“Well I like my guns, and I do a little hunting, but I don’t see why anyone needs a…(fill in the blank with “bump stock”, “AR-pattern rifle”, “30-round magazine”, “composite stock”, or even a “telescopic sight”, as appropriate.)
This is the call of the North American Fudd, aka the Tongue-Clucking Zumbo. When the call of the Fudd is heard on the internet, it’s immediately and inevitably followed by retaliatory scorching as gun rights advocates point out (accurately) that the Second Amendment wasn’t about hunting and doesn’t guarantee the right to bear only walnut-stocked, blued-steel arms.
But that’s the internet, where everyone’s nasty to each other. What about in real life, when Fudds show up and preen at your family reunion, your deer camp, or your office picnic?
It’s not polite or prudent to tell Uncle Phineas from Connecticut, or your boss’s wife, to “Suck-start a Kel-Tec, you wretched America-hating quisling.” More important, it alienates a potential ally from defending the RKBA.
Is there a more productive way to engage with Fudds in social situations? There has to be, and lured out of ten years of blogging retirement by TTAG’s Summer Content Contest, I’d like to suggest one conversational tack you could take when confronted by a rampant Fuddus Domesticus…or even a Fuddus Europeanus or other more exotic species.
First a confession: my own tastes in guns are quite Fuddish. My dad is old-school and taught me to shoot single action revolvers and lever-action rifles…although he acknowledged the authority of Jack O’Connor and the scoped .270 for hunting out West.
His quail-hunting shotgun was over-and-under; he never saw a need for more capacity or complexity than that. When I showed him the first gun I bought with my own money—a Colt Trooper— I can’t help but think he was a little unimpressed by that newfangled double-action business.
Since then I’ve moderated somewhat. The scar on my thumb from a couple of bad GLOCK experiences has almost faded, and I now own a polymer-framed pistol I shoot well enough to defend the house with. It’s fine; just not much emotional investment in it. I still seek out nicely crafted functional art in steel and walnut, even if I can never quite afford it and have to compromise.
But here’s one thing that separates me from the Fudds: I know that’s just me. You do you.
My friend down the road with a magazine-fed AK pattern shotgun and a suppressed SBR? No skin off my nose. A fellow delivering pizzas for minimum wage in Detroit wants to keep a .25 Lorcin under his seat to dampen the drawers of a would-be carjacker? Great, stay safe. The prepper in Montana wants to stockpile a case of .50 BMG ammo in his underground bunker in case he doesn’t make the first cut of the Rapture? Knock yourself out. Lock it up when you’re done, and mind your backstop with that stuff is all I ask.
And here’s the other key thing that separates me from the Fudds: I know these guys are all keeping my tiny boring WASP arsenal safe, because they’re living out at the perimeters of the debate over gun rights, and I’m living up in the cozy well-defended center.
My guns are (mostly) the ones liberals swear they don’t want to take away. For now, they’re too busy trying to take my neighbor’s AR, or making sure a mother in the inner city can’t acquire the means to defend her family, to bother any case-hardened traditionalists like me. For now.
You might try to explain this by describing the Overton Window, and how the notion of socially acceptable gun ownership changes over time based on extreme positions, but people tend to look at me funny when I say that. It kind of marks you as a political proselytizer or a Glenn Beck listener.
It’s a useful idea, but people will tune you out as a blowhard when you bring it up, especially since it implies that peoples’ strongly-held beliefs are malleable and not really their own.
Instead, the analogy I’ve used to describe this to my Fuddly friends is that of a medieval city with concentric defensive walls. Or, if they’re a nerdier sort of Fudd, think about Minas Tirith in the Tolkien books. The patrimony of the city, the most revered and important parts, are in the innermost ring. If you can’t picture it, here’s a scene from The Fellowship of the Ring of Gandalf approaching Minas Tirith and riding around up to the inner ring.
Pretty stout, huh? To despoil the interior, an enemy would have to besiege those outer rings one by one, at considerable expense and incurring considerable casualties. In the Tolkien tales, that’s exactly what happens as the outlying rings are besieged and breached and the forces of Mordor begin to take the city layer by layer. However, the delay in doing so allows the defenders to regroup and defend each level and also to hold out for relief.
In this framework for discussing the siege on gun rights, the battle lines go back and forth. Certain issues are at the periphery and others are more central. Suppressors are contested territory; it looked like the Hearing Protection Act had gathered enough momentum to reclaim territory that was in enemy hands since the National Firearms Act of 1934—until the post-Parkland political backlash seems to have sidelined silencer reform.
National reciprocity, also, seems to be stalled while the politicians hold their fingers in the wind. On the other hand, private ownership of AR rifles—under cultural pressure from big box retailers and trash-talking activists—seems to have just been reinforced and fortified by the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh (who has ably defended their legality) to the Supreme Court.
But the rights at the center are safe because the battle rages at the periphery. A Maryland candidate for governor recently came out for banning pump shotguns in the wake of the Annapolis newspaper shooting. That seems to have gone nowhere, which isn’t surprising—it impinges on the center, not the periphery. Once you start calling for banning Grandpa’s goose gun, people get spooked. The rings have to be taken from outermost to innermost.
The funny thing is, when you talk to anti-gunners, many of them say (and I think many of them are sincere and many of them aren’t) that they only want to take a few of the rings. They say they only want a sensible conquest of part of our hard-won rights.
This is madness, of course, because whatever the orcs on the front lines think, the powers actually funding these mealymouthed siege operations have no intention of stopping at the outermost rings, or of stopping at all. It’s a deception. They can’t be appeased.
Surrendering one position won’t make them give up. It will only embolden them to use their new position to try harder. In other words, next time, maybe those calls to ban shotguns will get a much more respectful hearing, because shotguns will now be on the periphery.
In the siege on American gun rights — unlike the battle for Middle Earth — there is no relief coming from other lands. However, our opponents can be dissuaded by the financial and political costs* of taking each ring, especially as politicians realize that their careers are at stake if they miscalculate our vulnerabilities.
So my message to the Fudds is this: Fight Them Over There. A united front from the gun-owning public, especially on those peripheral issues that don’t affect you directly, is the best possible safeguard for your hunting guns, heirlooms, and old-fashioned shooting irons.
– – –
Now I think this is a nice rhetorical strategy I’ve sketched out, but make no mistake–it’s rhetorical, and it’s not completely true. As I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, the Second Amendment isn’t really about hunting rifles and Grandpa’s old Ithaca. Those are protected by the RKBA, but they’re not really at the center of it.
The Bill of Rights is about protecting us from tyranny, and the Second Amendment is about the means to deter tyranny. It’s about keeping us free, not keeping us fed. And I know, deep down, that today better tools are available for deterring tyranny than my grandma’s old Ruger Super Bearcat.
But the Fudds don’t think about it that way. They put the Bearcat and the Winchester carbine and the Fox double-barrel shotgun in that innermost ring of Minas Tirith, hoping the orcs will get to them last after they’ve confiscated all the ugly black rifles and the SBR’s and the Tupperware pistols and the chainsaw bayonets.
Now, politically, they do have a point. Fudd guns really are less controversial, and they are widely perceived as less threatening. They actually would be the last ones outlawed under an incremental, frog-boiling gun-control regime.
The Fudd Folly, however, is in not joining the battles at the perimeter of gun rights. Instead, they think they can appease and distract their enemies by throwing open every gate of the city and abandoning every fortification (and every ally) except that very last one, and making their stand there.
If they do so, that’s where the enemy will gather in strength, undeterred and unwearied. The siege will soon be laid at the last and only gate, the gate guarding the things they value most. That battle will be over quickly.
* For the record, and so I don’t get “Palined” for this rhetoric: I am of course speaking of a political and cultural struggle to preserve the right to bear arms, not a violent one.