Fighting the Culture Wars
Moral outrage is a cornerstone of the culture wars, especially surrounding the big three culture war issues, “Guns, Gays, and God.” Cultural combatants and critics of all stripes tend to dismiss their adversaries as naïve, hateful, dishonest, insane, and worse. Popular liberal journalist Molly Ivins once wrote,
I do think gun nuts have a power hang-up. I don't know what is missing
in their psyches that they need to feel they have [the] power to kill. But
no sane society would allow this to continue. Ban the damn things. Ban
them all. You want protection? Get a dog.1
The “gun nuts” and the “freedom-hating anti-gun terrorists,” as each side sometimes calls the other, are not about to break bread to see if they can find a common ground. For die-hard NRA members, whether the topic is guns, gays, or God, the enemy in the culture war is the same. As strong conservatives, they fear that liberals are trying to ban guns, give “special rights” to women, gays, immigrants, and the poor, and coddle criminals and terrorists.
Just as with any large group, “conservatives” vary tremendously in their social and political views. The three primary threads of U.S. conservatism have been libertarianism, anticommunist militarism (succeeded by neoconservatism), and traditionalism.2 The NRA, a large and not always uniform group itself, reflects these different conservative worldviews.
Libertarianism, with its strong constitutional and individual-rights stance, as well as its opposition to government power, meshes best with NRA gun rights politics. Both the NRA and libertarians want to keep politicians out of Americans' holsters, gun safes, and lives. The second group of conservatives, yesteryear's Cold War anticommunists and today's neoconservatives, target foreign non-democratic nations for their selfprofessed goals of spreading freedom to the world. Though a communist