Column: Why should gun worship define American patriotism?

A man with a tattoo of "We the People" on his arm wearing a pistol.
(Associated Press )

Jake Bequette may not be a career politician, but if the online video he posted to announce his bid for Congress is any indication, he already knows how to fudge the truth to tell a good story.

In listing his qualifications for the U.S. Senate, the former Arkansas Razorback and NFL player told potential voters he won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.

What he didn’t mention was that he didn’t play in the Super Bowl — or even a single playoff game. In fact, the former 2012 third-round pick only appeared briefly in eight regular season games during his two-year career.

The 2014 season in which the Patriots won the championship, Bequette was on the practice squad and he didn’t play a single snap. The following season he was cut and out of the league. In 2017 he joined the Army.

Now that’s still a heck of an athletic career. But when Bequette said he “played with Tom Brady and won a Super Bowl,” accompanied by an image of him kissing the trophy, he is misleading people.

But I’m not bent out of shape because he inflated his NFL career. Hell, I would do the same if I had a ring. It’s his idea of patriotism that irks me.

Twice when Bequette spoke of being a patriot, he is shown shooting an assault rifle. In fact, one of those times the word patriot is superimposed in big letters as the bullet casings fall as if directed by Michael Mann.


There is no denying the place guns have in modern-day American folklore. But the word patriot is heard three times in the nearly two-minute video and two of them are at the shooting range. The other time is in reference to the NFL. Is that all there is? Before answering that, consider some numbers.

Last year Americans bought nearly 23 million guns, a 60% increase from 2019. Fueled in part by the Jan. 6 domestic terrorist attack, gun sales topped more than 2 million in that month alone, a 75% increase from January 2020. We are on pace to have the deadliest year of gun violence in 20 years.

And what do we have to say for ourselves? It’s our constitutional right to have guns, something that, like Bequette’s claim to have won a Super Bowl with Brady, is a good story — but not the whole story.

Take the border crisis for example. We can always find dramatic footage of Mexicans and Central Americans making their way across the Rio Grande, but for some reason there’s not a lot of images of gun smugglers making their way back across the border carrying our brand of patriotism with them.

According to Ioan Grillo, author of “Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels,” gun laws are so strict in Mexico there is only one store in the entire country where citizens can even buy a gun — and that’s controlled by the Mexican army. Yet from 2007 to 2019, more than 164,000 guns seized from criminals came from our factories.

Our shops. Us.

In fact, Mexican government officials estimate more than 2.5 million guns were smuggled from the U.S. in the last decade alone. In short, between President Nixon’s racism-fueled drug war and this so-called Iron River, the U.S. is as responsible for the border crisis as any nation we arrogantly criticize for being unable to care for its people.

It’s the same dynamic we see stateside, in which cities with strict gun laws are undermined by neighboring states with relaxed laws. It’s why last month the Justice Department announced a federal task force to crack down on domestic firearms trafficking.

This is the part of the story we don’t like to talk about because it holds us accountable. We would much rather talk about “our constitutional right” as if it exists in a vacuum, detached from the proliferation and worship of guns as well as its consequences.


Perhaps that’s the most jarring aspect of the Bequette video — his comfort with marrying guns to American patriotism. In the ad, he says he is “100% pro-life” between clips of him squeezing the trigger because nothing says pro-life like a weapon of war.

Such a good story.

Like the housekeeper who discovered a rifle in a Denver hotel room last week. Police were notified and they found 16 long guns, body armor, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and narcotics not far from where the Major League Baseball All-Star game would be played. Police arrested three men and a woman on weapons charges and on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

The statement from the FBI Denver field office said: “We have no reason to believe this incident was connected to terrorism” — which means the four were either going on one heck of a hunting trip or our intelligence community doesn’t consider how that arsenal was going to be used eventually to be “terror.”

Over the Fourth of July weekend, a housekeeper at a Chicago hotel discovered in one of the rooms a handgun and a loaded .308-caliber rifle equipped with a laser and high-powered scope. As was the case in Denver, the weapons were found near the window that overlooks a large tourist attraction. The man was charged with two felony weapons counts and released after paying $1,000 cash bond — which seems light to me, but who am I to mess up a good story?

Even if it’s not the whole story.