Dec 6, 2016

Gun Thoughts

I did not "grow up around" guns, but some of my best friends did, and thanks to them I've had the opportunity to try shooting all kinds of guns--handguns, shotguns, hunting rifles, and yes even the so-called assault rifles, including the AR-15.  When I was in high school, we used to go out in the country and shoot at targets.  I remember particularly the fun we had demolishing our Spanish II textbook when the class was over, as well as a teddy  bear my friend's ex-girlfriend had given him.

I had a good time.  I'll admit I wasn't the most proficient shooter and didn't always handle my friends' weapons with the caution and respect they deserve--I was young and careless in the way of adolescents.  But I own that, and wouldn't consider making my stance on the issue of guns dependent upon my own lack of ability or judgement.

I spent a good portion of this past summer listening, thinking, and researching this issue. Then I began drafting the ideas for this post.  Finally, I let this blog lie dormant all through the fall before picking it up again this week and fleshing it out.  I've made it a point to really try to understand where people who see things differently than me are coming from.  I've read a lot, watched video screeds advocating one position or another.  I studied the data, and I have to say  I'm skeptical of "data." It's very difficult to get accurate information, because unless you really look into the raw data, most of the time the information you are being given is being "spun" to promote a specific point of view. I think most of us would do well to start challenging our own beliefs and looking at "data" that supports our point of view more skeptically. The more "honest" your source is about it's position on the issue the more doubtful you should be of the accuracy of its data.

I'm finding that most of the facts, or more accurately, what I assumed to be factual, in my support for gun control were called into question by close examination of the data. At the same time, the converse assumptions made by my pro-gun friends didn't prove to have more factual support. either. Both sides have tended to "cherry-pick" the data that supports their point of view.

So where do I end up?  I've boiled the issue down to two conclusions that cover where I stand on the contentious issue of guns in America.

1. I believe in the second amendment. Gun control advocates should start defending the second amendment not "attacking" it. My pro-gun friends tend to focus on the "right to keep and bear arms." Almost forgotten is the first part of the amendment, "a well-regulated militia." I believe there is no downside to increased regulation, even if does not mean fewer guns. Surely, if we require drivers to have license, we could ask the same of a gun owner. Guns, like their predecessors, the bow and arrow, the sword, the spear, are weapons.  In other words they are specifically designed for killing--animals a lot of the time, but also people when the need arises.  Cars, knives, fertilizer, can be used for killing but weren't designed for solely for that purpose.  Further guns are more efficient at killing than swords or spears.  That's why we're using them far more than the weapons that came before them.  High levels of regulation and training should be a must.

2.The problem isn't (entirely) the presence of guns. Guns don't kill people, people kill people.  This is a standard argument of the pro-gun camp, and you know what, after a lot of reflection, I've to come to accept the truth of it. To a point, anyway. I still feel fewer guns would mean fewer gun deaths, and in my perfect world, that's what I would prefer.  But I am convinced that the biggest problem in our country is not so much with the number of guns, but with our nation's gun culture.  Gun culture is entrenched in American culture. It's an integral part of our self-image as a nation It can't be legislated away. The bottom line for me is that it's never been about the criminals. Gun-rights supporters are correct that criminals will get their hands on guns regardless of the laws (though if we're being honest, easier availability of guns for law-abiding citizens logically makes it easier for criminals, especially low-level criminals to get access to guns. It stands to reason that if an environment where getting guns is extraordinarily difficult, only the most organized and deeply involved criminals would have the connections to the black market or whatever to get the weapons). It's the law-abiding citizens that worry me. Because many times, especially in these mass shooting events, the shooter was a law abiding citizen right up until the point where he or she wasn't one anymore. My stance on gun control has been what it is for 23 years now because of one scary Saturday night in the summer of 1993 that could have been been Sunday morning headlines but for the grace of God and some incredibly fortuitous timing.

(And here I realize the futility of convincing anyone with this line of argument. No non-criminal gun owner wants to consider himself or herself as a possible danger.)

In conclusion: Because I support the second amendment, I will continue to support so called "common-sense" legislation that raises the standard for gun ownership in this country, even as I believe that marginal laws will bring about marginal results, due in large part to our national gun culture. I do think change is possible though. What I would hope for is a gradual change in the our cultural self-image, similar to what is happening with not smoking and acceptance of homosexuality, where more and more people freely choose to go without guns, not because they are compelled by law but because they simply don't have the desire.

My Choice
Given my view on the issue it's not hard to predict my personal decision for my family: I choose not to own a gun.

The likelihood that I can prevent death in my home with a gun,I believe, is statistically outweighed by the likelihood that the presence of a gun in my home could lead to a death. For me, buying a gun to protect my family against home invasion is akin to refusing to fly for fear of a plane crash, but getting in my car and driving on the freeways every day. It's making a choice based on a fear of a highly unlikely event and choosing to take a chance on something that is far more likely to happen. I have to drive the freeways. But I don't have to own a gun and for me, the small chance that I'll need one isn't worth the possible price.

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