“America’s Greatest Domestic Threats”

Wayne LaPierre's perverted view of the world in two sentences.

H“It’s up to us to speak up against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites, and media elites. These are America’s greatest domestic threats.”–Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association.

I vacillate between wanting to respond to this with snark and wanting to delve into the seriousness of this statement.

One thing is for sure:  this is populism at its worst.  It is us (“the people”) v. them (“the elites”) and it is tinged with the threat of violence.

No comment on the fact the LaPierre himself is the definition of an elite and that NRA itself has a media arm.

I would say that, at a minimum, if one is the head of an organization whose main mission is the expansion of gun ownership (a tool of violence, by definition), it might be nice if one could be a little less vitriolic and alarmist in one’s rhetoric.  As a member of one of the groups identified, and on the margins of another, I don’t appreciate the sentiment.  Beyond that, and despite all the rhetoric from the NRA that gun rights are seriously threatened, the reality is that gun rights have never been more expansive in the US than they are right now. For example, via AL.com:  Alabama Senate passes bill to eliminate pistol permit requirement.

Going beyond any personal connection to Mr. LaPierre’s list, as a scholar (yes, I know) of democracy (yes, I know), I hate to tell him, but free speech and education are far more important in the securing and maintenance of freedom and liberty than are the types of gun rights he spends his energies promoting. I recognize that many Second Amendment absolutists would disagree with that statement and make points about the need for force in overthrowing dictators and whatnot.  While I will readily allow that use of force can be deployed in the pursuit of liberty, the reality is that the mythology of its role is almost always overblown and that guns are actually more likely to be used to further tyranny.  This is just reality.

I will conclude by simply saying that academics and journalists are keys to civilization, especially democratic civilization.  And, like or not, politicians are needed, and are often quite useful (they certainly have been, ironically enough, to the NRA).

Ah well.  I know:  why even bother to try and speak to this nonsense?  After all, what do I know, being a pointy-headed academic and all that?

 

 

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    As someone (can’t remember who) tweeted yesterday: “Yeah, remember when Harvard’s math department killed all those kids at Sandy Hook?”

  2. Pch101 says:

    We should change the national anthem to Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare to be Stupid.”

  3. al-Ameda says:

    “It’s up to us to speak up against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites, and media elites. These are America’s greatest domestic threats.”–Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association.

    If America wasn’t so dumbed down these days, I’d be laughing. I consider the domestic supply of guns, approximately 300,000,000, to be a significant domestic threat.

  4. Ben Wolf says:

    There’s nothing unusual or surprising in LaPierre’s statement. He’s targeting the Democrats’ pfrofessional class constituency with predictably hyperbolic rhetoric, with the goal of inflaming the working classes that Republicans have been courting since 2009.

    It’s not a new antagonism. This sort of thing has been happening in the U.S. at least since the 1830s when labor pushed back against increasing influence of licensed professionals in governance.

  5. CSK says:

    LaPierre is exploiting a time-honored motif in American culture: that of the simple, patriotic, God-fearing, virtuous countryman versus the complex, globalist, atheist, evil city dweller.

  6. @Ben Wolf: @CSK: I recognize it is nothing new, whether from LaPierre or politics over time.

  7. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Indeed not. But it seems to have surged in popularity over the past decade. Sarah Palin gave the rubes a locus, and when she bailed to become a reality show starlet, reality show star Trump came along to give them a voice.

    A loud voice.

  8. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think it’s important to look at the source of the resentment. LaPierre and his ilk are really just a symptom of this dim view of professionalism that I would argue is anger toward the Obama administration from the less-than-well educated.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with expertise; in fact it makes good sense to consult people who devote their lives to a subject when public officials must make a decision related to that subject. FDR’s administration was an excellent example of policy and politics by the most brilliant minds available. But they differed from the modern idea of the expert in many ways. Roosevelt’s closest advisor and the man who ran the WPA was a social worker from the middle of nowhere. He chose a man without a law degree for key legal positions in his government and to prosecute and Nuremburg. He recruited a small-town banker in Utah who not only went on to become the greatest Federal Reserve Chairman in history but independently developed Keynesian economics having never been exposed to the work of Keynes. Roosevelt took brilliance wherever he found it and let his people try experiment after experiment until the found something that worked. This group of experts defeated the great depression, prosecuted war on a previously unimagined scale and established a post-war global order of unparalleled prosperity.

    Today expertise is defined solely by one’s CV. Obama recruited the president of Harvard to head his response to the financial crash, a man widely blamed for his role in creating it. He staffed his administration with people holding degrees from the finest institutions and impeccable credentials, people who only a few months before were insisting there was no fundamental problem with the American economy and eight years later still can’t articulate why the crash happened. I’d argue it’s not expertise or experts that the less-than-well educated are actually angry with, it’s that these particular experts not only pay no price for repeated failures, but are generously rewarded after those failures while the average American bears the burden of those mistakes.

    And LaPierre is trying to pervert that into something dangerous for personal gain.

  9. CSK says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Don’t you find it interesting how non-ideological all this is? The Trumpkins aren’t about conservatism vs. liberalism, or Republican vs. Democrat. Go over to a site such as Lucianne.com and you’ll see that the seething hatred of Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, et al. is surpassed by the hatred for Ryan, McConnell, Graham, Sasse, et al.

  10. Franklin says:

    Who’s more dangerous to democracy, the media or lobbyists? Doesn’t matter, cause the NRA has both.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A billboard I’d like to see:

    “This Mass Shooting Brought to You by the NRA”

    For some reason or other, I’m not sure there is any amount of money that would secure it.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And if you want to see the true greatest domestic threat, look no further than the current occupants of the White House:

    Priebus: White House Has ‘Looked At’ Changing Law To Let Trump Sue Press The article is at TPM. No link as I’d no doubt end up in spam hell again

    They can’t even give lip service to the 1st Amendment.

  13. Eric Florack says:

    @al-Ameda: With thatmany guns..( and I consider that a very low estimate) if it were a danger, you would know… And likely already be in hiding.

  14. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Here you go.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/priebus-white-house-looked-at-changing-laws-trump-sue-press

    ABC News’ Jon Karl questioned Priebus on “This Week” about Trump’s suggestion in March that he might “change libel laws” in order to go after the New York Times.

    “That would require, as I understand it, a constitutional amendment,” Karl said. “Is he really going to pursue that?”

    “I think it’s something that we’ve looked at, and how that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story,” Priebus said.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    @al-Ameda: With thatmany guns..( and I consider that a very low estimate) if it were a danger, you would know… And likely already be in hiding.

    Why would I be in hiding?
    I’m well aware that this country is awash in guns, and the Wayne LaPierre’s of the world want us to fear the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post. Now that’s visionary!

  16. mannning says:

    It has long been contended that home defense weapons save the day when intruders show up, but neither the police nor the media regularly report such events. Thus the claim that over two million such intrusions per year are thwarted by armed homeowners cannot be satisfactorily verified. John Lott used to tout the number three million, based on some sort of analysis, but it could not be validated. It is possible that well over one million such events occur each year, with perhaps a small portion of them threatening to be vicious and murderous, on the order of five percent, or 50,000, really evil events avoided. Were the three million number to be true, that would mean near 150,000 “saves.” In either case, the armed homeowners, of whom there are millions, have a solid rationale for their defensive weapons.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @mannning:

    Well, by the standards you apply, the number could be a billion. Ten billion! A trillion! If you’re going to just invent numbers out of whole cloth, go big!

  18. @mannning:

    Well,

    a) I am sure some intruders are thwarted by homeowners with guns, but

    b) There is zero reason to assume that there is a successful conspiracy to squelch this information. At a minimum I can think of one highly funded entity that could very easily get the word out. Also,

    c) When it comes to squelching systematic research on guns, see again the same three-lettered NGO that I mentioned in point “b”.

    Moreover, while you yourself admit that your number are not verified, you use them anyway, which is not very persuasive.

    Having said all of that, I have never criticized someone for wanted to have a weapon in their home if they feel there is a need. Although I do seriously wonder about the safety it may provide versus the danger to those in house it may present.

    We are well beyond, as I noted in passing in the post, issues of home safety and have moved to the idea that anyone who wants to be armed should be armed without license at any location.

  19. And important “not” was left out and now added in the previous comment.

  20. Pch101 says:

    @mannning:

    Thus the claim that over two million such intrusions per year are thwarted by armed homeowners cannot be satisfactorily verified.

    Of course it can’t be verified. The number is obvious bulls**t.

    That number would suggest that the US would have a crime rate on a par with an anarchic third-world country on steroids, yet we survive it because of guns. Anyone with more than two functioning brain cells (read: not a conservative) has the common sense to know why such an assertion is beyond ridiculous.

  21. Argon says:

    “It’s up to us to speak up against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites, and media elites. These are America’s greatest domestic threats.”–Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association.

    If we’re going to the same hyperbolic territory as Wayne ‘Scaredy Pants’ LaPierre, one should note that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge had the same opinion in Cambodia.

    I suppose it’s time to get LASIK surgery so that I don’t get caught wearing glasses.

  22. Argon says:

    Note also that gun sales have dropped since the election. Wayne is just trying to scare up more business for his group’s primary income source.

  23. SC_Birdflyte says:

    It’s turned into a game: the NRA and its minions come out with some off-the-wall idea and try pushing it through as many state legislatures as they can. Honestly, if the NRA started a campaign to permit private ownership of MOABs, there would be a host of lawmakers all too happy to parrot whatever Wacky Wayne says.

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Eric Florack:

    if it were a danger, you would know

    Three hundred people a day get shot in this country. That seems sufficient to regard it as a danger. Given where I live and who I hang out with, likely less a danger to me than to you.

  25. teve tory says:

    free speech and education are far more important in the securing and maintenance of freedom and liberty than are the types of gun rights he spends his energies promoting. I recognize that many Second Amendment absolutists would disagree with that statement and make points about the need for force in overthrowing dictators and whatnot. While I will readily allow that use of force can be deployed in the pursuit of liberty, the reality is that the mythology of its role is almost always overblown and that guns are actually more likely to be used to further tyranny. This is just reality.

    This is a very solid point. Noble armed patriots repelling the oppressive government is a fantasy certain types are attracted to.

  26. teve tory says:

    @gVOR08: Yeah, for Al Qaeda to kill as many americans as guns do, they’d have to pull off a 9/11 attack once a month, every month, in perpetuity.

  27. gVOR08 says:

    I would have taken “elite” to mean the wealthy and powerful who control the country, the Kochs and Adelsons, the McConnells, Pelosis, and Ryans; the Murdochs, the Sulzbergers, Bezoses, and Murdochs; the heads of major corporations. One of the Republicans best tricks has been redefining “elite” to mean academics and reporters and climate scientists and anyone they can get the rubes to believe looks down on them. It’s absurd to pretend that, say, Michael Mann is an elite and David Koch is not.

  28. bill says:

    @Mikey: well, the unabomber was a harvard dude- and all snarkiness aside there have been more gun deaths in just the chicago area than in the iraq “war”. and chicago is not known for being a “legal gun owner bastion”. so tell us just what the solution is to dealing with gun deaths in highly gun controlled areas? i mean aside from the obvious?

  29. Pch101 says:

    I remain shocked that the border wall and force field that surround Chicago fail to keep the guns out. It’s not as if guns are portable or concealable or anything…

  30. Kari Q says:

    @mannning:

    It is possible that well over one million such events occur each year,

    In 2015, there were 1.2 million violent crimes. There were approximately 8 million non-violent property crimes. We’re supposed to believe that 1 million or more crimes (10 percent of the total number of crimes occurring in the country) are prevented with personal firearms? That is simply not plausible.

    When the numbers for 2012 were studied recently they found a much lower instance:

    The center also dives into the thorny thicket of how often the presence of a gun stops a crime — either violent or against property, such as a burglary — from happening…an analysis of five years’ worth of stats collected by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey puts the number much, much lower — about 67,740 times a year.

    Now personally, gun ownership isn’t an issue that I have strong feelings about. I don’t particularly care if someone wants a gun for protection, or because they enjoy shooting, or just because they think they’re neat things to have. But the ridiculous claims made to support the value of gun ownership are cringe inducing.

  31. Mu says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: Just to point out there’s no law to prohibit you from owning a MOAB, unless it’s classified as a weapon of mass destruction. I can see how you might have trouble storing it in most municipalities, as 10 tons of high explosives are over the limit for most zoning rules, but you can own it. Just like you can own a tank, a machine gun or a flame thrower (the latter one not even being under the NFA registration requirements, no $200 tax stamp required).

  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @mannning:

    Is there a state which denies homeowners the right to keep a gun in their homes for protection? If so, point it out please.

    You’re moving the goalposts. The problem is, and has been for a long time, the nutjobs intent on carrying the things with them everywhere they go.

  33. Mikey says:

    @bill: What exactly was it you were trying to say? I mean, that was a Trump-level word salad.

  34. gVOR08 says:

    @mannning:

    John Lott used to tout the number three million, based on some sort of analysis, but it could not be validated.

    “Could not be validated”, passive voice? IIRC it could not be validated because when Lott was asked to show his data (that elitist peer review thing), the dog had eaten it.

    If you and the NRA are just going to make up numbers, why be pikers? Why two million? Why not ten million? A hundred million? See @Kari Q:. 68,000 << 2,000,000.

    I occasionally look at the NRA's Armed Citizen page. Have you ever read Gun Fail? This list is often a lot funnier than the NRA’s list, albeit unintentionally. When it isn’t tragic. The first item is sadly typical.

    Officials with the Perry County Sheriff’s Office confirmed a 13-year-old was shot and killed while playing with a handgun with another child. The shooting happened on Culps Bend Road in the White Oak Community on Sunday. Authorities said details were limited, but they confirmed the 13-year-old and a 12-year-old went into a bedroom, got a handgun from a family member’s backpack, and were playing with it when the shooting took place.

  35. DrDaveT says:

    @Kari Q:

    In 2015, there were 1.2 million violent crimes. There were approximately 8 million non-violent property crimes. We’re supposed to believe that 1 million or more crimes (10 percent of the total number of crimes occurring in the country) are prevented with personal firearms?

    Perhaps the crimes are being prevented by the same millions of illegal immigrants who voted fraudulently in the last election.

    Snark aside, it is not inherently impossible for deterrence rates to be comparable to crime rates. One could imagine, for example, that for every red light runner at a given intersection there is at least one person who would have run the red light but for the camera system. The problem here is that there is no data, and the NRA fights hard to make sure that there will never be any data. Until then, the burden of proof is on those who claim that guns are doing hidden good, in addition to obvious evil.

  36. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The problem here is that there is no data, and the NRA fights hard to make sure that there will never be any data.

    Telling, isn’t it. Saw an article a week or two ago, a doctor at the National Institutes of Health saying his managers are so cowed by the GOPs in congress they won’t use the word “gun”.

  37. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    There’s no reason to settle for anything less than Graham’s number.

    On the other hand, its about what I expect from an NRA exec.

  38. mannning says:

    @DrDaveT:

    It is most certainly a problem that validated, weapon incident data from the police, and the victims at large, is not made available to the public. It is also reasonable, in my view, that ownership of weapons for self-defense is needed as a function of where one lives. The big cities are rife with violent crimes that are most often localized to certain neighborhoods, time-periods and life styles. If you live in a high crime district, protection is called for, since the police are too many minutes away most of the time.
    It is also obvious that owners of weapons should be trained in their use, know the gun laws, and should demonstrate sufficient proficiency in shooting them on a police or military range under supervision. It is preferable that the training include decision-making, fire or not, under stress as well. I do believe that not all such incidents are reported to the police or the FBI, but that is too hard to prove as well.
    I had rather be safe, armed, trained, and law-abiding, than not, in my dicey location.

  39. DrDaveT says:

    @mannning:

    I had rather be safe, armed, trained, and law-abiding, than not, in my dicey location.

    And I don’t actually disagree with any of that. But none of that has anything to do with made-up numbers about the relative incidence of gun-induced-crime-avoidance versus gun-induced-innocent-casualties. I know where the smart money is.

  40. mannning says:

    One has several options regarding the use of guns to avoid a crime: 1) decide it is not possible to generate validated numbers, so the factor is simply undetermined and not taken into account; 2) Make a full survey of reporting throughout the nation on this subject; 3) Make an educated guess, based on the limited data available. I reject (1) outright; I would love to see (2) executed properly. but it isn’t going to happen. This leaves (3), and we do need some kind of estimate on this since it directly affects the gun control argument.

    Those who want high gun control are happy to ignore this factor, and delight in pointing out that solid data is not available, so go pound sand. Of the reported 10.2 million crimes a year mentioned above, it is certainly true that saving just one life or one rape would be worthwhile, yet I do believe there are far more, on the order of 50,000 to 150,000 that are avoided each year because of the existence of an armed citizen in the way.

    Can I prove it? No. It is a belief, based on the violent crime statistic, and taking a range of from about 5% to 15% more of them being added to the violent crime list, but as thwarted crimes or saves because a citizen with a gun interfered. Even at a paltry 1% rate of the violent crimes over 10,000 saves would occur.

    The high potential here should not be ignored; rather, we should perform the proper data gathering and analysis, (2) above, to understand the real impact of citizen’s guns on crime, before laying on all kinds of regulations not based on a proper tradeoff of misery.

  41. Pch101 says:

    The US has the highest homicide rate in the developed world because it is easier for Americans to murder each other. Guns make killing easy.

    It’s not that complicated.

  42. @mannning:

    delight in pointing out that solid data is not available

    Given that the NRA and its allies actively block research in these areas, it is frustrating to have you assert this. I state that less as a person with an opinion on these topics as a person who values evidence-based argumentation.

    I would note, again, that if there were a huge number of examples, as you suggest, of crimes being thwarted by citizens with guns the NRA would have every incentive to shout this from the rooftops. And yet we get an anecdote here, and and anecdote there. I am not saying it doesn’t happen, but your claims are fantastical.

    Indeed, you do realize that you are essentially saying that you believe it to be true, so therefore it must be true, yes?

  43. Pch101 says:

    Modern American conservatism is built upon a foundation of fiction. Falsehoods are regarded as truth, while truth is ignored. Word salad and ignorance are more valued than data and sound analysis.

    It cannot be taken seriously from an intellectual standpoint — it is an empty but noisy vessel. It is not possible to have a discussion or fruitful debate with someone who is both incapable of processing facts and who is committed to resisting them, so why bother?

  44. mannning says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Nice word twist! That I believe something doesn’t mean it is true, but simply a working hypothesis of mine yet to be verified.

    As of 2014 there were a total of 38,177 gun deaths, of which 21,180 were suicides, which leaves 17,497 gun deaths presumably crime related or accident related: National Safety Council in 2016.
    Of the 68,000 reported vicious and non-vicious crimes prevented at a 9 to 1 ratio, this Implies 6,800 saves, which is far less that the 50,000 I suggested at a minimum. (I must have stated my case incorrectly, or in unclear terms earlier, but I do believe the number to be a lot higher than 6,800 since gun saves are not normally reported. Chalk it up to old age!)

    Leaving aside suicides, then, for a misery tradeoff to be favorable to gun owners, there should be more saves than deaths, and to convince the anti-gun lobby of the tradeoff, a hell of a lot more. But to ignore this factor because of a lack of hard data seems to me to be totally dishonest. It should be pursued diligently, and if the NRA is the block they are stupidly missing a major argument for gun ownership. Or, at a minimum, avoiding the truth.

    I set aside suicides for two reasons: 1) There are enough guns around to make it easy for anyone to find one and kill himself; and, 2) Lacking a gun the dedicated suicider will find other, much messier means to do the job. The railroad track between Amsterdam and Enschede is a notorious suicide rail in Holland, such that many trainmen refuse to ride that route.

    Other commenters on this subject have accused the gun-control people in the media of not reporting “saves”, and police departments for not reporting them, as well as the individuals who do not tell the police of their incidents. For this latter case I have personal experience of a close friend who refused to involve the police after she had scared off an intruder with a sixgun. That it was in Texas may have something to do with it. And yes, it is a one-off case!

  45. Pch101 says:

    The US has the highest homicide rate in the developed world because it is easier for Americans to murder each other. Guns make killing easy.

    It’s not that complicated. Word salad won’t change that.