I live in the South, in a state with a really high (but for now, can’t-be-found-by-me) NRA membership, so I’m comfortable generalizing that people around here like weapons, have weapons, and are big Second Amendment fans. I didn’t grow up with weapons but my husband did, so we’ve compromised over the years about the type and number of weapons in our house (and where they are stored and how they are managed).
A debate has been raging nationally, yes, but also on the local morning radio talk shows about “gun control,” and callers are overwhelmingly – but with varying levels of knowledge and clarity – against any sort of limits on their evidently amendment-given right to own and bear arms. They call in to highlight the inaccuracies in the limits around and technical terms used about weapons, defend their need for high-capacity magazines in hunting, and rail against the government’s secret plans to take away their ability to defend themselves against a communist takeover. Some callers are clearly worried they won’t be able to keep or grow their weapons stash. Others are just looking for a reason to decry government. Regardless, everyone talks about “assault weapons,” gun control, and mental health.
I think we’re having the wrong debate. I think we should be talking about the who and how of gun ownership, not the whether. The “whether” is impractical. The “whether” means we argue over ideals too big and too vague to get us anywhere. The “whether” means gun enthusiasts don’t really get involved in the solutions because they’re too busy arguing against any intervention. It means we end up with weapons bans that mean well but are too easily circumvented or avoided, with assumptions real hunters don’t agree with and evil people can get past. It means those of us who aren’t experts want them all to go away and end up arguing over “assault weapons,” which is a cosmetic distinction with little real value.
I think there are clear and unarguable facts:
Evil people exist. It only takes one gun. More bullets in less time means more people die. Every person matters to someone, so every life saved matters. There are responsible people and people who aren’t. Hunters use guns. “Assault weapon” is a convenient term that doesn’t accurately define any specific set of weapons. Gun enthusiasts know that as previously defined, weapons bans have always been circumventable. The intended use of a gun is to kill or injure – something or someone. Going into every house and taking back every weapon is impractical.
Okay, with me so far?
People who own guns are mothers and fathers and children and siblings too. Since I’m technically one of them (though in reality, I don’t use them), I can say that we are willing to discuss steps that make everyone safer. I can say people like my husband care about children, theirs or others, and have been talking for weeks about what might make a real difference, but get stuck in “but nothing people are saying makes any sense!” If I imply that a round of .223 isn’t an assault rifle, they get caught up in the inaccuracy when what they really need to do is come up with a widely-agreed-upon definition of “assault rifle” and a proposal for who (and how) they can be owned.
The debate needs to be about how we keep our kids safe… and (here I go into territory you might argue against) more people with guns doesn’t do that. More experts with guns, yes, but nobody argues that the way to safer roads is by lowering the driving age. People who do this for a living (bear arms, that is) get trained and have practice, if not experience. And then they get experience. They learn to discern the subtleties in a situation so that they can react as accurately as possible, often without thinking. Ever been really really scared and fumbled to dial a phone number or stuttered when speaking? Let’s not have you do anything like that with a deadly weapon in your hand, huh?
We might have the right to bear arms, yes, but we have the responsibility to do so with the safety of our children and others’ children in mind.
How do we do that? Let’s debate.
Should gun owners have to register their weapons yearly (like we do with cars)? Should a household with any member on psychiatric medication, well… what? I’m on Celexa for PPD. Should we have to give up (temporarily or otherwise) our weapons? Are we able to clearly categorize mental illness in such a way that predicts who will shoot up a school? I think probably not. Should schools have armed security? Maybe. Should teachers be allowed to carry weapons? I say hell no, primarily because the presence of a weapon increases the number of potential incidents with that weapon. Put another way, my kid’s not at risk of being shot by an evil person every day, but if there is a gun in his classroom, he’s at risk of interacting with it a lot. No, thanks.
(This is as controversial as I’ve ever been, but I really want the debate to encompass more people, more publicly, than the people who own an armory and the people who want to confiscate everyone’s weapons. I think we can do this, stay sane and level-headed and not attack each other directly. I think we can! If we can’t, I’ll close down comments, but I really think we can.)