The Republican Convention has begun, and as far as I know there hasn’t been any bloodshed yet. I expect there’s been plenty of rhetoric and ideological ranting, but since I don’t have much taste for such things, I haven’t spent any time watching or listening.
Probably no one would expect bloodshed at the convention, but it’s not impossible. The reason is the Republican position on guns. They have steadfastly resisted any kind of restraint on who may possess weapons–until the time for the convention approached. Then they announced that guns would not be allowed in the convention except to security personnel, which I found amusing, not unlike the distaste that mainstream Republicans had for Donald Trump, whose campaign style they had made possible for the last almost fifty years with Nixon’s Southern Strategy. The narrative that goes with nonrestraint of the gun trade is that the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun. Except when at the Republican Convention, it seemed.
But that changed recently.
Just in the last week or so there was an announcement that at least a few Republicans would be carrying weapons at the convention. That would at least have the virtue of consistency. Of course, it would also risk gunfire on the floor of the convention. The risk was probably always slight, but just imagine how it would be played in the media if it somehow did happen. Gunfire would mean a tragedy, but it would also be ironic: Republicans as victims not only of a possible mass shooting, but of their own policies. It would be amusing in a grim way, but still amusing.
The whole question of how to legislate the matter of guns has been a grim one. When the reaction to the mass shooting in Newtown was, Don’t take away our guns, it became clear that opponents of any sort of gun control were willing to pay the price of massacre of innocent children.
If it’s true that a hostile government yearns to take away every single gun from every single person, maybe that kind of position makes a degree of sense. I hope I will be allowed a touch of skepticism, though.
With the election of President Obama came a sky is falling narrative. He was a Muslim, he wasn’t an American citizen, he was going to demand a third term (at least!), he was going to deposit his enemies in concentration camps, and he was going to take everyone’s guns. None of those things has been substantiated at this point. The reaction to him by a large part of the electorate is reminiscent of that accorded to Bill and Hillary Clinton when Bill was elected president. There were some traits of Bill’s that were less than wonderful (his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and subsequent treatment of her), and some of his policies (repealing the Glass-Stegall Act and the policy that resulted in more imprisonment of African-Americans), but I didn’t remember any incoming president being greeted with absolute negativity by so many people. Not until Obama.
One of the interesting facts about the investigations and impeachment of Mr. Clinton that I read about only in the last year or so was that the people spearheading those processes were themselves involved in less than savory conduct, some of them at the time, and at least one sometime previously (an allegation, at least, of child molestation, and misuse of funds to pay blackmail). Since so much of politics is projection, it makes me wonder about the motivation of those accusing President Obama. They may yet, of course, be proven correct about him, but so far it doesn’t look that way.
The narrative about good people with guns being able to stop bad people with guns doesn’t look too credible at the moment, though. One reason is the number of mass shootings has been appreciating in the last decade or two. There don’t seem be enough good people with guns around to stop those, which the NRA and gunmakers take to mean that guns haven’t yet sufficiently saturated the society. There are some anecdotes that cast doubt: a four-year-old who accidentally shot his mother, a ten-year-old who accidentally killed her shooting instructor, a boy who accidentally killed his sister. I find these stories horrifying. The only time I even considered buying a gun I was dissuaded by thinking it would be difficult to find a safe place for a gun where there were toddlers.
Let me make clear that I don’t object to responsible gun ownership. The stories above, if true, seem to me to demonstrate that being responsible is very difficult. I doubt that ideology helps either. Doesn’t it lead to trying to prove that guns are safer than usually thought? I think that’s a very dangerous thing to try to prove. Guns are meant to kill things, and they do it very efficiently. Being careless with them is a VERY bad idea.
The recent shootings in Dallas also dissuade from belief in the good person with a gun theory. The Dallas police, from what I’ve heard, behaved very professionally during the shootings, making sure that the protesters whom they were protecting were safe, but in the process twelve of them were shot, five fatally. The police must certainly have had more training than the average civilian gun owner, but it seems to have done them little good. Imagine a scene in which the average civilian tried to stop a sniper. They would probably have little ability to determine where shots were coming from, let alone be able to effectively reply. It’s all too easy to imagine that at best they would draw the attention of the sniper, while at worst they would contribute to confusion and possibly even accidentally shoot other innocent people. I’d prefer not to find myself in such a situation.
There’s another thing that I hadn’t considered until recently, too. An interviewee at NPR said that there’s a certain paranoia that strikes people who carry guns. They are always considering possibly having to use their gun, which means they’re looking at people around them to see if they need to be afraid of them. That’s something I, having never owned a gun, haven’t experienced. If caught in a mass shooting, the only thing I’d know how to do would be get down behind something and wait. I might well not survive, and I probably wouldn’t be able to help anyone. But in 67 years I haven’t experienced that.
The other reason for owning guns, about which some are very convinced advocates, is the idea that guns will help protect them from a predatory government. I’m not too sure about that one either.
As things currently stand, the government way outguns any individual citizen. If they want to arrest or kill anyone they’re very capable of doing so, especially since they have access to planes, artillery, and other weapons that individuals don’t. To effectively resist the government means organization and lots of money. I grant that the government is quite imperfect, but I’m not eager to see a civil war play out on our streets. Bad enough that the government should have made such a terrible mistake as to kill so many of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, but I think it would be even worse if private organizations were able and willing to do the same. That’s just another danger of gun ownership.
I don’t expect that there will be bloodshed at the Republican Convention, but I also don’t know what to hope for with regard to gun ownership. I personally don’t want to deprive responsible people of guns, but I also hate the damage done by the irresponsible who somehow are able to get guns and misuse them. There’s no legislation that will protect everyone from irresponsible ownership, nor will legislation protect us from predatory government or other organizations. People determined to acquire guns and use them will be able to for the foreseeable future. I’m afraid innocent people will continue to die.


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