Don't Even Think of Taking Kurt Russell's Guns
The libertarian acting legend stands up for self-defense.
Over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Kurt Russell, doing publicity for the new Tarantino film The Hateful Eight, has a pretty testy discussion about gun control and terrorism with Jeffrey Wells. There's audio and a loose transcript that reads in part:
Wells: Well, I think we all know…guns are a trope. Not a trope but a totem, a metaphor that disenfranchised white guys need…it makes them feel good about themselves.
Russell: You can say what you want. I don't agree with that. It's not my thing….
If you think gun control is going to change the terrorists' point of view, I think you're, like, out of your mind. I think anybody [who says that] is. I think it's absolutely insane. The problem, the problem that we're having right now to turn it around…you may think you've got me worried about you're gonna do? Dude, you're about to find out what I'm gonna do, and that's gonna worry you a lot more. And that's what we need. That will change the concept of gun culture, as you call it, to something [like] reality. Which is, if I'm a hockey team and I've got some guy bearing down on me as a goal tender, I'm not concerned about what he's gonna do — I'm gonna make him concerned about what I'm gonna do…to stop him. That's when things change.
Bolding in original, btw. Wells is having little to none of this and pushes back on Russell's point that you can kill people with knives and cars, and make bombs pretty easily too:
Wells: They didn't kill the people in San Bernardino with cars.
Russell: But they've killed others that way, haven't they? Yeah, yeah. Whaddaya gonna do? Outlaw everything? That isn't the answer.
Wells: Just put some controls…
Russell: Put some controls? What, so the people, so the people who want to defend themselves can't?
Wells: No, not so you can't, just so the idiots can't get hold of them [so easily], that's all.
Russell: You really believe they're not going to? Are you serious about that? What good will that…? Oh my God. You and I just disagree….I understand that you think you can control the behavior of people that are dead set on taking your way of life away from you. You think you can control that? And there's only one thing you can do with that. And that's [to say] 'No, dude, that's not gonna happen. That's just not gonna happen.
It's an interesting conversation for many reasons, but two in particular stick with me.
First, it's the journalist, not the movie star, who is talking dismissively about the people out there in flyover country, those disenfranchised white guys (who cling to religion, too, I'm sure) who use guns as substitute penises to maintain some sense of potency in a world that's passed them by. Wells talks about the palpable sense of anxiety he says permeates the country in the wake of Paris and SB, and he knows this because he read about in The New York Times (seriously). Russell, who over the years has described himself as a "flexible" libertarian, is the one who seems more grounded and respectful of the hoi polloi's ability to act responsibly.
Second, Russell's argument isn't grounded in Second Amendment jurisprudence or even appeals to the authority of the Constitution or Founding Fathers or even history. It's about self-defense and autonomy. This actually strikes me as the most convincing argument in the current moment, because it speaks to people's anxieties in ways that solemn appeals to the ideals of limited government or the sacrosanct nature of gun culture don't. The question isn't whether terrorism or violence is going to occur within the United States. It's what are you going to do when the shit hits the fan. Russell has a pretty strong answer that calls to mind Jacob Sullum's piece the other day: "Autonomous Terrorism Calls for Autonomous Defense."
Here's bonus vid of Russell in 2013 talking about gay marriage. Russell and Goldie Hawn have been together since the first Reagan admin but have never officially tied the knot. His answer—that nobody should get advantages simply because he or she is married—is pretty awesome and clearly discombobulates his interlocutor in a very good way: