• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • December 4, 2015 in Columnists

    So I married an NRA member

    I know, I know. You just shit yourself.

    But I really did. I married one. And he’s not the evil, homicidal, gun-strapped monster you now believe him to be. In fact, he’s a quiet, thoughtful, intelligent, warm, kind person. Quiet — unless you get him on the topic of the NRA, the Second Amendment and gun ownership, and he’ll roar like the Leo that he is.

    I knew Joe’s position on these things, and married him anyway. Because I love him, I had to try and understand how it’s possible that he could hold opinions completely counter to my own.  I had a choice: try to understand or run away like my hair was on fire; dedicate patient thought to the situation or react with mindless hysteria. I’ve spent half an hour deciding which toothbrush to buy. I figured Joe was more valuable than a toothbrush. So, I did a novel thing. I decided to truly listen, even though initially, every word stung like rock salt flung into an open wound.

    It’s not easy to shut your mouth and listen, digest it all, and ever-so-slowly pry your fingers from beliefs you’ve clung to your whole life. But an amazing thing happened. When I stopped formulating rebuttals in my head and instead actually listened, I realized that he had some valid points. No, I don’t agree with all of them. But I understand them. And I don’t stamp “EVIL” on his forehead just because of them. Why yes, we do disagree on some things, and I love him with all my heart. But I’ve also changed my mind about a few things too.

    Oh, the things that can happen if you just shut up and listen.

    Joe is a native Pennsylvanian, you see. Native Pennsylvanians are not the same animal as native Californians. Pound for pound, more Pennsylvanians are multi-generational hunters, and they’ve been steeped in that whole “Original 13 Colonies, Revolutionary War” vibe. Revolutionary War symbolism in Pennsylvania is as commonplace as palm trees and sunshine and organically grown GMO-free fair trade pet kibble in California. The first time I visited Joe’s house, I was stunned to see Minuteman wallpaper in his bathroom, with light fixtures that looked like Paul Revere could have held them on his nighttime gallop to announce that the British were coming. That’s some weird, wacky stuff to a Californian. But not to a Pennsylvanian.

    Growing up in an area where the Constitution is held sacred raises the level of importance you place upon it. Yes, it’s a Big Fucking Deal there. If you’re also a gun owner and an NRA member, the Second Amendment is the Holiest of the Holies. Consider that many “13 Colonies” folks are descendants of people who died to break free of governmental oppression and establish a new country based upon guarantees of personal freedom. That’s the heart of the Second Amendment: Personal freedom. Not the desire to murder schoolchildren.

    Enter the NRA, which seeks almost exclusively to protect that Second Amendment. In my opinion (Joe disagrees vehemently), the hyper-vigilance of that goal borders on the paranoid. Yes, NRA members really do fear losing their gun rights. But they don’t think every lunatic should have all the guns he wants, as many liberals profess. The NRA is all about following laws, in particular, the Second Amendment. Those who shoot up schools and theaters are not. I searched and searched, and was unable to find an instance where an NRA member committed a mass shooting.

    If you talk to an NRA member (you really can, they won’t bite your head off — unless you start the conversation with “you’re an asshole”), you’ll discover that they don’t like people disobeying gun laws. Lawbreakers make it harder for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights. They do NOT approve of gun violence, from single street gang shootings to mass shootings of innocent people such as the San Bernardino slaughter.

    So, where’s the disconnect?

    Silence. Silence is the issue.

    The NRA’s PR strategy is utterly boneheaded. Their standard operating procedure in responding to gun violence is not to respond at all. No empathy, no response. They won’t validate the perceived correlation between the NRA and gun violence by participating in the discussion. THEY know what they’re about. THEY don’t support gun violence. THEY don’t condone mass shootings in any form. But the problem is that non-NRA members believe they do, because silence is endorsement. Period.

    Following each and every mass shootings, you’d think the NRA president would be grabbing every microphone and bellowing that his organization absolutely, thoroughly condemns gun violence in all forms, abhors the slaughter of innocent people, and offers financial support to prosecute the lawbreakers. But no. Their frontman, Wayne LaPierre, just mouths the liturgy of the Constitutional right to bear arms, and shows zero empathy for the victims and, moreover, zero outrage that guns were used illegally and violently. It’d be so easy to just despise that soulless douchebag and leave it at that, but in the end, he’s doing the NRA’s bidding: “Don’t respond to accusations.”

    NRA, you shoot yourself in the foot (ha!) by refusing to acknowledge the carnage and pain, and condemn the violence. You must contribute to the conversation. Your silence fuels the flames of anger and misunderstanding, and ironcially weakens the very gun laws you cherish.

    But, NRA opponents, you have to contribute to the conversation too. Conversation requires speaking and listening. You’re too busy screaming to hear anything. Your outrage hardens the ice of steely resolve and freezes any hope of cooperation.

    Cooperation, people. We must cooperate to end gun violence. Like a quote I read the other day, we’re on opposite sides of the table, screaming at each other about The Problem. We must come to realize that we’re all on the same side of the table, looking at The Problem together. Before we can do that, however, we must communicate. Speak and listen. And, we must begin the conversation with “Tell me how you feel” rather than “You’re an asshole and I’m going to tell you why.”

    I had to learn to do that, patiently, because I love Joe. Love and patience are a better approach to communication than anger, hatred and condemnation. If We the People are to have any hope of ending gun violence, we must be allies. Not enemies. We the People are on the same side. It’s time we started acting like it.





      • Madgew

      • December 4, 2015 at 1:05 pm
      • Reply

      Gubd in their original intent was to arm yourself against a militia. Haven’t ever seen one of those in modern times. Yes, they should show empathy but they DON’T and their lobby just buys congress like guns were a dime store toy. Are most law abiding, yes. But they don’t open their f……… mouths and continue to support their asshole leader. That is what infuriates me and until that changes I say let people who want guns to be like women who want abortions and go through intensive screening and waiting periods. I am getting sick and tired of rhetoric and no action. I support only stores that support gun regulation and give money to organizations that will suppress gun ownership without controls.

    • I think there’s a big difference between the NRA membership and their leadership. The NRA has become the puppet of the gun manufacturer’s lobby, and feed into the fears of their members that “the gub’mint is comin fer yer guns!”

      • Oh ABSOLUTELY!!! And fear is used as a control mechanism. But individual people? Many of them are veterans, police offices, sportsmen (I have developed a new respect for hunting your own food instead of buying corporate meat… no respect for trophy hunting, though) and gun collectors. Many are just average people who don’t believe the police will show up in time. In my own experience with the police, I am starting to question whether they can show up in time.
        But… as to your point… YES. THAT.

      • Joe

      • December 4, 2015 at 5:47 pm
      • Reply

      Gubd, the 2nd amendment is not AGAINST the militia, its ABOUT the militia.

      “No free government was ever founded or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defense of the state…. Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen.”

      – State Gazette (Charleston), September 8, 1788


      “Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists among the people, or which they can command; for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression. Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.”

      – Noah Webster
      An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution,
      Philadelphia, 1787


      “The powers of the sword, say the minority of Pennsylvania, is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is not so, for the powers of the sword are in the hands of the yeomanry of America from sixteen to sixty. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress have no right to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American…. The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or the state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”

      – Pennsylvania Gazette, February 20, 1788

      all these documents are preserved and can be read either in their original form or in archived form.

      But I think the basis of the philosophy of many NRA members can be summed up in this article about the French shootings:


      • However, there were still plenty of guns available in France and in America whether they are smuggled in or bought in either country. I would love to get rid of the second amendment because the language is too confusing. The 2nd amendment was written to ensure the militias were armed. It didn’t matter too much if citizens were armed or not. IN the 18th century there were plenty of people who had arms out of necessity. Nowadays, people want to use the 2nd amendment to make their homes look like Rambo’s wet dream.

        My grandfather was a hunter and an NRA member (he was born in Pittsburgh). He had a few rifles and a few pistols as he was a farmer and guns are tools of the trade. I get it. I get why people want guns. I understand why people would collect them. I understand why people enjoy them. What I don’t forgive is people misreading the 2nd amendment.

        Or let’s put it this way, if the 2nd amendment makes it imperative that every citizen has a gun, then let’s take that logic to a conclusion. Let’s give every American guns and ammo.

        • Totally agree. The Second Amendment needs updating. Citizens aren’t allowed to drive tanks down the road. There IS a line… but the line is fuzzy and unclear. That amendment needs to be revisited, and the NRA can resist that all it wants, but this is a democracy, and if the majority of the people want to change it, that’s what happen. They can lobby all they want, but at the end of the day… in this country, the majority votes on what happens.
          It’s almost like we’ve returned to a Wild Wild West mentality… people shooting people is commonplace again.

          • Joe

          • December 6, 2015 at 11:50 am

          Matt, did you read any of the above posts, from the time of the Constitutional convention, which illuminate what the word militia meant to the authors and their contemporaries? If you can misread that, you will misread anything.

          And while you admit that the strictest gun control laws in the western world, in a country that doesn’t have “the 2nd amendment”, did not prevent massacre, but still advocate for it’s repeal as a solution to the problem I *think* we are discussing, I see no logic in that.

        • At the time of the Convention, arms meant single shot muskets. The Founding Fathers didn’t know what a Mac-11 was. And Joe, no offense, but we don’t have a constitutional right to buy or ride around in cars. And yet I see a ton of them on the road.

      • Joe

      • December 6, 2015 at 12:15 pm
      • Reply

      By the way, Switzerland DOES give every citizen guns and ammo. It REQUIRES them to keep them at home and at the ready. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Switzerland

      And the US has the Department of Civilian Marksmanship, which gives every American the opportunity to purchase surplus guns and ammo at reduced prices, and trains civilians via organized shooting events already provides the service you suggest in your last sentence. https://thecmp.org/

      It goes to further the intent expressed here:
      “… whereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…”

      – Richard H. Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer 53, 1788

      • Valerie Engelman

      • December 6, 2015 at 12:41 pm
      • Reply

      They had a selection of bombs at the ready. Should we step farther back than just the weapon while looking at the problem? And Joe, didn’t connect that you’re a Leo. Another reason to like you.

        • Joe

        • December 6, 2015 at 7:00 pm
        • Reply

        Ragghhhrrroooh.. meow.

      • Madgew

      • December 11, 2015 at 2:23 pm
      • Reply

      Muskets are not AK47 which sole purpose is to kill. Need to change all the rules pertaining to 2nd amendment in my mind. I hope you watched Jordan Klepper on the Daily Show refute all we need are good guys with guns. He gets a permit to carry within – few hours in 30 states by going to Florida. Sorry but so f……. easy to me.

      • Terri Connett

      • December 18, 2015 at 2:02 pm
      • Reply

      Great column, Debra! My brother is an NRA guy so I totally get it. Especially loved your title. Nice homage to Mike Myers. Plus funny to equate ax murderer with gun toters.

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