Amazing Grace

I remember reading and seeing depicted in film how respectfully and graciously Generals Grant and Lee came to terms at Appomattox. Maybe they hated each other personally; I don’t know. At the very least, I think it’s safe to say they had some pretty fervent philosophical differences. And yet, they were able to co-exist in a room for a few minutes without breaking anything, including each other.

I wonder how that meeting might have gone if Grant had stormed in and accused Lee of being off his meds.

That’s what one Republican state legislator said about some of the people who voiced objection to his bill in the Tennessee General Assembly last week. Senate Bill 2376 would allow full time faculty members at public universities to be armed on campus (concealed) as long as they have a valid handgun carry permit. As you know, I am in favor of the bill. But as you might have also guessed, many of my colleagues across the state are vehemently opposed. Several expressed their opposition in writing to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Bell. And when those comments were addressed on the floor of the Senate, Senator Bell responded by declaring on the record that “some of these people need to take their medication” (see the video below at roughly 11:40).** He also celebrated the threatened “mass exodus” of “some of these liberals,” which he hoped would afford the opportunity to replace them with “conservative teachers.”

One of the primary legislators opposing the bill was Senator Harris. In stark contrast to Senator Bell, Senator Harris was cool, calm, measured, and deferential in his presentation of alternate viewpoints. He never once insulted pro-gun advocates and never insinuated that folks who wish to carry a gun on campus must be off their meds. His arguments were thoughtful, deliberate, and objective. If I had been previously uninformed or misinformed about defensive carry, or if I had otherwise been on the fence on this issue for whatever reason, Senator Harris might have convinced me to oppose this bill. But in spite of Senator Harris’ valiant efforts, Senate Bill 2376 passed. It is now on its way to Governor Haslam for signature.

Of course, I disagree with almost everything Senator Harris said, and I’m glad his argument did not prevail. However, he happens to be my Senator, he represents my district, and I am proud of the amazing grace he showed in defeat. Senator Bell won the fight, though he showed little class in doing so. Senator Harris lost the fight but kept his dignity (and my respect).

If we — and by “we” I mean people who wish to preserve their right to bear arms for personal defense — if we ever want to rest easy in the quiet confidence that the Second Amendment is finally safe from erosion or attack, we must think and act strategically. We all love attending tactical classes that prepare us for physical fights, but too few of us ever give much thought to the tactics of the legal and philosophical battles facing the Second Amendment every day. We will never win by stomping our feet and barking our righteous indignation at the audacity of any so-called American who would ever dare to question the Second Amendment. We could be “right” all day long, and I believe we are. But it’s not enough to just be “right.” We also have to be smart. Not long before the famous meeting at Appomattox, a hollywoodized Abraham Lincoln (a/k/a Daniel Day Lewis) said it best in one of my favorite movies:

One more quick note. While I was disappointed by some of the baser points of Senator Bell’s performance, his closing argument was a personal high point for me. In the Senate video I posted above, right around the 34:30 mark, Senator Bell closed the floor discussion by reading from an email that he had received from a faculty member at the University of Memphis. He didn’t name the faculty member, but the email sounded very, very familiar

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**Hmm, looks like the video trimming code might not be recognized if you’re viewing the video on a cell phone. If you’re seeing the entire video (almost four hours long), the first colorful comments from Bell appear at roughly 2:47:40, and the closing argument starts around 3:10:30.