The other day, I whipped up what I thought was a quite unremarkable little column about the fact that gay rights and gun rights have been expanding at the same time. Most of those who responded took the line I would have expected, that gun owners need all the help they can get, and if you’re gay and like guns, then welcome to the club.
Some took quite the opposite tack, and that I found disturbing.
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (jfpo.org) was a longtime SGN advertiser, and its late president, Aaron Zelman, was one of the most intransigent and creative figures in the gun rights movement.
One day I got a call from a pleasant-sounding man who said, “I see you are taking advertising from the JFPO.” When I confirmed that, he went on. “Don’t you know that all Jews hate guns? Feinstein, Schumer, all of Hollywood: they all hate guns.”
I conceded those he mentioned were clearly on the wrong side, but that JFPO was an organization for Jews who liked guns, and was in fact one of the strongest and most vital voices for gun rights.
The caller said that couldn’t be right: all Jews hated guns and wanted them confiscated. Clearly JFPO was some sort of agent provocateur entity cooked up by the Bilderbergers or maybe the Elders of Zion to lead gun owners astray, and that I should quit taking its ads. He had to hang up unsatisfied with my response.
The pleasant-sounding man’s position was that Jews can’t like guns, and, by extension, gun owners can’t like Jews.
Today I took a call from a somewhat less pleasant-sounding man who said the recent column indicated I am clearly part of a conspiracy to promote the homosexual agenda, and that he was canceling his subscription. Gays, he implied, can’t like guns, and gun owners can’t like gays. Like his predecessor, he had to hang up unsatisfied with my response.
All discord, whether sectarian, racial, class or lifestyle-based, centers on Us and the Other. The Other is assumed not to share any of our values, hopes and dreams. Social contact with the Other is dangerous precisely because we may find that assumption false.
I moved to the Washington, D.C. area in the summer of 1976 to work for the NRA. One Saturday I went to a custom car show. As I strolled the line of gleaming muscle cars, I was surprised to see some middle-aged black men enthusiastically discussing the virtues and demerits of the Mopar 440 Six Pack.
Why was I surprised? I guess I assumed all muscle car lovers were blond white dudes from Southern California, not snap-brim hat-wearing black guys from Anacostia, D.C. They probably favored Marvin Gaye rather than Ronny and the Daytonas, but they were just as enthusiastic about their ’65 GTOs as any suburban gearhead.
I never thought about black people the same way after that day.
It’s very easy to think of all gays as underfed fashion plates foofing around the Castro District, very distant from you and me. But as some of the responses to the previous column indicate, the fat guy at the next shooting bench with the “Peace Through Superior Firepower” T-shirt may have a spouse at home who doesn’t happen to be a woman.
I don’t, and Shotgun News certainly does not, have a position about gay rights. There are some organized gay groups whose devotion to the 1st Amendment I find tenuous. Some of them have positions about the age of consent I find disturbing.
But if you’re gay and like guns, we’re on the same side. If you think gays aren’t allowed to like guns, we’re not.