The March for Life has come and gone, but the gun culture is still here -- and today I'm reading mainstream media stories written in "red state whisperer" mode, as reporters travel to pro-gun parts of America to tell us how gun lovers feel.
The Washington Post has a feature story about 28-year-old Fabian Rodriguez of San Antonio, who's seen going to a local gun show to buy his first AR-15. Rodriguez's feelings are the centerpiece of the story.
Rodriguez has long been a gun enthusiast. He learned how to shoot when he was in elementary school, and he purchased his first gun at 18.
He also loves the military. Growing up, Rodriguez viewed people serving in the armed forces as superheroes. They were the ultimate good guys in the fight against evil. They were the ones risking their lives abroad to protect American freedoms.
Rodriguez never joined — he’s not much of an athlete, and at the end of the day, it sounded kind of scary....
He explains that he likes the way he feels in control of his body when he’s at the shooting range: “It steadies you. It’s calming. Being out there, it’s one of the very few places, I can say, that you can go and see improvement almost immediately.”
But his mother wants to know why he wants to carry a handgun around, why he needs it. She worries about the implications of the view her son shares with the NRA: that good guys with guns are necessary to stop the bad guys with guns.
“ ‘What about those people who go to try to stop [an attack] and get killed?’ ” Rodriguez says his mom asked him again last night....
But even if Rodriguez did end up in that position — even if he did die, he told her — “Can you think of a more honorable way to do it than trying to save people’s lives?”
The NRA has been trying to change the image of gun owners with a demographically more diverse group of spokespeople -- a woman, a black man -- but here's the Post with a photo of this AR-15 aficionado as a soulful young dancer.
They should be high-fiving at NRA headquarters. This is a very sympathetic portrayal.
But it's not as good as AP's story about school shooting teams, which is almost pure gun propaganda:
DAHLONEGA, Ga. (AP) — Their classmates took to the streets to protest gun violence and to implore adults to restrict guns, seeming to forecast a generational shift in attitudes toward the Second Amendment. But at high school and college gun ranges around the country, these teens and young adults gather to practice shooting and talk about the positive influence firearms have had on their lives.
What do they say they learn? Patience. Discipline. Responsibility.
“I’ve never gone out onto a range and not learned something new,” said Lydia Odlin, a 21-year-old member of the Georgia Southern University rifle team.
There are an estimated 5,000 teams at high schools and universities around the country, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and their popularity hasn’t waned despite criticism after it emerged that the gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school had been a member of the JROTC rifle team. The youths who are involved, coaches and parents say there’s an enormous difference between someone bent on violence and school gun clubs that focus on safety and teach skills that make navigating life’s hardships easier.
One instructor says, "I’m not teaching kids to shoot. I’m teaching kids life skills." One student says, "You can’t become a quality shooter without becoming a quality person off the range too." Another praises the sport as good for the mind.
It’s a unique sport that doesn’t attract typical jocks, he said. Rather than brawn, it’s a very brainy sport, and he’s proud that most of his team is made up of straight-A students.
We're told that some competitors will make it to the Olympics. But here's what's missing from the story: In the Olympics, the best shooters are often from countries such as Germany and Italy -- places where competitive shooters thrive without a culture of widespread gun ownership. This sport may be good for kids. It may teach them discipline and patience. But they could learn it without there being a dozen guns in every home, as is the case in much of red America. If these make it to the Olympics, the top competitors will have managed to do that.
The vast majority of gun lovers aren't monsters. But these stories suggest that if you make even minor adjustments to the national gun culture, you'll be doing horrible damage to very good people. It's one thing to go up against the NRA and Laura Ingraham. But this kind of reporting is also a threat to the new gun control movement. It's less in-your-face, but it's more insidious.
Originally published at No More Mr. Nice Blog