I think it’s time we stop ignoring the 800lb angry transvestite in the room. And I use that analogy purposefully. There is a lot of unnecessary drama going on here right now. But if we’re going to talk, then we must talk honestly and openly. And if we are going to accomplish anything with gun control, we must also talk rationally. And if we’re going to talk rationally we will need some history. Nothing erupts wholly new upon us. It came from somewhere. Popular opinions on guns are just another example. So, let’s bust out our propeller beanies and take a trip in our time machine back to 1871. That was the year that writer and editor William Conant Church and General George Wood Wingate founded the National Rifle Association. The express purpose of the association was to teach U.S. troops proper firearm safety and accuracy. Considering that during the Civil War the average soldier expended about 100 rounds per targeted hit this was a good idea. Proving that it worked the U.S. Rifle team won the Anglo-American championship (white folks only ya’ll) in 1874 and showed how much progress had been made in a very short amount of time. Although completely unintentional, the exclusionary nature of that event foreshadowed what would become a theme for the NRA.
While the NRA was still developing cities and towns across the U.S. enacted strict gun control laws. Tombstone Arizona? Mecca of the wild wild west? You had to turn your guns in when you hit the border. The same was true all over the country. No one cared too much if you came to town, got hammered and into a fight. They just saw no reason to be picking up dead bodies all the time.
Flash forward to 1934. The U.S. Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the National Firearms Act. It outlawed the sale or possession of fully automatic weapons, short barreled rifles (a/k/a sawed off shot guns) and was heavily supported by the NRA. The idea behind the law was to stop, or at least slow, the gang wars that were plaguing our cities.
At the time NRA president Karl Frederick said “(I do) not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”
All the way through the 60’s the NRA was the voice of reason when it came to firearms. They promoted shooting matches, they taught gun safety and they supported laws that kept military grade firepower off the streets. When I was a kid my grandfather dragged me to one of those classes before I could even touch a BB gun. I thought it is was totally lame when I got there and thought it was the coolest thing in the world when I was done. It was all about safety and fun. As a 6 year old I could certainly understand the latter. The fact that the former was required for the latter bothered me not one whit. There were rules to everything, even hop-scotch.
As late as 1968 the NRA actively supported, and helped draft, the Gun Control Act of 1968.
So what happened?
Black people happened.
In the 1970’s an organization called The Black Panthers advocated arming everyone. Tired of what they saw as police oppression in poor neighborhoods and the lack of protection of their basic rights, they decided to arm themselves under the 2nd Amendment.
Gosh, that dystopian view seems vaguely familiar.
The NRA, already almost exclusively white, reacted badly. At a time when calm discussions and rational behavior were needed they threw up their hands and ran around the country screaming “Negroes! Negroes! Oh sweet lawzy save us from the scary Negroes!”
This was not as helpful as it might have seemed.
To be fair change scares the hell of of almost everyone and the country was changing. Rapidly. President Kennedy, Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy and Malcolm X had all been assassinated. The civil rights movement had made tremendous strides and many whites felt as though their futures had been compromised. Add in the anti-war movement, the free love movement and something had to give.
Unfortunately that “something” was civil discourse.
It was easy enough for the NRA to skew to the right. Most of their members were rural residents in the first place. By the late-70’s, thanks to the efforts of a man named Harlon Carter (a former border guard who had murdered a teenage Latino), the NRA we know today was in full swing. By 1980 it tossed off any semblance of impartiality and actively endorsed Ronald Reagan for president.
Ironically Reagan had voted for the Mulford Act, which was designed to disarm the Black Panthers and to prevent average citizens from carrying weapons in public. By the time he ran for president, however, he was a staunch advocate for gun freedoms.
I’m sure it was a decision he came to based on long hours of self reflection and had nothing to do with the new-found source of giant bags of campaign cash.
Anyway, the stage was set for what we have today. The NRA has backed itself into a corner. Any logical look at gun control or public safety is contrary to their stated goals of helping manufacturers sell as many guns as possible. The fact that people are more likely to kill themselves than any alleged burglar is background noise to them. The fact that they have helped create a society with the highest firearm related murder rate in the world is just noise that must be ignored.
And, just so we are all clear here when the modern NRA blames video games, the number one video game since 1998 has been Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
You can almost hear the blood can’t you?
And, another video game related note, last year saw the release of some of the most violent video games in history and sales were down across the board. In other words, people ain’t buying it and they haven’t been for a while.
Of course, finding that out required research and patience, two more things the modern NRA is against.
Lastly, the modern NRA, realizing it has a problem, has resorted to faking quotes and attributing them to Hitler.
There is an old law on the internet. It was coined by Mike Godwin in 1990:
In short, in a heated argument, eventually someone will bring up the Nazi’s, Hitler, etc, and the moment they do, the argument is over because the side that does it has just lost it. This is because, no matter how bad the other side is, nothing can compare to the systematic, methodical and calculated genocide perpetrated by the Nazi’s in their goals for racial purity.
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This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!
This is of course complete bunk. Hitler never said such a thing. Germany had enacted tough gun control laws in 1928, years before the Nazi rise to power. Instead of banning guns, Hitler instead expanded gun ownership for German citizens (he’d stripped the citizenship of undesirables already) to levels which one cannot even get inside of the United States. The 1938 German Weapons Act actually relaxed all gun ownership restrictions save on pistols. A German citizen could own a fully automatic weapon complete with grenade launcher, legally, under Nazi control.
I know, facts suck. They’re no fun at all when you’re trying to terrify people.
But they must be addressed. Facts are not rumors or hunches or debatable. They simply are and, as such, must be respected.
So let’s start with these facts and then use our indoor voices.
Normally I put a cool video here. I’m not sure that’s appropriate today.
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