I had planned on outsourcing my response to the White House’s gun proposals to the rude one but after talking with a buddy of mine over dinner last weekend, well, let’s just say I have some sorting out to do. And frankly, I haven’t really gotten Newtown out of my system so yeah, I’m still talking about it. The Monday following Sandy Hook, I returned to work only to hear talk of getting more guns. The head of the A division and the head of the C division were talking gun show deals and cheap bullets. Another electrician told me he needed to get his concealed carry permit because he “didn’t trust people” (to which I responded, “I don’t trust people with guns”). Guys were talking about trading guns and looking at gun porn. To say I was baffled is an understatement. I couldn’t believe how many guys actually imagined themselves the NRA’s mythological “good guy“.
Anyway, back to dinner.
While my buddy and I agreed on legislation backing universal background checks and even mandatory liability insurance for gun owners, we split on high capacity magazines and – more broadly – whether the actions proposed by the White House were somehow encroaching on the second amendment. (All this before our first beer.) So clearly I had to do a little research on what exactly the White House had proposed and given my new found love for blogging, it’s only right that my research take the form of a blog. Now, it turns out, not too much encroaching. The 23 executive actions taken by, um, the executive read more like the minutes from last month’s neighborhood crimewatch committee meeting than they do a threat two anybody’s second amendment rights. “Start a dialogue blah blah blah… Publish a letter blah blah blah… Propose rulemaking to blah blah blah… Publish another letter blah blah blah… Review safety standards blah blah blah…” You get the picture. I’ve always looked at the president’s community organizing roots as a positive so I don’t mean to trivialize this aspect of his plan. I’d say it rounds out the slightly more concrete actions spelled out in his proposal. But of those, most should have been implemented years ago. “Nominate a director to the ATF (it’s been six years since someone’s held that position)… incentivize states to share background information and schools to hire resource officers… direct the CDC to research the causes and possible prevention of gun violence… require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations… and finally, require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system”. Had the president signed an executive order blocking the import of guns of questionable sporting use, well, the conservative freak out would seem a little less, I don’t know, let’s call it silly. But he didn’t. So let’s take a deep breath and gather our thoughts so we can talk about this particularly emotive topic with some level reasoned thinking.
I get it. When we’re talking about guns we’re talking about people’s right and ability to protect themselves and their family (just like when we’re talking about taxes we’re implicitly talking about people’s ability to support their family). And sure, as far as I’m concerned, guns provide a false sense of security but I won’t pretend the level of security I assume is somehow universally applicable. So no matter how false a sense of security I feel a gun provides, what I feel about someone else’s sense of safety shouldn’t be considered when writing legislation. My safety and security on the other hand are a different story.
So what I’d like to know is whether I can be afforded the same level of consideration. Is it fathomable that the threats perceived by so many gun owners – be they home invasion, marauders coming for your stuff after social and economic collapse, or the goddamned unkillable idea of American tyranny at home – are just as fleeting as my assumed security? (I mean, I’m sure the last two are far more fleeting and imagined than a sense of security rooted in a variety of cultural institutions but they keep coming up as if they’re legitimate points of contention so I’ll address them.) And if they are equal in that regard, shouldn’t your perceived threat be weighed against my assumed security? And shouldn’t the threat I perceive as a result of your exercised right to own a gun be considered when writing gun laws as well? Or is it second amendment all day everyday? Context and nuance be damned. That’s the sense I get when talking with gun rights advocates. I can only assume that this seems to be the most common response because of the current of personal security that underlies and informs gun culture. But when you’re arguing the legitimacy of 30+ round magazines, I get the sense that you’re not talking personal security anymore. I get the sense you’re talking revolution and tyranny, Hanz Gruber and John McClane, that you’re talking about the high you get by the time you’ve unloaded your 27th round into the same target at the range and you’ll be goddamned if anyone is going to take that away from you. There’s a disconnect. And there needs to be some balance. The 23 executive actions taken by the president and the fact that he had the balls to challenge the NRA are a step in that direction. I just hope there are more steps to come.