Orson Scott Card on Gun Control

I’m a fan of author and professor Orson Scott Card. I admit that he’s hit-and-miss with me as a novelist. I greatly enjoyed most of his “Enderverse” novels (excepting Xenocide and Speaker for the Dead), and some of his other works are quite good, but some leave me unmoved. I generally like what he writes in his “Ornery American” columns. I strongly recommend this one, for example: Who Was On Watch As the Dark Age Approached? I’ve linked to or quoted something he’s written a half-dozen times, most recently here, and there’s this quote I liked very much from his novel Shadow of the Giant:

Islam has never learned how to be a religion. It’s a tyranny by its very nature. Until it learns to let the door swing both ways, and permit Muslims to decide not to be Muslims without penalty, then the world has no choice but to fight against it in order to be free.

Mr. Card has a new novel out today, Empire, on the subject of a new American civil war. (The first quarter of the book is available online. Read Chapter Two, I beg you.) Such a war has been an ongoing topic here at TSM, most recently revisited in Reasonable People, so this is a book I will most definitely be buying in the not-too-distant future. Mr. Card is now doing his rounds of interviews in support of the book release. He was on local radio Monday morning, and today he was interviewed by Mr. and Mrs. Instapundit in a 40+ minute podcast that ranged over a wide array of topics, mostly not the book. That interview is linked here, and I strongly recommend you listen to it as the pieces I have transcribed from it are taken just a bit out of context. It doesn’t sound as bad when you hear the entire discussion. Plus, it’s a damned interesting discussion.

Here’s the pertinent portion, starting about 2/3rds of the way through the interview:

The real problem here is that both parties are pushing towards ideological purity. We have the movement within the Republican party of getting rid of the RINOs – the Republicans in Name Only. We have Democrats who actually spurned Joseph Lieberman because he supported the war. Which means what, they’dve gotten rid of Scoop Jackson, Patrick Moynihan, the greatest Democrats, the reason I became a Democrat? The answer is “Yes, of course they would.”

But when people insist on ideological purity, with incoherent ideologies – and that’s what really both parties offer us right now – incoherent ideologies, there’s no reason why the fact that I oppose the death penalty should mean that I must therefore support freely available abortions. Simply no reason why those should be related. There’s no reason in the world why the fact that I support a fairly strong program of gun control should in any way imply that I support a complete ban on, on, uh, personally owned weapons. No reason why the fact that I support gun control should say anything about how I feel about free-market capitalism. Um, et cetera, et cetera. What do they have to do with each other? And above all, what does being liberal have to do with opposing, or, uh, supporting the war against terror? Our enemies in the war against terror are so anti-liberal that you would think it would be liberals leaping to protect the world from these monstrous ideologies.

A lot of it has to do with where the money is coming from in politics today. We have hard-core ideologues, ideologically-driven groups, that contribute money according to their issue. And that’s where these (political) packages were assembled. The NRA knows that Republicans are on their side. If they ever find a Republican who isn’t, of course, they’ll jettison him and he won’t get their money. They’ll support his opponent, if his opponent is willing to say that he’s against any kind of gun control. So we have a group that is a one-issue ideological group, pumping money into campaigns. And, so, the Republican party has become essentially owned by one team of unrelated ideologues who drive them in one direction and the Democratic party is supported by their team of one-issue ideologues who don’t have anything to do with each other, but they’ve picked their party. And so the parties then reflect where the money’s coming from.

When you begin to feel that there is no political recourse, where do you turn? What do you do?

The people in Yugoslavia, when Yugoslavia started breaking apart into the different republics, nobody expected there to be a war. After all, the different groups that ended up fighting were intermarrying at an astonishingly high rate. It was if the differences were irrelevant. The populations were scattered among each other, it’s why they needed to have ethnic cleansing. It was because you had Muslims and Christians living side by side, Serbs and Croats throughout the country. It looked like a civil war-proof society. But when one team decided to start shooting, they had to sort themselves out, divide themselves into their various territories. It became ugly very quickly and you ended up with genocidal acts. Why? Because the people who were the angriest and the most murderous felt completely justified. They were being lied to. They were being told that the other guys were monsters who were doing hideous, terrible things, and they also wanted to believe those lies, because it made them feel so justified in their rage. So satisfied at the thought that they could do something about it. Well, what they did about it was they pulled out all those wonderful unregistered guns and started shooting.

Well, by Mr. Card’s definition I would have to say that I’m an ideologue. If you want to go so far: a fanatic – defined as “won’t change his mind, won’t change the topic, and won’t shut up.”

It would appear that ideologues are a bad thing in Mr. Card’s estimation, and perhaps they are. I can certainly see his point. But the difference between myself and many, perhaps most ideologues is that I do have a coherent ideology, based on what I’ve studied. No one’s told me to think this way, nor do I blindly follow. I haven’t been lied to to make me believe what I believe. (Well, I have been lied to – by both sides – but I can discern the difference and I know which side lies most often and most egregiously, and why.) I’ll be the first to agree with him that his stance on gun control in no way means that he must hold a specific opinion on free-market capitalism, or that his opposition to capital punishment must mean a support for abortion. I understand what he’s arguing.

Given what he said in the interview though, I gather that the major portion of Mr. Card’s “fairly strong program of gun control” must include registration, and most likely licensing. It probably includes restrictions (bans) on particular types of (but not all) firearms. Mr. Card is a reasonable person. As such I believe we could discuss his support for gun control, and I believe that with some time and effort I could, if not convert, certainly alter his position. But Mr. Card is representative of a plurality of the population that holds an incoherent ideology with respect to gun control. It’s these people I want to reach. It’s these people I write most of these essays for.

I received an email the other day from a gentleman across the pond who wrote:

I’ve been reading through various pages of your blog for most of the day and I just read the “Invitation to my Readers” July 2003 entry and decided to write a quick email.

For most of my life I was pro-gun-control. I’m English, so this view was completely uncontroversial and I don’t think I ever conversed with anybody who disagreed with it. ‘Bowling for Columbine’ was regularly discussed in a “Sheesh, those crazy Americans, eh?” kind of way. Then a couple of years back I starting reading some dissenting opinions. I can’t be sure, but I think it was Robert Anton Wilson who started me down this road. There’s nothing like somebody you respect espousing ideas you don’t to make you look at them anew.

Anyway, every once in a while I’ll come back to the subject (living here it’s not exactly directly relevant to my life) and each time I do I move closer to the libertarian position. Your blog is a very well-written and balanced description. I find myself agreeing with much of it and, where I don’t – I see universal free health care as a great idea, for instance – your writing makes me examine things again.

So thanks for writing it. I get the feeling I’m going to be coming back.

I sincerely hope he does. That’s why I write. That’s why I debate people here on this blog and anywhere they’ll have me.

And I would love a chance to debate Orson Scott Card on the topic of gun control. Registering the Serbian, Croat, Bosniak, Albanian and Macedonian weapons wouldn’t have prevented Yugoslavia’s meltdown, nor could it prevent civil war here. It could have just made the atrocities even more one-sided. Ask Rudolph J. Rummel.

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