14 February 2013

Inside the mind of a gun nut

The opposition to gun control is divided, though not impermeably, into two main camps: those who believe in their absolute right to use lethal force against crime in the presumed absence of police, and those who affirm a constitutional entitlement to resist illegitimate measures by government. David Welch of Scotia, whose letter to the Albany Times Union was published today, is of the latter group. He tries to answer a widely-held skepticism toward the prospect of small-arms warriors successfully defying the armed forces of a modern state. Welch claims historical precedents that should be familiar to Americans.

I direct them to the Vietnam War. A nation of people armed mostly with AK-47s managed to fight us to a military standstill. Consider Iraq as well. Only a few thousand terrorists, armed with little more than assault rifles and jury-rigged bombs, gave the most powerful military in the world the runaround for five years. 

Assuming that Welch is a right-wing reactionary, as he'll prove shortly, isn't he going off message here? My assumption was that right-wing reactionaries believed that North Vietnam prevailed only because the Johnson and Nixon administrations lacked the political will to bring all the force available to a superpower to bear against the enemy -- and I'd imagine they feel the same way about Iraq and Afghanistan. But Welch's unspoken premise may be that, once the military arm of a presumably liberal Democratic tyranny meets armed resistance of any kind, a similar failure of will or nerve will happen, especially when Welch envisions "what 80 million American gun owners would be capable of doing should some politician decide the people's rights are optional."

Should the worst happens, Welch expects the Democratic party to start it. That's because "the Democrats are the party of big government, turning to it to solve every problem. But they exist in a nation where government was specifically and not purposefully not given a monopoly on force." Resenting this, the brutal, bloodthirsty liberals wish to disarm American civilians so they'll be helpless against crime. They want us disarmed and helpless, Welch presumes, because they want us "compliant" above all. Whether the Framers assumed the adversarial relationship between "well regulated militia" and government that people like Welch read into the Second Amendment is highly questionable, but that's not the worst of Welch's argument.

We all understand that many people assume a right to resist government when it crosses certain lines. Some have thought more carefully than others about how to demarcate that line and recognize a genuine breach. Welch may write for a less careful majority:

Should the people get sick of politicians trying to tell them what to do, they retain the ability to prevent government from forcing them to comply.

Does something seem missing here? It should. Welch's letter is variation on a Freudian slip, revealing what he means by what he forgets to say or write. Usually his kind are more conscientious about invoking the Constitution as their standard for determining when they might need to rise up against the government. Welch himself cuts to the chase: the "people" can rise up whenever they "get sick of politicians trying to tell them what to do." I see no qualifiers there. 

Welch is a textbook case illustrating why, perhaps to his own dismay, many Americans fear people like him. Welch certainly sees himself as a defender of American values and, properly prompted, a defender of the Constitution. But people on the other side will read his letter or others like it, or hear people like him in the media, and assume that, for all that some of them go on about the Constitution, they really reserve the right to take up arms because their taxes are too high, because some questionable group of people is getting too much power or too much of something, or for another utterly subjective reason. The suspicion is that people like Welch are potential enforcers of their own ideologies or prejudices rather than enforcers of the Constitution. Welch himself does nothing to dispel that suspicion, and if he thinks that suspicion is unfair -- tough! If he has no constitutional obligation to trust the government -- which is true to an extent -- then the rest of us have no constitutional or other obligation to trust the "militia." Theirs is the ultimate double standard: they reserve the right to distrust everything and everyone in their jealous regard for their own rights,  but expect everyone else to trust them with weapons as blindly as they accuse others of trusting the government. That fact needs to be thrown in their face every time they rally and posture like the nation's moral champions: we don't trust you! If they ever care to find out why, then a genuine dialogue might begin.


Anonymous said...

These paranoid/delusional nutcases act as though it was some small group of "leftist" politicians, dedicated to evil, that want gun control - against the will of "the people".

It's about time they were made to understand that IT IS THE PEOPLE who want gun control. We are SICK of armed lunatics blowing away children in schools, teens in malls, strangers in streets. WE THE PEOPLE WANT AN END TO GUN VIOLENCE. Not some clandestine cabal of commies. WE, AMERICAN TAXPAYERS. And if to ensure ultimately an end to gun violence means eliminating the second amendment, so bit it.

I have a feeling there will be somewhat less than 80 million armed insurgents willing to throw away their lives - and the lives of their families. I'm pretty sure most gun owners are rank cowards to begin with, which is why they own guns.

Anonymous said...

Should the people get sick of politicians trying to tell them what to do, they retain the ability to prevent government from forcing them to comply.

We already have that protection. It's called "election". Why should I be more willing to trust some right-wing gun toting freak over a legally elected politician? Especially since the right-wing has long stood against freedom and equality; against intelligence and reason; against peace and security.