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'Sandy Hook Truthers' Crank Their Gun-Nuttery Up to the Max

A vile conspiracy theory is gaining traction in the gun rights community.

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There’s a professor at Florida Atlantic University who even got involved in this. It’s really easy to dismiss, but I don’t think we should because it can go, really quickly, from the guy who claims he solved  Lost to people who are actually involved in the gun control debate.

JH: It starts with someone who has, it seems, mental health issues. Then all these other people jump in because it’s ideologically convenient. Alex, is this like global warming denialism, just pretending that inconvenient realities don’t exist?

ASW: Yes, I think it is. The psychological theory of cognitive dissonance, I think, explains so much of this here, which is basically the idea that you have a belief in your head, and any information that contradicts that belief causes stress, and is immediately discredited. You don’t, for a second, consider the possibility that it could be legitimate. You immediately assume that it has to be wrong because it doesn’t comport with your world view.

That’s how all, pretty much all conspiracy theories work, or things that deny reality in the face of evidence, like global warming. I think you’re just getting an extreme case of it here.

JH: To some degree, a lot of conservative, ideological positions are based on that same thing. People who score high on the scale of authoritarian personality types are especially sensitive to cognitive dissonance. They’re the ones who are most likely to grab onto any straw, which will get them out of that stress. Anyway, this conspiracy is supposedly all in the service of conditioning the population to give up their guns. 

Alex, what do you think the conversation about guns would look like, in this country, if not for the paranoia, widespread on the right, that someone wants to take Americans’ guns?

ASW: Boy, it’s hard to imagine. It’s really incredible how much this tiny faction of people has dominated the debate. If you ask most Americans about the Assault Weapon Ban or High Capacity Magazine Ban, they’re all for it. This is after Democrats and most liberals have ceded the issue for the past 10 years.

We’ve hardly really had much of a gun control debate at all. Most of what you hear out there is misinformation about the Assault Weapon Ban, but Americans are for it, to the tune of 60 percent. Whether we can get something in Congress is a different matter because of the bizarre way that Congress works.

I have to imagine that if these people weren’t out there – even the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, who’s only a few notches more in tune with reality – even if he wasn’t out there, if we had somebody more reasonable in charge of the NRA, I’d have to imagine that we would have a more logical debate.

JH: Wayne LaPierre warned that in a second term, Obama would try to take Americans’ guns. He’s not, this is the mainstream voice of the gun lobby, not the fringe, like Gun Owners of America. I think this is the thing that keeps us from addressing this issue, because, in reality, of course, gun control advocates today aren’t calling for firearms to be banned or confiscated.

If you look at what they do push for, they favor closing the gun show loophole. They favor better background checks. A small majority favors banning high-capacity magazines. I wrote a piece for AlterNet.org called, “ Yes, We Can Have Sane Gun Control Without Trampling Gun Owners’ Rights.” That piece has links to a bunch of polls of gun owners. 

 
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