Optics Jedi Master
Duquesne University 2008 Gun-Control Symposium
by Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America
(Links to University promo and news coverage at end)
The National Symposium on Handgun Violence was held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, on April 9, 2008. Ten of the leading gun-control advocates in the nation were scheduled for a coordinated review of “reasonable” limits on the right to keep and bear arms, led by Jim Brady himself, along with David Hemenway of Harvard and a host of others. News of the event and its surprise ending (covered at the end of this report) has not made national headlines.
A courageous decision was made to provide “balance,” which meant the organizers eventually found me (thanks to a referral from Alan Gura, Dick Heller’s attorney in the D.C. gun-ban case). They got me last-minute non-stop tickets from Phoenix, a room (a very nice room I might add), and 15 minutes at the podium. Ten against one. Hah. I had them outnumbered.
I’ve been studying persuasion skills for a long while now, and here was an acid test. Was it possible to address an audience like this and not get booed off stage? Could I manage civil discourse with the participants at the luncheon beforehand, maintain composure through the staging, and end up sociable at the afterglow dinner at a fine restaurant?
It’s my belief that the words exist in the universe to convince anyone of anything true, regardless of their predispositions. The trick is in finding those words, in the moment, and delivering them in a way that works, with the proper aplomb. You may not always find the words, but the words are always there. Think of it this way. What would Jesus say. The words are there. Could I find enough of them?
They scheduled me near the end, which was a good thing. I got to hear the keepers of the faith, the bearers of the sacred messages, tell 700 people and a gaggle of camera crews and reporters that -- guns are bad; crime is caused by guns; every gun-control scheme you’ve ever heard of is good; gun confiscations will solve the crime problem; we the people are too dangerous, irrational, unpredictable and incompetent to be allowed to bear arms; and that people on government payrolls (they didn’t frame it that way but it’s what they were saying) should have all these deadly dangerous malevolent guns. I’m putting this all more bluntly than they did, or than I ever would when wearing my hat of tasteful persuasive moderation.
We were briefed at lunch beforehand on how to handle hecklers, if any. Everyone took turns genuflecting in the direction of civility, and calm affirmation of a desire to tactfully handle any outburst in the unlikely event we faced any. The antis might attract some guff, but it was pretty obvious, though unspoken, that it was me, in my nice navy blazer and sharp red tie, who might face some opprobrium. I disarmed their fears by saying I didn’t want to hear anyone cry out, “Don’t taze me bro,” and we all had a good laugh. When one of the black women asked why I love guns, I looked at her and asked sheepishly, “Are you stereotyping me dear?” We laughed some more.
Metal detectors were installed at the entrance, a precaution we were told, because five athletes were shot on campus several years ago (none fatal thank God), which was a motivator for the conference in the first place. I’ve seen this before -- pro-rights gun conferences, walk right in. Anti-rights conferences, bristling with armed security and pat downs. What’s wrong with that picture?
I counted at least 14 crisply uniformed campus police, bearing 9 millimeter semis with a pair of double-stack extra mags on their duty belts. We had some great conversations, though the other speakers seemed to avoid these people. I had them laughing about all the guns in this anti-gun conference. As more showed up I kept telling them that now I REALLY felt safe. We swapped gun talk, war stories, a few thanked me for being there. I knew I had at least a few people on my side -- the ones with the guns.
When my turn came, I was pretty choked up. Tom Mauser, who came before me, had lost his 15-year-old son at Columbine. No matter where you stand on the RKBA issue, that is just hard to endure. I have a daughter in school. I worry for her every day. No amount of even fascist controls can stop a psycho bent on destruction.
He had put on his son’s shoes for his speech, and took them off to show the crowd. He was walking in his murdered son’s shoes. I’m getting choked up just writing this. It was awful, compelling, deeply moving. The photographers crowded in to get that shot, and it’s the image that ran in all the papers the next day. He had used his dead son’s shoes effectively.
I walked the steps to the lectern and thanked the university for being courageous and including me. It was gutsy of them to have a speaker on the other side of the fence at a symposium like this. And I told them it was really hard for me to do, in the face of the tragedy and mind-numbing statistics we had been hearing. It was the right place for me to start, the right words to use, all deeply heartfelt. The audience quietly absorbed my opening remarks.
The university asked me here, I told them, so you could have some measure of balance, so you could see that this conference is only half the equation. I’m here, and I held up the sign I had used at the Supreme Court case a few weeks ago, to make sure you keep in mind that Guns Save Lives too. Guns Stop Crime (and another matching sign). Guns Protect You. Look how many guns there are in this room. You know why they’re there -- because guns have a purpose, a social utility that’s important and should not be overlooked.
Their emotions had been played upon all afternoon, so I continued the trend. I told of a woman awakened to find a knife-wielding, ski-masked intruder in her home, and how she had to shoot him while crouched behind her bed, after having called 911. She had to keep firing until the big guy finally collapsed. The police arrived only nine minutes later. You could hear a pin drop.
Would you deny this woman her right to live, by taking her gun away? Isn’t the message, “If it saves one life...”? Do you have the moral authority, or a sense of self righteousness that says she must die because you think guns are bad? I pressed on.
Mary Ann Watkins got an award here in Arizona at our tenth anniversary CCW banquet. We passed our discreet-carry law against a backdrop of hysterical clamor about blood in the streets, shootouts at traffic lights, and dead bad waiters. Ten years had proven that was nonsense, a concoction of irrationally scared uneducated minds and a compliant media. None of it happened (and no news corrections were printed).
Mary Ann had stopped at a lonely desert rest stop on the way to Phoenix from Yuma. A burly trucker followed her into the ladies’ room.
Lifetime warranty and excellent customer service don't mean a thing when your gun fails during a zombie attack.
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