27 October 2008

Voting With Guns

The Washington Post reports that business is booming at gun shops despite the economic slump. The paper notes that this is actually typical behavior in tough times as the "haves" fear for their safety in anticipation of larger numbers of have-nots. At the same time, a surge in sales reflects a widespread suspicion that, despite his endorsement of the recent Supreme Court decision recognizing an individual right to bear arms, that Senator Obama will take steps to restrict access to firearms. It's just what certain people expect from Democrats, especially since some of those people probably assume that Democrats will lie on this particular subject. But the rush for guns also seems to reflect a growing expectation that Obama will win the election. Some of the people buying guns told the reporter that they were going to vote for the Democrat because other issues had higher priority in influencing their political choice. So the purchase of a gun is not necessarily a vote for Senator McCain, but on the logic of money=speech, it's clearly a vote of some kind. Think of it as an equivalent of voting for Obama while putting in a Republican Congress. Since that's not actually likely to happen this year, if we can believe the polls, stockpiling guns and ammo may be another way of hedging one's bets or, in some extreme mindsets, building up a check on government. Don't be surprised to hear more about militia movements than you have over the past eight years if Obama gets in.

Here's a historical note from the highly-publicized Nixonland, Rick Perlstein's chronicle of the collapse of the liberal consensus from the humiliation of Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the landslide re-election of Richard Nixon in 1972. In the riot year of 1967, Perlstein writes, "The NRA, once a hobby club for sportsmen, was becoming a new kind of organization altogether. Its magazine, American Rifleman, had a new column, 'The Armed Citizen,' which ran glowing accounts of vigilantes. Connecticut senator Thomas Dodd, a conservative, had a bill pending to limit the sale of firearms through the mail. It had once seemed uncontroversial. Now white and black would-be vigilantes agreed that the Dodd bill was a prelude to the confiscation of all firearms. Guns & Ammo called the bill's supporters 'criminal coddling do-gooders, borderline psychotics, as well as Communists and leftists who want to lead us into the one-world welfare state.' One of those supporters was Massachusetts' junior senator, Edward Moore Kennedy -- whom American Rifleman said was following the 'Communist line' for trying to outlaw the method by which his brother's assassin had obtained the murder weapon." (p.198-9)

Perlstein has interesting things to say about Nixon and his supporters and why Americans began to reject liberalism after its 1964 triumph. I'll address some of these points in a future article.

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