John Wayne in ‘The Comancheros’ / Wikimedia Commons

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The New York Times ran an op-ed Monday attacking the National Rifle Association’s National Firearms Museum and gun owners.

Editorial board member Francis X. Clines wrote in the piece that the Fairfax, Virginia gun museum, which features firearms from every era of American history, represents the worst of America. In particular, Clines was troubled by a display detailing gun use in Hollywood movies.

“There are thousands of ingenious, gleaming rifles and handguns in displays about America’s gun-rich history of colonialism, immigration, expansionism and vigilante justice,” Clines wrote on page A22 of Monday’s Times. “But it is the gallery devoted to Hollywood and its guns and good-guy shooters that best illustrates the power of fantasy now driving the modern gun rights debate.”

Clines expressed outrage at a cardboard cutout of John Wayne displayed in the exhibit, referencing it several times in his editorial. He said the cutout, which depicts a gun-toting Wayne with a grin full of “menace,” promoted fantasies about killing “bad guys” for American gun owners.

“A poster figure of John Wayne, the mega-hero of Hollywood westerns, offers a greeting here at the gun museum’s gallery door as he holds his Winchester carbine at the ready and offers an amiably crooked grin,” Clines said. “The bad guys in the movies never fully understood that the menace behind Wayne’s grin (‘Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim’) meant he was about to deliver blazing fantasies of triumphant gunfire that would leave them dead in the dust. It’s no wonder modern Florida legislators could not resist protecting actual shooters who draw and fire like John Wayne as guilt-free, ‘stand-your-ground’ defenders.”

Clines said “the cardboard fantasy of the good guy gunning down the bad guy is what makes the museum work as an enjoyable escape from the life-and-death reality of American gun carnage.”

After complaining that the gun museum displays guns and blanks used in movies, Clines asked why there isn’t a “stream of gripping films about the thousands of troubled Americans with easy access to guns who can lethally act out their darkest grievances on family and society day after day?”

He said the NRA’s support for national gun-carry reciprocity is “rooted in its ultimate fantasy that society will be safer if ordinary Americans are allowed to routinely pack a pistol,” and is part of a “campaign to make gun possession ubiquitous among ordinary citizens.” Currently, concealed carry is legal in every state in the country. There are an estimated 14.5 million gun-carry permit holders and 310 million guns in the United States.

Clines cited a study from a gun-control advocacy group that found about 90 people per year are killed by individuals with concealed-carry permits. However, most of the deaths cited appear to be suicides, accidents, or self-defense-related cases. Clines did not cite any examples of concealed-carry permit holders acting in defense of themselves or others despite recent instances that garnered national news coverage.

The NRA and New York Times have been increasingly at odds, with the publication editorializing against the gun-rights organization and the gun group firing back with ads attacking the paper’s credibility.

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