By Ken Trainor
As of late Sunday afternoon, my latest column [Before bearing arms, bare your soul, Viewpoints, Sept. 21] had generated 256 comments at OakPark.com, the clear majority coming from arms-bearers baring their souls.
As I predicted in my column, their reactions ranged from "explosive rage to derisive contempt to arrogant condescension."
Generally, people react that way when they're afraid, and what a frightful universe gun extremists live in. Their obsession with guns is matched only by their obsession with all the bad guys out there just waiting to mug them. They inhabit an alternate universe where every day is combat — the great gunfight at the I'm OK, You're Not Corral.
Their biggest fear, however, is a tyrannical government itching to take away all their guns. Most seem to believe it is their civic duty to own guns in order to rise up and overthrow that tyranny when the time comes. They belong to a nationwide "militia" of gun owners just waiting for ... well, that's not quite clear.
They love to quote Thomas Jefferson (often fabricated) on the need for revolution, but he and the other founding fathers made a point of listing the "long train of abuses" they were overthrowing and giving public notice through the Declaration of Independence. I'm not sure what procedure gun-owning tyranny fighters would use to launch their revolution.
When I was growing up, stockpiling weapons and threatening to overthrow the government was called treason. Gun extremists call it patriotism.
They're also partial to calling names. I went through all 256 comments and compiled a list. They lump the opposition (which would include the late Jim Brady, staunch Republican) into a general category called "typical libs" as if only liberals were in favor of gun regulation.
Either I or others were branded: progressive lib freedom-hater, intellectually incapable, idiot (lots of those), badgering idiots, einstein, communist (actually "commnist"), fascists, really must suck to be you, jackass, statist, naïve, Brady Bunch, hippy, anti-gun zealots, cowardly, parochial, "a ignorant soul," ANTI GUN ****, gun nuts (for opposing them), ultra left-wing liberal rantings (that was me), you liberal goons gnash your teeth, your block is likely occupied by 2/3 insane people and 1/3 sane as is the rest of Oak Park, racist and elitist (gun control, that is), loser, sore losers, troll, leftist/anti-gunners/pansy types, fellow travelers, silly little man, uneducated fop (me again), cowards, ignorant, foolish, what a boob, flat earther, laughable, lives in a dream world, Pollyanna-ish, and hoplophobia.
Explosive rage? Check. Derisive contempt? Check. Arrogant condescension? Check.
To be fair, a small amount of name-calling came from the opposing side — gun nuts, out-of-town gun nuts, idiot, gun-clingers, and crazies — but it was very tame by comparison.
The gun extremists' barrage could easily serve as the basis for an entire course on logical fallacy, inverted reasoning and ineffective forms of persuasion. Their attitudes reflect a "you can't trust anybody" failure of the social contract. They succeeded in persuading me only that arming the public is a giant step toward anarchy.
I'm grateful to so many for doing so much to prove the main point of my column — that no ordinary citizen is mentally (or emotionally) stable enough to carry a gun (judging by these responses). One Second Amendment supporter, attempting to criticize gun opponents, put it best when he (or she) said, "That's how you know when someone has lost the debate ... they get 'personal.'" In that case, the gun supporters definitely lost last week's debate.
They've also lost the moral argument.
Here, by the way, is what a reasonable argument would look like:
"The Second Amendment gives us the right to own and even to carry guns, and the current majority on the Supreme Court agrees. So until the court shifts or this country repeals the Second Amendment, we are within our rights. But being rational people, we recognize that no right is absolute and with every right comes responsibility. The statistics on gun deaths in the U.S. annually should give us all pause. A line must be drawn somewhere, and reasonable people on both sides of this controversial issue should be able to reach a compromise on how much gun control is acceptable and effective. We gun owners take great pride in being law-abiding citizens, so for the sake of the many Americans who have legitimate fears about guns falling into the wrong hands, we're willing to accept some regulatory inconvenience (within reason) as long as you recognize our right to own guns."
But these are not reasonable people. They are extremists who will not stop until they eliminate any and all restrictions on guns (No, I'm not exaggerating. They call it "constitutional carry"). Only one gun lover in our entire online thread acknowledged that the right to own and carry was not absolute.
Until gun owners get over their unreasonable defensiveness, we need more voices raised publicly by those who oppose the insanity of arming the public. Silence, remember, gives consent.
We need more people like the stalwart "Gunz Kill" who refused to back down and never called his (or her) opponents names in spite of suffering a long train of abuse.
To reverse the scourge of gun violence in this country, those of us who still believe in the social contract need to be just as determined (and vocal) as our gun-loving fellow citizens.