The Great American Gun Frenzy

A disturbed young man murders his mother, goes to the local elementary school and murders a score of young children, a few teachers, the principal as well as the school psychologist, and then turns a gun on himself, committing suicide.

Not long after, one of the rifles said to have been used in the massacre begins to fly off the walls and counters of gun stores everywhere. Americans are in a buying frenzy . . . for the exact gun allegedly used in the Sandy Hooks Elementary atrocity.

Quite a few good, decent people cannot understand this. The horror. The disrespect. The…

Wait a minute. Though I still haven’t got into my head the exact order of events of the horrible day, and the testimonies of experts seem to conflict, the causality and order of events of the bigger-picture story — shooting, buying frenzy — is clear . . . and in the version I just related, wrong.

There’s an element missing.

Why the buying frenzy? Because, immediately after the shooting, whole sectors of the body politic renewed their demands for more gun control, for outright bans on certain guns, even all guns, in the hands of the populace.

It was that hysteria and immediate politicization that sparked the buying frenzy.

Now, there is an oddity in this development. Why would people buy a type of firearm — “assault rifles” — that might become illegal to own? Why buy something that might soon be taken from them?

These gun buyers suspect that whatever legislation comes into existence will not grab the guns they now buy. It will not be a confiscation. In America, with over 300 million guns in private hands, that would be too difficult to manage. Buying a gun now that will soon be merely prohibited from future production, purchase and sale makes sense.

The impetus for this gun-buying surge? It’s more than the lure of the forbidden, or soon-to-be forbidden. It’s more, also, than an urge to get something valuable now before it becomes too expensive — or even nearly impossible to get, legally — later. At least part of the motivation comes from a desire to put as much firepower and weaponry into private hands as possible . . . while it remains possible.

The idea isn’t to prepare to shoot it out with the government, the army and marines, all the various federal, state and local police forces, but rather, to make certain decision-makers in Washington realize they are not dealing with an entirely dependent populace, incapable of effective resistance to tyrannical designs — either now or decades down the road. Such thinking may not be hip amongst NPR listeners or readers of The New York Times, but was central to the thought of America’s Founders. And is well understood by wise patriots today.

“The Second Amendment is not about hunting deer or keeping a pistol in your nightstand. It is not about protecting oneself against common criminals,” retired Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) says. “It is about preventing tyranny. The Founders knew that unarmed citizens would never be able to overthrow a tyrannical government as they did. They envisioned government as a servant, not a master, of the American people. The muskets they used against the British Army were the assault rifles of the time.”

People who “hate guns” and despise America’s firearm culture and history must shudder, especially when they realize that they are the ones responsible for the current buying frenzy.

On the outside, outrage must always be their countenance. But they shudder privately, no doubt.

Meanwhile — and I’m sure entirely by coincidence, unrelated in any way — the president just signed a bill to reinstitute lifetime Secret Service protection for former presidents.

America’s conflicting romances with guns and government go on. [further reading]

January 13, 2013

This column first appeared in Townhall.com.