As both a liberal, and a gun owner, I have come to certain conclusions about gun control that take into account the concerns and beliefs of both of these often diametrically opposed groups. And while I truly believe the answers to the gun control debate (such as limiting magazine capacity and universal back ground checks), lie somewhere in between the overheated and divisive rhetoric, I do not do so just for the sake of pretending that all issues are down the middle or that every opinion has equal weight, as our gutless, ratings driven news media does. I base my opinion on facts, reason, common sense, and a life time of using firearms as well as being more than a casual observer of the gun control issue.
First off, yes, guns do kill people. But for many reasons America is a violent country. The causes of, and solutions to this epidemic need to be explored and debated. My fellow liberals must be faulted here because even as they claim to abhor our culture of violence, they defend the entertainment and sports industries that consistently glorifies and promotes all types of excessive brutality. The first amendment, like the second, is not absolute, and to what degree it can be exercised will always be argued, but it’s hypocritical for liberals to believe violent entertainment, even if it’s protected as free speech, isn’t part of the problem. It’s also equally hypocritical for conservatives to righteously condemn the left while permitting their young children to watch the very same movies, play the same video games, and observe the same brutal spectacles that have become acceptable in modern society. In a real way we all share the blame for the situation in our country.
Of course there are legitimate reasons for certain firearms in society. As a hunter, I use various firearms , but there is no sane reason justifying semi automatics or high-capacity clips as being necessary for the sporting pursuit of game. Also, the right for self-defense is undeniable, yet I don’t see the need to annihilate an intruder with some type of military assault weapon. A pistol or shot-gun would seem adequate.
Obviously then, there are other factors driving the near rabid insistence of the gun community to oppose any restrictions,( no matter how logical), on any weapon, (no matter how dangerous). Undoubtedly, much of the hysteria results from the fear and paranoia fanned by the far-right, anti-government advocates who fancy themselves as patriotic superheroes fighting the godless socialist tyrant in the white house. The Democrat, the black Democrat, godless, socialist tyrant in the white house. Conservative groups use emotionally charged rhetoric, baseless accusations, and out right lies to rev up and solidify their base in opposition to not just gun control, but any issues in the interest of conservative policies. By equating God, guns, and country with their far right ideology, they’ve managed to build a coalition of highly motivated followers. Armed with the belief that everyone from Jesus to John Wayne is on their side, they are ready to do battle and defend all they hold dear, including their guns. The far right has effectively nurtured the idea that any law, no matter how reasonable, is an attack on the constitution, and the simple concept of living in a society that values the common good is a completely alien concept. The specter of ” jack booted thugs”, “black UN helicopters”, and the “new world order” are powerful motivators for those with the predisposition to believe such conspiracies, so it is probably no small coincidence that interests who would also benefit from a weakened government, (big business, the wealthy), align themselves with the pro-gun community and ride the same wave. For example, the exaggerated fear of socialism and anti Americanism used to build opposition to gun control is the same one used to oppose health care reform. By bundling varied issues, conservative interests have successfully consolidated a large and motivated base, even if the members of that base don’t always benefit from its other stances. The union worker voting for the pro-gun, anti-labor candidate, or the hunter voting for the pro-gun, anti environment candidate, are two examples of how well this strategy has worked.
In recent years the credibility of the gun community has been eroded because some, but fortunately not all, gun owners have allowed themselves to be influenced by cartoon characters like Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent , and adhere to the increasingly extreme philosophy of the NRA. As a gun owner I’m insulted by the ridiculous arguments I’m supposed to accept, such as the ever popular “if guns are outlawed, only out laws will have guns”. (Well, yes, that’s how you control the possession of items deemed too dangerous for society. You “outlaw” them.) And of course we can’t even discuss creating any new law, pertaining to anything, because it puts us on the proverbial “slippery slope”. These ludicrous assertions along with talk of “secession” and”armed rebellion” by the extreme fringe of the pro gun community do nothing other than drown out the voices of the more reasonable gun owners.
While I believe it has been corrupted by the far-right wing in our country, the real intent of the Second Amendment, ensuring that our own government can not oppress us, is perhaps the most legitimate reason for civilian gun possession. Not everyone concerned about a runaway, tyrannical government is automatically a paranoid nut. Liberals don’t trust the government any more than conservatives, but I believe some of my fellow Liberals need to admit that there are viable scenarios (natural disasters, economic collapse, social upheaval, etc.) where a well armed individual may be the last best defense against mob rule, and the banding together of well armed citizens (militia?) may be the last check to an overreaching government. However, this in no way justifies the complete unregulated possession of any type of weapons by anyone who wants them. No group of civilians, no matter how prepared, can go toe to toe against the US military on an open battle field, and allowing the unregulated possession of military weapons in an attempt to equal the battle field capability of our armed forces is simply too dangerous for society. We could however, with even our semi-automatics and limited capacity clips, offer up a sustained insurgency, just the threat of which may be enough of a deterrence to hinder any sinister government plans. After all, the modern, scoped, bolt-action hunting rifle, of which there are millions privately owned, is still the most efficient and effective weapon in a guerilla style fight, especially in the hands of the American hunter and shooter.
As convinced as some people are that an impending gun grab is the first step in a government takeover , I see the erosion of our civil liberties, evaporating privacy, and dwindling access to uncensored information as a far greater threat to our way of life than any new gun regulation. Our country has become militarized. We are at a perpetual state of war and have been conditioned to accept surveillance, unwarranted searches, a bloated pentagon, even torture in the name of security. Ironically, it’s the most government fearing, flag waving patriots among us who tolerate things done in their name, often completely counter to our constitution and morals, as long as they’re done to someone else. The problem is, they’re being done to us, and no gun can defend against them. Our government is being bought and sold by big moneyed interests, and our media outlets are little more than propaganda machines programmed by unethical politicians and their corporate masters, yet we’re happy to “drink the koolade” if it conforms to what we want to believe.
As important as the second amendment in ensuring our freedoms, it’s just as important that we demand more accountability and openness from our “leaders”, severely restrict and the use of our military, especially in civil matters, and actively prosecute police corruption. Any betrayal of the public trust, by anyone, should not be tolerated. Although our system of government is far from perfect, it is the best the world has ever known. The use of the ballot box, by informed and thinking citizens, is a far surer guarantee of our freedoms than any gun.
Gun owners, myself included, need to recognize the legitimate concerns of non gun owners, and acknowledge not just our own rights, but the rights of the entire country, including the inalienable right of safety. And non gun owners must realize that not all of us gun owners are far right red necks stockpiling weapons to fight imaginary enemies, but we’re for the most part rational, responsible citizens who believe the “right to bear arms”, at least some arms, is a necessity for a free and secure society. If we’re allowed to have a conversation based on facts and reality I’m certain that, along with other important issues, gun control can be resolved.