In a previous article, I predicted that Franklin alderman Dana McLendon would never see his pipe dream fulfilled of ordinary citizens being allowed to carry guns into government buildings.
Ironically, I just had occasion to visit the Franklin courthouse, where I and my wife, Beth, appeared as character witnesses for a friend involved in a child custody case. Not only were we not allowed to carry assault weapons into the august presences of Franklin’s judges, but Beth was not allowed to carry her purse into the courthouse while I had to remove my belt just to make it past the scanner.
What happened to our unlimited Second Amendment right to bear arms, which should have allowed us to carry machine guns, howitzers, bazookas and flamethrowers wherever we pleased? Beth couldn’t even bear her lipstick and mascara containers into the courthouse. I was fortunate just to keep my pants from collapsing around my ankles.
Not only that, but once we were inside the courthouse, we were not afforded our Constitutional right to speak freely without limitations. We had to wait our turn to testify and couldn’t just say whatever popped into our minds. We had to follow a very strict code of conduct, to keep the judge from finding us in contempt, throwing us in jail, and fining us.
It seems obvious that the people who know the Constitution and Bill of Rights best — American judges — have no illusions that the rights it grants are unlimited.
Nor do Tennessee legislators who hypocritically claim to be the protectors of our First and Second Amendments rights have any problem infringing on those rights, in order to protect themselves.
Security measures have just been upgraded on Capitol Hill, as part of a $15.7 million renovation program. Our hard-earned tax dollars have been spent on scanners, cameras and permanent guard stations. Will ordinary citizens be allowed to carry weapons of any sort into the renovated capitol building? Not on your life. The only people bearing arms there will be trained professionals assigned to protect the people denying us our right to bear arms.
House Speaker Beth Harwell said the upgrades will make legislators and visitors safer without curbing access to the Capitol. But the upgrades will certainly curb our access to Tennessee legislators if we go bearing arms.
The current security upgrades were budgeted soon after Gabby Giffords was shot. Previous security upgrades were budgeted soon after 9/11. It seems obvious that when Tennessee legislators feel threatened, they are ready, willing and able to spend large sums of money and infringe on our rights, in order to protect themselves.
But then why not do everything possible to protect the lives of innocent schoolchildren? Are the lives of adult legislators more sacred than the lives of students? Adult legislators can find other lines of work. No one can force them to enter dangerous buildings. But children are required to attend school. They have no choice but to enter dangerous school buildings, if legislators refuse to make them as safe as possible.
The raging hypocrites on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill have two very different sets of standards. For themselves, the standard is their personal safety, even if it costs large sums of money and trumps our Constitutional rights. But for everyone else, personal safety means nothing. So we have bills that allow guns in bars, guns in parks and guns in trunks. Now there is talk of guns on campuses. Can anyone doubt that the next “logical” step will be guns in high schools, grade schools, kindergartens and daycare centers?
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.