After the past couple of weeks, being pro-second amendment is a hard sell.
Six dead at a nursing home in North Carolina. Three dead police officers in Pennsylvania. A mother kills her son, and then herself. A man kills his estranged wife and their children. Another shoots his five kids. One dead, four wounded at a church camp. Fourteen dead in Binghamton, New York.
Questions follow, as they always do. "Why?", "How could this be prevented?" And of course, "Do we still need to have guns?".
The question of second amendment rights is not just a wedge issue, it's almost a matter of faith. The minute you take a stand on the subject, you are either a cowardly, gun grabbing fool or a shotgun toting, militia wingnut. It seems a topic for which there are no soft positions, no convenient middle ground.
To believe, in the light of all the recent tragedies, that the issue can be simply boiled down to "guns don't kill people, people do" is to ignore the fact that the gun really helps. A person with just their fists, with a knife, with a sword, with a chainsaw or with a bow is certainly able to spread death and mayhem. But ask anyone if they would prefer to go to war with anything in that list or a firearm and the answer is obvious.
But does this alone stand as proof that we need to curtail, rewrite or end the right to keep and bear arms? In a word, no.
You see, to believe that we shouldn't be allowed to keep guns is to ignore another fact: people with guns are shooting other people. The cat is out of the bag, both Adam and Eve have had their apple dippers and there is no regaining our virginity. Or in other less metaphorical terms, unless you can remove guns completely from the earth, take them from the hands of civilians, police officers and the military, death by firearm will occur and probably to someone who didn't deserve it. Removing some of them only dictates who will be shot and who will do the shooting.
Guns are part of America in a way few other artifacts are. In the US, we pride ourselves on self reliance and independence. At our best, we make our livings honestly and are able to say that what we have, we got ourselves. We also value the ability to defend our property, lives and livelihoods. Much of that is done by voting and through the due process of law. But in the rare and extreme case, that must be done with the force of arms.
Removing the means to defend ourselves effectively is saying that we no longer feel that we are in no way able to do so and must delegate our safety to others. It is a subtle surrender, a white flag held over our personal responsibility.
But certainly, we can't go on like this.
As long as one man thinks he has cause to do harm to another, people will kill other people. They will do it to with the most effective means at their disposal and they will do it to the unsuspecting and innocent. This is something that cannot be avoided in any society where you allow people to be free.
For every person shot in a bar, there's an old woman who kept herself from getting robbed or worse by pulling a gun on her assailant. For every Seung-Hui Cho, who shot 32 people at Virginia Tech, there is a Suzanna Hupp, a staunch advocate of concealed carry whose parents were killed in a mass shooting while she had left her handgun, in accordance with state law, in her car. No tragedy is insignificant and every time someone dies in a shooting like those described above, the incident fuels the arguments of both those who feel guns are the problem and those who feel guns are the solution.
To give my own pedigree, I'm a gun owner. I keep pistols and at least one long arm and I intend to expand my collection. I've also seen what they can do. My father was shot to death in my living room when I was six. I had a friend who accidentally shot himself in the head in front me, with an "unloaded" gun no less, and lived to talk about it later (he used to wear the bullet around his neck for luck). I was less than a mile away from the VT shooting and spent that day in horror watching the numbers go up. I've spent an inordinate amount of time familiarizing myself with the workings of weapons that I will never own.
When I talk about guns, I know from whence I speak.
The only way that this can be dealt with maturely is to admit that both sides have a point and to work out a compromise. The laws in place are not being enforced effectively. The pro gun crowd must give the government leeway to make sure that happens. The gun control crowd needs to recognize that this isn't a simple or black and white issue and should educate themselves before stating what guns should or shouldn't be available. Both sides need to understand how deep the emotions on this run and try to see it from the other guy's perspective.
The ironic part of this whole argument is that both sides want the same thing: For our streets to be safer. For no one to needlessly die. The motives involved are, for the most part, pure.
But for the matter of second amendment rights in America to be resolved, we have to stop letting it be such a partisan, quarrelsome issue. We have to put away the slogans and rhetoric. We have to speak to each other like we're neighbors. We have to respect that each American has the right to his opinion and to work towards shaping society into something better than it is now. We have the right, so long as we hurt no one in the process, to live as we choose and we have the right to choose how we live, but only for ourselves.
So to the anti-gun crowd I say, study and listen. To the gun toting crowd I say to respect the concerns of your fellow Americans. And most importantly, I implore the people who have most contributed to this debate, the idiots who could only speak with the report of a gun, if you are going to do something stupid... please leave your weapons at home.