Taking On the NRA

I spent much of two days engaging with a pro-gun advocate on Facebook. It was not a satisfying experience. I’ve found most arguments with such fanaticism to remain stalemated, as in the past I’ve engaged with several opponents in person, in class, and on the internet. It is never an easy conversation to be had, yet I feel compelled to continue to voice my opposition. I do not do so hoping to piss off people, like a curmudgeon; I do so because I fear the eternal calls for violent upheaval that are consistently generated by this faction, and I do not know how to plug the dike of alarm that flows into our American culture. I am but one voice, and it is often drowned out by the flood of support for the NRA and its propaganda.

This Facebook exchange started after I had read the transcript of Wayne LaPierre’s speech at the recent NRA convention in Indianapolis. I was researching for yesterday’s blog, and I made the mistake of checking Facebook before I started drafting. A friend had posted concerning the FedEx shooting in Georgia, where they recently passed a law allowing for guns in public places, like churches, schools, and bars…and before the trolls start writing their retorts to this blog before finishing, I KNOW the law hasn’t gone into effect yet AND the FedEx plant was a gun-free zone in a town, Kennesaw, with mandatory gun ownership.

My mistake was weighing in, by communicating my disgust for the levity and smug certainty I read from some of the posters. I started with a snarky comment and was instantly smothered by multiple posts by one opponent…and I respect this man as it took quite a bit of stamina from both of us to continue. I attempted to match him blow-for-blow, word-for-word, and our correspondence continued for several hours and into the next day. He attempted to use statistical studies; I attempted to refute the numbers generated by the statistical study. He asked for examples of successful gun legislation; I gave him what he asked for. He asked for objectivity; I gave him rationale for my subjectivity. I tried to appeal to his character, responded to some insults, inserted a few of my own, did my best to reel it back a bit, and did everything I knew how to do to change his mind.

He concluded with his dissatisfaction with our government, his prediction that the future is bleak, and his certainty that he needed a gun to ensure his liberty.

Essentially, I had failed, and in my mind, Wayne LaPierre had won. Much of what my noble opponent had to say was in line with the fear-inducing hatred, apprehension, and paranoia that LaPierre spews. I would never have engaged in this epic Facebook war if I had not read LaPierre’s speech (I invite my reader to read the eight-page speech, if you want to truly comprehend my claims, though I am apprehensive of more individuals succumbing to the rhetoric.). It was fresh in my mind, and my emotions were heated. To my mindset, I was trying to take on Wayne LaPierre by proxy, and it is obviously difficult to change the mind of the spokesman of the National Rifle Association.

What remains frustrating to me, after reading what I would term a hate speech, is how receptive so many people are to LaPierre’s rhetoric. It is nigh impossible to change any NRA member’s mind. It does remind me of brain-washing. I read the speech, and I wonder how LaPierre’s motives are not obvious to the majority of recipients: he is ginning up fear by creating boogeymen. He transparently attacks opponents of the NRA, usually Obama and liberals, by painting a picture of a dystopian future, where criminals are coming to get you…and the liberals want to take away your only defense…your second-amendment-blessed gun.

I personally don’t want to take away responsible gun-owners’ handguns. If you want to keep a handgun safely in your home for the purposes of security…if you have passed a thorough background check…and if you have passed safety training and psychiatric evaluation, then you have my blessing. We are not passing sensible laws that endorse background checks or call for psychiatric evaluation, however. The NRA is blocking these laws. Instead, LaPierre wants to pass out as many guns as possible (i.e., make money through increased sales of guns) under the auspices that “good guys” need to arm themselves because of all of the insidious “bad guys” in our society (Are there boxes to check for “good guy” and “bad guy” on registration forms?). He wants to pass laws that allow more guns into public places, like our schools, where teachers need to be strapped to protect the students they teach (I’ve joked about underpaid teachers deserving combat pay, but this idea apparently now deserves more credence). The NRA promotes passage of laws that are not designed for home-owners to secure their property, but instead to carry guns out into the public…laws like stand-your-ground and Georgia’s guns-allowed-in-most-public-places law invite vigilantism, not security (I admit overwhelming fright at the idea of putting more guns into schools, airports, and bars! Who thinks liquor and guns are a good combination?!). LaPierre ultimately wants to utilize the poorly-worded, antiquated second amendment to promote angst and antipathy for a Democratic-controlled government, and specifically Barack Obama (Why do I know Wayne LaPierre’s speech would take a different tone, one of support for the American government, if instead we were addressing a President Mitt Romney in 2014?).

I am not an uneducated gun-opponent. I have been trained in gun safety and maintenance. I grew up in a household that had guns for protection. I have shot handguns at a range. I have shot assault rifles and witnessed the massive damage that they can produce. I do support sensible hunters who kill animals for meat and promote conservation of nature. I have lived and worked in a community that has a horrible problem with guns, the South Side of Chicago. I have interviewed several Chicago family members that have suffered from the epidemic of gun violence. I have witnessed the ramifications of gun violence in my own family, as my youngest brother, a member of our United States Army, took his own life with a gun. I watch the news daily and remain horrified by Newtown, Connecticut; Kileen, Texas; Kennesaw, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; and on and on and on…

I am motivated to question the vigor and zeal that Wayne LaPierre and the NRA utilize because I understand the gun. Because I have seen what guns are capable of producing, I am obliged to fight. I understand Wayne LaPierre, and I am insulted by my opposition that continues to paint me as ignorant and uninformed.

Since I have started this social experiment of conducting a blog, I have potentially insulted fundamental Christians, conservative Republicans, teachers, and more, but the gun issue remains the lone topic upon which I have written that has invited controversy with readers. I anticipate I will receive some hateful comments with this blog post, so I will conclude with excerpts from my Facebook exchange. Hopefully these will answer most retorts, as I grow weary from fighting this losing battle…yet I understand that the NRA skillfully creates this weariness in its opponents:

[In response to statistical study: Gun ownership is up by 80,000,000 over the last 20 years and violent crime has dropped almost 60%. They found adding one armed school resource office in school could reduce response times by 80-percent. Casualties dropped by nearly 70-percent. Researchers also determined arming up to 10-percent of a school’s teachers and faculty could decrease casualties by 10-percent.] Your statistics do not necessarily account for exponential population increase, urban vs. rural “legal” gun ownership, and the types of violent crime in which a gun is used. Just because armed robbery occurs less does not account for an increase in drive-by shootings or mass killings…and conservative-leaning Purdue (who conducted the study of guns in school) can manufacture politically-motivated reports with the best of them. The report is theoretical, and casualty reduction in theory means little in practice, especially after we arm teachers and the numbers [might] prove to be erroneous. Does the study account for all of the guns that might be stolen from teachers by students or accidental shootings that could occur by teachers who panic? How about when a frustrated teacher gets it in his head to threaten a student with a gun…for motivation.

[In response to Kennesaw’s low occurrence of violent crime] Kennesaw is a case study. Do I know the population of white versus black, or wealth vs. poverty in the area? I do not, as well as what occurs in other areas of Cobb County, where crime rates might increase. A more holistic study is appropriate. I understand how statistics can be manufactured to meet political goals, as it happens quite frequently in our current college system. Criticizing a study is a vital component of the academic conversation.

[In response that English teachers should see a lack of logic and tend to lean liberal] As an English teacher, I see the logic of reducing arms in order to reduce the product of gun violence, which [are] gun victims. As a teacher, I don’t want to have to shoot people in order to do my job. As a human being, I don’t want to have to take a life. Sorry if that makes me a wuss. It sometimes seems those who advocate personal protection lean towards wanting to shoot people…or bad guys…or young people…or whatever you can shoot.

[In response to a request to give one example where increased gun control has reduced violence of personal crime] As for your example, the country of Australia has passed sensible gun legislation and crime has reduced greatly.

[In response to a call for objectivity since I started by declaring “I am tired of the BULLSHIT!”] As a language teacher, I employ both objective and subjective retorts, as our language invites both forms of expression. Sorry if I don’t buy the collegiate edict of “no emotional appeals”…especially when gun zealots employ more subjective nonsense than I know how to properly handle.

[In response to an accusation of being prejudiced] I admit my prejudice. I am prejudiced against the NRA and its mission to make as much money as possible, by opposing sensible gun legislation. I wouldn’t be as prejudiced if I didn’t see how they inspired gun nuts to heckle the family members of the dead children of Newtown, Connecticut. Forgive my emotional opposition.

[After some more bickering AND some consensus from my opponent, day two of the exchange…] I’m exhausted. This argument never ceases to depress me. The NRA argument tries to convince others to fear the boogeyman. Check Wayne LaPierre’s recent and repetitive rhetoric if you’re not convinced. The sheer number of NRA members continue[s] to aggressively win support, strengthening an ad populum fallacy. I’m sorry you feel such fear for these violent criminals…you should realize that your neighbor whom you want to arm may not be a criminal now, but could become one if they abuse their second amendment rights or become mentally depressed…and this is happening more and more frequently in schools, shopping malls, military bases, and FedEx plants. It’s a difficult distinction between Good Guy and Bad Guy; it usually has to be sorted out after bullets take lives, and mental illness blurs the line between “good” and “bad” even further.

[After a genuinely contrite address stating no fear of criminals, but a fear of government and its sympathetic facilitators…] I hesitate to continue here, but I am compelled. I have no hatred for you [name withheld]; I hope my opposition doesn’t communicate that. My confusion lies with your pointing to a society that has less crime because of more guns, yet you paint a picture of a dystopian future where violence occurs more frequently because of government oppression. American government, theoretically, is the American people! We endorse government laws designed to prevent crime, yet personal gun ownership remains the so-called last bastion of personal freedom. I don’t need a gun to express my personal freedom. I have a voice. You have a voice. The only expression that comes from a gun is violence, harm, and death. I disagree with my neighbor, but I do not fear him to the point that I need to carry a gun in case he wants to do me harm. Our government affords me security by allowing my freedom of expression…if that is taken away from me or you, then I might agree that our insidious government is taking away my liberty. I want to love my neighbor. I want to live in a country where my neighbor is a beloved member of my government. I do not want to fear my neighbor. I oppose the NRA and its multiple arguments because they preach a message of fear of my neighbor, fear of the “other,” and fear of my government, which is fear of the American people.

[After my opponent’s final statements, in which he posts the NYTimes article, “Oligarchs Rule Because People Let Them” and states his headline would read, “The uninformed and apathetic people let them.”…also his pride of being an opponent of gun-control, since the fourth estate has abdicated its responsibility, and he speaks truth to power…] I think the length of this thread speaks to how much both of us care about this issue, so I don’t find apathy in either of our characters. The idea that either of us is uninformed isn’t fair; we both have provided plenty of information in an attempt to persuade and educate each other. I would agree that both the Democrats and Republicans share blame for the shift from democracy to oligarchy. I blame corporatism for any American decline, and the failure of our government to regulate the corporate takeover of both political parties and our economy. The NRA uses corporate tactic to promote its brand and message, often through manipulation of the fourth estate, in order to sell units, to make a profit. Reading through Wayne LaPierre’s speech at the NRA, I question whether he realizes how much he might be stifling the voice of the people, contributing to profitable consumer fear, and constructing a great threat to liberty. I ask you…is LaPierre a patriot or a fear-monger?

This is where the conversation ended. I am sincere in stating I have no hatred for this opponent. It is my hope that somewhere along the way, we can find consensus on this highly volatile, nation-dividing issue. I stated earlier how it was a mistake to engage in this Facebook exchange, but that is because I am genuinely fatigued and depressed. However, because I have suffered physical and mental exhaustion does not preclude my taking this stance or maintaining it within this blog. It will take stamina, but I will continue to fight the NRA as long as Wayne LaPierre is allowed to be its mouthpiece, as I do not trust an iota of his rhetoric.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

For a full explanation of author impetus, blog mission statement, and donations appeal, click About.}

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s