THE WELL-LUBRICATED SLOPE

Posted in Rants on January 7th, 2016 by Ed

Nothing makes clearer the complete intellectual bankruptcy of the NRA and its acolytes quite like the reaction earlier this week to Obama's beyond-milquetoast executive order about background checks at gun shows and for internet gun sales. As far as "gun control" goes, that is just about the least you could possibly do and still qualify. That makes it about one tenth of one percent more difficult to buy a gun. I am going to be accused of hyperbole here so click the link if you don't believe me: everybody supports this. 85% of Republicans support it. In public opinion terms, when one in ten people will support or oppose literally anything you can put on a survey because of measurement error, not reading the question, or just trying to be cute/funny, 89% of Americans supporting something is the functional if not statistical equivalent of "everybody." The reason it enjoys universal appeal is that it is basic common sense, it is merely an extension of an existing law, and it is such a diminutive baby step that even the most lunatic gun nuts would have a hard time calling it "gun control" with a straight face. If anything, the fact that this is the extent of the regulation our political process can successfully enact against the firearm industry shows how completely pro-2nd Amendment forces have won this debate. This guy had to fight and eventually circumvent Congress to do something that literally no person, gun owners included, in their right mind opposes or considers onerous. It's like he passed an executive order saying people have to be 21 to buy alcohol in a bar as well as in stores. This is the biggest non-event in the history of government regulation.

So leave it to Ted Cruz, an hour after the announcement, to claim that Obama is in tactical gear and arriving at your home shortly to take your guns. The same Obama who has been in the process of coming to take your guns – It's gonna happen any second now, be prepared! Better stock up! – for seven full years now. Because he issued an order that an existing law governing in-store gun sales should also apply to internet sales.

The reality, as we've said so many times that it makes me feel weary even to think about typing it out again, is that the NRA is the marketing arm of the gun industry, not a legitimate "interest group." Their job is to drum up fear so that people will run out and buy more guns. They represent gun manufacturers, not gun owners. That they represent the latter is an illusion. The only rhetorical tool they have in light of the overwhelming meagerness of the amount of regulating the government does to firearms – in reality, not in the fever dreams of the Bundy Militia – is the constant recourse to the slippery slope. Oh sure, this might not be much but it's the first step in a chain of events that ends with Bill Clinton and the ACLU and Liberal Professors and Feminists and Welfare Queens kicking down your door and pulling your guns out of your hands. These weak, nearly futile efforts at regulating gun sales are always, in right wing rhetoric, the tip of an iceberg nobody can see and that we never seem to hit.

Actually, this isn't their only rhetorical tactic. There's also lying. They use that one a lot.