Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wingnut roundup, Sunday edition

One of the pleasures I have had in the post-election phase is watching the conservative press in the U.S. fulminate, lather, rationalize, and generally tie themselves up in knots. Several themes have emerged:

1. Some have attempted to recast Obama’s victory as evidence that States is a “center-right” nation—some even going so far as to claim that he effectively campaigned as a “Reaganite.” This particular howler is bad enough taken on its simple merits, but somewhat more baffling when you recall that, up to and including the day of the election, these same voices were calling Obama a “socialist.” It’s amazing what 365 electoral votes can apparently do to the perception of one’s ideological tendencies—from Stalin to Reagan, all in twenty-four hours.

2. The current economic downturn has been labeled by Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh as “the Obama Recession.” Yes, the President-Elect, who has held that title for not quite two weeks, is apparently responsible for our economic woes. Why? According to the Hannity/Limbaugh logic, people have lost all consumer confidence with the massive tax hikes promised by Obama looming on a horizon two months away. Which would be an interesting argument were it not for two key facts: (1) however else Fox News might spin it, Obama’s plan is for tax breaks for everyone earning under $250K, and a tax hike for those earning over that much (and, not to split hairs, but it’s not so much a tax hike as a return to pre-Bush taxation levels); (2) that very $250K+ demographic that Obama explicitly said would experience a tax increase VOTED FOR OBAMA. That’s right—exit polls indicated that those earning over two hundred thousand a year voted for Obama by a margin of 52 to 46 percent.

3. Sean Hannity in particular continues to bash away on the “how much do we really know about Obama?” theme, repeatedly citing the accusation that Obama isn’t really an American citizen, harping on the Bill Ayer connection, and making vague suggestions about the extent of his “radical associations.” Yawn.

4. Obama’s coming for your guns, America!! No less than that bastion of law, order and legality G. Gordon Liddy enjoined Americans on his radio show (yes, he has a radio show) that, during the coming Obama presidency, “The first thing you do is, no matter what law they pass, do not—repeat, not—ever register any of your firearms.” (This, mind you, was the same guy who in 1994 advised people that if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to your door, “Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests.”) Apparently, those people clinging to their guns (who may or may not also be clinging to religion) have been purchasing firearms at a greater rate than gun dealers have seen since the aftermath of September 11th.

Watch the Daily Show’s take on this here.

OK, so while items one through three are kind of funny, number four is just kind of scary. The 1990s were marked by this kind of militancy, in which paramilitary groups like the Michigan Militia prepared for the invasion of the U.S. by the U.N. and Timothy McVeigh and friends did dire things with fertilizer. The last I checked, the War on Terror was still a going concern … are we looking at the rise of domestic threats again because a more liberal administration might take the egregious step of registering guns and putting restrictions on assault rifles and grenade launchers?


Tony said...

A friend of mine has been struggling financially for a while -- but he went further into debt to buy a new Bushmaster AR-15 style varmint rifle (24-inch fluted barrel, Pentax scope: it should make a good coyote gun). He's not a nut job, he's just a hunter wanting to get a nice rifle while he's still allowed to.

A lot of this manic gun-buying is based on a purely pragmatic expectation that the 1994 AWB law is coming back. We've all lived through it once, and we want to be better prepared to weather a new one. Some people see this as an investment opportunity too, since the price of grandfathered "pre-ban" guns shot up during the last AWB.

Chris in NF said...


I have an appreciation for guns as well, and have had occasion to fire a pretty broad range of them ... but I also cannot wrap my head around the logic which states that the general public has the right to own assault weapons, especially those which can, with slight modifications, be made fully-automatic. Bolt-action rifles and shotguns I get; MAC-10s and AK-47s I do not, nor do I get the AR-15, the "civilian version" of the M-16 (which was, incidentally, the primary weapon of the Provisional IRA). What kind of crazy-ass varmints do you have that require assault rifles to take care of them?

Tony said...

Weapons which can be easily converted to full-auto are already illegal. The semi-auto MAC-10 "pistol" was the most notable example, as many of them were converted and used by drug gangs in the 1980s. The BATF rightly cracked down on those guns and put a stop to them. So. . . That doesn't have any relevance to the 1994 AWB law, nor to any new AWB that might be coming.

Assault rifles, being a form of machinegun, have been heavily restricted since 1934 and no new ones have been made available to the general public since 1986. You can't go down to your local gun shop and buy one. So. . . Assault rifles aren't relevant to the AWB law either.

The issue is "assault weapons", which have (or had, from 1994-2004) a complex and often confusing legal definition, but mostly included semi-auto rifles with certain combinations of cosmetic features deemed scary by the anti-gun faction. The AWB regulated things like bayonet lugs, flash hiders, protruding pistol grips and folding stocks. None of these features made a rifle one whit more dangerous than other semi-auto rifles which lacked them. It was arbitrary, it was no benefit whatsoever to public safety, and it was really just a symbolic poke in the eye of gun owners.

The anger, I think, came from being forced to comply with a law that was complex, arbitrary, ruthlessly enforced, made no sense and was recognized as utterly ineffective even by its proponents.

As for why anybody "needs" a semi-auto rifle to shoot coyotes. . . It's certainly possible to shoot them with bolt-action rifles, many people do. On the other hand, a fast second shot can be nice to have on tap. The real question is why society needs to restrict these rifles. Where's the logic? It's not like these guns are heavily used in crime. If we had some AR and AK crime wave, maybe I could see an argument, but that hasn't happened.

Question Mark said...

You sighed, sir?