Bitter Clingers Again

The bigotry behind the push for gun control.

By JAMES TARANTO

Presidential frenemy Bill Clinton was at it again over the weekend, Politico reports:

Clinton warned a group of top Democratic donors at a private Saturday meeting not to underestimate the passions that gun control stirs among many Americans.

“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.

“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said. “I know because I come from this world.” . . .

He said that he understands the culture that permeates a state like Arkansas–where guns are a longstanding part of local culture.

“A lot of these people . . . all they’ve got is their hunting and their fishing,” he told the Democratic financiers. “Or they’re living in a place where they don’t have much police presence. Or they’ve been listening to this stuff for so long that they believe it all.”

Oh, these people, these poor misguided hicks! All they’ve got is their hunting and their fishing! Clinton isn’t doing a very good job of following his own advice not to “look down your nose at them,” is he?

It’s strikingly reminiscent of Barack Obama’s notorious 2008 musings on “some of these small towns in Pennsylvania and . . . the Midwest”: “It’s not surprising . . . that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Like Clinton on Saturday, Obama thought he was speaking privately to a group of well-heeled donors, but it turned out a journalist was present. It’s possible that, like Obama in 2008, Clinton is insufficiently self-aware to recognize his own condescension. Or perhaps he’s being mischievous and trying to undermine Obama’s gun-control efforts. Either way, it’s not as if he has anything to lose.

An even sharper display of urban leftist bigotry against gun owners comes in a pair of posts by Josh Marshall, proprietor of TalkingPointsMemo.com. In the first, titled “Speaking for My Tribe,” Marshall divides the world into two “tribes,” which he calls “gun people” and “non-gun people.” He proclaims himself a spokesman for the latter:

I’m not a gun owner and, as I think as is the case for the more than half the people in the country who also aren’t gun owners, that means that for me guns are alien. And I have my own set of rights not to have gun culture run roughshod over me. . . .

A huge amount of the current gun debate, the argument for the gun-owning tribe, amounts to the gun culture invading my area, my culture, my part of the country. . . .

[An email from a “gun person”] captured a mentality that does seem pervasive among many more determined gun rights advocates–basically that us [sic] non-gun people need to be held down as it were and made to learn that it’s okay being around people carrying loaded weapons.

Well, I don’t want to learn. That doesn’t work where I live–geographically or metaphorically.

Marshall’s objection is not merely to guns but to a “tribe” of people with an “alien” culture that is “invading” places that belong to his own kind. Is he unaware of how this sounds, or is he deliberately employing the language of bigotry in order to be provocative?

Marshall tells a personal story by way of explaining his aversion to guns and gun people. He’s 4 or 5, and he and his parents (also non-gun people) visit a family who turn out to be gun people. Marshall is playing unsupervised with a girl his age when he spots a long gun. “I pick it up, aim at the little girl and jokingly go “pow!” . . . All the blood ran out of this little girl’s face at once, which was totally weird to me. And she said in something like shock, that’s a real gun.”

That story prompted a second post, titled “I Have No Words.” It consists of an email from a reader who has a similar yet much more harrowing story to tell:

I accidentally killed my best friend when I was 15. Shot my best friend of eight years a week before we started high school. I was sitting in his room holding his rifle across my legs as he talked about how he had looked it up in some collectors guide and it was worth more than when he got it (Christmas or birthday or something). All the sudden there was a gigantic explosion and the rifle flew off my legs and I looked over as my friend fell over holding his gut and the whole world was tinted a hazy red.

The reader goes on to agree with Marshall that he doesn’t “want to be surrounded by people carrying guns” (quoting verbatim):

And it isn’t just that I had a terrible experience with guns. I also don’t want them around because I grew up with the Gun “Tribe”. Many of the loudest, baddest, sharpshot, ninja, gun-owners (and part-time Constitutional Scholars) I know are the biggest knuckleheads of my past:

• There is the Facebook “friend” from high school who huffed a lot of gas and never got higher than a C in any class (especially history/social studies)? Yep, he is now an (unofficial) sniper in the anti-fascist militia and a legal expert. He changed his avatar to an AR-15. Now watch this Sandy Hook Truther video he just posted!

• There is the uncle who has held like 80 different jobs, thought that removing lead from gasoline was Communism, and used to send me every paranoid conspiracy theory chain-email ever made until my mocking responses finally made him stop? Yep, finally got an (unpaid) job as Constitutional Scholar, varmit-destroyer, and protector of free society.

• There is the cousin-in-law who got a job as a cop and then was quietly let go like two weeks later for reasons no one will tell me, and who now plays shoot-em up video games all day. His new milita-member duty is mocking people who call a “magazine” a “clip” and informing them that if they can’t name all the parts of weapon correctly, they have no business having opinions about it.

We notice two things these three men have in common. First, there is no indication any of them have ever misused a gun, either accidentally or deliberately–in contrast to Marshall’s correspondent, who nonetheless evinces a smug sense of his own superiority over them.

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Second, they all have eccentric political views, which Marshall’s correspondent seems to think is an argument for taking away their guns. Never mind the Second Amendment, do these guys even respect the First?

As for Marshall’s childhood brush with tragedy, the grown-ups whose house he was visiting were clearly at fault for leaving a firearm where a small child could get to it. On the other hand, at least the girl respected guns enough to recognize the danger.

Here’s what little Josh should have known, and what every kid should know: “If you see a gun: STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.” This message has been brought to you by the National Rifle Association.

 

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