In the wake of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol Building last week by supporters of President Donald Trump, philosopher Firmin DeBrabander (author of Do Guns Make Us Free? Democracy and the Armed Society) pointed a finger in The Atlantic at the gun rights movement, holding it responsible for promoting “insurrectionist fever dreams.”
The many typical gaffes in the article notwithstanding, my major reservation with DeBrabander’s argument is similar to my reservations about many news stories and scholarly articles about gun culture: It paints with too broad a brush.
While many are focusing this week on the thousands of insurrectionists in D.C. and other statehouses, I am wondering about what the millions of gun owners who we might call “The Missing Insurrectionists.”
I am inspired in this thinking by work in my former area of expertise, religion. In his book The Missing Martyrs, Sociologist Charles Kurzman takes the question of Islamic terrorism and turns it on its head, asking, “Why are there so few Muslim terrorists?” After all, there are 1+ billion Muslims in the world and revolutionary Islamists who seek to convert them to terrorist violence. And yet, Kurzman observes, “As easy as terrorism is to commit, few Muslims turn to violence.”
This could, with slight editing, be re-written to state: “As easy as domestic terrorism is to commit, few gun owners turn to insurrectionist violence.”
To be sure, some are violent or potentially violent insurrectionists, and some of those may have been fed by aspects of the gun rights movement. But these some are proportionately very few.
To rephrase Kurzman’s question, “Why are there so few violent insurrectionist gun owners?” That seems to me a question that also needs to be asked and answered.