“You and I didn’t choose to be victims in the Age of Terror,” say Wayne-o, as he kicks off the NRA response to the San Bernardino event. And you can be sure that as the NRA continues to ramp up their end-of-year fundraising drive they will continue to remind current and prospective members of the connection between the 2nd Amendment and the necessity to defend ourselves from foreign or home-grown terrorists whose attacks Obama and his muddle-headed bunch can’t or won’t do anything about.
“But when evil knocks on our door,” Wayne-o continues, “Americans have a power that no other people on the planet share.” And what is that power? “The full-throated right to defend ourselves and our families with the 2nd Amendment.” And in case you still don’t get what the message is all about, there’s a one-liner about how the NRA needs “your help.”
Which is all fine and well. There’s no reason why the NRA shouldn’t be out there raising money and using a cockamamie slogan like Age of Terror to drive their message home. But the real point of the message, and we are going to hear it again and again from the pro-gun gang, is that we are all facing a threat that is much more serious than some guy who just tries to jimmy the lock on your back door. Now we are dealing with “monsters” who dream of “inflicting more damage, more suffering,” and it’s not going to stop.
The revelation, even if only vaguely true, that one of the San Bernardino shooters had some connection to ISIS couldn’t have been dreamed up by any PR firm that helps the gun industry promote guns. Stop and think about it – we’ve been engaged one way or another in military engagements against terrorism since 2001, but this is the first time since the attack on the World Trade Center that, as the saying goes, chickens have come home to roost. And the good news about San Bernardino for the 2nd –Amendment crowd is that pro-gun politicians and promoters don’t even have to get into the sticky mess about gun violence and nuttiness; the assertions by experts like Liza Gold on the lack of any real relationship between gun violence and mental illness just won’t sway the conversation at all.
The fact is that owning and/or carrying around a gun has no real impact on whether and how we decide to make ourselves and our society safer from terrorist attacks. Despite a thirty-year NRA drumbeat on the values and virtues of an armed citizenry, the number of times each year that armed civilians prevent any kind of violence is slight. It turns out that there was an armed civilian on the scene in San Bernardino – a shopkeeper who rushed towards the melee with his 45 pistol but quickly retreated beck into his store because he “couldn’t figure out” what was going on.
I’m not surprised that a brave young man who first ran towards the carnage with a gun decided to stop and then backed away. The Police Foundation estimates that half of the current law enforcement officers in the United States don’t have sufficient training to deliver lethal force in a safe and effective way. The NRA never stops reminding its members that they should always use guns safely, but if anyone suggests that having the right to respond with lethal force should require mandated training of any kind the answer is always that such requirements would be contrary to 2nd-Amendment rights.
I think we may be entering a period in the discussion about gun violence in which the GVP community may have to rethink some of its messaging about guns. Because for most folks, emotions will trump facts just about every time. We can say again and again that research shows guns are a risk, but the average person doesn’t care about research. Events like San Bernardino create fear. Does the GVP community have a message that tells people how to deal with fear in ways other than getting a gun?