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Is Manhood Itself on the Line in the Gun-Regulation Debate?

Contemporary American concepts of manhood relative to the gun-control and gun violence debate.

A dynamic, long-apparent relative to the reasoning and language used in this very decisive debate about gun control and gun-related violence is to be seen in the machismo rhetoric and language coming from the mouths of many of the "stasis" proponents.

Charlton Heston is dead, I think, but his famous grizzled over-the-top challenge to Al Gore, resonates deeply in the chests of many of our citizens:

"So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: 'From my cold, dead hands!'"

Gun legislation is equivalent to many with "taking their freedoms away," and the famous actor's implication is that, if a vice president wants to restrict his use of weapons, he will only succeed after a lethal gun battle. He nearly challenged the VP to a duel. Of course Chuck was President of the NRA at the time, so this was not simply the voice of a befuddled old actor trying to make the most of a soliloquy.

Charleton spoke for a huge political pro-gun power and the applause must have been thunderous. This kind of over the top dramatic grandstanding combined with fear mongering that usually precedes it, as it did in the case of Heston's speech, can happen on EITHER side of this discussion.

Pro-regulation activists can take it too far, implying that every gun owner is a violent reactionary, a Neanderthal that has no place in contemporary society. This insults Neanderthals as well, btw. The fringe of the pro-stasis crowd, own the other hand, neo-nazis, survivalists, preppers and the like, get extreme with their taunts, sweeping in assessments of all who do not goose step to their tune, and their language is blindered to any grasp of the spectrum of thought on this issue.

Today's blog looks at the gun regulation and violence issue from a slightly different angle. In what sense does the gun debate, to use simple words, mirror or mix with contemporary American concepts of what it means to be an adult male? I have been blogging on issues linked to guns, violence, war, peace, non-violence, since I signed on at Patch.com and my experience is that, quite often, the replies and comments run across the street from the issue to a CONTEST of MALENESS.

I should begin by stating very clearly at the outset that I am a man. You can ask my mother or anyone who knows me. I say this, both to reveal my bias but also because in this country (at least) when a man speaks up or takes action for non-violence, for peace, against wars, for better gun-regulation or even, in the current discussions, for trying to LESSEN gun violence, a significant part of the opposition will question his MALENESS ... or maybe more concisely, challenge his MANHOOD.

I found myself in this situation at a young age when, during what turned out to be the waning years of the Vietnam War, I filed for and eventually was awarded CO status, appealing the initial rejection and persisting with my stance that I would not agree to kill people I regarded as my brothers and sisters due to my religious training.

I can assure you that if you don't want to burn Asian peasant when your country says "go" a lot of people will determine you are a coward along with an anti-American, and most certainly that you are not a man. So over the years I have become used to this position and dynamic. Enough about me however! If there is anyone who has the pulse of the greater cross section of people who buy guns in mind, it should be those who advertise the weapons they are considering buying. Politicians certainly are good at telling us what we want to hear, and Heston was functioning in that capacity with his challenge, but the people with the most deeply vested interest in tapping into the gun buyers psyche are the manufacturers.

They hire the best ad people they can access to come up with campaigns that are most likely to hit the hot buttons of would be customers. This matters a lot to them. The results are worth billions give or take. So I thought, why not google up some reputable manufacturers and checkout what they believe will speak to the greater balance of their clientele and will draw in new buyers. Surely they must know what sells the weapons. I started with the "Bushmaster AR 15", by now, a household term for it's most infamous recent application in the slaughter of twenty first grade children. You might expect, to go by the rhetoric of many proponents of stasis regarding laws, that Bushmaster would carefully be scripting their message in rational fashion for intelligent mature law abiding folks, male and female, who merely are interested in the admittedly rare but possible event that they would be accosted and have to defend themselves with a gun. Let's see what language Bushmaster uses.

The Bushmaster ACR, adaptive COMBAT rifle, in it's very name suggests, not defense, but military conflict and war. Never mind the potential double entendre of the company name, "Bushmaster," the category of weapon here is defined in part by the word combat. This is no surprise as Bushmaster supplies weapons to the militaries of more than fifty countries and the design was a military design initially. The second page of the Bushmaster 2011 catalogue is a very fascinating image I wish all of you, those who haven't seen it, would take a look at.

You can download the catalogue here.

TO MY AMAZEMENT, it features a young black man, with some sort of weapon at his side, reading some sort of small book. He is intent on the reading. Is that a Bushmaster at his side? Is Bushmaster, in a once a year catalogue, advertising first and foremost to the young black demographic? What does the copy read? Surely there is clarification. In BOLD FACE TYPE, are the simple cryptic words ... ANY PROBLEM ONE SOLUTION. The young man is wearing a tan or olive drab shirt ... he may be a soldier ... a good guy ... But if that is the intention WHY DON'T THEY SPELL THIS OUT CLEARLY ... put a helmet on the guy, an insignia, battle jacket or a war zone backdrop?

Even in the case that Bushmaster had NO IDEA how potentially outrageous that ad could look, how EASILY it could be mistaken, in that case this message is still clear: any problem may be resolved with this solution: an AR15. I personally think the "problem" suggested or intentionally or at least consciously left as a distinct possibility is that a young black man is reading a manual for the weapon at his side. It's a play to the great archetypal white racist fear of the armed and dangerous young black male.

That, of course, is MY opinion. But that a major arms manufacturer's ad agency would not consider that SOME of their customer base might read this from the ad would frankly be beyond my belief. On page four in red bold face the weapon is described as, "one rifle for an infinite number of extreme scenarios." I don't think hunting, unless you are hunting bear or a dangerous predator, presents the extreme scenarios a combat weapon was designed for, nor are they speaking to hunting scenarios. IMO. ONE of their many AR offerings, by the away, is called a "Bushmaster Hunters Rifle," thrydo make a Varmit rifle,etc. presumably to attract those primarily interested in hunting with this weapon. Bushmaster" A-TACs Predator" rifles are "coated in A-TACs digital camoflauge for superior concealment." Presumably not concealment from coyotes that are being fired upon I think. They would be busy vaporizing.

Bushmaster ORC Carbines (tell me they are not using the completely malevolent bad guys from the hobbit movies as names for their weapons) are touted in red type with the words: "Any optics. Any purpose. Anywhere." p 11 On page 18 we find the Bushmaster ACR Patrol, which according to the red face type, "with it's 161/2 inch cold hammer-forged barrel and AAC blackout flash suppressor is perfect for the law enforcement professional." Are law enforcement professionals the only people allowed to buy this weapon? And who needs blackout flash suppression? A hunter or a sportsman shooting targets? Surely not someone merely defending themselves in a home intrusion. In a room it's going to be pretty obvious where you are once you pull the trigger if not before. Of course, beyond what is, to my mind, a borderline subliinal racist fear mongering ad...the only picture ad with a human in the manual happens to be that of an armed young black male (why not have his white soldier buddy with?), the catalogue is a catalogue and is long on specs.

Advertising camapigns for the company are where they go in your face with the macho bull shit. Consider Bushmasters "Man Card" campaign. A quick click on this link takes you to the essence of their efforts to attract buyers, manly men. If you found the young black male with the weapon equivocal, this man card approach will come across much more clearly. On the backside of the man card the text begins, "The bearer oft oscars has averted humiliation." it goes on, "Today (evidently when you get your Bushmaster Man Card), he is a man." I have to agree with the author of this piece on salon.com. "There are lots of reasons to own guns: Hunting, self-defense, clinging purposes, but also to bolster your deflated sense of masculinity. This is not some glib liberal notion about how men only buy guns to compensate for their inadequacies, this is the explicit aim of an ad campaign from Bushmaster, the maker of the assault rifle that was used to kill 27 people last week in Connecticut." Later, after describing the test one must take to qualify for the card,he notes, "But watch out, manly friends.

Don’t let those emotions show or that glass be full of anything but non-light beer, because your buddies can “revoke” your Man Card at any point. Revokable offenses include being a “crybaby,” a “coward,” a “cupcake” (we have no idea what that means either), having a “short leash” (presumably thanks to a wife or girlfriend), or being just generally “unmanly” (this one has a woman icon)." And this is the angle on the conversation I would like to begin..... What in gods name does manhood have to do with whether or not we pursue strickter or clearer gun regulation in this country?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 04:22 AM
Thanks Craig.
SH00TY January 26, 2013 at 12:31 PM
"I have stated before that AR style firearms are not good home security weapons and are extremely limited as hunting weapons." wow aren't you an arrogant one. Depending on type of rounds used and location of home a .223 can be a suitable defensive round. Why do you think an AR is limited on hunting applications? you can get an AR chambered in .308 which is more than enough to take down the same game as a traditional hunting rifle.
$$andSense January 26, 2013 at 04:43 PM
I agree with you Mike but crazier things have been done before in history like Hitler rounding up Jews and political dissidents Pol Pot style. That wasn’t about firearms but they banned or confiscated them first before the killing began. Placing restrictions on freedoms and getting away with it just emboldens a gov't to continue the trend. I find it hard that the Carlson's and Ruble's are not abhorred and prolifically writing articles about the "Patriot Act" and the huge infractions on their Constitutional rights it represents. Maybe these people want to live in a highly restricted and “safe” society. I got news for them. History repeats itself and in a society like our ours that is economically melting down, they will be wishing they had more than a butter knife to protect themselves and their home when the police are no where to be found because they lost their jobs too. Beware the Irish curse of what you wish for boys.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 05:07 PM
When your worse nightmare occurs and the US turns on it's own in a police state of some sort, what is your projected lifespan? My guess is that whatever you own is well documented and as your firefights gain renown, you will most certainly be met with superior firepower. What about your supply line? Or maybe you will just club the tyrants with your empty weapon. When people of this mentality promote themselves as being rational and suggest that folks like Mr. Ruble and I live in fntasy and hope for utopias, I question your vison(s).
$$andSense January 26, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Ah, yes, Carlson. Like a trout to a fly and a carp to a worm. I get you every time. “Live in fantasy and hope for utopias"? Do you read newspapers, the internet, etc. Ever notice what has happened in Syria, Libya, Egypt and on and on? Repressive gov'ts do not like a pissed off armed citizenry when they fight back and succeed. Roll over and play good dog and no harm will come, right? So you like the Patriot Act that gives the gov't the right to incarcerate you based on an anonymous phone call I make that says you are a terrorist bomb maker? Why not just declare yourself a ward of the state and it will be better. "Comrade Carlson, you only exist because the State has deemed you may be of some value, for now. Your tax dollars are welcome and recognized as tribute to the State . However, should you be accused by a fellow comrade of any seditious act, comment or other activity, you shall be sent to a gulag of the States choice”. So Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago is work of fiction to you too? If you have not already read Orwell’s classic “1984", read it or read it again. In the meantime, celebrate diversity, whatever the hell you believe that means. Dolt.
Randy1949 January 26, 2013 at 07:31 PM
"So you like the Patriot Act that gives the gov't the right to incarcerate you based on an anonymous phone call I make that says you are a terrorist bomb maker?" No, I don't like the Patriot Act very much, but I don't think that trying to hold them off with a semi-automatic rifle is going to help my case much of one of my fellow citizens turns me in.
$$andSense January 26, 2013 at 07:43 PM
So Randy, if I interpret your comment that 1) it is okay for the gov't to kick down my door based on someone' s anonymous accusation and 2) I should not have the right to defend myself with whatever means I legally avail myself to if I am innocent and have no idea who is kicking down the door? If that is the intent of your message, then it is a very dangerous one that places way too much police power in the hands of the state.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Gulag Archipelago was a favorite book of mine. It is because I do read and am not subservient to the stock responses to what I read that I prefer to work towards a world that is not a perpetuation of what we have and have had. It is because I believe you or I can be better tomorrow than we are today that life has any hope at all. If I saw the world as you seem to, I would not want to live, frankly. If the best I could project for my future or that of my children was a fortress home and the basic ethics of any Neanderthal...ie.." I am about me and mine..." i would be certain there was no point to add to the madness. I was protesting what was happening in Syria when Homs was a name barely in the news.... The rebels have not solved anything and have begun to commit atrocities similar in kind although not in scale to the criminal Assad. Theres the rub.... Matching killing with killing, matching atrocity with atrocity, you become exactly like those you oppose. History is littered with liberators who became the next tyrant, with rebels of conscience who began the next empire, and all the more so with the millions of victims generated by their private quests for power.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 08:21 PM
My question remains unanswered because you have no answer. When your cartridges run out, you have a stone age weapon in hand. A poorly crafted club. Even with cartridges, the predator drone glinting in the sky above your neighborhood is out of range. Step outside and you're dead. Get in your car...you're dead. When they decide, whenever they decide...you are dead. This is your dream not mine.
Lyle Ruble January 26, 2013 at 08:49 PM
@$$andSense....Better read your history before you make claims. Hitler did not restrict private gun ownership. Jews were divested of their citizenship first and lost all of their protections under German and Austrian law. Private gun ownership never presented a significant threat to Hitler and the Nazis. The Nazis didn't come to confiscate weapons, but came and confiscated people. It's curious that you bring up the "Patriot Act". This is the most dangerous piece of legislation that this nation has faced and should be repealed. As far as I'm concerned the "Patriot Act" has been the greatest attack on our personal freedoms.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Lyle, as you are aware that crap about Hitler taking everyone's weapons away is a standard myth and talking point of the pro gun right. Confiscating people was the M.O. as it was in Argentina thirty five years ago.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 10:01 PM
The 1938 German Weapons Act http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Weap… The 1938 German Weapons Act, the precursor of the current weapons law, superseded the 1928 law. As under the 1928 law, citizens were required to have a permit to carry a firearm and a separate permit to acquire a firearm. Furthermore, the law restricted ownership of firearms to "...persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a (gun) permit." Under the new law: Gun restriction laws only applied to handguns, not to long guns or ammunition. Writes Prof. Bernard Harcourt of the University of Chicago, "The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition." The groups of people who were exempt from the acquisition permit requirement expanded. Holders of annual hunting permits, government workers, and Nazi party members were no longer subject to gun ownership restrictions. Prior to the 1938 law, only officials of the central government, the states, and employees of the German Reichsbahn Railways were exempted. The age at which persons could own guns was lowered from 20 to 18. The firearms carry permit was valid for three years instead of one year. Jews were forbidden from the manufacturing of firearms and ammunition and on November 11, 1938, Regulations Against Jews' Possession of Weapons were passed,which effectively deprived all Jews of the right to possess firearms or other weapons.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 10:02 PM
(cont) Under both the 1928 and 1938 acts, gun manufacturers and dealers were required to maintain records with information about who purchased guns and the guns' serial numbers. These records were to be delivered to a police authority for inspection at the end of each year.
$$andSense January 26, 2013 at 10:08 PM
First Lyle. Hitler stripping people of their citizenship is the same as taking away your Constitutional rights so I do not get your point. You are splitting hairs here. If the Jews of Germany, Austria, Poland and other Nazi occupied countries held on to their firearms irregardless and put up a fight, they likely would have died anyway but at least done so in a more dignified way rather than being treated like livestock and systematically gassed, hung, shot or brutalized to death. It would have given the Nazi’s pause at least to the veracity of their effort, even if for a short time. I am not a Jew myself, have no issue with Jews, but know full well that if any invader, foreign or domestic, took on the Israeli populace or military, they would be facing one of the meanest and relentless forces despite the fact that they are small in number. Hence, I hold them in high regard. So, at least the Israeli's learned a lesson about staying armed and vigilant. Now Carlson. You on the other hand assume that technology such as drones will defeat an armed citizenry. Since soldiers like police are sworn to uphold the Constitution as it currently stands despite the gutting that legislation like the “Patriot Act” has already hacked out, do you think every one of them are willing to commit treason by violation of their oath and attack the citizenry because of their “orders”? If so, then you are suggesting that we are already in a dictatorship mode.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 10:24 PM
You are fortunate not to have been born in Palestine if you hold the Israeli govt in high regard. Again... Tell me about your supply lines on ammunition or are you going to use pungee sticks? Please don't tell me the Vietnamese peasants defeated the US on their own... As Lyle admonishes... Read history. Please. Who is it you need to ward off if the military is going to cave and join your side in a tyrannical upheaval? Some will defect but look at Syria, look at Argentina during the seventies and eighties... The large balance remain by choice, through ignorance or by pure coercion.
$$andSense January 26, 2013 at 10:25 PM
"The rebels have not solved anything and have begun to commit atrocities similar in kind although not in scale to the criminal Assad. Theres the rub.... Matching killing with killing, matching atrocity with atrocity, you become exactly like those you oppose. History is littered with liberators who became the next tyrant, with rebels of conscience who began the next empire, and all the more so with the millions of victims generated by their private quests for power." Hey Brian, are you referring to the Amercian Revolution and resulting US Constitution that has given you the freedom to post your BS? Hmmmmm.....
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 10:33 PM
With reference to the American Revolution, the rebels resisted Empire, the absolute authority of the British Throne. Their effort has been superseded by the most powerful far reaching empire ever assembled, the one in which you and I reside. And relative to freedoms to say whatever we want, tell this to those who are political prisoners, tell it to Martin Luther King, tell it to those who fall here or are imprisoned or are squeezed out of jobs, let go from academic positions, run out of government. We have relative freedom but do you imagine these blogs aren't scrutinized by some poor sob who has to strain dissent all day?
Randy1949 January 26, 2013 at 10:42 PM
It is not all right for the government to knock down your door based on an anonymous accusation. I'm amazed that everyone was so calm when that travesty passed. As for the legal right to shoot, that's debatable. But it does you no good if you're dead. Ask Kathrynn Johnston. But wait -- you can't. She's dead.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 11:09 PM
But, as it often happens in the blogosphere, we have digressed from the topic a bit. No one that I noticed gave serious credence to the possibility that concepts manhood may be somewhat overlapping the stances on gun-control... For example the sense that someone is going to take your weapons away evoking a fear of castration. Warfare and sexuality have long been cross references.. Sex is spoken of as "conquest," is a simple example. Consider this: "Gever" is the Hebrew for man, pronounced with the main accent on the first syllable, giving it an aggressive swing. The word also means a cock, or rooster. But if heroism is purely masculine in Hebrew, weapons and fighting are even more explicitly so. While the sexual connotations of "gever" derive from the cock of the roost, those of weaponry derive directly from the penis. The Hebrew for penis is "zayin," which is also the word for a weapon. The phrase for Israel's armed forces can thus translate as "an army equipped with penises,'' and the verb meaning "to take up arms" also means "to have sexual intercourse. ' This is an isolated example... I have no idea how many languages parallel this feature... but it is safe to say that in the language of warfare sexual metaphors are profuse. We "put it to" the enemy, "f them up," "stick it to them," etc. The language of domination in sex and war is similar if not the same.
Lyle Ruble January 26, 2013 at 11:43 PM
@$$andSense....Taking away someone's citizenship is a significant step and it isn't splitting hairs. It is a complete disenfranchisement of not only acknowledging your citizenship but it places one into a special category of being less than human. He used the law to discriminate and steal everything of value. Jews in Germany and Austria generally didn't possess firearms and if they did it was for shooting sports. Jews in Poland, the Balkan States, Western Russia weren't allowed to be armed even before the Nazi invasions. Now you are holding a group of disenfranchised people responsible for not putting up a fight when they had absolutely no means to do so. In the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the weapons used were those captured from the Germans. I will say it naive to assume that any group could have resisted the organized slaughter of millions and you need to read history to become better informed. As a Jew, I can say that Israel has been forced into some positions not of their own choosing, but other positions are of their own choosing. In 1967 they should have left the Gaza Strip alone and the insistence on settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been a major mistake. What many people don't understand is that Israelis are experiencing internal conflicts between secular citizens and the extreme nationalists. It was extreme nationalists that assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. I don't share your romantic notions about Israel and understand the complexity of the situation.
Brian Carlson January 26, 2013 at 11:56 PM
Lyle, you do realize that you are suggesting the Jews are not a monolithic block in complete support of all agendas of any Israeli administration? This is a large concept for many non-Jews to grasp friend. It may require thought. To many fundamental Christians, "Jews," are one people, one mind, one chosen block.... There is no distinction between people and government, between factions of political thought in Israel, nor between those who lived thousands of years ago and contemporary Jews. You folks are all in the same file in their brains.
Lyle Ruble January 27, 2013 at 12:03 AM
@Brian Carlson....I couldn't agree more that accident of birth plays a large part in our lives. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong didn't militarily defeat the US, we won pretty much every major battle we were engaged in. However, we were forced to fight the war on their own grounds and of their choosing. They followed the teachings of Sun Tzu and the Art of War. We lost the will to fight a war that was a war of convenience and was meaningless. We should have learned that fighting wars carries consequences and the latest engagements are no different. When Bush labeled our actions as a "War on Terrorism", I had a pretty good idea what was to follow, including the "Patriot Act", which is as anti-American as you can get. I find that people take war and threats of war way to casually. If we had a draft like we did in Vietnam, these wars would be much shorter and less likely.
Lyle Ruble January 27, 2013 at 12:25 AM
@Brian Carlson....You have to be careful how you put meaning to Hebrew words since they contain no vowels. Any Hebrew word can be interpreted many different ways. In any case, what you are illustrating is very true with sexuality closely associated with warfare, each requiring conquest. I have always associated firearms with phallic substitutes as well as Harley Davidson Motorcycles. Both are representations of the male phallus. Freud had much to say about compensation and how manhood is manifested. In our culture, firearms are very much a part of that compensation. I find it interesting that you ask about using a club when all other means are exhausted. It seems to go beyond others comprehension what you are really speaking.
Brian Carlson January 27, 2013 at 01:25 AM
Well said Lyle. The Viet Cong also were supplied. These folks have no suppliers when whatever they dread comes down. An Ak47 probably makes a poor club....in all senses of the word.
Brian Carlson January 27, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Please correct me when I make mistakes. I just ran across that info about language when reading on the language of warfare. Patton is quite explicit when he gets into discourse on what they are there for, what they are going to do, and why they are doing it. All real men love to fight...according to the general.
Neil A Rubble January 27, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Actually. My mood has improved. It's really depressing reading everyone's thoughts on these blogs and realizing: "These are the people in my community, I live amognst idiots." I think everyone should wake up in the morning and take a hard, critical look at themselves in the mirror. And then pound one out in the shower to relax a little bit before they head out into the world.
Lyle Ruble January 27, 2013 at 05:11 PM
@Brian Carlson....What I find disturbing is that people, primarily men, are so obsessed with their guns, that any reasonable restrictions or regulations will result force them into engaging in criminal activities. A fine example is their claims that if they can't buy ammunition, then they are willing to participate in the black market to secure a supply. What does that say about their values system and their perception of reality.
Brian Carlson January 27, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Dollar I really think you shouldn't compare yourself to either a fly or a worm. You are probably reasonably intelligent and I am sure you have many positive qualities.
Brian Carlson January 27, 2013 at 09:31 PM
I think N is about to weigh in with a recommendation on his morning regimen.
Brian Carlson January 27, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Lyle, their chthonic fantasies about dealing with the illicit weapons trade remind me of a Chris Rock joke. He said that to curb violence you don't need to get rid of guns...just charge two thousand dollars per bullet (cartridge)! I don't think they will care for the price.

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