Boulder Weekly Readers Reply to 'Lock and Load'

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Boulder Weekly Readers Reply to 'Lock and Load'

by Ari Armstrong, June 19, 2003

The June 12-18 Boulder Weekly printed seven letters in reply to Pamela White's May 29 column, Lock and load. The introductory note says the article "resulted in a deluge of letters from around the nation, far more than the paper can publish."

Most of the letters were positive, which reflects the responses I've heard personally about the article. Geoff Hannam of Thornton writes, "I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for the honesty you exercised in writing about the NRA class that you completed." Erik Moll of Seattle points out Gandhi's quote about civilian disarmament and adds, "I was impressed by your willingness to consider a viewpoint other than your own and by your commitment to honesty."

Tom Aaron of Boulder writes, "While we are diametrically opposed on most issues, and probably will remain so, your article on the NRA training course was outstanding. I would just like to say that you have earned a great deal of respect in my eyes. What you did was very brave and open-minded. That is a great example for everyone, regardless of where we stand politically." Ronald Schweikert believes that White "provided a very fair, insightful view into what I hope are the majority of gun owners."

Bette Erickson, a Broomfield City Councwilwoman, notes White portrayed "her experience poignantly. Many of us went down to the State Capitol this past session to testify against Senate Bills 24 and 25 regarding concealed weapons. Many of us wrote to our legislators appealing to them to vote against the measures. Ms. White's story helped me to see the other side of the issue in a way that I hadn't previously given any thought. Like Ms. White, I've not changed my mind considering the issue, but because of her account, I have a better understanding of the people who do choose to carry weapons." And Tom Dyer writes, "I am truly amazed that the author wrote such a thoughtful and well-balanced article on gun ownership and the use of deadly force... This article is a credit to the Boulder Weekly."

One printed letter was quite negative, and a response is warranted. E. Krakauer writes:

Pamela, I always thought that you were a sister who got it. I know it's hard to hang tough when you're surrounded by the patriarchy (albeit the "new" patriarchy, with its newly scrubbed face), but if you can't handle the social pressure, then admit it and take a friend with you for support, or don't go, or take some assertiveness courses or something. You went to a gun training program and got snowed. So what if they all act and talk responsibly? That's just the figleaf. If they really were responsible, then they'd join us to try to take guns out of the hands of the irresponsible. But instead, they defend to the death the "right to bear arms" of those who do not follow those lofty ideals that they claim to have. And I put the phrase in quotes because they continuously lie about the intent of the Bill of Rights. These folks don't even want reasonable background checks!

It's just like their cheesy film that's supposed to prevent kids from handling guns, but probably only serves to entice them to experiment with forbidden fruit, causing death and sadness. And the relationship to the Bush Administration and the right wing? I'm sure they're ready to defend us from the liberals, but the right-wing is OK. And by "liberals," I mean guys like Bill Clinton. That's how right-wing they are.

Sad-this was a chance for you to explore the psyche of those people, but you were too busy folding. No wonder they suggested you come out; they had a bead on your strength of character, and your journalistic integrity flew out the window like a cheap bullet from a Saturday Night Special. What else is there to say?

"Explore the psyche of those people." Hm. I can think of some other instances in history in which members of a targeted group had their "psyches explored."

Krakauer posits a leftist conspiracy theory every bit as ridiculous as those sometimes found on the right. Krakauer claims "they" (meaning me) asked White to attend the class because I "had a bead on your [White's] strength of character." The responsibility preached and demonstrated by the instructors is, according to Krakauer, "just a figleaf." It's interesting that Krakauer believes she (may we assume Krakauer is female?) can psychoanalyze people she's never even met. The reality of the matter, of course, is that I invited White to attend the class because I respect her writing and I thought she'd learn a lot by taking the class. The reality of the matter is that the instructors are good people who treated White kindly because they are kind. But this explanation does not suffice for Krakauer, who instead must demonize gun owners. I find it interesting that some members of the left preach inclusiveness and tolerance while at the same time fomenting bigotry against unfavored groups.

Krakauer claims White can't handle social pressure, needs assertiveness training, folded, has little strength of character, and compromised her journalistic integrity. Having actually met White, I can say confidently that none of Krakauer's claims is true. Krakauer apparently cannot conceive of somebody honestly disagreeing with her. Those who disagree are simply labeled "bad." But demonization is not a short-cut to thinking.

And what's this about "patriarchy?" In fact, a number of instructors at the Grand Valley Training Club are women. Most participants of the class Pamela took were women. The scholarly supporters of the right to bear arms include women. Apparently, for Krakauer, the term "patriarchy" is roughly synonymous with, "Ideas I don't like." In reality, gun ownership discourages male dominance by empowering women.

Contrary to Krakauer's claims, every single gun owner I've ever met wants only responsible persons to keep and bear arms, not those who would misuse them. The point of the training class, after all, is to encourage responsible gun ownership. Krakauer claims "they continuously lie about the intent of the Bill of Rights." I'm not sure why she believes she's an expert on the matter, but her evaluation contradicts the careful historical analysis conducted by a wide number of scholars. Do other scholars disagree? Of course -- mainly the ones who focus on the last few decades of court decisions.

Krakauer continues, "These folks don't even want reasonable background checks!" Of course, when something is by definition "reasonable," it is, by definition, unreasonable to oppose it. But background registration checks are not inherently reasonable -- to decide the matter requires a policy debate. Besides, Krakauer is simply incorrect when she implies the NRA opposes background registration checks. The NRA is known in some circles as "America's largest gun-control organization" because of its "compromise" Brady registration proposal.

Krakauer implies the NRA's "Eddie Eagle" video is counterproductive, but I've seen no evidence of that. Besides, even if the video is shown to be ineffective, that has no bearing on the effectiveness of the training class White took.

And "right-wing?" Of course, I am not a member of the right wing. I am not a conservative. I did not vote for George Bush. I regard civil arms as one of the most fundamentally "liberal" goals there is. But stereotypes are obviously easier for Krakauer to handle than the truth.

Finally, Krakauer is apparently unaware that the phrase, "Saturday Night Special," is racist in origin. I realize people on both sides of the debate tend to use this phrase, but they should stop. An acceptable alternative is, "small, inexpensive handgun." Of course, small guns are often ideal for small people to carry for defensive purposes, and inexpensive guns are often the only alternative for poor people. But Krakauer writes as if throwing around an emotionalized, racist phrase can substitute for a reasoned policy discussion.

Related Links

A Look at White's Older Writings, by Bruce Tiemann

Replies to Pam White's Gun-Class Article, by Ari Armstrong

Pamela White Takes the Gun Challenge, Ari Armstrong

The Pamela White Gun Challenge, by Ari Armstrong

Lock and load, by Pamela White

The night I would have killed, by Pamela White

The Colorado Freedom