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The NRA and its 'tyranny hypotheticals'

"There's only two reasons for a federal list on gun owners: to either tax 'em or take 'em."

"There's only two reasons for a federal list on gun owners: to either tax 'em or take 'em."

This is from NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre's lengthy rebuttal Tuesday of President Obama's inaugural address. It presumes quite a lot about the eventual uses for a federal gun registry. Some would call it a paranoid view. Yet according to investigative reporter Frank Smyth, selling America on the "tax 'em or take 'em" line is at the heart of N.R.A.'s mission.

"The National Rifle Association has an absolutist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment," Smyth said on the Last Word Tuesday. "An interpretation that would say that citizens have the right to have the same force of arms as police and the military, fully automatic weapons...The driving force of the NRA is that they believe that they want to be insurrectionists in waiting, have the legal right to be heavily armed to fight a future tyrannical government."

msnbc's Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out that even "Anton Scalia, the most conservative member of the Court...disagrees with LaPierre on the Second Amendment. Scalia does not believe that the right to bear arms is absolute."

Scalia said on Fox News Sunday, "What limitations upon the right to bear arms are permissible? Some undoubtedly are, because there were some that were acknowledged at the time."

LaPierre's remarks echo much of the recent Republican excoriation of President Obama's new proposals for legislation on gun control. All the right-wing talk of "unprecedented assaults on your gun control rights" and "ripping our Constitution to pieces" could lead one to believe that the "future tyrannical government" is already here.

"They could take away the 10-round magazine today and tomorrow it would be the five-round and the next day it would be the whole thing," said gun-owner Jessie Buchanan at a recent Connecticut rally against Obama's proposals. "My parents didn't raise a victim and the government shouldn't try and make me one," said 31-year-old Jennifer Burke at the same rally.

People like Burke and Buchanan seem genuinely scared of the Obama administration's intentions. "If you accept the premise that you could have a future tyrannical government," explains Smyth, "the first thing that the tyrannical government would do, in the minds of the 2nd Amendment absolutists, is come to gun owners' homes, seize their weapons, and then probably imprison them."

Jon Stewart summed the issue up nicely on The Daily Show last week:

Here's what concerns me about this: the whiff of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you're girding yourself for a massive battle with a despotic black copter uber-government, stocking up on guns, ammo, and Campbell's' Cream of Mushroom soup, and it doesn't happen, then you just look like an a**hole with a soup fetish...The only way that your life would end up being truly meaningful is if the tyranny talk comes true, which puts you in the difficult position of having to argue tyranny hypotheticals.

"There's only two reasons for a federal list on gun owners: to either tax 'em or take 'em": LaPierre has his tyranny hypothetical all ready to go.

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