by Max Brantley
Several pieces of gun-related news popped up in my reading last night.
* DECLINE IN GUN OWNERSHIP: The New Yorker has a fascinating article on the history of the Second Amendment and guns in America. No point in gun zealots reading it. It doesn't always comport with their script, now 5-4 endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court, on gun law. But this was an eye opener:
The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.
Men are far more likely to own guns than women are, but the rate of gun ownership among men fell from one in two in 1980 to one in three in 2010, while, in that same stretch of time, the rate among women remained one in ten. What may have held that rate steady in an age of decline was the aggressive marketing of handguns to women for self-defense, which is how a great many guns are marketed. Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, higher in the country than in the city, and higher among older people than among younger people.
So. The percentage of people with guns is declining. But ... those who own guns are buying more than ever. And the NRA is jamming still more pro-gun legislation through compliant state legislatures.
* TED NUGENT AND BRAVERY: Norma Bates helpfully pointed out last night a biting Salon piece about Ted Nugent. It dismisses the faded rocker as any threat to the president and dismisses his tall talk as promotion for Nugent's personal line of ammo.
Despite his nutty ranting, you actually have nothing to fear from Ted Nugent. In Nugent-world he’s a brave man because he won’t leave home without a gun hidden way up under his shirt. But being afraid to go outside without a gun isn’t a sign of bravery; it is decisive evidence of cowardliness. The vast majority of Americans prove that every day (including the vast majority of gun owners.)
...The National Rifle Association is no longer the sportsman’s organization I shot for back in the late 60’s. (Yes, I can still put a round through your eyeball at 50 feet — with iron sights — but you won’t hear me threatening to do it if you try to steal my lawn mower. Sheesh.) Today’s NRA is an industry shill devoted entirely to making sure fraidy-cat, child-men stay whipped up into a frenzy of panic-induced purchase intention. And Ted Nugent is their mouthpiece.)
* AND SPEAKING OF TED NUGENT: Another poster last night noted that the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville has been getting some flak over the Nugent appearance scheduled June 10 at the Arkansas Music Pavilion. The reader shared a note sent from the arts center in response to a complaint. The center's vice president for communications said in part:
We are aware of Mr. Nugent’s recent comments, and comments he’s made in the past. As an entertainment presenter, we take into account our wide and diverse audiences when booking shows. However, there is a lot of discussion going on internally about this concert, and I wanted to assure that you that the executive staff is hearing and taking into account emails like yours.
To which I say: Who's afraid of Ted Nugent? The 1st Amendment has always been mightier than the 2nd. Guns didn't bring down the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall — ideas, speech, protest, organization and the promise of freedom did. Play on, Nuge. I just hope Walton gives plenty of space in public right of ways to those who might like to demonstrate disapproval of the performer.