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Here's some poetic justice for gun-control advocates

Maya Angelou tells Time about owning, shooting a firearm

John Kass

April 7, 2013

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I know why the caged bird shoots.

Because some creep is at the door, turning the knob. And she's alone and rightfully afraid. But she has a gun in her hand.

And thanks to the Second Amendment that many on the political left would like to erase and rewrite — by using horrific tragedies like Sandy Hook to wipe the Constitution of irritants — Maya Angelou was able to defend herself.

That's right. She defended herself with a firearm.

Maya Angelou got her gun. And now that she's talked about it, she teaches us a lesson about making assumptions.

Angelou, the literary icon and famed poet and "Star Trek" fan, told Time magazine in a recent interview that she likes having guns around. Her comments must have been the last thing that gun controllers wanted to see.

TIME: Your mother, she was your protector. She often carried a gun, she seemed very fond of guns. Did you inherit your mother's fondness for guns?

ANGELOU: Well, I do like to have guns around. I don't like to carry them. But if somebody is going to come into my house, and I have not put out the welcome mat, I want to stop them.

TIME: Have you ever fired a weapon?

ANGELOU: Of course!

TIME: At a person?

ANGELOU: I've fired it period, not at a person I hope. I was in my house in North Carolina. It was fall. I heard someone walking on the leaves. And somebody actually turned the knob, so I said, 'Stand four feet back because I'm going to shoot now!' BOOM! BOOM! The police came by and said, 'Ms. Angelou, the shots came from inside the house.' I said, 'Well, I don't know how that happened.'"

I loved the way she told the story. Particularly the sounds she used, like the leaves. The leaves were an awfully nice touch, weren't they? "It was fall. I heard someone walking on the leaves. ..." You could hear them crunch under the predator's feet. And then the silence when the feet stopped moving there at the door and the knob turned.

Angelou couldn't tell if the lurker was armed with a firearm or perhaps had another weapon, a hammer, say, or just fists. But the poet had what she needed to counter what she thought was coming for her.

Shooting blind through a closed door is a terribly dangerous thing to do, potentially deadly, perhaps murderous in the hands of the right prosecutor.

It is the act of a student of the Shotgun Joe Biden Firearms Safety Academy, or a person driven out of her wits by panic.

I think it's fair to say that she was frightened. Angelou had been the victim of violence as a girl. And former victim or not, who wouldn't be afraid?

Unfortunately, so much of the gun control debate is about fear. Fear of what happened at the Sandy Hook school, where 26 people, most of them children, were gunned down by a madman whose parents should have noticed something was wrong and done something about it. And they didn't do something about it, and all those people are dead.

Fear, too, of the government taking weapons away from law-abiding gun owners, depriving them of their Second Amendment rights.

Fear also of the ignorance of some lawmakers, including a lead House sponsor of a proposed federal ban on high-capacity magazines.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, of Colorado, said that her proposed ban on the sale or transfer of magazines holding more than 10 rounds would reduce violence.

"If you ban them in the future, the number of these high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won't be any more available," she said at a forum organized by the Denver Post.

The audience laughed as DeGette cast herself as an empty-headed blue jay because, as I'm sure Maya Angelou could tell her, an empty magazine can be reloaded with bullets.

That a lead Democratic sponsor of a controversial gun bill doesn't even know the first thing about how guns work reveals that it's all about one thing: peddling fear.

Americans had hoped for another kind of debate after Sandy Hook, a debate in which responsible gun control measures could be considered, yes, but also a discussion about mental health and a culture of violence that brings treasure to the same Hollywood crowd that hires armed bodyguards yet abhors the Second Amendment.

So why does the caged bird shoot?

Because her finger is on the trigger.

She's not thinking about gun control. She's not thinking about social elites who have the means to insulate themselves while mocking the less fortunate, those among us who cling to our guns and our religion.

She's not thinking about DeGette's stupidity or liberal demagoguery. She's thinking only about one thing.

Survival.

jskass@tribune.com Twitter: @John_Kass