Political Animal


January 16, 2013 10:57 AM Opening Shot

By Ed Kilgore

As you may have already heard, the National Rifle Association is making as its first high-profile contribution to the debate over gun regulations the argument that Barack Obama is an “elitist hypocrite” for accepting armed protection for his kids but not yours:

As Paul Waldman observes, this argument depends rather explicitly on fanning Obama-hatred, not to mention paranoia:

What an elitist, that Barack Obama, thinking he’s somehow above ordinary people, like he has some particularly critical job or something, and he and his family might be unique targets for violence requiring special protection! It’s almost like he thinks he’s the president!
This does actually reveal an important aspect of the NRA’s world view. As far as they’re concerned, all of us should act as though we exist in the same security situation as the president of the United States. You may think you’re just the assistant regional manager of a widget company, but in fact, a terrorist commando strike force could be coming to lay siege to your home at any moment. Which is why you need to be prepared not just with a gun, but with enough weaponry to hold your own in the two-hour firefight that’s just inevitable.

Paul omits, however, the implicit argument: you need all that weaponry to protect your rights—preeminently the right to all that weaponry—from the elitist hypocrite Barack Obama.

As commenter davidp noted after my earlier post on the “right of revolution” that undergirds Second Amendment Absolutism:

The gun rights argument is circular. It goes like this: We need guns so that we can resist the government when it becomes tyrannical. And when does the government become tyrannical? When it comes to take our guns away.

It’s an unassailable argument once you accept the radical premise.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • boatboy_srq on January 16, 2013 11:03 AM:

    You'll also notice that in the ad campaign the NRA suggests that the Secret Service (actually, that any and all law enforcement) is unnecessary if the 2nd Amendment is carried to its logical conclusion, yet they did nothing but applaud the Secret Service for the Shrubbery from 2001-8. Cake and eat it, indeed.

  • Peter C on January 16, 2013 11:04 AM:

    Classy as ever, NRA.

  • aimai on January 16, 2013 11:06 AM:

    Jeezus christ people. Two words suffice to answer this faux revolutionary hysteria:

    Whiskey Rebellion.

    That's right. The founders and the earliest governors of our United States did not have any idea that the arms of the populace entitled them to rule localities without respect to national law/national control. The people were specifically stripped of their rights to self government in defiance of their elected representatives when they were given the right only to "petition" their representatives and not to "instruct" them.

    As for the god damned second amendment if you will show me who regulates these militias then I will show you a second amendment right for a militia member to hold weapons at the pleasure of his regulators/militia leaders. What's that you say? That would be the governor of the state?

  • c u n d gulag on January 16, 2013 11:08 AM:

    Ok, let's define something here - if you feel you want, or need, more than a simple handgun or shotgun to protect your family and property, and more than a rifle or two for hunting or shooting targets for food or "fun," you might, or might not, be a "red-neck," but you do probably have mental health issues.

    And the more guns you have, the more severe your mental health issues may be.

  • Celui on January 16, 2013 11:09 AM:

    This is so uncivil, so racist, and so much the NRA in its self-perceived glory. The 'Selling of Fear'. This will, certainly, amount to no good.

  • james on January 16, 2013 11:12 AM:

    Plus, you know, he's one of those people who don't deserve to be better than us white folks.

  • bigtuna on January 16, 2013 11:14 AM:

    What in God's name do these people think? Politicizing the Secret Service, AND the children of a sitting president, in one swing? This is utterly repulsive at all levels, establishes false equivalencies [does any normal person think that their personal safety is as vulnerable as the president, or other high profile people]; and fans hatred and bigotry.

  • david1234 on January 16, 2013 11:50 AM:

    Guards to protect schools from armed attacks cost money. The logical people to pay for it are those who create the need for guards by insisting on the availability of guns. There should be a tax on guns to pay for all the damage done by guns.

  • shivas on January 16, 2013 11:51 AM:

    The idea that these chuckle heads could hold off the US government is pure fantasy. Think Waco, Ruby Ridge, Saddam Hussein.

    You can have all the firepower you want, the government has more and better: Black Hawk and Apache attack helicopters armed with night vision, cannons, Gatling guns and missiles, armed predator drones, armored fighting vehicles, etc., etc. One daisy cutter would reduce your fortified bunker to rubble.

    Your teabags would lay steeping in a pool of blood.

    You don't stand a chance in Hell. Get over yourselves.

  • Josef K on January 16, 2013 11:52 AM:

    To be fair, there were those unfortunate set-toos in Ruby Ridge and Waco back in the early 1990s.

    And before anyone moans "that was 20+ years ago!", keep in mind the old Confederacy still hasn't gotten over Sherman's March to the Sea and Lee's surrender at Appomattox, both nearly 150 years ago.

    These clods cling to their perceived injustices like ticks to skin. They have to, otherwise they'd have to acknowledge the real world the rest of us have to live in.

  • toowearyforoutrage on January 16, 2013 12:39 PM:

    When the Cheney administration had their ilk convinced that only terrorists would get waterboarded, I saw a use for having the means of revolution so easily obtained.

    Not just conservatives could benefit from the excess of weapons awash in our country. Am I alone thinking that the times of arbitrarily defined "unlawful combatants" was really scucking fary? Or did people agree with me at the time and have forgotten that unitary executives may one day roam the earth seeking "disloyal" citizens?

    refresh your memory if you need to:

    I have faith that such illuminati could not content themselves subjugating only the liberal populace and having well armed hillbillies by my side won't be all bad.

  • lou on January 16, 2013 12:45 PM:

    The bloody crossroad is gonna come when the states determine which of the existing gun holders are mentally defective and forcibly remove guns from their possession. The NRA and the 2nd amendment gun nuts are gonna be very conflicted on this but will, no doubt come down on the side of the crazies because they will charge the state for declaring crazy because of their gun ownership.

  • SecularAnimist on January 16, 2013 12:46 PM:

    Ed Kilgore wrote: "It’s an unassailable argument once you accept the radical premise."

    Yes, that is often the case with the elaborate delusions of paranoid schizophrenics.

  • Bokonon on January 16, 2013 12:56 PM:

    Shivas ... you should see the riproaring fight I got into with some wingnut on Facebook last night. About that exact issue.

    The wingnut claimed that the firepower difference between the US military and citizens bootstrapped the Second Amendment ... and it meant that citizens should own things like tanks, attack helicopters, rocket launchers, and missles too. So that the citizens could be on equal footing to shoot up law enforcement or their own military. In case they had to resist tyrrany!

    The crowning glory was that the wingnut hauled George Washington into this, and he claimed that Washington would have been hunky-dory with armed insurrection, shooting policemen, blowing up troops, and so on.

    I told the guy that after a certain point, this Second Amendment extremism stops being a cute intellectual exercise about the scope of gun rights and it starts exploring the boundaries of treason. Something the Confederate States explored in the 1860's.

    The wingnut responded that I was uninformed about the Constitution and easily manipulated by the liberal media, and that I would deserve it when some jackbooted federal thug invades my home and uses his superior firepower to do bad things to me.

    [Or ... by implication ... maybe some Second Amendment freak like himself could use his superior firepower to shut me up - in the course of resisting tyrranny, of course.]

    Dialogue fails. Just ... fails. You might as well argue with a wall. Or a dinosaur fossil. Or try shouting at a jet engine.

  • lou on January 16, 2013 12:58 PM:

    Right wing militias have risen sharply in numbers since Obama was elected. Gonna be a huge spike now. How long before their next terrorist attack?

  • Josef K on January 16, 2013 1:34 PM:

    From lou at 12:58 PM:

    Right wing militias have risen sharply in numbers since Obama was elected. Gonna be a huge spike now. How long before their next terrorist attack?

    Who the hell knows. I profoundly hope none these fair-weather-patriots are as competent as the unlamented Tim McVeigh was at explosives making.

  • Lance on January 16, 2013 2:07 PM:

    I think you are missing the very good argument to put to the gun lobby.

    Do they want to pay enough in taxes so that EVERY child in America can have the Secret Service protection provided Mali and Sasha?


    Then stop demogouging.

  • Lance on January 16, 2013 2:19 PM:

    Josef K:

    These clods cling to their perceived injustices like ticks to skin. They have to, otherwise they'd have to acknowledge the real world the rest of us have to live in.

    No, they'd have to get off their collective asses and start earning enough money that they aren't tax dollar sinks as they are now.

  • Joe Student on January 16, 2013 2:29 PM:

    Another circular argument is that we must arm all the schools, movie theaters and shopping malls to protect us from the crazy people with guns...followed by

    We must arm ourselves to protect us against the police state we just created.

  • Sixes on January 16, 2013 3:09 PM:

    This pretty much sums up my response.


  • Bokonon on January 16, 2013 3:25 PM:

    Lance ... unfortunately, what the NRA seems to be REALLY saying is

    "Mister President ... if you enact some gun control regulations we don't like, we demand that you also drop your armed Secret Service protection ... and the protection on your family. And then you can live in constant fear of some freedom-loving gun enthusiast using his firearms on you. Or your loved ones. To express their displeasure. Which is insecurity you deserve, since you have stepped on their Second Amendment rights."

    It is a veiled threat. It is just a hop and a skip between this snarky claim of "hypocrisy" and considering what kinds of threats that the Secret Service protects against.

  • Richard W. Crews on January 16, 2013 4:08 PM:

    I think the anti-government 2nd Amendment justifications are nonsense. Antiquated nonsense. Fudgin” Branch Dividian Waconess. See how it ends. There ain't a wacko “patriot” in suburbia that has a wife who will live through the toilet not working, much less all dreams held in 401-Ks and equities when your checking account is closed . You think there's someone to shoot at? Tip the couch over in front of the picture window and … ? March on ??? You and what army?:

    Get real? They will drone your posterior while you're sneaking over to the neighbors for a bucket of water while everything you ever planned on dissolves and the world never even notices.

    You tell me what the Federal Government of the United States Of America has to do that will ever get an organized group of NOT-CRAZY people ( I've been to Tea Party big events) to act in an armed manner.
    Then, after you finally stretch out all logic and history, whatever you put up, I will measure against school massacres.

    I propose that semi-auto pistols be illegal. No ammo magazines over 6 rounds - if you can't take that deer down with 6, give it up.

  • Richard W. Crews on January 16, 2013 4:11 PM:

    I suppose the craziest of the traitors plotting revolution - I mean treason - are afraid of any lists so they won't join the NRA. Nevertheless, after omitting the most crazy, I still bet that 25% of the threats to President Obama are NRA members.

  • joanneinDenver on January 16, 2013 4:53 PM:

    OK. I am really, really, scared. I remember the awful rhetoric from 1968 before the assassinations of King and Kennedy. I remember the talk radio hate speech before the Oklahoma City bombing. There has to be a strategy to begin to combat the hate speech.

    The mocking, the lies, the hate, spewing forth on the radio is dangerous to a democracy when it goes unanswered.

  • Jim Keating on January 16, 2013 6:42 PM:

    Those who think the constitution gives them the right to
    bear arms to protect them against the USA government
    should realize that to over through the American government
    by forces is TREASON not a constitutional guarantee.Where
    do these people come from ?

  • Mitch on January 16, 2013 7:22 PM:

    @Jim Keating,

    "Where do these people come from?"

    They come from a subculture that denies the importance of critical thinking, fact-based analysis and objective reasoning. They are raised to believe that these philosophies are correct and cannot be questioned.

    It reminds me of a conversation that I had with a preacher about the Second Epistle of Peter. Nearly ALL Biblical scholars (regardless of affiliation) deny that Peter wrote the book for dozens of reasons (I won't bore you with the details, Google it if you are curious).

    So I was describing why Peter almost certainly had nothing to do with it, and the preacher could not refute any of my points. Not one. All he could say was, "Well, this is what I believe, so I don't care about any of that 'critical analysis' or fancy thinking. If it's in the Bible, it's true. It's a fact. It is history."

    Then he started praying over me (regularly, in front of the entire congregation) for my "sins", which of course made my parents and grandma freak out on me for a few years.

    ... Or, perhaps a better example is this: Last week, I overheard a coworker remark that, "The Daddy Longlegs is the most venomous spider on Earth, but it's fangs are too small to penetrate human skin."

    I explained to the coworker that is a common urban legend. None of the three types of arthopods commonly called Daddy Longlegs are very venomous, they ARE capable of biting humans, but are totally harmless to humans. Pick on up and eat it, you'll most likely be fine.

    The coworker, frankly, exploded in a rage. He would rather hold onto a wrong notion that he has always believed in (yet in no way affects his life) than to question what he has heard. Indeed, he grew extremely enraged at having his mistake pointed out.

    And, yeah, he's a proud, gun-loving Republican, who likes to pretend that he's a redneck even though he's from Northern California.

    In my experience most conservatives are like that. They believe what they have heard from sources that they trust (for whatever reason). They are not interested in facts or logical consistency.