“Guns Are a Right”: Yet, The Idea That A Citizenry Free To Bear Arms May Impose More Of A Threat To Freedom Than It Guarantees
We are at a point in the debate over gun control where these are dueling headlines: “At Least 71 Kids Have Been Killed With Guns Since Newtown” versus “A march on Washington with loaded rifles.” Given the status of gun control legislation in Congress, they’re equally infuriating, but one gives insight into why this debate is stalled.
Libertarian radio host Adam Kokesh is planning a gathering of gun owners and gun rights activist where they will…maybe it’s best to read him in his words. From the Facebook page:
On the morning of July 4, 2013, Independence Day, we will muster at the National Cemetery & at noon we will step off to march across the Memorial Bridge, down Independence Avenue, around the Capitol, the Supreme Court, & the White House, then peacefully return to Virginia across the Memorial Bridge. This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent. Should we meet physical resistance, we will peacefully turn back, having shown that free people are not welcome in Washington, & returning with the resolve that the politicians, bureaucrats, & enforcers of the federal government will not be welcome in the land of the free.
Currently, 3400+ people on Facebook have stated their intention of participating (an admittedly shoddy means by which to gauge likely attendance), but it makes me wonder if anyone involved is reading the same news that I am.
What’s telling is the language used to promote this action. On May 3, Kokesh tweeted: “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”
It’s not that he doesn’t know the horrors of guns, but that he views his right to own guns as integral to his freedom as an American. That’s the strain of thinking among pro-gun folks that’s difficult to defeat.
It’s why Glenn Beck doesn’t flinch when co-opting the message and symbolism of Martin Luther King Jr., to promote a pro-gun rights agenda. King’s nonviolent philosophy isn’t as important to Beck as the fact that his life represents a fight for freedom and Beck sees his crusade in the same light.
Here’s a thought this group may want to consider: the rights we have can, and do, have and will continue to change.
Slavery was once a right. Now-outdated notions of privacy and property allowed marital rape as a right. But the costs of those rights were the violation of others’ rights, and we reached a point as a society (through much debate, struggle, blood, sweat, tears and more) where we decided that protecting rights like slavery and marital rape was no longer worth the damage they inflicted. Alcohol was a right, then it wasn’t, and then it was again because prohibiting drinking caused more trouble than we were able to tolerate. However, when the right returned it did not go unchecked. This is how we negotiate rights in a democracy.
But on guns, we seem unwilling to even consider the idea that a citizenry free to bear arms may impose more of a threat to freedom than it guarantees. I understand why that is, as guns are tied into our national identity, our sense of masculinity, our desire for power, and it frightens some of us to think who we would be without that. And then more headlines read “13-year-old Florida boy shoots 6-year-old with handgun at home” and I just want us to pause to consider: Is the right to bear arms worth the deaths of our children?
We may well decide that it is, but a debate about guns that is afraid of that core question isn’t one worth having.
By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, May 10, 2013
The National Rifle Association wrapped up its annual convention over the weekend, and much of the gathering went as expected. The NRA presented its familiar faces (Wayne LaPierre), its familiar villains (President Obama, Michael Bloomberg), it’s friends who are struggling to remain relevant (Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin), and a whole bunch of Republicans who are likely to run for president (Santorum, Perry, Walker, and Jindal).
Of course, it also presented a sadly predictable ugly side. One vendor at the convention, for example, sold “life-sized” torsos made to look like the president, which “bleed when you shoot them.” Asked if the Obama likeness was intentional, the vendor told BuzzFeed, “Let’s just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.”
Looking ahead, one of the more notable developments for the organization is the election of James Porter, an Alabama attorney, as the group’s new president. LaPierre may be the public face and CEO of the right-wing group, but David Keene, the former chairman of the American Conservative Union, has served as NRA president.
And Porter will make Keene look moderate by comparison.
As shown by his “culture war” comment Friday and others in his past, Porter’s style is likely to be one that fans the flames of an emotionally combustible debate.
Porter has called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American” and the U.S. Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” On Friday, he repeated his call for training every U.S. citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.
That last point is of particular interest. Our friends at “All In with Chris Hayes” aired a Porter clip on Friday’s show that stood out for me: “Our most greatest [sic] charges that we can have today is to train the civilian in the use of the standard military firearm, so when they have to fight for their country, they are ready do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they are ready to do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithal and weapons to do it.”
Porter hasn’t specified who, exactly, the tyrants might be, but it sounds as if he wants American civilians to be trained to use military weapons in case they need to commit acts of violence against the United States.
Say hello to the new president of the NRA.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2013
“Feeding The Paranoid Right”: Republican Politicians And Conservative Media Bear Direct Responsibility For Vile Thinking On The Right
In today’s edition of Republicans Think the Darndest Things, a poll from Farleigh Dickinson University that came out the other day found, as polls regularly do, that Americans in general and conservatives in particular believe some nutty stuff. That’s not news, but there are some reasons to be genuinely concerned, which I’ll explain. The headline finding is this: Respondents were asked whether they agree with the statement, “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” Forty-four percent of Republicans—yes, almost half—said they agreed. We’ve been doing pretty well with this constitutional system for the last 224 years, but it’s just about time to junk it.
The right reaction to any shocking poll result is to say, “Let’s not make too much of this.” And I don’t think any but a tiny proportion of the people who would answer yes to that question would start in or participate in a revolution. Let’s take the gun owners who email me every time I write an article about guns, telling me I’m an ignorant unmanly Northeastern elitist liberty-hating girly-man wimp (yeah, they’re heavy on the accusations of insufficient manliness; this is what psychologists call “projection”). If their neighbor came over and said, “Enough is enough; I’m going down to the police station to kill some cops—you know, for liberty. Are you coming?”, how many of them would say yes? Not very many.
Nevertheless, the fact that so many people are willing to even entertain the idea is appalling, and we have to put the responsibility where it belongs. We don’t know for sure if you would have gotten a different result had you asked this question before, say, January of 2009 (to pick a random date), because no one was asking. But Ed Kilgore has the appropriate reaction:
But our main target ought to be the politicians and pundits and bloggers that walk the revolutionary rhetorical road because it’s “entertaining” or it makes them feel all macho (like Grover Norquist swaggering around Washington with a “I’d rather be killing commies” button after one of his trips to Angola in the 1980s), or it’s just useful to have an audience or a political base mobilized to a state of near-violence by images of fire and smoke and iron and blood.
As I’ve observed on many occasions, you can only imagine how these self-appointed guardians of liberty would feel if casual talk of “armed revolution” became widespread on the left or among those people. There should not, cannot, be a double standard on this issue.
So please join me in calling on conservatives to cut this crap out and separate themselves from those who believe in vindicating the “original constitution” or defending their property rights or exalting their God or protecting the unborn via armed revolution. If William F. Buckley could “excommunicate” Robert Welch and the John Birch Society from the conservative movement back in the 1960s, today’s leaders on the Right can certainly do the same to those who not only share many of that Society’s views, but are willing to talking about implementing them by killing cops and soldiers.
As a general matter, I don’t think it’s necessary to demand that politicians repudiate every crazy thing said by anyone who might agree with them on anything.1 But Ed is absolutely right: Republican politicians and conservative media figures bear direct responsibility for the rise of this vile strain of thinking on the right. They cultivate it, they encourage it, they give it aid and comfort every single day.
For instance, the NRA is having its annual convention in Houston as we speak. Yesterday, a man went into the Houston airport with an AR-15 and a handgun, fired into the air, was fired upon by law enforcement officials, and then shot himself. Glenn Beck then went on his program and told his viewers that there is “a very good chance” that the episode was engineered by the “uber left,” whatever that means, and compared it to the Reichstag fire. In other words, Beck is encouraging people to think that just like Hitler and the Nazis, Barack Obama is about to use an episode like that as a pretext for the imposition of some kind of horrifically oppressive regime. Beck is a featured speaker at the NRA convention, along with a passel of well-known Republican politicians like Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum. How many of them will condemn him? None, of course.
They won’t, not only because most of the people at the convention probably agree with Beck, but because what Beck says is only a tiny step or two toward the fringe from what they say all the time. Is there a prominent Republican politician who hasn’t at some point in the last four years told people that Barack Obama is a tyrant, or that our liberties are being stripped away, that Obama wants to kill your grandma with his death panels, or that America is inches from ceasing to be what it has been for two centuries? Is there a prominent Republican politician who hasn’t done his or her part to feed the paranoid, violent fantasies of the extreme right? If confronted, they’d no doubt say, “Oh, well I never actually said people should forget about democracy and start killing cops and soldiers in an attempt to overthrow the government. That’s not what I meant at all when I talked about ‘tyranny’ and ‘oppression’ and that stuff.” But that’s exactly what their supporters heard, and they damn well know it. And they ought to be held to account.
1For some reason, not everyone gets asked to do this in equal measure. For instance, in Barack Obama’s first appearance on Meet the Press in 2006, Tim Russert confronted the Senate candidate with some inflammatory things Harry Belafonte had said about George W. Bush. Now what was the connection between Belafonte and Obama? I can’t think what it might have been.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 3, 2013
Out-of-control federal government. An immediate and immense Muslim threat. Gun grabbing, national registries and eventual mass confiscations. Tyranny.
The politics of the political right have become the politics of paranoia.
According to too many of them, the country is collapsing, and the government is not to be trusted. The circle of safety is contracting. You must arm yourselves to defend your own.
It is no wonder, then, that in this environment, a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday found that while 47 percent of Americans were angry or disappointed that new gun control legislation in the Senate (including the enormously popular background-checks provision) had failed to pass, 39 percent were very happy or relieved. Fifty-one percent of Republicans had those sentiments, compared with 22 percent of Democrats.
This underscores just how frightened of the government far-right Republicans are.
A Quinnipiac University poll this month found that 91 percent of Americans (including 88 percent of Republicans) said that they supported background checks for all gun buyers. But that same poll found that 61 percent of Republicans worried that if there were background checks for all gun purchases, the government would use that information in the future to confiscate legally owned guns.
Furthermore, a January Pew Research Center report found that for the first time since the question was asked in 1995, most Americans now believe that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.
According to the report:
“The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76 percent of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54 percent describe the government as a ‘major’ threat.”
The report continued:
“By comparison, there has been little change in opinions among Democrats; 38 percent say the government poses a threat to personal rights and freedoms and just 16 percent view it as a major threat.”
Incidentally, 62 percent of those who had a gun in their home thought the government posed a threat, as opposed to 45 percent of those without a gun in the home.
In January, the right-wing Web site World Net Daily, writing about a poll the site conducted with the consulting firm Wenzel Strategies, bemoaned:
“The seeds of a tyrannical government are present in the United States, with a citizenry happy with a heavily armed law enforcement presence and a disbelief that their government could do anything that would make them want to revolt, according to a new poll.” The poll revealed “widespread belief” that the Second Amendment “really is for self-protection and hunting, not for ‘fighting back against a tyrannical government.’”
Fritz Wenzel of the consulting firm is quoted as saying that the poll’s finding “demonstrates the downside of more than 230 years of government stability. This survey shows it is hard for many Americans to think of a situation in which their government would need to be overthrown. Of course, the last time there was a serious fight for the future of the federal government, in the Civil War, Washington won.”
And that’s just the tip of it. Last month, Glenn Beck described the makeup of what he believed was the coming “New World Order.” It did not bode well for America.
“I think you might even have some Nazi influence in the United States, unfortunately, because we’ve had it before. And it will happen there and there, I think,” Beck said, placing dots over the Northwest and the Northeast on a map.
Discussing the Muslim Brotherhood’s “influence,” Beck said:
“I think there’s going to be a slight influence in South America and Mexico and in the United States. I think it is going to be more significant than anyone imagines, and I believe that you are also then going to be co-ruled by a thug-ocracy of this part of the world. And I think it’s going to be, at least in our case, I think it’s going to be China. China will be the balance of our power. They will use Muslim, um, Islam as the real enforcers that they will then help us and whoever is in power in our country. We will be ruled by an American, but it will be a technocrat that will answer to China. And, they will stomp things out and use Islam as much as they have to, to get rid of anyone who’s standing up, I think.”
And Beck delivered this prattle in a suit jacket, not a straitjacket.
This is the constant stream of desperate drivel that has fostered a climate of fear on the far right that makes common-sense consensus nearly impossible.
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 24, 2013
Prefacing his comments by insisting he knows “how foreign affairs work,” Glenn Beck on April 18 announced that his website, The Blaze, was breaking news about the Boston Marathon bombing: A Saudi national student on a student visa and was “absolutely involved” in the Patriot’s Day blast was being deported by the U.S. government for security reasons.
Beck went further, claiming the student, or “dirt bag,” as the host described him, was “possibly the ringleader” in the bombing that killed three people and injured more than one hundred, and the government was deliberately covering it up.
Beck urged listeners to spread the breaking news via Twitter and Facebook because, he warned, the mainstream media would ignore the revelation. But the right-wing media would pick up the slack. Fox News’ Sean Hannity helped launch the story on April 17 and continued to fan it yesterday, claiming the student had previously “been involved with a terrorist or terror activity,” while a swarm of right-wing sites pushed the paranoid tale.
By making his wild allegations, Beck was asking listeners to ignore the fact that law enforcement officials had previously, and repeatedly, denied earlier right-wing media claims that the Saudi student had been taken into “custody,” or was in any way responsible for the blast.
Indeed, officials at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security both soundly denied the story, explaining that there were two different Saudi nationals: one recovering in a Boston hospital who had witnessed and been injured in the explosions but was not a suspect, and another in ICE custody who was unrelated to the bombing investigation. Beck responded by calling for President Obama to be impeached for what he considered the sprawling government cover-up that now surrounded the student, Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda.
So yeah, it was that kind of week for the right-wing media. It was a debacle.
In the same week that Pulitzer prizes were announced honoring the finest in American journalism, many in the far-right media worked to set news standards in mindless, awful behavior in the wake of the Boston attack.
Faced with covering the most important American terror news story in a decade, too many players opted to just make stuff up. Prompting witch hunts, they cast innocents as would-be killers and then couldn’t be bothered with apologies.
It was a memorable week in which the conservative media’s highest profile newspaper, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, seemed committed to getting as many stories wrong about the Boston attack as possible.
The hapless Post somehow managed to completely botch the simplest Journalism 101 fact of how many people were killed in the Patriot’s Day attack. But hey, according to beleaguered Post editor Col Allan the Post tried its best and that’s all that really matters. (It would’ve taken a “crystal ball” to get the story right, Allan now complains.) So no, there doesn’t appear to be much introspection unfolding inside Murdoch’s daily; a big-city tabloid that managed to get wrong, for days, a breaking crime story.
Yes, CNN this week was forced to concede mistakes when it reported sources had informed the news channel that arrests had been made in the case. But CNN quickly, and publicly, corrected the errors. Those unfortunate miscues happen when reporters let a be-first mindset trump the more important be-right standard. What we saw from portions of the far-right press this week however, was completely different; they almost couldn’t have gotten more stories if they had tried.
Of course Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham used the terror attacks to push her partisan agenda about immigration reform. (This, before she knew anything about the suspects.) Of course chronic Obama critics like Fox News host Oliver North attacked the president for traveling to Boston to attend a prayer service for the terror victims; to try to help comfort the rattled city. And of course Fox News couldn’t wait more than five minutes after that prayer service concluded before inviting Stephen Hayes on to criticize Obama for how he’d handled the issue of gun legislation.
That’s what anti-Obama programming looks like and Fox News saw little reason to alter that chronically caustic approach this week.
What was truly stunning though, as highlighted by irresponsible rants about the Saudi student, was the aggressive push by key conservative media players to simply concoct stories about the breaking news event.
Back to Beck:
I believe this is possibly the ringleader, this guy is absolutely involved, and we are flying this dirt bag out of the country because he has connections and we are covering up.
Keep in mind, this was after unethical right-wing bloggers had already harassed the Saudi bombing victim online, publishing his name, home address, and what they claimed were Facebook pictures of the 20-year-old Saudi national student. The same student police had cleared of any implication in the blast. (His only crime this week appeared to be his Saudi origin.)
And who led the early crusade against the bomb victim? Murdoch’s New York Post, which erroneously reported he was a “suspect” who had been taken “into custody.”
The same Post, of course, which then made headlines by irresponsibly splashing on its front page a photo of two local men at the marathon finish line, one a high school runner, and putting them under the headline “Bag Men,” strongly suggesting they were involved with the terror attack. They were not. But that didn’t stop ethically-challenged blogger Jim Hoft from referring to them six times in one report as “suspects” in the deadly blast.
“Grossly irresponsible” and “egregious” were some of the descriptions media pro’s used to explain the Post’s shocking performance this week. As one journalism professor told Media Matters, “It does appear that the Post, there is something crazy going on there.”
Trust me, it’s not just the Post.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, April 19, 2013