Back when people were still reading Jorge Borges, there was a thing called “Baroque Worry.”
In an era of free-floating anxiety, when you had nothing real to worry about, you could always make stuff up. These days, we don’t live in an era of anxiety. We live in a perfect post-modern storm of alternative realities.
We are victims of deflect, forced to chase squirrels until our brains collapse. How many crises in the last six months have we been expected to prioritize and get upset about whether we want to or not? How many survived multiple news cycles? Who is talking about Critical Race Theory these days? Or COVID? Or any number of threats — some real, some not — that could bring on the Apocalypse and kill us all.
We live in what philosophers call an overdetermined time. So, in response, I’m going to haul in another crisis, decades in the making, that looks like conspiracy, but is actually opportunism. It comes under the heading of too damn many guns.
The United States has a population of about 332 million. There are currently more than 400 million firearms in U.S. civilian hands. Our military and police have about 5.5 million small arms.
An estimated 10 million people, 3% of our population, own half the guns. In addition, the number of armed private militias, aka hate groups, are increasing. According to a report issued in 2020 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, white nationalist hate groups in the U.S. increased 55% during Donald Trump’s term in office.
So who is enabling this? Villain #1 is the National Rifle Association, in cahoots with firearm manufacturers. Motive is assumed to be greed.
The NRA began, in 1871, as a response to complaints from Union officers that soldiers during the Civil War couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. NRA’s focus was marksmanship and sportsmanship and stayed that way for the next century. The NRA even supported gun control laws.
But in the mid-1970s, the NRA did a 180. Spooked by the Gun Control Act of 1968, Second Amendment activists took control of the NRA and turned it into the lobbying organization we know today.
Villain #2 is a misreading of the Second Amendment. It begins with the words “a well-regulated militia.”
When James Madison wrote that, what he had in mind was not Proud Boys. Throw in “Federalist Paper #46” and we have the argument that the original intent was to ensure our right to overthrow our own government.
Neither the Constitution nor Madison said that. What Madison feared was the federal government having an army strong enough to “execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions” (Article I Section 8).
In the 18th century, professional armies were comprised of mercenaries loyal to him what pays them. State militias, a continuation of colonial militias dating to the first settlements and comprised of free citizens, were considered a politically safer option.
There’s more, but space is limited. Suffice it to say that the unintended consequence is an army, unregulated, uncontrolled, 10 million strong, and in possession of more than 200 million firearms. And potentially quite dangerous.
They have their vision of what America should be and the firepower to force it on the rest of us. Standing between us and them is a very thin blue line of 2 million active duty military and 765,000 police in possession of 5.5 million firearms.
Jan. 6 was just a dress rehearsal. Next time they are coming after us with guns loaded.
Jacqueline Smetak lives in Lone Tree.