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All the Answers or Just More Questions?

Question

There is a common thread that is woven into the fabric of most emotionally motivated demands that appear in social media postings. Typically those demanding that others give something up, are those who would sacrifice nothing to do so. The person who has never owned a firearm that demands that others have their guns “confiscated and destroyed” (lifted directly from a Facebook friend’s page this morning). Those without a uterus wishing to curtail the rights of those who do. Simplistic solutions to complex problems from those with the least amount of knowledge on the topic and with virtually nothing to lose. What could possibly go wrong?

The notion that eliminating gun ownership in this country as a means of preventing mass shootings makes about as much sense as banning car ownership (insert “confiscate and destroy”) as a way to address the very serious and deadly problem of DUI’s or texting while driving. Because a small minority of individuals misuse something, the solution is to eliminate ownership for all? Keep in mind that laws are already in place that are being violated by these individuals. Will people who broke existing laws be suddenly moved to abide by new ones?

It makes little sense to erode the rights of law abiding citizens as a mean to control the behaviors of emotionally disturbed, criminally minded and antisocial fringe elements of society. In many of the highly publicized mass shooting scenarios, we are dealing with people whose intent is to die. Would we not be better served working to address low self esteem and helping those feeling hopeless find a sense of purpose? I think it’s unreasonable to change the lives and rights of those who are not breaking laws or causing problems as some sort of weak gesture to pretend we’re solving what is a real problem.

While I recognize that these situations are intolerable, I have to say that the quick fixes and political posturing (from all sides) has not and will not make much impact until the real issues are addressed. What are the real problems? I believe there are several elements that contribute to the hostile environment that we all live in. When Dr. King talked about not being judged by the color of ones skin but by the content of our character, it was not intended to ignore an individuals background but rather was a call to not value or devalue individuals on attributes that ultimately they had no control over. Simply, it is who you choose to be, how you choose to act and what you strive to become that should dictate what one can achieve. However in the ensuing years ill-conceived (but well-intended) concepts such as labeling some illegal activity as “hate crimes” based upon who the victims are became divisive, as it judged people by the color of their skin (or other characteristics). Being told that is my “white privilege” talking is about as constructive as me (an assumed white woman to someone without knowledge of my DNA) using the N-word at an NAACP meeting. Labels are offensive, period! You don’t remedy a situation by creating a new way to be dismissive of an entire group of people based on a single attribute. Does it help to have white people try to school other white people on what minority people experience in their daily life? While again the gesture is well-meaning, it makes about as much sense as having my husband offer a lecture to a Cub Scout troop on the topic of menstrual cramps. It seems noble but one is not able to appropriately share what one has not experienced.

The “Hate Crime” creates different rules for different segments of society and continuing to divide our population into segregated groupings and then applying different values seems like a  truly backwards means of trying to achieve equality. If a person shoots a black person, a white person and an Asian person, the blood is all going to be red. I saw in a recent post where this biological fact is now considered offensive. Is it ridiculous that people can be offended by the assertion of a scientific fact? I don’t know of a crime victim that felt “loved” by a perpetrator or that somehow considered themselves less of a victim based upon the amount of melanin they possessed.

The horrific massacre that took place at Pulse in Florida surely looked like the scene of what would qualify as a hate crime, an individual targeting a gay nightclub. Were the terrorist to have lived, would that have been tried as a hate crime? Would that have changed once the news of his own gay hook-ups surfaced? Can you be charged with a hate crime against a group you are a member of? Would the victims have been divided among homosexual and heterosexual and would the charges have been greater for the loss of some lives over others? I imagine for the friends and family members, they did not value their loved ones any more or any less based on their differences. It seems the act ultimately was more about self-hatred and it manifested itself horrifically. Having the actions of the insane dictate the rights of all is not the answer. When the objective is equality, is it helpful to place greater value on some individuals over others?

What is the solution? When bantering with Facebook friends whose views differ from my own, I am often asked what I think should be done regarding guns in the United States. I always arrive at the same conclusion. Education. Yet there are many people who choose to shield their children (and themselves) from knowledge about firearms, they fear them and think they are best left unseen and not spoken about. While I am the first to agree that if you are scared of guns and have no interest in them you should not own one (just like there are some people who should not be drivers because of their overwhelming fear behind the wheel). Normally open-minded people who think knowledge is power in most situations for some reason shut down regarding information access when it comes to guns.

How well does ignoring information help in any area of life? Use Sex Education as an example. Insert “guns” in the following sentences instead of “sex”. My kids don’t need to know about sex because they’re kids and aren’t exposed to sex.  I will know when the right time to talk to my son about sex is, before he goes to college. Most kids find out about sex from their peers on the playground. Our religious values don’t allow for sex before marriage, I have plenty of time for the talk. It’s normal for kids to experiment with sex starting in junior high. Why wouldn’t you want to be informed and educated and ensure your kids had safe and accurate information? Sadly, the facts are very clear who are most at risk regarding both topics; those not informed adequately about sex or gun safety are the ones most likely to experience negative outcomes. This goes for drugs, bike safety and power tools too! Ignorance is not bliss.

Trap shooting is the fastest growing high school sport in Minnesota and not only is there value in the team camaraderie but learning the proper use and respect for firearms is invaluable. It’s not the members of shooting teams that are participating in drive-by shootings or accidentally killing themselves or a friend because they simply were never taught respect or appropriate use of a firearm. We teach cooking in schools, have shop classes and provide other opportunities for students to learn the proper use of a tool. For many, they may never cook or sew again but they know how to safely use the tools required, should they ever want or need to. They don’t typically have an unwarranted fear of the equipment.

I know I have quickly hit upon a lot of hot topics that touch a raw nerve with many. I recognize that many factors go into each persons values on these issues. I am certain it’s unlikely I have swayed anyone from their preexisting view. I simply ask that you think about the idea of giving something to people (education, information) rather than taking something away. Gun owners don’t “clutch” their guns. Not all gun owners are NRA members. The blanket assertions made about “gun owners” as a population are as insulting as pretending all women think the same way, imagining all members of a church vote for a particular political party or mistakenly believing that people from a specific country of origin all share the same opinion. Gun owners aren’t all hunters, some are vegans and some have shot nothing more than paper targets. Calling people who own guns “gun nuts” is not helpful and is like most derogatory comments, more telling about the person uttering it than the person being spoken about.

When people preach about being tolerant, it doesn’t simply mean tolerating things you already liked and supporting things you already believed, it means sometimes not being intolerant of things you personally have no use for or accepting that people have different beliefs than your own. We know how well Prohibition has worked in this country. Will we prevent the actions of criminals by disarming law abiding citizens? You might think so, I do not. We don’t have to agree, I’m tolerant.

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