Move over Dick Heller – Gun Nation has a new poster boy named Philip Van Cleave. He happens to be President of an outfit called the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) and tomorrow he’s appearing on the Glenn Beck show at 10 A.M. This is hardly Van Cleave’s first brush with the media. In fact, he was interviewed at length by Lesley Stahl for a 2009 segment on 60 Minutes called ‘The Way of the Gun.’ And when he was asked whether everyone should go through a background check, he answered: “How about nobody go through a back ground check? After all, the 2nd Amendment doesn’t mention background checks.”
So here we have in a nutshell the current approach of Gun Nation to the existence of gun laws, namely, there shouldn’t be any gun laws. No background check, no mandated training, no restrictions on open carry, no nothing. Which is why I find the current brouhaha about Katie Couric’s alleged attempt to demonize the good VCDL folks both amusing and deplorable; amusing because of the effort by Gun Nation to deflect away any concerns about gun violence at all; deplorable because the response to Couric’s alleged mishandling of the editing process in her film says something serious about how the GVP community responds to challenges from the other side.
Was I surprised that when an audio surfaced which indicated that the film’s VCDL segment had been edited, that this would immediately become grist for the right-wing mill? Of course not, and by the way, the criticisms of the movie from the pro-gun noise machine had been circulating well in advance of the appearance of the now-infamous voice tape. But what did bother me was the snarky and mean-spirited coverage of the issue by media outlets that should have known better, including the Washington Post and the New York Times. The NRA gleefully put up a link to the New York Times’ story which called Couric out for her editorial “slant.” And they also made sure to mention the WaPo story which accused Couric of fraud.
Now stop and think about it: When was the last time those two august publications ran stories about the false, deceptive and utterly fraudulent arguments about gun violence presented by the NRA virtually every day? Do you think that the VCDL focus group in Couric’s movie made up the idea that the 2nd Amendment gave them unlimited rights to their guns out of thin air? No – they said it because that’s what the pro-gun noise machine has been telling them for the past twenty years. And this nonsense is presented by media outlets like The New York Times not as stupid, not as completely wrong, not as dangerous, but as legitimate expression from the ‘other side.’
I have been listening to the gun debate since the 1960’s, and what I find most interesting is the degree to which one side has been very consistent and the other side continues to change its stance. GVP-land has advocated expanded background checks, limits on magazine capacities and research into smart guns; arguments that haven’t really changed at all since 1994, if not since 1968. The pro-gun assembly, on the other hand, has morphed from automatic CCW licensing, to no CCW licensing, to open carry, all of which are sanctified by their so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’
The truth is that we haven’t had a debate about gun violence; what we have had is a conscious attempt by pro-gun advocates to advance their agenda by denying the existence of gun violence at all. The nine seconds of silence that followed Katie’s question about how to keep guns out of the wrong hands was exactly the response that we get from Gun Nation every, single time the issue is raised. And some of my friends in GVP-land seem to have forgotten that point in their rush to apologize for Katie’s terrible misdeed.
Know what the end result of this tempest in a teapot will be? More people will watch Katie’s film.