A weekend column by veteran Tallahassee Democrat journalist Gerald Ensley, which he concluded by warning gun owners that, “We’re coming for your guns. And someday, we’ll take them,” has stirred up a hornet’s nest, he confirmed in a telephone conversation with Examiner this morning.
Yesterday, Dan Cannon, writing at Guns Save Lives, called it the “worst anti-gun editorial in the history of anti-gun editorials.” Ensley told this column that he has received more than 200 e-mails and more than 50 telephone calls, including a few threats. More than 700 responses have been posted on the newspaper’s website.
The 63-year-old Ensley expected a fiery reaction. He’s written about guns in the past. He’s never owned a gun, and he obviously wishes nobody else did, either.
“I’m not talking about gun control,” he wrote in a column headlined, “Stop the insanity. Ban guns.”
“I’m not talking about waiting periods and background checks,” he continued. “I’m talking about flat-out banning the possession of handguns and assault rifles by individual citizens. I’m talking about repealing or amending the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Not much wiggle room there. Ensley said the chance that only outlaws would have guns if guns were outlawed is “a chance worth taking.” He reasoned that, “Because if we ban guns, eventually the tide will turn.”
Many of the messages he’s gotten included “lots of “F-bombs,” and he said reactions have come from 10-15 different states. Ensley credited that to social media, which – for better or worse – allowed his column to sizzle across the Internet.
He was unapologetic about what he wrote, which included the assertion that the Second Amendment has been misinterpreted. He referred to the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger’s claim in 1990 that the Second Amendment protected an individual civil right was “a fraud on the American public.” Burger died in 1995, so he was not around when the high court affirmed that the amendment does protect an individual right.
Ensley refers to gun owners as “gun freaks.” He asserted, “Every legal opinion for 200 years denied individual gun ownership was a right — until the steady lobbying of the National Rifle Association created a climate that allowed a conservative U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 to strike down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia, and fuel the sense of entitlement of gun owners.”
But he said something else that could raise another issue. “Police and military train for years,” Ensley wrote, “to use a gun competently in stressful situations – and even they don’t always respond correctly. Think Ferguson, Mo…”
The whole country has been thinking about Ferguson for three months, and especially over the last 12 hours. Images of burning buildings and a female reporter on a live feed being hit in the head with a thrown rock are hard to ignore. So is the forensic evidence, which – among other things as they were explained by County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch – is that ballistics don’t lie.
The grand jury made a call based on the facts. Michael Brown was not, as originally alleged, shot in the back, with his arms raised. Yet, in an e-mail last night over the name of Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, he wrote about being “filled with frustration, disbelief, and anger…That the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man with his hands in the air remains free is appalling.”
What happened in Ferguson, and elsewhere that protests gave troublemakers an excuse to smash, grab and burn, just might result in more gun sales. Over the past several weeks, gun sales in the Ferguson and St. Louis region have skyrocketed. That can’t be comforting to Ensley or other gun prohibitionists.
But there is something even more troublesome to the Tallahassee columnist, and in this he has a point. It’s about the penchant for some in the firearms community to throw around the term “traitor.”
“The thing I resent most,” Ensley told this column, “is that somehow I am a traitor to America. You can have a different opinion about America and still love it.”