Bookmark or print it out to be read later. This essay is among the best I have come across in the blizzard of commentary following last week's tragedy in Connecticut.
Until now, I have largely avoided getting dragged down into the gun control debate, in part because gun proliferation doesn’t explain why "going postal" first exploded into the culture in the late 1980s, and has worked its way into the American DNA ever since. Gun control or lack thereof doesn’t explain why these kinds of rampage shootings only appeared in the late Reagan era and spread ever since then. And there must have been my own personal prejudices too — I grew up with guns, and despite a couple of bad episodes involving guns and a drunken violent stepfather, I have a reflexive contempt for people who haven’t gone shooting and tell you that gun control laws are the answer.Readers who don't know the name Harlon Carter (I didn't) have homework to do. And readers who may have heard of George H.W.Bush's resignation from the NRA need reminding that the same Wayne LaPierre who apparently composed and obviously read yesterday's cold-blooded press release from the National Rifle Association was mentioned by name at that time.
Well, guess what? Their knee-jerk solution is more right than mine.
Passing gun restrictions today probably wouldn’t do much to slow down rampage massacres, at least not for awhile — but the politics of sweeping gun control laws could have a huge transformative effect over time. It’s no longer impossible for me to ignore that fact.
May 3, 1995I can't decided if Mr. LaPierre has apparently decided in the intervening years that US agents with guns are no longer "jack booted thugs" or if he simply forgot. It's hard to keep track of notes when your notepad is too small.
Dear Mr. Washington,
I was outraged when, even in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of N.R.A., defended his attack on federal agents as "jack-booted thugs." To attack Secret Service agents or A.T.F. people or any government law enforcement people as "wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms" wanting to "attack law abiding citizens" is a vicious slander on good people.
Al Whicher, who served on my [ United States Secret Service ] detail when I was Vice President and President, was killed in Oklahoma City. He was no Nazi. He was a kind man, a loving parent, a man dedicated to serving his country -- and serve it well he did.
In 1993, I attended the wake for A.T.F. agent Steve Willis, another dedicated officer who did his duty. I can assure you that this honorable man, killed by weird cultists, was no Nazi.
John Magaw, who used to head the U.S.S.S. and now heads A.T.F., is one of the most principled, decent men I have ever known. He would be the last to condone the kind of illegal behavior your ugly letter charges. The same is true for the F.B.I.'s able Director Louis Freeh. I appointed Mr. Freeh to the Federal Bench. His integrity and honor are beyond question.
Both John Magaw and Judge Freeh were in office when I was President. They both now serve in the current administration. They both have badges. Neither of them would ever give the government's "go ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law abiding citizens." (Your words)
I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.'s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.
However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.
You have not repudiated Mr. LaPierre's unwarranted attack. Therefore, I resign as a Life Member of N.R.A., said resignation to be effective upon your receipt of this letter. Please remove my name from your membership list.
[ signed ] George Bush
In this snip is toward the end of the essay he puts his finger on exactly the right spot -- where people are more involved with politics and trust government more than they trust business that is a big problem. That situation is especially problematical for business.
So what’s really going on here? Why the crazy? It’s not exactly a revelation to learn that the NRA is run by hick fascist nutjobs, although we quickly forget just how toxic they are without constant reminding. But each time you peel off a layer, it’s more shocking than you expected it be.
But what’s the purpose, what are the deeper ideological politics of that sort of gun-cult fanaticism?
Looking back at Big Business’ violent reaction against the New Deal and the political culture that it created: a more "collectivist" political culture, as the libertarians derisively call it, where people were more deeply involved with each other and their communities, and with that involvement in their politics and communities came greater trust in their communities. That political culture — where people were more involved in their politics and trusted government more than they trusted business — was a big problem, according to pollsters and PR experts hired by business lobby groups in the postwar era, groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce.
Much better is to pour arms unrestricted into the population, give them legal cover and political encouragement to take political matters into their own hands with laws like "Stand Your Ground". That way you wind up creating a political culture of atomized, fear-fueled citizens who think they’re literally at war with each other, and their only way out is to fend for themselves and their family.