25 September 2009

No to Gun Control!

Freedom for Plaxico Burress!

On September 22, football star Plaxico Burress was sentenced to two years in prison. Last month, Burress had pleaded guilty to “attempted weapons possession,” a lesser charge than the prosecution’s original indictment on trumped-up gun possession and related charges that could have landed Burress in prison for 15 years. Confronted by a storm of ridicule in the bourgeois press and a district attorney who vowed to make an example of him, Burress felt compelled to cop a plea.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year, Burress decided to go to some clubs in Manhattan with a couple of his New York Giants teammates. As Burress explained, he carried his gun with him that night because earlier that week teammate Steve Smith had been robbed at gunpoint in the same area where Burress was going. Later that evening, as he was climbing the stairs in the Latin Quarter nightclub, the gun fell from the waistband of his pants. He tried to stop it from falling to the floor; it accidentally discharged, wounding him slightly in the thigh.

This might have been only the stuff of tabloid journalism, had not New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, intervened. Upon learning that Burress’ gun, though legally purchased in Florida, was not registered in the state of New York, Bloomberg railed that anything short of the state minimum for unregistered gun possession, i.e., three and one-half years in jail, would be “a sham, a mockery of the law.” When Bloomberg also demanded criminal charges be filed against New York-Presbyterian Hospital for not reporting Burress’ wound to the cops, the hospital suspended Dr. Josyann Abisaab who treated Burress in the emergency room.

This is an outrageous assault on the constitutional right to bear arms. As Marxists, we stand for the right of armed self-defense and oppose gun control schemes which are nothing but ruling class attempts to disarm the population. The earliest 20th-century gun control laws were passed in states like South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi as a way to disarm blacks in the face of KKK terror. In 1965, the New York City Council passed a bill especially to keep black militant Malcolm X from carrying a carbine for protection.

The importance of this critical right was brought home to New Yorkers on August 13, when 72-year-old Harlem businessman Charles Augusto Jr. needed his shotgun to defend himself and two employees from four would-be robbers. Two of the intruders were wounded and two died from injuries in their attempted heist. Nearby residents were generally sympathetic to Augusto, who was described as a “good dude” who “helps out the neighborhood.” A bystander at the shooting said, “I hope that the gun was licensed and that he was in his rights” (New York Times online, 13 August).

Plaxico Burress, a hero of Super Bowl XLII in February 2008, will now lose two years of his life for something that was not the least bit criminal. Like other prominent black and minority athletes, he is the target of efforts to disrupt or destroy his career for a “crime” without a victim. At the age of 32, this likely means the end of his football career and livelihood. Freedom for Plaxico Burress!

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 943, 25 September 2009)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.