Shorter NRA: We Demand the Freedom to Live In a Permanent Police State

This Tom Scocca piece is pretty much brilliant from soup to cappuccino — I’m not even sure where to start excerpting. Here’s a couple of teasers:

Guns kill people. More guns kill more people. What the NRA gets wrong—intentionally or delusionally or, in the psychologically and financially profitable zone where intention and delusion overlap—is its bedrock premise: that gun killings are the work of Bad Guys, predators whose drive to hurt and steal and kill cannot be stopped by anything but a brave Good Guy armed with a powerful firearm and, not at all incidentally, trained through an NRA-backed firearms-training program.

And the NRA insists that these people—”the monsters and the predators,” as LaPierre put it—will not be thwarted by gun control, except in the funny T-shirt both-hands-on-my-weapon sense. The next Adam Lanza is already picking out his target, LaPierre said.

That’s because the next Adam Lanza is almost certainly able to get his hands on a weapon to point at that target. The original Adam Lanza was apparently too confused and low-functioning to navigate Connecticut’s simple waiting period and buy one for himself. But his mother, a gun enthusiast in good standing, had a stock of her own. She reportedly had wanted to feel safe.

[...]

This is the most extraordinary thing about the NRA’s ideology and the climate it’s created. By the time you read this, there will almost certainly be someone who has jumped to the comments to denounce gun regulations as an infringement of fundamental liberties. It is only the presence of uncounted millions of guns, in the hands of uncounted millions of Americans—whether pointy-headed liberals recognize this as a “well-regulated militia” or not—that secures our freedom against the encroachment of a totalitarian police state.

Yet today, LaPierre got up and described the gun lobby’s vision of our future: “A police officer in every single school.” “Armed security … building design … access control … information technology.” “An active national database of the mentally ill.”

This is the NRA’s idea of a free country. Kindergarteners on lockdown. Federal monitoring of everyone’s mental-health status. Cops in every hallway.

But, really, it’s all that good. The equation of guns and liberty is a conservertarian reductio ad absurdum on a par with Robert Bork’s argument that liberty requires giving public accommodations the right to deny African-Americans service based on their race (although, oddly, similar common law rights that applied to white people posed much less of a threat to liberty.) As Scocca says, it’s no coincidence that as the scope of the Second Amendment has been enlarged, the scope of the much more important Fourth Amendment (which actually does protect rights crucial to individual liberty) has been shrinking.

56 comments on this post.
  1. Aaron DeOliveira:

    When some speak of liberty do they conflate it with the unrestrained exercise of privilege?

  2. Mohandas Gandhi:

    Wow, tough question.

  3. Not Mohandas Gandhi:

    Um, I should use cookieless-browser-mode when I’m impersonating famous people, so I don’t get stuck with their names.

  4. Bill Murray:

    Webster NY is aflame because of a gun nut. Evidently 2 volunteer firefighters are dead. Way to go NRA

    http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/12/24/guns-destroy-communities/

  5. Adam Roberts:

    Mr Scocca is surely wrong to say ‘guns kill people’. That’s only part of the story. Guns also wound people, and intimidate people. As far as I can see, those three options exhaust the possibilities for things guns do.

    What I don’t understand, speaking as an outsider, is why Americans tolerate the other weapons-related legal restrictions. Why is the government allowed to get away with legally preventing ordinary Americans from making bombs? Wouldn’t it make sense for people to be allowed to carry bombs along with their guns?

  6. Walt:

    Bombs are not thin and long.

  7. guthrie:

    Surely that’s modern conservative thought – ensuring freedom by building a police state.
    If you’re innocent you’ll have nothing to hide!

  8. blowback:

    Scott – I think your headline is wrong – what the NRA want is not a police state but a militarized state, so that the gun manufacturers get a larger chunk of federal defence expenditure, The FBI and state police budgets are nothing compared with DoD’s budget.

  9. Leeds man:

    Pipe bombs?

  10. Jacob T. Levy:

    I think I’ve noticed some critics of the TSA/ security theater regime in airports coming out in favor of the cops-in-schools solution with no apparent cognitive dissonance.

  11. Joe:

    If their fantasy was put in place, I’m sure there will be the usual complaints including some story about a five year old suspended for having a toy gun.

  12. DrDick:

    And a bigger bang, so to speak, for your penile substitute.

  13. DrDick:

    Modern conservatism = authoritarianism.

  14. Matt McKeon:

    Tony Horowitz had an interesting article equating the “slavepower” of the 1850s with the “gunpower” of today. While gun owning and slave owning aren’t similar, the response to outside pressure is similar: circle the wagons, up the rhetoric and the demands, which had (and has) the effect of alienating those outside the circle.
    Being awash with guns stops being a necessary evil and becomes a positive good.

  15. howard:

    scott, i’ve long admitted i’m no constitutional scholar, but i can’t figure out what this parenthetical means:

    (although, oddly, similar common law rights that applied to white people posed much less of a threat to liberty.)

    i’m sure it’s some bork crime against humanity, but i can’t say as i recognize which one: care to elucidate?

  16. Matt McKeon:

    I was disturbed to read in the JAMA for Dec. 21, that the NRA has managed to suppress research by both the Centers for Disease Control and the US military into deaths and injuries caused by privately owned guns. This should be a bigger story than it is, the NRA suppresses the 1st amendment in its extremism over the 2nd.

  17. Uncle Ebeneezer:

    Chris Hayes had some dude on from SWAT magazine who argued that

    1.) the “Bad guys with guns” line by LaPierre is the truth, because bad guys are inevitable
    2.) that carrying a gun makes a person more likely to de-escalate situations out of fear that the other person could take his gun, therefore people carrying guns are more likely to avoid confrontations,
    3.) machetes are just as dangerous as guns and
    4.) that the fetishization of guns is the fault of movies and the attention that the media gives to these shooters
    5.) that the RIGHT for every individual to bear arms has been established for the entirety of our nation.

    I was disappointed that Chris (who usually does a great job knocking down wingnut talking points) didn’t make any of the following responses:

    1.) Isn’t a bad guy without a gun, far less dangerous than a bad guy with a gun? Wouldn’t a logical approach be to try to minimize the supply of assault weapons out there that bad guys can access?
    2.) George Zimmerman
    3.) Give one person a machete and one person a semi-automatic and see who can kill more people.
    4.) Ahem
    5.) Isn’t the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to refer to individuals, a relatively recent thing?

    For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.

    And finally, nobody pointed out that as these shooting massacres are often followed by huge spikes in guns/ammo sales, isn’t it obviously in the self-interest of the NRA, as a propaganda arm of the gun manufacturers to do nothing to discourage future repetitions of these tragedies?

  18. Scott Lemieux:

    This point was also made by Harlan in his great dissent in the Civil Rights Cases: as a common law principle, public accommodations (as opposed to genuinely private residences) had to serve all comers subject to reasonable restrictions. Segregation was an exception to this principle, and civil rights legislation merely ensures that it is applied systematically.

  19. Anonymous:

    Poppy Bush told Wayne LaPierre where to shove off 17 years ago, resigning his membership in the NRA:

    I was outraged when, even in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of N.R.A., defended his attack on federal agents as “jack-booted thugs.” To attack Secret Service agents or A.T.F. people or any government law enforcement people as “wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” wanting to “attack law abiding citizens” is a vicious slander on good people.

    …I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.

    However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.

  20. Joe:

    Bork wrote his original argument in the New Republic and the magazine responded that under the common law that public accommodations were required to serve “all comers” (see Scott’s reply) so “whether individual men ought to be free to deal and associate with whom they please for whatever reasons appeal to them” was not the test … for some reason, it only applied to white people.

    http://legalhistoryblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/robert-bork-and-right-to-discriminate.html

    [cited to provide background, not agree with everything argued]

  21. Joe:

    And, Reagan did too I guess, by supporting gun regulations deemed by them to be tyranny.

  22. DocAmazing:

    Similar thoughts, from a different angle:
    https://nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/newtown

  23. howard:

    thank you both.

  24. soylenth:

    If nothing else changes, this should change. What possible public good comes of forbidding the CDC to research gun deaths? Is the pubic really okay with the government suppressing non-classified knowledge for any reason? Simply because it might inconvenience some lobbyists?

  25. Speak Truth:

    Yes, clearly constitutional rights as decided by the Supreme Court can be regulated…..unless it’s abortion and then it’s absolute.

  26. Speak Truth:

    …gun killings are the work of Bad Guys, predators whose drive to hurt and steal and kill cannot be stopped by anything but a brave Good Guy armed with a powerful firearm and, not at all incidentally, trained through an NRA-backed firearms-training program.

    No, of course not.
    Gun killings are the work of really good people whose drive to help and do good deeds can only be stopped by reasoning with them while they’re shooting others. Also, a hug just might do the trick.

  27. The Dark Avenger:

    Nope, Roe V Wade doesn’t allow abortion on demand at all stages of development, the states are allowed to regulate third-trimester abortions as their citizens see fit.

    Hardly absolute, Speak Lies.

  28. efgoldman:

    If nothing else changes, this should change.

    I assume you mean that in a preferential, rather than a predictive, sense. I’d like it to be true, but…

  29. Bruce Baugh:

    In a comment at Balloon Juice, the often astute Aimai suggested that what the NRA’s leadership really wants is a failed state, where the state is just one heavily armed actor among many. That feels like the truth of it to me.

  30. JR:

    We seem to have more to fear from that “well regulated militia” than from the government it’s supposed to be protecting us from.

  31. Spokane Moderate:

    18,000 suicides by gun every year. I’m willing to bet quite a few of them would have been better off with a hug. YMMV.

  32. STH:

    Yes. That’s a big part of all this, people who feel small and powerless wanting to feel powerful and able to push back against all the forces they feel are arrayed against them.

  33. DrDick:

    I have a better idea. How about we put a system in place that makes it really hard for whalaloons (like YOU) and crooks to get guns and imposes significant penalties on them if they are caught with them? That way we do not have so many of these situations.

  34. Malaclypse:

    Manichaeism is a hell of a drug.

  35. Speak Truth:

    Then you won’t mind if the state is not required to finance abortions.

    That’s certainly not any kind of restriction.

  36. N__B:

    No! It’s a fantastic drug!

  37. Dilan Esper:

    I actually think that this may be changed. That is the sort of provision that gets inserted in the dead of night. If it is publicized, it will be very hard for it to survive a recorded vote.

  38. Malaclypse:

    Then you won’t mind if the state is not required to finance abortions.

    Shorter Jennie: I remain ignorant of the Hyde Amendment, and need to announce this fact.

  39. STH:

    gun killings are the work of Bad Guys . . .

    . . . and curious young children.
    . . . and drunken arguments that get out of hand.
    . . . and people cleaning their guns.
    . . . and nervous people accidentally shooting someone they think is an intruder.
    . . . and depressed teens who might not kill themselves if it weren’t so easy.
    . . . and cops shooting the wrong person because they can’t tell who is the criminal when everyone is armed.

  40. Ignorant Texan:

    Worked for Ed Meese.

  41. The Dark Avenger:

    Actually, I would prefer that the state make contraceptives available to all men/women of child-bearing age, which would logically reduce the need for abortions, as well as having abortions available to all women who need them, regardless if they can pay for them or not.

  42. sharculese:

    Your inability to tell the difference between bodily autonomy and shiny toys speaks volumes about you.

    None of it not creepy.

  43. DrDick:

    People clearing a jammed chamber in an automatic (my former brother-in-law blew a hole through his knee that way).

  44. timb:

    I continue to like pancakes and sure wish people would ignore this particular troll, who harshes my pancake syrupy buzz

  45. asdfsdf:

    Because nobody has any bombs, and so there is no one terrified that the government will take away their constitutional right to bear BLU-109s. Bomb-grabbers.

    In more words, after the gang violence of prohibition the US enacted some strict laws on some weapons: machine guns, sawed-off weapons, sound-suppressed weapons, weapons with >.50 caliber, and high explosive weapons. Pistols, shotguns, rifles, and weapons with sporting uses are exempt. (So you can buy a pump-action shotgun easily, but getting your hands on an automatic shotgun is tricky.)

    You can still buy these weapons, but you need to pay a tax, get the signature of the local chief law enforcement officer (who can say no), pass a detailed background check, and register your weapon with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. You can’t transfer your weapon without the new owner passing the same checks and the ATF being alerted (which is different from normal laws), and breaking ATF laws can get you 10 years in jail.

    Basically, it’s easy to buy a normal gun, very hard to buy a machine gun, and the ATF is super scary. There are 300,000,000 guns in the US, but only 175,000 machine guns.

  46. Speak Truth:

    @ asdfsdf,

    While your basic facts are correct, practice, as usual, is different than theory.

    Because the law enforcement community in most cases refuses to participate in the process and will not provide signatures required by the form 4 for a tax-paid transfer of a weapon that falls under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (class III), it is common practice to form a trust or corporation to transfer these weapons and the BATF routinely approves that transfer.

    With a trust, no signature is required. No fingerprints or photographs are required. How can they do a background check on a newly created entity? It’s easy as pie to get a machinegun today.

    So, in response to your well researched but naive post, most people don’t get the scrutiny you think they do when buying machineguns, silencers, short-barreled shotguns, rifles or even destructive devices.

  47. Speak Truth:

    What a dumbass. Don’t let him drive a car, for God’s sake.

    Any sharp objects he can get hold of?

  48. Speak Truth:

    In a comment at Balloon Juice, the often astute Aimai suggested that what the NRA’s leadership really wants is a failed state, where the state is just one heavily armed actor among many. That feels like the truth of it to me.

    Then you’re as stupid as the day is long. Since 1873 the National Rifle Association has had one and only one goal and that is to protect the civil right enumerated by the second amendment. There is nothing else, there is no evidence you can offer that suggests anything different.

    And that’s what makes you so stupid. The evidence is there. All you need do is a little research. One job. One issue.

    That’s it.

    Now, if you have something besides your flapping lips to back up your assertion, then present it, this would be a good time to make your case.

  49. Malaclypse:

    Then you’re as stupid as the day is long.

    Always projection with Jennie. Projection, stupidity, and flop-sweat.

    Since 1873 the National Rifle Association has had one and only one goal and that is to protect the civil right enumerated by the second amendment.

    The actual right under discussion.

    As always, history has a distinct liberal bias.

  50. Timb:

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/04/23/120423fa_fact_lepore

    Until the 1970s the NRA was largely a non-political organization and not the cash cow for crazy laws it is today. Course, you wouldn’t know that, since you don’t even know what the Amendment says, eh, jen

  51. The Dark Avenger:

    Getting into a car with a loaded gun:

    MERCER, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say a 7-year-old boy was shot to death when a gun accidentally went off as his father was getting into his truck outside a western Pennsylvania gun store.

    The boy was shot Saturday morning at Twigs Reloading Den in East Lackawannock Township, 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. Store owner Leonard Mohney says it happened in the parking lot.

    Talk about winning the Darwin Award.

  52. zebuhanareth:

    as soon as one of the gun manufacturers expands into nuclear weapons. I can almost see the superbowl commercial for “your right to have a nuclear hand grendade”.

  53. Xenos:

    Knives are also penile substitutes, and may be banned. How it is that the gun may not be banned, but that the bayonet may be, is a mystery.

    And when my father-in-law went into the local gun shop and asked for a silencer for his shotgun, they rather rudely asked him to leave. He was rather disappointed that the second amendment did not protect his rabbit-poaching hobby.

  54. Snarki, child of Loki:

    That’s rather like asking for a left-handed monkey wrench, isn’t it?

  55. Snarki, child of Loki:

    It would have been a Darwin Award if the gun-owning dude had shot *himself*

    As it is, it was a horrible, preventable, tragedy.

  56. Unsympathetic:

    The tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of tyrants and patriots firefighters and elementary school children.

    1) In the Wild West of the 1800′s, if a person entered a town, they surrendered their gun to the sheriff.
    2) It’s incredibly ironic that the gun nuts would rather create the very police state that the second amendment was put there to prevent.. than have another adult conversation about gun control. Perhaps the assault weapons ban is enough – and perhaps not.

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