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Please begin with an informative title:

This shouldn't have happened.
In the conservative world, conspiracy theories are par for the course these days. It seems that just about every single policy proposal or major news development is the result of some hidden agenda or half-baked nefarious scheme. Doesn't matter whether it is labor and unemployment statistics, the sordid saga of birtherism, the Petraeus affair, anything and everything that George Soros has ever dared to touch, or every single thing that Glenn Beck ever said on air—evil is afoot somewhere, and only the brave world of conservative punditry can claim to bring the truth to light.

As heinous as it is, claiming that the administration fudged labor statistics in advance of an election is one thing. Even the fervent belief that the president's birth certificate is forged it least political and partisan in nature. Compared even to these feverish accusations, the idea that the tragic massacre of children at Sandy Hook was a secret government plot is beyond the pale. And yet, that belief is more prominent than you may think.

The vanguard of this effort is a video on YouTube to which I will not link here for the same reasons that Gandalf does not utter the language of Mordor. This video purports to prove that the Sandy Hook incident was not the work of a deranged mass-murderer, but that it was a carefully crafted conspiracy, that those commonly credited with helping rescue some of the children were actually paid actors (one of whom is currently being harassed on a daily basis), and that at least one of the children is actually still alive. That last theory is based on the fact that the sister of one of the victims sat on Obama's lap wearing a dress that belonged to her deceased sister, so obviously, they're the same person. That's crazy, right? I mean, the last thing you'd do if you were orchestrating a government conspiracy to murder children is to put one of those same children on the lap of the president of the United States in full view of the world? Sure, it's insane. And yet, that video has over 10 million views on YouTube, and those views are not coming from people who simply can't avert their eyes as if watching a trainwreck in slow motion. How exactly does this happen? How can so many people want to believe, much less actually believe, that the government programmed a mentally disturbed individual to murder children? The NRA is of course involved in this conversation, but this problem is a pre-existing condition that could set the stage for some very dangerous consequences.

The problem starts with the very topic of the conversation in question: namely, imposing further restrictions on the purchase of the types of guns whose sole purpose is to kill a lot of people in not a lot of time. There is a substantial group of people who are fanatically devoted to keeping as many of these weapons legal as they can, and their reasons for doing so are usually based in paranoid fears about very unlikely circumstances. As I wrote before, there are those who simply enjoy the sport of target practice. But the people who are the most dedicated to their arsenals believe that they need their mass-murder machines either for when the social order breaks down and they will need to defend themselves against urban populations invading their suburban neighborhoods, or for when the socialists, fascists, communists, or the latest shadowy group du jour take over the United States government and seek to impose tyranny.

The most avid defenders of gun rights, then, are automatically predisposed toward the idea of government conspiracies, and de facto accept violence, even against government forces if need be, as an affirmative solution. The gun lobby, meanwhile, has taken full advantage of this: They have accused President Obama of intending on confiscating guns ever since the beginning of his administration, and NRA President Wayne LaPierre openly insinuated that the recent "Fast and Furious" scandal was a secret plot to ease this intended policy. The fact that these ever-imminent gun grabs never materialize is immaterial: In the unfalsifiable narrative of the conspiratorial mind, only their eternal vigilance is preventing President Obama from unleashing an army of blue-helmeted United Nations soldiers to take away America's precious constitutional rights. Any contradictory statements or actions undertaken by the administration are simply feints to lull gun owners into complacency before the imminent confiscation. Short of allowing every household to own their own rocket launcher, there is nothing this administration could do to disprove this narrative.

The fact that this disgusting and insane conspiracy theory about Sandy Hook exists, then, cannot be seen as surprising. The very fact that Sandy Hook has prompted such a conversation about gun control only serves to reinforce the idea among an already paranoid population segment that the government must have concocted it. The main problem is, we are only at the stage where President Obama is proposing mild fixes to make it less likely that mentally disturbed individuals can commit massacres with so-called assault weapons; and even at this early phase, the right-wing gun lobby is screaming about things like tyranny and trampling of the constitution. What happens if something meaningful to keep children safe is actually enacted, whether through Congress or executive order?

This is a uniquely American pyschosis that is deeply ingrained into an alarmingly broad cross-section of our nation's fabric. It can't be removed: The only reason we are even discussing solutions is that too many innocent children have died for something not to change.


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Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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