Sometimes, a gesture reveals much more than people realize.
The kind folks gathered at the National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis booed former Vice President Mike Pence when he stepped onto the stage to speak with them.
Video of the event made the booing seem like a wave of sound that washed over the Hoosier native like the tide rolling in. When a solo voice yelled out, perhaps sarcastically, “We love you, Mike,” Pence tried to salvage things by saying, possibly ironically, “I love you, too.”
It was a telling moment.
The people in the crowd at the gun lovers’ gathering didn’t boo the former vice president because they disagree with him about firearms and the lack of laws governing their purchase.
They knew and know Mike Pence toes the NRA line on gun laws like a trained service animal. If they didn’t, he reminded them at their firearms festival by proclaiming his undying fealty to everything the gun lobby wants, regardless of what it costs the nation, its treasury or the growing masses of victims of gun violence.
No, the crowd didn’t greet Pence with catcalls because his devotion to deadly weapons was insufficiently slavish.
They booed the former vice president because he refused to betray his oath of office and the U.S. Constitution to help former President Donald Trump stay in power illegally. They booed Pence because he wouldn’t help his former boss steal a presidential election.
Think about that for a moment.
The people gathered at the NRA convention love to tell everyone about their abiding allegiance to the Constitution. They are absolutists, they say, when it comes to following America’s founding charter.
There was considerable reason to doubt their dedication before this moment.
For one thing, most of them seem to have read only one amendment to that august document — the Second Amendment — and their reading of that part is selective, to say the least. They ignore or skip over the words — “well-regulated” and “militia” — that suggest government has at least some authority to regulate firearms and the multibillion-dollar business that accompanies the manufacture and sale of these deadly instruments.
Their radical interpretation of the Second Amendment that it is an absolute guarantee of anyone’s right to own any weapon he or she wants never has been endorsed by a court. Even the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was friendly to the gun lobby’s arguments in almost all other ways, said the Second Amendment wasn’t a blank check and government had the power, under the Constitution, to impose reasonable regulations on guns.
Nor have the courts agreed with the gun flacks’ loony notion that the Constitution is a suicide pact and that the Second Amendment is the means of enforcing that by granting people the power to take up arms against their government. The Constitution does speak of that sort of behavior and uses a specific word to describe it.
That word is “treason.”
But those are facts.
In the gun lovers’ world, when fact collides with fantasy, fact always must surrender the right of way to fantasy.
That is why the members of the NRA crowd greeted Pence the way it did.
They don’t see the Constitution as it is — a complex document that carefully balances interests, rights and obligations so free people can govern themselves. The gun lobby devotees aren’t big on obligations of any kind. Their notion of freedom is that of an adolescent, long on personal autonomy and short on any sort of personal accountability.
For that reason, they could buy the argument Trump advanced that his vice president had the authority to set aside the 2020 presidential election results by himself.
Pence didn’t have that authority.
If vice presidents did have it, every losing presidential administration in U.S. history would have exercised it.
But that’s not what those gathered at the NRA convention wanted and want to believe. They hunger for a self-proclaimed strong man to validate their every fanciful notion, so they were willing to swallow the Trumpian swill that the only reason the former president still isn’t in the White House is that Pence lacked nerve.
Just like they’re willing to believe our Constitution is a suicide pact.
Their booing of Mike Pence makes at least one thing clear.
The members of the NRA may be devoted to many things.
But the U.S. Constitution isn’t among those things.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.