Many of you might not have known anything about the woman who walked into the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on gun violence and sat down next to the NRA's Executive VP and chief firebrand Wayne LaPierre on Wednesday. Today, however, Gayle Trotter's name and mission are very well known throughout the vast electronic media realms of these United States due to the impassioned and awkward defense she mounted on behalf, specifically, of mothers' second amendment rights to own and use high capacity magazines in semi-automatic weapons to defend their children from multiple hardened criminals invading their homes.
Or did she?
Wayne LaPierre is a past master of feeding the grassroots from on high. Where there used to be a gun for every pursuit, there is now a weapon for every fear. The NRA has always had outreach and safety programs. Now they provide insurance and equipment discounts to police. His ferocious, gaffe-filled diatribes are not so much dog-whistle-laden as rants delivered from the viewpoint he helped craft: that of the apocalyptic survivalist who sees guns as a vitally important extension of the power of the soul of the owner. By that rhetoric, you have to ensure guns a-plenty, and the deadliest, are available. Otherwise, you'll kill the righteous and arm the wicked by default. In the worst case, society collapses and we defend and police ourselves... so we all need lots of firepower! Best case, the police arrive too late, and hardened criminals prey on the vulnerable at will. Game over, us evil gun-hating liberals might as well have harmed that poor woman ourselves.
I don't buy it. But...
Enter Gayle Trotter, exhibit A, representing Moms who want maximum firepower to protect themselves and their children, and who isn't afraid to stand up to the Senate to say so.
Before I get to my main point, I'll start with two quick criticisms; a serious one and a glib one. For starters, I honestly understand her vital desire to protect her home and her children. Imagining and preparing for the worst are a huge part of what makes us all human, probably hard-wired by hundreds of millions of years of evolution. We all worry about crime, and how to protect ourselves were we to be attacked, I totally and completely sympathize with her there. I've greatly reduced my worries by not watching crime dramas. True story. On the other hand, as is true with almost everything in life, only make major decisions after you've clearly and calmly thought everything out. In her nightmare scenario, while that large gang of hardened criminals was trying to pick the lock, she managed to gather her children from their various pursuits throughout the house and gotten them safely "behind" her, and she has procured her weapon and is ready for the intruders to begin their assault...
So we've already determined her entire premise is invalid. If she actually had time to go for anything, and chose the gun, she is now in a house with her children and an unknown number of assailants scattered throughout it. Realistically, she is in a hostage situation and her best bet is to use the threat of using the weapon to cause the criminals to flee. Any shots fired, especially by a high-velocity rifle, have a decent chance of hitting her children. This brings us to the meat of my diary. Gayle Trotter testified to the US Senate that assault rifles derive part of their effectiveness because they look scary. From Huffington:
"An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon," said Trotter, a mother of six. "And the peace of mind she has ... knowing she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she's fighting hardened violent criminals."Now that almost seems throwaway and quaint. We've all seen the old Western movie where a crying woman confronts the bad guy with her dead husband's shotgun, both hands around the barrel and the butt sticking out behind her, and we know it's a hackneyed device to indicate weakness and vulnerability. Maybe an AR-15 is just the most effective insurance against that stereotype. Nodody will mistake her for a hysterical B-movie actress from the 50's shouldering one of those! However, one of the biggest mockeries and inside jokes aimed at gun-control advocates has been that we are so ridiculously ignorant about weapons, we'd make decisions on what guns to restrict based on looks alone; some "look scary, so they must be bad!" So here's the NRA's mouthpiece du jour, clearly stating for the record that there is a real and specific tactical advantage to the appearance of an assault weapon. It "Looks Scary." It induces fear in your adversaries. It strengthens your resolve and gives you courage to follow through. All positives when you are the defender, but of enormous, and heretofore discredited consequence in the hands of a psychotic individual.
Will an imbalanced individual gain the same psychological edge from the look of an assault-style weapon that Mrs Trotter does, and those she speaks for do? I don't see how they couldn't. That deadly appearance is a feature of the weapon, not the wielder.
So if what she testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee is true- and Wayne LaPierre was right there to refute her testimony if it isn't, we really need to consider the psychological dimensions of how the lethal look of tactical weapons emboldens their users to engage in combat.
I hope this becomes part of the broader dialogue.