A Duel on Guns

Modern propaganda seems to have killed honest debate. Today, all of my feeds look like this: a friend posts a talking point they’ve heard. Their friend fires back. And the duel goes back and forth until someone gets blocked.

The topic du jour: a church shooter in Texas was taken down by an armed citizen. Three people died. And friendships everywhere are falling apart.

Shootings are a big deal, whether it’s a high profile mass shooting, a homicide, or a suicide. You can find some data here. I would guess that if both sides worked together, we could cut this number in half within ten years — and we could do it without taking guns from responsible owners.

Instead, we have the same silly arguments over, and over, and over again.

I’m paraphrasing rather than quoting here, because these arguments are from a several different people all saying the same or very similar things. And because the conversations are truly cartoonish, I’ll use character names to represent each “side.”

Sam: Why do people turn shooting tragedies into political discussions?

Bugs: Because people believe laws could reduce shooting deaths.

Sam: Well the media isn’t talking about this case. A good guy stopped a bad guy — and that just doesn’t fit their narrative.

Bugs:  Every major outlet has posted stories about this. And it’s all over social media. The narrative that no one’s talking about it is false.

Sam: The actual issue is that Liberals want to take away everyone’s guns.

Bugs: Literally no liberal politician has ever said that.

Sam: Beto O’Rourke said he would take away everyone’s guns!

Bugs: Listen to the whole statement. He’s talking about a specific type of gun.

Sam: There’s no difference between those guns and any other guns except how they look. You just hate them because they look scary.

Bugs: If there’s really no difference, why does it matter if that type is gone? Why do you need a gun that only looks scary?

Sam: They’re much easier to use, even for smaller people. They’re faster, lighter, have longer ranges, and are far more effective.

Bugs: So it’s not they look scary. It’s that they’re far more effective at killing people, right?

Sam: Or animals! I only use mine for sports.

Bugs: You would take it to church too, just in case of bad guys?

Sam: There are examples of a good guy using an AR15 to take down a bad guy. 

Bugs: But would a typical concealed handgun work in those cases?

Sam: Look, people die. Why don’t you care about kids being killed by drunk drivers?

Bugs: I do. Everyone does. We have laws about drunk driving. And over the past 40 years, drunk driving deaths have continued to decrease.

Sam: People die in auto accidents, but you don’t want to regulate cars.

Bugs: We require training, driver’s licenses, inspections, and insurance.  We ticket people for risky driving. Cars weren’t designed to kill people, but we still take safety measures. Some guns were designed to kill people. Why are you opposed to any safety measures with those?

Sam: You don’t care about safety measures! Five people were stabbed this past week, yet your kitchen has a full block of knives you use to slice your tomatoes. Should we take those away from you?

Bugs: If I were slicing my tomatoes with knives specifically designed to quickly kill people, you might have a point. But my knives were made for food. And even in the case of this five-person stabbing this weekend, all five people made it to the hospital for a chance at recovery. Could you say the same were they shot?

At this point, the Sams are finally getting around to conceding that the media is talking about it. But that’s it. They’re mostly chatting with the Elmers out there, repeating those points to each other again and again, and making fun of the waskly wabbits.

That’s what it looks like. Here’s what it feels like:

Getting real now: Every human, including me, has some sort of bias.

I’m going to call this like I see it. And from my perspective (if you haven’t guessed!) we need some kind of gun control. But I’m trying to be as intellectually honest as I know how. I hope others will, too.

If I’m being honest, I can admit I have several friends who enjoy owning guns, and who I trust to be safe. In one situation I even personally felt safer knowing the friend I was walking with had a gun on him. I think folks like that should have a legal right to firearms.

On the other hand, most of us know someone who has a gun but is hot-headed enough to be dangerous. If we don’t know them personally, or don’t know that we know them, surely we know they exist.

Theoretically, if we have enough guns, we’ll just shoot ’em down if they escalate. But if they shoot first, chances are at least one innocent person dies. Two innocent people, including one would-be defender, died in this incident. And if we shoot them first, are we the bad guy?

People say then that the trick then is to arm everyone, so bad guys will be afraid to shoot because they don’t want to die. But … is that always true? Many mass shooters kill themselves, wanting to go out in a “blaze of glory” — but it’s really just cowardice.

As for intimate partner shootings (which happen about twice every day), are we really suggesting everyone should be prepared at any given time to kill their partner, parent, or child?

One friend suggested today that if everyone received gun training, no one would have the desire to kill because we’d all be so incredibly disciplined. I don’t get that.

But I do get this: Some people like hunting. They like shooting for fun. We want to be prepared to fight a bad guy, or even to defend ourselves against government oppression. Theoretically, this might be as good as it gets.

Realistically speaking, though, is the right to indiscriminate sporting really more important than the fact that some 30 thousand of us are being senselessly killed every year?

Realistically speaking, wouldn’t a hand gun be enough to defend against bad guys?

Realistically speaking, when citizens are dealing with oppression, wouldn’t pulling a gun ensure their own death?

Realistically speaking, is our laissez faire attitude toward guns really helping us at all?

Can we stop regurgitating talking points and moving the goal posts? Can we agree that liberty and life both matter? If we can somehow become honest enough to have a productive conversation, isn’t there a chance we could make things better than they are now?

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