Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
P.O. Box 270143
Hartford, WI 53027
Phone (800) 869-1884
Fax (425) 451-3959
Interview in MP3 format
William R. Tonso is a retired University of Evansville sociology professor who has written quite a bit (some sociological, more social critical) on the social, cultural, and deep-political aspects of the gun issue. His recent book, Gun Control=People Control, is a collection of eleven of his gun-issue essays that have been originally published over the past two decades in such periodicals as Reason, Liberty, Chronicles, and Gun Week.
Q. To begin with, how can interested parties get your book?
A. Gun Control=People Control can be ordered directly from the publisher at authorhouse.com, or by calling AuthorHouse at (888) 280-7715. Price through the publisher is $11.50 plus postage. It can also be ordered through any of the major bookstores or through Amazon on the Internet, in which case the price runs around $13.50.
Q. What prompted you to reach back over a twenty-year period to pull these particular essays together under one cover and call the book Gun Control=People Control?
A. As I looked back over the social-critical essays I’ve written on the gun issue since I started writing on the subject in the late 1960s, it occurred to me that some of them, if arranged properly, not merely according to publication date, sort of flow one to the next and rather neatly link media, popular cultural, and people-control aspects of the gun issue regularly ignored by the mainstream media and only rarely examined by academic scholars. So that’s what I’ve tried to do. The purpose of this book isn’t to provide an up-to-date account of the latest atrocities committed by the gun prohibitionists. I’ve tried to provide a think piece, to put the cultural- and political-vested interests and assumptions of the gun-prohibition movement in social-cultural-historical perspective along with those of Second Amendment supporters like me. The three essays in Part I all deal with the mainstream media treatment of the gun issue, the two in Part II deal with the treatment of guns in the popular culture and its impact, the four in Part III deal with the people-control agenda of the gun prohibitionists, and the two in Part IV spoof these efforts.
Q. What prompted you to write these particular essays?
A. Exasperation! The mainstream-media-assisted push for ever more restrictive gun controls that revived in the 1960s after a World War II/Korean War hiatus of over twenty years, really exasperated me since it was rooted in so much misinformation and ignorance. Since I was born in 1933, the federal gun regulations of 1934 and 1938 made no impression on me when they were passed, and by the time my awareness had expanded to the greater world, World War II had squelched further efforts at controls. Guns were ubiquitous in the world in which I was born and raised, and I never heard anything negative about them. My home town, Herrin, Illinois, a coal-mining community located in the far south of the state where there are trees and hills, had had much labor-management, Ku Klux Klan, and bootleg-gang violence in the decade before I was born, but it was very peaceful by the time I came along. I was immersed in the unadulterated American gun culture at birth. One of my earliest memories was of my dad oiling his Colt automatics, my favorite recreation was walking out in the country on shooting sessions with my mom and dad, one of my maternal aunt’s brothers-in-law was a local gunsmith, all of my older male relatives and most of their male friends owned guns, many of the popular cultural heroes of the day used guns to fight off fictional bad guys, and our soldiers in the movie newsreels used guns to fight off real bad guys, etc. Before I was twelve years old, besides .22-caliber rifles and handguns, I had fired a Colt Single Action Army .45, a Colt Government Model .45, a 9mm German Luger, a .30-caliber M1 carbine, a Winchester1892 .25-20, and a .30-06 Springfield 1903A3, among others, on these expeditions. Guns were literally a part of my everyday life, and I associated them with wholesome family recreation and the outdoors, and with the actions of popular cultural and real heroes, past and present, and resented the incredibly misinformed and/or dishonest mainstream-media-assisted efforts to demonize guns and deviantize gun owners.
Q. What were those old days like before the push for gun controls was revived in the 1960s?
A. Those old days were part of another world, and I touch on them in the introduction and three of the essays in Gun Control=People Control, one of which is autobiographical. People who weren’t around back then, or who aren’t old enough to remember much about those days, simply can’t appreciate how ubiquitous and accepted guns used to be in this country. Until passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, there were no federally-imposed age limits on the purchase of guns, and rifles, shotguns, and handguns could be ordered sans background checks through the mail from Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward. Surplus military rifles and handguns, including semiautomatics (even German 20mm semiautomatic anti-tank rifles), could be purchased through the mail from various arms dealers who advertised their wares in gun and outdoor magazines—again no background checks. A letter to the editor of our Evansville newspaper a few years back told how the writer had purchased his first pistol, a semiautomatic 9mm German Luger, through the mail at age 16. In fact, surplus American military firearms could be purchased at bargain prices (from under $10.00 to over $30.00) from the Army’s Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM). While the gun prohibitionists would have us believe, ignoring the Second Amendment, that civilians have no business owning military firearms, until rather recently civilian possession of military firearms and of sporting firearms with more power and/or firepower than those carried by common soldiers was unquestioned. American civilians had access to semiautomatic pistols more than a decade before they were adopted by our military, and access to semiautomatic rifles some three decades before military adoption.
Q. Can you give examples of how this acceptance of guns was manifested through the public at large?
A. Sure. Over most of the country in those days, the display of guns didn’t elicit any fear. When my folks and I walked the three blocks to the edge of town to go shooting, as was common local practice, we carried our rifles or handguns in plain sight. Planning to go hunting after school, a hometown acquaintance of mine once took his .22 rifle to grade school with him, and his teacher allowed him to keep it in the cloakroom. When I was an undergraduate at then small Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, a friend of mine had two .22 rifles and a single-shot shotgun attached to his dormitory-room wall for decoration, and it wasn’t uncommon for male students, me included, to have guns in their rooms. The Air Force ROTC rifle team I was on had its range in the attic of the main classroom building. A place that sold the biggest milkshakes in Carbondale also sold what are now called Saturday night specials—no background or age checks. Once after a target shooting session at a gun-club range located on the second floor of a building in the middle of the business district of Miles City, Montana, three friends and I went to a restaurant across the street and took our handguns with us. While there, one of my friends and I decided to compare our handguns and proceeded to take them out of their zipper cases. We thought nothing of this public display of weaponry, and no one else in the place seemed to take notice.
And back in those days, popular culture either presented guns as neutral tools that could be put to good use by good guys or to bad use by bad guys, or glamorized them and those skilled in their use. Guns and those skilled in their use or otherwise associated with guns were often celebrated in the titles of movies such as Winchester 73, Colt .45, Springfield Rifle, Carbine Williams, and Annie Get Your Gun, and later in TV westerns like Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel, and The Rifleman. The heroes of movie westerns, B and otherwise, and TV westerns were generally marked off from their associates by the fancy sixshooters or other distinctive guns they carried. And guns weren’t skillfully used only by cops; in the movies and comic strips, etc., they were commonly so used by ordinary folks in defense of themselves and/or others.
Now we have federally-imposed age limits on gun purchases, federal background checks on purchasers, no mail-order purchases, school gun-free zones, school rifle teams being disbanded, and schoolchildren disciplined for drawing pictures of guns (which was a favorite pastime of mine when I was a kid) or for pointing a finger at others and saying bang! bang! The mainstream-media-assisted gun prohibitionists blame violent crime on easy access to guns, when only in recent years has the homicide rate dropped to near what it was prior to the passage of all these and other restrictions when guns were far more easy to acquire. The fictional treatment of guns in the movies and on TV is now almost all negative, with only cops being able to use guns safely and responsibly while ordinary citizens cause problems with them. Popular-cultural heroes capable of self help have often been replaced by anti-heroes. In the old days, heroes unrealistically shot guns out of the hands of bad guys without harming either the guns or the hands that had been holding them; now those shot are unrealistically knocked head over heels. In other words, the power of guns was once ignored, while it’s now exaggerated. It’s a different world.
Q. Why is the mainstream media so anti gun?
A. The mainstream media are all headquartered in large cities and their gatekeepers tend to be city folks
who know little, if anything, about guns. Even those gatekeepers who come from “fly-over-country” aren’t typical of the folks they’ve left behind to seek their fortunes in the big cities, and their role models are the urban oriented who know nothing about and are fearful of guns. While WWII highlighted the use of guns by good guys to beat the bad guys, the riots and assassinations of the 1960s highlighted the misuse of guns, and guns became noteworthy in media circles only when they’re misused. Consequently, uninformed about the legitimate uses to which guns are regularly put, and professionally hypersensitive to the misuse of guns, news people tend to uncritically accept the assumptions of the gun prohibitionists: “(1) guns, especially handguns, are troublesome unto themselves, apart from the people who misuse them; therefore, (2) all reasonable and informed Americans want to do something about the ‘gun problem’ as (3) other modern, urban, industrial nations have done through gun controls.” These unexamined assumptions provide pegs upon which news folk can hang their stories—“here’s another case of gun crime,” or “here’s another case of responsible citizens trying to do something about gun crime,” or “here’s another case of the ‘gun lobby’ blocking needed gun legislation.” Gun-related events that don’t fit these assumptions, such as two-to-one defeats of gun restrictions via referenda or sophisticated research questioning the troublesomeness of widespread gun ownership, are either ignored or explained away. One essay in the book deals with the impact of media gun ignorance on the stories they concoct, and another focuses on media chicanery in the service of ignorance, such as showing machineguns being fired when semiautomatics are being discussed, etc. Through a discussion of a TV interview with Los Angeles watch shop owner Lance Thomas, yet another essay in part illustrates the gap in worldviews between mainstream media reporters and the man on the street when it comes to defensive gun use. Thomas had four separate gun fights with armed robbers, killed five of them and wounded a sixth, and was wounded four times himself, and the reporter interviewing him couldn’t understand why he chose to defend himself with a gun.
Q. Have you ever confronted any mainstream media gatekeepers about their anti-gun bias?
A. Yes. And mainstream media folks can get testy when called on their treatment of the gun issue. Before passage of the “assault weapon” ban, I called NBC twice to complain about their showing machine guns being fired when semiautomatics were being discussed on the news. The first time I called, a woman answered, and when I related my complaint to her, she answered haughtily that NBC was no longer doing that. She stammered when I informed her that I had just seen such a misleading NBC film clip on their local affiliate. The second time I called NBC, a guy answered and when I related my complaint and told him I had called before, he said nothing. After a few seconds, I said that it apparently did no good to complain to NBC, and he responded that “anyone can make a mistake.” I replied that NBC had been making that same mistake for five years, and he hung up. I called back and asked for his name, and he told me that he didn’t “have to take that kind of abuse,” and hung up again. The next day, I called back and eventually was able to talk to David McCormick, at the time in charge of NBC’s broadcast standards (an oxymoron if there ever was one). He was very pleasant and explained the misleading clip away as due to honest ignorance and the rush to meet headlines. Five years of ignorance when General Motors was able to get NBC’s attention after only one misleading clip of GM vehicles blowing up after being hit by other vehicles? NBC used explosive devices to make sure that the GM vehicles blew up as they were supposed to. NBC acknowledged their deception after GM called them on it. The network has yet to acknowledge that it misled its viewers about “assault weapons,” but during the last few weeks before the passage of the ban on these guns, they did start showing semiautomatic instead of machine guns when they were discussed. Incidentally, McCormick didn’t attempt to explain the rudeness of guy with whom I had talked.
Q. Why is the intellectual community generally so anti gun?
A. To quote from my book,
“The modern or liberal knowledge elite, the so called ‘New Class,’ is composed of professional thinkers and other word workers who create and transmit what passes for knowledge in our modern world, and certain varieties of these ‘experts’ are inclined to take themselves quite seriously. As the gods once allegedly spoke to us through priests, now nature allegedly speaks to us through secular intellectuals . . . who are no less willing than the traditional priests to control our lives if given the chance, basing their authority on ‘science’ rather than on supernatural connections.”
Psychiatrists, applied psychologists and sociologists, political scientists, scientific managers and human relationists, communications specialists, educators and other specialists, all assisted by big education and big media tend to be people manipulators often directly or indirectly in the interests of big business and industry or, particularly, big government.
“A diverse collection of specialists subscribing to perspectives often very much at odds with each other, the influence of these various ‘experts’ exists only to the extent that they can use the appearance of scientific objectivity and/or detached rationality to cover their own vested interests and convince non-experts that ‘experts’ know what they are talking about.” Widespread gun ownership makes people-manipulation risky for “experts” who “recognize that while the pen may be mightier than the sword in the long run of history, the swordsman can make quick work of the penman in the short run of individual existence.”
Which brings me to the deep politics of gun control that go way beyond the much-publicized battle between the National Rifle Association and the gun prohibitionists.
Q. What are the specific political functions of gun controls?
A. According to lawyer/sociologist Raymond G. Kessler, gun controls
“(1) increase citizen reliance on government and tolerance of increased police powers and abuse; (2) help prevent opposition to government; (3) facilitate repressive action by government and its allies; (4) lessen the pressure for major or radical reform; and (5) can be selectively enforced against those perceived to be a threat to government.”
In other words, the politics of gun control go far beyond the National Rifle Association’s ongoing battle to thwart gun prohibitionist attempts to restrict gun ownership in the United States. The mainstream media focus on this battle, siding with the prohibitionists, and ignore the deep politics of gun control—people control. While few folks associated with pro-Second Amendment organizations, particularly Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, have to be reminded that gun control=people control, various elites have vested interests in people control, and much of the mainstream-media-public-education-informed public seems blissfully unaware of elite machinations and the possibility that they might ever have to stand up to an oppressive government. Ironically, even members of minorities that have been terribly oppressed by governments are willing to trust our government with a monopoly on weaponry. In the book, I quote the Jewish survivor of a Nazi concentration camp who, remembering the Nazis who came for him with guns, was upset that Americans had a right to possess guns. It didn’t dawn on him that it was government thugs who came for him with guns in Germany. He wrote to a gun magazine to try to convince gun owners to turn in their guns, and you replied, “There has not been, and I predict never will be, a time when people will be better off by being disarmed and naively allowing the government of any nation the power to determine who will be free.” Unfortunately, your views don’t seem to be shared by the majority of American Jews, prominent and otherwise, and the same goes for blacks. As I demonstrate through several of the essays in Gun Control=People Control,
“ethnic elites have attempted to keep ethnic minorities and immigrants in line by restricting their access to guns; business elites on the right have so attempted to keep labor in line; and modern, urban-oriented, cosmopolitan elites on the left have so attempted to contain rural- and small-town-oriented, bedrock traditionalists on the right who are unwilling to cooperate with their social engineering efforts.”
Q. Then, efforts to control gun ownership in the United States haven’t all come from left/liberals?
A. Hardly. While efforts to restrict gun ownership in the United States are associated with left/liberals nowadays, the business-oriented right has made contributions along these lines. When machine guns were being used “as an alternative to collective bargaining” by National Guardsmen and company guards dealing with labor unrest in the early 1900s, the elites seem not to have been troubled by them. But civilian ownership of machine guns was brought under strict federal control in 1934 at the time that “Depression–spawned mass demonstrations such as the march on the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan and the World War I veterans’ march on Washington, D.C. had the establishment worried about a rebellion.” The conventional explanation for passage of the 1934 restrictions on the civilian ownership of machine guns is that they were the weapons of choice of the gangsters and bank robbers of the 1920s and 1930s, but the late Second Amendment defender Neal Knox didn’t buy that. After all, the National Firearms Act of 1934 didn’t ban the civilian ownership of machine guns, it simply put such weapons out of the financial reach of all but the wealthy by requiring payment of a $200 transfer tax to the federal government with their purchase. That was a lot of money in those days, particularly when added to the cost of the gun. And besides, John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde didn’t buy their automatic weapons. Dillinger and his associates either stole their Thompson submachine guns from the cops or had underworld gunsmiths convert semiautomatics to full automatics. Bonnie and Clyde stole their Browning Automatic Rifles from National Guard armories. Elites of the right don’t seem to be bothered by guns that only they can afford, or that are carried by their security people.
The expert elites of the left are specialists. Though leery of military and police forces, not being good at violence themselves, they have to accept the professional division of labor and trust these armed agents of government to impose and enforce their elite-formulated state interventions. They trust the armed agents of government more than they trust the citizenry—the former can have automatic weapons, while the latter can’t even have pistol ammunition that can penetrate body armor worn by the former, etc. That’s the reverse of what the Founders of this country thought, as we know from the detailed paper trail they left. James Madison’s friend, Tench Coxe, summed up their position succinctly:
“As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”
Now we have exactly the kind of large professional military and select militia (the federalizeable National Guard) that the Founders feared, an ongoing effort to get militarily effective firearms out of civilian hands, militarized police forces at the local, state, and federal levels, and all sorts of constitutionally-questionable legislation enacted in the name of fighting terrorism. Gun Control=People Control.
Q. Again, how can people get your book?
A. It can be ordered directly from the publisher at authorhouse.com (Sorry - link appears expired) or by calling AuthorHouse at (888) 280-7715, or it can be ordered through any of the major bookstores or Amazon. Price from AuthorHouse is $11.50 plus postage, and it runs around $13.50 through the others.