Monday, October 5, 2015

Are You Hopeless or Hopeful?

I had a post written and ready to go Thursday morning but, in the wake of the shooting in Oregon, publishing it didn't feel appropriate, nor particularly sensitive.

So, instead of me polishing off a post about my son's potty training or how close we are to the birth of our second son, I sat and read story, after story, after story, about yet another shooting at another school.

Like millions of others I read these stories and wondered just what the hell is wrong.

I thought a great deal about the people in my life who all seem to feel the same way: that no matter what your political stripe, something has to change, that the status quo is unacceptable.

Then I thought about all the people out there who don't feel this way.

Your gun laws didn't work? Welp, at least we tried. 
I considered the millions upon millions of people who don't want to see change, because they say they're scared.

They say they're scared that change could lead to all sorts of consequences like being vulnerable to homicidal home invaders, or becoming the victims of an overreaching government.

There are mountains of statistical evidence to help allay these concerns and there are countries where gun ownership flourishes — but gun violence does not — that serve as examples. But this fear is powerful.

This fear is so powerful that millions of people believe that gun rights have dwindled under their current president. They have, in fact, flourished. As have gun sales. 

This fear helps stoke an industry which generates $42 billion in annual economic impact in the United States, according to a trade association for the U.S. firearms industry.

$42 billion. Perhaps that figure answers many of the questions surrounding the nature of the gun conversation. That's a lot of money and no doubt there are some people in that industry who don't want to see one penny of it go away.

So, that industry spends millions to sway public opinion, shape the conversation and force it through the narrow keyhole of "rights." Somewhere along the way, one's right to be free from the fear that their kid's classmates might be packing a gun is forgotten.

And that industry spends money so, when a school shooting happens, they're ready to jump and convince us there's just nothing that can solve this problem — except to make sure there are more guns.

Suggestions that a different law, or a group of citizens, or a group of elected legislators acting on behalf of citizens, can affect change are shouted down. "These shootings are happening in places with strict gun laws" and "it's unconstitutional," we are often told while other obvious truths are ignored.

One of those truths is that it's acceptable for some laws to inhibit one right in the name of another. The old adage still holds: we don't see free speech advocates pushing to repeal the law against yelling "Fire," in a crowded theater.

"Criminals don't follow gun laws," we are also told. (Strange logic if there ever was such a thing. Since when does the possibility of a law being broken mean we don't write laws?)

For folks embracing this fear and this logic, 294 mass shootings in 275 days is apparently an acceptable way of life. Worse still is that these folks are resigned to the idea that there's nothing we can do to change things.

As I've aged, my circle of friends and family has grown to include folks from across all political stripes and backgrounds. I know people who proudly call themselves conservative. I know folks who call themselves liberals and I've got even more friends and family who think those labels are B.S. and they don't fit neatly into one of two boxes.

I've got friends who hunt; they've got multiple guns and they're as left leaning politically as you'll find. I've got a branch of my family tree with a safe full of guns and they never hunt. My dad owned an old shotgun. I've got friends who hate guns, won't go near them. One of my best friends is a cop, and he leaves his gun at work each and every night.

But, no matter where along the political spectrum these folks fall, I think we all believe that there is a middle ground between the right to be free and the right to be free from fear.

The persistence of gun violence in this nation isn't simply a question of laws or no laws. It's a question of whether we, the people who live here, find the status quo acceptable.

I am hopeful that most of us do not and even more hopeful that we're moving toward a solution.

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