Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Gun-Loving, Tree-Hugging, HOG-Driving and Flag-Waving

I love guns, so imagine my surprise last Friday when the Governor of Texas labeled me as among those “who hate guns, hate gun owners.”  It reminded me of a time shortly after I moved to Durham, North Carolina to jumpstart the community’s destination marketing organization.

Part of my job was to defend Durham, which I did every day.  Not long after I got here, I received word from a colleague that a law enforcement official in a nearby county noted that I had best careful if ever traveling through there.  Gulp!

Guns were a part of life where I was born.  I spent my early years on a horse and cattle ranch along the Henry’s Fork on the Idaho side of the Tetons, but it wasn’t my grandfathers or even my rancher father who first taught me to shoot.

They all viewed guns as useful tools around ranch and farmland to protect livestock or occasionally to harvest a head as food, usually including one or two for neighbors or friends.  Occasionally they would hunt with friends, but my father who was a 35th Tank Battalion veteran, always seemed ambivalent about firearms.

It was my substitute 4th grade teacher who first taught me to handle a rifle and enjoy target shooting, along with her son and our mutual best friend.

Similarly, I learned that my proud Roosevelt Democrat great-grandfather would famously stop the school bus he drove for years along the route out to Cedar Fort, Utah and teach the kids how to handle and shoot a rifle.  Earlier in life he had been a sharpshooter atop trains transporting gold from the mines at nearby Mercur.

My brush with a kindler, gentler and far more reasonable and collaborative NRA was while obtaining a marksmanship merit badge on my way to earning Eagle Scout in the years before that organization was hijacked by the gun hardliners.

With all due respect to Governor Perry and the NRA, a lot of people who love guns also believe that more thorough background checks are reasonable and won’t “take them out of the hands of those who use them properly and legally” as he threatens.

Based on the views of my 84-year-old conservative Republican mom who sees the universal background checks as reasonable, maybe the Governor was just playing to the narrative to which his NRA audience has been restricted.

My mom could easily ascertain that the checks were designed not to enable a registry which the legislation prohibited or to stop criminals but to make illicit sales more difficult and illegal trade in firearms easier to trace.  We are both among the 86% of Americans who support the extension of background checks to those buying online and at gun shows.

To be fair, one should listen to the Governor’s speech in context.  He and his audience are equally well-advised to read the now-tabled legislation and its failed bi-partisan amendment rather than rely on paid lobbyists and special interests.

As a political independent, I’m disgusted when people pander to any ideology at the expense of good policy, regardless of their party affiliation or where they fall on the political spectrum.

I lose patience for those who want to make it harder to vote but easier to have firearms.  Or those who want safety-net recipients checked for drug use but want to protect the illicit gun trade or those who resent federal interference but make every attempt to override democracy at the local level.

There are reasonable arguments for all of these each issues but this inconsistency and hypocrisy undermines them.

It is easy to demonize opposing views as many speakers have at the recent NRA event.  To better understand both gun “lovers” and “haters,” I recommend a humorous new book entitled Gun Guys: A Road Trip, by journalist and gun guy Dan Baum.

My gun guy cred is limited to family keepsakes but I found that Baum put a more human face on people involved with guns than does the NRA.  He also gives a much better perspective on views across the ideological spectrum on the issue.

Unfortunately though, it seems that far too many on the right are now making decisions not in the tradition of intellectual curiosity championed by the late William F. Buckley Jr., but on semantics.

A just-published study co-authored by Dr. Rick Larrick at the Duke Fuqua School of Business here in Durham, reveals that many conservatives reject projects marketed as “green” merely because they see it as a liberal agenda.

Really?  Of course, along with being a gun-lover, you can count me as a tree-hugger. While you’re at it count me also a card-carrying, HOG-driving, Eagles-for-Equality, trout-protecting, flag-waving all-American who supports better regulatory management of firearms.

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