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.