Gospel of the Gun: Why the Fight for Gun Control will be Harder than We Think
We’ve all seen the stickers. Driving along road and our eyes are drawn out of sheer boredom as we wait for the light to change.
“When They Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands”
“Come and Take It!”
“Pro Life, Pro God, Pro Gun”
Simultaneously incredulous and affronted we roll our eyes or even give a slight shake of the head. For those of us on the Control side of the debate we think about our arguments, and the reality that either gets twisted by the anti-regulatory forces, or merely dismissed out of hand.
We think about the statistics.
–The US has the highest rate of gun-related homicide in the industrialized world. Over 30,000 fatalities each year. 19.5 times higher than other high income countries.
Then there’s the inevitable counter-propagandistic platitudes:
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
“It’s just an instrument, a tool. People are killed from knives and cars and we’re not trying to ban them.”
“Hitler’s first step was to take away people’s firearms.”
“Criminals will still have guns. They don’t follow the laws.”
We get suckered into debating meaningless semantics making no headway and end up frustrated for our efforts.
I’ve never had a rational debate about gun control, either online or in person. Most people simply haven’t done research, and guns as a priori to the American consciousness as… well there really isn’t anything else that comes close, not even Christianity. The vitriol is on the same level as the abortion issue. You’re either Pro-Life, or Pro-Choice, and each side’s adherents will tell you, in no uncertain terms, there is no middle ground. However the raw emotion, the unwavering, unquestioning support on the Pro-Gun side borders on religious fervor. There is no questioning of scripture, and if you do you’re cast out from the flock.
Just ask Dick Metcalf. I had never heard of Dick Metcalf until I read an article by Ravi Somaiya in The New York Times. Formerly a preeminent columnist for Guns & Ammo Mr. Metcalf had the temerity to suggest that the 2nd Amendment wasn’t a Biblical Commandment, and therefore not sacrosanct.
“In late October, Mr. Metcalf wrote a column that the magazine titled “Let’s Talk Limits,” which debated gun laws. ‘The fact is,’ wrote Mr. Metcalf, who has taught history at Cornell and Yale, ‘all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.’
The backlash was swift, and fierce. Readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions. Death threats poured in by email. His television program was pulled from the air.
Just days after the column appeared, Mr. Metcalf said, his editor called to tell him that two major gun manufacturers had said ‘in no uncertain terms’ that they could no longer do business with InterMedia Outdoors, the company that publishes Guns & Ammo and co-produces his TV show, if he continued to work there. He was let go immediately.”
Granted Guns & Ammo is basically a church bulletin for the 2nd Amendment crowd, but it illustrates just how contentious even talking about regulation of the firearm industry is. If a man who up until October 2013 spent his career writing for “dozens of gun magazines” and has taught history at two prestigious universities can be summarily dismissed for even suggesting that regulation isn’t a new, or even illegal thing than gun control advocates have a long, hard fight on their hands.
Metcalf’s article doesn’t call for repeal of the 2nd Amendment, or even strict control. It merely points out that regulation of constitutional rights is a thing, and will always be a thing. He didn’t advocate a position, but merely discussed factual, verifiable reality which is something that 2nd amendment advocates will have to deal with at some point. Whenever a movement’s continued existence is predicated on the willful denial of evidence, of fact-based reality that existence is on life-support. It’s akin to a man eating the “Quadruple Bypass Burger” with a side of “Flatliner Fries” at the “Heart Attack Grill” and dismissing the chest pains while he waits on the bus. Reality always comes back to collect on its tab.
Conservatism is ultimately a losing proposition. Eventually every conservative movement loses out in America because its essential nature is a denial of change, to conserve the status quo. There are not many Pro-Slavery adherents, or people against Women’s Suffrage. We lump into the same category as people who think the world is flat, and for good reason. Firing Dick Metcalf was Guns & Ammo’s choice. They have every right to do so, but they’re doing their readers a disservice. Hearing uncomfortable truths is how we refine ourselves, and make our arguments better. It’s the thing that allows for change, without which we rob ourselves of a crucial aspect of our own humanity: the ability to adapt and improve.
All hope isn’t lost for Mr. Metcalf. Maybe Sarah Palin will take up defending Mr. Metcalf’s First Amendment Rights like she did with Phil Robertson. Maybe this time she’ll actually read his article.