I am the son of a gun manufacturer.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. My dad works at a gun manufacturing company. Those who have read my previous blog posts would know that. Sure, this particular company specializes more on smaller handguns than automatic rifles, but when I heard about the Orlando shooting three weeks ago, my mind couldn’t help but jump to the fact that my dad helps produce and sell firearms.
My dad isn’t a political man. Of course he has his opinions and we argue about certain issues, but he’s more concerned with supporting his family than what controversy is flooding the Twittersphere this week. For him, his job at the gun factory is exactly that: a job. It pays the bills.
So I’m not mentioning my dad’s job because I want encourage him to quit his job in protest of what happened in Orlando or anything like that. That’s stupid and wouldn’t accomplish anything except to put us in even more debt.
Instead, I’m mentioning his place of employment because it put me into contact with the type of people who don’t support gun control legislation. This exposure to someone other than the staunchly liberal college students that I surrounded myself with at Boston College brought some perspective and insight into why they think this way, even in the aftermath of such a horrific tragedy.
If you couldn’t tell from my other posts, I’ve grown a bit more sympathetic towards gun owners since I moved to this land of shrubbery and Lyme disease. Most of the people that my dad work with have been around guns for their entire lives. I’m sure there are a few who could be called certifiable gun nuts, but most of them are nice and, dare I say it, reasonable conservatives. I’m going to focus on the perspective of the reasonable gun enthusiasts because the gun nuts are, well, nuts.
These people have been taught from a young age how to handle guns with extreme care. Guns are dangerous, yes, but so are a whole host of other things. Maybe a bullet can pierce a wall while a chainsaw can’t (at least, not immediately), but with proper precautions and vigilance, a gun can be seen as just another tool. Out in the more rural areas, where bears periodically dig through trash cans and the police response to a intruder is 20 minutes away, even the home security argument holds more weight. I’m not sure why they think they’ll have intruders that are intent on murdering their family instead of stealing the TV, but whatever. Also, guns can be fun. Going to a shooting range is a great way to spend a couple of hours on the weekend, especially when there’s so little else to do out here.
With this kind of background, these people truly believe that it’s the person, not the bullet. And with that logic, they actually support stronger background checks and psychological evaluations.
But what they don’t support are the bans of assault weapons. Why?
Well, for one, because the term “assault weapon” is a recently-coined political term to scare people. It’s to indicate a gun that cosmetically looks like a military-type firearm. It doesn’t actually define what the firearm is capable of, just what it looks like. An assault rifle, on the other hand, is a well-defined term that means a rifle that is capable of selective or automatic fire.
Why is this distinction important? One reason is because the language is so vague that they don’t want to support a bill that is wide open for interpretation. But more than that, simply using the word “assault weapon” shows to these people who have grown up with gun terminology their entire lives, that you don’t really know anything about guns. It makes the whole thing seem like a farce, even after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Even if you do have good points about gun safety and gun control, they’re not going to listen to you if you can’t be bothered to figure out the correct terminology.
Is that a bit short-sighted? Sure, maybe. But at the same time, if you were an apple farmer and some random person came by and insisted on calling your apples oranges, you probably wouldn’t continue listening to that person even if s/he had some genuine advice on increasing apple production.
Of course, this talk of using the proper terms is just a small example to the larger point of knowing what you’re talking about. In order to debate about a certain subject, one should be well-informed about said subject. That sounds like common sense, but then again, so does washing your hands after using the bathroom and plenty of people don’t do that.
I’m not saying that I do extensive research on everything I have an opinion about. There are plenty of things that I argue without sufficient knowledge, like how I think that gluten-free diets are a scam or that Brexit is just a small step in an elaborate plan 90 years in the making by Queen Elizabeth to restore the monarchy. I’m not going to look too deeply into the benefits of eating gluten nor will I map out the activities of the Crown in the past century. Mostly because the evidence is pretty clear (wake up sheeple!) but also because I honestly don’t care that much. These aren’t things I’m passionate about and it’s not like I’m trying to seriously persuade anybody to my side of the argument.
However, anything that I feel strongly about and want to bring others to my way of thinking, I try to have a solid foundation of accurate information to build upon. I admit I have failed to do this in the past and of course sometimes I still try to push my arguments without strong supporting evidence (because my logic is just so obvious, isn’t it?). But more often than not, in those cases, I don’t end up convincing anyone of anything.
Your passion is admirable. Your emotions of anger and frustration are justified. But if you don’t focus that anger with knowledge, they won’t listen. And if you base your opinion on sensationalist nonsense like the reporter who claimed he got PTSD from firing a rifle, the opposing side will dismiss your argument immediately.
Another reason why these non-fanatical gun advocates won’t support assault weapon bans is because they don’t think it will have any effect. Their logic is that criminals will find a way to acquire firearms anyway and the “good guys” will be left defenseless.
And I have to say, while the “good guy with a gun” argument seems to be largely circumstantial, there is admittedly also a severe lack of evidence to suggest that gun control laws are very effective. FactCheck has an extensive article on gun control that notes that the United States has the highest gun homicide rate among developed countries and has by far the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. Sure, that seems damning in that violence in the United States is more lethal due to access to firearms, but the same article states that gun control laws may not be the answer. While the rate of gun violence has been decreasing steadily for some time now, it’s difficult to attach a causal relationship between the decrease and gun control measures.
Banning something outright rarely seems to work anyway. Look at the Prohibition and see how well that turned out. Or criminalizing marijuana. Sure, guns are a whole ‘nother beast, but clearly simply banning something so ingrained in our culture is not going to be simple, let alone effective.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, ‘Wait, so are you against gun control? Am I going mad? Have you turned conservative on us, William? What has Pennsylvania done to you? Where’s the bleeding-heart liberal that I know and sometimes enjoy listening to ramble?’
Well, first of all, the assertions I made above were to help people understand that there are opponents of gun control that aren’t completely psychotic or out of touch with reality. They have some good points. And secondly, while I do support stronger gun control laws, I don’t think that gun control is as important an issue as we make it out to be.
I am all for requiring private sellers to run background checks on their customers and having stronger background checks in general. I am even up for more restrictions on which guns you can buy. But these are mere band-aid solutions to a deeper, a more fundamental problem in modern American society.
The real battle we have to fight is the culture of fear and hatred that has overtaken our country.
Let’s talk about the gun fanatics now. Why are they so adamant against gun control laws? Why do they stockpile more and more weapons every time a mass shooting happens? And why is it that the number of guns manufactured jumped drastically, a 64% increase from 2007 to 2011, right when Obama was elected?
These gun nuts, when asked why they want more guns, they say for personal protection. If you ask protection from what, they reply, from them.
The culture of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and homophobia have been around for quite a long time. For a while, we seemed to be making progress towards acceptance, even if only on the surface. But now the rate of hate-crimes against Muslims and LGBTQ people are rising alarmingly. Donald Trump has amassed a huge following with racist, misogynistic rhetoric and the media sensationalizes everything to the point of absurdity so that everyone is living in a constant state of anxiety. When will those illegals come steal my job, when will those Muslims come blow up my home, when will I die from Ebola. It’s absolute madness.
This constant fear-mongering and provocation leads to a culture where a Muslim doctor is stabbed and shot for believing in the “wrong” religion and being the “wrong” color. This culture is why a police officer feels frightened enough to shoot and kill a compliant black man in front of his wife and child. It’s why a man believed that it was right, that it was his duty, to walk into a LGBTQ community and murder 49 people in cold blood.
Yes, gun control may be important. But whether you like it or not, it’s not the final solution. It’s the people and the culture that surrounds them.
So, let’s not think of what we can do to lessen casualties in preparation of “next time”. Instead, let’s focus on making sure “next time” never comes.