Political Animal


April 20, 2013 1:31 PM This Is A True Story

Nate Bell, guns, gun control

By Jamie Malanowski

This is a true story. Thirty years ago, my wife and I visited her family at their home in Sundance, Wyoming. Ginny’s brother Rick and his wife Sue took us out for a drink at what passed for the young person’s bar. In the process of catching up, we began talking about their grandfather, who was about 90 years old, and whose longtime partner, whose name I forget, but let’s call her Joan, had recently died in the local hospital. “Yeah, Grandpop’s real upset,” my brother-in-law confided. “Last week he got drunk and took his shotgun and went over to the hospital and demanded to see Joan. When they told him she was dead, he began to shoot up the waiting room. They had to call the sheriff to come take him home.” No charges were preferred.

That was Round One. When Round Two arrived, we were joined by another young couple, Tom and Patty. The four locals began talking about a recent incident in the neighboring town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota (neighboring—as in forty miles away) where a young man had walked into a Hardee’s fast food restaurant and tried to hold up the place at gunpoint. “Fifteen guys went out to their trucks and got their rifles,” Tom said, “and came back and blew him away.” (I’m not vouching for the accuracy of the story, only Tom’s telling of it. But Rick and Sue and Patty supported his account.)

At that point another customer walked past, a man with a badly disfigured face. “That’s Don,” Sue explained. “One night he got depressed and decided to kill himself, but his gun slipped, and he only blew off his jaw.”

At that point, Patty thought to try to bring the out-of-towners more into the conversation. “Where are you folks from?” she asked.

“New York,” we said.

New York?” she responded with astonishment. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

Priceless, right? The story came to mind this morning when I heard about this pinheaded Arkansas State Senator named Nate Bell, who tweeted “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”

Bell’s inexcusably snide, ignorant tone aside, it’s a fair question. It’s also fair to wonder how many senators would have changed their votes on gun control had the Tsarnaev brothers set off their bombs and killed one cop and wounded another on Sunday instead of Monday. It’s also a fair question to wonder how many dogs, cats, racoons, guys sneaking a smoke on their patios and police officers involved in the manhunt would have been shot if everybody in Watertown had an AR-15 by his bedroom window.

Jamie Malanowski is a writer and editor. He has been an editor at Time, Esquire and most recently Playboy, where he was Managing Editor.


  • Mark on April 20, 2013 3:16 PM:

    Also this: How many on-alert and on-edge cops would see a man with an AR-15 and, rather than ask if he is duly exercising his 2d amendments, will seek to blow him away as completely as possible and ask questions later?

  • Art Hackett on April 20, 2013 3:23 PM:

    I worked in Dubuque, Iowa in the late 70's and can attest to the fact that a man attempting suicide there survived after a slip caused him to blow off his face. I worked as a reporter and my beat included a visit to the police station early Sunday morning. I had just moved there from Texas. I remember the time when, after going through the incident reports and seeing arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct involving hitting someone with a beer bottle or pushing someone into a table, I told the captain that in Texas, a bunch of those would have been homicides because one or both parties would have had guns.

  • Steve on April 20, 2013 4:34 PM:

    I live in Southern California.

    Recently, as most folks will recall, we had a huge manhunt for one Christopher Dorner, an ex-cop with a grudge and a fistful of weapons. He killed several people over the period of roughly a week.

    We had no lockdown. We largely went about our business as if nothing special was happening.

    This liberal felt no need for a gun. I pay taxes for professional police protection. I'm fine with that. If I had a gun, I'd probably end up shooting myself in the foot (if not worse) anyhow.

  • c u n d gulag on April 20, 2013 4:36 PM:

    This may be a bit OT - but this reminds me of when I was living in NY City, and took tourists, who were either relatives, friends, or friends or relatives of friends or relatives, and took them to 42nd Street.
    I especially like taking them at night.
    Yes, I'm an @$$hole.

    Now, I'm talking about the 70's and 80's 42nd Street, when, between Grand Central and the Port Authority, it was all XXX movie theaters (straight, or gay), strip joints - where guys/girls fed quarters to watch the girls/guys, porn shops, guys pulling scams, hookers, drug addicts, and stoned people - not like now, when it's Disney-Lite St.
    All of that sleezy "charm" - gone...

    And they'd be freaking out with every shaky, sweaty, step along 42nd St.
    And I always used some sort of excuse that we had to go to the other side, to catch the right subway, which would get us back to where they were quicker (never mind that the 7 train, would do the same thing).

    And to get there, we'd either pass 40th and 41st Streets, or 43rd and 44th, and people knowing the reputation of 42nd St, alway, ALWAYS, looked down those quite streets, and ask, "Can't we go down this street instead? It looks pretty quiet."
    I'd laugh, and say, "No, THAT'S where you'll get into trouble. They're too quiet. 42nd is safer, because it's busier."
    And it was safer, because there were always cops out there, every singe second of every single day. Especially, at night. Sometimes, they were about evenly matched with the grifters, "deviants," sex-hustlers, and stoners.

    If you know what you're doing, look like you know where you're going, and not looking to make trouble for other people, NY City is a very, very safe city.

    Oh, and I use to tell the visitors, as they got off the buses at Port Authority, or the trains at Grand Central, and we started walking down the streets, that if they kept looking up at the tall buildings, I'D MUG THEM! - because they looked like rubes, and I'd be doing them a favor, because it's better to get mugged or robbed by someone you know in NY, than some other schmuck in this city.

  • Neildsmith on April 20, 2013 5:25 PM:

    Senators... are not the people we should be trusting to have our best interests at heart. Isn't it just a bit cowardly for these Senators to care more about their reelection than the interests of their constituents? It isn't their job to be reelected, it is their job to respond to the reality in front of them and govern.

    I realize this cuts both ways, but being a Senator is not a job, it is public service. There are things I do because it is my job that I would otherwise not do. Perhaps our representatives in Congress should stop worrying about their political careers and start worrying about us.

    I know... what a silly idea.

  • ninjanurse on April 20, 2013 5:28 PM:

    Working as a visiting nurse in the center of Providence, RI. We're a small city in a small state, but we have too many funerals for young men lost to violence, and the terror that comes with uncontrolled crime.
    In the poorest neigborhoods, the mail is still delivered. Nurses Aids care for the sick and disabled for barely above minimum wage. And there are a lot of children, beautiful and full of hope.
    So, excuse me if I don't bring a weapon when I go to do my job.

  • Rose on April 20, 2013 5:32 PM:

    True story from 1977. I was 17 and my boyfriend 18. We got off the bus in Port Authority at 10:00 pm on a Monday, after a 3 day bus trip from San Diego. We had ten bucks between us, and my sister (where we were headed) lived in the Bronx and had no phone.
    We had to rely on the kindness of strangers from NYC! And they came through for us! One guy took us on the subway to the Bronx! When we got off, he gave us directions on how to get to my sisterís apartment. Like the dummies we were, we stuck out our thumbs for a ride to get there! We got picked up by a great guy who told us we should really not be thumbing rides in the Bronx, and offered us some tacos from Jack In the Box. And long story short, took us to my sisterís apartment! In 1977!
    Still alive to talk about it!

  • Citizen Alan on April 20, 2013 5:47 PM:

    Did you say anything back to the people who disparaged New York while apparently oblivious to the fact that they lived in a war zone? I was just curious. I've grown weary of the phenomenon of conservatives being able to say whatever damn fool thing comes into their heads and liberals never responding because they want to be polite or don't cause trouble.

  • Bob M on April 20, 2013 5:59 PM:

    Snide senators from the South are nothing new. I remember working on a paper on nativist reaction to immigration to the US and there was a story one senator who used the word Wop in WW2. An Italian American lady wrote him to protest, saying that she had sons plural who had died in service to their country. He wrote back, on Senate letterhead, "My Dear Wop". Ch-ch-ch-cheapie, huh?

  • Kathryn on April 20, 2013 8:23 PM:

    Me too Citizen Alan, I can't shut up now and won't.

  • stratplayer on April 20, 2013 8:33 PM:

    I am a "Boston liberal" and I know lots of liberals around here, and none of them were even close to "cowering" during the manhunt. This man knows nothing of liberalism and nothing of courage. One thing I know about courage is that it doesn't come out of the barrel of a gun.

  • jrosen on April 20, 2013 8:36 PM:

    I lived in Watertown for a while, not far from the shootout site. Also Cambridge, Somerville brookline and other towns in E. Mass for 35 years.

    People do not cower --- they use common sense. The police were rightfully concerned that (a) there might be other explosive devices seeded around town, and keeping people to "shelter in place" avoided that hazard (b) since the suspects had already shot some people, and if cornered might well go "Butch Cassidy" it would make sense to keep civilians clear of what could be a war zone --- bullets do ricochet! (c) No one was forced to stay home --- there were cars moving in the TV shots and some people were out, but for the most part citizens behaved like citizens (a concept somewhat foreign to certain other areas of the country) and co-operated, with the result that the guy was caught and NO ONE else got hurt. Instead of snide sneering, that would seem to call for congratulations.

    If Texas and SC and the other sorry lot don't secede from us. how about we secede from them?

    PS cund, I kind of miss the raunchy old 42nd Street. AS a friend, a born and bred New Yawker observed out, that when Giulani cleaned it up, he missed the major point that New York is less a city than an outdoor theme-park. I can say, having finally lived here after all my life being taken for a NYer, I can aver that if you want entertainment, the subway is better than TV. I love everything about the place (except the Yankees --- I have loyalty to my Brooklyn-born father and also my first baseball team, the Tigers.

  • emjayay on April 20, 2013 8:58 PM:

    Rose, your true story may be almost all true, but not the part about tacos from Jack in the Box. Not only did they probably not have tacos in 1977, but I don't think they were ever in the Bronx. The closest Jack in the Box to the Bronx currently is 515 miles away in Statesville, North Carolina.

  • schtick on April 20, 2013 9:04 PM:

    I don't know if it's still up or if the comments are still there, but I laughed for an hour over the comments on Nate Bell's FB page. He was even offered a free plane ticket and paid ticket to the ballgame tonight if he would repeat those same words on the pitcher's mound at Fenway.

    It appeared that a lot of the comments were from the people of Arkansas. He did put up an apology of sorts. He apologized for the "timing" of the remark. He's a classy guy in teapub world.

  • biggerbox on April 20, 2013 9:06 PM:

    I have to admit I was a bit surprised that we didn't hear from Wayne LaPierre this week trying to tell us that the best defense from bad guys with bombs in pressure-cookers is good guys with bombs in pressure-cookers.

    I was so proud of the citizens of greater Boston this week, supporting their trained law-enforcement officers and staying out of the way to let them do their work.

  • jkl; on April 20, 2013 10:45 PM:

    This was one helluva rough week, emotional rollercoaster and relentless dramatic aspects nationally. And mother stopped living as well. System is tangled up in blue.

  • Anonymous on April 20, 2013 11:58 PM:

    Nate Bell and his ilk are brainwashed idiots, and what's scaring the bjasus out of me at the moment is the notion that concealed-carry reciprocity (a big hue & cry currently among the forced-guns set) (and by 'forced guns,' I mean the rest of us are forced to live with THEIR damn guns all around us) will actually come to pass...and squinty-eyed, skittish, and well-armed out of towners will be let loose in the streets of NYC, packing their most powerful dick subs....er, sorry, 'sidearms,' and looking around in defcon 3 at everyone. Look, I remember the 50s and 60s, and back then firearms owners didn't strut around trying to impress everyone with their "rights." Many of the gun owners back then were actual combat veterans from WWII and Korea, and they didn't see the need to acquire 'purchased macho,' nor brag about it, having perhaps already gotten enough of the real thing. You can get into trouble in "bad" parts of town anywhere in America, not just NYC, and you can let yourself be brainwashed by the NRA into thinking a gun will make it better, which is more or less what's happened over the last 30-40 years. Didn't use to be that way.

  • Arkansas Anonymous on April 21, 2013 9:09 AM:

    In spite of Nate Bell's stupidity, I would like the rest of the world to know there are many kind, intelligent and empathetic people in Arkansas. A lot of us are embarrassed by this excuse for a man, who clearly feels squeamish unless well-armed. I think we should introduce legislation that no one like him can use the title "Representative," so broadly. Or maybe he should just go ahead and admit that what he represents is the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby.

  • boatboy_srq on April 21, 2013 9:30 AM:

    It occurrs to this progressive that, for all their gloating over gunless libs cowering in fear at the single armed man, the 2nd-Amendment-shouters are in deathly fear of an armed, liberal, populace.

    The reason that Conservatists are so afraid of places like New York is the idea of all those Other people holding guns and pointing those guns at them/

  • zandru on April 21, 2013 3:28 PM:

    I can't help but think that folks in these gun-happy rural burghs really aren't like the rest of us. To them, it seems, human life has little value, unless it's pre-birth life.

    So Grampaw can shoot up a hospital, and it's all fun and games. Dozens of citizens can joyfully shoot apart a man in cold blood, with no thought that he might have stood down and surrendered after seeing an array of rifles pointed at him. Guy blows his face off trying to commit suicide; shrug. Now he's ugly, too.

    Maybe it's associated with agriculture, a business in which the most horrific cruelty to animals is just "the way it's done." Moving sick cows around by jabbing their sensitive areas with a pitchfork. Cutting the beaks off chickens so you can jam them closer together. Feeding your pigs on stale cheetos and potato chips because it's cheaper than feed and they get fat faster. Jamming all the animals into close proximity and making them stand knee-deep in feces, so you can make more money per acre.

    Maybe once you get used to callous cruelty, firearms and basic firearm safety look like girly stuff.

  • howie on April 21, 2013 4:47 PM:


    I'm guessing the comment to Rose was tongue in cheek, but there were Jack In The Box all over the Northeast in the 1970s and they most certainly had tacos.

    We had them in the DC area and the tacos were really awful.

  • rdale on April 22, 2013 12:39 PM:

    I live in Utah, where the governor just vetoed a "constitutional carry" gun bill, which would have allowed any yahoo to carry a concealed weapon of any kind to any place for any reason. That veto could cost him re-election; that's how dedicated the average Utahn is to his precious guns. So I heard a lot of that kind of comment, that "that wouldn't have happened in Eu-taw, where everyone is armed!" My response was always: "that's exactly what the situation in Watertown needed, a bunch of untrained, amped-up, heavily armed citizens laying down a base of fire with their Bushmasters out of their bedroom windows. That would have been perfect."