The second anniversary of the kindergarten massacre in Newtown, Connecticut passed last month. Here are some Internet comments about guns posted during the time since it happened, plus the very short story about why I left the NRA.

The first comment, in response to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a gun owner, forming the group Americans for Responsible Solutions with her husband, Mark Kelly:

I refuse to stand by and gently, kindly stroke little Gabby Giffords’ fears and ego, just because she was a victim. She’s exploiting her tragedy and using her pain to destroy the foundations of this country.

That’s from someone who posts as Nicki. Now here’s a nameless Guest responding to the parents of a slain student in the May 2014 Santa Barbara campus murder spree:

Oh boo hoo; so your only son is dead. Blame everyone and everything else, instead of the killer and the abysmal American mental health system. Makes you and your cretin sympathizers all warm and cuddly to be so liberal and able to vent and express your so-called grief so publicly. Just go bury your son and shut the fuck up.

And one more, where a forum poster responds to someone who pointed out that the number of American mass shootings prevented by “good guys with guns” still stands at zero:

This is why the NRA has stopped trying to find common ground with gun grabbers. There is no negotiating with people who will never be satisfied. If liberals knew anything beyond sound bites from NPR they would know that their desire to save lives would be more effective if they pushed for stricter controls on household cleaning chemicals, swimming pools, and cars. These kill far more Americans every day than guns.

To read online “discussions” about guns is to watch a conversational magic show, performed through relentless diversion and moving the focal point out of focus the moment you think you can see it. If you try to point out problems with blanket assumptions shared online (like that favored trope of “good guys with guns”), if you try to get a zealot to listen for a minute rather than spew robotic platitudes, if you try to say anything that counters a guns-are-basic-human-rights view, then there’s only a torrent of labels and accusations.

If you see any exceptions to the assumptions, you’re a mentally deficient liberal who argues through cheap emotion based on an official “lib” script handed out with your marching orders from National Public Radio.

And then the word GUNS disappears in a great puff of white smoke and is magically replaced with… HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS.

Never mind that in contrast to an average 30,000 yearly American gun deaths, there are roughly four thousand from the chemicals under the kitchen sink, and bullets outnumber bottles seven to one. Facts like those are just liberal propaganda, instantly dismissed. Not because the smaller number is small, but because the larger one is overstated. See, you’re including suicides and accidents and justifiable homicides. Everyone knows those don’t count as gun deaths.

For a gun zealot, fact-vanishing acts and subject switches are efficient ends to foolish liberal thinking.

But really, they’re the mark of dangerous narcissists who, when you say on a horrible December day that a six-year-old boy had his face shot off at school today, do not answer oh god that’s terrible or feel empathy, but instead say yeah, and if you try to touch my guns now I’ll shoot YOUR face off, fucker — and feel only rage.

That’s not why I left the NRA. After all, it’s never said anything this direct or deplorable. But some of its members did. And that got me, as a gun owner, thinking about my role in the ugliness.

It’s not easy figuring out how we got to this hideously soulless period in American history, when an elected official shot in the head during an assassination attempt and the father of a victim killed in a campus shooting can be painted as villains for daring to suggest that maybe it’s time to talk about guns. Materialism, selfishness, racism, single parents, religious fundamentalism, the Internet, feminism, latchkey kids, and a bankrupt mental health system all come up for analysis and blame. Depending on who’s arguing and how, there’s merit in almost all of those arguments. Common ground, even. Not that it matters.

“Nicki” and “Guest” up there aren’t showing what awful people gun owners can be. They’re showing how cruel Americans can be toward one another over intense ideological differences. And more than that, they show how materialism (the desire to buy guns), selfishness (that desire trumping another person’s preference to not be shot) and the Internet (the ability to easily publish an attack against a shooting victim) come together to create the appearance that all gun owners are repulsive sociopaths.

And that pisses me off, because we’re not.

When I see comments like theirs that hurl me into their cesspools, I’m reminded of a list of futurists’ global predictions, published a few years ago, that explained how, because of a deteriorating climate and all that comes with it, governments will become isolationist like never before. A vivid description showed nations “bristling with nukes” and ready to attack anyone desperate enough to make a grab for their few remaining resources.

Bristling with nukes, like enraged porcupines pulled into themselves and ready to let their quills fly in every direction in order to be left alone.

Change one word, and that image describes the United States of Guns after December 2012. Before that day was done, while parents across the country and around the world were still mourning the executions of 20 children, America became a fanatical fortress, bristling not with nukes but with firearms. Instead of joining in a national outpouring of horror, grief, love, and assistance, the lunatic wing of the gun community whipped itself into a frenzied eruption of shrill warnings about “gun grabbers” who would be riding over the ridge within days, shredding the Constitution in their wake and laying waste to the Bill of Rights.

There was no lone gunman, some of them even said. The U.S. government itself had arranged this masterful simulated execution of those kindergarteners and their teachers. Just as the government had set up a staged shooting at a Colorado theater and a mock rampage at Virginia Tech and a phony slaughter at a Denver area high school before that, going back to the 1960s with the scripted televised “assassinations” of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King.

That’s right. Our own government — the same collective of elderly white men that all sane gun owners know would piss their Depends over the prospect of having to support any actual gun safety legislation — had brilliantly staged all of these fake tragedies in order to successfully create gun safety legislation. The Sandy Hook parents were actors! The children were fine! Nothing to see here, folks; move along!

In the real world where rational thought prevails against lunacy like this, the bullet-riddled bodies of twenty children — children — lay in a coroner’s office. And in response, the National Rifle Association went silent. It couldn’t find within its compromised soul enough compassion to utter one solitary word of sympathy, much less to announce that it wanted no part of the barbaric conspiracy theories going around.

That’s because “Sandy Hook” wasn’t an elementary school in a devastated community. It was a rallying cry for firearm fanatics who would now be rushing every gun store and show in the country to clear the shelves of as many rifles, handguns, and ammunition rounds that a little bit of room on a credit card could buy. And the NRA, for almost a century a valuable and respected organization devoted to gun safety and responsibility, now served the manufacturers of all of that hot-selling lethal hardware, and was devoted to the safety of the heated sales.

NRA now meant No Restrictions for Armaments. Silence could only help the cause.

To some observers in the non-gun world, it might have seemed that the NRA was actually showing respect for the slain by going dark. But to some of the panicky paranoids throwing their money at gun shops across the land, it looked more like the NRA knew what was coming, and had lost its nerve. The worst, most horrific tragedy imaginable had finally happened — and it wasn’t that the concept of “mass school shooting” now included kindergarten.

Rather, the terrifying possibility was that the mighty NRA was accepting an impending defeat. The emotional impact of that prospect was far too awful to contemplate.

It takes a special kind of demented arrogance to look out at an entire society in pain and claim that the only pain is your own, that the only voice that matters is yours. And the words your important voice projects are always battle-ready. Assault rifles, two words that you’ve known for years must always be written with “so-called” before them in order to ridicule the “assault” idea and diminish its conceptual power, suddenly become modern sporting rifles. If the “so-called” doesn’t work and the “sporting rifle” idea is ridiculed as a joke, then change the words to scary-looking black guns to turn that joke back on the simpering pussies who tremble in fear of a mere color and shape.

Likewise, the massive .223 round that’s fed to an AR-15 rifle is made microscopic when you dismiss it as nearly the same size as a .22 with just a little more powder behind it.

And gun nuts are Patriots defending themselves from liberal gun grabbers who are the enemies of Freedom. Answering the bugle call of the freedom militia they think they serve, the anti-zombie brigade in which they are four-star generals, gun zealots strap on their shoulder holsters and hip holsters and ankle holsters, their ammo belts and Kevlar and leather combat boots from Sports Authority, their backpacks filled with spare ammo magazines. With cherished black “modern sporting rifles” slung across their shoulders, they march to war at their computer screens to become forum snipers, comment commandos who blast away with their trigger fingers on the keyboard the moment any goddamned libtard asshole posts anything that’s not fully pro-2A/RKBA (2nd Amendment/ Right to Keep and Bear Arms).

Over and over, they rebuild their Maginot Line of bumper-sticker slogans, obscuring the window of clarity by plastering those tired slogans everywhere until the only words anyone can see on the glass are the screeds of soldiers in the Army of Armageddon.

Guns don’t kill people; people do.

_Armed society is polite society. _

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

What part of “shall not be infringed” don’t you understand?

My Second Amendment rights protect all of your other ones.

When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.

Just as Christian fundamentalists can’t be swayed from a belief that the Lord God Almighty personally wrote every literal word of the Old Testament, gun zealots will not be moved from a belief that God, working through his faithful servant James Madison, authored the Second Amendment. Since these unshakeable beliefs are so similar, let’s call the latter group “gundamentalists.”

And they’re the reason I left. I won’t sit in a church where people speak in tongues, and I won’t stay in a group where people think in bumper sticker slogans, either.

Not all of them, and maybe not even many of them. But enough of them.

When invited to join a civil conversation in a mutual search for reason and sanity, gundamentalists quickly counter that civil, conversation, mutual, reason, and sanity are all words used by mentally deficient girly-libs who hate freedom. There’s only word that matters, and it’s liberty. Which includes freedom of speech, but only if that speech supports unlimited gun rights.

“As harsh as this sounds, your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights,” wrote Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher last May on behalf of gundamentalists, to the growing list of bereaved parents who’ve lost children to madmen with guns.

Nothing needs to trump anything, and a thousand miles of middle ground are just waiting to be explored and mapped regarding gun ownership, but either/or thinking is the gundamental way.

So boo-hoo, just go bury your kids and shut the fuck up. What part of “shall not be infringed” don’t you understand?