In response to my essay Who Shall We Throw Under the Bus?, a politically conservative friend wished aloud that liberals would throw the gun control advocates under the bus in order to gain votes among disappointed Red Staters that supported Trump in the last election. He directed me to what he called a “typical conservative response,” written by a Christian who disapproves of gay people, but who disapproves even more of people who murder. I admit that this was a surprise to me; I’m more used to the position that the NRA took during Reconstruction and the Civil Rights era, advocating gun control for “unsuitable” people, and we all know who that meant. It just goes to show that gun culture and history are more complex than it appears, especially in such a polarized media environment.
As it turns out, though, not all liberals are in favor of making it difficult to own guns, and many are even armed. One notable example are the Pink Pistols, a gay gun-packing group that formed in 2000 in the wake of Matthew Shepard’s brutal 1998 murder. Groups like the Pink Pistols know that attacks against gay folks and other traditionally marginalized groups can come at any moment, but Trump’s recent election drove this truth home more deeply. The (potential and actual) dangers posed by armed haters empowered by the rise of the Alt-Right (that is, Nazis) and their anti-gay friends is causing many on the liberal side of the political spectrum to reconsider their views on guns.
Articles like Why the Left-Wing Needs a Gun Culture (which came out the day after Trump’s inauguration) call out to the Left to “reconsider long-held preconceptions, as they embody precisely the thinking which led us to this point—this point where hate crimes against minorities are growing, and economic and ecological hopes are rapidly shrinking.” People, especially African-Americans, have become increasingly aware (woke, if you will) of the role that the realistic threat of violence played in gaining civil rights. Martin Luther King, Jr., wouldn’t have had the sway he did, had the Black Panthers not existed to serve as a foil. Nonviolent movements tend to look a lot more appealing when they play the more pleasant “good cop” to a more violent alternative’s “bad cop” rather than merely asking for their rights, please and thank you, Sir.
Across the country, gun sales (and gun company stock prices) dropped precipitously since the election, presumably because conservatives aren’t afraid that Obama will come knocking on their door to take their guns away any day now. However, while the FBI doesn’t release background check statistics for race, gun store owners reported a significant increase in minority customers. One wonders if the NRA will once again favor strict gun control measures, now that their friends and pet congresscritters are running the “regime that doesn’t represent” so many of us.
Survey results released in late 2016 revealed that while Americans own about 265 million guns, half of them were owned by only 3% of the adult population. While these “super owners” possessed an average of 17 guns each (or so they say), half of the gun owners surveyed owned only one or two. Perhaps both sides have their loud, vocal minority of jerks, while many of the rest of us could have a civil conversation about guns and gun culture if we really leveled with each other? Everyone I know who has been to a shooting range has described the atmosphere as tolerant and accepting, even to non-traditional gun users such as women and gay people.
One thing is for sure. Conservatives encouraging liberals to buy guns for personal protection because some wacky racist or gay-hater could attack at any moment is about as logical as the conservatives who run for office on a “government is broken” platform in order to destroy it even further from the inside. Unfortunately, the latter has come to pass, making the former ever more likely. At least I trust defense-oriented people like the Pink Pistols to remember that there are more Amendments than just the Second (and maybe the Tenth). If we are to remain together as one country, though, gun culture isn’t going away. The best we can do is give it a safety-based, saner evolutionary path. That’s the kind of gun culture that would benefit and support the society I’d rather live in.