Keeping up with the Joneses

One of the core reasons given for keeping and stringently adhering to the Second Amendment is that an armed citizenry is a safeguard against the US government becoming a tyranny. This gives rise to the impression that gun owners think they’d be able to mount an armed insurrection against what they believe has become a despotic dictorship, ala Arab Spring or like the Syrian Rebels. However, the thought of these self-proclaimed patriots pitting their pistols and rifles against the might of the US Armed Forces, which, even the NRA would have to quickly (and, perhaps, enviously) admit, have a bit of an edge when it comes to weaponry, to say the very least, is both pitiable and laughable. Indeed, the gun-rightists insistance that they would thusly stand up to government over-reach has been dismissed by comics and pundits alike as testosterone-driven fantasy. Any such rebellion would obviously be both futile and short lived.

So, this morning I’m reading this article about how the average price of gasoline in the US was higher in 2012 than in any previous year, and the thought crosses my mind that a) Big Oil probably made record profits (again) as well, and b) it’s about time the federal government did something about this, like nationalize the oil industry. This thought quickly dissovled into one of rioting in the streets, which would conceivably follow such a government “power grab”: death and carnage resulting from tens of thousands of freedom-loving, government-hating, well-armed citizens expressing their great displeasure with and disapproval of the government taking away the rights of corporations to rip off the public with impunity and charge them ever higher prices even as demand continues to drop. And then it hit me: Could THIS be the sort of “armed revolt” the NRA is thinking of? Gun nuts may see themselves hunkered down in foxholes dug into battle lines drawn along the length of the Mall but I thnk the NRA has a more subtle end-game in mind, one in which the public is put at risk of lethal harm at the hands of their own neighbors armed to the teeth, rising up in white hot rage, nerves frayed to a flash-point, ready to “take out” anyone who so much as disagrees with them or calls their rage into question.

Could it be that this is why the NRA is so sanguine in their response to mass shootings? Newtown, Denver, Columbine, VCU, Gabrielle Giffords, etc. provide a small but clear taste of what would happen — on a much larger scale — if enough gun owners became angry enough to simply pick up their weapons and start shooting. Could it be that it isn’t federal buildings being attacked that they want our elected officials to be afraid of; rather, they want them to fear us attacking — and killing — one another?

Before we invaded Iraq we often heard stories of how Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against his own population. (Well, OK, against the Kurds, who he really didn’t regard as actual people let alone fellow countrymen.) We’re now hearing stories almost every day about how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is ruthlessly trying (though failing, it seems) to put down a massive rebellion in his country. These, we are told, are the sorts of dictatorships, the sort of self-interested tyrants that our well-armed citizenry prevents from coming into power here in the US. But, these are, from the outset and to their very core, different kinds of governments. They are not empowered (overtly and expressly) by the people they govern, and their function is more like that of a corporation — to maximize benefit for the empowered at the expense of everyone else. These governments invite rebellion and overthrow precisely because they disenfrancise nearly all of their citizens right from the start, and they derive their power only from the use of force . To them, might makes right. Period.

A benevolent government such as ours is ruled by laws, not military force, and its power comes not from an imaginary divine mandate or heridity; it comes from the people, who created the government to begin with. To immobilize such a government you don’t go up against its military; you threaten to harm or kill the very people who empower it, whose welfare and domestic tranqulity it is litaerally bound to protect. I believe that the NRA and the gun lobby have long since figured this out, and they have made us all hostages without us even realizing it. The tacit threat is that if the government steps out of line or doesn’t do as it’s told, WE (as in The People) will consequently come to harm. Every now and then, a few (or a few dozen) of us are executed just to make sure that we — i.e., the government — take the threat seriously. And yet, the actual shooter always turns out to be some deranged lunatic. The NRA and their minions plausibly distance themselves, claim that they had nothing to do with the latest horror, and continue to insist that the only valid solution is more guns for everyone. One can conclude that the NRA believes the only thing standing between us and tyranny isn’t guns; it’s collective suicide.

Romanticized versions of the stories of Masada and Jonestown tell us that the inhabitants all committed suicide rather than be taken by their besiegers, real or imaginary. In fact, while perhaps many did kill themselves, many others (certainly the children) were either killed by someone else, or were coerced at knife/sword/gun-point into taking their own lives. If this is indeed the NRA strategy, it is brilliant. It lets them accomplish anything they like, advance any agenda at all, even sell their influence to political interests that have nothing whatsoever to do with guns or gun rights. All the while they’re able to hold up their clean hands and with a straight face claim that the way to prevent future mass-killings is more guns in the hands of more people. No doubt, Jim Jones would be impressed.

Update,  30 June 2017:
The NRA recently released this PSA.  It all but validates the thesis of this post.  The NRA wants Americans to fight — and kill — one another.