12.16.12 Guns: equivalent extremism?

Don’t you love when apologists for the right claim that the left in this country is extremist? Here’s a recent incident, from a very well respected Takoma Park opinion leader, excerpted from a community listserv:

I hope if there’s a national dialog about this, we can exclude the extremist rhetoric from left and right.

I served on the city Committee on Gun Violence umpteen years ago. It looked at this issue in great detail and I came away with three main conclusions.

First, the NRA and the gun-ban lobby both inflame passions about this because they all want to keep their jobs. Neither side has any interest in winning, just keeping the passions going.

Second, you can’t believe any statistics from anyone, except maybe the FBI, because even though the interest groups may use legit sources, they skew them to fit their views. For example, the anti-gun people cite the correct number of annual gun-deaths, but they don’t tell you half of them are suicides, instead leaving the impression they are all murders.

Third, there is common ground between pro- and anti-gun people.

And here’s my reply:

I am very disturbed by your claim of equivalent extremism on both sides of this issue. This reminds me of the highly irresponsible media who have spent the last decade trying to claim equivalence between starve-the-government, enable-the-plutocrats, global-warming-deniers, evolution-deniers, theocrats on one side and scientists and (mostly) moderate-center-lefties on the other. Sometimes, just because there are two sides on an issue does not mean that their claim to rationality or legitimacy is equivalent. Nor can one always adjudicate two sides of an issue by splitting the difference. Just because (for example) the GOP moves further and further to the right on issue after issue does not mean that the the split-the-diffference midpoint between them and the Democrats, which is dragged ever further to the right, is the place to be.

I am particularly disturbed by your claim that folks in the Brady Campaign (for example) are in this to protect their jobs and are not seeking solutions. That claim is truly offensive.

In the gun debate, one side: the NRA and collectors/sportsmen has owned all of one party and most of the other. The huge amount of cash they control has enabled them to completely out-gun the gun-control community (do you really mean to imply that both sides have the same firepower?). Though many of us in that community might love to ban guns entirely (indeed, I do), 95% of us have accepted that the the gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment has been upheld and is the law of the land. While one side refuses to discuss any restrictions at all on gun acquisition and ownership, the other is working to make marginal changes that would improve public safety. Equivalence? I think not. The Supreme Court has moved the midpoint much further to the right. I don’t like it, but it is so and I and the rest of the gun controllers are working in that new middle.

I get the home-defense part of the gun lobby, even if I would never place a gun in my house, knowing that they are most often used against those we know (including ourselves) rather than against unknown intruders.

As for sportsmen and collectors, I stand by my view: one person’s hobby or sport is not worth the loss of a single innocent life not involved in that “sport.” (Football players are welcome to maim each other: they all choose to be there.) Defense is one thing (however misguided). Hobbies are quite another.

And let’s not forget the part of the gun lobby that is made up of true right-wing extremists: those who claim that Obama and the UN are planning midnight attacks on American liberty. These folks are a not-insignificant part of the huge increase in gun proliferation in recent years. When those on the moderate right refuse to engage in common-sense discussions of gun control, they are enabling this extremely dangerous element.

There may indeed be common ground to be found between pro-gun and gun-control folks, but to claim equivalence between the two sides hardly helps us navigate the path to find it. It is like claiming that Democratic position in the “fiscal cliff” talks needs to come halfway toward the make-no-compromise-hold-the-country-hostage position of the GOP and the Tea Party.

©2012 Keith Berner

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