“Violence, violence. It’s the only thing that will make you see sense.”
“Violence,” by Mott the Hoople, 1973.
If you thought the Tea Party and the extreme right were kidding when they said they believe in a “Second Amendment” solution if they don’t get their way, they weren’t.
Other than timing, this post has little to do with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords yesterday in Tuscon.
I doubt it turns out that Gifford’s wounding and the deaths of six bystanders, including Arizona District Judge John Roll, have direct political connections to the Tea Parties or to any far right factions.
But the promise of Tea Party leaders and sympathizers to take up the gun is something that I’ve been worried about for more than a year.
Extreme Right rhetoric is so amped up that there will be blood when the political tide turns against them, which already is happening.
How do I know?
Because I’m a gun nut.
I was raised in Fisherville, Kentucky and am a son of the rural South. My father Tom gave me my first rifle, a Remington single-shot .22-cal. when I was six years old.
Since my first .22, I’ve owned at least a dozen guns ranging from World War II-era assault rifles to handguns to shotguns to a 1750s “Brown Bess” flintlock. My fondest memories are of shooting game – squirrels, rabbits and birds – with family as well as sport shooting (trap and sporting clays) with friends.
My favorite magazine is Garden and Gun. I’m serious.
I’ve been inside the American gun culture my entire life, so I know first hand how a thin but dangerous slice of this world thinks. And let me clarify: I’m talking about a small minority, a psychotic profile. The radical and paranoid who have no interest in sport, only in obtaining the means for inflicting suffering and death.
To be fair, the most infamous American political assassins of the 20th Century were leftists – Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed Pres. John F. Kennedy; Sen. Robert Kennedy’s killer Sirhan Sirhan and Leon Czolgosz, who shot Pres. William McKinley.
(I know what you’re thinking … what about James Earl Ray, the segregationist who killed Dr. Martin Luther King? But Dr. King wasn’t an elected official, though he certainly was a political leader.)
Of course, Timothy McVeigh remains the champion of wreaking indiscriminate apocalyptic vengeance on “the government,” which turned out to be mostly children in an Oklahoma City daycare center.
When such people (my experience is that we’re talking exclusively about white males) are firing their handguns at Knob Creek Gun Range or spraying rounds from suppressed AR-15s in their back yards, in their minds’ they’re not just shooting inanimate objects.
They’re fantasizing about shooting gays, liberals, blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Arabs, and Communists.
Do they know anyone in any of those groups? Of course not. People on the fringes are isolated, socially and psychologically stunted.
But as the Tea Party movement coalesced after Barack Obama won the presidency, all those guys with grudges, itchy trigger fingers and basements full of weapons started to see their destinies unfolding before them.
Think about how Tea Party rallies drew camo-clad people carrying weapons.
So when Tea Party senate candidate Sharron Angle told a wingnut radio host last fall that if “this Congress keeps going the way it is,” Tea Partiers may find themselves resorting to “Second Amendment remedies,” it wasn’t rhetoric. When Sarah Palin famously put candidates she opposed in cross hairs including Giffords, it wasn’t rhetoric.
Angle is serious. Palin is serious. They’re all serious. And I can tell you the moment has passed for the Tea Parties, militias, white supremacy groups and others who dreamt of a Second American Revolution.
Where you and I are going to part ways is, I that I think it’s both too late and too early to further restrict gun ownership.
It’s too late because there are so many weapons in circulation, especially in states such as Kentucky.
It’s too early because there will have to be another horrific national event before the majority – rational Americans who do not want to live in a militia society – finally muster their courage to challenge the National Rifle Association.
I offer Switzerland as an example of where we should go. And a way I can have it both ways.
Centuries ago, the Swiss got fed up with violence and instability and elevated tranquility and safety to the defining Swiss national characteristics. It’s a great example of what can be because the Swiss are among the mostly heavily armed people on Earth.
Because most males are in the Swiss Army, nearly every Swiss home has at least one government-issued assault rifle. (For you fellow gun nuts, the Swiss use the Sig 550, a weapon looks like the trusty H&K G-3, but has a firing mechanism that’s a precision version of the AK-47.)
Shooting sports remain popular in Switzerland even though gun laws are far more restrictive than here. And the number of gun deaths each year that aren’t suicides total a handful.
Will I surrender my guns? From my cold, dead hands.
I am willing to obey laws requiring me to store my guns at a sporting club. Willing in the interest of national disarmament if it means that I can go to the grocery or to a restaurant or to a political event without worrying that my family will get gunned down.
The NRA wraps unfettered gun rights in the legend of the militia gathering on Concord Green to protect American freedoms from despots and dictators. But the way unfettered gun ownership really manifests itself in modern American life is in school and workplace shootings, domestic violence, road rage showdowns, a criminal weapons supply network and drug killings.
Nothing is going to change until a crime so ugly and disgusting occurs that we scare ourselves.
Until then, all I can suggest is that you kiss your family goodbye in the mornings like you mean it.