Mark Karlin, For BuzzFlash at Truthout
In Will Bunch's fascinating 2010 book on the origins of the Tea Party, "The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama," he frequently focuses on the Gun worshipping cabal of the right wing.
Take Bunch's description of a rally of 350 gun-toting Tea Party activists,
who gathered on the first Saturday of 2010 along the main drag in Alamagordo, New Mexico, to wave their handguns and semi-automatics in the air -- perfectly legal in New Mexico – as a show of force against a bogus but popular notion that the Obama administration had a plan for confiscating the guns of regular Americans….One of the New Mexico protestors was Korean War veteran Jim Kizer, who was packing a .444 Marlin and a holstered .41 Smith and Wesson Magnum….(Indeed it was hard to disagree with the editor of a local paper who wrote, "Nothing will put a positive light on gun ownership quite like inviting every yahoo with a weapon in southern New Mexico to gather at the busiest intersection in Alamogordo and wave their firearms at the passing traffic.")
Examine the milieu that Bunch details, try to penetrate its psychological brandishing of male power as embodied in this act of public intimidation.
The most frequent mantra of gun guys is that firearms (including assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns high-magazine clips) are necessary for self-defense. One of the greatest ironies that undercuts this claim is that the most vociferous advocates of firearm self-defense live in rural and suburban areas with relatively little violent crime. The main violence occurring in these areas is domestic violence and bar fights that can become deadly when a gun is present.
So what is it that is the center of the rabid attachment of so many aging white males to guns, particularly handguns? Will Bunch reveals a sliver of insight into the answer to this question in an interview with John Grant, a frank bluff attendee at the annual Knob Creek machine gun shoot in Kentucky (kind of a shock and awe event involving turning junk trucks, washing machines and trailers into bullet-ridden swiss cheese with automatic weapons as fans watch from bleachers).
Grant hails from New London, Wisconsin, where crime has a low ranking nationally, with one or no robberies over each of the last few years, for example. Yet, Grant packs heat and Bunch reflects upon why he has a pressing need for being lethally armed:
You start to ask him [Grant] what he is afraid of, but stumble as you wonder whether "afraid" is the right word. Grant assures you it is the right word. "What am I afraid of? I do not know – but I feel far more comfortable knowing that I have my nine-millimeter in my car. I stay in a cheap motel and the first thing I do when I unpack is I set my nine-millimeter where I can reach it."
Bunch then ponders the general state of paranoia among a large percentage of the fearful gun owners who created a run on bullets after Obama was elected, and then a shortage of assault weapons after the Sandy Hook massacre. "Prices and paranoia spiraled upward in tandem," Bunch observes.
BuzzFlash has often discussed the paranoia of the "other" that frequently propels gun sales and the intimidating, bullying power of the gun lobby. And all that is true; guns are needed by white males to protect the imagined sovereignty of a white Christian patriarchal America, although how that would practically be achieved against the most advanced technological military in the world is unimaginable without regarding it as a psychic crutch against a changing social order.
But there may be another explanation – and none of these are mutually exclusive – for the ferocious, truculent grasping onto guns as if they were life vests to save a wounded psyche.
It may be this, and the clue emerged – from all places – in the written introduction to a "B" movie I was watching the other night: "The worst thing about growing old is that men stop seeing you as dangerous."
This may be the molten lave core of the overheated zealotry of male gun fanatics. They are not, in general, worried about using a gun for self-defense; they are more concerned about being perceived as dangerous.
That is not a distinction without a difference. It shifts the debate from arguing that one's life is imperiled without carrying a gun to "I need to carry a gun so that I am feared as a man should be."
That's not an issue of so-called Second Amendment Rights; it's a cry for massive national psychiatric intervention.
Afternote: The conservative National Review features an article: NRA President: ‘Fortunately, Our Enemy Doesn’t Have Any Guns and They Don’t Know How to Use Them’ Enough said.