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Friday
Mar142014

My pen is mightier than your pistol

Senators Mitch McConnell and John Coburn--brothers in arms.

 

We've had five years of President Obama and still no gun confiscations!

Your firearm can't coerce an entire segment of fearful, paranoid citizens to engage each other on the crucial political question of our era. But with a few key strokes I can stake a convincing argument that they should.

To begin, we should address the link between Second Amendment fanaticism and voter disengagement. Ever since opponents of healthcare reform began showing up to town hall events  tooled up with a firearm in the summer of 2009, open carry has been noticeably open for business at political gatherings.

The 2014 Conservative Political Action Committee hoe-down featured an award ceremony whereby Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) got to shuffle on stage to wave a rifle "cold dead hands"-style. He presented it to retiring Sen. John Coburn (OK)--the National Rifle Associaton's "Courage Under Fire" badge of merit.

And more recently a Second Amendment rights group Come and Take It Texas, marched a gaggle of gun-clutching demonstrators through the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Media sources suggested the group organized in reaction to a SXSW panel entitled "Disrupting the Gun Lobby With Digital Organizing"--yes, you read that correctly: 'digital organizing' not 'gun seizure'; you wouldn't know it given Come And Take It's armed response.

How does brandishing a firearm at a political gathering achieve any political objective other than appease the gun wavers' sense of powerlessness? Why is there a need to intimidate bystanders in an era we flatter ourselves to believe has evolved beyond the lawless Wild West?

It is nothing less than perplexing to hear the gun waving community refer repetitively to a "Second Amendment solution" for so-called tyranny when they have yet to exhaust the provisions of the First Amendment. Yes, this nation endures an immense rift between the will of its citizens and the public policy decisions made by government. There's no dispute about that.

However, neither pistol or rifle have been wielded as an instrument of reform in a way that strengthens the republic. What would strengthen the bond between citizens is a sustained conversation about the outsized influence of money in politics; especially about what voters can do to outmaneuver and overcome it.

For all those who showed up armed to oppose Obamacare in 2009 it would have never occurred to them that the legislation being drafted had been purchased by health insurance- and pharmaceutical industry money. Their weapons would have been useless to stop the transaction of influence peddling that happens everyday in our capital and state houses across the country.

The original 13 colonies that founded our nation did not decide to join together their respective fates by threat of a musket shot. Rather, through serious debate and compromise they chose independence fromm England and a constitutional form of self-rule.

What threatens self-rule today isn't some trumped up government conspiracy to take away a gun owner's weapons. As citizens we risk losing our republic to elite financial interests who have purchased the policy making capacity of our legislatures. Long before election day arrives the candidate that one decides to vote for has been bought off. Why? Because no plurality of voters took exception to the candidate's coffers being filled by wealthy funders and political action committees.

The First Amendment protects the right to peaceably assemble and petition our government for redress of grievances. How could I possibly suggest the gun enthusiast has underutilized these provisions? From the simple fact they have not converged to demand election finance accountability from the political  candidates who campaign to represent them.

Far too many Second Amendment fanatics see themselves as lone settlers on a lawless frontier rather than as citizens of a greater national tapestry. As isolated citizens they wield very little political force to restore accountability to government; a shortcoming for which they believe--too tragically--a loaded firearm suffices.

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