Gun lovers disarm control advocatesYou know, the usual Reasoned Discourse™ we've come to expect from our opposition. Please, RTWT. (And yes, I do know about the Zogby poll.)
August 27, 2007
LAURA WASHINGTON Sun-Times columnist
It looks like the petulant, gun-toting NRA stalwarts have won the first round.
Last time, I used this space to ask where you stand on the issue of gun control. A torrent of e-mails later, it's clear: Gun-control advocates were outgunned, four to one.
The gun lovers were legion, robust and vitriolic. Many of you told me to go places where the sun doesn't shine and the temperature is way too hot. Yet, if you believe public opinion polls, that reaction is an anomaly. For instance, last April, ABC News polled adults nationwide, and asked: "Do you favor or oppose stricter gun control laws in this country?" Sixty-one percent favored them, 36 percent were opposed, and 3 percent were "unsure."
CBS News asked, "In general, do you feel the laws covering the sale of handguns should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?" Two-thirds of respondents nationwide opted for "more strict."
What is the problem with the advocates of gun control? Why are their voices not being heard? They are consistently cowed and overmatched. Gun violence is out of control, yet the gun lovers are ascendant.
You think we've got problems now? Just listen to Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential aspirant. At a recent Conservative Political Action Conference, he bragged, "I'm not a newcomer to the NRA," the New York Times reported on its political blog. "I was the first governor to have a conceal-carry permit, so don't mess with me."
Huckabee, mind you, recently made a flashy second-place showing in the Iowa presidential straw poll.
Do you want to be standing in line for gas, popcorn or a gallon of milk and find yourself next to someone who's packing heat? If he takes the White House, we can all go shopping for embossed leather holsters and pearl-handled pistols. I'll be looking to accessorize that with rhinestone-studded boots.
Instead of fisking her piece, I thought I'd drop her a nice email (and copy the paper's letters-to-the-editor while I was at it. What the hell, worth a shot.) Here's what I sent:
Ms. Washington:(Footnotes not in original).
I read with interest your op-ed in the online edition of the Sun-Times, and I had some comments to make. I hope that you will see this epistle in the volume of email I am sure has been forthcoming since your little jeremiad was published. Provoking an outpour of response was, I am sure, one of your intentions. Let me apologize in advance (though it is not really my place) for those who will shower you with invective and vitriol. We on the side of the right to arms have been fighting against a decades-long slow-motion hate crime,1 and it tends to wear on our patience. I understand such responses, but I cannot countenance them.
I am eternally fascinated by people who see themselves as "gun control advocates." I find them fascinating because they epitomize to me the phrase "cognitive dissonance." The fact that you write from Chicago, one of the epicenters of "common-sense gun control" only adds to my fascination.
Cognitive dissonance has been defined thus:
"When someone tries to use a strategy which is dictated by their ideology, and that strategy doesn't seem to work, then they are caught in something of a cognitive bind. If they acknowledge the failure of the strategy, then they would be forced to question their ideology. If questioning the ideology is unthinkable, then the only possible conclusion is that the strategy failed because it wasn't executed sufficiently well. They respond by turning up the power, rather than by considering alternatives. (This is sometimes referred to as 'escalation of failure'.)"2
Or, as I phrase it, "The philosophy cannot be wrong! Do it again, only harder!" We see this behavior in gun control advocates all the time. There's always a "loophole" to blame. Always a "next step." But "gun control" never improves crime rates, never reduces homicide rates. Never. Gun control advocates always - without exception - predict "blood in the streets" and "wild West shootouts" when "shall issue" concealed-carry legislation makes progress in state legislatures, but this never happens. Never. Somehow this data fails to make a dent in the "gun control" mindset. The strategy constantly fails, but the ideology cannot be questioned. Do it again, only harder!
Ms. Washington, you note in your piece: "(I)t seems the gun control advocates have been outmatched. Abigail Spangler acknowledges as much. Spangler is the founder of ProtestEasyGuns.com, a Virginia-based group that has been spearheading a slew of anti-gun protests around the nation.
"Gun control activists, she wrote me, 'are TRYING HARD but they are seriously affected in state after state by lack of funding and contributions." She recently met, she says, with the leader of Virginia's only gun control group. "He says they may not even be able to afford any lobbyist at all soon in Virginia!'"
Ms. Washington, the citizenry will offer an opinion to anyone. Opinions are free. But activism costs money - and the anti-gun side has shown that the hearts and wallets of the general public are not really into it. Ask any hundred random people on the street if they favor stricter gun laws and most likely the majority will say "yes." Ask them what the current gun laws are, and they won't be able to tell you. Gun rights activists can. The gun control side of the argument has been supported for decades with money from foundations, perhaps the largest contributor being the Joyce Foundation. Look them up. Those of us who believe in the right to arms are the true grass-rooters, and there are far more of us than the mere four million that the NRA claims as members. As someone once put it so pithily: "Poor Lefties; they've been playing on astroturf so long that they don't know grassroots even when fed a mouthful of divot." 3
Ms. Washington, our side is winning because we can see reality. We are not blinded to a flawed ideology. The ideology you operate under is expressed best as "Guns are baaad, mmmmkay?" This ideology springs from an inability or unwillingness to see a difference between "violent and predatory" and "violent but protective." You see only "violence" and violence offends you. From this inability you mistake the tools of violence to be the cause of violence, and from that error comes the desire to eradicate the tools. But this does not address the actual cause. In other words, "Gun control is what you do instead of something."4
When disaster strikes and civil society breaks down, when the government proves unmistakably that it cannot protect everyone, everywhere, all the time, then some people have an awakening - and they go to a gun store or a Wal-Mart and try to buy a gun.
And that's when they discover just what the gun laws really are.
And many become gun-rights activists because, as one woman put it when she found out she had to wait a week for a gun while being stalked by an ex-boyfriend, "I've been against guns and violence my whole life."5 She and those like her were responsible for that interminable week wait. She finally understood the difference between "violent and predatory" and "violent but protective," and wanted protection - which the law denied her for a full week.
Some of us are "gun lovers," Ms. Washington. I am, unashamedly. But many, many more simply want to be able to choose how to defend ourselves. That is a choice you wish to deny us out of a belief in a flawed ideology that you cannot bring yourselves to recognize.
I'd love to discuss this topic with you further, but I seriously doubt you've bothered to read this far.
Thank you for your attention, however much of it I was able to garner.
Somewhat to my surprise, she replied:
Dear Mr. Baker,The fact that she responded was surprising. The content was not.
Thanks for your comments on the gun control column. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.
Be consoled that you are winning the battle. And yes, I did read your entire letter.
Laura S. Washington
Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor
Contributing Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times
Senior Editor, In These Times
I sent her a short reply:
Dear Laura:But wait! There's more! Phelps had a beautiful response of his own that I hope he sent to her. I urge you not to miss it.
Thank you for your gracious reply, and for taking the time our of your obviously busy schedule to read my missive.
Water off a duck's back, eh?
My sincere condolences,
UPDATE: Commenter Kevin P. notes that he maintains (an EXCELLENT) Wikipedia page on the Joyce Foundation and their funding efforts. Way to go, Kevin!