Thanks to a few guys carrying rifles into Starbucks the topic of dickish gun owners has cropped up. Most of this discussion has revolved around the more zealous advocates of open carry. You know the ones, they sometimes walk into coffee shops with rifles and shotguns slung across their backs. I’m not going to waste more time berating those individuals, I think they’ve been reamed thoroughly already and, frankly, I don’t really care. But since we’re on the topic I thought it would be a good idea to bring up another group of gun owners that come off as dickish in the eyes of the public: the “lines in the sand” guys.
One of my anti-state friends was recently approached by a few individuals who had formed a militia. From the description these people weren’t forming a militia in the sense of community protection. Their primary goal appeared to be fighting a revolutionary war against the federal government should it cross their, probably highly mobile, line in the sand. Assuming these characters aren’t feds (feds love to form faux revolutionary organizations in an attempt to lure peaceful anti-statists into a compromising position), they represent a group that certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the general public.
“Line in the sand” people are quick to point out that this country was founded on a group of revolutionaries who rose up and violently overthrew the British. While that’s true, most people living in the United States today don’t believe things are currently as bad as they were back then. In the eye’s of the general public the only thing wrong with this country is that the right people aren’t in charge. According to them everything wrong would be righted in a day if only the Republicans/Democrats/Libertarians were given complete control. If you’re calling for violent revolution most people think you’re jumping the gun.
I have no problem with gun owners pointing out that one reason for gun ownership is to keep the state at bay. History has demonstrated that governments tend to become a bit more tyrannical when the people it claims lordship over are unarmed. But it still sounds a little crazy to people who see the state’s tanks, aircraft carriers, and drones and have no concept of fourth generation warfare tactics. It’s one thing to discuss the hypothetical situation where the populace would need arms to overthrow a tyrannical government, it’s another thing to say that you are going to personal take up arms to overthrow a tyrannical government if it crosses that precious line you drew in the sand. Doing the latter makes the general public see you as a bloodthirsty monster that is looking for an excuse to cap some feds. It reflects poorly on yourself as well as fellow gun rights advocates who are trying to remove the public’s erroneous belief that gun owners are violent.
Another problem with the “line in the sand” people is that they usually move their line in the sand whenever it’s crossed. When you keep revising the one thing that will cause you to start a violent revolution people stop taking you seriously. And it’s not just your rhetoric people stop taking seriously, people laugh at others who never put their words where their mouth is. By drawing a line in the sand, declaring that you will start a war if that line is crossed, and moving that line back when it’s crossed you are setting yourself up for ridicule. Actions speak louder than words so if you’re not actually planning on going to war when your line in the sand is crossed do yourself a favor, shut up. You make yourself look like a damned fool and, by association, cause the public to take what fellow gun rights activists with a grain of salt. That’s a problem when trying to discuss statistics that demonstrate a negative correlation between gun ownership and violent crime rates.
As always, I’m not saying you can’t be a “line in the sand” person. But every action has consequences. Some consequences are positive and some are negative depending on your position in life. For gun rights activists who are trying to help people see that gun owners aren’t violent psychopaths the consequences of the “line in the sand” attitude is negative.