Reading Spencer Ackerman's blog, I come across a column in which gun rights people are upset with the Republican party. The pro-gun people are upset with the Justice Department because it argued in favor of continuing gun restrictions in the D.C. v. Heller case. In the column he references, one quote stuck out:
As the gun grabbing Brady Campaign acknowledges, such a finding by the Supreme Court could open the door to striking down as unconstitutional most, if not all, of the victim disarmament laws on the books.Emphasis mine. I was tickled by that characterization of gun laws. It reminded me to write the rest of this post, which was originally hung on a gaffe that Mike Huckabee made at the NRA national convention a couple of weeks ago. A clatter was heard during Huckabee's speech, to which he joked:
“That was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair and someone pointed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.”
Barack's gun-phobia is presumably linked to the possibility of assassination, but it could be a more banal, if not benign fear. Michelle Obama (in response to a question about assassination):
I don't really lose sleep over it. Because the realities are that, you know, as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station...She took a lot of flak for that. Reading the words on this page, I can see why. The flat invocation of blackness is weird.* But the invocation of gas station sends a tingle up my spine. I remember one night my first summer in Hyde Park, gassing up the van at the ill lit Mobil on 53rd. The station was flanked on both sides by dark apartment buildings. On the opposite side of the street was a park,** empty. A man riding by on a bicycle abruptly turned in and started calling to me. And I thought, "O.K. this is going to be my first time getting mugged." And I checked my pocket. "Hey," said the man, "are you ready for the anatomy test tomorrow?" It was SDS.***
So, when Michelle Obama talks about a black man pumping gas, I fill in the blank "on the South Side of Chicago," an area where you really could get shot while pumping gas.*4
Which brings me to my last meditation. Amadou Cisse. Cisse was a graduate student in Chemistry at the University of Chicago. I never met him, but his death is still a subject of discussion. Without sources or verification, this is how it went down: Two guys borrowed a car from their neighbor with the intention of going clubbing. However, they realized that they were short on money. No big deal, they figured, we'll just get some off those rich students at the UofC.*5 First they mugged two students coming out of the biology / med school lecture building, and netted a pen. Coming back south, they threatened a professor near 60th and Woodlawn, who ran away as they shot at him (and missed). They continued west, finally running into Cisse near 61st and Ellis. Cisse was coming back from lab, had no money, wasn't even carrying his wallet. They got frustrated, so they shot him.
This takes me back to the D.C. gun ban. Chicago also bans handguns, which the murderers used. A lot of people have said a lot of very intelligent things about guns. I have something not very intelligent to add:
If someone were mugging me, and God came down and said, "You can either have a gun in your pocket, or $40," I know that with one of those options, I'm guaranteed to walk away.
*: Is it? The murder rate and murderer rate are much higher in blacks than whites. Concurrently, black on black murder is way more common than black on white or the reverse. This isn't to say Barack is likely to get murdered at the BP in Gunbarrel...
**: A couple years later, gangs of malicious 12 year-olds would ambush students cutting through that park after school and steal their electronics.
***: SDS is a white guy, so, you see, I'm not racist. I'm afraid of everyone in the dark.
*4: A takeoff of the infamous survey question from Freakonomics "How does it feel to be poor and black on the South Side of Chicago."
*5: We don't think of ourselves as rich, of course, but as people with well-off parents (yup) or very few expenses (yup), we tend to walk around with iPods (nope) laptops (sometimes) or other saleables (yup).