I want to post something today which is pretty off-topic for this blog. If you choose not to read, that’s fine – if you do read, I ask that you read to the end, because it might not be going where you assume and I would hate for you to have the wrong idea of me.
As news started coming in on the Newtown school shooting, Twitter exploded. Within a few minutes I saw one statement on necessary background checks for gun purchases and a whole lot more calling for gun bans. Most disturbing, though, were the tweets characterizing gun owners as child murderers or enablers of the same.
I understand that kneejerk overreaction is a natural response to fear and tragedy, but it helps no one and keeps no one safe. Solutions aren’t reached through irrational emotional thinking.
A Gun Owner’s View
I’m a gun owner. I’m an NRA Distinguished Expert in pistol and an IDPA competitive shooter. I’m pretty proud of this, because just 14 months ago I was afraid to handle even a loose round of ammunition. It took me years to decide I wasn’t in favor of strict gun control, and years more to decide to buy a gun, but when I came to own one, I determined to be and worked to be the safest I could possibly be with it.
I have never pointed a gun at a living being. I cannot imagine doing so in any instance not involving a threat to life. Would I point a gun at someone? Absolutely – if I saw someone shooting schoolchildren, for instance, I would do my level best to use my tools and skills to stop him, and I’d learn to live with the fallout. But shooting someone for any other reason? Unimaginable.
Yet someone on Twitter said today that gun owners have guns because they dream of taking arms against the federal government. Someone else alleged the NRA is the reason dangerous people have guns. (Apparently they missed that it was the NRA which supported tightening mental health checks for gun purchases, and polled gun owners overwhelmingly support criminal background checks.)
This kind of stereotyped characterization is not representative of a gun owner’s view. Responsible gun owners who want to keep their guns don’t like to see guns in the hands of people likely to use them wrongly.
Or, there is a big, big, BIG gap between owning a gun and supporting a sociopath shooting little kids. We are not the same, as an all-caps status alleged.
Roughly half the US population has a gun. It’s pretty obvious that half the population is not killing the other half. I’m not going to tell you what to think about the finer points of gun legislation, but I will say this:
Don’t make emotional judgments. Don’t make blanket statements. Don’t let justified outrage and horror cloud your view.
Do be sensitive to the victims and their families. Do think through any statements you make. Do look at the big picture.
As for why I feel the way I do about gun ownership, that’s for another time, if ever; I don’t know if I’ll leave this off-topic post visible after this furor subsides. There are things to be discussed, and we probably need both sides of the gun control debate to get some distance from this hideous event before they can be approached.
For now, let’s not attack one another as we should be pulling together. This is a heinous thing which has happened, but blaming and mis-characterizing those who were not involved will neither help the victims nor prevent another sick sociopath from killing again. Let’s not let violence engender violence.
Pacifism is not — as many self-proclaimed pacifists do — screaming vitriolic anger at people and then claiming you are non-violent because you didn’t punch anybody.
— Marc MacYoung
Update: This post was initially a response to the (paraphrased) statement, “You own a gun, you’re responsible for those kids’ deaths. You are an enabler.”
Instead of engaging with someone who was obviously upset, I write this blog post meant to urge moderation in speech and avoid casting blame in anger. I was trying to help mitigate without calling people out or debating; I did not intend to just selfishly promote my own personal political agenda.
I probably should have made that more clear above.
I meant what I said about taking time to step back, letting ourselves vent and grieve, and then coming together to see what we can learn from this. This, and other tragedies, are not as simple as we would like — we want to believe in a simple solution, to tell ourselves that just controlling guns or “fixing” mental health care or something else will somehow make us safe and protect our kids. That’s not going to be true; complex problems don’t often have simple solutions. But we can’t find solutions while we’re shouting at each other.
I pray for the families in Newtown, and those around them, and for our nation.