The hard right in this country would like us all to know that they are fighting for the civil rights cause of our time.
According to former National Rifle Association president Marion Hammer, there is no group more discriminated against than gun enthusiasts. It’s gotten so bad, Hammer insists, supporters of gun control legislation are basically just racists. Against guns. Said Hammer “”[b]anning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It’s just bad politics.”
Hammer, of course, is referencing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposal that would ban some high-capacity magazines and assault rifles. A proposal that is obviously, totally racist.
As Media Matters reports, the NRA is quite comfortable co-opting the imagery and rhetoric of the civil rights movement for its own agenda. When the University of Colorado decided to house students who wished to carry guns on campus in their own dorm the NRA called the decision “segregation” just like the “separate but equal” standard articulated in the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision. And while such comparisons are laughable in addition to being historically tone deaf, the truth is that the right is increasingly borrowing from this collective history in an attempt to push back against what it perceives is a lurch left under the Obama administration.
Take reproductive rights. The anti-choice movement has been increasingly dressing itself up in the history of the civil rights movement as a way to frame their cause as one of moral civic right. Traditionally, the anti-choice community borrowed civil rights framing in the abortion debate, comparing abortion to slavery and invoking the history of the 14th Amendment to make the case for fetal personhood. But with the contraception mandate that’s changed.
Now instead of merely and lazily borrowing imagery from the civil rights movement, the right is pushing the case for actual civil disobedience. Hobby Lobby announced it will bravely take on millions of dollars in fines per day rather than comply with federal court orders requiring it to provide insurance that covers contraception to its employees. Supporters liken this move to the Birmingham bus boycotts. In the same interview where Hammer compared an assault weapons ban to racial discrimination Hammer suggested citizens be prepared for what she warned was a coming mass firearm confiscation “in order to control the masses.” Said Hammer “Well we’ve tried to tell people that in order to control the masses they have to take your guns. We saw it in Cuba. I mean we have so many Cuban-Americans who understand. But there are just too many people who don’t believe it can happen here.”
The right won’t stop borrowing from the civil rights movement anytime soon. It can’t. It’s in a crucial fight to try and remain relevant in the national political landscape. But in reality this new “civil rights movement” is nothing more than a bunch of angry white guys with a lot of guns and problems with women. Come to think of it, that sounds an awful lot like the original segregationist movement not the civil rights movement at all.
Photo from daveparker via flickr.