Many Americans have been severely disappointed by the rhetoric unleashed by presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. While Mr. Trump’s low-brow personal attacks and gutter language are a throwback to this country’s earliest political history, it’s unwelcome in many quarters. But not all. Maybe not even most. As Mr. Trump himself pointed out in one of his celebratory press conferences . . .
his abrasive, insulting style has channeled indeed galvanized voters angry about the federal government’s betrayal of their political will. Specifically, its ineffectiveness and inaction on illegal immigration, job losses and military weakness.
Legitimate concerns all. But the tone of Trump’s campaign is closer to the WWE than the GOP, or at least the Republican Party as we’ve come to know it. Indeed, Mr. Trump’s unscripted harangues remind me of nothing more than championship wrestlers’ pre-fight bombast, where unadulterated machismo trumps any consideration of “sporting” competition.
I mention this because professional gun rights activists are in the same political arena and have not descended to Trump’s level. The pro-gun community’s arguments are still carefully couched within the boundaries of civility. They use reason and facts to counter the lies and distortions perpetuated by gun control advocates.
Note the word “professional.” There are plenty of pro-gun peeps who actively, persistently and viciously flame gun control advocates. But there are no gun rights leaders who resort to ad hominem attacks to make their case. They don’t channel gun owners’ anger and frustration into outright aggression.
NRA, GOA, SAF spokesmen and women can be strident, but they’re never personally insulting. Even when they’re attacking billionaire civilian disarmament advocate Michael Bloomberg they attack the gun control movement’s main financial backer on the basis of his behavior rather than, say, his diminutive stature (i.e., “Little Mikey”). Equally, the vast majority of pro-gun bloggers and journalists adopt a civil tone.
The rise of Trumpism raises an important questions for the pro-gun side: should we go there? The other side has . . .
The Coalition Against Gun Violence, for example, garners support from gun control advocates by fomenting unbridled anger and aggression towards anyone who dares defend their Second Amendment protected gun rights. Check the comments underneath the CSGC’s Facebook posts. It’s not pretty.
By the same token, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has dropped her pro-Second Amendment pretense. Clinton’s harangues against the “gun lobby” use increasingly inflammatory language. She has no qualms about demonizing the NRA and all who resist her desire to degrade and destroy American gun rights.
At the same time, The New York Daily News and other mainstream media gun control supporters have taken the gloves off, using despicable and incendiary language and images to vilify gun owners.
Professional gun rights activists could easily lower their tone to Trump-like levels to beat back the anti-ballistic bile. Only pussies hate guns! People who support gun-free zones are aiding and abetting terrorists! The NRA could once again call the ATF jack-booted thugs. TTAG could cease publishing these kinds of “think pieces” and reasoned fisking in favor of simple and vicious assaults on the antis and their media enablers.
As mentioned above, the antis are already there, wallowing in the mire. The pro-gun side is not. Perhaps we should be.
Perhaps we should take our cue from the Trump-like populist Joe the Plumber, the man who responded to the post-Sandy Hook anti-gun hysteria by brutally if honestly declaring “your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” Would gun rights gain ground if supporters used confrontational imagery and rhetoric to make the point?
That’s not a given. Hypocritically enough, the antis could use more “direct” pro-gun rhetoric against the cause of firearms freedom. See? We told you gun nuts are trigger-happy, blood-thirsty, insurrectionist, racist rednecks. We have to take their guns away now!
Even if more strident pro-gun messaging was effective, the gun rights movement could lose something important by descending to the antis’ level: the moral high ground. With the rise of Donald Trump and Mrs. Clinton’s increasingly vitriolic screeching, I’m not sure that matters anymore. Though I continue to think it should.