Reasonable people can disagree about gun policy. One might argue that, for a democratic republic to function, we need to be able to have a reasonable disagreement without calling those who disagree with us traitors or “enemies.”
But that kind of reasonable disagreement doesn’t characterize the debate on guns in the United States today. For too many conservatives, the idea that there can be a debate about gun rights is anathema, and they would rather demonize their opponents as tyrants for holding—as the Supreme Court does and always has—the idea that government can impose reasonable limits on our rights to own and possess guns.
And that rhetoric is dangerous. Witness State Senator and candidate Al Olszewski’s response to the Virginia militia cosplay yesterday:
(3/3) Together, we will take the fight to the “Enemy” and defend our unalienable right to keep and bear arms. May God Bless our Patriots. ??
— Dr. Al Olszewski (@alformontana) January 21, 2020
That’s the rhetoric of authoritarians and terrorists, not the language of those who aspire to lead states. Those who disagree with Olszewski are not his enemies; they are fellow members of a democratic society who happen to have a different view than his absolutist take on gun ownership.
Given the violence and resistance to government that has characterized the American West over the past few years, it’s especially dangerous to endorse the idea that governments who enact gun reforms in their legislative bodies are enemies or tyrants.
That kind of rhetoric enflames the Bundys and the Baldwins of the world and dangerously increases the likelihood of armed conflict between law enforcement and the growing anti-government movement.
Al Olszewski is absolutely entitled to hold his ahistorical and absurd views on gun rights, but instead of demonizing his opponents and dangerously ratcheting up the rhetoric in an already fraught moment, he should engage in reasoned debate with both those he agrees and disagrees with.
I’m pretty sure that the Founding Fathers—men of the Enlightenment—believed that kind of reasoned discussion is far more important than letting anyone play militia and bring his weapon of war to a rally.