Gun control in America is a curious and emotional thing. I have friends who I agree with on many things, but not on gun control. I have friends with who I’d say I’m on the opposite side of the political fence from and we have productive conversations about it. I’ve also seen a third perspective which has popped up suddenly which I can see the rationale behind. I’m not sure there’s a right answer, but I am startng to feel like I’m in the last group to be able to drive progress towards it.
As I’ve written before, my position on gun control has evolved from casual acceptance to seeing guns in America as a threat to the populace. My father had guns when I grew up and when I had my own kids. They were readily accesible and some of them were loaded. He enjoyed shooting for sport and carried one in his car for self defense. My wife and I wouldn’t let my parents take care of our kids in their house unless he locked up his weapons. Once he had full-blown dementia and was still armed, my brother and I took his guns because of the threat (more on this here, it was very real). In addition to the secured ones, we found the one in his car and one in a box labeled “Office Supplies” in his home office.
In short, he lied to us. He’d kept a loaded weapon on a low shelf in his office plus one in his car. The more I think about it, the more I think he was a typical gun owner. We keep reading stories of kids who take guns to school and kill classmates. There are plenty of stories of young children who get a hold of a gun in the house and accidentally shoot another child. There are also clear statistics showing suicide is the most common way somebody is killed with a gun – by far (I drafted this before the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain – One was hanging and we don’t know the other). In all of these scenarios where a minor is involved, there’s a common factor. Children can’t buy guns, it’s a family weapon involved. And those parents are like my dad was.
It comes down to honesty and responsibility. My dad thought the threat of punishment was enough to keep us from his guns. In his case, he was right. I also didn’t ever have motivation to use one. Adults who have their guns unsecured are taking the same path my dad did. The problem is that while most households never have an incident, there are some who do. Their kids kill themselves by suicide or accident and they kill others by accident or murder. And I’m sure evey parent tells themselves the same story my father told himself – that it’ll never be my family. The problem here is the honesty aspect: each person is lying to themselves.
I say that they’re all lying because nobody really knows. The Newtown killer’s mother should’ve known better, she was the first one killed. Santa Fe’s parents didn’t, they’re alive and have the guilt. In what percentage of gun suicides or shootings do we hear that nobody saw it coming? And afterwards, lives are impacted but who gets charged aside from the shooter if they’re even taken alive? Dylan Klebold’s mother gives talks about the impact her son made at Columbine and her place in it all. We don’t know who the next killer is at an individual level in most cases, but at a macro level we know there will be more. And the reason there will be more is because gun owners will continue to lie to themselves and to us.
The lie to us is one of responsibility. Gun owners on the whole don’t want added laws to control access to weapons. By standing alongside or with the NRA, they push for rights but take no responsibility. Each time there’s the arguement for no more laws and that criminals don’t obey them anyway, the lie is told anew. The lie is that nobody but Bad Guys has anything to fear from guns and that a Good Guy will save the day. But each mass shooting says that this is wrong. Saying that we need more guns in public to protect us tells us the same lie you tell yourselves: that we don’t need to fear your gun. But we need to. Because on the whole, gun owners don’t seem to be acting responsibly enough and aren’t taking responsibility for your problem, which affects us all.
I’ve even heard the argument who even knows these kids who are victims. It makes this a faceless crime aside from the killer. My family knows people who know or are family with a Parkland victim. One of my sons had an active shooter alert at his high school. The other had an active shooter alert outside his dorm which led to a shooting death. Outside his dorm while he was there on lockdown. I know two people who’ve killed themselves with guns. Even the friend who wonders who knows victims knows one of the teachers at Santa Fe. I’d counter with the question of who doesn’t know somebody who’re been affected?
My mind’s made up because of my own experiences. Our controls over the nation’s weapons are insufficient over the useful lives of those firearms. There are limits on background checks and nothing preventing Bad Guys-to-be from buying guns. Florida went over a year without background checks because they lost a login – nearly 300 concealed carry permits were revoked afterwards. Gun owners such as my father can become mentally ill over time and it’s not preventable at all.
These are facts and me caring really doesn’t matter. If gun owners don’t care enough, nobody’s going to make up their minds for them. The third group I mentioned above wants metal detectors in schools to make them harder targets and clear backpacks. This week, a middle school in Pennsylvania gave their graduates bulletproof inserts for their backpacks. Parents are fed up with a lack of progress and at least want mass shootings to be more difficult. Shootings can happen to kids lined up for metal detectors, in malls or movie theaters, at neighborhood pools, and more. It’s more a white lie to make us feel more comfortable that gun owners on the whole are lying. Two lies don’t make a truth, however.
It’s really not getting better or making more sense either. I just saw a video of Betsy DuVos saying that her department’s study of school violence, formed after the Parkland murders, will not account for guns. While that may seem to be a victory for some, is it really? This “price of freedom” defense of guns without the desire for responsibility doesn’t make anything better or any of us safer. Maybe it makes some gun owners cheer as David Hogg’s family gets swatted. Someone called the police falsely reporting a hostage situation at their house which, of course, could have ended in more innocent deaths by firearms.
I’m not 100% sure how to close this because, as I said, my stance doesn’t matter as much. I’m going to vote for candidates who have an F rating by the NRA. But my kids aren’t going to take a non-existent gun from my house and shoot anyone. The only real solution is on gun owners. Don’t blame social media, violent video games, over-medication, and Lord knows what else that the rest of us are exposed to too. Continue to try to be the best parents you can be. Be responsible ones too. Control your wepons, talk to your friends about it, talk to your family about it, and make an honest attempt to keep guns out of the hands of would-be Bad Guys. Sure, there are Bad Guys. I don’t really know how many Good Guys there are. Being willing to stop an active shooter in the act doesn’t change that the shooting doesn’t need to start in the first place. At that point, people are already hurt or dead. That does not make you a Good Guy.
On a final note here, I know the country faces a lot of problems. They’re not all created equally nor do they affect each of us equally. Are school shootings as important as hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico or a clean water supply in Flint or immigration reform? I don’t know for sure, I’m not going to judge them, and I don’t see this as an either-or question. Firearm safety is representative of who we are as a nation as much as anything else. Telling high schoolers that they don’t know anything or that their priorities are out of place doesn’t recognize their reality and keeps the lie going. It matters that our kids are raised being trained that some of you are irresponsible and it can get them killed. I don’t see how telling someone being hunted in a school isn’t an experience which is life-changing and that trying to do something about it is a waste of time. It’s simply inevitable that we should want to do better. When we see kindergarten lockdown drills sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, it’s time to look in a mirror.