Mother Jones Clutches Pearls Over 2A Advocates With 'Hardline Christian Values'

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If there's anything scarier to the hardline lefties among us than a gun owner, it's a Christian gun owner from the South. At least, that's the impression I get after reading the hit piece from Mother Jones on Lucas Bodkin and the delightfully named T. Rex Arms (which never fails to make me chuckle). 

The lefty rag (named, incidentally, after an activist who didn't seem to have a problem with laborers exercising their own Second Amendment rights to protect themselves from the Pinkertons and government forces used to break up strikes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) has published a lengthy screed aimed at scaring its readers headlined "They Make Viral Gun Videos - With Hardline Christian Values". It's hard to tell what writer Lila Hassan finds more troubling; Bodkin's support for the Second Amendment or his strain of Christianity. 

T.Rex Arms, a Tennessee-based, family-­run, Christian firearms accessory company—think holsters, body armor, and the like—is at the forefront of what extremism researchers call GunTube, an ecosphere of gun influencers whose videos peddle a wide range of conservative content. The company has more than 1.5 million YouTube subscribers; its origin story video has been viewed more than 900,000 times. Botkin, who can cut a nerdy presence when digging into gun minutiae, has nearly half a million Instagram followers and enough right-wing cachet to have been an ambassador for Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA and have earned an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show the month before he left the network.

“They are jacks of all trades,” says Meghan Conroy, who monitors extremist influencers for the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. What separates T.Rex Arms from the rest of the gun community, she says, is its “masterful ability to create content that appeals to so many different people.” While some of its most popular videos offer product reviews and shooting tips, they are accompanied by a wide range of political content, including interviews with conservative officials and activists. In weekly “T.Rex Talks,” Lucas and his brothers sit in a dimly lit studio to discuss America in decay, and how like-minded, God-oriented people can save it. They often reference the end times and urge their viewers to seize control before things get worse. “They’re selling products,” says Max Rizzuto, another Atlantic Council researcher, “and the product is ideology, too.”

And? I know that Mother Jones is opposed to anything slightly to the left of Karl Marx, but what exactly is the problem here? Is there anything specific that Hassan can point to that should cause us to freak out and head for our collective fainting couches? 

For example, in the days following the 2020 election, Lucas and his older brother, Isaac, a designer at the company who frequently appears on T.Rex Talks, discussed journalism. “We’re at a place right now where a lot of people don’t trust the mainstream media,” Isaac said, to which Lucas quickly replied, “Reasonably so.” The brothers argued reporters should be held accountable for their coverage of topics like Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter protests. “I’m starting to wonder when a news network will be actually prosecuted for things that they say that result in the death of people, which I think has happened in the past four years,” Lucas said. “It results in people getting killed, or businesses just getting burned, looted. Theft. And they’re not being held responsible for it.” Lucas went on to predict that economic collapse was “very likely” in his lifetime: “The way we live can be radically different 30 years from now.” In another stream, he warned of the “apocalyptic” prospect of a nationwide gun ban.

“They were pushing every single one of the narratives that we’ve seen emerge out of the right-wing space,” says Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, who reviewed T.Rex Arms’ videos at Mother Jones’ request. By pairing Second Amendment fearmongering with broader culture war issues, he says, the Botkins have identified a “common enemy” for their large, mostly male audience: “It’s laying it out there that tyranny is coming and needs to be resisted with arms.”

Again, and? 

I've got news for Lewis: it's not just the right who thinks the media is biased. According to an October 2023 Gallup poll, "Democrats’ confidence in the mass media has consistently outpaced Republicans’, but the latest gap of 47 points is the narrowest since 2016. Democrats’ trust in the media has fallen 12 points over the past year, to 58%, and compares with 11% among Republicans and 29% among independents."

You'll find plenty of people who aren't gun owners or Second Amendment supporters who believe that the way we live 30 years from now will be radically different than today. In fact, I'd say that's a completely uncontroversial statement given the rapid advances in technology. As for the "apocalyptic" nature of a nationwide ban on firearms, I'd say that's a pretty good term to use when we're talking about trying to strip hundreds of millions of Americans of a fundamental right. 

These sorts of messages fit into a larger Christian nationalist framework, says University of Oklahoma sociologist Samuel Perry. “Along with the support for authoritarian violence is undeniably a view that ‘we have been persecuted, done wrong, that we are hated, that the left is in control of our society and we have to take it back,’” Perry says. “It’s difficult to talk about guns and the celebration of gun culture without talking about the patriarchy, the fascination with high-fertility families, and the fascination with violence and the broader populist movement. It’s all in there.”

It is? That's weird. I write more than 30 posts a week here at Bearing Arms, do 2A-related a podcast four days a week, and usually do a couple of outside interviews with other media outlets every day and I don't think I've ever mentioned "the patriarchy" or fertility. 

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: the world of Second Amendment advocacy is the last big tent movement we have in our political system. Gun owners fighting against more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms exist across the political spectrum, and support for the Second Amendment can be found no matter how narrowly you try to slice up the American people into various demographics, and I think that's a wonderful thing. The right to keep and bear arms is a right of "the people", after all, and the more of us who are not only exercising that right but advocating for a strong Second Amendment the better off our movement will be. 

I don't have to look like you, think like you, pray like you, or even vote like you to defend your Second Amendment rights. Most of the gun owners I know feel the exact same way. That is what should terrify the Mother Jones writers and readers intent on stripping away our right to keep and bear arms; the ability of Americans of all races, colors, and creeds to unify in support of that fundamental right and deny the prohibitionists their goal of disarming the American people.