Thanksgiving. The family matriarch has banned me from saying anything about guns. “And you’re not bringing any paraphernalia with you are you?” The subject of firearms became verboten after a particularly nasty episode; a by-marriage family member caught site of my empty holster, gathered her brood in a panic and scarpered. She had firearms-related issues, to which I am entirely sympathetic. But I caught all the flak. No surprise there. I am the black sheep; the “unstable” son who never settled down. And burned through two fortunes and two marriages when he did. And now my fascination with that which shall not be named. And yet I’m thankful for this ongoing antagonism . . .
My family’s opposition to my “lifestyle” has prepared me for my labor on this website. I know what it’s like to argue with someone who isn’t listening. It’s not, as Ralph suggests, a waste of time. It’s a chance to announce “this is what I believe because this is who I am.” And vice versa. Not to anyone else. To yourself. To stand proud for what you stand for. If you can accept this limitation—that you can no more open a closed mind than close an open one—you can suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous opposition.
But no opposition? That’s tough. I feel like a gay man in a family where everyone knows he’s a homosexual but no one can acknowledge it. That’s why I have sympathy for people who open carry knowing they’re going to face a police stop. Yes, it’s unnecessary. OC does nothing to advance our cause amongst those blind to the importance of our gun rights. But there’s no better way for a gun rights advocate to prove—to himself—that he’s 2A all the way.
Sure it’s selfish. But the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. Someone who carries a gun to bolster his belief system or make a political statement is well within his rights, and should remain unmolested. Especially by his fellow gun owners. But that’s not how it goes down. The People of the Gun is a family but we are a fractured and fractious lot.
For example, I have serious issues with the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s position that Congress should renew the Undetectable Firearms Act (as is). NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Larry Keane told BusinessWeek that it’s OK to ban all-plastic guns because they “would be very unreliable and very unsafe.” At the same time, he said new proposals (aimed at sneakily banning standard capacity plastic mags) would “hamper federally licensed firearms manufacturers from developing prototypes using advanced technologies.”
Larry fails to see the contradiction: how can plastic gun technology be both unreliable and unsafe and critical to advanced firearms manufacturing? Or maybe he does sees it; he’s trying to shield gunmakers from public condemnation—they don’t care about terrorists building undetectable guns!—while protecting’ profitability. Truth be told, any gun is a good gun when it’s in the hands of a good person. Any process that puts guns in the hands of good people, regardless of the bad, is a good thing.
By the same token, Wayne LaPierre’s post-Newtown rant against violent video games drove a wedge between generations of firearms and potential firearms owners for no good reason, to no good effect. The NRA’s crusade (along with the NSSF) to “fix” background checks by adding mental health records to FBI’s database does nothing to advance firearms freedom, and much to destroy it. If the NRA’s not aware that the Soviet Union used the mental health system to isolate, imprison and murder hundreds of thousands of dissidents, they should be.
Without naming names, I’ve heard that same kind of boneheaded hypocrisy at the Thanksgiving table—back when my father was alive. A deeply conservative man with a liberal eldest son and wife, he learned the fine art of encouraging debate while eliminating rancor. Now that he’s gone, it’s turkey and stuffing without politics.
I like to think TTAG serves the same role in the gun “debate” as my father did at the dinner table. We have our beliefs but we’re happy to encourage dissent and debate. We don’t seek compromise, just civility. We try to create what Hemingway called a “clean, well-lighted place.”
On this day I am thankful for my father’s influence and my readership’s empathy for his philosophy. And I wonder how he felt, inside. This is not the time to speak of black dogs, but I’ll say this about that: my father could never reconcile his experience with his idealism, no matter how hard he tried. It saddened him. I share my father’s burden and spend much of life suffering in silence. But not here, where I can speak freely. Thank God for that.