Rifle Segregation

I’m not a gun nut. I’m a regular nut who owns guns, but only to hunt, not to defend my home and family, join the militia or fight the forces of tyranny.

Gun nuts don’t scare or intimidate me. Instead, I’m learning a few things from them. You can, too.

I don’t use the word, “nut,” lightly. I mean it as a sincere compliment--no different than somebody calling me a “fishing nut” and making my chest swell. (It might even the best thing I’ve been called lately.)

To me, a nut is a devotee, enthusiast, purist, the top dog in a cultural niche, a person with the level of passion most of us only see in our dreams and imagination. So, readers with guns, especially those with black ones, please do not be offended by what follows. Instead, just keep polishing your M4 and SIG P210, read on, and be proud.

Even though gun nuts--or “Bitter Clingers” as they now call themselves--have recently called me a “traitor” and “useful idiot,” I’ve always been a pro-gun guy. Now, after listening to the gun nuts, I’m even more pro-gun, but I’m sure, still not pro-gun enough.

I’ve owned guns for more than a half-century, going waaaay back to the days when I prowled around in shelterbelts with my single-shot .22 stalking cottontails, plinking gophers for the $0.03/tail bounty, and taking my bolt-action 16-guage to school with me so I could shoot pheasants on my walk home.

I consider my right to bear arms one of my basic freedoms, but not the only one, so buckle up, gun nuts. I happen to think other amendments to our constitution such as Number 1 (freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition), 13 (abolishing slavery), 14 (equal protection under the law), 19 and 26 (right to vote for women and all citizens over 18) and others might actually be more important than Number 2.

Shoot, I wonder if the gun nuts have asked themselves this question. Would the Second Amendment even pass today?

I’ve learned that gun nuts are scared, and I am, too, but for a different reason. They’re terrified about our new president sending out a flock of black helicopters to confiscate their guns—or at least make it harder to buy them. That doesn’t scare me in the slightest, but I am terrified about the corporate greed that has assassinated our economy, the health care crisis, those trillions of federal deficit, a rapidly widening income gap, and escalating poverty and homelessness sweeping our country as we squander billions overseas to fight unwanted, unwinnable wars or for “aid” to countries that consider us the Great Satan.

That’s not all that scares me. I could go on, but the point is. Losing some of my gun rights doesn’t make my top twenty concerns. If that makes me a “traitor,” well, we have a pandemic of treason in this country.

Even after enduring the name-calling, I admire the dedication of gun nuts. Guns, guns, guns--that’s all that matters to these people. They’ve closed their minds to compromise. To them, there’s no such thing as a common sense gun law. Because of their single-mindedness, they get it done. Ask any politician who has proposed a “reasonable gun law.”

Every cause-carrier could learn from gun nuts. So successful have they been, in fact, that, legally and politically, I think they’ve already won the gun rights war, nationally and here in the West, but perhaps not yet in major municipalities.

The hundreds of pearls gun nuts have deposited in the comment sections of my columns have convinced me that we don’t need any more gun laws, common sense or otherwise, such as the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban. This would only trigger more political divisiveness and wouldn’t work anyway. It never did work because I’ve learned there’s no way, in legalese, to define, design-wise or ballistically, an “assault weapon,” nor would the law keep these firearms out of the wrong hands.

I’ve also learned that we have somewhere north of 200 million guns in this country. Nothing will ever change that fact, so, hello, anti-gun politicians. All the horses have left the barn. Forget guns and work something we need like immigration reform or increasing the minimum wage or putting a cork in our World Cop Complex or recapturing the billions looted from retirement accounts by hedge fund managers, unscrupulous CEOs and naked short sellers.

Even though I think gun nuts deserve our respect, I don’t always respect their tactics. Witness the recent Cooper Firearms fiasco. The gun nuts went on a mission to crucify Dan Cooper and destroy his company for expressing his support for Barrack Obama. In their words, they “Zumboed him.”

Do such mean-spirited attacks further the cause of gun rightists? I doubt it. Instead, it soils the image of all gun owners and helps anti-gunners recruit the undecided.

I totally agree with our right to spend our money where we choose. Perhaps it should be the Twenty-eighth Amendment--the right to speak and vote with your pocketbook. But gun nuts have no right to destroy a person’s career and an entire company of innocent people because of one person’s political views. This is America, land of the free and the brave, where we don’t persecute people for their beliefs.

Many of us find bullying and boycotting distasteful, but like negative campaign ads, how can you argue with success? Nobody condones it, but anybody who has been on the wrong end of bullying at recess, like I have been, knows bullying works. That is the problem, isn’t it?

Gun nuts have also taught me how deep paranoia can go. It’s so overpowering at times that I wonder if some gun nuts have bumper stickers saying, “HELP, THE PARANOIDS ARE AFTER ME.” In fact, I’m sure that regardless of how sincere I try to be in this commentary, gun nuts will label it as some type of sacrilegious satire or gun-grabber’s plot. Despite the fear mongering I read in the comment sections and gun blogs, I believe President Obama is smart enough to keep his party from being again swept out of power because of the gun issue.

In fact, I suspect gun nuts aren’t even scared of our new president. They’re scared that the voice of reason might become popular.

As for our president-elect, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group for the firearms manufacturers, should put a statue of Barack Obama in front of its headquarters back in Connecticut because he has sold more guns than anybody in recent history. Even while repeatedly denying he had any gun control agenda, he caused a major economic stimulus in the firearms industry. Just think what would happen to gun sales if he actually favored gun control.

After reading the ramblings of gun nuts, I’m learned to be okay with black guns and oppose more regulation of them, but I agree with fellow outdoor writer Jim Zumbo that these military-style rifles taint the image of the hunter when used for hunting. But viola, the gun nuts have also taught me that the Second Amendment isn’t about hunting. Somehow, we need to separate the two issues, guns and hunting, which continues to my main criticism of the National Rifle Association (NRA). America’s most powerful lobby should stick to protecting our gun rights and not pretend to represent hunters.

I’m sure 99 percent of gun nuts belong to the NRA, but the group itself is too big and slow and politically gun shy to rush to the front line when a Dan Cooper or Jim Zumbo breaks ranks and needs to be quickly slapped down. Gun nuts can orchestrate an instant outing over the weekend while the NRA bosses occupy the golf courses. Gun nuts don’t wear the NRA flag into battle.

I’ve learned that most gun owners aren’t hunters and some have nothing but scorn for hunters because we’re soft and care about other amendments. So, they mock us, calling us Elmer Fudds. But the hunter’s revenge is the Pitman-Robinson Act, which mandates excise taxes historically paid mostly by hunters, but now mostly paid by gun owners who never hunt or even loathe hunters as turncoats. Back at you, buddy.

And then, we have the Great Enabler of the Gun Nut, otherwise known as the Internet. Cyberspace has given gun nuts superpowers, and they use it more effectively than any other interest group. Trying to save wilderness, historic buildings, or orphaned pets? Break up the two-party system? Spike the Electoral College? Study the cyber-tactics of gun nuts for a key to success.

Regrettably, one of these tactics is anonymity. It gives gun nuts the freedom to say things they’d never say using their real names. I say ignore anything said by snipers with non de plumes. They have something to hide.

One thing I haven’t learned--but I’m frantic to know--is how many gun nuts there are. Conservatively, America has around 80 million gun owners. How many are nuts? And how many nuts does it take?

I suspect we’d be surprised how few gun nuts it takes to do the job they’re doing for all gun owners. Not many people have the energy and demeanor to make dozens of calls and send a hundred emails when something like Jim Zumbo’s blog gaffe pops up on Friday afternoon. Based on the level of dedication I’ve observed, I wouldn’t be surprised if a single gun nut with a lot of guns and cowboy hats and multiple Internet names and email addresses could surround a whole wagon train all by himself.

In conclusion, I’ve learned a lot from the gun nuts, but here’s one thing they can learn from me. Don’t alienate the majority of gun owners. Don’t automatically dismiss gun owners with sincere suggestions because they don’t perfectly match your doctrine. Don’t instantly shoot this commentary full of freedom holes, which I’m sure you can do, at least until you think about it. Have you just read a mainstream strategy for growing the constituency willing to help you protect our right to bear arms?

A longer version of this article originally appeared in Bill's "Wild Bill" column on newwest.net.