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August 10, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

The Secret History of Guns. "The Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and, for most of its history, the NRA all worked to control guns. The Founding Fathers? They required gun ownership—and regulated it. And no group has more fiercely advocated the right to bear loaded weapons in public than the Black Panthers—the true pioneers of the modern pro-gun movement. In the battle over gun rights in America, both sides have distorted history and the law, and there’s no resolution in sight." [Via]
posted by homunculus (36 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
New Player in Mexico’s Drug War: The NRA
posted by homunculus at 12:34 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea that conservative Republicans were trying to impose gun control sounds really odd until you realize they were trying to control black people from having guns. Something tells me this would still be the case today - although not with the same urgency.

Amazing how these conservatives are so stauchly in favor of everyone having guns until they run up against a fear of just who has those guns.
posted by Rashomon at 1:29 PM on August 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


Excellent article.

I think the only way we can achieve a rational gun policy in the US starting from where we are now is for progressives of all stripes to start arming themselves with a will.
posted by jamjam at 1:37 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, there is the Liberal Gun Club.
posted by Seamus at 1:44 PM on August 10, 2011


progressives of all stripes to start arming themselves with a will.

I can acknowledge not all gun ownership is evil, I have a handful of friends who own guns and they are good people but, I don't want a gun. Does your declaration mean that I am not a progressive, or that I should be forced to own one, or that we are all doomed because there are plenty of people who just don't give a fuck about owning a handheld device for killing things at a distance?
posted by edgeways at 1:52 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


No ... I think he means progressives should arm themselves with the will to actually get things done. Not arm themselves with actual guns. It's the old progressives are weak and can't achieve things meme.
posted by Arbac at 2:07 PM on August 10, 2011


I think the only way we can achieve a rational gun policy in the US starting from where we are now is for progressives of all stripes to start arming themselves with a will.

I couldn't agree more. Remember, as Commander Vimes observes in The Fifth Elephant,

"...[Weapons]'re so you don't have to kill people. They're for … for having. For being seen. For warning."

I'd argue that firearms are much more often used in threat display than for shooting. A sort of mutually-assured destruction on a mano a mano scale, if you will.
posted by honkeoki at 2:09 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a fascinating article and I'm astounded at how the NRA has changed its message over the years. One thing I've always wondered about is why not just regulate ammunition?
posted by dgran at 2:14 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I knew about Reagan's racially motivated anti-gun laws. Didn't know that the NRA was once in favor of gun control though. Interesting article all the way around.

As for armed liberals, these days I think we'd be better off following police cars with cameras (and live net feeds so they can't steal your video) than with guns.
posted by sotonohito at 2:24 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing I've always wondered about is why not just regulate ammunition?

Probably for the same reason that a special tax on ink and paper used in producing periodical publications runs afoul of the First Amendment. See Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minn. Comm'r of Revenue, 460 U.S. 575 (1983). Differential taxation that affects the exercise of a constitutionally protected right is frowned upon by the courts.
posted by jedicus at 2:29 PM on August 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The article was great.

I had the pleasure of listening to Kathleen Cleaver talk on her involvement with the Black Panther Party, particularly on the subject of gun control and militarization. It was videotaped - I'll see if I can hunt down the talk online later. I came away with a much more nuanced understanding of their position towards weapons, and the use of gun control as a political weapon against civil rights activists.

A non-insignificant number of right-wing extremists (and some libertarians) now use very similar rhetoric as the Black Panthers - arming themselves to protect their rights against an oppressive, corrupt militarized police or government. I have some familiar members who say the same thing, but that unfortunately draws ugly comparisons to the Tea Party these days when it's a belief that stems from their civil rights activism in the '60s.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:48 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


The pedant in me feels the need to mention that the Privileges or Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment doesn't actually do anything, though I have no doubt that Bingham was thinking of allowing the freedmen to be armed when he drafted it.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:05 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not in favor of forcing people to have guns. Some people know they shouldn't be handling them, and I support that.
posted by Malice at 3:07 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The pedant in me feels the need to mention that the Privileges or Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment doesn't actually do anything, though I have no doubt that Bingham was thinking of allowing the freedmen to be armed when he drafted it.

Yeah, I've always found it convenient that conservative "originalists" often ignore some of the more radical "original intent" that went into the making of the Fourteenth Amendment.
posted by jonp72 at 3:08 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Both those articles were fascinating, homunculus.

The thing that occurred to me as I was reading the Winkler article was that nobody seemed to disagree that convicted felons should be stripped of their right to be armed without commenting on which groups those restrictions affect.
posted by immlass at 3:10 PM on August 10, 2011


One thing I've always wondered about is why not just regulate ammunition?

"He must have done something... they put $50,000 worth of bullets in his ass!"
posted by kmz at 3:10 PM on August 10, 2011


Frankly, if I were a black man in the 1960s, I'd be all for firearm ownership, no question about it. I really gained a new appreciation for that kind of thing when people of my particular ethnic background were being detained or flat out vanished during the Bush years. So when Tea Partiers are actually being lynched, maybe I'll muster up some sympathy for them. In the mean time, they can go fuck themselves.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:12 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


We previously discussed the history of the liberal pro-gun movement in this thread. In particular, Loaded and Negroes With Guns are excellent.
posted by vorfeed at 4:03 PM on August 10, 2011


*shoots thread*
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on August 10, 2011


Well My family were Liberal and armed to the teeth for awhile there.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:18 PM on August 10, 2011


. . . progressives of all stripes to start arming themselves with a will.

In a society as enthusiastic, yet confused, about gun ownership as ours, we should all have wills, yes.
posted by barrett caulk at 8:28 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me, at the point when everyone else has a gun, I know I'll be wanting one. Until then, I'd rather not have one.
posted by saysthis at 4:43 AM on August 11, 2011


I'll stick with my bow + machete.

Being able to make your own ammunition in a post-apocalyptic hellscape is vital.
posted by Eideteker at 7:39 AM on August 11, 2011


I'll also add that one thing that has always irked me is that the ardent defenders of the second clause of the Second Amendment never seem to take "arms" in a broader sense than "guns".

They'll walk into Starbucks carrying pistols to a) annoy liberal types they know hang around Starbucks, and b) to emphasize that it's legal in their area. Try that with a sword and see how quickly you get arrested. They throw a fit about any limitation on guns, but they're fine with knives, swords, brass knuckles, etc being restricted.

Not that I've got any particular desire to carry a rapier into Starbucks, but it seems really odd (and, as a person who likes archaic weaponry annoying) that guns, vastly more dangerous, are less restricted than swords.

And that's completely ignoring bombs, hand grenades, missiles, rockets, IED's, and the whole range of modern "arms" that you'd imagine would be held as a sacred right by the people who focus on the second clause of the Second Amendment, but which they ignore completely.

Arms does not exclusively mean guns.

Nor are guns the best way to defend against tyranny or a military coup. I note that in Iraq, despite the ready availability of military grade fully automatic rifles, the improvised explosive device is the weapon of choice for the insurgency against the US occupation. When the NRA shifts its attention to instructing people in the manufacture of IED's, and begins lobbying for the right to keep and bear IED's, then I'll start taking their yammer about how the Second Amendment protects the others seriously. Until then they just seem like furries, but with a gun obsession rather than a Buggs Bunny obsession.
posted by sotonohito at 8:03 AM on August 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


i remember reading somewhere that in a lot of gun friendly places it's something like a felony to carry a knife. Unfortunately I don't remember the source of this information but I'll see what I can dig up.
posted by I-baLL at 8:56 AM on August 11, 2011


It's nice to separate issues from broader political taxonomies.

As a side note, this has sparked a realization for me that, of the dozens of friends and acquaintances I have here in Austin - the vast majority of whom are reliably Liberal - I can think of only two who don't shoot.
posted by rush at 11:32 AM on August 11, 2011


For what it's worth, I'm even more opposed to anti-knife laws than anti-gun laws, and every gun owner I've spoken to about this is at least equally opposed.

That said, it's pretty obvious why guns are the main focus of the discussion around "arms" and knives/swords/grenades/whatever aren't -- the Second Amendment goes all the way back to a time when swords and bayonets still were practical battlefield arms, and even then they weren't the focus of the Amendment (all eligible men were originally required to own a gun and ammunition; a sword, not so much). The same goes for IEDs: our own soldiers carry rifles, not improvised explosive devices, and the right to bear arms has always hewed closer to the idea of a citizen soldiery than an "insurgency".

To be frank, though, if "insurgency" against "tyranny or a military coup" is ever really an issue, I think we'll be glad we have an armed populace even if IEDs become the weapon of choice. This is not a video game where you press F5 and you're stuck with one weapon at a time. IEDs and small arms are mutually supportive weapons, not a binary choice... and there's a reason why the word "improvised" is in the former and not the latter, also.
posted by vorfeed at 12:05 PM on August 11, 2011


This is a rather stupid argument, anyway. There are limits on the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, blah blah etc -- why don't you argue that the ACLU are "furries" because they haven't "shifted their attention" to the right to yell "fire" (or "riot", given recent events) in a crowded theater?

There are many arguments that could be made about whether we have reasonable limits on the Second Amendment, but "lol how come nobody's upset that people can't have missiles?!?" isn't one of them.
posted by vorfeed at 12:31 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


@vorfeed I'm a gun owner myself, but I don't fetishize them.
I'm quite open about my reason for liking guns. They're nifty from an engineering standpoint and they're just plain fun to shoot. That's it. No yammer about freedom, or whatever.

As for the Second Amendment, to take it seriously means a definition of "arms" that is not limited to "guns".

Your ACLU comparison is not proper. A better comparison would be if the ACLU was dedicated to defending "speech", but only when "speech" was defined to mean "criticism of Republicans", then I'd declare them to be furries for Republican criticism. As it is the ACLU defends speech in a broad context, they defend the KKK, pornographers, the politically unpopular, you name it which makes them genuinely interested in free speech in and of itself rather than as a vehicle for a particular bit of monomania.

The other side of my argument that the NRA types are basically furries for guns is that all of their arguments about guns simply don't make any rational sense. Guns don't defend freedom, as illustrated by Iraq IED's are the weapon of choice when defending against occupying forces. Gun ownership and crime rates aren't tightly related, or really much related at all. Etc.

Worst, their reading of the Second Amendment (ie: ignoring the first clause and focusing on the second clause) would, logically, imply a general defense of "arms", not a defense of guns in specific. How many lawsuits have the NRA and other Second Amendment focused groups filed to challenge anti-knife laws? How much of their lobbying money goes into trying to overturn anti-knife laws? Unlike the ACLU they aren't an organization dedicated to a general defense of the Second Amendment, but only to one very narrow and specific aspect of it.

Citizen soldiers fit the same category: red herrings. There is no such a thing. It was a myth even back in 1776. Real soldiers, professional soldiers, were the critical component of every American victory on the battlefield and always has been. The Minuteman was a convenient propaganda tool, nothing more. These days a soldier is even more of a specialist with a great deal of training required to do their jobs effectively than they were back in the 1790's. And, again, the skillset required of soldiers is not the same skillset required of insurgents against an occupying force.

So yeah, I'm seeing the Second Amendment thing, and the "defending ourselves" thing, and all their other arguments as essentially red herrings. They don't care about that stuff, they just like guns qua guns. Same as furries might try to distract you with talk about animation as a legitimate platform for artistic expression, but when you get down to it they just like sexy cartoons.
posted by sotonohito at 9:11 AM on August 12, 2011


"I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives."
— Molly Ivins
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 9:47 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guns don't defend freedom, as illustrated by Iraq IED's are the weapon of choice when defending against occupying forces.

Occupying forces driving vehicles, yes. I don't think the insurgents have discarded their AKs, though.

Worst, their reading of the Second Amendment (ie: ignoring the first clause and focusing on the second clause) would, logically, imply a general defense of "arms", not a defense of guns in specific.

That's because "arms" has usually been used to refer to guns: "small arms", "firearms". Soldiers carry rifles, and have since the Bill of Rights was written. Knives aren't arms. Larger bladed weapons (swords, poleaxes, etc) aren't standard arms any more.

How many lawsuits have the NRA and other Second Amendment focused groups filed to challenge anti-knife laws?

I'd expect that the National Rifle Association's mandate doesn't cover knives.

Citizen soldiers fit the same category: red herrings. There is no such a thing. It was a myth even back in 1776. Real soldiers, professional soldiers, were the critical component of every American victory on the battlefield and always has been. The Minuteman was a convenient propaganda tool, nothing more. These days a soldier is even more of a specialist with a great deal of training required to do their jobs effectively than they were back in the 1790's. And, again, the skillset required of soldiers is not the same skillset required of insurgents against an occupying force.

Well, I hardly know where to start here. First, I'll have to inform my National Guard acquaintances that they don't exist. Second, militiamen did provide an essential contribution during the Revolutionary War. Third, I'll have to assume that you're neither an infantryman nor an insurgent - neither one is rocket science, and typically insurgents have no training at all. In any case, the envisioned purpose of a militia (based on a reading of the historical record) is not simply to repel invaders, but to protect the freedoms of citizens and the state from an oppressive federal government and its standing armies.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:59 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


So yeah, I'm seeing the Second Amendment thing, and the "defending ourselves" thing, and all their other arguments as essentially red herrings. They don't care about that stuff, they just like guns qua guns. Same as furries might try to distract you with talk about animation as a legitimate platform for artistic expression, but when you get down to it they just like sexy cartoons.

The problem with this is that it's all just, like... your opinion, man. Maybe some furries are truly concerned with animation as a legitimate platform for artistic expression as well as enjoying sexy cartoons, and maybe some gun owners really do care about the issues you keep insisting they don't. In short: other people are allowed to have reasons to do things which aren't your personal reasons, and the fact that you personally disagree with those reasons does not make them "red herrings".

I may as well claim that you don't really like guns just because they're fun to shoot. Why, that's just a red herring which is covering up your true devotion to repeated viewings of Red Dawn, because to "take guns seriously" necessarily means exactly what I say it does!
posted by vorfeed at 12:54 PM on August 12, 2011


Yes, it is my opinion. So?

Their actions do not match their rhetoric of believing guns to be critical to freedom. Maybe they're just stupid, I don't know. Personally I choose the lesser insult and choose to think that they're lying rather than stupid.

Same with the so-called "pro-life" crowd. It is my opinion that they are lying and that they don't really give a shit about fetuses. I hold this opinion because their actions do not match their rhetoric.

I'm not a mind reader and never claimed to be. I never claimed to be expressing anything but an opinion. It is my opinion that the gun fetishists are basically the same as furries only they get off on guns instead of cartoons.

It is, apparently, your opinion that my opinion is bad, or wrong.

If people were really worried about running an insurgency against the Evil Federal Government than they'd be focusing on explosives and other tools that have been demonstrated to be effective in such insurgencies. And yeah, guns can be handy to an insurgency, no argument, but it is an indisputable fact that guns are not the primary weapon of such insurgencies. Ergo, IN MY OPINION, they aren't really concerned in the slightest about the Evil Federal Government infringing on their freedom, they're just using that as cover for their obsession with guns.

Maybe they've got some sort of Rambo-esque fantasy life where they really do believe that their guns will be the only thing standing between American freedom and the Evil Federal Government. If that's the case I'd say that's vastly more pathetic than merely being lying gun fetishists. My opinion of them, while low, at least does not require me to believe them to be delusional morons which is what your take on things would require me to think of them as.

I've known a few gun fetishists personally, and they are creepily into their guns. Not sexually, but creepily. For the people I've known like that guns aren't a means to an end, they're an end unto themselves. They were also universally male and seemed to have their ideas of manhood tied in with their gun ownership. Again, not in the sense of sexual pleasure, but rather sexual identity. It seemed as if the equation was that they were men, therefore they owned guns and they owned guns therefore they were men.

My opinion is born from my direct experience with such people, and from a sense of incredulity that any sane person could really believe the self evident bullshit they put forth to justify their obsession with guns.

In short: other people are allowed to have reasons to do things which aren't your personal reasons

No, but people aren't allowed to expect me to treat blatant and obvious bullshit as if it were true. I'm not that stupid and I'm insulted if they think I'm so dumb that I'll believe such obvious and blatant lies.

If they cared about being armed for the purpose of resisting oppression by their government they'd care about a lot more than guns.

Same as the so-called "pro-life" crowd. If they cared about fetuses they'd be majorly invested in spreading and encouraging birth control. They don't, so I consider their claims of fetal concern to be so much bullshit.

Same for the gun nuts. Their claims of fear of government oppression don't match their actions, therefore (in my opinion) their claim that they need guns to ward off government oppression is just so much bullshit.
posted by sotonohito at 2:43 PM on August 12, 2011


No, but people aren't allowed to expect me to treat blatant and obvious bullshit as if it were true.

Blatant and obvious bullshit like what? Like the idea that the only two available options are for everyone in the world to do what you yourself would choose to do, or to have "actions which don't match their rhetoric"?

Failing to do one specific thing which is (sometimes, by some people, and notably not by the people in question) conflated with Rhetoric X does not necessarily mean that Rhetoric X isn't why people do some of the things they do. It might mean that not every single decision in their lives is solely governed by a fanatical and absolutist belief in Rhetoric X -- imagine that! -- or it might mean that they have a different view of what Rhetoric X demands of them, and are pursuing that standard rather than yours.

These simplistic loyalty-oath dichotomies you've built up are, in a nutshell, so much bullshit.
posted by vorfeed at 5:33 PM on August 12, 2011


@vorfeed There are plenty of reasons to disagree with me.

But when someone says "I take position X because the sun is made of pink puppies!" I know they're lying, or stupid, or both. In any event, I feel absolutely no obligation to pretend to believe them, or their blatantly BS excuse for taking position X.

As for the NRA, it's membership does seem to be genuinely delusional. Recall that Obama did not campaign on an anti-gun platform, that he in fact went out of his way to appear pro-gun, and nevertheless NRA types have created an ammo shortage and a massive uptick in gun sales because of their delusional belief that Obama was going to (somehow, for some reason) take away their guns.

Perhaps they genuinely do believe their own rhetoric about guns preserving freedom. If so that's even more pathetic than my assumption that they're just lying to disguise their gun fetish.

But either way it's time, and past, to admit that they're just plain nuts and move on.
posted by sotonohito at 4:46 AM on August 13, 2011


Two Targets, One Bullet: How the Ultimate Sniper Rifle Was Made
posted by homunculus at 1:13 PM on August 18, 2011


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