If I had the time and wanted to anger about two-thirds of my friends, I could go around Facebook and explain to them why their latest posted anti-gun meme, or latest simple-minded anti-gun cartoon, or furious rant against the NRA, Republicans and “gun nuts,” show them to be ignorant, hysterical, and irresponsible citizens. Maybe I’ll spend a day doing this and see what happens.
The culprits are everywhere, from all backgrounds. These aren’t just my actor friends, who tend to memorize lines with their brains and think with their hearts. It’s many of the lawyers I know too….also journalists, writers, policy-makers—all kinds. As they quote with approval partisan and ignorant anti-gun pundits, actors or elected officials, they also erupt with emotion, counting on a welter of “likes,” “loves” and crying faces from the friends, who uncritically cheer the sentiment without challenging the execrable law and logic. The process repeats over and over, like a rinse cycle, until the original posters are not only convinced that they are right, but that anyone who disagrees is an evil promoter of violence not worthy of human association. I have read, more than once, “If you disagree, keep your opinion to yourself, or I’ll unfriend you.”
I confess, I’ve resisted my natural instinct to take up those dares, because these people are in pain, and, frankly, temporarily deranged. Many of them are gay, an identify personally with the victims. I sympathize with that. They also have a right to their anti-gun opinions, but they are polluting an important debate and making any resolution impossible by being willfully ignorant, and rebelling in it. The lawyers are especially disgracing themselves. Again—it is irresponsible, and it is bad citizenship.
If I were going to be a Facebook vigilante and point out the serious flaws in the various anti-gun rants, my Facebook friends would find more notes like this one, which I left in response to a good friend’s rant against the head of the Gun Owners of America blaming the Orlando shooting on “Gun Free Zones.” My friend wrote…
“I’m willing to entertain just about any argument for gun rights, but this one is SHIT. I will not be convinced that on Sunday evening, even a few, trained, people violating the Gun Free Zone in a dimly lit club, with HUNDREDS of panicked, perhaps inebriated, people running in every direction for their lives, could get a “good shot” to take out the man responsible for this atrocity. I believe the result is called more deaths by “friendly fire.”
I responded in part…
The argument is that murderous shooters will be less likely to come to kill when there is a chance that someone will be armed. This is not “shit”…This is the oldest pro-gun/anti-gun divide of all: the criminals and terrorists aren’t the ones who will follow the gun regulations; law abiding citizens are. That should be obvious. I don’t believe for a moment that one can blame the massacre on ” Gun Free Zones.”…but the argument that a shooting occurred because an area wasn’t a Gun Free Zone is even more silly. Is a terrorist going to say, “Ooops! Can’t slaughter gays in that club—it’s a Gun Free Zone!” Of course not. Might a terrorist choose not to attack a venue where he knows that one or more people might be armed, rather than one where he knows the law-abiding victims will be defenseless? Maybe.
Your point of bias, and it’s a common one, is that the presence of a gun makes one unsafe. The presence of a maniac makes one unsafe. If you happen to have a gun, maybe you’re a bit safer. Agree or not, that isn’t “fucking insane.” What I do think is fucking insane is people allowing emotion to eat their brains all over Facebook. It doesn’t help.
It just doesn’t help. This friend is rational and thoughtful, and I expect him to take my critique in the spirit in which it was offered. I can’t always count on a reasonable response, however, such as from the friends have posted this meme:
Machine guns and automatic weapons are illegal. The meme goes along with the laments of those who believe that the Orlando shooter used an “assault rifle” or a military weapon in the shooting. When you point out that it was not an “assault weapon,” they just shrug the distinction off as an irrelevant detail, and this is a tell. All guns are indistinguishable to many of my friends. Guns are bad, that’s all. This undercuts the lie—and I am now convinced that it is a lie—that they don’t want to ban guns and repeal the Second Amendment.
Ken White wrote perceptively, as he usually does, on why this approach is both dishonest and counter-productive:
I support the argument that the United States should enact a total ban on civilians owning firearms.
Oh, I don’t support the ban. I support the argument.
I support the argument because it’s honest and specific. It doesn’t hide the ball, it doesn’t refuse to define terms, it doesn’t tell rely on telling people they are paranoid or stupid in their concerns about the scope of the ban. The argument proposes a particular solution and will require the advocate to defend it openly…There’s a very good reason to care about what you mean when you argue that “assault weapons” should be banned: the term is infinitely flexible. If you think it inherently means something specific, you haven’t bothered to inform yourself about the issue. “Assault weapon” means whatever the definers decide it should mean. Banning “assault weapons” is the gun version of banning “hate speech” or “disruptive protest” or “dangerous persons” or “interfering with a police officer” — it’s a blank check. And I don’t like handing out blank checks to the government to ban things and jail people…
A lot of my Facebook friends do, however. Here’s a link approvingly posted by a lawyer friend, saying in part..
“Last year, 45 members of Congress tried to take action on gun violence and were shouted down. S.A. 2910 took a Republican political move—yet another Obamacare repeal vote—and would have turned it into a modest but important and common-sense gun control measure that would have prevented the sale of firearms to suspected terrorists, those on watch lists or under investigation by the FBI. Fifty-three Republicans and one Democrat knocked the amendment down as a matter of course. It’s too late to prevent the deaths already caused by guns purchased while federal investigators looked on, but it’s never too late to do something about it. Making the senators who defeated gun safety regret their vote by supporting their opponents, both in Congress and on the campaign trail, is a place to start.”
I’ve already written about this legal, democratic and ethical atrocity, here, and here. How does someone go through law school, study the Constitution, and still favor a system where the federal government can, without due process, put you on a “no-fly list” because of some vague suspicion and then take away a Constitutional right because of it? We have to “do something,” so let’s just give the Feds the power to disarm and remove rights from “suspected terrorists”–like, maybe, you— and leave that definition or “suspected terrorist” up to the government. Less than 20% of the public trust the government, yet they want to give it this power! Over 50% of the nation worries that one of our Presidential candidates is a nascent Hitler, and yet part of that group wants to give the government, maybe his government, this “modest” leave to repeal an individual’s rights.
Another approach that is popular on Facebook is to appeal to the authority of outlier pundits who have no authority at all. This character, Dylan Matthews…
…who writes for Vox (Is it unkind of me to post his photo? I suppose. On the other hand, if you want me to take your totalitarian ideas seriously, don’t go on TV looking like Jerry Lewis in “The Nutty Professor”) said on Twitter that he believed the President should be able to unilaterally ban all Americans from purchasing guns. Well okay then! That settles it! Dylan says.
By the way, I believe that if I glue a pangolin to my head, I’ll live forever.
A journalist friend on Facebook posted an op-ed titled “What America’s gun fanatics won’t tell you” by a financial advisor as if this guy’s rejected opinion that the Second Amendment is just about militias has any relevance to the discussion. What the gun fanatics won’t tell you, apparently, is that Supreme Court opinions don’t count.
This article has exactly the same value as one headlined, “There is no right to have an abortion!” or “Gay couples have no right to be married.” Yes, I get it, my old friend: since you would never own a gun and hate them, you have no respect for my rights, and are happy to eliminate them. After all, you’re losing nothing you care about. Got it.
But why don’t you see, as a journalist, that this is exactly like someone who never reads a newspaper saying that Freedom of the Press shouldn’t exist?
Then there are the embarrassing brain-storms, like my actor friend who shouted Eureka over the divine revelation that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect bullets. Ha! Why didn’t anyone suggest this before? They didn’t because the argument would be laughed, literally laughed, out of court. The right to bear arms is illusory if the government can prevent those arms from serving their purpose. Nonetheless, this easily googled principle didn’t stop everyone from responding to the embarrassing post with hosannas and cries of “Brilliant!”
The argument being spread around Facebook by this meme and others like it is just box of hammers stupid…
…as if “arms” wasn’t encompassing enough to apply to future arms as well as current ones.. Fascinatingly, the same people who are making the musket argument in other settings insist on a “living Constitution,” not, apparently, because they really believe in that principle, but because it’s an expedient view to expand a right they want to expand, like the right to marry. (No, the Founders were not thinking about gay people, who they regarded as perverts, when they wrote of “equal protection.”) Ah, but when the right involved is one they don’t like, suddenly everyone is Antonin Scalia.
Speaking of hypocrisy, the political cartoons being paraded before my eyes on Facebook enable my Facebook friends in their self-disgrace. This is my favorite:
Right. Trump is the only one exploiting Orlando to further his political agenda. How about every Facebook poster, journalist, the President, Piers Morgan, and other anti-gun elected officials, activists and journalists—and cartoonists—who who are using a terrorist attack by an ISIS follower, based on conservative Muslim hatred of homosexuals, using guns that no current or proposed regulations (legal ones, anyway) could have prevented him from acquiring, to attack lawful gun owners, the Second Amendment, Donald Trump, Christians, Republicans, the NRA, and gay marriage opponents.
Finally, some Facebook friends tried to make a blood vessel pop in my brain by approvingly posting yet another disgraceful and juvenile cartoon by the worst and most irresponsible of all political cartoonists, the Washington Post’s Tom Toles:
If I have to explain what is wrong with that, you’re beyond help.