By Jim Sterling
Another tragedy. Another news cycle full of demagoguery and finger-pointing. The reactions on both sides have become predictable. On one side we see pure emotion driving the conversation and on the other, we see a callousness hardening to the point where the genuine grief of others is ignored. We have become too entrenched in our political ideologies–too ready to take our list of talking points instead of having real conversations.
Yes, it is true, that many on the left will never waver in their persistence that gun ownership ought not to be allowed at all. And there are many on the right who are so obsessed with their gun rights that reasonable discussions are impossible. I should know, I have fallen largely into the latter category. To me, my right to defend myself, my family, and my property should not be infringed because some people grossly misuse that right.
But something happened to me. In my often repeated defense of gun ownership, I started to become callous. I still felt for the victims of these crimes, but I almost began to see them as props for the left to batter me over my views. Not consciously, but on some level, I knew the bodies were just going to be used to undermine my beliefs. It’s more common than you might imagine. Afterall, gun owners and advocates have been attacked and linked to horrific events time and time again. So, yeah, we’ve gotten defensive.
However, in that defensiveness, we have shut out our fellow Americans. We have basically said that their feelings–their grief and their fear–are unimportant to us. We shoot down any appeal to emotion because we are so sure the facts back us up. But all we are doing is alienating each other.
No, it is unlikely that either side is going to change their mind when it comes to whether they see guns as a threat to society or an inseparable component of individual liberty. These two world views are too different to just suddenly change. But what if instead of expecting the other side to just start thinking like we do, we took the time to have a conversation and actually come up with common ground.
It can be done. Republican Senator Jeff Flake demonstrated this yesterday when he called for common sense action. You see, the Texas gunman should never have been able to purchase a gun. He had a domestic abuse conviction, had committed cruelty to animals, and was discharged from the military. However, because the USAF never properly reported his background to the feds, Devin Kelley was able to buy a weapon that he used for mass murder.
As Flake points out, we are really bad when it comes to sharing information between agencies and between federal, state, and local governments. If our ability to share information was improved, people like Kelley wouldn’t be able to easily purchase firearms.
Likewise, with Stephen Paddock, such a high-volume of gun purchasing should have set off red flags. You and I buying more than two guns in a five-day period would trigger red flags. But with Paddock, nothing happened.
Let’s focus on some common ground. Let’s improve the system so that those we all agree should not be able to buy guns are not able to buy guns. Let’s ensure that systems are in place that prevents certain people from buying guns and alerts authorities if individuals display suspicious buying patterns.
I think we can all agree, regardless of what comes next, the first step should be reviewing how to better enforce the laws that already exist. Because regardless of your views on the 2nd Amendment or personal gun ownership, we should be able to agree on one thing: a domestic abuser with a history of violence should never be able to walk into a store and purchase a firearm.