Sunday, March 25, 2018

On The Gun Control Kids

The Omnviore was in high school when driving drunk went from "proof you could hold your liquor" to "something assholes did." The switch was rapid--being in high school and neither, really, drinking nor driving (much) The Omnivore was not aware of the conversations going on in bars or parties--but as far as The Omnivore could tell, once the beer companies got on board with "don't be an asshole and Drink and Drive" it stuck.

They had credibility to make Designated Drivers cool--and bars and Taxi Cos helping out gave it further solidity. It was rapid, abrupt, and powerful.

We may be seeing a shift like that on guns. If we are it is due to a few things--and that's what The Omnivore wants to talk about here: what are the leading indicators and causes of the current (abnormal) energy we see?

1. The Kids Themselves

Clearly the gun-control movement has found a set of especially effective and articulate spokespeople in the Parkland shooting survivors. Regardless of their actual danger (many were in different buildings--but some did lose friends) or their "coaching by the left"--they, on their own, are effective at playing in this media space. They are good on Twitter---often better than the professional PR teams arrayed against them.

They are photogenic--at least reasonably so--and in the age of Facebook Live and Persicope and YouTube do pretty well on camera. They have standing to talk about this--they were at a school that got shot up.

On the conservative side there are kids too (at least one The Omnivore is aware of) who, so far as The Omnivore can tell, has the same attributes--but there are not as many--and the media is, certainly, not as interested in telling their side of the story.

And, to be fair, what exactly is "their side of the story"--my friends got killed by a raving gunman but I don't think we should ban guns? Okay, so far as it goes--but it's not exactly a position so much as a shrug. "My friends got killed and there's nothing anyone can really do about it" isn't a message that can be delivered with much punch (if you are claiming there ARE things you can do about it, The Omnivore will have words with you--after trying to cover up some laughter).

2. The Media

There is no way to straight-facedly claim that the media isn't anti-gun. They are almost all liberals and almost all non-gun guys--and certainly every major paper, when it writes about guns, gets the terminology all wrong. So give the kids a media boost in coverage. After Sandy Hook there was coverage--sure--but there was no message. Now there's a message and they're covering the fuck out of this.

NOTE: They did the same for Trump. Fair's fair.

3. Trump Himself

A great irony of Trump and guns is that (a) he was chosen by a lot of voters to safeguard their gun rights (b) he, himself, doesn't personally give much of a fuck about gun rights, and (c) although he may try to get jiggy with bump-stock bans or shooting down upping the age-limit to buy, the fact is that Trump is a creature of his base and will, eventually do what the NRA wants.

No--Trump, by action or inaction is not directly to blame if there is movement on guns.

What is to blame is that The Omnivore thinks it is terribly, unarguably clear that a lot of the energy behind the Parkland kids is given a boost by the generalized anti-Trump sentiment and focus. It is, in fact, likely that if Hillary were in charge, the gun vendors would be enjoying huge sales and there wouldn't be marches.

That, if anything comes of this, will be the great irony of Trump and guns: Sometimes getting everything you thought you wanted, turns out to be something you didn't want at all.

4. The NRA

People--on the conservative end of the spectrum--have pointed out that if kids were marching for the pro-life cause--and if they were smearing Dem-politicians who took money from Planned Parenthood with price tags of how much they valued the dead children at PP's hands--the media would be outraged. They're not wrong.

Of course if Planned Parenthood TV was making racially charged videos and showing Planned Parenthood moms smashing TVs with baseball bats, they might also be a lot less sympathetic. It's also worth noting that the equivalent of gun-grabbing--the late-term abortion for any reason--is not especially popular and not something that Planned Parenthood talks a lot about.

The NRA has, for a long time, taken the de-facto position that Joe The Plumber made clear: "Your dead kids don't trump my right to guns." It's true, constitutionally, and you should never say it out loud like that. The NRA has, essentially, been saying it outloud for a while and making it more and more clear.

If they had been less absolute they might have more cultural cachet and more credibility when buying politicians (such as if they had pursured a real mental health initiative--or raised age limits--or whatever).

The NRA also has a spate of bad investigative reporting coming out--from being really cozy with Russia to having massive anomolies in their taxes (related to lying about political donations) they are begining to look like more of a bad-actor than a mere consitutional bullwark.

By aligning themselves as angry MAGA people they have chosen a side in the culture wars that doesn't serve them in this climate and makes them easy to cast as villains.

5. The Pro-Gun Civilians

For people who are not the NRA and, perhaps, not explicitly pro-Trump--but are definitely pro-gun and enjoy owing and shooting AR-15s (etc.) this all feels terribly unfair. They keep trying to explain to the media and to non-gun America in general how the suggestions put forth won't help. After all, you can ban AR-15's and other guns with the same capabilities can be used.

You can ban 30 round magazines--but millions are already in circulation. Worse: the public seems  to want to ban assault rifles and machine guns--which are, of course, already illegal.

This is where the pro-gun civilians start to run into trouble and to run out of runway: No one who represents them is capable of putting together a plan that will make a difference--so the conversation devolves into  "why should I listen to you--you called a magazine a clip, you moron."

It's true: these are different things--and the anti-gun side is generally uneducated about the fine points of firearms and their terminology--but they are not wrong about the basic leathality of the AR-15 or that its profile resembles that of a military weapon in ways that likely appeal to would be shooters of people.

It is also problematic that arguing about whether an AR-15 is an Armalite Rifle or an Assault Rifle is pretty meaningless: if the Parkland shooter had had a full-auto setting he might have been less deadly (after all, if he was firing FA, he would have run through his magazine much more quickly and apparently his weapon jammed when changing mags and he was forced to abandon it--if a shooter doesn't know how to clear a jam or quick change a magazine, the last thing he wants is a full-auto setting).

So these guys get wrapped around an axel that convinces everyone watching that they simply feel your dead kids don't trump their right to own an AR. This doesn't make the problem of school shootings look like it's in line for a solution besides banning as many guns as the anti-gun side can.

6. But The Facts . . . 

The argument that banning assault weapons and limiting magazine sizes won't keep these shootings from happening runs up against the fact that doing nothing hasn't stopped them either. After a point enough dead kids becomes reason to try something.

It's also worth noting that some of the ideas on the table (raising the age limit, magazine size limits, and banning AR's) might actually have a positive impact. Certainly changing social standards around access to--and storage of--guns could change things if there is no direct material access--and, anyway, right now no one is too interested in facts: the ones we have--that disaffected young people sometimes decide to go on killing sprees for reasons that are hard to fathom and seem impervious to policy solutions--are grim.

Where Does This Leave Us?

The Omnivore thinks that if we see movement on gun-laws it will be less about the liberal media and the left's use of kids than about the more general partisan shifts that we have seen that the kids are well mobilized (utilized?) to take advantage of. The combination of Trump's reinvigoration of the Left and the fact that the pro-gun side has staked out the least sympathetic position and doubled down with some racism and unnecessary culture-warring--will be to blame for overcoming the basic facts (that pure access to guns is not the root cause of the problem--but rather a grossly aggravating factor).

In other words, instead of trying to solve the problem (remember abortion being safe, legal, and rare?) bringing it into the culture wars and tying Trump around its neck will be the thing that finally causes the change Trump was elected to prevent.

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