Dear Gun Owners, We’re Not So Different

Dear Gun Owners,

I had an epiphany recently. I realized we’re not so different, you and I. And because of that, I have hope that we can still reach an agreement on this whole guns issue.

You see, we share the same underlying fears and the same underlying sense of self-preservation. We really do. We just handle them in different ways. I’ll explain in a minute.

But first, I have to be honest with you. I don’t like guns. I’ve never had a desire to own one, and it scares me when everyday people feel the need to carry one on them.

At the same time, I totally respect your right to own guns. You don’t have to lecture me on the Second Amendment. I’m not here to tread on your rights or take away your guns. Let’s be clear on that.

Okay, now onto the explanation I promised you ….

For simplicity, I’m going to label you as “conservative.” Most people would agree that gun supporters tend to fall on the conservative side of the political spectrum. And me, I’m going label myself as “liberal.”

Now, did you know that scientists have studied conservative versus liberal brains, and they’ve come to the conclusion that there are tangible biological differences between them?

According to these studies, conservative minds value friends and family above all else. You are fiercely protective of your loved ones, and you are quick to draw the line between friend and foe.

Liberal minds, on the other hand, value equality for everyone. For me, the line between friend and foe is not so black-and-white, and I’m hesitant to draw any line at all.

Now, before you start sneering at me for being idealistic and naive, let me point out that I could also accuse you of being narrow-minded and paranoid. So let’s just agree to disagree on this part, okay? Ultimately, this country needs both you and me, because we balance each other out. You keep me from being too trusting, and I keep you from being too paranoid. See how well we can actually work as a team?

Okay, so how does this apply to gun ownership? Well, I realized that our opinions of guns are based on the same fears, but approached from our respective mindsets:

You fear the bad guys in the world. You don’t want to be vulnerable, and you want to protect yourself and your loved ones from these bad people. That’s why you own a gun.

As for me, I have the exact same fear as you. I too fear the bad guys in the world. The difference is that I believe we’re all capable of becoming the bad guy.

Remember what I said about the line between friend and foe being blurry? You see yourself as the hero in your story. I see that we all want to be the hero in our own story, but we could just as well turn out to be the villain in someone else’s story.

We may have the most honorable of intentions, but we’re all human, and we all fuck up. That’s why I believe a gun owner is just as likely* to escalate a bad situation as they are to save the day, no matter how well trained they think they are. Worse yet, any of us can snap and become the bad guy for just a single instant, whether due to misguided self-righteousness or a simple lapse in judgment. And when we have guns, an instant is all it takes to end a life.

*Actually, I believe a gun owner is way more likely to make the situation worse, but we don’t have to argue the details here. The point is that you see it one way, and I see it another. For the sake of argument, I’m willing to settle on “just as likely” for now.

That’s the core difference between you and me. You believe you’re the good guy, and you want to defend against the bad guys out there. I believe we’re all inherently flawed, and any of us could end up being the bad guy on any given day, in any given situation.

You're the flawless superhero. I'm the gritty reboot.

Basically, you’re the superhero, and I’m the gritty reboot.

Is it paranoid of me to fear this? Maybe. But it’s not any more paranoid than you feeling the need to carry a gun for self-defense in the first place. Ultimately, we’re both feeding off the same legitimate fear sprinkled with a dash of paranoia. And remember what I said about you and I balancing each other out? The same goes here.

You and me, we’re not all that different. We’re both acting on the same need for self-protection. We just have different solutions.

And frankly, I don’t believe it’s an irreconcilable difference. We just have to start with our shared beliefs and accept that life is about compromise. It’s about you and I respecting each other’s needs and being willing to bend. And once we do, we can all sit down and have a beer together. (Or wine, or whiskey, or even Fireball. I can compromise on that, too.)

Yes, my ideal is “no guns for anyone.” But I know that is disrespectful of your beliefs.

Similarly, I hope you understand that “guns for everyone” is disrespectful of my beliefs.

So let’s meet in the middle and agree that, yes, you have every right to own a gun. But a gun is in fact a deadly weapon, and we have to make it at least kind of difficult for people to get their hands on one. We don’t have to ban guns altogether. We just have to be selective about who gets them. That’s how we compromise.

And this way, we maximize the chances that you — the good guy — can defend yourself, but also minimize the chances that someone who turns out to be the bad guy ever gets to use that gun in the first place.

For me, that means that I live with the existence of guns.

For you, that means that you live with the existence of gun control.

Can we drink to that at least?

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  • Well written Dennis, I’m going to bookmark this page and whenever I’ll see an argument on the net about this I’m gonna post the link…

  • Actually, if you are truly liberal, you would be pro gun right. Because liberal, in the classical definition, is about individual liberty. And people who own guns are fearful or conservatives either. I’m a gun owner. I live in a safe middle class neighborhood, so the likelihood of having to defend myself is close to zero. It’s a hobby for me. I enjoy target shooting. I enjoy the mechanical engineering of firearms.

    But I’m pro gun right because I’m pro-liberty. People should live their lives as they see fit. If your hobby is ridding motorcycle (which is dangerous), I would be defending your right to ride your bike and be very concerned about any restriction place on your right. Freedom is essentially unsafe. So you have to accept some risks in order to be free.

  • Who cannot be trusted with guns? That’s a valid question. An easy (if incomplete) answer is, “Anyone who works as an enforcer for a government, especially a large and powerful government.” That’s right: I’m saying that the people who can be trusted with guns the LEAST are those in the police and military.

    Of all the people murdered since the beginning of the 20th Century, the vast majority were murdered by their own governments. Even wars didn’t take as many lives during the 20th Century. The tallies aren’t even close. What’s more, the death toll from government murders doesn’t include deaths from civil wars, the killings of armed rioters, capital punishment, and so forth. We’re talking exclusively about innocent lives lost to violent deaths at the hands of tyrannical governments:

    For this sort of thing to happen is unacceptable. Yes, it is tragic that people are murdered with handguns every day in the US (murders with rifles are rare), just as it is tragic when lives are cut short by stabbings, beatings, traffic accidents, or too much fast food. But this steady “drip, drip, drip” of murders is a lesser evil than risking the tsunami that would occur should democide happen in this country.

    It’s also worth noting that a gun ban in the US would probably be ineffective. Consider that there are countries with strict gun bans that have murder rates considerably higher than that of the US (e.g., Mexico and Russia). Organized criminal groups can often get guns illegally from military stockpiles and via smugglers. If you want to end this violence, end the War on Drugs.

    Due to these considerations, there are extremely few weapons restrictions that can be considered legitimate. Anyone who is of sound mind (e.g., not mentally retarded or criminally insane) and who hasn’t already proven himself untrustworthy to possess weapons should be able to purchase any firearm made. The only weapons that should be off-limits for individual ownership are those whose effects are inherently indiscriminate, even with proper use. Anything beyond that implies a myopic trust not only of one’s own government, but of all future governments in one’s country.

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