[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
Bill Moyers offers his cogent thoughts on the role of gun-rights outfits like the NRA (and its many, often more rabid, imitators), all of whom in the end are really the well-financed arm of weapons manufacturers, and how they have polluted not just American discourse, but our very way of life itself.
They have done this by several means. One, as Moyers notes, is the legal fraud they have foisted onto the public (and now the courts) with their insistent claim that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to own any weapon a person likes. But the other, perhaps more significant, and decidedly more toxic, pollution of American life has been the gun fetishists' violent worldview, manifested in the permeation of guns into all corners of our modern culture -- particularly those where males are involved.
We've written previously about the paranoid fantasizing that is a product of this worldview, and how it translates into cockamamie conspiracy theories that the black President of the USA is secretly plotting to take away all Americans' guns. And we've talked about the deadly consequences of the NRA's incessant weapons-mongering. Obviously, after yesterday's rampage in Aurora, it's even more germane.
One of the more important pieces in this discussion came several months back in the pages of the New Yorker, from Jill Lepore, who explored the history of this gun madness in a piece titled"Battleground America: One nation, under the gun":
In 1986, the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment achieved new legal authority with the passage of the Firearms Owners Protection Act, which repealed parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act by invoking “the rights of citizens . . . to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.” This interpretation was supported by a growing body of scholarship, much of it funded by the N.R.A. According to the constitutional-law scholar Carl Bogus, at least sixteen of the twenty-seven law-review articles published between 1970 and 1989 that were favorable to the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment were “written by lawyers who had been directly employed by or represented the N.R.A. or other gun-rights organizations.” In an interview, former Chief Justice Warren Burger said that the new interpretation of the Second Amendment was “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”I think Lepore's succinct conclusion is almost irrefutable:
The debate narrowed, and degraded. Political candidates who supported gun control faced opponents whose campaigns were funded by the N.R.A. In 1991, a poll found that Americans were more familiar with the Second Amendment than they were with the First: the right to speak and to believe, and to write and to publish, freely.
“If you had asked, in 1968, will we have the right to do with guns in 2012 what we can do now, no one, on either side, would have believed you,” David Keene said.
Between 1968 and 2012, the idea that owning and carrying a gun is both a fundamental American freedom and an act of citizenship gained wide acceptance and, along with it, the principle that this right is absolute and cannot be compromised; gun-control legislation was diluted, defeated, overturned, or allowed to expire; the right to carry a concealed handgun became nearly ubiquitous; Stand Your Ground legislation passed in half the states; and, in 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5–4 decision, that the District’s 1975 Firearms Control Regulations Act was unconstitutional. Justice Scalia wrote, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.” Two years later, in another 5–4 ruling, McDonald v. Chicago, the Court extended Heller to the states.
When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.As Anthony Robinson put it:
Increasingly, it seems that citizenship is defined not by the community we are and which together we build, but by our right to own and carry a gun. To call this an impoverished notion of citizenship is an understatement. It is an outrage.