GUNS: THE REAL VERSUS

PHONY DEBATE

MARCH 28, 2021 (written originally in 2017)

 

 

Americans are very divided on the gun control issue when the question posed is whether the right to own a gun is more, or less, important than controlling gun ownership. A 2016 Pew opinion poll [405] found that 52% of registered voters say it’s more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns than to control gun ownership, and 46% say the opposite. By more than four-to-one (79% to 19%), Clinton supporters prioritize controlling gun ownership over protecting gun rights. By about nine-to-one (90% to 9%), Trump supporters express the opposite view–that it is generally more important to protect gun rights than control gun ownership.”

 

When the question is different, however, Americans are in far more agreement. According to the same Pew poll, when asked if one favors or opposes background checks for private and gun show sales, 81% of Americans say they favor them. Seventy-six percent favor preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns. A 2014 Quinnipiac poll [406] found even more agreement (note that “92 – 7 percent” below means  “92% support versus 7% do not support,” etc.):

 

American voters support 92 - 7 percent, including 92 - 6 percent among gun owners, requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Support ranges from 86 - 11 percent among Republicans to 98 - 2 percent among Democrats.

 
Voters also support 89 - 9 percent laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns. Gun owners support this idea 91 - 7 percent.

 
“But only 50 percent of voters support "stricter gun control laws," with 47 percent opposed.

 
"Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill," Malloy said. "But when it comes to 'stricter gun control,' three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say 'hands off.'" 

 

(It’s not clear why those who think some mentally ill people should be allowed to own a gun think that way. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if it has something to do with thinking that some forms of mental illness, such as aviaphobia (fear of flying) or agoraphobia (fear of crowded or enclosed public spaces) might not constitute a sufficient reason to prevent somebody from owning a gun, and therefore a blanket ban preventing all “mentally ill” people from owning one would be bad legislation.)

 

The NRA’s position on background checks is stated this way on its website [407]:

 

“NRA opposes expansion of the background check system, because criminals easily get guns by other means and because expanding the background check requirement would be a step toward transforming the background check system into a national gun registry.”

 

Note that the NRA does not oppose the background check system, only its expansion. The NRA’s website makes it clear that it thinks the motive of liberals pushing for increased gun control is not their stated goal of keeping guns out of the hands of people who clearly should not own them. The NRA thinks this goal cannot be the liberals’ actual motive because, as the NRA believes [408], “Most people sent to prison for gun crimes acquire guns from theft, the black market, or acquaintances (Bureau of Justice Statistics).”  The actual motive of the liberals, according to the NRA, is eventually to ban private gun ownership altogether.

 

The above poll results, and even the NRA’s views, suggest that the divisiveness of the gun control issue stems almost entirely from people having different concerns and fears, and not very much from a disagreement about actual gun control legislation. What are these concerns and fears?

 

On the left, among many of the people who identify as a “progressive,” a common view about guns and violence goes something like this: “The people who claim that the 2nd Amendment gives individuals the right to own guns are crazy—dangerously crazy. Their fanatical desire to have guns to use for hunting and (rarely) self-protection blinds them to the fact that personal gun ownership increases the risk that a bullet will kill an innocent person. The crazy gun-nuts just love guns and violence. Some of them say they want guns to “fight tyranny.” That’s absurd in this day and age when governments have military forces with tanks and missiles that make resistance with a rifle ridiculous. We’d be much better off and safer if, like many other countries, we eliminated personal gun ownership. Violence is not the answer. Drug gangs and terrorists use violence. Nonviolence is the answer.”

 

On the right, among the people who defend the 2nd Amendment “right to bear arms,” a common view about guns and violence goes something like this: “Hunting and self-protection are valid reasons to own a gun, but the most important reason, by far, is something very different: to resist tyranny, which is the reason the Founding Fathers included the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights. People can’t form a “well-regulated militia” to fight a tyrannical government if the government denies them the right to own guns. Pacifism is stupid. When people don’t protect themselves with arms, tyrants conquer them. The liberals are pushing for more and more gun control because they want eventually to abolish the right to own a gun. They are idiots—dangerous idiots; they don’t realize that when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. And they don’t realize that we are ruled today by tyrants and need our guns to resist them.”

 

Each side thinks the other side is dangerously crazy or idiotic. The heart of the conflict is this. One side thinks it’s crucial for people to have the right to bear arms so they can use them to resist tyranny. The other side doesn’t like to say that we live in a tyranny and loves to point out that even if we did, rifles are no match for modern military forces. Given this key disagreement, it follows that the two sides each suspect the other of a foul hidden agenda: one side thinks the other wants to disarm the public totally eventually in the name of “gun control”; and the other side thinks the people who oppose them are crazy gun nuts who don’t care about the fact that guns kill innocent people.

 

The Big Money-controlled mass media have established the framework within which the public debate about gun control and violence takes place. This framework uses censorship of key facts to ensure that the debate is maximally divisive. The four key facts that the mass media censors are these:

 

  1. At rallies organized by pro-gun groups to defend the 2nd Amendment, the main theme is resisting tyranny, not hunting or defense against criminals.

  2. We really are living in a tyrannical dictatorship of the rich.

  3. While guns are no match for the 82nd Airborne Division, guns are nonetheless very useful for fighting against tyranny (for the reasons discussed below).

  4. Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence is wrongheaded (for the reasons discussed below); it only serves to make it easier for the haves to dominate the have-nots.

 

Absent awareness of these facts, the debate inevitably becomes just like what it is today, one in which opposing camps think the other side is dangerously crazy or idiotic.

 

Regarding the fourth fact about the philosophy of nonviolence (which I will discuss at greater length after discussing the first three facts), imagine how different the public debate about guns would be if, for example, progressives were aware of how much the young “nonviolent” Civil Rights Movement’s activists in the South in the 1960s absolutely depended for their lives on older black people using rifles to defend them from KKK violence. There are books about this, by black leaders and other activists in the Civil Rights Movement, but the mass media are hardly making them well known. Here are some examples:

 

Negroes With Guns (online [409]) by civil rights activist Robert F. Williams is about how violence in self-defense PREVENTED bloodshed when blacks were being attacked violently by both the Ku Klux Klan and the police in Monroe, North Carolina in 1961.

 

"The Resistant Spirit" (online [410]) by civil rights activist Truman Nelson is a sharp criticism of the philosophy of nonviolence in the context of the fight against slavery and against the more recent racist Jim Crow laws.

 

This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (online [411]) by Charles E. Cobb, Jr., a former activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, is about how the Civil Rights Movement (the "nonviolent" sit-ins and Freedom Riders, etc.) could not have operated in the South were it not for the fact that black people used guns in self-defense.

 

The mass media make sure that we all know that Martin Luther King, Jr. died from a bullet. It’s no accident, however, that the media have not made the following well known:

 

“Martin Luther King Jr. applied for a permit to carry a concealed firearm in 1956, after his house was bombed. His application was denied, but from then on, armed supporters guarded his home. One adviser, Glenn Smiley, described the King home as ‘an arsenal.’ William Worthy, a black reporter who covered the civil-rights movement, almost sat on a loaded gun in a living-room armchair during a visit to King’s parsonage.” [412]

 

I will say below why I think the four censored facts listed above are true. If these facts were agreed upon by both sides of the gun control debate, there would no doubt still be disagreements (about, say, what criteria should be used to decide if somebody is unfit to own a gun) but the people in each camp would view those in the other camp as reasonable, not as dangerously crazy or idiotic. Solidarity between the people in both camps for waging a struggle for real equality and democracy would be very possible, unlike today when people in each camp see people in the other camp as almost the enemy.

 

 

On April 3, 2013 I attended a rally at the Boston Common in support and defense of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. That same day I posted a report of what I saw. Here is that report:

 

 

The event was organized by a state-wide organization called the Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) whose website is http://goal.org. There were about a thousand people. Based on the people I spoke with (as I gave out slips of paper with the URL to my article, "Guns and the Working Class" [413]) most were from the western part of the state. They were about 85% men and almost all white, but I was standing next to a group that included a black woman and she was totally part of the social group.

 

There were some American flags held by people, but mainly they were the American Revolutionary-era flags that had a snake with the words "Don't tread on me." The signs people had said things like, "The 2nd amendment is for when the others are forgotten" and (around a picture of a rifle) "Give peace a chance, but we've got you covered if that doesn't work out." The signs were almost entirely about the theme of resisting tyranny.

 

One speech by an Asian member of the board of directors of GOAL was quite good. He made the point that tyranny already happened in the U.S. when FDR sent Japanese citizens to concentration camps and completely revoked their Constitutional rights and got approval from the Supreme Court to do it all. (There was a huge applause for the speaker when he made this point.) He went on to say that more recent examples of our government's tyranny include the TSA groping us at airports (more applause). The speaker said it would have been better if those Japanese Americans had been armed. He talked about how it would have been better also if the people who were fearful of Stalin's agents coming at night to haul them away to the Gulag had armed themselves and killed anybody who came to arrest them at their apartment buildings, giving Stalin's police cause to worry about their own lives and maybe start refusing to do the job (more applause). 

 

I forget which speaker, but one of them explicitly referred to the police as agents of tyranny, and was applauded.

 

A person in the crowd was giving out cards that read: "Oath Keepers: For our brothers and sisters in the Military, Veterans, Police, and Fire Fighters, who will honor their oath to defend the Constitution. Guardians of the Republic. Honor Your Oath. Join Us. Oathkeepers.org. contact@oathkeepers.org. Not on Our Watch!"

 

Another speaker talked about how a person ridiculed his statement that guns were necessary to defend against tyranny. His opponent said, "What makes you think you can stand up to the U.S. military with your puny guns?" and he replied, "What makes you think the soldiers aren't on our side?"--essentially the point my own “Guns and the Working Class” article gets at. This speaker said he was asked by his opponent, "When was the last time Americans ever formed a militia to resist tyranny?" and he replied, "When the passengers of Flight 93 on the day of 9/11 fought the hijackers." (I am skeptical that this story is at all true, but if it were true the speaker's point is a fair one.)

 

The people named by speakers as their opponents included Mayor Bloomberg and George Soros, as well as other leading liberal politicians. I also heard conversations expressing anger at Republican politicians for not siding with the people.

 

The rally began with the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem and another patriotic type song I hadn't heard before. But the entire theme of the rally was that the "America" people were loyal to was the America of the American Revolution against tyranny, not the current government, which people describe as tyrannical.

 

I got into a conversation with one man who started talking about how immigrants cause half the crime and how the government doesn't do anything to enforce the border. I replied that the government actually wanted Mexicans to have to immigrate to the U.S., and (as I have written about) used NAFTA and subsidies to big agribusiness to force them to migrate. The response was respectful interest in my point.

 

A big theme of the rally was the need for people to rely on themselves. One speaker also pointed out that "liking" on Facebook and tweeting were no substitute for old-fashioned showing up at rallies and stuff like that. (I agree.)

 

This rally reflected the views of the rank and file members of the Gun Owners Action League. These views, interestingly, are not displayed on the organization’s website. I think that pro-gun organizations (the NRA and state groups such as GOAL), like progressive organizations, have leaderships that fear being “too radical” and suppress radical views on their websites that most of their members actually hold.

 

I felt there was more revolutionary, anti-elitist and democratic spirit at this rally than any rally sponsored by the "progressive/left," frankly. (Click here to read my more recent experience at a rally by the Gun Owners Action League in 2016 when almost all the participants were wearing the Trump MAGA cap.)

 

I truly believe that if, for example, any Americans ever stop the United States government from oppressing Palestinians or Afghanis or Syrians, etc., not to mention Americans themselves, it is much more likely that it will be the kind of people at this pro-2nd Amendment rally than the liberal/leftists. Neither group has any reason or desire to oppress people, but the former group has the outlook of being, and representing, the majority against the rulers, and consequently the spirit and capacity to actually make a revolution. The liberal/left will always be a powerless minority, more afraid of the majority of "homophobic, racist, sexist, transphobic, selfish, complicit" Americans than of our enlightened smooth-talking NPR-loving rulers. 

 

 

We Really Are Living In A Tyrannical Dictatorship Of The Rich

 

The speakers at the pro-gun rally reported on above gave examples of why they felt we are living in a tyranny. They are right. A prestigious scholarly investigation of this question came to the same conclusion, using academic jargon. It looked at an enormous amount of data and used sophisticated methods of statistical analysis to conclude [414]:

 

“Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism…

 

"When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it...

 

"Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened."

 

In other less academic wording, we have a fake democracy that is actually a dictatorship of the rich.

 

The first author of the above study, Martin Gilens, is professor of politics at Princeton University. The second author, Benjamin I. Page, is the Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making, Northwestern University. (I don’t know why they use British instead of American spelling for words such as “favor” and “organized” by the way.)

 

In "Economic Inequality and Political Representation," [415] an academic paper by Larry M. Bartels, Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, the author presents research findings on the basis of which he concludes:

 

“I examine the differential responsiveness of U.S. senators to the preferences of wealthy, middle-class, and poor constituents. My analysis includes broad summary measures of senators’ voting behavior as well as specific votes on the minimum wage, civil rights, government spending, and abortion. In almost every instance, senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes. Disparities in representation are especially pronounced for Republican senators, who were more than twice as responsive as Democratic senators to the ideological views of affluent constituents. These income-based disparities in representation appear to be unrelated to disparities in turnout and political knowledge and only weakly related to disparities in the extent of constituents’ contact with senators and their staffs.”

 

At least $8.3 Trillion of public taxpayer-provided money is being used by people whom we (or even our elected representatives) do not know, for purposes that are a total secret. [416] Another $9 Trillion is unaccounted for in the Federal Reserve central bank system, as revealed in congressional testimony shown in a video of the Congressional hearing on this subject. [417]

 

The Boston Police Department has a reputation for being one of the most liberal, non-abusive police departments in the nation. But as I demonstrate in my article, “Boston Police Commissioner Evans’s Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove,” [418] “The problem with the Boston Police Force is not the headline-making terrible thing it may or may not do some days, it's what it does every day, routinely, to enforce class inequality.”

While Guns Are No Match For The 82nd Airborne Division, Guns Are Nonetheless Very Useful For Fighting Against Tyranny (CLICK HERE to read this concluding section please.)

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References

405 http://www.people-press.org/2016/08/26/opinions-on-gun-policy-and-the-2016-campaign/ 

406 https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2057

407 https://www.nraila.org/issues/gun-shows/ 

408 https://www.nraila.org/issues/registration-licensing/ 

409 https://libcom.org/files/Robert%20Franklin%20Williams%20-%20Negroes%20with%20guns.pdf

410 Scroll down to “The Resistant Spirit” at  http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs273.html

411 http://bibliotikus.net/post_1403990024.html

412 https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/09/the-secret-history-of-guns/308608/ 

413 http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/culture/guns2.pdf

414 https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B and (for the full article) https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B/core-reader

415 http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.172.7597

416 https://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/08/19/1413372/-The-Biggest-Scandal-in-US-History-That-We-re-Still-Not-Talking-About?detail=emailclassic and http://www.reuters.com/investigates/pentagon/#article/part2

417 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QK4bblyfsc

418 https://www.pdrboston.org/police-iron-fist-in-velvet-glove