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An Anti-Gun Advocate Sees the Fallacy of Anti-Gun Laws

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Recent stories of family and school shootings tend to propel people into two camps: those who are opposed to gun ownership and possession, convinced guns are the reason for much of the world’s senseless violence; and those who support the right to bear arms, equally convinced that guns are not, well, the smoking gun.

In between is a small group of people that both sides have chosen not to see or hear. Ironically, it is the actions of the smaller group that is the primary focus of the two opposing sides.

I am personally opposed to gun ownership and would love to see a world without weaponry of any kind. I am not, however, opposed to the right to bear arms. In this country at this time, this right has been oiled up and slapped around until the only person who actually has the unconditional right to bear arms is the criminal.

The worst part of all of this has nothing to do with guns or those on either side of the argument. It is our tragedy that many of those who are without a criminal history are opting for the path of least resistance when looking for a way out of their strife. They are not lazy. They are spent.

Getting any kind of help with any kind of problem not only carries with it the difficulty of trying to secure that help. There is also the wholly unfair, unnecessary, and ineffective stigma of needing help in the first place.

Won't you bring your sorrows, bring your dreams
It's a place for you to be
There's no more tomorrow or that's how it seems
Won't you come to me? I've got a vacancy
*

We as a nation are so myopically focused on the weapon (as if no one was ever stabbed, thrown down a flight of stairs, or run over by a car), we’ve lost sight of the person behind the weapon. We ask why, but do we really care?

With shooter after shooter we have come face-to-face with one person after another who felt some kind of way and acted on those feelings with a gun. We waited to act until they did something for which we could arrest them or take them down. If they offed themselves instead, all the better for our collective conscience.

Another name, another key, another pass to glory
Another night, another sight, another bedtime story
Another stage, another chance, for gentleness or violence
Another birth, another dance, another death in silence
*

We’re so good at that: judging, convicting, and incarcerating. We’re also pretty good at hauling off the shooter’s dead body, doing so with a sickening pride that allows us to believe we’ve reaped some good from something so bad.

We suck at listening, assessing, and assisting. We’re also not so hot at making eye contact, smiling, touching, or taking just 60 extra seconds to see and hear what’s going on around us and to whom something may be happening.

The sheets show their struggles, the glasses their fears
The ashtrays the hours passed, the towels their tears
*

Before any shooter so much as thought about a gun, we had already heard them and we had already seen them. We knew who they were, where they went, and what they did. To some extent we even knew how they felt. We dare to say we were broadsided by their despair and yet we did nothing before shots rang out. We can say we didn’t know, but that is a bold-faced lie.

We heard them shouting at a Wal-Mart cashier and cursing in the DMV line. We watched them try to maintain composure as the bank teller told them about another returned check fee that effectively erased half their grocery list.

We saw them with their head down on their steering wheel when their car wouldn’t start and we knew it would make them late to work again. We even wondered if they would still have a job as a result.

We watched them clench their fists as their teenager ran away with the latest pierced and tattooed loser of the year. From our kitchen window we spied them sitting in a lawn chair in their backyard crying when their spouse walked out.

We glanced them at the bus stop staring off into space as they tried to figure out a way to deal with their job loss and the repossession of the same car that wouldn’t even freaking start. We winced at their realization that they’d have to forgo medical and mental health insurance because they only had enough money left to pay the water bill so they could at least flush their toilet.

We heard the teenager say he was bullied, hurting, scared, and angry. We watched his grades plummet. Right before he became invisible to us, we saw tears of frustration well up in his eyes, and we knew just how big the lump was in his chest, his stomach, and in his heart.

We saw the schoolchild’s bruises and we knew those injuries didn’t come from falling off the their bicycle, even though that’s what the child said. We knew this because we also heard that child’s parent yelling at them before letting them out of the car, making them late to school.

And what did we do? We hid.

We hid from them and their despair because it put us in touch with our own despair and inadequacies. We needed to stop feeling helpless more than we wanted to help – if we wanted to help it all. We called it minding our own business. We labeled it an assumption that they would, somehow, find a way to deal.

Well, they did.

It’s the gun, we say – not the person, not their despair. It’s the bullets, we insist – not their words, not the tears.

Every shooter telegraphs their intent, and some of them are brazen enough to directly announce it. Still we don’t listen, still we ignore them, and still we turn our backs.

As has been evidenced time and time again by those who raced to be interviewed and televised in the aftermath, someone knew and didn’t say anything. Someone heard and didn’t listen. Someone looked – and then looked the other way.

Yesterday we were comfortably numb, but then the reporter showed up today. Suddenly we are aware, knowledgeable, and feeling.

Innocent people are dead because we don’t hear words, cries, shouts, or pleas. We only hear gunfire. By then it’s too late for our innocents and we’ve even sent the message loud and clear to others who are desperate that we will not hear a cry for help unless and until it comes from a person who has been shot.

The shame of this choice to be deaf and blind, and the shame of this neglect is incalculable. It has created a tension so thick between each and every person on this planet, it can only be penetrated by a bullet.

Gun laws address guns. They don’t address people. Lobby your life away if you must, but if you cannot also be bothered with your fellow human being when you know they’re having trouble, then at least have the decency to call someone who can.

*Lyrics excerpted from “Vacancy,” Harry Chapin, Verities & Balderdash, 1974

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    Poignant piece, Diana, and coming from a military wife, it speaks volumes.

    I too don’t like guns, although growing up I did my fair share of hunting with my father. Hand guns are another matter altogether. A person doesn’t use a hand gun to kill game, but to kill people.

    What is also interesting is that in our tenuous economic climate, the applications for weapons permits and the sale of guns has skyrocketed.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    I was actually confused by this piece from one of my favourite Blogcritics people. (Hi Diana!) The title doesn’t seem to connect with the article as far as I can see.

    Personally, I do like guns, it’s people I’m not so sure about though, and there are clearly many people who are going to use weapons inappropriately if they are readily to hand.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman diana hartman

    from where i sit (with just as much visibility as anyone else) the primary purpose of anti-gun laws is to address a symptom and redirect focus from the problem…

    if we say guns are the problem and then invoke gun laws, then there, it’s sorted…but if we admit people with problems are the problem, then we have to work a whole lot harder…

    a gun is an object you can pick up or put down – or outlaw and lock away and hope it doesn’t hit the black market, which has worked so well for so few it’s a wonder anyone still argues the point…

    a person, however, is not a thing that can be put on a shelf and their problem stamped “solved”…

    by focusing on anti-gun laws rather than pro-people issues, both sides of the gun argument conveniently have something to argue about forever while never having to lift a finger to solve a single problem…

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Of course it is addressing a symptom rather than the cause, but I can’t imagine a world in which it would be possible to address the people problems realistically.

    As the issue of the limitation of weapons proliferation is a priority at an international level, it seems hard to come up with reasons it shouldn’t be at a more personal level.

    What would you then propose as a human solution?

  • The Obnoxious American

    Diana,

    Thanks for a reasoned, well thought out piece. I own many guns and I love them, it’s my most enjoyable hobby. As a law abiding citizen, I get purely disgusted when due to the actions of a loon, the left springs to life trying to take away my 2nd ammendment rights. As a gun owner, I can tell you that the second ammendment is one of the clearest expressions of individual freedom and it’s not one I would readily give up.

    In terms of how to solve the issue of these situations coming up, I can promise anyone here that no gun laws would ever do it. Most of the time, crime is carried out by criminals who got their guns illegally. In the rare cases where a law abiding gun owner just flips out and loses his mind, bear in mind that psycology has no accurate measure for insanity. So some sort of mental screening test really won’t work.

    In my view, if the world was truly without any guns at all, then perhaps that would be a better place to be and I’d agree that we should all give up our guns. But since it isn’t, perhaps the “solution” to deal with someone who has flipped his lid and starts shooting, is to ensure the people he is shooting at are also armed. Sounds like escalation, I know. But with proper training and rules, it could work. In fact it does in many states in the US, where lots of citizens have been able to protect themselves and their families from criminals and other elements.

    Remember this, the police are not there to protect you, they are there to enforce the law. Two completely seperate things. The old saying, “to protect and serve” is actually a fallacy (the first part is) if you look at how the courts have ruled on the role of police.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I don’t know about that last bit, Obnox.

    I’ve got no problem with gun ownership per se. If that’s your hobby, if you like to hunt or just go to the range and hit targets, good luck to you. I also enjoy shooting from time to time.

    I just don’t find the ‘armed citizenry’ argument convincing. Again, if having a gun ready on the nightstand makes you feel safer, all power to you. However, I wonder if anybody’s ever put together any figures (and they probably have) comparing a gun owner’s lifetime chance of being killed by a burglar to that of a non-owner? While the first figure would probably be a bit lower, I bet the difference between the two would be statistically insignificant.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman diana hartman

    christopher, i propose more people stop ignoring their fellow man…

    in the case of many school shootings, counselors swarm the area…is this is because we care about each other and we want to help, especially children? maybe…

    i personally think the rush to psychologically aid victims of disaster and tragedy is based more on our definition of victim rather than actual need…

    how we define “victim” has less to do with what the victim endured and more to do with what the rest of us are willing (no matter what else we’re able) to do…if we won’t do it, then (we seem to have decided) they don’t need it…

    this is why you’ll find a makeshift crisis center in the gym of a school where there was a shooting, but no so much where 4,000 people just lost their jobs – and for some, their sense of worth and the ability to feed their families…

    bush didn’t send more help to katrina victims because he judged, primarily from his own experience, that they didn’t need it…it didn’t matter what they really needed; he had already decided what they should need and when they should need it…same with any other natural and/or man-made disaster…

    when that disaster is an abused child, a tormented teenager or a soldier with ptsd, we can’t be bothered because we’ve already decided they don’t need help…we wait until they kill someone and/or themselves, and there we are with even more judgment that doesn’t help anyone…

    ann coulter’s assessment of the 9/11 widows as money-grubbers rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but they weren’t bothered enough to make sure she never got paid to say such things again…that could well be because she gave voice to what a lot of people weren’t willing to admit they felt: those widows “should” be over it by now…

    it doesn’t matter what the need is…it only matters what we think the need should be…

    so someone takes several pairs of shoes to a village and the villagers are colored ungrateful because they wouldn’t get out of bed and walk in the shoes…that the villagers were feverish and on the verge of death escaped all notice…and when they die, what is said?

    “we didn’t know they were sick; we only saw bare feet and thought they should be covered because, in our experience, bare feet can get cut up glass”…

  • The Obnoxious American

    Doc,

    They have done studies that suggest victims of crime who are armed fair better than those who aren’t. And that’s obvious common sense (I’ve linked to that in my old article on Gun Control).

    Statistically significant? Who cares? Why should anyone, no matter how small of a fraction of the total populace, have to live like those poor folks in D.C. or the residents of Mexico City who are not allow to own guns amidst drug cartels murdering with impunity.

    Fact is, all of the people who live in the America’s worst ghettos are statistically insignificant, and these are precisely the people who need guns to protect themselves. Yet in most urban centers is where gun control is strongest, resulting in an unarmed citizenry facing an armed criminal element. What possible sense does that make?

    As far as me? I am lucky, I am not a small man, or weak, and I’ve grown up in NYC without the need for a gun. But to quote from the movie True Romance, better to have one and not need it. That I am empowered to protect myself is a right I hold dear. That the government trusts me with that right makes me try to be MORE responsible, not less. And when I get some static (which happened to me the other night), the very LAST thing I’d want to do is let it get to that stage. Before I had guns however, static put me on the defensive. Go figure?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    They have done studies that suggest victims of crime who are armed fair better than those who aren’t.

    Obnox, fine, but I did say lifetime chance. Of course, once the burglar enters your home (assuming you’re there at the time) the odds change dramatically.

    Let me put it this way. You’re a gun owner. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be killed by a burglar.

    I’m not a gun owner. It’s also highly unlikely that I’ll be killed by a burglar.

    Although the odds are longer for you, in both our cases they’re probably still in the order of hundreds of thousands to one. That’s what I mean by statistical insignificance.

    If having a gun makes you feel safer, as I said, that’s fine. But in practical terms*, I don’t think I’m any less safe than you.

    * And on a level playing field. Don’t know what it’s like in your part of the Big Apple. Fresno can seem like the battlefield at Ypres sometimes!

  • The Obnoxious American

    true enough. I honestly don’t think I’d ever need it to protect myself. I just love guns. I am into target shooting these days, I’ve dabbled in gun smithing a bit, and am starting to collect. I am very familiar with the various laws, and I can tell you that they are silly. Certain semi autos are worse than others somehow, yet the good ole marlin (winchester style) rifle is pretty unregulated and fires a more powerful bullet than any AR 15, which is heavily regulated.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    The last thing I fired was an AK-47 (or something similar). Just took a couple of shots into some scrub. Couldn’t wave it around for too long, as the guy who let me shoot it wasn’t supposed to have it (it being California and all!).

    Before that, a Colt .457 Python. Now that’s a smooth shot. A good target weapon with great grouping (although perhaps that was just me being a good shot!), easy to use and, I would imagine, ideal for personal defense.

    yet the good ole marlin (winchester style) rifle is pretty unregulated and fires a more powerful bullet than any AR 15, which is heavily regulated.

    Isn’t that because its primary purpose is to take down large ruminants, as opposed to a semiautomatic rifle, which is designed principally with a view to separating whoever happens to be at the wrong end of one from their vital functions and/or viscera? :-)

  • ron322

    The fact is the law and its enforcement is to prosecute criminals. It is not intended to function as protection from harm.
    If it were then you could sue the police for failure to prvent crime. Making guns illegal will insure that any one with a gun is a criminal and all victims will be unarmed. Making some thing illegal does not make it go away.
    Take a look at the numbers in places with total gun bans if you doubt my statement.Guns make it easy to kill, so does an automobile, baseball bat,club,etc.
    In the end it requires human action or inaction to kill and intent to murder. Taking away guns will not remove intent or desire.

  • By Stander

    I have been around guns all my life and i am still here today. My father didn’t go phycho when he touched a gun as many would like to believe. (To advocate their point of coarse.) Guns have been a TOOL of our family for years. Like mentioned throughout the posts, if guns are taken away, then honestly, the only ones with a gun are criminals! I do not believe that they will get rid of their guns just because they are now banned! If that works, then let us all ban crime. Now that it is illegal, there will be world peace…Haha. Two more things, first off, look at the crime rates of cities that have banned guns. That rests my case there. Also, (sorry to bring it up but I am truly speaking my mind…) What was the first thing Hitler did when he arose to power? To save you time, he DISARMED THE PEOPLE!!! Thus no rebellion!