The Gun Nut Graf

by Adam Reger

Lest you think I’m about to get all political, this is more a post about rhetoric and the state of the gun debate than it is about the substance of the gun debate.

In journalism there is what’s called the “nut graf,” containing the essence of the story, its reason for being newsworthy.

Recently I’ve noticed, in reading the occasional story about a gun rights rally, a public forum, or just a story about the gun-control debate, that there will often appear what I will (suavely) call the “gun nut graf”: a single paragraph where the person asserting his (and it has so far always been his) Second Amendment rights goes beyond what any reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment would grant, and/or beyond any reasonable interpretation of recent gun-control legislation in this country, to assert something that shows the speaker to be, yes, a gun nut.

To clarify, I’m not talking about someone yelling, “What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ don’t you understand?” I am talking about rhetoric way beyond that. Let’s consider two examples:

Here’s the lead paragraph of a story on a Westmoreland County commissioners meeting:

Westmoreland County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Thursday that supports the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, a move that gun rights supporters said didn’t go far enough.

Got that? The Constitution and Bill of Rights—soft on our Second Amendment rights.

And from this story, about a gun-rights rally in Harrisburg:

“We haven’t stopped fighting,” said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry. “We’re continuing the effort to regain our freedom of areas that they’ve infringed our rights in the past.”

As I said, I don’t want to get political, but this is an example of rhetoric shaping reality. Gun-rights advocates have won. (Here’s Wayne LaPierre bragging about it.) In his first term, Barack Obama’s only gun-related action was to allow gun owners to carry weapons in state parks. No one on the gun control side of the debate is even talking about handguns, much less hunting rifles; gun-control advocates, with half a dozen massacres fresh in the collective memory, have struggled and so far failed to get an anodyne background-check bill, something a reported 90% of the public supports, passed in Congress. We are in this position, as far as the debate terms being what they are, because gun owners have never ceased being convinced that someone wants to take their guns away, that they must continue fighting for rights that others not only would take, but in the past have taken, from them. Your opponent is curled up on the sidewalk, begging for mercy, gun lobby. Stop fighting already.