Angry letters to this newspaper sometimes accuse Sen. Joe Manchin of trying to "take away our guns." But Manchin's background check plan would let nearly everyone keep pistols, denying them only for criminals and psychotics.
Unwittingly, the letter-writers lay themselves open for a joke -- that they must be criminal or psychotic, since those are the only people whose guns would be taken away.
Irrational thinking abounds in America's stormy gun debate. Here's a glaring example:
Researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University surveyed voters nationwide and found an amazing number of Republicans want guns to fight the U.S. government.
Pollsters asked voters if they agreed with this statement: "In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties." Stunningly, 44 percent of registered Republicans said yes, while only 18 percent of Democrats did so. Rates were much higher among less-educated people.
It's almost crackpottery for some gun-lovers to envision an armed uprising against the U.S. Army. But tea party protesters hold signs saying "We Came Unarmed -- This Time!" -- and right-wing rock singer Ted Nugent preaches turmoil -- and other outlandish vows appear. Last year, a Virginia GOP newsletter warned that "we shall not have any course but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November."
The university survey also asked for agreement to the statement that "some people are hiding the truth about the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary." Again, 32 percent of Republicans said yes, and 20 percent of Democrats.
What "truth" could be hidden about the Connecticut massacre of first-graders? A psychotic with an assault rifle went to the school and slaughtered everyone he could. That was the whole story.
Plenty of West Virginia gun-lovers probably attended the National Rifle Association's annual assembly in Texas last weekend -- and they probably denounced Sen. Manchin's attempt to keep guns away from criminals and psychotics. Bizarrely, the NRA acts as if it wants such undesirables to have guns.
Incidentally, the NRA's new president, Alabama lawyer Jim Porter, calls Barack Obama a "fake president," says U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is "rabidly un-American" and calls the Civil War the "war of northern aggression." Leaders like this have turned the NRA into a wing of the Republican Party.
At the NRA convention, which had a "Stand and Fight" theme, gun-lovers said "it's about fighting tyranny" -- apparently meaning armed conflict with the U.S. government.
Here's more evidence of weird thinking: The upcoming June issue of Political Science Quarterly says action against global warming is hindered by conservatives who think the return of Jesus will negate a need to save the planet.
"The fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them," the article says.
The report quotes Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill. -- chairman of an environmental subcommittee -- as opposing action on climate change because "the Earth will end only when God declares it to be over."America's tumultuous political debates are endless. At least part of them hinge on dubious thinking.