Our current gun debate is reminiscent of the old Lite Beer from Miller commercials that were conducted between the narrow contours of “less filling” vs. “tastes great.” Needless to say, such debates are never resolved because the only possible outcome is futility.
The current debate is fueled more by who says it than what is actually said. For example, as I am philosophically liberal, those in opposition immediately seek to place my thoughts in the box of their worst assumptions. The same holds true in reverse.
But where is this getting us? Is the current status quo acceptable?
If we judge the latter question based on the arcane “less filling” vs. “tastes great” argument, the answer is yes.
Part of the stagnation of the current gun debate is due to the manner in which it usually rises to the forefront — senseless violence. This creates a reactionary and impassioned discussion that has a shelf life of several weeks at best. We soon move on to the next shining object that captures our attention.
To change this hackneyed and predictable outcome, House Democrats staged a sit-in Wednesday night into early Thursday morning to demand a vote on gun-control legislation. As they occupied the House floor, led by civil-rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and singing “We Shall Overcome,” they sought to reclaim the moral voice that has been tragically silent for too long.
The current gun debate is stuck in the quagmire of red herrings. Perhaps the most outlandish is liberals wanting to take all guns away. Who are these people who have induced fear and paranoia to the point some gun owners believe their constitutional rights are in constant jeopardy by an ominous liberal cabal?
Moreover, does this subversive group possess enough sway so that two-thirds of both houses of Congress will pass a proposed constitutional amendment banning all guns? And are there three-fourths of the states (38) willing to ratify the proposed amendment by their legislatures?
I support the Second Amendment. I do believe, however, there are certain firearms to which no private citizen should have legal access.
I also support background checks, I want better enforcement of the current laws and I would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who supports such positions than one who opposed them. This may come as a surprise to some, but my aforementioned positions on gun laws would place me in the overwhelming majority of NRA members, according to a 2015 study conducted by Public Policy Polling.
Though not a scientific poll, I can say that everyone whom I know personally who owns firearms is a responsible gun owner, with emphasis placed on responsible. But the current gun debate infused with the cacophony of certainty effectively drowns out these realities.
Therefore, it is important to delineate the difference between NRA members and NRA leadership. Based on their advocacy, one might easily conclude that NRA leadership is just as beholden, if not more so, to gun manufacturers as it is to its rank and file. The former is interested in their rights as protected by the Second Amendment, while the latter is concerned with profits. The current and overly simplistic gun debate that allows only for treading water makes it impossible to invoke nuance into the discourse. As a result, the current conversation is incarcerated in a one-size-fits-all ethos.
Wouldn’t it be more prudent to have gun debates based on region than to have a singular discussion? Are there not differing perspectives based on whether one lives in a rural, suburban or urban area? Does New Hope, Pa., have the same gun issues as, say, Chicago?
The top five mass murder shootings since 1984 have taken a total of 218 lives. Meanwhile, Chicago has already passed 300 in 2016. During the recent Father’s Day weekend, there were 13 homicides in Chicago, which alone represents a total that would have made the all-time list since 1984.
There was no mass outcry, no T-shirts printed that read: “Je suis Chicago” or “Chicago Strong!” We simply accept it, perhaps because it fits our corresponding narrative about urban gun violence, especially if we are unfamiliar with such communities, passively stating: “Well that’s just how they are.”
The sensational is so for good reason, but does it warrant that urban violence be systematically placed behind a semicolon when the topic of gun violence is raised?
The tragic fact remains: as long as guns remain part of the American culture, which they will, mass shootings at some level will always be with us. But can we not find a reasonable balance that minimizes them?
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