For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
July 21, 1999 - The Right to Arm Bears
A couple of weeks ago I remarked that I didn't know much about gun control. Well, since then, I've been doing some reading. In the process I've learned some things that the NRA doesn't want you to know. Here they are.
Every one talks about "the right to bear arms." There's much speculation about just what the Founders of this great nation had in mind.
Well, there are two theories, and neither one of them is what you'd expect.
The first theory was propounded by historian David W. Crockett, in his classic, "Dan'l, We Bar'ly Knew Ye." This still-popular biography of the famous frontiersman, Dan'l Boone, recounts a curious episode. Dan'l's father, Will'm, had some peculiar ideas about the relationship between the natural world and mankind. Crockett cites an occasion when Will'm learned that young James Madison was drafting a Constitution. Late one night, the rustic woodsman burst into Madison's hotel room, wild-eyed and stammering with indignation.
Disgusted by the growth of civilization, Will'm proposed that the Constitution give "critters" explicit legal authority to protect themselves. As Madison recorded in his journals, Will'm said, "I reckon a musket in the hands of a grizzly'd do more to curb the spread of these dag-nubbed cities than anythin' else."
In other words, Madison didn't mean to pen, "the right to bear arms." He was SUPPOSED to have written, "the right to arm bears."
I unearthed a second theory recently in the admittedly obscure collection of essays on the topic "Weather and Politics" (National Meteorological Society: Pittsburgh, 1995). Here one essayist notes that the weather in the District of Columbia (which even in 1786 had been identified as an early candidate for a national capital), was so beastly that ambassadors stated their intent -- if they had to summer anywhere near the place -- to seek hazard pay from their home governments.
This is understandable. As the author makes clear in a series of striking graphs, the air in D.C. does not move, apparently, at all. Ever.
Moreover, as numerous paintings of the Revolutionary era attest, diplomats, politicians, and men of letters were expected to wear yards of woolen clothes, heaped in fashionable layers.
The author writes, "Could the 2nd Amendment have been a simple recognition that no young country could survive if its leaders had to conduct their deliberations in the swelter of a swamp? Might not the plain meaning of the text be that all men have the inalienable right -- when faced with certain meteorological conditions -- to 'bare their arms?'"
It's an intriguing hypothesis. Certainly, misspellings were rife in the period before the publication of the inimitable Webster's Dictionary (1st edition).
Of course, the rest of the text of the Amendment does tend to cast aspersions on either of the above theories. In final form, Amendment II to the Constitution of the Unites States reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
But that's just one more value of the library. There are so many stories to choose from. I'm sticking to mine.
[Jamie LaRue is director of the Douglas Public Library District. And as the preceding demonstrates, he is long overdue for a vacation.]