Abigail Disney‘s The Armor of Light, which I saw yesterday afternoon at the Middleburg Film Festival, is an attempt to modify the knee-jerk attitudes of pro-gun conservatives by appealing to them on spiritual grounds. It’s not aimed at existential, Michael Moore-supporting, loose-shoe lefties like myself but at rural obstinates. She presents her case by profiling (i.e., following around) pro-life Evangelical minister Rev. Rob Schenck, a nice guy who regards himself as a spiritual leader of gun-toting Tea Party types, and showing how he gradually comes to believe that being pro-gun and pro-life are antithetical. But that’s as far as Schenck or the doc are willing to go.
Disney, the granddaughter of the rightwing Roy (brother of Walt) Disney and therefore possessed of a certain insight into conservative thinking, doesn’t want the word “regulate” or the words “treat guns like cars” to escape anyone’s lips. She just wants to put the teachings of the Bible and particularly the sanctity of life on the table. Here’s her statement.
(l.) Armor of Light director Abigail Disney, (r.) Lucy McBath, mother of shooting victim Jordan Davis, during post-screening q & a at Middleburg Film Festival.
Disney believes that if you say “regulate” or “control” the gunnies will freak out. HE to Disney: They’re going to arch their backs no matter what. The God-fearing, cut-and-dried, John Wayne culture that they grew up with is more or less over and they know it, and they feel threatened. That’s what their guns are about — making them feel a little more potent, a little less scared, a little closer to God.
Every rightie heard in Disney’s doc believes that the left wants to confiscate the right’s firearms. No debate or discussion — that’s what’ll happen if we don’t stop any and all gun-control proposals, they all say.
Schenck never addresses the term “slippery slope,” which every NRA gun nut uses to justify opposition to common-sense regulation of firearms. Allow one regulation to be adopted and that’ll be the thin end of the wedge, they say. Before you know it another regulation will come along and then another, and one day semi-automatic and automatic rifles and shotguns will be banned (like Australia famously did in 1996) and then they’ll come for the handguns, etc.
Schenck is so vague on the subject that you ask yourself, “What exactly does this guy want to see happen? Does he favor stronger regulations or what? Does he believe that the use of firearms should be as carefully regulated as cars and drivers? If so, why doesn’t he grow a pair and say that? And if not, what does he want?”
Disney and Schenck also speak to Lucy McBath, a pro-choice Christian and mother of the late Jordan Davis, who was shot three years ago in Jacksonville by an older white guy in a dispute over loud music. McBath attended the post-screening q & a with Disney.
There’s a strong argument in favor of saying that rightwing gun nuts are as harmful to society as murderers, child molesters and heroin dealers. Because when you cut to the chase they’re basically about allowing unstable people relatively easy access to guns, and this ensures that mass shootings, which seem to have increased since Columbine and particularly over the last decade, will continue unabated.
This will continue to happen because gun nuts, who are overhelmingly white, rural, middle-aged and on the chubby side, are deeply in love with the feeling — the metaphor — of packing heat. This is because whites have been losing the power to make laws and shape the culture of this country, and so they’re clinging to guns, as Salon‘s Amanda Marcotte wrote early this month, as “a totemic shield…a way to symbolically hang onto the cultural dominance they feel slipping from their hands.”
Guns are not about protecting families, as NRA supporters are fond of saying. Or about stopping the perpetrator of the next mass shooting in a movie theatre or school or church. (Has a rightwing gun wacko ever shot a mass murderer or domestic terrorist in the style of Dirty Harry…ever?) Or defending one’s household when government goons try to kick down the door and confiscate weapons.
Rural gun nuts are simply scared shitless of being surrounded by the multicultural hordes, and on some level owning a nice, warm Glock or Smith & Wesson makes them feel better about this. That’s all it is. Don’t kid yourself.