The radical left, including the Black Panthers, also contributed to the rise of gun vigilante culture in the United States, a phenomenon that later shifted to the right. (AP.)
A lot of what I hope to be doing with this blog I fear might verge on pedantry. Too much of what we observe today on the right we act as if started the day before yesterday. Always, we need to set the clock back further—as a political necessity. We have to establish deeper provenances. Or else we just reinvent, and reinvent and reinvent the wheel.
Or, in this case, reinvent the assault rifle. Some of the best coverage and reflection on December 14—the day of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary—has come from the outstanding folks at Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo. And part of the mix over at TPM is its reprinting of e-mails from ordinary readers, offering marvelous worm’s-eye views and analyses of the issues of the day. Sometimes, however, the worm’s-eye view only views what the worm’s eye views. On December 15, as the nature of the fearsome arsenal took inside that first grade classroom—the Bushmaster XM-15, the 10mm Glock SF and 9mm SIG Sauer handgun—was becoming apparent, but before, I think, it had been established that the mother he stole the guns from before murdering her may have been a “full-on” prepper, arming for Armageddon, TPM printed this interesting e-mail from a reader identified as SS:
I was raised with guns. More to the point, my childhood was steeped in gun lore…. I bring this up to establish my bona-fides.
The gun culture that we have today in the U.S. is not the gun culture, so to speak, that I remember from my youth. It’s too simple to say that it’s “sick”; it’s more accurately an absurd fetishization. I suppose that the American Gunfighter, in all of his avatars, is inescapably fetishistic, but (to my point) somewhere along the way—maybe in, uh, 1994?—we crossed over into Something Else….
I can’t remember seeing a semi-automatic weapon of any kind at a shooting range until the mid-1980s. Even through the early 1990s, I don’t remember the idea of “personal defense” being a decisive factor in gun ownership. The reverse is true today: I have college-educated friends—all of whom, interestingly, came to guns in their adult lives—for whom gun ownership is unquestionably (and irreducibly) an issue of personal defense. For whom the semi-automatic rifle or pistol—with its matte-black finish, laser site, flashlight mount, and other “tactical” accoutrements—effectively circumscribe what’s meant by the word “gun.” At least one of these friends has what some folks—e.g., my fiancee, along with most of my non-gun-owning friends—might regard as an obsessive fixation on guns; a kind of paraphilia that (in its appetite for all things tactical) seems not a little bit creepy.