Two anniversaries arrive in stark contrast this weekend. Sunday, December 15th marks the 222nd anniversary of ratification of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. While Saturday, December 14th marks the 1st anniversary of the deeply tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The collision has manifest in the discourse we've witnessed, in the ongoing political debate over the Second Amendment (right to bear arms) versus the universal values embodied by the First Amendment; freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and petitioning our government for changes in the laws that redress our grievances.
Over the past year we've heard from the gun right's advocates, as they like to call themselves. They've unleashed wave upon wave of personal attacks, threats, intimidations and public displays of firearms as their go-to tactics. Their goal, shut down the debate over common sense gun restrictions.
The tactics have succeeded in blunting momentum to address gun safety at the federal level in Washington, but not entirely successful in states.
In their enthusiasm for the promotion of more guns wielded by more people in more places, they have trampled American's rights as enumerated by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and petitioning our government for changes in the laws.
No one is off limits to the deeply personal and unusually offensive attacks by the pro-gun crowd. Colorado's last legislative session for example, saw the use of email and social media with some of the most disgusting language imaginable, largely directed at female legislators.
A new term, gun bullies, has sprung up to describe these tactics. As a recent New Republic article enumerates this is not just a Colorado phenomenon. Young American mothers who formed a national social media based group, Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have been the targets of relentless emails and Facebook posts which feature threats of rape and dismemberment if they don't lower their voices.
The gun bullies were also in action a few weeks ago at a suburban Dallas restaurant gathering of Moms Demand Action members. The shopping mall parking lot became the staging ground for gun-rightists fully armed with assault-type rifles. In Texas they like to call this open carry.
The activists had learned of the meeting via Facebook and decided that gathering in the parking lot with their weapons and some very young children, would send just the right message.
Freedom of speech also suffered a blow in the gun media last month. After a wave of cancellations, threats and advertiser pressure, long time columnist and writer for Guns & Ammo magazine Dick Metcalf was summarily fired within days of publication of his December 2013 editorial, "Let's Talk Limits" endorsing some common sense regulation of guns.
"I don't think that requiring 16 hours of training to qualify for a concealed carry license is infringement in and of itself, wrote Dick Metcalf. "But that's just me..."
Apparently it was just him.
As Guns & Ammo Editor Jim Bequette wrote in his groveling apology to readers, "I made a mistake by publishing the column. I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness. Dick Metcalf has had a long distinguished career as a gunwriter, but his association with Guns & Ammo has officially ended."
Wow, those readers wanted the scalp of traitor Metcalf and they got it. Bequette's groveling apology was well received at corporate (NYC-based Intermedia Outdoors Network) where he was promoted to vice president.
So this weekend while we're grieving with all the family members and extended family of the Newtown community, spare a thought for one of America's best and lasting achievements, the Bill of Rights, may we honor and protect it from those whose actions are leading toward its destruction.