Why Are There So Few Violent Insurrectionist Gun Owners?

In the wake of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol Building last week by supporters of President Donald Trump, philosopher Firmin DeBrabander (author of Do Guns Make Us Free? Democracy and the Armed Society) pointed a finger in The Atlantic at the gun rights movement, holding it responsible for promoting “insurrectionist fever dreams.”

The many typical gaffes in the article notwithstanding, my major reservation with DeBrabander’s argument is similar to my reservations about many news stories and scholarly articles about gun culture: It paints with too broad a brush.

While many are focusing this week on the thousands of insurrectionists in D.C. and other statehouses, I am wondering about what the millions of gun owners who we might call “The Missing Insurrectionists.”

I am inspired in this thinking by work in my former area of expertise, religion. In his book The Missing Martyrs, Sociologist Charles Kurzman takes the question of Islamic terrorism and turns it on its head, asking, “Why are there so few Muslim terrorists?” After all, there are 1+ billion Muslims in the world and revolutionary Islamists who seek to convert them to terrorist violence. And yet, Kurzman observes, “As easy as terrorism is to commit, few Muslims turn to violence.”

This could, with slight editing, be re-written to state: “As easy as domestic terrorism is to commit, few gun owners turn to insurrectionist violence.”

Let us not forget that there are AT LEAST 60 million gun owners in the United States who possess 400 million or so guns.

To be sure, some are violent or potentially violent insurrectionists, and some of those may have been fed by aspects of the gun rights movement. But these some are proportionately very few.

To rephrase Kurzman’s question, “Why are there so few violent insurrectionist gun owners?” That seems to me a question that also needs to be asked and answered.

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2 thoughts on “Why Are There So Few Violent Insurrectionist Gun Owners?

  1. The short answer is that most of the gun owners sympathetic to these anti-government causes have not reached the point of violence. Those who are committing violence, even when no shots are fired (antimask protests at state capitals, for example), are acting as a vanguard, building a movement by demonstrating their capacity and the lack of a crackdown on them.

    I’d contend that nearly every person with the group that breached the capital was a gun owner, and that few of them actually brought a gun with them, for various legal and tactical reasons. Those in their movement that have the ability to plan and coordinate actual combat are waiting. Gathering like-minded people and likely planning for more effective acts. Those who know how to revolt are waiting for the crackdown on these vanguard actions to swell their ranks with scared desperate people who have reached the limit where they’ll commit violence. In the manifestos of people who’ve committed terrorism, we see that they’re working to inspire more violence and accelerate gun control to radicalize more people. We know racist criminal organizations have infiltrated police and chosen military service to bring training (and connections and sometimes arms) back to the racist group. We know that people who believe that changing our government by force of arms have been stockpiling weapons for decades. These militias and bigots are ready to form the cadre and leadership of a diverse set of barely affiliated units to enact violence to get their way.

    This is their recruiting drive.

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