No, Gun Culture Is Not Leading Us To Authoritarianism

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Authoritarianism may well have been what our Founding Fathers feared the most. After all, they lived in a world where laws were just handed down to them, with no say in how they were to be governed at all. Then the British got annoyed at those uppity colonials and decided to take their guns.

That set off a chain of events that led us to where we are today, not just an independent nation but the world’s only superpower.

The specter of authoritarianism, however, has never really gone away. However, at the Washington Post, an op-ed argues that we in the gun culture are leading us down that very path.

What is driving democratic decline in America? Disinformation, election subversion, Donald Trump’s authoritarian leader cult and institutionalized racism leap out at you. But there’s another factor that is all the more dangerous because it’s part of our everyday reality: civilian access to lethal weapons, and the mass death that enables.

The scale and scope of gun violence in America doesn’t just desensitize us to violence. It also cheapens the value of life. It fosters political, social and psychological conditions that are propitious for autocracy. The omission of gun law reform from discussions of democracy protection is symptomatic of our normalization of this tragic situation. The Jan. 6 insurrection shows us how dangerous that blind spot has become.

It should be noted here that the only person shot during the so-called insurrection was one of the protestors. How that makes the case that gun culture is somehow leading us to authoritarianism is beyond me.

Let’s keep looking a bit and see if there will be any justification for that claim.

For decades we have shot each other, with Americans causing fellow Americans more harm than any foreign enemy. More than 1.5 million died of gunshots in the past 50 years vs. 1.2 million in all the wars in the country’s history. This year alone, mass shootings have killed or injured more than 1,800.

Yet no amount of loss seems enough to deter the supporters of a brutal gun rights culture that factors in harm to some so that the freedoms and privilege of others can continue, and accepts mass death and trauma in the name of “liberty.” Add in an uptick of activity by extremists that preach violence and extralegal action as a way of changing history, and you have a high potential for political destabilization. Guns were prominent at the storming of the Michigan Capitol in May 2020 by militia members. They also featured at the Jan. 6 insurrection, which brought many strains of armed political extremism together: militia members, retired and active-duty law enforcement and military and radicalized civilians.

The author, a professor at New York University and the author of a book on authoritarianism, seems to be making a lot of assertions, particularly about January 6th, but fails to actually make the case that we in the gun culture are actually doing much of anything wrong.

You can keep claiming January 6th, and while I’m not a fan of how things went down, it was the most peaceful insurrection I’ve ever seen. Especially when compared to “mostly peaceful” protests we saw all throughout the summer of 2020.

“But the storming of the Michigan Capitol.”

Yeah, let’s talk about that one. That was a protest of lockdown rules in place in Michigan. While I don’t think guns being present helped a damn bit–the discussion instantly shifted to the presence of guns, not the rules the protestors were taking issue with–those who “stormed” the capitol were in compliance with the laws on the books. They didn’t do anything illegal.

What the author is doing is framing anything she doesn’t like in the least charitable way she can in order to paint people she dislikes as authoritarians.

Never mind that the Michigan protestors were taking issue with the government telling them what they could and couldn’t do. No, that was just fine, apparently, but taking issue with that is authoritarianism?

Hardly.

This is why so many of us have no faith in academics. This is also probably why college enrollment is down as well. People like this who seem to think anything they approve of is freedom anything they dislike is oppression. That includes the Second Amendment, which is ironic.

After all, the Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment as an insurance policy against authoritarianism. Then again, considering what policies the author seems to be keen on defending, it’s not difficult to see why she dislikes it so.

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET