The National Rifle Association’s response to the Sandy Hook school shootings may be remembered as the point in which they ceased to be taken seriously and started to lose clout . The responses to President Obama’s proposals and executive orders are over the top. Here’s a sampling:
Tennessee legislators want to make it a felony for federal agents to enforce federal laws involving guns.
Rand Paul wants Congress to ‘nullify’ executive orders. Good luck with that Rand – note that Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any Republican President in the last century, but hey, don’t let facts get in the way of your impotent rage.
Impeachment is on the agenda of a few Congressmen who apparently want to cause the Republican party to self-destruct.
In Texas one representative wants to “ban gun laws.”
In Wyoming there is also a move to make enforcement of these laws a felony.
Then you get the usual caterwauling of people claiming Obama is a Hitler, they’re coming after your guns, the country is going to cease being “free” (eyes rolling).
So, all that said, you must think I’m a radical gun control advocate, right? Hardly. I don’t own a gun nor do I want one, and I think that people who need a gun to feel secure are saying more about their own internal state than they are about their actual safety. People who think they need guns so they can rise up against the government some day are simply delusional (remember Timothy McVeigh)? But in general most people who own guns do so responsibly, hunters take safety seriously, and guns are a part of American culture.
I do think the reaction by the extremists is rooted in delusion. Rather than rationally accepting that gun violence is a problem and that in the rest of the industrialized world gun deaths are very low (and total deaths are much lower to – people aren’t just finding other ways to kill), they fall into a weird narrative about tyranny and Obama’s goons coming to get their guns.
There are rational reasons to be skeptical of gun control. A lot of our murders come in places where the causes are socio-economic. Poverty, gang activity, and a lack of effort by the rest of the society to address those problems creates sub cultures where violence, drug use, and crime is the norm. In places like Maine where gun ownership is among the highest levels in the country we are very safe. Not because of guns, but we have a stable and relatively peaceful culture. There are problems of rural poverty – spousal abuse, substance abuse, petty crime, etc. It’s just that the kind of gun violence associated with inner cities doesn’t reach here.
So what we need is a sensible discussion. The executive orders people going crazy about are bland. You can read the list here. No gun grabbing, no huge federal intervention on Congressional powers. Many have nothing to do with guns, but with school safety. Some focus on building a dialogue or making cooperation between federal agencies easier. A couple deal with mental health issues.
That is why the NRA, now up with an ad that uses President Obama’s daughters to label him a hypocrite (their “logic”: if the President’s family gets Secret Service protection it’s hypocritical not want armed guards in every school) has to be ridiculed and belittled as much as possible. They have jumped the shark. They’re making dubious claims about their membership going way up, and launching threats and attacks against any politician that dares question their extremist orthodoxy. They don’t want dialogue, they don’t want to admit that gun availability might cause more gun related crimes and deaths, they’re taking an ideological stand and trying to pretend it’s about liberty.
Gun owners, don’t fall for this! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that people wanting reasonable gun control legislation are would be Nazis ready to grab full power. Even if the President’s legislative proposal were adopted as is (which is not going to happen – if something passes it will be a compromise) the US would still have the loosest gun control laws of the industrialized world. Most gun owners would not be affected one iota.
And maybe gun control legislation isn’t a good idea. Maybe we need to approach the problem from a different direction. I don’t know. But we need dialogue. We need to be reasonable. We need to accept that there are sound arguments on each side, and that most people are neither gun nuts nor gun haters. Dump the hyperbole, reject the delusion that the US government is turning into a tyranny or that Obama is somehow a would be Hitler. Replace emotion and fear with logic and evidence.
Yet if the NRA and other extremists continue their over the top hyperbolic rants and tirades, it’s no use reasoning with them. Mock them as ridiculous and absurd. Weaken their public image. Then find people on both sides who are willing to talk and listen to each other.