(L.A. Times/David Horsey )
In the days following the Aurora theater massacre, gun sales in Colorado shot through the roof. But all the arms and ammo moving across gun shop counters are not being purchased in anticipation of another anonymous misfit springing out of nowhere with guns blazing. Instead, people are stocking their home armories to get ahead of new gun control laws that might restrict access to firearms.
It seems not to make any difference to these people that there is zero chance that any new restrictions will be imposed, or that none are being seriously pondered by anyone who could make it happen, or that any law that might conceivably get through the solid bulwark of the gun lobby would not do anything significant to inhibit the right to keep and bear arms.
Nevertheless, Colorado guns sales spiked 43 pecent. From the time of the Friday shooting to the end of the following weekend, 2,887 people were approved to buy firearms through state background checks. This gun rush was not happening in Colorado alone. From Connecticut to Washington state, gun sellers were as busy as elves at Christmas. And everywhere, buyers were giving the same reason for their shopping spree: fear of gun control.
This bizarre disconnect from reality defies rational thought. Passage of new laws sharply curtailing gun ownership is less likely than lightning striking Paris Hilton as she gets out of a Chrysler minivan wearing long underwear.
Congress has not passed meaningful gun legislation in more than 10 years. Not only has the Obama administration not pushed for new gun restrictions, the president has actually loosened prohibitions by allowing guns in national parks. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has defined gun rights in the broadest way, dispensing with the argument that the Second Amendment applies to state militias, not individuals.
Gun rights advocates have won their long battle, but they refuse to claim victory. Instead, pro-firearms groups like the National Rifle Association continue to spread fear and paranoia through propaganda campaigns that sell the lie that Barack Obama and some shady cabal of liberals are secretly planning to take away everyone's guns as soon as the 2012 election is over.
Gone are the days when Charlton Heston jutted out his cinematic jaw and spoke fervently, as well as rationally, for the rights of gun owners. Heston has been succeeded by a bunch of extremists like current NRA boss Wayne LaPierre. It is entirely possible that Mr. LaPierre and his compatriots are such deluded fanatics that they believe the tall tales they spin for gun owners. After all, the capacity of human beings to believe even the craziest conspiracy theories seems to have no bounds. But it is also possible that Mr. LaPierre and company are simply cynical.
They know the gushing stream of cash that pays their salaries and keeps their lobbyists dining at the finest restaurants inside the Beltway would slow to a trickle if gun owners were not constantly being scared to death. If those who cherish their guns understood how confident they should feel that their Second Amendment rights will not be abridged, they would stop writing checks to the NRA and save their money for more ammunition.
The NRA needs a big, bad, confiscatory bogeyman to drive fundraising and, since there is not a real one to confront, they simply make one up.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.