By Massad Ayoob
I recently had occasion to re-read The Saturday Night Special, an anti-gun polemic thinly disguised as investigative journalism by Robert Sherrill (1924-2014), who wrote it in 1973. I had read it when it came out (“Know thy opponents”), but had forgotten how much hatred he had espoused there against America’s police; and his opinion of African-Americans and those lower on the totem pole than Sherrill’s own elite status as regular contributor to the uber-liberal magazine The Nation.
Turns out he didn’t have much respect for another caste who wear uniforms and carry firearms. Sherrill seemed disgusted at how many retired generals have stood at the helm of the National Rifle Association since its founding in 1871. And he was apparently shocked to discover Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t the only American president who chose to carry a gun on his own time. Sherrill sneered on page 320, “And of course nobody would be so sacrilegious as to suggest that Dwight David Eisenhower had thought he was extending his penis when, as he admitted later, he never went into the streets of New York, during the time he was president of Columbia (University, 1948-53), without carrying his Army six-shooter.”
We need not envision the former Supreme Commander of the victorious Allied Forces, who was soon to be elected leader of the Free World, strapping on a big 1917 Colt .45 revolver. Eisenhower’s issue weapon during WWII had been a .38 Colt Detective Special with 2″ barrel, the twin of which with a consecutive serial number was on display at the Springfield Armory Museum last time I checked.
Anti-gun author Robert Sherrill seemed to hate cops as much as he hated firearms.
But, it’s America’s police for whom Sherrill reserved his most potent vitriol. In an entire chapter titled “Protect Us From Our Protectors,” he wrote: “… it is much more reasonable to suggest that in any gun-control movement, the police should be the first required to lay down their arms. When they were bucking for a pay raise in 1972, Chicago cops suggested they be paid $1 a day just for carrying a gun; better they and police everywhere be paid $10 a day to stop carrying their weapons. At least that’s my suggestion, and I have reasons for it. But before sketching them out, let me admit that I have a Shanty Irish loathing for the men in blue and my reasoning tends to be somewhat warped as a result. My bumpersticker reads: ‘DEPORT YOUR LOCAL POLICE.’ However, that confession made, I still think there are Five Splendid Reasons for disarming the police before we disarm ourselves.”
Sherrill then goes on to list his “splendid reasons.” The italics, like the caps above, are his and not mine. “1: Cops are morally inferior to the rest of the community… 2: Cops are unnaturally fond of, one might even say queer about, guns… 3: Cops generally range from mentally odd to mentally unbalanced… 4: Cops are too quick on the trigger… 5: Cops don’t deserve to have guns because they usually avoid dangerous situations where guns could be justifiably used.”
The lead-in to that chapter, by the way, is an illustration suggesting the police officer of today is a barely-evolved caveman.
Sherrill was outraged that police were switching from round-nose to hollowpoint ammo:
police brutality, don’t you know?
Anti-gun author Sherrill was appalled to discover Dwight Eisenhower, as an armed citizen, carried a gun —
probably a pre-war Colt DS like this one.
William Yardley, in Sherrill’s obituary in the New York Times, wrote: “In The Saturday Night Special, Mr. Sherrill argued for strengthening gun laws but also said that many victims of gun crimes were the ‘refuse’ of ‘trashy’ American society.” That is something of an understatement.
In a chapter Sherrill called “Swords Into Plowshares, As It Were,” he quoted without opprobrium anti-African-American hate screeds looking like something out of a KKK newsletter. Leaving them as quotes from other sources may have left Sherrill feeling his hands were clean.
More recently, did you notice during the struggle of a dozen or more years to achieve LEOSA, the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act known for so long as H.R. 218, a whole lot of the talking heads and politicians who opposed current and retired cops being allowed to carry guns nationwide were the very same ones screeching against the NRA and “civilian” gun owners? That seems to still be the case. Those same voices today oppose national concealed carry reciprocity helping protect police family members from the vengeance of criminals.
The prohibitionists know cops and law-abiding armed citizens are natural allies, which is why they’ve worked so hard over the decades to drive a wedge between the two with BS issues such as “cop-killer bullets.” They are acutely aware the NRA has trained countless police instructors, and they, the elitist gun-banners, have done absolutely nothing for law enforcement.