Settle in for another überpost.
Background: Apparently I'm a relative newbie to all of this "rights" stuff. I've only been blogging for about five years, though I was on the internet in mosh pits like talk.politics.guns and DemocraticUnderground's gun dungeon for a bit before that. Over the last thirteen or fourteen years I've spent my copious (*cough*) spare time educating myself on history, government, law, philosophy, politics, firearms, reloading, ballistics, media and psychology, just to name a few subjects. I've read case law, textbooks and more titles with colons in them than you can shake a stick at;
For the Defense of Themselves and the State: The Original Intent and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep and Bear ArmsJust to name a (damned) few, along with a bunch more without the colons. I've read newspaper editorials and "straight news" that ought to have been on editorial pages. I've read blogs, Livejournals, and Bulletin Boards.
Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime, and Violence in America
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Honor: A History
Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different
Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage
Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty
Shooters: Myths and Realities of America's Gun Cultures
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
And I've thought. A lot.
And I've written. A lot.
I grew up the son of parents from Virginia coal country, Appalachian Scots-Irish whose families knew the meaning of "poor." But they got out, spent at least some time in college, my father joined the Air Force and received electronics training, and they built the American Dream - a home, two cars, three kids. They put two of us through college and the third through technical school, and have retired comfortably. I married into instant family, and have a step-daughter and two grandkids, a home and three cars (one about to go up for sale.) I live comfortably, am paid well enough to indulge in an expensive hobby, and have time enough to indulge in this one.
When in 1993 I met the woman who would later become my wife, I was exposed for the first time to someone who only knew about guns and gun owners what she saw on TV or read in the media. Her father owned firearms, but they stayed, literally, in the closet. He, like a lot of gun owners, didn't hunt, didn't shoot. His guns just collected dust.
The day we met I had spent the afternoon at the property of family friends with the rest of my family, blasting away at the desert with our combined arsenal; rifles, pistols, and shotguns. I told her up front that I was a gunny, just in case it was going to be a problem.
The discussion was . . . interesting, to say the least.
Prior to that point I looked at what the "gun control" groups said, and what our legislatures were doing and thought "You idiots. That'll never work." I saw the anti-gun movement as a "feel good" effort on the part of misled do-gooders, and never really considered the path being taken. But the more I studied, the more pissed off I got. It became apparent to me what the endgame was, and what was being perpetrated to accomplish it. That realization was crystallized by a quote from leftist Alan Dershowitz:
Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a public safety hazard, don't see the danger in the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like.And it wasn't just the gun-banners and the Second Amendment. The rest of the Bill of Rights was under attack as well. "For the Chilllllldren." For "Public Safety." For "The War on (some) Drugs." For "The War on Poverty." For (insert your favorite cause here.)
In 1994 Congress passed and Clinton signed the "
But what to do?
For one thing, I joined the NRA. I'd always seen them as too compromising, but I had to admit that no matter what they were the 800lb. gorilla (mostly) on our side. I joined the GOA as well. And I kept reading.
And you know the most important thing I learned? There are four groups of people out there. There are the (for want of a better term) dedicated gun-haters. There are the (for want of a better term) dedicated gun-lovers. There are those who understand something is going on, but aren't deeply interested. And there are the deeply uninterested.
You know what else I learned? Only one of those groups can be reasoned with.
REASON being the operative word here.
I got online about 1996 (AOHell), a complete newbie to the intertubes. My education on the four personality types came from spending time at talk.politics.guns and other usenet sites where I was exposed for the first time to trolls and psychotics of all stripes. But there were resources, and there were eloquent voices, and there was humor. I learned some other things. Humor works. Stridency tends to be off-putting. Frothing-at-the-mouth lends itself to ridicule. And facts have a power all their own.
Another thing I learned: The internet bypasses the traditional gatekeepers of information, the mass-media.
Another thing: The internet allows those of like mind to find each other.
And another: This is not always a good thing.
And, for the purposes of this essay, one final thing: Not enough people use the internet to gather or even vet the information they get daily.
As I said, I spent some time wandering around the interweb, learning. I finally found the gunboards and spent a lot of time there, mingling with those of like mind. I found AR15.com first because of the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban (that wasn't), because I was determined to purchase an AR15 if for no other reason than "the ban." If the powers-that-be didn't want me to have one, that was reason enough to buy. Where better to learn about them than from the site with 10,000+ active members? I have had, and continue to have, a lot of fun there, but even among those of like mind, all is not rainbow-hued, marshmallow-pooping unicorns. There's a lot of divisiveness over certain topics; censorship, law-enforcement, the courts, just to name a few. And these people are our allies.
Through ARFCOM I found DemocraticUnderground.com. Talk about a target-rich environment! By this time I was developing my skills at writing, having spent time at the late, lamented ThemeStream site. DU offered a place where I could - directly - engage the enemy. But! DU was monitored and moderated. Arguments there would have to be made calmly, factually, and without a hint of uncalled-for insult.
I started posting there in December of 2001. I lasted until early September of 2002, and 1819 posts, almost all in the "Justice/Public Safety" forum, otherwise known as "the gun dungeon," before being quite ceremoniously ejected by none other than the site founder, Skinner, for something I'd written at Themestream that had been picked up and republished by keepandbeararms.com.
Someone went to more than a little trouble to get rid of me.
I archived some of the threads from DU. Let me quote some of the commentary from just before I was kicked off:
I'm fully aware the khabker is an outstanding poster here on this forum and throughout the rest of DU. - "curse10" 8/28/02Paladin was my "loyal opposition" at DU. He/she/it wasn't a whacked-out anti, but he was definitely in favor of gun control. Here is my response to him:
But the problem I as I see it.(sic) Is that Khbaker has already obliterated all the 'facts' and the 'numbers' from the anti side, and all they have left is emotion. Sometimes I will admit I get the picture of a few of the posters clinging to a cliff face with nothing left, the only thing keeping them from falling into the 'abyss' is their emotions. - "AdamSelenne", same thread
Know when I realized that the pro-gun side's claim of non-emotionalism was a crock of shit? It was when I received my first death threat from some upstanding citizen on a gun thread over at Lucianne.com, the first of several. That abyss you refer to is an equal opportunity crevice; people on both sides of the issue routinely fall into it.
I'm here to be amused, not to persuade. On that basis, Justice/Public Safety is worthwhile to me. - "Paladin" same thread.
One difference, Paladin, that Adam pointed out and you skipped merrily over - (yes, indeed there is emotionalism on both sides and you are not alone in being victim to it, BUT) the cold, hard facts are on my side. All that's left to your side is clinging to the cliff wall. "I believe this. My mind is made up. Even if you're right, you're wrong."A couple of days earlier someone linked to Oleg Volk's A Human Right site. Paladin and I had a short exchange in that thread, too. Here's a taste:
I'll grant that there are any number of people on my side who cannot substantiate the gun-rights side of the argument, and who resort to the same emotional position. That just means they're ignorant, too.
I'm NOT here to be amused (though it is vastly entertaining at times.) I AM here to persuade. And I'm here to do it with facts and reason and logic and philosophy. Something you don't see much in here, I think you'd admit.
When you boil it down to the basics, the argument over gun control is one not of "public safety," but philosophy. Politics is applied philosophy. That's the main thing I've learned in the time I have spent in here. I came to this site thinking that facts and historical evidence would be enough, but that's not the case, obviously. It's a philosophical argument. I understand the primary philosophy behind the desire for gun control. I want others to understand the philosophy behind the Second Amendment and the right to arms, not to mention the rest of the Bill of Rights.
The argument doesn't need to be more polite and refined. It needs to be redefined.
Paladin: I don't think you want to open up the whole emotional wellbeing issue, KH. Considering the kind of comments that turn up here from Gun Huggers on a regular basis, I don't think a cautious, intelligent advocate such as yourself can afford to.......See? The discussion hasn't changed much in six years. Paladin responded:
Me: I will readily admit (and have, I believe) that we are often our own worst enemies. The number of "people with less than 100 posts" who come in here and hurl invective certainly make points for your side of the argument. But have you spent any time in the talk.politics.guns newsgroup? Your side is abundantly represented by the slavering gun-phobic there. I don't bother with it because it is essentially a flame-fest of the far fringes attacking each other through the anonymity of the internet.
You know why I like this forum so much? Because it represents a good cross-section of the gun-control demographic - the people who "believe in gun control" but who aren't really involved in it, and who don't really think about it. The moderators do a good job of keeping at least the gun freaks out of the board. Instead, the groups represented are the moderates, and the gun haters. The moderates I think I can reach. The gun haters make excellent illustrative examples. They generally sound so reasonable until you expose them. The gun freaks? Yes, they frighten John Q. Public. Hell, I find them a bit discomforting. I find skinheads and the KKK discomforting too, but that's insufficient reason for a general restriction of free speech and search-and-seizure rights.
I think I represent something you don't see a lot - the reasoned, logical fanatic (as I defined it to CO Liberal in another thread, "fanatic: won't change the subject, and won't shut up.") Or, the "cautious, intelligent advocate" as you put it.
You want to discuss emotional wellbeing? Hell, I'm up for it.
Cut Yourself Some SlackI replied:
This issue needs a lot more "advocates" and a lot fewer "fanatics," on both sides.
I think you fit in the "advocate" category. As I've said before, I also think you fit in the "pain in the ass" category, but you've exhibited your emotional wellbeing by considering that a compliment....
I LIKE being a PITABut the key comment there was from a site moderator:
It's tough to ignore a nagging pain.
And I am, most certainly, an advocate. But, as CO Liberal and I have discussed, I'm also inflexible. I have a position I've taken after research and due consideration, and I'm not movable on that position. So, my advocacy is to get others to consider that position, and accept it. If being a PITA is required (and it seems to be,) that's what I do. Like I said, I won't change the subject, and I won't shut up.
Dear PITA:I was booted off DU on September 4. Apparently making DU denizens think, especially about gun control, is verboten.
Don't shut up. I wildly disagree with most of your positions on this subject, but you are a damn fine advocate. And you make me think. And that is important. - Cappurr (9681 posts), 8/27/02
I learned a lot in DU. I got to see the fanatics and the undecideds up close and personal. Did I change any minds? I'd like to think so. Did I weaken any strongly held opinions? I can only hope. I spent a little over eight months there, and avoided being one of the verbal bomb-throwers who lasted less than 100 posts.
This whole recent brouhaha started over a letter to the editor of a local newspaper in Madison Wisconsin, a verbal hand-grenade penned by Mike Vanderboegh. Consider the fact that people all over the country have read that letter through the magic of the internet.
Then, Sunday two weeks ago, there was another rampage killing by someone who decided that he needed to commit suicide by cop and be accompanied to Valhalla by a bunch of Unitarian Universalists. I wrote three pieces concerning Mr. Vanderboegh that week, two before and one after the church shooting; Frightening the White People, The Four Boxes, and finally The Threshold of Outrage. Mr. Vanderboegh took extreme exception to the last piece. So did a couple of others. Apparently my observation that Mr. Vanderboegh's verbal threat,
There are some of us "cold dead hands" types, perhaps 3 percent of gun owners, who would kill anyone who tried to further restrict our God-given liberty.was a claim of a "threshold of outrage" generally indistinguishable to the general public from that of a man who decided that his inability to get a job worthy of his talents was due to the policies of "liberals" made me somehow "not a patriot," or in Mr. Vanderboegh's parlance, a "cheese dick."
I've read quite a bit of Mr. Vanderboegh's writing recently. I'm especially enjoying his ongoing novel Absolved. I understand his anger, frustration, and especially his despair. The system is broken, it appears irretrievable, and things are going to hell in the proverbial handbasket.
But Mr. Vanderboegh has convinced himself (or is working himself up to it) that if a mere 3% of the gun-owning population rises up in righteousness, supported by another 10% of the population, we can defeat our collectivist enemy and restore our lost Constitution.
He is not alone in that belief.
It is a beautiful one.
Unless you look too closely at it.
Now, I'm NOT ACCUSING VANDERBOEGH OF BEING ANOTHER TIMOTHY McVEIGH HERE, but McVeigh apparently believed that there was a population ready to rise up against the Federal government, too, when he set off the bomb that destroyed the Oklahoma City Federal building. He was wrong.
Vanderboegh has written in comments here:
For the purposes of my work, the "people" being discussed are rogue federal agents who operate contrary to the law and the Constitution yet under the color of that law. They are the lawbreakers, not me or mine. The "arbitrary line" that is being crossed is my front door, my property and my liberty. If you don't have an "arbitrary line" at your front door, you must have homeless folks drifting in and out all the time. How do you keep food in your refrigerator?Since 2003 I've written something like 25 posts and 25,000 words on the topic of "the RESET button." Here's where we differ.
Guys, guys, you don't need to COME to my aid. Just follow Bob Wright's advice to the FBI SAC of New Mexico when he asked him back in the 90s if Wright and his boys would really come to the aid of another Waco type situation in another state: "Why would I want to do that? There's plenty of you federal sonsabitches around here." ;-) Vanderboegh III And as another friend of mine observed the other day, "Freedom fighters fight."
I don't think Vanderboegh's 3% is out there. I think the Great New Orleans Gun Grab illustrates it. Nobody shot at a cop or a National Guardsman. Nobody jumped into a car and headed for New Orleans armed to the teeth. Like McVeigh's destruction of the Murrah building, as a fuse to light the revolution New Orleans was a dud.
We read here on the internet, on an almost daily basis, of events where government actors abuse their powers in egregious ways against individuals - and no one's "threshold of outrage" is exceeded. In fact, when someones threshold is exceeded, it's a rare, newsworthy event! Man bites dog! The most recent example of egregious misbehavior by government was illustrated by David Codrea just today. This was gun confiscation. Apparently Gabriel Razzano's threshold of outrage wasn't exceeded. Is he still a patriot? Where's the 3% on this? Why aren't we all saddling up?
I have decided for myself, in agreement with Mr. Vanderboegh, that "The 'arbitrary line' that is being crossed is my front door, my property and my liberty." That's my "threshold of outrage."
It isn't, necessarily, your front door, property, or liberty.
There are, reportedly, about 80 million people in this country who own firearms. Three percent of that population is 2.4 million, less than the advertised membership of the NRA. How many NRA members do you think belong to the 3%? Much less the 10%?
And that's what needs to change.
Billy Beck has ranted on at length that there is no philosophy behind the gun-rights/individual rights movement. He's absolutely right. Our .gov indoctrination mills, run largely by people in the embrace of the beautiful idea of socialism don't teach it. Multiple generations, at this point, have never really been exposed to a coherent philosophy of individualism and liberty. I've commented on that before, too:
In a comment to Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothin' Left to Lose, Billy Beck said:Readers of this blog know I like to quote the words of others. When I find something stated better than I can do it, I use those words. Here are two very important quotes:
At the root, I don't understand how and why individuals don't "lead" themselves.But he had already answered his own question:
(Y)ou people are talking about blowing the place up, whether you know it or not. That's the only way it can go, as things are now, because there is no philosophy at the bottom of what you're talking about.No philosophy.
Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy. - Franz KafkaOne of the books I mentioned above is Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different by Gordon Wood. What made them different is that they generally shared one common philosophy, that of John Locke, and they cared deeply about how they would be seen by future generations.
Revolution is an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. - Ambrose Bierce
Pick a crowd of 100 people at random. How many would know who John Locke was? How many know the source of the phrase "Life, liberty, property"?
Now, pick a crowd of 100 gun owners. Same question.
The objection to Vanderboegh's letter to the editor (for most, certainly not all) was that he risks alienating possible allies.
We need allies. I've mentioned before that my favorite novel is Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The thing that struck me the most about it when I first read it as an adolescent was the fact that, as soon as the protagonists had decided that revolution was necessary, they went about making conditions for the general populace worse. They had to make the government act more intrusively, more egregiously, more aggressively. They had to make the population hate the government that was oppressing them, because without popular support, the revolution would fail.
The second thing that struck me was the "constitutional convention" that occurred after the hated Lunar Authority was defeated. No underlying philosophy. Everybody wanted everything for free. As the main protagonist put it,
Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws - always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up.And that's why revolutions almost always fail to make things better.
I said in my 2003 post Pressing the "RESET" Button (echoing Vin Suprynowicz's The Ballad of Carl Drega without knowing it):
I don't think you're going to see a widespread armed uprising. What you're going to see is individuals and small groups who've simply had enough arming and striking - and probably dying in the process. If you've read John Ross's Unintended Consequences you'll get the idea, but I don't expect anything like the level of response he writes of. Not enough people are pissed off enough to do that.Today "Concerned American" wrote a post at Western Rifle Shooter's Association that began as a comment to "The Threshold of Outrage."
Of course the media will spin it as "lone deranged gun-nuts" or "anti-government militias," but if you pay attention you'll note an increase in the numbers over time.
Someone once wrote; "If you're not boiling mad, you've not been paying attention."
Mencken wrote: "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."
He claims that anarchy is here, and that (I think) the Uprising Is Upon Us. Yet he admits:
It's unpleasant in the extreme to face, but the pro-freedom, pro-individual, pro-principles segment of the American populace is a decided (and frankly, despised) minority.Our job, then, is not to "Frighten the White People," it's to make them MAD. It's to make them "pro-freedom, pro-individual, pro-principles." It's to educate them.
It's to MAKE THEM THINK.
And hope we haven't waited too long.
UPDATE: Robb Allen responds.