Klinkenborg's 'Complaint': NRA Makes It Tough to Limit Individual Rights

There's a certain irony to my column today. The author whose op-ed piece I'm about to criticize grew up hunting and shooting in Iowa, and still owns several guns. I grew up in Jewish neighborhoods in the Bronx and Queens where about the only concealed items were tzitzis - undergarments men wear to remind them of Biblical commandments. I've never owned a gun and my forays into shooting have been limited to Boy Scout camp and one adult session at a trap range - or was it skeet?

Yet in his in his NY Times column of today, Once a Progressive State, Minnesota Is Now a Fief of the N.R.A., Verlyn Klinkenborg, a member of the Times editorial board, condemns Minnesota's concealed carry laws, whereas I support them.

Perhaps Klinkenborg would point precisely at my relative ignorance about guns to claim superior understanding. But if it's true I'd be hard-pressed to distinguish a .357 from a 9mm . . . I can recall the words of the Second Amendment.

Klinkenborg's opening paragraph is telling:

"A couple of weeks ago, I checked into a hotel in Bloomington, a Minneapolis suburb framed by the airport and the Mall of America. On the hotel door was a sign: “Firearms Banned on These Premises.” The next day I drove to St. Joseph, an hour west of the Twin Cities, where I saw the same sign. Slowly the logical conclusion sank in. If firearms are banned on these premises, then they must not be banned in other places."

Well, that would make sense. The Second Amendment is in effect in all areas of the United States.

Klinkenborg next laments that Minnesota is a "shall require" state, meaning the law requires sheriffs to issue concealed carry permits to citizens meeting stated requirements. Klinkenborg apparently prefers "may issue" laws, leaving the decision to sheriffs' discretion. Funny how liberals, normally so wary of law enforcement, suddenly want to entrust sheriffs with sweeping powers to limit individuals' constitutional rights - when it comes to guns.

Next, Klinkenborg 'permits' himself [hey, shouldn't that have been up to the sheriff?] to indulge in some blue state/red state snobbery. "This is what I’d expect of Florida . . . I’d expect it of Texas too. But Minnesota? I grew up thinking of Minnesota as a socially progressive state. After all, it was home of the D.F.L. — the Democratic Farmer Labor Party — and a place where local control and common sense had strong roots." And we all know the definition of "common sense" - liberalism!

Try on Klinkenborg's following fantasy: "by granting this right to individuals, the law strips the public of its right to occupy public spaces without the threat of being shot." Let's get this straight: if only government would take away the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms, they would face no threat of being shot in public places? That must be reassuring to all the victims of Columbine and other school, courthouse and city hall shootings around the country.

Klinkenborg no doubt thought that a concluding remark was a devastating criticism: "Sometimes I think the N.R.A. isn’t really about guns at all. It’s about making certain that the public — our political and civil society, in other words — has no ability to limit the rights of an individual."

I'd call that high praise.

Mark Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning, web-casted TV show Right Angle. Contact him at mark@gunhill.net

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