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Friday, May 31, 2013

Texas man questioned about gun-nut ricin letters

NPR: “Authorities, including the FBI, questioned a New Boston, Texas, man Thursday night in connection with an investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to government officials, including President Barack Obama,” KSLA-TV in Shreveport, La., reports.

According to ABC News, a source familiar with the case says investigators consider the man to be a person of interest at this time. The network writes that the source says the man’s wife “called authorities after she noticed strange material in her refrigerator, and noticed computer searches for ricin.”

This news from Texas relates to three letters that surfaced this week — one sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one sent to a gun control group the mayor supports and a third that was mailed to President Obama. Those letters, as NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston told us Thursday, were similar and were reportedly postmarked in Louisiana. New Boston is located near the point where Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana meet.
Whether this is the guy or not remains to be seen (there’s a reason why “person of interest” and “suspect” are two different terms), but the initial evidence is compelling. “The agents are questioning a man from New Boston, Texas, whose wife called authorities after she noticed strange material in her refrigerator, and noticed computer searches for ricin,” ABC reports. You have to assume that she added this up with the statements and/or actions of her husband in the past and that she reported him to authorities because she believed he had finally done more than just shoot his mouth off.

Again, I would very much like to see gun lobbyists and their defenders in DC get some extra media scrutiny for this. Does the argument that the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to kill “tyrants” give this particular citizen the right to attempt assassination? If not, why not? And if not, when does a citizen have the right to kill themselves a tyrant? How does this interpretation of the Second Amendment actually work? It’s awfully easy to talk about it in broad terms, but when you get down to the specifics, what we’re really talking about here is allowing the assassin’s veto. I would very much like to hear someone explain why one disgruntled citizen has the right to overturn an election and the votes of millions of other citizens. And I would very much like to hear what they’d plead to avoid prison — or even the death penalty — for the act. Not guilty by reason of tyranny? Who’s ever pleaded that?

When you start talking about it in these terms, it’s pretty clear that this most definitely was not what the founders intended, because there’s no legal mechanism to deal with exercising the “right” to murder someone you consider a tyrant. The text of the Second Amendment just doesn’t support this interpretation.

What the text of the Constitution does support is the establishment of a “well-regulated militia,” to reduce the need for a standing army and to be able to respond to local crises in an age before interstates, planes, and engines made it possible to move an army into an area quickly. It is an anachronism mostly, like the Third Amendment which allows people to refuse to quarter Federal troops. It’s the solution to a problem that no longer exists.

Why else would the gun lobby and their goons argue that an amendment that contains the term “well-regulated militia” keeps government from regulating guns? It’s a sham. It’s a sham to sell as many guns and as much ammo as possible to panicky cowards who think danger lurks around every corner and that life should be entirely risk-free. For them “freedom” means everyone holds a gun to everyone else’s head, because people are inherently evil and only the threat of imminent death keeps us from devolving into chaos and anarchy. The lie is that private gun ownership is the only thing that keeps us from being overrun by criminal and terrorists and Joseph Adolph Hitlerstalin. We’re a nation of laws, not gunmen.

If it were anything but a sham, the person responsible for these letters would be able to walk away after pleading tyranny. This wouldn’t be terrorism, it’d be heroism. And that’s just not going to happen. The law simply does not support that interpretation of the Constitution.

Nor should it.

[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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