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August 31, 2012

Same as it ever was, back in the USSR


Memories of the Cold War, when all that was bad about the Soviet Union was so plainly on view, are being brought back to mind — at least for some of us. For staging a pointedly anti-Putin demonstration, a Russian court recently sentenced three members of an all-female punk rock band to two years in prison for “hooliganism,” which happens to be a favorite Soviet era catch-all charge used against countless dissidents. Human Rights groups and the U.S. State Department pointed out the lengthy jail time is clear evidence of a government once again suppressing free speech by old means. However, it was in a New York Times Aug. 16 editorial commentary about what they decried as the original maker of the Kalashnikov rifle selling semi-automatic models for export, including to the United States, that the editors apparently forgot about another common practice of the old Kremlin – determining who was sane and who was not. Then, it was clearly understood that many who opposed Communist Party policies were simply adjudged “insane” by officials for political reasons and they were sent away. Having never met a gun control proposal that they didn’t like, the Times editors positively gushed over the current Russian government’s requirement that purchasers of long guns present a “medical certificate of sanity” before being allowed to acquire one. Really? So, it is acceptable for the same insecure and corrupt government that uses “hooliganism” charges as a way to stifle speech to decide on certifications of sanity as one more means to keep firearms ownership as limited as possible? Not that this failure of logic bother most at the New York Times, of course. We all want to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, but to endorse a power-driven Russian government approach to rationing firearms ownership and to further say that were it not for “the intimidating shadow of the gun lobby” we could have such a policy here in the United States of America speaks to a truly selective and profoundly incorrect reading of history – both Russia’s and ours. Be thankful we have a First Amendment and a Second Amendment. Only one of these rights seems to matter at the New York Times.