“After Hurricane Sandy,” Wayne LaPierre writes in an essay for the Daily Caller called Stand and Fight, “we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.” Ah, yes—the hellish world of a gun-free South Brooklyn. That’s just one of the nightmare scenarios the NRA spokesman invokes in his call to gun owners to Stand and Fight.
Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat: LaPierre does not want gun owners to stand and fight with actual guns. In his closing paragraph he does urge gun owners to use them “for sport and lawful self-defense more than ever,” which is kind of a weird admonition. Let’s all resolve right now to use a gun for lawful self-defense this year. LaPierre also calls on current NRA supporters to “enlist new members in the ranks of our army of freedom,” but again, the National Rifle Association is not advocating armed conflict. It’s just time for gun owners to stand and fight in an army.
That kind of talk, coupled with LaPierre’s assertion that the four million members of the NRA are “the majority” in this country of 350 million, draws attention to an odd subtext in the the contemporary debate over gun control. The NRA is often called the most powerful lobby in America. It’s a questionable assertion, but they have done a remarkably good job of holding back laws that a majority of voters claim to support. Casual examination suggests that this small but powerful group of activists and industry interests wields outsized control over Congress on this issue.
It’s almost like the way a small group of people with guns can exercise outsized control over a larger group of unarmed people. This is the weird aspect of our national discussion of gun control that no one ever mentions, because to do so is both ugly and kind of crazy. Except it’s not. The fundamental themes in the NRA’s approach to gun control include:
- Powerful forces are arrayed against us. In this essay, LaPierre argues that the President, the courts, the “mainstream” media [scare quotes his] and billionaires George Soros and Michael Bloomberg are all looking for “the pretext to unleash a tsunami of gun control.”
- Our rights are in danger. LaPierre calls the NRA the largest civil rights group in America. Because of the Second Amendment, gun control is not just a political issue that people feel strongly about; it’s an existential threat to the American way.
- Catastrophe is imminent. I was going to cite one of LaPierre’s many sentences about Mexican drug gangs or the looters and rapists that inevitably come out after a tornado, but instead I’ll go with this one: “Before I tell you how the NRA and our members are going to Stand And Fight politically and in the courts, let’s acknowledge that all over this country, tens of millions of Americans are already preparing to Stand And Fight to protect their families and homes.”
- And we have guns (implied.)
Item (4) is the one that makes it all weird. The first three establish that gun control is somehow different from other political issues. Because it involves constitutional rights, it cannot be made subject to majority opinion or even acts of Congress; because the media is biased, you cannot trust the information you have about it; because society is about to collapse, gun control is not just a matter of how the United States governs itself, but a matter of survival for you and your family.
And you have a gun. The NRA has systematically argued that gun control is different from all other political issues, implying that it therefore need not abide by the same rules. Even if most other people disagree with you, La Pierre says, you are still right. And you have a gun.
Let us not forget that A) the NRA is an industry group whose sole ethic is to encourage the manufacture and sale of firearms, and B) the gun is a time-honored way to ignore modern systems of government. Yes, an armed populace is the best defense against tyranny, provided you no longer have education, the press or public conscience. An armed army is also the best instrument of tyranny, bar none. And all you have to do to turn a bunch of people with guns into an army is convince them they’re at war.
Wayne LaPierre is not trying to do that, though. He’s urging his constituents to take vigorous social and political action within the existing system. He would never attack the integrity of that system. And I quote:
Meanwhile, President Obama is leading this country to financial ruin, borrowing over a trillion dollars a year for phony “stimulus” spending and other payoffs for his political cronies. Nobody knows if or when the fiscal collapse will come, but if the country is broke, there likely won’t be enough money to pay for police protection. And the American people know it. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face—not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival.
You’d marshall facts and encourage debate to win a political argument, but you’d do anything to survive. And you have a gun.