Malcolm dissents

Malcolm Brooks, author of Painted Horses and a capital- F Friend of Q, was so appalled by an Adam Gopnik anti- gun rant in the New Yorker that he wrote the furious and sometimes even funny riposte below.

Turns out he was “baited” with an old essay, but the truth remains. Apparently no one at the NYRKR has yet realized that not only is Gopnik’s statement that it is almost impossible to own a gun in Canada wrong (or as we say, a “lie”), but Canada’s only move on guns in recent years was to abandon its flawed, useless, and ruinously expensive long gun registration scheme.

There are dangers to living in a bubble; I am remembering Pauline Kael’s statement that Nixon must have stolen the election because nobody she knew had voted for him.

In Berkeley.


 I don’t regard myself to be on “the right,” whatever that means in this Fantasia of a current political climate, but I own a pile of guns and have been shooting and hunting with them since childhood. True, certain European countries have stringent gun laws, and some or possibly all of them likely have lower homicide rates than our own experiment-in-progress. On the other hand, it’s not “impossible” to own a gun in Scotland, which still ushers in the Glorious Twelfth in traditional fashion with a lot of booming double-guns and dead grouse in the heather. Meanwhile, following the Velvet Revolution the Czech Republic quickly moved to reverse draconian Soviet regulations designed to keep guns out of the hands of anyone who might pose a threat to the regime, and Czechs are currently about as armed to the teeth as the Swiss, with similarly little trouble. America is a unique situation, with a degree of class and racial and regional diversity that might be described as unprecedented in the history of the world. Frankly, for a heterogeneous, even polyglot nation of 300 million with an estimated one gun per person, it’s somewhat astonishing that gun violence is as rare as it is on a per capita basis, despite the best efforts of a sensationalizing media to portray statistically rare (if undeniably tragic) mass shooting events as some sort of social pandemic. As far as straight gun homicides go, the vast majority are demonstrably related to black market drug trafficking, which itself is a product of foolish, draconian, and totally paternalistic state policy rife with corruption at every level and probably knowingly engineered to prop up excessively militarized domestic law enforcement departments, privatized penal institutions, and for all I know the GDP of Mexico. Don’t even get me going on Big Pharma and whatever barrage of untested drugs-du-jour it wants to ram down the throats of Americans at the earliest possible age, except to say I’d far rather see both legal and illegal drug policy reform than squads of the aforementioned LEO’s coming around to confiscate the guns of American citizens, be they Bobby Seale, Dennis Banks, the Pink Pistols, or myself. And frankly, essays and punditry such as the above, in which some air-conditioned wonk blathers on about sixty or so million American gun owners as though their collective character is somehow flawed, retrograde, inbred, gap-toothed, or otherwise unevolved enough EVEN TO NOTICE THE BLATHER, let alone have a change of heart and whistle kumbaya whilst agreeably handing over the artifacts of their own enthusiasms, are about as insulting as it gets. Let’s not forget that we are talking about people who keep the electrical grid up and the toilets flushing and the trash hauled off and the food magically appearing in the grocery store; stop having this conversation as though it’s solely the purview of a self-congratulatory intellectual class, because that isn’t what stands to have its pastimes and ways of life criminalized. And honestly, I’d love to see one-fiftieth the ire out of the left over Snowden’s current straits as it seems endlessly to have over legally owned firearms in a free nation. So basically, this: if you or Adam Gopnik or Barack Obama want my prized 1924 Mannlicher-Schoenauer, or the 1955 Czech BRNO my son shot his first two elk with, or anything else in the safe, you are all welcome to go purchase your own. You can’t have mine. Get the picture?

Steve again: one more thing I have always wondered about: since most military people and cops I know are firmly pro- gun, just who is going to take our guns away?

7 thoughts on “Malcolm dissents”

  1. As a Northern Virginian, which is to say a person who sits on the edges of four or five realities (the north, the south, the future, the past, and the yawing chasm of dysfunction know as Washington), I find myself often talking to New Yorkers, often Jews like Adam Gopnik, and often lawyers who live in tall rich apartments with doormen. To a man (and a woman) they are all anti-gun except for one.

    When I talk to them about guns, I always start from their frame — that in the American south getting a gun at age 12 or 13 is the southern version of a bar mitzvah. If they go down the "I'm all for sports equipment for hunting, but do we really need…." road, I always smile and nod.

    "Yes, I say," I always hear that from friends in New York, but never from my friends in Tel Aviv or anyone living on a Kibbutz. Where you stand so often depends on where you sit. You are white, rich, living in a place where 9-1-1 policing is a phone call away. A Jew in Wyoming, or a gay man in Montana, or a Muslim in Carlsbad, or a Sikh in Boston, or a black man anywhere might not feel so confident in 9-1-1 policing."

    Of course, the right-wing lunatics and big corporate interests find it laughably easy to manipulate all the gun folks. It reminds me of nothing so much as tossing a bit of kibble for the dogs — they mindlessly run where I want them, and they never seem to learn that that is not always in their interests. And so it is with guns, right? Remember the last election when we were told Obama was going to take away our guns, our dogs, and end hunting. He must suck at his job, since I still have my guns and my dogs and have more hunting land not less. We can hunt wolves now and carry guns into our national parks. He's the worst muslin, socialist, commie negro evah!

    All of the gun stuff is so stale on both sides.

    What would be refreshing is if the NRA came out for shooting cops. After all, that's one reason to have guns right? To protect our civil liberties? Cops are violating civil liberties every day, bashing folks left and right, and they always seem to get a pass form the NRA. Why is that?

    It would also be refreshing if the NRA stood up for black Americans, Muslims, gays, Jews and women and encouraged them to own guns in order to protect their right to vote at the ballot box. I do not recall the NRA ever condemning any act of violence against anyone or any group. And this from folks who claim they are as civil liberties group. Amusing (and transparent too if you ask me).

  2. Patrick–Initially, the NRA was founded at least in part as a civilian marksmanship program in order to train freed slaves to defend themselves in the Reconstruction South, and I believe it was the first fraternal or civic organization in America to accept members regardless of race. It has supported the Pink Pistols in the Bay Area in recent years, but also undeniably panders to the larger social viewpoint of its greatest constituency, which is sort of kneejerk anti-intellectual Southern Bible Belt conservatism…and it's certainly willing to create or inflate bogeymen and engage in lowest common denominator fear mongering to keep the donations coming in. I personally regard it as a bit of a necessary evil, but I've said for years I'd far rather see it spend its capital on outreach and education and not party politics and character assassination. There should be a standing invitation from the NRA to every elected politician to participate in a comprehensive course just on firearms mechanics and the basics of shooting–if I hear the words "semi-automatic" or "assault weapon" in yet another unschooled soundbite, I'm going to cry…

  3. I voted for Jim Webb, donated a little, and had his bumper sticker on the truck. Never again. He wants the title, but not the job. I was ready to put his face on a milk carton. Invisible and uncaring. Disengaged both politically and in terms of policy. I had high hopes, but…. nope.

  4. The NRA changed twice. The first change occurred the day the Black Panthers showed up with bolt actions in Sacramento. A little about that — the day Ronald Reagan discovered gun control. >>

    The bigger change occurred around 1980 with the rise of direct mail. It used to be out of $20 raised, $15 stayed local, $4 went to the state organization, and $1 went to national. With the rise of direct mail lists and centralized professional funraisers and copy writers, it was $5 to national, $13 to postage, printing and paper, and $2 split between state and local. This happened to every organization in the country — HSUS, NRA, Planned Parenthoid, Sierra Club, etc. Direct mail feeds off of polarized direct mail lists. It paints simple lies and dumps truth whenever inconvenient. The NRA was no longer about hunting or safety; now it was about gun fettish people and paranoids, survivalists and Walter Mitty's, race war fantasists and people seeking low-cost status display items. There are now more guns and fewer hunters, more semi-auto pistols to kill people,but mostly old men at the gun range shooting skeet.

    I am painting too broadly. It's not all bad. We are neck deep in duck and geese and turkey, even if the quail are gone. That said, gun owners have allowed the NRA to soil the bowl. One turd in a punch bowl, and people never forget. You cleaned it up? Great. I'll have the bottled water. And so it goes….

  5. Mostly at this point it's about people left totally out of the cultural conversation, and totally out of anything resembling economic prosperity. The two together are a poisonous combo, easily exploited and easily bilked. I personally think the total hijacking of the cultural dialogue by an insulated intellectual elite could be fixed in maybe a month if every licensed electrician, plumber, and employed trash man or sanitation engineer simply decided not to show up for work for the duration of that time. I'd like to throw in male cop and fireman too, but that almost seems too potentially catastrophic…


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