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Lakeshore - [politics] A cranky email on guns, and a gracious reply
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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-02-25 04:45
Subject: [politics] A cranky email on guns, and a gracious reply
Security: Public
Tags:guns, media, oregon, politics
Last week while driving back from a lunch date with [info]kenscholes, I heard Oregon state representative Dennis Richardson (R., 4th district) on OPB's Think Out Loud. He was discussing gun laws in Oregon with host David Miller. Miller began asking Representative Richardson about 2013 HB 3006, a measure that invalidates federal firearm laws in State of Oregon. This bill is ridiculous on a number of levels, including being blatantly unconstitutional, and is very clearly intended to be red meat for Oregon's rural conservative voters.

Richardson acted like he'd never heard of the bill, and seemed very taken aback by Miller's questions. He sounded genuinely surprised at Miller's description of the contents of the bill. The host finally stopped and asked Richardson if he was a sponsor of the bill. Richardson said he'd have to get back on that.

As it happens, Representative Richardson is manifestly a sponsor of HB 3006.

I found this profoundly irritating. From my perspective, this was a classic example of the persistent liberal-progressive question about most conservative political positions: Are they stupid or evil? Either Representative Richardson could not remember which bills he sponsored in the Oregon House, or he's so intellectually dishonest that he would flat out lie about a bill that pertains to a current cause célèbre in American political life. Neither of those options seems consistent with being a competent, ethical representative.

So I wrote him a snotty email.

That night, I got back a very gracious reply. I don't have permission to quote it here, so I will not, but suffice to say that Representative Richardson took the time to write me in some detail about how and why he had prepared for his interview with Think Out Loud, and that HB 3006 was not on the list of topics he'd been provided with in advance. He further observed he'd had no idea what HB 3006 was because the last time he'd seen the bill, it was in draft without a bill number.

Now, I can argue with a lot of Representative Richardson's response. For example, how could he not realize that talking about gun control might well include an aggressively partisan and in-your-face bill he'd co-sponsored? But what I admire and respect about his response was that he ignored the graceless tone of my challenge to his on-the-air comments in favor of engaging on the substance of issue as he saw it.

Here's an excerpt from my response to his response:
As for the topic at hand, yes, we're probably not likely to agree. I understand and respect that gun ownership is a Constitutional right, but the Constitution has been wrong before. In its original form, the document enshrined both slavery and second-class citizenship for women through restriction of the franchise. Over the years of our republic, Americans have redefined what is right for us as a society through the framework of Constitutional amendments. For my own part, I don't see how anyone of good conscience and moral awareness can support a right that costs 80 Americans their lives every single day, most of those deaths preventable or avoidable except for the widespread presence of firearms.

Think about this: 3,500 people died on 9-11. We have spent a trillion dollars and caused the deaths of 100,000s of people in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the years since then seeking to redress that wrong. Imagine what our society would be like today if instead we'd spent that trillion dollars at home on violence abatement?

Rather, Americans choose to accept 30,000 largely preventable deaths a year as part of the cost of a free society -- a cost no other free society on Earth is willing to tolerate. I am extremely confident that history will eventually judge American gun culture very harshly indeed. For the sake of all those deaths every year, I would like to see us get on the right side of that history now, not a generation or two from now.


I doubt Representative Richardson and I will ever agree. Anyone who can sponsor a measure as extreme as HB 3006 is on the far side of lunacy from my perspective on sane social policy. But I appreciate his willingness to engage with me constructively. It's given me pause for thought.

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Jim Hetley: Powers
User: jhetley
Date: 2013-02-25 13:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Powers
Regarding "gun control" and Second Amendment issues, it's worth noting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Firearms_Act

That's why you can't walk into your friendly neighborhood gun dealer and buy a 105 mm howitzer.
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Terie Garrison
User: teriegarrison
Date: 2013-02-25 14:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Or nuclear weapons. Or chemical weapons. Or....

Americans have obviously accepted that the government CAN actually regulate what people may own. It's intellectually dishonest for gun-rights folks to say otherwise.

As I pointed out to a relative recently, the 'r' word is right there in the Second Amendment. When I asked, 'What part of "I can own an AK-47 with a 100-bullet clip" meets the condition of "a well-regulated militia"?' he couldn't give me an answer.
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joycemocha: intense focus
User: joycemocha
Date: 2013-02-25 14:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:intense focus
Phooey on Richardson. He's playing you, Jay. This is the a-hole who got the PERSONAL email addresses of every teacher in the state (through the official records we are required to submit to the state licensing board) and then proceeded to email us a bunch of anti-teacher, anti-union broadsides at a time when four locals had proceeded to the point in contract negotiations where strikes were imminent. This is not a process which happens overnight (as I well know from far-too-personal experience); locals in this position often have gone a year or more without a valid contract and this usually means that one or both sides have not been bargaining with intent to cooperate and settle for a reasonable deal.

Furthermore, this emailing of broadsides wasn't an opt-in process, it was an opt-out process and he and his staff weaseled around until the Oregon Education Association made a big stink about it. It took several emails on my part to get off the list of that BS (and it was pretty ugly stuff).

Richardson is one of the ALEC crew in the Oregon State Leg. He's slick and he's got his talking points down cold. It's part of his SOP to be as bold and brazen as possible, then weasel around and pretend to sound reasonable when he gets called on it. Don't pause to think too long about him, it's a manipulative game on his part to play with liberals who honestly think he's trying to dialogue.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-02-25 14:51 (UTC)
Subject:
Interesting. He was certainly gracious to me, and I was pretty damned snarky with him.
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Dan/Дмитрий: The Sign at the End of the Universe
User: icedrake
Date: 2013-02-25 15:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:The Sign at the End of the Universe
To be extra-cynical for a moment, are you sure what you got was from Rep. Richardson and not a prepared response from one of his staff?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-02-25 15:49 (UTC)
Subject:
It could have been from staff, but the response was detailed and personal and spoke to my email on a point by point basis.
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joycemocha
User: joycemocha
Date: 2013-02-25 15:58 (UTC)
Subject: Re:
Could be staff, most likely is. Keep in mind, he got hit with a LOT of snarky email after he pulled that BS with harvesting the personal email addresses, AND kept on supporting and justifying it. He's well-funded and can afford good quality social media support. Again--ALEC funding. That's Koch Bros. This is not a minor leaguer.
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joycemocha
User: joycemocha
Date: 2013-02-25 15:56 (UTC)
Subject: Re:
That's his style. I don't doubt the man is personally quite pleasant--I've had that experience with another of his ilk in the Lege. Doesn't mean that he can't simultaneously dance around some pretty repellent ideas and sell his talking points. It's--not a personality type you're likely to encounter outside of active politics, at least not in my experience.
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Msconduct
User: msconduct
Date: 2013-02-25 23:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
but the Constitution has been wrong before.

Yes! Speaking as someone who was born in one country without a written constitution and is living in another, the general attitude of Americans towards their Constitution is utterly baffling to me. Re the gun debate, I keep hearing "the Founding Fathers said..." "the Founding Fathers would have wanted..." OK, but that was hundreds of years ago! Why on earth would anyone want their country to be run in perpetuity according the wishes of somebody long dead and from a different time? They were only people, after all.

Of course, it's possible that what's really happening is people simply using the Constitution as an excuse to get their own way. From the outside, it's difficult to tell how much sincerity there is in the reverence. But neverthless, you're the first person I've seen who instead of arguing the issue within the context of the Constitution is actually querying the relevance of the Constitution itself.
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Jay Lake: politics-rifleman
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-02-26 01:10 (UTC)
Subject:
Keyword:politics-rifleman
I'm not querying the relevance of the Constitution so much as the perceived inviolability of the Constitution. But yes, this.
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Msconduct
User: msconduct
Date: 2013-02-26 02:06 (UTC)
Subject: Re:
Yes, that was very poorly phrased. Inviolability was what I meant.
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houseboatonstyx: smaller-healing-buddha
User: houseboatonstyx
Date: 2013-02-26 02:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:smaller-healing-buddha
Of course, it's possible that what's really happening is people simply using the Constitution as an excuse to get their own way. From the outside, it's difficult to tell how much sincerity there is in the reverence.

Surely many of them are. But it's a well-designed system, and has plenty of checks and balances and feedback loops and error traps. Perhaps it would deserve reverence just for that.

There IS an amendment process. Last I heard, a large majority wants better gun control. But it's not happening. Perhaps because amendments have to be approved by state legislatures, which are usually controlled by conservatives? Because conservatives win the off-year elections? Because the liberal majority only turns out for the glamourous elections? Maybe that's our trouble spot, right there, and guns are a canary in the coal mine?
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