I was 10 years old the first time I shot a gun. It was an AR-15, the type of “assault rifle” that many Americans are currently seeking to ban in the wake of the mass shooting tragedies in Aurora and Newtown. To this day, I remember feeling the gun’s weight in my hands, where it sat dead and emotionless, ready to fire at the paper targets down range. I was taught that dangerous tool should be handled with utmost respect, which seemed to be the prevailing view at the time.
That respect for guns I learned when I was young is apparently not enough anymore; something more wanton is required if we want to keep our Second Amendment rights. The gun-loving right, as represented by a number of conservative gun groups (but, not, notably, the NRA), is calling for a national Gun Appreciation Day on January 19th; the same weekend as both President Obama’s second inauguration and Martin Luther King Day.
Celebrating Gun Appreciation Day will come in the form of flooding gun shops, shows and target ranges to protest, shoot and (naturally) buy more guns. All this, said GAD chairman Larry Ward in a press release, to let President Obama know he can’t “do to the Second Amendment what he has already done to the First with Obamacare—gut it without a moment’s thought to our basic constitutional rights.”
Sadly, this brand of tone-deaf lobbying is far too familiar to be considered all that surprising. We’re being asked to “appreciate” (a level of personification of weaponry with which I’m not very comfortable) a class of devices that have contributed to painful numbers of deaths in the last few months by groups that historically have categorically opposed any gun control measure that might help. Even as someone who was raised with guns, this is too much.
It is this type of object fetishization the right constantly accuses liberals of, usually by countering with a wry “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” to any gun control argument. It would be wiser to have a “Safe Gun Use Appreciation Day” where every gun owner teaches their entire family the proper handling of firearms, no? Then, at least, a more rational, less fear-based view of the weapons that these groups say they hold dear could have a chance at prevailing.
Instead, people are going to be waving guns and signage around in the streets. More glorification of a gun-centric culture, and it’s on par with the glorification of violence that groups like the NRA have accused Hollywood of for years. Worst of all, it’s marginalizing the people who can actually help reach a decision: responsible gun owners who don’t believe gun control and a strong Second Amendment are mutually exclusive. These are the people who taught me cautious respect for dangerous weapons over blind adoration.
The left, of course, has been none too kind in the wake of gun advocates’ growing ideological fervor. Numerous news outlets, most notably Gawker, have published names (and sometimes addresses) for gun permit owners in major metropolitan areas. Piers Morgan trotted out conspiracy theorist and Info Wars grandmaster Alex Jones to an incredibly degrading success. Jon Stewart righteously lambasted the right for their hypocrisy and avoidance regarding the gun issue. And, of course, just about the entire Internet seized on NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre practicing the classic NRA media tactic of “open mouth, insert foot” in his address following the Sandy Hook massacre.
Good entertainment, maybe, but as far as reaching a solution on the gun control and violence issue, all that is about as helpful as … well … Gun Appreciation Day. We’re losing the message on both sides with each trying to just be right about something, prolonging the agony of our current situation needlessly. A stalemate.
Gun owner and Tucson shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords has started a strong push toward gun control, and we’ve got politicians and media personalities alike calling for assault weapon and high-capacity magazine bans. Will any of these things help reduce the chances that the wrong people will get their hands on guns or reduce the violence when they do? Maybe not, but even considering them will definitely help more than encouraging an intense ideological devotion to a dangerous pile of plastic, metal and gunpowder.