Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The 2A Game

For a substantial portion of the American electorate the Second Amendment (2A) is a red-line: if a candidate might limit or even destroy 2nd Amendment rights, that candidate cannot be voted for. While the NRA gets most of the "blame" for this, The Omnivore thinks that the NRA is more the conduit and organizing principle for this force rather than the major driver of it.

What is the 2A Game?

The 2A game is a set of arguments and beliefs that look something like this:

  1. Liberals want to greatly or completely restrict access to firearms for [ reasons ] (see below)
  2. In order to do this, they will: (a) politicize gun-violence in order to create an environment where they can ban guns and (b) try to chip away at gun-rights until they can go for the big kill (confiscation).
  3. The end-game looks either like a police state or, possibly, an emasculated gunless state where armed criminals pray on the helpless.
  4. Liberals encouraging this state are either evil (police state) or stupid (criminal state) and cannot be reasoned with or expected to stop half way.
The Omnivore thinks this is, to be blunt, bullshit. It is bullshit for a number of reasons--but here are some obvious ones:
  • Liberals are not monolithic. There are certainly liberals that want to confiscate all firearms and end firearm manufacture. There is not and never has been a serious proposal around this. No major politician outwardly supports it and there is no evidence that any major politician secretly supports this position.
  • The logistics of the end-state (no firearms) are mind-boggling to imagine. Attempting to require firearm surrender would result in a second American revolution. Any reasonable weapon-ban would need to grandfather in millions of firearms. Even if you could get around the 2nd Amendment (which conservatives, for some reason, believe would be effortless with the right Supreme Court), the idea of having a solution to the vast number of weapons already sold is beyond the power of the state.
  • A police state would require a willing security apparatus. There is no security force in the United States that would support this. The military skews Republican. Local police forces are usually amenable to armed civilians. Homeland Security / the TSA are full of rejects. Simply put, there is no force that could enforce such an edict (the UN is an all purpose boogey-man--but the UN requires US support to act in any capacity). The US is too big, too well armed, and too diverse to control in anything approximating a traditional manner.
So if this plan is entirely unrealistic, why is it so powerful?

The Proposed Controls

Right now what we see on the table are proposals for:
  • No-Fly / No-Buy. Even Trump supports this position. 
  • Expanded background checks - implementations vary but the idea is to require a successful check before selling a gun.
  • Assault Weapon Ban - a questionable category of weapon made up by lawmakers which means "looks like an Army Rifle." The idea is that these are the preferred weapons of mass shooters so they should be harder to get.
  • Magazine limits - Maybe it's harder to kill people if you have a limited number of shots?
The objections to these fall into two categories:
  1. The slippery slope: passing any limit will make more limits likely. There's no rationale for this. The AWB expired and did not lead to deeper bans. This is the case for No-Fly / No-Buy (where the ability to put people no the No-Fly list is considered too easy) and the expanded background checks.
  2. They won't work. Arguments that an AWB or magazine limits won't stop determined shooters have merit--but there are counter arguments that have some merit as well (The Omnivore has seen even trained shooters fumble a magazine change on occasion and the psychological symbolism of an Assault Weapon is probably non-negligible to would-be mass shooters).
The slippery slope argument seems weak on the face of it: the AWB was instated and then removed. There has been a lot of resistance to new laws and there is little reason to see that change. The idea that these laws won't work is, again, interesting--but it would seem that actually implementing some of them with, again, a time-table--and better record keeping--maybe have a bi-partisan watchdog agency for the statistics--would be a reasonable response to people who are upset over mass shootings.

The Psychology of the 2A Game

The Omnivore asserts that there has been two major factors in the psychological manipulation of both sides of the 2A argument. They are, however, not symmetric. The right has been pummeled by toxic information--falsehoods and hugely biased media--that has painted a fundamentally incorrect picture of the real state of affairs.

That sounds like bullshit? Of course it does: we've been weaned on both-sides-are-equal stories for years. That held up even as one side slid further and further away.

Let The Omnivore ask you: which political end of the spectrum has sold more bogus merchandise through its charismatic leaders? Think: Gold certificates and freeze dried rations. Which side of the political spectrum was worried about Jade Helm '15 being a plot by the US Army to take over America such that the National Guard was mobilized in Texas? Which side has accused the president of presiding over several coups of America?

That's right: the right. 

With guns it's no different. If you are told that Obama is a secret Muslim Tyrant and think it might be true, you want to keep your guns because who knows what could happen. If you think that it's possible that Sandy Hook was a false flag set up by the government as a pretext to take guns then it's all the more important. 

The Omnivore has watched people look at fake news from each end of the spectrum. Some people see through it instantly--on both sides--but almost without fail, people on the right believed rightwing stories couched in right-wing language even if they were absurd. The same for people on the left. That's both-sides--but both-sides were never close to equal.

The GOP elected an avatar of their most extreme beliefs in Donald Trump. The Democrats rejected (soundly) Bernie Sanders who, despite his left-ward lean, was never nearly as obsessed with conspiracy theory as many of his followers. Jill Stein, for example, has never had a chance.

This applies to the 2A argument in a specific and powerful manner: The same degree to which Trump is a conspiracy monger (he mentions international banking conspiracies in his speeches) and a promulgator of basic falsehoods (the polls are fixed) is the same degree to which his voters are susceptible to incorrect messages about policy. This applies especially to emotional issues like the 2nd Amendment.

If you believe anything the right-wing media is saying about the future of gun-rights in America, ask yourself if you believe a conspiracy of Jewish International Bankers are aligning against Trump and the liberal media has secretly rigged the polls as psychological warfare. If you can't bring yourself to believe that last two . . . why do you believe the 2A messaging?


  1. Uh, dude: Diane Feinstein. Has openly supported complete bans of all guns. Also old, and probably going to die soon. But there are plenty of politicians whose supporters would support every step required to get to that point, and they want to get re-elected.

    Furthermore, you can't ignore that the slippery slope argument, taken at state level, has been entirely accurate when describing how things have gone. California or New York did not get to the current state in one huge spasm of gun control. It was constant, small steps. Each would have been nearly irrelevant on their own- it is the cumulative effect which matters and which is the entire point of the exercise.

    And the assault weapons ban only departed because it had a sunset clause built in. Most gun control legislation on the books does not, and would actually require passage of a bill repealing it. In the current obstructionist environment, not passing a bill is easy, passing a bill is hard. So it is very far from unreasonable to expect that any laws which DO get passed at this current time to lack a sunset clause, and remain in effect unless the white house, senate, and house all become more 2a friendly than when they were passed.

    1. Also, if you want a mirror on the Left, look at Abortion rights. The behavior, and messaging, are literally identical. Any moves which are intended to limit access to the point of contention, deny types of it, and so forth are utterly ineffective at removing the thing being legislated against- they are calculated attacks on the CULTURE of the opposing party, punitive measures with a thin veneer of logical argument painted on.

      The left has a large segment of people who will tear down anyone for the Dems who suggests that maybe restrictions on abortion are OK- and so it's not surprising to see people on the right who do the same to Republicans who are willing to compromise on gun control. The audiences have different tests, but they're applied the same.

      And I'm speaking of someone who believes abortion should be legal and available, although we should address the need for it with birth control and sex education, and I also believe that guns are not the problem and most laws focused on them are stupid and don't do what they're supposed to.