Editor's Notes

Let me politely suggest that if the Marines invade San Francisco, the pistol in your attic won't be much help


Look, I get the gun thing. I started shooting a .22 rifle in third grade, and by the time I was 11 I had a gold National Rifle Association Sharpshooter medal on my wall. Even in my advanced, protogeriatric condition, I can still pop the logo on a Budweiser can at 50 feet; I did it two months ago, in upstate New York, with my nephew and namesake, who is a proud teenage redneck. Tim lives in a small town, wears camo, smokes the adults at paintball, and loves his firearms.

My brother, his dad, goes along with this reluctantly — in his household, there are very strict rules about gun use. The .22 and the .177 have trigger locks, and my brother keeps the only key in his pocket. The ammunition is locked up separately. And he has informed his son that anything you kill, you eat — which discourages any potshots at squirrels and birds. I can live with that.

I also have a friend in San Francisco who hunts, and I'm more than happy to go to his annual pig roast and consume the sweet, juicy, wonderful wild boar he pegged in Sonoma County.

So I get it. There are people who love target shooting, and since I was one of them many years ago, I understand. There are people who think it's cool to go shoot a pig or a turkey or a duck and take it home for supper: since I think it's one of the world's great experiences to catch a bass or a trout and do the same thing, it's hard to be critical.

But the United State Supreme Court decision last week wasn't about my nephew's .22 or my friend Rich's hunting rifle. It was about whether cities can do anything remotely at all meaningful to keep 14-year-olds from shooting each other on the streets.

It's about whether kids in Hunters Point and the Western Addition will live to graduate from high school. It's about whether the desperate young people who are doing robberies in the Mission District and Bernal Heights will wind up shooting someone and spending the rest of their lives in prison over a bag of groceries and a hundred bucks. It's about whether someone the age of my kindergarten daughter will take a bullet in the head one night and die from the crossfire while she's asleep in bed.

Let's face it: this is about handguns and assault rifles, about weapons that have very little use in hunting, that are rarely part of any sporting tradition, and that exist almost entirely for the purpose of killing other human beings.

The unnamed man who is suing — with the NRA's money — to win the right to own a handgun in San Francisco public housing claims he needs a weapon to defend himself. I've been studying self-defense for 17 years now, and let me tell you a not-so-secret fact: guns are a terrible method of protection. If you own a gun in a city, the odds are far better that it will kill you or a loved one than that it will save your life. Guns don't deter crime; they encourage crime.

And for my dear friends on the left who say that the Second Amendment protects us all from government repression, let me politely suggest that if the Marines invade San Francisco, the pistol in your attic won't be much help.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera is fighting back on the NRA lawsuit, aggressively. He has to keep it up; this is madness.

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