February 6, 2013

One more try on Gun Culture

Gun Shop Owner Protests Obama's Gun Proposals By Giving Away 1,000 Rounds Of Ammo | ThinkProgress

Yeah, that is kind of the problem.  This is not a level headed response.  This is a reactionary response.  Yet those of us who call it out are dismissed out of hand.

I think Jay asked a good question about my use of the phrase "gun culture."  I know it is a flawed phrase.  I need something more approaching Sullivan's "Christanist" to distinguish.  But as I noted in the comments, part of the problem is also the responsible gun owners who continue to suggest that everyone should have guns regardless of their personality or hot-headedness, or even their own needs.

Here is what I would like to see.   I would like to see a national gun organization--Steve asks why I pick on the NRA all the time after he has told me that they are still the best defenders of gun rights--to take their money and power and pulpit to address more than just the second amendment.  I would like to see a campaign that, instead of demonizing the President and accusing him of siding with some vague UN conspiracy or secretly wanting to take away all our guns--to do this instead.  Stand up and say:

First, let me note the obvious, that while the President and I disagree on some policies, he is not our enemy and is not trying to take away all our guns.  We may differ on certain gun regulations, but we all respect the Constitution, and we all want to reduce gun violence like the horror show we saw in Sandy Hook. 
Here are the steps we think we can take that meet that shared interest.  We will support those gun regulations already enacted and push our advocates to make sure those regulations are properly funded and supported.  Before we pass more regulation, we should make the ones we have work.  We will also support the universal background check as we used to support in the 1990s.  This too must be fully funded and supported and is a small price to pay to try to keep guns away from bad people.  
2nd, we are going to start a national campaign where we appeal to all Americans to think carefully about guns and their use--and we mean in both ways.  We want non-gun owners to see more than those who brandish guns to make a point, or who engage in senseless gun violence to settle petty disputes.  But we also want gun owners to recognize the legitimate fears of the non-gun owning population.  We will make very clear in our approach that anyone considering purchasing a gun should be very clear about why.  If they are buying it for personal protection, they need to be clear of what that might mean. If that isn't a good fit for them, they need to pursue other options for self defense. Gun buyers should undertake as much training as they can find, and ensure that their gun is secured at home away from children or others.  Gun safes, trigger locks, etc., should be a part of every conversation.  No one should buy a gun because they feel the need to brandish it in public, and guns should only be used when there are no other good alternatives.  
Third, while our democracy requires a vigilant population, we need to stop this constant discussion of needing these guns to fight our own army.  Our army is not our enemy.  Our government is not our enemy.  Our President is not our enemy.  
If LaPierre said any of that, I might take him seriously.  But he doesn't.  And neither does the industry pushing gun sales.  This approach won't sell as many guns.  
 

25 comments:

Tony said...

Hear, hear!

steves said...

I don't have a problem with anything you said.

I wouldn't say the NRA is the best defender of gun rights, but they are the most effective. What else do gun rights people have? Larry Pratt and the GOA. I think he is a smart guy, but they won't compromise on anything and want to get rid of pretty much every law on guns. They aren't going to be taken seriously.

The SAF is a good group, but they primarily do litigation. The JPFO seems to be a little like the GOA. There is also the NSSF, but they are primarily a trade group.

The NRA, for good or bad, is really the only group out of these that has any clout. I am not a fan of the, "gov't gonna take your guns" ads, but it is fundraising mechanism that really isn't any different then all the ads put out by political parties and advocacy groups, especially around election time.

I researched the UN treaty thing and came to conclusion that it could represent a way for the executive branch to implement gun control measures without having to go through Congress, as treaties have the force of law. I think the NRA is right to be concerned. The problem is that some of the tin-foil hat crowd hear this and think blue helmeted troops are going to confiscate their .30-30's.

Streak said...

But there are a couple of the points I have repeatedly tried to make. One, that when the NRA does something horribly to make money or increase membership, you just dismiss that as political. It doesn't matter that this is the public face of the NRA? Or that this is encouraging the very paranoia that I am talking about?

Second, the reality is that if LaPierre were to say what I suggested here, he would have a full throated revolt from his base. They would freak out at the first sentence (the president is not our enemy). He would lose his job and they would replace him with someone who hates Obama and the government.

Third, this is also something that has to be addressed. Mixed in with all of this Second amendment stuff is pure capitalism. People who sell guns don't want you to think that the one you have is sufficient any more than the Toyota dealer wants me to think that my Matrix is good enough. They want me to buy more. The NRA and the entire gun lobby is at least partly about just selling guns, and not wanting any responsibility for what happens with those guns.

Smitty said...

So...I took a CPL class over the weekend. This has changed some things, left some things the same for me.

What changed:

The materials the NRA includes in their packet for the class (it was an NRA class on home defense and safety, which is allowed under Michigan's CPL law as one of the appropriate courses to take to get your CPL) were informative and helpful. The pictures were hilariously out of date, but the information was updated.

The materials made great effort - NRA materials, again - towards informing participants how to safely store weapons, the folly of storing loaded weapons in certain circumstances, and even other ways in which to protect your home. The materials were clear: weapons are a last resort.

Everything about the class, from the materials to the way it was taught, emphasized safety, last-resortedness, storage, and the like.

In other words, what the NRA teaches is a chasm of difference from what the leadership of the organization publicly states. I don't doubt LaPierre and company acknowledge and endorse how these training materials treat gun ownership and responsibility.

But therein lies the rub. What hasn't changed for me:

That I am still disgusted with NRA's very pubic footing, and I feel like NRA's leadership is sending a very different message from what the rank-and-file see and read...which is evident in these training materials.

The NRA does itself a disservice. The NRA I was exposed to last Saturday is an organization I would support. Unfortunately, instead of fundraising and speaking publicly on a message of responsibility, which is supported by the types of materials rank and file members receive, NRA leadership has chosen to fundraise on fear, violence, and veiled racism. I hope that the disconnect between the NRA I got introduced to over the weekend and the NRA represented by its current leadership and the choices they make in terms of how NRA is seen publicly, ultimately drives the nutters out.

Unfortunately, in the near-term, I doubt it.

steves said...

It is hard to have a discussion with you when you say things like the NRA hates the government. I don't think opposition to legislation is that same thing as hating the government.

While Obama may not want to take all my guns, some of the proposed legislation does amount to a "taking", so I don't think it would be logical to think the NRA will support a politician that calls for a ban. If this were just about background checks or mental health services, then you would have a good case.

As for capitalism, you may be right, but are you saying the NRA should limit it's support for older gun and discourage development. I keep hearing stuff like people don't need an "assault rifle" to defend themselves. They can just use a shot gun. Most reputable instructors will say this is terrible advice. The shotgun is one of the more difficult weapons systems to use well.

Smitty, I agree that they may benefit from a change in leadership.

Streak said...

Well of course. Smitty chimes in and essentially confirms my point. But I am unreasonable and hard to have a conversation with. I get it.

You are right in that disagreeing with legislation doesn't equate to hating government, but if you really think that the NRA public face does not flog a hatred of this government that is deeply embedded in our conservative culture today, then I don't think you are paying attention.

Here is what you sound like, honestly. When the NRA says stuff that is (as Smitty noted, "veiled racism") or deeply paranoid, you simply filter that out and suggest that under the fluff is a legitimate concern, and that we should only listen to the legitimate concern--not the LaPierre telling everyone that their government has abandoned them and they should buy as many guns as they can.

But when Obama says something, or when your hated example, Feinstein says something, there is no filter there. Hell, there is no filter for anyone who speaks in favor of gun control or in serious opposition to the NRA. Their words are taken at every literal sense, and then even read as a wingnut NRA member would--because we need to understand them. We don't need to understand those concerned with gun rights. We don't need to understand those horrified by surging gun sales and rhetoric of revolution.

Nope. Those people are irrational. I am irrational.

Smitty said...

I want to say this in a different way.

To people steeped in one culture or another, their words and buzzwords hold make sense to them. To people *outside* that culture, those very same words are strange, maybe worrisome.

Let's consider: conservative gun-owners (a subculture of conservatives). Conservative gun-owners might hear the things LaPierre says, for example, and find in them kernels of truth, or maybe just ramblings. "Don't mind him; he means well, but like my crazy uncle, likes to push the envelope. No worries. Most of us are normal."

People NOT stepped in that particular culture hear what he says and think HOLY FUCK THAT GUY IS INSANE AND IRRESPONSIBLE.

Likewise: the words people who favor "gun control" use sound entirely rational...to them. The other side, not steeped in the same culture or undterstanding, have the same reaction as the opposite above: HOLY FUCK MY GUNS!

So it's easy to be steeped in one culture, hear the words even the looser of your cohorts use, and shrug them off as inconsequential...or maybe crazy but no big deal because it's not a threat. It's equally easy to hear the other culture's words and see deep threat.

With that in mind, there has to be a way to sanely reconcile the mutually-held belief between our parties here in Streak's corner of chaos that perhaps the leadership of an organization is well off-kilter and causing harm. There is disparity in *why* each party here believes they are not doing anyone favors, and those reasons are replete with words normal to one culture and abhorrent to the other.

I'm not saying avoid those words, thoughts, phrases; rather, try to see them or explain them. That way, for instance, Streak may not feel like you're just saying "meh; LaPierre, he's nuts anyway." And you might not feel like Streak or I saying "a thing we should look at is how MANY guns there are and how accessible they are" is instead saying "TAKE ALL THE GUNS!!"

Streak said...

I can agree with much of that Smitty. My issue is also that the real-world implications of that cultural language is also the big part of what I am talking about. That "government is coming to take my guns," and "OMG, that black guy is a communist who works for the UN" translates into encouraging people who are already deeply paranoid and angry to go buy more guns. Their rhetoric about if you don't have a gun to protect yourself, you are dead--leads to people who aren't trained and aren't responsible buying actual guns and actual amunition. Adam Lanza's mother was one of those people.

There are wingnuts on both sides. I get that. I am sure there are really crazy people on the far left sending death threats to the NRA completely missing the irony. But my fear is not really about the wingnuts on the right--who already believe that Obama is evil and Hitler, but about those individuals who are not that political and not even that paranoid. But after they hear enough of this crap, they are likely to buy a gun--especially when the argument is "YOU BETTER BUY A GUN NOW BECAUSE OBAMA WILL TAKE ALL OF THEM AWAY AND SHOOT YOU."

steves said...

Streak, you hear want you want to hear. I said I don't believe the NRA hates the gov't. I am sure you will dig up some quote from WP from 20 years ago as proof. Sorry, but I believe there are legitimate critiques of the gov't that don't necessarily mean the critic hates the gov't and want to start secession talks.

I didn't respond to the veiled racism comment because he didn't actually say what the veiled racism was. I have provided historical examples of why I don't think the NRA is a racist group, so I didn't feel the need to comment on it anymore.

I don't remember where, but at one point, I asked what you thought should be done to increase safety and lower crime. I don't believe you responded. This is the crux of the argument. As I have pointed out on more than one occasion, assault weapons are only involved in a tiny percentage of deaths, so an AWB has very little to do with making people safer. It makes some people feel safer because I suppose they have some irrational fear of their neighbor killing them with a scary gun.

You don't like the NRA. I get it. I don't love them 100% of the time, but they are better than the alternatives and they do more then any other gun rights group. Do you agree with the President you voted for 100% of the time? No, I am guessing you do not, but you probably believe he is better than the alternative.

steves said...

Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, the NRA is NOT telling people to go out and buy a gun. This current spending spree is 100% motivated by people's fear that the gov't is going to institute some kind of ban.

The NRA is benefiting from this. I read that they have been getting 8000 new members every day. There are some 4 million members in the NRA and there are more than 60 million gun owners, so you can't say that people are buying guns because the NRA is telling them to do so.

It is crazy right now. 30 round mags that sold for $12 are selling for a $100. Crappy $800 AR's are selling for $1900 and up. Used Glocks are going for twice what they would have sold for last summer.

The reality is that there is a significant number of people in this country that do not want a ban.

Streak said...

Steve, you continue to conflate the political side with the grass roots side. Actually, what you do here is similar to those who invoke the OT when it is convenient. With you, you like either the historical (and more moderate NRA) to disprove any current radicalism, or use the grassroots organization that Smitty so carefully explained to explain away the political side.

You aren't being close to consistent here. Just as you treat Smitty with respect, and suggest that I am unreasonable--when we are making very similar points.

"I asked what you thought should be done to increase safety and lower crime. I don't believe you responded." That is utter bullshit. I have talked at length about cultural changes, better healthcare both mental and physical, better education, anti-poverty initiatives, etc. And here, I am talking about challenging a gun culture idea.

All you hear is me attacking the NRA and suggesting that all gun owners want to shoot people over dog poop.

At this point, I feel like saying that if you aren't going to read what I write, then what is the point of discussion. I take it rather personally when you ignore my points, and act as if I didn't make them. I take even more offense when your friend can make similar points and he gets respect while I get sarcasm and derision.

Would it help if I bought a gun? Would that make me a member of your tribe in good standing? Perhaps join a local range and record my progress and amount of rounds? Would that get me any respect here?

Streak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smitty said...

This current spending spree is 100% motivated by people's fear that the gov't is going to institute some kind of ban.

Now we're getting somewhere.

There is a wild spree on guns and ammo. Gods, I can barely find 30-06 ammo and 12 gauge BIRD SHOT let alone 9mm, .40 or anything else.

Why? As steve said, fear of a ban.

Who helps fan the flame of that fear? Perhaps the political leadership of the NRA? Perhaps from the very top of the organization?

I am not suggesting their fear is unfounded. They may very well perceive a very real threat. But I am saying the political leadership of the NRA is fanning it.

Why? Why would they? Do they have a financial interest in doing so?

they have been getting 8000 new members every day.

Perhaps?

And so now, faced with clear warning statements from the NRA's political arm, along with financial benefit stemming from huge membership growth, is it not at the very least a testable hypothesis that there is value in a political organization like the NRA in fanning fears among gun owners?

steves said...

I wanted to show the numbers to indicate that this spending spree is more than just the NRA fanning the flames. The NRA spent a great deal of money around election time and I haven't seen much from them in terms of ads these past few months. As for the new membership, that is based on a few articles I have read in the past few weeks and what was reported by the NRA. I am not aware of any way to verify those numbers.

I am sure the NRA does benefit financially from any membership boon. They would also benefit from increased political clout.

steves said...

Streak, you keep saying you want a discussion, but the vast majority of your posts in the past month have been about how crazy, stupid, or dangerous the gun culture is. I am certainly not suggesting that you go and buy a gun or praise the NRA, but if I took a similar tone with a group that you were a part of, I wouldn't be surprised if you were peeved.

FWIW, I still respect you and most of my comments, sarcastic or otherwise, have been an attempt to address your points.

As for changing the gun culture, you seem more focused on the nut culture, which I agree should be changed. Jay made a good point. What gun culture are we talking about?

Smitty said...

I wanted to show the numbers to indicate that this spending spree is more than just the NRA fanning the flames

I think you accomplished that. I agree, in fact, that it is fear of a ban in general that drives people to buy guns they think they'll lose, buy ammo they think will be taxed, and join like-minded organizations.

But a symptom of that - not a cause, but a contributing factor, perhaps - is that that like-minded organization benefits financially. And so a *smart* organization would jump on such a favorable trend...maybe even contribute heavily to the very NOTION of that trend in, say, public statements from its leadership and political action pieces via email and snail mail.

Gun ban fear is *lucrative.* It doesn't behoove the NRA to deescalate its political rhetoric; indeed, it as an organization is in the perfect storm for financial success: a Congress both willing to act, over-react, and fight; gun owners who from a sense of fear or a rational analysis of what data exists or whatever are more willing to join organizations that protect a right they fear losing; weekly national tragedies that highlight the very issue at hand, a vocal - and untrusted - President...

I am not at all saying the NRA *caused* these things. They're just riding this perfect storm, and participating to a degree in its perpetuity. They benefit from it. This is not (yet) a right-or-wrong statement.

We'll get into political benefit in a bit.

Streak said...

I think where we disagree is this point, and one that Smitty made as well. The NRA is not only enabling the nut culture, they are encouraging it to grow and feeding it more information. That is the political face, I understand, but it is the public face that the rest of us see.

I get that the regular gun users are only peripherally part of this, but I say "peripherally" because I still hear some justification or defense of the tin-foil hat crowd. It is reasonable for them to believe this stuff. But then you get mad at me when I point out the crazy stuff and accuse me of tarring you with that brush.

As I started to say on the fear of the gun ban, if the NRA was there with their hands up in the "stop or slow down" position, saying, in public terms, "everyone calm down. We disagree with the President, but we also understand his concern about guns. we are going to work with him to both protect lawful gun owners and reduce violence where we can."

They aren't doing that by any reasonable measure. They are instead telling people that government will not help them and will most likely a)try to take their guns, and B) abandon them if they need help. Don't even try to call 9-11, they now say--it won't be in time. Time to lock and load.

No doubt that the NRA isn't the source of all the crazy in this country. I have no doubt of that. Nor do I doubt the work that trainers and safety people play. Nor do I doubt the historic role that the org has played in reasonable discourse.

But LaPierre is encouraging the opposite of reasonable discourse.

steves said...

Not that I am privy to any of the decisions the NRA makes, but I am sure they will use this situation to their financial and political benefit.

As for working with the President, they have been. Biden invited them to the discussions and they participated. The NRA tells people to not call 911? Really? If they did, that would be very irresponsible.

As for their historic role, they have compromised on every single gun control measure, starting back in the 1930's. This is one reason that the GOA exists. Some people think the NRA is too moderate.

Streak said...

Oh good god. They had a "rebuttal" for the Inauguration speech! I don't think that has ever happened before. They have denounced every plan coming from the administration.

At least be honest here, Steve. Your first sentence was very honest. They will use this to their financial benefit. I get that too. But that doesn't mean that their financial benefit=responsible public policy. I would submit, with all due respect, suggesting that the government is not going to help you, and that Obama is coming for your guns is not responsible.

As for the 9-11 issue, you are correct. That was one particular sheriff, and you defended that. We had an entire discussion about it.

Streak said...

BTW, I get the point that at times I am talking generically about gun culture and at times specifically about the NRA. That sheriff did his little "don't trust 9-11 get a gun" ad on his own.

But I am not sure that is substantially different than LaPierre saying that when disaster strikes, government will not be there to help you, so you better be armed.

steves said...

I don't think it is unreasonable to be prepared in case of a natural disaster. I don't think it is a case of the government won't help, but that some emergency services will be overwhelmed for a period of time and not be as effective as they usually would be.

Look at what happened in something as isolated as the LA riots or something more widespread, like Katrina or Sandy. I don't think this is something as simple as just having a gun, but something more well planned like having food, water, medicine, and other essentials so that you are ok.

Streak said...

No argument there. But it also isn't the main point. LaPierre isn't suggesting this just to suggest it or be reasonable. He is suggesting it as an alternative to government--because government is bad and can't be trusted.

As I said, the NRA isn't here because they want reasoned discourse. Not their political wing anyway. You don't rebut the innauguration speech because you want to compromise and work with the President.

Smitty said...

I don't think this is something as simple as just having a gun, but something more well planned like having food, water, medicine, and other essentials so that you are ok.

We'd all be happy and fine if that's what was said. But what was said was get a gun because 9-1-1 doesn't work.

This is a great illustration, in fact. You, a normal dude, responsible, well-educated, smart, and not totally insane, made a list of what people should have around for, say, giant hurricanes and massive snow storms: stuff to survive on until help comes. Food, water, fuel, meds, blankies, and hey, depending on where or who you are, a gun might not be unreasonable.

But people in leadership positions...sheriffs, gun org leaders, etc...we get "get a gun, because we're not your est option."

That is not a representative sample of the public. That's probably not even a representative sample of gun owners. But it is someone in a public leadership role.

Here's a problem: most of us think "that's fucking stupid." And maybe we bitch to each other about how stupid it is. But that's where it stops. Nobody of any consequence stands up...in fact nobody at all really...and says that's stupid.

Now, in the case of this Sheriff, he *did* get shouted-down. In response, he walked-back his statement a bit. He also took the opportunity to clarify that it's not about guns for him; he was illustrating that people keep cutting his budget, so he has less cops on the street. Either pay more taxes, or go buy a gun, cuz I can't get an officer there quickly.

I get it. Ham-handed, but I get it.

Did anyone influential to LaPierre shout him down? Did he soften or clarify his stance in response?

Streak said...

I believe that NPR reported that the 9-11 response for violent crimes was in the 2 minute range. That sounds like they are pretty good.

I think part of what we are seeing with LaPierre is very similar to some of the stuff that happened to Romney during the campaign. When he popped off on the Libya issue and got things so badly wrong, the internal communication (learned after the election) was that they recognized that he got it wrong. But that same communication said that they feared that the base would turn on him if he publicly admitted that he was wrong about the President.

If LaPierre has that kind of sense--and I don't know that he does--he has to know that HIS base would flay him if he softened his language about Obama or the gun issue.

steves said...

2 minutes? Wow, that is pretty good. I have heard a much higher number and it depends on where you are. I spoke to a woman a few weeks ago from Detroit that called 911 because some weird guy was banging on her door and peeking in her house. Granted, this wasn't a violent break in, but she was home alone, with an infant and was quite scared. The police showed up 2 hours later. Thankfully, the guy had left after about 15 minutes, but now she is wondering if he was just scouting the area looking to burglarize homes.

I am not familiar with Wayne's comments regarding what will happen in a disaster, but they are a gun org. Why would they tell people to stockpile food?

I think that you are right about the NRA softening their response. The membership, in a broad generic sense, isn't interested in a an AWB or a magazine restriction. They are mostly ok with improving the NICS system and enforcing existing laws.

I will be interested in seeing what happens. Under Obama, the BATFE has shifted much of their enforcement from going after illegal gun sales to going after guns used in drug crimes. Biden also commented on the fact that even when NICS identifies a felon trying to buy a gun (which is a crime) or a felon that has bought a gun (and NICS didn't indetify it uneil after the transaction), that they are not going to go after these people.