The Newtown School Shooting, Guns, and Us

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.

Inflammatory Statements

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.

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  1. Once upon the day Steve Jobs died, I made a public comment about not liking Apple products. Though I obviously had the right to my opinion, and would have received hearty debate over the subject on any other day, my timing, in hindsight, was perhaps a little off. As someone wiser than me once pointed out, a dog who is shaking and drooling is not capable of rational thought, and it’s not fair to expect it.

    • I hear you, and I debated waiting, I really did. But what I saw seemed to be feeding on itself, and at least in my little circle, I needed to interrupt it.

      I don’t want or expect rational discussion now, or anytime soon. What I want is to avoid reduced possibility of rational discussion later. If someone says I am responsible for the murder of those children, it’s going to make reasonable talk in the future more difficult. Neither of us are going to see past that kind of label easily.

      I don’t need to change anyone’s mind with this, and I am NOT going to enter debate now. I just don’t want to see hate and vitriol added to what is already a terrible thing.

  2. Today was a strange day for me. I heard about the shootings on Twitter, and I felt heartsick. And then I found out one of my neighbors had left deer meat and bones for me at my door because I raw feed my dogs. The large bones I can’t use will go to our local nonprofit wild animal rehabilitation person who has some wolves. I definitely believe in gun control. I don’t think anyone needs an assault rife (automatic or semi-automatic). I think “Stand Your Ground Laws” should be changed. A lot of gun deaths are accidents involving children finding guns they should not have access to. At the same time, I respect my neighbors’ interest in hunting for meat that they eat. I appreciated their kindness in going out of their way to give me parts that they had to lug out of the forest. I know some women who are survivors of assault who own guns and are super careful in knowing how to use them and keeping them safe. I don’t know what all the answers are. I feel pretty confused. But I do think the NRA needs to start backing reasonable gun control measures if it wants to be seen the way you describe and not as pro-gun at all costs.

    • As I said above and below in response to Greg, I have no interest in discussing legislation now; this is not the time! We’re upset, ALL of us. All I want is for people to realize that redirected aggression, while perhaps natural, isn’t helpful and will probably be hurtful in the long run.

      I agree with you about the confusion; there’s a lot to sort out! And we of course must look at this event and see what we can learn from it. But we must also give ourselves a chance to grieve and recover.

    • The NRA already unfortunately backs a lot of gun control measures like you’re talking about, they just serve as a straw man bad guy for gun control freaks at times like this. Remember that in Soviet Russia and in Hitler’s Germany, dissidents were frequently declared mentally incompetent too, and that the “subhuman” Jews in Warsaw fought pitched battles with the Nazi army for many days before they succumbed.

      • I don’t understand your comment. Mental illness has nothing to do with this topic, IMO, and the fact is that people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than to perpetrate it: . I’m confused by your Nazi references; I don’t see any relationship between the school shooting and Nazism. (As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I’m pretty well acquainted with the events of WWII.)

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