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February 26, 2014

Michael Barone: No Matter What the Media-Fashioned "National Dialogue" on Guns, America's Culture Has Shifted Dramatically in Favor of Gun Rights

Via @benk84 (follow him on twitter) and his Morning Dump, Barone's short piece is worth reading in full.

The result [of state concealed-carry legislation and Heller] has been that over the years the entire nation has become carry-concealed-weapons territory, as shown in a neat graphic in a Volokh Conspiracy blog post by Dave Kopel. Back in 1987, some people, myself included, worried that such laws would lead to frequent shootouts on the streets arising from traffic altercations and the like. That has not happened -- something we can be sure of since the mainstream media would be delighted to headline such events.

To the contrary, violent crime rates have declined drastically during the last quarter-century....

One lesson, I think, is that responsible citizens tend to behave like responsible citizens, even if — or perhaps especially if — they’re armed. Another lesson is that the national political dialogue can be totally irrelevant to what really happens in American life.

Anytime someone opposes a policy, they cry about the "parade of horribles" that will flow from it. In the case of guns, those horribles have always included the specter of Wild West shootouts breaking out all over the place. While there have in fact been two well-known bad shootings (Dunn, the Popcorn Vigilante) and one legal shooting which was nevertheless controversial (Zimmerman), the facts have not been kind to this theory of America Turned Dodge City.

Freedom is always scary. Freedom always carries with it the risk that people will use that freedom for bad ends. That's why it's been so easy, over 200 years, to erode and repeal the freedoms we began with.

Those against freedom prey on this fear and overstate it. And they fight like the Dickens to keep even an experimental program in freedom in a single state from going forward, because they fear the actual facts -- the policy in actual practice -- will not support their Narrative of Fear.

As a hypothetical matter, you could always, without being quite disproven, postulate that if law-abiding citizens were armed with guns, those law-abiding citizens would suddenly become reckless, angry vigilantes just looking for an excuse to plug someone.

But when it's no longer hypothetical -- when there's a factual record to go on -- it's harder to make this case.

Crucial to this argument's effectiveness is "Otherization." People are willing to believe the absolute worst about People Not Like Us. If you can portray gun-owners as exotic and strange -- Not Like Us -- the public will be willing, and maybe even eager, to believe that possession of a weapon will turn your average law-abiding, mortgage-paying, soccer-practice-ferrying United States Citizen into a hotheaded kill machine.

This argument was always restrained by the fact that so many Americans owned guns, and so many law-abiding American citizens continued abiding the law even in a state of, as the gun controllers would call it, Armed and Dangerous Murder Ecstasy. But a great number of people did not own guns, and so were willing to believe gun ownership was weird, and any gun owner was therefore weird, and who can trust a gun in the hands of a weirdo?

As more people own guns and carry them responsibly, this "weirdness" message so beloved by the gun controllers grows weaker and weaker. We're probably at the good tipping point now, or at least very close to it.

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posted by Ace at 10:41 AM

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