Who are gun owners angry at?

I was talking with a friend. When the subject turned to his assault rifle, he got red-faced angry. I asked who he’s so angry at. In the end, he said, it’s the federal government, like I should understand and agree.

In so many words, he said he’s willing to fight the government — with his assault rifle, about his assault rifle. It hit me, this isn’t about his personal safety. That gun is a symbol, a line in the sand that the government shall not cross. Then I thought, war with the government means war with the U.S. military. I wanted to ask how that worked out for al-Qaida, the Taliban and bin Laden, but I just nodded, hoping he would calm down. I did manage, “What about the Second Amendment?” My friend scoffed, “The (expletive) government doesn’t give a (expletive) about our constitutional rights.”

Is my friend heroic or nuts? Even if his anger is irrational and his cause impossible, could his purpose be right, as the Revolutionary War was right?

I know this, war starts with one shot. And once you pull the trigger, you can’t unpull it. Me, I’m going to keep asking the pro-assault-rifle folks who they’re angry at, and why.

Because I want to understand, and I’m almost sure they won’t shoot me for asking. Because I might have to choose sides someday. And because a rational plan could stop a bloodbath, or rekindle democracy. Or better yet, both.

Robert Wright


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