Thursday, December 27, 2007

Chutzpah for the Sake of Attention

I sometimes worry whether commenting on the "right to bear arms" is riskier than raising questions about either patriotism or extreme religious beliefs; so it is with a certain amount of trepidation that I have decided that the Chutzpah of the Week award should go to the National Rifle Association. However, this is not a case of arguing over what is or is not allowed under the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights but one of what might be called "indelicately exploiting a delicate situation." The basis for the award is a report filed by Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman. Here is Kunzelman's lead:

The National Rifle Association has hired private investigators to find hundreds of people whose firearms were seized by city police in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to court papers filed this week.

The NRA is trying to locate gun owners for a federal lawsuit that the lobbying group filed against Mayor Ray Nagin and Police Superintendent Warren Riley over the city's seizure of firearms after the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

In the lawsuit, the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation claim the city violated gun owners' constitutional right to bear arms and left them "at the mercy of roving gangs, home invaders, and other criminals" after Katrina.

The NRA says the city seized more than 1,000 guns that weren't part of any criminal investigation after the hurricane. Police have said they took only guns that had been stolen or found in abandoned homes.

My argument is that this is a situation that was based in a chaos from which those institutions that make the city of New Orleans what it is are still recovering. Now is not that time to exploit that painful recovery process as part of the lobbying interests of the NRA. The implication of the language of the lawsuit that only gun owners' were vulnerable to "roving gangs, home invaders, and other criminals," because they no longer had their guns, is an insult to a police force that was stretched beyond its limits when the entire population was vulnerable.

Yes, in a time of chaos, bad decisions get made: Some are questionable; others are flat out wrong. We all know this. However, this is not the time to be arguing over one of those decisions, particularly when so much positive recover work is taking place. We do not need distractions like this, particularly if this is more a matter of the NRA flexing is muscles of influence in preparation for the candidate selection process that is about to begin. The chutzpah does not reside in "the principle of the thing" but in the rather inept way in which that principle has been converted into action at the wrong time, if not the wrong place.

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