Publisher’s NOTE: The following was submitted for publication three days before the tragedy in Connecticut.
Puzzling me for a long time is the inconsistency between two claims by gun and Second Amendment supporters. One is that what they worship is critically needed to defend themselves against a government that they would view as oppressive and unacceptable. The other is their belief that the US government has already become awful, stealing their liberties.
Why then, I keep asking myself, have we not seen a violent uprising among the untold millions of Americans owning guns to take back their government? Why do we not see what goes on in European nations, namely violent public uprisings against governments?
There is more private gun ownership in the US than any other nation. We have a far right part of the population with considerable public presence and power. FOX News, the Tea Party movement, and countless groups and think tanks angrily attacking the mainstream media, liberals, and leftist politicians as well as just about everything done by President Obama.
So, why hasn’t the massive number of gun lovers who worship the Second Amendment actually done what they claim is exactly needed, what the Second Amendment was created to give them the right to do, and what their massive gun power supposedly gives them the means to accomplish? Especially when they lose major elections, when their Republican and conservative politicians fail to deliver to them?
Are the paranoid doom and gloom gun lovers waiting for things to get a whole lot worse before they actually implement the grand plan to use their guns to overthrow what they see as an evil, unconstitutional and oppressive government? Or, do they just invoke the Second Amendment as a convenient rationale for fighting all attempts to better control guns?
From their perspective, how much worse does the government have to become before they finally get the courage to use their guns and restore American democracy and liberties? Do they think elections will save their nation?
After all, on a number of recent occasions, such as the election and reelection of President Obama, gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed, despite an already historic level of gun and ammunition ownership. Yet still these millions of gun-happy constitutionalists do not act. What is going on?
Is it rational to explain all this by seeing the gun crowd as being incredibly patient?
Is all their talk and high-minded claims to be the last hope to save the country just a bunch of empty rhetoric, camouflage for fighting better gun control?
Here is what I think explains this remarkable contradiction. In truth, the gun crowd that see themselves as the ultimate patriots, like the original revolutionaries that fought the British and created the USA, is itself conflicted by self-interests. That is, most gun owners are receiving so many economic benefits from the existing government and economy that they are unwilling to risk all of them by a massive disruption of the whole US system. Just like we saw incredible numbers of protesting Tea Party people looking old enough to be collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits, the overwhelming majority of gun nuts are also feeding off of the national system they keep attacking. They keep buying more expensive guns and ammunition, gold and hordes of long-lasting survival foods to satisfy their paranoid thoughts. They keep giving money to right wing causes. They listen all the time to right wing radio and TV pundits. They have enough wealth to afford lots of things, especially expensive guns. Yet they do not ACT. They do not REVOLT. Even when their favored politicians lose.
Most of us do not equate the gun crowd with the plutocracy run by the richest Americans and corporate interests that aligns itself with Republicans and conservatives. The plutocrats, however, have no desire for a revolution that tears down the whole US political and economic system that they so benefit from. What the plutocracy has accomplished, against all logic, is to manipulate the gun crowd into supporting political causes that maintain the status quo that allows the upper rich to get richer. We have far more economic oppression than political oppression.
In other words, keep spending your discretionary money on guns and ammunition and all the other things so heavily marketed to the most paranoid people as evidenced by all the advertisements on right wing stations for gold and survival foods. Keep thinking that you need guns to combat criminals, except there is no evidence that crime has actually been curbed by the massive gun ownership rather than other factors.
But by all means keep listening and spending rather than actually REVOLT and bring down the system. Enjoy your guns. Just don’t take any risks and use them as defensive political tools. Don’t do what so many angry Europeans have always done; actually go the streets to bring down governments. Or what we see Egyptians doing. Of course, all those angry citizens do not have guns. Still, they put their lives on the line.
The bottom line is that the whole gun Second Amendment movement seems like just another aspect of conspicuous consumerism that keeps the US economy humming. When I see millions of these right wing gun enthusiasts give up their Social Security and Medicare benefits I will start to take them more seriously.
CNN has recently reported important information, including: US gun owning population is on the decline with those gun owners stockpiling more firearms; 20 percent of the gun owners with the most firearms possessed about 65 percent of the nation’s guns; the US with 5 percent of the world’s population owns 50 percent of the world’s guns; the number of households owning guns has declined from almost 50 percent in 1973 to just over 32 percent in 2010.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported the economic impact of firearm sales — a figure that includes jobs. taxes and sales — hit $31 billion in 2011, up from $19 billion in 2008, an increase of 63 percent despite the economic recession. Fighting gun control has paid off for the gun industry.
There are good reasons to support better gun control laws, but fearing political revolution and violent overthrow of the government because of massive gun ownership may not be relevant. Democrats will likely keep fearing any emphasis on gun control even though the majority of their supporters favor gun control over gun ownership. As pointed out this year before the election: “Figures provided by Michael Dimock, Pew’s associate research director, show that the biggest shifts toward opposition to gun control have come among the same blue-collar whites who have displayed the greatest alienation to Obama across the board.” Also, note that Pew found 72 percent of Republicans said it is more important to protect the rights of gun owners, compared to just 27 percent of Democrats.
As to the roughly, at most, 100 million American gun owners, keep fighting more gun control laws. Keep buying even more guns, keep the multibillion dollar gun industry thriving. Keep screaming about your Second Amendment rights. Keep voting for Republicans. Keep listening to Limbaugh and Hannity and all the other idols that are among the richest Americans. Keep deluding yourselves that you are the only hope for the nation. Don’t face your hypocrisy. Delusion is the opiate of the right.
Or, just give up, bite the bullet and shoot yourselves. Make us gun control enthusiasts happy.
I agree with Sanjay Sanghoee “The belief that we need to stockpile guns of every kind to protect us from our own government is a sign of deep paranoia and madness. And to the people who think that way, let me ask you this: do you really believe that if the U.S. government decided for some reason to direct all its military might against you, you would stand a chance against them?” Of course not, this is why all the adoration of the Second Amendment is a smokescreen for fighting better gun control. Gun lobbies protect their business, not freedom and liberty.
The key conclusion is this: Though we need a constitutional path to major political reforms other than elections, even a Second American Revolution, the best path is not through the Second Amendment but rather through what the Founders gave us in Article V, namely a convention of state delegates with the power to propose constitutional amendments. The nation would benefit from transferring the passion for Second Amendment gun rights into support for using the Article V convention strategy.
December 11, 2012
~ The Author ~
Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Sprawl Kills – How Blandburbs Steal Your Time, Health and Money and Delusional Democracy – Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. He is a former Director of Environment, Energy and Natural Resources at the National Governors Association and a senior staffer for the U.S. Congress.