Guns: Continuing the Conversation

Gun Ownership

Recommended Reading: “Guns” by Stephen King. (A shorter version sans colorful language is available at The Guardian.)

On January 25, Stephen King released his 25-page essay, “Guns” on Kindle. It is timely, reasonable, and entertaining. In the essay, King admits to being a gun owner himself and “a blue-state American” who was “raised a red one.” Besides the fact that I’m a Stephen King fan, his mixed viewpoint intrigued me.

King argues for three initiatives to curb gun violence:

  1. Universal background checks
  2. A ban on clips and magazines with more than 10 rounds
  3. A ban on assault weapons.

For success, King calls for gun advocates to support these measures. He argues that if the NRA, for example, pushes for these changes, gun owners will fall in line. At the same time, King believes that not all of these measures, particularly #3, will occur.

Although these measures make sense, I’m conflicted about guns. Background checks for gun ownership seem logical to me. Gun safety classes do, too, which King doesn’t mention.

Limiting the number of bullets a gun shoots at one time makes sense to me, too. However, changing a clip or magazine does not take much time. Would that be enough time for someone to intervene during a shooting?

As for banning all assault weapons, I’m not sure that would work either. Assault weapon ownership runs in the millions. At the same time, it doesn’t seem logical to me for anyone outside of the military to own an automatic weapon. As King says, “if you used a Bushmaster on a deer in anything but single-shot mode, you’d turn the poor thing into hair-covered meatloaf.”

I also believe that there are certain people who should not own guns: those who know little to nothing about them; those who have a history of mental illness; and anyone with a criminal background.

Yes, people get guns illegally. In fact, approximately 500,000 guns are stolen each year from private gun owners (not to mention other illegal ways of obtaining guns). Even if a gun isn’t stolen, it can still cause damage to the owner or the owner’s family. Some studies show gun owners are more likely to die from homicide, suicide, or accidental death compared to non-gun owners.

On the other hand, some studies show that “Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation.” This makes sense to me because when there are fewer guns in circulation, they are harder to get for everyone, including criminals.

On the other hand, there are already so many guns out there that it seems an impossible task to begin regulating them. Besides, what about the Second Amendment?Number of Guns Owned

In a perfect world, guns wouldn’t exist; however, we do not live in a perfect world, and we have a right to hunt and defend our property. But at the same time, all children have a right to safety, and I don’t believe they are safe when guns are around.

So, where do we start to solve the problem of children killing children? We must begin with reasonable communication, and this is at the heart of Stephen King’s essay as he calls for “a resumption of actual dialogue” where we actually listen to each other instead of “thinking about what [we’re] going to say next.” And this approach makes King’s essay worth our time and our 99 cents.

~ K

For further reading:

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Perspectives

I love raspberries, so I have several raspberry bushes against my house. We started with one lone bush purchased from a nursery, but over the years, friends have added to our collection with different varieties. Now they cover nearly one whole side of the house. Some are wild raspberries and produce small leaves and fruit; some were from nurseries across the country and have larger fruit and leaves. Either way, they are all just as sweet and delicious. Every year, we can’t wait for raspberry season–forgetting the time and effort it takes to gather the fruit.

At first, the raspberries were easy to pick because there were not that many. Of course, now, it can take an hour. Frustratingly, I’ll pick what I think are all of the ripe raspberries on one bush; then I’ll move away to the next section and start picking those, only to look at the section I just finished and see more ripe raspberries on the other side. I often fail to see every ripe raspberry from a single perspective. It takes moving around and examining every inch of the bush to see them all.

This seems to be true about life and its many facets. We see an issue, an experience, and even a person from one perspective and think we understand it, but as we approach it from another angle, our perspective changes and so does our view. I’m sure most of you have seen the image of the duck/rabbit as a lesson in perspective. It depends on how you look at the picture (or an issue) as to what you see.

Because of this, it always amazes me at how many people think they know the “right” answer about something despite not understanding the whole picture. Most recently, I see this in the Wisconsin shootings over this past Sunday.

Wade Michael Page allegedly killed 6 people and injured 4 people in the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Just like in the shootings in Aurora, CO and in Tucson, AZ last year, gun control debates have ensued.

Nothing demonstrates the intricacy of an issue such as gun ownership. Consider the complexity of the Second Amendment:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Try diagramming that sentence. Which of these phrases connects to the verb phrase? Which right “shall not be infringed”? Should it be a “well regulated militia [that]…shall not be infringed”? Or is it truly the “right of the people to keep and bear arms…shall not be infringed”? There are those who argue that the Second Amendment allows for gun control (“well regulated”), and some who argue that nothing should “infringe” on a citizens’ right to “keep and bear arms.” However, can one really argue that the public needs to own semi-automatic rifles? Or machine guns? What is the purpose? And if, in fact, the Second Amendment does not allow for gun control, how do we stop these killings? How do we stop the violence?

Most of all, it’s sad that this week has turned into a time of mourning rather than a time of national celebration as the Olympics near the end and as another rover lands on Mars. At a time when we should have some national pride, people are grieving and lamenting over the anger and intolerance that still exists in our country. Maybe it’s because I’m paying more attention these days, but it sure seems to me that there’s less tolerance for differences and disagreement. Instead, everyone is clamoring to be heard and arguing that they are right.

But where are these arguments getting us? Do they teach us to be more tolerant? Do they teach us to listen? Do they teach us to understand all perspectives on an issue? I don’t think they do. Instead of arguing, we should be listening and simply talking. Ask questions. Discover where fundamental beliefs come from. Find common ground. Solutions must come from the common ground, and if there is no common ground, then we’re not listening to all perspectives.

~ K

(This sign displayed at a chiropractor’s office provides the best advice: “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.”)