James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Friday, April 24, 2009

Guns 3: Dangerous people

This country needs to take a really good look at its semi-underground gun culture.

It probably needs two such investigations, one by some official organization, preferably under Congressional sponsorship, and one by a team, or several teams, of thorough and courageous journalists -– if such can still be found.

Both probes would have to be separate from the even more immediately needed hard looks at the business of manufacturing and selling the kinds of weapons that have as their only purpose the killing of humans. To try to combine serious investigations of the weapons business and the culture of gun nuts who, knowingly or not, front for the killing industries would be simply too big, and too likely to confuse issues.

The American gun culture harbors a lot of seriously disturbed people who, I strongly believe, are of more immediate danger to us, individually and collectively, than any group of overwrought religionists camped among the stony hills and valleys of Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Just seek out their publications and Web sites and read what they say, especially in comments posted with articles about supposed government plots to ban guns, or keep ammunition off the market, or the attempts they are absolutely certain “Barack Hussein” -- a frequent usage -- is going to make to ban all firearms in this country. You'll find a lot of calls for armed revolution and reminders that if anyone crosses them, “we have guns.”

“Maybe it's time to revolt and rid this union of socialists and communists, peacefully if possible but with force when all else fails,” said “Kevin, a Gun Owner” on “KeepAndBearArms.com. He also suggested that House Speaker Pelosi “is an outright idiot, she should be tarred and feathered and sent packing on a rail.”

On the same site, someone identified only as Tim quoted J.Edgar Hoover at length, warning of “a defiant, and lawless communist party, which is fanatically dedicated to the Marxist cause of world enslavement and destruction of the foundations of our Republic.”

In fact, the belief in an international communist conspiracy to take over the United States, abetted by Jews and civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, is alive and well in the world of gun nuts.

The rants quoted above are among the more civil I saw. Some sites are little more than collections of obscene, hate-filled ravings against practically everyone who can in any way be called “liberal,” with special attention these days for Barack Obama. The president frequently is characterized as an agent of Islam, plotting to destroy the united States. I'm none too delicate about “bad” language, as regular readers know, but I would not quote here much of what I've read recently on the gun-nut Web sites.

There are a whole lot of potential Timothy McVeighs out there, folks, and since November 2008 election they seem to have shaken loose all the bolts that held them, however tenuously, to the floor of reality.

We need reporters to start digging and to report back to the public on who those people are and what they're really about -– and what they're about is not simple support for “Second Amendment rights,” despite the propaganda put out for general consumption.

What most people know of the gun culture, of course, is the National Rifle Association, which generally is seen as a benign supporter of hunters and sport shooters and from a liberal point of view, a somewhat over-zealous defender of “Second Amendment rights.”

A bit of nosing through books and current information on the Web suggests strongly to me –- supporting an impression I've had since I was a kid who did a lot of shooting and hunting -– that the NRA is a well-structured front for the gun makers and peddlers. Not the “defense industry,” but the people who provide the millions of weapons that magically find their way into the hands of huge criminal organizations, terrorist organizations, drug cartels and various other violently criminal mobs.

It is a machine for the production of brilliant propaganda, obfuscations, lies and double talk, and perhaps the biggest and most successful organizer of ignorant, paranoid suckers since the Third Reich died in a bunker.

Sporting guns and pheasant hunting ain't in it folks, and though many of the NRA's less involved members and adherents think of it as a support organization for sportsmen, it hasn't made a very serious effort to operate on that front for quite awhile now.

Oh, it still supports gun-safety programs for youth and such things, but those pretty much run themselves with volunteers, and don't seem to occupy much of the attention of the organization's paid operatives.

Also, it's simple fact that only the most paranoid of gun nuts think there is even the remotest possibility that any politicians in this country are out to take away hunters' shotguns and rifles. We all know that is never going to happen, and the vast majority of us would object powerfully if anyone tried.

Nope. What the NRA is about -– listen to any of its officers' speeches, catch interviews with them on TV, read any of their numerous articles –- is defending the “right” to purchase man-killing weapons and their ammunition. AK47s and bullets designed to tear up the insides of a living being hit by them, are not useful in the world of skeet shooting or hunting, folks. They're not much use, either, to a competitive shooter. Skiers don't carry fully automatic guns on their backs in the biathlon.

NRA officials dance delicately around the purpose of advanced human-killing weaponry. They generally turn the inevitably timid questioning of reporters on that subject to DEFENDING THE SECOND AMENDMENT. (Yeah, that's generally spoken in the verbal equivalent of capital letters.)

We have a RIGHT to “bear arms,” doncha see, and what might be done with them is something we shouldn't really discuss.

Quick fact: The NRA often trumpets the fact that it was founded in 1871. What it is less noisy about is the other salient fact about its beginnings: It was from its first day focused on supporting the ownership of military weapons by those whom we might now characterize as right-wing and anti-government. The organizers and officers of the organization through its early years were downright disdainful of “sportsmen,” historians say. Guns were for support of a certain way of life.

Some people connect the early organization with the Ku Klux Klan, but, to date, I haven't seen any evidence to that effect.

What is a demonstrable fact is that the NRA regularly puts out the most blatant lies imaginable to stir up its members and other gun nuts and make them and the wider public believe that good, honest folk are in danger of having their guns taken away. Any suggestion of regulating the manufacture and sale of any kind of weapon is taken as such a threat.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, the NRA blatantly lied about Barack Obama in its publications, in advertising and in every media it uses. The organization claimed that the then-candidate had a “10-point plan” to strip Americans of their guns. The claim was entirely fiction. Obama always has taken a very soft approach to gun control, suggesting only registration of handguns and restrictions on the sale of military style automatic weapons. He doesn't go anywhere near far enough for most liberals.

It's safe to say that most NRA members, and many others, still believe that Obama is a would-be confiscator of guns.

But the NRA is far too soft for the real gun nuts. They often rail on the Web sites of other gun organizations about the NRA's willingness to occasionally, and very slightly, compromise with Congress when it comes up with some toothless plan to keep heavy weapons out of the hands of the blatant madmen.

(I just read an on-line debate on whether people who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness should be prevented from obtaining weapons. The pros and cons seemed fairly evenly divided. Some writers thought “rights” come first, some allowed that maybe certain kinds of diagnoses should preclude gun ownership – although in such cases, the people in question should be locked up anyway.)

The thing is, the Second Amendment debate is phony.

What most of the country believes now – that there is an honest question of whether that amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals the right to own whatever weapons they choose to have – is false.

That even most people who hope for some gun control believe it is an open question is the NRA's greatest success -– a triumph of false propaganda, a tribute to Joseph Goebbels assertion that some lies are too big not to be believed by an ignorant public.

Go to http://www.fair.org and look for a September/October 1996 article by Howard Friel, headlined “How the NRA Rewrote the Constitution.” You may have to go to an archives or advanced search page to find the article.

What it says, clearly and with considerable grounding, is that courts, including appeals courts, in this country have issued what the writer designates “an unbroken chain” of decisions over (then) six decades ruling that the Second Amendment does not confer an individual right to possess firearms. That “well regulated militia” mentioned in the amendment means exactly what it appears to mean.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never directly addressed individual gun ownership, at least not until the recent decision of the Bush court to strike down Washington, D.C.'s strong gun control law. But that decision, declaring the Washington regulations “over broad,” avoided the central issue of what the Second Amendment really means. It left room for substantial restrictions on gun possession and use.

With a substantial number of Bush appointees on the bench now -– some of them, such as torture promoter Jay Bybee, with worse than doubtful qualifications -– the legal battle may get rougher before long.

In the meantime, you will observe that our captive establishment news media inevitably behave as though the NRA interpretation of the law -– a false interpretation -– is correct or at least probably correct. They never, and I do mean never, mention the long history of judicial decisions declaring that there is no individual right to weapons.

But, a reminder: Very few Americans, and no politicians I know of, want to take anyone's sporting guns away. As for some of the psychotic paranoids whose writings I've been reading on the gun sites: we have to talk about strongly controlling the kinds of heavy-duty military weapons they favor.

Ken Poplawski, who killed three Pittsburgh policemen April 4 with an AK-47, was a guy very like those who spew hate daily on numerous gun-lover Web sites. As noted in Salon.com on April 7, he “believed that the United States was controlled by a secret Jewish cabal that had a master plan to abrogate freedom of speech and use the U.S. military to police Americans.”

I saw that very proposition mentioned five or six times on gun-lover sites the day I wrote this essay.