Every mass shooting reignites the same debate over guns – gun owner rights vs. gun law reform.
Before I go any further, I should confess I don’t own guns, and I don’t like guns. I never have, and likely never will. I don’t feel a need to own one. In fact, I’ve never even shot a gun. I’m a pacifist and a vegetarian – not exactly a poster child for the NRA! No doubt, my personal gun experience – or, in my case, lack of experience – influences my biased perspective.
That being said, I stand with those who favor tougher gun laws. Frankly, in 2019, the idea of gun ownership, as a “right,” seems absurd to me. For most, it’s a privilege, and should be treated as such. The vast majority of us don’t hunt to survive, or need to join armed militias. Most of have access to “911” if we ever feel unsafe. We have the U.S. military to protect us from foreign invaders.
But, if gun ownership is a right, sensible laws regarding background checks, waiting periods, and bans on assault-style weapons seem entirely sensible, appropriate, and reasonable. Right? Own your guns, if you must. But, before a potentially deadly weapon is placed in someone’s hands, measures ought to be taken to assure it’s appropriate use. While others may or may not agree with my position gun ownership, as a “right,” I fail to understand how anyone could oppose reasonable laws that would hopefully keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to do harm.
How can anyone oppose that?
Actually, I know how.
The issue is fear.
And, by the way, fear is the issue for ALL of us. Those, like myself, who desire stricter gun laws, are motivated by fear. We fear guns ending up in the hands of killers. We fear for the safety of those we love. We fear the next mass shooting will happen to us.
And, likewise, I believe fear is the issue for those who own guns, who defend their right to own any gun they choose, and refuse to accept tougher gun laws. They fear not having a gun if they need to defend themselves or their families.
Either way, I’m increasingly convinced, the issue, for all of us, is fear. We’re all afraid – for ourselves, for our families, for friends, for the innocent.
Fear is, actually, a good thing. When in danger, fear kicks in, motivating us to either fight or flee a harmful situation. The most primitive part of the human brain – the amygdala – which closely resembles the brains of lizards, houses our “fight or flight” responses to perceived danger. In pre-historic times, when human brains were less developed, if a caveman or cavewoman encountered a saber-toothed tiger, the amygdala ordered the body to release adrenaline: heightening senses, increasing respiration and circulation, stiffening muscles. It functions the same today. Hyped-up on adrenaline, we, like our caveman grandparents, either fight our attacker, or run like heck.
Some of us don’t do either. We just roll over, and play dead. But, that’s a different story.
Fear-based fight or flight is appropriate in the face of immediate danger. The adrenaline produced by fear is quickly burned up in the fight or flight response. But, prolonged fear – as produced by the endless television reporting of mass shootings, and the heated debates over gun laws – distorts our ability to think clearly, or listen effectively. Too often, fear is expressed as anger. And, much of the anger generated in these debates is, unfortunately, misdirected.
We’re not angry at each other. We’re not enemies. Not really. We’re angry at the people who have done, or wish to, harm. But, not knowing who the next shooter will be, we turn our anger on each other.
The point is, it’s all about fear! Both responses are fear-based. We fight what we fear, or we run from what we fear. Both are reactions to fear. Gun ownership is a response to fear and desire for stricter gun laws is a response to fear. Fear is the common ground for both.
My point isn’t to add to an already fruitless debate. Neither side is convincing the other. And, while the debate continues, more and more victims are dying.
I just wonder if common ground for a more fruitful conversation could start with admitting we’re afraid. All of us. Gun owners are afraid. And, advocates for tougher gun laws are afraid. All of us. We’re all afraid. After all, understanding our common fear may help us understand each other, have greater empathy for one another, and provide a starting point for more productive conversation, and even agreement.
And, less anger!
I wonder, how the conversation might be different, if we could just admit our fears, and have different perspectives on addressing those fears? How might I respect a gun owner, differently, if I understood his or her fears? How might a gun owner better understand my desire for tougher gun laws, if he or she understood my fears?
The truth is, we fear the same thing. We just believe in different solutions.