The Gun Lobby is the Tea Party

I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government’s right to know what I own. Nor do I think it prudent to tell you what I own so that it may be taken from me by a group of people who enjoy armed protection yet decry me having the same a crime. You ma’am have overstepped a line that is not your domain. I am a Marine Corps Veteran of 8 years, and I will not have some woman who proclaims the evil of an inanimate object, yet carries one, tell me I may not have one.

I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America. I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.

I will not be disarmed to suit the fear that has been established by the media and your misinformation campaign against the American public.

We, the people, deserve better than you.

Respectfully Submitted,
Joshua Boston
Cpl, United States Marine Corps

“Joshua Boston” could be the name of a Minute Man who fought in the American Revolution. This real-life ex-Marine’s open letter to Diane Feinstein has gone viral and he has even made some appearances on TV.

As inspiring as some have found it, his letter can easily be picked apart for its illogic:

1) Gun registration doesn’t create criminals; the refusal to comply with it does. Feinstein’s legislation would grandfather Boston’s beloved AR-15 (though it would make it harder for him to sell it and buy big magazines of ammunition). It wouldn’t revoke his right to carry a concealed weapon either.

2) Senator Feinstein has armed protectors in the Capitol Building–as do I, when I enter any public space where the police are present–but I don’t believe she carries an unregistered automatic weapon herself.

3) It is not our former Marines who “keep us free”; our active-duty soldiers are no less subject to the law than ex-Marines and civilians; the weapons they use in combat are owned (and regulated) by the government.

I could go on, but what’s most notable about the letter to me is the Tea Party tropes that mark its rhetoric–“I am not your subject”; “I am not your servant”; “I am not your peasant”; “I am the man who learned.” That last one–“the man who learned”–puzzled me at first, but Boston clarified it in an interview on Fox & Friends that was posted on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze. It’s history that he’s learned about, and what he’s learned is that when government comes after our guns it enslaves us: “It’s something we’ve seen happen time again in history. It happened with Stalin, in Cambodia, and of course with the Third Reich. No one saw that coming until it was too late.”

Actually just about everybody saw it coming. The dictatorship of the proletariat was well established in Russia by the time Stalin rose to power. He didn’t subvert a pacific democracy either, but was a member of a revolutionary movement that had violently overthrown a monarchical tyranny.

Pol Pot didn’t arise out of nowhere and impose himself on a peaceful polity either–there were years of civil war and repression on both sides in Cambodia (not to mention a massive war in neighboring Viet Nam). As for Hitler, he had signaled his intentions vis a vis Europe and the Jews quite clearly in his book Mein Kampf, which was published in German as early as 1925. Many on the American right applauded his rise and fought bitterly against American intervention–and some of those same American Fascists laid the groundwork for the present-day NRA.

Tea Partiers frame themselves as protectors and upholders of the rule of Constitutional law; at the same time, they reserve the right to take up arms against lawmakers that aren’t to their liking. The Second Amendment might or might not guarantee citizens the absolute right to own guns, but it doesn’t foreclose the possibility of regulating them–in fact, the phrase “well regulated” is included in its very language.

Ideologically, the Tea Party has been effective beyond its wildest dreams: it has radicalized the Republican Party across the board and paralyzed the Legislative branch of the federal government. But it has also marginalized the Republicans politically. The Republican-controlled Congress is less popular than cockroaches and headlice and Barack Obama is starting his second term. Historians of the 2012 election, I suspect, will characterize the Tea Party as a largely spent force, though one that retains a not inconsiderable power to do mischief.

I suspect that much the same will be said of the gun lobby in retrospect. Its totalizing Either/Or philosophy will continue to play well on Fox News and on its own online forums, and it will probably be able to prevent meaningful gun control legislation for a while. But it is too radical to sustain mainstream support.

Ironically, that’s because there are so many gun owners. Thanks to the NRA’s efforts, nobody knows exactly how many there are, but by its own estimates between 40 and 50 percent of US households own at least one gun; all told, there are at least 300,000,000 firearms in private hands. All of those people can’t think like Ted Nugent, Joshua Boston, and Wayne LaPierre. Many of them, in fact, voted for Obama. And only a small minority of the ones who voted for Romney are prepared to defy the law, never mind take to the streets.

Just as car ownership is compatible with DMV registration and the right to vote is compatible with voter registration (a cause that’s particularly dear to the Tea Party), gun regulation does not cancel out gun ownership–nor does it foreclose improving our mental health system, or weaning our children from violent video games. Though by no means a cure-all, sensible gun regulation is a moderate approach to a deadly problem–and practically by definition, the mainstream of America (including most of its gun owners) skews moderate.

3 thoughts on “The Gun Lobby is the Tea Party

  1. I just got done fighting with an imbecile like this Joshua Boston yokel in a chat room. At times it is hard not to respond to their stupidity. Boston and his ilk are what is left of the right wing male cadre of bigots and ignoramouses. For one thing I wish all these military types would stop telling me they acquired and protected my freedom because that is utter bullshit. This is just another part of the dredges of society people rejected on November 6th-Newtown and the responses of organization like the NRA and paranoics like Alex Jones took care of the rest of this pile of offal. The clown I was talking to -of course was fixated on the second amendment and “revolution”. I did point out to this person that if one looks at the history revolution-it is something that should be avoided at all costs. All you have to do today is watch what is unfolding in Egypt or go the Post Revolution France depicted in Les Miserables to make people give pause about the wisdom of revolution as opposed to other ways to change society. These are mostly scared white males afraid of a society that does not have a white majority. Gun regulation has been looked at favorablly since the 70’s and the NRA and the right have been able to bully the country into deciding likewise. I think their run is over and good riddance to them. I am not sure even who are these “tea baggers” actually because I don’t see them anywhere in groups anymore-so who are they actually? I think this is mostly a corporate effort with very few foot soldiers left in it. Who are these “tea baggers” that they are so afraid-I think they are hardly the buffoons in over stretched polyester with misspelled signs that Fox gave so much publicity to. I think it is just a code word for corporate control and I think it time certain people stop being intimidated by a declining NRA and a largely non-existent tea party.

    1. So true. I think the Tea Party never existed but was an attempt to reify a fringe political platform into a broader movement that simply didn’t move. It was from its first stirrings merely a media image.

  2. Really nailed it this time, Arthur. Kudos.

    I would like to observe that I tend to agree that guns are not the cause of violence but the method. However, the cliche of “guns don’t kill people” forgets that a 30-round banana magazine on AR-15 is likely to kill a lot more people than a baton — which is also a lethal weapon — in the wrong hands.

    But more to the point, the most vociferous individuals and groups who insist upon gun ownership as an essential civil liberty, forget that we also have the right to life and limb. When rights are in conflict, I suspect that the natural right to life and limb will supersede the right to bear arms.

    Bearing arms is an active proposition, guaranteed as a right but not forced upon anyone. One’s right to live, however is passive. We can choose to bear arms, but we cannot choose whether or not to die when shot.

    That is the fundamental purpose for the right is enshrined in our Constitution, to preserve security. Whether it the language “security of the state” in the Second Amendment is interpreted as national defense or defense of one’s own life and property, or both, the justification for bearing lethal weapons is security.

    When the right to bear arms creates less security for the population, as we have seen twice in the last year or so with mass shootings of innocents by civilians, it is obvious that the purpose of the Second Amendment is not being observed when our laws, whether state, municipal, or federal, fail to implement sufficient safeguards to preserve the greater right of life. So that for me is the grey area; not whether guns need to have tighter regulation, but what form that regulation might take.

    The argument from gun rights supporters has always been a slippery slope. If you make me wait two weeks to pick up my Bushmaster from Walmart, that is the first step toward banning it altogether. Any and all measures to ensure ample protections for the security of the People are seen as one and the same. So that is part of the problem.

    But deeper still are the social, cultural, economic, and historical conditions which lead to violence in general. If we accept the hypothesis that guns don’t kill people, people do, when faced with a persistent and and apparently intractable social problem such as gun violence, we should at least be willing to address those root causes.

    What we see, however, are the same groups who support gun rights oppose any and all efforts to attenuate the social conditions that lead to violence in the first place. And I don’t think you can have it both ways.

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