that would ban the purchase of semiautomatic weapons nationwide without a background check and waiting period. Rambo Roger was against it.

“You are actually defending the practice of buying extremely dangerous weapons without a background check?” Good Roger asked aghast.

“What I am defending,” Rambo Roger said, “is the constitutional right to shoot your boss on your lunch hour.”

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“That’s in the Constitution?” Good Roger said.

“Yes,” Rambo Roger said. “It’s called the pursuit of happiness.”

“For your information, ‘the pursuit of happiness’ appears not in the Constitution, but in the Declaration of Independence,” Good Roger sniffed. Good Roger loves to sniff at stuff like that.

“You think you’re so smart,” Rambo Roger said. “OK, forget about pursuit of happiness. Being able to shoot your boss on your lunch hour comes under ‘domestic tranquility.’ ”

“You really believe it is necessary to be able to get a semiautomatic weapon instantly?” Good Roger asked.

“Absolutely,” Rambo Roger said. “Let’s say your boss comes up to you and says, ‘Well, Throckmorton, late again today, I see. One more time and this will go on your permanent record.’ ”

“So?”

“So under current law, you can get up from your desk, go down to your local gun shop, buy an Uzi, come back and even up the score with your boss and anybody else who gets in your way all in under 10 minutes,” Rambo Roger said.

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“And that is necessary in a decent society?”

“Who said anything about a decent society? I am talking about America in the ‘80s,” Rambo Roger replied.

“And you would not accept even a seven-day waiting period?”

“Of course not!” Rambo Roger said. “If you have to wait seven days, you might calm down. You might have a session with your psychiatrist. Your boss might come over and apologize. Or give you a raise. And then where would you be?”

“Sane and happy?”

“But you wouldn’t have gotten even!” Rambo Roger said. “Don’t you realize who my fellow gun nuts are? They are people consumed by hatreds and jealousies and petty angers that have accumulated over a lifetime. Their guns are their only release, their only way to even up the score with a world they believe has mistreated them.”

“How come you get to say whole, long paragraphs and all I ever get is one or two sentences at a time?” Good Roger asked.

“I know the writer,” Rambo Roger said.

“But how are you going to persuade legislators to vote your way?” Good Roger asked.

“Give them money,” Rambo Roger said.

“That’s bribery!”

“No, that’s democracy,” Rambo Roger said. “You stick a hundred dollars in a senator’s shirt pocket, that’s bribery. But you give him a hundred dollar ‘honorarium’ and that’s OK. . . .”

“You will fail in your attempts,” Good Roger said. “Any person in his right mind will support at least a background check and a waiting period for assault rifles.”

“Any person in his right mind?” Rambo Roger crowed. “Well, that lets out the Congress!”


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