As surely all Counter-Currents readers have heard by now, a horrible and nihilistic attack took place at a midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight Rises early last Friday morning, leaving 12 dead and 59 injured.
While I share the outrage that the rest of the country feels in response to such senseless violence, I knew that this would lead to reiterations of the same clichés that are always trotted out in response to any such act involving guns in America, and sure enough, today I came across several examples of this.
My friend Andy Nowicki was recently kind enough to send me a copy of his excellent 2002 essay, The Psychology of Liberalism, and in a similar vein, I couldn’t help but think about what these responses said about the mentality of the anti-gun advocate.
One may wonder why I, an avowed traditionalist with little regard for the doings of democratic capitalism, would care about gun politics. The main reason is a selfish one: namely, that I am a gun owner myself. Gun ownership is something which I think will become more, rather than less, crucial in American life in the years ahead. Beyond this, in a more philosophical sense, the fact is that the Second Amendment is one of the few genuinely “traditional” notions contained in the United States Constitution, as well as being one of the few elements of the Constitution to survive into the modern world in a form which is somewhat akin to the way in which its authors intended it.
A typical liberal trope is that the Second Amendment specifically guarantees the right to bear arms “in order to maintain a well-regulated militia” – and, hey, all of the states already have the National Guard. The National Guard is a militia, and they have guns; therefore, there’s no need for anyone else to have them. This logic is rather like saying that the Palestinians should give up what few actual weapons they have because, after all, the Israeli Defense Force has weapons, and everyone knows that they only kill “terrorists” – so surely the Palestinians have no need of them.
The fact is, as many Constitutional scholars have pointed out, that the term “militia,” as with many terms in the Constitution, was used in the same sense as it was in English law at the time, and, for centuries prior to the time of the American Revolution, “militia” in English law referred to the entire able-bodied population of the nation – those who would be called upon to defend the realm in the event of insurrection or war against a foreign power. One could argue that today we have a professional standing army to do that, which is true, although in English law, it was also understood that weapons could be used in the defense of oneself, one’s family, and one’s neighbors. Indeed, one was expected to possess and know how to use weapons as a civic duty. (An attorney friend of mine has suggested that a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment, when viewed in this light, could very well imply that all American citizens are REQUIRED to own firearms. The city of Kennesaw, Georgia, subscribes to this view, and since 1982 has required all of its citizens who are not legally prohibited from doing so to own firearms.)
But still, those who are disturbed by the idea of their fellow citizens owning guns persist in their objections. At the same time, you won’t hear Obama make an issue of gun ownership – he has carefully avoided any mention of cracking down on guns in his own response to the incident. In fact, Obama’s failure to pursue any increased gun control during his Presidency has earned him an “F” rating from the largely phantom Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. This was a pragmatic decision on the President’s part, derived from a lesson the Democrats learned the hard way in the 2000 election, when they pounced on the opportunity to make gun rights an issue in the wake of the Columbine murders. The attempt backfired since, as both Democratic and Republican strategists admitted afterwards, Al Gore’s decision to make anti-gun legislation a cornerstone of his campaign doubtless cost him the notoriously close election, since it mobilized gun owners in the electorate in a way which had seldom been seen before.
Nevertheless, the shooting has caused many voices in the media to resurrect the issue. The opinion piece which inspired me to write this essay is “Batman and the Painful Irony of the Colorado Movie Theater Shooting,” posted on Friday at The Raw Story (available at www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/07/20/batman-and-the-painful-irony-of-the-colorado-movie-theater-shooting/#.UAmdDLQbIMt.facebook) by John Shirley. John Shirley is a well-known science fiction writer and screenwriter, perhaps best known for having worked on the film version of The Crow, and not a political commentator. I am unfamiliar with his fiction so I can’t comment on it, but his essay on the shooting is worth looking at not because he has any original insights into the tragedy, but because it perfectly embodies the mentality of the typical anti-gun advocate. I’ll go through it in order, for ease of reading:
Shirley writes, “President Obama immediately appeared in public, and spoke feelingly, his voice breaking with emotion, offering sympathy—and he was just being there for us.” What President wouldn’t appear in public immediately after such an incident? As for his “voice breaking with emotion,” Shirley wants us to believe that Obama’s behavior was spontaneous rather than planned political theater – since, as liberals believe, only they are capable of feeling genuine emotions, while conservatives only ever express feelings for pragmatic reasons, and never vice-versa. This is further reinforced by the notion of Obama “just being there for us,” which conjures an image of Obama as the big-hearted next-door neighbor who, even though he has better things to do, comes over to comfort you when your pet dies, rather than as a politician with obligations.
Shirley, offering a rather out-of-place analysis of Batman’s dual nature, then writes, “Batman wears his darkness in his costume . . . some people at the theater were dressed as Batman. (No one dressed as Batman tried to tackle the gunman–of course I don’t blame them, but it’s another fillip of irony.)” This is a rather bizarre statement. First, Shirley points an accusing finger at the moviegoers for not doing something to try to stop the gunman, but then, in the same sentence, tells us that that isn’t really what he meant. I’m sorry, Mr. Shirley, but how else are we to understand this? He is certainly right that it’s difficult to expect a crowd full of ordinary people faced unexpectedly by a man wielding an AR-15 to risk their own lives to take him down. It’s no less true that under Colorado law, as in most states, carrying a firearm into a movie theater, even if one has a concealed weapons permit, is forbidden. We can’t know what might have happened differently if Colorado law had allowed it and if someone in the audience he had been armed, but it is nonetheless true that, as things stood that night, James Holmes walked in knowing that no one he was shooting at could shoot back.
Shirley continues, “As one of my friends pointed out, heroes did show up, soon after the shooting—police, emergency medical personnel.” Showing token appreciation for law enforcement and emergency responders has been a requirement for both conservatives and liberals ever since 9/11, but we know that liberals resent any authority other than their own, and that of the “pigs” in particular. I share in their suspicion of state power, but it is also true that when I see a liberal invoking his respect for the instruments of state authority, I know he’s being disingenuous. The typical liberal only sees a policeman as a hero when his own ass or his property is being saved – the rest of the time, they view them as the enforcers of the racist, patriarchal order acting on behalf of the evil White men in power. It makes it hard to take anything else they have to say seriously, after their fawning.
Shirley then describes the shooter, saying that “[t]he booby-trapping—and the fact that he was bristling with numerous guns–speaks of a militia, or survivalist, mentality.” Now we begin to see Shirley beginning to train his guns (pun intended) on his real target: gun owners. Since the Oklahoma City bombing, “militia” and “survivalists” have become code words for the stereotypical “gun nut” like Timothy McVeigh supposedly was, since, in the anti-gunners’ mind, anyone who likes guns or desires to own them is inherently unstable or mentally ill and, just like McVeigh, is liable to go on a killing spree. This is largely because the average anti-gunner doesn’t know any actual gun owners and is therefore incapable (and unwilling) to see them as ordinary human beings, instead believing the image of the “gun nut” placed in their mind by the mass media. More to the point, how does a solitary gunman show a “militia mentality?” Surely a “militia mentality” implies an ability to operate in a disciplined fashion as part of a larger group. A lone gunman displays none of these qualities. Shirley goes on to describe the shooter’s dress, writing, “He surely chose to dress dramatically, like a typical gun-fancying jackass would in such an instance.” “Jackass” is clearly the operative word in this sentence, and further proves that Shirley views all gun-fanciers as inherently unstable.
At this point, Shirley realizes that he’s showing himself quite clearly as someone opposed to gun rights, so, in order to prove to us that he’s a moderate and rational person, he writes, “I’m not anti-gun, per se—I plan to buy a shotgun.” This is something I commonly hear from people who oppose guns. Many of them want me to know that, while they are against handguns and “assault rifles” (a meaningless term, by the way), they have no problem with shotguns and “hunting rifles.” This is a belief commonly held by those who don’t know much about guns, since, if they did, they would know that the average rifle used for hunting packs far more power and accuracy than, say, the M-16, the standard-issue rifle in the American military. I also have to love that Shirley tells us that he PLANS to buy a shotgun – apparently, one assumes, because he hasn’t had the time or the money. More likely, he’s attempting to assuage anti-gun readers who might be alarmed at his statement by reassuring them that, no, he personally has not yet crossed the Rubicon – and, of course, since he hasn’t, he could still change his mind.
Shirley proceeds to decry the fact that someone as obviously insane as Holmes was able to acquire a gun in the first place. He then presents us with this chestnut: “The NRA [National Rifle Association], of course, resists the ‘intrusiveness’ of firm, clear rules exposing a person’s psychological problems to the vetting process for gun ownership.” Naturally, Shirley does not offer any actual evidence that the NRA opposes such measures, and that’s because there aren’t any. I have been a supporter of the NRA for many years, but I have never once heard it suggested by the organization or any of its members that procedures such as background checks of criminal and mental health records should not be required for gun purchases. This is just part of Shirley’s attempt to paint the NRA as an “extremist” organization that is so irrational that it will even defend the right of the criminally insane to own firearms. Perhaps Shirley actually believes this, but if so, he should really get his facts straight.
The truth is that the NRA is one of the most successful social movements in modern American history (and one worthy of study by those who seek to inaugurate new social movements), comprised of millions of ordinary Americans who seek to defend the Second Amendment – which surely would have been made a memory decades ago, as it has been in the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere, if not for their efforts.
In conclusion, Shirley sums up his point as follows: “We haven’t got Batman in real life. But we could have firmer gun control laws—and they might’ve been in place . . . where Batman couldn’t be.” This is the real crux of the argument that has been raging for decades, which asserts that gun violence in America can only be solved through legislation and greater regulation. The idea is that the tens of millions of Americans who own and use guns legally should have their rights restricted so that incidents like the one in Colorado cannot occur. Whether this would be the actual result is highly dubious, but even if it were so, our society has already demonstrated in other areas that it is willing to accept tragic losses in order to allow Americans greater freedoms. For example, the number of Americans who are killed in car accidents each year is several times the number of gun deaths, and yet no one has ever seriously suggested that we respond by banning automobiles (something that, as someone who has never had a driver’s license, I would not oppose).
There is a link on the page containing Shirley’s essay to a video editorial by journalist Bill Moyers which ascends to even greater heights of deceit and hyperbole. Moyers first claims that Holmes used an “AK-47-type assault rifle” of a type banned under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, and then allowed to lapse in 2004 by President Bush. First, the weapon used was an AR-15, but more importantly, both AK-47s and AR-15s were freely available during the period when the ban was in effect, as only basic cosmetic modifications to the weapons were banned and not the rifles themselves. Therefore, Holmes could have obtained an AR-15 just as easily in 2002 as in 2012.
Moyers goes on to claim that there are 30,000 gun deaths in the United States every year, and that the number of Americans killed by gun violence exceeds the number of Americans killed in wars – which is odd, since the FBI reported 8,775 deaths in 2011 as a result of firearms (which includes killings by police officers), and the number of deaths has been dropping steadily for years – although never attained the heights claimed by Moyers. As for the claim about war deaths, I can only imagine that he included the casualties on both sides of the Civil War to bolster his estimates. Then, Moyers attempts to relate firearm violence to slavery in the American South and the subjugation of the Native Americans – a connection so tenuous that it was rejected even by Michael Moore.
Attempting to outdo himself, Moyers wraps up by showing a video of the American Al Qaeda spokesman, Adam Gadahn, in which he encouraged wannabe terrorists to purchase fully automatic weapons at gun shows – something which has never been legal at gun shows or anywhere else, by the way – and then attempts to equate the NRA with Al Qaeda, calling it the “enabler of death” and its members “paranoid, delusional and as venomous as a scorpion,” and its interpretation of the Second Amendment “a cruel and deadly hoax.” I have seldom come across a more direct insult to American gun owners than can be seen in his video, and that’s saying a lot.
It is an unfortunate reality, but the fact is that tragedies like the shooting in Colorado are the inevitable consequence of the need to protect our last remaining freedoms in the face of rising cultural degeneracy. I am not the first person to say this – even Michael Moore, in Bowling for Columbine, came to the same conclusion – but the real issue concerning violence in America isn’t access to weaponry, but the nature of the American psyche. Why have we become a nation in which random, extreme violence has become so commonplace?
The difference between me and Moore is that I see the problems in American culture today as being rooted in the failures of liberal democracy. As we have become more and more a people who believe in nothing and who resort to the artificial reality created by our technology for solace, and as the failed policies of earlier generations wreak greater and greater havoc upon our present condition as a civilization, it is no wonder that we have begun spawning individuals who view the slaughtering of their fellow men as nothing more than a new type of video game. An insane society inevitably breeds insane children. Until we can forge a new nation built upon the timeless myths and symbols of our people, such incidents are no doubt destined to occur with greater frequency.
I do not fear that this incident will mean the end of gun rights in America. As Brian Anse Patrick has shown in his book The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage, defenders of gun rights actually thrive much more strongly when they are under attack by their adversaries. And I imagine that, at Counter-Currents, I am largely preaching to the converted. Still, I see the logic employed by those opposed to gun rights as being symptomatic of the larger issues at stake in American society, where both sides of the political spectrum (such as it is) have shown a willingness to distort reality in order to bring about greater control, bureaucracy, and conformity. Regardless of your views on democracy, anyone who opposes the prevailing culture should be concerned, since it is only these last remaining freedoms which remain to us which make the activities and discussions in which we are engaged, such as at Counter-Currents or my own venture, Arktos, possible.
A final clarification: as someone who embraces the traditionalist/”New Right” viewpoint, I feel very little sympathy for the supposed “liberals” or “conservatives” who dominate today’s politics in America, and I do not intend for this essay to come across as a show of support for the Republicans (or any other group). Still, I feel the issue of gun rights is important enough for those of us who are seeking alternatives to America as it exists today that we need to be aware of and participate in the debate.
 In particular, see Stephen P. Halbrook, That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984) and Joyce Lee Malcolm, To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).
 Brian Anse Patrick, The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage (New York: Peter Lang, 2002).