Wow, my fellow advocates for safer gun laws have really got folks up in arms now! (Yes, sad pun intended).
It seems everyone is talking, lots of you angrily, especially in comments to my previous columns. Some conversation about the gun issue is better than none at all — I’m for it if it increases the number of voices asking for saner, safer gun laws and speaking out against the ever-powerful (and rich) gun-rights lobby. I’m for it if it encourages rational dialogue between those on both sides looking for logical middle ground to make us all safer.
But not all conversation about gun safety is created equal, especially when it seems to come from a section of the population that may have lost its grip on the reality of where the majority stands.
I’m not talking about those who misquote history — no, Hitler did not disarm civilians before ramping up his aim at European conquest. I’m not writing about those who twist facts, wrongly saying that, “More guns means less violence.” I’m not even referring to those who suggest women are safer when armed, despite facts that show the sad opposite.
Those individuals are more accurately inaccurate and misguided at best, deceptive at worst. As much as it makes my skin crawl to hear the argument that, “Guns don’t kill, people do,” or that an “inanimate object” can’t be to blame, I’ll accept that as rationalization and an attempt to deflect ceding any ground at all in the discussion about how to prevent more gun violence.
What I’m deeply afraid of is the minority of gun rights advocates who think we are nearing the end of the world and the only thing preventing us from Armageddon is the Second Amendment.
Let’s hear from Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA, who in the glory of all the recent media and governmental spotlight has started to show his increasing detachment from the way the majority of responsible gun owners and NRA members believe.
During last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on gun violence he responded to a question from Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), asking whether he agreed with gun owners who say they, “’need the firepower and the ability to protect ourselves from our government — from our government, from the police — if they knock on our doors and we need to fight back.’”
LaPierre’s response: “Senator, I think without any doubt, if you look at why our founding fathers put it there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny.”
LaPierre’s other fear, as he told the committee? “What people all over the country fear today is being abandoned by their government. If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs that they’re going to be out there alone. And the only way they’re going to protect themselves in the cold and the dark, when they’re vulnerable, is with a firearm. And I think that indicates how relevant and essential the Second Amendment is in today’s society to fundamental human survival.”
I think it indicates how very much the rest of us need to be afraid of LaPierre and company being afraid simultaneously that the government will come or that the government will not come.
Did either of those things happen during Hurricane Sandy or any other disaster? Has any of that happened here since we gained our freedom from King George?
But in their world, the government is coming for us and our guns. The police and the U.S. armed forces not only can’t or won’t protect us, but they’re the ones we need to defend against.
I’m even further confused by the kind of arguments being made to defend the paranoia. The weapons of choice aren’t lethal, they’re not military grade, and us ‘anti-gun zealots’ are ignorant when it comes the differences between semi-automatic, automatic and assault weapons. But suddenly these same non-lethal weapons are the only things standing between law-abiding gun owners and the most skilled, technologically advanced military force of the modern era!
Is it rational to think that the anachronistic interpretation of the Second Amendment is really about protecting you from the kind of tools at the disposal of today’s U.S. military, should some crazy idea seep into the head of either the current occupant of the Oval Office — despite every clue to the extreme opposite — or another kook-with-delusions-of-grandeur from within or without our borders?
With that 'logic,' why stop at the right to bear semi-automatic guns? Any kind of weapon should be allowed just in case we get attacked by our own government, in order to even out the military playing field. In the meantime, these same weapons are great additions to the array of sport hunters’ options.
Why not make rocket launchers legal? We’ve got lots of wide open spaces in Connecticut. Since semi-automatic rifle hunting is such sport, why shouldn’t I be able to see how a tree or a deer explodes when it meets a rocket on my private property? Plus, with that state-wide deer problem we have, why opt for just bow-hunting when land mines could be so much more effective!
Instead of a rational reaction to rising death-by-gun rates, instead of a 100-percent, collective response to yet another despicable mass murder (albeit nothing like ever before, given that it was 20 6- and 7-year-olds and their teachers who were gunned down), we hear, “They’re comin’ for our guns!” and “Laws don’t work because criminals don’t obey them!” and the like. No, it’s not the majority response from those on the side of fewer gun laws, but it’s the loudest, and it comes from the leadership — like the NRA.
In fact, the NRA’s list of enemies has recently made the rounds of published information. Here are some of those who the gun lobby insists pose grave threat to responsible gun owners:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics
- The American Medical Association
- The American Federation of Teachers
- The American Jewish Committee
- The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- The Children’s Defense Fund
- The Episcopal Church
- Maya Angelou
- Bob Barker
- Kevin Costner
- Sean Connery
- Geraldo Rivera
- Doug Flutie
- Sylvester Stallone
- Blue Cross Bue Shield of Kansas City
- Sara Lee Corp.
- The St. Louis Rams
- McCall’s Magazine
- And countless others
Two years ago, I wound up on something called a “Bang List” compiled by one gun rights publication simply for suggesting that parents ask other parents if there was a gun in the home as part of the conversation they should have before deciding where their children should play. It seemed simple conversation was something to be afraid of, too.
I’ve got to think that the growing list of people recently challenging the NRA – especially former supporters or those who were more likely to let Wayne LaPierre’s words go unchecked, like Joe Scarborough or FOX Network’s Chris Wallace (who called the NRA head ‘ridiculous’) — might be a tip off that he is increasingly representing the minority, fringe view.
An irrational, fringe view like the one that we shouldn’t have any gun laws because criminals won’t obey them.
"Why do we have any laws on the books?" Scarborough challenged. "There are terrorists that are going to end up getting into the United States of America, so why do we even try to stop al-Qaeda? Right? They say they’re going to attack us again, so why don’t we let down all of our defenses and just give up?"
How about something more parallel: if criminals still get access to illegal drugs, to use, sell and traffic, then why have anti-drug laws? Why mount a war on drugs at all?
The rest of us get to put up our lives as collateral against the minority hedging their bets that the government bogeyman is going to come calling to take away their liberty, our laws don’t work, and those we’ve empowered to protect us will only abandon us in the end. I guess from that irrational viewpoint, the American lives already lost as collateral damage are worthy prices to pay for the unlikeliest of unlikely worst-case scenarios.
You want irrational? As Garry Trudeau eloquently illustrates in his cartoon strip from this past weekend, our country spent trillions of dollars (and sacrificed thousands of U.S. soldiers) waging two long, bloody wars overseas and building up our Homeland Security operations, after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. During those same nine years, 270,000 Americans were killed by gun violence right here at home. And gun laws have been weakened, rather than strengthened.
Let’s not forget the 1,509 lives lost since Newtown (as of Jan. 31), the 35 mass shootings between Columbine and Newtown, the week-long hostage situation in Alabama, where a man was holed up in his backyard bunker after shooting and killing a bus driver (who died defending his bus-load of children) and kidnapping one five-year-old.
Now that’s more insane than anything at all.