I am the world's leading expert in temptology. As such, I know just about every trivial thing there is to know about Motown's storied singing group, The Temptations.
I know they recorded once as The Pirates. I know they were the first Motown act to win a Grammy. I know bass singer Melvin Franklin's nickname was Blue.
But the one thing I didn't know was how they wound up on an enemy's list posted by the National Rifle Assn.
We have Bob Herbert to thank for alerting us to said list. The New York Times columnist recently disclosed the fact that, if you dig around the NRA's Web site (www.nra.org), you'll find a compilation of "anti-gun" journalists, officials, groups and celebrities -- an old-fashioned, honest-to-Nixon enemy's list.
Among the other names: Oprah Winfrey, Patrick Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, Spike Lee, Paul Newman, Michael Eisner, Lakers forward Rick Fox and singer Moon Zappa. Under the apparent theory that one doesn't stop being an enemy just because one stops breathing, the list also includes Ann Landers, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and the cartoonist Herblock.
I'm sure this all raises for you the same searing question it raised for me:
Why didn't Leonard Pitts make the list!? I'm anti-gun, too! What, they hate Molly Ivins more than me?
Actually, my exclusion is probably my own fault. I don't write about guns that often. Worse, my opinion doesn't translate easily to a bumper sticker. If you've got a moment, I'll lay it out for you.
I believe the right to keep and bear arms is a fiction. Legal experts I respect -- including Departments of Justice previous to the current one -- have all held that the Second Amendment confers no right of individual gun ownership.
But -- and here's the tricky part -- I also believe the perception of such a right is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that the legal niceties are largely immaterial. As a practical matter, the right exists.
I'm reminded of the First Amendment attorney who told me that as a strictly legal issue, it can be argued that the Constitution grants you no right to read this newspaper. Yes, freedom of speech allows the newspaper to print what it wants, but where is it written that you have a right to have access to it?
Nevertheless, the perception of such a right is so much a part of the American character that if government tried to deny it, newspaper readers would take to the streets in protest. It's the same with the gun owners except, of course, that they'd be better armed.
So I hate guns. But I also accept that they're not going anywhere.
The question is: what can we do within that reality?
Unfortunately, extremists on both sides of the issue have robbed us of the ability to do much. We are in dying need of mandatory registration and training to govern those who choose to own guns and sensible laws to prevent their use by those who have no business with them. At a minimum, we need to be able to discuss the issue rationally. But we'll never have that ability so long as gun control advocates tar responsible gun owners as "gun nuts" and cling to the fantasy that guns can be erased from these shores.
We'll also never have it so long as gun owners' interests are represented by an organization that sets new standards for crazy.
The NRA, by the way, says The Tempts earned their way onto its list by lending their name to an anti-gun newspaper ad in 1999.
Wow. The nerve.
Still, you'll forgive me if I don't run out to burn the rare, factory-sealed Temptations live album that cost me 60 bucks. And if I say that I see in this predilection for listing enemies a sweaty, shifty-eyed, hunker in the bunker mentality that recalls Nixon at his worst.
In the face of such asininity, of paranoia beyond parody, I have just one thing to say to the NRA:
There are two "t's" in Pitts.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.