As the person at the national Shooting Sports Foundation who runs firearms seminars for the media, I'd like to make a couple of comments about Gary Kamiya's article on Timothy McVeigh and guns.
The first is that, in case you folks at Salon were napping, gun owners -- yes, the dreaded "gun lobby" -- swung the election (according to Bill Clinton and Democratic Party strategists). Your man Al Gore tucked his tail on gun control and ran scared. We won.
Since the election, the Million Mom March has laid off most of its staff, Handgun Control Inc. is trying desperately to recast itself as a "gun safety" organization and the anti-gun lobby didn't even have the juice to tar John Ashcroft with the Second Amendment brush. Since it turns out that the "national clamor for gun control" existed (and exists) only in a couple of cities in the Northeast and the national media (see my article in the upcoming American Journalism Review for a look at the media's obsession with gun control), it sort of puts you guys in a quandary.
So what to do? How about write nebulous articles that cast the gun as some "Lord of the Rings" icon of darkness, sending dark streamers of evil across the American landscape. Pretty soon, you sound like Diane Sawyer, ranting about guns' strange powers to attract children and turn them to the Dark Side. And like the hapless hobbit who holds the One Evil Ring, we "legal gun owners" are somehow being sucked toward this evil by "worshiping" guns.
Honestly, do you realize how incredibly trite that sounds? I own guns -- lots of them. I not only read books by Jeff Cooper but know him personally and have the greatest respect for the man. Yes, he extols the "macho" virtues, but so did Hemingway. So what? I don't particularly trust the government -- I cut my teeth as an investigative reporter, which convinced me that any government at any level not watched every second will, indeed, steal your wallet. I've always found the government conundrum to be interesting -- in Media World, the government is assumed to be either incompetent, untrustworthy or a fomenter of conspiracies, except where firearms are concerned, in which case the government is unconditionally right, incapable of doing anything not in our personal best interest and 100 percent factual, accurate and supremely competent.
Despite all this exposure to evil iron and politically incorrect writings, I still think Timothy McVeigh is a monster, and that execution is probably too good for him. So do my friends, most of whom own guns.
Here's my suggestion: Leave fantasies of creeping evil to Hollywood.
-- Michael Bane
What an appalling article. "And, of course, in a more toned-down, respectable form, most of McVeigh's beliefs are shared by the activist core of the Republican Party." And, of course, the same could be said of the ideas shared by the Unabomber and the activist core of the Democratic Party. And it would be equally inaccurate.
"But while it would be unfair to blame right-wing ideology for McVeigh, it would be myopic not to see the connection between them." And it would be unfair to find a connection between, say, the Weathermen and liberals with whom they share some small core of ideas.
Gary Kamiya's message is simple: Down deep, Republicans are fascists. How is that fair? Would he accept the notion that, down deep, all Democrats are Marxists? All political, philosophical and theological ideas have their extremes. If we follow Kamiya's logic, the pope has roughly the same theology as snake handlers in Appalachia. By a very, very broad definition he does ... and, of course, in significant ways, ways that make all the difference, we know he doesn't.
I'm a registered Democrat, but Kamiya represents a dangerous trend in liberalism: smug, self-righteous piety. We allow writers like him to set the tone of public debate at our peril.
-- Joseph L. Taylor
I applaud Gary Kamiya for trying to make Tim McVeigh more than just an unbalanced sociopath. The fact is, that's all he is -- a sociopath. The most telling words in the whole article are McVeigh's own, his ludicrous "pickup" line in which he wants a girl to drop all pretenses, not cost him a bunch of money, not make him start a real relationship, just go somewhere with him for a quick fuck.
Timothy McVeigh is incapable, as are all sociopaths, of forming any human bonds. Sociopaths will weep uncontrollably over the death of a dog (which they see as "innocent" only because the dog is of no real use to the sociopath) and then coldly kill a child's mother, a man's daughter, a woman's husband, all just to "prove a point" or otherwise use the victim for the sociopath's own indefensible purpose. I'm not surprised at McVeigh's anger at the killing in the Gulf War -- it wasn't his idea, didn't advance his own personal wants and needs, so it repelled him. That doesn't make him complex or hard to dismiss; it just makes him a hugely successful common criminal.
-- Jeff Rice
Kamiya's article is a prime example of a condescending, ideological opinion piece masquerading as a book review. Granted, McVeigh is an extreme character. But to tie together his love of guns with his act of terrorism is a bit of a stretch. Living in a country that has over 100 million gun owners (all potential terrorists?) must make Kamiya very nervous indeed. Using his pretzel logic, one can extrapolate that every person who owns a Bic lighter is a potential arsonist. And since when is a manure-filled truck considered a gun?
If McVeigh simply swallowed the venomous right-wing talk radio propaganda wholeheartedly, as Kamiya suggests, and this is what helped lead him to commit this terrible act, then how does one explain his pro-choice beliefs and atheism? Not exactly mainstream right-wing views. Sounds like left-wing beliefs to me.
One only has to think back to the counterculture revolutionary late 1960s to early 1970s to remember that extreme left-wing ideology can be very dangerous too. I seem to remember lots of acts of terrorism and violent crimes committed against the "tyranny" of Uncle Sam -- frequently utilizing firearms, not to mention bombs, arson, etc. Whom do we blame for their actions? Their parents? Left-wing anti-government talk radio? The military? Guns? Or was that different somehow? Using a fanatical bomber like McVeigh to take a swipe at gun owners is a cheap shot and disingenuous. You own a firearm? You must be a Timothy McVeigh. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
-- David Rupkey
I'm a Democrat who will shortly be changing parties, due in no small part to the kind of mean-spirited smearing of the right done in this article.
Does it really seem fair to you to lump conservatives and libertarians together with a violent loser like McVeigh, just because of some surface similarities in their outlooks? Hitler developed the autobahn. Does that mean that everyone who likes an interstate highway system is a Nazi?
Why don't you apply the same standard to those on the left as you do to the right in this article? The Unabomber had Gore's environmental screed in his personal library, and his anti-capitalist views could have been lifted verbatim from Gore's pseudo-scientific hash of a book. Did I miss your attack on Gore for his ideological soul mate's bombing spree?
In fact, when it comes to a worldview driven by hatred, have you followed the left's track record in the last century? Whether the targets are Republicans or whites or males, or just someone who has 10 bucks more than you do, the left has not been shy about verbal bomb throwing.
Should I hold my breath waiting for you to share the blame for the actions of those with at least superficially similar leftist worldviews, from Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot to Castro? Or can I safely assume that you'll save your bile for those who would like to -- if it's not too much trouble, pretty please -- exercise our rights to own a handgun for personal protection?
-- Martin Simpson
In an ostensible review of "American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing," Gary Kamiya unloads on that old reliable "vast right-wing conspiracy" and impressively ties everyone from gun lovers to gold-standard advocates to Matt Drudge to the Oklahoma City bombing. By the Kamiya standard, there's no such thing as a principled conservative-libertarian, no anti-government attitude that doesn't end in blood. Perhaps when the media termed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich a "bomb thrower," it wasn't just an overheated metaphor. Perhaps the liberal press really does believe conservative-libertarians are just a Ludwig von Mises tract away from stocking up on fertilizer and fuel oil. I know no one who defends Timothy McVeigh's evil act. There is no cult of personality surrounding the man. Yet many on the left have in the past condoned, and continue to condone, if not express outright admiration for, thugs and killers like Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro and the homegrown American terrorist known as the Unabomber. Evidently, Kamiya not only doesn't know any right-wingers but would fear for his personal safety around one. Such paranoia does not bespeak a death grip on reality.
-- Clay Waters