The arguments against gun control are a bit like that — much puzzling nonsense and a long wait before anything happens, if it happens at all.
While the Obama administration figures out how to proceed with sensible rules on gun purchases that will take America from being armed to the teeth to being armed only to the elbows, let us look at a couple of the major obstacles to the cause of sanity.
The biggest is a strange and disturbing twist on patriotism: Those who love their guns like little boys love their teddy bears insist that the Second Amendment is not about protecting a right to hunt, say, but the means of resisting government tyranny. The precise moment they say this is when they leave the real United States behind in the rearview mirror and enter the realm of Crazyland.
Consider the irony: Every self-professed patriot becomes teary-eyed about the flag and those whose job it is to fight to protect it — and rightly so. By and large, members of the Armed Forces today are widely admired and respected.
But if guns were used in an effort to overthrow a tyrannical government, guess who the enemy would be? Why, those same men and women of the Armed Forces marching under that same grand old flag. The president, if a reminder is needed, is their commander in chief.
Count me out. The idea is totally repugnant. Tyranny, you say? People who raise the threat of government tyranny should be congratulated — but only for having lived a sheltered life. North Korea is a tyranny, the old Soviet Union was a tyranny, the United States is not a tyranny, not even close, not under Barack Obama. not previously under George W. Bush.
Like everything in modern life, the word “tyrant” has been devalued and dumbed down to the point of meaninglessness. What we have is a government that some people don’t like — and fair enough, they may have good reason. It was ever thus: Abraham Lincoln was considered a tyrant, but he left words to describe what we really do have, however imperfectly, “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Any American who needs an assault weapon for possibly making war on his supposedly dictatorial government is really contemplating another Civil War. Has the nation become so brain-dead that it has forgotten the horrors of brother fighting brother? At least the Civil War was about real issues, not the sour fruit of paranoia that makes some of today’s alleged patriots so dyspeptic.
If the Second Amendment was really about empowering the people to resist despotism, why doesn’t it allow everybody to have machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the better to succeed in their resistance? Because even the most right wing judges in the land are not that crazy.
Besides, the idea that the Founding Fathers were almost inviting armed insurrection with the Second Amendment does not square with the historical record. Not long after the Revolution, farmers in Western Pennsylvania rose up violently to oppose a tax on the whiskey they distilled from their grain (they wanted to become excited about something but the Steelers had yet to be invented).
The Whiskey Rebellion was put down in 1794 by an army sent by President George Washington, who rode at the head of it. From the earliest, the federal government made it clear that it wasn’t going to tolerate any nonsense from armed blowhards who thought freedom meant anarchy.
We should take the point. Gun extremists shouldn’t be allowed to justify possession of hugely powerful guns that can massacre a crowd of kids quickly and efficiently because those guns one day might need to be turned on the government to preserve freedom. At this point of our bloody history, this should not be a respectable idea. There is an old word that we should resurrect for this poisonous argument: treasonous.
Indeed, if you think you must have an assault rifle to fight your own government and people, you might as well think about joining al-Qaida and be done with it. I understand that if you join this month, you get a T-shirt and a complimentary bag of dates.
Guns don’t kill people? What are certain guns but killing machines? Killing machines made by people to kill other people. The real prize goes to those who can think their way to reducing the carnage.
Reg Henry writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.