Where I live, most people oppose gun control. Many of the people I know hunt, and some shoot in competitions. Their general belief is that gun control will do nothing to stop gun violence. They accept the argument that we already have plenty of gun laws and that we should better enforce them. They also say that no new law will stop a madman who is hellbent on mass murder.

In the gun-control debate these days, this kind of opposition constitutes the reasonable right. One imagines that sportsmen and hunters might at least listen to new gun control proposals, such as technology that makes guns usable only by their owners, or old ones, including closing the loophole that allows purchases at gun shows without a background check.

But, of course, the energy against gun control has long since passed from sportsmen and hunters to a new and paranoid wing of the movement.

As documented in yesterday's Washington Post, the gun lobby has been taken over by those who believe that any efforts to restrict gun ownership is direct evidence of a long-standing plot by the federal government to render the population impotent so it can control them. Arguments such as these are now core to the gun-rights movement and immune to reason.

When I mentioned to one of my friends who opposes gun control the notion that the government is using the tragedy in Newtown to disarm the citizenry, he scoffed.

I thought about offering my opinion that leadership on the issues he supports — limited government, lower taxes, gun rights and immigration restrictions — is now in the hands of people whose fanaticism might make him uncomfortable. To them the government is controlled by freedom-killing, jack-booted thugs who want to take our guns, money and property away.

No wonder there are new reports today that radicals in the House may use the debt-ceiling fight to shut down the government.  It makes sense, given their perspective. But it is a perspective at odds not only with Democrats and independents but also increasingly, I bet, with many who were once natural allies.