Listen to, or read, the left talking about gun control for a while. (It’s OK if you don’t want to; I do it so you don’t have to).
You eventually run into three basic tracks of thought:
- The Stupid Track: Best summed up by lefty commenter and triteness merchant John Fugelsang’s line “I don’t have a gun because I’m satisfied with my penis size”. Which is typical of this crowd; we’re trying to save lives, lower crime and secure liberty, and they’re focused on genitals. Conversation is difficult, and pointless, and of dubious utility with people this smugly (and unjustifiably), er, self-satisfied.
- The Thundering Herd: The vast swarm of (often) well-meaning people whose only frame of reference is what they hear in the media; “we’ve got to dooooooo something”, “gun show loopholes”, “355 mass murders so far this year” and other chanting points. Many are otherwise intelligent people who’ve been swayed by the “Lie First, Lie Always” campaign of emotional manipulation that gun controllers have been running for decades.
- The Root Causers: The are the ones that swerve into Deep Thoughts. Their latest? Rumination about this nation’s “Gun Culture”.
Let’s talk about #III for a bit.
Culcha: The notion that America has a “Gun Culture” – a part of society that embraces guns on a social, intellectual and philosophical level – isn’t an earth-shaking one. A significant part of this country…:
- Believes the Second Amendment recognizes a right granted us by our creator, whatever that is
- Owns guns, and treats them like utilitarian tools
- Makes shooting sports – hunting, target shooting, self-defense training – a part of their lives, shooting for relaxation, fun, exercise, mental stimulation, food, and personal and family security
- Passes these beliefs down through the generations, making shooting sports and self-defense a part of family life
- Believes that guns in the hands of the law-abiding are an awesome responsibility, with horrendous consequences for misuse, but immense benefits for legal, proper use
- Passionately defends the right to keep and bear arms, supporting gun rights groups with their time, money and political interest in numbers that many other grassroots movements would love to be able to harness.
The “gun culture” is stereotypically a rural trait – but it extends throughout America; there are advocates and activists, as well as passive members, in the largest, most blue-choked cities.
Politically, the “gun culture” is associated with conservatives – and that’s largely true. But there are plenty who don’t care in the least about politics – and more importantly, enough on the left, especially in politically schizoid states like Minnesota who vote DFL but who support not only the shooting sports, but the armed lifestyle, to make the Minnesota Legislature, split down the middle on partisan lines, a fairly to strongly pro-2nd-Amendment body, especially outside the hapless Twin Cities DFL contingent.
And while decades ago the “gun culture” was associated with the America’s blue collar class, today it crosses most social and class lines, except the academic class and the exceptionally wealthy (who can afford all the security they want). At its best, it’s best described by this quote from Tolkein:
“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
So the “gun culture” is relatively easy to identify. It’s big, it’s passionate about its politics, and it’s been emboldened – some might say “rendered complacent” – by twenty years of relative political success. It’s support for the Second Amendment is a mile wide and a mile deep. It is an electoral buzz saw that has cut many a gun-grabbing politician (outside of America’s crime-choked urban cores) off at the knees. Naturally, it’s also a common boogeyman for the left.
But what about its counterpart?
Objectors Without Object: There is most definitely an “anti-gun culture” in the US. It’s no more socially homogenous than the “gun culture”; it includes Hollywood titans, suburban grandées, inner-city political activists, and a whole lot of people in between.
But like the “gun culture”, they share some traits.
They are more or less illiterate about the Second Amendment: some believe the Amendment is irrelevant; others, that it’s archaic (the whole “the founding fathers never envisioned AK47s” bit), some just don’t care.
Guns and their use are more or less foreign to them. Don’t get me wrong; shooters can get pretty pedantic about gun terms and parts. On the other hand, it’s hard to have a literate, much less productive, conversation with people who mix up “semi-automatic” with “machine gun”, or who think a thirty-round magazine makes a firearm uniquely deadly.
But Jonah Goldberg, in an excellent piece in National Review, notes that while part of America regards guns as just another tool, to another part they are utterly foreign and associated only with crime.
And too many of them take that fear out in the form of smug condescension:
The Second Amendment, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote, is “the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches.”
Almost but not quite too stupid for Minnesota Progressive Project.
Many are just afraid of guns. Being afraid of guns isn’t especially irrational; they are intimidating machines. The irrationality comes from wanting to take them away from everyone else.
For the most part, they believe that guns are too dangerous for regular people – until those same people strap on a badge or a uniform, and become infallible.
They largely believe, deep down inside, when push comes to shove, that citizens shouldn’t have guns, and that government legitimately claims a monopoly on the use of force.
There’s one other key difference; beyond a few hyperactivists, it’s just not that big a deal to most anti-gunners. They may oppose guns of one kind or another, to one degree or another. They may be scared of…something, and advocate some regulation or another than one of another “leader” has proposed. But for most of them, their support for restrictions on the law-abiding is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Ill-Informed Hysterics With Short Attention Spans: So this combination of dilatory, poorly-read passion, slopped on top of intense fear spread by social convention (not a whole lot different than racial bigotry, when you take it apart) has yielded a small, badly-informed, but intensely powerful political force that exerts a disproportionate, universally deleterious effect on American politics.
And as it did when large minorities of American society smoked cigarettes, hated black people or treated women like chattel, it’s going to take a huge education program and changes in Americans’ attitudes to send our intractable anti-gun culture where it belongs – history’s scrap heap, along with the Klan and the glass ceiling.