Nothing to Fear But Fear (of Tyranny) Itself

The irony of those opposed to stronger gun laws shouting “It’s not guns, it’s mental illness!” (aside from the hypocrisy of simultaneous mental health funding cuts)? Some gun rights activists might be considered way out of touch with reality themselves.

Wow, my fellow advocates for safer gun laws have really got folks up in arms now! (Yes, sad pun intended). 

It seems everyone is talking, lots of you angrily, especially in comments to my previous columns. Some conversation about the gun issue is better than none at all — I’m for it if it increases the number of voices asking for saner, safer gun laws and speaking out against the ever-powerful (and rich) gun-rights lobby. I’m for it if it encourages rational dialogue between those on both sides looking for logical middle ground to make us all safer.

But not all conversation about gun safety is created equal, especially when it seems to come from a section of the population that may have lost its grip on the reality of where the majority stands.  

I’m not talking about those who misquote history — no, Hitler did not disarm civilians before ramping up his aim at European conquest. I’m not writing about those who twist facts, wrongly saying that, “More guns means less violence.” I’m not even referring to those who suggest women are safer when armed, despite facts that show the sad opposite.

Those individuals are more accurately inaccurate and misguided at best, deceptive at worst. As much as it makes my skin crawl to hear the argument that, “Guns don’t kill, people do,” or that an “inanimate object” can’t be to blame, I’ll accept that as rationalization and an attempt to deflect ceding any ground at all in the discussion about how to prevent more gun violence.

What I’m deeply afraid of is the minority of gun rights advocates who think we are nearing the end of the world and the only thing preventing us from Armageddon is the Second Amendment.

Let’s hear from Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA, who in the glory of all the recent media and governmental spotlight has started to show his increasing detachment from the way the majority of responsible gun owners and NRA members believe.

During last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on gun violence he responded to a question from Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), asking whether he agreed with gun owners who say they, “’need the firepower and the ability to protect ourselves from our government — from our government, from the police — if they knock on our doors and we need to fight back.’”

LaPierre’s response: “Senator, I think without any doubt, if you look at why our founding fathers put it there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny.”

LaPierre’s other fear, as he told the committee? “What people all over the country fear today is being abandoned by their government. If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs that they’re going to be out there alone. And the only way they’re going to protect themselves in the cold and the dark, when they’re vulnerable, is with a firearm. And I think that indicates how relevant and essential the Second Amendment is in today’s society to fundamental human survival.”

I think it indicates how very much the rest of us need to be afraid of LaPierre and company being afraid simultaneously that the government will come or that the government will not come.

Did either of those things happen during Hurricane Sandy or any other disaster? Has any of that happened here since we gained our freedom from King George?

But in their world, the government is coming for us and our guns. The police and the U.S. armed forces not only can’t or won’t protect us, but they’re the ones we need to defend against.

I’m even further confused by the kind of arguments being made to defend the paranoia. The weapons of choice aren’t lethal, they’re not military grade, and us ‘anti-gun zealots’ are ignorant when it comes the differences between semi-automatic, automatic and assault weapons. But suddenly these same non-lethal weapons are the only things standing between law-abiding gun owners and the most skilled, technologically advanced military force of the modern era!

Is it rational to think that the anachronistic interpretation of the Second Amendment is really about protecting you from the kind of tools at the disposal of today’s U.S. military, should some crazy idea seep into the head of either the current occupant of the Oval Office — despite every clue to the extreme opposite — or another kook-with-delusions-of-grandeur from within or without our borders?

With that 'logic,' why stop at the right to bear semi-automatic guns? Any kind of weapon should be allowed just in case we get attacked by our own government, in order to even out the military playing field. In the meantime, these same weapons are great additions to the array of sport hunters’ options.

Why not make rocket launchers legal? We’ve got lots of wide open spaces in Connecticut. Since semi-automatic rifle hunting is such sport, why shouldn’t I be able to see how a tree or a deer explodes when it meets a rocket on my private property? Plus, with that state-wide deer problem we have, why opt for just bow-hunting when land mines could be so much more effective!

Instead of a rational reaction to rising death-by-gun rates, instead of a 100-percent, collective response to yet another despicable mass murder (albeit nothing like ever before, given that it was 20 6- and 7-year-olds and their teachers who were gunned down), we hear, “They’re comin’ for our guns!” and “Laws don’t work because criminals don’t obey them!” and the like. No, it’s not the majority response from those on the side of fewer gun laws, but it’s the loudest, and it comes from the leadership — like the NRA.

In fact, the NRA’s list of enemies has recently made the rounds of published information. Here are some of those who the gun lobby insists pose grave threat to responsible gun owners: 

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics
  • The American Medical Association
  • The American Federation of Teachers
  • The American Jewish Committee
  • The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • The Children’s Defense Fund
  • The Episcopal Church
  • Maya Angelou
  • Bob Barker
  • Kevin Costner
  • Sean Connery
  • Geraldo Rivera
  • Doug Flutie
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Blue Cross Bue Shield of Kansas City
  • Sara Lee Corp.
  • The St. Louis Rams
  • McCall’s Magazine
  • And countless others

Two years ago, I wound up on something called a “Bang List” compiled by one gun rights publication simply for suggesting that parents ask other parents if there was a gun in the home as part of the conversation they should have before deciding where their children should play. It seemed simple conversation was something to be afraid of, too.

I’ve got to think that the growing list of people recently challenging the NRA – especially former supporters or those who were more likely to let Wayne LaPierre’s words go unchecked, like Joe Scarborough or FOX Network’s Chris Wallace (who called the  NRA head ‘ridiculous’) — might be a tip off that he is increasingly representing the minority, fringe view.

An irrational, fringe view like the one that we shouldn’t have any gun laws because criminals won’t obey them.

"Why do we have any laws on the books?" Scarborough challenged. "There are terrorists that are going to end up getting into the United States of America, so why do we even try to stop al-Qaeda? Right? They say they’re going to attack us again, so why don’t we let down all of our defenses and just give up?"

How about something more parallel: if criminals still get access to illegal drugs, to use, sell and traffic, then why have anti-drug laws? Why mount a war on drugs at all?

The rest of us get to put up our lives as collateral against the minority hedging their bets that the government bogeyman is going to come calling to take away their liberty, our laws don’t work, and those we’ve empowered to protect us will only abandon us in the end. I guess from that irrational viewpoint, the American lives already lost as collateral damage are worthy prices to pay for the unlikeliest of unlikely worst-case scenarios.

You want irrational? As Garry Trudeau eloquently illustrates in his cartoon strip from this past weekend, our country spent trillions of dollars (and sacrificed thousands of U.S. soldiers) waging two long, bloody wars overseas and building up our Homeland Security operations, after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. During those same nine years, 270,000 Americans were killed by gun violence right here at home. And gun laws have been weakened, rather than strengthened.

Let’s not forget the 1,509 lives lost since Newtown (as of Jan. 31), the 35 mass shootings between Columbine and Newtown, the week-long hostage situation in Alabama, where a man was holed up in his backyard bunker after shooting and killing a bus driver (who died defending his bus-load of children) and kidnapping one five-year-old.

Now that’s more insane than anything at all.

Michael Cragin February 05, 2013 at 11:39 AM
That well worded opinion...can be condensed down to this.......THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR COMMON SENSE........stop the sissified paranoia that reeks from obsessive gun owners.......stop the madness
Joseph Sheapdawg February 05, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Heather- You think that you are so much better then the NRA? What you are trying to do is very similar. You use jaded and misrepresented stats and quotes to create fear and PREJUDICE. Are you referring to the use of the stat of 40% of guns sales happen with out a background check that is being quoted by so many politicians and the President. The stat that is from the Brady campaign that was taken from a study that was done in 1994 where they asked 2500 people about gun sales? Let us look at your quote that gun violence continues to rise. Actually the statistics show that all violent crime is on a decline. If we look at your number of 1509 gun deaths since Sandy Hook, your information from Slate( where people tweet in information) leads to multiple entries. The Huffington Post used the #1280 on feb. 1. that is 183 a week, although that is still tragic equates 9,516 for the year if it stays that way. Again still tragic but is lower then the average of 13,000 deaths a year. You are intolerant and prejudice and you are breeding it. So step done from your paper pedestal that you feel makes you morally superior and realize you are no different then the people you are screaming against. You are a joke. You twist the facts and spread lies and misinformation, you are an agenda lapdog. You talk about wanting a conversation to continue and it is people like you that want to exploit this topic to get people to read and it will only create a greater divide between the different views.
Paul Alexander February 05, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Newtown resident and SHES parent Bill Stevens has a different, and more reasonable, position. "Sandyhook Dad: You`ll have to take my guns from my cold dead hands" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAYLr6u2FyY&feature=player_detailpage
Paul Alexander February 05, 2013 at 03:19 PM
“But not all conversation about gun safety is created equal, especially when it seems to come from a section of the population that may have lost its grip on the reality of where the MAJORITY stands.” “What I’m deeply afraid of is the MINORITY of gun rights advocates who think we are nearing the end of the world and the only thing preventing us from Armageddon is the Second Amendment.” Heather…you really need to spend some time living long term outside of Connecticut and New England. On this issue you have confused who is the minority and who is the majority. From where you opine in fearful Connecticut you may have it right…but as far as the country as a whole, you got it backwards. The manner in which you project your myopic New England viewpoint on the rest of the country is truly breathtaking.
Fred February 05, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Regarding Nazi Germany, it is my understanding that law included the following language "persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a (gun) permit." They were Nazi's,remember? You think they required gun manufactures in Germany during to provide police detailed information on who purchased guns and ammunition because they were worried about violent crimes? Nazi's enforced laws evenhandedly and without prejudice, was that a Nazi forte? Hitler took the guns away from any and all he considered his adversary – do you dispute that? The only thing that supports your point was that most of the populous was pro Nazi. Saying a group of people on the gun rights side are worried Armageddon is about to happen is mischaracterizing many who are not hoping the government will need to be fought but recognizing that things can change, just read history. When you quote the number of deaths in a year you forgot to mention the trend, downward they go, despite what you describe as loosening of gun law restrictions. Gun deaths in the US are at their lowest point since 1981. Where guns are banned in England gun related crimes have been on the increase. This an opinion piece but you are spinning “facts” as hard as those you are criticizing for doing the same on the other side.Thankfully,our founding fathers required a high hurdle for a constitutional change to protect the rights of the minority during periods of emotional backlash, I guess like the Nazi's?
Veritas vos liberabit February 05, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Hey Skipper, is Rasmussen ever wrong? Thursday, January 03, 2013 For the first time, most Americans are calling for tougher anti-gun laws. Even more are calling for stricter enforcement of the gun control laws already on the books. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51% of American Adults now support stricter gun control laws, the highest finding in over six years of tracking. Forty-two percent (42%) disagree and oppose tougher laws in this area. (To see survey question wording, click here.) ps: plenty of Thinking folks have no desire to live in a gun goon redneck haven.
Big Family February 05, 2013 at 05:50 PM
So Heather, if the "MINORITY" strikes at your house you'll just diel 911 and wait?
Edmund Burke February 05, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Winner! George Orwell headline of the year.
ahhhnonymous February 05, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Paul, I could not have said it better - and you saved me a lot of time trying to put my amazement into words. Heather clearly lives a very sheltered life and, as you said, may very well apply to her small world. To heed her advice on the discourse of national public policy would just be willfully ignorant. I love your choice of words... breathtaking. LOL Heather - just because someone disagrees with you does not put them on the fringe, make them a "nut", or (in your world) puts them at odds with "the rest of us". You just simply put faith in people our forefathers clearly told us never to trust. I'm simply not going agree to let them abuse the rights that were given to us hundreds of years ago. End of story. The Bill of Rights was written very clearly. Stop trying to add words, thoughts, opinions and interpretations to something that can very easily be understood with the use of a dictionary, if you need one. Your rather ridiculous sarcastic position that we add missiles and rockets to the list of things we keep is once again, portraying intelligent, law abiding citizens whom, by the way, live all around you as idiots. It's insulting, degrading and brings me to a point that I simply dismiss anything you have to say. More or less, I sort of think YOU are the nut. I won't even get into your revisionist history. Fred, below - did a nice job of speaking to that.
Paul Alexander February 05, 2013 at 09:46 PM
“270 Sheriffs and 7 State Sheriffs Associations Saying ‘NO’ to Obama Gun Control” http://cspoa.org/sheriffs-gun-rights/?utm_source=219+Sheriffs+-+Spread+the+Word&utm_campaign=219+Sheriffs&utm_medium=email&CFID=30196528&CFTOKEN=b27aff9bde1aed60-8224D8E0-5056-A323-7F78138AD77141AA&jsessionid=8430822d90209315dad2437020f50677a6e4 The list just keeps growing…and not a single LEO on the list from the fearful state of Connecticut.
recourses February 05, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Great article! Thank you for some common sense.
Fast Eddie February 05, 2013 at 11:01 PM
You don't like myopic New England viewpoint, stay away, live in swamp-ville, don't read The Patch New England. Simple, no?
Ali Abdulah February 06, 2013 at 12:10 AM
Skippy, didn't your myopic fellow Floridians vote to re-elect our very liberal President, and also vote to throw tea party darling Allen West out of office? Just because we don't want loony vigilantes roaming our communities, does noty make US myopic
G February 06, 2013 at 01:10 AM
I didn't even know the Newtown Patch was a "national" news website. I had always thought it's purpose was to cover mostly local events or news that affected Newtown, CT. Are Heather's blog entries being "projected" to "the rest of the country" as Paul Alexander suggests. Paul, if you don't like what you read here, may I suggest www.foxnews.com. I'm sure you've been there before.
Joseph Sheapdawg February 06, 2013 at 10:06 AM
I am from Newtown. I am the moderate lawful gun owner that is in the midst of the conversation. What I find so incredibly sad is the intense prejudice that is coming out during this. It is so disheartening that in this state where so many wear their progressive thinking like a badge of honor have come to show that they are intolerant and bigoted. Would it be acceptable to have treated the Muslim community this way after 9/11? Is it acceptable to outwardly and publicly lump large groups of people together with stereotypes and labels because of their beliefs. I personally have a hard time trusting polls because they are all based on the questions and the sampled demographics. They can be skewed to say anything. I have seen polls done by the Courant that show a majority against gun control. I personally know that there is a large group of gun owners here in CT. Many of them are around you every day and you would not know it. They tend to be the most polite and caring people. In fact the responsible gun owner/carrier understand the responsibility and avoid confrontation and arguments because of that responsibility. I think that articles like this are irresponsible. Many of the things stated in it are misrepresented information, things taken out of context and written to insight the misinformed. Heather stop being part of the problem. You are not doing your homework. Just because a stat does not support your view does not mean that it is wrong.
Paul Alexander February 06, 2013 at 01:40 PM
McMurphy. aka Jim Sullivan, also commented on Nothing to Fear But Fear (of Tyranny) Itself. ""myopic New England viewpoint" ?????????????? this from a guy living in Florida, which voted to re-elect President Obama, and throw the gun loving tea party favorite Allen West out of office? Educated, Blue States don't need being told how to think, thank you anyways. Stay South!" I think I’ll just get out of your way Jim Sullivan and allow you to continue making an Arse of yourself.
Paul Alexander February 06, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Seamus Riley, aka Jim Sullivan, also commented on Nothing to Fear But Fear (of Tyranny) Itself. "Skippy, didn't your myopic fellow Floridians vote to re-elect our very liberal President, and also vote to throw tea party darling Allen West out of office? Just because we don't want loony vigilantes roaming our communities, does noty make US myopic" No Jim, Sully, McMurphy, El Rushbo, Seamus…just schizophrenic…
Mom of two February 06, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Your article is right on, Heather! Some of the things these gun rights people are saying are hilarious! Really, you have to laugh--or else you'd just cry.
Paul Alexander February 06, 2013 at 02:48 PM
I send Heather's op-eds to some peeps in Idaho, Texas, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and even California. They all write back with comments that can essentially be summrized as "WTF???"
Paul Alexander February 06, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Joseph, "It is so disheartening that in this state where so many wear their progressive thinking like a badge of honor have come to show that they are intolerant and bigoted." ...but Joseph...their hypocrisy is what makes them so entertaining! Don’t kill the fun dude.
Fred LeMay February 06, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Let us not forget the third amendment. It was placed there for a reason. Also lets look at what happened during Katrina. So sad .
Connecticut15 February 24, 2013 at 02:08 PM
How interesting - many comments on this article totally disappeared! Heather, Hitler and the Nazis did not allow Jews to own guns and those in power could decide who needed guns. i.e., the Nazis decided, the majority decided. So, get your facts straight. And the NRA doesn't label the list you provided as an 'enemies' list - you did. And in fact, where gun ownership has gone up, violent crime has decreased. In contrast, in Great Britain, violent crime is 4.5 times higher per capita than in the US. So, now, let's look at the stats that 11 teenagers die every day from texting and driving (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and that doesn't include how many they kill along the way, i.e., the Norwalk father jogging when hit and killed by a texting New Canaan teenager. And to the Patch, let's stop deleting people's refutation of inaccurate, incendiary, and demonizing editorials.


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