Not many people around where I live, or where most people live in the US live, still say they need to be able to hunt so that they will have food to eat. Not many say they need guns so they can kill themselves, even though that's what a lot of gun owners do with their guns. Most suicides in the US are committed with guns, and most gun deaths are suicides.
It used to be that only those on the really weird fringes said they needed guns so that they could fight against their own government if it ever became tyrannical. Not a lot of rational people think their handguns or even their assault rifles would make them much of a match if they were up against their local police department or sheriff's office, let alone the entire US government. But remarkably, that was the overwhelming view of about 200 people who showed up at the recent suburban public forum.
The Illinois State Rifle Association had asked their people – who love their guns more than they care about other people's lives – to go to the forum. They showed up and, on a pre-arranged signal, interrupted the moderator's introductions by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. There's nothing wrong with pledging allegiance, but this demonstration was designed to take control of the meeting and display their power. You may have seen something like it in movies like Cabaret and The Sound of Music, which chronicle how Nazis would intimidate patrons of beer halls and other public events by singing, saluting, scowling, taking names, and following up with beatings.
The pro-gunners seemed to think that they were displaying patriotism, and every so often during the forum one of them would accuse people who were promoting reasonable solutions to the problem of gun violence as being un-American.
So it was shocking when one man stood up, wearing what appeared to be military patches on his jacket, announced that he had served in our military, and then went on to say that the reason he needed to be allowed to own assault weapons was so that he could take over the government by force if he decided it was tyrannical. What was more surprising was that the entire roomful of gun lovers stood and erupted in cheers for the idea of armed resistance to the very government that they claimed to love so dearly.
When most people think of modern armed insurrectionists they probably think of kooks living in a cult compound somewhere in the hills out west. But there they were, right in the middle of a prosperous Midwestern suburb, in a meeting that was being held in the public assembly room of the local police station.
The contradiction between claiming to support the government and being eager and ready to overthrow it didn't seem to occur to these people. It made sense to them to cheer a returned soldier just for being a soldier, and in the next breath cheer the idea of killing our own soldiers and federal agents if they were carrying out their duties and their oaths to protect and preserve our country.
One might expect, knowing as we do that various agencies of government in the US routinely spy on people in our country who might be considered threats, that people would be reticent to openly show support for such radical viewpoints. But the gun lovers in the room enthusiastically declared their support for the idea of armed revolution.
At the end of the program a handful of pro-gun folks came up to me, apologized for the rude behavior of the crowd, shook my hand, and said they hoped we could find “common ground.” Maybe we could, if those few represented the majority of gun owners. But they were vastly outnumbered at the meeting, and I'm having trouble thinking of where I might find common ground with people who advocate the violent overthrow of our government and takeover of our country.