How We Talk About Guns

I am pretty sure that unless you live under a rock, you have read an opinion on guns recently. This is of course to be expected given the recent tragedy. Such conversation can indeed be good and productive, but all to often they end before they have begun because of how we talk bout the subject. While I certainly have opinions about the topic, that is not the purpose of this post. What I would like to invite all who read this to do is try to change the way we talk about the topic, and really many topics, in order to facilitate productive conversation.

The first thing to understand is that the second amendment to the constitution does indeed guarantee personal firearm ownership for, among other things, self defense. Many people disagree with that understanding, but the arbiter of such disagreements is the Supreme Court, and they have ruled, so that is the current legal framework that we have to function in. A common talking point has been trying to somehow compare guns to cars. This comparison simply is not useful because the legalities of car ownership, which is a privilege, and gun ownership, which is a right, are completely different. Engaging in such comparisons are an exercise in futility that only sere to frustrate everyone involved further. We are free to disagree with that legal reality of course, and free to try and change it through amendments, but if we want to talk about solutions, they must fit within the current legal reality.

To go along with the above paragraph, there is an all to common quip about no one needing an assault rifle to hunt deer because they are not running around in body armor. This is useless political rhetoric that just inflames the situation. As stated above, the second amendment is not only about hunting. Going along with this, is the idea that no one needs a {insert disliked weapon here}.
Again, the second amendment is not bout need, and no one should want it to be. Imagine if you had to prove a need to speak freely in the public square? Again, it is just rhetoric to inflame, and not conversation trying to find a solution.

So to talk about the second amendment, we need to treat it as the other amendments that state our inherent rights. This brings me to those who want to treat the second amendment as an absolute. Our supreme court has ruled numerous times that there are circumstances under which a right may be limited and that too is a part of the legal frame work that we need to consider when we are having this conversation. It is vital to finding any sort of solutions that our conversations be practical rather than aspirational, that is to say that we deal with tings as they are and try to produce changes that we are able to rather than bloviate about how we wish they were. So, for example, the idea that the second amendment only applies to a “well regulated militia” is a valid aspirational opinion, it is not the current legal reality, so it is fairly useless as a tool for productive conversations that seek solutions. On the other hand, speaking of repealing the second amendment is indeed a valid point to try to make as a solution as that is possible under our current law.

We need to block out, and stop repeating, the propaganda that our elected officials are spewing. “Common sense gun laws” doesn’t actually mean anything. It is a phrase carefully crafted to have little concrete meaning in order to not be pinned down on any particular initiative while at the same time allowing a person to insinuate that anyone who might disagree on anything that you say somehow lacks common sense and as such your thoughts should be discredited. The same is true with nebulous phrases like “assault rifle”, or “military style”. These words have no real set meaning so they mean only what the user wants them to. This is not conducive to actual honest conversation that produces results instead of hysteria.

Effective gun legislation will need to involve gun people. By this I mean those people who use, understand, and shoot, or have shot, firearms. I say this because a large part of our problems stem from people trying to pass laws about things that they do not understand. This isn’t me saying that only gun owners should have input of course, simply that they have the best understanding of guns and what they can do.

I want to take a moment and bring out some statistics. All data is from Pew Research Center and/or Gallup polling. slightly over 40% of Americans live in a household with guns and about 30% of Americans personally own a firearm. Of those owning a firearm, 63% do so for personal protection, 40% for hunting, 11% for sport/recreational shooting, 6% family heirloom, and 5% because of their line of work. About 53% of Americans want stricter gun laws. 49% of Americans believe mass shootings would decrease if it was harder to obtain firearms while 43% say it would not matter. There are some more interesting numbers in this piece that I invite you to look into here.

We really need to stop with this idea that somehow everyone fits into an absolute neat box. Very few of us actually do. The person who supports gun ownership is most likely not a monster who is indifferent to the death of children any more than the person who favors gun control a radical left winger determined to undermine all of your rights. It is really as simple as that. There just isn’t much more to say about that.

All of this is probably going to fall on deaf ears, but the last thing that I want to mention goes along with how we talk about guns, but also speaks to a larger reality of the republic that we all live in. The simple reality is that freedom is dangerous, and it always will be. We rightly take steps to mitigate many of those dangers, and rightly so, but in order to have a free society, there will be some danger in it. This is the price that is demanded. The balance between freedom and security always has been, and always will be, a difficult, and perhaps impossible, balancing act. Yet it is that very balance that must be maintained and constantly adjusted in order for a republic such as ours to work.

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