Yesterday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the proposed ban of some assault-style weapons, Senator Lindsey Graham conjured up the NRA’s most popular nightmare scenario. He asked Attorney General Eric Holder to imagine:
[A] lawless environment where you have a natural disaster or some catastrophic event and those things, unfortunately, do happen. And law and order breaks down because the police can’t travel, there’s no communication. And there are armed gangs roaming around neighborhoods. Can you envision a situation where if your home happens to be in the cross-hairs of this group that a better self-defense weapon may be a semiautomatic AR-15 versus a double-barrel shotgun?
Holder politely pointed out that his example posed a purely a hypothetical situation. To which Graham replied:
Well, I’m afraid that world does exist. I think it existed in New Orleans, to some exist in Long Island, it could exist tomorrow if there’s a cyber attack against the country and the power grid goes down and the dams are released and chemical plants are discharges…
Graham may think it existed, but he’s wrong. No, it didn’t happen on Long Island after Hurricane Sandy. And no, it didn’t happen in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. There was looting of commercial areas during each of those natural disasters, to be sure. Grocery stores and convenience stores were hard hit, as were shops selling electronic goods. Gun shops were also looted, as were stores selling high-end sneakers.
But armed gangs roaming around neighborhoods targeting individual homes? Nope, just didn’t happen.
Could it happen? Sure, anything is possible. IF the power grid goes down and IF the dams burst and IF all the chemical and nuclear plants all go haywire and IF society totally collapses, then after every downtown shop and store has been looted, and after every strip mall has been looted, and after every suburban corner convenience store has been looted, then I suppose armed mobs might start roaming neighborhoods and invading individual homes. But that’s a scenario from a zombie apocalypse, not a logical basis for implementing public policy.
Nevertheless, that’s the argument the NRA keeps making and so it’s the argument offered by Lindsey Graham and other Republicans. Compare Graham’s comments to those of Wayne LaPierre:
After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.
It doesn’t matter that this “hellish world” didn’t exist. The NRA wants you to believe it did in the hope that 1) you’ll buy more guns and 2) you’ll buy still more guns.
It’s all about fear, isn’t it. Fear that somebody somewhere wants what you have, and is willing — even eager — to take it by violence. Fear that a segment of the population is just waiting and hoping for some sort of disaster to strike so they can take your stuff. Research has shown that fear of social disorder is related to fear of dark-skinned people, so basically the fear Graham and the NRA want you to experience is the fear that minorities will come to a white neighborhood and fuck things up.
Here’s a true thing: civil disorder following a sporting event takes place more often than civil disorder after a natural disaster. The photograph above was taken in 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia after the Canucks lost the seventh game of the Stanley Cup to the Bruins. This was in Canada, people. This happened in the most civil and polite nation on the entire fucking planet. Almost a hundred and twenty people were arrested during and after the riot — nearly three times the number of people arrested following Hurricane Sandy.
There are, in my opinion, some valid arguments to be made against the assault-style weapons ban. But self-defense and home protection in the event of civil disorder isn’t one of them.
You want to deter people from breaking into your home? You want to keep your family safe from intruders? Buy a dog with a loud bark. Better yet, go to the local animal shelter and adopt one. A dog will offer more protection and be more reliable than an firearm. And it will love you without reservation. Ain’t no gun will do that.