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Confessions of a Liberal Gun Lover

It's not just libertarians and conservatives who are ready to defend the Second Amendment with a finger on the trigger

Chris Ketcham
Theo Stroomer
July 14, 2014 9:00 AM ET

Gun nuts aren't always creatures of the political right. Consider your heavily-armed author's position: I say gun ownership is a necessary line of defense against investment bankers, Wall Street lawyers, big business, the corporatized wing of the Democratic Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, ALEC, Nazis, gangbangers, meth fiends, cops and politicos who cut welfare and education programs while refusing to downsize the military or raise taxes on the rich. When I was living in New York City, I voted for Bill de Blasio. I was briefly a believer in Obama's hope-change lines. I want single-payer healthcare and free public higher education and a carbon tax and the end of the warfare-surveillance-killer drone state – and I want the Second Amendment protected.

America's Gun Violence Epidemic

I like my guns. I like the Colt Trooper .357 Magnum, and the FN .40, and the Lee-Enfield .303, and the Remington 12 gauge, and the Ruger Mini-14 with 30-shot clip and the Smith & Wesson Model 39 – this last a gift from my father, a New Yorker and, like me, a liberal who is several planets to the left of President Obama. My dad is a member of the NRA, god help him. He shrugs and by way of excuse says he enjoys the group's monthly magazine, American Rifleman

The tribe of liberal gun nuts I've gotten to know over the years includes writers, activists, musicians, schoolteachers, professors, rock-climbers, wilderness guides, environmentalist lawyers and at least one shaman. If I'd venture to pin down the unifying ideological bent of these folks, I'd say it's anti-statist socialism – communitarian, decentralist, anarchist. Kiley Miller, a pal who lives in Moab, Utah, and who runs an eco-friendly house cleaning service, keeps guns because "the thought of only the government, police, sheriffs, and military having guns gives me the chills." This is a woman who describes herself as "a radical environmentalist about as far left as one can be" and who busts my balls whenever I miss the daily dose of Democracy Now. Another armed liberal living in Moab, Matt Gross, a friend of mine and of Kiley's, was the man behind Howard Dean's web campaign – as director of online communications he web-fundraised what was then the unprecedented sum of $25 million – and went on to work as chief online strategist for Democrats in two major senatorial campaigns and as John Edwards' senior web adviser during his 2008 run for the White House. "The right doesn't own the flag, guns or the Constitution," Gross writes me in an email. "You can be a progressive champion and still know how to handle a Glock. I support the HRC" – that's the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for LGBT equal rights – "but it doesn't mean I'm unarmed."    

My bud Brian Ertz, an environmental activist who is studying for a law degree in Boise, Idaho, tells me that primarily he uses his guns to hunt – for meat – and also carries them for protection. "I know the belligerence of the powerful State and have just reason not to lend the government my trust when it comes to protecting my family from others and from the State itself," Ertz says. "I understand that exercise of the Second Amendment is effective. You don't need to overthrow the government to send a signal that strikes fear into the pants of those seated in power. The political elite of this country didn't take Martin Luther King Jr. seriously until Malcolm X showed up with a gun and the idea that members of an oppressed class needn't ask the establishment for permission."      

Her Right to Bear Arms: The Rise of Women's Gun Culture

Colorado-based cartoonist and writer Travis Kelly, explains his position about liberal gun nuttery on his website. "I'm sure the whole sordid, shocking saga of the Bush administration spurred many more liberals to reevaluate the Second Amendment and the enduring wisdom of the Founding Fathers," he writes. "That's when I started buying guns. Tyranny can be left or right handed, and a case could be made that it's ambidextrous now." The clincher for Travis, however, was a tale of personal self-defense related by a female friend, who years ago was kidnapped and nearly raped along a lonely stretch of Texas highway. Luckily she had a pistol in her pocket, a .38 revolver, and with it shot her attacker in the stomach as he was unbuckling his pants. "And the lesson is: the police cannot be everywhere all the time, they are not omnipotent, and we don't want them to be," writes Travis. "There are times when the individual must be responsible for his or her own self-defense . . . Guns are the great equalizers, against larger predators, or the political tyranny so feared by the fundamentalist gun crowd." (Note that some on the far left and far right meet in their contempt and loathing for centralized power – a sign of hope.) 

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