A Letter from a Reader
I am ambivalent about the gun-rights issue. I have limited experience with guns, but have gradually become more responsive to the "right of self-defense" argument that many concealed-carry advocates espouse. On other aspects of gun issues I have differing opinions. In general, I have been becoming somewhat more supportive of broader gun rights than I had been previously.
In other words, I'm just the sort of person the gun lobby needs to recruit, to bolster its influence and broaden its support: people who accept a basic right of gun ownership and are willing to be persuaded as to the specific details of its implementation. The "shoot-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em-out" contingent has been exhausted - they're all already on your side. The implacable haters of guns will not be convinced. It's the ones who are not extremist in either direction, but want to see rational policies grounded on a reasonable basis, who make up the shifting balance between the pro- and anti- camps. Note one other thing: they're mostly liberals. (Figures say about 40% of US homes have guns present; by party, that breaks down to 55% among Republicans, and only 32% among Democrats. The "market" for gun ownership among Republicans is largely saturated; there is almost twice as much room for growth among Democrats, and it goes without saying that much of that 32% is concentrated among "blue dog/Dixiecrat" types.) If you want to increase gun ownership, it will have to mostly be among liberals. The conservatives already have guns.
But (aside from the fact that I live in New York City!), for me and I would guess many like me, there is one major stumbling block to my becoming a gun owner, and that is: gun owners.
Joining the gun community means not merely perceiving a certain value in gun ownership, adopting the necessary mindset and discipline, and exercising responsibility in the use of firearms - it means joining the community of other gun owners, who, I am learning, are such a big part of the training, information-gathering, buying and selling, and upkeep that gun ownership requires. For liberals considering the place of guns in their own lives, that basically means joining a community that seems to spend 60% of its time talking about guns, and 40% spewing the same cranky, ill-informed, belligerent trashtalk you hear constantly from Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage.
Now, being a liberal pretty much requires inuring yourself to an unending barrage of ignorant conservative outrage. I see little on gun blogs that I don't see on other conservative sites, and it is not much crazier. But that kind of talk is usually confined to explicitly conservative contexts, in other places. When you come to gun blogs to learn about . . . guns, there is no reason why you have to already believe that Medicare is fascism, that Obama is not really president, that opposing the invasion of Iraq is treason, that taxation is theft, that torture is OK when we do it to others but not OK when they do it to us, that simply having a government is some sort of controversial proposition, or any of the other nonsense that invariably pops up in any discussion of firearms. But it's assumed both that that kind of thinking is relevant, and that everyone interested in the main subject - guns - will not only be interested in, but share one particular, and invariably hot-headed and cranky, perspective on it. A subject (gun ownership) that, it would seem, ought to be relevant to, and accessible by, anybody at all, has become the province of one part of the political spectrum, which has somehow chosen to equate that subject with far-right political crankery for no obvious reason. (It's obvious why, historically, conservatives have become more pro-gun than liberals; it's not obvious why the atmosphere of the gun community has become almost indistinguishable from right-wing talk radio.)
Why do I need that? I've lived my whole life without guns. Even granting that a gun can make you safer, almost everyone who does not have one will turn out to be OK. But deciding to enter into gun ownership requires deciding to enter a political arena that I was not interested in, and is bizarrely, often savagely, hostile to me.
I might be willing to think about changing my stance on that guns, but the fact that the same people who think I should do so also think that Obama is an "Obamanation", constantly spell "California" with a "K", (apparently) sincerely refer to any government program they don't like as "socialism", constantly characterize any gun-safety regulations including trigger locks or waiting periods or background checks or virtually anything else as "gun grabbing", devote entire blogs to collecting stories of homeowners shooting burglars as if they honestly believed that "anecdote" was the same as "data", and assume that courting liberals into gun ownership means "getting a gun grabbing Obama supporter to vote as a gun owner". It doesn't help that the gun community is constantly whipping up boycotts, secondary boycotts, blacklists, and organized harassment against its own most supportive members - people who actually make or promote guns - because they express the wrong opinions, make the wrong business decisions, or support the wrong political candidates (grudges that in some case go on for decades and are transferred to other companies when the "offending" one changes hands). Yeah - I want to be part of that community, because they're so welcoming, tolerant, and easy-going.
It is not only uncomfortable to contemplate joining a community so consistently hostile and extremist, but also it makes it hard to rely on that community's opinions or information for responsible education about guns - given that their perceptions of virtually everything else are so distorted and ideological. And if I were interested in learning about firearms for any less-compelling purpose - simply for shooting or hunting as a hobby - I would have even less incentive to brave the storm of angry yahooism that seems to spew out of the gun community toward liberals on any grounds or for any reason, however irrelevant.
I have enjoyed this blog very much, in part because it's fascinating and informative, but in part also because it seemed mostly free of the kind of hostile blather and wild rhetoric that so many other gun blogs wallow in. But now this:"Today, many gun owners are angry. We have a Socialist gun grabber, actually two of them, in the White House."
Oh, for God's sake, knock it off. It doesn't matter whether you agree with their policies. Nobody in the Obama administration is a socialist, and nobody grabbed your guns. You just sound like a kook when you talk like this."putting a unicorn that farts rainbows in every home."
That's intelligent, and mature. I want to hear lots more of your views on politics while I'm learning to shoot.
Or maybe not . . ."his cronies are going to start looking for legislation to show they did something, anything."
Oh, good. A conspiracy theory. Keep it up!"A year ago, there was an unofficial online initiative among gun owners to introduce new people to shooting. After the last presidential election, some gun owners have found that the people they took to the range voted for Hope and Change rather than Stability and Tranquility. Now they are angry, refusing to take any Omaba Obama supporter to the range."
"Omaba Obama"? I honestly can't tell if that's a typo, or just one more right-wing slur I haven't heard yet. You know, if readers actually can't tell your ridiculous invective from a typing error, maybe it's not as clever as you think.
But as for encouraging liberals to shoot: as I said, that's exactly what you need to do. So how do you go about it? Well:"Taking liberals to the range and discovering they voted for Obama is like taking a crackhead to rehab and finding out they scored another rock on the way out. It hurts. You begin to wonder what is the point of participating in a futile activity."
Did you really think that learning about guns automatically implies voting against Obama? Or that being an Obama voter is the same thing as being anti-gun, even if you're pro-gun? That having someone you took shooting then vote for Obama is a personal insult to you? You really thought they were going to adopt your politics and change their political allegiance, respecting every issue on the table in a supremely critical election, because you let them shoot your gun?
At least do your new recruits the courtesy of recognizing that they have their own values and priorities, that they're not stupid, and that you can't just dimsmissively wave away their beliefs and decisions as "a mistake" by a crack addict. They may come to you for information about guns, but they won't come to you for political opinions, or to have you set their priorities for them. And for you to insist it is "a mistake" for them not to do so only gives them another thing they have to decide whether or not to put up with, in entering into your community regarding the entirely different thing they're interested in.
What "hurts" is that you're one of the sane and reasonable gun bloggers. But we see how shallow a well that is.
socialized health care . . . gun control. Socialized medicine . . . Socialized medicine . . . I will never be a government employee again. . . .
. . . worthless inexperienced Socialist
And . . . it's never too late for some more uninformed kookism. Obama has not proposed anything like a socialized healthcare system. If he did, you would become a government employee, but he didn't, and you won't - so that's two things you're getting yourself worked up over for no reason. But ranting about it obsessively is great - it takes "wrong" all the way up to the level of "nuts". And now tell me what you think about gun policy . . . I'm all ears.
They way you grudgingly worked in a ranking of "Obama supporters" just above child molesters, pornographers, and crackheads was equally enlightening. Yep - I want to join your club, and imbibe of your wisdom. Can't imagine why I didn't let you tell me who to vote for when I had the chance.
I don't get it. You realize you need to welcome liberals into the gun community. But you hate them, take it personally when they don't adopt your politics as their own, call them crazy names and rant about non-existent secret policies in a way that makes you sound like a militia whacko (while some of you - meaning the gun community in general - are in fact militia whackos), assume that simply because they learn about guns they will then put guns absolutely above every other possible interest in their lives and become one-issue "gun voters", and state explicitly that all of this is just obvious and undebatably the way it is about liberals and guns. You seem to have no expectation at all that people who share your interest in guns could disagree with you about other things, have a different perspective on the likely outcome for gun rights of various voting options, or choose to vote, and assign their other political priorities, on the basis of all their concerns and not just guns alone and absolutely. You seem to believe that the process of a liberal becoming a gun-rights supporter is actually the process of them becoming a conservative (and a crazy one at that).
This is grossly, grossly, counterproductive. It's counterproductive for all the obvious reasons - you need me on your side for gun rights, but I need guns a lot less than I need to not listen to this crap for the rest of my life. In addition, though, it's also simply illogical. The angry and divisive rhetoric you constantly, constantly hear on gun sites is not just stupid and wrong, but in many ways it makes your opponents' case for them. If you really believe that becoming a gun-rights supporter has to mean becoming a conservative crank and ranting about "Obamanation", "libtards", and "gun grabbers" - that if you really support gun rights, by definition you're not a liberal, or can't stay one - then there are certainly an overwhelming number of liberals who will agree with you, or will come to agree with you after they hear the way you talk. But they're not going to become angry conservative gun owners; they're going to stay liberal non-gun-owners who have proof positive - provided by you - that the gun community is isolationist, intolerant, and kooky. If you really believe that being a gun owner requires putting guns as the first and last item on your list of political priorities, and voting only on that issue no matter what else is at stake that you're concerned about, then the only people you can recruit as gun owners will be people for whom . . . guns are their first and only priority, which includes just about exactly nobody who is currently a committed liberal who is moderate or ambivalent about gun issues.
The ball is in your court. It always has been, even under pro-gun administrations. Gun owners are in the minority, and the rural gun culture is losing ground - literally - to urbanization. So you either deal with reality or fade away - your choice. It would help to recognize that (a) not everybody who might be pro-gun will share all your other opinions, and (b) they will share none of your opinions that basically consist of factually misinformed hostility to anybody who's not like you. You should also recognize that the pro-gun community is changing, and will inevitably change further if it actually does succeed in recruiting new members: I know you already recognize that the community is not always welcoming to women - you've got to recognize there are lots of others for whom the environment is much worse. When you do succeed in diversifying, all those new women, minorities, liberals, urbanites, non-veterans, and all the rest whom you desperately need are going to want to be treated with dignity and have their issues and concerns dealt with. They may join you if you don't drive them away. They're not going to become like you in the most basic respects.
If you can't handle that, just keep on the way you have been - it's working great. If you want more support, more acceptance, and a broader-based self-defense community, you have got to make that possible.
You need people like me. I've never felt the need for you and it's never been a problem; as I slowly begin to question changing that opinion, I look to you for guidance as to what lies in store down that new path. And I see what I see.
Kevin T. Keith
Thanks for writing. Apparently you misread or misunderstood the blog piece you posted this comment to. I am not advocating that gun owners cease to take liberals, and Obama voters in particular shooting. I am not advocating that gun owners try to change anybody's political stance. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Other gun owners and gun bloggers, however, are advocating that. My blog post was a stand against that way of thinking. Perhaps it was so poorly written that you could not comprehend it, but it was not written for you sir. It was written for those very gun owners and gun bloggers who have chosen to never again take a person shooting unless they vote in a particular manner.
You see Kevin, I have a simple philosophy. I'm not working on a PhD in philosophy, so it might be incredibly simple by your standards, so bear with me. I talk to a person about shooting. I take the person shooting. They enjoy it. While shooting we talk about how a gun can be an equalizer for self defense. They decide to purchase a gun. I help them chose an appropriate gun, and continue to shoot with them, at their pace. They become a gun owner, and they begin to see guns not as a threat, but as a tool that may assist them with self preservation. They may or may not vote as a gun owner. I don't care. They will likely vote for self preservation. I did not help a person by introducing them to gun ownership. I helped them by giving them the means to save their life if necessary.
I consider how the right to carry a handgun concealed has swept through this country. The power to change laws to allow concealed carry is a valid indicator of where gun owners are in regard to numbers and political influence. We have the numbers to effect change. We lack the cohesiveness. Rather than focus on hunting or Olympic sporting events, we need to focus on the guy working the night shift at the Quick Stop, the cab driver working the dark shift, the bank teller stopping off on the way home to get a gallon of milk. These are the people who carry. If they do not, then they may become advocates of concealed carry if they see it as a possibility. I have yet to meet a strong advocate of concealed carry who does not carry, or who is not planning on obtaining a CCW license. I think it's safe to say that most people who have a concealed carry license own a gun. They reached gun ownership by first going shooting and deciding to buy a gun for themselves. Most were not born into gun ownership.
I find it funny when people who have never met me, who do not know me, project themselves onto who they think I am. You may not realize that I have lived under repressive regimes. You may not realize that I tended to vote Democrat for a long time. You might think I am "rural" because I list myself as being from North Louisiana. You might not understand that I have lived in Yokohama, Roppongi, Hong Kong, Sydney, and other metropolitan areas that have more progressive culture in a city block than all of New York City and Los Angeles combined. How do I know? Well sir, I've lived in Queens too. You may not realize that my first degree was not in nursing, but in philosophy, art history, painting and printmaking. You may not realize that I once considered Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to be my mentors. You see Kevin, you do not know me, although you may think you do.
Some people read "Nurse with a Gun" and they think "Oh, redneck nurse." They usually click the mouse the other way and move on. Others might think "Oh, a nurse with a mind of their own." These are the people I hope will stay, because they are thinking for themselves.
And getting on to that socialized medicine thing....... Don't try to talk to me about socialized medicine. Call it what you want, it is not Medicare as Medicare was intended. Government controlled medicine is what I take my stand against, and with the influence of Medicare itself on health care, it is evident. Control can take many forms, but the best way of controlling any enterprise is by controlling the money that fuels it.
Physicians and nurses are independent practitioners. We should not be influenced in our care of patients by our payor sources. We certainly should not be influenced by the federal government telling us how and where we will practice. I, myself, and quite a few physicians I know personally will leave the profession if that day comes. It is a very real threat to us. Most of the physicians plan to retire at that point, a few plan to go into politics. One has already bought a cattle ranch and plans to go into the beef business. I plan to go to law school. You may ask how I know these things. I did not read about it in medical publications or the Wall Street Journal. I work across from these physicians each and every day, and we discuss these issues over patients. Health care will be a Hell of long lines, poor care and incompetent administrators with physicians leaving in droves. Do not think they can't, and do not think they won't. They are intelligent men and women, and they have other options.
Imagine how you would feel threatened if a president were elected who would only fund college for those who thought in a certain way. Imagine how you would feel if a president was elected who proposed telling you how you would think and teach students. If you did not subscribe to that way of thinking, then you would have no opportunity to hold a job as a professor, or whatever it is a philosopher does. That is what is happening incrementally in medicine and nursing. I know physicians who have left medicine already because of the oppressive hand of government, payor sources, and regulation. These were good doctors. They did not get into medicine to make a buck. They got into medicine to help people. One traveled widely with Doctors Without Borders. He now enjoys his life as a businessman, but he wonders about the continued impact he could have had for others if he had been allowed to help people unencumbered by breauracracy.
Further, don't talk down to me about working with crackheads until you work with crackheads. Don't talk to me about the futility of trying to save someone who will not save themselves. Nurses do these things. I do it day, in day out. I did it ten years ago, last year, last week, yesterday, today, and I will do it again tomorrow. I will try to save the drunk who is bleeding to death from esophogeal varicies created by liver damage, knowing that as soon as he leaves the hospital he will stop at the liquor store. I will pin the bones of a cocaine addict back together, knowing that as soon as they are discharged, they will snort some more coke in their car and drive home. I see children brought in black and blue and broken, knowing that it was their parent that beat them. I try to save these children, and they die in my hands. When I encounter a patient lying about pain, I will treat them appropriately, with dignity and respect, even though I know they came into the ER seeking demerol, just like they did last week, and the week before. I have gone into homes of the elderly knowing the only reason Junior keeps Grandma at home is so he can control her social security check. I have tried to extricate victims from inhumane living conditions only to discover they were admitted for a 72 hour observation and then discharged to live in filth and squalor again. I have seen through my nursing career what the influence of a payor source and heartless administrators does to health care. This is my reality. I did not read about it from a distance or see it on the television. I live it each time I drive to work. Don't try to tell me about nursing or medicine, and I will not write about Rene' Descartes or Albert Camus, OK?
So with that, I will simply tell you, as you have chosen to condescendingly tell me, grow up. You might not see it now, but on many points we agree. There is one point on which we apparently do not. You believe I need you. I do not need you Kevin. If you chose to contribute your life savings to the Brady Campaign and never touch a loathsome gun, I will simply take someone else to the range. You, however, need gun owners. It is gun owners who preserve your way of life in the United States, who stand between you and an oppressive dictatorship, and who give you the opportunity to live in relative freedom. Without gun ownership guaranteed by the second amendment, there is nothing standing between you and totalitarianism.
Oh, and by the way, Omaba was a mispelling. I thought it was funny, a bit of serendipity, and chose to strike it out rather than re-write it. I thought the piece needed a bit of levity. Sorry about sending you on a wild goose chase trying to find some other vague reference of slander to President Obama.
Labels: Letters from Readers