By Drew Magary, GQ
I have three children. We have a TV set in the house, and the kids watch TV a lot. They're even watching it as I type this. Now, I know damn well these kids shouldn't be watching TV. There's NOTHING they can watch on TV that would be as good for them as reading a book, or running around outside inventing games to play, or doing a craft project with popsicle sticks and a ball of yarn. In an ideal situation, we wouldn't have a television at all.
But we do have a TV, and the reason we have a TV isn't because the kids want a TV but because I want a TV. I like watching TV too much to do the right thing and banish TV from our house forever. In fact, I kinda want to buy a second TV, so that the kids can fuck off downstairs to watch their own lame shows while I watch awesome shit like Breaking Bad. And half the time, I justify this choice to myself by arguing that A) People who don't have TV are tight-asses, and B) Maybe TV is good! That disclaimer before Max & Ruby says it teaches kids about social and ecological development! That sounds good, right? Besides, I'm not some crazy person who lets their kid watch TV eight hours a day. That would kill them.
Of course, those are cheap excuses. The bottom line is that I'm unwilling to do what's right for the greater good because I take far too much pleasure in indulging myself. And that is pretty much the same explanation for why no one is doing much about guns in America.
If you've ever fired a gun, you know that it's fun. And if you've never fired a gun, well, then I suggest you get your ass to the local shooting range, because you're missing out. I went to a bachelor party once and we went to a gun club and threw down $100 each (while shitfaced) to fire four different machine guns and a Desert Eagle, which is the biggest, clumsiest handgun in the universe. The Desert Eagle is so dangerous that the instructor has to warn you to lift it as you're firing so that the recoil doesn't send the butt of the gun back into your skull. You don't even need to be shot by the thing to be killed by it. Regardless, when my friend took that gun in his hands and fired it, causing all of us to say, in unison, HOLY FUCK!, we weren't exactly voicing our disapproval of this nation's handgun culture. It was a blast, and I'd happily do it again if offered because this is America and you can do such things. If it all suddenly went away tomorrow due to new gun laws, I don't think I'd bat an eyelash. But since it's all still perfectly legal, I'm happy to indulge.
I suspect that most gun lovers in this country are using the Second Amendment and their supposed fear of an encroaching government as a cheap front. I think it's a more effective way of staving off gun control laws than by expressing their true feelings, and I think their true feelings are this: I enjoy shooting shit too much to let you get rid of guns.
So if someone wants to find a way to make gun control a viable political issue in the wake of this summer's horrific mass shootings, I suggest changing the tenor of the conversation. Demonizing guns and gun owners has already proven to be a failed strategy. Calling a gun enthusiast a crazy person only causes them to fight back with twice the vigor, and the reason most gun advocates fight so vehemently against the idea of being painted as crazy or dangerous is because, in many cases, it isn't true. "I'm a law abiding gun owner. How DARE you call me irresponsible? FUCK YOU, ENEMY OF FREEDOM." The very phrase "gun control" already puts you in a hole, because you're expressing your desire to control other people, many of whom feel they've done no wrong. In most instances, these people are otherwise normal, decent folks who are unwilling to kick their gun habit for the greater good. Like me, they just happen to be selfish assholes. You can't demonize people for being too human.
And you can't make gun owners the target if you want to change the conversation. You can't even make guns the target. The desired end result of any gun control advocate is less gun violence. In other words, less crime. That's what you're really fighting against. Saying you're against guns actually distracts people from that message, and in fact invites many people to resist. The argument needs to be... Oh, are you not in favor of restricted handgun sales to the mentally ill? Congratulations, YOU ARE SOFT ON CRIME. You are a selfish asshole perpetuating a me-first culture that allows dangerous street thugs to roam free.
That's the messaging you need to adopt. We already learned from our own Reid Cherlin that the NRA intimidates lawmakers into inaction by grading all of them (Oh no! GRADES!) according to gun-friendliness. There's no reason that gun control advocates couldn't also adopt such bullying tactics. There's no reason that gun control advocates couldn't bestow, I dunno, a fucking blue star to all Congressmen who are taking steps to reduce crime and a frowny face to all Congressmen who support mass murderers. Gun advocates have successfully been able to make this a debate about FREEDOM, something that's impossible to argue against. Those of you looking to counter them need to find an equally unassailable position, and "Fuck this! We need to banish guns forever!" isn't it. Arguing against crime, against the culture of selfishness that would allow shootings in a house of worship? Now that'll get you somewhere.
Just don't take my TV away. I don't wanna miss Louie this week.
Drew Magary is a GQ correspondent and a staff writer for Deadspin. Follow him (@drewmagary) on Twitter here.