February 16th, 2011

A follow-up to Gun Nuts and Gangsters, inspired by What the ‘right to bear arms’ really means (Salon 1/15/11) and An enlightened, alarming first lesson in gun safety (Courtland Milloy, Washington Post 2/16/11).

“I’d been so mesmerized by the kick of the gun, the flash from the barrel, ejected shell casings flying everywhere, the smell of gun smoke and the adrenaline rush from nicking that paper plate that I didn’t realize my finger was still curled through the trigger guard, unaware if only for a moment that the pistol was primed for an accidental discharge. But a moment is all it takes for a tragedy to occur. Who knows what else I’d forget while walking the streets with a gun on my hip.” – Courtland Milloy describing his shooting range outing with DC gun rights plaintiff George Lyon

Did it keep Marshall Matt Dillon awake nights

Wondering if he violated rambunctious cowboys’ constitutional rights?

In the real Old Dodge City, a cowboy had to give up his gun

Before heading into town for a night of fun.

Cow towns instituted those regulations

After many deadly altercations.

They did it to stop drunken cowboys from shooting up the town,

Or getting into arguments and then gunning each other down.

Sick of getting caught in the crossfire,

Citizens voted to enforce a ceasefire.

According to today’s SCOTUS, those laws should have been overturned

And everybody’s guns returned.

Marshall Matt Dillon, it would seem,

Was the brutal instrument of a repressive regime.

Those cowboys should never have been preemptively disarmed

Until after they local citizens and property had harmed.

Only then could sheriffs have constitutionally taken their guns away,

And so what if that caused more shoot-outs when drunken cowboys dared disobey.

(What is it all you damned gun controllers don’t understand

About the phrase “pry my gun from my cold dead hand”?)

After all, it’s more important that this newfound Constitutional right be fulfilled

Than it is that innocent bystanders not be killed.

DC used to have a similar local regulation,

Which also turns out to have been a Constitutional abrogation.

It’s interesting that this individual right only appears

After our Constitution was in force for 220 years.

Before 2008, the right on which the Court has insisted

Was never previously known to have existed.

But in 2008, the Supreme Court decided

That it was important enough that local law be overrided.

(I don’t know whether you agree,

But that sure sounds like judicial activism to me.)

Personally, I think it’d be best

If we returned to the reasonable regulation of the Wild West.


Here’s your theme music, the opening theme from the long-running classic cowboy series Gunsmoke. (NB: As an interesting side note, Gunsmoke was called “Gun Law” in the UK.)


Courtland Milloy’s gun buddy George Lyon was one of the plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. Heller, under which the Supreme Court decided in 2008 to overturn DC’s local laws limiting handgun ownership. Lyon is also one of the plaintiffs in Palmer v. District of Columbia, which would allow the District’s  new handgun owners (of which he’s one) to carry their weapons in public. That case may be mooted by the proposed GOP House bill to repeal the District’s restrictions on semi-automatic weapons and reduce the training and licensing requirements to own and carry a firearm in the District.

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