In the endless merry-go-round debate over guns, the field of play is littered with outrageous statements, junk science, and rhetorical rants, amply supplied by both sides. Amid the din, nobody hears anything anyone else is saying, so we essentially tread water while going nowhere.
Most of us react to tragedy in a predictable and empathetic manner — we want to fix things right away. We all feel ill when we hear of nightmarish events such as mass shootings.
Anyone with a soul and even a marginally rational realm of thought finds these to be abhorrent.
Then a certain political tribe immediately ascends the soapbox and demands a laundry list of changes in our laws, without recognizing the obvious that the perpetrators of such heinous acts have convincingly displayed for all to see that they have no regard for laws of any kind, no matter how many and how tough.
The faction assembled in the opposite end zone then goes on the defensive, taking the mere discussion as a full frontal assault on anything and everything they stand for, so they dig in for another prolonged confrontation.
Both sides and every shade of opinion on their fringes refuse to budge. Instead of listening, they go into automatic auditory shutdown. They hear nothing but the familiar friendly choir around them. That’s the modus operandi in our “haymakers-only” political arena — we want to knock out anyone who might have a differing take, instead of processing what they say.
Recently, as the tit-for-tat sniping was going on unabated, one individual engaged in the verbal fracas said this:
“Ninety nine point nine percent of the gun owners of America are wonderful people . . . perfectly safe, perfectly harmless, wonderful, loving, giving, generous, caring people.”
Every crime study, government statistic, and personal experience we’ve been through would seem to support that. It is a vital fact that needed to be run up the flag pole.
The guy down the street that hunts deer every fall owns guns, but he’s no danger to anyone. The co-worker who target shoots on the weekends is also no threat. Your uncle out in the country who keeps a pistol handy is a decent man who just wants to protect his family, if forced to do so.
But that 99.9 percent “good people as gun owners” point was another casualty of the climate of this discussion, however, because of who said it. The information was immediately dismissed as the lunatic ramblings of a dangerous radical extremist, because it came from Ted Nugent.
The Motor City Madman, a vintage rocker and staunch defender of the Second Amendment, is not crazy, dangerous, or radical. The Detroit native is just a hunter/philosopher with extremely sharp arrows. His genius is that he’s very well-educated on the subject, and he shoots straight and brings a full quiver to every debate.
Maybe some just don’t like his sartorial leanings — the guy goes basic camo instead of Calvin Klein.
Maybe it’s that Frank Zappa-ish patch of whiskers below his lower lip that unnerves people.
Or maybe they just don’t like the fact that Nugent comes to the microphone well-armed — well-armed with facts, research, knowledge and the history of the issue. He’s said some prickly things at times, but no one has ever had to wonder where he stands on an issue, which is in stark contrast to some politicians who prefer to wear 50 shades of gray when they sniff controversy in the air.
After a CNN host threw the U.S. gun ownership angle at Nugent, insisting that simply having guns eventually equates to them being used on other individuals, Ted stuck to the basic assertion that people commit crimes, and guns don’t.
“It's a simple, inanimate tool that tens of millions of American families own, and they have never caused a problem, never had an accident and will never commit a crime,” Nugent said.
He made the case that further restricting or outlawing guns only guarantees that the thugs and felons hold all the firepower, and he cited Chicago, with its tough gun laws and exploding murder rate, as a pretty convincing example.
It’s Nugent’s contention that we need to focus our law enforcement on “the nut jobs . . . the murderers . . . the bad guys.” He argued that in each of the recent mass shooting cases, many people were aware that the perpetrator had serious mental problems, but no one acted because “we're worried about hurting their feelings.”
Scrawled out on a chalkboard, maybe Nugent’s points have a chance of provoking some thought, and civil discussion. But since it was Ted delivering the verbal salvos, many will refuse to listen. We seem to prefer the philosophical death match we get from this Hatfield-McCoy style political environment.
In a different era, we might listen to all cogent arguments, and come to some kind of consensus that ultimately benefits all of society, while safeguarding our rights.
Collectively, we might recognize that violence is the real issue and mental illness often the trigger mechanism.
Instead, both sides engage in this circular firing squad approach and unleash a fusillade of slogans and labels. When a differing opinion might be offered by a speaker on campus, someone raises a ruckus and gets the person banned. Or a mob shows up and attempts to drown the speaker out. We stifle, we don’t engage in a rational exchange of ideas.
While he had the CNN pulpit, Nugent might have best summed up his position, and one many could likely agree with if they were not so put off by the source, when he stated: “We have a mad man problem in America.”
And for this high-energy, 64-year-old who has served on the board of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, it might be time for a new nickname.
He has these moments when “Motor City Madman” just doesn’t seem to fit anymore.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068