There are things about me that don’t fit the mold of someone you’d expect to write for the Patheos Blue channel. But then again, molds are boring. I’m not a far left guy–I tend to side with the left about quite a few things, but there are other issues that pull me to the right and keep me closer to the center. One of those things is the 2nd Amendment.
You see, I was once a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association. I feel dirty just for just having written those words, but they are true and I might as well not hide the fact. When I joined, I was young and naive enough to think I was joining a group of like-minded outdoorsmen and hunters–plus I got a cool sticker and a magazine subscription, to boot. Eventually, I matured and became more aware. I began to see just how deep the N.R.A. goes into the grimy American political catacombs and just how much power they wield through their propaganda and scare tactics. For a while, they had me fooled and I bought in but, eventually, common sense won out and I dumped them like a skanky, cheating girlfriend.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not still a 2nd Amendment guy–I am. I still believe that the our founders’ intent was for common citizens to retain the right to own firearms. I believe that the militia referred to in the wording of the amendment did then and still does mean common Americans with guns. A cursory reading of the what the founders had to say and what they wrote on the topic, in my opinion, clearly bears that out.
Of course, technology has surpassed our founders wildest imaginations, so the types of guns available to us today are hardly the same species as the old single-shot, muzzleloading, smoothbore muskets of the 18th Century–so if you want to have a debate about what kinds of guns citizens should be allowed or forbidden to own, that’s fair. But I will stand by my belief that I should be able to own guns. In fact, a significant majority of Americans still support the right of citizens to bear arms, the picture becomes muddied when we start talking about different kinds of guns, such as semi-automatic weapons, handguns, “assault rifles” and the like.
The N.R.A. uses propaganda and scare tactics to rally their base and this has been extremely successful. Each election cycle, they whip their members into a paranoid frenzy, making them absolutely certain that the Democratic candidates are coming after their guns. I remember this being done with Bill Clinton and, of course, Barack Obama. Some of my friends far to the right of me tried hard to convince me that if Obama was elected, he’d make a grab for all our guns. The fact is, 8 years later, I had more guns in my safe than I did when Obama started his first term and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that my friends who tried to scare me did, too.
But what about so called common sense gun laws?
My thoughts on this have evolved. I have no issues with universal background checks. I’m not sure how effective they actually are, but I don’t mind going through the process. I certainly don’t mind doing everything within reason to limit the availability of guns from mentally unstable individuals–however, I do have some concerns about the process of getting someone labeled unstable and just who would get to do the labeling, that could be a slippery slope. I don’t have any real qualms about limiting the availability of high capacity “assault weapons”–nobody needs a machine gun–but I do have concerns about who gets to define what qualifies as an assault weapon. By some definitions I have seen proposed, they would ban my hunting shotgun and rifle because they can fire 5 shots without being reloaded–that’s no “assault weapon” in my book.
But then again, a good heavy rock could be an assault weapon if you crack it over someone’s skull.
That’s just it, people tend to let their emotions overrule their common sense when they talk about gun control. It’s understandable given the fact that this debate almost always heats up after some senseless mass shooting occurs. It’s become cliche to say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but it’s still common sense. Simply put, guns are tools. They are dangerous tools that must be respected and handled with care, but so are chainsaws.
I’m fond of saying that America loves to treat symptoms but we are afraid to look into the disease. This holds true in the gun control debate–gun violence is a symptom–when gun violence occurs, it’s extremely easy to lash out and blame the tools but much more difficult to diagnose the disease that caused someone to misuse them.
The reason America has a higher rate of gun violence than many other nations isn’t just because we have so many guns–it’s the disease that lies beneath the surface of the violence.
As I’ve written many times, America’s disease is lack of empathy. Too few of us respect our fellow citizens. We don’t truly listen to what others are saying. We are quick to discount the pain and struggle of others. We throw out the golden rule. In the process, we marginalize and alienate–causing distrust, paranoia, instability–then, some little thing or another, seemingly benign, sets someone off and they snap. It all started with a lack of empathy.
America needs an empathy vaccine.
It’s pretty hard to kill someone with whom you empathize.