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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 12.31.08

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Smoking Gun

A Writer’s Response

Rick Levin

Anti-gun-control advocates love to wax patriotic when it comes to the Second Amendment and their right to arm themselves against tyranny, but the Constitution-thumping poetry they trot out is full of mixed metaphors, half-truths and conveniently decontextualized facts. For instance, in his Dec. 18 Viewpoint, C. Michael Arnold takes issue with me for pointing out that more than 30,000 people are shot to death every year in this country while neglecting “to point out how many of those deaths were in self-defense or by criminals against unarmed citizens.”

Of course, Arnold fails on that same front, so let me help him out some. According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, of the 30,694 gun-related deaths in 2005, a total of 221 were of undetermined cause; 330 involved legal intervention; 789 were unintentional; 12,352 were homicides; and 17,002 were suicides. That’s one hell of a well-regulated militia arming itself against tyranny, eh? Can you say red herring? Smoking gun?

Facts are facts: The U.S. has the highest gun-death rate among the world’s 36 richest nations, and more than half of those deaths are suicides. We also have a higher percentage of our population in prison than any nation in the world, but let’s not cut that (likely related) Gordian knot right now.

When anti-gun-control advocates talk about the right to be armed to the teeth (à la the Second Amendment) against tyrannical governments, what are they talking about? Are they talking about our current administration, which has engaged in an unprecedented ravaging of our civil liberties, from the right to privacy and the separation of church and state to sponsoring torture and effectively repealing habeas corpus? If George Bush — who makes Nixon look like a saint — doesn’t qualify as one of the most tyrannical and treacherously stupid leaders in U.S. history, who does?

In order to avoid looking at the bigger, deeper picture — which pretty much renders unregulated private gun ownership a ridiculous and dangerous proposition — guns-for-everyone fanatics love to deal out their bedeviled details like so many aces up the sleeve. But they don’t even get these right. In his Dec. 18 letter to the Weekly, Lance Jacobs refers to the recently introduced bill HR 6257 as “confiscation legislation,” while conveniently failing to mention that the “certain firearms” addressed by that bill are in fact assault weapons, i.e. steroidal firearms that are manufactured solely to spew as much artillery as quickly as possible.

Emily Millar, an “Obama voting, latte-loving new gun owner” (does this mean she recycles her bullets?), writes in her letter Dec. 18 that “times of economic woe leave individuals, myself included, concerned with increasing crime and civil disorder.” Her solution? Buy a gun, rather than address the root causes of poverty and crime in a society of massive economic inequality and social quick fixes. True to form of most gun folk, she’s aiming (her rhetoric) at the wrong people — the screwed rather than the screwers, i.e. the CEOs and neo-cons and deregulation wackos whose policies do exactly what she accuses me of trying to do, which is “divide us and spread hatred.”

And that’s what worries me most about the brimstone and treacle of these gun-crazy advocates: Their armed revolution against tyranny amounts to so much misdirected political bitterness. Most of them shoot off their nose to spite their face.