Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
When Nevada’s politicians gathered Tuesday to dedicate Clark County’s 2,900-acre shooting park, they all said pretty much the same thing: Guns are a constitutional right and shooting is an American pastime.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held up his childhood rifle, recalled eating his mother’s rabbit stew and introduced National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre (who in turn praised Reid as a staunch defender of Second Amendment rights).
Sen. John Ensign said that although his earliest gun memory is a bad one — a 12-year-old relative getting shot in the chest while playing with a rifle — he takes his son hunting and that “Nevadans really do love their guns.”
Gov. Jim Gibbons said, “You can have all the guns you need, but you never have all the guns you want.”
And Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid gave monotone praise to the gun owners’ passion.
The closest the morning came to a dissenting note was sounded by Rep. Shelley Berkley who said she did not have any gun stories of her own but that she stands behind her gun-loving constituents.
Far more revealing was the body language of the politicians.
Ensign, who’s inching back into public events after a sex scandal involving a former staff member and a close friend of his wife, listened to most of the speeches with an expression on his face like a sheep with a secret sorrow. He gazed into his lap, fiddling with his wedding band, turning it this way and that, slipping it off and putting it on different fingers.
Ensign departed not long after helping to unveil the park’s dedication plaque.
The only politician to leave earlier than Ensign was Gibbons, who was not seated in the front row of speakers. He was in the second row, behind both a Democratic state senator and Rory Reid, a declared Democratic candidate for governor. When the first row of politicians stood up to unveil the plaque before the cameras, Gibbons stayed in his seat, staring off into space until an aide nudged him. The other politicians waved to him that yes, as governor, he was welcome to help dedicate a county park.
After the unveiling, while gun owners and politicos mingled, Gibbons stood apart, mostly ignored. Rory Reid did wander over to shake the governor’s hand and say a few words to him. (One imagines, given the governor’s standing in the polls and the raft of Republican challengers Gibbons faces, that Reid said something like, “Good luck in the primary. I’m rooting for you.”)
Another person who stopped to talk to the lonely Gibbons was a woman in a T-shirt, the front of which said, “Do you want to live in slavery?” The back of the shirt featured labeled portraits of Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Muammar el-Qaddafi and Josef Stalin, plus the words, “The experts agree: Gun control works.” The woman asked for and received the governor’s autograph.
But there was one bit of body language all of the politicians agreed on:
Absolutely none of them wandered over to the range to take part in the free skeet shooting.