Last week it was Dallas; this week it’s Baton Rouge. The ambush of law-enforcement officers by a deranged individual acting out of God knows what kind of motive is becoming commonplace, and has finally given Don Trump a campaign issue that even he shouldn’t be able to screw up.
But where is Gun-nut Nation in all this? If you check the news stories and commentaries on the NRA-ILA website, the latest postings consist of the weekly anti-Hillary rant, a nasty dig at Shannon Watts and the announcement that NRA chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, will help fill in the Cleveland Convention program with a speech that will remind the audience that ”for voters who believe in their constitutional freedoms, the choice in this Presidential election is clear.”
But what constitutional freedoms is Chris Cox talking about? Oops – I forgot. The NRA claims to be America’s oldest civil rights organization. By defending the 2nd Amendment, the boys in Fairfax are defending all our freedoms, because the whole point of the 2nd Amendment, in case you’ve forgotten, is to let you keep and use your gun to defend yourself, not just against predators and street criminals, but against a ‘tyrannical’ government whose power and authority, left unchecked, would take all your liberties away.
Now what I just said isn’t some kind of crazy, right-wing paranoid fantasy that the NRA has concocted to keep alive the images from Tiananmen Square. In fact, the idea that the 2nd Amendment represents protection from the excesses of government was most forcefully stated by a liberal constitutional scholar, Sanford Levinson, who published a 1989 article in which he admonished liberals for not giving the 2nd Amendment its proper respect since the notion that government might behave in a tyrannical way was counter to liberal, big-government beliefs.
Had Levinson been an ideological conservative, his article would probably have been dismissed out of hand. But the fact that he was, and still is a noted liberal authority on constitutional law turned his argument into a red-meat screed with which the NRA and the right-wing noise machine panders to the Mob every day. And since Hillary represents government tyranny to the nth degree, she’s against 2nd Amendment ‘rights’ which threatens all freedoms, not just the freedom to own a gun. Okay, got it?
So why is the NRA being so silent about the shootings of cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge? First, because the shooters in both cases were military veterans (one of the NRA’s most prized constituencies, so they think) who used legally-purchased guns. And while we can quibble over whether or not the AK-74 used in Dallas is an assault weapon or not, both guns were designed to kill lots of people as quickly as possible. Yet thanks to the NRA, such guns can be owned by every ‘law-abiding’ gun guy whether he intends to shoot other people or not.
But behind the refusal/reluctance of the NRA to open up on the issue of assault rifles lurks a much more vexing issue that Gun-nut Nation would rather not face. Because if government wanted to behave tyrannically, wouldn’t this behavior be represented first and foremost by the actions of the police? And if a cop pulls out a gun and shoots an unarmed guy who was reaching for his driver’s license, since the cop represents government, wouldn’t Philando Castile have been within his 2-Amendment rights to protect himself with his gun?
Please understand: I am as pro-cop as anyone can be. I always give the men and women in blue every conceivable break. So this is in no way an attempt to justify the shooting of police. But if Gun-nut Nation really wants the 2nd Amendment to mean that we can use guns against government force, then the argument cuts both ways. What’s law and order to one person might be an exercise in government tyranny to someone else. And both these folks have the right to protect themselves (and others) with a gun, right?