Why Are There So Few Violent Insurrectionist Gun Owners?

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.”

Let us not forget that there are AT LEAST 60 million gun owners in the United States who possess 400 million or so guns.

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.

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  1. I think you might miss the point of the article. Gun owners as a whole are not the group they are talking about. The thesis is that the driving force in the insurrection movement is groups that are obsessed with 2nd amendment issues to the exclusion of any other political engagement. Their primary (if only) fear is that someone is going to take their toys away, and from there, it would just continue! Gun ownership is so core to their identity and their understanding of rights that any mention of guns in the political sphere triggers an immediate reaction. And from there, with the strong founding myth of the people taking up arms in revolution, it’s not a far step to decide that violence is the only way to keep their guns. Conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric then have a fertile ground.


    • That is a some-all fallacy too. How many gun owners vote single issue? Have any idea? And how many of them were out there making a stink at the capitol?

      My old man has voted single issue for decades. He has yet to shoot or aim his many firearms at anything other than deer, targets, or empty soup cans. I am on the Board of Directors of a gun club with almost 1200 members. Not a one went to DC or even to Santa Fe, although quite a few are worried about the fact that the House, Senate, and White House are now Dem controlled.

      Again, you paint with too broad a brush.

      p.s. A gun is not a toy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Gun ownership is so core to their identity”

      You may wish to reflect upon why gun ownership is core to “their” (and my) identity. You might know a sociologist who could give you some insight about that.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “Why are there so few Muslim martyrs?” Because the Venn diagram on suicidal, mentally unstable jerks who are so weak minded that they can be pushed into blowing themselves up but are still able to keep it together enough to work effectively in a group” is really small. I posted something on Facebook about the Paris mass murders back in 2015


    I’ve got some bad news for you guys. This Paris murder spree? Not all that complicated. The media keeps talking about [Deep stentorian announcer voice] “It was a sophisticated and coordinated attack, displaying extensive training and pre-planning.”

    Bull-puckey. That was about a rifle squad’s worth of joes, about a week’s worth of training, and about $100 worth of tranquilizer pills. A couple guys bomb/shoot up the Metric football stadium where the French President is. Everyone runs there. A couple guys shoot up a cafe. Everyone else runs there. Couple guys shoot up some other random location. Anyone not previously involved, probably three guys who were manning the switchboard, run off there. Then half a dozen guys wander into a theater, toss some grenades, and start shooting unarmed panicked civilians. Biggest problem would be not getting bored with it after a while like the loser in Aurora.

    If we keep pretending to ourselves that this takes “Extensive pre-planning and training,” then we fool ourselves into believing that it can’t happen. The real limiting factor is finding about a dozen psychos who are so mentally whacked that they think that this is a good idea, but are still composed enough that they can work together effectively. The tools and the tactics are easy to pick up. It’s the broken, yet not shattered brains that are in short supply.

    This doesn’t happen that often for two reasons.
    1. There really aren’t that many people who are sick enough to want to murder people like this yet are capable of holding it together enough to work effectively in concert with others.
    2. When people like that try to find others like themselves, they generally find someone who tells someone else, who tells the cops. Because even criminals, crazies, and general a-holes don’t like mass murdering wackadoodles.

    It will happen here eventually. I’m genuinely surprised it hasn’t happened yet. I’m utterly stunned we haven’t had our own Beslan massacre already. Finding a dozen mass murdering psychos with a death wish? Kinda hard. Finding two or three? Probably not so difficult. Preventing them from showing up at any one of about a hundred thousand elementary schools in the US? Impossible.

    It has nothing whatever to do with “Radical Islam is Marginalized.” It has everything to do with “large numbers of mass murdering psychos who can work together are in short supply.” Or to put it another way, normal people will not do that. Even the people who murdered millions of Jews in WWII had very serious mental problems dealing with their mass murder program. I know it’s fashionable to pretend that “anyone, even the nice German next door might be convinced to turn into a concentration camp guard.” But that isn’t true and has never been true. You have to find those few who can do it and use them. Without a concerted effort to sift through the population, usually by a state level actor, you just can’t locate enough partially broken people to do things like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As much as I agree with you that gun ownership is too often painted with a broad brush, I think the political energy from right-wing extremists is too often the driver of 2A rhetoric. While the NRA is certainly not the only voice for the 2A, its the loudest and it consistently has moved to the ideological right-wing of American politics. Despite it being in everyone’s interest to expand the tent of the 2A to new members and politically diverse groups, the NRA and others have consistently turned to culture war rhetoric that stokes the base and the rightest of the right-wing. Arguably this only expands the tend for the right-wing and belies that a more “principled” 2A and self-defense view of gun rights are is a minority position that is unable to be the narrative of what gun culture “is.”

    In a nutshell, if you remove the right-wing pundits from the old NRA TV days is there a “there” there for the gun rights movements? Is there the same energy and support for gun rights when its divided from the most extreme right-wing positions? Can the NRA or 2A groups keep a principled message that doesn’t rely on culture war rhetoric?


    • “Can the NRA or 2A groups keep a principled message that doesn’t rely on culture war rhetoric?”


      The culture war exists whether or not you like it. The old saw “It takes two to tango” is incomplete. It takes two to work cooperatively towards a mutually desired end state. It only takes one to start a fight. Refusing to fight back doesn’t make peace, it’s just assisted suicide.

      There are two sides to this culture war. If you want gun owners to stop fighting the culture war, get the Left to stop attacking us with it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. NRA moved to the Right? Yes, but it was pushed that way by gun control activists gaining control of the Democrat Party. I’ve been an NRA member long enough to remember when half of the organization voted donkey. NRA endorsements were balanced between the parties at that time. As the party embraced gun control, rather than freedom of choice as to firearm ownership, more and more gun rights supporting Democrats were defeated, furthering the drift against freedom, and leading to few Second Amendment supporters among Democrat national office holders able to be endorsed by the NRA. The cycle fed itself. The NRA still endorses state and local Democrats who support gun rights.

    Liked by 2 people

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