Burning Down the Gun Nut Straw Man

Credit: Amanda Gailey (via Facebook)

Amanda Gailey, English professor and mouthpiece for Nebraskans Against Gun Violence (NAGV), is an amateur trying to be an expert at building straw men and burning them down.  Her post on Salon could have been titled by Josh Earnest: “Wretched, disgusting commie leftists”: My nightmare fighting gun nuts in a red state.  In one sentence, she managed to tie the words “nightmare”, “gun nuts” and “red state” together.  I love it.  By love, I mean it’s an elegant way to prop up the blood libel that midwest Republicans are gun-crazed, hate-spewing, Bible-thumping rednecks.

Nebraskans Against Gun Violence: there’s a group name with which nobody can disagree.  Who is for gun violence?  People who carry guns (legally) generally do so for the very reason that they oppose gun violence, and seek to deter it, or to limit its effect when someone else decides to “go postal”.  Let’s examine the facts of what NAGV is really about.

Nebraska’s population is 1,856,000 as of 2012, and according to a gun control website, 38.6% of Nebraskans own firearms, placing it at number 28 on the list by percentage (#1 is Wyoming at 59.7%).  That puts the number of gun owners in Nebraska at 716,416.  In 2010, there were 32 gun murders in the state, a rate of 1.8 per 100,000.  That puts Nebraska in the 37th percentile for gun murders, with a rate four times less than Louisiana, which is #2, and a whopping 9 times less than Washington D.C., the gun murder capital of America, which also has the strictest handgun controls.

So what is NAGV fighting for?  By their Facebook page, it appears they are fighting against people having firearms at all, because they post a whole lot of tragic stories of children being injured by firearms left out where the kids can get them, or accidentally shot.  It’s very sad to read these, but that’s not a reason to oppose firearms, only a reason to reinforce gun safety training.  The Nebraska Firearms Owners Association does a pretty good job of this through education and safety programs for responsible gun ownership.

NAGV is against open carry in any form, concealed carry, and I guess any carry at all.  Gailey goes on about a Nebraska open carry group planning a lunch at Texas Roadhouse outside Omaha.  She says this is to avoid

Omaha’s supposedly oppressive permitting requirement that people carrying loaded guns in public undergo eight whole hours of training (elsewhere in the state, no training is required for open carry).

She fails to tell us that Nebraska requires all concealed permit holders to undergo extensive firearms training, with detailed requirements set out by law, including classroom training on the law, and live fire exercises.  This training is not the pencil-whipped video variety either.  It must be in person, by a certified instructor, and the certification requirements are also set out in the law.  See Title 272, Nebraska Administrative Code, Chapter 21.  Nebraska appears to have one of the more restrictive and safety-conscious permitting requirements compared to its neighboring states.  So, again, what is NAGV fighting for?

The entire post is focused on one man, Chris Baker, an Omaha radio personality.  She manages to tie Baker to a whole litany of nut job conspiracy theories and incendiary statements. Okay, fine, and so what?  He’s a radio personality.  His job is to say controversial things.  It’s Omaha-frickin’-Nebraska radio.  Who else is there to listen to?  Warren Buffett?

Another thing:  I’m not sure exactly how Nebraskan Gailey is, but her Facebook profile lists her hometown as Enid, Oklahoma.  After that, she spent a few years teaching at UGA in Athens, Georgia.  Georgia’s gun carry laws are the equivalent of Dodge City compared to Nebraska.  There’s no training requirement at all, although Georgia now requires a weapons carry license for open or concealed carry, and Nebraska has no open carry permit requirement.  Maybe that’s what NAGV is fighting for—that all Nebraskans keep their guns concealed and not carry pistols on their hips or AR-15s slung over their shoulders.

The title of Gailey’s post is based on one statement by a radio host who called NAGV “wretched, disgusting commie leftists.”  I bet there’s at least one or more NAGV members who might be proud to call themselves commie leftists.  As for the wretched, disgusting part, well, it’s good for setting up straw men to burn.

I think NAGV is more about liberal values and leftist thought, and painting people in a “red state” as gun nuts versus any reasonable discussion about gun violence.  Framing the “other side”’s views is a time-honored tradition of political activists.  With respect for Ms. Gailey’s wealth of knowledge about digital publishing and the English language, burning down straw men is best left to the professionals.  The professor and her wretched, disgusting commie leftists should stick to waiving signs, chanting slogans and placing flowers in the barrels of guns.

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