Opinion

Government regulation of banjos works to curb Bluegrass violence

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Rick Robinson
Author, Writ of Mandamus
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      Rick Robinson

      Rick Robinson has spent thirty years in politics and law, including a stint on Capitol Hill as Legislative Director/Chief Counsel to then-Congressman Jim Bunning (R-KY). He has been active in all levels of politics, from advising candidates on the national level to walking door-to-door in city council races. He ran for the United States Congress in 1998.

      Rick’s first book, The Maximum Contribution, was named a “Finalist” in the 2008 Next Generation Indie Books Awards in the genre of political fiction. It also won an Honorable Mention at the 2008 Hollywood Book Festival. Sniper Bid, was released on Election Day 2009 and opened on Amazon’s Top Seller list at #46 of political fiction. Sniper Bid earned 5 national awards: Finalist USA Book News Best Books of 2009; Finalist Best Indie Novel Next Generation Indie Books Awards; Runner-up at the 2009 Nashville Book Festival; Honorable Mentions at the 2008 New England Book Festival and the 2009 Hollywood Book Festival. Throughout 2009 both books appeared on Amazon’s Top Seller List on the same day.

      Rick’s third offering, Manifest Destiny, was released in the spring of 2010. It was named Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival, a Finalist for Best Fiction in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Best Fiction at the New York Book Festival, a Finalist as Best Thriller in the Indie Excellence Awards, and won Honorable mention in the Beach Book Festival, the Hollywood Book Festival and the San Francisco Book Festival.

      A graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Rick currently practices law in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky with the law firm of Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP. Rick, and his wife Linda, live in Ft. Mitchell with their three children, Josh, Zach and MacKenzie.

Over two decades ago, an Ohio man bludgeoned his wife to death with a banjo (two banjos to be specific — he broke the first one). According to the Cox News Service report, neighbors were shocked. Other than playing “Fox on the Run” over and over again while attempting to sing all three parts of the harmony by himself, the man seemed normal.

Still, this senseless tragedy set into motion a series of events in which quick and decisive government regulation solved the national epidemic of senseless Bluegrass violence.

According to a recently produced public television documentary, it was a sad time in America’s history when banjos were readily available to any person that happened to wander into a music store. It’s hard to remember such a time, but at one point in our history banjos were not registered. No identification was required to purchase one. No musical aptitude checks were performed on potential owners.

The documentary has to be viewed in the context of the early ’90s, when America’s views toward banjo ownership were different. The movie “Deliverance” was still part of the nation’s psyche and banjo pickers like John Hartford and Grandpa Jones were actually seen as “role models” people wanted their children to emulate.

In response to the senseless Ohio tragedy, Congress (as Congress is prone to do) sprang into action and passed legislation placing a five-day waiting period on the purchase of all banjos. During the waiting period, the government began to check the musical background of all potential banjo owners. Likewise, people wanting to obtain a banjo now had to wait five days to “cool down” their passion for pickin’.

Caught up in the anti-banjo mood, many state legislatures followed the lead of the United States Congress and enacted proactive legislation banning the possession of banjos within 500 feet of schools and churches.

Of course not everyone was entirely happy about the anti-banjo movement. Claiming their constitutional right to play the banjo, conservatives were outraged by Congress’ action. The NRA (National Reel Association) sent out fundraising letters claiming that when banjos were banned only criminals would have banjos — its president threatening that they’d get his banjo when they pried it from his cold dead hands.

Conservative state legislatures thumbed their noses at the federal action and passed legislation allowing people to openly carry banjos concealed in gig bags.

Liberals, on the other hand, felt the federal action did not go far enough and pushed to extend the waiting period to all Bluegrass instruments. They complained about loopholes that allowed people to purchase used banjos at yard sales and flea markets. Under pressure from his major contributors, President Bill Clinton issued an executive order banning the importation of banjolins (an instrument strung like a mandolin, but with a banjo face).