In 2005, during those grinding days of the Iraq war when it had become apparent to all what a hornet’s nest the Bush administration had kicked in Mesopotamia, an explosives expert who had been there earnestly explained how to wrap up the conflict.
Al-Zaqawi was killed on June 7, 2006. Unsurprisingly, the war continued unabated, in fact worsened. I realized then, with some embarrassment, how simple-mindedly some Americans seem to see the world. Ours is the culture of The Virginian, of John Wayne, of Superman — and of the “savages” or super villains that seek to obstruct truth, justice and the American way.
So it goes with the current raging debate over guns, which has alleged grownups, pundits and politicians talking in all seriousness about “good guys” and “bad guys.”
For those opposed to gun control — often, it seems, of any kind — it goes like this: “bad guys” don’t pay attention to laws, anyway, so why make it harder on the “good guys,” who might be all that stands between a villain and bloody havoc?
It’s a reasonable point. Just as with drugs, anyone who really wants to get his or her hands on a weapon or high-kill-potential accessory probably will. Still, it’s dishonest to pretend that the death toll from guns in the U.S. is unrelated to the 300 million weapons in our hands.
And the “good guy/bad guy” dichotomy is both false and infantile. There is no such easy, Manichean division among humans, and if there were, who could tell? South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius looked like a pretty good guy until he shot his girlfriend to death (police say maliciously, he says it was an accident; either way, it doesn’t speak well of him). Or how about those previously upstanding Americans — doctors, lawyers, police officers, decorated military personnel — who snap and blow away their own families? Charles Whitman, the infamous, now iconic, 1966 Texas bell-tower shooter, was an honored Marine veteran and sharpshooter with an extremely high IQ … and a brain tumor. “Good guy” or “bad guy”? Moral reprobate or tragic victim of biological circumstance?
And consider some of the people now up in arms — I use the term advisedly — about the possibility of post-Newtown gun-control measures. Not all are the “good guys” they claim to be.
Franklin Sain — no, really — of Colorado Springs is a case in point. Sain last month took it upon himself to, uh, lobby Colorado Rep. Rhonda Fields — who witnessed her son being shot and killed by gang members — over her support for gun-control measures.
“I guarantee there is not enough law enforcement or military to stop an all-out overthrow of this government if you or that n—– president tries to take our guns,” Sain scribbled in a Feb. 13 e-mail. “Guarantee we will make World War I and II look like child’s play, many will die. Be prepared.” Subsequent emails expressed even more vile Sain-ity. Google for details.
We can say that Sain is a nutjob, but he was a COO at a successful Internet tech company in Englewood (until they canned him) and chances are high that he considers himself a “good guy.” But this latest gun debate has turned many a “good guy” into a spittle-flecked maniac threatening violence.
Sain is a textbook example of the kind of “good guy” that seems to have metastasized of late — men, mostly white men, who claim that the federal government is driving inexorably toward tyranny and only their absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment can save us.
Those arguments are rife with contradiction.
Among the most adamant Second Amendment purists I know are people in the military and law enforcement. Now, if a tyrant rises, who do you suppose is going to do his or her dirty work? Anyone think it’ll be artists, journalists, hippies, ministers and the like? The people most jacked up about tyranny — all those self-proclaimed “good guys” — would be the ones doing the jack booting if there were a coup or a dictator took over (that’s true for both “leftist” and “rightist” dictatorships; think Stalin and Hitler).
And if we take the purists’ arguments to the extreme, it is an egregious violation of their constitutional rights — not to mention an impediment to their noble fight against theoretical tyranny — that the law prevents them from keeping and bearing bazookas, tanks, RPGs or nukes. But if they don’t hold that view, then their argument that any form of gun control is unconstitutional falls apart.
I’m a life-long gun owner (though no fetishist) and frankly skeptical about the efficacy of many gun-control measures kicking around these days, though I do absolutely support universal background checks and closing the “gun-show loophole.”
But be that as it may, with “good guys” like these, who needs “bad guys”?