Thom Hartmann "Would Simply Do Away With" the Second Amendment. No Need to "Rewrite" It, He Says.

September 20, 2019

 
Thom Hartmann giving a TED Talk in Portland, Oregon ( TedXMtHood )

Thom Hartmann giving a TED Talk in Portland, Oregon (TedXMtHood)

BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

Thom Hartmann has been a long-time friend and colleague of mine for nearly 20 years.

In that time, he has become the top progressive talk show host in the nation. Thom radio show is syndicated on for-profit FM and AM radio stations nationally, on non-profit and community stations nationwide by Pacifica, across the entire North American continent on SiriusXM Satellite radio (The Progress, Channel 127), on cable systems nationwide by Cable Radio Network (CRN), via subscription audio podcasts, worldwide through the US Armed Forces Network, and through the Thom Hartmann iOS and Android apps. The radio show is also simulcast as TV in real-time into nearly 40 million US and Canadian homes by the Free Speech TV Network on Dish Network, DirecTV, on cable TV systems nationwide, and live on both YouTube and Facebook.

Thom is as erudite as he is skilled at navigating the shoals of talk radio. He is the author of 24 books in print in 17 languages.

In an age of news and knowledge that is as ephemeral as a tweet, Thom’s analysis and commentary on the current political and cultural realities confronting us are steeped in an erudite understanding of history, but always are presented in a succinct and accessible manner. His knowledge of political history is exhaustive, and he pulls no punches.

BuzzFlash has interviewed Thom many times in the past. This time we talk with him about his recent book, The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment.

Needless to say, it is a timely interview given the renewed push for gun control in light of America’s ongoing gun violence and gun massacres. Thom provides the historical context for how guns came to be part of the DNA of American culture.

This interview was conducted by BuzzFlash Editor Mark Karlin. It was lightly edited.

BuzzFlash: In your book, The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, you begin with Chapter One, "The Unholy Alliance of Racism, Genocide, and Guns." You return to the "unholy alliance” In Chapter Five, "From Genocide to Slavery." Let me read the last paragraph of that chapter. Then I want you to expand upon that because this theme seems so central to your book.

The last paragraph of Chapter Five, "From Genocide to Slavery," reads: "To commit the largest genocide in known human history, a society must create an implacable police state to terrorize millions of people into remaining in slavery. And to maintain that police structure to prevent those former slaves and genocide victims from fully participating in modern society, the society will need guns. Lots of guns."

Can you expand upon that as a central point in The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment?

Thom Hartmann:  The work that first really awoke me to all this was Jared Diamond's book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, which came out back in the 90's and was a New York Times bestseller. And he made the point in there that developing the technology of guns not only revolutionized what you might call white Western society, but also provided Europeans with a tool that they could use to dominate, destroy and enslave people who didn't have access to that technology. One result was that the genocide of Native Americans in North America is the largest genocide in the history of the world.

There are other places certainly, where there have been genocides and where colonialism has been wreaking its horrors across the continent of Africa, across the continent of Asia, particularly South Eastern Asia, throughout the Middle East, in North and South America. But it's only in North America that the indigenous people had nearly been wiped out. Obviously, many Native Americans survived the slaughter, but when you look at the landscape compared to how it was at first white European contact, we had wiped out somewhere between 50 and 100 million Native Americans in North and South America.

This was, for 200 years, the official policy of the British-East India company and the British government. And then, for over 100 years, the official policy of the United States government. Arguably still is to this day, although it's not quite as explicitly genocidal, but we're still putting Native Americans on reservations. We're still policing them in ways that are laced with brutality.

And because of the bizarre laws now, white men who live off the reservation but near the reservation, can go on the reservation, rape Native American women, leave the reservation and are basically outside the realm of any law enforcement. And this has become a real crisis on a number of reservations around the country today.

So, we have this massive genocide that was made possible by guns and at the same time, slavery, as from the paragraph that you just quoted, slavery cannot exist without guns in the hands of whites. People don't volunteer to be enslaved.

Slavery cannot exist without a police state, and a police state can't exist, particularly among a fairly substantial population being oppressed or being enslaved, cannot exist without a superior weaponry technology, and that's guns. So, in a very real way, at the most technical and actual level, guns made possible genocide in North America, and then made possible slavery in North America, as well.

BuzzFlash:  So how did that lead to militias in slave patrols, which you have written about, particularly in a Truthout article, "The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery,” that received an enormous readership. How did we get to the institutionalization of slave patrols that were armed militias in the south?

Thom Hartmann: In order to have the institution of slavery, you have to have a police state. In order to have a police state, you have to have, essentially, a continuous police presence. In the early years of the Republic, and in the hundred years or so, or actually a little longer than that, before the founding of the United States when the Eastern Coast of North America was being colonized and land was being stolen from Native Americans by Europeans, each colony (later state) produced, or generated, or came up with, for the protection of the colony, their own militia.

And the state militias in the North tended to be sort of like what we would think of today as the National Guard. But the militias in the South served certain functions.

They were the National Guard essentially that protected the state. This is, for example, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, you had the militia that protected the state, but that militia was also the institution that kept in place slavery, through something called the slave patrols, the slave patrols and the militia were the same thing.

Georgia's constitution, for example, or at least Georgia law required that every man between 17 and 47 years of age had to be a member, every white man, had to be a member of the slave patrol. There were exceptions provided for politicians and physicians and preachers, but that was pretty much it.

The slave patrol was in continuous operation. The Georgia law required that the quarters of every slave person in Georgia had to be inspected at least once a month by the slave patrols. It was a continuous thing. The other thing that the slave patrols or the militias did in the Southern states was that they also provided policing services.

Since they were already policing the slaves, they were also used to police white people who got out of line as well. In a very real way, the police culture, particularly of the South, grew out of the slave patrols, which is probably one of the reasons, if you are shot by a stranger in the South, odds are one in three, you are shot by a police officer, regardless of your race.

BuzzFlash: .We've spoken of the armed militias, the slave patrols, was this what the Southern states wanted when the Second  Amendment was drafted and enacted with that first clause, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State"?

Thom Hartmann: We actually need to go back just a little bit in the historical record to get an appropriate context here. As I mentioned, the Northern states had militias, and the Southern states had militias. Then in the Northern states the militia might gather once a month, and they had all of their weapons in the armory, in the southern states the militias ran 24/7, 365 days a year.

The framers of the Constitution, when they got to the point of writing the Constitution, one of the few things that there was absolute unanimity about, was the concern that a standing army during a time of peace could overthrow a legitimate government, stage a military coup.

These constitutional framers were all scholars of European history, and European history going all the way back to the Greeks, probably going all the way back to Gilgamesh, was also the history of armies, after they came back from fighting wars, not being dissolved, and sitting around with nothing better to do, and so, deciding to overthrow the country that created them.

So, they did not want that to happen, and their formula to have that not happen, was to force Congress, every two years, to decide whether or not they were going to have an army. This got written into Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, that Congress can appropriate money, in other words raise taxes, or spend money for anything it wants, for as long as it wants, in any kind of time frame that it wants, except the army. The army may not be funded for more than two years. It's right there in the Constitution.

This is why the military appropriations legislation that happens every two years, is so important, because if the army doesn't get funded, it ceases to exist. And the framers very much wanted that possibility to exist, "Maybe we shouldn't have an army anymore."

Then the question becomes, if you don't have an army, what do you do? At that point in time, when the Constitution was being written, Florida was occupied by the Spanish, the Louisiana Territories were occupied by the French, Canada was occupied by the British, and the entire Western frontier of the 13 Colonies was filled with very pissed-off Native Americans, who had their land stolen.

So, the 13 Colonies were surrounded by potential hostility. The answer was, if we're not going to have a standing army in the time of peace, but we do need to have some kind of defensive militias, it would be the individual state militias. And Article 1 Section 8 gives Congress and the President the power to call up those militias.

Then we get to 1789 and the pivotal Virginia Constitution ratifying convention, and James Madison comes to the convention and brings this brand-new Constitution that he helped put together, which included  the ten amendments that Jefferson had told him in December of 1787, that if they were not included, he would have Virginia shred the Constitution and there would be no United States.

Madison was himself a slaveholder. He brings this to the Virginia delegation and says, "Okay guys, time to ratify the Constitution." And the largest slave holder in the state, the guy who had more slaves than any other slaveholder was Patrick Henry, the guy who famously said, "Give me liberty or give me death.

Patrick Henry said, essentially, "The Constitution in Article 1, Section 8, gives Congress and parts of Article 2, with the President as Commander in Chief the power to call up the state militias. And so, since our militia is also our slave patrol, and there are 360,000 people of African ancestry, in Virginia right now," Patrick Henry pointed out – and I'm paraphrasing here, "What happens if our slave patrol gets called off to some other state? What happens if the day ever comes and there is an abolitionist both in the White House, and abolitionists take a majority of the House and the Senate? They will call up our militia, just as they have the power to do according to this new Constitution in any state, they'll call up our militia and they'll send them off somewhere else. They'll send them up to the border with Canada or something, and we will be slaughtered by slaves."

Patrick Henry stands up and says, "I'm going to blow this thing up unless you change that." Now the first draft said that the militia would be necessary for the security of a free nation, or free country, I think was the language that was the language that was used. And Henry said, "This will be used against us." Madison responded, "I think you're just being paranoid, you know there was no intent to put that in there. I'm a slave owner as well, and holding slave people myself, and I don't see this as a problem." He basically called Patrick Henry paranoid.

But then George Mason jumps in and says, "No, I agree with Patrick Henry, and we can stop the Constitution from being ratified in Virginia." And if Virginia didn't ratify the Constitution there would be no United States.

At that time, Virginia was the center of everything, physically and politically. So, Madison said something like, "Well, what do you want? How do we compromise?" Henry responded, "If you change that word country to the word state so that the primacy of the slave patrol of Virginia, our militia, is recognized, that will calm us down." And so that's what Madison did.

In a very real way, the current version of the Second Amendment, the version that ultimately got ratified in I think it was 1791, was written not just to deal with the problem of not having an army during times of peace, but also to preserve the slave patrols of the South.   

This was actually a big deal from 1787 until around 1815, and the reason why it ceased to be a big deal, was that when Jefferson became president he was one of the biggest proponents of not having a standing army during times of peace, he was very outspoken about this, and when he became president in 1801, there were about 300,000 men in the army, and we were at peace. So, over the course of the next eight years, he cut the U.S. army down to 6000 men.

But at the same time, the individual state militias did not go up in strength or in competence to compensate for that. As a result, when the War of 1812 happened, the British marched all the way down to the White House and burned it. James Madison famously led troops into battle, the only president to have ever done that. And Dolly Madison was all alone in the White House. She had to rescue the picture of George Washington before the White House was burned.

After that, there was pretty much no longer a discussion about whether we should have an army. Although that two-year provision is still in the Constitution, in Article 1, Section 8. So, you could say that the Third Amendment is an anachronism, the Third Amendment says, "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law"

The government can't force you to put troops in your spare bedroom, so too the Second Amendment is also now, post the War of 1812, an anachronism. There's really no reason for it at all. People ask, "How would you rewrite the Second Amendment?" I would simply do away with it.

Let the federal government establish whatever broad gun regulation they want to have, whether or not automatic weapons are regulated, or semi-automatic weapons, and then allow states to have their own tightly controlled regulations. The Second Amendment was until the 1970's widely viewed by American scholars, historians, and scholars of the law, as an anachronism, as something that was left over from a previous era that was no longer necessary.

It wasn't until the NRA got into the business of promoting weapons that they started politicizing and publicizing the Second Amendment. If you were to talk to somebody of the age of our fathers or grandfathers, or mothers or grandmothers, and asked them about the Second Amendment, they probably wouldn't know what the Second Amendment actually said.

BuzzFlash: The South in essence got what it wanted by changing the wording of the Second Amendment from nation to state, they were allowed in forming the United States, the Union, they were allowed to maintain their slave patrols without any fear they would be co-opted by the federal government.

Thom Hartmann: Yes, and in addition, when the Southern states seceded, and the Confederate army came into being, it was able to come into being as rapidly and as competently as it did, because by and large, it was made up of slave patrollers.

BuzzFlash:   Let me ask you, you just basically said that the Second Amendment is irrelevant at this point if we were to rewrite the Constitution. However, in Chapter 21, you refer to the 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller decision, which very much reaffirms the Second Amendment in terms of an individual right to bear arms. What is your take on the Heller decision?

Thom Hartmann: Well, Anthony Scalia was running the same scam, and the five conservatives on the court right now, to this day, are running the same scam that hustler televangelists have been running for centuries, well, we haven't had televangelists run. Anybody who tells you that God talks to them and that they know exactly what God wants, is just as much a BS artist as anybody who tells you that they know exactly what the founders intended and what the founders would think today, and what the founders and the framers of the Constitution wanted. Hi-tech, highly lethal guns are very different today than the muskets at the time of the revolution, for instance.

:This whole "originalism" or "strict constructionist" concept of Scalia's is a scam, and as I point out in that chapter, not only did the founders not have anything in mind about personal protection as it is asserted today by the NRA, that was not an issue in any of the constitutional debates. The statements about personal protection were all in the context of protection from slaves, protection from Indians and other non-whites.

Not only did Scalia say, "I know what they thought." But he went off looking for language from that era, that he could use, that he could build into the Heller decision, and you read the Heller decision, and it's just laced with all these old quotes, all of them out of context, all of them not relevant to the Second Amendment. It makes it seem like this is what the founders meant, and if you read the dissent in Heller, then I think you'll get a really good picture of what a scam it was how Scalia ran with that decision.

BuzzFlash: Now that decision from 2008, the Heller decision, that still allows some forms of gun control, isn't that correct?

Thom Hartmann: That's right, in fact, all of the suggestions I have to reduce gun violence and regulate guns at the end of the book, I believe are consistent with Heller.

BuzzFlash: Let's go back to your point about slave patrols, which were essentially a vehicle of policing, a militia vehicle of policing, but nonetheless, policing. You tie that in your book into contemporary policing in relationship to Blacks and the shootings of Blacks. In what ways did the slave patrols help to shape police culture and the use of guns by police in the United States, the legacy that we have to this day?

Thom Hartmann:  Well you had entire communities that were living essentially as occupied territories, and the slave patrols who were -- outside a few of the major cities in the South -- the police, in addition to being the slave patrol, and the militia as mentioned earlier, were basically an occupying force. So, when you heard people in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, when people were rising up and condemning policing. And when you hear Black Lives Matter talking about how it feels like they are living in occupied territory, there's a reason for that. It actually is occupied territory for many people of color in the United States, particularly for African Americans. It makes perfect sense that our policing, the mentality, the mindset of our policing, came out of the slave patrols, so there's still that sense of white-occupied territory.

BuzzFlash:  You do have a chapter that specifically addresses the important role that we need to address regarding gun violence, gun violence between the police and the Black community, that it's important to address racism, and is that because of the history we've been discussing?

Thom Hartmann:  Yes, I think that if white Americans don't understand the history that we've been talking about here, it's a lot harder for them to understand how we need to reform our policing and adopt a more European model. And by the way, there's a great 15-minute segment in Michael Moore's movie, Where to Invade Next, where he goes to Norway and checks out their police and prisons.

And I had tears in my eyes watching that, about what could replace our mass incarceration system here. But, yes, we don't understand how we got here historically. We don't understand why we are the way we are, and that causes a lot of people to think, "Well, this must be normal, this must be the way things should be." Now, things are the way that they are because of our very cruel history of slavery, to use the phrase from the 1700's, "The peculiar institution." That is the history that brought us here.

BuzzFlash: In your book, you discuss the Citizens United decision that affirmed the concept that corporations and organizations should be allowed campaign contributions under the concept of "corporate personhood," and also resulted in the rise of Super PAC's. You emphasize the importance of reversing the Citizens United decision in order to reduce the impact of corporate, dark money and generally big money in politics.

This would help overcome the gun lobby's financial impact on elections. We certainly saw that the NRA in the zenith of its existence, compared to its fractious embattled state right now, gave 30 million dollars to the Trump campaign through their legislative arm. They've given millions and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republican legislators, and some conservative Democrats, over the years.

They were also very big supporters of George W. Bush, and both George W. Bush and Trump have been aligned at the hip with the NRA. What's your message in your chapter about the 2010 Citizen's United vs. FEC decision and how big money underwrites America's gun problem?

Thom Hartmann:  Prior to 1976, we had the power in the United States, we being the elected representatives of We the People, the Congress had the power to legislate and regulate comparatively free of the influence of big money. After the Nixon scandals in 73-74, the Congress in 74 and 75 passed some really, really good limitations on money and politics.

We were sort of revisiting the period back in 1908 when the Tillman Act was passed that made it a federal felony for any corporation to give money to any candidate for public office, directly or indirectly. And the Tillman Act was still on the books, it just got overturned essentially by Citizens United, which asserted the concept of corporate personhood, which is not in the Constitution of course.

In 1976, for the very first time in the history of this country, the Supreme Court basically changed our laws, and they said that the First Amendment protection of free speech doesn't encompass just words, speech isn't just what people write or people say, speech also includes money, money is the same thing as speech. And in 1976 in the Buckley vs. Valeo decision it was basically individual money, so they overturned all kinds of these relatively good government laws that were passed from the 1900's, even the late 1880's, all the way up to 1976, they overturned those and made it possible for individual billionaires to own their own politicians.

Then two years later this is followed by the First National Bank vs. Belloti decision, in which Massachusetts had a law that said that corporations couldn't put money into political activity unless it directly affected them. And this bank, the First National Bank of Boston had funded a political campaign that had nothing to do with banking, and they got nailed by Frank Belloti, the state attorney general. The bank sued the state and its lawyers argued that corporations should have the same rights billionaires do under the decision two years earlier in Buckley vs. Valeo. And the court ruled, "Yep, sure enough." So, between those two decisions, they set the stage for the 2010 Citizens United, which nailed it down and expanded it.

And then of course, a few years later, there were still limits on the number of politicians a billionaire and companies could own, and in 2014 in McCutcheon vs. FEC, a 5-4 ruling in the Supreme Court essentially said, "No, there's no limit how many politicians can be owned by a billionaire, or by a corporation, functionally, there's no limit."

So that's how we got where we are, and the process of undoing those regulations of money and politics provided an opening for the weapons industry to put their lobbying on steroids, and start buying politicians left and right, and intimidating politicians and everything else. And they did that through the NRA.

BuzzFlash: Let me ask you a question, shifting the topic a bit, but it's so much a part of the American myth. Your Chapter 13 is on the myth of the well-armed cowboy. Certainly, I grew up at a time when cowboy television programs like Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and Bonanza were very much a key part of the culture, playing "cowboys and Indians," and of course, the "Indians" were always bad guys and the white cowboys were always the saviors of the American way. What is the myth of the well-armed cowboy?

Thom Hartmann: Well the fact of the matter is, most cowboys were on the very bottom of the economic workplace and political totem pole. They were generally very poor. There were a lot of cowboys who were people of color who were Native Americans, who were African Americans and who were Hispanic. It was a crappy job that paid very poorly and but had a really, really high incidence of workplace injury and death. And so, you've got that, number one.

And number two, guns at that point in time were very, very, expensive. Prior to, in particular, the 1850's, prior to the Civil War, I think it was 1836, a Mr. Colt started really automating the manufacture of guns, but prior to that they were individually handmade guns that could cost as much as a house. So, there were not that many guns in circulation, frankly, until the Civil War.

So, the idea that the Wild West was constant gun fights and gunslingers were the great heroes, all this kind of stuff was basically a myth made up to sell magazines like the Saturday Evening Post, which went into print in the 1820's, as I recall. And it went on steroids after the Civil War. Many of the soldiers emerged from the conflict as psychopaths.

And after the war, they went home and they had fought side by side with their neighbors, and their neighbors knew what kind of people these folks were, and so they were more or less expelled from their communities, and went out West where they could start their lives over again, but they were still sociopaths or psychopaths.

They were still killers. And most of the stories of the Old West, from the shootout at the OK Corral to Tombstone and all that, were either completely invented or largely reinvented out of events that were nowhere near as meritorious or noble as they might have seemed in the telling of the stories. In fact, in Tombstone, Wyatt Earp had a sign outside town that said, "Check your guns at the sheriff's office and get a claim check." And that was the norm across the West. Gun control was very much the norm.

The National Rifle Association, up until the mid 1970's was an advocate for moderate gun control and gun regulation. They were a sports shooting association at the time. In 1977, there was a leadership coup, and the NRA was taken over by a right-wing guy named Harlon Carter who led the NRA into becoming a political "gun rights" organization. That changed the whole dynamic of gun regulation in the US. You could say the NRA became an organization that weaponized itself into a political force that utilized fear to galvanize white males alienated by a society changing around them.

BuzzFlash:  Let me finish by asking you a sort of global question, which is white male gun culture which seems to be in the DNA, perhaps it's an outgrowth of slave militias, a fear of certainly of "the other," meaning people of color, people of non-European foreign origin, you in your preface, tell an anecdote about how you went shooting with your brother at a shooting range, and at the shooting range you went to buy some bullets, and the gun store owner, this was in 2008, said, "Well you're lucky there's still some bullets left because...".

And you said, "Why?" And he said, "Well, because of your president." And he then discloses, which was a national news story for a time, that there was a run on guns and bullets because the NRA and the other gun lobbies and the gun message boards were saying that Obama was going to seize guns, to confiscate them. What is it in the white gun culture that, as Charlton Heston infamously said, that gun owners will cling to their guns with their cold dead hands, what is it?

Thom Hartmann:  I think that what you're looking at is fear of the other, and fear of the other has been used very successfully by demagogues throughout history. It was used by Hitler most infamously, in Europe in the 1930s, it's being used by Donald Trump right now.

Back in 2008 the election had just happened. This was Christmas of 2008. The reason I went to Michigan, which is where I grew up and where all my family lives, all my brothers and their families, and one of my brothers has several guns, and he's got a little shooting range in his backyard.

 He lives way out in the middle of nowhere, and he's a vegetarian. He's not a hunter, but he's a sport shooter, he's a target shooter. When we go to Michigan, we stay at his house, and in fact the picture of me in the back of the book is me shooting at my brother's.

Obama was President-Elect, but he would not be inaugurated until January, and so we went out to this shooting range in Mason, Michigan. It's one of the largest in Southern Michigan. Normally there's like thousands of boxes of ammunition stored for sale, and the shelves were pretty much empty. I did not realize there was an ammunition shortage, and so we went in and we picked out which guns we were going to rent to shoot, and Steve had brought one of his own guns with him.

There was me and two of my brothers and three of our kids, and so I said to the guy behind the counter, after I picked out the gun I was going to shoot, I said, "I'll take," as I recall, "three or four boxes of ammunition." And he said, "Nope, you can only have two." And I responded, "Well, why is that?" And he said, "Because of that ‘N’ word that's going to be in the White House."

And I sneered, "What are you talking about?" And he said, "He's going to take away our guns, he's going to make it illegal to hold ammunition, and people are stocking up, and so we're all out of ammunition, I mean we're  down to just 10 percent of our normal inventory, a small percentage."

I said, "That's crazy, that's hysterical, Obama never said that." And he said, "No, take a look at this." And he shows me an email that he got that claimed, "Here's Obama's plan for dealing with your guns." And he said, "Everybody's seen this, everybody knows this."

There's a Wikipedia entry for the great ammunition shortages of 2008 and 2012. When Obama got re-elected the exact same thing happened again, there was just this massive nationwide ammunition shortage that lasted four or five months until after he was re-inaugurated and it became obvious he wasn't going to take away anyone's guns. What's ironic is, not only did President Obama not oversee any reduction of gun rights, but during his term in office the Congress actually expanded "gun rights."

BuzzFlash:  What is that passion? Let me tell you one anecdote and we'll finish up. I used to be very involved in gun control, both nationally and in the state of Illinois, and I used to do a lot of debates, media appearances and interviews. One time I was doing a debate and I was talking about the possibility that anyone could become impassioned at some point, who has a gun, and what might be an argument, or even a physical altercation, could lead to a shooting because the gun is available. We see this all the time.

And a gun owner came up to me after the debate and said to me, "Don't call me crazy, don't say I'm capable of killing someone," as he's literally throttling me.

What is it do you think, that that people like George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon Martin, who have this hyper-white masculine attachment to guns that makes them conflate racism with a passion for guns.

Thom Hartmann: I think one contributing factor beyond racism and the long-term infatuation with guns is that when Reagan changed our economic system from Keynesian economics to trickle-down economics, it began the destruction of the American middle class, particularly the white American middle class, and as that destruction picked up steam, men who historically viewed themselves as bread winners, that was their identity, and were no longer as good at being bread winners, found themselves freaked out, their core identity was being threatened.

And so, the power of life and death is an extraordinary thing, and what a gun does, is it gives you the power of life and death. And so, by acquiring guns these men feel like they were getting power back. I think this goes way beyond the small penis gun club  I think it goes beyond insecure male compensation and partially has to do with the dislocation and the destruction of the white middle class.

Continue the conversation at the BuzzFlash Nation group on Facebook. Click here to join.