The Naked (Lunch) and the Dead

December 18, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

Glenn Reynolds has a USA Today op-ed  scorning gun control laws (and really scorning people who want gun control).  Here’s the lede:
“After a shooting spree,” author William Burroughs once said, “they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it.” Burroughs continued: “I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”

Reynolds is a law professor and presumably knows a lot about the law and maybe a lot about guns, but apparently he doesn’t know a lot about Burroughs.  If he did, he might not have given the naked lunchman pride of place in his argument. 

As TBogg at FiredogLake reminds us, Burroughs is not exactly the poster child for loose gun laws.  In fact, he is prime anecdotal evidence for why having easy access to guns might not be such a great idea. 

When Burroughs was living in Mexico in 1951, he shot his wife in the forehead. He was playing a game they called “William Tell.” He was, of course, drunk.
At first the killer declared that in the said gathering, after there had been a great consumption of gin, he tried to demonstrate his magnificent marksmanship, emulating William Tell, and to that end he placed a glass of liquor upon the head of his wife, and aiming over the glass, at a distance of two meters, he fired, but as a consequence and result of the state of drunkenness in which he found himself, he missed the shot lamentably and injured the forehead of his wife with a bullet.

That’s one version.  In a second version, given after Burroughs’s lawyer arrived on the scene, Burroughs “claimed he misfired while showing the gun to a friend he was trying to sell it to.”

After two weeks in jail, Burroughs was released on bail and eventually went back to the US.  Mexico tried him in absentia.  He was convicted and given a two-year suspended sentence.
It is believed Bill’s wealthy parents dispensed thousands of dollars in legal fees and bribes to Mexican authorities. [More details are here.]
As for the Norman Mailer allusion in the title of this post, it’s a good thing he only had a knife and not a gun.

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