October 8th, 2017

Matt Taibbi, writing in Gun Lobby Is Down to Its Last, Unconvincing Excuse for Rolling Stone, observes:

Polls consistently show that majorities of gun owners believe the purpose of the Second Amendment is “protection against tyranny.”
National Rifle Association merchandise sits on display during the 144th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., on Saturday, April 11, 2015. Top Republican contenders for their party’s 2016 presidential nomination are lining up to speak at the annual NRA event, except New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who were snubbed by the country’s largest and most powerful gun lobby

So we’re down to that—we need to put up with this, because it’s gun enthusiasts who will come to the rescue if this ever happens in America.

Here’s my question about that. Where were all these heroic tyrannophobe gun owners during the unprecedented expansion of police and surveillance powers that took place after 9/11?

Answer: nowhere. We didn’t hear them shrieking about habeas corpus becoming a joke in the Bush years, or torture and extrajudicial assassination becoming standard practices. We didn’t hear them protesting the vast expansion of the classification of government documents, or complaining about the widespread abuse of material witness statutes, the national security letter provision of the Patriot Act, or a hundred other problems.

Nor did they ever protest aggressive new domestic enforcement policies like stop-and-frisk and predictive policing, for the obvious reason that those programs were mostly directed against minorities in poor neighborhoods.

Taibbi concludes:

The tyranny argument, the gun lobby’s last excuse, is a joke. People aren’t buying up military-grade weapons in preparation for some new-world-order Anschluss into flyover country.

Americans are just bored and crazy and insecure and like to calm their nerves by shooting bottles, Kim Jong-un paper targets, and, pretty regularly now, crowds full of innocent human beings. It’s madness, and there aren’t enough highly paid pseudo-intellectual gun lobbyists in the world to justify it anymore. Can we finally at least drop the pretense that this is about anything but money?

Sadly, no we can’t, Matt. Sure, for the gun manufacturers, their lobbyists (and the NRA) as well as the many of the politicians they support, money is the ticket in the same way that money is the focus for drug dealers. The buyers, however, aren’t making money, they’re spending it and you have to wonder why someone making $900 a week—like one of my former students—would fork over several hundred dollars for a pistol. There are other motivations (and I use the plural advisedly here) for buying guns.

Let’s set aside for a moment, hunters or recreational gun owners who only want to legally kill game animals and paper targets. We might also ignore collectors who only want to display their firearms in cabinets in the same way a philatelist or numismatist might. I’m even willing to give a pass to the person who keeps a shotgun or pistol in the house for the sole purpose of protecting their home from invaders. The gun owners we have to ask about are those, like Steve Paddock, who amass personal arsenals. Of those people we have to ask: what the fuck are they afraid of?

The common trope is a tyrannical government, but that (Michael Brendan Dougherty notwithstanding) is a ruse de guerre. In our nation’s history—stretching from President George Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion to President Barack Hussein Obama and Cliven Bundy—no private citizen, no matter how well armed, has resisted the federal government. Private citizens, however, have repeatedly (and often with the blessing of local, state and federal authorities) wielded the militia might against lesser threats like Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos and Trade Unionists.

They fear Ragnarök, the final race war.

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