Friday, July 17, 2009

Bring Me My Arrows Of Desire On The Chattanooga Choo-Choo

The American constitution, as we know, cares little about the dangers of widespread possession of guns. Which makes what the American justice system does care about in the field of firearms even more remarkable...

Steve McNair was quite the All-American story. Born and raised in small-town Mississippi and educated at a historically black university with no great sporting reputation, he developed into one of the great quarterbacks of his era, sharing the NFL Most Valuable Player award in 2003 and leading the Tennessee Titans to within inches of a Superbowl title in 2000 before retiring in 2008 to tend his Mississippi farm and work on various business interests in Nashville.

The details of his death two weeks ago were therefore all the more shocking. McNair was shot dead by his 20-year-old mistress in a murder-suicide in an apartment he owned near the Titans stadium. Although initial reports suggested that he had already instigated divorce proceedings, it turned out that his wife (the mother of his four children) had been completely unaware of the affair.

But it's today's arrest in the case that is particularly bizarre. Adrian Gilliam, convicted in Florida in 1993 of murder and attempted armed robbery, is charged with supplying the gun to McNair's mistress. Or rather, he isn't, for while licensed firearms dealers can't sell to anyone under 21, private sellers are only restricted in selling to under-18's. Instead, the charge is that as a convicted felon he is not allowed to possess a gun. And even then, the law specifically says that possession is only an offence if the gun has been subject to interstate commerce, i.e. it was made outside of Tennessee.

And so on the perversest of technicalities, a man who by all accounts was a relatively innocent party in matters (he had no record beyond 1993, the gun was purchased shortly after a burglary at his house and was sold at no profit to the mistress who he met when looking to purchase a car from her) faces 10 years in federal prison. A satisfactory outcome it ain't...

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