The one thing that’s missing from the “gun debate”

What no one seems to want to include in the discussion

Good lord does this country know how to bloviate. It’s almost a national industry. We churn out software, college graduates, airplanes, corn, cars, questionable stock derivatives, and hot-take opinions in record-breaking industrial quantities.

What we don’t do well? Nuance.

We suck at nuance. But nuance matters. And if you don’t believe me, just look at the battle lines in the gun debate that is raging right now.

“Do something”

Ever since Columbine, there’s been a steady, and well-founded, call to “do something” about school shootings. It’s continued through Red Lake, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Umpqua, and now Stoneman Douglas, among others. “Do something.” Sure. What?

Even most ardent defenders of the Second Amendment rights agree that we do need to “do something” to keep school shootings from happening. But what? Take away everyone’s guns? Ban all firearms? Outlaw “assault weapons” (however you decide to categorize those)?

Doing something confuses “action” with “progress”.

If I ask my kids to clean up their rooms, and they just move the piles of toys and laundry from one side of the room to another, or hide it behind the door, there’s been plenty of “action” — they did something — but is there any “progress”?

There’s a quote I’ve seen floating around online that says something to the effect of “when my kid hits someone with a stick, I don’t blame the stick… but I do take the stick away.” To continue that analogy, you also probably don’t wander your neighborhood picking up every stick you can find, and pre-emptively taking them away from people who haven’t hit anyone.

“Thoughts and Prayers”

They’re worthless. In fact, they’re worse than worthless, because they offer up an entirely fictional fig leaf that someone is doing something when in reality no one is doing a Goddamned thing. I’m willing to bet that not a single one of the talking heads on TV calling for “thoughts and prayers” walked into their nearest church, kneeled in a pew, and said anything remotely resembling a prayer for the 17 souls that were tragically snuffed out so early. They might have offered up an extra platitude tacked onto the end of the sermon at the next Sunday service they happened to attend, but there’s a -zero- percent chance that any one of those bloviating asshats offered any sincere thoughts or prayers to whatever God they claim to follow.

Let’s dismiss with the fiction of thoughts and prayers being worth jack-all, other than have a soundbite for the camera that panders to a base that still thinks that just because they dress up once a week and sing off-key in unison with a bunch of neighbors that they can ignore the actual guidance of their purported holy book and excuse themselves under the tattered intellectual blanket that says that “we’re all sinners.” Injecting God(s) into this debate does nothing but further entrench battle lines that have nothing to do with whether or not we’re serious about solving a gun violence problem.

“You Don’t Need An Assault Rifle For Hunting”

Nope. You don’t. Now show me where the word “hunting” appears in the Second Amendment.

The other rejoinder you get here is “back then, the arms they were talking about were blackpowder muskets”. One of the dangers of the “1791 argument” that anti-gun advocates frequently trot out is that they are correct that in 1791, the “arms” that people had a right to bear were single-shot muskets that took upwards of 30 seconds to reload and were notoriously inaccurate….

… and were the exact same weapons that the British government had just spend 30 years using to try and stamp out the rebellious nature of the colonials that formed the US government. If you try to make the “1791 argument” about the population, you better be prepared to make the same argument about the government responsible for the security of the citizenry, too, and I’m not sure you really want to go there.

Protection Against… who?

If you’re not following The Warax on Twitter, then you’re just wrong. The tone is an almost perfect mix of sarcasm and seriousness, but with an intelligent purpose. Back on 25 Feb 18, The Warax posted the following

Outside of a few fringe-nut conspiracists, no one seriously believes that the UN is about to march into Louisville and start rounding up the population for disarmament and re-education. So if you’re concerned that you need to resist a tyrannical government, who are the people in that government that you’re resisting?

but… but… WACO!

Yeah, the Feds went into Waco, Texas and burned down a religious compound. And yes, they damn sure could’ve handled that better, especially since a number of children were killed in that raid. But if your ‘defense’ of the ‘need’ to maintain a small arsenal is that the Feds mistreated David Koresh, then you’re justifying your apocalypse bunker by arguing that a delusionally-messianic child molester ‘deserved’ the right to shoot back at the agents trying to arrest him for sexual liberties with minors and then stockpiling an arsenal to resist that arrest. Is that really the argument you want to make?

Or if you prefer the Cliven Bundy argument, you’re now tying yourself to a racist who spent 20 years exploiting federal land (i.e., belongs to all the people of the country, not just him) and not paying (to the US people) the rate the Feds specified for the use of it, and then resisting arrest when the Feds asked him to pay the money he had been cheating us out of. Again, not a great argument.

The NRA has made discussion on guns in America impossible

Some days it sure seems like they’re trying, huh?

Here’s the key problem with the anti-gun people characterize the other side of the argument — they conflate “NRA leadership” with “NRA membership” with “all gun owners”.

First of all, not all gun owners are NRA members, so that’s a pretty easy comparison to stop right there. And trying to claim that somehow the NRA’s actions ‘benefit’ all gun owners and therefore justifying those blanket comparisons, is a lot like saying that NBA Players’ Association actions somehow benefit all hoopsters, so you can use them as a blanket stand-in when discussing the over-30 beer league players at your local YMCA.

Now, as to the NRA leadership getting conflated with the NRA membership. Yes, you could resign your NRA membership if you don’t like the actions of the leadership. And at that point, you’ve just abdicated your voice in potentially changing that leadership to someone whose positions you’d prefer. It’s damned hard to change the leadership of an organization you don’t belong to, isn’t it?

Moreover, assuming that everyone in a voting body automatically supports the elected leadership of that organization? Congrats, NRA haters, you’re all now Trump supporters.

Yes, the NRA takes a hard stance on the Second Amendment. (It’s strange that the ACLU takes such a hard stance on almost every amendment except the Second, huh?) But after watching the way we’ve spent the past 20 years eviscerating the First, Fourth, Fifth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments, is it any wonder that hardcore Second Amendment defenders would dig in their heels with great reluctance to even consider eroding their Second Amendment rights?

Anti-abortion activists have continually tried to erode abortion rights by chipping away bit by bit, with the outright stated goal of outlawing abortion. The playbook is already there — get the camel’s nose in the tent and then continue to crawl further and further inside. The NRA can see these incremental steps coming miles away, and you wonder why they resist them?

Bump stocks should never have been legal

They exist for one purpose — to circumvent a legally-upheld ban on a specific type of functionality. There is no legal justification for their continued existence.

Other countries don’t have these problems

Nope. So what. We’re not them and they’re not us.

Other countries have plenty of their own problems that aren’t ours.

Arm the Teachers

So wait, your solution is to add more guns to schools?

Yes, there’s plenty of argument on both sides of this issue, but ultimately, isn’t someone who is trained, certified, licensed, and has their background checked a better option to keep an eye on schools than an unorganized and blatantly partisan militia that operates without any oversight?

There *is* a problem here

We have a problem, and we’re trying to figure out how to address it. We want to keep guns out of the hands of people who are most likely to shoot up a school, while not removing guns from the hands of people with no propensity for violence, or removing from society altogether.

But whenever a shooting happens, the default spring-loaded reaction is to start taking away guns from people who have never fired them at a school in the first place. Outside of a complete firearms ban, what proposed law would’ve kept weapons out of the hands of the Sandy Hook shooter, who used his mother’s (completely lawful, and lawfully-purchased) weapons? What proposed law would’ve prevented the Virginia Tech shooter from purchasing his handguns? Do limits on rounds in a magazine really slow down someone determined enough to go on a shooting rampage? In Las Vegas, the shooter had plenty of time to reload.

Can you really blame gun-ownership supporters for being skittish when the ‘solutions’ being tossed out in public wouldn’t have prevented the attacks that they’re being touted to ‘solve’?

But maybe we need to focus on real solutions

Anyone who talks about reducing gun violence but doesn’t seriously discuss the role that overall mental health plays in gun violence isn’t serious about reducing gun violence.

It’s not hard to find articles discussing the links between mental health and gun violence, and it’s pretty easy to see the primary link from Columbine to Aurora to Sandy Hook to Virginia Tech to Las Vegas to Red Lake to Springfield to Umpqua is that the shooters suffered from some sort of mental health issue. And mental health is one of the most-stigmatized, least-diagnosed, and under-treated problems in this country.

We don’t talk enough about treating mental health in the aftermath of a shooting for any number of reasons, most of them legitimate — for starters, not everyone with a mental health issue goes on a shooting rampage. But increasing mental health resources takes time for the effects to be seen, takes funding that is a decidedly non-sexy issue, and most importantly for the politicians, makes for a lousy campaign platform.

But when Congress actually relaxes the rules on people with mental health issues getting access to firearms…? Oy vey. That’s more counterproductive than “thoughts and prayers.”

Accountability

How many people reported the Stoneman Douglas shooter to the authorities before he opened fire? How many of those authorities did jack-all? There was a complete failure of the system to operate as designed, so instead of firing the people that screwed up and holding them accountable for failing to do their jobs, we’re going to punish everyone that did follow the rules, jump through the hoops required for them to exercise their Constitutional rights, and pretend that we’re doing something instead of making progress.

Failing to hold people accountable for their failures, and trying to redesign a system that allows — and in fact expects! — failures of performance at lower levels just guarantees further poor performance at those lower levels. That’s how we end up with a Director of National Intelligence, instead of firing the Director of Central Intelligence for not doing his job correctly.

Ultimately

Anyone claiming to have all the answers is completely full of crap.

Anyone claiming to have an idea might ought to be listened to, and have that idea weighed against all the others.

But we’re never going to get anywhere so long as the loudest voices in the rooms are the most extreme partisans who view “compromise” as equivalent to “surrender” and whose only approach is “my way or the highway.”

You can sell a lot of books like that. You can probably win the occasional Congressional seat. You can certainly kill a lot of pixels typing away like a troll online with an entrenched position.

But you’ll never get anyone else to listen to you, you’ll never learn anything, and most importantly, you’ll never actually solve a problem.

(as an aside, I’m fully expecting that if anyone actually reads this, it’ll result in hate mail/comments from both sides, since there’s plenty here for both sides to cherry-pick to their hearts’ content)

If you enjoyed this, please hit that magic clap button down there on the left, so other folks get a chance to see it, too. And please feel free to share your feedback — it’s great to read your reactions. Thanks!

Dad, husband, game commando, veteran, Army brat, writer, teacher

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