RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Egan begins: 'When it became clear in the early fall of 2008 that Barack Obama, son of a Kansan and a Kenyan, would be the 44th President of the United States, many citizens rushed to their gun shops, stocked up on ammo and camo, and tried to fortify their nests with all manner of lethal weapons. Though he had said nothing about gun control in the campaign, Obama, to a certain kind of person, appeared to be a grave threat to the Second Amendment.'

Handguns seized by the Los Angeles police. (photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
Handguns seized by the Los Angeles police. (photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Gun Nuts in a Rut

By Timothy Egan, The New York Times

02 Decemeber 11


hen it became clear in the early fall of 2008 that Barack Obama, son of a Kansan and a Kenyan, would be the 44th President of the United States, many citizens rushed to their gun shops, stocked up on ammo and camo, and tried to fortify their nests with all manner of lethal weapons.

Though he had said nothing about gun control in the campaign, Obama, to a certain kind of person, appeared to be a grave threat to the Second Amendment. He was urban - Chicago, not the kind of place where a man could shoot a coyote with a laser-sighted Ruger while on his daily jog, as Gov. Rick Perry claims to have done. He was professorial, with scholastic braising at that home of confiscatory consensus, Harvard. And he'd made that statement about rural people clinging to guns and religion.

Into the early months of the Obama presidency gun sales went though the roof. A nation of at least 200 million firearms reached for ever more, in a hurry and a frenzy.

And then, nothing. No legislation. No speeches about the ubiquity of guns in the most violent of Western democracies. Obama actually increased gun rights, signing a bill with a rider that allows people to pack loaded and concealed heat in national parks. Even after the slaughter in Tucson in January of 2011, when six people were killed and 13 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, in a madman's spree, Obama did nothing to keep guns out of the hands of those at the margins of sanity.

At last, though, some evidence seemed to emerge of his real intent: the story of a federal agency, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, allowing high-powered guns purchased in this state to flow to Mexican drug cartels - a woefully misguided effort to catch bigger fish.

To the gun wackos, it was all a grand scheme, hatched at the very top, to move the masses against weapons. That is, guns like AK-47 rifles, sold with some restrictions by dealers here. If the government could prove, through an operation called Fast and Furious, that loose American gun laws were responsible in part for the firepower of Mexican drug gangsters, well, then surely they would move next to restrict the arming of private citizens in the U.S. of A. That was the logic, and the battle cry.

Fast and Furious was plotted at the top, proclaimed Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, "so they can stick more gun legislation on honest American gun owners."

The gun lobby, whose ownership of Congress rivals only that of Wall Street, started a television campaign to oust Attorney General Eric Holder, who said he never authorized the operation.

Congressional Republicans, eager to do the N.R.A.'s bidding, launched investigations. Subpoenas were issued. Fox News fanned the flames, without, of course, breaking any news. "Fast and Furious Just Might Be President Obama's Watergate," was one headline at

Well, surprise, surprise, surprise, in the words of Gomer Pyle, simpleton and role model no doubt for this Congress. What the documents and testimony showed was that Fast and Furious originated with field agents here in Phoenix - not in the White House - and the tactic was first used under President George W. Bush. His attorney general, Michael Mukasey, was told in a 2007 briefing paper of gun border operations that were precursors to Fast and Furious, and of the need to expand them.

Oh. So Bush wanted to take everyone's guns. Case closed, yes?

The plain and simple truth is that Democrats learned from the last gun law episode, when President Clinton led Congress to ban certain kinds of assault weapons in 1994, not to touch this issue. And ever since then, after many Western and rural Democrats were voted out, they have been silent. Your typical Democrat from the West, now, is as likely to show off his gun collection as any preening Republican.

In American politics, some issues fade away naturally, while others recirculate. We are a violent nation. More people die from firearms (often their own guns, in suicides, domestic fights and accidents) in America than in almost any other civilized country. About 1 million people have been killed by guns in the United States since 1968.

But at the same time, violent crime is down considerably in most parts of the country - as in, levels not seen since Beaver Cleaver's time. You can argue that the crime decline is because of all the guns in our midst (protection). Or you can argue that we still kill our own at a much higher rate than most countries because of those same guns.

But there's no serious case that President Obama is trying to take people's guns. Guess what grade the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Obama after one year in office? He got an "F" for his gun stance, or lack of same. This after the N.R.A. predicted that he would be the most anti-gun president in history.

Of course, sensible laws might have kept people like Jared Lee Loughner, the clearly deranged accused shooter in the Tucson massacre, from owning - and legally concealing - his Glock 19 semiautomatic, with its multiple-round magazine. But Obama would not use his executive power to make even that case.

Left with nothing to fear but imaginary fear itself, the gun nuts are in a terrible rut. They need scary opposition in order to flourish. They need someone to hate. They need conspiracies. And, as always, they need donations.

So, in their world, Obama's silence, his reticence, his passivity is proof of a grand scheme.

"It's all part of a massive conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intention to destroy the Second Amendment," LaPierre told a major conservative gathering this fall.

Get it: he's a stealth threat! By design.

It's much harder to accept the nuance of truth, because that would imperil the power of the gun lobby. And it's difficult for many to accept the idea that the drift of civilizations in general is toward less violence.

"Believe it or not - and I know most people do not - violence has declined over long periods of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species' existence," wrote Steven Pinker in his provocative new book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature."

Would you think the gun lobby could call a truce? Not a chance. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+57 # Scolopendra 2011-12-02 20:53
I'm a gun owner with generally liberal leanings. I'm for _rational_ gun control (caliber, rate of fire, etc. rather than appearance) and limited, earned gun enfranchisement (need to pass a course or two, not be a medically certified psychotic) but it is a right and it is part of our culture. Neither a completely libertarian or completely prohibitionary attitude is appropriate.

All this being said, this "OBAMA'S GONNA TAKE OUR GUNS" idiocy has made me decide to leave the NRA since I remember when it was only a Second Amendment organization rather than a partisan gang passing around the Palin-ade.
+23 # Ken Hall 2011-12-03 06:39
I wish all gun owners had your sensible attitude. I don't understand why any citizen needs a fully functioning assault rifle with an expanded clip. I lived on a farm and owned a small caliber rifle at the time, good for varmints. In DK, guns are registered and controlled, if you are a farmer, as many Danes are, there is no problem with you having a gun. If you, however, kill someone with it other than in self-defense, you will never be permitted to have another. This seems a no-brainer to me. Even Scandinavia has its gun nuts, as we learned last summer.
+1 # X Dane 2011-12-05 00:06
How interesting Ken, were you a farmer? Where in Denmark did you live. I think you can se, as X Dane I come from Denmark.

I believe there are fewer farmers, than there was, when I left Denmark 52 years ago. Now there is a lot of tech. industry

I, like you, can not understand why those automatic and semi-automatic weapons can not be outlawed. They sure can not be used for hunting, only killing.
+12 # Capn Canard 2011-12-03 08:44
Scolopendra, as a fellow gun owner I completely agree. Well said.
+11 # Texan 4 Peace 2011-12-03 00:01
Actually Scolopendra I know there are a LOT of rational gun owners who share your views. Rather than leaving the NRA, some might suggest you join in droves and try to change their boneheaded policy of hysterically opposing any and every proposed regulation from the inside.
+6 # Capn Canard 2011-12-03 08:54
Texan 4 Peace, if only... but I am a believer in the idea of changing an organization from the outside by planting an "idea into the conversation/co nsciousness" as Scolopendra has above. Not so much a requirement of quitting the NRA as much as talking about the very basics, I believe that this would do far more and do it far more quickly to change minds. One only need look at Wall Street, Enron, World Com, Tyco et al and see that the old standard of Rule of Law(i.e. regulation) has tremendously diminished. At least that is that is how I see it, and I'm sticking with it...
+5 # Scolopendra 2011-12-03 09:40
The good Cap'n has it right. The NRA has little to no vertical communication; it works more like a church than it does a representative organization. The massive majority of the membership also buys into the Palin-ade, which is why American Rifleman reads the way it does. Sensible owners joining in droves would still put a negligible dent into the NRA's dogma, especially as it is now an integral part of the unholy trinity of Guns, God, and Gold that make up the Republican Party.

I'd love to make my own, though. "Rational American Riflemen" or some such.
+15 # giraffee2012 2011-12-03 00:52
The second amendment does not stand alone. The constitution does not promote criminals and crazies to have guns and it takes from the freedoms of others when stupids get guns.

We are a country run by military --- yes the military just got another bunch of money from our "insider trading" Congress people - while they cannot extend a pitance of money for our poor while these idiots run around the world shooting up innocents (such as all the Iraqi's that were killed by some) Same in Vietnam, etc.

Meanwhile we need that money in USA for our starving children (millions have NO FOOD) -- damn our govt.
+5 # Scolopendra 2011-12-03 09:47
Exactly why it needs to be regulated in the same logical manner that the First Amendment has been in the past. Shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater is not protected by the First Amendment. Technically, neither are sedition, calling for the violent overthrow of the government, nor calling for the murder of government officials, but that's enforced much more casually.

The Second Amendment as currently interpreted is a personal right rather than a collective right ("militia" being read as "bottom-up organization of concerned citizens" rather than "top-down military with external funding"). It still says "well-regulated ," though.

Criminals: no guns.
Diagnosed psychotics: no guns (Loughner was on antipsychotics that he wasn't taking)
People too irresponsible to own anything vaguely deadly: that's why I think gun safety and usage tests should be mandatory.
+7 # leedeegirl 2011-12-03 02:55
from the story: "The gun lobby, whose ownership of Congress rivals only that of Wall Street, ... "

um ... i think AIPAC comes before the gun lobby, no?
-3 # gbudsam 2011-12-03 08:52
Yeah, good idea: reinvigorate the Jewish conspiracy concept. The only reason the US supports Israel is because it has no other real friends in a region where it needs a strong presence. It's much about taking care of big oil and ensuring supply than it is about supporting Israel. If we didn't rely so heavily on oil, Israel would be as important to the US as Jordan or any other Mideast state.
+3 # Scolopendra 2011-12-03 09:42
I don't know about AIPAC, but this article does have a bit of hyperbolism surrounding it. It's an opinion article; it's allowed to do that.
+7 # 666 2011-12-03 09:45
For reasons other than crime or NRA-inspired paranoia, I had to visit several gun shops during fall '08 & in '09. WOW. the only way to describe it was racist, paranoid pandemonium. (This continues although not at that level). The gun industry could not keep up with demand (that's who really owns the NRA leadership). People in stores openly talking about armed revolt in the streets (if OWS sympathizers did this, they'd be "disappeared" to gitmo in a snap). It was waaaaaay worse than fall 1999 when people stocked up on guns & ammo and cut "killing zones" around their homes, fearing the collapse of western civ from the year 2000-computer glitch.
Like scolopendra, there are many, many, many rational (yes even progressive & leftist) gun owners in this country (eg M Moore). I'd hazard a guess that the majority of rational gun owners support the general OWS aims of social justice & non-violent resistance/change.
Sadly some gun owners see the use of guns & violence as legitimate forms of self-expression & as ways to force/prevent social & political change -- as cultivated by the NRA leadership. The roots of this idea go back thru the john birch society to the post-ww1 red scare etc. Some nutbags did not start as gun owners, they were "recruited" to gun ownership by demagogues & fear-preachers of a "thug mentality" on the fascist right.
+7 # TomDegan 2011-12-03 11:13
The spokesclowns from the NRA love to blabber on about "freedom".

Let me explain something to you: A people who live in deep mortal terror wondering when and where the next massacre of innocents will take place may be many things - no argument there. "Free" they are most certainly not. Let's just stop kidding ourselves here and now.

Tom Degan
+3 # ABen 2011-12-03 14:35
Scolopendra; start that oragnization, and I will join it! The NRA went "round the bend" a couple of decades ago. Many rational and reasonable comments here about ownership of firearms. I live in AZ and love to hike in wilderness areas. I carry a handgun when I venture into one of these areas. Both my wife and I practice with it at a shooting range twice a year so that both of us have an acceptable level of proficiency with this weapon. When we are not wilderness hiking, the gun and ammo stays locked in our safe.
+1 # sean1303 2011-12-03 17:43
You seem to share this weird idea with a number of people that you need a gun (probably a handgun that is useless beyond 20 feet) more in "the wilderness" than you do in the city? What for, I wonder? no grizzlies in AZ, and a mountain lion attack would be over one way or another way before you ever got that gun out. Whack jobs with guns out backpacking? Sure, entirely possible, but of they wanted to shoot you from cover, you are screwed anyway, and you are more likely by a factor of a billion to one or something like that to be robbed, raped, or murdered at gunpoint in any city or rural area than you are in the wilderness.

Of course, there is the human biological fear of "what lurks in the dark", and wilderness is all "dark" outside the circle of the campfire.
+6 # Tom Camfield 2011-12-03 18:20
Conservatives in general and gun nuts in particular are the epitome of paranoia. It's pretty obvious when it comes to any degree of wealth as well guns--which basically serve no more purpose than Scrooge McDuck's accumulation of idle money.
0 # recoveredliberal 2011-12-08 07:30
Mr Egan is free to have his opinions but I can't abide somebody who makes up facts to suit his conclusions. A little research at the FBI website produced the following information: NCIS background checks (a metric for estimating the number of firearm purchases) increased in 9 years of the 2001-2010 decade.The only decrease was in 2002. I guess people weren't worried about terrorism after 9/11. There was indeed an increase in 2008 by 14% over the previous year. Whether this was caused by an end of the year rush is debatable.In any case, the increase in 2009 was back to 10% and in 2010 was down to 2.8%. The last big increase was in 2006: 12.3%. I wonder how Mr. Egan would explain that?
The point is there is little correlation between gun ownership and the occupant of the White House. Disclosure: I don't own a gun of any kind. I do own a skeptical attitude toward people like Mr. Egan.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.