Gun Debate Needs a Balanced Conversation

There are some issues about which you are never going to change someone’s mind. No matter how opened minded any of us claim to be, there are issues we have declared within ourselves as untouchable, infused in our DNA.

Each of us knows we, and we alone, possess absolute clarity on the matter, and with certainty we believe we are standing on the higher, moral ground. Therefore, we are emboldened to say and do anything in defense of this self-proclaimed “noble” position. Firearms, the Second Amendment, and their place in “civil society” is such an issue.

Having written and talked on this matter at length, I know some people care little for what those in the opposition believe. People use terms like “gun grabber” and “gun nuts” and immediately attach them to people in the opposition. Some on either side of the firearm debate know with absolute certainty they are right, and the other person is an idiot. Trust me when I tell you, with the current state of our nation, there are few opportunities for rational conversation on a host of topics, never mind whether we can chat calmly about firearms.

Listening to the attempt at “dialogue” these past few months I know there are people desperately seeking a rational discussion on all facets connected to violence within our culture, with particular focus on mass shootings. Sadly, what they are getting is more of the same.

As a gun owner and former police officer I have dealt with the issue of gun ownership and potential of gun violence first hand. It is important to note for much of my life I was neither serving as a police officer, nor was I a gun owner. I have seen this issue from many different perspectives and understand the concerns we all share. However, as happens all too often, our shared concern does not immediately flow into shared solutions.

Points of view, and the manner in which we express those points, often distract from our common goal. At its most finite point, my goal and your goal is the same. We must work together to stop those that would violate our trust as a community, break our laws and perpetrate unspeakable acts of evil. Concerned citizens on “both sides” of this issue agree on this point.

As a former police officer and a gun owner, some would say I am jaded. For a brief time I was on the front lines of human depravity, which some would falsely believe puts me in the camp of more gun control measures; it doesn’t. Every police officer has stories they can tell, and some sit in their stomach like a rock. For every “humorous story” a police officer may share, there are horrible stories they keep to themselves, and it sometimes takes years to expel from their daily thoughts. As police officers, we know if we share the “gory details,” it would make us all sick. The issue of self-defense draws from these observations.

I have seen all manner of crime firsthand. I have seen the worst of human nature (and at times, the best), and seldom was a gun anywhere in sight. For all the weapons man can use to inflict harm, the human mind is the most lethal. Yes, guns are sometimes the instrument used to inflict harm, and a gun in the hands of the wrong person will most likely lead to tragedy. But the same can be said with any instrument capable of destructive means. Maybe not to the instant lethality as a mass shooting.

Let us not forget 19 hijackers with box cutters were responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 people on 9/11, and a man with a Ryder rental truck, loaded with mixture of fertilizer, and ammonium nitrate/fuel oil, killed more than 160 people April 19, 1995 in Oklahoma City. Neither used a gun, but all share one thing, a heart corrupted by inhumanity and a depraved indifference for their fellow man.

We would be fools if we did not include guns in the conversation, but we would also be fools if we ignored the cultural paradigms also at play. The concern many of us have is that by primarily focusing on the instrument, critical elements such as mental illness, harmful shifts in the family dynamics and youth disenfranchisement, will all be marginalized or ignored.

Many people seem willing to have this comprehensive conversation, but some have made up their minds. As we utter gun nuts or gun grabbers, we also throw out the nice sounding, but hardly agreed upon phrase “common-sense gun control.” There are plenty of polls out there that indicate Americans are interested in certain firearms measures. But all the polls are general in nature, and do not address a line-by-line understanding of the exact framework of the legislation and precise language. One person’s common-sense is another person’s absurdity.

I have not stated my absolute position on the topic at hand and I have no doubts Seacoast Media Group will receive of barrage of “common-sense” suggestions for me to ponder (as if I haven’t done so already). Over the next few articles I will touch on a few of these points, and maybe even consider hosting an “Ask A Gun Owner Anything” forum much like “Ask a Muslim Anything” or “Ask an Immigrant Anything.” I am willing to try to have a balanced conversation that is representative of the many points of view. Are you?

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