STAND DOWN

(Editor's note: I'm going to try updating at noon rather than midnight for a while. My hypothesis is that it will accommodate Summer Academic Schedule a bit better.)

It turns out that someone employed by the NRA has a basic grasp of the way a normal person reacts to seeing dangerously zealous and ignorant people walking into quasi-public establishments like malls and restaurants carrying loaded semiautomatic rifles. The organization's DC lobbying arm is asking Texas open carry advocates to stand down, explaining to people who need to have this explained to them that normal people whose lives do not revolve around fetishizing firearms find it "downright weird" and "scary." Most importantly, from the NRA's perspective, the more gun owners behave in such a fashion, the lower the odds that their cherished open/concealed carry laws will be enacted. It's the classic internal clash between the movement members who have half a brain and those whose thought process occurs mostly in the intestines and gonads.

HomeDepotOCT-3crop

(Side note: so when the "threat" materializes, is she going to drop the infants in order to use that rifle? I mean, the Gay Black Muslim Teenage Immigrant Union-Member Welfare Mother Assailant certainly isn't going to wait for her to set her children down in a stroller before blowing her away.)

And now for something completely different. Hold on, I'm going somewhere with this.

Regular readers know that I'm, if not "obsessed," at least very interested in the Cold War. I recently re-read Victor Sebestyen's 1989, an excellent take on the fall of non-Soviet communist regimes in Europe. In any book about the final years of the Cold War, several cliches and tropes are usually well-represented. One – and this is Sebestyen's biggest failing, I believe – is the "Pope John Paul II killed communism!" line that no actual historian takes seriously anymore. The second is the dynamic explanation for why the revolutions of Eastern Europe, Romania aside, unfolded bloodlessly. Once it became apparent that Gorbachev had no intention of using Soviet military power to intervene, the communist regimes of Europe were left with only one choice to retain their power: to use their own military and police forces to put down anti-government protests by force. The cliched explanation for failing to use that option is that those domestic security forces "would not be willing to fire on their own people." Whether this is entirely true is questionable, but if one reads enough books about the fall of communism this phrase will be encountered no less than several hundred times. In short, while Soviet tanks might be more than willing to roll through Prague shooting at Czechs, Czech tanks would not.

I often wonder how much the militarization of police and the "Us vs. Them, citizens are all the enemy" mentality of American law enforcement (coinciding with the War on Drugs, but that's another story) is responsible for the looniest aspects of gun culture in the US. After all, can any sentient observer be unclear on how ready and willing American police are to shoot "their own people", in the parlance of hacky Cold War prose? Left, right, black, white, old, young…pretty much everyone realizes that American law enforcement from the local patrolman to the ATF have proven themselves to be itching, or at least willing, to whip out their piece and start shooting at the slightest provocation – real or imagined.

It takes only passing attention to the news to see how easy it is to get cops to beat the shit out of unarmed public protesters en masse or that every couple of days some innocent and usually black pedestrian ends up dying in Mysterious Circumstances or that some kid gets beaten to a bloody pulp for daring to be insufficiently deferential to Officer Friendly. While old, white America may actively cheer the use of police power against Leftists, minorities, and Punk Teenagers, they're certainly coherent enough to connect the dots that police will basically do anything they're ordered to do, and a lot of things they're not, when it comes to inflicting violence on their fellow citizens.

How much, I wonder, of the armed-to-the-teeth culture on the far right is a reaction to the way law enforcement behaves in this country? Back in the 90s things like Waco and Ruby Ridge were rallying cries on the far right for the specter of the government coming to get law abiding gun owners, but even without reference to such extreme examples it isn't hard to make the connection between the police beating up Occupy protesters and poor black males today and those same police posing a threat to Responsible Gun Owners tomorrow.

Arguably, law enforcement suffers the most from the loosening of gun laws in the last thirty years, as they now face better and more lethally armed criminals with less reserve about shooting (or shooting back) at police than ever before. Maybe – just maybe – some parts of the American public that believe it is necessary to be so heavily armed might not feel it quite so necessary if police were not so goddamn violent, aggressive, and downright mean so often in this country. Sure, some people are nuts and would make all the same pro-gun arguments no matter how police behaved, and at the same time some cops are Good and don't treat every person they meet like The Enemy. It stands to reason, however, that the militarization of law enforcement and the drop-of-a-hat willingness to use force is not entirely unrelated to the increasing popularity of the idea that individuals must arm themselves as a bulwark against the power of the state.

41 thoughts on “STAND DOWN”

  • Dude, I'm rather shocked you never said anything about this–unless you didn't hear about it due to your trip and final exams, in which case, perfectly understandable.

    A quote:

    "He's just walking around [saying] 'See my gun? Look, I got a gun and there's nothing you can do about it.' He knew he was frightening people. He knew exactly what he was doing," said parent Karen Rabb.

  • Welcome to the same page anarchists have been on since 1872. Ain't just the loony right who feel that way.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Sure, less and less people have guns in the US – but the ones who do have them, have up-armed themselves with as many guns as possible.

    So the police don't know who's armed at home, and who's not – and have to anticipate the worst.
    If they guess wrong, they could be DOA.

    Of course, giving local police all of the military hand-me-downs hasn't helped the police remember that their jobs are to maintain order, not increase disorder – boy's and gal's like to play with their new SWAT toys.

    And THAT is a direct result of our stupid and wasteful "War on Drugs."

  • I would not hop on this particular bandwagon. No, the armed-to-the-teeth idjits fancy themselves as an auxiliary to the police. They're gonna help widen the thin blue line, by golly.

    I'm liking this noon update, by the way. I am, for once, not last in the commentary…

  • As someone in the gun culture, the kind of dipshits who carry AR-15s into Chipotle because something something OUR RIGHTS (doing far more harm to gun rights and perception of gun owners than any Democrat has managed since 1994 in the process) tend to fall into one of two camps:

    1. Your standard far-right reactionary fanatic. Like Mothra said, these ones tend to view themselves as armed against a) violent crime, which the police "can't control," and b) against the federal government, since that Communist Kenyan nigg–I mean Democrat in the White House is gonna take all our guns and sell land that should belong to the state to China.
    2. Alex Jones-style, self-identified "libertarian" conspiracy theorists. These are the ones where you're correct, Ed. They're constantly talking about the militarization of police and how we should be able to defend ourselves from aggressive police forces, a sentiment with which I don't necessarily disagree, but then they decide the way to do it is by wearing rifles to Chipotle and ranting about false flag operations on the internet. They also don't like the federal government, but interestingly they tend to be less racist–lots of invocations of the Black Panthers' open carry back in the day–and less partisan, since they're of the "all politicians are just fronts for massive corporations and/or the Illuminati" stripe.

    Both are jackasses, of course, but it's distinct flavors of jackassery.

  • I've always thought that this was a bit of a self-reinforcing cycle.

    If one of the justifications for the lack of reasonable restrictions on gun ownership is the increased militarization of police, it's also the case that police feel like they need to be better armed and adopt a "shoot-first-ask-questions-later" policy because they don't know which of the people they're trying to arrest happen to have an arsenal of high-powered weapons at their disposal.

    But that's just always been a sense that I've had, I don't actually know enough about the history of both of those movements in American politics and culture or any actual interaction between them to know if this is the case, it just seems to me like these two movements are feeding each other's worst impulses.

  • (This ends up being kinda relevant, I promise)
    Last week I went on a school field trip with my daughter's pre-school class. We went to a local museum here in DC, and one of the things that the person who met us from the museum did was talk about "Community Helpers". She would show the Community Helper and ask the kids what the person does. So she shows a fireman (they put out fires! get pets from trees!) and postal worker (they deliver the mail!they give us packages!). Then they get to Police Officer. Here (more or less verbatim) were the kids responses:

    Tiny white girl: "They drive around in cars." Museum person: "OK, who else?"
    Tiny white boy: "They keep the bad people away." Museum person: "Ok, who else?"
    Tiny black girl: "They KILL PEOPLE." Museum person: "……."

  • A few of the right-wing-nuts are worried about the police. They're the one that talk about creeping fascism, jack-booted thugs, and so on.

    But most are simply worried about black people. They even have code words for it – the "zombie apocalypse":

    https://www.google.com/#q=zombie+rifle

    When gun nuts are talking about "zombies", they're talking about black people and Mexicans rising up and coming to take their stuff and their wimmenfolk. When the police can't protect you, so you've got to start shooting people in the head.

    Wayne LaPierre: "Gun owners are not buying firearms because they anticipate a confrontation with the government. Rather, we anticipate confrontations where the government isn’t there—or simply doesn’t show up in time."

    I think that quote is largely true. Not entirely. But largely.

  • Juche Songun says:

    I have a few gun nuts in my social media circle, and they are constantly posting things about irrational cops using excessive force, and general poor conduct of which ends up going unpunished because of cops position in our society.

    The narrative in their heads is that amassing an obscene level of arms and always carrying is the only thing they can do to protect themselves from the state.

    I don't agree with their final conclusion, that you ought to be armed to the teeth, but I can follow some of their strands of logic and that this is the consequence of militarizing regular police work.

  • One of the things that always puts a smile on my face is when some gunzloondouchebag starts screeching about how the libtards are never gonna take his gunz away. I enjoy telling them that it's not me but the NSA they gotta worry about. They all love to go to their little anti-immigration, racist and misogynistic mancaves and bloviate about their collection of gunz and ammo–without understanding that once it's on the net, it's there for all to see, including the heinous minions of the gummint that they worry so much about.

    Moronz.

  • A while back Ed said he is not likely to give credence to a statement that begins, “I’m a mom….” That comment could be an alternative caption for this photo.

  • "When gun nuts are talking about "zombies", they're talking about black people and Mexicans rising up and coming to take their stuff and their wimmenfolk."

    Or, we're actually talking about zombies, because while it may shock you, many gun owners do actually have a sense of humor. There's also an element of disaster planning involved, but the use of "zombie apocalypse" and the like in gun circles is generally no different than the CDC's Zombie Preparedness page: http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm

  • I love discussing this stuff with the gun lovers I know.

    Jokes about zombie apocalypse: ok, sure, I'll play along.
    Quasi-legitimate fear of the general collapse of civilization: hey, I get that.
    Paranoid fear of a coming race war: yeesh, well, I don't like it, but ok…
    "Bulwark against the power of the state": ARE YOU KIDDING?!?

    Man, I suppose a heavily-armed militia type might hold off a couple rookie cops from the suburbs for a little while. But after that, it's all over, man! And if you actually manage to SHOOT a cop during your little standoff, well, heaven help you.

    The state doesn't technically hold a monopoly on violence in this country, but come on, it basically does. I don't care how many rifles you own, you're not defending yourself against guys with helicopters and armored vehicles and machineguns if they come calling.

  • "I don't care how many rifles you own, you're not defending yourself against guys with helicopters and armored vehicles and machineguns if they come calling."

    When we pull the last troops out of Afghanistan the powers that be will want to re-arm for the next one. I see Joe Arpaio in a Stryker and his sidekick Stevie Segal in a Warthog.

  • I am …. bemused at that picture. She presumably had to strap her toddlers into legally-mandated child safety seats to protect their lives while driving to the Open Carry Gun Display Event. Did she don her bazooka or whatever the fuck that thing is before or after unbuckling the kids and loading them into her arms?

  • That fringe libertarians think they're defending themselves against the state, I can believe.

    For all the other gun nuts, I think the main effect of a paramilitary police force is to legitimize shooting first and asking questions … well … never.

    That legitimacy looks to me like a huge and mostly ignored factor.

  • Yeah, I can only speak to my own insane family members, but the majority of them are of the idea that they need all those guns to protect them from the scary black people, so they can shoot somebody when they break into their house, and similar. There are a few (usually the much younger ones) who take the libertarian "protect themselves from the state" line, but the vast majority of them are of the older generation and imagine themselves *helping* punish the leftists/thugs/muslims/whatever when the shit hits the fan. They're not afraid of what you describe above, for the most part, because they imagine they're on the winning side of it.

  • If the excrement ever really did hit the rotating oscillator, most of the these people would be dead or enslaved as soon as the first real warlord got his act together.

  • A gun owner fighting against the government now would make Lexington Green look like a even fight.

  • Middle aged-elderly white man actually breaks law and has standoff with police- right wingers turn him into a hero. Unarmed black kid gets shot 47 times by police- the same people say he "should have done what he was told!" In short, they are full of shit.

    Also, it's 2014. Why are we still making zombie jokes?

  • Arslan: I won't deny that zombie jokes have jumped the shark, particularly given that gun manufacturer's definition of "zombie edition" is "the same gun as before, but with green furniture and a biohazard symbol on the grip." But beating a dead horse for a last-ditch cash grab is quite a bit different than "zombie is a code word for minority."

  • Yes I agree. The zombie apocalypse thing was only ever a shitty joke, carried too far by people who were way late to the party. I've never heard anyone use it in a way that suggests they were talking about minorities. Usually those types have different code words, like "the UN invasion", "martial law," or the worst- "day of the rope."

  • IIRC: Wasn't it the right wing gunnutz who created this self propagating dystopia by voting for "tough on crime" candidates and supporting those who brought in the Patriot Act?

    I thought I'd heard that the NRA was losing its influence amongst the "True Believers" as they were selling out with statements like that one. That seems to be a common theme amongst right wing groups. They love to stir up and motivate the base by courting the crazy. They're a bit like a bunch of pimply kids who try to summon the devil with a spell they read in book somewhere and a couple of chalk pentagrams, but are totally unprepared for the event when the devil actually shows up. So now they seem to have no idea what to do now that their crazies are now trying to wrest control of the asylum from their grasp.

  • Anonymouse says:

    @Arslan; a few months ago, there was a leak of information that certain gun companies were painting an effigy of the POTUS green and calling him a zombie; there's very much the notion that zombie=minority in the minds of the right-wing gunzloonz.

  • Only vaguely on topic, but if the gun in that photo is a real gun then that woman is violating a good number of the rules that I was taught about gun safety when I was younger. Almost all of them in fact. Especially when rules #1 through #12 were all variations on "always assume your gun is loaded and ready to fire, even if you 'know' it isn't".

    Of course that was gun safety for hunting rifles. Maybe the safety rules are different for whatever that is that she's got strapped to her back.

  • I don't recollect these people arming themselves to the teeth during the Reagan and Bush presidencies. Because they felt they were "in power" then, even if vicariously?

    But now that the GOP won't ride to the rescue of their various paranoid fears, buying guns is their method of making themselves feel powerful again.

    Pathetic.

  • One further thought – I probably need to re-read Frank Dikotter's books on Mao and the Chinese revolution more carefully, but I recollect passages where various village people described the first recruits to the Communist Party as being the local thugs and ne'er-do-wells – marginalized people who took advantage of an opportunity to achieve power over those they had envied and resented. Unbelievable horrors resulted.

    A quote from The Guardian review:
    Mao's revolution, and its monstrosities, were products of forces that came from within China: social inequality, the war with Japan, and a political culture of violence.

  • "..but even without reference to such extreme examples it isn't hard to make the connection between the police beating up Occupy protesters and poor black males today and those same police posing a threat to Responsible Gun Owners tomorrow."

    I disagree; the right has always been comfortable, if not pleased, with the police beating/shooting leftists, liberals, blacks, hispanics and other 'Them'.

  • Arslan Says:

    "Middle aged-elderly white man actually breaks law and has standoff with police- right wingers turn him into a hero. Unarmed black kid gets shot 47 times by police- the same people say he "should have done what he was told!" In short, they are full of shit. "

    This reinforces my point. The white right tends to get away with things where anybody else would get 20 years, *if* they survived to stand trial.

  • I recollect passages where various village people described the first recruits to the Communist Party as being the local thugs and ne'er-do-wells – marginalized people who took advantage of an opportunity to achieve power over those they had envied and resented. Unbelievable horrors resulted.

    And this explains why white supremacists, MRAs, and other flavors of right-wingers are so eager to maintain their hold on power and continue marginalizing the historically marginalized demographics of people; they fear having done to them what they and/or their predecessors did to those who were deemed "the other."

  • I don't think it's just American police. From what I've seen, police forces around the world are generally very prone to violence against citizens. My personal feeling is that it's because police are protectors of the status quo, and any threat to that is seen as a threat to their existence.

    I feel the reason the military is more hesitant about using violence against their fellow countrymen probably has to do with their role as a bulwark against change from outside. I know several members of the army — none of whom supported Occupy — and they all thought the police response to the protests was beyond excessive (I realize that's anecdotal evidence.)

  • agree with others that said these people see themselves as an adjunct to the police/military, in that they are more than willing to start killing poor people of color. but, by god, if you start pointing the guns at them… well, they'll probably do what Bundy did – create a stir but do nothing. libertarians are just anarchists without the balls (or intelligence) to actually follow the logical conclusion of their beliefs.

  • @SomeLoser

    Since when has the military been hesitant about using violence against their fellow countrymen?

    Ludlow Massacre
    Blair Mountain
    Bonus March
    Kent State
    Detroit Riots

    Plus a few others. Prior to WWI the Germans maintained that the US Army was only good for putting down strikes.

  • Maybe – just maybe – some parts of the American public that believe it is necessary to be so heavily armed might not feel it quite so necessary if police were not so goddamn violent, aggressive, and downright mean so often in this country.

    I'd buy this line of argument a lot more if those *same* parts of the American public didn't get an erection every time a protester gets beaten up on TV. They cheered the whole goddamn time the police forces were being militarized, drunk on the idea of "those people" being driven over by tanks and attacked by dogs. If they're scared of what they've created, TOUGH SHIT.

  • I wonder if we're not looking for clear motivations (self-protection against obama? against local police? against black helicopters? against zombies? against the UN?) that just isn't there, or isn't explainable via clarity or logic.

    There are all sorts of reasons people fondle guns, and very VERY few of those reasons grow out of actual experience using firearms in combat, or in otherwise sanctioned lethal ways, to actually kill actual people.

    I think it's mostly fantasy, in which you get to star in your own movie, and BE that person who knows what's true, and right, and good, and here's the gun that gives you the authority to have your say-so taken seriously. It's incredibly (and dangerously) detached from reality, a kind of self-empowerment via totem.

    Unfortunately, gun-fondlers seldom have to lay it on the line; their giddy trance state about themselves is in no danger of being punctured by reality.

    Sure, there are "responsible" gun owners who profess to be horrified by gratuitously inappropriate open-carry behavior, who would never do such things themselves, and who take pains in public to disassociate themselves from the loonies. They do this partly, I think, out of genuine distaste for yahoos, but partly in order to carve out some sort of zone of "responsibility" for themselves in public discourse, to try to cast themselves as the ideal that shouldn't be punished by truly effective gun laws.

    The worst thing about the "respectable" gun owners is, they can tell you what won't work to stem the tide of mass shootings. But if you ask them what will, what would THEY recommend, they got nothin'. Nothin'. Nothin' except a pose of "respectability" that keeps anything effective from getting done.

    It's not good for us to let our civil society be destroyed by fantasist yahoos, or by their enablers, the "respectable" gun owners.

  • And right on cue:
    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5441189/

    The NRA has found themselves drawing the ire of their inmates.

    Probably the one thing that scares me most about the idea of the break down of civil society is where I stand as an ordinary unarmed schmo. Suddenly these dipshits go from the fringe element to being the power structure—see Somalia. Then we'll be at the mercy of every Zimmerman-esque wannabe cop reject.

  • Dear bloghost:

    I put in a pair of comments yesterday. They had links and that caused them to go to moderation.

    I see other comments made later than mine. At least one has a link. I'm confused.

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