The NRA Is Waging a Jihad on America

Prolegomena: There are two guns in my house — 12-gauge shotguns. They are in a gun safe; each has a trigger lock; the shotgun shells are stored elsewhere. I hunt, and I fear guns. They are breathtakingly powerful.

Premise 1: When you live in a society with other human beings, you necessarily give up some of your freedoms. This is incumbent upon each individual citizen in order to reap the benefits that society offers. For example, you have the benefit of driving a car, an incredible perk of modern society: it gets you places far more quickly than your feet, adds billions of dollars to our economy because of its efficiency, etc. However, you can’t drive a car anywhere you want; you must stay on the paved roads — indeed, you must stay on one half of the paved roads. If you cannot abide by these rules, you abdicate your right to drive a car.

Premise 2: The Bill of Rights is an anachronistic document, and it therefore must be interpreted for our present situation. It was written at a time in which firearms were not nearly as powerful nor accurate as they are now; today, firearms can do exponentially more human damage than they could in 1789. It was written in order to protect against a monarchy or military dictatorship; under the command of the president, the US military is the most powerful force in the world by an order of magnitude, and could therefore easily put down any populist uprising.

Premise 3: So-called “originalists” read the Constitution and Bill of Rights as a sacred texts, to be read without interpretation. The NRA and SCOTUS Antonin Scalia and others read these texts like fundamentalists read the Bible: naively, without nuance or sophistication. Political opportunists play on this naiveté for money and loyalty.

Premise 4: The single biggest problem in America is the money involved in electoral politics. Last week, when asked by the Odyssey Network about how to cure poverty in our country, I responded as I do about major national problem, including gun violence:

For everyone bemoaning yesterday’s actions by the US Senate, quashing President Obama’s proposed gun law reforms, the root problem is money in politics. The National Rifle Association has bought the loyalty of the most powerful people in our government.

Therefore, let it be resolved that we, the citizens of the United States who decry the actions of the US Senate yesterday, redouble our efforts at reforming campaign finance laws so that our representatives will no longer be the puppets of moneyed lobbying organizations.

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  • Vote out those people you say are being bought.

  • Frank McPherson

    The Bill of Rights was a compromise made with anti-federalists to pass the Constitution and the second ammendment has more to do with southern state miltias need to manage slavery than individual gun ownership. By not considering the context within something is written one misses the meaning of the author.

  • Jonnie

    Thanks for this. It’s hard not to just get angry and fume over horrible politics like this. It really is sad to see how this “NRA logic” IS what gets things done in the government and in American culture more generally. We saw it in response to the Newton shootings. The NRA was already (not even subtly) hedging themselves with the logic of mobilization– only good people with guns can stop bad people with guns, etc. Same mobilizing logic lurks behind so much Christian posturing as well. When the powerful mobilize, call each other to arms, THAT is what gets things done, no matter whether 90 percent of the public wants something or not. It’s bullshit, and when Christians respond (like I know some might to this post) decrying outright political positions taken by public Christian thinkers or leaders, its really disheartening.

  • Neal Rovick

    The new “originalists” are not so “originalist” with respect to the Second Amendment–the first half of the amendment that talks about militias is entirely ignored. The Second Amendment, until recently, was understood to mean that the federal government could not restrict the states from the ability to form and arm a state organized, state financed militia. From previous Supreme Court cases, it was entirely clear that the second amendment did not authorize private arming or the use of guns.

    The idea of guns is control–one more way of enforcing what you desire in a world that does not exist in the form you think it should. It’ll kill the person trying to mug you, but it may also kill the child you love in an accident or suicide. It’ll drive off the person breaking into your house, but may be used against your spouse in a moment of rage. It is used by the deranged to redress grievances and to provide safety for the innocent from the deranged. It’s for the end times, because everything will be alright when you have a gun.

    It’s a slippery thing–control. You can’t have enough control, ever.

    And if you don’t have enough, be sure to blame God for that.

  • Amen, yes, get money out of politics. I think most people on both sides of most controversial issues can lay down their arguments for awhile and agree on that one point. Here is a great organization trying to do just that:

  • Sven

    Perhaps the strangest angle people take is the claim that the “militia” exists to (potentially) overthrow the government when they decide the government is evil or something. There is nothing to support that suggestion whatsoever. In fact, Article 1, Section 8, specifically says the militia is to be called upon by Congress to help uphold the law, to put down insurrections, and to repel foreign invasion. Somehow the nutters keep missing this point.

    The concept of a militia is badly out-of-date anyway. In the 1780s, countries such as the US didn’t have a permanent standing army. You only raise the army when you go to war. The purpose of a militia is for short-notice civil defense while the army gets raised and organized. Now that the US has a permanent Army (and 4 other military branches), the notion of a militia is really quite silly.

  • Craig

    “…the root problem is money in politics. The National Rifle Association has bought the loyalty of the most powerful people in our government.”

    I despise the NRA, but if it were mostly about money then Michael Bloomberg should be able, singlehandedly, to mostly neutralize the NRA’s efforts. I suspect that a lot of Americans resist gun control because they don’t like everything that comes with over-reliance on police power. Even liberal could also get behind some of these sentiments. I think.

  • Kenton

    “the US military is the most powerful force in the world by an order of magnitude, and could therefore easily put down any populist uprising.”

    Well, almost any…

    • I should have written “domestic populist uprising.”

      • Kenton

        You know, Tony, I’m slow (and somewhat loathe) to disagree with you here, but Vietnam is not the only example I could have offered up. The American Revolution (“Colonial Rebellion”) was in essence a domestic populist uprising in which the colonists weren’t given a chance. Crazy Horse didn’t stand a chance against Custer. Sure, for those few examples, there are thousands of “what the hell were they thinking?” kinds of revolts, but our country was founded on the words “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of [the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” That was in mind when the 2nd amendment was ratified.

        • Lanny

          Exactly “we the people” are the government and we have the God given right to remove it if turns on us as the bible has said “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” We the people through the lord god have given Jobs to other people to run OUR country and if they turn on us they are out of Gods will and should be corrected! Yet i have seen time and time again that scripture being twisted to make it appear like this government is somehow higher than us when WE are the ones that make or break who is allowed to represent us. So the point is not a futile fight against a military that would be in the wrong if they attacked us but to stand up for what is right and remove the wrong.

    • Sven

      I hasten to point out that the Chinese-armed Viet Cong were hardly a “populist uprising”.

  • Matt

    Absolutely nailed it. Everybody listen to Lawrence Lessig on this. Read “Republic, Lost” etc. Campaign finance reform is a must.

  • Aaron

    I am so glad that you brought up the fact that the Bill of Rights is anachronistic. Every argument that I have read simply states “the 2nd amendment says…” without taking into consideration that it was written over 200 years ago for a completely different America.

    • Kenton

      Come to think of it, maybe the first amendment is anachronistic too, perhaps?

      When the first amendment was ratified, there were no electronic forms of communication and distribution. It was, as you phrase it, “a completely different America.” So while we’re explicitly granted freedoms for “speech” and “press”, we’re not granted them for “bitstream.” Maybe while we’re throwing out parts of the bill of rights, we should throw it all out, yes?

      • Yes, the first amendment needs to eb interpreted as well. For instance, you can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, and you can’t post kiddie porn online.

        No one — NO ONE — is suggesting that we “throw out” parts of the BoR. Just that we properly interpret them.

        • Kenton

          Agreed. We should properly interpret them. In truth, if the bill was just background checks for gun shows, I think it should have passed. But I’m not going to vote out Cruz or Cornyn for it. I’m also not going to call them “cowards” as Rep. Giffords refers to them.

          And thank you for clarifying that you’re not suggesting we throw out parts of the BofR. I’m willing to give your other commenters the benefit of the doubt on that one, but to respond to the idea that “NO ONE” suggesting we throw out the BofR, I’d offer up Piers Morgan. He’s unambiguous that we should repeal the 2nd amendment.

  • I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I’m not convinced that campaign reform would do the trick. Money is powerful and some select pockets are very deep. If the money were taken out of politics, I’m not so sure that the “big money” wouldn’t find some insidious ways to silence the politicians who don’t vote “their way.” And I’m not really convinced that semi-automatic weapons with large magazines wouldn’t play a significant part in that silencing…

    • IN other words, “we’ll never win the fight against evil, so it’s best not to try.”

  • Kenton


    Let me throw one other thought out here, even though my a-hole quotient has been going up on this thread: Brian McLaren talked in one of his books about the dangers of reading the bible as a constitution. I love his thoughts and think he is right on that the bible should not be read as a constitution. The problem I have is that Brian sometimes says (and you say in this post) that the U.S. Constitution should not be read as a constitution.* That’s usually when the political conservative in me wants to pull my hair out.

    *Exaggeration to make a point.

  • Dan

    All I know is if one of the Boston bombers was running through my neighborhood and I was locked in my basement wondering where he was, I’d want to have a gun. The sickening absurdity of using “jihad” to refer to the NRA while apparent terrorists run through the streets tossing bombs at police after blowing 8 year old children to bits has been made vivid in the last 24 hours. You, Tony, are making even less sense than ever

  • Beorn

    So passage of the Senate bill would have stopped Adam Lanza, James Holmes, or Jared Loughner how?

  • Ricky

    Premis number 1 should say, I was born into a world where there is government on every inch of the globe, I therefore submit to the will of one of them. There is no such thing as an inherent right, or dignity of a human being. I will submit to whatever restriction/regualtion the government in charge at the time I am born wants.

  • Patrick S.

    Interesting post. I only have major problems with the thinking behind Premise 2. And Premise 3. Oh, and Premise 4. In my opinion, you have forsaken a rational view that encompasses a wide array of arguments and viewpoints for an emotional one.

    You are factually wrong about the 2nd Amendment – the Founders wanted us to have guns to prevent tyranny by OUR government, which controls the armed forces. Premise 3 and 4 are opinions that I disagree with. Originalists look to the text of the Constitution – and the mores and understanding that surrounded its creation – to best understand its meaning.

    As for money in politics, my own opinion is that we have far greater problems: the obvious failure of Keynesian economics (yet again) and the coming disaster that is ObamaCare to name two.

  • Christopher Miles

    Readers of this blog would be best served by Mr. Jones sticking to his area of expertise (theology), and resisting the temptation to weigh in on Constitutional law.

    • “You’re not an expert, so you’re not right.” Ad hominem much?

  • Christopher

    Readers of this blog would be best served by Mr. Jones sticking to his area of expertise (theology), and resisting the temptation to weigh in on Constitutional law.

    And actually you can yell fire in a crowded theater. The opinion from which that language is taken was overturned by Brandenburg.