In the wake of tragedy, it is inevitable that many of us will be talking about guns and contemplating what can be done to prevent this in the future. I’ve tried to do things like this before, to no avail really, but I will try again none the less. When we are talking about guns and what we should or should not do, can we please keep 10 fairly simple and easy things in mind?
First, the majority, and by majority, I mean overwhelmingly vast majority, of gun owners are law abiding citizens who don’t shoot people. Whether or not you like guns, love guns, hate guns, are indifferent to guns, or somewhere in between some of those, keep in mind that the vast majority of people do no harm to humans with their guns. Whatever policies that you support, at least give the majority of folks credit for being decent human beings and don’t lump them into the murderous few. It just seems the decent thing to do.
Second, terms like mass shooting, are not terribly useful. The press loves them, but there is no agreed upon meaning. Depending on your definition and source, the number of ‘mass shootings’ can be wildly different. If you are going to use terms like this, they need to be clearly defined so that there can be open and honest conversation and debate, otherwise it is simply rhetoric that does no good save for increasing (if that is possible) the polarization in the country.
Third, ‘gun culture’ is really a silly term. It is generally used negatively, and unfairly lumps everyone who owns a gun or thinks that the second amendment is a good thing into one monolithic group. That is not the truth, and I suspect that most people know it. It’s just a way to turn the conversation into an us against them. If that’s what you want, it’s cool, but if not, then it is ineffective. Just so you know, legal gun owners don’t like criminal activity involving guns either. Don’t treat them as if they are indifferent to it all, they aren’t.
Fourth, be honest. Sooner or later, someone is going to bring up Australia’s gun law and say that we should do it here. That’s ok. We all have thoughts and opinions. Doing this would require the repeal of the second amendment. If that is what you want to do, that’s ok. Advocate for it to your hearts content, it is your right and exercise it. Just be honest about what you want to do, and then make steps toward it. Don’t go on and on about a solution that is simply untenable in current constitutional law. Likewise, there are those who believe that fully automatic weapons should be protected by the second amendment. That’s ok too. It’s your opinion. Advocate away for it, but be honest and lobby congress as well as you are able to repeal the law, found to be constitutional, that forbids it. Just be honest.
Fifth, work within the law that we have. By this, I mean that there are those who believe that the second amendment only applies to groups like the National Guard. Its fine that you believe this way, but the SCOTUS disagrees. At the moment this is settled law, and is unlikely to change. You are of course free to scream and holler about it, but it doesn’t help and only frustrates you and those around you. It’s just not effective for anything. The point here is that the second amendment has been fairly well defined by the SCOTUS at this point. There are not a lot of questions remaining really. Calling for laws or policies that have already been found to be unconstitutional is not terribly effective.
Sixth, know what you are talking about and the realities of it. Is gun violence up, down, or somewhere in the middle? What guns cause crime? Is gun crime concentrated in specific areas, or spread out all over? These are all questions that matter when we are talking about reducing gun violence. I am assuming here that the goal is to reduce gun violence over all mind you.
Seventh, know the laws that currently exist and call for their enforcement. The reality is that the laws we have now are rarely enforced, at least on the federal level. I’m not saying they will work if enforced mind you, I am saying that we don’t know because they are often not enforced. More laws, or overlapping laws, that are not enforced won’t help either.
Eighth, breath. Seriously, take a breath before you go off on your well prepared tangent of buzz words, go to facts, and bullet points. I don’t care how you feel about guns, really, do this. It helps.
Ninth, don’t call for laws to prevent the latest shooting before we know anything about the latest shooting. If the goal is to craft laws that both protect rights and improve safety, then we need to deal in facts. Knee jerk reactions simply are not useful.
Finally, tenth, the truth is that if you treat people like your enemy, they are likely to act that way. I promise, in a real conversation, someone will say something about guns that angers you. Refer to number eight here, and then move on. I’m not asking you to change your opinion, or even to understand a different one, I am asking you to not treat someone who thinks differently as an enemy. If its a fight you are looking for, then you are a part of the problme, and not the solution.
I’ve got no illusions that this will help at this point, but a boy can dream.