Sometimes with national news stories like last week’s shooting in Oregon, I prefer to let a few days go by before writing about it. In the heat of the moment, it is easy to say something you later wish you hadn’t, especially when all the details of the story haven’t come to light yet. Now that more facts have been uncovered, it’s time for me to unload on the NRA again.
While the right-wing media was quick to jump on the rumor that the murderer was singling out Christians and hint that he was perhaps a Muslim or atheist, it turns out that his mother was a gun fanatic who believed in a lot of the paranoid conspiracy stories that websites like Infowars or Natural News regularly push. Voactiv also uncovered a social media post by someone who appears to be the shooter’s mother, claiming to have moved from California to Oregon so that she could legally open carry weapons.
In 2008, after President Obama was elected, guns and ammunition flew off the shelves. In 2012 after the Sandy Hook massacre, sales of AR-15 rifles and .223 ammo soared on fears of gun laws that would ban them, despite the fact there was no way in hell a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and NRA lobbyists would ever let that happen. Even conservative blogs like Townhall.com have readily admitted that fears of President Obama have been great for the gun industry.
Of course, most of the people who shelled out (no pun intended) thousands of dollars to buy rifles that were half the price before the scare weren’t operating on logic, they were acting on a belief that President Obama is an all-powerful dictator who represents a new America in which white conservatives no longer have the political power they once did.
As Amanda Marcotte points out at Salon, the conservative gun fetish is rooted not so much in legitimate concerns involving crime, but rather the fear of a changing America.
Conservatives aren’t lying when they say they need guns to feel protected. But it’s increasingly clear that they aren’t seeking protection from crime or even from the mythical jackbooted government goons come to kick in your door. No, the real threat is existential. Guns are a totemic shield against the fear that they are losing dominance as the country becomes more liberal and diverse and, well, modern. For liberals, the discussion about guns is about public health and crime prevention. For conservatives, hanging onto guns is a way to symbolically hang onto the cultural dominance they feel slipping from their hands. (Source)
Obviously, there are many reasonable people in this country who own guns for hunting or just because they enjoy shooting targets. These are individuals who practice with their weapons often and take great pride in being able to humanely dispatch a deer with one shot at long range, or being able to take home a championship in a shooting tournament. Some live in remote areas where carrying a .308 or a .44 magnum is necessary to defend themselves against wild animals, and there are other people who live or work in areas where crime is a serious issue.
These are all perfectly legitimate scenarios for someone to own a few guns, but hoarding them because you fear losing power over others in America’s changing culture speaks to the paranoia and racism that lurks just below the surface of gun culture. Don’t believe me? Just go to a gun show anywhere in the country and you will observe that the majority of the people there are older, and overwhelmingly white. If you were to mention that you’re looking at weapons for hunting or perhaps as an antique collector’s item, chances are quite a few dealers would respond with a look of confusion that you weren’t buying out of fear.
On more than a few tables you will also find bumper stickers, patches and literature warning about gun confiscation, FEMA camps, liberals, foreigners, President Obama and a slew of other conservative boogeymen. At the last gun show I attended here in Lafayette, I watched as one man with a visible white power tattoo on the back of his neck walked out with a Dragunov sniper rifle he had just purchased. I’m pretty sure he didn’t buy it to decorate his living room with, and it’s also a safe bet that he didn’t undergo a background check either due to the gun show loophole.
Not all gun owners are opposed to laws like universal background checks for all sales or even requiring a license to own certain weapons like an AR-15, just as not every person with an NRA sticker is a paranoid bigot. However, thanks to the NRA and their members who are desperately afraid of the future in a changing country, it’s only a matter of time before another mass shooting happens – and nothing will change until the rest of us (including responsible gun enthusiasts) finally stand up to them.
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