A couple of recent mass murders, one here in Colorado, has once again raised the issue of gun control in the national dialogue. Reasonable people are asking reasonable questions. I myself, as a father of three, had to re-examine my own thoughts on the matter in concert with a good friend who held (past tense) the opposing viewpoint. I ended up re-affirming much of what I believed, but learned some new things as well.
The biggest thing that I realized is that gun control is only a little bit what this is all about. The larger issue is a huge segment of the American population that is growing increasingly alienated from a set of visceral understandings that are foundational to our worldview and our way of life. For the most part, people who think gun control might be a good idea aren't sinister fascists, they're not "hopeless liberals", and they're not die-hard communists. They are well meaning sentimentalists who haven't thought things through at a deep level, and they're suprisingly open to earnest dialogue.
Yes, there is a political battle to be fought on the narrow issue of gun control. But more importantly, we have an opportunity right now to open the hearts and minds of our friends, neighbors, and relatives to a broader perspective while people are asking some important questions.
At the deepest most personal level, a firearm represents the power over life and death. For a society that blissfully turns a blind eye to the dead animal on its plate, that is a very frightening thing. It feels most comfortable to cede the responsibility over life and death to the government (in the person of policemen and soldiers), even though ceding that responsibility makes us less safe in the end and - more disturbingly - strips us of a basic human dignity. The choice to take up arms represents acceptance of ultimate personal responsibility. If you understand this, if you live this, you have it in your power to make the world a better place when you share your understanding with others. Mature people of good faith who viscerally understand their place in the world build communities that are rooted in a goodness that transcends political regime.
Boys who wish to be men but don't know how have always surrounded themselves with the trappings of martial culture. Our society is no different, and perhaps worse in this regard. At the extreme, boys who are small on the inside and hopelessly alienated will not just dress up like warriors, they will act out their martial fantasies on others in inappropriate ways. I just spent the week at SHOT show (a trade show for everything firearms related). It was an embarrassing reminder that American gun culture has no shortage of boys in men's bodies surrounding themselves with the trappings of martial culture. This isn't just embarrassing, it is counter-productive to the cause of the sober and mature armed citizen. To any reasonable person, all of that play acting looks and feels a lot like the martial fantasies perpetrated on others by a handful of mentally ill individuals in the last year.
Everything in this section is personal in nature. Only you know if you're in a position to work through issues of ultimate personal responsibility with other people of good faith who may not share your viewpoint. Only you know the extent to which you can be tarred with the brush of martial play-acting. Both topics might be cause for personal reflection. If so, that is a good thing. The purpose of a gun is to end a life, period. If you don't have your head screwed on straight about that, it is time to get straight.
Winning over hearts may not be for you at this point in your life. That's fine. If you want to concentrate more narrowly on the topic of gun control, both in discussions with your friends and neighbors and letters to your representatives, here is a short but solid list of discussion points, with associated resources to the right:
- The Center For Disease control already studied the effects of gun laws in a study published in 2003. They couldn't find sufficient evidence to tie gun laws to any effect on crime. Simply put, there is no evidence that gun laws reduce gun related crime.
- The myth that gun control has lead to a reduction in violent crime in other countries is just that -- a myth. Check out the United Nations data in the sidebar.
- Rifles, of which "assault weapons" are a subset, are responsible for fewer homocides than hammers or fists. What is the point in banning or controlling them? See the FBI data in the sidebar.
- The founders were very clear that private citizens should have parity in armament with government forces. That means assault weapons. The reason for the inclusion of the 2nd amendment was to defend against, in order of priority: 1) domestic tyranny 2) foreign aggression 3) lawlessness. Any curtailment of parity in armament with the military is illegal. Doing so would require an amendment of the Constitution. Check out the Supreme Court's Heller decision.
There are a lot of ways to approach this topic, but the best ones are those that ring true to you. Use what is here as a starting point or build your own. Avoid being flippant, confrontational, or shallow. Nobody is impressed by that. Write your representatives, get your local Sheriff to re-affirm their oath to lawful order, and engage people in your community on the topic.