That debate occasioned this exchange on Sunday between “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (bolding is mine):
Wallace: “Senator, first of all, the two bills that the House has passed, that the Senate is now considering, have to do with background checks. They wouldn’t take away your guns. And what’s wrong with a serious debate after all of these shootings about assault weapons and especially about large capacity magazines, which a lot of studies show contribute to these mass killings?
Graham: “There’s nothing wrong about debates. As a matter fact, I would challenge Senator Schumer to bring the assault weapons ban to the floor of the United States Senate. It won’t get 50 votes, much less 60.
“I own an AR-15. If there’s a natural disaster in South Carolina where the cops can’t protect my neighborhood, my house will be the last one that the gang will come to because I can defend myself.”
Graham’s fantasy of defending himself and his property from lawless gangs is of a piece of the broader scare tactics that groups like the National Rifle Association have perfected over the years to keep Republican members of Congress from supporting measures with broad public support — like increased background checks.
The roving gangs imagery is drawn from the same source as the idea, also pushed by Trump, that if Democrats control Washington it’s only a matter of time before a) the 2nd Amendment is repealed and b) police come to your door to collect your guns.
Does Graham really believe that he needs an AR-15 in order to defend his family and property in the event of a natural disaster that renders law enforcement obsolete? I have no way of peering into his mind to know for sure. But my educated guess is that he does not.
Rather, he knows that the image of him, AR-15 in hand, defending against marauders, makes him look — to a certain segment of the population, tough. It forwards the idea that any attempts at common sense gun control measures are, really, about making it impossible for the average person to defend themselves when the ravaging horde comes for them and their family.
That is, of course, not what is being debated here. Graham knows that. But he’d rather engage in ridiculous what-if scenarios than debate the actual merits of putting in place some (more) gun control measures.