A rabid, crazy gun nut at the shooting range.

“Gun nuts”

Seven-minute read

“Gun nuts” make a great villain.

They are the type of people educated “right thinking” people don’t like anyway: Southerners, people who weld for a living, people who shop at Walmart, people who probably don’t even know how to pronounce foie gras.

It also fits the human need to villainize.

People love to throw around the term “gun nuts” as a pejorative. Just say that term and most people immediately form a mental picture.

They drive pickup trucks. They include hunting camo as part of their daily fashion. In the fall they sit out in the woods and try to murder Bambi’s mom. They have an expensive and elaborate riding lawnmower. They wear Dickies and trucker hats to work instead of ironically. Oh. and they have lots of guns.

Actually that describes many of my relatives.

A segment of the Left, usually ones who yell “hate crime” over any type of stereotyping, especially love to stereotype these kinds of people as stumped-toothed dribbling morons. But this segment of the Left also tends to confuse being educated with being smart.

Yes, some of my “gun nut” relatives are kinda dumb. But most are not. One works for the Secret Service. Another is in charge of HVAC systems for a multi-state hospital system. Another is in charge of the manufacturing logistics teams for a major Fortune 500 company.

I have a “gun nut” friend who also may be one of the smartest, most-educated people I’ve met.

For a large segment of the population, shooting is fun. It’s recreation. And it’s perfectly safe. They are perfectly safe.

In my 20 years of working in the media, I’ve rarely encountered a reporter who understands this fact. I’ve rarely encountered a reporter who knows much of anything about guns, even ones who report on crime as a job.1

I’ve encountered reporters who thought any semi-automatic weapon was a “machine gun.” Or that most weapons were automatic. Or even how a semiautomatic gun works.

Or don’t know the only difference between a hunting rifle and an “assault rifle” is the way they look. It’s the reason they ask why the officer shot someone 10 times, when it’s a near-universal reaction in panic situations to fire until a gun is empty.

We see it in other areas too. For instance, New York banned ammunition clips that don’t even exist. Or bans on “assault weapons” that are based on the shape of the stock or other physical characteristics.

All many seem to know about guns is they are “scary death machines.” But lots of things in life are scary and/or death machines. That doesn’t make them bad per se.

A simple thought experiment. Tens of millions of people own guns, often multiple guns, often powerful ones. Yet, nothing. There are not millions of shootings every year. There’s not even 1 million. The millions of guns owned safely and used safely is the dog that didn’t bark. It is the norm; murder and death the exception.

Being a “gun nut” really isn’t all that different from being a “car nut.” Cars kill lots of people, yet we fetishize them for their speed and power. I’ve made this very argument before.

To people with guns as a hobby, blaming a mass shooting on them feels like blaming the AAA every time every time a drunken driver plows into a school bus at high speed.

Yes, it’s true that they are into cars and think fast driving is fun, but they don’t do it under those circumstances. Nor would they ever.

Despite all this so many remain gun absolutists. They are gun absolutists for the same reason that pro-abortionists are abortion absolutists. 2 Or gay rights supporters are gay rights absolutists.

Any regulation, any step back, is perceived as the camel’s nose under the tent.

Smoking regulation is an example of this. Most people in their 20s don’t remember a time when the notion of regulating smoking was a big deal.

The argument hinged on secondhand smoke and its perceived dangers, but in reality it came down to lots of people just not liking smoking or smokers. They don’t like the smell of it, they don’t like a smoke-choked bar and they certainly would never engage in it themselves.

I agree with this position. Going to a bar was certainly better after it was banned. But agreeing with that isn’t the same as wanting all smoking banned everywhere and always.

Yet, once that initial ban is in place and the controversy is over, it’s pretty much off to the races with incremental bans.

Indoor smoking areas were banned. Then outdoor ones were moved a set distance from the entrance. Then they were banned altogether. Then smoking was banned from beaches. From parks, from near schools, from sidewalks, from cars, from government property, from places where the original reason, secondhand smoke, was not a issue.

After a few years there’s pretty much a blanket smoking ban that would have never passed under normal circumstances. And much of it was not done by any law.

I know this is a slippery slope argument. But slippery slopes happen all the time.

The nature of modern lawmaking is that officials love bills with “and the Secretary shall designate …” or “and the Secretary shall require …” because once the initial law is in place, the bureaucracy can step in and make any regulation it wants.

To return to a car analogy, what if lawmakers were saying who really needs a Ferrari? Ferraris are owned by douchebags anyway, they spew all kinds of carbon emissions and most people don’t have one so it won’t affect you anyway. We want common sense car reforms.

We won’t actually ban Ferraris or even cars. Anyone can still have one. We’re not going to allow red cars to be below 50 inches tall, and we’re banning carbon-ceramic brakes and quad pipes. Just those things.

And the next year they argue car crash statistics are still too high, so we’re going to ban any “excessive” styling and all cars will now only be available in brown or beige with bench seats. 3 And any cars that don’t conform will be confiscated. But Ferraris are still legal, they add.

Any reasonable car fan would look at that and think “I can see where this is headed” and object. Nothing about that position is unreasonable, “clinging” to cars or nutty. It’s just thinking ahead.

And the original premise of the argument still remains correct. No one “needs” a Ferrari. In fact, an entire world without cars would have a lower accidental death toll and less environmental damage.

I don’t have a gun. I don’t need a gun. I would not consider buying one. In most cases people simply should not have one or don’t actually need one. And the world would be better off with fewer. That could be applied to many things.

In fact no one needs white truffle oil. Or to go to Bali. Or beer. Yet we do massive environmental damage flying around the globe to make these things possible.

No one really wants to believe that something they like is bad. After all, every villain is the hero of his own story. So we tend to believe what other people are into is bad. So, yeah, let’s ban that. It’s a lot easier to accomplish if people are made into a cartoon character.

Or in the case of people who like guns, demonizing a whole segment of the population is more fun and easier than going after the ones who are actually causing the problem.

  1. Almost everything about the way guns are depicted in TV and movies is wrong. Which is how most people learn about guns.
  2. But unlike the NRA, Planned Parenthood is an organization that literally kills people itself. And the death toll is much higher.
  3. It is notable that no one need pass a law banning super cars. Regulation alone is making them increasingly difficult to make.