Gun debate isn’t a black and white issue

Seven weeks ago, a 20-year-old man walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 people.

Across the country we mourned their loss — lives cut tragically short by a guy on a whim with a loaded semi-automatic assault rifle; and before the first children were ever laid to rest, the debate on gun control was fired up once more.

There was, and still remains, a barrage of Facebook postings by certain friends of mine — those Second Amendment supporters declaring that guns aren’t the problem, people are.

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

I think there’s a whole lot of gray area in that statement. Sure, it takes a person to pull the trigger, although I seem to recall a story once about a hunting dog pulling a trigger and injuring its owner — pure accident, no doubt; but it also takes a loaded weapon, made to kill, to do what was done inside that Connecticut school.

In the seven weeks since the school shooting, I’m more confused about the gun debate than ever.

You see, I’m a farm kid. I grew up with guns in the closet and three brothers and a dad who shot them. They — the guys and their guns — took care of the varmint population, shot sporting clays, walked miles and miles in their quest for pheasants and deer and honed a hobby they continue to enjoy today. Some members of my family own assault rifles and use them to target shoot and hunt; and if they want to spend hundreds of dollars on a black gun that brings them enjoyment, I’m OK with that.

At the same time, I really don’t think those black guns belong in the hands of an inner-city gang member in Chicago, or in the hands of a confused, bullied, mentally ill — whatever — young adult in small-town U.S.A.

How can you regulate guns so the hunters who use them appropriately can do so, yet keep them out of the hands of those who are more apt to abuse them?

I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone has a real good answer to that question.

Last week, while visiting with a 4-H’er at a University of Minnesota Extension Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, we talked briefly about Citizenship Washington Focus. The week-long event at the National 4-H Center brings 4-H’ers together from across the country, and part of the experience is to debate an issue facing legislators in Washington, D.C. When I participated back in 1989, I was one of dozens of 4-H’ers given the assignment to debate gun control.

Now, it’s 24 years later, and what are we doing? Still debating gun control.

I don’t have any answers, but I’m hoping our leaders do. I’m tired of hearing about tragedy after tragedy.

It takes me back to a song I remember hearing when I was growing up — an Anne Murray tune, for those of you who are country music fans:

“There’s a local paper rolled up in a rubber band

One more sad story’s one more than I can stand

Just once how I’d like to see the headline say

‘Not much to print today, can’t find nothin’ bad to say’, because

 

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town

Nobody OD’ed, nobody burned a single buildin’ down

Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain

We sure could use a little good news today.”

8 thoughts on “Gun debate isn’t a black and white issue

    • I have read the president’s proposal. And here it is for those who haven’t:
      * require criminal background checks for all gun sales;
      * reinstate the assault weapons ban;
      * restore a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines;
      * eliminate armor-piercing bullets;
      * provide mental health services in schools;
      * allocate funds to hire more police officers; and
      * institute a federal gun trafficking statute, among other policies.

  1. As someone who is admittedly pro-gun I have a few things to say on the subject.

    First of all let’s address the issue of the term “assault rifle”. An assault rifle is capable of fully automatic fire. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assault%20rifle The rifle used in Newton was not an assault rifle. It was a semi-automatic version of an assault rifle. When the trigger is pulled one bullet is fired. As I’m sure you are aware many guns work in this fashion. Nearly every handgun works this way. Calling an AR-15 an assault rifle sensationalizes the story and escalates feelings around it.

    This brings me to my next point. There are heated opinions on both sides. One large issue I see when discussing the matter is the polarization of the subject. “It’s us and them, pick a side.” This should not be the case. I’m sure that there are many people such as yourself who don’t know the answer and can admit the issue is worth considering. I’ve observed gun control advocates state that if a person doesn’t want to get all guns off of the streets then he or she doesn’t care about the lives tragically taken in Newtown. That statement is a straw man fallacy and a non sequitur. The issue afflicts both sides. I’ve heard pro-gun advocates respond to the statement “The government is going to take the guns away,” with a goading “Come get them.”. I know there is a lot of passion to this issue. People need to step back and keep their calm. I’m glad that there is passion, but there are better ways to express this passion then hatred. It makes me think of a saying I heard long ago: “ A mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open.”

    Even with all this being said I am more than likely one of the Facebook friends that you were talking about. And I do believe that the issue lies with the individual. A person who wants to do harm, will do harm. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/19/china-school-attack-video_n_2329511.html I’m also of the mind that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Seeing as we are unable to stop many things (drugs, people, Cuban cigars, etc.) from crossing our borders, guns will (and do) cross too. Criminals will always find guns. Think of it not as gun control, it’s victim disarmament because the law abiding citizens will comply and have no way to fight back.

    I’ve been wrong before and I am open to suggestions. I would be happy to discuss the issue with anyone who can do so in a calm and respectful manner. Sadly there have been few who take a grounded approach to this subject. Until both sides decide to be civil, both will lose as no progress will be made.

    • Thanks for your post, Tony. You perhaps explained the “big gray area” better than I did. I just want the senseless killings to stop – and that’s something both gun advocates and gun opponents can at least agree on.

    • “I’m also of the mind that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

      Who do you define as a “bad guy with a gun” versus a “good guy with a gun”?

      If a “bad guy” is someone who shoots up a school, and a “good guy” is someone who kills the bad guy, then Adam Lanza is simultaneously good and bad: he’s bad because he killed 20 kids, six teachers, and his mother, yet he’s good because he then killed himself, thus ending the rampage.

      Same goes for the Columbine shootings: The SWAT team (good guys with guns) waited nearly an hour before they entered the school, but by that time Eric and Dylan (bad guys with guns) had already killed themselves, thus ending the shooting, and, again, making themselves good guys with guns.

      The initial point Julie made was exactly right: the gun debate can’t be debated with black and white, us versus them rhetoric. Unfortunately for you and the NRA, “good guys v. bad guys with guns” falls directly into that category.

      • Thank you for your input, clearly you think I should be medicated. :) I’m sorry as I didn’t mean to be contradictory. I don’t think it’s black and white. Please allow me to elaborate. I would define a good guy with a gun as someone who doesn’t set out to do harm to others. A good guy is someone who leaves his house praying he or she will never have to pull that trigger, but is willing to so in order to protect himself and others. Police, military, security guards and responsible concealed carry holders all fall in this category. In the two instances you cited, the schools were “gun free zones”. So any law abiding citizen who would have been present with a firearm was unarmed because they are LAW ABIDING CITIZENS (not trying to yell just add emphasis). They disarmed themselves before they went onto school property. However if there were no good guys with guns (Cops and SWAT) coming for these killers do you think they would have taken their own lives? Criminals will always find guns. I don’t know the answer to the issue, however I am happy to hear any ideas you may have.

  2. Julie,
    First thanks for the discussion. I believe that we will never prevent all bun crime. Statically the incidence of gun crime drops with more education and getting the law abiding citizens to take responsibility for their safety and their fellow citizens as well. John Lot Jr. wrote a very good book http://www.amazon.com/More-Guns-Less-Crime-Understanding/dp/0226493644 based upon his research. I believe the more people look at the facts and educate themselves the easier it will be to see the truth that get lost in all the emotions and rhetoric.

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