Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beyond all reason

Mark Shea is discussing gun control today; in particular, he's discussing how some good and responsible gun-owner types, like Dale Price, are feeling rather marginalized by how other Catholics are discussing the issue:
Anyway, Dale is a hunter. Likes to use a gun. Has a sane man’s concern about things like protecting his family, the rise of the police state–and felt like all normal people the grief and anguish of Sandy Hook. He’s a deeply *good* man and a smart one. And he’s felt pretty marginalized by the national conversation on guns since Sandy Hook.

I have, alas, contributed to that for him, a man I would not willingly hurt for all the world. FWIW, I think guys like him are part of whatever solution we eventually arrive at. As I’ve said, I’m mostly still working through how to even frame the questions on this stuff. I come to it very much as Man in the Street, neither owning guns myself, nor wishing to take away anybody’s guns who should have one. I’m trying to hear both sides and, from where I sit, most of the hysteria seemed to be coming from people shrieking that Hitler was coming to confiscate our guns and march us into concentration camps or, as one my many sober correspondents put it:
Mr. Shea:
I hope you will come visit me in the camps.
Oh, wait, you’ll be the one in the camp. I’ll be dead. Never mind.
I’ve heard from an awful lot of these folks over the past month, yelling about Hitler and certain the mass confiscation and the camps and the three days of darkness and the prophecies of Medjugorje and Glenn Beck and Malachi Martin and Art Bell are soon to be fulfilled. They offer me sober advice about secessionism, demand to know if I have any better ideas than violent insurrection and panic, and poo poo the modest suggestions I do make as not even worth pursuing. They declare me “incapable of honesty” when I don’t share their take on something. They, well, just *yell* at me a lot and it gets hard to keep from tuning all the hysteria out.

Mark goes on to say that this is what Dale is experiencing, though from the other side; that is, other people are shouting at gun owners as if all people who own guns have a closet desire to go on mass shooting rampages.  If it's one thing we Catholics have proved that we're good at, it's shouting anathemas at each other in areas where good Catholics can actually, you know, disagree.

I've been meaning to get back to a discussion of guns and gun control since my little informal blog survey; that survey unscientifically showed me what I tend to believe, which is that most sane people, gun owners or not, think that the Second Amendment to the Constitution means, simply, that people can have guns, and that this right isn't terribly inconvenienced by things like licensing or registration or waiting periods or background checks, but would be inconvenienced by the government making it impossible for people to have guns.  Sort of like how the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, but the freedom of speech isn't really in danger if the government points out that yelling "Fire!" in a crowded and conflagration-free theater or shouting drunken obscenities in public aren't covered by the general protection.

But some people are outliers from that middle position: some think that any private gun ownership makes America an Old West movie-town environment in which nobody's really safe, and others think that denying mentally ill ex-convicts the right to own guns is just hastening the day when the Republic collapses and a Scary Totalitarian Dictatorship takes over and makes us call him "Big Brother."

The "Guns will Resurrect the Wild, Wild West!" types are convinced beyond all reason that guns themselves, instead of being rather loud power tools that can kill you or someone else (sort of like the items on this Forbes list of the ten most dangerous power tools, some of which can also be pointed at someone else), are quasi-sentient and plotting evil regardless of who is holding them or how they're intended to be used.  In the minds of these people, guns have only one purpose, and that is to cause lethal violence and deadly mayhem.  Hunting or security are not really considered, or are considered excuses for mild-mannered people to buy guns whereupon the guns themselves take over the psyche and make the person undergo a Jekyll-Hyde level transformation.  That the human race since the time of Cain and Abel managed to find ways to commit murder long before gunpowder was even thought of is seen as largely irrelevant.  Man will only be safe when guns are banned, or when the only people who can carry guns are trained military members and police officers.

The "Guns are Vital to Keep Big Brother Away" types, on the other hand, tend to see, beyond all reason, signs of imminent social and political collapse around every corner.  Every flock of birds overhead contains at least ten black swans, and the phrase "Zombie Apocalypse" is tossed around like that's something that might actually happen someday, instead of a Gothic horror or science-fiction plot.  In the minds of these people, any restrictions on gun ownership, even quite sensible ones, only hastens the day when Nazis or Communists or New World Order Black Ops troops show up at the doors of gun owners to haul them off to the gulag as the first step in a total conquest of the nation--a conquest, by the way, that they sincerely believe will happen in their own lifetimes.  They really think that a secret order or series of secret orders will go out and will turn nice friendly (fellow-Catholic, even!) National Guard officers into the foot soldiers of the Four Horsemen, bent on exterminating all who resist this coup d'etat that's about to detonate on their quiet little communities.  That the human race since the time of the Tower of Babel has been extremely bad at plotting huge secret multinational conspiracies of conquest and eradication is seen as largely irrelevant.  Man will only be safe when every house has its own suitcase nuke or pet drone, in case the New Hitler comes knocking.

The important thing to remember is that both of these extremes are really beyond all reason.  No amount of arguing with people convinced of either of these dire outcomes will convince them that actually guns are pretty much okay when used properly by people who are aware that they are lethal and who are careful about them, people who also don't mind waiting periods or, say, required classes for concealed carry.

Now if we could only convince people that similar safety measures might help those who buy and use power tools...


Tony said...

The "middle position" as I see it seems to be moving. Each time we get a tragedy, the middle position shifts to the left, and frankly I'm sick of it.

Now my state has seen fit to ban a gun that has a pistol grip. Same gun as with a non-grip, same ammo, same rate of fire, but a pistol grip. They also decided that 7 was the magic number for cartridges in your magazine. They had limited it to 10 before, but now 7 is the new middle. A couple more shootings, and it'll be down to 1, if any?

And you wonder why I fight registration? I don't want these clowns knowing how many guns and how much ammunition I have. I can go through 600 rounds in a weekend, but if I buy in bulk, I risk raising red flags.

I'm tire of compromise. You can file me under "crazy conspiracy theorist". Molon Labe!

B et G said...

I agree with you Tony, even though I am not a gun toter, and I've seen quite a few quotes by our founding fathers which today would get them labeled as extremists as well. :)

B et G said...

That was Rebecca in ID by the way; my dd has hijacked my account. :)