Excusing the NRA, Remembering Ourselves

Now that the fiscal cliff fight is over, (for a spell) now that the inauguration is almost upon us, we’re finally ready to have the national conversation about guns (maybe, unless fighting over Chuck Hagel carries us all the way to the next debt ceiling climax). Before it gets going, though, I want to think through a surprising something that’s bothered me about the last month of national gun policy discussions. Believe it or not, this isn’t a post about the NRA or the substance of gun policy. It’s about how a democracy works—how it has to work, if it’s worth having at all.


It’s relatively obvious that the NRA did itself no favors with its bizarre press conference after the Newtown shooting. The event stood in stark contrast to their reputation. After this shooting, like nearly every other shooting before it, the received wisdom has been that the NRA is too strong and politically savvy to allow substantive changes in American gun policy.

Or, rather, that was the received wisdom, because the chaotic presser showed none of the clinical, calculating power the NRA’s reputed to possess. This wasn’t a damage control of nefarious Beltway puppeteers. It was an outburst of “tone-deaf” nonsense from an organization too inflexible to know when it’s in serious trouble.

Arming police in every one of America’s 98,817 public schools? Saving money on that ~$3.3 billion proposal by asking for armed volunteers to guard the schools? Are we screening them for mental illness? Are we providing ongoing monitoring? Why wouldn’t we insist on similar procedures for ordinary citizens who’d like to buy assault rifles, handguns, etc? How can we be sure that these volunteers are “good guys with a gun?”

And on and on. NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre called for the federal government to maintain “an active list of the mentally ill,” who he later referred to as “lunatics.” He charged the media with various “moral failings,” which mostly consisted of airing violent films, music videos, and other such immoral dreck.

Perhaps some isolated elements of the NRA’s response are viable, politically serious responses to an epidemic of mass shootings. Maybe.

BUT: Taken as a whole, the proposals were thorough evidence of how strange and out of step the organization is. I still think this is about right:

In “a war of all against all,” the only plausible answer to violence is more violence, but this is an absurd response in civil society—especially when we’re talking about decentralizing the threat of violence. Absurd. Exceptionally absurd.

But the left still talks as if the NRA were a secret, all-powerful shaman living in the Capitol’s eaves. After that press conference, though, surely it was clear that they’re better despised than feared. Really? We’ve been afraid of these guys?

Yes. Any opponent, no matter how serious, looks better with hype. Strip that away, however, and you’ll have some idea of how much of their strength is real and how much is only apparent. This is all they are. This is all that they ever were. 

Again, though, this isn’t a post about how terrible the NRA has gotten. It’s a post about democracy and taking responsibility.

American populists have always blamed insidious nemeses for distorting our otherwise good and honest democracy. Andrew Jackson called it the “moneyed interest.” Teddy Roosevelt called out “the malefactors of great wealth.” Every democratic populist has his or her (economic, racial, cultural, ethnic, religious, institutional, etc) bugbear. These shadowy characters are simultaneously enemy and excise. They offer a target, but they also explain the persistence of egregious evils. Were it not for the NRA, or the war profiteers, etc, these evils would have been prevented. The people wouldn’t have stood for it. Implicitly, so the argument goes, the people won’t stand for it now that the sham has been revealed.[1]

First: in this case, at least, this argument is true. The NRA is a large organization with even larger political influence. They bear some guilt for resisting policies that could prevent some mass shootings. This is real.

But money is not the only political force in a democratic community—or at least, it needn’t be. That’s why political bogeymen excuse, as well as explain, our failings. If we pin Newtown and the rest of this year’s mass shootings on the NRA, we can avoid facing our own responsibility. We can blame the gun lobby for drowning out the voices of lonely lawmakers begging for stricter gun control.[2]

Otherwise, you see, we’d have to admit that we’ve been too distracted by other things to insist on a sensible debate on gun policy. We’d have to admit that we’ve been floating along, casual political spectators who might have done otherwise—but didn’t. We’d have to admit that we are the ones who could have made a difference, instead of putting our children at risk.

True or not, the American national conceit consists in recognizing ourselves in our laws. Even the cynics decry our “broken” politics in reference to this ideal. The nemeses distorting our politics are polluting a model that is otherwise good and true and recognizable. To recognize the supposed distortion is to imply that a purer, cleaner, fairer politics would otherwise surge forth.

Self-government comes with freedom and choice—but it also implicates us in guilt. This need not trouble us most of the time; we accept a certain degree of guilt as the cost of living free. We could prevent more crimes and protect our innocence, but at some point this unduly infringes upon liberty. How much is too much? That’s the meat of our politics…but no one should shrink from an argument simply because of the presence of a well-funded opposition, nor should they spend all of their rhetorical energies pointing out the material imbalance in the debate. Yes, the NRA has a legacy of political manipulation. Yes, well-spent money beats the better argument more often than it should. But none of this makes them magically invulnerable.

I suspect that the partial truth of our indictment of the NRA obscures a general American unease about our ambivalence on gun policy. As conniving and destructive as the gun lobby has been, many of us recognize that we generally want “something” done about it, but aren’t really sure what. We know that things aren’t working as they stand, but we don’t know what to do next.

So we grouse about the NRA-as-political-interference instead of arguing about the substance of their positions. We notice that there’s a confirmation fight brewing. We complain about the carried interest loophole or the amount of foreign aid or other less painful things. We grouse some more about the NRA. We grumble (again) that nothing’s happening on gun control because the gun lobby controls Washington.

And that’s the thing—so long as that’s the pattern of our thinking, the NRA probably will.


Conor Williams on Twitter and Facebook. Here’s his bio

[1] I’m consciously avoiding referring to demagoguery, since I suspect that this would drag my argument into much wider turf than is currently necessary. For the time being, American populism is the matter to be theorized. The post may suggest a more general theory of popular rhetoric, but that would be a much bigger claim that I don’t need for this post.

[2] Perhaps it bears noting that conservatives run the same sort of arguments. Listen to ten minutes of Hannity and you’ll hear a veritable army of bogeymen tempting Americans to socialism or environmentalism, etc. Perhaps when gas prices go up, some conservatives take comfort in blaming Greenpeace. See footnote 1, though. I’m not convinced that conservative populism is susceptible to this dynamic in precisely the same way.

Note: This post is not part of our League Symposium on Guns In America, but you really should take a look at the many thoughtful posts that were included. To see a list, click here.

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65 thoughts on “Excusing the NRA, Remembering Ourselves

    • Second zic. Looking at cartograms for an individual state that scale counties’ size according to population and voting preference by some sort of color is interesting (my version of such a map of Georgia is part way down the page here. There is an urban/rural divide in the US that appears to me to be getting more and more difficult to bridge. Both sides seem to be less and less willing to admit the possibility that the eastern Great Plains counties of Montana and the much more densely populated counties of Connecticut have different problems and need different policies to address them.

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        • Similarly, but in the opposite direction, in most states getting anything paid for out of state-level general funds rather than local funds is almost always a win for the rural areas, a loss for the urban areas. In my state, (1) a majority of K-12 education statewide is now funded out of the state’s General Fund (rather than local property taxes), (2) about half of the road work is funded out of the GF (rather than gasoline taxes and registration fees), and (3) statutory formulas for allocating state/federal dollars for various categories of human services have biases built in that heavily favor rural areas. All represent very large transfers of urban dollars into rural areas.

          Just my perception, but down at the General Assembly, it appears that some of the urban/suburban legislators are starting to resent those subsidies.

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          • What state are you in? We’ve got rural voters in charge around here (Republicans) for the moment. But philly pays for our roads, and for tons of other stuff. If philly and pittsburgh ever get really pissed, this state’ll turn back into more of a first/third world dichotomy.

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  1. Sometimes, I think we’ve trouble separating reality and entertainment, since both are delivered to our homes on the same screens. It’s all about who’s winning and who’s losing; is the NRA gun lobby up? Are the down? How does this latest shoot out, looped in endless repeat change the standings?

    We do this to elections, to serious public policy like gun control and health care. I find it endless (sadly) amusing that here we are, ACA slowly taking effect, and the news media is just now figuring out that it has to explain the details in the law to the populace. Coverage before? All about who’s winning the debate, about the fight. Coverage after? All about will it stand or not based on the outcome of a Federal case, another federal case, a Supreme Court case, an election. It’s not news meant to inform us so that we can make good public policy decisions, it’s news as entertainment. Sadly, the politicians on either side of any debate don’t do much better; they’re more interested in luntzing the debate — coining catchy phrases only marginally related to the discussion — then actually discussing with the public.

    The problem is us; it’s in the mirror. We need to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff; the things that matter from the distractions of the entertainment. We need to engage and be informed.

    It’s quite overwhelming, too.

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  2. Regarding the NRA press conference, I think it makes more sense once you look at it in the “modular conservatism” framework. It wasn’t about talking to the American People at large; it was about addressing the NRA’s true-believers, and giving them the marching orders and talking points about which “mode” of conservative talk should be used in this discussion.

    From that perspective it worked gloriously. We’ve got Drudge posting up news about the White House exploring what could be done with executive orders (the list includes having the State Department review import restrictions on foreign guns and gun parts, having DHS review and tighten up the background check process, and making sure that information sharing is heightened so that the FBI and ATF are on the same page more often when it comes to those background checks) and godwinning themselves in the process.

    The freakazoid nut sandwiches calling in to the radio talk shows are all atwitter about how “Obama’s going to try to take our guns by executive order”, a situation so improbable that I suspect the earth would implode before it occurred. But because they’ve been given the mode and marching orders, and have heard the claim repeated big-lie style by the radio echo chamber and right wing blogosphere over and over again, they actually believe this nonsense.

    A photo of Adolph Hitler is making the rounds on Facebook claiming that Hitler once said “To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.”

    The irony here is that the full quotation is “To conquer a nation, one must first disarm its citizens by re-inventing their collective memory of the past.” And it was Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propagandist, who said it.

    The right wing is implementing nazi tactics, the Big Lie and the Rewriting of History, while screaming about nazis. I find that disturbing.

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    • The freakazoid nut sandwiches

      Almost nobody here at the League likes the folks he is referring to, but none of them regularly use this type of inflammatory name-calling. It stands out, very noticeably, for being far below the quality of other commentary here.

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    • M.A., I second James H.’s observations. In general, the content of your posts and commentary is good to excellent and I agree with you much more often than not. But the tone of your rhetoric makes me cringe. Seriously, I’ve come to love the LoOG precisely because that kind of incivility is NOT the norm.

      Having a couple guest posts published here is on my list of “things I’m damn proud of” and the expected, and mostly met, tenor of discussion is the reason for that.

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      • Coming from you, I’ll take it onboard.

        Coming from James Hanley, who’s made it his mission to do nothing but troll me (including the veiled threat above by referring to me in the third person just for the sake of it), I have no cause to even blink. Who’s he addressing, if not me, and for what purpose?

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        • I like and respect both of you. Therefore, I refuse to get dragged into the middle of a spat. It’s just my policy that I’ve adopted as a husband and the father of a teenage daughter. Cripes, mothers and daughters can argue! I’ve learned there’s no profit in getting involved.

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        • “veiled threat?”

          I don’t even understand that.

          But, “trolling,” no, it doesn’t fit the definition. I just like to mock the hell out of people who are overly ideological, because being too ideological makes real discussion impossible. You’re about the only person here who does that, lately, so you’re the one I mock. When you don’t write in an overly ideological way, I got nothing to mock.

          Trolling is when someone writes inflammatory stuff just to get a rise. I’d rather not get a rise out of you, but just see you roll back the overly ideological “Libruls is perfect and conservalibytards are all stooopid and evulll” schtick. Then I’d have nothing to mock.

          You could so easily deprive me of my fun.

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          • I’ve little left to note save to point out that Glenn Beck, as of this week, says he is a libertarian and claims to be one in the model of Penn Jillette.

            That means your most publicly known figures are a circus clown who just compared himself to an avowed carnie.

            I suggest 2 minutes of silence in honor of the death of the libertarian name’s last few shreds of dignity.

            Next time you post something in one of your attempts to get a rise from me, rest assured, I won’t bother responding. You’ve wasted enough of my time and between you and a couple of your fellow trolls, actually managed to provoke me to crossing the commenting line once which I’ve apologized for.

            The easiest way to cut that off from happening again is simply not to deal with trolls like you any more.

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            • Ah, I see. You’re wholly innocent except when provoked. And I’m wholly guilty through spurious association with Glenn Beck. Thoughtful, as usual.

              All right, M.A., I’ll back off, because I know nobody else wants to see this. But just so you know clearly, what I object to you isn’t your liberalism–the League’s got plenty of those, and though the stench of liberal privilege around here is sometimes overbearing, some of those liberals are great folks, intelligent, thoughtful, capable of listening to other viewpoints and trying to understand others. They’re not blindly ideological.

              You, on the other hand, are intelligent, but not thoughtful, not capable of listening to other viewpoints and trying to understand them. You’re blindly ideological. In my book that makes you worthy of nothing but disdain. Blind ideology, whether liberal, conservative, libertarian, anarchic, communist, or whatever, is a curse, a cancer that infects and degrades thoughtful discussion.

              If you could just learn to extend some real generosity toward people of other ideological dispositions, to try giving them a fair hearing, the value of your contributions here at the League would increase immensely.

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  3. To say that “It’s relatively obvious that the NRA did itself no favors with its bizarre press conference”is only plausible if you are of the position that the NRA would immediately change its positions (which really have stayed remarkably consistent) in the wake of Sandy Hook. This seems born more out of dislike for the NRA and desire for greater gun control, than in the fact of the organization being one that has often changed its position. Do we expect Planned Parenthood to change its mission after a tragedy occurs?

    Many commenters here and elsewhere have state that they cannot believe that the NRA said what it said, and to them (and you) I ask What do you think they should have said, and why do you think they would have said it?

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    • had they handed me a bucket of ducats, i would have said something like:

      1) start off with expressing grief and condolences. yes, everyone who is going to call you a monster will do so anyway; it doesn’t matter.

      2) avoid giving into the desire to counter the rush of WE MUST DO SOMETHING with different ridiculous version of WE MUST DO SOMETHING. if your contention is that you cannot ban rain because of a hurricane, you can’t turn around and ask to ban wind because of tornadoes.

      3) focus – briefly – on the rights of the vast, vast majority of gun owners who do not commit crimes. this would have been a useful moment to mention that just like those many americans struggling with mental illness should not be demonized because of the actions of a single person. draw the parallel quickly and move on.

      4) keep it short. you gain nothing by grandstanding. short term fundraising gains will not rescue longer-term lobbying goals.

      i’m not a fan of the nra, nor do i own or shoot guns. but that would be my advice. i’m not a fan of what about the children in all of its manifestations either.

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    • There are definitely things the NRA could have done that would have curried them some favor, even if it was through the virtue of low expectations. dhex offers a solid example. Or even something less thoughtful than that but more thoughtful than expected would have at least garnered, “Hmmm… I expected less.”

      But what they did? That literally might have been the worst thing they could have done. They gave every potential critic exactly what he was looking for. Fail.

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      • Much of their press conference was the spaghetti approach. Throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks.

        They tried the old “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” thing, the idea of a gun in every classroom.

        They tried to blame video games.
        They tried to blame music.
        They tried to blame TV.
        They tried to blame movies.

        The only thing the NRA didn’t want to talk about is the one thing they’re supposed to represent: gun culture.

        Most of the speech was an attempt at distraction. They wanted to change the discussion. Even a discussion of how out of touch the NRA really is (they’re complaining about Mortal Kombat? What did they do, steal Jack Thompson’s notes from 20 years ago to crib for this speech?) was better to them than an honest discussion about the effect of misuse of guns on society.

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      • A sort of side observation about that press conference: I listened to it live on XM and about half-way through I was asking myself, That sounds similar to somebody I know, but who?

        And then it dawned on me… the intonation, the phrasing, the vaguely admonishing tone like he was lecturing a Sunday school class or something:

        Al Gore.

        NOW I get it. Now I understand why A.G. so gets under the skin of conservatives. It’s not just that he’s saying stuff they disagree with or don’t like. It’s doing so in that voice that brings you back to a finger-pointing lecture from your mother or a teacher or something.

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  4. Speaking of point number 2:

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/01/nra-will-trot-out-real-americans-cliche-meeting-biden/60820/

    The problem is that I have trouble telling how much of the “liberal elite vs. real Americans” battle is honest and heartfelt vs. a very cynical calculation. I am not talking about the rank and file voters of the far right who tend to be rural and white. I am talking about the media personalities, stars, politicians, Wayne LaPierre’s, etc. There have been several articles recently that describe the Conservative Movement as one long con into getting people to spend their money on snake oil:

    http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_long_con

    Sometimes I think they are very cynical and just in it for the money. Sometimes I think they honestly believe their own rhetoric and are smart enough to parlay into a lucrative career.

    My other bafflement is with the conservative use and abuse of the word elite. What do they mean by elite? In conservative land, a 20-something actor or actress in New York who waits tables and earns 30,000 a year is a member of the elite. I suppose there are some plausible aspects by being college-educated (we have a mass-educated class though, plenty of conservatives attend college), trying for a career in art (how decadent), and living in New York (everyone’s favorite city to love and hate along with San Francisco).

    But Mitt Romney and Donald Trump are not elite! This boggles the mind! There is a rank hypocrisy in the conservative movement that I despise.

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    • i think the answer to that is “how heartfelt do you think anyone working to lobby, elect and unseat politicians” are? one can be a true believer and a realist; the only choices are not just frothing idealist or nihilistic operative.

      there’s a whole range of unsavory to consider, after all!

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  5. The NRA response was rather more clever than most people seem to suppose. The issue of gun violence, despite the ghastly statistics compiled on this epidemic, are always phrased in emotional terms. If we had a communicable disease which killed and maimed this many Americans, the public outcry for government intervention would be overwhelming. The NRA has reduced the debate to an emotional debate, knowing the numbers aren’t on their side.

    The gun control advocates, I count myself as one, would like a civilised debate on the issue, casting aside the morality and the fearmongering, looking at the statistics alone. Put it this way, when the AIDS epidemic hit the USA, we threw more money at its solution than we did on the NASA space programs from Mercury through to the Space Shuttle. Many good things emerged as a side effect of all that research: childhood leukemia fatalities have been drastically reduced as we came to terms with how HIV infects the immune system. We’ve come to grips with the IV drug abusers and their role in the HIV/AIDS transmission system. We’ve saved millions of lives and extended the lives of millions more in Africa and other places. Where AIDS continues to spread, those nations live in denial. More people have died and will continue to die of gun-related violence in the USA than HIV/AIDS.

    We will never get such a debate. Let me tell you why:

    The NRA plays to ignorance and fear, always the most powerful motivators in politics. Everyone seems to remember that bit of Hobbes, the war of everyone against everyone. They haven’t read enough Hobbes: he also said “Facts are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain.” Are we all so naive, so stupid as to believe the Gun Debate is about Facts? Do we not live in a world so thoroughly permeated with advertising that we cannot understand how we are sold things? We are not sold on the relative benefits of a product: we are sold an image, an ethos, a dream of power and status, of sizzle, not steak. The things we are sold are almost irrelevant. Of all the talismans of power and dominance, surely the gun is the most powerful in our age, as the sword was in the medieval world. From the Alliterative Morte D’Arthur.

    [Arthur] said: “I make mine avow / verily to Crist,
    And to the holy vernacle, / that void shall I never
    For radness of no Roman / that regnes in erthe,
    But ay be redy in array / and at erest founden;
    No more dout the dintes / of their derf wepens
    Than the dew that is dank / when that it down falles;
    Ne no more shoun for the swap / of their sharp swordes
    Than for the fairest flowr / that on the folde growes!

    Mere facts cannot hope to gainsay myths of this sort. Such myths are perennial: they reappear in every age. America’s great mythology of the West is not a whit different than the Arthurian myths.

    The NRA are shamans, whatever else you may say about them: they say what shamans say and they do as shamans do. They appeal to man’s basest instincts. They avoid the facts. They are the guardians of the myths. But most importantly, rational people underestimate their power over the hearts of men.

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    • The worst of it is how the NRA go around blocking the research from happening. They’re very like the old tobacco magnates in that regard.

      Since the 1990s, the powerful pro-gun NRA has targeted the heart of what most legislation is based on: studies about the effects of gun violence.
      Larry Pratt: ‘We are on our own’ Obamacare limits doctors’ gun questions VA Tech survivor on gun violence meeting Giffords takes on NRA
      Last year, the NRA used its influence in Florida to push through legislation that would punish doctors if they asked patients whether they owned a gun.
      And buried inside President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation is a little-known provision that prevents the government and health insurers from asking about gun ownership.

      If nobody can do the research, then nobody can come up with the statistics. The NRA knows the statistics won’t be on their side, so they block the research.

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      • Demonising the NRA is the worst of all possible approaches. We must be careful in how we counter the NRA’s rubbish arguments, that we do not play to their strengths. Conor observes the difference between Hype and Reality. We cannot hope to trump the NRA Hype with Liberal Hype. Your recent enthusiastic shit-stirring is exactly the wrong approach.

        The facts are these: for all the laws on the books, and for my money there are probably too many, we have failed to enforce the laws we do have. If we, the advocates of gun control, are to make any headway in this debate, it will be with the emotional judo of appealing to the instincts and sentiments of the law-abiding gun owners. If they can be peeled away from the NRA’s fearmongering and brought into the fold, progress can be made — and until their allegiances change, no progress can possibly be made. We cannot win on the basis of mere facts.

        Myths, Joseph Campbell tells us, are the stories of beginnings. We’ve only been around for two centuries and change: our mythology is just now forming. If the NRA wants to appeal to our baser instincts, myths of roving marauders and statist invaders intent upon taking away our weapons — there are far older myths at our disposal, the myths which gave rise to society itself, of Enkidu the Wild Man transformed from a brute into a civilised man, of the crude, violent Miyamoto Musashi’s evolution from travelling swordfighter into an artist and writer, of all the sages and prophets over the millenia who taught mankind the transcendent power of the pen over the sword, of the rule of law over the rule of tyrants.

        The gun owners have been sorely and unnecessarily provoked. I am afraid I must now make this personal, for it goes to the heart of the issue: rhetoric such as you have brought to this debate is profoundly unhelpful. If we are to examine the statistics, in all seriousness, the legitimate gun owners are the least of our worries and the only hope we have to make any substantive changes.

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        • They’ve been ranting about “liberals want to take our guns” since the 1980s. Never has anyone gotten it through their heads, no matter what actually happens in legislation or court, that it’s not the case.

          The gun owners have been sorely and unnecessarily provoked.

          The gun owners are sorely and unnecessarily self-provoking. The conspiracy mongers, the NRA, and the rest of those with a financial incentive (the gun and ammunition sellers laughing all the way to the bank every time an incident results in a run on the gun stores) have done their level best to stir up paranoia and hoarding behavior. One side of the argument wants to talk about rational solutions, the other side of the argument is Alex Jones ranting and raving, calling someone a “redcoat” and saying that “1776 will come again if you try and take our guns.”

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          • I recommend you head down to the nearest judo dojo and learn how to use someone’s headlong rushes against them. The gun control people have never once leveraged the power of the gun nuts to their benefit and the NRA has consistently won these debates by default.

            But then, Liberals are, generally speaking, the worst debaters alive. My own rhetorical position against the Gun Crowd is to arm everyone, man woman and child, thus bringing the Self-Defence argument from paranoid speculation into the realm of necessity. Dwyer says I’m no longer welcome at the table, which amuses me no end. Me, after I left the service, I sold all my weapons. I was done hunting people. For me, the myths lost all validity, they’d been trumped by reality. They were all a pack of lies, myths of glory and power. Ambrose Bierce:

            GRAPESHOT, n. An argument which the future is preparing in answer to the demands of American Socialism.

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            • BlaiseP,
              your always welcome at my table. I have seen more gun nuttery than most. Probably the main reason I don’t join the NRA is that I’m not scared. They call me, and I just let them know “I’m good.”

              Dangerous minds are always much more destructive than any weapon or tool.

              Probably some things that would prevent accidents would be to have public service anouncements to :
              1. Always treat a gun as if it where loaded and about to fire.
              2. Store guns in a open breech fashion.
              3. Don’t shoot angry.

              I think it would be helpful for the nation to have peaceful coping mechanisms to replace the destructive ones. I like fishing, it should be free. If we can spend 3.5 billion on a damn navy boat surely we could release enough fish to go fishing once in a while without restriction/license/registration.

              Anything para military should be removed from the police force or the public eye. Paint SWAT trucks pink or something. Let people continue to protest freely without bloodshed.

              There is no magic to Alex Jones, I didn’t even know he existed until someone on here made reference that I had been listening to him. He says the same damn five things over and over. He will beat a decent story to death, pick it up and beat it somemore. Someone else mentioned Glenn Beck. I suppose I need to see what he is about.

              These aren’t the dangerous people. The dangerous people are the ones who will arbitrarily pass a law that will burn the house down.

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              • That simply isn’t going to cut it. At some point, we will have to start getting the millions of illegal weapons off the streets. It will become a huge civil liberties issue. These mild nostrums about painting SWAT trucks pink and earnestly entreating people to Not Shoot Angry are not going to solve the problem of the Civilian Arms Race.

                That’s why I keep mocking the Gun Folks, saying we ought to arm everyone. In this way, we can bring the Self-Defence line of rhetoric to the fore. They’ll talk a good game, smearing a bit of soothing Astroglide onto our various orifices before they stick it to us like they always do. Columbine, Virginia Tech, dozens of cops dead, thousands of dead and wounded stacking up — no, sorry, painting the SWAT truck pink and mantra-like repetition of the Four Rules is just not going to faze me any more.

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                • Honestly, I keep thinking about the rush to arm after an event where innocent folk get shot up in public places. What does that say? According to Dyer, it’s because they fear a ban. Each new even, and they fear a ban, need to stock up before they cannot stock up.

                  First, it says that every time someone goes and does a crazy thing, the gun manufacturers and sellers benefit; the market talks.

                  Second, it says that the folks are preparing for what they perceive as inevitable — regulation. Why? In the face of lack of action, why? Because they know, perhaps, that it’s actually needed?

                  Third, and this goes to my post in the symposium, that they just might think every other person stocking up’s the potential problem, and don’t really want to look in the mirror?

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                  • At one point you propose an honest discusion, now your at mocking Gun Folk.
                    The problem of the civilian arms race is not yours alone to solve. Why are you so scared of citizens owning millions of guns?

                    3 rules don’t apply to you, as far as I know, you don’t own a gun. We are supposed to be having a discussion, not fazing anyone.

                    I expected more. More than a quickly painted composite of a dead end prognosis. This is defeated before we start.

                    At least you didn’t measure the worth of someones elses rights by the faded echoing creed of a past rangemaster.

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                    • Citizen, I’m curious. After any of the recent mass shootings, events where folks became concerned that there would some infringement of their gun rights, did you (or people you know) go buy new weapons because of that fear? If so, what did you think or they say?

                      Because that comes to the table here. The response to discussions about what’s reasonable result in additional arming. The notion that a tax on ammo or insurance requirements might be worth consideration was met with outrage because it was an attempt (by liberals, of course) to make guns unappealing through increasing the cost.

                      So gun advocates want to wander off into the weeds of which of their toys might be restricted.

                      But the real problem with guns is that the people who actually need them for protection are the people who live in poor urban neighborhoods.

                      And you go on whining about your rights? What about their rights to live in safe neighborhoods? To have safe schools? To have a grocery store within a reasonable walk?

                      I gotta tell you the truth: you are creating and empowering the real problem (much with the redistribution of wealth from urban areas to rural areas) and putting your head in the sand because its not your kid involved in the drive by.

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                    • Zic presents an interesting philosophical question here. To what extent are people over here, wherein something is causing perhaps some trouble but not enough to warrant action (or so they see it), obligated to get rid of that something because it’s causing a whole lot of trouble over there.

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                    • Will, there is no ‘over there.’

                      The pledge I took every morning was to one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

                      Congress added in God in the 1950’s, but I’m atheist, so can live without the god part since I also have freedom or religion (or freedom from religion).

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                    • Zic, I appreciate the sentiment, but my view is that there are many “over here” vs “over there” sorts of things. What is advantageous policy – or supported – in one place is bad policy or useless policy or opposed policy in another. Sometimes you can square the circle with federalism. It’s hard to do that with guns or drugs.

                      I think the obligation between them is non-zero, but also not determinative. I’m not sure when the obligation should be applied and when it shouldn’t.

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                    • I have already patiently explained why there will never be an honest discussion. I’ve watched as a whole lot of well-meaning people poured out their earnest li’l hearts and pecked on their keyboards like so many crows eating seed corn — and the Gun Crowd has merely resorted to their usual shamanistic rhetoric.

                      And don’t you presume to hector me about not owning a gun. Three things the military drove out of me which once I loved: running, camping and hunting. Who the Sam Hell are you to talk to anyone about guns anyway? Serve in the military? Hunted anyone? Shot anyone? Had anyone on your team shot? I have my reasons for not owning guns. What are your reasons for still owning them? Think they make little men into big men? They do, you know. See previous definition of Grapeshot.

                      Now there are three topics which are guaranteed to stir up a big old flamefest: God, Guns and ‘Bortion. All three are interlocked and all feature the aforementioned shamanistic rhetoric. All the arguments, pro and con, have been made, over and over. And nobody’s ever changed their minds on these topics.

                      So why do we even try? Will any gun owner, here or elsewhere, ever own up to the fact that there we have become an armed camp? That such trends do not bode well for our society as a whole? That the Self-Protection Argument has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as everyone arms themselves to the teeth? Hmm?

                      From the beginning of this contemptible exercise wherein we shall discuss Guns in America, I said it would only drag down the League. And it has.

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                    • zic,
                      I apologize for the late response, I dont access the net around the clock. I didn’t buy anything gun related over the tragedy. Actually after I have the basic three and everything is dialed in so I don’t use or require much. I do mostly long range shooting and have never had the desire to own an AR type gun. Their range is to short for my taste.
                      I did go to a few gun shows to see what the net effect of the threat of the ban would be. It didn’t look very different than before, but to be honest it would be difficult to tell if there was a 10% to 20% uptick than before. The prices of the military styled weapons did increase considerably. There were several MP 5s that weren’t there before.

                      I do think about the problems of the urban neighborhoods often. My situation is completely different than theirs. This is one reason I frown on federal policy. Its a blanket technique to fix specific problems. Hell if the problem could be readily fixed you would think the multitude of current gun laws would have have fixed it.

                      I don’t know at what point you call a neighborhood a war zone. I don’t know how it would feel to a person in that war zone to have me pass a law that takes away their weapon (illegal or legally obtained). To be honest I think that decision is best left to the people living inside problem. How would anyone outside the hot spots have a good assesment?

                      At what point do you say to a neighborhood that we don’t trust yall to fix your own problems so we’re coming in with a broom? And how often does that type of policy fail before it is even implemented.

                      I would speculate that if the fuel and the fire could be defined and distance increased between the two then we could talk about progress. If it comes back to some decrease in my liberties and it would make a significant difference in the urban wars then I say hell yes lets discuss it.

                      But I say us discussing this without the people at ground zero would be bad form, and to violate their rights without them present would be the worst form of conversation.

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                    • Blaise,
                      My intention is not to hector you one way or another about guns. Who I am to be talking guns? I am a nobody, another blip in a bell curve of gun owners. The fact that I have lived 32 years around guns without incident or killing anyone I think could be a useful resource. If not I have little to contribute.

                      We have been armed camps since the times of clovis point.

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                    • Citizen,
                      it’s what blaise has been saying. we need to get the right federal policy.
                      Which ought to be focused around catching gunrunners. And that’s about it.
                      Sure, ifyou want, we could ban (or practically ban) handguns. But why bother?

                      It should not be easier to get the Secret Service to take out gunsmugglers than to get ATF to get off it’s hiney.

                      What’s a real war-zone neighborhood like?
                      1) Police won’t go.
                      2) Innocents getting killed/shot at without provocation.
                      3) Use of substantially heavier weaponry than guns (grenades, et alia).

                      Even where there’s a lot of crime, most of the time, people aren’t trying to kill innocents. That’s a great way to get tons of police attention.

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                    • When DC. v. Heller came before SCOTUS, the court went with the Civilian Arms Race argument, especially Dick Heller’s testimony. As DC’s gun crime rate went from bad to worse, ordinary, law-abiding citizens felt obliged to arm themselves.

                      As I’ve said elsewhere, at the time of Heller Gabby Giffords filed an amicus brief defending the Civilian Arms Race. Now she’s against it. Funny how that works out in practice.

                      Do you want to know what being in a War Zone actually means, how it feels? There’s no law in a war zone. The fighters are the law. War is what happens when civil order disintegrates. That’s why American soldiers aren’t governed by civilian law, but instead by UCMJ. People get this idea about war from the movies about how it’s all bang-bang and boom-boom, it’s not. Mostly it’s just living in dread. You can get used to it. Some people thrive in it. People can go on with their lives, sorta. They know where the trouble is and they avoid it. If there are snipers, people learn how to move from street to street. They understand they’re not the targets but they take care not to be confused with targets. But they’re philosophical about indirect fire weapons like mortars and artillery: there’s really no defence against them since you don’t hear them coming in, at least the one that’s going to whack you.

                      Thing is, while the Feds run the show via Heller and the local jurisdictions don’t, at least at present, the local authorities have no standing. Heller created a new right as surely as Roe v. Wade. We see rollbacks of gun restrictions everywhere on the basis of Heller, especially in McDonald v. Chicago.

                      In short, there will be no dialogue with the people at Ground Zero, not while Heller is still law.

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                    • ATF is either a accountability or corruption issue. Hell maybe even a funding issue (but i doubt it).

                      So the root problem of the guns in the cities has less to with average citizens and more to do with groupings of unsavories at battle. Currently there is no voice on how to approach a solution coming from within the hot spots.

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          • I’ve always admired Bill Moyers, who in turn reminds me of my own father. Truth is, my rhetoric was shaped by many years of excellent sermons and endless arguments with people I’ve loved over the years. I shamelessly ape my betters.

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      • If nobody can do the research, then nobody can come up with the statistics. The NRA knows the statistics won’t be on their side, so they block the research.

        As a husband and father, I see my job #1 as protection of my family. And so, as someone who grew up at least adjacent to guns, and who lacks a visceral hate or fear of them, I would like the answer to a very simple question: Should I purchase a firearm for the protection of my family? Would doing so make them safer, statistically, or would it only increase their level of hazard?

        And I find that I simply can’t answer that question unambiguously. There’s some older research that would seem to suggest that the answer is no. But as demonstrated in Patrick’s and Jason’s posts, the data simply isn’t very good and so any conclusion has to be left in the “unconfirmed” category. And the research that could answer it can’t get funding due to bits of legislation pushed by NRA-supported legislators.

        As to the last bit, I think it’s natural to ask why. And the obvious conclusion is just as M.A. says above; the answer wouldn’t be favorable to the gun owner’s manufacturers primary lobbying organization.

        So we’re left arguing in a vacuum with only shoddy, incomplete, and controvertible statistics to guide us. And since we have only sparse and conflicting facts, we’re reduced to arguing this strictly on the basis of abstract rights, which really means it’s going to be a fact-free political circus. Just like the NRA likes it.

        And at the end I still don’t really know whether I’m actually a fool for leaving my family so dreadfully undefended, or whether I’m really one of the smart ones that won’t be the unwitting cause of my own personal tragedy.

        And that really sucks.

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        • the answer wouldn’t be favorable to the gun owner’s manufacturers primary lobbying organization.

          There is little indication that the NRA is primarily or significantly a manufacturer’s outfit. Slate had a good piece on the effectiveness of the NRA a while back. This one really doesn’t appear to be about the money. They don’t even have that much of it, nationally speaking. What they have is enthusiastic supporters.

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          • Then they’re very poor representatives for gun owners, because they’re taking positions that run counter to their membership. Such as universal background checks, for example.

            But it makes perfect sense if the whole point is to get more guns out the door and on the streets, legal or illegal. And that benefits the industry.

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        • People in jurisdictions which do not permit gun ownership and who have reason to fear for their family’s safety build panic rooms. This is a much more expensive proposition but needs less training to be effective. Of course both panic room and gun owners should pay reasonable attention to the security of the entire habitation.

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