The walls of Georgetown's Dumbarton United Methodist Church Held frescoes of the age of anxiety last night: supergraphics of smoking handguns, blown-up press clips, a frightened child cowering in fear. The Theme was "Enough Is Enough," an evening of chamber music that attracted 400 somber Washingtonians still numb at the violent deaths of Dr. Michael Halberstam and John Lennon early last month.
Michael Beard, whose National Coalition to Ban Handguns will split funds raised last night with handgun Control Inc., shattered the calm of Vivaldi and other baroque composers with a litany of horrors:
In the average day, 62 Americans will die of handgun violence, either through homicide, suicide or accident.
In the last decade, 217,000 Americans died of handgun violence, almost four times the number that died in vietnam.
Last night's concert was organized by Lutenist Linn Barnes, a close friend of Dr. Halberstam, whose death began a "radicalizing, a desire to change the interior fabric of a sociological phenomenon expressed in weaponry." Barnes echoed a fear expressed by Beard that anti-gun legislation tends to be forgotten after an initial rush of activisim following events like the shootings of Lennon, Halberstam, the Kennedys and Martin Luther King. "We must learn not to forget," Barnes emphasized, "and that's really the mechanics of legislation."
One moving piece of music was a brand new arrangement, a requiem for Halberstam from the American spiritual "Death Don't Have No Mercy in This Land," with a moving blues harmonica passage behind twin lutes. "Michael was a great blues harmonica player, among the many things he did," Barnes pointed out.
Much of last night's discussions had to do with bills in Congress and what could be done in terms of supporting the anti-handgun legislation (Kennedy-Rodino and Bingham/Fauntroy bills) while combating the National Rifle Association-supported McClure/Volkmer bill, which would modify and liberalize the existing Gun Control Act of 1968. Stationary was handed out along with lists of area congressman to write. There were also lists of how Congress voted on handgun laws and of congressmen who had received some of the $1.5 million in campaign contributions from the NRA's $20 million lobbying fund. The two anti-handgun lobbies, in contrast, spent less than $700,000 last year; last night's benefit was the beginning at parity.
Of particular interest to Beard is "whether Mrs. Reagan is going to bring her handgun to Washington in violation of District of Columbia law." Beard has sent Mrs. Reagan a memo urging her not do so -- and to announce such a move. Since 1977, District Law has banned the private possession of handguns not registered before 1977, "Considering the fact of how many husbands and wives end up killing each other with registered, licensed guns purchased for self-defense, we hope she'll leave hers in California."