Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Paranoid Style

Gun control has never been a major issue for me. So long as the regulations were reasonable and provided legitimate allowance for hunting and such, I had no big problem with restricting handguns and assault weapons. But since the Supreme Court--in a badly-reasoned decision as contrasted with the insightful dissent for four justices by Justice Stevens--decided that the 2nd Amendment limited such reasonable regulation, all hell has broken loose.

I'm not referring to the various "incidents"--where loners who might or might not be mentally ill have blown away multiple victims, but instead to the raving craziness of the gun lobby and its backers. All the really crazy people are the ones who contend that the President is plotting to take away freedom and liberty, or that having guns in schools or churches will protect anyone, or, even worse, that people should be armed in their homes, ostensibly to fire when someone rings the doorbell.

The insularity of the right-wing world has produced this weird space where paranoia runs rampant. First of all, we got along quite well when assault weapons were banned. And so does most of the civilized world. The gun-show exception to background checks has driven a huge hole in the aim to check out those who would purchase weapons.  And state-level regulation is ineffective because guns sail across state lines.

To be sure, I don't agree with the D.C. government's effort to frustrate the Supreme Court decision by bureaucratic superstructure. It just plays into the hands of the gun nuts.   But the whole anti-regulation campaign makes me think only of the great historian Richard Hofstadter, who passed away at far too early an age, and his major work, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. He anticipated this whole line of non-argument. 

You'll be hard put to find any leftist or centrist who regards Obama as anything close to being a socialist. And it took the Newtown and Aurora massacres to get our President to propose merely restoring the rather half-hearted gun control measures we have previously had in place and which the NRA actually endorsed back in the '90s.  It's sort of wild that Ronald Reagan, who unfortunately started most of the current right-wing campaigns that have become crazier over the years, was sufficiently shocked by the severe injury to his press secretary when an assassin had been aiming for--and hit, but far less lethally--Reagan himself that he was willing to at least let some reasonable gun legislation proceed.

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