Along with bombs and bombers, guns seem to be all the media wants to talk about these days. Death is sexy to our miscreant media, especially when people are killed on purpose. And when that happens, it’s all the newspapers and news stations will print and broadcast, in turn making these events appear worse than they are in reality.
To understand this, one need only look at the difference in coverage between the Texas fertilizer plant explosion, which killed at least 14 confirmed people and injured 200 more at the time of writing this, versus the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, which only killed three and injured a hundred others. Texas was on TV for a day, tops, while we’re still hearing about Boston and will for many weeks to come.
Where the media really didn’t care too much about the Texas incident, once a kid was killed at a race, the Boston bombing is now a foil for everything from gun control to immigration in the wake of Sandy Hook, with both sides of the political spectrum using it against the other. What about Texas, you ask? Nothing but crickets chirping from the mainstream media at the moment. Recent studies have shown that people who consume large amounts of mass media often feel more insecure, are less informed, or can’t distinguish between news and what passes as news, what with all the opinion you’ll find in news today.
But when it comes to something as deadly serious as guns and crime, Americans can’t afford the media hyperbole, misinformation and disinformation.
We have a lot of liberal columnists working for the Daily. As a conservative, I’m fine with that; they’re the ones who apply for the job, and conservatives usually don’t. Free market, baby, deal with it. But many of our liberal columnists are my friends, with whom I have spent time outside of work, too. And they, along with everyone else it seems, have an opinion about guns, as you can see by glancing through the last few weeks of the Daily’s Opinion section.
It’s been an eye-opening experience for me. As assistant opinion editor and friend, my columnists are important to me both professionally and personally. It’s all the more clear to me now after doing this job that people often opine a whole lot about stuff they don’t have any personal experience with or expertise on. Like guns.
Every time a gun issue comes up in conversation around Daily people or during a Daily editorial board meeting, opinion editor Michael Belding almost always tells me, “you should write a column about that!” I hesitate in doing so and have so far resisted the urge mostly; I wrote three gun-related columns back in 2011 and early 2012, and that was enough to brand me the “gun guy” by some folks who use such terms as epithets.
The desire of others for me to write gun columns is reasonable, though, and I understand it. I’m as much of a “gun expert” as you’re likely to find around here, so having me write about guns in the paper is perfectly rational. I won’t bore you with my “gun resume,” but suffice it to say that prior to coming to Iowa State in 2011, I made a living with firearms in one way or another for several years of my life, and have a few pieces of paper laying around that say I know a bit about them, too.
Today, however, I’m going to break my silence on the gun issue and speak out once more — and for the last time. This is my final column for the Iowa State Daily.
No experience necessary
In the gun debate, I’ve discovered that one cannot be expert enough about guns. Indeed, when it comes to the gun issue, opinion rules. There doesn’t seem to be any opportunity for any genuine, honest debate on guns, and even liberals would agree with that. I’ve often wondered about this over the years. Is it because my side of the debate is actually loony? I don’t think so; at least, I think I’m pretty normal. Sure, we’ve got some oddballs we all wish would go away, just like any group does.
But all the pro-gun people I know are normal people too — people so normal that nobody knows they’re gun people until they’re told. In fact, there are so many gun owners that if we are all crazy like some suggest, the daily crime rate in America would look more like our crime rate for the entire decade combined, and CNN would actually have something to report on other than the latest gossip.
That is to say, there’s a hundred million of us, owning a few hundred million guns combined, and we contribute to society peacefully every day. Many of us even literally protect society for a living, or used to.
I’ve come to realize after the Sandy Hook shooting that the reason we can’t have a rational gun debate is because the anti-gun side pre-supposes that their pro-gun opponents must first accept that guns are bad in order to have a discussion about guns in the first place. Before we even start the conversation, we’re the bad guys and we have to admit it. Without accepting that guns are bad and supplicating themselves to the anti-gunner, the pro-gunner can’t get a word in edgewise, and is quickly reduced to being called a murderer, or a low, immoral and horrible human being.
You might think that’s hyperbole too, but I’ve experienced it personally from people I considered friends until recently. And every day I see it on TV or in the newspapers, from Piers Morgan to the Des Moines Register’s own Donald Kaul, who among others have actually said people like me are stupid, crazy or should be killed ourselves. YouTube is full of examples, and any Google search will result in example after example of gun-owning Americans being lampooned, ridiculed and demonized by the media and citizens somewhere.
Hell, it’s even gotten so bad that a little kid was expelled from school recently for biting a Pop Tart into the vague shape of a handgun during lunch break (it looked more like Idaho to me).
Liberals always make the common plea, “We need to get some experts to solve this problem!” for any public policy issue that comes along, which is a good thing. But when it comes to the gun issue, gun expertise is completely irrelevant to the anti-gunner — people who probably have never fired a gun or even touched one in real life, and whose only experience with guns is what they’ve seen in movies or read about in bastions of (un)balanced, hyper-liberal journalism, like Mother Jones. That a pro-gun person might actually know a lot about their hobby or profession doesn’t stand up against the histrionic cries of the anti-gunner.
How can we “gun people” honestly be expected to come to the table with anti-gunners when anti-gunners are willfully stupid about guns, and openly hate, despise and ridicule those of us who own them? There must first be respect and trust — even just a little — before there can be even the beginnings of legitimate discussion of the issue.
Death by a thousand cuts
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because anti-gunners always talk about 90 percent of Americans supporting this gun control measure, or 65 percent supporting that one, as if a majority opinion is what truly matters in America. We don’t trust anti-gun people because you think America is a democracy, when it’s actually a constitutional federal republic. In the American system, the rights of a single individual are what matters and are what our system is designed to protect. The emotional mob does not rule in America.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they keep saying they “respect the Second Amendment” and go on about how they respect the hunting traditions of America. We don’t trust you because you have to be a complete idiot to think the Second Amendment is about hunting. I wish people weren’t so stupid that I have to say this: The Second Amendment is about checking government tyranny. Period. End of story. The founders probably couldn’t have cared less about hunting since, you know, they just got done with that little tiff with England called the Revolutionary War right before they wrote that “little book” called the Constitution.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they lie to us. President Obama directly says he won’t tamper with guns or the Second Amendment, then turns around and pushes Congress to do just that. We don’t trust anti-gunners because they appoint one of the most lying and rabidly (and moronically) anti-gun people in America, Vice President Biden, to head up a “task force” to “solve” the so-called “gun problem,” who in turn talks with anti-gun special interest groups instead of us to complete his task.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they tell us they don’t want to ban guns, only enact what they call “common sense gun laws.” But like a magician using misdirection, they tell everyone else they want to ban every gun everywhere. While some are busy trying to placate us with lies, another anti-gunner somewhere submits a gun ban proposal — proposals that often would automatically make us felons for possession. Felons, for no good reason. And you anti-gunners can roll up your grandfather clauses and stuff them where the sun don’t shine. If it ain’t good enough for our grandchildren in 60 years, it ain’t good enough for us right now.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they make horrifying predictions about how there will be blood in the streets, gunfights on every street corner and America will become the Wild West again if citizens are allowed to carry concealed firearms. We don’t trust anti-gun people because we know that despite the millions of Americans who have carry permits, those who carry guns commit crimes at a much lower rate than people who don’t. We know because we know ourselves and we’re not criminals. We know because concealed carry is now legal nearly everywhere, and guess what? Violent crime continues to go down. What a shocker.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they say gun control is about crime control. Anti-gunners claim that ending crime and “saving children” is why they want to ban so-called “assault weapons.” Yet our very own government says that assault weapons are used in less than two percent of all gun crimes and Department of Justice studies say the last assault weapons ban had little or no effect on crime. Other studies suggest gun control may even make crime worse (one need only look to high crime rates in places where there’s a lot of gun control to see the possible connection).
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because when it comes to their “We need gun control to save the children” argument, many of us can’t understand how an anti-gun liberal can simultaneously be in favor of abortion. Because you know, a ban on abortion would save a child every single time. I’m personally not rabidly against abortion, but the discongruence makes less sense still when the reason abortions are legal is to protect a woman’s individual rights. That’s great, but does the individual rights argument sound familiar? Anti-gunners think that for some bizarre reason, the founding fathers happened to stick a collective right smack dab at the top of a list of individual rights, though. Yeah, because that makes sense.
Truth, treason and the empire of lies
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they are purposely misleading to rile the emotions of the ignorant. We don’t trust anti-gunners because they say more than 30,000 people are killed each year by guns — a fact that is technically true, but the key piece of information withheld is that only a minor fraction of that number is murder; the majority is suicides and accidents. We don’t trust anti-gunners because we know accidents and suicides don’t count in the crime rate, but they’re held against us as if they do.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because suicide is the only human-inflicted leading cause of death in America, and that violent crime has been on the decline for decades. We also know that 10 people die daily in drownings, 87 people die daily by poisoning, more than 20,000 adults die from falls each year, someone dies in a fire every 169 minutes, nearly 31,000 people are killed in car accidents annually and almost 2,000 are stabbed to death. People even kill each other with hammers. Yet fewer than 14,000 people are killed by guns of any kind each year.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because not only is the violent crime rate approaching historic lows, but mass shootings are on the decline too. We don’t trust anti-gun people because they fail to recognize that mass shootings happen where guns are already banned — ridiculous “gun-free zones” which attract homicidal maniacs to perpetrate their mass shootings.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because school shootings have been happening forever, but despite them being on the decline, the media inflates the issue until the perception is that they’re a bigger problem than they really are. We don’t trust anti-gunners because they’re busy riling up the emotions of the ignorant, who in turn direct their ire upon us, demonizing us because we object to the overreaction and focus on the wrong things, like the mentally ill people committing the crimes.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they look down on us for defending the Second Amendment as vigorously as they defend the First Amendment — a fight we too would stand side-by-side with them on otherwise. We don’t trust anti-gunners because someone defending the First Amendment is considered a hero, but a someone defending the Second Amendment is figured down with murderers and other lowlifes. Where the First Amendment has its very own day and week, both near-holy national celebrations beyond reproach, anti-gunners would use the First Amendment to ridicule any equivalent event for the Second Amendment, like they did for a recent local attempt at the University of Iowa.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because anti-gun people put us down with dismissals like “just another dumb redneck with a gun.” We are told all over the Internet that we deserve to be in prison for being awful, heartless people; baby-killers and supporters of domestic terrorism, even. We don’t trust anti-gun people because even our own president says people like me are “bitter” and “cling to our guns and religion.” One need only go to any online comments section of any recent gun article in any of the major newspapers to see all this for themselves.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they seek to punish us for crimes we didn’t commit. We don’t trust anti-gunners because we know that the 100 million of us are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who love this country and our society as much as the next liberal. Yet when one previously convicted felon murders someone with a stolen gun five days after his release from prison, or things like the Newtown shooting happen, guns are blamed — and therefore lawful gun owners too, as there is guilt by association, apparently.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because when things like the Boston Marathon bombing happen, everyone correctly blames the bomber, not the bomb. Nobody is calling for bomb control because killing people with bombs is already illegal — just like killing people with guns is illegal too.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they’re fine with guns protecting the money in our banks, our politicians and our celebrities, but they’re against us using guns to protect ourselves, our families, or even our children in schools. Legislative trolls like Dianne Feinstein cry havoc about me protecting my life, while standing comfortably behind armed guards —and the .38 Special revolver she got a California carry permit for. We don’t trust anti-gunners because they tell us our lives aren’t important, or at least are less important than the life of some celebrity like Snooki, who can have all the armed guards her bank account can afford.
A dangerous servant and fearful master
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they completely ignore the fact that true conservatism is about, in part, the preservation of traditions and long-standing principles. We don’t trust anti-gunners because the American Revolution was kicked off by an attempt at gun control when the British marched to Concord to seize the colonists’ muskets and powder. Since the shot heard ‘round the world was fired on Lexington Green, the possession of a firearm has been the mark and symbol of a citizen, distinguishing them from a subject of a monarchy or tyrannical government. We don’t trust anti-gunners because they prefer the post-modern world where anything means anything, and they therefore don’t understand the power of or need for the preservation of traditions — or at least, ones of which they don’t personally approve.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because in a single breath they tell us that the Second Amendment is irrelevant today and should be repealed because semi-automatic weapons didn’t exist when the Bill of Rights was written, then turn around and say the First Amendment protects radio, television, movies, video games, the Internet, domain names, Facebook and Twitter. Carrying liberal logic on the Second Amendment through to the First Amendment, it would only cover the town crier, and hand-operated printing presses producing only books and newspapers, and nothing else. Even anything written with a No. 2 pencil or ballpoint pen would not be included. And those of you belonging to religions that formed after the 1790s? You’re screwed under liberal logic, too.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because, while liberals seek to expand government regulation and services — things that may not be bad or ill-intended on their own — they simultaneously try to curtail the Second Amendment. We don’t trust anti-gun people for this reason because history shows us that every genocide and democide is preceded by expansion of government power and gun control. We don’t trust anti-gunners because here in America, gun control is rooted in slavery and racism, with some of America’s modern anti-gun laws being direct copies of former Nazi laws that banned gun possession for Jews, blacks, gays and other “undesirables.”
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because anti-gunners tell us that the police and military are the only people who should have guns (which is a joke in itself), and that we need to give up our own guns and trust the government. We don’t trust anti-gunners because we know that hundreds of millions of people have been killed by their own governments in the last century, and not a single law seeking to ban the government from possessing guns has ever been submitted. Yet when but a few thousand people are killed by civilian criminals, tens of millions of American citizens like myself who did not commit any crimes at all are subjected to gun restrictions and personal persecution at the hands of emotional anti-gun bigots.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because anti-gunners insult us for our opposition to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (aka the “ATF”). We don’t trust anti-gunners because we know the ATF is hardly a law enforcement agency but is really a glorified tax collection agency that has abused, ruined the lives of, or murdered dozens of innocent gun owners through overzealous enforcement of gun-related tax and paperwork regulations. Just ask Louis Katona, Patty and Paul Mueller, John Lawmaster, Tuscon Police Lt. Mike Lara or any of the dozens of other victims of criminal ATF agents. Where was the ACLU for all that? And it doesn’t help that President Obama tried to appoint known anti-gunner Andrew Traver to be the ATF director. Check out the ATF’s “Good Ol’ Boys Roundup,” “Project Gunrunner” scandal and their loss of department guns for a little F-Troop entertainment sometime, too.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because they always bemoan the NRA, claiming the NRA is the source of all their anti-gun legislation problems. We don’t trust anti-gunners because it never occurs to them that perhaps it’s not the NRA per se that has the power, but the millions of members that belong to it, and the millions more Americans who otherwise support it and its mission. The NRA is probably the largest private organization in America; maybe that has something to do with its influence...? We also don’t trust anti-gunners because they’re too ignorant to understand that the NRA only represents a minority of us anyway.
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because while they were crying about the victims of 9/11 or Aurora or Sandy Hook, and thanking God they weren’t there, I and many other gun people like me were crying because we weren’t there, and asked God why we couldn’t have been. Many of us wish we were on one of the 9/11 airplanes, and not because we have a death wish but because we have a life wish. Because when we sit in silence and the world’s distractions fall away, the thought creeps in: Could I have made a difference?
Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because I and many of us are what they call “sheepdogs” and we’re proud of that. Yet anti-gunners make fun of us, calling us “cowboys” and “wannabes” for it. Wanting to save lives and being willing to sacrifice one’s own to do it used to be considered a virtue in this country. Anti-gunners think they have the moral outrage, but the moral outrage is ours. I have never expressed any of these feelings openly to anyone because they are private and deeply personal. Screw you for demeaning us and motivating me to speak them.
Do unto others
No, anti-gunners, we don’t trust you. And you’ve given us no reason to, either. We gun owners obey the law each and every day, same as you. We defend your nation, protect your communities, teach your children, take care of you when you’re sick, defend you when you go to court or prosecute those who do you wrong. We cook and serve your food, haul and deliver your goods, construct your homes, unclog your sewers, make your electricity, and build or fix your cars.
We are everywhere and all around you, and we exist with you peacefully. You are our friends, neighbors and countrymen, and we are these things proudly. We mourn with you when radicals crash airplanes into our buildings, when hurricanes destroy the lives of our people, or when the criminal and mentally ill kill dozens of our school children. We cheer with you when USA wins the gold medal, when terrorists like Bin Laden are brought to justice, or when we land a machine built by American hands on Mars.
So what more can we do to earn your trust, your love and your acceptance other than surrender our rights, bow down to you and take your non-stop attacks?
Anti-gunners label people like me “gun nuts” even though we're anything but nutty. Our enjoyment of firearms doesn’t define us; it is but a single value and right we enjoy and cherish, among many other rights and values we enjoy and cherish — including the very same ones anti-gunners do too — like the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights.
No, anti-gunners are absolutely right: There can be no rational debate on this issue anymore. Anti-gunners don’t understand guns, they don’t understand crime, they don’t understand American history and traditions, they don’t understand gun owners and don’t care to understand us, and they reduce people like me to a debasing label or a number they’ve got no clue about.
Anti-gunners reject our passions, our traditions, our knowledge, our experiences, our beliefs, our wisdom, our rights. Anti-gunners reject our very individuality by reducing us to labels, stereotypes and false or distorted statistics. Screw you for destroying that individuality and denying our humanity.
I am proudly one of many: a caring, friendly, loyal and loving human being. I am an educated and intelligent person, and while I may not be the best-looking guy, friends tell me I have a great personality (yay?). Perhaps more importantly though, I am a proud citizen of this country, and I’d perform any sacrifice for others so that they may not themselves have to sacrifice.
And unlike most anti-gunners, it seems, I have served my community and nation in various roles throughout the years — roles that, ironically, often entailed guns. Where I was once given a uniform and a gun, and trusted with it to ensure the safety and security of others, I am now a pariah among many of the very people I sacrificed for. I am sadly one of many here, too. What a terrible, hurtful insult and betrayal!
An anti-gunner reads a book though, or sees a documentary on TV — or perhaps worst of all, gets a degree — and suddenly they have the almighty authority and expertise to tell us how we ought to live our lives, replying to our objections to their onslaught by throwing pictures of dead kids in our faces and commanding us to shut up, because we’re just a bunch of stupid radicals and liberals alone know what’s best for America.
You anti-gunners out there will lead us down a path you do not want to go down. Your lack of care and understanding of those who abide by America’s oldest and deepest-rooted tradition will cause a social rift in this country of the likes we have never seen in America’s young history. Your lack of understanding chances causing a civil war — a civil war that will be far worse, more acrimonious, more prolonged and more deadly than the last one.
Anti-gunners may think the military could prevent such a thing — an argument often used against us pro-gunners — but with only a few million people in the military, and with the United States containing 300 million citizens spread across nearly four million square miles, many of whom are themselves veterans, well, military occupation of this country is impossible. It doesn’t help that most street cops (opposed to their politician bosses) are pro-gun, too. And what happens when the civilian industries that support the military stop producing the supplies our military needs?
The rift is already beginning. We must mend fences...Now.
Sleeping dragons and terrible resolve
I do not want to live through a war in my own backyard. I do not want our children to grow up in such an America, either. So anti-gunners: Please stop, I beg you. See the writing on the wall before it’s too late.
Yes, there is a terrible crime problem, and yes, that problem sometimes involves guns — but it is the perpetrator that is the problem, not the instrument. Yes, there is a great divide between liberals and conservatives on the issue of guns. And while I will be the very first person to criticize the Republican Party on its many and frequent mistakes, and even stand with my democratic friends in my disfavor of those things, on the gun issue it is not the conservatives who are mostly in the wrong this time.
We want the crime and killings to stop as much as you do, so to my fellow citizens who are anti-gun I say: So long as you deny our humanity, so long as you malign our dignity, intelligence and wisdom, so long as you seek to shade us under a cloud of evil that we do not partake in or support, so long as you tell us that because we own guns we are terrible people, you will prove yourselves absolutely right in that we won’t come to the table to talk with you.
And there will be no hope for resolution but through victory by force initiated by one side or the other, God help us, for we will not plow for those who didn’t beat their swords into plowshares.
Barry Snell is a senior in history and political science from Muscatine, Iowa.