Let’s be clear: most gun owners are (to the best of my knowledge) rather sane and reasonable individuals. But the public forum has never been dominated by sanity or reason. Instead, it’s dominated by those who are the loudest and most obnoxious; thus, gun issues are perennially represented by what we call the gun culture — meaning those to whom guns are not only important, but are a way of life. It’s a relatively small cult, but its members are mad as hell about… well, something. Always. They’re loud, they’re obnoxious, they’re confrontational, and — quite often — they’re self-sabotaging and downright cannibalistic.
I probably don’t have to tell you how they reacted when the President of the United States uttered the following:
“While we recognize that assault-weapon legislation will not stop all assault-weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals.” And “Certain forms of ammunition have no legitimate sporting, recreational, or self-defense use and thus should be prohibited.”
And you surely can guess how they screeched when the head of the nation’s foremost gun control organization declared this:
“I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons… I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”
“Nazi”? “Communist”? “Terrorist”? “Frenchman”? Actually, it might surprise you to learn that they said none of these things. I tricked you. The president quoted above wasn’t Barack H. Obama, but Ronald W. Reagan. That’s right: The Gipper was an outspoken, if not entirely consistent, advocate of “gun control”, even before he had a personal stake in it. (And incidentally, in the photo above, taken just before he was shot, he’s surrounded by armed and highly trained gunmen whose sole responsibility is his safety. Which casts a very long shadow of doubt on the gunsters’ prime tenet that surrounding yourself with fire power necessarily makes you safer.)
This is a cause of considerable cognitive dissonance among gunsters, many of whom desperately want to paint the debate over guns as a “liberal” vs. “conservative” conflict, and to peg “gun control” as being a matter of “them librulz want to take away our guns, but I’m gonna fight off a whole army of them.” But in fact many “liberals” (specifically, about 25 percent of Democrats) own guns and many “conservatives” support “gun control” — even those measures pushed by President Obama, whom they’ve been conditioned to oppose at every turn. This despite the fact that some polls frame the issue as “gun control” versus “the right to own guns”, which is a bullshit stacked-deck question — the two are by no means mutually exclusive.
Michael Moore is a lifetime member of the NRA. James Brady, lest we forget, was a (Republican) member of Reagan’s staff before he became an activist after the reality of gun violence struck too close to home. In other words, “gun control” is not the most suitable of lenses for those wishing to view the world in black and white, and it appears the gun culture is intentionally alienating people whom they could very much use as allies. The evidence suggests that for the past three decades, the NRA’s primary focus has been promoting reactionary politics rather than promoting responsible gun ownership.
Not only most gun owners, but most members of the NRA support one or more gun control measures. The NRA leadership, however, routinely battles any and every measure to regulate firearms in any fashion. In so doing, they are countering the wishes of most of their followers. Yet their followers continue to be loyal; if that isn’t characteristic of a cult, what is?
It was not always thus. Remember that quote above from the leader of the most prominent “gun control” organization? We don’t mean James Brady. Those words were spoken by Karl Frederick, an Olympic shooter who at the time he made this statement was president of the NRA. Yes, that NRA. For the first century of its existence, the NRA was the foremost advocacy group for “gun control” in the nation. But that was before it discovered that there are much heftier profits to be made by vilifying “gun control” and its proponents, and whipping up hysteria among impressionable tin hat right-wingers. But by ferociously battling “gun control”, LaPierre and company are not only spitting in the faces of their constituents, but spitting upon their organization’s own heritage.
When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, and the NRA was still in its “gun control” phase, “conservative” politicians were very much in favor of placing heavy restrictions on firearms. One reason was that, in California at least, they were facing what they perceived as a threat to public safety posed by, um, certain armed citizens:
This even led to the passage of a law in the state, the Mulford Act, which was signed into effect by Gov. Reagan, who commented that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” And the NRA, by the way, helped fashion similar legislation in other states. Its own actions weren’t necessarily motivated by racial concerns; remember, it had been a champion of firearm regulation all along. For Reagan and other right-wing politicians, however, it’s hard not to conclude that they were dirtying their drawers not just because of armed citizens, but armed citizens of a particular ethnic flavor.
I don’t mean to suggest that race plays a significant role in right-wing “gun control” politics or anything. I’m sure that if a bunch of armed white guys showed up at a public gathering, the NRA and The Tea Party would be just as concerned and outraged. Wouldn’t they?
Well, they have yet to demonstrate it. And they have yet to demonstrate that they’re as concerned about deranged mass murderers with guns as they are about African-American activists with guns. Yet today’s NRA diehards, while denying any racist bent to their own motivations, often declare that racism has always been a prime motive for “liberal”- inspired “gun control” — in large part because over 150 years ago, unarmed slaves had a hard time fighting for their freedom. Yes, seriously.
Despite its ill-informed elevation of Ronald Reagan to figurehead status, one could make a case that the gun culture really didn’t have a warm and cuddly bedmate in the White House until Bush. The younger Bush. His father, though he had the backing of the NRA during his initial run for president in 1988, pissed them off so much during his term that they opposed him during his second run. Three years later he renounced his lifetime membership in the cult when Wayne LaPierre (who at that time was its executive vice president) called ATF agents “jack-booted thugs” who were “scarier than the Nazis”. The NRA is a group that likes to portray itself as super-patriotic, doncha know.
Bush had been personally acquainted with several agents, including one who died in the Oklahoma City blast, which was fueled by NRA-flavored contempt for “the government”. And while I don’t know how many federal agents had been NRA boosters before McVeigh and LaPierre detonated their respective bombs, I’m willing to bet that there were considerably fewer subsequently. Way to rally those troops, Wayne.
Then along came Bush the Younger, and the gun lobby was in hog heaven. Oh, he didn’t do quite as much ass-kissing as they would have liked, and on occasion he even paid lip service to stricter gun laws. But on the other hand he appointed two Supreme Court justices who were willing to essentially rewrite the Second Amendment to the gun lobby’s liking. You can’t hope for much more than that.
And Dick Cheney, who was vice president (at least according to the Supreme Court) openly indulged in passionate lovemaking with the NRA, even speaking at its convention. And here’s where something really interesting happened. While addressing an assemblage of a cult that had become devoted to the maxim that any kind of restraint against firearms was pure evil (no word on whether he consulted his hunting partners on that), Mr. Cheney exercised the most extreme form of “gun control” of all: attendees had to check their hardware at the door.
I know, I know: it was really the Secret Service who insisted on this, and not the Mr. Cheney-who-never-thinks-about-his-flaws himself. But c’mon: he was the second most powerful human on the planet (many would say, with good reason, that he was actually the first). You mean to say that he couldn’t have overridden their orders if he hadn’t considered his own safety more important than that of the average citizen affected by the presence of guns? He and the NRA had a golden opportunity to practice what they preached, and send a message to the nation about just how sincere they were in standing against “gun control”. But they blew it big time.
Am I suggesting that the prohibition against the audience being armed at an appearance by the putative vice president is the same as the type of “gun control” that is applied to society at large? Not at all. Society at large is made up of all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. The annual gun cult gathering is a highly controlled environment, and for Cheney’s appearance, it was patrolled by a top-notch security force. It was attended by people who are allegedly responsible, law-abiding gun owners — most of whom believe that an armed society is a polite society and guns make you safer and guns don’t kill, people do. But when confronted with the chance to put their barrels where their mouths are, Cheney and his NRA accomplices essentially told the faithful to go Cheney themselves, and did exactly what so many of them falsely accuse Barack Obama (and Adolf Hitler) of doing: they took away everyone’s guns.
And that brings us to the present, and to the chief executive who, for some reason or other, is even more of a godsend for the gunsters — not because he gives them everything they want, but because they can get away with pretending that he’s trying to take away everything they have. In the real world, Obama is no more restrictive on guns than was Reagan; and for that matter, he’s only slightly more “liberal”. Yet the gun culture deifies one and demonizes the other. Which leads one to suspect rather strongly that his complexion might be a factor — particularly when one considers that the gunsters are even far more hostile toward Obama than they were toward Clinton, even though the latter was at least as gung ho about “gun control”, at least as “liberal”, and was a Democrat to boot.
We’ve already given far, far FAR more attention to the Obama-Hitler meme (here, and here and here) than it ever deserved. Unfortunately, it’s still bringing in the lion’s share of page views and comments on this site. No wonder; it’s a trope so misguided, so hateful, so deranged, so monumentally idiotic that it was bound to become a solid fixture in the gunster gospel. The “thinking” goes like this: because Obama is trying to outlaw guns (which he isn’t) that makes him just like Hitler (who also didn’t), whose nonexistent gun ban made the Holocaust possible.
These are the same folks who love to proclaim that “gun control doesn’t work”, yet they also declare that “gun control” was nonetheless responsible for the quintessential tyranny and genocide in world history. When I point out this contradiction to them, the response I tend to get is “You fucking moron! This is different!” Oh. Now I’m really confused. Is Obama a Hitler clone or isn’t he? Does “gun control” work or doesn’t it? What’s that you say? Ah. “Gun control” doesn’t work to reduce crime, but it does work to enable a dictator to control the populace. So it always works to try to eliminate all guns, but it never works to try to eliminate just a few of them. Got it.
It has become an automatic response from gunsters to “defend” guns and all the harm they do by claiming that more people are killed by knives and/or blunt instruments. Both of which are irrelevant. Not to mention not even close to being true. And of course, they absolutely must point out that more people are killed by automobiles. Which actually is true, but probably not for long. True or not, it’s a breathtakingly inept attempt at defense. Automobiles are designed for a constructive purpose rather than for killing, and are in use constantly, everywhere. Furthermore, their use is rather strictly regulated. Gunsters are being sarcastic when they suggest that those deadly cars should be regulated like guns; but I doubt if any advocates for gun regulation would have any problem with taking that quite literally.
The Second Amendment crowd particularly has its thong in a bunch over the president’s drawing a bead on assault weapons. It isn’t just that they don’t think assault weapons should be restricted; they don’t think there’s any such thing as an assault weapon. It is, they assert, just a fuzzy term made up by the media and other assorted libruls as an excuse to deprive them of their liberty.
Really? Looks like somebody forgot to pass that memo along to the Merchants of Death themselves: