Guns and self-reflection

Our hearts are broken. Again.

Another horrific, senseless, unspeakable tragedy has all of us asking why. I sit riveted to the news, watching the devastation of others and a voice inside starts posing much more difficult questions. Difficult because, by acknowledging that voice, I might have to admit I might be wrong—or at the very least, I might need to consider the possibility that there is more I can do. Our collective silence keeps real change for the good from happening.

I own guns. They are a necessary part of my job. Let’s get that settled; I’m not advocating you surrender your firearms. I want to talk about personal and collective societal responsibility.

I sat with friends last night, and this latest horror quite naturally came up in the conversation. But what stunned me was the speed with which the conversation shifted from the tragedy to the assertion of each person’s right to own guns and even boasting about how many firearms members of the group owned. That little voice in my head asked: How does one’s gun ownership make this any less of a nightmare? And more importantly: Why does a conversation about gun violence immediately trigger a defensive reaction in gun owners like me?

Rather than getting defensive, we should be getting angry. And we need some serious introspection and a willingness to open up to real and constructive debate. The two words, Gun Control, provoke indignation in gun owners and it shouldn’t. What should anger responsible citizens is the increasing frequency that we are now dealing with tragedies like this. We need to take a look at ourselves.

Maybe violent video games, depicting murder and thoughtless shootings, not to mention extra points for killing cops, aren’t appropriate gifts for kids in my family. Maybe asserting my right to gun ownership should also be tempered with the realization that assault rifles are weapons of war and have no place in our civilian world. While we’re on the subject, my legally owned firearm, should be properly secured, so it’s not stolen and used in a crime—or God forbid—a disturbed member of my family use it to harm themselves or others. We should be outraged that guns can be purchased with ease on the Internet, that unscrupulous gun dealers trade in illicit arms with near impunity, and “straw purchases” are commonplace in licensed gun shops (that’s when a person who can buy a weapon knowingly purchases one for an individual who cannot lawfully purchase a weapon). And lastly, let’s stop pretending that the sheer mind-boggling numbers of guns available in this country isn’t any part of the problem. It is.

As responsible citizens, we must commit to having an open and honest debate about how to deal with this violence. Can’t we agree that something concrete has to be done? This all or nothing approach to firearm rights is ludicrous. In Florida this week two newspaper headlines juxtapose in my brain with extreme irony. “Agriculture Commissioner touts 1 million concealed weapons permits” then today “Gunman massacres 20 children at school in Connecticut” I know the NRA tells me there is no correlation, but my conviction slips a bit as I wipe away tears yet again, contemplating the senseless deaths. Let me say again, I am a gun owner. I also think we need to step back from the NRA’s fear mongering ledge a bit. Nobody has tried to take my gun, or even suggested it. But this country has a problem and we need to talk about how to fix it. There are many ways to start dealing with these issues in a holistic way, I think. What I’ve talked about here are just a few questions my wife and I grapple with internally, like many Americans I’m sure. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. One thing is for certain: we can’t keep turning away from this problem.

What we’re doing now isn’t really working for us.

As always, I’d love to hear what you think. Peace. ~LM

12 thoughts on “Guns and self-reflection

  1. Well I agree whole heartedly since I wrote a similiar piece this morning. A lot of our problem is responsibility period. People take none any more. We are a Nation of whiners. It’s everyone elses fault. Video games, music are a problem.. It’s a start.. Gun control is not the answer. Responsibility is though. Lock them up and there should be stiff penalities for those that don’t ….

  2. I’m glad you posted this. Your thoughts as a responsible gun owner and a police officer (we used to call them “Peace” officers) lend credibility to the conversation. We don’t need knee jerk, black and white declarations right now. We need sanity. We need informed, calm, rational voices to come to the table and find a solution. Locally and nationally, we need a conversation. It’s always the “few” who spoil it for the “many”. But this time the gun advocates need to come to the table, bring their expertise and find a way to protect the many. This is the time for a “Militia”. We’re under siege.

    Thanks, LM

    • Barrett, that is a spot on response. The easy one-liners aren’t going to cut it anymore. The problem is just too complex as far as causation, but everyone has got to pony up to be part of the solution. That’s what always works, comprehensive, well-reasoned approaches that respect all sides.

  3. Great thoughts Lynette. I also think as a society we need to look at mental illness again and find places and better ways to deal with it. So many people knew this guy had a problem but no one stepped up. I think this fear of reaching out to others is part of the problem. This societal problem is so much more than being about guns.We need to find help for those who need it before they go off like that. Guns don’t kill people by themselves. People pull the trigger. Bad people kill people, mentally ill people kill people. By making it harder for people like us to get guns can’t be the answer. I think you have some good points about video games and just how this culture is training our kids with violence. Media focuses to much on violence, as well. You are right though, we need to come together as a people and figure this out.

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for stopping by to add to the discussion. I’m not any expert on mental illness, so wouldn’t comment specifically, but I hear you. I just want the dialogue to move beyond pointless rhetoric and for reasonable people to feel empowered to suggest options on gun violence without being branded as unpatriotic. I love my country and want us to figure this out.

  4. Thank you for writing this. I am not a gun owner, nor are any of my friends, so it’s especially helpful to my further understanding of those who would argue to keep their guns to hear your words of compassion, professional wisdom and emotional conflict in the wake of this tragedy. I realize that there is nothing simple about gun ownership in our huge country. And no matter eventual laws laid down, there will always be those who find loopholes to bend them. But to visualize citizens coming together, to start this conversation and design a masterful Work-in-Progress – that is a brilliant beacon of hope.

    • “But to visualize citizens coming together, to start this conversation and design a masterful Work-in-Progress – that is a brilliant beacon of hope.”

      Now that is an infinitely worthy goal. Thanks, Pieerrmorgan.

  5. I always listen to what a police officer says on this subject and you have hit on most the major discussion points that must be addressed. Having everyone scream for and against ‘gun control’ will never solve the problem.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Vicki. That’s the hardest thing to do with virtually any difficult topic, isn’t it? Getting folks to really engage each other in productive conversations and respect differences of opinion is the only way to arrive at real solutions. I pray this time that citizens will demand that our representatives do the hard but necessary work.

  6. True words. I wish we could move away from reflective defensive mistrustful positions and have some honest conversation. I grew up in an urban area but spent summers in NH. We had friends who hunted and we went to sandpits and shot BB guns and 22’s and had a blast doing it. My brother & his wife go to a shooting range every Sunday. All this by way of saying that, like most Americans, I’m not opposed to gun ownership and have no desire to tell folks they can’t hunt or take target practice. But why that means that we have to have weak laws on waiting periods; holes a mile wide in gun show, online and private gun sales; and no ban on assault weapons is beyond me. The only reason is that people are entrenched in their positions and think their way of life is being threatened and/or the government is encroaching on their rights. Have we really come to this, where even the most reasonable set of controls is met with distrust and hostility?

    This is personal to me as well, since my beloved brother-in-law committed suicide 6 months ago with a gun he purchased in NH with no waiting period. Maybe it would have made no difference, but maybe if there was a waiting period, his worst moment would have passed. Or maybe, if there were effective background checks, they would have seen that he was being treated for depression. Let’s not focus just on mass murders. How many people die of suicide, accidental deaths (kids playing with their parent’s gun, heat-of the moment passions, often with alcohol/drugs involved) because there was gun lying around the house? Are we really ok with this? Do we think every other civilized country on earth is wrong to control gun ownership and limit gun deaths and that our balance between the right to bear arms and the right to protect our citizens is right? We can’t even take a freaking bottle of water on a plane, but we can own semi-automatics?

    I hope to God that this horrific massacre of first graders shocks us enough to back away from our prejudices and mistrust and reach for common ground to find a solution that works for all citizens.

    • I agree, Kathy. We must get past the ingrained automatic responses to any suggestion of gun control. That’s right–reasonable control–not banning all weapons. Certainly though, we should be able to agree that high powered assault weapons might be something that need a little more regulation. I can’t go out and buy a hand grenade. The loopholes make existing laws a joke. Like you, I hope we might finally be motivated to work toward real change.

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