After attending the March for Our Lives in DC and posting an article with pictures from the protest, I was curious to tap in to social media and learn more about this cyclical debate. I find it increasingly hard to internalize and understand the opinions of those who oppose gun control. Once again, I attempted to rationalize so that I could equip myself in open forums.
I wanted to learn more about why and how Americans still oppose stricter gun control laws after all of the carnage and police brutality that we’ve witnessed as a nation (police brutality is gun violence).
My search led me in two directions. I first explored the logical reasoning laid out by the Second Amendment fan club. Generally speaking, conservatives in America oppose gun control with an argument to the effect of, “bad guys don’t care about gun laws, might as well arm as many good guys as we can.” Similarly, they may argue their point using a problematic statement about historic Chicago gun laws, a logical fallacy about Switzerland, and/or a trite statement about mental health – you’re likely aware of the pattern by now. The second, more compelling find from my search was the outpouring of pro-National Rifle Association posts from conservatives, who were livid that the protesters had insinuated that they possessed violent tendencies.
To be fair, this is a logical leap. Much of the anti-NRA rhetoric that I’ve seen and personally spread anchors on the fact that the NRA spends millions of dollars to ensure that guns are readily accessible. The public light on these efforts is magnified after each mass shooting and doubly so when the shooter obtained their guns legally, with some having documented criminal pasts and mental health concerns. The Washington Post continually updates an infographic which illustrates that more than half of all US mass shootings are carried out with a legally obtained gun.
With varying levels of logical soundness, the left links the NRA to tragic crimes because their actions make guns easier for murders to access. This kind of anti-NRA criticism is met with vitriol on the right as they navigate being associated with a crime for the first time in their lives. The NRA’s board of directors is 93% white. This contingent of men that is not equipped with the coping skills needed to navigate the trauma of grieving a tragedy, while silently praying that the assailant does not resemble you or your family. Public supporters of the NRA are not familiar with the idea that they may need to dissociate themselves from a larger group. In this viral tweet, Kirk outlines the statistics around NRA membership and mass shootings.
It strikes a nerve, garnering 4,000 retweets and 12,000 favorites at the time of this post. These are the thousands of Americans who feel that it is patently unfair to link them to crimes because of their political ideals, interpretation of the Constitution, or membership of the NRA. The irony is that this is an organization built upon the mutual adoration of mechanical devices designed to kill people. This is not a centuries-old religion or an entire race being slighted. This is a club of mostly white guys who just really love guns.
The more tragic irony is that the same leaders who squirm and then lash out at the thought of having an indirect connection to these serial massacres are the worst offenders of anti-Muslim fear-mongering and anti-black racism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports about an instance when an outspoken Islamophobe was warmly hosted by the NRA:
This Sunday in St. Louis, the NRA plans to host retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, a radical Islamophobe who has said there should be “no mosques in America,” as keynote speaker of a prayer breakfast at its annual conference. Boykin has asserted that “Islam is evil” and “a totalitarian way of life” that “should not be protected under the First Amendment,” among other things. This January, after controversy arose over statements like these, Boykin withdrew from a speech he had been invited to make at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Years before, in 2003, Boykin was internationally criticized when it came out that he’d given a series of speeches at religious events, wearing full military dress, in which he said the United States was fighting “Satan” in the Middle East, and insisted his God was stronger than that of his enemies. A Defense Department investigation later found he had violated several regulations in these speeches, and then-President George W. Bush went out of his way to say they didn’t “reflect my point of view.”
Striking a similar, heinous tone, Wayne LaPierre (NRA Executive Vice President) called rulings that struck down Donald Trump’s Muslim ban a version of, “violence against our constitutional system.”
Finally, NRA Spokesperson Dana Loesch appeared on FOX News to make an impassioned plea that Americans listen to one another and stop viewing NRA members as terrorists. Contrast this emotional plea with this description of Islam, which appears on the site for her radio show:
And here’s where I expect to take the heavy fire: no, Islam is most certainly not a religion of peace…If we refuse to see that the Q’uran specifically directs followers toward violent acts, then we must seek another motive for the actions of terrorists. We must, as Hillary Clinton has entreated us to do, “attempt to understand them.” We must seek to identify with those who believe that we – our nation, our culture, our families, and our God – hold so little value that to destroy those things means nothing. We must feel guilty for any actions we endeavor to take in order to save our own families and our own nation if they should happen to cause any discomfort to our enemy. Because they’re not really our enemies – they’re just on the other side of a cultural divide, and we should try to reason with them even though every time we do they take another city. Or blow up another cafe. Or shoot up another school.
To my conservative audience, remember how you felt when you saw the anti-NRA signs at the March for Our Lives. Yes, it is an association you voluntarily joined and yes, it is an affinity you can choose to disclose or hide at will. Even so, it’s clear from your outcry that you were hurt. You too are vulnerable to same pain that cripples the, “snowflakes” you criticize. The next time you find yourself tempted to make a sweeping generalization about a race or religion, reflect on this moment. Maybe it’s time to accept that a group should never be pushed to renounce the actions of individual.