How the Fringe is Impacting the Gun Control Debate
Today’s debate over gun control has been reduced to a dog and pony show by the NRA and the Republican Party. The narrative that is being pushed by the far right should raise considerable concern among all rational Americans. This narrative which is being propagated by the likes of the NRA’s president, Wayne Lapierre and conservative talk show host Alex Jones is based on false claims that Americans should be afraid of their tyrannical Commander in Chief. Through their campaign of misinformation they have convinced even sensible Americans that President Obama is responsible for the gradual erosion of their constitutional right to bear arms. This same faction has helped perpetuate claims that the ATF’s “Fast & Furious” program was an elaborate plot by the Obama Administration to flood the streets with illegal weapons in order to advance their ultimate goal of eliminating the 2nd Amendment. This group of individuals is also responsible for helping to spread misinformation about the United Nations’ small arms treaty, which according to these fear mongers, is an attempt by the Obama Administration to circumvent the 2nd Amendment and deny Americans the right to bear arms. These narratives have taken on a life of their own via social media and uninformed people are sharing baseless information and going on unintelligible rants about President Obama’s plans to “take away your guns.”
Recently a meme surfaced on social media showing the images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. The meme states that these men support your right to bear arms. Underneath their images are the images of Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, Vladimir Lenin, and President Obama; and it states that these men oppose your right to bear arms. At the bottom of the image the “artist” begs the question: “Who do you trust?” Social media sites are flooded with images like this every day; and there are undoubtedly a vast number of people whose views are shaped by this sort of unfounded propaganda. We can’t have a serious debate on the issue of gun control because not only does the far right not recognize the legitimacy of our President’s Americanism; they refuse to even recognize him as a decent man. Therefore, any legislation that he supports must be part of a sinister plot to destroy America. I realize that this sounds far fetched but I've been listening to the ramblings from the far right echo chamber for quite a while and there is this constant correlation drawn between President Obama and some of the most evil people to ever walk this Earth. The low information voter is easily persuaded into believing the most absurd things about any plan that the President supports; and because of this campaign of fear our elected officials have missed the opportunity to pass meaningful legislation on many occasions.
Usually in political discourse we can cast aside any input from the lunatic fringe of either party; but today lunacy reigns supreme. Most elected members of the Republican Party are too smart to stand in front of a camera and espouse the sort of dangerous rhetoric that spills from the mouth of Rush Limbaugh each day. However, their refusal to speak out against the culture of ignorance and fear mongering that he promotes is clearly due to a fear of reprisal from their base. I would argue that the refusal of GOP leaders to confront this idiocy, lends credence to a belief held by many people---that the sentiments expressed by the fringe are a reflection of the overall views of today’s Republican Party.
The problem in this entire debate is that it has become a debate between voices of reason and common sense vs voices of ignorance and paranoia. The voices of sane gun owners are not being heard because the media hype is surrounding people who are expecting a return to 1776 and people who are expecting to take up arms against their own government. This group opposes basic steps like closing the gun show loophole and universal background checks for gun sells. This group also fears that one day government officials will show up at their door to confiscate their weapons. These people have provided no substantive value to the debate on gun control, so how is it that they wield so much influence?
I am a supporter of the 2nd Amendment and I enjoy the sport of shooting firearms. I spent several years in the military and I have experience dealing with firearms which is more than I can say about most people who own these types of weapons. I know what type of carnage assault weapons like the AR-15 and the AK-47 can cause and anyone who tries to downplay the power of these weapons, either does not know weapons or is being dishonest. While I don’t agree with a complete ban of these weapons, I do agree that access to these weapons should be restricted. The ease at which these weapons can be obtained is a huge problem in this country. I have personally witnessed dangerous weapons including assault rifles sold at gun shows without a background check or even a glimpse at a photo ID. Thanks to lax gun regulations and the lobbying efforts of the NRA, this unregulated exchange of firearms is perfectly legal in many states. The irony of the matter is that recent polls have shown that even the vast majority of NRA members support common sense gun control legislation, but every piece of legislation is always met by a well funded campaign of fear and misinformation. No laws will prevent all gun violence but that can no longer be an excuse for taking no action; and we can no longer allow ginned up fear and paranoia to stand in the way of sensible legislation to keep our society safe. We must continue to demand that our elected officials respond accordingly to the recent surge in gun violence in this country.