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Stevens: Gun control and the New World Order | Commentary

After the killings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, many people are asking why we do not pass reasonable gun laws. We all know that the Second Amendment was never designed to prohibit all regulation of gun ownership. The Constitution is not the problem. Some point to the procedural issues in Congress. As things now stand, you need 60 votes, rather than a mere majority, to pass a bill, and that is a high bar at a time of political polarization.

But there is something else going on. A dangerous conspiracy delusion is hovering behind this discussion. It is a fear of what is believed to be the coming of a New World Order.

Although the twisted belief in a coming New World Order has existed in the United States for many years, its adherents are no longer restricted to fringe groups. A growing number of people believe that global elites — aided by domestic socialists and communists in the Democratic Party and the “deep state” — have a plan to destroy America and establish an international tyranny through the intervention of the United Nations. Different versions of this conspiracy delusion exist. But in general, the notion is that these elites want to destroy the American family, eliminate capitalism (including our nation’s currency) and deport patriots to concentration camps, which some believe already have been built. Sometimes apocalyptic religious notions are attached to this, with the enemy being associated with the antichrist. Sometimes science fiction intrudes, and a belief in secret lizard people is part of the delusion.

But central to every version of the belief is that an amorphous elite is committed to taking all guns away from U.S. citizens.

From the perspective of those who have embraced the conspiracy delusion, there can be no reasonable gun law; any talk about it is dishonest. Those who believe there is a conspiracy to create a New World Order believe that regardless of what is said, the goal of those who raise the issue of gun regulation is actually to confiscate all guns and leave us vulnerable to the new world tyranny. Hence, all patriots must fight any attempt to pass gun legislation of any kind. All gun regulation is just a Trojan horse for the ultimate goal of complete, absolute disarmament, leaving us all vulnerable to the coming tyranny. As Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has said, those who believe this think that “the USA was the last bastion of freedom, but now they’re collaborating with the New World Order to strip Americans of their rights, including the right to bear arms.”

Many believe that this is imminent. As Virginia’s Democratic governor was on his way out of office in January, there were new reports about spurious claims that he was going to call on the United Nations to quell a protest by gun advocates. Pictures of U.N. vehicles circulated on the internet, and many believed that civil war was at hand. And that made clinging to all firearms a necessity.

So the problem with enacting reasonable, moderate gun regulation is not primarily the result of money given to politicians by the National Rifle Association. This powerful lobbying organization does, in fact, play a role. But the role of ideology is even more important. Hardcore conspiracy believers think the Democrats (read “socialists” or “communists”) are being led by a hidden elite intent on establishing a world tyranny and that disarmament is a key step toward making this happen.

Even those who reject hardcore conspiracies are touched by this narrative. Are the Democrats really just globalists in disguise? Is talk of modest gun regulation really a step in the direction of complete gun confiscation?

I have good friends who are not believers in hardcore conspiracy delusions, but they hold to the notion that we are heading toward civil war and that tyranny is going to be imposed. Only guns can save us from this fate. Only guns can protect America from its enemies. Gun regulation is just a slippery slope. If one caves to one seemingly reasonable regulation, soon all guns will be taken from us.

My friends who believe this are good people, and they are not captives to conspiracy delusions. But the conspiracy notions that circulate affect them. They feel the urgency of the moment. They distrust their political opponents.

The essence of politics, as Aristotle understood, is compromise. People who disagree talk to one another and come to agreements to meet in the middle. But the rise of conspiracy delusions is making that difficult, if not impossible. Somehow, we have to find a way to reach across the aisle and trust one another enough to work together.

Solomon D. Stevens earned his doctorate in political science from Boston College and taught constitutional law, American government and political theory. He lives in North Charleston.

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