It doesn't matter, but I didn't sleep for shit in the ten days after the Sandy Hook massacre. I was up until at least 1 am every night, trying to distract myself from the horror of the butchery committed by that evil garbage. It's not much, but my wife made sure to send a card to the Newtown priests facing the horror. When I started talking about the issue, I expressed my interest in solutions like smaller magazine capacity, biometric safes and trigger locks and the like. Productive, civil conversations. Or so it seemed.
As it turned out, none of that mattered. The tone changed from one of wanting to prevent another Sandy Hook into a two-months hate against gun ownership in general and NRA members in particular. Solutions fell by the wayside, and de-legitimization began in earnest.
You see, I'm an NRA member. As is my wife. We do not own a Bushmaster, nor any other semi-automatic weapon. However, we collectively own several firearms. Including--as will be set forth below--a completely-legal, bona-fide military weapon currently used by our military right now. Unlike what [damnatio memoriae] used at Newtown.
Nevertheless, because of our membership in Satan's Own Rifles, prominent people of culture hope we get shot. Hope really hard! [Which strikes me as an odd spin on the Hope™ being offered in 2008, but I digress for the first time.]
After all, we sponsored the slaughter--just in time for Christmas.
It didn't stop with mere award-winning novelists and actresses who remain unshunned by polite society. No, the Sons of Morrow nodded sagely, comparing the problem of gun ownership to slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK, and finally--ta-da!--Nazism. The inevitable fraudulent reporting for a good cause followed, and we can no doubt expect more in time.
Support for ethically-questionable carnival barkers with plummy accents also came from respectable soapboxes. Why? Because the barker doesn't show "cultural sensitivity" for the peons. He also doesn't show the good sense God gave cabbage, so I'm actually happy with Piers leading the charge. Forward! Oh, and by the way, Britain is not necessarily less violent than the U.S., despite tightening its gun laws over the past generation.
By the way, having a limey speak for your cause is effective unless you're talking about firearms. Then it conjures up Paul Revere, Redcoats, and buried Francophilia. I can say "Limey," by the way--some of my Dad's family came over from Kent in the late 1800s.
For my money, the Journal-News, a nasty little suburban newspaper in New York, won the prize. It decided to embark on a shame campaign, creating a searchable database of gun owners--legal permit holders, mind you--for all to see. Inaccurate as all hell, it also may have led to burglaries. As they always say, can't make a revolution without breaking a few kulaks.
Finally, President Dronestrike weighed in with an admittedly-decent statement from his speech-writing staff. Unfortunately for those who haven't mentally-suppressed his record, it was the irony equivalent of a heaping bowl of horseradish, bleu cheese and anchovy ice cream.
Far worse than the secular lefties doing what they do was Catholics joining the full court press. Leading with a correspondent of Mark's issuing what he no doubt thought to be a call to reason together. Alas, Mark's left-Catholic correspondent failed to note the juxtaposition of (1) condemning conservative, gun-owning Catholics for caricatures of their well-meaning opponents with (2) a bit of rhetoric two paragraphs later broad-brushing them for indulging in Red Dawn-inspired survivalist fantasies.
Your reality-based-community hard at work.
But that wasn't sufficient. In addition, Mark's Correspondent the went all CDF and questioned the Catholicism of the gun owners he patently dislikes--and apparently fears.
Somehow, it got even better. And by that, I mean much, much worse. In the comment thread, after announcing I was an NRA member and was (then) interested in some kind of solution (like biometric locks), one fellow piped up with Absolute Moral Authority and declared that he worked in the NRA's "dream world": some violent, unnamed inner city.
At that point, I drew back. In this environment, it is apparently necessary to state the obvious, so let me do so--such is not my "dream world." Far from it. I politely excused myself from the conversation, recognizing an unbridgeable gulf. Face slaps will do that.
A well-meaning Catholic I respect declared in a different forum that firearms were like the Ring of Sauron. Which means that firearms are not merely near occasions of sin, but are inherently evil. Thus, I am keeping the weapons equivalent of a stack of Hustlers in the house, which will eventually lead me to do something heinous unless Gollum shows up in time to bite my trigger fingers off.
With that, I realized that that I am up against an irrational response.
What we are dealing with instead is the necessary moral revulsion about massacre being channelled toward a scapegoat--one substituting for the unfortunately-dead trigger-pulling shit. Unfortunately, let's admit the following--not all such revulsion is free from impure motives.
It has been aided and abetted for political ends by the Left, and gladly directed toward a convenient, culture-war scapegoat despised by the same and easily-demonized. Bitter clingers, anyone?
That I can handle. As I said above, it's who the Left are and what they do. They hate guns. Contrary to soothing voices claiming otherwise, pols do want to confiscate firearms. Right, Governor Cuomo? Right, NY Dems? Right, Senator Feinstein? Right, Rep. Muhlbauer? Right, Chief Lansdowne?
What I cannot abide is brothers and sisters in the Faith donning the garb of the Holy Censor, playing the caricature game and leavening it with anathemas.
Like this charming bit of moral bullying in the combox: Gun owners are reluctant about untested technological fixes because their mindset is "I don’t care and I won’t help." Fantastic bit of soul-discernment there, Matty! That must be it.
Or could it be that gun owners are worried about things that might make their tools (because that's what guns are) inoperable when they need them to work? Especially after weeks of being shit on by people who can't conceal their contempt?
Nah. Easier to diagnose the hidden bad faith in the callous pricks you dislike. By the way--spiritual direction might not be your forte', MD.
Or, behold: this invocation of Tom Tomorrow's tired caricature of NRA members as an as-obvious-as-gravity moral trump card that only a fool or a knave could disagree with. I mean, really--my friend Zach Frey is one of the most reasonable people I've ever met. Way more reasonable than me. (Which is actually intended a compliment and not damning-with-faint-praise.) Yet asking the feverishly anti-NRA Ms. Clark to consider an alternative view is irrational, "self-parodying," "made-up crap." Well, I stand refuted. And she has her halo to admire, which, I imagine, is nice.
In the face of this avalanche of OUTRAGE! driven by Absolute Moral Authority™ I am left shaking my head with my arms folded. I have no response when people demand solutions of me: how am I supposed to respond to a rhetorical lynch mob?
It has gone beyond a search for solutions to Sandy Hook. It has become a firestorm of caricatures, marginalization and demonization. Even the children have to be warned away from the Evil I Represent. I decline to validate it, thank you.
If you really want to talk--with good will, and not to posture or advance an agenda, here is my plea: attempt to understand (1) firearms and (2) the Second Amendment.
[As an aside, government officials, please don't send your legislative fist careening toward my tonsils, call it "dialogue," and expect me to sit quietly. Just a thought.]
Let's try this: which beloved cultural icon told the Kansas City Star the following about living by herself?
[S]he is not afraid to live alone, keeping pistol by screen door and shotgun in her bedroom. "I know how to use them both."
--Laura Ingalls Wilder, in 1955, age 88. Citation: Library of America Edition of The Little House Books (2012), Vol. 2, p. 824.
I don't think she was talking about hunting from the house when she mentioned the firearms.
In other words, there's a long tradition of gun ownership in this country, and you'll find it in the oddest places. Please include studying up on personal firearms--the variety, how they work, etc., as you start weighing in on the subject. So much of the rhetoric flying about is bogglingly ignorant, and almost proudly so. Let me try an analogy: a friend speaks with you about her desire to share the Gospel with Muslims, and says "Could you fact-check me on this? Here's what my studies have revealed about Muslim worship."
Muslims gather together every Wednesday in buildings called 'synagogues.' They bring baskets of flowers which they place before a statue of their god 'Koran,' and proceed to prostrate themselves repeatedly before the statue while a woman recites from 'Muhammad,' their holy book. Oh, and they're kinda nasty.
Where to begin? Besides begging her to study up on Jainism instead?
A lot of the rhetoric surrounding firearms is like that, badly distorted where it isn't laughably false or incomprehensible. So please, please read up. For example, Darwin offers a sound primer on "assault weapons" here.
A lot of what I have been reading suggests that the speaker regards weapons as evil in and of themselves, a death-totem to be avoided with superstitious horror. Hence the Ring analogy. But it's also seen as a "madness" to want to own one. Some of the questions about the need to own a Bushmaster come across a little like Carrie Nation asking why anyone needs to have any alcoholic beverage, much less a variety.
"Why don't you put down the demon rum and have a nice cup of tea instead, dear?"
Frankly, I don't want a Bushmaster. But I know people who own semi-automatic weapons, and they work just the same. Why do they have to have those features/look that way? Well, why don't we start mandating that all high-prestige, high-performance cars (e.g., Corvettes, Ferraris, Benzes, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Porsches, etc.) sold in the U.S. are required to have Pollockesque hot pink/hunter orange paint jobs and giant unremovable Hello Kitty stickers on the hoods? Why? Well, what social purpose do such vehicles serve? They only guzzle fuel or drive up insurance rates, either through reckless driving or expensive repairs. Q.E.D. Plus, you know--class warfare bonus points.
Which brings me around, at long last, to my war firearm. It's a Mossberg Model 500 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. It looks a lot like the one pictured in the upper right-hand corner of the link. It is absolutely indistinguishable from the one used by our armed forces, with two exceptions: It carries one less shell, and has a different trigger guard. It fires the same projectiles. With one trigger pull, a double-aught buckshot load will discharge 9 projectiles, called pellets, in a cone-shaped dispersal pattern. The Bushmaster only fires one, in a straight line. You want to talk high-capacity magazine? My Mossberg has one, to the tune of 54 projectiles.
Sure, magazine reloads and the like, but the fact remains that my currently-legal shotgun--used by our armed forces--is capable of worse horrors than a Bushmaster. Which is why I--and other gun owners--get worried when other firearms are targeted. Horrific to contemplate, we worry about the reaction if someone misuses our firearm of choice. In my case, I doubt the feigned respect for shooting sports and hunting associated with shotguns would last long.
Finally, please study up on the Second Amendment. It truly isn't about hunting, though that was a presumed corollary. Self-protection, yes--but in a broader sense--protection from tyranny. It's neither fun to think about, nor lightly to be thought about. Nor should one be tossing about the idea that the government is tyrannical at the drop of a hat. Especially when one is unhappy about who happens to head that government.
The Founders were flawed men, but despite being over-represented by Deists, they seemed to have a grip on the idea of Original Sin. They built a system that was meant to restrain and channel the worst impulses, and a handy reminder that they rule only with the consent of the governed is embodied in that Amendment. Sure, that requires inculcation of certain virtues, but it's hardly impossible. More to the point, armed resistance to tyranny has a solid Catholic pedigree. It's not the first resort, I know. Far, far from it. But it's there.
And one last word--the recognition of the individual rights theory (the only credible reading)--turns five years old this year. It was a razor-thin vindication, and it hangs by the health of one justice. Until it gets ingrained, and some level of respect within the bar, gun owners are going to be twitchy. If you think things are unpleasant now, an overturn of Heller would be Roe Redux.
Anyway, this has gone on long enough. I'm exhausted.
In so many ways.