President Barack Obama went on the airwaves to explain why he had no choice but to assert executive action to “fix” the gun problem in America. He has added a New York Times op-ed to the mix. To those who agree with his message, his tears, appeal to his background teaching constitutional law and plea for “common sense” were convincing. To those who did not agree, they were unpersuasive.
As letters poured in following the president’s television appearance, one thing became clear: those who support the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms don’t trust the government, the president. The government’s history of lying about its motives and ends makes it impossible to believe.
He rejected accusations that he wants to confiscate guns, calling that a ridiculous idea.
“Yes, it is a false notion that I believe is circulated either for political reasons or commercial reasons in order to prevent a coming together of people of good will” to solve the problem of gun violence, Mr. Obama told the audience and Anderson Cooper, who moderated the forum.
Attributing good will to oneself, and thus bad will to anyone who opposes you, is a recipe for increasing mistrust. Appealing to “common sense” is pandering, seeking to avoid responsibility for reason and facts, and instead seeking the comfort of feelings of paranoia and fear. Our president is a smart man. He knows that he’s playing believers for fools.
Claiming that there is a majority of gun owners who agree with him does not make it so. While many will agree that enforcement of existing background checks and updating of databases of people who should not be permitted to possess a weapon is needed, the blame for the failure to faithfully execute the laws that currently exist falls on government. The same government that’s failing to do its job now cannot be heard to complain that its failure demands greater restriction.
President Obama’s bizarre reference to his having taught constitutional law, followed by his misstatement of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ abandoned analogy of “yelling fire in a crowed theater” from United States v. Schenck, creates an insurmountable conflict. Either he knows constitutional law, in which case he deliberately sought to make the public stupider, or he doesn’t and was lying about his qualifications.
None of this is of any consequence to those who have no interest in gun ownership, but see the 300 million guns in private hands in the United States as a imminent threat to their children’s lives. They are wholly disinterested in engaging in rational discussion about guns because fear trumps reason. They see no countervailing interest worthy of discussion. The Second Amendment doesn’t interest them, bundle of rights or not. Personal protection is deemed a macho sham, as they believe a gun owner to be more likely to be harmed or do harm than protect himself and his family.
For those who hate guns, there is nothing to discuss.*
For those who want to keep their guns, unmolested by the government, they cannot believe that the government has any intention but to impair their right to do so. At the extreme end, the crazies, a la the Bundys or the Sovereign Citizens, are ready to go to war over perceived tyranny. Closer to the middle, the mistrust in the government’s intentions, for a long list of reasons, is palpable. It was only a couple months ago that the President told the nation that we had to reform criminal laws, prison nation, overcriminalization, followed by nothing.
The price to be paid for the government failing to do as it says, keep its word, prove that it can be trusted, is that the people won’t trust it. Nor should they. When government’s only consistency is inconsistency, that it fails to honor its promises or do as it says it will, there can be no trust.
All of us have a role to play — including gun owners. We need the vast majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us after every mass shooting, who support common-sense gun safety and who feel that their views are not being properly represented, to stand with us and demand that leaders heed the voices of the people they are supposed to represent.
There is no such reality. Propagating lies is not an effective means of gaining trust.
“Since the gun lobby refuses to compromise on any reasonable gun laws, it’s time to finally declare, ‘Yes, we are in fact coming for your guns,’ ” Roger in Phoenix wrote. “You can still have a simple rifle or shotgun for hunting or protection as you see fit, but even those will have to be safely secured in your home when not in use.”
Fear of mass shootings is good reason to act now, some said.
Fear of harm has become the prime motivator for most of the public. It’s proven remarkably effective in getting us to remove our shoes on airport lines and silence those who makes our children cry. Fear works. The president is not a foolish man, and is playing fear deftly.
Some readers accepted assurances that the president’s actions would simply keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals, without encroaching on law-abiding gun owners.
For those paying attention to the government’s characterization of “potentially dangerous individuals,” this obvious and acceptable notion to those favoring control presents the government’s characterization of “dangerous” without proof. If anyone whose name is placed on the “no-fly list” can be deprived of constitutional rights, and if anyone can be placed on that list because some government functionary chooses to do so (combined with a plethora of other, problematic, flaws), then this facially soothing concept is deeply fraught with deep, abiding problems. Glossing over the problems doesn’t make the concept work any better.
Why won’t we just accept the government’s good will, good intentions, good purposes, to just help protect us without any meaningful impairment of rights? Because the government has continually failed to fulfill its promises and claims. No matter how emotional one gets over the harm guns could cause, the tears will not overcome the mistrust the government has brought upon itself.**
President Obama’s latest effort may cause the choir to cheer, but it may also cause the “crazies” to attack. As for law-abiding, sane, caring gun owners (yes, they exist, even if you never met one at your lean-in group), there can be no discussion. It’s not because they are of ill will, as the president accused, but because you are so filled with the self-righteousness of your fear and moral certainty that your only interest is to use your tears to beat them into submission.
Your hysteria will not convince them. Until the gun control crowd recognizes that they are not the exclusive owners of morality, there will be no useful discussion, and no national agreement as to a viable means of addressing guns. They’re not crazy. You are. We are.
We can chose to stop being crazy any time we want. As for the government, regaining the trust of the people will prove far harder. It may never happen. That’s what comes of the toxic mix of tears and lies. While guns don’t matter a whole lot to me personally, truth does. It’s impossible to fault gun owners for refusing to accept your “good will” when we’ve endured lie after lie.
For those who feel very strongly about the need for gun control, and can’t grasp why everyone else doesn’t feel exactly the same, your passion might be better put to use calling out the government’s lies than calling your adversaries names. But the morally self-righteous crowd struggles to see how anything can be their fault, and so the lies will continue and guns will be gripped ever more tightly. No one will be saved.
*I am not a gun owner or gun lover, but I have learned from those who are. It’s remarkable what can be learned once one removes the cloak of self-righteousness and opens one’s mind to the possibility that other people’s differing perspectives have merit.
**The irony, of course, is that we all know of the government’s duplicity, but labor under a peculiar sense that when we agree with the government’s actions, the government is wonderful. When we disagree, the government is awful. That it’s the same government somehow eludes most Americans, overshadowed by our love of confirmation bias. We are nothing if not a simplistic people.