Here's my latest Vermilion column, to be published in the Sept. 22 issue. In case you don't click on the local reference, Dupre Library is part of the UL Lafayette campus (specifically, it serves as the library).
If you’ve been to Dupre Library recently, you’ve no doubt seen the wonderful sign that graces a pillar near the checkout desk:
“Under LAS 44:13, the library makes every effort to protect your privacy, but under the Federal USA PATRIOT Act (PL 107-56), records of the books and other materials you borrow from this library and information about sites you visit and activities you conduct on the library’s public access computers may be obtained by federal agents.
“That federal law prohibits library workers from informing you if federal agents have obtained records about you.”
That has to be the most miserable sign I have ever seen! I pity the nation’s good librarians who are forced to deal with this. It’s the kind of thing you might expect to see in a documentary about a long-defunct fascist regime. Yet here it is, in America, in 2004. I’m not at all a violent person—I often flush cockroaches rather than stomp on them—but I had to restrain myself from tearing it down.
Big Buddy Government would be proud of my anger. After all, we’re living in an age of violence, and there’re terrorists to hunt! If I get mad enough, then I just might buy a gun and become a REAL American! And, thanks to our marvelous majority-ignoring representatives, doing so just got much easier.
The 10-year-old ban on assault weapons, a universally applauded measure widely credited with a sharp reduction in violent crime rates since 1994, lapsed on Sept. 13. We have Congress to thank for murdering it. This expiration brings with it the resurrection of such weapons as the Uzi, the TEC-9 and the AK-47. For millions of Americans, duck season is now in full swing—duck-and-cover season.
William Bratton, LAPD Chief of Police, wrote in the L.A. Daily News that “the best defense of our homeland security will depend on the front lines of local law enforcement officers. We need our lawmakers' help by putting obstacles, such as the assault-weapons ban, in the path of terrorists." But what would some cop living in Los Angeles know about guns?
At least one group sees the return of assault weapons as a key to winning the war on terrorism. "In countries like the United States, it's perfectly legal for members of the public to own certain types of firearms. If you live in such a country, obtain an assault rifle legally, preferably an AK-47 or variations." That quote is from a recently unearthed al-Qaida training manual. Yes, al-Qaida certainly seems to hate us for our freedoms.
All you need to know about where the Bush administration stands on this issue lies in the fact that, after 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft allowed for extensive government intrusion into everyone’s personal information. He drew the line, however, at gun records. Weapons possession, Ashcroft said, was too sacred to investigate. Gee, someone’s license plate must read “NRA HOR.”
So remember, citizens: machine guns are good, books are bad! With the PATRIOT Act and the lapse of the weapons ban, it’s less of a hassle to buy a TEC-9 assault pistol than it is to check out “The History of the TEC-9 Assault Pistol.”
To quote that old cliché, the pen is mightier than the sword. And, lately, the pen has been making some pretty good cases for putting down the sword. The guy who sang that “words are weapons” must be turning in his grave right now. And not just because INXS broke up, but because his phrase has been taken way too literally by the anti-intellectual right. Knowledge is the real weapon, one that is feared more by corrupt leaders than any bullet.