“Gun Idolatry Is Destroying the Case for Guns” – NYT

Image via Washington Post, Jan 20, 2020 VA

David French over at The New York Times delivers us a classic piece of ‘Pro-2A But-ism’ in the form of a gun owner against other gun owners. Why? Simple, he does not like their behaviors. On that point, I can agree with David. I think the behaviors he is pointing out are clownish. But the case for guns is not being destroyed by these behaviors as the majority, the behavior set he describes in the beginning of his piece, are fundamental and foundational reasons.

Now, there is more nuance and I honestly think French gets very close to a couple of good points in his piece. But in his ninth paragraph, after eight establishing his bonofieds as a responsible gun owner and pro-2A-ish, he makes his error. It’s a common error.

But the gun rights movement is changing. In many quarters of America, respect for firearms has turned into a form of reverence. As I wrote in 2022, there is now widespread gun idolatry. “Guns” have joined “God” and “Trump” in the hierarchy of right-wing values. At the edges, gun owners have gone from defending the rights of people to own semiautomatic rifles like AR-15s to openly brandishing them in protests, even to the point of, for example, staging an armed occupation of parts of the Michigan Capitol during anti-lockdown protests.

David. Mr. French. You’re missing the why for the hollow shell of the what. I’m from Michigan, I was here when that happened. While that was annoying, and in another incident several luke-warm IQ types were plotting (with government agency encouragement as it would turn out) to kidnap the very same Governor Whitmer and smuggle her to the foreign shores of… Wisconsin… to hold a trial for her crimes against the people of Michigan. Very dramatic, highly stupid. Only two of that crew actually got any prison time and you can delve into all the reasons that case got weird on your own. Let’s merely say they don’t let criminal masterminds out of prison time and criminal convictions for entrapment.

You are correct though. The gun rights move is changing, but if you look at how you’ll see that the two most dramatic segments the have changed and become more pro-ownership are minorities and women, the two examples you cite vehemently in your opening as legitimate pro-2A reasoning. You’re looking at the meme grade farcicle response and seeing seriousness where it is largely parody. The ‘reverence’, as you say for gun ownership, is a response to a stimulus.

That stimulus was, is, and continues to be the absolutely unhinged actions of the anti-gun crowd and their shameless use of exaggeration and hyperbole to demonize anyone, including you Mr. French, who own firearms. The firearms community has been under attack for decades, they’ve been told the mere possession of a firearm makes them the problem, makes them evil or criminally negligent, and they are tired of it. So they’re clowning the left. They’re becoming the parody characters and pointing out the glaring holes in anti-gun rhetoric.

The Virginia Jan 20th, 2020 armed protest is an excellent example of protests done peacefully, even though they were absurdly well armed. We’ve seen other examples of protests that didn’t go as well. NFAC seems to make negligently discharging a weapon within their group at events a regular occurence. We’ve seen other examples of antagonistic and reckless open carry with less than stellar results.

But again, Mr. French, you went from pointing out valid reasonable and personally relevant reasons for gun ownership, that you support, to painting with the broadest brush possible while missing the point that these behaviors are often reactionary. These gun owners aren’t just acting out to act out, it is a response to unreasoned proposals by ignorant anti-gun agitators. They are the result of the clownish antics of anti-gunners being clowned and the side effect of that is an emboldened fringe. The “left” experiences the same thing when they see clownish behaviors associated with the right. They in their turn clown on the expressed attitudes as ignorant and their fringe act out wildly too.

But we’re now facing something worse than gun idolatry. Too many armed citizens are jittery at best, spoiling for a fight at worst.]

One is too many. But this is the life we live, not the one we would like to live. Using

[In recent days we’ve seen a rash of terrible shootings by nervous, fearful or angry citizens. A young kid rings the bell on the wrong door and is shot. A young woman drives into the wrong driveway and is shot. A cheerleader accidentally tries to get in the wrong car and is pursued and shot, along with her friend. A basketball rolls into a man’s yard, and a neighboring 6-year-old girl and her father are shot.

I admire the point you are looking at, that over reactions are problematic, however what is being missed is an effect similar to when it looked like we were having so many train derailments after Palestine Ohio. Attention brings out the actual rates. There are, on average, three or four train derailments a day and many trains haul chemicals and substances that would be less than ideal to spill. But train derailment became hot after the Ohio incident, for obvious reasons, so any derailment became news as opposed to something that happens once somewhere in the country every six hours. They were always happening, they just weren’t in the news until they were. The same goes for suboptimal firearm misuses where someone somewhere shoots when they shouldn’t.

These ‘gEt oFf MY LaWn!’ type incidents, where the 16 year old was shot by the elderly homeowner or the six year old and her father were shot by the felon who somehow had a gun, are the unfortunate super minority of firearm possession where the firearm is in the hands of someone who probably should exist unsupervised in any capacity anyway, but they do.

All of these episodes occurred over the course of just six days.

Yep. These episodes exist among the current aggravated assault rate in the nation.

In 2021, there were 465,745 aggravated assault incidents, and 584,009 offenses reported in the United States by 11,794 law enforcement agencies that submitted National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data, and covers 64% of the total population.

Some of these aggressive acts are more serious or inexplicable than others, people are a weird bunch and not all sunshine and good vibes just because we’d like them to be that way. Even with that many aggravated assaults in total, not just with firearms, that still leaves a roughly 2% chance that any given American would be assaulted in any given year. That estimate accounts for none of the other socioeconomic factors involved in violent crime and is therefore flawed, the number is lower for many and much higher for a few based on risk metrics, but in general that is how the math works out.

Top 5 methods of injury according to FBI UCR, 2021

But apparently this variant of aggravated assault with barely understood motivations isn’t egregious enough is it, Mr. French?

Yet even worse than such shootings, which occurred because of fear or sudden rage is the phenomenon that begins with a person who seems to want to fight, who deliberately places himself in harm’s way, uses deadly force and then is celebrated for his bloody recklessness. Take Kyle Rittenhouse. At age 17, Rittenhouse took an AR-15-style weapon to a riot in Kenosha, Wis., to, he said, “protect” a Kenosha business.


Mr. French, you are misplacing a great deal of context. I happen to agree with you that what Rittenhouse did was reckless and naive. But it is absolutely in line with the sort of value set we use to recruit police, military personnel, and most other first responder professions, the defense of the community. Rittenhouse was a participant in junior programs that lead to those fields. We also had already experienced several highly destructive riotous events where people were severely injured or killed and property was destroyed. Politicians and left leaning media seemed indifferent to these acts. In fact, the perception bordered on encouragement in many instances. This resulted in more clowning from those who, rightfully, mocked the concept of a “mostly” peaceful protest while the city burned behind the reporter.

Are there a segment of the population that have a sort of doomtopia fantasy, where society collapses in some fashion and they get to go use their ‘skiilz’ to survive? Their ‘skil’z usually consisting of gun ownership, not proficiency, and a partial and substantially lacking understanding of what someone like Mike Jones said one time.

The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Washington, and several other similar incidents around the nation, set the stage for a response where citizens took protection into their hands as the government had been seen failing to step up and put a hard stop on violent protests while protecting the peaceful ones. Kyle Rittenhouse was not some basement dweller waiting for the opportunity to hunt people in a lawless zone, he was the product of the perception of inaction and indifference from people who are supposed to handle violent crime and they didn’t.

Like the open carry marchers, and other bombastic acts, Rittenhouse is a responsive symptom from a perception. That perception was that the government would not stop rioters from hurting, looting, and killing people because of evidence from previous riots in other cities. The actual on the ground events from police didn’t matter as much as the perception that they were standing back and letting the city burn. Urban spaces were seen to be at the whim of an angry mob when one was to inevitably form.

Into that, Rittenhouse went to ‘do something’ and to suppose his motive for doing so was a dark desire to hunt people and get away with it is as childish as his belief that going to Kenosha armed was a good idea. But enthusiastic untempered idealism is a trait of the young, older and cooler heads see it is a bad idea but there would be little convincing a motivated young person. For a different look at untempered youthful enthusiasm outweighing experience and understanding, look at Greta Thunberg.

When you travel, armed, to a riot, you’re courting violent conflict, and he found it.]

To be fair, when you travel unarmed to a riot you are courting and finding violent content, that is the nature of a riot.

[ He used his semiautomatic weapon to kill two people who attacked him at the protest, and a jury acquitted him on grounds of self-defense.]

What else would you wish it to be classified as when a convicted pedophile twice your age, who was threatening to kill and maim anyone who he caught alone from an opposing faction in Kenosha, chased you, cornered you in a parking lot in the dark, and attempted to take the firearm on your person? A.) You don’t get to answer, “He shouldn’t have been there.” He was there and that is the situation. Poor judgement is not illegal.

[ But the jury’s narrow inquiry into the moment of the shooting doesn’t excuse the young man’s eagerness to deliberately place himself in a situation where he might have cause to use lethal violence.

Are you certain about your assertion that Rittenhouse wanted to get into a fight? That seems like a projection to me, a response to a circumstance that was avoidable but that the use of force in full context was legal and likely saved his life. The two additional people who attacked him were also valid threats to his safety and he did well given the situation he was in. The hindsight, the making of the situation can upset us but it wasn’t and shouldn’t be made illegal as it undermines self defense.

We can level the same criticism at the people who attacked Rittenhouse. Why were they there? What were their actions at this riot? Why did they attack someone who was overtly armed and not shooting at them even as they chased him? Why did the angry unhinged pedophile threaten everyone he came across all day and then chase someone armed with an AR into a corner? There is plenty of criticism to go around. Don’t reserve your ire for Rittenhouse alone.

And what has been the right’s response? Rittenhouse has gone from defendant to folk hero, a minor celebrity in populist America.

Yes. He isn’t the only one. He won’t be the last one of questionable origin. His defense was well documented and if it hadn’t gone the way it did, self defense as a concept would again be undermined severely. We cannot judge the legality of a defensive incident based upon whether we like what was going on tagentally around the incident or not. Should we bring up George Floyd, who almost certainly should have been handled differently than he was during his arrest but who suddenly became a saintlike folk figure when he had a well documented violent past and was committing an additional crime when he was arrested?

I think the better example out of recent events is certainly Elijah Dicken, who stopped the Greenwood mall mass shooter in Indiana at a tremendous distance and with clear discipline. But we can also still respect what the Rittenhouse trial meant, the clear trauma that trial brought to him as a young person, and that the situation was avoidable and that ideally should have been the course taken.

Or take Daniel Perry, the Army sergeant who was just convicted of murdering an armed Black Lives Matter protester named Garrett Foster. Shortly after the conviction, Tucker Carlson effectively demanded a pardon.]

So? Carlson’s just another media talking chucklefuck like you and I, David. His opinion is broadcast widely, but its just his opinion like this is yours.

[ Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas responded the next day, tweeting that “Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney.”

The situation is as politically charged as many involving the protests and riots, what will be interesting in that particular case is whether or not the board recommends him for a pardon.

Yet Abbott ignored — or did not care — about the facts exposed at trial. Perry had run a red light and driven straight into the protest, nearly striking Foster’s wife with his car. Witnesses said Foster never pointed his gun at Perry. Even Perry initially told the police he opened fire before Foster pointed his gun at him, saying, “I didn’t want to give him a chance to aim at me.”

Why are we not treating Foster with the same contempt as Rittenhouse? There are plenty of people who wanted exactly what happened to Foster to happen to Rittenhouse, why is Foster exempt from courting violence by bringing his rifle to the protest. I, for the record, don’t believe either of them did something wrong by being armed, unwise perhaps but not wrong. I believe there were absolutely things both of them did that was unwise, and people ended up dead in both situations.

But the story gets worse. In social media messages before the shooting, it was plain that Perry was spoiling for an opportunity to shoot someone. His messages included, “I might have to kill a few people on my way to work they are rioting outside my apartment complex” and “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.”

That, in this day and age, is probably a stretch. Now, courts and lawyers call this ‘discoverable’ and will thank you to NOT post these things, even if you are irritated with the current local circumstances.

That is not a man you want anywhere near a gun. Kyle Rittenhouse is not a man you want anywhere near a gun.

What about Foster? He’s on video essentially saying fuck around and find out too. Should expressing your distaste for an unruly situation invalidate your firearm rights? Have you, Mr. French, ever publicly made statements that would be suspect if something violent were to have occurred? Do you have any tweets, posts, etc. that would make you look like you were spoiling for a fight? You and your wife bought and trained with guns after merely being sent photos, photos aren’t dangerous in and of themselves right? Were you hoping someone would break into your home so you could shoot them?

I am, of course, using exaggeration and hyperbole to as is tradition in these discussions. The point being that you cannot tell someone their actions are “wrong” merely based on the fact you find them distasteful. Saying Perry or Rittenhouse is not a man you want anywhere near a gun when Perry is a serving member of the military and Rittenhouse is highly disingenuous when you can find concurrent attitudes among a vast swath of our serving police and military members, they tend not to like riotous and chaotic groups who are trying to be just violent enough and anonymous enough to not end up dead or arrested for a severe charge.

Our nation’s gun debate is understandably dominated by discussions of gun rights. But it needs to feature more accountability for gun culture.]

If and when accountability is also featured in anti-gun culture, but so long as the hyperbolic caricatures and outright falsehoods are allowed to pass for meaningful discussion from them it is unlikely to stop from the pro-2A side.

[ Every single feasible and constitutional gun control proposal]

There aren’t any constitutional gun control proposals, but that’s like my opinion as a comment on your opinion.

[ — including the red flag laws that I’ve long advocated (which allow law enforcement to remove weapons from people who broadcast deadly intent or profound instability)]

That, is the crux. To enforce something you must define it. How do you put a solid definition on ‘broadcast deadly intent’ or ‘profound instability’? What is the liability on the police if they don’t enforce it and something happens? What is the liability if they do enforce it against someone who it shouldn’t apply to and it severely negatively impacts their life, or even ends up with them killed unable to protect themselves? The least liable answer is for the police to stay out of it unless there is enough actionable evidence for actually putting someone into custody. That is a more easily definable standard, doesn’t deprive them of a constitutional right while not charging them with a crime, and avoids a bunch of other legal issues about freedom, representation, and property. They’ve been arrested for a crime or taken into protective custody for mental instability, that isn’t a vague ‘we will just take your guns just in case’.

[ — will still leave hundreds of millions of American guns in tens of millions of American hands.

So the constitution is satisfied if enough people still have access to a right. Should we do this for voting, maybe with a literacy or poll test or something? Enough people will still be able to vote right, tens of millions of them.

I shared the account at the beginning of this piece to help explain to opponents of gun rights that there are times when a firearm can be the only thing that stands between profound evil and the people you love. I also share it to tell my gun-owning friends that I get it. I understand. I’ve faced more threats in the last few years than they might experience in 10 lifetimes.

Mr. French, you get some of it. You do not have the whole perspective, agree or disagree with said perspectives.

But this I also know: Gun rights carry with them grave responsibilities. They do not liberate you to intimidate.]

Brandishing or intimating you will use a firearm on someone is illegal and not a part of gun rights.

[ They must not empower your hate.]

Their lack certainly doesn’t disabuse anyone of hate either, that is an independent emotion.

[ They are certainly not objects of love or reverence.]

No, they are tools. They are fun too, they can be recreational. You might also rail against the love of cars or the love of alcoholic drinks and claim the deaths attributed to those are due to our over reverence of them.

[ Every hair-trigger use, every angry or fearful or foolish decision, is likely to spill innocent blood.

This, again, can be applied to the foolish use of anything. We continue to treat guns differently than we should because we have this weird bridge we cannot mentally cross.

That bridge is that a weapon, something designed to cause harm, is a valid societal tool and always has been. That there are and will always be legitimate times and reasons to harm another person. The fact those times are all responses to threats on your life or the lives of others does nothing to change the fact that weapons are valid societal tools. That is the concept that cannot be agreed upon by the anti-gunners, they cannot accept the fact that weapons are valid tools. It goes against their worldview. They are convinced they can somehow, some way, invalidate the bad use of weapons without negatively impacting their legitimate use instead of accepting the reality that the legitimate and necessary existence of weapons in society will always risk their misuse and constitute the unwilling acceptance of a misuse amount.

This is not tantamount to accepting misuse, it is an acknowledgment of the fact that misuses and questionable uses will happen. The best we can do is the best we can do, we can encourage proper use the same way we encourage proper driving, drinking habits, safe work practices, and so on, but we cannot remove the human choice to do the wrong things without removing human choice.

We need to stop clinging to the illusion that we can.

Moreover, every one of these acts increases public revulsion of gun ownership generally. The cry for legal and moral reform will sweep the land. America will change and gun rights will diminish. And the gun owners and advocates who fail to grasp the moral weight of their responsibility will be to blame.

That… doesn’t seem to be the direction things are going. For as loudly as gun controllers are crying and as many rules as have been recently passed, the gun rights movement has more momentum than the gun control movement. They have that moment in the legal places that matter, the courts, and they have effective paralysis in the legislatures that are not extremely stacked left leaning. Sure, Washington State just passed an AWB and Michigan passed UBC and ERPO legislation, that doesn’t change the fact that AWB and Magazine bans are on life support in the courts and that when those judgements come down, just as with shall issue concealed carry in Bruen, these rules will be null and void. Taken out like the trash antics they are to pretend to do something about violence.

Mr. French, I believe you and I would agree on many things. I genuinely do. I believe we could have productive and meaningful discussions. But your piece here fails to take into account the reactionary perspective that gun rights proponents are coming from. They are not acting in a vacuum free of stimulus, they are reacting to overreactions from the people who believe that you and I should be barred from owning firearms based on their worldview and not reality.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.