A Middle Ground for Ending Gun Violence

A friend has two guns in her apartment, ready to protect herself from any entry by an assailant.

She is disgusted with me when I argue that such weaponry is not necessary and could even end in tragedy for herself, such as being picked up and used in anger at a friend or in a fit of depression being used to commit suicide.  I choose not to press the issue: if she finds comfort with such “protection,” so be it.  “To each her own,” in the words of a politically correct refrain adapted from a 1940s song.

To my knowledge, she is a stable, sane human being; her apartment is in an acknowledged safe neighborhood.  Having been raised in a rural area where guns often are a tool for hunting or ridding a farmstead of predator animals, she presumably  knows how to use a gun safely.

Yet, when the discussion arises about gun control legislation, she bristles.  She won’t even listen to arguments about banning AK-47’s or background checks to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.  Is she mentally ill, or does she desire an assault weapon?  No, of course not, yet she believes that those of us who favor any such legislation are hopeless “liberals” or “do-gooders” who want to turn all weaponry into plowshares.

Few who favor gun legislation want to take her legally licensed guns from her, nor do we wish to end hunting.  We recognize the right of a person to protect herself (as long as she keeps her guns in a safe place and knows how to use them) as we recognize that for many persons hunting is part of the culture.

Gun violence hits hardest in the most “at risk” neighborhoods of most major cities.  It does not occur in such near epidemic levels in rural or suburban neighborhoods, and perhaps that accounts for the strong opposition to even the most reasonable and modest gun legislation.  Most of those in the more endangered neighborhoods favor such controls, even while many will still obtain guns “to protect themselves.”

Many of the opponents view gun control legislation as part of the larger campaign to protect their “individual liberties” from what they consider an intrusive (or in the more extreme view “dictatorial”) actions.  The truth is we already obey many governmental laws, like stop signs, speed limits and the need to carry auto insurance; most modest proposed gun laws are nothing more than reasonable attempts of “keep the peace.”

Sadly the gun control issue has taken on the same “us” versus “them” aspect as our political climate, such as the situation where Democrats won’t talk with Republicans or vice versa.  In a democracy, we must remember that “compromise” is not a dirty word, that it requires talking – and more importantly – listening.

The first step is to realize that the person on the other side of an argument is NOT inherently evil, or that he or she is a dunderheaded “wing nut,” even though in our estimation the person may be thinking like that.  Remember they’re likely viewing you in the same light.

Sometimes I despair that we’ll never be able to bridge the ideological chasm that has developed between the opposing views on gun legislation.  It’s hard to listen to arguments from the “other side” when they seem downright goofy and misguided, but it is something we must strive to do.  Perhaps if the other person begins to view you as someone who listens while not responding in a rabid fashion, we will eventually be able to talk and begin to compromise.  It’ll take tons of patience, but it’s a necessary start to dialogue.

Perhaps if we began a dialogue we might be able to engage those who seem to violently disagree about guns, like my friend, to agree that they may keep their guns while going along with more reasonable restrictions that might curb the use of AK-47s or keep weapons from the hands of the mentally ill. – Aug. 18, 2014