What I’ve learned from my thoughtful, pro-gun, Republican friends

Passions are boiling right now. It’s impossible to go on Facebook without a full-frontal assault of opinions, petitions, and arguments. There is plenty of idiocy– on both sides– and plenty of people using passion and desire as a valid argument, also on both sides. The problem is that passion doesn’t solve anything. Arguing two sides of the same issue with logic (or otherwise) that only appeals to those who agree with you is pointless. Unless we can start discussing ideologies, rather than issues, we aren’t going to make headway. It simply won’t happen. Law, lobbies, and logic won’t allow it.

I have a unique view of the unfolding debate. I’m a Texas-born, New Englander. I’m a well documented liberal. I even drove a Prius for a while. But I have a deep roots in a part of the country that doesn’t give two shits about my East Coast diplomacy. On a range of issues from education to agriculture, guns, and business, what is seen as “obvious” and “common sense” here on the right coast, is seen as absurd and elitist when I head south. And before you crinkle your nose and get haughty, it has nothing to do with stupidity. I rarely engage in conversations with idiots. There are two legitimate sides of these arguments. For every issue I take a stand on, I later find I didn’t see the full picture. I didn’t do my due diligence of walking in someone else’s shoes. Regardless of whether my mind is changed, my understanding and perspective are broadened.

That said, I’ve developed a unique ability to understand another opinion deeply without agreeing with it. What frustrates me the most about watching my fellow liberal friends “argue” is that they aren’t arguing the right thing. In fact, they shouldn’t be arguing at all. Two mules with different, stubborn views are just two asses. The issue is not that my pro-gun friends aren’t seeing the issue clearly, or I’m not being clear enough in my articulation of the problem. The issue is that they do not agree. Like two divorced parents in a custody battle. They disagree. And they only way they will ever get anywhere is when they stop making it about themselves and find a common ground… like, I don’t know… their children?

But it’s important for those in favor of gun control to understand a few very key points. As a fellow liberal, I hope you’ll listen and understand so that when you engage in these conversations, you can do so without the blind passions that keep us from moving forward.

  1. Understand guns. The debate that is boiling about the AR-15, including the term “assault rifle” is quickly becoming a red herring. The AR-15 is not a hunting rifle. It’s a people killing rifle. But it’s not an automatic weapon, meaning you have to pull the trigger each time you fire. There are modifications that can be made, but they are illegal. It does carry a magazine, meaning the shooter doesn’t have to load the gun between shots. But it’s not an automatic weapon.(Which are already banned.) If you want gun control, you need to be articulate about the kinds of guns you’re talking about. You also need to recognize that saying “that one is bad” doesn’t help anyone. The military grade weapons that are being used synonymously with the AR-15 are different guns and there are “gun control” measures in place for acquiring those– sometimes heavy ones. Banning the AR-15 is like banning mayo. Miracle Whip is still out there. Focus on the type of gun, not the gun itself.
  2. Know the meaning and the intent of the 2nd amendment. Our founding fathers were fleeing a tyrannical government and wanted to ensure that the citizens of our country never faced the same. They were ensuring our ability to protect ourselves and our families. It was smart. Imperfect, and blind to the future, but fundamentally smart. Yes, those were muskets. But muskets were also what the tyranny was armed with. And that’s how this argument becomes circular really fast. If the question is “how armed?” then ask that question. But arguing against the 2nd amendment in its entirety is fruitless.
  3. Understand the phrase “the answer is more guns.” It took me the very longest to come to terms with this one, namely because I disagree the most vehemently. But that’s exactly why it’s important to understand it. To confident, legal gun owners, Pulse would have ended very differently if the shooter was met with an armed populace. Because they would have stopped it. People still would have died. But the evil would have been stopped earlier. Many of these people have military, police, or hunting experience. These are individuals with more experience and familiarity with… well… killing. From that perspective, it’s easier to fathom the act of protecting oneself. For most of us, the idea of packing heat at Salsa night is absurd. Or at a movie theater. Or a restaurant. To those who know, and love, guns– legally– they serve a very specific purpose. Responding that those who believe this are “dumb” or “uneducated” is childish. It also makes it even harder to have a real conversation. Disagreeing doesn’t make someone dumb. (Though believe me. I’ve heard plenty of really dumb arguments.)
  4. Read up on your gun control. Just do. Because not knowing makes it easier to undermine you. There are loopholes and bad, bad plans, but know what exists. Read about your state and understand how the process works.
  5. Be realistic. The largest mass shooting in US history wasn’t Orlando. It was the slaughter of the Lakota indians at the Massacre at Wounded Knee. And it happened under the pretense of disarmament. Since we didn’t recognize American indians as citizens until decades later, it “technically” doesn’t count. But it does count. And it’s a massacre that pro-gun folks know very, very well. When you say things like “disarming for the greater good,” you’re essentially reading from a transcript of that massacre. And history has a way of repeating itself.

I don’t have the answer to this problem. Not even close. I’m frustrated by the lack of transparency, momentum, and action on all sides. But I know that as a nation and a people, we will get no where arguing. We also won’t get anywhere with unfounded, passionate debate. If we want to affect change, we have to be smart, empathetic, and articulate. And, as every good lawyer’s daughter knows, that starts with knowing the other side as well as you know your own.

** I fully expect to be updating this as my friends berate me… 🙂



4 thoughts on “What I’ve learned from my thoughtful, pro-gun, Republican friends

  1. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million crimes committed with a gun a year, and less than 60,000 crimes stopped with a gun. Guns are less about protection and more about ease in committing crime.

    When pro gun people want to get into a semantic debate about the specifications of an AR15 all I hear is, “I don’t want to discuss how little I care about human life, just listen to hook much time I spend fantasizing about guns.”

    You may want liberals to step back and listen to pro gun conservatives, but here’s the thing: they’re wrong. More guns has always meant more murder. More guns has never been safer. Ever. When we as a society had half the population and twice the gun ownership we had almost 4 times the murder rate.

    If we want to own guns, and we want responsible gun owners to be the ones with guns, then we have to force responsibility onto the populace. Registration for all guns. Anyone found with an unregistered gun goes to prison. If you are caught using a gun in a crime you go to prison forever. If your guns are stolen, involved in accidental shooting, or brandished irresponsibly you lose the right to own guns. If you are possession of a gun after losing this right, you go to prison forever.

    Only when making the illegal possession of a gun so unapatizing will the wrong people stop having guns (or at least less of them will). This won’t stop crimes of passion, but will reduce the ease of access to the ubiquitous firearms we have today.

  2. Caroline, thank you for this thoughtful post and for seeking understanding.

    Houston, you’re doing exactly what Caroline is asking you not to do.

    “Guns are less about protection and more about ease in committing crime.” For law-abiding, pro-gun proponents, this is patently false. They see the bad guys with guns that concern us all, and they want to be able to protect themselves against those guys. It’s not fantasizing. It’s trying to be wise and prudent, given the alarming rate at which bad guys are showing up with guns and doing lots of damage before the “professional” good guys (aka the police) can show up WITH THEIR GUNS to stop them.

    “More guns has always meant more murder. More guns has never been safer.” Not in the case of Wounded Knee. Not in the case of the estimated 2.5 million (2008 statistics) times per year that guns are used to stop a crime (that’s 80 times more to save lives than take them); and of those, less than 8% kill or wound their attacker. (citation: https://www.gunowners.org/sk0802htm.htm).

    And lest you think I’m a gun-fantasizer, I don’t own a single gun and have never attempted to possess one. But I do prefer them in the hands of good guys at hand as long as bad guys can get them, whether legally or illegally, and show up to do evil.

    BTW, I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph.

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