Fayetteville, AR –-(Ammoland.com)- New York Times columnist David Brooks would like it if we would listen to him. He doesn’t say as much in his article, titled, “Respect First, Then Gun Control,” but it’s clear that he enjoys the sound of his own keyboard. As I know very well, being an author means bouncing between doubt over the quality of the sentences we write and faith that those sentences need to be read, but the latter belief needs some supporting evidence to be convincing.
He tells us that “it's necessary to let people from Red America lead the way and to show respect to gun owners at all points. There has to be trust and respect first. Then we can strike a compromise on guns as guns, and not some sacred cross in the culture war.” Isn’t that exactly the kind of attitude that leads us to want to have the conversation he desires?
Perhaps not. For one thing, he may be committing the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof, seeking to push off responsibility for making the case for gun control onto his perceived opponents. If he has a case to make in favor of adding new restrictions on gun rights, he needs to make it.
Or does he mean that the people in red states—assuming that we’re a monolithic mass, of course—need to sit down with him and his fellow advocates of control and have a discussion? That may be what he means, given his comment about what would be required to achieve compromise. But what he assumes here is that compromise is a desirable end in itself, which is yet another fallacy.
Compromise is a fine thing in some situations. One person wants to go to the game, while the other wants to stay home and watch movies, so the couple ends up going to visit Mama. Oh, wait, that’s not a good example. One party wants to cut taxes, while the other party wants to raise them, so both parties compromise and borrow a trillion here and a trillion there. Actually, that’s not such a good example, either.
Yes, I’m being facetious, but only by a little bit. Compromise is a necessary evil of a democratic system, but only if we understand that some things are matters of principle. Rights are one of those. As I’ve experienced again and again in arguing with advocates of gun control, such people do not believe that gun rights even exist. In their view, owning and carrying firearms is a privilege that is either best left to the government or at most to be extended only to a select few citizens. To illustrate this point, I raise the fact that Donald Trump has a carry license, and other famous New York City residents do as well, while ordinary residents are denied as a matter of routine. When I’m asked to compromise on gun rights, these facts come immediately to mind.
There is another point that Brooks apparently hasn’t considered. His assumption that support for gun rights is a red state phenomenon, something that the right wing does, while support for gun control is a position taken by the entirety of blue states isn’t a good one. Let’s note that Vermont, the state that sends Bernie Sanders to the U.S. Senate, has never required a license to carry a concealed firearm and has the honor of being given an F in state scoring of gun laws by groups who demand stricter regulation, as in the case of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s ranking in 2016.
I’ll speak for myself here in addressing Brooks’s assumption. I’m a deep blue resident of a state that has been consistently red since the Clintons pulled up stakes for friendlier pastures. And I support gun rights. To use a saying that floats around Twitter from time to time, I stand for the right of a gay couple to defend their marijuana farm with AK-47s. Or with AR-15s. Or with standard-capacity Austrian Tupperware. What is the most irritating about Brooks’s attitude is the smug stance he takes, implicitly comparing gun owners and gun-rights supporters to the racists who supposedly can be won over if only they’ll talk to people who don’t look like them.
Gun ownership is a diverse phenomenon, and if David Brooks and others like him want to lead with respect, he and they need to understand that attacking rights is the most contemptuous thing a person can do.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.