I may not be an uptight conservative, and I definitely am not a rabid Republican, but I nonetheless view myself as conservative. I come from a long line of conservatives. My lifestyle in general is very conservative. I hold to many rather country-simple ideals which were passed down to me through a rich heritage.
But I find the meaning of “conservative” changing too.
I only mention all of that upfront so that you can feel free to dismiss out of hand everything else I have to say. Which, you are doing now, if you haven’t already.
This term “Gun Control” has a new life of its own which betrays the literal meaning of each word and especially of their coupling. I think this new life for those terms came to birth over the course of my lifetime. Not sure, really. I am no expert, but I am an old guy who has been around some.
I will not hide the fact that I have, on a number of occasions, enjoyed handling firearms of various kinds. Mostly in a target practice setting. I never actually killed a big animal, but I have shot a bird – a small sparrow. I have lined up many a prairie dog in my sights as well.
The home I grew up in did not have a lot of guns. We mostly had BB guns. I think we had a shotgun briefly and maybe a .22 rifle. But my grandpa kept guns, including a Japanese assault rifle he brought home from WWII. That was an interesting piece of hardware, for sure.
School shootings, post office shootings, and restaurant shootings (McDonalds and Luby’s) started taking off as a trend when I was a kid. The tower shooter in Austin might have kicked it off, but that was shortly before I was born. However, the shooting at Columbine High put the trend in a much higher profile. It was already bad enough, but now we talk about “active shooters situations” since they occur in so many different settings anymore.
What happened to controlling guns?
Believe it or not, when I was a kid, my view of the NRA was that they “taught gun safety” – which in English is a nice paraphrase for “gun control.” The NRA advocated for “responsible gun ownership” – likewise a nice paraphrase for “gun control.”
I never was a member of the NRA, but growing up, these are the ideas I thought characterized that group. But now, it seems the purpose, the whole reason for its existence, is to oppose “gun control.”
It’s almost a bit confusing.
But I get it. “Gun Control” is a political term. It doesn’t mean it’s own literal meaning anymore; it is something of an idiom, a political stance. It’s almost a coded language thingy. None of this is particularly hidden from anyone, but perhaps it does get a bit lost in the fray.
“Gun Control” is now something the NRA and conservatives (for the most part), Republicans and the like are opposed to while liberals and Democrats are for it. And these groups really dread each other! The NRA and conservative types feel threatened by the idea that liberals want to take away our guns. “Gun Control” to these types is thinly veiled language suggesting the stripping away of constitutionally protected rights to own and use guns. It’s a FEAR of losing guns!
I don’t want to take away anyone’s guns per se, but I do want them controlled. I think most of my liberal and Democrat friends feel this way about it. (I am sure SOME do not. I am sure that SOME actually want to rid the nation and the world of guns, but that is not my interest, nor do I think it is the interest of MOST.) But conservative types FEAR this will happen if “Gun Control” gains sway.
This is the very thing conservative types say about it.
I am not old enough to remember when taking a gun to school was acceptable for “show -n- tell” time, but I am sure there was such a time in this country not too long before I came along. I recall many friends and neighbors keeping gun racks in the back window of their pickup trucks, and keeping rifles openly visible there most everywhere they went in town – including school. But it seems that between those gun owners’ parents, grandparents, and “gun safety” taught by the NRA in the old days, those guns were plenty well controlled. I have no memory of fearing them, and I recall no instances of such gun owners shooting up schools.
We had “gun control” of another kind.
I am now thinking of how insightful it seemed when Chris Rock said, “We don’t need gun control; we need bullet control!”
Yeah… That term “Gun Control” might mean “gun control” to my way of thinking, but it means FEAR that “the government wants to take away your guns” to many conservatives. The same English words used among English speaking people with very different meanings.
Make no mistake. Everyone wants gun control. Even the most conservative people I know suddenly want a cop or a SWAT force to stop that active shooter in the grocery store. That is gun control! It’s a bit after the fact – a day late and a dollar short – but it is gun control. I don’t know any conservative worth their salt who wants North Korea or Iran to have a nuclear gun.
But we used to have controlled guns in this nation. Not perfectly controlled. No. But not rampageously out of control either.
This country is eating itself up with Hate Politics anymore. (My term for it.) I am not an expert on how that happened either, but I have some old-man observations which I use to make sense of it. But the Democrats and Republicans, the liberals and conservatives, HATE each other more and more every election. As I see it, the conservatives are the most vicious haters, while the liberals just want to hold the conservatives in contempt. But, there are liberal haters, and I sense the hate started among liberals too.
As I see it, just seething beneath the surface of our rhetoric is a desire among conservatives to shoot and kill liberals. (I worked with a man a few years ago who was a life-long member and activist in the NRA who openly told us fellow employees that he WANTED to kill someone, legally of course, in self defense. He spent everyday itching for an opportunity.) I am particularly alarmed at how the church seems aligned with this politic.
Somewhere in all this hate and fear, we have lost that old fashioned (and very conservative) ideal that “gun safety” and “responsible gun ownership” is a real social action concern. The NRA used to be all over that, but seems to me anymore, to have abandoned that ideal in favor of power plays in politics stirring up fear and hate. Now days, the NRA will tell you flat out that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But that loses sight of the fact that back when the NRA was known as a “gun safety” organization, there were very few bad guys with guns running around needing to be stopped!
I am not so naïve as to think that the old NRA was keeping us all sane and safe. But I do think that the social service they championed in those days (which probably was buttressed more by responsible parents and grandparents than any social institutions) has been abandoned now. I wonder why liberals don’t pick up the service the NRA dropped. Why does all “Gun Control” have to be legislated? That could be seen as a liberal power play too!
Gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right in this country. That doesn’t make it morally right or even God-ordained, but it does make it a fact of life and a big part of our cultural heritage. Guns are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
But somehow they were not the scourge in years gone by as they have become in school after school, church service after church service, post office after post office, restaurant after restaurant as they have become now. SOMETHING WAS DIFFERENT about gun culture and the politics surrounding guns 50 years ago which also has changed. Something was different about the NRA. And it wasn’t the lack of “Gun Control” legislation.
I suspect the politics were not so hate-filled, and that may well play a very big role in the problem. But there used to be a lot more trust in our neighbors, and neighbors used to be a lot more trustworthy. (That used to be a conservative ideal too, and goes a long way explaining why I view myself as conservative since I hold that ideal to this day.)
I wonder if my little blog post here couldn’t find its way into some civil conversations between some liberals and some conservatives. I wonder if I couldn’t point us to a talking point OTHER than the usual ones regarding “Gun Control.”
I kid you not. I have seen rifles in rear window gun racks in unlocked pickup trucks sitting in the parking lot of my own high school in my life time and no one being the slightest bit alarmed by it. Constitutionally protected guns just sitting there harmlessly waiting for the gun owner to return to that truck and drive home with it and no one even thinking twice that someone might shoot at another human being. I don’t think the gun owner even had self protection in mind. I expect the gun owner was keeping it on hand in case there was “game” or predators (wolves, coyotes, rattlers) along the path between school/work and home. Good to always have it ready.
We used to live in THAT world. And it wasn’t the laws that controlled it.
I can’t help but wonder if liberals began providing the social service that the NRA used to provide if conservatives types won’t just get jealous for their own conservative passions about “gun safety” and “responsible gun ownership” – maybe championing the cause again. It certainly would be a real TALKING point rather than a hate point masquerading as a talking point. And who knows? It might actually contribute meaningfully to the control of guns!