We’re ALL afraid…

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.

6 thoughts on “We’re ALL afraid…

  1. The real problem that I see is not the gun laws. Yes, I agree more background checks, longer wait periods, banning assault weapons, etc, are good. Law abiding citizens are going to be ok with that. Thus, the real problem is not the laws. The real problem is the lawless. Most are not going to gain weapons lawfully. Most (not all) of the shooters have illegally obtained their weapons. How do we prevent them from gaining weapons? A lot of guns are stolen nightly from unlocked cars. Pass a law that the owner is charged with a felony in these cases to motivate owners to not leave their guns in their cars overnight just like parents can be charged for a child skipping school. This is where the real problem is. Not the NRA, not the gun owner who wants protection (911 is not faster than a speeding bullet). The powers that be need to sit down together and discuss prevention & intervention. Just my 5 cents worth…

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  2. School shopping at Coral Square Mall – and my daughter, Kate and granddaughter, Olivia were at the food court. Kate mentioned to me that the first thing she did was look around for a table with a view of exit. And where could she shield Olivia if an active shooter entered the mall.

    Shame to even have to think of that. I am afraid.

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  3. Vance. Always enjoy your insights and thoughts. The debate will continue unless solutions are sought that all can accept. Pretty sure that is why denominations and theological debates also exist. I am sure of only one thing, we are redeemed by the grace of Christ.

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  4. According to Vance: “The truth is, we fear the same thing. We just believe in different solutions.”
    I’m a 67 y/o wf who’s super liberal so agree with Vance’s views on specific gun regulations but beg to differ with his gun owner vs. non-gun owner analysis. Yes, we all fear that next mass shooting but Republican gun owners apparently fear confiscation of their firearms even more. It’s that, ‘The government is coming for your guns’, mantra used so successfully time and again by the NRA.
    Even with polls showing gun owners and ordinary NRA members favoring universal background checks and bans on large capacity magazines Republican pols still refuse to vote for sane gun safety laws. Until Republican voters turn against these GOP pols change will not happen; as it is their obstinate obstruction of popular positions are rewarded by reelection. So for them it’s the dollar before lives. The NRA supports gun manufacturers not gun owners.
    I’m also bothered by the media’s penchant for using and abusing the gun issue by concentrating on mass shootings (a tiny fraction of the yearly total.) Suicides make up more than 61% of the total 36,ooo gun deaths/yr with accidents and homicides splitting the remaining percentage. With an average of 100 gun deaths/day, we mustn’t forget all those left injured, some grievously impaired for life.
    We could learn from other nations that responded in the wake of their own mass shootings and passed gun safety legislation – their suicides dropped dramatically.
    Sensible public safety suggestions: Universal background checks, selective bans on military style firearms and high capacity magazines, “red flag laws”, institute mandatory gun safety classes with different levels matched to varying firearm grades to include shooting practice when purchasing a firearm [courses could be run cooperatively by the state with the NRA.]

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