Normal life. Mass shooting. Thoughts and prayers. America’s gun problem. Second amendment rights. Facebook and Twitter fights. Divided nation. Inactive government. Normal life.
It’s routine, cyclical, and sickening.
The first major mass shooting (in my lifetime that I can remember) was Columbine. It was horrific to think it happened at a school. That so many kids died. That the shooters themselves were just kids. That they had access to so many guns.
But now we have a couple of these every year. It’s almost seasonal.
In the 2 decades or so of common tragedies, we haven’t found a solution, we haven’t worked together, and we haven’t even had decent dialogue.
This article isn’t sensational. I’m not going to emotionally argue for one view or another, because there’s plenty of that online. I’m not going to present a bunch of statistics, because we don’t really care about facts or their context – we just like numbers that support our point of view.
My hope is to pull you a little closer to the middle to have real conversations. Because your current method arguing isn’t solving any problems, it’s actually infecting our society and taking us backwards.
2 Questions to Start a Conversation
1 – Do You Want to Argue, or Do You Want to Make Progress?
You’ve got a viewpoint. You pull up some amateur graph made in Microsoft paint to support your view on guns. You repeat a stat or 2 to sound smart, write an impassioned argument, then call everyone who disagrees with you idiots.
Why are you arguing with people on Facebook and Twitter? You’re not going to convert anyone to your side – I hope you’re smart enough to realize that. You’re not even trying to win an argument, because you argue so horribly. So really, you’re just stroking your own ego to get those likes from people who agree with you. And you’re getting your thrills from the hot face and pounding heart when you get to argue with someone who disagrees with you because you can practice your colorful vocabulary.
You don’t really care about the victims. If you did, you would donate to a fund that helps them. You don’t really care about legislative action. If you did, you would be making arguments to your elected officials instead of with strangers on social media. You don’t really care about creating a conversation that produces solutions. If you did, you would listen to people.
2 – Is This About Guns, or is it About Human Life?
When there is a bombing or vehicle attack, gun control advocates don’t talk about restricting cars or certain items from certain areas, or setting up check points in public places.
Similarly, when there is an attack that doesn’t involved a Muslim, an immigrant, an African American, or a Mexican, gun advocates don’t blame the white American – they default to mental health or not enough guns.
When we default to those predictable scripted arguments, it becomes more about tribal politics than constructive solutions. We’re no longer trying to save lives, we’re trying to save our own pride.
3 Questions to Have Meaningful Dialogue
Each of these questions is for you, whether you’re in favor of gun rights or gun control.
1 – What’s Your Motive?
When a polarizing issue comes up, you default to a specific set of arguments. But ask yourself what you’re really trying say with those arguments.
Gun Control Advocates, What Are You Accusing?
Everyone who supports guns doesn’t care about human lives. Everyone who is a Republican/Conservative is a hateful idiot. Everyone who supports Trump is a racist.
But a lot of those people are your friends who also happen to be great human beings, so how do you reconcile that?
You start with the premise that gun advocates don’t care about the lives of children. But think through that belief carefully. What are you accusing people of? Do you really believe that your friends and family have less empathy than you do? Does that make you morally superior to them? For people who have disliked conservatives for their moral judgement of others, your stances are looking very alike, and that hypocrisy doesn’t help your position.
Gun Advocates, What Are You Defending?
Here come the liberals trying to take our guns away again. When you outlaw guns, only the outlaws have guns. Guns don’t kill, people do.
These aren’t sound philosophies, they’re cheesy slogans. So first, stop using them. And second, why are you so eager to defend guns?
Every time there’s a mass shooting, your first and loudest response is to protect your right to own as many guns as you want. I know you care about human lives and individual freedom, but your obsessive love with your firearms makes everyone else question otherwise.
Why is the second amendment so sacred to you? Why is it more sacred than the other amendments, more sacred than the Bible which you claim to follow, and more sacred than any other issue? (because you certainly argue for it more than anything else) Instead of spending so much energy to defend the innocence of guns, why don’t you propose other solutions that defend innocent people?
2 – What’s Your Deal?
We all have our biases, framed from what we’ve been taught from our families and friends. We like to believe we’re free individual thinkers, but we’re not. So what belief system is really driving your opinions?
Gun Advocates, What Are You Afraid Of?
Only criminals will have guns and we’re all going to be victims. The government is going to take over our lives and we won’t be able to fight back. A foreign country is going to invade us and we won’t have a way of protecting ourselves.
All these are wild and fantastical doomsday scenarios that have no basis in reality and are formed around the common fear narrative that gun advocates keep spreading: they’re going to take away all our guns.
No one is going to take away all your guns. That’s never going to happen. Gun control does not mean a complete gun ban. A background check does not mean they’ll take away your guns. A restriction of semi automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines does not mean they’re going to take away all your guns.
Why do you keep defaulting to the fear of the government taking away all your guns? Why does this fear extend to people who are ethnically different than you? Why do so many of your views have a basis in fear of everything? What have you lost or are afraid of losing?
Gun Control Advocates, What Are You Trying to Prove?
Mass shootings are happening every single day. The only solution is to completely ban guns like all the developed countries. Gun owners are evil and don’t care if people die.
Shortly after the Florida shooting, many of you shared and circulated false stats about the number of mass shootings there have already been in 2018. A mass shooting is bad. The fact that we have them so often is also bad. There’s no need make a bad situation look even worse to prove your point.
You have this tendency to exaggerate and paint people and perspectives in the worst light possible. You demonize gun owners as accomplices of murder. You depict conservative viewpoints as backwards and barbaric. You need to move those that disagree with you to the furthest end of the morality spectrum to create as much distance between you and them as possible.
Why do you feel the need to prove your social consciousness? Why do people need to be beneath you morally (but equal socially and economically) so that you can feel elevated? Why do you have to nitpick and critique every slightly politically incorrect nuance to show people how wrong they are? What are you compensating for?
3 – What’s Your Response?
You’re not going to have the world be exactly how you want it to be. Accept that. But you can have the world be a little better for everyone. What’s important enough to you that you can give up something else?
Gun Control Advocates, What Are You Trying to Achieve?
You’re ultimate goal is the safety of people. You believe this is best achieved through effective gun control legislation, right? Then focus on that.
Stop comparing the US to other countries that have bans on guns, because that’s not going to happen here and it distracts from the conversation. Stop hyper-inflating gun violence stats – focus on mass shootings which are horrible enough by themselves. Stop talking to gun control advocates like they’re idiots or murderers.
Talk about small, progressive changes that are already implemented in other cities and states. Be open to combining it with other solutions that don’t involve gun control. Be willing to give up your utopian dream of a gun free country so that you can make real practical progress towards a gun responsible country.
Gun Advocates, What Would You Be Willing to Sacrifice?
You’re ultimate goal is the safety of people. You believe this is best achieved through responsible citizens who can protect themselves, right? Then focus on keeping guns in the hands of good people.
Stop defending guns like they’re the holy grail of America. Stop ranting about the government taking away all guns like a crazy doomsday preacher. Stop shutting off your mind every time you hear the phrase “gun control” and writing it off as not working.
Can you sacrifice the inconvenience of a longer wait period and more extensive background check, even if it helps prevent only one less mass shooting a year? Could you go settle for defending yourself with a handgun and not a semi automatic gun, even it only limits a mass shooter to killing 10 people instead of 20 people? If protecting lives AND freedom of responsible gun ownership is important, could you be willing to allow less bad people to own unnecessary guns, and also promote your own solutions for how to keep people safe from mass shootings?
1 Question That Really Matters
In all the arguments about gun control and mass shootings, the blame is placed everywhere. Liberals. Conservatives. Gun owners. People who want to take away your guns. Immigrants and Muslims and Blacks. Mentally ill people. Politicians and the government. The NRA.
Whatever your stance, the answer is actually the same. It’s someone else’s fault.
Here’s a more important question on mass shootings.
How Are You Personally Responsible?
When interviewed about the shooter, most people say they somewhat knew the person, but had no idea they would do such a thing.
What if a mass shooting happened in your community? What if you knew that person? What could you have done to prevent that from happening? Or would you make the excuse that you just didn’t know the person well enough?
We have to sacrifice our time to know our neighbors. We have to sacrifice our convenience to love our neighbors. We have to prevent mass shootings (or bombings or any other attack) by loving each other so much that violence is unthinkable.
If we can’t take personal responsibility for our community, we have no legitimacy in blaming someone else.
Get off social media. Stop meaninglessly arguing with acquaintance and strangers. Have real conversations with people who disagree with you. And learn to love them regardless of their views.
Only when we remove the hate in our hearts can we remove the violence from our communities.