The First Amendment in Action
Sometimes I fear I have only so many columns left in me that relate to living in Laguna. Often, like a dark cloud, this thought drifts across my mind. Am I a sponge that has been all but squeezed dry of ideas?
What about the movement to make Park Plaza permanent? The supporters make it sound like our city would then have something akin to the “stately pleasure dome” described in Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan.” Sorry, not interested. Then how about the struggles over short term rentals or historic homes? These are important issues but others have written powerfully and with more knowledge than I ever could.
Just when my mind feels like an exhausted field that has been plowed too often, something wonderful happens in town, and once again I can put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard.
On March 24, retired teacher Anne Caenn organized a rally for gun control and school safety on the grassy area on Main Beach. It was, of course, one of so many demonstrations that stretched from Washington, D.C., to Santa Ana, inspired by the brave students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
This retired teacher and part time columnist grabbed his camera and traveled to the site of the gathering. In the interests of full disclosure, you should know I am hardly a fan of the leadership of the NRA, seeing it as little more than a shill for gun manufacturers. Just as the First Amendment has limits (e.g., you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater), I believe the Second Amendment is not absolute. Even Justice Scalia was with me on that. Bump stocks, high capacity magazines, AR-15s, please. But back to the rally.
I arrived before 10 a.m. yet there seemed to be hundreds of people already there. The crowd continued to grow at a rapid pace, And, if Trump aide Kellyanne Conway can use “alternative facts” as she calls them, about crowd size, then so can I. Through the lens of my camera, I swear I saw more people on Main Beach than at Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Growing to young manhood in the 1960s, I saw plenty of angry demonstrations. Laguna’s demonstration on the 24th of March was anything but that. People of all ages were there, from seniors carrying signs that said, ”Grannies Against Guns,” to families with young children, to high school students. Pictures of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi could be seen in the crowd. There was a joyousness in the air as people talked and read each other’s signs. There was laughter, there was determination, there was hope. Maybe, just maybe, our country had reached a tipping point when it comes to making us safer from gun violence. A violence that no other industrialized democracy suffers from.
Cheers rose from the crowd as the majority of cars that passed honked their horns and waved in support. It was a glorious example of the First Amendment’s right of freedom to assemble, and perhaps make a difference. For too long the leadership of the NRA has been the tail wagging the country’s dog. A majority of Americans demand stronger gun regulations. NRA acolytes counter with such arguments as “baseball bats kill more people each year than AR-15s.” Ask the next person that tells you that about the shooter at the outdoor concert in Las Vegas, who using an AR-15 with a bump stock killed 58 people. What would have been the death toll if his weapon would have been a baseball bat?
Thanks should go to Laguna’s fine police force for their presence.
Special thanks to Anne Caenn for being the driving force for this event. And thanks to all the concerned citizens that turned out. It was another special morning in our town.
I love Laguna, with or without Park Plaza.
James Utt would like to say to Wayne La Pierre, “Enough.”