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Monday, May 13, 2013

Using the Threat of Violence to Shut Down Debate

Man sticks finger in face of senior woman
You didn't have to be Nostradamus to see it coming, but I'll take credit for it anyway. When Mayors Against Illegal Guns announced they'd be holding rallies in eight states Mother's Day weekend, I wrote, "Expect armed goons to show up to at least one of these, because if there’s anything the gun nuts really lack, it’s class and a nose for good PR." Lo and behold, at a rally in Pennsylvania, said goons showed up. As victims of gun violence spoke about how universal background checks might have saved a loved one’s life, pro-gun supporters jeered and yelled remarks Saturday in Morrisville’s Williamson Park.

Steve Kesselman of Holland raised his voice above the crowd to briefly talk about the loss of his 20-year-old son from a deadly shotgun blast after an argument last year. 

“My son is dead! His mother cannot enjoy him anymore because of gun violence! Universal background checks is all we’re looking for. I have nothing against guns!” Kesselman yelled into the microphone.

“Do you believe in unicorns?!” a pro-gun supporter yelled from the crowd.
"Gun owners from groups such as Concerned Gun Owners of Bucks County, the National Rifle Association and a New Jersey group called the NJ2As gathered at Williamson Park before the marchers arrived," according to the report. "Many wore guns and rifles."


“I think it’s ridiculous the way they’ve been acting. I’m so numb to the idiots out there," Kesselman said of the armed counter-protesters.

I don't want to refer to my own writing on the subject too often, but I've been on a bit of a tear lately, so the info I've for previous posts is the info I have closest at hand. So I'm going to go ahead and refer back to a post from last week, where I argued that things like armed protests should be taken as open threats of violence on par with terrorism:

So you’ve got people who hate government and want to kill tyrants. And these are the same people who see tyranny under every rock. Polling shows that nearly half of all Republican voters think armed revolution "might be necessary" in the near future. A reasonable person wouldn’t be out of line to wonder when all this tyrant-fighting was going to start and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think it could be any second now. And when they hear about a terrorist attack with an unknown motive, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if maybe all this tyrant-killing has finally gotten under way.
When people argue that violence, murder, and assassination are legitimate political tools, brandishing firearms is meant to frighten people into silence. It's bullying and, like all bullies, these bullies are cowards. Anyone who shouts in the face of a peaceful grandmother isn't a model of courage. And anyone who heckles a father speaking about death of his son is not a paragon decorum. These people don't want to have a debate. In fact, they're so terrified of the discussion that they'll show up with guns to try to shut it down. These people call themselves "patriots," but they're really just cowardly thugs. Courageous people don't need to hide behind their weapons.

And they're ineffective thugs, at that. They couldn't shut down the rally in Morrisville and they won't stop the growing movement to reduce gun violence, because the issue is way too important. It's not going to get derailed by a bunch of tantrum-throwing toddlers afraid someone's going to take away their binky. That importance was underscored the very next day, with a Mother's Day mass shooting in New Orleans. Nineteen people were injured while attending a parade, when three men opened fire on the crowd. Two of the victims are children.

So wave your guns around and menace old ladies and jeer at grieving fathers all you want, gun nuts. We're not going anywhere. Every time there's a mass shooting or a dead kid, it strengthens our resolve. And if you feel the need to wave your guns around in a crowd of families and children, you're just proving our point. We're pretty convinced you shouldn't be able to do that.

If you want to have a rational discussion about how to deal with gun violence, that's fine. We may not agree on everything and may walk away as divided as we were before, but that's the way it's supposed to work. Democracy's not supposed to be easy or comfortable all the time. But if your idea of "debate" is to stick a gun in someone's face and tell them to shut up, then we don't have a lot to talk about.

You're nothing but a goon and you're part of the problem.


[photo via]

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