In my line of work, gun violence prevention education and advocacy, I come across the NRA quite frequently in one way or another. Whether they are calling me a “commie” and telling me how un-American I am (me…the 9-year Army veteran), or whether they’re extolling on the virtues of an armed citizenry…we come into contact. As strange as it seems to me…I often find that the circles I run in, and the NRA, are enemies. I find this strange because as “responsible gun owners”, they should want what I want; a reduction in death due to gun violence and a decrease of illegally owned guns. However, that’s not the case as I often find.
The NRA, or National Rifle Association, describes itself as a civil liberties organization. I simply refer to them as the corporate gun lobby…the lobbying arm of gun manufacturers; companies like Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Glock, etc. The organization was started back in the Civil War, and was focused on increasing marksmanship. You can actually view this short video that will give you a pretty good history of the NRA, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.
But now, the NRA is all about money. They say they’re all about the 2nd Amendment…I’d argue that’s probably 30% true. More importantly, they are about maintaining, and widening the funnel of gun sales for gun manufacturers.
Now, like any other organization, the NRA has a large range of people which make up it’s membership. I actually have friends and acquaintances who are NRA members. However, when I think of the NRA, I think of the most vocal and extreme portions of its membership. They are the ones who mirror the attitude and rhetoric of the President(s) and executive staff or the organization: a conglomerate of individuals that I lovingly refer to as the “gun nuts.”
What is a gun nut?
According to Urban Dictionary:
Someone who completely ruins the image of respectable firearm-owning civilians. Gun nuts hoard guns and lash out at anyone who disagrees with their ideals, no matter the argument. Often times fall into a pair of catagories.
1. Young 'radicals' who think they'll need guns to protect themselves from either a. A zombie apocalypse (impossible) or b. THE MAN. (Who, if they were to turn on us civilians, would wipe us out like their intense gun-fappery wiped out their rationalism.)
2. Older folks who see the world through shit-stain-brown nostalgia goggles, and commonly regard the world as an oversafe, free speech abolishing world while also screaming at kids to get off their lawn and crying over the lack of meaning in their lives.
Gun nuts are NOT all gun owners. Only the ones unable to listen to an argument or take any form of criticism.
Gun Nut 1. "Dude, my sweet tactical (tacticool) rifle is gonna splat some zombie heads when the day comes. Heh."
Gun Nut 2. "Back in my day, we all sat outside with fully automatic weapons and shot at the darkies in town. Man, I miss that. Now all those kids with those vidya games and teevee... Damn them kids." Source: Urban Dictionary
I think that sums it up fairly accurately, and it bears repeating that not all gun owners are gun nuts. In fact, most gun owners ARE NOT even National Rifle Association members. It is estimated that 1 in 3 American homes are gun owning, owning approximately 300 million guns. All reliable estimates indicate that larger numbers of guns are residing in a shrinking number of homes. Source: NPR On the other hand, NRA membership is estimated to be around 3.2 million, which , in reality, is a small portion of ac tual gun owners. Source: Washington Post
Gun nuts and I will never get along...because I can’t get along with anyone who can’t be reasonable…and gun nuts are never reasonable.
For example, a little under a year ago I had dinner with 7 members of the Illinois State Rifle Association. The idea behind the meeting was to spark discussion to perhaps discover issues or at least points that we might agree on. We went to a spot where they regularly hold meetings, a burger bar in Pilsen that allows conceal carry. The 7 gentlemen came strapped to the tits of course. Though exceptionally entertaining, in any other capacity, the meeting was a complete waste of my time. As conversation began, I said “ok, let’s just throw some issues out to see how you guys feel…Universal Background Checks?”
A huge groan arose from the table, followed by a hurricane of conspiracy theories of everything from de-facto registrations of gun owners (later resulting of course in the rounding up of guns by the then Obama administration) to simply being an inconvenience to the law-abiding gun owner (because according to them, every gun owner is of course a law abiding citizen…until they aren’t.)
“But isn’t a small inconvenience worth it if it will save lives?”
“I’m a law abiding citizen! Why should I have to be inconvenienced?”
And you can talk in that circle for 30 minutes straight with a gun nut. There’s no empathy. They hate anything that would dare separate them from their gun for 5 minutes.
Now, they’ll call me a gun grabber. They’ll say that my goal is to see all gun dealers out of business (untrue), and render them defenseless against the Black Walkers (see what I did there?) who’ll storm their hamlets, rape their horses, and ride off on their women. They’ll tell you I hate the 2nd Amendment (untrue...actually, I simply feel that it has been misinterpreted in it's current interpretation), and that I hate guns (certifiably untrue). They’ll tell you that since the years of my military service I’ve somehow morphed into an anti-constitution pacifist (untrue). Now, it’s easy for me to simply say those things are untrue, but my record speaks for itself. While most of these guys would love to cruises the streets of their town feeling like GI Joe, I spent time in Afghanistan with real guns doing real military work, getting into real armed conflict with real armed insurgents who were really trying to kill us. I got a little pin called a Combat Action Badge for all that. As I will quickly respond to the less amicable of my NRA counterparts, “If you wanted to walk around strapped like Rambo, you should’ve grown a pair and enlisted.”
I often lament that it’s unfortunate more gun violence prevention activists aren’t actual gun users. I’ve used guns many times. That’s what you do in the Army. I spent my time in Afghanistan specifically as a gunner. That’s the guys and gals who sit hanging out the top of the truck protecting the convoy from attackers. I also went to Small Arms Repair school while deployed to Germany, and was an armorer for a portion of that deployment. I’ve spent more hours taking apart and cleaning guns than I’d care to recall. I once found great pride in being able to field strip and reassemble my M16 with lightning speed. I know what it’s like to shoot off 200 rounds in a matter of seconds. I know what it’s like to feel that power. And it’s through that lens that I rationalize to my colleagues, and to myself on the paradigm of gun nuts.
I know what it’s like to have a piece of deadly cold steel in your hand. It makes your dick feel big. You know that with this, no one can ever take advantage of you. No one can tell you what to do. No one can hurt you. You have absolute power.
That’s what the gun nuts whole world perspective hinges on in my experience: fear...and a weapon that will negate that fear.
They’re afraid. Often it appears…of everthing. I think more than anything, this is why I can’t relate to my NRA and ISRA counterparts. There is no man in this world who can instill in my heart the fear that these men and women always seem to carry around with them. Around every corner there is a boogeyman. A boogey man who may rob them, or mug them, or invade their homes. Some of the scenarios I listen to these people concoct, I just find myself gawking and asking “Where the fuck do you live? I lived in Roseland for many years and that never happened to me!”
I simply can’t relate to people who are so fearful. Not that I’m fearless. I know that shit happens. I also know that I won’t live forever, but I also have enough knowledge that I can’t control everything…I also know that the stress of the fear they carry will kill them long before some home invader will. Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s standing in the face of fear. It’s also in this light I find it ultimately funny when these folks get their gander up and start talking tough. I’m not a tough guy by any means. However, I refuse to be intimidated by some chump who needs a gun to watch the evening news (yes, some of these cats actually wear guns in their own homes!). It’s laughable.
And I often remind myself that ultimately, it’s not their fault. Well, yeah, it’s kind of their fault. They’re adults…most of them. I’ve met juvenile gun nuts…in which case I just look at the parents with disdain while shaking my head, as the kids' NRA hat bobs on their head while they exult “You can’t take my guns away!”
You’re 14. You shouldn’t have a f**king gun! Yet, I digress…
In any case, they have the ability for rational thought and critical thinking. However, what can you do when you’re fed a constant diet of fear and scorched earth theory?
I blame Wayne Lapierre. That’s the pisher who has been the Executive Vice President of the NRA since 1991. He throws fear out to his constituents like a party-goer would throw out beads during Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street. Whether he’s telling them that Obama is coming for your guns, or the only way to stay safe is to have a hot .357 strapped to your hip, Uncle Wayne keeps his followers in a constant state of fear.
And Uncle Wayne isn’t the only one pushing this message. You can go on over to NRATV and find a whole cast of characters pushing constant messages of fear or far right-wing conservative ideology. Other characters that you’ll see include Dana Loesch and Colion Noir. And as the NRA has fashioned itself as a one-stop shop for the 2nd Amendment loving American, their constituents are sucked into an echo chamber where the only talking points they receive are Uncle Wayne’s, or one of his wind-up monkeys.
Perhaps. And yes, the NRA is one of the most powerful lobbyists groups, if not THE MOST POWERFUL lobbyist group, in the United States. They push millions of dollars into the pockets of various politicians…including President Donald Trump.
In addition, the NRA has become so large and powerful, they even have the power to sanction gun manufacturers that choose to stray away from the party line, which was the case of Smith & Wesson during the Clinton presidency.
Ultimately, I find the NRA detestable. The gun nuts…I just find them sad. They don’t make me angry…they make me sad. Well, not even sad I guess…they have my pity. Lives of fear, dedicated to a piece of metal. That just strikes me as an empty purpose. However, we all have to choose our own paths. But, since the gun nuts poise themselves as my adversary, I’ll continue poking, prodding, and digging to get deeper towards the truth of who and what they are.
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