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“Lord Jim” and South Florida and the Gun Debate

One of the names in the news lately is that of Broward County School Resource Deputy Scot Peterson, who is suddenly infamous as the armed and body-armored guard who was outside Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and didn’t rush in when he heard the first shots fired in a deadly rampage that took the lives of 17 students and faculty and wounded a dozen others on St. Valentine’s Day. He’s since been forced into early retirement, condemned for cowardice by the Broward County Sheriff and the President of the United States, and widely criticized even by those who aren’t in need of a scapegoat for the tragedy.
We’ll leave it to the Broward County Sheriff’s office to determine Peterson’s professional fate, let God judge his soul, and hope that whatever his culpability in the tragedy he finds redemption in this life or the next. His story has a certain fascination for us, though, as it recalls a favorite novel called “Lord Jim.”
If you’ve never read it you really should, because Joseph Conrad was one of the English language’s greatest writers and “Lord Jim” is one of his greatest masterpieces, and it has some wise and pertinent things to say about the human condition. The story concerns a young 19th Century British fellow named Jim, no better or worse than anyone else, who becomes a competent enough seaman on a ship transporting “pilgrims of an exacting faith” through the Red Sea. One stormy night when the ship is endangered through no fault of his own, young Jim fails to act as he was diligently trained and fairly paid to do by prematurely abandoning the ship, and although so did the ship’s captain and other higher officers he’s the only one who winds up on trial and found guilty of dereliction of duty and scorned by respectable people. With the help of a few sympathetic writer types Jim winds up in a series of desultory jobs and eventually on a remote island with no civilized norms of behavior, and without giving away the entire plot suffice to say he pays a steep price for atonement in his second chance to do the right thing.
Sorry to get so literary on you, but we wish that a better scribe such as Conrad was around to provide commentary on the current political debate regarding the Douglas High tragedy in particular and the peculiarly American phenomenon of mass shootings in general. Alas, the sorry situation is now beyond the satirical talents of ourselves or even a Jonathan Swift, so only such a tragedian as Conrad could do it justice.
Former Broward County School Resource Deputy Peterson is lately defending himself, saying that he followed training and had reason to believe that the shots were being defending outside the school, and while that seems quite plausible to such uncertain and forgiving sorts as ourselves there’s no way to recast him as the hero of this tale. For now, that makes him a plausible villain.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office that trained and meagerly paid Peterson had several presumably better-trained and better-paid deputies who also took some time before rushing into the building, and by then the alleged shooter was being apprehended down the street by a patrol car on routine duty, and the entire office had failed to keep an eye on the alleged shooter despite numerous domestic abuse calls to his various homes, warnings from school officials, tips from classmates and neighbors, the alleged shooter’s postings on social media about shooting up the school he’d ben expelled from, and various other warnings that something very bad was about to go down in Broward County.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel defended himself in a disaster of an interview with the Cable News Network, citing his “amazing leadership to this agency,” and wound up seeming to blame it all on “one deputy who was remiss, dereliction of duty, and he’s no longer with this agency.” There are already calls on both the left and right for his resignation or firing or tarring-and-feathering, not to mention the criticisms of all the grieving or scared parents in even the richest parts of Broward County, but we’ll leave to to the locals to decide his professional fate and let God judge his soul.
Israel can still kick the blame up to a higher power, though, which is one of of those literary twists that best of the satirists and tragedians could have never come up with. The federal government’s Federal Bureau of Investigation was also tipped off about the alleged school shooter allegedly responsibly for an undeniable school shooting, and similarly failed to act, so there are also calls on the left and right to replace the guy in charge of that agency that didn’t turn out to be the hero of this instead tragic tale.
President Donald Trump always imagines himself as the hero in all these tragic subplots of the ongoing American reality show, but he’s also the guy who appointed the current FBI director, and he’s meanwhile leaving open the possibility that the once-venerable FBI is still engaged in a “deep state” “silent coup” against his presidency. At this point neither Swift nor Conrad are equal to the convoluted plot, but even a hack reality show writer would have the Trump character saying that Peterson and other Broward County Sheriffs deputies are “no Medal of Honor winners” and his behavior was “frankly, disgusting,” and although acknowledging one never really knows about such things claiming “I really believe I’d have run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
There’s nothing in Trump’s by now well-known biography to back up the claim, of course. His tough guy reputation is based mostly on the schoolyard taunts he “tweets” against political opponents too dignified to respond in kind, and back when he was a boastfully athletic American youth he used educational deferments and some spurious bone spurs that never seemed to interfere with his golfing to avoid serving his country in war. We’ll not judge him for that, but we’ll dourly note that he’s disrespected the service of men who were prisoners of war and almost any decorated veterans who are of the Democratic persuasion, and we’ll not indulge the comic book fantasy of Trump as the superhero of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High if he’d only been there with his bare hands.
Meanwhile, on the left, they’re searching for other scapegoats. Those uncannily well-spoken and well-groomed and telegenic kids from the shot-up school are disinclined to blame Porter, who they seemed to know as a nice enough guy no better or worse anyone else, and are instead blaming that Sheriff they’ve never met and Trump and the National Rifle Association and anyone else who ever had a nice thing to say about the right to keep and bear arms. As much as we like those Douglas High kids and sympathize with their horrific pain, we also cherish our right to arm ourselves should it ever become necessary in this tragic world, and thank the NRA for its efforts on our behalf, and hold out the usual hope that youth doesn’t achieve its most idealistic aims.
We won’t mind if they achieve some of their more  modest goals, though. The same people who are saying that the opinions of 17-yeaar-olds who have survived a mass school shooting should be dismissed as the uneducated rantings of a mere child are simultaneously saying those same people should be allowed to buy the heaviest weaponry on the market the day turn 18, so it seems reasonable that you shouldn’t be allowed to buy an AR-15 until you’re allowed to buy a martini. Fixing whatever bureaucratic glitches obviously occurred at the county and state and federal levels seems reasonable enough, too, but given the NRA’s obstinance and the Republican party’s never-give-an-inch stance  it remains to be seen how the the polarized sides might work that out.
The best solutions will require some political courage on both sides of the political divide, and these days that’s even harder to find than the physical courage that Conrad and Zane Grey used to write about. Still, Douglas High’s burly and balding and unarmed football coach, Aaron Feis, gave his life  to save the lives of several students at the school he loved, though, even if his name isn’t as prominent in the news as Peterson’s. We’ll hold out hope, therefore, and in the meantime wish  all the School Resource Deputy Petersons of the world a chance at redemption.

— Bud Norman

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Conservatism in the Age of Trumpism

Way back in late February of 2011, the reality show star Donald Trump was roundly booed during a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual convention. Trump declined his next invitation to CPAC’s 2016 convention during the Republican presidential primaries, which is something Republican presidential hopefuls normally don’t dare, but was nonetheless roundly booed when then conservative hero Sen. Ted Cruz derisively mentioned his name.
President Trump was greeted as a conquering hero at the 2017 CPAC confab, however, and is expected to as rapturously received when he returns today. This raises question of whether it’s Trump or conservatism that has changed over the past six or seven years.
There’s a strong case to be made that Trump has been transformed. Back in ’11 he was still flaunting his friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton, writing checks to all the New York and Florida Democrats he relied on for favors, and was still on the record in favor of banning “assault rifles” and allowing unrestricted access to abortion, among his other many heretical opinions. By 2016 he’d been a leading proponent of the “birther” theory that President Barack Obama was not and American citizen, was saying the nastiest things anyone had to say about the Clintons, promising to get tougher on illegal and legal immigration than anyone else dared, all in the snarling rhetorical style of talk radio, but his conservative credentials were still in doubt.
By the time he made his triumphant return to CPAC last year as the Republican party’s very own president, having triumphed over such well-credentialed conservatives as the aforementioned Cruz, Trump was clearly not the New York City liberal he had once claimed to be. When he takes to the stage today he’ll be able to wave a big tax cut bill that he signed into law, point to all the burdensome regulations he’s eliminated, brag about the strict constructionist he appointed the Supreme Court, and rightly claim that although he didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare his tax cut bill at least rescinded the hated individual mandate. So far he hasn’t caved on promises to kick out all those illegal yet sympathetic “dreamers” who were brought here as children, or his promises to deliver the favors the National Rifle Association paid him for, and although he’s sounded kind of wobbly on both lately his conservative credentials probably won’t be checked at CPAC’s door.
Still, we can’t quite shake a sad feeling that this is not the conservatism we signed up for so long ago. In our idealistic youth, which occurred during one of those occasional epochs of cataclysmic cultural change, we embraced a Burkean conservatism that sought to maintain the best of what our culture had established over the generations, to move cautiously toward its highest and most time-tested ideals, and resist the worst of all the craziness coming from the left. This led us to certain conclusions about the government that governs best being the one that governs least, the enduring wisdom of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the many ways that humans gotten it wrong, not letting petty disputes devolve into warfare, and the importance of eventually balancing the books.
For the most part the Republican party has imperfectly followed these general principles for most of our lives, but these days it seems to have made a predictably bad deal with the guy who had “The Art of the Deal” ghost-written for him. The craziness coming from the left is crazier than ever, and we feel it must be resisted, so it’s especially sad to realize that’s about all we have left in common with the right these days.
The conservative cheers for Trump won’t be for the enduring wisdom of Judeo-Christian tradition, as anybody understands it, and the mention of any institutions that have been painstakingly established over the generations to resist his worst impulses will surely be met with talk of “deep state” “silent coups” by “enemies of the people” and chants of “Burn it down!” The CPAC crowds have already indulged themselves with the ritual chant of “Lock her up” at the mention of vanquished Democrat foe Hillary Clinton’s name, just like the crowds at the Ukrainian strongman’s rallies arranged by Trump’s former and now-indicted campaign manager, which did result in the losing opponent going to jail, which actually outraged most conservatives way back then.
These days too many self-described conservatives seem to like that strong man style of governance, even as they insist they’re freedom-loving small government types. They still insist they’re against annual deficits and multi-trillion dollar debts, but don’t seem to mind that all of Trump’s budgets lead to a bigger-than-Obama hole. They still insist they’re the party of family values, but they’ll give a Trump a pass on his extramarital flings with porn stars and Playboy centerfolds. They still want to lock Clinton up for mishandling classified information, but they’re perfectly fine with alleged-wives beaters and a suspicious-as-hell son-in-laws and dozens of other uncleared staffers getting daily access to top security intelligence briefings.
At least he’s not Hillary, the CPAC conventioneers will surely say, and we have to admit they’ve got a point. The CPAC convention has always drawn almost every sort of self-described contrastive, but mostly the types who take it far too seriously, so it’s always been a bit of a freak show. When Trump was booed back in ’11 it was because he disparaged far-libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, who had easily won the convention’s primary straw poll over eventual nominee Mitt Romney, and this time around it featured the last French election’s nominee from the National Front, a far-right nationalist party with fascist roots whose campaign also received cyber support from the Russian government, and she was more warmly received than Trump was back in ’11. As bad as that sounds, though, we’re quite sure the next big liberal confab, full of people who also take this stuff far too seriously, will have something just as bad. The CPAC convention’s one saving grace has always been that it united all those factions in their opposition to the worst of all that leftwing craziness, and for now Trump is the only champion to rally around in that righteous cause.
If conservatism is thus defined as rallying around Trump, though, it’s in worse trouble than anybody at CPAC seems to realize.

— Bud Norman

“Bump Stocks” Take a Dive

Every mass shooting incident is inevitably followed by a renewed push for stricter gun control laws, but so far none of them have brought about any significant policy changes. Sunday’s record-setting massacre in Las Vegas, though, seems likely to result in some sort of ban on something called a “bump stock.”
Despite the public’s natural instinct to do something to after a mass shooting, gun control advocates have been unable to come up with anything short of a total ban on private ownership that would have averted or mitigated the tragedy. A total  ban on private gun ownership would require two-thirds of the states ratifying a constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, which isn’t going to happen in any living American’s lifetime, followed by a nationwide confiscation program, and you don’t have to be paranoid about your gun-owning neighbors to foresee how that would wind up with a lot of guns being pried out of a lot of cold, dead fingers, so the proposals have mostly been limited to background checks and waiting periods and limits on the number of bullets in a magazine and bans on certain types of guns, along with other assorted tweaks. Background checks and waiting periods are already law, though, magazines can be so quickly replaced that limits are ineffective, and the deadliest firearms have been banned for decades.
Partly because gun control advocates are proud they know nothing about guns, and gun enthusiasts pride themselves on knowing everything about them, the Second Amendment has largely survived all the debates, even when the Democrats were in charge. The longstanding attempts to re-ban “assault weapons” have faltered when the gun enthusiasts rightly noted that it’s a meaningless term, sometimes used to describe rifles that are no more deadly than your pop’s hunting rifle but have certain scary-and-military looking features, and the gun control advocates seemed not understand the difference between the now-common semi-automatic weapons and the long-banned fully automatic ones.
“Bump stocks” blur that distinction in a deadly way, though, and both sides of the debate seem to understand that. It’s news to us, as well as to many far more enthusiastic gun owners than ourselves, but a “bump stock” is a gizmo that allows one to alter a perfectly legal semi-automatic rifle so that with one pull of the trigger it fires bullets as rapidly one of those long-banned fully automatic rifles. As of now the sale and purchase of these gizmos is legal, and although actually using one is a felony the fellow who killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 others in Las Vegas also decided to break that law. Such a deranged person would have broken any gun law you might have passed with any guns he could have gotten his hands on, of course, but it seems certain that he wouldn’t have killed and wounded quite so many people if a law had deterred someone from selling him those gizmos that he used on his armory of legally-acquired weapons.
The Democratic Party in general and its gun control advocates in particular sense a rare winning issue, and the Republican Party in general and its gun enthusiasts in particular don’t seem eager to fight this battle. The Speaker of the House has signaled his willingness to ban “bump stocks,” and even the National Rifle Association has agreed the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco and Firearms should tweak their interpretations of existing law to stop people from selling the gizmos. In the past they’ve taken a never-give-an-inch stance on any gun control regulation, with a plausible argument that it might wind up with a police state confiscating guns from cold, dead fingers, but the starting point on slippery slope has been a ban on fully automatic weapons ever since they were first banned in the 1930[s after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and were more fully banned during the Reagan years, so they’re not giving much ground this time around.
Those sorts of gun enthusiasts who are preparing for a revolution against the better-armed “deep state” or the Zionist Occupying Government or a mass shooting on some public square will object that their Second Amendment rights are being violated, but we’d like to think that the vast majority of our gun-owning neighbors have no need for a “bump stock.” No one uses them for hunting, our more knowledgable gun-owning friends tell us that home defense is probably best handled with a semi-automatic hand gun with a full magazine, and for now we’re not ready to foment any armed revolution in the country. Let the gun-grabbers win this battle, as far as we’re concerned, and let a reasonably-interpreted Second Amendment win the war.

— Bud Norman

Ahmed’s Clock and Its Ominous Ticking

Those sharp-eyed news aggregators over at the invaluable Instapundit.com web site routinely run stories about public school students victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies, but so far the only one that’s been invited to White House is a 14-year-old from Texas named Ahmed Mohamad. Why he should be singled out for such a honor is unclear, but we have our suspicions.
Ahmed’s case is rather typical, after all, except that he was subject to arrest rather than just the suspensions and expulsions and public shaming that other victims of overzealousness have endured. Apparently the lad, an aspiring engineer, was showing off some sort of Rube Goldberg-esque electronic clock that he had been tinkering with, the clock was encased in a brief case and brimming with wires and looked enough like a bomb to a panicked English teacher that the police were called to the scene. The suspicions of the police were further aroused by Ahmed’s “passive aggressive” answers to their questions and his refusal to “offer any explanation about what it was,” and the student thus wound up in police custody on the class A misdemeanor charge of possession of a fake bomb before his release. One can imagine any number of reasons for Ahmed’s recalcitrance, some exculpatory and some damning, but given the facts as they were eventually established it does seem just another one of those numerous cases of students being victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
It’s hardly the most outrageous case, though. For that title we’d recommend the case of the 7-year-old boy who was suspended from his Baltimore-area elementary school for chewing his toaster pastry into the shape of a gun, or perhaps the fifth-grade student in Milford, Massachusetts, who was kicked out of school because he made his hand into the shape of gun and cocked his thumb and said “bang,” or the high schooler who was arrested for wearing a t-shirt advertising the National Rifle Association. There are similar stories about first-graders being labeled as sexual harassers and subjected to police interrogation because of a pat on a classmate’s buttocks, 6-year-olds being suspended for kissing a girl’s hand, and other outsized responses to what once was considered normal childhood behavior. None of these students declined to explain their behavior, which in any case did not involve anything that could have possibly posed a threat to the safety of their schools, yet none rated an invitation to the White House for their travails.
Which is not all surprising. The current occupant of the White House is unlikely to make any gesture that could be interpreted as chastising the educational establishment’s gun phobias or its aversion to ordinary boyish behavior or its eagerness to censor the Second Amendment. With its Justice Department and Department of Education and the rest of the Democratic Party insisting on a guilty until proved innocent standard for any student accused of sexual impropriety on America’s college campuses, where a supposed “culture of rape” is the result of the left’s 50-year-old sexual revolution, the White House is even less likely to protest a crackdown on butt-patting and hand-kissing on the nation’s elementary school playgrounds. When the victim has a name such as Ahmed Mohamad, however, there’s an irresistible opportunity to blame it on that long-awaited anti-Muslim backlash rather than paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
Ahmed’s name and Muslim faith might well have had something to do with that English teacher’s suspicions, as the student’s father angrily claims, as we can’t claim the White House’s ability to look into the heart of an English teacher in a Texas high school, but at this point we assume that every American public school employee has been properly taught to be exceedingly non-judgmental about Islam and downright paranoid about everything else, and the White House can’t wait around forever for that anti-Muslim backlash to materialize. There is indeed religious intolerance afoot in the land, but better to have a photo-op with some nerdy-looking would-be engineer as a photo op than any of the Jews who are victims of hate crimes at five times the rate of Muslims, or those nuns who are forced to purchase contraceptive coverage to subsidize the sex lives of those colleges girls at the mercy of the “culture of rape” that the sexual revolution wrought, or some protestant bakers who have been fined and forced into re-education camp for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, or certainly some southern Christian white boy wearing an NRA t-shirt.
Better to send the loud and clear message that henceforth any nerdy-looking people with Arabic names and Muslim faith bringing brief cases full of funny-looking and unexplained wires into public building must be presumed innocent, even if paranoia is the appropriate response to nuns and dangerously-chewed toaster pastries and loaded fingers and schoolyard crushes and everything else. We expect that White House security will continue to take a more suspicious approach to their job, based on its recent paranoid reaction to an unattended coffee cup, and we suppose that is a good thing.

— Bud Norman

Another Election Day

Today is Election Day, at long last, and we are glad of it. No matter how the races turn out, we will welcome a respite from the relentless campaigning.
Kansas is usually spared the worst of it, but this year a confluence of unfortunate events have made the state’s gubernatorial and senatorial elections unusually competitive, and as a result the state’s politics have been unusually pervasive. One can turn off the radio and television to avoid the barrage of advertisements, and curtail the evening walks to avoid all the yard signs proclaiming the neighbors’ poor choices, but there’s no escape in the internet, no avoiding the mailbox stuffed with fliers, and the phone has constantly been ringing with robocalls. Our avid interest in politics led us to consider all of it carefully in the beginning, but by now the fliers go to the trash unread and the commercials are ignored and the robocalls are hung up on as soon as they begin. Not that we’re shirking our civic duty to be well informed, as we knew all the arguments and had made our choices the day after the primaries, and although we’ve taken care to be apprised of any new revelations there haven’t been any worth noting.
The polls and the pundits give no indication of what the results will be, which is also unusual for Kansas at this late date in an election. Part of the problem is that the war within the Republican party between the “tea party” and “the establishment” has been especially hard fought here, leaving its candidates bruised and battered. Gov. Sam Brownback’s aggressive tax-cutting and budget-cutting was accomplished with help from like-minded “tea party” types who pulled off a remarkable primary purge during the movement’s high-water year of 2014, and a number of “establishment” types who had grown comfortable with expensive and bloated state government so long as they ran it have bolted from the party. Their support plus the wrath of the teachers’ unions who resented Brownback’s sensible proposal to allow incompetent teachers to be fire and all the liberals who hate Brownback with a red-hot passion that can not be explained in any possible terms have given a good chance of victory to Democratic opponent Paul Davis, a typical liberal from the typically liberal college town of Lawrence who has plenty of money to spend on adds that make his typical tax-and-spend politics sound some sensible and mainstream. Sen. Pat Roberts would be considered a “tea party” type in most jurisdictions, by contemporary Kansas Republican standards his 86 percent rating from the American Conservative Union is considered wimpy and he barely survived a primary challenge by a more rock-ribbed amateur only because of the opponent’s amateurishness and the fact that a couple of no-name votes split a crucial share of the widespread anti-Roberts sentiment. The Democrats still withdrew from the race, however, in order to clear the way for a self-proclaimed independent named Greg Orman whose personal fortune and the donations of some even more well-heeled out-of-state liberals have allowed him to run a very professional campaign positioning the former Democratic candidate and longtime Democratic donor as a non-partisan centrist. Throw in a widespread anti-incumbency mood among that significant bloc of voters too stupid and lazy to consider which party’s incumbents they hate most, and it’s a rare nail-biter in this state.
We remain cautiously optimistic that both Brownback and Roberts will survive close calls, but won’t make any wagers. All the tiresome cliches about how it all comes down to turnout are applicable, and it’s hard to figure who has the edge in this regard. The Democrats are fired up with their red-hot hatred of Brownback, but his ardent supporters in the anti-abortion movement are reliable voters with the extra incentive of Davis’ radically pro-abortion record and the more libertarian among the party will be spooked by the prospect of handing another two years of control of the Senate to Democrats.and we expect that many of the “establishment” types who don’t actually hold jobs in the state government and party establishment are still Republican enough that they won’t vote for what is after all a tax-and-spend platform. All those Democrats itching to vote against Brownback will also vote against Roberts, even if without the enthusiasm of voting for an admitted Democrat, but we expect that Republicans will also wind up voting for Roberts, even without the enthusiasm of voting for a more full-throated and rock-ribbed Republican. Numerous politicians with impeccably conservative credentials have pitched in on the campaign, that vanquished primary opponent has belatedly offered his endorsement, and the non-stop argument that a vote for Orman could keep the Democrats in control of the Senate should limit the number of conservatives sitting this one out.
So it really all comes down to getting out those voters who haven’t been paying attention, and there’s no telling how that will unfold. The National Rifle Association has spent a great deal of money to get the state’s sizable population of gun owners revved up on behalf of both Brownback and Roberts, a ridiculous referendum proposal to raise Wichita’s already sky-high sales taxes will bring out a lot of tightfisted taxpayers in the state’s largest city and will probably add a few votes to the Republican totals, the weather is forecast to be chilly, Roberts has a party organization while Orman will be piggybacking on the Democrats efforts, Kansas State University’s beloved football coach has come out strong for Roberts, and the same anti-Obama sentiment that is said to be brewing a Republican wave has been washing over Kansas for the past six years. Only the most hard-core of the Democrats seem fired up, too, and the all-important hipsters down at the local dive seem not to have noticed all the pervasive politics. It’s enough to make us confident, but quite cautiously so.
We’ll take our biennial stroll to a nearby Lutheran church and cast our votes, then anxiously follow the results here and across the nation. We’re watching the Wisconsin gubernatorial race and the Iowa Senate contest and of course will be keeping track of the Republicans’ numbers in the Senate and House, so it will be a full day of politics. After that we’ll try to take a day off from the stuff, and savor of the sound of the phone not dining with robocalls.

— Bud Norman

Picking a Gun Fight

The president has seemed awfully cocksure since his re-election, but he might have at last overplayed his hand by picking a fight with America’s gun owners.
We could be wrong, of course. At the time we had thought that Obamacare and the $800 billion or so of wasted stimulus money and the flurry of taxes and regulations and the various scandals and all the rest of it would have aroused the country’s ire, but after a mid-term temper tantrum the country decided to go along with the program for so long as the entitlement money kept flowing. With the election in hand, a tax hike for the rich successfully imposed on the dispirited Republicans, the entitlement money still flowing, and the country recently outraged by yet another mass shooting, the White House has some reason to believe it can roll back gun rights by any means necessary without political consequence.
Still, from our perspective here on the plains there seems a strong likelihood of a significant backlash. The tragedy in Connecticut has at least momentarily created a climate favorable to strict gun controls, but the past couple hundred years of constitutional governance have inculcated in the American people a hard-to-break habit of exercising a God-given right to bear arms. A government can gradually whittle away a people’s rights with light bulb regulations and individual insurance mandates and smoking bans in honky-tonks and the like, much like bringing the proverbial frog to a boil, but striking at a right so fundamental as self-defense will not go unnoticed.
We find plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this notion. The National Rifle Association is polling better than Obama and its membership is swelling, gun sales are booming, newspapers crusading against gun rights are losing even more readers, many of the states are continuing to codify gun rights in their laws, and gun rights advocates refuse to be shamed by their supposed betters and are instead even more outspoken. Thus far the Republican party seems to be sticking to its traditional support for the Second Amendment, which should be sufficient to thwart any legislative attempts to restrict gun rights, and there is even reason to hope that the courts will intervene if Obama uses executive orders to circumvent the constitution.
Support for gun rights is widely spread, as well. There seems to be some support for gun control in the densely populated cities back east, where even such stalwart fiscal conservatives as Rudy Guiliani and Chris Christie are susceptible to the anti-gun instinct, but we have long noticed that there is considerable support for guns here in flyover country, where even some of our most infuriatingly liberal friends have closets full of the things. Our long and intimate acquaintanceships with numerous gun owners suggest that any laws which do somehow get passed by congress and upheld by the courts will be widely ignored, and that popular sentiment will celebrate the law-breaking the same way it during Prohibition and the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit and every other era of unpopular laws.
The Obama administration reliably refuses to let a crisis go to waste, to paraphrase the famous words of former chief of staff and longtime gun foe Rahm Emanuel, but in its attempt to take advantage of the raw emotions caused by the Connecticut tragedy it might be underestimating a sense of impending crisis that makes this an especially inopportune time to attack gun rights. Obama’s cocksureness has rendered him incapable of sensing the widespread anxiety that the already weak economy will soon come crashing down under the weight of federal debt and onerous regulation, and that when the entitlement money stops flowing those guns are going to come in very handy.
There’s a feeling afoot, too, that any government so fearful of its people that it seeks to disarm them should in turn be feared. That’s another old American habit that’s hard to break.

— Bud Norman