To the Editor:
I read with incredulity the letter written by Bill Stevens comparing modern-day gun owners to those oppressed by the odious Jim Crow laws of a not-too-distant past. As a Second Amendment supporter myself, I understand Mr Stevens' concerns about law-abiding gun owners' Constitutional rights. However, I don't understand how he can make such a ludicrous comparison in defense of his beliefs.
If a law were to be passed in Newtown tomorrow that banned anyone from carrying a gun, permit or no, this may be a matter of concern for the gun owner, but he can still travel about town in peace and, one presumes, work to have that law overturned as long as he leaves his gun home for the duration. In the Jim Crow days, black people could not leave their skin color at home so that they could go to work or run errands without being told which line to stand in or which seat they could sit in on the bus. Jim Crow laws were enforced at the dangerous end of a gun, and a massive act of civil disobedience over a number of years was needed to overcome them. Is this really the correct analogy to make when defending gun rights?
My husband, who is black, read Mr Stevens' letter and was justifiably upset – especially since Newtown's population is mostly white. Having grown up in another town where he was the only black kid in school until he reached high school (back in the 1970s), he has had to endure more than his fair share of bigotry. He already feels like he sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb here. Once he was pulled over by a Newtown police officer and asked to get out of his car at night while the officer looked around in it with a flashlight. He was not speeding or driving erratically – so naturally, he is suspicious that his skin color was the reason. I cannot say that I blame him.
Letters like the one by Mr Stevens do not improve my husband's perception of Newtown and, I have to say, probably doesn't do much to improve the perception by outsiders of a town I have lived in and loved for nearly 30 years. Am I saying all of Newtown is bigoted? Of course not. However, a little sense and sensitivity can go a long way, something Mr Stevens doesn't seem to have figured out yet.
When making arguments about any position, no matter how justifiable one's position is, it's important to avoid using an analogy that not only cheapens the argument, but also cheapens the situation being used to make the comparison. In this way, one avoids looking foolish and inviting well-deserved ridicule.
Pam Meister Jones
11 Park Lane, Newtown August 28, 2013