I recently posted the below on Medium.com, a blogging site with a ton of interesting and compelling content. You can check out some of my other submissions there by following this link.
I’m a gun owner. I’m also someone who has circumambulated the entire 360 degrees of the gun rights issue, from adamant supporter to adamant opponent and back again. In my early days in the military, I was a staunch defender of gun rights. I owned and shot firearms regularly and felt very strongly that service to my country included defending all elements of the Constitution, especially the Second Amendment.
After leaving the service, and after seeing firsthand some of the destruction and pain caused by gun violence, I took my first turn toward support of gun control. I reasoned that if there were fewer guns, it naturally followed that there would have to be less gun violence. I bought into the logic that guns were the problem, not people. I also believed that in modern society, with its well-established safety infrastructure, guns were merely a relic from the past that were no longer necessary.
I’m also a peace-loving person at heart. I have no intention of ever hurting anyone, let alone using a firearm against another human being. That, more than anything else, lulled me into a belief that my ideas of peaceful co-existence were the best way forward.
I believe now that I was wrong.
As I’ve moved into middle-age, and watched the back and forth between the pro- and anti-gun factions over the years, I’ve taken the final turn back toward where I started. What I realized is that neither side has a lock on the truth about guns, violence, or human nature. In their desire, however, to “win” the argument over the limits to gun ownership, both sides have ramped up the rhetoric and have engaged in the type of group polarization that does little to solve anything.
In their zeal to convince the undecided that fewer or more restrictions on gun ownership should be adopted, each side has moved ever closer to the fringes, further away from each other, and ever farther from reasonable solutions. The debate is no longer about solutions, in fact, it’s about the perceived shortcomings of the other side.
Gun owners get branded as uneducated rednecks hellbent on shooting up the countryside, and gun control supporters are labelled as soft-headed liberals with a victim mentality. Try starting a reasonable discussion about guns and gun control from that perspective. It’s a setup for a yelling match in which neither side hears nor cares what the other side is saying.
And that’s exactly what’s occurring now. Ad hominem attacks are just a diversion from the real issues, and a recipe for paralysis.
For what it’s worth, here’s where I’ve landed: Even though it may sound contradictory in the extreme, I’m a peaceful person who chooses to legally own and legally carry a handgun. I’m not a trigger-happy cowboy by any means—far from it—but I’m also not anyone’s victim. I don’t hope to ever use my firearm, but I’m also prepared to do so in defense of my own life or that of a loved one, if reasonable and necessary.
I will always choose first to run from danger, if at all possible, and call the police to deal with the threat. But, I also won’t count on that as the one and only option. If I can’t flee, and my life is in jeopardy, I will do what I have to do to neutralize the threat, including using a firearm. It’s just that simple.
I also refuse to abdicate my constitutional rights regarding firearm ownership just because guns make some people uncomfortable or even fearful. I subscribe to the libertarian ideal that government power and authority should be limited to only what is absolutely necessary. I view taking away my right to use reasonable force to defend myself and my loved ones as an unreasonable intrusion on my liberty.
Those who disagree with me on all of this on the basis of logic are, of course, free to do so. I’ve stopped caring about the contradictions in my choice to simultaneously embrace peace and to arm myself. In a real sense, it’s no contradiction at all. Police officers make the same choice (or at least they should), and entire countries do, too. Many non-warring nations have standing armies, which is an entirely prudent and reasonable choice in my opinion.
I do support reasonable limitations on gun ownership, including universal background checks. But I don’t support wholesale restrictions on the types of firearms a qualified person can own or possess, and I certainly don’t agree that the only way to ensure a safe society is to unreasonably limit the access of law-abiding citizens to gun ownership. That no longer makes any sense to me.
To make meaningful progress, though, we need to talk about these ideas. We need to hear each other out and work together on this. I have a right to arm and defend myself, and you have a right to feel safe, too. Let’s talk about what all that means and how we can best make that happen.
We need to discuss these issues without the anger, the hyperbole, and the unreasonable expectations that seem to be the norm. Gun-rights and gun-control advocates need to view each other as well-intentioned people with valid concerns. Both groups need to find common ground to reasonably discuss how we can move forward as a country, both safely and in a way that recognizes the constitutional rights of gun ownership enshrined in our founding documents.
I think it’s entirely possible, and I think it’s time to have a reasonable discourse for all our sakes.
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