The recent shootings in America (and there a lot of them, every day, that do not get reported beyond the local papers) have everyone "up in arms" (if you will pardon the pun) about gun control.
The NRA, which represents 4 million members (out of a country of 300+ Million) has Washington terrorized. Cross the NRA and you will not get re-elected! Those 4 million people must vote twice or something.
But the NRA is an interesting beast. Many of my hunting friends are disgusted with it. They keep their membership only to get member benefits and discounts. Others have dropped their memberships, particularly when Wayne "Call Me Crazy" LaPierre says offensive and bizarre things. George HW Bush tore up his life member card in 1996 over LaPierre's comments following the Oklahoma City bombing.
The idea that the NRA represents the voices of all gun owners is flawed. And as hunting declines in popularity in this country, more and more of the "hard core" NRA membership comprises gun collectors who collect arsenals of assault weapons - spending the weekend shooting up old appliances and cars (instead of deer or paper targets) on modern, automatic-weapon-friendly shooting ranges.
As sales of hunting rifles have dropped, sales of assault-style firearms to non-hunters has risen. The NRA is following the market - or perhaps leading it. By creating demand for high-power weaponry (and arsenals of weapons) among citizens, the NRA primes the pump on sales. And every time new gun legislation is talked about, the NRA raises the alarm - and gun sales skyrocket.
As I noted in another posting, I have nothing against firearms. Owning a rifle or shotgun for hunting is not a bad thing. You might even buy a handgun for "protection" - although as I noted, it is like buying a parachute on the premise you might fall off a tall building. It is an expensive form of protection, and the odds you will need it are slim - and the odds you will have it, at the right time and right place, are even slimmer. But the odds that it will go off at the wrong time and hurt someone - including yourself - are pretty high.
But that is the thing about poor and stupid people (which are overlapping groups): One profound tagging characteristic of the poor is their inability to comprehend probability or understand their real risks in life. They over-insure for long-shots, while leaving huge vulnerabilities unprotected. They gamble in casinos, convinced they can "win" when the odds are stacked against them. They are convinced that confronting a criminal is a common even in life, but that failing to save for retirement is nothing to worry about. The less you understand probability, the poorer you will be.
The odds of you being a victim of a violent crime are slim - despite what you see on the television (which is all crime shows, mostly). The odds that you will "twart" a crime with a gun of your own are infinitesimal. That is the sum and substance of it, really, if you want to believe the real numbers. The NRA prefers instead to tout anecdotal evidence of robberies and other crimes thwarted by gun-toting citizens. The reality is, this rarely happens in real life.
But hey, if you want to buy a pistol, then go for it. Just be very careful with it. I have a number of friends who have or had guns, and from what I can see, many of them are not very careful. They show them off to friends (a bad idea in and of itself), for example, not realizing they are loaded (an even worse idea). And this happens a lot, too. Just the other day, some guy shot his own kid, not realizing there was a bullet in the chamber. Dumb, yea, but with a gun, there often is no second chance.
Out in the country, we have rifles and pistols for other reasons - dispatching rabid raccoons, for example. They do have legitimate uses. And having a firearm around - kept safely - can be handy.
But there are a number of people in this country who are not just buying a pistol for protection or a rifle to go hunting with. They buy many weapons - often dozens - and thousands of rounds of ammunition. They hoard guns and then spend their leisure time shooting them. These are what I call "Gun Nutz".
Now granted, some are collectors, looking to own a number of fine antiques. These are not what I am talking about. The collector values a gun for its rarity, craftsmanship, cultural or historical significance. They take care of them, shoot them only occasionally (if at all), and cherish them as part of a collection.
The Gun Nutz are more concerned with firepower - how many rounds the gun will hold, its "stopping power" and the like. And when they shoot, they don't go after paper targets, but rather, like little children, like to shoot at old cars or appliances, to witness the destruction involved. Or they shoot at watermelons, secretly pretending it is someone's head they are exploding with their teflon-coated "cop-killer" bullets.
Gun Nutz are just plain crazy.
And unfortunately, this kind of crazy makes people shy away from them, which in turn leads them to feel more and more isolated. Many of them - usually men - take up this form of hobby as a means of feeling more powerful - part and parcel of the Culture of Belligerence that I wrote about before. They buy guns to feel more in control of their lives, which are often on the verge of falling apart. And of course, part of this is due to the face they spend so much money on guns.
And Gun Nutz make all sorts of crazy claims which are part and parcel of their craziness and distance from reality:
"Our freedom to own firearms is the only thing preventing our country from turning into a Police State!" one says, neglecting to realize that most of Europe, Japan, Australia, and a number of other countries have more reasonable restrictions on firearms (but not outright bans, despite what they may say) and are hardly Police States.But again, Gun Nutz live in their own little world, full of conspiracy theories, and dark secrets, usually spread by e-mails and wacky websites - information that the "mainstream media" doesn't want to read, of course! They are, nuts.
"No country would dare attack us, because our citizenry is armed!" another says. Again this sense of self-aggrandizement raises its ugly head. Our country is safe because we have the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, plus the largest Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps - and a Defense budget larger than the next ten largest countries combined. That is what is keeping us free, not a bunch of yahoos shooting at washing machines in a gully on the weekends.
And I predict that is only a matter of time before they start arguing that the recent shootings were in fact staged, so "Obama can use them as justification to take away our guns!" Coming soon to a conspiracy website near you!
The problem with being Gun Nutz is that is isolates you from society. Normal human beings will shun you for being crazy (because you likely are a little off) and thus add to your feelings of isolation. Relying more and more on reinforcement from fringe websites and peer groups, the gun nut will become more and more paranoid, and thus buy more guns. And the NRA is complicit in this scheme, as they crank up the paranoia to level 11 in every publication and plea for more money. Like the fundamentalist churches, they claim to be persecuted, even as everyone goes out of their way not to step on any toes.
And one sure way to improve your mental health is to stop acting crazy. Renounce conspiracy theories (which are total time wasters and do nothing for your personal life) and stop acting weird. Pretty soon, you may actually stop being weird. It can't hurt to try, can it?
The NRA argues that "Well, any attempt to regulate firearms won't work 100% of the time because....." And that is true, nothing is 100% effective, whether it is seatbelt laws or whatever. You can only try to improve the situation, not make things PERFECT. The NRA argument is that if you can't do something that is 100% effective you might as well NOT BOTHER TRYING. Makes sense, right? Unless something works all the time, why bother? But even if we could reduce the incidence of these types of crimes by 50% or even 10%, it would be worthwhile to do SOMETHING.
And they dig this up every time there is a shooting. "Well, existing gun laws clearly don't work, so why pass more?" Well, of course, one reason they don't work is that the NRA has insured that any existing gun laws are so crippled so they don't work. The instant background check is a good idea, but covers only sales through gun stores. Buy at a gun show or from a neighbor, and the system isn't applicable.
That would be akin to saying marijuana is illegal to sell - in grocery stores. Such a law wouldn't do much, would it?
Every time there is a mass-shooting like this, the NRA trots out the same tired old arguments:
1. " HOW DARE YOU bring up gun control, so soon after a tragic incident?" - an effective argument, as there are so many "tragic incidents" that they overlap these days, effectively cutting off any debate. My response: HOW DARE THE NRA tells us when we can talk about things!
2. "Unless the Proposed Reform works 100% of the time, why bother trying?" See above. Again, this is an effective argument for cutting off all debate, as no solution will work all the time. Even in countries with gun control laws, like the UK and Denmark, there are shootings. JUST NOT AS MANY.....
3. "Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People!" - this is a non-sequitur and makes no sense at all. This week, a man went into a classroom in China and assaulted a number of kids - with a knife. No one died as a result. Why? Because it is a lot harder and takes longer to kill with a knife. Guns are different than other weapons.
4. "They have gun laws in Europe and I read about a shooting there the other day!" Again, the 100%-or-nothing argument, with some anecdotal evidence tossed in. Gun laws in Europe do work and the evidence of this is in the utter lack of significant gun crime there. Yes, they have crime there, but on a scale far, far smaller than in the USA. Isn't less crime a desirable thing?
5. "The mainstream media never reports how many crimes are thwarted by gun-carrying citizens! Why just the other day in Squirrel Hollow, a rapist was stopped by a man with a gun!" The media doesn't report these stories as there are not that many of them. In terms of crime-stopping, people carrying handguns thwart a pathetically tiny fraction of crimes. Again, ancedotal evidence is not real evidence. It is just stories people tell each other like the stories about "voter fraud" the GOP likes to toss around.
Expect to see more damage control in the next few weeks, as the NRA circles the wagons and raises these same three issues, again and again.
Yea, Gun Nutz have a firm grip on reality, that's for sure!
But the main thing is, if you want to be a gun nut, you are intentionally going down a path of poverty and privation. Most gun nutz are from the lower classes and by spending thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars on weaponry and ammunition, they keep themselves there.
I have seen people who can barely feed themselves and who are "living paycheck to paycheck" go out and buy a $500 pistol and spend hundreds of dollars on ammunition every weekend at the firing range, firing it. To solve this problem, they go out and by a match target pistol (another $250) that fires cheaper ammunition.
Yes, it is fun to have a hobby, but if you can't afford to fund your retirement, think hard before you spend bucks on guns. And think about how it is going to affect your social life and employability.
Because when you go to a job interview spouting off conspiracy theory shit and showing people pictures of your gun collection on your iPhone (yes, I have seen this) your resume goes in the trash.
There is no profit in being a gun nut!