Gun marketing, particularly through the NRA, is targeted largely at conservatives. That said, the emotional buttons being pushed — that wish to feel powerful, the desire to prove one’s masculinity, the appeal of violence as a political shortcut — cannot be contained by something as pedestrian as political partisanship. Through years of marketing and cultural messaging, guns have been crafted into something totemic, even primal, in their appeal, and that appeal extends to all manner of people who yearn for some kind of cleansing violence to solve their problems.
Around the time of Trump’s inauguration, a debate rose up in leftist circles about the value of political violence, particularly after an anonymous person punched white supremacist Richard Spencer in the face on camera on Inauguration Day. While I strongly relate to the desire to lash out at people who would dismantle our democracy in the name of white nationalism, I’ve been persuaded by friends and allies, especially journalist Dave Neiwert of the Southern Poverty Law Center, that political violence is always a bad idea. Not only is it wrong but it tends to backfire, creating the pretext for the violent suppression of liberal or leftist ideas.
Already there are right-wing street gangs forming, eagerly looking for an excuse to lash out against anyone they perceive as of the left. Already there’s been a shooting of a left-leaning protester, who by all accounts was trying to restore peace, by right-wingers who seemed to be out for blood. Already two men have been killed, and a third badly injured by an unhinged reactionary and white supremacist who claims he was acting in self-defense, because the men tried to interfere with his verbal assault on two women of color. There is every reason to believe that the baying alt-right wolves cannot wait to use this shooting as an excuse to escalate their own efforts at using violence to quell liberal dissent.