The Gun Nuts May Be Right

Those of us who like, own and understand guns are often stereotyped as a collective aggregate of paranoid nuts who are afraid the government – most often the Federal government – is out to outlaw and confiscate all civilian guns. We are also generally presumed to believe that FEMA death camps have been secretly built under selected Walmart stores to house those who won't surrender their guns. Personally, I would find this hilarious if it wasn't a belief firmly held by more than a few whack-o conspiracy theorists who use this idea to feed their internet free speech machines. This unfortunately transforms the hilarity into a more deeply felt sadness at the hold ideology has on certain people.

Jade Helm has come and gone. Texas is still a state in the Union. It's not under martial law. No guns have been confiscated by the "government". The death camps underneath Walmart stores have yet to have been found. The paranoid voices have moved on to other conspiracies lurking in the shadows of their minds and the gun nuts remained concerned that guns will soon be outlawed and confiscated. Even given all this, I think that, in a more ordinary way, the gun nuts may be right.

I do not think that there is any kind of secret conspiracy among government and clandestine powers subject to the new world order, Huffington Post or the Illuminati, to name only a few of the ghosts that haunt the conspiracy minded paranoid among us. It think it is more simple and prosaic than that. It is simply that the anti-gun people may eventually get enough political clout to force a majority of the congress to enact draconian anti-gun laws that will, in effect, accomplish their goal of removing guns from the hands of US citizens. Period.

There will be no conspiracy among evil, liberal, commie, secret societies. Instead, there is more of a chance that rather ordinary people will become so motivated by the fear that they and their friends and families will be somehow so threatened by the mere existence of guns possessed by strangers that they will successfully demand guns be outlawed. Logic and reason play little part in this, rather these people are motivated by fear of the unknown (they know little to nothing about guns other than what they read, see on the news or in the movies, most of which is flat wrong or misleading at best), and they are motivated by the belief that guns are bad. "Guns are bad" is a "toxic topic" – you can't discuss it in any kind of open-ended or reasonable manner. Toxic topics are not open to real debate or investigation, but, like religion, are matters of belief, dogma and emotion. To understand this idea, consider the question of torture.

Most people, certain fundamentalist religious states excepted, will say that torture is bad, unethical and should be a crime, or at the least, certainly avoided in almost all circumstances. A significant number of those would go further, declaring that torture is a violation of fundamental human rights and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. A strong statement that should be subject to discussion and analysis, but you will find it impossible to engage such people about it; it's not open to discussion except in support of their beliefs. They won't hear anything against it. But listen to this.

Based on an actual incident, the following scenario will illustrate the necessity of rational discussion about hard ethical topics: A man stole a car but before he was apprehended, he ditched the car someplace and was soon captured on foot. Taken to the police station he was urgently questioned as to the location of the car. He would not reveal that nor admit to the crime, although circumstances and evidence conclusive enough to convince the police that we was, in fact, the guilty car thief. The police revealed that, unbeknownst to the thief, a baby was in the car when he stole it. Now, the baby is locked alone somewhere in that car, the weather is hot and the child in danger of being severely injured or of dying if not found and given medical attention. Still, the thief refuses to admit to taking the car or its location. Officers questioning the man torture him by smacking him around until he reveals the car's location. The infant is rescued and survives.

In this case, was torture, the violation of the thief's civil and human rights in pursuit of a more ethical end, justified? Are there instances when the end really does justify the means? What part does intent play in these ethical acts and decisions?

I think these are valid questions and queries of this sort need to be asked and discussed, not taken off the table because they contravene or "disrespect" someone's notions of ideology or dogma or rights.

I think that guns are one of these topics that need rational and evidence-based discussions. This is not likely to happen with a large segment of people since they consider it to be "off the table" and not open to reason, evidence or discussion. In other words, they won't touch it. It is toxic.

What can one do? I think the choices are two: ignore it or confront it whenever necessary. Ignoring it won't do anything to change or address it. Confronting toxic topics will perhaps lose you some friends and cause people to mutter about you over their cups of herbal tea, but you certainly aren't going to change any minds by keeping silent.

I was in my local gun store a couple of years back, talking with the owner when a stranger came in. He approached the counter where we were and eventually said to me, "You look familiar."

"I don't think we've met," I said.

"Weren't you at the Tea Party meeting last week?" he said.

"I'd rather shoot myself than go to a Tea Party meeting," I said.

You could tell he was confused. Here I was, engaged with the owner of the gun store about who, in his world, I had to be. But, I had quickly declared my belief that gun ownership did not automatically mean agreement with certain political views. I was open to what he had to say, but he turned quickly and left. Too bad.

There are all sorts of us who like guns, own guns, carry guns and believe the Second Amendment was created to give us a fighting chance should we ever be called upon to preserve those rights again, but who don't fit the nut case mould as many anti-gun people would like us to. And, we are willing and able to get into those toxic topics and not let them win by default.