The American Obsession With Firearms: Being Held Hostage by Gun Nuts and Fear
Gun Fanatics: No One Wants to Take Your Guns!
Confiscation of firearms will never happen in the United States. It isn't constitutionally legal. But, that doesn't stop gun fanatics from obsessively anguishing about it. Almost any conversation about new gun laws in response to a mass shooting, if there is a gun zealot present, you'll get the standard admonition: "We won't give up our guns!"
It is their way of shutting down any conversation about restructuring firearms regulations to avert mass shootings. Mass shootings, more times than not, committed by people that should never be in possession of a firearm, let alone several high-powered automatic weapons.
NBC News reports that eighty-two percent of the firearms used in mass shootings over the last thirty years were obtained legally. Nikolas Cruz, perpetrator of the latest mass shooting, killing seventeen high school students in Florida, legally obtained the AR-15 assault rifle he used. It is reasonable to believe that more than three quarters of those mass shootings could have been avoided with stricter, uniform, firearms legislation, a waiting period, and broader, deeper, background checks.
Mother Jones published an extensive database of every mass shooting from 1982 through 2017, including data on the legality of the firearms used in the shootings. The spreadsheet data can be accessed here.
Why The Lethal Insanity?
Fear. Paranoia. Insecurity. Impotence.
What is the basis of the gun extremists' neurotic, phobic delusion about having their precious firearms confiscated by the government?
Fear of confiscation is an irrational fear of an action that has never been suggested by anyone with the power make it happen, never. The fear stems from deep seated insecurity. The country is changing, fast. Firearms seem to be a security blanket, the white male's mental fortress, against time and societal change. Black and Latino communities have guns too, a lot of guns. But for a much different purpose, foremost personal and family safety. There isn't the paranoid, "tyrannical government," fear of others and change, that seems to run through white patriot groups.
The collective psychology of this is interesting. Black and Latino communities never felt a sense of collective privilege. Many whites, tea-party and patriot militias exhibit an undercurrent of insecure fear that a demographically changing America, where they will not be the majority, will undermine their privilege, their preferred cultural supremacy.
It is irrational, but it's real for them.
They're arming themselves against a paranoid mental construct of their own making. This collective phobic delusion is fed by the right-wing, 'patriot', tea-party\libertarian media information bubble. This fear-based rage was put on steroids November 4, 2008 with the election of President Obama.
The right-wing panic industry cranked into high gear the November night of Obama's first election. CNN reported in November 2008:
"I have been in business for 12 years, and I was here for Y2K, September 11, Katrina," Conatser said, as a steady stream of customers browsed what remained of his stock. "And all of those were big events, and we did notice a spike in business, but nothing on the order of what we are seeing right now."
Weapons dealers in much of the United States are reporting sharply higher sales since Barack Obama won the presidency a week ago.
Buyers and sellers attribute the surge to worries that Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress will move to restrict firearm ownership, despite the insistence of campaign aides that the president-elect supports gun rights and considers the issue a low priority." (emphasis mine)
What was it that whipped up the fear-frenzy of conservative, right-wing whites...?
Fox News, internet 'patriot' sites, demagogues like Sarah Palin with her "take our country back" rhetoric and "2nd amendment solutions" flag-draped, bible-thumping, cloaked threats. All endorsed by the GOP/Tea-Party/Libertarians and...the NRA.
The 2nd Amendment: It Doesn't Mean What They Think It Does
The 2nd Amendment reads:
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
The Bill of Rights, which includes the 2nd Amendment, was written for a definite purpose and time. The prevailing narrative spewed by right-wing patriots, libertarians and the tea-party has turned the 2nd Amendment's purpose inside out, upside down and backwards. They contend that the 2nd Amendment's function is to empower the American people against their own government and American electorate.
Right-wing patriots obsessively repeat the blatant falsehood that the founding fathers inserted the 2nd Amendment into the Bill of Rights to enable the people to resist their government should it become 'tyrannical.' Their definition of 'government tyranny' being anything the electorate, or government, decides against their beliefs or sensibilities.
Nothing could be further from reality.
Robert Parry of Consortium News writes:
The reality was that the Framers wrote the Constitution and added the Second Amendment with the goal of creating a strong central government with a citizens-based military force capable of putting down insurrections, not to enable or encourage uprisings. The key Framers, after all, were mostly men of means with a huge stake in an orderly society, the likes of George Washington and James Madison.
The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 weren't precursors to France's Robespierre or Russia's Leon Trotsky, believers in perpetual revolutions. In fact, their work on the Constitution was influenced by the experience of Shays' Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786, a populist uprising that the weak federal government, under the Articles of Confederation, lacked an army to defeat."
The 2nd Amendment was crafted to ensure a strong central government response to internal or external aggression, at a time when the U.S. government had no official standing army to resist aggression, internal or abroad. It was not crafted to foment internal revolution because someone doesn't like what the electorate or government decides.
Justice Stevens wrote this scathing dissent of the 2008 SCOTUS ruling on District of Columbia vs Heller, which radically reinterpreted the original intent of the 2nd Amendment.
"The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia ... Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature's authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution."
Justice Stevens's full dissenting opinion can be read here.
The SCOTUS in 2008, with a 5-4 decision, upended over two hundred years of consensus judicial understanding of the intent and application of the 2nd Amendment.
In 2010 the SCOTUS made a ruling that cleared some ambiguity about the Heller decision of 2008. That case was McDonald vs City of Chicago. What the Heller 2008 decision and McDonald 2010 decisions accomplished was the establishment of Americans' right to own and possess firearms. Also, especially with the McDonald decision, the 2nd amendment could not be abrogated by local statutes. Both SCOTUS rulings cited, highlighted, firearms for self defense.
What either of those rulings didn't do, they didn't assess any legal meaning to the public arming itself against its own government. There is zero legal citation or precedent for that ludicrous assertion.
*Justice Robert King wrote in a 10-4 ruling in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Richmond, Virginia, against assault weapons 2nd amendment protections:
"Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war," Judge Robert King wrote for the court, adding that the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller explicitly excluded such coverage."
The foundation of the militant gun lobby's argument is based on emotion: the insecure fear of whites, mostly male, many barely clinging to middle class status, losing their presumed privilege in American culture. They've been led to perceive that 'the government' is out to get them. That the rapidly changing demographics of the United States spell an end the 'their way of life'.
When America looks in the mirror, it still sees a white, middle-class Christian male, with an adoring wife and several children. This delusional reflection lives a semi-rural or suburban lifestyle. There are hardly, or only token, representatives of non-whites in his world. He views his world as a melting pot, but the ingredients should be chosen by white males. The NRA plucks the strings of these white anxieties, to the point where they begin shouting about "2nd amendment remedies" to their anxieties and grievances. Firearms manufacturers then watch their sales increase as a result of their public relations and lobbying organization, the NRA. It's called 'Disaster Capitalism'.
Disaster Capitalism is a term coined by Naomi Klein to describe the systemic process corporations use to profitably exploit disasters, real or imagined. The NRA pushes 'tyrannical government' paranoia, then militia "patriot" groups spring up all over America. The NRA says "Obama has a plan to take your guns", then people stock up on firearms and ammo.
The NRA equates firearms to freedom, then people rush out to gun store buy all the freedom they can afford. When a mass shooting happens somewhere, the NRA says that if everyone had been armed it could have been avoided. More people buy guns.
No Simple Solutions
We need gun control regulations that reflect the reality of 2018, not 1789. No regulations will end senseless violence, but we can reduce it. Presently, there are no meaningful proposals nationally to change the law to acquire firearms. The NRA virtually owns congress, GOP and Dems. The first priority should be to dramatically change the lobbying laws.
There are already over three hundred fifty million firearms in the country and up to five million assault style weapons. Maybe the horse has already escaped the barn; more stringent regulation may be too little too late. What America really needs is a change of heart and in turn a change of mind: to not be so fearful of others and of the government that we the people should be in control of.
I will explore possible options in articles to come.
Thank you for reading.
© 2015 Duane Townsend