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

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5 thoughts on “A Middle Ground for Ending Gun Violence

  1. 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?

    After decades of ‘gun control laws’; do you blame someone for bristling when yet another restriction is mentioned?
    The idea of reaching middle ground is laughable to many on the pro-rights side because almost no one on the anti-rights side wants to talk about repealing a single law, loosening a single restriction.

    Even your own comments reflect this — Banning ‘AK-47s’ — for a firearm that is used in fewer than 500 crimes a year? “Background checks to keep the guns out of the hands of the mentally ill” — The Virginia Tech shooter passed 2. The UCSB shooter passed 2, the Washington Navy Yard Shooter passed not 2 but 3 different background checks. And now magically background checks are going to start working?

    Color me a little skeptical.

    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.”

    This is a great point – we already have laws against murder, rape, robbery etc. Yet the focus on the new laws isn’t on reducing crime but reducing crime committed with firearms ONLY.

    Reasonable attempt to keep the peace? Really? By suggesting that the gun owner you want to talk to is likely to fly off the handle and kill someone — is that reasonable? Yet that is exactly the implication behind the ‘mental health screening’ and enhanced background checks – isn’t it?

    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.

    Yeah, that’s a great start !!!! Call the other side ‘downright goofy’ and “misguided” – Don’t worry about their points, don’t refute the facts (like gun control laws started in 1934) Nope…start off by viewing everyone on ‘the other side’ as goofy. Tells me your perspective isn’t in really learning what they have to say – wouldn’t you agree?

    In a democracy, we must remember that “compromise” is not a dirty word, that it requires talking – and more importantly – listening.

    Let’s talk. What gun control law, what regulation, what rule are you willing to give up in return for something….but it better be a doozy because we’ve been giving up since 1934.

    Bob S.

  2. I think Bob S. doth protest too much. This is a thoughtful piece. At no point does it oppose gun ownership for any legal purpose. What’s new in our highly polarized political environment is that the two sides of this debate are so afraid what is important to them will be lost. There is indeed a middle ground where gun safety courses taught already by the NRA, and other organizations, can be employed on that front. We have to have background checks to weed out criminals or the mentally ill who might harm themselves or others if they get h from getting to them. There has to be a way to give Americans the right and the ability to own automatic weapons suited for the battlefield. My longtime suggestion would be to store them and use them at reputable and secure shooting ranges. Those weapons that are collectables can be secured from quick and unwise use to display and admire at home. Bob S. no doubt has a good suggestion here somehow. Ken Germanson is seeking this sort of middle ground. I’m not judging the millions of law abiding gun owners but factually, this has never been a better time for less restricted gun ownership with many states enacting both concealed and open carry, and in some places men and some women carrying automatic weapons out in the open wherever they go. Like Ken, I at least visited my Uncle’s dairy farm each summer. You have to have the protection of a reliable gun in rural areas or out in the open spaces of the West for just the purposes he outlined relating to hunting and predator animals. There too is the reality that the length of time until a county sheriff’s unit can get to you is vastly increased. Having a firearm at home to use in the last resort does make people more secure, but they need a plan to make sure it is secured, and yet available once you determine that someone is breaking in to your home or apartment, and it is not a relative or some poor soul such as the woman who was drunk, but had been injured in an auto accident merely seeking assistance. Practicing gun safety, having that plan, and securing the piece so children or curious persons do not steal your gun or get hurt playing with it are things family’s need to discuss with each other, and parents need to lead on. This is a fine piece, and much needed.

    • Have to love this — the original poster talks about finding middle ground. I reply talking about how one side feels we’ve not seen any compromise out of the other — and the response is:

      I think Bob S. doth protest too much.
      Kinda of difficult to talk to folks who start off denigrating your position.

      At no point does it oppose gun ownership for any legal purpose.
      Oh really — then why does this statement make it into the argument?

      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.

      Banning a firearm like the AK-47 is definitely opposing gun ownership for legal purposes. This is typical of many arguments regarding gun control

      Gun Control Advocate (GCA) — “We Want to Ban Semi-Automatic Rifles that look evil like the AK-47″.

      Pro-Rights Advocate ” Millions of people use those self defense and recreational purposes. It isn’t right to ban them because of the actions of criminals.”

      GCA “You’ll still have other firearms, why want you compromise and let us ban these”.

      See there is no middle ground in the argument. It is all take from the firearms community and no give.

      There has to be a way to give Americans the right and the ability to own automatic weapons suited for the battlefield.

      First off, can you acknowledge that you or anyone else do not ‘give Americans the Right” to own weapons?
      One of the biggest hurdles is getting anti-rights cultists (aka gun control advocates) to acknowledge people have a right to keep and bear arms. A right that should exist without governmental approval.
      Until that acknowledgment takes place too many people want to treat it like a privilege – PROVE you are an acceptable type to US and we will GRANT you the privilege of owning something. Sorry……middle ground where??

      My longtime suggestion would be to store them and use them at reputable and secure shooting ranges.

      We have a very different definition of “keep” — securing them out of our homes isn’t keeping them. Definitely not able to BEAR them either. Current events definitely show the need for people to be able to quickly access firearms, wouldn’t you agree?

      in some places men and some women carrying automatic weapons out in the open wherever they go.

      Okay..a piece of advise here. If you want to be seen as credibly seeking middle ground; learn what you are talking about. “Automatic weapons” are not what people are carrying around in “Open Carry” protests or demonstrations. “Automatic Weapons” are the select fire (1 trigger pull multiple rounds) that the police and the military carry on a routine basis. Most people can not afford those type of weapons (1986 Hughes Amendment) and carry “Semi-Automatic” weapons — one trigger pull, one round fired. Conflating the two is a trick some gun control advocates do to scare people — making it seem as if people are carrying ‘machine guns’ on the streets.

      I’m open to the middle ground — but this reply is exactly what I’m talking about ! Not one point in it talks about what law, regulation or rule you are willing to give up in order to pass another law.

      We’ve had decades of restrictive laws being enacted. We’ve had decades of intrusion into our lives. Even the advances we’ve made are full of compromises- Yes we have concealed carry in every state but too many of them we have to get permission from the government to do so…..why should we have a permit to do what is our right?

      And yet, we hear we need to enact another law — another layer of background checks, another intrusion into our privacy (mental health screenings) and not a single point given on the other side.

      Middle Ground?

      Still waiting to see some.

      Bob S.

      • Please excuse the delay in responding to the arguments of both Bob and Tom. Let me start by telling of my concerns about gun violence: My work for the last more than 20 years has been in “preventing violence” of all types, mainly in the low-income community. We have been singularly unsuccessful, I’m afraid, as the statistics this summer in many cities will show.

        The presence of guns in simple arguments — over a random comment in a bar or the suspicion that someone is “hitting on” your girlfriend – brings tragic finality to such situations when fisticuffs or knives usually do not. The simple pull of a trigger comes too quickly — often in a drunken rage or sheer anger, soon regretted.

        Maybe we could begin with at least an education campaign on how dangerous guns can be, showing how they can be used sensibly for whatever purpose they were obtained, be it for safety, to protect family or for hunting. For such a campaign to be successful, we’d have to have the buy-in of the NRA and its supporters; we’d need the gun manufacturers to play their part as well.

        There are as well many other devices that could become part of the gun itself; for years, Dr. Stephen Hargerten, head of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, has urged adoption of various additions to guns — such as handprint recognition — to restrict the unwise or accidental firing of a gun. Such items could be incorporated by the gun manufacturers voluntarily. So far the ideas have been ignored.

        I’m not sure what gun laws Bob has in mind in removing, but perhaps there are some that could be modified or removed. Guns are an important tool to our society — if used properly. Certainly, we’d all agree on that.

  3. Mr. Germanson,

    No worries about the response, life comes first.

    My work for the last more than 20 years has been in “preventing violence” of all types, mainly in the low-income community. We have been singularly unsuccessful, I’m afraid, as the statistics this summer in many cities will show.

    Two points comes to mind. First and foremost is that over the past several decades firearm related crime, death and injuries have been dropping. This while laws, excuse the phrase but it is correctly used, have been liberalized to allow more people to own firearms (Washington D.C, Chicago), more people to carry Concealed (now all 50 states have some form of carry) and even carry without a permit (6 states now allow that).

    So if you’ve been working on preventing gun violence without success in some areas — shouldn’t that say more about the areas you’re focused in?

    Second, the statistics from city vary greatly. For example Fort Worth Texas with very lax gun control laws has a homicide rate of approximately 6 per 100K. Chicago with restrictive gun control laws has a homicide rate of 10 per 100K.

    My point?

    Why aren’t the laws working in Chicago and other places? Those reasonable laws should be showing effects right?
    This is the objection some many pro-rights people have when we hear talk about ‘reasonable restrictions’ — there is little to no evidence they work. Washington D.C. with its handgun ban was the Murder Capital of the country for many year. Now it’s crime rate is falling drastically. Even Chicago is seeing less crime as the Concealed Carry laws get implemented.

    The presence of guns in simple arguments — over a random comment in a bar or the suspicion that someone is “hitting on” your girlfriend – brings tragic finality to such situations when fisticuffs or knives usually do not. The simple pull of a trigger comes too quickly — often in a drunken rage or sheer anger, soon regretted.

    This is insulting to many gun owners because it is a simple variation of “Any gun owner could just snap” — again the statistics where carry is higher doesn’t show support for this. Are there aspects or subcultures where violence is used to solve issues? Absolutely, but federal laws won’t change that. I suggest reading, if you haven’t, Rory Miller’s excellent book “Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected”. The social violence discussed in your statement isn’t going to be resolved easily — and certainly not by any law.

    There are as well many other devices that could become part of the gun itself; for years, Dr. Stephen Hargerten, head of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, has urged adoption of various additions to guns — such as handprint recognition — to restrict the unwise or accidental firing of a gun. Such items could be incorporated by the gun manufacturers voluntarily. So far the ideas have been ignored.

    Those ideas have been ignored for several reasons.

    Reason #1 — Immature and imperfect technology.
    When something absolutely has to work the first time, every time it is needed; implementing new technology isn’t the way to go.

    (CNN) — Apple’s fingerprint sensor, Touch ID, is the flagship feature on the iPhone 5S. But it doesn’t always work the way it should.
    Since the sensor’s introduction in September, a growing number of issues have surfaced — including everything from phones that don’t recognize when a finger is present to those that don’t approve fingerprints they’re supposed to approve.

    And that is for a phone.

    Reason #2 — Criminals can hack the system.
    This should be a DUH!
    So how long before the technology is out before it’s beaten by criminals with a vested interested? Probably not very long. So what good does it do? Protect a few children — well the parents likely to buy those types of firearms probably aren’t the type to leave them around for kids to find- wouldn’t you agree

    Reason #3 — 300,000,000
    That is the estimated number of firearms already in the country. Are you going to require people to turn in their old firearms — some antiques, some family heirlooms — for new firearms?

    Reason #4 — Why should I limit who can use my firearm?
    I teach people to shoot. One of the things I enjoy is teaching people to safely handle firearms. Last year I introduced over 14 people to the sport. Safely. Not one injury. Now you want to make it so I am limited in that ability. Isn’t it counter productive?

    I’m not sure what gun laws Bob has in mind in removing, but perhaps there are some that could be modified or removed.

    I’ll list a few but the important point you don’t even address. Even in your reply you talk about what MORE we can do. NOT A single suggestion on what you are willing to give up. NOT a single shred of compromise on your part.

    So why should we even try to talk to people like you –especially when you are calling for “middle ground” — but NOT stepping forward????

    So, how about

    #1 – A repeal of the 1986 Hughes Amendment which made select fire (fully automatic) firearms produced after 1986 illegal for civilians to own.
    We already have to get a tax stamp and background check — why can’t we buy new select fire guns?

    #2 – Nation-wide Reciprocity
    My driver’s license is recognized in every state but not all of them are required to honor my right to carry a firearm. Every state now has some form of Concealed Carry law but it is a hodgepodge of state laws that is a hazard. A Pennsylvania single mom is facing 10 years in prison because she made the mistake of taking a firearm into New Jersey. No one was hurt, no one even knew until she was pulled over and did the right thing and told a cop.

    #3.Purchasing across state lines
    Want to buy a car in the next state over — go to the dealer or the person and pay for it.
    Want to buy a gun in the next state over — go to the dealer or the person and pay for it — even if they run a background check the firearm has to be shipped to a dealer in your state, you pay for that, then he has to run a background check (or another one) and then he will give you the firearm — after you pay the transfer fee.

    Even if you have a concealed handgun license — with the background check and the promise the state will take it away if you break the law.

    #4 Suppressors
    Let’s take a device which makes firearms less harmful to hearing, less intrusive to neighbors and make them an over the counter purchase instead of an NFA item — takes months to buy one and adds $200 to the costs.

    Those are just a few of the ideas.

    What existing law or regulation are you willing to give up?

    Bob S.

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