11/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Vote For Guns Is A Vote For "Family Values"

A red herring raised every election cycle: "Democrats will take away our hunting guns."

National Public Radio (9-24-08) recently spoke to Democrat Louis Brandenburg in southwestern Pennsylvania, whose friends are voting for McCain-Palin because of "the hunting issue." "I can't understand what happened to our party....the Republican Party is always the ones who back hunters and sportsmen...all we get from the other one is flack about hunting and guns," protested Mr. Brandenburg.

In fact, Democrats have never challenged the right to own hunting or sports guns. Yet, in classic bait-and-switch fashion, leaders of the National Rifle Association incite the masses by raising the specter of Democratic "gun grabbers" confiscating citizens' "hunting" and "sports" guns - even as NRA leaders promote "sporting" events with automatic weapons and .50-caliber military sniper rifles (deadly at a mile, with a range of over four miles).

Sarah Palin's NRA membership is regarded a prerequisite for elected office; nevertheless, there remains an enormous disconnect between the NRA membership and its leadership - termed by some a "field and stream membership with a soldier-of-fortune-leadership." Thus, NRA leaders endorse annual .50-caliber sniper and automatic weapons "Funshoots" in different states, sponsored by affiliates of Gun Owners of America. Due to the range and destructive capacity of these military-style guns, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners were given notice that their year 2000 "Funshoot" northeast of Denver was a bit too close to Denver International Airport airspace.

Indeed, the manufacturer of the Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle has hailed military weaponry as a 'growth area' of the civilian gun market, and boasted of the weapon's ability to "wreck several million dollars' worth of jet aircraft with one or two dollars' worth of cartridge.."

Since the '80s, the NRA and the gun industry have responded to the saturated hunting and handgun markets by promoting evermore lethal firearms under the pretext of "self-defense," and state concealed gun carry laws. Boasted former NRA lobbyist Tanya Metaksa to the Wall Street Journal in 1996, "The gun industry should send me a basket of fruit - our efforts have created a new market."

Guns have been transformed into an article of faith by Christian idealogues like Pat Robertson, who anticipates an "epic struggle" to restore God's intent of national control to "gun-bearing Christians." Robertson's Christian Coalition voter guides have called a vote against the assault weapons ban a vote for "family values" - because "families hunt together," reasoned a CC member.

Christian militia advocates like Larry Pratt, executive director of Gunowners of America, celebrate the rightward bent of the Supreme Court and its 2008 decision District of Columbia vs. Heller expanding individual gun ownership in D.C. - regarded the precursor to an unregulated right to bear arms. To Pratt, all gun laws are "a national rebellion against the Lord God," in defiance of the biblical imperative for unlimited ownership of weaponry for sport and "spiritual warfare" to reclaim the government for Christians.

In 2000 William Bennett stipulated twin "pro-life, pro-gun" litmus tests of purity for Republican candidates. One of the most cynically calculated, unholy right-wing alliances is the coalition of hard-core gun advocates and anti-abortion ideologues who promote the criminalization of abortion and unfettered, unregulated weapons possession. Speculation on the American Freedom Network "gun-talk" radio out of Johnstown, Colorado held that the Supreme Court's 2000 election intercession for George W. Bush was evidence of divine intervention - an attempt by the Lord to galvanize the populace "against abortion and for Second Amendment gun rights."

Former NRA president Charleton Heston expanded the terms of the culture war in his 1998 address to the Christian Coalition, appealing to his oppressed legions--"God-fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle-class...evangelical Christian....rural...heterosexual...gunowning..." to act in defense of liberty against big government.

Professor Robert Jay Lifton named the right-wing conflation of piety and warfare the U.S. Gunocracy - gun-centered idolatry, a cult of the gun. Right-wing spiritual warriors who elevate the rule of gun above the rule of law consider theirs a mission to "take back America for God."

The stranglehold of the gun lobby on Congress supercedes even national security. Agents of bin Laden were revealed buyers of U.S. .50-caliber military sniper weapons during the trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. Yet, three separate bills to regulate .50-caliber weapons by reclassifying them the same as machine guns under the National Firearms Act have languished in congressional committee since 1999. Consequently, U.S. 18-year-olds have easier legal access to fifty-caliber guns than to handguns. CBS 60 Minutes reported in 2005 that .50-caliber guns and other assault weapons continue to be shipped out of the U.S. as "hunting rifles," often on commercial airlines.

An NRA vice president gloated in 2000 that the gun lobby would "work out of a Bush White House," and the group anticipates continued free access to the oval office with a Sarah Palin vice presidency. Professing Palin's states' rights stance, the gun lobby selectively invokes local/state control unless it impedes their efforts to preempt city bans on guns in public places or to enact federal prohibition of all gun safety measures.

The NRA's shell game nurturing false fears of Democrats seizing hunting guns is classic bait-and-switch, calculated to scare voters, intimidate lawmakers and derail reasonable gun safety laws and national security measures.