Getting Past the Talking Points on Guns Reveals Much Common Ground

I don’t want to write about guns again. And I really don’t want to write about school shootings. I had a really sexy piece all ready to go on tax policy, but the fiscal cliff and the banter between Obama and Boehner seem so insignificant this weekend following the tragic events that occurred on Friday in Connecticut.

I am a person difficult to rattle, but the school shooting in Connecticut rattled me. Maybe it is because I have three young children, or maybe because my wife was working one mile from the last mass shooting a few days ago, or maybe because of frequency with which we are now dealing with mass shootings, or because of the body count, or some combination of these things. For whatever reason(s), I am rattled, and more than a little upset that I hear no one in any position of leadership offering up ideas of what can be done to at least reduce the number of mass shootings Americans face.

As I sift through the slog of Facebook posts on the subject, it occurred to me there is a lot of agreement over what can and should be done. I made this realization from two comment threads I was involved in on Friday. Both comment threads began with gun advocates and gun control advocates unfairly characterizing the other side’s beliefs. The gun advocates falsely claimed the other side wanted to take their guns away, and the gun control advocates falsely claimed gun owners were unreasonable, irresponsible, and wanted to arm school children. For those who had the stomach to stick around, however, something really interesting happened as these conversations progressed and people started to actually communicate as opposed to repeating mindless slogans.  Gun control advocates began to propose specific solutions (as opposed to saying “WE NEED MORE GUN CONTROL!”) and common ground began to emerge.

In one conversation, I witnessed an adamant gun-rights advocate agree that he would be open to the following new gun laws: (1) requiring background checks for all people buying guns; (2) mental health evaluations for people buying guns; and (3) requiring safety classes for any person purchasing a gun. It astonished me to hear him say this because for so long I assumed he took the NRA’s hard line of accepting NO gun legislation. In the second conversation, the original poster had posted that we should not use this tragedy to pass any more gun laws. When pressed, however, she clarified that when she said we did not need any more gun laws, what she really meant was that we shouldn’t ban the owning of or use of guns. In fact, she even went so far as to say she was open to new laws that would put into place background checks on gun sales and creating a gun registry.

What these conversations show is that the vast majority of people of every political leaning recognize that there are things we can do to better regulate guns in a way that can reduce the number of these senseless shootings without significantly impacting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Many of those regulations have already been discussed here (e.g., background checks, mental health assessments, gun registries, trigger locks, training classes, etc.). No one expects better gun regulations to end all gun deaths, but they can significantly reduce them.

The push for better gun laws is not to imply that guns are the sole cause of these mass shootings. Obviously there are other factors at play such as mental illness, availability of medical treatment, culture of violence, etc., and we need to focus on the role each play. With that said, the existence of many factors is not a reason to do nothing. We can debate whether guns are a major or minor contributor to these incidents, but one cannot reasonably argue they play no factor. For that reason, action is required. Furthermore, these gun control laws would not be written in stone. If they proved ineffectual or placed too high a burden on responsible gun owners, then we could reevaluate them and adjust, alter, or repeal them where it makes sense (we did end the assault weapons ban so we know its possible to repeal laws). Until we try something, however, we will not know what works and what does not work. And we know if we do nothing we will continue to see more of these shootings and that is something I think we can all agree is unacceptable.

The last thing I will say on this issue is that true gun worshippers who oppose any type of gun regulations ought to be careful of their unequivocating opposition to common sense gun legislation. By coming to the table and talking, gun rights advocates could have a say in what is done. If they continue to scream from the sidelines that nothing should be done, there could end up being a lot more done than gun advocates ever dreamed. If nothing else, these shootings are outraging people in a way I have never seen before. For the first time ever, I heard a person today advocate for the banning of all guns, and I have heard from countless others who I have never heard speak out on any political issue suddenly calling for gun legislation. People are reaching their limits of what they will tolerate in the name of the 2nd Amendment and a critical mass is being reached.  We can do something to alleviate this problem, and it’s high time our leaders helped us bridge the ideological gap that is not as large as the NRA would have us believe.

– Dylan


7 Responses to “Getting Past the Talking Points on Guns Reveals Much Common Ground”

  1. Repeal the 2nd amendment. I’m convinced. How’s that for specifics?

    Ban all handguns, and assault rifles. I’m willing to work with gun enthusiasts over single-shot hunting rifles.

    Specific plan. Will do good. Let’s enact it.

  2. I have a few problems with your plan. First, I think you know how hard it is to pass a constitutional amendment. If you devoted your efforts to this goal you would get nowhere while giving up on truly attainable goals that could make a difference. Second, repeal of the 2nd amendment would do nothing by itself. You still have to pass legislation. And the bans you suggest are just not reasonable. Very, very few Americans and even fewer legislators support an outright ban. In fact, you are the person I reference in this article as the only person I have ever heard suggest an outright ban. Third, our country has a deep history of gun ownership and I have some respect for that history. Before we consider a complete ban, I think we should try to find a middle ground that can significantly alleviate the problems we face without eradicating one’s right to bear arms.

    • With all due respect, it sounds like you ripped your plan out of the Obama handbook–concede the middle.

      I have absolutely no respect for our “deep history of gun ownership.” Nada. Zip. It’s not worthy of respect in my opinion. I have very few things that even approach the status of a sacred cow. On that list, guns fall somewhere between wearing white after labor day and celebrating the summer solstice. Just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s worthy of respect by others. In fact–it can be the opposite.

      And I’m not a politician. I’m not being pragmatic here. I do go to painful lengths to be a pragmatist in most areas of my life, and if I was actually going to work on this problem, I wouldn’t be shouting, “down with the 2nd amendment!” at the cost of alienating people. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m mostly correct. We should repeal the 2nd amendment. I don’t care how hard it is. It’s the right thing to do. Will it happen? No. But it should. And since I’m not working on the problem from a position of power, I can shout what’s right to get the opinion out there. I think that’s my best use in this problem. BAN ALL HANDGUNS. BAN ALL ASSAULT RIFLES. There.

      I’m sorry (ok I’m not sorry), but in a country where people fear for their lives and are kept terrified by faceless terrorists and color-threat scales and random threats of violence–a country where violent crime has fallen by 20% while reporting of violent crime has soared 600%–a place where violence is sensationalized be it real or fiction–a country where there’s a huge, staggering gap between rich and poor to the disgusting extent that I can WALK from Grosse Ile(10 million dollar mansions) to burned down Detroit (people literally hungry)–a place where the majority of citizens distrust their neighbors and insist on locking their door(think windsor and michael moore)–that country–THAT TERRIFIED GUN-TOTING COUNTRY–is not fit to have a spud gun, much less assault rifles and handguns.

      We are not fit to possess these weapons. We are killing ourselves. We are a diseased, fearful culture. We are divided and hateful. Take away our guns. Stop respecting these people because it’s counterproductive, misplaced, and one-sided.

      Emotional response? Or finally a voice of reason?

      • You said I’m unreasonable. I’m unreasonable? I’m not sure you get the scope of this problem. From the Deroit Free Press article on what the Michigan State Legislature has passed:

        “The state House and Senate passed a bill allowing highly trained gun owners to carry their concealed weapons in formerly forbidden places, such as schools, day care centers, stadiums and churches. Schools and private facilities can opt out if they don’t want weapons in their buildings.” –but one of many disgusting pieces of legislature jammed down our throats by this disgrace of a legislative session.

        Or how about a little local news from my fair city today?

        “A 25-year-old man was fatally shot near 8 Mile and Oakfield about 3 p.m. today, according to Detroit police.

        There were few details about the incident, Detroit police Sgt. Eren Stephens said. Witnesses saw the man on the sidewalk and emergency crews found him unresponsive. He appeared to have suffered from a gunshot, but “the circumstances are really unknown,” Stephens said.”

        This happens every day. And if you’re thinking anything along the lines of, “Ely, you chose to live there,” then you’re completely missing the point. My outrage over the EVERY DAY shootings in my community isn’t valid because my proximity is by choice?

        I’m not unreasonable. I’m actually finding a lot of people who agree with me(not shockingly, considering my community). We’re not crazy. You want to talk pragmatism, fine. Do what you can. Start with banning assault rifles. But don’t call us unreasonable. I named my blog what it is for a reason. 🙂 In fact, I’m going to go repeat most of this over there. Peace.

  3. I’m sorry, I guessed on the crime dropping by 20%. Crime has actually dropped by 53% according to the US Bureau of Justice.

  4. The answer to gun ownership lies in the middle, just where most of the country lies. We need calm, open and honest dialogue to repair this problem. Dylan, you are onto something I wish our elected officials had the courage to engage in. Maybe Governor Rendel has the right idea. He says he won 3 elections handily in a pro-gun state, PA, against strong and well funded opposition from the NRA. He claims the NRA is a paper tiger. I would like to see other politicians test his theory.

    • Cynthia–the NRA lost 7 of their 8 big elections in 2012. They got whipped.

      I’d settle for the middle ground, but starting mid-right isn’t going to do any good. You start middle right and all we’re going to wind up with is a ban on SOME assault rifles and maybe a slightly stricter registration/background check. It’s a drop in the bucket, and I we need our thirst slaked–not to mix metaphors.

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