Guns define modern conservatism: force, coercion and death

Guns define modern conservatism: force, coercion and death

by digby

Right wing apostate Charlie Sykes is a bit less hyperbolic than I am about conservatives and guns but he does take issue with the NRA in this op-ed for the NY Times. He starts by pointing out that this tiny little step toward possible regulation of bump stocks is largely meaningless. Republicans are scared to death of the NRA.

He knows what he's talking about:

I saw firsthand how the N.R.A. worked six years ago when I was a conservative radio talk show host in Wisconsin. The context is important here: I was a longtime supporter of Second Amendment rights and had backed state legislation that would allow law-abiding citizens who passed training courses and background checks to carry concealed weapons (as every state now allows in some form). More than 16 million Americans have the permits.

In 2011, concealed-carry legislation was poised to pass both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature until the N.R.A. decided that it did not go far enough. It insisted that the Second Amendment should preclude even minimal safety requirements for concealed carry. The N.R.A., claiming that it was supporting what it calls “constitutional carry,” demanded that anyone be allowed to carry a concealed handgun without training, background checks or permits of any kind.

I thought this was nuts and said so. The N.R.A. position made no sense from the standpoint of either public safety or politics. How would an unlimited right to carry weapons enhance public safety or confidence if you could walk into Milwaukee’s Miller Park with a handgun without any training or a permit? That would be a nightmare for law enforcement and frankly unsettling even for many ardent Second Amendment supporters.

But the national gun rights lobby pushed back hard, targeting me and a radio colleague who thought the idea defied common sense. The headline on one pro-gun website declared, “N.R.A. Calls Out Milwaukee Talk Show Hosts for Ignorant Stance on Right to Carry.”

Darren LaSorte, a former lobbyist for the N.R.A. Institute for Legislative Action, appeared on an internet broadcast, insisting that “it’s embarrassing to see them do that.” By suggesting that people learn to use a gun before carrying it out in public, he said, my colleague and I “probably did more harm to constitutional carry and the fight there than any other people out there, the anti-gunners or anyone else.”

N.R.A. members, he said, “should be actively hammering them.” Many of them did so, as my email overflowed with angry gun-rights activists demanding unfettered concealed carry. But when I opened up the phones to listeners, the response was quite different. As polls suggest, most gun owners take a far more reasonable stance than the gun lobby. My listeners overwhelmingly supported gun rights but thought that requirements for background checks, safety training and permits just made sense.

Despite a costly campaign that flooded legislators with emails and calls, the N.R.A. lost its bid for “constitutional carry” in Wisconsin. But the organization is back again this year, pushing ahead with a new effort to eliminate the licensing and training requirements for concealed carry here and elsewhere. And the N.R.A. remains on the offensive: 12 states allow concealed carry without a permit.

Since we beat the N.R.A. back six years ago, the political environment on guns has shifted quite a bit. President Trump seems to understand not only that the gun issue helped him win states like Michigan and Wisconsin but also that opposition to gun control has now become a central test of loyalty in our tribal politics.

This is what many of the N.R.A.’s critics have been slow to grasp: The N.R.A. has successfully taken the issue of rational gun regulation out of the policy realm and made it a central feature of the culture wars. The issue is no longer simply about bump stock, or assault weapons, or specific regulations, or public safety; the debate over guns has become a subset of the larger cultural clash that pits us against them — liberals versus “normal” Americans. As Kurt Schlichter, a conservative columnist, insisted last week, “Leftists hate our rights because they hate us.”

The N.R.A. has pursued that strategy relentlessly and with great effect. It was hardly a coincidence that it decided to wade into the controversy over N.F.L. players’ kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. The group put out a video called “We Stand,” which linked the themes of freedom, patriotism and guns. “I stand for the children, the spouses and parents whose family made the ultimate sacrifice for us,” the narrator says. “We are all standing. We are the National Rifle Association of America and we are freedom’s safest place.”

In a recent video starring Dana Loesch, a popular radio talk show host, the N.R.A. checked all the boxes of the culture wars. Featuring apocalyptic images of protests and violence, the spot targeted educational indoctrination in the schools, Hollywood leftism and liberal news media bias. “The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth,” Ms. Loesch declares.

The video was part of a larger strategy. Last fall, the N.R.A. started its own television news outlet, known as NRATV. As Adam Winkler, a law professor at U.C.L.A. and the author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” notes, NRATV does not focus merely on guns. “Now it’s focused on immigration, race, health care,” he told The New Republic. “We’re seeing the N.R.A. become an extreme right-wing media outlet, not just a protector of guns.”

It’s actually more than that. The N.R.A. has effectively turned itself into the Id of the right. Despite the largely symbolic ban on bump stocks, the result is paralysis, both political and moral.

Actually, it's been focused on the broader culture war for a long time, as I wrote here. It's been one of their cleverest gambits. They have infiltrated all factions of the conservative movement, making themselves inseparable from all of them. They are at th center of the movement. There's no escaping them unless they all agree. And they won't.