Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Rebuttal to the Bob Ray Sanders Column

In comments to my "We are Scaring the Columnist'" post, a reader mentioned that:

One of my co-workers sent a reply letter to the Startelegram. They posted most of it online. They deleted the 1st two paragraphs. The substance still remains though.
The Star Telegram published this letter under:

It is an excellent letter, and a good example for how to respond to anti gun editorials in the local paper. As the Star Telegram had shortened the letter for space, I offered to post the whole thing here.

The original letter:

I really don’t want to start a reply with something like “Bob Ray Sanders is the reason I don’t subscribe to the Star Telegram.” However, I can’t help myself. Nevertheless, occasionally someone will say “Did you read what BRS wrote in the FWST?” and I will go online and read it. So I did Sunday and I wanted to present another side to your editorial issue; not as a raving right-wing nut job (which unbeknownst to me, my son has become as a member of the US Army serving in Iraq), but as one who enjoys guns (but not an NRA member), is concerned about self-defense, a rational conservative, a Texan and one of “those people” who is a gun-totin’ advocate. However, I am rarely armed in public and can not imagine ever actually being forced to fire a gun in self-defense. I would respectfully submit, based on my informal surveys among friends and others, that I represent more than 80% of “those people” you reference in your editorial.

Mr. Sanders, you submit that the one thing working for the gun manufacturers is fear and that fright is paying off big-time for gun manufacturers in America. Thus, my initial angst in reading your article is that I think I agree with you as to the “fear” aspect, scary thought, but I think that word is toxic to the discussion and full of emotion. Frankly, it is inaccurate. Thus, I am left with a question to pose to you and a pretty fundamental, though respectful, disagreement.

The question is who, if anyone, is creating that “fear?” If, in fact, that is what is motivating these gun and ammo sales. You don’t really delve into that, or at least give the other side’s point, so I thought I would give it a shot. Further, is that “fear” being created, artificially as you may be inclined to think, by the gun manufacturers, by the NRA, Republicans, by the “right wing,” whoever that might be? If it is, then I will be the first to say that they should stop. “Fear-mongering,” no matter who is behind it, is wrong. Conversely, is this “fear” created by the Obama administration itself? You cite several reasons why this could be true and then go on to question the rationality of that fear. Will get there in a minute.

The fundamental disagreement I have is whether or not you give “these people” or “some folks” the right to apply for concealed gun permits, buy more ammo or even be fearful at all. The problem I have at the end of the day with your article is whether or not you intend to label as “crazy” or “nut jobs” or whatever those who sincerely and honestly feel warranted in getting a handgun or stocking up on ammo. I do appreciate the fact you don’t use those labels in your piece (other than the innocuous “Second Amendment gun-totin’ advocates”); in fact, you seldom do use labels. Kudos for that. However, I don’t think it is “fear” as we have come to use that word in a post-9/11 world and, thus, I don’t think “these people” are crazy, nut jobs or gun-totin’ hillbillies.

Let me address my question first. I guess I am a gun-totin’ advocate. I have a concealed carry permit, but rarely carry a gun on my person; mostly it is kept in a car or perhaps my wife’s purse (she is also licensed) if she is going to the mall at night alone. However, I am a staunch advocate of individual liberties, which I assume you are, including those found in the First and Second Amendments.

Yes, I am concerned that Obama will live up to his campaign promises of renewing the ban on assault-style weapons, or he may limit the ability to purchase handguns, or impose taxes on ammo, or “fingerprint” ammo with id numbers, etc. I have absolutely no doubt that his future judicial appointments will be unfavorably disposed to gun owners and that disturbs me because those justices historically are also not favorably disposed on other issues which I am concerned about, i.e., right to life, religious freedoms, etc. Remember, it was Obama, not me, not the NRA or other right-wingers that said people in Pennsylvania were “bitter” and retreated to their Bibles and their guns. Those were his words.

However, and here is my biggest problem of all - you suggest that my concerns rise to the level of “fear.” It not that I fear what Obama may do, I don’t trust him, I don’t agree with him, I don’t believe he shares my values. But I would strongly argue that it is not fear that is then the result of the foregoing opinions I have formed about him. It always seems that if there is a disagreement by the “left” with the “right,” that somehow the “right” is either afraid or creating fear. Al Gore’s famous tantrum, which was scary, contained the screech that “George Bush preyed on our fears!” Well, George Bush was acting out of concern for our country, whether you agreed with his methods or not, and I did not agree with all of them. However, our country was afraid as a consequence of 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, bombings in London and Spain. But that is not the “fear” to which the gun-totin’ advocates are responding in buying guns and ammo.

Quite simply, I have bought a couple of handguns in the last year and as much ammo as I can, not because I am afraid of Obama, but (a) both of the foregoing items are going to be in shorter and shorter supply (thanks to market forces and Obama) and (b) because of a rather widely held belief that socially and culturally we are headed for a collapse. Now that sounds like a “nut job” but let me explain. And I don’t lay the collapse at Obama’s feet, though I think he is more ambivalent towards the risk than say a John McCain, George Bush or other conservative leaders would be. But, given the increasing lean of our country towards a “nanny-state,” a mushrooming government, total failure in border control, the dramatic reduction in the stability and numbers of supportive, nurturing families, then there is a plausible reason to have concerns that the unthinkable could happen. Does that sound like “fear” to you? It doesn’t to me. Fear is an irrational response to threats created by factors beyond your control. Thus, I think many are responding in a rational fashion, i.e., be prepared, be cautious, be diligent and be smart. Are these “threats” that are beyond our control? Yes and no. I can “control” (don’t tell my kids or wife) my family, i.e., create barriers to harm, instill values, prepare them spiritually. Thus, I don’t fear the threats on my family. Their future and safety ultimately are in God’s hands. I can’t control what goes on across the street, across town, or across the country. But I don’t fear those things because I will do the best I can here, where I stand, and trust other forces and factors to deal with those things (and I will gladly pay taxes for those forces and factors). I will speak up and/or contribute, however, when necessary so that those people on those front lines will have the capacity to deal with those issues in those areas.

Now, assuming that for the sake of discussion we can use the words “concern” or “fear” or “anxiety” as the emotion sparking the sales in guns and ammo and the issuance of permits, who is creating that? Well, in reality the NRA and other gun advocate groups have for years sounded warnings about infringements on the Second Amendment rights of Americans. I don’t agree with all of their policies and “warnings,” but they are not saying anything different today than they have since Jimmy Carter. Thus, it seems there must be a new factor at play in this debate. It must be the “Obama” factor, that is, the creation of a “nanny-state” (pardon my label), his promised restriction of gun rights (to most campaign audiences, but not some ironically), his promise to further open our borders and/or liberalize immigration opportunities, the further stratification or classification of society through flawed tax policy and entitlements, and the mushrooming federal deficit. Not all his fault, admittedly, but it is his watch.

Thus, while I remain at odds with you over whether all of this gun activity is a result of “fear,” even assuming some kind of reactionary motivation for this phenomenon, it is your guy in the White House who has set this in motion, not the “advocates” or “them people.”

As to my fundamental disagreement – it concerns your take on this country’s “obsession” with guns or “this craziness” and the fact that, in your words, you “simply don’t get it.” My first response is that likewise, I simply don’t get hip-hop music. I’ve tried, often. But I don’t get it. But I don’t feel fear from those who are obsessed with it nor do I view them as crazy. It’s a taste matter. (Interestingly, studies have shown far more violence arises out of the mere culture of hip-hop and rap than out of the culture of gun-ownership, hunting, target shooting, etc.).

Similarly, I also don’t get your obsession with the First Amendment right of a free press. I value it, I intellectually know it has had an incredible impact on our country, positive and negative. But I don’t get it at the gut level, that raw emotional level, that you do and for obvious reasons. My First Amendment rights as to the press have never been threatened, or if they had, I didn’t know it. Some one else was dealing with this threat. I just don’t have my antenna up for freedom of the press issues. But I respect and even appreciate the fact that you are passionate about a free press. While I disagree with almost every editorial you right, I am glad not only that you have the right to write them, but that you will fight and perhaps die for the right to exercise them. I don’t get it, but I’m glad that you do. Likewise, I would respectfully suggest that while you don’t get the obsession many have with their Second Amendment rights, I would hope that you would be at least get the fact and appreciate it that someone does get it and is passionate. Otherwise, if the Second Amendment goes (or any other fundamental right), then they are all at risk.

As to your being scared because you hear of people arming for war against their own government. Come on, that’s crazy. The rhetoric from the Black Panthers, Louis Farrakhan, the Weathermen, the Klan, etc. is far more vitriolic and threatening than 99.9% of what you hear out of the gun-owners, even the NRA. We can be fearful of the foregoing list because they have all acted out on their threats. To lump all gun owners then together as potential anarchists or secessionists is not really logical.

You also state that “this has long been a country with too many guns.” Respectfully, on what do you base that statement? Because too many people run up their credit cards buying guns and ammo (i.e., like alcohol or lottery tickets)? Because too many people miss church because they are out shooting? Or is it because you connect gun ownership to the crime rate, because you, inaccurately I might add, suggest that because people are killed by guns that there are simply too many guns. Too many people die in car accidents, but no one suggests we should have fewer cars. Too many people die from airplane travel, cigarettes, skydiving, skiing, etc., but no one has ever suggested doing away with any of the foregoing. We can clearly agree that there are too many illegal gun sales, too many guns in the hands of irresponsible people, too many guns trading in the underground or whatever, but none of those reasons have to do with the ownership, manufacture or sheer number of guns themselves. It has to do with poor enforcement of existing laws and a cultural drift towards violence and crime.

Finally, you say you are afraid of “them.” “Them” evidently being those people who are afraid of the president, a change in gun laws or a government that is becoming more “socialist.” Well “them” is me. While I am not afraid of the president, I do see that restricting gun laws and a more socialist government is not good for our society. Just like you, I have not bought and would not buy a gun solely out of my response to those concerns. You say “buying a gun wouldn’t do anything to ease my fears” and I completely agree. Why? For two reasons: one, I don’t have “fear” as you use the word and second, it is not the gun ownership that eases the fears, its knowing that our rights, whether found in the First, Second or any other amendment are not be infringed upon. Now that is something we can be fearful of.
Now, if you want the Star Telegram to publish more pro-gun editorials similar to this one, head on over and offer up a comment supporting the author of this one.


Old NFO said...

Oh that was EXCELLENT!!!! Thanks

dw said...

agreed, EXCELLENT. brs will laugh at this response. as will all of his "the constitution is what i think it is" buddies. all these people ever do is try and tell "me" what i can and cannot do. i never go to there homes knocking on the door. they seem to want to come to my house every day. where does this thought process come from? i educate their children when i have none. i fund their social programs of which i receive nothing. i am ridiculed on a daily basis for my beliefs in my country and they are not. i gave 4 years of my life serving my country as a sgt. in the usmc. i ask brs to step up to the plate and serve as well, instead of trying to take away the rights i protected. i do not understand.

JT said...

Re: the second-to-last paragraph and the "there's too many guns" argument. I'm reminded of the comment Scott Lewis of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus made a while back:

"More guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens is not a problem.

Taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens is not a solution."