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Support your local militia--carry a concealed weapon

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Gormless

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Support your local militia--carry a concealed weapon**

It has been over 200 years since William Blake ridiculed the idea that mutual fear breeds peace. In the eighteenth century one needed only to phrase it that way to elicit a belly laugh; today the joke is lost on us because we've heard so many men in suits tell it with a straight face.

As I was growing up we used to talk a lot about Mutually Assured Destruction, a reassuring phrase meaning that both the Soviets and the United States had enough missiles to wipe each other out. With the military's flair for acronyms, it later became MAD Times Two, MAD Times Ten, MAD Times Thirty, reflecting an increasingly safe world in which no major power could be eliminated without its people achieving posthumous revenge, plus a little. Ah, the happy accident of temporary nuclear peace, fueled by spiraling defense budgets, savage chauvinism and unchecked xenophobia! Those were heady days for which I can barely contain my gratitude or hope to convey just how safe I felt. I have a feeling we still own most of the missiles.

Successors of those besuited men have now been spending a lot of time thumping the table with the butt of their pistol in time to the prose of the Second Amendment. Yes, yes, everyone can own guns, all kinds of guns. No, no, they should not have to register them.

Cover me, friend, I'm going to demur. I see that at both federal and state levels, we've been increasingly successful this year at legislating family values--such as the right of family members to own unregistered semiautomatics. I see that 50,000 American children died last year from gunshot wounds, and that all parties agree this embarrassing figure will go up as guns become more commonplace, more legal and more lethal. I see that many states won't let you smoke in elevators because they consider it a public health hazard, but they will allow you carry a concealed weapon.

North Carolina joins them on Dec. 1. A few municipalities, blinkered by the liberal media, tried to buck this law with local ordinances, but their efforts were shot down, so to speak, by well-heeled NRA lobbyists. Checking your gun at the door will be optional.

Of course, most people will tote a "gat" in their glovebox, armpit, lunch box, briefcase or purse only for medicinal purposes--in case a rattlesnake threatens them at the office, say--or to preserve freedom by slaying a government employee, suspected illegal alien or convenience store clerk. More than half the people who own guns will never kill a kid, and there's comfort in that. Besides, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, right? In a free society, kids need to learn to watch their back. May as well start young.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. It goes something like "a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

You got me. Me, I'm so gormless that I find myself asking questions such as "How does the carrying of concealed weapons constitute support of a well-regulated militia? Did Grampa's .45, which he kept under his pillow and fired once a year at a ketchup bottle balanced on a fence-post, contribute to the smooth running of said militia?"

Actually, I grew up shooting at ketchup bottles with Grampa and playing soldier in the woods behind our house. When I was 24, I taught English aboard a U.S. naval vessel heading for Honduras. They expected trouble, and while we were still at sea they made everybody gather on the fantail to shoot semiautomatic pistols at floating bags of garbage, the only expendable targets we had handy. I can still close my eyes and hear the hooting of young men fired up by the testosterone and gunpowder of that bizarre afternoon. When it was over I returned to my stateroom and, still blinded by the intense Caribbean sun, was startled at the dark and threatening shadow I encountered in the mirror. A chill ran up my spine. These enlisted men, my students, had become my friends, and I did not like the fact that it was so easy to imagine their fresh pink or chocolate flesh being ripped by bullets, nor the fact that it was so easy to envision them--and me--ripping other people's pink or chocolate flesh. And that was when I changed my mind about guns.

Fear breeds fear. Hatred breeds hatred. Only peace breeds peace.

Paul Baerman, Fuqua '90, is a University employee .

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