“We’re heading into nut country today,” President John F. Kennedy said nearly half a century ago, when he set out for Dallas on the day he was killed.
Back then, Dallas was home to such characters as Gen. Edwin Walker, who was charged with insurrection and seditious conspiracy following a riot over the integration of the University of Mississippi. Dallas was also the place where a right-wing mob once attacked Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of then-presidential candidate Lyndon B. Johnson, spitting in her face and hitting her over the head with a sign that read, “Let’s ground Lady Bird.” And Dallas was the place where a major daily newspaper printed a full-page advertisement accusing Kennedy of largely ignoring the Constitution and bowing to the Communist cause. It was this advertisement in The Dallas Morning News that prompted Kennedy’s “nut country” comment on the day of his assassination.
Today, “nut country” isn’t so much a place as it is a state of mind, and its population has been steadily on the rise amid the intensifying debate over gun control.
Following talk radio host Alex Jones’ outburst on CNN Monday, when he ranted that guns are necessary “to protect us from tyrannical government,” threatened a 1776-like rebellion, and both hysterically screamed at and patronizingly mocked host Piers Morgan, other gun nuts have emerged to voice their (sometimes violent) support of the Second Amendment.
James Yeager, the CEO of a group called Tactical Response, had this to say about the White House action on gun safety: “Load your damn mags, make sure your rifle’s clean, pack a backpack with some food in it, and get ready to fight. I’m not f----ing putting up with this. I am not letting my country be ruled by a dictator. I’m not letting anybody take my guns. If it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people.”
The state of Tennessee has since suspended Yeager’s handgun carry permit because of his “material likelihood of risk of harm to the public.”
Rocker and NRA board member Ted Nugent made a less scary, but equally ridiculous argument in support of gun owners, whom he compared to civil rights heroes. “There will come a time when the gun owners of America, the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks, and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus, case closed,” said Nugent in an interview with WorldNetDaily.
And Friday morning on CNN, the chair of “Gun Appreciation Day” suggested that slavery would not have occurred had guns been available to everyone in America at the time. “I think Martin Luther King Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history,” said Larry Ward on Friday’s CNN Newsroom.
In the wake of this week’s gun rants and irrational arguments, members on both sides of the debate have been quick to point out the difference between reasonable, law-abiding gun owners and the smaller, more extreme faction on the fringe making all the headlines.
“These are not normal pro-Second Amendment people,” said the Grio’s Joy Reid of Yeager and Jones on Hardball Friday. “This is basically the paranoiacs in American society being brought forward and made to speak for ordinary gun owners. It’s up to gun owners themselves to distance themselves from this craziness.”
On Thursday, Vice President Biden met with members of the NRA in a meeting he described as “very straightforward” and “productive.” But he also said the day before that "executive action can be taken" to help prevent mass shootings, and it was this comment that sparked the most outrage among the right.
Biden is hoping to submit a set of proposals to the president with the aim of reducing gun violence by Tuesday. But the zealotry and defiance now coming from the far-right fringe indicates a tough fight ahead for gun control.
“The safest bet in American life... is that we will have as many guns or more 20 or 30 years from now as we have now,” said host Chris Matthews on Hardball Friday. “That is the surest bet in American life, and it’s sad.”