Five days to wait


CONGRESS is on vacation, and by rights there should be joy in the land. But not everyone in the nation's capital is sharing in the holiday spirit.

Fred Carbunkle, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, is in a deep depression. I found him on his bedroom pistol range, firing at his wife's perfume bottles.

"How can people expect me to have a decent Christmas when Americans have to wait five days before they can buy a gun?"

I said, "I assume that you're talking about the Brady bill. You just had bad luck, Fred. The Republicans preferred to eat turkey rather than filibuster. Nobody can blame an NRA lobbyist for losing that one."

"That's easy for you to say. But millions of NRA members are ticked off, and they're going to be calling for my head."

"That would be terribly unfair. After all, you did the same on previous bills. You threatened politicians that if they didn't vote the way the NRA wanted, you'd defeat them at re-election time. You did everything, including giving campaign money to those who promised to vote against the Brady bill. I don't know what more a gunslinger could do to save our Constitution."

Carbunkle was now shooting at the Venetian blinds.

"They're going to take my Christmas bonus away from me."

"They wouldn't do that. You're a victim of public opinion. The people have been sold on the lie that handguns kill people. The NRA has a great humanitarian record, and one lousy congressional bill won't detract from that."

Fred was now aiming at the grandfather clock. "We knew they had the votes to pass the bill, but we thought we could weaken it so badly that it wouldn't have any meaning. Our friends in the Senate were supposed to do that for us, but they let us down. It makes me sick."

"I don't blame you. What are legislators for if they don't do the NRA's bidding? Perhaps the biggest mistake you made, Fred, was coming in with such a high profile."

"What exactly do you mean by that?" he asked, shooting at the dog.

"Everyone knew where the NRA stood on the Brady bill, mainly because you kept yelling, 'Kill Brady' every time the senators went on and off the floor. After a while people started talking."

"All I was trying to do was get my message across that a vote for Brady was political suicide. Is there anything wrong with that?"

"Not really. But you made a lot of legislators look silly because their constituents were on the other side."

Carbunkle went downstairs and began firing at all the Christmas decorations.

"Maybe it's time to quit the gun-lobbying business. I'm burned out. The country is turning against guns, and those of us who represent the owners and dealers no longer have any respect."

"Don't give up now, Fred. You have other battles to fight and other wars to win. You represent this country's future. Always remember, 'Guns don't kill gun legislation -- people do.' "

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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