It’s official: gun ownership is trendy. When a prime exemplar of the liberal press publishes a “Come to Jesus (Armed)” feature, you know it’s only a matter of time before every state in the these here United becomes a “shall issue” state. Yes, even California, Rhode Island and New York. The press release for Harper’s Magazine’s August cover story Happiness is a Worn Gun: My Concealed Weapon and Me tells the tale of a left-leaning jobbing journo who gets serious wood for firearms. Yes, well, Baum’s text (provided by Harper’s Magazine to TTAG) doesn’t really answer the crucial question: does carrying a firearm change one’s political views? He gets close, but there’s no cigar.

Shooters see their guns as emblems of a whole spectrum of virtuous lifestyle choices— rural over urban, self-reliance over dependence on the collective, vigorous outdoorsiness over pallid intellectualism, patriotism over interna- tionalism, action over inaction—and they hear attacks on guns as attacks on them, personally. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence sound like groups even the NRA could support: who wouldn’t want to prevent violence? But the former was called, until 1989, the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, and the latter wants to prohibit the “military-style semi-automatic assault weapons” popular among shooters. From the point of view of gun enthusiasts, it’s not gun violence these groups want to end, but gun ownership.

And? And nothing, really. Baum ignores the obvious conflict of interest between his liberal upbringing and the consequences of his acceptance of gun ownership. He expresses sympathy for gun owners’ contempt for “sheep” living in “condition white,” while expressing a deep longing to re-immerse himself in non-gun owners’ obliviousness.

And then he cuts right. Making a passionate case for eliminating gun-free zones as killing fields.

Unless we’re willing to send the police door-to-door to round them all up, the country is going to be awash in fire- arms for years to come. Thugs will push guns into the faces of convenience-store clerks, lunatics will shoot up restaurants, aggrieved workers will spray their offices with bullets, and alienated students will open fire at school. The question that interests gun activists is how we’re prepared to respond. A Republican legislator in Wisconsin wanted to arm teachers so they could cut down Columbine copycats, and college students in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, Texas, and Virginia are agitating for the right to carry concealed weapons on campus so they can defend themselves against the next Virginia Tech–style shooter. An armed civilian might be even more useful during a massacre than a po- lice officer; cops hit the people they’re aiming at less than half the time—in some departments much less. That might be because criminals identify police by their uniforms and so get the first shot off. A civilian might have the element of surprise.

Notice the use of the word “we.” Baum is solidly out of the closet as a self-identified “gun activist.” Aye, there’s the rub. Gun rights activists find little if any support on the left side of the political spectrum, which has a long and ignoble history of suppressing Second Amendment rights. In the main, you buys your bullets, you votes Republican.

Baum goes a lot further down his pro-gun Road to Damascus, if not far enough.

It’s true that crime is down, but it’s certainly not nonexistent; hideous things happen to good people every day. We carry fire insurance even though fire is uncommon; carrying a gun may be no more paranoid. Expecting police protection is delusional; they’ll usually do no more than show up later to investigate. Carrying a gun is unsafe for those who haven’t been properly trained, but a good class and regular practice can fix that. Only the last two reasons strike me as logically complete arguments not to go armed. Being willing to die rather than kill is an admi- rable and time-honored philosophical position. I’m not certain, though, how many of us would hold to it when the fatal moment was upon us. I, for one, count myself out. I’m willing.

But not willing to accept the idea that it’s OK for the majority of Americans to arm themselves, considering the resulting loss of innocence.

Which is exactly the difference between the left and the right on gun control, and everything else for that matter. One side is suffused with idealism, the other afraid of its own shadow.

When it comes to liberal gun owners, I prefer my lefty pal David’s intellectual honesty to Mr. Baum bi-polar ballistics. “The right have guns,” David says. “So we need guns too.”

Personally, I side with Benjamin Franklin. It’s better to be a pessimist and pleasantly surprised than an optimist and constantly disappointed. And/or a victim.

28 Responses to Harper’s Magazine Cover Story on Liberal Gun Owners. Go Figure.

  1. Just what is the “obvious conflict of interest between his liberal upbringing and the consequences of his acceptance of gun ownership”? What exactly is the conflict between a belief in collective over individual action that is in “conflict” with either an enthusiasm for guns and the desire to defend oneself from criminals? And why on earth is it in the interests of the gun-enthusiastic community to drive away anyone who doesn’t sign on to the whole small-government/low-taxes/loose-regulation ideology?

    • Mr. Dan Baum, I think I can provide you some partial answers to the questions you asked in the post above.

      I am a licensed concealed carry instructor as well as a college instructor in an academic field typically dominated by political liberals.

      1) Part of the "conflict of interest" in the first two questions can be found in your own words. Once you begin carrying a gun to defend yourself (and I am very glad you have chosen to do so) then you are engaging in individualistic behavior and self-reliant thinking and action. You are no longer relying totally upon the "approved governmental authorities" to protect and defend your life. One of the characteristics of modern American liberals is that they typically prefer governmental answers to problems over individual answers to problems. They prefer public solutions to private solutions.

      You simply cannot get any more private and individual in your actions and decisions than choosing to carry your own gun to protect yourself. And by taking such an intensely private and individualistic action, you are doing things that run very much counter to large swaths of modern American liberal ideology, thought, and legislation.

      2) As a new convert to providing for your own self-defense, you are not familiar with the very long history of animosity and outright hate that modern American liberals have had for American gun owners, and that can be seen by merely looking at anti-gun legislation and laws for the last several decades.

      For example, you cite the ban on military-style "assault weapons" as a piece of anti-gun legislation to which gun owners really took exception . ( By the way, "assault weapon" is a term created by Josh Sugarman–another anti-gun liberal–specifically for the purpose of confusing non-gun owners into thinking that semi-auto rifles were actually machine guns and should be banned. And Josh says that in his own words, too. Here's a link, look under "quotes." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_Sugarmann ).

      The so-called "assault weapons" ban of 1994 was enacted by legislators who all bought into the big-government/high-taxes/tight regulation ideology. You can't have any more tight regulation than a ban, you know.

      The two biggest proponents of this ridiculous, draconian, ban were then-President Bill Clinton and his VP Al Gore, both "centrist" Democrats from southern states.

      In 1994, Gore provided the tie-breaking vote in the Senate for the so-called "assault weapons" ban, and made quite the production of walking down to the Senate chambers to cast the tie-breaking vote, and Clinton made quite the production in signing it. Clinton made all sorts of disparaging remarks in public about the "NRA bubbas" who were against the bill's passage.

      Neither Gore nore Clinton, while in Arkansas and Tennessee, had shown any anti-gun tendencies at all….ever.

      But once they reached the nation stage, they enacted the most draconian, awful, hideously anti-gun law perpetrated in the US in decades.

      Clinton and Gore proved that when it comes to wanting to ban guns, there are no Democrats on the national level who can be trusted to be reliably pro-gun.

      The simple, undeniable historical fact is this, Mr. Baum.

      For the last 50 years, all of the most restrictive, onerous gun control policies, legislation, laws, codes, and practices have all been passed, signed, enacted and supported by people who strongly buy into the big-government/high taxes/tight regulations ideology.

      It is the "blue states" and "blue cities" that have the most anti-gun laws and regulations (Vermont being the lone exception). It was Washington D.C. and Chicago that both lost gun-ban cases in the US Supreme Court recently, not Atlanta and Oklahoma City.

      Look at New York City's Sullivan Law. Look at California's state gun laws. Now compare them to any so-called "red state" or "red city" of your choosing.

      Check out Chuck Schumer's record, and public statements about gun ownership. Go read about Ted Kennedy's efforts to ban .30-30 ammuntion because it was "armor piercing." Be sure to read about when the .30-30 caliber was developed, too.

      We gun owners have been burned in the past, many times over, by liberals.

      We have been burned by liberals who never once showed any anti-gun tendencies until they got to the national political stage, where they then stabbed us in the back, and then lambasted us for not enjoying the process of being stabbed.

      And we have good memories.

      So don't be surprised at all when we come off as rather skeptical of pro-gun liberals.

  2. Sir,

    You asked:

    "What exactly is the conflict between a belief in collective over individual action that is in “conflict” with either an enthusiasm for guns and the desire to defend oneself from criminals?"

    I will let some prominent collectivists and statists answer for themselves:

    "One man with a gun can control 100 without one." – Lenin

    "A system of licensing and registration is the perfect device to deny gun ownership to the bourgeoisie." – Lenin

    "Germans who wish to use firearms should join the SS or the SA — ordinary citizens don't need guns, as their having guns doesn't serve the State." – Heinrich Himmler

    "We don't let them have ideas. Why would we let them have guns? – Joseph Stalin."

    "Every Communist must grasp the truth that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." – Mao

    "We want them all registered." – Nancy Pelosi

    You also asked:

    "And why on earth is it in the interests of the gun-enthusiastic community to drive away anyone who doesn’t sign on to the whole small-government/low-taxes/loose-regulation ideology?"

    If you are on your way to rejecting bigger and bigger government / high taxes and over-regulation & statist control of all aspects of our lives, then you aren't being "driven away" at all.

    If not…

      • I read the excerpts above and replied to the man's questions.

        I won't buy Harpers because I spent most of my spare "hope and change" on "Guns and Ammo" and "Shotgun News".

        And I am saving the rest for hard-right candidates, and for American and Israeli soldiers' charities so they can kill more jihadis.

        What's your point?

  3. I picked up a copy of Harpers at the supermarket after a quick scan. I was pleasantly surprised how evenhanded, even supportive, Baum was about concealed carry.

    I sympathize with some of his criticisms of CCW training requirements and its shmoozy political nature. Of course, in a society where chronically afflicted (and ticketed) drivers routinely pilot (almost) 3 ton trucks at highway speeds while texting or applying makeup, standards are what they are. And there is the threat, which Baum acknowledges, that tightened standards will morph into de-facto bans.

    As far a Baum's comment above about the gun community "driving away" those who don't sign onto to a right of center philosophy, please excuse our caution and chilly demeanor. Understand, we've be burned so many times before, especially by 'pro-gun' Democrats and 'objective' journalists (during the Florida CCW battle, much of the Florida press was nothing but gun control advertising) that we've grown very thick skins.

  4. Correction: This piece isn't "a cover story about liberal gun owners" as the headline of this blog posts suggests. It may be a piece about one liberal's experience, but Baum doesn't try to represent all liberals. Read the piece.

  5. I welcome Dan Baum's contribution to the gun control debate. While I don't share his views on many other political hot-button issues, I appreciate that he is a thoughtful and articulate writer.

  6. It is no accurate to say that gun rights is a "conservative" or Republican value. Historically, the divide over the gun debate has followed urban vs. rural lines. There have been many Democrats, particularly in the south, who have staunchly defended Second Amendment rights (i.e. not all of them folded like Algore or Clinton when pressured by West Coast and New England libs in the party to vote for and sign the assault weapons ban).

    Are there more registered Rs than Ds at an NRA gathering? Probably, but it's far from absolute.

    Can one believe in economic collectivism and personal libertinism? Yes. Does it make sense when taken to it's extreme? No. But that's not the world we live in.

  7. The dialog here is excellent….the reason for it is repulsive….the politicians are out of control…as Feinman says…"REMEMBER IN NOVMBER"…please, for our America.

    apatriot

  8. "Baum ignores the obvious conflict of interest between his liberal upbringing and the consequences of his acceptance of gun ownership."

    Spoken like a true Stalinist. God help you if you don't toe the party line.

    A liberal can't be pro-gun? Does that mean a Republican can't be pro-gay marriage (Schwarzenegger)? A Democrat can't be pro-life? (Stupak). A Republican can't be anti-war? (Paul).

    "Gun rights activists find little if any support on the left side of the political spectrum, which has a long and ignoble history of suppressing Second Amendment rights. "

    Total garbage. Check history.

    "Don't Blame Liberals For Gun Control"
    http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/07/293284.s

    Don't embarrass yourself by writing this type of Republican party line garbage, Mr. Farago. Do your research.

    • And I might also add Ted Olson, GWB's Solicitor General, a conservative who has come out strongly in favor of gay marriage.

      Wait, don't tell me….Olson's not a "true conservative", right? 🙁

    • Van:

      So you expect to make your argument that Liberals are not automatically anti-gun by exposing a number of Republicans that are anti-gun? Curious logic. Almost as if you can't refute the premise, so you attempt to divert attention with an ad hominem argument. The point here is that there is a logical disconnect between Progressives/Liberals and being pro-gun. Just because some that wear the badge "Republican" have supported gun bans (or like Reagan, supported a law to fix a specific problem without considering the larger ramifications), that has nothing to do with the revulsion Progressives have for guns and private gun ownership.

      The other point here is that party labels are meaningless. You'd make a more compelling argument stating that Conservatives are almost universally pro-gun ownership, while Progressives/Liberals are almost universally against it.

      • "while Progressives/Liberals are almost universally against it."

        No.

        http://www.theliberalgunclub.com http://www.liberalswithguns.com http://www.a2dems.net/
        bluesteeldemocrats.blogspot.com/
        http://guntotingliberal.com/

        "So you expect to make your argument that Liberals are not automatically anti-gun by exposing a number of Republicans that are anti-gun?"

        No. I'm making an argument that CONSERVATIVES can take positions on certain issues that are contrary to what most self-described conservatives believe without being labeled as "hypocrites." If a conservative supports gay marriage or supports the building of an Islamic cultural center near the 9-11 memorial site, that person is simply a member of your "big tent". If a liberal is pro-gun, that person is a psychopath or, in Farago's words, ignorant of the "obvious conflict of interest" or the "logical disconnect" in his position.

        There is no logical disconnect. This is political reality, not the expression of logical premises devoid of empirical content.

        • I think you're missing my point. And obfuscating it at the same time. (Don't you wanna go for the hat trick and misquote me, too?)

          I bewail the sound-byte mentality that has reduced our political discourse to the polarized bitchslap fest it has become. High up on that list is the reliance – on both sides – on labels. Take me, for instance. I'm what (if you had a liberal arts education) might call a "classical liberal" – someone that wants small government, concentrating on the original intent of the framers. I want the government out of the bedroom AND the boardroom. I'm a believer in free-market capitalism. Does that make me a capitalist? Possibly. But you see, because I'm not in lockstep with the far right, does that make me a RINO? Decidedly not. Speaking of RINOs – the GOP's RINOs are what you're talking about, when you mention "conservatives that support gay marriage " or the mosque near the 9-11 site. (For the uniformed, RINO stands for "Republican In Name Only." Conservatives are not necessarily Republicans. All Republicans are, most decidedly, NOT Conservatives.

          Your party has been co-opted by the far Left lunatic fringe. When you can elect a President as far to the Left as Obama, and STILL not be satisfied with his policies, deeming them "too far to the right" I surmise that there's just no satisfying you guys. Just as well. Your turn at the wheel is about to come to a sudden end come November. Let's just hope the RINOs get out of the way, and let those from BOTH parties that believe in the Constitution get in there and restore some sanity to things.

          Virtually every liberal I know is anti-gun. Virtually every conservative I know is pro-gun. That's an observation. Firsthand. If that doesn't meet with your meme or your worldview, I'd suggest a trip to the Optometrist might be in order…those rose-colored glasses may need a prescription check.

        • George Washington had federally funded welfare, John Adams required private sailors to buy health insurance and had government ran hospitals. Inheritance taxes were astronomical until the 1870s. Thomas Paine would be called a socialist today. The mild liberals are chumps for the right wing elites who want nothing for the unwashed masses especially guns. Kind of like the Republican Party. First, your party have been taken over by the far right. The lunatic fringe made up of greedy trust fund babies and stupid theocrats that want government in the bedroom but not in the boardroom and always putting the greed of the economic elite and multi national corporations above the public health of the individual. Obama is a 1950s Eisenhower Republican. We been to Milton’s world. It was called the Guilded Age, the great depression, and the middle ages. Sorry, I will keep my VA socialized medicine and my guns and you can go be a feudal serf on Lord Koch’s manor.

    • “Gun rights activists find little if any support on the left side of the political spectrum, which has a long and ignoble history of suppressing Second Amendment rights. ”

      Total garbage. Check history.

      Okay, so who on the left has supported gun rights activists? Support should be material, i.e. actual votes in the legislature, a judge reading in favor of an individual rights interpretation of 2A, or an executive instructing his police that open carry is a lawful activity.

      Democrats in conservative districts saying, "I respect the right of sportsmen to hunt during certain seasons in approved hunting grounds and using approved calibers" is *not* supporting gun rights.

  9. One more thing, as if this crappy column needs any more debunking.

    "The Constitution of the United States guarantees to you the right to bear arms…You have the unquestioned right, under the law, to defend your life and protect the sanctity of your fireside. Failing in either, you are a coward and a craven and undeserving of the name of man.” — Eugene V. Debs, from "Eugene Debs Speaks"

    Guns have "little support from the left"? Nope.

  10. Brad nailed it when he said that labels really don't matter. So many people are caught up in the Left vs. Right, Democrat vs. Republican paradigm that they fail to see that the real battle has always been the State vs. the People.

    It doesn't matter to me whether the boot on my neck is a left boot or a right boot; I don't want a damn boot on my neck. Period.

  11. The heart of the battle for me is this – When seconds count in a life and death situation, the police are only minutes away.

    If you choose not to carry I don't have a problem with that. I have liberal and conservative friends who take what most would consider to be positions opposite there political bent. I desire to be safe in an unsafe world. I have yet to shoot anyone or even unholster my weapon, but I go enough places that it might be necessary that I will continue to carry.

    Why do I carry a gun for protection? Because a whole policeman would be too heavy.

  12. I’m a former conservative who made his way up in the party and other associated organizations. I got disgusted when, due to my increased status, I was allowed to go to meetings where the truth was told about the movement’s aims. In sum-they were to reduce the masses to virtual serfdom. The hatred of poor children, the disabled and the aged was especially vile. The worship of those at the top and the willingness to follow them blindly-even at great cost to themselves and their families-was truly frightening. They were looking to be told what to think by some “glorious leader.” Is it any surprise that many proudly call themselves “ditto heads” when that term should be an insult?

    In any event, the reason I, and many Liberals, secretly carry a gun is because those on the right do, and the right in this country will not hesitate to use the threat of violence or actual violence to bludgeon any opposition to their orthodoxy into silence.

    Here’s a recent example. A group of MoveOn members were having a picnic in a public park when they were attacked by a group of Tea Party thugs. The link I’m putting in here has “biased” language because it calls them “thugs” like I did. Then again, what would you call a bunch of yahoos who disrupt a bunch of people eating hot dogs, burgers and potato salad?

    Here’s the link (Even though most of you will deny it as it didn’t come from noted drug addict Rush Limbaugh.

    http://www.examiner.com/progressive-in-portland/oregon-tea-party-thugs-terrorize-progressive-potluck-picnic

    I’ll be interested in your replies.

    Old Pinko

  13. Well, it’s the 28th and no replies.

    I think that’s a good sign. Maybe the name callers and table thumping screamers have started to use the portion of their body that is found above their eyebrows.

    Despite the hysterical, ranting found on these pages, most people just want some sensible regulations regarding guns. They shouldn’t be in the hands of criminals, the mentally unstable or those who have engaged in terrorism. I know this will cause howl, but you really do not need those mega-clips, nor fully automatic weapons to hunt or target shoot. There is no “slippery slope” here. They regulate cars without infringing on anyone’s liberty-except maybe the blind. I’m sure you all agree that blind people shouldn’t drive.

    In any event, this has been fun and interesting, but I doubt I’ll be back to this web site (my wife has this “ToDo” list for me.) again.

    I hope you and your loved ones are well and happy.

    Old Pinko

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