What conservatives talk about when they talk about assault rifles

Will this stop despotism in Washington DC? (PHOTO SOURCE: Wikipedia)

Watching the political fallout from the shootings in Connecticut — and the subsequent gun attacks in Pennsylvania and western New York — there’s one crucial detail that the media isn’t sharing with its audiences.

Again and again, reporters like NBC’s David Gregory ask in a bland and willfully naive sort of way why anyone would defend the need for assault rifles and military style ammunition clips.

But the motivation for preserving the wide availability of these weapons is clear and unambiguous.  A significant segment of the conservative movement views them as a necessary check on the power of the Federal government.

Indeed, for many on the right, preserving access to powerful military-style weapons is necessary not to protect people from criminals and mass-murderers.

(How many times have people used a Bushmaster assault rifle to defend their condo or shop from a burglar?)

Instead, the chief utility of these assault rifles and large ammunition clips is to make possible armed resistance to the United States government — or, according to some, the United Nations.

The theory goes that so long as average citizens are armed to the teeth, potential despots (in recent years President Barack Obama has filled this role in the conservative imagination) who would turn America into a tyranny will be held in check.

This fantasy of a war of resistance against shadowy dictators in Washington DC has become a staple for conservatives.   In 2010, Mother Jones profiled the growing “resistance” movement that formed after Barack Obama’s election 

Activists told the magazine that they feared a day when “President Obama finds some pretext—a pandemic, a natural disaster, a terror attack—to impose martial law, ban interstate travel, and begin detaining citizens en masse.”

That same year, US Senate candidate Sharron Angle talked about the possible need for “Second Amendment remedies” if a conservative political agenda doesn’t prevail in Washington.

Conservative media, in particular, trumpeted the fact that gun sales surged after Obama’s election and again when he was re-elected last month.

Military historians have even role-played what a conflict between the US military and its own armed citizens might look like.

If you think I’m exaggerating, check out this portion of a recent essay by influential  conservative columnist Erik Rush, who appeared on Fox News after the shootings in Connecticut to defend free access to military-style weapons.:

It is of the utmost importance that Americans become aware of the dedicated efforts that are being made to transform us from citizens into subjects, and that we are already at war.

This is a war we have not seen the likes of previously and that will challenge notions of war for centuries to come.

Even if we did not have the Second Amendment to stand on, I would still support gun rights, because guns are not the issue – power is.

Next will come edged weapons control, then blunt weapons control, then compulsory periodic assessments of citizens by government psychologists.

There are millions of Americans for whom “it can’t happen here” has been well-inculcated into their worldview; these have been conditioned to operate at the basest of intellectual levels.

They are also the ones who will blindly obey any laws enacted by government, whether these imperceptibly erode their liberties, or require their reporting neighbors to secret police.

There are also Americans – some misguided, some ideologues – who work every day of the week in the cause of compromising our liberties.

They are just as dangerous and criminal as those who would stifle any of the liberties contained in the Bill of Rights.

Rush concludes with the argument that those who disagree with his perspective might need to be, well, killed.

“I suppose suggesting that we shoot them wouldn’t be taken very well,” he writes, “although that is precisely what it came down to 236 years ago.”

This kind of rhetoric is hardly new.  In the 1990s, popular conservative talk radio host instructed audiences on the best tactics for battling Federal ATF agents.

“If the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms insists upon a firefight, give them a firefight,” Liddy said.  “Just remember, they’re wearing flak jackets and you’re better off shooting for the head.”

It’s important to point out that this isn’t controversial stuff on the right. Reporting accurately on the conservative view that guns are a civil liberty issue and a crucial check on “big government” isn’t liberal bias.

It is simply factually accurate — and a vital piece of context.

Of course, it’s also important to note that other groups reject this idea.  The American Civil Liberties Union concluded in 2008 that in “our view, neither the possession of guns nor the regulation of guns raises a civil liberties issue.”

And it’s also necessary to investigate what this kind of political stance might mean for the future of the conservative movement.

The notion that white suburbanites might some day need to rally against a shadowy overlord in Washington DC might be a great motivator for a fringe survivalist movement, or talk radio hosts, or for certain right-wing politicians.

But it’s hard to see the “coming war of resistance” plank as a pathway into the hearts of the vast majority of Americans.

Indeed, as Republicans try to make new inroads among women and minority groups and Roman Catholics (the American bishops support gun control) it’s a particularly tough platform to work from.

Still, many on the right believe sincerely that banning access to Bushmaster-style assault rifles and 30-round clips would leave Americans vulnerable — to criminals and mass murderers, and also to the expanding power of government.

This is the political and ideological frame that’s been missing in the gun control debate in recent weeks.


141 Comments on “What conservatives talk about when they talk about assault rifles”

  1. gromit says:

    Good column.

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  2. Stoney says:

    Anyone care to merge this with Homeland Security’s affect on “citizens to subjects”…

    My band of white suburbanite resistance will have to pull an A-Team Red Dawn Zero Dark Hurt Locker Thirty move and steal superior weapons from local Armories as we fight off the US Military and the oppressive forces of our Government. Right after we all go to Frank’s basement and smoke a bowl.

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  3. Two Cents says:

    {“If the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms insists upon a firefight, give them a firefight,” Liddy said. “Just remember, they’re wearing flak jackets and you’re better off shooting for the head.”}

    so i should be purchasing a scoped sniper rifle instead of an AR Bushmaster?

    The article is right on Brian, but this is a clash of two heads. Who will change?
    Forced, this could be our second civil war’s reason.

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  4. Ken Hall says:

    Brian, This blog dovetails well with your previous blog concerning the aftermath of the massacre in Connecticut. As one who spent 10 years active duty and another 17+ as a DoD engineer, I have endeavored to convey to the “conservative movement proponents of military style weapons to utilize as a check on the power of the Federal government” the futility of their faulty reasoning previously on the NCPR web site and various other web sites.

    I wonder if the fear that these military type weapons aficionados appear to be imbued with comes from religious interpretations of their bibles or if it is an inherited gene effect?

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  5. Two Cents says:

    I believe it’s congenital

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  6. Two Cents says:

    Knuckle may be right, Merry Christmas Brett

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  7. Rancid Crabtree says:

    While the quotes may be accurate whats factually inaccurate (lying, spinning, whatever you wish to call it) is Brians lack of his favorite phrase- nuance. What he doesn’t provide is all the other discussion where people talk about not wanting things to go that far, about how they’re are working to avoid this. And his slanted view and bias language doesn’t illustrate at all the very real concerns or completely different view of current events, the nuance to why people are driven to even begin to look at things this way. This is typical of Manns views and slant- one side of the issue portrayed as correct while the other is portrayed as ridiculous.

    I find it disturbing that the same people who support this type of thinking, that armed resistance to a corrupt gov’t also support a President that counts as his mentors people like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn who participated in violent acts against the gov’t. How can you possibly look at the right side gun rights advocates as some sort of nuts for even thinking that way when you not only over look the lefts violent past, but make excuses for it? Lets remember, it wasn’t the right that killed Malcolm X or Kennedy, it was the left. It wasn’t the right that kidnapped Patty Hearst or that bombed police stations.

    There is a very large gap between recognizing the reasons why the 2nd Amendment is written as it is and what it means and taking violent action against the gov’t. Those of us who understand the thinking and meaning behind the words also remember that the same general arguments occurred prior to the Revolution. “What kind of crackpot would think he could fight the gov’t/crown?” Read the writings of the Founders, you won’t find many, if any, that took their actions lightly. Other than a few keyboard commandos you’ll find the same thing today.

    Speaking of David Gregory, were you aware that h violated Washington DCs assault weapons ban the other day by being in the possession of a 30 round AR mag? Personally, I hope he’s charged and imprisoned. Maybe that would bring this home to some journalists.

    In Brians post he points out that “Rush concludes with the argument that those who disagree with his perspective might need to be, well, killed.

    “I suppose suggesting that we shoot them wouldn’t be taken very well,” he writes, “although that is precisely what it came down to 236 years ago.”

    Now anyone can see that Rush is making reference to historical fact, not advocating the same thing today. Yet it has been noted on this site several times that when Bush2was in office there were a couple books and movie, along with countless articles and posts, calling for Bush to be killed. In every case those references were ignored, belittled and scoffed at. It’s odd that when it’s leftists calling for the overthrow or assassination of a President it’s a-okay, but when it’s righties observing the reason a basic human right is affirmed it’s crazy talk. Your hypocrisy is showing folks.

    And lets not forget it was incidents like Ruby Ridge where a man was entrapped by the ATF and his wife was murdered by the snipers from the same organization while holding not a gun, but a baby that adds to people distrust of our gov’t. Or look at Waco where the Federal gov’t managed to get 76 men, women and children killed over a possible state violation that the FBI had no business meddling in. I don;t defend Koresh in any way, but the actions taken were criminal.

    If Mr Mann wanted to do a thorough, unbiased job on this subject I’d welcome it. the problem is that he’s not doing that. True, this is just a blog where the normal journalistic standards apparently don’t apply, but instead of being so factually inaccurate, why not take a fair look at both sides of the issue?

    Mr R.

    Mr Hobson, could you please edit out the partial post I somehow managed to insert.

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  8. Mervel says:

    I have always kind of heard this kind of talk particularly growing up, it was usually the weirdo’s who were really into it, but I think it is good Brian is talking about it. I do think you are looking at around 5-10% of the population, more likely much less, who would support that sort of thinking or even know that it exists.

    The question is where do they go with it? I mean Gordon Liddey is a convicted felon who’s language was always that sort of tough guy credo- a lot of these types of people would like Liddy, I don’t know I think it is probably good to talk about the thinking in public to really see how far out it is. Certainly it is not religious in nature for most of them and as Brian points out the largest Christian Church is very much pro-gun control. But anyway I don’t think we need to psycho analyze them.

    We do need a balance of power against the government, the people are very much in charge in this country and others. However owning guns has nothing to do with real stances against the government, if you look at how we have truly stood against government power, it has been most effective when it is done through non-violence.

    If we really were serious however and worried about the power of government, lets get serious about gutting our military and reducing them down to a force that was much more manageable and less scary for us and for the rest of the world.

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  9. Mervel says:

    Rancid that is true, to be consistent we should view Left wing militants are just as dangerous as Right wing militants.

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  10. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Since Brain mentioned the shooter in Webster NY it wold have been nice, factually correct too, for him to mention the shooter was a psychotic convicted murdered who beat this grandmother to death with a hammer. did a mere 17years, exhibited continued mental issues and was barred by Federal and State laws from possessing any gun of any kind. Don’t look at the person, no, look at the tool.

    BTW- a nut in China ran down a bunch of kids today with his car. Car bans next?

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  11. Brian Mann says:

    Rancid –

    I say repeatedly in my essay that conservatives like yourself view a citizenry armed with military weapons as a deterrent to tyranny.

    “The theory goes that so long as average citizens are armed to the teeth, potential despots (in recent years President Barack Obama has filled this role in the conservative imagination) who would turn America into a tyranny will be held in check.”

    But it’s also factually accurate that thinkers and activists on the right often stray into rhetoric that goes well beyond the “we don’t want it to go that far” stage.

    Indeed, the troubling thing is that many conservatives, including Erik Rush, aren’t arguing about the future.

    As he says explicitly, the war — which exists in his mind and in many conservatives– is happening now, in the present tense.

    “We are already at war,” he writes.

    So when he concludes that it may be necessary to shoot those who don’t share his views, it is factually inaccurate to describe his ruminations as an innocent pondering of past history.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  12. John Warren says:

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  13. Mervel says:

    If people really want to talk about armed resistance and fighting our current government well then they should be prepared to die, I say that seriously. Don’t buy a bunch of assault weapons and say you are at war with a corrupt tyrant named our President; Barak Obama who was duly and legally elected; and not be ready to accept the consequences of your actions, which would be death or at a minimum expulsion from this country of which I would support. If some future government DOES leave our constitution and does become a totalitarian state which we are far far from becoming, the same would still hold you would still have to be ready to die, but whining on fox news won’t work either way.

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  14. Mervel says:

    The sad fact is however, Erik Rush and his types; will be just fine whatever happens, he won’t be leading any charges, some dumb ass who believes him may end up killed, but Mr. Rush will in the end go home and have dinner in his nice home and probably switch sides next month.

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  15. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Wow. Okay John, how about we deal with reality here and not some twisted rewriting of history. http://www.guncite.com/journals/hardhist.html

    Consider some of the writings of the Founders before buying that tripe you think is fact-

    We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles . The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed;
    —Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. Memorial Edition 16:45, Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.

    No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
    —Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776.

    [The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation…(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
    —James Madison,The Federalist Papers, No. 46.

    To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, countries or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws.
    —John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 475 (1787-1788)

    Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.
    —Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787).

    Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
    —Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

    [W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it.
    —Richard Henry Lee, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

    W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually…I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor…
    —George Mason

    It goes on and on John. Look for yourself, it’s all out there on the web.

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  16. dave says:

    Trying to convince dangerous, paranoid individuals that they shouldn’t be paranoid will get us nowhere.

    Far better, it seems, is for the rest of society to recognize them for what they are and do what we can to marginalize them. Continue to push them to the outskirts of our culture and let it be known that we will no longer allow them to use paranoid fantasies to justify these weapons, and the carnage they are inflicting on us.

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  17. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Brian Mann, we are at war of sorts, aren’t we? You think it’s fine to use your bully pulpit to remove a right while at the same time holding as sacred the right that comes before that ,the one that allows you to make your living. If they can butcher the 2nd they can butcher the 1st. That’s part of the war Brian. it’s factually accurate, is it not? You sit on the side that wants to negate a Constitutional right, I sit on the other side that believes we need to find another option.

    Now I have read and re-read Rushs column and I don’t see him advocating that anyone be shot at all. I do see him observing that it’s what it came to long ago. I don’t know how many people actually read the column but I urge everyone to do so, to get the nuance from this gifted African American writer (yeah, he’s not a right wing white supremacist). I’d also like to point out a particularly poignant observation Rush made- “… In an effort to squeeze as much popular political capital from the Sandy Hook tragedy as possible, the (Obama) administration sent an email late Monday directing supporters to the president’s weekend speech online, in which he promised to take action to prevent mass shootings. …There were also donation link buttons on the page with the video and Obama’s pledge, which gives rise to a visual of vultures picking flesh from the carcasses of dead first-graders.” That is the nuance that you need to grasp to appreciate this article.

    I’d like to interject another thought into this discussion, that of the presses responsibility in the Webster NY shooting. It seems to me an inescapable conclusion that the news medias endless hashing and rehashing of the Sandy Hook shooting likely gave the Webster shooter the kick start he needed. I wonder if the media ever questions it’s part in these things? The news media seems to hold itself blameless for any mistake or tragedy it creates, the 1st Amendment protects them after all, it’s their right to make as much hay (money) off an event as possible. And yet they tear apart anyone else doing the same thing in their own fields.Where is the medias conscience?

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  18. Brian Mann says:

    Rancid –

    You reference the 1st amendment. The truth, of course, is that there are all kinds of restrictions on free speech.

    Libel and slander laws, restrictions on public disclosure implemented by courts during trials, secrecy imposed by governmental agencies to protect national security.

    News organizations also self police to a great degree, limiting what we write, what we disclose. These legal, ethical and moral decisions get made every day.

    We also as a society move often to condemn types of speech, even when we don’t think they should be banned or outlawed.

    As a journalist, I’m used to navigating gray zones and a negotiated balance between the ideal of free speech and the realities of a complex, civilized society.

    That’s the same kind of discussion I’m trying to foster here around 2nd amendment issues.

    Some gun-rights advocates believe that there is no nuance, no complexity, no points at which other priorities or moral values should prevail.

    Others see a real logic in saying that, for example, some forms of gun ownership might be legitimate, but others should be banned.

    The point of my original essay was to clarify a missing piece of this conversation.

    The fact is that many advocates for wide dissemination of military-style weapons among civilians see assault rifles and high volume ammunition clips as a check on Federal power.

    Indeed, some prominent leaders on the right have suggested that we are already at or very near a point in our history when that kind of violence would be justified.

    Without understanding this perspective, it’s confusing to average Americans why preserving access to assault rifles would be a priority — or even logical.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  19. Two Cents says:

    Taken in context with the sentiment of the Constitution, eg. it is the responsibility of the people to throw of the shackles of unfair Government (like we were in the process of), the second Amendmen clearly hints to my understanding, that that militia could be used for either purposes. supression and uprising.
    It was clearly a huge selling point, and most of my teachers/proffessors made that pretty clear.
    Giving up a couple of Historical rebellions as example does not prove that the militia was only intended to quell rebellion, afterall Hays and the whiskeymen did not come to the table unarmed. They were clearly unpleased as to the direction the new government was heading.

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  20. dave says:

    Freedom of speech and freedom of press BOTH have limitations and regulations.

    And neither of them are mowing down children in our schools or citizens in public spaces.

    Assault weapons are.

    So what the rest of society is telling you RC/Brett is that the time has come to limit and regulate these weapons… like we do with everything else (including the 1st amendment) when it conflicts with other values and rights.

    There is no butchering going on. The 2nd amendment will still be in place, you can still own a gun, but that does not mean any individual can own any type of gun in any situation. Just like the 1st amendment does not mean that anyone can say or print anything in any situation.

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  21. Mervel says:

    Well once again are we talking through the lens of politics and emotion or data? Does having an armed citizenry work to deter tyrants and the power of government? I honestly don’t know.

    We do see that most dictators in history and today have believed and do believe that an armed citizenry is a dangerous thing for the dictator and or government.

    I am still against having all of these assault weapons fully legal, but before we just marginalize the whole idea without any data to support the marginalization, except that we don’ t like the people who feel that way, we may want to look at the data.

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  22. dave says:

    “BTW- a nut in China ran down a bunch of kids today with his car. Car bans next?”

    These car analogies that the radical gun folks love to bring up are pretty funny. Is it really possible they do not understand that automobiles are HIGHLY regulated and restricted?

    Maybe this is the solution. If the pro-gun crowd really wants to insist on comparing guns to cars… then maybe we should just apply the same level of government regulations, restrictions, and licensing to guns that we do to cars.

    Sounds like a plan to me.

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  23. Walker says:

    Rancid, would you explain for us why, now, eighteen years after the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was enacted and eight years after its sunset provision was allowed to kill it, why is it now such a monstrous threat to the second amendment when for the ten years it was in effect it wasn’t a crisis?

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  24. Walker says:

    “If the pro-gun crowd really wants to insist on comparing guns to cars… then maybe we should just apply the same level of government regulations, restrictions, and licensing to guns that we do to cars.”

    Great idea. It would be a huge step forward simply to know who owned what type of gun. Without that knowledge, how can you know whether someone who commits a crime or who demonstrates mental illness have guns that should be confiscated?

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  25. dave says:

    “but before we just marginalize the whole idea without any data to support the marginalization,”

    What kind of data are you looking for here Mervel?

    Go ahead and give me an example of an established democracy that has been taken over by a dictatorship because its citizens were not armed.

    These fantasies of war with our government (RC actually thinks we are currently at war!) are paranoid delusions. WE are the government. That is the whole point of democracy. So let’s make one thing very clear here. When radical conservative pro-gun people talk about doing battle with the government, they are not really talking about going to war with some mythical dictator who just happens to appear one day… what they are really talking about is going to war with their fellow citizens with whom they happen to disagree.

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  26. Mervel says:

    Well you are putting words in their mouth dave so no lets not make one thing very clear, its not clear at all.

    Why would dictators throughout history want to ensure that private citizens could not own weapons? Now maybe it does not work as a check and balance on government power? I am not saying unlike most of the posters here that I have made up my mind one way or the other, but once again everyone just dives into name calling and politics without honestly listening to what the other side has to say.

    I do agree that it is very disturbing when people get on a national t .v. station and talk about being at war with our own current government and thus we need weapons, at the same time what Brian is talking about is not some sort of new fantasy which has recently cropped up in right wing nut case circles. It is a concept that has been around since before our founding.

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  27. Marcus says:

    I’m with dave and Walker. Lets treat guns like cars. Each one should have a title and you should be required to go to a county courthouse to register it. You should have to take a test to get a permit for one and go through many hours of training before taking a test to determine if you are capable of safely operating/using the gun, just like a car. When you sell the gun the next owner should have to register and title the gun just like when a car changes hands. Is that so hard?

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  28. Mervel says:

    What is ironic is that the more likely scenario requiring a real need for assault style military weapons would come from the LACK of government, not because of government.

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  29. Mervel says:

    I think we have that now Marcus, just look at all of those people in Westchester who have their names and addresses published for having a gun permit.

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  30. dave says:

    “Well you are putting words in their mouth dave so no lets not make one thing very clear, its not clear at all.”

    I am simply telling you that a democracy is a government of the people. WE are the government. We citizens participate in government, we work within government, we elect the government… if you don’t like the way that system is working, and think you are going to go to war with it, you are saying – whether you realize it or not – that you are saying you are going to go to war with your fellow citizens who voted for, elected, and work within that government.

    The radical right pro-gun crowd are not talking about revolution against some mythical dictator, they are talking about civil war against the people who voted against their ideas.

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  31. Mervel says:

    Yes, that is why I said above to talk about going to war against your own government is very serious, its not something that you get up on FOX and pontificate about, as you say when you talk about civil war now you are talking about going to war against fellow citizens, even the ones who did not vote for Obama. Close to half the country did not vote for Obama and they are not part of this crazy crowd.

    However that is a different concept than what Brian was speaking about in the post. That concept which is the idea that armed civilians serve as a check and balance to the power of the government is not about revolution, it is about what works for a country of free people. My questions was simply, well does it work or not? Does it prevent tyranny over the long run, does it make leaders think twice about usurping the constitution? I am not sure in our modern age that it does? Certainly there was a lot of writing about this in earlier periods and particularly as we were forming as a nation, but at that time citizens would hold arms of comparable power to the government and in addition we didn’t keep a huge huge standing military machine, like we have today. I just don’t see modern leaders in the US being worried about my shotguns.

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  32. Walker says:

    “…the idea that armed civilians serve as a check and balance to the power of the government is not about revolution…”

    Mervel, nice sounding words, but tell me what it really means if it’s not about revolution. It seems to me it’s either about revolution or vigilantism, which seems just as wrongheaded to me. When was the last time armed citizens set the government straight about something? How would you have them do it? March on Congress with guns drawn? Seriously– how do you envision “armed civilians serving as a check and balance to the power of the government”?

    This stuff is pure fantasy, and we have way too many citizens living in fantasy land! It’s unhealthy for them, and it’s unhealthy for all of us.

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  33. Robin McClellan says:

    As a “progressive” and a gun owner/collector, I’ve been struggling with this issue for some time. There are two issues that don’t seem to be addressed in these discussions.
    First, what is an “assault weapon?” The “Assault Weapons Ban” (AWB) always seemed so reasonable. But the term “assault weapon” was first appeared in the legislation that included this ban. We think of them as military weapons, but they are not. Military weapons are fully automatic, a key difference. The main functional difference between these guns and sporting guns (and these actually aren’t bad sporting guns) is that they can have high capacity, removable magazines. The AWB did limit magazine size, but it also seemed to go after “scary looking” guns. In addition to a list of “banned guns” and “legal guns” by make and model (a sure sign that they couldn’t describe them, but they knew them when they saw them) they did attempt to a general description. The law banned guns with two out of five of the following characteristics: “folding or telescoping stock,” a “pistol grip” (many of my hunting rifles have pistol grips), a bayonet mount, a “flash suppressor” and a “grenade launcher.” So I legally could own a gun with a grenade launcher as long as it didn’t have any of the other characteristics, but not a hunting rifle with a pistol grip and an adjustable stock.
    This travesty only occurred because the gun lobby refused to get involved with drafting the regulation, leaving it to people who apparently didn’t understand guns—or genuinely think that “scary looking” guns should be banned.
    The second point that gets overlooked is what would the impact be of reinstating the AWB? There was no discernible impact during the 10 years it was in place, but let’s just take the magazine issue. If we limited magazines to 10 or even 5 rounds, how would that have impacted Newtown? There’s a distinct possibility that lives would have been saved, but are we going to focus on reducing the impact of mass shooters? It’s my feeling we need to focus on stopping mass shooters!
    So what kind of gun control would stop mass shooters? First, they have to be identified. We do what we can to do that in the population as a whole, but let’s focus on a much smaller population: actual and potential gun owners. A permitting system like New York State’s Pistol Permit is one approach. To get a pistol permit in New York, one has to go through a much more thorough background check than the “instant background check” that the Federal law requires. You have to have 3 people willing to talk to a sheriff’s investigator about their fitness to own a handgun. This is effective…as far as it goes. I got my permit in 1976. Since then, there has been no follow up check.
    In Newtown, the guns Adam Launza used were his mother’s, so no permitting process would have stopped him, unless his mother wasn’t allowed to have permit because of her son’s condition, something that is unlikely either because it would be viewed as penalizing the mother for the condition of the son or because the son’s condition wouldn’t have come up—or been detected—during the investigation.
    So we are left with to regulatory approaches: Try to identify people with the potential to be mass shooters or try to limit the damage they do. If I thought it would help, I would support an assault weapons ban, but I don’t’ think it would. I think the problem is far deeper and really does go back to our cultural relationship with guns.

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  34. The problem in a nutshell is that these defenders of the Constitution don’t see themselves as being part of our self-government. Apparently in their minds, unless an election results in the outcome they wanted, the result is tyranny by an overreaching central government. And then there is the problem that they see any ‘control’ of gun ownership as an affront to the 2nd amendment as if the phrase “well regulated” had no bearing at all on the right to bear arms. They ignore the fact that when it was written the bulk of the national defense, as during the revolution, was through the coordinated efforts of citizen militias which were openly organized, unlike the shadowy groups who are now prepared to destroy the government the Constitution created and impose their own will on the majority in order to preserve what they see as the pure interpretation of the document.

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  35. dave says:

    “The second point that gets overlooked is what would the impact be of reinstating the AWB? There was no discernible impact during the 10 years it was in place, but let’s just take the magazine issue.”

    That is because the ban did not ban the actual weapons. It only banned their production. The 1.5 million assault weapons that were already on the street were still legal. And there were loopholes you could drive a truck through, such as the gun show loophole (which was abused by the Columbine shooters)

    I agree, that ban was bad legislation. Hopefully we learn the lesson, and this time around we don’t play footsie with the issue and we outright ban these weapons. This will have to include a buyback program like the one that was implemented in Australia.

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  36. Walker says:

    It also critically didn’t ban the import of large-capacity clips. And I’m pretty sure that despite it’s failing, a modest decrease in gun deaths followed it’s passage, and deaths increased further after it was terminated.

    “time around we don’t play footsie with the issue and we outright ban these weapons.”

    I’m not at all sure that we need to outright ban all of “these weapons”– to my mind, the chief issues are the large capacity clips and the folding or quickly detachable stock. I’m not an expert on this stuff, but I don’t see what harm the pistol grip has, per se. And grenades?

    And we’ve got to do something to control private sales.

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  37. Robin McClellan says:

    Actually Walker, the AWB did limit the size of new clips to 10 rounds, but clips manufactured before Sept. 1994 can still be sold. The most common is the 30 round clip.

    I went to the National Institute of Justice site on Gun Violence: http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/gun-violence/welcome.htm and there was, in fact a drop in homicide by gun: “Homicides committed with firearms peaked in 1993 at 17,075, after which the figure steadily fell, leveling off in 1999 at 10,117. Gun-related homicides have increased slightly each year since 2002.”

    It’s also worth noting that handguns accounted for between 72% and 90% of homicides. While handguns were regulated by the AWB, the main feature of “assault pistols” was their high capacity magazines.

    What I’ve gleaned from looking over the law and thinking too much is that banning the large capacity magazines might have a small effect on the number of people a mass shooter kills.

    I think the AWB was really an attempt to change culture by vilifying these guns. I certainly think that our cultural attitude towards guns leads to our high level of gun violence, but I think the roots of that culture are deeper than the guns and even the movie rating code that rates bloody murder at PG and a quick view of full frontal nudity as R.

    Switzerland, that is often held up as a country that has wide gun ownership, has a gun culture that educates on gun safety and gun use. In addition, the culture that requires soldiers to keep their weapons at home once issued 50 rounds of ammunition to them so they could fight their way to the barracks, not so they could protect themselves from the government.

    We are country that defends itself with guns rather than diplomacy and I’m afraid that attitude extends across the spectrum of society.

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  38. The Original Larry says:

    Right, another great example of Brian Mann’s chief talent: telling everyone what conservatives “really” think and what they ought to do. You put words in people’s mouths and then damn them for it. You point to the extreme views of a few as if they were mainstream ideas. You whip people into an hysterical frenzy by encouraging misinformation, innuendo and fear-mongering of the lowest sort.

    Bottom line here: the goal of left-wing, liberal America is to ban guns, every damn one of them. Protest all you like; I don’t believe a word you say. You don’t know anything about guns, how they work or what they are for and you have a pathological fear of them. You won’t be satisfied until every last one of them has been confiscated. What you should do instead is examine the root causes of violence in America and address the problem at its source. That’s what reasonable people would do.

    Get it?

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  39. Brian Mann says:

    Larry –

    Balderdash. I’m guessing you know as well as I do that the concept of military resistance to an oppressive Federal government is significant among those who would preserve widespread and unregulated access to military-style weapons. If you read conservative websites and publications, the argument is pervasive and — as I wrote — not viewed as radical or extreme.

    One of the common bits of rhetoric from these activists has been that any regulation of firearms must equate to a total ban. But there is literally no evidence to support this claim. We regulate all kinds of things without requiring black-and-white yes-or-no solutions.

    There is simply no precedent — none, zero — for the kind of nefarious liberal agenda you describe. Nor is there any evidence that such an agenda exists now.

    Americans are struggling to respond to a complex, dangerous problem. We’re discussing different policy solutions. Talking about mental health and morality is certainly part of the conversation. But so too is a reasoned discussion of the weapons that facilitate much of the carnage.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  40. The Original Larry says:

    You really don’t get it at all, do you?

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  41. Kathy says:

    This forum is clearly not a place for solutions because the liberals here have all the answers and don’t seem to think any thought that comes from the conservative base is worth considering. No matter what the topic.

    Keep in mind, a few of us conservatives have ventured into your world view but every thought gets tossed out. So you should just enjoy yourselves.

    And I thought liberals were big on working together. I don’t see it.

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  42. Walker says:

    Larry, how come I never get an answer to questions like this:

    “…the idea that armed civilians serve as a check and balance to the power of the government is not about revolution…”

    Nice sounding words, but tell me what it really means. When was the last time armed citizens set the government straight about something? How would you have them do it? March on Congress with guns drawn? Would such actions not be treason or at least deeply illegal? Seriously– how do you envision “armed civilians serving as a check and balance to the power of the government”?

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  43. John Warren says:

    Maybe Larry means something like this: The Whiskey Rebellion – suppressed by that flaming liberal George Washington


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  44. dave says:

    “I don’t believe a word you say . . . You won’t be satisfied until every last one of them has been confiscated.”

    This is classic paranoia.

    Let’s see… we have some people who believe that we are at war with our government, and that we are under threat of a dictatorship. And we have other people who believe that those who want to discuss reasonable gun control are actually lying to them and want to confiscate “every last” gun.

    These are not healthy fantasies.

    Everyone seems to agree that we need to examine mental health when coming up with a solution to this problem… it appears as if we need to broaden that examination.

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  45. The Original Larry says:

    Open your eyes! Many Liberals are intellectual fascists who detest anyone and anything that diverges from their world view. They hang the “you’re not reasonable” or the “you’re a liar” tag on anyone who disagrees with them. They’re fond of declaring as fact what they think the conservative position is and then tearing it down. They can be self-righteous phonies who often are not honest about their real agenda. Ultimately, they might resort to offensive name-calling or outright ridicule. They also don’t get what a dose of their own medecine tastes like.

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  46. dave says:


    Working together must mean something entirely different to you than it does to me… because what I seem to be reading here is that the more liberal posters are suggesting we consider limited, reasonable gun regulations. Such as an assault weapon ban, which would be a ban on less than 5% of the personally owned weapons in this country.

    The well known conservative posters here, however, are saying no… hands off. No bans at all.

    Again, think about it. One side wants to regulate about 5% of something. The other side is saying no, we need the full 100%!

    Now, tell me again who it is you think is not willing to work with others?

    BTW, does this approach remind you at all of the fiscal cliff negotiations? It sure should. Progressive leaders want to tax the upper 1%. Conservative leaders are saying no, no taxes at all!

    So spare us the “Liberals don’t consider alternative ideas” nonsense. When the only idea you have is “no! nothing!”, then what do you expect?

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  47. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Oh brother! Liberals will never go along with anything!

    Rancid, or whoever you are, when the government becomes truly oppressive and tyrannical in a way that can’t be resolved through the courts or through our elected representatives I will be out there on the front lines fighting with you. But frankly, I’m more worried that you will burst a blood vessel needlessly worrying about a fantasy that just isn’t happening. And where were you when I was out there protesting the impending war in Iraq? Were you one of the people shouting “get a job?”

    Also, any threat against a President, no matter which party, is taken very seriously by the Secret Service.

    Kathy, show me one “liberal” on this site who hasn’t offered ideas well short of confiscation of weapons to try to resolve the problem of our citizens and our children from being gunned down in places which they should by all rights be safe.

    I believe I have an absolute right to walk in any public place without a need to carry a weapon to defend myself.

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  48. The Original Larry says:

    “Trying to convince dangerous, paranoid individuals that they shouldn’t be paranoid will get us nowhere.

    Far better, it seems, is for the rest of society to recognize them for what they are and do what we can to marginalize them. Continue to push them to the outskirts of our culture and let it be known that we will no longer allow them to use paranoid fantasies to justify these weapons, and the carnage they are inflicting on us.”

    You write inflammatory garbage like this and then call me paranoid? Your real intentions are painfully obvious.

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  49. Brian Mann says:

    I want to restate a couple of principles for my post and the purpose of this discussion.

    1. I think it’s necessary for people to understand one of the key principles shaping conservative thinking about public access to military-grade weaponry like the Bushmaster assault rifle. I explained these views, factually and respectfully.

    2. I think it’s obvious from my blog posts since the Connecticut mass murder that I think it’s legitimate to discuss and debate reasonable regulation of firearms. All sides are worthy of an audience and a fair, respectful hearing. But it’s not legitimate, in my view, to argue that any discussion of a regulatory response is part of some conspiratorial scheme.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  50. Anita says:

    I’m in agreement with dave and Marcus. Let’s apply the same type of regulations to guns that we do cars – including the requirement to carry insurance to cover property and medical damages.

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