Saturday, January 22, 2011


Charles Blow of The New York Times thinks President Obama should talk about guns in his State of the Union address:

... Obama ... surely knows how anomalous we are among comparable nations. We are a violent society whose intense fealty to firearms has deadly consequences. Sensible restrictions on the most dangerous weapons could go a long way toward making us safer.

... At the moment, there is popular support for more restrictions. According to a NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, 52 percent of Americans asked believed that laws covering the sale of guns should be made more strict. Will Obama seize the sentiment? This is a test of character: Will the president choose what is right over what is convenient and speak out for what he believes in?

Next week we will see which Obama emerges: a stalwart of conviction, an exemplar of expediency or someone still stuck in the ambiguous middle of conciliation and pseudocourage.

Show of hands: Anyone think Obama will say a word about this? Me either.

It's a lack of courage, absolutely, but on some level I don't blame him. On some level it really doesn't matter that a majority of Americans might have told pollsters that they'd accept certain restrictions on guns -- the reality is that in this country a large bloc of voters, enraged and mass-delusional, will believe that any anti-gun proposal is the first step toward fascist gun confiscation and full-scale national totalitarianism. The most successful pressure group in America encourages this mass lunacy, and has done so for decades -- and no one ever says that the NRA is literally making people crazy, at least on this one issue. So the process continues, and even a brave, forthright Obama would probably be powerless to reverse it.

When we think of crazy conspiracy theories, we think of the big ones -- 9/11 trutherism, Obama birtherism, and so on. We think of the believers as fringe-dwellers and nutjobs. But conspiratorial thinking on guns suffuses our political culture. It's mainstream. Many of your neighbors are conspiracy nuts. They really believe that every politician who doesn't wallow in the gun culture and support every word in the NRA's collected position papers is a full-fledged supporter of house-to-house confiscation of firearms. They really believe there's no middle ground.

I don't know what we can do about this. But the first would be admitting that we're nuts.

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