Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A resource: 'The Secret History of Guns' from The Atlantic

It was some years ago now that I recall being impressed by an article at The Atlantic regarding "the gun issue".  That was The False Promise of Gun Control, by one Daniel Polsby.  Perfect?  Nah, but what is?  Nonetheless...it was thoughtful, dispassionate, nontrivial, and drew rational conclusions from an analysis of history--hell, it read like actual reporting, which distinguished it from almost everything else at the time (then as now).

Well lookee here.  The Atlantic's Adam Winkler has given us another capital-R resource:  The Secret History of Guns.  For a tease:

The Fourteenth Amendment illustrates a common dynamic in America’s gun culture: extremism stirs a strong reaction. The aggressive Southern effort to disarm the freedmen prompted a constitutional amendment to better protect their rights. A hundred years later, the Black Panthers’ brazen insistence on the right to bear arms led whites, including conservative Republicans, to support new gun control. Then the pendulum swung back. The gun-control laws of the late 1960s, designed to restrict the use of guns by urban black leftist radicals, fueled the rise of the present-day gun-rights movement—one that, in an ironic reversal, is predominantly white, rural, and politically conservative.

There is so much right in this article, it's hard to explain.  Winkler does an outstanding job of cataloguing all the main characters, in context, including most of the substantive warts that partisans of "both sides" continually gloss over.  Just read the whole thing;  it is perhaps the best executive summary of how we got to the sorry pass we're in that I have yet seen.

Another tease:

After the February incident, the Panthers began a regular practice of policing the police. Thanks to an army of new recruits inspired to join up when they heard about Newton’s bravado, groups of armed Panthers would drive around following police cars. When the police stopped a black person, the Panthers would stand off to the side and shout out legal advice.

Don Mulford, a conservative Republican state assemblyman from Alameda County, which includes Oakland, was determined to end the Panthers’ police patrols. To disarm the Panthers, he proposed a law that would prohibit the carrying of a loaded weapon in any California city. When Newton found out about this, he told Seale, “You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to the Capitol.” Seale was incredulous. “The Capitol?” Newton explained: “Mulford’s there, and they’re trying to pass a law against our guns, and we’re going to the Capitol steps.” Newton’s plan was to take a select group of Panthers “loaded down to the gills,” to send a message to California lawmakers about the group’s opposition to any new gun control.

The Panthers’ methods provoked an immediate backlash. The day of their statehouse protest, lawmakers said the incident would speed enactment of Mulford’s gun-control proposal. Mulford himself pledged to make his bill even tougher, and he added a provision barring anyone but law enforcement from bringing a loaded firearm into the state capitol.

Fantastic.  And these really are little teases;  there's much more there and it's all worth it.

If you already knew all this:  please, recognize it as the resource it is and help share it with others.  The Atlantic can reach an audience that cranks like you and I, though we may say exactly the same thing, cannot reach.

If you didn't already know about some or any of this:  please, digest it all, and reconsider "what you know" about any political issue.  (Hint:  at the level of the incentive-driven ballet among their respective players,  they're all the same.)  If you've ever wondered why an increasing number of "gunnies" now refer to NRA as "the nation's oldest and largest gun-control organization", or why disarmament freaks can actually find some solace in American history*, you will find out here.

Kudos, Winkler.  This is a valuable resource.

Hat tip to Vanderboegh, who would (quite rightly) contest Winkler's statement that the NRA is "the unquestioned leader in the fight against gun control".  Vanderboegh is also savvy enough to call Malcolm X on the technicality of his otherwise admirable statement, "Article number two of the constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a rifle or a shotgun."  (The Second Amendment provides no such thing, it merely recognizes a right that all human beings have already, and simply prohibits the State from infringing it.  It is truly a technicality;  the real point Malcolm X is trying to make is perfectly valid, and I suspect that he would not have blinked at a simple word change making it clear that even without the Second Amendment, every human still has the right to arm in self-defense.)

* I find it absolutely telling (and delightful) that the disarmament partisans still have no idea how to articulate the sort of historic support for their cause that Winkler effortlessly documents here.

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